What I’ve Been Using: Nov/Dec

Hello readers! It’s been a longer time than I expected since I last wrote a post. There have been a lot going on in my personal life that I do not share on here or anywhere really. But some things do not change and that is my love of beauty products.

I have been working my way through products and based on your e-mails of “what should I use?” I realize the importance of providing product feedback in a more cohesive routine manner rather than leave them in an individual bubble.

So here is what I’m loving:

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African Botanics Fleurs D’Afrique

Holy crap you guys, this is a face oil on steroids! African Botanics was not kidding when they released this “intensive recovery oil” which contains marine micro-algae, retinol, vitamin c and CoQ10 in ONE SINGULAR BLEND! The scent is incredible and it’s not a surprise considering Jasmine Essential Oil and Rose Essential Oil are ingredients 3 and 5! This is over achieving. For anyone who has ever questioned the effectiveness of a face oil, try this and let me know if you still feel the same way. I seriously think this stuff is divine and savor each drop that comes out of the beautiful bottle. Pictures do not do it justice, just bring this up to a light to see the golden oil through the black frosted glass, it’s a thing of beauty. I could only use this 2-3 times a week at the beginning because it was so strong, which is another thing, sensitive skin might want to look at a calmer option like their Pure Marula Oil. But for those of you who just want to put a high quality buffet of actives on your skin in a face oil form, look no further. Buy this, enjoy, you’ve met your perfect match.

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Lina Hanson Global Treasures Balm

The first time I saw this balm on Lina Hanson’s Instagram, I knew I had to have it. Sure we’ve seen balms by many a green brand at this point but I was captivated by the gorgeous color and gold specks! Then I looked at the ingredients list and discovered the green color came from matcha, the gold from real 24K gold, and the inclusion of pearl powder. Gaahhh.. what a creation! When it arrived, I excitedly opened the jar and it was the beauty junkie version of what I imagine it would be like to meet a hot guy off of Tinder. “Ohhh that’s how the color looks in person and omg there are those gold specks!” I took a deep inhale and was welcomed with a warm, chocolaty note. I wrote Lina basically saying “Yeah it looks just as amazing in person but how are you not telling people how good this stuff smells?!” I’ve been saving this balm for winter to use on dry spots. But the real secret is how well this works as an eye balm. It doesn’t tug or pull, and gives the perfect emollient feel that lets you know that it’s working to get your skin buttery soft. My eye serums have been replaced by this gem.

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Tatcha Overnight Memory Serum Concentrate

This embodies the innovative and quirky aspects of Asian skincare with a bouncy memory serum texture. Overnight Memory Serum is an ultra-concentrated form of Tatcha’s Luminous Dewy Skin Mist which means it is very very hydrating and absolutely packed with the rejuvenating powers of the mist. It is recommended for overnight recovery and I consider it to be extremely effective in combating dry winter air. Tatcha is made in Japan and I think of this as a very luxurious pressed serum/essence, as it is a very concentrated and nutrient packed product that delivers results like a serum. A little does go a long way with this and I use the gold scooper that comes with the jar which measures out the perfect amount. It kind of feels like breaking the super soft Japanese tofu over your skin and I say that in the most fun way. If your skin doesn’t handle moisturizers well (hello acne prone ladies) but needs that surge of moisture in the winter, this is the product you need. On a final note, check out how bouncy it is!

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Yarok Feed Your Volume Shampoo

I’m making my way through green shampoos and the latest stop is at Yarok which I have heard so much about. I believe it was Spirit who praised the way this smelled and although I enjoyed Rahua, I wasn’t completely in love with the palo santo scent so I had my eye on this for a while. I was pleasantly surprised by the gentle and light aroma of the shampoo. The way it smelled and felt reminded me of a fruity syrup. This shampoo was not drying at all, and made my hair feel and look great. I do not think it is really strong enough for my scalp though because it gets oilier quicker. With that said, I still really like this shampoo, my hair seems healthier and it just feels good. I find myself running my hands through my hair often because it just seems healthier. Many organic shampoos lack those chemical ingredients that give hair that “sheen” and “luster” but this brings it back with good ingredients which is incredible. I’m going to continue forward and see if my scalp situation sorts itself out – if it does, this will be a keeper.

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Yuli Metamorphic Elixir

When winter arrives, Metamorphic Elixir comes into play in a big way. If any green brand is going to pack in performance alongside the highest quality ingredients, it is Yuli and Metamorphic means business when it comes to hydration in the form of a botanically derived hyaluronic acid that is most compatible to the form of natural present hyaluronic acid in our skin, plant powered retinol alternatives (immortelle flower and frankincense which are both highly rejuvenating are literally ingredients 3 & 4), as well as the humectant glycerin which is a common ingredient however theirs is derived from fatty acids found in coconuts. Also if you love roses, this is flowing with a complex of roses with damask rose as the 2nd most abundant ingredient and also including a very rare white rose which smells soft and delicate. I think it was Chalkboard Mag that called this rose water on steroids for this reason. I first took the plunge to Metamorphic Elixir after hearing The Hermes Hippie and Rebecca Bailey of NMDL both  rave about it and it was love at first mist for me as well. A good face mist is like crack (I assume.. not speaking from experience), you just can’t get enough and already start dreading running out before you’re half way through  – that is exactly the relationship I have with this elixir. Add this to your winter regimen, it’s the tall drink of water your skin has craved.

Kari Gran Review: 3 Step System

In an industry where everyone is boasting, it’s refreshing to meet a line that places its philosophy as delivering what amounts to as “the little black dress” version of skincare. Kari Gran, based out of Seattle is a green brand focused on the less is more approach of simple yet elegant solutions centered around plant oils.

I know there are many choices when it comes to purchases, and Kari Gran makes it quite easy and compelling with a Starter Kit of the essentials: Cleansing Oil, Lavender or Rose hydrating Tonic, Essential Serum & new Three Sixty Five SPF 28 in really chic UV bottled travel sizes.

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So here’s a quick rundown:

Kari Gran Cleansing Oil: This is a non-emulsifying cleansing oil, meaning it’s best to follow with a 2nd cleanser or with a washcloth. As with all cleansing oils, apply to dry skin and massage away. The texture of this oil is the perfect thickness that doesn’t leave skin greasy but also isn’t like a dry oil that just disappears into skin after a few seconds. I like cleansing oils to be viscous enough that there is some cushion and this delivers on that effect.

The simple ingredient list of only 5 ingredients is very high quality, unlike other cleansing oils where beneficial plant oils are toward the middle of the ingredients list.

Ingredients: Sunflower Oil, Avocado Oil, Castor Oil, Lavender Oil, Tocopherol
All oils are organic

Kari Gran Lavender Hydrating Tonic: This tonic is available is in lavender or rose. Since the cleansing oil and essential serum have a dominant lavender fragrance, this tonic was a fantastic middle step. I actually really enjoyed this tonic and felt it was excellent as a setting spray and layered well with the essential serum.

The ingredients list for this is even simpler: 3 ingredients – distilled aloe vera leaf, organic glycerin and organic lavender. But unlike other lines where simple compositions can feel incomplete or a little too DIY-ish, this feels well done.

Kari Gran Essential Serum: The essential serum is Kari Gran’s answer to face oils. In here there are actually 15 plant oils, among them, my favorites are camellia oil, rosehip oil, calendula oil, and essential oils of lavender, rose, jasmine, ylang ylang. The scent works with the rest of the line and I’d describe it as more of a blend between lavender and ylang ylang, though on the floral fragrant side in a good way.

Ingredients list: Organic Camellia Oleifera (Camellia Seed) Oil, Organic Rosa Canina Fruit (Rosehip Seed) Oil, Organic Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Oil, Organic Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Oil, Organic Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Organic Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Organic Olea Europaea (Olive), Organic Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) & Organic Calendula Officinalis (Calendula) Oil, Organic Olea Europaea (Olive) & Organic Arnica Montana (Arnica) Oil, Organic Lavandula Hybrida (Lavender) Oil, Wildharvested Boswellia Sacra (Frankincense) Oil, Rosa Damascena (Rose) Oil, Jasminum Sambac (Jasmine) Oil, Organic Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn Seed) Oil, Organic Cananga Odorata (Ylang Ylang) Oil, Tocopherol (Non-GMO Vitamin E from Sunflower).

Summary:

What I’ve found is that Kari Gran really nails the texture, whether they’re using 3 ingredients or 15, the products go on the skin and feel just right. You never feel lacking, as the products provide a polish and elegance that belies that often times sparse ingredients list. The compositions really do work like minimalist little black dresses and for that reason, I’m inclined to recommend them for everyone as they would just fit so effortlessly especially at their fairly reasonable price points.

My Journey into Korean Beauty, An Education

Recently I’ve been swept into the K-Beauty trend or Korean Beauty trend. “Is this were you use a gajillion products in your routine?”/ “Isn’t that the same trend that’s pushing snail slime?” You ask? To which I say – yes, all true. The Korean Beauty trend has gained a lot of attention from the now ubiquitous serial-killer looking sheet masks seen all over Instagram to the focus on a disciplined, multiple product regimen.

I decided to explore this trend more in depth because I wanted to see for myself where the truth stood between hype and results. Would using such uncommon ingredients be more beneficial? Is the multiple product approach better than one that is streamlined?

It was a little daunting at first when hearing about 10-step routines and just the categories (cleansers, toners, essences, serums, pressed serums, oils, ampules, moisturizers, sheet masks, rubber masks, splash masks – OH MY!) alone are enough to intimidate any beginner or novice. I enlisted the help of natural K-beauty purveyor Glow Recipe which provides handy , informative guides and insights on latest trends as well as Sokoglam‘s Charlotte Cho who is a wonderful source for all things K-Beauty.

It was through watching their videos, reaching out on Instagram and a couple of e-mails back and forth that I was able to form my insights which is that like any beauty regimen, the Korean Beauty regimen is all about what works for you. For the most part, the reason for so many steps is because the K-Beauty philosophy is comprehensive rather than tedious and purposefully overwhelming. After researching the products and categories, I believe it’s really important to think about everything holistically in terms of how products will interact with each other and what they bring to the table independently.

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One of the first things I noticed was that despite those uniquely out-there ingredients, most of the ingredients list tend to be fairly common and not that different from what one might easily find in a Sephora store. Take for example the snail goo sleeping mask from Missha (Cell Renew Snail Sleeping Mask) shown above. Sounds pretty cool right? The actual product is really just a rich creamy lotion, no hint of goo but an abundance of synthetic fragrance. In my experience, there wasn’t anything that distinguished it from other moisturizers despite being called a sleeping mask. I suppose in this regard overnight moisturizers might as well all be called sleeping masks and day time moisturizers, activity masks?

What I did gravitate toward was Glow Recipe, a site where products are really celebrated from being uniquely different. While the brand curates “natural” offerings, the green beauties out there may notice some iffy ingredients such as PEG’s but in general I didn’t see too many bad ingredients. Think of this purveyor as carrying brands akin to Origins, REN, Grown Alchemist, where they’re not entirely ‘green’ but a daliance isn’t going to be ideology shattering either. I love how enthusiastic the ladies at Glow Recipe are with sharing their latest finds in which each product is given a chance to shine – their latest discovery is the Aqua Peel which is an acid treatment applied through a soaked over sized Q-Tip, pretty cool right?

With Glow Recipe, I found that the Whamisa line really spoke to me and I purchased their Organic Flowers Toner [Deep Rich] which is described as a bouncy essence like hydrating step and Organic Flowers Facial Oil which I purchased purely to see how Korean oils may differ from ones we purchase here. The Organic Flowers Facial Oil reminded me of the Acure Oil in terms of packaging and was noticeably light and quick absorbing. As a fan of face oils and being spoiled by brands like Odacite and Yuli that just can’t be beat when it comes to freshness, nothing about the Whamisa Oil stood out to me per se although it proved competent as a night time oil (it contains citrus oils which automatically classes it as an evening only product for me).

Still, the toner immediately found its way into my routine, nestled between cleansing and a fine botanical mist. I found the emollient texture to add a certain bit of moisture cushion which is much welcomed during the winter. I also like that it relies on Aloe Vera, botanical extracts and natural fermentation which is something we see in green beauty as well.

In fact, I recognized that a lot of things that worked for me with Korean Beauty also worked in line with green beauty from the reliance of high quality ingredients, plant based actives and designing a comprehensive system focused upon individual skin conditions. I was able to take the teachings of K-Beauty and apply it to my fairly green top shelf:

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My evening K-Beauty inspired Green routine starts with double cleansing. In Korea and Japan, women believe that to take off the layers of the day requires a multi-step process starting with the make-up, sunscreen and water-proof products. This is usually an oil based cleanser and in my case on light days, I use an oil-based cream cleanser like In Fiore’s Treate. After the surface is cleared, it’s time to really cleanse and freshen the skin and Korean beauty usually incorporates a light foaming, pH balanced cleanser that is usually SLS and alcohol free. Of course, for this step I use my beloved Yuli Halcyon Cleanser, which I find to use much higher quality and advanced ingredients – I really do consider it to be THE gift to us green beauty fans.

Now that skin is bare and fresh, I acid tone with First Aid Beauty’s Radiance Pads to give a gentle resurfacing which only helps skin absorb more moisture to follow. This is the most gentle acid toner I’ve used and it was recommended by a reader (thank you!). Next I use 3 drop-fuls of Whamisa’s Organic Flowers Toner and press into my skin in upward circular motions. This gives my skin a good moisture base to build from. Then I follow with Tatcha’s Luminous Deep Hydration Serum to really amp up the hydration factor with hyaluronic acid and Okinawa red algae which is very deeply moisturizing as the name suggests and gives skin some bounce. Next, with my skin loaded up from the water, glycerin, hydrating actives and hyaluronic acid, I mist it with MUN’s No.11 Rejuvenating Rose toner which is based on water and rose water (which the aforementioned actives will bind to skin) and also contains hyaluronic acid. In Korean Beauty, this is the pressed oil/ampoule stage so I press 1.5 to 2 pumps of Yuli’s Liquid Courage antioxidant serum to my skin as it is the most concentrated product and I want to give time for my skin to absorb all of the good stuff. Liquid Courage itself contains a unique ingredient in the form of a bio-ferment of black garlic which kicks up the antioxidant capacity, and don’t worry I can confirm that there is no unpleasant garlic odor, only a soft neroli fragrance. With serums, I allow one to two minutes for it to absorb before continuing.

During this time I diligently apply my Kahina Giving Beauty Eye Serum which is one of my favorite as it contains peptides, antioxidants and hyaluronic acid as well. I do a dot on each ring finger and dab across my under eye. This Eye Serum relieves that bit of tightness that I sometimes feel and sinks in quickly. I press any leftover product to my smile lines and around my lips.

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As the final step I use Tatcha’s Soothing Triple Recovery Cream which locks in all that hydration and itself is formulated with the highest concentration of colloidal oatmeal which is a very powerful anti-inflammatory. This anti-aging moisturizer also contains Indigo extract and is based on water and olive based squalane. The Soothing Triple Recovery Cream also does not contain essential oils and coupled with the colloidal oatmeal has won the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Acceptance.

So while I know this might look like a lot immediately, once each step is broken down everything starts making sense in their place. So what began as an exploration of a new trend really just showed me that it was a different take on the tried and true: do what works for you! I’ll likely continue to incorporate some things from Korean beauty because they’re quite playful and out of the box with product ideas and a lot of things actually work very well, however I’ve come away with a deeper appreciation for high quality ingredients that us green beauty fans have treasured all along.

Summer Essentials

TheBeautyIdealist Summer Essentials

We often think of our skin as a “type” but the reality is, it is constantly in flux. So while some of us have dry skin or oily skin, the truth is every day our skin is responding to so many different things that when the seasons change, skin needs will have to be evaluated. Here are the products that have been so good to my skin so far this summer.

The Hair Care: Rahua Shampoo

When I originally reviewed this shampoo, I noted that it was slightly drying. However this quality also makes it pretty good for summer where hair and scalp in general is more oily. The organic blend of quinoa, rahua-ungurahua, and palo santo improves healing, moisture retention, and regenerates scalp and hair follicles. The gentle formula uses coconut derived surfactants to clean hair and it is said to be color-safe. All these qualities make it great for summer when the sun can do some serious damage.

The Eye Care: Verso  Super Eye Serum

I have a Goldilocks problem when it comes to eye product: too light and there is a tight/dry feeling, too heavy and it makes me feel suffocated (not to mention, I’ll no doubt end up rubbing it into my eye eventually). Verso’s Super Eye Serum gets it just right. It’s a light creamy gel texture that absorbs quickly without sitting on skin but retains that feeling of significance so the delicate skin around eyes is never feeling dry and tight. The patented Retinol 8 complex is formulated into every Verso product. It’s supposedly a more effective, gentler and UV stable form of retinol that increases collagen and reverses signs of aging around the eyes. I luckily don’t have crows feet or fine lines around my eyes but I feel this really makes my eye area take care of.

The First Cleanse: In Fiore Treate

I’m not a oil/balm cleansing type of girl. It takes too long to get skin clean from the film and doesn’t ever make my skin feel that clean afterward. In Fiore’s Treate is a non-foaming cream that gently helps to remove make-up and sunscreen which is very applicable for summer when my going out routine is sweat proof make-up and heavy water-resistant sunscreen. The scent is a light jasmine which also feels refreshing for summer. The bonus is unlike oil/balms, this actually washes clean. Look for a full review to come!

The Second Cleanse: YULI Halcyon

The second cleanse is a bit of a misleading moniker in that to the average person who thinks double cleansing is too complicated might go for the first and call it a day. The truth is that the second cleanse is when you need that really effective cleanser to come in and get rid of all those things lodged deep in skin and take care of skin. I originally reviewed this and loved it. Since then I’ve used a series of cleansers to see what was out there and similar to Nephriticus (scroll to 7:50 mark), this is a holy grail that I keep coming back to because each time I’m just reminded of how good this cleanser is. During summer our skin accumulates even more of that unwanted stuff and this is the right stuff to get it all removed without stripping/drying skin thanks to a pH balanced, soap-free formula.

The Mask: Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask

Summer is when we jam pack our schedules with weekend trips and vacations which makes this convenient jar of detoxifying mask perfect as your travel companion. Unlike powder masks which I love but take a while to prepare, this jelly mask comes ready to apply. The beta-hydroxy treatment sloughs off dead skin cells while clays detoxify skin. Perfect for summer. This mask applies like a dream gel and can be washed off when dried.  Easy and simple, with results every time.

The Refresher: YULI Metamorphic Elixir

I couldn’t finish this list without a facial mist! They’re so essential for cooling off, reducing inflammation, and irritation. I carry a mist with me everywhere, after the gym, if I’m out for too long, throughout the day in the office, and of course after cleansing. YULI Metamorphic Elixir is one I fell in love with last winter when I needed something hydrating but come summer and I’m still in love with it thanks to the completely hydro-based formula that doesn’t clog pores or add any weight onto skin. The smell of roses feel like a luxury every time I spray it and it helps to tone and soothe skin. It works great for when I’m out and about and also for an after-sun spray.

Do you also switch out products when the seasons change? What are your summer essentials?