Product Review: Soap Nuts

I have read varying views on the effectiveness of soap nuts ability to clean. Given the uncertainty surrounding them I thought best to try them once and for all. Sapindus, commonly referred to as soap nuts, are a native shrub to India. It is a natural surfactant which can be used to clean ones hair, skin, laundry and as a household cleaner generally. They’re vegan and suitable for those with allergies. If this wasn’t enough it was claimed a 1kg bag – costing £11 could wash 330 loads of laundry. That’s 3.3p a load. Given the mixed reviews I thought best to sit down with a cup of tea and learn how to use them properly. The first test was laundry. 

Within the bag are two small mesh bags where you place the soap nuts for washing clothes. Having read up I noted you need more soap nuts in hard water areas. As London has horrific water I placed 10 soap nuts into the mesh bag and put them into a small jar with tap hot water and shook them up. They formed suds straight away. After watching an episode of South Park I return and placed the mesh bag with soapy water in with the clothes.

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1kg bag of soap nuts

I didn’t use fabric conditioner but the clothes felt far softer than normal. There was not scent and the clothes were really clean. At least as clean if not more than usual. I’ve used them quite a few times now and they’re done the job. The only thing I may do is add some essential oils to add some fragrance. The soap nuts can be used four or fives times. To test them put them in a jar of warm water and shake. If they foam up you’re good to go. I’ve also used them to wash my hair and beard.

The cost of laundry cleaner and conditioner wasn’t too pricy. However, buying organic, vegan and ‘nasty’ free shampoo and conditioner is rather costly. Given I have 1kg of soap nuts I made my own shampoo. I filled an old empty bottle of shampoo with five soap nuts, some organic cold pressed argan and jojoba oil along with tea tree essential oil. Given the softness of the laundry, the addition of the oils negates the need for conditioner. I tend to leave the homemade shampoo on a little longer. My hair is left clean and soft. For my kind of hair this works better than shop bought shampoo.

For household cleaning I’ve used 10 soap nuts and placed them into an old bottle with some lemon essential oil and filtered water. I left the mixture overnight and found it turned brown. This has been used to clean worktops / dishes. It cleans effortlessly on all the household tasks I set it to. I was most surprised by its ability to clean around the house. Having read negative reviews it seems, at least anecdotally, people didn’t first soak the soap nuts.Given its cleaning ability and relative cost I’d like to continue using them. Supports highlight their environmental benefits. I’m unsure on this point. Of course there are environmental / welfare concerns with commonly used laundry products.

The nuts must been transported to the UK. There are also farming impacts to consider too. Given they are not commonly used in the UK – finding information on them have proven challenging it. I will update this post in due course and have posted it in the hope people may have answers to the following; working conditions of those involved in the supply chain, farming techniques  – organic.  environmental impact of growing and in relation to ‘mainstream’ products. Given they are able to carry out general cleaning duties it negates the need to consume multiple products, each produced and shipped in turn. On the face it would suggest the environmental impact would be less. Below is a video documenting the harvesting process in Nepal:

All information on prettygood  is meant for educational and informational purposes only. The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulator / EU body. Products and or information are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. Readers are advised to do their own research and make decisions in partnership with their health care provider. If you are pregnant, nursing, have a medical condition or are taking any medication, please consult your doctor.

 

Product Review: Washed Out Body Butter

Yes, we’ve featured Washed Out before. However, this isn’t favouritism so much as another really great product from these lovely folks!*

The new Body Butter from Washed Out is a real star product. Great on Lewis’ beard as much as his face, and fantastic for Ellie’s combination skin.

E: With my combination skin, I really struggle to find a single product that can handle the dry patches I get during winter, and the oily bits I have on my face pretty much year-round. I was expecting the Washed Out butter to be primarily used for dry elbows and hands, but when it came I was suffering a really painful dry skin day on my face, so just slathered it on to my freshly cleaned face.

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£12 for 100g, £7 for 50g

The butter has a really light texture for a product like this, and absorbs into the skin really well. After a minute or two, it makes the perfect base for make-up too, and the Barista coffee-scented butter is great for a wake-up in the morning! If coffee isn’t your thing, there’s an unscented version, and a lovely sounding ‘Six More Weeks of Winter’, which is scented with rosemary, bergamot and pine essential oils.

100g is £12, and our 50g (£7) pot is about halfway through after 6 weeks, with two of us using it. I’d say that’s pretty decent value for such an effective product which feels like a real treat to use.

*for the absolute avoidance of doubt, we bought this product ourselves as we wanted it – Washed Out have never sent us freebies to review or paid us for reviews.

SLS

If you’re starting to take a keen interest in the ingredients in your most regular purchases, you might have noticed some cosmetics boldly proclaiming to be ‘SLS free’. But what is SLS? Should we be concerned about it?

SLS stands for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, and may also refer to Sodium Laureth Sulfate (aka SLES) – ‘SLS’ can be used to refer to either; although they aren’t identical chemicals, they’re pretty similar, and their uses and functions are largely the same. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is one of several ingredients found really commonly in all kinds of cosmetics and cleaning products. It can also be used as a powerful pesticide, though producers were denied an application to recognise SLS as an organic pesticide, because of its poor credentials when it comes to pollution and environmental damage.

It has a couple of functions:

  • It makes loads of foam
  • It disperses grease
  • It is a ‘penetration enhancer’, meaning it helps other chemicals find their way onto your skin (and beyond)
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Image via Flickr user frankieleon

Its ability to make foam and disperse grease means you *feel* clean, even if it makes no real difference when compared to a less-foamy cleanser. This is especially appealing to budget or low-quality brands which aren’t especially functional. If SLS is present in your creams, it’s probably to make them spread out better. None of this sounds so bad, except for the fact that SLS is a known skin irritant. If you struggle with psoriasis or eczema, or very bad dry skin, for example, SLS will probably make that worse. If your shampoo is making your scalp itch or blister, you might want to check whether SLS is an ingredient. If you’re as cynical as me, you’ll suspect that cosmetic companies know this, and know that they can upsell an intensive moisturiser to soothe all that irritation from your nice foamy face wash! A few well-known beauty journalists have started to advise against foaming face washes and SLS, but many of us still reach for well-known brands when we want to feel ‘clean’, without thinking too much about those unpronounceable ingredients listed on the back. There have been rumours that SLS increases cancer-risk, but these are unsubstantiated by any scientific study, and SLS is classified as a non-carcinogen.

If you’re a regular on the blog, you won’t be surprised to hear that the main reason SLS is so widely used is that it is incredibly cheap to produce. SLS can be derived from palm oil (or coconut oil), so if you’re working to buy palm-oil free products, this is worth bearing in mind.

So, SLS is bad news for our skin, but what about the environment?

SLS is toxic to aquatic species including fish, molluscs, and crustaceans and, as a pesticide, finds itself in waterways and groundwater more often than it should – a 2008 review by the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) “strongly advised not to let the chemical enter into the environment”. It isn’t always picked up by water filtration processes, meaning it works its way into our drinking water too.

How easy is it to go SLS-free?

I have pretty sensitive skin, and my scalp is prone to irritation (and my hair is prone to frizz), so I phased SLS out of my routine about 2 years ago. Initially, the hardest thing to get used to was the lack of suds. I have pretty thick (and very long, until recently) hair, so I had to find a new way of distributing shampoo all over without the foam to help me. I also had a few false starts with products which were great for Lewis, but just didn’t quite work for my longer, finer hair. I’m now pretty settled, so these are my absolute favourites, and regular fixtures on my bathroom shelves.

Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 – great as a body wash although wasn’t great on my hair, and can also be used as a laundry detergent and even washing-up liquid!

Washed Out Soap – such a lovely brand, I love a delivery from Washed Out! Their Barista soap is the ideal thing for waking up in the morning, and has done wonders for my combination skin, as it gently exfoliates and isn’t too harsh on the dry bits.

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One Village Soap – one of our early discoveries, and great for handwashing (though not quite right for hair washing, I found). Gets a pretty good foam up too.

Green People Shampoo & Conditioner – the hair products dreams are made of! I have curly hair that’s prone to frizz, and the Green People range means I now have the shiny manageable hair I always envied on TV adverts. Not cheap, but you only need a tiny amount and it works really well. I tend to go 2 or even 3 days between hair washes, so I haven’t noticed a big difference in cost over time.

Green People have a really big range, and are also my favourite for deodorant. I’ve yet to sample their wares, but Pure Nuff Stuff have a really big range of products which are all SLS free, and free of other nasties too. Both worth a look, especially for those in the UK who are keen to find options which don’t come with hefty shipping from the US!

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Vegan Christmas Gift Guide

Plenty of us look around at Christmas and think “do I really want more stuff?”, or “what do I get for the person who has everything?” In these cases, things like subscriptions and charity gifts can be a great option. We’re planning to give our charity cash to Crack + Cider this year. It’s a pretty simple idea – you take the ticket for your selected item to the till and pay, and instead of taking the item yourself it’s given to a homeless person in need. The products available range from hats and gloves to high performance coats and bags, and you can purchase them online, or from One Good Deed Today. Another great option is a subscription to Ethical Consumer. This online resource collates research and reports into the activities of a huge range of companies, so that you as a consumer can make more ethical choices for all kinds of routine purchases. Alternatively, a Vegan Society membership is a really great gift for anyone who might like to be a genuine card-carrying vegan – it entitles the user to a bunch of discounts in vegan-friendly retailers, and a subscription to The Vegan. If, however, your loved ones will be happier with a well-stuffed stocking on Christmas morning, check out the rest of our list below for our most coveted items…


Top of my own wishlist is some new jeans – I’m fed up of buying jeans that rip or sag after a couple of months, and always feel it’s a waste to throw these out after all the resources that go into producing a pair of jeans. Both Mud and Nudie jeans have the answer! Nudie Jeans offer a great range (and no male/female divisions, just great cuts). They offer loads of options for repairing, reusing and recycling your jeans: nothing says Christmas like circular economy! Mud Jeans also champion the circular economy and, like Nudie, they put a lot of effort into making their production as sustainable and fair as possible. Mud offer options to purchase and lease their jeans, so you can swap out or upgrade to a new pair when you want to. Mud are also a B Corporation. Both companies provide an admirable level of transparency around their production and sourcing, and offer realistic and appealing options for recycling and reusing your jeans.

So we all know that Beyonce wore a ‘KALE’ sweatshirt and suddenly they’d sold out everywhere, but I think the sweatshirt is old news. What I’m after is a KALE heart necklace from All Glamour No Guts, in collaboration with Bete Noire. A totally vegan company with ethics at their heart, AGNG provide accessories and garments, as well as more functional items like raw vegan lip balms and after tattoo treatment. For the pun enthusiast in your life, maybe the HAIL SEITAN necklace will be even more fitting…

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All Glamour No Guts ‘Hail Seitan’ Necklace, £14

If accessories are your thing but you’re after a real classic, you can’t go far wrong with a Matt & Nat bag. I’ve caught myself countless times admiring a bag from afar, only to realise when I get a little closer that it’s by Matt & Nat. This vegan brand focus on classic styles and shapes with a contemporary twist, and there’s something for everyone. They also make great wallets and purses, and other accessories too.

My current coat was bought on a whim when I had a tight budget and a looming work trip to Canada in March. That was OK with me, until I found out about HoodLamb and their incredible coats – made entirely from hemp with some careful thinking around production and workforce, these are stylish and durable coats with sustainability at their heart. Something to covet, for sure.

It’s easy to over-indulge at Christmas, so why not speed up your recovery with some seriously tasty coffee roasted right here in the UK. Jericho Coffee Traders roast their beans in Oxford, and ship them around the UK, and have just started offering a subscription service too. We’ve tried several of the varieties and visited their roaster, and their dedication to a quality product really comes through in those tasty tasty beans!

I’ll be honest, I love a candle all year round, but there is nothing I like better than a scented candle, a Christmas movie, and all my gift wrapping (even better if the weather outside is foul). Earl of East London produce great soywax candles, and their Smoke & Musk scent is absolutely perfect for a cosy winter night in. If you fancy something a bit more overtly festive, the Yule Spice candle from Corinne Taylor seems to last for ages, and gives a gently festive scent with cinnamon, cloves, and basically all the mull you could want (except the wine).

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Earl of East London 17.5oz candle, £45

Honest Skin Care produce all natural and fantastically simple skincare products as well as room sprays and candles, and they also have a lovely looking Treatment Room in Birmingham (UK). I’ve got my eye on the black pepper and lemongrass handwash, but I don’t think I’d be too put out if Santa managed to get a trip to the Treatment Room in my stocking!

One of the best bits of Christmas (for me, anyway) is filling the cupboards with loads of lovely treats and snacks for those festive movie sessions and visits from friends. This is slightly harder as a vegan, but far from impossible. As well as picking up anything that takes our fancy from the Accidentally Vegan Instagram account, we’ve also got our eyes on a few special treats. For our morning coffee (or afternoon slump), we’re planning to pick up a delicious home-baked panettone from Pomodoro e Basilico. For those chilly evenings in front of a favourite film, some Jaz and Juls hot chocolate (with their vegan marshmallows included, of course!). If you’re after something really decadent, you can’t go wrong with a box of Booja Booja truffles *hint hint*. Finally, no Christmas would be complete without mince pies, and Foods of Athenry make some luxury ones which are completely vegan.

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Pomodoro e Basilico Vegan Panettone, £28

If you’re after a pair of non-leather shoes for yourself or a loved one, Wills have got your back. Wills are a UK based company who specialise in ethically produced vegan shoes. Their wide range caters for people looking for male or female styles. I have a pair of which have lasted me ages. If you’re after something a bit more casual, it’s something approaching impossible to find a pair of trainers that aren’t made by a multinational.  Muroexe have stepped up to produce a fresh and clean looking shoe. The simplicity in their design is coupled with the discerning colour range of available styles. Manufactured in Europe, utilising  vegan friendly materials, that are good for animals and humans alike.

Ethletic challenge the status quo. Their sneakers are vegan, produced in Fair Trade supply chains and use organic materials. The classic range of hi and low top sneakers may look like others on the market, but they are worlds apart. You can’t help but applaud everything this company is about. Style and substance in equal measure.

To show off your new shoes you’ll need some legit socks. Minga Berlin Socks come in playful range of styles. Their socks are unisex (thumbs up) and produced to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). I love their plain and colourful patterned socks in equal measure. They have three kinds of black sock available which I think is a great thing. I’m definitely going to pick a few pairs up. Companies like this make me happy. They  prove that ethical goods do not have to forsake aesthetic appeal.

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Minga Berlin Socks,  EUR 12

Ethics and Antics apparel is all over social media at the moment. And with good reason. They present the vegan message in a subtle way. Those of us in the know ‘get it’ without coming across as militant to the Majority. The VGANG tee is sick. I’m also a fan of the fact they use different kinds of people to model their garms.

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Ethics and Antics VGANG T-Shirt, £25

Black Sage Supply create utilitarian goods free from leather, wool or animal-based waxes. They produce, among other things, bags, belts and aprons.  Many of the pieces are made to order. Their waxed aprons are rather smart. Get one for the wanna-be barista in your life. I was put onto Black Sage Supply by Dark Arts Coffee. They roast great coffee in Hackney and are refreshingly chilled out about it. Their filter – Heart of Darkness is my go-to from them. Check out their Instagram page for movie nights with vegan food too.

I have already gotten myself a ‘I ❤ Vegan Junk Food’ apron by SSOV. It’s no good baking Ms. Cupcake recipes unless you’re ‘reppin vegan garms. 10 vegan points if you pick one up.

I’m big into Christmas but hate the nonsensical perfume and aftershave adverts we’re subjected to at this time of year. Haeckels create handcrafted fragrances in their lab on the clifftops of Margate. They also have a considered range for hair, body and skin all presented with stripped back branding. Of their perfume range, Eau de Parfum 26 is the stand out for me.

It’s not just clothing and toiletries that are wising up to an ethical and sustainable way of doing business.  Fairphone have designed and manufactured the worlds first ethically produced smart phone. They’re a B-corp, and launched Fairphone 2 in the last quarter of 2015. From funding and mining to design and manufacture, ethics are at the heart of this product. It has been produced to be easily repaired and thus sustain the lifespan of each device. My current phone is on the way out so I’m looking to pick one up.

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Fairphone 2, EUR 529.38

Reproduced under CC BY-NC-SA, Credit: Fairphone, via Flickr

 

Product Review: Mr. Masey’s Beard Oil

Beards and vegans seem to go hand in hand. So it won’t surprise you to learn I have one. Finding cruelty free beard oil can be challenging. On an aside if you’re starting out growing your beard make sure you invest in a good beard oil. Some people complain of having an itchy beard, which was something I suffered with, in the early days. I found that regular brushing and beard oil solved this. The oil softens the hair and moisturises the skin underneath. I also found that avoiding things with alcohol and ‘nasties’ greatly improved the condition of my beard too.

On a weekend break in Brighton I walked passed Mr. Masey’s stall. I was in need of a new beard oil as the one I was using left my beard greasy. Mr. Masey’s is a cruelty free gem selling vegan beard grooming products. I spoke with the man himself, who unsurprisingly, was sporting a smart beard. His sincere passion for his business and cruelty free world view resonated with me. So I decided to pick up some much needed beard oil.

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 Mr. Masey’s only use quality plant based ingredients which is apparent from regularly using it. The oils come in variety of fragrances, I opted for the ‘Love Potion,’ which had a traditional scent. It’s made with grapeseed oil, vitamin E oil and essential oils: rosewood, sandalwood, bergamot and corriander. 10ml costs £5.95 and 30ml is £9.95.

You only need a few drops to work into the full length of your beard. I found that the oil coated all of my beard without any mess. It left my beard smelling great too. Throughout the day I noticed that my beard would still feel conditioned and soft. This is particularly noteworthy as I have thick and coarse hair. If you’re in Brighton pop along to Kensington Gardens and pick up some oil / other grooming goods. Alternatively there is an online store. Infinity Foods in Brighton are a stockist too.

Let us know what you think of the beard oil if you pick some up. PG

Website: www.mr-masey.co.uk