Monday, September 24, 2007

who told you to put the balm on?

Thanks to a problem disc in my neck, I suffer from regular aches and pains in my neck, shoulders and back. Thankfully regular visits to the massage therapist and ART practitioner keep me relatively pain free. But once in a while, between these appointments, I have a bad day where I need some sort of relief. Pills don't usually work so I had been using an analgesic gel instead. Well, my pain relief of choice is full of parabens so I went looking for an alternative. I'm very happy to have found this.

Made by the W.S. Badger Company, this is the Badger Sore Muscle Rub. I've been dealing with a rotten cold for about a month now and have spent many sleepless nights coughing. As a result the muscles in my mid-back have been driving me nuts. I had my husband apply some before bed one night and when I woke up the next morning, the pain was gone. Ever the sceptic, I tried it again a week later when my right neck and shoulder were seized up from too much time on the computer. Again, the muscles loosened and the pain was gone. This stuff rocks! And check out the ingredients list:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Castor Oil, Beeswax, Extracts of Ginger, Rosehip & Cayenne, and Essential Oils of Rosemary, Ginger, Thyme, Sage, Cardamom & Lemon Grass.

I know what all of those things are! It's natural and it works. What more could one ask for?

I picked it up at Whole Foods in Oakville for $12.99.

so what's the deal with parabens?

In my search for safer cosmetics, I have noticed a lot of products, shampoos and conditioners mostly, advertising that they are paraben free. So what are parabens and why would I rather be without them?

Parabens are a group of preservatives added to beauty products to keep them from growing bacteria and to increase their shelf life. They are widely used in the cosmetic industry because they are cheap and have, until recently, been considered safe. Recent studies have linked parabens to increased estrogen levels and increased risks of breast cancer. This recent article in the Chicago Tribune gives a brief but good summary. So while concerns are rising over parabens, the US FDA has stated that consumers do not need to be concerned.

The way I see it, if a few studies have shown links between parabens and breast cancer, there will probably me more. So I picked out a couple of paraben-free shampoos & conditioners to test them out.

Avalon Organics has a range of skin, body & hair care products including a baby line. They are a company committed to producing quality products using safe ingredients. Their shampoos are made without the use of parabens or sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates.

I purchased two shampoos and one conditioner. The Peppermint Revitalizing Shampoo has an intense peppermint scent and tingles on the scalp. I find that it works especially well when my hair gets a bit greasy or when my scalp is really itchy. The Ylang Ylang Glistening Shampoo is also very aromatic and cleans really well. I can't say that my hair appeared shinier than usual, but I am blessed with healthy, moderately shiny hair so I don't really need a lot of help in that department.

The Clarifying Lemon Conditioner is excellent. I'm a sucker for a good citrus scent and this one is beautiful. And I found that I didn't have to use very much, just a quarter size dollop on my long hair, to get a great conditioning effect.

I also picked up a bottle of Burt's Bees Super Shiny Grapefruit & Sugar Beet Shampoo. Burt's Bees is an earth friendly company that specializes in natural beauty products. This shampoo is paraben sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate and phthalate free. The scent is lovely and quite sweet and it left my hair squeaky clean and shiny.

The only thing I had difficulty with all three shampoos was the lather, or lack thereof. I guess this has something to do with the lack of chemicals in the formulation but at first it was very weird to not have a head full of lather. With the Burt's Bees in particular, I found I had to use a lot more than I normally would to get a decent lather. For that reason alone, I probably won't buy the Burt's Bees again. The lather problem was not as bad with the Avalon Organics shampoos and I found that after a couple of months of using them, I got used to the reduced lather.

As for the cost, the Avalon Organics products were $8.99 at Whole Foods in Oakville and $7.49 at Goodness Me in Burlington. I picked up the Burt's Bees at Shopper's Drug Mart for $10.99. Since my hair is just as clean and healthy as before, I've decided to stick with paraben free shampoos and conditioners and look forward to trying other brands.


Those who know me, know that I love chocolate. On a recent trip to Goodness Me, I picked up a bar of Green & Black's Organic Chocolate.

After much debate, I opted for the caramel, milk chocolate combination. I couldn't wait until I got home to give it a try so I sat in my car, broke off a square and popped in my mouth. Although sweet, the chocolate had a bit of a salty taste, that seemed to really intensify the flavour of the caramel. It was fantastic! As I sampled a second square, I flipped over the wrapper to find that they actually do use a bit of sea salt in it. Interesting!

As for the organic side, this chocolate meets the Soil Association's standards for organic food and farming. The Soil Association is the UK's leading campaigning and certification organization for organic food and farming. The 100 g bar set me back $3.99 which is perfectly reasonable for the quality of this delicious chocolate. Can't wait to try the other flavours...

EDIT: An eagle-eyed reader wisely commented that I failed to mention that Green and Black's products are Fair Trade, which basically means that the farmers in developing country receive a fair price for their goods. This is a key movement in helping people in developing countries improve the standard of living and make them economically self-sufficient. Thank you to the reader for pointing out my error.