Pure + simple's Kristen Ma explains why natural skincare is important for our health as well as beauty
Ten years ago, I walked into a beauty shop and spa next door to my office building at Yonge & Eglinton in Toronto. I'd worked next to Pure + simple for quite a while, but until that day had hesitated to venture in. The name suggested natural skincare, and I'd come to mistrust those who claimed to sell natural skincare products because I knew that a hugely popular, global company that based their entire philosophy on the concept were not as they appeared, and there had been an exposé on some smaller producers of 'natural' products mostly sold in health stores, which made me believe there was really no such genuine thing being sold commercially. (At this time I had no reference for Pure + simple, unaware of their stellar reputation in the city and many awards. I was still kind of new in town.)
Do the Opposite
I finally walked through their door when I'd had enough of being greeted by the oil slick on my face in the washroom mirror at work. I'd never had oily skin before and didn't know what was going on. I bought blotting papers but they were a temporary measure. (One day my male director appeared around the corner of my cubicle and found me with one stuck to my forehead and each cheek, I'd just left them on for some reason. I said "Um, I've got a bit of an oil problem." Better to be honest because it certainly warranted an explanation, he thought I'd decorated my face with Post-its.) So I found myself standing in Pure + simple when a young woman, with skin so clear and fresh it reminded me of what skin is actually meant to look like, approached. I told her about my problem and she explained that my skin was dehydrated and was compensating by producing more oil, and that I needed a heavier moisturiser to rehydrate and balance it. The last thing I wanted to put on my visibly oily skin was cream, especially a heavy one, but nothing I was doing was helping so I thought that sounded crazy enough to work. I bought the moisturiser she recommended and was really impressed that she was so confident about the principle behind what she was telling me, yet she was not at all pushy about it. I put it on that night and again in the morning. I remember the next day my face was hardly shiny at all and I couldn't believe how quickly it turned around, and the oil never returned. Needless to say, I went back. I wanted to know more.
Kristen Ma and Ayurveda
That vibrant young woman with the enviable complexion was Kristen Ma, co-owner of Pure + simple Inc., along with her mother Jean Eng. They created their first product range after finding nothing suitable on the market to address their skincare needs. I found out that there is a specific ideology behind their holistic spas that I wasn't familiar with - both are Ayurveda practitioners in addition to being highly skilled estheticians, and approach the attainment of beauty through health. Kristen explains it for us in her first book Beauty: Pure + Simple - a must-read for anyone frustrated with their skin despite having tried everything, or just not feeling generally well (the two go hand-in-hand). Ayurveda guides us to live in harmony and beauty, according to our individual constitutions, known as doshas, and our environment. Unlike western medicine which focuses on alleviating symptoms and conditions with drugs and surgery, Ayurveda searches for the root cause and treats ailments from this perspective. It specifically considers the characteristics of the individual, while understanding that our mind, body and environment are always changing. Makes good sense, eh? I've been on the other side of the Atlantic for the past seven years but I always come back to Pure + simple when I visit Toronto - they do the most heavenly facials which are second to none, I've got one booked just before Christmas - and their products and advice always straighten me out.
Although I've been a Pure + simple devotee for over a decade, somehow the only products I'd tried from their proprietary line were their organic hydrosols which I just love - I alternate between rose and lavender, the latter also being great for oily scalps and refreshing what I call 'plane face' after a long flight. All of my skin and body products had come from their shops but from other high quality natural and organic lines they carried. Well, recently I found out what I was missing and was also introduced to products from the new specialised Holistic Vanity lines for Damage Care and Rosacea Care, Kristen's brainchild. All are made locally in Toronto using undiluted and concentrated, organic, therapeutic ingredients harvested seasonally and are free from ALL of the harmful ingredients commonly found in commercial beauty products (you can see a list of the undesirables at the bottom of this page).
So what do I think? I love the completeness of the Damage Care line which offers a treatment for each sin you've put your skin through at one time or another resulting in cellular injury. I'm guilty of causing some: sun damage (when I was a teen they still sold suntan oil with no SPF!) which leaves you with hyperpigmentation that becomes more pronounced as you age, and the thing we all do even though we know we shouldn't - picking. Those little scars your mother warned you you'd cause if you didn't leave your spots alone but you'd escape to the bathroom to willingly annihilate your face in private? Got some. Add the effects of pollution, stress and free radical damage and pretty much anyone will have a skin issue that needs addressing.
These products gently yet effectively help improve specific damage symptoms:
Rejuvenating Rosewater Cleanser - It all starts with proper cleansing. This milk formulation hydrates depleted skin as it removes damaging surface impurities. My skin looks so fresh afterward as it contains absolutely no stripping agents to cleanse the skin.
Repairing Rosehip Skin Tonic - This tonic smells heavenly, thanks to water extracted from the rosehip fruit. Rosehip has been found to be excellent in treating pigmentation and is one of the only natural, non-bleaching ingredients to do this effectively. It's a treat to put on your face.
Edit: I clued in this morning that I didn't give the Rosehip tonic enough credit! I use it twice a day after cleansing and the lightning fast, almost complete removal of the hyperpgimentation on the sides of my face is probably due more to the tonic than the lotion below. The lotion surely does the job, too, but I use different moisturising products from this list on different days, and the tonic is consistently applied twice a day so I think I owe it the credit for this small miracle of a transformation. Use it with the brightening lotion below and you'll be rid of that 'dirty face' look in days. Seriously. It's been three weeks for me and there's hardly anything there.
Brightening Hyaluronic Lotion - Something about the combination of seaweed extracts and the 15 percent hyaluronic acid - one of the best actives for increasing skin hydration and encouraging cellular repair - makes this hyperpigmentation fighting lotion work. I'd only used it a few times and wasn't even looking for any improvement as it was so early, when I noticed that the 'sandy' look on the sides of my face was reduced, looking a lot less blotchy and now barely noticeable. Amazing. And it achieves this without bleach. (Why would you put bleach on your face?!)
Regenerating Seabuckthorn Berry Oil - This is the healing one, helping to repair skin marks, weak tissue immunity and scarring. Loaded with nutrients, it's great for undernourished skin types and it also provides topical protection as a shielding barrier for damaged complexions. I still get a little surprised when I pump it and see its bright crimson colour from the Seabuckthorn Berry oil. But don't worry, the addition of evening primrose oil prevents it from staining your skin. I feel like I'm giving my skin a hug when I put on this soothing oil.
Restorative Raw Argan Oil - When my skin is angry (those hormonal times so enjoyed by my loved ones) I turn to this oil that repairs broken out, sun damaged, and inflamed complexions and helps to restore balance and increase tissue health. Made with raw argan, this oil is crafted with care by the artisans of an all-female co-operative in western Morocco. Its entire extraction process is done completely by hand and sustainably, employing a zero-waste approach.
And I have one product from their excellent Rosacea Care line which is the Comforting Camellia Oil. I don't have rosacea but my skin can go red and blotchy for some reason at times, so I'm glad I have this on hand. It contains skin comforting Camellia (green tea oil) as well as the ancient Ayurvedic anti-inflammatory Turmeric (also known as curcumin), and permeates deeply to charge the skin with extra resilience.
Don't be afraid of using these oils on on your face - all Pure + simple oil products are free of petrolatum and parabens and are non-comedogenic, meaning they will not cause breakouts. I can attest to this!
We've had some face-stripping windy and bitter weather here by the sea recently, and if my skin isn't protected properly I come home looking looking like a fine leather glove left on the radiator to dry out (I know what this looks like because I stupidly did this once). So on those days I've been using Pure + simple's Nourishing Sunflower Cream with an oil on top of that, and not once have I come in from the cold resembling a wizzened leather good. And you can blot with a tissue if you look oily, but I've never needed to, it absorbs completely into my skin and you would never know I put oil on my face. I always rub the excess oil left on the palms of my hands onto the backs, and from just this tiny amount I have seen a major transformation in how old my hands look. (Has anyone else looked down only to be horrifed that your hands look 20 years older than your face?) I am now a total oil convert. As long as it's Pure + simple.
For more advice on how to find that healthy balance visit Kristen's blog Holistic Vanity, and see her fantastic YouTube channel for all kinds of insightful videos including collaborations with other Toronto experts on topics such as healthy digestion, anti-inflammatory diets and DIY all- natural styling and beauty products.