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Why You Should Add Tomatillos to Your Spring Recipe Lineup: Birchbox Test Kitchen

You miiiight have noticed by now that Birchbox staffers have an ever-so-slight obsession with food, from colorful (and totally yummy) vegetables to delicious smoothies. Which is why we’ve enlisted our in-house recipe guru Nicole to divulge her kitchen secrets each week, sharing seasonal ingredients, must-have tools, and new cooking methods. 

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Among the many delicious ingredients that Spring brings, the neatly wrapped tomatillo is my favorite. Not to be confused with its cousin, the green (unripe) tomato, this small-statured fellow comes earlier in the season and grows within a parchment-like husk. When the husk is removed, you’ll find sticky, firm and vibrant green skin. Also called husk tomato, jam berry, or husk cherry, one bite will reveal a delish tart-yet-sweet taste.

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The Exotic New Skincare Ingredient That I’m Loving

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My™’s debut skincare collection took centerstage at Henri Bendel’s.  

A few weekends ago, I ventured from my humble Brooklyn abode to Henri Bendel’s Upper Eastside outpost. Leaving my beloved borough during the weekend, generally takes a lot of cajoling but when I heard one of my fave brands, My Skincare, was hosting an eye-opening trunk show I was there in a New York minute.

I fell in love with My™’s nourishing line after a particularly awful skin freak-out made my complexion a totally-not-cute scaly texture. Fortunately, the California-based brand’s vegan, gluten- and synthetic-free skin essentials miraculously quelled the dryness without causing further irritation. I’ve been a major fan girl every since.

Manning the tropical-inspired display, My™’s gorgeous founder Tessa Yutadco gave me the lowdown on the rare ingredient that makes her skin saviors so unique: pili oil.

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Ingredient Decoder: Coconut Oil

Photo: Dermstore

I don’t believe every piece of beauty hype I read, but it’s hard not to pay attention when you keep coming across rave reviews of a certain ingredient. Over the past few years, every magazine has extolled the virtues of coconut oil. Caribbean women coat themselves in it from head to toe, and more and more of us are adopting it as a staple in our beauty routines (not to mention the fact that it’s a model fave). Used on your face, coconut oil acts as an anti-aging moisturizer. On your body, it smooths dry skin and heals rough patches. In your hair, it functions as a leave-in deep conditioner. Plus, the oil smells really, really good!

Since my next tropical vacation is nowhere in sight, I decided to track down the purest coconut oil product I could find on these shores. The winner: VMV Hypoallergenics Grandma Minnie’s Oil’s Well Nurturing Do-It-Oil. This product may have a tongue twister of a name, but I love how it contains just two ingredients: organic virgin coconut oil and monolaurin, a coconut-derived antibacterial agent. I’ve been using it in place of my regular hand cream, lip balm, and moisturizer, and it’s already done wonders to soften my skin. With my curiosity piqued, I did a little digging around.

Little known facts about coconut oil:

  • Cold-pressed virgin coconut oil is more potent than the refined, heat-pressed kind. Since it’s not subjected to heat, virgin oil has more beneficial phytochemicals and antioxidants to boost collagen and skin elasticity. Besides the VMV oil, you can find other versions at your local health food store or Whole Foods
  • The oil solidifies into a milky white butter in cold temperatures, but you can still use it! Just heat up the bottle in warm water or scoop the product out.
  • It’s edible in its natural form (duh), but you probably didn’t know that eating coconut oil helps repair skin cell damage from the inside out. Sadly, the health benefits probably evaporate if you use it in a cookie recipe. 

-Mai

Another product we love with organic coconut oil: Truth Art Beauty’s Coconut Body Buff.

Ingredient Decoder: Glycolic Acid

Photo via BeautyChoice.com.

There was a time when I scrubbed my face every day with a drugstore exfoliator filled with bright blue beads. I thought that the more I exfoliated, the better my skin would look, so I attacked my T-zone with the same vigor shown by my mother when she fought the mildew between the bathroom tiles. The result? Instead of clearing up my teenage blackheads, my overzealous scrubbing stressed out my sensitive skin. Cue a massive breakout. 

Boy, have times changed. These days, I limit my exfoliation to once or twice a week and rely on products with glycolic acid. It sounds counterintuitive, but these chemical exfoliators can actually be gentler on your skin than physical scrubs. Why? Since there’s nary a bead to be found, you skip the step where you try to strip off a whole layer of skin. Naturally found in sugar cane, glycolic acid dissolves dead skin cells and also improves skin hydration by enhancing moisture intake. Product picks after the jump!

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Ingredient Decoder: Shea Butter

Photo via Fekkai

Earlier this year, I hit the ultimate beauty jackpot: eight bottles of free Fekkai shampoo and conditioner from their Essential Shea Collection. No, I didn’t raid the pricey Fifth Avenue salon. I was actually at a bar trivia night, and my team was divvying up a prize of donated spa goodies after winning first place. I guess no one else liked to wash their hair, because the precious Fekkai products remained untouched until I slipped them into my bag. Who knew my knowledge of Pippin and other obscure musicals would eventually pay off in the form of great hair? 

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Skincare Must-Haves from Truth Art Beauty Founders

We love the idea of Truth Art Beauty, the brand-new customized skincare line. Yesterday, we asked founders Caron Proschan and Emily Graham to tell us about the perfect blends for their particular skin; today, they’re sharing their latest favorite ingredients. Skincare junkies, you need to read this.

Ingredient I’m Obsessed With (And Why)

Caron: It’s so hard to choose one! But given how harsh this winter has been, I’ve been obsessing for the past few months over Pumpkin. Not only does it help with refining texture, it is a lovely moisturizer, rich and velvety, and is also filled with antioxidants.

Emily: Red Raspberry. It’s hard to find a meaningful concentration of Raspberry in most products because it’s such a premium ingredient. This especially versatile oil is rich enough for dryer skin and night use but also easily absorbable for daytime. I love that it provides natural sun protection because I try to avoid the chemicals in most sunscreens but also need to protect my fair skin.

Everyone Should Try…

Caron: Face oil. For all those who haven’t converted…once you go to oil, you don’t go back! My skin looks so much healthier ever since I started using it. And no, it won’t clog pores! It just creates this amazing, dewy glow. You really see an immediate effect.

Emily: Creating your own blend! This allows you to tailor your product specifically to your needs. It’s also a lot of fun. I probably have five different Body Salve blends in my bathroom right now. Some are lighter for daytime, others are richer for when my skin is super dry. I also love experimenting with different scents. Ylang Ylang is my current favorite - it has a sexy, not-too-sweet, floral scent – perfect in the evenings after a warm bath.

Read all about Face Oils in our Cheat Sheet.

Browse our favorite face oils, natural scrubs, and more in the Birchbox Shop.