17 June 2018
While I could spend many hours watching make-up tutorials on Instagram (I mean, the magic of contouring!), I am definitely a ‘no make-up make-up’ kind of girl. I will always prioritise skincare over the stuff to cover up my skin, and while the sheer number of cleanser/acid/serum/lotion combinations to suit each individual skin are way beyond my (lack of) expertise, the following three tools help me on a daily basis to keep it in the best condition possible without a facialist on speed dial.
Hayo’u Beauty Restorer
I have mentioned the Hayo’u Beauty Restorer on Instagram before, in nothing short of glowing (pun intended) terms. For a relatively simple-looking piece of jade, it gives brilliant results that improve with daily use. With the help of an easy-to-follow instruction video by the founder of Hayo’u, Katie Brindle, you need just a minute a day to perform a combination of deep breathing, strokes and pressure point holds that improve circulation and assist detoxification. It may sound a little ‘alternative’ when you consider the more high-tech approach to modern skincare, but it’s based on a healing technique from Chinese medicine known as Gua sha.
I use it with the heavenly Hayo’u Beauty Oil (on my forehead, cheeks and neck only – it depends on how your skin gets on with facial oil) every evening, and it is not only hugely relaxing, but has already made a significant improvement to the definition of my jawline and the firmness of my skin.
At £35 for the Beauty Restorer, it’s a one-off investment (unless you drop it on your bathroom floor…) that will keep on giving. The Beauty Oil is £33, but there are sometimes specials if you buy both. There is also a range of body products (next on my list!)
Clinique Sonic Brush
This tool requires a bit of a deep breath on the price front (although, not quite the deep breath of some of its competitors!) At £79, the Clinique Sonic Brush is obviously a bit of an investment (I suppose some beauty experts would consider it a mere drop in the ocean of insane product prices…), but I’ve had mine for a year, using it every single morning, and I’ve only had to recharge it once and buy one replacement brush head (£17). The good news is that it’s often on special at Boots and on some of the online shops that stock Clinique – I bought mine half price – so if you’re willing to wait and watch a bit, you might see it drop in price at some point.
It really gives your skin a really thorough, but not abrasive, clean if used with the Liquid Facial Soap (£16.50 – it lasts for ages) for a minute every morning. It did lead to a bit of a break-out for me initially, but now helps me maintain a clear complexion like no other product has managed before.
The Body Shop Round Body Brush
At an entirely sensible £9, this is certainly the best value for money skincare tool I own, and I have used one every single day for over 15 years. When used to brush in firm strokes up your limbs towards your heart before you bath or shower, it does amazing things for your circulation and the tone of your skin. It’s said to reduce cellulite, but I can’t attest to the validity of this claim as that has a lot of do with genetics (my mum doesn’t have any and I seem to have benefited somewhat from this, but she wasn’t kind enough to pass on the flat stomach and skinny arms, so this is not my sad attempt at a stealth brag). The fact that dry body brushing is said to exfoliate the skin and stimulate the lymphatic system means it can surely help keep the skin healthy and refreshed, even if it’s not going to completely eliminate cellulite.
It needs to be replaced whenever the bristles lose their firmness, but this one from the Body Shop lasts for ages and has all the right eco credentials!
24 September 2017
While my grooming regime would certainly fall into the ‘consistent but low maintenance’ category, my one great hair cost-saving has been the entirely unintentional genetic lottery win of blonde hair with natural balayage (obviously I had to Google that term after a new hairdresser got all excited about it, which goes to show just how wildly up-to-date I am with beauty trends). However, it is prone to falling into a mop that is both limp and kinky - not a good combination in any context…wink wink nudge nudge, know what I mean?
Sorry, had to be done. Won’t happen again. Probably.
My three hero products are the ones that take me from post-shower frizz to a whole lot sleeker, with varying degrees of ‘done’, depending on whether I’m doing the school run or going ‘out out’. My lack of expertise when it comes to hair styling is part of the reason these three are heroes – they make good hair days achievable even for a dunce like me!
Liz Earle Botanical Shine Nourishing Hair Oil
I am definitely a Liz Earle devotee, and have been using her Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser for many years. While the shampoos and conditioners are lovely, my favourite Liz Earle hair product is the hair oil. I apply it to the length/ends of towel-dried hair and comb it through, and it leaves my hair glossy and about 100% more manageable. As I have quite greasy roots, I try to avoid too-rich conditioners, but this oil adds the perfect amount of finishing condition without weighing it down at all.
At £18.50 for 50ml, it lasts for ages, as you only need one or two pumps at a time, and it smells delicious. If you’re planning to use any heat on your hair, it both protects it and reduces the drying time (this is one of its advertised properties, but it’s part of my experience of using it too). As I have fine hair that grows like a weed, but am so lazy about getting it cut, this helps keep even bra strap-length hair nourished and split-end free.
It’s also nice to know that Liz Earle products are responsibly-sourced and cruelty-free. While a lot of cosmetics companies are only slowly getting the message when it comes to animal testing and environmentally-friendly practises, this company has made that part of their entire philosophy from the very start.
Babyliss Big Hair
Anyone who’s ever watched me play tennis will know that hand-eye coordination ain’t my strong point. Which is why, even after a masterclass in blow-drying from one of the Richard Ward salon’s* creative directors (who himself has the sexiest, bouncy head of hair I’ve ever seen), I still managed to give myself a black eye from trying to wield a brush and hairdryer at the same time.
So, I resigned myself to a lifetime of just flicking my hair upside down and blow-drying it as best I could. Not exactly optimal, but definitely with less risk of concussion.
Enter, the Babyliss Big Hair, a Christmas present from the other half two years’ ago (he’s good at taking a hint). This little beauty is a game-changer for cack-handed types everywhere, as it integrates brush and blow-drying heat into one, with added rotation – ooh. While I’ve never managed to quite replicate the catwalk-ready style as shown on the website, it allows me to create a sleek and volumised ‘do with minimal investment of time or effort. Lazy groomers of the world, rejoice!
If you’ve towel-dried your hair, applied some of the hair oil above, and then given your hair a quick blitz with your normal hairdryer until it’s just slightly damp, this gizmo will do the rest. It takes a few attempts to work out your perfect technique, but once you’ve mastered it, it’s a doddle.
This newer model is £45, and there’s also the original version with a slightly smaller 42mm barrel (as opposed to 50mm), which is useful if you have slightly shorter hair or a fringe, available for £40. It’s a good-quality bit of kit for a great price, with the ability to transform even the clumsiest of us into supermodels (well, sort of).
Mason Pearson Hairbrushes
Although this is the hair grooming item I use the most, I have saved it for last mainly because, once you hear the price, you may well stop reading, assuming that I have well and truly taken leave of my senses. However, stick with me here, as I bought my Mason Pearson ‘Popular’ hairbrush 15 years’ ago, and only the slight fading of the gold writing on the handle shows any evidence of its age. A large nylon and bristle brush, it gets through my fine (and sometimes slightly knotty) hair with ease, leaving it silky smooth. Even though I rinse it every two days to remove any dry shampoo residue, the rubber cushion hasn’t perished or cracked at all, and the bristles are still pristine. Most Mason Pearson brushes come with a special cleaning brush, which you use with a bit of mild shampoo every few weeks to leave them good as new.
Now for the price. Deep breath, my particular model now costs a rather breathtaking £90 (it was quite a lot less when I bought it, but that was almost a decade and a half ago), which seems pretty outrageous for something that doesn’t do anything except brush your hair – for that price, you’d at least expect it to also make you a flat white or take the bins out. However, the best recommendation I can give is to say that if, beauty gods forbid, mine was lost, I would not hesitate to replace it. It is the most beautiful quality imaginable, with a luxurious weight and feel when you use it. Also, based on its current state, it’s going to be at least another 15 years before I need to replace it – as cost-per-wear and sustainability goes, that’s bloody good going.
I have linked the Mason Pearson website below, which includes a list of stockists, but they range from £26 for a really small nylon brush to around £140 for the largest pure bristle options. Do visit the website first to work out which option is best for your hair – they have a great search tool. It’s definitely a beauty investment, but a worthwhile one in my view (and I’m the queen of budgets and eBay, so I don’t say that lightly!)
* Yes, that is the salon that did the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding hair. Yes, I did book an appointment with her hairdresser the Monday after the wedding. Yes, some of us aren’t content with a commemorative tea towel. Yes, it was one of the best haircuts of my life. Yes, I did carry on going there for two years afterwards. Yes, I did eventually come to my senses and realise that £135 for a haircut was an unjustifiable expense (well, at least until I win the EuroMillions).
9 April 2017
I make no claim to a particularly enviable sense of style, and if you’ve come here for an endless stream of drool-worthy goodies, then you will find yourself sadly disappointed. However, I love products that deliver – on quality; on value for money (that sweet spot between ‘cheap’ and ‘expensive’ when the amount of dosh spent, whether big or small, is absolutely worth it); and on practicality, beauty, or ideally, both.
As three is the magic number, I will stick with that as a general rule for my ‘Hero Products’, and there’ll be a unifying theme, not always related to the raising of small children. Promise. Also, I will always make it clear if I’ve been gifted something to review, with an honest opinion guaranteed – otherwise, what’s the point?
All three of the brands below were started by parents here in the UK who spotted a gap in the market when shopping for their own kids, and went about filling it with quality design and attention to detail.
Full disclosure: the founder of Moccis, Anna Wetterlin, is a friend and fellow mum from my son’s school. However, I have been buying Moccis for my son for three years now, full-price, and without an incentive to either buy or review them. If you know exactly how much a queen of the sale/discount code I am, that alone speaks volumes about the quality of these fantastic slippers.
Hand-sewn in Sweden, these traditional Scandi moccasins have a supple, non-slip leather sole, and a breathable 85% cotton upper (with a bit of elastic to keep them on little feet). They are so soft and cosy, and come in a range of great designs – chic neutrals to wonderfully bonkers brights. From tiny babies to grown-ups (women up to size 8, and men up to size 12), they are the ideal indoor shoe, and a brilliant gift too.
On the practical side, they are seriously durable. My son’s school has an indoor shoes policy, and each pair of Moccis has lasted him a full year (they grip well and provide room for growing feet). They’ve been laundered repeatedly (40 degrees), and still look good enough to pass on to his little brother. Skellies is really tough on his shoes, so the Moccis’ claim to hard-wearing fame is justified.
Starting at £19, these are not a cheap option, but the cost per wear means they work out to exceptionally good value. Even more so when you consider their eco-friendly materials and ethical manufacturing practices. Unlike other, mass-produced versions of these slippers, they won’t need frequent replacing - no detaching soles or holey toes here!
When I mentioned practicality earlier, I wasn’t kidding. As much as it’s not the most glamorous side of shopping for kids’ clothes and shoes, labelling every item that could possibly find itself left at school or dropped in the playground is an unavoidable reality. When I think back on the hours (and I mean HOURS) my mother spent painstakingly stitching name labels into all my school uniforms, I cringe inwardly at the thought of every time I whined about going shopping for said uniforms. Luckily, times have moved on, and we have many more options on the label front. Admittedly, I do have a few friends who still sew labels onto their children’s school uniforms. These friends are masochists. And I disagree wholeheartedly with their life choices.
As my son doesn’t actually have a school uniform, I need a fast and easy way of labelling jumpers/hats/gloves that he suddenly needs when the British weather or his preference dictates. Stikins are just that. You simply order the number you require (packs start from 30 and go up to 120), and specify the name you want printed on them. They then easily stick onto clothes labels (they’re a good size for clear text, but discreet enough to not take up too much space – 30mm x 15mm), the insides of hats/gloves/shoes, or even on lunchboxes/water bottles/pencil cases. They have been tested to last 40 washes at 40 degrees, and in the dishwasher. If they do eventually fall off, it’s the work of mere seconds to stick on a new one.
But, here comes my top tip (blatantly stolen from an immensely practical friend, who is a mother of four, and therefore hugely familiar with the nightmare of lost clothing items) – you can include your phone number on them. The labels fit two lines of text, so I include both my son’s name and my number, which means there’s a much better chance of them actually being returned if found. My heart breaks when I see all the lost stuffed animals on local Facebook groups, because I know just how much trauma that loss will cause for a tiny human and their frantic parents. Skellies was given a massive Jellycat bunny before he was born, and seven years later, that increasingly tatty rabbit has been all over the world. I made sure he had a label with my number on him the first time he left the house (in his case, with international dialling code to allow for his globetrotting ways), and now every time Flea suddenly decides he’d like to bring a particular stuffed animal in his pram, I have a pack of these labels in my wallet ready to go.
This also works well if your child is too little to remember your phone number and you’re headed out to a crowded place. I simply remind Skellies to stay exactly where he is the moment he realises he’s lost us, and then show a passing mother with children his hat/jacket so she can ring my mobile. Stikins also suggests using the labels to highlight if a child has an allergy or is diabetic – genius.
At prices starting from £6.50 for 30 labels, this is a product worth its weight in gold. Whether sparing you the cost of replacing expensive clothing items, or the all-night screaming of a toddler who’s lost her favourite stuffy, they are a proper hero product.
Toby Tiger Pyjamas
The speed at which my eldest grows out of and destroys his clothes (those bony knees go through anything, whether top-quality or not), you will not find me spending millions on kids’ clothes. I love to have a few really gorgeous pieces (eBay is a winner for Polo goodies in great condition), and I’m not keen on mass-market brands with really exploitative manufacturing practices, but I tend to tread a middle ground for the everyday items rather than spending my life stressing over grass stains and ripped knees.
However, finding a great UK brand that ticks all the boxes for comfortable, breathable (100% cotton), hard-wearing and beautifully-designed clothes is always cause for shopping joy. And, in this case, the purchase of what can only be described as the world’s cutest pyjamas.
Toby Tiger was started by mother-of-two Zoe Mellow in Brighton almost 20 years ago, and is well-established as a fabulous collection of organic, colourful, UK-produced clothes for kids up to age six. The designs are bright and fun, without being twee.
I first saw Toby Tiger’s designs at the Mary Howard Christmas Fair last year, and my mother very quickly purchased these pyjamas for her two-year-old grandson. They are unbelievably soft, even after repeated washing, and they are generously-sized without being absurdly large - Flea is in a 2-3, and will get at least a year’s comfortable wear out of them. While they are super-cosy, they are also light and breathable, which is especially important for little humans at night. And, of course, the design couldn’t be dreamier.
As with many smaller manufacturers, they aren’t ‘cheap’ (can you tell how much I dislike that word?), but I would say they compare favourably to clothes of similar, if not quite as high, quality from larger UK brands. They were £28.99, and in terms of cost-per-wear, they have already earned their keep in the four months that Flea has been wearing them (they are his favourites!) While he has quite a comprehensive selection of hand-me-downs from his brother, I’ll certainly be back to Toby Tiger’s website for any gorgeous yet practical items missing from his summer wardrobe.