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I'm pretty devoted to my Lancome (for when I want to splash out) and Rimmel (for when I'm on a budget) mascaras, but I'm always happy to try a new one.
I got a miniature Full Exposure Mascara in a Smashbox gift set a while ago. I had never tried the Smashbox brand, but looked forward to giving it a go.
The mascara claims that it produces no clumps or flakes, and instead gives you “maximum impact, scene stealing lashes”. It comes in a small black tube with red writing.
The mascara has a standard-size brush that’s nothing to write home about. It’s larger than some, but I still find it easy to use. I don’t find it a problem applying the mascara to my lashes.
The mascara doesn’t clump and goes on my lashes smoothly. I find that it doesn’t flake throughout the day. It makes my lashes look longer and thicker, not to an overly dramatic extent though. One coat is ideal for a natural daytime look, while I apply a second coat for a more dramatic look.
This mascara isn’t as dramatic as some others I’ve tried, such as Lancome Hypnose, so it isn’t a product I often choose to wear when I’m going out. However, for the daytime, or less sophisticated evening occasions, it is ideal. A full-size tube costs £19, which I personally find a bit too much for this mascara, though I would pay the same for different products. However, if it was on offer I would consider repurchasing.
I’ve got a stockpile of Body Shop products in my room and a while ago I went rummaging through it and pulled out this Earth Lovers Lemon & Thyme Shower Gel. I don’t think the range is still available online, though it may be in store – but you might be able to get hold of some on eBay if you want.
The 250ml bottle is 100% biodegradable and made of 100% recycled plastic. It looks like it’s The Body Shop’s attempt to move into the “natural cosmetics” market – the shower gel is soap-free and contains no sulphates, no parabens and no colourants. It doesn’t look particularly exciting, but the green and yellow coloured bottle is pleasant enough. The gel contains Community Fair Trade aloe vera to soothe and condition skin.
I really love the smell of this product. It is fresh and natural without being overly herbal – some products containing herbs can be quite odd but this really is lovely. I’ve enjoyed using it to wake me up in the morning as it is very refreshing.
The actual shower gel is clear and is very runny. It lathers up surprisingly well for a sulphate-free product, but I do end up using much more than I want to, just because it is so runny. I try to minimise this by washing with a sponge and being careful when I tip the product out, but I still end up using it very quickly, and I only have a small amount of product left despite only using it for a couple of weeks.
The product is gentle on my skin and doesn’t cause irritation. I do have to moisturise afterwards, however, and I’ve not noticed much of an improvement in the condition of my skin compared to when I use products containing chemicals.
Overall, I can’t really recommend this product. It has a lovely smell, but it isn’t particularly economical.
I have a lot of little bottles of cleansers that I’ve accumulated through monthly beauty box deliveries. I’ve cancelled them all so I can get on with actually using the products I have!
One of these is the Dr Nick Lowe Purifying Foaming Cleanser. This product is an anti-bacterial foaming facial wash. It contains something called “Anti Blemish Cranley Complex” which is meant to deep clean pores and lift daily impurities. It replenishes and brightens with a deep-cleansing action. My bottle is 50ml, which appears to be worth £4, as a full-size 150ml bottle available from Boots costs £12. This isn’t a cheap facial wash, but isn’t the most expensive either. As well as Boots, it is available from the Dr Nick Lowe website at www.drnicklowe.com and online stores such as Makeup Alley.
The bottle is simple white with black lettering, and a clear plastic top which you remove in order to press down on the pump. It comes out a bit like shaving foam – the small size of the bottle belies the amount of product you get, as one pump produces enough foam for the face. It has a very faint scent which isn’t unpleasant but isn’t anything special either. You are meant to massage the foam onto wet skin in gentle circular motions, rinsing off with lukewarm water and drying the skin gently.
I find the product easy to use. The foam covers my face well and I don’t need to use too much. It feels very gentle on my skin and I find that after use my skin doesn’t feel tight or dry, which can sometimes happen. It is good at removing makeup, including mascara, though I haven’t tried it with waterproof mascara. I tend to prefer using a separate eye makeup remover first, as otherwise I can end up with mascara off my eyelashes but down my cheeks instead, but if I need to I can remove it all with this cleanser, plenty of rinsing and a muslin cloth or some cotton wool pads to dab.
I have slightly oily skin which this product has not aggravated, though it hasn’t actively reduced the oil content of my skin. Overall my skin looks bright and in good condition, though not to the extent that it’s a huge difference.
I am pleased with this cleanser. It does a good job at cleansing impurities and makeup from the skin, while remaining gentle. It isn’t the best cleanser I’ve ever used and it’s not the cheapest, but it’s a worthy choice.
I’m trying to save money at the moment, so I’ve been purchasing cheaper shampoo and conditioner products. One of my best purchases has been this Alberto Balsam Sun-Kissed Raspberry Conditioner.
This brand has been around for a long time: I remember using it over a decade ago, and it’s still going strong. It is one of the most consistently cheap brands available, costing £1 in Tesco and Savers for a 400ml bottle, and varied, but always low, prices elsewhere. There are a number of different types around, each with a different colour. The raspberry conditioner is pink with a picture of raspberries on the front, and it is for normal to dry hair.
The conditioner contains pro vitamin B5 to strengthen, and juniper and camomile extracts. It has a lovely fruity smell that is slightly artificial but pleasant nevertheless. It is quite runny, so I need to be careful not to use too much.
I apply a 50p-sized piece to my hair, concentrating on the ends, after shampooing. The conditioner goes on well and rinses off easily. My hair doesn’t smell too much after shampooing, which is a shame as I do like the raspberry scent. There is a faint aroma, however.
It is stated that the conditioner improves softness and shine, revitalising and moisturising the hair, and I have to say that this is true. My hair does feel soft and it does look reasonably shiny. I won’t say it’s a miracle worker but it does do an adequate job.
The bottle has a flip-top lid which is easy to use, and the plastic is clear so it’s easy to see how much you have left. All in all, an excellent product.
A while ago my favourite shop, Lush, introduced the Kitchen, in which they made very limited edition batches of new and older products. This is how I got hold of the Witches’ Ball, a product first produced for Christmas 2008, and which has made several appearances in other seasons since (usually around Halloween time). I paid £3.95 for mine – this is pricey but normal for a Lush bath product, and I justify it by pointing out that it’s cheaper and healthier than a glass of wine and just as relaxing! In any case, I got two baths out of this – it’s not a single-use product, unlike the bath bombs.
Witches’ Ball is unusual-looking, dark purple colour with “bits” in it, a blend of herb and spice essential oils. It is made with a base of sodium bicarbonate, cream of tartar and sodium laureth sulphate, which help it to dissolve and turn into bubbles in the bath. It also contains dried cranberries and currants, as well as stuck-on dried star anise which do give it something of a “magical” appearance. The product contains peppermint, rosemary and sage oil as well as cloves and dried parsley – an unusual combination which accounts for the refreshing herbal fragrance, very unyusual especially in a bathing product!
As with all bubble bars from Lush, I crumbled it under the running bath (after cutting it in half first and saving the other half for later) to allow it to dissolve. By the time it was finished and I got into the bath, the water was a pale purple colour, rather inviting, with random bits floating about and a lot of bubbles. In fact it looked rather like the contents of a witch’s cauldron.
My bath was relaxing as I enjoyed the refreshing and natural scent, although I did find that the “bits” got in the way to an extent! When I got out of the water, my skin felt soft and I didn’t have to apply much moisturiser. I experienced no skin irritation.
Despite my initial fears about the “bits”, most of them went down the plughole and the larger ones were easily plucked out of the bath and dropped into the bin. No rinsing and scrubbing required!
Overall, I recommend this unusual and relaxing bath. Keep an eye on the Lush website, I’m sure it’ll make another appearance in the Kitchen at some point.
In a beauty box a while ago, I got a tube of REN Evercalm Global Protection Day Cream. It was a white tube with pale green accents. I used the cream in the morning for as long as the tube lasted, which was a few weeks – I found that I didn’t need to use too much at once.
REN is a brand that eschews parabens, sulphates and the like in favour of natural ingredients. This particular cream is described as a day cream, so I used a separate cream at night. According to the back of the tube, the cream hydrates and replenishes, calms and soothes, protects against free radicals and environmental aggression, and combats the signs of premature ageing, as well as training skin to be less sensitive.
I can’t comment in detail on the last three claims as they are difficult, if not impossible, to test. I find the idea of a cream training skin to be less sensitive to be quite strange, and I take this claim with a pinch of salt, though I don’t have the expert knowledge to confirm or deny my views. However, I found the cream to sink into the skin well without a greasy feeling, and it also moisturised my skin thoroughly. It didn’t cause any irritation, and it proved a good base for makeup.
The cream costs £28 for 50ml and while I liked it, I’m not sure I’d be willing to pay that much for it. Worth a try if you want a cream without parabens, sulphates etc., but it’s a bit pricey for me.
After being less than impressed with the Precious Cream, I moved on to try L’Occitaine’s Divine Cream, which again was a sample in a beauty box. I was shocked to discover that the full price for this is actually £72 for 50ml – astonishing! Still, it did make me appreciate my little pot.
The Divine Cream comes in an attractive curved pot, which is a kind of creamy-yellow in colour and looks very sophisticated. The cream inside has been designed to maintain skin’s youthful appearance, nourish, reduce wrinkles, firm skin and restore elasticity. It also, apparently, “helps redefine and restructure the natural profile of the face”. Is it just me, or does this sound completely ridiculous?
In fairness, I actually really liked this cream, much more than the Precious Cream. It has a faint pleasant scent and goes on to my skin easily, sinking in straight away. It feels very luxurious; the cream is thick but not overly so, and my skin doesn’t feel greasy afterwards. The cream keeps my skin moisturised all night, until I wake up and wash my face again. I’ve been using this cream as a night cream, using a different product during the day.
It’s really hard to judge how good any particular cream is, considering how many other products I use on my face, but as far as I can tell I’m really impressed by this product. My skin genuinely looks more radiant and I’ve had next to no spots. My skin generally looks healthier and there are no dry patches or areas of excessive shine.
I’m not sure I would actually buy this again, because of the insanely high price tag. However, if I was able to pick some up on a good offer, or if I win the lottery, I would consider purchasing some.
I got a little tube of this Murad Essential C Cleanser in a beauty box, and then I got another a few months later, so I’ve been using this cleanser for a while now. It is quite expensive at £34 for 200ml so I’m glad I got some free! It seems to be widely available online from the brand store at www.murad.co.uk and places like Sephora and Beauty Bay, although I haven’t seen it in-store – mind you, I haven’t gone looking.
The cleanser comes in a simple clear plastic tube which is smart and allows you to see exactly how much product you have left. Mine has a screw lid, but the full-size product has a flip-top lid which I prefer as it is easy to manage. The packaging has orange accents and the product itself is a thickish clear gel with tiny orange spheres inside.
The cleanser is designed for environmentally damaged skin – perfect for someone like me who lives in busy and polluted London. It is meant to remove impurities and irritants, and restore moisture. It contains allantoin, an ingredient designed to soothe and moisturise skin, rejuvenating it to promote a healthy and beautiful complexion. The ingredient sodium PCA helps to bind moisture to the skin. Vitamins A, C and E are antioxidants, designed to defend the skin from free radical damage while adding nutrients.
The instructions are simple enough: massage a small amount over dampened face and neck, rinse with warm water and pat dry. I found the product to have a pleasant, light citrusy smell; it lathered up reasonably easily and felt pleasant on my skin. It didn’t cause any irritation, did not dry my skin out and was easy to apply and wash off. I used it in the morning only, preferring a more cream-based cleanser for evening.
In general I’ve been impressed with this product. My skin has no dry patches or overtly oily patches, feels in good condition, and looks brighter and more radiant. I don’t have any complaints about its performance.
My only real issue is the price. At £34 a tube it is pretty expensive. Previously I reviewed a Lancome cleanser which, while being expensive, was excellent value for money because I only had to use a tiny amount at any one time. This isn’t the case with this Murad cleanser: I have to use the same amount as I would for any cheap cleanser from Boots or Superdrug.
Overall, if money is no object (!) I recommend this cleanser: it does a good job. However, if you are, like most of us, trying to watch the pennies, then I’d suggest either sticking with a “drugstore” cleanser or going for something like the Lancome product which, while being expensive, lasts for absolutely ages.
My favourite store, Lush, introduced a service called the “Kitchen” around a year ago – in this, they make several products a month in extremely limited quantities that you can order online. I don’t use this very often, but I did pick up a Gold Star Bubble Bar with my Christmas order.
This bubble bar first appeared a few years ago, before I became a Lush fan, so it’s nice to have a chance to try it. It is yellow with a gold star on the top – hence the name. The bubble bar cost £3.95, which is normal for this kind of product from Lush. I got two uses out of it so it works out better value than a single-use product.
The bubble bar is suitable for vegans and is made with a base of sodium bicarbonate, cream of tartar and sodium laureth sulphate to create the crumbly texture of the bar and help it create bubbles. It’s worth noting, though, that SLS can cause skin irritation in some people – something to be aware of if you have sensitive skin. It also contains sandalwood and frankincense – with the gold on the star, this completes the trio of festive Wise Men gifts! The bubble bar also contains benzoin oil. Altogether, it is a fruity, slightly spicy, sweet scent – rather hard to describe as you can probably tell, but I thought it didn’t smell particularly “Christmassy”.
I crumbled half of the bar into the running water and by the time my bath was ready I had lots of bubbles to look forward to. The bath water was yellow, which I don’t normally like, but there was also a subtle golden shimmer which made it look pretty. If you really hate the thought of glitter/shimmer in your bath you can always leave off the star and just use the main part of the bar in the water.
I thoroughly enjoyed my bath and felt really warmed up by the end of it. The water felt soft, with the soft shimmer looking pretty in the water. The bubbles were lovely and the smell wafted around the bathroom.
After my bath, I hardly had to use any moisturiser as my skin still felt pretty soft. The scent lasted on my skin for a while, too. There was a very faint shimmer present, though not a great deal. I didn’t have to scrub the bath out – a quick rinse with the shower head removed any remaining glittery residue.
I definitely recommend this bubble bar, if you can get hold of one. An amazingly relaxing bath with a lovely scent – brilliant. Hopefully the Lush Kitchen will bring it back next year.
I bought these disposable razors when they were on offer in Boots. Gillette Venus is a respected brand and I’ve tried their razors before so I was happy to give these a go. The pack included four disposable 2-blade razors in an attractive aqua colour. They cost around £2 at full price. I bought them because I needed a new razor and it was cheaper to buy a pack of disposables rather than shell out for a shiny new replaceable-blade razor. However, I didn’t necessarily want the most basic razor – it’s nearly summer, after all, and I’ll have to get my legs out soon!
The razors have teardrop-shaped handles for ease of holding, and contain blades with a MoistureRich strip to help condition skin. I like the colour of them too – bright and cheerful, and not the stereotypical pink.
I’ve used these razors for shaving my legs and underarms and have been impressed. The razor glides smoothly and gives a reasonably close shave, if not as close as other “permanent” razors I’ve tried. For a disposable razor, however, this is impressive. I’ve found them very easy to hold: the handle is contoured very well and I have no issues using this.
The moisture strip is handy but no substitute for using a proper shaving gel. It’s good to have, though.
The razors do last quite a few uses, and I’ve been sharpening them using my Razor Pit tool so they last even longer.
A recommended product – a simple but effective razor for use at home or while travelling.
The Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser is a reasonably famous facial skincare product among those who are interested in such things. I was able to try some thanks to a beauty box sample. Mine came in a 30ml green tube with a white muslin cloth (100% cotton) which would normally cost £6 – a bit more pricey than the cleansers you would pick up in Boots or Superdrug, but not too bad.
The cleanser contains rosemary, camomile, cocoa butter and eucalyptus essential oil – handy ingredients for moisturising and caring for skin. It is described as a “richly concentrated cleanser for all skin types”. To use, you are meant to massage a small amount of cleanser onto dry skin, over eyes, face and neck. Afterwards, rinse the muslin cloth in hand-hot water and rinse out, then use the cloth to remove the cream and polish the skin.
I do find this to be a more time-consuming method of cleansing than what I’m used to, but having said that it does feel very luxurious. It’s a relaxing experience to spend some time massaging my face! The cleanser is easy to apply with a creamy texture and a pleasant light scent. It goes on to my skin well with no irritation, and it is easy to remove with the muslin cloth (which should be washed at 40C every 2-3 uses).
I am impressed with the effectiveness with which the cleanser removes makeup. I don’t have to apply much pressure and it removes even eyeshadow fairly easily. I do prefer to use a special eye makeup remover for mascara, though. My face feels clean and conditioned after use, and in very good condition. I follow with my usual toner and moisturiser.
I haven’t noticed any dramatic difference in the condition of my skin – the cleanser certainly doesn’t have a bad effect, but it doesn’t have an overwhelmingly positive one either – I’ve used cleansers that have made my skin look brighter and fresher. However, this is a decent product especially if you need something gentle, and it has the leaping bunny logo proving that it does not test on animals – another bonus.
As someone with incredibly pale skin, I’m always on the lookout for moisturiser with SPF for the summer months. I picked up this Soap & Glory Feel Good Factor moisturiser with SPF 25. It costs £12 for 50ml, but I picked it up on a 3 for 2 offer.
The product comes in an attractive silver-coloured tube with pink accents. It is described as a “daytime moisture protection fluid”. It contains UVA and UVB screens to protect the skin against the sun, plus Soap & Glory’s exclusive *SUNTRIGGER™ technology & ANTI-AGING SMART SPHERES (whatever they are!). The product is designed to help protect the skin against dryness, wrinkles and pigmentation – all problems which can be caused or exacerbated by sun exposure.
The moisturiser should be used every morning (I used a different one at night – no point in using SPF at night!). It has a pleasant scent – Soap & Glory state that it contains a tropical fragrance including Litsea Cupeda essential oil and sweet orange oil. I do like the refreshing scent, which isn’t too strong. It is suggested that a generous layer should be applied, following with makeup if wanted, and that Feel Good Factor should be applied frequently throughout the day to ensure maximum protection.
The moisturiser goes on easily and is easily absorbed. It doesn’t irritate my skin at all. The packaging states that it is non-greasy, non-whitening and offers invisible protection. This is true – I was impressed with how it went on just like a normal moisturiser. Overall it was slightly thicker than a standard moisturiser, but considering that most facial sun protection products feel horribly thick and greasy (to me, anyway), this was a huge plus. It proved a good base for makeup, feeling light on my skin and not producing that oily “layer” that is normally the case with SPF products and can cause makeup to slide off.
As far as the sun protection is concerned, I used this all through last summer (except on a handful of days when I was out all day in the heat, on which I used my SPF50 product) and have no complaints. I didn’t do any kind of “testing” by staying out in the sun longer than usual, but my skin remained pale and undamaged – just the way I like it! So I have to conclude that this product does the job.
On the very hottest days, I prefer to use a very high SPF (50+). For most summer days here in the UK, though, I am happy to use SPF25 and this product did the job perfectly. Sun protection and a high-quality moisturiser in one – I will definitely be purchasing Feel Good Factor again.
I got a sample of Clinique Turnaround Overnight Radiance Moisturiser in a beauty box. I’ve tried Clinique products before and they didn’t seem to suit my skin, but I was willing to give this a go.
The moisturiser is designed to suit many different skin types, from very dry to combination oily. It is allergy-tested and 100% fragrance free. It is claimed that the moisture cream helps skin to be more radiant, revealing brighter, younger-looking skin overnight. It is oil-free and helps to reduce the look of pores, clearing away the effect of time and sun-damage.
The cream didn’t irritate my skin at all, unlike some other Clinique products I’ve tried, so I was pleased. It was reasonably thick but didn’t feel clogging or greasy. The moisturiser had a light scent and sank into my skin well. It felt a bit heavy for using during the day, but I felt fine using it as a night cream, which is what it’s meant for after all.
My slightly oily skin wasn’t left overpowered and I didn’t notice any spots or anything owing to using this. However I don’t think using this cream improved the condition of my skin hugely. It didn’t look any worse than normal, but I didn’t think it looked a great deal better either. However, in fairness I don’t think I am the target market for this cream – perhaps an older lady would notice a difference in her skin, as the cream is designed to improve radiance. I don’t really have any sun damage and time hasn’t managed to wreak too much havoc on my skin yet!
The moisturiser costs £36 for 50ml, which is quite pricey. Personally I wouldn’t buy it as I don’t think it would benefit me, but someone else might feel differently.
I got a small tub of L’Occitaine Precious Cream in a beauty box a while back. I was shocked to learn that a full size (50ml) jar of this costs £46 – clearly my sample was good value!
The product is described as a “triple-action formula” with active molecules to help reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles on the skin, as well as increase firmness and assist with anti-ageing protection. It contains organic immortelle essential oil and organic immortelle cell extracts – I confess I have no idea what these are! It is described as a rich, smooth moisturiser which is ideal for dry skin.
Admittedly, I have combination/oily skin rather than dry skin. However, I thought that if I used this overnight during the winter, it would do my skin some good. The moisturiser had a very faint but pleasant scent, and was quite thick. It was easy to apply and didn’t cause my skin any irritation at all, although it did feel quite thick on my skin, and slightly greasy.
After regular use, I was disappointed to find that I was getting the odd spot and my face was feeling a bit “overloaded” and slightly greasy. I think this product must have been too much for me, even in the winter.
In short, I definitely wouldn’t buy this as it’s expensive and didn’t do anything for my skin, to say the least. However, if you are older and have wrinkles and/or dry skin you might wish to try this in case it helps you. In fairness the cream isn’t really aimed at me, but I’d still recommend trying a sample first if you can, as it’s a lot of money to spend on a face cream!
I’ve tried several products from the Cowshed brand over the years, all of which I’ve got free from magazines – this is just as well, as I haven’t actually liked any of them! Until this hand cream, that is – which goes by the name of Cow Pat Moisturising Hand Cream. Why anyone ever thought that this would be a good name for a hand cream is beyond me! The packaging is fairly attractive though, being a simple black tube with a delicate flower design. The product has a flip-top lid, which stays on securely in my bag, and a 50ml tube costs £8.
The hand cream contains shea and cocoa butter to moisturise and tone the skin, with grapefruit and coriander essential oils designed to add a “refreshing” scent. Surprisingly, given my previous dislike of Cowshed products, I really liked this hand cream. It went on easily and rubbed into my skin very well, leaving no greasy residue, but kept my hands moisturised for a good few hours.
On the downside, I absolutely hated the smell. It smells really musty and horrible – I don’t know why, as I love the smell of coriander and quite like refreshing grapefruit, but this stuff doesn’t smell like either of these things, it just smells horrible. This really put me off the product, especially as the smell is quite strong and does seem to last!
Overall, a surprisingly good product from Cowshed, but rather expensive and with a horrible smell. Not one that I’ll be buying again!