the perfect orchid substrate

current listens:


“It is the tension between creativity and skepticism that has produced the stunning and unexpected findings of science. ” Carl Sagan

I love orchids. And I have many of them. I like how they don’t need a lot of attention and surprise me with their exotic flowers when I happen to forget about one. Every now and then I pour a shot of water in a plant pot and that’s about it. The only problem I constantly have is bad orchid substrate in which orchids can be bought originally. Oftentimes there is already mould or it just uses up after half a year (which is normal btw) and you need to repot it. But I came across a great idea in an orchid forum (one of many occassional procrastination retreats) that will make it very easy in future to kind of repot them. One used those superabsorber water beads I never thought about using for orchids. First I was sceptical if they can release a tiny amount of for orchids harmful components but a quick scifinder session proved me wrong. So I ordered a pack of 1000 water beads and soaked them in distilled water and my favorite fertilizer (see link above). I tested this system out for one one month, which is the time duration in between the big orchid “diving” sessions where Normally I let them soak in water for one day and take them out again. But now I pretty much safe alot of time. I just remove all beads into a big pot and re-soak them in water and fertilizer and use the interim for a quick root check-up. After a month I can safely say for thick root orchids it works pretty well (e.g. Phalaenopsis) whereas you should let your thin roots orchids or natural breeds in normal substrate since they prefer wood chips to stick to. Regards, Ea

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today: b(l)ack to uni


SK-II Facial Treatment Mask Dupe





shop sk-II:

“An observer of our biological sciences today sees dark figures moving over a bridge of glass. We are faced with an ever expanding universe of light and darkness. The greater the circle of understanding becomes, the greater is the circumference of surrounding ignorance.” Erwin Chargaff

Sometimes something simple can make a big, glowy difference to your skin. At least that’s what I felt like when I tried my first SK-II face mask which is used by many celebrities like Gigi Hadid as a go-to home facial treatment. It’s refreshing, soothing and brightens the skin dramatically. But it is 6 masks for 95 USD, which is a ridiculous amount of money compared to the regular average 3 USD for asian sheet masks. What’s the magic behind it? SK-II’s general key ingredient is Pitera, also called SFF for Saccharomycopsis ferment filtrate, a rich and liquid yeast by-product of the fermentation process full of nutrients like amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and organic acids. “It is said Sake brewers’ hands stay remarkably young-looking to the rest of the skin because of the exposure to fermentation’s by-products like Pitera.” Sounds good, though I only found one paper that explain the miraculous anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant properties partially. So if you don’t feel like spending much money on this sheet face mask I guess the best way is to make our own ferment filtrate. And it is actually really easy!

Before we start we want to make sure everything is lab clean. It is absolutely important to work with very clean containers, spoons and water because we want to avoid the growth of unwanted bacteria.

Step 1: Buy good quality Koji-Kin (yeast for Sake brewing process) and add it to your favorite cooked (glutinous!) rice, if you don’t have sake rice, which you delute with clean, lukewarm water. Don’t bring the mix to boil, it will kill the yeast. Yeasts like temperatures close to body temperature. Let it sit in the warmth for about 1h.

Step 2: Put the mixture in a jar and cover it with a plastic wrap for about 3 days to let the yeast nurture from the rice to produce the desired ferment filtrate. The longer you let it sit the more nutrients you will get (sake brewers usually add a bit Lactic Acid to prevent the growth of unwanted wild yeasts and bacteria. So if you have it in your hands, add a few drops for a small batch.) but not more than 10 days, that should do it.

Step 3: Drain the liquid from the rice, bring it to boil for a short time to deactivate the yeast and store it in the refrigerator.

Step 4: Soak one of Muji’s Compressed Face Masks (super thin woven cotton sheets, about 1,50 USD per package) in the ferment filtrate and leave it on your face (like this if you are new to this).

The effects of this homemade mask were in my opinion comparable to the original. I have the desired glowing and soft skin after I use it and it is fun to make. I hope you enjoy DIY masks, which are not just oatmeal and honey or yoghurt and cucumber, too. Best, Ea Birkkam


today: tokyo minimalist


Spring novelties: Minimal auxiliary for healthy hair and skin



“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will ensure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” Rachel Carson

Spring is here! It’s been a month since my last blog entry because I was traveling a lot and I trying to reduce my internet activity to a therapeutic minimum. Every once in a while I find it quite relaxing. I’ve seen lovely little vintage stores in London, done a little punting in sunny Cambridge and seen the incredible Prague skyline you see when you walk up the castle at night. But going on a journey with hand luggage only for weeks can be a challenge and requires smart packing skills. My favorite helpers are the milky-translucent Muji E.V.A. Zip Pockets (about 2 EUR), which are actually file houlders, but I use them as minimalistic toiletry storage (and every airport seemed to accept it as translucent liquids bag) and the little dust bags COS hands out for free when you shop their accessory for storing socks and underwear. Out of the few things this was with me: The refreshing Oliveda Face Serum, Aesop ‘Shine’ hair serum and the translucent scrunchies by Invisibobble.

Some of you who follow me on Instagram or Facebook already know I’ve been in a developing process of a face serum (and oil… psshh) for a while now and still testing out all kinds of ingredients from the ocean and modern botany. Anyways every now and then I still test out other brands, too. With a sleek and minimal packaging Oliveda’s Anti Aging Face Serum (about 50 EUR) caught my attention, which was in my ‘Douglas Box of Beauty’, the german equivalent of Birchbox. It is full of potent antioxidants and has a lovely, herby (spring!) smell. The most interesting ingredient is Olea europea (olive) leaf cell extract which contains numerous phenolics and antioxidants like e.g. Oleuropein. The serum has a green, gooey gel texture and so far it leaves my face moist and plump. If you like Heliotrope-like, exotic flower fragrance as much as I do and still need a hair serum for shiny hair Aesop ‘Shine’ will be your go-to product. After I washed and towel-dried my hair I add 2-3 drops and massage it in my lengths. It adds shine to my naturally curly hair and a little definition when I leave it to air-dry. In spring I like to wear my hair natural and slightly unruly which is why I am very happy I discovered Invisibobble scrunchies which are not only ‘invisible’ but add volume to my ponytail, too. I think spring and the new semester can come with these kind of time-saving essentials! I’d rather have a nice espresso than spend 5 more minutes in front of the mirror. Best, Ea

today: white spring


Rodin Olio Lusso Crema


shop rodin:
olio lusso
lip balm

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” William Shakespeare

When it comes to Rodin’s Olio Lusso I am a little envious one woman makes million over million girls happy with such simplistic products. In 2007 Linda Rodin, ex-model of the 70s and 80s, fashion stylist and now founder of Rodin must have felt unsatisfied with common anti-aging skincare (and the delay of visible change, read here) so she created Olio Lusso Face Oil which soon found its hype all over magazines and the internet. Many products joined the line, like the marvellous Hand and Body Cream you see above and 2014 big Estee Lauder acquired Olio Lusso which prooves of its success. One thing I have to add is, if you don’t want to splurge your money on the costly Face Oil (170 USD) and Crema (84 USD), the simple ingredients list gives you a good start to follow the recipe and do your own version of it! The face oil has Sunflower Oil as a base, which you can find in good qualities in organic food stores and for the rest of the essential oils I love Eden Botanticals (click here) or french Huiles et Sens (click here). For the Hand and Body Creme you need a good Shea Whip as a base (good recipe here) which you infuse with natural oils, sounds hard to DIY but it’s as easy as frothing your Latte Macchiato milk at home. I have only love for the inspiring, simplistic product design and basic, natural ingredients list, Ea

today: relentlessly white beach look


Holistic Skincare from Australia: Be Genki






be genki


“I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions, and into actions which bring results.” Florence Nightingale

Just a few days ago I received a package from Down Under with probably the most exciting content: minimalistic, holistic bath products and a special tea. I am a big fan of skincare brands which offer a tea to go with, e.g. super cute facecare brand MIYU and organic henna guru Night Blooming. Be Genki however offers a Herbal Tea complimenting every conceptual line they have: Be Sensual, Be Serene, Be Tranquil and Be Vital. Let’s take a look at the tea and bath products I chose:

First off I chose Be Genki Be Sensual Tea instead of the Be Serene Tea (which would fit the rest of my products) since it caught my attention with the most wicked and secret, ancient ingredients for intensifying sensuality and lust. Plenty of the ingredients were used to cure, let’s call it, not-now’s. The Lemongrass, Ginseng and Ginger base is both delicious and vitalizing. Jasmine buds and Rose petals add a delicate flower bouquet to it. The rest of the ingredients combine to a super potion of aphrodisiacs: Horny Goat Weed, Damiana, Maca and Tribulus. I found a fun-to-read abstract on Maca to significally have increased the amount of orgasms in mice (here). Horny Goat Weed aka Epimedium contains some Icariin (in standardized extracts 5 to 60 percent), a flavonoid which shares several mechanisms of action with compounds like sildenafil (Viagra) and vardenafil (Levitra, read 1, 2, 3) and has shown to have antidepressant-like effects on mice (see 1, 2, 3). Damiana has long been claimed to have a sexually stimulating effect and its use as an aphrodisiac originated way back in ancient mexico. There is a study of increased sexual activity in rats, male and female (here). In the end it is up to you if you make this tea work like this. There are plenty studies on the aphrodisiac effects of the ingredients but since it has only verifiable effects on rodents I would not rely too much on it alone and combine it with a romantic bath to get things really going. This tea is perfect for you if you like flowery-herbaceous teas and love potions.

Next we have the amazing bath products, face mist and candle. The overall minimal product design wrapped in thick, wavy paper is enchanting and deserves a special mention as it feels really luxurious. My academic studies can cause a lot of tension and stress and the possibility to lose the plot or fail the next test puts me into an all-anxious and depressing mood sometimes. This is why I chose the Be Serene Line with its uplifting and relaxing fragrances of Palmarosa, Rosewood, Patchouli, Neroli and Rosa damascena. Most of the oils are organic, which make it even more likeable. For a big bath I only needed 4 drops of the Oil Blend and the warm steams made my bathwater smell like a fairy forest and flower meadow. It was absolutely impossible to have negative thoughts in an environment like this. Applying the quickly absorbed, golden body oil (see above) I literally went to bed with this kind of fantasy. I am not able to pick a favorite in this line as I am pretty convinced they work best as a team. The amazing organic candle burns when I take a bath, study and before I sleep. Oh, and I pumped the face splash onto my face in the minute I first saw it and since then it is my everlasting company to university if I need a stress relief but a refreshing kick after lectures. It accompanies me right next to my favorite sunglasses for this year’s golden autumnal sunrays. So all in all, if you are looking for a minimalistic, holistic bath and body routine you should definitely check out this and the rest of Samantha’s great brand Be Genki! Australia must be a birth place for organic beauty brands like this with Leif and Aesop. Relaxed and a little sensual today, Ea Birkkam


today: monochromatic balneology


science of raspberries and DIY antioxidant facial treatment




my instagram

similar antioxidant facecare:

“In the natural sciences, and particularly in chemistry, generalities must come after the detailed knowledge of each fact and not before it.” Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac

Exfoliation is the foundation of a good skincare routine. The removal of the oldest skin cells enables the regulation of your sebum flow and therefore prevents acne and blemishes (read here). Basically you have two options: mechanical and chemical exfoliation. Most people know scrub or peeling in form of grains or a simple loofah (mechanical scrub) and I get increasingly often asked about the chemical alternative. Well-established chemical exfoliating agents are AHA (Alpha-Hydroxy-Acid) and BHA (Beta-Hydroxy-Acid) often in formulation strengths from 1 per cent to 10. Once applied they react with the upper layer of the epidermis and disintegrate the binding properties of the lipids that hold the dead skin cells together which allows the stratum corneum to be exfoliated, exposing live skin cells. So if you seek a dermatologist for an acne or juvenescent treatment, this is their go-to therapy. If you ask me for a cheap alternative I have a simple DIY recipe: fresh raspberries.

Not only is a raspberry (e.g. Rubus idaeus) a delicious treat, but also a little biochemical powerhouse which shows a notible amount of vitally important vitamins and potent antioxidants. I must admit, I knew about the vitamin C and antioxidants like anthocyanins but they additionally contain a nice blend of ellagitannins (hydrolyzable tannins, you might have heard about tannins from wine tastings), antioxidant flavonols and other phenols like ellagic acid (see pretty, symmetric molecule above). Research about topical application of vitamin C points out its photoprotective and signs-of-aging reducing properties (read here and here). The antioxidative characteristics of ellagitannins, flavonols and phenols are also well-studied and you find a great amount of interesting reviews and articles on this topic (like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). Something a little less probed may be the efficacy of Raspberry ketones, which presumably stimulate hair growth and skin elasticity by increasing skin cell-produced growth factors like IGF-1 and EGF (epidermal growth factor; read here) next to anti-obese action (click). I already saw supplements sold in US drugstores with big promises on this topic but personally I would not make an effort to search for the next chance to buy pure raspberry ketone powder or consider fresh raspberries the general holy grail of skincare, but a homemade facial treatment with approximately 2 Rubus idaeus every now and then (instructional video here) did improve my complexion quite comparable to regular chemical exfoliation products. It’s not as potent as a dermatologist’s solution but minimalistic, low-budget and refreshing. Given the nutritional facts I mentioned above, you should have great joy to eat the rest of the raspberry basket, too. Like every natural treatment I would advice a patch test first, maybe you are a little sensitive to the acids! Hope you have as great skin results with this treatment as I do, Ea Birkkam


today: berry sorbet


Sachajuan Leave-In Condtioner



“I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men.” Marlene Dietrich

First of all let us talk about the immaculate minimalistic product design. This is definitely the kind of haircare I would love to put in my minimalistic bathroom. The mostly brown, simple bottles and the clean white label look very sleek and effortless. It was only a question of time I ordered my first Sachajuan product and when I finished my Aesop hair oil I went straight to this: The Leave-In Conditioner.

Sachajuan is the brand of Sacha Mitic and Juan Rosenlind who opened up their first hairsalon 1997 in Stockholm, Sweden. 2003 they must have felt like creating their own line and released their Sachajuan haircare products. What a great decision! I have already read some reviews about their products and most describe Sachajuan Leave-In Conditioner as very ‘lightweight’ and fragrant. I can definitely agree to the ‘lightweight’, you can apply the Leave-In Conditioner on your whole hair and scalp, which was the reason I bought it the first place. I needed something that could add a little moisture to my superdry scalp without getting my hair oily and I must admit: This is the perfect product for the job! You can describe the fragrance as a mixture of regular high-end salon product with a whiff of herbal ‘Aesop’-like scent, very pleasant and medium strong. I like it! The results I get with this conditioner are great on my backlenght hair, not as super shiny as with my Aesop Shine Oil, but ‘healthy’ shiny. Though I am not a big fan of selfies I will post a picture on instagram (see) to give a resemblance, since results are science too. I am saving the INCI check for the next entry, because I am visiting friends in Berlin. Will definitely visit legendary MDC apothecary, filippa k and &otherstories and if you want to stay updated with my journey feel free to add me to your bloglovin or follow me on facebook! Excited, Ea Birkkam


today: black mules


Oatmeal mask



diy recipe:
click here

lush oatifix

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

An effective, minimalistic diy facemask with scientific backup that takes only one(!) ingredient next to water: Oatmeal (aka Avena Sativa). Preferably finely milled to colloidal oatmeal. Who knew that grandmother’s old house remedy turns out to be so much more effective than most pricey beauty products. I must admit I was a little surprised. There are a lot of things in oatmeal which make it a great face mask. Starch, lipids, proteins, and beta-glucan (a polysaccharide) serve both to keep water inside and on top of your skin. Oatmeal has also been shown to normalize the pH of your skin and protect it a little bit from harmful UV rays (read more here). The best about it? It is very, very low irritating and allergenic sensitizing (see here).

Additionally you can find research implying it is a great remedy for atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and drug-induced rash (e.g. 1, 2, 3) mostly because of one attractive component of oats: chemicals called avenanthramides (see picture above for one of them, Avenanthramide B). These only make up 0.03 per cent of dry oatmeal by weight, but are powerful antioxidants, and have strong anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory effects on the skin. Aventhramides seem to act as a soothing agent to relieve itch and irritation (read here and here). I think that is a lot of efficiency for a 20ct-worth face mask compared to the average face care product. Oatmeal is a healthy snack, too! It helps you to curb your appetite and leaves you satiated for a while(see here). Well, I am pretty sure tomorrow i am going to eat my morning porridge with much more enthusiasm. Best, Ea Birkkam.


today: beige


the algenist



The Algenist

“The conscious mind may be compared to a fountain playing in the sun and falling back into the great subterranean pool of subconscious from which it rises.” Sigmund Freud

While they researched on regenerative energy sources made of microalgae, San Francisco based biochem startup Solazyme came across an ingredient that, according to them, might have significant anti-aging properties: Alguronic Acid. A broad mix of polysaccharides produced by microalgae. The structure of the molecule is a little more complex than the one of Hyaluronic Acid, which found its way in our cosmetics a few years ago but it has a similar hydrating feeling. According to Algenist officials, alguronic acid was better than the other compounds in inhibiting the formation of melanin, a pigment that creates age spots (and a tan, beach bronze girls beware); increasing the production of elastase (contributes to skin firmness and elasticity); diminishing the production of elastase (enzyme that breaks down elastin) and decreasing inflammation in skin tissues exposed to UV rays.

Algenist’s tests were conducted in vitro, which means using human tissue made in lab, and all in all it may sound very promising but hence the fact there is no independent research on beneficial effects of Alguronic Acid skin critics (see here and here) and me are not very intrigued on spending up to $65 for their eye renewal balm to $135 for their anti-aging moisturizer, but reviews of The Algenist Concentrated Reconstructing Serum were quite promising (see here), probably because it contains the highest concentration of the active microalgae ingredient and niacinamide out of any of the Algenist products (niacinamide has been clinically proven to treat hyperpigmentation, soften skin and to eliminate mild cases of acne). For scientific reviews of the other products you should check out Paula’s Choice list, which is gives a short overview of the products’ ingredients. Big props for the minimalist product design, Ea Birkkam.


today: the algenist





“Beauty is certainly a soft, smooth, slippery thing, and therefore of a nature which easily slips in and permeates our souls” Plato, Lysis

Long, healthy and beautiful nails. There is an ocean of products promising it and most of them are nail polishes. You find them in almost every colour. But if you have really brittle nails you look for a great nail hardener first and most of the polishes have formaldehyde as a hardening agent which is neither good to breathe in or when touching the skin (see here). Today I came across a very interesting article in the Journal of Dermatology and Clinical Research about a product that sounds kind of auspicious, it is characterized as a “medical nail polish.” A colorless, water soluble nail lacquer which is a medical device for treating nail dystrophy (very brittle nails). You have mainly 3 ingredients that make it work:

-Hydroxypropyl-chitosan (HPCH), which is a bio polymer and a film former (similar chemistry as shrimp shells).
-Horse tail extract (ancient roman house remedy for brittle nails and a diuretic- ok, let us skip this one…)
-Methylsulphonyl-methane (a penetration enhancer, presumably to deliver the HPCH into the nail.)

So far i came across 3 products available online, check the right bar for them, i would love to test one of them the next weeks and see how it works. Regards, Ea Birkkam.

today: minimalistic bracelets