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Jumping into shower is second nature to most of us, but an occasional indulgence with a long bath shouldn’t be underestimated. Elijah Choo, founder & creative force behind Bodhi & Birch, contemplated this, as he hand-blended finest essential oils in his lab in order to create antidotes to the stresses of modern life. With my kids firmly in the grip of a new school year & after school activities, I feel that we all need another holiday & as it isn’t forthcoming until Christmas, running a bath & inhaling the new scents that Elijah crafted, allows me to let go of the worries, while doing poetic escapades in the depth of my mind, aided by intriguing notes that my nose & mind try to decipher.
A beautiful box that fits into the palm of your hand, has beautiful art motives in blues & purples, providing a calm vision before your eyes, before you slide the box cover to reveal three pretty bottles nestled inside. The first intriguing aspect is that while each clear bottle with a black screw-on lid looks one colour against the white box background, it change magically, if you hold each against the light. A little meditation in itself – stop, pause, discover. Longer & deeper breaths that make us feel more grounded & calmer. A journey of discovery begins.
Rosa Verde promises to ‘gently lift your mood, restore the spirit & awaken your soul’. Rose is renowned for its rejuvenating & renewing powers over our senses, while Lime & Geranium help to sooth & uplift the frowns from the forehead & Frankincense grounds & helps to balance the hormones.
The way to use each of the bath & shower oils in this collection is to pour a cupful into a warm bath & enjoy the aromatherapeutic benefits. Alternatively Elijah recommends massaging a few drops onto your torso, breathing in the aroma & making sure you take deeper breaths & then stepping into the shower to wash day’s grime or troubles away.
My eldest is a big fan of Bodhi & Birch bath products & chooses them in the evening before his shower, depending on what kind of a day he has had. Interestingly enough, this one turned out to be his favourite out of the three. Do be aware that those products were developed for adults, not children use, so make your judgement accordingly.
I, on the other hand, found it a little bit too feminine, as the scent developed on my skin after direct application. I thoroughly enjoyed the full renewing benefit though when I poured the oil directly into the the running water, inhaling the scent as the bath filled up. Later, luxuriating in the bath, while reading Maria Sharapova’s biography, I appreciated the olfactory experience provided by this particular oil more fully than in the shower. Not sure if Maria is a bath fan, but I am a big fan of her talent, as well as Elijah’s !
Jasmin de Lune ‘is a powerful blend for helping relax your body & mind’. Jasmine Absolu reduces stress & promotes quality sleep ( I am truly addicted to Jasmine Falls bath & Shower Therapy, which help me sleep like a princess & look as relaxed as a queen in the morning ), High-Altitude Lavender soothes the senses, while Vetiver acts as a natural sedative, without the side effects or drowsiness. It’s worth noting that high-altitude Lavender is more potent compared to other types of lavender, so expect a deeper sense of relaxation all around.
This is the product I would recommend you reach out for when you feel really tired or had a truly stressful day, when stress seems to linger & holds you in its tight grip. This bath & shower oil is up to the task of breaking the uncomfortable grip for good. I also want to note how soothing this & other two oils in this collection feel on the skin when you apply it directly to it – do make sure to do a patch test though, if you are new to essential oils or have skin sensitivities. My skin felt not only nurtured, but well moisturised after the bath, so when I was testing those bath & shower oils I didn’t feel the need to moisturise my skin after gently towel-drying my skin. Part of the reason was that I don’t use the water that is too hot, as it dehydrates the skin. The other contributing factor is that Elijah fuses the essential oil blends with a carrier Safflower oil, which is a potent hydrator. Safflower Oil is also packed with essential vitamins that keep skin soft & supple. It worth noting that using those bath & shower oils isn’t recommended, if you are expecting.
La Botanica, the most intriguing of the trio for me personally, ‘revitalises the body & revives the senses’. Lemon & Eucalyptus oils energise
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
Elijah created an aromatic trio of body oils to celebrate the scent, colour and culture of Europe and offer women (and men) a range of handcrafted products made of 100% natural botanicals and in small batches, thus offering the freshest quality. When I was on a panel of testers, Elijah sent all of us three samples and after using them, we filled in and sent him back a detailed questionnaire. I also talked to Elijah in detail about my experience with the oils, as one of them smelled particularly strong and another I wasn’t too sure of, as generally I am not a huge fan of rose-scented products, possibly finding them a little too ‘girly’. Having said that, this particular rose-scented body oil took me on a journey of such immense discovery, I was completely taken aback – but more on it later.
After all of the feedback was in, Elijah continued to tweak and refine the final formulas – always a perfectionist when it comes to his products and making sure they live up to customer’s expectations ! – while also enhancing their unique beauty and wellbeing. Only when he was satisfied, did the products launch and I hope you will find them as transformative as I did. One of my own biggest surprises when it came to those body oils, was a truly successful fusion of aromatherapy and perfumery, so much so, that now I wear two of those oils as a natural perfume, dabbing it on my pulse points, behind the ears and on my neck, after I apply it all over the body.
Nordic White Body Oil: the name of this body oil made sure it had me at ‘hello’, and not because ‘hygge’ is the current buzzword. About three years ago, Elijah was in Stockholm, visiting Bodhi & Birch retailers. On his way to one of the meetings, he walked from his hotel, located in central Stockholm, all the way to a more hippie area, where the meeting was supposed to take place. Stockholm is one of Elijah’s favourite cities, as it allows him to walk from one island to another, while observing the beauty of nature, forests and decor of the houses, which he absorbs, nurturing his creative life force. In a way Nordic White is Elijah’s love letter to the city, with an assembly of notes that popped into Elijah’s head as he walked around the city, drinking it in. Original birch notes were taken out, but alpine notes – more wood than leaves, as well as berries, moss, hints of sea and fennel were blended together creating, a ‘fresh, open, balanced white scent’. Elijah had the clearest picture of what this oil should smell and look like out of the three body oils he created , but he went through two versions, before the third satisfied him.
Elijah sees this oil as ‘a curative tonic of Spruce, Cypress and Pine enlivened with the freshness of Sweet fennel with soothing undertones of Frankincense. The scent is clean and reassuring, balanced with a soft lingering sweetness’. To that I can add that to me it feels like a hug from an old, comforting friend who knows what to say on every occasion, be it sad or happy. Before I apply it, I warm it in my hands for a few seconds, savouring the smell and then apply it to my body, rolling my fingers over muscles and circling it in when a certain area feels a little tight or painful. I draw comfort from this scent and as my skin warms up from the massage and the scent settles and changes, I end up drawing my wrist to my nose, inhaling it, as the day progresses, in order to ground & center myself.
‘Nordic White Body Oil is rather special to me. It is my interpretation of a moment when everything about the world is right. There is an open quality
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
Antonia’s collection of products ( there are currently six facial products ) aims ‘to transform the monotony of your daily skincare regime into an indulgent time for calm, well-being and healing by harnessing potent pure plant alchemy‘. The products smell, which help to melt away not just impurities but stresses of the day focus on anti-ageing and anti-blemish results and help you enjoy the ‘me time’ in front of the mirror in the morning and in the evening, helping you to balance yourself and your skin.
Another bonus is that the products were created to be multi-tasking, fusing proprietary blends of bioactive ingredients that are sourced from around the world and Antonia choses to work with producers who share her commitment to the environment ( all the product bottles are recyclable ) and sustainable working practises, a fact that still often goes to the back of the queue when it comes to priorities of beauty brands. Each product is distilled into Swiss violet glass that helps to preserve and protect plant’s bio actives energy. My only gripe here – and it is just my visual reaction to the violet glass packaging – is that the bottles, down to the pump and tops are exactly the same as a few other brands on the market. The type/paper packaging is distinct of Antonia but if there was no branding on the actual bottles I would confuse it with a few other brands that I use.
Natural Glow Cleansing Oil, £39.50, 100 mls: this was the first product that I tried from Antonia’s range and it came highly recommended. This cleansing oil emulsifies when coming in contact with water, turning it into a cleansing milk and giving you an effective double cleanse that will help remove impurities, dirt and even waterproof make-up – I have used it to remove mascara ( it acts as a gentle eye make-up remover when you combine it with water ). Antonia recommends shaking the bottle gently before dispencing & smoothing four to six pumps of the oil on your dry face but I find that for me three or four are more than adequate. As you apply it to your face, massage it in, working your fingers into the contours of your face, gliding it over your skin, inhaling its uplifting aroma. Massage it around for a couple of minutes, untill you feel that your skin has warmed up and then start adding water until the oil turns milky, before washing it off with a muslin cloth.
The following ingredients in this cleansing oil are worth mentioning for reference:
–Tuscan Cypress Tree Extract is an astringent that helps to speed up the process of cellular regeneration
–Bitter Orange is known for its skin clarifying benefits and helping treat the blemish prone skin.
If you aren’t already acquainted with Michelle and her wonderful products, notably my favourite Himalayan Detox Bath Salts and Aura Spray, you can read my impressions here, but the love for this beautiful brand has been growing steadily this past year, with both journalists and customers singing its praises.
When I asked Michelle what inspired creative process for the latest product, a dreamy but uplifting Joie bath infusion, Michelle told me that she ‘wanted to create something along the lines of spiritual bathing – something that nourished, indulged and uplifted. I wanted to make a different spin on bathing as water is such an amazing medium for releasing negativity. So I began to think of Cleopatra and luxurious rosé scented baths and also Ayurvedic use of aromatic powders for skin healing such as frankincense, cedarwood, rose and sandalwood– it was then a case of finding the right balance and infusing it with uplifting essential oils like wild rosé, honeysuckle, geranium and tangerine. This formula certainly lifts you out of depression and generally makes you feel good.’
Michelle has sent me a small sample, that was enough to make three baths and my first impression, when I opened the sachet, was the smell of pine forests that I so love and that take me back to childhood holidays in the Baltic Republics, notably Latvia and Lithuania. I think the smell alone will relax you even before you run a bath. As you will immerse yourself into hot water infused with Joie, it will ease the stresses of the day away and make you feel regally serene by the time you climb under your bed covers. This infusion helps to clear your head and slow down your thoughts, yet I also felt like smiling as I wrapped my robe tightly around me.
You will find that small granules might collect on your skin, so you can just rub them up and down your skin, exfoliating your skin and further enhancing your bathing ritual by allowing a beautiful layer of skin to emerge and the old to be washed away. Everything in life has a balance and who is to say that there aren’t benefits in those longer and colder autumn or winter nights?