Brand Spotlight: Jordan Samuel Skin

So I’m doing something a bit different today, but I wanted to talk about a brand I’ve really been liking these days. Usually when I think about a brand I like, it’s mostly about the products, and since I have virtually no actual brand loyalty, that changes as often as my routine. But lately, I’ve settled into a kind of set routine, where I love all the products I’m currently using, and I don’t feel any need to explore for the time being. And two of those products (one of the two brands that boast two items in my routine from the same brand) come from Jordan Samuel Skin.

Jordan Samuel Skin is the labor of love of founder Jordan Pacitti, a former corps de ballet dancer with the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Now, if you’ve followed this blog for a while, though its various incarnations, you may remember that I returned to ballet at age 30 after not dancing since the age of 7. I’ve always loved ballet and part of me wonders what could have been if I’d had a more supportive teacher when I was a child. So of course, I was immediately drawn to the aesthetic of a brand developed by a ballet dancer for the challenges that a dancer faces. Incidentally, the issues of late nights, lots of makeup, and sweating under stage lights also apply to actors! I also found Jordan’s YouTube videos “Jordan Samuels Skin Talks” and found his personality engaging and fun. He just seems like such a nice guy (and he has cats, so how could that be bad?).

So I splurged and bought myself a bottle of his Etoile facial oil, a blend of luxurious plant oils with a price tag that is actually less than a lot of the blended facial oils on the market. He also doesn’t put any fragrance or essential oils in his products, which my finicky skin appreciates. From the time you receive your package, you feel the care that goes into each order. No, Jordan doesn’t personally write the note in each package, but the printed handwriting suggests a level of intimacy, like a friend just sent you a gift. The packaging is understated and elegant. The whole experience is highly Instagram-able, which I imagine is part of his strategy.

Oh, and he does social media so well. While I don’t flatter myself that Jordan himself responds to every YouTube comment and Instagram message, every comment and message does get a response. When I tag the brand on Instagram, I get a comment or a response (if it’s a Story). I even got a completely-unrelated compliment on my hair after tagging the brand in a Story! And they’re highly receptive to questions about products on Instagram messages. I feel a connection. They’re social media game is on point, which is so important, particularly when other brands can either feel disconnected or unwilling to engage constructively.

But what about the products? Well, I’ve tried two products from Jordan Samuel — the aforementioned Etoile Facial Oil, and his Hydrate Serum — and I love them both. They’re kind of like your favorite pair of ballet tights — a good pair should be almost unnoticeable, but they give your legs a smooth line and subtly lifted look to help you see your muscles work. In the same way, both of these products are go-to for one simple reason: my skin looks better when I use them than when I don’t.

The Etoile Facial Oil is a blend of plant oils with a balanced fatty acid profile. It’s a beautiful amber color from the natural unrefined oils, and it has no scent. It goes on with a noticeable slip, and I find it a bit oily for daytime use, most of the time, but it’s lovely at night. I pat on 5-7 drops every night after my hydrating steps and before my final cream layer, and I find I wake up with a refreshed glow. When the weather is warmer, I can even use Etoile as my final nighttime step. When it’s very cold outside, I’ll use 3 drops of Etoile in the morning to supplement my daytime routine, or as a protective layer before exercising outside in the cold. There’s also a version with retinol, which I’m going to try once I’ve figured this whole conception/pregnancy thing out and don’t feel conflicted about retinol.

The Hydrate Serum is just that: a fairly basic hydrating serum. It has hyaluronic acid and glycerin, some soothing plant extracts, a touch of stable vitamin C (not enough to replace a dedicated antioxidant serum), and a peptide for skin health. It has no fragrance ingredients, but it does have a light powdery-natural scent from the plant extracts. It’s a thin gel that goes on very juicy onto the skin, and absorbs without stickiness. My skin drinks this up, morning and night, and looks plump and refreshed. Again, I feel like I have a glow with this serum that I don’t notice with other, supposedly similar, products. I’m about 3/4 of the way through my first bottle and I’m definitely springing for the 4-oz. bottle when I need a refill. I like to slather. I use about a pearl-sized amount in the morning before cream and sunscreen, and a slightly larger amount in the evening before facial oil and cream.

So I’ve definitely been enjoying these two products. Given that I’ve spent the last several months paring down my routine, keeping two things from the same brand is high praise. I hope you’ll check it out. I get nothing out of it, other than appreciating that a brand I like is doing well!

NB: This is not a sponsored post.

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Quick Update: Something New

Hello! I just wanted to quickly post to let everyone know that I’ve decided to start trying out a new format. I made my first YouTube video this weekend. In it, I brew and taste a Silver Needle white tea at sunrise in my back yard. It was the first weekend of spring and the birds were chirping, even though it was cold and there was still some snow on the ground. Hopefully the weather gets a little warmer so I can continue sharing these tea sessions with you in person.

If you’d like to watch the video, here’s the link. I hope you enjoy it!

Tea Review: Adagio Teas Jasmine Phoenix Pearls

Earlier this month I had a birthday and one thing that people know I will always appreciate for my birthday is tea. Because my mother knows me very well, she got me a pack of jasmine tea because I love jasmine. I don’t tend to drink a lot of flavored teas, with the notable exception of traditional flavors — so Earl Grey, the occasional masala chai, and floral-scented green and oolong teas. And rolled jasmine green tea is a particular favorite.

Adagio Teas is probably the way I first got really into loose-leaf tea. I do remember visiting Teavana when one opened in a nearby shopping mall, but instead of buying there, I went home and opened up our newfangled internet machine to search “The ‘Web” for a way to find even more high-quality teas. I stumbled upon Adagio and first learned the joys of loose leaf tea. These Jasmine Phoenix-Dragon Pearls might have even been in my first order because I found the name romantic and lovely, and even as a teenager preferred deep floral scents to the typical light scents favored by my peers.

But since then, I’ve moved beyond the one-stop shopping experience of Adagio Teas, so they don’t often feature in my rotation when I decide what to review. So because it seems appropriate for early spring, I thought I’d add some florals to my tea reviews. You know, for spring.

The Adagio Teas Jasmine Phoenix (also called Dragon) Pearls are described as hand-rolled young tea leaves and buds, scented with jasmine. They are delicate and pretty to look at, with some variation in the color of the leaf, as well as a few white jasmine buds sprinkled in to enhance the look of the dry tea. When they steep, you can watch them unfurl into small leaves. The jasmine scent, particularly of the first infusion, is heady, and I find that it does best when it’s steeped for about a minute at first, and then as little as possible on subsequent infusions, until the strength of the tea settles down a bit.

The brewed tea, if not allowed to oversteep, is luscious and almost sweet-tasting. It smells heavily of jasmine, but also of the vegetal notes of good-quality Chinese green tea. While the first steeping will always have the strongest flavoring for any scented tea, this tea maintains a respectable jasmine punch for several steepings, although as you go on, you’ll find the qualities of the green tea coming through more and more. While Chinese green teas are not my favorite, this is a lovely example of one.

Adagio Teas is known in the tea community for being a bit overpriced for their quality, but there are a great place for someone who is new to tea to go and learn a bit about loose leaf teas before diving into sourcing teas more directly. Their website is visually pleasing and provides good information and reviews to help you choose a tea. And the fact that they offer small samples of almost all their teas is a fantastic bonus.

NB: I was not paid or encouraged to write this review. While the tea in question was a gift, it was not a gift from the company. All thoughts are my own. Read more about my sponsorship and review policies here.

Beauty Review: Products I Like More Than the Things from Deciem Brands that I Have Liked in the Past

So most of my traffic comes from a handful of posts, specifically my posts reviewing products from the brand Deciem. Unfortunately, in light of overwhelming evidence that the owner of the company is not someone I want to support, I’ve finally decided to stop patronizing the brand. But, honestly, I don’t really have any current favorites from Deciem anymore anyway, so it’s not such a hardship, so rather than just adding to the rhetoric against the brand (better writers than I have written about it), I’m going to share some of the products I’ve been using that are either replacements or even upgrades to previously-reviewed Deciem products.

Jordan Samuel Skin Hydrate Serum:

The first post on Deciem I ever wrote was a review of their Hyaluronic Acid serum. A little while after that, I wrote a post called “Battle of the Deciem Brands” where I faced off The Ordinary’s Buffet serum with Hylamide’s SubQ Anti-Age serum, which are both ultimately hydrating serums with peptides added. I came out on the side of the Hylamide serum, but I haven’t actually used either of these in over a year.  Since then, I’ve discovered one of my favorite new-to-me brands: Jordan Samuel Skin. Jordan is a joy to watch on YouTube, and an absolute doll to interact with on social media. He’s responsive, supportive, and just plain nice. AND he has a small-but-thoughtful line of products that are natural-led without neglecting science, and free of fragrance and essential oils. I’ve been using his Hydrate serum, which is a hydrating serum with peptides and a bit of stable vitamin C, for over three weeks now and I’m reasonably certain I can give it credit for how amazing my skin looks lately.

Heritage Store Lavender Water and Glycerin Mist:

Another product I reviewed positively from Deciem is their Hylamide Hydra-Density Mist, which is hydrating and soothing, but is ultimately a hydration step. Since then, I’ve stopped spending money on in-between steps meant to either hydrate or seal in hydration. So instead of buying expensive watery toners or mists, I go between steps with several sprays of Heritage Store Lavender Water and Glycerin. It has water and glycerin to grab hydration, and a light lavender scent. They also make a rose version. If you absolutely cannot handle scent of any kind, this isn’t for you, but my fragrance-sensitive skin loves it and it’s cheap at my local natural foods store.

Stratia Liquid Gold:

This isn’t a straight replacement, but that first Deciem review also included a review of The Ordinary’s Niacinamide serum. I’ve since stopped focusing much on niacinamide as a mainstay of my routine, but the 4% niacinamide in my favorite midweight moisturizer is plenty to keep my skin happy. As a bonus, the Liquid Gold also has ceramides and some lovely plant oils. And Alli is just so sweet a person. She also has a small but thoughtful line of products that are firmly science-led, and is highly responsive on Instagram.

COSRX Triple C Lightening Liquid:

Another of my early reviews was the Hylamide C25 Booster vitamin C serum. I liked that it was easy to use, cosmetically elegant, and seemed to give my skin a nice glow while still being shelf-stable and free of worries about oxidation. Well, I’ve done some research and there’s not a whole lot of evidence that ethyl-ascorbic acid is as effective as l-ascorbic acid, so I started investigating L-AA serums. I settled on the COSRX collaboration with Charlotte Cho of Soko Glam. This serum is a 20.5% L-AA serum with black chokeberry to help prevent oxidation. I do keep mine in the fridge and check the color regularly, but after two to three months of use, I haven’t seen it turn more than a pale champagne color. And it feels like water on the face. It is acidic, so there is a slight sting if you apply it on broken skin (i.e., a spot that might have mysteriously popped while you were doing your routine), but other than that, it’s benign and just serves to keep my old hyperpigmentation fading and my skin bright. I’ve actually done a full review here.

Innersense Beauty Hydrating Hairbath:

I’ve spoken in the past about my hair care routine and how some of my favorite products were the Hair is Fabric foaming conditioners. They’re basically an upgraded version of conditioning shampoo. Well, although I liked the way they made my hair feel, they all have unbearably strong scents, even after a supposed reformulation a while back. So I started experimenting with hair care again. And I landed on a winner: Innersense Beauty. I’ve started using their Hydrating Hair Bath during the week in a similar way to the HIF cleansing conditioners — as a moisturizing one-step cleanse in the shower, with a leave-in conditioner for extra nourishment. I also use their Hydrating Cream Conditioner as a deep conditioner once a week after a more clarifying shampoo, and I love their Sweet Spirit Leave-In Conditioner and Quiet Calm Curl Control Creme as leave-in treatments. The scents are all natural and the perfect balance of a pleasant shower experience without a lasting cloud of scent on my person. Also, they sell minis so you can try the products without a huge initial financial outlay!

Bonus: Stratia Soft Touch AHA:

Just before the most recent stuff hit the most recent fan for Deciem, I was testing The Ordinary’s 10% Lactic Acid serum as my thrice weekly chemical exfoliant. It’s cheaper than my previous serum and a similar potency. When I decided I definitely needed to try to move away from Deciem, I brought out a bottle of Stratia Soft Touch AHA 10% mandelic acid gel that I had (probably unfairly) tested and abandoned around the time I was recovering from my miscarriage. As I love the Stratia brand and I wanted to give it a fair shake AND I didn’t want to buy a new product after developing uncomfortable feelings about my remaining half-bottle of The Ordinary LA, I decided to try it again. And I’m so glad I did. It does the same job of keeping clogs at bay on my chin, it’s a similar price point to The Ordinary (it’s 2/3 more product), and it’s in an airless pump instead of a fiddly dropper. If you’re looking for an inexpensive, gentle AHA, give it a try.

NB: I was not paid to review any of the products mentioned here and purchased all of them at full price with my own money. See more about my policy around accepting products for review here.

Tea Review: Brief Reviews of Everything Made by Pique Tea (plus a bonus recipe!)

NB: I purchased everything reviewed here for full price with my own money directly from Pique Tea. Pique Tea did offer me a discount code after my initial post on Instagram about their Jasmine tea, but I had already ordered all of this and didn’t use it.

Pique Tea is an interesting company. They claim their product has the same health benefits as high-quality, brewed loose-leaf tea, but in a powdered product. I first saw them at a local herb store and was intrigued. I figured if it wasn’t terrible, it would be a great way to take tea to conferences without having to worry about bags and steeping times and water temperature. When I tried the flavor I first got (Jasmine), I was so impressed, I decided to buy everything and review it all in one go.

Since I love Tracy’s mega-review of Glossier over at Fanserviced-B, I thought I’d do my review in a similar style. I should probably give a little info about my likes and dislikes and how I do tea. First of all, I love the ritual of tea, so something like this is never going to fully replace my tea leaves. But two things have come up for me recently. First of all, I travel semi-regularly and never know what the situation is going to be in terms of tea availability at conferences. Since I’m supposed to be a representative of my organization, I strive not to appear too eccentric or high-maintenance when I travel, which means that loose-leaf tea is pretty much out. I’m stuck with tea bags, and I have to worry that I’ll get caught up in a conversation and forget how long I’ve steeped my tea. These tea crystals definitely work great for travel, and I even convinced a researcher at a recent conference to try them for her field expeditions!

Second is that my husband and I have been trying to have a baby, and one of the things to worry about is caffeine intake. Because most of the information about caffeine in tea out there is pretty much wrong, and it varies so much due to factors such as brewing parameters, using a product like Pique helps me get a better handle on how much caffeine I’m consuming. They not only test their products and post the caffeine range on each product’s page, they also report numbers that I find believable and not just taken from old estimates of caffeine in general tea types. For example, they report that their Jasmine Green Tea has a higher level of caffeine than their Earl Grey Black Tea, which goes contrary to the conventional thought that green tea has less caffeine than black tea, but is more in line with more accurate research that suggests that processing doesn’t affect caffeine levels as much as previously thought.

But how do they taste? I tested all of the flavors I received, using Pique’s preparation guidelines, and then tweaking it for myself, and I’ve come to a ranking of the Good, the Okay, and the Not-so-Good. Are these going to have the same delicate nuance as a session with a high-grade loose-leaf, carefully selected, and brewed precisely in the perfect teaware for the leaf? No. Do they offer oolong tea? No (darn). But compared to the kinds of mid-range teas you can get from companies like Teavana, Adagio, and Rishi Tea, they hold their own. Here are the details:

The Good:

Jasmine Green Tea: This was the first one I tried and I was impressed. This tastes exactly like a brewed cup of Rishi Tea full-leaf Jasmine Green Tea. Plus, I just love jasmine tea.

Sencha Green Tea: This has that classic Japanese restaurant tea taste. It doesn’t have the ocean notes of really good sencha tea, but it’s a solid Japanese green tea.

Mint Sencha Green Tea: This brings back memories of Teavana Moroccan Mint tea. I like it in the afternoons after a snack or right after lunch to cleanse my palate and keep me from snacking more.

Peach Ginger Black Tea: This is a weird choice for me to like, but it tastes like exactly what I wish Republic of Tea’s Peach Ginger Black Tea tasted like. A great ginger kick, subtly peachy, but not cloying. I haven’t tried this iced, but I imagine it will be great that way, too.

The Okay:

English Breakfast Black Tea: I find the other two Pique black teas to be a bit harsh drunk plain. So this is just okay, but it really makes a fantastic morning cuppa with a splash of milk and a spoonful of sugar or honey. I actually drink a sweet milky cup of this before going to the gym in the early morning.

Earl Grey Black Tea: Again, too harsh on its own, but it has some really interesting honey notes to it, if you can get past the bitterness. But it does make a really amazing Earl Grey Latte (recipe at the end of this post!)

Passion Fruit Green Tea: It isn’t really this tea’s fault that I don’t think it’s great. I really don’t prefer nontraditional fruity teas. But it’s a great representation of a not-too-cloying fruity green tea. Again, probably would be great iced.

The Pique Cup: I couldn’t call this great because, well, it’s just a cup. But it’s attractive, has a sort of millennial-minimalist flair, and the double-walled construction does a great job of insulating your hands from the hot beverage. It’s not my style, but if you’re into it, it’s sturdy but not clunky and holds the perfect cup of tea.

The Bad:

Hibiscus Mint Herbal Tea: I hate stevia. I hate all non-nutritive sweeteners, so I don’t really single out stevia. But stevia has crept into “healthy” foods and beverages and to my taste, has ruined them. And it’s a shame, because once my taste buds started saturating a little to the stevia taste, I could detect some really nice tart and herbal notes in this tea. But I haven’t had more than my first cup because I really hate stevia. If they ever decided to try a non-sweetened version of this, I’d be first in line to try it again.

So there are my thoughts. Most of the teas are not bad and worth buying again. I know I’ll almost certainly buy the three non-fruity green teas again, and possibly the English Breakfast, for the ease of my pre-gym cuppa (seriously, I go from bed to car in 15 minutes when I’m going to the gym, so five minutes to steep a cup of tea counts). And now, as promised, my recipe for a Lavender Honey Earl Grey Tea Latte:

Ingredients:

1 packet of Pique Earl Grey Black Tea
1 cup of milk (I used full-fat goat’s milk)
1 tsp. dried lavender buds
1-2 tsp. honey (to taste)

Add the packet of Earl Grey tea crystals to your cup. Add the lavender, honey, and milk to a small saucepan and put over medium-low heat. Heat over the course of 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the honey has dissolved and it reaches at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit (no more than 180 degrees). Strain into the cup with the tea crystals, making sure your strainer does not touch the surface of the liquid in the cup. Froth with an electric hand frother for a few seconds, until a little foam forms. Drink as soon as it’s cooled off enough.