Make Your Own at Home: Ultra Hydrating Face Exfoliant and Mask


I don’t know about you, but I have unruly skin. It’s started to settle down as I get older, but  I still battle with uneven texture and tone, and a combination of dry and oily patches. Ugh! As you can imagine, I’m a sucker for trying different facial cleansers, moisturizers, and masks. But not one product I’ve ever tried has delivered on its promise of smooth, dewy skin. On top of that, each product usually puts me back $7 – $20 a pop!

I decided to see if I could make my own exfoliant and face mask with simple home ingredients, and I was shocked at how cheap, easy and effective this at-home treatment  has been for keeping my skin hydrated in the dry wintertime.


Let’s start with the exfoliant. It could not be easier to throw this together. Grab some used coffee grounds and blend with 2 tbsp. of olive oil and 1 tsp. of coconut oil. (If you need the benefits of fresh caffeine — reduction of swelling and puffy eyes — toss a bit of unused coffee grounds into the mix. Better yet, grind fresh from whole beans.) Try to make the blended mixture as fine as possible — after all, you don’t want to assault your skin! The end result is naturally exfoliated skin and deeply hydrated skin.

If your face needs an extra boost — and whose doesn’t, really — supplement this treatment with an avocado-based citrus mask. I tossed 1 whole avocado fruit (minus skin and pit), a kiwi (with skin), the juice of half a lemon, and some more coconut oil into the blender. Voilà, a naturally enzymatic and antioxidant-rich mask!

This mask is full of vitamin C, an antioxidant that can promote collagen production when applied topically. Make sure you have exfoliated first with the coffee ground exfoliant so that the vitamin C has the best chance of being absorbed. Keep out of the sunlight when you’re wearing this mask as the UV rays will destroy the vitamin C compound. Vitamin E, found in the avocado, lends its antioxidant properties to skin when applied topically as well.  Again, stay out of the sun while you’re wearing this mask, since UV rays can destroy vitamin E. The coconut oil contains lauric acid, which may have anti-acne properties. The lemon juice tightens skin and reduces pore size, but make sure to moisturize properly afterwards to avoid too-tight skin.

Leave the mask on for 10-20 minutes and then gently wipe off with warm water. Pat skin dry and moisturize as needed, and enjoy your beautiful skin!







The Vegan Lifestyle Series: Cosmetics

Welcome to the second installment of the Vegan Lifestyle Series! This one is about…drum roll please…cosmetics! I’m not just talking about the neon shade of yellow you have to wear for the Halloween party. I’m talking about basic, every day staples that make you feel fresh and clean in the morning and ready to wear a smile all day long.


Me? I’m pretty simple when it comes to makeup. Give me some moisturizer/foundation, eyeliner, and mascara, and I’m good to go. That doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally spend hours on YouTube looking at smoky eye makeup tutorials, but that is neither here nor there.

More and more companies are starting to wear their “cruelty free” label as a badge of honor, as well they should! But for the ones who don’t have that listed? It’s pretty safe to say that these products have been cruelly tested on animals and/or contain animal derivatives.

I’ve gone ahead and listed some common ingredients in cosmetics that are animal-derived. If you want to be surprised, grab your favorite foundation or eyeshadow and see if any of these ingredients match up. I took at look at some of my own products and was (unpleasantly) surprised.  For a complete list of animal ingredients you might find in your cosmetics, visit here.

1. Lanolin, an oil from sheep’s wool. Also goes by aliphatic alcohol, cholesterol, wool isopropylmyristate laneth lanogene, lanolin alcohol, lanosterols, sterols, and triterpene alcohols.

2. Keratin: a protein that is derived from hooves, feathers, quills, and hair of animals. It’s used as an additive in many hair products to promote strength and shine.

3. Arachidonic Acid: a fatty acid found in the liver, brain, and fat of animals and humans. It’s used in lotions, specifically to soothe rashes. Try aloe vera or tea tree oil instead.

4. Chitosan: it’s derived from crustacean shells and is an ingredient in diet pills used to bind to fats that you eat, which makes for a really pleasant bathroom experience.

5. Collagen: lauded for its anti-wrinkle properties, collagen is found in anti-aging lotions and creams. Try keeping your skin hydrated and toned with almond oil and orange extract instead.

6. Unnatural (as in, not from something that grows from the earth) dyes or colorants: FD&C and D&C colors are continually tested on animals to establish “safe” human use levels. These dyes are made from coal tar, which is listed in the American Cancer Society’s most recent list of Known Human Carcinogens.

7. Gelatin: used to thicken shampoos and face masks, it’s made from boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and bones.

8. Guanine: fish scales, commonly found in shiny nail polish, and shampoos.

9. Retinol: this is a hot cosmetic ingredient right now, as its claim to fame is reducing wrinkles and restoring youthful vigor. It’s part of the vitamin A group that is found in animal tissue, most often from fish or shark liver, egg yolks, and butter. Look for an anti-wrinkle cream with carotene instead.

10. Vitamin D3: ALWAYS from an animal source. It comes from fish livers, milk, and egg yolks. It’s used mainly in creams and lotions. Vitamin D2, on the other hand, is usually vegan.

11. Hair wax/straightening spray: make sure the wax you’re using is from a vegetable.

I highly recommend PETA’s very comprehensive lists of cosmetic companies that DO and DON’T test on animals. You can download each list in PDF format and use it as a reference when you’re at Rite Aid searching for the perfect hair spray.

Once again, developed countries across the pond are leagues ahead of the US.  Most recently, the EU banned the import and sale of animal-tested cosmetics.

If it seems like animal-free cosmetics are hard to find, look no further than this list I’ve compiled of some of my favorite vegan cosmetic producers. When looking, remember that cruelty free products have a bunny on them, and certified vegan products are noted accordingly.

CrueltyFreeLogo vegan-logo-square

Urban Decay (!!!) vegan makeup section

Tarte Naturals — gorgeous natural makeup that’s easy on your wallet.


Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics

Vegan LUSH hair care products (the Veganese shampoo and conditioner boast rave reviews)

Desert Essence (some products do have beeswax and honey)

Jason Tea Tree Deodorant — I haven’t had much luck with natural deodorants, but I’m willing to try as many as possible!

If you’ve got bucks to spare and are looking to treat yourself, Ethical Ocean offers a “True Beauty Box” chock full of the latest vegan cosmetics delivered to your door monthly for $30.

That’s all, folks! I hope you have fun visiting those sites and exploring the many cruelty-free options that are available to us 🙂