Winter Wellness Series: in-conversation with Zoe LVH, founder of Wunder Workshop & Boob’s Essential

There are lots of wellness startups that come up to my attention on a regular basis and it is always interesting to connect with people, who have the vision & drive to follow their dream and choose a career path different from a traditional one. Say ‘hello’ to Zoe Lindt Van’t Hof, co-founder of Wunder Workshop and Boob’s Essential, two brands that focus on simple but effective ideas to help you not just maintain your wellbeing, but improve your health and help disease prevention.


Zoe was born in Australia to a Dutch mum and a dad who was half-Russian. She was raised in Germany and for the last three years has been calling London her home. A petite young woman with a gorgeous mass of blondish hair framing her beautiful face, Zoe comes across as a little shy and thoughtful, pondering her answers, before replying with precision and detail. Before becoming an entrepreneur Zoe worked for an interior designer and studied international relationships but throughout her life she has been influenced by her mother who was a holistic therapist with a strong emphasis on health and nutrition. There is not just one thing that determines our health and wellbeing, say genes, but there are many pieces of the puzzle that contribute or can cause harm. Zoe’s mum was always supportive of her daughter, but never pushed Zoe into following her path – that was Zoe’s own decision.


Having travelled to Sri Lanka on many occasions and having developed an interest in Ayurveda, Zoe decided to start her own venture, focussing on the long-term investment and not a quick marketing strategy, as she holds an opinion that ‘prevention is better than cure’. In our hectic and stressful day and age it is hard to disagree with her and timely to put this one top of you ‘to do list’. If you don’t look after yourself and nurture yourself, no amount of supplements, following wellness bloggers advice or episodic trips to the gym will do it for you.

‘Let the food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’ -Hippocrates

Zoe started Wunder Workshop ( the name stems from her upbringing in Germany and read more

Winter Wellness: in-conversation with Skin & Tonic London founders

When we are young, we are eager to explore the world and to try & experience absolutely everything. We are also more susceptible to following trends when it comes to fashion read more

Review of PLANT bodywashes and Q & A with Holly McWhorter, one of the brand’s founders

What’s the best way to start a day? Are you more of a cup of water with lemon or a let me smell the coffee first type of person? Do you jump off the bed or do you prefer to linger for as long as you could? Whatever your personal preference, we all need to look forward to something in order to get off the bed and start the day on a good note. This year wintery cold still seems to linger in the air, so a quick and warm shower with one of PLANT bodywashes has been a surprising discovery for me, both in terms of smell, as well as the feel of the product on my skin.


As the name suggests the brand arrived on the UK shores (via A Beautiful World website) from the US. PLANT was founded by a husband Bjarke Ballisager (native of Copenhagen) and wife Holly McWhorter (a Philadelphia native but a die-hard New Yorker since the move to the city in 1993) team.


When I received the body washes in early March my first impression, before even reading a press release, was a true Scandinavian feel of the design of the bottles, which became even stronger when I tried the products. It is hard to describe but when you travel and use products from around the world one look conjures the things that we associate with certain country aesthetic. There is a sense of coolness, playfulness and humour when you see PLANT bottles and when you use the products you don’t get an overwhelming aromatic hit on your senses but the subtleties of it make for a more lasting impression. As a big fan of aromatherapy and natural formulas I expected the smell to be more fragrant but then you apply the product on your skin and it feels like honey and expectations start melting away as the water pummels your skin. PLANT products lather differently to traditional shower gels – don’t expect the usual soapy bubbles – and when you come out of the shower and towel dry the skin almost immediately you notice the softness of your skin.


I started using BE WELL ( blend of Eucalyptus, Bergamot & Lemongrass essential oils ) and CALM DOWN ( Ginger & Lavender ) a few weeks ago and within a couple of uses realised that my dry winter skin ( most of us don’t drink enough fluids in the colder months of the year and wear wool or cashmere, which keeps us warm but can make skin more itchy ) was softer to the touch after showering with PLANT and that I could actually forego using the body moisturiser and my skin didn’t object.

There are five body washes to choose from: in addition to the two I already mentioned, there are WAKE UP ( Rosemary & Lemongrass ), GET HAPPY ( Geranium & Peppermint ) and GET IT ON ( Sandalwood, Ginger & Cedarwood ). Each is made with only nine ingredients ( yes, not ninety but a single digit number of skin-friendly ones ) including organic essential oils chosen for their mood-boosting effect. The body washes were developed to cleanse, condition and moisturise your skin even when you use them to have a bath.


But it’s not just about green Scandi design practises, organic formulas and a tongue-in-cheek approach, PLANT is also a socially responsible brand as their products are made at a non-profit workshop by adults with disabilities.

So to tell you more about all things PLANT, welcome to the spotlight Holly McWhorter!

GAP: How did the How did the idea of PLANT come about? And why did you choose this name for your beauty brand?

Holly McWhorter: I had been making bath and skincare products for myself for many years, because I have really sensitive skin—and I figured the best way to avoid the preservatives and fragrances that were irritating it was to learn how to make products that didn’t contain them. But before I started actually making them, and along the way since, I did a lot of research into the uses and benefits of different botanical ingredients, and the best ways to combine them for various effects—including aromatherapy.

I’d also give my products to friends and family and people started nudging me to start a line for sale. At a certain point, since Bjarke ( Holly’s husband and the other half of PLANT team ) and I already had the attention of an audience that was interested in natural health and earth friendliness via our PLANT Gourmet product line, we saw an opportunity to launch an organic apothecary line as well – so we did! We chose the name PLANT because it has multiple meanings for us: the plant ingredients of all our products, which are all 100% botanical; a production plant and the idea of being busy creating product for market, which we take pride in; the act of planting something – a seed, an idea, etc.

GAP: Your packaging is quite different from traditional shower gels. Can you read more

Q & A with Anca Grigoras, founder of Metta Skincare

Beauty is a transient thing and I don’t believe that a model that is famous is more beautiful in real life than a woman walking in the street. For me beauty is the happiness that a person radiates from within, the sense of positive energy and kindness that some of the women who are considered beautiful by society don’t necessarily have. That’s why I always look for women who are creative and passionate & who don’t follow the traditional path. So without further ado, let me introduce Anca Grigorasfounder of Australian brand Metta Skincare.


I first came across Metta Skincare images on Instagram and looking at them made me feel curious and positive in equal measure. Since then I have built up a very interesting dialogue with Anca and have become a big fan of her products that smell as good as they make my skin and senses feel. Below are the Q & A that Anca and I offer to you and shortly I will follow this post with a review of Metta Skincare, so enjoy meeting Anca and learning about her products, approach to life and beauty.


GAP: Please tell me a little bit about yourself and your career path prior to starting Metta Skincare.

AG: Metta Skincare emerged at the intersection of two important areas in my life. I have been passionate about natural healthy living for as long as I can remember.  My grandparents came from families with a very long farming tradition and had a deep understanding and respect for living in harmony with nature. My father is a doctor with a very strong interest in traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture and I remember as a child being totally fascinated by some of the healing principles he was using in his practice. So from a very young age I learnt that looking after our own health is one of the most important things we can do and that true health means living in harmony with our world and relying not only on science, but also on ancient wisdom and natural remedies. My professional path later on led to a career in occupational health and safety and it was during this time that the idea for Metta Skincare first emerged. I was involved in a project aimed at reducing chemical exposure at work and was very concerned to learn that most people are exposed to many more harmful chemicals in their homes than at work. This was a huge turning point in my life – by that stage, I had already developed the habit of reading the ingredient list on every food item I was buying, or even better still, buying my food directly from the people who grew it. But I hadn’t thought of paying the same attention to my skincare products – I had somehow been lulled into the false safety of believing that all the so-called natural products I was using were free from synthetic and harmful ingredients. I then started researching and formulating my own products based on natural, organic, food-grade ingredients, which eventually led to the development of the current Metta Skincare range.


GAP: What inspired creation of Metta and the name of your brand?

AG: read more

Autumn Skin Series, part 4: Skinesis Morning Facial & product Q & A with Sarah Chapman

Sarah Chapman is a serenely calm & wise beauty council when it comes to skin and they way we should look after it. She is the best testament that her skincare products truly deliver – you only have to glance in the direction of her radiant complexion to yours to be exactly the same. Having used Sarah’s products for many years I can say that it is very difficult not to fall under its beautifully effective spell, as her products deliver consistent efficacy with solidly tested ingredients and beautiful smells.


This year saw several new additions to Sarah Chapman line but so far I have been most intrigued about the recently launched Morning Facial. Sarah’s Overnight Facial is almost legendary and women of different ages, from some of my girlfriends and colleagues to my own mother adore it. However yours truly, for some reason that is still elusive to me to put into words, never took  to it like I have to Sarah’s Ultimate Cleanse or Dynamic Defence for example.


Oils have a natural affinity with our skin, which also contains oils produced by our sebum glands. I think if I generalise I wouldn’t be off the mark completely if I presume that there is a fair amount of you who already use face oil but possibly prefer to use it in the evening, using its potency to help the skin rejuvenate as we sleep. Skinesis Morning Facial is a silky elixir that combines benefits of treatment oil with the power of an active serum.

Active Ingredients:

– Collageneer® ( fights wrinkles ),

– Juvinity™ ( plumps up the skin ),

– Kalpariane® ( has anti-oxidant properties ),

– Timecode™ ( brightens the skin ),

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Meet Grace Culhaci, founder of Zk’in

I am not a cynic but it’s not every day that I meet someone who floors me with their story. Grace Culhaci is a British born entrepreneur who lives in Australia & who I met her during Organic Beauty Week in September, as she came to London to introduce her natural skincare brand to the British public, press and retailers.


But I am running ahead of myself, let’s start from the beginning. Grace was actually born in London’s Chelsea and her family moved to Canada when she was five. Now Grace calls Australia home, as that’s where she started her own family and where her business was founded.

Grace’s career path started like it does for many people – she left school, went to college, worked as secretary, as well as a missionary, as she very much enjoyed the opportunity to help people. Grace also went to night-school, as she loved the process of learning, followed by University to study law. Along the way a special man came along and Grace started a family, happily looking into the future.

Women who go through pregnancy know that while this state of being is magical, with it come worries, aches and pains and no two pregnancies are alike. In Grace’s case things far from straightforward but they tested her health and her determination ( during the first one she developed a rare skin condition, that led to a rash that covered her body and was almost unbearable. During the second one Grace was diagnosed with an inoperable tumour that was pressing on her optic nerve ).

As life would have it, Grace and her husband have two wonderful girls, who mean the world to Grace. So much so that she actually looked and found a family home that was also close to the industrial estate, from which her business is run. It allows her to combine her love and joy for raising her family and being a hands on mum with the excitement and drive with which she runs her skincare brand Zk’in.


Zk’in is a range of 12 self-select products that will address your skin concerns at every stage of your life, allowing you to follow a path of ageless beauty. As you can imagine, Grace chooses certified organic ingredients with potency and purity and her formulas have a natural preservative system ( a synergistic blend of bitter orange, radish root, vitamin E, essential oil isolates and basil extract), which in actual fact earned Grace and her company a research and development grant from the Australian government for contributing new knowledge to Australian Science.

Honest Beauty

What drives Grace is her desire ‘to develop a range that negated the need for needles, toxins and synthetics but was also result based’. Consumers have become disillusioned with over-exaggerated claims and imagery, whilst also becoming more ingredient savvy. Central to the ethos of Zk’in, Grace told me, is ‘honest beauty. For us it means a zero tolerance policy to unnatural ingredients, unsustainable business practises, animal cruelty and unrealistic photoshopping’, so simply said ‘Z’ in ‘Zk’in’ is connected to the brand’s ‘zero’ tolerance policy to anything less than the best.

It was also one of the reasons why Grace chose Tanya Linney to be the face of Zk’in- a mother, a model and a professional artist who is not a teen or in her early 20s but an actual woman in her late 30s, to whom other women would be able to relate more realistically.


Following her health goes, Grace went through an emotional stage, looking for answers and feeling anger & rage. She was losing faith in doctors who couldn’t find solutions, so she went to the beginning, to the drawing board. Grace re-evaluated her diet, decided that she needed a holistic approach and started mixing ingredients. Formulating took about nine months and alongside it Grace formulated her philosophy, creating an organic skincare with a clinical feel.

Another ‘calling card of Zk’in is its unique packaging. Australia is a very multicultural society and alongside the beauty and variety of nature creativity flows with ease. Grace managed to create the packaging that is not only very pleasing on the eye but is environmentally friendly and recyclable as well.

Zk’in in not gimmicky and is affordably priced and alongside it runs the positive legacy of the people, like suppliers who work with the brand. Good health is a gift and Grace is adamant that people who smoke and then run to buy a supplement to counter-act the effect of smoking are definitely not Zk’in potential customers.

The range is divided into products for:

–Normal to Dry skin ( Softening Cream Cleanser; Hydrating Mist; Rejuvenating Moisturiser);

– Oily or Combination skin ( Purifying Cleansing Gel, Clear Skin Toner, Rebalancing Lotion );

– Sensitive Skin ( Calming Cream Cleanser, Hydrating Mist, Relief Moisturiser )


– Treatments Range ( Clarifying Exfoliator, Line Smoothing Serum, Soothing Hand Cream, Brightening & Hydrating Mask ).


When looking at the product ingredient list you will come across some that are familiar to you already, like Colloidal Oatmeal or Cotton Thistle Extract, while others, like EPS Seamant ( derived from plant-based marine bio-technology that helps to create a matt effect ), Quillaja Bark ( helps to reduce skin shine and acne lesions ), Paracress Extract (temporarily blocks muscular contractions that make expressions lines more prominent ) might be new to you.

What strikes me about Grace is that instead of complaining or feeling bitter when she was unwell, she chose to find the energy, courage and kindness to create something that can benefit others while encouraging her own inner creative streak and balancing it with hand-on motherhood, which is the best but equally the most challenging job in the world. She is thoughtful & reflective, as well as creative, inventive and is a wonderful role model for modern women, as well as younger generation of women entrepreneurs.

I plan to review some of Zk’in products soon but in the meantime I hope that Grace’s past health misfortunes and her inspiring story behind Zk’in will make you think about your own health. There is a Russian proverb the jest of which is something along the lines of ‘What we have we don’t value, but we cry when we lose it’. I hope we all reflect and make some subtle changes to our lifestyle choices, no matter how small to start with, rather than end up crying. Namaste!

Zk’in is available to purchase in the UK from or


In-conversation with Tata Harper: on beauty, balance & motherhood

In the last couple of weeks Tata has been on the tour of Europe, presenting new product launches and catching up with retailers and her customers ( more of which later ). Her schedule has been relentless, yet she looked glowing when we met in London last week, as she was finishing her tour and planning to fly back home with her husband. Tata has such even, glowing skin, one needs to be very confident to take Instagram pictures with her and that is the testament to her skincare products ( only last weekend she was mentioned in Stella’s ’20 Cult Beauty Brands You’ve never heard Of’ but having met Tata a couple of years ago at Content I can testify that her skincare works on women from their 20 years upwards of 60 + – not a lot of skincare brands can truthfully say that is the case ).


Recently Tata launched two new cleansers ( Nourishing Oil Cleanser & Purifying Cleanser ) in the US and they are expected to reach British shores in January, so don’t spend all of your money in the run up to Christmas .) Unfortunately many women still lack the understanding that without properly cleansing their faces twice a day even the best skincare in the world isn’t going to solve their problems or slow-down the signs of ageing. That is why Tata is so passionate about the power of cleansing ritual, particularly at the end of the day, when you can lock yourself in the bathroom and thanks to her new cleansers pamper your senses and your skin.



Nourishing Oil Cleanser: it has a luxurious texture but is in no way greasy, so don’t be nervous. It will remove the make-up, even heavy one, while nurturing your skin and with the colour of liquid honey it is very pretty to look at as you apply it to your face. It contains Beta-Carotene, Vitamins A, C, E, Lycoprene and Omega 3. This combination of ingredients will soften and purify the skin, as well as improve your skin’s texture with regular use and soften the skin, making it ideal for dry or de-hydrated skin. As this cleanser is an oil and oil pulls oil, after use excess sebum will be washed off and it will help normalise the process of cell turnover leading to even, healthy, beautiful skin that we all desire, irrespective of our age.

There is a lot of research into accelerated ageing due to the depletion of ozone layer and negative impact of free radicals

According to Tata’s cleansing protocol, here is the best way to use both of the cleansers ( they are ideal for evening use, when you skin needs a thorough cleanse after you have been out and about and gathered dirt and pollution on its surface ).


  • First, lightly wet the hands and pump a few pumps of the Nourishing Oil Cleanser into the palms. Smooth over your face so it’s completely covered and let it sit for a few seconds.
  • Splash a bit of water on the skin ( make sure it is luke-warm not hot or cold ) and begin a brief facial massage: really massage the oil into the skin in circular motions, focusing on the area around the nose, the cheeks, chin and forehead. This boosts micro-circulation, which flushes fresh blood and oxygen into the skin to give it a healthy glow.
  • Rinse thoroughly.


While the skin is still damp, apply a few pumps of the Purifying Cleanser to the whole face (and experience that incredibly zesty, wake-you-up scent!).

  • Massage lightly, to activate the enzymes and essential oils and to allow the product to really penetrate the skin. Make sure you avoid the eye area.
  • Rise thoroughly, and viola! Skin will be clean and tingling, soft to the touch and totally makeup free.

Purifying Cleanser has a creamy texture and was developed to detoxify the skin and help counteract the negative environmental factors that effect your skin daily and lead to premature ageing. It will help to get read of the dead skin cells and clear pores of excess oil. Tata created a powerful cocktail of soap-free purifying sugars, broccoli extract and fruit enzymes. It has a sort of minty smell and when you pat your skin dry after using it, you will feel a slightly cool sensation that is incredibly pleasant. With the use of those two cleansers, as well as regular exfoliation ( depending on your skin type ) your skincare products will penetrate better, making them more effective and helping to slow down the affect of time on your skin.

Engage with the customers!

Both formulas took about a year and a half to perfect from the moment of conception but Tata also says that while she loves the formulating & creative process, she also thoroughly enjoys meeting her customers and finding out what they think of the products, listening to their skin concerns and requests for new products. Those discussions often determine the process of next product development. At the same time Tata never rushes and takes time to develop the products until she is completely satisfied with what it does for the skin.

Another new addition to Tata Harper skincare range is the Moisturising Mask and when you smell it, you will be torn between slathering you face and neck in it or resisting the temptation to lick it – it truly smells as good as the dessert counter in Angelina in Paris.


This mask contains a proprietary MoistureMolecule Complex which will infuse your skin with bio-compatible Hyaluronic Acid to promote deep hydration. This treatment mask helps to protect skin from moisture loss ( by helping the water to circulate evenly within your skin matrix ) and adds beautiful luminosity to your skin within minutes – as it is a leave-on, overnight treatment, imagine its effect that is accelerated by skin’s renewal process during night-time, when you sleep.

The read more