Tuesday, May 12, 2009

When Food and Beauty Collide

As DS used to wail across the house when he was about 3, "I NEED SOME HAY-ULP!!" Do I ever!! I need to clone myself or something, because there just are not enough hours in the day. I so wanted to do this post in time for Mother's Day, but did not make it. Did not even get the photos I wanted. But since we could all use some pampering any day, moms or not, photos or not, I'm going to share a few product recommendations here.

First, the incredible, amazing, one-and-only MojoSpa. Mojo is one of the things, along with Frontera Grill, I miss the most about Chicago. I miss having Irene do my monthly mani and pedi. I miss George's friendly greeting when I walk in the door. I miss the hip, fun vibe, friendly staff, superb service, delectable food, fantastic products, and all-around awesomeness that is Mojo Spa, at 1468 N. Milwaukee Ave. (Blue Line, Damen El stop).

I particularly miss Sundays at Mojo, when you get a FREE, FABULOUS brunch with your mani and pedi package. Yup, the awesome George brings you a Mimosa (Whoo, YES!!) and a whole tray full of delectable, homemade brunch goodies (homemade by chef and spa founder Amanda Kezios) while your tootsies are soaking. Now THAT is luxury!!! Read more about Beauty and Brunch.

Guests enjoying brunch while getting a pedicure.

Mojo Spa is the brain child of Cooking Goddess and All-Around Genius Amanda Kezios. You can read all about Amanda and how she created Mojo on their website.
Here is Amanda with a tray of homemade cupcake soaps. And for you crafty types, Amanda also makes the cutest original bags, jewelery hats, and scarves and sells them not only in the store but also via her Etsy shop, MojoSpaStyle. I believe the hat she is wearing in the photo is one of her original designs.

What is so great about Mojo Spa? Well, first of all, all of their products are developed personally by Amanda and handmade with love and care from all-natural food ingredients. From the Pumpkin Spice Scrub you may experience during your pedi to the Finger Fluff cuticle butter for your mani, Mojo Spa has the most wonderful spa products I have ever experienced.

And even better??? You don't have to be in Chicago to enjoy them! You can order via their website! Though, if you are in Chicago, get yourself over there ASAP for some real pampering!

I recently purchased one of Mojo's gift sets for a sick friend. I got her the Biscotti Breakfast Healing Body Cream and Body Scrub. They are made with real oatmeal and honey, so are very, very soothing for dry, irritated skin (or just a frazzled you!). Most of the cream bases include soothing ingredients like olive oil, cocoa butter, and lanolin. This one also includes soybean oil. I have a tub of the biscotti cream and it works wonders on the dry, itchy skin on my legs, as well as my dishpan hands.

My hands-down favorite, however, is the Sugar-Me-Sweet Face and Body Polish.

I have very, very sensitive, dry skin--everywhere. I am allergic to many ingredients, including shea butter. In the winter, the skin on my legs gets so dry, it is almost unbearably itchy, and I have awakened in the morning bloody from scratching in my sleep-- that's how bad my skin can get. Well, not any more, since I started using Sugar Me Sweet scrub on a regular basis. It is great all over, not just on the legs. In fact, you will not believe the difference if you use it in the posterior region-- the skin feels so soft and firm, it's like you lost 10 years and had a fanny lift to boot!

Sugar Me Sweet Body Polish contains pure cane sugar in an olive oil and cocoa butter base. It smells kind of like cotton candy, but in a good way. It is an amazingly effective exfoliant, getting rid of all those dry, flaky patches. Sugar is pretty coarse as an exfoliant, so make sure you don't scrub too hard. And it is the most incredibly soothing and moisturizing scrub I have EVER used-- you will be absolutely silky-smooth from head to toe when you use it. You don't even need to moisturize afterwards. There IS a companion body cream that goes with it, Sugar-Me-Sweet Whipped Body Cream, but I have never tried it because I've never needed extra moisturizing after using the scrub, or "polish" as it's called. I highly, highly recommend Sugar Me Sweet.

Mojo Spa has a wide variety of products for sale, from makeup to skin care to bath goodies. And best of all, the prices are super-reasonable. A jar of body scrub or body cream sells for around $15; you can get a gift set that combines a scrub and a cream for $26. I love these products and have never been disappointed by anything I have tried. You can order via the website, however, for faster service, I HIGHLY recommend ordering by phone from the friendly staff at Mojo, at (773)235-MOJO. Ask for George, and tell them Karen from NC who used to live in Chicago sent you. If George asks, tell him, YES, I AM STILL GLOWING!

Recently, Mrs. Jelly Belly did a fascinating post on solid shampoos, exposing the evil effects of the sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) in our liquid shampoos. I just learned that it is basically made of poison and one of the uses for which SLS was originally developed was degreasing commercial garage floors. (And I've been putting that on my HEAD for years??? Yikes. That might explain... oh, never mind!) APparently it can damage the hair follicle and cause hair loss. Again, yikes!!

Anyhow, Mrs. J ordered some SLS-free, all-natural shampoo bars from Chagrin Valley Soaps and reported some very positive intial results. She purchased the Coconut Milk, Carrot Milk and Honey, and the Rosemary Mint shampoo bars, all of which sound appealing to me. Along the way, she also mentioned that Lush Cosmetics carries highly-recommended shampoo bars as well.

My ears perked right up at this. My Macy's in Chicago (I say "my" because it was just blocks from my office) had a huge Lush Cosmetics counter in one corner, so I had actually heard of the stuff before. What's more, the last time I visited our local version of hell-on-earth, aka "Crabtree Valley Mall," I had noted that a Lush Cosmetics Boutique had replaced my beloved Papyrus store.

This weekend I paid a visit to Lush Cosmetics. It was just the way I remembered it in Chicago: overwhelming--- stocked with a dizzying array of soaps, bath bombs, bath melts, creams, lotions, balms and all sorts of things. Between the barrage of smells saturating my nostrils and the visual busyness of all the wares, it was definitely sensory overload! Not that it smelled bad, but it's the kind of place I usually run away from very quickly, because there is too much to look at! This time, however, since I had a specific product in mind, I grabbed the nearest salesperson and asked for help with the shampoo bars.

There was a wide selection of shampoo bars to choose from! I smelled them all, and after reviewing the primary ingredients, I chose 2 to take home to try. I ended up with the Ultimate Shine bar, which contains elemi, ylang-ylang, and sweet violet leaf oils,

and also the Squeaky Green bar with nettle, rosemary, tea tree oil and peppermint.

I had actually planned to try more varieties, but at $9.95 a pop, I didn't want to invest in more than 2 bars! (They did give me a free tin to store the shampoo in.)

I wish I had done a bit more research before purchasing, because BOTH bars contain Sodium Coco-Sulfate, and the Ultimate Shine bar also contains Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate. Leaving me wondering if I was any better off than with the SLS! I have no idea what either of these compounds is,

According to one site, sodium coco-sulfate is a SAFE, coconut-derived alternative to SLS, less irritating than sodium laurel sulfate, that does not contain any cancer-causing by-products. (Always a plus in my book! I found conflicting info (in my brief and unscientific research) on the safety/harshness of ammonium lauryl sulfate, so for me this ingredient is still a big mystery factor.

Last night, I tried the Ultimate Shine Bar and LOVED the results. Like Mrs. Jelly Belly, I found the lather left my hair incredibly clean, soft, tangle-free, and shiny. As well as smelling great. I haven't tried the Squeaky Green bar yet, but am taking it with me on my business trip tomorrow. Since it doesn't have any of the ammonium lauryl sulfate in it, I will be interested to see how I like it compared to the other one. Sadly, almost every conditioner I have looked at, even those at Lush, contains the dreaded SLS. Chagrin Valley's shampoo bars supposedly combine both shampooing and conditioning action, so that may be the way to go. A Chagrin Valley shampoo bar is the very next thing on my must-try list! Thanks, Mrs. Jelly Belly!


  1. Let me just tell you; after discovering you last month I am still having fantasies over how good that Shrimp Biscayne was, but you are just waaaaaay off on the sugar scrub! My daughter gave me a spa pkg with one LAST mother's day and I think my pores are still seeping blood 12 months later. They scrubbed my entire body with those granules and a DRY loofa til I screamed! I still have nightmares that I am drowning in my own blood!

  2. Dang you, Karen - you are always costing me money! Although I must say, the Origins Modern Friction is probably one of the best exfoliants I've ever used (and I've used a lot of them!).

    Re the shampoo bars - I just recently learned that some of LUSH's shampoo bars contain SLS. But not all of them. You just have to get out your reading glasses and look at the labels.

    I also just tried the J.R. Liggett's shampoo bar for damaged hair (bought at iherb.com) and it was fantastic - my favorite so far. I use it with Giovanni's Direct Leave In Conditioner (silicone free) and someone actually told me yesterday that I was having a really really REALLY good hair day. Trust me, that never happens! So I am also loving the Giovanni line of natural products - every one I've used so far has been good.

    So overall, I am definitely sticking to the SLS and "cone" free products. It's really helping my hair. Glad you had such positive results as well.

  3. Wow, thank you for sharing this!! I wish I were in Chicago, that place sounds so unique and fun.

  4. hmmmm, Chicago's is not too far from me...sounds like a delicious day :) But, I'd have to hit Frontera Grill, too (never been, can u believe it?! It's a dream, though)! :D

  5. I am the same way-with dry skin. I scratch so hard in my sleep and then I am in bloody pain the next day!! What could be better than having a pedi while eating pancakes? Heaven!

  6. This looks like a fantastic spa idea!

  7. Snugs-- Oh, wow, you DID have the spa experience from Hell!! I would never go back to THAT place again, how awful! I'm so sorry to hear that happened to you! Sugar is a pretty coarse exfoliant, and you do have to be careful use it GENTLY. You should never exfoliate with so much pressure that it causes pain. I have had no such problems with Sugar-Me-Sweet, which I tend to use for my body though it can also be used for the face. I think you were the victim of some WAY overzealous scrubbing-- what a shame your Mother's Day experience was so terrible!

    Jean-- Sorry :{ to be so hard on your wallet! I am really glad to hear you like the Modern Friction, however. At least you can take some comfort in the fact that a tube lasts about a year! Based on your recommendations, I am definitely trying the Giovanni products and the JR LIggett's too! My hair gets so tangly, my hair person is always telling me to use leave-in conditioner. Can't wait to try it! When I told DS that some people think SLS causes hair loss, he looked horrified and asked if I would get him some SLS-free shampoo too, so I gave him my Squeaky Green. (His dad has started losing his hair, so I think he's worried about that trend!)

    Christna-- Mojo is a blast! I wish we had something like it around here. Definitely go there if you are ever in Chicago!

    Heather, you should totally go for it! Maybe take the whole fam and Mexichef can take the kids to Navy Pier or the Aquarium while you visit Mojo, then all of you can finish with dinner at Frontera, LOL! :)

    Reeni, you should definitely try the Sugar-Me-Sweet scrub-- it is uber-moisturizing and soothing. No more dry skin ever!! But, be careful and scrub GENTLY so you don't end up like poor Snugs.

    Hornsfan-- yeah, totally!! I had been contemplating starting my own Mojo-like place here before the economy went south. It really is a fantastic concept, so someday, maybe!


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