Friday, 27 August 2010

Hall of Fame - The First Recipient

Well I surprised myself with this one. I've been toying with what would be in my own little 'Hall of Fame' for a while - and then I found myself in a very famous department store with a gift voucher - and even surrounded by every other big counter available - I found myself coming back to this.
Three visits later - after thinking 'I should get clothes', 'I could get something for the house', - after thinking 'What do I WANT?' (Why is it always harder to pick something out when you HAVE funds?) I found myself at the Elemis counter saying 'Aching Muscle Super Soak please.'

A bottle of bliss.
Oh Aching Muscle Super Soak - how I love you so.

I don't know about you but if and when I actually get the time to bathe as opposed to shower in 2 minutes flat (with children banging on the door - or just waltzing in as if they own the house - and me) - I do not want to sit in a bath smelling of flowers or something sweet, or something vanilla-ish.

This beast of a potion contains Juniper, Birch, Clove, Alpine Lavender, Wild Thyme and Blue Chamomile and tears a strip off your nose - and your muscles - and your body - and anyone else who happens to be in the vacinity for approx four hours following your bath. It's like Deep Heat on crack.

I'm not kidding. There is only one other brand that does something even close to this (posting soon) - this is hardcore. It says in the spiel that it is suitable for aching, overtired muscles especially after exercise.  *Laughs to self* - yeah - good one. Exercise?? My ENTIRE LIFE is an exercise. Kids. House. Clean. Work. Kids. House. Clean. Work. Rinse and repeat for about 15 further years.

Anyway. There is not enough room on this page to rave about this product.

If you like a bath - buy it.
If you have any kind of muscle ache going on - buy it.
If you 'have it all' i.e. - if you have it all 'to do' - busy lifestyle/tired/recuperating from illness/post baby (not while pregnant!!)/tired and need to wind down - WHATEVER - buy it.

Elemis Aching Muscle Super Soak - I salute you. *The Mouth Recommends - HIGHLY

Aching Muscle Super Soak is £32.00 and is available from Elemis Time To Spa here.

What are you waiting for?

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Murad Cellulite Trial Results

At the beginning of June I grabbed my six 2 Litre pack by the horns and decided to take Murad up on their offer of trialling their Body Care System consisting of Firm and Tone Dietary Supplements along with the Firm and Tone Serum and the Body Firming Cream (original post here).
I thought I would be posting results in 4 weeks but it has taken slightly longer because I was waiting for all of the product to run out. 

Dr Howard Murad is a highly respected dermatologist based in California and has been ahead of his game for years. Murad is the top-selling 'Dr' line in Sephora stores in the USA. (full brand review to follow)

As I previously explained I don't care that much about my butt.  And frankly, anything that says firming is going to be put to the test on me - hard.  J Lo would be proud of my rear - it's large - I do believe Sir Mix A Lot wrote a song just for me here.

Me on the way to the Co-op.
But I'm always interested in trying to shift my baby belly.  Pre-offspring I used to be able to lay a ruler across my stomach - hipbone to hipbone.
Suffice to say those days are long, long, long, long (one for each child) gone. My penchant for fizzy drinks (I know) has aided it - along with my allergic reaction to all things exercise.

Whilst it's not huge or anything - and my kids were very good to me stretch-mark-wise - it certainly lacks 'tone' shall we say?! And no - there shall be no pictures. Get a grip. No-one needs to be seeing that.

Everything is sold separately but the kit pictured above is what I was using - it is priced at £135.00 - a saving of around £40 compared to buying the 3 items separately. Not cheap. But I suppose it depends on what you use normally. Two high-end cellulite creams used once a day each and 11 quality supplements a day would add up to substantially more.

It was 3 products and over 10 weeks on trial - I'm trying to keep it concise but bear with me:

The Firm and Tone Serum is the reason it took so long to post this. It is only just running out. Not bad going. I have used this religiously every morning after showering since the beginning of June. Around 75 days. It is very lightly textured, absorbs easily and there is absolutely no sticky feeling after applying.
This is supposed to 'refine uneven skin texture and improve skin firmness and elasticity' and I do think it has done that.  The skin on my stomach is definitely firmer and 'pinker'. It has certainly improved the 'look' of it.

The Body Firming Cream is 'clinically proven to increase skin firmness and hydration levels by 40% in 15 minutes'. I am a habitual addicted body lotion/cream/butter user. I mean addicted. I do NOT get dressed before slathering myself in the stuff - any and all, everyday without fail (unlike my good friend over at Get Lippie who doesn't agree with it like this - but that's ok - she can give them all to me). I think this is why I was not overawed with the cream - it didn't do enough to warrant me thinking I would buy it instead of my usual 15 bottle selection.  Although to be fair to Murad it has excellent web reviews (outside of its website) with one woman even using it on her face for the firming action. Also - it didn't last as long as the serum - about half the time in fact.

I did really like that there was no camphor in these products - traditionally used in cellulite creams to mimic the 'burn' but absolutely pointless - a bit like the 'lash inserts' in mascara ads.

What I really want to focus on is the Firm and Tone Dietary Supplement Pack.
The pack contains sachets of supplements helpfully labelled 'day' and 'night'. As a longtime supplement taker it does make life very easy. I can normally be found on a Sunday night decanting everything into my large pill box from Muji (highly recommended - here). With these, I just tore the strip of Day off and threw them in my handbag and left the Night ones by the kettle to remind me when I came home.  That bit didn't always work.  I found that it was harder to take the Night tablets - I would either forget at dinner or be so tired I would go to bed and forget... Either way - I had Night tablets lying around days after I had finished the Days - if you know what I mean. I just took them in the morning...whatever suits - they are not specific to PM - it's repeat dosages with slight changes in quantity.

If you have read my previous warblings you will know I have a thing for supplements anyway - my usual suspects (switching between addicted use and sporadic) are:

Magnesium (relaxes my stiff neck/joints/stops me grinding my teeth/helps you 'go')
Iron (anaemic)
Zinc (hair/nails)
Flax Oil (skin)
Fish Oil (brain *fail*)
Folic Acid (*prescribed for good HB count in blood - not for babies)
Vitamin B (so I don't stab my husband - or anyone else - but mainly my husband)
Vitamin C (skin)
Vitamin D (mood/skin/bones)

So I'm no virgin on the pill front - but these supplements did something I had never experienced before.
They cut my appetite in half. IN HALF. Now, I don't know particularly WHY - or HOW - they don't appear to have anything in them that I have not taken before - they are listed as:

MultiVitamin (obvious)
Connective Support Complex (amino acids?)
Essential Fatty Acids (fish/borage etc)
Cell Energizer (CoQ10 etc?)

Nowhere on the box does it say 'stop you pigging out supplement' - but something about taking these all together does exactly that. Have to say I was shocked. It's not that I would call myself hard to please and cynical - but well, I am hard to please and cynical.

I found myself arguing with the voices in my head (stay with me) 'No I can't possibly be full - keep eating' and then I would have that awful 'TOO full' feeling. I am a plate-clearer, as in finish mine and the pick at the kids/husbands/strangers plates. I found it hard to finish a meal while I was taking these. Wow. That sentence can go in the 'words you never thought you'd say category'. My husband eyed me suspiciously as I pushed the plate away night after night saying 'I'm full'. NOT what he is used to poor chap.
And it's not just me - I spoke to other people (outside of the business) who used them and the reaction was the same. 'I don't know what it is but they are amazing etc...'

So would I purchase? The supplements without doubt yes. I love supplements and I'd save on food so why not?! The serum yes in preparation for bikini (*laughs to self*) or if I had definite new stretch marks - after baby/weight gain/loss etc. The cream I would be less inclined to purchase purely because as I said before, I don't have real issues with my cellulite or stretch marks - but it is hard to find a negative review online for either of these two.
If cellulite is your thing you could be on to a winner - if it's stretch marks you're worried about remember they still need to be PINK if you are to have any chance of getting rid of them.  It shows that there is still a blood flow to the area - so straight after birth or large weight gain or loss is best. If they are 10 years old you best be getting used to them!

More information on Murad can be found here.
Specific information on the products I used can be found here.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Cheat Sheet - Anti-ageing


We're all so used to this phrase that we don't even question it. If a product says it is anti-ageing on the box then it must be - right?


If ever a phrase has been overused it is this one. There are few ingredients that are indeed anti-ageing.
Although to be fair some should be called 'ageing prevention' as they don't reverse signs of ageing - they just slow them down or prevent them from getting worse.

Before we get on to the ingredients a reminder from your friendly nag about the 3 worst things you can do for your skin.

Sun, Sugar and Smoking

Sun - get a little - not a lot. Be sensible.

Sugar - probably one of the best (and hardest) things you can do for yourself, your health and your skin is to cut out sugar.
In a nutshell - sugar destroys your collagen - think of collagen as scaffolding for your face. Every time you eat/drink sugar it is like taking a piece of the scaffolding away - saggy baggy and drawn. Enjoy that cola won't you. And I'm not preaching here - I struggle every day with leaving sugar alone!

Smoking - No need to go into detail. I could not possibly be more anti-smoking. I was once able to tell a client how she blew her smoke out of her mouth (straight up her face from her bottom lip) because of the condition of her skin in that area.
Smoking leaches the oxygen out of your face with every puff. Smokers have grey skin. Yes. Grey. If you smoke - get help and stop - as soon as you can.

So - digression over. The next time you pick up a product that claims to be anti-ageing what you need to look out for is one of these:
  • SPF      
    SPF is anti-ageing. Proven, undoubtedly, unequivocally. Although if you're younger you could argue that it belongs in the 'prevention' category. It doesn't fix what has been done. That is the job of:
  • Vitamin A   
    Vitamin A is the only other ingredient along with SPF that the FDA will legally let you claim to be anti-ageing in the USA. Vitamin A reverses the signs of ageing. Rebuilds collagen, repairs sun damage and is an all round good egg. There are varying degrees of vitamin A - if you have previously used a product with vitamin A in it and reacted badly - it may just be that you haven't found the right one for you yet.
  • Glycolic/Lactic/Salicylic Acids   
    Acids used in the right way can be beneficial to the skin - when applied as topical exfoliants they resurface the epidermis allowing better product penetration and in the case of some well formulated AHA's - help rebuild collagen.
    Glycolic and Lactic are better for a dryer skin - Salicylic for oily/combination. Don't go too strong straight away and don't go mad. Less is sometimes more. 
  • Vitamins C and E
    These two work well together as vitamin C is traditionally water-based (newer formulas include oil-based vitamin C) and vitamin E is oil based thus protecting both parts of the cell. Both are anti-oxidants and so in the 'prevention' category.
  • Niacinamide
    Newer than the others, this is vitamin B3 by another name. When used on the skin it has shown to stimulate the dermis and in turn increase the fatty content of the cells along with aiding in the retention of water. As it is shown to enhance barrier function of the epidermis it has had good results with acne sufferers by protectng against bacterial attack.

That's about it.

Other ingredients may be and are beneficial to the skin in other ways - but if anti-ageing is the aim - you need some of these in your product - not all at once - let's not give the epidermis a heart attack.

And what age to start using anti-ageing?

I'm 'nutshelling' again but here goes:

SPF - from birth - no brainer. But please don't cover your babies in SPF50 until they are white. They need SOME sun.

Vitamin A - 30+ depending on lifestyle - if you're a sun worshipper start earlier.

Glycolic/Lactic/Salicylic - again depends on lifestyle and skin type. If you have acne you can use Salicylic topically from a fairly early age. The other two can be introduced 25+.

Vitamins C and E - from the word go. As soon as you start your skincare routine choose something with these in. Good move.

Niacinamide - 25+ ish again depending on lifestyle and skin. Acne? Crack on.

The basic thing to remember with anti-ageing is that our collagen production is linked directly to our ovaries.
When we are at our most fertile our skin is is usually at its height. As you near menopause and go through peri-menopause you will notice huge changes in your entire system, not just your skin. Hitting menopause has a direct link to your collagen, its a bit like someone takes away a little of the scaffolding that supports your facial structure with each passing year.

So start taking care of your skin when you get your periods - and step it up a notch when you get to 35+ (before if you go into early menopause or have a full hysterectomy).

And when you DO start using these products - all of them but especially the Vitamin A - DO NOT FORGET YOUR SPF.
During winter I get my SPF from my foundation, but I live in the northern hemisphere and work predominantly indoors. Once the sun is out its time for a dedicated SPF on top of your moisturiser and underneath your foundation. More of which here:

And if you DO smoke? Scrap all that advice and use all of the above - now.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Toners - Which ones??

Following yesterdays post about toners - here's a quick guide to a few of my current faves and some trusty reliables.

Starting from affordable 'cheap as chips' up to middle priced - I won't spend £££ on a toner. A treatment lotion - absolutely - but a toner. No.

L'Oreal Age Perfect - Mature Skin
This toner retails for around £4.69 for 200ml and being in the 'mass' category you can sometimes find it on offer in the big chemists. And it does what is says on the bottle. Very refreshing and leaves the skin soft and smooth. I have some of this decanted into a mini-spray bottle on my desk - for hot weather AND hot flushes?
If you're on a budget - this is for you. *The Mouth Recommends

Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic

Liz Earle's Instant Boost Skin Tonic retails for £11.50 for 200ml.  In a world where toners are being forgotten and discarded (not MY world you understand!) this is bucking the trend. Sales are up and continue to grow.
It contains organic aloe vera, natural vitamin E and rose geranium - but if you are a 'natural' freak - it is not completely natural - and claims otherwise are misleading. Check your inci's. Does absolutely leave the skin refreshed, plumped and hydrated. Also available as a spritzer - very handy.

Clarins Lotion Tonique - Camomile
Clarins Lotion Tonique comes in two flavours - Camomile and Iris and retails for £16.00 approx - you can buy it as a kit with the suitable cleanser and it comes up a bit cheaper. The Camomile is for a dryer skin and the Iris is for combination. But they are much of a muchness in my opinion. I should probably use Camomile but I prefer the smell of the Iris. Both toners contain alpine herbs and really do soften, plump and in my opinion - nourish. NOM.

Lancome Tonique Douceur
This retails at £20.00 for 200ml and is here for my mum. She has used this for over 20 years and swears by it.  Again alcohol-free, it contains pineapple as an anti-inflammatory and papaya extracts to hydrate. She is a woman 'of a certain age' and her skin is a marvel. This obviously contributes to that.

Gatineau Nasturtium
Gatineau's Nasturtium retails at £21.00 for 250ml - but if you are a fan you can get salon sizes cheaper on QVC.  This is aimed at a more combination skin as the nasturtium flower extract rebalances the skin. Leaves skin plump and fresh.

Darphin Intral Toner
Darphin Intral Toner retails at £26.00 for 200ml. I love a bit of Darphin and I love this toner.  If
like me you suffer from sporadic outbreaks of redness, or basically any inflamation whatsoever - this is the toner for you. It instantly calms, takes away redness and really does leave the skin soft, smooth and nourished. Lush.  *The Mouth Recommends

What about you? Have I missed any of your favourites? Let me know!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Cheat Sheet - Toner

Toners are the Marmite of the skincare world.

You either do - or you don't.

Unlike Marmite (gag) - I absolutely DO when it comes to toner. I have a constant working plethora of toners on the go at any one time. I use them like a wardrobe - picking and choosing what I feel my skin needs on the day.

I do understand why people have been put off. The traditional beauty hall speak of 'Cleanse, Tone, Moisturise' is not really applicable these days.
When I talk about toner I am not referring to some alcohol-laden mixture of water and witchhazel. Ick. I do not want something that burns when applied.

A tingle however, is what I'm generally looking for. Think of toning as the second stage of your routine after cleansing. Cleansing should clean your face. Surely that's the point?
Toning was traditionally used with alcohol-laden products to 'tone' the skin - i.e. dry out the epidermis and give the appearance of shrinking the pores - hence the tightening and 'toning' of the skin. Products have come a long way since those days.

Toners - the myths.
  • Toners remove the last trace of your make-up and residue of cleanser
    If your cleanser doesn't remove all of your makeup and clean your face you need a new cleanser.
  • Toners close pores
    Pores are not doors - they do not open and close.
    A toner with alcohol may temporarily expand the area of the skin around the pore - thus giving the appearance of the pore shrinking - but it's not. It's ultimately drying out your skin which will eventually make you oilier as the skin over-compensates.
  • Good toners contain alcohol as an astringent - when you can't feel it on your face anymore - it's time to step it up a notch!
    This is utter nonsense. And has always driven me crazy.
    Why not just use nail polish remover and be done with it?
    Once you dismiss the above as the nonsense/old wives tales that they are - you can begin to see toners in a new light.

    Think of a toner as the condiment part of your sandwich: yes, you can make a sandwich using just bread and ham/cheese (not marmite - gag) - but how much better does that sandwich work with butter/mayo? It binds it all together and facilitates the process!

    Toners, for me, have these basic functions - all of which add value to your daily skincare routine:
    • Balancing
      Cleansing - no matter what you use - adjusts the ph level and temporarily confuses the natural acid mantle of the skin - same as cleansing any part of the body - hence the need for conditioner after shampooing - even the need for fabric conditioner/tumble dryer sheets alongside your Ariel. Static anyone?
      A good toner will gently reset the balance. Your skin is obviously capable of doing this by itself - but it will take it about half an hour to do so - and in that time oily skins will continue to pump oil on top of dehydrated skins and dry skins will shut down - hence the 'tight' feeling after cleansing on very dry skin.
    • Exfoliating
      A 'lotion' (as more and more products used at the toning stage are now known as) used at this stage that contains acids is the most effective way to exfoliate the skin without the use of beads/grains/apricot kernels (gag) etc. 
    • Hydrating
      The Number ONE skin condition is DEHYDRATION.
      We are almost universally dehydrated - despite spending more money on skincare than ever before. The skin is constantly robbed of moisture by surrounding elements be it weather/dry office environments/central heating/air conditioning/travelling - and that's without factoring in lifestyle - diet/sunbathing/smoking etc.
      A good toner (lotion) will act as a humectant - attracting moisture from the air and trapping it in the top layers of the skin. And I mean toner - not just a water spray. The body is not capable of absorbing water on its own - if it did we would swell up and drown in the bath.
      Try taking that bottle/tin of water and spray your arm - watch it drip away. A tin of water is refreshing but nothing more - and will actually dehydrate your skin further as the moisture in the air attracts the moisture on your skin - and pulls it away from you. 
    • Penetration
      As mentioned above a good toner will help in the absorption of products put on top of it - and has the added bonus of saving you money as you will need half the amount (in my experience) of serums/gels/creams that you would normally use. 


    A quick word on application and usage. I always use two toners. 
    I apply an exfoliating toner first - either on cotton wool or on the pads it comes in - and then I spray with a mostly hydrating toner before I apply my serum/oil/next stage.
    The exfoliating toner will contain acids - the strength of which depend on my skin on the day - the hydrating toner will contain things like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, algae or aloe vera. A mixture of softening and moisturising/hydrating.

    So begin to think of toners as the first step in the moisturising process - not the final step of the cleansing process - hence names like balancers/lotions/fresheners - and you will fall in love with them as you feel the change in your skin. Don't take my word for it - do your own test using toner on one half of your face only for a couple of weeks - you'll feel and see the difference.