August 2020 – chocolate owls, neck fans, results, and cheese bread!

Good things in August 2020

Well, August isn’t usually holiday month for me. It hasn’t been for as long as I can remember. When you don’t have children, taking holidays outside of the school holidays often feels like a smart move! It’s hot! It’s sometimes a bit much! But generally there’s a holiday vibe and I like the long summer nights where you can eat in the garden and spend more time outdoors.

We are still being careful and shielding, so you won’t see a lot of staycation posts this summer, but there are still good things, and things to be grateful for. I think in some ways I’ve socialised more this year than I have before, even though I’m not saying “yes” to any face-to-face socialising right now.

New course

Since I’ve been working for myself, August is often a quieter time because many of my customers go on holiday. This year was the launch of my pilot programme for a new course though, so it was actually quite busy – getting things ready and starting off the programme. I have a really lovely group and I’m enjoying working with them. It’s good to try something new!

University results

This actually belongs in July, but I didn’t write this kind of post then!

The end of the university year was a bit different because two of my final assessments were cancelled. With so much else going on, it was quite nice to not have to do them, but nobody really knew what would happen in terms of the results. We knew the previous results would probably become more relevant now, but it wasn’t really clear what would happen. I think an opportunity for better communication was missed there.

As it happened, I got my two distinctions, but as I understand it, the calculations were all adjusted down because they also reflected previous students’ performances on the final exams. I wasn’t on the threshold, so I got what I was aiming for, but some people dropped down into the next bracket, through what felt like no fault of their own. If you screw up an assessment, ultimately it’s on you, but if it happens because generally other people don’t do as well in that assessment, it doesn’t feel fair.

Overall I was happy – year 1 took me 2 years because I’m part-time, but I did it! Posts about the final two modules are coming soon – I don’t like to write them until I’ve properly finished.

Next module booked

There were some questions about the accessibility of the module I wanted to study next. That took a bit of time to resolve, but it feels as though we have a better process in place now, and a way to make sure that the transitions to future modules go more smoothly.

I’m looking forward to writing the code for web pages – less so to the reliance on diagrams to communicate ideas about how said web pages should turn out! But at least we have a plan now to make it more accessible!

New products

The Body Shop has come out with some new hair and body mists. Body mists are nothing new, but not all of them are suitable to be used on hair – some ingredients can dry your hair out – but these ones are fine .

There are 5 in the range – apricot and agave, lime and matcha, pomegranate and red berries, pink pepper and lychee, and coconut and yuzu.

I got the apricot one and the lime one. My favourite is the apricot one, but both of them are good!

Not quite so new, but I also enjoyed the new zesty lemon range of products – they were a special edition, but if they come back, I can definitely recommend them if you love zingy citrussy scents. I enjoyed the zesty lemon body yoghurt. It’s made with lumpy lemons, which presumably wouldn’t be up to the normal standard for selling and eating.

Portable neck fan

I turned up to an online meeting during the heatwave and a friend was wearing one of these! It’s a great idea – you take your fan around with you wherever you go! It’s like three sides of a square. The side opposite the open side goes behind your neck, and the two arms sit on your shoulders, facing forwards. You have to be careful with long hair, but I push mine back and I haven’t caught it yet! The arms blow out air onto your face and neck, and there are multiple settings for how intense you want the fan to be. This is the neck fan that I got.

New platform to try

I was involved in an accessibility research project throughout August. I probably can’t say a lot about that at the moment, but one thing it also gave me was the opportunity to try out Microsoft Teams with Jaws and VoiceOver (the two screenreaders that I use on my laptop and my phone).

I was impressed! It’s so much better than what we use at university! I mainly use Zoom and other conferencing tools at work, but it was interesting to try something new. It’s more involved than Zoom, but it also has more features for working collaboratively.

Chocolate owls

These are the owls featured in the image for this post. They were delicious – some were with orange essential oil and others with peppermint. (If you intend to try this, make sure the essential oils you have are suitable for internal use – not all are).

The owl moulds can be bought from Amazon – this is one of my owl mould sets.

They were amazing – both sets were good, but I think my favourites were the orange ones! I’m going to try dark chocolate tnex.

New Turkish friends

I know my biggest weakness in learning a language is speaking. I hate it. I don’t want to do it until I’m really good – but the only way to become really good is to do it!

Especially if you’re living in a country where you’re not being exposed to the additional language every day, you need to be more proactive.

So I went to a language exchange site. You have to be a bit careful, because especially if you are a woman, you can get inundated with messages, some of which are quite annoying. I started chatting with a few people. Some fizzle out straight away, so it’s good to not only rely on one or two right at the beginning. I’ve found two people wit whom I’m meeting regularly online now for English and Turkish practice. It’s hard for me – I would much prefer to write – but they are both really friendly and having a real person to speak with definitely gives you a reason to do it!

Duolingo

I wrote before about improving my Turkish on Duolingo.

I saw that this way of strengthening the connection between language pairs was also really good brain training. A lot of activities for training your memory involve pictures, and therefore don’t work for me. But I love languages, so I decided to use my subscription to this app to work on my active languages, refresh a couple that I used to speak, and also try a couple of new ones.

I want to write a more in-depth post about this and what I’ve discovered. At the moment I have 12 courses, which are combinations of 8 languages!

Baking bread

I haven’t jumped on the sourdough train, but we have been trying out some bread recipes. Yesterday we made cheese and onion bread – something I’ve never had before – but it has cheese in it, so it must be good, right? It was amazing! Random internet recipes can be a risky business, but I can recommend this yummy cheese and onion bread! Not an affiliate link – just something we found and enjoyed.

So, that’s a round-up of my August! Tomorrow is September – I love autumn!

How was August for you?

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Vitamin C products and beauty box finds

Vitamin C products and beauty box finds

I thought I hadn’t done a skincare post for a while, so here are some of the things I’ve been enjoying (or not so much!) lately. Let me know if you have tried any of them and what you thought.

Vitamin C range from Pixi

I was excited when Pixi brought out its vitamin C range. I’m not sure exactly when they came out, but I got them some time last autumn.

I first tried Pixi skincare when I heard about the glow tonic – I’m all about the chemical exfoliants – so when I heard that the new range had this kind of toner, I decided to give the whole range a go. It’s made with oranges and lemons to brighten and exfoliate the skin, without any abrasive particles.
The cleanser and the serum also contain grapefruit extracts. I know how a product smells is no indicator of how good it is, but these smell amazing and that made me want to use them!

The juice cleanser is a no-fuss cleanser – I’m not sure how well it would work with heavy make-up because I tended to use it in the morning, but it’s gentle and refreshing, and you don’t need to wash it off. The vitamin C tonic is similar to the glow tonic, but I think it’s gentler, and this meant that even when I had both of them on the go, I was more likely to reach for the vitamin C one. The vitamin C lotion comes in a tube and is a fairly light-weight moisturiser, good for wearing in the daytime, and fine for layering with other products.

I’d recommend all of this range. I also have the serum, but it’s still going as it was out of stock when I bought the others. I haven’t tried the caviar balm yet.

Lovelula

I signed up for this subscription because I wanted to try more cruelty-free and natural brands. You don’t know what’s coming in the box, and it tends to be more skincare than make-up. This time there was one hit and one miss, but even if something isn’t for me, I do appreciate the chance to try new things, for a fraction of the normal price.

Madara often shows up in this box, but I’m ok with that as I really like their products. This set of 10 Hyaluronic Collagen Booster Ampoules alone costs double what I paid for the box! They are enriched with hyaluronic acid and natural plant sugars, to stimulate the protein structure of the skin and provide a protective layer to shield the skin’s protective barrier. You basically use them like a serum, after toning and before moisturising. The capsules are very generous, but I tended to use them in one go because I understand the point of having sealed capsules is to prevent exposure to the air. Madara is not a cheap brand, but I am happy to pay more for serums and moisturizers if I think they are worth it. I would buy these again.

I really wanted to like this Rescue My Hair Shampoo Bar – Pollution Patrol from My. Haircare. It was the first shampoo bar I’ve tried, and I love the idea behind it. However, the “ultimate sensory experience” they promised just didn’t happen for me. My hair felt stripped afterwards, I didn’t like the scent or the texture, and I didn’t come away feeling that I’d done something good for my hair. I do have a couple of other shampoo bars, and I will try those, but so far I can’t see myself making the switch.

Latest in Beauty

I’m loyal to this subscription because I get to choose my products. I might make a mistake, but they’ll never send me something I’ll never use!

Yardley Lily of the valley hand cream – this was an all-round good hand cream. All the hand-washing of late does mean dryer hands, so I want to take care of them. It is floral, but a pleasant kind of floral!

Rodial Vitamin C sheet mask – this was one of the products – usually more high end ones – that they have as the product of the month, which means there is enough for everyone. Rodial is a more expensive brand, but if I were going to invest in something from them, it wouldn’t be a £14 sheet mask! The plan I’m on meant that I paid £2, but I do prefer the ones that are tissue soaked in the serum, rather than this kind of solid slimy stuff – I know that’s not a good description! It felt nice enough afterwards, but is not something I’d rush out to buy.

Single use hair masks like the couple I’ve got from Hask aren’t the most environmentally friendly way to go, but they are a way to check whether you like a product before committing to buying it, and the 50g ones give me enough product to work with as someone with really long hair. I’ve had the charcoal with citrus oil purifying mask, and the argan oil repairing deep conditioner. These can also be bought as a larger size, and it got me interested in the brand, so I also tried the orchid and white truffle moisture-rich shampoo. This is a budget-friendly brand, but my hair always feels really good afterwards.

Advent calendar

So my plan last year was to build my own beauty advent calendar. I had a lot of fun doing it, with some budget-friendly buys and more expensive treats, and the best bit was I knew I would use everything in there. Often the best thing in a beauty calendar is something I don’t want – such as a palette – and it feels like a bit of a let-down. Most of the wellness products have already gone, but I have a couple of skincare bits still going strong! There’s usually a sale at Feelunique in November, so I could try some new things and make the money go further.

I haven’t found a link for the Yves Rocher Hydra Végétal Moisture Boost Serum from a site that I would use, but it’s definitely a good one and one that I’d get again if I found it. As the name suggests, it’s good for dry skin.

I also wanted to try the e.l.f. Beauty Shield Vitamin C Pollution Prevention Serum. I liked the packaging – you push the top down and it draws the product up into a kind of pipette. Unfortunately that’s where the positive feedback ends! I found the product very watery – which in itself is ok if you use it like an essence, but it was sticky too and just not pleasant! I didn’t finish it.

Body shop

I finished the almond bath milk powder from my Body Shop pamper package. It’s powder to milk, so you just shake some in and it becomes bath milk. Think more moisturising than bubble bath, but this is a lovely gentle range.

The banana bath blend smelled good enough to eat! These are bubble baths made with fruit and vegetables known for their vitamins, and these are made from wonky bananas, which makes me happy because they weren’t wasted!
I used up a tub of the shea body butter – I think I must have got it in a set. I usually go for more fruity scents, but this one is good for sensitive skin or if you don’t want a strong scent, and it is really good for dry skin.

An old favourite – the
Gentle eye makeup remover.
This doesn’t sting my eyes, so I repurchase it.

I was super lucky to get to try the two new ranges – Sicilian lemon, and cucumber. Unfortunately the cucumber hand cream also contains mint, and gives you the weird tingly sensation that peppermint products often do. It might not be so bad with a wash-off product, but this stays on your skin and I found it quite uncomfortable. I think it would be even worse for more sensitive parts of the body. I think cucumber would be really nice, but I feel the peppermint was a mistake.

Supermarket

I needed some shower gel, so decided to try something new from the supermarket. I like fruity scents, so I tried the Kind natured lime and mandarin body wash and an almond milk hair mask. This was a new brand for me and I liked the brand’s commitment to natural ingredients and the fruity scents.

So, let me know if you’ve tried any of these and what you thought.

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Skincare in May – some new discoveries and a couple that were not so good

It’s halfway through June and I’m just getting my act together to talk about the products I tried and used up in May! As always, let me know if you’ve used any of these.

You may have noticed I’m trying out some new brands, and also trying to make my collection more cruelty-free. That doesn’t mean chucking out things that have already been purchased, because creating waste doesn’t help anyone, but I am trying to be more mindful with what I buy, and my Lovelula and Pip Box subscriptions are introducing me to some cool new brands and products.

All of these products were paid for with my own money, apart from the customer loyalty product, which is labelled as such.

Balm Balm

The little miracle cleanser was one of the first products I got when I started the Lovelula boxes again and it helped me to decide that yes, I actually do like oil cleansers. I’m not sure what put me off them before – I think I had a particularly sticky and unpleasant one, but this one isn’t like that. It is a budget-friendly gentle cleanser that removes make-up easily and leaves your skin feeling really soft and smooth afterwards. It also has a pump dispenser, which I like when it comes to getting the right amount of product, and it’s definitely one I’d buy again.

Body Shop

I’ve mentioned Heidi and her Body Shop pamper packages before. I’m a member of Heidi’s Facebook group, where it’s possible to earn loyalty points by either buying products, posting reviews, or interacting in the group. These points all add up and can lead to loyalty point gifts, such as my Spa of the World™ Tahitian Tiaré Hand Wash. This is out of stock as I write this, but it’s so important to keep our hands clean, especially now with increased hand washing because of the virus. This hand wash contains coconut oil to moisturise your hands, and it leaves them smelling of flower blossom – not in your face floral, but more of a subtle scent. Body Shop hand washes are not the cheapest, but they are a nice treat or a practical gift.

Of course Miss Mango has to have a mango product in here – this is my favourite scent from the Body Shop, and I used up another of their Mango shower gels. Not much to say really, other than it’s good quality, good value, and smells amazingly of mango goodness!

There was also an offer on haircare, and I got a set of the banana shampoo and conditioner. The conditioner always runs out first, so I finished up the banana conditioner to deeply nourish hair. I don’t have particularly dry or damaged hair, but it’s long and I have a lot of it, so I like a deep conditioner or hair mask for it. The strawberry and shea ranges are good too, but the banana one with banana puree from Ecuador is still my favourite.

Elizabeth Arden

This Green tea body cream was supposed to be a luxurious treat in the advent calendar that I put together myself last year. I really wanted to like it – it smells good, with the green tea, but it also had crushed up bits of something, which I can only assume is green tea leaves, in it as well. So I came out of the shower all fresh and clean, and ended up feeling dirty again because my body cream had bits in it. I tried, but I didn’t end up using this up. It may have been ok as a shower gel or something, but I can’t deal with a body cream that has bits of anything in it – I’m not a fan of glitter particles either for that same reason. Oh well.

Flawless Beauty

I haven’t been able to find this on a site that I know, so haven’t included a link, but we got a Parma Violet Luxury Body Cream in one of the Pip Box subscriptions. I’m not familiar with the brand, but it was a lotion-type cream, that did smell of parma violet, but not in a real sweet and sickly way. It had some other scent with it, that was a bit like cucumber. The bottle was kind of squishy too, so you didn’t feel as though you were wasting any. I’d try more from this brand, and I’d be interested to see what other ranges they have. That’s the nice thing about the subscription boxes – you don’t use the same things all the time and can find out about new products.

Kathleen

This natural bright mask was in one of our Lovelula boxes. I liked the sound of it, using white willow bark and hibiscus extracts, both of which are natural acids for exfoliating the skin. I always choose chemical exfoliators over physical ones, so thought this would be really good. The mask itself was ok I suppose, but it is sooo messy! It’s a bit like the cheese you get on top of a pizza, which sticks to itself, the fork, the knife, and is just a nightmare to cut. Whether you get some of this product on your finger, brush, spatula, or whatever you’re trying to apply it with, it has a long stringy tail and clings to the rest of the product in the pot. Or it hangs down precariously, threatening your top! Having this consistency doesn’t make it particularly easy to spread evenly either and because of this, although I liked the idea, it’s not something I would get again.

Korres

I’d tried a lot of bath and body products from Korres, so decided to try one of their face creams as well. I went for the almond blossom moisturising cream for very dry skin (I think they do two formulas using the almond blossom, because there is one for oily skin as well). Following some changes to medication, my skin isn’t very dry any more, so this is no longer the best choice for me. As such, I ended up using it more like a mask if I felt my skin needed some care. It’s a good moisturiser though, and I would be interested to try more skincare from the brand.

Natura seberica

The rich Siberian body butter also came in a Lovelula box. We had quite a few body butters, but I use them all the time, so this didn’t bother me! According to the site, ” Siberian cedar and Red Juniper oils improve blood circulation, while Siberian Fir Oil rejuvenates and smooths skin. Altai Oblepikha and Arctic Cloudberry oils protect skin from environmental impacts, making it soft and enhancing natural glow.” It was a fairly thick butter with a faint citrussy scent. Due to its buttery consistency, it is rich and you do need to take the time to massage it in, but if you do, it leaves your skin feeling soft for a long time.

Ooh-Arr

I haven’t found where you can buy these individually, but Latest in Beauty were offering both the strawberry and the orange face masks from this range recently. These are single use masks, but my LiB choices end up being £2 per product, so this is ok for a mask. It’s a thick, creamy mask that smells deliciously fruity. I usually do them in the bath and just wash them off after.

Pai

Another LiB choice is this rosehip cleansing oil. The only thing we seem to get from Pai in calendars or beauty boxes is the throat cream, which is ok, but I’m still not convinced we need a separate one. So I was interested to try something else from the brand. It’s a cleansing oil, and as I’ve reviewed two this month I do prefer the Balm Balm one, but this one did the job and I wouldn’t mind using it again.

Rituals

Another of my own advent calendar treats was finished up in May – my Ritual of Ayurveda Hand Lotion. There’s always something luxurious about rituals products, and this one has Indian rose and almond oil in it. It smells amazing, and is a pretty good hand cream too. This is definitely something that I would get again.

So there we have it – a couple of misses, and I think my favourite products were the first and the last in the list. How about you? Have you tried any of them? Let me know in the comments!

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New skincare and bath products in April – tried and tested!

Well, April has come and gone. I tried some interesting new products, and am going to share them with you here. I was particularly interested to see that the Body Shop has some new launches coming in the next couple of months, and I tried out at least one of them in April. Let me know in the comments if you have tried any of these.

Australian body care

This is a new brand for me. I saw the tea tree skin wash on Latest in Beauty, and with my subscription only costing £2 per product, this was a good deal for a full size. This, unlike some other tea tree products, was fairly gentle and lathered up well. I think it’s something I’d be more likely to use as a hand wash though as I don’t enjoy the tingly tea tree sensation all over my body. Nice enough, but not something I’m in a hurry to buy again.

Aveda

I’ve already raved about the almond conditioner, but in April I finished up the almond shampoo as well. These are really good products – they leave your hair feeling and smelling amazing, and the naturally derived cherry blossom and sweet almond restore softness and shine. I would definitely buy these again.

Body shop

the satsuma lotion is one of the light-weight body moisturisers that aren’t talked about as much. But I really like them, especially in the summer. This is a fresh, citrusy satsuma scent, and the lotion absorbs quickly and easily. There are lotions in a number of scents, but I prefer the mango one and this one. They make a nice change from heavier products such as the butters, but they are still moisturising enough to make a difference. The pump also keeps them fresher for longer because you’re not opening the whole tub up to the air.

This roots of strength day cream is marketed at the 40+ range, so a bit older than me, but only just! It’s a non-greasy moisturiser, although it is one of the richer ones that the Body Shop does. It’s main selling points are plumping the skin and reducing fine lines. It contains ginger from Madagascar, ginseng from China and ruscus from Europe. I enjoyed using it, but there are other Body Shop moisturisers that I like more.

The chamomile eye make up remover is something that I got in an advent calendar, but I also have a full-size one on the go. I like it because it’s gentle and it gets the job done. I don’t tend to shop around for these because once I’ve found one I like, I don’t like to take the risk that a different one will sting my eyes. So I usually keep one of these in my stash!

This is one of the new arrivals, and sadly it’s out of stock as I write this, but you can ask to be notified when it’s back. The mango bath blend is one of the new range of bath blends that are packed full of fruit and vegetables, rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Other blends in the range include banana, berry and pear. It’s a mid-range bubble bath in terms of the amount of bubbles you get, but the silky smooth skin and the amazing scent make it a treat worth splashing out on. I also have the banana one and I’m looking forward to using that on pamper nights. Seriously these smell like fruity cocktails with real fruit, not the synthetic fruit scents.

Cowshed

I still like this brand as much as I always did in terms of the products, but I don’t like their rebrand and the fact that they lost all the cool names. I had a mini of the indulge body lotion in our Christmas Eve box and I finished it up in April. It contains Madagascan Ylang Ylang, Moroccan Rose, and Indian Palmarosa, but isn’t only floral. I’m not sure what they did to it, because I don’t usually like floral lotions, but it’s a scent and formula that I enjoy.

Crabtree and Evelyn

Previously I’ve only had hand cream from this brand, but I got this Silky rose body lotion in a Christmas gift set. I’m not usually a fan of rose, but this also has some citrus notes such as lemon, so I actually quite liked it. It was good to try something else from this brand and I’m glad it’s not all flowery scents. The lotion absorbed well and I like the pump dispenser.

Kores

This is an old favourite, the Sunflower conditioner. Technically it’s for coloured hair, which I don’t have, but I like this conditioner so much, I don’t care! It leaves my hair so soft and silky, and it’s a good detangler as well. Generally this brand is known for its shower products and body lotions, but the haircare is definitely worth looking at as well.

Natura

I got this Herb Infused Sheet Mask in one of my Pip boxes. I don’t usually go for multi-masks unless I’m intentionally targeting different parts of the face with different products – this one is intended to hydrate, brighten, and reduce pore size, but I did actually enjoy using it, and extra points for the recyclable rather than plastic packaging.

Nuxe

The Rev de Miel face balm was one of the Latest in Beauty products of the month – usually a high-end product that is available all month. It’s marketed for dry or sensitive skin, or for normal skin in cold weather. It’s a fairly thick face cream, but I used it in the daytime too, because it sank in quickly and wasn’t greasy, so it was easy to put make-up on over it. It has the kind of smell that is characteristic of Nuxe products, but nothing overpowering. It contains honey, propolis and oils to nourish, soothe, and repair skin.

I’m not going to get another one just yet because I have other face creams, but it’s definitely something I’d use again.

Tigi

This mango protection spray has been knocking around for a while because it’s for sun or heat protection and I was mainly using it for when I went outside in the sunshine. It’s a small bottle that you can easily put in your bag, and of course it gets extra points because it’s mango. I do have another heat protection spray, but I will repurchase this because nothing smells as good as mango and it’s more handy than some of the big bottles you can get to use before you use heat tools on your hair.

Tropic skincare

Actually I have no idea where I got this super greens oil mini. It has a very strong plant-based scent, but it’s not unpleasant. It makes me think of preparing broccoli! Anyway, it’s designed to help boost your skin’s natural defences. I used it in my night-time skincare routine, especially on dryer areas.

Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products and what you thought of them!

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Mystery pamper packages from Heidi at the Body Shop at Home

I’ve said for ages the Body Shop is missing a trick by not offering a beauty box subscription. They still aren’t, but Heidi, my friend and a consultant at the Body Shop at home, does now offer mystery pamper packages. They have the added bonus that they’re not entirely a mystery because she asks you a few questions first to make sure that you get things that you like.

This post is not sponsored and I paid for my pamper package. I think it’s a cool idea, so I wanted to show you what was in mine, and to let people in the UK know about them. Especially at the moment, when we’re being asked to stay at home, they can be a nice treat for yourself, or to tell someone else that you were thinking of them.

It could be a complete surprise, but Heidi also likes to get an idea of what you like, what type of skin you have, whether you have any favourite ranges or things that you particularly want to avoid.

What was in my box?

I got my box before the lockdown, so Heidi packaged it up herself. At the moment, all packages are coming directly from the warehouse to keep everyone safe, but essentially they still work in the same way – Heidi puts your products together and the package is worth more than you pay for it.

Mine included a sachet of hot chocolate too, but that was gone by the time we got round to taking the photo!

Mango perfume

I’ve mentioned the mango eau de toilette before on the blog – in fact, Heidi reads my blog and saw that I had run out! This usually retails for £9, so there’s almost half the £20 I paid for the box covered by the first product! The mango range is my favourite range from the Body Shop, so I was really happy to get something mango-scented in there. It’s fresh and fruity – sometimes I use it as a perfume and other times as a body mist. But either way the mango scent follows you around for the rest of the day!

Egyptian milk and honey bath powder

This is the most expensive item in the box and it’s from the Spa of the world range. You put some of the Egyptian milk and honey bath powder to milk in your bath, swish it around, and the powder dissolves into the water. It contains honey and three oil extracts to make your skin feel smooth and help you relax.

Bath time and pamper time are important for me, so it was good to get a body care treat in my box. Oh, and it also comes with a cute little wooden trowel to scoop the powder into your bath!

Coffee face mask

I’m excited whenever I see the C word – coffee! Like mango, it’s one of my favourite things! I usually go for the sheet masks, but I was intrigued when the Body Shop brought out a coffee mask, and happy that Heidi put a travel size one in my pamper package.

It’s an exfoliating mask with natural coffee bean particles. Good for use in the morning to wake you up, and it smells amazing too! It’s enriched with coffee and Community Trade sesame seed oil from Nicaragua, Community Trade cocoa butter and shea butter from Ghana, and organic Community Trade cane sugar from Paraguay.

Vitamin E lip care

This vitamin E lip care with SPF15 is a good handbag essential to keep your lips from getting chapped and sore. This one is particularly good if you don’t like flavoured lip care. It does contain coconut, but you don’t really taste it.

Final thoughts

So, this is a way to get a surprise, or also to try out something that you’ve had your eye on for a while. If you want to find out more, check out Heidi’s Facebook group. I was really happy with mine and highly recommend them! There was bath care, fragrance, and two face products, with a product from four different ranges, and the value was a lot more than the £20 that I paid.

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Pamper products in March

I’ve got a slightly smaller collection of stuff to talk about this month – mainly because I’m not repeating staple products that I’ve already talked about, but I think that during this time of uncertainty, it’s nice to do things for our well-being. For me, that’s been long baths where I can relax and get a break from interacting with people – because as much as I like people, I recharge best by getting some time out alone. If anything, as I’m still working full-time from home, and every group that I’ve ever been involved with is now meeting online, I’ve felt a bit of socialising fatigue, which I know sounds odd in a time of social isolation. It seems selfish writing that when there are people who are really isolated and craving some human interaction, but I’ve also learned that people having a different problem doesn’t make your own problem any les valid.

So bathtime is good. My skincare regime is good – there’s something comfortingly predictable about all the steps that always come in the same order and are doing something good for my skin.

Here are a few things that I discovered in March:

Aveda

I only discovered this brand at the end of last year when I got a travel size of the almond cherry shampoo. After that I got the shampoo and the conditioner because I was so impressed. The conditioner was finished first, but they both lasted a decent amount of time. They are not cheap, but some of the more expensive products are less watery, so you end up using less. This conditioner is especially good for long hair like mine. It contains naturally derived cherry blossom extract, almond oil and shea butter. It leaves my hair soft, less tangly, and smelling amazing!

Body shop

Of course there are products from the Body Shop in here!

The first is a big jar of the Drops of youth ® Bouncy sleeping mask. This has a slightly strange consistency – it’s like a gel, but it settles down into more of a cream once it’s been on for a few minutes. It’s an overnight mask, but I usually put it on a little while before I go to bed so that it doesn’t stick to the pillow. It’s great for giving thirsty dry skin a drink overnight, and it promises skin that looks plumper, fresher, and renewed. It smells good too, though I couldn’t tell you wat it smells of! I can’t speak for anyone else, but an unlikely benefit I’ve found is that sometimes I get red blotches on my forehead, and using face oils or this mask helps to reduce those as well.

This isn’t a cheap mask, but the jar lasts a long time. Luckily for me, my friend Salomi bought me one last year, so I already have another one to use.

We often hear about the body butters, but the Body Shop does some really nice lotions as well. I keep coming back to the almond milk and honey body lotion because it’s really gentle and soothing. It comes in a tube, so you can get every last bit out! You can smell the honey more than the almond milk, and although it’s not as thick as the butters, it does keep your skin hydrated for a long time.

Still on the subject of body lotions, there are a couple of whipped lotions too, which are light in texture, but which are still great moisturisers – particularly nice in the summer months, when you want something a bit lighter. The mango whipped lotion is part of the mango range, so of course one of my favourites! It contains mango seed oil from India and smells like real mangos.

Molton Brown

In February I talked about my Indian cress hair set that my Mum got me for Christmas, and in March I finished up the conditioner. Again, not a cheap set, but it lasted ages, particularly the conditioner. I’m not usually a floral scent kind of girl, but this jasmin and honeysuckle is fresh and not overly floral. My hair smelled great for ages and more importantly, it felt soft, nourished, and smooth. These products are cruelty-free and even the packaging lets you know you’re in for a treat!

I think sometimes we can spend a lot on things like make-up and then be horrified when a hair or skincare product is a bit more pricy – but I would actually rather invest more in the things that will be put on my hair and skin first.

Retro Rich

I hadn’t actually heard of this brand before. I follow Sussex Sandra on YouTube and she finds some interesting new boxes, particularly more inclusive ones, because many of the mainstream boxes often leave her with things that she can’t use because they don’t take into consideration the full range of skin tones that their members have. We should be doing better than this.

Anyway, Sandra reviewed a haircare beauty box, primarily aimed at people with curly or coily hair – so not me with my type 1 straight hair – but the products sounded so good and inclusive that I wanted to give it a go. I use some of them differently, but they looked like interesting, good quality products and I decided to give the box a go.

The February box focussed on the brand Retro Rich, and that’s how I discovered the Queen of the Nile hair mask – probably my favourite item in the box. Some of the other products are things that I wash out whereas people with different types of hair can leave them in, but super long hair needs moisturising down to the tips, and this mask is something that anyone can use to give their hair a pamper. You just use it like any other hair mask – leave it on for 10 minutes or pop it under a shower cap (I’ve done both). It smells lovely and my hair felt amazing afterwards.

The box comes out every two months and you can find out more about the Odyssey box here.

Rituals

It was the first time that I tried a shower oil from Rituals. I wasn’t actually sure whether I’d like it, but having used it, I actually liked it more than the foam, which seems to be their more well-known shower product. This ritual of Sakura oil contains cherry blossom extract, and rice milk, known for its purifying properties. I love this scent anyway, and the oil isn’t greasy – it’s easy to wash off and doesn’t leave a mess in your bath or shower!

Weleda

I’ve tried the pomegranate body lotion before, so I also picked up one of the Pomegranate shower gels. This brand is probably best known for its skin food, which isn’t something I tend to use, but the pomegranate range is worth exploring as well!

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Luxury treats – February product review

A bit later than usual, but here are some of the skincare products that I used in February and what I thought of them. All of these products were bought with my own money or birthday/Christmas presents from family and friends. None of the products are sponsored, although the post does contain some affiliate links.

Balmonds

This wasn’t a brand that I was familiar with until I started getting Lovelula again last year. This intensive facial oil got me back into using facial oils. I’d had a bit of a thing against them after a bad experience with a particularly greasy one, but this is not like that. It is a fairly rich oil, but it soaks in well and leaves the face feeling soft and rehydrated. The lavender scent makes it a nice choice for bedtime as well.

Body shop

This Mango body Scrub is an old favourite. I love the mango scent, and the fact that it’s a sugar scrub means it’s not messy, so you’re not for ever clearing up something messy like coffee grounds. It just dissolves and washes away. It’s firm enough to feel that it’s doing something to the skin, but it’s not so abrasive that it hurts.

The Ethiopian coffee cream is from the spa of the world range and it’s a luxury body cream. It doesn’t smell of coffee, but it contains caffeine, which is known for its stimulating properties, and it promises to leave your skin feeling firmer and smoother.

The moringa body butter is not something I would usually buy because of its floral scent. I got it in a calendar and used it up because it’s one of the creamier body butters, which I like as opposed to the really firm ones. It’s not something I’d buy again, but it is good as a body moisturiser, and if you like more floral scents, you might like it too!

I was having some problems with my skin and decided to pick up the aloe toner for sensitive skin. It’s super gentle and reminds me a bit of the vitamin E toner. As a rule I don’t have sensitive skin, but I like to use something like this if I have had a reaction to something or just want something really gentle. I’d definitely pick this up again.

H2k

I’d never heard of this brand before, but I picked up the Oilovme serum for fine lines and blemishes as one of my Latest in Beauty choices. This small tube retails for £9.99, and as a 9 product subscriber, I paid £2. This is why I really like LiB – you get to try some new brands and products for a fraction of the price. Anyway – it’s an oil-based serum (sunflower seed and wheat germ) and I particularly applied it to any areas with blemishes. It doesn’t say anything about tea tree oil, but it smells of it, and did calm down any areas where I had hormonal breakouts.

Hugo Boss

I’ve talked about this The scent intense for her perfume before. It’s not the notes that I usually go for, but I smelled a sample of it and really liked it, probably because of the fruity peach and roasted cocoa notes. It does contain osmanthus flower too, but it’s not a particularly floral scent. This is something that I wear quite often, and I finished up my 30 ml bottle. Fortunately I got a really good deal on it in the sale last year, so I do already have a replacement for it. I don’t replace all my perfumes when they run out, but I like this one enough to keep wearing it.

Molton Brown

Molton Brown is usually known for its shower gel gifts, but they have some really nice haircare too. I’ve talked about the Indian cress purifying hair set before, but I got one for Christmas and have now finished the conditioner. The shampoo lasts a bit longer because with that, a little really goes a long way. They smell and feel luxurious, and the jasmin and honeysuckle scent stays on your hair for ages. This particular set is the purifying one and it contains enriching Indian cress extract. Not something I can afford every day, but it’s a lovely treat once in a while.

Radox

Budget friendly and fruity, I got through a couple of Radox shower gels. I particularly liked the lychee and watermelon one because it’s so fruity and refreshing, with a creamy texture that felt moisturising as well. I’m always up for trying fruity scents, and they don’t have to be expensive.

Rituals

Back to the pampering products again – I got this Ritual of Ayurveda shower foam in a Christmas present, which was the Feelunique bathtime pamper box (now sold out). I didn’t even know that Feelunique did these boxes, but I look out for them now. They basically collated a bunch of products to help you have a relaxing night in, and I love the Ritual of Ayurveda scent with its sweet almond oil and Indian rose. I didn’t actually know there was rose in it – it’s not an overbearing rose scent – you really mostly smell the almond oil. Anyway, this certainly makes bathtime more special!

Seascape

This is another Lovelula discovery – the Island Apothecary uplift body lotion. It says that it contains eucalyptus, lime, and lavender, though the only thing I could really smell was the lavender. It was nice enough, but I’d be interested to see whether they do ranges with some different scents.

So, fewer products than usual, but some really nice ones nevertheless. I’m also only talking about things where I have something to say – for example I finished an eye cream and all I really had to say about it was “yeah it was ok” and I don’t think that makes interesting reading! Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products, and if you have, what you thought of them.

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Lovelula subscription box – February 2020

This post is neither sponsored nor gifted.

I’ve written a couple of posts about the Lovelula box before – the last was in October 2019 – so I decided to tell you something about the February box.

I have mine on a rolling monthly subscription, but there are also deals if you want to buy subscriptions for longer periods of time. I like the products because they are all cruelty-free and natural, and they tend to offer different choices than the similar products that tend to crop up in a lot of the other beauty subscription boxes.

Out of the February box, I’d only used one of the products before. I have decided to keep all of the products this month, and I’ve tried four out of the five so far.

Cleanser and toner all-in-one

This DIY cleanser and toner from Laidbare is a handy travel-size, ideal if you’re pushed for space in your suitcase or you can’t take too many products with you. I have reviewed it on the blog before. I don’t generally go for two-in-one products – I like my skincare ritual with all its many steps, and a cleanser and toner do quite different things, so I don’t really understand the science behind something that claims to do both.

Having said that, I’ve already used this up, and it’s the nicest-smelling product in the box (probably due to the apple secret extract, which is nice and fresh). It also contains aloe and liquorice extract, both good for reducing inflammation, cleansing and toning the skin. It’s like a cleansing gel and due to the inflammation-reducing ingredients, I got it out when hormonal breakouts showed their ugly heads!

Face mask

Another product from Laidbare, which if you haven’t heard of it is a budget-friendly brand with some really nice products, is the for richer for porer face mask.

According to the Lovelula site: “Kaolin Clay draws out impurities and toxins, Japanese Seaweed Extract detoxifies and smooths the skin. Shea Butter gives hydration and conditions skin, whilst Liquorish helps minimise inflammation and Rose Water soothes irritation.”

You apply it to cleansed skin and then leave it on for 10 minutes, before rinsing off. It’s unusual because it does have small particles in it that work as a kind of exfoliant, but a gentle one, and at the same time it doesn’t leave your skin feeling dry as some masks with clay can do. I like it!

Face oil

This time we got the new release from OOH (Oils of Heaven), which is the natural raspberry repairing face oil. This is the third face oil since I’ve been getting the box, so they’re averaging at one every couple of months. I don’t mind this as I do use them, but I’ve seen a couple of people saying that they’re not getting through them. Still, I like them, and the value of this product alone is more than I paid for the box. It’s definitely a good way to try out products as they are released, and all of the oils are marketed as doing different things, so you could swap them out, depending on what your skin needs.

There seems to be an anti-inflammatory theme with this box, because the raspberry seed oil also has anti-inflammatory properties, but it’s also good for dehydrated skin. It is absorbed well with no sticky residue. It doesn’t smell of raspberries, because it’s made with raspberry seed oil, not the fruit itself – it just smells of nature, like when you go for a walk in the countryside!

Exfoliator

The final product that I tried was the Ayumi Turmeric & Bergamot Face Scrub. I’ve never heard of this brand before, so it was nice to try something completely new. However, I’m a fan of chemical exfoliants rather than face scrubs, so whilst I’ll use up this travel size, it’s not something I would buy.

It would be nice to see another product from the brand though – they do hair and bath products too.

Shampoo bar

This pollution patrol shampoo bar from Rescue My. Hair™ is the only product that I haven’t tried yet – just because I don’t want to get it wet once and then not finish it off, and I have another shampoo on the go.

I’ve heard mixed reviews about shampoo bars in general, but nothing yet about this one. I definitely like the idea – less waste and something that’s better for the environment. I’m quite fussy about hair products though, so I really need to give it a go and see if the results I get from a bar are as good as my favourite bottled shampoos. I’m definitely glad to have the chance to try it and will let you know what I think in a future empties post.

So, have you tried any of these products? Let me know in the comments!

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Skincare and haircare in January – new discoveries, and mango and grapefruit favourites!

Another month has passed and I wanted to tell you about some new products that I discovered and some old favourites! Let me know in the comments if you have tried any of these.

Andalou Naturals

I got this Nourishing kukui cocoa Body Butter from Latest in Beauty and it’s like covering yourself in a layer of chocolate! It smells amazing! It’s called a body butter, but it’s not the hard type – it’s more like a thick, rich cream! The chocolate scent lessens after a while, and I was sad to see it’s hard to get hold of this in the UK as it appears to be a US brand. It’s available on Amazon, but that works out at about 3 times what I paid for it on Latest in Beauty. So either I got a good deal or there is a lot of mark-up on this product on Amazon!

Body Shop

I got the Strawberry shampoo and conditioner in an advent calendar. My overall favourite haircare from the Body Shop is the banana range, but this strawberry range is good too, leaving your hair smelling as sweet as fresh strawberries. It’s also good for cheering up dull hair and leaving it nice and shiny.

I also finished up a large juicy pear sugar scrub, which was part of last year’s Christmas range. I like the sugar scrubs because they are much less messy than products that don’t dissolve, and this one was my favourite scent from the festive ranges. I haven’t included a link because it was only available at Christmas time. It’s worth trying out some of the other scrubs because the consistency seems to be different – this one was more coarse with bigger sugar crystals than the mango one that I usually use, so I think it’s not just the scents that vary between scrubs.

It’s an old favourite, but a good one! I got one of the mango sets for Christmas, and I’ve already used the mango body butter. This is of the best scent from the Body Shop as far as I’m concerned, and the body butter is rich and nourishing, keeping you hydrated through the winter.

Cowshed

Such a shame they changed all their names! My favourite used to be called grumpy cow and it’s now just called replenish. I thought it was a fab name. Maybe someone bought it for their mother-in-law or their wife and it didn’t go down too well. Who knows!

But anyway this isn’t grumpy cow, but it’s from the Cowshed and still good. It’s what used to be gorgeous cow and is now just called the indulge range. I made us up a Christmas Eve box this year with some pampering treats and other Christmas goodies, and a little set of this was in there for me. This shower gel makes you and your bathroom smell great for ages, and it contains lavender with some floral notes.

Dr Botanicals

The Dr Botanicals pomegranate superfood sleeping mask has been doing the rounds in beauty boxes for the last couple of years, but I hadn’t had one until it showed up in my October Pip Box. I have been trying a few things from Dr Botanicals recently and so far I’ve liked all of them. This one is an overnight mask that you apply at the end of your evening skincare routine. I tend to not put it on directly before I go to bed so it can dry down a bit, but it’s not sticky or oily as some overnight treatments are. It’s marketed as a smoothing and brightening mask, but I find it’s pretty moisturising too.

ELF

In the past I have talked about this Hydrating face primer a lot, but now that I’ve finished this one up, I won’t be buying any more because I’ve found other things that I like more. It is good if you want a hydrating base, but I prefer my Body Shop primer because it’s not quite so thick, but still leaves a smooth base for your make-up.

Madara

So far I’ve liked everything I’ve tried from Madara, from body care to face products. We got samples of the nourish and repair shampoo and conditioner in the January Lovelula box. I didn’t dislike them, but afterwards my hair felt pretty dull and tangled, not like it usually does when I’ve just washed it. It looked ok the next day, but I’ve got products that leave my hair feeling much nicer than that, so I was grateful for the sample so that I now know not to buy it!

Lucky Cloud

This brand was new to me. We got the balancing Cleansing Balm in the December Pip Box. I’m only really just getting into cleansing balms after one that I really didn’t like. I think there’s a lesson in there – if you try a new type of product and don’t like it, it might be that particular product that you don’t like, and not all things in that category – for me, all cleansing balms.

So, this balm is not super sticky and although it has exfoliating green clay in it, it’s not grainy or scratchy. It also has anti inflammatory oils like grapeseed and jojoba and I found it to be a very gentle cleanser. I would buy this again or try other things from the range.

Original Source

I don’t often buy from this brand, but I wanted to try out their mango shower gel – because mangos! It’s a budget-friendly shower gel that smells of mangos! I’m not faithful to shower gels, so like to swap them out and this is something I would use again.

Rituals

One of the things I put in my self-made advent calendar this year was the Ritual of Holi Body Cream from Rituals. I wanted to try out some of their other scents and I thought this one sounded good. I’ve still no idea what a flamingo flower is, but it’s got pink grapefruit in it, which I love. The Rituals products are always a luxurious treat, and this cream was no exception. It’s rich and nourishing, and like pretty much all of the products from this brand, it smells amazing! I would definitely buy this again, as well as other products from the Ritual of Holi range.

So – some new brands, new products from brands I like, something that has been replaced by something better, and a slightly disappointing product that was only a sachet. I think January was a pretty good month for me in trying out new skincare and haircare. Let me know your thoughts on any of these products in the comments!

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Thank you Pip box – beauty subscription box emails product leaflets to blind customers

Before Christmas I emailed a couple of beauty boxes with an idea. The Pip Box responded to me and has now made a change to their process that makes my life much easier as a visually impaired customer who can’t read their printed leaflets.

The Pip Box is a cruelty-free and vegan monthly subscription box. I’m not vegan, but the cruelty-free aspect is important to me, which is why I started getting this box last autumn. 10% of the profits from the box go to the charity Animal Free Research UK, and the box is named after Pip, the owner’s dog.

Anyone who has been following this blog for a while will know that I love trying out new products and discovering new brands, which is why I subscribe to beauty boxes. A lot of the time, you don’t know what will be in the box until it arrives. I have several ways of getting round the problem:

  • If S is around, I’ll just ask him what I’ve got – but he isn’t always around right at the time I want to know, and I don’t expect him to drop everything.
  • I can try scanning the card or leaflet and using an app on my phone to identify the text. This sometimes works, but is less successful if there is shiny paper or if the text is in columns.
  • I can use the same app to scan the products – sometimes this works, but it doesn’t read all of the writing. It might be enough to identify what kind of product it is, the brand, or some random information like what to do if you get it in your eyes. I use this method all the time if I can’t remember what something is, but it’s not so good for finding out about new things. It also depends on the colour and type of writing – the more unusual the packaging is, the harder it is for the scanner to read.
  • Sometimes people talk about their boxes on social media. Sometimes YouTubers and bloggers are fast to get their content up, so I can find out what is in my box too.

But all of these methods are a bit hit and miss for one reason or another.

Leaflet by email

This is why I asked if my Pip Box leaflet could be emailed to me. I can then read the email with the screenreader on my phone or laptop and know exactly what’s in the box. The company websites are also on the leaflet, so I know where to go if I want to blog about one of the products or find out a bit more about it.

This month, Sofi emailed the leaflet to me so I could identify the products when my box arrived. As far as I am aware, the Pip Box is the first beauty box to do this.

As a customer, it makes me happy because it helps me to enjoy the subscription independently without having to rely on others, wait, or use solutions that may or may not work.

As a company, it is one more step to build into the process, but it didn’t cost a lot to add this improved accessibility – only the time to build the new step into the process and the time to send off the email with the information.

Sofi from the Pip Box said “Here at The Pip Box we’re always looking for ways to improve our customer service and subscribers’ experience. When Kirsty got in touch to ask for a digital box leaflet we thought it was a great idea for visually impaired customers. We’ve since added this option to our website, under our FAQ’s section so future customers are aware.”

What was in this month’s box?

In the January, “refresh edit” we had:

  1. A tinted lip balm from Love Byrd (extra points for stating that it’s pink in the description because the name pucker doesn’t really give this away)
  2. 6 shades of nude eye shadow palette from cougar
  3. Black tea body scrub from Delhicious
  4. Face mask and mask brush from May Beauty
  5. Wild rose body lotion from Weleda

I’ve only heard of one of these brands before, so this month’s box was a great way for me to discover some new ones.

Weleda is most often talked about because of its skinfood, but I actually prefer their range of body lotions, so I was pleased to get a mini of one of them in this month’s box.

I’m most interested to try out the mask – I haven’t used it yet, but plan to tonight. I usually apply masks with my fingers, but I can see how a brush would help to get it all even, and this brush is super soft!

A lip balm is a good handbag staple, especially for this time of year when it’s cold and the lips need some extra protection. I like the ones in stick form too because you can easily apply them on the go.

I usually use sugar-based scrubs, but I like to see companies repurposing things such as tea leaves and coffee grounds so that they don’t go to waste.

The palette is something I won’t use because I only use cream and liquid eye shadows, but I’ve passed it on to someone who was really pleased with it, so it didn’t go to waste!

Once I had got my box, I could identify the lip gloss, brush, palette and scrub by touch. I’ve had Weleda lotions before, so was pretty confident that the tube was the lotion and the sachet was the mask, but I scanned them with my app to be sure. It generally won’t read all the information, but generally one or two words are enough to tell things apart, and it helps when you know what you’re looking for.

Final thoughts

I often highlight things that don’t work for me or that make my user experience more difficult, because I want to help educate companies about the often small changes that they can make to improve the accessibility of their websites, products, or user journey. I also like it if I can make people think about things they otherwise wouldn’t have considered.

But I also like to highlight good practice when I come across it because there are good news stories too. Sometimes you just need to ask and the change will be made for you.
So, if you’re looking for a cruelty-free and vegan-friendly subscription box from a company that listens to customers, I can recommend the Pip Box. If you’re visually impaired, now you can ask for a digital copy of the leaflet so you can know what’s in your box.

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The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.