12 days of green shopping: Gifts to pamper the skin

Photo: istockphoto.com/Russell Tate/

The cosmetics industry is undergoing a revolution due to increased scrutiny over chemicals. And that's a good thing because most of us absorb close to four pounds of chemicals through the skin annually.

The world of natural skin care products can be confusing – there's a lot of choose from these days. After some extensive testing (and discussions) we've listed some of our favourites to help you find that perfect gift for family and friends.

Indispensable oils
Erbaviva offers a soothing and elegant line of organic essential oils, room sprays and bath oils. They have the best oils out there including hard to find items like cinnamon bark and frankincense. The room and body sprays are sure to be a hit (the lavender, rose and neroli mix was very popular). For gifts that say you care try their Synergy mixes like Breathe Ease (four varieties of eucalyptus and a pine meld) or some soothing bath salts. Kits like the Bath & Body Travel Kit will also be well received. The packaging is as classy as the product so this is a gift that will wow without breaking the bank.

Best lip balm
Trust a guy to create the perfect lip balm. And athlete Justin Klabin has done just that with his 63-North products. His lip balm comes in delicious combinations like rosemary-vanilla or lemon-lime (peppermint was the most popular) with a choice of tubes, tins or jars. Add some of their smooth creams created with shea butter and sweet almond oil and you have a gift package even the guys will go for. Those with sensitive skin will appreciate the 63-North Just Lotion with no fragrances.

Exotic beauty
Bring home the herbal traditions that have made Indonesian women world famous for their flawless and youthful skin. Sensual, rich and luxurious, Juara Skincare detoxes and nourishes the skin. The versatile Avocado & Banana Moisture Mask can be used as an intensive overnight moisture treatment or as a makeup remover. (There was some stiff competition over this cream when testing was finished.) The Tiare Jasmine TeaBath & Shower Gel did exactly as promised: soothed, calmed and refreshed. You can also purchase Juara cosmetics through Upurea, a Canadian company that also ships to the States (see link below).

Thinnest chocolate out there
Chocolate addicts will love a gift from Chocolate Sun, originally made to create a natural tan. Unfortunately you have to go to the Santa Monica clinic for the treatment but for the rest of us there are the cleansers and moisturizers. The cranberry/vanilla body revitalizer is heavenly despite being a bit messy. An excellent gift for those who like luxury and crave the spa.

Guilt free beauty
Shea butter is produced in West Africa and can take between 20 to 30 hours of labour to produce one kilogram of this popular cream. Unfortunately the women producing the butter get paid less than a $1 per week. Alaffia sells sustainable skin care products that support the Agbanga Fair Trade Cooperative in Togo, Africa. Try the shea shampoo for a rich, dense lather that doesn't strip hair of natural oils. Many swear by the Rooibos & Shea Butter Antioxidant Face Cream to smooth away wrinkles.

Yummy facial care
Owner Suki Kramer created her line of Suki Naturals because she suffered from severe eczema. Her shampoos, creams and cleansers are gentle but effective. For a soft, dewy look try the Triple Cream Eye Definer -- not your typical eye shadow -- it also works as a moisturizer. The Lemongrass Cleanser with chamomile and vitamin C goes on like candy but leaves your face revitalized and glowing. Hard core cosmetic users will love these products. Canadians can get their supply from Upurea (see link below).

Fruit cocktail for the skin
The plain packaging doesn't do the MyChelle Dermaceuticals justice because this company is onto something with their blend of exotic fruits for skin. The Apple Brightening Peel with açaí gave a lovely shine to all skin types, even lightening some age spots. The Tropical Face with mangosteen, white clay and camu, camu smelled good enough to eat but it did the job for firming and brightening.

Canadian care
Nadarra products were popular for their subtle mix of rosehip, jojoba, aloe and comfrey. The Exfoliating Facial Cleanser worked wonders on removing the last traces of make-up while soothing the face after one too many late nights. The Pure Moisturizers with comfrey and Macademia nut oil helped with dry and irritated skin.

Haven't found what you're looking for?
There are a lot of wonderful green skin care products out there. So if you haven't found something you like yet, try browsing through some of these other terrific online stores carrying enviro-friendly products:

  • Upurea has one of the largest selections of enviro-friendly skincare products from around the world. Browse through and find the perfect gift.
  • Find relaxing bath and spa care gifts at Essere Organics.
  • Equita Essentials has an elegant and eclectic mix of soaps, oils and lotions, sure to please all ages.
  • Check out the gift bags for Mom and loved ones from Organically Gifted.
  • Kate's Caring Gifts also has a line of gift baskets with body and skin care products that are earth-friendly and soothing.
  • Be sure to get your order in early so its arrives in time. You may want to check the times and dates with your specific company. Out of time? You may be able to find some of these products at your local health foods store. Happy Shopping!

    Thanks to all our testers.