Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Organic September | The End



I am not normally terribly excited about autumn, but there is no denying that this Organic September has been an amazing month. It was both challenging and exciting, I have a new found respect for anyone who posts on their blog every day. The amount of personal discoveries I made were a bit of a surprise. I guess that my focus on green beauty was becoming a little all consuming, and I was neglecting other parts of why I started on the organic journey in the first place. So I guess the question is what now? Well I'm just going to carry on the same way as I did this September, constantly learning and trying to focus on quality versus quantity.

I thought I would compile a list of posts that I did through out this month, they range from the reasons that I choose organic, to reviews of different certified products (food, beauty, fashion). In order of posting:
24. Seaweed


Have you guys made new discoveries this September? Any switches that you are deciding to stick to? Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

H+H | Avocado cheesecake


           
 


This year's organic beauty week came with a message, campaign for clarity, and Soil Association found itself some ambassadors to represent the cause in the shape of the Hemsley sisters. It was a pleasure to have a chat with the girls at the Campaign for clarity event. Jasmine and Melissa are so vibrant and passionate about food that nourishes your beauty from the inside, and organic skincare that takes care of your skin from the outside. If you follow these enterprising ladies on social media you might already know that they are huge fans of Pai (rose hip oil in particular, which happens to be my old time favourite too). Melissa, it turns out, also loves nail varnishes, and while I really hope someone is working on a formula for a certified organic version, for the time being she really likes Intensae and Kure Bazaar (truly a girl after my own heart).

 

The Girls have been kind enough to share their amazing vegan avocado cheesecake for me to share with you guys. Avocado really is an incredible fruit (but I think we tend to consider it a vegetable), it is actually a type of pair, and it is high in monounsaturated fats and fibre. Avocados can help improve circulation and really are pretty wonderful for your skin (obviously it doesn't mean that you should gorge yourself on the stuff, just make it part of your diet).

 

Recipe:

Avocados are a great source of healthy fats and Vitamin E, which boosts the vitality and luminosity of skin. Try them in one of our most popular desserts, Avocado Lime Cheesecake. This New York- style cheesecake is packed full of goodness. The smooth creamy lime sits atop a nutty, chocolate base with a hint of coconut. Free from flour and refined sugar as with all our recipes, this Hemsley take on a classic is also dairy free. Simple to make, it’s the perfect pud that’ll keep everyone guessing.

 

INGREDIENTS

 

SERVES 12​​​

FOR THE BASE​​​

125g pecans (preferably ‘crispy’ activated - soaked in water for 24 hours and then dried until crispy - this promotes better digestion and reduces phytates)

45g desiccated coconut​​

70g cacao nibs​​

185g pitted dates​​

3 tbsp coconut oil, melted and at room temperature

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FOR THE FILLING​​​

560g avocado flesh (from about 5 medium-large avocados)

200ml lime juice (roughly 8–10 limes)​

1 tsp lime zest (avoid the bitter white pith)​​

190g raw honey​​

175ml coconut oil, melted and at room temperature​​

a few drops of stevia, to sweeten (optional)

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METHOD

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1 Preheat the oven to fan 150°C/Gas mark 3. Line the base and sides of a springform or loose-bottomed 18 cm round cake tin with baking paper.

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2 Toast the pecans and desiccated coconut on a lined baking tray in the oven for 7–8 minutes, until golden.

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3 Transfer the pecans and coconut to a food processor and add the rest of the base ingredients. Blend until the mixture is crumbly and holds together when pinched (don’t let it go completely smooth).

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4 Tip the base mixture into the prepared tin.Press it down firmly and evenly with the back of a spoon, ensuring it is neat and flat where it meets the sides of tin. Transfer to the fridge while you prepare the filling.

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5 Place all of the ingredients for the filling into a food processor and blend until the mixture is completely smooth and silky. Check for taste and add more lime juice, zest or sweeten with a little more honey or stevia according to preference, but it’s best to keep this deliciously tangy.

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6 Remove the cake tin from the fridge and pour the filling over the base. Cover the tin, using a plate, and return it to the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight, if possible, to set.

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7 To serve, run a knife around the inner edge of the tin and carefully push the base up from the bottom. Transfer to a plate and serve immediately.

 

 

*recipe and photo courtesy of the Hemsley and Hemsley.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Herbfarmacy



We are living in the strangest of times. Most of my possessions are made in countries that I have never had the privilege of visiting, by people who I will never meet, using skills that I have no knowledge about. When it comes to skincare, you can imagine how many steps your bottle of oil, or face cream has to go through. Someone has to grow the plants, someone else makes the oils, yet another person mixes is it all together and puts into a bottle (that also had to go through a similar process). "Farm to bottle" is a term used to describe a brand that grows their ingredients and creates their products on the farm, you can imagine how hard and rare that is, especially in skincare.

What always attracted me to organic skincare is the fact that formulas tend to be more concentrated, especially if we are talking about face oils and balms. The potency of the products however does directly depend on the quality and freshness of the ingredients. You can't get much fresher herbs if you are growing your own. Paul Richards, started growing herbs on his farm over 30 years ago, the range of skincare has been designed and created together with his wife Carol and their team. Some of my best cooking tips have come from farmers who grow those vegetables, and I'm inclined to believe that people who grow herbs know a thing or two about how best to use them. Herbfarmacy products are made in small batches in a converted former Goat shed, right their on the farm, all the herbs are handpicked. The farm itself is certified organic, and the beauty range is certified with Soil Association.

Lip Conditioner with Marshmallow & Vanilla*. I'm a huge lip balm hoarder, but if I'm honest I can count my favourites on one hand. Skin on the lips is really thin, so if you are laking hydration it is the first place to show signs. Obviously drinking enough water, and making sure your diet includes healthy fats is what will keep your smoochers soft, yet lipstick can be drying, and the dynamic duo sun+wind are also know to cause some damage, now this is a job for the lip balm. So what makes a great lip balm? For me it has to feel lovely on, be good under lipstick, soothe my lips if they got to the point when they are dry, and smell nice. Scent is pretty important because Lips are right under the nose, so you are forced to be sniffing the product for quiet some time, can't escape from it.

The list of ingredients is short and sweet: sunflower oil, beeswax, cocoa butter, marshmallow extract, vanilla extract, rosemary extract. When we are talking marshmallows in this lip balm, we are not talking sweet treats promoted by the Marshmallow man in Ghost Busters, we are talking about a plant, with furry leaves and delicate pinc flowers. The part used for this extract is the root, it contains soft mucilages which attract and hold moisture in the surface of the skin. The balm feels really silky on my lips, I don't have to use much to get the benefit, and if I'm using it under lipstick I make sure to use it sparingly (otherwise the colour will just slide off). However if I'm using it on its own, I tend to apply liberally. The tube is wider in diameter then most balms in the same type of packaging, so one swipe is all that is needed, I use more to make my lips extra shiny, to give an illusion that I'm wearing lip gloss. It actually stays on the lips for a long time applied this way, so if you need something to protect your kissers from the wind it is a great choice. The scent is very unusual, it is sweet with a smoky woodsy note, I believe this is from rosemary. When it comes to bringing my lips back on form, it does it admirably. Overall I think this lip balm deserves a gold star.

Temple Balm*. I use some sort of aromatherapy products pretty much everyday, mostly to help with releaving stress and staying focused. I do a lot of reading, so certain scents really help when your mind starts wondering off to what's for dinner and not concentrating on the contents of the book. This particular balm contains: spearmint used in aromatherapy to treat fatigue and headaches, hops used to calm the mind, lavender again is meant to be relaxing, ylang ylang is supposed to be helpful with stress and anxiety, chamomile is also calming, and rosemary is supposed to help with memory retantion, staying focused and alert.

The blend overall has a mild sweet fragrance with spearmint giving a fresh but dominant top note. The scent is different to any other aromatherapy balm that I have, it is quiet mild and I find it soothing. My nose is quiet sensitive, so if something is strongly fragranced I don't always enjoy using it, even if it is a pleasant scent. I have been using this temble balm for the past few weeks, and I find a quick temple massage with it is a great help in getting me back on track. I also tend to rub it on pulse points not just temples, it's a great balm to have around when I'm feeling a little overwhelmed.


I have a few skincare products from Herbfamacy that I'm testing now, but I'm not quiet ready to review. Are you guys familiar with this brand? Any favourites? Let me know in the comments.


PR samples, opinion is my own, based on my personal experience with the products. I give these disclaimers for transparency, because honesty and integrity are things that I take seriously. No one writes or researches these posts for me, I never pretend to like something when I don't, what would be the point?

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Time for a cup of tea...




With Organic September coming to an end, I think it is time to revisit my tea cupboard. Weather is changing and I'm definitely feeling the effects, it is becoming a little harder to wake up in the mornings. Luckily the past few days have been full of sunshine, which generally makes me feel more upbeat, but when it is hiding behind the clouds herbal teas are a huge help.

Higher Living Good mood tea comes in biodegradable teapees, allowing for dry herbs to be encased without having to be ground into powder, this gives a better quality infusion. It is a blend of apple mint, raspberry leaves, blackberry leaves, sunflower petals, marigold flowers, blueberries, strawberry leaves, and chamomile. You infuse it in freshly boiled water, allowing to brew for 4-5 minutes. The flavour is very fresh and predominantly minty, however it tastes more like a fresh mint infusion rather than usual peppermint tea bags. The overall infusion is mild and delicate, with a hint of sweetness. Everyone who likes mint tea would enjoy this, and I am in better spirits after I have a cup.






However I think this blend is pretty special because of the herbs that are in it, sure the tea is tasty and it does make me feel a little more cheerful, but let's have a closer look at what is inside. Apple mint can be useful when you are just starting to get a headache, it's also soothing for the digestive tract, and like the rest of the mint family it can help with feverish conditions. Blackberry leaves are rich in antioxidants. Sunflower petals as far as I can tell are used for the taste, without any extra health properties. Marigold flowers are rich in beta carotene. Blueberries keep the gut clean and healthy, they also help fight infection. Strawberry leaves contain trace minerals and vitamins, and are supposed be high in vitamin C. Chamomile is probably the most well known herb for its calming effects and helping with insomnia ( it is often used in bed time blends). So while this tea isn't a herbal remedy, and is not designed to treat any illness, the overall blend is a great addition to give your body and mind a little boost (as always everything in moderation, and there definitely is such a thing as having too much herbal tea).

While I do drink this tea whenever, I find that I tend to reach for this blend specifically when I feel stressed out, or when everything seems to irritate me. Drinking a nice tea and rubbing aome aromatherapy balm on my temples makes me feel more like my normal self. This isn't a magic potion, it doesn't make an awful day better, but I find that the herbs in the blend combined with the scent and the time that it takes to drink a cuppa helps me get my thoughts back on track and let's me get on with things that I would rather not deal with. Good mood tea has earned its place in my cupboard.

Do you guys turn to herbal teas when you are feeling down? Let me know in the comments.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Duke of Cambridge organic pub.



I love traveling, it's the discovery of new and unexplored (by me naturally) that never seizes to loose its appeal. However, I don't necessarily need to go very far to find new things. Let's face it, most of the time I stay in my little quarter of London, do my weekly shop, walk around the park and back to the house I go. In honour of Organic September, Duke of Cambridge organic pub was hosting a fete, involving some of my favourite green companies: People tree, Planet Organic and Riverford. Ethical fashion sample sale, organic beauty and cocktails, seriously how could I possibly miss that?! And the pub itself has been long on the list of 'must visit' places, this is what I would call fate if I was trying to be a little dramatic.





The pub is situated in Islington, a little bit away from the main hustle and bustle, the building does look a pretty picture. As usually I got there a few minutes before the official start, my priority was the People Tree rail, so I could try and get the first pick (although this was the last day of their sample sale, so a lot of the things were gone already). I found some lovely things, but as they are for pressies I don't want to post them on the blog just in case.

Straight after getting my bag of people tree goodies I was given a complementary organic cucumber cocktail, which was absolutely delicious (Mr RF got his hands on a carrot one, which might have been even better, I can't make up my mind). My next stop was the Planet Organic beauty table, they were doing mini beauty treatments with certified organic skincare, and had some delicious juices, smoothies and chocolate to try. You could also enter your name to win a goodie bag.






Even though I already use Riverford, it felt rude not to stop for a chat, and I'm glad I did. They were selling delicious romanesco, and it turns out that it is only in season for 6 weeks out of the year (it's absolutely scrumptious and I definitely prefer it to normal cauliflower). They also just had their first crop of edamame beans, which I'm very excited about. I left with the spring/summer veg book, I have been eyeing it up for some time, and after flicking through it, plus a discount, well you know the rest...









Since we already made the trip to the Duke of Cambridge, it would have been simply rude not to stay for lunch. We picked a table with handy hooks to hang your bags on, and patiently waited for the lunch menu to be written out on the board. The menus are seasonal and differ everyday, they start serving lunch at 12:30 (but I'm pretty sure we ordered ten/fifteen minutes before that and no one made a fuss). The menu consisted of 6 starters, 6 mains, 4 sides, 4 puddings, and 7 bar snacks. While I'm not a vegetarian (nor is Mr RF), I like to keep my eye on how many veggie options a restaurant offers, and in general we only have meat/fish a few times a week (less quantity better quality, is what I try to do). So 3 out the 6 starters were veggie (I think only one would qualify as vegan), 2 out of the 6 mains were vegetarian (one vegan), and all the sides were veggie, plus most of the bar snacks were vegetarian. Overall I felt there was a good variety, taking into account the overall number of dishes, but if you have specific dietary needs I think that it's best to give them a call due to the changing nature of the menus (everyone seemed generally very helpful and I think the quality of the food is definitely worth the trouble).






Both of us opted for the veggie mains. I chose the roasted peppers stuffed with cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, capers, on the bed of sweet potatoe pure and green leaves (I believe it was a variety of lettuce). Mr RF chose medetiranean vegetable spaghetti with parmesan cheese (I'm sure they would happily hold off on the cheese for those who wouldn't want it/couldn't have it). As is normal, I tried some of the spaghetti and it was nice, but it had nothing on my dish. My stuffed peppers were amazing. I kid you not, some of the best food I've had in London, everything was right. They were cooked to perfection, dressing on the salad was just right, all the flavours worked together so well, and the temperature of the food was spot on (yep I have been called Goldilocks on a few occasions, how hot/cold a dish is does make a huge difference). To my absolute delight they also had complementary cucumber & mint water (also plain water) at the bar, you just go up and poor yourself a glass when you fancy. I'm not sure how things are during non event days, but on this particular Saturday you made your order at the bar, and when the food was ready it was brought over to your table. Surprisingly you could have a tab open, and that's not something most pubs do anymore (well definitely not for the first time customers).

I loved the overall atmosphere, some people were just having coffee served in an Italian style cafetière, and making use of the free wifi on their laptops. The space had big windows so it was very bright and airy. I will be making a point of coming back, after all it is the only certified organic pub in UK.

Friday, 25 September 2015

My organic directory



Lately there are lots of places you could get organic products, from food to skincare, you can even find organic cotton t-shirts in some high street stores. Still I like to do things my own way, and shop at stores that are more specialised. This is in no way a comprehensive list, and I do like getting things from specific brands directly, but I've tried to include destinations that I shop at most frequently, plus a few establishments I've been wanting to visit for a little while.


Food.

It is my personal view that eating well is the biggest investment in your overall beauty and wellbeing. Also food production has such a huge impact on our environment and the lives of people that produce it. This was the first step of my organic journey, so it feels appropriate for it to be the first section of this directory. However most places don't sell just food, so you can stock up on other things like skincare and eco friendly cleaning products at the same time.
Online:
Able & Cole - fruit & veg weekly delivery boxes, also all the food stuffs you could find in a supermarket, even cleaning products, all delivered once a week on a day specific to your area. You can decide how often deliveries are made: every week, once a month, once in a blue moon.
Riverford - fruit & veg box scheme that I personally use at the moment, and it was the first one I tried. You can read my review of them here.

Online + brick and mortar:
Planet organic - this is where I tend to get things like nut butters, canned beans and chopped tomatoes for the cupboard, and delicious raw pesto. They also have a range of beauty products but I only have used them once for skincare. The physical shops are a bit of a journey for me, so I tend to stock up online.
As nature intended - this is pretty much a mini super market, they sell things online but not any of the fresh produce. I tend to pop in if I'm in the area to pick up some groceries, and have a browse of their beauty shelves.
Brick and Mortar:
Whole foods - there are a few of these around now, but if I'm in High Street Kensington I make a point of going in. It is their flag ship store, and also has the best beauty section. I tend to stock up on coconut water, kombucha and get some exotic fruit. Also the food hall upstairs is lovely.

Food for thought - is probably my most favourite independent health food store. There are only two, one in Guilford and one in Kingston. Whenever I'm in the area I make a point of going in. The range of plant foods for the cupboard is comprehensive, plus they also have a nice choice of beauty products (but I mainly go here for food).

Under the skies:
Farmers markets - this is a directory of all UK farmers markets, and how I found my local one. This is my favourite way to shop for fresh produce, but as the ones local to me are only held once a week, I can't always make it, so this is when my veg box comes in.

Beauty.
I have yet to come across a stockist that only sells certified organic skincare and makeup (actually I think the Hive is one such stockist but I haven't shopped with them yet), it is normally a mixture of natural and organic brands. The list below are the ones I shop at most, but naturally there are lots of others. All of these are online stores (with the exception of one that has a physical store as well).

Content beauty and wellbeing - this is no surprise to my regular readers, I'm a huge fan of this place and it happens to be a boutique in central London and an online store. I try to pop in for events, but most often I shop online with them. They have a section for 'certified products' to make it a little easier to find organic products.

Love Lula - I believe this was the first website that I bought organic skincare from, until I came across this website I was getting things from health food shops. They have changed a lot since the time I first started using them, and I admit I miss those special Love Lula cards with encouraging messages. They make it extremely easy to find organic skincare, you can select a specific certifying body and it will bring up all the products that qualify.

Naturisimo - These guys have a huge range of products and very good offers, however you need to know your brands as there is no handy tool to find organic products specifically.

Amazingy - I absolutely love these guys, some of the best customer service around, and they are always generous with their samples. You can easily shop by choosing the type of certification that most reflects your needs.

Fashion.

This is still a tricky one for me, I went through a period of time when I was very aware of all the stores that sold organic clothes, to this period of time that I don't actually buy much clothes. I have never been fully organic with my clothing, but I have been shopping at People tree for many years. I will be doing a fashion specific post to share where I shop, but no I don't only shop organic clothing, I feel the issue is a little more complex than simply switching (but when it comes to cotton yeah absolutely, from now on I choose organic).

Herbs.
I like herbal teas, and I used to mix my own health blends (with the guide of a book, so not my own random recipes, when it comes to herbs you need to know what you are doing). I still use simple single herbs like chamomile or calendula for face steams, or hair rinses from time to time. When my skin was freaking out I would use an infusion of chamomile to wash my face with. There is only one place that I get my herbs from, Neal's Yard. Their herbs are either organic or wild crafted, and the selection is amazing (even though the listing is a bit obscure on their website)

Wanderlusting.

So these are the places that I think are really cool, and all of these are on my personal "must visit" list, but I have never actually been, so I can't vouch how awesome or not they are (hopefully very soon I will be able to tell you guys for sure).

Trill farm - they have some interesting activities, and I really want to stay at their B&B. Seems like an idyllic country getaway.

Tanya's caffe - this amazing raw and organic food destination has been on the list for an eternity, and I have been meaning to go many times, but my plans to eat there always had to change at the last minute. Still I am determined that next time I'm in Chelsea I will go!

The Duke of Cambridge - the only certified organic pub in Brittain, need I say more? I think this is one of those rare places that appeals both to Mr RF and I equally.

The hive wellbeing - this looks like a pretty unique destination, you can have some food, fresh juice, wine and even pick up some skincare? It looks like you can order skincare online as well and as far as I can tell they only stock certified organic. I admit it has been years since I've been to East London, but I'm more than a little tempted to make the trip to have a look around this place.



So this my whittled down list! Anything you would like to add? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Seaweed




I have to admit I'm a little crazy about seaweed. Those crispy thins that you see sold as snacks, I could go through them like it's nobody's business. If we are talking sushi, I will take maki rolls over nigiri or sashimi any day, but if I'm in a Japanese restaurant you know I'm ordering some wakame seaweed salad. I just love the stuff, yet I've never really thought about cooking with it until this year.

I kept seeing Atlantic Kitchen range of dry seaweeds around, and I was tempted to pick some up for ages but it wasn't until I was participating in the Gorgeous for Good 30 day program that I finally took the plunge and started using seaweed in my own kitchen. The reason why I chose Atlantic Kitchen, is because their dry seaweeds are certified organic with the Soil Association, yet the these are not farmed, but harvested in the wild (if you are curious here is more info about their process).
Broadly speaking edible seaweeds could be separated into three categories: green, brown, red. Each one comes with its own flavour, texture and nutritional content. With Atlantic kitchen they give you a heads up about the intensity of a particular variety by the "out of five stars" rating system on the front of the packet.

In my kitchen.



Sea spaghetti is a brown seaweed with a mild taste (1 out of 5 stars for intensity), you prepare it pretty much like pasta, by adding to a pan of boiling water and simmering for around 20 minutes. You could serve it as a side dish with some butter or olive oil, or mix it up with some noodles. Personally I like to have some sea spaghetti in the fridge (it can keep for up to a week once you have prepared it), and mix it into salads with shredded carrot, cucumber, tomato k, a little brown rice and some beans. The trick is to have a good dressing, I find that olive oil, lemon and a touch of tamari works brilliantly. Nutritionally speaking this seaweed is a good source of vitamin C, calcium, Vitamin B2. It is also a source of iron but not as good as some other varieties.




Dulse is a red seaweed with lots of flavour (4 out of 5 stars for intensity), it's super easy to prepare, you just place it in a bowl with hot water for 10 minutes and drain. You can also just rinse it and add straight into dishes for its smoky flavour. I absolutely love cooking with dulse, it makes for a seriously satisfying stew. But of course there is nothing stopping you from using it in salads, or other dishes like soups, and pasta sauces. In comparison to sea spaghetti, dulse has lower salt content, is much higher in protein, an amazing source of iron, has higher vitamin C content, but it is not as good a source of calcium. Dulse is also a great source of vitamin B12 which is key to the normal function of the brain and nervous system.

All seaweeds are naturally rich in iodine, which is needed in our bodies to make thyroid hormones, but for anyone who is sensitive to the effects of iodine it is recommended to seek medical advice before consuming them.

I have been intrigued by the idea of seaweeds being an alternative source of Omega 3, and they do contain small amounts of DHA, the only other sources are fish and shellfish (ALA is found in plants, and our bodies can convert ALA into EPA and DHA , but the conversion that happens into DHA is severely limited so they can't be considered as a reliable source of DHA). So because the amounts of DHA in seaweed are so small, you can't get all that you need just by including seaweed in your diet, however concentrated supplements made out of seaweed are an alternative source of DHA to those on vegan and vegetarian diets (apparently algal-oil capsules and DHA in cooked salmon are nutritionally the same). If you are curious about everything omega 3 I quiet like this article.

Any other seaweed fans? Are you tempted to give them a go? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Apricot kernel butter




I have to say I love apricots, and when I was a kid we did used to smash the apricot stone with something heavy to get to the seed. As with many fruits, not all apricots are the same, there are different varieties, and not all seeds are actually edible, some would be incredibly bitter. But the ones that are good, are so delicious.

When I was exploring Ottolenghi's online shop, which offers a lot of hard to find cooking ingredients, I came across Sun & Seed appricot kernel butter. There was no hesitation I simply had to try it. It was love from the first spoon. The taste is mildly reminiscent of almonds (appricot seeds actually look very similar to almonds, you would be hard pressed to tell them apart on the first look), but has a bit more of a marzipan tang than raw almonds do. I knew that this was becoming a staple, but sadly it seemed that this brand was no longer stocked on the website I first purchased it from. In my local health store I spotted a different brand, that seemed to offer the same product, but on bringing it home I realised that it wasn't pure apricot kernel butter, it was a mix of other nuts and even sunflower oil. I'm still getting into the habbit of reading food labels, but it is very annoying when the front says one thing 'apricot kernel butter', and ingredients clearly show two other nuts!

Luckily for me, my beloved Planet organic not only stocks Sun & Seed, but they also have an online shop (their brick and mortar stores are a bit far from me to do my regular shopping at). Still, I always try to have a back up jar of this butter in the cupboard just in case. I like this particular brand because it is just Raw appricot kernel butter, no other ingredients. When the jar is sitting in a cupboard the oil can separate, but it isn't added oil, it's just natural oil from the butter. All you need to do is give it a stir before eating. Once it is open, you need to keep the jar in the fridge, and with the cold temperature there is no separation. This butter is made with raw "sweet" apricot kernels organically grown in Turkey, the product itself has been certified with the Soil Association.



I think it tastes amazing, and it is one of my favourite things to have for a quick breakfast. I like to spread some on a brown rice cracker and top it up with some fresh fruit, or berries. This summer strawberries have been a favourite. If I'm feeling a little fancy, I cut some plums in half, and stuff them with a little bit of this butter, fingerlickingly good. Per 100g of raw apricot butter you get 23g of protein, and 303mg of magnesium, both of these are higher than what you would find in almonds (magnesium content is higher than that of pumpkin seeds too, and apparently half a cup of pumpkin seeds could provide your entire daily magnesium intake). While this is not a complete protein, apricot kernel butter is still a great plant protein source. Magnesium is incredibly important for our bodies to function properly, and naturally it is best to get it from your food.

I really like raw nut butters in general, but this is definitely a personal favourite. Have you tried appricot kernel butter? Would you like to? Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Spiezia | Made for life




I feel like Organic Septemeber has been making me feel a little nostalgic. It is hard to talk about my reasons for choosing organic, discuss brands, some of which I have been using for years, without all the memories flooding back. I met Amanda Barlow, managing director of Spiezia, for the very first time a few weeks ago at the Soil Association's Campaign for clarity event. When she asked me if I was familiar with the products, I felt compelled to tell the story of how I first came across them in a Vogue article, before I was even consciously choosing to go organic, I found the brand intriguing. It turns out that Spiezia have been around for just over 15 years (and as I have mentioned in some other posts, they were the first beauty brand to get SA organic certification across the entire line of products).

I think this was the first year since I've created this blog that I did not do a post about my birthday, well it was way back in June and I turned thirty. Maybe becoming older has been making me think about beauty in a different light. There was no sudden lightning bolt or anything like that, I think subconsciously I have felt this way for some time, but it's just this summer the veil was slowly lifting, and I could finally put it into words. You see I think my skin is just fine, I know what products make it look it's best, I really don't need to be searching for a mythical unicorn of beauty products, I have found a few. I like to try new things because I love natural and organic skincare, I love lipstick, and I love finding out about people behind the brands. I love being part of the green beauty community. But here is a funny thing, while I wouldn't endorse an organic product that doesn't perform, I also can't support an amazing product sold by a company who's ethics I don't agree with. Beauty industry is a complicated creature, with multiple faces, and not all of them are pretty.

Brands like Spiezia give me hope. Their products are still hand made in Cornwall, they have an impressive commitment to sustainability, and I admire their approach to sourcing ingredients and packaging. They are one of very few brands that create 100% organic beauty products, not just a few but the entire line. In 2009 Amanda Barlow established Made for life foundation, set up to provide integrative support days for those diagnosed and recovering from cancer (the days are all sponsored by Spiezia and their trade partners).

The range of products is actually quiet big, with all the types of things that you could imagine in a spa, plus a baby range and even a few products for the guys. The face range for the ladies has been my fail safe Christmas present for years. My mom, who is not big on skincare, absolutely loves the Rose & vanilla face oil (the scent alone is pure heaven, you can guess who introduced her to this oil).

In the goodie bag from the event I found Spiezia calming lavender spray and a 10ml tin of soothing leg and foot balm. Both of these were completely new to me, and while I'm not the biggest fan of lavender in my skincare, I often turn to aromatherapy to help me sleep, so I was quiet excited to try this room spray. The name of this spray is a bit of an oversimplification, that I think doesn't actually do justice to the scent. When I sprayed it (without reading the ingredients list) I detected a sweet flowery bouquet with a hint of chamomile and of course lavender. It turns out that the sweet floral scent is from Damask rose, and while my nose correctly picked chamomile (the presence of lavender was expected from the name), I completely missed the presence of sweet orange, but I can see how it rounds out the fragrance. I'm not sure why the quality of this room spray comes as such a shock to me, after knowing how lovely Spiezia face and body products are, but I was really surprised. I've been spraying it in the bedroom a lot, I think the overall scent is calming yet romantic. For people who are not fans of Rose, this isn't your typical roses scent, I have a pretty attuned nose and I wasn't even sure if it was there until I read the ingredients.




The leg & foot balm has been coming in very handy as after getting it I've had a pretty busy week. Feet really don't get enough love, they work incredibly hard, especially if you wear high heels. I try to give them a short massage every night with some sort of balm. The essential oils used in a product make a big difference, and I can feel a little tingle after applying this balm, which improves circulation and warms up the muscles, making everything feel a little less sore after a long day.

The current Spiezia range has a lot to offer, and while I'm working on my beauty stash, the range of room sprays is something that I am very happy to explore. However, I'm keeping a close eye on Spiezia beauty products too, because some exciting things are going to happen in the near future (but shh, you didn't hear it from me).

Have you tried anything from Spiezia? Would you like to? Let me know in the comments.

*the room spray and the foot balm came from an event goodie bag, no one asked me to write a review or anything about Spiezia. As with all my posts everything is from my personal experience, in my own words, and while not everything I like maybe to everyone's taste, I would never recommend something that I thought was rubbish, or a bit blah.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Time to be a samurai




It's unbelievable, yet another Monday rolls by, and I don't even feel all that refreshed after the weekend. Some days it seems that the odds are really stacked against you, a mountain of work and I'm seriously out of juice, wishing I could just jump on a plane to Bahamas and get my resting cap on. Alas reality check, I really need to get on with things, after a not very helpful self pep talk, it is time to bring out my inner samurai warrior. No I don't have a sword or any of the get up, as usual I cheat, I reach for a bottle of kombucha.

Kombucha is a fermented tea, that actually has different names in different countries and has been around for centuries. The exact origins are shrouded in mystery, but it has been noted that samurai warriors had kept the drink in their flasks to replenish energy during battle (was this the original energy drink? I wonder if there was a catchy slogan to go with it back then). Well like a lot of other fermented foods, kombucha is enjoying a moment in the spotlight, and while a few years ago you probably did not even know what it was, unless you had someone in the family fermenting their own, now you are spoilt for choice. Apparently a green tea kombucha is a more delicate drink to prepare than the black variety, and it happens to be the one I like.

Equinox kombucha, the original flavour, reminds me of dry white wine a little. But while I'm not the biggest fan of white wine, I absolutely love the taste of this drink. Fermentation is how alcohol is created, on this particular kombucha label it says that it's non alcoholic with less than 0,5%, still I wouldn't go to town on it, drinking bottle after bottle. Other brands, or home made varieties could potentially have higher percentage of alcohol up to 3%, depending on the length of fermentation. The Equinox original kombucha ingredients are simple: filtered water, raw cane sugar, green chun-mee tea, kombucha culture (all the ingredients with exception of water, which can't be, are organic, and the drink is certified by Soil Association). Just to clarify sugar is necessary for fermentation process, so it's not here as a needles additive, it is for the kombucha culture to eat really, but of course some sugar will still remain in the drink (basically enjoy as a healthier soft drink option with benefits, but don't think that it's sugar free).

Pretty much almost immidiately I feel more awake, and weirdly less stressed out (this is probably a placebo effect, but you know what, I'll take it). As well as the original, Equinox has three other flavours: ginger, raspberry & elderflower, wild berry. I think they are all nice, the ginger one tastes like ginger beer. My personal favourites are original and raspberry & elderflower. As it is a live tea, you need to keep it in the fridge, making it a lovely refreshment through out summer. I always try to have a couple of bottles around, doing anything that requires a lot of focus, like illustration, can be very draining (normally because I don't even notice the passage of time and work with the flow, suddenly realising that I'm hungry way past lunch). Having something that can give an immediate boost and a bit of mental clarity, without the gittery side effects that I get from coffee, is very important for me (having shaky hands, because coffee makes me overly hyper, while painting is really not a good thing).

There is a lot of information about benefits of kombucha floating about, naturally also lots of the kombucha myth busting articles. I personally have it because I enjoy it, I prefer to have a bottle of kombucha to a bottle of beer at a barbecue and I find it is a really great pick me up, an alternative to an energy drink. I would rather be a copy cat samurai rather than wait for metaphoric wings any day, if you catch my drift.


So are you guys on the kombucha wagon? Ever try Equinox? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Botanicals | Orange Blossom body balm



Summer is pretty much over, even if you live by a different calendar, autumn equinox is just a few days away, and fall will be here in full force. It's not a secret that I love summer, this is the season when I feel like anything could happen, when I was younger it was a possibility of a new romance, now it's about enjoying all the beautiful colours that nature has to offer. I think most people in UK treasure sunny days, and no matter how short our summer season is, it's always special. Whenever I'm feeling nostalgic, I do tend to turn to spa type body products to bring back that feeling that I get from the warmer months.

Botanicals orange blossom body balm* is described as a conditioning and nourishing balm, that would help soften and enhance the texture of your skin. With that in mind, it has been recommended as a good body product to make your tan go a little longer. While it's been ages since I've had a tan ( with all the SPF that I use, I would need at least two weeks of being outside daily when it's sunny to get a tan), so I can't test this recomendation it per say, but logically it is perfectly reasonable. The top layer of our skin is dead, and you probably have experienced your tan almost rubbing off at one point or other, just your dead skin cells escaping away. So if you use a nourishing balm that will effectively keep this top layer from, for the lack of a better word, 'shedding' for a period of time, your tan would look better and naturally will stay intact for a little longer then it would have done by itself.

Taking all of the above into account, how did it perform?



Upon opening the jar I was surprised to find that the scent is not very strong, the white coloured balm appears completely solid (you could have the jar upside down, shake it and nothing would come out). As soon as you scoop some product out, you can see that it doesn't look all that solid at all, but more like it's been whipped into this consistency. It melts into skin, and the heat from the body immediately releases the essential oil scents hidden in the balm, all of a sudden it turns into a fragrant spa treat (which I would not have guessed by just sniffing at the contents of the jar). The scent is orange blossom, so even though some of the essential oils are citrus, overall it is not a sweet scent, I would say that neroli (bitter orange flower oil) is most definitely dominant, with a bit of a peppery undertone, probably from bergamot. It is a mood uplifting product from an aromatherapy perspective.

I find that it is definitely better to use this balm after a bath or shower, it absorbs so well and quickly, that when I use it on completely dry skin I use a lot more product. Also skin generally is a bit warmer after a date with hot water, and I feel this balm is at its best getting the most from your body heat. There is no residue left behind, I'm not spending ages rubbing this in or anything, it just sinks in so well. Skin feels seriously soft, like velvet (I am stroking my left arm as I'm typing this, I just used some on it to accurately describe the fragrance, I mean wow, so soft). The best thing about this product is that the effect actually lasts. I most often use body balms on my legs, as that's where I find my skin can get a bit dry from time to time (probably all the shaving etc), and when I use botanicals balm* my skin feels just as smooth at the end of the day as it did straight after applying. Overal I'm very impressed. There is no open jar symbol, only the use by date, which on my product is pretty long until 01/03/2017. I'm not sure if bergamot oil in this blend is bergaptene free or not, so I was generally using the product in the evenings or on days when my legs would be completely covered, so basically no sun exposure just in case.

Ingredients:
Helianthus annus (sunflower) seed oil*, butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter*, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil*, prunus armeniaca (apricot) kernel oil*, cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, glycerine***, tocopherol, citrus aurantium dulcis (orange) peel oil*, citrus aurantium bergamia (bergamot) fruit oil*, pogostemon cablin oil (patchouli oil)*, cananga odorata flower oil*, citrus aurantium amara (bitter orange) flower oil*, zea mays seed flour*, linalool**, limonene**, benzyl benzoate**, benzyl salicylate**. (*Certified organic. **Natural constituents of essential oils. ***Organic origin.)

This balm has 89% organic ingredients and is certified with Soil Association. The whole Botanicals range is SA certified, and they are signed up to support Campaign for Clarity. In honour of Organic September they are holding different special offers for each week of this month.

Did anything from botanicals range catch your eye? Have you tried orange blossom body balm? Let me know in the comments.


*PR sample, as always opinion is all my own and completely honest. I would never post a review that wasn't, it would defeat the purpose of this blog!

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Save the bees



This a bit of an odd post for me. I'm not really a campaigner, obviously I have been championing everything organic this month, and with my day today choices in general, but I don't exactly actively support a specific cause. I sort of share a tiny part of my life on this blog through reviews, and while I have an opinion on many things, I never really try to persuade anyone of anything outside off a discussion in polite company. It's not because I'm not passionate, I just honestly don't have the temparment for such things, and I need a bit of time to formulate an argument if/when I'm not 100% certain about something. I guess that is why I love writing so much, I can have all the back up I need in front of me while I'm doing it, and can triple check any claim I'm making. Why such a long intro? Well this post is not really about a beauty product, but of course a beauty product is very much involved.

Bee lovely Busy bee balm is a product from a special Neal's Yard range, created to raise awareness about the predicament that bees are currently in. To be blunt they are dying, and this is nothing to do with evolution (this particular argument is often raised when dealing with nature conservation), and everything to do with pesticides used in agriculture, and parks, and general lack of wild flowers when there used to be plenty (of course there are over things contributing, but these are the big ones). From the sales of the bee lovely range, Neal's yard donates £10000 a year to bee conservation projects (unfortunately I could not find out what it was in terms of percentage of profits donated).

They have a wealth of info about why bees are so important on their website, including a pretty awesome save the bees pdf booklet. The most concerning thing to me is a predictive statistic, that if things don't change, the honey bee in UK could completely die out by 2018. Not only is this in my lifetime, that's just a few years away, it will go in a blink of an eye. I know people normally care more about economy than ecosystem, so the effect on our economy would be devastating. Bees pollinate 84% of EU agriculture, and in UK in particular bees have been disappearing at a faster rate then elsewhere in Europe. It's really crazy to me that this is not on the news other than an occasional mention, it is a serious problem (and it all sort of reminds me of Silent spring and bald Eagles).

Few things that anyone could do on a personal level to help bees would be to support organic farming, not use pesticides in their own gardens and plant bee friendly flowers like lavender. I would obviously go as far as choosing organic beauty products, or products made with organic ingredients, and of course supporting companies that give back to the bees. It turns out that a healthy honey bee colony can produce up to 2-3 times more honey than they would need, but it's extremely important to support good bee keepers when choosing honey for your kitchen. If no honey is left for the bees in the winter, they will not survive.




So about this balm in particular, it isn't anything super fancy. A mixture of sunflower, castor, conconut oils with beeswax, cocoa butter, orange peel oil, calendula extract and vitamin E. It's a lip balm sized jar, 15g, and has to be used up within 3 months. I like the consistency and the mild orange scent (there is something else I detect here too, but I really can't put my finger on it). It looks seriously juicy, like some sort of orange delight. As it is a multipurpose balm you can use it however you please, I like to have it in my bag, and mainly use it as a lip balm or a cuticle balm. I find it really enjoyable, especially as a cuticle balm, it's as good as any specialised product that I have. I also have my eye on the bee lovely soap, it looks very cute.

Have you tried anything from the bee lovely range? Any thoughts on the bee situation? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Skin & Tonic | Steam clean



When Skin & Tonic came to the shelves of Content beauty boutique they created quiet a buzz. With how difficult it is to launch a skincare brand in UK, a new natural British brand is always going to be a big deal. Throw in the reputation of this particular store, cute packaging, and the fact that products are certified organic, it was bound to end up in my hands sooner or later.

Steam clean was the product I was least interested in, despite the positives that I've heard from others. I don't like mint or eucolyptus in my beauty products, with the exception of foot care and aromatherapy (have I mentioned that before?). The only reason I even have this is because of the You beauty box. So there it was a little dinky 15ml jar of Steam clean, looking at me, I could practically hear it whisper 'open me' (yeah clearly I wasn't getting enough sleep and loosing it slightly). After succumbing to temptation, the scent that greeted me when I removed the lid was no where near as strong as I imagined, also a lot sweeter than what I thought it would be. It reminds me of Wrigley's spearmint chewing gum (does it still even exist?). The texture makes me think of an ointment, it's very very soft to the touch. There is zero struggle to get this balm out of a jar.

Skin & Tonic ingredients lists are an easy read because each product has 7 things or less. I quiet like these type of products, as it makes it much easier to figure out what, if anything, you are sensitive too, and my skin in general often doesn't like products that seem to have a lot going on. Steam clean in particular has: grape seed oil, a fabulous oil that is rich in antioxidants and is easily absorbed by the skin (I feel like lately it has been a little underused in formulations); beeswax, used as an emollient and to create the balm texture; thistle oil, aka safflower, is great at clearing conjested skin; eucalyptus is antibacterial and antiseptic; spearmint has some similar properties to eucalyptus but is also considered to be anti-inflammatory. These are the 6 ingredients listed on my jar, but the formula must have changed a little because on their website the 7th ingredient listed is a non-gmo form of Vitamin E, this is to keep the oils in the formula from oxidising for a little longer.



You use this balm by massaging a small amount into your face and neck, hold a muslin cloth soaked in warm water to your face for one minute, and then wipe off. At the risk of repeating myself, I do not use muslin cloths, this is the cloth that I use if you are curious. The scent of essential oils released when the balm is used this way makes me imidiately think sauna (or should it be steam room?). It really feels like a treat after a long day. The texture of the balm is much thinner then most that I have come across, and wipes of really easily. There is no need to scrub your face off with the flannel, a few gentle wipes is more than enough. I still like using it the way I use all my balms, on my hair washing days, I put a bit of the balm on my face to protect the skin from hot water, and let the water wash it off while I'm doing my bits. The scent transforms my shower into a spa treatment room.




This is a multipurpose balm, and after a quick read of a the product description, I can see that you could use it to remove makeup (although I would strongly recommend keeping it away from your eyes, due to the essential oils), or apply a small amount to dry lips and dry skin patches. I'm going to put my hand up and say that I don't do any of that, I do however have a few of my own uses. When I'm not feeling too fabulous, this stuff is really good. I rub a tiny bit between my hands, cup them and take a dip breath, this helps clear up the sinuses a little and perk me up in general. I also rub a little on my chest, like you would with vapour rub (never was a fan of the stuff), obviously this is a beauty balm and not medicine, so essential oils in this are not going to be as powerful as a specific balm for coughs and colds (need I point out that if you are seriously unwell, go get yourself to a doctor?). In the interest of saving space when going away, I like to pick multipurpose products, and this has served me well as both my face protecting balm when I wash my hair and a foot balm. So no it's a bit too pricey to be used on my feet on daily bases, but on a weekend away it saves me bringing an extra product and a small amount goes along way, feet hold you up all day long, they deserve some serious TLC after all the hard work.

I really appreciate that it comes in two sizes, 15ml and 50ml, currently at £11 and £27 respectively. I think it's pretty useful to have around, but it's what I like to use from time to time: if my skin is getting a little conjested, when I'm away or trying to have a steam room like experience in my shower. The shelf life is very good, you get 12 months after opening, so if I had fewer products I wouldn't hesitate getting a full size. With the current skincare stash however, I'm sticking to travel size jars, because it would be a serious shame to waste it. As you need so little a time, it lasts awhile despite the small size. I honestly thought I was using it loads. I've opened it towards the end of spring, and currently I'm just over half way down the jar. Naturally it's because I use it like a treatment balm and not daily.

What do you guys think of Steam Clean? Have you tried anything from Skin and Tonic? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Pai | Rosehip BioRegenerate radiance mask




I have to say I love rosehips, it's a bit of a sentimental thing as my grandma used to grow them, and make delicious tea and jam with them. Even before Argan was a thing in the world of western beauty, rosehip oil was huge. The results that it gives are so good that every magazine was taking notice. If you prefer single ingredient oils, I still believe that rosehip is the real deal, especially the one from Pai. That being said, I've been looking for a rosehip based mask for ages. It was something I really wanted, but a few that I could find were a little disappointing in their ingredients, so I never bought one. You can imagine my delight when Pai brought a rosehip face mask out as part of their gift sets. Being true to myself, I put it on a shelf where it sat for ages, while I was trying to use up some other masks. In my defence, I was not to know that Pai would make it part of their main line, which they did a few months later.

One of my favourite things about Pai is that they put an expiration date on all their products, as well as the open jar symbol that tells me how long a product would last after opening. This makes it so much easier for me to know exactly how long I can keep it around. While ideally every product I have would be purchased for immediate use, it's just not the case. I do like limited edition beauty products, and I try to make good use of discounts to save money, so more often than not, my beauty buys are for the stash and not my bathroom shelf. Expiry dates are of outmost importance to make sure I use everything before the products are past their prime.

Rosehip BioRegenerate Rapid radiance mask. Wow that is one long name for a mask. So let's start with how you use it: apply a generous layer to clean skin, leave for 8-10 min, remove gently with a warm damp muslin cloth using upward circular motions. Ok 'generous layer' is very subjective, this mask has a cream texture, so with moisturising creams you generally need about a pea sized amount for your entire face, taking that as a guide, I put a pea sized amount on each of the 4 sections of my face: forehead, left cheek, right cheek, nose & chin together. At this point I feel like maybe an extra squirt won't go amiss so I just top up on the areas that seem to have lighter coverage, the idea is that you can clearly see a layer of mask all over the face, but you don't want to look like its about to drip off the skin.

When it comes to removing the mask after 10 minutes, I rinse it off with warm water. My skin is not a huge fan of muslin cloths, I don't use those on my face, I occasionally use a soft flannel, but I try not to do that regularly. Washing this mask off with just water is actually really easy, obviously I don't get the extra exfoliation that muslin would give, but you know what, my skin looks perfectly lovely after the treatment, so I really don't feel like I'm missing out. I do find it difficult to look at claims of radiance in skincare, what are they trying to convey? Radiant like a lightbulb? Must be my old age, that I'm getting extra cynical. While on my tube it says that this mask is suitable for all skin types, it is especially recommended for the times when your skin is going through a dry period, and maybe needing a quick hydrating boost from the outside (we of course all know that true hydration comes from the inside, but skincare can give a short lived quick fix). I enjoy using this mask, it gives a lovely result of well hydrated looking, soft to the touch skin.

It is a great companion to their rosehip oil, but as the rosehip seed oil in here is a forth ingredient on the list, and the fruit oil is even lower, I like using it as an alternative as I find that pure rosehip oil can be a little too much for me if my skin is having a particularly sensitive turn. Strawberry leaf extract used in this mask is supposed to be beneficial when it comes to evening out skin tone, however I am not too familiar with how potent a concentration it has to be for those benefits to present themselves in a skincare formulation.

Ingredients:
Aqua - Purified Water, Glycerin** - Vegetable Glycerine, Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil* - Sunflower Oil, Rosa Canina Seed Extract* - Rosehip Seed Oil, Ricinus Communis Seed Oil*- Castor Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii Butter* - Shea Butter, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate - Sustainable Palm Oil Derived Emulsifier, Cetearyl Alcohol - Coconut Derived Emulsifier, Prunus Domestica Seed Oil* - Plum Seed Oil, Kaolin - China Clay, Fragaria Vesca Leaf Extract - Strawberry Leaf Extract, Rosa Canina Fruit Extract* - Rosehip Fruit Oil, Sodium Anisate - Basil Derived Preservative, Acacia Senegal Gum - Gum Arabic, Carya Ovata Bark Extract - Hickory Bark Extract, Glyceryl Caprylate - Coconut Derived Emulsifier, Xantham Gum - Emulsion Stabiliser, Tocopherol – Natural Vitamin E, Sodium Levulinate - Corn Derived Preservative, Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Extract* - Rosemary Extract, Lactic Acid - pH Stabiliser From Sugar Beet
*Certified by the Soil Association (organically produced 75% of product).
**Organic origin.

My tube is 75ml, I clearly lucked out with getting the gift set. I've been using it through out summer, but not every week. I have no idea how much I have left, I've tried to shine a torch behind it to see, but as my mask doesn't always stand upright, it's a bit difficult to judge as some of it is sticking to the walls of the container, it doesn't look like that much is left though. You do need to use it up within 6 months of opening, as the masks for sale right now are 50ml tubes that's pretty easy to do. My guess is you could get up to 10-12 uses if you are careful. For once weekly treatments it would be between 2-3 months before you are all out. At present it retails for £30.

What do you guys think of Pai face masks? Have you tried this one or the copaiba? Let me know in the comments.