Coming Clean

Ok. I have a huge confession to make. Remember when I gave up all chemicals in my skin care products and rued the day where I’d touch a paraben again?

Yeah, well it’s over. It’s called adult-onset acne and it put me over the natural/chemical-free edge.

Amidst the mix of rose tip cleanser and mango citrus moisturizer, I noticed something creeping beneath the surface of an otherwise smooth face. A zit. A big nasty zit.

The first one I didn’t mind so much. It’s stress I thought. (Those damn kids.) But when the second and third didn’t abate after my grapefruit exfoliating wash treatments, I started to worry.

Did I have acne again, I wondered?

A trip to the dermatologist confirmed my 13-year-old 34-year-old’s worst fears: I had acne. I hadn’t heard those words since I had braces, two rounds of Accutane and a few strange incidents with a UV-lamp in my parents’ basement. (Don’t ask.)

Acne was my worst enemy, and it was back with a vengeance.

“But I use all natural products!” I exclaimed to the doctor in shock of my recent diagnosis. When I told her I’d been using tea tree oil to cure the pimples I thought her non-wrinkled, supple jaw would drop to the floor.

It was time to ditch the natural stuff, she told me.

Bring on the chemicals.

A new regime was in order and it wasn’t pretty. Two different face washes one for morning and night, two different creams, one a Retin-A derivative, one acid-based that was impossible to say. My own, non-oily moisturizer was fine (Thank you Bare Escentuals) and some good, mostly-chemical-free acne-prone sunscreen.

It wasn’t time for oral medication just yet, she assured me. Gee, thanks. I’d been spending the last year or so eradicating my house of parabens and fake dyes and proselytizing these changes across the internets and now I had to bring Blue dye #2004343 into my house, my life and my face.

But it worked.

It f’ing worked and now I’m not going back. Never. I may be a flexitarian-semi-vegan, but I’m dousing my face with chemicals galore and I’m loving it. My face didn’t even look oily after trekking through a soccer game, a bball game and incident with a lemonade stand in 85 degree heat yesterday.  I love my skin’s new texture, feel, and look. People comment on how good my skin looks. (Who, me?)

It even prompted me to get some new makeup. Of the non-organic kind. Hello, Benefit!

I didn’t say I was perfect. At least until I contract some rare disease that only people who have a mad obsession with anything “oil free” contract, I’m sticking with my natural diet and unnatural skin care regime.

Herewith are my favorite skincare products. Please contact your very own non-wrinkled, supple-jawed doctor first before trying any (or all) of these. Thank you. Comments and questions welcome.

Skin Prep:

Sumadan Sulfur Wash (morning)

Glytone Wash (night)

Finacea cream (morning)

Atralin (night)

Bare Escentuals moisturizer

Silk or Chemical peel every 3 months for a touch-up

Elta MD sunscreen for the face

Burn Out Clear Zinc for the body


Oxygen Wow! Foundation

Boing Concealer

Oo La La lightening cream

Bare Escentuals Mineral Veil

Hervana blush

Make Up forever eye pencil

They’re Real mascara

Alison Raffale all over dusting powder (the only natural one of the bunch)

And, voila! You will look as good as Tammy Faye Bakker now.

This post is dedicated to Betsy, Tracy, Aimee and all women who endure the annoyance of zits and wrinkles. 

What I’m worrying about lately – nail cancer and Chromium-6 water contamination

It’s no news that I’m neurotic. So I tend to read a lot of those headlines that say “THIS IS BAD FOR YOU” and then proceed to throw out all cups and bottles in my house and buy new makeup. I know you all are neurotic too (although you hide behind the spike in pageviews), and so I must divulge my two latest worries – getting nail cancer from the no-chip manicures and the high levels of Chromium-6 (a.k.a. the Erin Brockovich chemical) in Chicago’s drinking water.

I went through a brief love affair with the no-chip manicure (I tried OPI Axxium) recently as you might remember from my Facebook Q&A session. I really enjoyed the manicure. It lasted over two weeks, I walked out of the salon with dry nails and I didn’t have to worry about ruining my nails on dishes, etc. But, when I went back to the salon a couple of weeks ago to get another no-chip I was warned by a friend I saw at the salon who advised me that those manicures increase your risk for nail cancer. Lots of Googling ensued.

While the results of my internet search (links to articles in Houston Chronicle and New York Times) was mixed, the fact that putting your hands to dry under the UV light is like going in a tanning bed was enough to make me run back (sadly) to my chip-prone regular manicure. I would never go tanning, so why would I stick my hands under repeated, intense UV light? It’s not a safe practice to overexpose yourself to the sun, and to me, not worth the benefit of having beautiful nails for an extended period of time. *Sigh* (I must also mention that the OPI Axxium nail gel I tried completely left my nails peeling and shredding for weeks and I never had that problem before.)

My second worry is a little more grounded in real evidence.

I’m freaking out over contaminants in Chicago’s city water. I’ve always been a big tap water drinker. I drink it at restaurants, public places, and most especially my own home. There’s been questions about the purity of bottled water, plus, it’s expensive to buy and the bottles are not good for the environment. I tried Ice Mountain’s water delivery service until I figured out the 3 gallon water bottles provided by Ice Mountain contained BPA. (When I talked to the company representative about it, she could not deny that there are traces of BPA in the bottles. I returned the system the next day.)

We went back to good ‘ol Chicago tap and I’ve been happy ever since. Until I saw this report from the Environmental Working Group about how Chromium-6, the Erin Brockovich stomach-cancer-causing-chemical-from-hell is widespread in U.S. tap water, and how Chicago’s water supply has levels of Chromium-6 that exceed safe limits proposed by California officials. (Madison and Milwaukee you didn’t do much better.)

The authorities that be in Chicago say that our water meets or exceeds EPA standards, and that they’re going to meet with the head of the EPA about the report, but I don’t want to wait around for bureaucracy to rule firmly on the issue and make a change. Therefore, I’ve investigated EWG’s recommendation for water filters and found that I need a reverse osmosis water filtration system to get the Chromium-6 out. For $170, I’d rather buy a new pair of Tory Burch flats I saw, but I guess preventing our stomachs from corroding is more important. In the meantime I bought a Brita pitcher, because I have yet to convince my better half that we need a complicated water system living under our sink. I know Brita isn’t going to cut it, but it is making me feel a little better.

Oh, how I could use a little Vitamin D from the deadly sun to cheer me up.

Put the lotion on the body…

Remember my freak-out about suntan lotion ingredients earlier this summer? I’m still on the quest for natural beauty products and I may have finally found my perfect balance. I mean, to make my skin perfectly balanced. Because when it comes to organic/ natural/ chemical free face products, I was really starting to think parabens were the only way to stop my skin from looking like I had a constant glisten on my face. I have oily skin, but my overuse of Burt’s Bees Radiance products made my face look like the dewy look gone really wrong. (Better than my friend whose overuse of shea butter caused a visceral reaction of over-itchy skin. Better than bedbugs, I guess.) Plus, my eco-conscience, i.e. Allison, told me way back that Burt’s contains fragrance, which is only slightly less devilish than parabens.

After ditching the Burt’s for my husband’s old paraben creams to hold me over until I got a good replacement, I did some research on my favorite site for finding all the bad things lurking in my beauty drawer – The Environmental Working Group. Their sunscreen database rocked, so I tested it out for my facial skin care needs. And who knew, there’s more to organic beauty than Burt’s! Thank goodness for that, because I’m now matte again.

Herewith my favorite new, organic (I hope and pray and think) facial skin care products. All have a rating of 2 or less from EWG. If you prove me wrong or something I may have to de-friend you.

For my daily skin lotion I’m now using Dermologica Chroma White with SPF 30. I lived for Dermologica before I found out parabens were the devil. And this cream, while it doesn’t moisturize as well as some of the other bad boys, does have SPF 30, doesn’t smell and makes my skin brighter. No, I don’t do their advertising.

For my facial wash, I found this pretty cool cleanser from Karen’s Botanical’s. It’s really liquid-y so you cup some water in your hand and then pour the cleanser into the water mix and lather it up. It makes your face feel really dry, but I think that’s why I’m so matte. It’s dry, but not dried-out. Just wish it came in a bigger size.

For my night time facial moisturizer, I am trying out Skin’s Rosey Plum Day Moisturizer. I couldn’t find a “night” moisturizer that wasn’t laden with a lot of oils. So far so good, but Skin does advertise this product as fragrance free, and it might not contain artificial fragrance, but there is a sour-y, plum-y smell to it that took a couple days to get used to.

Next up… I bought the new Physician’s Formula Organic Wear makeup to try when my beloved, but chemically-enhanced Laura Mercier stuff runs out. I’ll keep you posted…

My romance: Chemical free

Apparently my last post with the link to all the bad ingredients in sunscreen hit home with y’all. My friends have been calling and emailing about it, and I’ve been proselytizing chemical-free sunscreen like Heidi does her plastic surgery. So, because you didn’t asked I’m using Badger for my husband and I and California Baby for the kids (it made my husband’s face way too zinc-oxide white to use on me.) I’m happy I found sunscreen that doesn’t have the dreaded Oxybenzone in it, and to be honest, these brands work way better than the spray-on cancer crap that I used last year. I have this love-hate thing with chemicals in beauty products, you see.

Moving on, earlier today, my friend and I had a thrilling discussion about how far we are taking our chemical-free romances.  You know I have green guilt. I’m never as green as I should be. Same goes for my love of chemical-free beauty products. Because you can’t take the paraben out of the concealer and still think it’s going to conceal.

So because again, you didn’t asked, I’ll tell you what I’m doing to ensure that my skin is as pure and sweet as the Diet Coke I had this afternoon.

  • I stopped using soaps and body lotions with artificial ingredients and artificial fragrances. I switched to Burt’s Bees, but apparently that, too, has some question about the fragrances they use, but it says 99 gazillion percent natural and I’m pretty impressed with their voluminous FAQ pages.  Plus, my husband thinks this whole thing is so crazy and if I spend any more money on body wash I’m a dead woman.
  • I switched my lip gloss. I’m obsessed with lip balm and gloss, especially ones that have SPF.  I was using Neutrogena MoistureShine Lip Soother which I loved almost as much as my Diet Coke and slathered on my lips 50 times a day, but then found out that it had the dreaded Oxybenzone, and I was basically eating it all day long and I decided that was probably not so great for my health. So I went to Whole Foods  and found Hemp Organic Lip Tint which has sun protection in it. It also has something called carmine, which some people freak out about, but I was just glad I wasn’t ingesting the dreaded Oxybenzone. And, I actually like the consistency of it (but I do miss my Neutrogena poison.)
  • As for my face, I really really am addicted to my Bobbi Brown foundation stick.  Concealer is pretty much the one thing I don’t leave the house without. But, Alison told me all these great things about Jane Iredale makeup and how it’s all natural and they sell it at Pure Beauty so I thought I would try her concealer. But it really sucked, I’m sorry to say. It didn’t cover up jack sh**. I’m sure there are other amazing natural concealers out there, but I draw the line when it comes to zits.
  • And, I draw the line when it comes to deodorant. I know aluminum may cause alzheimers and I’m probably spreading cancer around my body every day by using it,  but I cannot go au natural with the deo for the B.O. Again, I tried. I really did. With Aubrey Organics. But people, I need an anti-perspirant like the Queen needs her tiara. Do you love me for trying?

(Btw, for more organic beauty tips, check out Robin’s great organic beauty blog.)

So that being said, I’ve happily made the switch to more natural lotions and creams, but I’m still going to be the lovely blemish-free, sweet-smelling friend you all know me as.

Oh, and if this hasn’t made you crazy enough already did you hear about the lead in our kid’s juice boxes? I may have to start growing grapes on my roofdeck and do the Lucy dance.

Give me some hair, ungreasy, non stringy hair

My least favorite part of post-pregnancy aftermath is definitely the loss of hair. You know, the clumps that gather in the shower drain, the strands that fall out like crazy when blow-drying and brushing. And, the worst culprits: those little bang thingys that grow in to replace the strands that have fallen out like crazy when blow-drying and brushing.

I knew things were getting bad for my hair, but I didn’t realize how bad until I visited my beloved hairdresser, Manolis (he’s so cool he goes by one name), and he was like, “OMG your hair looks really weird.” I took weird for looking like [insert expletive here], but was grateful he used the word “weird” instead.

I mean, I had to agree. My pregnancy ‘do of soft layers around the face with longer layers in back just looked stringy now that everything but the gray hairs had fallen out.

Yes, post-partum is that glamorous.

However, because he is a hairdresser g-d and I’m a willing subject, we came up with a plan of attack. Chop it off. I’ve done this before, as some of you know. I’m not scared of a good haircut. So, we cut off what I thought was at least 6 inches, but what everyone else and their mother assured me was way less than that. The result?

Me, circa stringy hair day.

Me, in my post-partum glory.

I say, when in doubt, remove all evidence of your formerly luxurious pregnancy locks. What say you?

Cross-posted at Second City Baby

We have nothing to fear but endocrine disrupting chemicals

I’m not a hysteric about making my house an organic haven, or making sure my kid can speak Tibetan by age 4, or worrying about the effects of Dora the Explorer’s shrill voice on my son’s eardrums.

But lately, I have taken to trying to eradicate certain ingredients from our food, like high fructose corn syryp, and after talking to my new BFF, Dr. Harvey Karp, making an effort to rid our lives as best as possible of endocrine disrupting chemicals.

What are EDCs, you ask? Good question. I wrote all about it today on Babble in an interview with the doc.

And he put the fear of freaking g-d in me about all the toxins in all the products we use on our bodies and in our house. Like  phthalates in beauty products, insulating agents, chemicals in carpets and flooring. It’s not just the chemicals alone that are scary. It’s the research being done about how these chemicals compound in our bodies and may cause autism in our children. (The Ecology Center published a report yesterday showing test results on various household items in a similar vein. You can find their database of tested products on their site,

We all know BPA is the devil, but that’s just the one that gets all the buzz.

Luckily, though, there are things we can do. We can use “green cleaners.”  (For a good list go to: Healthy Child Healthy World.) We can use natural beauty products on ourselves and kids (I listed a smattering of recommended products on my article.) We can buy organic foods.

We can vigilant without draping ourselves in hemp all day and living in a tent.  And best, we can talk about it, create more awareness and try to get companies to get the toxins out of their products. (And try to get Sigg to give us a freaking explanation for what’s going on with their BPA-laced bottles!)

If you guys have any tips about this topic, I’d love to hear it as well.

Let it Grow Like Katie

I have this thing about my hair. I always change my mind about what kind of style I want.  Currently, I’m in the midst of wanting my hair to be super long. 

I actually once had really long hair. With bangs! (collective gasp begin now)


 I’m fully blaming “new mom brain” for this look.

A few cuts later and it was the Katie Holmes bob-o-rama of 2007

 78087194BM093_Premiere_Of_O  bobcut2







I swear I didn’t mean for this to happen.

Which brings me to 2009 or, Operation: Growing It Out. Otherwise known as a painful ordeal where I partially revist “The Rachel” cut. Not on purpose.









Had I known I was going to go back in time with my hairstyle I WOULD HAVE NEVER CUT MY HAIR!

Of course, when I found out this week that Katie went from bob to bombshell overnight with magical hair extensions I went loony.  Now I only have one mission in mind: Must Look Like Holmes Again.

katie tom valkyrie premiere 120309

 It’s just not fair that us frugal peons have to do the grow out the old-fashioned way.

I know PunditMom and ChickyChickyBaby are also leading the quest for long hair.  Are you? Let’s all share photos of our progress.  We can live in grow-out misery together.

Until then, I’m wearing my hair back and in headbands daily.

Bare naked lady

manicureI hate being naked.  I’m a very modest person, so I rarely let my bare-self show. (Unless I’m in the dressing room at Loehmann’s and I’m scoring a great deal.)  Same way with my nails.  I hate having bare nails.

I take that back. I LOATHE having bare nails.  I’m a staunch advocate of the polished nail.  Mademoiselle is my middle name, dontcha know?

So for the last few many years, I’ve indulged myself with weekly manicures.  I remember looking forward to Friday, my self-proclaimed manicure day, where I could sit at the nail salon, gossip with the nail tech and read trashy magazines.  The US Weekly mag I read always had the most oil stains on it, but I didn’t care.  I was content perusing the “Just Like Us” section in a vibrating spa chair, even if Jennifer Garner was smudged out.

And my nails used to get compliments.  Who knew I have “long nail beds”?  Or nice white tips?  I took pleasure in knowing that a little bit of dough got me a long way with that cashier at Starbucks or a colleague in a meeting where I was taking notes.  I could be Wicked without anyone knowing just how innocent I really was.  That’s the beauty of a nice manicure.  It provides a good cover. My nails would shine even when I didn’t.  And people notice.

Then I had a child.  I know it sounds so cliche, but I think those folks are right. Having a baby changes everything.  I swore up and down that when I had my son I would let nothing get in the way of my nail upkeep. But something’s happened over the past few months.  I’m going naked.  It’s impossible to stay properly clothed as the mother of a 16-month-old.

At one point, I pretended that I could keep up my polished exterior.  When my son was a bit younger, I tried haplessly to wear trendy dark colors.  This resulted in numerous expletives flowing from my mouth every time I saw a chip.  There’s one thing I hate more than bare nails.  Feeling like you’ve thrown $15 down the drain because you’ve smudged your nail giving your son a bath.

I’ve found that going around bare does have its benefits. You can wash the dishes without gloves on, garden freely, and pull apart sippy cup parts like a bat out of hell.  You can open up toys without pretending to your child that those twisty tie thingy-s are really a part of the toy.  (I mean, those twisty tie thingy-s are KILLER on a fresh manicure.) You can type on your keyboard recklessly. You can open up cans and bottles. You can pry open the seal of that fresh tube of Aquaphor.  It’s quite liberating, really.

Then again, there are disadvantages to a non-manicured nail.  There’s the hanging cuticle problem, which typically requires the unsanitary, but necessary extracting of, which draws blood in the office, which results in you running screaming to your group assistant to find you some freaking Band-Aids (!!) so you don’t have to try to type on your keyboard with paper towel over your finger.


Needing to get nailed.

Also, unmanicured nails give off this terrible impression that you actually care about housework. I think there’s a direct correlation between how dirty your house is with how bad your nails look. Meaning, if you care about keeping your nails polished, you’ll let the dust build up a little.  I hate dusting too.

The good news is that for the next week, I’ll be away from reality, “working from home” (more on that later) with no business people to see and no in-person meetings to be had.  I can let myself go for a little.  But believe you me, as soon as I get back I’ll be calling up the nail salon.  I can only walk around naked for so long.

If I take a look on the bright side…

light-bulb.jpgI’ve often complained to my coworkers about the dim lighting in our communal bathroom at the office.  The flourescent bulbs seem to be from an era past, casting my beautiful spring whites in nasty shades of yellow.  My skin, which is already sallow to begin with, seemed ever more orange in the atmosphere of the bathroom.  Which is why I was shocked to walk into work this morning and find that these tawny bulbs have been replaced with brighter alternatives.

Unfortunately, this means now I can see how bad I look by the end of the day.

I’ve ranted before about how difficult it is to get ready in the morning for work when you have a baby to contend with.  But now, I fear, my new foe is the brilliant bulb giving off its ray of fake sunshine in the loo.  It’s bringing out the very worst in my appearance.

See, 8 months into this working mom thing, I’ve got my morning routine down pat. As long as I can distract my son with an episode of Noddy or whatever is on at the early hour I get ready, I can apply my foundation semi-evenly and smear concealer onto my chin, where it seems I am reliving my adolescent youth.  A stroke of blush, some mascara, (permanent eyeliner if I am lucky), finishing powder and I am typically good to go. Fixing up my face is the last step of my morning routine and when I am finished, I usually do not take another look in the mirror.  There’s no time for hiding that one last freckle or wrinkle. I’ve got to get to work.

And when I’m at work, I’m usually too busy or too lazy to check on my appearance.

But by the time 3 p.m rolls around and I leisurely stroll to the bathroom to stretch my legs I am horrified at what I see.  My mascara is smudged, the pubescent acne spot (ok, zit!) is erupting and I have a sheen about me that reminds me why I never opted for the “dewy” look in the ’90s.  Yes, I could bring my powder compact to work. Yes, I could reapply concealer at the end of the day. But somehow, I always forget to do this.

At least there’s a bright side.  My son.  Thankfully, he doesn’t care how shiny, or matte or smudged I look at the end of day.  As long as I’m home in time to put him to bed, he glows like the brightest bulb there ever was.  And that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?

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Mother’s Day the Self-Made Mom Way

present.jpgMother’s Day is less than two weeks away, and if you’re like me – a little bit bossy and love getting gifts – you’re all over the internet searching for the perfect gift for yourself.  I soak up the glory of Mother’s Day.  The day created to celebrate the fact that I suffered through the aches and pains of pregnancy and labor to produce just about the cutest thing that ever was (according to my MIL.) I’ve only had one Mother’s Day so far, but I already know I like to celebrate the holiday my way- no surprises. It’s the one holiday that I can control what I want to do and of course, what I want to receive.  Save the surprises for my birthday or Hannukah or something.  On Mother’s Day I live by the motto: “Requests are best.”  To make it easier for you to request the perfect gift, I’ve created a list of Mother’s Day gift ideas. All you have to do now is send the link to your husband and poke and nag him about it later tonight. Or maybe it’s just me that will do that.

Mother’s Day the Gadget Way: 
If you’re a gadget guru, here are some gift ideas for you (Techmamas inspired me, what can I say?):

  • bluetooth.jpgA bluetooth headset – a safe mama is a happy mama so get a headset for when you drive, or push your stroller around town, or if you just want to look really cool and important on a play date. I’m partial to the Motorola H700 because it comes in pink.
  • A new digital camera – cameras are faster and smaller now than ever, and that’s why you need a new one. The Canon Exilim EX-S600 is small, and fast. And it has a special setting for “kids” so you won’t miss junior shoving birthday cake in his mouth.
  • Video baby monitors – the perfect gift for a Type-A mom. Want to see what junior is up to in bed? View him on your fancy video monitor. I’m partial to the Summer brand because it’s portable so I can take it with me. Everywhere.
  • babyg.pngA new watch – if your kid’s anything like mine, he eats everything you own. So don’t worry about him wrecking your jewelry and ask for a Casio Baby G watch. It won’t break and it has like 52 settings and alarms and time zones and makes jingles that will send your little one into a laughing fit. Plus it comes in pink so it can match your headset.

Mother’s Day the Cool Mom Way:
I may be controlling, but I never said I was “cool.” If you want to be a hip mama, request a gift from the Cool Mom Picks Mother’s Day Gift Guide. They’ve got great gift ideas over there for all kinds of mamas that support many mom-run businesses.  So go on, shoo. Remember, I’m not that cool, but they are.

As Seen at Cool Mom Picks

Mother’s Day the Self-Made Mom Way:
I’ve got one Mother’s Day under my belt so I don’t have a lot of personal experience, but here’s what I requested and received last year:

  • mom_charms_006.jpgHelen Ficalora Alpha Charm Necklace – I’m a huge fan of these uber-light and fun necklaces. I ordered one with the initial of my son on it, so he’s close to me whether I’m with him or not. They also have really cute mom charms and sayings, so if you’re not feeling it for junior, you can feel it for yourself. That’s what this day’s all about, right?

And here’s what I’m getting this year. My $5 Target diaper bag has had it’s day. Do you like?


The Storksak Emily Diaper Bag

P.S. If you like to give rather than receive, then go over to Work It, Mom! and submit a tribute to a working mom that you admire. I was feeling a bit giving myself after writing this post so I published a tribute to one of my working mom BFFs.  Best part? Work It, Mom is partnering with in this endeavour and they’re going to be making a donation in honor of all the Tributes they receive. The more Tributes they get, the more that gets donated. Sometimes even I give a little 🙂

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