Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Summer Beauty Essentials

Back in the day, I would cart round ridiculous amounts of beauty products on holidays and trips away from home. Convinced I'd break out in spots or develop some sort of weird skin condition if I didn't stick to my usual regimen while away from home, I used to use up a lot of baggage allowance on what I thought were necessary items. Yes, I'm the person that entered the labour ward weighed down in equal measures by post-birth maternity pads and a toiletry bag spilling completely surplus-to-needs lotions and potions. 

Then, of course, I had kids and suddenly there was no room for all that stuff in the carry-on anymore. Cases stuffed with four peoples' flip-flops, sun hats, swimming masks and all the other holiday paraphernalia leaves little room for complex beauty requirements. Thank god, then, that a) I've become much less high maintenance and b) there are some brilliant multi-tasking, small-size products now in existence that don't take up the size of a small house in the suitcase. 

I'm also a big believer in pre-holiday preparation so you can succumb to a much more relaxed vibe when you've arrived at your destination. Dry body brushing, regular sloughing with a body scrub, followed by copious application of body moisturiser (literally anything - I'm not particularly fussed what I use for this purpose, though I prefer my creams to be fragrance free and hypo allergenic) is something I do religiously the moment I shed my winter armoury. 

After years of undying loyalty to St Tropez, I've been experimenting with a new self-tanning brand, Isle of Paradise, and I cannot recommend it enough. Really easily to apply and with a pleasant fragrance, this product avoids the Love Island look but peps up dull and pale skin a treat. I've been using the Medium option and it's just right.

Summer hair is not my friend, sadly - while I avoid the frizz that plagues my tresses in the damp of the colder months, my hair is dry at the best of times; in summer it can go decidedly straw-like. But I've found a bit of a saviour in the form of NouNou hair mask, available online and, if you're Bristol-based, from the recently opened Trevor Sorbie Salon on Queen's Road. Made from completely natural ingredients, it looks like houmous but does ruddy wonders for dry hair. It contains tomato extract and you simply slather it on after shampooing. 

As with all masks, you're really meant to leave it on for a good 15 minutes but honestly, who has the time? I've found that a quick 3 minutes of massaging in and combing through, leaving the mask on my noggin while I do a bit of body scrubbing, is ample time to see some serious results. In short, I highly recommend this wonder balm.

Now, going camping or to a festival really does test my skincare anxieties. The idea of not washing my face properly before bed is absolute anathema to me; I just can't do it. I've spent many a festival and camping trip stumbling around in the dark, trying to fill a washing up bowl with warmish water so I can do my standard hot cloth cleanse - as you can imagine, it's not usually a successful enterprise. 

But of course, there are wipes and there are wipes. Nowadays, you don't have to use something that feels like it's simply moving the make-up deeper into your pores, or swipe your face with something not dissimilar to what you might use to clean your kitchen table. There are some seriously luxe versions out there, and some are actually very effective. 

May I point you in the direction of the wipes in the Amphora Aromatics range, which - unlike many more obvious options - contain no nasties (parabens or artificial fragrance) and are a very effective way to keep skin clean in challenging conditions. In fact, they're part of the brand's brilliant Festival Kit, including some other fab products I took away on a recent short break to Scotland.

I was only recently introduced to this brand, which has a lovely shop on Cotham Hill, and I've been really impressed with their effective and really affordable skincare. The wipes, for example, come in at just £3.30. Also included in the kit I trialled was a truly life-changing discovery - a wonderfully fragranced shampoo bar that is ideal if you're travelling abroad and need to limit your liquids. Made from natural ingredients and essential oils, the almond bar was ideal for my dry hair.

Sometimes, it's the added extras that get you through a day with limited washing facilities, particularly if you've been doing something energetic, like climbing a steep hill in the Scottish Highlands, for example. I loved spritzing myself with the Rose toner before bed - not only does this product smell absolutely divine, but removing it gently with a cotton wool pad helped to allay any fears about make-up residue resting on my skin. This product would be especially helpful in gently lifting off a day's worth of festival glitter, too.

Finally, summer can mean all sorts of weird things happening to you - allergic reactions to plants, mosquito bites, grass rashes, etc. I've had 'em all. So anything that can help to soothe these holiday-based irritations is always welcome in my luggage - the Lavender Calming Multipurpose Gel was packed for Scotland in view of the possibility of encountering midges. Thankfully we didn't, but on returning home, my son accidentally burnt his arm on the toaster and the gel worked a treat on taking down the sting and redness of the injury. 

Like all the products in the Amphora Aromatics range, it smells amazing too. Practical, effective and nice smelling - all I really want from my holiday skincare. These babies will definitely be coming to Ibiza with me in August...

You can take a look at the full range of Amphora Aromatics products on the website here. You can also visit their shop at 36 Cotham Hill, Bristol BS6 6LA.

With thanks to Amphora Aromatics for the gift of a Festival beauty kit. All words and thoughts are my own.


Thursday, 14 June 2018

Summer Holiday Reading

I've selected some of my favourite reads from the past year which I think are perfect for holiday reading. Yes, they're literary rather than poolside blockbuster as that's just not my style, but I think all of these books are accessible rather than the sort of read that feels like a penance. Starting from the top:

Take Nothing With You by Patrick Gale - I was kindly sent a proof copy of this and have really enjoyed it; I've not read Patrick Gale before but I loved this coming of age story, set partly in 1970s Weston-super-Mare (I place I went to a lot as a child too) which follows Eustace and his family and relationships, with music and his passion for the cello as a compelling constant. (do note this book isn't out till mid August)

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr - moving stories are weaved together in this stunning tale set in wartime St Malo. Both a history lesson and an account of the personal tragedies experienced in occupied France and Nazi Germany. 

Us by David Nicholls - this was so resonant to me as a mother of a teenage son. Both laugh-out-loud funny and unbearably melancholy, it encapsulates the perfect holiday read as it tells the story of a couple on the brink of separation as they embark on one last family trip around Europe. I loved it.

Lullaby by Leila Slimani - comes with a big caveat: do not read if you're currently organising your back to work childcare. Dark and devastating, this is a taut novel that draws on real-life events to bring every parent's darkest thoughts to life. Slimani serves up a truly compelling story of a woman's mental breakdown and its unbearable consequences.

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay - the book everyone's talking about and with good reason. I haven't quite finished this one but it's had me in fits. A must-read for lovers of black comedy who a) aren't pregnant b) don't have any surgeries pending at the moment.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson - a gentle and simple tale, with an almost allegorical feel about it. Set in Finland, it tells the story of a young girl who spends the summer with her grandmother on an isolated island. As the curious girl and independent, sometimes crotchety grandmother come together, a tender tale of family love and relationships is revealed. And you'll definitely want to go to Finland after reading this.

For One More Day by Mitch Albom - I discovered this writer off the back of one of those handwritten recommendations in Waterstones and instantly fell in love with his writing. This is a lovely slice of holiday reading with a very poignant message about mother-son relationships. 
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