Love your Acid Mantle.

Stark Skincare

Most of us with oily skin are all too aware of this top layer of oil on our skin. It is, after all, the evil layer that we battled throughout teenage-hood. Stop the grease! Stop the grease! Right? This is what most face-wash ads were telling us to get rid of with harsh soaps and strong facial-wipes. (On the other hand, those of us with dry skin pine for a little more of this slick layer.) I really hate it when misinformation is used to sell products, and in this case, how brainwashed mainstream face-washers have been for decades because companies decided to wage war against natural skin oils. Ugh.

Let me just say this right away. This top layer of the skin is made of lipids from the sebaceous glands (not grease…your skin is not a deep-fryer…OR IS IT?) and yes, sweat, and is NOT dirty. Let’s repeat that: NOT DIRTY. It is, in fact, a beautifully designed self-defense mechanism, vital to your skin’s health. Much like the healthy living things in your gut (which doesn’t sound so sexy, I know), the top layer of your skin is a delicately balanced ecosystem of living cells and ceramides and lipids that, if you could find them in a bottle, you’d pay major money for. Why in the world would you wash it all away!? The truth is that too many people willingly destroy this healthy, protective layer of their skin, then add more and more products to their repertoire to recover some of the skin’s lost function.

This layer is called the Acid Mantle, and it is your skin’s first line of defense against bacteria and infection, against water-loss and against the elements (harsh weather, pollution, etc.). The ideal pH for the Acid Mantle is as you probably guessed, slightly acidic at 4-6.5.

One of the WORST things you can do for your skin is upsetting the pH balance of your Acid Mantle by using products that are too alkaline for the healthy function of skin (hint: most soaps). Although these products initially feel great, with a luxurious lather and make skin feel amazing for an hour or so, it is actually changing the pH balance of the skin, making it too alkaline. This weakens the skin’s immune system,  can cause or exacerbate a slew of inflammatory skin diseases and conditions (like acne), and also leads to dry skin. It even leads to the dreaded dry skin AND acne combo that is so confounding. Drying out skin that is oily or acne-prone only makes the sebaceous glands freak out and produce more oil, throwing off the whole fine balance your skin is trying so hard to achieve. Many facial cleansers, and certainly 99.9999998% of what you find at the drugstore, work in this counter-productive way. Giving your skin that squeaky-clean feel and oh-so-smoothness one minute, then that overly-oily feel a few hours later, then what do you know? An acne eruption to boot! This often leads people in a vicious cycle of drying skin out with more cleansers, treating pimples with super harsh topicals, eventually reaching for the cortisone and antibiotics. Rinse, repeat.

So, how can natural skincare handle this so-called Acid Mantle I speak so highly of? Well, for one thing, developing products that are pH balanced for skin. Our White Willow Bark is slightly acidic, normally at around 5 to 5.5 (as with any natural products, batches vary slightly due to the raw ingredients used). This helps keep skin at a healthy acidity. (Which I know feels a little counter-intuitive when we’re told how important alkalinity is for the body…but not the skin, ok? It’s just no bueno.)

This is one reason why I’ll never create a “regular”, soapy, foamy, squeaky-clean-making detergent-based cleanser and why you shouldn’t use one on your lovely visage. Detergents wash away the Acid Mantle, disrupting the skin’s barrier function and permeability, ruining the delicate ecosystem needed for skin to thrive (I’m guessing you caught that point by now, but really just trying to drive it home). Oil cleansing is an ideal way to maintain the health of the skin’s Acid Mantle, as vegetable oils are so similar in structure to the human skin’s lipid layer (like, freakily so). On that note…did you know Prevention Magazine just named our GF as THE balm cleanser everybody should be using? Pretty cool! Balm cleansing, whatever kind you use, essentially uses the “like attracts like” law of quantum physics, just kidding, of basic chemistry, to gently lift excess oils and grime from the acid mantle and replenish them with skin-loving, bio-dynamic plant oils (that are as compatible as a match made in internet dating!).

Have you ever experienced a bad reaction to a harsh facial cleanser? What did you do?

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This is about how I pretty much  lost my shit.

In just a few days, my little company turns two years old. So strange. I can’t remember what life was like BS (before Stark). Or before I had a baby. Or before I met my husband, for that matter. Even though all those things? Individually, doesn’t even add up to 8 years total! I really can’t get over the idea of time. You think you kind of get how long an hour, a day, a week, a year feels, and then things like hitting 30, being a mom and/or launching a business happens. Then you realize that you had no idea what time was before. Or if you did “get it” at some point? It’s different now. Just as I’m sure it will be and feel different in a few years time. [keep reading...]

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I think I may need some kind of intervention. I had created a nice little washing routine in Kuwait with my beloved honey and rosewater, and then when it was time to leave for Italy, what did I do? Intentionally NOT pack these items. I like to travel light, which is difficult with a baby, so of course, being a mother, this often means sacrificing my own creature comforts to make sure the baby Z has all the socks and array of cute hats his little heart could ever desire.

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Travel Post 2: Habbat al Barakah, face-saver.

2014-01-05 06.32.39

I’ve been slumming it around Kuwait for the last month (I say slumming it, because the fam and I are total shoe-string travelers, not Dubai-style big spenders) and spent the first 2 weeks with a beauty routine that was a disaster. My whole regime became a horrid comedy of errors.

As you know from Travel Post 1, I had the bone-head idea of travelling sans produits. Not good. In fact, dumb. My face broke out, I had little black heads on my chin and my skin was nothing to be boasting about. (Dinner party guest: “So what do you do?” me: “I created a skincare range that I sell mostly online. Please don’t look at my face.” Yeah. Good times.)

Then I was at the local bakkala (the depanneur for my fellow Quebecers…or, corner-store to the rest of the world, I’m assuming) and found a shelf of local honey. HONEY. I nearly punched myself in the face because WHY DIDN’T I THINK ABOUT HONEY. If you’ve never washed/masked your face in pure, raw honey, you are sincerely missing out on something amazing.

I was nearly beside myself with joy when I found a glass jar of unpasteurized, raw “habbat al barakah” honey, which means “seeds of blessing”, aka. black cumin seed! Black cumin seed has been my jam lately. It’s one of the key ingredients in our Neroli Midnight Oil because calling this seed a “blessing” is an understatement. It’s fucking awesome.

In the Old Testament times it was called a “cure-all for everything but death” (as the prophet Mohammed raved about it). It’s been used topically, since ancient times, from the Greek to Ayurvedic medicine, to relieve any skin disorder like acne, psoriasis, eczema, rashes, etc. It’s inflammation ass-kicking is probably due to it’s content of thymoquinine, a phytochmical. Recent research of this phytochemical, which the plant is known for, has shown that Nigella sativa (also known as fennel flower, aww) has anti-cancer properties. Big ups there.

Anyhow, I began washing my face with this Black Cumin Seed Honey and HUZZAH! My face loved it. I also found a locally distilled rosewater, which I have been using as a toner, and that’s been so nice as well. Honey and roses, what could be better? Through a little pistachio in there, and you’ve got every desert I have eaten in the past 5 weeks.

Instantly my skin felt softer. The little bumps were fading quickly. After only a few days, my face began to clear up. And now, my acne marks are fading away, the black heads are almost gone, and I feel I’ve gotten most of my glow back.

Lesson learned: a little sweetness saves the day face!

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I’m not making any resolutions.

2013. It’s over! So much happened for me so I can’t say it flew by, but it certainly rocked my socks completely off.

I became a mom and a wife, Stark continued to grow, and I got to realize a BIG dream of mine: leaving Montreal for the winter. But I didn’t achieve any of my 2013 resolutions (did I have any? I don’t even know.)

Which is why this year I won’t have any resolutions. No guilt about “failing”. No constant striving for something that may or may not bring an ounce of happiness.

Instead, I want to focus on being happier every day. Not always thinking about the future, but about this moment and what I want and need, and what I can do right now to be true to myself and those closest to me. I think superficially, this may sound selfish, but I think it’s a way of being that leads to feeling more fulfilled and being more capable of extending that abundance of good shit to others. (Good shit to all, as the old saying goes! Yeah. Made-up saying. By me, obvs.)

I think focusing on feeling better is a way of making energy (however you want to define energy) more sustainable over the long term, easier to convert to other good things and makes my life, and those lives I touch, better. It’s a good way to stay motivated and happy about working hard, and It’s a way to achieve goals and feel fulfilled by them, instead of just ticking off an item from a checklist and moving on to the next goal.

This year is definitely about upping my self-care game, and helping others do the same. Through self-care, I have found, is the shortest distance to happiness for me. I want to surround myself, my business, and the people I care about/for with beauty and nourishment.  I want to make caring for ourselves a priority, and make it fun. I have a PILE of gorgeous ideas to make this intention happen. I’m really excited about it all, and hope I can make at least 1/10 of them real!

This year is also going to be about not letting Others affect me as much as I do, about letting go of their negativity, making more space for myself and what I need to be better (it isn’t Other people making me feel shitty, that’s for sure.) I want to really make an effort to focus on the things I can control. Other people? Out of my control.

I want 2014 to shake things up for the better, for all of us. I want to step up my game. Get out of my “boredom” zone (what’s wrong with a comfort zone if ease is a great thing to feel?) I want to feel better. Do better. I have a few ideas up my sleeve, but I won’t call them goals. They are directions I want to move towards, and I will just see where the tide naturally takes me.

What’s your 2014 strategy?

 

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8 Skin Tips For Dry Climates

I’ve discovered that it doesn’t matter if dry air comes from a cold winter with radiator-scorched indoor air or from the desert; dry air is dry air. It searches out moisture and sucks it up regardless of where it comes from, including from your skin. For me, dry skin means not only a less youthful glow, but a sallower, overall less healthy look to my skin, PLUS I start breaking out, because the world is unjust. Dry skin is not just uncomfortable, but leads to wrinkles perhaps a little earlier than you’re comfortable with, so moisturizing, and keeping moisturized, is key.

Here’s how to battle dry skin.

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Seriously, don’t buy dry shampoo.

 

Nifty!

Nifty!

Because it’s SO easy to make!

One ingredient. Cornstarch. Or arrowroot powder. Possibly tapioca could work, too. In powder form, or else you’ll have wet, lumpy hair which is probably the opposite effect that we’re going for here. I spoon arrowroot into a shaker-type bottle (I use an old cinnamon bottle, works fab!) and add a couple drops of essential oil because I’m crazy-fancy like that. Usually lavender, as it has cleansing properties and when you’re dry shampooing? Usually it’s because your hair isn’t the cleanest, so a little lavender makes a lovely deodorizer. (On that note, this stuff makes an awesome foot powder if you’re super blister-prone like me and love to walk an excessive amount.)

I have dark hair and as long as I work the shampoo in relatively well, there’s no trace of white powder in my hair…at least, nobody has mentioned it. I’m pretty sure it’s fine. I’ve also used this in my husband’s hair (short, thick, black…works well) and my son’s hair (silky, all kinds of colours, made of adorable.) when they need a little freshening up. Obviously, this is a life-saver while travelling! I also love how it makes my hair feel thicker and fuller, and it’s AWESOME if you’ve done your hair a day (or two or three) ago and you need to make the look last but you’re waaaay too lazy to do the whole wash, condition, put some kind of product in, blowdry or airdry, straighten or whatever else you do to make it look good, but know you shouldn’t do too often, because hello brittle.

Ok, go do this now!

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BIG NEWS! A reveal of what I’m working on.

hard at work or hardly working? Depends on the day!

hard at work or hardly working? Depends on the day!

I don’t know why I normally do this, but I like to keep my upcoming projects slightly under wraps. However, I’ve decided that this time I will just come out and SAY what I’ve been working on for months and months: perfume oil.

You guys? This is my passion. I could do this every day, and never get bored. Never lose interest. Never want to stop.

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Travel Post 1: A terrible idea.

Not all that bad, though. ;)

I may have a cold and am lacking vital skincare items, but really  its not all that bad. ;)

Just over 2 weeks ago, Adri the baby Z and I packed a few bags and left the keys to our cozy Montreal apartment (and cats!) to a friend, not to return until March. This is the first year that we’ve decided to take advantage of our flexible lifestyle and say arrivederci to the insanity that is Canadian winter and ma’salam alaykum to warmish weather (and that’s a hint as to the 2 very different places where we’ll be!)

This, of course, is a fantastic idea, so that’s not what I’m alluding to by the post’s title. [keep reading...]

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51

About 2 months ago, I did something a little wild and crazy. I changed “GF” – our Grapefruit Cleanse and Hydrate Balm. (Oh, and it’s also available in 2 sizes now! Perhaps for a limited time so get on it!)

Don’t panic! I know for many of you, this is your favorite Stark product. I am confident that it will continue to be your favorite cleanser, and if it wasn’t before? It is now. I don’t even think I’m exaggerating when I say this may now be a revolutionary product on the naturals scene.

Here’s why:

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