Friday, 16 December 2016

Mallow beauty.



Sometimes I wonder why I do what I do. What is this fascination with beauty products all about? Because let's face it, it was there long before I became interested in mindful living, and long before the words "green" and "organic"  started to be part of my vocabulary, infused with special meaning. It could have been my subconscious that led me here, having had to deal with some seriously bad rashes as a kid, and acne when I was older. When your skin goes through ups and downs it is only natural to want to look after it, and it really does go beyond vanity and looking good. Yet this is still only part of the story, there was a time when I was more interested in individual products, and if the rest of the brand wasn't as clean, I didn't really care (as long as what I was using fit my ingredient standards). I still look at all the products individually, and I think it is a good model, however, what the brand stands for overall, has become increasingly more important, especially since my skin is no longer as problematic. I now have the luxury of choosing from a range of things that work, instead of sticking to that one cream that doesn't aggravate my skin.

Choice is really what it comes down to. Without realising it, especially if you tend to be pretty loyal to beauty products, you are inviting certain skincare products to be part of your life. You are applying them morning and evening, often in a rush, hoping for a particular outcome, sticking to the products if they achieve it and moving on to something else when they don't. What is it in the products that makes them work? Why do some blends seem to be akin to magic potions transforming our skin and others have no effect or even make things worse? If this question is asked of a natural or organic brand, the answer is somewhat obvious, it is all about the plants.

It is a rare brand indeed that can boast to be certified organic and to use plants grown on their own farm in their formulations. Herbfarmacy isn't just focused on botanical skincare, plants are the heart and soul here. After visiting their farm this summer and witnessing the making of Mallow beauty balm*, it brought a few things into perspective. The whole point of organic beauty is the quality of the plants and their properties. The plants are not going to have much to offer without healthy soil, so while picking up a pot of cream we might think "skincare and formulators", we really should be thinking "farming practises and formulators". There really are a lot of parallels between food and skincare. The best restaurants have not only talented chefs, they also make sure that the produce that they work with is of the highest quality. Similarly, the best skincare is not simply about the inventive formulations, it is about the quality of the plants, and all of it goes back to healthy soil.




Herbfarmacy farm is gorgeous, especially since when I visited everything seemed to be in bloom: marshmallow, mullein, calendula, echinacea, and chamomile, all contributing to a spectacular landscape. Yet none of it would be the same without Paul Richards, who's love for plants is evident every time I talk to him. It is clear that plants and their properties is what he is taken by, and I think this is why Herbfarmacy is so special. While you will find some essential oils on the ingredients lists, the plants grown on the farm are actually used as macerates and extracts. Most of the flowers, once picked (with calendula, each flower head is picked by hand), are dried, and then these flowers will go through a process of maceration, where they will infuse particular oils, before being used in final formulations. As you can imagine, this is a long process from farm to skin. The result is products that really put "care" in "skincare" (yeah, I had to go there).


About 40 minutes away from the farm, in Malvern, there is a place called Pure Hair Design. This is not simply a natural hairdressers, upstairs there is a treatment room and they offer organic facials using Herbfarmacy products. The therapist referred to Mallow beauty balm* as "skin food", and it was the true star of the facial. She used it as a first step cleanser and a nourishing mask, also employing a lymphatic drainage technique using brushes, somewhere in the course of the facial. The whole experience of having these gorgeous products used in a facial made me truly appreciate the delicate scents, and how soothing the formulations are on the skin. Mallow balm* not only smells like flower nectar, the star ingredients, marshmallow root and mullein, have fantastic skincare properties. Marshmallow holds and attracts moisture to the surface of the skin, and mullein has antiseptic properties and helps with redness, making this balm my personal winter favourite (to be perfectly honest, since it is a multipurpose product, I tend to use it all year round, but during colder months I reach for it more often).

The 30ml pot of Mallow beauty balm* is like a super hero, even if all you have is this balm, muslin cloth and access to warm water, you can still have a pretty fab nourishing pamper session. Use it to cleanse your face, like you would any other balm cleanser, taking time to massage the skin and removing it with a warm damp cloth. Follow by a generous layer of the balm, applied like a mask, place a hot cloth on top to deepen the effects, leave on for 10 minutes. After removing it all, you can apply a tiny amount to damp skin to seal in the moisture. It really is that versatile, the key is in how much and what way you are applying it.

This year Herbfarmacy is celebrating a pretty big anniversary, 10 years! Since it is such a momentous occasion and the holiday season is upon us, we have teamed up to give away 10 pots of Mallow Beauty Balm. Yep you got that right, there will be 10 winners. I decided to split it up a little, I will choose 5 winners from people who enter here on the blog, and 5 winners from Instagram entries. You are welcome to enter both here and on Instagram, I will make sure to choose 10 different people so no one walks away with 2 pots, but this way you double your chances. The giveaway is UK only, it will close on 31st of December 2016. Winners will be announced on 2 of January 2017.


Herbfarmacy Mallow Beauty Balm Giveaway


*PR sample. The Mallow Beauty Balms for the prizes have been generously provided by Herbfarmacy. The writing is my own based on the experince with the product, I have been using Mallow Balm on and off for several years, while the latest jar I have was given to me on the trip, I have bought my own in the past and would do so again. As always, keeping it honest and transparent for you guys. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Saturday, 12 November 2016

The power of Dandelion | Lotus Wei



I have always been fascinated with dandelions. They may not be exotic, as they grow all over the world, and some gardeners might consider them weeds, but they are far from it. Every part of dandelion  is edible and can be made into tonics, salads, wine and the roots are also used for a coffee alternative. As a kid I used to make flower crowns from the bright yellow flowers, and once their heads would transform into the soft, white, round shapes towards the end of their cycle, it was time to blow on them and make wishes. This three stages of dandelion: simple green leaves, followed by the appearance of a tall stem with a bright yellow crown, succeeded by a soft sphere with seeds parachuting away with the winds; that is the transformation that always captured my imagination.



After becoming familiar with Lotus Wei and the way Katie Hess works with flowers, it introduced me to a completely different kind of transformation, that once again, involves dandelion. One of my favourite things to do on the Lotus Wei website is to take the flower test. This is pretty simple, all you need to do is take a look at the flowers and pick 3 that you are most attracted to.What never stops to surprise me is how accurate the results always are.

Katie Hess teamed up with Louie Schwartzberg and created an interactive book,  FLOWEREVOLUTION, which involves some of the the principles of this test, where you can see what each flower you are drawn to says about you. You can get a sneak peek at the first two chapters and find out more about the book here.

                                                 Photo courtesy of Lotus Wei

"Being visually attracted to dandelion means that you most likely have tension in shoulders and neck, it dissolves physical tension and helps you become more aware about how you store stress in the physical body. It helps you identify mental and emotional causes of muscular tension."

Neck and shoulder area have always been problematic for me, especially during the times of stress (don't get me wrong they are not permanently in the state of tension, but it happens often enough for me to identify it as an area that needs working on). The elixir that contains dandelion is Quiet Mind*. It is supposed to relieve tension in neck and shoulders, quiet your mind and help you sleep soundly (and we all know that without decent sleep, stress levels become of the chart).

The elixir is super easy to use: you can dissolve a full dropper in a bottle of water and sip it throughout the day, or pop 5 drop under the tongue 5 times a day. Drops under the tongue is the way I use it. The presence of honey in these flower remedies makes them really pleasant, so I actually look forward to using the elixir.


With quiet mind, I have found it to work really fast in the elixir* form, I also have a perfume and mist* versions, but the elixir is the one that seems to give the best results (I still love the mist and perfume, and all 3 together work like a magical tag team). I find the tension is pretty much gone within a day. If I am really stressed, however, I do need to keep using it for about 3 days to start feeling completely like myself again.

I always use some sort of form of quiet mind when I travel. I generally need a few days to get used to a new place before I can get a decent night's sleep, which is a problem when going on short trips, since it makes me into a zombie and then I need forever to recover once I'm back at home. Since I have been using quiet mind on my trips, the problem has become practically non-existent. I would still sleep a bit less than I would at home, but at least I am longer staring into the ceiling for most of the night.

The transformation that I see in myself after using Quiet Mind elixir*, has opened up a new dimension to why I am still mesmerised by the dandelion. There is a quiet power in this flower, not only in the way it changes itself with the seasons, but in the way this often overlooked plant effects our wellbeing.

Of course dandelion is not the only flower present in the Quiet Mind, so to read about the passionflower, carry on to the next post in the Flower Circle on Smells like a green spirit.

*PR sample, in this instance I was sent quiet mind elixir and mist to review, all the opinions are my own based on the experience with the products. I am a huge fan of lotus wei, as can be clearely seen in my previous blog posts, where I bought the products with my own money. Keeping it honest in every post, is what this blog is all about.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

New Look | Leahlani.



Let's start with a little disclaimer about the title... It has been forever since Leahlani revealed their new look! However, I haven't actually reviewed any of the products since the re-branding, and now that a couple of them are just days from becoming empty containers, I feel finally ready.

When I first heard that Leahlani was updating their look to glass packaging I had no idea how much of an overhaul it would actually be. In my had I assumed it was a simple swap from plastic pots to glass, easy! Of course that was not what happened, everything changed. We are talking labels, new products, slight tweaks to some of the old ones and a gorgeous website was also launched.

To state the obvious, it is sort of hard not to like Leahlani's new packaging. It looks fantastic: frosted glass, labels with watercolour designs, gorgeous shades and golden lids, all come perfectly together. If I have never previously heard of the brand, its good looks would have surely made me want to investigate a little further (I'm not even going to pretend that I do not judge a book by its cover, I totally do). Yet in this case I was already familiar with what Leahlani has hidden inside those pretty jars, and it was the case of a brand blossoming into its own. This is really weird, because it kind off makes you feel like you had something to do with this transformation, since you "discovered" it during its slightly humbler beginnings (but of course in reality, where the brand was and now is, is solely to the credit of its founder, Leah Mason Klasovsky).



I am a little susceptible to this chase after the "latest", "shiniest" offerings from beauty brands, but lately I have been really working on having products in my stash that I enjoy most, and the ones I know give great results. So when it came to placing my orders (I made two with a few months apart), I went for a mixture of old favourites and new offerings.


This mask is probably the most iconic Leahlani product, with good reason. I almost want to say this is my favourite product from the line, but I can't quite make myself choose. It has definitely been the most used as you can see from how little is left in the jar. At this point I'm sort of addicted to the way it smells. Mixture of honey, sea buckthorn and coriander are the scents that my nose seems to be picking up, but the essential oil blend is more complicated than that (there is rose, lavender, chamomile, and orange amongst others). These scents, unique to each products, is one of the characteristics that for me distinguishes Leahlani from other brands. Don't get me wrong, you don't need pretty scents for effective skincare, however when you go to a spa and get yourself a facial or a body treatment, most estheticians will use some sort of blend to help you relax at the begining of a session. Leah's experience in this sector really shows in her products. I am a strong believer in aromatherapy, and what people often forget is that skin is really susceptible to how we feel. When we are stressed, upset, emotionally drained, our skin reflects it all. So having a face mask that works both on the surface of the skin and on a subconscious level to lift up your spirits is a massive bonus.



I have reviewed Mermaid previously, so I don't want to repeat myself on how it works. You can see the slight changes to the mask at the bottom of description on the Leahlani website. As far as the results, if I am honest, I didn't think this mask had a formula update. I do seem to enjoy using it this time round even more (maybe that is due to new ingredients?). I had to restrain myself a little because I was using it up so fast. On occasion I have used it as my morning cleanser by applying a pea sized amount to damp skin. It works fabulous in this way and gives skin a quick refining boost (spirulina and chlorella, suspended in honey, provide very mild exfoliation, perfect for those days when you didn't have time to do a full on mask session the night before).

Ingredients: Organic Hawaiian raw honey, organic Hawaiian spirulina (Spirulina Maxima), pure organic chlorella (Chlorella Vulgaris), french green clay, pure sea clay, luminess algae, organic sea buckthorn CO2 (Hippophae Rhamnoides), vanilla CO2 (Vanilla Planifolia), essential oils of: (organic orange (Citrus Aurantium Dulcis), moroccan chamomile (Tanacetum annuum ), roman chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), bee balm (Monarda fistulosa) , geranium (Pelargonium Graveolens), palmarosa (Cymbopogon martini), lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia), ylang ylang (Canaga Odorata), rose (Rose Damascena), white lotus flower absolute (Nelumbo Nucifera), beeswax absolute (Apies millifera), coriander seed (Coriandrum sativum).


This is another one of the products that won its place on my shelves well before the re-brand. When I opened the new extra pretty jar, I didn't think anything changed, the scent was exactly what I remembered. Yet when I first used it, the texture felt a little different. The fun part of this product is that it is 3-in-1. You can use it as a cleanser, mask or exfoliator (previously reviewed here). Upon closer inspection it does look like the ingredient list has changed slightly: in addition to ground hibiscus and corundum crystals, now there is maqui and noni fruit in the formula. These two ingredients have been added for their antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory properties.



When fully mixed, texture feels a little grittier then in the previous version. If I want to use it as cleanser, I make sure to take just a little of the top layer so I don't use those exfoliating particles, as all the crystals tend to stay at the bottom. My favourite way is to use it in the shower. Before jumping in (after giving Honey mask a good stir in the pot) I apply thin layer a to dry skin. Once in the shower, I add a splash of water to my hands and gently massage it for the exfoliating effect (I do this very carefully so as not to be too harsh, as this is a physical scrub). After that, I just let the water wash the rest of the mask away as I'm washing my hair and doing other showery things.

Being prone to congested skin, I find that physical exfoliants work a lot better for me, and Honey love is in my top 3.

Ingredients:  Organic hawaiian raw honey, organic wildcrafted whole maqui berry fruit (Aristotelia chilensis), organic wildcrafted whole noni fruit (Morinda citrifolia), rose clay, organic hibiscus flower (rosa sinensis), organic lavender flower (Lavandula Angustifolia), organic cold pressed jojoba oil, essential oils of: (organic lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia), chamomile (Chamomilla Recutita) , organic orange ) Citrus sinensis), organic vegetable glycerin, corundum crystals.




At the time of the re-launch there were quite a few new products, and yes I would love to try all of them, but at present I have tried 3 (well OK I have also had a sample or two of Kokoleka, which seems gorgeous but that is not enough to do a proper review). I do like all of the latest additions, but one of them in particular has  been having me change my mind like a yo-yo.


This was the first product that I have tried from the new line up (and yes it has been very much because of one particular person, you know who you are). With my love for balms and multi-tasking products in general, there was no way I could resist. I had high hopes for it, but at the same time I was not too sure what to expect.

Having a quick glance at the ingredients I found old favourites like argan, camellia oil and shea butter, as well as oils that are considered to be a bit more exotic like passionflower, marula and moringa, and the very last ingredient is pink clay. This is not really a combination in any way similar to any other balm I have ever come across, let alone a multi-purpose one.



As soon as I opened the jar the intoxicating scent hit me. It smells deliciously floral (and florals are a hit and miss with me in general), like a beautiful garden first thing in the morning, when the flowers are still crisp and fresh from dew. The downside is that I want to dip in and apply the entire content of the jar all over my body! If I was to do that though, I don't believe the 30ml jar would last very long. Instead I have been using it as a cleanser, directly on dry areas of my face and occasionally as a deep moisture hand treatment.

You can use it as you would use any cleansing balm, but I really enjoy this trick that Leah shared with me. Massage a small amount of balm onto damp skin, and then instead of using a washcloth, simply tissue of. I often do this as my first step in a cleansing routine, or when I'm having a full on pamper session I love following this with honey love.

I have tried using it as an all-over face moisture balm, but I find it a little too rich for my skin, however, on dry areas around my nose and cheeks when it's really windy it works a treat. A few times I took a little too much product out of the jar and ended up rubbing the excess into my hands. The result was such buttery soft skin, that now if my hands are feeling really dry (normally on painting days, as I'm using so much water and soap to clean brushes etc.), I treat them to a little bless and it restores my skin within minutes.

Ingredients: Organic cold pressed argan oil (Argania spinosa), organic cold pressed camellia seed oil (Camellia oleifera), organic Shea butter (Butyrospermum Parkii), organic cocoa butter (Theobroma Cacao), organic cold pressed maracuja passionflower oil (Passiflora Incarnata), organic cold pressed moringa oil (Moringa Oleifera), organic cold pressed marula oil (Sclerocarya Birrea ), cymbidium grandiflorum orchid extract, wildcrafted blue tansy oil (Tanacetum annuum), neroli oil (Aurantium Dulcis), organic rosehip fruit (Rosa Moschata), rose clay



Oh how I love a good toner, and even though they are many on the market, the really effective ones seem to be few and far between. When I first started using Citrus and Citrine, I admit thinking it was a little average. The scent, unsurprisingly, is really gorgeous: sparkly and playful orange, instantly uplifting. However, for the first week results on my skin did not seem to be all that different from my using pure neroli hydrosol (I of course love hydrosols, but I do expect something more from a blended toner). 

It was only about a third way through the bottle (close to a month in) that I really started to appreciate it. My combo skin was loving it. I immediately put it in my top five toners that work great at balancing, all while leaving skin fresh and hydrated. Then I was about half way down the bottle and I started testing a different toner. A month later, as memory started to fade a little, I was starting to think that maybe citrus and citrine wasn't all that, and of course I had to go back to it to find out once and for all.



Now that I am on the last dregs, the bottle will surely be finished by the end of the week, I can say without a doubt that my skin loves this toner. Since turning 31 I have started to notice fine lines here and there, and my skin is definitely loosing moisture quicker, so hydration is key. Of course it still tends towards oily, so hydrating mists are really where it is at. This mist is amazing at boosting those moisture levels and making the fine lines less obvious (I'm basing this on comparison with a plain floral water and keeping the rest of my skincare routine identical, this is of course a study of 1, so not what you would call a rigorous scientific experiment). 

Ingredients: Hawaiian spring water, organic aloe vera (Aloe Barbadensis), alaea (hawaiian sea salt with alaea volcanic clay), hawaiian sea silt (sea silt ferment), essential oils of (neroli (Citrus Aurantium), organic orange (Aurantium Dulcis), organic grapefruit (Citrus Grandis), organic mandarin (Citrus Deliciosa), organic tangerine (Citrus Tangerina), witch hazel distillate (Hamamelis Virginiana), sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum), sugar maple (Acer saccharum), lemon fruit (Citrus Medica Limonum), organic vegetable glycerin, leucidal liquid (radish root ferment), organic turmeric (Curcuma Longa).


I didn't actually buy this mask myself, it was a lovely gift from Lea, and it is an absolute treat. This is like an antioxidant rich breakfast for your skin. Strawberries, bananas, guava, star fruit, honey and grapefruit; sounds like I'm describing a fruit platter, but no, these are some of the ingredients found in this delicious mask.



It smells like an indulgent dessert, the illuminating nectar is really the most appropriate description for it, it leaves skin absolutely glowing. Meli Glow is a really rich mask, so I tend to use it when my skin is in need of some TLC. I can see this becoming a real staple in the winter months.

I haven't used this mask as much as I have the other products, so I am still in the process of getting to know it better.

Ingredients: Organic raw Hawaiian honey, pure rose clay, organic rose hip fruit (Rosa Canina Fruit), *organic starfruit (Averrhoa carambola), *organic strawberry fruit (Fragaria Ananassa ), *organic guava fruit (Psidium Guajava ), *organic banana fruit (Musa Sapientum), *organic grapefruit (Citrus Paradisi), organic argan oil (Argania Spinosa), organic sea buckthorn CO2 oil (Hippophae Rhamnoides), apricot kernel oil (Prunus Armeniaca), avocado fruit oil (Persea gratissima),  olive squalane, pure hyaluronic acid-vegan, Vitamin C ester, vitamin E (Tocopheryl Acetate), proprietary blend of essential oils.

While I think all of the above products are a absolutely gorgeous, the honey based masks is where I think Leahlani absolutely excels. Even though I think honey is a wonderful ingredient, my skin does not love all honey based products. Some masks in the past have left me looking blotchy and my pores feeling clogged. Mermaid, Honey Love and Meli Glow on the other hand, always leave my skin feeling and looking amazing.





Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Figs, pomegranates and red wine.



Fall used to mean to me a complete wardrobe and makeup overhaul. Now that my priorities are somewhat different that doesn't really happen, but that is not to say that some changes don't take place. Instead of following the latest fashion trends, I am paying attention to the colours I am drawn to. Weirdly enough, I have noticed that the make-up and clothing I am finding most appealing, seems to reflect what is in season in the plant kingdom, to an extent.

In the past few weeks figs have been available with my organic veggie box, and now pomegranates are also on the menu. The rich deep red of these fruits is exactly what I am most attracted to when it comes to lipstick and nail colour right now.


I am pretty fussy when it comes to lipstick. I want it all: great ingredients, gorgeous colour, smooth texture and pretty packaging. The one thing I'm not overly bothered about is staying power (within reason of course, it needs to be longer then 5 minutes), I actually enjoy the act of reapplying lipstick. Also it does worry me if you need an industrial strength make-up remover to take it off, I mean seriously what is in that stuff if it stays on all day no matter rain, shine, or greasy burger?

When it comes to ingredients these Odylique lippies really tick all the boxes. The mineral colours are approved by Ecocert and said to be free from lead and arsenic (as lead occurs naturally in the earth, when it comes to minerals, there is every chance that they could have traces of it, there is a standard set for what is considered to be acceptable trace amount to use in cosmetics, so any lipstick, natural or not, could potentially have some heavy metals). Up to 86% of ingredients including oils, butters, and waxes are certified organic (mineral colours themselves can not be certified organic), making these some of very few certified organic lippies around. 



I love the texture, it glides on very easily and feels seriously moisturising like a lip balm (in fact they really remind me of ilia lip conditioners). The finish is a little see-through and glossy but without sparkle. It works really well with the colours, making it really flattering and versatile to an extant (you could use it with a really light touch for a hint of colour, or 2-3 layers for a more intense burst). These two colours in particular tend to fade within 1-2 hours living just a hint of colour behind. Combined with practical rather than pretty packaging and the somewhat see-through appearance on the lips, these are more daytime then evening for me (having said that, if I was going for a dark or smoky eye these would go really well).

12 Raspberry coulis is described as a raspberry red, it is a fairly accurate description, although you could call it red wine or pomegranate and you would not be wrong. 16 Cherry tart is a little more pigmented and not as glossy, but still plenty moisturising. The colour is in somewhat similar red-wine/cherry family, but without that hint of purple. The two colours might not be different enough for most people to justify having both, but I can imagine everyone liking one over the other. Personally I quite like having the two. Even though I'm drawn to berry lippies during autumn, I still have different fancies: sometimes I want a more purple berry, and other times more red. The fact that they are super moisturising means I need not worry about the lipstick drying out my lips, if anything I think they have been adding some extra protection from the wind.

They do have a somewhat unusual scent, I do like it, but it is not something I have come across in lip products, yet I kept thinking that it is oddly familiar. Only when I was examining the ingredients closer did it dawn on me what it was: sea buckthorn!

There is no carmine in these lippies, but they do have beeswax so they aren't suitable for vegans.


I absolutely love when a nail colour description lives up to its name, it is so super accurate in this case, I was holding up my manicured nails to a glass of red wine to double check (as you can see, I take this testing very seriously, and well, since the wine was already poured, it would be wasteful not to drink it, right?).

This is my third little ondine colour and funnily enough it is my favourite. Instead of your usual foul smelling concoctions (which promptly make Mr. RF disappear to another room for a good hour), these don't really smell of much at all. It is a mixture of water, resins and colourants. I find them to be really easy to apply, the brush is nice and big, allowing each nail to be done with 3 strokes. It goes on evenly without streaks. This particular colour has a glossy finish but the shade itself doesn't have any sparkles. I find it dries somewhere around 5 minutes (depending how thick I made the layers it can be faster or maybe 1-2 minutes more).



The lasting power on my nails is somewhere around 2-3 days (I could get an extra day if I was careful when applying and using their secret base/top coat, but I am a bit lazy on occasion). Once the manicure starts misbehaving or I feel the need for a change, I just peel them off (like that glue some of us used to dip our fingers in so you could peel it off a few minutes later).

In general, little Ondine is becoming my favourite nail polish brand because of the fact that they don't stink up the house and I don't need to use a nail varnish remover. I do hope they will introduce a few more colours so I could swap out some of my old favourites.

What sort of makeup shades have you been drawn to this autumn? Let me know in the comments. 


*PR samples as part of Love Lula blogger program, as usual all opinions are my own, based on personal experience with the products. As part of the program I get to choose the products that I am interested in testing, take my time doing so and only review the products that I genuinely enjoy using.


Thursday, 15 September 2016

Organic beauty experiment.



Whenever I meet people in person, and on these virtual pages, I keep going on about how important organic standards are to me personally. However, if you look inside my beauty cabinet you will find plenty of products that are not certified. The truth is that there are no legal requirements for a beauty brand to be certified to have organic written somewhere in the description of the bottle (and yes even having organic as part of the name is also acceptable), as long as they comply with Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulation. What it means in real terms, is that in the absence of a clear definition of natural and organic, there is room for personal interpretation and what I or you think of as organic, is not necessarily what we will find inside a cosmetic bottle.

Instead of diving into the woods of trying to figure out who is and who isn't trying to mislead you, trusting a third party certification body like Soil Association can be a viable option for many, who are not particularly interested in scrutinising every bottle, trying to make sense of the ingredient lists. If you want to find out what is behind the Soil Association logo on cosmetic products, I have recently interviewed them for the peridot mag

I am actually quite fussy when it comes to what is inside my products (be they certified or not), but again I find myself not always agreeing with other green bloggers on the type of ingredients I choose to avoid, and I think, in the absence of definitive or in-depth studies on many of the things used in cosmetics today. that is only natural (yes, I just gave myself a pat on the back for this pun).The one thing I have never done however, is look through my beauty products and see how many of them are certified organic.

This Organic September I wanted to do an experiment, use only cosmos or soil association certified beauty products for my routine (including makeup). Now if I went shopping that wouldn't be so tough, instead I wanted to use what I already had. The first fail was toothpaste and deodorant, while what I have is 'natural', neither of them have organic ingredients (let alone certification). The second fail is more of a semi-fail, my green people shampoo and conditioner duo is certified organic, but not by cosmos or soil association (although green people do have SA certification for some of their products).

I have managed to find a surprising amount of products (a mixture of things that I have purchased myself, brought home in goodie bags, and a few things that have been sent over for a review). Instead of grabbing absolutely every certified product, I tried to pick products that were already open and not more than 3 of the same type of product (I still want to have options, there is just no way I could stick with only one body oil for the rest of the month).

As my skin is both reactive and temperamental, to minimise the risk, I didn't introduce anything that my face wasn't already familiar with, still I took a bit of a chance as it wasn't a combination of products that I have tried out together. 

Throughout the organic beauty week I will be going into detail of each step of my current beauty routine, and at the end of the month I will let you know if I cheated on any aspect of it, what worked and what didn't.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Organic September | Day 1


I actually can't believe how quickly Organic September has come around. Last year I did the whole 'post for every day of September' thing, and it felt like a blogging marathon. I will not be doing it this time around purely because of the fact that I am also writing on The Peridot and I just don't think I would be able to cope with it all.

I feel like I am in a little bit of a different place from what I was last year, and while my views on the importance of Organic standards haven't changed I am reassessing of what organic lifestyle looks like to me. I am not going to tell you that my fridge and cupboards are completely filled with only organic produce, all my beauty products are certified organic and that all my clothes are made with organic cotton, that would not be true. Of course I aim for it, but the reality is that while organic items are more and more available even in my local stores, there are some things like spices that last for some time (and tend to be given as presents) that I will not be getting rid of because they don't have a certification. 

When it comes to the food that I personally buy, I go to the farmers market that has several organic stalls and I also subscribe to a Riverford Organic box. However if I see some papaya in a local green grocers and I really want it I will get it! Do I wish that it was organic? Of course! However, what I think is most important is for the food that I eat all/most of the time to be organic, not an occasional exotic offering. It really is about the things that make the most impact. I am not going to obsess about my cupcake that I had at a cafe not being organic, this is something I have just a few times a year! My potatoes, rice, veggies and greens that I have every week on the other hand, those I make sure are organic. So if you are starting to introduce some changes this month look at what would make the most impact? Are you partial to tomatoes, peppers or spinach? Those are the things to concentrate on.

I find myself shopping mostly outside of supermarkets. It suits me better, there is more choice of what I am looking for and I don't get bombarded with aisles and aisles of processed food. With lots of online retailers it is pretty easy to stock up on cupboard essentials really cheaply too. Organic food really doesn't need to be very expensive if you know where to look and how to make the best use of google.

When it comes to fashion, production of textiles is extremely polluting unless they have been created specifically to an eco standard. There is a lot of clothes already out there, floating around in the world, I don't feel the need to always buy 'new' clothes when so many unworn items are hanging on the rails in charity shops and are sold on e-bay. Of course if I really fancy something that isn't second hand or vintage, yes I will look for it to be eco or organic.

Skincare and beauty is really tough. To create a small bottle of face oil, a lot of plant matter is used. I don't really see any distinction between growing natural skincare ingredients and food production, so if I want my food to be organic it only makes sense that I want my skincare to be organic too. I will go into more detail on this subject during Organic Beauty Week.

Throughout the month I will be sharing some of my favourite products, recipes and just more about my personal approach to organic lifestyle. I will be keeping the content quite fluid, so if there is a particular subject matter that you would like me to cover more, let me know in the comments, I am very happy to oblige!

*Image courtesy of Soil Association

Thursday, 4 August 2016

The Model Zone facial + Giveaway



Coming from a family were both my mom and my grandma are amazing with a sewing machine, house full of Burda Moden magazines and my mom's contagious love of quality fabrics, my interest in fashion is not a surprise. For a long time I was completely mesmerised by the glitz and the glamour, patiently waiting for my monthly glossies. Like a lot of girls, at one point or other, I daydreamed about being a model (I've always had a wild imagination). Of course the stories in the media about the darker side of fashion open up your eyes to the harsh reality of the kind of pressures models face and how few actually make it big in the business.

The Model Zone is the British Fashion Council's project, created to look after the wellbeing of models during the London Fashion Week. As you can imagine, things get pretty intense, and a lot of the girls are young and far from their homes which adds to the pressure. Weleda UK have been supporting this project for several seasons, providing their products to use on the first occasion, and then getting more deeply involved with a team of beauty therapists and homoeopaths. The place is like a little oasis or a mini retreat: a space to relax, get a massage or a facial, stock up on healthy food and recharge your batteries. The location is confidential each season for obvious reasons, but to give us a taste of what it would look like this September (and to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Skin Food) Weleda recreated the Model zone experience a few months ago.


                                                         Photos courtesy of Weleda

The setting was a swanky apartment suite at Ham Yard in Soho, I was assured by Natalie Lewis (my therapist) that it was pretty much the same set up as at the The Model Zone, just a different location. Treatments on offer consisted of hand and foot massages, and of course the signature Skin Food facial that was specifically created for the occasion. Walking through the doors it already felt like a place of calm, of course I have no idea what the atmosphere is like on the day, but it was definitely all set up with relaxation in mind. 

I got to experience the signature facial. I have to admit that I was completely baffled by what Natalie was doing, first I could smell the undeniable sent of rosemary (which turned out to be a hot flannel soaked in Rosemary bath), then my nose told me that something from the almond range was being used (that was the almond cleanser). Luckily, Natalie was very obliging, she not only answered all my questions but also assured me that I would have the step by step instructions of how to recreate this ritual at home in the goodie bag. That was the point when I started to relax a bit, letting my annoyingly busy brain fall into rest mode.

The cleansing was followed by a massage with almond soothing facial oil. The massage extended to neck and shoulders, which in my case are super tense (every time I get a massage, therapists comment on it), so it was really nice to get some of that tension out.


                                                                Photo courtesy of Weleda

Moving on to the piece de resistance, a generous layer of skin food was left on the skin for 5 minutes to do its magic. I have to say this was my first interaction with skin food, the few samples that I had were snapped up by other members of the family so I never got to try it for myself. I actually quite like the scent, it is sort of sweet and herby. One of the ingredients in this product is Lanolin, which means it is not suitable for vegans. Here is what Weleda have to say about their lanolin and it really comes down to whether or not you trust the brand. From all my experiences with Weleda so far, I trust them (of course it is up to you to make up your own mind).

With a flannel soaked in hot water and a little lavender bath the mask is taken off, and the last step is a light application of Almond soothing lotion. The whole process was about 30 minutes, but it left me feeling incredible. Getting ready to come to the event I was definitely a little worse for wear, completely run down and super stressed. Half an hour with a Weleda therapist and I was ready to take on the world. I would have never thought of using Skin Food as a treatment mask, but if your skin is feeling dry it really does the trick. For those of us with oily complexion, the recommendation is to skip the T-zone and only use it on dryer areas, to avoid overloading the skin.

                                                                Photo courtesy of Weleda

I have teamed up with Weleda UK to gift one of my readers with the whole shebang of  the products used in their signature facial, unfortunately a therapist is not included, but they are throwing in some organic teabags and a muslin cloth. The giveaway is open to UK residents only and it closes on 15th of August 2016  (don't worry, there will be something else happening for my international readers shortly after).

The prise:

 Rosemary Invigorating Bath Milk 200ml
Almond Soothing Cleansing Lotion 75ml
Almond Soothing Facial Oil 50ml
Skin Food 30ml
Lavender Relaxing Bath Milk 200ml
Almond Soothing Facial Lotion 30ml
Organic cotton muslin
Organic cotton wool pads
Organic chamomile unbleached tea bags
Weleda Skin Food facial booklet

Good Luck!



Weleda Skin Food Facial Bundle

Thursday, 16 June 2016

New look | Herbfarmacy



When a brand announces a new look it always brings up a mixture of emotions: excitement and a little bit of dread, you just never know which way it is going to go (and of course I wonder if the packaging is the only thing that is changing). In the good old days, when Love Lula used to be owned by Claire Braithwaite and sent out cute inspirational cards with every order, on their site I first came across herbfarmacy. Balancing face cream was the first product I ever tried from the brand, the funny thing is I'm sure even at that time Herbfarmacy weren't knew to the game of organic skincare. Over the years I have come to regard them as a solid reliable brand, but let's face it, with the sudden explosion of the green beauty scene it is easy to get lost. 

Herbfarmacy has become like a pair of my favourite but slightly worn out jeans, I know they fit perfectly and show off certain assets in a very flattering way, and of course I wear them from time to time, but not exactly running up to my girlfriends screaming " Check out these jeans, don't they look fantastic?". Now it seems my old favourites have been brought back, with the same cut, the same fit, but also some extra cool detailing, so while these new jeans do exactly what they did before, well they look all sparkly and worth more than a few mentions. OK I'm done with the metaphor, it maybe shallow to talk about packaging, but I am not one to shy away from shallow pursuits (you know, everything in moderation is my motto). So let's dive into Herbfarmacy's new look and overanalyse it.



The jars and bottles are now emerald green glass, aside from the fact that it is just gorgeous, it turns out that when they first launched green glass was what they wanted to go with, but went for clear glass at the last moment, as they didn't want to clash with another brand who was using the same coloured glass. In a way this is like coming home, bringing back the original vision for herbfarmacy. The illustrated labels have been their signature from the get go, but now this print feels a lot more modern, and the terracotta red background adds a new twist to the overall look. Finally there is also a super cool logo on the lids of the jars and on the fronts of the bottles. The logo personifies the view of the hills on the herbfarmacy farm. So when you put all of these together: we have terracotta label representing the fertile soil, green glass representing plants and growth, botanical print showing off herbs and flowers, and the logo giving you a look at the rolling hills of where it all grows. Each jar and bottle is basically a visual story of where your products comes from.

Situated in the Welsh borders, the organic five acre Herfodshire farm established over 32 years ago is where the magic happens. The organic seedlings are hand sown, time is given for the plants to grow and reach their full potential, before being handpicked and turned into beautiful tinctures and extracts. The herbs grown on the farm are not used for essential oils, they are turned into macerated oils or water extracts, which become the bases of all products in the Herbfarmacy range. The most famous being the Marshmallow root.



The roots of marshmallow (the plant of course, not the gooey stuff that marshmallow man is made of) contain soft mucilages that become gel-like in water. In fact if you get your hands on a fresh root, and break a little bit you can feel it for yourself. The inside of the root when is super silky smooth to the touch, it is pretty incredible. These mucilages attract and hold moisture in the surface of the skin, not surprisingly this herb features in quite a few of the products (including Marshmallow and vanilla lipbalm which I have previously reviewed here). 

Other superstars are calendula and echinacea. While calendula, aka marigold, probably needs no introduction, it is an incredibly soothing and anti-inflammatory herb, amazing at calming sensitive and troubled skin. Echinacea is well known as a cold remedy, but it turns out as a mild astringent it is great for toning, and in creams for oily skin types (it is also a hit with bees and butterflies, always a good thing).



As well as a great range of skincare, herbfarmacy has an incredible selection of balms. Multipurpose mallow beauty balm, that can be used as a cleanser, moisturiser and even targeted fine lines treat and skin rescue balm for skin irritation and redness, these two are just the tip of the iceberg. Meditation, easy breathing, bruises, muscle tension, itchy skin, you name it they have a balm for it. I could create a wellbeing cabinet with all these jars (hm maybe I should)!



I have special respect for brands that grow their plants, really understand how to get the most out of them, and have genuine love for the land. To me they always stand head and shoulders above the rest, of course it doesn't hurt if the packaging is gorgeous. Every time I pick up a Herbfarmacy jar I fall in love with it a little bit more. There is just something about it, like a song that you like at first listen, but each time you hear it,  you just enjoy it more and more. Hello gorgeous green bottles, welcome to my top shelf, you are here to stay.


Thursday, 9 June 2016

The illusion of power



Knowledge is power. So why is it that the more I know the more I realise how little power I actually have? We live in an age where information is thrown at us on the daily whether we want it or not. Even without turning on a news channel or owning a TV, if you have access to the Internet and facebook/twitter/instagram you are likely up to date with the latest shock and horror stories.  The question is do you have the tools necessary to figure out what is real and what is BS? This not the question of intelligence, street smarts or even expertise. It is funny how when you start researching any industry be it food, fashion, beauty, etc you soon start seeing similarities with regards to hidden dark corners, dishonesty, misinformation and lack of responsibility.

Let's get a couple of things straight: there are very few certainties (if any), when it comes to natural order of things, science or life in general. So many things through the history of humanity that used to be considered as undeniable, undisputed facts have come to be disproved. Our societies have seen remarkable transformation, so why is it when it comes to our daily lives we seem to be rather accepting of the status quo and believing that it isn't in our power to create real and lasting change? Why is that we are so content with the superficial power of our consumer choices? 

Making decisions on incomplete, often biased studies, when it comes to food and beauty products. Purchasing clothing based on convenience of what is available to us. Being saddled with the full responsibility for the potential health consequences of our nutritional choices, or wanting to appear more attractive through the use of beauty products. Because somehow it is up to us as individuals to understand potential risks of what is in our lotion, or in our food, because we are adults? 

Never mind the fact that large proportions of population leave formal education by the age of sixteen in the rich countries (we are not even talking about what is going on in the so called developing world), and the quality of education varies ridiculously between school to school, country to country. Yet we are responsible for our own wellbeing, and we are told that the things sold to us in the shops are there because we want them. How is that exactly? When given a choice, with explanation of all the consequences and effects that certain ingredients have on our bodies, what mother would choose to give their child food with colourants that could potentially cause their child ADHD? But I mean it is not certain, and in small quantities it is OK right, so lets just roll with it.

Going to an attraction park and not packing a lunch with me (admittedly an oversight), it turns out that my only food options are chips, sandwiches, burgers, pasta, or soup (on a hot summer day), so how exactly do I show my consumer power and preferences for healthy food... oh that is right, I don't, I go to eat elsewhere (where is that exactly when you are in middle of nowhere?). So I get a stupid sandwich, or go hungry. 

How am I supposed to definitively make up my mind on whether or not organic food and beauty is worth it when the supposedly leading scientific minds keep playing tug of war with their findings? Because of course I have time, money, and the presence of mind to subscribe to all the research articles and publications in the fields of environment, nutrition, cosmetic chemistry, and also keep an eye on what goes on in the field of economics, and politics (not of just my own country mind you, but worldwide), read them, and without fail figure out what is the absolute truth. Then I go to the shops and vote with my wallet for the real change in the world. Because I am an all powerful consumer, and if I just keep shopping for fair trade goods, organic produce and natural beauty I am going to change the world. It is up to me and all the other consumers, it is our collective responsibility as walking, talking ATMs to show big business that we are against child labour, food that makes us sick, and beauty products with questionable ingredients. Consumers are ultimately responsible for not only what goes on in the supply chain and the environmental impact of production industries in distant countries, they are also responsible for the effects that cosmetics have on us purely by the simple act of buying one product over another. You have the power to buy or not to buy, with power comes great responsibility.

So now with my new found power, I am drastically changing my shopping habits, yet my budget is still the same. I buy less, a lot less, since instead of 5 dresses I can now only afford 1, and what happens if every single person does the same, what happens then? Well there aren't that many dresses being sold, so either price goes down to encourage people to shop more or all those people who used to make dresses have to find themselves another type of work. And if the price keeps going down, does this mean that those exact things I wanted to avoid by buying a more expensive dress will just happen again? If overnight the whole world goes organic, all non organic farms have to change or go out of business. It is a similar story with beauty. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Well that depends on who you ask. Time does not stay still, change happens whether or not we are open to it. While we are free to choose, we can only choose from the selection that is available to us. If you have no access to clean water, you still have to drink to live.  

My buying choices are made with the best information I have at the time, but I am not a mindless consumer of things, I am a person. I had no part in deciding who made a shirt that is hanging in a department store, and it is very unlikely that I will ever find out who made it. I have to put my trust in instutitions and certifying bodies to tell me that a particular item indeed was made under fair conditions, or made with ingredients that it claims to have. I do not have access to all the relevant information, or even the capacity to process it all if it is presented in a particularly confusing way.

While I am great believer in individuality, and yes one person can really create change, they never do it without the support of other like minded people. There is such a thing as too much emphasis on individuals, no one person is responsible for all that is wrong in the world or indeed for fixing it. Yet when we don't have reliable institutions that actually ensure that what is available to us is indeed safe, that the environment doesn't get polluted, and that workers are treated with respect, it falls on the shoulders of individuals to figure what is what. 

So maybe I should see myself as a consumer and embrace this power of shopping after all? At every corner, being met with different opinions presented as facts based on contradicting  information, I will be making choices. Am I vegan? No... Oh that must mean that I do not care about animal cruelty or the environment, and if I do than I am a delusional hypocrite. Do I use only unpreserved organic skincare? No... well that is unfortunate, but I can't be part of the purist green beauty club. And if I happen to be a blogger but do not share every part of what I do, every single beauty product that I have ever used, and some of the ones I missed out on taliking about aren't too clean, if I share green smoothie recipes but do not document the fact that I had a coke once in a blue moon, that means I am just plain inauthenic. Because as everybody knows, having a blog means everyone is not only entitled to know every sinle thing about me but it is frankly my civic duty to overshare in the name of authenticity.

So please clear some room while I get on my high horse, cloak myself in authenticity and point my finger at all the others who fail to navigate this minefield of information, while shopping into oblivion and shaping the world into a better place with the mighty power of my wallet.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Staring at the ceiling...



Alone in the room, looking up above.
My eyes meeting the white concrete instead of blue sky.
Emotions overpowering, consuming my entire being:
Anger, sadness, disbelief.

This too will pass.

There is two of us, watching the patterns and intricate designs,
This man made canopy holds such beauty.
Not in the wildest dreams have I felt so happy:
Amazement, gratitude, disbelief.

This too will pass.

There are people around, yet I am completely alone.
The prison of solid stone will not let me jump any higher.
The answers that seemed so true, have turned on me:
Grief, despair, disbelief.

This too will pass.

Overwhelmed, tired, constantly questioning my own resolve.
Is it true what I see, is it my thoughts that betray me or is it you?
How can you not see the damage, all this pain?
Acceptance, denial, disbelief.

When will it pass?

Keeping quiet, choosing my words.
This cage I created, will not be reinforced.
What I am looking for, you do not possess.
Strength, determination, belief in myself.

This is my path.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Pamper sessions | Isla apothecary



It might have taken an eternity for warm weather to make an appearance, but now the heat is on! For me this means hello shorts and abundance of sunscreen. With all this skin being exposed I am definitely paying a lot more attention to my body routine. It is not about using lots of products, but more about being consistent: using some sort of exfoliant twice a week and a nourishing body oil every time after shower and/or sun exposure. It might not seem that way, but I have always been a little bit lazy about my beauty routines. There are lots of perfectly functional products that will get the job done, but the thing is, if they don't make me feel special in some sort of way I am not going to remember to use them (with the exception of spot treatments, those just need to do the job). I am really fond of beauty products that make me feel like I am in spa, or on an exotic holiday.

Isla apothecary is based in London, and the products are hand blended in small batches, they are rooted in the principles of aromatherapy and it shows. As soon as you open the jar of Blood orange + Vanilla body scrub the amazing scent starts working its magic. Honestly, I am not sure if I should be using it on my body or reaching for a spoon. The gorgeous blend of brown sugar, coconut oil, shea butter, peach kernel oil, vitamin E, blood orange and vanilla smells so delicious and uplifting, that it never fails to put a smile on my face. That is before I even use it! Despite all the oils and butters, the mixture is on the loose side. It is more like sugar with a touch of oil, as opposed to sugar suspended in oil. What this means is that when you are massaging a few handfuls of the scrub (I find that two is enough for my entire body) into wet skin, your bath/shower doesn't turn into a lethal ice rink. Skin is left feeling soft and moisturised yet not greasy. I actually find that I don't need to use a body oil after this treatment, my skin feels perfectly taken care of. The scent doesn't stay on the skin, but if your other half happens to wonder into the bathroom while you are busy scrubbing away, be prepared for them to have a sudden craving for Terry's chocolate orange.

I think my love for neroli is well documented on Instagram. This essential oil is distilled from the flowers of a citrus plant, so has the same mood boosting properties as citrus oils but it is also considered to be an aphrodisiac (this side effect is always welcome in my book). So how could I turn down an opportunity to try Isla's Neroli body oil*? The base of it is made up of safflower, coconut, pumpkin and rosehip oils, making it seriously silky and full of antioxidants. Pumpkin oil in particular is a power house of fatty acids, zinc and antioxidants making it a great addition to a post sun exposure skincare. Rosehip by itself is a dry oil, it sinks in without leaving any residue, when it comes to skincare benefits it seems to be especally helpful with mitigating photo-ageing (sun damage). The overall blend feels wonderfully emollient, leaving my skin super soft and smooth. The essential oils of neroli, patchouli, frankincense, petitgrain and mandarin, make for a very uplifting scent that isn't too sweet or overly floral. The best thing about the scent is that it's both noticeable and yet not at all over powering. I apply this body oil to damp skin after my evening shower. It is nourishing enough that I can see myself using it all year round, but I am especially loving it as part of my after sun routine. About 2 pumps is all it takes since my skin isn't particularly dry. The next morning my skin is still as soft as velvet. 

When I have an hour or two to myself, I really love taking my time with the body scrub and following it up with the body oil (I would use just a little oil as the scrub really is pretty moisturising, and mainly on my legs and arms since these are the areas that tend to be drier). Not only does my skin feel and look pretty darn amazing after, I really feel fabulous overall, in good spirits and very relaxed. This is the best part of combining seriously good skincare ingredients and aromatherapy.

As a very special treat, if you feel like experiencing the wonder of Isla Apothecary for yourself, I have a discount code for my readers: 'rainbowfeet' will save you 15%.

*PR sample, all thoughts are my own based on my personal experience with the product. The whole point of this blog is to introduce you to things that I genuinely think are awesome, so making stuff up would be trully.. well.. pointless!