Sunday, 28 September 2014

Review: Clarins Radiance-Plus Golden Glow Booster

I'm not usually a fan of self-tan. I always think it looks fake, no matter how hard I try. And, because I've got an olive skin tone anyway, it doesn't really matter too much - I'm not super pale.

However, since I've started using the Obagi skincare system, I've had to use SPF 50 on my face and neck and it's surprising how much lighter my face has become. Obviously, there is some sun coming through in London. (That, or the awful lights in my office are having an unwanted effect.)

I was buying my staple purchase from the Clarins counter at the airport recently (Flash Balm, obviously) and the sales consultant recommended this little wonder. Perhaps what I love most is that it's not really fake tan at all - you simply add a drop or too of the liquid to your regular moisturiser and voila - a 'glowing' face. Not really tanned, just more healthy. 

I actually use it at night, and I use two drops - but I've read reviews where people have been adding six with no adverse effects. Certainly I've not experienced any streaking or scary orange streaks. The dispensing technique is also brilliant - turn it upside down and then press the bottom to release a single drop. No wastage whatsoever. 

This is definitely a favourite product for me - I'd highly recommend it. Buy yours here - even better that it's currently on offer for £16.20. 

Monday, 22 September 2014

Review: Dove Pure Care Dry Oil treatment mask

My hair is very fine and, although there's a lot of it, it can have a tendency to go quite flat and dull without some proper effort. I'm finally through the worst of the post pregnancy hair loss (revolting), so I'm trying to form new habits to properly look after my hair. 

This range (one of three from Dove's Advanced Hair offerings) is specifically designed to sort out flat and dull hair - mainly by nourishing the bejesus out of it. It contains macadamia and pomegranate seed oils to really revitalise dry hair. Dove claims that it leaves you with 5 x silkier hair. 

The mask smells divine -it's the coconut I think - and it has a rich, creamy texture. I use a small scoop (around the size of a 50p piece) and massage it into my hair twice a week. A little goes a long way. It suggests being left on for 3-5 minutes, but I usually leave it for about 20. It rinses out easily and my hair is much more manageable afterwards. It also makes my hair considerably softer. 

Dove also claims that it reduces frizz, but that didn't work for me. That said, my hair is particularly prone to frizz, and not much does work on that front. I actually want to try out the dry oil, based on the success of this product. I'll keep you posted on that.

Overall, especially for the price, I'd recommend giving this product a try if you dry hair. And right now, it's part of the 3 for 2 at Boots - so how could you refuse? 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Review: Obagi Nu-derm

Before we start, a disclaimer: 

1. These products are not available in the UK, because they do not comply with EU standards
2. They will not be for everyone - they have strong chemical components
3. What's written here is purely my opinion and is based on my personal experience. In short, I am not a doctor, have no medical expertise and do not claim to be an expert on the ingredients in these products

Okay, with that out of the way: I've held off this review for quite some time, because I wanted to thoroughly test out these products (see disclaimer above). But, I've been using the system, on and off (see below), for around six months, so I feel that's enough of a test run to comment on results.

There's a very detailed overview of the whole system on the Obagi website, but in short, the system claims to improve sun damaged skin by 'penetrating the skin's surface'. I have some melasma spots on my face, most likely due to a lack of proper protection when I was young and thought I'd be young forever - I was to busy having fun to both with dull old things like SPF for the face. And, while minor, it was increasingly clear that Vitamin E wasn't going to cut it. 

It was actually my sister that suggested I check out Obagi - it's very popular in the US, and although technically you need a prescription to get it, your reliable friend and mine the internet enables you to bypass this technicality pretty quickly. And yes, I realise some people will raise an eyebrow at that. If you do, probably don't read on. 

So, after a quick read, I ordered a whole system (in for a penny, in for a pound). What's less clear, although essential, is a separate purchase of tretinoin cream to make sure the system really does its thing. It's worth noting that the tretinoin is particularly potent and comes in three strengths: 0.1% (the strongest), 0.05% and 0.025%. My sister was using the 0.1% and found that a bit strong, so I opted for the 0.05%, which worked well for me. I'd always err on the side of caution - or, if you're in the US, get a doctor's advice. Alternatively, you can call the stores in the US and they may be able to guide you over the phone. 

It's fairly straight forward. The products are even numbered to help you out - and they tell you whether to be used in the morning, the evening or both. Be warned, it's a pretty in-depth system, although it you're a dedicated skin care routine kind of a gal, then you'll be fine. In the mornings, you cleanse, tone, then use 'Clear', then 'Exfoderm', then moisturise ('Hydrate') and then use the SPF 50. And you'll need this 50 - the system definitely makes your skin more sensitive.

In the evenings, it's pretty much the same, but you replace 'Exfoderm' with 'Blender'. You mix this blender with the tretinoin. It's difficult to find exact guidance on amounts to mix - probably because you should be advised by your doctor - but I have been mixing a small pea-sized amount with a slightly larger pea-sized amount of the blender. In short, it bleaches the skin. 

Now, I warn you, the immediate results are not pretty. Basically, after a couple of days, your skin will feel really dry, tight and - even worse - it starts to peel off like a snake shedding skin. Definitely do not start this just before an important occasion. Make-up can only minimise the damage. 

If this happens, as it did with me, step it back a bit. Ease off the tretinoin and maybe only do the whole system every other day. It's all about getting your skin used to the products. I just had to be sensible. Also, in the early days, I was quite concerned about the amount to use. It's actually not as difficult as it first appears; the lines on the packaging help (if you squeeze a line across the Obagi brand name, an inch covers the 'O-B-A'. Simples. 

Also, I've gotten to know how much to use just by trying different amounts. 

So, the verdict.

This is, hands down, the best skin care regime I've ever used. First, the melasma spots have gone. But, second, my skin is glowing. That's right - glowing. Let me assure you, no one ever said I was glowing during four pregnancies. And I'm not given to exaggerations on these sorts of things. The truth is, I was pretty skeptical, but thought it was worth a try - although it's not cheap, it's not that much more than I've wasted over the years on products that didn't work. 

The peeling is fairly short lived, and my skin is genuinely much better when that all stops. I've read that it lasts for some people for considerably longer - for me, it was around a week.

You're not supposed to do this programme continuously. I think around three months if you do it religiously. I tend to use it 2 to 3 times a week at the moment - and when we were in France, I took a complete break. I know lots of people will be against it - partly because the EU won't accept it (fair enough) and partly because of the ingredients (also fair enough). But if nothing else has been working, and you want to give something else a whirl, I can't recommend this enough. Let me know if you try it!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Nuxe - a French pharmacie staple

Nuxe. A French brand I'd heard much about, but not ever used. As soon as we arrived in France, I made a beeline for the nearest pharmacie (which, by the way, didn't very long, because they are everywhere). 

I wasn't disappointed. The brand means 'nature' and 'luxury' in French - so that gives you a clue about what you're in for.

The product I absolutely wasn't leaving without was the Huile Prodigieuse, a favourite among models across the globe; there's a lot of hype about this little beauty. Apparently, 97.8% of its ingredients are of natural origin and it contains the magic Vitamin E that helps nourish, repair and soften skin. I don't about all of that, but it smells absolutely divine. It can be used on your face, your body and even your hair - and a little goes a long way. I saw a difference in my skin in just a couple of days. In short: it's worth the hype.

The moisturiser was an emergency purchase - the Clarins face cream I'd taken with me did not agree with my skin at all. That's unusual - generally I'm a big Clarins fan - but if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. This Beaute Light, on the other hand, is fantastic. The helpful woman on the counter steered me away from heavier creams, telling me the product I was looking at was for much older women (obviously, after that, I'd have bought anything). This claims to have a light texture that stays matte all day. Check and check again. 

And, well, if you're looking around, there's no harm trying a harmless little lip balm while you're at it, right? (Okay, I have around a million lip balms. But, that does put me in a good position to make comprehensive comparisons.) I'll make it quick: love, love, love. Smells lovely, feels lovely, lasts for a long time. I wish I'd bought more than one. 

I also picked up a hand cream - Caudalie, not Nuxe, but worth a mention. My hands get very dry and I think I'm a bit addicted to hand creams. This one is very indulgent - it's not cheap, but it doesn't leave that awful film that cheaper creams can sometimes leave. And it smells wonderful too. (There's a common theme developing on that front for French products.)

Obviously, these products were cheaper (and, in fact, quite a bit cheaper) in France, but imagine my delight when I discovered that Marks and Spencer are now selling Nuxe - it means you can try before you buy in store. Perfect. And for the dedicated onliners, there's the ever reliable Escentual. Enjoy. 

Saturday, 6 September 2014

J'adore France... and other things I learnt this holiday

Dissertation done (finally!) and after a brief séjour - of basically a day and a half - in Spain, we were on our way to France, for the first family holiday since Eldest Martini was born in 2009. Well, if you do keep getting pregnant and having a child under the age of one, it does hinder your travelling capabilities significantly.

But, with those days well and truly behind us, we set off in the ridiculously large very spacious people carrier, complete with packed roof box, without a backward glance.

It was fantastic. Good food, good wine - what's not to love? We're already planning next year's adventure. Any advice? I hear you ask. But, of course:

1. Just because you're in control, doesn't mean the journey is stress free. 

Especially if you travel with Mr. Martini. Four children under the age of 5? No problem. (Although having Frozen on constant repeat did get tiresome.) Endless requirements for loo stops? The French serve wine at service stations, so bring it on. No, the problems came in the form on Mr. M. being in charge of petrol. In short, his massive miscalculation meant we had a very stressful 30 minutes without a petrol station in sight, and us basically hoping the fumes (we were well past the empty sign on the gauge) would get us through. They did, but this was far more luck than judgement. Needless to say, I was in charge of deciding when to stop for petrol from this point onwards. 

2. Ensure you have WiFi (or, at the very least, an internet connection)
And ideally, get hold of some bluetooth speakers for either your phone or tablet too. The home comforts of spotify, netflix and iPlayer saved us on several occasions. 

3. Sticker books are quite possibly the best invention in the world. Ever.

Nannie Martini had the remarkable foresight to prepare 'activity packs' for the three eldest Mini Martinis - which included pencil cases and a range of colouring books, sticker books and pads. Granny Martini also provided some sticker books. And Aunty Martini (aka my sister) sent a whole load of stickers and other treats from Japan. To be honest, I've never seen concentration from the kids. I doubt we could recreate it at home, however hard we tried. 

4. Day trips are essential

My ideal holiday would be lying by a pool in 40 degree heat, alternating between dozing and reading. I have to face the reality: this is unlikely to happen until all the children have stopped coming on holiday with us. They, apparently, aren't quite so keen to laze about doing nothing all day. So, plan some day trips you can all enjoy. We went to the Aquarium in La Rochelle, which was phenomenal  (look at the size of the tank below) and kept everyone entertained all day. Sun loungers: I will return one day, but not for a while. 

5. Try and get a babysitter for the evening - just to remember what the old days were like
We were lucky - the caretaker was an ex-pat and has three kids of her own (slightly older than ours, but young enough for her to remember!), and she came highly recommended. So, we treated ourselves to a couple of grown-ups only dinners at very French restaurants, and gorged on cheese, steak and wine. Just remember that the children will still be up, bright eyed and bushy tailed at the crack of dawn the next day!