At Ascend we want to ensure you reach for your Caffeine + CBD Brightening Serum to use each morning or throughout the day depending on your routine. I would suggest using this powerful serum in your morning routine. The potent caffeine smell helps you wake up and gets you ready for the day ahead.  

It should be your go to morning serum. For reasons including Ascend’s ethos and mission of having luxury, high quality, vegan and cruelty free skincare. All of which is completely transparent. Head to our transparency page to see all the vital information some brands fail to provide. Our customers can rest easy knowing every detail about each product and use our skincare ingredients checker. Enabling learning about why we use certain ingredients on our skin. We tell you wide range of benefits from each complementary ingredient. 

If you are looking for a natural, eco-conscious and vegan skincare brand, look no further. This year we have won first place in the Free From Skincare Awards. We achieved the Gold standard in skincare for our Caffeine + CBD Brightening Serum.  

Our holistic and gentle formula contains plant derived caffeine which visibly tightens skin and reduces the signs of fatigue. The perfect morning pick me up. 

Fragrance Free, Vegan Caffeine Serum

What is fragrance free skincare?

The term ‘Fragrance Free’ is thrown around in the skincare and beauty world. Although it can be a bit confusing, because fragrance free to some people would mean unscented. These are two very different things. Our product is fragrance free but certainly not unscented. We have the invigorating aroma of arabica coffee coming through in our formula.  

In skincare the term ‘fragrance’ is not about scent in general, it is about synthetic scents. At Ascend Elevated Skincare we pride ourselves on not having synthetic fragrances in our ethical and eco-friendly products.  

Synthetic, fragrance free skincare is said to be better for your skin and of course the environment. Our Caffeine + CBD Brightening Serum being fragrance free means it is gentle and suitable for those with the most sensitive skin or reactive skin types. Artificial fragrances which are added to a lot of skincare tend to be irritants. They can cause allergies, rashes or even contact dermatitis. 

A goal of our vegan and cruelty free skincare is to make your skin both look and feel better. Providing you with a confidence boost and peace of mind you aren’t damaging your skin or the environment. We want our products to remain as natural as they can be. To Avoid any issues arising on your skin such as spots, redness or sore dry areas.  

Our Caffeine Serum could be the perfect choice for you. It ensure sensitive skin is catered for in a nurturing manner. Our fragrance free serum will help combat skin concerns that artificial fragrance containing products may exacerbate. If you have any skin concerns contact us and our formulator will be happy to recommend a product for you. Browse our key Ingredients Page and find out what each of our hand picked ingredients adds to the formula of our award winning serums. 

Coffee Beans for caffeine serum

When to use our Caffeine + CBD Brightening Serum

Ascend’s Caffeine + CBD Brightening Serum can be used in any skincare routine. From your morning routine to your nighttime skincare routine.  Why not use it in the middle of the day as a pick me up for your skin. Although personally I would suggest adding it into your morning skincare routine.  

My morning routine: face wash and cleanse before heading to apply my trusty moisturiser. Once my moisturiser has dried into my skin a little I apply the serum letting it get to work hydrating my thirsty skin.  

How to apply serums to your face and neck

How to apply your serum and how to layer skincare can be quite daunting when there are countless products on the market. Each product with varying steps and routines to follow. Here is how we at Ascend Elevated Skincare would advise you to use our serums. All three of our potent botanical serums are designed and formulated to be the last step in any skincare routine. This aids the locking in of moisture from your entire routine start to Ascend serum finish.  

We suggest you apply between 3-5 drops of product onto your fingertips. Start by rubbing your fingertips together and beginning to apply our serum in a circular motion. Begin at the neck and move upwards onto the face. Gently massaging the oil into your skin by hand with clean washed hands. Once the product is applied try spreading the serum further by massaging with a jade roller or gua sha stone.  

A little hygiene tip from us at Ascend is when applying the product make sure to put it onto your fingertips instead of straight from the pipette onto your skin. The use of your fingers is more hygienic especially if you are sharing the use of the bottle. Although if it is just you enjoying the luxury of our serum it is best to apply onto your fingers first. This avoids the pipette coming into contact with any bacteria on your skin’s surface and then being put back into the bottle.  

Award winning free from caffeine serum

The benefits of using a gua sha stone

Using your hands to massage our serum into your skin is a brilliant option. Although using a gua sha stone to really massage the serum into your skin can be beneficial for a few different reasons.  

It can aid in improving fine lines and wrinkles. Of course this is not a long term fix but using it daily with our serums especially our collagen boosting Phyto-Retinol + CBD Night Serum can aid in the temporary reduction of fine lines.  

Gua sha stones when used correctly with our serum stimulates the skin helping to promote blood circulation, aiding skins overall health and plumpness.   

Fluid can build up in your face and neck creating swollen looking areas or puffiness on the skin particularly under the eyes and your chin or neck. The use of the gua sha stone being pushed and pulled to stimulate the skin can actually promote lymphatic drainage. The stone will help to eliminate the fluid build up, and hopefully decrease the swollen areas making them appear less puffy and look brighter.  

A gua sha stone used daily in conjunction with our Caffeine + CBD  Brightening Serum could be fabulous for your skin, wellbeing and boosting your skin confidence.  

Gua she stone with fragrance free serum.

What to do next?

This blog has been primarily about our Caffeine + CBD Brightening Serum and how this vegan, cruelty free and fragrance free skincare should be your go to pick me up each morning. If you want further information on our products and how they have been perceived by our Elevated Skincare Community check out our reviews online. We also share reviews on our social media channels, where you can see real people’s opinions about how this serum has helped with fine lines and wrinkles, brightening skin, reducing pigmentation and more. 

Stay up to date with our blogs and why not  join our online community by subscribing to email updates. Our emails will be about skincare, new releases, offers and much more. If you would like to ask a question for the team to answer in the Beauty Hacks Series of blogs feel free to email us or direct message on social media. We will try our best to answer your queries and questions through our informative blog series or Instagram Lives.  

If you are interested in CBD in general or building a skincare/ beauty range with CBD another informative site with great blogs is Cannafull.

Why choose our Phyto-Retinol + CBD Night Serum. 

Our Phyto-Retinol + CBD Night Serum should be your first choice product to use nightly. For many reasons including the aspects already discussed such as the vegan formula and cruelty free manufacturing and production process. 

Our products are made and formulated in Scotland with responsibly sourced ingredients. We have a high-end, luxury product that doesn’t sacrifice the environment and our brand mission. We enable you to have skincare that rebalances, regenerates and rejuvenates your skin. They do not contain additives and artificial things like mineral oils, parabens, silicones and artificial fragrances. 

The fact we have all natural ingredients means that our products are suitable for all skin types. We want everyone to join us on their own elevated skincare journey. 

What is phyto-retinol?

Our night serum contains phyto-retinol which is a natural plant-based source of retinol, proven to be just as effective. Plant-based phyto-retinol is better for those with sensitive skin. Many of you will know over the counter retinol products can be strong and some have been known to cause irritation, severe dryness, peeling and even redness of the skin. 

Other products containing ‘normal’ retinol may cause users to have mild or no symptoms. Although people who do have irritation often assume some peeling or redness could indicate the product is working. Effectively promoting your under performing skin cells to die and allow the body to start new cell growth. This boosts collagen production and reducing wrinkles development. I would prefer to achieve these results without causing my skin pain, discomfort or irritation in the process. 

Our vegan product will allow you to receive the skin benefits of retinol such as boosting collagen production, aiding in wrinkle reduction and more youthful plump looking skin, without the horrible irritations. Just another added bonus of buying a luxury, vegan and formula focused product from an indie skincare business offering you full transparency such as Ascend Elevated Skincare

If you are looking for a natural product which soothes skin, acts as an anti-inflammatory, increases skin brightness, increases skin elasticity and helps to improve skin texture all whilst boosting collagen production overnight, then our Phyto-Retinol + CBD Night Serum will make the perfect addition to your skincare routine each evening. 

Should I use face serum before or after moisturiser?

This is a very commonly asked question. In some beauty routines people will be advised to use their serum and wait 1-5 minutes before applying your moisturiser as the last step in the routine. 

This is different for us at Ascend Elevated Skincare. Our range of serums are designed to be the very last step in your skincare routine. We advise you to go through your skincare routine; cleansing, toning and moisturising. The optimum time to apply is in the evening at the end of this routine letting our Phyto Retinol + CBD Night Serum Concentrate thus allowing it to work it’s magic overnight. 

We suggest applying 3-5 drops onto your fingertips, and gently applying onto your face and neck. Begin by applying it to the neck working in a circular motion upwards. Then move onto the face again in an upwards motion. Enjoy this time gently massaging the serum into your skin. Be sure to embrace the relaxing scents of chamomile essential oil and rosehip extract. After your small pamper session, you can rest easy knowing your skin is being boosted and regenerated overnight.

How can I get the most from one night serum?

Our night serum can be used in various ways other than the last step in your daily skincare routine. 

Whilst applying the serum to your face you may have some left over residue on your hand or finger tips. This is your perfect chance to give yourself a little extra TLC. Try a small nail cuticle treatment, rubbing some oil into the cuticle/ skin aiding the health of your nails, cuticles and skin softness.

On occasion I have also used the extra oil serum left over on my hands to rub onto the ends of my washed hair. It also works a treat on my dry hair at the split ends or frizzy areas. I am careful to only use the very last residue on my hands to give my hair the boost of moisture it needs without adding too much product. 

If anyone has any other uses for our natural serum we would love to hear them. Feel free to let us know and we can share the use with our Elevated Skincare community. 

Stay up to date with our blogs and why not join our online community by subscribing to email updates about skincare, new releases, offers and much more.

The skincare and cosmetics industry is saturated with vast amounts of products. Each making your decisions as a consumer very difficult. With the recent boom in adding CBD products or ranges into the equation like so many brands have done, we can only imagine the added confusion. Wondering: Which product is right for me? Why do CBD infused products vary in price so much? And Why choose vegan and cruelty free skincare when it is more expensive? 

If you want to know the answer to these questions and many more interesting insights into CBD, skincare beauty hacks and our Ascend Elevated Skincare journey subscribe and join our online community of like minded individuals.  

Adding Vegan Skincare Into Your Cosmetic Routine.

In this day and age many of us are extremely conscious of what we are putting into our body. Whether it is vitamins or food. Staying in the know of new nutritional fads and ways of life has become a daily thing for many of us. Seeing adverts, blogs and social media posts on a variety of lifestyle changes you can make easily according to influencers and brands. The fads are fleeting. Veganism and turning to a plant-based diet is very much a way of life not a fad. Wanting to improve your health and environmental impact is brilliant and it doesn’t have to stop with your dietary choices. Skincare and beauty that is plant-based can be found. 

What we put onto our body and skin is just as important as what we consume. This is where our vegan skincare comes into the mix. Helping you feel good on the outside and boost your confidence in your skin. 

Making vegan and cruelty free skincare doesn’t mean we compromise on our products quality. We work hard to inspire and educate our customers about our sustainable ethos, ethics and use of fully plant-derived ingredients.

M Stewart – Digital Marketing Coordinator at Ascend

Adding Cruelty-free Skincare Into Your Cosmetic Routine.

The aspect of making a cruelty free skincare product range was extremely important to us at Ascend. Products are not tested on animals at any point along the chain from the development, manufacturing and supply aspects. 

Our products are vegan and cruelty free but this doesn’t mean it is any less luxury or a stereotypical bohemian vegan brand. We have developed a high-end, aesthetically pleasing and functional product. Brightening your skin with our Caffeine + CBD Brightening Oil Serum or boost collagen production with our Phyto-Retinol + CBD Night Serum Concentrate. We are proud of our serums and as a consumer you should be too. Our aesthetic packaging means you will be proud to display our products in your bathroom to add luxury and ambience.   

What Is Sustainable Skincare? 

A big mystery and unanswered question many consumers are asking is; What is sustainable skincare? We are bombarded with this phrase ‘sustainable skincare’. Firstly what is that and how can brands be sustainable in this industry? 

It is fair to say in this industry that ‘greenwashing’ is commonplace. most importantly in no way are we stating every brand is ‘greenwashing’. Those companies who do this bombard consumers with the words sustainable and ethical but without actually practising what they preach. 

This is where as consumers and brands we need to really be placing a focus on brand transparency. At Ascend Skincare we are extremely conscious of how our valued consumers and browsers need to feel. We aim to be approachable, showing behind the scenes. Ascend have a transparency page on our website and are more than happy to receive emails with questions. We answer to put your minds at ease about our products and Scottish based in-house formulating and manufacturing. 

All three ascend products on an aesthetic mirrored background
Trio of award winning Ascend Elevated Skincare Serums, available to shop now!

In conclusion stay up to date with our blogs and join our online community by subscribing to email updates about skincare, new releases, offers and much more. If you would like to ask a question for the team to answer in the Beauty Hacks Series of blogs feel free to email us. In addition you can direct message on social media and we will try our best to answer your queries and questions through our informative blog series. 

It’s likely you’ve heard of antioxidants and the fact that they’re good for you, either in a skincare context or more widely when speaking about diet and healthy foods. Certain superfoods will be touted as being high in antioxidants, and therefore the next best thing to put on your porridge to fight off disease and keep your body in peak condition.

We often see in the skincare industry a crossover between dietary advice and popular skincare ingredients. We see this for example with Vitamin C, which we know to take as a supplement to help fight off illness, and also in skincare as a potent antioxidant and brightening agent. Skincare products constantly feature superfood extracts and ingredients that would look just at home in a smoothie bowl as in your face mask.

What is oxidation?

You’d be mistaken for thinking that oxidation has something to do with oxygen, but that’s not strictly speaking true. You might have heard the term in everyday circumstances, such as when dealing with rust.

Oxidation is a chemical reaction that occurs, where an atom loses an electron. In chemistry, more often than not, atoms and molecules exist in their most stable form. Removing an electron from an atom makes it unstable, and more likely to break down. Rust is a really visible example of this – iron atoms react with water and oxygen in the atmosphere and oxidise, forming rust.

Iron, which is normally an incredibly strong and sturdy material, can be crumbled with bare hands in severe cases of oxidation.

What are free radicals?

In chemistry, a free radical is the name given to an atom with an unpaired valence electron. What on earth does that mean?

We know that atoms and molecules will (generally speaking) appear in their most stable form. A stable form involves the electrons in these atoms being paired up. If all the electrons in an atom are paired up, the atom is incredibly stable. Where some electrons are unpaired, this makes atoms want to come together, make pairs of all electrons and form molecules that are stable. Free radicals in particular will rob a stable atom of electrons, destabilising it and contributing to a host of illnesses.

Our body is constantly fighting against free radicals, as they are everywhere! As well as being produced by external factors such as smoking, drinking alcohol and eating fried foods, free radicals are also a natural waste product of our own metabolism. In small quantities, free radicals are actually essential to our basic biological functions, such as producing energy and maintaining a healthy immune system. However, when they build up, they start to cause some serious harm to our cells.

How can we prevent free radical damage?

Free radical damage has been linked to a whole range of diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Particularly, oxidative stress caused by free radicals is largely responsible for premature ageing. Now thankfully, our skin doesn’t rust in the same way that iron does! This oxidation is visible on our skin through premature fine lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and loss of tonicity, but also goes undetected in the body as your internal processes perhaps don’t work as efficiently as they could!

Antioxidants are our best weapon in fighting off free radical damage. Antioxidants are able to neutralise free radicals by donating spare electrons to the scavengers, making sure they don’t go after our healthy cells. Antioxidants will have a generous amount of electrons to donate and are not at risk of turning into free radicals themselves.

As well as this preventative action, antioxidants are involved in the processes that the body undergoes to repair the damages caused by free radical damage.

In your skincare, topically applied antioxidants seek to neutralise free radicals in a more localised manner and prevent the attack on our skin’s cellular structure. A variety of antioxidants have been proven to be effective in preventing photoaging, for example1.


CBD is actually 30% - 50% more potent than Vitamin E or Vitamin C

Vitamin C and Vitamin E are well-known and well-researched antioxidants, but CBD is actually a far more potent antioxidant, with the added benefits of being a 100% plant-based, low processed ingredient. CBD is actually 30% – 50% more potent than α-tocopherol (Vitamin E) or Vitamin C2.

Many other plant extracts are also rich in antioxidants, such as pomegranate seed oil, which boasts a wide profile of different antioxidants such as polyphenols, Ellagic acid and Punicic acid.

At Ascend Skincare, we also know that skin health is a full-body affair and primarily starts with what we put in our body.

We spoke to Registered Associate Nutritionist Jessica Paradine to help point us in the right direction when it comes to filling up on antioxidants. “Making sure you’ve got antioxidants in every meal is a fail-safe way to have a varied and nutritious diet; my favourite sources of antioxidants are kale, spinach, raspberries and goji berries”, Jessica tells us. However, she’s quite adamant that there is no one specific superfood that will outweigh the others when it comes to antioxidants. “Rather than focusing on specific foods, my top tip is to focus on eating a variety of plant foods. Not only do you get the protective effects of the antioxidants, but you’ll also notice clear, youthful-looking skin, increased energy and overall health improvements.”


      1Addor F. (2017). Antioxidants in dermatology. Anais brasileiros de dermatologia92(3), 356–362.

         2Atalay, S., Jarocka-Karpowicz, I., & Skrzydlewska, E. (2019). Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland)9(1), 21.

If you’ve been interested in skincare for longer than 5 minutes, chances are you’ll have heard of vitamin C. As a cosmetic ingredient, it stands firmly in the hall of fame alongside retinol, hyaluronic acid, AHA’s and salicylic acid. It is recommended by almost every skincare guru and beauty influencer around.

CBD, on the other hand, is somewhat struggling to wriggle its way out of the gimmick shell. Originally emerging on to the skincare scene as a trendy new extract from – gasp! – cannabis (what would our mothers think?!), CBD has managed to forge its place as a valid, valuable skincare ingredient. It’s proven itself. It’s worked hard to get to where it is today despite scepticism and misinformation. Despite it having notable and scientifically backed skincare properties, many big industry names still roll their eyes at CBD as if it were a fad ingredient.

But why compare the two at all?

There is a considerable amount of overlap between the benefits of Vitamin C and CBD in skincare.

To fully understand these overlaps and make a comparison, it’s important to understand exactly what these ingredients are. “Vitamin C” is a blanket term for a wide variety of chemical compounds that contain or are derivatives of ascorbic acid. Your ingredients list could contain magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate, ascorbyl palmitate, sodium ascobyl phosphate or ascorbic acid, and all of these compounds will be called “vitamin c”. Some of these compounds are mineral salts or fat-soluble derivatives, and they’re all Vitamin C.

Once of the reasons why vitamin C is so popular in skincare is due to its association with health. If you’re feeling under the weather, vitamin C supplements are recommended to help fight off colds and boost the immune system. We’re encouraged to eat oranges, cherries and bell peppers due to their high vitamin C content. There’s an entire disease named after a lack of vitamin C – scurvy – for which the name is derived from ascorbic acid.

Due to this associating with fruits, vegetables and overall health, vitamin C is considered a “natural” skincare ingredient. If it’s in my glass of orange juice, it must be natural! However, it is important to know that whereas ascorbic acid does naturally occur in nature, the isolated chemical structures used in skincare are synthesized in a lab, often from GMO corn.

There are of course many fruit and vegetable extracts that are naturally high in vitamin C, but squeezing enough of them into a skincare product with the result being potent enough for the average consumer is nigh on impossible, so the synthetic isolated compound is the weapon of choice. This falls into a bigger discussion on the definition of natural in skincare, but that’s another kettle of fish we can approach on another day!

CBD on the other hand is only just starting to grow in favour within the general public. It doesn’t have the same level of notoriety as good ol’ vitamin C. It does, however, have far superior eco-credentials if using hemp-derived CBD.

Like any chemical compound (because yes, everything is made of chemicals!), CBD can be synthesised from some other organic compound, such as citrus terpenes. This process is lengthy and results in by-products that aren’t all that great for the environment, but there is another alternative in hemp-derived CBD.

CBD – or cannabidiol – is an organic phytocompound found abundantly in cannabis sativa plants. High concentrations of CBD can be extracted from raw plant material using extremely green methods such as CO2 extraction, which has zero waste by-product. The cultivation of industrial hemp is also fantastic for the environment. Hemp is known to absorb copious amount of CO2 from the atmosphere, drastically improve soil quality, and every single part of the plant can be used, from renewable construction materials to hemp seed protein and of course, a powerful skincare ingredient.

So what about their benefits in skincare? According to the European Commission’s Cosmetic Ingredient Database – CosIng for short – vitamin C (ascorbic acid) has the following functions in skincare:

CBD (cannabidiol) on the other hand has the following functions:

These are just the EU/UK’s “official” list of cosmetic benefits for these ingredients, but it seems a little limited. Taking a quick toe-dip into the world of skincare guru’s and you’ll find a wide range of benefits claimed for vitamin C, from collagen production to skin brightening, lightening dark spots, reducing puffiness and of course, its powerful antioxidant effects. Dermatologist Dr Patricia Wexler states that “Because of its antioxidant properties, vitamin C aids in your skin’s natural regeneration process, which helps your body repair damaged skin cells.”

This sounds amazing, right?

At the top of the official list of benefits, “Antioxidant” sits right at the top for vitamin C. It is often the first ingredient that comes to mind when we think of antioxidants, perhaps because of its long-standing associating with food and supplementation.

A large number of vitamin C’s benefits can be attributed to its antioxidant properties, such as its ability to fight free radicals to prevent premature aging.

However, scientific studies have shown CBD to be an “antioxidant more potent than ascorbate (Vitamin E) or tocopherol (Vitamin E)” (Hampson et al., 1998). If what you’re looking for is a potent antioxidant, then CBD is actually your best bet.

The other key benefit of vitamin C, and where it is drastically different to CBD, is its skin-brightening and resurfacing benefits. As its name suggests, ascorbic acid is highly acidic with a pH of less than or equal to 3. For reference, our skin’s pH sits at approximately 5.5.

Acids aren’t necessarily a bad thing for your skin, but vitamin C’s acidic nature, paired with the fact that it is most effective in formulas that have a pH of 2.6 – 3.2, means that using vitamin C daily is maybe not the best idea. Gurus and skincare experts will often recommend using a vitamin C serum daily, but the reality for many people with even slightly sensitive skin is that this will potentially cause some unpleasant irritation.

CBD offers oil and sebum regulation, making it an ideal ingredient for oily skin. This comes alongside some potent anti-inflammatory benefits making CBD a prime choice for people suffering with a variety of skin woes from painful breakouts to dry, cracked and itchy skin conditions. Slightly refined versions of CBD are hypoallergenic making it suitable for the most sensitive skin type, whilst being actively soothing.

If the benefits of vitamin C you’re most interested in are linked to its antioxidant properties, but you’re not so keen on its skin sensitising side effects, consider swapping our or part-supplementing with a CBD product.

The “madeleine de Proust” is a French classical literary reference that most French people are familiar with. The story goes that Marcel Proust bites into a madeleine cake, and the sensory experience – the smell, the taste, the texture – of eating his favourite childhood treat provokes an incredibly strong sense of nostalgia by which he is completely consumed. The term is used colloquially in French to refer to sensory experiences that promote overwhelming feelings of nostalgia. 

I am particularly sensitive to these “madeleine de Proust” moments, more so with certain specific smells. The scent released from crushing cypress berries and leaves between my fingertips instantly transports me back to the garden of my childhood home in Gloucestershire. I would spend hours roaming the garden that surrounded the house, and one of my favourite early childhood activities would be picking the berries off those trees (though I never was allowed to eat them!) This momentary dissociative nostalgic state is unbelievably calming, albeit a little bittersweet, as I still miss that house and that garden even now.

Other smells induce general feelings of wellbeing, even if I can’t quite pinpoint a specific associated event. Freshly cut grass, powdery lipstick, slightly over-boiled plum jam and home-made onion gravy to name a few. 

The strongest involuntary emotional responses come from scent. When developing our flagship products, I had to decide what I wanted to achieve from the scent of these products. ASCEND skincare will never contain any artificial fragrances, so I only considered essential oils, and specifically essential oils appropriate for skincare. Firstly, I considered the essential oils as skincare ingredients, with their scent being a secondary additional bonus.  

Our Caffeine + CBD Brightening Oil Serum was easy – there’s no fragrance at all. The CO2 extracted Arabica coffee oil has such a powerful coffee scent that there was no point in trying to hide it. The first time I tried it, I was transported back to the terraces of the cafés my peers and I used to spend our spare time in as 16-year-old espresso-drinking students living in France. The unapologetically bold aroma was perfect as it was, au naturel. 

A quaint view of a small French cities main square with coffee shops and people enjoying the atmosphere and smell of fresh coffee.

Our Phyto-Retinol + CBD Night Serum Concentrate posed slightly more of a challenge. The ingredients and botanical extracts are, as the product name suggests, concentrated. I have found that a general rule of thumb when formulating is that the more potent a vegetable oil is, the stronger it smells. If it has a dark or bold colour, it’ll smell. 

We had to mask some of the stronger smelling oils whilst creating a scent profile that encourages relaxation and sleep, whilst focussing on skincare benefits first and foremost. Chamomile was a clear choice, as it is very strongly scented and well-known for its skincare benefits and sedating properties. Vetiver is an excellent skincare ingredient and also helps to promote relaxation. These two combined did an excellent job of covering any strong-smelling oils without being sensitising, but still, something was missing.  

A beautiful detail shot of a cypress tree.

Our Rebalancing CBD Lustre Face Oil presented a challenge in the opposite sense. The formula is a combination of fairly neutral-smelling oils compared to our Night Concentrate. This left us with somewhat of a blank slate. Any combination of oils was effective at creating an attractive scent profile, but nothing felt “right”. 

I was stuck for months trying to figure out what the missing element was. After what felt like years of “formulators block”, I decided to take a different approach. 

How did I want these products to make people feel? How did I want them to make me feel? 

I found the answer in Proust’s madeleine. Not literally, of course, but in the exploration of scent-induced nostalgia.  

The crushed cypress berries at my childhood homemade in into the bottle of CBD Lustre Face Oil, and the final missing element? I had to travel a little further afield, look through old childhood memories and holidays hoping to find something that would take me on a journey.  

Close up of blooming frangipani flowers.

I have a lot of South-African roots. My father grew up there, I have South African aunties and cousins dotted all over the world. My grandparents lived there for about 30 years, and I remember going out to visit them throughout my childhood.

In their garden, there was a beautiful frangipani tree that smelt divine and flowered clusters of pristine yellow and white flowers in April. My mother, grandmother and I would pick these flowers, and I kept some to press to keep in my holiday journal. When I put my nose to a bottle of Frangipani flower absolute, I was back in Port Edward picking flowers at my grandmother’s house. 

I know that scent is a highly personal thing, and I don’t expect people to have the same nostalgic reactions when using ASCEND products. I do, however, feel grateful at the opportunity to share these little snippets of my life with people through these products. Perhaps I’ll even be lucky enough to provoke a “madeleine de Proust” moment for someone whose mother always drinks chamomile tea. 

How can we make the most of our skincare products when each item seemingly has a very specific use?

Concentrated oil serums are some of the most versatile beauty products available, with a variety of uses that doesn’t stop at skincare.

Here are 6 ways your oil serums can earn their place in your skincare hall of fame.

1. Lock in hydration

Plant oils act as natural occlusives on the skin, meaning they form a breathable protective barrier. This barrier prevents trans-epidermal water loss (skin dehydration) and can help to lock moisture into your skin. Use an oil serum 3-5 minutes after applying your regular moisturiser and you’ll notice the difference. Your skin will stay hydrated for longer as all that moisture will stay locked in your skin!

Remember, this protective barrier is breathable, so well-formulated oil serums won’t clog your pores (watch out for mineral oils such as paraffin and petrolatum though, as these WILL clog your pores and suffocate your skin.

Protection + extra hydration + no clogged pores? Yes please!

2. Prime for makeup

Botanical oil serums make excellent makeup primers, especially if you’re after a dewy, glass skin look.

The serum will allow your foundation to glide on a lot smoother, reducing the opportunity for micro-exfoliation from makeup tools that can lead to skin texture issues once your makeup’s in place.

The protective barrier formed by the serum will also help to prevent makeup particles from getting stuck in your pores, reducing the risk of breakouts and blackheads from your full-glam look.

3. Facial massage

Facial massage is a great way to stimulate the facial muscles, improving the skin’s tone. It improves circulation and oxygenates the skin, promotes lymphatic drainage (bye bye toxins!), plus, it feels amazing!

Whether you’re lucky enough to have someone on hand to massage your face, or whether you’re indulging in a bit of self-care with a self-facial massage, you can boost the benefits by using a potent botanical oil serum as your facial massage oil!

You don’t need to use a lot of product to get a good slip on the skin, and the massage will help the product to penetrate further into the skin.

4. Cuticle treatment

How do you apply your serums? One popular way is to place a few drops into the palm of the hand and apply gently with the fingers in a soft tapping motion.

Once you’ve applied your serum, use the leftover oil on your palm and rub it into your cuticles for a nourishing nail treatment! Over time your nails will become stronger and the cuticles will soften. Your hands will look and feel better too!

Our hands are our most valuable tools, so they deserve a little luxury TLC, don’t you think?

5. Split-end saviour

As our hair, skin and nails are essentially made up of the same protein building blocks, it makes sense that what’s good for your skin will also be beneficial to your hair!

This is very much the case with natural plant-based oil serums! Next time you apply your serum, add a few extra drops and rub into the tips of your hair that need the most love and attention. The vitamins and minerals present will help to strengthen the hair whilst the essential fatty acids will replenish whilst adding lustre and shine.

6. Brow growth treatment

Did you over-pluck your eyebrows in high school? You’re not alone. For years now since the bushier brow trend took over, we’ve been trying to find ways to boost our natural brow game.

Plant-based oils are a great way to help improve the health of your hair follicles and stimulate healthy hair growth. Try paying particular attention to your brow area next time you’re applying your serum, using light massage to stimulate the follicles.

This principle also works if you’re trying to grow a fuller, bushier beard!


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