Curiosity Gap Spotlight: Ra Oils & interview with the founder Frida Jonsdottir

Judging by the recent volume of write-ups in the press about acne, a skin condition that used to be associated with teenagers, seems to be affecting more and more adult women and men. British Vogue read more

Beauty brand in the spotlight: Sarah Tay & Tay skincare

The older I become the more the proverb ‘don’t judge the book by its cover’ makes sense but sometimes one makes an exception even to the most stringent rule. Recently Cult Beauty team announced the arrival of the new range called Tay Skincare into their online store but it wasn’t the formulas that initially peaked my curiosity, it’s the packaging that I couldn’t take my eyes off. The range comes in bamboo bottles or boxes, with the product’s name, as well as ingredients & instructions engraved on them. It looked so beautiful and so unusual even in the pictures, that without thinking twice ( thank you Verity from Cult Beauty for your assistance on this one ! ), I placed an order based purely on visuals alone-a first for me, truth be told. An additional bonus was that as part on the launch promotion, Cult Beauty customers received a gift bamboo box with product samples, which are organic or natural in origin and are rich in botanical extracts and such ingredients as shea butter, sea buckthorn, apricot kernel oil, cucumber fruit, mushrooms, argan and rosehip oils and green tea extract. One of Tay skincare main aims is to keep our skin looking glowing, supple and youthful.


Sarah Tay, brand’s founder and CEO,  has a creative background in art and design and that’s one of the reasons why designing an appropriate packaging was important to her, in addition to perfecting the products formulations. Each bottle and box is made out of 100% sustainable bamboo and each looks like a work of art, as far as I am concerned. An additional benefit is that you can re-use them once you finish a specific product-for storing make-up, kid’s small toys, beauty samples etc or to dispense the products for travelling purposes.


It was equally important for Sarah to create products that combine high performance skincare with easy to use regime, as many of us have hectic lifestyles and want to have products that can achieve maximum results in minimum beauty routine time. She sourced premium ingredients that combine anti-ageing properties with the ones that keep our skin healthy and well hydrated.

Tay Skincare, as part of brand’s ethos and business development, holds the idea of the preciousness of the world that we live in very close to its heart. It supports the Fruit Tree Foundation, a non-profit charity group that plants trees to promote forestation of orchards in city parks, schools, low income neighbourhoods, animal sanctuaries and international hunger relief sites in order to help combat the global warming, strengthen communities and improve air, soil and water quality.

Before I tell you a little bit about each of the Tay skincare products, read Sarah Tay‘s answers to my questions, which hopefully will give you a better understanding of this beauty skincare brand.

What inspired Sarah Tay——-

The idea of building a skincare line from very pure and high-grade ingredients was inspired from her upbringing with an orchard garden. She had always had organically-grown fruits and when she first had a store-bought orange, she found it so puzzling that the same type of fruit could feel and taste so different. In learning more about organic and natural botanicals, tied in with her love of skincare, this line was a blend of passion for antioxidants and anti-aging formulas. She also wanted to create packaging that could express the high quality of the skincare on the inside out. Sarah Tay is New York-based, and is a creative director and veteran of the beauty industry. 
What inspired the design——–
Sarah Tay’s design philosophy has always revolved around textures. She knew from the beginning that she wanted to have an organic and natural collection that could naturally reflect wholesomeness. Because each and every bottle is unique in its own way, Sarah Tay wanted to be able to share a piece of art with each person that came across the line.
Tips about the formulas——–
Our formulas are hand-filled and created in small batches, thus being able to give our followers very pure and clean formulas that have no petrochemicals, no parabens, no synthetic fragrances or dyes. They fit all skin types and especially sensitive skin users.

Are the formulas natural or organic?——–
We use a blend of natural and organic ingredients. While we originally started with organic formulas, we did a myriad of testing with other natural ingredients. What resulted from this testing was that some extracts, while not certified organic, went through a very clean production that could almost be. And when we picked up some ingredients from small, artisan farms that had very effective ingredients, but did not necessarily have the time and money for the mounds of government paperwork, we decided to create the most effective formula through clean and pure mixtures, rather than just getting a lot of paperwork in order. We fully believe in the formulas and encourage people to try it. After all, what’s written down on paper is not necessarily what you will experience with your own skin. 

Below are the product descriptions, my own comments about the products from the range that I have tried, as well as some tips from Tay skincare team:

Sunflower & Grape Revitalizing Cleanser with Shea Butter, 125ml, £36
This spa-strength, sulfate free  formula is meant to keep your face supple and hydrated ( dermatologist-recommended maintenance ) while breaking down dirt. The sunflower and grape oils help to clear away free radicals and maximise delivery of nutrients into the skin, while shea butter attends to the skin’s sebum depletion. It also helps to address UV sun damage and evens out skin tone. Simply massage a small amount of this product onto a wet face  for a couple of minutes, and then rinse-off. 
Personally, I really like the smell of this product, with hints of cucumber and rosehip, as well as its ‘cleansing’ power to gently, but effectively, remove all traces of make-up while leaving the skin well hydrated & supple.
Purifying Botanical Water with Grapefruit extract, 125 mls, £34
I will let Tay’s team speak of this one. ‘Originally we almost called this formula a toner. However, we had put in so many organic essential oils, that it became much more enriched than a normal toner. The aroma from the lemongrass, witch hazel and basil has received lots of attention from beauty editors. Especially recommended for those that are concerned about pores. Can be used after the cleanser step and before moisturizing. Sometimes during the summer or on resort travel, our fans are known to use the Botanical Water as a cleansing step alone’.
Aloe Leaf Make-up Remover with Lavender, 50 mls, £29
‘This makeup remover is a non-greasy formula loaded with calming extracts of aloe leaf that helps to keep your skin’s natural surface intact, while doing some ‘heavy-duty’ cleaning. Recommended to be used with organic cotton pads to reduce any possibility of chemical irritation during use. The light lavender extract adds a hint of aromatherapy, as you wind down from a busy day in the world’.
I like this product because it also acts as a perfect sensory companion when I am doing gentle yoga in the evening.
Safflower Seed Night Cream with Jojoba. A ‘hero product’, according to Tay skincare and Cult Beauty teams, 50 mls, £112
”This is the founder’s favorite formula. It contains many powerful ingredients like rosehip oil and argan oils,as well as pomegranate extract, while its natural aroma stems from the raspberry extract. It’s very effective and a little goes a long way. We’ve written on the back of the bottle, “Wake up and feel like you had a facial”, because that was what one of our fans said about this formula. A must try!’
And to be honest, I couldn’t agree more, having been using this product for a few weeks now. To me it smells of berries and sinks in quickly into the skin, without any residue. It makes my skin feel soft and nourished, even before I fall asleep, when a more active skin regeneration process takes place. And when I wake up in the morning my skin feels beautiful and luminous-well, at least it looks it to me! 
Cucumber Day Moisturiser with Mango Butter, 50 mls, £72
This moisturiser was developped to protect the skin against free radicals and pollution, while helping the skin to retain moisture. It has Cucumber fruit ( helps to sooth the skin ), Vitamins A, D and E, as well as Mango butter that is responsible for boosting hydration and Sea Buckthorn that helps with skin  with cell tissue regeneration and healing.
It sinks very quickly into your skin giving a nice matt finish and it works well as make-up base as well, without using the make-up primer. 
All-purpose Shea Butter for skin and hair, 15 mls, £30
This formula has organic shea butter ( harvested from shea-karite trees in West Africa  and is ‘cold press’ processed, in order to maintain its vitamin and mineral content ) that is known to be a superior emollient. It helps to hydrate the skin, as well as hair and can be used for hairstyling ( I prefer to use it on my hair ends to deal with dryness or to gently smooth over flyaways and ‘tame’  them into submission). I also like it’s fresh rosemary smell.
Youthful Eye Treatment with Apricot Kernel Oil, 15 mls, £75
This dermatologist tested treatment helps to address such issues as fine lines, wrinkles and dark circles or shadows. It has a special blend of organic shea butter and vitamin E rich Apricot Kernel oil. The bio-active treatment gently removes dead skin cells and works together with cellular turnover to revive the delicate eye area, while leaving no residue, which makes it perfect base underneath make-up. It also smells beautifully of green tea and apricot kernel oil.
Essential Oils Bar Soap in Clean Orange, 250g, £17
This dense soap bar is infused with essential oils from France and has natural antiseptic properties in it, so you can use it daily in the shower, but do try to keep it out of direct sunlight, in order to better preserve its ingredients.
To find out more information about the brand or the products, please go to :

read more

Not just the supermodels secret-Embryolisse Lait-Creme Concentre

Almost every time you read an interview with a famous model, where they talk about their backstage secrets, most of them tend to mention Lait-Creme Concentre by Embryolisse Laboratoires and it always makes me wrinkle my nose a little, as it’s not just the ‘supers’ who love this product.


I have been buying it from French pharmacies since my early 20s and since then it had remained my beauty staple too. It has been quite frustrating at times to run out and have to wait for a trip to France or to beg my girlfriends to bring me a couple of tubes if they were going, as no one was stocking it in the UK.

Why do I like this products so much? Well, for starters, it’s very versatile. I use it as a cleanser, as a moisturiser or even a mask, when my skin is feeling a bit dry, especially post-skiing. It works for all skin types, including sensitive ( it has been  developed under pharmaceutical supervision and has been tested by dermatologists using a limited number of carefully selected ingredients )and can also be used on your toddlers skin too. It reinforces your skin’s defences, works on its hydro-lipid barrier, helps cell renewal and protects the skin from outside aggressors, like heat and cold. It has lots of fatty acids ( combining shea butter, aloe vera, beeswax and soy proteins ) and vitamins   and it never ceases to amaze me how great it makes my skin feel and look.

I am also happy to report that it has landed on the British shores and is stocked up on Cult Beauty site, priced £17.50 ( at the time of publishing, there was a waiting list for it, so when you manage to place an order, order not one, but a couple .) and I promise you you will be in for a pleasant surprise that will have a lasting effect on you .)

Great beauty buys from Cult Beauty-Jouer Cosmetics, KaplanMD & d.j.v. Beautenizer

Jouer1The beauty market is over-saturated with big brands, so I take interest in lesser known brands that deliver surprisingly great results and CultBeauty team are my kind of girls in that respect.

First of all, let’s discuss American brand called Jouer Cosmetics, which means ‘play’ inJouer French. This brand offers cool packaging, with possibility of your beauty items attaching/clicking into each other, like pieces of the puzzle. I absolutely adore Jouer ‘lip and cheek color’ in the shade called ‘petal’ which is a great shade of pink, the one that actually suits any girl, whatever her colouring-it’s a subtle shade pink, rather than the too bright, harsh one. It goes nicely on your cheeks or lips and actually stays there for a few hours. Another great product in the range is called ‘Age-repairing brightner’-and no, you don’t have to be a certain age to use it. From late 20s, our skin starts to show the effects of late nights, long-hours in air-conditioned offices, stress and other environmental factors, so in addition to the usual practical advice-good diet, exercise, drinking enough water and using sunscreen, this cleaver product helps hide the dark shadows and small lines under the eyes. It contains camelia oil, which is very nourishing, plus vitamins A, B & E which help increase skin’s immunity and fight free radicals and it works on all skin types, which is an added bonus. I have also tried Jouer moisturising lipgloss, but have to say that it felt too gloopy to me, so instead I stick to using Kaplan

MD Lip 20
read more

A great find from Cult Beauty team-Fix Malibu

I have been meaning to rave about the Fix Malibu brand for a while now, but as I have used it for a couple of months now, Ifixmalibu cannot be accused of not being objective in my praise .)

Fix Malibu originated in…yes, you guessed it, in sunny Malibu and people living there know a thing or two about the effect of sun on our skin-both good (we need sunshine to feel good) and the bad (prolonged sun exposure can lead to burns and even skin cancer). This American developed brand is founded by Rebecca Giles M.D. and her mission is to address the issue of sun-damaged skin. She does make a point that her skincare needs to be combined with a broad sunscreen-on that condition, you will see the effectiveness in prevention of wrinkles, pigmentation and redness.

I have started using ‘The Works’ anti-ageing moisture cream a few days after returning from my summer holidays and have to say that my skin is loving this lightweight but very effective cream. My face looks plumped and glowing and it still gives my skin enough hydration (combined with a serum underneath) during this cooler, autumn weather. As an added bonus the white/lime green bottle is pleasing on the eye and the creme smells really nice too.

p.s the range also includes an antioxidant smoothing serum, a clarifying facial wash ( quite good for warmer months), an eye cream and an exfoliating powder wash which is quite a clever product and great if you travel a lot).

Hair greatness from HairFix

HairfixMost men and women I know obsess about their hair-some talk about it, most pretend not to care but let’s be honest-we all live in the world where looks count and a luxurious main of hair is always an added bonus.

I like my hair too, and try to look after it without being too obsessive. Yes, good diet and plenty of water is essential for good hair growth and sometimes taking a good supplement might be an added bonus-I do it quarterly for a month but nowadays there are so many hair brands and products it’s hard to choose. Do you go for a ‘cheap’ brand or do you buy an  expensive one? Will it work for your hair if it worked wonders on your girlfriend’s? Who do you ask for advice?

I will tell you more about my haircare favourites in later posts, but for now I just wanted to praise those smart Cult Beauty girls who recently started stocking and selling a professional treatment hair system called the HairFix (watch out though, the stock sells really fast).

It consists of three products: 1.release, 2.revive, 3.replenish that you use once a week to revitalise the hair after heating, brushing, colouring and over-styling etc. It’s easy to use and you do see a difference after using it only for three or four times. I have never used anything like that before, but have to say that those products really do make a difference in addition to your usual haircare routine, deeply cleansing the hair and scalp and nourishing hair and follicles with keratine.

Cult Beauty

DSC03051Make-up makes us feel great and we start playing with it as soon as we can, be it with our mother’s treasures or with cheap kiddy ones. As we get older and can afford to buy our own, we go out to shops and indulge. However, what if you want something ‘niche’, not known to many, but delivering the results and giving you fun in front of the mirror?

I have been on many make-up and beauty sites but to be honest, I don’t go back to most of them. However, a few months ago I heard of the internet site called Cult Beauty from a friend of mine, who works in the beauty industry. My curiosity aroused, I browsed the site….and have stayed loyal.

Jessica DeLuca Moore, one of the founders of the company ( its internet site went live in June 2008 ) told me that she and her colleagues wanted to educate woman, to give them an honest information and to recommend the products that they believed in and that delivered results.

One often gets disappointed-after seing ads, buying the product and then realising that the product doesn’t work for you-but the money was spent and no refund is forthcoming. Women like Jennifer Aniston inspire us because she looks healthy, toned and glowing. That is why Jessica and the Cult beauty team rely on their ‘expert’ panel of well-known hairdressers, facialists, manicurists & foot experts, make-up artists etc. who know their products and can provide you with the right information in order to let you make informed choices.  

In the last few months I got several products that I would definitely recommend to you.

Ginvera Green Tea Marvel gel-removes dead skin & blackheads, very gently exfoliates your skin without irritating it and evens out the skin tone, among other benefits.

Kaplan MD clear treatment lip 20 moisture therapy +SPF-it sells out every time it is in stock, comes in different shades, plumps and moisturises your lips. Plus it tastes nice, so I keep on re-applying it.

Time Balm concealer-there are plenty of concealers on the market but many of them dry your skin and emphasise, instead of hiding, the shadows and lines. Not this one. It comes in different shades, hides the multitude or problems and feels very moisturising, when you put it on with the applicator sponge enclosed. It is also quite compact, so you can put it in your pocket or make-up bag, when travelling.

Davines De Stress Musli & Yogurt shampoo-I am always on the lookout for a great shampoo, that treats the sculp, manages the hair and makes it shiny & healthy (in addition to good diet, of course). This one ticks all of the above.

Tara Smith
read more