Archive for April 2012

One thing that’s really fun about being a makeup artist is talking with clients, fellow artists, and friends about skin care.  At times I think that my next step will be to formally enter professional skin care, perhaps as an esthetician/facialist.

I always remind clients that the basic steps are the most important — cleanse, exfoliate, moisturize, and protect (with sunscreen).  You take care of your skin, and your skin will take care of you.

I certainly have my favorite products which I will certainly talk about on this blog from time to time.  But I’m also not afraid to try new things, to see what’s new and trendy in skincare, what works, and what may satisfy my clients.  Some products I may choose to keep in my kit, others I’ll suggest for personal use.

Even before I started my own freelance business in the makeup industry, I’ve had friends and colleagues talk about “natural” or “chemical-free” products, and they would ask me, their makeup maven, for suggestions.  This is not a surprise to me, especially as we hear about studies linking the chemicals we are exposed to in our daily life having negative effects on our body.  Could exposure to pollution and chemicals (from BPA to PFCs) be affecting our immune systems and contributing to higher rates of cancer, asthma, and perhaps even diabetes and lower fertility?  I won’t get into a debate here on that subject, but I will say a recent study on the possible negative effect of PFC’s (perfluorinated compounds) on the efficacy of vaccines in children did get me thinking more about the pervasiveness of these materials (PFC’s are used in everything from pizza boxes to stain resistant clothing and carpet) and how they might be affecting our bodies.  In addition, I’ve noticed an increasing trend among my friends and clients to seek “botanicals,” “natural,” and “chemical-free” products.

A friend of mine introduced me to Erin Herman, a Chicago-area mother whose interest in keeping her and her family’s life as healthy as possible led her to Ava Anderson Products (she is now an independent consultant for the line).  I’ve been slowly trying nearly everything in the skin care line and overall I feel I can recommend the line to anyone who is looking for something without preservatives, without artificial fragrance, and without parabens, mineral oil, silicone, petrolatum, or sulfates.

What sets this line apart from other “botanical” or “natural” lines is that the products don’t just contain botanical and natural ingredients, they are just about the only things in the products!  One of the first things that struck me when I was looking over Erin’s website and on the product bottles when I received them is how few ingredients there are in each product, and only once did I have to look something up to know what it was.   The fact that they list all their ingredients on the website is so rare, and to test my theory I checked out Yves Rocher (an economical “botanically-based” line of skin care) and Arbonne International (a higher-end line of products that just a year or two ago hired the top researcher/product developer at Aveda to boost its “natural” credentials and improve the line), and in neither case could I find a complete list of the product ingredients on the site.

What also makes Ava Anderson products interesting is the small entrepeneur story — the line was created in 2009 by Ava Anderson and her family, inspired by Ava’s concern about ingredients in personal care products.  According to the company, Ava threw out most of her mother’s and grandmother’s products in her quest for makeup and skin care that would be “safe” for her and her family — something I would not recommend that teens or children do to their elders! — but from that passion the company was born.  The line is sold by independent sales consultants and therefore is not available in any store.

My shopping experience:  I was introduced to the line, as I mentioned earlier, by a friend who hosted an online party.  I admit at first that I was skeptical — I’ve been introduced to “all-natural” lines before, and every time, once I looked at the ingredient list, I would find that the only “all-natural” thing in the product was a bit of shea butter or sesame oil.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that these products do indeed contain essential oils, shea butter, etc., but that’s about it.  The only “non-natural” ingredients are certain emulsiers and emollients such as glyceryl stearate (FDA approved wax-like solid used in lotions, cleansers, foundations, and more) in the face cleanser and face moisturizer.  So, I decided to try a few items (see my reviews below).

The website is easy to use but not flashy.  You select your products and add them to the shopping cart, enter your purchasing information and register your name and email address to start an account.  If you are not working with a consultant, as I was, you can/will be directed to consultants in your area.  I did get a phone call from Erin after I placed my order since I was a new customer, but since then we’ve been communicating almost exclusively via email as I’ve been asking questions and she has been following up with me about the products I’ve tried.  I’ve ordered a total of three times now (once was for a gift for a co-worker’s baby), and every time the products have been delivered via UPS quickly.  Some of the products are available with a simple tissue gift wrap if you choose that option on the site.

The products:

NOTE:  Allergy sufferers and those with skin disorders should check the ingredients of any skin care product before use.  In this line, the ingredients include organic and natural botanicals, but that doesn’t guarantee that you won’t have a reaction.  Spot test first if you think a product in any skin care line may be an issue for you.

Diaper Cream — I do not have children, but this particular product is proving to be my favorite in the line to use on my own skin.  The ingredients are simple: organic olive oil, organic calendula extract, shea butter, lavender and chamomile essential oils, and jojoba oil.  It’s a heavier moisturizer and therefore is not recommended for the face (although I’ve been told that some customers of the line do use a very, very small amount on any super-dry or rashy areas), but as a body moisturizer it’s great.  Just be sure to use a small amount (it’s thick, so a little goes a long way) and rub it in gently but thoroughly.  It’s not at all sticky.  My favorite place to use it?  My neck and decolletage at night before bed.  I could swear that the skin on my neck especially has much better texture and the lines that I’ve developed on my neck now that I’m over 40 are softer.  Lavender and chamomile soothe sensitive skin, and calendula extract is an anti-inflammatory. Very mild, sweet fragrance from the essential oils that is not at all cloying or lingering.   $18.95 for an 8 oz. jar.

Toner —  Before trying this toner, I wouldn’t have recommended one to my clients due to the alcohol in the majority of toners.  When you are a teenager with overactive oil glands, the drying effects of an alcohol-based toner may be acceptable (I’m skeptical even of this), but as we age, alcohol in our skin care is a big, big no-no.  I’ve always told clients that if they feel they must use a toner, to do so very sparingly and follow with a really good moisturizer.  A natural alternative is witch hazel, which is the main active ingredient in the Ava Anderson toner, but it’s second after water so it’s definitely not going be over-drying.  The Ava Anderson toner also includes yucca glauca extract, which is an anti-irritant that also encourages cell turnover.  I also found one study online that claimed that the yucca glauca plant’s leaves may contain steroidal (anti-inflammatory) properties.   I have found that I can use this toner even when I’ve got a little eczema flare-up on my face.  After cleansing your face, use the spray pump and spray 2 or 3 times onto the skin, or put a little of the product on a cotton pad and apply gently to skin.  And, of course, follow with moisturizer!  $19.95 for 3.4 oz.

Side note:  I did have problems with the pump on the toner bottle, but the company was happy to send me a new one at new charge.

Moisturizer — After sunscreen, moisturizer is the most important tool in our skincare toolbox.  And yes, you still should use moisturizer every single day, morning and night, even if your skin is oily.  Moisturizer is critical to maintaining the lipid barrier which helps protect our skin from damage, infection, and the signs of aging.  One of the things I’ve found as an eczema sufferer is that keeping the skin hydrated really help stave off/lessen the breakouts — dry skin is more easily irritated, thereby triggering the immune response.

The Ava Anderson moisturizer is a good everyday moisturizer that contains some shea butter (not the first ingredient), pomegranate seed oil and lemon oil essence, and trehalose, a desert plant that aids in retaining moisture in the skin.  If you have super oily skin, use this as your nighttime moisturizer.  I have found the product to be very smooth, quickly absorbed, and keeps my skin soft. $20.95 for 2 oz.

Face Moisturizer with SPF 15 — As a person seriously lacking in melanin (thanks to my Irish heritage!), sunscreen has always been important.  Research has shown, however, that EVERYONE, regardless of skin tone, gets long-term benefits from daily use of sunscreen.  Unfortunately for me, although I must use it, sunscreen tends to result in mild eczema breakouts.  I’m always on the lookout for lightweight but effective sunscreens for use on my face and body that won’t give my skin trouble.  Ava Anderson’s facial moisturizer with SPF 15 contains zinc oxide for sun protection, grapeseed and rosehip oil for antioxidant properties, and shea butter and sesame seed oil.  I found the product to be non-irritating with little to zero eczema breakout, but I do have a beef with the oiliness of the product (too much for oily skin; I ended up mixing it with my Clinique Dramatically Different Gel Moisturizer to cut some of the oil), and the fact that it’s not a pump delivery system or other system where I don’t have to dip my finger in a jar to retrieve the product.  $20.95 for 1.5 oz.

Exfoliator — Daily or weekly gentle exfoliation encourages cell turnover and reveals new skin.  Exfoliating also allows our serums and moisturizers to penetrate better so we get better results.  I tried the Ava Anderson exfoliator, which is made with crushed apricot kernels, yucca plant extract, and punica grantum seed oil (derived from pomegranates).  The product definitely didn’t dry or injure my skin thanks to the yucca plant extract (an anti-inflammatory that also aids in moisture retention), but I feel the particles are too large and scratchy.  As much as I advocate exfoliation in skincare, it needs to be gentle, and the smaller the particles the better — in my opinion, smaller particles deliver more even exfoliation without scratching.  $21.95 for 2.7 oz.

Eye Cream — The skin around our eyes is thinner and drier and highly susceptible to free radicals and the sun.  It’s usually around the eyes that we begin to see the first signs of aging.  I use an eye cream with SPF in the morning (Dermalogica Eye Care with SPF 15), and a more moisturizing eye cream at night.  I can report that Ava Anderson’s cream fits the bill for my nighttime regimen.  Ingredients include bulgarian rose oil (antibacterial and antiviral properties), rose hip oil (vitamin C antioxidant), evening primrose oil to soften, calendula extract (anti-inflammatory), shea butter, and lavender oil to soothe.  A tiny amount goes a long way, but don’t worry if you get too much on — blend it down onto the face and it works well as a moisturizer there too!

I have also tried Ava Anderson’s hand soap and hand and body lotion, and their hand sanitizer from their body care line.  The no-soap hand soap doesn’t dry out the skin and is therefore great for frequent hand-washers like me, and the hand and body lotion is lightweight lotion that can be used as often as needed to keep skin soft.  Both contain aloe vera gel, which is great for sensitive skin and has healing properties.  The hand sanitizer is alcohol-free, using orange/citrus oil and tea tree oil extract as an antiseptic.  There is a light citrus scent in the product, but the best part is how it doesn’t dry out the skin the way alcohol does.  Just be sure to use a small amount (pea-size is enough) and rub your hands together until the product is absorbed.

Visit Erin Herman’s website at to check out the product line or like her Facebook page, or email her at for more information about Ava Anderson products.



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  • lilmakeuptips: Thanks for your comment! I got your note on the smoky eye and will do a post on the topic soon!
  • Wicked Red: You look REALLY good in those Lil. Thanks for sharing.
  • lilmakeuptips: Thank you so much Emil! I hope to have a New Year's makeup blog entry posted tomorrow ... maybe even a webcam if I can get it done ...