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There's just something about Ursa Major's healthy, gently-priced, and active-lifestyle-minded products from Vermont that we love. It could be that their refreshingly light but nourishing formulas are, as they describe them, “wildly effective.”  It could be that they’ve received accolades from such luminaries as Gwyneth Paltrow and such publications as Vogue and Esquire. Or it could be that they’re just great, in a humble, unassuming sort of way. So what's the story behind this cool brand? Read on for the inside scoop from Emily Doyle, one of its founders.

We are always delighted to host Dr. Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, one of the most well-respected dermatologists in the country, at our San Francisco studio; each time, we learn volumes about the latest developments in skincare. During a recent visit, this self-admitted "chemical-phobe" shared her list of top cosmetic ingredients to avoid. Read on for her list of no-nos.

It’s officially fall, which means that it’s go time — in general, and particularly where skincare routines are concerned. After a freewheeling summer (“Why, yes, I would like to sit by the pool with a margarita and probably not enough sunscreen”), skin can start to look a little, well, weathered. So we asked our favorite New York facialist, Julia March, to help us gracefully nudge our skin into a radiant and healthy autumn.


There’s just something about seaweed. Given its powerful detoxifying, anti-aging, and anti-inflammatory properties, it may be one of the most promising botanicals out there as far as skincare is concerned. So, we set out to find the best natural seaweed products in the world. And, as luck would have it, we stumbled upon them in Ireland.

As you may or may not know, we adore MyHavtorn and their products, which are fresher, purer, and packed with more sea buckthorn than any others we've tried — so you and your skin enjoy the benefits of this "miracle berry" to the hilt. Want to know more about these berries and how they're grown? Join us for a closer look at the MyHavtorn farm in Sweden.

We caught up with leading nutrition consultant (and founder of The Food Doctor) Ian Marber to find out what supplements we should all be taking.  While Ian generally suggests delving into the world of supplements with a nutritionist’s help — which we agree with wholeheartedly — there are a few things he recommends for general health, especially if you’re 40+. Read on to find out what they are.

If we had to pick one single reason for our love of hairstylist Garrett Markenson’s Reverie product line, it would be this: it actually inspires you to love your hair. These flexible, foolproof products invite experimentation and what we think of as "hair empowerment." Read on to learn more about Garrett's philosophy.

Marie-Veronique Nadeau has developed a well-deserved reputation in natural and non-toxic beauty circles as something of an acne-fighting wizard. We were delighted to interview Marie about her Treatment line of skincare products, her new book about acne causes and solutions, and her unique approach to natural acne treatment in general. Read on to learn more.

We love answering customer questions, and we’ve answered a lot of them over the past five years. So we thought we’d sprinkle a few of your most frequently asked ones — and our answers, of course — here and there into our blog. One of your most popular questions: How do I layer skincare products?

Marie-Veronique Nadeau and her eponymous skincare line have been on our radar for some time. But it wasn’t until someone described her as a “mad scientist with a heart of gold” that we really sat up and paid attention to this wonderful little brand from Berkeley. (Is there anything more intriguing than all of those things put together?) Check out our entertaining and informative interview with Marie herself.

Clogged pores and blackheads plague most of us at least some of the time. So we asked Julia March, master facialist who has tended to the complexions of such clear-skinned beauties as Linda Evangelista, Liv Tyler, and various Evas (Herzigova and Mendes), to help us figure out how to put an end to clogged-pore aggravation — once and for all.

When you’re already on the lookout for lines and wrinkles, acne can seem like an added insult – whether your struggle with the spots is a constant battle or a monthly skirmish. Why does acne still hang around when you’re well beyond the angst-ridden teen years? And what’s the best way to deal with it? We spoke with renowned dermatologist and adult acne expert Debra Jaliman, MD to find out.

Sunscreen: we all know we should wear it. We also know that slathering thick goop on our skin and facing the world with ghostly pallor is not terribly enticing. Sigh. So is it really necessary? (Yes. And don’t worry: we carry a fantastic collection of featherweight mineral sunscreens that will blend invisibly into your skin.)
To understand what we need to know about sunscreen and clear up a few frequently asked questions, we spoke to Elizabeth K. Hale, M.D., a leading expert in the field of dermatology with a particular passion for sun protection. She's a devoted runner, and she's the Vice President of The Skin Cancer Foundation.

Our go-to dermatologist, where hair health is concerned, is the nationally recognized hair loss expert Diane Berson, MD. We get many questions about how to handle hair loss for women, so we figured she'd be the perfect person to break it down for us. Here, Dr. Berson describes the most common types of hair loss as well as their causes, and she outlines the best available treatments that actually work for each type of hair loss.

We share many clients with Kristina, and it’s amazing to see how much change her treatments can effect. We describe her often as a “skincare detective” — she’s often the first to identify what’s going on with her clients' bodies as a result of what she sees in their skin. We asked her for some universal tips to help us get our skin, and our bodies, in good shape for spring.

It’s no secret that we're fans of sea buckthorn. We’ve delved into the benefits of the "miracle berry" before, but we neglected to tell you about the magic of the sea buckthorn leaves — a key ingredient in MyHavtorn’s Essence. We got the full scoop from Robin, MyHavtorn’s founder.

We asked our favorite San Francisco makeup artist, Melissa McMillan, to share some quick tips to freshen up your look for spring. She also shares some great suggestions about refreshing your makeup after work or at the end of a long day — whether it's spring, summer, fall, or winter — so that you can go straight out to dinner or cocktails and prompt everyone to wonder if you took a side trip to a spa beforehand.

We didn’t know much about Bach flower essences before we stumbled upon Les Fleurs de Bach during a recent trip to Paris, but now that we do, we just have to tell you about them.

We were delighted to host Dr. Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, one of the most well-respected dermatologists in the country, at our San Francisco studio for a conversation about all aspects of skincare. In this text interview, she shares her take on the process of changing skincare products: whether or not you should switch up your anti-aging treatments, and whether or not your skin needs to "get used to" new products.

We were delighted to host Dr. Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, one of the most well-respected dermatologists in the country, for a conversation about all aspects of skincare. In this video interview, she shares key information about hyperpigmentation: the most common types, how to treat them, and ingredients to avoid (like hydroquinone).

April Gargiulo, the founder of Vintner’s Daughter, splits her time between San Francisco and Napa, so we see her pretty often. And on every occasion, she’s glowing and full of energy despite her crazy life as a business owner and mom of two. Naturally, we’re envious and had to get her secrets.

M Picaut is one of the best selling skincare brands in Sweden. Sea buckthorn lovers, take note: this beautiful line of non-toxic products combines it, and other great botanical extracts, with a heaping scoop of peptides for serious anti-aging power. Would you expect anything less of a brand created by a former model with extensive training in both nursing and Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Our go-to dermatologist, where hair health is concerned, is the nationally recognized hair loss expert Diane Berson, MD. Given her extensive experience treating hair and scalp disorders, we figured she'd be the best resource for those of us who want to avoid problems, too. So we approached her with a question that we figured most of you would have: "What are your top tips for keeping our hair and scalps healthy?" Read on for her clear, simple, and myth-busting answers.

Our 2015 holiday gift guide is here! We've included a couple of tried-and-true gift items along with a few very exciting new things that we adore. We hope you — and anyone you might be shopping for — might love them, too. Oh, and it all ships for free.

Professional makeup artist Melissa McMillan has spent over 5,000 hours putting color cosmetics on other women’s faces. During that time, she’s learned that for most of us, speed and ease are key — so she’s outlined a non-toxic makeup routine that works for virtually everyone and can be completed in 10 minutes or less.

While washing your hair, do you sometimes stop and wonder if so much of it should be going down the drain? We do. So we asked Diane Berson, MD, a leading dermatologist and national hair loss expert, for advice. (Like the photo? Dr. Berson loves swimming, boating, waterskiing, paddleboarding, and kayaking — all of which can be harsh on the hair. She puts conditioner under her bathing cap when she swims and wears a hat when she can. She protects her hair as well as her skin with sun protection.)

Shampoo: It seems like it should be the simplest step in hair care, yet contradictory advice about it seems to be coming out of everyone's ears. To clear things up, we approached Josh Rosebrook, celebrity hair stylist and creator of the ultra-pure, super-hard-working Josh Rosebrook line of hair care products. He has spent 17 years working on tresses and observing just what shampoo can do (or not do) to benefit both hair and scalp.

For many of us, fall is the time of year when we decide that we need to get it together in general. Everyone’s back from vacation, back to work, back to school, and it’s go time. It also tends to be go time for skincare regimens. Because as heavenly as it feels to bask in the summer sun, it’s not particularly kind to your skin — and that tends to start showing come September. So we asked star facialist Julia March for her top fall skincare tips.


Bouclème was the very first haircare brand we decided to bring to Ayla. We chose it because curly hair is gorgeous, and it’s especially challenging to care for — so we decided curlies should be the first in line to get hair products that pass our “non-toxic but really works” test. It’s the best line of curl care products we’ve ever seen, and it’s one of the most exciting new hair care brands out there, period.

It can take a good amount of experimentation to get curly hair care just right. We asked Michele Scott-Lynch, the founder of Bouclème, for a curly hair care primer — including guidelines for different types of curls. Our objective? To ensure the experimentation process with Bouclème is shorter, easier, and generates results that are as gorgeous as possible. Check out her tips for nighttime curl care and ways to refresh curls on the second and third day after washing, too.

We’ve heard a lot of buzz lately about hyperpigmentation. While marketers may be behind some of this chatter (Really? Another thing we should worry about?), hyperpigmentation is a real problem for many people. To get an unbiased expert perspective on what it is and how it can be prevented and treated, we spoke to Elizabeth K. Hale, M.D., a leading expert in the field of dermatology. Liz has a particular passion for sun protection and all the benefits it offers – including the prevention of hyperpigmentation.

Did you know that Bottega Organica, the Italian company that’s devoted to breakthrough science and organic products, has two farms? It’s true. In addition to their pristine farm in Liguria, they have an equally gorgeous and pesticide-free farm in upstate New York. Yeah, we wish we could collect organic farm oases like that, too. So we asked for photos and details so that we could live vicariously through them.

Not long ago, we received a tip from an unerringly chic, oft-photographed friend who has sent some of the best under-the-radar, soon-to-hit-the-big-time brands our way: “Check out this line of magical lotions. Made in Brooklyn by my friend Bee...you know, the one who writes for The New York Times.” Naturally, we snapped to attention.

Oftentimes, we’ll be careful about what we eat—seeking out natural and organic products and avoiding those with lots of preservatives or artificial ingredients—and assume that the products we put on our skin are safe. But a significant amount of what you put on your skin can be absorbed into your bloodstream, and some ingredients can have an unpredictable or negative impact on your health. So at Ayla, we avoid most controversial ingredients because we either know they’re bad for you or suspect they might be.

We were delighted to host Dr. Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, one of the most well-respected dermatologists in the country, for a conversation about all aspects of skincare. In this video interview, she shares her top acne tips, including key external causes, considerations when choosing anti-acne skincare products and prescription treatments, and how to prevent acne scars.

Red, irritated skin can be a mystery. Is it rosacea? Eczema? Are you simply a delicate flower? (Nothing wrong with that, unless you’ve ambushed your face with seven different exfoliating products.) To understand the difference between common redness-related skin conditions, we went to Elizabeth K. Hale, M.D., a leading expert in the field of dermatology who sees patients with red, irritated skin every day.

Many of our lovely customers come to us for help with skin care challenges related to perimenopause and menopause: Estrogen levels that fall while androgens stay constant can lead to a variety of unwelcome changes, ranging from acne that’s reminiscent of the teen years to wrinkles that seem to have settled in overnight. We thought a guide to some of the most common menopause-related skin changes, and the best solutions, was long overdue. We approached top dermatologist Jeannette Graf, MD, for expert advice on the topic.

We learned about this hyaluronic acid-infused skincare brand from our super-chic, uber-cool friend, Elizabeth Jeffer (the founder of the fantastic Roztayger, which we like to think of as the Ayla of handbags). Every time she goes to Fashion Week in Paris to find the next season’s best accessories, she makes a special trip to the revered CityPharma to stock up on BioRecept, a tip that was whispered to her by Paris fashion insiders who can’t get enough of the stuff. 

According to Ian Marber, diet has a significant impact on your skin. In fact, says the top nutritionist from the UK, changes to your diet are often required to improve a given skin condition over the long term. This is particularly true where acne is concerned. Read on for specific tips from this leading nutrition consultant (and the founder of The Food Doctor) to improve acne and clogged pores from the inside out.

We’ve heard a lot about inflammation lately, but it seems like a broad and somewhat murky topic. Since it’s mentioned as a cause of everything from acne to Alzheimer’s, it’s clearly something we should know about. So what is it, exactly? And what do we need to know about it to keep our skin in the best shape possible? We spoke with the lovely and brilliant dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD to find out.

Facials are a little mysterious to a lot of us. Do we need them? Why? How often? To get some answers, we went to Julia March, natural skin care genius. We’re not the only ones who love her: according to Allure and New York Magazine, she’s one of the best facialists around, and as a result, it’s insanely tough to get an appointment with her.

Why is it that so many men can get away with simply washing their face with soap (if they wash it at all) while women often have multiple-step skincare regimens to keep their complexions looking young and vibrant? Well, as interesting as it would be to do so, we won’t delve into the cultural expectations that drive these differences in behavior. But we can tell you that men’s skin differs from women’s skin in a few ways that help them weather the aging process more easily. 

At Ayla, we value healthy, whole food as much as we do non-toxic and natural beauty products. But we do recognize — all too well — the siren song of chocolate truffles and other indulgences. So we were excited to learn that one of our devoted customers, the lovely Pooja Mottl, has written a book all about kicking cravings and cleaning up your diet. The 3-Day Reset , which has been praised by such luminaries as Whole Foods founder John Mackey and Clean author Alejandro Junger, helps you “reset” the way you understand and experience whole food — in just three days. And as an added bonus, you'll probably start to see your skin glow. Oh, and PS: her book includes a recipe for truffles.

We were delighted to be selected as the first online retailer in the US (and one of the few retailers, period) to carry MyHavtorn's sea buckthorn-infused organic skin care products. Why are we such ardent fans of MyHavtorn? Let us count the ways.

We love the thoroughly holistic approach that The Organic Pharmacy takes towards skincare. When we wanted to offer our customers an organic detox kit for great skin, Margo Marrone and her team were the first people we asked for help — and the exclusive selection of products and tips they put together for us is one of our best selling kits. Below, Margo shares some answers to our customers’ frequently asked questions about detoxifying.

We've posted a number of tips from Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, the New York-based dermatologist with a BA, MD, and PhD from Harvard. Why? Well, she's brilliant, and she has a unique scientific and clinical background that makes her a master at identifying and evaluating the effect of active molecules on aging skin. Recently, she pointed out to us that improper cleansing methods and products can cause unnecessary harm to skin: she often sees her patients over wash, over scrub, and over dry their faces in that single skincare step. Read on so that you don't make the same mistakes.

We got these great facial self-massage tips from Lisa Trost, a wonderful SF massage therapist whose unique specialties are Neurokinetic Therapy, a technique that uses gentle muscle testing to unravel muscular imbalances, and Oncology Massage. Read on for her quick techniques — and an explanation of why these natural facial treatments work so well.

Debra Jaliman, MD enlightened us already on the what, why, and how-to-fix-it basics of inflammation. Then we asked, “What about diet and other lifestyle factors – do those make a difference where inflammation is concerned?” Dr. Jaliman’s answer was an enthusiastic “Yes!” Read on to learn which foods and other lifestyle factors can exacerbate inflammation. If redness, sensitivity, or acne is getting under your skin, you’ll want this exclusive info. Spoiler alert: Red wine is on the list. Tragic, we know. You can still have a little.

We were delighted to host Dr. Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, one of the most well-respected dermatologists in the country, for a conversation about all aspects of skincare. In this video interview, she tells us about the three most effective classes of anti-aging ingredients to look for in your non-toxic skincare products.

Much to our delight, we’ve heard more and more dermatologists talking about the skin-lifestyle link. We love finding kindred spirits! Leading skin science expert and former NIH fellow Jeannette Graf, MD is one of the pioneers of this movement. We talked to Dr. Graf to better understand the connection and to learn what steps we can all take for a glowier existence. Here, Dr. Graf tells us all about pH, the major link that she found between naturally radiant skin and a healthy lifestyle.

Why do we love Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum so much? Well, we refuse to compromise — and we found a kindred spirit in this product’s creator, April Gargiulo.

In our second interview with Jeannette Graf, MD about the link between nutrition and skincare, Dr. Graf talks to us about diet, digestion, and stress – three lifestyle factors with a major impact on skin's natural condition – and simple steps that even the busiest among us can take to get naturally glowing skin.

There are some skin situations where one has to bring in the big guns: Dark circles. Acne. Rosacea. Sun damage from years of summers spent in search of a savage tan (if you remember David Hasselhoff’s heyday, you know what we’re talking about). That’s why we've brought Medik8 to you from the UK, where it’s known as the “Green Cosmeceutical” brand for its use of technology and packaging that are kinder to the planet.

Facial oils have been all the rage for awhile now, so we thought it was high time we addressed them with a simple introduction that answers three key questions: Why is oil good all of a sudden, who should use oils, and how do you choose the best one for your skin?

We’re fascinated by the link between healthy diet and healthy skin. To learn what steps we can all take, nutrition-wise, to support healthy and young-looking skin, we went to Ian Marber. Ian, who’s one of the leading nutritionists in the UK, is always full of clear and sensible advice as well as delicious recipes. We knew he’d have something insightful to share.

"What is your skin type?" Ah, the question that appears to be so simple yet consistently flummoxes so many of us. There’s a confusing jumble of options to choose from: Sensitive, Delicate, Dry, Aging, Sun-Damaged, Very Oily, Oily, Combination, Mature, Acne—and then there’s Normal. Which begs the question: does that mean the rest of us are abnormal? (The answer, emphatically, is “no.”) We sought to simplify the process a bit and put this guide together with aesthetician Julia March's help.

Is your skin a double agent? If so, you’re not alone—most of us have combination skin, with certain areas of our complexion serenely balanced while other areas struggle mightily with either too much oil or not enough. And, just to keep things interesting, combination skin (or any skin type, really) can shift from oilier to drier, only to shift back again just when you think you’ve figured out what’s going on. What to do about all of this drama? For a sympathetic point of view, we went to Lori Anderson, one of San Francisco’s best facialists and a member of the combination-skinned club herself.

How's this for exciting:

The Organic Pharmacy has launched Glamour Food, a line of affordably priced natural skincare products — all under $30 — that are packed with food grade ingredients, with a particular focus on antioxidant-rich cocoa and berry extracts. As The Organic Pharmacy puts it, it’s “skincare so pure, it’s good enough to eat.”

Facialists not only see their clients’ skin under magnifying mirrors — they also frequently recommend products and have the opportunity to see how well those products work over time. We asked top facialist Julia March what she thinks everyone concerned about aging should use on his or her skin to create a natural anti-aging skincare regimen.

We were delighted to be selected as the first US retailer of S5, a line of certified organic cosmeceuticals from the UK. These natural and organic skincare products represent everything that we look for in the products we carry: They truly deliver excellent results, they don’t contain controversial ingredients like parabens and phthalates, and they’ve been crafted with care by a small team of experts – the award-winning development team behind Nude Skincare – whom we greatly admire.

Skin issues can certainly be a source of stress—yes, we’re talking about you, large forehead pimple that invited itself along to Saturday night’s festivities. It’s not just about the occasional pimple, though: according to Dr. Amy Wechsler, author of The Mind-Beauty Connection and one of only two doctors in the United States board-certified in both dermatology and psychiatry, stress can have a major impact on the condition of our skin—particularly as we age.

We’ve been approached by a number of men (somewhat bashfully, in most cases) who want to take better care of their skin but don’t know where to start. So we asked Dr. Peter Kopelson, a charming and highly-regarded Beverly Hills dermatologist with a loyal male and female following, to help us demystify men’s skincare and outline the basics. Read on to learn how men can take good care of their skin without cluttering their sink with a 10-step regimen.

We’re huge fans of Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, the New York-based dermatologist with a BA, MD, and PhD from Harvard. We’ve already interviewed Dr. A about her top anti-aging secrets, where she mentions why she developed her 37 Extreme Actives anti-aging cream. Read on for the inside scoop on recommendations she gives to the patients who include it in their skincare regimen.

We’re big believers in the link between great skin and a healthy lifestyle: as important as it is to use the best products on your skin, that’s not all there is to it (as you might have noticed if you’ve ever woken up and looked in the mirror after a night of too much stress, too little sleep, and too many glasses of Shiraz). To get three simple steps we all can take to support naturally healthy skin from the inside out, we went to top facialist Julia March.

Many of our customers ask us what they can do about the dreaded dry skin and acne combo — particularly in cooler months, when cold air and indoor heating conspire to suck extra moisture out of skin. It is a quite a puzzler, since most acne treatment products are designed for oilier skin types.  But no quandary is too challenging to tackle for top New York facialist Julia March, who always has answers for us.

There’s been a lot of buzz about Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, the New York-based dermatologist with a BA, MD, and PhD from Harvard. Obviously, she’s a smart cookie. She also has remarkably beautiful skin — she’s one of the first people we’ve come across who’s camera-ready with just a little eye makeup and lipstick. And, most importantly (for us), she has a unique scientific and clinical background that makes her a master at identifying and evaluating the effect of active molecules on aging skin. Read on for her top anti-aging tips.