Sweet Sixteen Minus Six: bliss vanilla + bergamot

The first time I posted this, I upper-cased the b, the v, and the other b, even though it is not the style of the brand. This lower-case-ness is all well and good on a shelf — not so much in a post or in anything editorial. I think it looks weird. It’s weird, right?

I forgive it, though, as I love this line entirely. Number 2 in the series; at this writing I continue to long for something for The Hair that smells of this lovely, lovely scent…

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I’ll always remember the first time I got a whiff of Bliss’ cunning combination of vanilla and bergamot: I was working as the art director of a super cool female’s magazine, and one of my colleagues pretty much thrust an open tub of the Body Buff under my nose. ‘Oh, my God!’ I sighed. ‘It smells like the beach!’*

V+BIf ever there was a hoard-worthy product line, it is this one. I couldn’t bear to not have it around, just in case — and ‘just in case’ = the possibility of sharing my fragrant, beachy, perfectly exfoliated skin with a… ‘friend’. As it is, this scent almost exists almost entirely in my memory, because I allow myself to use it so rarely. (Which either says sad things about the state of my… ‘friendships’, or implies that I choose my ‘friends’ with extreme care. Let’s agree on the latter, shall we?)

Oh, but when I do decide to break out the V+B, I do it thoroughly and completely. The Body Buff is truly superb, and one of the top five I have ever used. The Soapy Suds come next, naturally, and of course it is all capped off with the wonderfully rich Body Butter. I only wish there was a shampoo and conditioner. And a perfume. And a — a hat, or something. I wish there were clothes that smelled like this.

You think I’m kidding, don’t you? I am so not. The smell of the seashore is hardwired into the pleasure centre of my brain, so that, like a rat in a Skinner box, once I get a whiff of beachy goodness all I want is more. Some of the best times of my life were spent oceanside, and a tonne of unencumbered joy is triggered by the glorious scent of the auld V+B. I am a great believer in aromatherapy, and the days in which I walk around, wafting the joyful fragrance of undiluted joy and optimism, I have a very joyful and optimistic day. It is totally true.

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Body Buff £28/€39/$36, Body Butter £20/€25/$28, Soapy Suds £16/€22/$18

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*I have absolutely no idea why the combination of vanilla + bergamot smells like the beach, but it does.

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I have a line on a scent that will complement this perfectly, but is not Of The Brand. Can you guess what it is?!?

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Sweet Sixteen Minus Six: Jo Malone Body Crème

Into the final four! I had a hard time picking the top top of my Top All-Time Faves For Now, so, I don’t know, I think from here on in, they are all number one. I adore number 4 the way I adore my loved ones, no lie. May I acquaint you with a beloved member of the Conley family?

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Everything about Jo Malone feels rich: the beautiful cream-and-black branding, the boxes, the ribbons, and most particularly, the heavy glass tub that contains the luxurious body créme.

There is absolutely nothing like the Jo Malone Body Créme. I don’t like all the scents — and frankly, I wouldn’t blame you feeling completely suspicious of me if I did — but the ones that I do, I adore. Unconditionally. Without reservation.

Lime Basil & Mandarin. Pomegranate Noir. Amber & Lavender! Oh, I forgot about that last one. I went to swap the places of LM&B and PN, but I can’t. I don’t think I can. Can I? No, not possible. Even though I layer PN with pleasure, and everyone knows what it is, and I don’t mind everyone recognizing it, because it is so delightfully sensuous, and something of a signature scent for me … I still can’t put it first, because it wasn’t my first.

JO MALONE LBMLime Basil & Mandarin. I had no idea that this Sweet Sixteen was going to be so nostalgic, but I have just gone off into a mental video memory of the first time I got a whiff of the stuff. I had been hanging with some pals, enjoying the bubbling hot tub at the SPORTSCO Leisure Centre in Ringsend {why do I remember it as the ESB gym?} and then after repairing to the changing room, one of the women passed around the body crème. Its heavy glass jar immediately communicated its splendour, and an obsession was born.

I had to have it. I had to have it for myself. I didn’t care that I was suddenly smelling that scent everywhere I turned; rather, it became the clarion call of a little club of ladies who knew what was what when it came to self care, and about splurging a mad amount of money of a thing that didn’t last for an appreciable amount of time.

Ah, now! That last bit is not so true. Because it so well-crafted, you need less than you think to enfold yourself in the fragrant goodness that is a Jo Malone body crème. So all of us who were amongst the vanguard were less annoyed at smelling ourselves coming and going {oh, dear, that sounds nasty} and more keen to appreciate the savvy of our fellow Malonistas.

It’s like being a member of a club whose only agenda is to smell gorgeous. I consider myself to be a lifetime member, with honours.

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€63/£48/$75

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Sweet Sixteen Minus Six: Elemis Frangipani Monoi Moisture Melt

The criteria for choosing the ten out of sixteen all-time faves was: do I wish I had it on me, right this second, away from home? Number 5 fits that guideline like a glove — a deliciously fragrant and indulgent and luxurious glove…

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Here is my recipe for the perfect home-spa experience: Elemis Frangipani Monoi Moisture Melt.

That’s it. That’s all you need.

I’m delighted to be able to make this recommendation in typed-out words, because confidence in my articulation abilities takes a terrible dip when I try to speak the word ‘frangipani’; ‘monoi’ is not so bad, but following hard on the heels of the preceding fail, it just makes the whole situation worse that it needs to be.

mmm elemis{I say fraangeepannee, as opposed to the more American way, which because of the longer, fancy ‘a’ sounds, would be frahhhhngeepahhhhhnee. Both sound equally awkward to me, in my actual voice.}

Linguistics aside, this stuff is the stuff of dreams. Fill your bathroom sink with hot water. Set the bottle — the lovely smoked glass bottle — in the water so that the solid material within softens into a luscious oil. Run a bath. You could even run the bath and meltify the Melt in the tub! Whatever: at some stage, shake in a few {million} drops. Enter; recline; relax.

Dunk your head under the water, then proceed to shake a few {million} drops of the Fraheheheheh on your head. Massage into your scalp. Sigh with pleasure.

Language, and pronunciation therefore, will cease to be an issue.

Get out of the bath before you, yourself melt. Shake the previously recommended number of drops of oil on your wet skin, massage. Pat yourself dry with a towel. Maybe rinse your hair out if you’re going out that evening — although why you would is utterly beyond my comprehension. You’ve just given yourself an amazingly self-nurturing treat! Stay home! Put your feet up! Get someone to make you your tea!

The only caution I have is that I’ve heard from pals who are as in the know as I, that the Fraheheheheh yokie can tend to discolour white toweling robes. Not that you’re not going to wrap yourself up in one regardless, but know that you may have to give it a spin in the washing machine sometime after your Melt event. Or you may close your eyes to this, because your robe is going to smell gorgeous — almost as gorgeous as you do.

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€32/£29.70/$50.00

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Snap! Judgement: Roger & Gallet Huile Embellissante in Fleur d’Osmanthus

This is a new launch from the fragrant French firm, who are celebrating 150 years in the smelling-good biz.

Snap! The colour of the bottle is a dead giveaway. This is gonna smell orange-y.

Snap! The bottle gives good squirt, which can be an issue. It doesn’t spray all over the place {sorry, my mind just wandered there for a sec…} but you do need to cup the palm or else you won’t get the full benefit of the pump. Insert filthy giggle here.

Snap! Yup, orange-y, and kind of light-yet-smokey? Your nose may tell you something different. Let’s just say floral, which again, no surprise, it says fleur right there in the title!

Snap! It applies beautifully. I do love a dry body oil, they feel so luxurious and sexy. The skin on my right forearm felt very soft for quite a long time.

Snap! Then, I cheated and used it after my shower, and this mitigates the snappiness of the judgement, but the oil applies really well to the dry bod, and I’m going to use it on the damp bod next time. The scent is not my style, so it’s gives my a bit of a headache — I prefer darker, woodsier fragrance — but the resulting soft skin is worth it.

It also says you can use it on your hair. Hmmm…

Roger & Gallet Huile Embellissante in Fleur d’Osmanthus, 100mls €26.50

Feel Fantastic, Literally: Garnier Body Intensive 7 Days Gel-Cream

I can’t imagine what my pal was thinking: the other night, over tapas and wine and chats, I noticed that I kept stroking my own arm. Kind of the way you play with your hair? That kind of thing. I tried to stop, and at one stage I think I may have actually sat on my hands, because it felt so obvious. I’m blushing even now, remembering. But, in all honesty, I don’t know that I’ve ever had softer skin.

I received a bumper crop of Garnier products to try, one of which made it through the first edition of Snap! Judgements with flying colours {bronze-y ones, in fact.} I was very much attracted to this notion of gel-cream — how could it be both, and not one or the other? Surely that’s like calling a new fruit and apple-orange? Well, it kind of is both, it is a gelly cream/a creamy gel. It’s opaque, like a cream, and yet it applies and absorbs like a gel.

Which is great, but the thing I find about gels is that they can be a little tacky to the touch. This had only a teeny, tiny tack, and it just meant that I had to find something else to do for several minutes until it completely dried. Which is not so easy, if you’re me and probably running late for something, or not peaceful enough to stand around naked. {Are you peaceful enough to stand around naked? Are you a tree?}

All absorbed and ready to go, I went about my biz, until I found myself sitting at that table, stroking my arm like it was a puppy. Which is terrific news, really, because soft skin is so important to me it’s one of my most-used tags. If it’s a big deal for you, too, I suggest you check out this thing here. The ‘flavour’ I availed of was grape; it also comes in peach.

The 7 days thing? Eh, not sure about that, to be honest. The key ingredient here is L-Bifidus, which is ‘inspired by probiotics found in yoghurts, {and} acts as an effective moisture shield, optimising skin’s natural hydration reservoir and reinforcing skin’s protective barrier to long-lasting preserve hydration.’ I wouldn’t really expect to get a week’s worth out of one go, I mean, between the horses and the showering? Yeah, not really. But the thing about this is, unlike many moisturisers, this made my skin feel as good as it did in the moments following absorption. That’s pretty impressive!

€4.99/250ml; €7.49/400ml

Haiku Review: REN Guérande Salt Exfoliating Body Balm

I applied this dry.
I dislike dry salt scrubbing.
Or do I?!? Let’s see…

I’m a featured columnist in the upcoming issue of Irish Tatler, and when asked for my latest beauty secret, I wrote: ‘Read the directions!’ Because I hardly ever do, and it has lead to some near misses. like thinking that the hair exfoliant was a styling product, for example, and wondering why it was so gritty. Luckily, I am not so thick as to have put, I don’t know, hemorrhoid cream on my toothbrush, but I tend to take products at label-value. If it says something about hair on it, and it’s in a tube, well, it’s styling product, right? Right?!?!

It’s a first world problem to do with mouse type. I swear, doing this job has ruined my eyesight, because of all the four point type I’ve had to read over the years. Since I didn’t bother with me specs when I decided to test REN’s Guérande Salt Exfoliating Body Balm, I squinted and saw that the recommended application was to a dry body avant le douche.

I prepared to do so, grumbling, because stupid salt scrubs are always so crumbly, and half of it goes down the drain, or is all over the floor, because I can’t get into the shower and then turn on the water, because the first blast is always frickin’ ice cold, and ugh what a drag… But the result was totally worth it, and the salt-ness of it is actually contained in a balm, which goes on smoothly, and not a grain is wasted. Huh.

I suppose I should amend my exhortation: read the directions completely. And maybe the label.

One day I actually read the label in its entirety— because I was wearing my glasses — and saw that you could also use this on a damp bod, if you wanted a gentler exfoliating experience. And so I did, and you know what? I prefer the dry brush effect! Not that this wasn’t as effective when wet, but I do prefer a bit of rough when it comes to exfoliation {…} and you get a double-scrub effect: you scrub it on dry, you scrub it off wet — it feels remarkably thorough for a home treatment, and the result is really soft, sweet smelling skin.

Yeah, so, I would have known better, and saved myself some gurning, but there you go. Happy enough to use it as it is intended after all.

€24 (available on cloud10beauty.com)/£20

Irish for Youth: Preserve Your Looks with Peat

If there’s one thing about which I can wax lyrical, it’s the smell of burning peat. Out of all the places I have lived here, I’ve only enjoyed an open fireplace once, but I loved, loved, loved burning peat briquettes, and once, even got actual hand-harvested peat straight from a friend’s bog allotment. Or whatever it was called. There’s a special name for it, and I can’t remember.

What is peat, you ask? {Heathen!} It’s a really, really old by-product of decomposed vegetable matter. Which doesn’t sound very appealing, but trust me, once somebody digs it up — it’s mud, basically, but really complex and rich mud — and dries it out, it fires up like a dream, it smells delicious and homey, and it is one of the most relaxing fires to sit before, musing and dreaming.

Now, a company called Ógra {which is… Irish for youth} have brought out a skincare line that speaks to peat’s other amazing properties, that of preservation and healing.

Founded by Bill Kenny, the peat comes straight from the heart of Ireland in  Co Offaly, and has been incorporated across a range that includes all the usual suspects of cleanser, toner, moisturiser, eye, and body cream. For me, though, I am all about cracking into the face mask: not only because of the opportunity to take a scary picture, but also because being able to sit back and relax and let all the peaty benefits sink into my skin over a period of time — well, how relaxing does that sound? Plus, look! It’s a body mask as well! I think I am going to go run a bath…

Before peat is dried out for use in our hearths, the stuff is bursting with essential oils, fatty acids and lipods, all of which help the skin retain moisture, which in turn makes the skin look bloomin’ youthful.

And of course, we all know about the preservative qualities of peat, don’t we?

I don’t plan on keeping this on that long.

And since I need my glasses to type, I’ll catch you up on my opinion later.

Ógra 100% Peat Face and Body Mask, €30.00 (50mls).

The online store can be found here.