Organic Beauty Week: my September natural product choices for the face

I normally don’t do monthly product posts, spotlighting the products I use, but with Organic Beauty Week and Organic September in full swing, I thought I would make an exception. By highlighting some brands and products for you, I am hoping to inspire you to switch one or two of your  mainstream products to a natural or organic one, suitable for your skin’s needs – you might be pleasantly surprised by its effect on your skin. My product selection below comes from brands that don’t have Soil Association Certification, but I do know brand founders and trust their practises and ethics, so am happy to recommend them. Does certification matter ? The answer to this question is not straightforward and probably requires a lengthy round-table discussion with experts, brand founders and us consumers, in order for you to make an educated, conscious choice. I will go on record & say that my own purchases aren’t determined by certification alone ( I do hold Soil Association in very high regards ), but what does matter and I hope you will it take on board after reading this post, is that your skincare purchases need to be determined by your educated choice, as opposed to clever marketing practises of others aimed at you. Question is whether you actually choose to make conscious product choices when it comes to your beauty and skincare routine, as it would require extra research time on your part, or you are happy to delegate your choices to people who work on commission and don’t necessarily hold your best interests at heart when it comes to choosing appropriate skincare routine. On top of that, there is sadly often misleading information about organic and natural content of beauty products, so for those of you new to the organic and natural beauty niche, certification is there to help you feel a little less confused but don’t rule the purchase of the product out purely because it isn’t certified.

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Meet Nuori Skincare, a Scandinavian fresh beauty brand

People who live in Scandinavia are not only blessed with good looks genes, they tend to lead a more holistic and nature appreciating lifestyle. Yes, a lot of time is spent outside, which can ‘weather’ the skin but I know many people whose skin is beautifully enviable and leads to a question ‘what do you use on your skin’ ? When Content exclusively launched Nuori skincare products in September, I jumped at a chance to meet Jasmi Bonnen and ask her about her ‘fresh skincare’ concept in person.

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Jasmi used to work at L’Oreal and having researched the subject of skincare ‘shelf life’, she decided to create her own line of products ( at the moment there are eleven ) based on the principles of efficacy and freshness. We prefer to eat fresh food, so Jasmi applied the same concept when creating Nuori, making sure that products are created in small batches every 12 weeks. You have ingredients of natural origin, which are also pure, as they don’t contain synthetics normally needed to extend shelf life. Add to that vitamins, amino acids, plant extracts and essential oils and you get a ‘freeze frame’ of what Nuori is about.

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When you pick up any Nuori product you have two dates stamped on it: a ‘start-using-by date’ meaning the time by which it is recommended you start using the product, at the latest, as the ingredients would be most potent and the more familiar ‘expiry date‘, which is when you should replace your Nuori product with a fresh one. My first purchase was Vital Foaming Cleanser, which had a start date of November 29th, 2015 and an expiration of February 16th, 2016. Initially, speaking to Jasmi, I found the concept a little baffling but as I started using the products the concept made more sense. I buy my food fresh and enjoy the freshness and maximum nutritional value that it gives to my body, why shouldn’t I do the same for my skin ? I remember my grandmothers making strawberry or egg masks for their faces, so this concept, if you think of it, fuses the past and the present of beauty perfectly and sums up Nuori message to its customers.

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Mesmerizing eyes courtesy of Armani & W3LL People

Like Brooke Shileds I have strongly defined eyebrows ( but luckily not as strong as Leonid Brezhnev’s ) and lessons taught by the threading queen Vaishaly Patel continue to serve me well. But what if you want to defy your eyebrows and eyes but don’t know where to start? Luckily, Armani &

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Content lecture with Dr. Pauline Hili, founder of Nourish range

I first heard about Nourish range from Erin, who works at my favourite organic beauty store Content. She spoke highly about the range and particularly praised their Argan Skin Rescue Serum, the sample of which I took home with me that day. The consistency of that gel like serum was unlike anything I have tried before and not only did my face love it, but so did the ends of my hair ( thank you for the tip Erin !). My curiosity grew, so when Content was hosting one of their evening lectures, with Dr Pauline Hili, the founder of Nourish range and renowned academic researcher, I left my responsibilities at home and drove to Marylebone.

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Finding  a parking spot was treacherous, so huffing and puffing I finally crossed the threshold of the store, where the lecture was already in full swing. A dark haired woman met my gaze and apologetic frown with her wise & kind eyes and instead of feeling annoyed with me, she waited for me to sit down and did a little recap of what she has already said.

Dr Pauline Hili has been working in the field of natural and organic product formulation, so to me she is like a cool professor, brimming with ideas and knowledge ( her particular areas of interest are collagen and elastin support, as well anti-microbial properties of essential oils ), yet you don’t feel overwhelmed or self-conscious in her presence, as she is so passionate about her research, it spreads like a tidal wave over you, making you drink every bit of information like a thirsty traveller.

I certainly learn a lot about vitamins in skincare that night:

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Vitamin A ( retinoids ) is great for you, but you do need to be cautious if you apply it before sun exposure. Your first rule should be to know your own skin and its reactions. This vitamin is essential for maintaining smoothness of skin and helping to reduce wrinkles, as it keeps skin’s membranes healthy and is often prescribed for people with acne.

Vitamin B group ( including B3, B5, B7 & B12 ) is responsible for cell metabolism and helps to increase production of ceramides, which are in turn responsible for cell to cell communication, as well as helping to regulate sebum. Dr. Hili said that she actually has ‘a love affair with B3′, while B5 is responsible for replenishment of skin’s nutrients & helps to heal wounds, B7 is great for hair growth, B12 for collagen production ( as things stand at the moment, seven types of collagen have been identified ).

Vitamin C has been historically difficult to stabilise, but it is a very strong antioxidant. It is a component in many of skin’s enzymes, so you need to be careful in how much of it you use-a very sensible caution, considering current love affair with Vitamin C in skincare, as it helps the skin’s radiance. So you need to use only a tiny amount, otherwise you stand the risk of disbalancing your skin. Not all vitamin C containing products are made equal, so do make sure that the one you use has high quality ingredients.

Vitamin D ( or sunshine vitamin ) is lipid soluble but gets depleted with UV pollution-I don’t know about you, but I have definitely noticed that the strength of sunshine has been on the increase. A few years ago I could stay pretty much all day on the beach, using sun protection and drinking plenty of fluids-as things stand now, I make a conscious choice to disappear in the shade between the hours of 12 & 3pm and don’t regret a minute of it. Sun needs to be loved with caution!

Dr Hili told us many fascinating facts and dispensed great advice, looking at each one of us and drawing us in to the conversation, which I for one found absolutely fascinating. Did you know, for example, that you can’t stimulate elastin very easily and need to have consistent skin maintenance, as well as cleaning up your skin regularly from the effect that changes in weather, sunshine and pollution cause. That’s one of the reasons why antioxidants and good diet are essential in keeping us healthy. It’s a good idea to introduce turmeric into your diet, as it has very strong antioxidant properties, as well as aloe vera, which contains polysaccharides aka good sugars.

Did you know that vitamins have different ways of becoming active? That’s one of the main reasons why it took Dr. Hili about a year ( even with her encompassing experience of working and doing research ) to ‘nature & nurture’ the Nourish range, which was created around the idea that our skin is dynamic but each one of us has a) a genetic skin type b) is responsible for her lifestyle, which is very much responsible to not only for how one feels, but how one looks too.

When you choose a product for your skin you need to do it consciously and not absent-mindly, you need to engage and think about various factors, particularly bearing in mind that our skin is not static, it changes all the time. When Dr. Hili asked a question whether each one of us knew her skin type, I confidently started nodding ( mine is combination skin as far as I know-and I do re-asess it from time to time, during the facial or when talking to a dermatologist or a beauty therapist that I trust, as not all of them are trained equal. Same thing applies to sales people-do I trust Content staff? Absolutely YES! Space NK? A very definite NO!

You fundamental base principle should be to bring your skin into balance-sometimes you might need Vitamin C, for protection, radiance and brightening effect, sometimes you should go for Vitamin E, ginger and lavender oils that help the skin ‘to relax’ .

Did you know that British companies in general aren’t great at using the ‘waste’ chain, while French are fantastic about using food extracts-take an example of Caudalie and using grapes, pips and skins in order to harness their power and put them into skincare.

The lecture definitely reinforced the idea of good daily cleansing and importance of supplementation( Dr. Hili recently recommended bilberry to me, which is great for eye health and I am ordering a bottle of Solgar’s Bilberry Ginko Eyebright Complex  as soon as I can ). Our skin, like our body, is self-regulating, so you should form a habit of examining your face in the mirror daily-not because of vanity, but so that you know what’s normal for you and when you notice changes, you react to them, hence assisting your skin and not working against it. ‘I am into optimums, rather than mores’ stated Dr. Hili and I couldn’t agree more with her. She also added that ‘good skin starts with good diet. Eat less, live longer’ and again, that really does resonate. There were less obese people when I was growing up and what was once considered chubby is now becoming an obesity epidemic to which not doctors, but people need to respond. Big Mac might taste good but it’s not good for you or for your health, it doesn’t bring nutrients, if anything it overwhelms your body with sugars and toxins that will take some time for your body to shift. Dr. Hili suggests a detoxing or fasting day once a week, giving your gut a rest and allowing yourself to benefit from it long-term.

You don’t meet people like Dr Hili often, who are kind and knowledgeable, who talk to you at your own level, without presenting themselves superior to you because they have the knowledge that you don’t; what you get instead is a wonderfully educational lesson from the person who continues to evolve and remains curious, who generates ideas and shares them with the world. To me that seems like a priceless gift of humanity, kindness and great intelligence.

http://www.nourishskinrange.com/home/

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Tried and Tested: body creams

Having recently reviewed the beauty posts I have done, i realised that it looks like I am concentrating on the face and not the body, so let me assure you that it isn’t the case. I have been trying the creams covered below for the last two months or so, going as far as trying one on one side of the body and another on the other-all in the name of beauty result comparison .)

Amala myrtle detoxifying body oil, £42 for 100 mls: I came across Amala products about six months ago (thanks to great advice from Cindy at Content beauty/wellbeing store in Central London) and since then my bathroom shelvesAmAb has been making way for a few products from this wonderful organic German range.

I have done a very light detox in early September and decided to use this oil after skin brushing. I am very choosy about body oils, having been spoilt by my aromatherapist friend Michelle Roques-O’Neil (her oils are just so wonderful, they actually work on both your body i.e. its health state and your mind plus they also smell just beautiful)  and that’s the first time i actually ‘strayed’-all in the name of research!

This oil smells lovely and sinks in your skin quite quickly, without leaving a greasy shin- I have been applying it before going to bed though. This body oil contains jojoba, sweet almond, apricot kernel, lemon peel, sandalwood, basil, cardamon seed and sunflower seed oils that nurture and support skin and help your body with shifting of the toxins. I absolutely love it and think it is a great oil to use during autumn or even winter to nurture your skin!

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Natural Beauty of Imelda Burke-Being Content

Certain processes in life are gradual, you start the journey with one intention and sometimes end up in a different place all together-this definitely applies to my love of cosmetics and beauty brands.

If someone said to me a few years ago that I will take organic brands seriously and not just that, but start using them more often than the more well-known cosmetic brands and that their effect on my skin will be quite profound, I would have giggled at best. But as they say, life is a journey, we live and learn.

My opinion about organic brands and the actual consideration of what is it that I actually put on my skin started to gradually change when I got pregnant with my first child. When you become a mother, your life changes instantly and you start questioning your judgement while caring for a tiny bundle, who can be susceptible to the nasty environmental effects with long-term health side effects. And one of the first things that I realised was that Johnson’s baby products didn’t work for us and I wanted to use something gentle and full of goodness on my child’s skin, yet there was hardly anything on the shelves at the time-be it for the mother or the baby for that matter. 

I went for treatments to Michelle Roques O’Neil and she mixed me oils to nurture my skin and the baby growing inside of me- myBeingContent body bounced back pretty quickly post birth and I had no stretch marks. I massaged my babies with Michelle’s oils (my son hardly even had a cold in his first year of life) and desperately wanted to find a place where I could try a variety of effective organic skincare. I started looking around, trying things but remained skeptical and then, one gloomy day, I was passing a small store, off Marylebone High street and the name Content beauty/well-being attracted my attention. I went inside and the first thing that caught my eye was the Butter London nail polishes ( I used to go and have pedicures by the lovely woman who started the brand called Nonnie Creme at Vaishaly’s spa). The place was quite, in a meditative kind of way, and the staff didn’t hassle me, allowing me to get on with peaceful browsing.

Time passed and a few months ago I popped into the store again, looking for something for my skin that has become a little temperamental. A young woman, called Cindy answered my questions and recommended a brand called Amala, that she used on her skin. The range had a cute packaging and smelled delicious, so I thought I would try one of the cleansers. I also got some Suki products (unfortunately my skin didn’t like it but it was my choice, not a recommendation and there is a lesson in it-everyone’s skin is different, so it doesn’t mean that this brand won’t work for you !) and decided to buy a couple of products from  the range called Stem Organics-so that’s how it started and this love affair continues to grow. I now also buy RMS Beauty products there, Dr. Alkaitis, Barefoot Botanicals, W3ll People and Suvana’s paw paw and honey balm.

The store itself reminds me of the apothecaries with interesting products on the shelves, yet the whole place breaths health and BeingContent2contentment-it’s in the small hand held mirrors hanging on the walls, in the decor that accentuates the brands yet doesn’t push anything on you-it always whispers to you ‘come in, browse  and you will discover a secret that is just waiting to be discovered by you’. 

Content was started and remains a huge passion of Imelda Burke, who cherry picks small, niche organic brands (some of the products are uniquely distributed by Content boutique or their online store ) that in the long-term will revolutionise our skincare routine and well-being. Her staff is smiley, welcoming and honest, so when you make your choice, you know it will work, hence you won’t be disappointed.

Sometimes the store can be quite, with just a couple people browsing and sometimes it’s full of laughter, as women of different ages seem to converge on it and exchange tips and happy banter, while browsing the shelves. I have never seen a place like that before in London and can truly say that their customer service is second to none. You can try the products there or ask for samples and if you place orders on the Internet, not only do they arrive pretty speedily, but your package always contains samples, often of the brands that might not be well-known now but will definitely grow and become big.

I couldn’t resist asking Imelda a few questions and she was kind enough to answer them, so please read the Q & A below. Having metBC3 Imelda I can honestly say that her passion for natural cosmetics is contagious and I only wish that more of you started thinking about what it it that you are actually  putting on your biggest organ, your skin, daily and what goes into your body and blood stream. Don’t you deserve to be healthy and beautiful, just like the nature and life cycles intended?           

Q & A with Imelda Burke, owner of  Content store in Marylebone

GAP: Can you please tell me about your professional background and how you the idea of Content was born?

Imelda Burke: I was in the fashion industry for 15 years. The idea came from my own needs really. I had a mild skin condition from birth and was prescribed creams for it by my doctor. In my 20’s it suddenly occurred to me that I had been rubbing this cream on my whole body for over 20 years – everyday! I looked at what was in it and didn’t like it, so looked for alternatives. This lead to a dissatisfaction with what was available in the natural and organic sector. I didn’t want to purchase my products from a health food store. So I created CONTENT.

GAP: What has been the biggest lesson you learnt while setting up Content?

Imelda Burke: I started in a recession with a very niche product selection. The greatest lesson has been learning to hold your nerve. Three and a half years down the line the new brands we had at the time, which no-one was interested in, are now becoming household names. You need to be incredibly passionate about what you are doing when setting up a small business independently. It is this passion that keeps you going late at night.

GAP: From your point of you, what’s your secret of running a successful beauty store with a difference?

Imelda Burke: Customer service. Switching beauty brands is like starting over again. Many of the people that shop with us are trading up to natural and organic brands for the first time and it can be confusing choosing where to start. I wanted the store to have a more personal feel to it and I think people appreciate the extra lengths we go to. We don’t always get it right but we always attempt to.

GAP: How do you choose which brands to stock and which has/have been the biggest success/surprise so far?

Imelda Burke: There are lots of different criteria to choosing the brands we stock, ingredients being only of them. This sector can be confusing with the different certification bodies, some brands choosing not to certify, and some synthetic ingredients being allowed under certification. So we aim to provide an open discussion between brands and customers.

GAP: Can you please share a few of your full-proof beauty secrets?

Imelda’s Tips:

  • Sleep!. My skin looks rubbish if I have a late night.
  • Raw

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