Sometimes a brand emerges on the beauty scene that captures your heart within a short time, the bond becoming stronger with every new product launch. This doesn’t happen often to me, making Aurelia Probiotic Skincare even more special, as far as I am as consumer are concerned. Aurelia Restorative Cream Body Cleanser & Firm & Replenish Body Serum were launched in late spring and having tested both of them since early May, to say that I am smitten would be pretty accurate. One of the main reasons being that both products treat not just the body, but mind too. As a busy woman I appreciate it more & more.

Our faces are our calling cards, so we lavish out attention on them, often neglecting our bodies, which isn’t smart in the long run. When it comes to the products that I use in the shower, I prefer natural formulas, scents that make me dream, rather than choke and no less importantly, make my skin feel nurtured, rather than carelessly attended to on the run. When creating the formula for the Restorative Cream Body Cleanser Claire Vero, Aurelia’s founder, mother of one, with another baba on the way, ‘wanted to create beautiful skincare that surpassed the biggest expectations of modern women’. Combining the science with ethical, sustainably sourced BioOrganic ingredients, she managed to create product that caresses your skin, while making you feel feminine and confident in your inner power. Don’t be surprised, if your Aurelia skincare helps you make male hearts beat just a little bit faster, as well as garner compliments from other women. And remember that a confident woman is easy to spot, as she makes others feel good about themselves, because she is innately confident in her own abilities, strengths and even weaknesses.

Aurelia Restorative Cream Body Cleanser, 250ml, £32

The cleanser has natural coconut creamy base and lathers, not surprisingly, very well, covering the body in tiny cleansing bubbles that respect your skin’s natural Ph balance. I emerge from the shower (aim to use cool, rather than hot water, as the latter tends to dry up your skin) with my skin feeling clean and hydrated. There are often times that it feels so soft & silky to the touch, that I don’t apply anything to it, just leaving it slightly damp & letting the scent linger, making me feel like I am floating in my own feminine cocoon. When I use it in the evening I let the water wash away the worries and stresses of the day, while the cleanser helps get rid of the pollution & negative vibes that get accumulated by all of us living in busy, congested cities.

The cleanser is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive and has been dermatologically tested. In terms of key ingredients you have restorative botanicals, namely Baobab, Kigali Africana, Hibiscus (rich in Vitamin E) which enhance cleanser’s antioxidant & nurturing effect on your skin. Aloe Vera soothes & heals skin’s top layer and essential oils, expertly layered and steam-distilled, create a fragrant veil over your skin, while delivering therapeutic benefits via your sense of smell. Geranium, combined with Clementine Oil, offer delicate floral notes that lighten the mood and your step. There is also uplifting Mandarin for elevating stress and tension accumulated in the body, while Rosemary is added for focussing your mind on things that matter. Stepping out of the shower, after using this cleanser, makes you feel light, energised & confident in who YOU are.

Ingredients list: Aqua/Water/Eau, Aloe barbadensis leaf juice (Aloe vera), Sodium cocoyl isethionate (coconut based), Prunus amygdalus dulcis (Sweet almond) oil, Stearic acid (vegetable based), Glycerin (vegetable glycerine), Hibiscus sabdariffa flower extract, Kigelia africana fruit extract, Adansonia digitata fruit extract (Baobab), Citrus clementina peel oil (Clementine), Citrus nobilis (Mandarin orange) peel oil, Pelargonium graveolens flower oil (Geranium), Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary) leaf oil, Cymbopogon citratus leaf oil (Lemongrass), Cymbopogon flexuosus oil (Malabar grass), Lavandula angustifolia (Lavender) oil, Cananga odorata flower oil (Ylang ylang), Decyl glucoside (sugar based), Glyceryl caprylate/caprate (vegetable derived), Sodium cocoyl glutamate (coconut based), Xanthan gum (natural), Lactic acid (natural), Potassium sorbate, Hydroxypropyl guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride (vegetable based), Salicylic acid (vegetable based), Citric acid (derived from lemon), Allantoin (vegetable based), Sodium phytate (derived from rice), Sorbic acid (natural preservative), Benzyl alcohol, Dehydroacetic acid (natural association approved preservative), Limonene*, Geraniol*, Linalool*, Citronellol*, Citral*, Benzyl benzoate*, Benzyl salicylate* (*naturally occurring in essential oils).

Aurelia Firm & Replenish Body Serum, 250ml, £48

While there are plenty of days when I feel that using the body cleanser is exactly what my skin needs in the morning, there are days, especially when it is hot or cold, when this serum becomes a perfect ‘side-kick’ and gives the skin that extra layer of ‘umps’ – a ‘hero’ product for your legs it definitely is! What stands out is not just this serum’s scent, which while a little different from the body cleanser, compliments it perfectly, like two perfect apple halves, it is how quickly the skin absorbs it. I want my skincare to be particularly efficient at times when I have little time for self-nurture and this serum moisturises, fragrances and within a couple of minutes you are good to dress and walk, run or skip .)

The serum feels light-weight, but it does moisturise the skin better than many of the body creams or serums that I have tried in the past. It also delivers antioxidants & omegas, as well as exquisite fragrance, which is summery & easy on the senses (a combination of Mandarin, Angelica, Bergamot & Cedarwood provide an uplifting cocoon for your skin to be in), making it practical & effective, something that isn’t easily found when it comes to body care in the home environment.

Tips from Aurelia’s team on how to make the most of this body serum

Post Workout: perfect for cooling & nourishing tired limbs

After Sun Hydrator: apply with a light touch to sooth & repair

Layering: apply before Aurelia’s Firm & Revitalise Dry Body Oil for deeper hydration & adding glow to the skin

Mummies-To-Be: perfect for growing tummies. Helps to keep skin soft, supple & nourished

Suitable for all skin types, including sensitive

Adding Shea and Cocoa butters to the formula (not that you would guess, judging by the lightweightness of the serum) helps to soften the skin, as well as smooth it and I noticed an improvement in my skin’s texture after only a couple of weeks of regular use – by regular I mean every other day. There are also added benefits of the Argan oil that helps to hydrate the skin, making it a really effective product for the ‘ravished’ skin – be it in cold or hot months of the year. It works particularly well on your legs, when you don’t have a natural suntan, but wave goodbye to wearing tights.

Most of us don’t drink enough water daily and over time one starts to notice the difference in the skin, particular in the areas that tend to be drier, like elbows and knees. This serum is also non-greasy & doesn’t leave behind any extra residue – just well-moisturised, more even & visually plumper skin, which is smoother and softer to the touch and is a simple joy to be in.

In addition to visually noticeable benefits, there are also sensory ones. Uplifting Mandarin is blended with Angelica Root to calm, while Lemongrass invigorates and Chamomile helps to relax, with notes of sweet Bergamot & grounding Cedarwood completing the blend. What makes Aurelia particularly special is that due to the unique scent of each product for the face or body, men really notice the scent and end up complimenting women who use the products – while this might sound superficial to some of you, I draw pleasure in using products that help me feel good about myself, while making my skin look good. Additional compliments are a welcome bonus.

List of ingredients: Aqua/Water/Eau, Coco-caprylate (coconut derived), Glyceryl caprylate/caprate (vegetable derived), Cetearyl alcohol (vegetable derived), Prunus amygdalus dulcis (Sweet almond) oil, Glyceryl stearate (naturally derived), Arachidyl alcohol (vegetable derived), Butyrospermum parkii (Shea) butter, Cetearyl glucoside (derived from corn sugar), Argania spinosa kernel (Argan) oil, Angelica archangelica root oil, Anthemis nobilis (Chamomile) flower oil, Boswellia carterii (Olibanum) oil, Cananga odorata (Ylang ylang) flower oil, Citrus aurantium bergamia (Bergamot) fruit oil, Citrus grandis (Grapefruit) peel oil, Citrus nobilis (Mandarin orange) peel oil, Cymbopogon citratus (Lemongrass) oil, Juniperus virginiana wood oil (Cedarwood), Lavandula angustifolia (Lavender) herb oil, Tocopherol (vitamin E), Salicylic acid (vegetable based), Hibiscus sabdariffa flower extract, Kigelia africana fruit extract, Sodium phytate (rice based), Adansonia digitata (Baobab) fruit extract, Glycerin (vegetable derived), Sorbic acid (natural preservative), Citric acid (derived from lemons), Dehydroacetic acid (natural association approved preservative), Behenyl alcohol (naturally derived), Glyceryl caprylate (coconut derived), Hydroxyacetophenone (preservative booster), Benzyl alcohol, Arachidyl glucoside (vegetable derived), Dehydroxanthan gum (naturally derived), Sodium hydroxide, Limonene*, Linalool*, Citral*, Geraniol*, Benzyl benzoate*, Benzyl salicylate*, Farnesol*, Eugenol, Isoeugenol* (*naturally occurring in essential oils)

For more information about Aurelia Probiotic Skincare please click here

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Like many of you earlier this week, I sat in silence, with tears streaming down my face, watching in disbelief the inferno that engulfed residential Grenfell Tower in North Kensington late at night, when most people were fast asleep in the seeming safety of their beds. 24 floors, 120 flats, over 600 residents – men, women, children. A disaster of this magnitude touched many people, as some rushed to help, others, like incredibly brave firefighting teams, were already at the scene, alongside policemen & emergency services, fighting fires and trying to save those people who were trapped inside. When life is good, we all take it for granted, when human tragedies like that happen we unite over the innate need to do something, to help, to hug people, to wipe the tears and give survivors hope that they aren’t alone. We can’t make horrible memories disappear or bring back to life those people who lost their lives, but we all can do something to help elevate the pain, fear, anger and despair. Many people, famous or not are coming together with the initiatives to fundraise the funds for those in desperate need in a middle of the city we all call home.

As some of you might know, I write a lot on the subject of beauty. As part of my work I receive products from brands for testing, but I also buy many beauty products myself, accumulating too many products over time. Some are given as gifts, some I start using, but quickly realise that while they are lovely, they might not work for my skin. Lately I was looking at a large bag of beauty products and contemplating what to do with them – do I gift them? Do I donate them to a shelter? What’s the best way to share them, without taking advantage of brand’s generosity or making any undue profit for myself?  After watching the news & thinking about life & loss, as I held my own kids hands tightly after the school run, I just knew that I want to do something with this beauty stash to help those people who suffered unimaginable loss – of family members & loved ones, of their homes, that were supposed to be their safe harbour and of the things that they held dear, like photos, favourite toys or simple things that we all use daily, yet take for granted but without which we feel a bit lost – toasters or kettles, a favourite armchair, a dress that makes us feel like a million dollars, a pebble from the beach, picked up during the holiday, a baby tooth or lock of hair, a favourite book…..

So here is my idea that I put forward for your consideration: below is the list of products that I have. All full-sized, most brand new, some gently (partially) used, but hygienic & not contaminated – each will have details next to its name, as well as the size. Here is what I want to do. If you want any of the products below, or several of them, please make a donation of at least £10 pounds for each product that you want directly to the JustGiving Fund for the residents of the Grenfell Tower – I attach the links to JustGiving Fundraising pages at the end of this post. In turn, I will send you the product or products, each valued at more than £10 pounds to your home address, if you are a UK, Scottish or Irish resident (lets discuss postage, if you want to order something to be sent to Europe, America, Canada, Asia or North Pole – I will be happy to find a solution that will be satisfactory to you), covering postage & packing myself. If I know you, please just let me know the amount of your donation, so I can keep a tally and will know how much our joint effort will raise for those people who desperately need it. If I don’t know you personally, please DM or e-mail me confirmation of your donation, as well as the address to which you want me to post the products and I will do it as soon as I can. Many people consider beauty superficial & I want to change that perception by raising funds for those people who really need them right now. At a time of loss, like many people, I want Grenfell Tower residents to know that they aren’t alone in this world & that they will be able to rebuild their lives in time.

Beauty Products List

Tropic Skincare Good Skin Day Serum, 30 mms, external packaging opened, internal untouched

Tropic Smoothing Cleanser, 120 ml, brand new

Kahina Giving Beauty Travel Basic Set, includes Facial Cleanser 30 ml, Argan Oil 30 ml, Facial Lotion 30 ml. Brand new

Acure Brightening Facial Scrub, 118 ml, new

Ren V-Cense Youth Vitality Day Cream, 50 ml, brand new

Nourish Argan Anti-Ageing Peptide Serum, 30 ml, brand new

Nourish Skin Renew Cleanser, 100 ml, brand new

Nourish Kale 3D Cleanse, 100 ml, brand new

Lumene Bright Now Vitamin C BB Cream SPF 20, shade: fair, 50 ml, used one one occasion only

Therapi Honey Skincare Rose Otto Propolis + Ultra radiance Cream, 50 ml, brand new

 

Bodhi & Birch Neroli Luce Revitalising Face Oil, 15 ml, brand new

Bodhi & Birch Body Oils Mini Collection (3 x 15 ml), brand new box set

Fresh Umbrian Clay Mattifying Face Exfoliant, 100 ml, brand new

Osmia Purely Simple Face Cream, 1,7oz, gently used

Balance Me Radiance Face Oil, brand new

Dr. Scheller Argan Oil & Amaranth Anti-Wrinkle Intensive serum, 30 ml, brand new

Skin Oil Beauty Drops, lavender, 30 ml, brand new

Skin Oil Beauty Drops, geranium, 30 ml, gently used, more than 2/3 full

Melvita Natural Lift Youthful Skin Cream, 50ml, new

Mallow & White Sooth Face Mask, 30g, brand new

Antonia Burrell Radiant Light facial Oil Serum, 15ml, brand new

St. Ives Apricot Face Scrub, 30 ml, brand new

Max & Me Circle of Protection Body Oil, 10ml, brand new

de Mamiel Atmospherique Pure Calm Cleansing Dew, 100 ml, gently used, more than 2/3 full

Flow Kosmetikka Cloudberry Anti-Age Facial Serum, 20 ml, brand new

Philip Kingsley Elasticiser, 40 ml, brand new

Mun Akwi Purifying Cleanser, 100ml, gently used, more than 2/3 full

Nubo Bio-Regenerating Concentrate, 30 ml, brand new

Weleda Skin Food, 75 ml, brand new

Perricone MD Chia Serum, 30 ml, brand new

Lilfox Cleopatra Restorative Milk & Honey Beauty Mask, 1 oz, very gently used, more than 2/3 full

Laurel Facial Serum Sun Damage Repair, 30 ml, brand new

Once the product has been chosen by someone via their donation, I will put the line on it, so you know that it’s gone. Products will be send on the first come, first served basis.

Books:

Emma Cannon’s Total Fertility, lovingly used but in good condition

Goop Clean Beauty by the editors of Goop, gently used

Glop Goop Parody by Gabrielle Moss, gently used

Let’s get together & raise some money for those that really need the funds to start rebuilding their lives, while getting used to live with the loss or horrors that they endured. Beauty can be meaningless, if it doesn’t have a soul & I truly believe that together we are stronger in facing the future, even when it is uncertain. People who lived in that tower weren’t well-off and right now might feel that their lives didn’t matter to those whose actions, in some way, led to the unimaginable tragedy that happened in the middle of a summer night in London. There is a lot of anger, understandably & I sincerely hope that our joint effort will help in a small way to change things for the better, compared to what they are now.

As an additional incentive for you to donate, I promise that I will enclose some samples for you, alongside the product or book you want, while my stock of the samples lasts. I hope this initiative resonates with you & by our joint fundraising effort we hopefully will help give the residents of the Grenfell Tower to get the things that they need now or in the future, which they will be able to choose by having financial means to do so. I hope that my initiative will show the strength of our emotion & the feeling of love and affection that we are united by, no matter our sex, age, race or religion. Tragedies happen to good people and together we help each other survive the unimaginable horrors and sorrow that otherwise would break hearts completely. This tragedy tore at the fabric of London, like several terrorirism acts in the last few weeks – something that sadly more and more people around the world can relate to. Lets come together and shelter those who suffered from even bigger storms. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading this and for hopefully donating to the cause that we can all relate to, while luckily hugging those that we dearly love together & saving our blessings.

Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund for Grenfell Tower Residents

The Kensington & Chelsea Foundation

Link to Just Giving sites raising funds for the residents of the Grenfell Tower Block

If you have any questions in regards to the products, please DM me via Instagram (galinaap) or Twitter (@galinaachkasova) or e-mail me on galina@galinka.co.uk

Note: this is my personal initiative. The minimum donation for any full-sized product is £10 & all the funds that you donate should go to the fund of your choice that benefits Grenfell Tower Residents. I won’t accept any donations or money for this personally.

Thank you for your generosity, Galina x

P.S. On a separate note, I have asked my children to go through their toys & books & choose the things that they want to donate to a charity local to Grenfell Tower for the children who have survived the horrendous fire, but were left with nothing. Once my kids go on their summer holiday, we will go to North Kensington together so they can see the devastation with their own eyes & not on a TV screen.

I also want to put out a separate appeal to a charity that is local to Grenfell Tower. We have a beautiful wooden Boori bed with a bottom drawer that my kids outgrew. We will disassemble it & would donate it for a child or children from the Grenfell Tower, if someone can come to collect it in a van, as it is made from solid wood. The bed comes with a mattress, protective cover, as well as two bed sheets, three pillows & quilt that you can see in the image. Please contact me via social media or e-mail, if you are interested & able to collect it ( I would want to see ID or credentials, in order to make sure that this bed goes & gets to a child from Grenfell Tower who needs it).

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Some brands are very well-known in their own right, thanks to their founders, but it is the people that often work behind the scenes who help enhance your perception of the brand with their knowledge & experience. This certainly runs true when it comes to a Dr. Sebagh signature facial performed by facialist Tine Hagelquist, who has worked for the brand for many years.

As spring started weaving its magic wand around nature, my own pale complexion emerged into the spring sunshine, looking for its own rejuvenation & re-awakening. Instead of a kiss from a handsome prince, it received Tine’s magic touch, enhanced by Dr. Sebagh’s skincare.

When I arrived to have a facial, I though I was entering a secret dungeon, as I took the steps into the basement of Dr.Sebagh’s clinic, located in Wimpole street. While I haven’t met the handsome French doctor in person during my visit, I do know on good authority that he is adored by many beauty editors, supermodels like Cindy Crawford & Elle Macpherson (who travels with Dr. Sebagh’s Rose de Vie Serum & Supreme Day Cream) & many of his loyal clients of various ages simply because he tells them things as they are, never suggesting a treatment that his clients actually don’t need.

I was met at the door by the beaming Tine, who led me into the natural light streaming through the windows of the serene & artfully designed treatment room that was done by Dr. Sebagh himself – clearly a man of not a singular, but many talents! There is a little bathroom & a shower room, where you can re-apply your make-up after the treatment, if you so wish, a little kitchen, a sitting area, that combines comfort with an artistic touch & the actual sanctuary for the facial, a massage table covered in inviting red & white sheets, matching the packaging of Dr. Sebagh’s skincare. The whole place feels more like a peaceful artistic cocoon that nurtures creativity, as well as your complexion, rather than a skincare clinic or treatment room.

As Tine knows me & my skin quite well, she brought me some water to drink, while we quickly caught up on our busy lives & I dived under the comfortably warm covers, having taken my jewellery off & leaving the day’s stresses at the door. Tine is a wonderfully vibrant person, but she also has calming & grounding vibes around her, that within minutes she imparts on you. As the grey light streamed through the windows & bird song caressed my ears, Tine put a cotton band around my hair, making sure nothing got in the way of her pampering my face, told me to take a few deep breaths & her nimble fingers got to work.

The 60 minute facial starts with a double cleanse, using Dr. Sebagh Foaming Cleanser, which makes sure your skin is properly cleansed, before deeper work starts on it. As make-up & pollutants were cleared from face & neckline, Tine followed it up with citrusy-smelling Deep Exfoliating Mask, which was developed to boost skin’s natural glow, as well as to smooth & refine its texture (there are two versions of this mask, one for normal skin, with 17% Lactic Acid & one suitable for sensitive skin with 7% lactic Acid, so do check, if considering its purchase10. If you use it at home, you can do so once or twice a week, depending on your skin type. The mask is applied to clean & dry skin and is left to work for up to five minutes, before being removed with a face mitt, which has been emerged into warm water. Tine also applied the mask to my hands, which often give away our true age quicker than our faces, after which we tend to look much more diligently, all the while doing gentle pressure point massage on my face –  around the eye, brows and sides of my face and with a little more vigour around my nose area.

In my case Tine customised mask application by applying Perfecting Mask to my T-zone & Rose de Vie Hydrating Mask to the cheek area (it hydrates, soothes & regenerates your skin after each application. The mask was formulated by Dr. Sebagh in order to purify the top layer of the skin, helping skin look & feel more radiant when used as part of your skincare routine). That’s one of the things which makes Tine’s approach to each facial she gives quite unique – she examines your skin & chooses products accordingly, creating a personal experience just for you each time, within a Dr. Sebagh facial protocol. While I am not a huge fan of rose-scented skin or body care products, I enjoyed this mask as part of my facial experience, in part because it’s scent is subtle, not overwhelming & secondly because it has light, gel-like texture that also imparts a cooling sensation on your skin as soon as it is applied, making it particularly effective on those days when you feel hot & bothered.

After removing the masks from the face & hands, Tine applied High Maintenance Hand Cream – something I forget to do regularly, even though I have various hand creams dotted strategically by the sink & bedside table at home – one of the benefits of having a regular facial & having other body parts pampered, as part of your treatment.

One of the best parts of this facial for me was the lymphatic massage done on the face & neck with Rose de Vie serum (it’s a lightweight oil-like texture sinks into your skin within seconds, but still allows the facialist to effectively massage your face), that is really akin to a workout for your face, but done by someone for you, as you lie down & enjoy a rare moment of tranquility in the middle of a busy city. While many of us do skin brushing at home on our bodies, thus promoting lymphatic drainage that helps our bodies get rid of toxins & stagnant energy, our faces don’t get the same treatment.  Tine recommends doing it daily – you don’t have to be a facialist to master the technique – just ask the facialist to teach you & do it every morning or night, as part of your skincare routine & you are sure to notice a difference in your complexion within weeks, if not days!

Tine also does a strong, but not at all unpleasant pressure point massage, which helps to release the tension from the jawline, sinus & eyebrow area – this feels like a happy tsunami on your face, something that I haven’t experienced before. As your face feels like it is a grip of the stormy sea, you physically feel tension leave your face, giving way to relaxed, more radiant complexion & uplifted mood. Bliss isn’t the word for it & I can’t recommend it highly enough – I almost wish Tine did this on my face daily, as it feels THAT good!

If that wasn’t enough, you facial massage also extends to your neck & shoulders, as well as the upper spine, as Tine’s strong & experienced fingers reach those points where tension finds its permanent residence (those who work on their laptops at their desks will know exactly what I am talking about), so knots come undone & tension literarily floods out of your body, as you breathing calms down. Your skin is cocooned in a thick layer of the brightening & firming mask, which combined with vigorous massage technique wakes up your skin, as your circulation is boosted – I so wish Dr Sebagh develops the same technique for a body treatment one day, as let’s be honest, our faces might be our calling cards, but our bodies are the machines that move us all forward into the future.

As I struggled not to succumb to a happy  slumber (after all, I had to remember the finer points of the treatment in order to share it with you, my dear reader), Tine removed the mask with warm mittens & applied Serum Repair, a moisturising collagen booster with hyaluronic acid that you can apply on its own or under your usual moisturiser, mixing some Vitamin C Powder Cream ( which brightens the skin & supports the process of collagen production by your skin ) & adding a few drops of Supreme Maintenance Serum (a firming serum containing resveratrol). If that wasn’t luxuriously pampering enough, Tine added some High Maintenance Cream (if that doesn’t make you feel like Cleopatra, I don’t know what will). My neck also got some love with the application of the Supreme Neck Lift ( I don’t know if that was age-proofing strategy or Tine gently reminding me that I am no longer a teenager :)))). Another point worthy of note – during the facial Tine also used some feathery strokes, which I thought were her fingers, yet, in fact they were two cotton wool pads soaked with water that caressed the contours of my face like the lightest, silkiest brush that a curator might use to clean a rare book – a very sensual & relaxing sensation that puts a contented smile on my face, as I type away & try to give you a description of what it felt like.

Tine let the products sink in and then applied Anti-Pollution Anti-Oxidant SPF30 all over my face, neck & even my ears, told me to stretch my arms & legs away from my body, taking some deep breaths. This little ritual helped me float gently back to reality & gather my thoughts. Within a few minutes I felt fully awake & ready to surge ahead with my day. When I was ready to sit up, Tine showed me my face in the mirror – a relaxed, dewy, glowing complexion with no sign of dehydration (do you, unlike me drink enough water daily, thus keeping all of your cells plumped up & hydrating, working at full, not sleepy capacity?) or late nights? She also reminded me that one shouldn’t focus on one’s age, but instead try to live each day with a positive attitude, no matter what life brings along – it times of current uncertainty & certain dangers those words seem particularly poignant & relevant.

After seeing Tine you can expect to emerge with lots of helpful tips on not just skincare, but wellbeing & nutrition as well. You can also fall asleep with a tired complexion & wake up towards the end of a treatment with a naturally glowing & revitalised face & mind. But that’s not all – when you book in for this signature facial, you will also walk away with a Dr Sebagh product kit, allowing you to have a personalised & scientifically designed skincare routine in the privacy of your home. Each product has been developed by Dr. Sebagh & his team with modern women & their skincare needs in mind & made in France, so you can be sure of the quality of the products. What I also appreciate as consumer is simple names of products, each box telling you the aim of this product, with no bogus claims or misleading labels.

For me having a facial is part of the rare, but essential ‘me-time’, so it has to be be so much more than just fluffing about or cleansing or mask application – I can do it myself, in the privacy off my own bathroom. When I have a facial I look for not just some tranquility & pampering, but for elements that enhance the experience, massage being a big part of that. Tine’s massage technique re-awakens the muscles & helps reveal the dormant strength and beauty of your facial muscle structure. Tine rolls & taps her fingers all over your face, neck & decollate, with Dr. Sebagh skincare creating a perfect canvass & allowing the facilist’s fingers to glide effortlessly with no pinching or dragging of your skin. When you have a facial, you don’t want the faciliast to slap the mask on your face & just walk out, while you twiddle your fingers & beat yourself up mentally for parting with money & having no fun while you are at it. This facial allows you to engage with your facialist, relax & learn, while your skin is nurtured & facial muscles are exercises vigorously.

Tine is a naturally positive person, so you can count to emerge from her Dr. Sebagh treatment room in a relaxed & happy mood and with a pampered, glowing complexion, which will look even better several hours after the treatment – I actually continued without a trace of make-up for the rest of the day – bar a few strategic gentle pitches on my cheeks to bring some more colour into my cheeks. A very special signature Dr Sebagh facial performed by knowledgable caring hands – and I can’t recommend the face tsunami strong enough! I felt like a super surfer on the crest of a wave facing the sun glinting on the water surface. One hour of pure, pampering bliss!

As I got ready to leave, Tine reminded me to start each day with a cat-like stretch before getting up from my bed & saying a mantra ‘it will be a happy day’. She also shared a juice recipe that she starts her day with: juice ginger & pineapple, add a pinch of black pepper & turmeric, drink it up & then go & brush your teeth & get on with your day, helping your body & mind start the day on the right note. Suffice to say I left an even more adoring fan of Tine’s than I was when I arrived on Dr. Sebagh’s clinic steps.

Dr Sebagh Signature Facial with Tine Hagelquist lasts 1 hour & costs £120 (the price currently includes a skincare gift set worth £90) & is located at 25 Wimpole street, London, W1G

For more information about Dr. Sebagh, his products & treatments, including this Signature facial please click here

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One of the reasons why I started my website many moons ago was an opportunity to interview incredibly talented people many of who, for a variety of reasons, don’t get to be in a spotlight, yet have an amazing affinity with us, impacting lives in the most wonderful ways. Founders of the Boxwalla, a husband & wife team who prefer their work & creativity to speak for themselves, shunning spotlight, fit this category perfectly.

Earlier this year I reviewed one of Boxwalla‘s book boxes & since then I was like a dog with a bone, intent on spotlighting Lavanya & her husband & telling you in more detail about the creative process behind each of their subscription boxes (dispatched every two months) & dedicated to beauty, book & film lovers around the world & food lovers in the US. And it’s not just what’s inside each subscriber’s box that matters, it’s the thought that went into choosing the box that houses the ‘treasures’. Each artisan box is fashioned from handmade paper, making it not just beautiful & practical, but sustainable too. The paper is made from cotton scraps from local garment industries & the actual process of making each box is time-intensive & traditional. Your recyclable & reusable box is made by local villagers, giving them a steady income in order to support their families & not just scrape a meagre living. That’s one of many reasons why I really treasure my Boxwalla as much as I do its contents & to me that’s just one aspect that makes this subscription service stand out head above the rest.

Lavanya & her husband love beauty in all forms & are intent on supporting small shops & artisans, paying attention to the tiniest details that matter to those of us, who aren’t after instant gratification. If like me, you prefer slowness  – be it when it comes to savouring a book, a glass of wine, a vial of a beauty product or a movie, then Boxwalla would fit perfectly into your lifestyle. Boxwallas, as Lavanya & her husband call themselves, come up with themes & weave a story for you about things to love, buy, keep or share, encouraging deeper connections in our flaky & fast-paced world. They offer you transformative & fun discoveries, as well as changes of existing perceptions into your life. Below are the Q & As with Lavanya – the actual process took a while, but I am happy to say that the answers turned out to be even more intriguing than I expected them to be.

What’s your professional background and what inspired you to start Boxwalla?

Lavanya: My academic background is in the Sciences. I have a PhD in an interdisciplinary psychology/neuroscience-related field, which involves applying principles from physics and engineering to Human Neuroscience.

My husband (aka business partner) and I wanted to create a platform that would allow us to showcase the artists and artisans, whose work we loved. But in a way that would allow people to easily experience their work while understanding the context that inspired their creation. And so we launched Boxwalla, as a bimonthly subscription box, showcasing four categories : Green/Clean Beauty, Artisanal Food, Literature and Art Cinema

We believe that in order to enjoy something more fully, it is important to understand its context : why that thing was made, what need it fulfills, what inspired the artist/artisans? And I think this applies not only to something like a beautiful painting or film but also to things we read like books, and the things we use, like perfume and skincare,

We are inspired by small, independent businesses where the passion and knowledge of the owner is so evident in everything they create or curate. Like independent bookstores, where you can chat with the bookshop owner about life, books and their own reading preferences, independent music stores with an owner so deeply knowledgable about a very niche category of music. There is something very special about connecting directly with people who create or curate the products one enjoys. I think these connections make the experience of the product even more enjoyable. And we are inspired, not only to showcase businesses that provide this kind of excellent service, but also to form these personal connections ourselves, with our own subscribers and customers.

We are inspired by excellence in every field and most of the time, we find this excellence, in work produced by independent, artisanal businesses and so we felt and still feel compelled & inspired to share their work with the world.

Here is a more detailed post on what inspired us to create Boxwalla, that I wrote a while ago : https://www.theboxwalla.com/blog/1822/why-does-boxwalla-exist

What does Boxwalla mean and why did you choose it to call your business?

Lavanya: Boxwalla literally means ‘Box-person’ or ‘Box-seller’ in Hindi (which is one of many Indian languages). It also refers to the traveling merchants who carried their wares in large boxes. ‘Walla Walla’ is the Native American term for ‘place of many waters’. So we think of ourselves as traveling merchants. getting drunk on things of many waters, and then sharing those things with our subscribers.

What were your favourite childhood books?

Lavanya: Some of my favorite childhood books, from different stages of my childhood, included many many things by Enid Blyton, The Anne series and Emily of New Moon by Lucy Montgomery, Little Men by Louisa M. Alcott, Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster, The Madman by Kahlil Gibran, I loved some poems by Tennyson and Alexander Pope. Pride and Prejudice (but of course ), Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Moon and Sixpence by Somerset Maugham, Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being. There was also this book about festivals from around the world that I loved reading as a child : I loved learning about the ritual of floating candles during Loy Krathong in Thailand and about the little red purses during Chinese New Year. This time when I visited my parents in India, I found that my parents still had this book. I was grateful that they hadn’t given it away as I want to save it to read to my own children (now 4 and 2.5).

How do you choose the books for the bi-monthly box?

Lavanya: With the book box we wanted to showcase the greatest writers from all over the world who are not as well known as they should be. Writers whom we think will win the Nobel Prize for Literature in the next decade or so. So we scour the literary landscape, so to speak, for books that we think are, or will become, classics. Since we showcase writers writing in different languages, one of our aims is to ensure that we pick books that are not only great in their original language, but also great English translations. And so, when available, we also read multiple translations of the books we are looking to showcase.

Who are your favorite writers and what are the three best books that you read last year?

Lavanya: Among my favorite writers are George Eliot and Orhan Pamuk. I also enjoy the whimsical writing of Spanish writer Enrique Vila-Matas. But there are too many great writers that I’ll be sorry to have left off. I can’t reveal some of the best books I’ve read, as some of them might find their way into future book boxes. But three that I loved and that were featured last year include: Japanese writer Minae Mizumura’s A True Novel,Norwegian novelist Jon Fosse’ Morning and Evening and British writer Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women. Oh and Anne Carson. Anne Carson is just amazing. Anything by her is worth picking up.

Since the Boxwalla Book Box is a reflection of both my husband and my taste in books (and we have slightly differing tastes), I feel compelled to share his favorites as well. His favorite writer is Ernest Hemingway. He also loves the work of Dostyevesky, Flaubert & J.M Coetze.

What’s your take on electronic vs paper books? Does the book have to have substance to be enjoyed, or do romantic novels, like Mills & Boon or modern celebrity memoirs also bring something important to the experience of reader?

Lavanya: I think both electronic and paper books have their place. To me, I enjoy the sensory experience of holding a book, flipping textured pages, running my fingers through them and generally the whole experience of reading paper books. However, one can’t discount the value of electronic books and how portable they can make a library and their sustainability. I haven’t been able to get into an electronic reader (although I know many book lovers who have), but I do read stuff on the kindle app on my phone from time to time.

Anything can be enjoyed and one can’t really dictate what can or cannot be enjoyed by a reader. Since I don’t read Mills and Boons or celebrity memoirs because they don’t interest me particularly, I can’t comment on those specific choices. But a book that affords you enjoyment can come in all shapes and sizes, figuratively speaking. I do think one should read many different kinds of things, within one’s comfort zone but also stepping out of it – you never know what you might end up enjoying (My Dostyevesky loving husband is probably also the most up-to-date on every piece of celebrity gossip you might want to know).

Sometimes after a long hard day, you can’t always read high brow literature so it is tempting to read something light. And that’s ok..Light reading can also be high quality. Writers like Barbara Pym and Josephine Tey come to mind with their dry humor and incisive wit and commentary on the society they live in. However, I do find, that most people, including me, think that they don’t have the capacity to read great literature after a long hard day. That they won’t have the mental energy to keep up. But what I’ve found is that the more you trust your capacity to read and give yourself the time and space to read, the easier it is to read a lot. And after some time your brain just gets tuned to the kind of literature you feed it and you start to get lesser and lesser enjoyment from anything that is of an inferior quality.

What determines your personal book reading choices and do book covers matter to you?

Lavanya: As a reader, for me, the depth of enjoyment comes from the substance of a novel, or the distinctive style of a writer or his narrator, how immersive the experience ends up being, how much I never want the book to end, and I guess most importantly, how much I am moved by the book in terms of some intangible truth that it embodies.

Book covers do draw me in to pick up a book that I might chance upon. A great book cover can covey the excitement and the uniqueness of the contents of a book. But beyond that, once I actually start a book, I am not sure how much the cover matters. I do like looking at nice book covers though and sometimes when the book and the book cover match in quality they become entwined in the happy memories of reading that book. I’m also sentimental about book covers in that I if I loved a book, I like to own the same edition (with the same book cover) that I first read – since the book cover reminds me of the experience of first falling in love with the book.

Are you a member of a book group and if yes or no, why?

Lavanya: No, I am not..Not until Boxwalla which is sort of like a book club/book group.

Running a business is a 24/7 thing, how do you find the time to read? Is there a secret?

Lavanya: I admit, it has been difficult reading while running a business 24/7, especially since I do everything (with help from my husband) from curating, sourcing, updating the website, writing copy, social media management and even packing and shipping packages. But I think the secret is to just prioritize reading. I always carry a book in my handbag, so if I’m waiting somewhere I have something to read. I try to read after the kids go to bed, especially if they end up going to sleep early (which doesn’t happen as often as I’d like). Also, resisting the temptation to surf on instagram/facebook or watch things on Netflix/hulu and instead reading, also really works, though THAT is easier said than done. 🙂 Although I try. However, there never does seem enough time to read everything that I want to.

What are the books that changed your life?

Lavanya: I am not sure exactly how to answer that question, because one doesn’t really know what changes one’s life until much later in life, when one gets a better vantage point. But there are books that sort of served as turning points for me both as a reader and as a writer at different parts of my life, that sort of marked the different stages of my reading/writing life (so far). Those books were : Anne of Green Gables when I was 11, Wuthering Heights when I was 15, Unbearable Lightness of Being when I was 16, Of Human Bondage when I was 17, and then as an adult : J.M Coetze’s Disgrace, George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence and all the bits of Proust that I have read. And then more recently Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red. These were not all necessarily my favorites (although many of them also are), but these were the ‘important’ books that expanded my notion of what a novel can be and what great writing can do.

With each Boxwalla box you can expect to receive a sensory, creative, intellectual experience that will delight & enchant you. While Lavanya & her husband prefer to keep a veil of privacy over their faces, their work, natural curiosity & dedication to supporting creative forces speak for themselves, drawing your senses, head & heart towards them. My life has certainly been enhanced by Boxwalla & the time for dialogue that Lavanya generously allocated to me. A veritable treasure that I in turn wanted to share with you, hoping that you have discovered something new while reading this post or were inspired by Lavanya’s answers & insights that she shared.

To find out more about The Boxwalla, please click here

Picture credits: the Boxwalla boxes images are courtesy of Boxwalla; Typewriter image is courtesy of DidiFox. The rest of the images features are by CRiL

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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 changed its packaging & I think it works well, keeping brand’s identity, yet making a stronger visual impact). If you don’t know Nourish London, it is a natural, certified organic by Soil Association skincare brand, led by the knowledgable Dr Pauline Hili, who actually prefers her products to have the spotlight, while she & her team work tirelessly in the background.

This cleanser was developed to gently, but effectively clear away impurities & make-up from the skin. An omega-rich creamy formula with Argan, Borage & Jojoba, it helps replenish skin lipids, while counteracting negative effects of pollution, making it a good choice for in your evening skincare routine. It also contains Kale ( Dr Hili pioneered use of kale in skincare & started a very popular trend, as now even some nail polishes contain it ) & Griffon extracts, which help protect the skin matrix against pollution & environmental aggressors ( a ‘hot conversation topic’ when it comes to lifestyle & skincare ).

You can apply this cleanser to either wet or dry skin, using cotton wool or your own fingers – I prefer the latter. Use one pump, apply it all over your face, including the eye area & massage it with the tips of your fingers all over your face, extending the cleanser to your neckline – you would be surprised to see how much dirt you accumulate there by the end of the day! As we age our neck starts to give away our age, in part because we tend to ignore it, while the skin is plump & supple there. I also find that extending my cleanser to my neckline as part of my evening skincare routine, prevents congestion & makes the skin on the neck more even & soft – comes handy, if you don’t want to hide your neck in a turtle neck .)

Rinsing this cleanser with warm water makes the skin feel clean & refreshed, ready for the rest of your skincare routine. I enjoy using this cleanser, but for me it doesn’t have the same ‘wow’ factor as Kale 3D Cleanse (it is designed to work with water), which makes me feel like a science professor. Having said that it is a natural, effective & reasonably priced alternative to many creamy cleansers already vying for your attention. I deem it worthy of your consideration, especially if you are thinking of switching from mainstream brand, like Liz Earle & her Cleanse & Polish cleanser to a more natural one. You can also use it alongside Kale Exfoliating Cleanser for some regular exfoliating action. A credible contender with a genuine natural ingredient list, delicate scent & thorough cleansing power.

Ingredients

• Moroccan Argan Oil is rich in vitamin E & essential fatty acids, which help to heal & restore the natural lipid layer;

Kale extract is a rich source of powerful antioxidants & has a unique enzyme system, which protects skin cells from environmental damage, whilst maintaining skin elasticity & suppleness;

Griffon extract protect skin from UV-induced cell damage & environmental stressors;

Myrrh oil stimulates collagen & fibroblast production, leaving skin smooth & firm;

Borage oil is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which contribute to reduction in skin irritation, stimulating repair & reducing water loss;

Rosehip oil aids tissue regeneration & repairs damaged skin cells. Rich in vitamins A and C, it nourishes & soothes the epidermis:

Tocopherol protects skin against pollutants & UV radiation plus Vitamin E is vital for the synthesis of collagen.

Full list of Ingredients: Aqua, Rosa damascena (rose) flower water*, Helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil*, Glycerin, Cetearyl alcohol, Glyceryl stearate, Cetearyl glucoside, Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil*, Argania spinosa (argan) kernel oil*, Brassica oleracea acephala (kale) leaf extract*, Borago officinalis (borage) seed oil*, Rosa canina (rosehip) fruit oil*, Tocopherol, Bisabolol, Griffonia simplicifolia seed (griffonia) extract, Sodium levulinate, Sodium anisate, Leuconostoc/Radish root ferment filtrate, Citric acid, Aloe barbadensis (aloe vera) leaf juice powder*, Olibanum (frankincense) oil*, Zingiber officinale (ginger) root extract, Commiphora myrrha (myrrh) oil, Xanthan Gum, Pelargonium graveolens (geranium) flower oil*, Lactobacillus/dipteryx odorata seed (tonka bean) ferment filtrate, Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf oil*, Citronellol, Farnesol, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool. *Certified organic. Naturally present in essential oils.

To find out more about Nourish London, please click here

Bodhi & Birch Desert Rose Facial Oil, 15ml, £38

It has to be said that my review of this product nearly didn’t happen. When Elijah Choo, my friend & founder of Bodhi & Birch, approached me about testing the updated version of this face oil, I honestly told him that I am not a huge fan of roses in my skincare. While I was happy to play with a sample, I didn’t want a full-sized product – having said that, I also don’t review samples, so it was meant to be a simple & short product testing – or so I thought!

Having tried the original version of this face oil, I thought I knew what to expect – how presumptuous I was ! Elijah is a tireless perfectionist when it comes to his product formulas & trying to satisfy his customers needs & requests. He changed the name of the product from Desert Rose Rejuvenating Face Oil to Desert Rose Facial Oil because that’s what most customers and bloggers referred to it as as ( plus it’s punchier). This facial oil was originally launched in 2013 & consistently remained one of Bodhi & Birch best-selling product. Over the years Elijah have had a stream of comments about it, from reducing strength of the EO blend to removing Wheatgerm Oil, because it is comedogenic. Also, a few customers didn’t like the scent of Strawberry Seed Oil in the base (it smells slightly sweet and musky). Finally, Kukui Nut Oil is very unstable and goes off easily, if it is not used up. So Elijah had wastages from the production & so he dared to challenge himself by tying up loose ends & creating something that will enhance customer’s experience with this facial oil. Those who don’t dare, don’t drink champagne, or so the saying goes .)

As soon as I applied this rose-scented face oil on, I just knew that it was VERY special. Elijah managed to improve various aspects of the face oil – the texture is more sophisticated, lighter, yet weighty to the touch, easily gliding over your face, encouraging you to massage it in. It sinks in almost instantly & adds instant glow to the skin. Desert Rose facial oil has the beautiful scent of summer roses in bloom, swaying like dancers in a warm, sunny breeze & it puts a smile on my face as soon as I inhaled its flowery scent. The almost instant dewy plumpness that the oil imparted on my skin made my eyes widen, as I examined my skin in the mirror. Suffice to say that within a few days I was calling Elijah & blushing sheepishly professing my true love for the updated version of this face oil. Luckily for me, Elijah graciously chuckled, but didn’t make fun of my original ‘neigh’. A measure of a very humble man !

Brands often re-formulate their products, not always with the best results, but I think it is always brave to take a popular product & tinker with it, when it already has a loyal following. Elijah takes things in his stride & while I am sure he was a bit nervous prior to re-launch, I know that deep down he was proud of undertaking this challenge that he set up for himself. We often talk about skincare with Elijah & while I don’t come nowhere close to Elijah’s encyclopaedic knowledge of plants & ingredients, I certainly know what I do & don’t like when it comes to skincare products, oils included & I don’t shy away from expressing my opinion.

Desert Rose Facial Oilformerly known as Desert Rose Rejuvenating Face Oil ) is made with 100% natural botanicals, of which 95% are certified organic. Elijah handcrafts this face oil blend in micro-batches in order to ensure the utmost quality & possibly it is one of the reasons why the oil comes in a 15ml size. When you like a face oil, isn’t it better to have a smaller size, use it & re-purchase a new, fresh one, instead of getting bored of using a large-sized product that goes on forever? I don’t mean to criticise the product sizing in general, as there is a time & need for larger product sizes, especially when you & your skin like it & want value for money, but it brings up an interesting topic of freshness & efficacy up for discussion, much like freshness of the food that we eat.

Drawing inspiration from the healing & mesmerising power of nature & traditional botanical remedies, Elijah has spent over a year researching & re-inventing this Artisanal series product. The new formula features an organic blend of Argan, Rose, Prickly Pear (contains the highest levels of betalains of any known plant) & Starflower oils, making this face oil exceptionally rich in Vitamins A & E (consider them your stress-free first aiders for home use!), as well as Omegas 3,6 & 9, Gamma-Linolenic Acid & Betalains (plant pigments, which are super antioxidants with powerful anti-ageing effect). Plant nutrients in this formula work in unison by nourishing & moisturising the skin, refining its surface & structure, boosting cell regeneration, evening skin tone & diminishing blemishes.

One of the things that makes this face oil special for me, a firm non-lover of roses in my skincare, is Elijah’s alchemist talent. With knowledge & precision he blended together Bulgarian Damask Rose Otto sourced from the Valley of Roses with Tunisian Neroli, Somalian Myrrh & Australian Sandalwood Oil, creating a very evocative, mysterious, feminine aromatherapeutic journey. Just the smell of this oil alone gives me an almost instant sense of euphoric rapture, but the oil also fuses together historical traditions & geographical aspects housed within a Biophotonic Violet glass bottle. A journey in time, with multiple aspects & benefits for the individual consumer. The oil works well for normal & dry skin types and particularly well for mature skin. Having said that, it imparts a wonderful glow that women of different ages strongly desire.

‘This is my homepage to the Rose, a legendary skincare ingredient. It began with a thornless old rose that was inherited along with Bittell farm, where Bodhi & Birch first started. And it all came together during a spiritual moment on a mountainous sand dune in the bleak serenity of the Saharan night. That’s how Desert Rose was born.’

Elijah managed to change my opinion on a rose-scented product before, when he launched a trio of body oils, Sicilian Rose being one of them. After being on the ‘testers panel’, I was perfectly aligned with another body oil, called Nordic White, but after trying the finalised versions of the body oils (third being Chinois Blue ) my head has been turned. Since then Nordic White has been on equal footing with Sicilian Rose & both have joined the ‘adored beauty product’ rank. The only other rose-scented product that I like is Shay & Blue Amber Rose perfume, which makes me feel very feminine when I spritz myself with it. Elijah now has the honour of being a person who made me change my mind about rose-scented skincare twice!

Now, back to my musings about Desert Rose Facial Oil. As I continued to test it, I mentally compared it to other face oils that I used, in terms of texture, scent & efficacy & interestingly enough, found that for me it very clearly comes above Vintner’s Daughter, which is a lovely & very popular face oil, yet whose hype I still fail to understand. Of course we all like or are drawn to different skincare products, but I was genuinely taken aback how strongly I fell under the spell of Desert Rose. It sinks in almost instantly into my skin & I savour its changing scent, as my skin warms up with a facial massage & I become quietly happy. In the morning I wake up to noticeably plumper skin, even if I haven’t drank enough water the day before. All the more the reason that makes me appreciate the skill of a man behind Bodhi & Birch, who toils away in his lab, perfecting the products or creating new ones. After all, when a new product is being launched or an old favourite being re-launched, don’t we genuinely want to be wowed by it, as opposed to it falling short on the marketing promises & us being disappointed in our own gullibility?

Active Botanicals

Organic Argan Oil: Rich in essential fatty acids (80% unsaturated), Argan Oil contains tocopherols (Vitamin E), phenols, carotenes and squalene to help preserve cell integrity and restore skin’s elasticity. It also helps stimulate skin cell renewal, rehydrates dry, damaged skin and effectively reduces wrinkles to help reverse the ageing process.

Organic Rosehip Oil: Well known for its outstanding skin regenerative, softening and moisturising properties, Rosehip Oil is proven to decrease signs of premature skin ageing. Its broad spectrum of EFAs and Vitamins are proven to benefit skin against surface blemishes, skin pigmentation and photo-ageing, restoring skin back to its youthful glow.

Organic Prickly Pear Oil: Exceptionally rich in Vitamin E (over 88%), Vitamin K and Omega 6, Prickly Pear Oil is shown to nourish and soften skin to restore elasticity. Its high fatty acid content plumps skin, reducing wrinkles and adding firmness, as well as intercepting free radical damage. It also contains the highest levels of Betalains of any known plant. Betalains are super antioxidants with powerful anti-ageing effects.

Organic Starflower Oil: Cold-pressed from the seeds of the borage plant, Starflower is the richest natural source of Gamma-Linoleic Acid (GLA). It helps restores skin’s moisture barrier and maintain metabolism, keeping skin strong and healthy.

Taking into account past customer feedback, Elijah removed Kukui Nut, Sweet Almond, Wheatgerm and Strawberry Seed oils from the original formula. The new blend includes Prickly Pear and Starflower oils, along with Argan and Rosehip which remains unchanged. The EO is also slightly decreased, so it is a lot brighter.

Full list of ingredients: Argania Spinosa (Argan) Kernel Oil, Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Seed Oil, Opuntia Fiscus-Indica (Prickly Pear) Seed Oil, Borago Officinalis (Starflower) Seed Oil, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Seed Oil, Rosa Damascena (Rose Otto) Flower Oil, Mixed Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Citrus Aurantium Amara (Neroli) Flower Oil, Santalum Spicatum (Sandalwood) Oil, Commiphora Myrrha (Myrrh) Oil, Citronellol, Eugenol, Farnesol, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool

So here you go, two new face care launches from brands that I know & trust & who prefer their products & not the PR department to do their talking.

For more information about Bodhi & Birch please click here

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In a world obsessed with youth & good looks, it’s difficult not to get sucked into the whirlwind & keep focus on the things that truly matter, like our emotional & physical health & wellbeing. When we are in our 20s, the issue fertility remains far from our minds, in fact many of us dread getting pregnant & would rather enjoy freedom, fun & building up professional experiences & career. By the time we reach 30s & 40s, when many women long to become mothers, the subject takes centre stage, but we have to face the fact that our past lifestyle choices might have had a negative impact on our fertile state. A recently published book ‘Fertile’ by the fertility expert & writer Emma Cannon is a knowledgable guide to the state of your body & mind, irrespective of your age & motherhood ambitions. In a nutshell, it will help you be in tune with your feminine force.

Emma is serene & charming. No matter what is going on outside her treatment room, she radiates inner calm that is often missing from modern lifestyle. I have seen her during my pregnancies & every time left her treatment room with a calmer head & body, with the treatment effect lasting for days. Her three previous books have helped several of the women that I know to get pregnant, at times when doctors were shaking their heads. Yet, no matter the rate of success, Emma’s feet remain firmly on the ground, with no airs & graces when it comes to her multiple talents. She is driven by innate desire to help as many couples as she can, as well as women in general, who need to fine-tune the optimal functioning of their bodies.  In addition to her work in the clinic & writing books, Emma publishes a blog, full of practical & relatable advice that is relevant to women of different ages, irrespective of their lifestyle choices. No less importantly, Emma takes responsibility for advice that she gives, so suffice to say that the publication of this book intrigued me.

Fertility – engage in it, yet keep a lightness to your touch

This beautifully photographed hardback, with a cheerful yellow inner cover, offers practical advice & fact- checked information alongside delicious recipes by nutritionist Victoria Wells, who works alongside Emma in the clinic in Chelsea.

Emma’s now classic ‘Baby-Making bible’ came out when times were perfectly aligned for Emma, after she beat cancer & her heart was brimming with joy. In a way it was her love letter to life, to the future, to the women & her own daughters. ‘Fertile: Nourish and Balance Your Body ready for Baby Making’, Emma’s fourth book, is a bit different, as it has ‘hidden depth & deeper meaning’, according to Emma. Her latest book combines many years of experience in the clinic, as well as Emma’s personal journey as a woman, alongside deliciously nurturing recipes created by Victoria & tested by both women, as the importance of food should never be underestimated when it comes to physical & mental well-being.

The book is divided into two part, ‘A Fertile Life’ & ‘Recipies’. In the first part Emma focusses on such topics as fertile living & fundamentals, like a menstrual cycle, examining body-mind-gut connection, egg quality, miscarriage, IVF support & male fertility. I tend to read lots of books, blogs & magazines as part of my own writing research & often coverage of several of the above subjects seems to be lacking, particularly when you read on the subject of female fertility. Somehow, even in our day & age, fertility issues are more often ‘blamed’ on women, as opposed to looking at the subject with a 360 view. Emma is one of those fiercely passionate women who values knowledge & experience above social media followers number and I would rather my own daughter takes advice from Emma in the future, than from some ‘influencer’ or foodie blogger, whose professional scope is limited to say the least.

When you tend to the garden you don’t seek to control it; take the same approach with your body & menstrual cycle. Tend to your body tenderly, without trying to control it. 

There are five ingredients that in Emma’s opinion are invaluable to fertile life: flexibility, creativity, nourishment, transformation & belief. Armed with them you can achieve so much more on your life’s journey, both personally & professionally, but in our constant race for deadlines, we tend to forget to nurture our inner sanctum, which negatively impacts our life overall.

In addition, it helps to remember that our health at the time of conception helps determine the health of our children, so things like overworking, not recovering from illness or stress can only deplete your life force. So, even before you might consider having children with a person you love, talk to your mother, if she is alive, about your medical history, arming yourself with knowledge. Cook nurturing & delicious meals to nurture body & spirit, remembering that our bodies & constitutions are unique and that ‘diets’ don’t generally work. Emma & Victoria effortlessly make the case for such individual approach to lifestyle in this book, making it very different to many books lining bookshops shelves, Amazon bestsellers list or your own shelves. One of Emma’s mantras is ‘develop your self-awareness & go with your gut instinct. Be your own guru!’

From how to maintain a healthy weight to thoughts on general exercise & why Emma is not a huge fan of running herself, from alcohol consumption to dealing with stress, Emma gives not popular, but sensible advice that works. She also helpfully points out that most couples aren’t infertile, but sub fertile, so improving diet & lifestyle consciously can help improve your chances of conceiving a much longed for baby when you are ready to.

‘This book is as much for your heart, as it is for your body’

In the book Emma also touches on the subject of detox & cleanse, but not in a way that we came to view it due to press coverage. Emma’s Fertile Cleanse should be viewed as a diet cleanse, rather than a detox, but it isn’t just about what you eat. Emma also talks about rituals that might seem simple, yet have been proven to work no less effectively than modern scientific advances – we all are constantly tempted by new beauty & wellbeing launches, yet things like oil pulling, acupuncture, abdominal massage, as well as ‘fish & chips bath’ – and no, it has nothing to do with eating them while having a relaxing bath, – prove that some ‘tried & tested concepts’ are here to stay, untouched by passage of time.

When it comes to recipes, you have chapters dedicated to breakfasts, soups, condiments, fish/meat & poultry, vegetable dishes & salads & sweet treats & drinks. Emma loves food & cooking, so each recipe, appealing to vegetarians, as well as carnivores, was created in Emma’s London kitchen, as well as in France, alongside an experienced & sensible nutritionist Victoria Wells. Interestingly enough, both food & advice in this book are built on the unique alchemy of ancient Eastern & traditional Western medical principles, thus appealing & applying to very different women.

In order to feel well, you need to eat well, enjoying textures, flavours & colours of your food, sitting at the table & chewing, not just swallowing your food mindlessly. Delicious food can be savoured on your own, offering a break from commitments & routine, or in the company of your loved ones, off the social media grid, when conversation flows 7 there is no tie in the background, diverting your attention. Irrespective of your own dietary preferences, each recipe starts tempting your eyes with simple visuals, when you are leafing through the book. My favourites are Amaranth, spiced pear & pumpkin seed porridge, as well as Mixed Grain Porridge with blackberries, hazelnuts & flaxseeds, but Black sesame porridge with roasted saffron peaches is as exotic, as it is nurturing – I just wish someone brought it to me in the morning to bed. Well, maybe when I am older & school runs will be things of the past….Or maybe your taste buds will be tempted by the sweet flavour of the Chestnut Compote? Lunch calls for Celeriac & Chestnut Soup with Chestnut & Herb Pesto, but I also like to make myself some pasta with variations of pesto, like Chestnut & Herb – easy, fragrant & nurturing. Or maybe you will be enticed by sourdough bread smothered with Chickpea & Date Hummus?

With the recent gloomy weather akin to autumn rather than spring, while reading this book I was drawn to the comfort of Moroccan-spiced Chicken Livers or Pork & Chicken Liver Meatballs with Creamy Polenta – ultimate comfort food. Almond-crusted Salmon with Cauliflower Puree got thumbs up from my girlfriends for dinner, as will Sweet Potato & Chickpea Gnocchi.

Another appealing thing when it comes to this books recipes is their practicality. Take energy balls, for example – easy to make, then store in a jar in the fridge (not they they last for long in my household!) or  & taken to the office & eaten as healthy snack (I favour Spiced date & almond cannon-balls for a brain kick). Cooking is a form of self-love, a ritual that was practised by many generations of women before us – this book so wonderfully reminds us of that! I was intrigued by Avocado Kefir Lassi, which when I made it, reminded me of one drunk at the spa in the Maldives a few years ago. I also tried making Beet Kvas, which is nice, but I prefer wheat one when I am in Moscow – some old habits are too dear to be changed, as traditional taste reminds me of my childhood.

In essence, this book is for any woman who wants to look after her female power force. Whether we are girly or boyish by personality, our nurturing nature can’t be bypassed & deserves to be looked after. I think women in their 20s might be inspired by knowledge & recipes that won’t be too taxing on their time, as will older women, who have, want to or don’t want to have kids. I have two children & don’t plan to add to my brood, but my femininity is no less important to me now, as it was in my youth because I want not just to look good, but feel good as well. This book offers you wisdom when you feel like expanding your knowledge, whether you read it or skim through pages & try a recipe or two. At your own pace, listening to your own inner voice & getting what you need from the book when you need it. It’s like a wise & light-footed friend who has your best interest at heart but never preaches or forces things on you.

Emma Cannon with Victoria Wells ‘Fertile: Nourish and Balance Your Body ready for baby Making‘ is published by Ebury press & is available from book stores & Amazon, £20

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It’s always fascinating to see political debates in public, garnering emotions that rule over people taking part, whether on stage or in the audience. Last night’s Intelligence Squared debate on the subject of President Trump’s first hundred days in power was no exception.

Award-winning Newsnight journalist Emily Maitlis calmly & expertly narrated the debate between British journalist Melanie Philips & broadcaster James Delingpole on the ‘for’ side and Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland & political commentator James Rubin on the ‘against’ side.

The points veered between the following:

  • Trump is the work in progress & he is on a steep learning curve
  • Next to nothing good happened in Trump’s first 100 days in power
  • Incompetence is his hallmark
  • The future is bright, the future has orange skin
  • Gut is telling Trump the right thing, but his brain is still catching up with it
  • President Trump is a stranger to the truth
  • Trump is not Barack Obama, nor is he Hilary Clinton
  • 100 days aren’t long enough to judge a person in such an important position
  • Bragging & loose lips kill people
  • Trump is part of a club defending the undefendable
  • Trump is not the leader, as he throws democratic freedoms out of the window
  • It’s arrogant to judge Ttrump from an audience in London
  • Trump speaks for a lot of Americans

While President Trump & his actions & tweets remain ever so divisive, I find it sad & frustrating that there seems a widening gap between Russia & the US, at least judging by the political stage actions & press pages. I was raised with respect for people irrespective of their nationalities & never viewed America as the enemy, no matter the press rhetoric, so to hear Russia be called ‘hostile state’ by Jonathan Freedland is deeply disheartening.  I am very much looking forward to the June IQ2 debate with him & Russian broadcaster & interviewer Vladimir Posner, which will be again narrated by Emily Maitlis, on the subject of ‘Is it time to bring Russia in from the cold?’.

I believe that countries, no matter their size, when represented by their leaders or people who have weight in society due to their professional stature, should engage in an open dialogue & not accusatory monologues, which only lead to further anger that the world certainly doesn’t need. Evgenyi Primakov & Madeleine Albright were formidably respected representatives of their countries on the diplomatic stage & actually helped bring Russia & US closer together due to the strength of their experience, dignity & intelligence. It was upsetting to hear anger in James Rubin’s voice when he talked about President Putin & Russia’s role on world stage, including potential implication in Hilary Clinton’s presidential bid smear campaign.  Shouldn’t the rules of play be the same for everyone? Doesn’t US do the same when it comes to Russia? And whose purpose does it actually serve to widen the gap between the two nations, rather than brining them closer together? Simmering anger & mud throwing, mixed with the facts that at times that we don’t know the origin of or online leaks, affect the perception of people around the world, ultimately further unsettling the precious balance of the world.

Judging by the announcement of the results from the audience on the debate, President Trump, not surprisingly, is viewed overwhelmingly negatively. He has been a divisive character long before he was elected as an American President & judging by his actions since he stepped into the highest US office of power, he shows no sign of changing that trend. What surprised me yesterday was to read on my Twitter feed on my way home after the debate that Hilary Clinton formed a political group ‘Onward Together’ to oppose Trump’s presidency. The group will aim to gather support to oppose the presidency of the officially elected US President & will raise funds for potential candidates to see their ambitions through & run for local office on progressive-based agendas. Irrespective of the nationality or gender, people with power most often than not aren’t keen to let go of it once they experience the power of the limelight.

As a regular person not privy to any diplomatic insight, I can only judge things based on what I hear or read, but more & more often I question who & what sources of information to trust, as everyone seems to have hidden or innate agendas. Information was certainly limited when I was growing up in Soviet Russia & now we all seem to be drowning in it, often not being able to determine what’s fact & what’s fiction. I do agree with James Rubin on this: during the debate he said that when he was growing up, his father instilled many wonderful values in him, like work very hard & you will succeed in America, the land of opportunity. He struggles with saying the same thing to his son. But I can say the same, comparing what my father taught me & what I can now teach my own son. Politicians might represent their nation in high office, but they can’t speak for all of us. And yes, often the people we personally didn’t vote for win the election or worse, people who we voted for actually truly let us down. Debates are all very well, but do they help us understand each other better & move closer together in the face of the increasingly changing status quo of the world? For me that’s the question that I left pondering after the debate.

p.s On the subject of leaks & security: while watching ITV’s news reports last night I heard one country being mentioned, where a potential source, who shared his or her information with the American intelligence, was based. A totally different country was mentioned during the debate. Comes down to the question who to trust & who to believe, otherwise it becomes a child’s game of ‘he said, she said’.

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Cleansing is one of those daily rituals that brings a multitude of benefits to your skin, as well as your body via your senses. Find the right cleanser for your skin, use it twice daily, making sure you cleanse your skin thoroughly, but without stripping it & you are one step closer to having beautiful skin. Today I want to introduce the latest launch from Spanish brand Dafna’s Personal Skincare called Recovery Cleanser to you.

When I first came across this Spanish brand, I was surprised that it didn’t have a cleanser among its products, but as I got to know Dafna, brand’s founder & mother of two, I understood that she won’t launch something unless she was happy with what the product will achieve. Combining scientific research, careful ingredient selection & Ayurvedic principles, each product aims to deliver so much more that just skincare benefits to its customers.

Recovery Cleanser has a texture of a balm, but as you massage your face & neckline with it, adding water, it changes to a milky consistency, imparting a veil of nurture to the skin. The centre of this cleanser is created around nutritive & antioxidant-rich organic oils of Moringa, Bamboo & Argan, which help remove make-up & grime that we accumulate daily, when our skin comes into contact with the elements, as well as purify the skin. Lemongrass essential oil helps to detoxify your skin, while its scent calms your mind & Calendula Extract reduces skin discomfort.

When Dafna started developing this cleanser, she thought long & hard about her own experiences with cleansers, considering texture, effect & benefit for the skin, scent, as well as the things that she didn’t like when using a product to cleanse the skin. This lovely woman has a a very calm disposition about her, even though she balances her work with motherhood & I just can’t imagine her rushing in her creative process. Good things take time & effort to create & Dafna wanted women who use this cleanser to not only feel & see the difference in their skin, but to give them a moment of calm in their busy lives, something that as a mother really resonates with me. She considers oil to be more ‘profound’ when it comes to make-up & grime removal from the skin, so incorporating a few of them led her to create a balm that becomes quite milky when it comes into contact with water & ultimately benefits your skin, doesn’t make it feel or look de-hydrated, while cleansing it effectively at the same time. Her aim was to create a cleanser that will give you a feeling of beautifully clean skin, was easy to remove and be practical in terms of the multitude of benefits.

What Recovery Cleanser does:

  • Deeply cleanses the skin, while lifting dirt & impurities
  • Removes foundation & make-up without causing irritation
  • Fights skin oxidation caused by intrinsic factors like pollution & sun exposure, while helping skin recover its natural healing ability
  • Nourishes the skin
  • Helps reduce intrinsic stress, which is a significantly influential factor when it comes to ageing process

When Dafna was playing with textures during the creative process, she was conscious that many of us travel & take our cleansers with us, so a product that is solid is somewhat preferable. One of the things worth pointing out is that this cleanser combines oils & shea butter in its formulae, which allows the balm to stay ‘solid’ in the jar, so you can rest assured that it won’t ‘leak’ in your luggage. We crave balance when it comes to our lifestyle, why not start with incorporating a skincare product that has balance at its core into our daily skincare routine ?

What makes Recover Cleanser Unique:

  • This cleansing Balm offers the advantages of pure oils & nurturing active ingredients & soft, milky texture that is easy to rinse without the need for face cloth (you can use a facial cloth, if you so wish though)
  • Ingredients respect & assist skin’s natural ability to recover
  • The formula takes into consideration both extrinsic & intrinsic stress & ageing factors; it  also allows you to slow down, while nurturing your face
  • Works for all skin types & doshas
  • Can  be left on the skin for a few minutes for some extra nurture or overnight on clean skin as a mask.

When Dafna & I met during her last visit to London in April, I, of course, took advantage on an opportunity to catch up with her, as well as quiz her about the cleanser. I was also quite intrigued, when she suggested cleansing skin not twice, but three times a day. As city dwellers, we can all judge the state of the environment by looking at the windows. When my window cleaner comes over, I love catching sunlight through the windows as I work, cook, do chores or just pause to look at the sky & clouds floating by, but within a few days the glint gets lost in dirt that starts to accumulate. Now,  think about what that does to our skin, which is exposed to it daily, as we move across town for work, school runs, meetings, lunch breaks or errands. So, Dafna draws on that and suggests that even when you work in the office, it’s worth taking five minutes to go to the bathroom, brush your teeth after lunch, cleanse the skin, luxuriating in the sensation of five minute beauty break, re-apply you serum or moisturiser, as well as make-up and get back to work, knowing that you skin’s ‘breathing’ just got a little bit easier. Such approach probably helps improve skin’s ‘health’ as well. In the last few months I also developed a habit of cleansing my face as soon as I am back home, knowing I won’t be going out again that day. I let the water wash the grime & negativity that I might have experienced down the drain, smile at myself in the mirror and get on with the rest of my afternoon or evening, allowing my skin to regenerate & luxuriate in the clean calmness of the sanctuary that is home, having applied my evening skincare products earlier & letting them get to work on environmental damage & ageing process, as I cook, spend time with my family and work.

How to use

Take a pearl-sized amount of balm & massage it into your dry skin. Leave to ‘act’ for a few minutes, then rinse thoroughly with warm water. For extra nutrition, leave the balm on for a few minutes, before washing off. You can also apply the balm to clean skin & leave it on as a nurturing overnight face mask once a week.

As with any beauty product, there are beauty hacks & I urge you to find a way for the products to work for you. Example: when I first started using this cleanser, a week or so after I noticed little spots & tightness around the apples of my cheeks. I was using the cleanser in the evening, massaging it in, following it with Dafna’s Anti-Ageing & Glow Serum & Nutrition cream & but my skin looked fine in the morning. I reached out to Dafna, explaining my predicament & she told me to use less of the balm or to massage it in less – I will be honest, I used the size of a large, not small pearl to start with & was feeling run down & stressed at the time. Within a couple of days of using Dafna’s tip my skin settled down & the same issue hasn’t come up since then, several weeks on. Dafna also reminded me that in spring, as nature wakes up, our skin can become a bit more reactive, due to increased pollen count among other things. This is something worthy of consideration, if you suffer from hay fever or skin sensitivities, but those issues come up for people with none of those issues too, so do pay attention to your lifestyle, skin & what’s going on outside your window in terms of the weather & seasonality – it all works together !

Another interesting element of this cleanser is its smell. Dafna managed to combine healing & refreshing qualities of ingredients, harnessing Ayurvedic knowledge, so depending on your mood or internal needs, the cleanser gives you different perspectives. It has a warming, refreshing smell of orange & lemongrass undertones, a combination of which, when it opens due to the heat of your skin, becomes comforting & reassuring, like a trusted friend. Scent is such an important part of our skincare, as scent can & does affect our mood & state of mind & for me it forms a very powerful element of my skincare ritual, where I savour those moments of peace & self-care, like a cup of warming tea on a cold day.

Skin Type & Doshas

Thanks to the rich formula this cleanser is beneficial for all skin types & Doshas

I have combination skin, but due to the fact that I test a lot of skincare on my own face there are times when my skin gets pissed off with me & makes its opinion subtly obvious to me. As this cleanser has a balmy texture, I prefer to use it in the evening, in order to cleanse my face thoroughly – I definitely have more time for myself in the evening than in the morning, when organised chaos of getting kids & myself ready for the day ahead rules the roost.

Skin & Dosha tips for using Recovery Cleanser

I have been using Dafna’s new cleanser alongside her Anti-ageing & Glow Serum & Moisture + (beautifully scented, it includes 19 ingredients, including Hyaluronic acid, Argan oil, Bamboo, Plantar & Mimosa extracts that help to hydrate & renew your skin, while Neroli essential oil lifts your spirit, as you get ready to start the day. It is more light-weight than Nutrition, so complements your serum & helps create a smooth canvas for make-up application as additional bonus) in the morning & Serum plus Nutrition in the evening, so it slotted perfectly into my skincare ritual. After I got over the original hiccup of using ‘too much’ of the cleanser in my enthusiasm, we found a natural rhythm. As the weather gets a bit warmer I end up use a little less of the cleanser, yet it work as effectively – you really need to find your own way with each skincare product you choose to put on the skin. I also draw comfort from the smell of this cleanser, as it fairly quickly calms & centres me, as I take longer, deeper breaths, as I apply it – a practise that is so beneficial for your skin & body, as you draw more oxygen in, as opposed to the day, when most of us breath fairly shallow in our rush to get from Point A to Point B. I also find that Dafna’s recommendation of using it after cleanser on clean skin as an overnight mask once a week works well, if my skin feels a little drier (I am not helping my case when I don’t drink enough water ) & the mask helps to make it up to my skin for my short comings. I also like how it feels on my skin & allows my fingers to slide over my face, as I massage it into all the grooves, unknotting the tension, without any drag.

Key Ingredients:

Bio Moringa Oil: obtained from the seeds of Mooring Oleifera, this oil originates from the Himalayas, where it is known for its efficacy in combatting harmful effects of the sun. It has about 46 powerful natural antioxidants, including Quercetin, Kaempferol, Beta-Sisterol, Zeatin & Caffeoylquinic that help control the ageing process.

Bio Virgin Argan Oil: known as the liquid gold, it is rich in natural antioxidants, essential fatty acids, sterols, carotenoids, ferric acid & polyphenols.

Bio Bamboo Oil: bamboo leaves contain flavonoids, which confer antioxidant properties. Its antioxidant powers are delivered through the mechanism of neutralisation of the free radicals, as well as inhibiting radical reactions.

Lemongrass essential oil: a traditional Ayurvedic medicine from India, it is often used to deal with infections & fever. It also helps to reduce stress levels, as it imparts sedative powers via its soothing aroma.

Calendula Extract: due to its rich content of saponins & mucilages ( a thick, glue-like substances produced by many plants in order to store water & food ), it has wonderful humectant & healing capacity.

Ingredient List: Olea Europaea Fruit Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii Butter, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis Oil, Cetearyl Alcohol, Sorbitan Stearate, Lecithin, Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil*, Moringa Oleifera Seed Oil*, Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil*, Bambusa Vulgaris Extract*, Glycine Soja Oil, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Salvia Officinalis Leaf Extract, Citrus Sinensis Peel Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Oil*, Cymbopogon Flexuosus Oil*, Squalane, Coco-Glucoside, Glyceryl Oleate, Maltrodextrin, Beta-Sitosterol, Tocopherol, Limonene*, Linalool*, Citral*, Citronellol*, Eugenol*, Geraniol*  (* Organic active ingredient with Bio certification).

Dafna’s Recovery Cleanser, 50ml, £35 available to purchase from Content Beauty & Wellbeing 

For more information about Dafna’s Personal Skincare, please go to http://www.dafnaskincare.com

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Most of us consider hair our crowning glory, but until we start having problems with it, we tend to take our hair for granted. Having had a few of my own hair voes in the past, I always keep an eye on new haircare launches, within the natural & organic beauty segment in particular, so when a British brand Alchemy approached me, I was instantly intrigued.

Like our skin, hair reflects the state of our general health. However, as they are dead cells, hair issues like splitting ends, discolouration, dry scalp or dandruff can be indicative of past or ongoing illnesses or nutritional deficiency. If you leaf through many publications, including the glossies, you will notice that hair that is glossy and in top condition seems to be trending lately and it is the trend that I wholeheartedly embrace, as part of my own daily self-care evening ritual.

Each oil in Alchemy formulas is organic, fair-trade, vegan & cruelty-free (part of PETA’s beauty without bunnies campaign) and is sourced either from the UK or India

I don’t know about you, but I have white envy of real women who posses long, thick, glossy hair (please make no mistake, this doesn’t include me admiring magazine or tv ads where glossy hair is achieved by clever lighting & editing ). Fairly often women who have naturally glossy locks come from the Arab countries, Latin America or India, so the fact that Alchemy founders are of Indian heritage comes as a natural advantage. Amandeep Panglin, one of brand’s founders, alongside her two siblings, decided to create Alchemy after noticing a gap in the market for multi-tasking hair oils – ones that can remedy damage already inflicted on hair & scalp, while also acting as a styling product. Amandeep & her siblings have been using oils on their hair since the young age, which allowed them to combine their childhood practises with modern knowledge & to create a line of products based on natural oils (no gimmicky or complex formulas, reading through which you get lost) to benefit both hair & scalp. In a way, they have always been working towards setting up their own business & in 2015 a dream became a reality.

Alchemy launched with just three products, Peppermint Beard RemedyGrapefruit & Amla Hair Remedies, recently adding the Peppermint Brow Remedy to their range (you can also purchase sample-sized versions of the products, as well as limited editions of the products for special occasions). The brand combines Ayurvedic practise of hair oiling from India, where oils are used much more often than in the West, for scalp massaging. There is a notion that oils will make your hair greasy, but you don’t have to worry, if you use good quality oils in the right way for your own scalp & hair needs – more on this later.

Each blend was formulated to stimulate hair growth, treat hair loss, promote stronger hair, soften it, fight frizz, add shine or make hair more manageable naturally. We often want what we don’t have, but it’s nice to have a product that allows you to achieve the desired result, factoring your hair’s unique qualities, while ingredients used have long-term benefits & don’t jeopardise your wellbeing.

Alchemy at its most basic means to convert base metals into a universal elixir & that’s a metaphor for this brand’s oil blends

I have been using Grapefruit Remedy for over a month now & am suitably impressed with how nicely it fitted into my haircare routine. It comes in a glass, apothecary-like bottle with a wood cork that’s quite easy to pull out or push in, allowing you to feel like your own hair magician. Start with opening the bottle, taking a few deep breaths, inhaling the subtly zesty grapefruit aroma and then use it to nurture your hair & scalp as and when you like, before or after washing your hair. Additional thoughtful ‘bonuses’ from the brand to its customers are the accompanying card that gives you tips on the best way to use the product & the fact that the packaging is 100% recyclable. All you have to do is find the best way for it to work for YOU!

Use: You can use it when & how often you want. I have been using it not just on my scalp & hair, but on my eyebrows, cuticles & nails too. It is suitable for all types of hair, including fine, thick, dry, greasy, frizzy or afro hair.

Directions: if you want to deeply condition your hair, irrespective of the season, apply a small amount of oil to different sections of your scalp by moving the tips of your fingers in small, delicate, circle motions, while applying light pressure. Don’t press too hard or pull – this process should nurture the scalp & hair follicles, while relaxing your mind. Giving yourself a regular scalp massage will improve blood flow to the hair follicles, making your hair stronger, longer & healthier. Just make sure that you massage your scalp all over! I tend to start from the top & move outward, but it really doesn’t matter where you start, as long as scalp massage becomes a regular practise – you will notice a difference in your hair growth & appearance in about a couple of months, when you commit to this practise. Good hair takes time, effort & patience – take my word, based on experience, that there is no magic pill to instantly fix hair or scalp problems! While having a haircut of having your hair colour done will improve the way your hair looks, your god’s given head of hair depends on the effort you make to look after it.

With this particular hair oil you can leave it on your hair after scalp massage for at least thirty minutes, but can easily leave it overnight, if you feel that you hair needs some extra TLS, due to weather conditions or styling tools negative effect on your hair. I tend to apply it in early evening & wash it off, shampooing my hair twice, making sure I do a thorough last rinse, before I go to bed. I left it on overnight a couple of times in a month, washing it off in the morning, when I knew I’d have plenty of time & wouldn’t be in a rush – weekends are perfect for it! I would also recommend taking it with you to the gym, if you plan to use a hummam afterwards, as it will allow the oil to penetrate hair shaft better due to heat. Again, this depends on your preference & needs. If I leave the oil overnight, I make sure it sinks in before I go to bed & then my pillowcase ends up smelling of grapefruit ( the oil doesn’t leave any noticeable residue, nor does it stain your pillowcase – I tend to do it when sleeping on cotton, not silk pillowcase ).

Styling: You can use Grapefruit Hair Remedy ( it works particularly well on hair prone to fizz or fine hair) on both wet & dry hair. The brand recommends warming up a few drops in the plans of your hands & working through the lengths of your hair. I tend to apply it to my fine hair from mid-length downwards & as I have a bob at the moment, I literally need a tiny amount. My personal preference is to wash my hair, towel dry it and then apply this oil, to add glossiness & subtle scent to it.
Ingredients: Ricans Communis Oil (Organic Castor Oil), Caprylic/Capric triglyceride (Fractionated Coconut Oil), Persea Gratissima (Organic Avocado Oil), Prunus Dulcis (Sweet Almond Oil) and Citrus Paradisi Peel Oil (Grapefruit White Essential Oil).

Castor Oil stimulates blood circulation to scalp

Coconut Oil helps protect against environmental impurities & excess heat from sun or styling tools

Avocado Oil helps to penetrate hair cuticles, strengthening hair fibres

Almond Oil repairs the damage by penetrating the hair shaft & smoothing cuticles

Grapefruit Oil is a natural hair tonic, which helps fight dandruff

Notice simplicity of the list of the ingredients – just five oils blended together, so they are easily absorbed by your hair, while nurturing scalp & roots, on which the actual beauty & appearance of your hair depends. Styling, deep conditioning and masking all in one bottle! I was also intrigued to lean that Amandeep & her brother Navdeep work together in overseeing production development, making it not only a family business, but a business where men & women work harmoniously together to create something naturally beautiful & benefitting consumers – no wonder it is stocked up by Content store in Marylebone, as well as online.

Finding the right products for yourself – be it skin or haircare, is important, but so is paying attention to ingredients used & the way you look & feel when using a particular product. I also think your engagement with a brand & their communication with the consumers is an important element, but ultimately you have to see & feel the benefit of using this or that product. I like looking at the Alchemy bottle & smelling this grapefruit oil – not only does it make me feel good due to its light, uplifting scent, but my hair condition (I have fine, highlighted hair ) seems to be improving too. After cold winters my scalp tends to get a little dry and I definitely noticed that it seems more balanced now, than when I first started using this oil. My hair also looks a little thicker, more nourished & a little glossier too, so I intend to continue using it during my summer holiday, when my hair will need extra ‘support’ & nurture after ‘exposure’ to hot sun & salty sea.

I also want to stress the importance of looking after our hair from the inside out. Drink plenty of water, eat lots of fresh, preferably local & seasonal fruit & leafy green vegetables, which will help ensure that you get plenty of calcium, which is essential for strong hair. Add to that a combination of the right haircare, not overbrushing & taking care when using a brush on wet hair – all of those elements will work synergistically & help you achieve a better head of hair.

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Ever since I was a child reading was one of my favourite pastimes. It started with my parents & on occasion my aunt reading to me, alongside the most magnificently imaginative stories my paternal grandfather made up for me every morning before breakfast, when I was staying with him and grandma. As I grew up, I truly caught the reading bug from my parents, who were voracious readers. I could lose time reading and exploring the world through books, but now that I am older and have two kids of my own, time for my own reading, unrelated to children or work, is becoming more precious, if not scarce. For me reading is akin to a love affair, which takes you on an amazing journey into unchartered waters. Recently I was lucky to experience the magic of Boxwalla February book box and in a way it reignited my love affair with reading, ensuring that I actually make time for daily reading, no matter when or where – I simply have to read, even for half an hour!

Lavanya and her husband, founders of the Boxwalla, are ‘nerdy aethetes’, according to their own description, and they offer monthly or one-off book, film, beauty or food ( US only ) subscription boxes. Lavanya is clearly an intellectual, yet her choice of books is hardly intimidating, even for those who like ‘easy’ reading. She selects the most unusual books from the authors around the world, chooses the theme and fills each box with ‘things that must be experienced’. All of the chosen books & writers are ‘must reads’, even though some aren’t as widely known, as they deserve to be – Lavanya considers each author they feature to be a ‘prospective Nobel Laureate’. Even though one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, sometimes you innately start with exactly that. When I caught sight of one of the book covers in the February’s box, themed ‘Once Upon a Time I Loved a Bear’, I felt like a child in the candy store, simply NEEDING to get my hands on “Memoirs of a Polar Bear’. Lavanya very kindly indulged me and has sent me the box.

The timing couldn’t have been better and when the postman delivered the box straight into the open palms of my hands, I felt like a small girl on the cusp of an amazing discovery. Inside the box were three books and a beautiful Maika Goods bucket, which you can use in a variety of ways – place a flower pot in it, fill it with nuts or dry fruit, small toys, jewellery – I use it as a charming holder for all my writing paraphilia – pens, pencils, colouring pens, scissors & little trinkets that my kids made or gave me. It now stand on my work desk and reminds me of a beautiful moment and a kind gesture from a lovely woman who lives across the ocean from me, yet with whom I feel a ‘bookish’ connection.

Books

‘Brief Loves that Live Forever’ by Andrei Makine, translated from French by Geoffrey Strachan, published by Graywolf Press

I have read several of Andrei’s books in the past in French and in a way it feels somewhat strange that both the reader and the writer, being Russian by birth, are experiencing & expressing things through the language that isn’t their native tongue. Yet, his prose flows so naturally in both French & English, it feels as if I am reading his books in our mother tongue. While his books make me feel predominantly sad, I am drawn to his powerful use of words and the fluidity with which they come together into sentences & paragraphs, transporting me into another universe. Such writing is a gift that can be nurtured, but with which you have to be born. Andrei comes from Siberia, but has lived in France for many years – and he writes like a Frenchman. Having said that, Russian and French languages, while sounding completely different, have many things in common – the romanticism, the complexity and variety of present, past and future tenses and the way you can express one thing in so many different ways. French is a popular language in Russia, in part due to the affection and fluency that Russian Czars and nobility had for France in the past. My own great grandmother actually spoke French to my father when he was little and it was a natural choice for me at University, with Russian and English already under my belt. Until this book arrived in the post, I have read Makine only in French and so was a little apprehensive about comparing English translation with  the French original. I shouldn’t have worried – the beautiful language, precision of description of people & their experiences, ingrained poesy and melancholy were present on every page. Russians are prone to melancholy when it comes to love, but what drew me in is the description of life during Soviet times that I experienced in my childhood, yet which seems to be buried deeply in my brain. I haven’t experienced many of the things that Andrei described, yet the book draws on the painful memories from the Soviet past that resonate in our day and age.

‘The future you talk about is wonderful but complicated.’

Drawing on the theme of freedom and the inability to experience it, as people were supposed to live & breath the collective spirit, communism broke many lives and this book, while giving you moments of joy, will also offer glimpses of immense heart-break. History can’t be undone, but one can draw on the lessons of the past in order to prevent certain events from happening in the future. Seems a particularly timely read in this moment in time, when unity seems to come apart at the seams of the fabric of society. I recommend reading it on dark, melancholic evenings, accompanied by a strong cup of Earl Grey Tea with lemon & or a glass of red to fortify your spirit.

‘What strikes us is the short time it takes to catch up on the more than two dozen years during which the crucial part of our adult life has passed. Sharing the fate of all our generation, bruised by the collapse of the USSR, Pyots tried a thousand trades since then, traveled a lot, forever seeking to convince himself he was coming to grips with this modern life, not feeling behind the times.’

‘Windward Heights’ by Maryse Conde, published by Soho Press

‘Once upon a time, Emily Bronte wrote Withering Heights, set in England. In another time, Maryse Conde, took the story to Guadeloupe & it acquired a life of its own.’

Remember what I said earlier about not judging the book by its cover? Well, this book grabs your eye and when you start reading it, it fairly quickly captures your heart as well. Maryse Conde wrote this book in such a way, that it reminded me of the fairy-tales that I read when I was a little girl, yet appealed to my grown-up mind as well. Her sentences captivate you & make you want to turn page, after page, after page, even though the story that she tells is incredibly tragic. Look at the cover again, breath in & …. don’t count on it to raise your spirits. It will, however, make you reflect mot just on the subject of love, but things like racism & slavery and the way it continues to effect our world in the current day & age.

Maryse reimagines Emily Bronte’s beautiful novel as a tale of obsessive & detrimentally all-consuming love between the ‘African’ Razye and Cathy, the mulatto beauty & the daughter of a man who takes Razye in & raises him. With one of the main themes of the book being the pain of lost love and its consequences not just for the main characters, Conde sweeps you off to the Cuba & the Caribbean islands and paints an engrossing tale of the divided society in the wake of emancipation & political change. Each chapter will show you different angles & perceptions of different people when it comes to obsession & cruelty that love can bring to the people, no matter what their age. The masterful translation of the book from French into English by Maryse’s husband showcases a wonderful synergy of the husband & wife team in a truly magical way. An unforgettable book that won’t let you out of its powerful grip, even when you read the last sentence.

‘Memoirs of a Polar Bear’ by Yoko Tawada, translated by Susan Bernofsky, published by ND Books

The book is written by a Japanese novelist Yoko Tawada, who currently lives in Germany and writes in both Japanese & German. Interestingly, Yoko majored in Russian literature in Wasoeda University & this novel actually begins in the Soviet Union, before the action moves to Canada & Germany. Yoko’s writing process is intriguing to say the least, as she can write in Japanese, then translates it into German and then, and only then, the book gets translated into English – all this makes nuances of her books particularly fascinating. In a way, her writing process reminds me of the Turkish author Elif Shafak, who writes every book of hers in English, then has it translated into Turkish, after which…she re-writes it. Elif herself called her writing process ‘insane’, but says that she ‘loves the commute between the languages’. To truly appreciate the complexity of the process and the talent of the writer, one needs to be a linguist, but to me as a reader reading a book like ‘Memoirs of a Polar Bear’ becomes doubly fascinating, knowing how much work and creativity went into it, before it makes an appearance in the shop or comes into contact with the reader’s hands via the tablet or laptop. I will profess my love for real books here though – nothing will replace my affection for the paper copy, no matter how the technology evolves.

‘Memoirs of a Polar Bear’ is divided into three parts – the first is written by the matriarch of the bear, yes, you read it right, BEAR ! family, who writes an autobiography in the Soviet Union. In Part Two, her daughter Tosca, who lives in East Germany, takes part in a thrilling new act at the circus and in Part Three you get to meet Knut, Tosca’s son and learn about his life & his keeps in the Berlin Zoo.

When I started reading the book it wasn’t apparent from the beginning that it is the voice of the bear that speaks to you through the pages of the book, as you turn them & I found it thrillingly fascinating to ponder what was going through the mind of Yoko, as she was writing the book. I will also admit to finding first part pretty sad, the second more upbeat somewhat or maybe it just appealed the most to me and the third quite interesting to take time and contemplate the relationships between animals and zoos, where they are kept for our supposed pleasure. What intrigued me, even though it turned out to be not the easiest book to read, is the way that each part was written, at times, seemingly, by slightly different people with very distinct voices. The sum of all three parts left a lasting, but cloudy imprint in my mind, like a grey, overcast day, when you want to hide yourself under the cover from the sadness that the world elicits sometimes.

P.s in my soon to follow blog post I will give you a closer introduction to the wonderful people behind Boxwalla, who take you on the wonderful journey of discovery around the world & make you dream of all the wonderful things that are yet to happen to us.

To find more about Boxwalla & various subscription options that are tailored to your interests please click on the link here

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