January 19, 2015

beauty scoop | arya essentials face oil

“Ayurveda intrigues and inspires me; the simplicity of it and how you can draw everything you need from nature. This natural healing science — over 5,000 years old — is native to India and full of recipes passed on from generation to generation.”

— Shadoh Punnapuzha, founder, Arya Essentials

One of my favorite pampering memories is visiting an Ayurvedic Center at an island spa.

Though I haven’t exactly been able to replicate that experience here in the Midwest, I can come pretty close in theory when I use Arya Essentials’ Face Oil.

arya essentials face oil

{Arya Essentials sent me a sample of its Face Oil. It costs $92 for a 30 ml bottle. Photo Courtesy Arya Essentials}

With a potent blend of essential oils and high-performance natural ingredients such as amla, brahmi and tulsi, Arya Essentials’ Face Oil is formulated to boost collagen production, prevent aging and reduce visible signs of wrinkles.

The scent is different than what you may typically expect from an Ayurvedic line. Instead of the heavy spices and savory scents that you’ve come to associate with Ayurveda, Arya Essentials’ Face Oil dresses your skin in a powdery soft, floral scent thanks to sandalwood, ylang ylang and geranium.

This is a bit of a big deal to me, as Ayurvedic skincare is commonly characterized by heavy-duty scents (think neem and basil), but Arya Essentials’ Face Oil manages to deliver both the standout, traditional ingredients while offering a light, feminine scent that’s pleasant enough to pass for a soft perfume.

The texture is what we’ve all come to expect from luxury facial oils: Lightweight, fast-drying and soft to the touch.

I can get by with 3-4 drops applied to a properly toned / misted face. The thoughtful ingredient blend allows for an even application and slip, making this face oil one that you don’t have to pile on to get that well-hydrated feel.

arya essentials face oil

Speaking of incredible ingredients, let’s get down to it:

Amla, also known as Indian gooseberry, is known for its high vitamin C content and powerful rejuvenating properties. There’s even been talks of amla berries having potential cancer-fighting benefits (though more likely when eaten, not slathered on the face).

Amla also has anti-inflammatory and astringent properties, making it an ideal ingredient for Pitta skin like mine.

In addition to amla, Arya Essentials Face Oil contains brahmi, another widely respected Ayurvedic herb celebrated for its ability to brighten and soothe the skin. Brahmi also boasts detoxifying properties, gently toning and calming troubled skin.

Tulsi, or Holy Basil, is yet another popular plant rich in skin-saving antioxidants that purify and add radiance to dull skin. It’s highly regarded as a heavyhitter when it comes to antioxidant content and antibacterial, anti-viral and immune-enhancing properties.

With these three superstar Ayurvedic ingredients going to work in a base of argan, jojoba and sweet almond oils, my highly hormonal, Pitta skin could not be happier drinking up the years-old promise of Ayurvedic skincare.

Here’s the full ingredients list:

Argania Spinosa (Argan) Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Centella Asiatica (Brahmi) Oil, Rosa Rubiginosa (Rose Hip Seed) Oil, Santalum Album (Sandalwood) Oil, Phyllanthus Emblica (Amla) Extract, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Ocimum Sanctum (Tulsi) Oil, Azadirachta Indica (Neem) Oil, Cananga Odorata (Ylang Ylang) Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens (Geranium) Oil

I will point out, though, that none of these ingredients are listed as certified organic, which is disappointing given the high cost of this face oil.

While I respect the thoughtful blend, I always wonder what it would take to source organics — and how that affects price. I would love to see Arya Essentials reformulate to add more certified organic ingredients!

Besides that detail, I’d say Arya Essentials Face Oil is a winner. It’s got all the good-for-Pitta-skin ingredients packed away in a lightweight, mixed carrier oil base that’s easy on the nose for those who don’t like spicy or herbal scents on their faces.

What’s been your experience with Ayurveda? Have you tried Arya Essentials? What are your favorite Eastern herbs and ingredients? Tell me in the comments section!


January 16, 2015

beauty scoop | gressa skin minimalist corrective serum foundation

“It’s a serum. It’s a foundation. It’s a multivitamin for your face.”

With product copy like that, you can’t help but notice Gressa Skin’s Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation.

A darling of the green beauty blogosphere, Gressa Skin’s Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation caught my attention because of its skin-beneficial ingredients list and magical serum-to-powder finish formula.

However, this natural foundation didn’t completely WOW me the first few times I applied it. It’s since grown on me, and here’s how I enjoy it.

gressa minimalist corrective serum foundation

{I purchased Gressa’s Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation from the Gressa website. It costs $48 for a 15 ml dropper bottle.}

After reading several reviews before splurging on it in early December 2014, I opted for shade 03 and requested a sample packet of the Illuminating Serum with my order.

I was quite impressed with the match I got in shade 03, described as a light-medium color with olive and slightly warmer undertones.

As you can see in my before-and-after photos below, it’s almost a perfect match!

But as you can also see in my before-and-after photos, the coverage is very light, as I can still see the imperfections on my forehead and the deeper yellow-tan circles under my eyes.

gressa minimalist corrective serum foundation

{LEFT: No makeup. Not even my brows. Ah!  RIGHT: Wearing only Gressa Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation}

This is after buffing in 7-8 drops of the runny formula — substantially more than the recommended 2-4 drops in the application directions.

I used about 3 drops on my forehead and down my nose; 2 on each of my cheeks; and one on my chin and jawline.

Though the light coverage can easily be remedied by adding concealer on my spots and undereye circles, one issue I had with Gressa Skin’s Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation was its tendency to stick to dry patches on the skin.

I’ve read this feedback in a lot of other reviews, and it held true even for me, the oily blogger in residence.

Granted, it is the dead of winter, and we’ve had some brutal weather in the Midwest lately, but I was surprised at how the foundation balled up on even the slightest dry patches on my face. This was after a healthy amount of cleansing, exfoliation, toning, moisturizing and application of the Illuminating Serum sample.

With that said, I’m interested to see how Gressa Skin’s Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation performs in the spring and summer. I imagine this issue will go away, and I will have a deeper appreciation for how lightweight and beautiful this formula is.

(I’ll provide an update to this post when it’s warmer!)

Speaking of the formula, let’s look at those skin-beneficial ingredients that got my attention in the first place:

*Brassica oleracea (Broccoli) Seed Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Silica, GRESSA Healing ComplexTM *Silymarin, *Neem (Azadirachta indica) Extract,*Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) Extract, *Lemon Balm (Melissa officianalis) Extract, *Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) Extract, *Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) Seed Extract, *Elder Flower (Sambucus nigra) Extract, *Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia) Extract, Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate Non-GMO, Coenzyme Q10, Ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate, (Vitamin C), *lecithin, *glycerin, mica, iron oxides, titanium oxide. *CERTIFIED ORGANIC

Broccoli seed oil is the hero ingredient that gives this serum foundation the feel of a primer without the use of silicones.

Neem, horsetail, lemon balm and sea buckthorn are known for their anti-inflammatory and acne-fighting properties, which is a wonderful bonus to those of us who are breakout-prone and attempting to reach “foundation-free” status with our skin.

And that brings me to how I’ve come around with this foundation. As I mentioned in the introduction of this post, I wasn’t immediately impressed with this foundation from a pure coverage and everyday application perspective.

However, as I’ve been experiencing some really great skin days lately, I’ve come to respect this foundation more as my “good skin day” foundation. It allows my skin to breathe, continues to treat it with good-for-breakout-prone-skin ingredients and makes me feel like I’m wearing nothing on my face.

As I get older and appreciate the ability to let my bare beauty shine through, I yearn more and more for the days when I can be that girl who just slicks on lip gloss, curls her lashes and goes — no major skin coverage needed!

Until then, it’s easy to use Gressa Skin’s Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation to fake that “no-makeup” makeup look. Just remember to spot-conceal where necessary, and feel confident in your own skin!

So, final verdict on repurchasing: Undecided until I’ve seen how it performs in warmer, humid weather.

Until then, check out some of my other natural foundation reviews and see some of my other favorites and fails.

What are your thoughts on Gressa Skin’s foundation? Do you have “good skin day” foundations and foundations you use when your skin needs a little extra help? What are they? Tell me in the comments section!


January 14, 2015

beauty scoop | tatcha luminous deep hydration firming serum

In the green beauty world, we throw around the world “serum” to encompass anything from sticky, tacky-feeling serum-gels to bona fide face oils cleverly called “super serums.”

According to the beauty encyclopedia in my head, serums are lightweight, gel-like substances packed with highly active ingredients designed to address particular skin issues.

The feel of TATCHA’s Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Serum fits the encyclopedia definition above, with a perfect, non-sticky, gel consistency that’s featherlight and quick-drying, making it easy to layer your creams or plant oils atop if you so choose.

All of the active ingredients, though, are up for debate.

tatcha luminous deep hydration firming serum

{TATCHA sent me a sample of its Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Serum to review. It costs $95 for a 1-ounce plastic pump jar. Photo Courtesy TATCHA}

TATCHA describes its Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Serum as a deeply hydrating blend of Okinawa red algae and hyaluronic acid designed to nourish skin that needs a shot of moisture and a bit of glow.

In true TATCHA fashion, this serum is packed with 23-karat gold flecks that gives skin a lit-from-within look without adding heavy shimmer or glitter to the face. You can see the light flecks and shimmer in the photo below.

I enjoy using TATCHA’s Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Serum as a base layer in my skincare (after washing and toning) and then layering on oils and creams if necessary. If you have oily skin like me, you will find that this serum slicks on very easily and dries almost instantly.

It won’t goo up the way some sticky serums do, and you can easily blend it with your favorite facial oils if you don’t want apply layer by layer of beauty products. It just takes one pump to cover the whole face. Try one and a half pumps to include your neck.

If you’re able to, TATCHA’s Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Serum is an absolute gem to blend with the brand’s Gold Camellia Beauty Oil. Can you just imagine the gold glow you will have with these two products combined?!

It also blends well with other beautiful, lightweight oils, and the scent is somewhat neutral so it won’t compete. It smells a bit like rice and a flower petal, but isn’t exactly floral. It’s just a very baby-soft scent.

tatcha luminous deep hydration firming serum

As part of the “Water” collection, TATCHA Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Serum harnesses the power of Okinawan red algae and hyaluronic acid to soothe and firm skin while injecting moisture.

TATCHA also takes advantage of green beauty favorites such as silk extract, olive squalene, camellia extract and royal jelly extract, all known for their ability to soften and soothe skin.

My concern with this product, though, is that a lot of that good stuff is further down on the ingredients list.

Here’s the full ingredients list:

Water, Glycerin, Propanediol, Chondrus Crispus Extract, Alcohol, Methyl Gluceth-20, Polyglyceryl-10 Eicosanedioate/Tetradecanedioate, Carrageenan (Algae Extract), Fragrance (All Natural), Inositol (Rice Extract), Polyglyceryl-10 Myristate, Titanium Dioxide, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sericin (Silk Extract), Stearyl Glycyrrhetinate (Licorice Extract), Silica, Hydrogenated Lecithin (Soy Origin), Squalane (Olive Origin), Sodium Dilauramidoglutamide Lysine, Camellia Sinensis Leaf (Green Tea) Extract, Royal Jelly Extract, Algae Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Gold, Sodium Bicarbonate, Xanthan Gum Crosspolymer, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Butelyne Glycol, HDI/Trimethylol, Hexyllactone Crosspolymere, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite

I will be the first to note that the ingredients list looks intimidating, but a quick run through the EWG Skin Deep Database reveals that most of these ingredients score in the 0-2 range, with the exception of phenoxyethanol (4), which a lot of you avoid anyway.

And, as you can see, TATCHA is formulated without parabens, mineral oils, synthetic fragrances, sulfate detergents, urea, DEA, TEA or phthalates.

I’ve mentioned this in previous reviews of products that contain it, but the inclusion of alcohol (ingredient No. 5) is what gives me the most pause, as it’s known to be very drying to the skin — and the inclusion of it is higher up on the list.

With that said, my skin has never felt tight, itchy or dry using TATCHA Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Serum. It’s the long-term effects of using alcohol-laden skincare that’s always up for discussion.

I would love to hear more from you (and from TATCHA!) about the reasoning behind using and/or avoiding alcohol in your beauty routines. Is it absolutely necessary when it comes to formulating? What are the alternatives?

Because of these hesitations, TATCHA Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Serum isn’t on my repurchase list. I’ll definitely be watching this brand to see how it develops even more and if any reformulation is in the works.

You can also check out more of my TATCHA reviews here.

In the meantime, I invite you to tell me more about alcohol in skincare and active ingredients in skincare. What are your totally off-limits ingredients? What’s your POV on alcohol in serums and other skincare treatment products? Tell me in the comments section!


January 12, 2015

makeup of the day | smoke and mirrors

Smoky eyes are quite classic, but the colors in which you create them with can keep the look fresh.

Instead of smoking out your eyes with the typical blacks and grays, why not try a daytime smoke look with light grays, champagnes and violet?

This is a look that you can get away with at the office — thought it’s more makeup than I usually wear — and take straight to happy hour or dinner with a few extra coats of mascara or additional darkening around the edges to make your eyes pop even more.

jane iredale smoke & mirrors smoky eye kit

jane iredale smoke & mirrors smoky eye kit

jane iredale smoke & mirrors smoky eye kit

jane iredale smoke & mirrors smoky eye kit

jane iredale smoke & mirrors smoky eye kit

jane iredale smoke & mirrors smoky eye kit

*Indicates PR sample

For me, of course, makeup is only as good as the skin underneath, and I had a particularly good skin day when I shot these photos.

I had fun layering contouring cream, blush and highlighter to achieve a dewy glow, and can’t wait to recreate this look again with more smoky combinations from the Jane Iredale Smoke & Mirrors Smoky Eye Kit.

Gressa Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation

I’ll have a full, in-depth review of this popular foundation this week, but the short of it is that it’s a bit difficult to get the coverage I want using just this on its own. Combined with concealer, though, it’s a lovely, lightweight, foundation that’s perfect to use during those “good skin” days. If you’re curious, I wear shade “03.”

Tarte Cosmetics Amazonian Clay Waterproof 12-Hour Concealer

I picked up this concealer on a whim sometime last fall, and I’m so glad I did. It’s quickly become my favorite go-to undereye concealer and spot corrector. The formula is creamy, easy to blend and a perfect match to my skin. For the record, I wear “Medium.”

Jane Iredale Bitty Brow Kit in “Brunette”

After finally chucking my former paraben-filled brow kit, I decided to add Jane Iredale’s Bitty Brow Kit to my arsenal for those days when I happen to do my eyebrows on the go and forget my proper brow brush. The Bitty Brow Kit contains two tiny angled brushes (they’re maybe 2 inches long) and a tiny brow comb so you’re never without the proper tools to fill in your brows.

*Revolution Organics Freedom Glow Beauty Balm in “Bronzed”

This multipurpose cream stick blush can be worn as a deep blush, bronzer or contouring cream. In the winter, I opt to use it as a contouring cream, as it’s very dark, and I love the easy-to-blend consistency.

Tarte Cosmetics Cheek Stain in “Fearless”

I’m a sucker for pretty pink corals, and Tarte’s “Fearless” Cheek Stain gives me that youthful, flushed look that appears natural and healthy.

*Kjaer Weis Highlighter in “Radiance”

As mentioned before in this “makeup of the day” post, Kjaer Weis’ highlighter is so different from my standard lineup of highlighters. The silvery look and cream-to-powder finish make it easy to tap on atop other makeup, and you can see how I’ve applied it to the tops of the apples of my cheeks, especially in the fourth photo above. I absolutely adore “Radiance,” and I’m hoping to see what other shades Kjaer Weis may dream up for highlighters!

Kari Gran Lip Whip in “Nice”

Received as one of my free samples with an Integrity Botanicals order, Kari Gran’s Lip Whip in “Nice” delivers a subtle shimmer of champagne to the lips — the perfect balance to a set of smoky eyes. If you haven’t tried Kari Gran’s Lip Whips, I’d recommend them, especially if you are a gloss girl. The texture is just so velvety and nourishing! I’m working on building up my collection.

*Jing Ai Kiss Automatic Lip Pencil in “Pink Parfait”

Lip liner isn’t an everyday thing for me, but when I’m wearing a lighter-colored gloss or stain, I like to line my lips with a color that’s close to my own lip color for some added definition. “Pink Parfait” is a pretty good match for me!

Tarte Cosmetics Clean Slate 360º Creaseless 12-Hour Smoothing Eye Primer

When you have oily skin, that means you have oily lids. And that means you just can’t go without an eyelid primer. I’ve been happy with Tarte’s primer for quite a while. It replaced my Urban Decay primer, and I’ve never looked back!

Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler

Simply the best. It fits the curves of my eyes perfectly, and delivers a flirty curl that lasts all day, especially when locked in with a high quality mascara.

*Jane Iredale Smoke & Mirrors Smoky Eye Kit

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m pretty predictable with my eyeshadow colors: brown, tan, taupe, gold. When I got the Jane Iredale Smoke & Mirrors Smoky Eye Kit, I was excited because while it has some great neutrals for blending and base colors, it also contains shades of violet, which look especially beautiful with brown eyes. The kit includes eight shades and five step-by-step looks to recreate in a helpful and fun “how to” guide. I used a combination of Nude, Champagne, Cappuccino and Aubergine to achieve this look.

Benecos Natural Eyeliner in “Grey”

As much as I love my liquid liner pens to draw on cat eyes, every once in a while I opt for a crayon liner in a lighter shade to play up my eyes. Benecos’ Natural Eyeliner in Grey is the perfect accomplice for a set of violet and champagne smoky eyes. It’s easy to blend and smudge, and I love wearing it on my lower lash line for added drama and definition. Grey is a perfect alternative to black if you want to have that additional pop in your eyes without appearing too harsh or overdone. This is a staple in my eyeliner wardrobe!

Tarte Cosmetics Gifted Mascara

Tarte makes some of my favorite mascaras, and this one has a fat, thick brush and stay-all-day formula that I absolutely adore. The last photo in this post shows you those lashes for days! Thank you, Tarte.


January 9, 2015

natural beauty buff | kirsten kjaer weis, kjaer weis

One of my big goals this year is to embrace simplicity in beauty more, and I can’t think of a better muse for this than Scandinavian culture.

With a sleek yet minimal design aesthetic, the Scandinavian culture is known for beautiful, breathtaking creations that have us all yearning for a more streamlined, soothing palette in life.

In the green beauty world, nobody brings this to your vanity better than Danish-born makeup artist Kirsten Kjaer Weis, creator of organic makeup line Kjaer Weis.

kirsten kjaer weis natural beauty buff

When it comes to well-edited, smartly packaged beauty collections, Kjaer Weis is ahead of the game.

Kirsten designed her line to be beautiful both inside and out, with high-performance organic and natural ingredients on the inside and heavyweight, sleek, refillable packaging on the outside.

Anyone who has ever held a Kjaer Weis product knows how substantial and glamorous they look and feel!

In addition to her approach to the Kjaer Weis line, Kirsten also exemplifies this streamlined, minimal-yet-luxurious approach in her green beauty routine.

Her sampling of favorites below — just five items! — is a breath of fresh air, demonstrating how investing in fewer, better products can make you look and feel amazing.

Buy what you love. Use what you buy. Support kind businesses.

As usual, I’ve starred the products I also use and love.

Tata Harper Love Potion

Love the scent. I will put it on several times a day, almost as a ritual of centering myself.

*May Lindstrom Skin The Blue Cocoon Beauty Balm Concentrate

I find it super soothing and love to wear at night. I feel my skin looks nourished and glowing in the morning. (Editor’s Note: Read my review here!)

*Kahina Giving Beauty “Fez” Body Serum

I love the scent and I love how it absorbs really quickly. It makes my skin feel nourished and moisturized without feeling greasy.

DDF Polishing System

I use this every other day with a mild scrub, and I can really see the difference in the silky texture of my skin.

*Kjaer Weis “Just Sheer” Foundation

It covers so lightly that it makes me look like me — but a better version. (Editor’s Note: Read my review here!)


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