No matter how long I have been writing about beauty & wellbeing, I never get jaded about products, brands and people that I get to know or learn about. At this stage I can fairly quickly (and in most instances, accurately) make a judgement whether I want to try or write about something, as well as share it with you. Having said that, some brands and people never cease to inspire, intrigue and delight me, so much so, that as soon as their new products land on my desk, I have to contain my excitment to share them with you straight away. Amanda Saurin, founder of Asapoth, a small batch distillery based in Sussex, makes oils, balms, creams, serums and aromatic waters from roots, flowers, bark & blossoms that she & her team grow organically or pick up from the wilderness of fields, mountains and gardens that Amanda loves and trusts to source from locally, as well as from Scotland and Cyprus. Her recent launches, Every Woman Tea and No.34 Mint & Charcoal Detox Hammam Soap, initially made me swoon based on looks & smells alone. As I got to uncover their multiple layers, deriving pleasure for the senses and benefits for my skin & body, I ended up reflecting on the pace of the world and comparing the effects of fast vs slow beauty production. After all, we can’t speed up nature and when we try to play with its gears, we bear the brunt of negative consequences.
As no-one knows or understands A. S Apothecary better than Amanda, I thought I would give you the pleasure of reading her own reflections and insights into the products. As someone who writes for a living, I also admire her way with words greatly, as she weaves them together with precision, knowledge and into an almost poetic prose, whether on her own blog or when answering the questions posed to her. So without further ado, a Q & A with Amanda below, followed by my own experience and impression of the products.
GAP: What inspired you to create those products Amanda?,
I’m 54 and menopausal and I realised that there is so little to drink that specifically targets the symptoms of menopause. So I decided to make something. As a plant grower, it was clearly going to be a drink or a skincare product, and as A.S Apothecary has several beautiful products to support the skin through this time of transition, I decided to make a drink. I have always found herbal teas disappointing – there is so much promise from the scent but the flavour is often insipid and lacking depth. Also looking at the herbs and flowers in commercial teas, there is frequently the feeling that they have been swept up from some dusty floor – they lack vitality and life. I wanted something full of therapeutics, fresh and delicious.
The soap was developed through our collaboration with The Coach House Spa at Beaverbrook House. Rene van Eysson asked me if I had ever made Black Soap, I remembered that I had some time ago, but hadn’t repeated it and couldn’t recall why. A search of my many notebooks reminded me – Black Soap is typically made with potash from burnt Cocoa pods. The alkalinity of it is variable which makes producing a consistent soap difficult. It is also very time-consuming. So I spent some time thinking of how to make a really beautiful, consistently lovely cream soap, that had the same wonderful scooping properties of black soap. After numerous incarnations that ranged in consistency from wallpaper paste to burnt porridge, I cracked it. The Hamam Soap is like a soap shuffle – creamy, airy and utterly spreadable. It is now used in the English Bath House at Beaverbrook.
GAP: Are they suited to particular age or skin type?
AS: TEA – the tea is really special, it is ideal for women at puberty, during menstruation, peri-menopause and menopause because of the botanicals I have grown and gathered for it. It is not however suitable for pregnant women.
AS: SOAP – the soap is for everyone over 3 years old, irrespective of skin type. It can be massaged into the skin for a really deep cleanse and rinsed off. It is used for shaving if applied to dry skin as a cream, then rinsed off.
GAP: How often should you be using each in order to utilise their full potential to fuel & nurture your body & skin?
AS: TEA – the tea has many uses, it is so much more than just a drink. It can help with hot flushes, anxiety and stress if taken internally, however if used as a steam for the face, it is amazing. We also use it during our bespoke facial by making a tea, pouring it into a bowl and soaking the cloths we use to open the pores, clean off the products and settle the mind. After all, what is a tea? In its most beautiful form it is the best flowers and herbs we can grow, infused into water for the benefit of both body and soul – through taste, application to the skin through steam or a cloth and as a bain for the feet.
AS: SOAP – the soap can be used as often, as you want. I use it in the shower as the most sublime cream soap – it glides onto the skin turning from grey to silver and rinses off beautifully.
GAP: What are the health/wellbeing benefits to the body of the tea and this soap?
AS: TEA – the tea, if taken internally, has herbs and flowers that may help to calm anxiety (Avena sativa, Rose and Chamomile), reduce hot flushes (Red Clover and Sage) and balance the hormones (Geranium). If used on the skin, it is full of plants that calm, reduce redness and are anti-inflammatory.
AS: SOAP – the Hamam Soap with medicinal grade charcoal and green clay helps to really effectively remove dirt and deeply clean the skin. Our Olive Oil, which along with coconut oil forms the base, is made by our co-worker Cate in Crete and is full of anti-inflammatory polyphenols that help to combat the effects of UV damage. The Mint is anti-bacterial and anti-septic, so excellent for skin prone to breakouts. Very unusually in a cream soap, we have managed to retain all the natural glycerine making it moisturising, rather than drying and augmented this by the addition of the beautifully emollient hand dived Hebridean Seaweed.
GAP: For the tea – should the water be poured as soon as it’s boiled or you should allow it to cool down a little bit before making tea?
Amanda Saurin: for the very best effects, both internally and externally, let the water come off the boil before pouring it onto the leaves, as you don’t want to scald them. I like to make a big pot and drink 3 small cups. I drink the first after 4 minutes when the light volatiles are most in evidence – these are the more citrussy notes. I drink a 2nd cup after about 8 minutes, when the Chamomile and Rose are coming to the fore. The final cup I drink slowly after 15 minutes, this is when you can really taste the Olive leaf, Oats and the Sage. That’s the beauty of it, much like a good perfume, it has top notes, a heart and a base and gradually, as it brews, it reveals itself.
GAP: With hammam soap are you better off to use warm or cool water, as opposed to hot, in terms of hydration effect on the skin? Can you use this soap to treat the scalp as well?
Amanda Saurin: we enjoy using warm water to rinse off the Hamam Soap – it is better for the skin NOT to use very hot water.
GAP: What are the ‘star’ ingredients and what can you expect from drinking the tea and soap when drank/used regularly?
AS: TEA – there are a powerhouse of ingredients in the tea – Roses, Chamomile, Sage and Calendula we have grown organically on the farm, Red Clover and Oat Tops we have carefully sourced; Olive leaves from Mesto Olive oil and the ones that I have also gathered from the mountains in Cyprus, plus Rose Geranium also picked and dried in Cyprus when in full flower in April. This is a tea that tastes as good, as it smells. Red Clover and Sage are long used to reduce hot flushes during the Menopause. Roses cool the body and skin, Chamomile and Oat tops calm anxiety and still the mind. Olive leaf is a fantastic ant-inflammatory and immune booster, Rose Geranium balances the hormones and Calendula calms menstrual cramps and soothes the stomach.
It is the drink that I turn to when I need to feel centred, balanced and joyful.
AS: SOAP – Charcoal, Seaweed, Clay, Mint, Olive oil and Coconut oil – these few ingredients brought together make a powerfully cleansing and soothing treatment for the skin. Used regularly they may help to prevent break outs and leave the skin beautifully clean and soft. In this souffle form, this soap can be scooped out and spread over the body before being massaged in and finally rinsed off.
Curiosity Gap Product Insights
SOAP: I have to admit that apart from black soaps used in a proper hamam by experienced practitioners, my own home use experiences with them have been lukewarm to put it diplomatically. Often they are too gloopy, making the skin feel somewhat sticky after the warm shower to boot. But not only that – I had to wash the bath towel and clean the bathroom afterwards as well, not something I really was aiming for at the end of a busy day and a supposedly relaxing shower or bath experience. Now, THIS SOAP, or rather souffle, is hands down, lip smacking the best detox hamam soap that makes me linger in the shower for longer than I normally do and makes my skin feel pampered, like I was an Arabian princess in 1001 nights. When you unscrew the lid, this soap does look like grey mud, reminding me of the lushness of mud in the summer, after a heavy rain falling on the forests footpaths close to my parents country house. It brought back memories of squelching toes, mud throwing accompanied by laughter with friends and fast, competitive sprints to the near-by lake to wash it at least off your skin (explaining its appearance on my clothes to my grandmother was completely another story and not as much fun as mud fights, I assure you). But back to this luscious treat – after applying it to the skin in the bath, massaging it all over, while inhaling its minty scent, I wash it off to reveal soft, renewed & revitalised skin that didn’t need any moisturiser afterwards to make it come alive – it was abundantly sated, plumped & nurtured already. And that in the midst of a cold winter spell in London & heating revved up at home. So you’ve heard it here first – my absolutely top Black Hammam Soap of all times!
TEA: It comes in a little metal pot and when you lift the lid, you can start smelling the herbs and plants aroma, even though the jar is closed by a metal top with a dinky button to help you lift it up and feast your eyes on the beauty of nature within. I followed Amanda’s brewing instructions and since then I reach out for this jar of tea when I want to feel grounded, be it in the middle of a busy day (when working from home or dashing between meetings and school or sports runs) or in the evening. It helps to calm and centre you, but without making you go floppy or ready for the morpheus embrace. It has a strong core, which softens and opens up, as the brewing process counts down the minutes. For me it’s a type of tea that makes me feel both feminine and strong. Breathing slows down, yet the intent to move and be active doesn’t get unplugged completely. A cup to drink when you need a pause or a cup when you need to rest. A moment of tranquility and reflection or just emptying your mind of thought. Fresh, powerful, yet subtle, not overpowering or bitter. One cup from the same pot tastes differently when you brew it for longer, so its like a riddle that you are eager to taste in order to decipher. Which brings me back to the the question I started this post with. Fast vs Slow Beauty process. I know Amanda yet again captures my attention gently, not forcefully by creating products that allow you to introduce a more leisurely pacing of your life when you need or choose it. With those two new launches, I will allow myself to go on record and say that in addition to her Beauty Balm, this body soap and tea are one of her best creations, showing evolution and strength of her multiple talents that keep on giving. Complex, yet simple. Sophisticated, yet accessible. Breathing of the earthy undertones, the complexity of production made easy by the wise and knowledgable brain and multiple talented, kind and caring hands.
To find out more about about A.S Apothecary, the store & treatment room in Lewes, as well as the products, projects & blog that Amanda writes, please click here