Top 10 Vegan Beauty Products Cont. (6-10)

#6 Crazy Rumors Lip Balm
I’m one of those people who never go anywhere without at least 3 tubes of lip balm, and I love this stuff!  This is one of the best lip balms out there and they have so many fun flavors.  My favorites are Mint Chocolate (see the A La Mode collection), Mocha (Perk collection), Spiced Chai (Brew collection)and Bubble Gum (Gumball collection).  They key ingredients include organic shea butter, jojoba oil, and extra virgin olive oil, so these balms are really moisturizing without being sticky or greasy.  Go crazy and try them all!

#7 St. Ives Oatmeal Shea Butter Body Wash
This body wash is easily found in nearly any store that sells soap and is very affordable.  I get mine at Wal-Mart for around $2.  This body wash is creamy and moisturizing and leaves your skin with a light, sweet scent.

#8 Urban Decay Eye Shadow
I’m sure all of UD’s products are excellent, but their eyeshadow is the only UD product I’ve tried so far.  You can buy individual shadows, but they are priced at $17/each.  If you find yourself sticker shocked at that last sentence, stay with me…  these eyeshadows are nothing like you’ve ever tried before (unless you’re lucky enough to buy MAC products and still be able to afford groceries).  Toss all that crap you bought at Wal-Mart out because UD eyeshadows take the cake!  They are extremely high pigment, meaning that the vibrant color you see in the compact is the color you’ll see on your skin (so you use less and they last longer).  The colors glide on wonderfully and blend very well.  I was lucky enough to have a friend send me a palette (which is what I recommend as it is more economical) called Book of Shadows Vol III.  You can search the site for “vegan” under their “shop” tab, but all of UD’s products are cruelty free.  If you’re used to paying less than $3 for eyeshadow, just keep in mind that the quality of UD products is well worth the splurge.

#9 Organic Wear Makeup
Not only are all Organic Wear products vegan, but they are also paraben free, contain no harsh chemicals or synthetic preservatives/fragrances/colors, and are GMO free.  Their foundation, powder, and mascara are all great.  The best part is that their products are totally affordable.  I’ve seen vegan makeup sold in Whole Foods and just the bottle of foundation might be $35.  The quality of these products may justify the price, but if I can get great vegan makeup that costs less, why not?!  A tube of Organic Wear foundation is around $10 and a lot of times, there are coupons stuck right to the packaging.  They don’t have a wide variety of shades when it comes to their foundation, but the 3 basic shades they have would probably blend with anyone’s skin tone.  They provide lightweight coverage and have an SPF of 15.  The foundation blends very well and actually smells wonderful, like lavender and oranges.  The mascara comes with a big, chunky brush for great coverage and volume.  They also sell eyeshadow, eyeliner, bronzer, blush, lip gloss, and makeup remover.

#10 Smooth As Silk Shampoo and Conditioner by Giovanni Cosmetics
This is a great duo for dry hair, but most anyone could use it.  Even people with fine or thin hair enjoy it.  It’s meant to tame frizzy hair, but if you have thick and/or curly hair like I do, follow up wiht R&B when you get out of the shower (see #1).  It’s also great for color-treated hair.  Smooth As Silk leaves my hair really soft and has a light scent of oranges.  Some of the key ingredients are extracts of rosemary, Valencia orange, mango, and lemongrss.  All of the key plant ingredients are organic and harvested from renewable sources.  If you don’t need a deep conditioning shampoo, try Giovanni’s Tea Tree Triple Treat or 50:50 Blance shampoo/conditioner.



My Top 10 Vegan Beauty Products (1-5)

I like the idea of doing top 10’s, so I decided to do another on vegan beauty-related products.  Let me define what I mean by vegan here because it’s not always obvious to everyone.  These products are not tested on animals and they do not contain any animal by-products.  Now, what do I mean by “not tested on animals”?  It seems pretty simple, but companies can be tricky.  These products are not made by companies who A) do their own animal testing; B) hire other companies to do animal testing for them or otherwise endorse animal testing in any way; or C), as if it weren’t covered by A and B, use individual ingredients that were tested by other companies in their finished product.

Some of these products are made by companies that have other products that are not vegan, but none are made by any company that has any association with animal testing to my knowledge.  So for example, you’ll see LUSH products listed here.  Lush does make some products that contain eggs, and therefore, they are not a 100% vegan company.  However, all LUSH products are cruelty free.  The same goes for Urban Decay.

So without further delay, here are my top 10 vegan beauty products (in no particular order):

#1 R&B Hair Treatment by LUSH
This products is wonderful and I haven’t found a comparable alternative anywhere.  On a basic level, it works as a leave-in conditioner; however, R&B also helps tame frizzy hair and fly-aways and it works as a styling product too, even though it has no long-term hold.  It will help you achieve the style you want, but you’ll have to use hairspray to keep it.  R&B is great for dry, frizzy, or curly hair.  If you have thin or oily hair, stay away!  The star ingredients are oat milk, avocado butter, coconut oil, orange flower absolute, and  jasmine absolute.  The dominant scent is jasmine, but it’s not too strong.   I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on the scent of my hair when I use this.  If you have dry or curly hair, you know your worst hair days are the days you actually wash your hair.  As soon as you hop out of the shower, smooth in a little R&B and comb through.  Just use a nickle-sized amount.  Even if you have long, thick hair like I do, it will be enough.  There now… all better!  (P.S. As with all LUSH products, don’t let the price scare you off.  They make quality products and most of them will last you a lot longer than you think.  Just 3.5 oz of R&B lasts me around 5-6 months and I use it at least 4 days a week.

#2 Tea Tree Water Toner by LUSH
This toner is like a breath of fresh air for your face.  It instantly removes make-up, dirt, and sweat while reviving your skin.  It’s meant to tone and detoxify oily skin, but it’s not too strong, so it can be used on normal or combination skin too.  If you’ve tried other tea tree products before, they can dry out your skin, but this toner is pretty balanced, so no worries.  I wouldn’t recommend it for dry skin though (try LUSH’s Eau Roma Water toner if you have dry skin).  The star ingredients are tea tree water, juniperberry, and grapefruit.  Tea tree water is antibacterial and antifungal and will help control breakouts.  It smells very faintly of tea tree oil.  I recommend using after LUSH’s Coalface or Fresh Farmacy soap. (Notice how I keep throwing in LUSH recommendations here. I tried to limit myself to 3 of their products for diversity, but it was really hard!)

#3 Vanilla Puff Powder by LUSH
Okay, last LUSH product (but they’re all great!).  Who uses body powder anymore, you ask?  Smart people, lovely-smelling people, and YOU, once you try this!  This powder smells of light, fluffy, vanilla cake and rubs into your skin to be invisible.  It can be a bit messy to use, so I recommend shaking a small bit into your palm and then rubbing it onto your skin quickly (don’t let it escape!).  This method works best for under arms and around your breasts.  Use it in the places where you sweat most to help absorb moisture and make you smell like cake!  LUSH is so serious about this yummy scent that you’ll find a whole vanilla bean in with the powder!  My favorite way to use this powder is to first put on deodorant, then shake a bit of Vanilla Puff Powder into my palm and press it against my armpit quickly, rubbing it all in.  The tackiness of the deodorant helps the powder stick.  This works especially well with a natural deodorant that doesn’t have any aluminum (like #4).

#4 Tom’s of Maine Deodorant
By now you’ve probably heard about the evils of aluminum in deodorant, yet companies continue to use it because it acts as a antiperspirant.  Putting aside the debates about whether aluminum is truly liked to breast cancer, Alzheimer’s, and DNA damage, let’s just think about it in general.  The aluminum in deodorant actually affects your sweat glands and prevents sweating.  HELLO!  Sweat is how your body releases toxins, regulates body temperature, and cleans the skin.  We probably shouldn’t be plugging up our sweat glands, and our armpits are one of the main places we release toxins through sweat (because most people sweat more in this area).  So what do you do if you want to make the switch, but you don’t want unsightly sweat stains on your clothes?  The answer is simple!  3+4.  Take a powder, like the one I mentioned above, and apply it over an aluminum-free deodorant like Tom’s of Maine.  I recommend the “Beautiful Earth” scent, which is slightly fruity and sweet.  The deodorant will help prevent odor-causing bacteria and the powder will help keep you dry.  You won’t be bone dry, but you’ll be dry enough, even if you go running.

#5 Hot Chocolate Sugar Scrub by Giovanni Cosmetics
This sugar scrub smells good enough to scoop out with a spoon and devour!  Crushed cocoa beans and sugar polish your skin while the intoxicating scent of chocolate fudge fills your shower.  There is a slight warming effect when you first rub it in.  Scoop out a small amount and scrub your arms, elbows, legs, and feet.  It won’t leave the tub slippery or your skin slimy like some sugar scrubs can as it isn’t over-loaded with oil.  Your skin is left soft and smelling of dessert!

Coo-Coo for Coconuts!

The popularity of non-dairy alternatives to grocery items like milk and ice cream seem to be on the rise lately.  Almond milk sales are skyrocketing and I know several people who have switched from dairy to almond, not because they are lactose-intolerant or vegan, but because almond milk is just awesome!

But I’ve also noticed new coconut milk products hitting the markets and I’m very excited about these new options.  Now we not only have soy, rice, and almond-based products to choose from, but coconut butters, oils, milk, water, yogurt, coffee creamer, whipped cream, and ice cream!

But just like that of soy, the reputation of coconut has jumped around for the past several years.  According to a recent article on called Guide to Coconuts, “it’s now clear that most studies on coconut oil were done on partially hydrogenated versions.”  Anytime you see “partially hydrogenated” on a label, read “cholesterol raiser.”  These types of coconut oils and butters also contain trans fats, and we’ve all heard plenty about that in recent years.  But virgin coconut oil is a different story.  The article explains that while virgin coconut oil is high in saturated fat, “it is a fairy healthy type of [fat]” called lauric acid.  Here’s where I’m a little skeptical because, as I mentioned before, the research on how “healthy” lauric acid is a bit confusing and even contradictory at times.  Moderation is they key suggestion I have here.  Even the VegNews article mentions that we shouldn’t be eating this (or any other type of saturated fat, for that matter) in large quantities.

The coconut-based products out there do have a lot of great qualities to them though, and not all are high in fat.  For example the coconut milk coffee creamer that I buy (see my Top 10 Vegan Alternatives post) is made by SO Delicious and it contains no fat.  Coconut oil is also a great alternative to olive oil or canola/vegetable oil for use in baked goods or with stirfying or sauteing.  Keep in mind that virgin coconut oil has a very slow smoking point (around 280 degrees F) so you don’t want to fry or roast with it.

I haven’t tried the coconut milk yet (on cereal and the like) because the saturated fat is around 25% of your daily value for 1 cup.  However, according to the article in VegNews, ” Compared to dairy milk, coconut milk has fewer calories and sugar, comparable calcium and fat, but no cholesterol. Overall verdict? It’s healthier and tastier.” Of course, we haven’t been told what type of milk these comparisons are based on–skim, 2%, whole, etc.  But I’d rather have coconut milk any day that dairy milk that contains, hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, puss from infections, etc.  GROSS!

I tried coconut water a few years ago and remember it tasting like sweaty socks smell.  I’m not sure what brand I tried, or maybe my taste buds have changed along the way, but now I absolutely love that cold, refreshing, subtly sweet taste after a good workout, on a hot day, or any time!  My two favorite brands are Taste Nirvana and Amy & Brian.  Both brands offer a plain coconut water option, or one with pulp, which is my personal favorite.  Taste Nirvana also offers one with aloe in it that is AMAZING.  Coconut water is virtually fat free and low in sugar.  It’s very hydrating, helps to balance your body’s pH, and has electrolytes.  Plus, it tastes so much better than those icky sports drinks.

You can even use coconut to make your own deodorant!  I found this recipe here that looks great. (Here’s looking at you, Audrey!)

The Results are In -or- The Fall?

Well… I was nearly there and I blew it, all for the sake of an extremely delicious dessert.  Clearly my 30 days is up.  I apologize for not posting for the past 5 days, but things have been a bit hectic.  This actually happened last Thursday, 5 days away from my 30-day goal!  I could have said no.  I could have maintained self control, but I just REALLY wanted it….

By “it,” I mean the biggest piece of chocolate cake you’ve ever seen!  I went out to eat with 6 co-workers last week and we ordered the Great Wall of Chocolate at PF Chang’s (I’ll admit, at my recommendation).  This cake is 6 layers of moist, chocolate cake with chocolate icing in between each layer,  topped with tiny chocolate chips, hot caramel sauce, and fresh fruit.  Is your  mouth watering yet?  EXACTLY! 

I can’t blame it on anyone else since I suggested ordering it and my good friend Brandon did his best to keep me from eating any, but I did it anyway, and I did it willingly (thanks for trying, Brandon).  I feel a little guilty now, but I guess I’ll go ahead and admit that a couple of weeks into this “experiment,” I had already decided that I wasn’t going to remain 100% vegan.  For one, I think it’s nearly impossible.  Of course, I could do my best and forget the small stuff, but I think that if I make the vegan lifestyle seem hard or tedious or like I’m missing out, others will see my struggle and form a bad opinion of the whole lifestyle.  Again, this is a form of excuse I’m making for myself to justify having a little dairy here and there, but there is some truth to it as well, I think. 

I am going to make it a point to limit the amount of dairy products that I consume even more so than before, probably to the extent that most anyone would categorize me as vegan.  The butter, milk, and coffee creamer that I buy are always vegan.  The occasional cup of yogurt and cheese are more frequent, but I hardly ever buy eggs (maybe a half-dozen carton 3 times a year).  I am probably already around 80-90% vegan and I will work to increase that percentage, but if I want to share a slice of cake at a restaurant with friends, I’m not going to deprive myself or beat myself up for doing so. 

In my defense (another excuse, I suppose), I’ve heard even the most diligent of vegans say that they occasionally do the same thing.  I don’t want to portray the vegan lifestyle as one of deprivation, but I do want to keep the cruelty of the dairy industry at the forefront of my mind and make vegan choices most of the time.  I also want to make it a point to show others vegan alternatives to their favorite foods. 

I’m also going to go ahead and maintain this blog under the same name, the main reason being that changing the name would mean changing the URL. I’ll continue to post my thoughts on vegan-related topics and will post recipes  often.  I hope that you will  subscribe and leave feedback.  I’d like to know your thoughts on the topics I discuss and I’d also like to know which recipes you like, what substitutions you tried, what didn’t work for you, etc.  Your feedback  will help me decide what recipes will go into my first cookbook.

Your friend, the 98% vegan,

Day 26 -or- My Vegan Alternatives Top 10 (part 2)

#6 Purely Decadent Ice Cream
This ice cream brand is made by the Turtle Mountain company and you can find it made with either soy or coconut milk.  They have flavors like Cherry Amaretto, Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl, Mocha Almond Fudge, Cookie Dough, and Passionate Mango (plus about 2 dozen more).  I’ve had the Cookie Dough and the Mocha Almond Fudge and both were amazing.  These ice creams are nearly indistinguishable from the dairy-based version.  Eat it straight from the carton or use it in smoothies!  Turtle Mountain also makes vegan sorbet, ice cream bars, yogurt, and coffee creamer (see #7).

#7 SO Delicious Coconut Milk Coffee Creamer
Just because it’s made from coconut milk doesn’t mean it is coconut flavored.  These coffee creamers are great and come in original, vanilla, and hazelnut.  I’ve had both the vanilla and hazelnut and am very happy with them.  Use them in coffee or tea or in recipes that call for creamer or heavy cream.  If you’re used to buying the Coffee Mate, International Delights, or similar creamers, you will notice right away that the flavor of these isn’t nearly as strong.  You won’t be hit with a strong flavor of hazelnut, for example.  It’s very light and doesn’t taste artificial.

#8 Tofutti Cream Cheese
Just like their sour cream, the cream cheese is close to the real deal.  I’ve used it to make cheesecake and key lime pie and it’s good spread over a warm, toasted bagel too. 

#9 Tofurky Deli Slices
Whether you’re used to sliced chicken, turkey, or ham on your sandwiches, you’ll find a good replacement with the Tofurky brand.  They have great taste and texture and come in many different varieties such as Oven Roasted, Hickory Smoked, Italian, and Roast Beef.  The Hickory Smoked is my favorite and it is actually smoked, like real meat would be, in a smokehouse.  It’s great on cold sandwiches for lunch or toasted with cheeze on bread (like a grilled ham and cheese).

#10 Better Than Bullion No Chicken Base
Superior Touch makes two really great vegan “bullion” bases–a chicken and a beef version.  They come in small jars and are a bit  like a paste.  Mix one teaspoon with a cup of boiling water and you have instant broth for soups, sauces, and gravies.  They have 1/3 less sodium than other bullions and are GMO free and fat free.  I use the “No Chicken” version often and it has excellent flavor, so I’m sure the “No Beef” version would be just as good.  They also make “No Chicken” broth that comes in cartons like vegetable broth.  It IS vegetable broth, of course, but somehow tastes closer to chicken stock than regular veg broth.

Day 25 -or- My Vegan Alternatives Top 10 (part 1)

I’ve decided to do a review of my top 10 favorite vegan alternative products.  I’ll do 5 today and another 5 tomorrow.  These will all be food-related.  I’d  like to do a vegan beauty product review later as well.  Keep in mind that there are a lot of vegan replacement products out there now and I haven’t tried them all.  Of the ones I have tried, these are the ones that work and taste best, in my opinion.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned any cheeses here.  That’s because I haven’t found a vegan cheese that I think is worthy of my top 10.  I’ve tried the Daiya brand, which is the best of the ones I have tried, but still nowhere near as good as dairy-based cheese.  I’ve also tried the Rice Vegan brand in both the block cheese and the shredded cheese (mozzarella and cheddar flavors) and both were just barely acceptable.  So anyway, no cheese products mentioned here.

Keep in mind that these are in no particular order.  I’m just listing them at random.

#1 Sweet and Sara Marshmallows
Now you might be asking yourself, why aren’t marshmallows vegan?  Well I wouldn’t even consider them vegetarian.  Marshmallows contain gelatin, which is made with animal bones, skin, connective tissue, and organs.  Definitely not veg!  Sweet and Sara marshmallows are fluffy, sweet, and delicious!  They’re much better than those jet-puffed kind you find at the grocery store.  They are slightly more dense, but will roast over a fire just like the marshmallows you grew up with as a child.  They were sensational melted over a sweet potato casserole I made last Thanksgiving.   You can use them in rice crispy treats as well, or in any way that you would normally use marshmallows.  Plus, they make peanut butter, strawberry, and toasted coconut ones!  In addition to the marshmallows, you can find s’mores and peanut butter s’mores at the website.  YUM!

#2 Earth Balance Margarine
Belive it or not, most margarine you find in the store  is not vegan!  Even though it is not dairy-based, it can contain animal ingredients like whey.  Plus, most margarine contains hydrogenated oils, which are horrible for you.  Earth Balance has a better flavor than any other margarine I’ve ever tried and is pretty darn close to the flavor of butter!  You can buy it in sticks or in a tub and either can be used in baking, frying, sauteing, or spreading.  Use it any way you would use butter!  There are several different choices such as original, whipped, and soy free.  It melts and spreads just like butter and is much better for you!

#3 Vegenaise
Vegenaise is a dairy-free, egg-free mayonnaise alternative made by a wonderful brand called Follow Your Heart.  Depending on what “flavor” you get, it comes pretty close to the real deal.  You can get original, soy free, organic, reduced fat, or grapeseed oil varieties.  I’ve used it on sandwiches/burgers and in potato salad and “chicken” salad, and never been disappointed.  I prefer the kind that has a green label/lid.  It tastes more like real mayo than the original and grapeseed varieties.

#4 Tofutti Sour Cream
No lactose, butter fat, or milk here, folks, but this has all the flavor of dairy-based sour cream (or at least close enough to make it to my top 10).  Tofutti is a great brand in general, and they also make good cream cheese and guacamole-flavored sour cream as well.)  Use their sour cream in stroganoff; on tacos, burritos, and nachos; or in pound cake — any way you would use regular sour cream.

#5 Almond Breeze Milk
If you’re looking for a milk alternative and you don’t like soy (it’s too thick for me, and I try to limit my sou intake) then I would highly recommend that you give almond milk a try.  Rice milk is good too, but doesn’t have many nutritional benefits.  Almond milk has fewer calories than dairy milk and is an  excellent source of calcium, vitamins D and E, and antioxidants.  Plus, the unsweetened kind is only 40 calories per cup and the original kind only has 60 calories per cup.  It also comes in vanilla and chocolate.  The chocolate is excellent, by the way!  I use the original on cereal or when I cook or bake. The chocolate is great in smoothies and heated up like  hot cocoa!  If you have a recipe that calls for butter milk, just add a tablespoon of vinegar (white or apple cider) to a cup of almond milk!

Scrumptious Snickerdoodles (Day 24)

My sweet tooth was asking for something tonight, and I started flipping through the Vegetarian Time’s new cookbook Everything Vegan.  I found this recipe for snickerdoodles that looked really yummy.  Believe it or not, I’ve never had a snickerdoodle!  I modified the recipe only slightly, substituting almond  milk + vanilla extract for vanilla soy milk that the recipe called for.  I also reduced the amount of cinnamon and sugar that you roll the cookies in because it sounded like way too much (turns out it was) and I hate to waste spices.  A touch of nutmeg also makes these cookies really exceptional.

The recipe says it makes 45 cookies, but it really makes around 2 dozen.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup margarine, softened (I used Earth Balance)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup almond milk
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup sugar + 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg for rolling the cookies in

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Whisk flour, cornstarch, and baking powder together in a medium-sized bowl and set aside.  Beat margarine with an electric mixer until creamy.  Add sugar and beat until fluffy.  Add milk and vanilla and beat for another 30 seconds.

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together (the recipe in the book actually neglects to mention this step!).  It will take a minute to get it all mixed up well, but I found that it helps to use a rubber spatula and “mush” the ingredients together.

Combine cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg together on a plate or in a shallow bowl.  Roll the dough into 1″ balls and then coat with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and slightly flatten the cookies with the bottom of a glass.  Bake for 12-15 minutes until you can see cracks on top.