I’ve come to accept breakouts on my face. Since age 13, they’ve become nearly a daily occurrence with no signs of abating. But my neck is another story. Usually my neck is clear, that is, until I use oils on it. Those few times that I apply any type of serum to my neck just happen to be the times that it suddenly develops a blemish or two. It doesn’t take a detective to start questioning if the oils in my skincare play a role in the breakouts.
So when Yasmine Jones, the founder of Canadian luxury skincare brand Bella Aura, asked me to try out her line exclusively and drop all other products, I was persuaded mainly because this streamlined brand doesn’t have a single oil serum in its lineup. But I was also intrigued.
“When I say that the Instant Lifting Eye Contour rejuvenates the eye area by six years within four weeks, why would you mix it?” she said.
I mean, you really can’t argue that kind of logic. My curiosity was piqued. It’s something that I do anyway when testing out other facial serums in order to fully experience their effects.
Mixing new products with existing ones may not only fail to achieve the desired results, they may even lead to bad reactions. As Yasmine said, “The natural assumption, in this case, is that the new product doesn’t work, but the real reason might be that the newly introduced product might react negatively to an existing product in the regime.”
Inspired by Swiss and Asian skincare…and dermatologist fails
Designed to take the confusion out of skincare, Bella Aura’s philosophy is based on Swiss skincare technology and Asian skincare with an emphasis on less is more, so there are only five multi-functional and high performance products: a cleanser, an antioxidant booster, a day emulsion, night emulsion, and the eye product mentioned earlier.
Yasmine describes her motivation in creating the line in an interview for The Hub. She said, “My skin care line was developed from my real-life skin care journey, where grief, stress, and lack of rest took a toll on my normally healthy skin. This distress fueled a search involving countless dermatologists, skin care products, and remedies, to little or no avail. (You can read my full story on the website.) I was overwhelmed and confused by conflicting advice and product.”
According to Yasmine, most skincare regimens incorporate both serums and creams in order to balance out the advantages and disadvantages of each. By combining them into an emulsion for Bella Aura’s blends, the best of both is fused into one.
“Our breakthrough formula is a cream in a serum designed to boost the microcirculation in the skin and prop up the metabolism with the most powerful antioxidants. It delivers a high tech, anti-aging skin care solution for all skin types and tones. It penetrates deeply into the epidermis and nourishes the skin at the targeted cell level.”
Skin receives a supercharged cocktail of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, peptides, hyaluronic acid, ferulic acid, hydroxytyrosol, niacinamide, glutathione, palmitic acid, polysaccharide, proteasome, flavonoids, Coenzyme Q10 and more delivered in a creamy white emulsion. During use, my skin was the clearest it has ever been—and I’m not exaggerating.
Surprising intel on oils
The milky white emulsion doesn’t feel one bit like your traditional serum which can sometimes feel like a layer of oil on top of my face. It’s more like a lightweight cream which many of us have eschewed over the years in the oil-dominated green beauty industry. I find the emulsion a refreshing departure from the norm, as the market has become overly-saturated with oils. It turns out, there’s a reason why Yasmine’s research led her to this format, as opposed to the more prevalent oils.
“While I love botanical oils, and I include some in our products, they are not always enough, may not be suitable for all skin types, and can have a short shelf life.” Yasmine said. “My goal was to create products using advanced science, formulated with natural Swiss actives and not harmful chemicals.”
A chemist for the brand explained why oils may not serve skin longterm: “Your skin comes equipped with the best skin cream in the world—its own natural moisture barrier—and has the ability to heal and rejuvenate itself.”
Here’s the kicker:
“When people use excessive oils serums, their skin gets lazy and stops producing its own natural moisture. Serum oils are not necessarily good for your skin.”
Of course, opinions clearly differ on this viewpoint. The main thing is to follow what your skin tells you. If oils have not been working well for your skin on their own, it may be time to consider other options like this one.
For my clogged skin, I am really starting to question their exclusive use—especially considering how my skin fares while using Bella Aura Skincare. I don’t think I’m alone either, as I’ve heard many people are starting to add hydrating products to replenish lost moisture after devoted use of waterless serums and balms. I’ll probably be going back and forth on this debate for a while because I’m hooked on some of my oil serums and not sure I’d be ready to abandon them altogether, nor am I sure that I have to either.
Day & night regimen
In spite of the tightly edited product line—notably missing: a toning mist, mask, and exfoliating product—my skin showed definite improvements. First, a quick run-through of how I used the five products.
- no cleanser, quick wash with water or a swipe over my skin with Double Happiness Toning Mist + 1 pump Double Happiness Cleanser on a cotton round (more about this brand soon!)
- mix one pump Antioxidant Booster with 1-3 pumps Daily Repair Moisturizer and pat/massage over face
- 1 pump Instant Lift Eye Contour (do NOT use any of the other products near or around the eyes)
- remove makeup with Gentle Purifying Cleanser
- mix one pump Antioxidant Booster with 1-3 pumps Night Cellular Renewal and pat/massage into skin
- 1 pump Instant Lift Eye Contour
I was pretty good about following this protocol except when I sensed my skin seemed to become too dry. More on that in a bit. Also, important to note: Yasmine emphasized not using the Antioxidant Booster or the night or day moisturizers around the eyes.
Do you really need both the day and night products?
Out of curiosity, I wanted to know if the day cream and the night cream, both similar in appearance and texture, offered notably different properties to skin, in case you could get away with using one or the other for both night and day. So I took a look at a side by side comparison of the Day Repair Moisturizer and the Night Cellular Renewal and at first glance thought them to be a little too similar. But then I found several significant changes in the ingredients, including features that function optimally in their ascribed time slots. (I still remember when kimberlyloc.com did this with Laurel’s day and night balms and it was so helpful!)
The Daily Repair contains:
- daisy flower extract which is nature’s version of skin-lightening ingredient hydroquinone, used to reduce the appearance of dark spots and lighten and brighten the complexion;
- olive leaf extract, which tames redness, prevents dehydration, and protects skin from sun damage;
- aveena strigosa seed extract, a.k.a. Aquarich/black oat extract, which contains water-retaining substances such as polysaccharides and amino acids to support the skin’s own natural moisturizing factor (NMF) and is designed to reduce TEWL, trans-epidermal water loss, a topic I’m oddly fascinated by and have covered here and here. (There are more but I’ll spare you additional links.)
The Night Renewal contains:
- glutamine, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory known to assist in wound healing;
- decyl glucoside for its moisture binding properties that help skin feel smooth and soft;
- cistus extract, to tone and tighten skin;
- gynostemma pehtaphyllum, which slows down aging by reducing the effects of oxidative stress and prolonging cell life.
The thing is, I could see these ingredients working full force, particularly when it came to healing scars which was the most observable improvement I could detect.
The proof is in the results
While I’m used to typically having little bumps under my skin and daily breakouts, they vanished while testing Bella Aura for the duration. That’s a big deal as I don’t remember a time without them. Scars have healed much faster and showed quicker improvement with use of the Antioxidant Booster mixed with the Night Cellular Renewal (absolute game-changing combination, IMHO). Another perk that I noticed was that my skin felt taut and firm, which is quite nice at 46. Though not every product was a perfect fit for my skin, I still found several that would definitely become repeat purchases.
One thing to note: most of the products do not have a lingering scent but on application, a strong whiff of Neroli does overpower any other smells. This is good to keep in mind in case you have an aversion to it (it is a powerful ingredient) or if you prefer delicate or more subtle aromas. It does have some pretty amazing rejuvenating and regenerating benefits, so I’d say it’s worth it.
Briefly, I thought that the black seed oil in the Instant Lifting Eye Contour may have triggered irritation in my eye area. It is a rather unusual ingredient for an eye product. I suddenly developed a couple of dry, scaly, reddish patches which I’ve never experienced before.
I’m still uncertain what the source of this irritation could have been, and chemists that I’ve checked in with who are not affiliated with Bella Aura couldn’t find anything conclusive in the product that would be an issue. I just want to put that out there in case it’s important, but it is most likely not linked to the contour cream, since those patches returned even when I was not using the products.
Yasmine was amazingly helpful with any issues that I brought up and contacted her chemists with all my questions.
The true test always happens when I stop using a product line. When I paused from using Bella Aura (the cleanser is too strong for me for daily use, so I returned to some of my other oil based serums to restore hydration and moisture), the oils in my regular routine took a toll on my face within a short amount of time. The breakouts that had been held at bay gradually returned and with them, the clogged pores.
Formulated to improve hydration levels
Where Bella Aura excels is in innovation, which is the founder’s goal. For instance, while many brands use either glycerin or hyaluronic acid to boost skin’s hydration levels, this line approaches it with a complex comprised of several additional ingredients, among them:
- black oats for their water-retaining capabilities, as well as the polysaccharides and amino acids, which support the skin’s own natural ability to retain moisture;
- lecithin as a restorative agent and moisturizer to penetrate deeply into the epidermis and nourishes the skin at the targeted cell level;
- vitamin E (Tocopherol) to round out the anti-aging formula and a classic antioxidant used to protect collagen-producing cells, plus preventing UV and pollution damage to the skin
“In our clinical studies these ingredients have a better hydration effect than glycerin and hyaluronic acid (in vivo study),” Yasmine said. “And sometimes hyaluronic acid could dry your skin.” That’s true particularly in dry climates since hyaluronic acid draws moisture from the environment, and when the climate is dry it pulls moisture from skin instead.
Interestingly, I did feel like my skin craved more moisture while using Bella Aura. I’m not sure if that’s because it has adapted to oil use and needs further time to balance out or if it’s because the products were not moisturizing enough, particularly during winter. It may be enough in the warm weather months, so I’ll have to update.
I do think that oilier skin types will be totally fine and comfortable, but dry skin types may need to either use more product or supplement with another moisturizer. During the day, especially in cold weather, I found it necessary to layer a balm over the products to seal in moisture and I often added a high lipid Vitamin C serum too.
Notably missing: a toning mist. Here’s why.
I was amazed not to find a toner in the line and none in the works. My toilette has never been faster, and I appreciate the streamlined protocol that eliminates a great deal of steps. The concentrated formulas offer a complete approach to revitalize and energize skin cells. In this case, the cleanser is meant to function as a toner would.
One of my main goals in creating Bella Aura is to simplify the process by developing fewer products that do more. Our Gentle Purifying Cleanser ($45 CA/32.91 USD) is multifunctional, providing the benefits of using a separate toner in addition to cleansing the skin. Toners are generally used to restore pH balance after cleansing with soap, moisturize, protect and refresh the skin, as well as remove excess oil. Our cleanser does not have the high alkaline levels of traditional soaps so the pH balance isn’t negatively affected. We also have botanical oils in our cleanser which moisturize, refresh and protect your skin as it cleanses. It removes impurities without stripping away the skin’s natural moisture barrier. This is why a toner is not part of my skin care regime.
As mentioned earlier, I found the cleanser to be a bit strong for my skin even when using it only once a day at night. The creamy formula creates a light foaming lather when wet, so I think it would be most suitable for oilier skin types. My face felt a bit tighter than I’m comfortable with and showed the beginning signs of drying, so I didn’t stick with it, preferring my tried and true emulsifying oil or balm cleansers or those that don’t lather, for that reason.
Products double as masks
This line doesn’t produce a separate mask, but once again, there’s a reason for it.
I think that masks definitely have a place in a skin care regime but not every day as they may strip away oils that are essential for healthy skin. Personally, I find that a disciplined skin care regime with products that contain a lot of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients can replace the need for frequent use of facial masks. My emulsions can be used as a leave-on mask. Using certain techniques in applying the product will help stimulate blood circulation and leave your skin feeling smoother, brighter, and softer.
Yasmine very graciously shared several application techniques with me—and you have got to see her skin. It is absolutely flawless, so whatever she’s doing, it is clearly working. I searched for videos on the site, but couldn’t find any, though I hope they will add some to show users how best to apply the formulas.
I do have to add that for the price point which is high—the entire line retails for $495 CA ($360.64 US)—and the small bottle sizes (1 fl. oz. for emulsions), I’m not convinced that using the products as a mask is particularly economical especially since there are other effective moisturizing masks available from brands like Kahina Giving Beauty’s Moisture Mask and the latest launch by Josh Rosebrook.
Yasmine’s beauty tips
With her stunning skin, how could I not ask for Yasmine’s beauty tips?! For one, she recommends incorporating antioxidants which she includes in high amounts in Bella Aura’s skincare—even in the natural preservative—in order to counteract negative environmental effects which can cause cellular damage that visibly ages skin faster than age itself.
Her other top tip: stop excessive product use.
“You were born with the most expensive cream in the world—you’re own natural moisture barrier which has the innate ability to renew itself,” Yasmine explained. “Give your skin a break occasionally try skin fasting, once or twice a week.” She said that it takes about 30 days for skin to renew itself and 40 days if you are 40 years old (lucky me!). Well, if we could have skin that glows like her’s, I’d say it is totally worth a try!
But wait…! Did the eye cream restore six years to my eyes?
I’ve come to the painfully slow realization that there are no miracle products out there and I’m not even sure it’s a good idea to keep hoping for them. I’m learning (again painfully slowly) that loving the age I’m wearing is the most effective layer to wash over my skin. I’ve been using every kind of eye cream since turning 17. You could say I had that prevention thing down. And guess what?! Every year, I crease a little more. I look my age. I crinkle when I smile. And people occasionally tell me my smile is beautiful. So, no. No fountain of youth visited my wrinkles. And that’s ok.
The Instant Lifting Eye Contour Cream did have an uplifting and firming effect on application, that’s for sure.
Where to begin?
If you are intrigued and want to test out this gorgeous brand for yourself, I highly recommend starting off with an Essential Energy Boosting Kit (now $75, reduced from $99) or with the sample sizes from Petal & Post. You will get ample uses out of the kit which lasted longer than a two-week vacation. The little tubes fit easily into carry-on bags and are perfect for weekend getaways. However, if you’re ready to splurge, my absolute favorites are the Night Cellular Renewal mixed with a pump of the Antioxidant Booster. I saw the best results with those.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Yasmine is generously donating 50% off all sales in May of the Energy Boosting Kit to help the cancer treatment of Jim Wallace. He’s the husband of beloved blogger Lilly from Genuine Glow. Here’s the link to the GoFundMe campaign to donate directly and please share!
Let me know in the comments if you’ve already tried Bella Aura and love it. I’ve only seen rave reviews online including from The Brunette Ecoholic—so check out Sabrina’s posts here for her experience as an oily skin type.