Spa at home

Health and Fitness magazine, Jan 2014 Spa at home, Yanar Alkayat
‘Picture this. You’ve just had a luxurious body treatment and are enveloped in a sea of warm aromatic water, petals and herbs scattered on its surface. There’s a cup of fresh mint tea at your side and a blend of fragrant essential oils fills the air with an uplifting scent. As you lie back and close your eyes, the distant sound of waves gently drifts towards you… No, you’re not relaxing at an exotic spa, this is your private retreat, right in your own home.’
Health and Fitness magazine,  Jan 2014 Spa at home, Yanar Alkayat
My piece in the January issue of Health & Fitness magazine is on creating the perfect spa experience at home, out now, featuring some of my favourite spa brands, Ila, Decleor, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Elemis, Balance Me, Ushvani, Elemental Herbology, Aveda, Sultane de Saba – the brand to turn to for an authentic Hammam-style black soap – and many more.
There is also expert insight and recommendations from Carole Jones of Germaine de Cappuccini,

Katharine Mackenzie Paterson from Spa Illuminata and Melissa Choi from Choi Time Teas, for creating the right ambience and setting as well as tools and spa rituals for a bespoke spa experience at home.
Now is definitely the season, weather and time for retreating indoors for a cosy, rejuvenating and pampering night in. Pick up a copy here. Enjoy!

Stocking filler #5 Fragrance

Yardley Polaire fragrance

Buying fragrance is like buying a pair of jeans – an almost impossible quest for the perfect fit (which is why experts advise selecting scents for different moods or occasions rather than ‘the one’ to fit all). If you want to steer clear of big-name or over-powering perfumes, as a gift for another (or for yourself), Yardley Polaire fits the bill.

I’m very particular about the perfumes I have in my life and YP has been on my desk at work, in my handbag and generally used for relaxed, daytime spritzing since its launch earlier this year because it’s so easy to wear. Light enough to spray liberally but with a touch of soft spice to make it slightly interesting, it’s surprisingly unoffensive for a high street perfume.

Yardley Polaire fragrance

The ad campaign (above) was impressive too – vintage inspired and a lot more directional and stylish than other Yardley comms I’ve seen; practically unrecognisable as the traditional Yardley we know.

I’ve also just spotted a bit of a sale at Yardley online so I think you can snap up Polaire for a very festive price.

Happy spritzing; happy holidays. x

Stocking filler #1 Organic Wipes

mendill organic lavender wipes brightershadeofgreen

mendill organic lavender wipes brightershadeofgreen

Admittedly, not a very sexy sounding Christmas present but if you’re into new eco beauty and if you’re off on festive travels, stick with me.

Plastic ingredients in skincare is kind of uncool. Traditional wet wipes use plastic resins like polyester, polyethylene, and polypropylene which don’t break down easily in landfill but they’re cheaper than using a woven fabric such as cotton.

Having said that, you can get your hands on wipes that don’t go down the faux cotton route and don’t use silicones and mineral oils (to make the product feel soft), preservatives (to keep them bacteria-free) and mild detergents. There are alternative ways and natural ingredients that do a great job too.

I tried and loved Neal’s Yard Remedies Facial Wipes, (£5.50) which are 100% organic cotton, soaked in aloe vera and white tea. A few more pennies than your usual supermarket fare but hey, you’re getting 100% organic cotton. Super soft on skin and very hydrating. Can’t recommend them enough for face cleansing as well as travel.

A new kid on the block is Mendill, a brand recently picked up by BeautyMART. Individually wrapped towelettes made from 100% organic cotton, soaked in 100% organic essential oils and sans parabens, preservatives or synthetic fragrances. I’m hoping the little plastic wraps are recyclable / biodegradeable.

 

Five varieties and five uplifting scents with antibacterial and antiseptic properties. A joy to use as the scent keeps on giving. Apart from cleansing hands, wiping a runny nose, deodorising armpits and removing make-up, you can also use one in the tumble dryer to scent linen – if I had a tumble dryer I’d certainly be trying that one.

Each box contains 20 sachets (£10) so you can pop a few in a stocking or gift the whole box for a whole season of on-the-go hygiene and care. Available in lavender and eucalyptus from BeautyMART or other flavours from LoveLula.

Bohemian Chic Minerals

Bohemian Chic Minerals Eyeliner Sambuca on Brightershadeofgreen

Bohemian Chic Minerals Eyeliner in Sambuca

https://brightershadeofgreen.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/bohemian-chic-minerals-eyeliner-sambuca-on-brightershadeofgreen.jpg

What is it:

A loose, mineral powder in a sooty black for creating eyeliner flicks or dark, smoky definition. With a great name too that reminds me of last night!

Why you need it:

Use with an angled eyeliner brush to create a clean, well defined line which stays on nearly all day. I also discovered it doubles up excellently as a brow shadow, to define and fill in eyebrows. But this would obviously only work if you have dark / black brows like I do.

Good for you:

100% pure, natural minerals suitable for sensitive and acne-prone skins. The creator of the brand was not impressed to discover Bismuth – Oxychloride (a by product of refined lead and copper) and carmine (crushed beetle) in the mineral make-up products she was previously using. So she created Bohemian Chic Minerals formulations without either. Better for sensitive skins and better for poor beetles!

If you find conventional eye make-up irritates your eyes or makes them water (I certainly have a few eye products that make my eyes sting and stream with tears) this is a great option to try. Suitable for vegans and halal use.

Good for the world:

Carmine is a reddy pigment produced from carminic acid, extracted from the crushed bodies of cochineal insects. Let’s face it, who wants crushed beetles in their cosmetics? Look out for it in lipstick formulations too! Keep your beauty kit animal-free and beetles happy. Follow Bohemian Chic’s example and just say no to carmine. The beetles will thank you for it.

Buy it: £6.50, bohemianchicminerals.co.uk

 

Summer body beauty blitz

How to be a beach goddess women's fitness July issue

How to be a beach goddess women's fitness July issue

Whether you’re still waiting for your big summer getaway or not, it’s never too late for some DIY beauty prep. Ditch the salon and get ready for sun, skin and sangria in the comfort of your own home – that was the message in my feature for Women’s Fitness magazine this month.

With some expert advice and awesome beauty products you can transform limbs and locks into something that’s ready for the beach, patio or sun-lounger.  The tips and tricks covered in this summer beauty blitz included: how to de-hair legs, how to apply a home tan, how to protect sensitive skin, how to prettify feet and how to master melt-proof make-up (with tips from one of my favourite make-up artists, Ruby Hammer).

There were so many products to mention but one I would never go away without is Lavera Organic After Sun Gel – a must-have natural aloe gel for home or away. Not only does it soothe sun-soaked skin but also calms general irritation, bug bites, burns, sores and even spots… it’s a true skin saviour as it reduces inflammation gently and naturally – don’t go anywhere without this product!

Whatever the rest of your summer plans, I hope you’ve had and will continue to have, a very body beautiful season…x

Is acupuncture the new Botox?

Is acupuncture the new botox.

Is acupuncture the new botox.

For over a year I’ve been investing in an alternative needle to the Botox needle – the traditional Chinese medicine practice of acupuncture and for the first time I’ve documented the results through before and after pictures, for my new column on Healthista.com.

Unlike Botox, facial acupuncture is not a quick fix for anti-ageing the face but rather a longer term investment into the quality, strength and tone of facial skin and muscles. Instead of paralysing the muscles, acupuncture stimulates the blood flow and energy to the skin, waking muscles up and bringing skin to life. Skin is refreshed, enlivened and energised. Like you’ve had the best sleep ever…

I go to see Maggie Brown at Beaute Chinoise in north London and I’ve written about her before but have never documented the differences in my skin, before and after the treatment. So much of it is to do with increased energy and vibrancy which is difficult to capture on camera but I went for the plunge and was thrilled to see the results: you can really see a difference in the brightness and freshness of my face, especially in the white of my eyes.

To read the full article and to see the essential before and after pics head over to Healthista.com for Is Acupuncture the New Botox? …and let me know what you think! Leave a comment or tweet me at @YanarBeauty…Would love to hear from you on this subject…

x

Konjac sponge – a natural way to cleanse

konjac-sponge-puff-brightershadeofgreen-skincare

konjac-sponge-puff-brightershadeofgreen-skincare

Konjac sponges have been an underground favourite in beauty for a long time – recommended as a gentle way to cleanse by beauty experts such as Josephine Fairley and very popular in Asia. This weekend I finally managed to road-test one myself, hoorah!

The one I tried is from The Konjac Sponge Co, based in the UK and distributed worldwide. This little round product that comes in a simple pouch. Dry, it looks and feels like a pumice stone until you soak it in water, after which it turns a bit rubbery.  It’s made with 100% natural konjac fibre (a pure vegetable fibre) from the root of the Amorphophallus konjac plant, making it 100% biodegradable.

It can cleanse skin effectively without a cleanser so it’s a VERY eco product as no additional product is required and no residue washed down the drain. But how effective is konjac sponge at cleansing skin on its own? I tried it with a full face of make-up and without, without a cleanser and with.

My verdict: It’s very gentle on skin as it massages it really well and doesn’t scratch or irritate it. The rubbery texture is initially a bit odd but it feels so much more substantial than a muslin cloth, which I now find fussy and irritatingly flimsy. This is squidgy enough to cleanse and massage all the contours of the face leaving skin fresh and enlivened. Great for babies too apparently.

A sponge from The Konjac Sponge Co costs £6.99 and lasts up to three months.

Try it, I think you’ll like it!

On my bedside table…

dr-hauschka-facial-toner-dry skin-brightershadeofgreen

dr-hauschka-facial-toner-dry skin-brightershadeofgreen

I’m a massive fan of facial oils but facial waters – also known as toners or floral waters – come a definite second. They might seem frivolous and non-essential but let me tell you, they are more than that. Dr. Hauschka Facial Toner currently has a top slot on my bedside table and it’s making me smile, a lot.

Not only does it freshen, refresh and hydrate my skin – as and when I need it – it’s also great at enlivening my senses if I wake up groggy, go to bed late or feel hungover. Just one, two or three spritzes and suddenly everything feels ok again!

This small 30ml bottle comes part of a travel cleansing kit but it’s the only item that stole my attention. As well as being a natural, plant-based herbal water, the mist is light and perfectly even as it sprays from the nozzle into the air – that’s actually the secret key to a great facial spritz: too sharp and it’s like a squirt in the eye, too weak and it just tickles the face. It has to spray widely and evenly.

Choose your toner or floral water wisely and you can find one that hydrates skin, soothes dryness, calms irritation and even balance oily skin. I usually have several on the go – on my desk at work, in travel bags and always on a flight. And if I’m not using it for a genuine beauty moment, it’s simply lovely to punctuate the air during an otherwise mundane moment.

Glow Girl – My new column on Healthista.com

Healthista.com Yanar Alkayat Glow Girl

Healthista.com alkaline diet yanar alkayat

Healthista.com is the brand new website for women’s health and every fortnight I’ll be writing a column under the name of Glow Girl. My first post was on the alkaline diet i.e. eating your greens, and why this no-diet diet is so good for health and glowing skin. Expect an honest story of bloated tummies and belchy bellies and new found ways to turn a new, greener leaf. Read it here.

As well as talking about how I coerced myself away from daily glasses of red wine and the foods that I personally keep on and off the menu, I also spoke to Natasha Corrett, founder of Honestly Healthy, a fantastic recipe book and food delivery service that celebrates alkaline eating.

Healthista.com is the brainchild of health journalist and author Anna Magee who I’ve been lucky to work with on and off for the past several years. We first met when I assisted her on Red magazine where she was Health Director and I was just beginning my career in editorial. We’ve kept in touch ever since and it’s fantastic that our paths have continued to cross and I’m now contributing to this impressive new site, which is right up my street.

Healthista.com offers a wealth of knowledge for women (and men!) who want to feel empowered by deeper health knowledge – whether it’s mind, body, beauty, nutrition, sex, fertility or surgery – this site has it covered. There’s also a huge list of health experts involved so you’ll never be short of renowned expertise on these essential topics.

Join me on the Glow Girl column each week as I unveil the must-have health and beauty secrets and my quest for inner health and outer beauty – and don’t hesitate to let me know what you think! You can follow the Healthista team on Twitter too – @HealthistaTV and myself on @YanarBeauty.

 

5 minutes with founder of Shiffa skincare, Dr. Lamees Hamden

Shiffa natural and organic skincare

Dr Lamees Hamdan Shiffa natural organic skincare

I met dermatologist-turned-skincare creator Dr. Lamees Hamden this week, founder of Dubai-based natural and organic skincare range, Shiffa – which means heal, in Arabic. Before long, Lamees and I were speaking in Arabic together (she is one of the 11% of Dubai residents originally from Dubai, and I’m originally Iraqi) so we spoke about Shiffa’s popularity in the middle east and what makes Shiffa stand out in a crowded beauty market…

What is the Shiffa story?

I created Shiffa to be like the organic version of La Prairie. I wanted something to use on my skin when I fell pregnant that wasn’t full of synthetic ingredients but still beautiful and luxurious. We began as a spa brand at Six Senses in Dubai and then launched in Sephora. Suddenly we outsold all the major skincare brands in Sephora including Shiseido and Clarins, it was incredible.

You have a small collection of products – what makes them so special?

I think of what I’d like a product to do – heal and nourish dry skin, reduce appearance of pores, reduce pigmentation, brighten or tighten – and then work with my chemist to put together the best combination of natural ingredients. I don’t use any synthetic perfumes or colours and I’m a bit of a perfectionist so one product could take up to two to three years to develop.

Where do you source your ingredients and is everything organic?

We source the best oils from around the world so will choose organic where possible.  The pregnancy range is 100% organic and the rest of the range is minimum of 85% organic, mainly due to water content which can’t be organic. The Healing Balm contains 19 active ingredients and is a multi-award winner, beautiful for repairing dry and sore skin.

Shiffa natural and organic skincare

What are your favourite ingredients?

I cannot choose just one favourite ingredient – a good product needs a minimum of six great ingredients!  Vitamin C and E are essentials; I love meadowfoam seed oil – very good for moisturising skin; evening primrose oil; frankincense, marine extracts such as seaweed; and I love chamomile for reducing inflammation in the skin – another essential.

What are your favourite products in the range?

I use them all every day! But if I had to choose a favourite I would say Energizing Body Oil and White Tea Moisturiser.

You have four children and an international business, how do you take time out?

I do Shaolin Kung Fu. Yes really! I’ve been doing it for three years now, and the Shaolin Master comes to my house, three times a week for a two hour session with my sister.  It’s spiritual but also physically intense and keeps me fit. I also love cooking – I eat everything (which is probably why I’m not like a skinny model!) but I’m very healthy – I recently bought a dehydrator (to soak and dry seeds and nuts) and use the ingredients in green smoothies, along with anything organic from the market  – rocket, kale, parsley, sprouts and dates for a nice taste. I love it!

Shiffa Dubai is available at Selfridges and online at Zuneta.com.

 

Winter beauty alchemy

Weleda Sea Buckthorn Body Lotion

The February freeze keeps coming and going and with it goes the integrity of our skin. So it’s another chance to share the winter beauty alchemy I’ve been swearing by this winter – the mix of lotions and potions that have saved my skin and kept it super soft and strong.

This has been my morning routine every day for the past few months:

1. Add a few drops of facial oil to face moisturiser.

My oil of choice at the moment is Maggie Brown’s Yin 1 (rose oil) perfect for winter as it strengthens skin’s barrier against the cold and plumps it up with nourishing essential fatty acids.  I’ve been mixing this with Origins Make A Difference Cream which is a hydrating gel-like cream.

2. Add a few pumps of body oil to body moisturiser.

I’ve been using two or three pumps of  Aromatherapy Associates Renew Rose Body Oil muddled with Weleda Sea Buckthorn Replenishing Body Lotion, all over my body from neck to toes. It’s a luscious mixture that I can’t get enough of. I love both products on their own (and would be perfect for spring) but together they make cold mornings worth getting out the shower for.

Finally, a great quote from Geraldine Howard, founder of Aromatherapy Associates on why essential oils carry so many skin benefits which is so apt for this time of year:

“Essential oils are made up of very small molecules and therefore able to penetrate into the bloodstream and optimise the cell renewal process. The skin absorbs oil-soluble substances more easily than water soluble ones, so as essential oils are oil soluble, when diluted with a plant or vegetable carrier oil (most are too potent to apply directly to the skin), they travel through the epidermis, into the dermis, delivering results deeper down than products that do not contain essential oils.”

So get some oil into your beauty regime and you’ll welcome spring with better skin. What beauty concoctions do you swear by?

 

We have moved!

A-Brighter-Shade-of-Green blog

A Brighter Shade of Green has moved to a shiny new home with its own URL! Please follow the link and check out the new site and follow: https://brightershadeofgreen.co.uk/ 

Would love you to stay in touch and keep receiving the posts on natural health, beauty, inspiring green living and style so visit brightershadeofgreen.co.uk and sign up to email alerts again – you’ll find this at the very bottom of any page or join on Facebook.

Thanks for all your support and see you over at brightershadeofgreen.co.uk!

Love and wishes, Yanar

Why use silicone and sulphate-free shampoo?

why buy sulfate silicone free shampoos4

Choosing shampoos and conditioners can be a minefield. Luckily shampoos and conditioners free from silicones and sulphates are finally coming out of the murky shadows of dusty health food shop shelves and into the mainstream. I say luckily because they are SO much better for your hair.

Silicone-loaded shampoos, serums and hair styling products are great for the temporary illusion of soft, shiny hair, but there’s a catch. These products, masquerading as miracle workers can actually weigh hair down and dry it out.

Silicones are synthetic ingredients that give products a silky slip. It’s the ‘luxurious’ feel you’re fooled into believing is good for your hair but regular or over-use of silicone-loaded products could mean bad hair days are just around the corner. Why? Because…

– Silicones can form a think layer on the surface of the hair that stops conditioner and hair treatments from penetrating through. So after spending all that money on an expensive hair mask, it’s pretty much useless with layers of silicone in the way. Hmmm.

– Silicone is also thought to act as a barrier to hair dye (which most of us spend a fortune on too) because similarly, it can block hair from retaining other ingredients such as colour pigments.

Over to Sulphates – these are synthetic detergents that can irritate sensitive scalps but also strip hair of essential oils and moisture – in the same way as over use of soaps and shower gels loaded with SLS can strip skin of its natural oils. So expect dry, damaged hair in the long-run too.

For the past few years I’ve stuck to shampoos that are a little off the beaten track but are genuinely worth seeking out. Hair doesn’t feel as loaded with gunk and it stays fresher and cleaner for longer. You also don’t need to use as much – quite often a 10p sized piece is enough.

Shampoos that are silicone or sulphate-free do feel a little bit different – less foamy and creamy because they don’t contain synthetic foaming agents but that’s just something I got used to. However, the new generation of shampoos coming out are clever enough to lather up and feel just as moisturising to use.

Annoyingly ingredients you may want to avoid are not always easy to identify as silicones have a multitude of names but the ones to watch and avoid if you want to take care of your hair are non-water soluble silicones. As the name suggests, they do not wash out so keep an eagle-eye out for:

  • Dimethicone
  • Cyclomethicone
  • Phenyl trimethicone

My current favourite shampoos that contain no or less silicone and sulphates are: 

Australian Native Botanicals 

Discovered at the launch of Marks & Spencer’s new beauty department in Marble Arch – where you can shop for niche brands, usually restricted to online retailers – this clear shampoo feels good and smells so fresh and uplifting. I love the pump dispenser too.

Reasonably priced at £7.50 I would easily choose this as my daily shampoo especially as the ingredients are organically grown, formulas are boosted with essential oils and it looks pretty good too. Buy it here.

Australian Native Botanicals shampoo

Alterna Professional Caviar Repair X Re-Texturising Protein Cream

Ideal for dry and mature hair, this Caviar Repair X range contains caviar oil so I’m guessing it’s not vegetarian (but I will check). The shampoo and conditioner, however, are free from sulphates, parabens and sodium chloride which makes me trust the brand as one that genuinely cares about hair’s condition. Please note, Alterna products do contain some silicones but I’ve been told by the in-house team they are ‘smart-silicones’ which means they are water soluble and graded so finely they do not damage hair. 

Re-Texturising Protein Cream has become my hair hero – it literally looks like I’ve just stepped out of a salon after I blow-dry with it. Hair is bouncy, soft and looking healthy – you would never guess I have an inch of dry, ugly split ends! Buy it from 01925 578000.

Alterna Caviar Repair Protein Cream

Organic Surge Volume Boost Shampoo

Great for small budgets (at a brilliant £5.10) this shampoo is large in size and makes hair look full of life. It contains plant extracts to scent and nourish with no synthetic foaming ingredients. It’s also suitable for vegetarians and vegans, hoorah! Buy it here.

organic surge volume boost shampoo

Kae Argatherapie Repairing Shampoo

Just love this French brand with products based on organic argan oil. An impressive list of natural ingredients caught my eye in the Repairing Shampoo: coconut, nettle, argan, rosewood and ylang ylang – sounds delish! There’s also a serum oil which looks divine and would treat hair far more naturally than a certain brand’s frizz eaze. Buy here.

Kae Repairing Shampoo

Green People Sun & Sports Shampoo

Get this on your beauty shopping list if you’re embarking on a winter sun or ski holiday. Sulphate, alcohol (ethyl alcohol, ethanol), paraben, phthalate and artificial fragrance-free you would never need to worry about drying hair out. Organic avocado, plant proteins, jojoba and artichoke act as great natural conditioners too – sounds good enough to eat. It’s also veggie and vegan. A trusted, fail-proof choice.

green people sun and sports shampoo

Ojon Shampoos

Last but not least is Ojon – fantastic shampoos on the higher end of price scale (£18-£20) but they last a really long time because a 20p-sized amount is plenty for a head of (shoulder length) hair. The Volume Advance and Colour Sustain are ones I’ve tried and loved so definitely worth considering the latter if you’re looking for colour-care. Check them out here. Please note, some Ojon shampoos contain some silicones but the new Ojon Rare Blend is free from sulphates and silicones. 

ojon colour sustain shampoo

Which natural shampoos have you tried? Let me know and feel free to recommend! Thanks for reading.

Follow me on Twitter for more updates @YanarBeauty.

The perfect post-election eye

Tonight I’m up late watching the US elections (terrified we’ll wake up with Romney-red all over our screens) so I expect tomorrow will be a good make-up day to conceal my tiredness (or my tears if he wins).


A good make-up day means my absolutely preferred look which is eyeliner rimmed lightly around the outer edge of eyes with a darker shadow blended on top for extra holding power and a slightly misty look.
The new Neal’s Yard Remedies Eyeshadow Brush, which the Brit-beauty brand launched earlier this year as part of its make-up collection expansion, is my favourite tool for this. With UNE Sfumato Eye Shadow in S27 – an intense navy shade, which I recently discovered and really loved.


I love this NYR eyeshadow brush because it’s firm and flat but not too long or wide so control is easy. It blends the shadow into your eye line without any dusty fallout. It can also create a clean, precise flick – simply by moistening the brush, patting it into shadow and following the eye’s line from end to end.

With this eyeshadow the end result is a bit ‘smoky’ without looking too made up and without any harsh lines. I honestly can’t do my eye make-up without this brush and shadow now!
 
Eco credentials?
Neal’s Yard Remedies Eyeshadow Brush – totally animal-free with bristles made from synthetic fibres and handles made from environmentally-friendly bamboo which is biodegradable and sustainably sourced.
UNE Sfumato Eye Shadow – a mineral shadow, talc-free, contains 12.6% organic ingredients and 99.5% natural. Vegetarian. Not tested on animals. I believe this brand is part of Bourjois and sold at Boots but I’ve linked to Naturisimo. LoveLula also sells UNE but not this particular eye shadow. The packaging is a bit clunky but the concealers are also very good so worth a try. Let me know if you’ll be concealing your dark circles too!



Update: Since writing this post a press release has come through from UNE about new shades in this line of eyeshadows and guess what, it appears the Sfumato range was created for a natural, day-time smoky look – so I was on the ball all along! Good to know I’m not just making things up. See, you can trust me :)

So nasty they’re nice…

Gold lame trousers vintage

They’re bold, brash and a little bit nasty. These gold lamé, 80s vintage trousers – a little bit MC Hammer style – with abstract floral print are my latest charity find.

Gold lame trousers vintage

They even came with a cropped matching bolero jacket – a daring combo even for my alternative taste – and definitely not for the faint-hearted.

Winter beauty splurge

Organic Pharmacy Resculpting Gel

Organic Pharmacy Resculpting Gel

In the woman’s magazine calendar it’s around this time of year the obligatory ‘Little Black Dress’ diet and workout is resurrected with keen intention. Exercises to ‘banish bingo wings’ and ‘smooth down your silhouette’ in time for party season are being published as we speak so it’s a good time to bring forward The Organic Pharmacy Resculpting Body Gel. It’s not a new product but following a recent trial, I’ve just squeezed the last drop from the tube and I must say, I was really really impressed.

From the cooling sensation on skin to the luxurious feel of the gel, it’s been my daily treat for the last few months. To make it effective, it’s packed with a plethora of circulation-boosting and skin-smoothing ingredients such as green coffee (coffee seed before it is roasted),  horse chestnut, pomegranate, kigelia, mountain ash, figs, chilli and peppermint.

The Organic Pharmacy says that “tests showed a decrease in thigh and waist size by 1-2 inches within 3 weeks.” While I didn’t drop a size I certainly noticed much much smoother skin.

Overall I fell in love with it and looked forward to using it every day but there’s a catch – quite a big one – it’s really expensive (£89.95 to be exact). This is indeed a lot to pay for a body cream but I expect it comes with a lot of research and development into the efficacy of formula and ingredients.

So while I don’t want to be responsible for the potential hole in your purse, it genuinely is a great product and if you’re planning a winter sun holiday it could be just the beauty splurge needed to feeling more confident in your bikini.

3 Brilliant Moisturisers

Now that winter is officially on its way, moisturiser is back on the must-have list. Friends are always asking what moisturiser to recommend is so here’s a round-up of my three current favourites. Each one is ideal for a different type of skin or budget so take your pick.

There’s one for mature or ultra skin, one a bit less heavy on the pocket that’s also great for dry or very dry skin and one for sensitive skin. All three are more than worthy of a place in your beauty bag.

Nude Advanced Cellular Renewal Moisturiser

It’s one of the softest creams I’ve ever put on my face and I look forward to using it every morning. It feels like I’m soaking my skin in the most hydrating special formula ever and the coolness of the cream adds to the sensory experience. It’s pricey at £78 (ouch!) but if you like to spend a lot on your moisturiser (as more and more people are) this one’s worth considering – far better than some of the big counter brands.

Trilogy Ultra Hydrating Face Cream

If you love heavy-duty creams built to fix dry skin then you’ll love this. You can feel it working as it’s a thick, creamy consistency but sinks in effortlessly rather than sits on your skin like some. PERFECT for winter skin (sorry I’m a  bit late on this one!) and really good for really dry skins. Great price too at £34.95

Senzimi Daily Moisturisers

You may not have heard about this brand but the moisturizer is really impressive even if the packaging is modest (but not as bad as the original which is still on the website). I can feel it’s a clean formula with no added ingredients and believe it would work for sensitive skin (for which it’s formulated for). The website has loads of info about ingredients etc and it’s comes at a really budget price (can’t remember exactly but under £15). Check it out.

Hangover Cure #2: Micheline Arcier Bath Oil

Micheline Arcier Bath Oil

Micheline Arcier Bath Oil

If you’ve had a difficult week, a stressful day or a moment when you just want to stop the world and get off, I highly recommend some time with a Micheline Arcier Bath Oil. It will make you feel like you’re the most important person in the world and that everything will be OK. It’s also a great hangover cure.

Deemed as one of the originators of modern aromatherapy, Micheline Arcier was one of the first people to work with Dr. Jean Valnet, a medical doctor who used essential oils during World War II. Arcier and Valnet then combined forces with a famous biochemist during the mid-1960s, Madame Marguerite Maury, who had found a way to use essential oils on the skin. Together they created the form of aromatherapy we recognise and use today.

View and buy her products online or visit The Spa at Bluebird in London for a Micheline Arcier spa ritual/treatment – it’s not cheap but it would be a truly amazing way to really experience the sensory powers of essential oils. If you go, let me know!

Micheline Arcier Bath Oil

Micheline Arcier Bath Oil

Micheline Arcier Bath Oil

If you’ve had a difficult week, a stressful day or a moment when you just want to stop the world and get off, I highly recommend some time with a Micheline Arcier Bath Oil. It will make you feel like you’re the most important person in the world and that everything will be OK. It’s also a great hangover cure.

Deemed as one of the originators of modern aromatherapy, Micheline Arcier was one of the first people to work with Dr. Jean Valnet, a medical doctor who used essential oils during World War II. Arcier and Valnet then combined forces with a famous biochemist during the mid-1960s, Madame Marguerite Maury, who had found a way to use essential oils on the skin. Together they created the form of aromatherapy we recognise and use today.

View and buy her products online or visit The Spa at Bluebird in London for a Micheline Arcier spa ritual/treatment – it’s not cheap but it would be a truly amazing way to really experience the sensory powers of essential oils. If you go, let me know!

Antipodes Hosanna Skin-Plumping Serum

Shh… don’t tell my face oil, but I’ve fallen for a water-based serum. Hosanna Intensive Skin-Plumping Serum by Antipodes (New Zealand’s finest natural beauty brand) is great for hydrating dry summer skin. Not that we’ve had much of a summer so I put it to the test in the Nevada desert where I’ve just been for Burning Man festival. It was almost 40 degrees heat, humid, dusty and dry, and the serum worked. Hoorah! It was refreshing to apply and really felt like it was quenching the dryness.

If you squirm from oils, it will be right up your street. It soaks into skin instantly and isn’t too runny, which can be the downfall of most water-based serums. Its key antioxidant is a Sauvignon Blanc grape and mamaku black fern extract (native to New Zealand); both help improve cell renewal which is great for sun damaged skin.

The lab tests indicate an improvement in collagen (the protein that holds skin together) by 72%. I’m told Antipodes invests heavily in in-vitro lab tests (skincare testing on lab-made skin) to prove the efficacy of its ingredients and formulas. However, some critics claim there is a disparity between petri-dish skin cells and real human skin; I will need to ask a few experts about this to understand it further. In-vitro testing is also a very useful and cost-effective alternative to animal testing so gets my thumbs up.

You can find Hosanna Skin-Plumping Serum at Appuru.co.uk, an online natural beauty store which also has a very cute little shop in Pimlico, south London. If you’re in the area, pop by and peruse the shelves of gorgeous natural beauty and why not book a treatment in the downstairs spa rooms while you’re there – a must-visit if you’re down that way.

Antipodes is also now stocked at Selfridges, which is great news for a niche organic beauty brand.

http://www.antipodesnature.com/

A very shiny organic manicure

I feel slightly behind the times as I only managed to visit the new WholeFoods in Piccadilly the other week, several months after it opened, and wow what a difference a few square metres make. This large new home, just around the corner from the old, is impressive; spread across two floors with a mouth-watering fresh foods area, dining mezzanine and treatment rooms, you can fulfil every natural health and beauty need.

Treatment I tried:  Pink’s Boutique Organic Manicure

Why it’s great:

If you want a truly organic manicure, this is the only treatment you need. Nail varnish can never be truly natural or organic so this is by default, a polish-free manicure. But fear not style-seekers, you’ll step out with the shiniest nails ever and won’t miss polish one bit.

Wow moments:

– A 100% natural sugar, salt and jojoba oil scrub for hand exfoliation. Skin has never felt so irresistible to touch.  This was the softest my hands have EVER been.

– A slice of fresh lime to whiten nail beds and nail tips. This natural beauty tip works real wonders before your eyes. Try it at home – just take a slice of lime and smooth under your nails for a fresher look.

– Nail buffing for shockingly shiny nails. Who needs polish when you can have ten totally natural and eye-poppingly shiny nails? I was mesmerised.

Founder of Pink’s Boutique, Kirstie Allen was in town that day and I was lucky enough to have my treatment done by the queen-bee herself, a very down-to-earth and lovely lady. An inspirational entrepreneur at just 32, she finished a history degree at Oxford University and decided to follow her passions in natural beauty and wellbeing; she set up the company with her partner Luke.

Luckily, this no-polish manicure is not just available at Wholefoods in London. You can find a beauty salon doing Pink’s Boutiques manicures around the UK here.

Enjoy and let me know if you have also loved any Pink’s Boutiques treatments.

Bee Lovely products from Neal's Yard Remedies out now

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty event entrance

Last year Neal’s Yard Remedies launched a Bee Lovely Hand Cream which was a glowing hit with everyone who tried it. Creamy, luscious and very nourishing.

It was created to raise awareness and funds for the decline of British bees with £1 from every tube going to UK wildlife charities. This week, NYR launched exciting new additions to the range, which I think everyone should check out and try.

Here are a few pics from the product launch – very gorgeous garden-themed event in Covent Garden.

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty event entranceThe beautifully packaged Bath & Shower Gel, Hand Cream, Body Lotion and Bee Balm (great for dry skin, cuts, grazes, cuticles and lips) among dreamy country-style flowers…

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty An abundance of bunting…

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty event  Honey from Sheepdrove Farm where owner Peter Kindersley lives… A gorgeous, flowery honey which is a dream on toast or in tea…

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty  honey… and here’s how to recycle your Neal’s Yard Remedies famous blue bottles…

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty bottles

 The products are out now and suitable for the whole family, including children (over three years old).

The Hand Wash is currently sitting by my kitchen sink getting a happy squidge from me every day. I can’t recommend the Hand Cream enough too. This year 5% from each product will go to wildlife charities working to help protect bees.

Go buy, and help save some bees!

See and shop the range

Read more about the campaign here

Bee Lovely products from Neal’s Yard Remedies out now

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty event entrance

Last year Neal’s Yard Remedies launched a Bee Lovely Hand Cream which was a glowing hit with everyone who tried it. Creamy, luscious and very nourishing.

It was created to raise awareness and funds for the decline of British bees with £1 from every tube going to UK wildlife charities. This week, NYR launched exciting new additions to the range, which I think everyone should check out and try.

Here are a few pics from the product launch – very gorgeous garden-themed event in Covent Garden.

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty event entranceThe beautifully packaged Bath & Shower Gel, Hand Cream, Body Lotion and Bee Balm (great for dry skin, cuts, grazes, cuticles and lips) among dreamy country-style flowers…

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty An abundance of bunting…

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty event  Honey from Sheepdrove Farm where owner Peter Kindersley lives… A gorgeous, flowery honey which is a dream on toast or in tea…

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty  honey… and here’s how to recycle your Neal’s Yard Remedies famous blue bottles…

Neal's Yard Remedies Bee Lovely beauty bottles

 The products are out now and suitable for the whole family, including children (over three years old).

The Hand Wash is currently sitting by my kitchen sink getting a happy squidge from me every day. I can’t recommend the Hand Cream enough too. This year 5% from each product will go to wildlife charities working to help protect bees.

Go buy, and help save some bees!

See and shop the range

Read more about the campaign here

Dr. Jart+ BB Creams

Dr Jart BB Cream

A quick post to reveal that Project X which I told you about a few weeks ago has been revealed – it’s Korea’s favourite BB Cream brand, Dr. Jart+. These four beauty balms are now available at Boots stores nationwide. If you don’t know what a BB cream is yet, read my round-up on Cosmopolitan.co.uk to give you a quick flavour.

Dr Jart BB Cream

From Dr. Jart+ there are four varieties to choose from with different ingredients to target different skin needs. Choose one for ageing and mature, sensitive and red-prone skin, combination and oil-control or blemished.

One of the most interesting ingredients is snail secretion – yes, snail slime – which the 21 dermatologists behind the brand say is good for hydration and moisturisation. They also say it’s a good anti-inflammatory. We’ve had some literature through to explain how the snails are ‘not harmed or killed’ during the farming process for their covetable slime. Phew.

The products are also free from talc, artificial fragrance and alcohol making them ideal for sensitive skins.

Keep abreast with the Dr. Jart+ action and beauty tips from the Korean BB Cream experts at https://twitter.com/#!/DrJartSkin – click and give them a friendly follow!

x

It’s not new but it’s nice

Pinks Boutique Bamboo and Oatmeal Facial Polish

Pinks Boutique Bamboo and Oatmeal Facial Polish

I had the pleasure of trying Pink’s Boutique Bamboo and Oatmeal Facial Polish recently and was pleasantly surprised. Squidgy, comforting, luscious.

As you know I love oil-based products and this was like a dense cream (shea butter, sunflower seed oil) with ground-up mandarin peel and oatmeal. It was like the texture of peppermint creams before they set – remember like we used to make when we ere younger? You can really get your fingers into this stuff and massage it into your skin – perfect product to practise my new facial massage techniques. I loved it.

It’s £29.50 and if you think that’s a bit too much for a cleanser I’d say it’s worth it if you have really dry or sensitive skin. It lasts a really long time and the ingredients are 100% natural and 81.5% organic. With cheap cleansers that contain harsh ingredients you run the risk of stripping skin of essential oils so using a cleanser full of natural oils is always best.

Try it, you might like it and let me know what you think.

PS. I know keep changing the blog layout but I’m definitely sticking with this one now (!).  Hope you like it.

It's not new but it's nice

Pinks Boutique Bamboo and Oatmeal Facial Polish

Pinks Boutique Bamboo and Oatmeal Facial Polish

I had the pleasure of trying Pink’s Boutique Bamboo and Oatmeal Facial Polish recently and was pleasantly surprised. Squidgy, comforting, luscious.

As you know I love oil-based products and this was like a dense cream (shea butter, sunflower seed oil) with ground-up mandarin peel and oatmeal. It was like the texture of peppermint creams before they set – remember like we used to make when we ere younger? You can really get your fingers into this stuff and massage it into your skin – perfect product to practise my new facial massage techniques. I loved it.

It’s £29.50 and if you think that’s a bit too much for a cleanser I’d say it’s worth it if you have really dry or sensitive skin. It lasts a really long time and the ingredients are 100% natural and 81.5% organic. With cheap cleansers that contain harsh ingredients you run the risk of stripping skin of essential oils so using a cleanser full of natural oils is always best.

Try it, you might like it and let me know what you think.

PS. I know keep changing the blog layout but I’m definitely sticking with this one now (!).  Hope you like it.

Beauty acupuncture

I’ve decided to hit the needle. Having just had my second beauty acupuncture session with the delightful Maggie Brown (who I reviewed a few months ago for Natural Health magazine) I’ve decided facial acupuncture is going to be my anti-ageing splurge – let’s call it an investment to save my face.

Unlike Botox – which freezes the muscles and makes them redundant – acupuncture and acupressure massage activate and strengthen the muscles; they wake up the face by bringing life and energy into it through the surge of oxygen and blood flow.

Having just spent the last few months juggling the stress of a new job, daily rush hour tube travel, late nights and general life ups and downs, my skin was breaking out and dragging down before my eyes. I decided I needed to help before it was too late so I called Maggie for an appointment. Pronto. As a beauty journalist I get almost unlimited access to beauty treatments and services so to actually pay for something (quelle horreur!) is a real testament to its value.

Maggie does facial acupuncture in a gorgeous town house in north London but as well as the needles, it’s also a good 90 mins of genuine beauty therapy: Vigorous acupressure massage, hand-blended oils, leaf tea, lots of chat to solve your beauty problems and homework. Yes, lots of homework  – facial massage to improve muscle tone, lymphatic drainage to sweep away toxins and regular pressure point activation to release tension and sluggishness. I’ve got it all written down and I’m ready to go.  See the cute drawings that are my take-away instructions below. Love.

I’m also using Maggie’s own face as an incentive to keep me on track and massaging daily. She says she’s been having facial acupuncture and doing nightly massages regularly for the last 15 years and no exaggeration, she looks about ten years younger (without any other kind of needle). Her skin is totally toned and glowing so if I can look like that in a few years time, I’m in. In fact, I’ve just booked appointments every three weeks for the next three months.

If you’re looking for that next step in anti-ageing, I highly recommended the whole natural needle approach – it’s not a quick fix (which is why I’m starting early, at 32) but a long term investment. If you’re in London check out Maggie – Beaute Chinoise  – http://www.beautechinoise.co.uk/

x

Friday facial

On Friday I had one of the best facials I’ve ever had.  It was by Notting Hill facialist Una Brennan, who has had every beauty journalist and West London celebrity praising her unique style. She uses SkinCeuticals products on the face but for those who read my coconut oil post the other day, you’ll be pleased to hear this wonder woman facialist slathered almost half a pot of the stuff on my upper body too for a shoulder and back massage. The whole treatment was an epic, two-hour extravaganza.

She dove deep into the pot of coconut oil for an extraordinary back, shoulders and neck massage, while I was laying firmly fixed on my back. Somehow, Una managed to weasel her way through the minuscule space between my back and the bed and manoeuvre her hands and fingers in stunning, snake-like motions, up and down, up and down, up and down, releasing every bit of tension. This was meant to prepare the face for lymphatic drainage.

I loved hearing Una say everyone should have a pot of coconut oil in the kitchen and a pot in the bathroom; sometimes she said, she even sleeps in the stuff  (as long as you don’t mind the smell). That was music to my ears. :) . Look out for my review of Una’s facial in West London Living online mag in a few weeks time.

x

Small and beautiful things for winter

With colder weather fast approaching I wanted to give you a quick run down of the few beauty treats that kept me going a few weeks ago on the Vipassana meditation course, as the weather was far harsher than it is in London.

These little gems turned out to be small moments of luxury that I treasured and looked forward to. Also ideal for anyone looking to to upgrade their winter skincare – they all come highly recommended!

1. Beauty acupuncture. I prepped myself for the arduous journey ahead with a quick visit to  Beauty Acupuncturist Maggie Brown at Beauté Chinois in London. I’d been working 10-hour days for six weeks and I felt like my face (and mind) was struggling to keep itself together. I was tired and looked haggard. Unlike facial acupuncturists like John Tsagaris, she doesn’t use many needles (he used about 80-90 on my face the time I went to see him) but the few she pricked into my face sent me into a deeply relaxed and sleep-like state. That was followed with a strong facial massage that woke up every  key muscle and pressure point in my face. I left looking about five years younger and like I’d slept for ten days!

2.  Beaute Chinois Yin No.1 – every morning at 4am when the gong went, it was a beauty oil that I reached for and a
quick facial massage to wake me up. The rose based Yin No.1 personally blended by Maggie was perfect for bringing a sense of calm, balance and tranquillity to the senses morning and night – perfect for balancing winter skin too. 

3. Decleor Arromessence Ylang Ylang – ah, this cheery blend revived my senses every day around 5pm when
energy levels were low and the mind was feeling weak. It’s the perfect pick me up facial treat.

4. Weleda Mini Rose Body Oil – from the 30th anniversary gift set, this little mini was a favourite too. I massaged it into skin after showering and it was a warming way to fall asleep after a long, long day.

5. Abahana White Grapefruit & May Chang Bath & Shower Gel – a heavenly product that made me want to jump in the shower whenever I could!  (pictured above) The luxurious formulation meant a little goes a very long way so I barely got through half the little bottle in ten days. And I’ve just seen that this little cutie costs just £5! Christmas stocking filler? I definitely think so…

6. Apodea Deodorante – a propolis based deodorant from an Italian based natural beauty brand. There’s barely any smell to it and it works which is why I liked it.

READ MORE.. 

Lush: Love it or loathe it?

Lush Peace massage

Lush Peace massage We need to talk about Lush and I have a confession to make. In all my years of writing about beauty I still haven’t reviewed or written about any Lush product.

Maybe it’s that unmistakable, heady aroma wafting out into the street that people love to hate or the bath bombs that I just don’t understand, because, to be perfectly honest with you, there’s nothing that appeals to me less than sitting in a pool of floating flower parts and foliage.

So while I’ve simply managed to dodge Lush trials and reviews, my time has now come. Last weekend I was kindly sent a bag of Lush goodies at Cosmo which I’ve made a special effort to tuck into and try.

I scurried home with keen intention until I looked inside the bag. I just didn’t know what to do with any of the paper-packaged balls and oblongs with kooky names and not enough clues as to what to do with them.

Naturally, I bypassed the bath bombs and found something I liked the look of: Lush Peace Massage Bar. However, if it wasn’t for the press release I wouldn’t have realised what a gem of a product this is.

The caption said: “Invented by Mark Constantine OBE. A solid, environmentally conscious, preservative and packaging-free alternative to massage oils in a bottle. All Lush massage bars are full of the highest quality essential oils and made with a deeply moisturising cocoa and shea butter base.”

Well if only they’d told me that to begin with – you couldn’t get more eco if you tried! Packaging-free alternative? Environmentally conscious? I’m in!  This packaging-free product will LEAVE NO TRACE. The holy grail in green beauty.

It’s a pleasant product to use, albeit a bit uncomfortable when you rub the bar around bones, elbows and ankles, but who cares – it’s my latest green goddess beauty find. It even left a sheeny film on my skin without any unnecessary greasiness.

So there you have it – a real, honest and dare I say, positive review of a Lush product. But this is not to say I’d love all Lush products as I’m aware several are loaded with SLS and parabens and while they give the impression they are natural, they are definitely not.

Love it or loathe it? Let me know what you think in the comments box below. For this, it’s a love it – just as long as you don’t give me a bath bomb!

x