Beauty brand Weleda kindly invited me and my sister, and we joined a few other green beauty fans, including my fave green make-up artist friends Lou Dartford and Conscious Beauty Union, on a decadent table for an entertainment-filled night at Studio 338 in Greenwich, London.
The year’s event, sponsored by Octopus Energy, was co-hosted by P.E.A. founder Jarvis Smith and biophilic design expert Oliver Heath with an immersive theatre performance by Enlightenment Cafe, including a brilliantly fun Climate Change Bingo.
If you’ve been inspired by the continued rise of natural and organic beauty then you’ll love this DIY natural facial massage from Weleda, one of my favourite natural and organic beauty brands. It’s also a lovely, nourishing treat to give skin at this time of year as the season and temperatures change.
The key product in this facial is Weleda Skin Food – an iconic skincare product that contains natural extracts of calendula, chamomile, rosemary and lavender, with natural waxes and plant oils (now also available in light version, lip balm and body butter) – alongside a few other Weleda products.
I was lucky to have this facial – also known as the 30-minute miracle worker by Weleda therapists as it’s so good at boosting the complexion – at Valley Fest in Bristol this summer.
Valley Fest is a lovely family-friendly weekend of music, local food and fancy dress. Weleda had a corner with a fabulous van stocked full of products and therapy tents for the perfect post-party respite.
There were also talks and workshops on natural skincare, with special guest such as Emine Ali Rushton, sharing her wisdom on holistic and Ayurvedic living, following the launch of her book, Sattva.
If you’re not familiar with the community of Weleda therapists, they’re a lovely bunch who work remotely around the country and who are available for products, treatments, and knowledge-sharing on skincare and ingredients.
If you don’t live near a Weleda therapist then you can try this facial on yourself at home. Here’s a complete step-by-step guide to the Skin Food Facial – get ready for some personal pamper time…
Soak a face flannel in hot water with a little Rosemary Bath Milk, wring the flannel so it’s only damp but still warm and apply to the face to open up the pores and wake up/perk up the circulation. If skin would benefit from calming/soothing rather than stimulating, try the Lavender Bath Milk. If skin is hypersensitive, the gentle Calendula Baby Cream Bath could be used instead which is less aromatic.
Using the Almond Soothing Cleansing Lotion on two damp cotton wool pads, remove grime and make-up. Use both hands simultaneously, mirror image, for a lovely balanced feeling. Around the eyes, gently cleanse with Almond Soothing Facial Oil to remove eye make-up. Warm or luke-warm cotton wool pads are preferable to very cold water on the eyes.
If more time, an organic unbleached chamomile tea bag can be used to make as an infusion for an eye compress (lightly soak cotton wool pads in the tea which has been allowed to cool slightly in a bowl before applying; cotton pads can be folded into half moons) whilst the facial massage is being done or the mask is on (to complete the Skin Food experience). The calming chamomile fragrance relaxes.
Using the fragrance-free Almond Soothing Facial Oil, gently massage the face to stimulate the circulation and relax the soft tissues, tailoring the massage to the individual.
Apply a generous layer of Skin Food, warming it between your hands to make it easier to work with, and leave on the face as an intensive treatment for five minutes (or longer if time allows). If you have combination skin with an oily T-zone, just use Skin Food on the cheeks and drier areas, to avoid overloading the skin.
Soak a face flannel in hot water with a little Lavender Bath Milk and apply to the face to melt and release the mask. Gently lift away any excess Skin Food with the flannel and gently wipe/tidy any remaining thick areas of cream using a damp cotton pad (this may not be necessary if it has been absorbed).
Depending on the skin, finish with a light application of Skin Food Light to moisturise (for younger/oilier skin, this may not be necessary if Skin Food has worked its magic), and a little Skin Food Lip Balm on the lips.
Would love to hear if you’ve had this facial with a Weleda therapist or if you give it a go at home!
I’m always looking for the next great-working natural deodorant so I was pleased to hear Weleda has expanded its 24h Roll-On Deodorant collection to include a new scent, Sea Buckthorn. This joins Citrus, Men’s and Pomegranate in the range to try.
What makes these deodorants special?
They are formulated without zirconium or aluminium salts that block underarm sweat ducts in an anti-perspirant product. Instead, these Weleda deodorants will allow skin and sweat ducts to function naturally and healthily, so yes, you will sweat, but keep reading…
Yikes, does that mean I will smell of bad body odour?
Hopefully not! While these natural deodorants won’t block pores and you’ll still sweat naturally, there are ingredients that’ll help stop body odour from developing: organic witch hazel distillate should act as a natural astringent, and organic liquorice root extract has antimicrobial properties to inhibit odour-causing bacteria.
What else is in there (or not in there) I need to know about?
Pure essential oils fragrance help preserve the product, meaning artificial preservatives and parabens can be avoided. Over 70% of the ingredients are NATRUE-certified organic, all ingredients are suitable for vegans and vegetarians, and dermatologically proven for skin tolerability.
Tell me about the new eco-packaging…
The packaging for all the deodorants in the range has been re-designed in recyclable bottles made from 70% recycled plastic. This is part of Weleda’s new eco-design programme.
Weleda says: ‘The new, fully recyclable HDPE bottles made from 70% post-consumer recyclate (PCR) has been carefully sourced from British food packaging such as milk bottles.’
The iconic beauty product Weleda Skin Food is celebrating its 90th birthday! Happy birthday!
Before I go into the million and one ways you can use Skin Food I just want to share what a skin-saver it is for any kind of ghastly dermatitis. I developed an allergic reaction to a plastic material in a pair of shoes recently which caused intense itching, burning and inflammation that went on for days even after I stopped wearing them. The only thing that would calm this awful reaction and let the skin heal was Weleda Skin Food. I can’t recommend it enough!
Back to the celebrations….
Weleda Skin Food is the number one selling skincare product for Weleda in the UK and loved by a host of celebrities: Victoria Beckham, Adele, Julia Roberts, Erin O’Connor, Alexa Chung, Helena Christensen, and many more are true fans.
“I put it on my hands after I wash dishes and wind up putting it on my elbows and feet. Before you know it, I’ve squeezed this poor little green tube into a twist”. Julia Roberts
It’s a staple backstage at London Fashion Week and other shows as models and makeup artists love using it too to keep skin soft, hydrated, nourished and glowing. It’s also a favourite at The Model Zone which is where models can unwind, relax, get pampered and prepped ready for their next show.
Skin Food was one of the original Weleda products developed in the 1920s
Weleda was born in 1921 in Switzerland and the British arm launched in London in 1925. Weleda was inspired by Rudolf Steiner, a scientist and philosopher who founded the organic agriculture movement with biodynamic farming. He also founded Steiner education and anthroposophic medicine (a holistic approach to healthcare of mind, body, spirit) so was a true visionary and his ideas still shape and drive the brand today. Manufacturing products “in harmony with nature and the human being” was a founding principle and still a cornerstone of the brands today –an inspiring concept to live by and one of the reasons I really rate Weleda.
My favourite way to use Weleda Skin Food…..
Come winter, my ultimate beauty tip is to pop a mini 15ml tube of Weleda Skin Food in my handbag and use it as a cold-weather lip salve. The rich oils from organic sweet almond, sunflower seed, beeswax and lanolin as well as organic plant actives from calendula, chamomile, rosemary and wild pansy, gently soothe, nourish, heal and protect. It does the same for any patch of dry or irritated skin. In fact I remember it cleared up a another little bout of dermatitis I had a few years ago after using too much cheap hand soap in an office I was working at. (I’m a sensitive one!).
I’m on the west coast of Morocco in a tiny village outside Essouira watching 30-40 local Berber women crack argan oil kernels with little rocks and nimble fingers onto big slabs of stone. The sound of tick-tick-tack-tack fills the air above the low murmur of chitter chatter. I’m with Weleda UK, the health and beauty brand that sources its fairtrade and organic argan oil from this women’s cooperative. These Berber women have been shelling argan for generations but now they’re being paid a better wage with good working conditions and even family benefits. They kindly let us film and photograph this fascinating process, which was a very special experience so I’m really pleased to be able to share it with you.
Most people have heard about argan oil – one of the biggest buzz words in beauty and haircare in recent years – but what you may not know is how labour intensive the journey is to get this prized argan fruit from seed to skin and what a superfood it is for skin and health.
My trip involved seeing the wild argan tree forests, the local Berber women at work, as well as the creche and kindergarten that looks after and educates their kids while they work, the filtration and production process and of course, sampling the finished argan oil products – both culinary and cosmetic.
Here I share the top three things you should know about argan oil and beauty as well as a few magical highlights from the Weleda trip.
1. Argan trees are precious property but in decline
The argan tree is an ancient species, thought to date back millions of years in this south-west region of Morocco. They survive dry and windy conditions in the semi-desert like terrain with their scruffy, rather rugged looking appearance but apparently it’s their long root systems that travel far through the soil and limestone that help seek out water, anchor them firmly into the ground and even keep the desert at bay. With gnarly branches, these trees are viciously thorny so don’t get too close. Only goats are unperturbed so it’s a striking sight to see them at the top of an argan tree, nibbling the fruit.
We took a brilliant ecological walking trip across the coast and our guide described the decline of argan trees over the last 100 years. At the turn of the 20th century Morocco had around 2 million hectares of argan trees but during the 1970s and 80s, there was drastic depletion due to a number of reasons: trees were felled to make way for fruit farming; chopped down for wood, destroyed through fires, or over-grazing by goats and camels. Considered to be the gold of Morocco, this region is now Unesco protected.
2. Producing argan oil is a long and labour intensive process
Extracting argan oil is time and labour intensive, which is why sourcing fairtrade is important. With the rise in worldwide demand for the ingredient, it’s easy for large cooperations to overlook the man (correction: woman) hours it takes to produce and bring prices down, which only really serves the end multinational while the Berber women who do the work are likely to get a raw deal.
That’s why the Sidi Yassine cooperative is so special. Ulysses Müller is the founder and owner of the cooperative which Weleda UK sources its 100% natural, fairtrade and organic argan oil from. Ulysses, of Swiss origin, set up the company 12 years ago with his Moroccan wife to create a product with high, international quality under fairtrade and organic principles. Sidi Yassine is still the only producer in the region with these credentials.
I’ve always been interested in the provenance of ingredients so getting to actually meet the women behind our moisturisers was amazing.
Weleda is a brand that’s always been committed to putting people before profits and operating sustainably in harmony with nature and people – that’s why the partnership with this women’s cooperative works so well.
Sidi Yassine provides jobs to around 700 people, 99% of whom are Berber women and among the poorest in Morocco. The positive effect has been empowering these women with a better wage and respect for their work.
It takes around 15 hours of labour to produce 2-2.5kgs of kernels for one litre of oil. After the fruit has fallen from the tree and then picked from the ground and once sun-dried, the wrinkly outer skin of the fruit is removed using a simple purpose-built machine, and the hard inner nut is then broken by tapping manually between a large stone and smaller one; these stones are usually the women’s own and handed to them through the family.
The argan fruit is green and fleshy, similar to an olive but a bit larger and inside there’s a large nut containing one to three oil-rich seeds or kernels – the gold! Nothing goes to waste in this process as the soft outer skins are used as animal feed and the hard nutshells are used as bio-fuel. Sustainability at its best.
3. Argan is a super superfood
Argan has been used for centuries in Morocco as a beauty oil; a staple for Berber women to treat skin conditions and now the key ingredient in the Weleda Pomegranate range, which helps to nourish and firm older skins.
Argan oil that goes into beauty products is cold-pressed and not treated with heat at all, in order to retain its vitamins and nutrients.
Hailed as a wonder ingredient for health too, it’s been used to treat rheumatism and heart disease by locals in the past. We now know it’s rich in fatty acids and contains around 80% unsaturated fat as well as vitamin E. Some say it contains 80 times more free radicals and antioxidants than olive oil while studies have shown it can protect connective tissue, lower bad cholesterol and restore skin’s protective lipid barrier.
For culinary use, the argan seeds are lightly toasted at around 60 degrees which brings out the oil’s distinctive and delicious nutty flavour, not dissimilar to a walnut or hazelnut oil. It’s not, however, suitable for cooking as it can’t withstand heat so use it as a finishing drizzle over cooked food, salad or use for bread dipping in the same way as olive oil. If you’re a fan of nut butters then the local delicacy Amlou is a must – a mixture of almonds, honey and argan oil for use as a spread or dip with fresh bread. It’s simply divine!
If you’re trying to reduce your chemical overload and have turned your attention to your deodorant, then check out my 3 of the best natural deodorants in my column in this month’s Health & Fitness magazine – and yes, I promise, they really do work.
Up until recently, it’s been practically impossible to pop into a mainstream supermarket or chemist such as Boots and buy a deodorant that doesn’t contain aluminium or doesn’t work by blocking sweat glands.
I’m not sure how everyone else feels about this but I’m not really keen on a product that works by inhibiting sweat glands from doing their job. They’re there for a reason. Before we go any further, it might be useful to recap what is the difference between deodorant vs antiperspirant:
>> An antiperspirant will block sweat ducts, usually using minute compounds of aluminium which enter cells, swell and block the sweat ducts.
>> A deodorant lets you perspire but uses ingredients to help prevent odour-causing bacteria from forming. Many natural deodorants used to (attempt) masking the smell of bacteria but the latest versions are much more effective at actually controlling the bacteria itself.
Once upon a time the only alternative to antiperspirant was either Crystal Rock, which involved wetting the armpit every time before applying it (and let’s be honest, who could be bothered to do that?) or bad natural deodorant which didn’t mask smelliness very well. That’s why I inevitably ended up buying Sure again.
Now cosmetic technology has improved and choice is a million times better. Pitrok (featured below) passes my running-for-the-bus-in-vintage-polyester-test, it doesn’t involve any messy armpit wetting and is available at Boots stores nationwide; I even found it at Heathrow Airport recently.
So the thee natural deodorants I use, love and recommend are:
A great new deodorant that’s widely available so no need to hunt it down in an obscure health food shop. According to product details, it’s free from aluminium chlorohydrate, aluminium zirconium, parabens, propylene glycol or silicone. Choose from roller-ball or spray and a different scent option for men and women – all are very effective. Give it a go and let me know what you think. www.pitrok.co.uk
From one of my favourite natural beauty brands, this refreshing deodorant spray has an uplifting citrus scent and 100% organic. Available in a 100ml travel size too which makes it perfect to travel with. £8.95, www.weleda.co.uk
MooGoo Fresh Cream Deodorant
An Australian brand that Gwyneth Paltrow recently wrote about on her blog. I enjoy using this as the scent is so gentle, barely there actually, and the site is full of interesting things to read about the brand and beyond. £5.90 moogooskincare.co.uk
Would love to hear what natural deodorants you have tried and trusted, hated or loved.
In case you missed it, the big environmental news this week was the EU banning three types of bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides to protect bees from further decline. A victory for bees! But will it mean the rosy future everyone expects?
The good news is that the EU implemented a two-year continent-wide restriction (starting 1st December 2013) on the use of three types of neonicontinoids, the super-strength strain of pesticides linked to the dramatic decline in bee populations. This temporary ban should give bee populations a chance to recover and buy scientists more time to investigate the problem.
Sounds like great news doesn’t it, however, I looked a little more closely at the counter-argument and the potential situation bees might face as a result and it could be quite worrying.
It’s been well reported that the UK did not support the ban as our Environment Minister Owen Paterson felt the evidence was incomplete and that a ban could have detrimental effects on farmers and food production costs.
There’s been strong lobbying against the ban from farming groups and pesticide manufacturers (of course!) for several years despite over 30 separate scientific studies showing the link between neonicotinoids on insects’ nerve endings and falling bee numbers.
Then Farmer’s Weekly report this week said farmers will face a ‘catastrophic blow’ from the ban and will potentially resort to older forms of pesticides ‘with potentially worse environmental impact for bees.‘
“We now expect farmers to use products such as pyrethroids that we know are hazardous to bees,” said Tim Lovett, of British Beekeepers Association. So far, not good.
The National Farmer’s Union said: “Banning neonicotinoids will put pressure on agrochemical businesses to develop a treatment which will have the same effects.” That sounds pretty worrying to me.
Now I’m no farmer or environmental expert so it’s difficult to tell the level of scaremongering going on from each side – the farming industry is warning us bees will not be better off with the alternatives farmers will be forced to use and predicting dire consequences for all.
I understand farmers have to keep yields high and keep virus-carrying aphids and beetles away from crops; after all their livelihoods depend on supplying pretty perfect vegetables for supermarkets to stock our shelves with. But instead of throwing more chemicals at the problem why don’t they try to come up with alternative solutions?? If it’s not one strain of pesticide, it’s another more harmful one…
From the little I’ve read and learnt from organic farming pioneers such as Neal’s Yard Remedies and Weleda, which adopts biodynamic farming methods, I believe crop-rotation, growing nitrogen-balancing crops and using manure to improve soil are just a few of the many strategies for pesticide-free farming.
Organisations such as PAN (Pesticide Action Network) work across 90 countries to ‘replace the use of hazardous pesticides with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives.’ Some years ago PAN and Friends of the Earth wrote Breaking the Pesticide Chain which detailed how to adopt an organic, biodynamic, permaculture approach to farming.
‘The main goal is not how to replace specific pesticides but how to redesign agricultural cropping systems.’
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if farming groups around the world adopted even just a few pesticide-free approaches? Chemical companies wouldn’t be so powerful and we’d all have clean food to eat. What a dream! Is this just an utopian view on how to solve the problem? No. That’s why organic, bio-dynamic and permaculture farming exists and that’s why we should support it because the bigger the movement grows the more conventional farmers will take notice and see it as a viable alternative that works.
A few facts…
Neonicotinoids have been used by the farming industry for the last 20 years but for the past ten years bee-keepers have noticed a massive decline in honeybee and bumblebees which has incredibly serious consequences on world pollination and food supplies.
Scientists who have studied neonicotinoids in the UK and France said they found evidence bees become disorientated by the chemicals which then prevents them from finding their way back to hives. This then causes colony collapse disorder. However there are other factors that are known to contribute to declining bee populations and these include loss of habitat, nutrition, the varroa mite reduced immune system defences to parasites and increased exposure to pesticides.
The February freeze keeps coming and going and with it goes the integrity of our skin. So it’s another chance to share the winter beauty alchemy I’ve been swearing by this winter – the mix of lotions and potions that have saved my skin and kept it super soft and strong.
This has been my morning routine every day for the past few months:
1. Add a few drops of facial oil to face moisturiser.
My oil of choice at the moment is Maggie Brown’s Yin 1 (rose oil) perfect for winter as it strengthens skin’s barrier against the cold and plumps it up with nourishing essential fatty acids. I’ve been mixing this with Origins Make A Difference Cream which is a hydrating gel-like cream.
2. Add a few pumps of body oil to body moisturiser.
Finally, a great quote from Geraldine Howard, founder of Aromatherapy Associates on why essential oils carry so many skin benefits which is so apt for this time of year:
“Essential oils are made up of very small molecules and therefore able to penetrate into the bloodstream and optimise the cell renewal process. The skin absorbs oil-soluble substances more easily than water soluble ones, so as essential oils are oil soluble, when diluted with a plant or vegetable carrier oil (most are too potent to apply directly to the skin), they travel through the epidermis, into the dermis, delivering results deeper down than products that do not contain essential oils.”
So get some oil into your beauty regime and you’ll welcome spring with better skin. What beauty concoctions do you swear by?
With colder weather fast approaching I wanted to give you a quick run down of the few beauty treats that kept me going a few weeks ago on the Vipassana meditation course, as the weather was far harsher than it is in London.
These little gems turned out to be small moments of luxury that I treasured and looked forward to. Also ideal for anyone looking to to upgrade their winter skincare – they all come highly recommended!
1. Beauty acupuncture. I prepped myself for the arduous journey ahead with a quick visit to Beauty Acupuncturist Maggie Brown at Beauté Chinois in London. I’d been working 10-hour days for six weeks and I felt like my face (and mind) was struggling to keep itself together. I was tired and looked haggard. Unlike facial acupuncturists like John Tsagaris, she doesn’t use many needles (he used about 80-90 on my face the time I went to see him) but the few she pricked into my face sent me into a deeply relaxed and sleep-like state. That was followed with a strong facial massage that woke up every key muscle and pressure point in my face. I left looking about five years younger and like I’d slept for ten days!
2. Beaute Chinois Yin No.1 – every morning at 4am when the gong went, it was a beauty oil that I reached for and a quick facial massage to wake me up. The rose based Yin No.1 personally blended by Maggie was perfect for bringing a sense of calm, balance and tranquillity to the senses morning and night – perfect for balancing winter skin too.
3. Decleor Arromessence Ylang Ylang – ah, this cheery blend revived my senses every day around 5pm when energy levels were low and the mind was feeling weak. It’s the perfect pick me up facial treat.
4. Weleda Mini Rose Body Oil – from the 30th anniversary gift set, this little mini was a favourite too. I massaged it into skin after showering and it was a warming way to fall asleep after a long, long day.
5. Abahana White Grapefruit & May Chang Bath & Shower Gel – a heavenly product that made me want to jump in the shower whenever I could! (pictured above) The luxurious formulation meant a little goes a very long way so I barely got through half the little bottle in ten days. And I’ve just seen that this little cutie costs just £5! Christmas stocking filler? I definitely think so…
6. Apodea Deodorante – a propolis based deodorant from an Italian based natural beauty brand. There’s barely any smell to it and it works which is why I liked it.
I was recently invited to visit the Weleda head quarters in Nottingham as part of a press trip to see how they make the wonderful, award-winning calendula baby range. In case you’re not acquainted, Weleda is one of the best health and beauty brands on the market – Swiss by origin.
They grow a lot of beautiful herbs and flowers there, many of which make up their homeopathic remedies, creams and tinctures, and part of the trip was spent pounding the bright yellow calendula plants to make calendula oil.
The best bit about the trip was learning how delicate baby skin is and how susceptible it is to reacting to harsh ingredients – many of which are found in common bathing products. SLS is the most obvious baddy – it’s a harsh irritant used to add foam and thickness to products but could cause rashes, itches and general nastiness to young (and any) skin. And it’s easy to avoid too as it crops up at the top of ingredient lists.
So of course a feature was born. Look out for a piece from me in Natural Health magazine on newborn baby skin and how many products could be doing more harm than good to precious baby skin. That will be out in December issue.