With a killer fan base for her facial treatments and a cult following for her hand-blended skincare line, Soveral, Portugal-born Alexandra Soveral is a bona fide arbiter of skincare — and essential oils, in particular.
As the basis for her brand, Alexandra reaches for her hand-blended face oils made from ingredients grown on her family farm. She also blends aromatherapy, natural vitamins and antioxidants into her formulations which — she’s the first to admit — is not entirely organic. Why? Because “all that is natural is not therefore safe,” she says.
Qualifying this sensational statement, Alexandra explains that there’s just not enough information — or research done — about natural preservatives, for instance, to prove that they are safe to use. And we believe her.
Having spent over 20 years caring for the faces of beauty editors, models and generally, affluent women, experience has taught her that wealth and privilege doesn’t equate to great skin. Everyone has the same problems caused by lifestyle, diet, sleep quality and unnecessary beauty procedures. Instead, Alexandra relies on a wholesome mix of good skincare products, massage techniques, getting enough rest and even a little bit of sun — as much as your skin can tolerate, of course (which means no tanning but just enough to have a bit of glow).
We find out more about her star products, the truth behind hyaluronic acid and why parabens aren’t actually that bad. You’d be surprised.
You studied aromatherapy, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, as well as the science behind organic produce. How has your knowledge and experience in these fields informed your creations and formulating process as a whole?
Having studied such subjects has a huge impact on the way in which I formulate but at the core of each formulator, there should be a moral compass that determines how one uses such knowledge. Formulators of natural cosmetics walk a fine line. Creating products that have real health benefits, have a low impact on the environment and are cost effective is a tall order; making it all too easy to deviate into the so-called natural but not-so-natural products such as ‘derived from natural something’ ingredients that then go through many processes with various synthetic substances added. Instead, to truly succeed, one needs to stay true to his/her mission statement and persevere.
Marble is a wondrous material that stays cool at room temperatures, even in the warmest climates. The Soveral Facial Stones are designed to make use of this cooling property to, together with its unique shape, contour the face to drain away toxins by activating lymph drainage.
They are wonderful to use in the morning to reduce puffiness and tone the skin, or after an invigorating oil face massage to cool and define. The stones also come with instructions on how do a lifting face massage.
What is the secret behind the success of the Angel Balm product?
The secret is simplicity and the high quality of raw ingredients. There are only six ingredients in Angel Balm, each of them offering something unique and of value to the skin’s health. When massaged deeply into the skin, thus creating heat, the pores open and the fats of the balm blend with the lipids within the pores, allowing the vitamins and active essential oils to penetrate deep within the skin. This has a regulatory effect on the sebaceous glands and feeds the skin with essential fatty acids.
Tell us about the Super Hero and what makes it so unique.
It took me a while to come up with a serum, making Super Hero the last product I created for the line. Most of the serums on the market, including the most expensive ones, are based on fractioned oils, synthetic fragrances, petroleum-derived ingredients and solvents. I believe a serum should be as pure as possible and be something that enhances the skin’s ability to regenerate, not do its work for it to the point that the skin forgets how to function by itself.
The Super Hero is a skin rescue, in the sense that it’s designed to deliver what skin needs for it to restore itself: a balanced blend of antioxidants and hydrating ingredients. It’s not too stimulating, just enough to create the best possible environment for the skin to thrive. I don’t believe in over-stimulating serums that exhaust the skin by overloading it with too many ingredients and messages. In the long run, this causes skin to become sensitive and more prone to infection or prematurely age.
What can one do to enhance the potency of essential oil blends designed to relax, de-stress and help us sleep better?
Essential oils should be used with care. Sometimes too much of a good thing has the adverse effect. For example, lavender is known to be soothing. However, when used in large quantities, it becomes a stimulant. Learning how to use essential oils in the right quantities is essential for good results.
Also, having the right frame of mind does help a great deal, such as doing breathing exercises and allowing a little time for contemplation and/or meditation; giving the body and mind a little space. A state of calmness allows for the oils to do their work in a much more profound way.
If not from a natural source, where are the hyaluronic acid ingredients we see in skincare formulations usually derived from?
I would say that almost all hyaluronic acid used in cosmetics comes from the comb of turkeys purposely bred for this end. These birds are boosted with hormones that enhance the size of their combs, from which HA is extracted on a regular basis. It has been found that many farms keep the birds in terrible conditions and overstimulate the growth of their combs to such extent that they must drag them on the floor. Of course, this is due to the incessant demand for HA for the manufacturing of dermal filler injections and topical cosmetics.
Plant-derived HA comes from the fermentation of cabbage leaves. However, this is a lengthy and costly process that cosmetic companies are not willing to suffer.
“I believe a serum should be as pure as possible, and be something that enhances the skin’s ability to regenerate, not do its work for it to the point that the skin forgets how to function by itself.”
What is your stand on phenoxyethanol as a paraben alternative?
Phenoxyethanol is the only synthetic ingredient I use in some of my formulations and at less than one per cent. There are many debates over its safety and this is mainly from those that believe a product should be 100 per cent natural.
I too, would love to have all my formulations be 100 per cent natural. However, all that is natural is not therefore safe. One must use all the information at hand to make the right decisions. From my research, phenoxyethanol has the best data records of safety.
Many natural preservatives offer nearly as good an efficacy in terms of keeping a product from contamination, yet not enough studies have been done to prove their safety on human health. The same can be said of parabens. There are many types of parabens and not all of them are the bad guys the industry claims them to be. The word “paraben” has become associated with a toxic product but in fact, there are some forms of parabens that have very low hazard levels… much lower than some natural preservatives.
By your standards, what are ‘clean cosmetics’ and what are the first three things you look out for when buying skincare items?
Avoid products with elaborate packaging and unnecessary packaging. This is a clear sign that the brand is more interested in impressing the consumer than caring for the environment.
Colouring — any products that are of a colour that does not exist naturally in nature. Clean products should not have synthetic colouring.
Perfumed products — The idea that products should smell like a perfume is possibly the most toxic factor in skincare. The only smell in a skincare product should come from its raw ingredients, including the natural essential oils in it for its health benefits.
What are the first three ingredients you recommend eliminating when embarking on a cleaner beauty regime?
Fragrance — sometimes listed as parfum.
Glycolic acid and all other solvents, including fruit acids — Products that claim to resurface the skin will eliminate the skin’s natural defences by destroying the skin’s acid mantle. The skin works hard at forming this to support its microflora and protect it from environmental damage.
Mineral oil — this comes from petroleum.
What can we do on a daily basis to diminish and care for our neck and underarm wrinkles?
Protecting our neck and decollate from harsh weather, including too much sun, and always having a silk scarf in our bag just in case we need one is a good way of always being prepared. Treating these areas with the same care as we do our face is also the best way. Daily oil massage and keeping it moisturised is also good.
What does conscious living mean to you?
Living our lives in harmony with our bodies and the environment. Thinking long-term, having our own mind, not being persuaded by quick results and accepting that ageing is part of living.
Images courtesy of Soveral