Review: Innisfree Jeju Orchid vs Cauliflower Mushroom range

Today, I’m reviewing the Innisfree Jeju Orchid and Innisfree Cauliflower Mushroom (aka Innisfree White Fungus) range.

Let me start by saying “cauliflower mushroom” and “white fungus” are both terrible names for a beauty product, even if that is the active ingredient. That’s the elephant in the room with this range.

I was lucky enough to get a set of miniatures of both the Jeju Orchid range and the Cauliflower Mushroom range. I’ve reviewed the comparable items here.

This article covers:

  • Innisfree Jeju Orchid Skin (toner) vs Innisfree Cauliflower Mushroom Skin (toner)
  • Innisfree Jeju Orchid Essence vs Innisfree Cauliflower Mushroom Essence
  • Innisfree Jeju Orchid Lotion vs Innisfree Cauliflower Mushroom Lotion
  • Innisfree Jeju Orchid Cream vs Innisfree Cauliflower Mushroom Cream

I’m going to start with the toner.

Innisfree Jeju Orchid Skin (toner) vs Innisfree Cauliflower Mushroom Skin (toner)

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.

It isn’t.

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).

Conclusion:

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.

Review: Innisfree Perfect 9 Eye Cream vs Innisfree Orchid eye cream

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.

Packaging:

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.

Scent

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.

Consistency

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.

Appearance

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.

Effectiveness

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.

They don’t.

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.

Verdict

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!

How to travel with cosmetics: Complete guide

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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!
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Perfume: If you can’t get a travel miniature, just leave it at home. It will only attract unwanted stray men.
  15. Blusher: I use the Benefit Do the Hoola miniature.
  16. Pore strips: If you’re prone to blackheads, especially if you’re traveling to a hot country, take some Bioré pore strips.
  17. Concealer, if you use it. The Urban Decay ultimate holy grail concealer travels REALLY well and covers up tattoos (ideal for travel to Japan).

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.

Hair spray/mousse: Use coconut oil (or a small amount of my homemade conditioner bar applied to dry hair) instead to fix flyaways.

Checked baggage beauty hacks

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

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.

Conclusion

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).

Review: Nature Republic Ginseng Royal Silk Watery Cream High End Luxury K-beauty

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.

Active Ingredients:

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.

Travel Packing:

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.

The verdict:

An investment in your future skin.

Add-to-cart potential: High.

Review: Laneige Water Sleeping Mask Lavender

While I was in Seoul, I was able to get a bunch of very exciting K-beauty products, including the Laneige Water Sleeping Mask. I bought the Laneige Water Sleeping Mask in two different scents: Original (the blue jar) and Lavender (purple jar). In this review I’ll look at both, and explain why I bought the lavender one again after I finished them.

The original one has a nice, light scent to it, and if you’re used to it, you might not want to change to the lavender one, but if you haven’t tried either (and if you don’t mind scented products, which I don’t) then the lavender one is worth checking out.

The Laneige Water Sleeping Masks in Lavender and Original do exactly the same job. You apply them last, after cleansing, toner and essence. Some people put a thick layer on so it can be absorbed as they sleep. I suspect these people sleep on their backs.

I sleep face down on my front and I can’t sleep at all without earplugs and an eye mask, so applying any product thickly is a non-starter, it just makes my pillow wet, then when I move in the night, the product transfers off my pillow into my ear and I wake up with a silky soft ear and a nice-smelling pillowcase that now needs a wash.

D’oh.

I apply this after my other products have absorbed, and I only use a thin layer, so one jar lasts me FOREVER. While it says it’s a sleeping pack, if I’m not going out of the house at all on any given day, I will put a thicker layer on my face during the day and cover it up with my silicone mask shield which I got in Japan, then I can leave it to bake for an hour or two and get extra goodness infused into my skin.

Don’t literally bake your cosmetics.

That would be weird. And probably not very tasty.

So anyway, I like the lavender scent best because lavender helps you sleep and it’s also very relaxing. It’s one of my favourite herbs and I have a lot of other lavender products so this compliments those.

I also like the colour purple a lot so serious props that the Laneige Water Sleeping Mask Lavender comes in a purple container. The actual cream itself is not purple, it’s a sort of white colour, the same as the original scented Laneige Water Sleeping Mask.

The jar has a screw top and the inside has lots of product. I really don’t like skincare brands that put a tiny amount of cosmetic into a gigantic jar to make you think you’ve bought a lot of something when you haven’t. It’s a nightmare to pack products like that.

The Laneige Water Sleeping Mask Lavender is one of my holy grail products partly because of how easy it is to pack. Laneige do travel-sized jars of original scented Water Sleeping Mask and I keep getting them free with other purchases, so what I did is used up the original Water Sleeping Mask in my travel jar and now I refill that with Lavender Water Sleeping Mask to take wherever I’m flying to.

I use the other empties of this product to decant other products such as my high-end skincare from Nature Republic whose products are fabulous but the packaging is really heavy and bulky and therefore generally abominable for frequent flyers! I’ll review some Nature Republic products in the near future.

The Laneige Water Sleeping Mask original and lavender both come with a thin plastic inner lid to protect the cream from leakage and from getting damaged if you accidentally don’t close the lid properly.

When I use this product, it feels really cooling and soothing to put on my face. My skin feels super hydrated the next day and I think the scent helps me sleep better, too.

The other thing I love about the Laneige Water Sleeping Mask is it’s not rich or greasy at all, which is super for people like me who paradoxically have very dry skin that doesn’t like heavy, oily creams at all (does anyone’s skin actually respond well to those thick greasy creams?).

It sort of has a gel-like consistency, but it’s not as jelly-feeling on my face as other products with this consistency. I find a lot of “gel cream” type products cling to my face like a cheap lipgloss and my hair then gets stuck to my face and my skin looks weird like I just fell into a plate of jelly.

The Laneige Water Sleeping Mask isn’t like that. It’s basically the ideal consistency of any product ever.

I’m now on my third jar of Laneige Water Sleeping Mask Lavender because it’s perfect and I intend to keep buying it as long as it’s for sale!

Have you tried Laneige Water Sleeping Mask Lavender yet? Let me know in the comments! It’s available here on Amazon. You can also find the original one on Amazon if you want a less scented option (I know that one is available cheaper from other sellers, but that listing is the official and genuine Laneige product.

Not sure how to use K-beauty products? Check out this article!

How to get rid of blue circles, dark circles and undereye veins in 2020: The latest research.

So you were searching for how to get rid of blue under eye circles or blue veins, and maybe you found my original post on this, or my one about purple under-eye circles, and you are wondering if there’s any new developments? Or maybe you were looking for something about how to get rid of the dark circles under your eyes without using makeup?

This post has been a LONG time coming but I am going to discuss how to get rid of blue under eye circles and dark circles and show you how I did it. Because things have changed since I wrote my first or even second post on this topic.

I have learned so much more about this topic than I ever thought I could, and I have found out that blue under-eye circles are part of a broader set of skincare issues. Maybe you’ve heard of them.

Redness in your face. Prone to breakouts for no apparent reason. Abdominal pains that come and go. Fatigue. Feeling the cold more than other people and getting coughs that never. Ever. Let. Go. There’s also evidence now that this same set of symptoms is connected to depression.

My original post still stands, but I was looking at several different causes of blue under-eye circles and I wasn’t seeing the bigger picture. What is causing the causes of blue and purple under eyes? There are two causes, which actually feed into one another and these also cause redness and acne.

Inflammation and stress exhaustion syndrome.

You may have heard of them.

All the things I recommended to do to fix blue under-eye circles are great at minimising them for most people on a daily basis. However, when you stop treating them, they come back within a week or two. You look tired out again. And all those related symptoms never go away, either.

To get rid of blue circles under eyes completely, to permanently get rid of dark circles under your eyes, and to ditch those other symptoms, you need to reduce inflammation. That doesn’t mean taking anti-inflammatories. In fact, ibuprofen and diclofenac are really bad for you if you have underlying inflammation, because your body reacts to them by working harder to be inflamed.

The blue circles and blue veins you can see under your eyes are inflamed blood vessels that are pushing against the thin skin beneath your eyes.

These can both be solved. You need to make major changes to your life. In this article, I will look at inflammation and I’ll write a separate one about stress exhaustion syndrome.

What causes inflammation?

Inflammation is your body’s response to an injury (real or not). It helps to heal injuries and release infection-fighting antibodies. This by itself is not a bad thing (it’s pretty good, actually).

Inflammation is there to protect you from injuries and support your body while it heals. So when does it become a problem?

Inflammation is intended to be a short-term response to a threat. When it lingers, it is called chronic inflammation. Some researchers now believe this to be the root cause of many illnesses, particularly the ones that have become a big deal over the past 30 years. Asthma. Allergies. Even cancer! Acute inflammation has clear signs, redness and swelling somewhere on your body.

Chronic inflammation is internal, you wouldn’t necessarily see outward signs that you would link to an injury. The skin on your face is thinner than elsewhere, and redness on your face, especially red patches, and blue circles under your eyes, are surefire signs of chronic inflammation.

When inflammation goes on for longer than it needed to, it causes “bystander damage” to the surrounding tissues near the site of injury. This means the inflammation starts to damage your body. [reference]

How does inflammation end (aka how can I get rid of these blue circles and other symptoms)?

In the body, inflammation ends when certain biological pathways are activated:

– The production and release of interleukin 10 [reference]

– Upregulation of anti-inflammatory markers such as the interleukin 1 receptor agonist or the soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor (yes, unresolved inflammation causes tumors) [reference].

– When your body produces and releases Transforming Growth Factor beta, which creates new epithelial cells after injury [reference].

– Cleavage of chemokines (a breakdown in specific proteins activated by certain mineral deficiencies)[reference]

– Production of anti-inflammatory specialised proresolving mediators such as resolvins, neuroprotectins and lipoxin (if you struggle to follow directions or read a map then your body might not be producing enough of these [reference]) [reference]

But what does all that mean in plain English?

When your body goes into overdrive trying to fight off outside invaders, you get sick with chronic illnesses. You get tired because your body is putting so much energy into fighting off threats. Eventually, you can get cancer or tumors because the biological defences are so worn down there’s nothing left in reserve. Those dark circles aren’t the most serious effect of chronic inflammation, that’s for sure.

What are these threats that your body is responding to?

This is the most controversial question about inflammation. There are two schools of thought: The commonly accepted one and the newest one. The common wisdom tells us that chronic inflammation has no cause but that if you eat certain foods you can heal from it. These foods give your body the fuel to overcome inflammation. The thing about this theory is that it maintains the status quo. All you have to do is change your diet, they say, and you can heal from inflammation.

But people are still getting sick. People are still getting dark circles under their eyes and constant fatigue and insomnia and depression and asthma and allergies.

What is going on?

Enter the second theory. This one says, it’s our modern way of life that’s causing the inflammation. The flame retardant chemicals that cover every fabric item in your home evaporate and get into your body. The microparticles of pollution from car engines and dust clouds from the desert fill your lungs. The water you drink contains microplastics that get inside every tissue in your body. The additives in foods and drinks, cosmetics, even our water, can cause deeper long-term damage stemming from chronic inflammation.

The science is starting to show this to be true.

If inflammation is the cause, to get rid of your dark circles or blue under eye circles or veins, you have three options:

Medium-term fixes such as matrixyl cream or allergy tablets. I went through all of these in my original article on blue circles.

Long term changes to your diet such as in The Inflammation Diet.

Transforming your entire life, incorporating changes to your diet, your exercise routine, fitting your home with an air purifier and so on so your dark circles are permanently gone.

Let’s look at the long term changes in more depth.

Changing your diet to get rid of dark circles and blue circles under your eyes, which are markers of inflammation:

The inflammation diet is a life-changing diet with a lot of evidence behind it. There are lots of different books on it written from many perspectives, and I’ve read so many while learning to heal myself. Here are my top 3 anti-inflammation diet books:

The Inflammation Spectrum: Find Your Food Triggers and Reset Your System by Dr. Will Cole with Eve Adamson

Why I like this book: It focuses on you as an individual, helping you find your specific problem foods so you can tailor-make your own dietary cure.

The Complete Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Beginners: A No-Stress Meal Plan With Easy Recipes to Heal the Immune System by Dorothy Calimeris and Lulu Cook RDN.

Why I like this book: It is super-easy to follow if you don’t have time to go in-depth into your food triggers, yet, eliminating the most common inflammatory foods to give you meal plans and recipes anyone can make!

The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book, Second Edition by Jessica Black N.D.

Why I like this book: Written by a doctor of naturopathy, this book looks at diet from a holistic viewpoint, sharing insights that come from outside the “standard” medical model to help you understand how you and your family can heal from inflammation.

Changes to your home:

The biggest difference to my life came when we bought an air purifier. I was living in China at the time and the air quality is variable, sometimes there is pollution or desert dust which get into the apartment and cause breathing problems. America also has pollution and desert dust, although not to the same extent (except LA).

New research shows methane, not carbon dioxide, is the biggest threat to our environment, and methane is found in high concentrations in modern intensive farming areas.

When I was pregnant in China, I had such bad breathing issues but I didn’t go to a doctor about it because our nearest western hospital was two hours away. Months after we left China, although my exhaustion had improved, I was still struggling to breathe, and in Northern Ireland I was spirometry tested and re-diagnosed with asthma despite being free of it for 13 years by that point.

Not only that, I was given very strong inhalers and was one daily dose away from having to shield during the big lockdown earlier this year. I used to climb mountains, so obviously the change in my ability to breathe (and move) came as a shock.

Getting an air purifier will benefit you and your family and I highly recommend it if you can afford it. We had one in addition to the usual air conditioning unit (which doesn’t purify the air). My only regret is we would have benefited more from having two purifiers; one for each main room of our apartment.

We spend so much of our lives trying to eat right, get enough exercise, drink enough water and sleep better, and it’s very easy to overlook the most fundamental thing we all need to sustain life: Clean, pure air.

Best for larger rooms: Honeywell HPA300 True HEPA air purifier. This one filters out more allergens than cheaper models and its throughput is more air per minute, meaning it’s good for large rooms. The downside is the bigger motor will be a little louder than a less powerful model.

Best for those people on a budget: Medify Air MA-14-B1 air purifier. This is $99.99 and is the best sub-$100 air purifier I’ve seen. They also do a half-size one on the same Amazon page for $49.99. These models rate high for being very quiet which is perfect for in the bedroom, where you should spend at least 1/3 of your life.

Honorable mention: Germ Guardian True HEPA Filter air purifier. This has so many features and is a complete steal at $89.99! I stayed with someone who had one of these last year and with my asthma, I could feel instantly that the air was easier to breathe and my chest was less tight. I felt refreshed after being there for a few hours. This has UV light to kill bacteria, a HEPA filter to catch allergens, and an activated charcoal filter to neutralize odors.

Changes to your lifestyle:

Our modern lifestyle is one of comfort and ease, and our stresses tend to be cerebral not physical, but our bodies and minds aren’t designed to live in this type of way. They need movement. Surprise. Hard physical work. Good sleep. Plenty of water.

There aren’t many books devoted to this aspect of chronic inflammation, and those that exist are usually crazy expensive.

Body on Fire by Monica Aggarwal is a good reference book on the main changes to reduce chronic inflammation, as agreed by most in modern medicine. It focuses on the effects of good and bad diet, exercise routines, sleep habits and hydration levels.

In my opinion, there’s a lot more to be said about this aspect which isn’t being talked about in the mainstream.

Conclusion:

To conclude, the blue and dark circles under your eyes could be caused by chronic inflammation, and you can address the root causes by changing your diet, lifestyle and environment. Improvements to your diet will normally resolve the vitamin K and iron deficiencies at the same time if these are part of the problem.

Easy AHA exfoliating melt and pour soap recipe (variations for all skin types)!

This recipe is super-easy and so good for skin, especially in wintertime when dryness can be an issue. It seems like the combination of leggings, hot air indoors and going out on cold wintry days can cause skin to become flaky.

Add to that, on a cold day, no one wants to spend time moisturizing when they get out of the shower. I know at this time of year I’m so busy and cold, my skincare routine always goes right out of the window!

If you need to know how to get started with soapmaking, go here. Otherwise, read on and find out how to make an AHA exfoliating melt and pour soap. This recipe makes 1 bar of soap that should fit into a rectangular silicone soap mould, so scale it up to suit your needs.

Ingredients:

10 ml Cherry kernel oil

90g Melt and pour soap base

1 ml Cherry blossom fragrance

A pinch of sliced up loofah

Method (makes 1 soap weighing 100g):

  1. Cut about 90g (3 oz) of soap base from the block of melt and pour base. Chop the base finely and place into a glass jug.
  2. Heat the soap base in the microwave or place the jug in a pan of boiling water until all the base has melted.
  3. Add 10ml cherry kernel oil and about 0.5ml of fragrance.
  4. Mix in the sliced up loofah for extra exfoliating power. Once it’s all stirred up, pour into a soap mould and wait for it to harden.

How it works:

The cherry kernel oil is a natural AHA exfoliator, that helps get rid of dead skin cells on the surface of your face and body, increasing cell turnover and ditching dry skin.

Most AHA ingredients found in shop-bought products are chemically derived, whereas the cherry kernel oil retains its moisturizing properties, making it perfect for exfoliating dry winter skin!

The loofah helps speed up the exfoliating process by physically removing any dead skin (the stuff that can sometimes flake when you’re drying off after a shower).

An advantage of melt and pour soap is there’s no lye to handle, so this recipe is safe to make around pets or children. Having said that, be sure not to let them eat the finished product or any of the ingredients!

You can probably turn this into a cold process soap recipe, if you’re the sort of person who likes to customize every last ingredient in a soap recipe, but if, like me, you’re more excited about the finished product than the process taken to get there, melt and pour is a great choice!

Any melt and pour soap base will work fine with this recipe. I prefer the goat’s milk one but obviously, if you’re vegan, you would want to avoid that. The standard SLS/SLES free Stephenson’s melt and pour soap base is always a good choice, but there are so many choices for melt and pour soap bases, you’re bound to find one which becomes your favorite!

Variations:

Combination skin (oily and dry)? If you want this recipe to work better on oily skin, switch the fragrance oil for tea tree oil instead. The tea tree oil will help with hard-to-clean blocked pores and encourage spots to clear.

Super-dry, sensitive skin? Add 10ml avocado oil to this recipe, use no fragrance at all, halve the amount of loofah and be sure to use your usual cream(s) after the shower. Avocado oil is super-hydrating without being greasy or weighing your skin down (there’s nothing worse than feeling shiny after a shower, is there?) and many people with extremely dry skin find fragrance oils can dry them out even more, so making it unscented will help, too. By reducing the amount of loofah, you still get rid of dead skin cells but without causing irritation.

Oily skin? Add 1/4 tsp of French Red Clay (ultraventilated) and switch the fragrance oil for tea tree oil. The French red clay will help control oil production from your pores, and draw impurities out of them, while the tea tree oil will help with problem spot areas.

Did you try this recipe? Let me know in the comments!

Why I got rid of my silver hair

If you’d asked me in October 2018 whether I would ever stop dying my hair silver, I would have replied with a resounding no. I’ve written so many tutorials and made so many videos about how to dye your hair silver and how to get white hair that I think I spent about 1/3 of 2015 just teaching other people how to get silver hair at a time when no one else was doing it.

I explained the science, how to get your hair to a point where you can bleach it, and what to do if you accidentally over-bleach your hair (I’ve achieved that at least twice, haha. This was before protein filler was perfected. Hair grows).

I still have dreams where my hair is that beautiful color, then I awaken and see myself in the mirror. Dark hair. Washed-out face. Different. Older.

I still think silver, white and white blonde hair are the three most stunning colours you can dye your hair. The next most stunning? Purple.

In October 2018, I took about 3 bottles of Renbow Crazy Color Platinum, 2 bottles of Crazy Color Lilac and a medium bottle of silver shampoo and another of conditioner back to China with me in my suitcase, along with other western staples I just don’t like living without (coco pops, decaf coffee). They got through New York JFK airport no problem, and I couldn’t foresee a time when I would stop coloring.

Fast forward to December 2018, when I was stuck in the bathroom in our apartment in Malaysia, just being sick constantly. Pharmacy. Test. Positive. The most exciting day of our lives up to that point (it was about to get a lot more exciting). We had seen half of the world, flown over Everest, learned to cook in Cambodia and driven to Rome from York in our homemade Citroen Picasso campervan. It all paled in comparison to this. We were about to embark on the biggest adventure of our lives.

After years of trying and heart-wrenching disappointment, our baby was finally on the way.

We had four miscarriages before now, including two in England, one in Nepal and one in China. I was not going to take any chances on anything at all. I occasionally had wine before now, but when we got that positive test, I stopped drinking. I wore socks in my sandals which is the Chinese way. I wore nothing tight around my waist and didn’t even wear a bra for 7 months. I slept on my side. No coffee or tea. Vegetables. Vitamins. I wanted that baby to have everything.

This pregnancy was kind to me, especially contrasted with my first pregnancy, where I’d had hyperemesis and ended up in hospital on IV fluids. And finally, when the baby arrived, I thought I’d start doing all the things I’d done before.

I didn’t.

See, there’s this thing called breastfeeding, and it turns out, you’re not allowed to do anything while you’re breastfeeding. Except make cosmetics with excess milk. So I left my hair alone. And left it. And left it. Eventually, I had this block of white which was around my collarbone, and lots of dark hair further up. In February, I got most of it cut off, and the rest went in July, so now all my hair is brown.

I’m still breastfeeding. Jellyfish is 15 months old and I will keep giving him boobie milk as long as he wants it. I could probably dye my hair again with no major problems, but honestly, at the moment, I don’t have any interest in doing it. White hair is ultra-high maintenance. Silver hair is labour-intensive, too. I don’t want to spend so much time on it. I thought about (gasp) getting it done at a hairdresser but they’re all a) closed and b) always tell me not to have silver hair which leaves me frustrated at wasting money on a hair colour I don’t want.

There’s a box of Schwarzkopf silver permanent dye in the bathroom. It’s been there since last August, when I bought it without thinking. Every time I go in there, the girl on the box stares at me, her gaze penetrating into my soul and calling to me, like Poe’s raven. Nevermore. Nevermore. Nevermore.

And like the raven, my hair will be silver again… nevermore.

Okay that was way too serious. It’ll probably get attacked with bleach in a year or two. IDK. I don’t want to say never but I’m not feeling a full-color whiteout right now.

How about you? Have you stopped coloring your hair? Started? Let me know in the comments!

How to get rid of a double chin: 4 proven causes and methods

It can be daunting looking at a double chin in the mirror, especially if you’re skinny or not very overweight. You might be thinking, “why do I have a double chin?” and “what’s the cheapest way to get rid of a double chin?”

Here’s the truth about your double chin: It’s not necessarily to do with how fat you are or aren’t. There’s three different causes of double chin. This article will look at all of them, as well as some solutions for every cause (and one quick fix).

Cause 1: Low muscle tone.

This is the easiest cause of a double chin to fix. For some people, the muscles around their neck are not strong enough to keep their skin taut. This makes the whole area sag and the jawline soften.

Fix it: Do some double chin exercises, such as tilting your head back as far as it will go and pulling it back to the normal resting position, like you’re doing an over-exaggerated nod.

Imagine your spine is the center of a clock and try to lean your head and pull it back upright from 12, 2 and 10 o’clock for best results.

Cause 2: Excess fat

This is a harder problem to solve. When it combines with low muscle tone, it can really cause problems, and before you know it, your double chin has grown!

No one likes to think they are overweight, but if you have a double chin and exercise didn’t get rid of it, maybe it’s time to step on the scales and be honest. You can calculate your BMI here to find out whether you are overweight or not.

If you’re not overweight, a double chin could be caused by excess internal fat. This also causes excess belly fat even in skinny people. The solution is to take up an aerobic exercise such as running or skating every day.

Solve it: Sign up for a couch to 10k.

Cause 3: Ageing

As time goes on, our skin loses elasticity. One area where this can be especially problematic is the chin and neck. It’s often where we see the first sign of ageing because it’s easy to forget to put cream on in this area, and over the years, this takes its toll.

Solve it: Use a targeted anti-ageing neck cream to increase firmness and elasticity.

Cause 4: Allergies

This is a cause no one likes to talk about, but like blue circles under your eyes, a double chin can be caused by swelling due to allergies. If you’ve tried everything and can’t get rid of your double chin, you could have a problem with allergies causing inflammation. Just like when you are sick, the neck can become swollen from the chronic inflammation caused by allergies.

Solve it: This is harder to solve. You can put a sticking plaster on the problem by using allergy tablets but they don’t address the cause. Many people just assume they have seasonal allergies, but without getting tested, they would never know. Untreated allergies can cause long-term effects in the body such as chronic inflammation which cannot be solved by taking allergy tablets. If this is the cause, you may want to look into lifestyle changes to reduce inflammation such as the anti-inflammation diet or supplements that fight inflammation.

How to get a swirl effect in melt and pour soap

A lot of soapmakers tell you that you can’t get nice colour effects in melt and pour soap. They are wrong. Today I am going to share some of the colour effects I’ve achieved using swirls and layering techniques in melt and pour soap, and explain how you can do them too. Once you’ve tried it out, you’ll have beautiful soaps crafted artistically, just like in cold process soaps!

What is a swirl?

A swirl is where you have more than one colour in a soap, and usually you would spin it e.g. on a Lazy Susan. What is a Lazy Susan, I hear you ask. A Lazy Susan is one of those plate things that people used to use for Thanksgiving in the 1970s because you can spin it around instead of passing the carrots across the table… which is pretty lazy, hence the name.

A Lazy Susan a bit ugly on the dining table and in this day and age of Instagram and Martha Stewart, people tend to have a nice centrepiece in the middle of the table and just pass the carrots to each other. So people dumped their Lazy Susans in the garage and now you can use it to make soap instead! At least, you can if you are making cold process soap.

It doesn’t work so well in melt and pour. I suspect part of the reason why some cold process soapers look down on melt and pour is because they try to do things the exact same way you would do them in cold process, then they decide it’s the soap that’s the problem when it goes wrong.

There is absolutely a way to get a swirl effect in melt and pour, it’s just you don’t swirl it the same way as you would swirl a cold process soap!

How do you swirl in melt and pour?

To get a swirl effect, I use mica powder colours. I love these because they are available in vivid shades. They have a nice shimmer when you use them in high concentrations. Best of all, they show up really well in melt and pour soap. Colourants have to work extra hard in white melt and pour because, as you’ll know if you have ever done cold process, soap isn’t naturally white. The white colour comes from the addition of titanium dioxide, which can nix your other colour choices, especially if you want natural colours. Clays etc struggle in white melt and pour soap. Mica is a natural mineral so it’s a great all-rounder.

Melt your soap and split it into two separate jugs.

In a separate jug, mix your mica with a little rubbing alcohol (if you have no alcohol, you can put the mica directly into one of the jugs of melted soap as this will dissolve in melt and pour, but for colour effects, you get more control over the outcome if you mix the colour up separately because then you can add a little at a time to one of your jugs of soap). You will want about 2 teaspoons of alcohol to half a teaspoon of mica. You can use more alcohol than this, but it will start to overpower the scent of the soap very quickly.

Add a little of the dissolved colour to one of your jugs of soap and stir it in. Add more gradually until you get the colour you want. For a melt and pour swirl, I find it works best if the two colours of soap you use for the swirl are high-contrast, so, quite far apart e.g. black and white, bright pink and white, etc.

Pastels and white don’t tend to show up very well in a melt and pour swirl, but you could do one jug with some pastel and the other jug with a very intense colour, or a contrasting colour. I did quite a nice pink/dark pink strawberry melt and pour soap with pastel pink and vivid Barbie pink.

Once your colours are mixed up, let the soap cool to about 38 degrees celsius (about 100 fahrenheit). You can test this with an infrared thermometer if you have one, or you can tell if the soap has cooled enough because it starts to thicken very slightly. An infrared thermometer doesn’t need to touch the soap, making it ideal for soaping which can be hard to clean out of a regular thermometer. You may have to stir every few seconds to stop a skin forming on the top of the soap (don’t wait until the skin has formed, if that gets into your swirl it won’t look great). You will probably also need to pour your soap quickly, unless you live somewhere hot with the air conditioning turned off, like Malaysia, or a campervan in the Scottish summertime.

Once the soap is at the right temperature, pick up both jugs at the same time. Pour them into the mould from opposite corners. Where they meet, you should get a nice effect, you can emphasize this by moving both jugs in a clockwise direction (or anti-clockwise. As long as they both go the same way). You may have to practice this a bit to not just mix the two colours when you pour into the mould.

You might be wondering if you can make swirls with clay in melt and pour. You can, but the colours from clays don’t come out very strong so the contrast won’t be there. Indigo powder or charcoal powder could work very well, however, if you contrasted the dark colour with a lighter one like yellow French clay. The benefit of adding charcoal or clay to the soap is that your scent will work better, too, so it’s worth experimenting with using these natural colourants in your soaps!

What is a layer?

In cold process soap, this is where you pour one layer of soap (that’s been blended to medium trace) in one color, then pour another in another colour, often using zig-zag-type movements to get the colour to move around. To get a swirl in cold process, you pour your soap in lots of layers before putting your soap mould on a lazy Susan and spinning it. However, this requires you to work with thicker soap than you can easily get in melt and pour (because melt and pour is chemically different to the trace stage of cold process, it behaves differently and the viscosity is nowhere near the same). In cold process, the layers stay together because after you’ve poured them, the soap gets hot (saponification is an exothermic reaction which means it gives out heat) while it sets. In melt and pour soap, once you’ve poured it, all that happens is it cools down. So because the chemical reaction has already taken place before you ever get your block of melt and pour soap, the soap itself isn’t able to “cook” itself into a solid bar of soap. So in melt and pour, if you try and layer the same way you would in cold process, it won’t work. Your soap will just fall apart.

How do you layer in melt and pour?

This is a surprisingly controversial topic because people who don’t make melt and pour tend to believe you can’t layer it. But you can! And it’s surprisingly simple.

There are actually two ways to layer melt and pour soap. The traditional method and the one I’ve discovered. One is a lot better than the other. 😉 #sassysoapmaking

The first, less good method is to pour a layer, let it set, spray alcohol on it right before pouring the next layer. This makes your soap smell of alcohol because melt and pour doesn’t evaporate any alcohol in the mixture because it doesn’t go through gel phase. Yucky drunk soap.

The Double Melt Method

This second method, which I call the Double Melt method (patent pending… jk haha), produces a nicer result but you need to watch the soap closely to get it right. You will need a microwave for this.

Layer your soap by pouring, letting it form a decent skin (it should flex like a trampoline when you gently press down on it) and pouring the next layer, over and over until you have a full mould of soap.

Next, turn your microwave down to its defrost setting. Put the soap mould inside and turn it on for about 20 seconds for individual bars of soap or about 40-60 seconds for a big loaf mould (assuming your microwave is a standard 750 watt one). This should provide just enough heat to get the layers to melt together. You might get a little colour bleed between layers with this method.

Let the soap cool down and harden for about 1 hour before unmoulding it, that way if you’ve heated it too much, it will set fully.

I’ve gone into more detail on layering with the Double Melt Method in this separate article, including what to do if it all goes wrong (and my soapy disaster when I messed this up).