Friday, 30 October 2015

Synthetic fragrance vs Natural fragrance

Fragrance in products causes a lot of concern among some of the beauty buying public. Most often in people with sensitive skins, but it is becoming more and more of a contentious issue across the board.

Having heard the words 'cell death' and 'cell toxicity' one too many times in scare-mongering marketing, and especially through websites like goop,  I approached three experts across various fields in the industry for their opinions on using much-maligned synthetic fragrance vs 'cell-death' essential oils when used in skincare - facial skincare in particular. It is by no means a clear issue, but their answers may surprise you, and make you rethink your future purchases.

From Dr Marko Lens, founder of Zelens:
'Synthetic fragrances contain chemicals that are not of a natural origin while natural fragrances contain ingredients only from a natural origin- basically a mixture of essential oils. Not all synthetic fragrances are bad and many of them contain essential oils. There has been a lot of negative publicity given to parabens, phthalates and synthetic musks used in synthetic fragrances. However, you can make a synthetic fragrance without these ingredients.
It is important to mention that synthetic fragrance does not necessarily cause more allergic reactions than natural fragrance. Both of them contain ingredients called allergens - substances that cause allergies. Almost all essential oils contain allergens and in my clinical practice I see more allergies due to the use of the mixtures of various essential oils than with the use of products containing synthetic fragrances.
Regarding fragrance and cytotoxicity (cell death): both synthetic and natural fragrances can be cytotoxic. However, I would be very careful when interpreting results from these tests since they are done in the lab using different types of human cells in vitro. For example, the product may be cytotoxic for human liver cells, but that does not mean it is the same for human dermal cells. Also, results of in vitro tests (petri dishes) ideally should be validated in vivo (on people).'

Lorna McKay - co-founder of The Perfume Society and a consultant to leading fragrance houses:
'It is not that one is better than the other, rather the "combination " often allows the perfumer to create longer lasting and more complex smells. Some of the great masterpieces e.g. Chanel No 5 and CK one would not exist without synthetic ingredients. In some instances we are "helping save the planet" by using synthetics.
Essential oils can be potent and should be used with care. Some need to be diluted and some react if not used carefully. e.g.  citrus oils in the sun can cause a reaction. Some essential oils are dangerous for pregnant women and babies. I believe essential oils have fantastic qualities but should be used with knowledge and caution. Just because it is natural it is not always good!'

Sam Farmer -founder of the Sam Farmer brand and a trained Cosmetic Scientist, Sam approached his group of friends at the SCS (Society of Cosmetic Scientists) who came back unanimously in favour of synthetic fragrance or a combination of synthetic/essential oil mix.
'Naturals are far higher in allergenic compounds such as limonene, citral, cinnamyl alcohol, geraniol and eugenol just to mention a few. In fact, more than half of the allergens that need to be listed in the INCI list are naturals.
Using synthetics allows for a wider number of fragrance components so, you can argue, they are better as the risk is spread, so to speak.
Also, from a sustainability angle, fragrance from rare or protected raw materials, such as Sandalwood, can be reproduced without the risk of extinction!
As an aside, the SCS also stated unequivocally that it would be 'impossible' to create all of the top fragrances in the world without synthetics.

Bottom line? If you use skincare with no issues then you are probably not intolerant of either synthetic or natural fragrance. Crack on. If however, you know you have sensitivities, or you're overly worried about fragrance in your skincare look for fragrance-free, if you do not already do so.
I flag up the presence of synthetic fragrance and essential oils in reviews for your information as a purchasing customer, not to instil fear. Synthetic fragrance goes through stringent testing, despite what certain websites would have you believe.

Do bear in mind, natural is not always better.

Further reading if you are interested:

Dweck Data -

Society of Cosmetic Scientists -

Whatever you do, for the love of sanity, don't listen to goop and take the EWG with a pinch of salt.

The Colbert MD Giveaway Winner is......

Congratulations Meave Hamill! Thank you to everyone that entered - and thank you Colbert MD!

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Pestle & Mortar Pure Hyaluronic Serum

What is it?
'A hyaluronic acid serum that hydrates and soothes even the most sensitive skin while smoothing fine lines and restoring youthful elasticity. Targets fine lines, dullness and dehydration restoring a healthy glow, plumpness and radiance.'

A lightweight hyaluronic acid serum/liquid.

Who is it for?
Everyone with skin. Literally. Especially great for those with dehydration, dryness or the classic feeling of 'tightness' on the skin.

What’s in it?
Aqua, *Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, *Sodium Hyaluronate,  *Cucumis sativus fruit extract, Butylene Glycol, *Tocopheryl Acetate, *Glycerin, *Xanthan Gum, Phenoxyethanol, *Caprylyl Glycol

*plant derived

Possibly acne/allergy/troubling for some ingredients?
not really

Natural? Organic? Man made? Vegan?
Vegan/Natural/Man made

Tested on animals/sold in China?

What's not in it?
propylene glycol
animal by-products

How do you use it?
Apply 3-4 drops into palm of hand, therapist swipe, apply quickly to skin. Apply, don't worry too much about massaging in, it absorbs quickly.

What’s good about it?
This is an excellent hydrator and could be perfect for those of you wanting to avoid fragrance and faff. It literally absorbs in seconds, and the effect is immediate.
The market for hyaluronic acids is growing, but this one has the fewest ingredients I have come across. It feels 'clean' to use, if that makes sense. Perfect for this time of year. Everyone I have seen at events recently has been dehydrated due to the change in weather, something like this gives immediate relief.

What’s not so good about it?
Not much. All good so far.

Where to use in your routine?
After toning, under moisturiser. I prefer to acid tone, spritz, apply this, then moisturiser. A moisture sandwich if you will.

Pestle & Mortar Pure Hyaluronic Serum is £33.00 for 30ml and available from and 

Similar products?
Hydraluron - original review here - available from
Hylamide - original review here - available from

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Tested on animals/Sold in China

By far the most-asked question on the blog recently has been 'Why do you say 'Tested on animals/Sold in China'? in your reviews?.

The simple answer is that China 'reserves the right' to test products imported from overseas on animals. The much more complicated question is 'How far do you go?' when deciding if a brand is cruelty-free. 

Separating some facts from fiction: 

Know this. If you are buying a cosmetic/beauty product in the EU it has not been tested on an animal. It is against the law and has been for over 2 years. As of March 11th 2013, cosmetic products and ingredients tested on animals in production anywhere in the world, may not be sold in the EU. 
If, however, you are buying some paracetamol/medicine in a chemist, especially on prescription, it is a drug and therefore exempt from the EU law on animal testing. 
Same with washing your clothes with Ariel/Fairy or cleaning your toilet with bleach. All tested.

The USA however, still allows testing on animals for cosmetic purposes. Only three states,  California, New Jersey and New York have passed laws stating that available alternatives to animal tests are to be used for cosmetic testing.

It's a minefield, and one that I have written about before here.

My question remains, how far are you willing to exclude brands/retailers that operate in China? Benefit, for example, make a huge song and dance on their website about the lengths they go to to ensure that their ingredients are clear of animal testing at source, yet they are on sale in China. I'm not singling out Benefit for any particular reason, there are a whole heap of brands that do the same thing including Jurlique - which really surprised me. Most brands are shady when it comes to admitting that they are for sale in China. They sometimes will not list the Chinese market on their 'Locations' page because they know it's a tempestuous issue. REN for example, do not test on animals, do not sell in China, but just sold to Unilever, who make household brands that by their very nature are tested on animals, so do you count them? (I don't, but I know some of you do).

After a couple of comments from eagle-eyed readers on my Dr Brandt post last week - since altered to update the 'Sold in China' section to say 'Yes', I did some research (not on those commenters!) across Instagram and bloglovin' and found that quite a few bloggers/commenters who claim to be against animal testing love shopping in Sephora. 

Sephora are HUGE in China. HUGE. So I ask again, where do YOU draw the line? Enough to stop you shopping in Sephora? 

Come on now. Tell the truth. ;)

If you want to absolutely avoid any cosmetics/skincare tested on animals OR sold in China, you can do two things: Ask the brand directly or check one of the many lists available - my preferred one is Paula's Beautypedia list available here: - Paula counts selling in China as testing on animals and does not preach. She leaves the decision where it belongs, with you.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Vintner's Daughter Active Botanical Serum

I should start this post with an apology. There are a few product reviews coming your way this week and they're none of them cheap. They're all LUSH, but we're not talking £20 here. We're not even talking £50.00. In most cases we're over £100.00. 
Same rule applies as always though, if you can't afford it, please don't buy it. Simples.
If you would spend that amount on shoes or a handbag however, and have pictures of said shoes or handbag on your Instagram openly for all to see, please save your 'HOW MUCH?' comments for another time. If you choose to spend your hard-earned money on shoes or bags but not products, that's 100% your call and your business. 
No, I would not spend £400 on a face serum (well I haven't been persuaded thus far), but I wouldn't spend that on shoes either so..... choose your priorities. Your money. Your call. Same for me.

With that (slightly borderline rant) out of the way, Vintner's Daughter is one of my three favourite serum oils around at the moment. The others are coming your way this week.

What is it?
'Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum is a luxurious multi-correctional infusion of 22 of the world’s most active organic and wildcrafted botanicals.'
Right. A lovely serum/oil then.

Who is it for?
Everyone. Although I would personally would recommend to someone slightly older - i.e. 30+.

What’s in it?

Possibly acne/allergy/troubling for some ingredients?
essential oils

Natural? Organic? Man made? Vegan?
organic/natural - no definitive list of what is organic vs natural on the site. I assume it's organic and high quality naturals - most 100% organic products bang on about it so much that it's hard to miss ;) 

Tested on animals/sold in China?

What's not in it?
synthetic fragrances

How do you use it?/Where to use in your routine?
1/3 dropper into the palm of your hand, therapist swipe, straight onto skin. Massage in.
I've been using about 1/3 of a dropper directly on to my skin, underneath moisturiser to counteract the drying/flaking effects of my prescription retinoid. 

What’s good about it?
I'm not great with jargon at the best of times. This is a lovely formulation. It gives 'oomph' to the skin - especially a mature skin, and more importantly, an extra cushion of oil in faces that may need it more, as we all tend to do at this time of year.  The formula is very nicely refined and absorbs beautifully. I'm really enjoying using it - and my skin loves it.

There is more information on the Vintner's Daughter website here but it's very jargon-heavy, be warned.

What’s not so good about it?
A grapeseed oil is not the most expensive base, but it does contain a whole host of other oils and leaves including dandelion, nettle and alfalfa - 22 to be exact.
I personally like the smell, but it is strong, so worth bearing in mind if you aren't keen on essential oils/scents.

'Gives Good Glow' score - 8/10

Vintner's Daughter Active Botanical Serum is £150.00 and available from or
$185.00 from 

Similar products?
Sjal Bio-Regeneratif Serum -
Anne Semonin 100% Active Serum -
Sunday Riley Luna/Artemis/Flora -
Perricone MD Chia Serum -

Sunday, 25 October 2015

VLOG WEEK EIGHT - Wicked and Product Newness

How is it 8 weeks since I started doing this?? Thanks for watching - this week is half term but I have a stack of empties and favourites to film so am going to try and film regardless of the noise/kids/distraction.

Se you next week - have a great Sunday!

Friday, 23 October 2015

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Edit

NO FILTER - that's it!

Ok so my Hourglass powders addiction shows no signs of abating any time soon. They really have swept the market and made a long ignored category their own.

This gorgeous Limited Edition Ambient Lighting Edit contains six powders that 'finish, brighten, contour and highlight'. 
Dim, Iridescent and Diffused Light powders fill the top row left to right, Mood Exposure and Luminous Flush blushers bottom left - and Luminous Bronze Light Bronzer bottom right. I will probably end up buying another one. Being a Limited Edition I have the urge to save it but I want to use it.

Available now in the UK from priced £65.00
Available now in the USA from priced $80.00 (value is $132.00)

Both outlets ship worldwide.


I have quite a few giveaways lined up so thought I'd make the Friday Giveaway a bit of fun and a regular thing (until they run out). ;)

First up is five of my Colbert MD picks. To celebrate the launch of their UK facing website, the Doc is offering the following to one lucky UK reader:

illumino Face Oil
Nutrify & Protect Day
Soothe Night
Intensify Facial Discs
Stimulate The Serum

To win all of the above simply sign up for the Colbert MD UK mailing list here: and then via the Rafflecopter widget below.

  • To be entered for the giveaway sign up for the Colbert MD UK mailing list here: 
  • Don't forget to enter via the widget too so that I can find you!
  • UK only (they won't always be UK only and the Colbert MD giveaway currently running on my Instagram is open Internationally)
  • One prize, one winner
Thank you Colbert MD!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Give and Makeup Christmas/Winter Appeal

Time goes so quickly - I can't believe it's nearly Christmas again and that Give and Makeup is 5 years old.

For newer readers, Give and Makeup is something I started to support women and children in Refuge and Women's Aid shelters across the UK.
Last year we also started supporting the CRI Outreach Project in North London. CRI helps people of all ages that are vulnerable in communities through homelessness, abuse or addiction. More info on CRI can be found here.

Every year we ask for extra donations for the families in the shelters, particularly the children, who have frequently had to leave their homes with absolutely none of the possessions.

Further info on sending parcels to Refuge/Women's Aid:
  • gifts need to be suitable for ages between newborn and 15
  • all clothing is welcome especially pyjamas and coats
  • baby vests/babygros/blankets
  • no toy weapons please
  • no borderline 'sexy' items of underwear (it has happened in the past)
  • no items of a religious nature
  • new or nearly new please 
  • boxes can be packed according to one child/gender or a mixture across all ages
  • please don't worry about wrapping anything as it will all have to be checked thoroughly before being given to the children 

For the ladies in shelters:
  • new or 'as good as new' underwear of all sizes - including bras. Please ensure it is washed and clean.
  • makeup - mascaras and lip glosses preferably new for hygiene reasons - everything else can be lightly used
  • skincare
  • bath and body

For the homeless ladies via CRI:
  • Underwear - bras and knickers. Washed and clean please. We all have underwear that no longer fits us in our drawers. And it's not heavy to post!
  • Feminine hygiene products. Sanitary towels, tampons, washes and wipes. Desperately. If you work in the industry and have access to these items please ask your CSR department to consider helping these women.
  • toothbrushes/toothpaste/deodorant
  • hairbrushes/shampoo/conditioner/dry shampoo
  • Coats
  • Boots
  • Scarves/gloves
  • General basics - jeans/leggings/t-shirts/jumpers

As a rule of thumb, we accept pretty much anything - these people have next to nothing or literally nothing.

Also: CRI accept monetary donations. You can email Nicola for further information. 

Give and Makeup does not accept donations of money and I have no contact with CRI donations. We're just the messenger/facilitator.

All addresses are on the separate Give and Makeup page on the tabs above. 

If you are a PR or brand that knows how to contact me privately and wants to help in any way please do give me a shout.

Give and Makeup only operates in the UK. If you live abroad and are interested in sending parcels - of course we happily accept them but I would urge you to start your own donation-led programme in your country. Homelessness and domestic violence is a worldwide problem.


Monday, 19 October 2015

Dr Brandt Glow Overnight Resurfacing Serum

What is it?
'A potent nighttime skin renewal serum with retinol.'

Who is it for?
People looking for the extra boost that retinols give. Vitamin A is a proven ingredient that can help reverse the signs of ageing. Everyone should use one. Well, not kids, obviously - but if you're over 30 I'd get busy. 

What’s in it?
Water, Glycerin, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Isoamyl Laurate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Shea Butter Esters, Triheptanoin, Tocopherol, Phenoxyethanol, Behenyl Alcohol, Methylpropanediol, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Polysorbate 20, Sodium Acrylates Copolymer, Retinol, Glyceryl Stearate, Simmonsia Chenesis (Jojoba) Oil, Xanthan Gum, Betaine, Polyglyceryl-3 Stearate, Citrus Nobilis Oil, Chlorphenesin, Caprylyl Glycol, Caprylic /Capric Triglyceride, Lecithin, Glycine Soya Sterols, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Maslinic Acid, Phenylpropanol, Bht, Sodium Phytate, Dimethiconol, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Honey, Pectin, Phospholipids, Polyglyceryl-10 Stearate, Heliantus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Glycine Soya Oil.

Possibly acne/allergy/troubling for some ingredients?
shea butter
essential oils

Natural? Organic? Man made? Vegan?
man made with some natural ingredients

Tested on animals/sold in China?

What's not in it?
mineral oil

How do you use it?/Where to use in your routine?
'Apply after cleansing, a thin layer all over the face.'
It may not surprise you to know that I used this after acids. I used it directly over my Dennis Gross MD Extra Strength pads and it was absolutely fine. More of that here: Beauty Myth No.9
Use in the PM and obviously mind your SPF if you're in warmer climes to keep the newer skin protected.

What’s good about it?
I have tested a lot of retinols in my time, this one gave me noticeable results overnight. There was visible fading of some spot scars, 'tighter' skin and it was certainly firmer. 
As always, nothing will compare with prescription retinol, but if you're not quite ready for that yet, this is a great way to go in the meantime. It's the best I've used thus far

What’s not so good about it?
Well it's not that it's not good exactly, but it says it contains 2% retinol complex. Eagle-eyed readers will notice that the retinol is listed after phenoxyethanol, which immediately should tell us that it is 1% or less. 
So I don't know if the labelling is incorrect, the claim is exaggerated, the retinol is in a complex that somehow pushes it over 2% when it's all added together? I don't know. But in this case, it works, so I'm not overly fussed. (I have asked the question to them directly btw, will keep you posted if I get an answer). It doesn't put me off the product however, as the proof is indeed in the pudding. 

Dr Brandt Glow Overnight Resurfacing Serum is £73.00 from and $85.00 from 

Similar products?

Sunday, 18 October 2015


This was a weird week. I wasn't feeling great for some of it so hopefully that's going to sod off this coming week. 
Thank you, as always, for watching and see you next week!

More info on Close to You:


Saturday, 17 October 2015

STOP. DROP. SERVE. When the 'Customer Experience' forgets about the Customer.

Earlier this week I came across my original typed copy of the 100+ page customer service training manual that I wrote for Liz Earle 10 years ago when I was their National Sales Manager*. If I say so myself, it's bloody good.
So admittedly, customer service has been at the forefront of my mind this week and yes I have high standards and yes I spot everything. Just putting that out there.

The Mr and I went into Debenhams on Thursday. This was one of the worst shopping/customer service experiences I've ever had. We've ever had.
Suffice to say it involved marching across the entire length of the shop floor to find someone that could actually serve us, almost begging them to take money off of us, card machines not working and us getting 'sighs' from staff who assumed we had simply overspent and were being declined.
For overseas readers - the UK has just introduced the 5p plastic carrier bag charge - when the transaction was completed the assistant pushed the products across the counter towards me and said nothing. No offer of a bag, no thanks, just pushed the products towards me and stood there.
The beauty department was full of people not being till-trained, people not being anything-trained and just a general, across-the-board lack of interest or caring towards the customer.
We, along with other customers sharing our exasperation, were treated as a mere inconvenience, something to be tolerated while the staff got on with the more important job of standing around and talking to each other.**
As we were leaving, we overheard another customer saying 'Excuse me, can anyone help me?', resulting in Jim and I both spontaneously shouting 'YEAH. GOOD LUCK WITH THAT!' whilst she nodded at us with a knowing look of 'UNBELIEVABLE.'.

It went on and on:
HMV - we had to ask for someone to serve us at the till. Everyone was on the shop floor stocking up, no-one was watching the tills.
Sports Direct - where customer service goes to die. Never again. I'd rather spend more money elsewhere and keep my blood pressure at a healthy level.

Yesterday I had a lunch booked in the Ham Yard Hotel. I approached the desk in the restaurant where a young girl said - and I quote: 'Yes, you're the first to arrive. Just to let you know we need the table back in two hours.' I said 'Is it alright if I sit down first?'
Had it not been a business lunch I would've responded with 'Tell you what, you can have it now, I'm off.'

Where does all this crappy attitude towards the paying customer come from??

Two things you must do in the service/hospitality industry:
Look after your staff. 
Serve your customer's needs, not your shareholders.
An unhappy staff member is not going to take care of your customers.

'Enhancing the customer experience' should be about exactly that. Not 'enhancing your profits'.
That. Is. IT.

One of my friends on twitter reminded me of the old shop floor mantra of what to do if you are otherwise engaged/stocking shelves when a customer enters your store/dept/domain:

Stop. Drop. Serve.

Where is the customer service training these days?
My theory?
Retailers/brands and restaurants are paying as low a salary as possible, usually to young kids, and putting people on zero hours contracts to save money for shareholders.
They have little or no experience, zero to none training, and subsequently, for the most part, 'could care less' attitudes.
Older, more experienced, qualified people are more expensive. And they don't want zero hours. They want a commitment from their employer. It is not uncommon to have only the manager as an actual 'full time contracted' employee and everyone underneath them on zero hours.

Shareholders and 'the board' need to wake up. An unhappy team makes an unhappy customer.
And an unhappy customer takes their business elsewhere. In an economic climate where people are shopping more and more online and stores on high streets are sadly closing down at an unprecedented level, you have to offer real, tangible, excellent, knowledgeable customer service to keep your customers coming back.
To walk into a restaurant and be told 'You're on the clock', before you have even sat down, is outrageous. Take your head out of your arse and welcome your customers properly.

That 'inconvenience' of a person in front of you pays your wages. It's that simple.

There were and are exceptions.

Lush - Four staff on the shop floor on a quiet Thursday morning. One of them singing. No pushiness, just people going about their work and making it obvious if you needed something, they were there.
They worked together as a team. One young girl showed me what I had asked for, another mentioned that I 'might like this if you're getting that' - and I did - and bought that too. Anticipating that I would be waiting as there was one woman already being served by the one till open, a young male sales assistant sprinted from the front of the shop to the back and was behind the till waiting for me as I approached. I mean he ran.
Adidas - they didn't have our sizes available, and explained that they could get them from their external stockroom but that it would take 10 minutes - and apologised profusely for the inconvenience.
Liberty - always on the ball. Cannot do enough for you.
The Body Shop - noticeably appreciate their customers and listen to their needs.
Sainsbury's - the level of service at Sainsbury's at our local branch is so superior to their local competition that they blow them out of the window.
They are ALL OVER customer service.

Please don't mistake me for being a hard-to-please diva. I'm the first person to show empathy to a waiter/sales assistant having a bad day/struggling to get their job done. I know all the challenges of working double shifts, no stock, horrible customers etc etc  I've been there. With bells on.
I always make an effort to compliment great team members to management and praise them on social media.

But I know that I am not alone from how quickly my twitter timeline went into meltdown with people having similar experiences.
I just sense that the times have changed and the customer, once king, is now all too frequently an afterthought.
The customer is not always right. But the customer is always the customer.

Online retailers must be laughing all the way to the bank.

*this is my 31st year in retail, the latter years were in senior management/director level before I started my consultancy and I've written training manuals in customer service for huge brands - I know customer service.

**As soon as we left I tweeted about the appalling service and lack of training/bad attitudes of the staff tagging Debenhams. They have since emailed me for further information, which I appreciate. (I'm not interested in naming particular brands/girls involved, they need training, not shaming. I've replied to Debenhams privately but will definitely keep you posted with any followups.)