Our June Favorites at Whole Foods

You’ve probably seen bottles of Alaffia’s now-ubiquitous African Black Soap in the aisles of your local health food store, or perhaps you read our previous review of the wildly popular multipurpose natural soap. It's trending for good reason—it’s the best all-around shower soap I’ve ever used—but it’s an even better purchase when you factor in what the company making it is all about.

Alaffia products center on one key ingredient: shea butter that’s been fairly traded from partner cooperatives in West Africa. The company, which transforms the raw ingredients into finished products in Washington state, was founded 11 years ago to help empower these West African communities and help alleviate poverty. To this end, they have programs that focus on maternal health, reforestation, and schools. 

They also collect used bicycles and donate them to rural areas where it is particularly difficult for children to get to school. They’ve gifted the community more than 6,300 bikes so far, boosting school attendance as a result. Santa Cruz area readers can pitch in to this cause on Sunday, June 28, when the Whole Foods Santa Cruz store (911 Soquel Ave.) will host a bike drive for Alaffia from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. If you don’t have a bike to donate, consider giving back by buying one of Alaffia’s GOOD Soap bars for just $1.

Which brings me to this month’s installment of our ongoing collaboration with Whole Foods. I’m focusing the June picks (with one tiny, shiny exception) on this fantastic company and a few of their must-try products:

  • Alaffia Beautiful Curls Enhancing Shampoo 
  • Alaffia Beautiful Curls Enhancing Leave-In Conditioner
  • Alaffia GOOD Soap Bar
  • Alaffia's Everyday Coconut Body Lotion

I’ve tried and loved them all. The shampoo and conditioner, in particular, have been a revelation for this curly-headed writer.

My last pick for June, and the only item in the bunch that doesn’t hail from Alaffia headquarters, is Mineral Fusion’s Liquid Lip Gloss. This company is on a serious roll: they’ve long since won me over with their “blonzer,” concealer duo, brush-on sun defense powder and more. Their new lip gloss shades needed to do little else than shimmer from the center of the Mineral Fusion display to convince me that I needed to give one a try. “Delicate” is a sexy nude pink with the glistening sheen of a lip gloss and the feel of a nourishing lip balm (none of that sticky sensation left behind by too many glosses).

Learn more about Alaffia here, or in this video.

Beauty Review: Wonderland Organics

I'm a huge believer in facial oils for all types of skin. Mine, in particular, is oily and acne-prone, so if I'm going to use a facial oil, it has to be formulated perfectly for my skin, which is hard to do. I haven't found many that excite me—until now. Wonderland Organics is a charming, whimsical facial oil brand out of San Jose, Calif., which was launched last year by Alice Lin. 

I recently had a chance to try out one of Lin's oils that is specifically geared for my skin type: the Balance Serum. And, I'm sold. Moving forward, this is my go-to facial oil. I absolutely love its effective nature, hydrating properties, and delicate scent. 

Below is an interview with Lin, the founder of the company

How did you first get interested in skincare?

I was working abroad in Taiwan as a marketing associate and when I moved to Asia, my skin became inflamed, and did not acclimate to the environment. As a result, I became interested in skincare ingredients, and spent a year reading skincare product labels after work. 

Why did you launch Wonderland Organics?

Wonderland Organics started last year as a result of my passion for skincare. When I was familiarizing myself with ingredients on labels in Asia, I noticed that many companies used the word “fragrance." Through market research, I learned that this ingredient could be 1,000 different types of chemicals and consumers would never know which ones the company used. This could be problematic for people who have extremely sensitive skin, so I started thinking about what ingredients could work for customers with this particular skin type.

Why oils? 

Initially, I feared oils like many people with oily and combination skin. I used to invest in oil-free products, but my skin never improved. When I started my research in Taiwan, I tried organic coconut oil and argan oil. When I didn't break out, I became more curious about how different types of oils could actually be beneficial to our skin. For example, organic apricot kernel oil is a light oil with a slight tightening property, which is perfect for most skin types. To this day, I still use organic coconut oil as a hair mask, to combat frizz, and to moisturize. The best part about facial oils is that they are effective in small amounts. To use the Wonderland Organics facial oils, wash your face, spritz on a toner, and use two to three drops for your face and neck. Keep them away from direct sunlight, and use them within four months.

What was the process for creating the several oils for your line?

When I moved back to California, I took many skincare classes to further my knowledge. From the beginning, I knew I wanted to perfect facial oils, specifically for oil-prone and combination skin types. During the classes, I would jot down notes about potential oils that I was interested in, and compare notes on suppliers. I also joined a professional trade organization, the Indie Business Network, which is made up of entrepreneurs. If I have questions regarding skincare, many skincare professionals are always willing to help out new entrepreneurs like myself.

How did the experimenting unfold?

It wasn’t easy when I first started experimenting. I remember the first facial oils that I had concocted: the scents were too strong, and the products were incredibly oily. But after fine tuning the ingredients and percentages, I was able to settle upon the perfect balance for different skin types.

How did you settle upon these specific ingredients? 

I knew right away I wanted to use organic jojoba oil, as this liquid wax ester has an incredibly long shelf life. Because jojoba oil is extremely similar to the skin’s sebum, most skin types are able to adapt to this oil with no issues. I also love organic pomegranate oil because of its high polyphenol content, which means it has plenty of antioxidants. Organic kukui oil is found in Hawaii, and is an incredibly soothing oil for sensitive skin. Organic argan oil is a non-greasy oil, and is constituted of vitamin E, fatty acids, squalene, sterols, etc. In terms of essential oils, organic lavender and geranium oils are balancing for all skin types, and have pleasing scents. 

What do you love about what you do?

Finding a job that I love and am passionate about makes it all worthwhile, especially when I work until 1 a.m. The best part about running Wonderland Organics is that I know exactly what goes into each product. Because I use GRAS (generally regarded as safe) ingredients, I have no problem recommending the Wonderland Organice facial oils and lotion to people with more sensitive skin. I’m happy to say that the product line I’ve created is natural, healthy, and eco-friendly. In terms of ingredients, I source organic, wild-harvested, and fair trade when possible. For packaging, I use violet miron glass, which is recyclable, and helps protect the products from light.

Try out a sample of the Wonderland Organic facial oils for $13.99 to find out which one is right for you. Learn more at wonderland-organics.com

Eco Wish List



One downside to an increasing variety of eco-friendly fashions is that my wish list just keeps ballooning. Here are a few of my favorite finds as of late, including several lovely items from Mata Traders, a fair trade company that empowers craftswomen in Nepal. From them, I’m eyeing a 100 percent cotton dress; sassy brassy earrings; a triple chevron necklace; and—the most springtime of them all—a mustard yellow statement necklace. Also on my radar: lacey, pointed vegan flats from D’Orsay, sleek vegan sandals from TOMS, and a soft, loose-but-flattering tank from Red Prairie Press, a women-owned sustainable and ethical American clothing company.