Eco chic beauty: Botanika Box by Alice and White

The popularity of beauty boxes, in all shapes & sizes, doesn’t seem to be subsiding, but read more

Spring Wellbeing Tips

After a long, cold and dump winter we all long for the warmth and cheer of spring sunshine, unmistakable bird song outside our window and emergence of new green grass and flowers. But as winter gives way to spring, our body’s energy shifts and all of a sudden we look grey and feel tired, even little ones becoming grumpier. So, what to do? While I won’t make any drastic suggestions, I thought I would share the little things that together make me feel and, hopefully, look better too.

The Book: ‘Mindful beauty’ was written by the 80s supermodel Estelle Lefebvre and published by Flammarion. Before you contain your yawn and think that reading her book is not going to make you or me look like her, let me share some of her tips, which I believe to be very effective for modern, hectic lifestyle most of us lead in the city. This is not about ‘supermodel’ wisdom, but rather a wise and inquisitive female distilling her life’s experience and common sense into a book. Below is the list of some of my favourite bullit points from the book (the rest you can read yourself in the book, if you so choose):

  • Give your body a break once a week by sticking to drinking water, juice, smoothies, vegetable broth & kefir (this last one on the list is my own addition, not Estelle’s)
  • Go to bed early – don’t just say or think it, but do it consistently
  • Start a journal and write your thoughts and feeling in it regularly
  • Allocate quite time for reflection
  • Ignore sensational news coverage
  • Turn your phone off at night (p.s Digital tip: one of Apple genie bar guys recently recommended this to me, as a way of helping your battery and phone work a bit more efficiently – he didn’t say switch it off for the whole night, but said that doing it daily is useful. Just saying .)
  • Pay attention to what your dreams tell you
  • Take time to enjoy nature

In addition to that, I have also added Estelle’s ‘Dust Yourself Off’ Ritual’ to my daily routine and have to say that not only does it help to calm my buzzing mind, but allows to shift any negative emotions or unpleasant situations I might experience from time to time. I then take a shower, washing things off my skin with Bodhi & Birch shower therapies, while airing the room where I practise this ritual.

Supplements: While I personally think that a good multivitamin is essential for both children and grown-ups at this time of the year (currently awaiting my order of ‘Wild Nutrition‘ supplements for my husband, myself and my penguins), I also make sure I up everyone’s water intake in my family. For myself I also replace chai tea with Caudalie’s Bio-draining Herbal Tea Blend. It contains cinnamon peel, blueberry, red vine, sweet orange peel and blackcurrant and the good thing about it is that you can drink it hot or cold, allowing yourself to integrate a moment of wellness into your day. A cup of tea and some peaceful reflection, savouring the stillness of the moment. 

While I don’t have the luxury of tapping birch trees like was done during my childhood in Moscow in spring, in London I get my hands on

Weleda
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Review: the wonder of Bodhi & Birch body oils

It is always intriguing to be on testing panel of brands whose products I love using, as it offers glimpses into the creative process that most consumers don’t get before the product appears on shop’s shelves, TV or press ads. Elijah Choo, founder of Bodhi & Birch, is a man who never ceases to surprise me with the depth of his knowledge, but the trio of body oils that he recently launched turned out to be a much bigger revelation than I anticipated.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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‘Nordic White Body Oil is rather special to me. It read more

Organic Beauty Week: my September natural product for hair, body and pits

Having talked about face care of the natural origin in my previous post, I couldn’t leave out body and hair out, could I?! When it comes to our skin, our biggest organ, making the choice to introduce organic or natural skincare is not a bad idea, but to make things less daunting start with your body – it can be a body lotion, shower gel or deodorant and then build on it. In this post I will tell you about a hair oil from the latest Beauty Heroes Box, natural deodorant that in some ways truly rivals the one from Aurelia and a trio of body oils that were only officially launched this week, so I will only tell you about them briefly, with a bigger post to follow. So, now, let’s begin.

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Hair

Haircare is a big business, but having had my hair issues in the past, I am quite picky about my shampoos, conditioners and masks. I don’t use a fan often and with dead straight hair, you will never see me with straighteners or ruling irons in hand. There are brands that I trust and whose products look after my hair and skull – some are natural, others not. In my case, to find a balance isn’t easy, as I tend to get some oiliness on my scalp, hence the need to wash it fairly often, unless I am prepared to wear a hat while out in public, while my actual hair tends to be on the slightly dry side. With that in mind, hair oils, even though I love them and sincerely envy Middle-Eastern women with their lustrous long and glossy locks, I know that using hair oil on my own hair makes me look like I need to wash my hair as soon as my hair has dried up. Luckily, my September Beauty Heroes subscription box arrived, while I was sunning myself on the beach, so I was ready to kiss Jeannie Jarnot, company’s founder, as it felt like she thought of me personally, wanting to address the issues with my hair that accompanied my daily, long sea swims and sunning myself on the beach. I came back happy, but with my hair feeling a little bit like straw, as I love leaving my hair dry up naturally after swimming in the sea and only wash them out every night. The result? Glorious mess and somewhat dry mane.

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Uma’s Intensely Nourishing Hair Oil captures an ancient Indian beauty ritual in a glass bottle. When I opened it for the first time, I experienced the sense of rupture, which only magnified my feelings when I applied the oil to the hair and left it till the evening. This oil is based on the founder Shrankhla Holocek‘s secret Ayurvedic family recipe that is handed from one generation to another and in the moment in time, there are only under ten people who actually know it. What the oil promises is to treat dull, damaged, frizzy hair ( sun, heat, rough brushing etc. ), while balancing the naturally occurring oils of the scalp.

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The gorgeously yellow oil peaks at you from the glass bottle, crowned with a handy pipette. It contains essential oils of Grapefruit, Lemon, Cypriol, Hibiscus, Yerba de Tago ( also known as the ‘false daisy and known for its nourishing and prevention of premature greying properties ) in a base of Grapeseed, Indian Gooseberry, Mooring and Jojoba oils. You can use it on dry hair or apply it to hair after washing, but principally it is a good idea to apply it to your scalp, breathing deeply and leave it on overnight – I have heard a few good comments about using it like that. My problem is that I don’t have the time to wash my hair in the morning, before getting everyone ready for school and work and dashing out of the door, so I tend to apply it in the evening, leave it on for a couple of hours, before washing it off and shampooing my hair thoroughly, otherwise I do end up with greasy hair, which isn’t the look I am keen on. I have only been using the oil for a couple of weeks, which normally is too short a period before I get down to reviewing the product, but this oil certainly is impressive enough to be spotlighted. I actually now wear it on my hair as hair perfume during the day – and that is saying something about my haircare habits, as I never did it before .)

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To find out more about Uma or order their products, please click on the link to the Beauty Heroes website here

Armpits

This area of our body doesn’t often see the light of the read more

New product launch from Bodhi and Birch

Elijah Choo, founder of Bodhi & Birch, never ceases to amaze me with his endless creativity and I am lucky to learn from this wise man through our conversations. I also am lucky to sometimes test some of the new things in development, so I got ‘familiar’ with the new launch, Botanic Dew Hand & Body Wash, because Elijah has kindly sent me a sample a few weeks ago, that I have been using it every day since then ( the product was officially launched this week on B & B website ).

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Botanic Dew Hand & Body Wash was developed to cleanse both hands and body with a purifying botanical infusion of flower essences, fruit oils and anti-bacterial herbal extracts. Elijah is a very keen gardener, so this product was partially inspired by cool, crispy, sunny mornings spent in the garden. It is a complex therapeutic blend of 19 pure essential oils that will refresh your senses and lift the spirits, with the initial burst of fresh mint is followed by citrus notes, leading to the gentle revelation of warm floral notes and grassy herbs at its heart.

When I started using the sample, I told Elijah that the product didn’t seem as ‘powerful’ in its scent, if compared to usual Bodhi and Birch ‘favourites’ like Jasmine Falls or Siam Ginger, which draw me in, like a powerful magnet, every time I get even a whiff of them. Elijah replied that he tries to respond to customer feedback and requests and this product was deliberately ‘subtler’, when compared to other Bodhi & Birch product scents. The fresh scent, or more delicate scent if you like, also corresponds  to the bottle design, which has a clear, frosted colour, as well as a lower price point, to allow people not familiar with the brand already, to have an additional incentive to do so.

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This product is also a multi-tacker, as you not only purifying the skin on your body, but can nurture your hands and make sure that germs are washed away without a negative impact on your health. Sadly, in part because of the strange weather patters this year, we seem to be nursing colds and flu, as well as tummy bugs, more often that we normally would in the springtime. Now, imagine coming back home from work, school or just running the errands, and starting with the ‘unwinding’ process with a delicately scented product that sets the tone for the reminder of the evening. As a mother, I also want to make sure that hands are washed with a product that has anti-bacterial benefits, but won’t make skin dry and introduce harmful chemicals to the skin ( this hand & body wash is free from sulphates & parabens ). Elijah formulated this product using a trio of mild cleansers derived from coconut oil and fruit sugars, plus it also contains Lactic Acid, an Alpha-Hydroxy Acid (AHA), known for skin rejuvenating properties. There is also a Gluconolactone, which is a Poly-Hydroxy Acid (PHA), which actively hydrates the skin. It’s worth adding here that I don’t believe in washing hands too many times a day, as I believe in balance when it comes to bacteria that we have on our skin and body and that has both positive and negative effect on our wellbeing. Washing hands after gardening or being out and about is one thing, doing it too many times a day is probably not such a great idea, in the same way as taking antibiotics for a common cold is not in your best interests.

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I like the gentle bubbles that lathering with Botanic Dew creates, which gently cleanse and effectively purify the skin and the anti-bacterial blend of essential oils helps to neutralise unwanted odours or stains, like I get from peeling and cutting vegetables like beetroot, on my fingers.

If you decided to share this product with the kids, please do a patch test, because kid’s delicate skin might react to high ratio of essential oils. Mine are big enough to use it and enjoy massaging it all over their hands and between the fingers, after escapes to the park, coming home from school or doing sports ( it purifies the skin beautifully after sweat producing activities, like football matches ).

Ingredients: Aqua (Purified Water), Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate (From Coconut Oil), Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate (From Coconut Oil), Coco-glucoside (From Coconut Oil & Fruit Sugar), Polysorbate 20 (From Coconut Oil & Fruit Sugar), Cymbopogon Martinii (Palmarosa) Oil, Mentha Arvensis (Peppermint) Leaf Oil, Boswellia Carterii (Frankincense) Oil, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Salvia Sclarea (Clary Sage) Oil, Pelargoneum Graveolens (Bourbon Geranium) Flower Oil, Canarium Luzonicum (Elemi) Gum Oil, Commiphora Erythraea (Opopanax) Oil, Eucalyptus Globulus (Eucalyptus) Leaf Oil, Origanum Majorana (Marjoram) Leaf Oil, Rosa Damascena (Rose Otto) Flower Oil, Eugenia Caryophyllus (Clove) Bud Oil, Litsea Cubeba (May Chang) Fruit Oil, Cananga Odorata (Ylang-ylang) Flower Oil, Jasminum Officinale (Jasmine Absolute) Flower Extract, Thymus Vulgaris (White Thyme) Leaf Oil, Mentha Spicata (Spearmint) Leaf Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Oil, Lactic Acid (From Beet Sugar), Gluconolactone (From Corn), Sodium Benzoate, Benzyl Benzoate, Citronellol, Geraniol, Citral, Limonene, Linalool, Eugenol

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Life gets busy and we sometimes forget to pause and enjoy precious moments. For me washing my hands after cooking, while listening to the radio or looking at the trees outside, is a way to briefly meditate. One of my past yoga teachers often told us during the class to turn ‘routine’ things we do every day into special moments that can benefit you mentally, so washing your hands with this wash or taking a shower in the morning can be a signal to pause, take deeper breaths, enjoying the scent and few moments of calm, before diving back into the real world. I also have to say that with time, the subtlety of the scent has actually grown on me – proof that some things don’t need to be loud, in order to be appreciated.

Bodhi & Birch Botanic Dew Hand & Body Wash, 200ml, £16

Botanic Dew New

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Christmas gifts part two: brands & products

As I said in part one of my post on Christmas gifting, I try to choose and buy my gifts mindfully, hoping that the person for whom it is meant will be genuinely surprised and delighted. At the same time, I prefer to buy & thus support brands or people who combine business acumen with humility & passion for what they do, as this resonates with me as a person. So, shall we begin?

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For the make-up lover

One of the best things related to make-up that I came read more

METcore class at FORM Studios in Notting Hill

I am a big fan of pilates but have fallen off its wagon in the last couple of years, replacing it with yoga. However old habits sometimes can be transformed into something new and interesting. Last week saw an opening of a Form Studios in Notting Hill and I was lucky to be invited to visit it and have a one-to-one class with the studio’s founder Elissa Elhadj ( she opened FORM Studio with her husband Jeremy who is a professional athlete, bodybuilder and personal trainer ).

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Elissa is a former dancer and tennis player ( she competed in National Tennis Tournaments but had to stop due to reoccurring injuries ) who is passionate about fitness, sports, dance and pilates (which significantly helped during her injury rehabilitation). She also learnt lots of different things and techniques over the years, paying particular attention to nutrition and hormones. And this year she channelled her knowledge into opening Form Studios where she, together with her husband and instructors, will help you view fitness in a different light. Having worked out with Elissa I have to say that after just over an hour in her company, she reignited my passion for pilates, however what she teaches is much more than that.

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Having spent a lot of time in LA in the past, Elissa became a certified Stott Pilates instructor, teaching both mat and reformer pilates, later adding Pure Bare certification to her CV. Now Elissa’s clients age ranges from 12 to 67 and she combines fitness, nutrition and hormonal health ( she has consulted endocrinologist, leading up to the creation of METcore ) as part of her teaching. Working our and getting enough sleep is essential for men and women in order to maintain health and beauty but how many of us actually go to bed before midnight or earlier? That’s one of the reasons why Elissa combines clever pilates technique on a special contraption MOTR ( more of which later ) with an intensive ( I am not joking, you will sweat and your muscles will quiver ) HIIT ( high intensity training) which in turn will benefit your growth hormone (HGH). We often underestimate rest but at times go overboard in our desire to be fit, that’s the reason why instead of the 15 minutes Elissa chooses to do HIIT for eight and the class itself lasts 50 minutes.

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By combining pilates and yoga ( which focus on proper alignment, breathing and balance, while also awakening and engaging our core muscles ) & HIIT METabolic interval cardio conditioning ( Tabata and TRX, the most effective way to burn fat which also improves cardiovascular health and releases happiness inducing endorphins ) Elissa manages to make you get in touch and become aware of your muscle groups, whatever your initial shape is. She will talk to you about things like bone density, hair, suppleness of skin and healthy lifestyle all of which will help you be the best version of yourself naturally ( the workout was developed in such a way so to work alongside your hormone levels, not against them, as some workouts can lead to adrenal fatigue ).

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FORM Studios is located in the heart of Notting Hill, next to the loveliest natural laundry Blanc Clean. You enter through a chic grey door and go into the hallway where you can hang your up clothes and bags. There is a small changing room with the toilet and shower, stocked up with complementary towels and Cowshed goodies.  If you don’t like working out barefoot or feel a little frozen on the day, you can buy ToeSox to keep your feet warm and yourself safe in the non-slip mode in the studio. When you change into your workout gear, you enter a studio which is painted in a chic shade of grey ( just one, not fifty ) and is flooded with natural light coming through the frosted glass. There are plenty of mirrors for you to look at your form during the class ( I actually looked across at Elissa during the training, trying to copy her movements as precisely as I can, but she is a hands-on instructor and guides you firmly & encouragingly when you form needs correcting or you need the encouragement ). With a maximum of eight people per class you can be sure that you will get enough attention and the space won’t feel overcrowded.

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During the class you will get to use an innovative piece of equipment called MOTR which is versatile and exclusive to FORM Studio. It was developed by a friend of Elissa and is aimed at challenging your core muscles with adequate intensity, so you get to see the results after a few sessions, thus having the incentive to continue improving your form and your abilities while toning your muscles, improving flexibility and balance. MOTR is a long firm tube with levers that will assist your exercising of arms, back, legs and core. You can stand, jump or lie on it and the variation of exercises is truly riveting. It is also quite nice on the eye, with the main body being grey but with a few bits in yellow that will keep you happily amused. Elissa challenged me with every exercise and made my head work as well, as you need to keep your focus, think about precision of movements while keeping your balance. It is hard work but is great fun as well, an ideal combination for an effective workout.

METcore is not just about training, it is about SMART training

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The class itself is designed for the abilities of all levels but be warned that the last section of the training session is the hardest. Elissa decided on the four exercises for me, involving TRX ( suspension training – on that occasion I had to jump while using TRX for support ), SkiErg ( Nordic Skiing simulator – great fun is you love skiing or are getting ready to go on a skiing trip – it looks like a rowing machine but positioned not on the floor but on the wall ) and kettle bells. I love to be challenged but also know my limits so after completing three, I bowed out of the fourth – always something to strive for at the next session.

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After the class is over, you can rehydrate and refuel with Botanical Lab Juices and get on with your day, knowing that due to the workout that you just completed your resting metabolic rate ( when let’s say you sit and work at your desk ) will remain elevated for longer periods. This smart workout also engages your brain and your body, as well as encourages it to produce powerful anti-ageing biochemicals that combat inflammation and oxidative stress. Now, two days later, my legs and butt are less achy and I seem to remember Elissa’s tip of rolling my shoulders down and keeping my chest open throughout the day. When you do that you feel taller, slimmer and you take in more oxygen through deeper breathing. Will I be back at the FORM Studio? You betcha and who knows, I might even meet you there.

P.s. After an intensive workout it is always good to take a hot bath with Epsom salts ( I prefer Himalayan Detox Salts because they have over 80 minerals and trace elements that help to relief lactic acid from the balance and re-balance your body ) and then massage your body with a potent body oil that will further relieve the aches, so you wake up in the morning less achy and more eager to continue to improve your fitness levels ( I like Bodhi & Birch Ginger Brew massage & body oil ).

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Autumn Skin series, part 5: Bodhi & Birch Bath & Shower Therapy

Until now I have been paying close attention to our faces in the Autumn Skin Series, which you might think is somewhat unjust – yes, we all look at our faces in the mirror but it is our bodies that carry us through every day, so choosing Bodhi & Birch Bath & Shower Therapy has been an obvious choice for me to talk to you about.

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My regular readers probably know that Bodhi & Birch founder Elijah Choo happens to be my dear friend, but my admiration of him stems from the fact that he cares deeply about his customers and creates products that nurture the skin and the senses, helping you feel energised or relaxed, depending on what is necessary for you in a moment in time.

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Whether you prefer showers or baths Bodhi & Birch products will become your perfect indulgence. If you wake up with a foggy head or need to wash off the sweat after the gym workout, then give Siam Ginger a try. It was developed to ‘invigorate & revive body and mind with uplifting fusion of ‘gingerly Galangal Root, sharp Cardamom & fresh Kaffir Lime Leaf.  When developing this particular product Elijah  drew on his knowledge of ancient remedies from the Far East and tried to create a sense of home spa that you can experience every time you take a shower ( whether in the gym or in the privacy of you own bathroom ) or bath.

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I love cooking with ginger and spices but to feel the energy of those on your skin is quite something else ( in addition to coconut oil and fruit sugars you also have grapefruit peel, turmeric root, Virginia Cedar Wood & spearmint leaf oils ) to fortify your skin ). Apply a few pumps to your hand or loofah and massage all over your body, taking deep, full breaths, inhaling the aromas that the steam of bath or shower magnifies and be transported to far away lands of immense beauty. If your muscles are tired or achy, put a few cupfuls into the running water and enjoy a long bath ( just make sure the water is warm and not hot). Taking a bath is always wonderful but don’t do it too often as it can dry your skin during the colder months when your skin needs the extra moisture. To me Siam Ginger smells of warm coca-cola and happiness of the sun on the skin but do let me know if you come up with your own description of it, if you have already tried this particular Bodhi & Birch product or will do so in the future.

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Another of Bodhi & Birch recent launches is the beautifully named Camomile Sky and when I first heard the name from Elijah, while talking to him on the phone, I simply started grinning. The name alone makes you feel dreamy, does’t it? And if you dream , you let your mind wonder and be free, thus unleashing your creativity.

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As the name suggest, Camomile Sky was created to ‘capture a sense of calm and purity with a fresh floral blend of delicate Camomile, sugared Hyacinth and blushed Geranium‘. The first time I tried this product I pumped a little of it on my dry hand and massaged it gently all over, watching it transform into a lightly milky, creamy consistency before I washed its sweetness off to reveal skin so soft to the touch, I skipped applying a body moisturiser ( there is Indian Rosewood, Valerian Root, Neroli Flower & Peru Balsam Oils in this formula ). Imagine ‘a drift of powdery air filled with sweet florals and the comforting warmth of soft honeyed musk’ – that is Elijah’s description of the product and I can’t word it better than that. I can just add that every time I use it in the evening I end up feeling serenely calm even before I light a candle and meditate. There is inner contentment and peacefulness that this product imparts on your skin and your senses and what better way to get rid of the stresses or frustrations of the day? Water is known to refresh and wash away the negativity and combining Camomile Sky with it makes for a beautiful unseen armour that protects you from turmoil by uplifting your senses and calming them at the same time.

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As Bodhi & Birch contain essential oils do a skin patch test 24 hours before use, if using the products for the first time. Once opened best used within six months. Bodhi & Birch products are made in England and are free from petrochemicals, 

parabens, phthalates, sulphates, DEA, TEA, PEG, Glycols, Silicones,
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