Grown Alchemist: The Review

As any design-obssessed beauty junkie can tell you, the Aussie skincare brand Aesop achieves the pinnacle of minimalist, unisex chic. It is also generally described as being “natural”, though in reality it falls some distance from the natural mark. I find this rather depressing, because aside from the cool factor, Aesop has some lovely products with gorgeous smells. Thankfully, Australia seems to inspire minimalist product design, because another antipodean brand, the achingly-cool Grown Alchemist, espouses a similar Minimalist Apothecary aesthetic to house its elegantly formulated, (mostly) natural products.

I suppose before I go any further, I should explain the reason I give the “mostly” natural caveat, especially because it is also a) my biggest pet peeve about this otherwise fabulous brand, b) the reason why many die-hard green beauty consumers would not consider using Grown Alchemist products, and c) completely unnecessary in this day and age, especially for such a sophisticated line. I am talking about Grown Alchemist’s use of the preservative phenoxyethanol and the surfactant triethanolamine (not in the face wash). Rated a 4 on EWG’s Skin Deep Database, phenoxyethanol is far from the worst skincare offenders, since it is not carcinogenic, does not bioaccumulate and doesn’t affect human development or reproductive organs, which is why it is commonly used in the place of the universally reviled parabens. Still, phenoxy can cause irritation and allergies and although I am not tremendously bothered by its inclusion, I understand why many green beauty consumers steer clear of products containing it. Same goes for triethanolamine, which with its EWG rating of 5 may appear as even more of a suspect ingredient, though the main reason for such a worryingly high score is the risk of contamination, rather than its direct impact on human health or the environment.

GA Wash

Now with that awkwardness out of the way I can get to the task of actually reviewing the Grown Alchemist products and I am, frankly, happy to do so because despite my annoyance with the ingredient malarkey, I actually love them. First up is the Geranium Leaf, Bergamot and Rose Bud (phew!) Cleanser and it is a dream: a lightly scented, exceptionally gentle foaming face wash, it thoroughly cleans the skin without stripping. It’s sort of the ideal daily cleanser: it smells great, it treats the skin with kid gloves and looks good on the sink. Also, for those concerned about the presence of phenoxyehtanol, but interested in trying the brand, this cleanser might be perfect: a foaming cleanser like this one simply does not stay on the skin long enough for an ingredient to cause any real trouble (unless, of course, you actually happen to be seriously allergic to it).

GA Day Cream

With its sleek metal tube and black-and-white color scheme, the White Tea & Phyto-Peptide Age Repair Moisturizer is possibly the coolest looking and most Instagrammable of the Grown Alchemist products and as it happens, what’s inside that package is just as cool. The cream contains peptides, antioxidants (asthaxanthin from cranberries) and polyphenols – all ingredients beneficial to the skin. It provides a matte, but not dry finish and serves as a perfect base for makeup. I used it under my Kjaer Weis foundation and, corny as it sounds, actually couldn’t believe my eyes: for the first time in my life, the foundation slid over and completely covered my pores, giving my skin that almost uncanny, airbrushed look. The fact that this cream manages to achieve this effect without silicones is especially remarkable. Because I like the dewey look of oil (and because I recently found what might be my dream daytime moisturizer) I am using this cream when I want that flawless, evening face, though it was also fantastic during the hot, muggy NYC days when I couldn’t bear the thought of any extra moisture on my skin.

GA Night and Eye

The Regenerating Night Cream: Neuro-Peptide and Violet Leaf Extract (we have GOT to do something about those names!) is probably my favorite product in the line. It’s a rich, soft, elegant cream, full of quality anti-aging ingredients. It has a lovely, sweet, but not too much so scent and a wonderful, silky texture. I think this cream comes the closest to replicating the experience of using a conventional high-end moisturizer. My skin really responds well to this cream: I wake up in the morning with plump, smooth, well-hydrated skin.

As for the Age Repair Eye Cream: Tetra-Peptide and Centella, my experience with it perfectly encapsulates why I find it so frustrating when companies that make otherwise brilliant products use crap ingredients like phenoxyethanol and triethanolamine. I loved this eye cream! It has an amazing texture: light, easily absorbed, not even a little greasy. It contains excellent, age-defying ingredients, it made my eyes feel moisturized, well-rested and moisturized and it layered beautifully under makeup. In fact, this cream was so good that although I was initially reluctant to use something other than my beloved Decouverte, I ended up using the Grown Alchemist day and night. We lived in happily moisturized bliss for about 2 to 3 weeks and then I got an allergic reaction. I developed a light, but unpleasant and slightly itchy rash around my eyes. I figure that although I am not generally bothered by things like phenoxyethanol, used around the delicate and extra-sensitive skin around my eyes it (or perhaps it’s difficult to pronounce cohort) did what is expected of them and caused an allergic reaction. I still use the cream, but only on the rare occasions when I wear eye makeup, since it works beautifully as a base for makeup. Still, it’s a damn bloody shame.

I thin that Grown Alchemist is a great transition line for those trying to make a change from conventional skincare. It’s much better than many lines out there and for those without skin sensitivities it could, in fact, be perfect. Still, it’s possible to do better and I expect the companies calling themselves green to be better. After all, no one said this luxury green business was going to be easy.

49 responses to Grown Alchemist: The Review

  1. OH NO! I bought the cleanser two weeks ago and stopped using it after 3 or 4 days. My eyes were burning like hell. In the morning they were swollen and sticky. I wasn’t quite sure which ingredient caused that reaction, but now I think it might be phenoxyehtanol. 😦 Such a shame becaused I didn’t use it pretty close to my eyes. *cries*

      • TheHermesHippie – Author

        Oh sure! I do know my skin though and I don’t typically react to any of the ingredients in the eye cream. Also, I used it for around 4 weeks (standard amount lmif time for testing) and the allergic reaction occured at the very end, which hints at consistent exposure to an irritant, rather than an allergy. To be honest, I’ve used products with phenoxy before without having a reaction, which is why I am more inclined to think it’s the triethonolamine. X

  2. rachel

    I really appreciate this nuanced and honest review! And am so excited about the possibility of hearing what your dream daytime moisturizer is!

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      Thank you, lovely! ☺️ It’s from Ofacité. I want to give the day cream (and other products from the line) a bit more time for thorough testing, but so far I’m in love.

      • carol gauvin

        I was curious but can’t find this product, Ofacité, anywhere.

      • TheHermesHippie – Author

        Oh sorry for the confusion – I
        Must have mis-typed in the previous comment 😦 The name of the brand is actually Odacité – I did a review of their products a little while back. Hope this helps 🙂 x

  3. Kasia

    I’m an Australian girl and I love your blog… have only purchased the GA hand cream and disappointingly it went rancid very very quickly. Still sitting in my cupboard because I’m loathe to throw it out. Sucker for great packaging! I find the entire line over priced. They’ve spent a fortune on packaging and have this amazing black and silver embossed free product catalogue. Quite unnecessary.

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      It’s especially annoying that it went rancid quickly while having preservatives. Aesop might not be up to my standards clean-wise, but at least the tube of lotion I bought before fully switching to green products (so a looooong time ago) is still as good as new. And GA are definitely highly focused on appearances (their Instagram is a treat for the eyes). I do appreciate good design, but not at the expense of quality 🙂

  4. Caro

    I too love the look of GA but am very happy with my mix of Kahina, de Mamiel and Tata Harper for my face so only bought the hand and body washes – both are VERY drying, though I can’t think why. It’s not something I usually (ever) have a problem with. The scents are nice enough but not as delicious as I thought they might be. Disappointing, all in all. Very happy to have discovered your blog, though! @Mademoiselle nature: they are available in the UK at Space NK (online only, I think)and Cult Beauty.

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      You have just about the perfect product mix right there! Sadly, Tata doesn’t work too well for me, but it’s an amazing brand that works for most people, so clearly I’m the weirdo. And I obviously think Kahina and de Mamiel are heavenly 🙂 And I am so glad you like the blog! xx

      • Caro

        The only Tata Harper product I use is her new cleansing oil. I have been using it about two weeks and it really does seem to be making a difference – clearer, brighter, more relaxed-looking skin – and I can use it every day (I adore the de Mamiel balm but can only use it a couple of times a week. The spray, though, is wonderful – suits both me and my ageing combination skin and my teenage daughter). I’m using the oil together with the Kahina cleanser for a second cleanse and in the mornings and touch wood it seems to be working, though it is perhaps early days still! The TH smells gorgeous too.

  5. Caro

    If you like rosehip seed oil, you should like this – it’s the main ingredient. Lots of others too, plus sacha inchi, arnica, calendula, comfrey and borage extracts. It has that lovely orangey TH scent that really lifts the spirits. I love a good cleanser, it makes all the difference. I won’t be without Kahina, but am still tempted to try Oskia … especially after reading your review. X

  6. Please take a look at the new So Pure Skincare line. It is non toxic and contains high end actives like Prickly Pear, Ester C, Tomato seed oils.

  7. So nice to see someone review these. They sent us the line a while back, and while I loved most of it, I too am turned off (but not totally) by phenoxyethanol, and by the irritation around the eyes. Maybe they can fix those in the near future and we can consider taking them on! Great review!

  8. Thanks for this review! I was considering buying some stuff from grown alchemist, and when I looked at the product description on tgeir site, I could not find full ingredients’ lists, which right away seezmed sketchy. Instead they give detailed descriptions of only some ingredients. I emailed them asking where I could find full ingredients’ lists, and never heard back. It seems like cheating, especially considering that they advertise themselves as an organic, green brand with no harmful ingredients…

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      I haven’t used Jurlique for years because I found it a little too light for my skin – to me ot feels like a brand for younger or particularly oily skin types. Grown Alchemist seems more active to me. That said, since I haven’t used it properly, I don’t feel rigt tecommending one or the other 🙂

  9. Lynda

    Thank you for this thoughtful and well written review. I could not find a search feature – what are your thoughts on ITG’s Glossier Phase 1 Set?

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      Thank you! ☺️ I didn’t actually review it because I wasn’t tempted to buy, but I did tweet my frustration that the main ingredient in their balm is petrolatum. I think it’s cute and nowhere near as bad some conventional stuff, but it’s all fairly meh. I think some products are better than others, but generally there’s better stuff out there. Including Grown Alchemist. Also, they use a honesuckle-based preservative, whoch mimics the action of certain parabens. I’d rather stick with phenoxy 😉

  10. akismet-68e42dcd720c84592802d0183ac2c9d7

    Hi sweetie ! Love your down right honest reviews 😊 and im hoping you can help.

    I’m in the midst of switching over from chemical-ish (sunday riley & lamer & chantecaille) products to natural but I’m having the hardest time deciding on what natural brands to use. Esp aft reading reviews on GA & Aesop which I thought were top of the list natural products I’m now confused.

    Am trying to use less on my combination, rosecca, big pored , semi scared & pigmentation damaged skin 😔 What would be a couple of brands in the NaturaL line that you’d strongly recommend? Hope to hear from you soon! Thanks. Kind regards xx

  11. D.

    Thank you for your informative and honest review! i’ve recently gotten into Aesop and was looking for similar products out there to compare them to, which is how i stumbled upon your post on Grown Alchemist!

    While I appreciate that you ask Grown Alchemist for ingredient transparency, as do i, on the other hand, I have to defend Aesop from your statement in the first paragraph because they don’t promote themselves as a “natural” brand on their website or in interviews. in fact, that’s why i really like the company as well as the products, they are not ashamed of using technology. here’ s an excerpt from an interview with their skincare manager, Suzanne Santos.

    “We don’t call ourselves natural,” she says, marking it as a deliberate point of difference. “We fit into a category that is really comfortable for us and really uncomfortable for other brands. We celebrate science, and understand that you need a blend of well-chosen man-made ingredients with exceptional botanical ingredients to make remarkable products.”

    http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/03/cult-beauty-brand-that-tries-not-to-be.html

    • TheHermesHippie – Author

      I’m so glad you liked the review! As for Aesop, I certainly didn’t mean to give the impression that they greenwash. I say that they are “described as ‘natural'” and I think that’s really it: their retailers often describe them as such and I think a lot of consumers think of them as a natural brand, but they don’t have any pretensions to being one. I really like Aesop and their whole vibe, actually, and their scents are to die for, so I hope people don’t construe my comments as a diss 😉 Anyway, thanks for pointing that out and quoting the skincare manager: there are few things I appreciate more from any brand than honesty and integrity and it sounds like Aesop has both.

  12. beautifulbedlamblog

    I absolutely LOVE the gel cleanser, but I haven’t tried any of the others! I’m always on the lookout for a good night cream and eye cream, especially without all the nasties. Great post 🙂

    We have done a review on Grown Alchemist as well, please check it out if you have a chance http://beautifulbedlamblog.com/?p=802 x

  13. Stephanie Hope Blatsos

    Hello Grown Alchemist
    Love reading your blog. Good insights. I have been using Odacite for a couple of years now. Have met Valerie and I can tell you she is a wonderful lady. I love her products. The oils are magnificent. And her toners are so refreshing. Amazing stuff all good.

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