Skincare Spotlight: Free and True Skincare, part 2

With more and more brands entering beauty marketplace, consumers have more choice, but are also more confused. I always recommend engaging with the brand via e-mail or social media and seeing whether read more

CRiL Reviews: Caudalie Vine Activ Range

As a long-standing fan of Caudalie, I always keep an eye on their new product launches. Their latest four products were released under the umbrella of Vine(Activ) range, replacing the Polyphenol C15 products. Re-working the products & making them better by improving efficacy & addressing modern skin needs, is one of the reasons why this French brand from Bordeaux is so popular with customers, men & women, of various ages. This particular range addresses the negative effects of pollution & modern city life on our skin and promises to deal with wrinkles, spots, pigmentation & stress, while hydrating & improving skin’s external protective barrier function. It is ideal for 20-35 year olds, but works as well for older skin – after all, whether you are in your 20s or 60s, it’s nice to see brands responding to the need to age-proof our skin & protect it from the negative environmental effect, causing premature ageing.

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.

read more

CRiL Reviews: Berezka Lab, a sophisticated natural Russian beauty brand

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 read more

CRiL Reviews: Vanderohe No.1 Nourishing Face Serum

For many women the light bulb moment concerning their skincare choices often goes up when they are expecting. The maternal instinct becomes only stronger, as women become mothers and start paying closer attention to what they put on their own skin and to how it affects their long-term health. That certainly rings true when it comes to the choices made by Olivia Thorpe, founder of Vanderohe.

Olivia worked in investment banking, but eventually gave it up to create an online forum called, where she wrote editorials about beauty and wellness. Not long after starting it, Olivia became pregnant with her first son and was warned by the doctor to be weary of some beauty products, as some contain ingredients harmful to the development of the baby during pregnancy. Olivia admits to not considering this prior to getting pregnant and eagerly adopting a new philosophy ‘if it wasn’t good enough for baby, it wasn’t good enough for me!’

Olivia began examining labels and spoke to brand founders, while also researching the benefits of using plant oils in beauty routine. She also noticed that her skin changed after giving birth, becoming quite sensitive. Olivia’s gaze tuned towards natural products that addressed her skin’s needs and concerns effectively. During her second pregnancy she struggled to find skincare product the scent of which didn’t irritate her nose and senses in general – as those of you who have been pregnant know, each pregnancy can be a minefield of symptoms, aches, pains and irritations – physically and mentally. All of those things led Olivia to blend her own oils.

But it was a close friend of Olivia’s who has somewhat inspired the creation of her first skincare product, No.1 Nourishing Face Serum. She asked Olivia to create an anti-scarring oil serum and the rest, as they say, is history. Olivia chose potent essential oils known for their anti-scarring qualities and added multiple anti-ageing and nourishing ingredients into the blend, making sure her nose played ‘an active part’, as scent is such an important aspect when it comes to skincare and in many instances the word ‘perfume’ can mask a lot of unpleasant ingredients, which can have long-term adverse effect on one’s health. As Olivia perfected the blend, she realised how much she and her skin liked it. Then compliments about your skin’s natural glow started rolling in. After making the samples and testing them on willing friends and family, Vanderohe No.1 Nourishing Face Serum was born.

When you see serum’s external packaging you will notice that it grabs your attention, by it’s subtle and unusual combination of colours – you certainly won’t mistake Vanderohe for another brand. The synergistic blend itself, combines high-grade organic, cold-pressed and wild-harvested oils and is housed in a glass Miron bottle, to protect the potency and quality of the product. It was also important for Olivia to create a product that not only will address a multitude of modern skin does, from moisture loss to pigmentation and wrinkles, but made sure that women who use it benefit from aromatherapeutic effect through its delicate scent. So what started with personal interest and skincare workshops, culminated in Olivia’s blend of oils that makes sure that the balance is precise and that the synergistic benefit of ingredients is optimised, in order to bring maxim benefits to your skin safely.

The actual ‘perfectionism’ of the formula took about two years, as Olivia believes that ‘beauty is in details’. When it came to sourcing and selecting the ingredients, Olivia went for Soil Association certified  organic cold-pressed oils, which were complimented by eight active wild-harvested essential oils, each chosen to enhance the formula. Expect balancing, anti-inflammatory, anti-ageing, moisture-boosting and skin-strengething effect on your skin over-time and with regular use, as well as reduction in pigmentation, redness and scarring.

I tend to use this oil nightly, but as it acts as a perfect base for make-up (more on this later), you can use it day and night. Apply three drops with a pipette to the palm of your hand, take a couple of deep breaths, inhaling the flowery aroma and massage it into clean skin, pressing carefully around the eyes. You can use it on its own (it has the texture of the oil) or add a few drops to your usual moisturiser for an active boost. It is very smooth and glides wonderfully over your skin. I had to forego using my eye cream when testing this and have to say that delicate eye area likes it as much, as the skin on my face. As the scent opens up, you are enveloped in the sunny, flowery scent, which was particularly uplifting on dark and gloomy nights when I first started testing this serum – Maria, thank you for letting me on about this serum!

Each ingredient of this serum is ‘native’, meaning it comes from the original source or the country, which is widely known for growing it for centuries. Responsible sourcing is important to Olivia, so as she sources the oils directly from countries of origin, she takes into account the carbon footprint and offsets it with tree planting donation. In addition, Vanderohe donates 10% of its profits to the marine savers programme at Four Seasons at Landaa Giravaaru, which acts as a ‘base’ for research on mantra rays and coral reefscaping into the Baa Atoll, a Unesco Biosphere Reserve – it is heart-warming to see that more and more brands bring charity into the fabric of their work.

Olivia is someone who is interested in many things, apart from beauty, including architecture, nature and art, which explains something that nestles alongside the serum bottle read more