“is this product okay?” : how to read ingredient labels

hey crunchies! i hope you’re doing well.

this post is going to get back to one of the main reasons i even started a green beauty blog – TO EMPOWER YOU as a consumer.

ingredient labels can be long and can contain ingredients that are completely foreign to us as consumers. hopefully this post will be a good start to your journey as a more informed consumer.


i typically like to head straight for a company’s cream products, because they involve both emulsifiers and preservatives, whereas straight hydrosols and oil blends do not. these two usually give a good indication of where a company stands on the “purity” scale and how they think through product formulation. where YOU stand on that scale is up to you.

you have to decide for yourself what is okay and what is not okay. for me personally, i lean more “purist,” which i know has been kind of dragged in the community lately. wherever you fall on the scale is fine.

a quick google on common preservatives and emulsifiers should be a good way to start learning. yes, it takes time, but the feeling of being more informed always made it worth it to me. you’ll soon find that you can quickly scan a label and identify the emulsifiers and preservatives, and be able to tell if the product is a good fit for you.

examples of common emulsifiers:

  • cetearyl alcohol
  • lecithin

examples of common stabilizers/thickeners:

  • xanthan gum
  • candellia wax

examples of common preservatives:

  • alcohol
  • sodium levulinate and sodium anisate
  • tocopherol (which should not be used alone)

another thing i look to is a rough idea of the formulation itself – aka, what are you putting your money towards? is the company listing a “key” ingredient, but it’s far down on the ingredient list? is being far down on the ingredient list really indicative of blend weight or percentage? let’s explore that.


this is a rough guide and in no way meant to be definitive or 100% accurate. there are so many factors that go into formulation of products, and they all are dependent on blend ratios and type of emulsifiers and preservatives used.

in a cream, the emulsifiers, stabilizers, and preservatives can add up to be a total of 5% to 20% of the total product blend. see how variable it can be? even 5% is sometimes a higher concentration of active ingredients used in the blend, and that’s why i personally think it’s important to care about what a company uses. sometimes an ingredient is truly effective at a 1-3% concentration, so knowing your ingredients is important, too.

let’s check out a couple examples. i have intentionally removed brand names and product names, as this is meant to be purely educational and in NO way a review of the brands or products. don’t come for me.

example 1:

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here we have a cream product. you can tell that by seeing they are using both aloe juice (aqueous) and oils/butters.

their preservative is alcohol, which is an interesting choice for a cream product meant to hydrate and moisturize. when used as a preservative, you need a lot more alcohol in the blend by percentage than you would another “natural” (what does that mean?) preservative, further making it an interesting choice. in this case, we can assume the alcohol is roughly 20% of the total formulation. this means the aloe is >20% and the rest of the total ingredients are at <20% concentration.

for the overall formulation, a cream product like this is usually 50-60% water, 20-30% oil, and 20% preservative/emulsification. here you can see that everything after the alcohol will make up roughly 30% of the total formulation, descending in contributive percentages as you read further down the list.

the emulsifier they’re using is lecithin, a common natural emulsifier even used in foods, with xanthan gum as their stabilizer, a sort of helping hand to the emulsifier. xanthan gum is typically used around 1% and lecithin around 3%, so the order of these is out of the norm but clearly acceptable. for the purpose of this exploration, let’s assume everything listed after the xanthan gum is individually less than a 2% contribution to the overall formula. this means the acai fruit oil, maca root extract, and comfrey root extract, which are typically great ingredients to add, are at very small concentrations and may not yield impactful differences in skin appearance. they are also the most expensive ingredients to add in this formulation.

depending on what this product actually is, which i will not disclose, you can make your judgement on if it will be a good fit for you. it’s mostly aloe, shea butter, and cupuacu butter.

example 2:

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here we have another cream product, and we know that again from the mix of aloe and oils/butters.

the emulsifiers and thickeners used here are cetearyl alcohol, cetearyl glucoside, euphorbia cerifera wax, lecithin, and xanthan gum. from the varied ingredients, you can tell this company opted for a blend of emulsifiers to increase performance and skin feel. lecithin and xanthan gum are often used in food, so generally considered safe for use on skin. as for cetearyl alcohol, it is often derived from palm, so i personally do not use products with it, but it’s a personal choice.

tocopherol, sodium levulinate, and sodium anisate are used as preservatives. again, this company opted to blend multiple components to increase performance.

you can use tocopherol anywhere from 0.5% to 5% of your total formula. since it’s listed with the emulsifiers, let’s assume this is closer to the 5% range. so what does that mean? it means anything listed after tocopherol is 5% or less of a contributive percentage to the total formulation, listed in descending order.

sodium levulinate and sodium anisate are sold as a pre-blended preservation product. it’s relatively new to the market, close to it’s “natural” state, and vegan. i would use this on my skin and actually contemplated using it for my own product with Kieta Botanicals.

overall, this product is mostly aloe, rosehip oil, jojoba oil, macadamia oil, and shea butter. depending on what this product actually is, you can decide if it is suitable for you to use.


what did i miss? what questions do you have? let me know in the comments below or on instagram. you can find me at @alexraye_ae



top 10 green beauty products: “feelin’ pretty”

out of the all the posts on this d.i.y.-focused blog, i have yet to formally applaud my TOP green beauty products. this will be a little series with multiple categories, starting with the FEELIN’ PRETTY category!

here we go!


this list is all about things that have made me feel pretty and have stood the test of time with me. if you’ve been an AE reader long enough or follow my instagram, you’re sure to have seen me rave over these before.

  • tsi-laroll-on perfume oil in ‘kesu’ 
    • this scent is so warming and grounding and alluring. i’ve probably talked your ears off about it already… but f you’re new here – i bought multiple bottles before leaving the U.S. so i didn’t have to be without it. dear tsi-la, please make bigger bottles. love, me.
  • root pretty100% lash mascara
    • hands-down the best natural mascara i’ve ever used. my lashes look so long and fluffy. best of all – it’s $14.
  • root prettypressed eyeshadow in ‘rosewood’
    • it’s not an exaggeration when i say i wear this shade every single day. the shade name is very fitting – it’s the perfect light brown shade with tones of rose and orange.
  • root prettypretty gloss in ‘casey’
    • usually i’m not one for lip gloss because my hair gets stuck in it, but this one feels like gloss and balm had a baby and i love it. the shade casey is a really pale pink and is really flattering on my skintone on the days i want a little extra shine. it looks super light and pastey on the website photos, but i assure it’s not in real life. there’s a lot of colors, so check ’em out.
  • silk naturalsvelvet matte lipstick in ‘obsession’
    • i’m usually not one for lipsticks, but this is the shade that made me fall in love. it’s a beautiful dusty plum and it makes me feel so put together and fancy. and did you see that it’s only $6? what in the world. there are SO many colors in all types of formulations. they even formulate natural dupes of well-known shades from MAC.
  • au naturaleall-glowing creme highlighter stick in ‘rose gold’ 
    • i remember when i first tried this highlighter and i wasn’t thrilled with how easily it came off my face. i will say i’m still not thrilled with wear time, but i’ve learned this issue comes with the territory of opting for a cream highlighter…. and now i wear it most days on my cheekbones. yaasss.
  • 100% pureliquid eyeliner in ‘black tea’
    • if you’re looking for an eyeliner that doesn’t freaking budge and won’t irritate your eyes, here you go. the long wand takes some getting used to, but the pigmentation and performance are amazing. my only qualm is that it seems to be severely overpriced at $30.
  • 100% purecocoa butter matte lipstick in ‘hyacinthus’
    • after silk naturals made me fall in love with lipstick, boy alex bought me this one. i was scared of how bright it was, but with my pale skin and blue eyes, it looks really nice. it’s super creamy and pigmented, too. it’s quite a small stick for nearly $30 (what you see in the photo above is all the product you get. that’s it.) so like the eyeliner, it’s overpriced to me… but a really nice product.
  • mineral fusionsnail polish in ‘trinket’ *
    • i put the asterisk because nail polish is not green nor natural. but if this is one thing you make a concession on, like me, being free of super toxins is better than not. it’s a beautiful bright berry color that’s super wearable on my skin tone. sorry to disappoint anyone by including this polish, but at least i’m honest.
  • josh rosebrookbotanical fragrance ‘ethereal’ 
    • this fragrance made the list for me because of how balanced and long-lasting (and clean) it is. i do prefer kesu on me, but this scent on boy alex is downright swoon-worthy. he only wears it on special occasions because it’s extremely out of our budget as a regular purchase. but if you’re looking for a truly special and indulgent gift to yourself or a loved one, this sultry scent will be treasured.

do you see any you love? what are YOUR favorite green beauty products that make you feel pretty?

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too many products? try repurposing!

as you may know, the concept of consumerism in the green beauty community has been heavy on my heart. lately i’ve found myself with an excess of clean beauty products. while it’s great to have the ease of not d.i.y.-ing, and supporting amazing companies, and trying new products, it’s not always great to look at the counter and realize how much money i’m burning by not using everything.

enter repurposing*. as i’ve always tried to impart on my readers, most green beauty ingredients are multi-purpose. sometimes if a product you purchase doesn’t work for you, or if you can’t use it before the expiration date, getting creative is the key!


here are some products that haven’t worked for me and what i’ve used them for:

  • vintner’s daughter – serum
    • why it didn’t work for me: so many people absolutely rave over this expensive product and claim it as a holy grail. i wanted it to work for me too, but i’m also glad it didn’t… because it’s $180 for one ounce and i definitely can’t afford that on the regular. long story short, my face hates grapeseed oil  (16% oleic; comedogenic rating of 2). strike out for me.
    • repurpose: this oil worked great as a hair oil and smelled like pure luxury. seriously, it makes you smell like you’re a trust fund baby. i always felt fancy when i used it, and my hair was happy.
  • josh rosebrook – vital balm cream
    • why it didn’t work for me: let me start by saying i’m a huge fan of josh rosebrook and his creations. i was giddy to get this particular product in a beauty box, as it was a beautiful blue, indicative of high-performance natural anti-inflammatory properties. unfortunately, this stuff broke my face out so badly! the butters and avocado oil are way too heavy to be a face cream for me. to be honest, i’m still kind of heartbroken.
    • repurpose: it doesn’t taste great, but it’s an amazing overnight lip treatment. the high altitude in mexico city destroys my lips and this balm always comes to the rescue!
  • triesta organics – conditioner
    • why it didn’t work for me: i wrote a mini-review of this shampoo/conditioner combo on instagram awhile back, but long story short: this pricey line shot the life out of my hair and i was pretty disappointed. my hair was super dry and tangly after using it. that being said, it could very well work wonders for another hair type.
    • repurpose: shaving cream for the conditioner and hand soap for the shampoo. it was a long shot for the latter, but it’s castile-based and i wasn’t about to throw away a full bottle.
  • skinowl – maqui berry beauty drops
    • why it didn’t work for me: this product has been reformulated to contain maqui berry oil instead of mangosteen, but the base oil is still baobab oil, which unfortunately my face hates. while not a true oleic acid rich oil, it’s still too high of a ratio for my skin to be happy (about 50/50). i do love skin owl’s beauty whip for spot-treatments now that i’m living in a very high-altitude city, though. my only complaint is the emulsion is terrible and it’s completely separated every time i go to use it.
    • repurpose: i’m using this up as an after-shower body oil and as a scalp treatment. so far, so good. it makes me smell yummy, too.
  • mahalo – rare indigo beauty balm
    • why it didn’t work for me: the first time i used this product, my skin glowed for days. i mean, glowed. but then it broke me out… and never worked again, despite my stubborn attempts to keep using it on my face. can someone please help me understand why it worked the first time? while this product is beautiful and i love mahalo, it just wasn’t a match for me.
    • repurpose: this will probably make a lot of people cringe because this balm is very pricey, but it was use it or lose it for me at this point. after showering, i used the balm on my elbows, knees, and feet/heels, for some super hydration. it was perfect and smelled heavenly! boy alex used it as a beard balm, too, and i swear he couldn’t go a day without it.
  • max and me – circle of protection
    • why it didn’t work for me: beautiful company, beautiful product, beautiful scent… you know i love argan oil, but for some reason it left a greasy sheen on my skin when i used it. it never seemed to really soak in.
    • repurpose: i’m currently using it up as an eye makeup remover. bonus – your eyelashes and eyebrows will love the nourishment.
  • tsi-la – ‘kizes’ roll-on perfume oil
    • why it didn’t work for me: i LOVE this brand and i can’t remember how many bottles of their perfumes i’ve purchased… i even stocked up before my international move. trust me when i say that if ‘kesu’ came in a bulk bottle, i’d purchase it. however, one scent i bought, ‘kizes’ wasn’t a match on my skin. it made me smell like a citrus candle… which i suppose is not a bad thing at all, but not what i want to smell like every day. note that on boy alex it smelled heavenly… not fair! but it goes to show that perfumes are incredibly personal, even the same scents.
    • repurpose: i now roll a tiny puddle into the palm of my hand and run it through my hair on non-wash days. i would never dare waste a drop of anything tsi-la!

*re-gifting is wonderful, too! my mom, other half, and various friends have all been recipients of products that haven’t quite worked out, or that i just knew i wouldn’t be able to get to.

here are some i’ve regifted and why:

  • 100% pure – liquid highlight
    • this product was beautiful in the bottle, but was metallic-looking on my skin and wiped off way too easily. if i barely bumped it, it’d come right off, leaving an empty-looking patch. it was regifted to my friend and she loved it! it all comes down to personal preference.
  • 100% pure – honey almond body butter
    • the scent is heavenly, but it was too heavy for my skin and left a greasy sheen and didn’t seem to soak in, no matter how little i used. i regifted it to my best friend who was living out west in a dry climate at the time, and she loved it. i actually recently bought her more.
  • argan republic – white peony root serum
    • don’t get me wrong  – i love this company, the products, the ingredients, the mission, and the lady behind it. but this particular product didn’t do anything for me and my face skin didn’t care for it.  it kind of just sat on my skin and didn’t soak in. it’s main ingredient is argan oil, which i absolutely adore, but i’m wondering if the vitamin e oil percentage was high enough to clog up my skin. in any case, boy alex inherited it and he loved it.
  • lilfox – cleopatra
    • i know this product, as well as the one below, is well-loved. however, for me, it was very drying and i honestly didn’t see results. everyone is different, though, so it was regifted to my madre.
  • lilfox – jungle love
    • again – i know this product is well-loved. and it smells like aromatherapy heaven. however, i didn’t notice any results to write home about and my skin just didn’t feel as great afterwards as some of my fave d.i.y. masks. this was passed onto my madre as well.
  • innersense – sweet spirit leave-in conditioner
    • while this product smells like a yummy creamsicle, it was too heavy for my hair, like it was coated in wax, and i’m not sure why (we all know i use plain oils). i regifted it to boy alex who has kinky-curly hair, and he loved it! and – the shampoo/conditioner versions of this line are pretty great.
  • honua – olena oil
    • the ingredients list is luxurious, but the fatty acid profiles were high in oleic acid, which my skin doesn’t care for. and unfortunately, my face hates kukui nut oil, but my hair loves it. i passed this onto boy alex’s sister. however, strangely enough, honua’s youth serum is one of my favorite products ever. i’ve purchased 4 bottles, if that says anything.

please leave your repurposing tips below!

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sunfood plant-based haircare

happy friday!

let me start this post by saying i love the ROM (water-only), no-poo, low-poo, clay washes, etc… but i’ve noticed that i haven’t been able to suggest clean, “green,” shampoos and conditioners to you readers, as i wasn’t using any. the last few months i’ve been testing a few brands out, and i’m super excited to share this one with you today.

why the excitement? the ingredients list is short and plant-based, the results are great, and this line does well in hard water. yes, hard water – the all-natural beauty’s enemy.



this shampoo definitely lathers well and cuts through oil. my hair was light, soft, and shiny right after the first wash. i’m not really sure what it smells like… it’s very unique and “natural” smelling. i wish i could put a scratch-n-sniff in this post.

it’s thinner than a conventional “shampoo,” if you’re used to those, so try not to use too much at once. i’ve found the best way to use this shampoo is to section my hair into 4 parts so it spreads more evenly on my scalp. i also have a plastic bottle in my shower that i fill up with warm water, pump the shampoo into, shake, and use. it dilutes it down so it spreads evenly through my hair and doesn’t dry out my scalp.

verdict: great for those with hard water; good with all hair types, especially oily hair

ingredients: Sapindus saponaria (Wild Crafted Soap Nut); Aqua (Artesian Spring Water); Citrus aurantifolia (Lime), Citrus hystrix (Makrut Lime); Dillenia indica (Elephant Apple); Calophyllum inophyllum (Wild Crafted Indian Laurel Leaf); Lactobacillus casei, Rhodopseudomonas palustris, Sacchormyces cerevisiae (Microorganisms); Bromelain Ananas comosus (Pineapple Enzymes)

price – $13 for 8 oz


this conditioner was pretty good! it’s a little thin but it soaks in quickly. don’t think it’s not working if it doesn’t feel slippery on your hair. when you rinse it out, your hair will feel oh-so-soft!

i’ve been able to use the conditioner as a co-wash also. it left my hair soft and SUPER shiny. i’d opt to use this versus the shampoo to clean my hair, as it’s gentler and more moisturizing.

my boyfriend also used it (kinky-curly hair type) and loved it. he even bought his own and now uses it for his co-wash. my guy is such a trooper. i think i’ll keep him 😉


my hair is now a little below my chest (i cut 5 inches off and am looking to go shorter) but i’ve had to use at least 3 pumps of this to clean and condition my hair if i don’t dilute it in my bottle first. that being said, i know it’s an extra step, but diluting will be really helpful for it to spread over your scalp evenly.

it does smell a little like yogurt because of the strains they include in the ingredients, but it doesn’t bother me.

verdict: great for a moisturizing wash/co-wash; great for those with hard water; good for all hair types

ingredients: Dillenia indica (Elephant Apple); Calophyllum inophyllum (Wild Crafted Indian Laurel Leaf); Aqua (Artesian Spring Water); Citrus aurantifolia (Lime), Citrus hystrix (Makrut Lime); Oryza Sativa (Rice Bran Powder); Lactobacillus casei, Rhodopseudomonas palustris, Sacchormyces cerevisiae (Microorganisms); Bromelain Ananas comosus (Pineapple Enzymes); Sapindus saponaria (Wild Crafted Soap Nut)

price – $13 for 8 oz

where to purchase:


no links in this post (or on this blog) are affiliate links. click freely!




amazon (way overpriced)

local health store/local vitamin & supplement store

have you used this brand of shampoo and/or conditioner before? do you have a favorite from another brand? leave them below!

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2015 green beauty in review

in the spirit of the approaching 2016 year, i thought it’d be fun for us to swap our favorites for 2015!

please share whatever you’ve enjoyed from this last year so the rest of our community can learn more 🙂


this year has been a really great one! i’ve experimented with and shared so many recipes, learned so much from you, and even began the journey to start my own all-natural beauty line. (btw – i’m so super excited to go out for sale!)

here’s a list of my “DIY vs BUY” favorites that are definitely going to follow me into the next year –

DIY favorites:




purchased favorites:



THANK YOU for your continued support. thank you for being a part of the green beauty, “crunchy” community. thank you for always supporting each other and sharing your stories and knowledge.

i couldn’t ask for better supporters.


HAPPY NEW YEAR, crunchies! all my love to you! 

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just a reminder – none of the links in the “purchased” category contain affiliates. click freely on anything i publish here on AE ❤


catch-up #9

happy monday tuesday, crunchies!

it’s been quite some time since we had a catch-up post. i can’t call them weekly now, can i? haha!

today’s post is gonna feature some products i’ve been testing out to share with you – a facial oil, body balm, lip tints, and eye cream. if you want more details on any of these, please ask! and as always, please share your experiences with us below!


Continue reading catch-up #9

weekly catch-up #7

happy monday, crunchies!

i hope everyone had a great weekend!

the highlight of my weekend was floating down a river with some friends, however, i got quite the sunburn. what did you do this weekend?


ROSE HYDROSOL. as we all know, i love rose anything! i purchased a spray bottle of organic rose water and i have to say – i’m in love. i have the brand inflora botanica, purchased here (not an affiliate link). rose water can be used as a toner, humectant, anti-inflammatory, spray to help with oily and blemished skin, lightly scented body or hair spray, and a spray to help with fine lines and wrinkles. this refreshing floral  hydrosol is also high in vitamin c and antioxidants, so spray away! the brand i have is a tad expensive, but the quality is superior. it smells heavenly! what are your favorite hydrosol uses? Continue reading weekly catch-up #7