Beauty Blast: Urb Apothecary's Cheeks & Lips Stain

A dear friend of mine has been on the hunt for a simple, straighforward, effective, easy-to-use lip/cheek stain for quite a while now. She keeps picking up varieties at various stores and hasn't yet satisfied her desire to have one product that offers a spash of color on her lips while imparting a natural blush to her cheeks. So while she's been off hunting for the perfect product, I decided to try to help her out and went on my own hunt. And, here's what I discovered: Urb Apothecary's Cheeks & Lips Stain. This sweet product comes in a regular formation and a vegan option. It's a buildable color, meaning that you can swipe on one simple layer or put on more and more to increase the hue. Simply apply like chapstick on both your lips and cheeks, then blend a little bit. For $11, this is a product that will last you quite a while. I'll have to surprise my friend with her new favorite product. 

Find Urb Apothecary's Cheeks & Lips Stain at Stripe in Santa Cruz and online here

Beauty Blast: Our Favorite Face Scrub

As a beauty blogger, I try a lot of products. But I only write about the ones I like. I've long been on the hunt for an exfoliator that really does the job it's supposed to do, but doesn't thrash your face in the process. Could something like that exist out there that's fresh, delicate, effective, and leaves your skin baby soft? It sure does and I've found it. Even better, it comes from my hometown of Santa Cruz, Calif. 

Matcha Scrub by Urb Apothecary is an exfoliator that will change the exfoliating industry. Combining matcha powder, sugar, green tea, and coconut oil, it's all-natural and doesn't impart any funky chemicals into your skin. 

I like to rub a fingerfull of it in the palm of my hands then slather on my wet face and rub gently around everywhere for about a minute. Rinse. And the results are astonishing. According to the owner, Leyna, a Santa Cruz local, the product, "repairs and protects skin from UV damage, reduces inflammation and its anti-microbial properties help clear problem skin." 

If you want to see a new face in the mirror, snap up this $8 jar of miracle scrub here.  

Beauty Blast: Herbivore Botanicals—Face Mask


Lately, I've been exploring various items from a new favorite line, the all-natural skincare brand, Herbivore Botanicals. I had noticed the line at Stripe, a lifestyle boutique in my hometown of Santa Cruz, and I was enamored with the packaging, so much so that I had to try the products (especially because the claims were alluring). Last week I did a test drive on the Coconut Bath Soak and I was wowed. This time around, I tried out the Brighten face mask.

So as to avoid using preservatives in the product, the basic ingredients come in a powder. Pour out a little bit into your hand or a small bowl and add a few sprinkles of water to get your preferred consistency. 

Made with tourmaline gemstone and white clay, the product claims to, "give your skin a boost in radiance and vitality. Tourmaline Gemstone combines with gentle White Clay and glow enhancing therapeutic oils of Neroli and Rose Geranium ... to vitalize skin while also allowing other ingredients to absorb more deeply into the skin."

I tried it out a few days ago and the following day I bumped into a good friend who mentioned how "bright" my skin looked.

Bottom line: this product does exactly what it claims. Henceforth, I'll lean on it whenever I need to "brighten" up. 

The Brighten face mask by Herbivore Botanicals sells for $34 online or at Stripe in Santa Cruz.

When Do-Good Products Actually Work

Sometimes, I’ve found that products that are fair-trade, non-GMO, gluten and paraben free, biodegradable and sustainable are simply unusable because they don’t smell good, don’t feel good or simply don’t work. Of course we all want to support businesses that create products with these kinds of attributes, but at the end of the day, I’m buying said product to wash my hair or de-wrinkle my skin and I want them to do their job.

Enter Alaffia Authentic African Black Soap. This all-in-one body wash, shampoo, shaving cream, and facial cleanser is a minor miracle in the beauty closet and is environmentally friendly and fair trade. Read on.

Black soap is a popular cleanser in West Africa, known for its detoxifying and purifying properties. Made from a centuries old recipe of locally made shea butter and West African palm kernel oil, the concoction is boiled with ashes then dried in the sun for three weeks to create the famous soap.

At first glance, the black soap appears more the color of brown sugar, a dubious color for soap in my opinion, but I decided to give it a try. First test, hands. It feels surprisingly smooth—I expected it to be gritty when I read about the ashes. The soap immediately worked into a rich lather that smelled of peppermint (Alaffia also offers the black soap in a Tangerine Citrus scent or unscented). My hands felt well cleansed, and the soap was not overly drying on my skin. Next test? Face. Same as the hands and no redness or breakouts. I have yet to use the product in all of the ways possible, but I have no doubt that it will do its job in every possible method.

Though Alaffia is a company based out of Washington state, it was founded in the hopes of alleviating poverty in West Africa through fair trade. In addition to concocting sumptuous and effective beauty products, Alaffia has created myriad programs to benefit the people in West Africa who create their products.

Beauty products that feel good, smell good and do good? Count me in.