Skin needs increased care over the autumn and winter months, to counter the drying effects of central heating and the chapping effects of cold winds. The products below all come recommended for their protecting, natural and nourishing qualities.
Starting with skincare, I've been impressed recently by Bareskin Beauty, all of whose beauty products are fully tailored to the customer (you fill in an extensive questionnaire first to ensure that the products are mixed perfectly for your skin's needs), and come in beautiful little blue glass bottles with dispensers. The rose and tea-tree vitamin water has a wonderfully herbal aroma and an action that gently tones and refreshes, imparting vital minerals and vitamins, whilst the rose and sandalwood cleanser contains organic hemp, coconut oil, aloe vera, rose oil and sandalwood oil. It smells gorgeously floral and works well, leaving skin feeling clean but also nourished. I've also been using the Body Shop's Brazil Nut Beautifying Oil at night to prevent my skin drying out. A dry oil for the face, hair and body, it is easily absorbed and leaves skin looking fresh and nourished in the morning - beautifully soft, and well moisturised.
If you are suffering from unhappiness of skin in the form of spots, there is a very good solution in the Harley Street Skin Care's Spot buster. This spray-on solution has been formulated with salicylic acid to help prevent the formation of spots; anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, it reduces oil production and clears the skin, unblocking pores. Moreover, it is nicely presented in a smart blue glass bottle so looks good on the shelf as well as helping your skin. The odour is slightly reminiscent of witch-hazel and the product works amazingly well, leaving skin feeling clean, oil-free and clear but not too dry.
A good body scrub is an essential product all year round, and I've recently come across Ruby Red's Smoothing Body Scrub. This comes in a hefty glass tub - no cheap plastic containers here! It contains extracts of red mandarin, lemon peel, bergamot and cedarwood oils and is rich in vitamins A and E. The smell is intensely citrusy and the grains are a mixture of very coarse and fine for an all-round polishing and scrubbing effect. The skin is left coated in healthy oils and beautifully smooth.
Moisturising is vital after scrubbing, and for that I've been using La Cure's Papaya Body Butter. La Cure is based in Wimborne in Dorset, although ingredients come from the Dead Sea in Jordan. This butter is very rich and thick, with an appealing, slightly fruity aroma and works well to nourish and moisturise skin. Another option is Body Botanics' Revive Skin Cream. This includes nettle, Echinacea, vitamin E, shea butter, avocado oil, evening primrose and essential oils. It doesn't glide on particularly smoothly (and I found it very difficult to get out of the little travel bottle I was sent as a press sample), but nevertheless it has a very pleasant herbal, floral aroma.
I've also recently been sent for review a new whitening toothpaste. BlanX toothpaste contains ActiluX, an innovative formula which the toothpaste deposits on your teeth, coating them and remaining active through the day. This reacts to light, naturally whitening the teeth whilst at the same time removing the bacteria causing plaque and decay. It has a fresh, minty taste, and seemed to work reasonably well for me.
If you're a soap person, you might like to try the Littlecote Soap Company's White Wine & Fig Pure, Natural Olive Oil Soap (with white grape, fig, vanilla and moss), with its very sweet and luxurious odour, or the G&T Luxury Organic Soap (containing essential oils), with its wonderfully refreshing, zesty, citric odour. If you are more of a gel person, I can commend Lush's Twilight shower gel. This is particularly good if you feel in party mood, as it is rather like liquorice toffee for the body -- a purple sparkly shower gel, which is made with lavender, and leaves skin smelling very sweet and wonderful all day long! If you're keen on zingy citrusy scents, do try Imperial Leather's Citrus Burst: a rich and thick gel with lime oil and kiwi extract that is immensely refreshing to use, with an intense perfume and good cleaning action. Otherwise, look out for Heathcote & Ivory's Dandelion Dream Shower Cream, which comes beautifully packaged in an attractively designed, sophisticated looking box, making it a good option for a special gift. It lathers well, has an intense dandelion scent and is very soft and gentle on the skin.
Dorset-based, innovative Lush continues to produce numerous bath products as well, and some of my favourites are the Party Popper Bath Ballistic (featuring bergamot, tangerine and rose oils, real soap flakes and honeydew melon) which gently fizzes away, turning the water purple; the Cinders Bath Ballistic (which contains cinnamon leaf oil and sweet orange oil and turns the water brilliant orange); the Madam Butterfly Reusable Bubble Bar (a bright pink bar on a wand, to be waved in the bath water or under the running tap for the best results), filling the bath full of soft bubbles and making the water pink; and the Henata and Carrot Bath Ballistics. The latter is a reusable orange bubble bar and the former an orange hen containing a bluey-green egg, which melt, fizzing, in the bath, leaving it full of flowers. Seasonal bath products, which would make great stocking fillers, are the pink and sparkly Snow Fairy, with its candyfloss and vanilla odours; the lovely Melting Snowman Bath Melt; the Candy Fluff Bath Ballistic, and the Pumpkin Bubble Bar, which produces a good mass of soft bubbles and orange water. Particular favourites are the Soot Ball Bath Bomb (black on the outside and golden in the middle, this is made with tonka absolute and sandalwood oil, and fills the water with millions of tiny shimmering particles and a glorious scent); the Bombardino Bath Ballistic, which features cocoa butter to soften skin, along with vanilla and Sicilian lemon for fragrance; and the Luxury Lush Pud Bath Ballistic, with lavender and ylang ylang. This is great fun, turning the water a deep, rich, vibrant but clear purple colour. Finally, one festive Lush body scrub to recommend: the superb Sandy Santa Sugar Scrub, which leaves skin feeling beautifully soft and nourished, although it has the disadvantage of melting quickly.
Some other bath products have come to my attention recently. Natural Empathy's Bathing Beauty Bath Milk, with organic essential oils and white tea extract, has a deeply appealing scent - floral and herby - which delicately pervades the bath and turns the waters soft and white. One's skin also feels blissfully soft on emerging. Willow, meanwhile, provides a luxurious alternative in its bath oil set. This set of three oils arrives beautifully packaged in an attractive box with roses and ribbons. The three different scents are rose and sandalwood; orange, lime and bergamot; and jasmine and geranium. They are just superb - only a few drops in the bath make all the difference. I should here add that Willow also produce a candle, presented in a beautiful glass jar covered with dried roses and in pink crepe paper. It is one of the best candles I've ever encountered, burning with a pure, absolutely steady, clean and brilliant flame, and emitting a delicate scent of roses. Perfect for that long, relaxing bath when you just need to shut away the world and retreat into yourself.
I recently also received a Beautifully Brunette Conditioner and Shampoo from Leo Bancroft. Although I'm blonde, not brunette, I decided to give this a go (my husband claims that my hair is now more caramel rather than light blonde as before!) The aroma is pleasant and the conditioner does, indeed, impart a good shine, although I found the list of ingredients slightly "chemically" (as opposed to more natural ingredients). The shampoo likewise has a pleasant smell, imparts a good shine and lathers well.
Natural Empathy also has shampoo and conditioner products: the Luxury Natural Shampoo, which has a lovely fresh, woody, floral fragrance that reminds one of pine forests and mountain streams, and the Natural Luxury Conditioner, with the same fragrance, both of which work reasonably well and can be recommended. And, of course, those inventive and busy people at Lush have more hair products, some of which I've found more successful than others. I wasn't completely convinced by Blousey Shampoo, which is made from fresh natural ingredients - bananas, cocoa butter, capuacu butter, organic cloves, star anise and pimento berries, and perfumed with rose oil, blackcurrant, thyme oil, rosemary oil and juniper berry oil. It certainly nourishes and feeds hair, yet I found it a little too "lumpy" and it didn't seem to lather well. Nevertheless, this thick and rich shampoo seemed to do the job in terms of cleaning hair, so maybe it's just my natural aversion to putting bananas in my hair! I preferred their Fairtrade Honey Shampoo, a wonderfully cleansing shampoo made with fair-trade honey and flower oils, which has a lovely aroma and works well. I also tried Happy Happy Joy Joy, a conditioning hair perfume. This is packed with almond milk, jojoba oil, rose and orange flower waters, and really does smell absolutely wonderful - a glorious floral, summery scent that remains all day. The downside is that it isn't particularly thick and requires a fair amount to also get the silky conditioning feeling when applying it.
There are a last few assorted products to recommend. A decent deodorant is important, and I found in Salt of the Earth's Natural Deodorant a superb fragrance-free deodorant made with natural alum (mineral salt), organic aloe vera and honeysuckle extract. It works well and comes in a handy travel-bottle size, perfect for being on the move.
If, like me, you suffer from tension and stress headaches, then I heartily recommend Tisserand Aromatherapy's Tea Tree Essential Oil Blend (with its jojoba base, tea tree oil, grapefruit, lavender oil and manuka honey), and Lavender Essential Oil Blend (with lavender, chamomile and jojoba). These are little glass bottles with roller balls at the end to roll the oils onto the skin. Both of them are absolutely fantastic - and perfect for keeping on one's desk for an instantly restorative and calming effect. They have a lovely massaging motion (especially good on the temples) and deeply soothing, calming scents. If you prefer to use vaporising oils instead, Tisserand offers an appropriate solution in the form of Seasonal Joy vaporising oil. This, again, is a hundred percent natural blend of essential oils, including clove, orange, nutmeg, cinnamon, Himalayan cedarwood, mandarin, frankincense, and ylang ylang oil. It is wonderfully warming and very festive indeed -- the essence of Christmas!
Finally, insomnia is a perennial problem, especially with today's high-tension lifestyles. One solution can be found in the form of Primavera's Lavender Pillow Mist, which is attractively presented in a glass bottle. Spray it onto the pillow for a pleasing, relaxing, lavender aroma that gently soothes and assists sleep. It contains only natural ingredients, the others including vanilla and honey extracts, and various fruit, wood, plant and flower oils.--Em Marshall-Luck