23 April 2017

4 Months of Henna: Pros, Cons, Tips + Tricks

There's a lot of conflicting information out there about coloring your hair with henna and it can be a really intimidating thing to try out.  I've been using henna on my hair since December, and after mentioning it a few times in passing, both here on the blog and on Instagram, I've gotten a number of questions.  I'm not a hair stylist or a henna expert, but I want to talk about my experiences, the pros and cons, and also share some tips and tricks I've picked up along the way.  

Henna -- What Is It?
Henna, if you aren't familiar with it, is a plant based dye made from the leaves of the lawsonia inermis plant. Today, it's most commonly used for temporary henna tattoos and as a hair dye, but it's historically also been used to color leather, wool, and other fabrics and textiles.

Unlike traditional hair dyes which penetrate the hair cuticle and interact with the melanin in the hair cortex, henna just coats the outside of each strand.  The coating (and color) wears off over time --- usually between 4-12 weeks -- but regular use of henna can actually add noticeably more body to the hair, since it's adding that extra layer/coating with each use.  

I don't want to spend a lot of time talking about why traditional hair dyes are problematic -- there's plenty of other resources for that -- but needless to say, there are a number of questionable chemicals found in regular hair dyes.  Yes, there are dyes that use less chemicals, but henna is the only completely natural method of coloring your hair that I've come across to date.

Grey Hair (Or Why I Decided to Henna My Hair)
I've had grey hairs on the top of my head since I was 18 or 19, courtesy of thyroid issues I dealt with as a teenager.   They're not a big deal in the scheme of things, and I know that, but they were definitely the deciding factor in trying henna and also the main reason that I've continued with it these past few months.  I'm pretty low key with my hair, but it's really nice not to have noticeable grey hair for the first time in 10 years!

Henna Brands -- Which Should You Use?
More so than any one particular brand, it's important to make sure that you're getting pure henna made from 100% natural materials.  Avoid compound hennas that contain metallic salts, metals, or synthetic dyes.  Instead, look for companies that mix the henna only with other plants and herbs.  Common add-ins include clays, indigo, cassia, amla, turmeric, and chamomile.

I've tried two brands of henna thus far -- Rainbow Research, which I purchased myself on iHerb, and Henna Color Lab, which was kindly sent to me by the company.  Both brands sell henna free of synthetic additives, chemicals, metallic salts, and metals.  Choosing a powdered henna over a pre-hydrated cream also minimizes ingredients and eliminates the need for preservatives.

The supplies!
Burgundy is sold as a dark auburn, but that's not how I'd describe the results on my hair.  My natural hair is a light/medium brown -- as you can see in the sidebar photo -- and this really didn't darken it at all.  It gave it a red tint, but depth-wise, it was pretty much the same as my natural hair.  In fact, the difference was so subtle that a lot of people didn't even notice that I'd colored my hair.  The most noticeable difference was that it turned my grey hairs from grey to gold and made them look like strawberry blonde highlights.  It also completely changed the texture of the greys and got rid of their wireyness and inclination towards static.

Overall, I liked the color, but it wasn't exactly what I expected after looking at the Rainbow Research color charts.  On the plus side, the color lasted very well and I was able to touch up my roots after 6 weeks and have them blend into the rest of the hair seamlessly.  After another 5-6 weeks, I did notice the color fading, particularly on the grey strands.

Wine Red is the darkest red in the Henna Color Lab catalogue, and is described as "a pure deep red with few to no brown undertones."  From my experience, this is pretty accurate!  It's a pretty color -- very vibrant and very red.

My experience with this one was quite a bit fussier than the Rainbow Research Burgundy.  The paste stained super easily -- both skin and virtually anything it touched -- and I had a brief night of panic when I first washed the color off to find that both my scalp and the edge of my forehead were also dyed bright red.  Thankfully the color came off my forehead right away with some oil on a cotton ball and it faded off my scalp within 24 hours too.

The color also bleeds a lot.  Every time I showered, for the full 5 weeks before I recolored it, the water ran gradually paler shades of orange and yellow.  A number of the reviews on the Henna Color Lab site mention a similar experience, so it wasn't totally unexpected.  You definitely want to use dark towels and rinse out the tub after showering -- the bleeding color won't permanently stain the tub, but it does take some scrubbing to get it clean if any of the drips are left to dry.

The bleeding also went hand in hand with color fading.  In my understanding, henna by itself doesn't typically bleed, so I'm assuming it's the other herbs and plant additives here that do.  As they bled out, the color also changed -- after about 4 weeks, I was left with a lighter and much more coppery color than the initial vibrant red.  It was significant enough that there's no way I could do a root touch up with this one and expect the freshly dyed roots to blend with the length of the hair.

Wine Red definitely requires more upkeep, but the color -- especially initially -- is super gorgeous.  I don't think the bleeding is indicative of all the colors at Henna Color Lab either,  as I only saw it mentioned in the reviews for this one shade.  I'll update if I try another color!

Henna Color Lab Wine Red
General Tips + Tricks

  • Apply onto Freshly Washed Hair (No Conditioner) -- Any dirt, oil or conditioner will make it more difficult for henna to adhere to the hair.
  • Pudding Consistency -- Add just enough water to the henna powder to create a thick pudding/cake batter consistency.  If the mixture is too thin/runny, it may start to drip while the henna sets.  
  • Do a Strand Test -- Because color can be so variable, I recommend strand testing any new colors before dying your whole head.  Wait a full 48 hours for the color to develop.
  • (Optional) Apple Cider Vinegar -- Adding 1-2 tablespoons of ACV can help bring out red tones and/or help color stick to grey hair.
  • Always Wear Gloves -- Henna hair dyes are the exact same thing as the henna used for henna tattoos.  As such, they WILL stain your skin if left on.  The Henna Color Lab dyes come with disposable gloves and you can also buy them up separately.  Rubber dishwashing gloves work too and can be washed and reused.   
  • Coat Hairline/Ears/Neck with Shea Butter -- A generous coating will help prevent any henna from adhering to the skin.  Any oil or butter -- or even lip balm -- should do the trick.  
  • Newspaper the Floor -- Henna can be messy and laying down some newspaper to stand on means you don't have to think about/worry about dripping.  
  • Cover Head with Shower Cap -- While henna sets.  I've also used a clean plastic bag. 
  • Avoid Shampoo for 48 Hours -- To help color set and develop.  Rinse out henna paste with water and conditioner only.  

The Pros

  • Natural + Free of Synthetic Chemicals
  • 100% Vegan and Plant-Based
  • Long-Lasting Color -- It's recommended to re-dye every 4-6 weeks as the color gradually fades, but I've yet to have the color completely disappear/wash out.
  • Effectively Covers Grey -- Results may vary, but I've had 100% coverage of my greys every single time.
  • Conditioning + Strengthening Benefits -- While coating the hair, henna smooths the cuticle of each strand, leaving hair stronger, smoother, shinier, and conditioned.  I can especially notice a difference on my grey hairs, which completely lost their wireyness and blend in much better with the rest of my hair now.  Some people even use colorless, neutral 'henna' just for the conditioning benefits!

The Cons

  • Limited Color Choice -- Henna itself is red, so most shades have red/warm undertones.
  • Dyed Color Depends on Starting Color -- Henna adds a coating over the hair, but it doesn't actually alter its color.  The color you see is a combination of the hair's starting color, reflecting through the henna coating.  Because of this, two people can use the identical henna and end up with vastly different results, depending on their natural/starting color.  You generally can't go lighter, as you just won't see any noticeable results.  This is also important to consider if covering grey hair, as the greys and non-greys will come out two different colors.  On my hair, I think it blends pretty naturally and just looks like subtle highlights, but if you have a bigger contrast between the greys and other hair (ie. salt and pepper hair), the difference may be more noticeable.  
  • Permanent/Long-Lasting Color -- Henna is generally considered a semi-permanent color, but it lasts a long time and it's not easy to remove.  The color fades, but is still visible on the hair several months after application, so it's probably not the best option for anyone who likes to make dramatic changes often.
  • Messy -- The henna mixture, once hydrated, is like applying wet mud or pudding to your head.  
  • Time Consuming -- Application aside, henna needs to be left on the hair for 1-3 hours for color to take.  Once rinsed out, it can also take up to 48 hours for the final color to fully develop.
  • Potential Interaction with Chemical Dyes -- From everything I've read, it's usually additives in poor quality henna that interact badly with any ammonia or dyes that might still be on chemically treated hair, but we've all heard the horror stories!  Definitely proceed with caution and perhaps contact any henna company directly before using it over traditional hair dye or before dying over it with traditional dyes.

The Bottom Line
There are a few potential cons to consider, but I do generally think henna is a great option for naturally coloring hair.  Beyond having to be left on the hair longer, I don't think the actual process of coloring hair with henna is all that different from that of traditional chemical dyes.  It's safe and effective and offers conditioning and strengthening benefits too!  I'd recommend both Henna Color Lab and Rainbow Research -- as long as you find a color you like, I think you'd be equally good going with either one!  

Have you used henna before?  

*Press sample.  Contains affiliate links

11 April 2017

Spring Body Oil Standouts ft. Sukin + Flora Remedia

Are you a body oil convert?  Personally, I switch back and forth between lotions and oils, but I've been having a moment with body oils recently, and two in particular: the Wellbeing Body Oil from Sukin, and the Detoxing Body Oil* from Flora Remedia*. 

General body oil gospel is to apply oils onto wet skin before toweling off, but my first priority post-shower is always my hair.  As fellow curlies can attest, letting curly hair dry too much before styling only results in unnecessary frizz and struggles, so my routine is always hair, then face, then body.  As a result, I prefer more lightweight body oils that don't require soaking wet skin to absorb properly.  I still want my oils to pack a moisturizing punch, but they also need to allow for some versatility in application.

Both of today's picks are just fine to apply onto mostly dry skin, and that's how I usually use them.  If I'm feeling fancy, I might mist myself with some kind of hydrosol or aloe spray before going in with the oil, but more often than not, I just slap them on and go.  Neither one leaves me feeling greasy or requires any significant wait time before pulling clothes on.

I really like Sukin products and the Wellbeing Body Oil has been on my mental wishlist for years, but it wasn't until I spotted it severely discounted at Winners that I finally took the plunge.  Now that my bottle is on its last legs, I'm kicking myself for waiting so long to finally get my hands on it!

The Wellbeing Body Oil has Sukin's signature vanilla-orange scent.  Citrus and vanilla is a fairly common scent pairing, but I think Sukin's version is one of the best.  It's sweet and pleasantly reminiscent of creamsicles, but also elegant and not overly young or sugary.  To draw a couple comparisons, I'd say Sukin's aroma is lighter and more citrusy than the Rachel's Plan Bee products and much less sweet than Andalou Naturals' candy-like mandarin vanilla line.  For me, it's a very wearable scent.  I enjoy the smell when I use the oil and I can smell it on my skin for close to a day, but it doesn't overwhelm the senses or cause me any problems.

The oil itself is a nourishing blend of sunflower, jojoba, rosehip, marula, evening primrose, avocado, sweet almond, wheatgerm, and soybean oils that's further enhanced with soothing calendula extract and vitamin E.  I could do without the soy oil -- it's just generally not an ingredient I love -- but the product as a whole is beautiful.  It's a medium weight oil, but one that sinks in very nicely, even on dry skin.  It does a fantastic job moisturizing and leaves skin feeling extra soft and silky.

Flora Remedia uniquely blends together plant based ingredients, essential oils, and flower essences to create products intended to help you feel your best -- mind, body, and soul.  Along those lines, the Detoxing Body Oil promises to do more than just moisturize the skin.  The act of massaging in any oil helps stimulate the lymphatic system, which in turn contributes to normal and healthy detox processes and Flora Remedia has formulated their oil with thoughtful ingredients to maximize these benefits.  The product description specifically talks about reduced cellulite and water retention, but since I don't deal with a lot of either one, I'm not comfortable judging it on those criteria.  Whether or not you observe any clear detox perks, the oil makes a fantastic body moisturizer!

I think the liquoricey scent will be a little more polarizing than the Sukin, but I, for one, like it a lot.  With essential oils chosen for their detoxifying benefits as well as their fragrances, the oil contains a distinctive mix of grapefruit, fennel, rosemary, lemon, and juniper, but the predominant scent, to my nose at least, is without a doubt the fennel.  It's sweet, fresh, and liquoricey.  I don't find the fragrance lasts on the skin beyond a few hours, but liquorice and fennel are such love-it-or-hate-it tastes, so I think a lot will come down to that preference.

The oil has a lightweight base of sunflower and safflower oils that, again, absorbs very well into the skin.  I think the Detoxing Body Oil would be a great choice for someone newer to moisturizing with oils or for anyone who usually finds oils too heavy, as it has a lovely light and nongreasy feel on the skin.  The oil also contains crab apple, impatiens, and larch flower essences, which offer extra feel good benefits.
The Bottom Line
Whether you're a longtime body oil convert or a newbie, you can't go wrong with either of these!  Both smell great, moisturize well, and absorb easily into the skin.  As an added bonus, the Flora Remedia Detoxing Oil also offers potential detox and mood boosting benefits.

Have you used either of these oils?  What are your favorite body oils?

*Press sample

30 March 2017

POLYN: Plant-Based Aromatherapeutic Skincare

There are lots of new and exciting things going on in the green beauty world right now and today I'm excited to introduce POLYN, a fantastic new skincare brand I've had the pleasure of trying out.  POLYN is the latest addition to SKINourishment, a 20-year old natural skincare company best known for its climbOn and crossFIXE products designed for athletes and sports enthusiasts.  

Created by aromatherapist and Eastern medicine practitioner Polly Glasse, POLYN blends together its founder's background in science, aromatherapy, and Eastern healing modalities to create carefully crafted skincare products that are vegan and certified cruelty-free by PETA, and that also meet standards set out by the European Union's stricter regulatory bodies.  

This post is kindly sponsored by POLYN, but all thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.

POLYN's products are made in small batches in Texas from top quality, non-GMO and food grade ingredients and are free of unnecessary toxins and fillers.  Everything is completely free of synthetic ingredients, 100% natural and plant-based, and addresses skin needs while offering aromatherapeutic benefits at the same time.  

I've been trying out three of POLYN's core face products -- the Invigorating Face Wash, Regenerative Face Serum, and Cooling Under Eye Serum -- and I'm eager to share my thoughts on everything.  

Foamy cleansers that don't strip or dry out your skin can be hard to come by, but that's exactly what POLYN has achieved with the Invigorating Face Wash.  With a castile soap base and a foaming pump, the wash creates a light foam that lathers, glides over the skin easily and rinses away completely with a quick splash of water.  My favorite way to use it has been as the second step in a nighttime double cleansing routine.  I go in first with an oil cleanser to remove my makeup, followed by the Invigorating Face Wash, which gets rid of any leftover oil or makeup residue and deep cleans my skin.

The mild castile base is boosted with horsetail, coltsfoot, ashwagandha, and willow bark extracts, herbs rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and silica.  The Face Wash also contains peppermint essential oil, which gives the wash a gentle but invigorating tingle.  It leaves your face with that super fresh and clean feeling that so many people look for in a cleanser, without any of the negative stripping or drying effects of an actual squeaky clean wash.

I'm quite picky about scents and floral scents in particular, so this was the product I was a little nervous to try.  The first ingredient is tuberose wax, a new one for me, and the serum has an intoxicating, beautiful scent that's fresh, floral, and herbal all at the same time.  Despite my initial reluctance, the Regenerative Face Serum actually ended up being my favorite of the three POLYN products I tried!  

In addition to tuberose wax, the serum is power-packed with great ingredients: olive, argan, rosehip, red raspberry, and sea buckthorn oils, shea butter, willow bark, coltsfoot, ashwagandha, ginseng, and helichrysum extracts, and cedarwood, petitgrain, ylang ylang, and ginger essential oils.  All this goodness combines together to create a serum designed to stimulate collagen production, promote healthy cell turnover, and rejuvenate and refresh both the skin and mind.

The serum has a vibrant color and a creamy feel.  The first couple times I used it, it pumped out a little extra oil that wasn't fully mixed in, but after a couple applications and some vigorous shaking, everything was re-incorporated and I haven't had any separation since.  The serum is intensely hydrating and nourishing and feels very lush and creamy on the skin.  At the same time, it absorbs quickly, leaving skin plump, moisturized, super soft, and ready for makeup or additional skincare steps.

The Cooling Under Eye Serum is an aloe vera-based gel made with many of the same plant extracts and oils as the Face Wash and Regenerative Serum.  It also includes two of my favorites: meadowfoam oil and frankincense essential oil and was formulated to diminish fine lines and minimize dark circles.  Since dark circles and under eye puffiness sometimes feel like the bane of my existence, I was pretty excited to test this one out.  

The Eye Serum has a lightweight feel, but offers a generous dose of hydration nonetheless.  The serum feels cool and refreshing, even at room temperature, and really does visibly reduce eye puffiness and bags within a few minutes of application.  I haven't noticed a significant difference on my dark circles, but I generally find they're more a product of sleep and other lifestyle factors anyways.  The serum plumps the skin, reduces puffiness, and leaves a fantastic smooth canvas that's perfect for makeup application.  POLYN also suggests using it all over your face for extra moisture and rejuvenation.

The Bottom Line

POLYN has made it their mission to create 100% plant-based products that improve the quality of our lives, our animals, and our planet, and that care and attention really does come through in the company's products.  I've thoroughly enjoyed all three items, but I'm especially smitten with the Regenerative Face Serum.  Without waxing too poetic, I feel like the Face Serum, in particular, epitomizes everything I look for in healthy beauty products.  It has fantastic ingredients, feels really beautiful and luxurious to use, but doesn't have an outrageous, over the top price tag that would put it out of reach for many people.  

With top notch ingredients, recyclable and environmentally conscious packaging, generous product sizes, affordable prices, and gentle and effective products, POLYN is definitely a line I'll be keeping an eye on!     

Receive 20% off until May 31, 2017 with the coupon code "SKINLOVESPLANTS"

I also spotted the three products I tried temporarily bundled for a super bargain at $39.95 (that's just $4 more than my beloved Regenerating Face Serum on its own!)  Plus, get a free Illuminating Face Oil with the coupon code "TV

Have you tried anything from POLYN or the other SKINourishment brands?  

Sponsored post.

19 March 2017

New for Spring: Exciting Green Beauty Launches!

Green beauty is booming these days, which means a TON of exciting new product releases.  For spring, I've put together a list of some of the best launches that have grabbed my attention recently -- most are available now, with a couple scheduled to release over the next few weeks.    

Maya Chia Highlight of the Day // Birchrose + Co Glow Serums
Technically Maya Chia's Highlight of the Day launched a few months ago, but since healthy, glowy skin is always on trend for spring and summer and I, for one, am still eyeing it, I'm adding it here anyways!  Both Highlight of the Day and Birchrose + Co's Glow Serums are nourishing oil-based serums enhanced with mineral pigments for a beautiful glow or iridescence.  Both are available in more than one shade to suit a variety of looks and skin tones.  

Stark Petrichor Toner
Stark's products, which are formulated with weather and environmental stresses in mind rather than traditional skin types, have been on my radar for quite a while, but I haven't actually tried anything yet.  I love that Jess, Stark's founder, has taken a less traditional approach to the beauty industry and is passionate about creating luxury products without insane luxury price tags.  It's, of course, right up my ally.  Along with the already available City Recalibrating Oil, I've got my eye on the new Petrichor Toner, available for presale this week.  Petrichor is described as a protective and purifying mist that's supposed to feed your skin, calm inflammation, fight free radicals, and act as an antioxidant shield from the environment.  Sounds pretty dreamy, right? 

Mabrook & Co. Clean Sprays // Clean Candles // Clean Dry Shampoo // Clean Lip Balm

[Full Disclosure: I work part-time for Mabrook & Co., but that doesn't make their new releases any less great.  I was not asked or paid to include them here.]
Mabrook & Co. started out making just deodorant, but they've recently expanded the line quite a bit with dry shampoo, multipurpose aromatherapy sprays, soy wax candles, and lip balm.  My favorite of the new products is the Glow Spray, an uplifting mist that perfectly blends together crisp mint and zesty citrus.  It makes a great cooling and tingly face mist and also works well as a room spray or body mist.  The Clean Dry Shampoo is another big standout.   

RMS Beauty Signature Sets
RMS products are pretty pricey and the pots last a long time, so I was so stoked to see the new Signature Sets, which offer a way to try out multiple products from the brand at a significantly lower cost than purchasing everything individually.  There are two sets available, each containing five of RMS's most popular products: two lip2cheeks, two highlighters/bronzer, and one lip & skin balm.  It's a lot of bang for your buck -- I've got my eye on the Mod Collection for sure! 

Alima Pure Eye Primer // Ilia Beauty On & On Eye Primer // Batty's Bath Eye Stick It To Em Eyeshadow Primer
For as long as I've been into green beauty, eye shadow primers have been hard to come by, but not any more!  I've spotted three new ones in the last couple months alone -- from Ilia Beauty, Alima Pure, and Batty's Bath.  All three promise a better surface for eye shadow application, longer wear, and no creasing.  Ilia's does contain dimethicone, if that's a concern, but the other two are silicone-free.

Inika at The Choosy Chick
I've played around with Inika, an Australian certified organic, vegan, and cruelty free makeup line, a little, but they've always been a challenging brand to get a hold of here in North America.  No longer!  The Choosy Chick, one of my favorite green beauty shops, has become the first US online retailer to carry Inika's products and I couldn't be happier to have easy access to this wonderful line.  I highly recommend the Cream Eye Shadows -- they double as beautiful subtle face highlights -- and I'm definitely eyeing up a few other things too!    

Pacifica Spring Makeup Collection

Pacifica makes great inexpensive clean makeup and their upcoming spring releases look pretty amazing!  The new makeup collection consists of four completely new products: liquid lipsticks, liquid strobe highlighters, a mattifying powder, and an opalescent highlighting powder -- and three new eye shadow palettes.  If you're in the US, the new products launch at Ulta in April, and hopefully elsewhere shortly thereafter.

Rocky Mountain Soap Wellness Bombs
Rocky Mountain Soap is one of my favorite bath and body companies and the newly launched Wellness Bombs sound fantastic!  Basically, they're the company's bath bombs taken to the next level -- enhanced with essential oils that specifically target different wellness concerns.  Whether you're looking to unwind and destress or re-energize, the Wellness Bombs have you covered!

What new products have caught your eye?

Contains affiliate links

11 March 2017

Outstanding Body Care from Sola Skincare

Sola Skincare is a family-run Canadian business, handcrafting skin and body care products in Vancouver, B.C.  The company's products are made with fairly minimal ingredients and are enhanced with traditional Chinese herbs.  I first discovered Sola last year and immediately fell head over heels for their Balancing Oil, which, almost a year later, is still one of my very favorite face oils.  (You may have spotted it in my 2016 Best in Green Beauty or caught me raving about it on instagram!)

More recently, I've been trying out three of Sola's body care products and I'll tell you right off the bat: they don't disappoint either.  Keep reading for my detailed thoughts on the Coconut Deodorant*, Soft Skin Balm*, and Relief Balm*.

Coconut Deodorant
The Coconut Deodorant is one of Sola's best sellers and I can easily see why!  It's a great formula that ticks all my deodorant boxes.  Basically, it...
  • smells good
  • keeps you smelling good
  • has a great texture/consistency
  • applies easily 
  • doesn't stain or leave marks on clothing 
  • doesn't irritate my skin or cause rashes  
The ingredients start off pretty standard -- coconut oil, baking soda, arrowroot powder, olive or sweet almond oil, and beeswax -- but true to form, Sola also includes antibacterial Chinese herbs zhi mu and sheng di huang, both known to cool excess heat in the body, calm inflammation, and nourish the skin.  Sola doesn't add any fragrance or essential oils, so the sweet coconut scent really shines through.  I can be fussy about coconut smells -- even natural, coconut oil ones -- but the Coconut Deodorant is a winner for my nose.  It smells fresh, sweet, and delicate, and is more reminiscent of actual coconut than coconut oil, if that makes any sense at all.

The deodorant has a very smooth, buttery consistency that melts into the skin beautifully without any gritty or grainy baking soda texture.  It also doesn't feel oily or leave behind any greasy residue, so you don't have to wait or delay pulling clothes on.  With regards to irritation, baking soda deodorants are hit or miss for me, but I haven't had any problems with Sola's Coconut Deodorant.  I usually use a non-baking soda option if I've just shaved, but that's true across the board, not specific to this one.

And, perhaps most importantly, the deodorant offers great odor protection too.  I apply it once in the morning and it keeps me smelling good until the next day -- so, roughly a full 24 hours.  I don't notice the coconut scent beyond when I apply it, so it's not so much covering up bad smells as actually preventing them. I don't sweat a ton, so your mileage may vary here, but I find it keeps me pretty dry as well.

I'm looking forward to testing the deodorant more as the weather warms up, but since it's held its own through a few sweaty workouts, I'm pretty confident it'll do just fine in the summer too! 

Soft Skin Balm
The Soft Skin Balm is a wonderfully nourishing moisturizer perfect for treating ultra dry skin.  The balm is thick and rich, courtesy of shea butter, beeswax, and olive oil, and while it doesn't absorb immediately, it sinks in slowly and deeply nourishes dry skin.  The four Chinese herbs included in this one -- shu di huang, bai shao, he shou wu, and gan cao -- are all intended to nourish and bring moisture to the skin, and combine nicely with soothing lavender and patchouli essential oils.  The scent is very light and unobtrusive.  I mainly smell olive oil in the tin, and while the essential oils come out a little on the skin, it's still very mild.

I've been using the balm mostly on my feet and elbows, and it's also a great thick moisturizer to slather all over your hands before bed.   I even used it as a lip balm in a pinch one day!  I probably wouldn't repeat that experience, if only because patchouli isn't my favorite taste in the world, but it did leave my lips nicely moisturized and supple!

Relief Balm

The Relief Balm is a gentle warming treatment for aching muscles, minor sprains, strains, and arthritic pain.  I deal with occasional back and shoulder pain and the Relief Balm has helped a lot in those moments of discomfort.

The balm is a very soothing and gentle product made of only herb-infused olive oil, beeswax, vitamin E, and essential oils.  The herbs and essential oils are all chosen to not only relive pain, but also to target the source of that pain by reducing inflammation and improving circulation and blood flow in order to promote healing.

With ingredients like cinnamon (gui zhi), ginger (gan jiang), and white camphor, the balm generates a gentle warming sensation when applied.  The warmth penetrates slowly and gently eases muscle tension and relieves pain and discomfort.  It's very soft and light and not at all hot or uncomfortable like some other warming muscle products I've used in the past.  In Chinese medicine, cold accumulation is seen as a common source of pain, so from that angle too, a warming product like the Relief Balm is targeting not only the pain, but the root cause of that pain.

If you deal with aches and pains, I think this would be a great one to keep in your arsenal!

The Bottom Line
Sola Skincare is a great Canadian line and I really like everything I've tried from them!  The products work as promised and both the handcrafted nature and the way Sola brings together classic natural ingredients and components of traditional Chinese medicine really resonate with me.  I doubt you could go wrong, but I'd especially recommend the Coconut Deodorant and, of course, my favorite, the Balancing Face Oil.  If you deal with aches and pains, the Relief Balm is another fantastic pick.

*Press sample
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