I recently came to a realization that I have a minor obsession with the California Hippie. I don’t think that this is an “official” name, but you all know the type: mystical herbalists Scott and Nitsa of Sun Potion, lifestyle guru and skincare brand founder Shiva Rose of the Local Rose, the groovy parents and chocolatiers Zen and Bunni of Zenbunni and, of course, the founder of Moon Juice Amanda Chantal Bacon – a woman who created a successful wellness brand and ended up the subject of an Internet bullying campaign. All of these folks are about as far from the “unwashed hippie” archetype as you can get. They are groovy and elegant, mystical and practical, spiritual and educated and they embrace high vibes and quality control with equal passion. Living Libations is the most quintessentially California Hippie brand I have ever come across (they even have a freestanding store in Venice – the epicenter of CH cool). The twist? They are Canadian.I remember when I first stumbled across Living Libations. Somewhere in my Internet wanderings I saw an over-enthusiastic comment exchange about their shampoo. An intrepid green beauty explorer, I immediately followed the link… And immediately freaked out. The site looked like it was made by an unhinged member of the Polyphonic Spree: disconcertingly colorful, with a groovy 60s font that looked too childlike for comfort, crowded with seemingly endless categories of products and staggeringly florid prose, it was everything that made my cynical New Yorker blood run cold. I threw a bottle of shampoo into my cart, checked out as fast as my typing fingers would carry me and hightailed it out of there, vowing never to return again. And then, after the seemingly interminable journey from the Canadian wilds, the shampoo arrived. And so began a life long love affair.
Since the Seabuckthorn Shampoo was what started my Living Libations journey of discovery, it makes sense that I review it first. As I might have mentioned before, I have terrible hair. It’s super-fine, thin and oily. Actually, since I had it bleached its texture changed and I can now avail myself of all the green beauty hair bounty. That is because until Josh Rosebrook recently released his Balance line, the overwhelming majority of green hair products out there were formulated for the drier/thicker hair types. I managed to find things that sort of worked, but I missed that super-cleaned feeling and the hint of volume (can’t hope for more than than, really) that I used to get from conventional shampoos. Enter Living Libations.
The first shock was the bottle. I was disappointed in the way it looked on the website: too basic and Etsy-esque for my taste, but in person, the gorgeous color of the shampoo seems to glow from within and the simplicity of the bottle actually seems elegant. The shampoo smells divine: sweetly herbal and elegant – an absolute sensory delight, and it was perfect for my hair! It was left perfectly clean, bouncy and shiny, with a load of volume and in no way stripped. It has become a constant companion of my bathroom and I will never be without.
Now, since I fried my hair I find the Seabuckthorn shampoo too intense, but here is where I introduce you to the Shine On conditioner. I never used conditioner before (it made my hair too limp) and I am so grateful to the Gods of Processed Hair for allowing me to enjoy it. And Shine On is a joy! It smells even prettier than the shampoo, in the same sweet-but-not-too-sweet, herbal and somehow fresh way and leaves my hair soft, silky, manageable, yet in no way weighed down. I think I’m going to have to bleach my hair again, if only so I can keep using this beauty.
I didn’t think it was possible to improve on the perfection that are Seabucktorn and Shine On, but by Jove, Living Libations did it with their True Blue Spirulina Shampoo and Conditioner. Aside from the nutritional powerhouse spirulina, both products contain the azure-rich, anti-inflammatory powerhouse trio of my beloved blue tansy, German chamomile and Yarrow. They make my hair feel, well, perfect: hydrated, soft, full of volume and health. Now, I haven’t tried either product on my hair in its natural state and think the conditioner might end up being too rich, but I think the shampoo will work a treat. The best thing about this magical duo? The scent. If you are a fan of May Lindstrom’s Blue Cocoon, imagine washing your hair with it. The shampoo and conditioner have the same warm, sweet, calming scent of blue tansy, with an added herbal age. It turns even the quickest of showers into a mini-spa experience, leaving me calmer, more centered and with pretty, shiny hair.
In what is a bit of a departure for me, the bulk of this review will be for body care, probably because so many of the Living Libations formulas are unusual and incredibly special. But if there is one product from the Living Libations lineup without which no review would be complete, it’s their legendary, cult Best Skin Ever – Seabuckthorn oil. Now, to call this oil a product for the face would be unfair, since it’s a true multitasker: it can be used as a cleanser, a moisturizer and a body oil (its price is so reasonable as to not make this an impossible luxury). Sea buckthorn is probably my all-time favorite skincare ingredient (what do you expect – I’m Russian, I used to drink this stuff in tea and as a jam!) and it is bolstered by jojoba, coconut oil, skin healing tamanu, as well as lavender, vetiver, grapefruit and palmarosa – all essential oils with proven skincare benefits that also combine into a gorgeously earth, herbal, yet sophisticated scent. Are you noticing a pattern, by the way? Even the briefest exposure to Living Libations products makes it clear that its creator, Nadine Artemis, is a brilliant scent alchemist.
BSE is perfect as an oil cleanser: it leaves my skin perfectly clean and hydrated. And the formula is simple, yet sophisticated enough even for a skincare maximalist like me, making it a true all-in-one product. For the sake of an experiment, I had used it alone on a couple of occasions, abandoning my complex, multi-step nighttime routine and woke up with clear, hydrated and glowing skin. I sometimes feel guilty for only recommending expensive products and while BSE isn’t exactly cheap ($50 for 110 ml), it’s a remarkably reasonable price considering the quality of the ingredients and its multitasking nature means that it could well be the most sensible skin investment you ever make.
Living Libations is a brand that knows its essential oils. Nadine and Ron’s (her partner in life and business) acumen goes past skill and straight into witchcraft. Nowhere is this more evident than in the line of Dab blends for various skin concerns. Dew Dab and Zippity Dew Dab (that name!) are the superhero duo to address your skin’s every freakout – from random redness, bumps and coupe rose (Dew Dab a mix of EOs of rose otto, cape chamomile, cypress, frankincense, immortelle and lavender) to the angriest pimples (Zippity Dew Dab – niaouli, carrot seed, immortelle, rosemary, blue tansy and thyme lynalool, the mixture of which make it smell divine). I do not exaggerate when I say when their power is nothing short of nuclear. I have applied Zippity Dew Dab to some truly epic spots, only to watch them disappear overnight. This is powerful stuff and must be used judiciously, but these blends are an absolute must for anyone who has anything other than perfect skin.
The last in the Dab collection is the Jewel Dab, a blend of the most luxurious essential oils (rockrose, sandalwood, myrrh, immortelle, roman chamomile, palmarosa, chamomile, carrot seed and turmeric), created for the mature skin types to help strengthen the skin’s protective barrier, increase firmness and hydration and help address all other signs of aging (however much we might welcome the aging process itself). This and all the other Dabs can be used as spot treatments or mix with carrier oils or your existent skincare to boost their activity. In writing this post I actually found out that the collection includes BeDew Dap (is this new? How did I know about it?) – a cooling and anti-inflammatory blend that is next on my must-try list. If it’s as good as the other three, it’s bound to have a pride of place in my beauty collection.
The Living Libations collection of essential oils is truly spectacular and they carry a number of very special, single ingredient oils, but it’s in the EO blends where the skill of the makers truly shines. One of my absolute favorite blends is Love Wine, though I cannot for the life of me figure out how to use it. It smells like the most divine of desserts mixed with… I dunno, the essence of great sex? It’s magical. Apparently, you can actually use it in food, although I found the flavor too soapy when mixed with drinks and when I tried to use it as perfume (or, you know, rubbed it all over myself) the strong EOs were a bit too active for the skin on my neck, so until I figure out (suggestions are welcome!) I will continue using it as I do now: opening the bottle, taking deep sniffs and making wildly inappropriate noises of contentment.
My other two favorite blends are slightly less orgasmic, but still utterly delicious and much more practical. The two Living Libations sleep blends, Bedtime Story and Sweet Sleep Serum are both incredibly effective in that “did I just take an Ambient” way that powerful EO blends have and are both so delicious and sweetly comforting that they would be perfect to lull a fussy baby to sleep.
Using essential oils for health is fairly common, but I have never done so before Living Libations. Their Immune Illume and Lungevity blends (aptly and perfectly named) are magnificent on their own, but they truly shine when added into the Living Libations Salt Pipe Inhaler. I never even knew such a thing existed until I saw the slightly odd-looking, porcelain contraption on the Instagram of Nitsa Citrine – the gorgeous and talented half of the Sun Potion duo and the quintessential California Hippie. The idea is to fill the bottom of the pipe with large Himalayan salt crystals (included with the purchase) and, ideally, add a couple of drops of one or both of the above blends (I used both) and to use yogic, alternate nostril breathing through the pipe’s opening.
If I am perfectly honest, I thought the whole concept was a bit of a crock. Sure, it couldn’t hurt, especially because both Immune Illume and Longevity not only do not smell medicinal, but are, in fact, completely delicious-smelling. Still, it’s some damn salt and oils in a magic lamp-looking doohickey. How much good could it possibly do? Plenty, it turns out. I spent almost the entirety of last fall with a nasty cold that eventually turned into walking pneumonia and subsequent, interminable bronchitis. My lungs, in short, were a mess. Eventually, after several rounds of gut-destroying antibiotics I managed to kick the infection, but my lungs refused to get better. We went away for a weekend at the Catskills with friends and despite the crystal-clear air, I was a cough-y, phlegmy (sorry) mess. I happened to bring the salt pipe along and took the necessary 20 minutes to inhale the sweet-smelling salt air before going to bed. The next morning I felt 100% better.
Of course, the inhaler didn’t cure my pneumonia or bronchitis – that, sadly, took strong antibiotics and steroids – but it certainly help support my weary lungs and clear lingering congestion. Salt air therapy has been gaining in popularity in recent years (I myself am a fan) and the Living Libations inhaler is a great way to experience some of its benefits without finding a halotherapy studio and paying for sessions. Plus, just lookit: ain’t it adorable? Seriously, it looks great on my nightstand. Speaking of nightstands: a few drops of Illume or Lungetivity in your bedside diffuser make for a fabulous, lung-clearing and immune boosting nighttime blend that will make your bedroom smell like a dream.
Speaking of things that smell nice, let’s talk armpits! Giving up conventional deodorant is probably the first step towards becoming a hippie (or at least as far as American society is concerned). If clean deodorants like Soapwalla, Schmidt’s, Agent Nateur and my beloved Meow Meow Tweet, all of which use coconut oil and either baking soda or magnesium to kill bacteria, as well as clays or powders like arrowroot to control wetness are Hippie 101, then Living Libations Poetic Pits Underarm Charms (!) are definitely Advanced Hippie. There is no pretense of absorbing moisture or killing bacteria: these little roll-ons contain nothing, but sandalwood essential oil and, depending on the blend, a few other essential oils, seemingly picked far more for their scent, than any anti-bacterial properties. The idea is that the warmth of your body helps to open up the scent, which then works with your body chemistry and, yes, sweat to help make your natural odor a pleasant one.
I am currently completely and utterly obsessed with Palo Santo and so I chose the namesake Poetic Pits, which contains a mixture of two of my favorite woods (Palo Santo and sandalwood), as well as muhuhu bark (African sandalwood), cardamom and lemon myrtle essential oils. This little vial smells… Well, divine! Granted, you must be a fan of Palo Santo, but if you are, you will fall in love (though you might still do so even if you don’t have any strong feelings about the sacred wood). The smell is warm, woody, soft and plush – like a being wrapped in the plushest cashmere blanket in front of a fireplace, while drinking a hot buttered rum. Sounds deliciously wintry? Maybe that’s because I wouldn’t suggest using this in the summer, unless you have a true hippie’s laissez faire attitude towards body odor.
Simply put, the Underarm Charms won’t stop you from sweating and there really isn’t anything in them to prevent that sweat turning stinky once you do. So is it a good idea to use them in New York in July for a full day in the office, while wearing a polyester shirt? Probably not. Again, all this depends on your personal chemistry, but I would urge caution and common sense. That being said, I still recommend this product wholeheartedly. Why? It just smells so. damn. good! One of my favorite ways to use it is actually when I go to SoulCycle. The class is so sweaty, that there is pretty much no way to stay dry through it, at least for sweaty old me (and on that note, could SoulCycle PLEASE get rid of those hideous Secret deodorant aerosols in the locker rooms? I die a little every time someone coats themselves with the stuff and I get a hearty lungful), but Poetic Pits means I smell amazing while I sweat buckets – and I always shower immediately after anyway. So: are you ready to go Full Hippie?
I suppose I might as well stay on the subject of personal grooming, but move it a little further down south. Hmmm… How does one talk about a product called a Yoni Serum in polite society? How do I avoid mentioning that that word “yoni” is one of my least favorite words, seeming at once pretentious and cringe-worthy and patchouli-scented in the worst, white-girl-dreadlocks kind of way. But how can I not talk about these products, when they are just this fantastic? Then again, as the woman who shared some of more intimate benefits of coconut oil, I suppose I am uniquely qualified to talk about yoni serums. The “yoni collection” consists of the Petal Primer and the Petal Soother serums. The former is specifically formulated for pregnant women to help avoid perineal tears (in combination with massage) and, more broadly, to help tone, firm and support the feminine tissues; while the latter is made to soothe and calm any tenderness, irritation, inflammation or itching.
The Soother is a personal favorite of mine: it really does work and although I never would have thought that peppermint oil is a suitable ingredient for a product designed to maintain the lady garden, it provides immediate, cooling relief. Here, however, is my favorite thing about these two products: they encourage self-care and self-love. As women, we are constantly bombarded with messages that make us embarrassed about our womanhood. From Vajazzling (vom) to vaginal rejuvenation and from Brazilians to bleaching, we are made to feel that the goal is to look like a perfect doll, with smooth, perfect, plastic, non-messy parts. Living Libations tells us its OK to love our perfectly imperfect bits, bruised though they may be by childbirth or age or anything else, and to take the time to take care not just of our faces, but of our whole beings. It’s a beautiful message and it resonates with me so much, it almost makes me ok with the whole “yoni” thing. Almost.
You know, I used to get upset that my dad doesn’t read this blog. Small mercies, eh? Now. Should we talk about the Love Butters? Radiant Love Butter is a pretty simple product, containing just four ingredients: virgin coconut oil, cocoa butter and vanilla and cinnamon essential oils, but good heavens, is it more than the sum of its parts! For starters, it smells amazing: perfectly delectable and warm, almost citrus-y, though it doesn’t contain any citrus (a reviewer on the LL site describes the smell as “those decadent little orange chocolates I used to get on vacation” and I think its a perfectly apt description) and both sensuous and comforting at once. As for its effects… I won’t go into details, since this is a family show, but let me put it simply: are you the type to use sex as a weapon? Then this is your nuclear warhead.
Of course, the Love Butter is fabulous for so much more than just hanky panky: it would make a fabulous moisturizer, massage balm (that warming cinnamon!) and lip balm even hydrator for thick and dry hair (as per another reviewer on the site), but its prowess in the bedroom is unparalleled. If you are in the mood to experiment, the Love Butter comes in two other versions. Lucky Love Butter smells like an After Eight and has the fun tingle of peppermint, making it a delicious and fun twist on the original. Languid Love Butter is the more floral version, featuring ylang ylang, jasmine, ginger, schisandra and nutmeg for a warmly luxurious, and addictively sensuous scent. I adore all three, but if I had to pick a desert island favorite, it would have to be the original Love Butter – if only because it comes in a large size.
Right! Should we take it down a notch? Let’s talk about hand cream! It’s not the most glamorous of products, but an essential one, especially if you, like me, live in a place with cold winters and are prone to eczema. Living Libations Hooray Hand Creme is, unsurprisingly, fantastic. It’s rich and lush, yet fast absorbing, so that you can apply and go about your business almost immediately. It also has a delightful smell (do you detect a pattern here?) and is just a pleasure to apply. This is one of the few products I would have both by my bed (rich enough to heal and nourish hands overnight) and on my office desk (fast absorbing and non-greasy enough to keep my fingers from slipping off the keyboards).
Living Libations seems to have a lock on unusual products you never knew you needed, but cannot live without once you discover them. Another such product (or, rather, product category) is their line of shimmering lip glosses called Shimmer Lips. You may wonder what is so unique about lip shimmers, but these are far from your basic Bonne Bell, despite their admittedly basic packaging. First, there is, again, the smell. These stick shimmers (I own Shimmer Lips in a dark bronze Moccasin Flower and a golden Fire Lily) smell incredible and not at all lip gloss-like. The scents are sophisticated, complex and floral and are, in fact, so distinctive that I find them to not be quite right for lips because I am very sensitive to taste in my lip products. If you do not share my sensitivity, both of these give a gorgeous, sexy shimmer and have ingredients like jojoba, beeswax (vegans beware) and seabuckthorn to nourish and protect lips. My favorite way to use them, however, is a as quick and easy highlighter. A quick swipe on the cheekbones gives a light and delicate shimmer and that gorgeous scent. Throwing one of this in your bag and applying a few strategically placed swipes before going out after work is the easiest way to make yourself look awake and glowing after a long day in the office.
I think it’s a testament to the incredible prolificacy of the creators of Living Libations that having written one of my longest blog posts ever, I have barely scratched the surface of their offerings. One thing is clear: of all the Living Libations products I tried, there wasn’t one that I at the very least didn’t enjoy and most of them I loved. This line is filled with magic and heart and a true communion with nature and a deep love of people; it’s the very definition of high vibe skincare. I may be a cynical East Coaster, but when it comes to Living Libations, I am happy to be a California Hippie.