On the quest for the ultimate in handmade products

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A bit about my quest....

I love bath and body products. No matter how crunched for time I am, I make time to do my facial care routine and moisturize my skin. As you know if you're a regular reader, I *love* my foody scents. It may be silly for a woman in her 30s to say, but I seek out the following scents: chocolate, vanilla, coconut, buttercream, honey & almond. Of course, I do have my favorite "grown up scents", which are Benefit Maybe Baby and Ralph Lauren Romance.

I think I love bakery scents for a couple reasons. First of all, on a long winter's day in Upstate NY, these scents are very comforting. Secondly, I began working the cosmetics field at such a young age (a sophomore in college) that I was surrounded by florals. In the early 90s, I started at Lancome and had a limited selection of scents from which to choose while at work. I wore Poeme (then newly launched) and O'Oui. Tresor was a regular in my scent wardrobe. Thankfully, a more youthful scent, Aroma Tonic, emerged for me to wear.

When I was at Estee Lauder, I wore Dazzling Silver, Pleasures or Beautiful daily. When I left Lauder, Intuition was in the making. As you can see, I was wearing more grown up scents at a young age, so maybe I have things in reverse.


What am I seeking?

Anyway, back on track...if you are looking for bakery-type scents and you want to avoid nasty chemicals, etailer products are surely the way to go. Just make sure you look at the ingredients. Avoid the harsh chemicals, the parabens, the DMDM Hydantoin (avoid this at all costs, as it is one of the preservatives that releases the greatest amounts of formaldehyde and is carcinogen)... I am set in the body lotion department. I also make my own whipped shea for my own use. I don't need facial items or oily scrubs, as I normally whip up a sea salt and olive oil scrub mch like the Salt Glow from Origins. I have been, however, in need of new soaps (I can only ration my last remaining bars for so long), a natural as possible body wash, and a whipped or foaming sugar scrub. I am also seeking the perfect etailer conditioner (silicone and paraben free), and then I should be set.

I have decided that indie etailers are the way to go for all of my bath and body items now. Even my beloved Perlier White Almond bath items have been drying me out, so I am only going to continue buying the hand cream, because I just love it. In an age of price gouging from major corporations, and the fact that most major companies do not give a hoot about what they put into their products, I am very supportive of quality indie etailers, and there are many!


My hope is to find one of each that I adore and buy those indefinitely. I like being "line loyal" if the products and customer service are wonderful. I don't want to have to try 20 different companies, and it is looking like the first time could potentially be a charm on all accounts.


FOUND: The Perfect Bar of Soap


Last week, I reviewed some of my Aunt Nancy's Handmade Soaps from Etsy. I spoke about how much I love her Apple Spice Cake Bar, and how fond I am of her version of Black Raspberry Vanilla. Over the weekend, I tried the Chocolate Coffee scrub bar and yesterday I received my 2nd Aunt Nancy's order. If you read last week's review, you know I am very impressed with Nan's soaps. I am even more impressed now, and I will not even be tempted to buy a bar from anyone else in the future. Here are two more brief soap reviews:

Chocolate Coffee Scrub Bar--This is a rich chocolate brown bar with a very light cocoa scent and with visible coffee grounds. Saturday night I decided to give myself a pedicure, and this was an ideal soap. It smoothed and softened the skin on my feet effectively, yet gently. The scent is much like my favorite drink at Wegman's when I am getting groceries: the Cafe Mocha. It lathered lightly, but the grounds *really* exfoliated well! I have since used this on my knees and elbows, as they are dry at times as well. This is going to be a staple in my soap wardrobe.

Chocolate Peppermint Bar--This is now my most favorite soap of all time. All time. If you know me at all, you know that my most favorite soap of all time has been my signature Miss Honey Buns. Maybe I have used it for too long. Maybe I am just "over" the honey almond scent (and I admittedly have used this soap almost daily for a year...I simply use that or unscented goat's milk in my shower)...maybe I just need a scent change. I kid you not, this is it. This is going to be the most-used soap for me, and I hope Nan always makes this. First of all, the artisan-quality bar is gorgeous. It is creamy white with deep chocolate swirls. It reminds me of a truffle I once had from Joseph Schmidt Chocolatier at a local gift shop (actually, I had this truffle more than once since I walked to the shop almost daily while pregnant with Nicholas).

The bar is almost too pretty to use. Alas, I took a hot bath last night and used this bar. It is very apparent real cocoa is in this, as when I lathered up, there was a bit of brown left on my porcelain skin. It lathered right in and rinsed clean. The lather is rich and luxurious. It is creamy and nourishing. The smell is anything but a foody chocolate scent. The cocoa melds beautifully with the peppermint essential oil and the aroma is just divine. Nan has outdone herself again, and in one week's time (and 2 orders later), she has won me over with her dynamite turnaround time (about 48 hours max for me both times), her friendly customer service, and product quality.

Soap lovers, I implore you to try Aunt Nancy's Handmade Soaps. They are competitively priced, of extraordinary quality, and-- most importantly to me, free of any and all palm oil.


FOUND: A wonderful SLS-free & Paraben-free Body Wash!


In yesterday's mail, I received my first (of many, I am sure) Coconut Hut Beauty (http://www.coconuthutbeauty.com/) order! I ordered the Surf's Up Shea Body Wash in Avalanche Cake and Chocolate Coconut Fondue. I ordered on a Saturday and received it in 6 business days! That is fast turnaround time, especially since she was shipping from California and I am in New York. Lena, the owner, included a sample of Chocolate Sea Shell Beach Whipped Body Souffle. The scent is great on cold sniff, but didn't work with my chemistry. No worries, though!

After enjoying a long bath last night to test the soap I was just talking about, I decided to get up extra early this morning to take a long, super warm shower. It was 3 degrees and snowing again when I woke up, so I needed it.

I took both washes into the shower and decided to use the one I like most scent-wise: the Avalanche Cake, which is chocolate and marshmallows all rolled into 1 yummy, sweet and creamy cake scent! I put a dime sized amount of the almost-clear gel wash onto my shower mitt. It was enough to lather most of my body. I tend to use too much shower gel or body wash because I just love the suds and love the scents, so I poured more into the shower mitt. I didn't need that much, I was just enjoying my hot shower! The scent is the epitome of bakery goodness. This is a repurchase based on the scent alone. I admit that I also tested the Chocolate Coconut Fondue--also yummy.

My take is that this is a great, very lightly moisturizing body wash. It is comparable in texture to the Bath and Body Works Shower Gel (which I refuse to use because it's so full of chemicals and makes my skin itch as if I bathed in a vat of itching powder). What I love about this wash is that I did not itch one bit after my shower. This is the first time in months that I have tried a bath and shower gel/body wash again instead of a handmade soap. Did this moisturize my skin as much as a high-quality cold process soap? No, it didn't. My skin felt like I needed to apply a cream as opposed to a light lotion. It was not tight and dry, but my skin wasn't left terribly moisturized. I do concede that my skin #1) is already dry from the heat being on all the time this winter and because it's windy and frigid and #2)I can make it worse my taking a shower in the AM right after I have taken a long bath 8 hours before.

I absolutely will repurchase this product.

As an aside...I forgot to bring my new bottle of Burt's Bees Raspberry & Brazil Nut Shampoo (on my 5th now) into the shower with me, so I used my SLS-free and paraben-free body wash in my hair. It worked amazingly well in a pinch, although it was obviously not that hydrating. It worked well, though and my hair still smells like Avalanche Cake!


Orders Coming This Week

I am missing two items that meet my criteria thus far: a new conditioner and a new foamy sugar scrub. In tomorrow's mail, I should be receiving my Italian Cream Cake whipped sugar scrub from Mad City Sue (http://www.madcitysue.etsy.com/). I am so eager to try this and I just know I am going to be hooked on this. I am already planning my next scrub order and I haven't even tried hers yet.

Tomorrow I should also receive my True Lustre Conditioner bottles in assorted scents from Crater Lake Company (http://www.craterlakecopany.com/). I am anxiously awaiting this one as well! Of the 2 new to me etailers I have tried, I have been 2 for 2...if this is the trend, I will be one mighty content bather! Reviews will follow!

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