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=== The Product ===
La Petite Robe Noire (or Little Black Dress for those who don't speak French) is the latest fragrance offering from Guerlain. Available in all the usual places; department stores, perfume stores and perfume counters, it's current prices in Boots are £42 for 30ml and £60 for 50ml.
=== How I Came to Own It ===
I am lucky enough to be a member of the Boots.com product testing panel, which allows me to try out new products, often before they go on general sale, in return for leaving a review on their website. This was just one of a few fragrances I've recently received and as perfume isn't something I tend to buy often I was looking forward to trying it out.
=== What Guerlain Say ===
"I am absolutely essential and utterly irresistible. I have met with the greatest actresses and charmed the most glamorous of men. I am the chic, elegant and very seductive, perfumed creation by Guerlain. I am La Petite Robe Noire Eau de Parfum. My scent is Fresh, enchanting and delicious....Cheeky and captivating....I am the warm spark beneath the sweetness."
=== The Bottle ===
As you should be able to see from the picture the bottle is made of glass which starts off black at the bottom and fades through to completely clear at the top, passing through a lovely blackberry shade and powder pink in between. On the back of the bottle is a printed picture of a little black dress and on the front 'La petite Robe noire' in white. The lid is made of plastic but is made to look like glass, which it does, and has a little piece of ribbon around the base with 'Guerlain' printed on it. The lid and the top of the bottle have a kind of scrollwork design that reminds me of decorative wrought iron or stone-work.
If I'm honest this is not a bottle that I would have taken a second look at had I seen it displayed. It's not particularly eye-catching or overly interesting, but at the same time it is very different to any I remember seeing before, so rather unique I believe. Although it's not one that would have caught my eye in a shop I actually do really like the bottle. It's classy without being boring and the glass is lovely and heavy making it feel as high quality as it looks. It's a shame the lid isn't also made of glass as this does detract slightly from the quality feel, but overall I do think it reflects the designer price tag.
=== The Scent ===
La Petite Robe Noire combines top notes of black cherry and bergamot, heart notes of black rose and almond, and base notes of black tea, Tonka beans and patchouli.
Reading black cherry in the top notes I was expecting to be hit by quite a rich fruity fragrance so the first time I used this I was extremely surprised to find that the initial scent I got was a smoky one. It was an extremely familiar scent which I couldn't quite place for a long time, but I eventually realised it was exactly like the very unique burning smell that comes from burning joss sticks, which is somewhat bizarre. I could also tell straight away that this was going to be one of those perfumes that would give me a headache after a while, as it's strong and heady with a very chemical feel to it.
This scent is a bit of an anomaly for me as the smokiness quite overwhelms the rest of the scent and I struggle to pick out any of the specific notes within it unless I sniff the actual area of skin I applied it to. However, doing this I am able to detect the deep fruity tang of the black cherry, which I find truly delectable. This wears off within a few minutes, giving way to the deeply floral heart of black rose, with only a slight hint of almond lurking underneath.
Again it's only a few minutes before the heart notes fade and the base notes begin to come through. Strangely though, I find the black cherry seems to make a reappearance along with the base notes, but on a much more subtle level, so perhaps it had actually only been masked by the floral heart rather than having faded. It is here that the scent becomes again more musky and smoky, the black tea being very apparent. I have no idea what part of this scent Guerlain were smelling when they decided to describe it as fresh, as there's nothing fresh about it.
The problem I have with this scent is that although I can detect the different notes when sniffing the fragrance on my arm where I have applied it, the scent that surrounds me, the one that lasts, and the one that lingers all day in my bedroom, is still the initial smoky one. So, unless I spend my whole time sniffing my arm, I'm not getting the true fragrance, and this is not an issue I've ever had before.
=== My Opinion ===
Although the scent I can pick up when sniffing this on my arm is actually quite a nice one, the overall scent is very smoky and musky, and to be perfectly honest reminds me of old ladies. I would not recommend it to young women at all as it simply doesn't suit. It's the type of scent that I expect to find wafting from middle-aged women who don't seem to realise that their perfume is, far from being pleasant or sophisticated, choking everyone in the vicinity. I have actually received several compliments on this scent on the few times I've worn it, all from women who looked at least 50, confirming my thoughts exactly. Similarly the consensus among my friends who are around the same age as me confirmed my thoughts, that it's far too mature a scent for me, as well as agreeing that the scent it gives off to those around me is very different to the one on my skin. It's also worth noting that every male I asked hated it.
It is a strong scent. I only ever use 2 sprays of any perfume; either 2 sprays into the air in front of me before walking through it, or one on each wrist, and even so I find this one is quite overpowering. I was right in thinking it would give me a headache as it does within only about half an hour. Because of it's potency I wouldn't recommend it as a daytime perfume, certainly it should be kept for evening wear, where it would feel less out of place.
The quality of the fragrance does show through in it's staying power. As I mentioned previously the scent lingers in my bedroom after I've used it, and actually the room still stinks of it over 10 hours later. On my skin it lasts around 8 hours, and the scent that surrounds me can last well until the next day after applying it, so it's certainly worth the money in that respect.
=== The Conclusion ===
I've been left a bit confused by this perfume if I'm honest. Never before have I come across a scent that smells completely different in the air to on the skin, and unfortunately it is the scent in the air that people notice and in this case is not a pleasant one. I would definitely not recommend it to anyone under the age of 40 as it is simply too mature and smells out of place on the younger woman. As you've most likely guessed by now I will not continue to use it, and wouldn't recommend it unless the scent you go for is that of 'old woman with no sense of smell'.
=== The Product ===
Premiere is Gucci's latest fragrance offering. It can be picked up from the usual places including department stores, perfume shops and perfume counters in Boots and the like. The current prices in Boots are £45 for 30ml, £64 for 50ml, and £77 for 75ml.
=== How I Came to Own It ===
I'm lucky enough to be part of the Boots.com Product Testing Panel and regularly receive new products to try out and review, sometimes before they're released for general sale. This was the first of a few fragrances I've received recently and as perfumes are not something I tend to splash out on often I was excited to be able to give it a try.
=== What Gucci Say ===
Inspired by the Gucci Premiere Couture collection that debuted at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, Creative Director Frida Giannini conceived a new fragrance legend in the iconic and sophisticated form of Gucci Premiere. Just as a leading lady graces the red carpet with her couture Gucci gown, every woman deserves her Gucci Premiere moment. Gucci Premiere is a powerfully sophisticated aroma, with vigorous notes of wood and musk.
=== The Bottle ===
As you should be able to see from the photo the bottle is a quite a squat little gold effort with a cuboid-ish lid and a little charm hanging from the neck.
I have to be honest and say I personally really dislike the bottle, but this is mainly due to my dislike of all things gold. To me, despite the price tag, gold = cheap and tacky looking, and this is no exception. On the plus side, the lid feels fairly heavy and high quality and looks it too, but on the downside the actual bottle looks and feels cheap and nasty, being plasticky and see-through in certain lights, it really doesn't give off the high-end designer vibe I would expect from Gucci.
=== The Scent ===
Premiere combines top notes of bergamot and orange blossom, heart notes of white flowers and musk, and base notes of leather and wood.
On first spray the initial scent that hits me is the orange blossom which gives a fresh, zesty feel which is quite in-your-face at first, but quickly settles into a more subtle aroma as the bergamot begins to take the edge off.
It's only about 5 minutes before the white flowers begin to peek through, closely followed by the musk, calming the scent even more and creating a softer, more fruity-floral feel. This is the part of the scent that sticks around for the longest, making the 'main' fragrance quite a subtle and classic one.
After roughly 3-4 hours the zesty top notes have dissipated completely and the woody base brings a heavier, deeper feel to the musky-floral heart, but I can't say I notice the leather at all.
=== My Opinion ===
I would definitely describe this scent as quite classic, and personally I find it a bit boring. It is pleasant enough, but there's certainly nothing special or unique about it and I find it reminds me a lot of other fragrances, though I couldn't put my finger on which ones. There's just nothing to set it apart from other fragrances on the market and for me that means it's not really worth the money, as it at the expensive end even of designer perfumes.
It's not too strong or overpowering and I'd say it's best suited to daytime wear due to it's fairly subtle nature. Despite being a fairly light scent though it does have a very chemical edge to it that begins to give me a headache after a while.
I don't think this is a fragrance for the particularly young, perhaps under 25, but other than that it wouldn't seem out of place on any woman. I can't imagine anyone actually disliking it as there's nothing in it to cause offence, but it's not one I can envisage receiving compliments on.
The main saving grace of this perfume is it's staying power, which is where it shows it's quality. The scent lasts all day AND night, to the point that I can sometimes even still smell it after showering the day after applying it, and if it's sprayed on clothes the scent lasts days.
=== The Conclusion ===
I was left quite under whelmed by this fragrance. Although it is a fairly nice scent with great staying power I don't think it's anything special so it's not one I'll continue to use. Having said that it would suit most women and would perhaps serve as a good everyday 'signature' scent that is simple, classic and doesn't scream for attention.
Me and my boyfriend decided this year that we'd like to have a short break together. We weren't really that fussy about where we went, we just really wanted to be able to spend some time together away from our hometowns. After a bit of research online we decided on Edinburgh, and chose to stay at a Travelodge as we didn't need anything fancy and wanted it to be a cheap break as we're saving hard to move in together. When booking I chose this particular Travelodge simply because out of the more central ones they had the cheapest prices for the dates we needed. We paid in total £118.50 for 2 people staying in a double room for 3 nights.
=== Location ===
The hotel is situated on Queen Street, which is 0.4 miles from Edinburgh Waverly Train Station. There are plenty of shops, restaurants and fast food outlets within easy walking distance (though not if you believe Google maps which told us the closest fast food outlet was about 5 miles away!), as well as attractions including Edinburgh Castle, Scott Monument, and the National Gallery of Scotland.
Other attractions including Edinburgh Zoo and Edinburgh Botanic Gardens are easily reached by bus, which can be taken from the bus station just 0.3 miles away.
=== Facilities ===
The hotel offers a choice of double or family rooms.
Although some Travelodges do have café-bars, this one does not, and the only on-site food available is a breakfast bag which you can order from reception or at the time of booking for £4.50 per bag, or snacks from a vending machine in the lobby.
There are some facilities which are not provided in the rooms but are available from the reception on request, including hair dryers, irons and ironing boards and extra pillows, sheets or towels. Toiletries are another luxury not provided in the rooms but these are available to purchase from a vending machine.
Early check-in or late check-out is available for a fee of £10.
There is no parking available at the hotel, so they suggest you use the nearby Edinburgh St James Centre Car Park which charges £19.90 for 24 hours.
=== Arrival ===
The front of the Hotel is not particularly 'hotel-like', there's no big sign or awning or anything else really to stop it looking just like one of a row of houses, it is simply marked as a Travelodge by a flag and sandwich board out front. There are 2 small flights of stairs leading up to the entrance so it would not be suitable for wheelchair users. Once up the steps you enter through a small foyer area with a stand in the corner housing all sorts of leaflets about things to do in Edinburgh. Then turn right through some automatic doors and you're at reception, which houses only the reception desk and a vending machine.
We arrived at the hotel at about 4.30pm and were greeted at the reception by a lovely lady who I assumed to be the receptionist, but later turned out to be the duty manager. She quickly checked us into our room, handed over 2 key cards and explained how to get to the room, before asking if we were expecting to be out past 10pm and explaining that the hotel doors close at this time but the key cards for our room could also be used for the main doors. She noticed my boyfriend looking at the map which was taped to the desk and spent a while chatting with him about how best to get to various places in the area. She was very friendly and seemed keen to do anything she could to help.
There are 2 lifts to take you to your floor, or alternatively you can use the stairs located just next to the lifts. We were both surprised how quick the lifts were, and thought we'd been taken to the wrong floor the first time we used them as we were at the 4th floor in what seemed like a second.
=== The Room ===
Opening the door to the room we were presented with a short, narrow corridor leading through to the bedroom, with the bathroom to the left. First impressions of the room were excellent, although it was fairly small and basic it was immaculately presented.
The first thing I noticed was the flat-screen TV mounted on the wall opposite the bed; a luxury I hadn't been expecting from a 'basic' hotel. We found out later that, unlike most, it is mounted at the perfect height for comfortable TV viewing from sitting/lying in bed.
The next thing my boyfriend noticed was that he could see into people's flats from the window. There wasn't much distance between the hotel and the building opposite and you could literally see straight into people's kitchens and bathrooms, so we had to remember to keep the curtains shut when we were getting changed etc. as obviously we didn't want people looking in at us.
Underneath the window was a long desk with a travel kettle and a small tray with 2 mugs and teaspoons, and the usual sachets of teas, coffees, sugars and UHT milk. Storage-wise there was a single shelf on the same wall as the TV, with a hanging rail and hangers underneath. This was perfectly sufficient for us but would not be ideal for longer stays as you really have to live out of your suitcase due to the lack of storage space available.
The bathroom was fairly small with no bath but a nice large shower that was easily big enough to fit 2 people. The only complaint I have was that the shower curtain was about an inch too short, not reaching the top of the shower tray and thus making it impossible not to get water all over the bathroom. There was a little bin under the sink which was handy, and a large, well-lit mirror above, which I found perfect for applying my make-up.
The bed was very interesting for a 'basic' room as it seemed anything but basic, with lights built in to it; a strip of mood lighting across the top of the headboard which glowed with a dim yellowish light, and a very bright reading light at either side, along with the switches and a little cubby-hole just big enough for a drink. I was actually thinking I'd love a bed like that for at home.
=== Our Stay ===
Our plans for our first night in Edinburgh had been to have a wander around and have a look where everything was, then get something to eat, but it was so busy (turned out the Queen was there) that we gave that up as a bad job and popped to KFC for some dinner before returning to the hotel by about 6.45pm. We were pleased to find that the TV offered most of the usual Freeview channels, so we weren't stuck for something to watch while we were avoiding the crowds.
We found the bed comfortable, though the mattress would definitely be too soft for many people's taste and on a few occasions it made a horrible noise that sounded like it was ready to break when my boyfriend sat on the bottom of it (we eventually concluded it was just noisy springs). The sheets where crisp white, fresh and clean, but the duvet cover was very bizarre, with extra flaps of material that got in the way every time we moved and were so annoying that we ended up taking the cover off and just using the bare duvet.
There was quite a lot of noise from outside as there were bars and restaurants on the street opposite our room so there were regularly large groups of people stood talking right outside, and every so often the sound of loads of glass being emptied into the bins, and this went on pretty much all through the night. This didn't really bother us as I barely sleep anyway and my boyfriend is a very heavy sleeper, but it's something to keep in mind if you're easily disturbed.
On the first morning we didn't want to be up early and didn't need the room cleaning so we put the 'do not disturb' sign on the door and the cleaners took notice and didn't bother us. The next morning we were out early to let the cleaners do their work and they did an excellent job, changed all the sheets (though they did leave the duvet cover which we'd left on the shelf after the debacle with it the previous night) and left clean towels on the end of the bed, and the whole place was left spotless. My boyfriend was slightly annoyed when he realised they hadn't put any more UHT milk in our drinks tray, but this was probably because they'd seen the carton of UHT Soya milk we'd bought for him to use (he's lactose intolerant) and assumed we didn't need any.
At about 5pm on the third day of our stay, when we'd just settled down in our room with some food, the fire alarm sounded and we ventured outside where we waited along with the other guests. The duty manager (the same lady who'd greeted us on arrival) dealt with the situation very professionally, making sure everyone was ok and keeping us informed of what was going on. After about 20 minutes and a quick investigation by the fire department it transpired that a Chinese family staying on the second floor had been trying to heat up food on the electric heater in their room (!!??!!), and she warned everyone that the second floor was consequently a bit smoky before letting us all back into the hotel.
On a few occasions throughout our stay my boyfriend nipped down to reception to make quick enquiries and the staff he dealt with were always friendly and happy to help. Checkout was as quick and simple as handing back the key cards and the receptionist asking if we enjoyed our stay, so we were able to get straight off without having to hang around.
=== The Conclusion ===
I have to say this was the best hotel experience I've had in a long while. The rooms may be basic but all the essentials are there and they are kept perfectly clean and tidy. All the staff we encountered were friendly and helpful, and the service we received was nothing short of excellent. For the price we paid we were very happy and I would definitely recommend this hotel. We weren't impressed with Edinburgh but we'll definitely be using Travelodge for short breaks in the future.
=== The Product ===
Dove Maximum Protection Deodorant is part of Dove's extensive range of anti-perspirants, and is available to buy from health and beauty retailers and selected supermarkets, as well as various online store, for an RRP of £5.09 for 45ml.
=== How I Came to Own It ===
As a BzzAgent (a member of bzzagent.co.uk) I am regularly given the opportunity to join campaigns whereby I trial new products in return for giving feedback to the manufacturers and spreading the word about the product. This is the subject of my latest campaign so I was sent the product for free to try out.
=== The Packaging ===
The deodorant comes packaged in a card box which contains a small information sheet as well as the deodorant itself.
The deodorant is housed in a semi-transparent plastic container with a pull-off lid. Through the outside of the container you can easily see a tube of cream running through the middle. On the top of the container are lots of small holes arranged in a circular pattern, and on the bottom is a dial which when twisted pushes the cream up through the holes, allowing the cream to be applied.
=== The Claims ===
Dove market this as the 'ideal product for women seeking maximum wetness protection, whilst caring for their underarm skin, providing scientifically proven protection against wetness and at the same time moisturises underarm skin with ¼ Dove moisturising cream.' They claim it offers protection 2 times stronger than the leading anti-perspirant, delivering all-day freshness with odour-fighting technology.
=== Suitability & Directions ===
The deodorant should not be applied to broken or irritated skin, and it does contain aluminium so should be avoided by anyone with a known sensitivity
The deodorant can be applied at any time but It is recommended that for optimal effect it should be applied to the underarms before going to bed at night. The recommended dose for each underarm is 2 clicks of the dial.
=== In Practise ===
As with most twist-up products you need to twist the dial for a while before the product becomes visible at the top of the tube, then a couple more clicks should get it ready to apply. The cream has a typically 'Dove' scent, creamy with slight floral undertones, but it's soft and subtle and won't clash with any perfume.
The cream is fairly thick in consistency and has a smooth creamy texture that glides easily over the skin making it really easy to apply. The top of the container is the perfect size and shape to allow for quick and easy application.
The cream feels creamy and moisturising on my underarm skin, and it doesn't feel wet, sticky or powdery, meaning I can get dressed straight away without having to worry about rubbing it off or staining my clothes. It doesn't leave white marks on my clothes so I can confidently wear whatever I want.
=== The Results ===
I've mainly been using this at night before bed as recommended for best results and I found that it worked really well. Even though it says it does in the product blurb I was surprised to find that the deodorant continues working even after a shower. I would debate the 48 hour protection claim, but it certainly lasts through the night after applying and my following working day so perhaps 24 hour protection would be more accurate. I'm not a generally sweaty person but when I get hot I do tend to get a small amount of underarm wetness which no other deodorant seems to control, but since using this I've remained completely dry and odour-free even when exercising or in particularly hot environments.
I have on a few occasions also used this in the morning before leaving for work (usually because I've simply forgotten to apply it the night before) and it doesn't seem to make any difference to the level of protection or how long it lasts, so I'm happy to use it either way.
Since I've been using this I have noticed a slight improvement in the condition of my underarm skin, it feels a little softer and healthier, and I don't seem to suffer as much with irritation from shaving as I normally would. Before I started using it I was a little worried I might react to it as I have a lot of deodorants in the past, but it has caused me no irritation whatsoever.
=== The conclusion ===
Overall I've been impressed with this deodorant, it's certainly effective and the only negative I can think of is the price, though I don't use a great deal at a time so it shouldn't need replacing that often. Highly recommended and I plan on trying it out in the other scents which are now available.
I recently found myself needing to spend a night in Newcastle and having very little cash to spare I decided to use some of my Airmiles to pay for my hotel room. After looking at the available hotels on the Airmiles website I decided on the Newgate Hotel partly because it was one of the cheapest options, and partly because not knowing the area well I wanted something central, close to the train station. I paid a total of 1080 Airmiles for a 1 night stay. The cash price would have been £54.95.
=== Location ===
The hotel is situated on Newgate Street, right in the heart of Newcastle city centre. It's an easy 5 minute walk from Central Station and I was able to find it very easily despite not being at all familiar with Newcastle.
It's just a few steps away from The Gate, Newcastle's premier entertainment venue, a 5 minute walk from Eldon Square shopping centre, and a 17 minute drive from Newcastle Airport.
=== Facilities ===
The hotel has 93 fully en-suite rooms, including family rooms which accommodate two adults and one child, and inter-connecting rooms. Offered as standard in all rooms are a TV, hairdryer, direct dial telephone and complimentary tea and coffee making facilities. They also offer free Wi-Fi in the bar and reception area, and a large flat-screen TV in the bar.
Room prices include a continental breakfast served in the 6th floor restaurant which offers panoramic views of the city. Breakfast choices include an assortment of cereals, pastries, mini bread rolls, cheese, preserves, and a choice of orange juice, English breakfast tea or freshly brewed coffee.
Free parking is provided, with disabled spaces and ladies-only spaces available.
=== Arrival ===
I have to admit I was a little taken aback when I arrived at the hotel. The entrance, if it wasn't for the huge 'Newgate Hotel' sign above, could easily be overlooked or mistaken for a side entrance. Instead of entering into a lobby or reception area you first have to navigate a couple of staircases and a maze of grubby looking carpeted corridors with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the car park.
On finally arriving at the reception desk I stood for several minutes whilst the receptionist chatted to one of the housekeeping staff, neither of them even acknowledging me. When the housekeeper left the receptionist finally shot me a glance and I explained to her that I had a room booked and gave her my name. She then asked if I wanted to check in, and when I replied yes she shoved a form across the desk and told me to sign on the line. When I handed the form back to her she tore off a section of the form and gave it back to me with a key card, saying only 'first floor'. She didn't even bother to tell me what room number I was in before turning away. I can't say I've many experiences of checking into hotels but I would expect to be told the room number, how to get to the room, and what time I need to check out by, but here I was given no information at all and the receptionist seemed completely disinterested.
Ascending the stairs leading up to the rooms felt like entering a greenhouse, the stairwell was so ridiculously hot I felt exhausted by the time I reached the top. Luckily for me I was in room 101, which is the first room you come to after climbing the stairs and navigating a few more empty corridors. I had some trouble getting the key card to work, but after a few attempts a friendly housekeeper who'd been in the next room came and showed me how to use it, and managed to get it open after a couple of attempts.
=== The Room ===
The room at first seemed fairly cramped as I entered through the very narrow corridor between the wardrobe on one side and bathroom on the other, but once in the room it was actually more spacious than it seemed and a decent sized double room. The décor was plain and simple and there was more than sufficient storage space for even the longest stay. As well as the large wardrobe there were 2 bedside tables, a desk with drawers and cupboard space, and 2 large shelves.
On first look the room looked clean and tidy, but I soon realised everything wasn't as it seemed when I noticed what appeared to be blood stains on the carpet by one side of the bed. From then on more and more caught my attention including grubby cushions on the chairs and surfaces that looked like they hadn't been dusted since the hotel opened. Pulling out one of the desk drawers revealed a hospitality tray with the oldest looking kettle I've ever seen that I would guess from the amount of limescale inside it had never been cleaned. Sat alongside the kettle were 2 dirty cups and teaspoons. This was a shame as the sachets of tea, coffee, sugars and sweeteners provided looked pretty good and I would have loved to make myself a nice cuppa but didn't fancy drinking tea full of bits out of a dirty cup.
Moving on to the bathroom the thing that immediately caught my eye wasn't the dirt and grime, but the odd position of the toilet. It sits in one corner of the room pushed right up against the 2 walls, giving you no space for your left leg and making it impossible to sit comfortably. Being only small I could just about sit the right way round, but anyone larger would literally have to sit side-saddle on the toilet. It's all very bizarre and I have no idea why anyone would decide that's where the toilet should go, as there's plenty of space in the bathroom and it could easily have been positioned further away from the wall giving the leg-room needed.
That's not to say there wasn't any dirt or grime to catch my attention. Every bit of metal in the bathroom had years worth of rust encrusted onto it, the paint was peeling off the ceiling, and the bath looked like it needed a really good clean. The towels looked clean and white and felt soft and fluffy, but they had a really musty smell that made me reluctant to use them. Mounted on the wall above the bath were 2 dispensers, one marked Lux Shampoo and Shower Gel, and the other Dove Cream Wash. Both dispensers were so dirty I daren't even touch them so I couldn't even say whether or not they'd been filled.
=== My Stay ===
I arrived at the hotel just after 2.30pm and after dumping my bags in my room went out to do what I needed to do in Newcastle, returning at around 8.30pm. I had wanted to ask about checking out times but there seemed to be no staff around the reception area and I didn't want to hang around so I went straight back to my room. I was meeting a friend at 9.30pm so I passed the time trying to find something to watch on the very limited channels offered on the TV in my room. The reception was so bad on most channels that I gave up after a while.
I would normally have gone for a quick drink in the hotel bar before going out to meet my friend but it was very small, dark, dingy and uninviting, and every time I passed it looked overcrowded, so I gave it a miss.
I returned to the hotel at around 11pm and settled in to sleep. I found the bed very comfortable but the mattress was very soft so many people would probably not get on with it. I was expecting to hear a lot of city noises from the surrounding area but surprisingly I barely heard any of this. Instead what kept me awake all night was a very loud, constant whirring noise from outside, like a loud boiler or machine working. The window in my room wouldn't shut properly so I was unable to shut out the noise to any extent, and wind also whistled through the gap. Other noises that might affect your sleep were the very loud banging of doors within the building, cars coming and going form the car park overlooked by my room, and low-flying planes coming and going from Newcastle airport. If you're looking for a restful night's sleep this is definitely not the place for you.
I had to set out to a meeting at 7.30am and so was unable to sample the breakfast which is served from 8am - 10.30am on weekends (7am - 9.30am weekdays). So, when I woke I took a shower, which was a feat in itself. The shower was a decent power shower but the head was loose in it's holder so couldn't be repositioned. The power of the water from the shower kept pushing the bath plug back in, so I ended up having to hold it up with my toes to prevent the bath from filling with water. This meant I was unable to turn around and it was very uncomfortable and painful after a while. There's also not enough ventilation in the bathroom and I found the room filled up with steam extremely quickly, and the mirror was rendered unusable. I therefore had to use one of the mirrors in the bedroom to apply my makeup. Ideally this would have been the one with an overhead light, but this was rendered unusable, and therefore completely redundant, by the desk and TV positioned oddly in front of it, so I had to make do with a full-length mirror and poor lighting.
Once I was ready I headed down to reception to check out but again there was no-one around. By this point I was so annoyed with the lack of service in the hotel that I just left without checking out.
=== Conclusion ===
I can honestly say I was so dissatisfied with this hotel that had I paid in cash rather than Airmiles I would have filed a formal complaint and asked for a refund. The hotel in general is very dated and the room I stayed in and the service I received was absolutely not worth £54.95. Looking back I really wish I'd taken photos to show you just how disgusting it was. I did leave wondering whether all the rooms were as bad, or if they just stuck me in their worst room because I wasn't paying cash. Either way I won't be staying again, and I really begrudge having to give this so-called 3 star hotel 1 star.
=== The Product ===
Lancôme Hypnose Doll Eyes Mascara is the newest edition to the Lancôme Mascara range. It retails at £20.50 and can be found at Lancôme counters in department stores or the Lancôme website, as well as various online retailers. It's currently only available in one shade, which is named 'So Black!'.
=== How I Came to Own It ===
I'm lucky enough to be a member of the Boots.com Product Testing Panel and regularly receive new products to test in return for posting a review on their website. This was one of the first few products I received and was not something I would ever have bought myself.
When it comes to mascaras my preference is for a pretty natural look. I can't stand the false lash effect and absolutely despise the disgusting, several coats too many spidery look that seems to be the fashion, so I tend to stick to my old faithful Max Factor Masterpiece mascara, which gives me perfectly defined lashes every time. I wouldn't have chosen Lancôme's Doll Eyes as it sounded like it was designed for a more built-up, dramatic look than I go for, as well as being considerably more expensive than my usual, but of course I was keen to give it a fair trial.
=== The Packaging ===
The mascara comes in a shiny silver box which may be deemed unnecessary by some, but it does contain more information about the product than could be put on the mascara tube itself, so serves a purpose.
The mascara tube is made of thick black plastic decorated with a pretty rose design in grey, and the name of the product in silver on the lid. The tube is much thicker and chunkier than any other I've used and it does have a really high quality feel about it. There's a curvy hourglass type shape to the tube which makes it easy to grip, whilst the lid tapers almost to a point at the top.
=== The Claims ===
Lancôme claim that this mascara is 'the secret behind doll lashes'. The new I-conic brush 'provides an extremely smooth and clean application, thickening lashes without weighing them down.', resulting in a 'volumised, extended and full lash fringe for a doll lash effect'.
The cone-shaped brush is designed to ensure you get the 'ideal load on each lash, even in the inner corner of the eye', whilst the exclusive 'Fibershine' formula, enriched with nylon powders, 'offers perfect load and beautiful curve for seductive fanned out lashes'.
=== Suitability & Directions ===
The packaging states that this product has been opthalmologically tested and is suitable for sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers.
I think everyone develops their own method for applying mascara, but the directions for this one are quite specific, reading as follows:
'1)Place the brush on the centre of the lash fringe. Let the brush glide over the lashes from root to tip in a zigzag movement
2)Use the tip of the brush to catch the small lashes in the inner corner of the eyes
3)Intensify the outer corner of the eyes using the largest part of the brush to open the eyes
4)Apply on lower lashes'
=== In Practise ===
The first thing I noticed on opening the tube was the strong scent, which really took me by surprise. It's very highly perfumed with a kind of vague, non-specific floral scent, which is not really what I would expect from a mascara. Whilst I'm sure this is probably more pleasant than the usual mascara scent (I've never actually noticed how any other mascara smells, since it's not an important factor for something that goes on my eyelashes!), I couldn't help but wonder how such a highly fragranced product could be suitable for sensitive eyes.
The brush is a proper cone shape which tapers from about 1cm diameter at the base to about 3mm at the end. The first thing that really struck me when looking at the brush was that apart from a blob of mascara at the pointy end it looked completely clean. The mascara is so evenly loaded on the brush that it doesn't look like it has any on at all. The blob on the end sticks out from the brush rather than being on the bristles, so it's easily removed either by wiping it on the top of the tube or a tissue.
The tube is easy to hold and grip which makes it really easy to apply. The mascara goes on really smoothly and evenly, coating each lash perfectly without any sign of clumping or lashes sticking together. I found that I needed to do several strokes over each section of my lashes to get them all looking the same length, and each stroke I did seemed to give them a bit more of a lift. I've found that it is essential to use the larger end of the brush for the outer corner of the eyes as the thin end doesn't give them any length or volume and leaves them looking sparse and short compared to the rest of the lashes.
It dries fairly quickly but not so quickly that blinking straight after application doesn't lightly coat my bottom lashes. I never apply mascara to my bottom lashes as it closes the eyes and makes them appear smaller and I favour a more wide-eyed look, but it's nice to have the slight bit of colour to them that blinking after application creates.
I don't suffer from sensitive eyes but I do wear contact lenses and I found my eyes started to feel a little uncomfortable shortly after applying this. I've never had this problem with any other mascara so I can only assume the fragrance is to blame. Although they do feel uncomfortable it's not a bad enough feeling to make me remove the mascara and after a while I do get used to it and don't notice it anymore.
=== The Results ===
I was actually quite surprised by the results this mascara gave me. I was expecting it would be a very bold, dramatic look, but actually it gives me great definition without looking over the top or fake. The black colour is quite intense but it doesn't look too harsh against my pale skin and blonde hair, accentuating rather than overpowering.
It lengthens well, making my lashes much more noticeable and fluttery, and giving a wide-eyed look with not a single clump to be seen. It really does give perfect definition and separation of the lashes, giving a very neat, polished look. I don't feel it thickens my lashes to any extent on the first coat but as every lash is perfectly coated and defined I really don't think it needs to. The result is a naturally defined, wide-eyed effect which is perfect for a daytime look.
If you do want a more dramatic look you can easily build up the layers, adding length and volume and lifting the lashes into more of a curl with each coat. I've found that even after 3 coats there is still no clumping and my lashes remain perfectly defined. Once you get past the first coat the look does obviously start to get more fake, but although it's not a look I go for it still does look much better than any other mascara I've used . There's no horrible spidery look, it doesn't look really dry, and it has a slight sheen to it which stops it from looking as fake and dirty as most mascaras do when you start piling on the layers.
I have a bad habit of rubbing my eyes a lot and remarkably I've not had any smudging with this, though it does sometimes start to flake a little after a while and I find myself having to brush tiny black marks from under my eyes. Despite this my lashes stay looking as perfect as when I first applied it for the whole day or night, and even though it's not waterproof it passes the tear test with flying colours. When I do want to remove it, it comes off easily with face wipes or my usual cleanser, no need for a specialist product, and it removes completely so I'm not left with black marks under my eyes the next morning.
=== The Conclusion ===
I've been surprised by how much I like this mascara. It definitely opens up my eyes and gives a great, defined look which can be tailored for day or night. If it was a bit cheaper or I was a bit richer I'd definitely buy it again, and I'd happily recommend it to anyone with that kind of money to spare, but would advise contact lens wearers and anyone with sensitive eyes to err on the side of caution.
When the battery of my LG Viewty Smart died I decided rather than replace the battery I'd get a new phone (much more fun I'm sure you'll agree!). However as I only had a few months until my contract ended and I qualified for a free upgrade I didn't want to get anything too expensive as it would only really be a stop-gap for me. After looking around online for a while I thought the Samsung Galaxy Europa for £60 on pay-as-you-go with 3 seemed like a good choice, allowing me to use my 3 Contract simcard and giving a good range of features for a reasonable price, so that's what I went for.
=== Quick Specs ===
Size - 108 x 56 x 12.3mm
Weight - 102g
Battery - 375 hours standby time, 390 minutes talk time
Display - 2.8in touchscreen
Camera - 2MP
Memory - Phone 170MB, max card size 16GB
=== Getting Set Up ===
In the box you should find the phone along with the battery, charger, USB cable, headphones and a microSD card and adapter, as well as the manual and other informational papers.
Removing the back cover to insert the sim card and battery is easy but it does feel pretty flimsy whilst not attached to the phone and I anticipate it could be easily broken. It was at this point that I noticed the microSD slot is rather inconveniently placed under the back cover which I find a bit odd for something that you may want to remove fairly frequently, I would have expected it to be more readily accessible. It is however easy to insert and remove from the phone.
To charge the phone you can use either the travel adapter plugged into the mains or the USB cable plugged into a laptop or pc. The initial charge seemed to be much quicker than with other phones, taking only a few hours to reach full charge rather than having to leave it overnight, so I was able to start using my new phone much quicker.
The charger fits securely into it's socket on the side of the phone and unlike others I've had it doesn't come out whenever the wire is even slightly knocked.
=== First Impressions ===
The phone looks very sleek and stylish and though not the smallest or slimmest of phones it still has a neat, compact look to it. It's not as light as my last phone but it's certainly lighter than it looks and is easy to hold and use. The size fits nicely in my hand leaving the buttons perfectly positioned for comfort and ease of use. The touchscreen is a good size which makes all the swipes and movements of the finger required to perform different functions easy, and the display is crystal clear.
The case looked like it would scratch really easily so I ordered a protective gel case for it pretty much as soon as I got it out of the box. In the 2 days I was waiting for the case to arrive I was proved right as the bottom of the back case of the phone became scratched even though I'd only been keeping it in the phone pocket of my bag and being very careful when I was using it.
=== Getting to Grips With It ===
I've had a lot of different phones, including several smart phones, and never before have I found one so difficult to get to grips with. I normally simply play around with a new phone for a few minutes to figure out all the features and settings, never having to bother with the manual, but that was not the case here.
Trying to figure out how to change certain settings was difficult even following the step by step instructions in the manual. The manual would be telling me to go to a particular screen and press a key which was not there, and it would later turn out I had to change some other setting in order to make that key available, a fact that was not mentioned in the manual and I found out by pure chance.
Initially I found texting very difficult because the keys were too small and I found I was more often than not pressing the wrong one, or more than one at a time, which made composing even a short message a very long and frustrating process. It wasn't until stumbling across the keyboard settings whilst trying to do something else that I found I could change the keyboard to one with slightly bigger keys.
There are quite a few things within the settings that I've struggled to find even after having found them several times before (and I'm not a forgetful person so anyone who is would really struggle with this phone). Not everything is where you would expect it to be and as well as a main settings menu there are separate settings menus within certain screens which makes finding what you're after more difficult than it needs to be. There are also different ways of doing the same thing depending on which screen you're on, which makes it even more unnecessarily confusing.
Luckily the interface makes it quick and easy to navigate seamlessly from screen to screen and cycle through menus by simple swiping actions with your finger, saving you the added frustration of slow navigation on top of everything else.
=== Basic Functions ===
Once you've got it configured to how you want it the phone is actually much more user friendly than it first seems.
Texting is pretty easy, though even using the keyboard with the largest keys I still often end up pressing the wrong one so I'm guessing men, or anyone else with larger fingers, would find it difficult to text using the Qwerty keypads and would need to switch back to old-school texting on the 3x4 keypad.
Making a call is much easier than on other touchscreen phone's I've used as it doesn't rely on the touchscreen, instead having physical call and call end buttons, which means you don't run into problems if the touchscreen becomes unresponsive, a problem I've encountered far too many times with other phones.
The call quality is good and it's very easy to change the volume during a call due to the conveniently placed buttons on the side of the phone.
=== Features ===
The camera is only 2MP which doesn't sound a lot in today's terms but it still produces perfectly crisp, clear photos. There are many settings which can be changed and different shooting modes to choose from but again by today's standards it's pretty basic. Unfortunately when I send photos I've taken with the camera the recipient is unable to open them. I've tried changing the resolution and other camera settings but it makes no difference, the photos still can't be viewed and I have absolutely no idea what the problem is.
Accessing the internet is easy and browsing is quick and virtually seamless. Wi-fi is easy to set up and access, allowing easy access to the internet wherever you are.
The phone runs on the Android operating system which gives you easy access to Android apps. It comes preloaded with some useful apps such as Google maps, 'Places' which uses the phone's GPS to find buildings and businesses close to where you are and 'Navigation' which is basically just a version of a Sat Nav, and Google calendar, as well as a trial versions of games like The Sims 3 and Tetris. You can buy the full versions of the games or search for and download new apps from the Android Market straight from your phone.
There is an FM radio as well as a music player, and the sound quality is as good as any phone I've used. The supplied headphones are not the best but they're comfortable enough to use for a couple of hours at a time with no problems and have in-line volume control.
The phone also has a great deal of other features which you would expect to find on most phones, such as a calculator, memo, clock etc. However, it lacks a basic calendar, asking you instead to sign in to Exchange, Facebook or Google calendars, which is not particularly useful when all you want to do is check what date your next payday, or day someone's birthday falls on. Despite it's many features it's small things like this that let the phone down for me.
=== Everything Else ===
I've found the phone to be very robust and durable. I'm not the most careful of people and have dropped it quite a few times to no detriment. Other than the easily scratched back cover there's really nothing that would make me think it wouldn't last years and still look and function just the same as when I got it.
Unlike other Smart and touch screen phones I've used I've not encountered any glitches or errors when using this phone and the touch screen is the most reliable and responsive I've used so far.
The battery life is fantastic compared to other phones I've had. The first day I had it I played The Sims 3 for around 5 hours (I'm yet to figure out the point of that game) and the battery remained very nearly full. With light use I can leave it well over a week without needing to charge it and with heavy usage, including listening to music, playing games etc, it will last a couple of days before it needs charging.
=== Conclusion ===
Overall I think this phone is a great option for anyone looking for something which is big on features and small on price, having the same features as many much more expensive Smart phones for a very reasonable price-tag. However, I would say it's one to avoid for anyone who struggles with technology or has found other phones difficult to get to grips with as the settings menus are not at all intuitive and will no doubt only lead to a great deal of frustration.
Garnier Bodytonic Hydrating Lotion is part of the Bodytonic range designed to smooth and tone the skin, and is available from most good health and beauty retailers. It's usual price is £6.21 for a 400ml bottle.
Why I Bought It
I recently discovered the wonders of the sugar scrub in the same range, which has become an essential part of my body care regime, so I thought I'd check out other products in the range. I spotted the body lotion on offer at just £3 in Superdrug and jumped at the chance to try it out and see if it measured up to the high standards set by the scrub.
The lotion comes in a large yellow plastic bottle which is opaque but I can just about make out how much is left if I hold it up to the light. The bottle is shaped like an oval that's been squashed in the middle making it easy to grip with the hands. It has a flip-top lid which is quite stiff to open but fastens very securely. The flip-top makes it much more convenient to use than screw-top types which can be a pain to open and close with hands covered in lotion.
Garnier claim that this lotion is 'Designed as an energy cocktail for your skin, to keep the skin feeling moisturised all day long, for visibly firmer skin'. It has a 'non-greasy gel-crème texture' for an 'immediate invigorating effect'. It is enriched with seaweed extract 'to help reinforce and firm the skin's surface', and 'phyto-caffeine, known for it's stimulating properties'. They claim that after 7 days use skin will look visibly smoother for a more defined contour effect.
Suitability & Warnings
Garnier products are dermatologically tested to ensure that they are safe for use on even sensitive skin. Please remember however that this does not mean that you cannot have a sensitivity to the product, and it is always advisable to test for sensitivity on a small area before using the product, particularly if you have sensitive skin.
Apply daily, paying particular attention to problem areas such as the thighs. Do not apply to the face. Wash hands after application.
The lotion is of a fairly runny consistency which helps it to flow easily from the bottle. The scent is the same as the body scrub; a very fresh and zesty lemon scent which is quite strong but not overpowering. It smells pretty natural and, unlike a lot of citrus scents, does not remind me in any way of toilet cleaner or other citrus scented cleaning products.
The texture is certainly very gel-like and feels really smooth and silky. It has a very refreshing cool feel to it which is very welcome in the warm weather. Just a small amount of the lotion goes a long way, the consistency and texture allowing it to smooth exceptionally well over the skin. It doesn't take much massaging at all as it is very quickly absorbed into the skin. It feels very light on the skin and doesn't leave behind any residue or greasiness.
It does leave the skin feeling well moisturised without being heavy which again makes it perfect during warm weather when richer lotions can leave you feeling a bit sticky or sweaty. The immediate effect after use is a kind of light tautening effect on my skin which does make it feel a little firmer, but this wears off within a few minutes along with the cooling sensation.
It can sometimes be difficult to judge the effectiveness of products like this so I decided to use it one leg and not the other for a while so that I could make a real comparison.
After using it for a couple of days my skin was already feeling much smoother and more uniform in texture, and after a week's use I could feel a massive difference between the leg I'd used it on and the one I hadn't.
My thighs are not terrible but I do have a bit of cellulite and they're not as firm as I would like so this is the area I was really concentrating on. It has definitely made a real difference to the texture and feel of my skin but unfortunately there has been no major visible difference. It does feel a little firmer and has a slightly smoother look but it hasn't made any difference where my cellulite is concerned and I wouldn't say my contours look more defined. My skin simply looks a little healthier and feels softer, smoother and a little firmer.
Overall I really like this lotion and I think it's great value considering you only need a relatively small amount at a time. I'm impressed with how it's left my skin feeling and unless they're expecting miracles I think anyone else would be too. Definitely recommended.
Clarins Daily Energizer Cleansing Gel is part of a new range from Clarins aimed at the 18 to late 20's age group. It costs £10.50 for a 75ml tube, and is available from Boots, Clarins counters in department stores, and various places online.
Why I Bought It
I'm 26 and my skin seems to have hit an awkward transitional stage. It's still clinging desperately to the teenage style oiliness I've suffered from for many years, but has also become more dry and sensitive so the products I've always used to combat the oiliness are now too harsh to use on a regular basis. I've been finding it really hard to find products that effectively control oil and breakouts without leaving my skin feeling dry, tight or itchy.
A few months ago I was invited to join the Boots.com Product Testing panel, and as this meant receiving products for free in return for leaving a review on the Boots website I gratefully accepted my place on the panel. One of the first products I received was a Clarins Daily Energizers Great Start Kit, which included 30ml sizes of this cleanser, their 'Wake-up Booster' (toner), and Energizer Cream. After trialling all of the products for a few weeks I liked the cleanser enough to buy the full-sized version to use alongside my usual toner and moisturiser.
The cleansing gel comes in an orange squeezy plastic tube with a flip-top lid on which it stands. The opacity of the plastic does mean it can be difficult to see when the tube needs replacing, but the fact that it stands on it's lid means that, assuming you store it this way, the gel is always easily dispensed. The lid fastens tightly and securely, and it feels sturdy and high quality so I wouldn't expect it would be easily broken.
Although the tube is orange it isn't bright or garish and actually looks really expensive and high quality and would look good on display in anyone's bathroom.
Clarins claims that the Daily Energizers range has 'an innovative cocktail of four natural ingredients'. The first is 'energy-boosting Vitamin C that stimulates the skin's natural defences to keep it looking fresh all day'. The second 'is Turmeric or Indian Saffron, a powerful antioxidant that strengthens this action'. The third, 'purifying Alchemilla, an astringent plant extract that regulates sebum production to keep pores and the complexion clear', and finally, 'radiance-boosting Ginkgo Biloba, to improve the skin's uptake of oxygen so it looks brighter and healthier and to strengthen the walls of the skin's super-fine network of blood capillaries'.
They describe the cleanser as 'a fresh foaming gel that removes make-up and pollution for clean, blemish-free, detoxified skin'.
Suitability & Directions
The cleanser has been dermatalogically tested to ensure that it's safe for use on delicate facial skin, and whilst this should mean it's suitable for even sensitive skins I would as usual stress that this does not mean you cannot react to it.
Lather a small amount of Cleansing Gel onto damp skin. Rinse with cool water in the morning and warm water in the evening.
The gel is clear with a medium consistency - runny enough to dispense quickly and easily from the tube, but thick enough that it's easy to control the amount dispensed.
Although I had read on the front of the tube that it contains Moringa Extract I was still surprised by how wonderful the scent is. It's a lovely and light fresh floral scent unlike anything I would have expected to find in a cleanser, and it really does make using the gel feel that bit more pampering.
Massaging a small amount of the gel onto damp skin produces a beautifully soft, thick lather which smoothes easily over my skin. Although the lather is quite creamy it still feels light on my skin so it doesn't feel as though it's going to clog my pores or make my skin really greasy. It rinses off easily leaving my skin feeling clean and refreshed, but also really soft to touch.
I don't generally wear a lot of makeup but this tackles my mascara, blusher and mineral foundation with ease, so I would imagine it would also be pretty effective at removing heavier makeup, though I would always recommend a separate eye makeup remover for waterproof mascara.
I usually avoid products that claim to brighten or give radiance as they have a tendency to leave my combination skin looking shiny and greasy, but this is not the case here. My skin is left with a soft matte finish which lasts for a good few hours after use.
After using the gel morning and night for a few days I did find that my skin started to feel a little tight immediately after use, but the feeling disappears as soon as I've toned and moisturised so it's not really an issue.
Since I've been using this I have noticed that my skin seems to have levelled out to some extent. It's done a great job of keeping my skin looking shine free and my pores looking clear, and I have found that apart from immediately after use, the more dry, sensitive areas of my skin feel much more comfortable.
I've never thought of my skin as dull or lacking radiance, but it definitely takes on a bit of a glow when I've used this. It looks really fresh and healthy and I'm actually really impressed that it achieves this without leaving me looking shiny like every other 'radiance boosting' product I've used. For the first time in my life people have actually been making comments on how good my skin is looking, with 'natural glow' being the most popular description.
I actually really love this Cleanser and although it seems fairly expensive a little really does go a long way meaning it works out at better value for money than cheaper options. I'm very grateful to Clarins and Boots for giving me the opportunity to trial such a great product which I'll happily continue buying.
The Braun Silk-épil 7 Dual Epilator is the world's first epilator to combine the effects of epilation and shaving in one stroke. It is fairly widely available both on the high street and online and whilst it has an RRP of £169.99 many places are currently offering it at a sale price of around £100.
How I Came to Own It
As a BzzAgent (a member of bzzagent.co.uk) I am regularly given the opportunity to join campaigns whereby I trial new products in return for giving feedback to the manufacturers and spreading the word about the product. I've been using a Braun epilator as my hair removal method of choice for years, but the one I had was looking close to giving up on me, so the invitation to the Braun Silk-épil 7 campaign couldn't have come at a better time for me. I received the epilator and it's accessories, along with several replacement heads, replacement blades and shaving gel, entirely free.
What's In the Box
Included as standard with this epilator are a charging stand and cable, a 'Smoothing Cap' (with Gillette Venus blades), an epilation cap (for epilation only), a cap for sensitive areas (for epilation only), a cleaning brush, and a little drawstring bag to keep all the accessories in.
A big disappointment for me with this epilator is the lack of an electric shaver attachment. I used the shaver attachment of my old epilator for my bikini area and so because this one doesn't have one I've had to invest in a separate bikini trimmer, when I'd really rather have it all in one device.
In all honesty if I'd had to buy a new epilator I probably would have chosen this one based on looks alone. I'm a sucker for good looks and nice colours and for me this epilator looks perfect. The epilator itself is white with a sparkly panel on the main body, but it has a 'no-slip grip' which fits over it and is a gorgeous translucent turquoisey blue colour. There are also two small panels of turquoise on the front of the epilator where the controls and the light are. The charging stand is a white part-dome in which the epilator stands upright. The shape is sleek and curvy and the overall design is very modern and elegant looking. It looks great whilst not being so obtrusive that it sticks out like a sore thumb in my bathroom.
*40 Tweezers with Close-grip technology - The tweezers have been engineered to close at the optimal angle and grip hair even closer to the skin for better removal of hairs as short as 0.5mm.
*Smoothing cap with Gillette Venus technology - Integrated triple blade razor follows behind the epilator, capturing stubborn hairs and lifting away dead skin cells to reveal fresh new skin.
*Pivoting head - The flexible head can pivot up to 15 degrees forward and back, allowing it to better adapt to the contours of the body for more comfort and maximum thoroughness.
*SoftLift tips - Designed to effectively lift even flat-lying hairs and guide them into the tweezers for removal.
*Smartlight - The Smartlight shines light onto even the finest hairs, allowing removal of hairs that would otherwise go unnoticed.
*Wet & Dry - The epilator is designed specifically for use in warm water. It can be used in the bath or shower in combination with shave gel for extra comfort.
*Cordless use - Gives you the freedom to epilate whenever and wherever you like. Up to 30 minutes of operation from an hours charging.
*2 Speed settings - Select speed 1 for extra gentle epilation, or speed 2 for extra efficient epilation.
*Waterproof and washable - The sealed body allows it to be used and cleaned under running water for better hygiene.
The curves of the unit are perfect to fit neatly and securely in my hand, and it feels very comfortable to use and hold. The removable 'no-slip grip' gives extra grip to the otherwise smooth unit, which is essential for ensuring a secure hold when using it the bath or shower.
The unit is considerably heavier than my previous epilator, presumably due to having to house a battery as it is rechargeable whereas my old one wasn't, but the weight isn't enough to cause any problems or feel uncomfortable, and in fact just gives it a more high quality feel.
The flexible head allows the unit to glide smoothly over all the curves and contours of my body, making light work of even awkward areas such as behind the knees and underarms.
The epilator is very easy to use, the only control being a simple dial. Just turn the dial clockwise to turn it on, one click for the first speed setting and another for the second, and to turn it off or down just turn it anticlockwise. Then it's just a case of running the head over the area you want to epilate. I can't say I really notice any difference between the two speed settings, but it would probably much more noticeable for anyone new to epilating. It is fairly quiet in use and I can happily sit using this whilst watching TV and still hear everything, whereas my old one drowned out pretty much any other noise.
This epilator is very effective if used correctly, but if like me you're the impatient type you'll have to reign yourself in before you see the best results. As with any epilator, the key is to work slowly and steadily, allowing the tweezers optimum chance of picking up all of the hairs. Even after epilating for several years I still find it difficult to stop myself from rushing it even though I know I'll just end up with a patchy finish and have to go over it again, meaning it will actually take longer in the end.
I do find that it removes even the very shortest of hairs easily and effectively, and as long as I've exfoliated first to remove dead skin cells from the surface, it also picks up flat-lying hairs. It doesn't pick up the finest, fairest hairs, but this is a downfall of epilators in general not just this model. The hairs that it does leave behind, however, are really only the very finest that you cannot feel and would not notice unless specifically looking for them under certain lights.
The Gillette Venus blades are also very effective, providing a really close shave and leaving my legs feeling smoother than any other razors I've used. Unfortunately it doesn't work so well in combination with the epilator. The applied pressure needed for optimum results differ for shaving and epilating, so combining the 2 means you can only get the best from one. This head is also quite large and not as flexible as the others, which makes getting a smooth finish on awkward areas such as the knees almost impossible.
Wet use is clearly beneficial for the shaving element, helping to minimise irritation and provide a closer shave. On the other hand it only serves to hinder the epilation process, as does the use of shaving gel, which is advised for use with the shaving head. I find with wet use the epilator is able to pick up far fewer hairs, making the process much longer and more arduous, and despite the Smartlight the hairs are much more difficult to see, meaning I'm always left with at least a few hairs that I've missed simply because I've not noticed them. I also find that after wet epilation I'm left with a lot of angry looking red dots where the hair has been removed, a problem I've never had with dry epilation.
As I've been epilating for years I don't find the process remotely painful anymore so I can't really comment on how pain-free or otherwise this particular model is, but I would suggest if you are using an epilator for the first time to expect some mild pain or discomfort which will lessen with regular use. Making sure you follow the directions given in the manual on how to epilate effectively will ensure the process is as comfortable as possible.
In addition to my legs I have used the epilator on my underarms to great effect, but when attempting to use it on my bikini line it just took off layers of skin rather than removing hair, which is not a remotely pleasant or comfortable experience, so I would definitely not recommend it for use on this area!
Cleaning the device is made super-easy by the fact that it's fully waterproof. Switch it on for a few seconds underwater and the tweezers are fully cleaned, detach the heads and rinse each part underwater and they all come up sparkling. And for dry cleaning you have a little brush which can get into all the nooks and crannies, quickly and easily removing any hairs or dirt.
The fact that it is rechargeable and I can use it anywhere is a major plus point for me, I hated the limitation the cord on my old epilator imposed on me. I find it holds it's charge really well and even after the low charge warning light starts flashing I still have plenty of time left to finish up, so I've never had the frustration of having to recharge it before I can finish my legs.
The Big Claims vs. My Results
The biggest claim made about this epilator is that the combined action of epilation and shaving means that after weekly use for four weeks optimal results are achieved and you will then only need to use it monthly to keep your legs perfectly smooth.
Well as a natural blonde my body hair is fair and fine but I've always found it grows much quicker than the suggested re-growth times for any hair removal method. Everyone seems to suggest that epilation should leave you smooth and hair-free for 2-4 weeks, but I always find I'm feeling a bit stubbly within a few days, and there's no exception with this. I used it weekly for several months and still found no improvement whatsoever in the re-growth time, so I'd have to say that for me it really didn't live up to it's main big claim.
It is also claimed that whilst the epilation function removes hair at the root, causing it to grow back finer and more slowly, the razor function promotes the renewal of the outer layer of skin by removing dead cells, the combined action of the two revealing new, smoother skin. Unfortunately I have not seen any difference in how smooth my skin is after using this when compared with my old epilator, so again it doesn't live up to it's claims for me. The only difference I have noticed between dual and normal epilation is that dual epilation makes my skin itch.
Whilst this device is more than adequate as an epilator I firmly believe that other than making my legs itch the integrated razor adds nothing significant to the experience. It seems like innovation for innovation's sake, rather than solving a problem or fulfilling a need. I would definitely recommend Braun epilators, but I would suggest it's not worth paying any extra to have this particular model.
St. Ives Naturally Clear Blemish Fighting Apricot Scrub is one of a range of different Apricot Facial Scrubs from the UK's number 1 scrub brand. The range is widely available in most places you would expect to find skincare items, and is currently priced at £4.19 for 150ml in Boots.
Why I Bought It
I don't remember a time in my life when my skin hasn't had it's problems, and whilst most of these have come and gone the one constant problem that still plagues me is open, clogged and enlarged pores and blackheads. I HATE my skin for this and for years have searched for products that would actually make a difference. So, after the last scrub I bought tried and failed to tackle my problem skin I scoured the shelves of Boots for another one and came home with this.
The scrub comes in a squeezy plastic tube with a flip-top lid on which it stands. The white plastic of the tube looks opaque but it does have enough transparency that you can see how much scrub is left in certain lights. The flip-top is easy to open and much more convenient to use than screw-tops. The lid fastens securely so I wouldn't worry about it coming open if I were to take it away with me, but the hinge does feel quite flimsy and like it would easily snap if dropped or over-used.
Though nothing special the tube looks nice enough and is not something you would be ashamed to have on display in the bathroom. All the information you would need about the product is written on the tube, including a product description, directions and ingredients.
St. Ives claim that this 'deep cleansing Apricot Scrub for oily or blemish prone skin effectively lifts away surface oils and dirt that can lead to blackheads and blemishes'. It uses 100% natural exfoliants and Salicylic Acid to fight blemishes, revealing clearer looking skin. It also contains vitamin-rich apricot extract, Swiss glacial water and nourishing Swiss botanicals to leave skin softer and smoother.
Suitability & Warnings
The scrub has been dermatologically tested to ensure that it's safe for use on delicate facial skin. However, Salicylic Acid is a pretty strong ingredient and can cause irritation and dryness for some people, and is not really suitable for dry skins.
Moisten face with water, dispense product onto fingertips and massage gently over face. Rinse with water and pat dry. For best results use 3 to 4 times per week.
The scrub itself is a thick white creamy textured substance packed full of lots of grains in different shades of brown, which make the cream appear more of a creamy brown colour. The grains are not uniform in size, as is to be expected of natural exfoliants, but all are smaller than a grain of sugar.
The scent hits me as soon as I dispense some of the scrub from the tube. It's a lovely fresh apricot scent with a creamy background, which is strong and very noticeable, but not at all overpowering.
Applied to damp skin the creamy texture of the scrub allows it to spread quite easily, but the grains don't seem to follow quite so well meaning I need to use more than I would have first thought in order to thoroughly scrub my whole face. There is no suggestion on the tube as to how much of this you should use, but I find I have to use quite a lot more than the pea-sized amount suggested with most scrubs.
The grains are very noticeable as I massage this onto my skin and at points they do sometimes feel a little scratchy, but not to the point of being uncomfortable of irritating. I can definitely feel the exfoliating effect on my skin and it feels like it's getting deep into my pores to clean thoroughly.
I find that generally this scrub rinses off very easily, but somehow when I rinse it off I often find the cream ends up going in my nose and I find on looking in the mirror that it's still clinging just inside my nostrils, which is not very pleasant!
As soon as I rinse this off my skin feels amazingly smooth, even in areas that usually feel a little bumpy or rough. It doesn't make my skin feel dry or tight as is often a problem with face scrubs, instead my skin feels soft and hydrated. I also noticed straight away that the dirt in my clogged pores, particularly on my nose, was looking a little loosened. So far so good.
After using it regularly 3-4 times a week as suggested I did find that my skin was feeling a little sensitive and over-exfoliated in places, so I've since stuck to using it a maximum of twice a week and have not had the same problem since.
Having now used this scrub regularly for a little over 2 months I've noticed a big difference in my skin. My pores, particularly in problem areas like my nose, are looking much less clogged and more refined, and I suffer with far fewer blackheads than I did previously. I also feel my skin looks more even and generally healthier than it did before, and is just getting better all the time.
Well in all honesty I think I've finally found the blackhead-busting, pore-refining product I've been searching for all these years. I've been very impressed with the results so far and will happily continue using it, firmly believing that there will come a time when my pores simply won't be noticeable at all anymore. And to top it all off it's so reasonably priced I'll always be able to afford to use it regularly. Fantastic!
Garnier Bodytonic Sugar Scrub is part of the Bodytonic range designed to smooth and tone skin, and is available from most good health and beauty retailers. It's usual price is £7.14 for a 200ml tube.
Why I Bought It
For ages I've been searching for a body scrub which would do everything I required it to. Not only do I need a scrub to smooth my skin, it also needs to be effective enough to tackle the areas on my legs which are extremely prone to ingrown hairs, and the ingrained dirt which seems to amass on my forearms as a result of my job. I have actually found a couple of scrubs which met these requirements but unfortunately they were far too expensive for me to use regularly, and so the search continued. I initially chose this scrub simply because I had spotted it on a half price offer in Superdrug along with other products in the range.
The scrub comes in a large squeezy plastic tube, with a flip-top lid upon which it stands. The bottom half of the tube is transparent allowing you to see the yellow scrub inside and meaning you can always easily see when the tube needs replacing. The flip-top is convenient for use in the bath or shower, is easy to open even with wet hands, and fastens securely.
The front and back of the tube holds all the information you would need before using the product, including directions, ingredients and general product information.
Garnier claim that this scrub 'contains a unique mixture of sugar, exfoliating particles and natural fruit extract (apple)', which 'eliminates dead cells on the surface, removing impurities whilst respecting the skin and leaving it feeling smoother and more toned.'
Suitability & Warnings
Garnier products are dermatologically tested to ensure that they are safe for use on even sensitive skin. Please remember however that this does not mean that you cannot have a sensitivity to the product, and it is always advisable to test for sensitivity on a small area before using the product, particularly if you have sensitive skin.
Apply 3 times weekly on damp skin, lightly rub the scrub into skin in small circular motions focusing on the roughest zones. Rinse, dry, and apply a body lotion or cream.
The scrub itself is a fairly thick yellow gel full of large sugar grains which are not really noticeable to look at but give it a very dense gritty feel. Also visible within the scrub is a sprinkling of tiny red particles which I can only assume are the 'exfoliating particles' mentioned earlier, but they seem rather redundant in amongst all the larger sugar grains.
The scent is a very fresh and zesty lemon scent which is quite strong but not overpowering. It smells pretty natural and, unlike a lot of citrus scents, does not remind me in any way of toilet cleaner or other citrus scented cleaning products.
Applied to damp skin the gel spreads easily and quickly turns to a thick creamy lather which feels beautifully silky on the skin. As I massage the scrub into the skin the sugar grains are very noticeable and they do feel quite sharp and scratchy but only to the point of feeling like they're exfoliating really well, rather than being painful or irritating. The scrub rinses off easily leaving my skin feeling clean and fresh with no grains or greasy residue left behind.
Obviously how long the tube will last will depend on how large an area you are using it on as well as how often you use it, but to give an idea of how far the scrub will go I find an amount about the size of a 10 pence piece is enough to do a half-leg
This scrub certainly lives up to it's claims of giving an immediate smoothing effect. My skin is left feeling so silky and smooth you would never guess that it had ever been rough, dry, or otherwise unhealthy. A lot of scrubs leave my skin feeling quite tight and in need of moisture, but this leaves it feeling soft and hydrated.
The area on the outside of each of my calves is for some reason extremely prone to ingrown hairs which can be uncomfortable, itchy and even painful, as well as unsightly. Most scrubs, even if they leave my skin feeling really smooth, are not effective in tackling these areas, but this one absolutely is. After using the scrub regularly for a couple of weeks the majority of ingrown hairs had disappeared, and less new ones were appearing. I've now been using it for a few months and whilst I'm not completely free of ingrown hairs the amount I'm now getting is barely even noticeable. The marks and scars I had from previous ingrown hairs have also pretty much disappeared.
My job involves handling things which are often thick with dust and grime, which leaves me with black dots all over my forearms, where the dirt has got into the hair follicle. Normal cleansers don't touch this, and neither do many scrubs, but this one is extremely effective and seems to simply lift the dirt straight out of the follicle with no effort at all.
Whilst I didn't buy this scrub with it's toning effects in mind I've been very impressed with it's effects on my wobbly bits. My skin is pretty firm generally but I do have some cellulite on my thighs, but this scrub seems to have a slight tightening effect on the skin, leaving it feeling a little firmer as well as smoother. I didn't think it would have any long-term effect but I do believe my thighs are now looking smoother and a little less dimply after using this regularly. It's not a miracle cure but it has made a difference.
All things considered this is certainly the best scrub I've used. It's super-effective and is much cheaper than other scrubs of the same quality, so I'd happily recommend it to anyone looking for a good body scrub.
I Can Make You Sleep is one of a series of what could be termed as 'self help' books by Paul McKenna. It is written for anyone who has problems sleeping, whatever the underlying cause of the problems may be, and is designed to help you understand how simple changes can have a significant impact on your sleep. The book comes with a free hypnosis CD, and the cover price is £10.99.
Why I Bought It
I've had trouble sleeping literally for as long as I can remember. It never mattered what time I went to bed or how tired I was, I would still invariably lie awake for at least 5 hours before finally drifting off and while an average nights' sleep for me would be around 2 or 3 hours, I would often not get any sleep at all. Surprisingly this never used to affect me physically in any way and I figured I must just not need as much sleep as most people.
It was only after working 6/7 nights a week for 3 years in a very physical job, and surviving on around 2 hours sleep in any 48 hour period, that the lack of sleep finally started to catch up with me. Over a very short period of time (and most likely accelerated by illness), I got to the point where I just felt constantly tired and I started to think I had a serious problem.
After finding my Doctor extremely unhelpful, and sleeping tablets totally ineffective, I started to look for alternative treatments and methods to help me get to sleep, as I simply could not go on the way I had been.
I came across this book whilst browsing on Amazon for something to make up the last few quid of a gift voucher, and at £4.94 I decided I may as well give it a shot, despite the fact that I'm very sceptical about hypnosis and the like. The fact that all of Paul McKenna's books are very highly rated by Amazon customers also gave me the confidence that it might actually be worth a read.
Over the past 20 years, Paul McKenna, Ph.D., has helped millions of people to successfully lose weight, quit smoking, overcome insomnia, eliminate stress, and increase self confidence with his hypnosis and self-help techniques. As well as being an internationally recognised TV personality and stage hypnotist, he is Britain's bestselling non-fiction author, having sold 2 million books in 3 years. In relation to this particular book, he has made a 20 year study of tackling insomnia, working with some of the best Doctors and Experts in the field.
Chapter 1 - Welcome to the World of Regular, Deep, Refreshing Sleep
In the first chapter McKenna begins by setting out the aim of the book and the system within it. He explains that the book is written in a special hypnotic language which is designed to reach your unconscious mind and make the brain begin to process ideas to be able to reconnect to your basic ability to sleep. Because of this he suggests (or rather demands) that the book should only be read when you're ready to go to sleep, as simply reading the book should make you feel drowsy.
He stresses that the results from using the techniques in the book will differ from person to person. Some will find their sleep drastically improved within days, while for others it may take months for any changes to become apparent. By the same token, not every technique will work for everyone, it's about finding out what works for you.
It becomes clear pretty early into this first chapter that the 'hypnotic language' he's talking about is just repetition which rather than being helpful is, to me at least, quite patronising and annoying. I don't need to be told something as simple as 'for the system to work you have to follow it correctly' over and over again for it to sink in.
He claims that his system is unique because it is designed to use both the conscious and unconscious mind, and suggests that insomnia is simply a habit learned by your unconscious mind which the techniques in this book are designed to reprogram.
The last few sections of this chapter are taken up with explanations of how to use the accompanying hypnosis CD, medical matters that can affect sleep, and what to expect from the system in general.
Chapter 2 - The First Key to Sleep: Timing
He begins the next chapter by explaining that sleep is the bodies means of repairing, refuelling and integrating the learning of the day, and stressing the importance of sleep for our health. He states that whilst our bodies force us to sleep for the minimum amount required to keep us going, if your sleep is poor you may have had little more than the minimum, which will result in you feeling stressed, tired or run-down.
He also stresses the importance of treating all possible causes of a sleep problem, rather than focussing on just one cause., and explains that this book treats the 'whole system' and restores your natural rhythm so that your natural cycle of sleep and wakefulness runs cleanly and properly.
Next he goes into some detail on how the sleep cycle works and what happens during the different phases of sleep (light sleep, slow wave sleep, and REM sleep), before explaining what it all means with regards to insomnia and why people may wake a few hours after falling asleep, or believe they've had no sleep when they actually have.
Then it's on to how to reset your sleep cycle. In short he says that what you need to do is make the urge to go to sleep more powerful, and to do that you need to give it an extra 'push'. And here's where, finally, the actual advice starts, which could be summarised by the following sentence:
"Get up half an hour earlier than your usual wake-up time, go to bed only when you're sleepy, and don't take naps during the day."
I personally feel that whilst some of it is mildly interesting, the majority of this chapter is unnecessary and the 23 pages could easily be condensed into just 2 or 3 to no detriment. Luckily there was no sign of the annoying repetition (sorry, I mean 'hypnotic language') in this chapter, so whilst I felt it was overly long and drawn out I wasn't being forced to read the same thing over and over again, so it was less painful to read than the first chapter, despite containing little helpful information.
Chapter 3 - Small changes That Make a Big Difference to Your Sleep
McKenna opens chapter 3 with the following statement:
"There is a strong correlation between being overweight and having poor sleeping patterns, so as you want to sleep, staying at your optimum weight is a good idea".
I found this a very odd way to begin a chapter, but particularly one which has been given a title beginning with the words 'small changes'. I don't think losing weight can in any way be described as a small change, it's actually a pretty drastic and potentially life-altering one, and to call it a 'small' change is to suggest that it can be done as easily as saying 'I'm going to lose weight'.
This very first sentence had already annoyed me, so imagine how I felt to then see him go on to describe losing weight as a 'simple process'. Personally the only major weight problems I've had have involved me trying to gain rather than lose weight, but I know that it's not as easy as the logic and basic science which he uses to try and back up this statement, so for him to take such a simplistic viewpoint on the subject antagonised me to the point that I simply stopped reading the book and didn't go back to it until months later.
He then wastes 2 pages basically telling you to walk more, under the header 'How to make exercise easy', before things start to get a little less patronising with an brief explanation of the condition known as Sleep Apnoea.
Next, he suggests that a healthy diet of fresh foods is best for promoting sleep, and obviously stresses the need to remove stimulants from the diet. Then comes a little nugget of information which I can honestly say I really didn't know; there is an amino acid called tryptophan which actually helps you to sleep, and is present in milk and yoghurt, fish, red meat, poultry and eggs, as well as some fruits. So in theory eating these foods before bed should help you sleep more easily.
For some reason he then feels the need to go into detail on why caffeine and alcohol should be restricted, despite having already covered stimulants earlier, making for another unnecessarily long chapter.
Chapter 4 - Your Sleep Environment
This chapter focuses on creating the perfect environment for inducing sleep, with lots of common sense statements followed by redundant in-depth explanations on things like how to make your bed comfortable.
The only advice given here that you possibly wouldn't think of yourself is to keep the bedroom for sleep and sex (and reading this book and listening to the accompanying CD of course) only, so that your mind comes to make the association and therefore prepares your body for sleep when you go to bed.
The saving grace of this chapter is that it's kept relatively short at only 13 pages.
Chapter 5 - Running Your Own Mind
In this chapter McKenna talks about the importance of spending time actively changing how we think and feel, rather than just using superficial means of making us feel good like going on holiday and buying nice things.
He states that many people who can't sleep have accidentally created patterns of thinking that keep them awake, such as worrying about problems or potential problems in their lives, and goes on to explain how you can use your unconscious mind to overcome this. What this basically involves is avoiding too much stimulation for your mind in the hour before you go to bed, so no TV, and using visualisation techniques to distance yourself from any stressful thoughts that keep you awake.
At the end of this chapter is an exercise entitled 'Practising being drowsy', the prospect of which I found highly amusing. Reading through the exercise did nothing to quash my amusement, as it basically involves imagining yourself feeling tired and other people yawning. Actually being tired has no bearing on whether or not I can get to sleep, so pretending to be tired is hardly going to help.
Chapter 6 - The Power of Your Internal Voice
Here McKenna explains that the internal voice we use to speak to ourselves can have a big impact on how we feel. As seems to be his trademark he draws out the completely unnecessary explanation over several pages, whilst asking us to try 'exercises' like criticising ourselves in a sexy voice to see how difficult it is to feel as stressed as if we used a harsh tone. Apparently all this is supposed to make us realise that how we talk to ourselves about not sleeping could be making us stressed and keeping us awake. The solution? According to McKenna all we need to do is speak to ourselves in a 'happy, drowsy, tired' tone of voice.
He then offers another exercise called 'systematic relaxation', which involves using the aforementioned 'happy, drowsy, tired' voice to tell yourself to relax each part of your body in turn, over and over until you fall asleep. Pretty much like counting sheep then......
He then goes on to talk about the need to change our story, meaning the story we subconsciously tell ourselves, from negative thoughts about not sleeping and not being able to change, to positive ones. So again it's about speaking to yourself in a certain way to try to change your subconscious thoughts.
This chapter was never going to sit well with me as it just contains far too much psycho-babble nonsense for me to even begin to take it seriously, as well as being overtly padded like much of the rest of the book.
Chapter 7 - What to Do When Your Head Fills with Thoughts
In this chapter McKenna talks about the importance of putting your mind to rest before you go to bed. He suggests setting aside 20 minutes during the day to think about any problems or worries and working out and writing a plan of how they can be addressed, so that your mind does not feel the need to think about them at bedtime. Similarly he suggests keeping a notebook and pen by your bed so that any inspiration or ideas that hit you can be written down so that your mind doesn't fear that they will be forgotten and feel the need to wake you. Additionally he stresses the importance of taking the time to feel, think about and understand any emotion you may be feeling. He claims that once these things have been addressed the mind will not feel the need to think about them anymore and you will therefore sleep easier.
I began reading this chapter with a renewed interest as not being able to switch off my thoughts is a major problem for me, my mind often thinking of several different things at once whilst I'm trying to sleep. Sadly the advice given was nothing I haven't heard before and not in the slightest bit useful to me.
Don't get me wrong, these methods will definitely work for some people, for example if you're having financial difficulties about which the worry is keeping you awake, sitting down and drawing up a plan of action may well help to ease your mind and therefore help you to sleep easier. But it doesn't address what to do if, like mine, your thoughts are completely random and unrelated to any event, worry or emotion. I actually felt he'd been quite lazy in writing this chapter by neglecting to acknowledge emotionless thoughts.
Chapter 8 - What to do if You Are Still Awake
Here McKenna gives 4 different techniques to try if you still can't fall asleep after following the methods in the rest of the book. 3 of these are visualisation techniques designed to help you to relax, and the fourth uses Thought Field Therapy which is basically a sequence of tapping on key acupuncture points which is supposed to reduce stress and establish a calm relaxation.
As with most of the other chapters in the book I felt this one was overly long with lots of unnecessary waffle between the few potentially helpful snippets of information and advice.
Chapter 9 - Summing Up
The final chapter is basically an FAQ section, where Mckenna answers common questions he hears from clients, such as 'why do I wake up so early?', 'I'm shattered when I come home from the office, but come bedtime, I'm wide awake - what can I do?', and 'Why am I having trouble making this work?', and refers the reader to relevant pages within the book. This is followed by a list of 14 'Golden rules of sleep', which summarises the rules and techniques set out in the other 8 chapters.
The Hypnosis CD
I've never listened to a hypnosis CD before so I can't really say I had many expectations of it. However, the one thing I did expect was a soft, calm, soothing voice to help lull you into the relaxed state necessary for the hypnosis to work. Instead what you get with this is Paul McKenna speaking to you in a harsh tone which I'm constantly aware of and actively prevents me from feeling relaxed or drifting off.
He begins by asking you to use visualisation techniques to help you relax, then once he thinks you're in a trance state he continues by going through many of the key points from the book, which are supposed to be 'absorbed' by the unconscious mind.
As I was unable to relax and reach a trance state I heard every word on the CD and it soon become irritating. I did manage to put up with listening to it a few times but it didn't even make me feel remotely drowsy.
Ok, first off, I think the hypnosis CD is a load of old rubbish and has only served to strengthen my scepticism. That's my final word on that.
I found the book, on the whole, a very patronising and antagonising read. McKenna seems to talk down to the reader and at some points I even found his writing style erring on self-righteous.
A lot of the 'techniques' set out within the book I would have described as basic, simple common sense; things which I really don't need to read a book in order to discover. If you're the kind of person who needs to be told that you'll sleep better if your bed is comfortable and your bedroom dark you'll no doubt find it a real eye-opener, otherwise you'll be left wondering how the guy makes so much money writing rubbish like this.
At no point during reading the book did I find myself feeling drowsy (Bored, yes. Drowsy, no.), so the 'hypnotic language' clearly didn't have the desired effect on me, but perhaps like many things it's all in the mind and you have to therefore believe in it in order for it to work.
Despite my thoughts on the book I did try out the suggested techniques, and the only method that brought about any positive results for me was that set out in chapter 2, which I already knew to be effective before reading it in this book. Sadly this method relies on you having the willpower to get up early no matter how little sleep you've had, rather than just hitting the snooze button. And believe me, when you haven't got to sleep until after 5am, and the alarm goes off at 6am, that's no mean feat! It could also be said that when you rarely feel tired until well after your alarm goes off, waiting until you're tired to go to bed really isn't a viable option.
Putting aside whether or not any of the techniques are actually helpful, the majority of the book is completely unnecessary and it would benefit greatly from being condensed to just the short exercise, rules and summary sections from each chapter, without all the waffle in between.
Overall I found this book to be a complete waste of time and money, and I certainly couldn't bring myself to recommend it to anyone. However, judging by the numerous glowing reviews McKenna's books get, it would seem I'm in the minority. I just can't help feeling that those who have given this particular book good reviews must be very gullible people with not an ounce of common sense. Maybe it is just my scepticism that prevents his methods working for me, but I definitely won't be buying any more of his books.
The Greatest Scrub of All is part of the hugely popular Soap & Glory range, from the makers of the much more expensive Bliss brand. The range is available to buy from Boots or Harvey Nichols, or online from asos.com, and this face scrub is priced at £8.17 for a 125ml tube.
Why I Bought It
I really should stop reading customer reviews on the Boots website. I'm never swayed by adverts but am always getting suckered into buying things after reading glowing reviews saying how amazing they are and claiming that they do everything they're supposed to. I was persuaded to buy this scrub after reading that it worked wonders for large pores and blackheads, which is currently my only real skin issue.
The scrub comes in a squeezy plastic tube with a screw-top lid upon which it stands. The screw-top is easy to open but not particularly convenient when trying to use it in the shower. The tube is pretty much opaque so you can only see how much is left if you hold it up to the light.
I personally can't stand the pink and girly cheap-looking retro styling that Soap & Glory usually exhibits, but this tube actually doesn't offend me, probably in the most-part because it's white rather than that ghastly pink colour.
The front and back of the tube holds all the information relevant to the product, including general product information, directions and ingredients.
Soap & Glory claim that this facial exfoliator is "formulated to leave even the most exhausted face looking fresh", with "a strategic blend of super-gentle silicami particles, and salicylic acid loaded scrub beads", and is like DIY microdermabrasion.
Suitability & Warnings
The scrub is suitable for all skin types, as long as you adjust the frequency of use accordingly.
Avoid scrubbing irritated or otherwise sensitive skin, and obviously avoid getting the scrub in your eyes.
Apply a pea-sized amount to damp skin and smooth around the face, paying particular attention to blackheads, blocked pores, flaky foreheads and oily chins. Rinse well, pat dry, and follow with moisturiser.
Use 2-4 times a week for oily skin types, 1-2 for dry or sensitive types.
The scrub itself is a white creamy textured substance with a very fine grittiness to it rather than noticeable grains or scrubbing particles. There are a few little orange spheres dotted about within it, which are the 'smooth-boosting spheres' that according to the packaging will pop open when you press on them.
The scent is described as chamomile and mint, but personally I can only detect the mint and a general 'creamy' scent. Mint is not a scent I enjoy in facial products and I find the mixture of creaminess and mint rather odd, but it is not strong enough to really bother me.
Applied to a damp face the scrub spreads quite easily over the skin but I do find I have to use about 3-4 times the pea-sized amount suggested to feel that the whole of my face has been evenly scrubbed. As I massage it in circular motions I can feel the slight grittiness of the scrub, but it does feel gentle. It actually does feel exactly like microdermabrasion scrubs I have used. Every now and then I can feel one of the little spheres in the scrub, but these do not pop open at all and just get moved around as I massage the scrub onto my skin.
It doesn't rinse off as easily as other scrubs, the creamy texture seeming to cling to the creases and crevices of my face, but once it's rinsed off properly my skin does feel very fresh and smooth.
Instantly after using the scrub my skin does feel extremely smooth, with a soft velvety feel that makes me want to keep stroking it, and it does take on a slightly more even look. My skin also feels fresh and clean, but other than that I do not notice any immediate results.
After using it a few times I found it was irritating my skin a little at the top of my cheeks so I've had to be very careful to avoid this area when applying it.
I've now been using the scrub regularly, anywhere between 2 and 4 times a week, for a little over 3 months and I can honestly say that apart from making my skin smooth it really hasn't done anything for me. My skin doesn't look any fresher as Soap & Glory suggest it should, and my large and clogged pores are not less noticeable as the customer reviews I had read suggest they should.
All things considered I don't really rate this scrub at all. Yes it makes my skin very smooth, but I've used far cheaper scrubs that have done just as well on that score. This is the third Soap & Glory product I've tried and the third to be a big disappointment, so I doubt very much if I'll be trying any more.
The Electrolux ZB412 'Rapido' Cyclonic Handheld Vacuum Cleaner is available to purchase from selected electrical outlets and department stores, as well as various online retailers. The RRP is around the £60 mark, but it's currently being sold for £32.99 on Amazon, with similar sale prices elsewhere.
Why I Bought It
Last year I had lovely new laminate floors fitted and it's amazing how quickly dust and fluff starts to gather making it look messy. I had been using a dustpan and brush to keep it tidy but found it wasn't a particularly efficient method, so I decided I needed a vacuum cleaner to make the job quicker and easier. I don't have the space to store a normal vacuum, so a handheld was really my only option.
Well I have to say that for a vacuum cleaner this looks pretty good. The main body is made of clean white plastic, with silver-grey inserts and a semi-transparent black panel on the top. There's a blue LED around the on/off buttons which lights up when it's on charge, and it sits upright on a white plastic charging stand. It's sleek and stylish with a futuristic feel to it, and I don't feel the need to hide it away.
I personally find the cleaner to be fairly lightweight and easy to handle, but I do feel that for people with small hands or little strength it would probably feel quite bulky and awkward, particularly because the handle is quite large.
The buttons are well-placed at the top of the handle and easy to reach without having to stop what you're doing, and they are easily depressed with no sticking or stiffness to speak of.
- Cyclonic, bagless cleaning
The fact that the cleaner is cyclonic gives it more suction power and I find it picks up exceptionally well and never loses suction during cleaning (except when the battery needs recharging). It's more powerful than most other handhelds at 12V and I personally think this is essential when using it as a general cleaner as I do. It also has a Booster function for maximum suction, but I don't actually notice any difference between this and the normal setting.
It's not strong enough to properly vacuum carpet, picking up surface dust and debris but not getting into the pile. Despite being powerful the cleaner is fairly quiet, enough so that I'm confident that no-one else can hear it when I use it in the middle of the night.
The bagless system basically makes the whole thing a lot simpler and less messy to empty. There's no messing around with bags, just detach the filters and empty straight into a bin.
The cleaner has 2 small wheels just below the suction hole which allow you to smoothly run it over a surface, making the majority of cleaning quicker and easier. Unfortunately it also means that in certain spaces I'm unable to get the suction hole close enough to the surface to be able to pick anything up, but this is where the crevice tool comes in.
- Crevice nozzle and small brush
These little tools are stored neatly in the bottom of the vacuum, clipping easily and securely into place when not in use. The crevice tool is about 9cm long and it just slots into the suction hole of the vacuum. Similarly the brush can be slotted into the vacuum itself, or alternatively it can be attached to the end of the crevice tool. I find the brush can be difficult to remove when attached to the vacuum, whereas when attached to the crevice tool it can come off during use.
The crevice tool does come in handy when trying to clean those hard to reach areas, but I feel it would benefit greatly from being just a bit longer, making it less awkward trying to reach into small gaps. It's also great for doing the tops of skirting boards where the shape of the cleaner itself prevents me getting it close enough to pick up dust from the small surface area.
The brush comes in useful for surfaces where the dust sticks rather than just settling, for instance in my bathroom where the vacuum won't pick up dust because the steamy atmosphere has caused it to stick to the surface. Using the brush lifts the dust from the surface allowing it to then be picked up by the vacuum, and I do find it very effective. The only slight annoyance is that fluff builds up very quickly in the brush and it can be quite difficult to remove from the bristles.
- Charging stand
The charging stand can be freestanding or wall mounted depending on the space you have available. I wasn't able to wall mount mine as there are no fittings included and no instructions on how to go about it.
The cable is approximately 1.8m long so there's no need to have it right by a socket, and if you have it freestanding any excess cable can be wound around the underneath of the stand where it's out of the way and can't be seen.
The cleaner fits easily and neatly onto the stand and the blue light around the buttons lights up when it's correctly in place (assuming you have it switched on at the socket of course) so you immediately know if you've somehow managed not to do it right.
The only slightly irritating thing with this is I always go to put the cleaner in nozzle down as when I'm holding the handle that's how I would automatically go to put in down, but in fact you have to turn it upside-down so that the handle's at the bottom and the nozzle at the top. This probably wouldn't seem at all wrong if it was wall-mounted or stood on a work surface, but as I have mine on the floor it just feels awkward.
Charging and Battery Life
Before the first use the vacuum needs to be charged for 16-20 hours to reach it's full capacity. After this it's recommended that it should be placed back in the stand when not in use so that it's always ready for use. If it is allowed to completely discharge it will need to be charged for a full 16 hours again.
Personally I don't tend to use it for long periods of time, it's more just a quick go round the edges of my rooms where the dust gathers, so I don't generally have any problems with the battery running down in use. Occasionally I have left the charger switched off and only after several days use do I then feel a slight loss of suction and need to re-charge it, so judging by that I'd say the battery life is pretty good.
Emptying and Cleaning
Emptying the vacuum is extremely simple. Just push the release button at the top of the handle to release the dust container, then pull out the filter and empty it into a dustbin. They then both easily clip back into place once emptied.
The filter has a spring running through the middle which you can pull on a few times to free the filter of dust for a quick and simple clean. It is recommended that the filters and dust container are washed thoroughly with water every once in a while to help keep the vacuum functioning properly, and this also takes minimum effort. For regular maintenance it is suggested that you use another vacuum cleaner to remove dust from the components.
The unit and the stand just need a quick wipe over with a damp cloth to keep them looking as good as new.
The cleaner is well made, very robust and can easily take hard knocks as well as being dropped repeatedly on hard surfaces with no detriment to it's performance. As long as you ensure you maintain it properly it is a hardwearing and long-lasting little machine, and mine still functions exactly as it did when I first bought it. However, there are several areas of the machine that scratch very easily and I found mine was showing a lot of superficial wear and tear within the first few uses.
Overall I've been very pleased with the performance of this cleaner and it currently meets all my needs. It's not a complete home cleaning solution and if you have carpets you will need to invest in a proper vacuum, but although it does have some minor issues, it does it's job very well. I'd happily recommend it to anyone looking for a great value, high performance handheld vacuum.