Bag Essentials

I took an extended weekend with one of my best girl friends to the beach. It was well-deserved, and I needed it. We were staying at my university apartment, so the drive to the actual beach was about 20 minutes. I came up with the idea for this post because we tried to sleep at the beach but we did not exactly plan ahead… yet we had all the essentials. It is second nature to a girl I swear, so I decided to share my insight on what to pack just in case you may stay somewhere else.

We used our beach bags and added these essentials:

A different bikini
New pair of undies
Another bra
A day outfit
A night outfit
Hair refreshers/products
Makeup (but especially lip gloss)
Bobby pins
Hair ties
Another pair of shoes
A pair of heels

We learned our lesson after the first day, when my flip flops got stolen and I didn’t have another flat pair of shoes. Luckily the bar we were at is an outdoor bar where you wear bikinis and can go shoeless (Seacrets, Ocean City, MD). Although, the next morning I was missing a pair of shoes and we had to drive all the way back to my apartment to get a new pair. We also learned that deodorant is always important to pack, we had to use men’s deodorant the day after we slept at the beach so we wouldn’t smell. Having new outfits is always a good idea because you never know if you’re staying or not, and it’s to be on the safe side. Luckily we had packed new outfits, and a night outfit for when we went out to the bars at night. Bobby pins are life savers! Never forget this. For the beach, your bangs may need to be pinned back, and they also make for the cutest hair styles. (I’m a fan of small poofs).

Anyway, those are my essentials for when you don’t know if you’ll get stranded or not. It is so important to be safe.


Oh, Sunscreen…

We have all been lectured about using sunscreen. Even when I was a child my mom would cover me from head to toe in the stuff, and I used to hate it. I personally love the sun, I love the way it feels, makes me feel, and I love a good tan. I’m Italian, so my olive complexion soaks it up and gets me dark… but there is that whole issue of skin aging, and the big C. I’m also a fan of indoor tanning, I know, I said it.  I know it’s terrible, but I’ve done it, and I’ll do it again. It’s important to first understand your skin type, and then move on from there, because it really does make a difference.

Here is a simplified skin type chart from

I Always burns easily; never tans white people with fair skin, blue eyes, freckles
II Always burns easily; tans minimally white people with fair skin, red or blond hair, blue,hazel or even eyes
III Burns moderately; tans gradually white normal average Caucasoid
IV Burns minimally; always tans well white /lt.brown people with white or light brown skin, dark brown hair, dark eyes
V Rarely burns; tans profusely brown brown-skinned persons (East Indians or Hispanics)
VI Never burns; deeply pigmented. black blacks (African and American Blacks)

You should first identify where you fall on the skin type chart because that indicates your risk for developing skin problems in the future. Just because you fall into a darker skin type does not mean you don’t have the ability to get skin cancer, because you do. People who are fairer skin are at more of a risk though because they do tend to burn easier.

Sunscreen is SO important no matter what skin type you are! It isn’t about how fast or dark you tan, it’s about avoiding the ultraviolet radiation that causes premature aging of the skin and skin cancer. Sunscreen has ingredients that physically block radiation and absorb radiation. The radiation blockers effectively reduce the exposure of the skin to UVA and UVB rays. The radiation absorbers are effective at absorbing UVA and UVB rays, but usually only absorb one or the other, not both. (Although the FDA is making it so that all sunscreens need to block both UVA and UVB rays).

What is an “SPF”:

The SPF measures the amount of UVB radiation absorbed, but not UVA radiation because there is no method of reporting that. It is important to find a sunscreen that protects against both UVA AND UVB radiation. These sunscreens are called “broad-spectrum” and should be an SPF 15 or higher, containing azobenzene, titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.

Sunscreen should be applied liberally to all sun-exposed areas. It takes 20-30 minutes for it to be absorbed by the skin, and some sunscreens can break down in the presence of water-based foundations/moisturizers, so it should be the last thing applied. It is also important to reapply it, it is most effect to reapply sunscreen 20-30 minutes after being in the sun rather than the recommended 2-4 hours.

Facial Sunscreen:

Sunscreen should be applied daily to your face, the daily use of a lower SPF sunscreen (generally a 15) is most effective in preventing skin and radiation damage rather than a higher daily SPF. When out in the sun for a period of time though, a higher SPF (30 and above) is recommended.

It is easy to find the right sunscreen for your body, but harder to find the right one for your face. Especially because your face can react differently than the rest of the skin on your body. A person with an oily T-zone isn’t going to want a sunscreen that makes them more oily, but someone with dry skin wants one that’s more moisturizing… it is up to you to do your research and find the right one for your face.

There are also moisturizers or wrinkle creams that have SPFs in them. Depending on the creams, some SPFs are generally less effective due to the other ingredients in them. Do your research on a cream you’d like to try, and make sure that if it is also a wrinkle cream, the SPF is still relevant and useful. Or you can just use a wrinkle cream separate to your sunscreen, because that is sometimes your best bet. BB creams have become popular on the market and can be found at beauty retailers like Sephora, or now Garnier and Maybelline have made their own cheaper creams that can be found at Target. Most importantly, find what is right for you.

Sunscreen importance can not be stressed enough. Even if you don’t have a family history of skin cancer, tan amazingly, and have zero moles… it doesn’t mean it can’t happen to you too. It can. Not to mention just wrinkle prevention in general. Sure, we are going to age and get wrinkles, it happens it can’t completely be avoided (even with Botox) but who wants to make those wrinkles worse by tanning?? Not me. Sunscreen is my face and neck’s best friend daily, and when I’m outside in my bikini it is my whole body’s best friend. It is the best defense to the radiation that the sun emits.

“Natural” products?

Warning: many products claim to be natural and have natural ingredients…but they’ll still contain the chemicals you are trying to avoid! Just because the product contains natural ingredients, does not eliminate the fact that it is also using chemical compounds as well. Usually, these chemical compounds are in a higher quantity than whatever natural ingredients are involved.

A product that claims to be Sulfate-Free…

That’s great! The product doesn’t have a sulfate! You’ve been attempting to avoid any, especially sodium laureth sulfate. Then you pick it up and look at the ingredients in the bottle and you notice that it still looks like a lot of chemicals are involved. The product has the ingredient Olefin Sulfonate which strangely seems similar to the word sulfate. Want to know why? Because it’s another form of a sulfate.

Olefin sulfonate is a surfactant. So are sulfates. This means that that it helps oil molecules dissolve in water, which has a drying effect on hair. In fact if you look online this is what you’ll find: “A sulfonate is a salt of a sulfonic acid.” That’s a coincidence because “a sulfate is a salt of sulfuric acid.” Hmm… basic chemistry tells me that they are both chemical compounds from salt and that they are both surfactant. Which means, that instead of having a sulfate it has another form in order to claim they are “sulfate free!”.

Also, products will claim that there Olefin Sulfonate is Coconut derived. This is because it is naturally derived from coconut oil, but it does not mean it’s not a chemical salt! It does NOT mean that it is natural or anything involved coconuts!

For example, Giovanni’s hair care line claims that it is: “Laurel, laureth sulfates, animal products and cruelty free.” Sounds great, but then when you look at the ingredients list you’ll see this:

Aqua (Purified Water) with Certified Organic Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia) Oil, Certified Organic Peppermint (Mentha Piperita) Oil, Certified Organic Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus Officinalis) Oil, Certified Organic Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis) Oil, Certified Organic Nettle (Urtica Dioica) Oil, Certified Organic Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris) Oil, Birch Leaf (Butela Alba) Oil, Certified Organic Chamomile (Anthemis Nobilus Flower), Certified Organic Clary (Salvia Sclarea), Certified Organic Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia), Certified Organic Coltsfoot Leaf (Tussilago Farfara), Certified Organic Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium) Oil, Certified Organic Mallow (Malva Sylvestris), Certified Organic Horsetail (Equisetum Arvense) Oil, Certified Organic Soybean Protein (Glycine Soja), C12-14 Olefin Sulfonate (Coconut Derived), Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Trace Minerals, Citric Acid (Corn), Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, Sodium Chloride (Sea Salt), Grapefruit Seed (Citrus Derived).


As we can see it contains a sulfonate and it nicely tells the buyer that it’s coconut derived. Of course it is, does not change the fact that it is a surfacant, and a sulfate. Thanks for trying to trick us, Giovanni.

Next, Trader Joe’s Nourish Shampoo was recommended to me, and yet they are playing the same trick on us as Giovanni’s shampoo is attempting to do: claiming to be sulfate free but including a sulfonate.

Trader Joes Ingredient List: Purified water, organic rosemary oil, organic valencia orange citrus, organic mango, organic lemongrass, organic ginko biloba, organic echinacea, organic willow bark, organic sea kelp, organic chamomile flower, organic textured soy protein, organic lavender, organic grapefruit, C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Tocopherol (Vit E), Citric Acid, Methylparaben, propylparaben, sea salt, botanical fragrance

Yet why does it not shock me that companies are attempting to fool us?

Another issue I’ve come across is when looking for a Certified Organic Shampoo, I will find shampoos that claim to have certified organic ingredients. Which usually means to them that they have a few ingredients that are certified, and therefore the whole shampoo is certified and healthy for your hair… incorrect. So many people were recommending the Avalon Organics line of products to me. Then I checked out the bottle:

As one can see here, the third ingredient is a sulfate. Sorry Avalon Organics, it’s nice that you have a few certified organic ingredients, but even Tressemme claims there ingredients are natural and they too have sulfates in them.

Another product that does the same is: Yes to Carrots which claims to be paraben free and organic. Here is its ingredient list: Water (Aqua), Sodium Coceth Sulfate, Magnesium Chloride, Dead Sea Water (Maris Aqua), Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Oil, Propanediol, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Daucus Carota Seed Oil, Daucus Carota Juice, Cucurbita Pepo (Pumpkin) Juice, Ipomoera Batatas (Sweet Potato) Extract, Cucumis Melo (Melon) Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Honey(Mel) Extract, Fragrance (Parfum), Algae Extracts (Rhodella, Dunaliella, Spirulina), Silt (Maris Limus), Niacinamide, Vitamin E (Tocopheryl Acetate), Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract, Benzyl Alcohol, Dehydroacetic Acid, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Peel Extract.

The second ingredient is a sulfate. I’m going to say no to carrots.

How can products do this?

It’s actually shocking statistic that 98% of natural products are actually making false or misleading claims. “After a study of nearly 4,000 consumer products discovered unverifiable information and blatant lies regarding their claim to be 100% natural, all natural, organic, or otherwise environmental friendly” (NaturalCosmeticNews). The truth is, manufacturers are looking for creative ways to market their products to “green” consumers. Unfortunately this is not regulated by government agenceies that usually regulate drugs, food and personal hair care products because, like the FDA, they do not define or regulate the use of the word “natural” on cosmetic products. This is primarily because there is not a true definition to what “natural” really means, which leads to the use of it on labels and advertising.

Most consumers think that when they see “natural” on a product, that the product’s ingredients come from nature, which is untrue. (Not to mention, not all things that are natural are safe). This does not mean that all products that claim to be natural are lying, but more likely than not the products include more than just natural ingredients. The USDA is in charge of deeming things “organic” but there are loopholes to get around this fact. It’s sad but true.

Really most importantly spend your time doing your own research, because I’ve spent plenty of time doing mine. I almost purchased Giovanni until I noticed its false claims, and have turned to looking at brands that are 95 to 100% truly organic, or have proven all-natural ingredients.

Here is a small list of 95-100% certified by the USDA as organic: Dr. Bronner’s, Nature’s Gate, Terressentials, Trilliums Organics

Products that are made with “some” organic ingredients: KissMyFace, JohnMasterOrganics, WholeFoods Line “EO”

Products that are proven natural: Burt’s Bees, Aubrey Organics

Honestly, I say just research and try things out. I am going to try out Aubrey Organics line and get back to you with a review later this week or next week.

What is in Shampoo that’s so harmful to your hair?

We have all heard it time and time again, to skip the shampooing in order to keep natural oils on your head. We’ve heard sulfates are enemies, and sulfate-free shampoos are becoming more and more popular. But is skipping the suds really useful? What is in Shampoo that’s harmful to your hair and what should we try and avoid?

Why are sulfates in hair products so bad?

Start with what a sulfate is: they produce the lather in a variety of beauty products and they are detergents. (They are commonly found in shampoo, soaps and body washes).

A sulfate is what breaks up the grease and oil in one’s hair, and rinses it away. Sulfates have become so hated in shampoos because they remove natural oils, dirt and hair product residue, and can be harsh on skin, strip color and make your hair dry.

Sulfate-free products are better for people with sensitive skin. It is a common misconception that switching to a sulfate-free product will change your hair completely, but all shampoos strip the hair of natural oils, which leaves your hair drier than before. The reason many have adopted the no-shampoo method is because it adds moisture (especially to curly and long hair) and it keeps the hair overall healthier.

A common misconception is that sulfates are proven to cause cancer, but there is no direct correlation to cancer or any other health problems.

Some shampoo ingredients to avoid:

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate:

They change the surface tension of water using negatively charged ions and it allows dirt and oil to stick to the cleanser before washing away. These are sulfates, which cause the shampoo to foam up. They are harsh on your hair and both sodium and ammonium lauryl sulfates cause skin and eye irritation. They are harsh chemicals, and can dry your hair too much which leads to damage and breakage.

Fragrance: (or “parfum”):

These are harsh chemicals in many shampooos that are made to resemble a natural smell. The term “fragrance” or “parfum” can indicate up to 4,000 different chemical ingredients. Acetone (nail polish remover) and Formaldehyde (a tissue preservative), ethanol, and alcohol are some of the chemical ingredients involved. All of these chemicals strip your hair of natural oils and cause damage to the hair folicle.

Propylene Glycol:

This allows the ingredients in the shampoo to penetrate into your hair shaft. It makes hair look and feel healthier at first, but after repeated and continuous use it can damage the strucutre of the hair folicle and hair overtime. (This same chemical is industrially used as anti-freeze in cars). The chemical is a petroleum by-product and cosmetic and industrial propylene glycol don’t differ all that much.

DEA – Diethanolamine, MEA and TEA

They help with the lathering effect and is used alongside other compounds such as Cocamide DEA or Lauramide DEA. It is a chemical that when combined forms nitrates and nitrosamines. When a DEA-based detergent is repeatedly applied, it can result in a major increase in liver or kidney failures.

Polyethelyne Glycol (PEG, polyethelyne, polyoxyethelyne)

It is a thickening agent that strips hair and skin of its natural moisture. It also contains 1,4 dioxane which causes liver and kidney damage according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. It can also irritate the eyes and nose of people inhaling it in the shower.

Butylated Hydroxytoluene:

It is used as a preservative, and keeps the shampoo from spoiling or losing its color, but it is a skin and eye irritant.

Stearalkonium Chloride:

Used as a conditioning agent, which started as a clothing fabric softener, causes toxic allergic reactions on people when exposed to your scalp.

Coal Tar:

This is used to treat scalp problems such as dandruff, and although the evidence is not proven, the Northwestern Health Sciences University warns that it increases your risks of cancer. (European Union has restricted its use in over-the-counter shampoo since 2004).

Sodium Chloride:

It is also known as table salt, and is used as a thickener in shampoos and conditioners that contain sodium lauryl sulfate. It is a contributing factor to eye irratation and also causes dry and itchy scalp. Salt may also cause hair loss.

Artificial Colors:

A shampoo may add colors by the use of syntethic coloring, and the Organic Consumers Association says you should avoid these colors at all costs. They may raise your risks of contracting various forms of cancer, and are noted on your shampoo’s ingredient list as D&C or FD&C and followed by both a color and a numer. (Ex.: FD&C Red No. 3).


This is added to a shampoo to kill fungi and bacteria to help preserve the shelf life of the product. It may be toxic for your skin and immune system and the Environmental Working Group says it has been linked to organ system toxicity and may cause cancer. (Many countries like Japan and Canada have banned and restricted the use, but it’s widely used in the U.S.).

Salicylic Acid:

It a common ingredient in anti-dandruff shampoos and it is a potentially dangerous with side effects including dizziness and difficulty breathing. There are more mild and more common side-effects which include a stinging feeling on your scalp and/or rashes.


These are generally added to shampoos to help protect your hair from ultraviolet rays and unfortunately they may accumulate on your skin over time, acting as an endocrine disrupter.

The listing on the back of the shampoo bottles may seem hard to navigate, but with the knowledge of what’s harmful for you can help making your choices easier. Certain shampoo ingredients are obviously more desirable than others. It should be obvious that parabens, phthalates, propylene glycol, butyl/ethyl acetate are all shampoo and cosmetic ingredients one should avoid. These chemicals are absorbed not only into one’s hair, but into the bloodstream.

Here’s a small list of safe shampoo ingredients that give your hair a healthy clean shine without the chemical hazards.

USDA Certified Organic Ingredients:

The USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) certifies that food products meet rigid chemical-free standards before being deemed as organic. Many of these organic products become ingredients in natural shampoos, and these are recommended because your hair products should be as healthy as the food we eat because they are absorbed into the skin. They contain safe ingredients such as sunflower or an olive oil base, with natural colors, grapes or beet juice and natural essential oil fragrances.

Plant Extracts:

These are free from chemical processing agents, which cause allergic reactions or contain possible cancer related problems. Plant extracts include: gingko, aloe vera, sage, and grape seeds to encourage hair’s growth. The extracts of sage, rosemary, thyme and garlic are used as anti-dandruff treatments.


Falls under two categories: detergents and soaps. Detergents are synethic and chemical-based products, and soaps are made from vegetable oils or animal fats. Organic shampoos feature soaps rather than detergents. Coconut oil, olive oil, sunflower oil and beef fat are all viable ingredients in organic shampoos.


Glycerin is a natural byproduct of soapmaking, and many manufactures just include in as a moisturizing ingredient. The same oils used to make the cleanser may be used to add moisture as well — olive oil, jojjoba oil, goat’s milk, honey and hemp seed oil.

It is important to feed your hair naturally because your overall hair and scalp health is at stake here. If you want to grow stronger and healthier hair it doesn’t matter how clean you keep it… if you’re using the wrong shampoo ingredients than it can be harmful. Stay educated.

Product Review

Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray ($24)

What it is:
A saltwater-based styling spray.

What it does:
This styling spray adds volume and texture to the hair to create a sexy, wind-blown feel. Its salt-infused formula adds fullness, hold, and a cool, matte finish. Salt water is no secret to editorial stylists for adding volume and texture, and anyone who has been in the ocean knows of that salty, sexy, sun-dried, wind-styled feel (that seems such a shame to wash out). So while Bumble and bumble hasn’t exactly bottled the real thing, they’ve replicated and improved it, including seaweed and kelp extracts to enhance moisture.

What else you need to know:
Excellent for wavy types and landlocked surfers with winter blues, this spray adds body to fine hair and adds a nice texture for silver hair.

Full Ingredient List:
Ascophyllum Nudosum (Seaweed), Macrocystis Pyrifera (Kelp), Magnesium Sulfate, Water Magnesium Sulfate, Macrocystis Pyrifera (Kelp) Extract, Ascophyllum Nodosum Extract, Isoceteth-20, Citric Acid, PPG-5-Ceteth-20, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbate, Citronellol, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Linalool, Limonene, Hexyl Cinnamal, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Fragrance (Parfum).

My Review:

I bought this product a while back, maybe last Summer, and I’ve had the same 4oz. bottle ever since. At first, I hated this stuff, I didn’t understand how to apply it without it making my hair a crunchy mess, but now I gave it another try and I like it. So, you’re supposed to spray it onto your hair (but in a small amount!) and then scrunch your hair together to allow it to take hold.

It contains Macrocystis Pyritera which is a kelp extract and it helps increase manageability, ascophyllum nudosum which is seaweed extract that enhances elasticity, softness, body and tames your flyaways. It also contains water magnesium sulfate that gives your hair that dry, gritty, sandy texture.

If you don’t use this product correctly then you end up looking crazy. Not a lie. It makes your hair gritty, so if you start spraying this widly around your hair and scrunching it, you’ll look like you have a dry afro. I focus on the middle of my hair, and spray one or two pumps before I scrunch it together. It does not make your hair hard, it’s not a gel. Your hair will have the appearance of leaving the beach, without the frizz, but it does have some of the feel to it. It’s nice when used correctly.

The bottle is tiny, it’s only a 4oz., and so it’s pretty self-explanatory that a little goes a long way. I used it last night after I showered, because my hair for some reason decided it didn’t want to wave nicely last night. I only really use it when my hair hasn’t waved to my liking, so that’s why it’s lasted so long. My hair today feels and looks adorably cute because of this product, which is why I decided to review it.

I have wavy hair already, but it does work for people with fine and straighter hair. To get it to work, just spray it where you feel necessary and make a bun at the nape of your neck for a few minutes. When you let it out, your hair will have waves… I promise. I’ve done a bad straightening job on my hair, and noticed it decided to start raining outside, so I even spray some of this on that one time and it worked wonders. It really does wave your hair.

Mostly, what I like about this product, is that while other Bb products make my hair frizzy, this actually does not. It is less of a water cocktail, and actually has some real ingredients in it.

Finally! A Bumble and Bumble product I like!