28 Jul 2015

My French Summer Beauty

If you tasked some mystery shopper to call at my place, head right to my bathroom and then off to raid the bedside cabinet, they would have to report back that this woman is living her truth for a simple life in harmony with nature's nurture laws. And super beauty oils are a big part of it.

The French connection: Nuxe, Melvita, Lift'Argan and Caudalie

Gone are the days when I believed the hype of high-profile beauty brands with the so-called magic power creams, backed up by an ingredient list with unpronounceable words and aggressive formulae straight out of a chemical plant, only beautified by sleek, expensive packaging, and purported by a punchy media strategy packed-full with supercilious supermodels high on retinoids.

Let's just say that I went through years of the high-maintenance regimen, and the promised results were not quite as expected. Alongside this, the question of animal testing kept nagging me, with no clear answer from those beauty multi-nationals that just like to keep it opaque, I wonder why?

A flurry of French brands with nature at the heart!

Meanwhile after undergoing the high-tech cosmeceuticals treatment throughout the late 1990s to late 2000s, the beauty industry has undergone another revolution, this time over softer, and with caring in mind. It has been revitalised by a flurry of new and exciting brands like Estelle & Thild, REN, Tata Harper and One Love Organics that are organic, plant-based, nature-focused and irresistibly trendy in looks and offerings. They also state loud and proud that they do not test on animals. And that's a thumbs-up from me!

On the basis of less being more, my skincare routine has pared down, phasing out those products with the long lists of incomprehensible ingredients, cryptic formulations, misleading claims and/ or questionable ethics. I have switched to less ingredients, less products, less fuss. My quest for simplicity and honesty doesn't mean less efficiency or less potency, because the products I am now using daily harness the best that nature has to offer, backed by the wisdom and knowledge of our elders and ancient cultures who live(d) side by side with nature.

Borage is rich in Vitamin E, fights free radicals, and keeps skin supple.

Botanists and chemists have dug deeper to understand the make-up (compounds) of those miracle plants, verify their properties and ascertain their benefits, most of which have entered pharmacology. Plant cultivation has increased in line with demand and the renewed interest for natural remedies.

Well then, what are those super beauty oils I wax lyrical about? My numero uno is Nigella sativa. Every morning I cleanse my face, neck and décolletage with Caudalie Gentle Cleansing Milk, before taking a shower. Then I lightly massage pure (100%) Nigella (sativa seed) Oil by Melvita into my face, neck and décolletage, wait 5-10 minutes before applying a 50 SPF (*) mineral sunscreen (the latter only if I am planning on going out). I do not use any face cream because Nigella oil brings sufficient moisture. I am not ruling out face creams for the Winter months though, like the elegant rose-scented Rosa angelica by Sanoflore.

Nigella sativa

Nigella sativa (a.k.a. Black Cumin, Black Seed) grows wild, mostly in the Middle East, although I have found some specimens in Corsica. When dry, the flowers yield thick black seeds, which in turn yield a sacred, highly-reputed, vitamin-laden (A, B, and C) oil, rich in amino and fatty acids, not to mention calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc and trace elements. Taken orally or applied topically, the oil has been used for over a thousand years, since (at least) the Pharaohs, with the emphatic claim of healing 'everything except death'. A bottle of Black Cumin oil was found in Tutankhamun's tomb as evidence of its importance in the immortality process. Meanwhile Cleopatra's legendary beauty was said to be a result of Nigella oil, and that is sterling testimonial to me! Yet beyond the skin-depth of beauty, the medicinal properties of Black Seed and scope of use, from epilepsy to diabetes via asthma and more, all backed up by scientific research, are certainly amazing.

In terms of topical use and skin-related properties, it purifies and tonifies skin, clears blemishes, blackheads, dull complexion, and treats skin disorders as varied as eczema, acne, psoriaris, fungal infections... and even skin cancer! My skin feels hydrated, soft, smooth and soothed all at once. A little oil goes a long way. I even used a few drops to moisturise the tips of Tickle's ears that were parched and dry, and this has worked wonders! Personally I love the oil scent, which reminds me of thyme in olive oil. Some users might find it a little overpowering, but this quickly dissipates. So yes, I am sold to the powers of Nigella oil!

Oils of Hooray!

Other oils I use: -
  • Huile Prodigieuse by Nuxe (Nature & Luxe) is the French brand's cult product and best-seller that has spurred countless imitations on the beauty market since its creation in 1991! The multi-purpose dry oil nourishes, repairs and soothes face, body and hair. It is a Summer, beachy lifestyle must-have as well as a party companion! Huile Prodigieuse is made up of at least 95% natural ingredients. It is the successful alliance of 6 botanical oils (Macadamia, Hazelnut, Borage, Sweet Almond, Camellia and St. John's Wort), and is enriched in vitamin E (known to protect skin cell membranes against ageing). In addition, Huile Prodigieuse is heavenly-scented. It is available in its 'Original' version and 'Or' (contains gold particles for a shimmer effect), and countless limited edition bottles. 'Or' compliments my Summer tan beautifully with a hint of iridescence. Most of all, I spray it to the dry ends of my highlighted locks (especially after an afternoon at the beach), and  otherwise apply a few subtle touches here and there (exposed shoulders, collarbone), or sometimes to highlight certain areas of my face (cheekbones, T-Zone).
  • Huile d'Argan by Lift'Argan is 100% unadulterated organic argan oil. Referred to as 'Liquid Gold', argan (Argania spinosa) was once the closely-guarded anti-ageing beauty secret of Moroccan women. It is rich in fatty acids (Omega 6 and 9) as well as vitamin A + vitamin E (tocopherol, a powerful natural antioxidant). Argan oil has a rich yet delicate nutty fragrance reminiscent of walnut and olive oil. As an aside, goats are said to climb into the argan trees in order to eat the fruit whose properties certainly help them keep supple joints! Like Nigella sativa, argan is powerfood for the skin, soothing and nourishing it to great effect. Argan trees grow wild in the Atlas Mountains of northern Morocco. Once picked, the fruits are sun-dried before argan nuts can be extracted. Cracked open by hand using two stones, the nuts release kernels which are then pressed and filtered into oil. Argan oil benefits skin, hair and nails. I am fonder of argan oil in the colder months of the year, when I massage it into my face, before daycream. In the Summer, I use it when my skin feels a little taut. I apply it before bedtime, as a night-time boost to my Nigella sativa morning skincare routine. You can purchase Organic Argan Oil directly from Neal's Yard.
  • Wild Rose Body Oil by Weleda is a rich and heavenly-scented body oil made up of a combination of Jojoba seed oil, Sweet Almond oil, Rose flower oil and antioxidant-rich organic Rosehip seed oil, as the main ingredients. I use Wild Rose Body Oil as a revitalising pick-me-up for when my body needs a little relaxation (after a spot of gardening or DIY for instance), or to moisturise legs and arms.

Rosa damascena, northern Corsica

P.S: The first two pictures of this article feature Vinoperfect Radiance Serum by Caudalie. Please note that this is not a face/ body oil. It is a serum that addresses sun spots, age spots and other blemishes. I have included Vinoperfect to the photo because it is part of my skincare routine, albeit not majorly anymore, especially since I have started developing melasma on my cheekbones. Melasma has made me reconsider my blemish-free quest, to investigate new ways of addressing the skin condition that is notoriously difficult (if not impossible) to eradicate. I have a little hope in Nigella sativa to at least tone down the effects, though I am aware that more drastic measures are required.

(*) P.P.S: Addendum (30/07/2015): In her latest video, famed international make-up artist Lisa Eldridge discusses sunscreens and points out an interesting fact about SPF50 vs. SPF30 that should make us reconsider SPF30 as a healthier option.

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