Q & A With Organic Beauty Expert Daniela Pelonara, Founder Of Native Essentials: How To Choose Sunscreen & Anti-Pollution Skincare
We are huge fans of Native Essentials, a full range luxury personal care line handcrafted right here in Hong Kong, all of whose products are made with organic essential oils that the founder extracts from plants herself. Daniela Pelonara is her brand’s best advertisement- she has the skin of a child: smooth, glowing and completely unlined. We talk to her about skincare, pollution’s side effects and how to choose the best sunscreen.
What is your daily skincare routine?
This might be surprising, but my routine is pretty basic. In the morning, I wash my face with cold water and I apply a thin layer of one of my light moisturizers all over my face and neck, as well as a light lip balm – I always have lip balm on, your lips need the protection more than you think. If there any blemishes to deal with, I apply Native Essentials SOS Spots.
In the evening before bedtime, I use my cleansing milk if I have to remove any make up (though I don’t really use foundation), I then wash again just with cold water and religiously apply a few drops of a blended face oil. I rotate what I use but my must have ingredients are Rosehip oil, Sea Bukthorn oil, Rose Absolute, Frankincense essential oil, Sandalwood essential oil and Jasmine essential oil.
I exfoliate my face and lips once a week. For my body, I use all natural handmade soaps and Native Essentials shower gel. I do a full body scrub a couple of times a month. I use organic almond oil as moisturizer in the summer and a gentle body lotion in the winter. I wash my hair every day with my lavender shampoo, use a pea size of my Argan conditioner and two times a month I apply organic Argan oil on my scalp as a mask.
Hong Kong has such high levels of air pollution. What does that mean for our skin?
Pollution does not just affect us internally, it disrupts our regular sebum production cycle, which negatively impacts our skin, scalp included. Pollution dust will sit on the top of our skin’s pores, making it difficult for the sebum-our body’s own antiseptic skin protection barrier + natural moisturizer- to do its job. This causes our skin to feel overly dry. To get rid of the dirt, we tend to use harsh face washes. To banish dryness and dullness, we then over-use rich skin products. All of this results in our skin producing even less sebum, which ends up accelerating the aging process- exactly what we don’t want to happen.
For those with blemished skin, pollution can make it much worse unfortunately as the extra dust particles lock in the bacteria that cause acne. For people with sensitive skin, or those who suffer from food allergies, exposure to pollution can mean a higher incidence of mild dermatitis or mild eczema.
How can we protect ourselves?
My recommendation is to resist the temptation of use harsh face washes and overly nourishing/moisturizing products and especially, refrain from applying too much of them. Your skin doesn’t always need so much of everything. During the day, avoid using foundations/skincare/haircare that contain silicones (all the ingredients on the label ending in -one), mineral oils, petrolatum derivates, wax (we prefer natural butters like shea butter). All of these are nasty disruptors of the natural sebum production cycle. Also, always use a sunscreen!
When choosing a sunscreen/primer with SPF, look for those without nano Zinc Oxide i.e. 10% of the primary particle size must be within the 1- 100nm range. In the US/Korea/Asia, the regulations are not as strict so I suggest to look into European/Australia/NZ brands.
Why do organic ingredients matter when it comes to skincare?
Our skin is our largest organ. If we care about eating organic food, why shouldn’t we care about using organic products on our skin? It’s all part of the same system. As a caveat, I will say that non certified organic pure and natural ingredients that have been tested properly to show that they are 100% unadulterated may have much of the same value and properties than their certified organic counterparts.
Your products are made with essential oils. Should different skin types be using different essential oils?
Absolutely- essential oils are very powerful substances and choosing the right oil(s) is very important. This is what I suggest based on your skin type:
- For Oily Skin: go with Cedarwood, Ylang Ylang in moderation, Rosemary Verbenone and Patchouli blended with a small amount of a fatty oil* and a fair bit of aloe vera.
- For Dry Skin: a combination of fatty oils like Rosehip blended with Sandalwood, Geranium, Palmarosa, Lavender and Roman Chamomile.
- For Anti-Aging Skincare: Rose (the queen of anti-aging oils), Frankincense, Sandalwood, Immortelle, Neroli, Myrrh, Patchouli and a combination of fatty oils like Rosehip oil. Note: anti-aging oils tend to be the most expensive of all the essential oils…go figure!
*In a nut shell essential oils do not contain fat, you distill them to get a very volatile concentrate of chemicals but not fatty acids. Someone started calling them oils centuries ago but in reality they are more like extracts. Fatty oils, also known as carrier oils, are obtained by cold pressing the kernels and the flesh of various ingredients like olive, almond, rice bran, coconut, rosehip. They are ‘greasy’ as they contain long chains of fatty acids and vitamins. Their chemical composition is very different from essential oils. Fatty oils are an important base as they ‘carry’ the essential oil onto your skin. Most essential oils are too strong to be applied directly onto your skin.
What are some of your can’t-live-without beauty products/brands (other than Native Essentials)?
I favour natural handmade (hard) soap and natural toothpaste from New Zealand – I make everything else myself.
What summer beauty advice do you have for the upcoming hot months?
Choose your sunscreen wisely (see above re: nano particles), protect your skin with sunscreen not higher than 30 SPF 30, and reapply every 2-3 hours- yes, this requires discipline but it is absolutely necessary to fight aging. With SPF’s above 30, the zinc oxide levels get too high- industry standards require that levels be over 30% for SPF above 30- and my view is that is not good for the skin. With SPF 30, the ratio stays at 1:3. The European Union deems this to be the safest limit for nano particles in sunscreen regulation. In the US, there are no such regulations.
I use Native Essentials sunscreen most of the time but in a pinch, I buy organic brands. I like Australian brand Oasis Sun and Biobi, from Italy, though they are not readily available in Hong Kong. It’s a real struggle to find a good natural sunscreen here (in Hong Kong), which is why I created my own.
Don’t over do with coconut oil for non-Asian skin types, and if you have any redness, use aloe vera, chamomile and lavender based products. Do not use anti-perspirant deodorant as they overtax your lymphatic system. If you need all day coverage, choose natural deodorants that contain tea tree oils.
What are your favorite eco spas to get pampered in Hong Kong?
Truly eco-friendly or organic spas are hard to find in Hong Kong as they need to offer traditional non-natural treatments in order to keep business going. That being said, I really like Sparadise for face treatments. For body treatments, I have a professional masseur come to my home and use my own oil blends.
Native Essentials bespoke products are 100% plant-based, formulated by professional aromatologists and made with premium botanicals. They offer over 150 plant oils, handmade organic skincare, blends of essential oils for mood and sleep improvement, massage oils and safe botanical pregnancy products. They formulate and supply products to spas, hair salons, and professionals across Asia.