Sweet Sixteen: Lush’s Karma Line

When I first received Lush’s Karma perfume, several years ago, it came in a kind of… well there’s no way to say it nicely. The bottle was ugly. It was squat, the label was unappealing, and its presentation was very, very ‘meh’. I gave it a cursory spritz, somewhere around my breastbone, and promptly fell in love. Continue reading

Sweet Sixteen: Voya Lazy Days

I have always loved seaweed products. I used a powdered version for the bath {Seavite? I think so} that really required a strong drive to use, as it made a complete and utter mess of the bath after it was done. I mean, like, total ring-around-the-tub mess, and talk about a buzzkill, having to clean it up almost immediately after having sent all your tension down the drain.[Or else you have an argument with your live-in-fella-at-the-time because you let the mess go for a day or two, also a buzzkill.]

I wasn’t sure about this when I got the box. I mean, it’s a box. How’s seaweed supposed to fit in a box? I knew the Voya line very well, and have even had their seaweed baths, based in Strandhill, Co Sligo, on my to-do list almost since I moved to Ireland. I knew that the entire product line was organic, and that the seaweed itself is harvested by hand. I didn’t know that you could get it, freeze-dried into a roughly rectangular bundle.

Well, it is possible. The hunk of seaweed has been helpfully inserted into a mesh bag; there is, in addition, a wee bag of dead sea salt. <I wasn’t sure whether to captilise that or not, but Voya haven’t. Is ‘dead sea salt’ a thing that is separate now from the Dead Sea? Anyway: as instructed, I ran the bath full of hot, hot water and dropped the brick of weed in. I left the room to let it sit — I had to, because almost immediately the pure, salty scent of the seaweed began to waft around the bath. As I didn’t want to lose a layer or two of skin, which I would have done had I immersed myself, I went and did some email.

When I could bear it no longer, I went back and ran the water cold, sprinkled in some salt, and got in. Now, I love a good bath, and I go the full whack, with candles and a glass of wine, or when the circumstances demand, a short glass of Laphroaig, and appropriate musical accompaniment. Even then, I tend to get bored long before the water begins to cool. Not this time: I kept topping up the bath with as much hot water as it could handle without overflowing. I squeezed the now-football shaped net of weed to release even more of the gel that had infused the water. I was in there for almost 45 minutes.

If you take good care of it — I put mine in a large mixing bowl and covered the top with cling film — you can get another bath out of the ball. It’s not as transcendent as the first, but it is still pretty boss.

The re-hydrated bag of seaweed was pretty impressive, and also pretty: it bore no resemblance to the stuff that washes up on a beachy strand, and looked as if each… frond?… had been groomed to reveal its jagged beauty. I felt as relaxed as if I had visited the Strandhill baths themselves. This is a sublime treat for body and mind. Bonus: a cursory swipe of the bath the next morning was as hard as I had to work to clean up. In my book, there is no higher praise.

Voya Lazy Days €16/£15.50

Sweet Sixteen: Elemis Frangipani Monoi Moisture Melt

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.

{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.

€32/£29.70/$50.00

Sweet Sixteen: Bliss Vanilla + Bergamot

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 magazine, and one of my colleagues just about thrust an open tub of the Body Buff under my nose. ‘Oh, my God!’ I sighed. ‘It smells like the beach!’*

If 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.

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

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

Sweet Sixteen: Dermalogica Soothing Booster

OMGGGGGGGGGGG. Why does my skin still insist upon breaking out? I am surely peri-menopausal at this stage, I really can’t continue to be brewing spots at that time of the month, can I?

Oh, yes, I can. Crikey, it’s annoying. More annoying is the fact that even after all these years of being told not to, I am still desperate to poke and pick at pimples. It’s gross, I know! But don’t even think about trying to convince me of your own virtuous, non-popping ways.

I have been extremely fortunate in the acne-department, in that I escaped the worst sorts of ravages that plagued several of my adolescent contemporaries, and that continue to torture lovely ladies of all ages. I don’t even feel like I should call my teenage eruptions acne: they were really only zits, which is an anodyne term, really, compared with some folks have to deal with.

Whatever the degree, we can all agree that no one wants even one stupid spot on their face, one which always makes its appearance at the worst possible time, and can sometimes be painful, to boot. The ones you get around your nose? Ugh. Just last month I had one that was in my nostril, and oh lordee, did I want to pop that bitch, but it never came to a head — okay, those ones, those are the worst.

The nostril-zit went away within two days, through the good offices of Dermalogica’s Gentle Soothing Booster. I know how those bad boys like to hang around, I’m sure I’ve had equally stubborn and painful little feckers like that hang about for at least a week (the ones at the hairline? Ach!) I had tried any number of things in the past, including that auld models-trick-using-toothpaste, but this little gem from our friends in The International Dermal Institute is the best thing I have ever used. Since I was sticking it up my nose, I noticed perhaps too well the slightly oily smell of the stuff, but apart from that minor quibble, I’d bronze this thing and set it on a plinth — except that I’d really prefer to use it.

€55.80/£43.50/$48.00

Sweet Sixteen: Clinique Clarifying Lotion

When I was in my 20s, my godmother recommended that I start a proper skin care regimen. The gist of her argument was that just because I looked amazing and youthful right then didn’t mean that I could I take it for granted, and if I wanted to extend my years of amazingness and youthiness, I had better get cracking right away.

I chose Clinique. I can’t remember why, except that their fresh and spare ad campaigns made them, in my mind, modern and suited to my youthful amazingness. I got the 3-step thingie — the soap, the yellow moisturiser, and the Clarifying Lotion 2. I had to google the yellow stuff just now (Dramatically Different!) because I stopped using it ages ago, and the soap is distant, misty memory, but I have not yet found anything that is as effective as the Clarifying Lotion in terms of cleaning and toning the skin.

Despite its slightly astringent tingle, it doesn’t dry the skin. I just don’t feel like I’ve cleaned off the day if I don’t feel that blast of icy freshness. And who can argue with the power of Clinique Bonus Days! I ask you! Even after all these years of beauty largesse, the sight of a wee collection of cunningly assembled samples in some class of clever case sends a thrill racing through my veins. I’ve still got the mini bottle from that one Bonus that one Time, that had held Clarifying Toner — I continue to decant into it when traveling, and wouldn’t be without it.

Yes, indeed: many, many years on, it’s still a go-to/must have,/unassailable element of my beauty regimen. If you must know how many years it has been, well, I remember when all this product came in glass bottles. I think the years have been pretty kind to me, so clearly Clinique has done its job well. Many thanks to them, and to Auntie Sue, too!

€36/$46/£33

I see that InStyle agrees with me…