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! 

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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!

My Current Routine: Winter 2018

There’s something about the winter season that inspires what I deem “hibernative self-care”, which I loosely define as cozy evenings/weekends of take-out, and skin pampering while a Netflix marathon plays. To me, there is no better time to explore products; playing with their textures and exploring their intricacies in layering and mixing them with other potions.

As we all know, I’m unable to keep to a pared down routine. I didn’t think it made sense to talk about a single cleanser, or lone face oil that I’m using because by the time you read this, I’m already experimenting with another product. So I’m going about this more through the steps and processes in my routine to achieve plumped, radiant, well moisturized winter skin and the products I’ve been use regularly.


Cleanse

Cleansing is so important regardless of your skin type. I’m actually very turned off when I see a skincare brand founder say that they don’t cleanse their skin for whatever reason. There are impurities expelled through basically every orifice of our body including the pores of the sponge-like epidermis. Pollutants, smoke, oxidized residue from stale sebum and protein deposits, proliferation of microscopic mites and parasites, accumulation of dead skin cells, etc. are all reasons why every skin type should take cleansing seriously.  

During the winter, I like to rotate in the creamy cleansers. For a deep skin pampering session, I use Aurelia’s Miracle Cleanser, a very luxurious creamy cleanser that I massage for a good 5 minutes and remove with muslin. This has a familiar cold cream-esque texture and an uplifting, fresh scent that feels very spa-like.

If I’m looking for a quicker or less involved cleanse, the cream cleansers I go between are In Fiore’s Treate Gentle Cleansing Emulsion and Kahina Giving Beauty Facial Cleanser. For make-up removal and deep cleansing, I apply around 4-5 quick pumps and massage onto dry skin. This allows the cream to create a nice emollient texture so you’re never pulling or tugging at skin. As a daily cleansing step, I massage 2-3 pumps on wet skin and re-wet if it dries during massage. These creams both rinse off cleanly with water. While I love both cleansers and would repurchase them both, I really think everyone should try the Kahina Cleanser as it has really been an under-the-radar product which is a shame because it has one of my favorite cream textures, has an ever-so-subtle luxurious scent, and is a great price for the quantity. There really aren’t any negatives and I highly recommend it.


Tone/Mist

It may seem like I’m on a Kahina kick, but I first used the Kahina Giving Beauty Toning Mist 2 years ago. Since then, I’ve wanted to revisit it, despite the fact that there are already so many beautiful organic mists out there. What I really vibe with from Kahina is their gentle, sophisticated nature. This mist uses soothing and hydrating aloe vera leaf juice, rose water, and anti-inflammatory argan and white tea leaf extract. It’s lightly scented with Moroccan desert rose (very similar to MŪN Anarose Toner) which makes this hydrating mist impeccably luscious.



Serum

Serums are the power players of any routine. My MVP serum since it’s release in late 2017 has been YÜLI’s Ambrosia Beauty Nectar, a highly impressive hydration/anti-aging serum that is the topic of 80% of the e-mails I receive. On that note: I hear you, I’ll post an in-depth review for Ambrosia Beauty Nectar. I have to admit that receiving all the requests just makes it harder for me to start putting together a review as I feel like the expectations are at a point where anything short of writing a book will not be enough.

Ambrosia Beauty Nectar is a beast, it blows hyaluronic acid serums out of the water, it raises the bar for how anti-aging serums can work, and I’ve even seen others say it has the benefits of all of the immensely popular Kristina Honey+Marie Veronique serums combined.

The oil-free texture is engineered to be identical to skin’s natural moisture reservoir, a layer of cushion that depletes with time. It’s active but unlike active serums with ingredients like Vitamin C, Retinols or Acids, it works WITH skin rather than trying to overturn it, so there is a lot of support for things like restoring the barrier, strengthening cell immunity, rather than creating irritation or inflammation. Though YÜLI is smart enough to know their customers are probably also using actives like Vitamin C (a notoriously difficult active that can have side-effects when in contact with the wrong preservatives, pH, etc.), so the formula is one of the rare ones that not only plays well with others but also boosts functionality, making it wonderful as the essential serum that can be the base of any cocktail.

Depending on how I feel, I either pump enough Ambrosia to create a thin layer before mist or mist and then apply a cocktail of Ambrosia + Face Oil. Ambrosia does for hydration, what face oils do for nourishment, so you want to use both. This is why one of the most common complaints I hear from readers who use primarily oils and balms, is this feeling of chronic depletion that is often mistaken for dryness but is really due to incorrectly relying on oil-based products to target hydration and reverse trans-epidermal water loss. If you are using a face oil by itself or only with a mist, Ambrosia is not only going to quench that underlying thirst for moisture but it’s also going to really elevate the way the entire system of products comes together.

When I want to go heavy hitting, my face oil of choice to pair with Ambrosia is YÜLI Liquid Courage Antioxidant Serum. Spirit Demerson refers to this more as a serum in oil form rather than a face oil because it’s not a straight blend of oils, there is pure Vitamin C (for glowing skin), Ferulic Acid, biofermented plant extracts that make it kind of a super-oil. I like to mix it or layer it after Ambrosia because they both contain concentrated, potent antioxidant complexes. Liquid Courage contains an antioxidant seed complex derived from the most nutrient dense seeds of superfoods while Ambrosia contains pharmaceutical grade antioxidants like Astaxanthin, so their concoction delivers the richest antioxidant cocktail. These two products combined are skincare nirvana and delivers such a radiant glow.

If I’m going more minimalist, I pair Ambrosia with African Botanics Neroli Infused Marula Oil which is a very pure Marula oil topped with Neroli for a very crisp, refreshing fragrance. African Botanics has the best Marula oil that is organic and comes from protected South African reserves. It’s so beautiful to just massage and lightly press into my skin. It’s really lightweight and sinks in quickly while feeding skin with all the necessary omega-rich goodness that comes with marula oil. Just very simple, high quality and beautiful.


Moisturizer

I’ve been all about textures lately and the African Botanics Cloudburst Micro-emulsion Balancing Moisturizer is this ingenious creation that is light as a serum but tops up perfectly after applying face oil. My skin is never left dry or thirsty. Thicker creams can clog pores, or dull the complexion, this one is quite different. The ingredients include marine algae, copper and plant peptides, and skin loving minerals like magnesium and zinc. The green gel is also immediately cooling and calming, thanks to wonderful anti-inflammatories like green rooibos tea, resurrection plant, and chamomile. It really is a serum level product, but intelligently utilizes molecular science to act as a moisturizer.

If I want something heavier or just crave that rich “slather on” feeling, I reach for the MV Skincare Rose Soothing & Protection Face Moisturizer, which is full bodied and indulgent without making skin feel suffocated. There are times where I get a little lazy and skip face oil, and this is that rescue product that really works well even by itself. When used alone, my skin is soft and comfortable. When layered after serums, my skin is glowing and has that extra oomph.

For daytime, I finish with Suntegrity Natural Face Sunscreen & Primer SPF 30. It’s a great, green sunscreen that uses only Zinc Oxide as it’s active sunblock. I like the texture compared to other physical sunblocks in that it’s easier to apply without leaving white streaks over my skin. I actually use this almost like a highlighter to take advantage of the white Zinc Oxide cast.  One tip is that the initial white cast does fade within 2 minutes, so don’t let that scare you. In fact, it wears incredibly well to the point that it “blurs” imperfections.


That’ll do it! Please leave a comment if you want to share your experiences with any of these products, your winter skincare tips or have any questions!

African Botanics FLEURS D’AFRIQUE – INTENSIVE RECOVERY OIL REVIEW


African Botanics has been nailing it lately. When I first wrote about them (see review for their mask), I did not foresee that they’d go on to release a steady stream of hit after hits with an impeccable eye on design & packaging (the new Neroli Infused Marulia Oil calls my name). Today, African Botanics is beloved by the ultra-luxe Violet Grey editors and is frequently seen on Instagram in the photo editorials of the chicest influencers. I believe what catapulted African Botanics really started with one product – the Fleus D’Afrique – Intensive Recovery Oil. The striking black frosted semi-translucent glass bottle combined with the most high powered, sought after ingredients in the skincare game became the skincare version of capturing lightning in a bottle, and soon everyone was mesmerized by the $250 face oil.

I know – you’re probably thinking “$250!? What? Why!” – so let’s get to it:

What it is

Night-blooming flowers are merged with powerful anti-aging actives in this restorative face oil. Indigenous plants from the most remote regions of South Africa have adapted to survive the harsh challenges of their environment, making them ideal for skin exposed to urban stress, UV damage, and pollution. Utializing advanced anti-aging technology, this light oil reduces fine lines and wrinkles, blemishes, dark spots, redness, and dryness in all skin types.

The African Oil Complex, including extracts of baobab, damask rose, immortelle flower, and jasmine grandiflorum, provide omegas 3, 6, 7, and 9 to fight signs of aging. Marine micro-algae, retinol, vitamin c, and CoQ10 are anti-wrinkle actives that refine, calm, and provide antioxidant protection. Formulated without parabens, silicones, or synthetic fragrances. Calms inflammation, redness and irritation from breakouts, sun damage and environmental exposure. The skin is left luminous, more youthful with increased firmness, elasticity and clarity.

What’s in the bottle?

Citrillus Lanatus (Kalahari Melon)* Seed Oil, Sclerocarya Birrea (Marula)* Seed Oil, Jasmine Grandiflorum (Jasmine) Flower Oil, Adansonia Digitata*, Rosa Damascena (Rose) Flower Oil, Rosa Moschata (Rosehip) Seed Oil, Caprylic Capric Triglyseride, Cylindrotheca Fusiformis (Microalgae) Extract, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Helichrysum Angustifolium (Immortelle) Oil, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Myrothamnus Flabellifolius (Resurrection) Extract, Aspalathus Linearis (Rooibos)* Extract, Bulbinella Nutens (Bulbinella) Extract, Schinziophyton Rautanenii (Mongongo)* Oil, Cyclopia (Honeybush) Extract, Ubiquinone (CoQ10), Calendula Officinalis (Marigold) Flower Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (Vitamin C Ester), Retinol (Vitamin A), Rosmarinus Officinalis Extract. *Wild-Harvested.

What struck me most was the high concentration of Jasmine and Rose essential oils, as well as the very unique ingredients including microalgae extract, CoQ10, Vitamin C, and Retinol. And if you’ll notice, they’re not “plant derived” either, we’re talking full-on Vitamin C and Retinol. The top two ingredients form the base which is Kalahari Melon Seed Oil and Marula Seed Oil which are signatures of the South African inspired and produced line.  Beyond these call outs, it’s important to note the roster of ingredients including baobab, rosehip, and immortelle which would be stars in their own right in any other formula. The fact is, there is no other oil on the market that has ALL of these ingredients blended in a singular formula. The result is a face oil unlike any other, super concentrated and powerful with the most luxurious fragrance. Once you use it, you’ll understand that the $250 comes with value, as no expenses were sparred in getting only the best ingredients into the bottle.

Impressions


It is no exaggeration to say that African Botanic’s Fleurs D’Afrique was love at first drop. The pump dropper is a luxurious choice and equally as addictive, the golden oil teasing through the black frosted glass is a divine sight to behold, and the immediate floral aroma emanating from the bottle before a drop is even dispensed is sensory heaven. I knew from day one that it would be hard to go back to life without it.

I use about 5 drops for my entire face and I only use it at night due to all the active ingredients. My boyfriend would ask if I was wearing perfume because that is how potent and beautiful the scent profile is. Because of the high level of actives, and the relatively lightweight base oils, this blend is definitely on the lighter side which is why anyone can use it. I consider this an oil-based serum rather than a “face oil as moisturizer” as it is meant to be active rather than simply moisturizing. All of the ingredients are meant to do something rather than sit on your skin, which is the goal when you’re spending $250.

With that said, the results of Fleurs D’Afrique are immediate and long lasting. The superpowers of Vitamin C, Retinol, CoQ10, Microalgae work alongside high quality oils to tackle every issue from anti-aging concerns and pigmentation, to acne and sun damage. It’s powerful in that way where you know it’s just reworking your entire skin, simultaneously working out fine lines and breakouts. In fact the first few times I used it, my skin was flushed and tingly afterward as it really is a powerhouse that let’s you know that the ingredients are working. When I used this oil throughout winter, my skin consistently looked glowing and rested. To be honest, I’m not surprised, this is literally a merger of a high quality skin pampering face oil with an anti-aging treatment, so in one step you get your retinol, Vitamin C, CoQ10 treatments and a face oil. $250 for a multi-treatment doesn’t seem so bad now, right?

Final Thoughts

I know face oils are a dime a dozen these days, but this one broke the mold. This is one of the all time greats as far as I am concerned. Fleurs d’Afrique is as powerful as it is beautiful. Your senses will be taken by the beautiful frosted black glass bottle and the golden oil that peaks through, then when you open the dropper you’ll immediately be floored by the most exquisite aroma of jasmine and rose oils. Your skin will be in for quite a ride with a combination of retinol, vitamin c, coq10, marine algae. This just might be the most powerful oil in existence. Yes, at $250 it is quite an investment but anyone who buys skincare has the question in the back of their mind “is the best money can buy?” and I have to say, when it comes to face oils, this is it.

African Botanics’ Fleurs D’Afrique is available at:
Credo Beauty
Cult Beauty
Violet Grey

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.

MUN No.1 Aknari Nighttime Dream Youth Serum Review

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It’s fascinating to me how the deceivingly simple face oil can be so intricate and complex. On paper its just a mix of plant oils blended together yet to experience a well made blend in person is something else entirely. Each blend maintains its own character, personality, and tells their own story. Case in point, the cult beauty product from make-up artist Munemi Imai, MUN No.1 Aknari Nighttime Dream Youth Serum. This luxe oil earns my respect for the risks it took. At $95 for a mere 0.5 oz (15ml) of oil, founder Munemi Imai’s confidence lies in the blend of 3 seemingly simple yet powerful 100% organic oils: Argan, Bulgarian Rose, and Prickly Pear Seed. These are oils that have been seen in other products but never in such a stripped down way that really calls to focus the individual power of the three oils.

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Argan is already an established super star in the beauty world, launching lines from Josie Maran to Kahina Giving Beauty. It’s many uses have been heralded by Moroccan women for centuries, yet have only been appreciated by the Western luxury beauty shopper recently. There really isn’t anything Argan doesn’t do, it’s the most pure all in one skin care ingredient that moisturizes and heals and softens (thanks to high Vitamin E).

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Bulgarian Rose is one of my favorite fragrances. It’s just so luxurious and the aromatherapy benefits are plentiful. In this blend, Bulgarian Rose takes the front seat in the scent department. I read in an interview that in creating this oil, Munemi needed an oil to balance the scent of the Prickly Pear which wasn’t the most palatable, and after lots of trial, this rose was chosen. It’s obvious that she did her research well because this fragrance is fantastic. It reminds me of those fresh rose soaps made locally when I was a child. It first appears strong, almost spicy then levels off. Between the precious bottle, orange hue, and this fragrance, the entire experience feels very special.

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Prickly Pear Seed is one of the rarest, most expensive oils, and it is said to heal and brighten skin, essentially making skin appear healthy and glowing. It is packed full of every good thing skin could want or need and is what I consider to be the most special part of this serum and one of the best ingredients for skincare in general.

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This serum is an anti-aging product that targets wrinkles and fine lines while toning complexion. I believe the argan helps to smooth and soften lines/wrinkles along with prickly pear seed which also makes the complexion better. Although the serum is prescribed as night time product, one can use it during the day as well. I personally keep it for night as I think the smell is wonderful for bedtime and I want to save what precious drops I have of this oil.

Now onto my personal experience..

munI found this oil to be so thoughtfully made. The confident blend of 3 oils works well in creating a minimal yet worthy product that is well rounded and versatile. The fruity scent of rose is a little on the spicy side but calms down to remind me of very fresh rose soaps, so it smells clean and fresh. The texture is actually thicker than I expected, more so than May Lindstrom’s Youth Dew which itself is good for dry skin. Although it is thicker than expected, I did not have any breakouts and the serum worked very well with my skin. It kept my skin very hydrated, even allowing me to forego moisturizer during the oddly cold winter/spring transition in New York.

I follow the instructions to a tee, applying a toner like Yuli Cocoon Elixir to get skin damp and conditioned before applying just 1 pump of the Youth Serum. This minimal routine really gave my skin a break. After 3 weeks of use, I have to say, it is a joy to use this serum each night. Being welcomed first by the fragrance then by the three organic oils as they sink into skin, it truly feels like a luxurious experience. I also discovered this serum to be great around the under-eye area as Prickly Pear Seed Oil is known to reduce dark circles.

Now onto the price. For those of you who love a well made luxury product, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in this serum. I know there are also people who will only shell out this kind of money ($95 for 0.5 oz) for something that can deliver miracles. If you’re in this camp, I’m just going to be honest that you may find yourself feeling a little uneasy. There are times when I use this that I think $95 for three oils is a bit much but I value that extra bit of polish and attention that separates this brand from a simple DIY. Results wise, this serum is very good and each of the wonderful superstar ingredients is given adequate opportunity to shine  but where it really excels in my opinion is with reactive, sensitive skin. As this serum only contains 3 (very high quality and beneficial) ingredients, the chances of something setting off a reaction is VERY VERY LOW. It’s also good for those who like to hop from product to product because the pared down ingredients list really helps give skin a break, almost like a juice cleanse for skin. I don’t imagine anyone will find this serum to cause breakouts or adverse reactions unless you happen to be sensitive to Argan, Rose, or Prickly Pear – in which case, it’s best to just skip this and similar serums all together.

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I wish the bottle could be 1 oz instead of 0.5 oz but that’s neither here nor there, and a bottle of this serum can last a good 2.5 months. As someone who enjoys splurging on luxury beauty products, I found MUN’s Dream Youth Serum to be a wonderful addition to my growing collection of oils. It has a special place as an effective minimalist product on days where I want to give my skin a break without depriving it.

Have you given this very special serum a try? What is your take?