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 few pumps of this oil to my face and felt how luxurious its texture was, a wide smiled spread over my face. Dana didn’t call this cleansing oil super food for the skin for for nothing!
The oil itself is a blend of plant & essential oils (Avocado, Castor seed, Sunflower, Lavender, Lime & Tea tree), as well as non-GMO Vitamin E, Liquorice & Rosemary extracts.
Apply a few pumps to your dry hands, rub them together, warming the oil & then gently apply it all over your dry face in circular massaging motion. Allow for it to linger on your skin for a minute or two, while taking deep, slow breaths or brushing teeth and then remove it with a face cloth soaked in warm water. When wearing ‘heavy’ make up you should aim for a double-cleanse & by pressing the warm cloth on your face, causing the heat to open the pores, you will help remove all the traces of make-up & dirt that our faces accumulate daily. The oil can be used to remove eye make-up too – it removes mascara well, as well as variously textured (powder & cream) eyeshadows, without causing redness or irritation. However, as we are all different, please do a patch test first to make sure your skin doesn’t react.
Dana shared her sister’s ‘beauty hack’, in case you don’t have a clean face cloth handy: apply your favourite foaming cleanser on top of the cleansing oil and then wash it all off with warm water. She also recommends using this cleansing oil as night serum to those of you who have or are prone to oily skin, as Cleansing Oil contains plant & essential oils that help to regulate sebum production & shrink large pores.
I loved using this cleansing oil in cold months, as it cleansed my skin thoroughly, as well as nurtured it. I also intuitively tried using it as night serum, when I started testing it and still do so a few times a week, when I feel that my skin needs some extra nurture, as it’s perfectly ‘glidable’ texture naturally encourages me to do a five minute massage nightly, while inhaling its ‘happy’ scent. I extend the massage to my neck line as well & focus on slowing down my breath, letting go of the day & enjoying the relaxing sensation spreading from my face to the rest of my body, as tired muscles relax and tension eases out of my face & neck. A natural product that is as sophisticated, as it is transformative for the skin & the senses. I would actually go as far, as saying that for me it stands in the same league as Votary, whose face & cleansing oils are my personal holy grail of efficacy & sophistication. BL Cleansing Oil also imparts a natural golden glow to the skin, without the need for make-up gimmicks, making you look & feel beautiful safely & naturally.
Berezka Lab Cleansing Oil, 100ml. To be used within six months of opening. Price: 2120 Rubles, about £30 depending on currency fluctuations. 100% natural, certified organic & wild-crafted ingredients. Simple but eautifully packaging, which can be recycled.
Berezka Lab Green Masque
Spring is the time of the year that we all associate with the newly fresh shades of green, but I started using Berezka Lab Green Masque when London was still in the firm grip of winter in terms of darkness & temperatures. A time when one craves a warm & cosy cocoon, while the wind & the rain howl their songs outside.
Green masque is suitable for all skin types, including dry, delicate or sensitive & its disinfecting properties make it an effective tool in the propblem skin arsenal.
Ingredients: French green clay, Lavandin Flower powder, Barley sprouts powder, Alfalfa leaf powder, Neem leaf powder, Echinacea herb powder, Raw Matcha Green Tea powder, Camu Camu Powder.
When I read the ingredients list, I did a double take, as it seemed more like a list of the powdered supplement that I might take internally, in order to fuel my body. But make no mistake – this one is the skin food to be mixed with water and applied externally! Additional bonus is that it is a clever multi-tasker, as it cleanses, tones, brightens, revitalises & relaxes!
Daily skincare routine: dispense a spoonful of this spring-green powder into the palm of your hand or into a masking bowl. Add a little bit of water (I use either filtered or bottled water like Evian) and blend it until it forms a smooth paste. The secret here is not to make it too runny, so it drips off your face on to your clothes ! Once you achieve the desired consistency, gently massage it all over your face, but avoid the eye area. Then wash it off & examine the results – mine include clean, soft, more radiant skin every time I use it. Alternatively, you can use it as a mask once or twice a week in the following way: dispense 1,5 spoons as above, add water, mix & apply to your face, leaving it on for 5-7 minutes. You can also add a pump of Cleansing Oil, a little bit of warm water, if you feel it would improve consistency, apply it on and leave for up to 15 minutes and then rinse it thoroughly. When I mix the mask with the cleansing oil, I also apply it to my face, jump in the shower and let the steam magnify the effect of this mask – a simple variation can help perk up the skin & give it what it needs by the way of an extended pampering ritual. Another option is to add some good quality honey to the masque, apply it to the face and let the steam of the shower or bath work its additional magic on your complexion. I would imagine it would also work well in the sauna or banya, but haven’t had a chance to put this into practise yet.
I enjoy using both rituals & am generally guided by my skin’s needs, as well as the time I have for my evening beauty ritual. When it comes to this mask, I like the fact that it not only cleans the skin, but manages to remove pollution particles, while calming down irritations. It also acts as a mild peel and helps improve the overall condition of the skin with regular weekly use by tightening pores, calming down localised inflammation, mattifying & toning the skin. Feeding your complexion externally with vitamins, alongside a healthy diet suitable to your body’s needs, will help age-proof your skin and fuel your body’s optimal functioning. Another additional bonus of this masque is the scent of lavender, which allows you to relax after the whirlwind of a day comes to a close & its delicate texture caresses your skin like a tender lover’s touch.
When Dana ha sent me the products to try, she also included a brush, that is Russian-made and is a perfect side-kick to the masque. Not only does it ‘marry’ the masque perfectly with water, toner, oil, yogurt or honey, its synthetic bristles are springy, but very soft and accurate, when you apply the masque all over your face.
As I was editing this post, I asked Dana about her spring skincare secrets and she replied that this simple word combination just sounds so beautiful. As spring arrives on our doorstep, nature wakes up from winter sleep, like Snow White kissed by her loving sun prince. New greenery and flower bulbs emerge, eager to bloom & our happiness levels rise up naturally. All the while our skin & immunity require closer attention, as we feel more tired, than perky. So Dana recommends adding a daily supplement/s, trying to get enough sleep and just encouraging yourself to feel positive. Berezka Lab skincare helps her too and her wish for all Berezka Lab customers, existing & future ones, is that her skin & body care products will help them weather spring & other seasons in a more naturally beautiful way ?
As to how I feel when I use Berezka Lab products, the image below sums up my sentiments perfectly…..
For more information about Berezka Lab please click here The site has both Russian & English versions & the brand posts orders internationally (please contact Berezka Lab directly for pricing).