Retinol: The Basics

If you feel like you’ve seen Retinol everywhere in cosmetics recently, it’s because it’s another trending ingredient! If you’re sitting here wondering what exactly is it and why do we need it in skincare, we first need to understand what Retinol is and what it can do for us.

Retinol is a fat soluble derived from Vitamin A that assists with a few functions:

  • Vision
  • Cell development
  • Maintenance of mucous membrane
  • Immune system function
  • Reproduction development

There are 2 forms of Vitamin A: Preformed Vitamin A & Provitamin A or Carotenoids

Preformed Vitamin A (Retinol & Retinyl esters) is found naturally in animal sources

  • Cod liver oil
  • Liver of beef, pork, chicken, turkey & fish
  • Eggs

Provitamin A (Carotenoids) converts into Vitamin A during digestion in the intestines. Carotenoids are found in

  • Carrot
  • Squash (particularly potent in pumpkin but generally found in yellow squash)
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Capsicum (most potent in red capsicums)
  • Mango
  • Kale & Spinach
  • Orange

For those with dry, eczema or sensitive skin types, it’s best to avoid retinol products because there are a few side effects:

  • It doesn’t add moisture to the skin
  • It can cause itching, redness & burning
  • It’s photosensitive: it’s sensitive to light & can cause adverse effects in sunlight.

Due to its sensitivity & side effects, there are many companies claiming they have retinol alternatives that do the job just as well or they have organic retinol alternatives, some of which are fantastic & some that are honestly, just a lie.

Rosehip oil is a popular ingredient in formulations, with the increase in retinol trends, rosehip oil is hoisted as an organic retinol alternative because it contains retonoic acid, however it only contains 0.00004% of retinoic acid! It’s an incredible ingredient because it is moisturising and helps soothe the skin but it is definitely not a viable retinol alternative.

Wile retinol & other trending ingredients like Niacinamide certainly have their benefits, before picking up a product that’s marketed as “anti-ageing” or “contains 20% Niacinamide (which, by the way, more than 5% and you’re just paying more for no additional benefits or a worsened skin condition), first figure out what you want from your self-care routine & what you actually need.

We’re constantly bombarded with amazing marketing that promises us the world while keeping us in fear about certain things that are essentially unavoidable, like ageing; wrinkles appear, hair goes grey, we decay, it’s part of the circle of life. What is in our control is taking care of our mind, body & soul, so that we continue to show up at our best every day for ourselves & our communities.

Kokum: An Ancient Treasure

When I first heard about Kokum, I was intrigued. As I began my research into this mysterious relative of the famous Mangosteen tree, it proved to be quite difficult to see why it had such a long history in Ayurvedic medicine; with a limited amount of research papers available & a lot of online blogs saying all the things that is generally said about almost every ingredient, I started to lose hope in this plant:

  • It restores moisture to skin + hair
  • It treats inflamed skin
  • It’s non comedogenic
  • It reduces/prevents aging

On the surface, it’s not obvious if it’s any different to other skincare ingredients & products. I found myself researching until my eyes crossed trying to find even a basic outline of its chemical components. I needed to understand how these properties attribute to skin & hair care, maybe that would help me understand why it’s an esteemed ingredient in Ayurveda. Initially shrouded in old value hype & a bunch of causation = correlation with no tangible value, I really didn’t know if it was worth the time I’d already invested in it. I almost gave up on it & its ancient existence but it turned out to be a beautifully hidden gem.

Kokum is as magical as it is mysterious.

It’s an old world tree native to the Western & Southern regions of India. Garcinia indica is also known as Kokum (Hindi + English), Goraka (Sinhala), Murgal (Tamil), Vrikshamia/Vrikshamla/Amlabija/Raktavikshamla/Amlashaka (Sanskrit). There are many more regions & languages that I haven’t covered but these are the most popularly known where the fruit is still revered.

In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, it’s used to heal certain ailments:

  • Skin issues, ulcers, dermatitis
  • Bowel issues, digestion & balancing gut health
  • Infections & muscle function
  • Cell regulation, repair & function

What are the main components of Kokum that make it nutritional & why is it an esteemed plant in Ayurveda?

  • Kokum Butter is 80% Stearic-Oleic-Stearic Triglycerides which is potent to maintain moisture levels keeping the skin thoroughly moisturised while strengthening the skin’s barrier to keep moisture in.
  • Kokum contains Citric Acid which is a gentle cleanser that goes beneath the surface & removes excess oils whilst balancing the skin’s pH levels.
  • It contains Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) that works as a natural antioxidant. It’s an essential nutrient required for collagen production, tissue repair & strengthens resistance to infections.
  • Kokum is also rich in Vitamin E which is popularly known to be a wonderful skin conditioning agent.

How is it consumed & used? Leaves, fruit (rind & flesh) & seed are all used for different purposes.

  • Fruit:
    • It can be peeled & eaten as a deliciously juicy fresh fruit.
    • The flesh can be squeezed to be drunk as juice.
  • Peels/Rinds + Leaves:
    • The leftover rinds leftover can be filled with sugar & soaked with  its leaves & water before being left in the sun for several days which will eventually provide you with a potent syrup.
    • You can use the juice & steep the peels in & let it set in the sun for a natural syrup without any added sugar:
      • The syrup can be mixed with salt, spice & water as a drink
      • Or leave the water out &  it use it as a medicine
    • The leaves can be cooked in a variety of dishes.
  • Seed:
    • The seeds are dried in the sun then milled leaving you with a hard butter. This butter is then melted in water where impurities sink to the bottom. The purified Kokum Butter is skimmed from the top & left to harden. The hardened butter is melted down again until it’s refined further & mixed to thicken before it’s set in a block. This block of Pure Refined Kokum Butter is now ready to use in food as standard butter or for topical application for skin & hair.

Alright, after months of research I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t getting hyped about it but I still need to try it out for myself.

  • Is it as good as they say?
  • Is it suitable for my skin?
  • Is it going to be heavy or does it actually “melt to the touch”?
  • Is it actually as “lightweight” as they say?

Simply, hell yes!

  • It’s harder than Mango Butter but it melts faster.
  • It’s lighter & smoother than Shea Butter.
  • It slips along the skin easier than Cocoa Butter.
  • It melts to the touch & is as moisturising as Coconut Oil without the weight or greasiness.

I took it one step further & formulated it as a Butter Cream, similar to my Mango Butter Cream, I kept it simple to bask in the glory of Kokum.

How well does it mix with other ingredients? 

Like an absolute dream! It formulated into a deliciously light & ultra creamy concoction! It absorbs faster & is a touch lighter than the Mango Butter Cream but ultimately they both apply deliciously. I now also use kokum butter for my creamy eye shadows.

Are you convinced yet? Try it out for yourself!

While all of these are incredible claims, we have to remember that there is no one cure for all. Everyone’s situation is different; what works for one person won’t always work for someone else, so if you suffer from severe ailments or are unsure about allergic reactions, please check in with your health professional before diving into living off of Kokum or substitutes. Make sure you know where your kokum comes from! There are Western and Southern regions in India that sustainably source and make the butter using traditional methods that don’t harm the environment they live in as the Kokum tree and fruits grow in absolute abundance.

Research for the benefits of Kokum based on:

a 14 day journey

Valentines & Self Love

Self love is more than indulging in peaceful days and tangible self-care rituals. Self love allows us to face our fears, learn what holds us back and work with our darkest thoughts that can be a predecessor to negative behaviors. Self love allows us to get to the core of these behaviors and issues before it blindsides us into living our worst lives. If we’re already stuck in a rut, it allows us to find a crack in the pit of darkness and slowly break free to live a life we may have never known was possible. Starting from Tuesday 14th February, I will be embarking on a 14 day self-love journey. Join me for daily journaling prompts and more.

The price we pay for lack of self love is our lives. Keep reading for a brief outline of what’s to come in the next 2 weeks of our self love journey.

But first, let’s learn about Valentine’s Day.
But…why?

Learning the history behind Valentines Day took away the gross commercialisation of it. I never understood the point of Valentine’s Day and it seemed odd to have one day to remind yourself to show someone you care. I’m cynical by nature and as a brash teenager it was 100% too mainstream and dumb; this brings me to my tainted relationship with self love. I believed love, of any kind, was shit. I wasn’t worthy of love from myself or anyone else. I was, in a way, proud of hating myself – I didn’t know at the time that this was how I guarded myself. It didn’t matter where I ended up or how I hurt myself because I deserved it. I deserved to be hated and treated like shit because I was filth. I searched for situations that would continue to make me feel that way, all the while saying to myself “it doesn’t matter what they do or say because I hate myself more”. It was a way for me to get ahead and gain back control of how I treat myself. Instead of learning how to love myself or face the demons that made me feel like I didn’t deserve to be in my own body, telling myself I hated me more than anyone gave me power over malicious intent. It was a nasty cycle that I repeated until a couple of years ago.

If you resonate with any of this, I want you to know that you are deserving of love. If that gave you a visceral reaction, that’s a pretty good sign you need to start slow. Take it day by day and fight the words in your head saying you don’t deserve to be here. Join me on this 14 day self love journey to learn how to be comfortable with you.

So, let’s learn a little bit about the origin of Valentines Day before it turned into the commercialised day of love bombing and insane expectations.

Valentines Day: The Origin

Although named after a Christian Saint by the Roman Catholic Church, ‘Valentines Day’ originated as The Feast of Saint Valentine to celebrate a Christian Martyr and suppress an ancient Pagan Roman festival. This festival being Lupercalia which was celebrated in honor of the God of Fertility known as Lupercus or Faunus. Lupercalia celebrated the coming of Spring (not to be mistaken with Spring Equinox).

Lupercalia was annually celebrated on February 15th to purify the city, promote health and fertility. In the Roman calendar, February is sacred to Juno or Februa who is the Roman goddess of fever, love, marriage and women.

Valentines Day is named after the Christian Martyr, Valentinus of Terni, who was executed on 14th February 269 CE for practicing Christianity and marrying young couples at a time when both were banned. Claudius II banned marriage in an attempt to increase the number of soldiers in the Roman army. At that time only single or unmarried men were able to enter the army and it was believed men were getting married to avoid being drafted to the army.

Valentinus of Terni is said to have worn a ring with an engraving of Cupid (the son of Venus and Eros); this made him recognizable to couples marrying in secret but also to the soldiers that were after him. During Valentinus of Terni’s imprisonment, he was inundated with letters and visits from young couples that wrote to him about the importance of love over war. It is said that he fell in love with a jailer’s daughter whom he would write letters to. On the day of his execution on 14th February, he signed off his letter with “From your Valentine”.

Fast forward a few centuries after Emperor Theodosius ruled Christianity as the official religion of Rome in 390 CE and we get to Pope Gelasius who was the Bishop of Rome in 492 CE. Pope Gelasius is the reason we celebrate Valentines Day on February 14th. He successfully suppressed the Festival of Lupercalia as it opposed the Holy views by openly celebrating other gods with displays of sensuality and eroticism. He granted Valentinus of Terni with the title of Saint Valentine establishing February 14th 496 CE as the day of The Feast of Saint Valentine.

How did I start my self love journey?

Drawing and writing. It was the only way I could hear or see myself when I was overwhelmed with voices, thoughts and images. Drawing and writing helped me physically process intangible thoughts and emotions that I thought I had no control over. Over the next 2 weeks I’ll be taking it slow and steady. Join me on this 14 day journey to self love. If at any point you feel like you’ve gone too far too quickly, that’s okay. Take it back a day and repeat those actions. All you need is you.

Here’s a very brief sneak peak of what we’ll be diving into over the 2 weeks. Get on it.

If you missed the date, don’t fret! You’re still able to take part in the 14 Day Self Love Journey because there’s no better time to start than now.

You’ll get morning & evening journal prompts, a physical mindfulness exercise and more with daily reminders. If things get a little tough, take a break and repeat the tasks from the previous day. This is about you and only you. A little self love goes a long way. These tools and lessons will be with you for the rest of your life.

Did I mention it’s completely free? What have you got to lose?

Day 1: Journal

Day 2: Let light in

Day 3: Cleanse

Day 4: Soften

Day 5: Exfoliate

Day 6: Tone

Day 7: Reflect

Day 8: Nourish

Day 9: Abhyanga

Day 10: Move

Day 11: Limitless

Day 12: Renew

Day 13: Strengthen

Day 14: Honour & Celebrate

Makers Midnight Musing

Makers Midnight Musing

I put out a poll to my little Instagram community asking what they look for when they shop small; If they looked for everything handmade, big brands reselling items through small business owners or either as long as it was a small business.

Everyone that took part in the quiz picked “everything handmade”, a few said they specifically look for brands that practice sustainable and ethical methods. I took that discussion a little further and found they leaned toward handmade businesses. Why? Because handmade businesses function at a smaller scale and have a tendency to practice more sustainable or ethical methods.

Sure, there are some makers that don’t go out of their way to attain sustainable methods but the majority search for raw materials and ingredients that can be up-cycled or harvested in a more ethical manner, if they’re not able to grow or make it themselves.

I’ve only been professionally part of the world of makers for a little over a year. When I first dipped my toes in the makers community at the end of 2021 to test out the scene, I was expecting ruthless mindsets but Incube8r turned out to be a completely different world filled with supportive makers who were beyond excited to cheer any new creator on from the sidelines. Maybe I was lucky with the community I found in Incube8r and all the insanely hardworking members.

It was incredible to stumble upon this world of creators that weren’t mindlessly competing and genuinely supported you simply because they could. It seemed like every maker willing to put the work in, went a long way and continued to grow within themselves. Incube8r goes beyond supporting makers as business owners, the community supports you.

In all honesty, without Incube8r Bunny’s Formula wouldn’t be here and I couldn’t imagine what else I’d be doing. I’ll never forget the incredible way I came across the store; I moved to Prahran with my partner and walked past this gorgeous boutique two times a day that whispered to me but I was working full time so I never saw it open. Fast forward a year and I got to one of the darkest times in my life where I eventually had to quit my job. Getting out of bed was hard enough, let alone functioning at work or stringing a sentence together.

One day my partner came home with a brochure – it was from Incube8r! Supporting Melbourne artists and makers. I started painting little bits and sporadically took part in 3 exhibitions. Alongside making time for art and figuring out what I was going to do for work, I learned about Ayurveda and self care to keep myself in the present moment. Eventually a few people commented on my homemade scents and I figured I had nothing to lose, why not sell it? That was the birth of Bunny’s Formula, back then it was known as Oily Bun. Many trials, formulas and new additions later as well as mentoring sessions with Elle-May, I learned how to walk in this magical new world.

After a year of building my foundation, I bit the bullet and took part in my very first market. I was more than excited to be part of this incredible experience. It turned out to be the best way to learn the audience, biggest selling points and room for improvements. One thing I didn’t realise was the expectation I had to be surrounded by like-minded makers. A lot of stall holders were reselling from large businesses marketing their products as “eco-friendly”, “green” and “clean” using “100% organic” materials.

Within the makers community, regardless of similarities, we know our products are completely unique from branding right down to the ingredients and materials. Our stories are so different that it’s exciting to learn about another maker and how they got there. There’s huge support in lifting each other up, working together and acknowledging the work we put in. I found a lot of our products compliment each other even with similarities.

I didn’t find that level of support or understanding with the businesses that resold big brand items. Desperation filled the air as owners ran around leering into other stalls. Whispers of another stall selling the same item for a lower price a few stalls down. Peeking around the corner figuring out if you’re a friend or foe but oh, what’s this? Everything handmade? A raised eyebrow and masked amusement that a few handmade stalls were doing it all themselves. Toward the end of the day they’d check everything out to see what was similar and how they could sell it in a similar fashion.

Some of these business owners didn’t understand that no matter how much you try to fashion something similarly, there’s nothing quite like a handmade product. Even if we make the same thing, it’s always a little different because we poured our souls into every single thing we’re selling, be it art, fashion, skincare etc.

I can’t speak for everyone but I can say that every maker I met and continue to meet, learned how to survive doing what they love and put themselves in a position to follow through. Their businesses began with a will to live and make the world a better place. No matter the similarities, it’s never the same because the story behind every item is completely unique to the soul that created it.

Lighter than air deeper than skin

LIGHTER THAN AIR ⌱ DEEPER THAN SKIN

No one who is born, is free from ageing and death

In The Buddha’s Words, Edited and Introduced by Bhikkhu Bodhi

Self-care is the process of releasing toxins from the mind, body and soul to prevent the spread of illness and disease or causing destruction to ourselves and the wider community we live within. Some fashionable self-care trends can be harmful, dissolving our natural physical and mental state. Self-care allows us to accept unchangeable imperfections as part of our story and our being. Self-care doesn’t strive for perfection, it strives for improvement. Self-care helps us build a stronger foundation where our imperfections can be laid bare and sorted through as we let go of what is either out of our control or no longer required for our growth.

The beautiful chariots of kings wear out,
This body too undergoes decay.

Scent can take us to a memory, bitter or sweet, induce a world of fantasy, bring us down to earth and alleviate tensions. Olfaction can dictate our interactions with the people around us, bringing us closer to the ones we’ve been searching for and help us drift through life.

When we are stuck in a whirlwind of thoughts, distracted from our current reality or brought to a grievous moment, self-care practices like cleansing and self-massage can release physical tension, assist blood circulation and regulate our nervous system. A combination of fragrances can allow deep insight whilst uplifting our spirits and bring us back to a more pleasant state of awareness. When self-care and scent come together we are able to open ourselves up and let go of the grit we get stuck in and take a step forward even when we think we can’t see the path ahead.

One aspect of self-care is dependent on topical applications that assist cell regeneration or, to simplify, soothe and energise us from head to toe. Other aspects of self-care include sticking to a nutritious diet that suits our bodies and lifestyles, unfortunately there is no “one-size-fits-all” and no matter what fad diet or craze is out there, we still have to amend it to our bodies and lifestyle. Juice shots, like any glucose spike, gives us a rush of energy. Just because we’re using fruits and vegetables doesn’t mean we’re getting the best nutrition out of juicing. Eating salads and limiting calories just before and event before diving into carbs for the weeks after negatively impact our bodies. Our bodies like routine even if we don’t, consistency is key in any and everything we do.

We’re consistently looking for quick fixes instead of staying consistent with what we need to do for ourselves. It’s easier to jump from one thing to the next looking for imperfections that we blame on someone else or get someone else to fix instead of working through the bubble of shit that grows before it bursts.

A lot of self-care talks about sending love, light and peace, following the sweetness and getting in touch with our inner child. What we don’t often see are the darkest roads that we need to dredge through before we can truly feel the warmth and peace of the light. Routine in self-care is incredibly important because as the road gets darker and it feels like there’s no point in this because…[insert any reason that applies to you]…we need to have that routine to fall back on to remind our mind, body and soul that we’re okay, safe or at the least working toward a better, safer situation or environment.

No matter what our situations or past experiences were, as an adult we have to take responsibility for ourselves. If we constantly tell ourselves the little child within is hurt and needs love or base our actions on our inner child’s needs, we allow ourselves to act as hurt children well into adulthood. We repeat patterns, demand love, seek attention and blame others, from the past or present, for situations we put ourselves in.

Understanding and learning from the past helps us move forward but it’s easy to become attached to it, stopping us from being able to stand strong in our present moment. Once I was talking to someone about part of my past and I was advised to “know, love and forgive that little girl” which in that moment and phrasing, honestly made me detach a little because to me that “little girl” is dead. Even though I carried guilt and shame for things that happened when I was young, as I worked on myself I realised knowing, loving and forgiving who I became as an adult was what would actually help me move forward in my life.

We’re afraid of death or anything to do with facing our darkness that it’s completely normal to pay thousands to help us stop ageing or shut down at the thought of letting go of a part of ourselves, instead we hold onto it even tighter which stops us from growing. It is important to play and have fun like children do but it’s not necessary to hold onto that inner child to do so. We can play and be light as an adult, we can know that there was heaviness our child had to carry but as an adult we have the freedom to let go and have fun without destruction.

Who I became as an adult was unstable and harmful because I was obsessed with that hurt child within me and I never knew what to do with the information until it completely took over me in the form of a darkness I’m not willing to return to. It took years of reflection and tight self-care routines to get to the core of who I am now and I don’t know who I’ll blossom into within the next 5, 10 or 20 years because we are ever changing. The beauty in ageing naturally is knowing that we are, hopefully, wiser and smarter than we were before. When we delve into self-care, we ensure that we are where we’re meant to be.

There were countless times where I fell out of routine and had complete melt-downs which left me recovering for more than a week or so. As I built my foundation, the need for tight routines dissipated as it turned into habit. I wasn’t living second to second with my schedule. I became less judgmental about myself and the world I was within which opened a portal to seeing the world in a whole new light. There are still seasons where things get darker but it’s easier to spot; first comes judgement, then sleep patterns waver and moodiness starts before paranoia sets in. It used to hit me out of nowhere but with meticulous tracking of my daily activities, the weather, food and my moods, I was able to pin point when I became misaligned. When things start to get a bit awry, I know that means falling back into a tighter routine.

Tight routines, schedules and journaling is definitely not for everyone, especially at the start but you have to find a way to track your daily lifestyle and learn what your body does before it overpowers you. Quick fixes promise us so much but all they really do is mask the issue and allow us to lie to ourselves.

It is our responsibility to better ourselves before we are able to spread love and knowledge to the rest of the world. If we don’t, we put ourselves in positions where we turn a blind eye to certain discussions, thoughts or ideas and search for what we want to hear which puts us in an echo chamber that does more damage to ourselves and the world we’re in.