Ayla has become one of my absolute favorite go-to’s for super pure, non-toxic products with incredible results. I’m obsessed with the fact that you can order a custom kit of samples curated specifically for your unique needs, so that you can discover your perfect product regime through actual trial and error. On top of this, S.F. based Ayla has trained guides on call with personalized recommendations so that one won’t end up with a cart full of useless products that may not be perfect for their individual needs. I mean, just check out a few of their contributing experts here.
This is why I’ve asked Dara Kennedy, founder of Ayla, to share her favorite summer staples to cover one’s outer nourishment from head to toe. This Princeton and Harvard Grad spent ten years working in beauty marketing, product development, and branding before starting Ayla. So naturally we can’t wait to hear what she recommends us!
D | I love everything about summertime: the long days, the sense that schedules aren’t quite so rigid (even if they are), the impromptu barbeques and general spontaneity — just thinking about it makes me feel happy and relaxed. To me, it’s more about a state of mind than it is about the weather. I loved summer even when I lived in New York, and it seemed as though everyone but me fled the city each weekend to escape the mugginess. Now that I’ve been back in San Francisco for several years, the fact that “summery” weather doesn’t arrive here until September just extends my favorite season by a few months.
Whether your summer weather is hot and humid or foggy and cool, as it is here in SF, below is a hit list of top non-toxic beauty recommendations for a sweet and serenely spontaneous summer.
I don’t know how she does it (actually, I do: she’s a genius), but the Parisian chemist who makes this product achieves the impossible. She’s created a cleansing foam that leaves skin feeling fresh and purified, yet hydrated. So many summery, purifying cleansers leave skin feeling just a little too tight, even the best ones. And this product removes makeup and sunscreen just beautifully.
I love a good rosewater. Unfortunately, there are a lot of mediocre ones out there, which can make people wonder what the big deal is about rosewater. Once you try the best, though, you realize that a little spritz of it can make your day. This is first extract distillate Persian rosewater, mixed with organic aloe and glycerin, and it’s astoundingly good. During the summer, it’s the ideal skin refresher and can be used to thin out any products that you normally love but find just a little bit too heavy. Just spritz a little in your palm along with your moisturizer or oil and pat it on your face.
This is another how-does-she-do-it product from the Parisian chemist I referenced. It’s a lightweight, non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic hydrating lotion that’s perfect for the multitudes among us whose skin acts young (acne) and old (wrinkles) at the same time, and seems generally confused (sometimes oily, sometimes dry). It’s also the first thing I recommend for anyone whose skin seems a little congested. It has hyaluronic acid, one of my favorite ingredients, along with a unique blend of natural acids — blueberry, sugarcane, orange, lemon, and maple — in a low-pH formula that renders them particularly effective without sensitizing skin. You can even use it around your eyes.
I’ve always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with sunscreen. I love what it does for skin, hate how it looks and feels. This is the first sunscreen that I’ve really, truly looked forward to wearing every day. It’s entirely zinc-based, but there’s no whiteness, no stickiness, and no nanoparticles to worry about. And it smells like Jolly Ranchers. If this isn’t the ideal summer product, I don’t know what is.
This is another product that’s been tailor-made for summer. Even if you’re diligent about wearing sunscreen, there are days when you can’t help but feel as though your skin needs a little TLC after exposure to sun and wind. This is a cooling, calming, gel-based mask that’s packed with aloe to calm inflammation and glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and prickly pear cactus for weightless moisture. You can leave it on for a few minutes or sleep with it on, and storing it in the fridge makes it extra soothing. Some people just use it as a moisturizer because it feels so good!
I rarely have time to take baths, so when I do, I want my bath to really do something. This one makes me feel like I’ve gone to a great hot yoga class. It deeply detoxifies soothes and moisturizes, stimulates circulation, and can have an impact on cellulite and weight loss, which is a nice bonus during the summertime. What’s crazy about this is that it’s just a bag of seaweed and some salt. That’s it! It just speaks to the purity and potency of the seaweed in it, which has been hand-harvested and carefully dried by this family-run company in Ireland. You can use the seaweed for three consecutive days, then use it as fertilizer in your organic garden.
MyHavtorn is another small, family-run company that makes ultra-pure products. This particular family has a farm in Sweden’s Bollebygd Valley, where they grow and hand-pick their own sea buckthorn berries. They use those berries to make products fresh to order for us, which is amazing. Their body oil is one of my favorite products of theirs (and I love all of them). It has a lot of deeply hydrating and elasticity-boosting ingredients, and its natural lemongrass fragrance is like summer in a bottle.
I searched high and low, for years, to find non-toxic hair products that performed like the toxic ones. This is one of my very favorites. It’s a gentle shampoo for all hair types that leaves your scalp feeling clean and comfortable, and your hair really manageable and soft (not gluey or gummy, like many of the well-intentioned but ultimately not very good “natural” shampoos out there). Anyone can use it, and everyone should use it.
When I saw how thick this product was, I was afraid that it would weigh my hair down and leave it in the above-referenced gluey/gummy state that so many other “natural” conditioners have, but it just left it feeling moisturized, healthy, and bouncy. It’s perfect. I was actually shocked the first time I used it and thought that maybe I was in some sort of dream state, because my hair looked and felt so good — and I have difficult hair. I can use this conditioner with the Rare El’ements shampoo in a huge rush and run out the door without even using a comb (perhaps I shouldn’t admit that I do this, but I do, almost every day) and it will look lovely.
I love San Francisco, but the moisture in the air here (due to the fog) is like Kryptonite for my frizz-prone hair. The other issue is that I can’t be bothered to blow-dry it, which would normally be the most rational solution. Luckily, I found that if scrunch in some of this sea buckthorn-based hair oil: problem solved, beautifully, whether my hair is wet or dry. I worked on a major anti-frizz haircare line in the past, so I know my frizz fighters. This stuff, though? Magic. Pure magic. And so much easier to use. Who wants to be chained to their blow-dryer during the summer (or, really, ever)?
Summer is not really the time for a punishing detoxifying regimen, in my view. It’s a time to be enjoyed. But since I do like the idea of a bit of a daily detox, I sip this tea before bed. I think of it as giving my body a little nudge so that it remembers to stay healthy. And in the morning, I take a shot of beet kvass, which was recommended to me by the wonderful facialist Kristina Holey. I think of that as giving my body a nudge to stay in line for the day. And, in the end, my skin really does benefit — I see more clarity and general calm.
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