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Presents from London, Part 1

Katja Kokko | 16.3.2015

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I’m back from London, and back online. I have to say, the short break did me a world of good. Nine times out of ten, taking a step back will give birth to new ideas. Going offline every now and then, even for just a short while, is great, and will help you to clear your brain. I’ll reply to your comments as soon I get the time; right now, I’ve got a week’s worth of photos and information to sort through.

The trip was wonderful in every way, and I was bombarded with such a wealth of inspiration and information already on the first day that, if not for some relaxing aromatherapy, I would have been bouncing off the walls without a wink of sleep for the entire duration (I slept pretty badly, as it was).

The trip was arranged by the Scandinavian distributor of Neal’s Yard Remedies. I had the honor of meeting Susan Curtis, who has worked for the company since 1983, as well as its current owner, Peter Kindersley. Both are pioneers when it comes to a natural living, from herbs to organic farming, and the scientific study of both. At times, I found myself having to fight back tears; Neal’s Yard is genuinely ethical and ecological, and I was almost struck speechless by the palpable kindness and passion radiating from company itself, and the people working for it.

I also got the chance to fulfill my long-time dream of visiting the brand’s ecological factory in Pacemarsh, Dorset, where I was introduced to the production process, and got to interview the product development team. The old adage “the more you have, the more you want” proved to be very true; time flew by as product developer Fran Johnson and I were chatting, and there was nowhere near enough time for all the questions I wanted to ask. I’m already dreaming about getting to spend a longer period under Fran’s tutelage so I can learn everything about everything. And oh, how wonderful it would be to get to plunge one’s hands in the soil to harvest the herbs later in spring, and witness the extraction process. They have a vacancy for a gardener at Dorset, as it happens!

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If you followed my trip on Instagram, you will have had some real-time sneak-peeks of my purchases. I spent most of my money in the Neal’s store in Covent Garden, and it was a good thing I’d booked check-in bag for the trip home. Whenever I was about to step out of the store, I’d remember one more thing that I absolutely had to have, and went back in again. And I still had to leave lots of lovely things at the store. I also paid a visit to another cosmetic haven, Content Beauty, but that haul will have to wait.

I also received a goodie bag, containing a small jar of Wild Rose Beauty Balm, argan oil, White Tea Facial Mist, a bag of green superfood powder, ingestible Beauty Boost capsules, and vitamin D3. Aside from external beauty, Neal’s Yard Remedies’ selection also contains a wide range of ingestible, internal beauty products, including supplements, tinctures, floral drops, and dried herbs. By the way, after seeing my travel cosmetics post, my trip arranger bought me two travel kits, containing shower gel and body lotion. The kits are available at Jolie, at least, and I highly recommend them for any and all travels!

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You’re all probably familiar with my love for strange products by now, so my haul shouldn’t raise too many eyebrows. Neal’s has over 500 products, and I would like to get to try as many of the products that are as yet unavailable in Finland as possible (fingers crossed the Finnish selection will be broadened in the near future).

I am not exaggerating when I say that I spent at least thirty minutes at the aromatherapy shelf – I was spoiled for choice. I finally went for lavender, fennel, cedar, and rose otto, the last of which is one of the most precious essential oils in the world, and spent a good while contemplating whether I wanted to use all that money on such a small bottle – but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t. I intend to treat it like a precious jewel, using it very sparingly. Remember the Create Your Own post that I wrote in the winter, about Neal’s fragrance free products that can be customized with the essential oils of one’s choice? At the time, the products hadn’t yet come to Finland, but it is my great pleasure to announce that they should by all accounts be now available at the Jolie shop on Uudenmaankatu. The products require on-the-spot mixing and cannot be bought online, but a visit to the shop will only double the fun!

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I am currently especially fascinated by Neal’s ingestible beauty products, which have been put together by some of the best herbal experts. Besides the Beauty Boost beauty capsules, I also bought Beautiful Skin tea, which contains goji berries, rose-hip, hibiscus, blueberry, and sweet orange. The instructions say to enjoy this antioxidant cocktail as a hot drink, but I’ve been drinking it cold, as an iced tea. I hope this stuff will be made available in Finland, too; Jolie already carries a nice selection of Neal’s herbal teas, and this would make a perfect addition.

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Another product I grabbed was a bottle of the Mahonia Clear Skin Formula tincture, which I’ve been meaning to buy online for ages. The tincture contains mahonia, marigold, schisandra, gotu cola, artichoke, and thyme; as well as helping to clear congestion and stabilize the intestine, the tincture is also a powerful detoxifier, thus brightening the complexion.

You should have seen the variety of herbs in the Covent Garden store! I was absolutely baffled. The herbs were very affordable, but I only managed to buy some marigold – I tend to freeze up when presented with too many choices. A very knowledgeable member of the staff gave me three tips for making macerated marigold oil, as well as good combinations for herbal remedies. I promise I’ll share the tips on the blog– or perhaps in the newsletter – at a later date.

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As far as must-have products go, I took away a pack of the world’s best cleansing wipes, and a tube of the Seaweed & Salt body scrub. And although I usually avoid synthetic brushes like the plague, I actually fell in love with Neal’s loose powder and blending brushes. There are exceptions to synthetic brushes, after all, and one doesn’t need real hair for brushes like these. One of these small face towels also ended up in my shopping bag – you can never have too many!

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As for presents, I snapped up a men’s face wash, and the Wild Rose Body Elixir for the cat-sitter; I think the latter will be this year’s hit product for perfect, glowing sundress-skin.

Finally, we have the cutest product in creation, and a fool-proof hit that needs to be made available in Finland ASAP: a good old lemon-and-mint mouth freshener. Once you try it, you can’t live without it!

Was that really all I got from Covent Garden? I feel like I bought half the store, but maybe it’s just my thorough sniffing and scrutinizing of every pot and jar that gives me that impression; I’m almost at the point where I could list the facial products from memory.

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There’s more to come as far as this trip is concerned, this was just a bit of a preview to get things rolling. London made an unexpected and lasting impression on me. I’ve always loved Paris, but there was something about London, something that was more me. The people were so friendly and helpful, the city had an urban, and very special, atmosphere that drew me in, and makes me want to hop right back on a plane there. Although, if I have the same arranger for the next trip, I am seriously considering a) getting him smashed, or b) buying him a pair of high heels, as his idea of a nice and relaxing stroll is more like training for a marathon. My brand new pair of Minna Parikka Bunny Sneakers certainly got worn in on this trip – to which the dime sized, throbbing blisters on my heels will testify.

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Photos Katja Kokko

Translation Katja Nikula

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