Thursday, July 24, 2014

Azure Naturals ULTIMATE RETINOL Anti Wrinkle Serum: Review & Giveaway!

Azure Naturals is a company that specializes in manufacturing top-of-the-line skincare and anti-aging products. Azure Naturals is committed to using the best ingredients possible -- plants, organic materials, and 100% natural essential oils. They pride themselves on having excellent customer service, and on providing customers with a simple solution to the effects of aging. Azure Naturals products are not tested on animals.

Azure Naturals currently carries three great skincare products: Ultimate Vitamin C Serum, Ultimate Hyaluronic Acid Serum, and the Ultimate Retinol Anti Wrinkle Serum. These products can be used in combination with one even to produce even greater results. I was lucky enough to receive the Azure Naturals Ultimate Retinol Anti Wrinkle Serum for the purpose of this review.

The Azure Naturals Ultimate Retinol Anti Wrinkle Serum comes in both a 1 oz and 2 oz. bottle. It is made right here in the United States, and is 97% natural and 72% organic. It is non-GMO, and contains no alcohol or parabens. It contains a potent, professional-grade formula of 2.5% retinol, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin E. This serum, as its name suggests, is great for use in reducing fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of aging. It also has implications in unclogging and reducing pore size, treating acne, and moisturizing/softening rough or dry skin. It is great for all skin types. 

How does it work?

Azure Naturals designed a special formula that allows for quick and maximum absorption by your skin. Retinol, which is a special, active form of Vitamin A, has a "small molecular structure" which allows it to penetrate deeply, to stimulate collagen and elastin production. When applied at night, retinol, along with the other active ingredients in the Ultimate Retinol serum, can help to promote the renewal of skin cells and can help protect against cellular damage. Vitamin A is known to help with balancing skin tone, pigmentation, and to help increase moisture levels.

It contains the following ingredients:

Organic Herbal Infusion, Organic Aloe, Botanical Hyaluronic Acid, Witch Hazel, Pentylene Glycol, Phospholipids, Retinol, Polysorbate 20, Potassium Phosphate, Hydroxyethyl Cellulose, Carrageenan Gum, Organic Jojoba Oil, Triticum Vulgare, Vitamin E (Tocopheryl Acetate), Organic Green Tea, Wildcrafted Resina Propoli, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Ethyl Hexyl Glycerin  

Using Azure Naturals' Ultimate Retinol Anti Wrinkle Serum is easy. Azure Naturals recommends that you start using these products as early as possible -- even your late twenties or early thirties isn't too early, because this serum is preventative against fine lines and wrinkles! For daily use, Azure Naturals recommends that you use the Ultimate Retinol serum at night, before bed. All you have to do is wash the skin around your face and neck and then pat it dry. If you use toners in your beauty routine, apply those before the Ultimate Retinol serum. If you have a Vitamin C or Hyaluronic Acid serum, those should also be applied before the Ultimate Retinol serum. Allow your skin to dry, and then apply any moisturizers in your beauty regimen. Once you have been using the Ultimate Retinol serum for some time, you can start to apply it more frequently. This particular formula is safe for use around the eyes, and Azure Naturals claims that it will not irritate sensitive skin, if you start out small and work your way up.

I wanted to review the Azure Naturals Ultimate Retinol Anti Wrinkle Serum not because I have wrinkles...YET...but because I have sensitive skin that is prone to blemishes, and I have a known lack of collagen production (according to my doctor). It is essential that I seek out products which are preventative towards fine lines and wrinkles. I don't know if I believe that you can actually stimulate collagen production (studies say otherwise), but I like to think that the more attention I pay to my skin, the better it will respond in the future. I want to try and erase the blemishes that I have been getting rather frequently, and I am always looking for products that will help even out my skin tone a little more. I have combination skin, so whether I will be oily or dry is completely dependent on the season, sometimes even the day. However, increasing moisture levels, especially from the inside out, is always necessary for me. 

The Azure Naturals Ultimate Retinol serum has a very thick, gel-like consistency, and a very mild, non-irritating odor. I actually like the thickness, because it allows me to spread the serum out quickly before it is absorbed, so I can tell which areas of my face I have covered. It doesn't feel heavy at all afterwards, or oily. I have been using the Azure Naturals Ultimate Retinol serum for a few weeks now as part of my beauty routine, and although I have no wrinkles for it to "fix", I have noticed a difference in the amount of moisture that I am getting. There hasn't been a huge change in blemishes, but my face feels a lot less dry or oily (day dependent), and a lot more soft and natural. The first time I applied it, my eyes became irritated and red, but my skin did not have a terrible reaction to it -- just mild irritation. As I continued to use it, these effects subsided. It has not been a miracle serum, but I am definitely loving the moisturizing on all levels. If you have unruly combination skin, I definitely recommend this for a better overall feeling.

Right now, you can purchase the Azure Naturals Ultimate Retinol Anti Wrinkle Serum here, on Amazon, for just $37.95; if you are an Amazon Prime member, you will qualify for free shipping. You can also purchase Azure Naturals' Ultimate Retinol Anti Wrinkle Serum from their website, here. Go ahead and purchase with confidence, because Azure Naturals offers a one-year money-back guarantee on all of their products! If you are not 100% satisfied with their serums, they will be happy to assist you.

Interested in learning more about Azure Naturals and their products? Check out the links below:

One lucky reader will win an Azure Naturals Ultimate Retinol Anti Wrinkle Serum, courtesy of Azure Naturals! All you need to do is enter on the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to U.S. readers, 18 and over, unless you have permission from your parents. Please be honest when submitting Rafflecopter entries -- remember, I DO check all of your entries for verification, and I will throw them out if they are false. If the form has a spot for you to enter information, please provide me with the appropriate username, link, etc so that it is easier for me to verify your entries! I am not responsible for the shipment of the prize, that is the company's duty. I will contact the winner via email (so make sure to use one that you check) and you will have 48 hours to respond with your shipping information. If you have any questions or if the Rafflecopter is not working properly, you can always contact me via Facebook or email (links on the sidebar). Good luck!! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Kiva Organic Cacao Powder: Review


Kiva is a company based out of Honolulu, HI, that specializes in manufacturing high-quality, innovative food products. These products contain ingredients sourced directly from local farmers, worldwide, who use only eco-friendly or sustainable farming. Kiva's self-claimed "super foods" are all non-GMO, and are minimally processed, to keep their products natural, without artificial ingredients, preservatives, or sweeteners.

Kiva's superfood powders include the following: Cacao Powder, Camu Camu Berry Powder, Maca Powder, and Maqui Berry Powder. I received one 16 oz package of Kiva's Organic Cocoa Powder for the purpose of this review. 

Kiva's 100% Organic Cocoa Powder is made from hand-selected, high-quality Criollo cacao beans, which come from Ecuador. As with the rest of their products, Kiva's Organic Cocoa Powder is minimally processed at low temperatures; this allows the cocoa powder to retain the majority of the cocoa beans' natural flavors, vitamins, and minerals. This product is raw, without added sugars or fillers, and is vegan-friendly. It is also considered a fair trade product! Kiva's Organic Cocoa Powder is wonderful for anyone who is seeking a healthier, more natural lifestyle. The Cocoa Powder is full of antioxidants and is an important source of fiber, iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium.

Kiva's certified Organic Cocoa Powder contains, per serving (there are 62 servings per bag), 60 calories, 1.5g of fat, 0g of cholesterol, 255mg of potassium, 0mg of sodium, 9g of carbs, and 4g of protein. It contains 4% the daily value of calcium, 14% the daily value of iron, 6% the daily value of selenium, 40% the daily value of copper, 38% the daily value of magnesium, and 12% the daily value of zinc. The only ingredient is organic cocoa powder - nothing else!

Kiva's Organic Cocoa Powder is a great addition to any homemade baking recipe, such as brownies, cakes, etc. It is also great when blended into a smoothie for a healthy substitute for breakfast, or just as a snack -- think chocolate banana! The Cocoa Powder can also be sprinkled over yogurt or fruit, or added to milk or other beverages. It is extremely versatile!

Since I don't do a lot of baking in the summer, I ended up trying Kiva's Cocoa Powder mixed with Vanilla Almond Milk, as well as in a homemade smoothie. I have been trying to drink less milk, because part of me knows that I am somewhat lactose intolerant -- luckily, I love a good glass of almond milk. I usually tend to go for one of the flavors, and I use the vanilla in my cereal and when cooking. I decided to try and make my own chocolate almond milk. It wasn't a complete disaster, but it didn't turn out like I expected it to. I tried to mix in two SMALL spoonfuls of cocoa powder into a glass of almond milk, and most of the powder collected on the top and edges of the glass. I'm not sure if it doesn't mix well with almond milk, or if I just added too much. I was able to get some of it to mix, but the flavor was not very intense. It worked better in a banana chocolate smoothie as a base (here it mixed fine), but I am definitely not used to the taste of raw cocoa powder.

Raw cocoa powder is NOT super chocolately or sweet. It is more dry, semi-sweet, and sort or earthy tasting. It is an acquired taste. I much preferred it in my smoothie, as a health-food snack than I did in my almond milk. I think it is a taste I could get used to, but I'll have to try it in a batch of cookies and see how they turn out. I do love the fact that it is all-natural and loaded with tons of great minerals. I like that it is a good source of potassium, as potassium often helps with cramps. I have been having a lot of leg cramps lately, and the only thing I could find to eat that had a ton of potassium were bananas -- now I can make a SUPER cramp reliever when I make my pseudo chocolate banana smoothies. I think this cocoa powder is reasonably priced, because a little really goes a long way, no matter what you are using it in. 

You can purchase Kiva's 100% Organic Cocoa Powder here, on Amazon, for just $16.85/ 16 oz package; if you have Amazon Prime, you will qualify for free shipping.

Interested in learning more about Kiva and their products? Check out the link below:

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

PetBox Subscription - July 2014: Review


PetBox is a company which was founded in 2013 by owners Sean Conton and Will Ford, in San Diego, California. PetBox is a unique, monthly subscription service centered around dogs and cats. They strive to provide monthly shipments of high-quality, USA-made, unique products that both pet-owners and pets will love. PetBox works with pet professionals to ensure that their products are healthy; they also help shelters, and pets in need! For every PetBox purchase, a rescue animal will be fed. Also, every Friday, PetBox users choose a rescue shelter to send shipments of cat and dog food to! PetBox has quickly become a dog-owner favorite and one of the "fastest growing ecommerce start-up brands" in San Diego.

 How does it work?

PetBox offers four different monthly subscription options - something for everyone! The first is the Snack box, which includes one surprise treat from PetBox's healthy collection, as well as samples and coupons. The Snack box is $9.95 per month, with free shipping, if ordered monthly. The next option is the Deluxe box, which includes 2-3 surprise items, as well as samples and coupons. The Deluxe box is $19.95 per month, with free shipping, if ordered monthly. PetBox offers a Premium box, which includes 4-6 surprise items OR a customized shipment with dog OR cat items. The Premium box is PetBox's most popular option! The Premium box is $39.95 per month, with free shipping, if ordered monthly. The last option is the Multiple Pet box, which includes 7-12 customized cat and/or dog items from PetBox's collection. The Multiple Pet box is $59.95 per month, with free shipping, if ordered monthly. If you order your PetBox three months at a time, you can save up to five dollars per box. If you order your PetBox yearly, you save the most -- up to ten dollars per box!

I was lucky enough to receive a Premium PetBox for free, in exchange for this review. Lulu was so excited! She always watches all of these packages come to the door for me, but she rarely gets to help me open any for her. I brought the PetBox in, and I think she could smell the treat inside, because she was very eager to help me tear through the wrapping and get to the good stuff. I laid it all out for her to look at, and as you can see from the picture, it didn't take her long to claim the new items! Shipping was very fast, and the packaging is SO cute - inside the cover of the box is a little saying where you can write your pet's name and their favorite product in the box.

What did I get in my box?

A Twigo Pet ID Tag
ARV: $9.99

This ID tag is actually really cool! It comes with a flexible tag (ours was pink and white, for my little girl) that you can easily attach to your pet's collar. Rather than needing to be engraved, it comes with a pen. You can personalize your own tag, and if you make a mistake, you can just rinse it off! All you do next is drop your Pet ID tag in some boiling water (stove or microwave), for just 3 minutes. Then, you remove it and let it stand for 30 minutes. Ta-da! Now you have a customized ID tag, where you can put your phone number and your pet's name. Even if the ink fades over time, you can just redo it. It is weather-proof, light-weight and non-toxic. If you are looking to purchase one individually, they come in several different designs and colors, such as stars, hearts, crowns, and bones.

We didn't have an ID tag on Lulu, besides the one that indicates that she has a microchip, and the one that indicates she lives in York County. I am glad to have this, honestly, because I have found dogs outside TWICE since moving to this apartment that were not on their leashes (there is a law against that here). One did not have a collar OR an ID, so I took her inside, and ended up having to call Animal Control. Luckily the owners called as well, and were able to come get her eventually, but what if they hadn't? Or what if she had managed to travel into a different town, with a different Animal Control? That worried me a lot, because Lulu sometimes likes to dart outside after cars and animals, and if someone picked her up, they might not know who to call. I like having a reusable tag, not an engravable one, because we will keep moving several times as I make my way through medical school. This was definitely a great product!

Nature's Miracle Green Leaf Stain & Odor Remover
ARV: $8.79

This Stain & Odor Remover has a Water Lily scent, and is made with all-natural, eco-friendly ingredients that are safe for your pets and children. The packaging and ingredients are biodegradable, and it does not contain ammonia, sulphates, silicones, chlorine, or any other harsh chemicals. This Stain & Odor Remover is great for getting rid of urine or other pet odors, and even contains a stain block to prevent your pet from "resoiling". It works on carpets, fabric, upholstery, etc. It can be used on even the toughest of stains and odors.

The very day I received our PetBox in the mail, Lulu ended up getting sick, and must have thrown-up in our bedroom when I wasn't paying attention. By the time I found it, it was already sinking into the carpet (gross!), and starting to smell. I whipped out my new cleaner, and as you can see, it took care of the vomit rather quickly.. no stain, and no more odor! Lulu rarely pees in the house, but every once in awhile, she does have an accident when we have to leave her for long periods of time. I am always worried about what cleaner I use, because I want to make sure it is safe for her to be around, in case she walks on it or licks it. I don't have to worry with Nature's Miracle. I love the ingredients, and having this for the future! This is definitely a great product.

PawGanics' Deep Cleansing Grooming Wipes
ARV: $5.99

PawGanic's Deep Cleansing Grooming Wipes are gentle, all-natural pet wipes that can help remove any odors and dirt that your pet may accumulate between baths. These wipes are hypoallergenic, as well as alcohol and lanolin free, so you don't have to worry about them hurting your pet's sensitive skin. These wipes have a Fresh Mandarin scent, and contain Vitamin E and Aloe for deep conditioning, revitalizing, and moisturizing of your pet's coat and skin. They are soft and biodegradable - another eco-friendly item! You can use these wipes on your pet's paws, ears, coat, and even around their face.

This is another product that we will definitely use on Lulu. Even on short walks three times a day with a SHORT coat of hair, she manages to get herself dirty, and tracks that dirt inside with her. My boyfriend usually rubs her off with a towel before she is allowed to enter most of our apartment, but these wipes would be a lot easier! Lulu lets us do pretty much anything, including touching any part of her, so these will work great. I am not afraid to use them, because I trust the all-natural ingredients..I don't worry about her licking herself afterwards. This is a great way to remove dirt and any bad smell, and these will last us awhile!

Yaky Charms Pop 'Em
ARV: $2.19

Yaky Charms are, essentially, like microwave popcorn for dogs. They are made like an ancient Himalayan recipe, with all-natural ingredients and no preservatives or additives. All that they contain is cow milk and yak milk, salt, and lime juice. You microwave them on high for 1-3 minutes, and allow them to cool for 2 minutes before feeding them to your dog. They can also be stored for future use if your dog does not finish them!

This is such a unique treat! I literally have never heard of microwaving anything like popcorn for dogs. Lulu LOVES popcorn..well..she loves pretty much any treat, so I figured she would have a ball with these. I gave her a small handful as a reward, and she loved them. I like that they are relatively inexpensive -- you don't have to give them to your dog all at once, so you can space the treats out to make them last. All-natural ingredients are definitely the way to go, and I enjoyed having something unique to feed Lulu.

Bionic 2-in-1 Interactive Toss-N-Tug Toy
ARV: $15.99

The Bionic Toss-N-Tug Toy is pretty creative, as far as dog toys go. It can be used in a number of ways -- it can be tossed like a frisbee, grabbed, pulled, and twisted. It can even float in the water! It is not a chew toy, but it is made to be extremely durable. This toy is made from FDA Food Grade materials that are "non-toxic and 100% recyclable". This was designed with an "indestructible" feature in mind, but no toy is truly indestructible! This particular Bionic toy is great for medium sized dogs, from 15-35 lbs, or large dogs, that weigh 30-60 lbs. It is dishwasher safe!

Lulu surprised me when she gave this toy a chance -- typically she is very picky about her toys, and although she does prefer rubber, she is usually most interested in things that are very small or things that squeak. She engaged in a little "tug of war" with me with this toy, and then did try and sit there chewing on it for awhile. I am glad it is relatively indestructible, because Lulu has broken many plastic toys in the past. We haven't gotten her to understand a frisbee type of toy yet, so that may take awhile. This was one of the most expensive items in the PetBox, and she likes it, but it may be a tad big for her. I'm going to try bringing her to the dog park and throwing it!

Lickety Stix: Big Beef Treat
ARV: $5.99

This is another unique treat that was included in the PetBox. It is actually a liquid, which is contained within a plastic container that has a roller-ball on the end (think perfume bottle). All you have to do is hold the bottle, and your dog can lick the end of it, getting a yummy flavor as they do so. Lickety Stix are all-natural, and contain over 500 licks per bottle, so they are well worth the cost. There are only 50 calories in each 1.69 oz bottle. The other flavors that you can purchase include: Savory Chicken, Braised Liver, Smoky Bacon, Sharp Cheese, and Peanut Butter.

I couldn't believe that this unusual treat was all-natural! It honestly smells like Ramen noodles, when you don't put in enough water and the liquid is too concentrated. Despite me not enjoying the smell, Lulu went insane over this treat. I had to put the bottle up high so that she won't attack it while I am gone. I didn't like having to hold it for fifteen minutes, but she was really enjoying licking it! She got the concept right away. I think this is an awesome treat to bring in the car, or on trips, because it is really easy to transport and dogs clearly love it.

All-in-all, this PetBox had a higher value than what I would have paid for it. I thought it had a great selection of products, since there was a little of everything. I love it when subscription boxes don't contain all of one brand, or all of one type of item. Lulu and I will really get use out of each of these items. I think it can probably be hard to create a generalized "surprise" box for dogs, because there can be such variation in size. PetBox did a great job of including items that work for every type of dog, not just my Dachshund! I really liked the fact that they are clearly selective with what types of brands they work with. Finding pet toys, food, and other assorted products that are all-natural can sometimes be difficult. I appreciate that they stuck to ingredients that I can trust. Clearly they value pets as much as I do! Lulu and I both highly recommend this subscription box company, especially if you order your boxes in three month increments or yearly, to save even more money!
Interested in learning more about PetBox? Check out the links below: