Nourish your skin

I have to admit to being a bit of a lotion lady.

I’ve long been on the hunt for a good body lotion to combat the ills of the Canadian winter (extreme dryness) and old age (extreme dryness plus wrinkles).

Too many of the lotions that I like at first blush turn out to be below par environmentally. Or else absurdly expensive. Or too greasy. Or overly worthy and thus unstable physically (nothing worse than having a great bath and then slathering on rancid lotion).
First a short rant: I am horrified by the number of personal care items (soap, lotion and the like) that come from China these days. Even seemingly high-end brands are manufacturing there: very many of the attractive and expensive-looing gift sets you find around Christmas originate in China.

Shipping heavy, water-filled items makes no sense ecologically. Then there is the question of what exactly it is you are slapping on your skin. It amazes me how little many people seem to care about that, despite the compelling logic of absorption through a porous surface (ever wondered how nicotine patches work?).

Back to good lotion. I have two recommendations here. Both are well-priced, feel/smell nice and are adequately benign from an eco/toxicity perspective.

ShiKai is a California company that has been around for over 40 years. It makes a whole range of great body lotions in scents ranging from yuzu to pomegranate: I am fond of the cucumber/melon which has a fresh and not-at-all overpowering smell.

The lotions have a lot going for them: they are unctuous without being greasy, come in nice large tubes (8floz or 237ml) at a reasonable price ($6.91 on iHerb or $8.99 on ShiKai’s own site: I’ll never understand that) and generally feel quite luxurious.

The company emphasizes the pureness of its products – ‘All Natural’ is written right across the middle of the tube – though the the body lotion still scores 3 on the Skindeep database. Back to that later.

My new favourite lotion is made by another US company, Nourish. Nourish makes four ‘flavours’ of lotion, plus unscented. These come in the same sized tubes as the ShiKai product but cost slightly more at US$9.99 each (or you can buy all four for $32: they make great presents as the packaging is high-end and  attractive, if a little heavy).

Nourish was apparently the first skincare company in the US to get USDA certification for its entire range. This means that the products are at least 95% organic. For more on this certification – which some other brands now share – and Nourish’s other ‘seals’ (gluten free, Oregon Tilth, etc.) see here.

My favourite Nourish flavour is lavender mint. It’s light and fresh and I’m not sure you can ever go wrong with lavender. I was initially intrigued by the fig flavour: though I like it, it has stronger hints of apricot than fig.

Nourish lotions have a different consistency than ShiKai ones. They are absorbed almost instantly and leave no apparent film on your skin  (both good and bad, depending upon your mood and degree of dryness, I would say). But they feel good and nourishing (appropriately), nonetheless.

Nourish sells through its website and Whole Foods stores, in the US only. Canadian folk can order on-line, though this is not well advertised. The great news is that we Canadians also benefit from reasonable shipping rates. US rates are $5 flat or free when your order is over $50. Canadian orders ship for $5 when the order is over $50.

Nourish also makes deodorant, shea butters and various body washes and polishes, so it’s easy to stock up. If my order is anything to go by, your package will come quickly with paper packaging and a hand-written thank you note.

Like ShiKai, Nourish manufactures in the US. One gripe is that, though pretty, Nourish tubes seem to be made from unnecessarily thick plastic. It makes them stiff and heavy and just seems a waste (though they do claim to be recyclable, we know that depends upon where you live).

But what of ingredients? Nourish products are not rated on the Skindeep database. I asked the CEO about this and he told me that though he supports the idea of the database, he finds the ratings a bit off at times. Alcohol, for example, scores very poorly, regardless of its source. For this reason, Nourish has opted against seeking a rating.

I have actually noticed this problem myself: some quite natural-sounding ingredients, such as essential oils, are given a bad rap by the database for potential allergic reactions which are really not a huge concern for me.

To be complete I have done my own comparison of the ingredients of ShiKai and Noursh lotions. Both use aloe vera, shea (see shea nuts in the picture: hard to imagine they help your skin but they do) and a range of plant extracts. Overall, though, Nourish does seem to do better. Plant ingredients are all organic and the only potential ‘nasty’ is ‘Organic SDA 38B (Alcohol Denat): apparently an organically derived denatured (altered to be non-drinkable) alcohol.

ShiKai has a couple of chemical-sounding things in there: dimethicome, phenoxyethanol and cetyl alcohol and its plant products are not organic.

So take your pick: lotions are a pretty personal decision, after all.

A nice cup of tea

Beverages are very important to my well-being. I am not a great water drinker but am expert in the consumption of coffee, tea, wine and beer.

Right now, tea is top of my list. There are only so many cups of strong (albeit largely decaf) coffee I can drink in a day. And I have to fill the void left by my Lenten resolutions to give up processed sugar and alcoholic beverages (at least those that are consumed in the comfort of my own home).

Tea is the perfect drink. As a good Englishwoman, I drink `real’ tea in the afternoon: preferably lapsang souchong, the smoky flavour of which reminds me of the smell of horse tack. It is a huge anomaly that this should appeal to me as I dislike almost everything else about horses.

Mostly, though, I drink herbal tea. I start my day with a pot that I share with the kids before they depart to school and I depart to coffee (between 8am and 11.30: I am very precise).

I drink at least one further cup of herbal tea during daylight hours (often out of my trusty, but now discontinued, travel mug) and then conclude my day with a final cup and a good book (ideally). So you can see why water gets squeezed out.

I have been thrilled at the recent explosion of tea varieties and shops, though I think many promise more than they deliver. Tea needs to be super-fresh to be at its best; I often find the fragrance of teas has dissipated before it reaches me, even when it comes via quite fancy stores.

My other pet hate is individually-wrapped tea bags. Yes, they can be pretty (especially Pukka teas from the UK) and convenient, but do we really need an extra 40cm² of bleached and printed paper with every cup of tea?

Yes, the paper is recyclable/compostable but, as I have noted before, paper recycling is energy inefficient. Plus, individually-wrapped tea bags typically entail staples that add nothing to the compost stream and must detract – minutely – from taste and eco-soundness. I won’t even get into all the tales of the quality of tea that is typically used for tea bags….

So, though I do use bags for convenience, I try to find ones that come in good old boxes and that I can store in an airtight container for freshness.

Anyway, I digress.
I love most teas as long as they are not acidic – fennel is a top choice for me and my digestion – and I am an avid fan of rooibos tea. I discovered this in South Africa on the 1990s before it joined the mainstream. For those who find herbal tea to be somewhat insipid, it is the perfect choice and healthy too.

My favourite teas come from Herbal Republic, a small shop on Granville Street in Vancouver. I discovered this tea many years ago at an Ottawa retailer and have since purchased on-line and commissioned friends to bring bags back from B.C. for me (as supply is limited in Ottawa).

What is exciting now is the proliferation of rooibos blends: Herbal Republic offers some great ones. Its mokka rooibos used to come with a slogan that read something like: `with tea this good, why bother with coffee?’. I would not go that far (as I adore coffee) but this is a great, slightly sweet but by no means sickly, and gorgeously substantial tea. My second daughter’s favourite.

I also love earl grey rooibos and find that Herbal Republic makes a lovely aromatic version. This is one that needs to be fresh and well-blended (they blend theirs in house).

The company, which appears to have a good eco conscious and is part of the ethical tea partnership, offers plenty of other rooibos blends (such as African Dream and Ginger Bounce) all of which can be sampled (30g) or purchased in larger quantities.

Herbal Republic sells lots of black and green teas too, and has developed a compostable tea filter for restaurants and people who can’t handle loose leaf tea at home. Some are individually wrapped in plastic (grrr…) but you can also buy kits with tea that you insert yourself. This offers the ease of a bag without the extra packaging or lack of freshness that sometimes inflicts bags.

Finally, Herbal Republic has a herbal medicinals line which is Health Canada approved. Sadly I find the only one I’ve tried – the flu and cold relief – too bitter so I can’t attest to its healing merits. Let me know if you can.

The only snag about Herbal Republic is the website. It is in the process of being upgraded at which time I hope it will become a bit more user-friendly, with better descriptions and, most importantly, more transparent shipping rates.

The site currently auto-generates enormous shipping costs. They say that these are just estimates and you will be charged actual Canada Post rates, but pressing the ‘purchase’ button on a $30 shipping cost is disquieting, to say the least. You have to call in to ensure peace of mind.

If you are out there, Herbal Republic, do let us know when things are fixed up then everyone can plan a tea party (and I can fix the links in this article)!

Scrubbers, scourers and sponges

Yes, I know you’ve all been on the edge of your seats since I promised you this exciting post a few weeks ago. Relax, the wait is over: sit back with your cup of tea and enjoy (?).

I hope I did not alienate too many with my disparaging remarks about washing dishes with cloths. I am now trying to claw my way back into your good books by giving you fantastic options for implements with which to abrade your plates and pots when the going gets tough.

For my stainless pots, the first thing I reach for (while still clutching my blue washing up brush) is my Lagostina stainless cleaning powder. Many times that does the job on its own (it’s also great on my Corain sink).

But when things are really stuck tight, my next choice is a scouring pad. I have two top choices. The first is a coconut fibre scrub pad by Safix. It looks somewhat like a loofah but is actually made, in India, from stuck-together coir (the hair-like strands that surround a coconut shell).

So this is a truly natural product, without question biodegradable, non-rusting and not injurious to the hands like some metal scrubbers. The website does not claim that production benefits poor people, but let’s hope. And using coir – which can also be made into rope, but is often wasted – is a great idea.

The pad is so light that shipping emissions don’t bother me.

Safix products are available in health food stores in Canada and, apparently at Waitrose stores in the UAE (this is from the website: not sure about UK Waitrose stores as no UK distributor is listed). [If you are in the Ottawa area, try Arbour in the Glebe.]

My other top choice, for a full range of scourers and implements to suit every washing up disposition, is a UK family-owned company called Ecoforce.

Ecoforce makes laundry and cleaning hardware most of which contain at least 95% post-industrial and post-consumer recycled content. It has several scourer options (all non-metallic): a dark green heavy duty pad; a white non-scratch scourer pad and a thicker sponge topped with a scourer pad (a good all-in-one option for non-brush washer-uppers).

All are pretty traditional products in appearance and work well on pots, pans and plates (begging the question: why use virgin materials for these tasks?).

Ecoforce scourers are not biodegradable. The good news is that they are made in the UK, which hopefully means they are made in a pretty non-polluting/wasting facility (always a big concern with cheap stuff from China).

Ecoforce is part of a family of companies (EasyDo) which also makes a product called Dishmatic. I’m sure you have seen something like this before. It is a hollow implement (like a brush handle) that can be filled with your favourite washing up soap (Biovert in my case..). Dishmatic has the advantage of offering three interchangeable head types that can be clicked into place: white non-scratch; green heavy duty and a steel scourer option.

I give you this information somewhat grudgingly as I am no fan of these washing up wands. On the plus side, Dishmatic is made of 50% recycled content (less than the Ecoforce products: I guess the plastic handle isn’t great). On the negative side, these tools dispense way too much dish soap for my liking and they are almost expressly designed to serve those who wash dishes under a running tap.

Please, please don’t do this. It’s a huge waste of water. And it is also inefficient: it’s much more effective to let your dishes soak in a basin of water while you wash. (or, if you have these bad washing up habits, to use a good, energy-efficient dishwasher).

So, was that worth waiting for? I cannot imagine it was, but here’s hoping.

Ecoforce products area available widely in the UK and through independent health food and eco-stores in Canada (though not the US, as far as I can see). Prices seem fair at $3.59 for a 3-pack of scourers (but they are much lower in the UK at £1.25 for the same pack).

Full disclosure here: Ecoforce sent me scourers to review. Saffix did not.

Cleaning up after Christmas

I like Christmas more and more each year, but by the end of December I am usually itching to get all the Christmas ‘stuff’ out of the house and get a good clean going.
I have posted several times about effective and non-toxic cleaning products (see here for silver cleaning, stainless cleaning, window cleaning, dish cleaning,  the list goes on). I have also told you about my favourite cleaning cloth. But I haven’t really got down and dirty on other cleaning implements. So here we go……

First let me say that I believe there are two fundamentally different types of people in this world: those that wash up with a brush (I fall into this category) and those that wash up with a cloth or sponge (god forbid).

Cloth and sponge people: I respect you, I admire you, but I just don’t understand why you would choose a grimy cloth over a lovely washing-up brush. And, in my view, the loveliest of all the washing up brushes is the ‘professional’ washing-up brush made by the Swedish company, Stiwex, sold by Lakeland in the UK (2 for £5.99).

This brush lasts for years (I kid you not) without the bristles flattening, thereby cutting back on significant amounts of plastic and landfill space. The handle is the right length, the bristles are the right stiffness: it works.

And maybe I like that I am officially a professional cleaner when I use it. Beats being a downtrodden housewife.

I haven’t found these Stiwex brushes stateside, which limits the usefulness of this post. I am sorry. Lakeland does ship overseas, but the cost is high (a £15 washing up brush may not be worth it). So just make sure that next time a friend travels to the UK, you lodge a request for a cheap and useful souvenir.

As much as I love my blue-bristled brush, there are jobs that it can’t handle. For that you need scourers and scrubbers and the like. It won’t surprise you to know that I have views on those too, but you’ll have to wait a week or so to hear them.

The rush to wrap

So, Christmas is almost upon us. The excitement in my house is palpable.

While I, too, am getting in the holiday spirit, I am also mindful of the many tasks that lie ahead. Inevitably I will put off wrapping until the last minute; I’ll be up late, late on Christmas eve for sure.

One of my strongest memories of childhood Christmases is of my beloved grandmother rushing around with a basket, collecting and neatly folding wrapping paper for reuse the following year. At the time I viewed this as a bizarre annoyance. Now, of course, I do the same.

Except I can’t collect the paper from my own presents, because I typically don’t use any. I have become a massive fan of fabric wrapping. It’s much quicker (critical at 2am on Christmas morning), less wasteful and the materials can easily be stored year on year.

I use lengths of fabric, old scarves and, to the extent that I have them, proper Japanese furoshiki cloths. There are numerous fancy ways to use cloths for wrapping, but I tend to opt for the basic method of cross-tying the diagonal corners. Not creative, but functional.

I also maintain a stock of fabric bags. My mother in law made a buch of drawstring bags a while back and I have guarded these with my life. I have also added to my stock from the dollar store and elsewhere, though it is hard to find large-size fabric bags at a reasonable price (and I am too lazy to make them myself). If you are prepared to invest a bit here, Etsy has a huge range of options, of course.

If I run out of fabric bits and bags, my next choice is to use old pictures stored up from when my kids were in kindergarten. If you are a parent and your kids were lucky enough to have a teacher who liked paint (and mess) you will almost certainly have brought home stacks and stacks of artwork which you will have had a hard time throwing out. At last a win-win solution: home-made wrapping paper!

There are a number of other great options, including decorated newsprint or brown paper bags. If you are more organised and patient than me, you can make these look really fancy. See this TreeHugger post for some great suggestions (if you can handle the slow scrolling through pages, which I hate, on TreeHugger posts). The point is that you can give attractive looking gifts and still conserve resources (the big factoid from the net is that if every US family wrapped just 3 gifts in recycled materials, we would save the equivalent of 45,000 paper-covered football fields).

My last plea: please don’t use that shiny plastic wrap. It screams out land-fill even as it sucks up needles from your tree with its static field.

Now I have to go and wrap….Merry Christmas!

Giving in on nail polish

I came to nail polish late in my life. I still don’t love it, but it does do my feet a favour in the summer.

I really have to struggle to hold the line on polish with my four girls (actually, only three, one wouldn’t touch the stuff). I am, in this regard, a kill-joy: I just don’t feel that nail polish and young fingers mix. I am also an outlier, it seems, as coloured nails have become the norm on even the tiniest kids.

I am amazed how willing parents are to deal with the mess, the work (which five year old can remove polish on their own?) and, most of all, the slew of toxic chemicals that dwells within both the polish itself and the remover.

I have tried hard to identify a really good adult option for eco nail polish, but have so far failed. Everything I have tried has either been not sticky enough or way too sticky: there are some brands that don’t come off for love or money.

If you have some suggestions for me, I’d love to try them.

[I wanted to add a clarification to my original post here: I am looking for water-based nail polish. There are many good brands - such as Zoya, OPI - that are free of the worst chemicals (3 free) but are still solvent based. A step in the right direction and good enough for my toes, but still not OK for my kids' small fingers].

So, for the kids, I have found two solvent-free options that I can just about tolerate (if I overlook my general aversion to tots-aping-teens). These are the Klutz Nail-art set (a book and 6 water-based colours) and the products made by the US company, Piggy Paint.

These are very different products. The Klutz set (which retails for about $15-$22 in North America or £12 in the UK) is more of an art event than a nail polish. The latex type colours go on nicely and then literally peel off. You might get them to stay for a day, but not much more (which makes me happy).

The accompanying book has some fun design ideas. A word of warning, though, don’t let the bottles spill on your carpet. It takes a good deal of determination to get the ‘polish’ out.

Piggy Paint is like adult nail polish. Indeed adults can and do use it too (the site notes that it is a good option during pregnancy).

It comes in nearly 40 funky colours from bright pinks to green, yellow, silver, black and blue. It costs $8.99/bottle. Ingredients are very benign and although the product itself is not featured on the Skindeep database, no ingredients (except possible tints) score higher than 1 (zero is best). Neem oil is used as a preservative (which makes me happy as I used to have a neem tree in my garden when I lived in Africa).

Piggy remover is acetone free but does contain alcohol. Interestingly, it comes in two formulations, one that meets California air pollution standards and one that, by implication, does not. I can only assume the non-California one is more effective, but my money would be on the less polluting version.

Both sell for $8.99 (for 120ml). Indeed $8.99 is the magic price on the Piggy Paint site. But you can also buy Piggy Paint at a wide range of retailers – mostly kids’ stores – in the US and Canada and a few on-line sites in the UK. All products are US-made so no worries there.

In my experience, Piggy Paint that is applied in a single coat, by children, without the help of a hairdryer (to set the colours) can more or less be peeled off (at least by my determined kids, eager to convince me that, no, they did not put on nail polish).

I can’t vouch for how long it will stay on your fingers if you really want it to last, but this is clearly a ‘green nail polish’ brand that is largely marketed at kids not adults, so my guess is it could be a bit fleeting. Just like me, these days!

 

Quick: before Christmas comes

I love Christmas: the coziness, conviviality and the kids’ joy. But, like many of you I suspect, I hate the excess and the pressing need to identify unmet needs (amongst people who really have none) just so I can fulfil my gifting obligations.

Personally I love giving experiences, but I have yet to persuade my four kids that a stocking full of promissory notes and gift cards to the local coffee shop really cuts it. Small indulgences are required: preferably ones that can be wrapped, used and then disappear leaving a relatively small footprint.

One thing that will be in the stockings of the young Foxes this year is a selection of products that I have received over the past two months in my regular package from the Natural Beauty Box (T.N.B.B.).

T.N.B.B. is one of a number of companies operating in the monthly cosmetics and skincare subscription space, though by no means all companies offer natural products. You sign up for anything from one month to one year and then wait to receive a nicely-packaged goody-bag of natural cosmetic sample sizes (not sachets) through the mail. They even throw in some full-sized products from time to time.

Samples are guaranteed to be at least 95% natural and 50% organic. This may not satisfy complete purists, but it is good enough for me (especially in comparison with some of the horrors my kids have been known to bring home).

Inside your pretty gift bag you will also find coupons in case you like the samples (reminding you that this is, of course, partly a marketing exercise).

T.N.B.B. does not tell you what you will receive in advance, but that is half the fun. Who doesn’t love getting an indulgent surprise in the mail from time to time?

So I have been saving up my precious bottles to scatter amongst my girls’ stockings. For me this is a great solution to the pre-teen lotion love (which I remember so well from all those years ago).

Yes, there is excess plastic (think little bottles) but, on balance, I am not too worried as I am not channelling toxic fragrances and chemicals to my kids.

Here in Canada, subscriptions vary from $15.75 to $20/month – shipping included – depending upon how long you sign up for. And the really good news is that subscriptions are available not only in Canada but also in the US (same price), the UK (OK: same price in pounds as in dollars, but UK folks are used to that…), and worldwide ($32/month).

And if you are looking not for stocking-stuffers but for a more substantial one-off Christmas present, you are also in luck. The Natural Beauty Box is selling a December Deluxe Beauty Sac stuffed with at least five full-sized products and five samples.

The cost for this is $49.99 (inc. shipping). I just ordered one for my niece: fingers crossed. My only gripe is that there appears to be no ability to include a gift message when you place the order (or did I miss it?).

Another gifting option, of course, is to be more generous than me and instead of splitting the boxes, give the one you love their own subscription. Voilà, the gift that keeps on giving.

Green veggie bags

I seldom extol the virtues of plastics, but there are always exceptions. I am a long time user of various types of green plastic ‘stay-fresh-longer’ produce bags to store my vegetables in the fridge.

The special thing about these bags is that they contain zeolite which absorbs ethylene gas…which is supposed to make your veg last longer. Looking on line, there is a wide range of opinion about whether this is true or not. Some people swear by them, others are less impressed.

Me: I am equivocal. I have used them so long that I no longer know what the counterfactual is.

So why do I like them if I am not convinced by the freshness claims?

First, I do worry (a lot) about food wastage. In western societies we waste a huge amount of food which is a big greenhouse gas problem. If you think of everything in your fridge as embodied carbon (for transport, processing, production) you may feel less inclined to waste it. Then think about the methane (a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon) that is released when wasted food ends up in landfill and your concern should grow.

So, bottom line: I hate to waste food and am attracted to anything that may limit food wastage.

Second, these bags are green. Green in colour. Colour coordination in my kitchen is important, of course, but the primary benefit is that I know these are reserved for veggies and veggies alone. So I reuse them with confidence.

Third, these are tough bags. They wash and dry very well. The Debbie Meyer site suggests that the bags are reusable 8-10 times. I suspect each of mine has been used hundreds of times. I like that longevity.

Fourth, knowing I have a bunch of these back home removes any temptation to help myself to a flimsy plastic bag off the roll in the grocery store. I always mean to have my reusable produce bags with me, but I do sometimes forget.

Fifth, the extra large bags are long enough for celery, and that’s nothing to be sneezed at!

I really believe that these bags have reduced my plastic use (and hopefully my food wastage) considerably over the years. Even though I swore, as a kid, that I would never, ever wash plastic bags (my most hated job was hanging wet bags on the clothes line), I do now. All the time. And I feel good about it.

My first bags were bought over a decade ago in the UK at Lakeland. Lakeland bags are a proprietary product made in Thailand. In north America there are a few choices: Debbie Meyer, Peak fresh, Evertfresh and I am sure some others. I can’t tell you which works best, but I can tell you that they are worth a try. I’d be interested to know if you agree.

Repurposing your Mason jars

I am a great believer in repurposing. I cut forlorn sweaters up to make mittens and I hoard old shoeboxes in my basement in the hopes of identifying future uses.

I am also a big believer in canning, but it is a skill I have failed to nurture in myself. I make delicious tomato chutney every summer and, very occasionally, jam. But wrestling bushels of vegetables into neat glass jars is beyond me.

Nonetheless, I delight in all the Mason jars and canning accessories that appear in the stores late summer, marking the fleeting weeks of abundance here in Canada.

I use large Mason jars to store my dry ingredients (sugar, rice, nuts, etc.) and have designed my kitchen drawers with this in mind. I love the wide mouths and the easy access of the jars, not to mention the uniformity, the low cost and the squeaky clean-ness when they come out of the dishwasher.
(NB. It seems I am not alone in my love of Mason jars: see here for 31 ways to use a Mason jar in your kitchen.)

I was thrilled, the other day, to find two clever new Mason jar add-ons that substantially increase the range of possible uses for my smaller jars.

The first is the cuppow. This is a slightly raised plastic (BPA free) insert that replaces the disc lid of your Mason jar and turns it into a drinking cup. Just screw it on and you have a convenient on-the-go cup.

The cuppow comes in two sizes to fit widemouth (76mm) or regular (60mm) Mason jars. It does not close completely so cannot withstand really bumpy rides, but does a great job if you want to sip a drink in the car, for example.

I don’t love the feel of the drinking rim/spout, but I am very fussy in that regard and like really thin edges to my mugs (see my earlier recommendation for vacuum mugs). It retails for $8. The price seems a little steep as there is not a lot to the product, but it is US-made and claims to be recyclable plastic.

The second option is the reCAP, which entirely replaces your Mason lid, both disc and screw collar. It is a fully close-able pouring/drinking spout for your jars. I prefer the way this feels on my lips, but it does present a large (about quarter-sized) round hole which might be a bit abrupt for hot drinks on the go (though great for gloopy things like smoothies if you want to grab these as you head out of the house).

It could also be used to turn a Mason jar of any size into a pouring dispenser, for example for sugar, rice or liquid honey. Its founding purpose, according to the website, was to turn a jar into a salad dressing dispenser. You can shake away and still pour with ease.

The reCAP is also BPA free and made in the US. It retails for $7-$7.50.

Both are available in Canada from a neat eco product site called Greenmunch (I should mention that they did send me free samples of both products after I enquired about them). Greenmunch also specializes in hard-to-find paper straws, another alternative to the glass straws I wrote about in the early days of my site.

End-of-summer sunscreen round-up

This is a guest post by Laurel Thomson

I realize that few readers are interested in sunscreens in early October, but if I don’t write this post now, if I leave it until next spring, I will have forgotten the vast majority of what I’d like to communicate (I’m even older than Diana!)

Here in Ontario it was probably the most glorious summer in recent memory, with many sun-drenched days. I therefore had ample opportunity to slather myself, and my slightly reluctant 11-year-old daughter, with sunscreen. We tried 10 different products and each of us has a favourite.

If you want more details on what to look for in a sunscreen, Diana’s old post has lots of information.

These are the products we tried:

Heiko Physical Sunscreen, SPF 30.
Approximate price: $30 for 150ml ($20/100ml)
Active ingredient: zinc oxide (non-nano).  My favourite, especially for the face. As Diana mentioned in her post, it has a slightly medicinal scent, which I actually like. It is thick, so easier for small surfaces, such as face, neck and shoulders. Takes a long time to put on my entire body, so I never bothered.

Thinksport Kids Sunscreen Benefiting Livestrong, SPF 50+.
Approximate price $16 for 3 oz ($18/100ml).
Active ingredient: zinc oxide (non-nano).
My daughter’s favourite. And it really works well. Goes on virtually transparent and, in the words of an 11-year old, “smells like heaven”. Highly recommended. Even the packaging is BPA, vinyl and phthalate-free.

Elemental Herbs Sunstick, Unscented, SPF 30.
Approximate price $8 for .6oz ($45/100ml: but it is a stick)
Active ingredient: zinc oxide (non-nano).
Excellent for the face and for a quick swipe across the nose and cheeks. I carried one with me all summer and used it on both my daughter and myself when we were out for more than a couple of hours. We love the cocoa-butter scent and the feel of it on our faces – silky smooth. It also works!

California Baby Face and Body, unscented SPF 30+.
Approximate price $40 for 6oz ($22/100ml)
Active Ingredient: titanium dioxide.
Rubs in nicely, very mild chemical scent that is not unpleasant. We both like it but the name is not “cool” for an 11-year old. My only worry is that there are some concerns about the photo-reactivity of the active ingredient, TO2, which could result in cellular changes in the skin. The jury is still out on this, however.

Beyond Coastal Natural Clear Sunscreen, SPF30+.
Approximate price $18 for 2.5oz ($24/100ml)
Active ingredient: zinc oxide.
I love this sunscreen for my body, but no one else in my family does. They complain that it is thick (it is) and leaves a white film. I have yet to see the white film on my skin, but it is definitely present on my husband’s hairy arms!!  It has a lovely, mild rose scent. The company also manufactures a product under the same name that contains both titanium and zinc, which I stayed away from given my, likely unfounded, concerns about the former.

Dr. Hauschka Sunscreen Cream SPF 20.
NB. This product is discontinued: sorry Laurie 
Active ingredient: titanium dioxide.
I love Dr. Hauschka products so I ignore my aversion to TO2 and put this on my face in the winter sun, when I want something lighter than SPF 30. It is pricey at $24 for 3.5 oz, but less expensive than many higher-end creams.

TruKid Sunny Days mineral sunscreen SPF 30+.
Approximate price $17.50 for 3.5oz ($17/100ml)
Active ingredient: titanium dioxide.
Nice product, that smells faintly like the creamsicles of my youth.  I’d love to use it, but am wary of the TO2.

ECO Logical Skin Care, all natural sunscreen SPF 30+.
Approximate price $17 for 3.5oz ($16/100ml)
Active ingredient: zinc oxide.
Claims to be unscented, but smells like rancid oil, if you ask me. Stay away!

Green Beaver fragrance-free sunscreen, SPF 30.
Approximate price $20/90ml ($22/100ml)
Active Ingredient: zinc oxide.
This sunscreen is greasier than I care for but several of my friends swear by it since it does not whiten skin at all. They use it on their kids who are indifferent to the texture. They are mostly young kids or boys. My daughter won’t go near it.

Alba Botanica very emollient Sport Sunscreen, SPF 45.
Approximate price $9/4oz ($7.50/100ml)
Active ingredients: octocrylene, homosalate, octinoxate, octisalate, titanium dioxide.
Given its chemical ingredients, it is not surprising that this product is a clear winner in the ease-of-rubbing-in contest. However, its composition is also why I do not use it. The EWG rating is 5, which is high enough for me to avoid. I suppose an upside is it does not contain the dreaded oxybenzone. So why did I try it? A friend gave me a tube. I don’t particularly care for its chemical sunscreen scent.

From Diana: A very useful set of reviews, thanks Laurie. Funny that we both worked on TOissues around 25 years ago.

Some of these products are not readily available in Canada, though many can be shipped here through retailers such as iHerb.com. (Use the code UQE399 to get $10 off your first order of $40 or more: shipping to Canada is only $4 for an average shipment!). 

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