Skin Care Product Review: Beautycounter

If you are familiar with some of my past blog posts, you know that I take great caution in what I put on my skin.  In my post about parabens in our skin care products, I only merely scratched the surface when talking about just some of the toxic ingredients we put on ourselves every single day.   We are exposed to thousands throughout the course of a day thinking we’re doing something as simple as moisturizing!  I’m always on the lookout for products that deliver the full package: clean, organic, effective, and safe.


You can imagine my excitement levels when I met a girl, Sydney, at the gym who introduced me to a clean line of beauty and skin care products I’d never heard of, Beautycounter.  I was very interested in learning more about them by what she was describing to me (completely non-toxic), and the miracle it worked on her skin.  When I got home I looked them up and read the founder of Beautycounter, Gregg Renfrew’s, story which really resonated with me.  She described the motives behind her starting the company last March, after watching “An Inconvenient Truth”.  That was a real eye-opener for her to begin removing so many of the toxic chemicals that we have in our life each day without even thinking about it.  Skin care was no different.  And unfortunately, here in the US, there’s little to no regulation on the ingredients that enter the products we use so often.  For instance, the EU has banned 1,300 chemicals used as ingredients in beauty products while we have banned all of 11!  Every one of Beautycounter’s ingredients is listed on their label, which is not even a requirement by law. When I referenced the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in my post on parabens, I emphasized the importance of their toxicity level ranking system–and all of Beautycounter’s products are a 0, 1, or 2 on the scale.  Anything 2 or under is considered non-toxic and safe.

Routine Clean, Beautycounter

So, I decided to try out BeautyCounter for myself since it sounded pretty amazing.  I was looking for a new face wash anyway–perfect timing.  The first product I tried out was “Routine Clean” cream cleanser.  I love that on their label it doesn’t even say “ingredients” before it lists them—it reads “transparency”.  Clever.  And the packaging is as clean as their products, a minimalist approach. When trying out the face cleanser, I found I only needed a small amount and I really liked the way it felt on my skin.  My face was very clean after a little application and a few rinses with warm water.  Any and all reminisces of makeup I had on that day vanished.   I’m a fan!

hydrate cleanser, beautycounter

I went on to test out two more: their “Hydrate” everyday body lotion, and the perfect match with it, the “Lustro” body oil.  The two combined made me skin so soft and, well, hydrated.  Because they use pure essential oils in their products, the scent is subtle and clean smelling.  I don’t like anything that’s overpowering (both because I am sensitive to them and tend not to like many of scents anyway), so these are perfect.  The Lustro body oil scent I ordered was jasmine, but again, subtle.

lustro body oil


I will definitely be expanding my Beautycounter line at home since these were a success!  I like knowing I’m supporting my own health and safety, and supporting companies that care about the same.  If you would like to order some Beautycounter products of your own, you can find click here on Sydney’s website where you will find the entire range of products they offer.  She also posts product info and promos on her Instagram site @balancing_pretty. 🙂

Sweet-Curbing Antioxidant Rich Drink

Dear Leah Renee, 

I get a sweet tooth at night and more than anything want something comforting and yummy.  I usually go for a piece of candy or chocolate.  Any suggestions? ~Fiona, Aus.

Me too!  I’ve seen and heard of many ways to curb a craving.  Go take a walk, breathe, have a glass of water, eat something bitter, have one of those food-like products that’s ‘sugar free’ or ‘fat free’ so you’re not having a ton of sugar or fat (not a fan!).  But really?  Late at night?  I highly doubt you’re going to jump out from under your blanket on the couch to go for a stroll (in which case you may just land at the local fro-yo shop anyway), nor are you going to pound back a glass of water for fear of getting up every hour of the night.  And lets not even entertain those other products!

My suggestion is one that I have and happen to personally love.  Here it is: 

almond milk turmeric drink


All you need is a few simple ingredients: 

  • 1 cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
  • 1 TB Ginger juice (if you don’t have a fresh batch of this handy, you can use some powdered ginger)
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

In a small saucepan on medium heat, warm up the unsweetened vanilla almond milk for 3-5 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir.  You don’t want to bring it to a boil in order to keep all the powers from the ginger juice, turmeric, and cinnamon.

If you’re not already adding some turmeric to your regimen, this is a great way to start!  Turmeric is a powerful spice full of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.  It contains curcumin, a phytonutrient which can rival prescription medications in its ability to reduce inflammation in the body.  The cinnamon helps to alleviate blood sugar spikes and will keep you feeling calm and restful through the night!


What’s your favorite way to curb a sweet tooth?

Healthy Overnight? Not Quite.

Dear Leah Renee, 

Do I need to be all-or-nothing with diets or can I make small changes?  I haven’t seen a lot of progress when I go all-or-nothing because I always end up right back where I started.  What gives? ~Nel, GA

It’s safe to say when someone is describing me, “very healthy” would likely going to be a part of their explanation.  People ask me all the time how I’m so healthy, why I’m so healthy, and let me tell you–it’s not overnight.  It takes dedication, interest, work, self control, and confidence.  Habits, tastes, preferences, friends, and commitment are progressive.  How often do we hear “I’ll start my diet when….”.  Is there ever really a perfect time?  What if your healthy practices are just you?  Then there’s never a good or bad time.

doesn't matter how slow you go quote

I wanted to write about this because I was just reflecting on how I used to eat. 10 years ago, even morning on my way to work, I had a chocolate peanut butter Zone Perfect Bar and washed it down with a non-fat sugar-free vanilla latte from the coffee shop.  Then I’d get into the office where one of the girls got McDonald’s on her way to work, and would offer me the beautiful, greasy hash-brown.  I usually accepted.  At this stage, I’ve already consumed over 500 calories, 36 grams of sugar, and a heap of GMO’s, hydrogenated oils, hydrolyzed protein, and aspartame.  And I typically ate another snack before lunch because, nutritionally, I was still hungry.  I’ll spare you the rest of the day–just know it followed suit.  I knew this wasn’t the best thing for me, but did not quite understand how bad any of them were.  I slowly made slight modifications, and felt and noticed small changes.

We have all heard someone say at some point, maybe even yourself, that diets don’t work.  There’s many reasons why, but one big reason is because we’re attempting to completely alter our eating habits overnight.  Eating is fun, it’s social, it’s comforting, and uplifting.  Oh, and it’s really really good.  But do you remember liking so many things as a kid that you couldn’t even imagine eating now?  Your palate has changed.  It did so gradually over a long period of time.  When we attempt to change our diet, and try introducing too many new things at once that we don’t enjoy, we are not going to want to keep that up for long.  Our palate is simply not used to them.  It’s not any of those things that food is supposed to be (fun, social, comforting, or uplifting).  Most of us like to be happy.  But wait, I’d be happy if I was thinner, but I’m not happy eating those foods that may get me there.  Sigh.  there is no love sincerer than the love of food

I promise, everyone likes foods that are healthy for them and can fill up on.  When you become used to having more of the foods you like and won’t add to your waistline, you’ll also have less room to fill it up with those foods and habits that will have a negative impact.  Routine is one of the biggest hurdles, because most of us are on automatic pilot.  We’re busy, consumed, and the rest sometimes is simply on default.

If you have tried endless diets, or simply want to make a change, just know that any progress is some progress.  Adding one glass of filtered water a day, having one less bite of a meal you know is more than enough, skipping dessert one night, trying out a new vegetable recipe, or making a smoothie instead of having some ice cream.  It all makes an impact.  The most motivating factors are when you yourself and feel and see a difference–no matter how small it is.  It’s a reminder that you’re doing something right, it’s working, and then you can add another new addition to your developing health regimen. It took me a very long time, but it was worth it.   Why I choose healthy? Here: 

no time for illness


A Month at a Glance

This past month has been amazing.  I feel so grateful for everything in my life.  I am learning, observing, seeking, doing, embracing, and loving.  Everything about health, nutrition, and wellness makes me feel so alive.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a casual discussion with a friend, or a more serious talk with someone who needs some assistance.  It could be simply spending an hour at a grocery store looking at labels, seeing new products, keeping up with my industry (yes, I do this, often).  It is the learning process I’m in at IIN, The Institute of Integrative Nutrition, where I’m studying to become a certified Health Coach.  Soon enough I will create my own personal practice to assist and guide others on their own health journey.  It’s networking with like-minded people, people that ‘get it’ because we think a lot alike and share the same love and have similar aspirations. In the past month I have focused more on my Instagram, and was even fortunate enough to make a couple friends who have a huge presence already on the popular social media site.


Cassandra Bodzak from Going Sweet and Skinny, a fellow IIN grad who resides in NYC, (and famous for her amazing, award winning, The Taste worthy vegan cupcakes) was coming to LA, so I reached out.  We found out we shared a mutual adoration for Cafe Gratitude (see my post here on my fave healthy LA eateries!), so that is where we met up.  It was so fun getting to learn about her journey, successes, and what she’s learned along the way.  The evening was inspiring and motivating!  Not to mention I didn’t feel so alone snapping the perfect pic of our food for our Insta accounts 😉 I look forward to the next time I visit New York so we can go to one of her favorite spots there!


Nikki Sharp

Nikki Sharp from Stay Sharp & Be Strong is another amazing, successful, girl who was a former international model and has an extremely large following on Instagram and creator an ever popular Detox eBook. I was happy she took the time to meet up with me at another favorite place of mine, True Food Kitchen.  Dr. Weil, one of the contributors to IIN who offers lectures for our curriculum, created the menu there. We had a great time and she offered me some good advice too.

whitney and me

Whitney and Me

This past Tuesday I went to an event put on by the fabulous Whitney English of To Live and Diet in LA.  The event was called “Vinyasa y Vino” where the first hour was a serious Vinyasa Yoga session lead by Jake Ferree.  He was awesome.  The second hour we got to mingle and meet the other attendees, many other bloggers like myself.  The girl I chatted with the most was Julie, blogger of Julie Goes Healthy, who resides in Orange County and has an incredible story on her own path to a happy, healthy life.  And, of course, I got to meet the lovely hostess and birthday girl, Whitney.  Whitney is an inspiration; an over-achiever with a dynamic personality.  You should check out her website (above).  I love it.  We also were sent home with a gift bag stuffed with goodies. Luvo Inc. was also so kind to give me a little cooler filled with 4 frozen, low calorie, healthy meals.  Thanks, Luvo!


The “Swag Bag”

I will be writing more about my schooling at IIN soon.  So far, it has been a fantastic journey, and I can’t wait to see what else the future holds!

Keepin’ It Simple

Dear Leah Renee, 

There are so many diets out there and I’m sick of them.  I don’t know what else to say!  Help! Thanks. ~Barbara, NM

Diet?  No!  Who wants to do that?!  Want to know a secret?  Eating foods that are naturally good for you, and good to eat should be what your “diet” consists of.  Diet by definition is  “food and drink considered in terms of its qualities, composition, and its effects on health“.  If we exist, so does our diet, but we don’t have to look at it in terms of restrictions or define ourselves by what we do or do not eat.  It’s quite simple: if it grew from the ground, came from a tree, an animal (if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan) and was not processed with a bunch of chemicals, it’s a good food to eat.



So why did this get complicated or somehow lost in translation?  Because we were given so many options.  It’s not so simple anymore!  Endless options make it tough to choose.  Have you ever gone to a buffet or salad bar and seen all the different foods you could choose from and feel overwhelmed?  Did you end up filling up on more than you normally would?  Yeah, me too.  That’s the problem.  Our grocery stores are HUGE.  Each section of each aisle is packed with variations of products only differing slightly from the next, but promising so much more.  I don’t care if it’s beans, hot sauce, eggs, or milk!  There are SO MANY TO CHOOSE FROM!  This seems to go for the shampoo aisle too.  And toothpaste.  Bottom line–keep it basic.  Know what you like, know what’s good for you.  You know if it’s not good for you.  Some things are trickier, sure.  Labels lie and packages are deceiving–but if you’re buying the bulk of your items NOT in packaging a.k.a. around the parameter of the grocery store–you’re doing well.  That’s where the basics are stocked–all around the outer portion of the store: produce, meats, fish, breads, dairy.

Our grandparents didn’t really have this problem.  That’s because they didn’t have so much to choose from!  Nor did they have ads on television (or maybe a television at all) showing us how good that greasy burger and fries look or how the chips full of chemicals will truly satisfy your hunger.  They also cooked at home a lot more which meant less salt, sugar, and ingredients all together.  It meant more nutrients, herbs, and beneficial spices.


One of the great parts about sticking to the basics is that when you do decide to have something at a party, go out with your friends on the weekend, indulge a little, it’s not going to make a big dent. When you’re eating and living well 90% of the time, 10% is not going to do anything than make you feel even more happy and alive. 🙂


Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, Update #3

Warning!  This material is personal and if you enjoy this blog for health info and recipes, please skip this post!  This is update number three on my journey to get my cycle back so I can have a happy, healthy pregnancy.  In other words, it may be entirely TMI 😉 

It has been 8 weeks now since I began acupuncture treatments to treat my diagnosis of hypothalamic amenorrhea.  Amenorrhea is simply means the absence of menstruation.  You can read more about post one and two here and here. In the 8 weeks I have been getting acupuncture twice a week, taking a custom made herb formula two to three times a day, and sticking to a more fertility-friendly diet, specifically inspired by TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine).  Lots of black and dark colored foods (black rice, blackberries, blueberries, beets, kidney beans, black beans), meat (medium rare grassfed hamburgers, organic turkey, organic chicken), grass-fed eggs, and warm, cooked vegetables (since I run cold).  I also incorporated a Vitex supplement in the mix and taking more yoga. But guess what?  After 6 weeks I felt the need to do more.  I don’t know about you, but if something isn’t happening the way I want it to (in this case getting a period), I have to keep moving.  I by no means want to stop doing any of the above, but I decided I wanted to integrate other methods, and/or at least find out more about my current condition to not only educate myself on what is going on with my body, but potentially further this process along.  I never said I was patient.  😉

I researched doctors and fertility clinics in my area, and called one I thought seemed like a good fit.  I made sure it wasn’t a hard-core fertility clinic, by that I mean get right down to baby business.  My first priority is finding out what’s going on with ME.  I don’t want to just jump into something and put my baby at risk since my body is clearly not functioning optimally (in this way) on its own.

Last week I went to the clinic and met with the doctor.  She’s awesome.  I felt very comfortable sitting in her very well decorated office not only because she was pleasant and sincere, but went through this herself.  She now has an adorable two year old of her own.  It’s nice to know that the person I’ll be working so closely with GETS IT and can relate to what I’m going through.  I had an ultrasound after we chatted to check my ovary’s, uterus, and my antral follicle count (to see my egg supply).  Everything looked good there!  After that was done I had my blood drawn to test for prolactin levels, TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone), FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), Estrodial, and LH (Luteinizing Hormone).  My doctor called me the other day and all those tests so far look great.  I’m REALLY happy about that.

Today I went for a cranial MRI.  That was NOT fun. Lots of loud noises for an hour, and an IV so they can get a ‘contrast’ read to detect any possible disruptions involving my pituitary gland which is responsible for the regulation of many different hormones throughout the body.  The contrast part comes from a dye that enters the bloodstream through the IV.  I really didn’t want that in my body, regardless the fact I was told it’s completely safe. So I’m drinking a ton of water and green juice to flush it through my kidneys faster!  I’ll also ask my acupuncturist tomorrow to place some needles in points for digestion and detoxification.  I should find out the results for the MRI in a couple days.

I only have one more test to do called Hysterosalpingogram, or HSG.  It’s an outpatient procedure and takes less than a half hour total.  It involves placing an iodine-based dye through the cervix and taking x-rays to help evaluate the shape of the uterus to find out whether or not the fallopian tubes are blocked.

I definitely feel like I’m getting somewhere with all these tests!  Even if all of them check out well (which I’m hoping for), then it will be a matter of setting a timeline for myself with the help and encouragement from both my doctor of acupuncture and my reproductive endocrinologist doctor.  While I’d rather nothing be wrong with me at all, I feel that between the two of them, my husband, my family, and all of your support, I couldn’t be in a better place.  I look forward to seeing what the (near?!) future holds!

Staying Healthy on Road Trips

Dear Leah Renee, 

My family and I take road trips every summer, but I don’t like the unhealthy food options along the way.  What do you suggest?  Thanks! ~Elsy, IN

Road trips are fun.  You’re going on vacation, checking out new places, and enjoying either some alone time on the open road or your family and friends who are in the car with you.  One thing road trips are known for are the ‘pit stops’ along the way, including bathroom breaks, stretching your legs, and attempting to find some nourishing food in the middle of nowhere.  Sometimes that’s part of the fun, but for those who either have food allergies and/or want to stick to their usual healthy diet, it can be frustrating.

Planning ahead is key.  Pick up a cooler (like the one below) and pack it with the healthy snacks you enjoy.  The trick is choosing ones that are easy to eat in the car or on a picnic bench, and pack as many as possible that do not need to remain cold, cooler or not.  That ensures you have them for a longer period of time and can take them along with you as snacks once you arrive.

coolerWhile it may be slim pick-ins on the road, there is certainly not a shortage of items that can be purchased and prepared ahead of time to last you.  Health food stores are jam-packed with packaged foods that contain safe ingredients and can sustain you when real, whole foods are harder to come by.

road trip prep


Above is an example of a few things I like to bring along with me.  Below is a list of great options for you:

For the cooler:

  • Sliced veggies (cucumbers, carrots, celery, bell peppers)
  • Fruit (apples, plums, pears, berries)
  • Organic deli meat (Applegate)
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • String cheese
  • Guacamole (to roll in the middle of the meat)
  • Green/veggie juice

Snacks, no cooler needed: 

That should be enough to keep you going!

What are your favorite travel snacks?