Saturday, 17 January 2015

Grahams Natural Shampoo and Conditioner


RRP: £11.99 each
 
--What does the promo say?--
"A gentle blend of organic and natural ingredients to relieve and protect a dry and sensitive scalp."

--Packaging--
The bright yellow and blue combination is bold, youthful, unisex and unique, meaning it would definitely stand out on the shelf.

--Usage--
Business as usual here: lather up the shampoo and massage through wet hair before rinsing out. Follow this by smoothing the conditioner through the roots and leave for a few minutes before washing it out. The usual amount required; a blob around the size of a 50p piece should suffice in each case.

--Appearance--
Both come out an unorthodox blue colour; no idea where this comes from. They foam whiter, though, and leave no visible residue.

--Texture and consistency--
As is normal, the conditioner doesn't lather as such, but just remains a blue, creamy, slightly pearlescent lotion. The shampoo foams up a bit into a slightly whiter concoction with some effort, but again, is a blue nacreous cream to start with. Both rinse out without difficulty.

--Scent--
Weirdly, slightly pepperminty or menthol-ish. Again, no idea where this originates. You can smell the coconut a bit if you sniff hard enough, which is good for those who aren't especial fans of the coconut scent.

--Effects on the hair--
Easily as effective as any commercial shampoo and conditioner, leaving hair softened, volumised and degreased. Scalp-wise, dry skin is definitely reduced and there is no irritation.

--Value for money--
Admittedly I balked at the price when I saw it online, but we perhaps shouldn't be so surprised: if we want quality results on our hair without the artificial ingredients, we surely need to pay for the care that goes into selecting authentic components. Commercial products are frequently so ludicrously cheap that we just aren't used to paying what things actually cost anymore. If by buying this you get good results without the chemicals, and kick dry and itchy scalps into touch too, then tant mieux. However, I think Grahams need to pimp the packaging if they want consumers to believe this is a high-end product that delivers equally good results. While this current packaging is unique and eye-catching, sophisticated it ain't. It's also significantly more expensive than, say, Lush's natural shampoo bars, which also deliver excellent results through natural ingredients, without the plasticated packaging. So while Grahams' hair products ultimately have a good basis, I'd say there's still a few tweaks to be made.

perfect partners
Grahams Natural Soap, £5.50
Grahams Natural Sooth-It Balm, £17.99
Grahams Natural Bath Oil, £14.50
Grahams Calendulis Plus Cream, from £13.95
Grahams Natural Kids Eczema Cream, £18.99

Thursday, 1 January 2015

TEN Revive Eye Contour Cream


RRP: £21.99 for 30ml

--What does the promo say?--
"-TEN-™ Anti-Age Revive Eye Contour Cream with dual synergy action, reduces fine lines and wrinkles around the eye area, using a combination of sweet almond oil, shea butter and argireline. The skin around the eye is ten times thinner than other areas and with 10,000 movements a day just from blinking, an eye cream is an important part of your skincare regime to reduce wrinkles."

--Packaging--
The bronze and white colour scheme is modest and modern, while the large pot is a generous size compared to normal eye creams. The opaque plastic jar also gives a sophisticated feel to the product, while the plastic white screw-top lid makes it easy to use. However, the pot is slightly bulky due to its size and shape, meaning it could be less productive for travel.

--Application--
Gently use your ring finger to blend a small amount of the eye cream (think the size of your smallest fingernail) into the skin around your eye. Easy.

--Appearance--
A white cream that leaves no visible traces on the skin.

--Scent--
Nothing discernible; surprising, given the presence of the shea butter and almond oil.

--Texture and consistency--
Absorbs quickly and without stickiness, caking or excess product being left on the skin once dry. Good stuff. 

--Effects on the skin--
There is definitely increased radiance, and the delicate skin around the eye seems well-protected from dryness. There also does appear to be a small reduction in wrinkles, although this could be just an illusion created by the greater radiance.

--Value for money--
It's well-known that for anti-ageing anywhere on the body, use of a good moisturiser is required (not even specifically an anti-ageing one), and since I like the radiant and softening effects that this one gives, I would definitely consider using it, particularly given that the RRP represents superior value for money given not only the quality of the product but also the amount that you get. Even though I was sent my pot by TEN's lovely PR, I would without doubt purchase my own and recommend that others do the same.

perfect partners
Luminescence Skin Exfoliation Cream, £23.99
Instant Lifting Face Cream, £23.99
Anti-age Complete Rejuvenating Care, £23.99 

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Advanced Nutrition Programme Skin Antioxidant

 RRP: £29.95 for 60 capsules (= 2 months' supply)

--What does the promo say?--
"Skin Antioxidant is formulated with seven super phytonutrients found in plants. Just as plants need antioxidants to protect them from damaging UV rays, so does your skin. Any source of light, even artificial, creates free radicals which cause premature ageing. Protect your skin from the inside with Skin Antioxidant and keep it looking younger for longer!"

--Packaging--
The slimline plastic zip-lock package is convenient for travel, easy to open and close, takes up little space, and keeps the capsules in optimal conditions. Its design is also modern, minimal and discreet, meaning it should suit a wide range of possible needs.

--Usage--
Swallow one capsule a day, with liquid, in order to boost your immune system and prevent your skin from environmental damage. The capsules are about 2 centimetres long (possibly a little less), so this is generally easy to accomplish.

--Appearance--
The capsule is an off-white colour with hints of grey and pink. These hues make them easy enough to distinguish from the same company's Skin Vit A capsules, which are a purer white colour. This difference is particularly handy as the two products are sold together in the Skin Complete pack, which encourages you to take the two supplements simultaneously. If you therefore take a few tablets out of each packet in preparation for your travels, you can still know which one you are taking at any given moment.

--Taste and smell--
Nothing discernible.

--Effects on the body--
Tricky to gauge, as unlike some of the other supplements sold by this company, such as the Accumax, immediate results cannot be possible simply due to the Skin Antioxidant's nature. Any anti-ageing effects, therefore, will only be apparent many more months (or even years) down the line. However, the ingredients also are well-known for bolstering the body's immune system, and I'm not sure it's 100% coincidence that just a week or two after my packet finished, I came down with a horrible cold.

--Value for money--
At the supplement's full price, only you can decide if 50p per day is worth it for the possibility of ongoing health and anti-ageing. I'd say it's not bad, just for the wellness effects alone. Value for money is also greatly increased by the twin facts that a) you get £10 off your first order when signing up to their newsletter, and b) once you are signed up, discount vouchers in the region of 10%-20% off are emailed through frequently. So even if I hadn't been sent my first pack for nothing, I'd perhaps be inclined to continue.

perfect partners
Skin Complete, £45.00
The Skin Collection, £77.50

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Daroko Power Styler

RRP: £12
Stockist: www.daroko.com

--What does the promo say?--

"Turn your hair dryer into a powerful styling tool with this ceramic nozzle attachment. Improves your blow dry instantly and achieves shinier, smoother, longer lasting blow dries in less time! Suitable for all hair types."

--Packaging--
The plates that comprise the power styler are tiny, so are brilliant for travel. It would be great if they came with a tiny travelling case too (made of fabric or plastic) as the plastic casing they come in initially is perhaps too flimsy for long-term use.

--Appearance--
As mentioned, these plates are tiny (about the length of your little finger). They have two clips on each plate, and come in a variety of colours: the ones I was sent are the bright pink shown above, but you also have the choice of orange, black, silver, blue or purple.

--Usage--
These plates are very easy to clip onto any hair dryer nozzle that has a flat straight edge (like the one in the picture above). Even if (like me) you never normally use your hair dryer nozzle, you will find it easy to attach. Just attach the nozzle to your hair dryer, align the plates at the top of the nozzle, and then push down the clips so they are secure. Then blow dry your hair as you normally would. Just one word of caution; the plates do get very hot (as they are metal/ceramic...) so do be careful not to catch your face, neck or ears while using them. Holding sections of your hair taut, like you would when straightening your hair with traditional irons, before running the plates down them can help to prevent this.

--Effects on the hair--
This ticks all the promised boxes. Hair is straightened effortlessly and quickly for an effect that lasts all day; frizz is reduced, and blow drying did indeed seem to take less time. It also, of course, takes less time than using traditional hair straighteners to tame unruly locks. BRAVO.

--Value for money--
An affordable and effective alternative to traditional straighteners that would make a great stocking filler this Christmas. Would recommend.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

No7 Instant Radiance Under Eye Concealer

 RRP: £13.50
# of shades available: 8

--What does the promo say?--
"Cheat your way to the appearance of bright, healthy and youthful eyes with our No7 Instant Radiance Under Eye Concealer. Blends seamlessly with you No7 Match Made foundation, covering dark circles all day long and reducing the appearance of puffiness and fine lines for up to 8 hours."

--Packaging--
The silver tube is elegant and sleek, so looks great in any bathroom and slips easily into any handbag. You don't have to stand there endlessly clicking the top like a loon while you wait for the first dose of the product to come out, either. Even once you've got started, the amount of product coming out of the pen is easy to control, too.

--Application--
If using as a concealer, apply over blemishes or discolorations once you've applied your primer and foundation. If using as a highlighter, dab onto brow bone and/or cheekbones at the same stage. Can also be used to deflect dark shadows by using sparingly around the under-eye area. All very simple.

--Appearance--
Definitely increases radiance in the areas applied, and doesn't act badly as a concealer either. The lightest shade worked perfectly for me, matching my skin tone very well. Beware the difference between this (which comes in 8 different shades) and the virtually indistinguishable Instant Radiance Concealer, which has exactly the same packaging but only comes in 3 shades.

--Scent--
Nothing discernible.

--Texture and consistency--
Smooth, light, and easy to blend. Top marks.

--Coverage and longevity--
I'd say coverage is medium to light, meaning it's probably not the best for hiding your acne. However, it seems to last well enough, meaning your new-found radiance should take you through the day with relative ease. Perhaps, though, No7 should consider renaming it as a highlighter (rather than concealer) to give consumers a better idea of what they can expect from the product.


--Value for money--
While it seems a little bonkers that this is £1 more than No7's Instant Radiance Foundation, as an alternative to YSL's Touche Eclat (which this is clearly intended to be) it's an excellent choice, particularly as it's around 50% less than the price of the original cult classic. Nobody will know the difference! Was sent mine for free by No7's lovely PR, but would buy it out of my own money and recommend it to others :)

perfect partners
Perfect Light Loose Powder, £10.50
Natural Blush Tint Powder, £8.00
Instant Radiance Foundation, £12.50
Instant Illusions Airbrush Away Primer, £19.50 

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Caudalie Crushed Cabernet Scrub

RRP: £21.50 for 150g
 
 --What does the promo say?--
"A professional treatment used in Caudalie’s Vinothérapie® Spas in Bordeaux, France, this natural, grape-rich body scrub made with exfoliating grape-seeds, rich honey, softening brown sugar and 6 essential oils, leaves the skin smooth, ultra soft and silky. For anyone looking for deep exfoliation combined with slimming action. 99% natural ingredients."

--Packaging--
As mine came as part of a gift set from my sister-in-law, it was in a tiny kilner jar. This appears to be in a plastic tub with a black screw-top lid. The advantage of both is that you can get right in there with your fingers to scoop out the last dregs (as opposed to, say, a tube). However, the opening mechanism of the kilner jar may be easier to grab hold of in the shower when you're trying to open or close it with slippery fingers.

--Application--
Caudalie's website recommends usage twice a week on damp skin. I was using mine every day to attack the dry skin on my feet and didn't suffer any ill effects from this, so you probably could use it more frequently on really tough areas. Twice a week, however, is probably a good idea if you are just trying to maintain normal skin condition.

--Appearance--
A brown, grainy scrub in which the crushed grape seed and sugar granules can be easily seen.

--Scent--
Despite all of the essential oils this contains, the only scent I could pick up on was the bitter, anti-oxidant smell of the crushed grape seed. Luckily, this isn't overly bitter or overpowering, so perhaps the essential oils used serve mainly to balance this out, rather than to be the stars of the show themselves.

--Texture and consistency--
Very good for a gentle yet effective attack on dry body skin. However, it might be too harsh for use on your face, just in case anyone was thinking of trying it: as mentioned, the exfoliating agents used are clearly visible and exist in quite large granules. The essential oils make the scrub smooth, not sticky, and the scrub as a whole is easy to rinse.

--Effects on the skin--
Clearly diminishes the quantity and appearance of dry skin, and then subsequently manages skin condition. Skin is smoothed and moisturised simultaneously, leaving you feeling like you've had a luxurious yet effective experience.

--Value for money--  
While the price may initially seem a little steep, here are some thoughts to consider: a) you get the desired results; b) the experience of using this product is spa-like rather than purely utilitarian; c) if you want high-quality ingredients, then you have to pay; and d) even my tiny jar lasted ages, so this cavernous and heavy-duty pot should endure for an eternity. Would recommend.

perfect partners
Contouring Concentrate, £24
Draining Herbal Teas, £10
Nourishing Body Lotion, £20

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Scholl Nail Beauty Set

 RRP: £40

--What does the promo say?--
"This useful Scholl Nail Beauty Set includes 13 different manicure and pedicure attachments, and an integrated nail dryer."

 --Packaging--
The box is Scholl's usual cheerful blue and yellow, which means you immediately associate it with a trustworthy and implies that the product will be effective. The nail beauty set itself is compact and practical, meaning you could easily take it with you on holiday or to a sleepover, without it a) falling open in your bag and spilling all the attachments everywhere, or b) it taking up too much space. Each attachment has its own individual space in the carry case, and the nail drier is well integrated into the tray as well. The lid is an attractive blue-green colour and is made of see-through plastic, evoking images of sea, spas, and swimming pools, which all adds to the general notion of well-being. There's room enough, too, between the lid and appliance to ensure that there is enough space for the mains wire (no matter how haphazardly you shove it in there) and the instruction leaflet (which comes in English and Arabic).

--Usage--
The aforementioned instruction leaflet is clear and concise, and comes with a handy diagram that labels each attachment with a letter for logical identification. It would be even better if each attachment had the corresponding letter marked on it, or if the kit came with stickers for you to mark them yourself - some attachments are quite small and look similar to others. Still, you could always do this yourself with a permanent marker. The two-speed manicure pen is easy to use and not at all painful (even if the whirring sound is a little reminiscent of a trip to the dentist), and can be used either wirelessly or while plugged into the mains (the same is true of the unit itself when you wish to activate the nail dryer). The attachments are also easy to clip into place and then to remove, which along with the painlessness of treatment makes the set ideal for beginners who may lack confidence with professional-seeming instruments.

--Results--
The various files shape nails and cuticles effortlessly, leaving a smooth rather than ragged finish. The buffing discs are also effective once you've finished evening out the nails that have a rougher texture. However, the cones for removing rough skin are perhaps the stars of the show, transforming your lizard feet in moments. The integrated nail dryer is also convenient and does the job well.

--Value for money--
The efficacy and simplicity of this kit makes the £40 price tag a pleasant surprise. Scholl could easily charge double for it and it would still be worth it. However, the £40 RRP keeps it accessible for all, and it's perfect for keeping your feet in top condition in between (or perhaps even in place of) professional pedicure sessions. I was sent mine for free by Scholl's lovely PR, but would definitely pay out for it and recommend it to others (FWIW, Amazon and Argos are the main suppliers).

perfect partners
Velvet Smooth Essential Moisture Cream, £5.99
Velvet Smooth Foot Soak, £6.99
Colour Pop Foot Spa, £30 
Fungal Nail Treatment, £19.40

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Salon Review: The Golden Touch, London

London correspondent Gemma Summons road tests one of the capital's premier waxing salons.

Sometime earlier this summer, somewhere in the nooks and crannies of Soho, I was invited to a salon called The Golden Touch. No, not a ‘massage’ parlour, though I did have a happy ending, of sorts. The Golden Touch was run by the very lovely, very bubbly Hannah Salisbury, an Aussie who has a wealth of experience in intimate waxing. She has been head of the training school of the same name for some time, and has built up an excellent reputation teaching therapists in the London area. 

I am by no means a wax aficionado. (Make of that what you will). Previous memories of being waxed involved being taken down into a scary basement, with sullen, silent women essentially pouring lava onto my dainty areas and ripping them to pieces mercilessly. Safe to say I didn’t go back for a while (years). Waxing is punishment enough without it being medieval. So, thankfully, Hannah welcomed me into her salon with open arms and put me at ease.

She left me alone to freshen up before taking me into a small room with the radio playing. She explained the process of waxing to me and why hot wax is the best way of waxing in order to minimise pain and reduce regrowth. Throughout the wax she kindly talked me through what she was doing whilst giving me helpful advice about aftercare, as well as friendly chatter between us about our days/lives/etc. The wax itself, she admitted, is never going to be the most comfortable experience in the world (why lie?), but she did her absolute best to minimise the discomfort, and I genuinely can say that it was a world away from my previous experiences. I felt safe, relaxed, and in experienced hands (which is all anyone wants down there, obviously). The results were great and, with Hannah’s advice, lasted a long time.

I would thoroughly recommend a wax at The Golden Touch - Hannah offers good quality, practical and affordable intimate waxing with very good customer service as well. Sadly The Golden Touch is temporarily closed at present; however, Hannah is still offering therapists professional training in intimate waxing and the salon's return is promised soon. If you want the therapists of your salon to be taught by the experts, look no further.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Impulse Rock and Love Body Spray

RRP: £1.99

--What does the promo say?--
"Rock & Love is an oriental scent featuring a mix of fresh and fruity fragrance notes, including amber and orange blossom, which combine to produce a bright, sparkling scent, perfect for an on-the-go fragrance boost. The perfect pairing for any rock inspired look, Rock & Love is an effortlessly cool yet chic scent, designed to be the ideal handbag essential to take you from day to night."

--Packaging--
The cool silver background and the almost neon flowers marry to create an almost tattoo-esque concept thanks to the rebellious lines and extreme colours, while the flowers themselves also evoke the Oriental feel intended by the fragrance's principal notes of amber and orange. The turning plastic cover is a lot more convenient than a separate lid, and the spray mechanism itself is strong.

--Application--
I'd say you're best off spraying a mist of this in front of you and stepping into it to let it fall gently over your hair, skin or clothes, rather than directing the jet straight at yourself (see below for reasons why).

--Scent--
A bit overpowering, which is a shame (hence the suggestion above to use sparingly). However, the overall idea is nice: the amber comes through clearly to create a musky, mature result without being a perfume fit for your grandma. The edginess is perhaps created by the orange blossom, although this isn't nearly as detectable as the amber.

--Longevity--
As mentioned, this is powerful stuff, meaning you should be able to just spray once and be done for the day. Handy for the busy and/or lazy!

--Value for money--
At £1.99, this won't break the bank, meaning that even if you dislike it, you haven't lost out. However, on this budget, you simply can't expect the depth and complexity of higher-end fragrances, so allow the price bracket to be your guide and set your expectations.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Dove Caring Protection Body Wash

 RRP: £1.99

--What does the promo say?--
"Nourishment that protects your skin. Our Caring Protection body wash protects the surface of your skin while cleansing. It contains NutriumMoisture with a high level of natural oils and skin natural lipids. The combination helps restore the protective surface of your skin to keep moisture in. Feel the care of the rich and creamy formulation. Naturally protecting, always beautiful."

--Packaging--
The predominantly white bottle is calming and gender-neutral, while the hints of gold and royal blue provide a touch of class. The small blue flip top lid is easy to open and secure to close, even with wet hands, and minimises wastage thanks to its effective dispensing action.

--Application--
Rub into wet skin while showering, delight in the silky lather for as long as you want, and then rinse off.

--Appearance--
The gel creme that initially comes out of the bottle is white and almost pearlescent. This transforms into a robust yet luxurious white foam that leaves no visible residue on the skin.

--Scent--
Freshly laundered cotton is the primary scent evoked; the overall effect is homely and natural rather than seeming overly perfumed, so shouldn't interfere with your usual choice of eau de toilette.

--Texture and consistency--
Creamy and indulgent. As mentioned, a rich lather builds up on contact with water, and it stays on your skin for as long as you want it to before rinsing. 

--Effects on the skin--
In truth, I noticed no difference in terms of moisturisation compared to the other shower gels that I currently have on rotation (a selection by Lush, Deep Heat, and Bath & Body Works). However, it's possible that over a longer period of time a difference might manifest itself thanks to the sunflower and soybean oils that this product contains.

--Value for money--
At a mere £1.99 a punt (less if you catch it on offer, as it is at Boots currently), it's worth a shot for the heavenly shower experience this provides. This product's silky lather is hard to beat, and definitely welcome after a hard day's work, a full-on gym session, or a poor night's sleep. Definitely give it a try.