almond joy

On March 29, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

There is a definite pattern in my bodycare preferences…

IMG_9669

(and in my eating preferences, too)

It is almond and coconut all the way chez Sphinx, with only occasional forays into other bodywashes here and there (though, come to think of it, I have the Dove nourishing almond oil one, and their nourishing almond deodorant as well) or some alternate body lotion (I like Amlactin, and a number from L’Occitane, like…their almond one…and their almond oil body wash…). Even when I stray from the pure stuff, these ingredients are often in there somewhere.

There’s a definite appeal to raw ingredients, their flexibility and malleability. You can start mixing already complex products but I find the results much more hit or miss, have difficulties getting textures to blend the way I hope, and often, if I like the product, it seems unnecessary. [My sense that it doesn’t always work out, then, may be a result of messing around with products I didn’t especially like in the first place. Hm. By that point I’m convinced I can’t make them any worse, however, so I can really have at them. Example: a body scrub from The Body Shop that I didn’t find scrubby enough, added granulated sugar until I was satisfied. Problem solved.*]

*I have ruined some things, too, but it never serves to discourage future experiments.

IMG_9667

1. NOW Sweet Almond oil—there are other brands but some don’t smell very good, this one has the virtue of not smelling like much at all, absorbs nicely into the skin, acts brilliantly as a carrier for essential oils and perfumes, lovely on the hair as well. Mixes readily with other oils to create still more hair/body options. Edible. Really wouldn’t be without this.

2. Dr. Bronner’s Almond Castile soap—great all-purpose soap. I use it as a body wash and sometimes as a shampoo, and to wash makeup brushes. A touch of marzipan to the scent, which I don’t love but which doesn’t seem to linger. I prefer the peppermint scent (but not the rose one), and have been meaning to try the eucalyptus. Takes ages to finish a bottle. Maybe next year, eucalyptus.

3. Barlean’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil—there are tons of brands of coconut oil around, and most of them seem just fine. This one is especially good to eat, and I use it all over. In my hair as a leave-in or deep treatment, as a skin conditioner, to sautée vegetables, as an oil/butter substitute in various recipes, added to grains to flavor while cooking, just…to eat.

4. Trader Joe’s Coconut Body Butter—I’ve mentioned this before, and I don’t like it any less now. Has a bit of a chocolatey richness to it that makes it especially delicious. Very thick and moisturizing. Such  great value.

5. Sun Bum Coconut lip balm—think will be picking up some of SunBum’s sunscreen come summer. Smart branding, good, skin-friendly ingredients. Nice to find lip balms with a high SPF. This is cocoa butter, mainly, but with coconut scent, so it’s in.

IMG_9671

6. Raw almonds—I cannot begin to tell you how many raw almonds I consume.

7. Coconut flakes—anyone have a good recipe for coconut macarons? They are the kind of indulgence that is just appealing enough and just expensive enough to make me want to take matters into my own hands. I like coconut milk, too, and coconut water, certain brands of, and that So Delicious (that’s the brand, not my emphasis, though it is really good) coconut milk ice cream. The mint/chocolate one.

I really wish I had some of that now.

try these: cinnamon brooms

On October 29, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

In autumn Trader Joe’s carries these cinnamon brooms, actually made of pine that has been treated with cinnamon oil (from the cinnamon tree, how cool that cinnamon is bark). They smell purely, authentically and, at least at first, powerfully, of cinnamon. I love the smell of cinnamons (there are so many varieties!) along with all of their known associates (nutmeg(s!), allspice, clove, cassia), anything under the compelling umbrella of spicy and warm,* and usually pick up a few. They provide a pleasant, natural fragrance for a good while.

*Remember the original Bulgari Omnia?

IMG_6409

My favorite application is sticking one in the coat closet so I smell like chai all winter.

summer bodycare favorites

On July 23, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

Sunscreen, moisturizers, body oils, body scrub…here are a few of the body products I’ve been enjoying so far this summer.

IMG_7182

Banana Boat Sport sunscreen — I’m not that fussy about which sunscreen I use on my body, I mostly want an old-school sunscreen smell (I really enjoy that smell when it is authentic, in the context of sunscreen), and happily turn to brands like Banana Boat and Coppertone.  For a great explanation of the various types of and methods for rating/categorizing sunscreen, and what that means for you, check out this video, which I found educational. Facialist Caroline Hirons interviews plastic/reconstructive surgeon Marko Lens, the brains behind the Zelens skincare line, who has an excellent Italian accent.

Elemis Frangipani Monoi body oil — Smells awesome. Frangipani (or plumeria) is a tropical flower with a lush, peachy, creamy scent that reminds me of some lilies, but more fruity. Monoi is a term for coconut oil that has been infused with the tiaré flower, or Tahitian gardenia (which smells a lot like frangipani). Great for (easiest to get out of the bottle in) summer because coconut oil is solid below 76°.  The fragrance is nicely balanced and I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts but won’t repurchase. I will instead go for

Monoi Tiare Tahiti Monoi Tiiki Tahiti Coconut Oil — Same idea as above (sans frangipani) but much less expensive. The scent is stronger here, and a bit less complex (fewer ingredients), but also lovely. I find that it dies down pretty quickly, anyway, so don’t be afraid of how it smells out of the bottle. This brand also has a vanilla version, with a vanilla bean in the bottle, and it smells like frosting in a really authentic and delicious way (not in a synthetic, gross way). A bit too sweet for me but I know there’s an audience out there for it.

The Body Shop Olive Cream Body Scrub — I exfoliate year-round but with particular care in the summer. This smells great, bright and herbal. I wouldn’t mind if it were a bit scrubbier…but it works. I use a body brush beforehand, and sometimes an exfoliating glove along with the scrub, so there’s no shortage of friction. I like a number of salt and sugar scrubs as well, and am not too particular about the specific product slotted in here.

Weleda Citrus Deodorant — The active ingredient here is biodynamic (good for you, Weleda!) lemon peel oil but to me this smells like lime water with a little something else in it, which means it smells like a gin and tonic. Mojito, gin and tonic – why not smell like your favorite summer tipple? I don’t use this under my arms, typically, more as a refreshing body spray (all natural ingredients here, and no antiperspirant function) on the parts of my body most likely to overheat, or the parts that have already overheated. This bottle will last a while but I’m interested to try the rose one next.

Trader Joe’s Coconut Body Butter —  Coconut oil and shea butter whipped into a rich, luxurious cream. I like using straight coconut oil, too, or one of my options above, but this sinks in quickly and leaves skin moisturized for a good while. Such a good use of $5 or whatever it is. This smells like coconut frosting, so you’ll need to be OK with that. Not too sweet for me, though.

Nuxe Huile Prodigeuse — Having a dry oil to hand is really useful. So quick to apply and you don’t have to worry about getting oil stains on your clothing. This oil smells particularly lovely, a slightly old-fashioned (rather, currently out of fashion, but no less beautiful for that) floral bouquet that reminds me of classic French perfumers working directly from floral extracts (say, Houbigant, and others from Grasse). This floral is complex, restrained, elegant. It can easily be worn in lieu of perfume or, as I often do, layered under perfume to add longevity and interest. This one is a bit of a cult favorite, and there’s also a version with shimmer in.

Jergens Natural Glow Moisturizer — As I’m using sunscreen so faithfully, if I want a deeper tan (a noticeable-to-me tan) it’s got to be a fake one. Tanning is your body trying to protect you from sun damage, and also the sign that the damage is done…so a safe tan is a fake tan. I think the main complaint is that fake tanners tend to smell like biscuits, but as far as I’m concerned they smell like those awesome Speculoos ginger cookies I love, and I can’t at all see the problem. I use this just on my legs, when I think to. I don’t have streaking issues as long as I wipe off the excess with a paper towel or some such, and have exfoliated beforehand. I have the St. Tropez bronzing lotion as well, and while it is a bit nicer, the color a bit more realistic, the formula a bit more effective…it’s not so much better that I’m inspired to pay for it again and again when there are decent alternatives like the Jergens (and now many others) out there. As for ‘firming’, good grief. Don’t believe that stuff.

My face is a whole different story.

on the menu: breakfast, short and sweet

On April 26, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

IMG_2908

I don’t mind a ready-made cinnamon bun now and then, perhaps because I grew up having them on Christmas and other special occasions (other holidays featuring elaborate breakfasts, overnight guests, etc.)? One cannot always be rolling out pastry dough. This one is from Trader Joe’s.

IMG_2901

Plate and mug from Jars ceramics, stunning glazes from this brand.

Lately I make this kind of pseudo-latte with a base of coffee and about 1/3 c of melted vanilla ice cream poured over the top, drizzled with caramel. [Then I drizzle anything else that seems promising with caramel as well.] Sometimes I’ll add a dash of Monin Hazelnut syrup, if I’ve woken up with a sweet tooth and am feeling really decadent.

into: face oils

On February 16, 2013 by theseventhsphinx

IMG_1591

I have naturally oily skin but I like to treat it as if it is sensitive, dehydrated skin. Oily ≠ hydrated.

My preferred method of hydrating, protecting, and nourishing my skin is: face oils. For years now they have nearly taken the place of moisturizer altogether, especially at night, and my skin hasn’t been this soft and healthy since…before puberty. The lighter oils aren’t any greasier/heavier than a standard sunscreen, and many absorb completely within half an hour or so. They are also extremely soothing after exfoliation or skin treatments and rarely cause the stinging that the chemicals in some moisturizers can.

A good quality oil is often cheaper than a good quality moisturizer, and a little goes a long way. Most can be used for your hair or in the kitchen as well (not to mention as makeup removers and cleansers). I find dropper bottles the most convenient. Not too fussed about brands here, I just look for organic, 100% pure options and go for whatever is reasonably priced. Different oils provide different benefits, and I like to rotate several depending on how my skin is feeling on a given day.

argan oil.  Healing and nourishing, antioxidants, fatty acids, etc. I’m sure you’ve heard. Lightweight, absorbs quickly, no scent. I like this one and this one.

apricot kernel oil. Vitamin A & fatty acids. Healing and good for especially sensitive skin. Also quite light, and, like argan oil, good for when the skin is blemish-prone.

rosehip seed oil. Packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, good for skin regeneration and treatment of scarring. You can go not so cheap(though I found this one discounted at TJ Maxx), or you can go really not so cheap. Downside that this dyes your pillow orange, upside is your skin the next day. Thick and rich, can really only be used at night or on isolated dry patches.

jojoba oil. Similar to the skin’s natural oil so it absorbs beautifully and has no distinct odor. Trader Joe’s has a good price. Inexpensive enough to use all over the body as well.

sweet almond oil. I tend to use this on my body rather than my face as it is especially moisturizing, inexpensive and has almost no odor. Absorbs well into the skin (unlike, say, baby oil, which is basically mineral oil, which provides a barrier of protection  but is difficult for skin to absorb (like petroleum jelly)). Great carrier oil for making your own blends. I like to add random essential oils to scent it (many of which also have skin benefits, but do your research first). Recommend frankincense (go smell frankincense), patchouli (not just for the 60s anymore), chamomile, lavender, peru basalm, ylang ylang.

Then there are blends, which can be very expensive indeed. Watch for cheaper blends bulked up with cheap oils like safflower. They will moisturize but don’t have the benefits a concentrated, high quality oil will. I have some of these but they are for the oil-guzzling body, not the face.

I don’t regret acquiring the Clarins rebalancing oils, which are precious but smell amazing and are packed with great nutrients. The Blue Orchid one smells especially awesome. Kind of a sweet, light, compelling patchouli. [Men, go put this on your face and just see what happens.] If, like me, you have a thing for cardamom, try the Santal one. Or, you know, choose one based on your skin concern. Smell before you buy, is what I say about these.

I’ll do a separate post about the oils I like for my hair, which are many. Will also soon experiment with olive oil, avocado oil, hazelnut oil, and castor oil in various contexts. We’ll see how it goes.

N.B. I didn’t like evening primrose oil, which, without heavy dilution with some nice-smelling stuff, smells actually rancid. Some oils should be stored in the refrigerator as they will go rancid, but this one smells unbearable anyway.