Small Changes In Difficult Times


Nobody reaches adulthood without discovering that life is a rollercoaster. Sometimes we’re up – elated, overjoyed, beaming ear to ear. But unavoidably, we all face challenging times, facing sadness, grief, frustration, depression or simply fear. (Certainly, pick up any newspaper right now and the world can definitely feel quite scary.)

We’ve long believed that small changes can make big differences to how we feel – and that’s definitely true when facing life’s challenges. So when you’re on the low of that rollercoaster, here’s what we know works – on a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual level. Read More…

I Can See (My Computer) Clearly Now…


I’m going to let you in on a little secret. A secret which optometrists have apparently mostly been keeping to themselves. And a secret I’d never have been let in on if my friend Maggie hadn’t accidentally left her glasses on my desk recently.

The temptation was too great, of course. Having recently discovered that my sort-of-adopted-daughter and I can swap distance glasses at a pinch, I was curious to know how I’d get on with Maggie’s specs. So, seated at my computer, I put them on – and it was literally as if the scales had fallen from my eyes. The screen was crystal clear, easy-to-read – making me realise, in a flash, that until I slipped Maggie’s specs onto my nose, I’d actually been squinting at it in an attempt to get that sharp focus. ‘Ah, that’s what a screen is supposed to look like!’, my inner voice exclaimed. I speed-dialled my friend. ‘Yes, they’re my computer glasses,’ she explained. ‘Life-changing.’ Read More…

Jo’s Favourite UK Spa’s


If I wanted to, I could probably swan from one spa to another, doing ‘research’ as a beauty editor. Irony is, much as I’d love to do that, I have precious little time for treatments of any kind (even though my shoulders need unkinking and my jaw de-stressing as much as the next person). So it really matters to me that a spa visit has to be exceptional – because otherwise, I can think of a gazillion things I’d rather be doing with my time. And indeed, I’ve been known to leap off the couch mid-way through an ineffectual massage or facial, make my apologies, and skidaddle. Life’s too short to lie with my face in a be-towelled couch-hole, festering at the therapist’s not-much-more-than-a-tickle effleurage.

At the following destinations, however, I’ve experienced the not-so-minor-miracle (for me) of truly switching off. They’re all places I’d be happy to return to – and for me, there’s no greater accolade.

Gaia Spa at Boringdon Hall (Devon). Gaia Spa opened last summer and is as modern as it gets – but at the same time, it’s a real nod to nature. I’d call the whole vibe ‘eco-glam’ – not a wind chime in sight. Instead, gorgeous fabrics, stunning artworks and sculpture, properly spa-like soothing sounds – and who isn’t going to fall in love with a spa that serves éclairs in its Spatisserie…? Everything is beautiful – not least the treatments themselves. Alongside ESPA treatments but also an entire programme of massages, facials etc. using Gaia Spa‘s own range of very impressive products. I enjoyed – truly enjoyed – the Gaia Spa Holistic Spa Ritual, which blends Balinese and Lomi Lomi techniques (long, smooth movements to release tension, as deep or as light as suits you). The body is exfoliated, followed by a not-too-messy application of re-mineralising Gaia mud, showered off before a choice of Gaia Spa oil blends – I went for Uplifting – is massaged into skin for what feels, blissfully, like ages. (This is a two-hour ritual.) There’s a facial as a finale but to be honest, I can’t remember a thing about that because by now I was away with the fairies who no doubt occupy nearby Dartmoor. There are lots of facilities and restful areas to take advantage of after a treatment – the salt crystal room, chill-out area around the pool (you can swim outside or in), etc. I took the cake option.
Gaia Spa at Boringdon Hall/01752-344455

Bodysgallen Hall (Wales). This isn’t on the way to anywhere – unless you’re touring Snowdonia or en route Holyhead for the ferry to Ireland. But it’s worth a pilgrimage. The multi-award-winning Spa itself is tucked away a couple of hundred yards’ walk from the historic National Trust hotel, in a low-built stone conversion. A crackling log fire flanked by inviting chairs greeted me on a winter’s day – and the welcome is equally warm. The spa changing room leads onto a long indoor heated swimming pool, where it’s also possible to lounge between treatments, though I didn’t have time to do much more than slip on a robe and head for a massage, alas. Darphin is the main brand featured on the treatment menu (along with Jessica manicures/pedicures, XEN-Tan and CACI if your face is in need of a bit of gravity-defiance). I often find spa rituals over-fussy when what we really want is someone’s fingers and thumbs working on ‘computer knots’, so I opted for a Deep Rebalancing Massage (which is a very reasonable £60). Mine was a true, gifted therapist rather than a beautician who’s turning her hand to occasional massages (which is the case in too many spas to mention). The hour in the treatment room, with its very comfortable bed, went all-too-quickly.
Bodysgallen Hall, The Royal Welsh Way, Llandudno, North Wales, LL30 1RS/01492-584466

Uniquely Organic EcoSpa (Brighton). Organic spas are few and far between, but even if you’re not a card-carrying member of the Green party, this Hove-based spa is a wonderful place to chill. They stock only organic ranges: Balm Balm, Pinks Boutique and Living Nature feature. Furniture is Fairtrade, and eco-paints have been used in the decor. The staff are not only extremely competent, technically, but they really do tune into the treatment, rather than just going through the motions; founder Kirsty Taylor graduated with a BSc in cosmetic science but went down the natural beauty route after writing her final dissertation on organic cosmetics, and finding her passion in life. The particular treatment that I wallowed in was the fab Pinks Boutique Eco-Chic Facial, £60 for one hour, which incorporates this all-organic range’s cleanser, gentle exfoliator and and facial oil in a really hands-on treatment that totally zaps facial tension, but also gets right into those knotty bits in the shoulders. This is truly guilt-free pampering, and writing this has reminded me to check out the menu again, head to Brighton – just an hour along the coast from my house – and check in for the Muladara (Root Chakra) Ayurvedic treatment, designed to promote a sense of stillness, which I’d put on my spa wishlist.
Uniquely Organic EcoSpa, 40 Church Road, Hove, East Sussex, BN3 2FN/01273-726973

Aromatherapy Associates Boutique & Treatment Rooms. I’ve said it before – and I’ll almost certainly say it again. (And again.) When it comes to mood-shifting, no oils have the power of Aromatherapy Associates to lift me up or waft me off to the land of Nod. (Fact: my No. 1 desert island must-have is Deep Relax Bath & Shower Oil.) Their treatments, of course, are widely available – but my favourite AA ‘branch’ is the flagship store and treatment destination in Knightsbridge. Upstairs, you’ll find the whole range of oils, skincare and bodycare, beautifully showcased. You can experience mini-treatments, or learn by smelling the essential oils in their ‘raw’ form. But downstairs, heaven truly beckons: boutique-hotel-style treatment rooms where you can enjoy facials or body treatments. My favourite is quite simple: a 90-minute City Stress Buster, which does just what it says on the tin (or rather, glass bottle), promising help with disturbed sleep and exhaustion. Therapists are world-class. And at this stage in my life, I’d rather pay a little extra and be assured of that.
Aromatherapy Associates Boutique & Treatment Rooms, 5 Montpelier Street, London SW7 1EZ/020-7838 1117

Margaret Dabbs Sole Spa at SpaceNK. This is one treatment that I do carve time out of my diary for once every four weeks or so, to have hooves shaved, nails buffed, calves massaged – and the finishing touch: a glossy, longlasting polish. (Although that’s booked separately: the podiatrists don’t varnish.) And the more comfy my feet are, the further I walk. Therefore: a medi-pedi isn’t an indulgence, it’s a health necessity. There’s a lovely new setting in which to enjoy these treatments – and the full range of Margaret Dabbs podiatry services, which also include lasering, orthotics and all the really serious foot stuff, tucked away at the back of the vast SpaceNK Apothecary on Westbourne Grove. All the podiatrists are fantastic at what they do – and treatment products came from Margaret’s fab, Beauty Bible Award-winning range which you can of course find on VH. I honestly can’t recommend too highly that if medical pedicures aren’t on your maintenance list, you experience one for yourself. I’d much rather spend money on my actual feet than on endless pairs of new shoes. I’ve said it before, we will definitely say it again: happy feet make a happy woman – which makes all of Margaret Dabbs‘s salons is positive temples to joy.
Margaret Dabbs Notting Hill 127-131 Westbourne Grove, W2 4UP/020-7486 0620 to book (NB this covers all the spas, so be sure to specify New Cavendish Street, Liberty or Westbourne Grove)


Striking Oils: The New Argan (And Other Oils…)


We love oils. Can virtually hear our skins slurping them up, from top to toe. Oils provide serious skin nourishment – which healthy skin needs, alongside moisture. (For which we turn to our old friend hyaluronic acid, among other ingredients.) They tend to be wonderfully skin-compatible, too – so no wonder the Beauty Bible team has a veritable arsenal of them on our bedside tables and bathroom shelves.

But the Indiana Joneses of the beauty world have been out there with their machetes and their GPS devices, tracking down ‘new’ oils. Of course, they’re not really new – but they’re new as beauty ingredients… Remember all that fuss about argan oil, a few years back? (And now argan’s a mainstay of the beauty industry.) And then coconut…?

We still love, love, love those oils. But here are some lesser-known discoveries on the oil front, which you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for.

Marula oil. Marula is packed with antioxidants (60% more than argan!), vitamins and omegas and is regarded as a ‘cure-all’ by the Ovambo women in Namibia, where it hails from. It’s a great multi-tasker – soothing and smoothing every skintype, even greasy. One of these days we might persuade oily-skinned women to use oils – we’re still hoping, but they would do well to start here – because marula oil is actually good for blemishes and scarring (as well as stretch marks). Personally, we really like this oil for ‘locking in’ moisture, applying a couple of drops or so over night cream (in particular). It leaves it silky, but traps the dewiness inside, too. Also good, we’re finding, for smoothing through hair – add just a drop or two to the palms, then rub these and your fingers together and skim through hair, for instant ‘texture’ but also gleam and nourishment. (And no, it won’t leave your hair looking greasy. Promise.) Check out The Ordinary 100% Cold-Pressed Virgin Marula Oil.

Moringa oil. Moringa is extracted from the seeds of Moringa oleifera, also known as the Drumstick tree. Nutrient-dense, it’s chosen for its anti-ageing properties, packed with free radicals. Interestingly, as well as helping to boost glow and fight skin fatigue by combating the effects of pollution, moringa (like marula) is also great for fighting acne and blackheads. It makes a wonderful scalp massage oil, ideal for dry scalp, delivering minerals and vitamins to hair follicles. We also take moringa as a supplement, by the way, blending it into delicious smoothies and juices. Find it in de Mamiel Botaniques Restorative Cleansing Balm, and (for those drinks) Aduna Moringa Green Superleaf Powder.

Cacay oil. File under ‘one to watch’: this South American oil is also very lightweight and swiftly-absorbed (this seems to be the trend in oils) – one for people who don’t like any feeling of greasiness that an oil can give. Cacay nuts are the size of a small orange, and contain kernels from which an oil is extracted that delivers three times more retinol than rosehip (so we’re told), 50% more vitamin E and twice the vitamin F (Essential Fatty Acids) of argan oil. Great for skin irritations and for soothing and healing minor burns, its fans attest.

Maracuja oil. Shabir was one of the first people we know to write about this (read his in-depth article here), but maracuja is now quite a ‘buzz’ in beauty circles. Derived from the seeds of the passion fruit plants, this non-fragrant oil is a rich source of antioxidants and helps reduce inflammation; in medical tests, it was found to stimulate production of the cells that create collagen. We suggest using a drop or two as a serum, or mixed it with your regular moisturiser or serum. It’s also great for nails, hair and scalp: another one-bottle-wonder for the bedside table (albeit not in the sexiest packaging you’re ever going to get your hands on…) Pure Maracuja Oil.

Rosehip oil. Not so new – but it’s gaining so many fans and making its way into so many different products, now, that rosehip is worth reminding ourselves about. This oil is actually one of nature’s wonder-healers: great for redness, wrinkles, pigmentation and for balancing complexions. (It’s another of those oils that is good for oily/problem skins – and is also effective at alleviating post-acne pigmentation.) Many people we know have reported improvements in scar tissue (and indeed stretchmarks) via regular application of rosehip oil. We’ve heard good first-hand reports, too, from sufferers of rosacea – one of beauty’s toughest challenges. The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rosehip Seed Oil

Striking oils, every one…

The Neck’s Best Thing


Fact: as with hands, your neck can give your age away faster than a glance at your passport. Even smooth-skinned British beauties tend to ignore what happens below the chin-line – in fact, for many women, a cursory swipe with a flannel constitutes neck care. The result? Sagginess. Wrinkles. Tell-tale crêpiness. In short, a neck that looks older than the rest of you.

Yet on the Continent, it’s a different story. There, the neck is an erogenous zone, on which TLC is regularly lavished. The result? Necks that stay firmer, smoother and more swan-like for longer. As Paris-based facialist Jickie Leray explains, ‘French women regard their neck and décolletage as an extension of their faces. So everything they do for their face – cleansing, protecting, ritually moisturising – is extended right down to the bust-line.’ And if your new beauty resolution is to take more care of your neck, that’s a pretty good blueprint. (Starting with tonight…) Read More…

Teenage Skin


I sometimes think mothers worry as much about teenage skin as girls do themselves. Will she develop bad beauty habits, will falling into bed with her make-up on damage her complexion – and above all, what to do about those spots…? No question: spots and breakouts can seriously zap confidence and self-esteem – I have many a young woman in my ‘circle’ who have been badly affected, not wanting to meet with friends, rock up for family get-togethers or take ‘selfies’ – and generally feeling very isolated despite this being an incredibly common problem. Read More…