Sure thing Sedona - the spiritual hub of the West - is known for a few things – namely new age vortexes, sun-baked adobe casitas, and rustic trinket shops. But, oils? Yes. An, emphatic yes!
I’m going to swear the richly storied part of Arizona and its healing energies are home to some of the best quality essential oils I have come across of late. I can say I know this firsthand as I was recently touring Scottsdale in search of the best wellness and holistic spa treatments at some of the esteemed and iconic spas – think the regal Phoenician to the luxury standard Fairmont; the off the path Four Seasons to the legendary Camelback Inn.
The one thing I found in common – Body Bliss.
I first sniffed the freshness of a mysteriously sweet Lavender at the Fairmont Princess when I was indulging in the Havasupai Falls Rejuvenation treatment, which is named after a Native American tribe located in Northwestern Arizona. It begins with a body exfoliation of ultra-fine desert salts infused with indigenous essential oils and continues with a warm herbal bath before a warm massage awakens the tired muscles. In between the scrub and the bath, I couldn’t help notice the Lavender was sweeter than most of the generic camphoric kinds that you smell all to often in the usual oil blends. When I asked my therapist where she got the oil from, she simply said, “It's by Body Bliss.”
I wanted some, but none was in stock.
Fast forward to a few days later, I was getting unknotted at the Four Seasons by way of the Healing Hiker’s massage when my therapist again noticed the deep-rooted spasms as she rubbed her profoundly scented Arnica oil into nooks n’ crannies I didn’t know where even reachable. This time it was the aromatic Sage that kept me wondering why do the oils smell fresher in Sedona than in LA. So I asked what oil was she using? Again I heard, “It's by Body Bliss.”
I wanted some, but again this bottle was sold out.
Was everyone buying up Body Bliss to get their indescribable otherworldly glow? How could I – a lover of all things oils – not know about Body Bliss. I do now. And, so should you.
Body Bliss is a brand designed for massage therapists. Nothing is artificial in the oils despite the fact the oils are actually used in massive quantities at luxury resorts in Sedona and beyond. The products contain no paraben preservatives, no mineral oils, no harsh laureth and lauryl sulfate cleansers, no phthalates and no formaldehyde donors. Rather, what you’re getting is ethically wild-harvested essential oils from farmers who care about the quality and the environment first.
I reached out to the charming and informed founder, Nick James, about why his Lavender seemed to smell so much more like a blossom than a sprig. He shares:
I was so taken by his intuitive knowledge of botanicals and oils that I’m now hooked.
If you’ve got serious inflammation or regularly wound knots, you’ve got to get Mountain Arnica Massage Oil - Turquoise Sage ($29.95). A bestseller for years now, the oil has Supercritical Arnica Flower extracts with Lavender and Sage in a base o Sunflower, Sesame, Safflower, and Avocado oils. The scent is utterly mesmerizing.
But, first a bit of history. Native North American Indians and Europeans generally used Arnica Oil for the healing of wounds, and for the reduction of inflammation, and soothing of muscle aches. Arnica oil has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial qualities which is why it can reduce swelling and pain and improves the overall healing process of wounds. Today, Arnica is highly beneficial for the treatment of bruises, acne, inflammation from insect bites, muscle aches, sprains, rheumatic pain, superficial phlebitis, pulled muscles, tendon strain, wound, and swelling due to fractures.
Body Bliss’s version spreads easily and leaves no trace of grease behind. The scent isn’t decidedly masculine; the soft, slightly resinous tinge of Sage melds into the lavish floweriness of Lavender with a refined touch. Nothing is medicinal about this blend, though you'd expect it to be. Quiet and serene, the suffused oil is full in scent and will definitely flow throughout your room as you spread it across any sore limbs, back or neck. The result is a cooling sweetness across the skin helping Arnica penetrate deeply to ease tension and inflammation. And, did I feel relief? Serious relief from weariness.
Oh and that surprisingly addictive Lavender? A pure bottle of the French bred essential oil can be found online and in many other body oils. This is what Lavender is like when it falls in love with skin.
And, I know it's going to be the choice of Lavender for me...
Scent Classification: Floral
Viscosity: Ultralight viscosity
What is it: A specially formulated tummy saver ($70) that prevents stretch mark formation on a woman with child. How does it work? Using the oil during the pre-pregnancy phase or during the initial months helps add extra elasticity to skin, which keeps the unsightly reddish squiggles away. What are they exactly? The dermis, the lower layer of your skin, is more fragile than the outer epidermal layer. When subjected to constant pressure for weeks or months such as during pregnancy or after rapid weight gain, it can lose its elasticity. When this occurs, stretch marks form. Leslie Baumann, MD, director of the University of Miami Cosmetic Center and author of The Skin Type Solution says, "It is crucial to moisturize. Skin becomes more pliant, more plasticized, and better able to stretch when it's well hydrated."
Why it matters: Because stretch marks aren’t limited to women who are procreating. Stretch marks can be found on thighs, breasts, arms, hips, and derrieres of any woman at nearly any age. Including yours truly...Are you thinking of stepping up your workout game with some serious bodybuilding? You’ll be prone to getting these as thanks to the rapid bulk gain. Are you slightly a few pounds heavier but not exactly obese? Ditto.
Why it impresses: The carefully selected, fair trade belly oils are cold-pressed, unrefined, and entirely organic. Marula has higher amounts of Vitamin E than Argan and most other carriers. Apricot Kernel, Avocado, Baobab, and Jojoba bring even more E in this lightweight, easily absorbed formula. Vitamin C - from Rosehip and Marula - helps brighten and tone the stretched out skin to reduce the appearance of the deep marks. And, sniff a little deep to enjoy the soft, dreamy fresh scent of Neroli and Grapefruit, which are cheery in play.
The Final Word: Let’s get real - you can’t live life under the healing brush tool in Photoshop like a celeb. And, with bikini season right around the corner, regular use of this oil now should keep your belly in good form.
the best technique to help you get rid of the oil slick left behind with some of those oiler treatments.
If you’re looking for a gentler scrub, sugars are the way to go. Pure Fiji’s Coconut Sugar Rub uses soft and gentle raw sugarcane crystals, which contain natural alpha hydroxys to brighten skin and are blended into a super rich base of Virgin Coconut, Macadamia Nut, Dilo Nut, and Sikeci Nut oils. You may have heard of the former, but the latter botanicals are actually sourced from local Fijian communities.
You don’t need to be a jetsetter to find this island fave. Skip the airport queues and scruff up with this lightly gritty rub. The part watery/part fruity flavour is sort of plum in character; the fragrant candied, scent makes you feel like you’ve scored a highbrow spa product on a deal. If you’re a fan of the ravishing tropical lushness of flowers – light with a faint nutty undernote – Star Fruit is it.
As you rid yourself of the dead layers of skin, Sikeci will get deeper into the skin with its superbly high in Vitamins A, E & F to soften skin. And, this scrub will leave your skin super oily, which is a good thing. Skip the shower gel and rinse off to let skin reap the rewards of a body oil. A multitasker for some of you who still haven't bought a body oil just yet. A bonus: a mini-scoop is included for good measure. And, remember with all things Coconut, the scrub may solidify when the ambient temp drops. Just warm up the scrub in a pot of hot water.
Spring is shining and hem lines are rising. Legs now matter! Consider adding Star Fruit’s sweet purity to your beauty checklist.
$39.50 available at Amazon.com.
In 2001, she launched her Malibu-based brand of organic skincare and body care born from being bedridden and intolerant of chemical-rich skin care lines. Harnessing the power of organics, she resorted to creating her own concoctions that work from simplicity. And, she talks the talk. For example, Zorica refuses to uses boxes and insists the quality of a product ought to be in the product not packaging. And, a portion of every sale benefits the St. Jude Children Hospital in Memphis. An entrepreneur after my own heart, who employs good CSR with care.
There’s a quiet affection in her 100% pure vegetable soy wax candle made with Grapefruit and Vanilla. This isn’t a sour bite of citrus, but rather a soft tang of a clean one. Softened by a light Vanilla, the candle - with its good throw and clean burn – brings the sunny feel of an early summer.
The magic is also reflected in the Gratitude Perfume oil. It’s 100% chemical and alcohol free in the precise formulation, stays close to skin and highlights more of the bright and zesty flourish of Grapefruit. The Vanilla notes fleet about skin, so if you’re worried about getting something too sweet, fret not. This is a mild-mannered citrus with an exuberant character.
And, a fantastically fun side note - women wearing Grapefruit are perceived to look younger by up to 10 years.
$38 at Zoricaofmalibu.com.
So, you trusted Sex and the City for its fashion. Did you know one of the gals was a devout user a face oil long before it was cool to school the folks on the organic wonderments on oils? Kristin Davis (among other celebs) has been a longtime fan of Lina Hanson’s Global Face Serum ($85).
First off, who is Lina? She’s a Hollywood makeup artist who has artfully painted the faces of Natalie Portman, Ellen DeGeneres, Mandy Moore, Olivia Wilde and Naomi Watts – women all known for their dewy porcelain skin. So, she knows a thing or two about how the face responds to oils after a brutal 16-hour shoot that leaves a mess of cakey colour on skin begging for moisture to restore the lost glow. But, she’s also the authour of the book Eco-Beautiful: The Ultimate Guide to Natural Beauty and Wellness, which is a comprehensive breakdown of beauty and skincare products that are good for the planet and good for you skin.
It’s Lina’s organic mindset that helped her formulate the face serum; a luscious cocktail of Baobab, Argan, Marula and Camellia oils that even has the hush hush Ewan McGregor wanting some.
What I like about the silicone, preservative, fragrance free serum is that it’s a new kind of power skincare. It’s handmade by someone who understands how skin works under the long hours under make-up. And, let’s get real – we, too, wear our SPFs, foundations and blushes for 10-14 hours days, too.
Baobab is the leader carrier; it’s another African miracle (a standard for women in the harsh savannah desert) with vitamins A, D, E, F, doesn’t clog pores and yet is intensely reparative. Absorbing on the spot, Baobab helps skin restructure from within by improving its elasticity. And, when you add it to Argan and Marula, you’ve got some heavy Vitamin E hitters reworking the damage done by those ugly free radicals.
A dab of the sweetly tinged, lightweight oil is enough for the whole face. A play around the citrus tartness of Neroli and Mandarin yield an alluring complexity with the addition of the versatile Frankincense, which brings a touch of incensey sweetness to the pulse of an irresistibly white Ylang Ylang. All essences certifiably organic, of course.
Under SPF, the oil is soft and supple. And, keep a watch for the Body Serum, which is set to launch on June 5, 2013 – World Environment Day. If you splurge on either, 15% of the proceeds between June – August will benefit the International Rescue Committee.
Fashionable pragmatism - doing good for your skin and doing even more good for the planet.
Update: check out actress and Mrs. Ellen Degeneres, Portia de Rossi wearing the serum under her makeup at premiere of Arrested Development. Isla Fisher also had her face prepped with the serum. See, no shine?!
Scent Classification: Floral
Viscosity: Ultralight viscosity
It’s no secret my type A, persnickety ways have become a canonical fan of evening baths. Inspired after speaking with serious detox aficionados like Mandy Aftel and Julie Elliott, I’ve recently fined tuned the near perfect way to create some magic time for me...by me. Well, can I say fine tuned this to a near science, actually?
Creating a great bath can be somewhat of challenge for some. Sure, there's enough online buzz about using an orgy of basic body and/or bath oils with a smattering of salts, but what actually goes into the bath is as important as what happens around the bath. The real excitement these days is in the holistic experience using 100% pure essential oils, not diluted ones.
And, let’s get real – if you’re not in the beauty biz like yours truly than you it’s not the easiest chore to shop for individual essentials along with salts and the other necessary accoutrements that promise to transport the senses to another zone, which can add up faster than a bubbly froth.
To take the guesswork out of game, Soak Yourself offers up an all-encompassing bath kit (~60) that gives the right amount of festive touch to your tranquility time.
If you’ve been heartlessly dumped or empathize with those weathering through long lost love pangs (like the woeful me), the Broken Heart Soak Kit is a veritable goof-proof recipe for how to create an hour’s worth of bliss with such a price-happy tag that you can’t help but be charmed by even the sweet smelling packaging grass and retro pretty ribbons. In each playfully hand-assembled box of authentically organic treats streamlined to help you get your maximum chill on comes:
- Rose, Lavender, and Sandalwood Essential Oils – no, not the type to wear as perfume or onto skin directly, but instantaneously potent fragrant oils - blendable to your scent strength preference - to add to the bath and work on your mind and body. Sprinkle a few drops of these aromatic niceties to create your unique blend directly into the bath water. I went unapologetically Rose heavy - what a surprise, I know. Sensitive skins ought to be wary as Soak Yourself's aromatherapy expert suggests to add the essences to a few tablespoons of Olive oil before dispersing.
- Fizzing & Foaming Bath Powders/Salts - drop 2 tablespoons of the fizzy fun into a tub of warm water, which effervesces into wallops of soothing froth. The 4 petite-sized packets mean these – coupled with the portable oil vials -- are also great for turning any mundane overnight hotel stay into spa-time with extra oomph.
- Classic Candle Holder with Taper Candle – clear and elegant for use in the bath and beyond.
- Jasmine Tea – as the most consumed tea in China, Jasmine comes in the form of lovely little pearls made from hand-rolled green tea tips, which have been delicately infused with pure Jasmine flowers. The pearls are often nicknamed “dragon phoenix pearls” because the tea bushes that dot the hills of the Fujian province look like dragons coming out of the water. Steep the bag at the start of your prep time and sip as you luxuriate.
- Hibiscus and Rosehip Soap – a delightful everyday luxury that has carefully crushed Rosehips and Hibiscus flowers blended with Ho Wood, Rose Absolute and Geranium essences in a base that is superfatted up with Rosehip oil. The ornate soap smells of a vibrant and sweet Rose cleverly adorned dried flowers. I wanted to take a nibble of soap., but, didn't.
The only thing more poetic than the presentation of the set is the way you feel when you step out of your private sanctuary – nothing short of fantastical.
And, yes shipping is safe and convenient from across the pond.
It’s been a long while (since the days of now dated Hard Candy, actually) since I’ve seen a cult brand achieve a sell-out status of popularity as fast as Hourglass has. The best part is the brand doesn’t bill itself as some snobfest of highbrow Hollywood artistry or cache. Hourglass just sells really awesome products that work so well, they’ve become a fave among the well-heeled moms and eager fashionistas alike.
Of course, I’m glad to see a niche brand launch a lip oil, as most mainstream ones still stick to their petrolatum based balm sticks. And, don’t even bother marketing them. As a former behind the counter girl at Chanel, I can tell you our lip care products stood neatly upright in the Bloomie’s drawers for months, if not years, until some ridiculously self-professed Chanel wannabe came in asking to buy the one last logo’ed thing she hadn’t owned yet. But, needed to.
Hourglass’s N° 28 Lip Treatment Oil ($42) may not be entirely organic, but wow does it pack the highest number of oils in the chic little copper tube topped off with a 24K gold plated tip that delivers the precious botanicals onto your thirsty lips.
The voluptuous oils? Essentials like: Bois De Rose, Lavender, Geranium, Petitgrain, Lemon, Rosemary, Vanilla, Clove, Amyris, Orange, Ylang Ylang, Eucalyptus, Cedar, and Rose Geranium; and lipid rich carriers like Hazelnut, Kukui Nut, Rose Hip, Borage, Olive, Green Tea, Cherry Pit, Sweet Almond, Jojoba, and Evening Primrose
Three hero ingredients help with hydration. Saliporine 8 is a hardy coastal plant that was shown in clinical studies to increase moisture levels, improve skin smoothness, and prevent trans-epidermal water loss in the skin. Clinical studies on Saliporine 8 have shown moisture levels in the skin can potentially increase by up to 6000% after applying it twice a day for 28 days. The second is K3 Viamerine, a petrolatum substitute that delivers the deep hydration with the oils. And, finally, exclusive to Hourglass is Volulip™; a blend of a plant extract + peptide Pal-KMO2K, which work in synergy to enhance softness, volume, and hydration for 69% of volunteers who used the treatment sacredly.
I’m taken by the elegance on the application. The instantly appealing lip oil feels just so right; a slightly viscous serum that is largely scented of Lavender and Eucalyptus. I mean it’s like a lip balm on steroids!
Nothing shows of the signs of aging better than the crepiness around lips, which will come. That I know of. And, considering how serious we are about our eye creams, I see no reason not to extend that worry to the lips. I, for one, plan to have a seamless pout at 60 and think I’ve finally found the perfect serum to help me get that.
Scent Classification: Herbal
Viscosity: Slightly Viscous
Whatever takes you to that elusive happy place, Sukhin ($45-$120) helps you get there faster. A body oil with the tenacity of a soft perfume oil, Sukhin is an invigorating blend with the natural freshness of Orange and slivers of Black Pepper that ends on an extremely elegant yet sensual unisex note.
Bright and tangy, the dripping taste of big ripe Oranges springs forth like a genie from the bottle and blossoms under the wonderful cast of a spicy Cardamom that turns what could have been a normal everyday oil into something far more enchanting made complex and deep by fanciful rosy touches of Geranium.
The core of this oil is the scent, as you’ll find with all of Jiva Apoha’s oils. They are for more perfume-y in spirit than others likely from the high concentrations of 100% organic essences that are sourced from India under stringent quality controls. As such, the oils work extremely well with the Sesame Oil base.
Sesame has been religiously used in India as a notable healing oil for centuries. A natural anti-inflammatory agent, Ayurvedic practitioners have coined the carrier the “Queen of Oils” because the vitamin (A, B, E, K) and mineral-rich oil penetrates quickly helping promote suppleness of skin, flexibility of joints, and reduce psoriasis, eczema, acne flare-ups on the back. Oprah’s fave Dr. Oz even recommends using Sesame with this simple massage on a daily basis or a few times a week to markedly improve the texture and elasticity of your skin.
The succulent skinfeel of Jiva’s oils are worth the spend and why I keep coming back for more. Skin really doesn’t even need to be moisturized the day after using a palmful of this syrupy nectar, which means your 8 oz bottle will last you for months. Not everyone spends the way I do, but you should know that your enthusiasm for oils will be matched with quality if you remind yourself that you're getting a multipurpose oil. A thimbleful is enough for an overnight cuticle/hands/feet treatment, too.
Scent Classification: Herbal
Viscosity: Slightly Viscous
For many people, using a hair oil comes as quite a revelation. I actually haven’t read a single email or review where a user has complained about the lack of frizz or frayed ends after investing a few bucks in a hair oil. But, when I see a hair brand (still a handful few) get into oils, I’m even more excited as it certainly goes beyond the hype of oils to give the right street cred to the easy to use treatments.
Davines OI Oil ($39.50) is a serum that adheres to a few hair rules; it does have silicones, but the breathable kind. Silicones are a good thing if you’re one of those gals who likes to flat iron or blow dry your languished locks on a daily basis as they act as a protectant and coat your cuticles to prevent further damage. Hair oils made from mostly carrier oils will reassuringly nourish and strengthen the locks, but not really bring any serious preventative action. And, this is why Davines Absolute Beautifying Potion is a fantastic choice.
Super frizzy, super thick, and super wavy hair types will want a few drops of this slurry serum to protect the hair from harsh blowouts and ironing sessions. The serum is also quite plumpy and comes in a pump, which makes it easy to dispense the few drops you’ll need for a soft application. What makes this a cut above the rest is the serum is made from Roucou Oil, an Amazonian oil I’d never seen before.
Roucou is mega rich in trace elements and beta-carotene (100 times more than carrots) and works to restructure hair. It stimulates the production of melanin (keeping away the salt & peppery grays), reduces cell damage from UV radiation, prevents ageing, and even maintains scalp elasticity.
Strong hair needs weight. It needs a dense oil to keep the frizzies down, which will help them from fraying into split ends. Davines OI oil is just that – weighty. The breathable silicones help the oil penetrate into the shaft when applied sparingly to wet tresses. I’m an air-dry type of girl and wash my hair at night. I have to say even my wispy fine locks didn’t seemed to be weighed down by 2-3 drops of the oil massaged through the mid-length part of hair for an overnight conditioning treatment.
Another fun way to use? Yoga class. I’ve shamelessly started showing up to class with hair slicked back with some of these thicker hair oils. This guarantees me a bi-weekly 90-minute treatment (which I'm likely to skip now that spring is here) that shows pretty impressive results from using thicker serums, which are easily rinsable.
Do have some fun dipping your nose into the hand-sized bottle for a divine powdery floral scent, which I completely adore. It’s a likeable kind of Jasmine scent with a soft fruity side and tinge of musk that I haven’t seen in a body oil, but would really like to.
Between the Roucou that treats and the scent that teases, it’s no surprise the potion won Allure’s illustrious Best in Beauty award.
Scent Classification: Floral
Viscosity: Moderately Viscous
An entry-level sparkler, you can’t call this candle loud. And, that’s a good thing as sometimes sublimity is what it’s in order for the night. More comfort than fancy, the candle’s scent is more Lemongrass than Lemon. In an earth-friendly base from soy and corn waxes, enjoy the subtle wafts of refreshingly tangy Lemon-Verbena accents gently mixed with a light Fir for a fruity greenness.
The high quality, lead-free wick cotton wick makes good eco-sense here. A superbly clean burn makes the creamy base easy to clean, so you can eve re-use the holder for beauty sticks like liners or q-tips. Minimalist at heart, the creamy citrus blend doesn’t overpower the room, but rather enlivens the ambiance with what seems like the release of tiny micro-aromatic flowers floating around an intimate center – you.
$9.99 at Mrsmeyers.com.