Tuesday, June 19, 2018

REVIEW: Boxwalla Beauty Box (June 2018) featuring Moss Skincare Illumina and Beurre Celeste

I'm pretty certain that the skincare Gods have descended upon earth in the form of Lavanya, the owner of the bi-monthly subscription box called The Boxwalla. This lovely woman is making waves in the green beauty industry with her excellent curation of the bi-monthly beauty boxes.

In the past one year that I have been receiving the #boxwallabeauty boxes, I have skipped only two boxes (yes, she gives you the freedom to subscribe/unsubscribe whenever you want) but the products from the rest of the boxes have become staples in my skincare routine, be it my favourite skincare brand, Earthwise Beauty or the H is for Love Rapha Harmonizing Oil Cleanser, Kinu Body Balm or Lepaar Skin's Precious Face Oil. Lavanya really has her finger on the pulse of the green beauty industry...which is why I was delighted when this skincare God answered my prayers!

For a while now, I had been keenly interested in trying out Moss Skincare, a brand reviewed in depth by the lovely Vivian of http://vsafaria.com/. After reading her reviews and that of countless others in the blogosphere, I desperately wanted to try some of their products, mainly Illumina Vitamin C serum, the Beurre Celeste cleansing balm and a couple of other products. So, when I spotted Lavanya 'liking' several Instagram posts of Moss Skincare (yeah, I can be sneaky), I crossed my fingers hoping that the next Boxwalla beauty box features Moss Skincare.

Of course, I did a happy dance when Lavanya announced that the June 2018 beauty box would be featuring Moss products, that too two products I wanted to try the most. Celestyna, the brains behind this brand, is highly respected for her experimentation with unique skincare ingredients and for the fact that her entire line is focused on helping acneic skin. Her line stands apart for actually delivering on its claims.

So, coming to the main topic of this review, the June box featured two full-sized Moss Skincare bestsellers, namely the Beurre Céleste Honey Antioxidant Infusion Recovery Mask in Cleansing Baume and the Illumina Vitamin C Perfecting Treatment Intensif, together priced at $215, but Boxwalla subscribers got it for $49 (plus $20 for getting it shipped to India). Even after spending $69 for this box, the value was so incredible that I purchased two boxes, with the intent of sharing with family and friends. My mom is already seeing results with Illumina but let's get into the review step by step.

Beurre Céleste Honey Antioxidant Infusion Recovery Mask in Cleansing Baume
Cleansing balms can vary so much from brand to brand, and oftentimes they can be a miss for several reasons (leftover residue, non-rinsable, etc) but this balm shot up straight to my top 3 favourite cleansing balms. The reason being, it is a brightening mask in the form of a cleansing balm. You'd think this would be obvious because the product name itself mentions that it is a "Mask in Cleansing Baume" but it wasn't obvious to me. I treated it like any other cleansing balm, scooping out a pea size and massaging all over my face and neck. As expected, it emulsified on adding water turning into a cleansing milk. But when rinsed off, I was left stunned. What I saw in the mirror was a visibly brightened complexion, the kind you'd see only after leaving a heavy-duty brightening mask such as the Mahalo Bean for 30 minutes. But the Moss Beurre Celeste did it in five minutes flat!

I remember reading on Celestyna's blog that a cleanser needs to have antioxidants in order to scavenge free radicals resulting out of exposure to dust and pollution, and living in Mumbai, I could not appreciate this more. The balm has amazing ingredients such as honey sourced from Nebraska, sunflower oil, macadamia oil, kokum butter and Sea Buckthorn CO2 extract. I imagine the Sea Buckthorn CO2 is what contributes majorly to the brightening effect, having used it previously in other skincare products with similar results.

Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil*, Mel (Local Organic Honey)*, Garcinia Indica (Kokum) Butter*, Macadamia Ternifolia (Macadamia Nut) Seed Oil*, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Esters*, Di-PPG-2 Myreth-10 Adipate, Hydroxystearyl Alcohol, Hydroxystearyl Glucoside, Sorbitan Olivate, Sunflower Lecithin*, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Fruit CO2 Extract*, Citrus Bergamia (Bergamot) Oil FCF, Backhousia Citriodora (Lemon Myrtle) Oil*, Cymbopogon Martinii (Palmarosa) Oil*, Coriandrum Sativum CO2 Extract*, Pelargonium Graveolens (Geranium) Oil*, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract *Organic/Wildcrafted

* Organic/Wildcrafted (90%)

Scent-wise, I have read such different opinions, possibly because this balm has undergone several iterations over the years, but this latest iteration to me smells like the Thai herb galangal (a cousin of the ginger, with a sharp citrusy aroma) and the desert wind scent of Kokum Butter. I'll be honest, the resulting scent is not my favourite but like I always say, to me performance matters more than the sensory element.

Speaking of performance, I love this balm! It delivers what it claims, removing every bit of grime. I even did my 'Toner Test', which is basically swiping a toner-saturated cotton pad after cleansing to see how much residue is still remaining. I'm happy to report that this balm passed the test. I no longer use the toner after using this balm because I don't want to take away whatever antioxidants the balm is leaving on my skin post cleansing. Secondly, the balm leaves the skin so nourished, I feel confident skipping toner and going straight to serums.

Now, here's a handy tip for skincare DIY-ers. One evening, when I was feeling particularly DIY-ey, I added a 1/4th of a teaspoon of honey to this balm, mixed the two into a smooth paste and massaged it on my face and neck. The additional honey only made it more gooey and therefore more effective when massaged over my clogged pores. I left this 'mask' on for about ten to fifteen minutes. I'm not kidding you guys, when I washed it off, my skin seemed airbrushed, in addition to the brightening effect. Running my fingers over the clogged pores was a joy. I did not feel the grainy texture anymore. I'll be doing this again for sure and I highly recommend you try this out yourself. You will love the results.

Illumina Vitamin C Perfecting Treatment Intensif
This, ladies and gentleman, deserves a blog post on its own but let me try to put down my thoughts as best as possible in this post itself. As I'm typing this, I'm reminded of what Lavanya mentioned on the Boxwalla Instagram when describing this product. She said something on the lines of 'where do I even begin'. And now I know what she means.

This serum is a like five-in-one serum. It exfoliates, brightens, nourishes, protects, reduces hyperpigmentation, acne and wrinkles. I can't speak to the effects of the last claim of reducing wrinkles because I don't have any but I can attest to all other claims.

Viola Odorata (Violet) Leaf Hydrosol*, Water/Aqua, Lactobacillus/Pumpkin Fruit Ferment Filtrate, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C), Vigna Aconitifolia (Moth Bean) Seed Extract, Salix Alba (White Willow) Bark Extract*, Serenoa Serrulata (Saw Palmetto) CO2 Extract*, Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Leaf Extract, Glycerin, Glycosphingolipids, Gluconolactone, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Glucoside, Methylpropanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, Phenylpropanol, Dehydroxanthan Gum, Olea Europaea (Olive) Leaf Extract*, Magnolia Grandiflora (Magnolia) Bark Extract*, Andrographis Paniculata Extract*, Epilobium Parviflorum (Smallflower) Extract*, Moringa Oleifera Leaf Extract*, Arctium Lappa (Burdock) Root Extract*, Monarda Fistulosa (Bee Balm) Oil*, Palmarosa Oil, Coriander Oil* *Organic/Wildcrafted

*Organic/Wildcrafted Botanicals

The unique aspect about this serum is that it not only exfoliates and gives the benefits of Vitamin C, but the botanicals included in it ensure that the fresh skin cells that surface after the dead skin cells are exfoliated are much better in quality.

When I received this box, I put everything aside, even my precious Earthwise Beauty products, to try this serum because I wanted to test it exclusively and notice what it does performing solo. After cleaning with the Beurre Celeste, this was the only skincare product that went on my skin for five days in a row. And let me tell you this, my mind was blown! Okay, that doesn't say much so let me break it down on a day-by-day basis.

After the first nightly application with one full pump's amount, I hardly saw any effect. The same was the case after the second nightly application. But after the third application, my skin went bam! You know that I often complain about my clogged pores but this baby got rid of a majority of the congestion, along with the redness and acne-related pain that I had at the time. I saw further improvement in my pore situation after the fourth application along with visible brightening and improved hydration. Mind you, this was the only serum/moisturiser I was using post cleansing and toner. While I did feel like using a moisturiser on top of this on the first and second nights, the skin hydration levels were much more improved on the rest of the nights, and I did not feel like putting anything on top of this.

Here's why this serum puts every other exfoliating and Vitamin C serum behind: when I saw that the redness and the acne-related pain was gone completely after a couple of uses, it made me rethink exfoliating and Vitamin C serums in general. In all my previous uses of exfoliating and Vitamin C serums, I have noticed that they sting the skin and cause irritation. I have also seen plenty reviewers call this 'normal' when it shouldn't be. Illumina by Moss Skincare defies this conventional belief that exfoliation and Vitamin C causes redness and irritation. On the contrary, it got rid of these symptoms as it focuses on healing acne and giving nourishment at the same time.

If you are one of those who have been on the fence regarding exfoliation and Vitamin C, I urge you to give Illumina a try. It is a straightforward, no-frills product that takes care of every skincare need you might have. I especially call it no-frills because with conventional Vitamin C serums that use Ascorbic Acid, you need to give the skin time to let the Vitamin C work at an acidic ph level of 3 or so, before putting on any other skincare product on top of it, which might raise the ph level thereby negating any exfoliating effects. Moss Illumina only requires that you wait a minute or so before continuing with the rest of your skincare routine because it contains a derivative and stabilised form of Vitamin C; it uses Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate.

If I had to restrict myself to just one serum forever, it would be the Illumina, hands down. That's saying a lot considering the skincare junkie that I am. It not only reduces my clogged pores but also any breakouts I may have. It also brightens the skin and has improved skin hydration levels too. After the five-day trial that I had with Illumina, I'm now seeing that I don't need to use it every night. I will now use it twice or thrice a week, sometimes skipping it for days together.

If you missed out on this wonderful Boxwalla Beauty Box, make sure you keep an eye on their Instagram where they leave hints and subsequently announce their future boxes. I feel especially proud supporting a fellow Indian (Lavanya is of Indian origin) and I hope she becomes more popular with skincare lovers here in India. This review is my attempt to highlight her and the beautiful boxes she curates, and of course highlight these two amazing Moss Skincare products. Lavanya also interviews the brand owners and shares #skincarenerd facts and trivia relating to the products and the brand owner. It's all very exciting, I tell ya!

I'm eager to see what the next Boxwalla Beauty Box brings us. Hope to review it in time for you guys to go get yourself one. 😊

Friday, June 1, 2018

REVIEW: Forest Essentials Deeply Nourishing Facial Cleansing Paste

More than a decade ago, when I had started working and slowly building a kitty to spend on my hobbies and interests--books, art and craft and more, I came across one of the first stores of Forest Essentials in Mumbai. I distinctly remember this brand capturing my attention with its beautiful interiors decked with paintings representing the Indian culture, the products arranged neatly on shelves (back then their packaging was simplistic with none of the jazzy gold and vibrant colours that define it now) and most of all, the aroma...oh lord! The scent of their gorgeous products wafted at least twenty metres away. I didn't think twice before saying 'please take my money'. Their Bengal Tuberose collection still remains my favourite even after all these years.

Back then, Forest Essentials was hardly into face care, if any at all. I had bought their date and tamarind (I think) face scrub which was good but I don't remember if they had anything else. At the time, their body care and hair care was all the rage--sugar-based soaps, luscious shower oils, sugar scrubs for the body, highly effective shampoos and hair conditioners. Naturally, this was my initiation into the brand and I promptly fell for its body and hair products.

Fast forward to now and the brand has established a firm foothold into the face care category as well. I'll be honest--I am not wowed by their face care. I have tried their face mists/toners, face washes, blemish treatment product and the like. But I never saw exceptional results. The brand, in my opinion, provides more of a sensorial experience than noticeable results. I had almost given up on it...when they came out this gem of a product.

The Deeply Nourishing Facial Cleansing Paste, like the name suggests, is a dense paste made of Almond, Pistachio, Shea Butter, Marigold, Aloe Vera Leaf Juice, Steam Distilled Rose Water, Honey, Buttermilk, Turmeric and more.

Now, I have a bone to pick with Forest Essentials. Why is it that they do not declare the full inci list of their products. They will mention only the key ingredients...why? In today's age, with smart consumers and a plethora of choices, brands ought to be transparent. Consumers demand (and they have every right to) to know each and every thing that goes onto their skin. If the brand is reading this review, I urge them to consider being transparent for the sake of their consumers and to keep up with evolving expectations. For this reason, I'm not mentioning their inci list here because it is quite pointless to mention a half-list.
But if you think the key ingredients mentioned here sound delightful wait till you smell the product. It smells like freshly baked cookies and reminds me of Christmas. Some even compare the scent to Badam Halva, a rich Indian dessert and I agree completely. It's so sinful that the scent alone made me buy the product, despite its high price. Okay, I'm lying; I was wowed by its results too, when I tried it in store. On a side note, the whole ritual of trying the lush products in their store, especially washing over their antique basin, with the attendants taking so much care is a lovely experience in itself.

So, performance-wise, this product met (even exceeded) my expectations. After trying one average product after another from this brand, I was pleasantly surprised by this little jar of goodness.

So, I noticed that even though the product is named Cleansing Paste, it's more like a exfoliator cum nourishing mask. I take a small dollop which I dot onto the four quadrants of my face. Then I spread it around with my fingers. It's quite dense and oily at this point, which makes spreading it a bit difficult but I like to do this step nonetheless, especially on my nose and chin areas which are typically congested. Doing this begins the exfoliation process. Then, I add a few drops of water and start massaging. The thick paste turns into a milk on adding water and moving the product becomes much easier. At this point, the graininess of the product becomes less and less and it starts to feel like a cleansing milk. I then like to leave this on for a few minutes to allow my skin to soak in all those lush ingredients. The feeling as you leave it on is non-intrusive and you will only enjoy the subtle scent of it while it's on your skin. Thereafter, I rinse it off.

The results are the same each time. I'm left with super smooth, nourished skin. My skin looks and feels clean without feeling stripped off. That, in my books, is a winner of a cleanser. And I'm so glad this format of a 'dense cleansing paste' has worked well for the brand. It is truly a unique product and I'm glad I gave it a try despite the price tag. Also, I wish they would give us at least 50 mg in the pot instead of a measly 30 mg. On the brighter side, the 30 mg pot is perfect to carry around for travel purposes.

The cleansing paste is priced at INR 1850 for 30 gm, which I think is a bit much if you consider the price per gram. But I can tell you this, the product does not disappoint so at least it's money well spent.

I'm in two minds, frankly. If I weren't exposed to several other beautiful brands such as Earthwise Beauty, Moss Skincare, Mahalo Skincare and the like, I would have repurchased this product in a heartbeat. But I already have a long wishlist of cleansers to try so I will wait a while before I decide to open my purse strings for this cleanser once again.

You can buy the Forest Essentials Deeply Nourishing Facial Cleansing Paste from their site here. Or you may purchase it from nykaa here.