Who Wants To Be a (Boots Points) Millionaire?

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I must go in a Boots store at least once a week. I remember it from when I was spending my very first wages from my very first job as a pot washer in the pub in the next village. I earned the princely sum of £3.00 an hour – I can still see the orange eyeshadow palette I bought from No7 that autumn. It ROCKED.

My tastes have moved on a bit since then but my Boots loyalty has not. It’s one of those safe places on the high street where you know exactly what you’re going to get and what it’s going to cost – like John Lewis or Pizza Express. When I was in New York last week (did I mention I’d been to New York? I feel like I’ve hardly discussed it ;) I felt comforted to find a Boots aisle right in the middle of a Duane Reed pharmacy… a little bit of unexpected England slap-bang in the centre of Williamsburg.

One of my favourite things to do at Boots is to save up my Advantage Card points until I have ridonkulous amounts and then splash out on something I wouldn’t usually buy myself. I’m one of those people who closely monitors the advantage card points offers, pouncing when there’s a 500 bonus for a high spend or 100 extra points for toothpaste Today I received 350 extra points for buying a St Tropez product that had been already reduced from £14.50 to £9: I felt like I’d won the lottery!

Boots are currently running the chance of a treat of a lifetime for Advantage Card holders; one lucky user of the Advantage card app is going to become a Boots millionaire, winning 1,000,000 Boots points, worth £10,000! To celebrate this they’ve asked me to have a think about what I’d spend a million Boots points on.

This was not a difficult task.

The last time I splashed out using my points I bought a really fancy Kent hairbrush. I love the fact you can do this – it feels like guilt-free splurging. Carrying on the hair theme, if I was a Boots millionaire I’d look at buying new curling tongs and a lifetime supply of Moroccan Oil.

I love the range of brands Boots stock and my favourites run from Essie to Clinique, Soap and Glory to Clarins. Clinique’s bonus time is a double whammy for me as you can get points AND freebies, and I’d use my million points to purchase every single one of their chubby sticks. I’d also head to Molton Brown for hand soap and cream, followed by Essie for thousands of nail polishes.

I’d treat the kids too, of course (probably) – I love the clothes in Boots’ Mini Club range and then I’d buy a lifetime supply of nighttime nappies because those things are expensive.

If you want to take part all you have to do is download the Boots App then go to ‘my offers’ before 4th August – check back on 19th August to see what you’ve been treated to!

What would you buy if you became a Boots points millionaire?

Let’s Protect Our Skin – Caudalie Polyphenol C15

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I’m constantly talking about how tired I am. The affect this tiredness has on my all-over wellbeing: my skin, my eyes, my fitness. My sleep deprivation touches every part of my life and I wholeheartedly believe that if I got more sleep my life would be completely different. You hear that, kids?! GO TO SLEEP!

So I’ve always been very aware of taking care of my skin when I’m this exhausted. There’s truly nothing worse than someone doing that sympathetic head tilt when they look at you and saying “ohh, you look tired”. Because we all know that tired = bad, yet it just so happens that motherhood=tired. Womp womp.

But what makes our skin tired? I know this answer for me. It’s the lack of sleep, the busy life I lead haring around London for meetings, blowing my nose of black snot when I get home and wondering what all that pollution has done to my poor face. It’s the glasses wine I might have drank one too many of on a Friday (or Monday) night, my big load of work stress or the accidental burger I took the kids for (Five Guys are coming to Milton Keynes, I might die of happiness).

In a nutshell, most of modern life isn’t good for our skin and we must do what we can to reverse these aspects of our day-to-day. Short of giving up the wine (THE HORROR), I reckon this means drinking as much water as I can, eating well, getting my arse down to the gym and using super duper face products.

In 2014 Caudalie launched a new anti-oxidant, anti-wrinkle, skincare range called Polyphenol C15. The range was developed for busy women like me who live a fast paced life and are faced with daily factors like pollution and stress, both which all cause free radical damage, which in turn leads to skin ageing. The active ingredients in this skincare range are a combination of the two most effective antioxidants on the market, Grape-seed Polyphenols (a Caudalie patent) and stabilised Vitamin C.

The products in this range include an Anti-Wrinkle Defense Serum, Protect Fluid, Eye & Lip Cream, Overnight Detox Oil and Anti-Wrinkle Protect Day Cream with SPF20. These products treat dry skin and protect skin against daily aggressors – which for me is pretty much everything I want in a skincare range.

I’ve been trying this range and have loved it. Two weeks in and I’m definitely noticing a difference in my forehead. My skin feels tighter, less dehydrated, protected and well-looked after. I got ID’d by the Ocado man at 7.30 this morning so I must be doing something right, yeah?

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Caudalie have launched a special app on their website where you can create a personalised movie based on your busy day – mine involves lots of driving, a packed work agenda, computer time and being (almost) a perfect mum – and share with your friends. You can also win an Anti-Ox Box which includes the whole Polyphenol C15 range (it’s well worth it!!)

Thank you Caudalie for supporting MTT. Because of you my skin looks younger :) 

My Winter Beauty Favourites

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I’m probably not going to endear myself to anyone by telling you this, but ever since I have switched to Paleo my skin has been insane. Insane in a good way. I had one zit the whole of last month and it was one of those hormonal ones that arrives in THAT WEEK and disappears as soon as the tampons get put back in the cupboard. Which I guess proves to me what those skincare geniuses have been saying all along: great skin comes from the inside and my inside apparently does not care for refined carbohydrates.

Winter Beauty

The upshot of this has meant that I haven’t felt such a need to slather myself in lotions and potions every morning and evening and have somewhat relaxed my skincare regime. I’m still loving my Clinique cleansing balm, am using a gentle toner and moisturiser but am no longer scouring the internet for miracle cures for my dull and tired skin. Cos it’s not so dull and tired anymore, wahey!

I’m still not in the place I want to be, which is to go out regularly without make-up; I don’t think I’ll be here until I stop drinking red wine in the evenings and my children sleep in after 6am. But I’m not finding such a need to slap on the heavy foundation and concealer which feels kind of liberating. Well done, paleo, well done.

Radical Skincare Age Defying Exfoliator Pads – £45
I’ve long been a fan of chemical exfoliants, ever since I heard the guru that is Caroline Hirons waxing lyrical about their benefits and like most women in their twenties who read Caroline’s blog I immediately began using Alpha-H’s liquid gold a couple of times a week and loved it. So when the people at Radical Skincare asked me to give their Age-Defying Exfoliating pads a go I thought it would make a good comparison. These are brilliant – as good as Alpha-H, if not better. Using these 2-3 times a week (they recommend every night but my skin is pretty sensitive) I definitely notice my pores are smaller, my skin feels less congested and is much smoother and brighter. The pack includes 60 pads so although it may feel pricey it will last a long time.

L’Oreal Code Lumiere BB Cream – £7.95
I chucked this in my trolley at Tesco’s on a whim a couple of months ago and I’m so glad I did! It’s a really light yet hydrating cream that I tend to use day-to-day. I’m still very much into Clinique’s CC cream but that is now reserved for nights out or special occasions. The L’Oreal BB cream slides on really easily so it’s perfect to apply in the morning when I’m rushing to get out the door for the school run and then I literally don’t think about make-up for the rest of the day. The last time my mum saw me when I was wearing this she said my skin looked ‘glowing’ and this product really does work to illuminate my face.

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Giordani Gold Jewel Lipstick in Mauve Dream -£9.95
It’s very nearly fashion week and to try and re-live some of the fashion-y fun I used to have when I was living in London and surviving on cocktails I popped along to the Zalando press day. Honestly I’d kind of forgotten how boring the whole fashion thing is – look at clothes that won’t be in the shops for ages, look at people who are dressed way cooler than you, swig free champagne. What a drag. This dress (French Connection) MUST be mine this summer though, I’m totally in love. In my Zalando goodie bag was this Giordani Gold Jewel lipstick in Mauve Dream and I’m totally in love. I don’t often wear lipstick, let alone dark colours, but this is gorgeous. It’ll look great with my new dress in the summer ;)

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Fenjal Classic Luxury Creme Bath Oil – £12.49
Since we moved house (but before the poo/bath incident) I’ve really enjoyed relaxing with some oils, a couple of candles and a magazine in a big tub of hot water. Fenjal’s bath oil is my favourite product to use because it’s something my mum always used to use for her bathtime so the scent takes me right back. It’s relaxing, moisturising and always feels like a treat.

Oqibo Intense Moisture Defence – £35.75
Oqibo wasn’t I brand I had heard of before I was contacted by their Customer Relations team just after Christmas; let me start this by telling you that everyone who works for Oqibo is incredibly friendly, knowledgeable and, well, just happy, and that always gives you a positive view on an organization. So I began my experience with their Intense Moisture Defence feeling pretty uplifted and that is how I have remained. This product has slotted in beautifully with my new low-maintenance skincare routine as it’s a creme that can be used morning and evening and does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a very hydrating moisturiser which works wonders with skin like mine that requires a bit of extra TLC, especially in the winter. The creme is a gorgeous texture that sinks in easily but what really sets it apart for me is the scent; so many moisturisers turn me right off with the way they smell but I absolutely adore this.

Neal’s Yard Bee Lovely Head To Toe Gift Set – £22.50
As part of Intellicig’s New Year New Start campaign they sent me a set of Neal’s Yard pampering gifts and some aromatherapy scents so I could spend an evening relaxing. I’m a pretty devout non-smoker and have friends who’ve kicked the nasty habit using Intellicig’s electronic cigarettes so I’m quite a fan of theirs (is it me or do they look pretty cool and space-age anyway?!), and even more so now! I think I gained a lot this New Year by focussing on all the good things in my life rather than moaning about what I want to change and this is going to continue into 2014… making myself happy by taking time out to pamper myself, have massages and get to the gym is an important part of that. I adore Neal’s Yard and in particular their Bee Lovely hand cream so this gift set was perfect for me; it lives in my kitchen to give my poor winter ravaged knuckles a bit of TLC.

Korres Jasmine Shower Gel – £8
I might be reaching a bit here lest I feel guilty for spending such a fortune on shower gel, but I swear this gorgeous product means my day begins with a bang rather than a bleurgh. I blame Waitrose for stocking such lovely beauty products and I also blame my kids who like to spend our shopping trips shrieking over cake, mini eggs and bananas. By the time I get round to the beauty aisle an 8 quid shower gel is one of the only things standing between me and complete craziness. If you’re in the market for an expensive shower gel you should make this one it.

Kiehl’s Creme De Corps – from £8.50
Best body moisturiser ever. End of.

My Autumn Face

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Autumn is the season when my skin starts freaking out. It becomes a shade of what I like to call ‘farmer rugged’ thanks to a combination of the cold air, central heating and lack of sunshine. I get dry patches on my nose and cheeks and as an added extra bonus due to the house move I’ve noticed my forehead lines are getting deeper. It’s a nightmare for my poor hard-working face.

Despite this I’m still desperately on the quest to get my skin to a state where I feel comfortable going out with no make-up on. If I re-read my posts from the time I started this initiative back in February 2012 it’s amazing how far I’ve come on; I’ve gone from washing my face with Boot’s basic cucumber foaming wash and moisturising with Nivea to being really interested in skincare. Thanks to Caroline Hirons my evening cleansing routine is carried out with enthusiasm and care and never EVER missed, and it’s brought such a difference to my skin.

I really enjoy scouring beauty reviews for what’s new on the market and if a PR ever emails to ask if I fancy reviewing one of their products I practically squeal with delight. I’ve become one of those girls who talks about eye creams with their friends and debates the various points of CC vs BB creams. I don’t even know who I am anymore.

Anyway, here’s what’s been making my face that little bit nicer to look at this Autumn. And since you were wondering, BB creams are over: Clinique’s CC cream always comes out on top.

Dolce & Gabanna Rose The One* – £46.95
Not strictly for my face but definitely one of my most loved beauty indulgences. I’ve really got into fragrances since I became single and this is my new favourite (FYI: previous favourite was Stella McCartney ‘Stella’). I love how this scent is slightly floral yet fresh and grown up; it’s definitely not heavy and headache-inducing which I find some perfumes can be. I love it.

Clinique Take The Day Off Face Balm – £21
I know I’ve sung the praises of many face balms but this one HAS to be my everyday favourite. It’s not for everyone – its unscented and kind of has the texture of lard – but is so kind and gentle on my skin that I haven’t had a breakout since I’ve been using it. Because it’s so simple I find my skin is more receptive to whatever goes on next and I will continue to buy this for my ordinary day cleansing. And if you don’t believe me you can take Queen Hirons’s word for it.

Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream – £14.99
I’ve long been extolling the virtues of Eight Hour Cream and I think I will in years to come. I use this for everything: patches of dry skin, intensive hand cream, lip balm, eyebrow tamer, cuticle conditioner. I use it on the kids sore patches, too. It’s pricey but one tube lasts for absolutely aaaages; I’ve had one going on a year that lives in my handbag and I’ve just bought another that looks slightly prettier and less beaten up on my dressing table. I’m also a fan of the Eight Hour Cream day cream and the lip balm-sized version* is so very useful.

Estelle and Thild Facial Serum and Facial Oil – from £45
I’d never heard of Estelle and Thild before they were stocked at Harrod’s Urban Retreat Boutique. This beautiful range of skincare (the packaging and branding are lovely) from Sweden has been developed for use on even the most sensitive of skins and I can confirm all products I’ve been using have been very kind to my cold-ravaged face. I’ve been trialling the Rose Otto Age Defense Serum* and Facial Oil*; the serum I use every morning after cleansing and it’s a really lovely base for my moisturiser leaving my skin really smooth and my pores feeling tighter. The oil is my favourite though, I massage this in after my nighttime cleanse (I give my skin a pummle that Caroline Hirons would be proud of) and it leaves my skin really plump and supple. Plus they both smell divine.

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LOOK, no makeup! Unheard of but thanks to my current regime I don’t have many breakouts to cover up and my skin tone is lots more even. There is an instagram filter here but that was more to minimise the effect of the bloody eye bags.

Gatineau Renew 7 Laser* – £49
This is one of those ‘miracle products’ that I usually don’t buy into whatsoever. You’re supposed to apply this as a serum morning and night for seven days as an intense treatment to give your skin the appearance of having had a laser renewal. I gave this a go with my cynical hat on, and you know what? I’ve never had a laser renewal treatment before but this has definitely improved my skin. My pores aren’t as visible, my complexion is more even and the skin looks brighter and feels softer. You use this when your skin is particularly suffering: winter (check), pregnancy, tiredness (check), stress… whatever takes its toll on your long-suffering face. It’s truly pepped up my tired-looking skin and comes recommended.

Trilogy Everything Balm – £20.50
Until I met Elizabeth Arden’s 8 hour cream I was never a fan of products that performed more than one task. But Trilogy’s Everything Balm* is one of those and I love it. I keep it in my bedside table drawer and use it last thing at night on my lips, my dry winter hands and my upper arms. It’s a balm but turns into an oil on contact and feels really soothing when it’s applied right before sleep.

Macadamia Healing Oil – £14.95
I feel like I’ve tried ALL THE hair oils on my (naturally curly, unruly and dry) hair. From Kerastase to Moroccan Oil to something that wasn’t Moroccan Oil but was loads cheaper. This Macadamia Healing Oil* definitely matches up to my experience with Kerastase but was about a third of the price and smells lovely. It leaves my hair soft and supple and as a bonus comes in a spray bottle so my hands don’t get all sticky. Definitely a great budget-friendly alternative.

Decléor Aroma Comfort Body Nourishing Milk – £17.95
I hate moisturising my body because a) I get cold and b) I hate feeling all sticky. And this body moisturiser beats both points; it sinks in effortlessly, leaves my skin feeling smooth rather than sticky and does both of those things QUICKLY. I’m still in raptures over Decléor’s Aromessance night balm and they’re fast becoming one of my favourite skincare brands.

* denotes a PR sample

 

What Keeps Me Youthful

When I was in London for BritMums recently my roomie Steph and I took our old decrepit arses out for dinner. We ate at The Diner in Shoreditch, somewhere I used to frequent in the heady single days of yore. They do a great burger, their cheesy fries are amazing and they add alcohol to their milkshakes. Enough said.

As you may imagine, a restaurant like this is full of lots of young people. The waiting staff are pretty rubbish but gorgeous and our fellow diners were much the same. The music playing in the background was early ’00s punk pop, our kind of thing, and we had a right old laugh singing along in the style of ‘mums-who-don’t-get-out-very-much’. Oh.


Anyway, we got chatting to a group of young guns next to us, 4 guys who were probably around 23? 24? Young enough to make us feel old, but hey, it was fun. They laughed at our ‘tuneful’ warbling, we told them that we didn’t get out much.

When we were discussing our ages (made me feel old. You too, Steph?) one of them said to me, “what do you use on your face? I’ll recommend it to my mum”.

…….?

When I picked my jaw up off the floor I told myself he was probably joking, and not to worry, I am a very youthful four days away from 28. I got ID’d at The Co-Op last week, after all. The Young Gun in The Diner was probably just making some weird young person joke. Or something. I definitely didn’t weep into my fries :(

So, Young Gun. If you’re reading, this is what you need to be recommending to your mum.

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I thought I was pretty loyal to my favourite Emma Hardie Amazing Face balm. Until Elemis came along with their Pro-Collagen Cleansing balm… this stuff is simply brilliant. I find it such a treat for my skin as it’s so luxuriously rich, on some days I find I don’t even need a moisturiser which is unheard of for my previously parched skin. It’s so rich I tend to just use it as a second cleanse in the evening (Emma Hardie’s still my go-to gal in the mornings). It’s expensive but you’ll find it lasts for ever: I received a PR sample of it 5 months ago and have only just re-purchased.  And if the goddess Sali Hughes is recommending it, you know it’s good. Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm, £31.60.

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This is another product I would never have tried had I not been sent a sample yet have already re-purchased: Decleor Aroma Night Balm. Again this is another gorgeously rich concoction that is really going to come into its own during our cold winter and it’s already worked wonders on my dry wrinkly forehead. It literally melts into the skin and smells totally divine. Recommended. Decleor Aroma Night Balm in Neroli, £46.75.

IMG_0057Not strictly a beauty item I know, but I always lump scented candles into the category of ‘items that aren’t really essentials but are certainly essential when it comes to keeping me sane’. See also: wine that costs more than £10, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, alone time. I used to be pretty loyal to my old favourite of Cowshed scented candles but Neom are now the new kids on my sweetly-scented block. I love them, in particular the Limited Edition Enchantment candle with Bluebell, Guaiacwood and Rose, and they burn for up to 50 hours (which is 30% longer than standard premium candles). Plus £1 from the sale of each candle is donated to the Woodland Trust: charitable shopping is my favourite! Neom kindly sent me one of these candles to test but again, I’ve re-purchased already. Neom Enchantment Home Candle, £42.00.

IMG_9344I never really understood the points of oils in beauty until about a year ago, when I started using a facial oil. I’m now a convert, and while they don’t form a part of my daily beauty routine I love using Caudalie’s Divine Oil when I need a little extra TLC. It’s gorgeous massaged into my face before bed (HINT: avoid the eyes. Ouch) and leaves my skin feeling really soft and smooth. It’s also brilliant on the ends of my hair; I rub in last thing at the night and when I wash out the next morning my mane is that bit softer and healthier. Lovely. Caudalie Divine Oil, £25.

Anything I’ve missed? Next on my list to try are these new CC cream things. Let’s see if they’re any different to BB, shall we?

 

Current Face Favourites

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Lately I’ve been beavering away in the background on my project that is: MAKE-UP FREE CONFIDENCE. It’s an ongoing thing, has been for the last one and a half years, but you know I really think I’m getting somewhere now. The aim of the ‘project’ (and I use that word in the loosest sense) is to be able to step outside my front door sans slap without feeling like I’m about to scare small children or their mothers. It’s an enjoyable project, necessitating hours of online research (beauty blogs) and the odd splurge (expensive face products) and has made me quite ashamed of the years I spent washing my face with Boot’s Cucumber Face Wash and applying cheap Nivea cream. My skin, whilst not completely transformed yet, is definitely thanking me for the investments I’ve made.

I am currently using an arsenal of products that I’m exceedingly happy with. I’m sure this will change as new products emerge (I would love some decent recommendations for a different toner, at the moment I’m using Lush’s Tea Tree water) but for now, it’s all good. Here’s whats going down on my face… (snigger)

Bioderma is a French laboratory which produces products that are apparently never far away from make-up artists worldwide. I’ve been using their Crealine H20 Micelle solution as my ‘first cleanse’ of the day to take my make-up off and it really feels so gentle. Just like water. This isn’t available in the UK yet, though word on the street is that it’ll be in Boots soon, so eBay’s your best bet for value. I bought from this seller.

I first learned about Emma Hardie’s Cleansing Balm when a pot of it appeared in the bathroom I was sharing with Hattie on the Mother’s Meeting retreat last year. I did some Googling and BAM! Apparently I’d missed 2012’s hottest facewashing trend. This product is just marvellous… it’s so gentle and effective and smells just divine. It ain’t cheap at £34.00 but a little goes a long away. I’m on my second pot and will keep re-purchasing.

Hydraluron is a miracle cream. It sits underneath your moisturiser and acts as a booster for your moisturiser, increasing its effectiveness. It has worked wonders on my forehead lines! Boots have a 3 for 2 offer on this at the moment.

The brand-new Nuxe Nuxellence Jeaunesse Youth and Radiance Fluid* is brilliant. I’ve started using this in place of my usual moisturiser and it noticeably lifts, tightens and brightens my skin. You can use it on its own or with your usual products if your skin is a little dry : I occasionally need a bit more moisture on my nose and forehead but come summer (eventually…) I won’t need to use anything else.

If you haven’t heard of Liquid Gold, where have you been?! This product apparently has the highest percentage of Glycolic Acid (a powerful re-surfacing and firming ingredient. Re-surfacing kind of makes my face sound like a road) in anything available over-the-counter. It’s a chemical exfoliant, and you use it a couple of times a week to keep your complexion fresh. It tingles and I love it.

If you buy one night cream EVER please make it this Decléor Aromessence Night Balm*. It feels like the most luxurious thing I’ve ever put on my skin and literally melts. It’s gorgeous and I noticed a difference in my skin the first time I used it. Love at first use. Decléor also do a great lip balm* in this range which again is amazing and has not left my handbag since it arrived.

This Neal’s Yard Baby Balm obviously does not belong to me but it’s brilliant. I use it on all dry patches of skin: my hands, my feet, my knees, even my lips. It sits on my bedside table and goes on last thing at night. It’s also pretty good for Hux’s dry patches, too!

I normally don’t like oils so I’ve been surprised at how much I like this Mandara Spa honeymilk beauty oil*. You can use it in the bath or on your skin but my favourite thing to do it to slap it on the dry ends of my hair before I go to sleep.  I’m also a big fan of their bubble baths, they’re reasonably priced and smell delicious! You can pick up Mandara Spa products at Sainsbury’s.

*= PR Sample

So there are my current face favourites. When I miss a day of them I definitely notice a difference so staying diligent is a must, no matter how knackered I am.

Now about those toner recommendations… anyone?