Category Archives: Beauty Review

What Are Your Winter Skin Savers?

Like a lot of people, my skin always becomes drier in the winter but this year it’s suffered more than ever. Here in the UK, it’s been a colder winter than usual with temperatures in London consistently around 5 to 7 degrees during January. I have persistent dry patches on my neck and face which can itch horribly. Some products have helped, but I’m yet to find a magic bullet.

 

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Winter in a local park in London

 

I’ve been squirting a good amount of Johnson & Johnson Baby Oil into my bath water and once a week while having a soak, I apply Clarins HydraQuench Cream Mask which started to make a difference after three applications.  La Roche-Posay Lipikar Baume AP+ is still the best body moisturiser I’ve found.

I’m cleansing my face with La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo Cleanser after a recommendation from my pal Vanessa of Bonkers About Perfume (who has been blogging about her contact dermatitis). I’m following this with La Roche-Posay Soothing Lotion for sensitive skin because although toners are supposed to do no more than water, I like using them.

HydraQuench Intensive Serum Bi-Phase by Clarins is the consistency of water which makes it a little tricky to apply but also means I can use it on my parched eye area and it soaks in quickly. I follow this with La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Intensive Eyes. I’ve turned to Cicaplast Baume B5 Soothing Repairing Cream (again La Roche-Posay) combined with a couple of drops of RESIST Hyaluronic Acid Booster from Paula’s Choice for extra moisture, but the effects have only been temporary. MAC Prep+Prime Lip provides a moisturising base for lipstick.

 

 

Unless it’s a gym day, it doesn’t make sense to use an antiperspirant during winter so I’ve switched to Weleda Wild Rose Deodorant. This stuff smells absolutely fantastic when sprayed but isn’t potent enough to clash with your perfume.

At night I’m mostly sticking with my usual Paula’s Choice evening routine except I’ve dropped the liquid exfoliant while my skin is so sensitive.

I apply Nuxe Rêve de Miel lip balm before bed and the truth is that I’m more than a little bit in love with this product. Previously, I was using Lano Lips but my bottom lip still split open, which was beyond grim. Since using the Nuxe balm my lips have been totally transformed even though I wear drying lip pencils and matte lipsticks most days. It also has a gorgeous honeyed lemon scent.

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What products do you turn to in the winter to protect and nourish your skin? Have you found anything that works on dry patches? Should I just use Vaseline or is there a better alternative? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.

 

 

 

 

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In Rotation – December

For the last couple of years my perfume of choice for the festive season has been Tea for Two. It’s the spices that make it feel Christmassy. Funnily enough, I got a lot of cinnamon when I wore it last year but this year I’m mainly noticing the star anise. I wear it pretty much consistently from the 1st December until the 25th. One exception this month was a Board Meeting for which I chose Bois des Iles parfum. The golden sandalwood scent seemed to provide the right combination of sophistication and comfort.

 

 

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Last week we had the annual Perfume Lovers London Swap Meet which always causes much excitement. The idea is that you bring along the bottles you rarely wear and swap them for something someone else no longer wants. You get one raffle ticket for each bottle you contribute and then the numbers are drawn out of the hat, with 5 or so people going up to the table at a time to choose from what everyone has brought.

I took three bottles for swapping: vintage Diorella marked up as having a faulty sprayer in the hope someone could either fix or remove it; L’Eau Froide by Serge Lutens, which is a nice airy incense but not a patch on my holy grail Passage d’Enfer and finally, Poivre Piquant by L’Artisan Parfumeur which is a peppery milk and honey perfume with a splash of rose, but something I just never reach for.

It was a while before my first ticket was drawn but I spotted Ô de Lancome which I remembered Neil of The Black Narcissus writing about in his usual exquisite fashion, so I scooped that up. For my second  pick, again I saw a fragrance that I had a feeling another perfume pal (Ines) was fond of, Eau de Rochas. Read a lovely review of it by Angela on NST here.

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I was happy with these two swaps because I do have a gap in my collection for summery colognes with character.

By the time my third ticket was called the pickings were pretty slim but I got Bottega Veneta Eau Légère because I thought my work colleague would like it and indeed she does.

As for make-up, I’ve been wearing Sephora’s liquid lipstick in 01 Always Red because it’s a bold, Christmassy red. Although I’m starting to conclude these brighter reds don’t suit me so well,.it bears up really well to eating and drinking. I have my eye on the shade Blackberry Kiss for a future purchase.  I’ve been applying an equally festive shade to my nails; Pillow Talk by Leighton Denny.

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I felt bereft after finishing His Dark Materials but I’ve made a start on Wild: A Journey From Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed. It’s the true story of a woman who decides to trek the length of the Pacific Crest Trail in the States when at her lowest ebb. I’m hoping it will inspire a less arduous adventure of my own next year. Ideally I’d like a Christmassy novel but aside from re-reading A Christmas Carol, I can’t think of anything.

 

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What have you been enjoying this month? Any Christmas themed books to recommend?

 

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In Rotation

After enduring bad news across the world for the best part of a year, I’ve been feeling the need to retreat. I’ve always been a homebody but I’m craving time indoors even more than usual. After reading a lot of “improving” books this year, I’ve now escaped into the His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy by Philip Pullman. On these cold, dark evenings, it’s wonderful to get lost in this multi-universe adventure populated by witches, armoured bears and fearless 12 year-olds .

 

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A small thing that I’ve found to be very soothing on trying days, is painting my nails. The colours I’m alternating at the moment are the sophisticated berry of Butter London’s Queen Vic and the glossy dark navy of Chanel’s Marinière.

Happily, I’m still getting a kick out of my new found love of bold lipstick. I’ve even graduated from red to purple. MAC’s Rebel feels perfect for autumn and easy to wear because it isn’t as intense or blue toned as most in that shade range. The satin formula is also kinder to the lips in this chilly weather than my usual matt lipsticks.

 

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Chanel Mariniere, MAC Rebel and Butter London Queen Vic

 

One comfort food that is also healthy is homemade soup. Last weekend I made spicy cauliflower soup based on the recipe by Alice Waters (who incidentally is a friend and neighbour of Mandy Aftel). I found out about it from former perfume blogger Lavanya, who now runs the brilliant subscription box service Boxwalla.

Again, taking pleasure in the little things, I’ve been enjoying the aromas of autumn; bonfires, dry leaves, damp earth, misty mornings. It might also be my favourite time of year for perfume. Here’s what I’ve been wearing a lot lately:

Passage d’Enfer, L’Artisan Parfumeur

I recently got a back-up bottle of this one because it’s my favourite incense. Passage d’Enfer is woody, lightly resinous and has a hint of waxy white lilies which it gives it luminosity. It smells fantastic on a scarf and mingles well with the autumnal wisps of smoke in the air. Passage d’Enfer helps me feel calm and centred in this crazy world but it also has that touch of wanton florals. I adore this stuff.

Coromandel EdT, Chanel

This is one classy patchouli with lots of warmth and depth. It’s not super earthy but it’s not a dull, super clean patch either. It’s beautifully sophisticated and I enjoy it most at a bit of distance, so I tend to spray it on my wrists rather than around my neck. I particularly enjoy the touch of incense that comes out most in the base.

Tobacco Rose, Papillon Perfumes

Of course I love roses and this one is perfect for autumn thanks to its earthiness. Tobacco Rose is a rose bush firmly planted in the soil, not a sterile, disembodied bloom. There’s a reason patchouli is paired so often with rose and it’s exemplified here in the way it grounds the beautiful, rich red flower. I can’t wait for the next release from Papillon Perfumes which is coming in the New Year.

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What’s bringing you comfort this season?

 

 

 

 

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The Power of Red Lipstick

A recent survey showed that 54% of British women feel too shy to wear red lipstick. I could relate to this as I have been wearing pinky nude lip shades for the last 20 years. This was mostly because I didn’t think my lips were full enough and partly because I just didn’t see myself in such a statement colour. My lip shape hasn’t changed but caring about it has. Life is too short. I’ve decided to give red lipstick a go.

“Red is powerful, strong, smart, bold, sexy, lethally feminine and iconic…Nothing has such a glamorous,timeless appeal. It breaks my heart that so many women are scared to wear it” – Sali Hughes, Pretty Honest

I like the fact you can’t hide in the background while wearing red lipstick: it forces you to stand out. I was spurred on by Val the Cookie Queen’s post on Ellis Faas Red lipstick. She sent me some samples in  “Milky Lips” and I immediately liked the way it made me look and feel.

About a year ago, I bought Ruby Woo by MAC Cosmetics but wasn’t ready for it until now. It’s a highly pigmented, incredibly striking red and perfect for nights out.  I have discovered that I like matte finishes because they feel clean, modern and long-lasting. I also seem to be drawn to shades with cool/blue undertones, though I have no idea if this suits my skin tone or not. I’m trying not to get hung up on the rules.

I recently bought a Retro Matte Liquid Lipcolour by MAC in Dance with Me. This is a dark cranberry red and while I love the shade, I think it will take time before I feel confident about application. Unlike the lipsticks, I do notice how drying it is during the day so doubt I’ll re-purchase, especially considering the price.

For me, one of the most enjoyable things about a new passion is finding out all about it and the options available. YouTube has been invaluable for this. I have found the videos by French Canadian beauty vlogger Emily Fox, particularly helpful because they are so clear and she has great taste (as well as being very likeable and has a lovely accent).

After watching Emily’s MAC videos, I ordered Russian Red, a darker matte red which makes me feel very pulled together. I also got Flat Out Fabulous which is a gorgeous bright, yet somehow muted, magenta/plum. At the last minute I added Relentlessly Red to my basket which turned out to be a lighter pinky/coral red than suits my skin tone, but works well with a red lip pencil underneath.

I saw a Cruella Velvet Matte Lip Pencil by NARS on another vlogger and was wowed by its scarlet beauty. It does feel like a fairy-tale, wicked queen red. I particularly like that it’s a combination of a lip pencil and lipstick, so you don’t have to double up. The texture is beautifully velvety so it’s a dream to apply. I love it.

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Wearing Cruella by NARS on a work morning.

The only budget red lippie I’ve bought so far is Rimmel’s Lasting Finish Matte by Kate Moss in 107, which is the colour of red wine. I also have my eye on several Matte Lipsticks by NYX, namely Merlot, Bloody Mary and Eden.

I’ve bought a couple of coloured lip pencils to wear with the lipsticks and a clear one by Lord & Berry because I thought that would be easier on mornings when I’m rushed. You wear it just outside the lip line and it stops the colour bleeding around the edges. I am rather paranoid about not applying these bold and bright lipsticks flawlessly but my best is going to have to be good enough.

As Val says, wearing red is liberating, but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun. Now I want to spend the rest of my life in the Red Lips Club.

“When do you know you’ve happened upon the right red? Magic happens. Everything seems to brighten. The face lights up. The overall look -clothes, face, hair – comes together. The mood lifts. That is what I love about red lipstick!” – Dita Von Teese, My Beauty Mark

 

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Please share your favourite red lipsticks in the comments. I’m eager for more suggestions!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent by Mandy Aftel plus Ancient Resins Body Oil & Hair Elixir By Aftelier Perfumes

 

Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent

Mandy Aftel’s 2001 book Essence and Alchemy had a profound effect on me, as I know it did on many others in the perfume community. It cast a spell that seems to have enchanted me for life and even led to short-lived experiments with my own  oil-based perfumes.

While Essence and Alchemy intended to  give people interested in a perfume a grounding in natural perfumery, Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent  is aimed at everyone.  Mandy was moved and inspired by witnessing the effect re-connecting with scent has on people who didn’t think they liked perfume.

 

 “Watching them discover authentic aromas and their sensual pleasure is profoundly thrilling, like watching a starving person feast on a delicious smell.”

 

That’s not to say that those already addicted to fragrance won’t find plenty to love and learn in this meticulously researched book.  Mandy has collected a large array of antique books and we get to benefit from the knowledge she has accumulated over the years.

 “Indeed entering the world of fragrance is like falling through the looking glass and finding on the other side an everyday miracle, a mystery, a source of wonder. It is truly a transformative experience and one I am passionate to share”.

 

Mandy is beguiled by natural materials and she transmits that feeling so well. You don’t just get the facts in Fragrant but an intimate explanation of why these materials matter to us as human beings; how they connect with us on a deep level and have the potential to transform us. The fact that Mandy has not lost that sense of wonder or passion comes across on every page.

 

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Fragrant goes into much more depth than Essence and Alchemy and cleverly uses a different fragrant material to tell the multi-layered story of perfume and approach it from a number of interesting angles. “Cinnamon” tells the history of the spice trade which is entwined with that of perfume, while “Mint” goes into the use of remedies within the home and the intriguing Books of Secrets. “Frankincense” explores incense and spirituality,  “Ambergris”  focuses on animal derived essences and finally “Jasmine” is a thoughtful meditation on perfume and beauty.

There are recipes at the end of each chapter for very simple oil and alcohol based perfumes and I shall definitely be trying out a few for body oils as I’m mildly obsessed with those.

Aside from the content, the writing is beautiful.  Each sentence has its own gentle rhythm, which makes reading Fragrant an almost meditative experience.

Mandy manages to reignite the passion I felt when I first discovered the world of essential  oils and then perfumery. She has reconnected me to the visceral reason why perfume captivates me so much.

Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent is a gorgeous treasure trove of a book.

 

Ancient Resins Body Oil & Hair Elixir

Ancient Resins Body Oil & Hair Elixir is something I’ve wanted to try for ages so I reverently tipped some of the sample onto my fresh-from-the-bath skin.  I was intrigued to read that Mandy created it as an ode to singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen.

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It’s built around resins that have been prized since ancient times for their spiritual and healing properties. Ancient Resins contains frankincense, Balm of Gilead (poplar buds). benzoin, elemi and labdanum in a base of jojoba and fractionated coconut oil.

Frankincense is a distinctive material and I expected it to dominate but in Mandy’s seasoned hands it practically purrs on the skin, taking a back-seat to the balsams.

Ancient Resins is a seductively balsamic body oil with a subtle vanilla undertone.

What I was particularly pleased about was how quickly it was absorbed by the skin. The oil is not at all greasy so you don’t have to linger for long before dressing. It leaves the skin thoroughly moisturised and softly fragranced. 

Ancient Resins Body Oil & Hair Elixir is a real sensual pleasure both to apply and wear.

 

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Have you read Fragrant or tried any of the Aftelier body products?

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My Favourite Cleansers: Cetaphil and Hydrabio H20

Finding Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser the year before last was somewhat of a lifesaver. I have combination skin but it can feel very dry and sensitive.Rinse-off cleansers usually  irritate my eyes and leave my skin dry however applying Cetaphil is a pleasure. Designed for sensitive and dry skin, it is soap free, fragrance free and non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores). It may be far from glamorous but I love it.

It doesn’t foam on the skin but effectively removes all traces of make-up without stripping the skin. I can even massage it into my lashes to get rid of mascara and it doesn’t bother my eyes in the slightest. My skin is left feeling clean and calm instead of tight and stressed. An added bonus is that I can buy a big bottle for just under a tenner at my local high street chemist (drugstore).

Cetaphil

I came pretty late to French pharmacy brands but I’ve been playing catch up for the last few years. If I’m not washing my face in the bath or shower, I use Bioderma’s Sensibio H20 – Micelle Solution to take off eye make-up and then Hydrabio H20 – Micelle Solution for the rest of the face because it’s more hydrating. Although both are alcohol-free and suitable for sensitive skin, Hydrabio H20 contains Aquagenium, a patented biological complex that locks in moisture on the surface of the skin.

Oh how I heart micellar waters. Creams and lotions always felt so icky on my skin, it’s great to banish them for good. As Lisa Eldridge recently wrote, it’s one case where a beauty trend has trickled up instead of down, with luxury brands bringing out their own – much more expensive – versions. I’m sticking to my tried and tested budget option though and am grateful Escentual has made Bioderma easily available to us in the UK.

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Do you have any favourite cleansers to share?

 

 

 

 

 

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Skincare Sorted – Paula’s Choice

For years I’ve lacked any kind of consistency in my skincare. I only bothered with a basic 3-step routine and would switch to a different product every time one ran out. I never had any confidence in a particular brand. I didn’t trust that the cheap ones would make a difference and I felt like I was largely funding the advertising budgets of the premium beauty companies.

I had never heard of American online brand Paula’s Choice before Birgit blogged about it on Olfactoria’s Travels.  I must admit, from that point until last year, I had a couple of false starts with the website. I just couldn’t get to grips with the many products and the long, similar sounding names. There wasn’t the usual “day cream, night cream, eye cream” categories and I no idea what BHAs or AHAs were. I just couldn’t find a way in.

Then when B came to London last year and had brunch with Vanessa and me, I asked her thoughts and she recommended a couple of products. That was the pointer I needed.

I was away and I’ve never looked back since.

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Paula Begoun of Paula’s Choice

If Paula’s Choice is new to you, basically you pick a range that suits your skin concern (Resist for me as it’s anti-aging) then pick products that suit your skin type (combination to oily or normal to dry). I suggest choosing a serum to treat the skin and a moisturiser with SPF for day. If you want, you can choose a moisturiser without SPF for night and add a liquid exfoliant once you have that basic routine sorted. You can use the moisturisers around the eye area though Paula’s Choice have now brought out an eye cream.

They do trial sizes too which are great for holidays as well as testing out new products. Other definite pluses are that they are fragrance free and not tested on animals.

What I think has made the most difference to my skin is not relying on a moisturiser to do all the work. They are often sold as miracle creams but their actual primary job is to hydrate the skin (the clue is in the name). The key is actually a good liquid exfoliant and the serum you use to treat the skin beforehand. As Sali Hughes says, the moisturiser is just a blanket to lay over the skin after treating it, in order to provide comfort.

I have combination skin and my daily regime (excluding cleansing) looks like this :

Morning

Resist Anti-Aging Ultra Light Super Antioxidant Concetrate Serum

Resist Anti-Aging Hyaluronic Acid Booster

Resist Anti-Aging Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense Moisturizer SPF 30 in spring/summer/autumn

Resist Anti-Aging Cellular Defense Daily Moisturizer SPF 25 in the winter

Night

Resist Daily Pore-Refining 2% BHA Treatment (liquid exfoliant)

Resist Anti-Aging Retinol Serum (on the eye area)

Resist 1% Retinol Booster

Resist Anti-Aging Barrier Repair Moisturizer

 

I finally have a skincare routine I’m happy with, containing products I use consistently and I can tell are working for me. My sister is also a total convert and has even invested in the men’s range for her husband. You can see why they don’t need to advertise.

In case there is any doubt, I’m not affiliated with the Paula’s Choice in any way; just a fan girl with happy skin.

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Is there a beauty brand you’re loyal to? Are you a fan of Paula’s Choice? If so, what are your hero products from the line? 

 

 

 

 

 

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I Have A Tinted Moisturiser Problem

I have recently KonMari’ed my home to great effect. I thoroughly enjoyed my “tidying festival” but following her advice to keep similar things in the same place, I discovered just how many tinted moisturisers I actually own. It wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t opened and part used them all.

I include BB Creams in this category because they are essentially tinted moisturisers with good PR. Having said that, I never use them without a moisturiser underneath. I wear them in place of foundation, mostly on weekends or when the weather is very hot (i.e. usually abroad).

I currently have 6 on the go and here’s a rundown of my thoughts about them.

 

Garnier Skin Perfector All-in-One Daily BB Cream SPF 15 – Medium

This was the first BB Cream I bought but it really makes my skin look far too shiny. Like all BB Creams, it is supposed to even skin tone and blur imperfections but doesn’t provide me with enough coverage. The one plus point is that is it feels very moisturising, unlike a lot of tinted moisturisers/BB Creams. I tend to use it when I’ve been out late the night before and my skin is feeling really dehydrated.

Estee Lauder DayWear Antioxidant Beauty Benefit Creme SPF 35 – Medium

Unlike a lot of BB Creams, this one is pretty much matte on me. It’s also verging on light make-up so I wear it to work on days I don’t have the energy or the time for proper make-up application. It does have quite a strong cucumber scent which doesn’t bother me too much but I could do without it. I love the SPF 35 and wore it in Vienna last summer when the temperature was edging up to 40 degrees C.

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Me in beautiful but scorching hot Vienna

Olay Total Effects 7-in-1 Touch of Sunshine Moisturiser – Medium, SPF 12

I thought I’d cracked it when I found this moisturiser on the high street. It’s anti-ageing and contains sunless tanner so I would never need to worry about looking pallid again. However, my friend and beauty role-model, Birgit, advised me to embrace my natural skin tone and she was quite right. I won’t miss the awful strawberry/biscuit smell, that’s for sure.

Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturiser SPF 20, Illuminating – Natural Radiance

Laura Mercier is the brand which brought the tinted moisturiser to my attention in the first place and now offers a range of formulations and shades. This one gets the job done very nicely. It illuminates thanks to its “Dewy Complex” but isn’t too shiny. It provides some coverage, although it is buildable. I like it but it doesn’t wow me.

Decleor Hydra Floral BB Cream SPF 15  – Medium

I have actually had compliments on my skin while wearing this one so it’s currently my favourite. It illuminates beautifully but in a nice glowy way, not an odd, shiny way. My skin tends to look very dull so this is a huge positive for me. If I’m not wearing make-up people tend to ask if I’m feeling okay.

Vichy Idealia BB Cream – Medium, SPF 25

I hear good things about Vichy’s Idealia range. Their BB Cream veers more towards the moisturiser end of the BB spectrum as opposed to the make-up end. It’s nice and hydrating but I don’t see anywhere near the positive effect on my complexion as I do with the Decleor. I put it in the same category as the Garnier.

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My current “collection” of tinted moisturisers and BB Creams.

So there you have it. To sum up, I would re-purchase the Decleor Hydra Floral BB Cream for weekends and the Estee Lauder DayWear Antioxidant BB Creme for use in hot weather.

Do you wear tinted moisturisers or BB Creams? Any to recommend?

Do you buy the same beauty product again before you’ve run out?

 

 

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The Joy of Face Masks

I only really got into beauty and skincare after the age of 40. Before then I didn’t wear much make-up and never put little thought into my very basic skincare routine. Now I’m making up for lost time and thought I could use the blog occasionally to share/gain information and this new found passion.

One aspect of skincare I really enjoy is the use of face masks. Unlike a lot of skincare it feels – argh, this word makes me cringe but I can’t think of a better one – pampering. I run a bath and have a soak while my mask/s of choice gets to work.

I have been quite the fan of “multi-masking”: putting more than one mask on at the same time. I use the Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant on my oily T-Zone and the Aveda Intensive Hydrating Masque on my cheeks and neck where the skin tends to be dry. But this winter I got the Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Mask by Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins and it is LOVE.

This creamy treatment mask with Cordyceps and Reishi Mushrooms plus Ginger, Holy Basil and Turmeric instantly reduces visibly redness, blotchiness and reactivity.

I apply liberally all over and it tingles for a few seconds. I like this because it feels likes it’s actually going to do something. It’s also definitely a tingling, rather than a stinging, sensation. As per the instructions I leave it on for around 10 minutes and rinse off.

I notice the difference immediately. My skin feels firmer, less sensitive and even strengthened. Of course this is my impression rather than a measurable result. It’s like getting a new layer of stronger, healthy skin.

I don’t think I’m completely imagining this though because I felt this before I read on the Origins website that this treatment mask “helps revitalize and restore luminosity to stressed skin and rebuild a protective barrier to help avoid future flare-ups. Leaves skin calm and comforted.”

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It’s categorised as best for redness and sensitivity but is suitable for all skin types. At £37 for 100ml it’s not exactly a bargain but I do think it’s worth the money for the results it gives me. Especially at this time of year, when my skin is suffering the ill-effects of harsh cold winds and drying central heating.

Right now, I’m curious about the Korean sheet masks which are having a moment. Have you tried them and would you recommend them? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments and let me know whether you have a favourite face mask.

 

 

 

 

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