11 June 2018

A European Hand Cream Edit ft. Aurelia, Benecos, Alva + Lavera

There are few things I love as much as a good hand cream, and while I’ve found some solid favourites over the years, the product junkie in me is always up for seeing what’s out there and trying new things.  I’ve been testing out several new-to-me hand creams over the last few months and, while none of them have quite overtaken my longtime favorite -- the Trilogy Ultra Hydrating Hand Cream -- I have discovered some good ones, including a new lightweight favourite that’s perfect for the warmer months or for those times when you just don’t need as intense of a lotion.  

Keep reading for a full breakdown on the six European hand creams I’ve been experimenting with recently...

Alva Hand Cream + Sea Buckthorn Hand Cream
These two hand creams are my first products from German-made Alva and I like them both a lot. The richer Sea Buckthorn formula is my favorite of the two, mainly for its fresh lemony scent, but also because, made with shea and cocoa butters, it feels a little more nourishing.  The original hand cream smells mostly like tea tree oil to me, with just a hint of citrus coming through underneath.  Both creams moisturize very well and absorb reasonably quickly too.

Aurelia Probiotic Skincare Aromatic Repair & Brighten Hand Cream
The Aromatic Repair & Brighten Hand Cream promises to hydrate and nourish skin while helping diminish dark spots and pigmentation.  I don’t have dark spots or pigmentation on my hands so I can’t speak to those claims, but as a moisturizing product, it’s pretty fantastic.  The hand cream is thick but not heavy, and feels very healing on dry, dehydrated, or chapped skin. It’s also great on dry cuticles.  The cream isn’t oily or greasy, but it does take a minute or two to fully sink in. The scent -- a blend of vetiver, ylang ylang, lavender, patchouli, bergamot, juniper, rosemary, and lemon -- is herbal, floral and just generally lovely.  This is definitely one of the more strongly fragranced natural hand creams I’ve used and the scent does linger on the skin. At £28/$52 USD for 75 ml, it's a pricey hand cream, but if you have the money and want to splurge, it's a beautiful product.  

Benecos Sea Buckthorn & Orange Hand & Nail Cream
Way at the other end of the price spectrum, we have the Benecos Sea Buckthorn & Orange Hand & Nail Cream, retailing for a mere £2.08 -- or, a little higher in North America at ±$9 CAD -- for the same 75 ml.  After mixed experiences with Benecos products, I purchased this cream without high expectations, but it is undoubtedly my favourite discovery of the bunch.  The Hand & Nail Cream is lightweight and quick to absorb, and it leaves skin silky soft and deeply hydrated.  I also adore the product’s light and fruity scent, which comes from a mix of essential oils and natural fragrance. I know the cream is supposed to smell like oranges, but it also smells a little peachy and a little green/herbal to my nose.  The scent is beautiful, but also light and inoffensive. Seriously, I don’t know why more people aren’t talking about this guy!

Lavera Basis Sensitiv Hand Cream + 2-in-1 Hand & Cuticle Cream
Lavera makes some fantastic products, but the hand creams were pretty unimpressive to me.  Both versions have alcohol as the fourth ingredient and they just don’t offer any kind of long lasting moisturization.  The creams feel nice enough in the moment, but within an hour or two, my hands are dry again, almost as if I hadn’t used anything at all.  In terms of scent, the Basis line is pretty unobtrusive to my nose, but the Hand & Cuticle Cream wasn’t a favourite -- to me, it smells a little old-fashioned and a little like sunscreen.  

The Bottom Line
Lavera’s two hand creams did not impress me, but the other four are all solid products in my book.  I’m especially smitten with the budget-friendly Benecos Sea Buckthorn Hand & Nail Cream and I also wouldn’t hesitate to rebuy the Alva Sea Buckthorn Hand Cream.

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1 June 2018

StixBrands: Portable + Travel-Friendly Body Care

Despite carrying an oversize purse, I only allocate a small amount of space to beauty products, so anything I carry with me needs to be fairly small and compact.  I first discovered SoapStix, StixBrands' first product, several years ago -- I even blogged about them way back in 2012! -- and I still use and refill that same bottle to this day, so I was pretty excited to try the company’s newer offerings when they reached out to me earlier this spring.   Along with more SoapStix scents, StixBrands now makes a sunscreen (SunStix) and lotion (SkinStix), both, of course, in the company's signature portable stick/tube packaging. All StixBrands products are made in Canada and are designed to be portable, non-toxic, and environmentally safe.


Lots of companies make travel-size items, but what’s unique about StixBrands products is the shape of their bottles.  The tubes are long, thin and roughly the size of a large marker or highlighter. The bottles are secure -- no leaking! -- and they all come with a spray top dispenser.  

SoapStix ($4.99 for 10ml // $11.99 for 500ml)
The SoapStix are, for me, still the highlight of StixBrands' line.  They’re a castile-based soap with minimal ingredients and are a fantastic multipurpose product to carry with you.  Made of just water, olive and coconut oils, glycerin, and essential oils or maple syrup, the ingredients are super clean and basic. The soaps are gentle and were specifically formulated with dry skin and eczema in mind.

The SoapStix are great for on-the-go hand washing, and, since castile soap is so multi-functional, also for any other cleaning needs that might arise throughout your day -- washing a dish, cleaning a counter, on the fly stain remover, and per the company's suggestion, even waterless hand sanitizer.

The SoapStix are available in four scents:
Unscented -- no added essential oils.  Has a mild scent from the other ingredients.
Grapefruit -- mild and citrusy.  I think this one is my favorite of the bunch.
Lavender --  a pretty standard lavender.  I find this one the strongest of all the scents, but it's not overpowering or offensive.
Maple -- sweet and mapley.

Larger 500ml pump bottles are also available.

SkinStix Hand & Body Lotion ($6.99 for 10ml // $12.29 for 250ml)
As you would expect from a lotion housed in a spray bottle, the SkinStix has quite a thin consistency.  It’s lightweight and absorbs very easily, and it also does a really good job moisturizing the skin.  The lotion has a light orange scent that’s mild and refreshing.

Obviously the 10ml tube won’t go far as a body lotion, but I like keeping it in my purse to use as a light hand cream, and there’s also the option of purchasing a larger bottle.  The SkinStix does contain phenoxyethanol, if that's an ingredient you choose to avoid.

SunStix Sunscreen ($8.99 for 10ml)
The SunStix is an SPF 30 mineral sunscreen made with a blend of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.  The consistency is, again, quite thin, but that’s where the similarities to the SkinStix end. The sunscreen is very white and somewhat challenging to blend into the skin.  I also find it smells quite sweet and almost perfumey. It’s a fine product and convenient for SPF touch ups throughout the day, but it isn’t the first sunscreen I’d choose to reach for.

The Bottom Line

The SoapStix are fantastic and are something I've used for years, long before being sent this package. I've also enjoyed using the SkinStix, but the SPFStix was not a huge hit for me.  I love the packaging of all three -- the compact slim tubes are super handy for both everyday and travel.

*Press Sample. Contains affiliate links.
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