Announcing… the new weekly Friday Photo Challenge, a weekly photography challenge for everyone who likes to take photos!
So the Weekly Photography Challenge used to be an amazing way for photographers (amateur and professional alike) to take a prompt and turn it into a piece of artwork. You could search your files or go out and specifically take a photo for the weekly challenge.
I was scared of participating at first, because I knew nothing about photography (I still don’t know as much as many people, but enough that I’ve sold pictures to national news outlets) but I enjoyed taking pictures and I knew what I liked seeing in a photo.
I was away in China, where I couldn’t update my blog as our internet in our apartment was too slow, when the final WPC came and went, and I only found out earlier this year that the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge has now passed.
Obviously it’s a big commitment, to put out a challenge for everyone every single week without fail and to go and look at everyone’s contributions, but I am going to take it on. I hope this new one will be one of many challenges to inspire people to share beautiful photos and to bring together the strong community we used to have a few years ago on WordPress.
From endings, there are always beginnings. Leaves fall to the ground at this time of year and in decaying, they become the nutritious soil that nourishes all plant life.
Late Autumn is a time for new beginnings, as the lifecycle of the earliest plants begins, months before we see anything happening above the ground.
This week’s challenge, then, is beginnings. Here’s how to take part:
Take a photo or search your files for one that represents the week’s theme.
Write a post, including your photo, any words of explanation or inspiration you wish to share, and a link to this challenge page.
Comment on this post with a link to your page so others can see your contribution.
That’s it! Super easy.
This challenge will stay open for one week, then next Friday, I will post the next challenge!
Need a Valentine’s rose with panties folded up in the middle of the flower? Taobao. Need an oboe? Taobao. Need a Doraemon wedding tea set for a wedding tea ceremony? Taobao. Need 5000 personalised corporate pens with diamonds embedded in the barrel and your company name engraved in it? Taobao. Don’t understand Mandarin? Baopals! There are literally translators working at Baopals who will talk to Taobao sellers for you and ensure you can shop with confidence! Taobao is often touted as “Chinese eBay” but that’s not entirely true. Taobao sells literally everything and it’s all brand new.
2. There are no launderettes.
I never saw a coin-operated launderette anywhere in China. But everyone knows someone who can do your laundry or ironing for you and they’ll give you her WeChat so you can connect.
3. Milk is the next big fad diet.
They put milk in almost everything in China! Even sorbet! The “translate” function on WeChat will help if you’re dairy free, but it’s a LOT easier to just learn the Chinese character for milk (or anything else you’re allergic to) and scan the packet for it. Milk is seen as the next big thing over there, and if it comes from Australia or New Zealand, Chinese shoppers will pay top price for it.
4. You can fit a lot of stuff on the back of a bike.
Here are some stellar examples of this from Xi’an:
5. Everything is caused by “heatiness” or “coldness”.
Chinese medicine boils down to two things: Hot and cold. If you’re ill, you have an excess of either one or the other (or both, if you have bipolar). I lost a baby once and got taken to a traditional Chinese hospital, where I was told in all serious by a qualified doctor that I’d eaten too much cold food.
6. They have their own type of sushi.
If you’re a fan of sushi, you’ll know sushi is actually the name of the type of rice. China grows its own, which is called Jilin rice, because it comes from Jilin province, which borders North Korea. It’s identical to sushi rice and a fraction of the price in China. I got 10kg of Jilin rice as a free gift for spending over 700RMB ($70) on groceries once. That would be like $30 for 10kg sushi rice in the UK, so getting it free with $70 of shopping seemed crazy, but that’s how cheap it is. And I really liked cooking with it.
7. Pregnant women are treated like queens
It’s probably a hangup from the now-defunct one child policy (now a two-child policy), but pregnant women and new mothers are treated with great care. Old ladies stop elbowing you in the ribs in crowded areas, men give up their seats on the metro, airports let you sit in the priority seats and the doctors expect you to rest. You also get a legal minimum of 6 months maternity leave from work and they legally have to give you your job back when you return. And everyone stops to adore a baby! There are entire shopping centres just for children like Coco City in Changzhou.
8. Eggs boiled in tea make a great breakfast.
The first time I saw it I was like whaaaat? Why waste good tea? But somehow it delicately infuses the egg with tea flavour and makes such a nice start to the day.
9. Umbrellas have two uses
Many Chinese women don’t like getting a suntan because they want to look refined (and not agricultural) so they use their umbrellas on hot days to keep the sun off them when they’re walking down the street.
10. Family is everything
This stems from the Confucianism on which China’s society still functions, even if 60% of the population are now atheist. Confucianism is a “humanist religion” which believes in no God, but which values hierarchy and prosocial values, especially respect for ancestors (including living ones, e.g. your parents, aunts etc). This is so ingrained into Chinese culture that you will almost never hear anyone in China criticizing their parents or going against their family’s wishes. Conversely, children are also precious, although this is sometimes expressed in ways we don’t understand very well in the west.
To sum up…
Culturally, China is difficult to pin into a box because it’s one huge country, with so many nuances across the different regions, but these are the things that sum it up for me!
I decided the best way to test the toner was to put orchid skin on one side of my body and cauliflower mushroom skin on the other side of my body.
I have been using K-beauty for a while (about 3 years now) and although I used to follow a 10-step routine, I have largely developed my own K-beauty routine which works best for my skin. But I could never quite figure out where to place the toner, and where other people said to put it (after essence and serum) didn’t work for me at all.
For the record, I’m 34, my face skin is still looking under 30 but my arms and legs have been ageing faster since my late twenties due to spending a lot of time in the sun in foreign countries. It’s the price you pay for being a travel blogger. But I’d still like to improve things and I’d heard that skin/toner was the product to use.
See, some K-beauty skin/toner products are exfoliating, using AHA or BHA to reveal the fresh skin and clear away the dead cells on the surface.
Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to know what’s in Innisfree products imported from South Korea because, of course, the labels are in Korean. When I bought their products in China, the labels were in Chinese. Go figure. And the American products are so translated that half the time I can’t even tell if something is the same product or a reformulation for the US market.
So anyway, on the one hand we have a bottle of gloopy toner in pretty purple packaging that is orchid scented and on the other, we have a bottle of toner in brown packaging that is… you guessed it. Cauliflower mushroom scented.
That’s about as good as it sounds.
I wasn’t entirely sure whether these toners should be left on or washed off, and toner seems to be one of the steps in the K-beauty routine you hear the least about. Maybe because no one else is sure whether to wash off their toner or not, too. Or maybe because most people doing K-beauty are, like, seventeen (I’m sorry, but statistics show most beauty bloggers are on average fifteen years younger than me) and therefore have no need for anti-ageing products.
So I used the orchid toner on my left arm and leg, and the cauliflower mushroom toner on my right arm and leg, then I left them for about ten minutes. They went on slightly sticky, feeling a bit like shampoo, meaning they definitely have things in them that should be washed off again. Like western exfoliating face washes.
I stepped into the shower and washed off. I had applied them to dry skin because they were quite watery and I wasn’t convinced that they would do much on wet skin, and I’m far too impatient to make my body damp then stand around in the Belfast November cold waiting for gloop to work.
When I came out of the shower, the difference was profound. The orchid skin toner had given a very mild effect, but the crumpled paper sort of appearance of the surface of my skin still remained when I pinched it (when you get to a certain age, when you pinch or squeeze your skin all these lines appear that you don’t usually see), and it felt rough to the touch, like it needed moisture ASAP.
The cauliflower mushroom skin toner had done something completely different. It had left my skin feeling smooth to the touch, and when I pinched some of my leg skin between my fingers, the crumpled paper appearance had drastically reduced.
My skin felt renewed and looked and felt younger.
I was very impressed. And also shocked that I had never seen anyone writing about this product because it’s incredible! I don’t know if it’s because the name cauliflower mushroom doesn’t sound appealing in English or because the packaging is a lot browner than the orchid’s pretty purple packaging (which I’ve commented on before in my review of the orchid eye cream vs. the perfect 9 eye cream).
The Innisfree Cauliflower Mushroom Skin/Toner is the best exfoliating toner for anti-ageing needs I’ve ever come across.
I don’t say it often, but Holy Grail alert! And I’ve had it sitting in my cosmetics drawer for months and never used it!
I wish this toner was more accessible to the UK market.
I wasn’t planning on doing this, but given how good this toner is, I am going to compare it to the Elemis Papaya Enzyme Peeling Exfoliator in a separate article.
Wow. So let’s look at the other products:
Innisfree Jeju Orchid essence vs. Innisfree Cauliflower Mushroom vital serum
Essence and serum are sometimes used interchangeably but actually, they can sometimes be different things, such as in the Innisfree Soybean Energy range, where there used to be a (now-discontinued) serum which was different to their mega-amazing bestselling Soybean Energy Essence (which I swear I will review one of these days). Usually, however, “serum” is the English translation of “essence” which is a shame because essence is a prettier word. In the case of these two products, the word is interchangeable.
An essence or serum is sort of like someone put all the active ingredients of a cream into a container without any of the moisturising or hydrating properties. Sort of.
I’ve been using the Innisfree Orchid Essence on my face for several months, now and if I’m entirely honest, I’m not very impressed with it. I spent ages researching which products to get to replace the Soybean Energy Serum which is now discontinued and was my favourite product ever. The research I did said Orchid was just as good.
I’m sorry if you’re a fan of the Innisfree Orchid Essence and I know it’s one of their bestselling ranges alongside the green tea seed products, but honestly I don’t like the Orchid Essence and I don’t feel like it’s doing anything to my skin. All told, I’m glad I got it in an Autumn Festival sale rather than paying full price for it.
So the bar was pretty low and tl;dr, the Cauliflower Mushroom essence was a lot better. I’m not rushing out to buy a full-priced bottle because there are so many serums out there to choose from and I don’t think it’s the very best, but at the same time I felt like it was at least doing something for my skin. It left my face feeling soft and hydrated.
I didn’t use the essence on my arms and legs because the bottle is a miniature and it’s even smaller than all the other miniatures in this set, so there isn’t much product.
Innisfree Jeju Orchid Lotion vs Innisfree Cauliflower Mushroom Lotion
After my shower, I did put the Orchid lotion on my left arm and leg, and the Cauliflower Mushroom lotion on my right arm and leg. The Orchid lotion was thinner and came out of the sample bottle very easily, whereas the Cauliflower Mushroom lotion led to me doing the Innisfree Miniature Bottle Dance, which is where I spend about ten minutes tapping the mouth of the open bottle against my hand until enough product comes out to actually use.
If you’ve ever had an Innisfree gift set, you’ll know EXACTLY what I mean. They don’t put anything in a squeezy bottle.
Anyway after many minutes I got the Cauliflower Mushroom lotion out of the bottle and applied it to my arm and leg. It was honestly worth the wait. The Cauliflower Mushroom lotion was instantly hydrating and made my skin feel smooth. The paper bag appearance when I pinch my skin was totally gone, and I credit the Cauliflower Mushroom skin/toner and lotion combo for this.
For a lotion, the effect was very impressive.
Innisfree Jeju Orchid Cream vs Innisfree Cauliflower Mushroom Face Cream
This is the last pairing in this review and I am not sure I need to really write it, at this point, because if you’ve been following this article, you can clearly see what I’m going to say. Except I’m not.
I have been using the Orchid cream for a few weeks on my face. I hadn’t opened the Cauliflower Mushroom miniatures set until today.
The Cauliflower Mushroom face cream is not as startlingly good as the Perfect 9 eye cream, which I think is my favourite Innisfree product right now. The Cauliflower Mushroom face cream is richer than the Orchid face cream, though, and which one you prefer will depend on your current skin needs.
It was super clear-cut that the Cauliflower Mushroom Skin/Toner, lotion and serum was better than the Orchid range, but when it comes to the face creams, I’m not so sure that’s the case.
The Cauliflower Mushroom face cream is a lot richer than I currently need, and my skin wasn’t able to absorb it very well, suggesting it’s aimed at ladies who are ten or fifteen years older than me. The Orchid face cream was largely ineffective. Both creams left my face feeling weighed down (if that even makes sense) and over-saturated, and neither addressed my anti-ageing needs especially well.
So when it comes to the face creams, I wouldn’t buy full sized versions of either of them. And I’m glad I didn’t (I almost bought a full size pot of the Orchid one).
Need a toner? Cauliflower mushroom. Need a lotion? Cauliflower mushroom. Need an essence/serum? Cauliflower mushroom. The Cauliflower mushroom range does these products extremely well.
But if you need a daytime face cream, I would suggest you keep looking, because neither of these quite hit the mark for me.
What is travel and a hotel stay like during this lockdown? It’s a question I never expected to be able to answer because my plan was to stay home whenever possible.
Last Saturday, we got a piece of paper shoved through the door that I might have ignored as it looked like junk mail. Luckily, I didn’t get the mail, my husband did. And he looks at things properly before deciding what to do with them.
This piece of paper said the power company were switching off all power to the houses served by our local substation so they could do “essential maintenance.”
There were dates. Dates. Plural.
If you’re in Florida or Arizona, you need to know Northern Ireland is very cold and dark right now. It goes dark at about 4:30pm at this time of year and on top of that, it’s windy and freezing. We live on top of a hill in a remote area so there aren’t even any street lights. We can’t have a fire because the chimney is blocked up. And our heating and cooker require electricity.
The weather was forecast to drop to 4 celsius overnight on Thursday but it actually dropped to 4 during the day (not the predicted 8). I didn’t check at night but my guess is it reached zero.
My husband and I both work from home. We did before the pandemic. Without electricity, there’s no broadband and we can’t charge our laptops. Without electricity, we are losing money. I don’t think this is a good reason to stay at a hotel by itself but it’s certainly problematic when the power is off.
So, overall, we had a lot of reasons why we couldn’t stay at our house.
I was so annoyed because as it stood earlier this week, we had been told lockdown was lifting the day after our power would be restored. So to my mind if they’d just waited, we would have been able to solve this a lot more easily.
Unfortunately, there was announcement at some point that the lockdown is becoming more extreme from next week and I think a lot of places are not choosing to reopen in the interim. I’ve written a post on places that ARE open where you can take your baby. Early experiences are so important and they’re missing out on so much stimulation which they need for brain development.
Anyway, with a baby and no electricity in winter, I looked up the rules for travel because this was an emergency that was making our home uninhabitable.
It’s largely a free country and I needed parking so we settled on the Hilton in Templepatrick as it’s driveable to jellyfish’s nursery. Also it had a swimming pool. I wasn’t sure if the hotel pool would be open, but if not, I would fill the bath for the baby to splash around in, instead. The hotel restaurants (including breakfast) were closed and everywhere can do takeaway only, so with mine and jellyfish’s milk issues, eating was difficult.
I was still hoping for the pool. He’s never been swimming, because of the way this year has(n’t) been handled by the rulemakers.
So we arrived at the hotel and it turned out the pool was still open and so was the gym (this is no longer the case from Monday in our ever-changing and nonsensical world) and they were quite busy.
We went swimming a total of three times. Two swims were with the baby and one was while he was at nursery. I also used the gym to do some running on the treadmill.
When he realised he was in a swimming pool, the look of awe and wonder on the baby’s face was worth the effort we had to go to so we could find all the floaty inflatable stuff small babies seem to need in swimming pools (Argos has them). He outgrew his first two swimming costumes (0-6 months and 6-12 months) before he ever got to wear them, which is so sad.
Everything was very distant and hygienic. The staff were welcoming as much as was practical, but they were generally not at the front desk. Daytime was sort of like how late-at-night usually is at a hotel. With screens in front of the desks.
What was the same as normal at a hotel during lockdown:
There was still a coffee machine with coffee available 24/7.
The lifts were working.
The room had all the usual toiletries (although there weren’t enough for two people so I wish we had brought some).
The changing rooms at the pools were the same as usual. I don’t know if additional cleaning took place or if it was always quite a clean environment.
The golf course was still open.
Parking was normal (honestly though, I feel like some parent with child spaces near the entrance would have been good because there were about twenty disabled bays). Parking was free though so that was good.
The rooms were cleaned to a high standard and came with everything I would expect for the price and location.
What was different at a hotel during lockdown:
The main doors to the hotel were locked and guests had to use one designated entrance.
Guest bedrooms were sealed with special stickers so you knew no one had been in the room since it was cleaned/sanitized.
The TV remote also had a special sleeve to show it had been cleaned.
In the gym, every second running machine was closed off with hazard tape.
There was hand sanitizer everywhere and a one way system in place around the gym.
Housekeeping only cleaned our room on request. Pro: Fewer people in your room. Maybe it’s just me but I find it super annoying when I return from breakfast and can’t get into a hotel room because it’s being cleaned so it was nice not to have the hard decision about whether or not to put the (removed from the room) Do Not Disturb sign on the door. Con: Hard to just get the bin emptied, fresh towels and more toiletries without making a fuss. And we were creating more rubbish due to having to eat takeaways.
The swimming pool had to be pre-booked and only allowed three groups in at a time. It was open to locals, too, so it was hard to get spots, but the fitness staff were really good and did call us about cancellations so we got to swim plenty, albeit at short notice. I wish we had known this pool was open, we could have joined the gym here and been swimming every week with jellyfish.
It was so, so quiet and the corridors were almost empty because there were so few guests. We were able to put our baby on the floor and let him practice his walking in the long, carpeted corridors every time we were going between our room and the lift. Over the two days, his walking became so much more confident and he was steadier on his feet.
After being in our tiny cottage, where he only has six foot squared to play in (including where his toys live), the long stretches and open indoor space were magical to him. It makes me a bit sad to know he’s been so slow to learn to walk because we couldn’t give him any space to walk in. He is fifteen months old and only started walking very recently.
The food situation:
I think this was the biggest issue, and anyone in an emergency where they need a longer stay would be really screwed. On the second day I basically had nothing to eat until dinner because I couldn’t rustle up anything dairy free.
Then when my husband ordered dinner that day, he somehow decided to order one main meal with no rice. For two people. And I had to remind myself that plenty of people around the world ate less than this in a day. In fact, when I was young and broke, I regularly lived off half a packet of biscuits. And that I should be grateful we had anything at all. I was still frustrated. But I was trying really hard not to be.
We ordered takeaways for our dinners both days. There was nowhere in the room to store/reheat them (no fridge minibar which surprised me, I was glad we brought our electric cool box to store open baby food).
There were also no facilities in the hotel to heat baby food at all so we resorted to stuffing the pouches in a cup of boiling water in our room. I was very glad Jellyfish is still breastfeeding because I have no idea how we would have sterilised bottles for him.
That didn’t heat them evenly and took ages so there were too many cold spots and jellyfish wouldn’t eat them. A microwave in the foyer would have made a huge difference to the comfort of our stay. I just kept thinking about all the food (and 3 litres of stored breastmilk) in our freezer that was defrosting while we were hungry. Boo. 😦
Jellyfish is at an age where he’s getting pretty light sensitive so as soon as he fell asleep, it was annoyingly lights out for all of us.
Overall, any issues we had weren’t really the hotel’s fault at all. I would definitely stay here again and if lockdown lifts by then, we might book here for Christmas. Every member of staff went above and beyond to make us feel welcome under impossible circumstances.
The problems I encountered are things that need to change at a policy level, wherein the government haven’t properly thought through how people are supposed to live if they can’t go home for whatever reason.
We made the best of a bad situation and were lucky to have the pool to go swimming in otherwise we would be stuck in a room with nothing to do to occupy a baby.
I feel like the upcoming change that closes down pools and gyms is throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and I want to see evidence that people are catching Covid from gyms and swimming pools, because looking at the measures already in place in those places, I just don’t believe it.
It just seems like they need to make up their minds. Can we be 1 metre away from people safely or can’t we? Do masks protect us or don’t they? Nothing makes any sense and the rules don’t match with what we’re being told is safe.
Overall, I was glad to get home again. Being away was stressful and I absolutely don’t advocate it unless you need to go. We tried to go to Tesco on the way home as we knew our fridge/freezer was basically done but there was a giant queue for some strange reason. I feel like we’re always behind in knowing what the rules are and what we’re supposed to be doing.
But I’m really glad there was somewhere we could stay when we needed it, and that jellyfish finally got to go swimming for the first time ever.
After our first trip to Xi’an, we headed to Kathmandu, Nepal. We completely didn’t expect to see Everest until we arrived in Nepal.
We boarded our flight, and I was feeling a little better after having quite a bad fall in Xi’an. To help with the travel sickness I often get, I’d asked for a window seat at check-in and we were near the front of the queue so I got my wish.
Our plane took off and on the ascent, we went straight through a thick, white cloud that stayed with us throughout our journey. We were travelling in early July 2018. Summertime in Nepal is the height of the rainy season. There are few tourists at this time of year, since most go to Nepal in the (northern hemisphere’s) winter months in order to capitalize on the dry, cooler temperatures for mountain expeditions to Everest and Annapurna.
FYI, rainy season = cloud cover. All the time. The skies are SUPER grey in Nepal at this time of year and it rains pretty much every afternoon, you can almost set your watch by it.
We hadn’t gone to Nepal with any intention of doing the infamous Everest Base Camp trek. We just wanted to see Kathmandu, for itself, as a destination in its own right, so there was no real plan to see Everest at all on this trip. Some people will be outraged by that or see it as a waste of an opportunity.
What can I say? As I said in my article on 17 things to do in Xi’an, I’m not a fan of box-ticking travel, to go somewhere just to do one thing then to leave again without taking in the culture. I had to go to Xi’an twice before I saw the Terracotta Warriors, haha.
I had hoped to see Tibet from the air, as we hadn’t been able to organise travel there, due to needing time to apply for the travel permits (even with a China residence visa, you still need a permit to visit Tibet as it is a conservation area).
The whole flight was cloud cover. But as we got to the border between China and Nepal (which is exactly at Mount Everest), the pilot made a surprising announcement.
“This is your captain speaking. We are about to fly past Mount Everest on your right,” he said.
There was great excitement. And by some incredible stroke of luck, we were sitting on the side of the plane that passed Mount Everest.
At first, little cones of mountaintops poked through the clouds like puppy noses. Then, into view came this huge behemoth, surrounded by the little puppy noses but dwarfing them.
The mountain was almost as high as the plane, and we got so close, I felt like we could have stepped out of the plane and glided over there if we’d only had a hang glider. The distance was probably an illusion caused by the sheer size of Mount Everest.
People say it’s the highest mountain in the world, but from the ground, every mountain looks huge. It’s difficult to explain how different they looked from the air, especially since the clouds were so thick.
But if the clouds hadn’t been covering the ground so much, we wouldn’t have been able to see Mount Everest projecting so clearly and majestically out of the biosphere, with a background of delicious blue sky.
Fun fact: Mount Everest is the only part of the Earth in the whole world that occupies the troposphere, the layer of sky above the biosphere, where no mammals can actually survive.
The total cost for two plane tickets from Xi’an to Kathmandu was about 3300RMB (about £350) one way for two people. When we arrived in Kathmandu, we saw several “travel agency” places advertising a chartered flight over Everest for the equivalent of £1000 (8000RMB) for ONE person, so our flight over Everest was about 1/10 of the cost of the chartered planes.
It was one of the greatest travel experiences of my life. Here are some of the incredible photos I took:
Lockdown with a baby is making me stir crazy! I need to do things with the baby. Northern Ireland’s lockdown (bizzarrely) lifted today. For seven days. Then we’re in another, much harsher one, until December 11th. So I have to HAVE TO get out with the little one. Feeling the same? Here’s all the stuff you could do in the Belfast area.
Okay so this is partly a personal to do list and partly a list for anyone else in Belfast area looking for ways to make the most of the (brief) lifting of the lockdown.
Soft play: Some soft plays are opening again! Others are not. Check out Roar and Explore in West Belfast or Funky Monkeys in Dundonald as both say they’re open this week.
Crazy golf: Pirates Adventure Golf in Dundonald is open-air and open doors.
The beach: Of course. Like usual. Holywood Sea Park is open and so is the play area… for now. I’m sure the council will close the playground area next Friday because this whole lockdown thing seems to be orchestrated by Puritans.
Library: Return your library books, Mama Adventure! So I may have had three overdue books since March. :O I hope the libraries are opening this week because I really don’t want to still have these books when we emigrate.
Belfast Zoo: The zoo will be open this week but you have to book in advance to manage the numbers.
The Great Light on the Maritime Mile, Titanic Quarter, Belfast
Titanic Sculpture on the Maritime Mile, Titanic Quarter, Belfast
The Buoy Park on the Maritime Mile, Titanic Quarter, Belfast
The Mo Mowlam play park (part of the Stormont estate), Stormont, Belfast has SO MUCH to do, for children of all abilities.
CS Lewis Square, Strandtown, Belfast. A great place to take babies in their “zoo animal” phase, my little one loved the giant lion Aslan sculpture.
Further afield (driveable from Belfast):
Bangor Castle Walled Garden: A beautiful flowery garden with fountains and walls. Free entry.
Pickie Fun Park Bangor: Does what it says on the tin. Playgrounds, pedal swans, mini-railway and more!
Mount Stewart: The Natural Play Area is open! Book in advance (not always necessary during weekdays though). Entry £10 for adults. Under 5s go free.
Castle Ward: Visit Winterfell (or at least, the gardens and stables, the main building is still closed). Entry £10 each for adults. Under 5s go free.
Got any more ideas for things to do around Belfast this week before our new lockdown starts again? Let me know in the comments!
At some point during the first lockdown, I think it was June, I took up running.
I’ve always been the worst at long-distance running. I have no stamina for it at all, and I get very breathless. This has been the case my whole life.
In February of this year, I was diagnosed with asthma. I’ve been diagnosed before, as a child, but I stopped taking inhalers and generally convinced myself I didn’t need them when I turned 18 and was no longer eligible for free prescriptions in England. It’s easier to tell yourself you’re not asthmatic than to face the truth that you are and you can’t afford your inhaler.
One of the good things about living in Northern Ireland is that ALL prescriptions are free, for everyone. So when I got rediagnosed with asthma, I got inhalers.
They were life changing.
For the first time in my life, I can run.
At first, it was hard going. I couldn’t even do 60 seconds of running without stopping, tired. I had my breathing right, but my ankles, my knees and my back had no idea how to do cross-country.
Not to be deterred, I signed up for my first of several run challenges. Some were better than others. Race At Your Pace and Run Challenges were both fairly decent, but for my first challenge, I signed up with another company and they didn’t send any sort of explanation about how to get a medal, so I missed their 3-day “evidence submission” window. I emailed them after to ask how it worked, and received a snotty reply that implied I ought to have known how to submit the evidence.
Their system used this idiotic and unnecessary online portal that they didn’t send you an emailed link to access.
I hate portals. My former psychiatrist now uses one and it’s hopeless. Good thing I don’t need to see a shrink anymore.
Actually, I can (partly) thank running for that, too.
After 1 month of running every second day, I didn’t need my antidepressants that I’d been taking for post-natal depression. Once that layer was peeled away, we were able to discover that my underlying mental illness wasn’t bipolar, as I’ve been misdiagnosed with for 5 years, or borderline, as was suggested in August, but PMDD – Pre Menstrual Dysphoria Disorder – and ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
PMDD isn’t really improved by running, but I find my ADHD is. When I run, I get the energy out that builds up and can turn in on itself during the afternoon. When I run, I take time to focus on my breathing, so it’s inadvertently a mindfulness exercise. And when I run, I am doing self-care. I am also increasing my confidence.
In February, I read in a leaflet about someone who had “beat Post Natal Depression” by running. I was extremely scornful of this idea. I don’t think mental illnesses are invaders that we should approach with a “fight” mentality, they’re part of us that we need to accept in a self compassionate way while ameliorating symptoms.
My opinion on self-acceptance hasn’t changed, but I do think there’s mileage (no pun intended) in running to help with mental health symptoms, and I can understand why other people feel that way.
It’s also given me confidence in my own body. After pregnancy, I felt weak and tired all the time, whereas now I feel strong and (dare I say it?) powerful in a way I never have felt in my entire life.
The hardest thing about running was the first month. About two weeks in, I hurt my knees due to not warming up enough and not taking enough rest days. I had to rest completely, but I still had several kilometres to go before completing my challenge. I made it, at a limp, but because I hadn’t rested fully or recovered entirely, I carried those knee problems into my second month.
Three months into running, in August, I was working with a very unethical self-styled psychotherapist who I later found out had faked her credentials.
She questioned why I was going running and denigrated it as inappropriate and boring. She told me I should do ice skating instead (she was utterly oblivious of Covid and she also contributed to me getting another borderline misdiagnosis so I’m a bit annoyed but because she has faked all her credentials, there’s no one to report her to).
I thought she was full of crap and yet somehow, it got into the back of my mind and I stopped running. For two months.
I also got too invested in my stats, and when I couldn’t beat my distances and speeds, I felt like a failure. My new (ethical, qualified, and registered) therapist encouraged me to try again, without timing myself or logging my runs.
It was great advice.
I started again in October and I’ve been going ever since.
I no longer have any idea how far I’m running in any given run, but I have been doing the same route since March (lockdown… there’s literally only one lane to run down here) and I know I can get further down the lane without stopping. And my knees are no longer struggling to keep up, nor are my ankles.
I’ve realized running is all about incremental progress, not trying to do everything at once, or perfectly first time. Sometimes you don’t meet a particular challenge, for whatever reason.
Who cares? Challenges are constructs, they’re not real, and they’re not a true measure of your running ability.
So to anyone else looking to start running, I suggest you try it! With an inhaler in your pocket, if you need it.
I hope the featured image inspires you that almost anyone can start running; it’s all about the mindset.
So I’m going to review two similar products, today. The Innisfree Perfect 9 Eye Cream and the Innisfree Orchid Eye Cream.
If you’ve been following my blog for long, you’ll know I am a HUGE fan of K-beauty brand Innisfree. I discovered them in China, where there are Innisfree stores in airports, train stations, malls and pretty much anywhere else you can think of! They have a huge presence across East Asia, and it’s because their products are great.
I bought both these products at the same time. I got a sample-sized pot of the Innisfree Orchid Eye Cream and a full-sized one of Innisfree Perfect 9 Eye Cream. I was actually really struggling to find reviews of the Innisfree Perfect 9 range online, particularly comparisons to find out what is better out of Innisfree’s many different ranges.
Basically, Perfect 9 has nine different active ingredients aimed to improve common problems in more mature skin, where the Orchid range is aimed more at women in their late twenties/early thirties, and the main ingredient in the orchid range is hyalauronic acid.
In K-beauty, it’s difficult to place Innisfree as high-street or high-end because by western standards, Innisfree is extremely high end (and is priced like that), but the true Asian high-end market is several orders of magnitude more high end and expensive than our western ranges (Nature Republic and Clé De Peau are proper high end luxury brands).
I’d say Innisfree is high end but not necessarily luxury beauty, a bit like how we would classify Benefit, Calvin Klein, or Urban Decay (compared to, say, Guerlain, Murad, Elemis or La Mer). It’s minimalist high end, if that makes sense.
Both creams come in identical packaging, it’s a plastic jar with a screw-top lid. It doesn’t look as fancy as the Nature Republic Ginseng Royal Essence Watery Cream but it’s also easier to store the Innisfree jars and to find space for them on my crowded dressing table (Americans, a dressing table is literally the table you sit at when you’re getting dressed. You put cosmetics on it and sometimes it has a mirror).
The Orchid packaging does appeal to me a little more because it’s purple, which is my favourite colour, whereas the Perfect 9 range is all brown, not my favourite. Perhaps this is intentional, because older women aren’t necessarily going to want bright colours on their dressing table? I don’t know. When I’m fifty, I think I’ll still like purple more than brown.
The full-sized jar of Perfect 9 Eye Cream comes with a protective inner lid made of white plastic. The Orchid miniature jar doesn’t. This is usual for miniatures from Innisfree, I know, since I’ve had about 4 sets of miniatures at this point.
The scent of the Perfect 9 Eye Cream is what I’d consider a generic floral scent. The Orchid range obviously smells like guess what? Orchids, haha.
To my mind, neither scent is particularly strong or overwhelming but I have seen some reviews for the Orchid range by people complaining it’s overly-perfumed. I react badly to a lot of cheap western fragrances (I can’t use 80% of all deodorants because my nose and eyes start running and I feel like there’s a hairball at the back of my throat), and I’ve never actually come across a K-beauty product with a scent that caused me issues.
Both creams are thick, you could turn both jars upside-down for several minutes and no product will fall out. The consistency is that of a very rich cream but somehow they still manage to not be overly-greasy. I wish western beauty companies would take notes from K-beauty because I cannot believe the amount of western “anti-ageing” creams that are useless because they’re oilier than putting butter on your face.
The Perfect 9 Eye Cream is a little thicker than the Orchid Eye Cream, but there’s not much in it.
The Perfect 9 Eye Cream is a little darker in colour than the Orchid Eye Cream, but both creams are creamy coloured and opaque, meaning you can’t see through them.
For some reason, their appearance reassures me that they’re made of proper ingredients. My Innisfree Orchid Essence really throws me for a loop because it’s completely colourless which makes me wonder what’s effective about it (which is frankly silly because colour and opacity don’t determine how well a product works).
When you put them on your skin, they sit on the surface for a few minutes (especially if you have just used toner, essence etc) then disappear.
When to use it
I tend to use these at night time, around my eye area, and I pair them with the Laneige Water Sleeping Mask Lavender or the Nature Republic Ginseng Royal Silk Watery Cream.
Okay, so up to now, the two creams are almost identical. You might be forgiven for wondering if Innisfree just puts the same stuff into different jars.
The Orchid Eye Cream is a gentle moisturising cream and when I use it, I don’t notice a vast improvement in the texture or elasticity of my skin. However, it definitely improves the moisture in my skin, which is usually prone to dryness.
I was surprised that a cream containing hyalauronic acid didn’t have any kind of noticeable plumping effect, even when I use it with all the other orchid products in the range.
The Perfect 9 Eye Cream is literally the best eye cream I have ever used. Since using this cream, my skin has been transformed. I used to have deepening lines around my eyes which were especially noticeable when I smiled.
Since using the Perfect 9 Eye cream, those lines have faded significantly. I know this is a long-term effect because they stay faded on days when I use other products.
My full-sized jar of Perfect 9 Eye Cream is almost empty, and my trial size jar of Orchid Eye Cream is almost full. This is because I keep reaching for the Innisfree Perfect 9 Eye Cream over and over again, its results are fantastic and I’m really happy with this eye cream. I hope they keep making it for years to come.
There’s nothing wrong with the Orchid Eye Cream, per se, it’s just not got the incredible transformative power of the Perfect 9 Eye Cream which I think is the best thing you can put around your eye area once ageing starts to take hold. I can see this being effective for older women, not just women my age (34).
Overall, when that jar of Perfect 9 Eye Cream runs out, I’m going to order more of it. Given that there will be a 6 week delay before it arrives from South Korea, I’m going to have to use up the Orchid Eye Cream in the meantime.
I do also have the Innisfree White Mushroom range in miniature, so I’ll review those, too, in a separate post, and I will discuss how they compare to these.
Have you tried anything from the Innisfree Perfect 9 range, yet? I’d love to hear about their other products. Let me know in the comments!
This guide to travelling with beauty products is going to cover every different type of travel, including taking cosmetics on airplanes (carry on only and checked luggage, domestic and international), high altitude travel with cosmetics, including mountaineering, and protecting cosmetics from extremes of temperature, especially during overland travel with beauty products or flights to/from hot countries.
My cosmetics go nearly everywhere I go, and you’d expect nothing less since I’m a travel and beauty blogger. I’ve had to make up my own solutions to some of my travel-with-cosmetics problems because the hacks most people came up with only work for very specific situations. I’m in the process of writing a separate article on how to decant literally every cosmetic, and will update this article with links when that one is done.
This article contains:
Carry-on beauty hacks for travelling light.
Checked luggage beauty hacks to protect your cosmetics (and your other stuff).
How temperature and altitude affect cosmetics: Read before going ANYWHERE (especially overland)!
Carry-on beauty travel hacks:
When you’re travelling with only a carry-on, your cosmetics need to be as pared down as possible. I know when I pack for a longer getaway, I’m always in a dilemma because I want to travel light but my cosmetics case could easily fill half a normal-sized suitcase, never mind a little carry-on bag.
All airlines worldwide have limits on how much liquid you can take onto planes these days, which makes it even more complicated for women to travel and look their best.
Here’s how to pack cosmetics for 7 days with a carry-on:
Shampoo: Instead of a bottle of shampoo, take a shampoo bar. You could make your own, using one of my recipes such as my green tea shampoo bar, or buy a ready-made one. When you only have one sandwich bag at the airport in which to put all your liquid cosmetics, a bar makes sense.
Conditioner: Another unnecessary liquid. The way I see it, there are three ways to solve the conditioner issue. Either buy some when you land (potluck as to whether you’ll find any as soon as you need it, so not great if you’re going long-haul), make your own conditioner bar such as my easy natural hair conditioner bar recipe, or forego the conditioner completely and use coconut oil instead.
Deodorant: Take a deodorant bar. The only good one I’ve found (ever) is the Lush Aromaco bar which is unisex and actually works as advertised, unlike most natural deodorants. Unfortunately, I don’t have a homemade alternative yet.
Toothpaste: If you can get to a dentist before you travel, they almost always have free samples from toothpaste companies, and these are perfect for travel. If not, a full-size tube will use up your liquids allowance, but you may have to suck it up or buy a new tube when you land. No one wants dirty teeth.
Lotion: If you’re staying in a hotel, you’ll usually get a new tube of this every day. If not, my conditioner bar, above, doubles up as an intensive on-the-spot treatment for very dry skin (use sparingly).
Face cream: If you’re going to South Korea, absolutely under no circumstances take face cream. They have face cream. And it’s better than anything you have at home. Otherwise, decant your face cream into a smaller pot such as a mayonnaise pot (these tend to leak less than the cheaper “travel cosmetics bottles”) or a miniature jam jar. Remember to label it.
Sunscreen: Take a travel mini if your face cream doesn’t contain an SPF. You can also make powder sunscreen using zinc oxide but it’s not suitable for dry skin like mine.
Foundation: Take a cushion or a powder foundation, or boldly go natural with no foundation. A cushion with a high SPF is great for hotter countries.
Eyeshadow: An eyeshadow pencil is your best option so you don’t have to worry about powder breakage on the flight or use up that precious liquid allowance!
Eyeliner: Is very small, so unless you’re seriously pressed for space, just take liquid eyeliner if that’s your go-to, and put it in the baggie at security. Otherwise, an eye pencil can double up as a brow pencil if you choose your shade wisely and take a makeup pencil sharpener.
Highlighter and contouring kit: Ditch. Not worth the extra space in your makeup bag. If you want to contour, very lightly apply your brown eyeliner or eyeshadow pencil to the areas you need to contour and blend, blend, blend until it’s looking natural. White eyeshadow or concealer doubles up as highlighter if needed.
Lipstick: These are often classed as liquids. I prefer a tinting balm with an SPF unless I have a very formal occasion or a cosplay to attend.
Mascara: Get a miniature sample of your favorite mascara either from a store like Bloomingdale’s or from Amazon. It takes up way less space than a big chunky plastic mascara tube. I prefer waterproof brown mascara for travel, and I pair it with Mascara Melt-Off by Too Faced.
Perfume: If you can’t get a travel miniature, just leave it at home. It will only attract unwanted stray men.
Blusher: I use the Benefit Do the Hoola miniature.
Pore strips: If you’re prone to blackheads, especially if you’re traveling to a hot country, take some Bioré pore strips.
And here’s what you don’t need when travelling with a carry-on:
Spray Deodorant: Buy this when you land. A big spray bottle will use up your liquids allowance with carry-on luggage.
Dry shampoo: It’s actually really bad for your hair and unless you’re going for an interview when you land you could just shower, instead.
Setting spray: Seems useful, but if you’re in a situation where your makeup won’t stay put, consider whether you need it on your face or not. In the sort of heat that makes makeup migrate down your face, your pores are open, leaving you undefended against blackheads and spots.
Lip plumper/lash growth serum/false lashes: I love all of these, but unless you’re travelling for a big event, you can live without them for a week.
The first time I travelled with a checked bag, we were moving to China. I stared at my open suitcase thinking I could take anything at all and it would all fit in this ginormous case.
Unfortunately, I soon learned that wasn’t true. I also didn’t know about excess baggage, so I thought I could only take this one case and a carry-on. In case anyone else has never been on a long-haul flight, you just pay for more suitcases and it’s not an abominable amount (about $80-ish with the US airlines; about half that in China).
On the plus side, I’m not a huge fan of traveling with tons of bags and, if you’re a solo female traveller (or a lone female heavily-pregnant traveller, as I was on one infamous long-haul flight from China to Helsinki to Heathrow), you will absolutely want as little crap to carry as possible because you will have to lift your bags at various points.
Take all cosmetics out of their boxes/packaging. If you’re Youtubing, film the unboxing video before you pack! Remember to keep any applicators/spare parts and photograph any instructions in case you need them later.
Decant unwieldy products into smaller, lighter containers.
To avoid leaks, wrap any cosmetics in cling film/saran wrap and put them in a waterproof cosmetics bag before putting them in a checked bag. Especially ampoule type sleeping packs!
To minimize damage, keep powder cosmetics and any container that won’t easily wipe clean in a separate waterproof cosmetics bag to your liquid cosmetics! Store these in another part of your case.
Put anything like books, electricals, clothes that may stain, etc, in packing cubes or supermarket bags to protect from cosmetics or food leaks. The supermarket bags can then be used to go food shopping when you reach your destination! I had a carton of wine explode in my suitcase once because I packed it wrong on a 17 hour flight, and the mess was not pretty! I was gutted because it was the nicest wine I ever tasted, too (a Californian Pinot Noir, if you’re curious).
Protect your cosmetics from damage in checked luggage by wrapping them in (bagged) clothes, so if your bags are dropped or crushed, your cosmetics are safe.
How heat affects cosmetics during travel
The issue with taking cosmetics in checked bags isn’t so much space, but whether the conditions your bag will be in are safe for cosmetics. For example, at Dubai Airport, temperatures can regularly hit 45 degrees celsius, sometimes reaching higher, and while your bag is on the tarmac waiting to be loaded onto a plane, things could melt.
Most cosmetics are intended to be kept between 10-25 degrees celsius, so any major divergence from this could cause the active ingredients in anti-ageing creams to become… well… inactive. Essential oils also have problems when they get too warm.
Collagen in our bodies degrades even in average room temperature, although in cosmetics it’s safe to about 45 degrees celsius (120F to be precise) when collagen breakdown’s reaction rate increases [reference] to the point where it can be broken down within about 6 hours.
Hyaluronic acid is even more susceptible to heat damage – just 30 minutes at 50 degrees celsius causes 81% of the hyaluronic acid in a product to break down [reference – PDF download of research paper]. This actually happened to me when I took my By Nature New Zealand eye cream on a long round the world trip including Kathmandu, Dubai, Istanbul and Athens in the August heat during the 2018 European wildfires. By the time I got back to China, the creams were no longer effective and when I looked into the science, I found out it must have been all the airports where my bag sat waiting to be loaded onto/unloaded from planes. Anything with hyaluronic acid should say home or go in your carry on.
Peptides like Matrixyl are the most resilient to heat exposure. Even at temperatures of 100 degrees C, they won’t break down! [reference]. Peptide creams with no other active ingredients can go in your checked bags with no problems!
Vitamins fare even worse! Vitamin C breaks down from 30 degrees C (86F) [reference]. That same reference states pro-vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), found in many haircare products, is also very heat sensitive.
Vitamin A (a retinoid that converts to retinol) is partly affected, too – after 3 months at 45 degrees C it degrades by about 30% [reference], which isn’t an issue for anyone in transit, but will be a consideration for archaeologists and aid workers, and anyone else camping out in warm climates for prolonged periods who uses retinol cream. On your return to a cooler country, you may need to replace retinol-containing cosmetics. The same reference shows Vitamin A also loses 10% of its potency when stored at 13.5 degrees C for 3 months, up to 34% loss of potency after 9 months.
On the other hand, most other cosmetics can stand to be frozen – in fact, they will often reach freezing temperatures during transport. When I worked for Avon (cosmetics company) my deliveries would regularly arrive frozen.
The main exception to this is Coenzyme Q10, aka Q10, a well-known anti-ageing ingredient which is actually very difficult for your body to absorb. It won’t absorb properly if it’s anything other than body temperature and at low temperatures, it forms crystals and becomes ineffective. In fact, it’s less effective at any temperature below 48 celsius (10 degrees hotter than body temperature), although this is likely to be a temporary effect that will go away when the cream is warmer [reference].
So using this science, we can see that most anti-ageing creams need to be carefully packed in a stable temperature to protect them. For this reason, I reiterate they must be taken to hot countries as carry-on luggage to maintain their effectiveness.
Anything containing Q10 or retinol also needs to be in your carry on when travelling to or from very cold countries. Anti-ageing creams are usually expensive and packaged in bulky or heavy containers so I recommend leaving the container at home and decanting your product into a smaller jar with enough for your trip.
How does altitude affect cosmetics?
There was very little published research about the effect of temperature, I had to cross apply studies on food or other biological applications of certain ingredients, and there’s even less work done on altitude.
Kinetic theory tells us you can increase the effectiveness of any chemical reaction by increasing temperature or pressure (or both) of a reactant. This is why products break down in heat.
But this means they will also break down under very high pressure (e.g. when diving, but who takes their cosmetics SCUBA diving?) and that low pressure (e.g. at high altitude, on mountains or high cities like Lhasa, Kathmandu, or most parts of Peru and other areas in South America) will usually make things less reactive. Except for one issue…
The boiling point of water is lower at altitude. All other liquids are affected in a similar way. This means the temperature at which ingredients will denature will also be lower at altitude (the pressurised cabin of an aircraft doesn’t count here).
Most high-altitude areas are quite cold, but some, such as Kathmandu, can get hot at certain times of the year, so don’t leave your cosmetics on windowledges or anywhere without air con. This is especially true of Lhasa, which is over 3600m above sea level (that’s 11,800 feet).
Cosmetics also have a bad habit (due to the low-pressure environment) of working their way out of jars at high altitude. This is more likely in the low pressure cargo hold of some planes rather than on land but if you’re doing Everest, the last thing you need is to faff with cosmetics (my recommendation for cosmetics to take up a big mountain like Everest or K2? Just SPF 50 sunscreen, chapstick with an SPF or coconut oil, and some soap for hygiene).
If you’re overlanding, you might not even know you’ve reached high altitude, so pack your cosmetics well and don’t take any big expensive ones, just in case they get ruined.
Humidity is another consideration for travelling with cosmetics. Powder cosmetics suffer most from this. They can go hard and difficult to get onto an applicator or brush, or they can even dissolve. You could keep powder cosmetics in a makeup bag with a sachet or two of silica gel to protect them. Keep silica gel away from babies and pets.
Humidity will also affect electricals. Beauty devices are more robust than a lot of devices, however, so are unlikely to stop working unless they actually get wet (aka 100% humidity).
If your bags are likely to get wet, e.g. travelling in a rainstorm or typhoon, put beauty devices in a plastic bag and surround them with clothes to absorb any potential liquid. Also keep them well away from any part of the zippers as these are the weak point in most bags and suitcases, where water is most likely to get in.
In a campervan or other long overland adventure, humidity is the biggest danger to your cosmetics because you’re breathing in your vehicle and causing the air to become saturated with water vapour. This becomes very problematic at night (you’ll see the windows steam up from it).
You can get a non-electric dehumidifier which uses crystals, they’re available at most bargain stores like Home Bargains (UK) or Dollar Tree (US). It could be worth taking one of these with you and putting it somewhere where it won’t get knocked over (they get messy and then they cause more issues than they solve because the crystals are toxic). Keep these well away from children or pets.
So there you have it, the science behind exactly how to pack to take the best care of your cosmetics while travelling, which cosmetics travel well and which ones you can do without! Some cosmetics are seriously expensive, so if in doubt about whether you can safely pack them, leave them at home (especially if they’ve been discontinued and are therefore irreplaceable).
In this article I’m going to review the high-end K-beauty product Ginseng Royal Silk Watery Cream.
It costs about £75 or $100USD from Nature Republic’s official website. For that, you get a full-size jar and this contains 50ml (just under 2oz) of product.
Packaging and first impressions:
It comes in a green cardboard box with a sleeve giving you product details (and stopping the cardboard box opening). Inside the cardboard box is a crystal-style big square jar which is colored green in a gradient from clear to dark green.
Everything about this product screams pure luxury. I heard about it from a friend who asked me to bring her a jar back from Seoul when I lived in China.
Here are some photos:
The white lid is a screw top and underneath, there’s a black protective second lid.
The cream itself has a jelly-like texture and consistency. It’s clear and colourless apart from the 24 karat gold pieces that are embedded in the cream.
It has a sort of perfumed scent, I think it would pair well with Chanel No. 5 because the scent is in the same style but different.
Every active ingredient in this product is a powerhouse from nature. They’re all slightly a big deal in South Korea (slightly), and since we know for a fact K-beauty is all about the skincare, this product should be top of everyone’s list in the fight against ageing.
The active ingredients in this product are royal jelly, silk amino acids (known for their repairing properties for skin and hair), and extract of red ginseng.
Royal jelly is well-documented as an anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial. It contains antioxidants that work against free radical damage. Reference here.
Ginseng is a superfood that has been used as a supplement for decades in the west to help with middle-aged women’s problems. It stands to reason it’s going to bring its A-game to skincare products, and in K-beauty, it’s currently everywhere. Red ginseng contains vitamins B1, B2 and B12, and it helps increase oxygenation and circulation to skin cells. Reference here.
The 24 karat gold is supposed to improve your complexion. Reference here.
Gold is still the next big thing in skincare, especially Korean skincare, so whether or not it’s an effective ingredient, at least you’re getting some actual gold for your money. Gold is technically inert as it’s unreactive (chemistry, yo) but it can illuminate and brighten your complexion so there’s that.
Really, the gold is there to make it look pretty while the other ingredients do the hard work.
The ingredients also list zizyphus jujuba fruit extract, which is a well-known ingredient native to South Korea which they also make delicious jujube tea out of. It’s a superfood, darling, and it’s the Korean skincare equivalent of Japan’s matcha green tea extract except that’s an understatement because this stuff is packed with vitamins. Jujube is the nutritional lovechild of goji berries and matcha powder. Reference here.
Another powerful ingredient, much higher up the list, is Cāng Zhú, aka Attractolydes Root Extract, which has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries. It is harvested in Springtime and it has antimicrobial properties. It increases your chances of sunburn (like retinol creams do), but conversely, attractolydes has also been shown to have anti-cancer cytotoxic properties, so wear sunscreen with this one! Reference here.
How good is it?
It depends on what your skin is like, your age, and how you use it. I am 34 with some minor first signs of ageing like fine lines which I can still disappear with the right creams, masks and exfoliations (just about).
When I first opened my jar of Ginseng Royal Silk Watery Cream, I mistakenly used it as a day cream and as a result I didn’t like it. Bad, bad plan. It’s FAR too gloopy for that. Instead, use it in place of a sleeping mask/night cream, or in the evening if you’re staying in. Don’t try using this cream with makeup, the results will be damp and sticky.
In fact, the texture is damp and sticky anyway, which is why I think this is much better as a night cream or sleeping mask. Keeping this on for 8 hours uninterrupted is going to do your skin a lot of good. When it touches your face, it literally feels packed with goodness. It’s like making your face take a bath in a 24-karat superfood smoothie.
I tend to use this Ginseng Royal Silk Watery Cream in the evening after the sun has gone down, and over winter, when my skin needs more nourishment due to the weather and more time spent indoors with the heating on.
For best results, pair this with the Ginseng Royal Silk Essence.
Over several months, I’ve found that my skin has become brighter and holds moisture much better than before I was using this product. I’m liking it better than the Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream although that’s a thin day cream and this is a very thick night cream so the two could work extremely well together. I’ve reviewed the Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream separately.
I don’t think this cream is targeted at people in their twenties at all. You won’t find any benefit from it. If you’re in your mid-thirties onwards, this cream really comes into its own. Unfortunately, the vast majority of beauty reviewers in the world are in their teens and twenties which obviously makes it difficult for them to review anti-ageing creams.
The reason I took so long to review this cream is on the first use it didn’t seem like it had made any difference. The reason it’s hard to assess on one or even a few uses is because it doesn’t have those skin-plumping ingredients found in many western creams that are actually just a quick fix and really useless for long-term anti-ageing.
This cream is so powerful, that after using it every night for 3 weeks, I started only using it twice a week and alternating it with Laneige Water Sleeping Mask Lavender, because I don’t need to use this cream every day, yet, so now I’m just using it for maintenance. This means if you’re under forty, one jar will last you FOREVER. Well, a long time, anyway.
The Ginseng Royal Silk Watery Cream is a long-term fix for your skin. It’s skincare rather than skin-fakery. And that’s what makes it worth buying.
The packaging of this cream is a little over the top. I weighed it on some scales, the jar by itself was over 500 grams (over 1lb)! It doubles up as a great paperweight. However, this is definitely not a jar of cream that you would want to take on vacation or any business trip, especially if you like to only take a carry-on.
If you regularly take excess baggage on flights and don’t mind dealing with really heavy suitcases (I absolutely detest lifting heavy bags), you could probably take the whole jar, but I’m not a fan of carrying things when I’m on vacation and I find that even executive-level rooms at the Marriott or Hilton are not big enough for more than a couple of suitcases, which is two people’s normal luggage, so this cream is good for travel only if you are booking a whole suite or apartment.
If you’re travelling and need a K-beauty fix, I recommend you take Laneige Water Sleeping Mask in a little travel pot, instead, or decant Nature Republic Ginseng Royal Silk Watery Cream into a travel container. Since this product increases your sun sensitivity, I’d suggest the Laneige product if you’re travelling to a very sunny destination like the Seychelles, Maldives or Malaysia. Likewise, if you’re under 30, Laneige Water Sleeping Mask should be your go-to night cream/sleeping mask.
Where to buy:
You can buy direct from Nature Republic’s UK website www.naturerepublicuk.com or in the US you can get it on Amazon in this incredible offer of the Ginseng Royal Silk Watery Cream, Ginseng Royal Silk Essence and FIVE miniatures for $130, saving about $60 on the RRPs of getting all this separately. In South Korea, just pop into any Nature Republic store where the assistants will be delighted to advise you.