Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Quest For Enlightenment

The Quest For Enlightenment..

I've always had a fascination for nature and holistic beauty. In my youth, I would often pick herbs and flowers from my garden in rural Northumberland and make my own face masks. To some this may seem like an unorthodox practice for a young boy, but with the nurturing influence of my maternal and paternal grandmothers, I was encouraged to learn about holistic principles. Whether it was learning about how to recognise a dock leaf in the instance of nettle stings, or how to harness the healing and soothing powers of lavender blossoms and rose petals, I had no idea at the time that I'd end up becoming a professional within the beauty industry. In hindsight, the knowledge I received from the wise women of my family were the cornerstones of what some would call an encyclopaedic knowledge of alternative therapies.

It's a constant source of amusement to me that these therapies are referred to within the Western world as "alternative". For the UK has a rich history of druidic beliefs. Modern Christianity has borrowed heavily from Britain's native pagan practices. Anyone who read Asterix comics in their youth will be familiar with the concept of druids gathering sacred herbs with a sickle for use in rituals and rites. From people dancing around May poles (a practice originally intended to boost fertility), to the commercialisation of Yule, our druidic heritage is ever present in the modern world, though sadly, as we have evolved and our culture has changed, our understanding of this aspect of our heritage has been lost. I doubt many children (or adults for that matter) would be aware of the fact that what we call Christmas, is in fact based on the pagan festival of Yule. Even simple things such as Christmas trees and festive wreaths are based on the ancient Yule log. As the ancients prepared for the on-set of deepest winter, they would place an evergreen Yule log in their homes to remind them that life would come again, crops would grow and the days would eventually become lighter.

My birthday is the 21st of December. When people find this out, their initial thought is "that must have been awful, did people always give you a combined birthday and Christmas present when you were a child"?. But of course, the 21st of December is a great deal more than the fourth day before Christmas. It is also the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year, and a celebration of the horned god. A pivotal moment in the Pagan calendar, because once this moment has passed, we can all look forward to increasingly brighter days. When you think about it, there's really nothing sinister about this. After all, what is there to fear about the prospect of the end of winter and the prospect of spring in the months to come? For people who lived by the land, this was of huge importance, as the process of sewing the seeds for their crops would soon commence. Those seeds would of course become crops and those crops would be harvested to provide food to eat.

The organic movement has become increasingly trendy in modern culture, which is essentially a back-to-basics approach to lifestyle, owing much to our agricultural and druidic heritage. Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna have championed macrobiotic diets, the practice of eating pricier, local, organic seasonal produce, in favour of eating cheaper, non-seasonal imported food flown in from afar (contributing to carbon emissions and essentially destroying our farmers' livelihoods). But while wealthy mothers across the land scrutinise food labels while doing the weekly shop, they often overlook the products they use on their skin, and indeed the skin of their precious offspring. I read recently that the "green" Hollywood actors Woody Harrelson and Alicia Silverstone had been spending a lot of time together. Harrelson is a vocal champion of the organic lifestyle, while Silverstone has worked the chat show circuit exhaustively in her effort to educate people about the vegan lifestyle. It was reported that on one occasion, when Silverstone was spending time with Harrelson's kids, he couldn't believe that she was so against animal cruelty, yet had no idea about the chemicals she used daily on her skin.

I've been a fan of "green" skin care for some time. REN, one of my favourite brands, literally means "clean" in Swedish. This brand has been around for some time now, and their signature Moroccan Rose Otto Bath Oil can be found in the bathrooms of the world's leading beauty editors (and indeed my own). REN is not only an organic range devoid of the plethora of "skin nasties" so often found in everyday consumer beauty products, the herbs and flowers they use in their formulations are grown using biometric farming techniques. This process involves the sewing and harvesting of crops in line with specific moon phases. Most people aren't aware that a plant or flower's essential oil content is at its most potent on a full moon.

So, given my fascination for "green beauty", I was thrilled to receive an e-mail about a new skin care brand called Bodhi. Anyone familiar with eastern philosophy will know that the Buddhist belief system is based on the story of Siddartha, an Indian prince who dedicated his life to a quest for enlightenment. In summary, it was only once Prince Siddartha sat under the Bodhi tree (the sacred fig), that he became Buddha (aka the enlightened one). This brand is literally Bodhi by name and Bodhi by nature. Like REN its predecessor, the key principles of "green living" are at the heart of the brand. The products contain high grade essential oils and absolutes, sourced from across the globe, while manufacturing takes place on UK soil to further enhance the brand's green credentials. In my opinion, the key points of difference between Bodhi and REN is that Bodhi being new to the market, has a product portfolio comprising solely of bath and shower gels, while REN is a fully evolved lifestyle brand that encompasses bath and shower products, hand products and facial skin care.

However, the most fascinating difference is the manner in which Bodhi build each unique product's scent. The structure of the products' fragrances owes a great deal to the art of fine perfume. In favour of single note structures, Bodhi's scented products are as complex as a scent one might purchase from Creed or Penhaligon's. In layman's terms, this means that notes with a heavier molecular weight such as precious woods form the base notes of the scents, while citrus, herbal and floral notes, with their lighter molecular weight, form the top and middle notes. Combined, the effect is a multi-layered fragrance "journey". The top and middle notes one smells when first bathing / showering, evolves on the skin, developing over time to reveal the heavier base notes. This is about as far away from "the Lynx effect" as one could get (and thank goodness for that). Some chaps might prefer the cheap aroma of gym locker rooms but I'd like to think my personal taste for fragrance reaches beyond the confines of a deodorant can. Some might call that snobbery but in reality my career has been built on my prowess as an arbiter of taste. Can you imagine a major retailer commissioning Mary Portas to advise them on their business practices if they didn't believe in her taste level? I think not!

So what of the three Bodhi shower gels I was sent to test? The Ylang-Ylang Incensa Sensual Bath & Shower Therapy (pictured at the top) is one of my favourites. A perfect Valentine's gift option, Ylang-Ylang is renowned as a potent aphrodisiac. This product definitely screams out for a sensual bath or shower for two. Simply lather up and luxuriate in a fragrant and sublimely intimate moment.

Adrenaline junkies will love Bodhi's Mint The Refreshing Bath & Shower Therapy. A virtual gym "cool down" in a bottle, this fresh and invigorating formula is an essential for every stylish man or woman's gym bag. If you have sensitive skin that flares up in hot weather, this will be your go-to scent for some instant soothing.

Black pepper is one of my all time favourite scents. It's the key note in my favourite discontinued Gucci scent designed by Tom Ford and can also be found in Molton Brown's synthetic best-seller, the men's Black Pepper Shower Gel. Go green and opt for Bodhi's Pep Noir Energising Bath & Shower Therapy. Unlike Molton Brown it's devoid of harsh chemicals and will do a lot more for the preservation of our ecosystem.

My only gripe about this range is that it's so good that the loved ones in your life are likely to squirrel it away. I've used each of them once, yet they have been mysteriously depleted. The next delivery may have to go under lock and key! I suggest saving yourself the hassle of product disputes and purchasing some of these joyous bathing products for your nearest and dearest (as well as for yourself), after all, sharing is caring.

Bodhi Ylang-Ylang Incensa - £23
Bodhi Mint The - £23
Bodhi Pep Noir - £23


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