Fashion & Beauty

Smarty Plants and Mega-Mushrooms

December 8, 2015

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So many products to choose from at the redesigned Origins store in Clarendon./ Photo Catherine Clifford.


A DEVOTEE OF Clinique and Prescriptives, I never looked at their sister brand Origins when it launched 25 years ago—at the time, the emphasis on organic botanicals just seemed gimmicky. Now older, wiser and leerier of lab-born topicals, I seized on this weekend’s opening of the redesigned store in Market Common Clarendon to see what I’ve been missing. The feel of the new decor is modern globe-trotter mixed with old-time apothecary—large scenic screens and a world-map wall backdrop, plant specimens under glass and flasks of mysterious fluids—less perplexing once I understood Origins’ mission to scour obscure corners of the continents to unearth exotic, overlooked but therapeutic flora.


A skincare treatment table awaits customers. / Photo courtesy of Origins.

An immediate payoff: Everything smells fantastic—not fakey fabric-softener, but authentically fruity or earthy or herbal, and blessedly underpowering. As I look at blond-wood shelf after shelf of products pledging to improve (mostly) skin, however, I get the overwhelmed, intimidated freeze I often feel in beauty departments: There are a zillion of these things! Offering hydrating, firming, lifting, illuminating, rejuvenating, energy-boosting—how do other people know which they need? Why wouldn’t I want all those things? Kristen, one of the Origins’ team, comes to my rescue, explaining which products address specific concerns or skin types. Typically, one “Kristen” or another sits down with a new customer for a nice long chat about needs, wants, weak spots, spots—anything bothering your birthday suit (hair included). But even better, she shows me their chart. Now we’re talking!! I love, love this—a cheat sheet to help me keep straight what does what for what, with what operative ingredients, so that, girded with Kristen’s counsel, I can confidently poke about, play around with testers on my own.


Smarty Pants CC creams, plant specimens under glass and ginger scrubs. / Photo by Catherine Clifford.

Happily doing so, I find at least a few must-haves (or must-gives). The Ginger collection in general is instantaneous aromatherapy as far as I’m concerned, but the rustic packaging and crystaled amber of the body scrub stands out, screaming to be gifted (if not eaten–but, you know, don’t).

Sampling Smarty Plants(♥!) CC creams, I stumble on a personal HG (Holy Grail, for those who don’t read beauty blogs): an expected hit of sheer color and cover and moisture, plus sunscreen, plus salicylic acid (helps with many issues, including wrinkles and acne)—I’ve investigated literally scores of BB and CC creams and this is the first I found combining the latter two.

I am running out of inner-arm room, playing with clay masks, moisturizers, makeup. Cleanup brings me my last (for now) great find: Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Micellar Cleanser, which is notable for what it doesn’t have: soap, alcohol, oil, parabens, sulfates, phthalates; and for what you don’t need: water. Perfect for travel—impressively road-tested by Kristen’s uncle, who took it with him to avoid unsafe water in the Amazon jungle. I’m reassured now that it will be equal to the job when I can’t wash my face because it’s late and I’m lazy.

Catherine Clifford
Catherine  Clifford is a freelance writer living in Chevy Chase, D.C. 

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