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A healthy skin routine – why you should have one

I just love that feeling when you wake up and know you have a day at the spa ahead of you. You begin to imagine the massage, the facial, the steam room, the mud bath, the pool, some healthy food, and hopefully a glass or two of champagne with your best girlfriends. That was how I woke up this weekend – full of excitement and looking forward to relaxing. We spent 4 hours in a fantastic spa, surrounded by nature and the occasional peacock, enjoying being pampered and lazing by the pool. When it was time to make our way to dinner, we showered and commenced the inevitable skin care routine that would help us continue to look fabulous into the evening.


My first shock came when I realised I was the only one who had brought a full suite of skin care products. So naturally, I offered to share. I convinced one of my friends to try my hyaluronic acid serum – fantastic for plumping the skin – and then our Luxe Botanics Camu Brightening Serum – to help maintain that healthy spa glow. She happily applied them and then began to walk away. I called after her: “don’t you want any moisturiser?” She replied, almost laughing: “you want me to put on another layer?” I found myself staring back at my friend in disbelief – she wanted to go out without any moisturiser on?


In that moment I realised that even my friends, who hear me talk about skin care all day long, didn’t really know what to use or how to use it. This moment explains so clearly why I do what I do and why it makes me happy. I want women to become wellness conscious, not just with their health, but also with their skin. To that end, and inspired by the recent Sarita Coren article on Ayla beauty, I want to explain a few things I believe are key to good skin care:



Cleansing well is the first step to good, healthy skin. And I don’t mean over cleansing – there are many brands out there that will tell you that you must double cleanse, but honestly this is 90% marketing in the hopes you will need to buy more product sooner. The only reasons to cleanse twice are if your skin is horribly dirty (think playing in the mud) or if your cleanser isn’t working well for your skin. Most of the time you need a pre-cleanser along with a normal cleanser. This is because pre-cleansers have a different function to normal cleansers – generally they are used to gently remove makeup, oil and dirt from your skin while still preserving your skins natural barrier. Your normal cleanser is then used to cleanse deeper into the pores and provide a clean base to start your next step.

On a side note – many people advocate using a toner to rebalance/ balance your skin after cleansing. Personally, this is not something I have seen any benefit from. I honestly believe if you are using the right cleanser, which shouldn’t strip or dry out your skin or remove your natural barrier, then you shouldn’t need a toner.



This is my favourite part of my skin care routine for the simple reason that after I exfoliate, my skin feels like it did before teenage acne attacked me.

There are 2 major categories of exfoliants, each with a different use:

  • Abrasive (the ones you can feel the scrub, think of jojoba beads, rice bran, etc)
  • Enzyme (the ones that tingle – AHA (glycolic acid), BHA (Salicylic acid), other fruit/ plant based acids)

Abrasive exfoliants are used for superficial exfoliation – like when you need your skin to be super smooth for that date – and are more like a polish. If you have irritated or acne prone skin an abrasive is not recommended as it can inflame the skin even more, and generally people with acne tend to over exfoliate. However, a gentle abrasive is good for dry skin

Enzyme exfoliants are used for deeper exfoliation and these sometimes can take days before your skin will peel. They can be used for all skin types, as they are non-abrasive, but should still be used with caution until you know which type works for you. I’ve left a glycolic peel on too long before and ended up looking like a peeling lizard 3 days later. Not a sexy look.

If you have very sensitive skin you may skip exfoliation products all together and rather use a delicate sponge or facial brush, however if you are willing to try a product start with a gentle enzyme exfoliant.

Exfoliation is important because not only does exfoliation leave the skin feeling smooth and soft, but it also clears away dead skin and stimulates repair. So don’t skip it!



The most important step after cleansing is applying the right serum. This all depends on your age, skin type, time of day, what you plan to do that day, where you live, what time of year it is, etc. However, it’s important to target 2 key areas with your serums:

  • Hydration (hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, caprylic/ capric triglycerides, natural oils)
  • Protection (Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, green tea, retinol, resveratrol, ferulic acid)

You can alter the strength of these ingredients in your serums accordingly but investing in serums that cover these 2 key areas will do wonders for your skin. In varying strengths and combinations these will address everything from oily to dry, dull to uneven, ageing and wrinkles.



Hydration is the key step in keeping your skin balanced. However, this is also the step most of us get wrong. Either we over or under hydrate. And we forget that this needs to change based not only on the seasons or travel, but also day to day. I am especially guilty of this.

Throughout my years of acne I assumed that the more hydrated my skin was, the oilier it would be, so I used the lightest moisturisers I could find. When in fact, it was actually oilier because I was depriving my skin of vital hydration and it was desperately trying to compensate by over producing natural oils. You will also find this happening when you use stripping acne products such as those containing benzoyl peroxide (who honestly thought applying peroxide to your skin was healthy?). The “aha” moment came for me when I was in a dermatologists office, on yet another round of roaccutane, wondering why my skin wasn’t getting any better. We together figured out that I was using too little hydration to support my skin. Once I upgraded my serums and moisturisers my skin calmed down completely.

Conversely, when I have had IPL in the past I’ve been told to layer on the hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, vitamin C and heavy moisturisers to facilitate the healing. But every time I do this I end up with more closed comedones than I started with. I have learnt that the key is to intensely hydrate in the first 2-3 days – after that I need to take my skin back to a more moderate routine.



This last step cannot be missed! Sunscreen is your best friend and the soundest investment you will make in your skin. I’ve heard every excuse for people not using sunscreen – ranging from “I don’t like the texture” (so try a different brand) to “but I work inside all day” (First of all I hope you get to see some sunlight in your day, but even if you’re outside for less than 30 minutes sunscreen matters, and not just on sunny days). Sunscreen is the most cost effective way to preserve your youth and your skin health. I worked for years in melanoma clinical trials and it was severely depressing to see so many preventable cases of skin cancer.


Overall, remember that your skin has mood swings too – it can go from dry to oily and back to dry multiple times in the day depending on your environment (aircon, humidity, cold), stress levels, exercise levels, diet, and many other factors. The best thing you can do for your skin is analyse it every day and then decide what to apply. Take time to review your skin and learn what works best for you.

The Luxe Botanics Team



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Eyes wide shut – A review of skincare ingredients


I recently went on a reconnaissance mission… I decided to go to my local beauty store to investigate some of the products available. As I walked into the store I felt at ease and at home, surrounded by familiar brands. I browsed the shelves for a half hour or so, picking up the bottles, reading them, putting them gently back. But as I read the ingredients lists I slowly realised – the quality of the skincare brands I had come to know and use over many years, was not as high as I originally thought it was.


After spending months researching products and ingredients for our Luxe Botanics skincare range, coupled with 20+ years of experience with various skincare products and my scientific post graduate training, I believe I have a broad understanding of the ingredients used in skincare. And what truly upsets me is that a wonderful formulation can be utterly ruined by the inclusion of even just one undesirable ingredient.


Here’s a list of ingredients to avoid. I know its long, but I encourage you to read it all, take it in, digest it, and then go rummaging through your bathroom cabinets…



Parabens are usually used as preservatives in cosmetics and beauty products. They are things like: methylparaben; propylparaben; benzylparaben and butylparaben. Just look for anything in your skincare that ends with the word –paraben. Parabens are so ubiquitous in our beauty, skincare, haircare, body care, cosmetics, deodorants, toothpastes, and even in our food and drinks that in a recent study by the Environmental Working Group; all 28 participants tested positive for methylparaben and propylparaben. [i] Parabens have been blamed for allergies and skin sensitivity and they also act on the estrogen pathways potentially having effects on the reproductive system. [ii]



These are one of the most toxic and can be found in so many things in your bathroom and around your home that it may surprise you: beauty products such as nail varnish, hair spray, most things with a synthetic fragrance (many beauty products); cleaning and kitchen products with a synthetic fragrance; air fresheners; and plastics around the home such as kitchen bowls, food wraps, children’s toys, and most vinyl. They are used to soften plastic and also help beauty formulations to moisturise and be absorbed into the skin. Phthalates are regulated as pollutants but only some are banned by some states of the USA and the European Union. [iii] Phthalates have been shown to affect the reproductive system in both men and women, and have also been linked to allergies and asthma. [iv] Look out for: dibutyl phthalate, also called DBP; diethyl phthalates, also called DEP; and butyl ester. Phthalates have made headlines in recent years, leading to LÓreal discontinuing its use in products sold in the European Union.[v]


Cosmetic fragrances/ parfum

Cosmetic fragrances are a synthetic blend of compounds to make something smell like something natural. However, in many cases there are phthalates and/or other undesirable synthetic ingredients included in this fragrance mix.[vi] Often these are associated with dermatitis, allergies, and respiratory distress. [vii] Most regulatory agencies allow cosmetic and beauty companies to simply state “fragrance” or “parfum” on their ingredients list when such a synthetic mix is use, often because this is considered a proprietary or confidential formulation.[viii] [ix] [x] [xi]



Most of the time you will see this referred to on labels as SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate), SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate) or ALS (ammonium lauryl sulfate). Sulphates are responsible for that foam you get in your facewash, body wash, shampoo, bubble bath, hand wash, and many other things around the house. [xii] It’s been known to irritate the skin and eyes – so next time you get shampoo in your eyes and it hurts, read the ingredients list. There are also concerns around organ toxicity. [xiii] Some companies claim SLS is natural as it comes from coconuts, and this part is true, but the potential side effects on your skin and overall health prove that even something natural can be harmful if manufactured incorrectly. [xiv]



Commonly found in detergents, antibacterial soaps, toothpastes, face wash and deodorant, triclosan has been linked to liver and inhalation toxicity, and it may also disrupt thyroid function. Look out for things like “keeps [you/ food] fresh for longer” or “odour fighting/ eliminating”.[xv]  The American Medical Association has recommended against using triclosan as it may lead to antibiotic resistance. [xvi] In 2013 the FDA released a statement requiring manufacturers of antibacterial products to prove that they were safe and more effective than plain soap and water in an effort to protect consumers from unsafe products. [xvii] The industry has been slow to respond, however some companies like Avon have begun to phase triclosan out of their products.[xviii]



DEA (diethanolamine) is commonly used to help our beauty products feel creamy – so is generally found in moisturisers and sunscreens. Similar compounds such as cocomide DEA (from coconut oil) and lauramide DEA (from lauric acid) are found in cleansers and shampoos. It has been blamed for skin and eye irritations and allergies, and high doses have been implicated in certain cancers.[xix] Other common DEAs to look out for are linoleamide DEA (from linoleic acid) and Oleamide DEA (from oleic acid).[xx]



If you remember your biology dissection classes you will know what this is and what it does to living tissue. Formaldehyde is another common preservative and antiseptic – but often under a different name. This is because there are many ingredients that, once absorbed, release the formaldehyde compound slowly over time. Good examples are: Bronopol, DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidzaolidinyl urea, quarternium-15 and hydroxymethylglycinate. [xxi] It is a known human carcinogen that has a suggested link to certain cancers.[xxii]



These are perhaps the most ubiquitous and yet unknown of all the undesirable ingredients in our homes. It’s quite hard to fathom just how many ingredients come from a petrochemical base. Petrochemicals in your products often breakdown into a chemical called 1,4-dioxane, which has toxic effects on the kidneys, neurologic system, and the respiratory system.[xxiii] One study from the Environmental Working Group suggested this compound could be found in 22% of cosmetic products. [xxiv] Look out for: Oxybenzone, phenoxyethanol, benzene, toluene, paraffin wax, mineral oil, polyethylene glycol (PEG), butyl- anything (butylparaben, butylene glycol, butyl alcohol), ethanol and ethyl- anything (ethyl alcohol, ethylene glycol, EDTA), propyl- anything (propylene glycol, propylene glycol, propyl alcohol), and methyl- anything (methyl alcohol, methylparaben, methylcellulose).[xxv]



To all you ladies out there trying to achieve an even skin tone and perhaps a lighter complexion – look out for hydroquinone in your products! This is literally bleach. It’s also found in hair dyes and fragrances.[xxvi] It’s been shown to have very strong links to organ toxicity, cancers and alters immune function.[xxvii]  Other names include anything benzene or benzediol or hydroxyphenol.


I hope that this list makes it easy to understand what to look for in your favourite products.  Note that it is by no means an exhaustive list but I’ve tried to include the most common ones. However, I also urge you to weight the risks and benefits of each and to decide for yourself if you wish to continue using products that contain some of these ingredients. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database is a great place to start your research. Here’s a simplified version of their information which you may find easier to absorb:


As always, research for yourself and make your own decisions for you and your family.

The Luxe Botanics Team


All references are below for you if you want to (or can stomach!) to read more: