Love This! John Masters Organics Citrus & Neroli Detangler

I have long, thick hair and it thinks tangling is a hobby.  I have to use twice as much conditioner as shampoo to even have a chance of getting it combed in under 15 minutes.  I got a sample of this product with an online order and – to be honest – I didn’t expect much from it.  But I was wrong…

What I Like:  It smells nice.  It has a light citrus-y fragrance.   It really does detangle hair.  It also leaves it softer and more moisturized.  It can be used as a leave-in treatment for very dry hair, or as an extra conditioner/detangler for normal hair.  It’s made without artificial fragrances and colors, petroleum-based ingredients, and parabens.  (By the way:  Neroli is orange blossom extract.)

Unfortunately:  It’s not the most inexpensive product ever made.

However:  The inexpensive stuff I’ve been using is made for kids and smells like it.   Plus, the bottle looks really silly amongst all the “grown-up” products in my bathroom cabinet.

Price:  $16 for 8 fl. oz. bottle – $50 for 35 fl. oz. bottle

Available at: Various online retailers, including bloom, amazon,  (Larger size available at


What’s It All Mean?

Lots of beauty products are advertising “sulfate-free”, “paraben free” and “phthalate free”.  What are these things, and why should you consider avoiding them?  Here’s a quick breakdown…


What They Are:  Phthalates are “plasticizers” added to products to increase their flexibility and/or elasticity.  While there is a big push to get them out of products manufactured/sold in the U.S., there are still LOTS of products that contain them.  Luckily, you can easily tell if an ingredient is a phthalate, because “phthalate” is the last word in it.  (example:  diethyl phthalate, butylbenzyl phthalate)

Why They’re Bad:  Phthalates have been linked to endocrine disruption which leads to breast cancer.  In some studies, they’ve also been shown to increase instances of obesity/insulin resistance.  In children, they’re linked to allergies and asthma.   Prenatal exposure has been shown to cause low birth weight, one of the leading causes of death in newborns.  In men, some studies indicate phthalates can cause reduced sprem counts, testicular atrophy, and liver cancer.


What They Are:  Parabens are preservatives added to products to make them last longer.  They fight bacteria and fungus.  Like phthalates, it’s easy to tell if an ingredient contains parabens because “paraben” will be at the end of the ingredient name.

Why They’re Bad:  Parabens were found in 19 of 20 breast cancer tumors of women studied.  Because they mimic estrogen and disrupt hormone function, they’re also linked to reproductive toxicity.  They’re also a possible cause for organ system toxicity and birth or developmental defects.


What They Are:  Additives that help with lathering/foaming of products like shampoo, toothpaste, etc.  It’s a surfactant- a substance that breaks up surface tension, the bonds between molecules in the outer layer of a compound, allowing to remove dirt and oil.

Why They’re Bad:  In a report, the Journal of the American College of Toxicology (in 1983!!!) said that sodium lauryl sulfate has a “degenerative effect on the cell membrances because of its protein denaturing properties” and “high levels of skin penetration may occur at even low use concentration”.  So, it can cause skin irriration and permanent eye damage.  If you have particularly sensitive skin, you might want to avoid products with sulfates.  Unless your hair is really dirty every day or you just can’t live without super-foamy shampoo, you probably don’t need them.

In Summary:  Personally, I think it’s impossible for us to avoid EVERYthing that’s potentially bad for us or may cause cancer.  And it seems that we have to “pick and choose” with our carcinogenic risk.  One thing increases the chance of developing one medical problem while decreasing the chances of developing another.  It seems like you can’t win.  However, if you have a family history of cancer and are trying to reduce your risk in every way you can, you might want to think about avoiding some of these chemicals.

For more information about other ingredients (you may never have heard of) that might be bad for you, read this article:



They say “It’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.”  I’m not buying it.  If I never knew what I was missing, I could remain blissfully ignorant.  So, when companies discontinue products I love, I get kind of angry.  Here’s a memorial tribute to all the products I’ve loved and lost…

Benefit She Laq:  A GREAT product for multiple uses.  It could be used to waterproof brows, eyeliner, mascara, or blend with eyeshadow to make it stay put in the pool.  I hope it wasn’t discontinued because it wasn’t safe.  I’m using my bottle to the last drop.

Sephora Eyeliner Last:  Another waterproofing product (Hey, it’s hot here – I need summer-proof makeup!) that came in the perfect container with a little tiny brush.  I bought 3 bottles when they put it on clearance.

Smashbox Photo Finish Primer in “bronzing”:  Seriously?  This is my go-to product for when I don’t want to wear makeup or need to compensate for my paler-then-the-rest-of-me face.  I also used it to even out my skintone.  Boo, Smashbox!

Revlon ColorStay Active Foundation:  This was a happy medium between regular ColorStay foundation (which smells and feels like latex paint) and regular foundation.  It stays on decently well without being hard to take off and provides better coverage than most foundations.  You will be missed.  And I will probably be spending a bunch of money trying to find a replacement for you.

Garnier Skin Renew Polishing Exfoliator:  When I exfoliate, I don’t play around.  I want to scrub my face, not feel some little beads haphazardly massaging my face.  This came in a set with a moisturizer I don’t like and just throw away.  For the last year or so, I’ve been buying every set I see at TJ Maxx or wherever.  (Except that time some moron put the price at $14.) Eventually, my supply will run out and I’ll have to find something else or use those bad-smelling loofah discs…

Bourjois Ultra Black Mascara:  I got this in a mini-kit that was on clearance at Sephora, only to find that Sephora stopped carrying the brand.  Ulta sells some of their stuff, but no longer has this mascara (of course).  A third-party seller on is selling it for $32 (plus shipping!) and I just don’t love anything enough to pay more than double what it’s worth.  I’ve found a suitable replacement, but I’m still hurt.

About 50 Bath & Body Works Fragrances:  Seriously, you guys rotate your fragrance collection more often than I buy new shoes.  It’s annoying.  OK, I love going to the outlet and getting stuff cheaper, but still.  And what’s with the “seasonal” fragrances that aren’t really seasonal?  I’d be glad to have anything that smells like chocolate or cinnamon all year long!  I understand your stores are small.  At least let me order it online…

Plain Old Pantene Shampoo:  Your stuff was fine before you made 20 different varieties.  I really don’t like having to spend 20 minutes in the shampoo aisle reading tiny print on bottles to figure out what kind I should buy.  Oh, and by the way – the last 2 varieties I tried were really horrible, even though they were appropriate for my hair type.

100 Other Things I Don’t Remember:  It happens a lot.  Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe I shouldn’t take it so hard.  And yeah, I know change is inevitable.  Really, I’m glad to embrace change in many parts of my life – just not the ones that cause me to spend money on products I may or may not like when I already found something I know I like.

Beauty Bargains at Discount Stores

If you love buying beauty products (or just seem to use a lot of them), or are looking for some “prestige brand” items to give as gifts, here are some hints on where you might be able to find them…

TJ Maxx/Marshall’s/Ross:   These stores have a varied selection of miscellaneous items.  Sometimes they’re “out of season” items (like pumpkin spice scent or whatever), sometimes the stuff has been discontinued, and sometimes it’s just there because the company changed the packaging or something.  Brands I’ve seen at these stores:  The Body Shop, H20+, Strivectin, Philosophy, Estee Lauder, Burt’s Bees, Tigi, OPI, and others.   These stores are also a good place to look for your favorite fragrances at a significant discount, as long as it’s been on the market for a while.

Big Lots:  These stores don’t sell prestige brands, but they do sell drugstore brands like Almay, Revlon, etc.  Their selection is also very hit-and-miss, but the deals are pretty impressive.

Burlington Coat Factory:  This is another place you might look for your favorite perfumes.  The prices aren’t always super-competitive, but it’s probably going to be cheaper than walking into a Sephora store to buy it.

Perfume-Specific Stores:  A lot of these types of stores run BOGO promotions or special deals on certain fragrances.  If there’s one in your area, check it out to get an idea of what they have.

Helpful Hint:  (for smartphone users)  If you’re shopping at a discount store and want to find out if you’re getting a good deal, try using an app like ShopSavvy (free download).  It allows you to scan a product and see what the prices are for that product in local stores and online.  Not everything is programmed in, but it’s a helpful tool.

Download for Apple:

Download for Android:

Review: Colorescience Pro Brush Cleaner

I was almost out of brush cleaner (I’ve been using Ulta Professional brand) and I was ordering some other stuff online, so I added this one to my cart…

Pros:  Costs less than some others.  The spray bottle works really well.  It cleans as well as others.  Helps brushes dry faster.  It’s probably better at sanitizing than other brush cleansers. (keep reading)

Cons:  It smells VERY heavily of alcohol and peroxide, which are listed as the second and third ingredients.  Seriously, it smells kind of bad, unless you just love that antiseptic fragrance…

Overall:  It works fine, but I don’t love the smell of it.  It comes in a pretty metal container, which I thought I liked.  Now I realize it will just make it harder for me to see how much I have left.  Of course, I hope I go through it very quickly, because I’d like to go back to the better-smelling Ulta Professional product.

Price:  $10 for 4 fl. oz. bottle

Available at:,, and various other online retailers

Shopping Tip: Maximizing Coupons

I love using coupons.  The way I see it – the more I save, the more stuff I can buy!  Here are some ways to get even more value out of your coupons…

Target:  These stores allow you to use store coupons and manufacturer’s coupons together.  Target usually has makeup coupons on their website, and they’re usually for brands like Revlon and L’Oreal, who regularly put out manufacturer’s coupons.  Even if the item costs 20 cents more at Target, it’s worth it to buy it there if you can use both coupons.  Also, Target usually has stuff on clearance that you can get very inexpensively if you have the right coupon(s).

Ulta:  Their stores accept manufacturer’s coupons.  I had no idea they did until recently.  Using their store promotions, Ulta coupons, and manufacturer’s coupons can really help you save.

Walgreens:  Sometimes Walgreens has in-store coupons (in booklets near the store circulars) that you can use with manufacturer’s coupons.  However, here’s Walgreens’ coupon policy:  Your number of items has to be the same or greater than the number of coupons.  So, If you buy 5 items, you can only have 5 coupons of any kind.  (Of course, nothing’s stopping you from buying that 25 cent piece of candy to have enough items to use your 50 cent coupon…)

Online Shopping:  Using sites like Fat Wallet and Ebates can get you cash back at your favorite stores.  Even if they don’t have any coupons listed for the site you want to shop at, check for current promotional codes.   Combining the cash back and promotion code savings can make stuff much more affordable.

Mail-in Rebates:  Just because you have a “Try Me Free” rebate deal doesn’t mean you can’t use coupons.  You’ll just be getting more back, because you get refunded the amount of purchase (not amount of purchase minus coupons).  If you’re trying to be sneaky, though, you should avoid shopping at stores whose receipts make it obvious that you’ve used a coupon.  Target stores list the coupon very clearly on the receipt.  However, WalMart’s receipts just have a laundry list of “manufacturer’s coupon” items at the end.


Beauty Tip: How to Hide

Since my skin is going through some sort of weird pre-midlife crisis, I’ve been getting lots of breakouts.  (Seriously, my teenaged children have better skin than I do right now!)  So, I’ve been forced to learn some new things about concealment…

Go Green:  No, I don’t mean eco-friendly.  Green concealer can be your best friend when it comes to hiding anything red.  Green neutralizes red on skin (or blemishes).  Just make sure you use the least amount you can.  The green can be hard to hide. (I follow up with skin-colored concealer.)

One Good Brush:  Get a good concealer brush that has a bit of pointy-ness to the tip.  If you have to, trim the bristles so there’s a little pointy part at the end. This will help you apply the concealer only where you need it.

Keep It Clean:  Clean your brush regularly.  Think about it – you’re using it to apply makeup to hide something that’s caused by bacteria.

Speaking of Clean:  Choose your concealer carefully.  If you’re using it to conceal blemishes every day, you should probably avoid anything that comes in a “pot” type of container.  You’ll be putting your (probably-not-cleaned-daily) brush in there over and over.  Try to find a concealer that comes in a squeezable tube, so you can just apply a bit of what you need onto your (clean!) hand, piece of foil, or whatever.  Or – if it doesn’t come in a tube – you can just dig out the amount you need with a toothpick and put it onto the hand, foil, whatever.

No Polka Dots:  Proper color choice is essential.  If the color is too dark or too light, you’re going to have spots on your face.  If your skin tone varies with the seasons, buy a dark and a light color that you blend to get what you need.

Find What Works:  Depending on your skin (and blemish) type, you might want a concealer that creamy or one that’s cake-y.  Start with inexpensive ones to see which you like better.

Good Choices:  The best liquid (creamy) concealer I’ve found is Amazing Cosmetics Amazing Concealer.  It really covers, comes in a handy tube, and is one of those “a little goes a long way” products.  ($28 for a small tube at Sephora and Ulta)   The best paste type of concealer I’ve found is Benefit Cosmetics Boi-ing.  OK, it has a silly name, but it works.  ($19 at Sephora Ulta, Macy’s)

Beyond Concealer:  Using the right foundation is essential if you’re really trying to get coverage.  Unfortunately, I don’t have much in the way of product recommendations, here.  The foundation I was using has been discontinued. (I don’t think Revlon’s Photo Ready foundation is a decent choice.)  I can tell you that unless you’re willing to commit to a multi-step process, mineral powder foundations aren’t going to give you much coverage.  If you’re using liquid/cream foundations, you can get better coverage by applying it with makeup sponges.

But…  Make sure you use a really good cleanser.  You might have to wash your face more than once or employ some other tactics (facial scrub, motorized cleansing brush, etc.) to get all that stuff off your face.

Review: Olay Oil Minimizing Toner

I’ve been avoiding using toner for years because I have what I call “bi-polar skin”.   It likes to be oily, but as soon as I try to get all that oil off, it freaks out and dries up.  (Dry patches and blemishes.  Awesome!)  Over the past year, my skin has gotten more and more oily.  I’ve been willing to try anything that says “oil minimizing”, “oil reducing”, or any other phrase that hints at making my skin less oily, including this toner…

Pros:  Smells good.  Reduces oil.  Budget-friendly.

Cons:  Dries out skin.

Overall:  This is a good toner if you have oily skin that’s not sensitive.  If you’re using it daily, it will probably dry out your skin.

Cost:  $4 – $6

Available at:  Mass merchandisers, drugstores, Ulta

Review: The Body Shop Vitamin E Eye Cream

I got a Groupon to The Body Shop, so I bought a bunch of stuff.  I’ve been needing a new eye cream and wanted to try this one, which says it reduces the appearance of fine lines, puffiness, and dark circles…

Pros:  Lightweight.  Doesn’t get crusty if you apply too much on accident.  Moisturizes well.

Cons:  A little expensive.  I didn’t notice any improvement of dark circles.

Overall:  It’s a decent eye cream, but I don’t know if it works for puffiness, since I never get that.  It “reduces the appearance of fine lines” because it moisturizes.  Any moisturizer is going to do that. (It’s not an anti-wrinkle cream.)  Unless you have a gift card to The Body Shop (or they’re having a great sale) and you’re out of eye cream, I wouldn’t bother with this one.

Cost:  $18 for .5 oz. tube

Available at:  The Body Shop Stores

Review: Yu-Be Moisturizing Skin Cream

I got a sample of this and was excited to try the  “#1 selling medicated, vitamin-enriched skincare cream in Japan”…

About the Product:   It’s a concentrated glycerine-based moisturizer.  I think it should be called a “balm” instead of a “cream”, because it’s not very creamy.  It’s formulated without  sulfates, synthetic fragrances, synthetic dyes, petro-chemicals, and phthalates.

What I Think About It:  It’s a good moisturizer.  It feels a little greasy (which is why I’d call it a “balm”), so I wouldn’t recommend it for all-purpose use.  However, if you have problem areas (feet, over-dried hands from lots of washing, etc.) it might be a good choice for you.  I’ve been using it on my nose, which has been ravaged by lots of contact with Kleenexes, due to recent allergy attacks.  It’s very gentle and is medicated, so it treats the skin while moisturizing.

Available at: (maybe in stores),

Price:  $16 for a 1.25 oz. tube