Cleansing with Dr. Sponge

Introducing the newest, trendiest, and perhaps strangest addition to my skincare routine: a konjac sponge. After all, it looks like a cross between a rock from the moon and something that belongs near the kitchen sink. But after a month of using this all-natural skin cleansing tool, I'm really impressed with the results.

Konjac sponges are made from the fibers of konjac, a plant native to Eastern Asia that is rich in vitamins (A, E, D, Bs, and C) and minerals. Konjac is a highly sustainable plant, and the sponges are all-natural, biodegradable and eco-friendly. When dry, the konjac sponge looks and feels like a pumice stone. However, when you put it under water, it softens and expands, taking on a squishy texture. Konjac sponges are extremely gentle on your skin and suitable even for infants and very sensitive skin types. They're also mildly alkaline, so they work to balance the pH of your skin.

Dr. Sponge is a konjac sponge company that stocks many different varieties of sponges for facial and body cleansing. I was kindly sent their Charcoal Facial Cleansing Konjac Sponge* for combination/oily skin and Original Body Cleansing Konjac Sponge*. Both can be used with or without cleansers, but I like to pair mine with gel cleansers for an extra deep cleanse -- as you can see, they work up a rich lather! The sponges remove impurities while feeling gentler than a muslin cloth, facial brush, or loofah. The facial sponge in particular is something I intend to incorporate in my routine for the long haul. My skin feels extremely smooth and comfortable after using it.

Using a konjac sponge has also made me realize that my well-loved Clarisonic is terrible for the environment; the brush heads aren't recyclable and you're supposed to change them every few months. Obviously, the Clarisonic and konjac aren't exactly comparable, but the compostable konjac sponge is a far more environmentally sound (and affordable!) cleansing tool.

Konjac contains natural preservatives, and with proper care (i.e., hang it to dry after each use), the sponge lasts for approximately 2-3 months of daily use. According to the Dr. Sponge website, you can also give your sponge a deeper cleanse by dropping it in boiling water for 20-30 seconds.

Have you tried a konjac sponge?

*PR Samples

Going Green: Conscious Box

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Last month I treated myself to my very first Conscious Box. Natural products aren't always the most accessible ones, and Conscious Box is a monthly subscription box aimed at introducing consumers to some of the best non-GMO, non-toxic, ethically-sourced and truly green products out there. Each beautifully wrapped box contains 10-20 sample-sized products, ranging from snacks to supplements to personal care items. When you review the products you receive on the Conscious Box website, you can earn points towards purchasing full-sized versions of your favorite products.

I've tried most of what I received inside, and so far, here are the highlights that I would definitely repurchase in the future.

SLEEP SQUARES: mint chocolate-flavored chews that contain melatonin and herbs to help regulate your sleep cycle. I've relied on melatonin in the past to help with sleep-related problems, so these work well for me. The box comes with seven pieces (I use one per night).

KORRES TWO DEGREES BAR: contains quinoa, chia, millet and chocolate chips. It's delicious, and for each bar purchased, the company donates a meal to a hungry child, in partnership with Feeding America.

MIGHTY LEAF TEAS: all of them are excellent, but I'm especially addicted to the Green Jasmine variety.

If you're interested in green, eco-friendly products, Conscious Box is a fun way to get to know brands and items you might not find in your typical grocery store. I hadn't heard of a lot of these products prior to opening my box, so I'm happy to have discovered some new-to-me offerings in the natural health world. I do feel that Conscious Box does their research and includes only high-quality, responsibly-produced products in each box. Like with most subscription boxes, I think you pay a small premium for the "surprise factor"; the products inside are mostly small and sample-sized, and part of me wishes the box included fewer products but more generous quantities of each. And, like with most subscription boxes, I received a couple of items that weren't suited to my tastes: I'm not huge on supplements or cleanses, and I'm not a smoker so I won't be using the addiction-fighting Quit Tea.

Overall, I love the idea of this subscription box, though I still think subscription boxes in general are a tiny bit overrated. I will be receiving another Conscious Box this month, so I'll keep you posted. I'd love to know your thoughts on subscription boxes, and which (if any) you'd recommend!

Conscious Box, $20, www.consciousbox.com

(Tip: I used the code ONEFREE to get my first box for $7.99, the price of shipping!)

Weleda Skin Food

There's a good chance you've heard about Weleda's Skin Food... it's a cult classic and secret weapon of many makeup artists and celebrities. I was impressed with the all-natural brand's skin oil sampler kit last year, so when I found this legendary product on sale at a local health food store, I decided to give it a try.

Skin Food is a rich, multi-purpose cream formulated for dry, rough skin. The key ingredients include sunflower seed oil, sweet almond oil, beeswax and lanolin. There's nothing fancy about this product: it comes in a bright green aluminum tube and has that characteristically earthy scent of natural beauty products. But it is a miracle-worker. Winter always wreaks havoc on my hands, leaving me with stubborn dry skin and brittle nails. As soon as I purchased Skin Food, I used it as a hand cream and immediately noticed that my skin looked rejuvenated. Hours later, after washing my hands at least twice, they still felt smooth and soft. Since using this regularly, my nails are also less prone to peeling, which means manicures look better for longer. Although the formulation is quite thick and oil-based, I don't find it overly greasy.

From now on, I'll always have a tube of this as my go-to, lasting remedy for dry hands. Some people also swear by using it as a face cream; I haven't tried it, but if you're so inclined, do note that it has essential oils and might not be suitable as a face cream for very sensitive skins.

Have you tried Skin Food?

Weleda Skin Food, $12 via drugstore.com or £8.50 via Boots

DIY Sugar Scrub

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This weekend I finally whipped up my very own sugar scrub. This is probably the simplest beauty DIY ever: just five minutes of stirring creates an all-natural exfoliant for chapped lips and dry skin. I made this little jar specifically for my lips, but the same recipe would work well as a moisturizing body scrub.

I decided to use coconut oil (over olive oil, for instance) because it's a bit thicker, giving the scrub a rich, buttery texture that isn't runny. I'm also a huge fan of the sweet, nutty scent.

Coconut Sugar Scrub

1 tablespoon of coconut oil
1 tablespoon of honey
3 tablespoons of sugar
(Optional: a few drops of vanilla extract)
+ a small jar

Mix the coconut oil and honey until they are fully combined. Then add the sugar and stir until the mixture is thick and gritty. I added sugar incrementally until the consistency seemed just right, but in general, I'd recommend around 3 parts sugar to 2 parts coconut oil + honey. At this point, you can also add a few drops of vanilla extract to make the scrub smell even more delicious. Then transfer the mixture to your jar. The proportions above are generous; after filling my little jar I had leftovers, which I've saved in the refrigerator to use as a body scrub. And speaking of refrigerators, coconut oil solidifies at cooler temperatures, so if that happens, just stick the jar in a bowl of very warm water. It will regain its original consistency.

I'm using this most mornings (especially before I wear lipstick); it polishes away any dryness and leaves my lips feeling moisturized even after I've rinsed it off. In the past, I've purchased pre-made lip scrubs, but this one is just as effective and less costly.

Have you ever made your own sugar scrub? Let me know what ingredients you used!

Dr. Hauschka Cleansing Cream

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Ok, I admit I haven't had this product for very long, but Dr. Hauschka's Cleansing Cream has quickly filled a missing gap in my skincare routine. Since grabbing the last one in stock at my local Whole Foods (apparently, I'm not the only one who became addicted), I've been using it twice a day and noticing positive results. 

This thick, granulated paste is intended for gentle exfoliation, a step I neglect far too often. A mixture of essential oils melts away impurities, while sweet almond meal gently sloughs away dead skin cells and absorbs excess oil. It also contains clarifying witch hazel and calming ingredients such as calendula, chamomile and St. John's wort. Based on other reviews I've read, the smell is quite controversial; I like it, but I'm easily won over by anything almond-y! 

After removing my makeup with a gel cleanser like my derma e one, I apply a tiny (1/2 inch) amount of the Cleansing Cream onto wet skin and then work it around my face using the "press and roll" motion described in the instructions. It took me a few tries to get the hang of this technique; I found this YouTube video helpful. Though it's tempting to use it like a scrub, don't; a gentler application should be enough to remove dead skin cells without damaging healthy ones. Unlike some thicker cleansers that leave behind a greasy residue (and break me out after a few uses), the Cleansing Cream rinses away so my skin is left feeling clean and comfortable. My skin looks visibly calmer, smoother and healthier since using this.

I'd suggest trying Dr. Hauschka Cleansing Cream if you're on the hunt for a gentle exfoliant, or if (like me) you love the idea of cream cleansers but struggle to find the right one. Though natural (all) skincare is highly subjective, this product seems to work for quite a few different skin types.

Dr. Hauschka Cleansing Cream, $24 (£15) at lookfantastic.com