Stark Skincare Grapefruit Cleanse+Hydrate Balm

What do cleansing & hydrating have in common? Nothing much at first glance, as they seem to be different functions requiring different products to get the job done. And, done well. But, they do have more in common than you’d think. The wrong cleansers will strip skin of its vital moisture. You know this, since you’ve probably felt the tight cheeks after trying a new glycolic or AHA cleanser at some point or another. And, the wrong balms will just sit atop skin, obnoxiously, refusing to seep in and take pride in some hazy glaze of a spread. The question begs – can a balm do two seemingly disparate things at once? If the balm has got huge dollops of petroleum, than no. If it’s formulated smartly correct, then yes. Stark Skincare Grapefruit Cleanse+Hydrate Balm ($35) executes this simple but arty concept quite nicely.

This isn’t your typical greasy, shows some-serious shine time of a balm. Unprocessed Shea Fruit Butter is what is your hero ingredient – its unsaponifiables and cinnamic esters give the balm its anti-microbial and moisturizing properties and provide light protection against UV rays. The buttery texture is softened out by virgin Coconut, Camellia Seed & Sweet Almond oils while Cocoa Seed & Soybean Butters add a sense of purified & plumped luxury to the formula. While you expect the usual constitution of carriers bring those juicy antioxidants to address signs of weathered skin, the non-GMO Soybean Butter also adds a symbiotic glob of the same and bunches of isoflavones, lecitihin, sterolins, which work on your waning collagen. The 100% plant derived (botanical) ingredients form a frothy balm, which melts into skin with the natural emolliency of Candelilla wax, which is actually therapeutically effective in treating any unexpected inflammations of the skin, including acne.

The absolutely refined balm has an interesting aromatic flush from the White Grapefruit essence with its citrus tang livened up by the bright, herbal accords of Rosemary, which are few & far in between, but present in pinprick proportions. These essentials are under dosed to engage to senses in relaxation making the juice truly aromatherapeutic, as opposed to what could have been a boring iteration of a lemony-smelling butter.

As a cleansing balm, the concept is based on likes dissolve likes. So, you’ll want to massage the balm into hands (warm the balm to tap into the sublimity of the aromas before applying) the balm over make-up full faces to sweep away the day’s gunk n’ grime, which includes those tenacious sunscreens. Stark's Oil Cleansing Method suggests the balm entraps impurities from skin into its dense texture to remove your face full of products efficiently without stripping away moisture, without stimulating the oil glands to go into overdrive, and without disrupting the balance of natural oils needed to support their protective function. Circular motions helps stimulate the underlying muscles, keeping them taut and well…in shape. I tried both removals, with & without water. Without water definitely took off the make-up, though it left behind basically moisturized skin. Because we’ve been trained by overzealous marketers to get that squeaky-clean feeling, rinsing with water definitely does feel cleaner, though re-applying the balm for moisture now seems redundant. Either way, you’ll want to linger over the massaging time to enjoy the full thrush of the semi-woody notes cut through the flanked butters. I’d suspect mature skins, prone to post-cleansing dryness will want to opt for a water-free rinse. Or, if you want to wash your face like the French do. As a basic balm, it layers well over a lightweight facial oil, delivering an enriched mask of natural elements for smoothened skin.

The texture of unrefined Shea Butter is a frequently asked question. Why are some balms smooth & creamy, while others are smooth but grainy? The differences are due to chemical re-structuring, not quality. Simply put – fat microcrystals may formed as a result of daytime heat and then a slow cooling during the overnight hours in the delivery vehicle or any other form of transport. Once cooled off, microcrystals can form adding what we think of as a ‘beady’ texture. Sometimes melting can occur inadvertently during transport, or if left in a hot, sunny location. Jessica Lafleur, founder of Stark Skincare, gives us the deets:

Shea butter is a tropical product and in the tropics the weather throughout the year remains pretty much the same - hot! The result is that, while in Africa, the texture of Shea Butter remains smooth due to the consistently warm weather. There are some exceptions to this rule. During the months of November through January, some of the northern parts of Nigeria, Togo & Ghana experience cooler temperatures when the cold air from the desert blows across the continent bringing nightly temperatures down to 50-60 degrees. I have been told that Shea Butter can become grainy under such conditions.

While you certainly can blend out a grainy Shea Butter, Jessica suggests an easy tip to help you get a bump-free butter:

Just heat up some water, sit the jar in pot of water for a few minutes while it liquefies (lid on!), take it out, give it a little stir and pop it in the fridge until it completely cools and hardens. It's now perfect!

For the record, my little tasteful tub of buttery joy arrived goose-bump free from traveling across the Montreal to Los Angeles. And, I wouldn’t have minded the rougher, mildly exfoliating touch a grainy butter balm brings. Neither should you. After all, maybe you can get yourself a third, useful benefit from this richy multitasker that promises to leave skin with an enduringly silky, sweetly savory finish.