It has been a rough time for businesses over the last few months. With several brands launching during the pandemic and existing companies introducing new products, I thought I would round up some of my favorite must-have clean beauty products that epitomize self-care.
Epicuren Discovery is one of those brands that when I go back twenty-five years or so in my beauty routine—it was an absolute staple, especially their Colostrum Luminous Glow Cream. But with so many shiny, new brands and products, sometimes it’s a little too easy to forget how great a tried and true staple is. Luckily, I have come full circle and have been reminded how great this brand is again.
For those unfamiliar with Epicuren, it is a family-owned prestige beauty brand (referred to as one of “Hollywood’s best kept secrets”) launched over 35 years ago that offers a full range of face and body result-driven products (that can be used at home or in the spa) made from natural ingredients.
The brand doesn’t drop products very regularly but just recently launched two new ones—Tighten Up Neck Firming Cream and Defend & Balance Tinted Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50.
“We don’t believe in ‘launching a product just to launch a product’”, states Heidi Ackerman, Vice President of Marketing at Epicuren Discovery. “We decided to launch Tighten Up Neck Firming Cream and Defend & Balance Tinted Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 in 2020 because we believe they fill gaps in our line and are also some of the most beautiful ingredient decks we have come across.”
Tighten Up is for anyone who has crested that age where you visibly notice the telltale signs of aging in your neck area—like loss of loss of elasticity, and medium to deep wrinkles on neck and décolleté. After a few weeks I am seeing visible results. While I don’t have wrinkles in this region, laxity of skin is what I am trying to prevent. It is scent free and leaves my neck and décolleté feeling hydrated and tight immediately after use. “Tighten Up has a mix of extremely effective ingredients that have shown improvements in significantly tightened and lifted skin on the neck while also smoothing deep neck wrinkles,” explains Ackerman.
Defend & Balance is a fantastic chemical-free SPF 50 that’s mineral-based and adjusts to your skin tone. Ackerman tells me, “This cream not only protects you from UVA and UVB rays but it is jam packed with antioxidants and hydrators that help soothe and protect skin from environmental stressors. We are getting a lot of positive feedback from people using this product as a CC cream under makeup or as a light base. I personally love that its reef-safe and water-resistant for up to 40 minutes. It’s a great product for everyday use.”
Ackerman also reveals that a 3rd new product launch in the brand’s Anti-Aging line will be coming soon. I can’t wait to see what it is (if only they could release an eye cream for drooping lids that worked as well as their neck cream the middle-aged folks, like myself would be set!)
After spending ten years in the beauty industry, Founder and CEO, Elizabeth Schmidt just recently launched Face-Kit, a food-grade renewing skin mask kit that comes with Renew Mask Powder, Aloe Water Base, a mask brush, mixing bowl, measured spoon, cleansing cloth and travel bag this past May.
“After years of struggling with sensitive skin and trying every product under the sun only to have adverse reactions, I grew tired and skeptical of products formulated with ingredients that you need to be a chemist to understand,” states Schmidt. “I decided it was time to take skincare matters into my own hands. I began experimenting and mixing DIY formulas made from fresh, simple ingredients in my East Village apt. What started out as a personal hobby of gathering the best superfood powders, pairing them together, and turning them into masks—suddenly, became a much bigger venture.”
The RENEW MASK consists of several super clean and green ingredients (which gives it its deep green color) that are then mixed in with the aloe water that acts as an activating base when you mix the ingredients in the bowl that comes with the kit. Schmidt tells me, “By keeping the dry ingredients and liquid separate, I was able to skip the need for any preservatives, fillers and stabilizers completely while extending the shelf life of the product.”
“I use many plants, microalgaes and minerals in the RENEW MASK including: spirulina, which slows does the aging of skin cells, chorella because it helps regenerate and renew the skin, parsley leaf which has been known to even skin tone & lighten the under eye area, Costa Rican blue clay, which cleanses, restores, and renews, zinc because it wards off bad oils & acne, and Butterfly Pea Petal, which has antioxidants that promote collagen & elasticity,” Schmidt explains.
I love the RENEW MASK. Unlike other masks that have clay, this does not dry out my skin and leaves my pores looking squeaky clean—something that can be somewhat of a challenge living in a city. You apply the mask, meditate for ten minutes (Face-Kit has a few cued up for you), then wash it off and go!
KUSSHI makeup bags are a must-have for any beauty junky who also has an affinity for organization. There is nothing worse that having a cosmetic bag and having no idea what is in it (it is like a big purse that is a bottomless pit). I just discovered KUSSHI and I am kind of wondering how I have never come across them before. But, the beauty loop can be hard to stay on top of. I am just happy to now be in the know.
Launched almost four years ago, KUSSHI is the brainchild of Jessica Parker, a serial traveler who’s visited over 40 countries on 6 continents and in the last five years she has lived in England, Vermont, Germany, and China—all of which to say she understands the importance of beauty organization while on the go or at home.
“KUSSHI is a woman’s travel accessories brand that focuses on keeping your beauty products organized and protected at home and anywhere you go,” states Parker. “Our makeup bags are designed for women by women to make going from home to the gym to your next travel adventure easy and more organized. By staying organized, your makeup and beauty routine gets easier and with more ease comes less stress. Leaving room to focus on the joys in life.”
Not only are KUSSHI bags beautifully designed (I love the stitching detail on the bottom) and impeccably made, they are machine washable—even the leather options have an interior lining that is machine washable. The bacteria that can be found in purses let alone makeup bags will literally make your skin crawl—so you really should be washing them.
“We even go further and make all of our organizers anti-microbial, stain resistant, water repellent and anti-mold,explains Parker. “Our snap in organizers keep your brushes and makeup protected and all in one place so your beauty routine is so much faster. Our bags also open really wide so you can see everything inside and with the bright interiors of our bags, there is no more digging for what you need. Everything is easily accessible and organized for home and on the go.”
While the brand itself isn’t new, KUSSHI released a brand new color combo that was a limited edition this past November that quickly sold out and has now been officially restocked. Parker tells me, “We have been out of stock since early January and are so happy to bring it back as one of our permanent colors in all 3 sizes of our makeup bags plus our Clutch Covers. It is such a sophisticated bag with navy on the outside and a pop of pink on the inside. Perfect for any season.”
If you love Biologique Recherche P50 but are searching for a clean alternative, look no further than Moon Juice’s Acid Potion, a nourishing exfoliator that resurfaces the skin with five acids and botanical support that minimizes fine lines and pores, which just recently launched.
In her twenties, Moon Juice Founder, Amanda Chantal Bacon used to have a simple skincare routine. When she hit her thirties, her minimalist routine wasn’t cutting it anymore. So, she asked around and discovered P50. “I tried it and within a few weeks I had re-textured my skin, it was incredible. I knew the ingredients weren’t something I could actually incorporate into my life, but I wasn’t ready to let go of my new skin, so I got to work on making a clean, efficacious formula,” she tells me.
So what are some of the nasty chemicals found in P50 that might give a health-conscious individual pause? One ingredient that was in the original version was phenol, which is what gives formaldehyde its strong smell and can cause skin irritation and redness. Alcohol is another potential skin irritant. “It’s found in various forms, from isopropyl myristate to acetone,” states Bacon. “Side effects range from sensitivity and dehydration to more drastic changes in the biome that can compromise the skin barrier for potentially threatening environmental or microbial intruders.”
Another problematic ingredient according to Bacon is synthetic petroleum-based skin conditioners like Polyethylene Glycols, aka PEGS. “Skin conditioners can affect the natural oils found on skin—changing your skin’s natural moisturizing factors and altering how well the skin maintains hydration,” Bacon tells me. “Proylene Glycol accumulates in skin and can alter your biome. Long-term impact studies are needed to see if the skin can rebound to its original state after continual use. Proylene Glycol can also trigger contact dermatitis.”
Anyone who has tried P50 knows that while quite effective, the toner stinks to the high heavens. Luckily, Acid Potion doesn’t smell offensive thanks to its addition of fresh sage essential oil. On what else makes the Acid Potion unique, Bacon tell me that she partnered with one of the best chemists to pair together clinical ingredients with plant extractions to create a clean and active formula.
“I wanted care that would visibly change skin without harming the earth, your biome, or your endocrine system,” she explains. “We formulate with the maximum levels of clinical actives that deeply exfoliate without compromising hydration or disrupting the skin barrier or biome. Glycolic acid has the strongest exfoliating power for better skin resurfacing and brightening effects. The intensity of the acid complex is balanced with nourishing ingredients like Reishi and Niacinamide to avoid irritation and be suitable for all skin types.”
You can dial up the treatment with a cotton pad or dial back its strength by adding to a moisturizer. I especially love mixing some in with my body lotion to give the skin on my body a nice, refreshed glow. Just remember to sunscreen while using this product—something in theory you should be using regardless.
With lockdowns still in place for many people and anxiety at an all-time high Muri Lelu, a brand new eponymous beauty brand that offers cleanly crafted whole flower cannabis sativa-based products couldn’t have come at a better time. What makes these products unique (and smell like kind bud) is the addition of terpenes. “Terpene, the compounds that give each cannabis strain their distinctive fragrance, work synergistically to trigger an ‘entourage effect’ that multiplies the plant’s therapeutic benefits,” states Lelu.
The brand is named after Lelu, who used to be a lawyer and has had a long love affair with flowers, but it isn’t a solo venture. Lelu explains, “The brand is led by a collective of women who actively pursue a life of curiosity. First-generation Americans with roots in France, Egypt, and Belize, we are life-long friends and family committed to celebrating the ‘hidden self’ that lives within all women.”
Muri Lelu is a brand new launch. Their first product release is Mauvaise Herbe Indica Oil, a restorative nightly ritual that calms and balances overstressed skin. You put a few drops in your hands, take a few deep inhalations, and then apply to the skin for the ultimate sensory experience. “Our blend of whole flower cannabis and active botanicals flood the skin for maximum hydration and anti-aging repair, Lelu explains. “The Mauvaise Herbe terpene blend is handcrafted by perfumers in the Southwest of France to mirror the terpene profile commonly found in the indica strain of cannabis. Like its namesake, indica, Mauvaise Herbe inspires relation, calm and balance.”