CRiL Reviews: Aurelia Body Cleanser & Serum

Sometimes a brand emerges on the beauty scene that captures your heart within a short time, the bond becoming stronger with every new product launch. This doesn’t happen often to me, making Aurelia read more

CRiL Reviews: Nourish Skin Renew Cleanser & Bodhi & Birch Desert Rose Facial Oil

With so many beauty products being continuously launched, it is somewhat reassuring to review products from the brands that I already know well. When I know brand’s background & ethos, it read more

CRiL Reviews: Alchemy Grapefruit Hair Remedy

Most of us consider hair our crowning glory, but until we start having problems with it, we tend to take our hair for granted. Having had a few of my own hair voes in the past, I always keep an eye read more

CRiL Reviews: massage therapy with Sarah Jane Watson

From the moment we are born & experience the loving touch of our mother, massage becomes an important part of our wellness ritual. Whether it is a light touch or deep muscle therapy, our bodies respond in kind to it and the effect can never be under-estimated, whether you are a mere mortal or an Olympic athlete. Even giving yourself a massage in the morning with the help of a loofah or a dry brush the skin in the morning or ‘dust yourself off’ in the evening, as you meditate or get ready to settle into the cosily welcoming bed, massage does you a world of good. When a professional gives you a massage, it takes the effect to a different level. Sarah Jane Watson, welcome to the spotlight.

Sarah Jane & I have known each other for a few years, united by our love of dance, yoga, natural beauty & perfumery among other things. Sarah has been really supportive of my work and while I knew that she was a massage therapist, among her other talents & passions, I never felt inclined to ask to put her massage skills ‘to the test’. Innately though, one must trust the energy that surrounds us, as Sarah Jane extended her kind offer of a full body massage at a time which couldn’t have been more perfect – I was close to running on empty, tired, grumpy & really needing one, yet not finding the time to actually book myself in.

Normally Sarah Jane visits her clients in the privacy of their homes or hotel rooms, when they fly to London for work, but on this occasion she invited me into the privacy of her own home. I arrived slightly apprehensive, as the workmen were fevereshly drilling the road outside and I could see from the look on Sarah Jane’s face, when she opened the door, that she had the same thought on her mind too.

Without revealing much about Sarah Jane’s personal space, let me say that many spas should take note of the perfect ambiance that greeted me. Sunshine flooded through the large windows, the room, where the treatment were to take place, as well as the bathroom were preteen. The whole space breathed calm, as Saran Jane does on most occasions that I see her in person. We had a quick chat, I changed into an impeccably white terrycloth robe, marvelling at the tranquility of the room and the beautiful touches, like small vases of pretty spring flowers dotted on the side table. I told Sarah Jane that I liked firm massage and flopped myself on the massage table, head down. What followed was the most blissful massage I had in a very long time. A massage that was administered with knowledge, calm & deeply professional care for the wellness of the client, lying on the massage table.

As the noise outside stopped abruptly, so did the tension that I have accumulated in my body. Sarah Jane started with gently rolling me back and forth on the table, before pausing, mixing the oils and starting the work from the bottom of my feet. Her hands are strong & knowledgable, easing the tension away from the body. In a way, after twenty odd years of massaging, Sarah Jane’s work has become deeply intuitive, as she works alongside the natural flow, rhythm & energy. No small part escapes her attention – the soles of the feet get as much attention, as do ankles, knees or the top of your head. As Sarah Jane’s hands work, you start breathing deeper and feeling like contentment is seeping back in to your body. Within a quarter of an hour or so, I felt like a cat on a warm tin roof, luxuriating in the precious time that unexpectedly got allocated for ‘me-time’. Sarah Jane is a deeply caring but somewhat reserved person, with an air of Buddha-like tranquility about her, and in her work every detail of the treatment is important, from the comfort of the couch to the quality and strength of touch. At any moment in time, from the moment you meet her, she makes sure you are the centre of her universe for the ninety minutes allocated to her treatment. Yet her work is clearly guided not just by her inner perfectionism and knowledge, but by vast experience & intuition, that play a significant part.

Every move is as natural, as it is perfected by practise & intuitive understanding of body’s physique & needs

Some of Sarah Jane’s massage moves were new to me, as at times I felt like a pelican flapping my arms, like he would do his wings, gazing at the sunset before a deserted lake. At times I also caught myself thinking that the serenity & calm that Sarah Jane imparts through her work and her hands on the body is better than many of my past experience at various spas around the world, where treatments on occasion can be too short, too rushed or somewhat uncomfortable, making me feel frustrated, rather that relaxed. After all, even an hour, let alone half-a-day or weekend away at the spa always makes us feel pampered and dreamy in our heads, but real life not always lives up to our expectations.

Even the little touches, like the warmth of the treatment bed, the softness of the towels or the discreet way that they are positioned, when you move or turn around, compliment or take away from the overall experience. Sarah Jane has perfected this art form from every angle you care to examine it. There is focus & discipline that are ingrained in Sarah Jane through her dedication to dance and in a way it only enhances her work. Her fingers are nimble, her movement on her feet barely audible. Her uniform of white trousers and tee are pristinely white, but there is more to her & her treatment that initially meets the eye or is felt by your body.

‘When we are connected to the read more

CRiL Reviews: Caudalie Vine Activ Range

As a long-standing fan of Caudalie, I always keep an eye on their new product launches. Their latest four products were released under the umbrella of Vine(Activ) range, replacing the Polyphenol C15 products. Re-working the products & making them better by improving efficacy & addressing modern skin needs, is one of the reasons why this French brand from Bordeaux is so popular with customers, men & women, of various ages. This particular range addresses the negative effects of pollution & modern city life on our skin and promises to deal with wrinkles, spots, pigmentation & stress, while hydrating & improving skin’s external protective barrier function. It is ideal for 20-35 year olds, but works as well for older skin – after all, whether you are in your 20s or 60s, it’s nice to see brands responding to the need to age-proof our skin & protect it from the negative environmental effect, causing premature ageing.

Vine Activ consists of four face products : Glow Activating Anti-wrinkle Serum, that is already garnering lots of positive feedback from beauty bloggers, Energising & Smoothing Eye Cream, 3-in-1 Moisturiser & Overnight Detox Oil. Caudalie’s newest patent contains four ingredients, namely Vitamins E & C, stabilised Grape Seed Polyphenol & Spruce Extract. I have been testing three of the products for the last month or so & below are my initial impressions.

Caudalie Vine (Activ) 3-in-1 Moisturiser, 40ml, £32: this light-textured moisturiser is perfect for the morning routine, as it limits the quantity of pollutants attaching themselves to your skin, as you work in the office or are doing things outside, be it in the garden, doing school runs or dashing between meetings. According to Mathilde Thomas, founder of Caudalie, the unique antioxidant complex will help to strengthen the skin barrier, in order for it to function better & slow down the ageing process. Star ingredients of this moisturiser are the Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamins E (derived from sunflower seeds) & C ester, which plump the skin & impart a natural glow to the skin.

I tend to apply the serum first and then follow it up with this moisturiser, which has a fresh smell and sinks quickly into the skin, making it feel well-moisturised. As winter is slowly giving way to spring, our skin looks pale and dull, so this moisturiser was a welcome addition to my morning routine, adding a little bit of a glow & making me feel more rested.

Caudalie Vine (Activ) Energising & Smoothing Eye Cream, 15ml, £27.50: not dissimilar in texture to the moisturiser, this eye cream was developed to smooth & re-energise the eye area, but can also be used around your lips. It evens out the eye texture, plumps the skin, making small wrinkles less noticeable.

The eye cream almost instantly improves dark circles upon application & does have a delicate smell, that is a bit different from the moisturiser. In terms of ingredients that need to be highlighted here there is Liquorice, that helps to decongest the delicate skin around the eyes, where capillaries are closer to the surface due to the thinner skin layer. Never underestimate the importance of correct eye massage when you apply the eye cream, as it can make a difference between making the problem worse or improving the micro-circulation and making your eyes look fresher. Grape polyphenols deliver antioxidant protection & help improve the appearance of wrinkles, while Vitamin C adds more antioxidants & brightens the eye area.

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CRiL Reviews: Berezka Lab, a sophisticated natural Russian beauty brand

Let me be honest from the beginning – the word ‘sophisticated’ doesn’t come to the forefront of my mind when I talk about Russian skincare brands  – effective, interesting, niche, unique – do, but until recently I wouldn’t be even stretched to utter the ‘s-word’. I could name a few skincare brands, like Rouge Bunny Rouge or NuBo, whose founders are Russian, but they didn’t create or grow their brands in Russia. Luckily, life doesn’t stand still and I am happy to be able to introduce to you a brand that was only launched at the end of last year in Moscow, yet sophisticated came to mind as soon as I saw and tested the products. Welcome to the spotlight Berezka Lab.

The brand was created by Dana Sagidullina & her creative journey is assisted by her husband, who is her business partner as well. Dana has been blending oils for about five years, since she became fascinated by the process while living with her family (she & her husband Vitalyi have three kids) in Singapore. Having returned to Moscow two years ago, Dana started creating blends for the kids, then progressed to blends for colds, body and aftersun care. She first tested the blends on her skin and then started using them on her family, as well as offering them to friends, learning from the feedback along the way.

One of the big problems that Dana encountered upon her return to Moscow was (and is still ) the lack of, as well as issues with, the sourcing of good quality oils. Most retailers and pharmacies sell predominantly synthetic ones, so Dana turned her gaze towards European producers & suppliers. Some agreed to ship directly to Russia, others did so through the intermediaries. At some stage Dana caught herself thinking about creating her own skincare brand of quality mono oils, but in time came to a decision to focus on the creation of blends based on her own recipes. Dana works intuitively and is basing her decisions on personal preferences, but her business is consciously a family one. Never underestimate a woman’s determination when she makes up her mind – by the end of last summer, as Dana and I exchanged e-mails, the vast bulk of preliminary work on her brand was done. Recipes were formulated, tested and perfected, suppliers chosen and designs finalised. Autumn was spent with the sharp focus on ingredient purchases and packaging, as well as placing the orders at the printers, which Dana admitted wasn’t as straight-forward as she would have desired.

At the same time Dana focussed on the website and instructions for users, which come both in Russian and English. While consumers in the West might take simple and precise product instructions for granted, in Russia this is something that deserves to be spotlighted, as natural and organic field is still sadly in its infant stages. Yes, natural & organic brands are being created and developed in Russia, with various degrees of success, but the potential for its growth is vast. Trust needs to be earned in any relationship and Russian consumer isn’t too trusting by nature, so Dana is determined to develop an open dialogue, as well as educating consumers about benefits of natural skincare. Dana truly believes that natural & organic cosmetics created from plant oils aren’t just useful, but can and do address a multitude of skin problems we all face daily, like ageing, stress, environmental aggressors, loss of moisture, pigmentation etc.

Why the name ‘Berezka Lab’? When I quizzed Dana about it, she said that it came to mind almost immediately when she started contemplating what to call her brand. Birch tree, lovingly called ‘Berezka’ in Russian, is associated with nature and purity, plus the tree is firmly ‘rooted’ in Russia. Dana formulates every product herself ( I will review two of BL initial launches ‘Cleansing Oil’ and ‘Green masque’ below, but this month Dana also launched day and night serums, that I hope to review later this year). For now ingredients are sourced from US and France and are USDA, Cosmos and Ecocert certified. Unfortunately, the only Russian aspects to the brand for now are the business base (Moscow), name and printers, but Dana honestly admits that the latter aren’t perfect, so she is exploring European-based options, as she isn’t the one to cut corners from incision of the brand. She is already in advanced stages of talks with the Russian-based retailers and I sincerely hope that in the not-so-distant future you will be able to buy Berezka Lab in Europe, US, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Africa and Asia.

Another thing that distinguishes the brand from the others in Russia. is that it is the only one that falls into the ‘lux’ segment of the natural & organic market place. Having tried the products, I can simply say that it deserves to be in that segment fair and square. Dana isn’t in great rush to grow, but rather wants to do things slowly and consistently, but that is not to say that she doesn’t have ambitions. Now that Dana and I have introduced Berezka Lab to you, let me tell you in more detail about my experience with the brand’s first two precious ‘babies’.

Berezka Lab Cleansing Oil

When I first inhaled the scent of this yellow oil with light green undertones and my nose caught a whiff of lime, I was intrigued. When I applied a read more