Thursday, 16 October 2014

Fall diaries: body and spirit

While I could probably write a novel about everything I dislike about the season, I am trying out this new thing... positivity. Yet it turns out I am the sort of person that needs props and treats to stay positive during autumn, so here is a little selection of things that have been (and hopefully will continue) making this fall an absolute joy for me.

As I rarely drink coffee and really like my sleep, a good energy supplement is something that I very much appreciate when weather isn't all that fab and the duvet is just so inviting. I have found Inner Me supplements to be of really good quality and I can actually feel the difference when I take them. The Energise Me capsules are a blend of vitamins and minerals that give you a little boost and support your overall health.

Autumn is the beginning of proper bath season. Nothing is more relaxing and soothing to me than a hot bath, well actually there is... A bath with Bohdi & Birch Rosemary Chi Himalayan salt detox scrub. Once you scrub up, instead of washing it all off, just dunk in a bath and stay there for an out of this world pamper experience. I can feel my skin tingling in the most wonderful way, somehow this scrub manages to make me feel both very alive and awake yet completely soothed and relaxed. If there was a scent to describe tranquillity this salt scrub is it. I can close my eyes and go to my happy place.

With the autumn rain and wind, I find that my hair needs a little extra TLC and Tabitha James Kraan scented hair oil looks after my mane and lifts up my spirit with the subtle sensual rose aroma. You can use a couple of drops of this amber liquid on the ends of your locks as the need arises, or as a bi-weekly hair oil treatment. Either way the results would make Rapunzel jealous. The reason no doubt is that this blend has some rather fantastic ingredients: sea buckthorn oil, argan oil, rosehip and goji berry.

It is no secret that I love a good toner, it can really take your skincare routine to the next level. As luck would have it I managed to get myself an OLO by Elizabeth Dhen vitamin D mist as a gift with purchase. I feel it has the potential to be a perfect solution to the dreaded seasonal finicky skin ( I am yet to test it, so will reserve further judgement until then).

Even though my skin is not nearly as oily as it is in the summer, it still is a little early for super hydrating products. Odacite Peach Cypress serum is a perfect solution for combo skin. I was so chuffed to win this little bottle of skincare magic. It has been keeping my skin perfectly balanced and providing just enough moisture in the slightly changeable weather.

When things have been getting tough for my skin (sudden sensitivities, stress and weather related), Lyonsleaf healing calendula cream has been not only a perfect shoulder to cry on, but also someone who makes the problems go away. While I am not quiet ready for a full review just yet, I have discovered that this whipped buttery balm makes a rather wonderful face moisturiser for the transitional seasons (oh the things that you discover by accident!).

Every time my inner duvet-hugger needs a kick up the butt Inspired Action is here for me (previous review here). I guess it all starts with the decision to use this transformative flower remedy perfume, but I do feel much more ready to get on with things after inhaling the wonderful aroma of the Lotus Wei blend.

And if the days problem is the gloomy sky that makes me want to stay inside eating marshmallows, I reach for the Badger Balm Cheerful mind. First of all just looking at the cutesy tin already makes me more cheery, the wonderful blend of citrus and peppermint makes me feel like I have been dipped into summer, at this point I even feel like maybe Autumn is not so bad, maybe I even like it. After all it is the season that brings me pumpkins.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Yuli Elixirs review

For whatever reason, despite being aware of Yuli for quiet sometime I only took the plunge to try my first product from the line earlier this spring. However once I started there was no stopping, and in the true fashion of a beauty addict I made it my mission to sample most everything that was on offer from the Yuli range. Although my task is far from being complete I feel that that Yuli elixirs are a true heart of the collection. They are the foundation, the first step that will make the rest of your skin care ritual sing.

While I have always been a big fan of toners, these Elixirs are in the league of their own, yes they are liquid, yes they are based on hydrolats, yet somehow it is not just a toner, it is more than sum of its parts, it is an Elixir, a potion that promises and delivers healthier looking skin.

My journey started with Metamorphic elixir that is designed for anti-ageing/dry skin, while neither of these apply to me, I always find seasonal transitions from winter into spring a little difficult in terms of skincare and the fact that this elixir in particular is supposed to help prevent and reverse sun damage made it seem like an excellent choice for the season. Shortly after receiving my first Yuli bottle, I not only caught a nasty cold but also managed to twist my ankle so badly that I couldn't walk for a couple of days (and then was resting it as much as possible). Due to those unfortunate events my skincare routine was practically non existent, I couldn't face standing up to wash my face properly, so I was mainly using some wipe of cleansers and spraying my face with Metamorphic 3-4 times a day for moisture. Of course I would not recommend anyone follow my regimen (unless you find yourself in similar circumstances), and I was fully prepared for rather awful skin days, however my skin looked absolutely fabulous all glowy and healthy, unlike the rest of me. This was the first time that I was really ill but my skin did not reflect it. I give full props to Metamorphic elixir for that. The scent was rather unusual, reminded me of cooked carrots and something else savoury, I came to associate it with good skin. I think it takes a little while to notice the difference that it makes in terms of skin tone and general look and feel, maybe about 2-3 weeks. I did really enjoy using it and I think that for me it is a good product to use with the change of seasons (between cold to hot and hot to cold weather), however it is not my favourite of the three.

Before I even ran out of Metamorphic I already purchased the Cocoon Elixir, I also got Panacea as a birthday present. Panacea is what I was using most through the summer and it only just ran out. It is designed for normal/combination skin and is a really good option for those prone to blemishes. The smell reminds me of field flowers and dry herbal teas, it is a little sweeter than metamorphic. I think the effects on my skin were similar as with the other elixir, however since blemishes have not really been a concern for the past year I again feel that this was not the best option for me all year round, but a really great choice for summer when my skin tends to be on the oily side.

Cocoon Elixir is my absolute favourite of the lot. It has the most delicious, light floral aroma. As well as having the wonderful effects on the appearance of my skin (similar to the other to elixirs), it also makes my skin feel calm. Occasionally my skin can get sensitive during weather changes, it starts to feel itchy or appear a bit blotchy for no apparent reason and this elixir sorts those things out within minutes. With sudden temperature changes this elixir has become my best friend, it just works with my skin no matter what the elements are like.

Over all I feel that the elixirs have certain similarities in terms of how they make your skin look, however certain ingredients are more beneficial depending on what your concerns are, and while I originally anticipated that Panacea would be my elixir of choice, it turned out that Cocoon was the winner. Perhaps this is not surprising as Yuli products are adaptogenic, meaning they interact and work in synergy with individual skin needs, making them hard to go wrong with, but getting the product with the right characteristics will yield most results.

All of the elixirs come in three sizes 10ml, 50ml and 100ml. Once you open the bottle it has a shelf life of 6 months, I find that a 50ml bottle lasts me about 4 months so a 100ml bottle would not be a sensible choice for me, as it would expire before I had a chance to use it up. I use it mostly once a day in the evenings, but if I am at home I find myself spraying more often 2-3 times, so it is a little difficult to predict how many sprays you get, my suggestion would be to start with a 50ml bottle to see if a bigger bottle makes sense for you.

Even though I don't think that Yuli elixirs are the only things responsible for my skin looking its best, I can not deny that they made a significant difference. I have been using them non stop with only a short break while I was in Marseille, and I have to say my skin did not look all that fabulous during the holiday. My cocoon bottle has a good few months in it but I am curious to see what happens if I change to a different toner once I run out (yet a part of me is scared to do that as Yuli has become a very good friend, and I don't want to let it go).

In Europe you can get Yuli from Amazingy a German online retailer, and they have always been great with providing samples whith orders.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Fall diaries: it's all about Pumpkin

As I grow older I realise that I am not a big fan of seasons, I like summer and the others are just a long period of waiting until I get reunited with summer. Don't get me wrong Autumn in theory is amazing, beautiful soft colours of fallen leaves, slight crisp to the air yet sun still has warmth. It is a reminder that nothing stays the same, time of contemplation and reflection. However the reality of fall is that it is unpredictable, one day it feels like summer and the next day you are met with grey skies and arctic winds, your priority becomes running from one building to another in order not to get wet (and let's face it umbrellas are not much help 90% of the time), and the quiet beauty of autumn seems like a distant memory. One of the redeeming qualities of the season for me are the late berries that are still growing at the beginning of autumn, mushrooms and squashes that come in to their own during fall. In particular I associate autumn with Pumpkins.

Pumpkin is the true belle of the ball, it's flesh is incredibly nutritious, a great source of fibre and vitamin A. Seeds are a fantastic source of zinc, and I personally think that pumpkins are delicious. Eating pumpkins is not the only way to reap the beauty benefits, there are a few products that incorporate oil from the seeds and even pumpkin flesh to make your skin extra soft and beautiful.

While trying to make a list of everything pumpkin out there, I realised that most of of the products are from over the Pond, in the end I decided to feature a small selection of the products that I found to be most exciting.

Osmia Zucca Spice: This is a seasonal soap and as well as the beautiful pumpkin it contains rosehip powder that gently exfoliates your skin. This is the only product on the list that I actually tried and love. Clearly I am not the only one as the first batch of this wonder soap has already sold out (despite becoming available only about a week ago), but don't worry the second batch should become available soon. I did a mini review on this soap as part of my Spotlight on Osmia if you fancy having a read.

Gaia creams Veggie Cocktail: I am a big fan of Gaia, the raw creams have a delightful buttery texture and are super concentrated, so despite the size, a 30ml jar could last you a long time. It can be used both as a face or a body cream. While I have not tried this particular version I have very high hopes for it based on the ingredients. In addition to the Pumpkin seed oil, this blend has unrefined and not macerated carrot tissue oil, cold pressed from the whole carrot. This cream doesn't have any essential oils and a list of just five ingredients, it is full of antioxidants and omegas making it a good choice for your skin before and after the exposure to the elements.

Wild honey apothecary pumpkin cocoa mask: I have yet to try anything from the brand but I am drawn to their ethos and interesting labels. The product selection changes with seasons and everything is made by hand in small batches. This mask has both organic pumpkin and pumpkin seed oil, as well as raw organic cocoa and raw honey. The mask is supposed to help with repairing and protecting from free radical damage, boost collagen, combat inflammation, hydration. Sounds like a perfect concoction for post summer skin, but it looks like something I should be spreading on toast...

Ambre botanical pumpkin seed and kokum face cream: I have tried a few things from Ambre but yet to get my hands on this cream. This cream has no water so expect it to be more like balm rather than an actual cream texture. It contains not only pumpkin seed oil, but also pumpkin seed butter, out of all the other wonderful oils and butters sea buckthorn oil catches my eye, I find the products that I have tried so far with sea buckthorn have always made my skin look its best. I expect this cream to be quiet rich, and I think it would be fantastic once the autumn turns from the mild weather to the other, less pleasant side of the season.

So where do you guys stand on the pumpkins? Please share any of your pumpkin faves in the comments.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Green People

Organic Beauty week is not quiet over yet. Everyday this week Green People are having a different offer and today's is a free Moisturising gel with every purchase of their Nurture Body lotion.

Green People have one of the biggest, most comprehensive ranges when it comes to "green" beauty. There really is something for each member of the family (yes even for the men in your life), and 90% of their products are certified organic (not only by Soil Association, but also by Ecocert and Organic Food federation). The two products at hand are for the citrus lovers.

It is no secret that I am a big fan soaps, but I do always have a shower gel in my bathroom to use with a sponge, and for a spot of DIY. Moisturising Shower gel* has the right amount of sudsing action, without making my skin feel like dry parchment. What really makes this shower gel stand out to me is the aroma, it is subtle yet distinct. Fresh and vibrant citrus notes, mixed with gentle calm of field flowers. It is a joy to have this product in my shower. I always liked foaming body scrubs, however I haven't come across an organic version, so I make my own when I feel like it by mixing equal amounts of shower gel and salt (I tend to prefer pink Himalayan salt), and let it sit for an hour or so. While it is not an uber fancy exfoliator, it is really handy if you've run out of body scrub. Moisturising shower gel is made with 84% Organic ingredients.

Nurture Body lotion* is a perfect companion to the shower gel. Their fragrances complement each other effortlessly. Again the scent is not overly strong but noticeable, with sparkling bergamot being dominant. Despite the fact that this is a lotion, a little of the product goes along way. Skin is left feeling smooth and supple with no noticeable residue (and smelling oh so delicious). I really like the pump bottle that the lotion comes in, it is very easy to control the amount of product that comes out. As well as shea butter and sunflower oil, this lotion contains squalane from Olives and Perilla oil, combination of these makes it rich in Omega 3-6 as well as antioxidants. This lotion is made with 91.6% Organic ingredients.

When talking about switching to organic beauty it is always advised to start with body products (especially when you use them daily), as they are used on the largest area of skin, body products have potential to be most disruptive if they contain certain synthetic chemicals. There is really no time like the present to try something new, and if you enjoy fresh scents this duo is just the ticket.

*These products are PR samples in honour of Organic Beauty week, I have been buying Green People products for many years and genuinely like their formulations, including the products reviewed above. As always it is my own honest opinion. Just to paraphrase my PR policy: no likey no reviewy...

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Soil Association Organic Beauty event

As part of Organic Beauty week Whole Foods Kensington were hosting a Soil Association event for press and bloggers. I was not entirely sure what to expect from this evening, and even though I arrived at 6.30 on the dot (which was the time on the invite), it looked like I was late as the area was full of people chatting and sipping on prosecco.

Luckily I spotted Amber very quickly, and a few minutes after we were joined by Abi from Odylique (aka essential care). It felt like an informal gathering, a table full of delightful beauty products and a chance to chat with people who created them. Brands showcased were Green People, Neal's Yard, Odylique, Pai, Therapie and Natracare.

In the middle of the evening there was also a more formalised Q&A with a panel of experts (including representatives from above mentioned brands), discussion revolved around organic beauty, certification, ingredients and packaging. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Whole Foods make a point of only stocking products that are certified organic if they make any organic claims. So you can be assured that if you bought something from their stores with the words organic on the front, it is genuinely organic.

After that we had another opportunity to mingle and that is when Amber and I were joined by Tanya from Therapi. I only wish there was more time, as per usual I did not get a chance to speak to everyone I wanted to before we had to leave.

We did not go home empty handed, this was rather unexpected and I am really looking forward to trying everything.

At the same time as the event upstairs, in the Whole Foods beauty department there was an evening of  "organic bubbles and beauty" for all the customers. In the Kensington store there will be a pop up "Green room" from 12th-14th of September, with different guest speakers one of whom is Sarah Brown founder of Pai.

The effort that Soil Association is putting into creating bigger awareness of organic beauty is very impressive and commendable. There are so many amazing brands that make fantastic products, which are head and shoulders above their conventional counterparts, it is a little disheartening to realise how few people truly know about them ( in comparison to brands sold on the shelves of Superdrug). Being in the bubble of the "green" beauty community I sometimes forget that not everyone is familiar with what is in my beauty cabinet, or even with all the different organic certifying bodies. While I have reservations about making organic certification in the beauty industry a part of legislation, I also feel that at present you need to dedicate a lot of time to be able to spot a pretender, and that means that people become sceptical about whether organic products are really worth it.

This event turned out to be not only fun but also very informative, and guess what Pai will be introducing two new products very soon, and they sound pretty fantastic...


Monday, 8 September 2014

Pinks Boutique manicure set review

Today is the start of Organic Beauty week, and of course that means lots of offers to entice you to switch your regular beauty items for the organic ones. Now is a good time to stock up on your trusted favourites or discover something new.

Pinks Boutique is a brand of organic luxury products made in the UK, while you can choose to have a pamper session at one of the Spa's that carries the range, there is nothing stopping you from recreating this experience in the comfort of your own home. As part of the organic beauty festival they have an offer on their try me sets were you can get two boxes for £25 (excluding the anti ageing box which will have its own promo). I love introductory sets, they make fantastic gifts, small bottles are perfect for travel and they give you a chance to find what products from the range (if any) work for you at a fraction of the cost.

Upon setting your eyes on one of the Pinks Boutique try me set boxes you might be expecting some exquisite chocolate confectionery, however this particular treat does not require a sacrifice of your waistline. The manicure set* consists of five products that will create a spa inspired ritual.

To set the scene there is Sweet orange & Neroli elixir, which is a room and linen spray. This scent really reminds me of a treatment room, with lots of different massage oils and balms intermingling together to create that relaxing soothing smell.

The next step is a hand soak (that can also double up as a foot soak), a mixture of salts and essential oils to aid circulation and soften cuticles. Once mixed in the water, the citrus aroma becomes more noticeable, overall the scent is more calming rather than invigorating. As part of the decoration, the set comes with dried rosebuds, and I like to add a few petals from them to the soaking bowl to give my pamper session that something extra.

Once the hands are nicely prepped, there is a bit of a choice, you could use Indonesian Body oil or Hand balm for a light hand massage. Both products sink in really well and have a wonderful exotic fragrance, which is slightly similar in both products but a little stronger in the body oil. The scent is a mixture of sweet nectar and sharper citrus notes, it does stay on the skin, although you would have to have a very sensitive nose to notice it after half an hour. Both of these are recommended for evening use and are suitable all over the body (but not the face). The hand balm has a buttery texture and I find that my hands only need half a pea sized amount (my hands a rarely dry however so others might need more). The body oil is very light, it has more slip than a dry oil but sinks in just as fast,  perfect for a massage.

The last step is the cuticle oil. It has a really fresh crisp scent, most likely thanks to the addition of fennel oil. You only need a few drops for all the nails and their respective cuticles. The whole process from the hand soak to the cuticle oil takes about 10-15 minutes, and is a perfect addition to my usual Sunday mask ritual. In the morning my nails are all ready for painting, or I just rub a little more cuticle oil on them to give that extra shine and leave them au naturel.

I was trying really hard to figure out my favourite product from the box, and I failed miserably. The only thing I probably wouldn't make a part of my collection is the room spray, because I generally prefer scented candles. Despite seemingly small quantities, the products are lasting quiet sometime (especially the hand balm and the cuticle oil), I find myself needing only a small amount at a time, that leaves my hands perfectly moisturised with shiny nails. I love the attention to detail from the box, to the labels, to the wonderful scents, all of it combined is what makes Pinks Boutique manicure try me set* such a wonderful treat or a gift to someone who enjoys having a little me time/spa ritual every so often.

*This set is a PR sample sent to me for a review, as usual the opinions are my own and based on my experience with the products, I want to say scout's honour...but I've never been a scout, so I'm just going to settle for honest.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

To Lush or not to Lush (Collab)

A few weeks ago Lush held a live preservatives debate, in the aftermath an idea for this collaborative post was born. Sarah (Sugarpuffish), Amber (Amber's Beauty Talk), Paula (Naturally Paula) and I, all have different experiences with the company and for our own reasons have decided to give a few alternative suggestions to some of the products from the line up. For the other puzzle pieces of this story you will need to visit these ladies blogs.

My Lush story:

I first discovered Lush when I was a teenager (this is probably not surprising). I remember rushing into the store every payday in hopes of discovering something new. My favourite moment was bringing it all back and poring over the Lush times, looking for ingredients and reviews for each one of my products. You see, as long as I can remember, I have been reading the ingredients lists of every single beauty product I bought, but Lush times was were I was learning what those words actually meant. Straight away I spotted that not all ingredients were natural (although at this point it mattered little to me), I liked the idea of colour coding that made it easier to see how many synthetic chemicals each product had. As I was growing more aware and trying to make better choices with my beauty products in my twenties I was choosing to buy products from Lush that had only those ingredients I was happy to use. I stopped using their soaps and shampoo bars, and was sticking to a couple of cleansers, massage bars, one bath bomb (the Big Blue), fresh masks and of course my beloved Aqua Mirabilis. My favourite products that were all natural Baby face and Sweet Japanese girl were both discontinued (that was quiet some time ago), yet I still kept going to the store, hoping that they would be back.

As I was expanding my knowledge base and finding new natural/organic brands my trips to Lush were becoming less frequent. It felt like I was growing up and changing, yet my old friend Lush was not moving with me. Like with old school friends, with some you have an amazing relationship and with others there is simply nothing to talk about. Lush and I had less and less in common. Nostalgia however is a powerful thing, and the one product I would come back for was Aqua Mirabilis, this was what I used in the morning of the day I got married, and every time I smelt this body bar it brought back happy memories. To be truthful I have not been inside one of their stores for more than a year, but I wasn't actively avoiding Lush, it just was not at the top of my list.

The things I like about their products is that quiet a lot of them are free of packaging. The fact that they recycle their black pots and if you bring 5 back you get a free fresh mask (that is why I still have some empty black pots from forever ago). All the ingredients lists are readily available.

However they use quiet a few ingredients that I personally do not want in my products, and now to confuse things even further they have this "self preserve range" which only addresses the paraben part of things. Somehow it all makes me very sad, while before I would hang out in a Lush store after getting a pay cheque, now my destination is Wholefoods Beauty aisle.

As a person who tried pretty much everything from the range in the past (so not any new products in the last 2 years), I thought I would share what I use instead of my old Lush favourites.

I used to adore Lemony flutter for the scent alone, smell of lemons is so refreshing and uplifting, however as soon as Burt's bees lemon butter cuticle cream came into my life I knew it was here to stay. While the two products smell almost identical, Burt's bees is like a miracle worker when it comes to strengthening my nails.

Lush was probably partly responsible for my soap obsession and two of my favourites were Honey I washed the kids and Porridge. My discovery of Bathing Beauty solved this little problem, the Miracle soap that combines oats and honey is like a magical hybrid of the two but without any of the ingredients that I avoid, and it is just so amazing.

One product the I still want to replace is my beloved Aqua Mirabilis, however I think I will need to resort to some DIY to do this. I figured out a recipe that I'm going to use, but it is yet untested as I am missing one ingredient, which I was going to get at the end of  beauty challenge 10. So if you guys are interested let me know in the comments and I will do another post on it.