As I unwrapped the parcel from Dutch skincare brand Bloomeffects, I marvelled at
Having been a fan of aromatherapy for years, Bodhi and Birch bath and shower
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.
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
Working with a brand always gives insights into the work that goes behind the scenes that one doesn’t
Lately I have been having many conversations about skincare routines, in part, a consequence of a
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.
Women have been masking for years and I believe that using face masks, once or twice a week, depending
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.
The Rare Indigo Beauty Balm: for the past months (actually the vision started years ago), Maryna has been working on a new product, which is finally ready to meet and treat the thirsty complexions. The new balm boasts an array of luxurious ingredients, with the star being the indigo extract, which also extends it’s magic in providing a unique indigo-violet color (
Until recently I haven’t ventured out of London (within the UK) to have treatments unless I was