Beauty Editor Julia Alfert put together her newest top 5 beauty favorites for the month of February: from herbalism to body scrub
The year is still fresh and, for me, all questions of beauty are still about signs of renewal – whether that’s through exfoliating or thorough cleaning. I do that by picking up new beauty knowledge, or simply by bringing a new product into my routine and then cleaning out my bathroom cabinet to get rid of one or two creams or sprays that I didn’t find all that great.
Remember that renewal is a process and spring is closer than you think. On that note, here are my favorite “breaths of fresh air” for February:
1. Body Exfolation
I was recently at Aesop in Paris. On my agenda was taking a look at the temporary treatment space by Aesop and Paulin Paulin Paulin – the French family company carrying on the traditions of furniture and interior designer Pierre Paulin – a collaboration that marks Aesop’s 30th birthday.
Aesop’s design studio on rue Saint-Honoré was redesigned for the occasion: beige carpets, an s-shaped sofa alongside other design classics by Paulin, dim lighting provided by vintage lamps, and a treatment room in which nothing stood but a lounger in a purist design. In an otherwise cool room wafting with the company’s signature herbal scents, I took a seat on the warm, heated-from-underneath mattress and benefited from an Aesop facial. After far too short of a night and a 6am flight, it was exactly what I needed. Relaxing, nourishing, and fragrant.
On this visit, I didn’t just get rested skin and all kinds of inspiration to take home with me, but also the new Aesop products. My favorite: the Redemption Body Scrub, which I’ve used in the shower almost every other day since. For one thing, it gives your bathroom a visual upgrade. Like all of Aesop’s products, the large grey tube with the company’s typical black print just looks great. At Aesop, they are consistently aesthetic – that was confirmed in Paris. The products, the shops, and probably the offices (and even the labs) look like they came out of a design book.
But back to exfoliation: That’s something you can also see, or even better, feel. Finely milled pumice and microscopically fine bamboo stem make your skin as slick as an eel. And the scent! Essential oils of fir, pine needles, sage leaf, and clove buds smell as spicy and fresh as the air on a walk through the woods. And your skin doesn’t just get thoroughly cleansed, but also cared for at the same time – it feels soft and well-nourished after you dry off. You can safely forget about creaming afterwards.
I got a lot of thoughtful and beautiful gifts for my birthday back in January. Among other things, I got Das große Buch der Hildegard von Bingen from one of my best friends, who, like me, is really into herbalism and natural healing. [Editor’s note: this exact Hildegard von Bingen title has not been translated. Other volumes of her work are available in English.] Since then, you can often find me engrossed in this book.
A Benedictine nun, poet, composer, and universal scholar, von Bingen lived in the 12th Century and wrote down her thoughts on a holistic view of people and their environment. A joy! Because her enormous amount of knowledge on the healing power of nature and how to use it well is something we can only profit from today. During an herbal workshop in LA, it felt like we were talking about von Bingen after every second fact our teacher presented about plants – that’s what a big source of inspiration she finds her to be.
From mixing creams and tinctures, to medicinal herbs and miracle powers, or even tried-and-true natural remedies for a dry scalp, the 340 beautifully illustrated pages of this book have become something of an alternative beauty Bible for me. There’s a certain herb in a new cream and I want to know what it’s good for? Or I want to know more about different methods of fasting cures? Then I take a quick look in the von Bingen Bible. And every time I’m so fascinated by everything that’s in there. Maybe I should go back to school and get a second education in herbal witchcraft.
3. Like New
Recently an acquaintance was telling me about a super cure that she tried because her skin was so irritated during a stressful period and needed some kind of break and general overhaul. She used the Radiant Night Peel by Teoxane for three weeks straight and was thrilled at the results. And it wasn’t just her that saw it: I had been asking myself the entire time I was sitting opposite her what she does to make her skin so radiant.
So I tried the whole thing myself, applying a little to cleansed skin before bed for 21 days in a row. I left out my subsequent care routine. This highly effective peel works best when used overnight to let the glycolic acid renew the skin’s layers – adding sunshine to the mix is, in any case, not recommended. And just use a little bit every day, because the peel works through a high concentration of glycolic acid instead of abrasive particles and accelerates cellular renewal many times over.
At the same time, it will also initially make your skin more sensitive. Insider trick: As long as you don’t use this peel for more than three weeks twice a year and use the recommended amount, then you’re guaranteed to have beautiful, radiant skin in a few weeks. At least it worked wonderfully for both my friend and myself.
4. Super Serum
I’m drawn to serums and face oils – and actually everything that comes in a gorgeous bottle with a pipette. That includes the Super 16 Pro-Collagen Serum by Oskia, a new British natural cosmetics brand. The blue bottle with silver lettering is something I’d put in my cabinet for decorative purposes alone – but that would be a shame because of the great ingredients. At the moment, it’s responsible for my visibly good mood in the bathroom in the mornings. After showering and a few spritzes of tonic, the first step in my routine is dabbing two or three drops of this serum on my skin. The consistency alone imparts freshness. Cool and gel-like, it makes the skin feel plump and awake immediately.
The 16 different so-called “super ingredients” contained in this serum are nutrients and bioactive ingredients that give the skin back its elasticity, protect it, and supply it with moisture. Especially Bakuchiol, derived from Indian Babchi seeds, works similarly to Retinol to stimulate the skin’s own regeneration process.
5. Eye Shadow, That’s Not At Al
I actually don’t wear eye shadow. I’m always using other things on my lids, instead: gloss, highlighter, balm, dark lipstick… So, it seemed to me that the No Eyeshadow Eyeshadow by Perricone MD was made for me based on the name alone. I had to test it right away.
And actually, this lightly tinted liquid has nothing in common with eye shadow at first. It does add coverage, but completely without laying it on. Instead the lids look even, yet still like they’re not made-up at all. Little gleaming blue veins or light redness on the upper lid become invisible. And at the same time, it doesn’t dry out sensitive, thin skin.
I put on a little after my eye cream and find that it makes my eyes look more expressive without looking obviously made-up. And that works into my “no make-up look” great, because otherwise I don’t use anything aside from concealer, brow gel, and highlighter.
Originally from Hamburg, Julia Alfert moved to Berlin from Paris in 2010. After completing her studies in Art History and trying out different jobs, her path led her to Harper’s Bazaar, where she worked as Fashion & Beauty Assistant until mid 2015. While she’s harboured a love for all things beauty-related for as long as she can remember, her discovery of the written word is recent. When Julia isn’t busy trying out different creams, oils, and sprays she writes and styles for an assortment of magazines and websites.