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The Silhouette of Morning | Pop-In@Nordstrom / Aesop

Now through May 22, Pop-In@Nordstrom is partnering with the much-loved skin care brand Aesop, celebrating the simple virtues of our daily routines. In this blog series, we explore five skin care rituals with Aesop’s own Dr. Kate Forbes, general manager of products and research & development.


The Silhouette of Morning

“Even a single hair casts its shadow.” Publilius Syrus

A ceremonial approach to the morning shave begins with:

  1. Purifying Facial Exfoliant Paste 75mL
  2. Moroccan Neroli Shaving Serum 60mL
  3. B&T Toner 100mL
  4. Moroccan Neroli Post Shave Lotion 60 mL

What is this ritual all about? We’ll get into that in a moment. First let’s meet Dr. Forbes and learn about Aesop in general.

Pop-In@Nordstrom / Aesop


Dr. Kate Forbes

Nordstrom blogs: Let’s take it back to the essence. Can you remember when you first heard about Aesop?

Dr. Forbes: It’s been a long time. I’ve been with Aesop for over 15 years, and it was a very different company back then. Much smaller. Even back in those days, it was stocked globally: Colette in Paris and interesting shops around the world. We’ve always had a global vision but it was a very small company back then. My first discovery of it was in a local department store here [in Melbourne], and I found they had a position advertised in their technical department, which suited what I was working on at the time.

Do you remember you impression in that department store?

It was a brand that was interesting because it was different from everything else. The approach of Aesop back then was very anti-conventional. The packaging was very simple in its approach. They used a lot of botanicals and essential oils, which was quite different for the moment.

At what point did you start thinking about Aesop on a chemical level?

Right away. I had come from a traditional chemistry background–I was actually still in school [at the University of Melbourne], finishing up my PhD–when I started at Aesop in the laboratory. It was interesting to me to come in and learn about the science of skin. How skin responds to different ingredients, what ingredients are actually beneficial to how skin appears. And the other benefit that we always look at in Aesop is lifestyle: how you live your life and how that affects your skin. Because we think it’s not just what you’re putting on your face that’s going to have an impact. It’s your diet, it’s what you’re around, it’s how you live.

When you were in school, what did you think you would do professionally once you finished?

I was always interested in the pharmacology side of things. Why the drugs are working inside your body. And I was also looking into the synthesis side, chemical synthesis, how chemical structures are formed and what that then means. That helped me look at the technical side of chemicals and toxicology of chemicals and effectiveness of how they work on the skin.

What are free radicals and what danger do they present for the skin?

Free radicals are highly reactive chemicals that can cause long-term damage to the health and appearance of your skin if left unchecked. They are typically unleashed by environmental factors, such as exposure to UVA and UVB rays, and pollution. Our susceptibility to them is also heightened if we are stressed, smoke, eat poorly or don’t allow ourselves sufficient rest.

How do anti-oxidants help?

We often use a common analogy to explain this process: a slice of apple rubbed with lemon juice. Left unprotected, the apple will quickly turn brown as it oxidizes; however, the lemon juice, which is rich in anti-oxidant vitamin C, slows this process noticeably. Applying anti-oxidants to the skin, like parsley seed and green tea extract, has a similar effect: these ingredients can act as a sponge, catching free radicals before they can cause damage.

Anti-oxidant ingredients are present in the majority of Aesop’s skin care products. However, our parsley seed range provides particularly potent doses: the parsley seed oil has significant fortifying and restorative benefits for the skin. We would recommend these efficacious formulations for urban dwellers, as a preventative measure against polluted environments.

Anti-oxidants can also be found in a variety of foods. We advise to complement your skincare ritual with a hearty intake of fruits and vegetables, among which apple, citrus, grapefruit, and tomatoes, washed down with tea or a small amount of red wine. All help to keep the skin in balance.

And now for our discussion of the specific ritual: The Silhouette of Morning

This ritual, the way it’s packaged, could be seen as targeting men. But it’s really for everybody, isn’t that right?

Every formulation, we imagine that it could be used for everyone. That said, there are certain products in this range which are geared specifically for men: the shaving serum and the post-shave lotion. We call it “post-shave” but it wasn’t formulated with that in mind. It was created to soothe the irritation and deliver the moisturization people need after irritating their skin by shaving. And for men, if you’re shaving every day, that’s quite aggressive for your skin. But this is also something that I use, because it calms my skin. I have quite sensitive skin. So absolutely we aim to be unisex in all our formulations.

What’s so effective in the post-shave lotion?

It’s the botanicals and the essential oils. The ginger extract is quite soothing. So is the sandalwood.

Shaving is aggressive. I do it, but I don’t like it. It’s crazy that so many men drag a razor across their faces every day. It’s warfare.

That’s right. And the product you use during your shave affects your comfort level immensely. Making sure your skin is well-lubricated is crucial. That’s essentially what our shaving serum is doing. The simplest thing to do to shave more comfortably is wet your skin with warm water beforehand. Also use a shaving brush: it seems so old-fashioned, but the brush lifts the hairs to make them more accessible to the razor. It can really help. One of the downsides to shaving is ingrown hairs, and you can avoid that with exfoliation. So that’s important to consider as well. For whatever it’s worth, in Australia we’re in quite a beard phase. A movement against shaving has hit Melbourne at the moment.

Last question: what is toner?

Our B&T Toner rebalances and light hydrates, as opposed to astringent toners which tighten the pores. It’s got vitamin B, green tea, ingredients that lightly hydrate the skin and prepare it for the next step: applying a moisturizer.

–Andrew Matson