August 28, 2018

Basswood Naturals - Handmade with Love - 100% organic and 100% natural skincare

The secret to happy skin? Inner Joy!

In my recent search for "Clean Beauty," I've discovered a new place to be inspired by natural skin care and cosmetics - the Etsy community! Similar to engaging with the hard working farmer who grows the vegetables that we eat by visiting a local farmer's market, supporting small businesses and local artisans on Etsy and getting to know the person behind my skin care routine has enriched my experience and joy of clean beauty.

I've been working together with Madalyn McArthur, the owner and artisan of Basswood Naturals to take care of my skin these past few months. At her Etsy store you'll find herbal infused skin care products using high quality, all-organic ingredients to gently cleanse, nourish, and hydrate the skin with no questionable ingredients like artificial fragrance and parabens in sight. A young mother with a love for natural skin care, Madelyn carefully hand crafts each small, made-to-order batch and works with every customer to customize for your skin's needs!

Luminescent Clay - Facial Cleansing Grains

A wonderful companion for your bi-weekly pampering session, the Luminescent Clay is an organic and natural exfoliator to gently remove the top layer of dead skin on your epidermis and to unlodge pesky dirt and environmental impurities from your pores. [Sounds romantic right? hehe] Manual exfoliants can help in preventing oil blockage, lessening the outbreak of pimples, and prepping the face thoroughly for a more effective hydrating treatment afterwards. A critical step - not to be missed - in your skin care routine.

My favorite way to use this jar of "cleansing grains" has been as a mask. The herbal ingredients (chamomile, lavender, calendula) work together to soothe and calm my skin and also as an antiseptic to gently disinfect and tone without the use of harsh chemicals or alcohol.

I mix an equal part of the grains with honey to form a paste - about 3 teaspoons each - and spread it all over my face, avoiding the eye area. I'll usually leave this mask on for 15-20min while cozying down to read a book while sipping on herbal tea. When it's time to wash the mask off, I'll add water to sections of my face at a time [right cheek - left cheek - chin - then forehead], lightly rubbing the grains in a circular motion into the skin for a gentle exfoliation.

Ingredients: kaolin clay, poppy seeds, oatmeal, lavender, chamomile, calendula, and almond meal

Like with any granular cleanser, please use a tender touch as you exfoliate. Less is definitely more in this case. The first time I used these cleansing grains - I got a little scrub happy around my nose area and ended up with a red, irritated one. Oops!

Also, Madalyn, the wonderful artist that she is, has layered all the ingredients in such a pretty gradient of textures and colors. Which means, that before you can use these grains as a mask and.or a cleanser, the layers have to be mixed together. I didn't realize this at first and ended up masking with only the top layer, ground oatmeal, on my first night - wondering all-the-while why it was so sticky [Haha] With the cleansing grains generously packed to the brim, I found that the easiest way to mix them was to dump the whole jar into a larger bowl, mix it together with a spoon and then to use a DIY paper funnel to put it all back in. Thanks for the tip Madelyn!

Morning Dew - Healing Facial Moisturizer

The Morning Dew Healing Facial Moisturizer is one of Basswood Natural's best seller and I can see why! The combination of mango butter, shea butter and beeswax makes for a very luxurious lotion and is a great choice for aging skin, naturally dry skin, and for those living in dry and/or cold climates. It's not a very lightweight formula and I'm finding that the lotion tends to sit on top of the skin instead of being absorbed into the pores. And I recommend applying a water based serum before wearing this moisturizer as this creamy formula is perfect for sealing in the hydrating effects of a serum. I paired this lotion with the Countermatch Moisture Serum by Beautycounter. 

I would be cautious to try this if you tend to lean towards the oilier side. If you have combination to oily skin, Basswood Naturals also carries Earthen Glow, a mattifying facial moisturizer and Radiant Thyme, an ultra light facial moisturizer which might be a better fit for you. The Morning Dew smells mildly sweet of honey from the beeswax and the formula has been infused with lavender and calendula, both herbs known for their healing and anti-aging properties. It's a wonderfully rich face lotion - keeping my face moist, dewy and youthful without clogging any pores. I've also been applying this lotion all over my neck and on the back of my hands for extra hydration to prep for the dry winter months ahead! 

Ingredients: organic mango butter, organic shea butter, local beeswax, organic sunflower oil, organic lavender, organic calendula, organic grapeseed oil, organic hazelnut oil, distilled water

Unicorn Potion - Rose Infused Glitter Lotion Bar (sample size)

I really wished I could have photographed the full size of the Unicorn Potion Lotion Bar [say "Unicorn Potion Lotion Bar" three times as fast as you can! haha] because it looks so darn cute in her store! Take a look and let me know if you agree! This is the perfect gift for every little [and grown up] gal who loves all things unicorn. This bar is hand made with all natural and organic ingredients and it's just the tool you might have been looking for to encourage your little ones to apply lotion like a grownup - all by themselves. Also, if you're planning ahead for Christmas, this bar would be a perfect stocking stuffer - a beautiful, magical and useful gift from... [wink] Santa.

This lotion bar arrived in the mail just at the crucial moment because I was running nervously low on my trusty tube of Attitude Living's Natural Nourishing Cream. This unique and hydrating blend of natural oils melt onto my skin like butter and keeps it moist and glowing for hours. The shimmer is especially flattering to wear around the shoulder and neck area to highlight the beauty bone.

Ingredients: organic coconut oil, organic sunflower oil, organic mango butter, mica, titanium dioxide, organic chamomile, vitamin e, local beeswax

Rosehip Balm

I've been picky about the products I choose to use around my eye area. Highly comedogenic oils and most synthetic heavy creams can actually leave permanent cysts called milia around the eyes that have to be surgically removed by a professional! Thankfully the Rosehip Balm has been formulated with ingredients with low comedogenic levels that "were picked to enhance the tender eye area with moisture and healing."

This Balm has been, by far, the best product that I've found to remove my eye make-up without any stinging or worry about pesky oil buildup. It also doubles as a deeply nourishing evening mask! After moisturizer, I spread this balm all over my face - avoiding my eye area in this instance - and sleep with it on at least once every week. Doing this helps seal in the hydrating treatments from the serum and moisturizer - making my skin extra glowing and rejuvenated in the morning.

Ingredients: organic grapeseed oil, organic rosehip seed oil, lavender infused oil, organic hazelnut oil, organic avocado butter, local beeswax, calendula infused oil, and distilled water

I've been thinking of different facets of holistic beauty - the most obvious one being that of choosing products with non-toxic/safe ingredients - but also considering things below the surface like how my beauty choices effect the world we live in economically and environmentally. I've most enjoying using beauty products and tools from brands - such as Basswood Naturals, Alima Pure, EcoTools, and Respekt Co. - that are both mindful of their eco-footprint and how they're using their profits for the betterment of society by donating to non-profits.

If you haven't already, check out Basswood Naturals and the other local businesses on Etsy dedicated to natural beauty!

Wishing you all a BEAUTY-FULL day!
*These products were kindly gifted by Basswood Naturals for an honest review.

All images © 2018 Grace Song Photography

August 25, 2018

Green & Gorgeous Organics - An All Natural Dry Shampoo for Voluminous Hair

Oh boy, am I excited to share this with you! I've recently been in conversation with a few of my lady friends about dry shampoos and how it feels like there just aren't great non-toxic alternatives to the aerosol sprays we're all familiar with. Usually the natural products tend to be clumpy and leave a white cast - forcing us to either live with greasy hair or to use the conventional aerosol spray dry shampoos that are highly flammable and chock-full of toxic fumes. Well ladies, we might have just hit the jackpot!

Green and Gorgeous Organics specializes in a line of organic dry shampoos made without any chemicals - 100% clean! Their dry shampoos are talc-free, vegan, free of parabens, sulfates & perfumes, and made with all certified organic ingredients. The company is cruelty free [not testing on animals], and all of their ingredients are safe for humans and for our environment with eco-friendly and bio-degradable packaging.

My hair washing routine usually happens every other day and on occasion when I'm super busy I might let it go for one more day. So my hair doesn't usually get too greasy but this stuff is essential for us straight and flat haired gals who crave that extra boost of volume. This powder is foundational for all my fun up-doos like a top bun, a loose french braid, or to give a sophisticated piece-y look to a simple ponytail. When I wear my hair down with this dry shampoo in - it makes my hair feel and look windswept by a light ocean breeze -"naturally" flawless. [wink]

This product comes in super handy after a dance rehearsal or a good workout when I don't necessarily need to wash my hair but it definitely needs a little sprucing up before running to a work meeting or a dinner date. I'm a city girl at heart so I don't know if Sean and I will ever do this but if you're planning a multi-day hiking trip or outdoor excursion, I'd reckon this dry shampoo will be great for that too!

The granules of the dry shampoo are very finely milled and although it's a sandy beige color it blends into my almost black/very dark brown hair without leaving a noticeable white cast. They have three options of varying fragrances derived from natural essential oils - Lavender and Bergamot, Grapefruit and Sweet Orange, and Unscented - and a fourth dry shampoo option for those with very dark skin and hair tones. My favorite scent is the Grapefruit and Sweet Orange!


May I also mention how adorable this miniature travel sized kabuki brush is? As you know, I'm drawn to cute and small things and this was no exception. They also carry sample/trial sizes of all of their dry shampoos for only $8. It's compact - perfect if you're traveling, throwing it in your gym bag, or if you just want to give this dry shampoo a go before committing to the full size.

Ingredients: Organic Arrowroot Powder, Organic Brown Rice Powder, Organic Horsetail (Shavegrass) Powder, All Natural Clay, Aluminum Free Baking Soda, Organic Essential Oils

And while we're on the topic of hair - 
Has anyone found a good clean alternative for hair-spray or gel? 
If you do, please let me know!
Happy Shampooing!

*These products were kindly gifted by Green &Gorgeous Organics for an honest review.

All images © 2018 Grace Song Photography

August 12, 2018

Stopping to Smell... Evanhealy's Rose Face Care Kit

I'm always drawn to pretty little things in dainty packaging. What about you?
Have you seen these adorably curated boxes of Evanhealy face kits? So Pretty!

Evanhealy is one of the seminal and earliest natural skincare companies - formed almost twenty years ago! This description may sound a little hippy-ish, but their holistic, handcrafted, and sustainable approach to the creation of their skin care products sets them apart from other toxin-free brands. 100% of their ingredients are natural, much of it USDA organic with no artificial fragrance, preservatives, or fillers, and also vegan [except for the use of beeswax]. Ms. Evan Healy was an aesthetician in the skin care industry for over 30 years before becoming one of the first to identify the need for holistic beauty and co-founding Evanhealy in 1984!

"I developed evanhealy based on my experience that the less you interfere with the skin’s own ability to achieve balance the better. The concept of ‘less is more’ is consistently missed by a beauty industry fueled by the ‘ingredient du jour’. I’ve taken my love of plants, and my experience of what works on the skin, and created a selection of simple plant-based skin care that radically changes how women view their skin." - Evan Healy

There are three Face Care Sets available for every skin type - Rose for normal skin, Blue for sensitive skin, and the Blemish set for those with acne prone skin. Each box comes with five items - a small bottle of cleanser, hydrosoul, serum, moisturizer, and clay mask. These kits are great if you tend to have sensitive or reactive skin and you're wanting to experience Evanhealy products without having to commit to their full sizes, or if you're traveling for a time and are wanting an easily packable, fuss-free set to bring along. This set retails for $34 and mine lasted for about 11 days - with a generous application of the products in the morning and in the evening. 

I've been on such a flower high recently with Thayer's Rose Water Toner that I thought I would give Evenhealy's rose kit a try! This skin care collection is prepared for those with dry, oily and combination skin and uses the natural properties of rose geranium and carrot seed oils to balance the skin. This is all yet to be scientifically proven, but rose geranium, the main active ingredient, is used in the holistic community for its antibacterial properties, for treating inflammation and acne, promoting radiant skin and much more. Let's take a look at the five main characters that come inside this pretty box and see if they perform as well as they look!

Rose Cleansing Milk

This is a gentle coconut and shea butter based cleanser with essential oils and extractions from flowers and herbs. To use, you mix two to three pumps of this cleanser with a few drops of lukewarm water, massage it into the face and neck, and then rinse off thoroughly with warm water.

My Experience - I used this cleanser after having removed all of my makeup but  sometimes I felt like this formula didn't leave me feeling clean. I am all for massaging the face to gently remove impurities from my pores but I'm also mindful of not stretching my skin in order to maintain its elasticity for as long as possible. With this oil formula, it took some vigorous rubbing to remove the cleanser itself and even then it left a film of oil, which, then, I had to take off with toner pads. Although the ingredients sound like it could benefit my skin, the actual process of washing my face with this product makes me a little uneasy for my skin's long-term suppleness.

Rose Geranium HydroSoul & the Rosehip Treatment Serum

I don't think I could explain what a hydrosoul is as well as Evan Healy, so here's what she says: "This fluid ‘plant-milk’ embodies the soul of the plant, symbolizing a transformation of spirit (ether) into matter (water). Aromatic molecules are part of the plant’s immune system, and a hydrosol represents the watery aspect of this complex, intelligent system – a system that has biologically adapted over millions of years to live in symbiotic harmony with its environment. hydrosols are gentle botanical remedies and their extraordinary aromatic vitality acts to subtly reawaken the quiet connection we have to nature."

Do you understand what a hydrosoul is now? [head scratch]  A couple drops of the rosehip oil serum and several spritzes of the rose geranium hydrosoul are blended together in the palms of the hands and pressed onto the face and neck area. You could use the serum on its own but the instructions recommend blending them in order to "mimic the natural environment of the skin" and boost the effects of the serum. Together, they are supposed to balance your oily and dry areas by maintaining the health of your acid mantle (a protective film on the surface of your skin).

My Experience - This water based hydrosoul smelled subtly sweet of flowers with a bit of an earthy musk - like freshly cut grass. I don't know if you use oils but I've got primarily dry skin and my skin really benefits from putting oils on my face.  I enjoy the blend of the varying oils in this particular formula and I appreciate this hydrating step in the kit's skin care routine. For me personally, if I were to purchase the full sizes, I would buy the rosehip oil serum and perhaps pass on the hydrosoul.

Ingredients in the Rosehip Treatement Facial Serum - Rosehip Seed Fruit Oil, Jojoba Seed Oil, Rose Geranium Oil, Carrot Fruit Oil, Sandalwood Wood Oil, Lavender Flower Oil, Rose Otto Flower Oil, Vitamin E [all the ingredients are USDA organic] 

Rose Vetiver Day Moisturizer

The Day Moisturizer is the final step of the rose skin care regimen and is used as a hydrating and protective barrier for the skin. Its formula has the essential oils- rose geranium, carrot seed oil - like the rest of the kit and also vetiver [a plant originating from India used for its antiseptic properties], mallow, horsetail and green tea for a boost of antioxidants and argon, sunflower and jojoba oils to  "moisturize, soften, create suppleness and protect skin."

My Experience - As I shared before. My skin - face and body - is naturally dry. Which means that if I'm not adding sufficient amounts of the right types of oils to my face, I'll most likely be dealing with flake-y patches around my mouth and cheeks - definitely not pretty to look at and especially difficult to work with when putting on foundation. Because of this, I really appreciate any help I can get in hydrating my face and I can very easily tell if a moisturizer is doing what it's supposed to do - or not doing what it says it will do. 

With that being said, I thought this moisturizer was okay. If you have oily or combination skin, this one might actually work wonderfully for you. But for me, especially with my aging skin concerns, I needed a little bit more oomph. When I put on a normal amount of lotion, it just didn't feel hydrating enough. But if I put on more, it felt slightly more hydrating but felt thick, didn't absorb well, and left a film of dried moisturizer on top of my face.

French Rose Clay

To end on a positive note - I like the French Rose Clay Mask quite a bit! There are only two ingredients - Pink Clay (Kaolinite), Rhassoul (Moroccan Lava Clay) - and, although I'm not sure why the mask is named "rose" or "French," I found this mask to be excellent at gently exfoliating and effective at refining and cleaning my pores! This weekly mask treatment slewed off dead skin on top of my skin which helped keep potential breakouts at bay. And after each masking, I could tell immediately that my skin felt smooth and polished and looked bright and glowing!

My Final Thoughts - So, did I like Evanhealy's Rose Face Care Kit? Yes. Would I be tempted to purchase the full sizes? Perhaps the facial serum and the clay mask. I think this kit would be a good match for someone in their late teens/early twenties with normal to oily skin. For folks with dry and/aging skin, [like moi] I can't say for sure that this skin care routine will be nourishing or hydrating enough to address your needs.

I do, theoretically, enjoy Ms. Evan Healy's theology of balancing the skin by not interfering with the its natural ability to take care of itself - it sounds so... harmonious! And even though I love the fact that Evanhealy's products avoid potentially unsafe chemicals, sometimes, the performance of their all natural formula leaves something to be desired.

Whew, that was long... Thanks for hanging out with me! You've been a trooper!
Wishing you a Beauty-Full day.

All images © 2018 Grace Song Photography

August 7, 2018

The Beauty Cleanse Experience - So Far!

Hi everyone!

First things first – I want to say a big heartfelt “Thank you!” for joining me on the Beauty Cleanse blog. Today's post is a little different from my usual look at clean beauty products but I wanted to update you and let you know personally how things are going over here with the cleansssse!

In these three short months, my skin has transformed itself. My oily and dry patches are balancing out to a sweet spot, acne prone spots clearing up, fine lines becoming less visible, and my face feels smooth, soft, and supple. I can’t pinpoint the results to a single miracle product or attribute it to any one thing I’m doing differently now but I’m thinking that it might be a change in perspective - becoming more mindful about what my skin needs and being proactive to address those needs.

As I get older, I’m realizing more and more that I can’t just put on a single moisturizer and hope that my skin will look better as the years go by. I’m gradually learning to take care of the skin that I currently have by allotting more thought into a skin care regimen that will slow down signs of aging – fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, loss of elasticity – instead of trying to reverse years of neglect ten, twenty, thirty years from now. 


Simply out of daily habit, we take care of our bodies – by wearing sunglasses, eating veggies, brushing and flossing at least once a day, washing our hands after a subway ride – but how often do we practice a habit of putting on sunscreen each morning? 

Honestly, it’s been a slow and gradual transition – nothing radical, like purging our home of everything and anything that might be harmful. A couple things, like chemical sunscreen and my beloved perfume collection, I’ve put aside indefinitely but most things I’m still going through and using up. And what’s been especially exciting is even seeing my husband take up the baton by swapping out the brands of shampoo, body wash, and deodorant he’d been using for over a decade!

One of the things I cherish most about the cleanse has been in meeting a community, some even in my closest circle of friends, who have already taken up the torch for a clean, sustainable, and healthy lifestyle. I’m so grateful for your kind messages, words of encouragement, and beauty tips. Thank you!

All images © 2018 Grace Song Photography


August 5, 2018

An All Natural Skin Saver - Thayers Alcohol-Free Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner

Today I'm excited to be sharing with you an iconic toner in the clean beauty world. If you've done a quick google search for an all-natural, alcohol-free toner or even briefly browsed Instagram accounts of natural beauty connoisseurs, you'll find this red-topped toner everywhere.

Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner, with nine, pronounceable and familiar ingredients, is one of the most gentle toners out in the skin-care market. It's subtle sweet fragrance brings to mind a cool springtime stroll through a fully blossomed rose garden and the witch hazel feels cleansing and refreshing on the skin without the burn or sting of a harsh alcohol based toner. Easily accessible and wallet friendly at only $10- $12 for a large 12 oz. bottle, this toner can be found in Whole Foods, Amazon, Target, Ulta, and most major grocery stores. I highly recommend you give this one a try!

This gentle toner is wonderful for sensitive skin and has been said to calm rosacea and eczema, clear acne, even out texture, and shrink pores! Witch Hazel, like its name, seems to have magical powers as it has been proven in scientific studies of its anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties.

Personally, I haven't noticed much of a difference in the quality of my skin and my pores are still in want of shrinking but I have noticed less breakouts in my regularly problematic spots. And I very much enjoy the refreshing feel of the toner as it clears my pores and hydrates my skin. I'm also finding that this product muti-functions as a quick pick-me-up face mist throughout the day so I've transferred it to a small 3 oz. travel mister bottle to bring with me wherever I go!

AM SKINCARE - In the morning after cleansing, I'll use the toner on a cotton round to remove excess face oils.
MAKE UP SETTER - I mist it on as a finishing spray to set my makeup and take away any potential cakeiness from the layers of power.
AFTERNOON REFRESHER - In the early afternoon I'll spritz a light mist on my face to reset my makeup, keeping it looking fresh for longer.
PM SKINCARE - After cleansing, I go over my face and neck one last time with a cotton round soaked in toner to completely remove makeup and impurities before applying serums and moisturizers.

I've been on a ROSÉ streak! I been pairing evanhealy's Rose Face Care Kit to go with this Rose Petal Toner and I can't wait to tell you all about it. Keep your nose on the scent for the next rosy blog post!

When life gives you roses...
Ingredients: Purified Water, Certified Organic Witch Hazel Ext Blend (Hamamelis Virginiana Extract (Witch Hazel*), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (Filet of Aloe Vera*)), Glycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Rosa Centifolia (Rose) Flower Water, Fragrance (Natural Rose), Citric Acid, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract [*Denotes Certified Organic Ingredient]

"Rose petals are full of natural oils and sugars that help restore dehydrated skin and bring out a natural, dewy, glowing complexion. The natural astringent properties of rose petals work in tandem with witch hazel, tightening pores, controlling oil production, locking moisture in, and keeping free radicals out. It’s also full of Vitamin C, which is crucial for collagen production, strengthening skin cells, and fading blemishes and scars." -

All images © 2018 Grace Song Photography

August 1, 2018

It's So Wonderful to Meet You!

Hello! My name is Grace Song and I'm a New York City gal soaking in the Florida sun with my handsome pianist husband, Sean. We met at Juilliard, fell in love on an outreach trip to Japan, and tied the knot on the Hudson River with the Statue of Liberty in sight.

I'm a beauty blogger by night and a dancer & freelance photographer by day. If you've ever spotted a limber, Asian gal blissfully prancing up and down the east coast of Florida, that might have been me!

I started this blog for you friends out there who want to be adventurous with makeup, try skin care collections that will make you feel confident in your own skin, and experience the joys of a clean, healthy lifestyle.

I hope we'll get to know each other better and that the blog will be a fun place for us to discover new ways to feel and look beautiful, inside and out!

Wishing you a BEAUTY– FULL DAY!!

G Song

All images © 2018 Grace Song Photography
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