Sunday, 20 December 2015

Alpha H Liquid Laser Skincare: Review



Alpha-H Liquid Gold is one of my most recommended beauty products and the first to make a marked visual difference to my skin, so I was really keen to try the Liquid Laser line and see what it has to offer that's different.

Alpha-H Liquid Laser is designed to address the challenges of 40+ skin, when production of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid declines more quickly, leading to loss of elasticity and firmness.
An alternative to invasive treatments, Liquid Laser boosts skin's ability to repair itself, thanks to Juveleven, the very latest peptide technology.

Alpha-H Liqud Laser Concentrate is the key product in the range, a velvety gel-serum with quite a watery consistency, dispensed by pipette. Designed to tone, firm and brighten with plant extracts, AHAs and hexapeptides, this feels really dewy on my skin and leaves it feeling plumped and well hydrated.

Alpha-H Liquid Laser Cleansing Oil adds radiance to lacklustre skin and - unusually for a cleanser - improves moisture levels by 80%. Apparently... of course I can't measure this exactly but do have dry skin and this leaves it feeling comfortably soft and clean; never stripped. Its gel to oil texture is really easy to use; a good option for anyone a bit wary of regular cleansing oils. And another pump bottle = winning.

And finally, my hero product from the range...

Alpha-H Liquid Laser Super Anti-ageing Balm targets existing skin damage - lines, loss of elasticity and age spots - with actives including stable vitamin C, niacinamide and Juveleven. The semi-solid balm in a jar comes with a mini spatula and the tiniest amount goes a long way. It melts into the skin on contact and feels intensely nourishing, yet lightweight. Definitely one for night time use, this does leave a residue on my skin, in a really good way. The texture is sublime and my skin is loving this product.

It's rare that I come across a skincare line that makes me think, if I wasn't a beauty writer and constantly testing new products, I'd happily stick with this one forever. That's exactly how I feel about Liquid Laser and can't recommend it highly enough - if your skin falls into the target category (if not, try Liquid Gold!). One month of use has left my skin looking clearer, smoother and more velvety and hydrated - better than it has in a long time. (I actually noticed results quite quickly, but always like to test skincare for a month.)

The prices are high end but not extortionate, starting at £35.95. I have huge respect for the science, research and expertise behind Alpha-H and really believe you're getting a lot for your money with this brand.







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Thursday, 17 December 2015

Last Minute Luxury Gifts


I've heard talks of pressies wrapped and under the tree since November when nothing was further from my mind. Us mere mortals don't need to panic just yet as most stores are still offering pre-Christmas delivery... I've rounded up some gorgeous ideas for last minute luxury gifts. 


My new obsession... I'm utterly smitten with this glorious scent and now understand why so many are infatuated with it. A little full on at first spritz, it settles on my skin with velvety, musky florals that I just can't get enough of. The perfume features top notes of tea and bergamot with sambac jasmine, orchid, freesia and rose at the centre on a base of patchouli. 




The ultimate indulgence, OSKIA's massage candle is made with May Rose, nourishing soya and coconut oils. Burn it while you bathe, then massage the rose scented oil into clean, dry skin (the oil doesn't overheat). The smell is calming and the oil feels deliciously nourishing. 




This purple satin box looks so beautiful it would seem a crime to wrap it up! Layer Iris Nobile EDP over the Bath Gel and Luminous Body Cream for an elegant scent that lingers til the party's over. The set includes 50ml of each product. 




I'm already a fan of Studio 10 make up and this brush set is the icing on the cake. It contains all the tools you need to apply a full face of makeup with beautifully soft and cleverly designed double ended brushes. I particularly like the Cheek and Eye Definer brushes. The snakeskin effect pouch to store them in makes it an even more glamorous gift. Purchased individually, these brushes would cost £154; the set is £75.


Roger & Gallet Bois D'Orange Fresh Fragrant Water and Hand & Nail Cream Cracker

Luxuries don't always have to be expensive... some provide all the luxe for a modest price, like these two from Roger & Gallet. Bois D'Orange is my favourite scent from this brand which I've raved about multiple times on here. Fresh, yet soft and woody it's a real crowd pleaser. The little cracker contains a Sublime Hand Cream and mini perfume sample. 



If you really want to spoil someone or unsure what to give the woman who has everything, vouchers for a pampering session are always well received. The Merchant Hotel Spa is seriously decadent and offers gorgeous facial and body treatments. I was treated to the Hot Lava Shell Massage on my birthday last week and can't recommend it highly enough... I practically floated out! They have some great Winter Sale offers at the moment too. 

There are some great beauty deals to be found this month - here are just a few:
Free delivery at Space NK until 18 Dec
Beauty Sale at Very Exclusive (on now)
Free cleanser with every order at Pai Skincare until 21 Dec
Daily promotions at House of Fraser until 3 Jan, starting with 10% off mascara 24-26 Dec

I hope this helps some of you... I'm off to order a few last minute bits myself before I tuck into the mince pies... 



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Monday, 14 December 2015

The Best Winter Candles


I’m often asked about my favourite luxury candles, so have gathered up my top six to share with you. Every single one of these is a winner - no compromises here - and I don’t think you could go wrong with any of them.

I’m calling these my favourite Winter candles rather than Christmas candles, as I like mine to survive beyond the festive season, though it’s definitely a good time to have one  around if you’re expecting extra guests.

Oh and there’s also the fact that I’m not a big fan of your typical cinnamon and clove numbers… I’d rather have a pot of mulled wine on the stove!


The first two are great day time candles. Winter doesn’t have to be all about heavy scents… fresh, uplifting ones are a godsend on cold dark days and these two fit the bill perfectly. Neither are overpowering, so work well in smaller rooms and won’t interfere if you’re eating. Afternoon tea with Prosecco anyone?

MALIN&GOETZ VETIVER - I normally associate Malin & Goetz with skincare (Detox Face Mask is a beauty) but had heard good things about the candles - and it turns out everyone was right. Vetiver is a grassy, fresh scent that really boosts my spirits and I like the modern, urban glass. If you do fancy something more smokey, I think Tobacco and Dark Rum sound wonderful.

100 ACRES LEMON MYRTLE, LAVENDER & ROSE - First up, how pretty is the lace effect glass pattern when the light glows through this? I love a lemon candle and that’s the main note I get from this one, with an underlying sweetness from the rose. I often burn this by my deskside for its feel good effects on The Afternoon Slump. Hand poured, it’s made from ethically sourced soy and rapeseed with 100% natural essential oils.


Lots of high end candles are available in travel sizes and it’s a great way to try out new scents without breaking the bank. Ditto gift sets of votives at this time of year. These two are travel sized slow burners… I censor how long I burn them to help eek out every last whiff.

BIRCH & BROOK LIBRARY - I first posted this on Instagram as smelling of ‘contentment… leather bound books, log fires and memories.’ I still stand by that - and what could be better on a Winter’s night? A brilliant gift for book lovers - or anyone with a nose to be honest - there’s something really precious about this one and it’s vying for top place in this six.

RATHBORNES BITTER ORANGE, BIRCH TAR & BALSAM - ‘Tangy citrus top notes and a rich, black amber heart, blended with a smoky, woody undercurrent of birch, fir balsam and oak wood.’ I can’t really put it any better than that. This is one of those scents that makes me close my eyes and inhale deeply. I’d liken it to sitting in a huge leather chair by the fire in the foyer of a luxury hotel, where you catch a waft of forest air every time someone opens the door. (Not that I’ve ever been there, but I like the idea of it!) It smells expensive and quite masculine, in a good way.


If you want every guest to notice how gorgeous your house smells and ask where it’s coming from, go for one of these two. Think candles that smell like actual perfume… unsurprisingly as that’s exactly what both are based on - and they throw a lot of powerful scent. Perfect for  evening parties, these are like the royalty of home fragrances.

JO MALONE POMEGRANATE NOIR - I featured this rich, warm and heady candle recently, so won’t say too much more here, except to ask that you don’t rule it out, even if you’re not one of the perfume’s avid fans. It’s beautiful. Find my full review here.

CLINIQUE AROMATICS IN WHITE - I’ve saved the best for last with this one, which has absolutely blown me away. Definitely a candle that kicks off scent even when unlit, Aromatics in White is a pure creamy, sensual scent - all woman; yet not girly. I find it a little powdery with a waft of spice among the florals - a heavenly combination of violet leaf, rose water essential and amber gris. Imagine an elegant Parisian boudoir… pink velvet chaise longue, billowing curtains and a huge vase of white flowers; this is how they’d smell. I can’t get enough of it.

And yes, these are all quite spendy (and not all purchased by me), but once you’ve dipped a toe in, it really is hard to go back - and I’d rather have one spectacularly scented candle than several mediocre ones. If like me, you spend a lot more time at home during the Winter months, a lovely candle really is one of the best treats. I think so anyway…
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Thursday, 10 December 2015

Festive Glitter Nails


Ready to get your sparkle on? Whether you fancy treating yourself or someone else, here are a few of my favourite festive glitter nail polishes…

Nails Inc Festive Cracker includes 3 mini 5ml polishes in seasonal shades: York Row - red and gold glitter top coat, Buckingham Terrace - deep wine red and St Johns Avenue - nude. The wine + glitter combo looks SO Christmassy on, though the glitter looks just as pretty over the nude shade, so I think this set will work well all year around. Bonus!


I’ve posted some pics of these gorgeous new Kure Bazaar glitters on instagram recently (swatches and on my nails). The gold shade, Crazy is particularly stunning, with vivid gold shards that look like golden sprinkles in 1 coat and add complete coverage in 2-3. Strass is a sophisticated dark blue that looks great on tips, over white or silver. Kure Bazaar polishes are 85% natural and toxin-free. Rose gold glitter, Diva is next on my list!

A peel off base coat is also available, though I find that the cheaper NYC one works equally well. Both allow you to apply glitter polish as normal, then peel it off when you wish; no faffing with removal. In terms of lasting power, I find that they work best used alone with glitter, rather than with a layer of polish in between.


I think Essie Summit of Style is my favourite glitter ever, with large bronze flakies that can be stroked sparsely on tips for a gold leaf effect, or applied all over for a densely packed finish that’s as glittery as it gets, yet remains sophisticated. Not easy to find these days, it’s still available here, where I bought my bottle for the princely sum of £2.49! (Deep blue glitter, Stroke of Brilliance is the same price.)

I discovered Magic Effects Liquid Sequin polish when I was doing some work with Avon recently and fell head over heels with ‘Dazzle’ - bronze micro glitter with large fuchsia pieces in a sheer purple base - you can see pics of it on my nails here.



Jessica Phenom nail polish and top coat are impressively long lasting, shiny formulas and this little kit works out at great value (saving £10) if you fancy giving them a go. It includes base coat, a Phenom polish and Phenom Finale Shine top coat. Mine is the shade Caviar Dreams, a gorgeous blackened teal, which I swatched on my instagram. I think my next mani will be this with Essie Summit of Style glitter tips. Also available in 5 other shades here.


And finally, there’s no point in pretty nails without pretty cuticles and Margaret Dabbs Fabulous Cracker contains a bottle of her intensive Nail and Cuticle Treatment Serum to keep yours in tip top condition. Central heating and cold weather wreak havoc on mine at this time of year and I need to treat them twice a day to keep them looking semi acceptable.
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Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Soap & Glory Boots Star Gift: It’s The Whole She-Bang!

Soap & Glory Whole She Bang Star Gift

Soap & Glory fans, it’s your annual opportunity to stock up on your favourites at a bargain price, as Boots Star Gift for Christmas 2015 goes on sale at half price this week (£30, RRP £60). What to expect? The Whole She-Bang!

Inside are 9 of Soap & Glory’s most popular products: 

  • HAND FOOD Hand Cream,
  • THE RIGHTEOUS BUTTER Body Butter
  • THE SCRUB OF YOUR LIFE Body Buffer
  • CLEAN ON ME Body Wash
  • HEEL GENIUS Foot Cream
  • PEACHES & CLEAN Deep Purifying Cleanser
  • THICK & FAST High-Definition Mascara
  • THE RIGHTEOUS BUTTER Instant Sunkissed Tint Body Lotion
  • SEXY MOTHER PUCKER Lip Gloss in a NEW suits-every-girl shade Rose & Shine

The packaging of this year’s set is more luxe than previous boxes, with a zip up vanity case featuring a stunning pop art design by uber cool British fashion designer, Philip Colbert - a definite collectable!

IT’S THE WHOLE SHE-BANG will be half price at £30.00 (RRP £60) for a limited time only from Friday 11 December at 7.00am GMT. SOAP & GLORY’s Christmas Boots Star Gift is renowned for selling out, so don’t hang about if you want one. My best bet is set the alarm half an hour early to order online HERE and collect (free) at your local store.

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Monday, 7 December 2015

Salcura: Dry Skin & Eczema Solutions


Much as I love luxurious body creams, my skin is prone to dryness and eczema in colder weather, varying from small dry dots to larger patches. 

Last month I experienced the worst case I'd known, with a large angry patch of eczema on my calf and red, cracked itchy skin on my palms. I didn't even know that was a thing before! 

I'm not talking slight itching here; it was red raw, can't focus on anything else, don't want to leave the house levels of irritation and distraction. Probably hard to imagine unless you've experienced it, but the closest comparison I can make is with my childhood experience of chicken pox. And I do realise that my experience was mild in comparison to many others. 

I'd tried all my usual trusted remedies, some of which brought initial relief, but the symptoms persisted. I then resorted to steroid cream, expecting instant relief, but nada. 

In the middle of all this, a package arrived from Bioskin with two Salcura products to try: Bioskin DermaSpray Skin Nourishment Spray for initial relief and Zeoderm cream for more intense moisture relief. DermaSpray is a fine liquid that sinks in quickly to provide instant itch relief, while Zeoderm intensely moisturises and relieves very dry or cracked skin. Made with 99% natural ingredients, the products can be used as often as needed and are best used layered (cream over spray). 

I'd been told that these could be as effective as steroid creams and while I was cynical as per, I was willing to give them a go. Within a few days the itching had stopped, the redness had gone and my skin felt normal again. Not even kidding and such a relief. I'd been scared to use any product that touched my palms, which as you can imagine is pretty tricky - they are now perfectly soft and supple again, with no itching or cracked skin. 

I still have to go back to these products occasionally when things threaten to flare up, but have never known such fast and effective results from an over the counter topical product and won't be without them again. 

I know from extensive experimenting with products for my son (who has had eczema since babyhood) that a lot of trial and error is involved and the same products don't necessarily work for everyone, but if you're looking for a gentle alternative to treat intensely dry skin or eczema, I'd encourage you to give Bioskin Salcura a go. 

There are lots more products in the range and I'll definitely give more of them a go. These two do have a slight medicinal scent, but as anyone who is literally desperate will agree, that's a small price to pay for the relief they bring. 

I'm planning to do another post on the various steps I take to manage dry winter skin and eczema, but was so impressed with this duo I needed to share with you sooner than later in the hope that they can help someone else. 

Salcura is available from boots.com or salcuraskincare.com

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Sunday, 6 December 2015

Christmas Makeup Gifts 2015

IMG_0234

There are so many gorgeous Christmas makeup gift sets around that it’s hard to know where to begin, so I’ve narrowed it down to four across different budgets; two Christmas specials and two festive-friendly releases from recent months. I didn’t intend for them to coordinate so well - neutral with a twinkly accent appears to be the theme!

Bobbi-Brown-Christmas-2015 

First up is Bobbi Brown’s Holiday Collection and the limited edition Greystone Eye Palette (top left), for office wear to glam with a top notch dual ended brush.

The Mini Lip & Eye Palette in Bellini includes a nude lipgloss, 3 matte eye shadows and two shimmer shadows. I find the latter work best as a wash of shimmer pressed over other shades rather than stand alone, dazzling glitter. At £26.50 this is a great intro to Bobbi Brown, which is probably why I struggled to find one in stock online! I also love that it’s handbag sized.

Shimmer Brick in Pink adds a silvery pink glow to cheekbones - while I’m not the biggest Shimmer Brick-er I like the cool tones of this one and if ever there’s a time for sparkle, this is it… my advice: restrict to tops of cheek & brow bones.

My favourite of all the above is the new Luxe Lip Color. The Neutral Rose and Soft Berry shades look gorgeous for Winter (I’m saving Retro Coral for Spring) and you’re bound to find a favourite among 24 colours of this new formula. Highly moisturising, these literally turn my lips from blah into soft and sumptuous… within a couple of minutes they literally look and feel smoother and plumper. The colour lasts well and the weighty, extra large golden packaging is super luxe.

There’s something about giving a single luxury lipstick that makes the perfect gift in my opinion, especially for someone unlikely to treat themselves - and you’ll be pushed to find a better one than this. I’ll definitely be treating myself to another.

I also posted about the new Sterling Collection recently if you’ll like a little more festive Bobbi inspo.

Pixi-Beauty-Christmas-2015-Contour-Palette,Silky-Eye-Pencil-set Pixi-Beauty-Natural-Contour-Kit

If you like to get a lot for your dollar, Pixi Beauty’s Christmas sets are great finds. The Natural Contour Kit includes 4 face shades (2 matte and 2 satin/shimmer), 6 matte eyeshadows and 2 large shimmer eyeshadows that could also be used as a cheek highlight. It’s an impressive collection and I’m especially excited about they eye shades as I do love a good contoured eye look, particularly forgiving when you have hooded eyes.

The Endless Silky Eye Pen Quartette (30% off) includes 4 richly pigmented, long wearing gel eyeliner pencils in Black Noir, Black Cocoa (dark matte brown), Deep Plum and Slate Grey. All really wearable and the plum in particular is a stunner. These really are silky smooth and very pigmented, easily smoked out with a pencil brush for a quick smokey eye.

KIKO-Silk-Pearl-Bronzer Cream-Radiance-Highlighter

KIKO Silk Pearl Illuminating Bronzer and Cream Radiance Highlighter are part of its Midnight Siren Collection and their Christmas bauble-esque shape and party-ready textures lend them well to festive makeup. It really is hard to go wrong with KIKO and I’m a fan of their bronzers; this one is light enough to wear in Winter - to match your face to a self tanned body or to enhance frozen features! The highlight has a cream to powder texture and comes in two shades; this is 01, a pale creamy champagne gold.

 Topshop-Beauty-Pyrite-Eyeshadow,Fools-Gold-Smoke-Stick

Last but not least is a personal favourite that I’ve been meaning to share for a while: Topshop Mono Eyeshadow in Pyrite and Smoke Stick shadow/liner in Fools Gold, which together give the quickest, easiest smokey eye. Pyrite has an intense glittery foil finish with incredible payoff and true wow factor. Fools Gold Smoke Stick is a metallic blackened gold that can be worn alone, smudged long the lashline or paired with the shadow - just dreamy… I’m wearing both in this pic and suggest you add an extra set for yourself if you’re ordering! Formula varies between the shades but these two are absolute winners and one of my best makeup discoveries this year.

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Friday, 4 December 2015

Christmas Stocking Fillers / Little Gifts

Paul Joe-Lip-Treatment-Balm-tin

Stuck for stocking filler or small gift ideas? Here are 5 options to add to your list…

Paul & Joe Lip Treatment Balm - Paul & Joe are experts at beautifully packaging that even makes everyday essentials look exquisite. I’d happily whip this out and apply anywhere and everywhere.

This-Works-Kiss Hug-Christmas-2015

This Works Calm Kiss & Calm Hug - This Works make the best calming balms and sleep mists I’ve tried and this year’s Christmas offering is their cutest yet… a little kiss & hug of calm to hang on the tree. Apply on pulse points when in need of a kiss or hug (next best thing to the real thing!).

L'Occitane-Winter-Candle-Christmas-2015

L’Occitane Winter Forest Scented Candle - With notes of pine needles, peach and cinnamon, this may be small but it burns for 20 hours and I love the cute little tin. Also available in other fragrances.

Soap Glory-Three-Times-Butter-mini-set-Christmas-2015

Soap & Glory Three Times Butter - If you haven’t tried Soap & Glory body butters before, then pick one of these up for yourself too. The scents are amazing and they’re a great size for travel. The set includes 3x50ml of The Righteous Butter (my fave), Smoothie Star and Sugar Crush.

Illuminage-Eye-Mask    

Illuminage Skin Rejuvenating Eye Mask - I don’t spend a huge amount on stocking fillers, but if you fancy spoiling someone special then this would be a real treat. It’s a silky eye mask with copper ions to promote natural cell renewal and help reduce fine lines, taking beauty sleep to new levels!

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Thursday, 3 December 2015

Beauty Chocolate Anyone?

esthetechoc-anti-ageing-chocolate

If you’re looking to branch out from the yawn-worthy tins of Quality Street this year, how about popping a box of chocolates with skin benefits under the tree? The world’s first beauty chocolate, Esthechoc claims to slow down the ageing process when eaten regularly. I’m certainly intrigued… I love chocolate more than I should admit, so a guilt-free licence to indulge has my attention.

And yes, I felt equally cynical, but there does seem to be some scientific evidence…

Its makers say it can change the underlying skin of a 50-60 year old into that of someone in their 20s or 30s. Tests showed that after four weeks of eating it daily, volunteers had less evidence of inflammation in their blood and increased blood supply to skin tissue.

Made using the same antioxidant that keeps goldfish gold and flamingos pink, a 7.5g bar of the chocolate contains the same amount of the antioxidant astaxanthin as a fillet of Alaskan salmon, and equal levels of free-radical fighting cocoa polyphenols as 100g of dark chocolate.

It launched this year following 10 years of extensive research by Cambridge Chocolate Technologies (sounds like somewhere I’d like to hang out!).

esthetechoc-anti-ageing-chocolate-Christmas-set

So what does it taste like?

To me, it’s neither mindblowingly gorgeous or at all unpleasant. I think it tastes similar to standard bitter dark chocolate - and for me works best with a cup of tea or coffee rather than on its own.

I think more sophisticated presentation would increase its appeal (esp as it’s not cheap), such as gold wrappers. I guess the brand is trying to maintain a slightly clinical element and the Christmas packaging is prettier than the norm.

ethetechoc-the-science 

Some more detail on the science bit from the back of the box. 

Would you give (or like to receive) a gift of beauty chocolate? I’ll certainly eat mine - and edit this post with an update if I notice any skin benefits. It’s certainly the most interesting press sample I’ve received in a long time!

Esthechoc’s Christmas Box is available at Harrods

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Tuesday, 1 December 2015

My Pomegranate Facial Peel

Array-Aesthetics-Belfast 

I don’t often write about facial treatments on here, but recently enjoyed one that really stood out for me and wanted to share. I’d been curious about trying a facial peel for a while and also rather nervous about the whole idea, so was happy to find a highly recommended clinic and brilliant aesthetician.

I went to Array Aesthetics in one of Belfast city centre’s oldest and most beautiful buildings, with a carved stone and ornate ironwork entrance, stained glass windows, a sweeping staircase and beautiful tiled walls. When I entered the treatment room and was greeted with the whaft of a Jo Malone diffuser, I knew I was onto a good thing!

My consultation before the treatment began completely put my mind at ease. My aesthetician, Eithne, talked me through every element in detail. Her depth of knowledge on all elements of skin, not just the treatment, is something I have rarely come across - she immediately gained my trust and has been recommended to many others since.

Described as a Medi-Facial, my treatment combined deep cleaning and exfoliation in a number of stages. The show stopper - a Cosmedix Pomegranate Peel - is a light superficial epidermal peel with no down time, good for a beginner like me!

It contains 15% lactic acid to stimulate cell turnover and some of nature's most potent antioxidants, including pomegranate seed oil, green algae astaxanthin and red wine resveratrol to target skin damaging free radicals. I did experience quite a lot of tingling during this stage - which is to be expected - moreso for my sensitive, rosaceous skin. The peel is left on for 2-10 minutes according to skin type (mine was 3 mins) and deliciously cold compresses were applied after to cool my skin.

The final step was the addition of a protective balm, Cosmedix Rescue, with black cherries, willow herb, shea butter and an SPF (essential daily after a peel). This felt really soothing and smelt divine!

The next day my skin felt incredibly smooth and my sister (who didn’t know I’d been) asked what on earth I’d been using on my skin as she wanted to buy it immediately (I gave her Eithne’s number). My pores looked finer, skin felt softer and looked more radiant for a couple of weeks after. Makeup even applied more smoothly and seemed to last longer with all those dead skin cells out of the way.

I realise that a lot of this is only relevant to those of my readers who live locally, but you may be able to find similar treatments using these products near you via this Medico certified salon locator. My treatment at Array Aesthetics was complimentary on this occasion but I’ll 100% be back and was not paid to write this, just genuinely impressed. The Pomegranate Peel costs £60 and you can see the full range of treatments and prices here.

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