On a rainy Scottish morning in 1843, Duncan was abandoned by his mother within hours of his birth. The local innkeeper and his wife took him in, and it would’ve been a blessing had the man not been an alcoholic who beat him up. The boy grew up and began a career as a baker’s apprentice at the age of 9. However, the flour dust triggered a cough he couldn’t get rid of.
He finally left home at the age of 15 and started to attend Scientific Botany classes — inspired by his mentor. He also joined the Edinburgh Botanical Society as he became interested in herbs while looking for a cure for his cough. It resulted in his own Lobelia Cough Syrup. The concoction was so successful it inspired him to become a full-time herbalist. He even opened a shop to make herbal remedies available to the people of Edinburgh.
Then, in 1860, Duncan opened a herbal shop in Bristo Place. People queued for hours just to see him and get a herbal cure for their ailments. He became a well-respected member of the Medical Reformers of England and the British Pharmaceutical Society and his herbal remedies were already sold as far away as New York City. Napier subsequently founded D. Napier and Sons along with his three sons and grandsons.
The family ran Napiers until the passing of John Napier in the 70s and then it became a health food store for a while. Then, Jan De Vries bought it in the 80s and it was around that time that Dee Atkinson started practicing. She revived the herbal clinics around 2012. Monica Wilde had already joined her and invested in the company in 2007. Later, both had to comply with the new licensing laws of 2011.
This resulted in restructuring and so Napiers is now a group of companies and affiliated independent clinics with accredited practitioners. Simon Smiley and David Hamilton of Samarkand took over the running of the Napiers Group in 2021. It was their commitment (and investment) that’s helped Napiers continue to serve their patients and customers. In fact, the plan is to still be around for the next 100 years.
As you can see, Napiers has been a leading name in complementary and natural health care over the last 162 years in the UK. They’re dedicated to the best health and well-being through the use of herbal medicine and other natural therapies, their words
Napier manufactured many of Duncan’s formulas and tonics on-site and used traditional methods until 2005. Then, they transferred their manufacturing to licensed factories that make them to modern standards. All the manufacturing is still done in the UK and they also source most herbs from farms in the UK. The rest come from Europe and the USA.
The company aims for the highest standards in both its scientific understanding of herbal medicine and its commitment to clinical excellence. In their own words, they’re still an independent company owned by people who are passionate about what they do and continue Duncan Napier’s dream to provide an affordable choice of natural health care for all people.
Their natural products include natural therapeutic skincare, botanical beauty, herbal remedies, herbal food supplements, digestifs, bitters, teas, and superfoods. Furthermore, the company claims to remain true to its past by developing combination herb formulas known as the tonic herb principle: to treat the whole individual and their whole body.
They also make many of their medicines at traditional practitioner-strength dose levels. This is because these principles have been the mainstay of British herbal medicine, which is different from European herbal medicine. More akin to that practiced in the US.
Napiers offer solutions for dryness, pores, dullness, and uneven texture and they want you to know that their products are free of sulfates and phthalates, dermatologist-tested, and formulated without mineral oils, petrolatum, synthetic preservatives, dyes, fragrances, and animal origin ingredients.
Belif Aqua Bomb Review: Is It Worth It?
This is actually a four-product family that consists of a three-step daytime routine topped by a fourth night product to treat your skin to long-lasting hydration. The first product, Aqua Bomb Jelly Cleanser, is for removing impurities. Then, you can add a refreshing boost of hydration with the Aqua Bomb Hydrating Toner.
Furthermore, you can add a refreshing boost of hydration with Aqua Bomb Mist throughout the day and even layer a dollop of the Aqua Bomb Moisturizer for moisture that lasts all day. Finally, you can sleep with their Aqua Bomb Sleeping Mask and wake up hydrated.
Let’s look at each one of these products in more detail.
- A Gentle Face Cleanser Jelly that Swirls into a Rich Foamy Lather
Belif Aqua Bomb Jelly Cleanser
This is a hydrating jelly-to-foam cleanser that gently removes makeup and impurities without stripping the skin’s moisture barrier. The facial cleanser for dry skin is contained in a squeeze tube that holds 5.41 fluid ounces and currently holds 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
This is a new take on Belif’s bestselling Aqua Bomb moisturizer so it offers the same explosive burst of hydration. Aqua Bomb Jelly Cleanser provides hydration while cleansing due to the added formulation of amino acids and glycerin. You’re to use it during your daily grooming ritual to remove impurities and follow up with a refreshing boost of hydration with the Aqua Bomb Hydrating Toner. Then, have a refreshing boost of hydration with Aqua Bomb Mist throughout the day.
Some reviewers say they love how this jelly cleanser starts as a gel but becomes a slightly foamy wash when you add water and apply it to your face. They also describe the scent as a lemon drop or a mild version of Pledge’s lemonwood floor cleaner. What they like the most is it leaves their skin feeling clean without drying it out and say not to use too much of it as a little bit goes a long way. In turn, a not so impressed reviewer says the product definitely cleanses but dislikes the excess of lather and the strong scent as well as the fact that it dries their skin.
Belif Aqua Bomb Hydrating Toner
This is a 200 ml pumping bottle of hydrating facial toner for dry skin that promises to hydrate your skin. It currently holds 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon. As per the manufacturer’s description, the lightweight formula of this toner has a satisfying satin finish for a smoother, softer, and healthier-looking complexion. This is because it provides a refreshing splash of hydration to help nurture skin for a healthy-looking glow. The toner is water-based and contains sodium hyaluronate, honeysuckle for soothing, and baobab to lock in moisture.
A happy reviewer reports no breakouts or irritation after using the product for three days, even though her skin is quite sensitive to most products. She loves the slightly lemony herbal scent. Another reviewer notes how everyone seems to be distancing themselves from beauty products that contain fragrance since the release of the 2019 documentary Toxic Beauty. She adds that Belif contains essential oil adjacent fragrances such as Citral, Citronellol, Limonene, Geraniol, and Linalool, the same that are no longer recommended by cosmetic experts.
She adds that a light application leaves the skin feeling moist and prepped for additional layers of serum and/or moisturizer. It seems to boost the efficacy of her moisturizer and leaves her skin feeling plump and juicy. It isn’t technically an essence but has a pronounced herbal scent, akin to pine so it’s clean and refreshing. Others find the scent overbearing though. Finally, an unhappy reviewer says the product wasn’t absorbed by their skin and it’s quite sticky
Belif the True Cream Aqua Bomb
This is an ultra-lightweight, oil-free gel-cream that instantly cools and refreshes your skin while providing intensive hydration. The facial moisturizer is best suited for normal, combination, and oily types of skin. The product currently holds 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Furthermore, the original formula by Napiers is packed with anti-oxidants, the key to all the Belif products to calm and soothe skin and provide it with anti-aging benefits that keep it healthy and radiant. This is all according to the description on their website.
The True Cream Aqua Bomb is a 2015 Self Approved Beauty award winner and clinically tested to increase skin’s hydration levels by 70 percent. The products are tested on animals and claim to be natural although they contain a long list of hard to pronounce ingredients such as Dipropylene Glycol, Glycerin, Methyl Trimethicone, Alcohol Denat, Dimethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, and 1,2-Hexanediol, among others.
However, the company prefers to highlight that its formula contains a blend of apothecary herbs that include Lady’s mantle, known for its antioxidant properties. They add that this plant helps neutralize skin-damaging free radicals, improves skin elasticity, and minimizes the appearance of pores. In addition, their refreshing cream is formulated to “burst” when applied and releases “a flood of weightless moisture onto skin for a healthy, smooth, supple appearance.”
In other words, the product claims to provide antioxidants and pore-minimizing benefits by removing free radicals from your skin. Other ingredients within their formula they like to highlight include malachite, an antioxidant that neutralizes free radical activity; plantain, to create a moisture seal on the skin, and oat husk, to attract moisture. According to clinical tests, the product increases skin hydration levels by up to 70 percent.
A reviewer who loves the product reports it’s great for her sensitive skin. For one, it doesn’t irritate it and it’s a better moisturizer than others she’s tried. She adds that a little bit of the Aqua Bomb goes a long way. In fact, a pea-sized drop covers her whole face and neck. The light citrus fragrance is quite refreshing, in her opinion, and doesn’t linger once the gel is absorbed. She concludes by saying the cream is just as advertised as it truly leaves her skin dewy, supple, and plumper. Thus, she highly recommends it to those with highly sensitive skin.
Another reviewer really likes the product but won’t buy it again because they test it on animals and they don’t wish to support their torturing just so their skin is moisturized.
Belif Aqua Bomb Sleeping Mask
This 2.53 fluid ounces Aqua Bomb Sleeping Mask contains a soothing hydrating jelly-pudding face mask for dry skin. The product currently holds 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon. According to the manufacturer’s description, the “memory” formula of this sleeping mask blankets and wraps around the contours of your skin with a refreshing layer of intense hydration.
In their words, this overnight mask is based on Belif’s bestselling Aqua Bomb moisturizer so it also rejuvenates and replenishes dull, dry, and fatigued skin with a burst of hydration for smoother, more supple-looking skin and a healthy glow. The formula also includes ultra-hydrating skin soothing herbs such as Scottish Heather and Lady’s mantle. It’s also pillow-proof and thus lightweight and absorbs quickly.
Happy reviewers say they love how the moisturizing sleeping mask feels on her face. Her skin absorbs it quickly and it isn’t sticky so it doesn’t leave a residue on her pillow. She says her skin looks “expensive” so she’s really happy to have found this product. Another reviewer says not to bother reading reviews as this brand and everything they make is beyond amazing. (Read them anyway.)
In turn, reviewers who dislike the product say it doesn’t hydrate enough and find it too expensive for what it is. In fact, the product caused unusual painful blind pimples on the chin of one of them as well as red little bumps on the sides of their nose. They disappeared a few days after they stopped using the mask.
Lots of products promise to hydrate your skin. Ok, but what exactly does that mean? Well, the word “hydration” was coined in the early 19th century in France and comes from the Greek hudōr which translates to “water.” Human skin definitely needs this element to maintain strength and elasticity and thus, look and feel healthy — which is what being “beautiful” is about.
Humans have a built-in barrier to hold in water in the outermost layer of our skin: the stratum corneum. This layer is comprised of dead skin cells known as corneocytes that are stacked, it’s kind of like a brick wall. Likewise, lipids, commonly known as fats, are like the mortar that holds the bricks together. It’s precisely this cellular wall that traps moisture in your cells.
Unfortunately, this moisture-locking system begins to degrade as you age and begins to fail. Thus, your skin becomes dehydrated when the cells underneath that wall lose too much water. As a result, it begins to look dull and your fine wrinkles become noticeable.
Dryness isn’t just a cosmetic problem, it can also make you itchy and prone to cracking, conditions that are quite uncomfortable to live with. A loss of the fats that normally seal in moisture and lead to dry skin is known as atopic dermatitis or eczema. It’s a common condition in which the skin barrier easily loses its integrity.
The best way to deplete the water content of your skin includes spending significant amounts of time in the cold or heat, using harsh chemicals and exfoliating products, taking long, hot showers or baths, and not drinking enough water.
The good news is you can easily reverse dry skin. All you have to do is drink enough water day after day, keep your showers colder and shorter, and minimize the use of harsh soaps. The latter strip away the natural oils from your skin.
Of course, certain medical conditions also lead to dry skin — thyroid disease, menopause, diabetes, Sjögren’s syndrome, and poor nutrition, among them. So, consult your doctor if you have one of these so they can help you find the right treatment.
Moisturizing vs. Hydrating
We’ve all heard these terms and often use them interchangeably but, do they mean the same thing? Well, “moisturizing” is about the skin barrier so a moisturizer traps the water inside the cells. Moisturizers are usually made of three basic agents known as humectants, occlusives, and emollients.
Glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and urea are in the group of humectants. They moisturize by pulling water from the air and from the deeper layers of skin into the stratum corneum. The occlusive agents include beeswax, soybean oil, and lanolin and they act by forming a barrier that keeps water from evaporating. Finally, emollients are substances like coconut oil, shea butter, and colloidal oatmeal that add softness to your skin.
In addition, modern moisturizers also contain ceramides, a family of waxy fat molecules that retain moisture and prevent the entry of germs into your body. They also contain other ingredients that can repair the lipid barrier and prevent water loss.
In turn, “hydration” happens beneath the skin barrier and it’s the infusion of water into the cells to plump them up.
As you can see, the best way to improve the look and feel of your skin is to attract moisture and lock it in. Apply a moisturizer or hydrating mask if your skin still looks dry and flaky. However, be sure to know your type of skin before buying any skincare products. Avoid those that clog your pores and lead to acne and be aware that many products out there might dry you further so always do a patch test to see how your skin reacts to a given substance.
Duncan Napier might’ve not been so passionate about blending herbs for therapeutic potions had he not developed a chronic cough but it led to his great philosophy: “tried, tested, and trusted.” It’s a good one to live by so try and test everything you consume and don’t trust any claim until you know it deserves it.