Spotlight on Acne: Review of Ra Oils ‘Eternal Radiance Oil’ and ‘Clear Skin Cleanser’

Acne is a skin condition that affects people irrespective of age and even with a lot of skincare products on offer within a beauty marketplace, there are still few that offer non-invasive solutions read more

Time to do good – The Boost Box Company

Sometimes out of something terribly testing comes out a seed of hope that blossoms into a giving tree – that’s really the first thing that came to mind, when I received a gift box from the Boost Box Company. Its founder, Nadia Campbell, initially comes across as any other busy mother of three daughters, balancing work & family, but dig deeper and a treasure of wisdom comes to the surface, teaching anyone willing to listen that life doesn’t give us tasks that we can’t deal with, but it is the way that we respond to challenges that is the making (or breaking) of us.

Nadia and I ‘met’ via social media pages. We exchanged e-mails, which led to a long phone conversation on March 8th, International Women’s Day, on a variety of subject. Her story touched me deeply & having had my own personal crisises in the past, I know that we share multiple common threads.

The idea for the business was inspired by my eldest daughter’s cancer diagnosis, prognosis and treatment and the holistic approach read more

Boxwalla ‘Moonlight & Silver Sleep’ Beauty Box

As women’s interest in beauty, irrespective of the age, only seems to grow, so does the amount of beauty products and subscription boxes, making it even more difficult to decide what your skin needs or what you should try. However, there are some brands and services that stand the test of time not only because of their quality, customer service and efficacy, but also because of the people behind them. I am a big fan of Boxwalla, because every time Lavanya launches a box, be it a beauty or a book one, I not only get curious, but more importantly, I have a chance to learn something new, that ultimately benefits me as a person in the long term.

Boxwalla’s February Beauty Box, titled ‘Moonlight & Silver Sleep’, that I received a few weeks ago, contained night-time skincare products from two cult brands, British Amly Botanicals and American Mun Skincare – both united by minimalist perfection when it comes to their respective formulations and products, that at the same time have the biggest personalities. The box contained Amly‘s latest launch, a third one from the brand, a face mist called Beauty Sleep, Mun’s Aknari Brightening Youth Serum and the accompanying it canvas make-up bag. The overall effect was that of a peacefully radiant beauty that doesn’t get touched by the passing of time.

Amly Botanicals Beauty Sleep Silver Rich Face Mist

Amly, founded by two women, Kerry & Lisa, whose friendship lies at the foundation of the brand, is built on their complimenting talents & desire to create something that will help people who use it, feel special, cloaked in the invisible veil of their mists. Another element of Amly’s foundation lies literally underground on the farm in East Sussex, belonging to Lisa’s family. The discovery of artisan spring water, rich in silver, deep below the farmland inspired Lisa & Kerry to create the Amly Botanical mists, featuring this water in its base. In addition to containing trace elements and minerals, this spring water is unusually rich in naturally occurring silver salts that are highly bio-accessible. Silver has also been recognised for its powerful antioxidant properties & helping enhance skin’s natural regenerating ability.

With good night’s sleep essential for our wellbeing, yet many people struggling with actually getting it on a regular basis, this powerhouse of a mist is meant to be used at night and includes neroli, lavender, geranium, snow algae extract, tulsi, valerian root, roman chamomile, frankincense, passionflower, hops & echinacea. The mist promises to support the natural sleeping process, encouraging your mind to rest & skin to be restored & rejuvenated.

Part toner, part hydrating serum, Beauty Sleep, launched in October of last year, was specifically formulated to be used at night-time & its list of ingredients was carefully crafted to sooth, restore & repair your skin as you sleep. The star ingredient, Snow Algae, isn’t easily sourced, as it is grows on glaciers, but is known for helping to speed up overnight collagen production (aided by Passion Flower), assisting & strengthening skin’s protective barrier. Rose Quartz, Benzoin & Labdanum resin add the feeling of warmth & being in the protective cocoon, while Echinacea calms irritated skin & assists effective functioning of the immune system.

Formulated for both fatigued skin & mind, the mist also contains extracts of Passion Flower, Valerian & Hops, a powerful synergetic trio that relieves tension, while a combination of Clary Sage, Linden & Chamomile quietens a busy mind & helps relieve the body of negative effect of stress.

Beauty Sleep Mist is also different from Amly’s two other face mists in terms of the scent. While the first two smell of flowers that grew in a big open field and were regularly swaying in the windy sunshine, this mist has a deeper scent, with earthy notes & sweet undertones. Infused with sublime floral waters of Neroli, Lavender & Geranium, the mist isn’t just an indulgence for your skin & mind, but for the senses overall. It whispers comforting musings into your ears, as you wrap yourself in the blanket & hopefully fall into deep & restful sleep.

I normally sleep well, but after using this mist in my evening meditation practise & then again as I settle to read before bedtime, for a couple of weeks, I found myself deeply attached to its mystical scent, my hand reaching out for it, like a comfortable palm of a friend.

Shake the bottle before each use, close your eyes & spray generously the small-particled mist on your face, neckline (and pillow, if you deem it to be worthy). This also offers you an opportunity to take deeper breaths & prompts your body to change gears & slow down, with your senses masterfully soothed for entrance into the land of dreams.

‘While gently nudging you into soothing, blissful slumber, the selected products work as you sleep, so read more

Beauty brand in the spotlight: Skin Owl

Knowing the beauty brand from afar and enjoying using their products is one thing, but meeting the founder allows you to view the brand in a completely different light and from multiple angles. You observe the person ‘in action’, talking about their passions and products, while you innately decide whether what they tell you makes sense to you or is more about trends and mass market mentality that prevails in the beauty marketplace. Some play the role well in order to charm you, other allow themselves to luxury to be themselves and letting you be the judge of their character. Meeting Annie Tevelin, an American founder of a natural beauty brand Skin Owl, didn’t go to plan, but allowed me to meet a woman who is not only passionate about her day job, but clearly see that she holds women and their skincare needs deep inside the confines of her heart.

Originally I was supposed to meet up with Annie at the brunch that she was organising during her visit to London from the US. Annie used to live and work in London, so the city holds a very special place in her heart and so she wanted to get together a group of women, who didn’t know each other and forge new connections based on the female spirit and interest in natural beauty. However on the eve of the event Annie had to cancel it, due to unforeseen circumstances, and we both tried to juggle our busy schedules in order to meet up before she flew back home. On a cold morning I arrived at Camden’s Triyoga and settled myself in a corner sofa of Nectar cafe with a cup of warming matcha latte.

Annie arrived quietly, but her wild mane of hair and a coat in an eye-catching shade of coral red, accompanied by her wide smile, which seemed to draw people towards her (one will later spill water over her, eliciting first surprise and then an understanding giggle from Annie) and within minutes, joined by a fellow beauty blogger Ailish Lucas, we all chatted away like old friends.

Time flew by, with us discussing our opinions on the problems we all face, busy schedules, skin woes, travel, love & relationships, favourite products and skincare tips. Annie is good at listening and asking you with genuine interest about things that matter to you, but when you ask her questions, she is engaging and open as well. She is a realist and doesn’t promise magic, but there is a strong undercurrent of passion that must be one of the ingredients that she infuses her products with. There is no doubt in my mind that at the centre of Skin Owl is Annie’s desire to help women feel good in their skin, because it is something that affects the self-esteem of many. Throughout life we are affected by our hormones, every day – from our moods to our skin. There are many beauty products and even more promises thrown at us daily from the press pages and tv and phone screens, yet not many brands engage with consumers and try to tackle the problems that negatively impact us. Treating healthy young skin is easy, dealing with problematic skin is another story. Annie, who has suffered from acne and eczema in the past, is the vocal advocate of looking after our skin and she makes sure she gives you ammunition with her helpful advice, if you ask for it. Being privy to one person’s discontent with one of Annie’s products, I promised that I will talk to Annie about it. When I did,  I passed Annie’s comments to the person, made sure she got in touch with Annie and by the time Annie was back in the US, overpowered with jet lag again (she battled it fiercely in London, attending to her very busy schedule come rain or schedule crumbles), the problem seemed to be in the process of being resolved. If that isn’t customer care you want to receive when something doesn’t work for you, I don’t know what is.

‘Skin Owl’s sole mission is to educate you about your skin & deliver the best products, so that skin “care” read more

Review of Rosalena Skincare

Having introduced you to Rosalena Skincare & it’s inspiring founders, Maja Griffith & Helena Chapman, in part one of my post about the brand, this post is logically dedicated to my review of the Face Oils & Mist that I have been using since September, after I attended Joanna Hynes‘s fashion show at the London Fashion Week, as Rosalena’s guest. It was made even more memorable not just by the initial conversation that I started with those two very talented & inspiring women, but by observing Helena in her unbridled enthusiasm, as she energetically sprayed models & the team working on the show with the uplifting Goodness & Tonic Face Mist. Calm, creativity and beauty reigned supreme!

Rosalena has four Face Oils for you to choose from, each with an original name: Love & Me, Rock & Rose, Beauty & the Beast, Frank & Sense. Each was developed to offer specific benefits to your skin, irrespective of your age. The decision ultimately lies with you, because you need to know your skin type & assert your skin’s needs by looking in the mirror each time you do your skincare routine, be it morning or evening. Oils used to get a really bad reputation, based on presumption that they clog your skin, but in the last few years things have been changing. Of course a lot depends on the quality, as well as the combination of ingredients in the one you choose to use, but generally speaking, oils help hydrate our skin and make it look more luminous when used on their.

Rosalena Love & Me Face Oil ( nourish & protect ), skin balancing, 15ml, £42

This was the first oil with which I started my discovery of Rosalena skincare and it remains one of my personal favourites within the range. Exterior packaging, by the way, is something that makes Rosalena stand out instantly. Each box has a bright colour, making one oil be instantly visually distinct from another. When you open the box and glance inside – hello yellow, purple, pink & reddish coral, depending on the oil you choose, not only there is a bottle with the product & a practical pipette to dispense the exact amount of oil for single use, there is also a brochure telling you about the range, specific oil, as well as ingredients. Knowledge at your fingertips makes life easier, that’s for sure, as well as helps you make better skincare choices for yourself.

‘A skin nurturing active formula for gentle hydration with natural beauty read more

Wild for A.S. Apothecary Beauty Balm Concentrate

Sometimes it’s hard not to feel drowned in by the amount of new beauty launches and to choose wisely, not impulsively. But the older I become, the better I understand not just myself, but my skin & body needs, so they are the ones to dictate my skincare choices, not the marketing or advertising. As consumers we also develop affinity with certain brands, which makes us keep an eye on their new launches & A.S. Apothecary is one of those brands for me. Amanda Saurin‘s latest launch, Wild Beauty Balm Concentrate No.30 came about ‘over a series of months, meetings & musings’, including with yours truly. Once I tried one of Amanda’s early samples of the balm I was intrigued, after using the launched balm for about a couple of months, I can now say that it has become tightly woven into the fabric of my daily skincare routine.

Unscrew the lid, close your eyes & take a few deep, slow breaths, inhaling the indulgently flowery, uplifting scent that brings an almost instant feeling of calm & comfort. Open your eyes & continuing to take deep breaths, dip your finger into the smooth surface of the balm (and feel the satisfaction, as it sinks into a rich texture, releasing its aroma even more).

Amanda developed this balm over months, testing & refining it tirelessly, trying to create a product that will nurture not just your skin, but your soul as well. Several moons ago, when I visited Amanda in her studio in Lewes, well before she opened her beautiful store, I showed her a multipurpose balm that I use for healing the skin. I stock up on it in Moscow during my visits, as I came to rely on it due to its multiple purpose use, but it has a big minus, as its texture becomes too runny when it is warm, which led to quite a few accidents during my travels in the past. A lovely, but in someways imperfect product (and not 100% natural), which clearly gave Amanda some food for thought & the end result of her creative process continues to blow me away with its nurturing loveliness. As I was writing this post & exchanging e-mails with Amanda, it was important for me to incorporate her wise & creative voice into the conversation about this product, as noone understands the process behind its birth better than she does.

‘I also find ridiculous pleasure in opening the new pot and pressing my finger hard onto the surface, feeling it give way to reveal the soft buttery interior…’ read more

CRiL Reviews: Nourish Skin Renew Cleanser & Bodhi & Birch Desert Rose Facial Oil

With so many beauty products being continuously launched, it is somewhat reassuring to review products from the brands that I already know well. When I know brand’s background & ethos, it becomes interesting to see what they come up with next. Recently I have been testing a new cleanser from Nourish London & a re-launched face oil from Bodhi & Birch, both are British brands that fall into my favourite ‘natural’ category.

Nourish London Skin Renew Cleanser, 100 ml, £20

Skin Renew Cleanser caught my eye on Nourish stand at the recent Natural & Organic trade show at Excel (the brand recently 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