What are the top uses for Neem?

How do you use Neem?


My latest pursuit in all things natural and skin related is Neem oil. The Neem tree is native to India and is a major ingredient used in Ayurvedic treatments. It touts a history of thousands of years in maintaining health and well-being. The plant itself is versatile and can be utilized from root to leaf for both internal and external applications.

It seemed like all at once everything pointed to Neem. I have been nursing a sick plant back to health and first got some for this ailing friend. About a week later, my naturopath recommended trying Neem tablets to help with skin issues. As usually happens at this time, I end up delving head first into my own research. I see all sorts of applications for topical treatments that look promising as well. With its’ antibacterial properties and inhibition of the growth of acne-causing bacteria such as Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), it seems like something that could become an integral part of my formulations.

Among the common uses, I see it as a treatment for dryness and itching in hair, healing wounds, suppressing acne, and combating bacterial infections like boils and ulcers, as well as a prevention treatment for blemishes and eczema.

My questions for YOU:

  • How are you using Neem?
  • What are your favorite topical recipes?
  • With what oils do you use it in conjunction?
  • Do you have favorite brands, sources, forms?

I’d love to hear your experiences and recommendations. Please share in the comments below. I’ll follow up with my thoughts and hopefully have some good recipes to post!

What’s In The Goodie Box?

Tour The Goodie Box!

Whew! What a month! I’m so excited to have celebrated this month with all of you. Thanks to each and everyone one of you who subscribed to the blog and liked our facebook page. And now for the good stuff! Let’s take a look at what is in the goodie box!


Cure Natural Aqua Gel

This is a really interesting exfoliator. On clean, dry skin, you apply a dime sized amount all over face and wait about 30 seconds. The gel starts to thicken and turns white. Massage in a circular motion for a minute or so. Then rinse off gel and skin.



Beautycounter Routine Clean

Beautycounter has recently updated this product (along with several others) to now be known as “Nourishing Cream Cleanser” but it is still an oldie but goodie. This is one of my favorite everyday cleansers that cleans well but doesn’t dry your skin.



Purifying Charcoal Mask

Quickly becoming one of my favorite face masks, this charcoal mask rocks! It is a mineral-rich mix of clay and charcoal that pulls out impurities and soothes your skin. A little goes a long way and this is now a weekly routine around my house.



Ursa Major Face Wash

I had originally found this product through some samples with another purchase. I did some background checking on the ingredients before giving it a shot and I’m glad I did. It is a great cleanser that feels soothing and tingly and does a great job of removing stubborn makeup. For the non-fussy peeps that are still looking for a great product, this one is worth checking out and could easily be a cleanser for all family members.


DIY Antibacterial Balm

Well this stuff is just amazing. A friend sent me a link to this recipe thinking it looked like something I would make. You know I had to try it and am glad I did! It was very easy to put together and is one of the more versatile products I have concocted. Aside from healing cuts and scrapes, I have found it works great for a cuticle cream. It is really thick and due to the beeswax, creates a great moisturizing barrier with staying power. Love, love, love this stuff.


Naturulz Foot Repair

This product was a drugstore find that I picked up rather skeptically. The packaging does scream natural product but reading the ingredients was reassuring. I’ve been using this for the past few months and love it’s moisturizing ability. It is pretty oily and melts in your hand so a little goes a long way and you are definitely going to want to put on some socks after applying it and walking around the house.


Moksha Body Oil

Those who know me, can attest to my favorite fall/winter fragrances being woodsy and deep. I’ve long worn a CB I hate perfume scent for years called ‘Burning Leaves’ but was super excited to find this body oil that smelled nearly the same! Since it is in an oil form it is long wearing and blends nicely into the skin.

thievesoilThieves Oil in Jojoba

This little gem is also a good health hack for the winter months. The history of the ‘thieves oil’ blend dates back to the Bubonic Plague where robbers would cover their hands and selves with a blend of oils to ward off germs while they robbed plague suffers and not get sick themselves. Now I don’t advocate using this for nefarious purposes, it will help you fight off germs while keeping you smelling deliciously like Christmas. You can wear it like a fragrance or spread it more widely on your body like an oil.


Rose Tea

Good for tea time and good for your skin! I love this tea. It is probably one of my favorites. Daily use of the Siberian Rose tea is said to give you a healthy complexion, promote skin hydration, and act as a gentle sleep aid. It is helpful in clearing toxins and restoring balance to the intestines. Rose teas are very high in vitamin C, which is an important component in maintaining healthy and radiant skin.


Dr. Bronners Lip Balm

I’m sure to a lot of you Dr. B’s needs no introduction. Their main soap line can be used for everything from self care to home cleaning. I use their products for a lot of things around my house. I didn’t have any idea that they made lip balm! On a trip to my local herbal supply store, I found the orange ginger balm and tried it out. Love it. Great moisturizer, not too waxy. It is just what you are looking for in a basic lip balm.



My Scheming Q10 and Collagen Firming Facial Mask

On to the masks! I’ve picked up a couple of these boxes at our local asian supermarket and these are some of my favorites. Now I am giving away my last one and they are temporarily out of stock! Keep your eyes peeled for more. They are firming and toning and like other Korean sheet masks, are a nice little spa day right in your own home.


Snail Bee Mask

While hydrating, this mask seemed to have the most benefit as a skin brightener. I felt like my skin was glowing after using it. This was amplified if I used the masks a few days in a row. It seemed to take a few years off and melt the look of stress away.


Whew! That about covers it! I hope you enjoy the package Sheryl. Included in the box is this handy-dandy little legend showing what product matches what sample (With Stickers!! Yep- I’m a dork  ;)). Feel free to message me in the comment section with any questions! xoxo ~Shell&Shine







Congratulations!! Thank Yous!!

Congratulations… And now to announce the winner of the Shell & Shine Goodie Box Giveaway!…

Congratulations Sheryl Brown!

A big thank you to everyone who has been sharing this year with me on shellandshine.com and for all of the new folks who just tuned in.
I’m happy you are here.

Stay tuned for tomorrow! I’ll be posting a full list of all the little treats that were included in the goodie box and where you can get them for yourself.

Until tomorrow! 🙂


Shell & Shine! One Year Old!

One Year Old!

Holy Cow Time Flies! We are just about to celebrate our one year anniversary here at Shell & Shine! I’m so exstatic! I am also very grateful to all of you who have been reading, commenting, and reaching out.
I have been busy making some skin-care packages for a few besties (eeehum… like people who live on remote Alaskan islands! You know how you are!). But I haven’t forgotten you!


Goodie Goodie!

In honor of how completely kick-ass you all are, I have a skin-care goodie bag for one lucky winner, to be picked at random on October 3rd (2016). It is jam-packed with samples of all of my favorite products and some things I’ve made myself.

How To Enter?

How do you enter? Great question! Go to my website (shellandshine.com) OR my Facebook page and subscribe or follow and you will be entered for the drawing. Do both? And you get entered twice! Whaaaaat?!? Two chances to win!! That’s right 🙂 That’s how much I love you.
So subscribe on the site and follow me on facebook. I want to give this goody bag to you!
 I am so sincerely thankful to have shared my online journey with you thus far. Here is to another year 🙂

You Asked- I Answered! Jasmine Revealed.

All you could ever want to know about Shell and Shine author, Jasmine Hartsook.

I get tons of questions from day to day. You wanted to know… So here you go!
Do you go by any nicknames?
 JazzyPants or Jasmine-chan if you’re my mother:)

Where is home? 
Seattle, in the great Pacific Northwest!

What is your favorite part of where you live? Seattle is such a great city but it does take getting used to the weather. Once you pass the year mark and know you can make it through the grey season, this place can’t be beat. Although growing and changing fast, the Emerald City can feel small while still offering great art, music, and culture. Better yet, within a half-hour, you can be in the woods and surrounded by amazing nature: Mountains in one direction and the sea in the other. Geographically, it is hard to top.

Where did you go to school and what did you study?
 I graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a B.F.A. in Graphic Design and a B.F.A. in Photography. I am a life-long student and find myself perpetually taking classes from Math to Marketing, Science to Surfing.

What’s your favorite part of the day? When I can wake up for it, I love early mornings when it is quiet and it feels like you may be the only person around.

Favorite books? Push by Sapphire, This is Water by David Foster Wallace.

Who is your favorite artist? I have three and all for different reasons. Egon Schiele, Gerhard Richter, and Wayne White.

Why do you blog? 
I get a lot of satisfaction from sharing what I learn. For the last decade, I have spent a lot of time researching and trying things that are geared toward good health and specifically skin health. Wanting to archive my favorite finds, I decided to do it publically online and hopefully, others may find some useful tidbits!

Jasmine’s faithful companion, Fleck, Rat Terrier Extraordinaire!

Are you a cat person or dog person?
 I am a total dog person. I adopted a rescue rat terrier five years ago and consider him my most faithful companion. He is a very challenging little guy with stranger danger but there is nothing like the morning medicine of seeing a dog’s wiggly behind, prancing down the hall to an anticipated walk. We should all be so excited to start each day.

Do you have a guilty pleasure? If you ask my best friend, he would easily recite my old trusty “Afternoon reading book after book at a Barnes and Noble with a coffee.” But more recently, I would have to say my guilty pleasure is getting in bed WAY too early and turning on the electric mattress warmer and drifting to sleep with a podcast playing.

What are you currently listening to? As we speak, Lana Del Ray’s “Born To Die” is spinning. I did just pick up some new records last weekend, which includes Prince, Thelonious Monk, Gil Scott-Heron, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Sheena Easton.


Favorite musical artists? Die Antwoord, Alt-J, Thomas Newman, D’Angelo, Aphex Twin, Warrant, The Beatles, Lenny Kravitz.

Latest interests? Well besides all things skincare related (that’s why we’re all here, right!?), I have been interested in waste reduction lately. The amount of things we consume is amazing and even more amazing is what we discard. Being a thoughtful consumer is important and minimizing any trash you create even more so. This answer could go on and on. Book-making, technology geek, hiking, psychology, taxidermy, anatomy, meditation,…

Anything else? Just ask 🙂



Korean Sheet Mask Trial

The verdict is in! I have found the top two Korean Sheet Masks after many, many, agonizing trials ;).


Korean Sheet Masks have started to see a rise in popularity over the past few years in the US. I am lucky enough to live in Seattle and have access to a lot of Asian stores that sell these individually. Over the past two months, I’ve done the hard work for you and tried a few- Twenty to be exact. Without further ado, here are my top two:


  1. Snail Bee High Content Mask Pack from Benton

While hydrating, this mask seemed to have the most benefit as a skin brightener. I felt like my skin was glowing after using it. This was amplified if I used the masks a few days in a row. It seemed to take a few years off and melt the look of stress away.


Editor’s Note:

This face mask is fully immersed in a highly concentrated essence infused with snail slime filtrate and bee venom. This premium blend of natural ingredients makes the skin’s immune system stronger to be able to stand against daily exposure that often leads to  skin damage. This mask helps recover damaged skin to enhance elasticity, softness, and radiance. This mask is free from parabens, synthetic colorants, artificial fragrance, and formaldehyde. It’s suitable for all skin types, even hypersensitive skin.


  1. Q10 Collagen Firming Mask by My Scheming

This mask left my face feeling so soft. I was really impressed with the texture of my skin after using it. Also to note, my skin felt firmed up but still very hydrated, not tight.


Editor’s Note:

Made with Collagen and Q10, ingredients known for their ability to tighten and renew skin, this face mask is further packed with seaweed essence to give skin a superb level of moisturization. Skin looks brighter and smoother right after using the mask, while regular use rejuvenates skin leading to a healthy and radiant glow. Massage essence into skin after removing mask. Do not rinse off.


Sheet mask thoughts in general-

Pros: There is such a variety and are great for firming and hydration. The packaging makes it great for travel and the application makes it really easy to apply the mask at night and just take off with no fuss, no muss.

Cons: On the flip side, the packaging. I did take issue with how much waste these created. Besides the tissue of the mask itself, some also had a backing and all are individually wrapped. This adds up and I’d much prefer to have a reusable jar when done with my mask products instead of a ton of packaging waste. Additionally, some of these masks (even ones that I liked) have a few ingredients that aren’t great and I tend to avoid.


Tattoo Gone In A Week

Tattoo No More!

Painless tattoo removal from a cream in a week? This concept is apparently leaving the realm of the future and may soon be a viable option for those looking to erase their regrets like they never existed. A PhD student in pathology at Dalhousie University, Alec Falkenham, was working on a chemical compound intended to heal heart tissue and realized this may have an application for tattoo removal. To understand how this would work, let’s look a little at the science of how a tattoo becomes permanent in the first place. It is actually quite fascinating.


“Needles filled with ink pierce your skin many thousands of times, injecting the pigment into your skin. Your body instantly reacts to this assault, and sends out its repair agents to heal your wound. Ironically, it’s actually this immune response that allows the tattoo to become permanent.

Special white blood cells, called macrophages, come into the area to clean up the debris. After gobbling up the pigment, some of these cells make it back to your lymph nodes, where the junk is processed and expelled. But some of these cells get stuck, still full of ink, in the gel-like matrix under the top layer of skin. Because the pigment has been consumed by your cells, your body no longer considers it a foreign object and stops fighting to get rid of it. So it just hangs out there, visibly flooding your inner skin with color.”



Falkenham developed this cream that penetrates the skin and selectively targets macrophages. When these specific macrophages die, others come along to clean up the cells eventually eliminating all cells containing the ink. Brilliant! What is most interesting and exciting to me here is how this may be adapted for other skin conditions. Since this process centers on an autoimmune response, how could it be applied to autoimmune conditions of the skin? Fascinating and perhaps the beginning of a whole new skin care approach for things like psoriasis and eczema?


What Next?

This treatment is supposed to be relatively inexpensive too (treating a small patch of skin should cost under 5 dollars!). Cipher Pharmaceuticals purchased the formula so it will be up to them to run the clinical trials and get it out to market. With about 25% of the American adult population adorned with tattoos, I’m sure there will be more than a few eager customers. I have always wanted one but just couldn’t decide what! So that aside, I am still eager for this product to make its’ way down the pipeline just for its’ potential for other applications. Viva la Future! Gotta love science 🙂


Snail to Prevail?

On the Snail Trail

I’ve been diving head-first into the trend and depths of Korean Skincare products. Holy Moley, there is some impressive and crazy stuff! The ingredients (🐌extract anyone?) are not super common to the US beauty industry, however, they do have pretty high health standards and regulations, so although uncommon, some may be pretty beneficial. I have a handful of products on the way and can’t wait to play around. Stay tuned to hear the favorites and where to get them. I’m anticipating the slug juice won’t turn my body parts into an actual snail, but you never know…


Trash Talk – Let’s ditch it.

Trash, huh, yeah. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!

I know, Earth Day was last month, but that is my point exactly! Being environmentally conscious is a practice for every day, not just one day a year. So…While not explicitly about skincare, taking the time to think about the resources you consume in your everyday life and what you can reduce is synergistic to a more natural lifestyle.

I could go on and on here about statistics that lead me to make some pretty meaningful changes to my lifestyle and trying to reduce my consumption and waste, from shopping in bulk, bringing my own bags, not using paper towels, etc. but it might be more meaningful to share with you links to the things that inspired me to be more mindful. I hope you find some of these resources as life changing as I did.

United States of Trash, Morgan Spurlock


Morgan Spurlock, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind Super Size Me, follows his own trash to see what throwing something ‘away’ really means.

Trash is for Tossers, Lauren Singer


Lauren Singer lives a Zero Waste life in NYC and literally only produces a jar or two of trash every year. You can spend hours looking through this beautiful blog.


Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson


Bea Johnson lives waste-free with her family since 2008 and is the author of the bestseller Zero Waste Home.


If these so inspire you to make some lifestyle changes, I suggest hitting the thrift stores and looking for some items to help you cut down on your consumption. There are a few items that I purchased along the way (some old, some new) that I found helpful. I’ll provide the links below to some great products. For example, in Seattle, plastic bags have been banned in an attempt to promote reusable bags. I’ve invested in some good canvas ones that I use each time I go to the grocery store or do my general shopping. You can find them below along with some other cool items.


Green Grocery Shopping

Reusable Canvas Bags– I keep these on hooks right by my front door and grab them on the way out for any kind of shopping trip. I like these in particular because they have great fabric holders on the inside to keep wine bottles and such from moving around.


Reusable Produce and Bulk Bags- I do a lot of shopping in bulk bins to cut down on the amount of food packaging I go through. These mesh bags and canvas/muslin bags are great for everything from produce to grains and nuts.





Personal Care Items

I’m sure if you are reading this blog, it is no surprise to you that I spend a lot of time experimenting with different personal products. I’m not only looking for things that work great and are healthy for my skin, but I do also place a lot of consideration into how much waste these things produce and how recyclable/reusable the packaging is. For me, it almost becomes a fun game to see how efficient I can be while still enjoying my routines. Here are some changes that I found painless and effective:

Safety Razors– This took a little practice to learn how to use BUT what a money saver! Each blade tops out at about ten cents and lasts for quite awhile. I never spend money on razors anymore and the waste produced here is by far less than traditional razors or disposable alternatives. You know what? This is also pretty beautiful hanging in my shower.


Toothbrushes– Biodegradable Bamboo! These brushes are the right firmness and also look super cute. I tried several different kinds but this one was by far the best. I have found it holds up better than traditional brushes so they last a bit longer. Additionally, when they are used up, I pull the bristles out and use the wood handles for plant markers. Works great!


Feminine Products- Ladies, the average woman throws away 250-300 pounds of feminine product waste in their lifetime. The majority of these products are at least partially made out of synthetic materials and take hundreds of years to biodegrade. Being that most of these products haven’t even been commercially produced for that long, that means most of the feminine products that have been consumed thus far, are still sitting in a landfill somewhere! All of them! Whoa! Now, full discloser here. When I was looking at cutting this part of waste from my lifestyle, I made a decision that if I were to allow myself any waste production, this would be an area I could allow it for comfort or convenience if necessary. However, I am happy to say I have found some awesome alternatives that really work and I find just as easy, convenient, and comfortable to use as the standard pads and tampons I grew up with. Here are my top picks!

Reusable Pads


Thinx- Underwear with built in pads! OMG- these are awesome! I just bought one pair to try them out and was skeptical about how well they would work, but now I’m ready to order a few more. There are a ton of reviews out there so let me google that for you.


Lunnette– Reusable menstral cup.




Other Household Products-

Scotts Naturals TP– What!? Toilet paper without the cardboard tube! Genius! I’m not sure why someone hasn’t thought about this sooner. Love it. Less waste. I do wonder how much it cost/changed things adapting the factory to produce this product but hope it is a trend that would catch on. I’m not sure why we need that cardboard tube other than making crafts from them later.


tube-free-toilet-paper-no-trash Kitchen Jars– Glass. I’ve replaced all of my kitchen containers with glass over the years. They are essential for bulk shopping and versatile while keeping everything very fresh. I can’t recommend this enough.


DIY waxed wrap– And finally, for the kitchen, I made some waxed reusable fabric to replace all saran wrap use needs. There are several tutorials out there but I used wax from a Portland company called Otterwax and some scrap pieces of fabric. They are perfect for covering bowls, wrapping sandwiches on the go, etc. Perhaps I’ll post a tutorial on that process in the future.


I hope you found some of these links inspiring and some of these ideas helpful. As I consider myself one big DIY experiment, I’d love to hear from you and what you do to minimize trash in your household. Give me some ideas! What do you do that I should also?