With the cold weather beginning to set in, now is the time to lavish plenty of care on your skin, to prevent it chapping and drying out, and give it enough hydration and nourishment to see it through to spring.
Exfoliation is an important aspect, sloughing off the old, dead cells and enabling the fresh new ones to shine through and moisture to sink in more easily. One of the best, most gentle facial exfoliators that I've discovered is Willow's Rose and Manuka Honey Gentle Exfoliator. As well as rose and manuka honey, it contains a number of seed and plant oils and butters, including bamboo extract which helps to soothe skin, and anti-oxidants to boost radiance and minimise wrinkles. The action is very soft indeed, the texture is rich and creamy with tiny exfoliating beads, and the scent is delightfully floral, making this a truly enjoyable product to use.
Cleansing is important, too, to unblock pores, and Face B4 Daily Cleansing Foam has a dual nozzle that dispenses cleanser and toner at the same time, with a special formula which cleans pores and reduces excess oil. The odour is slightly chemical but not unpleasant, and the product seems to work well.
Salcura has also developed various products to help clean skin and prevent spots. The deep cleansing Daily Facial Wipes are designed to deal with blackheads, acne, pimples and whiteheads. They are very moist and have a slightly odd and chemical (though again, not entirely unattractive) odour, and leave a slightly sticky residue, but they do clean thoroughly. There is also the intensive Salcura Activ Gel Serum, and a Liquid Spray -- another intensive therapy to help prevents spots- using, I was pleased to note, only natural vitamins, minerals and oils.
For those who do not need such intensive treatment, I can recommend Jane Iredale's Botanical Make-Up Remover. With a variety of plant extracts and oils, including cucumber, oat, radish and honeysuckle, this clear liquid make-up remover has a floral scent (mainly honeysuckle) and a gentle yet effective action, very softly removing make-up and leaving skin moisturised without any traces of grease or oiliness.
For a special treat, one can try Vitabella's Spa Treatment In a Box: a mask and cream nicely packaged.Pour the hydration lotion onto the mask, which is tightly packed up in a tablet, so that it expands. Place the mask on the face (my eight-month-old son found this hilarious, so it is probably best to do this when one is alone in the house), and leave on for ten minutes. The face does indeed feel gloriously nourished and moisturised afterwards --the product claims to increase skin hydration by up to 20%. The rich and creamy face cream also helps to pump extra moisture into the skin, and there is enough in the little pot to keep one going for a good week or two.
Applying a serum before moisturising is often a good idea and can help to tackle a number of skin problems. I've been using the excellent Defensil Rescue Serum from Skin Shop: a highly effective and superbly nourishing serum that protects, soothes and restores. It combines two natural ingredients: extract of soapberry seed, and cold-pressed echium oil, both of which act to stabilise and regenerate skin. The serum also reduces redness, itching, flaking, drying and skin sensitivity.
Finally (for the face at least), lips can take a real bashing during the colder months, and to combat this I've been using the Honey Trap Lip Balm from Lush. This white chocolate with vanilla and honey balm smells exactly like playdough -- irresistible! -- and it gently soothes and moisturises dry and chapped lips, plumping them and preventing any further drying. It feels very restorative, and comes highly recommended.
The body also needs exfoliation, and the Brazil Nut Cream Body Scrub from the Body Shop is a good option - a wonderfully creamy, nutty body scrub with a powerful (and pleasant) odour of nuts, and tiny chunks of brazil nut shell that work well as an exfoliant. This scrub leaves skin smooth and soft and smelling lovely. Another choice would be Ocean Salt from Lush -- a scrub for both the face and the body, with fine sea salt, organic limes, fresh grapefruit infusion, violet leaf, coconut oil, seaweed and avocado butter to help soften skin. The pleasant and tangy odour is mildly marine and the scrub works well to slough off dead skin whilst not leaving it too dry.
Still on the subject of exfoliation, I've recently tried the Exfoliating Socks from Footner. One leaves the socks, filled with an exfoliating gel, on for an hour, then over the next five to ten days the old skin starts to disappear and leave new skin underneath.You need to wear your own (or in my case, my husband's) socks over the top to keep the exfoliating socks on (of course it's a one-size-fits-all, but with my tiny feet I was swamped).In any case, the product was highly effective.
Intensive moisturising is needed after exfoliation, and for this I can thoroughly recommend iRejuvenate from Forest Secrets, a rich and creamy lotion that gives body and hands deep moisturisation. It is particularly easily absorbed and leaves the skin feeling immensely smooth, silky and soft with not a hint of greasiness. The scent is pleasing as well, floral but light: on the whole, this lotion is a joy to use and works superbly well.
I have also been using the Visionary Soap Company's Orange Geranium Hand and Body Balm, a deeply nourishing balm with all-organic ingredients, including shea butter, olive oil, sweet orange peel and geranium oil, along with added vitamin E, in an unusually short and natural list of ingredients. The scent is intense and sweetly orangey, and the balm is quite thick and oily (although it softens as it warms in the hands), perhaps making it better for rough bits such as elbows, rather than as an over-all body balm.
Baylis & Harding's Pink Orchid Silky Body Lotion has a gentle floral scent, is easily absorbed, and spreads well over the body. With a good moisturising action, it also leaves skin smooth, whilst Vaseline's Spray and Go body moisturiser, a non-greasy spray that moisturises in seconds, obviating the need to wait for a cream or lotion to sink in.It works well, leaving skin soft and well-moisturised, although it lacks the gorgeous scents that make other moisturisers such a pleasure to use.
Hands need moisturising as well, and Skin Blossom's Caring Hand Cream contains a blend of plant oils, shea and cocoa butter. With rose and geranium, this has a beautiful, uplifting scent. It is a very rich cream that you can feel sinking into the skin, nourishing and protecting it.Highly recommended.
For the feet, the invigorating and yet comforting Foot Soother from the Bakewell Soap Company is a wonderfully reviving and healing foot balm with arnica, peppermint and cajeput, as well as zinc to heal cracked skin. I used it after a series of daily ten-mile-plus walks in the Yorkshire Dales.Pastel coloured, with a soft, pliable, yet slightly waxy texture, and a powerful but pleasing odour of mint, it left my feet feeling silky soft, nourished and revived.
Another recent discovery was the Rosemary Deodorant from Green People, a gentle but effective deodorant with a truly lovely rosemary scent, and containing nothing nasty -- just pure, natural and mainly organic ingredients. One of the best deodorants around.
Hair also often needs a boost at this time of year, and I've enjoyed using Bi-Organics products, especially the Replenishing Shampoo and Salon Secret treatment. The shampoo contains organic argan oil, wheat protein to help strengthen hair, lavender oil and ylang-ylang. As a consequence it has a lovely scent, quite herby yet invigorating, and it works extremely well, lathering quickly into very soft bubbles and leaving hair feeling full, clean, strong and healthy - a really excellent product. For superb results, follow this with the treatment, which also contains argan oil, this time with hydrolyzed vegetable protein (which restores and repairs damaged hair) and sunflower seed extract, which protects against sun damage. Again, this has a pleasant smell, and works well, imparting softness and shine to hair, and also, importantly, leaving it feeling hydrated and less dry. I got on less well with the Remoist Now leave-in conditioner, this being the only Bi-Organics product that I wasn't extremely impressed by.This was perhaps due to personal taste, as I prefer to wash out my conditioner, not leave it in, and also because I am not a fan of one of the main ingredients (coconut oil), although it also features wonderful organic chestnut extract. In any case, it didn't seem to make my hair as soft as usual after use,so I would recommend sticking to the Replenishing Treatment instead.
Another hair product that pleasantly surprised me was Chill's Ed Blonde shampoo and conditioner. At first I was startled by the brilliant purple colour of the shampoo and must confess that I lathered my hair with not a little hesitation and suspicion, but actually the shampoo works really rather well, cleaning thoroughly and leaving hair well-nourished. It contains black mulberry extract and violet (which is meant to eliminate brassy or yellow tones in blonde hair, whether naturally blonde or treated), hence the brilliant colour. It has a pleasant, vaguely floral odour and a very good cleansing action, leaving hair squeaky clean. The conditioner is more a matt mauve as opposed to the violently vibrant colour of the shampoo. It contains grape seed oil and leaves hair shiny and moisturised, with good body and just slightly fluffy (but not in a bad way).
The Snowman Shower Jelly from Lush had also come my way -- white globules of wobbly jelly that one uses to create a soft lather. Made with Sicilian lemon oil, bergamot oil and carrot infusion, the odour is sweet, with a slight citrus tang. The only problem was that the pieces of jelly were so slippery that more went down the plug hole than over me! I got on slightly better with the Field of Flowers magnolia blossom shampoo, shower gel and bubble bath, which comes in an elegant and attractive bottle. This "all-in-one" emits a pleasing floral scent, and although it doesn't work quite so well as a bubble bath, it is nevertheless superb as a shower gel, leaving skin very soft and moisturised.You don't need much to produce a soft and cleansing lather. It is also excellent as a shampoo and renders hair immensely soft and conditioned, as well as clean.
Finally, three wonderful products for the bath to leave you feeling luxuriously pampered. Dead Sea Spa Magik Bath Salts are a completely natural blend of salt, mud and mineral extracts from the Dead Sea, which has, of course, been renowned throughout history for the restorative effects of its waters and salt. These salts contain healing magnesium, purifying and hydrating potassium and sodium, anti-aging calcium and relaxing bromide, and, added to a bath, leave one feeling relaxed, one's skin moisturised and soothed.
Oats have also long been recognised for their soothing, softening and calming properties, as well as helping with a number of skin conditions and problems, and Skin Shop's Oat Oak leaves the skin very silky, feeling deeply nourished. Finally, another natural skin cure: salt from springs near Epsom in Surrey are rich in magnesium sulphate, and can be used to help cure a number of ailments, but also for beauty treatments, too, from exfoliation to lessening the appearance of bruises, and reducing puffiness, aches and pains. The Epsom Salts that I tried were deeply relaxing and restorative when used in the bath, and my skin felt soft and nourished when I emerged.--Em Marshall-Luck