Featured 1

Valley Nails: A Non-Toxic Nail Experience in NYC

When Valley Nails was first featured in an article in the New York Times (which chronicled a few salons across Manhattan that had ethical working practices, and even some that were committed to providing a safe experience for customers via use of five- and three-free nail polishes) our interests were piqued. We here at SZL are long-time advocates of safe, toxin-free nail care, but sometimes it's just too tempting: every now and then, a girl just has to indulge a little and go have her nails done. Enter Valley Nails. The salon has locations in Chelsea & Nolita, and when I set up an appointment last week, not only was their online system easy to use, but the associate who called to confirm my session was so friendly! When I arrived at the salon (I opted for chic Chelsea), I was immediately struck by the obvious cleanliness. It's one thing to paint your walls a stark white and have well-lit working stations; it's quite another to have polished equipment, gleaming floors, and not a single puff of dust in sight! 

The second thing I noticed was one of the main reasons I had come in the first place: Valley Nails has pioneered the field of clean working environments for their employees by designing, and implementing, their own air filtration system. Upon entering, you're not hit with a wall of nail polish/acetone/acrylic smell. In fact, the air is pleasantly neutral, and perhaps the only scent that lingers is that of Sea Breeze (a spray that they use for manicures and pedicures alike, and which I have become obsessed with!). After choosing my polish from the solid assortment of colors (all of which are 5-free), I was seated in a chair and offered some cucumber-lemon water before my pedicure began. The experience was different (no soaking of the feet, just generous spritzing of Sea Breeze) but so relaxing that I actually caught myself dozing off! I'd also like to mention that the scrub (which I was told contains papaya) smelled so incredible that I was crushed to learn that they don't sell it (but maybe they'll start after this featurette?! Here's hoping!).

My manicure was just as soothing as my pedicure, and I ended up having a great conversation with Kathy (the extremely sweet and knowledgeable woman tending to my nails). We discussed various home remedies, and she even gave me a few new ideas to try! Christian, who was working the desk that evening, was always attentive and kindly offered to get me the name, address, and store hours for the beauty supply where I could purchase the top coat that they use in-house (because, let's be honest, it should be fairly obvious that I'm a beauty junkie!). To say that my experience was incredible is the very least. I plan to make another appointment to try out their specialty, gel nail art, this week. Kathy informed me that their gel nails are cured with LED lights, rather than the more-common UV, so here's to healthier fashionable nails this fall! 

- Maria Vasylivna

An Interview with Ashley Lytwyn, MS, RDN, LDN

ShopZoeLife had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Ashley Lytwyn, the woman behind www.befit-beyou.com, about weight loss, healthy living, and a positive mentality. Be on the look-out for her upcoming article, which will be all about how to make this summer your healthiest and most fun yet!

SZL: Given the description on your personal website, you have dedicated your life to helping others achieve a state of health & wellness. What do you find to be the most rewarding part of working with your clients?
AL: The most rewarding part of working with my clients is seeing the mental shift that occurs with nutritional therapy. I work with a lot of people who have been imprisoned by restrictive diets and have beaten themselves up for years because they feel like a failure. Although sustainable, permanent weight loss is the business model for beFit beYou, the most important thing that occurs is developing a positive relationship with the mind, body, and food, and learning to nourish and treat the body rather than deprive and hurt the body. Happiness creates a much deeper level of health than any number on the scale ever will!

SZL: You mention that personalization is key. What works for some, may not work for others. But have you discovered any universal wellness tips?
AL: Absolutely! Nutrition and health is not rocket science. It is personalized because everyone has different triggers that cause hunger, cravings, and emotional eating. However, as a whole, we can always incorporate more fruits and vegetables into our everyday lifestyle. Hydration is probably the most common topic I discuss.

SZL: What is your current health obsession?
AL: Figs are now in-season in Southern California, where I live. I am a true ‘locavore’ and eat up (pun intended) all of the seasonal, local foods I can! I love visiting restaurants who pride themselves on chef-inspired dishes that incorporate organic food from local farms. Not only do I know I’m getting the freshest, most nutrient-dense food possible, I am also supporting local businesses and organic farmers!

SZL: Do you think that Americans are less inclined to live a healthy lifestyle because of a lack of awareness, or because of other factors (the higher cost of organic products, the perceived time investment, the rampant availability of junk foods, etc)?
AL: I truly think it is a combination of everything; lack of education and awareness, increased costs, perceived time investment, sheer laziness, and excessive junk food that is constantly pushed in our faces. Unfortunately, society doesn’t necessarily make it easy to eat healthy as we have ‘jumbo-sized’ everything! The biggest contributing factor I see is the deprivation/binge cycle that many Americans put themselves on. Americans feel as though they have to deprive and restrict to be healthy. Most don’t understand that a healthy, balanced diet can easily and effortlessly achieve a healthy weight as well. With deprivation and restriction, comes overeating, indulging and rewarding. Americans feel that if they “did well” on a diet for two weeks, they can have a cheat meal and eat whatever they want. Wrong. This cyclical battle perpetuates the notion that healthy food is always tasteless and you can only truly enjoy food when you are ‘cheating’. With education and awareness, we can understand that healthy food can also be delicious, quick, and easy. I know it sounds like common sense, but it’s harder than it sounds to grasp this mentality! 

SZL: What is the greatest difference you see in your clients, after they successfully adhere to your programs?
AL: The biggest success I see is when a client releases the mentality that a number on the scale dictates their happiness or self-worth. Building confidence in one’s body and truly learning to love what you have helps diminish self-sabotage. Once we fix the mental component, weight loss always follows. It’s a win-win for everyone.

SZL: What is your biggest no-no (the thing that you avoid at all costs)?
AL: Artificial sweeteners or any type of artificially made ingredient. Let’s get back to the basics and eat the real thing, as nature intended!

- Maria Vasylivna

Tara Mackey: Woman Extraordinaire

The Internet boasts myriad blogs and websites dedicated to healthy living, making better lifestyle choices and organic alternatives to everyday chemical-laden products. But when you happen upon a site like The Organic Life Blog (which also has a linked Instagram account), it's easy to see that it's something special. The thing that we find the most marvelous is how connected Tara Mackey, the woman behind it all, seems to be with herself, her followers, and Nature. A fascinating woman always has an interesting journey to share, and you could say that Tara's began even before she was born!

"I love swimming - I've been swimming since I was in the womb. My mother swam her whole pregnancy with me!" Tara's energy is infectious, even via electronic correspondence, and what she shares with us in her upcoming Q & A will be just as fascinating as the path that has led her to the person she is today. And who might that be? Well, for starters, she's quite the accomplished woman; a Certified Environmental Technician and lab analyst, she also has an educational background in Psychology and Genetics. Her academic credits don't stop there: in January, she'll also be a published author. Her upcoming book, 'Cured By Nature: How to Heal from the Inside Out, Find Happiness, and Discover Your True Self,' is sure to fly off the shelves and bring her even more accolades (you can pre-order a copy HERE).  

With serious scientific chops like these, you wouldn't be the only one stunned by her striking appearance. With piercing, pale eyes and glowing skin, it should come as no surprise that she is the face of La Bella Figura's all natural and organic makeup line. She has also graced the cover of Time Out New York, been featured in popular music videos (like Selena Gomez' 'The Heart Wants What It Wants'), and served as a muse for various natural and sustainable business. But it doesn't end there. Tara is also the model featured on the labels of Delizioso Skincare's Tara Collection... which is perfect, since she herself inspired it, and collaborated with its founders, Ariel & Leeona, on the line! 

So far, we have brains and beauty, but we haven't forgotten about talent! Tara's is evident; she's a globally-known singer, and when she's not working on her blog, she contributes written pieces for Happiness & Wellbeing Magazine, Pop Sugar Fitness, Lucky Magazine, and True Luxury Life. And when she's not doing one of the multitudinous things we've already talked about, Tara enjoys her leisure time to the fullest. "I love summertime.  I love warm weather.  As well as LA, I have a place in Encinitas, San Diego, right by the beach, and I often go swimming, running or surfing down there... Beach time is particularly great for my skin, hair, and mood." It is this sort of infectious joy for life that seems to shine through in all her endeavors, and to inspire not just those who know her personally, but complete strangers (whether they be fans of her music, Instagram profile, blog, etc.). It was our privilege at Shop Zoe Life to be able to interview the woman herself, but we wanted to give you some background before we jumped in! SZL's founder Zoe Twitt spent some time focusing on Tara's new line with Delizioso Skincare, and more details on Tara's own journey to wellness, in our follow-up Q& A. Look for it next in our featured selections.

- Maria Vasylivna

Zoe's Favorites: Michi

Zoe discusses her favorite pieces from this socially conscious athleisure line hailing from Toronto.

Blackberry Chia Jam

A part of cutting out processed foods and still enjoying the sweetness of life is to make everything from home and keep it simple. I bring to you one of my favorite things in the world. 






Not only is this a more inexpensive option to store bought "jam," but it is also more delicious and a helluvah lot healthier. Yay happy bellies. 


What do you do?


10 Blackberries

1 Tablespoon chia seeds




I don't think there are many things that are simpler than that. Try this with raspberries too if you prefer.


Written by Clare Anderson of Lionheart Whole Living


Like our skin and hair, nails need oxygen and water to stay healthy. A lot of times, our first response to dried out, haggard nails is to coat them with polish.

Polish can look great (until it inevitably chips), but the truth is, it prevents your nails from exposure to the elements they need. Not only that, some of the chemicals in nail polish (ethyl acetate, isopropyl) are responsible for creating a plethora of health problems for nail technicians and salon workers who are surrounded by them all day.

Next time you're at the salon, try opting for a "Buff & Shine." After a thorough cleaning and shaping, your nails will be buffed to shiny perfection. They'll sparkle like they're covered in clear polish, but they'll be able breathe.

Best of all... your mani won't chip!

-Jules Bakshi

The French Je Ne Sais Quoi

The women of France aren’t fixated on gym workouts, calories in and out, and fad beauty treatments. They definitely don’t do the daily wash of the hair and they've demonstrated that dieting is deplorable. Naturel nails, toning tonics, home made masks – these ladies know how to care for their corps. Below, you’ll find our guide to going femme free, for barely any bucks.

The Basics

Hair Clarifying Tonic

Apple cider vinegar will help restore your hair’s pH value.  It seals the cuticles, making each strand shinier and stronger, and will remove the buildup of commercial shampoos. 1 part apple cider vinegar 1 part water Pour mixture into hair after shampooing. Allow the concoction sit for several minutes before rinsing thoroughly. There is no reason to condition, as this treatment will leave your hair lovely and smooth.

Moisture Mask

Eggs are rich in protein. Protein helps to strengthen the hair, and alleviates brittleness that leads to split ends. 2 Whole Eggs (preferably pasture raised) Crack at least two eggs in a bowl and whisk together. If you have dry or brittle hair, use egg whites to moisturize your hair. Use ½ cup of any egg mixture (egg white, entire egg) and apply to clean, damp hair. Leave it for 20 minutes and rinse with cool water.


Flip your head over, and looking at you belly, brush your hair in long sweeping strokes (6-10, don’t overdo it), stimulating the scalp, and distributing natural oils. This is great for your scalp health and when done gently will promote hair growth.


Massaging the scalp is something humans have been doing since the beginning of time.. The Indians have Shirodhara, the Chinese have Qi Gong head massage, and in the Middle East it’s simply expected when visiting the barber. In Traditional Chinese medicine, there are pressure points all over your head that correspond to your internal organs as well as eyes, ears, nose, arms and legs. So, basically your entire body. You can incorporate massage into your daily routine – use circular massage-like motions when washing hair, before bed, and after your brushing routine.

How To: Scalp Massage

  1. Remove hair tie and part hair.
  2. Looking down, massage your temples in a clockwise motion with your index and middle fingers, working your way up to the top of your forehead and back down to your temples.
  3. Keeping your knuckles close to your scalp, gently tug your hair (and head) from side-to-side several times. Start at the front of your hairline and work your way to the back of your head.
  4. Massage your scalp using your thumbs in clockwise (right thumb) and counterclockwise (left thumb) motions, while your other fingers rest on top of your head, holding in place.
  5. Tap lightly on scalp using fingertips. In Traditional Chinese Medecine (TCM) this is refered to as tapping but the French call this pianotage, which is much more elegant.

How To: Facial Massage

Below is a traditional French facial massage, using the principles of lymphatic drainage. It's simple, quick, and detoxifying. Your skin will glow.
  1. Place five dots of facial moisturizer (almond oil, coconut oil, or the SW Basics Shea butter moisturizer) around your face: one at the base of your neck, one on your chin, one on each cheek, and one on your forehead.
  2. Using your finger tips, gently sweep your hands up your neck alternating between both hands in a gentle caressing motions. I usually do at least 20 strokes.
  3. Now caress your chin and cheeks, starting at the chin and moving outward toward the ears, and then starting at the nose and moving across the cheeks toward the brow area. Do each stroke about ten times. This helps with lymphatic drainage, which in turn gives you that thing we’re always talking about — a great glow.
  4. Smooth out your forehead by placing both palms in the middle and moving outward in opposite directions. Vary that with upward strokes, one palm at a time, from the middle of your nose to your hairline. Bellis does the whole routine two to three times.
  5. Wake up your lovely face with pianotage, lightly tapping your fingers all over your face and neck as though you’re playing a piano. This helps with circulation and lets the moisturizer penetrate your skin better.
  6. Finish off the facial moisturizing segment by pressing your palms gently against your cheeks, temples, and necks.
  7. Now, it’s time for eye cream: Dab a bit on the outer corner of each eye and beneath each eye. Any extra? Dab along your upper lip, which is also a very delicate area.
  8. Place a finger against your upper eyelid, right by the tear duct. (Do both eyes at once.) Using very, very gentle strokes, move your finger along the crease of the upper eyelid and down around your eye, following the shape of the eye. You’ll end up by the tear duct again, but on the opposite side. Go around the eye four or five times, remembering to be extremely careful with this fragile skin.
  9. Massage any leftover eye cream onto your upper lip as though you’re stroking your mustache.
  10. Finish up with a bit of upper lip pianotaage. - Zoe Twitt