Stark Skincare – Skincare for the urban dweller

The Aurora Balm
My first experience with Stark Skincare and its founder, Jess, was at a Green Beauty Pop Up in Toronto. I remember the product I bought that day, a sample size of the Aurora Balm. I knew from the moment I opened the little black jar that I wasn’t looking at a typical skin care product. The Aurora Balm was a rich golden colour with a sweet, earthy and invigorating scent that I couldn’t compare to anything I’d ever smelled. Jess told me that the Aurora Balm is for both cleansing and moisturizing – the minimalist in me said, “I got to try this product!”At home, I first used the Aurora as an oil cleanser. The golden waterless balm is a solid but melted upon contact with my skin turning into a luxurious oil. I massaged it into my skin and it removed all my makeup including mascara. After I wiped it off with a warm face cloth, I decided that I didn’t need an additional moisturizer that night. I just let the experience sink in and went to sleep with a cleansed yet hydrated bare face.

Aurora balm’s first and main ingredient is kokkum butter (not to be confused with cocoa butter although the product contains that too!), which is obtained from the fruit of the kokkum tree, a plant in the mangosteen family that grows in parts of Western India. The butter is high in whole triglycerides and fatty acids which help restore elasticity and nourish the skin. Apart from kokkum butter and organic cocoa butter, Aurora also contains mango seed butter. Mango seed butter is rich in oleic and linoleic acids which have excellent plumping and anti-aging properties. For these, reasons Aurora will cleanse the skin without stripping it. When used as a moisturizer it can feel a bit greasy at first, but the golden oil quickly absorbs into the skin without an oily residue left behind.
The essential oils combination give the balm its beautiful, distinct scent and added benefits. Blood orange, turmeric, petitgrain and Palo Santo help regenerate cells and deeply cleanse skin from impurities. Blood orange and petitgrain have beautiful aromas, antiseptic and antioxidant properties; this applies to Turmeric as well. Turmeric is also great for acne and for reducing acne scars by lightening the skin. My favourite essential oil used in the Aurora balm is Palo Santo!

Palo Santo (aka Holy Wood) is a mystical tree that grows in South America and is related to Frankincense (which I also love) and Myrrh. It has cleansing properties similar to Sage and Cedar; its grounding and centering properties help turn on the body’s relaxation response which is perfect for removing the day off your face in the evening. Palo Santo oil has been shown to slow down the elastase enzyme which breaks down elastin in our skin as we age. This can result in a firmer and more youthful appearance, while its antioxidant rich properties stimulate the growth of new cells.

Perfect for travel!
I recently travelled with the Aurora Balm. The fact that it’s a solid allowed me to keep in my carry on, so I could use it during my flight. It helped me cut down on how many skin products I packed, and it soothed both my skin and my husband’s after we had gotten too much sun.
Of all the products I’ve tried and researched, the Aurora Balm is the most unique. A little goes a long way and because it’s waterless, you’re getting a product that’s concentrated and packed with beneficial ingredients. Keep the jar tight and your wet hands out of it. I recommend having a designated spatula that you use to dip into it.

The Eclipse Activated Cleansing Gel
Stark’s other facial cleanser couldn’t be more different than the Aurora. The Eclipse Activated Cleansing Gel is for all those die-hard gel cleanser lovers. A facial cleansing gel is a must-have product in a lot of bathrooms. It gives that squeaky-clean feeling that many of us are looking for in a cleanser and removes all makeup and dirt. However, there are so many things wrong with conventional cleansers that I don’t want to get into it. I’m going to say this: stay away from SLS, parabens and other harsh ingredients such as fragrance that come in most gel cleansers. You can have a look at this post for a nice round-up of some conventional cleansers and their ingredients.

Back to Eclipse 😊! This cleansing gel is perfect for those looking for that squeaky-clean feeling! Although it’s detoxifying and deep cleansing, it doesn’t strip skin of its natural oils. The activated coconut charcoal gives a deeper cleanse and makes this gel an exotic dark grey shade. Aloe Vera juice infused with green tea and white willow bark extracts give a mild and nourishing chemical exfoliating effect (as opposed to a physical exfoliation with beads, seeds, or grains). Licorice root brightens and evens out the complexion. The gel is light in texture and lathers slightly. You’ll need to use a face cloth to help with mascara removal; don’t forget to be gentle around the eyes! After rinsing with lukewarm water, my skin felt deeply cleansed but not dry. It’s the perfect way to remove dirt and pollution especially on those hot, humid summer days.

The scent of the Eclipse Charcoal Activated gel, just like the Aurora Balm, is like nothing I’ve ever smelled. I want to take some time an explain the natural scents of the ingredients because they make up for a huge part of our personal experience with the product. If you don’t like the smell, your experience will not be positive. Eclipse smells like cardamom! Do you know what it is? If you’ve been to Toronto’s Little India and enjoyed a cup of tea during Dawali, then you know what I’m talking about. Cardamom comes from the seeds of an aromatic Southeast Asian plant, which belongs to the ginger family. Cardamom has many benefits, but the essential oil is used in aromatherapy as an anti-depressant. It also has detoxifying and disinfecting properties and improves blood circulation in the body. The cardamom smell in the gel is powerful so make sure you love it before investing in a full size. I love the irony of using a using a black gel to remove pollution, makeup, sunscreen and dirt from my face!

One of the things I love about this Canadian skin care company is that Jess creates all the products in Stark’s minimalist line and sells them exclusively online. This helps keep costs low and give her full control over her product. Jess’ travels and past experiences give her the inspiration and vision for each one of her products. As a Canadian who has also travelled the world extensively, I appreciate how her experiences with the climates in the places she’s lived in shape her products – she designs them for the effects of the elements, pollution, and climate change on our skin and not for prescribed skin types. It’s innovative, rebellious, and oh so Canadian 😊

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