You Are At The Archives for 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012 in , ,

Personal Caring - Our Mission of Gratitude

Sometimes the things you don't know about someone might really surprise you.  Things like that their favorite food is brussels sprouts, that their middle name is Gertrude, or that they had a large collection of pet rocks in their formative years.

What if someone you knew wasn't able to afford food for their family right now?  Do you think they would tell you?  You might be surprised if you knew who was in need of help.

Four years ago my family couldn't afford both food and our mortgage.  For an entire year through the economy struggling and the beginning of a divorce I had to accept donations from local pantries in order to keep our household together.

This is probably not what you would expect.  From the outside it looks like I have a successful business and life going well, and right now I do.  Back then, though, things were a lot more tenuous and the economic meltdown hit us hard. 

My first foray to a pantry began with a once a month trip to the local Urban League chapter.  Anyone could go and receive 2 bags of food per month.   As the year progressed my then-husband's job gave him a recession related pay cut and my business continued to suffer major losses.  Soon a couple extra items didn't cover the gap as our finances became more stricken. 

We didn't technically qualify for food stamps - it looked like our family made too much money.  But the debts we owed and our dwindling income was just not enough to support our needs.  By spring we were almost entirely dependent on whatever we could procure on a biweekly basis from Our Lady of Perpetual Help and later in the year the St. Liborious Pantry.

I was hustling to find extra work but until I could do that the help tided us over and made it possible to keep our mortgage paid and out of jeopardy.  If I had lost the house Blissoma would have been gone too because it is also our office and production space.

Four years later I still have a house and my business is growing.  The temporary assistance helped us leap the gap between a crisis and the road forward. 

The important takeaway from this experience was the humbling knowledge that this could happen to anyone, and that in those moments of extreme desperation when you really need HELP the help you receive is sweet indeed, even if it is meager.  Government cheese, old bread, and canned veggies don't seem so bad when your other option is to give up on your entire home and work life.
 

My year of assistance also expanded my compassion greatly.  When you become one of the poor and see what life is like for those who desperately need assistance you realize how un-fun it is to be that hard up.  It's not pretty or glamorous.  No one would really choose a life at the bottom of the barrel, sometimes it just happens to you.  

If you are fortunate enough to have the resources to pay for your needs you are blessed indeed.  At this holiday time when everyone is thinking about the gifts they'd like to receive it might do well to remember that others would be happy just to have a nice bar of soap and maybe another box of macaroni.

My intention has been to pay back the assistance I accepted in work, food, and money, and hopefully far greater over time than what I initially used.  My current life would not be possible without the aid I received in my time of need.  That deserves a big thanks.


I wanted everyone to hear our story, and know that what you give through your local pantry drives makes a difference to someone.  You might be changing the course of a life for the better.  Those that gave to my local pantry blessed my family and business with another chance.

For the month of December Blissoma has created a campaign by which through your participation we will give our quality basic personal care items to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the pantry that helped us years ago.  We are asking for your help in sharing this mission, sharing our story, and helping us continue to grow so we can do more.  You don't have to purchase anything to participate - just enter and share the campaign.  In return you'll get a discount on our products and a chance at over $200 in gift certificates as a gratitude grand prize.

To read in full about our campaign and participate visit our Personal Caring app tab on Facebook.

You can also read the poem and blog post that I created at the end of our year of assistance, after I had time for the experience to soak into my psyche.

I hope you never need to accept pantry assistance.  But, should that particular path come to you, it will be such a comfort to know that help is there.

I wish you the happiest of holidays, and a table that is always full with food and friends.


Saturday, November 24, 2012 in , , , , ,

The Trick to Keeping Positive (even when it's positively grueling)

Positivity.  Happiness.  Joy.  
With so many different messages pushed our direction it's no wonder we end up confused and befuddled about why we still don't have lasting happiness.  After all, it's so easy, right?

Here's the word from a person usually seen publicly as a healing, inspirational, energetic, happy individual - Positivity is positively HARD sometimes.  Getting to happy and maintaining a light, bright mindset isn't always shiny.  In fact, sometimes it's like nails on a chalkboard, it's slogging through the mud, it's facing every icky, awful voice inside yourself and baring it in ways you might like to otherwise avoid.  It’s striving to give even when you feel like the whiny Kindergartener inside you would like to just throw a supernova style fit. 


I still struggle with the idea of whether happiness should be a constant state of being.  Sometimes I just feel sad – deeply, intensely sad, and a smile feels like an impossible feat.  I can feel like I’ve fallen pretty far down my very own little mucky hole.  The quiet of the weekends and holidays is a particularly trying time for me as it is when I am “supposed” to be happy and have fun.  Instead it feels like a giant letdown mixed up soup of stress blowout that I’ve been trying to ride through all week.  It tends to implode on me by Saturday morning.  Blah.  

Is this a personal weakness?  Does this mean I’m not nearly as spiritually secure and accomplished as I’d like to be?  Or is this acceptable and normal?  Does the Dalai Lama have “off” days?  I’m still wrestling with trying to divine answers to these things inside myself. 

What I do know is that recovering from these funkety-funk lows often takes every trick I know and they often feel like hard, hard work to a bummed out, low energy me.  Despite being a natural and holistic health advocate I often wish there were an easy way out too.  (Where did I put my magic wand?)  Recovery takes effort and often not a small bit.  Mental discipline is also the toughest at the moments when you need it the most.  

Even though I might feel like just wallowing in my lopsided mood I make myself meditate, do yoga, take a hot bath, employ some aromatherapy, repeat myself some positive mantras, fix some nourishing food that I know will boost my happy body chemistry, and what I honestly find to be most inspirational and tide-turning of all – look towards the other people in my life for a kick in the pants in the right direction.  

Chances are that with 300+ online friends someone else might be happy even while I’m feeling down.  Since I’ve surrounded myself with a large network of encouraging, intelligent, kind, growth-oriented and truth-seeking souls oftentimes my Facebook, Twitter, or blog feed has just what I’m needing that day offered by someone who was on the up-and-up with the happy vibes. 

When you’re feeling weak and low it might be time to let the smile of another bolster you.  If you have brought the right, reinforcing people into your life they’ll happily help keep you on the positive path.  Many times I have felt like others have been my guiding lights back out of the darkness, a little lifeline cast into the murky depths and towing me back to the boat.  Often all they need to do is just show they are gamely going through their days the best they can, and just by being another empathetic example I don’t feel so alone.  Sometimes like in this blog post by Juliana of the Peaceful Peacock called How to Be Courageous the message is much more direct – get up, dammit, no excuses.   

Over time the wisdom offered by friends has saved me from sadness more times than I can count.  They fill my empty cup and quaff my thirst.   

“Reach out your hand if your cup be empty.  If your cup is full may it be again.”  Robert Hunter, Ripple

Jasper Jones, a novel by Craig Silvey, features a key conversation between Charlie and his best friend about who is the better superhero, Superman or Batman.  Charlie's friend argues that Superman is better because of all his powers.  Charlie argues back that Batman is the greater hero because he’s just a regular guy who decides to do the right thing.  Because he isn’t invulnerable it is the courage to still stand against all that is evil despite being only human that elevates Batman.  I’ve kept this conversation close in my heart since reading it.  While I’m no Batman I do attempt to keep Batman style courage fervently in mind as I’m standing each day against my challenges.  I don’t have to be superhuman, I just have to keep striving.

In the end when the good side wins it’s because those who stand in hope and love never truly stand alone.  You may be out there at the forefront of your life battling your worst fears and feeling awfully exposed, but if you look just next to you I think you’ll find there’s someone else engaged in the same struggle.  They want to see you win, and the gift of continuing your own struggle is that they might see through to the victory in theirs as well.  Don’t give up, for goodness sake.  We all win when you keep at it. 
  

I’m not perfect.  I’m not even positive all the time.  But dang it I’m out here trying.  My deepest gratitude goes to those who have gone before me as my teachers and guides.  Because of  your light my way has been a little brighter and my progress more possible.  I hope I can cast a line for a few others and pay the positive forward.  Soul warriors, spirit seekers, troubadours, lovers, and those awakening to all the possibilities – you’ve got a friend, and I hope that brings you Happiness.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012 in , , , ,

Natural and organic skincare comes to Chicago via Blissoma and If a Goddess Wore Makeup

Chicago has a surprising shortage of natural skincare options for such a large city.  As Blissoma has officially ended our relationship with Whole Foods Markets due to philosophical and practical differences we needed to re-establish a solid location in the Windy City where our clients could access our line. 
  
Veteran makeup artist Sheila Hansen solidly occupies the urban and independent natural beauty niche in Chicago so we were thrilled when she suggested we collaborate with her business If a Goddess Wore Makeup.  Together we cooked up a concept for the Blissoma Mini-Store inside her space at the Andersonville Galleria.  

Today we're proud to tell you that our full skincare range is available for purchase for you again in one cool and easy location.  

You'll find Blissoma in our very own cabinet on the Mezzanine level with If a Goddess Wore Makeup.  We fully stocked our cabinet with every product in our SOLUTIONS natural skincare facial range, our natural deodorants, Yoga Mat Cleanser, and the one we know the urban folk don't want to be without - Stress Relief Serum.  



No more wondering if the store near you has the item you are seeking!  It's all there in one spot.  We'll be restocking regularly with the freshest stuff direct from our St. Louis production studio so you'll always get the most active botanicals and the best results.



Sheila is there in her space to serve clients in person Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and by appointment.  She stocks natural makeup and has all the knowledge to guide you through the right choices for your natural beauty needs.  We're proud to be the perfect skincare complement to her decorative products.  Blissoma skincare will leave your face perfectly moisturized, plumped, soft, and ready for color.  Our new sensitive skin gel cleanser and makeup remover Free will take off all the tough waterproof makeup you apply in a day.




 
Sheila has 25 years of experience and was trained by celebrity makeup artist Bobbi Brown.  She's also a certified herbal therapist so she really knows her stuff.  For advice on the right treatments for your skin to create the perfect look there's nobody better in Chicago to ask.  We also think she is a shining and gorgeous example of the power of natural lifestyle habits and beauty routines.  Look at that brilliant smile!


The Andersonville Galleria is a hip, unique, and diverse place to shop.  It's locally owned and features handmade, original work from some of Chicago's finest artisans.  You'll find much more than just skincare and makeup here to love and we feel like we fit right in.  There's clothing, purses, paintings, chocolate, scarves and every gift you could possibly wish for this holiday season.  The best part is it is all unique and keeps your shopping dollars going to local, quality businesses who are contributing to their community.



We'll be planning trips back up to Chicago in the future so you can speak with us in person if you want.  Keep in touch with us on Facebook and Twitter if you want the most up to the minute news on where we'll be, specials, new products and more.

Thank you Chicago for a wonderful new beginning. 



Wednesday, October 3, 2012 in , , , , , , , ,

Autumn Aromatherapy // What (and What Not) To Do


A change of seasons brings a fresh feel in the air, a softer color to the light as it's filtered through colored leaves, and a shift in our moods and cravings. The advent of fall also brings a return to work routines and many gatherings, both professional and just for fun. It always seems to go so fast, and you want to treasure each moment of carefree comfort. You can relish sitting on the porch in the evening with just a light jacket, gabbing with friends and stargazing into the cool autumn sky. The only chill you really get is just enough to make an excuse to snuggle closer to your date, who if you're lucky smells a little woodsy.

If you surround yourself with aromas apropos to fall it will help you to create rich, striking memories of this special time. Your sense of smell ties directly into the part of your brain where memories are stored, so it makes a perfect way to enhance your experience of seasonality...  

Writing and pictures by yours truly with tips on great online suppliers, which natural essential oils to use, and ways to use them for get-togethers, home, and the office.  Mmmmm...Smells like fall to me.



Monday, August 13, 2012 in , , , , , , , ,

"Clean" and "Green" beauty, science, and comic book characters - Part 2, Irradiation and you.

Irradiated foods have long been a subject of controversy and outrage in the organic industry, and the process is not allowed for organic foods.  Foods aren't the only things being treated with Gamma Rays, however.  I was surprised to find out how many things we may be using unsuspectingly that have actually been irradiated.  Meats, fruits, vegetables, single use medical equipment, cotton balls, swabs, bandages, ointments, tongue depressers... the list goes on.

(You can catch Part 1 of this dual post on cosmetic packaging and irradiation here by the way.)

As I would find out while reading up on irradiation, Gamma Rays are produced by a radioactive isotope called Cobalt 60.  It produces high energy photons that are disruptive to the DNA and structure of living things.  This is why they are capable of sterilizing.  The DNA of the microbe is broken down during treatment and it is unable to recover.  The FDA limits the energy levels the radioactive material can emit.  The permitted radioactivity level makes the gamma rays pass straight through the treated material and leave it with no residual radioactivity.  Essentially it isn't strong enough to knock apart the atoms in the treated material and destabilize them.  It's sort of like an X-ray that way.

Items are brought into the facility, exposed to radiation, and dosimeters indicate when the required amount has been achieved.  They are then removed and sent off to their consumer or industrial destinations.

So if this process doesn't create radioactivity in the final product why all the fuss?  Some sites will tell you it is perfectly safe, and in fact makes our food safer.  Food poisoning that has erupted from contaminated meats might be avoided with a little irradiation.  The E. Coli contaminated spinach outbreak comes to mind, and produce is something that is irradiated.

Organic enthusiasts know though that one of the main reasons we have massive problems with killer bacteria on our foods now is the way our food system is structured.  Livestock farms are generating massive amounts of manure too great to be composted, which is leading a lot of it into unexpected places in our water supplies and from that contaminated water into our food distribution.  According to Food and Water Watch it is "...an estimated 500 million tons of manure each year, more than three times the sewage produced by the entire U.S. human population."  This is a major source of E. Coli contamination, and one of the reasons for concern about food cleanliness.  Maybe that problem would be best addressed at the source rather than trying to fix it after the fact.
Organic regulations do not allow for irradiation.  Period.  Why?  The objections are heavily based on nutrient depletion, chemical by-products of the radioactive exposure that may then exist in the foods, lack of clarity about long-term safety, and the fact that the food industry is basically covering up cleanliness issues it should be addressing in more appropriate ways.  For a full breakdown of the Organic Consumers opinion on this topic see their page.

Regardless of what the contrasting opinions are and the arguments for its benefits I knew this was something we would never consider doing, even to a piece of plastic.  The process was cumbersome, the hazards to environment and workers huge, and it isn't allowed for organics.  While our product line isn't certified we hold to organic standards in the handling of all our botanical materials, studio cleaning procedures, and even pest control.  All told, no Gamma Rays happening here at Blissoma, folks.

The other really disturbing thing that I found out during this entire inquiry process is that TWO separate packaging suppliers told me that it was highly irregular that we were doing anything to clean our closure components at all.  What?

I could write it off if one source told me that, but two unrelated companies were surprised when we asked about appropriate cleaning procedures for closures.  According to both of those sources the industry standard is just to use the pumps and bottles straight out of the cases.  I was shocked.  They may come out of the cases without gunk stuck to them, but the moment someone sneezes or touches them they've got microbes on them, some that may be disease causing pathogens. 

It's possible that many mainstream product manufacturers just use preservation in high enough doses that they know that a little contaminant on the pump or bottle isn't going to cause a problem.  After all, many high end face creams are still sold in jars - it's actually the way a "classic", miraculous face cream is usually presented to customers.  If you are sticking your fingers in it every day and it keeps for 3 to 5 years there's some serious preservatives going on.  A dirty closure is not unlike a dirty finger.  (By the way, if you use a cream out of a jar this is a point worth considering.  You might want to use a little disposable spatula instead of that bacteria-ridden finger!)

Blissoma's recipes aren't like that, and while they are preserved the system can be overwhelmed if the amount of initial microbe contamination is too high.  Not to mention the goal is to produce the cleanest possible product.  Duh.  This is partly why we have created a full line of moisturizers that are fluid enough to be pumped.  They are protected from environmental contamination once packaged.  With natural preservation the packaging choice is just part of the full "hurdle" plan to keep a product fresh for the customer.  The more barriers to contamination the better.  Again, the lack of cleaning procedure alleged by these packaging suppliers seems like laziness on the part of industry not unlike irradiation to ensure foods are clean.  Overpreserving and not cleaning components doesn't address the root cause of the contamination.

Because we are committed to using organic approved, nontoxic, environmentally sound handling methods we had to devise our own new way to clean our pumps.  For pumps that can't handle steam we are now using organic alcohol to clean them.  The pumps are immersed and then the alcohol is allowed to evaporate before the pump is applied to the product.  It's time consuming but I feel satisfied that we've done what is right for both our processes and our end product.

The takeaway from this is that I wanted to share our process with you, our community.  Also, like me, there may be many people surprised at the use of radiation to treat so many common objects.

So what do you think?  Are you as surprised as I was that Gamma Rays are such a common treatment?  What did you previously know about food irradiation?  How do you feel about irradiation being used to treat cotton balls, bandaids, and the like?  Is it acceptable to you when applied to something that is not a food? 

And how do you feel knowing that major cosmetic manufacturers are not necessarily doing anything to clean their packaging prior to bottling product?  Do you feel fine?  Or does that make you go "hunh?"  Or are you not surprised at all considering the use of so many unstudied chemicals and questionable consumer safety related practices anyway? 

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.  Sound off and share, s'il vous plait.  As always, love to you.
 

Sunday, August 5, 2012 in , , , , , , , ,

Questions in "Clean" and "Green" beauty, science, and comic book characters.

This post really began months ago during the heart of my search for new packaging.  Our moisturizer bottles were suddenly completely unavailable at the start of the year, which forced us into a hunt for new bottles and pumps.  It was that hunt and what we found that brought up a whole new set of questions and problems. 

There is very little as agonizing or important as the hunt for the right packaging, as many cosmetic industry folks can vouch.  The "right" packaging can make or break the branding and sales of your product.  Not only that but you need it to do essential things like protect your product and dispense it properly.  It seems so simple, right?  Fundamentally it's a bottle and a cap.  The human race is currently building atomic super colliders and dark matter research facilities that are something like a mile underground.  If we can master technology like that then a simple bottle and cap should be no problem.  

Sadly that assumption proves to be false, at least according to years of my own experience and my current situation.  I don't know if it's just the industry?  Maybe those inclined to spend their time designing cosmetic pumps ended up there because their work wasn't quite up to par for the dark matter research equipment.  One would hope the volume of items produced would feed into a desire for quality construction, though.  Based on the packaging woes I've heard from other smaller companies problems with containers and closures are all too common, causing us a few more worry lines in our faces every time something goes wrong.  (Thank goodness we have good skincare accessible to offset this!)

As a smaller manufacturer we don't have the same purchasing options as, say, the Estee Lauder company or even medium size manufacturers.  Large cosmetic companies can contract directly with packaging suppliers, have their own parts designed for them, and control the entire process.  It doesn't work anything like this when you're a little guy.

Packaging components direct from the manufacturing facilities are sold at minimum increments of 10,000 or more.  And I think you'd be getting lucky to convince them to make that few.  Usually it's 25,000 pieces and up.  For glass bottles it's even more if you want to commission a certain shape and size.  That's just not even close to possible for a company like us.  We're then stuck with buying the items that manufacturers choose to make and sell to the open market in smaller increments.  The amount of choices available narrows considerably with this purchasing plan.

Often what we find at a wide variety of sellers is repeats of what the other guys might have.  Sometimes what is affordable and accessible really narrows down to perhaps a maximum of 5 bottle and closure options.  Sometimes less.

We loved our previous pumps and would never have switched but we had to.  They were a great design, worked perfectly, and had never given us a problem.  But they were no longer available except for direct orders in massive quantities with a 40 week wait.  Um, no, not going to work.

We were pretty thrilled when we found a reasonably priced and unique looking combination from a single supplier.  They looked nice together and were different from what would be available through the really small distributors - the stuff that everyone small has.  It's incredibly difficult to find a unique brand look when you're all stuck with the same handful of options.  We were happy we had seemingly done it.

Some time later we ran our first bottling of product into the new container/pump combination.  We did about 100.  At first everything seemed great, but then a few days in as I was fiddling with them and the new label designs I noticed the pumps weren't staying screwed on.  The slightest friction was causing them to come loose and no matter how hard we tightened them they came back off.


We contacted the company to ask what might be going on.  This is where things get really interesting.

For years now we have used steam as a way to clean our closures prior to putting them into the final product.  It's ecological, non toxic, and best of all nearly free.  Our containers we usually use dry heat to clean, not unlike what people do before canning produce.  Our products have a natural preservative in them but we don't like to take chances.  A clean container and closure ensure less chance of contaminating our products.  In addition it ensures that if there is ever a problem we can reasonably say that it came from our production process or some factor other than trace contaminants on the packaging.  

We have always assumed that this was a pretty standard practice, especially as companies would get larger and liabilities would get more imposing if something went wrong.  I've seen videos of bottling operations at food facilities and containers are washed prior to use.  Why wouldn't the cosmetic industry do the same thing?

It's also true that some plastics can deform with heat.  We couldn't see a visual deformation of the pumps that were now slipping but it was only after steaming that the problem developed.  I approached them and asked them if they had any other thoughts for us on how we could cleanse them prior to use.

The answer that came back made me laugh out loud at the absurdity of it all.

"Steaming is not an acceptable procedure.  Our components will suffer uncontrolled deformation that will affect their functionality.  The only process that can be applied without consequences is gamma rays treatment."

Did you catch that?  They just said GAMMA RAYS were the only way to clean these components.  Say what?  Frank was quick to bring up that Gamma Rays are fabled to have turned Bruce Banner into the Incredible Hulk. (According to science that, by the way, would not happen - he'd have been dead which you can read up on the Incredible Hulking Reality on LiveScience here.)  While we're big on being green let's just say we never thought about being that particular kind of green!

This prompted a flurry of alarmed and astounded emails back and forth.  While I had been ready to find an alternate way to clean the components I was definitely surprised by the answer that came back.  I started trying to imagine how on earth we would ever be able to perform a process like this at our studio, how expensive the equipment would be, and finally leading to that I would absolutely NOT consider having such a thing around myself or my family.  Not to mention what my clients would think, and I was sure the response would be as negative as my own.

I asked how on earth we were supposed to conduct such a procedure.  They replied that normally the items are sent to a facility that specializes in Gamma Ray sterilization and sent back once clean.  That was definitely not going to work for our production process either since we purchase and work in small batches.

As I started to look into the Gamma Ray sterilization process I realized that I had indeed heard of it before but under a different name.  Irradiation.  So what would we do? 
Til then stay green, just not A La Incredible Hulk.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012 in , , ,

One to Grow On - Organic Gardens + Giving




Right now you can help Blissoma grow something organic and good.




How, you ask? You might be sitting there in your pajamas, or in your latest sustainable fashion or thrift store score, or maybe a suit, or even your skivvies. Maybe you don't like to get dirty. Maybe you live in the middle of a concrete jungle with not a shovel in sight.

No worries, we'll do the digging.

If you've been with us since last year you might have seen that Blissoma is spearheading the start of a community garden on the 1400 block of Bremen Ave. in St. Louis, MO. The lot is just across the alley from our studio building. When we bought the building we had dreams of gardens, but were pigeonholed into purchasing a building that had minimal yard and building all around. Fate took care of that for us when the city-owned row houses across the alley from us were demolished. Photos of the buildings and their demolition are included in our initial garden post that you can read to catch up.

Over the last 1 1/2 years we have broken ground on more than 40'x40' of this massive lot. It's not easy work. As a former building site we have bricks and clay to contend with. To generate a safe and fertile bed for our plants we have hauled in more than 8 city dump trucks worth of compost, manure, and new soil materials. With them we have built what is essentially a giant raised bed for the plants.
This year we hope to triple the amount of cultivated land. We want to get big and we want to get big fast. To save the land from developers in future years we need to put down our footprint large and in charge. We hope to show our alderman and everyone in the area how a garden can change their quality of life.

It's a big lot - the size of 4 row houses. Here you can see the center of the lot where we put in a circular flower bed for last summer.
We are gearing up to try to cultivate most of the lot - at least as much as we can get to this year. It's rather magical turning weeds and bricks into flowers and food. Our hope is that the plot can be a teaching tool for local residents and a source of clean food, healthy activity, fun, and neighborhood beauty in a place that sorely needs it.
We're not alone here in St. Louis doing this growing thing. In fact some of the folks that inspire us most are working just over in Ferguson, MO.

Earthdance is a nonprofit founded by my friend Molly Rockamann. Molly had a big vision to save a 100+ year old organic farm in Ferguson from imminent development. The farm wasn't being used and the family owner was in her 90s. No one was cultivating the land and it broke her heart to think of such clean, fertile soil being graded for just another housing development.

Molly stepped in and created a nonprofit that would work the land and teach organic farming skills to others. She's our inspiration and the agricultural instigator for dozens of "Farmies" now. Each year a new group of apprentices heads to the farm to be taught how to plant and maintain crops sustainably. Those Farmies then head out into the wide world to spread organic skills wherever they go. Approximately 30 Farmies are working Earthdance this year. They're bringing sustainable produce to farmers markets, a small CSA, and local stores and eateries. More importantly they're "growing" the future of organic farming.

Molly brings people together to work and to play. With Earthdance the phrase FARMS stands for Food, Art, Relationships and Music - Sustainably. Life revolves around their plants. Earthdance folks love a good song and some good greens - and sometimes songs about greens!

To support Earthdance and our community garden we're hosting One to Grow On now through 5/31/12. Every purchase on our home website http://www.iriestar.com will contribute to One to Grow On.

For every $10 spent on our website for the program's duration we will give:
$1 toward supplies to grow our Blissoma sponsored community garden
$1 toward Earthdance nonprofit organic farming programs
$1 back to you

This means that 20% of our gross website sales for more than a month and a half will be going to directly support the expansion of organic farming in our local community. You'll save 10% off your order total for yourself as long as your order totals more than $10.

No coupon code is needed. In fact you don't need to do anything special to contribute. Just show up, buy what you love from us, and your purchase contributes to the giving fund. All products on our website are included - even gift certificates. New customers and returning customers all pitch into the pot so tell your friends. Their purchase helps too.

For promotion we are partnering with our wonderful friends at Eco-Emi, the original green sample box program. We'll announce more fun with them in coming days. Incidentally Eco-Emi is another St. Louis based eco-friendly operation, so we've got triple the environmental and organic goodness all packed into one great event.

Giving to our community, giving to the earth, and giving to our customers - that's just how we do here at Blissoma. We hope you'll help. If you want to help plant more organic seeds here in St. Louis this year tell your friends and help us make One to Grow On a resounding success.Shop for Blissoma products and support One to Grow On
Check out the Earthdance Facebook Page
Visit the Earthdance Website
Learn about our promotional partner Eco-Emi and their sample boxes
Connect with Eco-Emi's Facebook Page


Thursday, March 15, 2012 in , , ,

Blissoma Skincare is now Certified Vegan


VEGAN SKINCARE
Blissoma's facial skincare collection is now entirely Vegan.


Previously the only thing preventing our line from being Vegan was the Lactoperoxidase enzyme used as part of our preservation blend. It was natural, but milk-derived. Based on new ingredients introduced into the natural skincare world we have been able to update our recipes to another natural and vegan blend. After 3 years and a great deal of reformulation and testing we are proud to introduce our updated recipes.

Products affected are:
Awake Morning Facial Moisture
Peace Evening Facial Creme
Lift Intelligent Energy Creme
Smooth A+ Moisture Serum
Refine Clay Renewal Treatment
Amend Antioxidant Lotion
Fresh Mild Rice Cleanser changed to the new preservation system last fall.


The system consists of several components. One is Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate which is an isolated peptide produced by the bacteria that ferments Kimchii. Pretty cool! The second component used is an Aspen Bark Extract which is a rich source of antimicrobial Salicylates, much like willow bark extracts. We have also added Gluconolactone, which produces gluconic acid that helps acidify and assist the other two extracts.

This means our entire facial care range is now Vegan as well as still being one of the cleanest, most active and results oriented natural skincare lines available. We have applied for the Certified Vegan seal with Vegan.org and will update everyone when we hear more back from them.

Peace and Lift have also had several other tweaks to their formulas.
We have REMOVED the vitamin ACE peptide blend we were previously using based on client concerns about the safety of Retinyl Palmitate. We believe the evidence surrounding this ingredient is still developing, and are not taking any particular position about it's relative safety other than that at the time we included it in our original formulations the data we had on hand suggested that it was a safe and nonirritating form of Vitamin A. Until further research comes out we have discontinued its use in both these products and will not use it in upcoming formulations. We believe strongly in evidence and not hype. We also want to provide you safe products.

Instead of the vitamin ACE peptide combination you'll see Tocopherol and Tocopheryl Acetate in both of these recipes now, which are both forms of Vitamin E. Our mixed Tocopherols come from non GMO soy source. Tocopheryl Acetate is a stabilized vitamin E created by reacting Tocopherols with Acetic acid (the same acid as in vinegar). Both contribute to antioxidant activity and topical benefits.

We will be planning new formulas that will include Vitamin C as a key active. No suitable replacement was available that would have kept our current moisturizer formulations at the same price. As we use unrefined, nutrient rich oils and botanicals as the base for all our products you are already getting a wide profile of naturally occurring vitamins and we expect you will notice no significant difference in product performance.

Lift has also had an update to the herb blend. Organic Nettles have been substituted for the seaweeds in this formula to give the product a cleaner lavender aroma. The Organic Evening Primrose and Organic Grapeseed Oils have been boosted in concentration as well to increase the product's suitability for dry skin types. We think you'll love these changes.

Below are the updated ingredients lists for all the affected products. We can't wait to finally share them with the Vegan community.


PRODUCT: Awake Morning Facial Moisture –
Infusion of Melissa officinalis* (lemon balm), Euphrasia officinalis* (eyebright), Avena sativa* (oatstraw), Rosa damascena* and Equisetum arvense* (horsetail), Aloe barbadensis Juice*, Hamamelis virginiana* (witch hazel), Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Cetearyl Wheat Straw Glycosides and Cetearyl Alcohol, Niacinamide, Cocos nucifera (coconut) Oil*, Glyceryl Stearate, Gluconolactone, Calophyllum tacamahaca (tamanu) Oil*, Vaccinium macropacrpon (cranberry) Seed Oil*, Rubus ideaus (red raspberry) Seed Oil*, Cannabis sativa (hemp) Seed Oil*, Calluna vulgaris* (heather flowers) Extract*, Soy Lecithin*, Essential Oils of Juniperus communis (juniper), Cymbopogon martinii (palmarosa), Canarium luzonicum (elemi), Achillea millefolia (blue yarrow), and Citrus bergamia, Rosemary Oleoresin Extract, Populus Tremuloides (Aspen) Bark Extract, Jasminum grandiflorum (jasmine) Extract*, Xanthan Gum, Grain Alcohol*, Chlorophyllin, limonene**, geraniol**, linalool**

PRODUCT: Peace Evening Facial Crème –
Infusion of Rhodymenia palmata* (dulse seaweed), Porphyra umbilicalis* (nori seaweed), Plantago major* (plantain), Taraxacum officinale* (dandelion), Lavendula angustifolia*, Water, Butyrospermum parkii (shea) Butter*, Glyceryl Stearate and Cetearyl Alcohol and Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Cucurbita pepo (pumpkin) Seed Oil*, Cocos nucifera (coconut) Oil*, Extracts of Symphytum officinale* (comfrey) and Ginkgo Biloba*, Gluconolactone, Soy Lecithin*, Cannabis sativa (hemp) Seed Oil*, Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E), Euterpe oleracea (acai) Oil, Essential Oils of Lavandula angustifolia, Cymbopogon martinii (palmarosa), Canarium luzonicum (elemi), Boswellia carterii (frankincense), Vetiveria zizandoides (vetiver), and Achillea millefolia* (blue yarrow), Matricaria chamomilla (german chamomile) CO2 Extract, Populus Tremuloides (Aspen) Bark Extract, Xanthan Gum, Rosemary Oleoresin Extract, Tocopherol (vitamin E), Chlorophyllin, Grain Alcohol*, linalool**, geraniol**, limonene** 
 

PRODUCT: Lift Intelligent Energy Crème –
Infusion of Euphrasia officinalis* (eyebright), Ruscus aculeatus* (butcher’s broom), Urtica Dioica* (nettle), and Aspalathus linearis* (rooibos), Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Glucoside, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Niacinamide, Vitis Vinifera (grapeseed) Oil*, Rosa rubiginosa (rosehip) Oil*, Vaccinium macropacrpon (cranberry) Seed Oil*, Oenothera biennis (evening primrose) Oil*, Extracts of Grifola frondosa* (maitake mushroom), Gingko biloba*, and Calendula officinalis*, Grain Alcohol*, Tilia europaea* (linden) extract, Soy Lecithin*, Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) Oil*, Extracts of Eleuthercoccus senticosus* (eleuthero), Pueraria lobata* (kudzu), and Centella asiatica* (gotu kola), Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E), Gluconolactone, Resveratrol, Proanthocyanidins, Populus Tremuloides (aspen) Bark Extract, Tocopherol (vitamin E), Xanthan Gum, Essential Oil of Lavandula angustifolia, Rosemary Oleoresin Extract, linalool**


PRODUCT: Smooth A+ Moisture Serum –
Infusion of Coriandrum sativum* (coriander), Achillea millefolium* (yarrow), Solidago virgaurea* (goldenrod), Foeniculum vulgare* (fennel), Rosa damascena* (roses), and Taraxacum officinale* (dandelion), Aloe barbadensis (aloe) Juice*, Cetearyl Alcohol and Cetearyl Glucoside, Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel), Niacinamide, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Daucus carota (carrot) Juice*, Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) Oil*, Extracts of Olea Europaea* (olive leaf), Gluconolactone, Lonicera japonica* (honeysuckle), Glycyrrhiza glabra* (licorice), and Calluna vulgaris* (heather flowers), Essential Oils of Citrus bergamia (bergamot) FCF, Boswellia carterii (frankincense), and Rosa damascena (rose otto), CO2 Extracts of Daucus carota (helio-carrot) and Matricaria chamomilla (german chamomile), Populus Tremuloides (aspen) Bark Extract, Xanthan Gum, Grain Alcohol*, citronellol**, geraniol**, linalool**, limonene**


PRODUCT: Refine Clay Renewal Treatment –
Infusion of Foeniculum vulgare* (fennel), Stellaria media* (chickweed), Lavandula angustifolia* (lavender), Rosa damascena* (roses), Porphyra umbilicalis* (nori seaweed), Ruscus aculeatus* (butcher’s broom), Rhassoul Clay, Apium graveolens (celery) Juice*, Cocos nucifera (coconut) Oil*, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Zinc Oxide*, Cannabis sativa* (hemp) Oil*, Vaccinium macropacrpon (cranberry) Seed Oil*, Rubus ideaus (red raspberry) Seed Oil*, Extracts of Glycyrrhiza glabra* (licorice), Symphytum officinale* (comfrey), and Salix alba* (willowbark), Populus Tremuloides (Aspen) Bark Extract, Gluconolactone, Cetearyl Alcohol and Cetearyl Glucoside, Extracts of Olea europaea* (olive leaf), Echinacea purpurea*, and Caldendula officinalis*, Essential Oils of Litsea cubeba, Commiphora myrrha, Pelargonium roseum (rose geranium), Citrus reticulata (mandarin), Lavandula angustifolia, Pogostemon cablin (patchouli), Coriandrum sativum (coriander), Cedrus atlantica (cedarwood), Grain Alcohol*, Rosemary Oleoresin Extract citral**, xanthan gum, limonene**, citronellol**, geraniol**, linalool**

PRODUCT: Amend Antioxidant Sprayable Lotion –
Infusion of Aspalathus linearis* (rooibos) and Taraxacum officinale* (dandelion), Aloe barbadensis Juice*, Water, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Cocos nucifera (coconut) Oil*, Cetearyl Wheat Straw Glycosides and Cetearyl Alcohol, Calophyllum tacamahaca (tamanu) Oil*, Glyceryl Stearate, Extracts of Tilia europaea* (linden) and Symphytum officinale* (comfrey), Gluconolactone, Soy Lecithin*, Euterpe oleracea (acai) Oil, Calluna vulgaris* (heather flowers) Extract*, Punica granatum (pomegranate) Extract, Essential Oils of Pelargonium roseum (rose geranium), Mentha spicata (spearmint), and Citrus aurantifolia (lime), Populus Tremuloides (Aspen) Bark Extract, Xanthan Gum, Grain Alcohol*, citronellol**, geraniol**, linalool**, limonene**, citral**

PRODUCT: Fresh Mild Rice Cleanser –
Infusion of Althea officinalis* (marshmallow), Stellaria media* (chickweed), Plantago major* (plantain), Rosa damascena*, Arthemis nobilis* (chamomile), Glycerin*, Helianthus annuus (sunflower) Oil*, Oryza sativa* (brown rice), Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Cocos nucifera (coconut) Oil*, Prunus armeniaca (apricot) kernal Oil*, Glyceryl Stearate, Salix alba* (willowbark) extract, Cannabis sativa (hemp) Oil*, Cetearyl Alcohol, Gluconolactone, Echinacea purpurea Extract*, Essential Oils of Lavandula angustifolia, Litsea Cubeba, Cymbopogon martini (palmarosa), Canarium luzonicum (elemi), Boswellia carterii (frankincense), Vetiveria zizandoides (vetiver), Xanthan Gum, Rosemary Oleoresin Extract, Grain Alcohol*+, linalool**, geraniol**, limonene**, citral**


Wednesday, February 8, 2012 in , , ,

Consult the Herbal Chemist - Acne Rescue Au Natural Part 3

Today is the final installment in my holistic, healthful, and natural suggestions for acne treatment. Have you been keeping up with Part 1, Part 2, and our article on the link between stress and skin problems? If you have you're armed with a few new ideas to try.

On to step 4 to help you prevent and manage acne...
4. Moisturize and spot treat with something soothing and anti-inflammatory - not drying!!

Here's an important premise even people with acne should remember.


Hydration makes skin happy.



With all the products out there to "dry" pimples or that are astringents a lot of overzealous, concerned folks will overtreat and irritate their skin. It's easy to do. Most marketing revolves around oil being blamed as the source of your problem, but as we've discussed it can be interior triggers like hormones, stress, and the foods you eat. Oil isn't always the culprit.
Acne is an inflamed situation - the pimple itself is swollen, aggravated, and painful. What it needs more than anything is soothing.

One of my primary gripes with Benzoyl Peroxide is that while it can kill acne bacteria it can also really dry and irritate the skin on the pimple and in the immediate surrounding area. So then you've taken a bad situation and made it worse with more irritation to repair. Double whammy! If you can fight bacteria and calm at the same time you'll be in much better shape. Keep your skin supple, hydrated, and calm so it can concentrate on defending itself from bacteria.


Your skin is intelligent and responsive to its environment and what you apply to it. If you are drying, drying, drying your skin your skin will begin to think that it is oil deficient and respond by producing even more oil.

So what about oil-free moisturizers? It seems like a good deal - theoretically you are getting moisturization without excess oil. You should be aware that many creams marketed as oil-free contain highly synthetic emollients, penetrants, and softening agents like this
Oil Free Moisturizer from Alba which contains dimethicone, a silicone which would coat your skin instead of soaking in, and octyl palmitate, a synthetic ester produced from palmitic acid from palm oil that has a silicone-like feel. Octyl palmitate rates a 4 out of 5 as a comedogenic ingredient. Comedogenic means pore-clogging.

What on earth are these formulators doing using coating, clogging ingredients when they know that the people most likely to purchase an oil-free product generally have acne problems!?!?! Please for the love of pete skip using this product or its ugly stepsisters that abound all through your local drug and grocery stores. (And really skip the whole Alba brand, which is the pits in terms of actual natural quality and to which I and numerous others I know have had pronounced allergic reactions). In addition to pore clogging synthetics and silicones you're also getting synthetic fragrance and the most watered-down, fake botanical extracts you could ever find in a product. The part that really hurts is that this product might set you back anywhere from $13 to $30. For that much you can have a really good quality, clean natural product that won't cause you even more problems. Keep moving and save your precious funds for something truly beneficial.


"Oil-free" moisturizers are one of the dirty little secrets of the mass market skincare world. The way they are constructed and marketed is closely akin to how the food industry created low-fat foods by taking out the fat and pumping in a whole lot of artificial thickeners and sugars to replace the mouthy feel and flavor in products.
A low fat cookie is no healthier for you - nearly the same calories, no vitamins, no fiber, and loads of flavoring agents and texturizers. But through the magic of marketing they can smack LOW FAT or FAT FREE on the packaging and people feel like they can eat the whole box. Oil-free moisturizers are the Snackwells of the skincare world. It's all slick sales and not actually good for you.

There's just no reason to use a bunch of synthetic replacements when real, nutrient rich, botanical oils are GOOD for your skin in the right amounts and also don't clog pores. Plus they come with anti-aging benefits as a hefty bonus. Sorry, Octyl Palmitate and Dimethicone, you can't claim anything close to that.

Choices for Oil-Rich and Acne Prone Complexions

1. An Aloe gel or herbal serum like
Dr. Alkaitis Organic Herbal Toner.

The consistency of this lovely product is just perfect. A base of real Aloe Vera and a host of regenerative herbs are a perfect treat to feed and heal. It isn't sticky and though it says "toner" in the title an oily complexion could easily use this product alone to hydrate or in combination with other products. It's amazing and is probably one of my favorite aloe based products I have ever used other than my own line.

Aloe Vera has polysaccharides and glycoproteins that short circuit inflammation, moisturize, and stimulate growth and repair. There's nothing about that your skin won't love.

DON'T just get any old "aloe gel" product from your local drugstore. Most commercial aloe gels are a faked mixture of aloe's polysaccharide components and not even from the actual plant. They're full of synthetic carbomers, colorants, and preservatives. That is a tragic representation of real aloe juice. To assure you're getting the real thing stick to certified organic aloe. The certification assures traceability back to the field. There's so much organic aloe being grown as well that there is no reason a company shouldn't be using it except to cut costs and potentially shortchange you in the bargain.


If you don't have or don't want to invest the dollars in a higher end treatment the best advice is to get a nice hefty aloe plant. Break off a leaf and squeeze every time you want to soothe. Voila! On-demand juice that will leave your face perfectly moist and nourished every time. I have 3 aloe plants for just such purposes.
2. Organic Jojoba Oil (with or without a little essential oil)For a simple, affordable moisturizer try Organic Jojoba Oil, and add 3 drops of your choice of essential oil per each oz for added benefit. Organic Jojoba isn't actually a triglyceride oil, it's a liquid wax. It is highly absorbent and similar to skin's sebum structure, making it perfectly compatible with skin. The addition of essential oil discourages bacterial growth. It's readily available through your local health food store or many online beauty resources and very shelf stable, meaning it won't go rancid quickly. Using a small amount of jojoba can condition your skin and help manage sebum production.

3. Lightweight, Balancing MoisturizersInstead of Oil-free try a lightweight moisturizer that contains small amounts of absorbent, nutrient-rich, plant oils. Oils like argan, pumpkin seed, fruit seed oils like grapeseed, blueberry, red raspberry, and cranberry, and exotic lightweight oils like perilla seed oil pack antioxidants, sterols, and vitamins as well as absorbancy. A small amount won't overdo you.

Can you actually use a straight facial oil other than just jojoba? The answer is yes depending on the oil blend. Just put a little on your fingertips and pat the residue onto the face. Botanical oils often contain anti-inflammatory compounds that will do your irritations a world of good.

For a budget friendly cream moisturizer maybe something like Logona's Clear Skin Moisture Fluid would fit the bill for you. Or perhaps you'll enjoy something from their similarly BDIH Natural Cosmetic certified twin Lavera - their Young Faces Mint Moisturizing Fluid?

Both these products use more neutral oils for their bases but the texture is lovely and European BDIH certification ensures that you're getting a truly natural product that is tested and certified to a strict standard. If you can't go organic then BDIH is a great seal to look for.

4. NiacinamideNiacinamide is Vitamin B3 recommended by natural dermatologists for anti-acne benefits. Read more about Niacinamide in this Livestrong.com article. A 1995 study showed that a 4% Niacinamide product had results better than Clindamycin, an antiobiotic. It's benefits include moderating oil production, building collagen, evening coloration, and helping skin retain hydration so you don't end up dry in the middle of the day. It's a winning ingredient all around for fighting acne problems. And yes, I feature Niacinamide in numerous Blissoma moisturizers including Smooth A+ Serum which contains the recommended 4%.

5. HerbsWillowbark for exfoliation, Chamomile, Comfrey, and Calendula for calming, Yarrow for astringency, Fennel to deter bacteria, Gotu Kola, Echinacea, Licorice, and many more.

As with anything the quality of the herbs matters.
You can get your herbs as extracts in the skincare products you purchase or get loose herbs to make your own infusion for a compress. For a compress dip a clean washcloth in a strong infusion of herbs and water and press it gently to your problem areas. Dip and press again when the washcloth cools.

6. MasksIt's great to have something to apply directly to your problem areas or as a deep cleaning, proactive treatment. A weekly mask is your best answer for a regular routine. Choose something that will offer you a boost and variety of nutrition, perhaps at higher levels than what you use daily.


Clays are one of the top choices for oil management, pore cleansing, and overall detoxification. There are a lot of clay mask choices in the naturals community available so experiment and try a few so you can decide what works best for your skin. Some come dry and some come wet. For a preblended dry clay you could try this mask from Anne Marie Gianni Skincare, another Fig+Sage endorsed natural skincare brand also endorsed glowingly by the Glamorganic Goddess. For a wet, creamy, premixed clay mask check out our Refine Clay Renewal Treatment. You can also purchase just straight Kaolin, Pink, Green, or other types of clays and mix them with water for your own DIY mask. Leave a dot of clay mixture directly on a pimple overnight to shrink it.


Acid masks and peels are popular for exfoliation and these can be fine used in moderation. If you use them keep it to once a week. Most use fruit acids, glycolic, or lactic acids. Overuse of these can irritate skin so take it easy. Beta-Hydroxy acids like the natural salicylates found in Willow Bark are also a great choice and can be less irritating for some people.


Other DIY mask ideas:

- Mash a Mango and Papaya together and apply to the face. Papaya contains the enzyme papain that will dissolve dead skin cells and exfoliate for you.


- Apply raw honey to the face, let sit 15 minutes, and then wash off. Honey is moisturizing and has natural antibacterial qualities. Purchase a certified organic, raw, unrefined honey for full benefits or at the very least something from a local farm. Why? Because in recent food testing it was found
that most honey at your grocery store may not really be honey at all. Lack of pollen content in highly refined "honeys" means there is no way to verify that it is truly honey. Local honeys by small family farms all had pollen content, and certified organics will be traceable. Considering this information you might want to change the honey you're eating too!

- Use organic, full fat, unflavored Yogurt to deep condition and provide a burst of pro-biotics. Make sure you get organic and unflavored as mass market fruit yogurts mostly contain a lot of sugar, flavorings, artificial color, and preservatives.


- Try this recipe for a Chocolate/Avocado/Honey/Green Tea/Oatmeal mask.

- A Cucumber/Yogurt/Clay mask might be to your liking and this recipe from The Herb Companion will tell you just how to do it.

- Steam your face with herbs for deep pore cleansing, detox, and toning. Use the Chamomile, Peppermint, Rooibos, and Green teas already in your cabinet at home for a
steam experience using these directions.

There are so many ways to treat your acne-prone skin to botanicals that will help fortify you to fight your inflammations and come out victorious. Treating acne problems holistically looks for the root of the problem in order to provide a long term, safe, and sustainable solution.
The best thing is that most changes you can make as part of your holistic acne transformation will benefit your total health as well. There's nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Get to it! We want to see those pretty skin pictures....



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