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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!
As you will all know by now, I love Lush and all the lovely things they like to bring out. I am a fan of their soaps in particular, but a while ago this one in particular caught my eye. It has the unusual name of Putty For Your Hands.
In a nutshell, the product is designed to be a gentle handwash suitable for sensitive and sore skin. It appealed to me immediately as I have sensitive skin and sometimes suffer from eczema, particularly on my hands. Therefore, I was excited about getting hold of some of this. It costs £5.95 for 100g – expensive, but I decided that if it helped me, it would be worth it.
Suitable for vegans, Putty for Your Hands is made with a base of cornflour and talc, glycerine and water, with soothing marshmallow mucilage and oats and Fair Trade shea butter to moisturise. The essential oils don’t just smell nice: lavender oil is soothing, tea tree oil is antiseptic and chamomile is gentle.
There are two ways to use this product. One is to use it in the same way as soap, rubbing the whole bar over the hands under running water. Another is to break off a small piece, smush it into a paste in your hands with water, and rub hands together. I prefer the latter method as it keeps the main part of the bar dry, helping it to last longer. I find a small piece about the size of a pea is enough – though the bar doesn’t contain any lathering ingredients (as these can irritate skin) a little really does go a long way.
I tend to use this product out of the home: at home I use my Lush soaps but this putty comes with me in its tin, secure in my bag, and I use it at work and when I’m out and about. It doesn’t irritate my skin at all, and feels lovely on my hands. It is easy to work into a paste and my hands feel thoroughly cleansed after use. As a bonus, my hands smell of lavender for a good while afterwards!
The most important thing is whether the product does what it says it does – look after hands and cleanse them while being gentle. It completely fulfils its claims. Even if my hands have felt itchy beforehand, after using this product they feel soothed and not sore. My hands feel soft after use and I am using much less hand cream. In addition, my eczema has much reduced since I have started using this stuff.
If you have eczema, or the cold weather is playing havoc with the skin on your hands, I strongly recommend giving this a try. It’s expensive, but I think it’s worth it.
In a beauty box a while back, I got a little bottle of DHC Deep Cleansing Oil. I was sceptical about the ability of oil to cleanse – wouldn’t it just make your face really greasy? – but I decided to give it a go.
DHC is a brand I’d previously never heard of, so I went on the website, http://www.dhcuk.co.uk/, to find out something about it. DHC is a Japanese company (the letters stand for Daigaku Honyaku Center) and is a top company in Japan. It uses olive oil from Spain as a base to create a well-developed and researched skincare range.
The Deep Cleansing Oil is apparently a worldwide bestseller, and it has the full five stars based on 280 reviews on the website – quite impressive. It costs £21.50 for 200ml, which might sound pricey but considering that my small bottle lasted me a good couple of months, it seems pretty good to me.
DHC Deep Cleansing Oil is described as a make-up remover which completely removes dirt and cosmetics from your face, including waterproof mascara and eyeliner. At the same time, the oil nourishes your skin leaving it soft and smooth. It is made with a water-soluble formula designed to be rinsed off easily.
It contains olive oil, plus a bunch of other ingredients which I’m not familiar with. To use, you are meant to apply it to your dry face, massage it in, and rinse. I shake out a few drops and apply it to my skin. It feels gentle and soothing and the act of massaging it in is quite relaxing – plus I am sure it is good for the skin to give it a bit of a massage!
I am impressed by how well this product removes makeup. It seems to just melt away, even mascara. I don’t use waterproof mascara though so can’t comment on that. If I am wearing very heavy makeup, such as deep grey eyeshadow, I prefer to use an eye makeup remover first to get the bulk of it off. However, for my everyday makeup this product is perfectly adequate.
Over several weeks of use my skin feels soft, cleansed and clear. I have combination skin, but the oil hasn’t had the adverse effect on my skin I had feared. The dry patches I used to get, particularly in the cold, have gone, and overall I am very impressed.
Despite the high price I would certainly consider buying a full-price bottle of this facial oil. It does an excellent job and really cares for the skin. Highly recommended.
A while ago I decided that I wanted a music system for my room. I used to listen to music on my computer, but it isn’t all that powerful and music slows it down, plus it doesn’t always sound very good. I decided that a docking station compatible with my iPod Classic (which has all my music on it) would be a good idea. After some research I chose the iGhost, and bought it from Amazon for around £40.
The iGhost comes in three colours, black, white and red. Originally I fancied the white one, as after all, aren’t ghosts white? (!), but at the time of my purchase the white was out of stock so I went for the black. With hindsight this was probably the best decision as white plastic might have discoloured. Also, the black goes with everything in my room.
The iGhost is pretty cute: small and compact with a smile and two large round eyes that are also the speakers. It’s possible to control speaker volume by touching the ears gently, although I tend to use the remote instead. The iPod goes on top of the iGhost, and it comes with a selection of cradles to fit the right size of your iPod. The iPod Classic doesn’t use a cradle, but smaller models do. The iGhost is compatible with several models including the Nano 4th gen, iPhone 3g, iPod Touch 2nd Gen and Classic. An added bonus is that the docking station charges it up while it’s playing music.
The iGhost comes with the following features:
+3 Speakers (I know about the eyes but I’m not sure about the third speaker!).
+Sound Stabilisation Technology
+3.5mm to 3.5mm Stereo Lead
It is possible to operate the speaker either by using the remote control or using the controls on the iPod itself. I tend to use the iPod itself in the first instance, when I am switching music on in the first place, and then use the remote. Anything you can do on your iPod you can do with this iGhost – choosing music by album, artist, playlist, random etc. I find the sound quality to be excellent. I’m by no means an expert but it goes as loud as I need it to, sounds rich and layered rather than tinny, and generally sounds good. If you love really bass-heavy music or have other specialist requirements, this may not be for you, but for most people I think this would be fine.
Personally I highly recommend the iGhost to all music listeners apart from the most specialised. It is easy to use, well-priced and looks good.
I got a 50ml tube of This Works Daily Boost Body Scrub in a beauty box a while ago. Research has indicated that this would cost £7, so I was happy to get it in my box.
I hadn’t previously been aware of the This Works brand, so I did a little investigation. The brand offers “award-winning” natural skincare for all skin types and is ideal for busy modern lives. This particular item is designed to be a gentle, creamy scrub to remove dead skin cells. It is meant to leave skin moisturised, soft and supple.
The “natural” aspect of the product is evidenced in the crushed bamboo, an unusual ingredient which I haven’t seen before in a beauty product. The bamboo is eco-cert approved, which I take to mean that it is harvested in an eco-friendly way, and it is the ingredient that polishes the skin. The scrub also contains grapefruit and rosemary which stimulate and revive. The “modern” aspect comes out in the ingredient of tourmaline, designed to improve blood flow.
The scrub has an amazing citrus scent which I love. It really is something special and it is incredibly refreshing. It is easy to squeeze a small amount out of the tube, and it sticks on my skin, unlike some scrubs which seem to fall off so that you can end up using far more than you would like. The scrub feels very gentle on the skin, but even so it does a very effective job. It is gentle enough to use on my upper arms and thighs, but effective enough to work on my elbows and lower legs. After use my skin is left feeling soft and supple, with no added dryness.
Despite the high price, I do highly recommend this body scrub. It smells lovely and does a great job. You can probably get other good scrubs which are cheaper, but this would be lovely if you can splash out a bit more.