February 4, 2015

beauty secrets | natural perfumes for the floral, spice and woods lover

In what seems like a never-ending quest to find the best of the best in various clean beauty product categories (see my “ultimate guides” if you’re unfamiliar), one product category is even more subjective than natural deodorants and natural mascaras: natural perfumes.

So instead of creating an “ultimate guide,” I instead decided to round up my personal favorite scents in the three major scent profiles that appeal to me: floral, spice and wood.

If you are also drawn to these types of notes, you’ll find this list helpful. If you’re drawn more to the scents of citrus, greens, earth and rich dessert, my picks may not work with your senses. But, I would love to know your favorites within those particular scent profiles!


To get an idea of the various scent profiles out there, here’s a quick cheat sheet to identifying fragrance profiles and notes:


  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Lime
  • Orange


  • Cocoa
  • Sugar
  • Vanilla


  • Dirt
  • Leather
  • Smoke


  • Gardenia
  • Jasmine
  • Lavender
  • Lillies
  • Peonies
  • Roses
  • Tuberose
  • Ylang Ylang


  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Peach
  • Pineapple


  • Basil
  • Grass
  • Moss


  • Black pepper
  • Cardamom
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Rum


  • Cedarwood
  • Sandalwood

Notes That Appeal to Me

  • Jasmine
  • Lavender
  • Rose
  • Tuberose
  • Ylang Ylang
  • Black Pepper
  • Rum
  • Sandalwood
  • Vanilla
  • Cocoa

That’s not to say these are the only fragrances I wear; it does mean, however, that most perfumes that strike my fancy have these scents as more dominant notes.

Natural Perfumes That Work For My Nose

Not to be confused with what’s newly updated on my “favorites” page, this is a sampling of natural perfumes from various brands that got the “ooh, that smells good and I’ll wear it” approval from me based on the types of scents I like.

Typically, I like to have a small arsenal of go-to scents in my natural perfume collection, with just two or so earning the “signature scent” status. I like to switch up my daytime and evening scents, though I do love having that one go-to scent that I can wear to the office and refresh before happy hour or dinner.

Perfumes that earn the go-to honor from me are ones that make me feel beautiful, smell good (obviously) and capture the positive attention of the people I’m constantly around, including my coworkers and significant other.

But, to narrow it down even more, the natural perfumes that eventually make it onto my favorites, ultimate repurchase list have to do one thing: last.

While I know because natural perfumes don’t contain the harmful phthalates and synthetics that prolong lab-created scents in conventional perfumes, I — like many of you — desire a scent that will keep for more than an hour or two.

That helps a select few rise to the top, and they are typically alcohol-based one that have the spray function as traditional perfumes do, and which get way more use out of me than rollerballs that can feel a bit clumsy to use. (Does anyone else feel that way?)

*Aroma M Camellia Perfume

The ultimate floral bouquet, Aroma M’s Camellia Perfume brings together all the major players — jasmine, gardenia, neroli, geranium and rose — and then cuts it with frankincense. See why it got my attention? I reserve this perfume for evenings, as it’s a bit heavier, and it only takes a bit to last all night. That’s saying a lot of a cleaner perfume!

*Esscentual Alchemy Little Black Dress

Talk about the perfect name for an elegant, classy natural perfume great for day and night! Little Black Dress by Esscentual Alchemy features jasmine, ylang ylang, sandalwood, palisander rosewood, ginger, bergamot, civetta, rose, black elder and lily. What. A. Masterpiece!

Honores des Pres Vamp a NY

Feminine and sophisticated, Honores des Pres’ Vamp a NY is hands down my favorite scent of the bunch — and surprisingly doesn’t contain notes of jasmine. Instead, I’ve fallen head over heels for the head notes of tuberose and rum (tuberose is my secret obsession that you don’t see me write about much) and a soft heart of bourbon vanilla to keep it playful without seeming juvenile. THIS is the perfume I wear that has made countless coworkers stop me mid-sentence and say “You smell GOOD!”

**Lurk RSW005 (also available in eau de toilette!)

The ultimate minimalist perfume with depth, Lurk RSW005 brings together notes of warm sandalwood and earthy rose in a perfume oil that wears well all day despite its oil-based formula (though it’s now also available in a spray which I have yet to try!). The rose is subtle and not overly feminine at all. Non-rose lovers may be converted by this perfume. I know I was!

**Osmia Organics Posso

Probably the most unique scent in my current collection, Posso by Osmia Organics is strikingly more grounding and woodsy than its floral-heavy sisters. Base notes of violet leaf and frankincense ground your senses while Bulgarian rose absolute flirts with your senses. Lemon balm and grapefruit cut through those two scent profiles, brightening everything up without making the scent feel like a perky head cheerleader. And finally, Virginia cedarwood brings it all together with a sense of calm and cozy.

**StillLife Wild Heart

Rose. Geranium. Jasmine. Wood. This is basically kimberlyloc in a rollerball, and after sampling a small vial of this romantic blend, I purchased a full size to roll on throughout the day. If Wild Heart becomes available in a spray (and in a body wash and a body oil and a body lotion and anything else I can sink myself in), I’d easily scoop all those up, too. I like how pared-down it is, yet its scent offers depth thanks to a slice of wood and a pop of geranium.

**Strange Invisibles Fair Verona

Jasmine lovers: Make a point to try Fair Verona. Made with jasmine blossoms and touches of bergamot, grapefruit, sandalwood, and mimosa absolute, this luxury natural perfume has the depth of my favorite flower cut with happy citrus that makes my heart burst. I’m hanging on to what’s left of my small sample-with-purchase vial and will soon secure my first full-size purchase so that Fair Verona gets her special space on my perfume plate.

*True Nature Botanicals Noble Floral

I’ve mentioned before that tuberose is my secret floral obsession, but when it’s paired with jasmine and classic rose, I can’t help but want to yell it to the world that there’s a winner on our hands here, and it’s True Nature Botanicals’ Noble Floral Solid Perfume. But I restrain myself because while solid pefumes are charming (and True Nature Botanicals’ heavyweight, luxe packaging is absolutely stellar), I find that solid perfumes just don’t last on me. Instead, they’re lovely base layers for additional perfume oils and eventual eau de toilettes or parfums. TNB, do you hear me?! I would love to see an expansion of this scent, as it takes the best flowers and packs it into one ultra-feminine scent.

*Indicates press sample

**Indicates sample with purchase

***Indicates I had a press sample and then bought it myself

January 28, 2015

beauty secrets | what foundation color are you?

One of my biggest gripes about buying makeup online is that it’s next-to-impossible to get an accurate foundation match without some sort of assistance.

We have to give credit to the retailers who have sophisticated shade-matching tools (looking at you, Sephora ColorIQ) and brands who offer interactive shade charts on their respective sites (like BareMinerals and Tarte).

But, as clean beauty enthusiasts, these mainstream tools aren’t helpful to us because the brands we love aren’t included.

This is where blog posts with clear photos and descriptions are so important!

This is also where a good ol’ crowdsourced blog post and comments come into play.

I’d love to know what color foundation you wear in the various nontoxic cosmetics brands on the market today. To kick it off, see my skin description and list below.

Also, as you can tell in the photo collage below, proper lighting is key to be able to see true makeup colors in photos! I’m no professional photographer, nor do I have a studio or fancy lights.

From top left going clockwise, here are the lighting conditions as much as I can remember them: Outdoors; indoors; indoors with flash; outdoors with the wrong white balance setting; outdoors; outdoors with the wrong white balance setting.

Other things to note: Camera settings are important! I shot some of my older posts with the wrong white balance setting. Sorry! I’m a writer, not a photographer. 

which foundation shade is right for you

Name: Kim, aka kimberlyloc

Ethnicity: 1/4 Chinese; 1/4 Vietnamese; 1/4 Scottish

Skintone: Fair / Light with yellow undertones. Middle of face can be slightly pink. Neck & chest show yellow undertones

Skin Attributes: Tans easily. Will sunburn pink/red without proper protection, but only after extended period of time in extreme sunlight.

Skin Issues: Oily, Acne-Prone, Large Pores, Red Zits

Current Foundation Matches:

Note: I’ve starred** the ones I think have an exceptional color match for my skin.

Another Note: The ones that aren’t starred are still great, but as we all know, foundations are just hard to match. Some of these lack the right amount of yellow for me or are a bit too dark or a bit too light or may even be too yellow. What’s nice about having an arsenal, though, is being able to create custom blends!

For my non-sunkissed skin:

**Alima Pure Mineral Foundation in Olive 1 (see how it looks layered over RMS “Un” Cover-Up in No. 22)

Araza Natural Beauty  7-1 Coconut Creme Foundation in Co. 13

Aveda Inner Light Mineral Tinted Moisture SPF 15 in Beechwood (see the review – sorry, no pics!)

Gabriel Cosmetics Moisturizing Liquid Foundation in Warm Beige (see the review with pics)

Gressa Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation in No. 3 (see the review with pics)

**Jane Iredale Glow Time Full Coverage Mineral BB Cream in BB5 (see the review with pics)

**Jane Iredale PurePressed Base Mineral Foundation in Amber and Warm Sienna (see the review with pics of Warm Sienna)

**Kari Gran Mineral Foundation in No. 2 (see the review with pics)

**Kjaer Weis Cream Foundation in Just Sheer (see the review with pics)

Lily Lolo BB Cream in Light

**Purely You Minerals Mineral Foundation in Warm Fairly Medium (see the review with pics)

**RMS “Un” Cover-Up in No. 22 (see how it looks on my skin)

**Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Foundation in Light-Medium Sand (see the review with pics)

**Tarte BB Tinted Treatment 12-Hour Primer in Light

Tarte Colored Clay CC Primer in Light

W3ll People Narcissist Foundation + Concealer in No. 2 (see the review with pics)

Zuzu Luxe Dual Powder Foundation in D-7

For summer, sunkissed skin:

**Jane Iredale PurePressed Base Mineral Foundation in Golden Glow

La Mav Organic BB Creme

Marie Veronique Everyday Coverage SPF 30 in Medium (see the review with pics)

**Tarte Amazonian Clay Pressed Mineral Powder in Medium

OK, so that’s a LOT of color intelligence for you. Your turn! Leave your skin description and foundation shades in the comments section.


January 19, 2015

beauty scoop | arya essentials face oil

“Ayurveda intrigues and inspires me; the simplicity of it and how you can draw everything you need from nature. This natural healing science — over 5,000 years old — is native to India and full of recipes passed on from generation to generation.”

— Shadoh Punnapuzha, founder, Arya Essentials

One of my favorite pampering memories is visiting an Ayurvedic Center at an island spa.

Though I haven’t exactly been able to replicate that experience here in the Midwest, I can come pretty close in theory when I use Arya Essentials’ Face Oil.

arya essentials face oil

{Arya Essentials sent me a sample of its Face Oil. It costs $92 for a 30 ml bottle. Photo Courtesy Arya Essentials}

With a potent blend of essential oils and high-performance natural ingredients such as amla, brahmi and tulsi, Arya Essentials’ Face Oil is formulated to boost collagen production, prevent aging and reduce visible signs of wrinkles.

The scent is different than what you may typically expect from an Ayurvedic line. Instead of the heavy spices and savory scents that you’ve come to associate with Ayurveda, Arya Essentials’ Face Oil dresses your skin in a powdery soft, floral scent thanks to sandalwood, ylang ylang and geranium.

This is a bit of a big deal to me, as Ayurvedic skincare is commonly characterized by heavy-duty scents (think neem and basil), but Arya Essentials’ Face Oil manages to deliver both the standout, traditional ingredients while offering a light, feminine scent that’s pleasant enough to pass for a soft perfume.

The texture is what we’ve all come to expect from luxury facial oils: Lightweight, fast-drying and soft to the touch.

I can get by with 3-4 drops applied to a properly toned / misted face. The thoughtful ingredient blend allows for an even application and slip, making this face oil one that you don’t have to pile on to get that well-hydrated feel.

arya essentials face oil

Speaking of incredible ingredients, let’s get down to it:

Amla, also known as Indian gooseberry, is known for its high vitamin C content and powerful rejuvenating properties. There’s even been talks of amla berries having potential cancer-fighting benefits (though more likely when eaten, not slathered on the face).

Amla also has anti-inflammatory and astringent properties, making it an ideal ingredient for Pitta skin like mine.

In addition to amla, Arya Essentials Face Oil contains brahmi, another widely respected Ayurvedic herb celebrated for its ability to brighten and soothe the skin. Brahmi also boasts detoxifying properties, gently toning and calming troubled skin.

Tulsi, or Holy Basil, is yet another popular plant rich in skin-saving antioxidants that purify and add radiance to dull skin. It’s highly regarded as a heavyhitter when it comes to antioxidant content and antibacterial, anti-viral and immune-enhancing properties.

With these three superstar Ayurvedic ingredients going to work in a base of argan, jojoba and sweet almond oils, my highly hormonal, Pitta skin could not be happier drinking up the years-old promise of Ayurvedic skincare.

Here’s the full ingredients list:

Argania Spinosa (Argan) Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Centella Asiatica (Brahmi) Oil, Rosa Rubiginosa (Rose Hip Seed) Oil, Santalum Album (Sandalwood) Oil, Phyllanthus Emblica (Amla) Extract, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Ocimum Sanctum (Tulsi) Oil, Azadirachta Indica (Neem) Oil, Cananga Odorata (Ylang Ylang) Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens (Geranium) Oil

I will point out, though, that none of these ingredients are listed as certified organic, which is disappointing given the high cost of this face oil.

While I respect the thoughtful blend, I always wonder what it would take to source organics — and how that affects price. I would love to see Arya Essentials reformulate to add more certified organic ingredients!

Besides that detail, I’d say Arya Essentials Face Oil is a winner. It’s got all the good-for-Pitta-skin ingredients packed away in a lightweight, mixed carrier oil base that’s easy on the nose for those who don’t like spicy or herbal scents on their faces.

What’s been your experience with Ayurveda? Have you tried Arya Essentials? What are your favorite Eastern herbs and ingredients? Tell me in the comments section!


January 16, 2015

beauty scoop | gressa skin minimalist corrective serum foundation

“It’s a serum. It’s a foundation. It’s a multivitamin for your face.”

With product copy like that, you can’t help but notice Gressa Skin’s Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation.

A darling of the green beauty blogosphere, Gressa Skin’s Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation caught my attention because of its skin-beneficial ingredients list and magical serum-to-powder finish formula.

However, this natural foundation didn’t completely WOW me the first few times I applied it. It’s since grown on me, and here’s how I enjoy it.

gressa minimalist corrective serum foundation

{I purchased Gressa’s Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation from the Gressa website. It costs $48 for a 15 ml dropper bottle.}

After reading several reviews before splurging on it in early December 2014, I opted for shade 03 and requested a sample packet of the Illuminating Serum with my order.

I was quite impressed with the match I got in shade 03, described as a light-medium color with olive and slightly warmer undertones.

As you can see in my before-and-after photos below, it’s almost a perfect match!

But as you can also see in my before-and-after photos, the coverage is very light, as I can still see the imperfections on my forehead and the deeper yellow-tan circles under my eyes.

gressa minimalist corrective serum foundation

{LEFT: No makeup. Not even my brows. Ah!  RIGHT: Wearing only Gressa Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation}

This is after buffing in 7-8 drops of the runny formula — substantially more than the recommended 2-4 drops in the application directions.

I used about 3 drops on my forehead and down my nose; 2 on each of my cheeks; and one on my chin and jawline.

Though the light coverage can easily be remedied by adding concealer on my spots and undereye circles, one issue I had with Gressa Skin’s Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation was its tendency to stick to dry patches on the skin.

I’ve read this feedback in a lot of other reviews, and it held true even for me, the oily blogger in residence.

Granted, it is the dead of winter, and we’ve had some brutal weather in the Midwest lately, but I was surprised at how the foundation balled up on even the slightest dry patches on my face. This was after a healthy amount of cleansing, exfoliation, toning, moisturizing and application of the Illuminating Serum sample.

With that said, I’m interested to see how Gressa Skin’s Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation performs in the spring and summer. I imagine this issue will go away, and I will have a deeper appreciation for how lightweight and beautiful this formula is.

(I’ll provide an update to this post when it’s warmer!)

Speaking of the formula, let’s look at those skin-beneficial ingredients that got my attention in the first place:

*Brassica oleracea (Broccoli) Seed Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Silica, GRESSA Healing ComplexTM *Silymarin, *Neem (Azadirachta indica) Extract,*Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) Extract, *Lemon Balm (Melissa officianalis) Extract, *Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) Extract, *Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) Seed Extract, *Elder Flower (Sambucus nigra) Extract, *Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia) Extract, Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate Non-GMO, Coenzyme Q10, Ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate, (Vitamin C), *lecithin, *glycerin, mica, iron oxides, titanium oxide. *CERTIFIED ORGANIC

Broccoli seed oil is the hero ingredient that gives this serum foundation the feel of a primer without the use of silicones.

Neem, horsetail, lemon balm and sea buckthorn are known for their anti-inflammatory and acne-fighting properties, which is a wonderful bonus to those of us who are breakout-prone and attempting to reach “foundation-free” status with our skin.

And that brings me to how I’ve come around with this foundation. As I mentioned in the introduction of this post, I wasn’t immediately impressed with this foundation from a pure coverage and everyday application perspective.

However, as I’ve been experiencing some really great skin days lately, I’ve come to respect this foundation more as my “good skin day” foundation. It allows my skin to breathe, continues to treat it with good-for-breakout-prone-skin ingredients and makes me feel like I’m wearing nothing on my face.

As I get older and appreciate the ability to let my bare beauty shine through, I yearn more and more for the days when I can be that girl who just slicks on lip gloss, curls her lashes and goes — no major skin coverage needed!

Until then, it’s easy to use Gressa Skin’s Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation to fake that “no-makeup” makeup look. Just remember to spot-conceal where necessary, and feel confident in your own skin!

So, final verdict on repurchasing: Undecided until I’ve seen how it performs in warmer, humid weather.

Until then, check out some of my other natural foundation reviews and see some of my other favorites and fails.

What are your thoughts on Gressa Skin’s foundation? Do you have “good skin day” foundations and foundations you use when your skin needs a little extra help? What are they? Tell me in the comments section!


January 14, 2015

beauty scoop | tatcha luminous deep hydration firming serum

In the green beauty world, we throw around the world “serum” to encompass anything from sticky, tacky-feeling serum-gels to bona fide face oils cleverly called “super serums.”

According to the beauty encyclopedia in my head, serums are lightweight, gel-like substances packed with highly active ingredients designed to address particular skin issues.

The feel of TATCHA’s Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Serum fits the encyclopedia definition above, with a perfect, non-sticky, gel consistency that’s featherlight and quick-drying, making it easy to layer your creams or plant oils atop if you so choose.

All of the active ingredients, though, are up for debate.

tatcha luminous deep hydration firming serum

{TATCHA sent me a sample of its Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Serum to review. It costs $95 for a 1-ounce plastic pump jar. Photo Courtesy TATCHA}

TATCHA describes its Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Serum as a deeply hydrating blend of Okinawa red algae and hyaluronic acid designed to nourish skin that needs a shot of moisture and a bit of glow.

In true TATCHA fashion, this serum is packed with 23-karat gold flecks that gives skin a lit-from-within look without adding heavy shimmer or glitter to the face. You can see the light flecks and shimmer in the photo below.

I enjoy using TATCHA’s Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Serum as a base layer in my skincare (after washing and toning) and then layering on oils and creams if necessary. If you have oily skin like me, you will find that this serum slicks on very easily and dries almost instantly.

It won’t goo up the way some sticky serums do, and you can easily blend it with your favorite facial oils if you don’t want apply layer by layer of beauty products. It just takes one pump to cover the whole face. Try one and a half pumps to include your neck.

If you’re able to, TATCHA’s Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Serum is an absolute gem to blend with the brand’s Gold Camellia Beauty Oil. Can you just imagine the gold glow you will have with these two products combined?!

It also blends well with other beautiful, lightweight oils, and the scent is somewhat neutral so it won’t compete. It smells a bit like rice and a flower petal, but isn’t exactly floral. It’s just a very baby-soft scent.

tatcha luminous deep hydration firming serum

As part of the “Water” collection, TATCHA Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Serum harnesses the power of Okinawan red algae and hyaluronic acid to soothe and firm skin while injecting moisture.

TATCHA also takes advantage of green beauty favorites such as silk extract, olive squalene, camellia extract and royal jelly extract, all known for their ability to soften and soothe skin.

My concern with this product, though, is that a lot of that good stuff is further down on the ingredients list.

Here’s the full ingredients list:

Water, Glycerin, Propanediol, Chondrus Crispus Extract, Alcohol, Methyl Gluceth-20, Polyglyceryl-10 Eicosanedioate/Tetradecanedioate, Carrageenan (Algae Extract), Fragrance (All Natural), Inositol (Rice Extract), Polyglyceryl-10 Myristate, Titanium Dioxide, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sericin (Silk Extract), Stearyl Glycyrrhetinate (Licorice Extract), Silica, Hydrogenated Lecithin (Soy Origin), Squalane (Olive Origin), Sodium Dilauramidoglutamide Lysine, Camellia Sinensis Leaf (Green Tea) Extract, Royal Jelly Extract, Algae Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Gold, Sodium Bicarbonate, Xanthan Gum Crosspolymer, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Butelyne Glycol, HDI/Trimethylol, Hexyllactone Crosspolymere, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite

I will be the first to note that the ingredients list looks intimidating, but a quick run through the EWG Skin Deep Database reveals that most of these ingredients score in the 0-2 range, with the exception of phenoxyethanol (4), which a lot of you avoid anyway.

And, as you can see, TATCHA is formulated without parabens, mineral oils, synthetic fragrances, sulfate detergents, urea, DEA, TEA or phthalates.

I’ve mentioned this in previous reviews of products that contain it, but the inclusion of alcohol (ingredient No. 5) is what gives me the most pause, as it’s known to be very drying to the skin — and the inclusion of it is higher up on the list.

With that said, my skin has never felt tight, itchy or dry using TATCHA Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Serum. It’s the long-term effects of using alcohol-laden skincare that’s always up for discussion.

I would love to hear more from you (and from TATCHA!) about the reasoning behind using and/or avoiding alcohol in your beauty routines. Is it absolutely necessary when it comes to formulating? What are the alternatives?

Because of these hesitations, TATCHA Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Serum isn’t on my repurchase list. I’ll definitely be watching this brand to see how it develops even more and if any reformulation is in the works.

You can also check out more of my TATCHA reviews here.

In the meantime, I invite you to tell me more about alcohol in skincare and active ingredients in skincare. What are your totally off-limits ingredients? What’s your POV on alcohol in serums and other skincare treatment products? Tell me in the comments section!


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