Snail gel – no, honestly!

First time I told my friends I used snail gel on my face I got some very strange looks.  In fact, every time I tell my friends I use snail gel I get some very strange looks.  Making the the leap from garden to face never appeared very strange to me.

I grew up in a small village of about one hundred people in the highlands of Scotland.  Many residents, including out school head master  grew up speaking Gaelic as their first langue and English as their second.  Impecable English at that.  Our curriculum covered all the basics, reading, writing, doing maths without using your fingers, but also covered a smattering of myth and legend, folklore and superstition.  My primary three teacher, Mrs Skinner (who none of us ever saw without about thirty thin silver bangles jangling on her right arm) told us how one cure for warts was to pick a snail up from the garden and let it wander all over the effected part.  The warts would be gone the next day.

So when browsing in Holland & Barrett and finding a Dr Organic product based on snail gel, it didn’t appear like a way out there idea.  I feel I’ve been vindicated.  I’ve always had what is euphemistically referred to as “problem skin”.  I’m not that far from forty and I still get hormonal acne!  I decided to change my skin care focus from covering it up, to actually, well… caring.  The snail gel was one of the first products I tried and it’s been amazing.  Within the first week my skin had visibly improved.  My acne has dramatically decreased, and the little I get now is vastly reduced in both size and subsequent scarring.

Although this is a product directly derived from an animal, it is cruelty free.  To harvest the gel all the snails need to do is slide up and down a piece of glass.  Dr Ogranic only harvest from “free roaming” snails.  What makes snail gel really work is the ingredients in it.  Snails produce their slime to repair any damage to their shells. Not dissimilar to the way we humans produce oil to protect our skin.  The snail gel also stimulates the production of elastin and collagen in human skin, so aids our repair too.

I’ve tried a few different brands of Snail Gel and I have to say Dr Organic’s is definitely the best.  They just add a little aloe vera and some citrus essential oil to lift the fragrance, but other than that it is fairly pure.  Dr Organic’s is exclusive to Holland & Barrett, but luckily all their stores stock it, and you can click and collect if they’ve run short, or order online.

When I first tried it I was put off the price £20 on the secretion of a snail!  It felt like a lot to spend on my vanity.  However I decided to consider it was spending on my skin health and self confidence.  Given that a little goes a long way, and Holland & Barrett often have it in its buy one get one half price offers I feel I’m worth it.

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DIY bath bombs

For mothers day this year my daughter and I made bath bombs.  I found these really easy to make.  Of course once you have the basics down you can adapt them with pretty much any smell, colour or additives (you will never get that glitter out your bath!) that you want.

Ingredients

100g citric acid

300g bicarbonate of soda

1tsp sweet almond oil

1tsp rosehip oil

Food colouring

Essential oils of your choice

Water

Step one

Mix all the oils and food colouring in a bowl.  There is no need to specifically use sweet almond oil or rosehip oil.  I added them for their skin moisturising properties.

Step two

In a separate large bowl mix the citric acid and bicarbonate of soda.  The bicab will be a little clumpy so it’s best to use the same kind of motion you’d use for rubbing butter and flour together when baking.

Step three

Start adding the oil/colour mix a little bit at a time, and gradually mixing in with your hands.

Step four

The next step is to add the water, and this is where it gets tricky.  Add too much water and the bicarb and citric acid will react together and you’ll have all the fizz in your bowl and none in the bath.  The best way to get round this is to use a spray bottle.  Spray in a small amount, and then mix.  Carry on until your mixture is still dry, but will clump together with a little pressure from your hands.

Step five

Now you can put your mix into your moulds.  I used silicone heart shaped cup cake moulds.

Step six

Leave to dry.  In my airing cupboard they dried in 24 hours.

Step seven

Add to your bath and relax.

 

Yes to… no.

grapefruit

A few years ago I discovered the Yes To range in the discount bin at Waitrose.  The Yes To Tomatos shower gel was reduced and I thought I’d give it a shot.  I was at first rather dubious as I wasn’t sure I wanted to smell like a tomato – however I found I loved the smell, not as much like pasta sauce as you’d assume.  I finished of the bottle pretty quickly.

I’m currently on the look out for a new moisturiser.  As I’m now quite close to 40 I need something that will not just deal with my combination acne prone skin with uneven tone, but also something that will help me age with enough grace to not panic about it.

As I’m a sucker for natural products and I loved the shower gel I searched through the Yes To range and decided to try the Yes To Grapefruit which promises a more even skin tone.  I also liked the fact that the moisturiser is cruelty free and,SLS and paraben free.  The website also says it is 98% natural.  I don’t put too much weight on boasts about skin products naturalness unless they are 100% – otherwise it’s just marketing spiel.  That last 2% could be made up of anything.  If you do want to check though the Cosmetic’s Database, is a good place to start.

The moisturiser definitely left my skin feeling moisturised.  However my main problem was that the fluid itself did not absorb easily, and left a chalky residue.  This meant that hours after moisturising finding fine white lines near my hairline or jaw, where I thought I had rubbed all the moisturiser in, but obviously hadn’t.

While Yes To Grapefruit didn’t do anything bad for my skin, at the same time it didn’t really do anything great.  After using a whole bottle I didn’t see much of a difference in my skin tone, my age spots are still as visible as they were and the acne scarring didn’t show any accelerated healing.  All in all a mediocre skin experience.

 

Lush products, and random acts of kindness

My daughter and I really love Lush.  My daughter likes their playful and imaginative creations, and excellent customer service – she’s been shopping there since she was five.  I like the fact that unlike many beauty companies their ethical and body positive messages are not tacked on in response to a CSR policy or a focus group.  It was built into the fabric of the company from day one.  That’s authenticity.  Authenticity is a terribly attractive thing.

A few weeks ago I was feel physically low.  I’d had a stressful period at work, had to move home, had recently been on a course of antibiotics and unbeknown to me, was just about to come down with a dose of sinusitis.  Things that I can deal with on their own.  Stick them all in a two week period and it gets a bit much.

On my way home from work instead of waiting in the cold and dark for the bus I decided to pop into Lush on Edinburgh’s Princess St.  I spoke to the assistant and told her that I was looking for a product for a bit of pampering and relaxing because I’d been having a bad time.  She guided me through some products.  Cerdiwen’s Cauldron really caught my eye, but for some reason I can’t explain I didn’t get it.  I settled instead for the Floating Island bath melt and A French Kiss bubble bar.

Just as I’d paid for my purchases the assistant I originally spoke to came up to me, and gave me a bag containing a gift of Cerdiwen’s Cauldron – just because I’d said I’d been having a bad day.  It was like that moment in a friendship where you thought your friend was pretty cool and loved hanging out with them, then out of the blue they do or say something which makes you realise what an incredibly awesome person you’re lucky to be friends with.  Waiting at the bus stop to go home I certainly felt a little teary because of this unexpected act of kindness.

A French Kiss bubble bar

This bubble bar comes in a swirl of purple and white and is packed with French lavender and rosemary.  The bubbles were not as profuse as I expected, so if it’s frothiness you’re after another choice might be better for you. Rosemary is one of my favourite essential oils for its head clearing properties.  I’m a big believer in lavender for its relaxing qualities and it certainly did that.  Lavender however can be a little overpowering so I popped the bath melt in as well.

Floating Island

Now vanilla can be a slightly derogatory term in some circles, but in this bath melt it is heavenly.  You pop the melt in the bath and it slowly releases its oils and the warm and reassuring fragrance of fair trade vanilla.  A grown-up, and sophisticated way of relaxing in the bath.

Cerdiwen Cauldron

This was the main event for me and I was really excited to use it.  Cerdiwen is an enchantress of Welsh legend, who possessed the cauldron of poetic inspiration – could this be what I need to get my poetry writing kick started again?  She is also considered a goddess of rebirth and transformation, which is very much what I felt in need of.   It contains coco butter, oats, sandalwood and rose absolute – all products that sooth the skin.  To use it hang the muslin bag under the hot tap as it runs, and it melts into the water.  It was a great bath experience and it left my skin so well moisturised there was no need to use body lotions after.  What’s left in the bag is a kind of mulch that didn’t dissolve.  Instead of throwing it out I’ve been using it in the shower to get another hit of rebirth and renewal.

Cerdiwen’s Cauldron and Floating Island – big points for sophistication and luxury

A French Kiss Bubble Bar – Not all that

Staff and random acts of kindness – absolutely priceless

 

DIY Body Lotion

I’ve been feeling a little stressed recently, and my body has been dealing with a combination of reoccurring infections and strong antibiotics which is leaving it feeling unhappy.  I find one of the ways to effectively relieve stress is generally to be creative and make something.  My body also normally feels better if I show it a little love and attention.  So I decided to make some more of my home made body lotion.

The key to this body lotion is to get the solid to oil ration right which should be 75% to 25%.  I personally really like coco butter as my solid – it smells fantastic, and coco butter softens at body temperature.  Coconut oil also softens easily and the combination helps the lotion melt into the skin.  the coconut oil is also key to helping it whip up into a light mixture during the whisking stage.  I’ve tried this recipe several times with other oils, and coconut so far gives the lightest whip I’ve found.  I also added a bit of sweet almond oil to this mix, mainly because it was hanging around unused on my bathroom shelves, and a mix of my favourite essential oils.

The wildcard in today’s recipe was the addition of rosewater.  I hadn’t used this before but I basically love Turkish delight, so thought I’d give it a try.

Ingredients

7.5oz coco butter

2oz cconut oil (yes, I sometimes weight liquids on scales, it makes it easier).

0.5oz sweet almond oil

essential oils

100mls rosewater

You can view how each of the following stages should look in the slideshow above.

Step one

After measuring out the coco butter and oils I put them in my slow cooker on low and gently allow them to melt.  If you don’t have a slow cooker a home made bane marie can be made by placing a glass bowl on the top of a saucepan with gently simmering water in it.  Don’t let the bowl touch the water (I don’t know what happens if it does, but I’m assuming because you’re told it so often it’s the cooking equivalent of crossing the streams in Ghostbusters).  The important thing at this stage is to melt slowly, as a lot of heat will damage nutrients in your ingredients.  Once all the ingredients have melted together, place them in your fridge.

Step two

After about an hour the ingredients should have set solid.  This is time to start the whipping process.  If you are in a very cold country, or you have left your ingredients in the fridge too long you may need to warm them slightly by setting them on the ban marie again.  There is no need to melt them complete though, but you might need to whisk for longer to remove lumps and achieve a smooth texture.  I wouldn’t do this by hand.

Step three

At this point I add my essential oils.  You’ll know what’s best for you.  Whip it all up again.  the texture should be like whipped double cream.

Step four

I was less sure of this step as I hadn’t added rose water before.  The key here is to add it slowly.  About a capful at a time is enough, and make sure it is well combined before adding the next.

Step five

I treated myself to some kilner jars, and stuffed the body lotion in with a spatula.  I’d avoided these jars for a while as I’d assumed they would be expensive.  However getting them at the supermarket or somewhere like TX Maxx isn’t too bad.

And voi-la!  I now feel a bit more pampered, calmer and ever-so-slightly more blissful.

Lip scrub. Really?

I got the latest Lush lip scrub Santa Baby, as a present this Christmas.  It was a seasonal red, made from sugar, and had tiny, tiny little hearts in, almost as though it was designed to appeal to just me. Like every Lush product it smells amazing (of cola bottles), and unlike most of them this one is edible.  Really though the question I was left with after using it was, do we really need lip scrubs?

Our lips have some of the most delicate skin on our bodies.  The other delicate skin area is round the eyes – and I wouldn’t want to rub them all over with hard grainy sugar.  Our lips also don’t have any sebaceous glands, and therefore don’t produce oil and moisturise in the way other body areas do. Therefore when it is dry (i.e. winter and the radiators are on) the skin on your lips dries out.  So the flaking that many people experience is really to do with lack of moisture rather than large amounts of dry skin building up on your lips.  With the cycle of skins production and replacement taking 28 days it’s hard to imagine how in between daily eating, drinking, washing and anything else you might be doing with your lips, dead skin would have time to build up.

If your lips are like mine when they get chapped they also start getting sensitive.  Again, I just don’t really want to rub hard grainy sugar on any sensitive area.  If you’re really having problems with chapped, flaky lips then I’d recommend Lush’s Honey Trap lip balm and/or some aloe vera gel.  It’s far kinder.  If you still want to scrub your lips then using a wash cloth or old toothbrush will be much cheaper.

When it comes to the need for lip scrubs this one really has been a win for the marketing people.