Chemistry of Modern Cosmetics

Shampoo, body wash, deodorant and cosmetics are a part of the daily ritual. However, most products on the shelf contain known carcinogens and neurotoxins.  This video does a great job of explaining the outdated 1950’s mentality of “better living through chemistry” and what do to live a more natural, beautiful life.

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Organic Laundry Soap Nuts

IMG_4132.JPGLaundry detergents can leave residue on clothes, then make contact with skin all day. Recently, I learned about Eco Nuts, an organic laundry detergent, but nothing like the typical detergent.

Eco Nuts are actually dried berries from the Sapindus mukorossi tree (Soap Berry) found in the Himalayas.  The berries release “saponin”, a natural soap and fabric softener. The product is very gentle and ideal for sensitive skin and for baby’s laundry. According to the manufacturer, it is even safe for people with nut allergies.

The instructions are simple; put 4-5 of the Eco Nuts in the provided wash bag, tie it closed, and do laundry as usual. You can leave it in through the rinse cycle to double as fabric softener. Soap berries release more saponin in warm water than cold, allowing the product to work as a fabric softener in the rinse cycle. Soap berries are biodegradable and can be reused until they become thin, brittle, and lose color, which according to the manufacturer is about 10 washes; saving both money and waste.

FullSizeRender-1.jpgBefore using it on my laundry, I put Eco Nuts to the test. Pictured on the right, the berries are shiny and slightly sticky on the inside. This must be the saponin. The dried Eco Nuts smell lightly rooty/nutty. In mildly warm water, Eco Nuts produced very little suds, but this is not necessarily a sign of clean.

After the wash, Eco Nuts did not leave any particular scent on the clothes. However, the wet Eco Nuts smelled sweet and reminiscent of a familiar exotic fruit (hints of a ripe mango). After the wash, the damp clothes did not feel sticky or soapy; they actually felt soft. Some Eco Nuts cracked in half during the process but this should not affect future use.

Overall, I was happy with Eco Nuts and will continue to use the product on smaller loads until I test it against stains. If you have tried this product, let us know in the comments section below!


Simple, Moderns Ways to Go Green

Going green does not necessarily mean you have to purchase a hybrid car or install solar panels. There are many simple steps you can take live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle. With Earth Day 2016 behind us, let’s look at some simple ways to live a more sustainably everyday.

Here are some of the traditional ways to reduce your carbon footprint:

  • Carpool, ride your bike or take the train when possible.
  • Never Let the Water Run – Not only does this  apply to brushing your teeth, but also take shorter showers and be mindful when washing dishes.
  • Conserve Energy – Unplug your electronics if you are leaving town for the weekend. Surge protectors/power strips make this as easy as flipping a switch. Just make sure you leave the fridge on!

Now that we’ve tended to classics, here are some modern steps you can take to Go Green!

  1. Reduce Printing and Paper Dependency – Given the popularity of smart phones and other mobile devices, it is no longer necessary to print as much as we use to. The list includes mobile boarding passes, e-books, and e-mailed receipts. But you can make a bigger impact by reducing printing at work. Electronically sharing agendas and presentations prior to the meeting will help reduce what ends up in the trash.
  2. Be Responsible about E-Waste – Electronics and batteries do not belong in the trash. Use them for as long as possible and when it is time to upgrade, donate or recycle responsibly.  E-waste can emit chemicals such as mercury, causing environmental issues. It does not belong in the trash! Contact your local Sanitation Department or visit Whole Foods, Best Buy or Target stores;  they usually have e-waste recycling bins next to the exit.
  3. Opt-out of Junk Mail – It just ends up in the trash. Go online to opt-out.
  4. Clean Out your Cleaning Products– Switch to natural and plant-based cleaning products. This reduces air pollution and minimizes exposure to irritating chemicals. Read more here: Spring Clean Your Cleaning Products
  5. Choose “Fragrance” Free – Many products list “fragrance” on the label but don’t disclose the chemicals used. Personal care and cleaning products often contain hormone disrupting chemicals such as Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), that are also toxic to the environment. Choose essential oils based products instead.
  6. Meatless Monday Meals! Meat production produces significantly more greenhouse gases than vegetables. Having just one pasta night a week can make a tremendous impact on the environment and your health!
  7. Check Your Insulation – Checking your home  for cracks and other insulation inefficiencies (in the doors, walls, and windows) can reduce the need to heat or cool, leading to a smaller energy bill. This is as simple as using a draft protector underneath the door or installing insulated curtains.
  8. Reusable, Microwave-Safe Food Containers – When heated, styrofoam and plastics food containers can leak hormone disrupting chemicals such as BPA. Choose reusable and microwave-safe glass or ceramics. Pyrex offers many great portable options. It’s a simple step to keep your household green and healthy.
  9. Reduce Waste 
    • Eliminate the purchase of bottled water. Going for a run? Take a reusable canister! At home? Invest in a carbon filter.
    • Opt for products in sustainable packaging, then recycle!
    • Choose reusable products – Going Back to the Basics! If you need a daily Starbucks fix, you can make a huge difference by investing in a ceramic tumbler. Consider using other reusable items such as cloth diapers or sanitary pads to reduce the waste your family creates.
  10. Donate or Recycle Used Clothing – Search for donation centers online. Many charities will even come pick up your clothes.  It’s that simple!

Spring Clean Your Cleaning Products

Welcome Spring! The season of new beginnings, fresh air, and Spring Cleaning!

A great way to kick start the spring cleaning process and improve the air quality inside your home is to begin with the cleaning products. Limiting contact with irritating chemicals used in most home cleaning products will create a safer environment for your family.

Let’s start the process by looking at alternatives to some widely used cleaning products.

Glass Cleaner

Windex is a staple item in most American homes. I remember using it in elementary school to clean our desks after art projects.  At the time, I did not realized I was inhaling ammonia, a toxic skin and respiratory irritant. Now S.C. Johnson (the parent company) makes an ammonia free option to its classic Windex product!

Antibacterials & Disinfectants

FullSizeRender.jpgProducts like Lysol Disinfectant Spray are made from a variety of chemicals. Options such as Clorox contains chlorine bleach, a corrosive chemical that is irritating to both the eyes and lungs. There are better alternatives available in the cleaning isle.

Currently, I use Seventh Generation Disinfecting Multi-Surface Cleaner. Thyme oil is the active ingredient in this product.

I put Seventh Generation to the test in Microbiology Lab. Using the disc diffusion method and a petri dish with a Staphylococcus sample, I tested its effectiveness as an antibacterial agent. The Seventh Generation cleaner actually killed more bacteria when compared with the Lysol Disinfectant Spray.

If you are ready to take the plunge and make your own cleaning products, here are some great homemade solutions you can try.

DIY All Purpose Cleaner


  1. Pour a ½ cup white vinegar in a spray bottle
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of baking soda
  3. Optional: To add a natural fragrance, pour in a few drops of an essential oil such as lemon or lavender
  4. Fill the rest of the bottle with water
  5. Shake it all together and your All Purpose Cleaner is ready to use!

DIY Mold Cleaner

If you are concerned about bathroom mold, try the following.


  1. Mix 1 part 3% hydrogen peroxide and 2 parts water
  2. Pour this mixture in a recycled spray bottle
  3. Spray on to easily  clean bathroom grout

For a comprehensive list of DIY, non-toxic cleaning solutions, check out this useful guide on Earth Easy: Non-toxic Solutions

Natural Shampoo Journey – Part 4

Inspired by the increasing amount of “Paraben and Sulfate Free” shampoos on the market, I started to look into different hair care products, recording my experience in the Natural Shampoo Journey series. After learning about the chemical composition of today’s shampoos (Part 1), I quickly realized it is one of the most toxic products we use daily. So far, I have successfully found a natural way to remove product build-up using the Baking Soda + Shampoo method featured in Part 3, but still have not found a shampoo alternative that has worked for me.

Wondering what people did before conventional shampoos, I discovered J. R. Liggett Original Shampoo Bar, Herbal Formula. After reading the great reviews online, I was very excited to try this product. It’s easy to tell this is product is made with integrity. Continue reading

Natural Shampoo Journey – Part 3

Inspired by the increasing amount of “Paraben and Sulfate Free” shampoos, I started to research and try different hair care products to find the reason behind the trend. Every Thursday for 4 weeks, I will be sharing the experience in the Natural Shampoo Journey series. In case you missed the previous posts, the new hair care routine must meet the following criteria:

  • Effective at removing product residue
  • Non-drying/moisturizing
  • Gentle on the scalp
  • Free of unnecessary chemical additives

If you are not sure what Parabens and Sulfates do, check out Part 1 . In last week post, Part 2 of the Natural Shampoo Journey, I was faced with the dilemma of wanting to remove product residue for cleaner and bouncier hair, but without using yet another product. I learned about an effective method using just one staple pantry item. Continue reading

Natural Shampoo Journey – Part 2

It’s Thursday….Meaning part 2 of the 4 week Natural Shampoo Journey. In case you missed last week’s post, let’s rewind….

Inspired by the increasing amount of “Paraben and Sulfate Free” shampoos on the market, I began to research the history and chemical composition of modern shampoos. If you are not sure what Parabens and Sulfates do, check out Part 1 of the Natural Shampoo Journey. Many of today’s beauty products contain questionable ingredients such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (an insecticide) and artificial fragrances (can disrupt endocrine functions). This led me on the search for shampoo alternatives that also meet the following hair care requirements:

  • Effective at removing product residue
  • Non-drying/moisturizing
  • Gentle on the scalp
  • Free of unnecessary chemical additives

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Ayurveda 101

Recently, I came across an informative video great for those who are interested in learning about the principles of Ayurveda and I’ve been so excited to share it. In her lecture for the University of California San Francisco, Dr. Sudha Prathikanti covers the foundation of Ayurveda, a traditional Indian system of health and medicine based on the idea of balance.

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Natural Shampoo Journey – Part 1

Shampoo, which was invented in India centuries ago, was not widely used in Europe till early last century.  In fact, the word “shampoo” is derived from the Hindi language. The herb based formula used in ancient India is different than our modern day liquid shampoo, which did not become popular till the 1920’s.

After learning about the chemical composition of today’s shampoos, I quickly realized it is one of the most potentially toxic products we use daily. This inspired me to search for conventional shampoo alternatives which also meet the following hair care requirements:

  • Effective at removing product residue
  • Non-drying/moisturizing
  • Gentle on the scalp
  • Free of unnecessary chemical additives

Continue reading

Down in New Orleans! Mardi Gras

New Orleans, my second home, is a city of mystery, charm, and soul.  There is a certain.. je ne sais quoi…being greeted by jazz music over the loud speakers at Louis Armstrong Airport. This city is fun all year round but Mardi Gras is an especially festive and fun time in NOLA. Although this is a deviation from my regular posts, with Mardi Gras less than a month away, I’d like to share my food must-eats for a quick New Orleans weekend.

Check out the Green Beauty Fiend’s Guide to New Orleans Guide for some must eats and tips for getting around in the city.

First time to New Orleans? I’d be more than happy to answer any questions in the comments section below.