06/15/15 1:01pm

Whether you’re a minimalist who has eliminated every item in your life that doesn’t bring you joy, a la The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, or you’re just looking to upgrade some of the salves and balms you use on the daily (stay tuned guys, many of these products are assuredly unisex), here are five must-have, all-time favorite health and beauty fixes for softer skin, shinier hair and a better smelling life.

Skin Stick Photo by Earth Tu Face

A Skin Salve Tube You’ll Want to Push ‘Til It Pops–Earth Tu Face Skin Stick, $34 Last winter I attempted to extract a blackhead anchored in the apple of my cheek with an all-natural recipe I found online that called for a few drops of apple cider vinegar. It burned a little when I put it on, but like every other idiot who thinks “The burn means it’s working,” I just thought that was part of the healing process. I woke up the next morning with a quarter-sized, bright red, scaly burn on the left-side of my face (at the very center of which sat my blackhead). (more…)

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05/19/15 9:00am
Apotheke charcoal soap

Chrissy Fitchl, owner of Apotheke, a line of French-inspired, Brooklyn handmade bath and body products, started making bar soap with activated charcoal a few years ago. The bars, like the one above, quickly garnered attention for both their color and their detoxifying properties. Photo: Apotheke.

I’ve done everything from various facial masks and peels to abstaining from certain foods in the pursuit of spotless skin. I’m willing to try anything once. Most recently that’s meant having my face put into a machine invented by NASA that delved four layers deep into my dermis in order to show me how to best cater to my skincare needs. It told me I have clogged pores in my T-zone and, under my eyes, major dehydration. I’ve tried incorporating a great daily moisturizer and lots of H2O to help with that latter issue. However, for cleaning my face, I’ve decided to turn to something more commonly associated with a barbecue than a beauty routine—charcoal.

Here’s the gist: Activated charcoal (which is different from the kind used for barbecuing) binds to toxins like a magnet, drawing them out and trapping them. It’s made from either peat, coal, wood or coconut shell, and is similar to normal charcoal except it is specifically made for medicinal purposes. It is heated in the presence of a gas to create “pores” so that it can help absorb more impurities, its primary benefit for the skin and body. Basically charcoal has an intense ability to absorb toxins, septic bacteria and harmful substances from the skin’s layers, bringing them to the surface to be eliminated—which has made it a popular ingredient with bath and body product makers in recent years.

“There are a lot of natural ways to pull impurities out,” says Chrissy Fichtl, founder of Apotheke, a natural line of soaps, candles and body products handmade here in Brooklyn. She started using activated charcoal in her skincare products before it became the trendy ingredient it is today. “Charcoal is just our way of doing it quickly and well. When you use charcoal on the skin or hair (externally) there isn’t anything to worry about.” (more…)

06/03/14 12:28pm

Image (11)Summer in New York is all about smells. Linden trees and burgers on the grill, yes, but also urine, the boiling ketchup scent of hot garbage, and all those sweaty armpits in your face on the train. Lately, in the interest of eliminating potentially toxic chemicals from our grooming routines, we’ve been obsessively testing natural deodorants, but as anyone who has ever purchased a stick of Tom’s of Maine deodorant knows, a lot of them really don’t work. At all. So, at great olfactory risk to our fellow straphangers, yoga practitioners and loved ones, we tried out and quizzed friends about nearly a dozen deodorants. These are the best among them. And, because natural is basically a marketing term, we’ve included the Environmental Working Group cosmetics database rating for each one, which ranks thousands and thousands of products on their toxicity levels from zero (totally non-toxic) to 10 (buyer beware). Most commercial brands like Dove or Secret fall somewhere between a three and a five on the scale.

herbanHerban Cowboy, $6-8 per stick
Herban Cowboy works very well, does not smell at all like a hippie, despite having scent names like Dusk and Forest, and lasts all day. It’s a stick that goes on smoothly–and the dusk scent smelled and felt like a slightly crunchier version of regular deodorant. Definitely a good choice if you’re looking to win over a natural deodorant non-believer. (more…)

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12/12/13 1:06pm
The Sephora Brooklyn grand opening. Credit: Zimbio

The Sephora Brooklyn grand opening. Credit: Zimbio

In the last month, Brooklyn has seen the arrival of frigid weather, a new mayor elect, and an enormous Sephora in Cadman Plaza. This is just the latest in an onslaught of chain stores invading brownstone Brooklyn, and although I wanted to boycott the mega store just on principle, the allure of such an upscale selection of beauty products was just too much of a pull. One afternoon, I sandwiched myself through the glass doors into the heavily fragranced, beauty-lovers haven. Enveloped in its suburban mall atmosphere, I found myself overlooking my fear of herpes and actually experimenting with the makeup on display. Eventually, I acquiesced to a quick “makeover” when I made the mistake of asking for a concealer recommendation. Ten minutes later my face was glowing and my wallet was much lighter. Instead of a concealer, I changed my life with the amazing Guerlain Precious Light Rejuvenating Illuminator ($49.50). And then to complete my eye look, I couldn’t leave without a greenish-gold Givenchy Magic Khol eye pencil ($22.50) and a refill to my Murad Instant Radiance Eye Cream ($68). And since I was there, I also picked up some Clinique Dramatic Different Moisturizer ($26). That was only my first visit.

Obviously I have a problem. But Sephora is luckily not the only option in Brooklyn where product junkies can indulge themselves. Beauty boutiques can offer more personalized services, unique lines and special events. Although nothing beats the wide selection of Sephora, I live in a NYC apartment, so a restricted choice of preferred beauty essentials is actually what my overflowing medicine cabinet needs.

Inside Miomia, where you can source local products like McBride's Rescue and Repair in A Jar and Night Cream, a favorite moisturizer of some BB staffers.

Inside Miomia, where you can source local products like McBride’s Rescue and Repair in A Jar and Night Cream, a favorite moisturizer of some BB staffers.

Miomia (318 Bedford Avenue, between S. 1st St. and S. 2nd St.,Williamsburg)

This unisex apothecary (which BB has raved about before) carries exclusive lines that reflect the vibe of the Willy-B neighborhood. Owner Katie Chang describes their customers as “people looking to up their skincare game without the typical bullshit you’ll find in a bigger, sales-driven environment.”  The staff doesn’t work on commission, so you can rest assured that they stand behind all of their product recommendations.

Services: A staff aesthetician, Hillery Sklar, is available for appointments Wednesday through Sundays.  Facials range from the Classic ($85) to The Bearded Gentleman ($70.)  A complete menu can be found at www.hillerysklar.com

Winter Must-Haves:  McBride’s Rescue and Repair in A Jar ($27) will heal the driest skin, Hakansson’s Lip Balm ($26) is a luxurious lip treatment, and Dermelect’s Hand Cream ($22) will take years off aged hands.

Upcoming Events:  December brings a festive free-gift-with-purchase promotion for all their customers.

The brow bar at Shen Beauty. Credit: Nikhita Venugopal /DNAinfo

The brow bar at Shen Beauty. Credit: Nikhita Venugopal /DNAinfo

Shen Beauty (315 Court Street, between Sackett and Degraw, Carroll Gardens)

What do you get when an American stylist and a British beauty journalist open a beauty den?  A gorgeous space, full of well-curated, upscale, international products that is, according to  owners Jessica Richards and Jules Stringer, “the antithesis of Sephora.” The company stands out for their personal touch, customer service and hard-to-find products.

Services: A recently opened Brow Bar is open four times a week, where brow stylist, Carrie Lindsey, will style and tint your brows and lashes, and even wax your face if necessary. In the new year, they will be offering mini-facials for the discerning woman in a hurry. Also, look for their Friday night classes where customers can learn skills like perfecting the smoky eye.

Winter Must-Haves: Annee de Mamiel Winter Oil ($100) is a perfect intro into the trend of oils, Therapie by Michelle Rocques O’Neil Bath Salts ($66) will assist in de-stressing this season, and a new foundation by Terry ($115) will fix winter complexions.

Upcoming Events: Enter Shen’s 25 Days of Christmas Raffle–each day they pick a winner of a $20 gift card, until Dec. 25. Also through New Year’s Eve they’re offering Holiday Makeovers, a $45 session with a makeup artist to get you glammed up for any of your holiday parties.

Related: A guide to the natural beauty products of Blades Natural Beauty and luxurious natural skincare from Soapwalla


12/10/13 10:36am

Jessa Blades has been working as a makeup artist and natural beauty consultant for years, but she recently launched an online shop filled with gift sets and products that she normally shared just with her clients.

Jessa Blades, after working as a makeup artist and natural beauty consultant for years, recently launched an online shop filled with gift sets and products that she normally shared just with her clients.

Jessa Blades may be the only makeup artist who is as versed in Jungian psychology as she is in the restorative properties of lemon balm, but that’s what makes the products in Blades Natural Beauty, her new online apothecary, so unique.

Her circuitous path to becoming a natural beauty expert began after studying art and psychology in college. Despite her respect for psychotherapy, she learned from experimenting on her school friends that a little makeup could lift their moods, too. Or as Blades describes her thinking at the time: “I’ve got the power to improve someone’s self-esteem with something as simple as lipstick? I’m in!”

She continued her studies at a makeup school in Canada and developed a successful business as a makeup artist in the city. Inspired by the organic and natural food movement Blades began researching the ingredients in the makeup she was using. The discovery that many contained harmful ingredients like phthalates was disillusioning.

“I was not very fun at parties,” she said, admitting to cornering more than one friend during that period and itemizing the toxins in lipstick.

Rather than switch professions, Blades schooled herself on natural ingredients and medicine, and studied with an herbalist. She translated her knowledge into making natural skincare and figuring out the best beauty products that she felt good about using and recommending. Up until this fall, only her clients, which range from brides to men who ask her for curated gifts to give to their wives and girlfriends, were privy to her selection, but she recently launched a new line of goods in her online store that she is also selling at the Wythe Hotel’s holiday pop-up shop, open until Dec. 23. (Some items are only available at the pop-up, and online orders can be picked up at the Wythe.)

Blades products go beyond bronzers and eye pencils. Many are meant to keep you healthy and are often made by hand, whether in her Fort Greene apartment or by colleagues locally, with ingredients so safe you could eat them (though you probably wouldn’t want to do that). Here are a few of her favorites. (more…)

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