Portland General Store: Artisanal Toiletries for Men

Does shaving make your skin itch? Do chemicals in aftershave lotions cause irritation and red skin? Say no more! From the rugged depths of nature to vintage bottles, Portland General Store creates artisanal vegan and organic cosmetics for men. Created in small batches, this line of skincare for men is constantly innovating and brewing up new concoctions. Lisa Brodar, the mastermind behind Portland General Store’s natural skincare recipes, talks men’s skincare and its more organic future.  

Words: Johanna Raudsepp

  Various Portland General Store Products.

Various Portland General Store Products.

What inspired the launch of Portland General Store? Where does the name derive from?

The idea was inspired back in the mid 2000’s, it was the heart of the maker movement in urban cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Portland, Oregon. I was living in Brooklyn and took up an interest in knitting, getting my supplies from a knitting supply shop called “Brooklyn General Store”. Etsy was a new place where makers and artisans could sell their goods. I decided to start a shop that would sell artisans goods in Portland, Maine, where my partner and I had decided to relocate. When I came across a vintage perfumery book and old apothecary bottles, I started mixing up concoctions — creams, perfumes, oils — and so, the brand was born.

In natural cosmetics, ingredients are everything. What are your favourite components to work with and why? 

Wow, so many! I’ll narrow it down to my current favorites, since I’m always experimenting in the lab. Right now I’m a little obsessed with oils, especially camellia flower oil, which I use in a face oil. It is just so beautiful, and non-greasy, perfect for all skin types, male and female. The inspiration to use camellia flower oil in our face oil came its use through the ages in Japan. I mean, Japanese women have flawless skin, there must be a secret! One secret is that they use camellia flower oil to cleanse and moisturize. 

  Portland General Store Old-Fashioned Aftershave Balm.

Portland General Store Old-Fashioned Aftershave Balm.

Women's cosmetics have already taken a turn to natural. Are men's products following suit? Why do you think such a movement is happening? 

Absolutely, or at least I like to think so! Being at the forefront of this movement back in 2009, I would say it was a bit of a struggle to convince some men who were used to going to the neighborhood one-stop-shop bar of soap. Using names like ‘Whiskey’ and ‘Tobacco’ I think sort of tricked them into buying a natural product! 

Then, when they started to see results, like less oily or dry skin, less razor burn and irritation, less flaky scalp, they came back, they reviewed the products, we got featured, and there was sort of a domino effect. Matched with the growing trend in men’s grooming (not necessarily all-natural), more men have sought us out, but still, I think there are large pockets of men, domestic and worldwide, who haven’t yet caught on.

"Using names like ‘Whiskey’ and ‘Tobacco’ I think sort of tricked them into buying a natural product!" 

In what way does Portland General Store embody slow beauty principles? 

We definitely don’t rush the process. Every step is slow — from formulation, to making the product, to even how we fulfill and pack. I think a lot of it is like cooking — we pour our hearts into each product, and even each package. I try to imagine myself on the receiver’s end, opening this box, filled with goodies, a card, dried flowers, a sample. It is very personal. We are not a large corporation and fulfillment is done in-house.

What does Portland General Store dream about at night? 

Oh boy, many wonderful things! Big dreams include owning a farm with a little shop that sells the best in natural and organic skincare, and other goods related to living clean and well. But for now, we are in the midst of a package redesign, moving back to a true ‘General Store’ look and feel. We’re working with a hand letterer to design a couple of products this spring, and we’re very excited about that!

"I think a lot of it is like cooking — we pour our hearts into each product, and even each package." 


SkinYoga: 100% Natural Empowering Beauty from India

Drawing from ancient knowledge of purifying the body, mind, and soul, there’s a new 100% natural way of adapting to ancient rituals. Luxury skincare made user-friendly - and all you need to do is just add water! Indian award-winning skincare brand SkinYoga focuses on empowering women by educating them about the worth of natural beauty and traditions. Founded by a sister-trio, this beauty brand stems from a unifying love of nature and heritage. Radhika Choudhary, one of the co-founders of SkinYoga, spoke to us about their skincare range and its sustainable future. 

Words: Johanna Raudsepp

  SkinYoga Post-Workout Neem Purifier.

SkinYoga Post-Workout Neem Purifier.

What inspired you to create SkinYoga?

We grew up in a farm in India, where we used to grow our own vegetables, nurtured cows for dairy, and lived a very organic lifestyle. Then we moved to different parts of the world to study. We always got complimented for our skin and hair and at that made us realize it was the very simple and pure regime we had been following since our childhood. After seeing misleading claims from beauty brands that you only need 3% natural ingredients to call yourself a natural skincare brand, we were determined to develop and formulate a 100% natural and clean luxury skincare line that showed results in just one use. The idea was to create a product for the modern working women, so they could enjoy the best of ancient science and modern technology, yet without having to spend hours on different steps. 

How does SkinYoga follow principles of sustainable beauty?

We are 100% natural skincare brand and all our ingredients are plant-derived, pure, and unprocessed. Few brands in the world can say they are 100% natural.

There are many dimensions to being sustainable. We have kept all our products in a powdered state to keep them highly active and potent. When you’re ready to use it, you only need to add water to activate it. The stabilizing method helps us keep the ingredients highly active without any preservatives. We focus on the smallest details, from packaging to internal operations, making sure they follow an eco-friendly process. Our team is very actively involved in the community and participates in socially responsible programs. We frequently conduct educational seminars and exhibitions highlighting the importance of sustainable beauty.

"We have concluded that a beauty regime doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated and involve 20 different beauty steps."

  SkinYoga Corporate Gift Set.

SkinYoga Corporate Gift Set.

Who is your beauty inspiration?

Hundreds and thousands of strong independent working women across the globe, who have and are living balanced and healthy life with lots of style, not because they have to, but because they choose to do so. They are incredibly inspiring, and thanks to our profession, we are blessed to be working with many of such women today, our mother being one of them. We would also like to add that 100% of our workforce are women today.

What is your go-to beauty routine like?

It’s quite simple: cleansing, moisturizing and good sun block in addition to at least 6 hours sleep and loads and loads of water. We at SkinYoga are always looking to further simplify beauty routines. We have concluded that a beauty regime doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated and involve 20 different beauty steps.

"Our philosophy is “If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your body”." 

  SkinYoga Oats and Roses Face Wash.

SkinYoga Oats and Roses Face Wash.

What inspires you when creating new SkinYoga products?

One miracle bottle. That’s our brief behind every product. If you look at our current range we have an ideal capsule skincare range, adaptable to every age and all climate conditions. Coming back to the idea that you don’t need 10 products to take care of your skin.

Quality has become a signature to our brand. Our team works extremely hard to create products,which are clean and effective. Our philosophy is “If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your body”. 60% of what you put on your body is directly absorbed into your blood stream. Hence, it’s important to stay away from chemicals. 

How do you see the future of natural, sustainable beauty? Where is it directed? 

The future of the beauty industry is heading towards natural and sustainable brands. With the growing consumers’ awareness and demand, the natural skincare category is one of the fastest growing in skincare globally. But there is a huge gap in the market still and more brands are coming to that realization. 

Global demand for natural skincare products is expected to reach $13.2 billion by 2018. Thus, we will see more mainstream brands come up with natural skincare ranges in the future.

  SkinYoga Green Tea Face Mask.

SkinYoga Green Tea Face Mask.

What are your hopes and dreams for 2017?

Our dream and mission is to get every vanity bag chemical free. We love to empower women. We want every woman to feel confident and strong in their own skin without having to apply any makeup.

2017 is an important year for SkinYoga - we are coming out with 3 new products, including our first hair care product.

Want to shop or find out more? http://www.skinyoga.in/
UK readers can buy the products here: https://www.skinyoga.co.uk/

  Skinyoga Sandalwood Saffron Face Mask.

Skinyoga Sandalwood Saffron Face Mask.


NadiaZ: Premium Range Swiss Cosmetics Celebrating the Scarcity of Indigenous Plants 

Bienvenue to the world of NadiaZ indigenous plant based cosmetics: Swiss scientist Nadia Zuodar’s eponymous label of premium range cosmetics NadiaZ celebrates the power of active compounds of rare indigenous plants. Inspired by her agronomist Italian father, Nadia Zuodar took a liking in precious oriental scents and developed her own more natural, active formulas that helped to alleviate her skin allergies, which she suffered from early childhood. Although the basis of Nadia's research was a personal ground, for a decade, the founder was dedicated to humanitarian missions in Africa and international development across the globe that also played a big part of forming the mythical and mystical range of cosmetics sourced from rare plants. NadiaZ in 2017 is a premium range brand, a true innovator in the industry introducing all-natural, velvety scents and antiallergic, non-irritable compounds in skincare to celebrate the scarcity of indigenous plants and fight against their extinction. We talked the benefits, use and ethics of natural cosmetics with the knowledgeable founder. 

  NadiaZ's Tucuma Cocoon Ultra-Soft Deo. 

NadiaZ's Tucuma Cocoon Ultra-Soft Deo. 

What informed the creation of your own ethical luxury cosmetics brand? What was your philosophy that created basis for your brand from the start?

As you could further read on my website, I was allergic to almost everything on the market and have been formulating products since childhood. Then I added the scientific and ethnological knowledge to be able to explore on plants, traditional medicinal use, neurobiology, physics and chemistry and almost 2 decades field work in various countries, at least one decade building my supply network of rare indigenous plants. So it was a necessity first, then people asked me to make it available to the public and here I am!

What are the key compounds that make your products so unique and sought-after? 

I take special care featuring vegetable oils that have seen less interest so far, as compared to essential oils promoted by aromatherapy. Vegetable oils, such as oils pressed from nuts and seeds, like Baobab, Ucuuba and Ximenia, bear unique compounds, some of them yet to be fully studied, besides showing specific mechanical properties that are important for skin protection.

The list would go on forever, so here is a description on the plants I use and the very special concept here http://nadiaz.ch/ingredients-library/

What are the particular benefits of the natural hair therapy elixir (Copaiba Ritual Hair Serum) and deodorant (Tucuma Cocoon Ultra-Soft Deo) we are testing? What is the expected treatment and who could benefit from using these products?

The Copaiba Ritual Hair Serum is designed to create a long lasting protective and natural film on the hair, particularly due to the active Copaiba Resin and thus prevents hair from splitting, improves shine and resistance of the hair fibers. Most hair products contain silicons, which simply sit at the surface and get washed off. Besides, silicons result in micro-pollutants in the environment. 

Tucuma Cocoon is the first deo that is totally safe to use, without aluminium salts or added aggressive chemicals. It is a new way to use deo, where one would carry it along and re-apply it, rather than expect 24h duration. Its formula was inspired by traditional rituals, such as henna application, as well as by my research on Amazonian plants.

All my products are for people who suffer from allergies, dry and sensitive skin and/or hair, or simply want healthy products. Unfortunately, there are very strong regulations in regards to cosmetics that prevent us to speak about their therapeutic and health benefits, or call it phytotherapy. Most of the plants I use have very special constituents unique to them. Besides, the manufacturing principles I apply and patient work (cold process, hand-made, concentrated products) ensure a superior quality. 

“My hopes may be idealistic, but we just need to get more people shift from petrochemical formulas to natural ones and that would be a good minimum step.”

How is the holistic approach represented when it comes to your range of personal care products, including perfumes?

Holistic can mean a lot of things. In the case of my brand, holisticness covers — ethical, ecological and health. It means that for each ingredient sourced, each product made and each manufacturing or business approach taken, those are integrated and held at the highest standard. This is why I have developed a model for social business (read more: http://nadiaz.ch/business-strategy-framework/), as well as the other links below the mission. In terms of health, it also means to pay attention to and take care of our number one organ, which is our skin, as well as the health of our respiratory system, which are all affected by cosmetics. This is why I make trustable products to be used all life long and do not compromise with fashionable features, such as doing scented cosmetics, or making not concentrated formulas that would mean using more harmful preservatives and texturers.

What's the best way for us customers to educate ourselves about the harmful ingredients found in beauty products and learn about the benefits of natural compounds?

As I can't list all, I think the most important is to read the ingredients of anything one buys. Then to follow the advice on very knowledgeable websites, books and eco-labels that all try to educate the public. Rita Stiens did a good book, although in French, and here is a reference website http://laveritesurlescosmetiques.com/

There is not one reference, but there are common points to many sites, books and labels. Unfortunately, when it comes to the label, there is not one reference, because some may put more accent on ethical trade, some more on ecology, others on health, whereas it is virtually impossible to have one covering it all, so people have to apply a critical judgement and learn to analyse basically their cosmetics ingredients rather than simply follow a label.  

However, what ingredients should we definitely avoid in our personal care products? 

Most importantly, people should keep away from petrochemical based products and highly scented cosmetics (VOC). Then they should favour products that are oil-based and do not need preservatives, such as water-based products. Avoid silicone formulas, nanomolecules, not only for the health but also because many of these products are micro-pollutants for the environment, which we do not really know how to treat (the current waste water treatment plants are facing growing difficulties in dealing with the complexity of micro-pollutants and their interactions in the environment). 

Nadia Zuodar’s tips for choosing cosmetics & skincare products:

1. Choose natural over petrochemical cosmetics

2. Prefer unrefined oils to keep the properties. Avoid hydrogenitaded oils — this is a process to make oils buttery, like the way you do margarine. Unfortunately, it requires a lot of processing, bleaching, refining and then more industrial pollution. They do that in order to give a heavier texture cheaply, rather than add plants butter that are naturally heavy.

3. Essential oils are good, but not for every day — they have precious components but also allergens. Prefer vegetable oils for everyday use. There are so many plants so far not yet well known or valorised, like the ones you find in my web: Ucuuba, Mafura, Ximenia. Diversity is important, in order not to over-use resources. So people may refrain to have one ‘miracle’ ingredient, that is how marketing is made, but the result is that you have a high demand, when in fashion, and a drop when a new fashion comes. Behind those plants are full communities that require years of patient work to grow or harvest them and when demand drops, it may result in trees destroyed and replaced. On the other hand, when demand is too high, it results in the trees getting wiped out, such as Mysore sandalwood or Argan. So, like for food, people should valorise healthy diet with diversified food, the same with the plants in their cosmetics. 

4. The more simple a cosmetic formula, the more effective it is. There is no reason to put 100 ingredients in cosmetics (I put more into my perfumes, but that is different in application). You want to have a good concentration of your plants, not a symbolic value for marketing. And to avoid all additions that are there for texture, hiding scents, colouring or the like. So, when you can read and see that the ingredients are simple and botanical, it is best.

5. Adapt your expectations, feel your cosmetics for a long period of time. A good cosmetic is the one that will embellish and make your skin feel more comfortable day after day and the longer time you use it. Avoid comparing products based on one application, some products may seem magical at first, but have no long-term effect and quite the opposite — only superficial effect. So give at least 2 weeks for your plant cosmetic to perform. 

6. Not all botanicals are the same. Some oils are cheaper than others. Cosmetics made with sunflower oil, rice oil, coconut oil are good, but don't put them in the same basket with the ones using more valuable indigenous plants. Few products use those oils, because it make the formulation more expensive and because it is difficult to supply. If you take pomegranate oil, have a look at the tiny seed and imagine how much harder it is to get oil from this extraordinary fruit, rather than from coco. Remember that not all natural oils have the same value.

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Tuul Care: Natural Grooming for Men

Cosmetics for men? And all natural? It’s a combination you definitely don’t come across too often. You might even think along the lines of ’I’m a man and I don’t need face cream!’ — well, the men’s grooming brand Tuul from Estonia will change your mind. Tuul is dedicated to taking good care of men’s skin and beards with their range of natural pampering products. The founders duo, Kädi and Kaarel, shared their story with us. 

Words: Johanna Raudsepp

  Kädi and Kaarel, founders of Tuul. / Photo by Tõnu Tunnel. 

Kädi and Kaarel, founders of Tuul. / Photo by Tõnu Tunnel. 

I hope you’re still not tired of this question, but what’s the origin story of Tuul?

We say Tuul (‘wind’ in Estonian) grew out of a personal necessity, but if we delve a bit deeper,  then I [Kädi] was pregnant with our little daughter. When you’re expecting, you’re much more sensitive to all kinds of scents. Kaarel had just bought a well-known brand’s perfume, and when he had sprinkled it on in the bathroom, I actually felt nauseous [inhaling the scent], and asked him why won’t he make his own perfume without any added chemicals. He was taken aback by my snappy comment, but the next morning I woke up next to a man with dark circles under his eyes. Turns out he hadn’t slept one bit, and had figured it all out — to start a grooming brand for men.

You are a brand dedicated to men’s skincare. Which essential skincare products should every man have?

Actually, we are not only focused on skincare, but also keeping one’s hair and beard in good and healthy shape. There are products every man needs, like shampoo and deodorant (coming soon), and then there are products that make you feel good and pampered, like beard oils. Every man deserves to be spoiled from time to time. 

"He was taken aback by my snappy comment, but the next morning I woke up next to a man with dark circles under his eyes. Turns out he hadn't slept one bit, and had figured it all out - to start a grooming brand for men."

  Tuul men's grooming range, 2017. 

Tuul men's grooming range, 2017. 

Who is Tuul?

Tuul is someone who cares.

Developing a new brand is surely not easy. What has been your favourite adventure along way? 

Our favourite days must be the days when we are in direct contact with our customers — meeting people, receiving their feedback, finding out what their needs are. The research and development process is also very exciting with each product — finding out what the best ingredients are, how should the result smell, feel and look. We’re always excited for collaborations as well — like the travel pouch we did together with a local leather manufacturer, Vanatool. 

"Every man deserves to be spoiled from time to time." 

At Savant, we pay close attention to making environmentally conscious choices when it comes to the products we use. How is Tuul sustainable in its day-to-day life?

We’re all in for organic choices. The ingredients of our upcoming products will include biologically certified herbal extracts, and the scents will be as local as possible. The nature from our region has a lot to offer — birch, juniper, peppermint are only a few examples. We prefer glass, aluminium, and paper when it comes to packaging, whereas all are recyclable materials. 

What’s in store for Tuul Care fans in 2017?

By the end of the year, we hope to have reached the next level. The plans for 2018 are even greater. We like to think big! 

You can find Tuul at https://tuul.care/