Thursday, 10 October 2013

Ren Clearcalm 3 Clarifying Clay Cleanser - Review

I have a complicated relationship with REN. They were one of the first brands I turned to when I started cleaning up my routine; the products were all packaged in sophisticated airless pumps and the reviews were overwhelmingly positive. I really loved most everything I tried from the brand, but as I learned more and more about green beauty, I realized REN uses many ingredients that are big no-no's (mainly phenoxyethanol, unidentified "parfum", and sodium hydroxymethylglycinate). I was torn. I loved these products, but only one met my ever increasing standards for purity. I finished, but never repurchased every product I had from REN with the exception of the Claryfing Clay Cleanser.

The INCI for this cleanser reads beautifully: chamomile water and oil, kaolin clay, sesame oil, willow bark extract (the list goes on and on). This is my third bottle and it's one of my skincare wardrobe staples for when my acne decides to flare up (fortunately these flareups have become quite few and far between); it cleanses the skin completely while maintaining the delicate lipid balance, exfoliating away minor imperfections, and soothing irritation.

This smooth clay has a gorgeous, whipped cream like texture that feels magical when massaged in to the skin. It rinses off like a dream and leaves skin visibly softer and smoother. The scent is absolutely delicious and you get a whopping 150 ml in some of the best packaging on the market. The only problem is, as I alluded, REN on the whole don't use the absolute best ingredients. I justify my repeated purchase of this product by telling myself that I'm using my money to tell REN that this is the kind of product I want them to continue to formulate. Regardless of ingredient politics, I can't deny what this stuff does for my complexion and my eventual repurchase is an absolute no-brainer.

INCI: Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile) Flower Water, Kaolin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetearyl Alcohol, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Oil, Cetearyl Glucoside, Glycerin, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Salix Nigra (Willow) Bark Extract, Benzyl Alcohol, Oryzanol, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Leptospermum Scoparium Oil, Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile) Flower Oil, Linalool, Limonene, Zinc Gluconate, Bisabolol, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Dehydroacetic Acid, Crataegus Oxyacantha Stem Extract, Glucose, Xanthan Gum, Lactic Acid, Tocopherol.

Have you tried anything from REN? Are there any not-totally-clean brands that you can't help but love?

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Matter Baby Suncare Stick SPF 30 - Review

I love a good SPF. Unfortunately, there aren't that many options on the market that don't risk actually increasing free radical damage to the skin or unbalancing the endocrine system. Fortunately, more and more companies are beginning to formulate safe sunscreens that function effectively while preserving the modern textures that the conventional sunscreen producers have developed.

A perfect example of such a sunscreen is the Matter Baby Suncare Stick. Formulated with non-nano zinc oxide at a 20% concentration, this emollient sunscreen butter glides onto skin (tugging? zero. zip. zilch.) and leaves a slightly dewy finish and a velvety smooth texture. In the past, I've had issues with stick sunscreens; they've always been either too hard to apply properly, or have left behind a noticeable white cast. While the Matter SPF does apply as an opaque white cream, a gentle massage and a bit of pressing melts the formula into the skin, rendering it almost imperceptible. While it may seem odd to be talking about SPF in autumn, the sun doesn't disappear as soon as september rolls around. In fact (as anyone who has ever come back from a ski trip with ridiculous goggle tan-lines will tell you), UV radiation can often be magnified by the reflective expanses of snow we get in the winter. We all know that unprotected exposure to the sun ages our skin prematurely, it only makes sense to take preventative measures.

This sunscreen is quite moisturizing, and, as such, can be worn over just a serum, an oil, or even on bare skin. However, those with drier skins (my people!) will probably want an added layer of moisture underneath it, as (with any physical sunscreen) a certain amount of cling to flaky patches should be expected. Also, given that this stuff was formulated for babies, it's completely scent-free and very gentle on the skin. In fact, the high level of zinc oxide coupled with emollient shea butter and skin-repairing capric/caprylic triglycerides actively calm inflammation while protecting the skin from the sun's harsh rays.

(oh, and it's made in Canada. So that's nice)

Check Matter out here.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

evanhealy Facial Tonic Hydrosols: Frankincense and Immortelle - Review

Today I'll be rambling about the best hydrosols on the face of the planet: the ones made by evanhealy. evanhealy is one of those brands that will go down in the green beauty history books as true trail blazers (they've been open for business since 1999!) and, having tried many of their products, it's clear to me why they've had such success and incredible staying power in an industry that is constantly fluctuating. Evan's approach to skincare (as embodied by her brand's tagline: the skin breathes) is to encourage the skin's natural function by promoting healing and whole wellbeing; her products feel truly holistic and are an absolute joy to use. Best of all, though, they perform exceptionally! Most recently, I've been using the frankincense and immortelle tonic hydrosols; here are my thoughts:

evanhealy frankincense facial tonic hydrosol: sourced from somalia, this unique mist (I've never known of another brand that sells a frankincense hydrosol) gives the skin an immediate burst of energy. Frankincense has superb anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and, as such, is incredibly useful at combatting acne and other infectious conditions of the skin (dandruff, dermatitis, athlete's foot). On evenings when I don't bathe, I like to drench my whole body in this rich, invigorating mist post dry-brushing and pre body-oiling. It soothes my freshly exfoliated skin, while allowing the body oil to penetrate more deeply. I, of course, finish this whole routine off with a few saturating blasts of the hydrosol to the face and scalp, after which I sit peacefully and inhale the cloud of bright, invigorating, and slightly spicy frankincense while reflecting on my day.

evanhealy immortelle facial tonic hydrosol: I anticipated that I would love this stuff, and I wasn't wrong. Immortelle (or helichrysum, whichever you prefer) is one of my all time favourite ingredients; it's extremely healing, revitalizing, and (best of all) plays nicely with sensitive skin as it has superior soothing powers. A quick blast of this warm, creamy, and spicy water immediately calms any inflammation, taking down the facial redness I tend to develop during long days in dry, climate controlled environments. This tonic is also perfect after stimulating facial masks, steams, and baths as it helps appease the skin while quietly erasing any signs of irritation and effectively cooling its surface.

I'm confident in saying that, for the rest of my life, I will always have at least one evanhealy hydrosol on hand. You can check them out here.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Province Apothecary Parfum Botanique No. 7 - Review

Finding a good natural personal fragrance can be a bit of a headache. With so few brick and mortar stores that ascribe to the green beauty dogma, buying blind is something that a lot of us have to do. No.7 in Julie of Province Apothecary's Parfum Botanique lineup is one blind buy that I do not regret at all.

All the notes in this fragrance are clearly listed on the Province Apothecary webstore; Sicilian bergamot, Australian sandalwood, juniper berry, bay laurel, and vetiver make this scent warm, smoky, and spicy with a hint of bitter, almost food-grade zest. On my skin, the sandalwood and vetiver are the most prominent notes (I'm fine with that, they're the reason I chose this scent!) I have noticed, however, that when I apply this fragrance to clothing, the bay laurel sticks around a little bit longer (a note on this: you must be careful as this perfume is oil based, but a few drops on the inside of the collar and the cuffs really improve the longevity without risking any staining).

Speaking of the longevity, I will say that it isn't on par with that of any synthetic scent (which is fine by me if it means I don't have any of these fragrance fixers in my system). This perfume projects for about 3 hours before settling very close to the skin. However, what I find incredibly nice is that once it has settled onto the skin, it stays there, enhancing your natural musk. Furthermore, the bottle is such a convenient size that it's really no hassle to carry it around for re-application. In fact, whipping out this gorgeous glass bottle with its oh-so-chic label, and dabbing the roller delicately on my pulse points feels like a luxury that I am affording myself rather than a chore to maintain my scent.

I'm so pleased to have found a line of unisex Canadian fragrances that I can really get behind! Next on my shopping list: No. 14. Ylang ylang, atlas cedar wood, frankincense, benzoin... swoon.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Corpa Flora Beauté Divine Cleansing Oil - Review

Apols. for the blurriness, the packaging is quite reflective (I'll get better; pinky promise)
Today's review is of another one of my favourite cleansers. The Corpa Flora Beauté Divine (which translates to "Divine Beauty" in english) Cleansing Oil has been one of my go-to take-the-day-off cleansers for the past two months. Designed by Céline Champigny, Corpa Flora is a line of completely water-free products manufactured in small batches in Québec. 

I love supporting small upstart brands (especially Canadian ones), but I often find that either the packaging or the formula lacks sophistication. This is absolutely not the case with Corpa Flora. Packaged in a gorgeous, heavy dark glass jar, this wonderfully refreshing blend of camellia, sunflower, and rosehip seed oils is protected from oxidative damage due to light and looks great sitting on a dressing table to boot! 

Let's talk ingredients. The carriers in this blend are, as I mentioned, camellia, sunflower, and rosehip (all superstars in their own rights: pampering, moisturizing, renewing). Caprylic/capric triglycerides from coconut oil also make an appearance as well as ECOCERT certified emulsifying agent polyglyceryl-4 oleate. Enriched with lemon myrtle and cypress essential oils, this cleanser is an absolute joy to massage into the face: it smells like a walk through the forest. Scent aside, these essential oils also give the oil extreme detoxifying properties, and encourage a reduction in breakouts; everything you want out of a cleanser!

The Corpa Flora Beauté Divine Cleansing Oil is a great way to get your evening facial massage on, and (given the fact that the formula emulsifies completely upon contact with water) even those who loathe the feeling of oil on their skin can benefit from its supreme dirt, makeup, and sunscreen dissolving properties. 

I rate this cleanser incredibly highly; you can purchase it direct from Corpa Flora here.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Cocoon Apothecary Ancient Mud - Review

Let's talk face masks. More particularly, the Cocoon Apothecary Ancient Mud face mask.

This glorious dark green paste is made up of four ingredients: glacial marine clay from British Columbia, Dead Sea mud, neroli essential oil, and rose essential oil. It's simple. It's basic. It's perfect. BC glacial clay is magnificently drawing and pore purifying, Dead Sea mud is incredibly rich in minerals and detoxifies like no other, neroli essential oil strengthens pores (helping them stay nice and small once the clay is rinsed off) and also stimulates the break-down of scars, and rose essential oil pampers the skin, while assuring that the mask cleanses effectively without stripping any moisture. Four excellent ingredients, blended perfectly into a slightly salty, fabulously floral scented mask.

But how are the results? Magical. the first time I rinsed this mask off my face, I was dumbfounded. My pores had disappeared. Completely. As with any clay mask, these results were temporary, but I found that even once my skin had re-normalized, my pore size was visibly reduced. I don't suffer from GIANT pores (one of the few upsides of having very dry skin), but I do have a little crop of blackheads on my nose. Or rather, I should say I did have, because having used this mask twice a week for four weeks, those pesky blackheads have packed their bags, and are out the door.

This mask is an absolute joy to use, and leaves me with a fresh "I've just come from the spa" glow. It's a bit difficult to remove (the dead sea mud tends to be a bit grainy, and takes several rinses to wash off completely), but for a mask this affordable that performs this effectively, I can put up with an ever so slightly reduced ease of use.

Seriously. Buy it. It's only 24$.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Tammy Fender Capillary Strengthening Blend - Review

Today I'll be chatting about the Tammy Fender Capillary Strengthening Blend. As an avid reader of No More Dirty Looks, Siobhan and Alexandra's reviews of the Intensive Repair Balm along with this hilarious post had me thirsting for a piece of the "Tammy Fender effect".  As someone whose ancestors were likely transparent, I'm always on the hunt for things that can deal with broken/visible capillaries or just general redness. Us pale folk have it pretty tough when it comes to redness and veins, with much less pigment in the skin, we have less natural camouflage for these problems. Anecdotal illustration: We had a very long winter in Saskatchewan last year during which I reached new personal levels of paleness; by March I could pretty much see my heart beating.

On to the review! The first thing that struck me about this oil was its colour. Or rather, its lack thereof; it's almost completely clear. I'm someone who believes that you can usually judge an oil by its hue, I tend to gravitate toward the bright gold, red, green, and even blue blends far more than their unassumingly light counterparts. However, perhaps it's fitting that this oil that is tailored so perfectly to the problems the fair complected tend to face be pale in colour. While I've stressed how perfect this oil is for those with light complexions, I feel the need to also say that anyone (regardless of skin tone) who suffers from general redness and/or broken capillaries will likely benefit from this oil.

Using this oil is an absolute joy. Scented with earthy carrot seed, bright neroli, calming rose and chamomile, and musky bois de rose, massaging this beautiful treatment into the skin is truly an aromatherapeutic experience. I find the viscosity to be perfectly balanced, I can feel it deeply penetrating my skin, yet it leaves a delicate protective layer on the surface (for this reason it may not be suitable for the oilier among us). Over the summer it was perfect with just a layer of sunscreen on top (no additional moisturizer needed), though I suspect this winter I may need a little something more to keep my dry skin at bay. 

So how did it perform? I've gone through about a third of the bottle (approximately 5 weeks, used at least once a day), and feel pretty confident reporting that, over time, it does work. I notice the redness around the sides of my nose has gone down significantly and my skin tone from forehead to chin is more united and even. There's also a gorgeous calming sensation as soon as the oil is applied to skin that makes it a perfect soothing treat after intense skincare treatments or over-zealous exfoliation (we've all gone a bit over the top with a scrub at least once, haven't we?)

Conclusion: The Tammy Fender effect is real. This oil feels like it's been prayed over by priestesses on a harvest moon; it's positively humming with Tammy's positive energy, and, best of all, it does what it says on the bottle!

 *Sunflower Seed (Helianthus Annuus) Oil, Grapeseed (Vitis Vinifera) Oil, Apricot Kemal (Prunis Ameniaca), *Rose Hip Seed (Rosa Mosqueta) Oil, *Black Currant (Anthemios Nobilis), Pure essential oils of Chamomile (Anthemis Nobilis), Bois De Rose (Aniba Roseodora), Neroli (Citrus Aurantium), Rose (Rosa Damascena), Carrot (Daucus Carota) Seed. 

*Certified Organic

Tammy Fender can be purchased in Canada through Clementine Fields

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The Pit Diaries #1 - Weleda Deodorant in Sage

Deodorant is typically the first thing I get asked about when I tell people I don't use conventional personal care products. I'll be developing the answers I typically give these people into a little series for anyone who struggles with the pongy pit problem.

I'll be the first person to admit that as an adult male of a certain stature and pilosity, I do tend to develop a certain pungency as the day goes on. However, I wouldn't describe myself as a stinky person; while I was still buying conventional deodorants, I never encountered one that couldn't deal with my personal odour. First of all, I eat quite a clean diet (I'm vegetarian, don't touch processed foods, and avoid most dairy products) and I'd say this is definitely a contributing factor. I notice that for a few days after I participate in serious lifestyle binging, I am significantly more malodourous.

My personal pit profile aside, we're here to chat about Weleda's deodorant offering today. I am a huge devotee to these little glass bottles. While the alcohol and water formula can be a bit stingy when you first spray, the potent essential oil cocktails significantly reduce odour throughout the day. That said, this deodorant is not perfect, and on days when I need my personal stank to behave, I pop one of the 30 ml sizes into my backpack/briefcase/coat pocket (they're perfectly portable) for on to go reapplications.

I've tried both the Sage and Citrus scents. Sage is my favourite, I'm a huge sucker for sage scented anything (as you will learn as we embark on this journey of personal discovery together). While this isn't a full on just-smudged-my-cabin-with-homemade-incense sage scent, Weleda have captured the slightly sweet, smoky spirit of this wonder herb to the point where I sometimes use this deodorant as a personal fragrance.  

Do you have a favourite green deodorant? Any recommendations for me?