Having been a fan of aromatherapy for years, Bodhi and Birch bath and shower therapies fall into a deeply cherished category of products for me. Elijah Choo, brand’s
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.
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
Kale is a powerful vegetable that contains an enzyme system that helps eliminate environmental stressors and protects skin cells from environmental damage, a fact that more and more skincare brands are starting to address. Kale delivers antioxidants – whether you eat it or apply it topically to your skin, as part of a skincare product ingredient list, as it contains Vitamins A & C, as well as generous amounts of Vitamin K, iron and zinc.
I started testing this product last year, as it was in early stages of development. Nourish initially launched it in Australia earlier this year, where Pauline often does stellar TV presentations. Last month it was finally launched in the UK and Pauline and Nourish team gathered bloggers and beauty experts, as well as brand friends, at intimately cosy Dalloway Terrace Cafe, to talk about the new product in the beautifully calm Bloomsbury hotel. The chef created the most delicious salad with powerful greens ( kale, radish, avocado and pomegranate ), as well as deliciously nutritious smoothies which fuelled our bodies, while Pauline and Nourish fed our brain’s curiosity and amplified existing knowledge.
Pauline’s professional background lies in the science field, but one of the things that drives and motivates her is current disengagement between healthy skin and self-esteem. In the digital age and social media & press obsession with ‘perfect’ images, people forget that while out exteriors matter, it is what’s going inside out bodies and minds determines how our skin looks and feels. Our skin comes into daily contact with the atmosphere, which is full of pollutants and environmental aggressors, particularly when we live in big cities. So when creating this cleanser Pauline was thinking about creating a reservoir of protection and giving sallow, tired skin a healthy boost, making sure that skin’s ‘machinery’ works as efficiently as possible. Our skin is a good indicator of our general health, so in addition to wanting great looking skin – who doesn’t want that?- it is important to pay attention to your skin’s health, which at its peak feels smooth, has even tone and is well hydrated.
To reduce the potential for damage of your skin, cleansing is possibly the most important part of your skincare routine, particularly in the evening, because it removes airborne pollutants ‘collected’ during the day. On top of that, now most of us have lost their summer tan and with onset of winter almost upon us, our skin is starting to look dull and de-hydrated and is really in need of a boost. Simply put, it needs all the help and support it can get. Basically, this cleanser will help your skin on the road to it being the best it can be.
One of the questions that Pauline asked herself and her team when developing this product was how to make cleansing interesting and make sure it offers a deep cleanse, without disrupting your skin’s natural state? In the end what you get is a very cool product with scientific and colour changing capabilities, that lifts impurities off and leaves behind radiant skin.
This cleanser allows you to pretty much apply superfoods topically to your skin, so ingredients like Hyaluronic acid, Probiotics and Oxygenating extracts, upon coming into contact with your skin, get to work synergistically to energise and refresh you skin, as this facial wash lifts make up and grime off your complexion.
Kale and Griffonia detoxify and protect against pollution, helping to minimise signs of ageing, but no less importantly they, plus Pomegranate, form an enzymatic system that prevents ‘sticking’ of pollution particles to your skin. Pauline stressed during the presentation how important it is to protect skin’s lipid layer, so you won’t end up with ‘leaking bucket syndrome’, when no matter how rich the moisturiser, your skin will look and feel dry, contributing to the process of premature raging. Never underestimate the importance of using the right skincare for your skin type and bear in mind the negative impact external environmental aggressors have on our skin day in, day out.
At the end of the day, apply a drop of Kale 3D Cleanser onto damp skin and add water. Start to gently massage your face, until the colour of the cleanser changes from white to green, which is your signal to rinse it off with cool water and examine your complexion with a satisfied smile in the mirror. Below is the image of my hand, not my face, with the cleanser on its own on the left and mixed with water and massaged on to the skin on the right, so hopefully you can see the difference between ‘before’ and ‘after’. This cleanser’s fresh, herbal smell is refreshingly uplifting and hopefully your skin will feel the same way after using it, like mine does. Last, but not least, cast your eyes over Nourish updated and more modern packaging, that reflects that the brand stays true to its roots, yet marches on with the times.
Ingredients: Aqua, Sodium cocoyl isethionate, Glycerin**, Stearic acid, Cetearyl alcohol, Titanium dioxide (CI 77891), Alginic acid, Helianthus
Joanna actually launched three cleansing oils – there is also REVITALISE for mature skin, but I have been testing two of the above since October and have to say that it’s been the case of ‘like’ at a first sniff and a much deeper appreciation the longer I used the oils. I tend to use cleansing oils in the evening, to properly and thoroughly cleanse my skin, getting rid of make-up and pollutants, massage my face and make skin ready for the serums or creams or oils that I apply as part of my evening skincare ritual.
Joanna is not the one to rush to expand the range because it is often expected in the beauty industry – I call it the ‘false novelty bandwagon’ – so ‘developing a trio of cleansing oils was done in order to complement and complete the products that are already on offer and result in a simple, paired down and effective set that is all you need for your skin – cleansing, gentle exfoliation and moisturising. I realise that there are other steps that can be added, but for me, these are the basic essentials ( it is all I use!). As the whole idea of the products is simplicity in ingredients, I wanted the range to be simple too’.
Sooth Cleansing Oil is fragrance free and was developed with sensitive skin in mind. When I opened the bottle and inhaled, I could clearly smell the freshness of cucumber notes and that was very special, as I don’t know many face skincare products with this smell.
The two star ingredients of the Soothe cleansing oil are the Rice Bran Oil (Oryza Sativa) and the Cucumber Oil (Cucumus Sativus). Joanna loves the softness of rice bran oil, which is also known as an oil suitable for irritated skin. She also added Apricot Kernel Oil in the mix because of all of its wonderful properties, but it was equally important to make sure that the oil smelt nice, even though it is unscented. ”(Maybe brands don’t use it precisely because its scent would clash with other fragrances they are using?)”. Cucumber oil was an obvious one for Joanna – it smells beautiful, but also has various properties she was looking for, including skin’s nourishment ( Omegas 6 and 9), it ‘spreads’ easily and absorbs fairly quickly into the skin to help moisturise, as well as cleanse. ”On a more technical note, it contains phytosterols, and studies have shown that these help stimulate the regeneration of healthy skin cells. I figure this must be good for those with sensitive skin,” – adds Joanna.
I apply a few drops of this cleansing oil to my fingers first and then spread it all over my face, gently massaging it. If I am going to shower, I leave the oil on for a few minutes and then cleanse it off with a damp flannel, leaving my skin nurtured, soft and sample. While I don’t have sensitive skin, as it becomes colder and radiators are working full blast, my skin becomes dryer, so using this cleansing oil supports my skin’s matrix and gently cleanses make-up and daily pollutants off.
The oil’s pale yellow colour is easy on the eye and feels richly nourishing, yet not at all greasy, for those of you who are wondering about trying oil cleanser for the skin. I also recommend that you check Mallow & White website for tips on the best way to use each product, as this oil cleanser can be used three ways. Click here to find out more. There is also additional information on key ingredient benefits, as well as the full list of ingredients, which is as follows: Cucumber Seed Oil, Rice Bran Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Apricot kernel oil, Jojoba oil.
Joanna’s products don’t contain mineral oils, SLS or other harsh sulphates which are harsh abrasive cleaners and all of her products are hand-blended in small batches, in order to maintain maximum freshness, in Hertfordshire, where she lives. They are also vegan and tested on friends, not animals and if you think or know that you have sensitive skin, Joanna recommends that you do a patch test first.
Cleansing Oil was developed for normal & dry skin types. The
Evolve was a good brand but its branding wasn’t premium and it wasn’t a raving success, so Laura pragmatically re-examined things and at some stage even considered pulling the plug on that project, but fate had the pleasure of intervening. The branding changed, the engagement with the customer became closer and more personal ( you get regular updates, discount offers, suggestions for products to try, suitable for your own skin type ) and the products expanded – Laura and her team carefully note which products become popular with customers, what smells and textures they respond to and if something doesn’t work for customers, the product might be discontinued. Through the constant dialogue with existing customers and focus groups, ideas and new products emerge, initially in small runs and then, if demand continues, it becomes bigger. After all, it is important to be flexible, to listen to customer feedback ( I wish more brands took notice and became more personal, instead of pretending to be so and pushing what they want to sell, which might not be exactly what the customer needs ).
Evolve had a soft launch last May, launched officially in September and now they seem to have gained customer trust, as well as attention from press and bloggers around the world ( the brand is available in France, at Mon Corner B, as a European example, as well as US organic store Credo Beauty, which is a fantastic concept and retailer ). Laura and team Evolve are developing lots of interesting ideas, so that was one of the points of focus of our conversation with Laura, as well as new products in development, one of which I am particularly excited about due to its originality.
Laura, who is a mother of three, and whose youngest child is under one, came to the meeting with her little one, yet she managed to cover all the points and answer my endless questions, while also keeping an eye on her daughter. Some women just have innate focus and ability to make the balance between motherhood and career look easily achievable, making the rest of us ponder in wonder how it’s possible to make it look so effortless.
Laura continues to work with her business partner Violaine, who is based in France and her London team is all female, so the skincare does not all have female perspective in its DNA, it also factors in demand of our skin at different ages, from blissful stage when we are carefree to the changes that motherhood or maturity bring.
Another appealing point about Evolve is that not only you can order a set of samples to try the products and experience their textures, smells and effect on YOUR skin, you can also buy products in travel sizes, which are perfect,t not just for travel but for trialling the product for longer – my face mask ( review here ) lasts a good few weeks ( if used weekly ) and the lip treat ( one of my favourite Evolve products thus far ) has lasted a good few months, so Evolve ‘miniatures’ are not just practical, but generously-sized.
On this occasion, instead of doing detailed product review, I though I would go through the Evolve products that I have tried in the last few weeks, in order to share with you my impressions and hopefully giving you something to contemplate, as you are getting ready for your summer break.
FOR THE FACE
Lip Treat, 30mls, £10: this lip balm is quite solid and comes in a glass jar. You need to put your finger in and try to warm it up, as it is quite solid. It has a lovely orangey smell and softens lips beautifully. I find its solid texture practical for carrying it in your handbag or on your travels, as it won’t ‘leak’ into your make-up bag, but some might find the ‘sizing’ a little too large.
As to the ingredients, there are three worth mentioning: shea butter that is rich in multiple vitamins (it provides essential nutrients to the skin and assists collagen production that make our lips and skin plumper in appearance). Cocoa butter is known for its emollient qualities, so your skin is not only protected, but moisturised as well. Orange Essential Oil boosts the mood and helps increase the blood flow to the skin.
Gentle Cleansing Melt ( comes in two sizes, 30ml & 100ml): best suited to normal or dry skin, this flowery smelling gel promises to nourish and protect your skin barrier, while getting rid of make-up and daily grime. I used a 30ml size and was somewhat annoyed that I had to hold the bottle upside down for the product to come out – that’s just my own practical observation.
It has a balmy texture when you put in on your ‘dry’ skin and it does feel nice to massage your face with it, while and then rinse it off with warm water, when the ‘melt’ becomes milky and reveals clean and soft skin, without the drying side-effects. It is a nice product to use in the summer, especially if you are spending the day outside or on the beach, but its vanilla smell might be a little too strong before bed-time, so might work perfectly in the morning and help you wake up. If used in the evening, cleaning your face with a flannel or bamboo cloth will add a gentle exfoliation benefit.
A noteworthy ingredient here is baobab, which many of us have been consuming internally in the last couple of years, due to its high Vitamin C content. Baobab is well-known for its amazing benefits for the skin, as it contains calcium and Vitamin A. Baobab oil helps to rejuvenate skin cells due to its high antioxidant content, thus assisting our skin protection against free-radicals.
Fresh Face Facial Wash, comes in two sizes, as above: If you have combination or oily skin, you might like this gently foaming Facial Wash with organic purifying Papaya. It was formulated to detoxify and rebalance normal, combination & oily skins. Natural sugars cleanse away impurities, organic papaya enzymes exfoliate, organic aloe vera softens, leaving skin clean, smooth and supple, while natural Goji Berry extract defends against pollution.
The wash comes in a bottle with a spray nozzle and one or two pumps of this liquid, gel-like formula are enough to cleanse both face and neck (apply to damp skin ) but you can also extend it to the decollete and by using cold water you can help you skin remain firmer for longer, as it boosts circulation – a simple but effective trick that was used by my grandmothers. I like this product’s aloe vera fragrance & texture, which is light, refreshing and makes the skin feel well-moisturised, even before you apply serum or moisturiser.
Hyaluronic Serum 200, comes in two sizes, 10ml travel size and 30ml: This pure clear serum for normal to dry skin contains 200 mg hyaluronic acid per bottle, hydrating skin from within and plumping up fine lines and wrinkles. With its delicate organic rosewater fragrance, it also appeals to our feminine side. When you apply it to your skin, it feels like lightly bouncy water drops and sinks into your skin almost instantly. Since I received my order, I have been known to apply it sometimes on top of my make-up, mid-way through the day, to plump and hydrate my skin externally, while making sure I drink water to hydrate my insides. This one is a definite winner for me.
Miracle Face Oil ( two sizes, as above ): I will be honest, generally I shy away from products that
Kiehl’s Cilantro & Orange Extract Pollutant Defending Mask & Turmeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Radiance Mask, 75mls, £28 ( also available in a small, 28ml size ): I like some of Kiehl’s products, as they work for my skin and had high hopes for those two launches. The first mask promises to protect your skin against impurities, as well as replenish it – sadly our environment is not getting cleaner or healthier for our bodies or skin, with the rising pollutants and stronger sun rays, which contribute to skin’s dullness and ageing. The mask contains antioxidant-rich orange extract to help prevent DNA damage, as well as cilantro (coriander ) seeds oil that should help to strengthen your skin’s barrier with regular use. This mask is recommended to be used three times a week at night. You need to apply a ‘visible’ layer to clean skin, leave on for five minutes and then tissue off the excess, leaving a thin protective layer on skin to work overnight. In the image below on top of my hand you can see the texture of the mask, on the bottom is what skin looks after 20 minutes and ’tissuing’ off.
This mask has a mixed smell of herbs and chemicals and I found it too ‘rich’ for my skin. Waking up to the skin that feels somewhat greasy is not my idea of a mini-treat for my skin, so sadly this mask wasn’t a success for me. In addition, after sleeping with a face mask like that on my face, I also have to wash my pillowcase……
The second mask promises to ‘invigorate and brighten skin’s appearance’- with skin feeling dull after the prolonged winter, this sounded wonderful. I got to ‘play’ with this mask while in Paris with my best friend and we were in fits of giggles applying this yellowy-coloured mask with mini seeds onto our faces and jumping on the beds, like teenagers, before indulging in what French TV had on offer for late-night entertainment, Marriage Freres tea and Laduree macaroons.
This ‘instant facial’ promises ‘to brighten and energize the look of dull and fatigued skin and restore a healthy, rosy appearance. Formulated with Cranberry Extract and Turmeric, this invigorating formulation promises to visibly even out your skin tone, while crushed Cranberry seeds gently exfoliate for smoother, brighter, illuminated looking skin’.
After cleansing our skin, we applied a thick layer to clean skin and allowed the mask to dry for ten minutes. After that you are supposed to rinse it off while gently massaging your skin with circular motion, allowing Cranberry Seeds to exfoliate your skin. After that you are supposed to pat dry the skin, however before we did that, it took us a lot of time to actually wash this mask, particularly the seeds, off our faces. The skin felt soft and plump but I found it seriously annoying to wash and wash and wash my face, with the seeds even ending up in my hairline. This mask is recommended to be used up to three times a week but after two quite messy experiences I wouldn’t be using it again, as the process ends up feeling more frustrating than pampering.
My skin did end up feeling softer, rosier and clearer, after using each of those mask, but it takes a lot to impress me and personally, I prefer my mask to appeal to me not just with the end result, but with texture and smell as well. This has been my experiment and yours might be less messy and make you feel pampered and glowing, so please don’t let me dissuade you from trying either or both of those masks, as one woman’s battle can be another woman’s path to success. Sadly for those masking experiments that I undertook with new Kiehl’s masks, I wouldn’t be purchasing either of the masks, but will keep an eye on brand’s new launches.
Tata Harper Purifying Mask ( deep cleansing detox treatment ), 30mls, £52
Tata never does things
Several years ago I wrote a post about a skincare brand called Tay (since then the brand has sadly been discontinued, for reasons unknown to me) and one of the things I liked about it was its packaging. A while later I came across a skincare brand from Kauai, Hawaii’s Garden isle, called Mahalo Skincare, and their bamboo packaging jars were a little similar to the Tay ones. I made an off-the-cuff remark about it and had the loveliest reply from the brand’s founder Maryna Kracht, who told me that they had the same manufacturer. Then things have gone quite. Some more time passed by and towards the end of last year Maryna dropped me an e-mail, introducing herself and asking whether I wanted to find out more about her brand and skincare. Whatever is being said about fraught relationships between Russians and Ukrainians, certainly doesn’t apply to Maryna (who was born in the Ukraine, has moved to Canada aged 19 and to Hawaii three years ago) and myself ( born in Moscow, currently living in London ). I loved reading her e-mail, was suitably interested, knowing innately that there is much more to this brand than the choice of containers (they are beautiful by the way and are part of the appeal of the brand, as when you have used the products you can use the jars for travelling or to keep sentimental moments or rings in ) and have sent Maryna an affirmative e-mail.
We continued our e-mail conversations. Maryna went on to explain that Mahalo products are ‘made by hand using non-toxic and organic ingredients. The line is formulated by me and my sister, with my darling husband being the shoulder support in business and daily routine. My passion for plants goes back to my roots, and I owe all of it to my babushka. She was the one that inspired me to begin to travel at a very young age and expand my knowledge for the alternative medicine / skin care. I have traveled to India (five times now), South America, Europe and am now settled in Hawaii. Each place has brought its own flair, which then manifested in Mahalo Skin Care. My heart and soul have gone into the development of Mahalo and I really hope it will bring a tremendous amount of joy, transformation, and empowerment to everyone who gets to pamper themselves with its magic’.
With every e-mail exchange I was becoming more and more curious about the story. And then Maryna’s parcel arrived, smelling exotic and heavenly, even before I opened the outer packaging. The beauty that revealed itself once I opened the box, made my eyes well up with tears, as it was one of the most special gift boxes I have ever received. Even now, thinking of that moment, brings immensely happy memories of exploring the contents of Maryna’s parcel and inhaling each product’s aroma, of cradling the beautiful ceramic bowl in the palm of my hand and passing the brush against the curves of my face.
Early on in our e-mail exchanges Maryna mentioned something that I think really sums up the essence of Mahalo: ‘One of the big reason I was inspired to create MAHALO Skin Care was putting a wide smile on people’s faces, offering a transformative difference that empowers, enlightens and makes you pause for a moment and feel gratitude (Mahalo is a Hawaiian word for thanks / gratitude)’. Having used the products for a couple of months now, I can chirp in and add my own five pence, by saying that this is actually true. At least for me.