Blog, Nature Girl

Nature Girl: Oils

Last week I talked about my favourite natural cleansers. This week it’s all about my favourite of all the happy skin hybrids – the oil/serum. These sit very happily in the middle of an easy skincare routine – cleanse, oil/serum, cream (use the latter only if you need to – you may not).

Beauty 101 – a normal serum (i.e. not an oil/serum), will be lightweight, often water-like, although some will have some opacity and feel more like a light lotion. They are immediately absorbed – serums contain the smallest particles to aid delivery of ingredients into the deeper layers of the skin (or that’s the marketing jargon). In my experience, serums can make or break a routine – and are where you’re most likely to see the biggest changes to your skin health. For this reason, I’ve tried hundreds, and am really, really choosy with my serum. There are, of course, thousands and thousands of non-natural serums on the shelves – almost every brand on the market now will have at least one serum in its line-up, while many have one serum for each individual skin concern: from brightening and lifting, to blemish-fighting and deeply hydrating… Where I come a bit unstuck is when I move entirely onto natural ground. I’ve used dozens of non-natural serums in my time too (and have seen great results with ones by Zelens, Prevage and Verso, among others), but when I made my bid to switch from hi-tech synthetic, to results-driven natural, I needed to do a lot more legwork.

The good news is that there are some real gems out there – that really deliver the goods, smell gorgeous and look elegant. The confusing news is that many natural serums (i.e. bottles that have the word ‘serum’ on them) feel like oil (because they ARE in fact oil, or primarily oil). Oil is the most commonplace delivery method for 100% natural or organic products, as they require no preservatives (preservatives are most commonly needed if a product contains water, because water can easily breed bacteria).

This is absolutely fine for me (I love oil!), but just needs to be spelt out. Hence this post which is solely about these very oil/serums – all of which feel sophisticated, are wonderfully effective and easily absorbed. For most brands (e.g. Darphin, who make absolutely beautiful all-natural oils – from chamomile to rose), their oil is not to be used in lieu of their serum (they make both). But for other brands, such as Decleor, whose serums are all 100% natural and called ‘serums’, some of their ‘serums’ are actually oils… confused?

I hope reading the reviews below will make things eminently clear, but as always, if you have any burning natural beauty Qs, do drop me a line at editor@balanceplan.co.uk

1) MV Organic Skincare Instant Revival Booster, £59
Okay, so the first serum isn’t an out and out oil/serum – nor is it so-named. Yet, it’s the most divine product to use after cleansing, if skin is feeling rough, dry, unhappy. A spritz of an all-natural water (the brand’s own Rose Hydrating Mist is beautiful and simple) beforehand, does make this go further, and absorb more efficiently. Without the mist it feels oilier and heavier – a dream when skin is parched or sore – but with it, it feels like satin on the skin. Less is more too. One of those products that I often reach for on later nights, and always look better for come morning. Very simple on the ingredients front, but with little-used Centella on the list (used in Ayurveda for centuries, to balance the mind), it is one of those lovely products that cossets and calms, and in my experience, always delivers. It’s pricey, yes – but though I often roll my eyes when reading ‘you only need a drop or two’ – it is entirely true here. 2 to 3 drops is AMPLE, and at that rate, this baby will last you up to a year.

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2) Odacité Serum Concentrate, from £25
A completely organic line that has rather reinvented the wheel. Instead of one broad-brushstrokes serum that tackles most concerns, these little bottles of concentrated oils (yep, another oil/serum), offer very specific solutions to specific things, from Blocked Pores, to Dull Skin or Deep Wrinkles. The idea – and as someone who tries to live as in tune with the shifting seasons as possible, it really appeals – is that our skin changes day by day, dependent on innumerable factors from environment and sleep to stress and diet. Odacité allows you to tailor your daily products based on your daily needs. The serum concentrates can be used neat, as intensive treatments, or added to the Olesomes Time Release Delivery Cream, £55, for daily use. I’ll be the first to admit that the specificity can be a bit overwhelming, and of course, costly to boot. But, if there’s an ongoing concern that you’re looking to address (for me, it was dehydration), I’ve found these concentrates to really deliver on their promises. Initially sceptical – the formulas are, after all, transparently simple, with most containing just two ingredients (all highest grade and organic) – these really impressed. They produce fantastic balancing products for overly oily and blemish-prone skin too (this might be the thing to change your mind, if you’ve avoided like the plague up until this point).

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3) Decléor Aromessence Marjolaine Serum, £44

For skin that is prone to real dryness (come winter, mine is), this is a luxurious silky oil (it doesn’t run off the fingers when dispensed, but almost pools into droplets i.e. it’s not watery, yet it’s far lighter than a bog-standard oil), that makes a big difference, quickly. It has a lovely affinity with skin – there’s avocado, myrrh, babassu, lavender and marjoram (which is rich in gamma-terpinene, a lipoic acid that boosts skin’s own hydro-lipid balance). I relied on it all last winter, and it’s one of the few products that really help to bring longterm hydration to my dryness-prone skin.

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4) Josh Rosebrook Deep Hydrating Serum, £65

I’m yet to be disappointed with a product in this über-pure wild-crafted American line, and this was the first product I tried. It works beautifully with the Hydrating Accelerator – a similar technique to the MV Organics product above, which is utilised by a fair few natural brands, and aids in the absorption or primarily oil-based products. On a recent 2-week holiday, I challenged myself to travel as lightly as possible – packing just SPF, a cleanser, this, and the accelerator, for my skincare (not easy!). I needn’t have worried – after hot days in the sun, a good cleanse to rid skin of the daily SPF, all I needed was this lovely rich, satin oil. It feels heavier than the Decléor and Odacité serums – and not dissimilar to the MV one in the richness stakes – but it was just the ticket for skin that had been exposed to the elements. Without the accelerator it does sit on the skin more heavily than without (rather nice at night if you want that richness – and it does absorb in time), but with the accelerator (and I’d wager that any floral water/toner would do the job almost as well), it sinks in, drip-feeding, soothing. The herbal contingent ( Bilberry, Slippery Elm, Chickweed, Skull Cap, Neem Leaf, Fennel Seed, Ginkgo Leaf, Hawthorn Berry, St. John’s Wort, Green Tea, Marshmallow Root And Alfalfa), is what elevates this oil/serum – and really boosts skin health along the way. I silently sobbed when I got to the bottom of my bottle!

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Until next week…

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