Why So Secretive, Origins?

So, I recently expressed my irritation (emotional, not physical) with the Origins Modern Friction scrub.  Another sample I got on the same trip was a moisturizer that made me break out.   So I started searching around online to get ingredients lists.   Guess what?  They’re nowhere to be found…

That’s Odd:  When shopping online, most major retailers have ingredient lists available.  It’s commonplace on Sephora and Beauty.com’s websites.  However, the Origins products listed on their websites don’t have complete ingredient lists. Origins items on Sephora.com do have a list of select ingredients, explaining what they do for the product.  (Those aren’t the ones I’m concerned about.) Even the Origins website has no ingredients listed for the products – not even “select” ingredients, unless you count the “Ingredient Gallery”.

I Thought I Should Ask:  Not wanting to assume they were intentionally trying to hide their ingredients lists, I reached out to Origins on their Facebook page with this question:  “Is there someplace (online) I can get a COMPLETE list of ingredients for Origins products?  I prefer to shop online, but can’t find anywhere with complete ingredients listings, so I can make sure to avoid things that are problematic for my skin.”

Their Reply:   “Hi Bridgett–Our Origins Global Consumer Care Team will be happy to provide you with the most current list of ingredients for our products. Simply call us at 1-800-ORIGINS (1-800-674-4467) option #4 between the hours of 9 am-5pm (EST) Monday- Friday or via email anytime at  consumercare-us@gcc.origins.com.  We’ll be in touch to assist.” 

What the…  It’s 2014.  Why do I have to call or e-mail someone to get information I should be able to get online when I’m shopping for the products?

For the Sake of Convenience:  I went back to the Origins store – since I was already in the area – wanting to see what ingredients were in the samples I received.  The moisturizer in question was also labeled with the wrong product name, making it even harder to figure out what I was putting on my face. (The offender was glycerin, by the way.)  When the store associate saw me picking up and reading a bunch of different containers, she asked if she could help.  I explained the predicament and she was very annoyed, saying the Origins website used to have complete ingredients lists available and she had been telling customers they could go there to get them!

I Guess I Shouldn’t Complain:  The samples were free.  The store associates are always helpful and generous with the freebies.  But I honestly wouldn’t have put a moisturizer containing glycerin on my skin, because I know it clogs my pores and causes blemishes.

But…  People shopping online should be able to see the ingredients (and country of origin, in my opinion) for the products they’re buying.  It definitely doesn’t look good when you’re one of very few companies who doesn’t share this information freely with your online-shopping customers.  Even stranger that you expect them to call during business hours or e-mail and wait for a response to get the information. Not cool, Origins.


Have You Heard?

FINALLY Ulta is going to have a rewards program I like.  In the past, your spending has determined what free item you’d get after each quarterly spending period.  There wasn’t a birthday gift (who doesn’t love a free birthday item?), and you had to wait for your rewards certificate to come in the mail – a certificate that could only be used in a certain time frame – usually for stuff I didn’t really care about.  Here’s a quick rundown of the changes, according to the information in the most recent Ulta advertising flyer

Birthday Gift.   Members will receive a free birthday item and double points during their birthday month.

Platinum Status.  Spend $400 in a calendar year and get upgraded to platinum status, which earns you points faster, and they never expire.

Better Rewards.  You can use your points toward anything in the store, not just a selection of a half dozen items.

No More Certificates.  You won’t have to wait for your reward certificate to come in the mail, and you can redeem your points when you want. (Points are good for a year.)

So, Basically:  Ulta is trying to compete with Sephora by having a much better rewards program than they’ve had in the past.  I’m very happy about this because I shop at Ulta more often, since they carry “drugstore brands”, have a clearance section, and offer coupons for store purchases – sometimes even on “prestige” brands.

Unknown:  I’m not sure if points can be used in-store only, or you’ll be able to use them for online purchases as well.  Unfortunately, the Ulta Rewards website still has the information about the old rewards system.

Important Info:  This program is only available with e-mail signup.  Make sure you have your birthday listed in your profile information to get your birthday gift. All current Ulta Rewards members will be moved to the new system on February 23rd.


Lesson Learned: Read the Fine Print

I recently got a 20% off code for beauty.com – one of my preferred online retailers.  So, I went to order some Christmas gifts for my daughter.  Being a fan of Urban Decay cosmetics, I immediately noticed this “palette” and added it to my basket (I was in a bit of a hurry, and was kind of exhausted after going through item after item for my daughter, trying to make sure they didn’t contain parabens, weren’t made in China, etc.)  Knowing that Urban Decay palettes usually come with one eye shadow, I assumed the product image with this item was accurate.  I also assumed that “Rebound” was the color of the eye shadow provided.  Yeah, let’s just say that the old saying about the spelling of “assumed” is appropriate for this situation…

Product image:

actual image from beauty.com website

actual image from beauty.com website


Beauty.com Product Description Excerpt (which I clearly didn’t read, expecting the image to be enough information for my purchase decision):

Rebound- a pink, peach, green and blue flower design.

Pop your four favorite UD shadows out of their cases and into this collectible (and completely customizable) palette!

Urban Decay usually sells their buildable palettes with one neutral shadow, but this time around they’re letting you unleash your inner type A and call all the shots. With four empty spaces and a massive selection of shades, the options are limitless. (Plus, you can swap out shades whenever you get a craving for more.)…

Important Note:  This item is also sold at Ulta.com, UrbanDecay.com, and Sephora.com, but with a more accurate product image:

urban decay rebound ulta

actual ulta.com product image

actual Sephora.com product image

actual Sephora.com product image

However:   Other sites are showing the inaccurate product image, including Macy’s and BeautyBay.com.  Additionally, regular purchasers of Urban Decay cosmetics are accustomed to getting an eye shadow single with the palette, so there’s that.

It’s a Mystery:  Perhaps when Urban Decay started marketing the product, they sent out 2 different versions of the product images and retailers chose the product image they wanted to use.  It’s hard to know the reason for the issue.

Good News:  I contacted beauty.com about the inaccurate product image and they gave me a refund for the item.

Bad News:  They haven’t changed the product image.  Hopefully, my “review” on the product will serve as a warning to people, but if someone is in a hurry like I was, they probably won’t read the review, either.

Bottom Line:  Product images should match the actual product.  Yes, we should all be good consumers and read the fine print.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect the product shown to be the one that arrives in the mail (or comes in the box, if you’re buying at a store).  It would be very easy to include a “eye shadow shown not included” statement at the bottom of the photo.

FYI:  If you’re looking for an Urban Decay palette at a great price, check out “Melt” , which DOES come with an eye shadow, and costs $18 – the same price as an eye shadow single.  In the UrbanDecay.com sale section, there’s a great deal on the “Glinda” palette, which is a super-great bargain at $24 for 6 eye shadows – 2 of which are actually split into 2 colors, so you really get 8.





It’s Only Hair

“It’s only hair.”  I’ve found myself saying this many, many times in my life.  When I got a color I didn’t love (Thankfully, I use non-permanent color).  When I got a cut I didn’t love (many, many times).  When my kids wanted to do something new with their hair.  It’s only hair.  To us.  But to someone with cancer, having hair can be the difference between feeling like a person and feeling like a victim of a cruel disease…

My Love Affair with Hair:   I love my hair.  It’s actually one of the few things left on my body that I do like.  Yes, I have a couple greys.  A pair of tweezers takes care of them when they show up.  No, my hair doesn’t always “behave”.  I live in a hot, humid climate.  My hair reminds me with regular episodes of frizziness.  But still, I love my hair.  I get compliments on it regularly – sometimes strange ones like “What is that color called?”  (My hair hasn’t been colored in a long time, but it has natural high/lowlights that people love.  It’s a fair question, since lots of people my age do color their hair.) But as much as I love my hair, I realize someone else may love it even more.

Bye, Bye Hair:  Today, I got my hair cut so I can donate it to Pantene’s “Beautiful Lengths” program.  I got about a foot of it cut off.  I have so much hair, it had to be cut off in 3 separate pony tails. My hair will be combined with other people’s hair – all colored to match – and will be made into a wig.  The program has donated over 24,000 real-hair wigs in conjunction with the American Cancer Society.


The hair formerly known as “mine”.

Yes, It Was Hard:  Since I mostly fear commitment, this is kind of a big deal.  I was actually more nervous about doing this than I have been about anything in a while.  I’m pretty sure I was less freaked out about my recent surgical/medical procedures than I was about the idea of getting my hair cut off.  (Let’s face it – haircuts can go very, very badly!)

Why Not?:  Donating my hair costs me nothing and will help make a difference in someone else’s life.  The Aveda Institute salon where I got mine done even cut and styled it for free, since I was donating my hair!

Adjustment Period:  For the next week, I will forget I have short hair.  I will put too much shampoo and/or conditioner in my hand when I wash it.  I will try to pull it out of shirts and jackets.  But eventually, I’ll get used to it.  I don’t actually love short hair on myself, but it will grow back.  When it does, I will donate it again.  Because it’s only hair.

"Before" hair donation.

“Before” hair donation.

After hair donation.

“After” hair donation.


Thumbs-Down: Trader Joe’s “99% Pure” Aloe Vera Gel

I love shopping at Trader Joe’s.  It has a “hometown grocery store” kind of feel, as well as good prices on stuff I need/want.  I’m not a regular Trader Joe’s shopper by any stretch of the imagination (there isn’t one very close to my house), but I like their “store brand” products and buy them when it’s practical.  Knowing that aloe vera gel is good for sunburns, I bought a bottle of this stuff to keep around.  I’ve also heard it’s good to put under makeup in hot, humid climates – like the one where I live – so I was hoping to use it for that too.  Unfortunately, I got a patch of sunburn where I failed to re-apply sunscreen soon enough at an all-day, outdoor concert in 104 degree Texas heat.  So, out came the aloe vera gel…

Pros: Inexpensive.  Fragrance-free. Recyclable container.  Labeled “Cruelty-free” (not certified by Leaping Bunny or PETA) Not any different than any other aloe vera gels I’ve tried.

Cons:  Doesn’t have a country of origin.  Contains a HUGE ingredients list for something that’s labeled “99% pure”.  I guess they mean the aloe that’s in it is 99% pure.  Ingredients:  Water, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, butylene glycol, calendula officinalis flower extract, arnica Montana flower extract, tocophersolan, TEA-carbomer, methylparaben, diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, trisodium, EDTA.   Um, yeah, not cool.

In Summary:  I should have read the package.  I trusted Trader Joe’s reputation.  Turns out their reputation is on the downslide for deceptively advertising use of non-GMO products, as well as being pretty dodgy when it comes to answering questions about their products.  (Read story here:  http://foodbabe.com/2013/08/07/what-is-trader-joes-hiding/)  I’ve been trying really hard to avoid buying products that contain parabens.  Guess I need to shop around for another aloe vera gel…

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars  1-star

Price:  (don’t remember, but under $5)

Available at:  Trader Joe’s

trader joe aloe vera

Got Bad Skin? I’ve Got Bad News.

If you have a skin condition like rosacea and/or acne, you may know there are lots of ingredients you should avoid in your facial products.  Anything that says “oil” is generally advisable to avoid if you have acne.  Any known irritant should be avoided if you have rosacea or otherwise sensitive skin.  But how much do you know about bismuth? 

What is It?  Bismuth is an element on the periodic table.  By itself, it’s not safe.  At all. It’s actually commonly found as a byproduct of mineral refining!  However, when combined with other elements, it becomes a “safe” product additive.  The most common ingredient you’ll see in makeup products is bismuth oxychloride.


Why is It in Makeup?  Bismuth (oxycholride, usually) is added as a filler.  Also, it’s a “pearlizing” agent that gives a natural glow to makeup products.  It’s smooth texture improves the feel of makeup, and can help with adhesion.

Why Would I Want to Avoid It? 

1.  It can be an irritant.  It’s been identified as a possible cause of worsening acne and rosacea.

2. Heavy metal toxicity.  There are – of course – limits to how many parts per million are allowed by the United States Food & Drug Administration, but in the event that the ingredient contained all of the allowable amounts and you were using multiple products with the maximum amounts, it could add up to health problems.

3.  Many of the suppliers of this ingredient are based in China.  China has a bad record when it comes to product safety and often refuses/resists allowing in outside inspections by foreign entities like the U.S. FDA.

The Good News:  Many companies have determined that bismuth is a less-than-ideal additive for their products and you can find stuff that doesn’t contain it.

FYI:  Brands that I know don’t contain bismuth as a wide-ranging policy:   Ferro Cosmetics, Australian-based Naked Cosmetics, Purely Cosmetics, Beauty Bliss Cosmetics, and others.  There are plenty of companies out there.  Unfortunately, you’re not going to find any all-bismuth-free product lines at your local drugstore – probably not even at your favorite beauty store.

Up to You:  It’s long been my contention that it’s impossible to avoid everything that might be bad for you.  However, if you have sensitive, irritated, or acne-prone skin, you might start checking the ingredients list and avoid products that contain bismuth.

TotalBeauty.com “Mystery Collection”

I have this weird oxymoronic personality issue.  I hate surprises.  And I love them.  Surprise, last-minute change to my schedule? Hate it.  Even if it’s something fun?  Yeah, still hate it.  Surprise in the form of a “grab bag” of stuff?  Love it.  So, when I saw totalbeauty.com’s “Mystery Collection”, I was intrigued.  Especially when I got a discount code…

About TotalBeauty.com Collections:  This website has several “collections” available at a time, with a good range of offerings.  Currently, there are 5 offered, (“mystery” is sold out) ranging from $15-$30.  The $30 one is a GREAT deal, but it’s a little “rated-R”, just so you know…

Pros:  No commitment!!!  This is a big deal for me.  I hate programs that require a monthly subscription – especially if it’s not easy to “opt out”. (Yes, I’m talking about you, Julep Maven program!)  Also – from what I can tell – all of these collections are a good deal.  Plus, you get to try products that might be too expensive to buy full-size only to find out you didn’t like them anyway.

Cons:  You might not like all the products and/or they might not meet your skincare/beauty needs.  “Full size” products advertised seem to be kind of small stuff, like lip balm.  (Oooh, full-size lip balm?  Awesome!)

What I Got:  The “mystery collection” contained items from the other collections currently offered.  (probably leftovers)  I suppose I could have figured out this is what I was going to get, huh?



– Neutrogena Naturals Lip Balm (full size! 😉

– Q-tips (travel size)

– $50 gift card to nakedwines.com (a little tricky to use, but OK)

– Juara Candlenut Body Crème (Sample size  – .17 oz.)

– EVOLVh UltraShine Shampoo & Conditioner (travel size – 2 oz.)

– NYX Roll On Shimmer for eyes, face, body (full size, I think)

– NYX Color Lip Balm (full size)

– The Honest Co. Fragrance-free Face & Body Lotion (travel size – 1 oz.)

– The Honest Co. Fragrance-free Healing Balm (travel size – 1 oz.)

– Boscia Luminizing (peel-off) Black Mask (deluxe sample size – .35 oz.)

– Alfaparf Milano Illuminating Serum (deluxe sample size)

– (2) Ferro Cosmetics Mineral Blush Powders (deluxe sample size)

– (7) EBoost Daily Health Booster Water Additives (single-serve)

In Summary:  OK, I would never buy some of this stuff.  I have a good hair serum that I like.  I don’t buy stuff made in China (talking about you, NYX) or that contains parabens (also you, NYX) and I don’t feel a need for a water additive.  Other than that, I think I’ll get some good use out of the products. (reviews coming soon!) I’m sure it’s a good value – even if I only use these as emergency/travel items.  In the future, though, I’ll probably only order collections where I can see the contents.

Brush Storage Idea (Bonus: Aromatherapy Option!)

Since I have lots of makeup brushes – due to my attempts to minimize the frequency of the cleaning routine –  storage is an issue.  I like to have them handy (not packed into some sort of specialty container).  However, I’m also a little OCD about my bathroom accessories matching.  Here’s what I came up with to solve my problem…

Original Storage Tool:  A decorative “bathroom tumbler” that matches all my other countertop accessories.  It’s pretty, but it’s too tall for most of my brushes.

From the "York" collection at Bed, Bath, & Beyond.  $8.99.

From the “York” collection at Bed, Bath, & Beyond. $8.99.

New, Cheap (probably temporary) Solution:  A leftover sandwich meat container.  I had been shopping around for a container that met my needs (right size, color, and price) and hadn’t found anything.  This will work for now.  (OK, I should have turned it around so the lot number and expiration date were on the back.  I was too lazy to fix it for the photo.)


The Filler:  I love the smell of coffee.  However, I only drink “froofy” drinks (cappuccino, macchiato, etc.) and I rarely make them at home – even though I have an espresso machine.  I do have a bag of espresso roast beans I keep in the fridge for the days I feel like making my own “froofy” coffee, though.  So, now my bathroom smells like coffee.  Heavenly.

Alternate Ideas:  If you don’t care for the smell of coffee, you can use all kinds of other things:  river rock, aquarium gravel (comes in lots of bright colors!), bath salts (lots of colors and fragrances!), beads, tiny shells, or whatever else meets your decorating desires.  Most of these items can be found at dollar stores, so it won’t cost much to buy enough to fill your container.

Keep in Mind:  After a while, whatever you put into the container is going to start to get dusty.  Make sure whatever you use can be cleaned easily (or replaced inexpensively).  If you use bath salts, make sure you keep them away from your sink, because once they start getting wet, it might be problematic.  If you’re going to go with the coffee beans, I recommend you get some very cheap whole bean coffee. (Discount stores like TJMaxx usually carry it.)  The espresso beans can be rather oily, which I didn’t think about when I used them.

In Summary:  This may not be the best brush storage solution for you, but it’s working great for me.  Plus, having them out and within my field of view helps me remember to clean them, which is actually next on my “to do” list for today after finishing this post.  Unless I find something else to do.  Which I probably will.

Yet Another Ingredient to Worry About

Triclosan.  I’d heard of it, mostly from products advertising that they DON’T contain it, but I hadn’t ever really paid attention – until I saw a blurb in one of my magazines about how I should avoid it.  Here’s what I found out…

Purpose:  It helps to slow or stop the growth of mildew, fungi, and bacteria.  When you see “anti-microbial” in advertising, that’s what they’re talking about. It was originally developed for surgical procedures and use in pesticides.  But now it’s made its way into many everyday-use products.

Products:  Hand soaps, dish soaps, and hand sanitizers.  (Probably what you expected, right?) But also:  toothpaste, shave gel, cosmetics, clothes, bedding, and much more.  The “Microban” brand name uses triclosan to achieve its results.  For example, my kitchen and master bath countertops (Silestone) contain Microban.  (Ugh – I cut food on those countertops!)

Concerns:  In 2012, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration said the research indicated “valid concerns” about the use of triclosan in consumer products.  Some studies on animals found that exposure to triclosan caused reduced heart function and overall muscular strength, as well as skeletal weakness. Another study found disruption of immune systems and an increase in the likelihood of allergy-related problems.

The Good News:  There are lots of sanitizing products that don’t contain triclosan.  My intial reaction to the “avoid triclosan!” warning was “Oh no – I use hand sanitizer ALL THE TIME!”  When I checked the ingredients, I found that none of the hand sanitizers I’ve purchased recently (including Bath & Body Works and Purell) contain triclosan.  However, the older Bath & Body Works products do contain triclosan, including some of the “pocket bac” items.  (I sometimes use the older, larger bottles to refill my newer, little ones – guess I won’t be doing that anymore!)

Suggestion:  Check your products.  You probably can’t afford to throw out your mattress, countertops, and entire workout wardrobe if it contains triclosan, but you can (affordably) avoid using the products that come into direct contact with your skin.

In Summary:  I guess I’m going to have to spend more time reading labels.  I already avoid high fructose corn syrup, parabens, and made in China stuff – if it’s going on my skin.  Now I have to add triclosan to the list.  Great.  I really wish I knew all this before I spent thousands of dollars on those countertops…

A Flaw in My Plan

A while back, I vowed to stop using products containing parabens.  Although I have no family history of breast cancer, even the slightest increase in my risk of getting it kind of freaks me out.  Better safe than sorry, right?  OK, maybe I’m being a little overly-cautious.  However, I think if there’s any indication that something even MIGHT cause cancer, it’s probably not something that’s good for you anyway.  So, no more products with parabens.  Easy, right?  Yeah, not so much…

A Few of My Favorite Things:  Stuff I really, really love contains parabens.  These are items I consider almost irreplaceable in my beauty regimen, including:  Aveeno Positively Radiant Facial Mositurizer, Too Faced Absolutely Invisible Pressed Powder, Benefit Erase Paste, Maybelline “Colossal” waterproof mascara, and Jack Black Lip Balm.  To be fair, the Jack Black products are technically designed for men, so there’s probably not a big concern over the possibility of ingredients causing breast cancer.  However, this is the product I’m most upset about.  Mainly, because the Sephora website listed it as NOT containing parabens, and I based my review (and continued use) of it partially on this information.  When I received my most recent tube of the lip balm for Christmas, I noticed the parabens in the ingredients.  I updated my review and noticed the Sephora website has been corrected as well.


There’s Still Hope:  I’ve noticed more and more companies seem to be offering “paraben-free” products.  Some are even re-formulating products to remove the parabens.   On Urban Decay’s website, many items are clearly labeled “Paraben-Free” as soon as they’re shown on the site.  (I wish all companies would do this and save me the hassle of clicking on each item and finding the ingredients list!)

At a Loss:  I’m still not sure what to do about these items.  In every case, finding items I liked as much as these was a very difficult, rather expensive process.  I have absolutely no desire to go through that process again.  So, can I justify using a few items that contain parabens?  Well, I’m probably going to have to – at least until they’re re-formulated or I happen to stumble across a replacement item that I love just as much.