Tag Archives: Eco-friendly

5 ways to “pretty up” your beauty routine

The beauty industry is a big business!  This spring, I kicked off with a blog The ‘Real’ Spring Clean detailing a few ways to clean up lifestyle approaches and living environments with regards to harmful exposures.  Personal care is a huge area within this topic, partially attributable to lack of adequate evaluation (see a 2004 Environmental Working Group report).

5 faucets to consider within this focus area include the following;

  1.  Upgrade your products for more bang for the buck.  One thing that blows people away is that well formulated, low-toxin beauty care products often require a lower amount for adequate application.  What does this mean in simple terms?  Investment in this sort of product will stretch, ie “less is more”.
  2. Pay attention to substrate when color is involved.  Essentially, liquids involving color have a greater chance of causing harm when applied to the skin.  Therefore, paying attention to chemicals, particularly those relating to endocrine disruption*, and carcinogens in products such as gels and creams may take higher significance as compared to a dry powder.  Definitely pay close attention to that lip color and be sure yours does not include lead.
  3. Avoid synthetic scents.  “Fragrance” is not well regulated in the U.S. and can consist of many proprietary chemical concoctions unclear to the end consumer.  The frustrating thing is even with “good” options, it can be hard to avoid.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) maintains a guide called Skin Deep to help assess this.  A good habit is to check whether labels have the word “fragrance” OR if a natural, plant-based substrate, such as a specific essential oil, is indicated.  Also, consider swapping out chemical based perfumes for essential oil blends!
  4. Take a break.  Find opportunities to avoid or reduce applications, for example there are ways to reduce how often we wash hair with shampoo and conditioner which, as it turns out, often leads to better hair quality.  Not only will making these reductions help lower the risk of cumulative low-dose exposures from personal care, it will save money over time.
  5. Remember internal health.  Finally, and most importantly, the real “skin deep” starts from within.  Cellular health is impacted by nutrition, toxicity, and emotional health.  Proper care for your internal systems will illuminate in better skin and hair quality leading to less need for external applications.

Although, admittedly, I’m still figuring this out myself, there are a couple options that I have come to favorable resolution on (for now);

Annmarie Skin Care multi-purpose foundation relies on a mineral powder, which can be used dry, or combined with facial oil, cream, or serum.  Blend a small amount of the mineral powder with oil, cream or serum in the palm of your hand to create the liquid consistency for foundation.

Typically I blend with their signature herb-infused oil (also available in unscented), but it has surprised me how nicely it also applies as a direct powder application.  In consideration of point 1 above, this product stretches well.  I hardly use any of it to make for full coverage.

Neal’s Yard Remedies is a product line was introduced to me by the lovely Lara Adler.  Based in the UK, it is distributed through retail channels throughout Great Britain and via independent consultants in other countries.  An unexpected bonus is I found that a friend from grade school had become a rep so I was able to reconnect with her through the process (see her page).

I have been absolutely amazed at how happy I have been when using Lush Ultrabland Facial Cleanser.  The formula cleanses and moisturizes simultaneously and can be used simply as an under eye make up remover or as a total facial cleanse.  Their Full of Grace solid serum is also a great multi-purpose staple.

Mineral Fusion products, although not perfect (mostly due to fragrance), rank pretty favorable across EWG’s list, come at a reasonable price point, and are available through a variety of accessible channels, including Whole Foods.  In addition, they have hair care formulas for color treated hair which is less commonly found within natural/organic centered personal care products.

One discouraging thing about being a Hashi’s patient is that I have experienced a fair share of eye brow thinning.  ZuZu Luxe pencil comes in a tobacco color that I love and their products rank pretty well on EWG’s list as well.

A company that I have not tried yet, but am considering for future use is 100% Pure.  The company relies on natural, plant-derived pigments and avoids iron oxides which have to be tested for lead.

Many also turn to Beauty Counter which is positioned at the fore front of education in the US beauty market and centered on reduction of substrates that are harmful in personal care products including their coined “Never List”.  Link to the page for one consultant in my network.

Finally, I have noticed several small, craft based options picking up momentum.  A few favorites in the Chicago area include Bonnie and Biba Lips.  Lip applications have not had the best track record, such as testing for lead.  Especially with consideration to point 2 above, lip color is a key area to pay attention to when assessing for potential toxicity.

Additional resources can be found via the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

*Chemical-based substrates associated to endocrine disruption include phthalates (a class of chemicals related to “fragrance”, softeners, solvents, and stabilizers in personal and household related products), parabens (used as preservatives), and phenoxyethanol.  Endocrine disruptors refer to substrates that mimic or block hormone signals which, in addition to gland and organ health, have been studied for their role obesity.

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

Disclosure - Annmarie Gianni & 100% Pure links direct to my affiliate pages which may generate very small amounts of monetary income.

The ‘Real’ Spring Clean

How do you define clean?

I hope to challenge your definition and for those in which I’m “speaking to the choir”, let’s sing!

Toxins are a result of man-made chemicals as well as naturally occurring.  Repetitive low-dose exposure to these compounds over time, such as phthalates, is what we refer with the terms “toxic load” or “burden”.  Collective dose has been a subjective topic within the scientific community.  However, there is a supportive body of evidence for associations between toxic exposures and the onset of a whole host of chronic diseases from autoimmune to cancers.  Children, pregnant women, and older aged adults are significantly more sensitive and vulnerable to toxin exposure such as those from pesticides.  Substrates with toxicity can be found in consumer products, food, and the environment in which we engage.

Do I have your attention?

O.k., now “what the heck can you do about it?“…

I cordially invite you to redefine your spring clean.  Conduct an intervention for yourself by focusing on ridding yourself of the ugly (cleanse) and shifting to more healthful alternatives.  The easiest changes will be in your home.  Pick a room to start with and get going.  (Hint, this will likely be your kitchen and/or bathroom).

Primary areas in which you can easily make shifts;

  1. Personal Care – Color, fragrance, additives, synthetic chemicals that few would accurately pronounce… you name it.  Each of these are areas to become keen on when assessing potential toxic load.
  2. Cleaning Products – Besides data on unintentional poisoning leading to adverse outcomes including death, the average US household cleaner contributes to indoor air pollution.  These products carry rather harsh hazard warnings, such as “Danger”, “Warning”, or “Caution”, for a reason.  Yet, natural alternatives do not need any of this.  Consider the alternatives.
  3. Food –
    • How many ingredients are in a piece of produce?  No, this is not a trick question.  Answer:  ONE!  A follow up question, do you know how that piece of produce was grown, ripened, and shipped?
    • How many ingredients are in the average processed food item?  To be honest, I could not find this data, but I’m certain the average number is over 5!  Whole-food recipes, ie products of resulting in multiples of one, are not what I’m referring to here.  I’m calling out additives, derivatives, isolations, etc.  Many nutritionists suggest to shop by “Five or Fewer”. By this, we mean if it has more than five ingredients, don’t buy it.
    • Finally, pesticide resin, which can also be systemic, and potential harmful exposures picked up during shipping and transit are also variables to take into account.  The Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists provide preliminary guidance (see below).
    • BONUS – don’t forget to check out your food storage, packaging, and cookware options, especially those used for heated items and/or those holding fat based items.

A special note on fragrances – In some cases, natural derivatives can contribute to the scent of an item, however, often the term on a product label is code for chemical concoction and full disclosure is not legally required.

Changes in each of the areas can parallel each other.  We often think of health as diet and fitness and the term “clean living” has been coined to food.  However, our health is impacted by many more variables each of which can be addressed in a “Spring Clean”.  Healthful shifts will incorporate reasonable reduction and realistic transitions.

What about communal spaces?

On a public health landscape, we certainly have work to do.  However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does incorporate this area into their healthy workplace initiatives and can be leveraged as a resource for change within communal spaces.

Other Resources;

Clean 15-Dirty Dozen

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

A Holiday List

2015 Holiday Suggestions

When I started pulling my materials together for this late last month, I didn’t realize how comprehensive my list would end up.  Flipping through my collection of business cards, it turns out that I was introduced to quite a few new products over the last year including those offered from small, locally oriented vendors with passion, personal connection, and value-focus to their product lines.

Gift giving practices will vary from person to person, but my hope is for those making purchases this holiday season, that “consumer vote” will support some of these great products and services.  With “eco-friendly” and “shop small” concepts in mind, a few of my favorite new 2015 finds as well as some old stand-by options are included in this suggestion list:

Essential Oils

The applications for essential oils are immense; aromatherapy, medicinal, personal hygiene, and household cleaning, to name a few.  Good ones don’t come cheap, however.  If you are looking for a resourceful, yet indulgent gift, consider essential oils.

A few classic, reliable vendors include doTerra or Young Living, but there are certainly others worth considering.  It takes a little research into quality standards, but you won’t regret the knowledge gained from exploring this path.

Earlier this year, I met a bright representative of Young Living at an eco-friendly beauty event and learned all about Thieves’ Blend, which comes with a historical story.  It is pretty well accepted that 15th-century French thieves used the blend to cover the inner side of their masks, due to its antibacterial properties, when entering households affected by the plague.  Despite its controversial past, it is still highly revered today.

There was a raffle associated with the event and I was fortunate enough to win a bottle of Young Living Thieves’ Blend household multi-purpose cleaner formula.  So far, it has been fantastic to use.  Not only is it quite remarkable how well it works, it smells great.  It is a much better choice as compared to synthetically “scented” household cleaner formulas.

Finally, if you are looking for finished formulas for a variety of body care, check out Town & Anchor.


My family does an annual game that falls somewhere between white elephant and naughty Santa.  Anything from gently used to brand new can be included as one’s entry as long as newly purchased items don’t exceed a high price point.  Last year storage items, particularly those for the kitchen, seemed to be the most frequently stolen and chit-chatted over throughout the game.

Mason Jars – beyond traditional canning, there are so many uses for these.  They are great for storage, salad jars on the go, fermented foods, smoothies or lemon water, and personal care products.  Most craft stores sell lids with pumps for lotions or liquid soaps.  Even better, the price point is low.  With the versatility of these jars, the value is clear.  Plus, they come in a few different colors.  A ribbon or holiday trim can easily be tied around the lid for a simple, festive presentation.

Stackable Kitchen Storage – several years ago I came across clear, glass kitchen storage canisters at World Market that had a black chalkboard label area pre-stamped on.  At the time, I bought a handful of them in a variety of sizes.  Later, when I started buying almost all my dry goods from bulk bins, I went back for more.  Only this time they had been redesigned to have lids shaped in a way for stacking.  Genius!  Although it has seemed they have phased out using the chalkboard label, you can still purchase chalk board decals.

*See photo at bottom

Beauty & Eco-friendly

The list of chemicals in traditional cosmetics is alarming.  The good news, there are better alternatives.  I was fortunate to be introduced to a few alternative options this year including, but not limited to the following:

Beautycounter – sold through independent consultants, the products are developed to avoid approximately 1,500 chemicals that have either unsafe or inconclusive evidence of safety.  The company also takes a proactive approach educate consumers on cosmetic ingredients, not just sell product.  I was specifically touched by the back side of their business cards in which a “never list” of ingredients to avoid is printed.

Biba Lips – founded with a focus on glamour without less preferred ingredients, such as parabens, synthetics, or artificial fragrances.  “Biba” translates to a beautiful woman both inside and out.  The lip color line is beautifully crafted with botanicals centered on nourishing qualities and packaged in a gold-toned mirrored compact.

Bonnie – handcrafted in Chicago, Bonnie equals more than just lip balm.  The line includes facial masks, lotions & body serums, and natural perfumes.  Even better, the labeling is artistic and fully designed by the owner.  Hello stocking stuffer!

{blade +bloom} – scrubs, soaps, and body balms.  The coffee scrub is phenomenal.

Smart Handbags

A great bag can be hard to find.  Two new options I found this year are below:

(Undercover) POPULAR – specializing in self-proclaimed “upcycled vintage”, the designer finds creative ways to use retired products such as old footballs made into a handbag or wine corks turned into fun and novelty bottle charms.  She also offers a wide selection of vintage handbags and accessories.

PoCampo – I was nearly sold at first site.  These tactfully made bags are not just attractive and eye-catching, they are incredibly resourceful.  Tailored to incorporate our mobile device driven world with an on-the-go lifestyle, their designs are weather-proof and perfect for all commuter types; bike, transit, or car.

Spirits, Botanicals, Brews, & Accessories

I came across Strongwater at a craft festival.  I was blown away by the thought and care put into this old-fashion craft spirit and liquid botanical business.  The Colorado-based, young entrepreneurs focus on classic cocktail mixers based on apple cider vinegar with infused ingredients and herbal bitters extracted in grain alcohol.  Each tailored to blend flavor with apothecary health benefits.

If looking for a great complimentary product, check out 3-Switch glassware or DropCatch barware.  Completely indulgent and cool, fun products, the funky glasses and decanters 3-Switch offer are perfect for holiday cheer while DropCatch’s bar accessories are classic, stylish and practical, including their signature magnetic bottle openers.

Another beverage option is to look into local brewers that offer half and full size growlers.  This is a great way to support small-batch, sustainable, and/or organic brewers.  In Chicago, we have a fantastic addition to our local brewery community, Greenstar Brewing, http://www.uncommonground.com/greenstar-brewing.

Sustainable Produce, Seeds, & Other Organic Foods

Earlier this year, I was searching for off the beaten track gifts of a practical nature and the idea of sending up a produce box or signing the recipient up for a membership was suggested.  It takes a little digging within your respective communities, but many local companies specialize in local produce delivery, many times all or partially organic.  Another good place to look is locally owned and operated grocers.  It’s kind of free marketing for them, so it’s a win-win opportunity.

As for seed banks, it also takes a little digging to find organic vendors, but many of them operate online.  I have used SeedsNow a handful of times, including for additions to wedding gift baskets.  Spring planting themes would be great for holiday gift giving.

If you are seeking a good catch all vendor selling organic foods, teas, essential oils, and other health related products online, check out eSutras Organics.  Specializing in small batch products, they also have sustainability built into many aspects of their business model, including sourcing from smaller, artisan traders and offering discounts to customers who ship back their containers for reuse and recycling.

Handmade Soaps & Candles

It seems as though overnight, everyone is making soaps or candles.  Based on essential oils and natural ingredients, the aromatic combinations seem endless.  It’s hard to select just one.[1]  A few that I have been pleased to come across are as follows:

Soap Distillery – definitely a small-batch vendor, but not without a high level of uniqueness.  I recommend trying the Limoncello for a clean, fresh scent.

Cloud Nine Soap Co.  – this company covers all your needs for soap including body bars, a kitchen collection, designs for kids, shaving soap, and a laundry formula.  Not only are they resourceful, they have come up with some pretty great fragrance offerings.  They even sell “beer soap” which is actually infused with beer.  How is that for a unique gift option?  Also consider their skin & lip care items, bath accessories, and soy candles.

Peripeti Home – soy candles and home fragrances using essential oils over synthetics.  Seasonal fragrances include Holiday Hearth, Pumpkin & Ginger, and Cypress & Jasmine.

Artumie Candle Studio – handcrafted in Chicago and featured in select small shops across half a dozen states (also available through Wild Poppy Goods online shop, http://www.wildpoppygoods.com).  My favorite is Bergamot & Basil while Midwest Campfire is a close second and seasonally appropriate option.

The Sweet Side

There are a ton of sugar-sweetened products on the market, but only a few earn my vote.  Typically, I am looking for low sugar content (if any added sugars are used at all) and additive free, such as no gluten, dairy, or soy.  The reality is that good food products, especially those of specialty nature, often don’t come cheap.

One staple I have found is Theo chocolate bars.  For about $3.99/bar, a variety of options are available with mostly natural sweetening ingredients, such as coconut, versus added refined sugar.  For the holidays, they are offering Gingerbread Spice, Peppermint Stick, and Nutcracker Brittle specialty flavors at a slightly higher price point.  They also offer a Sea Salt Dark bar benefiting World Bicycle Relief.

This year, I also came across GrownUpKidStuff which focuses on chocolate and caramel sauces made without corn, soy, gluten, or nuts.  They also make a dairy free option.  A few of their options are definitely unique, such as a chocolate sauce infused with Big Fat’s hot sauce.

Finally, don’t forget organic spices, especially for your recipients who love to cook.  Again, a few decadent options can come at a higher price tag for everyday use.  The holidays are a great time to spoil your loved ones with a few extra additions to their spice cabinet.

Mom-made Fashions

Many years ago I befriended an outgoing young woman, Melissa, the mastermind behind Sew Like My Mom.  From what started as a hobby making colorful patterned handbags, and synergistic to her life as a mother, she has grown her business from crafty, homemade designs to the development of her own line of children’s clothing patterns.

***Watch for her four adorable children in her images and product marketing.

Other Unique Apparel, Home Goods, & Finds

Representing a hodge-podge, this list of vendors and retail stores cover a variety.  Most of which encompass eco-friendly offerings.

American-made – founded by a husband and wife duo, 50Roots serves to focus on American-made products representing products across the United States.  Carefully selected, from wine glasses to recycled messenger bags to a slinky, the product line is as diverse as the states in which products are made.  For the kiddos, check out their Eco-Kids arts and crafts and definitely do not forget to gloss over their “For Fido” options.

Global and ArtisanTen Thousand Villages operates stores across the U.S. and features artisan-made products representative of over 3 dozen developing countries while promoting fair trade.  Shop with a conscious at this crafty, diverse retailer (also available online).

Interchangeable Sandals – one of the coolest products I came across in the last year, Mohop Shoes uses orthopedic materials, changeable ties and accessories, and are made from sustainably-sourced, recycled, or fair-trade materials.  Select from either Made to Order and Ready to Wear options and be sure to also check them out on YouTube.

Rustic, Artistic, and Practical – if looking for anything from jewelry to lunch bags to a chicken coop with a refurbished feel, be sure to check out Peg + Awl.  Led by a husband and wife duo, the pair designs an array of products all with a special touch of family inspiration.

[1] Not all soy candles are created equal.  If a vendor cannot speak to this, it may be worth passing on them for now.

Photo of clear storage canisters mentioned above:


Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!