When I look back, I think what first stirred my interest and captivated me in the green beauty realm was reading a beautifully penned review of a celebrated, well-loved cerulean blue balm. Experiencing the magic of said balm (in case you hadn’t guessed, it was May Lindstrom’s Blue Cocoon and let’s just say that the bar has been set exceptionally high) was somewhat of an epiphany. I discovered an epicurean world of textures as well as nutritive goodness which only balms seem to bestow. It was only a matter of time until I abandoned moisturisers in favour of these waterless creations.
Balms are generally made from plant oils, plant butters or wax (usually beeswax) and therefore are naturally nourishing. Since my skin errs on the dry side, comforting balms with thick unctuous textures that envelop my skin like a protective blanket are a welcomed addition to my skincare routine, especially during the colder seasons.
However, not everyone shares this point of view and what I describe as a deliciously thick enveloping blanket, I understand can be clogging or too rich for many. Therein lies the genesis of Earthwise Beauty’s Yasuni Face Balm, as a response to customers yearning for a lighter face balm tailored for acne-prone skin.
Earthwise Beauty is a company that listens to its customers and brand founder, Ava Zhan is always keen to take on formulation challenges to give skincare enthusiasts what they really want. As overtly obvious as it may seem, not all companies respond in this manner to their customer’s needs. As I delve more into this line, I’m starting to realise that this is only one of the many things that puts Earthwise Beauty in a league of its own in an overflowing skincare industry.
Yasuni is a lean face balm, based on fruit oils with high phytonutrient levels and enzymatic action. It is also devoid of essential oils. Personally, I find that my skin responds positively to a plethora of essential oils and they also add an enjoyable sensory appeal to my skincare products but sensitive skin types are very likely to appreciate them being left out of this formulation. I have to say, this did give me food for thought; a lot of products I greatly enjoy contain essential oils and I often wonder about their cumulative effect. So personally, despite being an essential oil enthusiast, I also find it reassuring that I can have an essential oil free balm in my skincare wardrobe.
A special word about Yasuni’s appellation. Ava always has a way of getting you to pause and question topics ad issues that matter. She speaks extensively of fair wages and sustainability on her Instagram page, which I strongly recommend you visit. Getting back to Yasuni, she is named after the Yasuni National Park in Ecuador, believed to be the most bio-diverse place on the planet, with record numbers of animal and plant species per geographic area. However, due to insufficient international support to help the government of Ecuador to maintain this natural reserve intact, oil drilling has started there, now threatening the survival of its inhabitants both animal and plant alike. It is Ava’s intention to raise awareness on this incredibly distressing situation and to steer consumers in making purchasing decisions with our planet’s welfare in mind.
As someone who favours weekly exfoliation (usually with a gentle mandelic acid product) and who considers retinol to be an old friend, I was quite delighted when Yasuni Face Balm came as part of my Boxwalla December box (you can read about my experience and initial thoughts on this bi-monthly high-end, green beauty subscription box here), intrigued by the claims of exfoliating and resurfacing (not dissimilar to retinol) and impatient to add it to my routines.
If I was ever asked to describe the scent of Yasuni, the first thing that springs to mind is probably ‘dirt’ and then perhaps ‘green vegetables’, which may not seem particularly appealing to you. Hear me out though, this could just be me, but have you ever gone through a particularly rough time, when all you were eating was junk, sugary food and you suddenly had the urge to just nourish your body with veggies and fruits? And when you actually satiate that healthy craving, you actually feel…amazingly well in yourself. This is how I feel, each time I open up my jar of Yasuni. The scent is evocative of all plant oils that are plentiful in Yasuni and over time, my nose has come to pick out a slightly fruity, berry scent. Like with all of Ava’ s concoctions, there is no tampering of the natural scent of the most exquisite, fresh ingredients and the scent is just a testament to the potency of these botanical extracts. I personally very much enjoy it, knowing that all these rich phytonutrients are being delivered to my skin.
I must admit, I did find myself initially perplexed by this yellow hued solid balm which is so unlike the conventional balms I typically enjoy from the rest of the green beauty realm. Those are usually so rich and greasy, owing to their shea butter and beeswax content. It also didn’t help that Yasuni arrived to me on a bitterly cold winter’s day, completely solidified and the first thought that crossed my mind was ‘give me back my soft, lush scented balms!’ But here is what is special about Yasuni, the more I used her, the more I discovered her multitude of facets and I learnt intuitively that she softens, then melts quite satisfyingly into the most beguiling balm on contact with skin. Blending her with an oil of choice is an effortless process too, which will simply enrich your experience.
Let’s dive into the ingredients. Yasuni possesses enzymatic mild exfoliating and resurfacing properties owing to the fact that it contains acai oil and buriti but also contains a fantastic lineup of other beneficial plant butters and oils.
Cupuaçu seed butter: rich in anti oxidants, helps to increase firmess in skin
Kokum seed butter: has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
Bacuri seed butter: fast absorbing, highly emollient, moisturising properties, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.
Tucuma seed butter: High in vitamin A, antioxidant properties
Açai fruit oil: loaded with omega 9, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and astringent properties
Cranberry Seed oil: antioxidant and revitalizing
Raspberry seed oil: helps sun ravaged skin
Green coffee seed oil: packed with caffeine and essential fatty acids that will help build natural collagen and elastin.
Marula seed oil: high in vitamin C and oleic acid
Buriti fruit oil: loaded with oleic acid to help with hydration and scarring and carotenoids (provitamin A)
Elderberry fruit extract: potent antioxidant properties due to the flavonoid compounds naturally present and skin-soothing effects.
What I especially love about Ava’s alchemical concoctions is truly her ability to cater for different skincare types. A product may target or may particularly appeal to a certain skincare type (I often believe that the line is blurred anyway when it comes to skincare types), but the benefits can be experienced by other skin types regardless. I will be sharing my experiences as someone who generally has dry skin in winter, balanced most of the time and suffers the inevitable cystic spot once a month. This is how I felt with Resiliency Face Serum, a lightweight gel from Earthwise Beauty, generally aimed at oilier skin types. However, I personally fell in love with it and you may read my full review here.
Whilst Resiliency was love at first sight (the immediate plumping and hydrating effects are breath-taking and I challenge you not to keep touching your plump soft skin), Yasuni is quite a stark contrast. For me, it was a slow progressive love as the benefits and effects very slowly revealed themselves to me and I can confidently attest to the claims, having used this daily (most days twice a day) since January.
I believe Yasuni is a ‘less is more’ product but I feel you mustn’t be afraid to experiment yourself with quantities, until you find your personal sweet spot. I can’t quantify exactly how much I use because it truly depends on how I use it, whether on it’s own or mixed with an oil. There are several ways I have come truly enjoy Yasuni and incorporate it in my routines.
In the morning, I favour using Yasuni mixed in with the oil of my choosing, to create a luscious moisturising blend which spreads wonderfully and easily on my skin. This creates almost a protective veil so I can go about my day, knowing full well that my skin is nourished by all those delightful plant oils and butters. My skin is always left feeling rather velvety and mattified, which makes for a great makeup base as an added benefit. Not that this happens much for me but on the odd occasion that I have worn makeup, my skin becomes a lovely smooth canvas for makeup application after that protective blend has worked its magic.
At night, this is when I feel Yasuni’s resurfacing and exfoliating properties come to life. I treat Yasuni akin to a treatment balm, often used in lieu of a serum. This does require application on misted skin to allow the product to spread with ease. At first, (probably owing to the distinctively colder temperatures), I found that scooping out the desired amount of Yasuni proved almost difficult. Always do this with a spoon people(I love tiny spoons for skincare anyway, it’s a good excuse for me to hunt for those cute vintage spoons I love so much). I have especially come to enjoy the nightly ritualistic process that applying Yasuni entails. And it really does feel ceremonial. This is not a product you apply hastily or mechanically. No, every step is done with intention and mindfulness. I fully enjoy this myself, scooping some of this gorgeous yellow hued balm, allowing my own body heat to soften and melt those delicious nutritive plant butters, inhaling the pleasantly green aroma, marvelling at that stunning pale yellow texture which I finally to press onto my skin. The final step is now to appreciate that velvety residual feeling on my skin and to even massage it in.
Yasuni also performs well as a localised spot treatment, especially on those pesky cystic spots. I feel this is owing to the exfoliating properties of the ingredients and I can attest to the dreaded spots healing much more speedily when I use Yasuni.
The effects of Yasuni required some time in order to be ascertained. Immediately, I noticed that on contact with body heat, it glided on silkily on my skin, creating a matt base but still makes my skin feel wonderfully nourished. Next, perhaps over night, there was a remarkable reduction in oil production, which I must admit is not always a concern of mine but a blessing to me during times when my skin is congested.
Over time( and I allow myself to say this because I have been testing Yasuni for about 3 months now) I really do concur that it lives up to its claims of resurfacing and exfoliating. The effects crept up slowly, one day I caught a glimpse of my skin in the mirror and noticed how smooth and even textured my skin was. For fair testing, I stopped retinol way back in December and I’m enjoying the smoothening effect without any of the irritation which characterises retinol usage.
Maybe I’ve said this before but I have to reiterate; Ava is a true botanical savant and makes incredibly efficacious skincare products but she also has such strong values, she cares about her customers, she cares about sustainability. Which is why I spent longer testing her products, just to ensure that it is not just the brand that I am enamoured with and maybe biased to. And I find that this is not the case with Earthwise beauty. Her products do really live up to their claims. Ava formulates holistically, she challenges your preconceived notions in terms of texture, scents, ingredients which you may not be instinctively drawn to but then make such an impact to your skin. For many, this is ultimately what matters when it comes to skincare but I do feel that many will also greatly enjoy her skincare philosophy and her articulate and eye opening posts. We have a notion of balms in green beauty as shea butter based, laced with the most beautifully scented essential oils and tantalising in terms of texture and scent and providing a nourishing and mostly occlusive layer. Then a product like Yasuni comes along, challenging all these notions and is truly revolutionary. Yasuni is a true work of art, a lean balm which I feel with resonate with people of different skincare types. And herein lies the beauty of Earthwise beauty, I feel her skincare is very universal but also encourages playfulness, experimentation and you may just discover several ways of using and enjoying this incredible balm.
I have to end this post by thanking Lavanya from Boxwalla, because without her careful curations, I would have never discovered Earthwise Beauty as a brand and two amazing products from this unique skincare line.