Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Beauty Products That Really Work

An unashamedly girly post this week, on the beauty products I reckon are worth shelling out a few quid for. I've always had a thing for skincare, particularly as my skin has misbehaved in a variety of ways over the years, and have experimented with a wide variety of products at all price points, from much talked-about budget pharmacy brands to ruinously expensive potions from Space NK.

It's only taken about 20 years, but I think I've finally pinpointed the products that really work for me and actually justify their expensive price points. These are them...

I was a bit of Liz Earle refusnik for a while - I have no idea why, but I think it might be because I used to look at pictures of Liz Earle and find her a bit smug, therefore putting me off  the products. Silly me - both these items are brilliant. I took a while to get used to the whole hot cloth bit, and it's a bit of a faff if you're traveling and you can't dry your cloth, but this cleanser is a GOOD cleanser. I wish I'd known way back when that creamy cleansers are much more effective and kinder to your skin than gel cleansers, which generally sit on the skin, and can often strip oily skin, only making it produce even more oil (and therefore clog it up even more.) 

This is a gentle, non-aggravating cleanser with soothing ingredients like cocoa butter and eucalyptus oil. Once I've washed it off with the cloth, I then finish off with the exfoliator for a final polish. As exfoliators go, this is the kindest I've used and is gentle enough for daily use. It goes without saying I'm a convert to the Liz Earle way...

Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant

I use this once a week and it really seems to help smoothen and glowify skin. It's not an exfoliant you rub into your face but more of a mask that you leave on for 10 minutes before rinsing off. It contains both lactic and hydroxy acid both of which help to lift off dead skin cells, which can be buggers for clogging up your pores and causing spots. As the name suggests, it should be suitable for most skin types, even sensitive.

REN Wake Wonderful Overnight Facial

Everything about my face looks really tired and haggard when I first wake up. And that's only going to get worse, I guess. Where a splash of cold water once did the trick to wake everything up, nowadays I'm realising the necessity of employing something a little more intensive than a bit of H20 to make me look a less deathly in the mornings. I'm a big fan of REN products and this serum is a mix of fruit acids and omega oils...it's a combination that really does seem to give you a more radiant, less wrinkly pallor on waking up. If you worry about putting oils on your skin at night, really don't - they're a miracle cure for all kinds of facial ills and won't make your break out in boils, honest. Do note this product is not suitable for sensitive skins, though.

Erborian HD CC Cream

I've blogged about this wonder stuff before so I won't repeat myself but suffice to say, this tinted moisturiser is pretty spectacular at evening out skin tone, covering shadows and blemishes and generally making your skin look its best. Use it alone or with your foundation or even in lieu of sun cream - it's got an SPF of 45 so it's a good one to add to your suitcase if you're not keen on going barefaced to the beach.

Read my full review here. And don't hate me for recommending a prouduct that costs £38 - it lasts for ages and makes you feel happy in your skin. I think that's good enough justification...

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

A Weekend in Hay-on-Wye

There's a long list of places on my travel bucket list, mainly overseas and - unfortunately - not places I see myself getting to anytime soon. So I've decided to make 2016 the year I explore my UK bucket list - a cheaper and more convenient way to sate my wanderlust, plus there are a lot of places in our green and pleasant land I'd really like to acquaint myself with...Salcome, Whitstable, the trough of Bowland, to name just a few.

Hay-on-Wye was on my list too, until I had the pleasure of crossing it off on a recent trip over half term. If you have a passing interest in books, like exploring beautiful countryside and can think of worse ways to spend an evening than cosying up in a traditional pub, you'll probably love Hay as much as I did.

First, the bookshops. The place is heaving with them, but they're not like your local Waterstones. The bookshops in Hay are all independent, quirky places, filled with antiquarian delights for serious collectors as well as contemporary, first-hand books. These are places to browse for hours and pick up hidden gems, rare editions or specialist books covering every subject under the sun. If you've ever been to the delightful Daunt Books in London, that gives some flavour of what Hay's all about.

Don't miss a browse around Richard Booth's bookshop, one of the larger shops in the town, characterised by a gorgeous tile-clad facade. Inside the atmosphere is tranquil and genteel, with three floors of book-filled rooms, including a Folio Society reading area. Downstairs there's a lovely cafe - we popped in for coffee and cake but watched enviously as other diners enjoyed what looked like delicious brunch options.

Aside from bookshops, Hay's small but bustling centre is a great mix of cute cafes, gastro pubs and leftfield independents. I can't remember seeing one chain, aside from the odd building society or bank and one Spar. There is a good size Co-Op just off the main high street which is useful if you're self catering. 

If you're an urbane sort who likes to know where you're next macchiato is coming from, you'll love The Old Electric Shop, a cavernous shop and cafe filled with retro furniture, vintage clothing and the sort of curios that you'd probably pay a lot more for in Shoreditch. 

Another shop that caught my eye was was The End, a tiny, two-floor treasure trove filled with all sorts of interesting pieces for your home - I wasn't really after a massive cat head, but I was sorely temped to buy said item when I stumbled upon it, in amongst some lovely textiles, antique mirrors and edgy taxidermy.

The beauty of Hay doesn't lie solely in retail opportunities, though. It enjoys a wonderful location nestled on the Welsh borders, close to the river Wye, Offa's Dyke, the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains. We were lucky to have dry weather during our stay, but it was a bit too cold and grey for any major exploration. A wander along the Wye is a lovely way to stretch the legs, and on warmer days I'd imagine this makes a great spot for a picnic.

If you're into hill walking, don't miss a trip to the nearby Hay Bluff, a peaceful spot with impressive views across the surrounding hills. It was covered in snow when we visited so we were unable to climb to its summit, but it's a wonderful place to fill your lungs with air and enjoy some unbroken tranquility. 

Post-hike, you'll want warming up at a cosy pub - we found Hay's Blue Boar the best place for this, though there are plenty of other pubs to choose from in the vicinity. For food, we enjoyed fish and chips from Terris on the High Street as well as a delicious meal at the top-rated tapas restaurant Tomatitos. The atmosphere here is informal and friendly, and the food really authentic and good value. 

Our base for the weekend was a fantastic Airbnb find - 'Haybreaks' - which was perfect for our requirements - central location, budget-friendly and equipped with everything you might need on a short break. With two double bedrooms and two bathrooms, it's a perfect base for families and is situated on the main high street so everything is within easy distance. Our hosts were lovely, leaving us chocolate and prosecco to enjoy, and the apartment was absolutely spotless and filled with lovely furnishings, toiletries and essentials. I can't recommend this place highly enough.

Next up, Edinburgh and my very first trip to Scotland...

For more information on Hay-on-Wye, visit the tourist board website here.

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