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Beauty, London

Murad Facial at House of Fraser, London

Facials are one of my favourite beauty indulgences, but I rarely find the time or discipline for regular appointments.  With my New York wedding just one month away, I wanted to get my skin in order and followed the advice of a friend who had weekly 20-minute facials in the run up to her wedding.

To kick-start my skin programme and make up for lost time, I booked a Murad Blemish Control Facial (6o mins) at House of Fraser Beauty Rooms on Oxford Street through Treatwell.

Murad Beauty Room House of Fraser

At the age of 31, I have hardly any wrinkles or fine lines but struggle with break-outs and pigmentation in some areas, so I was after a targeted, clinical facial that would show significant results.

The House of Fraser Beauty Rooms on the lower ground floor are a bit of a hidden gem, featuring two leading skincare brands – Murad on one side and Décleor on the other.  They’re also dangerously close to the very tempting and shiny shoe department – you’ve been warned.

As I was visiting on a quiet Tuesday mid-morning (Treatwell often offers special off-peak discounts), I was pleasantly surprised to have such an experienced, senior practitioner as Natasha De Almeida, Dr Murad Skin Specialist and Treatment Manager.  Natasha has been performing Murad facials for a number of years and was previously a beauty therapist at The Lanesborough.

If you’re not familiar with Murad, it’s an American skincare brand founded by Dr Howard Murad, whose Inclusive Health philosophy promotes a dermatological and also nutritional approach to skincare.

Dr Howard Murad

I answered questions about my skincare routine, skin concerns and desired results before quickly getting started.  Natasha customised my Blemish Control Facial with elements of the Aha Rapid Exfoliator Anti-Ageing Facial to help treat the areas of pigmentation and revitalise my skin.

My facial started with a deep cleanse, tone and massage while the steam kept my pores open.  Next was a glycolic peel, which felt intensely cool and tingly but not at all painful.  Natasha asked how strong it felt on a scale of one to ten and swiftly distracted me with a heavenly head massage before I could consider the leap from five to seven as the acid began to develop.  This may sound alarming if you’ve never had a glycolic peel before, but I knew I was in safe hands and my skin could handle it (if you’re unsure, let your therapist know).

With my skin feeling all icy and fresh, it was time for the flashlight interrogation and plenty of extraction.  I can’t help feeling a touch of guilt inflicting spot goop on my therapist, but it proved a very worthwhile step as Natasha managed to clear a stubborn cluster of hormonal blocked pores around my jawline and other congested areas around my t-zone.

Murad Beauty Room House of Fraser

After all that hard work, a soothing mask was applied and I enjoyed a glorious massage on my arms, hands, neck, shoulders and décolletage.  My face was then finished with eye cream, toner, serum and a light moisturiser and I was ready to go.

There were so many different steps and products used that the facial felt like a real journey and professional experience.  My skin was instantly calmer and refreshed and the results lasted for days.  Even a week later, the tone, surface texture and oil levels are much more balanced.

Natasha prescribed a Dr Murad skincare programme for me – a mix of the Blemish Control range with a few key Anti-Ageing Blemish Control products (this is particularly helpful for those with adult acne or blemishes).  I’ve just started using the Time Release Blemish Cleanser and Anti-Ageing Moisturiser Broad Spectrum SPF 30 and am excited to see the results, given how effective the facial was.

Murad Anti-Ageing Blemish Control

I highly recommend making an appointment with Natasha for a Murad facial – there are so many different ones to choose from and they can also be tailored to your requirements.  It was without a doubt one of the best facials I’ve ever had and I’m looking forward to booking my next appointment.

For more information and booking, visit: www.murad.co.uk and www.treatwell.co.uk

Beauty, London

Thai Square Spa, London

It’s rare to find a spa in London that’s opulent yet still accessible, but that’s the beauty of Thai Square Spa. This well-established spa was previously based in Covent Garden, but recently moved to an elegant building that was once a Victorian bathhouse on Northumberland Avenue, just a few steps away from the River Thames and Trafalgar Square.

Thai Square Spa London

It has the feel of a wellbeing townhouse with an impressive number of facilities – a separate hair salon, nail and make-up studio, 12 treatment rooms and the fabulous Sen Space with hot and cold zones.

I visited on a quiet midweek morning and was pleased to find that I had the Sen Space facilities all to myself for an hour before my treatment.  I changed into a super-comfy Thai Square Spa robe and slippers in the bright red changing room before heading downstairs to start my spa journey.

Thai Square Spa London

The spa was much larger than I had expected with rather grand interiors – a mix of Thai, Roman and Turkish decor elements with hand-painted classical murals, rich silks and hundreds of traditional wood-carved statues.

Thai Square Spa London

My favourite Sen Space facility was the high-powered jet jacuzzi covered entirely in shimmering gold mosaics – what could be more decadent than that?

The sauna is immaculate and has a subtle eucalyptus aroma while the steam room is large enough to really kick back and enjoy the heat.  There’s also an active ice fountain to cool down and rainfall showers with excellent water pressure.

Thai Square Spa London

My therapist Nina came to collect me when it was time for my treatment and showed me through the softly-lit maze to the cosy treatment room.  I experienced the So Sen Uplifting Ritual Massage – 60 minutes of pure bliss and deep relaxation.

Thai Square Spa London

It began with a soothing foot cleanse and was followed with a brisk yet very gentle squeezing of pressure points around my body to get the energy flowing.  Nina then worked on my back, using a number of techniques to knead out the knots and tense areas with a light, comfortable pressure.

She also gave my legs and arms an invigorating massage and I almost drifted off a few times when my shoulders and head were given attention.  By the end of the massage, I felt rejuvenated and stress-free and my skin was ever so soft and nourished from the light jasmine oil – Thai Square Spa has its very own iMantara range of products.

Thai Square Spa London

Making the most of my dreamlike state, I enjoyed a hot cup of secret blend Thai tea and grazed on banana chips and nuts on a lounger in the plush relaxation area.

I left feeling supple and energised and was impressed with spa experience and the quality of my treatment. Thai Square Spa offers a wide range of tailored treatments, but I highly recommend the So Sen Uplifting Ritual Massage as a reviving treat for the whole body.

The So Sen Uplifting Ritual Massage is priced at £80 for 60 minutes.  For more information and booking, visit: www.thaisquarespa.com

Chérie City was a guest of Thai Square Spa

Photos by Thai Square Spa

Beauty

Penhaligon’s Launches Equinox Bloom

Spring is just around the corner and the newly-launched Penhaligon’s Equinox Bloom is the perfect fragrance to embrace the new season.

This uplifting, luxurious scent is particularly special, as it’s the very first gourmand scent by Penhaligon’s. While Penhaligon’s was established back in 1870, perfumes with mostly ‘edible’ notes are still relatively new – Edmond Roundnitska started the gourmand trend with Diorissimo in 1956.

Of course, it’s no surprise that the British heritage brand’s first foray into gourmands is magnificent and ever so stylish.  Master perfumer Olivier Cresp was inspired to create a modern gourmand fragrance after having his senses stirred by an elegant brunch in a refined setting in London.

He says that Equinox Bloom evokes memories of “quintessentially English tradition of afternoon tea, and the transitional moment when day turns to evening and when cold Winter yields to Spring”.

The fragrance opens with a vivid burst of Neroli Bigarade Essence, Violet Leaves Absolute and Chantilly Accord.  It leads to a delicate, vintage floral heart of Frangipani, Orange Blossom Absolute and Jasmine Sambac Absolute. As the perfume develops, it becomes sumptuous, warm and creamy with a base of Ambrox, Benzoin Siam Absolute and Brown Sugar Accord.

To me, this is the ideal fragrance for when you’re wearing fine cashmere, grazing on exquisite pastries and looking polished after a visit to the salon – even on less glamorous days, you can still feel dreamy.  While many gourmands can be overly sweet and girly (and headache-inducing), Equinox Bloom is sophisticated and the soft blend of brown sugar and Chantilly is subtle rather than sticky.  I also can’t get enough of neroli and orange blossom – they remind me of summer in the south of France.

At the recent launch event, we were treated to afternoon tea at the Penhaligon’s Tea Parlour hosted in By Appointment Design Florists on fashionable Chiltern Street, Marylebone.  On arrival, we each ordered a bespoke bouquet made with a choice of beautiful fresh flowers while we sipped rose-hued Bloom Gin cocktails and grazed on mini scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam.

It was a stunning, whimsical setting to get that first look of the fragrance and handily it was just a few steps away from Chiltern Firehouse for Champagne and gossip at the bar.  When you’re enveloped in a delicious scent with flowers in your hand, it would be a shame not to!

For a special Mother’s Day treat, Old Bengal Bar is offering a special Penhaligon’s cocktail menu, featuring the Equinox Bloom – Mount Gay Black Barrel, Violet Liqueur, Jasmine Syrup, Lime, Orange Blossom Water and Aphrodite Bitters (until 31st May).

In addition, guests will receive an invitation card entitling them to a complimentary fragrance profiling appointment and 15% discount off any purchase made at Penhaligon’s Royal Exchange boutique.

For more information and to buy online, visit: www.penhaligons.com

Photos by Conor Beary

Beauty

iamYiam Health & Well-being Hub

Ever wondered where to find an amazing yoga class, a really effective massage or how you can get into meditation?  Newly-launched health and wellness hub iamYiam brings together the best independent practitioners in London (and soon the whole of the UK) in one convenient online spot.

I’m a big fan of online life management, from beauty treatments to shopping and finance, so I was excited to find out that there’s now a dedicated site for well-being too.

At the launch party, held in the beautiful entrance hall of the V&A, iamYiam founder Lorena Puica spoke about her adventures in extreme sports and how she developed her new wellness concept.  Always a high achiever, Lorena left her demanding finance career when she developed serious health problems and found her own natural way to get better after disagreeing with her doctor’s advice to undergo surgery.

Her health dramatically improved after retreats in India and Morocco and a new stress-free approach to life, leading to participating in the 777 Challenge – running seven marathons on seven continents in ten days.  With Lorena’s incredible achievements and captivating public speaking, it’s hard not to be inspired to take another look at your health and make small changes.

iamYiam enables you to find hand-picked practitioners who focus on well-being disciplines including yoga, pilates, massage, acupuncture, meditation, nutrition and medicine.  It’s easy to book and treatments can take place at the practitioner’s studio, at your home or workplace or even over Skype.

Another key part of the site is setting your health goals, which can be tracked and monitored by creating an online account.  Lorena said: “we make it easy to identify and set your health goals, be it sleeping better, reducing anxiety, lowering stress, recovering from injury or enhancing overall wellbeing. We use knowledge gained from studying 120,000 academic research papers to pinpoint which therapies and therapists are best suited to them”.

For the ultimate results, iamYiam offers genetic analysis to determine how your body reacts to training and nutrition and fine tune your natural health plan.  There’s also a helpful blog to get you motivated and get expert tips on sticking to your plan.

To find out more and set your health goals, visit: www.iamyiam.com 

 

Beauty

Penhaligon’s Blasted Bloom & Blasted Heath

Penhaligon’s captures the wild essence of coastal Scotland with its twin fragrances Blasted Bloom and Blasted Heath.

Inspired by the extreme, wild and passionate northern lands, these fragrances are a breath of fresh air for perfume lovers and instantly transport you to some of the most beautiful, untouched scenery in the world.

Master perfumer Alberto Morillas drew on the sights, sounds, colours and aromas of this breathtaking region to create a stunning olfactory experience.  He said: “I am a very visual person; I imagined the fragrances like spontaneous photography.  I see a powerful wave breaking itself on the rocks for the masculine fragrance.  For the feminine frangrance I was inspired by wild flora under the wind and sea breeze”.

Having lived in Scotland and by the English coast, these fragrances have a special place in my heart, as they successfully convey the dramatic, raw energy and free-spirited, heightened emotions of being at one with nature.

Blasted Heath is an intoxicating fragrance that evokes the rugged romance of the rural Scottish landscape and the rhythm of the sea.  It opens with a wave of aquatic freshness with soothing clary sage and salty seaweed. This leads to a hint of fresh green leaves, seductive tobacco and peaty whisky, making my mind wander to roaring open fireplaces, woolly jumpers and rustic living.

If you’re not already getting lost in a Scottish dream, the fragrance develops further to evocative notes of patchouli, Alaskan cedarwood, gaiacwood, stirring vetiver and sultry musks.  I love how this fragrance takes you on a journey from the sea to the land with a few boozy episodes along the way.  It’s a very unique scent that bridges aquatic and spicy fragrances, making it very wearable and appealing for all seasons.

Blasted Bloom is a complex, intriguing fragrance that perfectly complements Blasted Heath.  It’s spiky, wild and completely unbridled and makes me imagine running through a field on a dewy morning with the wind blowing in my hair.

Like Blasted Heath, the fragrance has notes of aquatic accord, green leaves, Alaskan cedarwood, clearwood and musks, however the overall effect is remarkably different.  Blasted Bloom is a feminine fragrance but eschews the typical sweet or floral notes in favour of crisp wild berries, piquant pink pepper, tart hawthorn and earthy moss.

Each fragrance can be worn by men or women and I personally find myself more drawn to Blasted Heath, as it becomes slightly softer and sweeter on my skin.

Watch the stunning Penhaligon’s Blasted Heath and Blasted Bloom campaign video created by Cereal…

Penhaligon’s Blasted Bloom and Blasted Heath eau de parfum are both priced at £124 for 100ml and are available to buy at Penhaligon’s online and in-store.

Sample

Beauty

Beauté Mediterranea Cosmeceuticals Skincare

The winter season tends to play havoc with my skin and I rely on a skincare routine that works that little bit harder.  So, in an effort to bring back the glow, I tried a selection of products from the sunny-sounding Beauté Mediterranea, a Spanish laboratory-led skincare brand that has just arrived in the UK.

This cosmeceutical brand is available online exclusively through Mitonia and features four ranges to address different skin concerns.  It promises effective results with ‘buzz ingredients’ such as bee venom, syn-ake, ECO snail, dragon’s blood and high tech hyaluronic complex.

I’ve been testing the Beauté Mediterranea Matrikine Anti-Aging Power Cream and Anti-Wrinkle Eye Contour for a few weeks now and I’m already hooked.  Both products contain a potent mix of Matrixyl 3000, argan oil, aloe vera and grape seed to help to improve elasticity, skin tone, skin firmness and smooth wrinkles.

I wasn’t previously familiar with Matrixyl 3000, but it’s a surprisingly widely-used key ingredient in anti-aging skincare ranges.  This game-changing peptide significantly promotes collagen, repairs damage caused by ageing and encourages the skin to behave as if it’s younger.

Anti-ageing creams can often be too oily or heavy for my combination skin, so I tend to go for a high-powered serum and layer with a moisturiser that can be easily absorbed.  Luckily,  Beauté Mediterranea Matrikine Anti-Aging Power Cream has a cool, light texture and it glides on smoothly, leaving no oily residue.

I find that it deeply hydrates and plumps up my skin, diminishing my expression lines.  It also refreshes and calms the skin, making it feel good at the start of the day.  It has a very pleasant aroma that reminds me of sun cream and summer holidays and I like the bold, design-led packaging.

Beauté Mediterranea Matrikine Anti-Wrinkle Eye Contour has a light gel-crème texture and it instantly hydrates and brightens the eyes.  It sinks in quickly and preps the skin well for eye make-up.  I’ve been using the Beauté Mediterranea Matrikine products with Ole Henriksen Truth Serum (sunshine in a bottle), but there’s also an anti-ageing serum in the range.

I was surprised to find that all products in the Matrikine range are around the same price (£32-34.50), which is rare for skincare brands.  This makes it easier to invest in the range, but if you want to start with just one, the Power Cream is a joy to use and excellent value.

It’s still early to be talking anti-ageing results, but I’ll post an update once the products are finished.  I’m often a bit sceptical when it comes to anti-ageing claims in skincare (it doesn’t help when brands use the word ‘miracle’ and keep you waiting to see it), but Beauté Mediterranea has a straight-forward, pharmacy-led approach to results.  It already makes my skin happy, so I’m looking forward to seeing just how effective the matrikine complex is.

For more information and to buy online, visit: www.mitonia.co.uk

*sample

Beauty, London

HPM Scent School with Annick Goutal

Fragrance is one of my favourite indulgences, so what better way to spend an evening that discussing scents with some of the industry’s most esteemed leaders?

Last week, I attended Handpicked Media’s debut Scent School in partnership with The Perfume Society and PR gurus Kenneth Green Associates, held at the shiny Condé Nast College in Soho.  For this very special event, we were treated to an audience with Camille Goutal and Isabelle Doyen – the brains and noses behind quintessentially Parisian perfume maison, Annick Goutal.

Handpicked Media’s Krista Madden kicked off the evening, as we finished refueling on Zeo and Propercorn (the new smooth almond and peanut butter flavour is so addictive), and introduced Jo Fairley, co-founder of The Perfume Society.

Jo has had a dream career – magazine editor, co-founder of ethical chocolate company Green & Black’s and Judges Bakery, as well as brand consultant and inspirational public speaker.  In person, she is warm, down-to-earth and speaks about perfume in a refreshingly accessible way.

The Perfume Society is an online fragrance appreciation community that hosts workshops and events for members and offers Discovery Boxes and the Jasmine Award-winning e-magazine, The Scented Letter.  Jo led us in a special ‘How to Improve you Sense of Smell’ workshop that is available complimentary to members up and down the country.

Fragrance blotters were handed out and we were encouraged to write down our thoughts and feelings about the scents, rather than trying to detect the notes.  What was most interesting about this fun group activity was the diverse spectrum of emotions and memories incited through the fragrances – it’s true that we all experience aromas differently.  I was particularly drawn to the luxurious Cartier La Panthère, which transported me to nighttime in Paris, partying with Yves Saint Laurent and Pat Cleveland on the Left Bank.

Having trained our noses with the workshop, we were prepped to listen to Camille Goutal and Isabelle Doyen in conversation with Nicola de Burlet, head of press at Kenneth Green Associates.

Camille shared anecdotes about her late mother Annick Goutal, who was a pianist, top model and antique shop owner before falling in love with fragrance on a trip to Grasse and founding the perfume house on rue de Bellechasse in 1980, at the age of 30.

Annick’s philosophy was to create emotions through fragrance like a puzzle and her perfumes have become timeless classics.  The curvy, elegant bottles adorned with touches of gold are staples of every well-heeled Parsisienne’s boudoir.  Annick’s disinterest in fleeting trends and big marketing campaigns has kept the brand forever relevant and something of a luxury insider’s secret (outside of Paris, as least).

We explored a few signature Annick Goutal scents, beginning with the much-loved Petite Chérie, created as a gift to Camille.  It’s a gourmand fragrance bursting with luscious, juicy pear and reminds me of childhood innocence and happy times.

Next up was Eau du Sud, a chypre inspired by Annick’s birthplace Aix-en-Provence, where she grew up among the intoxicating aromas of her father’s chocolate shop.  We then travelled to Italy with Ninfeo Mio, a sun-kissed yet earthy blend of fresh figs and quince, inspired by Camille and Isabelle’s trip to the Ninfeo Gardens.

We finished with an invigorating Middle East-inspired fragrance – 1001 Ouds from Les Absolus d’Annick Goutal.  Camille has strong opinions when it comes to ouds, explaining only a few of these woody, aromatic fragrances on the luxury market bear resemblance to the natural oud that she is familiar with as a perfumer.

1001 Ouds is a unique, authentic take on the classic oud scent – it’s deeply spicy and has prominent equestrian leather notes that reference Camille’s love of horseriding.  Most interestingly, it resists the temptation of being too sweet, but develops a soft warmness that makes you dream of the mystical Arabian Nights tales and wandering through spice markets.

The inspiring evening ended with a few helpful words from Nicola on the relationship between beauty bloggers and PRs – how to form lasting connections, impress their brands with your writing and manage expectations on both sides.

A thought echoed by all of the experts was that it’s easy to overthink writing about fragrance.  Any old website can list the fragrance notes and state whether it’s in the illusive chypre or fougère family, but articulating your unique emotional connection to the scent is golden.  As Camille explained, ‘no one buys a fragrance based on the notes, it’s all about how it makes them feel’.

In our goody bag, we were generously given a year’s subscription to The Perfume Society, as well as their latest Discovery Box packed full of new and classic fragrances, instructive postcards, blotters and a stylish notebook for recording our fragrant thoughts.

Also included was a stunning Annick Goutal gold purse fragrance – mine is the divine L’Ile au Thé.  It’s a clean, fresh, calming scent that immediately made me think of springtime and my travels in China and Hong Kong.  In fact, the citrus fragrance was created following Camille and Isabelle’s trip to the Korean paradise island of Jeju.

The fragrance paints an idyllic fragrant landscape of mandarin tree orchards, tea plantations and beautiful osmanthus in bloom – a real treat for lovers of Asian tea ceremonies and delicate, almost celestial scents.  I can’t wait to take this fragrant to Paris next week and will definitely be paying at visit to the Annick Goutal boutique.

For more information, visit: www.perfumesociety.org and www.annickgoutal.com

Photos by Annick Goutal, The Perfume Society & Chérie City

Beauty

ila spa Gold Cellular Age-Restore Collection

ila spa is a British spa and beauty brand that has a special place in my heart, so when I was invited to visit the ila barn in the Cotswolds, I jumped at the chance.

I spent the afternoon with ila’s magnetic founder Denise Leicester who I’ve met a few times at ila spa events in London.  Not only did I get a rare glimpse of these luxurious, natural creams and oils in production, but I was treated to an exclusive preview of ila spa’s new game-changing Gold Cellular Age-Restore collection.

After a short drive from Charlbury through the rolling Oxfordshire countryside, I was warmly welcomed by Denise at the peaceful ila barn, framed by seemingly endless green fields.  Over a healthy snack of dates filled with cashew nut butter and warming cardamon and saffron tea, we chatted about the hotly anticipated collection and Denise’s extensive travels.

ila spa Gold Cellular Age-Restore is the result of three years of experimenting and fine tuning.  The innovative anti-ageing ritual harnesses the power of ethically harvested frankincense from the Garden of Ethiopia and three types of naturally occurring gold.  Its unique BosTriWell formula combines three different kinds of frankincense to reduce inflammation while 24-Carat Gold, Homeopathic and Colloidal Gold boost the production of collagen.

A plant-derived hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin completes this powerful trinity of active ingredients working to promote radiance and reduce the signs of ageing.  Denise explained that the range was formulated in partnership with a world-renowned German pharmacy to achieve the best possible results while staying true to ila’s natural, ‘beyond organic’ philosophy.

First on the agenda was a tour of the ila spa workshop where all of the organic face and body products are hand-blended, bottled and packaged up.  It’s such a unique, pleasant environment with exquisite aromas filling the air that I found myself daydreaming about packing up for the Cotswolds to be an ila apprentice.

The work stations are adorned with a golden sri yantra to channel good energy into the products and every product is blessed with a positive affirmation by its creator – truly made with love.  I tried my hand at blending ila’s best-selling Body Oil for Inner Peace, mixing heady top note oils jasmine, sandalwood and ylang ylang with a base of argan oil and rosehip seed oil.

I then took a reflective walk around the special wedding labyrinth at the back of the barn with a lighted candle in hand while being watched intently by the flock of sheep in the adjacent field.  I’m guessing they’re pretty chilled out sheep with all the Ayurvedic aromas flowing into their field.

Already feeling serene and revived by the fresh country air, I was set for further relaxation with a signature ila spa Gold Cellular Age-Restore Facial.  Expert therapist Jo performed the most fantastic healing and rejuvenating facial in the warm, tranquil treatment room.  She thoroughly cleansed and exfoliated my skin and intuitively massaged my head, shoulders and face using lymphatic drainage techniques.

A paper sheet drenched in a zingy mask was pushed deep into the skin using the ila Sonic Wave Therapy, leaving my skin feeling tingly and taut.  The treatment finished with a light application of serum and face cream and I was gently awoken from my trance-like state.

The treatment was made even more relaxing and effective with a soundtrack of hypnotic, tribal music composed and sung by Denise.  After the treatment, we sipped on Radiance Cleanse detox juices and Denise led us in a meditative sound therapy session, chanting and playing crystal singing bowls in harmony.  It was the perfect end to an afternoon of wellbeing and I left feeling truly inspired by Denise and her soulful, holistic approach to skincare.

I’ve been trying out the collection since visiting the ila barn and am already hooked.  My skin was terribly stressed out with a new type of breakout that I had no idea how to tackle and it was getting me down.  The Gold Cellular Age-Restore has dramatically helped calm and soothe my skin, reducing the bumps with its anti-inflamatory properties and re-balancing the tone.

Gold Cellular Age-Restore Face Cleanser is my hero product and an absolute joy to use.  The oil-based cleanser is made up of Babassu oil, Boswellia Extract, Jasmine and vitamin-rich Sea Buckthorn to purify and nourish the skin.  It’s just the right texture to give the face and decolletage a good massage and turns into a light milk when emulsified with water.  It leaves my skin feeling comfortable and clean and most importantly leaves no greasy residue.

Gold Cellular Age-Restore Face Toner is distilled from the purest organic orange blossom (instantly taking me back to summer in Provence) and helps revive and tighten skin.  I don’t usually see the benefit of toners (unless they’re acid toners to exfoliate) but this one is really rather special.

Gold Cellular Age-Restore Face Serum is the ideal product for getting a good dose of those effective ingredients without overwhelming the skin.  For best results, it can be massaged deeply into the skin with the ila Sonic Wave Therapy device.

Gold Cellular Age-Restore Face Cream is a rich, indulgent face cream with collagen boosting 24 Carat Gold, White Gold and Gold Dust to boost cell oxygenation and eliminate toxins from the skin and White Lily stem cells to target fine lines.  I find the texture a little heavy for everyday use on my combination skin, but I love using it at night and on lazy weekends to thoroughly nourish and repair my skin.

ila spa Gold Cellular Age-Restore is a truly luxurious, results-driven organic range that enhances the brand’s excellent offering.  Priced at the higher end of natural skincare it’s certainly an investment, but believe me there’s much more to the products than simply the decadence of 24 Carat Gold.

The ila spa Gold Cellular Age-Restore collection is now available exclusively at Harrods and is priced from £40 to £180.  For more information and to buy online, visit: www.harrods.com and www.ila-spa.com

Chérie City was a guest of ila spa

Photos by Chérie City and ila spa

 

 

Beauty, Salon

ESHK Hair Clerkenwell, London

Last week, I escaped the madness of the tube strike in the relaxing surroundings of ESHK Clerkenwell.

ESHK Hair was established in 2005 with salons in Shoreditch and Barbican and the new Clerkenwell salon has been open for just three months.

I usually like to be organised with my hair appointments, but realised I’d been paying too much attention to my colour (more precisely, camouflaging those pesky grey hairs) and had neglected the ends.  Perhaps it’s psychological, but I felt compelled to give my hair and spirit a lift – in fact, it was playing on my mind for days.

So, I hit Wahanda to browse London hair salons and decided on ESHK Clerkenwell for a Cut and Blow-Dry (£31.50) as it’s reasonably close to me and I’d read good things about the salon – ESHK won Time Out’s ‘Best Hairdressers in London’ award three times in a row.

You can’t miss ESHK with its sleek black exterior and bold sign on the corner of Grays Inn Road.  It’s a beautifully-designed boutique salon with an urban retro feel and nice touches such as Cire Trvdon candles and vintage furniture.

I was around 20 minutes early after allowing extra time for tube strike traffic and was immediately seated in the cool, bright ground floor cutting room.  I refueled with a cup of tea served with Italian biscuits and was soon greeted by my lovely stylist Gianluca.

After a quick consultation, I was taken downstairs to the wash basins and Gianluca prescribed a combination of two different Kevin Murphy shampoos for fine and colour-treated hair and a conditioner thick, curly hair that also works well on fine hair like mine.

Vanessa washed my hair and gave me a delightful scalp massage, which is always my favourite part of the salon experience.

Gianluca refreshed the lengths and cut long layers back into my hair.  We chatted about Italy and had a laugh about how out of shape my hair had become, in the safe knowledge that I’d be leaving with a much better ‘do.

My hair was then blow-dried straight and dry cut to complete the shape.  To finish, the lengths were straightened to combat frizz, curled on the ends and combed through for a soft, wavy look.

I was thrilled with my new bouncy, lighter style and the blow-dry that looked fresh and glam (I can’t be bouffant styles that make me look older than my years).  Before leaving, I asked Gianluca’s advice on how to improve my current hair colour and I’ll definitely be going back for colour soon.

I was really impressed with ESHK and loved its friendly, neighbourhood boutique salon vibe.  It’s also very affordable for central London (there’s the option for a free rough dry with colour services), so you can easily make it your regular ‘go to’ salon.

For more information and booking, visit: www.eshk-hair.com

All photos by ESHK

Beauty, Shopping

Travelling with the ghd IV Styler

When travelling, my itinerary is usually jam-packed, so my grooming routine needs to be efficient and fuss-free.

Having naturally curly hair, I would usually simply wash and go for a busy day out in Singapore, Valencia or at a festival – it’s not worth even trying to fight the humidity.

Here are some of my care-free curl moments on my travels – as you can see, I’m at my happiest when keeping it low-maintenance and breezy.

However, for a night of dinner and cocktails in New York, Paris or right here in London, a more polished look is required.

I’ve always simply blow-dried my hair and made the ends wavy with ceramic curling tongs, but I’ve recently been introduced to the power of ghd with the original multi-award winning ghd IV Styler.  Since hotel hairdryers can rarely be relied on and luggage space can be limited, ghd hair straighteners can be a beauty life-saver.

Even if an inferior hotel hairdryer does little to tame my tresses, I’ve found that the ghd IV Styler can add the smoothness needed for a straight-hair look.  Most importantly, the straighteners can shave vital time off hair styling and I can often go from curly to straight in less than 20 minutes if I’m in a rush.

So far, I’ve used my ghd IV Styler on trips to Paris, Dublin and two cruises – now I can’t quite imagine travelling without it.

So, what makes ghd straighteners so special?  Firstly, it’s suitable for all hair types and can create not only poker-straight locks but also loose curls and waves.

The aluminium plates covered with a thin layer of ceramic coating and are are fully heated in less than 30 seconds.  Also, the round barrel and swivel cord make it easy to really work on the hair and style it with ease.

Another bonus is that they’re very slim, light-weight and very sturdy, so they don’t take up much suitcase room and travel well.

Here are the results of my express ghd hair straightening.  I could go further with a more sleek, smooth look but I like it when the natural curl adds a soft wave and a touch of volume.

I’m really impressed with my ghd hair straighteners and now know why my friends have always stayed loyal to the brand.  I’m tempted to start a mini ghd collection and invest in a ghd professional hairdryer (to improve my blow-dry skills) and perhaps a creative curl wand to refresh my curls when going natural.

Have you tried ghd hair straighteners?  What are your tips for a quick and chic style on the go?

The ghd IV Styler is priced at £99 and is available to buy online here: www.ghdhair.com

Sample

Beauty

Penhaligon’s Ostara, Inspired by Daffodils

Spring is definitely in the air and what better way to get in the mood for such a glorious season than with Penhaligon’s new fragrance, Ostara.

Named after the Goddess of Spring, Ostara celebrates the season’s quintessential golden flower – the daffodil.  Is there anything that signifies Spring, renewal and sunshine than this bold, joyful flower?

Master Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour took inspiration for the luminous solar floral scent from discovering seas of daffodils during a Spring visit to Kew Gardens with the British heritage brand.

The exquisite aromas reminded him of childhood memories of abundant, sweet narcissus flowers (the fragrant sister of the daffodil) in rural Auvergne, France.

More than simply a note, Ostara feels like a euphoric roll in the daffodils – in fact, it’s the only fragrance I’ve known to be so dedicated to these blooms.

Ostara immediately awakens the senses and represents the natural cycle of a daffodil, from bud to bloom.  It opens with a burst of green and yellow with Juniper, Violet Leaf Absolute and Spearmint layered against vivid Aldehydes, Blackcurrant and Clementine.

Elegant Narcissus Absolute leads the floral bouquet alongside Hyacinth, Hawthorn and Cyclamen to evoke the aromas of walking through countryside meadows and floral gardens.  Narcissus is at the heart of Ostara to create the illusion of daffodils, since there is no essential oil to extract from daffodils themselves.

The floral notes soon soften and a warmer, more seductive fragrance develops.  Benzoin, Vanilla, Stryrax, Amber and White Wood Effects creates the feeling of a balmy, spring afternoon with daffodils leaning towards the sun and swaying in the breeze.

Ostara is a unique, uplifting fragrance that transports you to the idyllic, sun-filled countryside, even if you’re stuck in the city.  For a fresh rush of Spring and an instant mood-elevator, give Penhaligon’s Ostara a try.

Penhaligon’s Ostara is available to buy now in-store and online, priced at £65 for 50ml and £85 for 100ml.

All photos by Penhaligon’s

PR sample

 

Beauty

Ultrasun Once-a-Day Sun Protection

The warm weather seems to have just sprung upon us this week, so now is the time to start protecting skin in the sun.  On my Celebrity Cruise of the Caribbean, I had the chance to try out some Ultrasun sun care products tailored to my skin requirements.

Highly-acclaimed sun protection brand Ultrasun is designed and created by Swiss sun care experts and is a beauty industry favourite.  Unlike other sun care brands that require top-ups during the day, Ultrasun’s revolutionary technology allows a safe once-a-day application.

As if that wasn’t enough, the formulas are free from emulsifiers and perfume, reducing the risk of allergy and making them suitable for children and those with sensitive skin.

I tried the Family SPF 30 (150ml/£25), which is the ‘go to’ body sun cream for very sensitive skin (basically everyone can use it).  The lotion has a light, non-greasy formula that instantly hydrates the skin and is quickly absorbed.  The hygienic airless pump dispenser also prevents product deterioration and contamination, so no pesky sand can find its way in.

Texture is important for me when choosing sun care, as I can’t bear oily or sticky sun creams that sit on the skin.  Amazingly, the Ultrasun SPF30 lotion simply feels like a regular body lotion, so you can wear it comfortable in the city as well as the beach.  My skin never burned once on my trip, even on my shoulders that are proven to sun damage, and it helped avoid any prickly heat.

Equally effective is Face SPF 30 (50ml/£20), which can be used instead of your daily moisturiser for all-day protection.  Its anti-ageing formula includes Ectoin to prevent UVA-induced premature photo ageing, Superoxide Dismutase to neutralise free radical activity and Boron Nitride (the Science of Softness) to reduce the appearance of fine lines.

It’s rare for me to find a light, non-comedogenic sun cream for the face that doesn’t make my combination skin break out, but Ultrasun has really nailed it.  I will be wearing it everyday from now through the summer in London, as it only needs to be applied once and won’t make my make-up melt off in the heat.

For the final touch, try Ultralip SPF 30 (15ml/£6) – a rich, velvety lip protector enriched with blackcurrant seed oil to moisturise and reduce inflammation and chapping.  It’s effective in both hot and cold climates and has a long-lasting, luxurious balm texture that feels pleasant on the lips.

I also used it on the aeroplane and it stood well against the arid atmosphere and stifling heat of the dreaded red-eye return flight.

Of course, choosing a good sun cream isn’t enough, it needs to be applied properly for it to be effective.  How often have you applied your suncream on the pool lounger or on the beach ((I know I have)?  This should be avoided, as it can evaporate when applied in direct sunlight and won’t have as much time to bond with the skin.

Instead, apply sun cream to cool, dry skin 30 minutes before going outside and use one teaspoon for the face and at least one teaspoon for each part of the body.

Ultrasun is at the higher end of the suncare market, but the high quality, effective formula and cutting-edge technology make it worth investing in.  It’s also long-lasting with 150ml bottle giving protection for one person for up to two weeks when applied to the whole body.

Want to delve a bit more into the science of sun care?  Ultrasun UK Sun Expert Abi Cleeve shares her advice on staying safe in the sun…

How important is using a facial SPF for preventing premature ageing?  Protection is vital for reducing the signs of ageing. Don’t just think in terms of SPF, UVA is actually just as vital. These are the rays that penetrate so deeply they cause loss of elastin, collagen and damage of our DNA. It is this damage that we see as ageing – increased wrinkles, pore size and slackened skin, alongside decreased elasticity, radiance and firmness.   The UVA filter percentage is key here. Ultrasun filters them to over 90% of UV rays and protects from UVB (that’s the SPF reading) simultaneously.  To give you a benchmark, Australian minimum standard UVA filter is 90%, EU is 33%.

Should it be used all-year round in UK weather? Absolutely, but pick your protection to suit your needs and environment.  Reach for the 50+ in extreme conditions, but on a bright February morning walk Face 30 would be ideal.  Think in terms of skin tone, where you are in the world and how much sun exposure you have had to help you make the right decision.  90% of UV rays penetrate through cloud  and UVA passes unhindered through glass.

Can Ultrasun help prevent pigmentation and age spots?

Pigmentation is one of those things that you don’t necessarily worry about until you have it, but when you do it can be very distressing. Many people, particularly women find the condition embarrassing so Ultrasun wanted to give their customers something that would both protect and care for their skin, whilst decreasing the visibility of existing pigmentation.

In recent years, the only way to treat pigmentation has been with lasers that are costly and sometimes painful. Thankfully Ultrasun has now developed an anti-ageing sun protection cream with anti-pigmentation technology that is suitable for even the most ultra sensitive of skins.

What are your tips for getting an even, healthy tan?

A good sun protection product does not affect the natural tanning capacity of the skin.  Top tips for keeping you safe in the sun at home and away:

1. Understand shade: To avoid the peak potency of the sun, take shade breaks between 11-3pm. Over 90% of UV can penetrate light cloud cover, and this remains a common mistake and reason for sunburn – both in the UK and abroad. Shade given by trees and parasols only gives protection from around 70% of UV rays. Out of the shade, remember a simple shadow rule: The shorter your own shadow, the higher the sun and the greater the risk.

2. Pick the right SPF factor: Skin that is not used to the sun is less able to protect itself. Under the influence of UV rays, the skin begins to thicken and starts producing melanin. These processes take 10-20 days to take place, so use extra protection while your skin is adjusting to the sun. Know your sun account and that there is a difference between an SPF of 50 or 50+. An SPF 50 is tested to be exactly that but a 50+ must achieve at least an SPF 58 to get that all important “+” sign.

3. Rehydrate your skin after sun exposure: After sunbathing, the skin needs a regeneration time of at least 12-14 hours. During this time, some of the damage to cells will be repaired, so ensure you use a good quality aftersun product that will help to accelerate this process by ensuring the skin is rehydrated

4. Remember to drink plenty of water: This will ensure that your skin (and body) stays hydrated throughout the day.

How nourishing is Ultrasun for the skin?

Ultrasun products are free from perfumes, mineral oils and preservatives such as parabens that can cause reactions, discomfort and put your skin under pressure. You want to support and help your skin’s own natural ability to protect itself and balance moisture levels. The skin is a very powerful organ, and because it’s on the outside its ability to deal with the environment by constantly evolving and renewing itself is really quite impressive. Skin can do this job uninterrupted when we choose products that help rather than disrupt.

What is the best way to protect hair in the sun?

Harmful UVA and UVB rays have the power to cause damage from the inner structure of the hair right through to the hair shaft itself, making it brittle and porous. Not only does over exposing your hair and scalp deplete hair of its natural protective oils, it can also cause damage to the cellular structure of the hair causing faded colour, frizziness, split ends and thinning hair.

Prolonged sun exposure without any proper protection can also dry out the hair and disrupt the cells of the hair cuticle which, if left untreated, increases the chance of hair loss, and leaves the hair prone to severe breakage.

The Ultrasun Daily UV Hair Protector provides an innovative complex of anti-oxidants and exclusive UV filters for the hair and scalp. This ground-breaking product offers protection against damaging environmental influences such as UVA, UVB, chlorine and salt water, and prevents fading of natural and colour treated hair.

For more information and to buy online, visit: www.ultrasun.co.uk

PR samples

Photos by Ultrasun and Chérie City