A Skincare Update: All Green Beauty July 2020

Lately the idea of semantics has been weighing on my mind. The term Green Beauty, which to me started as a movement for empowerment in knowledge of the ingredients we were buying in our personal care products, has shifted into becoming the equivalent an eye roll synonymous with Gwyneth Paltrow jade vagina eggs and frou-frou rituals of the rich and bored. If you came here through my Instagram, I go into it a bit more on just how the industry is actually quite toxic from the people behind it to how it got this way.

While I think our green beauty community now has all but dispersed, I do believe in many of the products we championed. Here is my all green routine.

I know it’s odd to see an oil cleanser as a morning cleanse, but these days I’ve just been at home and it’s hard to justify a full cleansing experience sometimes when I barely want to even do a morning routine. I tried to go through with just water but notice it does a terrible job of penetrating the film of oils my skin seems to secrete overnight. One morning I reached for Pai Light Work Rosehip Cleansing Oil out of sheer laziness, and found this to do a good job of getting rid of that oil film as oil binds oil (some of you with drier skin might like the film and refuse to cleanse in the morning, but you should especially if you use serums as they need to actually penetrate). It’s gentle and works in a breeze without any fuss, and because I only use half a pump, it rinses off quickly (*yes it does emulsify with water, hurrah!) and my skin feels clean and ready for the next steps without feeling like I had to do a whole production with my cleansing.  I first got into cleansing oils with Shu Uemura but the ingredients kind of turned me off (in addition to the fact that it doesn’t rinse off with water very well), it wasn’t until One Love Organics came along with their oil cleanser that I absolutely loved it. But the Pai Light Work Rosehip Cleansing Oil in my opinion, has better ingredients (a lot more plant oils) and feels nicer.

I follow with Yuli’s Panacea Elixir. If I do a full cleansing routine, I like to mist it on my skin as I feel that hydrates my skin more (this is what I tend to do at night), but if I do an oil cleanse, I like to apply this like a traditional toner with a cotton round. When used this way, it works like an organic Biologique P50 without the harsh acids that seemed to make everyone’s skin red, blotchy and angry. Panacea uses enzymes and ionized minerals instead that break away dead skin, oxidized pore clogging sebum, etc., and keeps my skin clear of congestion and any general griminess. It’s described as a juice fast for the skin, and feels to me like the skincare version of a herbal tonic you’d drink from a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner to leave skin fresh, hydrated, and clear of breakouts or congestion.


Next I use Agent Nateur’s Holi(oil) as my face oil. I loved this oil from first use. The texture is beautifully plush as it uses rice bran which is nourishing but also easily absorbed. There are only 7 ingredients in here, which isn’t bad because some of the most beautiful creations only have a handful of ingredients, and these ingredients are all top of the line in quality as we know Jena prides herself on sourcing. Standouts include a French patented Calcium Ketogluconate, and Vitamin C (Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate) which work with each other to increase the efficacy of Vitamin C in building collagen and brightening the skin. Now.. the smell. It’s beautiful and was something that stuck with me from first use. The more I used it, the more I thought “wow this is divine but also.. familiar?” It was only after reading the Garcon’s World review of Saint Jane Beauty’s CBD Face Oil where they compared the smell of rose and sandalwood as being extremely similar to Agent Nateur AND Ila that I figured it out. Remember Ila? I forgot until I read that review from GW who always manages to be on the mark and are friggin beauty archivists. I remember using their oil YEARS ago, and thats when the lightbulb went off that the Agent Nateur oil isn’t just similar in smell, upon some digging (going to their websites lol) their formulas are like copies. Where Agent Nateur uses a base of rice bran, Ila uses argan, and Agent uses the calcium+vitamin c, but other than that you can see for yourself:

Ila Formula
Wild-Grown Argan Oil (Argania Spinosa Kernal), Rosehip Seed Oil (Rosa Canina), Sandalwood (Santalam Spicatum), Rose Otto Oil (Rose Damascena Flower Oil), Vitamin E Oil (Tocopherol Extract)

Agent Nateur Formula
organic oryza sativa (rice bran), organic rosa mosqueta (rosehip) oil, calcium ketogluconate, wildcrafted rosa damascena oil, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, organic helichrysum gymnocephalum oil, wildcrafted santalum album (sandalwood) oil.

Not to take away from the brilliance of the Agent Nateur face oil which is one of the nicest I’ve used, I just have to wonder how much Ila’s oil that came before might have informed the formulation of the Agent Nateur oil. **As an aside, I’ve been reticent to talk about Agent Nateur on my blog because as many of you may be aware, the founder has some fringe beliefs that I think are harmful. She’s also treated a fellow blogger (who I consider to be a genuine friend in the space) in a very ugly and hurtful manner. I stand by my review of this product, but I don’t think I will be purchasing from the Agent Nateur line in the future.**

Following face oil, I make sure I get my eye serum in. Kahina’s Eye Serum is a favorite. I’ve used many, and it’s a category I obsess over. What I’ve learned is that creams are for dry skin (if your skin is more oily, it could lead to milia which has to be extracted via surgical instruments), serums with a lighter gel texture tend to be more for active benefits, which is the camp I’m in right now. Kahina’s Eye Serum is a gel texture but it doesn’t have alcohol and doesn’t have that “evaporating” feel that dries your skin out. There are peptides and good plant extracts that are brightening and boost microcirculation. I think of it as my anti-aging serum for the eyes.

So in the serum step we’ve done the face and the eyes, I finish with my lips. I’m very hot and cold when it comes to my lips. Sometimes I fall behind on taking care of them and they easily get chapped. But I was watching Blackpink on Youtube and noticed how ALL the girls are religious about applying their lip products before every interview, performance and photoshoot. Like they didn’t care about touching up lipstick, but if their lips were chapped, oh no! I also know that not taking care of the lips can really mess up the plumpness and lose volume as we get older. My main problem is that I like to drink my wellness tonics, eat food, etc. and I know half the ingredients in most lip products are not ones I want to ingest so it’s hard to space it out. This is why I use Yuli’s Cellular Lip Conditioner which is 100% food grade. It’s not a balm, think of it like a face oil but for your lips. How is it different? The lips don’t have sebum glands, there is more collagen, and they’re more exposed (that’s also why the lips are more pigmented).  The Cellular Lip Conditioner helps to nourish the skin, and their plants offer a degree of protection from exposure, and it helps to keep lips plumped. I consider this an insurance to keep my lips as healthy as voluminous as I can.

The Indie Lee Daily Skin Nutrition is the moisturizer I’ve been using daily. It is light enough that it can be dispensed from a pump and is not too flashy. But it contains all the right ingredients that a dream moisturizer should have like squalane, avocado oil, hyaluronic acid, and even rosemary extract (good for environmental stressors) and Vitamin C. It melts into skin without any heaviness or greasiness, yet is substantial enough that you’ll miss it if you forgot to apply it. I think of moisturizers as more of the defensive line meant to keep the moisture from escaping, adding some of that creamier heft, and if good active ingredients are there, all the better, and this ticks all the boxes.


Before we’re done there’s one more thing I do in the morning. My wellness tonic! Let’s be honest here, everything we can perceive from our skin and hair, to our digestion, and how we feel is rooted within our inner wellness. I’m not going to do elaborate multi-step skincare routines, invest in expensive products, and then ignore what’s going on inside where everything is actually going on. MIJA Superstar is one that I talked about before. I love that it’s made by a board certified nutritionist and dietitian who is very acclaimed, as most are not. And I love their approach of filling the universal gaps we all have with one comprehensive supplement that can align all of our systems. Their approach is to balance and optimize the body where it needs it, rather than other brand approaches where you’re asked to take something for your mood, something else for your immune system, another thing for your digestion, without any clinical evidence what taking them together will do, and no concern for what individual supplements might imbalance in other areas. Beyond their approach, this just works for me on all fronts (for me it is most noticeable in my digestive regularity, metabolism, and energy level, but it will be different for everyone, my sister who is usually sick about 2-3 times a year has not been sick since she started taking it in October 2019). Unlike skincare that has steps, you don’t need bundles of supplements to be healthy, Mija’s Superstar has replaced jars of other stuff I was taking before, effectively cutting down on both time and cost, as well as always feeling like I wasn’t getting everything out of my supplements. I’ve never been more satisfied.


I love hearing from you, whether in the comments section here or on my Instagram. Reach out!

Labor Day Weekend Essentials

When I was a kid, the end of summer was the saddest time of the year for me as it meant going from carefree days filled with travel to going back to school. Now, as a grown-up, I relish in this time of year when I know the weather is going to hit that sweet spot between hot and cold, and New York feels “alive” again. This Labor Day weekend, I’m gleefully bringing the sweaters and coats out from storage while eyeing moisturizers that will soon come back into the rotation (hi, MV Organics Rose Moisturizer!).

In the meantime, here’s what I’m using – split into two categories:

HYDRATION

Tatcha Indigo Soothing Silk Hand Cream: a buttery lotion in a very durable tube that will travel well in your handbag. Somehow this tube holds so much cream that I’ve been using it for months without really making too much of a dent. It could also be that it’s so effective that you don’t need a huge glob. The indigo colored cream melts into hands, leaving a watery sheen that feels so soothing and hydrating. And I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again, this is one of the few hand creams out there that isn’t fragranced with synthetic perfume so the beautiful scent is enjoyable, not cloying.

Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator: the spray on this is so fine, it feels like tickling your skin with a feather. Because of this, I often overspray my skin which isn’t bad because there are tons of wonderful organic ingredients. The scent is also really nice, I can’t really describe it other than it’s refreshing, clean, but delicious at the same time? Similar to the Tatcha hand cream, this is really light and durable, which means it is ALWAYS in my handbag. Beyond the convenience factor, this is important because it helps me increase my skin hydration since it’s easier for me to mist throughout the day no matter where I am.

African Botanic’s Cloudburst Micro Emulsion: if you’re looking for a light moisturizer that won’t suffocate your skin but is packing plenty of active nutrients, look no further! What I love about this moisturizer is that it’s essentially a serum masquerading as a moisturizer. The ingredients are a who’s who list of anti-aging, hydration superstars, and as it’s African Botanics, you can trust that they did not leave out any of the good stuff, from hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, to peptides and algae and minerals. Part of the reason why the moisturizer is so powerful but light is due to what’s called a “water in oil” technology that helps the gel-like moisturizer to sink into the skin and then plump and hydrate.

GLOW-GETTERS

Lina Hanson Global Treasures: I love, love, love this balm. Have I tried Blue Cocoon? Yes. Have I tried In Fiore? Yes. But Global Treasures from the ingredients (coffee, matcha, gold leaf, pearl) to the presentation, to the silky melt-on-your skin texture, is just unrivaled to me. I love putting this on as an eye balm, it tightens, firms and nourishes so well. Have persistent dry spots? Press this balm in, it will disappear quickly leaving only a subtle glow behind. If you’re worried about balms being too heavy, I can say that this is probably the lightest that I have used, in fact, I use a separate balm for my lips because the active ingredients make this function more like a super nourishing serum.

YÜLI Liquid Courage Antioxidant Serum: We can’t really have a discussion on glow-getters without talking about this gem. A good face oil can give skin that resplendent glow, but this one takes it to another level with brightening Vitamin C and Ferulic Acid (the combination is known to even undo pigmentation caused by sun damage), and a concentrated antioxidant cocktail that evens skin tone and instills radiance. The composition is really perfect where the oils soak right into the skin and wake up the complexion, due to actives like CoQ10 that really get to work on energizing skin. I like to put this on as an oil, antioxidant serum and primer before sunscreen and makeup because it’s so protective (boosts SPF) and functional, and in the night it’s a full-on anti-aging repair serum that leaves skin looking brighter, and more pristine the next day.

Kjaer Weis Highlighter: If you want that goddess glow, Kjaer Weis’ Highlighter is a must-have. One swipe per cheek delivers that radiant sun-kissed touch. If you want that Bella Hadid contoured glow, just apply the cream highlighter with a brush onto the under-eyes (to immediately vanish any darkness and bags), down the nose (for sculpting), and a dash on the cupid’s bow. It’s so simple to look good with this highlighter because the formula is so universally flattering and blendable. Any notice will look like a pro, because of how versatile this product is. This is that single product that can produce the perfect filter in real life, you know the one that your favorite Instagram influencer has where the sunlight hits at just the right angle and intensity.


Drop me a comment if you have questions about any of these products, or let me know what you’re using as we move from summer to fall! 

JULY 4TH WEEKEND BEAUTY ESSENTIALS


I hope everyone is having a good summer! This year’s July 4th was on Wednesday so I ended up making a very long weekend out of it and made the trip from NYC to the Hamptons.

My skincare isn’t really based on set routines because I believe in changing things based on what my skin needs, so I’m sharing a couple of the products I brought with me for my long weekend trip.

Kahina Giving Beauty Oil Cleanser

I’ve been consulting with estheticians and figured out that it doesn’t matter if you only wear sunscreen and “light makeup,” especially in summer, everyone needs to double cleanse to get that surface stuff off before going in for that actual cleanse. It is apparently one of the core tenants of Asian Beauty Rituals so I’ve committed to oil cleansing every night before going over my skin with my trusty Halcyon Cleanser which is like…. the most necessary staple in my routine and key for good skin during summer when everything feels grittier and sweatier, it leaves my naked skin soft and baby-like.

As mentioned in my previous post on oil cleansers, Kahina’s Oil Cleanser is my favorite oil cleanser. It has a subtle yet pleasant aroma, possesses a nice weighty texture for massage without tugging at the skin and rinses cleanly. Beyond good organic ingredients, it’s also anti-inflammatory which is a major plus for heat prone summer skin. I like to massage it and feel the impurities glide off my skin. Since using this in conjunction with Halcyon, my skin has been totally clear and pores look clean and tiny, even those around my nose.

African Botanics Rose Treatment Essence

Many people assume that summer means going lighter on moisturizing products but that’s a mistake. The water content in the skin can be even more prone to TEWL (trans-epidermal water loss) due to the sun, air conditioning and high temperatures.

The Rose Treatment Essence is a nice weighty translucent gel that is far from the fluid textures of Asian essences. I gently rub this around my skin and it disappears immediately like a succulent serum. And the rose, oh my, the rose scent is such a pretty thing, so full and elegant, that the first few times I used it, I was so taken that I barely even paid attention to any results. Armed with botanical emollients, humectants, hyaluronic acid, and oligosaccharides, the results are worthy of the price tag: it’s very hydrating but not heavy or clogging which is exactly what you want from an essence, and the ingredients make skin feel firmer and pores look smaller.

Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask

A classic as far as green beauty goes, this has been in my beauty ritual for years. I always purchase a new jar at the beginning of every summer because I know how beautifully it works to gently exfoliate dead skin cells and all that leftover residue that accumulates during summer. This leaves my summer skin feeling light, fresh and happy and the instant-ready jelly texture is convenient to apply and wash off. The refreshing aqueous-herbaceous, fruity scent is one of my favorites.

Tatcha Indigo Soothing Silk Hand Cream

Have you ever sat in an air-conditioned room and then felt your hands? For some reason, they always feel a little… rough, right? I first used Tatcha’s Indigo Soothing Silk Hand Cream years ago and continue to love it. This hand cream disappears so quickly that it feels like your skin just drinks it up like water. And my hands are always left so smooth and nice.

Truth be told, I love a chic, sophisticated tube of hand cream since I’m always taking it out of my handbag in public and Tatcha is a brand that I associate with elegant beauty. Unlike a lot of other brands that make chic, sophisticated hand creams like Byredo or Le Labo, Tatcha uses only natural fragrances so my hands (and the things they touch e.g. FOOD) do not carry any cloying scents. This is very important to me as strong, synthetic scents really get to me and make me feel sick after continued exposure.

YÜLI Cellular Lip Conditioner

I’m more laid back about lip balm usage during the summer, it just feels counter-intuitive to me to cover my lips in a layer of balm while my face is melting off. Cellular Lip Conditioner is a lip serum that is 100% food grade (yay!), but also serious business as there is a powerful antioxidant chemistry that strengthens against UV exposure. It has great, nourishing plant oils like avocado, sesame seed, and green tea.

The texture is light, yet you feel nourished and hydrated. I like applying this also as a base layer before lipsticks and stains which can be drying (especially organic selections).

Kjaer Weis Cream Foundation

This has been my go-to foundation since I first started using it (see Kjaer Weis review). I love how versatile it is, it can be worn as a “naked your skin but better” foundation or a fuller coverage depending on how you blend and layer. For daytime, I do three swipes: one on each cheek and forehead, then blend in for a very minimal face that still evens and lightens my skin.

What I love about this cream foundation is how it soaks up oils that skin produces throughout the day so even by the end of the day, I’m left with a very natural dewy complexion with a highlighter-esque sheen rather than a greasy face.

YÜLI Metamorphic Elixir

It’s funny how long I’ve been using this line. When I first started, my skin was ridiculously out of balance, oily and acne prone. I was using Panacea Elixir (which is like an organic P50 without the acids) and now, I all about that tall drink of Metamorphic Elixir which is a very rejuvenating (translation: anti-aging) and hydrating face mist. One thing I’ve learned is that a non-water based mist is much better than water-based mists that can evaporate and leave skin even more dehydrated and Metamorphic Elixir uses botanical hydrosols and aloe vera which are more hydrating and do not have that evaporation problem.

In addition to that base, Metamorphic has serum-level ingredients with an instant-mist delivery so you’re loading up on things like hyaluronic acid, carrot seed, and immortelle flower (the star ingredient of Madonna’s MDNA line). This has helped my skin feel more plumped and satiated. I have been using it for 2 weeks straight, spraying anytime I felt like it and my skin analyzer indicated that my hydration went up by 26% – the real deal.


Let me know if you’ve been trying anything new for summer!

What I’m Using: Spring 2018

Spring is my favorite season. It’s when I have a pep in my step and really come out of my hibernation. In the past, it was also a time when I least took care of my skin as I am not dealing with the extremes of winter or summer. The products that I use now tend to be lighter than my winter routine and generally just bring me much enjoyment. So I bring to you a couple of the products I’ve been using regularly this Spring.

Odacite Green Ceremony Cleanser

I’ve used water-activated powder products before, like May Lindstrom’s Clean Dirt and deMamiel’s Brightening Cleanse & Exfoliate, but this one is really unique. I’ve talked about the Green Ceremony Cleanser before when I received it in The Detox Market Best of Green Beauty Box but it wasn’t until further use that I noticed how absolutely incredible the cleanser works to clear away the stubborn congestion of blackheads and whiteheads. This cleanser turns into a foam so it works quite gently, but I find that just letting the matcha and spirulina infused cleanser sit on skin for around 2 minutes and then rinsing off totally clears out any blackheads from my pores. I use Odacite’s Green Ceremony Cleanser every week and estimate that it will last me until Fall/Winter at this rate (even with ramping up usage come summer), which I consider being a great investment.

In Fiore Vitale Toning Floral Essence

I basically love everything In Fiore but Vitale, in particular, I’ve had on my wishlist for almost 5 years. This was the first In Fiore product that I read about, and I remember just being in awe of the mix of old-world botanical education in the line notes of medicinal plants and regenerative tinctures. The spray is quite powerful and 2-3 pumps can easily douse my skin. The immediate scent is herbal with a top note of orange blossom though you can tell there is much more going on. While gentle and hydrating, I notice this also quite astringent which is fantastic for toning pores and enhancing the penetration of oils. So it has become my “go to” before oiling up my skin.

African Botanics Neroli Infused Marula Oil 

Right now I’m in a very minimalist phase with my oils and I just want to feed my skin a good high-quality oil rather than over-complicate things. It’s decidedly a “less is more” approach which I think gives skin a welcomed break and I also really wanted to give the much-lauded marula oil it’s time to shine. The African Botanic’s Marula Oil quality really is second to none and the infusion of neroli gives it that sophisticated edge in sensory experience. It is the perfect weight for my skin in that it’s light, fast absorbing yet satiating.

Kahina Eye Serum 

One of the things I don’t skimp on is a good eye serum. I’ve been leaning into serums over creams as serums deliver the actual goods in terms of anti-aging benefits while creams mainly serve a barrier function. I know Kahina Giving Beauty is a line that is serious about the eye area and their eye serum is no joke. It includes peptides, antioxidants, hyaluronic acid, and nourishing plant extracts that combat fine lines, puffiness and dark circles. Its texture penetrates quickly and I like to do a mini massage as the serum enhances lymphatic drainage to minimize dark circles and puffiness.

Rahua Voluminous Conditioner

After going organic with my haircare, my strands just felt persistently dry. I tried going back to less clean hair products but would immediately start breaking out along my hairline when using them (not to mention the strong synthetic fragrance). This conditioner is the product that really saved my hair from this predicament. It’s an organic conditioner that deeply nourishes hair, using really incredibly ingredients (green tea is the 2nd ingredient). My hair has a lot more bounce, texture and luster to it now. This isn’t just a “good organic product”, I don’t think any other product has made my hair feel as healthy as this one, it’s a keeper.


Please drop me a comment below if you’ve used any of these products or have questions, suggestions!

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.