Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Life update: Baby Scribbler is on the way!

Belly photos

Hello everyone, I know I have been really bad at blogging this year, but I wanted to get a quick life update in case I don't have time later.

My latest news is... I am pregnant! I'm due in six days and am expecting a little girl. I feel completely in limbo at the moment because I feel like I could go into labour any minute now... but at the same time I've had no real signs of going into labour, so I don't know whether I'll go overdue. Now I know what women mean when they say they got bored and impatient in the last few weeks. It's so hard not knowing when it's all going to kick off!

So far pregnancy has gone smoothly... I was nauseous at the beginning but never actually sick. I've randomly developed a strong aversion to both beef and basil... I'm not sure I will ever be able to eat them again.

I've put a load of weight though. The last time I was weighed, I had put on a total of 38lbs (almost 3 stone). I can feel it too... doing anything is a chore with the extra weight. And everything is bigger - I knew my feet (never my best feature) would swell, but even my nose is wider!!!! Miraculously, no stretchmarks (yet) though... I've been slathering avocado oil on my belly twice a day - I'm not sure if that's made a difference, or if it's just genes.

We went back to the Hawaiian island, Kauai, for a "babymoon" in the second trimester. Our last proper holiday as a couple before the baby comes. It was even more amazing going again because we felt like we knew the island a little already, and we didn't feel any desperate need to fit in all the tourist activities. I got quite emotional at one point (very unlike me) when the seven carefree years of our lives as just a couple flashed in front of my eyes and I realised life would be so different so soon.

I'm still in San Francisco. We did consider moving back to the UK before the baby was born but it would have been a bit of a rush work-wise. So we'll be here for a little while longer. I've come round to life here though. With all the rain and snow in London and New York, I'm appreciating the weather and lifestyle here a lot more! But we'll be moving back to London late this year to be closer to family and to start making a proper home.

I've been in the US for so long now that I've started noticing Americanisms creeping into my speech and spelling. I say "yoe-gurt", "zee", "bedder" (instead of "better"), "trash" etc without even flinching now. Everyone still thinks I'm Australian though.

So all change here. I'm looking forward to it though! I'm also really looking forward to my feet looking like feet again and not having to wear old lady compression stockings to keep them under control. I thought I'd be one of those sprightly, prenatal yoga-going pregnant types, but alas I am of the frumpy, beached whale, TV-watching type.

Depending on how bored I get with watching Netflix over the next few days (or longer??), I may stack up some skincare and make-up product review blog posts. I promise this won't ever become a baby blog!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Yes to Blueberries Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 30: Review

Yes to Blueberries Age Refresh Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 30

I was looking for a new "natural" moisturiser with zinc oxide-based broad spectrum sun protection and bought this Yes to Blueberries Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 30. I recently reviewed Sunumbra SPF 30 but started feeling that it was just a bit too oily for everyday use (i.e. where the only sun I get is walking 20 minutes to the office).

The "Yes to" brand has several ranges which are designed for different needs, e.g. Cucumber for sensitive skin, Grapefruit for dark spot fading, Tomatoes for clarifying and Carrots for everyday. The "Yes to Blueberries" range is designed to fight the signs of ageing and contains lots of antioxidants to help do so.

Yes to Blueberries Age Refresh Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 30 box

The active sunscreen ingredients in this moisturiser are zinc oxide (11%) and titanium oxide (6.2%) which is pretty high for a moisturiser product as opposed to a proper "sunscreen". I was glad to see zinc oxide on the list because it's known as the most effective natural sunscreen filters out there and protects from both UVB and UVA rays. I also like zinc oxide just because it's good for the skin and promotes healing. No gross-sounding chemical sunscreen ingredients are included.

Yes to Blueberries Age Refresh Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 30 ingredients

Generally, "Yes to" products have good ingredients lists. I do find them overly fragranced though and wish they weren't so.

Yes to Blueberries Age Refresh Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 30 ingredients

The product comes out of a pump and is an opaque white formula.

Yes to Blueberries Age Refresh Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 30 pump

This moisturiser gets some bad reviews online because of the whiteness of the product that is visible on application (due to the mineral sunscreen ingredients). It does indeed take on a startling white patchy appearance as soon as I try to spread it.

Yes to Blueberries Age Refresh Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 30 swatch

However, it just needs a few seconds of massaging before the whiteness completely disappears. I don't know how, but it's like a magic trick where one second it's white and patchy and the next it's invisible. It's literally invisible and I personally don't find it gives me a white cast at all.

Yes to Blueberries Age Refresh Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 30 rubbed in

This moisturiser doesn't have the luxurious, unctuous feel of some other moisturisers as it is quite thick. But it leaves my skin looking and feeling great - not greasy, not too matte, just looking and feeling like skin. Make-up applies easily over the top, and my skin feels just as good at the end of the day. It may not be rich enough on its own for very dry skin though.

This is one product I'm really glad I bought despite the bad reviews it gets online!

From what I can see online, the usual price for this moisturiser is around $19.99 but I seem to have been ripped off at Target where I paid $24.99 - I thought Target was meant to be cheap???

The full ingredients of Yes to Blueberries Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 30 are:

Active ingredients: Zinc Oxide (11.0%), Titanium Dioxide (6.2%)
Inactive ingredients: Water, Vaccinium Cyanococcus (Blueberry) Fruit Juice, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice*, Hydrogenated Methyl Abietate, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Glycerin, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Aluminum Hydroxide, Onopordum Acanthium Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Cetearyl Alcohol, Phenethyl Alcohol, Alcohol, Sodium Magnesium Silicate, Glyceryl Caprylate, Xanthan Gum, Hydrated Silica, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Limonene, Tocopherol, Fragrance, Linalool, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Citral, Geraniol, Citronellol.

By the way, there are other "Yes to" moisturisers with SPF but most are SPF 15 with much lower concentrations of zinc oxide. I've tried the Yes to Carrots SPF 15 before but I prefer going a bit higher.

You can read more about the "Yes to" ranges on the brand's website here.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Own Rejuvenating Cleanser review: My skin loves this

Own Rejuvenating Cleanser

I went on a bit of a skincare spree in Whole Foods recently and this Own Rejuvenating Cleanser was one of the bits I bought. I am so glad I found it as my skin has been noticeably more smooth and radiant in just a few weeks of using it.

This is how the product is described:

Whether bright and early or before bed, Own Anti-Aging Rejuvenating Cleanser features a light and creamy non-foaming formula that revitalizes your skin for a fresher looking you. Developed with glycolic acid and vitamin E, this Rejuvenating Cleanser gently exfoliates and preps skin for maximum results when combined with Own’s Anti-Aging line products.

Non-foaming, Gentle

Own Rejuvenating Cleanser ingredients

The directions are to massage it on moistened skin, then rinse with water. The product has the consistency of a body lotion (it's not designed to foam). It is fragrance-free and just has a light, fresh, inoffensive smell that I really like.

Own Rejuvenating Cleanser consistency

This creamy cleanser does take more effort to rinse off than say a foaming cleanser (I haven't used a foaming cleanser in years so that doesn't bother me), but it leaves my skin feeling so soft and smooth after that I have to marvel at the feel of my skin before I moisturise.

I don't think this would be a great product to use as a make-up remover, as it's just not the type of cleanser that dissolves make-up, but I use it after wiping off my make-up with L'Oréal Micellar Solution which I reviewed here, and it's perfect for finishing off the cleansing process and leaving my skin feeling perfectly clean and refreshed and ready to take in moisturiser. I use it in the morning as well (without any other product beforehand).

Since starting using this in conjunction with the L'Oréal Micellar Solution, my skin has started to look like it used to (in the old days when people used to ask me what foundation I was wearing when I wasn't wearing any), and I've had less blocked pores, and the blocked pores that I did have have kind of given themselves up for being squeezed out cleanly. I don't know whether it's the glycolic acid in this cleanser or just that maybe the cleansing oil I was using before was just too drying, but my skin seems to be so much better than it's been in at least eight months.

The usual price of this cleanser is $11.99 for 150ml (5 fl oz) but I bought it for around $7 - $8 because it was on sale at the time. I'm definitely going to be stocking up. In the US it looks like Own products are available from Whole Foods, Duane Reade, Ulta, Amazon.com and various other online retailers. Unfortunately I don't think it's a brand that's made it over to the UK yet...

The full ingredients of Own Rejuvenating Cleanser are:

Water (Aqua), Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Cetearyl Olivate, Glyceryl Stearate, Sorbitan Olivate, Lauryl Glucoside, Cetearyl Glucoside, Stearic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Decyl Glucoside, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Allantoin, Sodium PCA, Sodium Hydroxide, Panthenol, Butyrospermum Parki (Shea Butter), Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol.

You can read more about the Own brand on their website here.

L'Oréal Skin Perfection 3 in 1 Purifying Micellar Solution: Review

L'Oréal Skin Perfection 3 in 1 Purifying Micellar Solution

I picked up this L'Oréal micellar cleanser from Tesco when I was in London a month ago and I love it.

I have yet to try any other micellar cleanser so I can't compare it to the likes of the famous Bioderma but I can say this stuff is really effective at dissolving and wiping off make-up (even mascara) without just smearing it around my face. Any removed make-up stays on the cotton wool pad.

The product looks and feels like just water, but actually contains contains microscopic oil molecules that lift and trap dirt, make-up and oil from the skin. There is no feeling of oiliness in the cleanser at all though, and after using, my skin just feels clean and fresh.

The formula alcohol and fragrance free and is gentle on my skin (it doesn't leave my skin dry or taut). It also doesn't sting my eyes and even manages to remove my Benefit They're Real mascara which I find quite difficult to remove normally.

While it removes visible make-up, I still use a cream cleanser and water afterwards before I feel ready for bed. But my skin has actually been behaving better since I switched to this cleanser instead of using face wipes to remove make-up.

The best thing about this product is how cheap it is at £4.99 for 200ml. And in the UK it's widely available in Boots, Superdrug and supermarkets. Unfortunately it's not out in the US yet which is annoying because my bottle will probably run out before it comes out here and I need to work out how to get hold of it.

I hugely recommend this cleanser, it's one of my favourite beauty purchases this year!

The full ingredients of L'Oréal Skin Perfection 3 in 1 Purifying Micellar Solution are:

Aqua, hexylene glycol, glycerin, poloxamer 184, disodium cocoamphodiacetate, disodium EDTA, polyaminopropyl biguanide.

Interestingly, this L'Oréal product contains almost exactly the same ingredients as Vichy Pureté Thermale Calming Cleansing Micellar Lotion and La Roche-Posay Physiological Micellar Solution, but it's about a third of the price and doesn't contain the added fragrance!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Boots SmoothSkin Extra review: Permanent hair reduction after 4 treatments!

Boots SmoothSkin Extra by iPulse

After a brief stint rebranded as "Gillette Venus Naked Skin by Braun" (I always did think that was a bit of a mouthful anyway), the SmoothSkin brand is back at Boots with even better specs. It's now available from Boots stores or Boots.com for £299.99 (currently £100 off the regular price - And don't forget to use your Boots card to get 1196 points!).

If you've read any of my previous posts about IPL products (here, here and here), you'll know I'm a massive fan of Boots SmoothSkin by iPulse. I rushed out to buy the original Boots SmoothSkin unit when it came out five years ago and have never looked back. I honestly don't have any hair left on the areas I treated.... sounds too good to be true but it really did work for me.

The latest model is called "Boots SmoothSkin Extra". While it looks very similar to the previous SmoothSkin Plus, the main difference is that it now has a whopping 100,000 flashes (compared to 10,000 in the original unit and 20,000 in the "Plus" unit). I've also noticed the bolder statement, "Permanent hair reduction after just 4 treatments" (although you still need to use it once a week for 12 weeks to catch all the hairs at the right stage of their growth cycles).

Here's how the box appears:

Boots SmoothSkin Extra by iPulse box

Boots SmoothSkin Extra by iPulse back of box

The handset is the same ergonomically designed shape, with the same 12mm x 25mm treatment window (I'm sorry to report that it's not yet any bigger! But it's still the biggest treatment window on the market at least):

Boots SmoothSkin Extra by iPulse

The unit comes with a Skin Tone Sensor that doubles up as the energy setting that will be used during treatment. It docks neatly in the unit and lifts out easily. All you need to do is press the sensor window to the skin to get a reading of your skin tone, then replace the sensor back onto the unit. You can then use that energy setting, or press the button to select a lower setting (you won't be able to select a higher setting than allowed for the skin tone detected).

My skin tone is detected as 2 or 3 depending where I apply the sensor. For example, my face and arms are darker than my belly.

Boots SmoothSkin Extra Skin Tone Sensor

Boots SmoothSkin Extra Skin Tone Sensor

Boots SmoothSkin Extra Skin Tone Sensor

The Skin Tone Detector also has a bulb life indicator, but honestly I'd be surprised if anyone managed to reach 100,000 shots with normal use.

Boots SmoothSkin Extra comes with a tube of Activator Gel. I recommend keeping this in the fridge and using it generously to help keep the skin cool when the treatment window starts getting hot during use.

Boots SmoothSkin Extra Activator Gel

The latest specs are:

  • Shots included: 100,000
  • Energy/power level (J/cm2): 10 (the highest available on the home IPL devices market)
  • Pulse type/technology: Square
  • Speed (Shot delay): 4s
  • Skin tone settings: 1-5
  • Customised setting/skin sensor: Yes - automatic
  • Gel: Yes - included

Aside from the built-in Skin Tone Sensor, the unit feels very similar to the Boots SmoothSkin Plus which I reviewed here. The time between shots and the time before the treatment window starts to feel hot are similar, although still much improved from the original SmoothSkin which I bought five years ago!

Rather than me typing out my FAQs, I'd recommend reading my lengthy post here, which has a lot of information which I gathered from the folks at Boots and iPulse. However, some other tips I would give are:

Don't try to justify the cost of Boots SmoothSkin Extra by comparing it to the cost of buying razors / getting wax treatments.

Honestly, it just won't add up. It probably still costs more than you'll ever spend on razors in your lifetime! You'll only waste time debating about this in your head and you'll never get on the road to being permanently hair-free. Instead, think about the convenience and freedom of never having to shave again - which you can have for just a few hundred pounds. That's a bargain if you ask me.

Don't be disheartened if some hairs still appear to grow through even after 12 weeks of using the Boots SmoothSkin Extra - occasional top-ups will sort them out.

I found I needed to top up every few weeks, and then every few months before the hairs stopped coming completely. I think I've gone over a year now without treating my underarms or bikini line and they are still completely smooth and hair-free.

For the first 12 weeks, keep your Boots SmoothSkin Extra in the place you will be using it, ready to go when it's time for your weekly treatment.

If you meticulously pack it away each time, it'll only feel more like a chore to get it out and use every week. You need to make it as easy as possible to pick up and use so that it doesn't become something stuffed at the back of your wardrobe collecting dust. Put up with the mess of having it out for a few months - it's worth it.

Don't skimp on the Activator Gel - it does actually help

The main purpose of the gel is to help the light energy get safely to the hair. But it also really helps to keep the skin cool during treatment (especially when the gel is kept in the fridge), and to act as a guide to where you've treated as it will flatten out where the treatment window has been. If you're going to do large areas like legs, apply the gel in smaller areas as you go along, so that it doesn't dry up or lose its coolness on areas that are waiting to be treated.

If you're going to use Boots SmoothSkin on your face and you get ingrown hairs from razors, try using a personal trimmer instead.

One of those battery operated pen-shaped things that costs no more than £10 from Superdrug etc. It won't cut the hairs so close to the skin, meaning that the hairs won't get caught under the skin.

In summary, I think the Boots SmoothSkin Extra is a great buy and if you're considering doing IPL at home, based on my experience I'd say go for it!

If you have any other questions, the iPulse team are usually very responsive and helpful and can be contacted through their Facebook page, Twitter, their website, or by emailing askanita@ipulse.co.uk.

Disclosure: Original Boots Smooth Skin unit bought by self, Boots Smooth Skin Extra unit was provided for review.
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