By Betsy Aaron
May I take this occasion to come out and say, “bah humbug” in the very first sentence? I am not a holiday person. I don’t like all the red and green, the incessant loop of Muzak that passes for timely tunes, I prefer Wolfords to stockings stuffed with junk I don’t want, and all that white sugar, impossible to pass up, makes me sick. I’m for indulgence and gift-giving on an everyday basis just because it’s good to be alive and have some friends and family. But since we live in a market economy, purveyors of delightful products go all out for the holidays and therefore, it’s a great time to gift thy self. If you are not of Grinch-like persuasion and feel generous toward your loved-ones, the holidaze present a wonder of sweet somethings.
On a recent morning, I slathered my fine self in Ren Moroccan Rose Otto Sugar Body Polish and did not rinse it off but instead lowered myself into a hot bath scented by Ren Moroccan Rose Bath Oil. I was left with unduly puckered paws because these products make it hard to do anything other than endlessly soak. I’ve been dreaming of a trip to Morocco and this rose scent really sent me. It’s soft and unlike the cloying fragrance that is called rose but bears no relationship to the real deal, smells entirely of flower. The package states that the oil leaves no greasy residue and I found this to not only be true but appreciated the benefit of being able prolong my enjoyment rather than scrub the tub. The two products left me feeling moisturized enough to forgo my daily dollop of body lube, and the packaging, inspired by 18thcentury chinoiserie designs, is beautiful.
Availability: Sephora and http://www.RENskincare.com
Then I went to work on my moneymaker. Skin by Monica’s REFINE Deep Penetrating Clay Cleanser is made with kaolin clay, vitamin E, and extracts of lemon peel and chamomile. Normally, I’d lay it on thick but the directions say to apply a thin layer and leave on for two minutes. This mask feels cooling and does not dry hard. It is extremely refreshing and leaves you cleansed and soft without dryness. It can be used a daily cleanser and I think that’s a great idea.
Availability: select Duane Reade stores and http://www.skinbymonica.com
Next, I sampled Dead Sea Essentials by Ahava witch hazel hand cream. Unless it’s French, you are in good hands when a skin product is called cream rather than “crème.” And this one comes in a size generous enough to last all winter. The hands-on experience is a delight: the scent is subtle, the cream luxurious in feel and amazingly, it absorbs instantly so you are not left with greasy mitts. That evening, I applied the Calendula eye cream. It is light in consistency and stays put. It has a delicate scent and is readily absorbed. I do delight in packaging and this one features calendula flowers. It just looks nice in a medicine cabinet. I also used the Almond oil night cream. It comes with a pump that I appreciate because you get a pre-measured poof of product that has the texture of a whipped confection. Both products feel soothing and refreshing but the true test is facing the morning mirror. I awoke un-puffed, unlined and aglow.
In another life, I’d be a Shaker. I love the aesthetic of a place for every thing and every thing in its place so the Dr. Hauschka Body Care Kit and Aromatherapy Bath Kit are my idea of heaven. You can use them for travel, they make affordable, luxurious gifts and though it will be sad when the tins are empty, they can then be used to house all kinds of clutter. I am a long-time fan of Dr. Hauschka products so having to decide which kit to keep and which to gift is tough. The Body Care Kit includes travel-sized Lemon Body and Rose Body Wash, Hand Cream, Quince Body Moisturizer, Lemon Lemongrass and Rose Body Oil – all featuring pure essential oils. These pampering products will take the stress out of any necessary travel and keep your skin nourished and naturally scented. The Aromatherapy Bath Kit contains travel-sized Lavender, Lemon, Sage, Spruce and Rosemary Bath products, each containing an essential oil to soothe your mood. In winter, I find the Spruce bath particularly transcendent. You saw this coming: I may have to keep both kits for my personal apothecary.
Available at http://www.drhauschka.com
Whether you want to do yourself some good or give a gift that does good, the shea butter products from Shea Yeleen are not only 100% natural but contribute to sustainable development in the poorest communities of Ghana, Mali and Burkina Faso. The black soap, actually toasty brown, is grainy, mildly exfoliates, has a subtle, earthy scent and cleanses with a luxuriant creaminess. I followed my shower with Lavender Honeysuckle Body Butter. This scent is the essence of spring and will do wonders to keep winter doldrums at bay. The texture is lightly creamy and softens without leaving oily residue. I used the unscented Body Balm to smooth my lips, heels and elbows and from top to toe I feel cleansed, refreshed, soothed, softened and oddly, upbeat.
Available at http://www.sheayeleen.org
With this stockpile of natural nurturers to get me through the holiday season, I’ll be a lot less grumpy and therefore, those who know me will benefit too. A good mood is truly a great gift.