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Soap & Glory Sugar Crush Body Scrub
Now I love a good scrub, and I love Soap & Glory products. So not surprisingly, I had high expectations prior to using this product. Well, I'm pleased to report that it didn't disappoint and I was thoroughly impressed with it.
This body scrub is described as containing 'smashed brown sugar & sweet lime, almond oil & macadamia grains', and these ingredients come together to give it a nice sweet smell, offset by the citrusy notes of the lime extract. It's a pretty unique fragrance, and very different to other body scrubs on the market, but definitely unique in a good way rather than in a bad way. The lime prevents the scent from being too cloying, and makes it a nice refreshing product to use in the morning when you need that little kick to help wake you up.
Using Sugar Crush
I like a good body scrub, and I've been disappointed in the past with exfoliators that weren't as abrasive as I'd like. However, this scrub is pleasingly grainy, meaning that my skin feels super smooth after using it. If I've got one small criticism of this product, it's that it's not quite as abrasive as Soap & Glory's 'The Breakfast Scrub'; however, those who like a more gentle product may prefer this one. It has a nice thick, sticky texture and I simply scoop a small handful out of the tub and apply it in circular motions to anywhere I'm suffering from dry skin - usually on my upper arms, knees, elbows and feet. Once massaged in, it washes off skin easily without leaving any slimy residue (as some similar products I've used previously have done).
There is one warning on the label - it states 'please don't use this scrub over irritated or abraded (or just shaved) skin as doing so might sting'. Presumably this is because of the lime extract that this contains, which I guess could be pretty painful if it came into contact with just-shaved legs. Nonetheless, I've (accidentally) used this product just after shaving my legs with no bad effects, although I suppose it could cause problems for those with more sensitive skin.
I'm always pleasantly surprised at how soft and smooth my skin feels after using this product. It even manages to tackle the hard skin on the bottom of my feet, which is an achievement in itself. Although I would usually expect to have to moisturise after using a body scrub, as I find that they often leave my skin feeling quite tight and dry, this one seems to contain some moisturising ingredients. I find that my skin feels nice and soft after using it, even if I don't use a separate moisturiser afterwards. I tend to use this scrub about twice a week, which I find is perfectly sufficient to keep my skin nice and smooth without any dry skin building up. According to the label, you can use it once, twice or thrice weekly, or even four times a week if you've been 'labelled 'old lizard legs''!
Price & Availability
This body scrub is available to purchase exclusively at Boots, either in their shops or on their website. With an RRP of £8.00 for a 300ml tub, it's not the cheapest exfoliator on the market; however, I find that the high density of grains in this scrub means that I don't need to use very much at a time, so a little goes a long way. Additionally, Soap and Glory products can often be found on offer in Boots (usually '3 for 2'), making this a bit of a bargain. If you're a big fan of the scent of this scrub, Boots also sell a body wash and body butter with the same fragrance.
Overall, I'd highly recommend this product. It smells great, I think it's pretty good value for money and it makes my skin feel fantastic. As I've already mentioned, my only criticism is that it's not quite as abrasive as Soap & Glory's 'The Breakfast Scrub'. Nonetheless, I still think it's well worthy of a score of five out of five, and it has certainly lived up to the high expectations that I have of any Soap & Glory product.
Body Shop Satsuma Shower Gel
I'm a big fan of my shower gels, and love trying out different brands and different fragrances. Although I generally try to grab whatever I can find on offer (usually for £1) in Tesco, Boots or Superdrug, a recent trip to the Body Shop reunited me with their Satsuma Shower Gel, an old favourite from my childhood, and I couldn't resist buying it.
My favourite aspect of this shower gel is the scent, which I absolutely love. It has a lovely distinctive orangey smell, which instantly evokes childhood memories for me, as my Gran used to get mini bottles of this shower gel for me for my birthdays when I was younger. Unlike many fruity shower gels I've used in the past, this one smells natural and not at all artificial, as through the very essence of a satsuma has been collected up and bottled. The citrus notes make this a great shower gel to use in the mornings, helping to wake you up, yet it's not too 'zingy' to use during a relaxing evening shower.
Using the Shower Gel
I really enjoy using this shower gel. I apply it either using a loofah or just with my hands. This shower gel has a relatively thin texture, making it easy to pour a small amount out of the bottle, and I find that a little goes a long way. Mixing a small amount with warm water in the shower produces a rich, thick, bubbly lather which is enjoyable to use and means that I only have to use a tiny amount. The scent of this product also adds to the enjoyment of using it, and the fragrance really sticks around, meaning that my bathroom always smells really nice after I've used it. It also means I can tell if one of my housemates has sneakily been using my shower gel!
The rich lather that this shower gel creates, combined with its fresh, citrusy scent, leave my skin feeling lovely and clean. I don't have particularly sensitive skin, but I've found that some fruity shower gels I've used in the past have left my skin feeling rather dry. This shower gel, on the other hand, has the opposite effect - my skin feels nicely moisturised after using it. It also leaves a subtle scent of satsuma on my skin, which can either be enhanced with other products in the range (for example the Body Shop Satsuma Body Butter), or covered up if you don't want to smell of satsuma all day.
Price & Availability
This shower gel is exclusive to the Body Shop, as with all of their products. It seems to be widely available as I've seen the satsuma range of products in numerous Body Shop stores, and it can also be purchased online at www.bodyshop.co.uk. Now, I must admit, although I do like the Body Shop's products, I'm often put off buying them as they can seem a little pricey, especially if you compare their prices to those of shops like Boots and Superdrug. According to the Body Shop website, this shower gel comes in two sizes: 60ml (RRP £2.00) and 250ml (RRP £4.00). As I wouldn't normally pay over about £1.50 for a 250ml bottle of shower gel, these prices do seem quite steep. Nonetheless, you do only need to use a small amount to create enough of a lather to clean yourself from head to toe, so I suppose it's not bad value for money if you buy the bigger size. My bottle is actually 400ml, which doesn't seem to be being sold anymore, and I bought it at a price of £4, reduced from £8. Despite the prices, the Body Shop often have good promotions (e.g. 3 for 2, save £5 when you spend £15 etc), so it's worth waiting and getting this shower gel on offer.
Overall, I really like this shower gel and I'd definitely buy it again. It smells divine and a little goes a long way, making me feel better about paying more for it than I'd usually spend on a shower gel. It also makes my skin feel soft and clean after using it. I've deducted one star, as I do think it's a little pricey, but if I could I'd give it 4.5 out of 5, rather than 4.
The Breakfast Scrub - Soap & Glory
I've written a fair few reviews of Soap & Glory products in the past, and after a bit of a break from writing reviews, I'm back! I received a bumper pack of Soap & Glory products for Christmas and I've been enjoying working my way through them since, so I'll be reviewing a few of them in the near future.
I'm a huge fan of Soap & Glory products, and my experiences with them have led me to expect good-quality products that really achieve what they claim to do, at affordable prices. Out of everything I received for Christmas, the Breakfast Scrub was what I was most excited to use, mainly because it just smells so good! Thankfully, it lived up to my expectations and so I hope my review will give this five-star body scrub the praise it deserves.
Upon unscrewing the jar, a lovely whiff of sweet-smelling goodness escapes. The scent of this scrub is one of my favourite things about it and I'm sure will make it very popular. To me, the overriding scent is that of maple syrup, with subtle oaty notes which prevent it from smelling too sickly. It contains oat, shea butter, sugar and extracts of bananas, almond and honey, all of which combine to result in a tasty-smelling exfoliator. It certainly smells like something I'd quite happily eat for breakfast, presumably the reason for the notice on the underside on the tub stating 'We are also legally obliged to remind you that THIS IS NOT A FOOD'! Being the well-behaved sort, I've kept this warning in mind and never tried eating this product, but I'm fairly sure it wouldn't taste as good as it smells!
Using the scrub
I use this scrub in the shower to slough off rough skin, particularly on my arms and legs. It has a sticky, gloopy texture, making it easy to scoop up half a handful (which I find is enough to give me a good scrub) and to massage into my skin. The texture makes it a joy to use, as it is very grainy, and therefore pretty abrasive, yet because it is also thick and sticky, it's not at all painful to use. The high density of sugar grains means that a little goes a long way, and the scent of this scrub sticks around whilst it's being massaged into skin, making using it a pleasant experience.
I'm always extremely impressed with the way this scrub leaves my skin feeling. Although I don't spend very long massaging it into my skin, it always leaves it feeling silky smooth. Dry skin is no match for it, even on my elbows, knees and the soles of my feet, where my skin tends to be driest. Another thing I like about this exfoliator is that in addition to leaving my skin feeling smooth and even-textured, it also leaves it feeling nicely moisturised. Whereas I've had to moisturise after using other scrubs in the past, it's not necessary with this one, which is a nice bonus. This scrub also leaves my skin smelling pleasant long after I've finished using it - although thankfully it only lingers very subtly, as I wouldn't want to go round smelling like a breakfast food all day!
Price & Where to Purchase
This body smoother is available from Boots and Harvey Nichols. I tend to buy my Soap & Glory goodies from Boots, and I've seen this scrub on sale in some of their smaller shops as well as their larger stores, so I'd assume that it's fairly widely available. It has an RRP of £9.50 for a 300ml tub, which I think is reasonable, given that a little goes a long way. Additionally, Soap & Glory products can often be found on '3 for 2' in Boots (giving you the perfect excuse to try out other products from the range!), which I think is a bargain.
I'm really glad that I received this scrub for Christmas, as it's fast become one of my favourite Soap & Glory products. Not only does it smell great, it leaves my skin looking and feeling fantastic and the 300ml tub provides a lot of uses as the grainy texture means a little really does go a long way. I now use this once or twice a week, and will certainly be replacing it when it runs out. Definitely five out of five from me.
Bassetts Soft & Chewy Daily Energiser Vitamin Pastilles
Although I try to eat healthily, get my five portions of fruit and veg each day and exercise regularly, I sometimes feel that I'm not getting all the vitamins and minerals that I need. I've also been feeling quite run-down and tired recently, so I decided to buy myself some vitamins to get myself into the habit of taking them each day. I planned to purchase a bog-standard, run-of-the-mill bottle of cheap vitamins, but I spotted a box of Bassetts Soft & Chewy Daily Energiser Vitamin Pastilles on special offer, and the idea of chewy, fruit-flavoured vitamins really appealed to me. Here's how I've got on with them over the last few weeks since buying them.
These vitamins come in a white cardboard box with a green and purple colour scheme which houses 20 pastilles in two plastic trays with foil backings. The front of the box has text outlining the brand name, product name and tells us that these are 'for adults', 'delicious citrus flavoured pastilles' and contain B vitamins and CoQ10. There is a silhouette image of a lady in heels and a handbag, suggesting that these vitamins are aimed at adults (particularly females, perhaps) who lead busy lives.
The back of the box contains more comprehensive information. It sets out that these pastilles help to promote:
1) Energy levels and metabolism
2) Immune health
3) Good general health
The sides of the box provide an ingredient list, nutrition information (i.e. how many milligrams of various ingredients each pastille contains and the percentage of an adults Recommended Daily Allowance that they provide) and warnings not to exceed the daily allowance of one pastille per day and not to substitute food supplements for a varied diet.
The packaging describes these vitamins as having being developed 'to support those who lead busy and hectic lives and would like to maintain their energy levels throughout the day - and night'. They are for use by people over the age of 12 and contain a number of ingredients specifically included to help their target users:
* CoQ10 to promote energy levels and metabolism
* B Vitamins (B2, B5, B6 and B12) which help with energy, metabolism, cognitive function, heart and blood health and help keep nails, hair and skin healthy
* Vitamins C and E for healthy skin and gums, iron absorption and antioxidant protection of body tissues.
Taking these vitamins is easy: you simply have to pop one out of the foil-backed tray and chew it up. And now onto the main question that I'm sure many people will have about these vitamins: how do they taste? Well, I was a little surprised when I tried one of these pastilles for the first time, as the green colour scheme used on the packaging and their description of being 'citrus' flavoured led me to assume that these would be lime or lemon and lime flavoured. However, these are in fact orange, both in flavour and colour. Taste-wise, I find that they taste very similar to a Rowntrees fruit gum (the orange flavour, obviously!), and I do feel a little bit like I'm eating a sweet rather than a supplement.
One thing I have noticed when eating these vitamins is that once or twice I've been left with a horrible, bitter after-taste a few minutes after eating one. Strangely, this doesn't happen each time I have one of these pastilles. However, the taste was so bad that I now ensure I either brush my teeth or have a big drink after taking one of these vitamins, as I don't want that after-taste again.
With regards to how much these pastilles meet their aim to increase energy levels and metabolism and to boost both immune and general health, I'm not sure how much I can comment. I've certainly noticed that my energy levels have increased since I started taking them, although I wouldn't want to attribute this to this product alone as I'm well aware that numerous factors contribute to health and wellbeing and I'd never want to depend on a supplement alone to keep me healthy. Nonetheless, in my book, any product that claims to boost energy and ensure I get the vitamins and minerals I need to stay healthy is worth trying. The vitamins also provide over 100% of an adult's RDA of various vitamins (e.g. 114% of RDA for vitamin B2, 100% B5 and 143% B6) which I think is fantastic.
Price and Availability
I purchased these vitamin pastilles from my local Tesco's store where they were on a long-term '3 for 2' offer across a wide range of vitamins and supplements. I've also seen them in Sainsbury's on the same offer, and I've seen them being sold in branches of Boots and Superdrug and in independent chemists and pharmacies. These are clearly a popular product as they seem to be widely stocked, along with other vitamin pastilles manufactured by Bassetts.
At a price of £3.55 for 20 pastilles, or £5.65 for a pack of 30, these are more costly than your bog-standard bottle of vitamin tablets. However, I personally think it's worth paying the extra money, as the taste and pastille-texture really help to ensure that I take my vitamins everyday.
As I hope that my review has shown, I've been really happy with these pastilles. I really like their taste and texture and the fact that I enjoy eating them has definitely made sure that I remember to take a supplement everyday. As an adult who does lead a bit of a hectic lifestyle, causing me to suffer sometimes with my health and my energy levels, I feel that these vitamins have been designed with people like myself in mind and I do feel that they've made me feel healthier and more energised.
I think that the one drawback of these supplements is the price: at £3.55 for a pack of 20 pastilles (which, taken daily, will last less than three weeks), there are certainly cheaper alternatives available which I'm sure would provide as many vitamins and other beneficial ingredients. Nonetheless, I'm happy to pay a bit more for a product like this, as I tend to forget to take ordinary vitamins whereas I've had no problems remembering to take these. Some people may think that making vitamins look and taste like sweets is gimmicky or even dangerous, but I think it's a great way of getting adults to take their supplements. It's also definitely worth looking out for these on offer as numerous stores (like Tesco, Sainsbury's and Boots) have long-term '3 for 2' offers on vitamins and supplements.
Overall, I'm giving these Bassetts Soft and Chewy Daily Energiser Vitamin Pastilles a very good score of four out of five. I'm knocking one point off as they're not the cheapest supplements in the world, but I still think they're a great product.
Soap and Glory Off Your Face Cleansing Cloths
As some people may have deduced from my previous reviews, I'm something of a skincare fanatic and I love trying out different products, from face washes to masks and moisturisers. One type of product I don't tend to be so keen on, however, is face wipes, as I find that they don't tend to clean my face very well and often leave traces of make up on my skin, causing it to break out. Nonetheless, I was given a bumper bag of Soap and Glory goodies for Christmas which included a pack of these wipes and as a big fan of Soap and Glory products I thought I might as well give them a go. As my review will show, I've been incredibly impressed with them.
These face wipes come in a plastic packet, sealed on top with a sticker which is peeled off to pull out the face wipes and replaced when they are not in use. Like many products in Soap and Glory's range, the packaging uses a pink colour scheme with a muted background pattern displaying the Soap and Glory 'S&G' initials. The front of the packet displays the company logo, the product name (which I'm a fan of - Soap and Glory really don't disappoint with their product names!) and text claiming that the wipes are 'infused with poreshrink-rs acid free exfoliator'.
The back of the package includes more detailed information on these cleansing cloths. There is an ingredient list and contact details for Soap and Glory, plus some more details in English, French and German. The packaging describes the wipes as '3-in-1 cleansing, toning and skin-smoothing cloths', which 'will cleanse, tone, and - if you employ a little bit of pressure - exfoliate your face'. They even go so far to say that 'using these wipes regularly might make your pores shrink'.
Using the wipes
I find these cleansing cloths very easy to use. Every time I undo the seal on the packet to take out a wipe, I'm surprised at how moist the wipes feel, as I've always found in the past that face wipes dry out very quickly once the packet has been opened, no matter how carefully I re-seal the packet. However, this isn't a problem with these 'Off Your Face' cloths. Because the wipes are so moist and loaded with cleansing ingredients, I'm able to wipe the cloth just once or twice over my skin knowing that this is enough to remove all make-up and grime - even waterproof mascara and eyeliner which are notoriously difficult to remove. I generally give my skin a bit of a scrub with one of these masks, and it really does leave my skin looking and feeling squeaky clean.
Although I'm usually very diligent about my three-step cleanse, tone and moisturise regime, morning and evening, I tend to use these face wipes on those occasional nights when I'm just to tired (or have had one too many drinks!) to be faffing around with lots of different products and I just want to clean my skin quickly and fall into bed. Because of this, when I use these wipes I don't tend to bother using toner or moisturising afterwards. And this is where I can tell that this product's claim to have a '3-in-1 cleansing, toning and skin smoothing' effect really is true, as I wake up in the morning and my skin feels soft, smooth and refreshed with no tightness at all. The acid-free exfoliator really seems to work (which is very rare for a face wipe) and my skin also feels nice and refreshed, as though I have used moisturiser. The wipes haven't brought me out in spots as some other wipes have in the past. Though I don't have enough confidence in face wipes to use them on a daily basis, I know that I can use these occasionally and they will keep my skin looking fresh, clear and spot free.
The cloths are made of a good quality material which is durable enough to give my skin a good clean without any risk of ripping or falling apart. The amount of product on each wipe is definitely sufficient to cleanse my entire face and neck and I've never found myself feeling that I need to use two wipes to give my skin a good clean as I have with some other brands of face wipes in the past.
With regards to the 'Poreshrink' technology that these cleansing cloths claim to harness, I can't really comment as I use these wipes on a sporadic basis, rather than regularly. However, I do always notice that immediately after using the wipes my skin appears matte and my pores are less visible, so I have no doubt that if used regularly these cleansing wipes could well have a shrinking effect on pores, as Soap and Glory are a brand whose products really do tend to live up to their claims.
Price and Availability
Soap and Glory products are widely stocked in Boots stores, and Boots is always my first port of call for their products. These wipes are also available in Harvey Nichols and from some online retailers, such as Amazon. With an RRP of £4.50 for 25 cleansing cloths, these aren't the cheapest face wipes; however, I think that their superior quality makes it worth spending the extra money on them. Soap and Glory products are often found on '3 for 2' in Boots too, so it's worth looking out and stocking up when they're on offer.
Despite not being a fan of face wipes, I've been incredibly impressed with the quality of Soap and Glory's 'Off Your Face' cleansing cloths and the effect that they've had on my skin. Though I still wouldn't use them on a daily basis as I just don't trust face wipes to give my skin the care it needs to keep it blemish-free and in tip-top condition, I think these are a fantastic stand-by product to have in my 'skincare cupboard' (yes, I have an entire cupboard of skincare products!) to use on those evenings when I just don't have the time or energy to be faffing around with cleansers, toners and moisturisers.
The wipes themselves are made from a very good quality material and are strong enough to give my face a good clean without tearing or disintegrating. They stay incredibly moist (unlike the vast majority of other face wipes I have used in the past, which tend to dry out within a few weeks at most of being opened), which means that washing my face with them is fast and fuss-free. They really do make me feel that my skin has been thoroughly cleansed, and remove all traces of make up and muck. They also seem to exfoliate and moisturise, meaning that I wake up with soft, smooth and clear-looking skin. Although these face wipes are a bit more costly than their rivals, I'd say that their quality makes the extra money definitely worth spending.
Overall, I'm awarding these cleansing cloths a fantastic score of five out of five. I really do think that they stand head and shoulders above any other brand of face wipe that I've used in the past and when my packet runs out I will certainly be buying another one to keep for those nights when I just want to clean my face and get to bed as quickly as possible.
Barry M Instant Nail Effects: Mock Croc Nail Polish
A year or so ago, I was very excited when Barry M brought out its 'Crackle' Nail Effects nail polish in black, as it offered an affordable version of OPI's 'Shatter' nail polish. I immediately went out and snapped it up, and absolutely loved the designs it enabled me to create on my nails - my favourite effect was to layer it over gold nail polish to give a leopard-print appearance. The only problem I had with the 'Crackle' polish was that it became clumpy and clogged within the bottle, which made applying it more and more difficult as time went on.
Nonetheless, when I heard that Barry M were bringing out a similar nail polish, this time designed to give a 'Mock Croc' effect, I eagerly went out and hunted it down. Excitedly I got home and painted my nails with it, following the instructions given on Barry M's website. And......I hate to say it, but I was very disappointed with the results. This review will explain why.
As the name suggests, this is a nail polish which is designed to crack as it dries. It is similar to its predecessor, the 'Crackle' nail polish, except the pattern it creates is supposed to be more uniform in shape, size and design, similar to that of crocodile skin. It comes in just the one colour (black) and is designed to be painted over either a coloured nail polish or a basecoat.
The nail polish comes in a rectangular pot (the same shape as that of other Barry M nail polishes), but rather than having a plain black lid (like other Barry M polishes), the lid has a mock croc design printed on it in gold, making it easy to identify in shops. There is minimal writing and decoration on the packaging; the clear bottle simply displays the colour of the nail polish and there is some text to display the company and product name and some brief instructions:
1) Apply a thin coat of your chosen nail varnish.
2) Wait 1 to 2 minutes until nails are touch dry. Do not apply to dry polish.
3) Apply a thin coat of Croc nail effects.
4) After 3 minutes the effect will start to appear.
With an RRP of £3.99 (for 10ml), this nail polish can be found in Barry M stands at selected branches of Boots and Superdrug. It can also be purchased directly from Barry M through their online shop (http://www.barrym.com/products/product.​asp?id=166) and is available from some other online retailers such as Amazon.
As I'd enjoyed using Barry M nail varnishes in the past, I was really excited to test out the Mock Croc nail polish and rushed home to paint my nails in preparation. I followed the instructions to the letter, shaking the bottle before use and applying over tacky, touch-dry paint, and sat down and waited for the crocodile pattern to start to emerge. Three minutes ticked by. Four minutes ticked by. Five minutes ticked by. And still nothing. Looking at my nails, it looked like I was just wearing solid black nail polish with a few patches where the gold nail polish I'd applied underneath could be seen ever-so-slightly, but there was no discernible pattern to be seen at all.
After leaving my nails to dry for a further half an hour, I wondered whether I had perhaps done something wrong and removed all my nail polish, logging onto the Barry M website to see if they perhaps had more detailed instructions for usage online. I managed to find a video guide to applying the polish (http://www.barrym.com/make-up-tutorials​/video-tutorial.asp?vid=113) but all it confirmed to me was that I had used this product exactly as it had been intended to be used. Not one to give up on a product without giving it a fair trial, I decided to give it another go, this time applying it over a coloured polish rather than a metallic one. But again....nothing.
I've since re-tested this nail polish on numerous occasions and have no luck with it. Each time I use it it just looks like I'm wearing black nail polish that has worn away a little bit on a couple of tiny areas of my nails - there is no uniform pattern or 'crackle' effect like that of this nail polish's predecessor. I've tried modifying the instructions too, applying thick coats and thin coats, or waiting for different lengths of time before painting on this nail polish, but I've had no luck whatsoever.
As I hope this review has established already, I've been incredibly disappointed with this nail polish. Try as I might I simply cannot get a crocodile-print pattern to appear on my nails, no matter what nail varnish or basecoat I choose to pair it with or how I apply it. I guess I might have got a dud bottle, but to be perfectly honest I'm unwilling to spend another £3.99 testing that theory when there's a good chance that I'll just be disappointed again.
All in all, much as I love the idea of this product and I know that some people have had more positive experiences with it than myself, I simply cannot recommend this nail polish. One star out of five from me, and it would be a zero if I were able to give it a mark that low.
Montagne Jeunesse Dead Sea 'Anti-Stress' Mud Pac Face Mask
Another day, another face mask review! Okay, so I don't review face masks quite that frequently, but readers of my previous reviews may have noticed I have a bit of a thing for skincare products, with Montagne Jeunesse face masks being something I tend to use on a fairly regular basis.
I've been suffering a bit with my skin recently, and have had a number of unattractive, angry-looking blemishes pop up out of nowhere. I picked this mask up a while ago in Primark and felt that I might as well give it a go as it claims to 'ultra deep pore cleanse'. And here's how I got on...
This mask comes in Montagne Jeunesse's signature oval-shaped single-use sachet. The sachet is pink and purple in colour with an image on the front of a woman wearing a bright turquoise face mask and some leaves over her eyes (please note: the mask itself isn't this colour - it is more of a light bluey-green colour, as shown on the back of the packaging). The front of the sachet has text to display the product name, explaining that it is for normal, oily and T-zone skin and also advertises the mask's 'anti stress' and 'ultra deep pore cleansing' credentials.
The back of the sachet includes logos to show that the mask is BUAV (British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection) approved (i,e. not tested on animals) and Vegetarian Society approved. There are instructions for use in English, French and Spanish, as well as an ingredient list (with key ingredients highlighted by the use of colourful text) and a statement reading 'We've harvested ultra deep cleansing Dead Sea Mud to draw out impurities and open blocked pores to leave skin feeling cleansed and soft'. The sachet rips open easily, with a side opening that allows you to squeeze out a thin stream of the mask.
Using the Mask
As I opened up the package, I got a whiff of a nice, relaxing, summery scent. The fragrance is a little difficult to describe, but if you've used any 'deep-sea mineral' type products before it's that sort of a smell but in a subtle and fresh way. It's a nice 'clean' scent, but it doesn't smell sterile, just pleasant. The mask squeezed easily out of the packet and I built up a layer of it over my face, after cleansing my face with warm water as instructed to. Now normally I'd use the entire sachet and layer the mask on thickly but this time I decided to use less so that I'd be able to get two uses out of it. I was easily able to cover my entire face with half the packet without feeling that I wasn't using enough product to get a good result, which shows how generous the amount provided in the sachet is. Alternatively, I don't like to use face masks on my neck and just stick to putting them on my face, but there would certainly be enough in the packet for full facial and neck coverage for those who prefer to use face masks this way.
The mask has a pleasant, thick consistency and feels cool when applied. The scent stuck around after the initial application, but it was subtle rather than overpowering, and nice enough to help me relax. The instructions on the sachet recommend that users 'Lie back, relax and D-stress' for 10 to 15 minutes after applying the mask, and I certainly did so - the packaging's claims to be an 'anti stress' mask are definitely accurate!
The mask took around 25 minutes to dry (bear in mind that I only used half the sachet, so I'd imagine that if you were to use the entire sachet it'd probably take about an extra 10 minutes or so) and tightened slightly as it hardened, although I was still able to move my facial muscles a little without any pain or any of the mask flaking off my face. As it dried, most of it became slightly lighter in colour, although some areas over my T-zone became darker where the mask had drawn oil and grease from my skin. I also noticed that the mask went into small dots over my pores, which I liked as it showed that there was clearly some truth in the 'deep pore action' claims of this product.
I waited until the entire mask had dried out before removing it, and I found taking it off an easy and fuss-free task. I simply doused a flannel in warm water and held it over my face for 10 seconds or so to loosen the mask, then rinsed out the flannel, held it in warm water again and rubbed it across my face in circular motions to remove every last trace. All in all it took about a minute to transform my face from masked-up to completely clean and it was far easier to remove than some masks I've used in the past where I've really had to scrub at my skin.
Once I'd removed all traces of the mask I simply moisturised and applied make up as normal.
Immediately after removing the mask, I checked out how my skin was looking and was very impressed with the results. It had a nice matte appearance, where the mask had drawn away oil and grease, and my spots, which had been quite angry-looking prior to using the mask, appeared smaller and far less red. It had also evened out my skin tone and my skin was all one uniform colour with no redness.
The mask also scored well in the touch test I did after removing it. My skin felt very soft and also much smoother than it had done before applying the face mask.
As for the longer-term results, this mask left my skin looking and feeling soft, smooth and refreshed for a good few days after application. My skin retained its matte appearance for a day and then returned to normal (some shine but not too much and manageable with make up) and the softness and smoothness stuck around for a couple more days afterwards. I also noticed that my blemishes did not flare up again and healed quickly.
Price and Availability
I happened to pick this face mask up in my local branch of Primark, where they had a few baskets of face masks, lip balms and similar items in the area where you queue up for the tills, presumably to tempt impulsive face mask buyers like myself! I paid 90p for the sachet, which I thought was reasonable as I'd usually expect to pay around £1 for a single-use face mask sachet.
I've also seen this face mask in branches of Boots, Superdrug, Tesco and New Look, and it seems that this is one of the more popular face masks in Montagne Jeunesse's range as it is widely stocked. It is usually sold for around £1 per sachet, although I've seen Montagne Jeunesse masks on '2 for £1.50' offers in various stores so it's worth looking out for a bargain.
As I hope that readers will have established from my review already, I was thoroughly impressed with this mask and would highly recommend it to others. The scent of the product and the cooling sensation it had on my skin really helped me to relax and de-stress, and I liked that it didn't feel uncomfortably tight when it dried.
Though I am somewhat sceptical of how much good face masks can actually do for your skin, I cannot deny that the appearance and feel of my skin were dramatically improved both immediately after using this face mask and over the following few days. This product certainly lived up to its claims to leave skin feeling cleansed and soft, and I really did feel that this product did some good for my skin. As I mentioned earlier in this review, I'd been suffering with quite nasty-looking blemishes before I used it, and it certainly improved their appearance, making them less red and helping them to blend more into my skin rather than sticking out like a sore thumb as they had done previously.
I also feel that this mask was good value for money. I'm happy to pay up to £1 for a single-use face mask and having enough product left over for a second application was a bonus. I've not used the second half yet, but the packaging advises using this face mask on a weekly basis so I will be using it very soon and I'm sure I'll be equally as happy with the results second time around.
Overall I'd give this face mask a cracking score of five out of five, and I will definitely be re-purchasing it.
A History Lesson...
The 'Keep Calm and Carry On' phrase seems to be everywhere at the moment, from posters to keyrings and t-shirts to mobile phone cases. The phrase originated in 1939 when, with the outbreak of World War Two, the Ministry of Information was given the task of producing posters to boost morale throughout Britain. Three posters, all featuring the crown of King George VI, were produced, but only two were actually displayed, reading 'Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring us Victory' and 'Freedom is in Peril'. The third design, containing the text 'Keep Calm and Carry On' was only intended to be used if Britain was invaded by Nazi forces, and so was never displayed during the wartime era. Many posters were destroyed in the years following the end of the war, but in the year 2000 a bookseller happened to find one of the original posters and more were uncovered in the following months and years. After some initial popularity in the early years of the new millennium, the phrase disappeared, only to re-emerge and gain a newfound popularity in 2011. Now there is a huge amount of merchandise available bearing the logo.
I decided that I wanted to buy a mug with a red background as it would look good in my house and red would be in-keeping with the patriotic nature of the design. My mug has the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' logo printed on both sides, in white writing on a red background with white edges, exactly like the image above.
The mug is made of good-quality china, but despite the sometimes fragile nature of this material it hasn't broken or chipped at all yet, so it seems to be quite resilient. It isn't particularly thick or chunky, but it's also not too thin; I think the thickness of this mug is perfect. My mug is slightly larger in size than the average mug, which I find advantageous as I sometimes need a big old mug of coffee to wake me up in the morning. Although it is white inside, I've found that it is easy to clean and I've not been left with any stains or tidemarks despite using it for tea, coffee and squash. The design also seems quite resilient and has not rubbed off or faded despite having been washed a fair few times.
I'm not entirely sure whether this mug is dishwasher or microwave safe unfortunately, as my mug did not come in a box and there is no text to confirm so on the underside of the mug. I don't have a dishwasher but I have inadvertently microwaved my mug a couple of times with no problems, although I'm going to try to avoid doing so as I wouldn't want to ruin my mug.
Price and Availability
I purchased my mug from Amazon, where they were selling a variety of 'Keep Calm and Carry On' mugs in various sizes. I opted for the standard sized mug in red, but a cursory glance on Amazon shows that the mug is also available with pink, blue and brown backgrounds and in small, large and travel mug size.
I paid £3.99 for mine with free delivery, which I thought was reasonable for a good quality mug, if a little on the expensive side. Looking on Amazon, though, prices vary wildly so it is worth shopping around to get a good deal. As well as being sold online, I've also seen similar mugs on sale in card / gift shops and supermarkets, and even in some budget 'pound stretcher' type stores.
I've been really happy with my mug. I'm a big fan of the design and the history behind it and the bright red colour makes it a cheery addition to my kitchen or desk. I'm sure it would be a great present for anyone into retro / nostalgic type items and I'm sure that the patriotic 'Keep Calm and Carry On' motif will remain popular this year what with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics.
The quality of my mug is something that I've been really pleased with, and it really does look as good as new despite me having used it on many occasions. I'd say that the only downside of this product is that it can be pretty pricey so I'd definitely recommend checking different websites and shops to ensure that you get a good deal.
Four out of five stars from me - I'm just deducting the one point as I think that cheaper mugs of the same quality can be bought.
Tesco Value Freezer Bags
I tend to use freezer bags quite freqently for a variety of purposes, and I think that they're very handy things to have in the kitchen. I like to have a variety of sizes of freezer bags in my kitchen cupboard, so I've ended up buying lots of different brands and varieties over the years. However, if you were to open my 'useful things' cupboard at any time, I can guarantee that you'd find a pack of Tesco Value freezer bags.
As with a number of the items in the Tesco Value range, the packaging that these freezer bags come in is minimal. I have no prioblem with this though, as in my eyes the lack of packaging keeps prices low, which is always a good thing. The freezer bags come rolled together, with a simple sleeve holding everything together. The label comes in the Tesco Value range's signature colours of white, red and navy and contains basic information including the product name and size, contact information for Tescos, directions for use and warnings to keep them away from babies and young children.
Using These Freezer Bags
These freezer bags are very easy to use - you simply remove the packaging sleeve and then rip bags from the roll as you need them. Though the material is quite thin, suggesting that they'd be liable to splitting when ripped apart, I've never found that this has been a problem and the perforated edges of each bag make them easy to tear apart.
I find myself using these freezer bags all the time, and I think they're a really useful item to keep in the kitchen. The most common things I use them for are for wrapping up sandwiches (although only if I've run out of foil or cling film, as I find that my sandwiches tend to fall apart if I bag them rather than wrap them) and for freezing meals for later consumption. As part of my attempt to save money, I've started making meals in bulk and then freezing them in single portions. The small size of these bags (22cm x 28.5cm) makes them ideal for freezing single servings of liquid-y foods like soups, curries, stews and casseroles. As a bonus, these bags can also be used in the microwave, so I can simply pop a bag of frozen food into the microwave and zap it for a few minutes until it's defrosted and then transfer it to a microwaveable container to finish cooking. One warning if you do chose to do this: as food is cooked in the microwave, water tends to leak out of the bag, so I'd recommend placing it into a microwaveable dish for the entire cooking time.
The fact that these freezer bags are transparent is something that I find advantageous, as it means that I can easily identify the contents. Each bag also has two white panels on it, one labelled 'contents' and the other 'date', which means that if you're more of an organised person than myself you can write down what's inside the bag and the date it has been frozen, which I'd imagine would be incredibly handy if you tend to cook and freeze lots of similar-looking foods as you'd be able to identify the contents of each bag very quickly and easily.
In contrast to some more expensive types of freezer bags on the market, these bags don't have a seal at the top of the bag. However, they come with a sheet of 50 wire ties which can be used to secure the bags once they've been filled. I don't tend to use these ties, however, as I find them a little fiddly to use, and I simply twist the top of the bag and tie it into a knot, ensuring that the contents will not leak into my freezer.
Though I use these freezer bags frequently and have generally been happy with their performance, the material is noticeably thinner than that of more expensive freezer bags, making them feel a little flimsy. A couple of times they've split on me, although thankfully they split once my food had frozen, meaning that there was very little mess in my freezer. As I've already mentioned, water also tends to leak out of them if you reheat frozen food in the microwave in them, so it's best to allow food to defrost and transfer it to a suitable container before heating it.
Price and Availability
As the name suggests, these freezer bags are sold in Tesco stores. They seem to be a popular and well-stocked item, as I've never had any problems picking them up and I've seen them both in large Tesco superstores and in smaller Tesco Extra stores.
At £1 for a roll of 50 bags, the price of this product has increased substantially over the years - I remember paying around 60p for the same product just a couple of years ago. Nonetheless, at 2 pence per bag, I still consider these freezer bags to represent good value for money, and I'm happy to pay the increased price. The price of £1 still makes these the cheapest option in Tescos - I visited my local Tesco store today and the next cheapest variety of freezer bags cost £1.50 for 50 bags - a whole extra penny per bag!
As I hope my review has made clear, I think that these freezer bags are a great staple item to have in the kitchen. I use them frequently for a variety of purposes and have only been let down by them a couple of times over the years. Though their quality is not as good as that of more expensive versions and the plastic is noticeably flimsier and thinner than others, they do the job and freeze food well. It is worth noting that these freezer bags are quite small in size - they're ideal for freezing single portions of food but I doubt you'd be able to fit in a meal for an entire family, for example. Nonetheless, at just 2 pence per bag, these are significantly cheaper than larger freezer bags available on the market and I think they're great value for money.
4 out of 5 stars from me - I'm deducting one star as these bags have split on me a couple of times and because they only come in one (small) size, but other than that I think they're a great budget option and a product that I know I will continue to buy for years to come.
Carex Moisture Plus Hand Wash
I like to buy antibacterial handwash for my bathroom and kitchen but often find that some formulas can be a little harsh, leaving the skin on my hands feeling dry and looking horribly wrinkly. For this reason I've started looking for handwashes that have moisturising properties as well as being antibacterial. I wouldn't say I'm loyal to any particular brand and generally happen to just buy whatever I can find on offer in my local supermarket, but I've bought Carex Moisture Plus handwashes a few times now and have been pleased with my purchases.
Carex was the first brand to sell antibacterial handwash in the UK and (according to its website) remains the UK's number one handwash brand. It manufactures a range of different handwashes, all of which contain antibacterial ingredients to kill germs within seconds (as opposed to many other handwashes which can take up to five minutes to eliminate bacteria) when used with warm water. As well as attacking germs, their handwashes also remove dirt and grease.
According to tests carried out by Carex, their handwashes can kill 99.99% of germs, something which is very important as germs, viruses and bacteria can spread very easily, causing illnesses and infections such as salmonella and E-coli.
Carex's handwash range is quite extensive, with different handwashes to suit different people's needs. The range is split into three sub-categories:
1) Protecting Anti-Bacterial Handwash - this includes the Moisture Plus handwash on which this review will focus, as well as Original, Aloe Vera, Sensitive, Active Fresh, Bacteria Protect Zinc and Bacteria Protect Silver.
2) Superior Antibacterial Handwash - handwashes with added natural elements to boost their antibacterial properties. This category has Original, Sensitive and Moisturising variants.
3) Nature Protect Handwash - Manuka Honey and Oatmilk Handwash
This handwash comes in a bottle with a pump dispenser. I really like the dispenser as I find that it releases exactly the right amount of liquid, giving me sufficient product to feel that I've given my hands a good clean without wasting anything. Unlike some types of handwash I've used in the past, the soap doesn't tend to leak out of the dispenser after use.
The bottle is made of clear plastic (which is suitable for recycling) and holds 250ml of liquid. The transparent bottle allows you to see how much handwash is left in the package, which is handy as it means that you can easily tell when it needs replacing. The liquid itself is white, so when the bottle is full it looks as though the bottle itself is white in colour.
The labels on the bottle have a white and blue colour scheme - I guess that this may have been chosen so that this product fits into the colour schemes of many people's bathrooms. The front label displays the Carex logo in large text, along with the name of the product and an image of a water droplet. It also has some text noting the product's antibacterial and moisturising properties. The back label contains much more text, including an ingredient list and contact details for Carex and it outlines three key aspects of this product:
* With triple-moisturising action
* Supports the skin's natural antibacterial defences
* Dermatologically tested for skin kindness
Using the handwash
This handwash is a very easy product to use. I simply wet my hands thoroughly with warm tap water, then dispense a blob of the soap into one of my hands. I then rub my hands together to create a nice foamy lather, massage it into my hands for a few seconds and rinse off again using warm water. I'm then able to dry my hands and get on with whatever I need to do.
The handwash has a pleasant fragrance: it smells clean and hygenic but the moisturising elements seem to make the scent a little softer and soapier so my hands aren't left smelling sterile as I've found with some antibacterial handwashes that I've used in the past. The consistency of this hand wash is quite thin, which I like as it means that it is easy to distribute the liquid across my hands, and it lathers up well. This consistency also means that a little goes a long way and it takes a far few pumps of the dispenser to make a visible difference to the level of liquid in the bottle.
After using the handwash my hands look nice and clean, and I know that the product has got rid of both visible and invisible dirt and germs. They also have a pleasant soft feeling to them, as though I've used a light moisturiser on them. This particular hand wash contains a triple moisturising blend, including lactic acid and vitamin E, leaving the skin on my hands feeling supple, refreshed and nourished. Carex also claim that their inclusion of lactic acid in this product helps skin to repair and regenerate itself, providing an additional skincare bonus.
Price and Where to Purchase
Carex products can be purchased in numerous stores. I tend to shop in either Tescos or Sainsburys and have never had a problem getting hold of this handwash in either of my local shops. I've also seen this handwash in Asda, Boots and Superdrug, and according to Carex's website their products can also be found in Morrisons, Wilkinson, Waitrose and Savers.
In Tescos this handwash has a price of £1.60 for the 250ml bottle. However, I don't think I've ever paid the full price for this product, and have always bought it either reduced to £1 or 80p or on a two for £2 offer along with other Carex handwashes.
Overall, I've been really happy with this product and I know that I will continue to buy it. I love that this handwash both kills germs and bacteria and looks after the state of my skin at the same time - it's much easier to use than using a separate antibacterial handwash and then a hand cream. After reading up on the range on Carex's website, I also like the reassurance that this soap kills bacteria in a matter of seconds, unlike a number of similar products which take much longer to eliminate germs and viruses. It has a pleasant fragrance and consistency, and leaves the skin on my hands feeling clean, soft and nourished. A little goes a long way and the dispenser means that nothing is wasted, so even if I had to pay full price for this handwash I don't think I'd feel cheated; nonetheless I see this product on offer so frequently that I don't think I'd ever have to pay the full whack.
5 out of 5 stars from me - I think it's great.
Montagne Jeunesse Passion Peel Off Mask
I've tried out quite a few Montagne Jeunesse face masks over the last few years, my favourite being the green tea peel-off mask. Although I'm trying not to buy any skincare or beauty products at the moment (as I have so many bits and pieces that I need to use up!), I couldn't resist buying this one when I spotted it, as it's rare for me to come across a face mask that I've not used in the past.
This mask comes in Montagne Jeunesse's oval-shaped sachet. The sachet has a red background featuring images of pomegranate seeds, along with an image of somebody using the mask. The back of the sachet has an ingredient list (which highlights key ingredients in different colours) and very simple pictorial instructions for use. A lot of the text on the sachet was in French or Spanish, but there was some text to confirm that this mask is suitable for normal and oily skin.
Immediately upon tearing open the sachet, I could tell that I would enjoy using this face mask. It has a pleasant, natural scent that smells fruity and slightly floral. I couldn't pinpoint exactly which fruit it smelt of but I think the closest comparison I can think of would probably be to a mixture of raspberry and peach. Looking at the packaging more closely I realised that the scent was more likely to be from two of the key ingredients - pomegranate and passion flower. Whilst using the mask, I found that the pleasant scent really helped me to relax.
Using the Mask
The packaging didn't include particularly detailled instructions, so I simply cleansed my face, patted it dry and applied the mask as the picture instructions suggested. It was easy to spread in an even layer across my skin and there was more than enough for me to use. I don't tend to use face masks on my neck but I know some people do, and I had enough product left over to cover my neck if I wanted to. Once applied, the mask felt cool upon my skin and the pleasant texture and fragrance meant that I was able to sit back and relax.
Though I applied the mask in an even layer, it dried patchily. On my chin, for example, it was dry within 15 minutes, whereas it took around 30 minutes for the entire mask to dry out enough for me to be able to peel it off. One thing I particularly liked about using this mask was that as it dries it doesn't tighten too much. I've found with some face masks that I've used in the past that as the product dries, it can become increasingly tight-feeling upon my skin, sometimes to the point where it becomes painful to move my facial muscles even a tiny bit. With this mask, however, the mask does become a little tighter as it dries, which I like as it makes me feel like it's doing something to my skin, but I'm still able to speak and move my face without any pain or difficulty.
Once the mask had dried I was able to peel it off easily. I've found that some masks I've used in the past have split into little pieces when I've started peeling off, making removing the mask difficult. However, the vast majority of this mask came off my face in one go and all I had to do was remove a few small bits from my eyebrows to leave me with smooth, matte skin.
Immediately upon removing this mask, my skin looked refreshed and matte in appearance, and felt a little softer and quite a lot smoother. Over the following days it continued to look refreshed and invigorated, leaving me with healthy looking skin. The softness didn't seem to last more than a day, but it certainly continued to feel smoother than usual, suggesting that the mask had removed some dead or rough skin cells when it was peeled off.
Price, Availability and Value for Money
I'd usually buy my face masks from Tescos, Boots or Superdrug, but I happened to spy this face mask in my local Primark in a basket near the tills so I thought I might as well snap it up as I'd never tried this particular one despite having used a range of Montagne Jeunesse face masks in the past. I've since seen it on sale for around £1 in Boots and Superdrug and it can also be purchased for £1.09 RRP on the Montagne Jeunesse website (http://www.montagnejeunesse.com).
I paid 90p for this single-use sachet, which I think is reasonable for a one-use sachet: I'll happily pay up to £1 for a face mask sachet. I know that I'd get better value for money if I were to buy a tub or bottle with sufficient product for multiple uses; however, I like to buy single-use sachets as it means that I can try out a range of different masks and that I can use different masks depending on the condition of my skin.
I was pleased with this face mask and glad that I'd decided to purchase it. I really liked the fragrance of the product and liked the cooling effect that it had upon my skin once I'd applied it. Thanks to the nice scent and consistency of this mask, I was able to have a nice relaxing pampering session on the cheap. The face mask was easy to remove (unlike some peel-off face masks I've used before which have required a lot of effort to remove every last trace of the product from my skin) and left me with healthy-looking skin both immediately after using the mask and over the following days. I'm always a little sceptical about how much good face masks can actually do for one's skin, but I can't deny that my skin's appearance improved after using this mask. At just 90p for the sachet I thought that this was a good value product as it contained more than enough for a single application.
Overall I'd highly recommend this face mask and will certainly be snapping it up if I see it in Primark again.
During part of my time at university, I lived in a big old house which got very cold in the winter. We had central heating but because of the size of the house it was very costly to use, particularly if there were only a couple of us at home, which happened quite often due to different lecture timetables. For this reason, we decided to invest in a couple of small heaters to heat up individual rooms when we couldn't justify putting the heating on. Being students, we went for the cheapest heaters we could find, choosing the Tesco Value Fan Heaters (model FH11) at £10 apeice. These were also easy for us to get hold of as they were stocked in our local Tesco superstore.
Now this is a nice easy fan heater to use, with a 2000 kilowatt power output and two heat settings. I had a small-ish room and it heated my room sufficiently in about 20 minutes on the higher power setting, and it also warmed up larger rooms relatively quickly. Another bonus of this heater is that it is small in size and very easy to transport. Being portable was important for us as we tended to move it from room to room quite frequently. Paying only £10 per unit, I was quite concerned about whether these heaters would prove safe to use. However, they do have overheat protection to cut the power if they get too hot, and a safety tip-over switch to prevent the heater from being knocked over accidentally.
When taking into account that this is a very basic and inexpensive heater, I wouldn't say that this product has many disadvantages. It doesn't have a rotate feature, and can be a little noisy sometimes, but that's about all I can think of. As it is very small in size it would probably be unsuitable for heating large rooms, but for me it did the job that I bought it to do. The two heaters we purchased also proved pretty durable and lasted well for the year that we lived in our house.
Overall, I'd highly recommend this heater for those looking for a low-cost option to heat small spaces. And at £10 RRP (currently reduced on Tesco Direct's website to £9), I'd say that it's an absolute bargain!
Apple iPod Shuffle (4th Generation) 2GB
I must admit, for a long time I resisted buying an iPod Shuffle. I previously had an iPod Classic, which I absolutely loved, and didn't think I'd be able to cope with an MP3 player without a screen - I like being able to scroll through my music and pick out what I want to listen to. However, a few months ago I got sick of not having any way of listening to music whilst out and about and, being too poor to justify buying another iPod Classic or Touch, I decided to cave in and buy a Shuffle as it's much cheaper than the other iPod models. Since then I've become very attached to my little iPod and I'm very glad that I decided to buy it.
The iPod Shuffle is a very small, basic MP3 player. Unlike many MP3 players, it doesn't have a screen (something I thought I would struggle with initially, but this hasn't been the case). It is square in shape and measures approximately 3cm x 3cm and 1 cm in depth. I was a little worried about the size of this iPod as I'm very good at losing things, but I've found that it's size makes it ideal to slot into a little pocket that I have on the inside of my bag (I'd imagine most women's handbags would have a little pocket like this!), preventing me from losing it as I make sure that I always store it in the same place. The size also makes this a very portable MP3 player as it will fit in the smallest of pockets. The back of the iPod is taken up by a clip which can be used to fasten it to clothes, making it ideal for people who go running, for example, and don't have pockets. As a little note for anyone who is inclined to go running and wants to listen to music whilst doing so, it only weighs a tiny 12.5 grams, so this is a great lightweight option that won't get in the way while you're exercising.
This iPod is available in five colours, all of which have a slightly matte, metallic finish. The colours available are silver, blue, pink, green and orange and are all quite muted rather than being very bright.
The front of the iPod is taken up by the MP3 player's controls. It has a circular button in the middle, which functions as the play / pause button, surrounded by a circular control pad (this is white on all colours of model except for the silver one, on which it is black) which has four clickable buttons on it: next track, previous track, volume up and volume down. Overall, the appearance of this iPod is very simple and quite sophisticated, with the five colour options giving owners a bit of choice about the appearance of their MP3 player.
Using the iPod
Because it doesn't have any complicated features, this is a nice easy MP3 player to use. In order to put music onto your iPod you simply create an iTunes library on your computer (the software can be downloaded free of charge from http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/ if you don't have it on your computer already), either by downloading songs from the iTunes store or by importing existing files from your computer or from CDs. Once you've added songs to your library, you connect the iPod to your computer using the USB cable it comes with, then follow the on-screen instructions to sync music to your iPod.
Once your iPod is loaded up with the songs of your choice you have two main options when it comes to listening to your music. There is a small switch on the top of the iPod which allows you to choose between listening to music in order (i.e. in the order that it comes in in your iTunes library) or 'shuffling', i.e. playing songs at random. The control pad is very easy to use and enables you to move between tracks, and also to rewind or fast forward.
The iPod Shuffle now comes with a new 'Voiceover' feature which enables your iPod to 'speak' to you in 25 languages. Now, if I'm perfectly honest, I don't really understand this feature and I haven't managed to get it working on my iPod. However, my understanding of this feature is that you can press the 'Voiceover' button located on the top of the MP3 player and it will announce track names, artists and playlist names, as well as letting you know the iPod's battery status. As I've said, I've not really looked into setting Voiceover up properly; however, more information can be found in the iPod's user guide, at http://manuals.info.apple.com/en_US/iPod​_shuffle_4thgen_User_Guide.pdf .
With regards listening to music, I've been pleased with the sound quality of my iPod Shuffle. I've not had any technical problems and haven't found that my songs have skipped or anything. I know quite a few people who can't stand listening to music through the Apple earphones that come with this iPod, but I find that my music sounds clear and not too tinny. Of course, you can always use your own headphones or earphones if you choose to.
Because this iPod is pretty simple, battery life is good. According to the technical specifications you can get up to 15 hours of audio playback from a fully charged iPod Shuffle, and I'd say that this is no exaggeration. I recently took mine on a week's holiday and worried initially about it running out of battery within a couple of days, but it lasted me the entire week (probably 1 - 3 hours of listening per day) without needing to be re-charged. Charging this MP3 player is simple - you simply plug it into your laptop and leave it to charge - it takes around 3 hours for the battery to go from empty to full. If you prefer to charge your MP3 player using the mains, you can purchase an adaptor to do so - these are £26(!) on the Apple website which seems very steep, but they can be bought for a few pounds on Amazon or ebay, allowing you to charge your iPod Shuffle when you don't have access to a computer.
This MP3 player comes with 2 GB of memory, which is not expandable. 2 GB will allow you to store around about 1000 songs, and you can also load audiobooks and podcasts onto your iPod Shuffle if you choose to. While some people may think that 2 GB isn't an awful lot of memory, it is worth remembering that when you sync your songs to your iPod you can manually choose which tracks to copy to your MP3 player, letting you move the songs that you really want to listen to onto your iPod whilst leaving those you're less likely to want to hear in your library on your computer. It's also very simple to switch around which songs you sync to the iPod Shuffle, so you can easily make changes if you get bored of listening to the same songs over and over again. Nonetheless, the Shuffle's 2 GB capacity allows you to sync enough songs to give a nice amount of variety in what you listen to.
What's in the Box?
This iPod comes in a very small clear plastic box, measuring approximately 4.5cm x 4.5 cm x 3.5cm. I'm a big fan of the packaging, as I like to keep the boxes that electrical goods and so on have come in so I hate it when small items come in much larger boxes as they take up an unnecessary amount of space. The box contains minimal bits and pieces, just the MP3 player (obviously!), a pair of Apple in-ear earphones, a very short USB cable (measuring just 10cm!) and quick start guides and 'Important Product Information' leaflets in English and (for some reason) Italian. The 'quick start guide' is a nice little introduction to the product which doesn't actually come with the full manual - this can be found online at http://manuals.info.apple.com/en_US/iPod​_shuffle_4thgen_User_Guide.pdf.
Though there is very little in the box, it contains everything you need to get started; my iPod came fully charged, so all I had to do was plug it into my laptop and select which tracks I wanted to move across to it from my iTunes library and I was ready to go!
Warranty and Support
Because I had quite a few problems with my previous iPod model, I was pleased to discover that the iPod Shuffle (along with all other iPod models) comes with 90 days (from the day of purchase) of technical support by telephone. It also has a year's limited hardware warranty which covers the iPod, it's battery and its accessories. iPod owners can also pop into Apple stores for advice and help, and I've heard very good things about the standard of customer service at these 'Genius Bars'.
Price and Availability
The iPod Shuffle has an RRP of £40 and can be purchased from the Apple website at this price, with free engraving and free delivery. They can also be purchased from numerous other retailers; I bought mine from Currys but have also seen them in Argos, Comet, Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys. I've also seen them on sale on Amazon, and it's worth having a look online as sometimes you can get quite good reductions in price.
Overall, I've been very pleasantly surprised with my iPod Shuffle. I didn't expect to like the element of having little control over which songs I listen to and the order in which they're played (as there is no display screen to navigate through songs), but instead this MP3 player has broadened the music I listen to as I tend to listen to songs on shuffle now. I do miss having a display screen a little bit, but not enough to make me go out and buy an iPod Touch or Classic.
Some may see the lack of snazzy features (video playback / games / apps etc) as a drawback, but I think that the simplicity of the iPod Shuffle is one of its best features as it means that it is very easy to use, doesn't seem to have as many technical problems as more advanced models and has a good battery life. It also means that you can use the entire capacity for songs, audiobooks and podcasts, rather than wasting memory on features and games that you rarely use.
With 2 GB of memory, I've found that this iPod certainly has enough space to give me a nice variety of songs to listen to, and it's incredibly easy to update if I decide that I'm sick of some songs or want to add others.
I think that £40 is a reasonable price to pay for this MP3 player. Admittedly, it is possible to buy similarly-priced MP3 players that perhaps have more features or will hold more songs; however, I like that this product comes with a warranty and technical support, and that I can go into my local Apple store and ask for help with my iPod if I need it. I also really like the appearance of my little iPod Shuffle, and love that it's small enough to clip onto my belt without getting in the way or clogging up my pockets.
All in all, I'm awarding the Apple iPod Shuffle (4th generation) a cracking score of 4 out of 5. I'm very glad I bought mine, and would definitely feel a little bit lost if anything were to happen to mine!
Sainsburys Basics Tea Lights
I have quite a few little candle holders at home, and although I sometimes like to use scented candles, I generally only light candles beacause I like the effect of the flame and not because I want them to make my house smell nice. For this reason, I like to have a stock of non-scented tea lights in the house, which I try to buy as cheaply as possible as they're a pretty basic product. I've bought tea lights from a number of retaillers, including Sainsburys, Tescos and Ikea, but the ones I have been using recently were from the Sainsburys Basics range.
My tea lights look exactly like the ones in the above picture - they just look like standard tea lights. They consist of circular candles, just under four centimetres in diameter and about 2cm in height. The wax is white, as is the wick, which sticks out about 1cm from the surface of the wax. Each tea light is encased in a silver casing, covering the sides and bottom of the tea light.
Using the Tea Lights
As with any tea lights, these are designed to be placed in a tea light holder and lit, and then left until they're extinguished. As these are basic tea lights, the wax is unscented, so they can be lit without interfering with the scent of the surroundings. The packaging states that each candle is designed to burn for approximately two and a half hours, and I'd say that this is an accurate statement. I find that these tea lights burn for a good amount of time, and they're ideal for me as I wouldn't tend to keep them lit for more than a couple of hours at a time anyway. However, in comparison to other tea lights that I've used before, the burning time isn't great - as an example, the Ikea tea lights, which I often buy, burn for around four hours, which is great for me as I can get two good uses out of each one, whereas with these ones, I sometimes end up lighting them when there's only a little bit of wax remaining in the casing, meaning that I have to replace them at different times which is a bit annoying.
Quality of the Tea Lights
As these tea lights are part of the Sainsburys Basics range, I didn't have particularly high hopes for them where quality was concerned. However, despite their low price, I couldn't help but to be a little disappointed with the quality of these little candles. Unfortunately, the wick is very flimsy, and the wicks on a number of my candles were folded back towards the wax, making them very difficult to light. I had to pull the wicks around a bit to light them, which worried me as I thought I might end up snapping the flimsy wick, making the candles useless. I have also found that although the wick sticks out about a centimetre from the surface of the wax initially, if the tea light is used once and then extinguished the stub of remaining wick is very short, again making it difficult to light.
Another poor quality aspect of these tea lights is the case. The silver casing is very thin and becomes flimsy when the candle has been burning for a while. I found it difficult to pick up and move the tea light after it had been lit and when the wax was still in quite a liquid state, as I was worried that the casing would collapse, causing warm wax to spill everywhere.
Price and Availability
These tea lights are sold in Sainsburys (obviously!), where two sizes of pack are available. My local Sainsburys usually only has one packet available, containing 200 tea lights and costing in the region of £3.50, although prices do tend to fluctuate, as with many items in the Sainsburys Basics range. My local store also occasionally stocks a pack of 100 tea lights, costing around £2.
At around 2p per tea light, I'd say that these are just about worth the money. The quality isn't great, but they do the job and they burn for a decent amount of time. Nonetheless, I don't think I'll be buying them again unless I'm desperate. I've previously bought Ikea's 'Glimma' tea lights which burn for four hours and cost just £1.89 for a pack of 100, and these are both better quality and cheaper, and therefore far better value for money. I'll definitely be sticking to the Ikea tea lights in the future, although if I find myself urgently needing some and nowhere near an Ikea I'll get these as a last resort. Three out of five from me, because despite their poor quality I still think they're a reasonable budget option - just not the best budget option!
As I'm sure I've mentioned in a few of my other reviews, I'm currently trying to work my way through the large quantity of face and beauty products that I've amassed over the years, which has led to me trying out a fair few products that I've never tested before. I had a few sachets of Montagne Jeunesse face masks lying around (including my favourite, the green tea peel-off mask) and I thought I might as well test out the aloe vera and willow 'blemish mud', which claims to combat imperfections.
The Sachet Design
This mask comes in an oval-shaped sachet which holds 20g of product. The sachet has a picture of a woman wearing the mask on the front of it, along with text showing the brand, the key ingredients and a few of the mask's features (e.g. 'clear and clean, combats blemishes', 'soothing aloe juice'). The back of the sachet includes instructions for use in three languages (English, French and Spanish), along with an ingredient list (with key ingredients highlighted in various colours, which I thought was a nice touch) and a small banner stating that this mask is for normal, greasy and t-zone skin.
Upon opening the sachet, this mask gives off quite a strong - and not particularly pleasant - scent. The fragrance is almost medical and definitely not as pleasant as those of other Montagne Jeunesse face masks in the past. I usually like to relax once I've applied a face mask, but I found the pungent scent of this one quite off-putting and it definitely didn't help me to relax, unfortunately.
Applying the mask
The back of the sachet includes clear instructions for using this product: it recommends cleansing the face with warm water then applying an even layer to the face and neck using the fingertips. You are then instructed to 'lie back and relax' for 10-15 minutes, before rinsing off with warm water.
The mask has a thick consistency and spreads easily across the skin. It has a nice cooling effect when initially applied; I assume that this is caused by the inclusion of aloe extracts. As the mask dries, it tightens quite substantially, leaving you unable to move your face very much. I wouldn't recommend applying this mask if you will need to talk to anybody whilst wearing it, as I was unable to move my cheek muscles very much at all, and found it a little bit painful when I attempted to talk with it on!
The instructions provided on the sachet recommend leaving the mask on for 10 - 15 minutes or until dry, but as there was quite a large quantity of this mask in the sachet I applied it in a thick layer and found that parts were still not completely dry half an hour later. I gave up waiting for it to dry after 45 minutes (by this time, it was largely dry and had cracked in various areas across my face) and soaked a flannel in warm water to rinse it off. Five minutes later, I was still scrubbing! I think this is quite possibly the most difficult-to-remove face mask I've ever used in my life - it took at least ten attempts at soaking my flannel and scrubbing my face before I was satisfied that I had removed all traces of it from my skin. I've had problems removing peel-off masks before, but I've never had such problems with a clay-based, wipe-off mask, so I found the amount of effort needed to remove it surprising, and it definitely made me think twice about buying another sachet of this product.
Due to the elbow grease required to remove all traces of this mask from my skin, my face looked a little red immediately after cleaning it off. However, once the redness had gone down, I noticed that my complexion looked refreshed and that my skin had a nice matte appearance (this is a clay-based mask, which seems to absorb grease and shine). I could also tell that my skin felt noticeably softer and smoother than it had done prior to applying the face mask.
Over the following few days my skin remained smooth, and didn't break out. I'm never entirely convinced that face masks actually do that much, but I can't deny that my skin remained soft, even and spot-free for a good couple of days after using this product.
Price, Availability and Value for Money
I bought this mask from Boots, where they had a wide range of Montagne Jeunesse face masks priced at £1 each. I've also seen them being sold in Superdrug and even in larger branches of New Look. I had a quick look on the Boots website to see if it was still being sold online and couldn't see this particular mask, but I did see that it was in stock in my local (large) branch of Boots a few days ago.
I'm happy to pay up to £1 for a single-use sachet of face mask, even though I know that I'd get better value for money if I were to buy a tub or bottle with enough product for multiple uses. There was certainly enough of the mask in the sachet to cover my face easily, and I was able to build up a thick layer with quite a bit left over. I did feel bad about throwing the sachet away without finishing it, but the small amount that was left over meant that it was not worth keeping the excess.
Overall, I'd say that this is a decent quality face mask which is let down, unfortunately, by its scent and the amount of effort that it takes to remove from the skin. I did find that the scent interfered with the relaxing experience I'd usually associate with this type of product, as I was constantly aware of it, although it did become less unpleasant over time as I got used to it. I also much prefer face masks that can be rinsed, peeled or soaked from skin with minimal effort.
Nonetheless, I can't deny that this mask left me with softer, smoother skin that remained largely blemish-free in subsequent days after I used it. I also felt that at £1 for a good quantity of product, this mask wasn't bad value for money. Overall, I'd describe it as average, so I'm giving it a score of three out of five.