Among the wonderful Irish businesses featured in our Autumn 2020 issue were The Soap Room and Donegal Natural Soaps. We loved hearing more about these skin treats! Read on to enjoy the article.
One of the many fantastic changemakers we featured in our Winter 2019/20 issue was Natalie Balmond, founder of sensitive skincare company Balmonds. She discussed how she first began to make soothing creams and lotions to help her daughter Lula overcome eczema, and how Balmonds has gone from strength to strength ever since!
By Alison McEvoy
Born of the combined passion of its co-founders for genuine, natural skincare and fair principles, Lavera celebrates its thirtieth birthday this year. Co-founder Thomas Haas had suffered from the itchy skin condition, neurodermatitis, since he was a child.
He began his skincare journey by cultivating plants and developing formulae for natural products that might help
his skin. After ten years of research he launched the original company, Laverna. At around the same time, in Germany, Klara Ahlers had set up a natural cosmetics speciality retail business named Cremetopf (‘Cream Jar’). It wasn’t long before these two joined forces and in 1997 they set forth together as Lavera – ‘the real thing’ in Latin.
Lavera now produces a massive range of skincare products, from deodorants and make-up, to skin care for babies and children, which it ships to over forty countries worldwide. This global distribution thread remains rooted in the Hanover region in Germany, meaning that production can stay thoroughly regulated to ensure organic, cruelty-free and eco-friendly manufacturing standards are kept. Ingredients are also locally harvested in that region; “Some 300 organic extracts are obtained from natural sources such as flowers, freeze-dried fruits and herbs, hence a high level of quality control is possible, which has been confirmed many times by top ratings from independent testing bodies.”
Given their history of pioneering work in Germany, having been involved in the creation of the first certifying body
for natural cosmetics, NATRUE, and being the first world-wide producer of 100% mineral-based sun protection, Lavera will no doubt continue to grow and innovate over the decades to come.
Darker days, but brighter skin
As the autumn roll in, there’s an easy way to maintain your skin’s summer glow, whilst overcoming some of the damage caused by sun exposure. Unexpectedly however, we’re recommending you do it from the inside out – by increasing your vitamin C intake.
Altrient C have created the world’s first liposomal vitamin C gel, created to be capable of delivering a 98 per cent absorption rate of this hero vitamin. The phospholipid delivery system, which protects the vitamin as it travels through the digestive system and into the bloodstream, allows Altrient C to deliver a higher absorption rate than most standard vitamin C supplements.
How does vitamin C help your skin? Its antioxidant properties help to counter free radical cell damage caused by excess sun exposure and has incredible wound-healing properties for sun burn. Vitamin C also aids the production of hydroxylysine and hydroxyproline, both necessary for binding the molecules that create collagen which boosts tissue growth and strengthens the skin.
A study with Princeton Consumer Research demonstrated the efficacy of Altrient C for boosting collagen production. Three sachets daily resulted in a 61 per cent increase in skin elasticity and firmness in just 12 weeks. There might not be many mosquitos buzzing about now, but thanks to its anti-inflammatory healing properties, vitamin C can also be used to treat insect bites. It counters the histamine released by the immune system cells when bitten, and causes receptors in our blood vessels to enlarge, swell and become red and itchy. Perfect for autumn skin care, and perfect for winter holidays to sun destinations!
If you have to buy them bath stuff, make it lovely stuff with a story…
This time a year or two ago, one of the lovely things I was busy with was making upcycled notebooks and customised notebooks with any text you wanted printed on the front. The funniest and best request I got for one was from a friend of mine who asked for one with ‘Better Than a Soap Set’ printed on the cover to give to someone as a gift. This followed into a series then of ‘Better Than a Box of Roses’ and ‘Better Than Socks’ and so on. But sometimes, bath stuff and soaps and smelly things are a perfect gift. One thing I would ask myself before buying them for someone however is, is this something the person is going to use? Or is it just going to take up space on a shelf. I like having as few things as possible so I would hate to be the cause of unnecessary ‘stuff” in someone else’s home. But if you decide yes it’s going to be used, or yes you want to be the cause of stuff in someone’s home, these are my recommended favourites. And if you do give them to someone, tell them the story of them too. In some ways that’s the nicest thing about them. Soap is just soap after all.
Dr. Bronner’s are famous for their 18 in 1 soaps. You can use them for everything from normal hand washing, to laundry, to brushing your teeth with the stuff – a friend has used their peppermint one for this. I was treated to a few of their products to review them a while back and tried them out for lots of their uses. They didn’t suit my hair type for shampoo but other people I talked to used them for that and it worked perfectly (the people in question had dark short hair, and dark hair with very tight curls. My hair is fine and long ish and even with their conditioning rinse, it didn’t enjoy it at all.) The rose scented one is divine, you’ll feel and smell like a prince or princess from somewhere very exotic and wonderful. If you buy this one for someone, tell them to use it as their laundry detergent at least once. I swoon thinking of the smell of that batch of laundry, though it would be a little pricey to use it for that all the time. In saying that though, it only takes a very small amount to get sudsy, so that’s good.
Now, the interesting stuff. I have done no investigative journalistic adventures into what the company website says, so I’m taking them at their word, but if it’s all true, my goodness they’re lovely. And maybe numerous companies are that lovely and if you are, put that information up somewhere easy to find because I think consumers really do consider where their money is going more and more often.
“At Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, we believe that Corporate Social Responsibility is more than just a buzzword. From the products we make, throughout our supply chains, to our dedicated activism and our charitable giving, to our relationships with employees, we are committed to progressive values in every aspect of our business.
The total compensation of our highest-paid employees and executives is capped at five times that of the lowest-paid position. Our employees receive 15% of their salary paid annually into a retirement/profit-sharing plan, up to 25% of their salary as a bonus, and a no-deductible PPO health insurance plan for themselves and their families. We implement programs within our workplace to encourage personal growth and development, and we strive to create a healthy environment for workers to thrive and take pride in their contributions to the broader world community through their work at Dr. Bronner’s.
All profits not needed for business priorities are fully dedicated to the charitable and activist causes we support – they are not kicked back as windfall bonuses or distributions to executives or owners.”
Sound. So what are their charitable causes and activism?
- Organic integrity in personal care
- Promotion of authentic Fair Trade
- Re-commercialization of industrial hemp in the U.S.
- Labeling genetically engineered foods (those containing GMOs)
- Animal rights and protection
- Other areas of concern include environmental protection, youth support programs, peace and human rights campaigns, anti-poverty initiatives, and generally promoting social justice and equality at home and abroad.
As well as this, they publish information on where each of their ingredients are sourced. They also have information on their various projects and causes and how they implement their values. The products are organic and vegan friendly. Maybe if you’re stuck for something to write in the card going with the gift, find out about one of their projects that fits with a passion or interest the person you’re giving it to has, and tell them a bit about it. It’s nice to know nice things like that and will get you off the hook for just buying them soap.
I’ve written about what a lovely company Voya are before here. They are an Irish family business who have produced such great stuff (that works), with environmentally considerate processes, that now it’s hard to even get a hold of some of their products. I imagine it’s difficult to produce stuff at the quantity now in demand while still maintaining the integrity of their production methods, so if you do have to go on a waiting list for their much sought after moisturisers or eye creams, take it as an opportunity for learning extra patience and a moment to enjoy something in life that is slower and not instantly gratifying. Then it’s two gifts in one already.
They’ve also very recently launched a new product, a massage and body oil called ‘Angelicus Serratus’, a name taken from the main seaweed ingredient I believe and meaning ‘kisses from the sea’. If you’re buying this as a gift, and the lovely glass bottle makes it a very high end gift even on its own, but I’d also recommend maybe finding a nice exfoliant if you want to give them two things. (Aren’t you generous? This person must have been really lovely to you. That’s nice.) The reason I say this is because it actually works so amazingly well when used in conjunction with some exfoliating that you or the person you’re treating will be stroking their own skin in shock the next day. Sometimes I’m of the opinion that I can’t possibly actually need moisturising, my skin seems completely fine without it, but my gosh, the silky smoothness. On top of that, using a body oil after a bath or shower is a lovely way to take extra time to be sort of doing nothing but pampering yourself. Or massaging it onto another person deserving of pampering. Either way, it gets top marks for luxury moment. You can read another review of it here also.
Best best for getting your hands on either of these brands around the country are health food stores and some pharmacies. It’s a bit late for online purchases but you will find them online too, if you want to gift your loved ones a lesson in patience or a nice surprise in January when they’d given up any hope of you getting them anything at all.
Voya got in touch with me recently offering me a free sample of one of their products so that I could review it. Free stuff is hard to turn down and it will inevitably make one want to say lovely things about it out of appreciation for the fact that you got a treat. However, I reluctantly stuck to my gut and emailed back asking if it was locally produced and checking out if there was any aspect of their range that I could see as a beneficial and positive in a bigger way than just, “Ooooh, free stuff!”
As it turns out, and to my sheer delight, Voya check every box I’d like to see checked in attempting to be somewhat socially aware about what products I buy. I may not always have the budget for products that check all the right boxes, but I like to know what my options are. “Send me the treats!”
Voya began as a seaweed baths business in Strandhill in Sligo. People who visited the baths often wanted to ‘take the experience home with them’, so the family-run company had to begin thinking about how they would do this and still maintain the integrity of the local business they were currently running.
“The challenge was significant, and was to be the germ for VOYA. We knew that conventional cosmetics use chemicals that could destroy the beneficial properties of our seaweed and also damage the environment. As a family we agreed that this was an unacceptable compromise and would go against all our instincts. Neil’s brother, Mark, tried to source genuinely organic seaweed products but found none. It soon became apparent that if we weren’t willing to compromise, we would have to go through with the long and demanding voyage towards creating a new type of cosmetic: the first genuinely organic seaweed-based cosmetic products in the world.”
They dry the seaweed naturally, using a method that keeps all of the important things in tact and have worked with natural cosmetic scientists, marine biologists and dermatologists to create their range.
I tried out their Cleanse & Mend cleanser, hydrating mask, Ritzy Spritzy toner and Me Time moisturiser, all packed into a handy, little, travel-sized kit. I threw it into my bag when going away to the gorgeous Bearhaven Lodge on the Beara Peninsula in the west of Ireland. (As a side note, one of the prettiest places I’ve ever stayed and two of the loveliest characters running the place.)
I’m not an expert beauty reviewer but I know my own skin. The products are lovely to use, smell great without having too strong a scent, and my skin looked every so subtly more ‘glowy’ and refreshed after just couple of days. I tend to change products pretty frequently but I consistently notice better results from organic products and Voya reinforced that further.
They recommend leaving the cleanser on for ten minutes and washing it off and as I’ve not used a cleanser that you had to do this with before, I asked them why, and if it was still necessary to use exfoliator or if somehow by leaving it on, was it doing the exfoliating?
“Basically when you leave it on it stimulates and tones the skin thanks to the unique hydrating powers of the algae extracts… that’s why they recommend leave it for a few minutes. And yes, you should still need an exfoliator but better if you use it twice per week instead of every day.”
What’s great about leaving something on for ten minutes is that you can run around doing other bits and pieces and feel like you’re multi-tasking. Lastly, and I’ve mentioned this before elsewhere, but my instincts are that local ingredients are probably the most beneficial for local skin, local weather etc. Nature so often provides us with what we need at the correct time and in the correct place. It’s a theory worth testing out with your beauty products as well as your diet. Speaking of diet – I’d also note that no skincare product will every fix everything if you’re not respecting your liver and your diet. Your liver has a huge impact on your skin and your skin is the biggest organ you have, so to take care of it fully, work from the inside out as well as the outside in.
Their products are priced at what I would consider the more expensive side of the spectrum, the ‘MeTime Moisturiser’ for example is €57, we don’t all have that to spend on a moisturiser. However, if this is the kind of money you spend on products, I’d definitely give it a go. Or try out their travel kit to see if it suits your skin. Even the teeny weeny sample I had went a long way, so it will last. My current ethos is the only reason you should be spending ‘big money’ on anything is if you can see why it’s expensive and you know you’re supporting something good. Big brands have big marketing budgets, so it’s a good idea to do your homework on the business carefully before buying in to the reviews written by the bloggers who got the free stuff. Products of any kind, from clothes, to pizzas to cosmetics, that are mass-produced with no real respect for the environment, and/or produced without consideration for how the chemicals affect the active ingredients contained in them are flying off the shelves for the same price and more. It’s costly to produce products locally and organically, but it’s better for all of us long-term. So If you want to spend sixty quid to spend on a moisturiser, I suggest trying one that’s considerate about our precious little world.
You don’t need this product to be happy or beautiful. You are both of those things already. Voya is simply a lovely option to know about.
Beauty secrets right outside your door.
By Mary Berkery
When you look at present approaches to health, personal care and beauty rituals, you can see that we have moved far from what was practised in ancient times. The industrial revolution replaced healing herbs, balms and rituals with synthetically made equivalents, many of which may not do what they claim or even have side affects.
In Celtic Ireland, the Celts lived close to nature and realised the importance of staying connected to the daily and seasonal rhythms for physical, spiritual and mental wellbeing. The Druids were the spiritual guardians of the Celts and made sure that each citizen was healthy. Exercise, the use of herbs and proper diet were all reflected in the many seasonal festivals of the Celts.
In late Spring and early Summer, the dandelion can be seen growing here in abundance. It is one of our most common wild plants and was used for medicine in early times. February 1st was celebrated as a festival to the White Goddess, and one of her symbols was the dandelion. It was used to treat fever and jaundice, as the root stimulates the liver. It can also improve our skin. When the liver is functioning properly, the skin is bright, vitality is high and creative actions come easily.
Burdock also was held in high esteem by the Celts. The Druid shaman may have used Burdock root to treat various skin conditions. It also helps to regulate the hormonal system due to its containing plant sterols. It also has powerful cholesterol-lowering properties.
Sweathouses are a well-known feature here too. They were in use among the Celtic tribes, and in general use here up to the 18th century. They were used as an ancient physical cleansing ritual, as a rite of passage and for purification and often herbs such as sage were placed on the hot stones as ritual aids.
Seaweed baths have also been practiced in Ireland for hundreds of years, long before the dawn of the weekend Spa retreat! A seaweed bath relaxes the muscles, detoxifies and increases circulation. The natural anti-ageing and anti-cellulite properties improve the suppleness and the elasticity of the skin. It can stimulate the renewal of damaged skin cells, cleanse, tone, smooth and deeply moisturise the skin. Pick some up the next time you’re at the beach for a swim or a stroll.
A less well known beauty treat from our island is Irish peat! It has amazing healing abilities. Peat contains up to 200 organic ingredients that help our skin’s natural beauty. Zinc, copper, iron and selenium are all found in the substance, but most remarkable of all is the medicinal plants it contains such as sundew, heath, crowberry, bog whortleberry and bog Roseberry.
Ógra’s skincare range uses 9000-year-old peat from the bogs of Ireland. Bill Kenny, founder of Ógra skincare, had his interest sparked by it when he burnt his arm as a child. “My mother actually put peat on my burn, she put a cloth over my hand and left it there. There were large blisters on my arms. After four days, she took it off and it was pink, the skin was perfect. I knew from then onwards that there was something special in the bog.”
So with better weather coming along and plenty of long evenings, why not pop outside to your garden to find, dig up or discover your next amazing beauty treatment.
Mary Berkery lives in the west of Ireland and works as a Life and Wellness Coach and an equine assisted Personal Development CoachH her background is in beauty and wellness education. firstname.lastname@example.org
Ogra Skincare Giveaway
Amazing, Irish skincare company ÓGRA, have offered us a very special treat for all of our readers! An amazing prize of a €100 voucher for one lucky reader AND a 20% discount for everyone! Simply enter the discount code “life” when purchasing a product through their website.
ÓGRA, meaning youth, is Ireland’s only full range of cosmetic products that uses peat as an integral ingredient in its range. Based on the natural, organic components, such as vitamins, minerals and trace elements to treat, hydrate and restore the skin, ÓGRA harnesses all the goodness and preservative qualities of natural Irish peat to enhance, and rejuvenate the skin.
To be in with a chance to win the voucher, pop on over to our Facebook post and tell us the most beautiful feature – inside or out, of one of your friends, loves or family members and we’ll pop both of your names into the draw. Winners announced Monday 23rd of June and you can find the link directly to the competition post below.
If you want to make sure you see our Facebook updates in your feed, try this handy little trick out so Facebook stops hiding everything from you ;)
By Mary Berkery – Your body is a temple – bones and all
In primary and secondary school, she was nicknamed Bugsy because of her fuzzy hair and prominent teeth. As a result, she smiled with lips sealed to hide her teeth, and kept quiet and withdrawn so as not to attract attention. When they called her Bugsy, her body would cringe with shame, hearing internally: “You are ugly.”
At age 16, her name was chosen for a makeover from a visiting make-up artist to the school. She was brought to the top of the class, and seated on a high stool while the rest of the class watched. “Bugsy getting a makeover,” they said, laughing. The beauty specialist (whose name she never knew, but whose hands and words she remembers to this day) commented, as she proceeded to demonstrate how to cleanse and skillfully apply moisturizers and decorative cosmetics: “You have such beautiful skin, eyes, bone structure.” The class, too, expressed much admiration and praise. “Correct skincare,” she said, “accentuates what already is there.”
That evening, instead of the usual donning of jeans and boots to go outside to work with animals, she found a most beautiful silk scarf, draped it over her head and shoulders and sat in front of a mirror. She absorbed, in a way that she never had before, the sight of her made up face, her eyes and skin tone. “You are beautiful,” she found herself repeating, “So beautiful.” She felt like a princess. Inside and outside, waves of sensual loveliness filled and washed over her. The experience was the beginning of her journey to personal transformation. In fact, her first career choice of beauty therapy stemmed from that pivotal event.
An incident of personal change occurred recently in my life, when I cut my foot. I had to have an x-ray, as there was a possible fracture in my instep. Sitting in the room, waiting for results, my foot up, I had nowhere to go but to rest into my being and body. So, when the x-ray was put up on the light box, I was awestruck. The exquisite bones, their perfect shapes fitting together, their elegance – they were works of art. It was as if I was looking at the most beautiful landscape (bodyscape!) hidden beneath my skin.
Familiar with caring for my feet from the outside, this was different. As a reflexologist who taught anatomy and physiology, I felt a reverence and wonder that knowledge alone did not give me. In that awestruck moment, I experienced how wrong it is to put any unhealthy substance into such a holy and perfect place as my body. “I will never drink coffee again,” I could hear my inner voice utter.
I believe that we all have been graced with similar encounters, moving us from states of self-neglect to knowing that there is much life, love and beauty to live and give. What are the pivotal times that awakened you to your essence and deeper knowing of your unique human physical expression?
Suggestion: Look at your face in a mirror. Look with curiosity, and suspend all judgment. Welcome who you see looking back as a work of art. Acknowledge her/him. Look closely at the beautiful coloring, skin formation, facial contours and lived-in eyes. Do this for 10 -20 minutes, releasing all judgments as they arise.
Or, look at your hands, feel them with your eyes closed, stroke them, sense their warmth and your soothing touch. Take your time. With aromatherapy oil, slowly massage each hand and finger as if you were caring for a loved one. Keeping your eyes closed; hold your hand with the other as you would a child or beloveds. Breathe and smile inside and outside!
I would love to know what you experienced, or if you have any questions: