Beauty

The Importance Of Acceptance

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We know lots of women who’ve had fillers, Botox and other cosmetic ‘tweaks’. And if that includes you, that’s your choice. But you won’t find us lining up for a syringe-ful of anything ‘age-defying’ in a cosmeto-dermatologist’s waiting room. Not now, not ever. We have plenty of beauty editor colleagues who’ve done so, of course – sometimes in the line of duty, to educate other women about what it’s like and what results to expect. But along the way, in some cases, they’ve entirely stopped looking like the women we knew (and not in a good way).

Fact: once you have that first procedure – even if it’s something as simple as Botox – you’ve crossed the rubicon. If that doesn’t make you better and solve all your life problems (and trust us, it won’t), then where next…? It’s a rabbit hole and a slippery slope. (Possibly a slippery slope into a rabbit hole, actually, is how we see it.)

Do we always love what we see in the mirror? No. Nobody said ageing was easy. But we’re happy to be living in a time when there are, at last, fabulous older role models out there. The ninety-something, super-stylish Iris Apfel, for instance. Linda Rodin, who sold her Rodin Olio Lusso skincare line to Estée Lauder, and whose grey-haired fabulousness (and pet poodle, Winks) we just adore following on her @lindaandwinks Instagram account. Or Jan de Villeneuve, 60s model, still going strong in her 70s (and soon to make an appearance in a quirky Jo Malone London campaign). They don’t airbrush or ‘fix’ their lines – they embrace them. And that’s what we strive for, too.

What is entirely possible, however – as the women above all prove – is that it’s easier than ever to look good for your age. So this month on VH, we thought we’d share what we have learned, over our long careers, really, really works.

Get a great makeover

Before anyone heads off to a doctor’s surgery on a quest for eternal youth, we like to divert them to a beauty counter – probably Bobbi Brown’s. One of the things that happens as we age, and which women find most distressing, is that their make-up doesn’t work the way it used to. It settles into lines. The complexion underneath has changed, too – often becoming paler and more washed-out. Brows go grey. Because of that – and the ever-present fear of looking like Widow Twankey, and having someone shout ‘Mutton!’ after you in the street – some women stop using make-up altogether. Which is absolutely the worst thing to do, because you will simply fade away.

Pale skin, pale brows, pale lashes, paler lips – it all adds up to a disappearing act. But Bobbi Brown’s make-up artists, in particular, are great at giving makeovers that make you look like you – only better. At the very least you’ll pick up some tips and tricks (and it’s only make-up, not a tattoo – if you hate the results, just cleanse them away when you get home).

Find a great facialist

For our money, a good facial with massage by skilled hands can give some gorgeous instant results and really get skin glowing. Ask friends for recommendations, because not all facialists are created equal, by a long chalk. (But you might just find a magic-worker round the corner.)

Add at-home facial massage into your regime

It works wonders; on ‘grey days’ it revs up circulation, restoring glow. We love the following, from Annee de Mamiel, which is fantastic performed with her facial oils. (Find them here.)

• Smooth your favourite facial oil over entire face and neck.

• Cup hands over nose and mouth, breathe in and out deeply.

• Tug your earlobes with thumb and index finger.  Then with fingertips, use firm, circular movements to massage from behind ears to base of neck.

• From the point of your chin, work up and outwards along the jaw to your ear; then from corners of mouth over the cheeks to ear, with circular movements; then from base of nose to top of ear.        Repeat the whole sequence three times.

• Sweep your fingertips firmly over your eye brows, then under, then gently pinch along them. Repeat twice.

• Pressing firmly with your middle fingers, circle the eyes beginning above the inner corners and working outwards.  Repeat three times.

• From the centre of your forehead, just above the nose, zigzag middle fingers in small, firm motions out to the temples; repeat working up the forehead.

• With the side of your index finger (held vertically), smooth skin from centre of face outwards, beginning with your forehead, then sides of nose, middle of mouth and centre of chin.

• Finish by breathing deeply, hands cupped over mouth and nose.

Try a jade stone

If there’s one thing more effective than massaging with fingers, it’s using a tool to do so. The Hayo’u Beauty Restorer has become a ‘cult’ product, and we’re so not surprised – it’s brilliant for dispelling fluid build-up and eliminating facial puffiness, especially around the jaw.

Get the needle!

Not Botox, or fillers, but acupuncture needles. We swear by them. And believe us, the needles truly aren’t scary. We were having facial acupuncture long before we met the wondrous Annee de Mamiel (see above), but we love her philosophy and her explanation of why facial acupuncture works. ‘Beauty is about being balanced on the inside, in every way – physically and psychologically. If you feel good about yourself, it reflects in the way you look. Dry, wrinkled, saggy skin mirrors what is happening in your body, so a facial acupuncturist looks at the roots of the problems and treat those too.’ For instance, the common problem of vertical lines between your eyebrows can relate to liver energy not flowing properly (frowning too much is a factor too!), so as well as needling the lines themselves, an acupuncturist will treats the liver. It’s also incredibly relaxing, we find – and of course that shows instantly on the face, too.

Never, ever, EVER look at yourself in the ‘vanity’ mirror of your car

If you want to feel good about yourself, and practice ‘acceptance’, that is. Invariably, lines appear there that weren’t there yesterday. It’s some kind of quirk of physics, we think. (Jo’s stuck gaffer tape over hers, to avoid nasty surprises.) And be really careful with FaceTime on your phone, too – we kinda hate Apple for coming up with that.

Last but not least, think nice thoughts

Your skin and face reflect your state of mind. If you’re stressed, you run the risk of looking pinched and peaky. Try thinking of a couple of nice things that have happened to you today – remember someone you love and, or something delicious that you have to look forward to. Even if life is really tough (and it happens to everyone), there’s almost always something positive. Gratitude and hope are great beautifiers. Be kind to others, and to yourself, too. That’s true beauty, in our book.

Why Sanebox Is Saving My Sanity

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I remember when so few e-mails came into my inbox – back in the mid-90s – that opening each one was exciting. Little could I have imagined then how one day, I’d find myself drowning in them. Because isn’t that what it feels like? Or if not drowning, then wading through treacle (which occasionally turns to toffee)?

To give you an idea of how bad it’s got: twice in the past, pre-G-Mail, over-zealous techies managed to delete every single e-mail (permanently) from my computer. No back-up, no copies, nada. But did I cry? No. After a few deep breaths, I was positively elated. Did a little jig around the office. Felt as if a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. (And then, of course, the box started to fill up again.)

I have to concede that my e-mail traffic is heavy-to-ridiculous. I’m not aiming for one-up-manship, here, but stating a fact. It comes of running three different businesses (Beauty Bible, The Perfume Society and The Wellington Centre, the nine-room wellbeing centre that my beloved and I opened a decade ago), and having a fairly healthy side hustle as an inspirational speaker. Also: for convenience, I buy a LOT online – from sneakers to supplements, bed linen to paint, stationery to shrubs. Which means: a lot of work-related e-mails (and being c.c.-ed in on what feels like a gazillion others). Even Ocado send me a notification when I’ve added an extra jar of organic capers to my order. All of which adds up to somewhere around 400 e-mails a day – and made me feel like I needed a parallel life just to deal with my inbox.

Until recently, I’d even contemplated an automatic Out of Office message that simply said: ‘Thanks for your e-mail. I may or may not get back to you in this lifetime.’ And that was the honest truth. I missed loads. Offers of actual paid work. E-mails from friends coming to town who’d been and gone before I stumbled on their e-mail while searching for something else. ‘Don’t forget’ messages from the aforementioned husband (so I didn’t ‘forget’, darling, I just never saw the reminder).

And then one night, in bed, I was leafing through a copy of Fast Company – a US magazine dedicated mostly to digital business, which I always find a darned good read. For about the tenth time, I saw a mention (from some high-flying, on-it CEO) of something called Sanebox, explaining how it’s transformed how he handles his e-mail. But this time, it finally registered in my consciousness – and at that point, I felt I had nothing to lose by signing up.

So let me preface what I’m about to tell you by saying: Sanebox haven’t paid me for this. (Ha! I WISH!) Rather, I’ve paid them! But probably the best money I’ve invested all year – currently $59 annually.) And here’s how it works. Basically, you give Sanebox the right to see all your e-mails (and delete them). OK, that’s a bit scary, but the first 24 hours I’d signed up, Sanebox spent analysing my inbox and sent messages. It had already started to figure out – and I literally know not how, because it seems flipping psychic, to me – which were important e-mails (in which case they go into an ‘Important’ box), which slightly less urgent (filed now in an @SaneLater box), and which were newsletters (@SaneNews).

But it doesn’t end there. Because each day, especially at the beginning when Sanebox is getting to know you, a Sanebox Digest lands in your inbox. It gives you the power to ‘train’ Sanebox. So: although some things were categorised (accurately) as @SaneNews, you can train the programme to send them straight to your inbox instead, to be seen straight away. Do I want to wait for my 60 Seconds with Gill, or the latest update from Anthropologie, or from interior designer Ben Pentreath, whose exquisitely designed e-mails brighten my day? No, I want to have a little e-break with my tea break and enjoy looking at them sooner rather than later – so I’ve trained those to my Inbox. (But FNAC Spectacles (who I bought some Paris theatre tickets from and have never successfully unsubscribed from? They’ve now been consigned to @SaneBlackHole, and will never darken my inbox again.)

So Sanebox creates little ‘silos’ of e-mail, by type. And the brilliant thing about that is that when you’re on the bus or in the back of a cab (or wherever), you can deal with whichever box you fancy. Maybe delete all those other newsletters which aren’t currently relevant (holidays/sale notifications/updates from your gym), but which you don’t want to unsubscribe from permanently. Or – with a bit more time on your hands them – to look at all the e-mails you’ve been c.c.-ed in on, and file (or add your sixpence-worth to the e-mail thread).

But what I’ve found is that it’s much, much, much (and I’d like to add about six more ‘much-es’ here) easier to deal with the same type of e-mail at the same time. Before they were ‘quarantined’ in different boxes, I’d start deleting or filing the entire, scary contents of my general inbox, and then I’d get to some e-mail or other e-mail that needed a quick response, and answer that, and then I’d be down that rabbit hole, completely distracted, and never get to the rest of them. And those unread e-mails would cascade down my inbox out of sight and very often never get dealt with, taking crucial invitations and messages with them. (It’s a wonder I still have a social life or a marriage, frankly.)

I am now shouting about Sanebox from the rooftops. (Here I am, with my megaphone, on VH!) And having evangelised to friends about this amazing app, some have also now signed up – and sure enough are finding it as life-changing as I do. I truly reckon it’s cut the amount of time I spend on e-mail by two-thirds. Which means I’ve got hours in my week, for the important stuff. Walks, prepared-from-scratch meals, books, chats with friends – all of which, at least sometimes, got sidelined because of the dreaded inbox.

For which I can only say: thank you, Sanebox – the best-named app on the planet – for truly restoring my sanity. I almost – almost – get excited about looking at my inbox again…

Post-Summer SOS

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It isn’t usually like this. We get through to the end of August feeling like we need to add tanning drops to our moisturiser, spritzing BetterYou Vitamin D spray to make up for the sun we didn’t get during our British summer, and lamenting money spent on swimwear not worn.

And then along came ‘The Summer of 2018′ – to go down in history, like ‘The Summer of 1976′ (only this time we weren’t, alas, cruising London streets in the passenger seat of a Triumph Stag with the roof down…)

Hasn’t it been quite extraordinary living in a country where everyone – but everyone – seems to have a tan? Because basically, all the wisdom we preach about shielding skin against UV light went out of the window, along with the intentions not to eat more than one ice cream cone a day. As a nation, most of us have soaked up every ray we could. We’re certainly guilty. (Though we think it’ll be interesting to see whether we all get fewer colds and ‘flu this winter.)

The bottom line is, even if you languished like a heroine from a Victorian novel under a parasol, it has been almost impossible to escape without some collateral damage from the sunshine – not just to skin but to hair. So rest assured: you aren’t the only person whose face, body and hair is suffering from post-summer skin stress, right now. Yes, we all headed into summer knowing full well that UV light’s the enemy, ageing-wise. But short of spending summer in a darkened room, almost everyone’s caught red-nosed/cheeked, this year. The solution? Once you’ve unburned your sunburn, you need to answer some other urgent beauty needs – and here’s how.

First, tackle dryness

When you’re actually enjoying the sun, skin can seem miraculously dewy and gorgeous. Then the minute you get back home – or to the office, where the air-con may be on (and we’re only weeks away from the central heating season) – something hideous happens, and almost everyone starts to look like a snake due to shed at least one skin. So: replenishing moisture and nutrients, top-to-toe, is No. 1 beauty priority – not least because moisture is essential for healthy cell communication and regeneration.

So: start by quenching skin with a boost of hyaluronic acid, the ‘buzz’ molecule which can retain over 1,000 times its weight in water, making it just about the best complexion drink we know. Garden of Wisdom Hyaluronic Serum can be layered under any other serum or moisturiser (and is suitable for all skin types, including oily and sensitive). We also love This Works Light Time Skin Plumper – and both of these can just be slotted, hassle-free, into your existing regime. Alternatively, power up the moisture factor by switching to Derma E Hydrating Night Creme with Hyaluronic Acid, perhaps, or – one of the richest, simplest rich moisturisers we know – good old Weleda Soothing Facial Cream.

Turbo-charge moisturisation with a twice-weekly face mask

They’re a great way to get back some of that dewiness – and we’re always happy to obey the command on the packaging of a face mask to ‘relax for 10 minutes’. We may not do much else we’re told to, but we’ll happily submit to teeny-tiny writing on the back of a sachet of Sarah Chapman Skinesis 3D Moisture Infusion, a jar of Temple Spa Quench or a tube of Aromatherapy Associates Soothing Treatment Mask. (However, avoid mud and clay-based masks just for now; you want moisture, not skin purification.)

Treat your body to some TLC

If you’re anything like us, it isn’t just your face that’s suffering. (Jo noticed ‘shin dandruff’ on her yoga mat the other day, swiftly remedied by a generous application of This Works Skin Deep Dry Leg Oil, which is nothing short of a miracle-worker. We love, love, love a rich body butter for everywhere else – the Soapsmith Butter Melts are gorgeous (and affordable), though requiring a tad more elbow grease to apply than Aromatherapy Associates Enrich Body Butter, which is coming to a desert island with us if we’re ever marooned (or invited by Kirsty Young). For the ultimate indulgence, there is Temple Spa Body Truffle, which rivals Fortnum’s food hall for luxurious ingredients (caviar, truffles, champagne, etc.), and which won a Gold Beauty Bible Award in the Anti-Ageing Body Creams category of our annual awards.

Secondly, tackle pigmentation. 

The most angst-inducing legacy of summer exposure isn’t flaky skin, however (even if it is a harbinger of lines and wrinkles to come). It’s the longer-term, tougher-to-tackle challenge of pigmentation, which women find so very distressing. In the Garden of Wisdom (GoW) range, you’ll find various products to target dark spots/sun spots/whatever you like to call them. GoW 100% Pure Prickly Pear Seed Oil, for instance, is charged up with super antioxidants, alongside vitamin K to help brighten age spots and hyperpigmentation. The most potent product in the range, however, is GoW Alpha Arbutin 2% and Kojic Acid 1% Serum, containing two ingredients considered to be a gentle but effective alternative to hydroquinone, alongside paper mulberry and vitamin B3, also known to help correct uneven skintone. As the name suggests, iS Clinical White Lightening Serum also targets hyperpigmentation. Invest as your budget allows, is our advice – but be aware that if you’re using a product to tackle pigmentation, you also absolutely 100% have to wear an SPF30 over the top, a) to give the product the best chance of effectiveness, and b) to shield vulnerable skin against future damage.

Whack on a hair mask

Absolutely the best way to get hair back in good nick – although we also prescribe a salon appointment, to snip off ends that are probably beyond repair. Unless you have the very finest hair, more is more when it comes to hair treatments. More product, more generously worked through from roots to ends after shampooing, and left on for more time than you’d imagine. Overnight, ideally (we cover a pillow with a towel when we do that, to avoid trashing a pillowcase). Alternatively, again shampoo first, smooth on your chosen product, wrap your hair in clingfilm, and let it work its magic while you devour your latest chosen boxset. (‘Big Little Lies’, anyone? Eighth, albeit Meghan-less, series of ‘Suits’? Just don’t bother with Matt Groening’s ‘Disenchanted’, is our advice. You’re welcome.)

You’ll find some great hair-boosting options on VH: we’d point you in the direction of Peter Lamas Youth Revival 5 Oil Hair Treatment Mask, or 72 Hair Intense Replenishing Mask. Then simply invest some time over the next few weeks in putting back what ‘The Summer of 2018′ took out.

And if you follow this advice, your skin (and straw thatch) may just forgive you.

The Sound Of Silence

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It’s miraculous how the brain adjusts to noise. When I lived literally spitting distance from the roaring Westway/M40 and the every-two-minutes rumble of the Metropolitan Line, in London, I barely noticed those sounds, after a week or two of ‘adjustment’.

Or so I thought. But when I moved out away from the metropolis to somewhere so silent that I can hear owls twit-twooing half a mile away, I realised how very precious silence is – and how constant noise can undermine wellbeing. According to the World Health Organisation, one in five Europeans is ‘regularly exposed to sound levels at night that significantly damage health.’ And those sounds go way beyond having us toss and turn at bedtime, making sleep elusive. Noise triggers the production of cortisol – which along with adrenaline, raise blood pressure, potentially causing cardiovascular problems if there’s prolonged exposure. As a result, according to some studies, those living in areas with the noisiest daytime traffic are 5% more likely to be hospitalised with strokes than those in quieter zones – a risk that rises to 9%, among the elderly.

So even though I wasn’t conscious of the vibrations from the Underground or the roar of the motorway, it was still having an effect on my body and psyche. And when you think about that, it’s not really surprising. Noise – from the internal combustion engine, diggers and drills, the bass thumping from your neighbour’s boombox – is a relatively recent phenomenon. Before the industrial revolution, the loudest sounds you were likely to encounter were the cheers at a wedding, the moo of a cow, the bleat of a goat. All of which sounds like a world straight from the pages of a Thomas Hardy – but truly, that’s what life was like as recent a couple of centuries ago. Loud noise was something so unusual that we responded to with a fight-or-flight response – so It’s hardly surprising that we haven’t yet evolved to deal with the almost constant background rumble and clang of life in the 21st Century.

I certainly consider myself incredibly lucky now to live somewhere so quiet. It’s all the more amazing to me because actually, my home’s in a busy town. However, since our bedroom is in the back of the house, facing a steep, woodedhill where badgers and foxes and owls still think they own the joint, we’re away from any road noise – and have just the rustling of the leaves and the hoot of that owl to disturb our sleep. Oh, and seagulls. (These, however, are now my equivalent of the Metropolitan Line: I never hear them. And because they’re a nature sound, they’re not undermining my wellbeing as artificial sounds do.)

But on nights when I have to stay in a city, or find myself in an otherwise noisy environment – hot-desking in a busy office, for instance – I’ve realised how vital it is ­to master techniques for blocking out the noise. Here’s what I’ve learned.

If you’re working in an open-plan office or a café and you need to focus, noise-cancelling headphones really help. A lot of us have to put up with background noise, at work. Sometimes, some days, it can be like water off a duck’s back. But a particularly loud colleague who likes to discuss their social life at full volume, or just the background buzz of a busy sales department, can also be very distracting. So it may just be easier to get yourself some earplugs or a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, to help you zone out. (In a really busy work environment, you may be able to get your boss to cough up for these in the interests of increased productivity.) Far better for your health than sitting there festering with resentment, that’s for sure.

Shut down electronic devices when not in use. The TV, DVD player, computer, printer; all can emit a low-level humeven on standby that you may not even be aware of – but which on some level affect your mind and body.

Turn off your ringer and notifications. Phone sounds are a constant interruption to our concentration: all those pinging texts, incoming e-mail alerts and other e-notifications. Switch your phone to silent unless you’re expecting an important call; leave it on vibrate and you should still be aware when someone’s ringing you – but even if you miss a call, chances are it’s not the end of the world.

Close the window at night if you live in a noisy neighbourhood. OK, so this is a trade-off: fresh air –v- the background noise of sirens, motorcycles revving, the pub opposite spilling revelers out onto the street after closing time… Much as I am a fresh air fiend, I’ll compromise on that in my quest for calm and silence. (And it’s quite astonishing, by the way, how much double glazing helps in a noisy setting – even if you only install it the bedroom.)

Download a white noise app or invest in a white noise ‘device’. So what’s the point of white noise – it’s still noise, right? Well, yes. But ‘white noise’ is specifically designed to distract the brain from focusing on other, louder noises; the ‘whooshy’ noise is thought to be effective because it mimics the environment of the womb. After a while, if you do this nightly, it can help to form a sleep association that lulls you to nod off. The No.1 white noise app on the iTunes store is called White Noise Deep Sleep Sounds, and it’s very good.(Alternatively, you could do what I’ve done and download ‘Owl Sounds for Relaxation’, from iTunes, which I now play when I’m away from home to drown out any background noise and in some way create the illusion of being in my own blessed bed.)

Read a book called ‘Silence in the Age of Noise’. Explorer Erling Kagge spent 50 days walking across Antarctica without radio contact. Much as I dislike noise, that would in itself drive ME crazy – but his account of that journey is a surprising bestseller, translated into more than 30 languages.Definitely makes you think about silence.

Look for appliances with the ‘Quiet Mark’. Kettles, hairdryers, washing machines, dishwashers; manufacturers can now apply to have the decibel level of their appliances measured, and certified as ‘quiet’. Certainly worth considering next time you’re replacing white goods.

Find a way to cultivate inner silence. I’ve written before about how meditation and yoga have helped me to find balance in a bonkers world. I’m not going to make a prescription for you – we’re all different (although those are darned good places to start). But when the world’s making a cacophany around you – the dog’s barking, the neighbours have the power drill out (and the neighbours on the other side are mowing a lawn) – it really helps to have a resource that enables you to find peace and stillness.

Because – whisper it softly – we live in a world that’s unlikely to get much quieter, anytime soon. So it may be time to stop focusing on the ruckus – and take control of our own individual capacity for silence…

The Beauty Bible’s August Picks

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Now and again, as connoisseurs of all things gorgeousness-related, we like to share on VH a round-up of some of our recent faves which you can find right here, right now on the website. So: here’s what Beauty Bible’s been loving, lately…

Margaret Dabbs Fabulous Legs

We’d never really thought of giving our legs a ‘makeover’ before – but boy, does this collection do just that. Five products in all (obviously you needn’t use ALL of them, though we did). Before? Legs dull, flaky, generally meh-looking. Afterwards? Not only bareable but actually BARED, thanks to soaring weekend temperatures.

The regime starts with a scrub – Toning Leg Scrub. First, a little caveat: before you’ve used this, you need to stir it. And the pot’s full. And if you take the lid off in bed in your nightie (as Jo did), to sniff it, then you will also probably have to change said nightie. So: do this in the bathroom, and stir with the spatula. Scoop the scrub from the bottom of the pot onto legs, and massage well for three to five minutes. Legs will be unbelievably soft and smooth once you’ve showered this off. To be honest, this is a leg-makeover-in-a-pot, in itself.

Then, a leg mask. A LEG MASK? Yup. Choice of two. The Yellow Leg Masque is skin-brightening and radiance-boosting. You probably don’t need it all over right now, so we recommend slathering the mix – enriched with argan and sweet almond oil – from knees to ankles. If heavy legs are a problem, then go for the decongesting Black Leg Masque – we love the camphor-y, seriously aromatic scent of this, and it’s great for that tired-leg feeling.

We suggest following with either/or the following. We love the smoothing effect of Firming Leg Serum, which quenches skin with moisture, boosting circulation while it’s at it (a blend of ginger extract, argan and Abyssinia oil feature, among other ingredients).

Last step is Refining Glow Leg Spray, which brings a sense of lightness to legs (again, that ginger/oil blend, together with cypress, lavender, mint and lemon). It’d be a great leg reviver to use on-the-go. (Will it work through tights? We’re rather hoping we don’t have to find out.)

Transformative. Truly.

Thyme Out

This product has been a complete blockbuster since it landed at VH. Think of it as the skin equivalent of Ocean’s 8, or a Jojo Moyes novel, or a track from Beyoncé. Off-the-scale popular.

And its success is a reminder of just how many of us have niggly skin issues: rashes, eczema, prickly heat, psoriasis – not to mention acne and breakouts, as well as cuts and grazes. We’ve personally already used it on a really annoying persistent mystery itch, on insect bites (the British mosquito season has started early after the combo of sunshine/storms), nettle rash…

Thyme Out is organically-sourced, and water – not alcohol-based (so you can put it on skin you’ve scratched till it’s raw without any stinging). It smells so strongly of thyme (in a good way) that we’re almost tempted to sprinkle it on tomatoes before tucking them under a grill. (We won’t, of course – but we’ll make sure that there’s a bottle of this handy for coming in from the garden, as well as on the bedside table.)

Cleverly, the generously-sized bottle comes with a small spritzer that you can tuck in your handbag or washbag. (Be aware: this is a spray, not a rollerball; Jo took off the lid to roll it onto skin and deposited the thyme-fragranced contents all over her clean sheets. Which she didn’t really mind – and it doesn’t stain permanently – but isn’t what you really want.)

For annoying skin woes, we think it’ll swiftly become your No.1.

Temple Spa Trufflelixir

Fact: a tide of beauty products flows into Beauty Bible HQ. The process is: some of it goes into our ‘holding bay’ (affectionately known as ‘The Beauty Dungeon’), for us to look at later.

Some of it is just tagged ‘Get ten of these and listen to what a Beauty Bible tester panel has to say about its effectiveness’ – because we don’t have enough square footage of skin to put everything through its paces.

And just some of it – often when we’ve previously been impressed by a brand’s previous offering, or there’s something truly innovative about a product – gets fast-tracked for testing on our own faces. Straight away.

So, obviously, we were going to start immediately on Trufflelixir, with the astonishing results that previous Temple Spa Skin Truffle creams have notched up in our Beauty Bible Awards.

After a couple of months of use, we can report: this is really impressive stuff. It’s a breeze to use – one pump, a few drops, and it glides smoothly all over skin, making it look instantly radiant. (We do love a bit of instant benefit, while waiting for long-term results.) Importantly, although it contains retinol, we had no reaction whatsoever – none of the flaking and redness sometimes experienced with retinol/vitamin A products, in the past, which have left us wary.

There are all the luxe ingredients in there we’ve come to expect from the Skin Truffle range – diamond powder, gold, silk peptides, a champagne extract and summer truffles! All of which deliver the luxurious texture that makes this really lovely to use.

Long-term, we look in the mirror and see: brighter skin, a more even skintone and fine lines that have become that bit finer. It’s a must for any Skin Truffle fan, to layer beneath that cream – but if you’re looking to add a fab serum offering visible benefits into your regime pretty much from the get-go, we suggest you truffle this out.

Because while truffles may famously like the dark, this ain’t going anywhere near that dungeon.

Ilapothecary

Some of you may be familiar with Ila? – luxuriously-priced natural treats for face and body, in a range created by natural wellbeing expert and visionary Denise Leicester. It’s amazing stuff – treats for face and body (and at treat-like prices). But now, it’s got a ‘little sister’ – actually, not so little, with ten or so products that pour Denise’s aromatherapeutic expertise into some seriously mind-shifting products.

They truly smell incredible. But more than that, they’re unbelievably effective – like a giant, aromatic ‘nudge’ into a different mindset. Slightly more affordable, the range offers several real innovations – and here’s the low-down on our faves so far.

Beat The Blues Room Spray: We think this is probably what heaven smells like. Setting out to bust negative energies, it does exactly that – which is why you’ll find us spritzing it around the office in the morning, and why we keep it firmly within reach by the computer, for a quick and joyous burst of clary sage, petitgrain, rose geranium and tuberose. According to Denise, it’s good for helping you listen to your intuition.

Speak Your Truth Aroma Roller: We adore this. It’s a big, fat rollerball of aromatherapeutic magic, incuding rose and sandalwood, polished and sweetened with nurturing vanilla. It’s not an actual truth serum, but as Denise says, ‘it helps connect our physical body with our meditative being’. Jo rolls it onto her pulse points before doing to her daily calm.com meditation; it is grounding, soothing, helps with focus – and honestly, could be worn as a fragrance in its own right.

Frankly, we are never NOT in the mood for this range.

This Works Evening Detox Mask

Remember Princess Fiona, from Shrek? Well, she’s who you will look like, in this mask.

Do not, however, let the fact that it is really, REALLY green put you off for a minute – because this is a fabulous, fabulous, FAH-BU-LOUS skin treat.

First off, though, we have to say that we think This Works got the positioning of this mask all wrong. We find it way too face-waking for evening use, enlivening both the skin and the senses, with a camphor-and-citrus-and-frankincense, pick-me-up scent.

So for heaven’s sake forget the name, and use it in the mornings. Twice a week, ideally – but we saw fantastic results after just one use, and are now using it regularly. It’s applied via a dispenser brush (you twist it 180º to unlock it), which you use to paint the green mask onto skin. (Incredibly satisfying and soothing feeling, BTW.)

The colour is from malachite – which works to detoxify and protect against pollution. Alongside that, there’s natural kaolin clay – but this doesn’t set super-hard (we’re not fans of many clay masks), or feel uncomfy. There are skin-brightening fruit acids (NB we experience absolutely no reaction to these) – and the whole thing has a great exfoliating action. From first use, skin appears brighter – and we feel really refreshed and ready for the day.

It’s gone straight to the top of our fave mask charts and can’t recommend too highly. Meanwhile, do have fun scaring the living daylights out of the postman, won’t you?

BetterYou Magnesium Sleep

The BetterYou range is all over this website like a rash. (That’s probably a slightly unfortunate turn of phrase, but they do crop up all over the place in the form of magnesium salts, butters etc.)

The whole range is wonderfully sleep-beckoning and muscle-relaxing – a go-to for us in the quest for better sleep for some years, now. But we’re really loving this new addition to the range: a nourishing body lotion rich in magnesium oil (proven to relax tired muscles, slow sensory activity and quieten the mind) – but the pleasure of which is now enhanced by a lovely soothing scent.

It features chamomile and lavender – we’re finding it relaxing from the very first sniff. The idea is to massage four pumps of Magnesium Sleep Mineral Lotion into skin 30 minutes before bedtime, ideally focusing on areas like shoulders, neck and legs. (We like to smooth at least one pump into feet, which are highly absorbent – and could always use some extra moisture!) It’s also safe for use in pregnancy, NB. Can you hear us snoring gently, from there…?

Funerals

weeping beech tree

We need to talk about my funeral. No, really, we do. I’m not expecting it to be imminent (I REALLY HOPE NOT!) – but I’m not burying my head (or any other part of me) in the sand, pretending it ain’t going to happen. As the old saying goes, ‘Nothing is certain but death and taxes.’ (And having just paid my half-year tax bill, as many self-employed people have, I know just how annoyingly unavoidable those are!)

Now, I want to stay positive, here. I spend as much of my time as I can possibly carve out of a busy life on what I like to think of as ‘life extension’. That’s why I diligently walk 10,000 steps a day, try to stay as unstressed as possible in a world in which Donald Trump is the unlikely-but-true President of the United States, take all the vitamins that Shabir tells me I need to, do yoga, and so on. All the things I’ve written about in this column at various times, basically. (Well, not Trump; he doesn’t deserve the airtime.) Bottom line: I’m planning to stay around for as long as I possibly can.

But over the years, I’ve had the experience of planning a few funerals for friends, and going to various ceremonies at crematoria and churchyards memorials, for others. To say they were a mixed bag is a vast understatement. Some were terrible (and I’m not just talking tragic loss here, but actually terrible, impersonal funerals where – on one occasion – the celebrant got our friend’s name wrong). And some were downright fabulous – the most recent of which was just a couple of weeks ago, in a sun-drenched garden where 150+ friends gathered to say goodbye to one of the most life-enhancing women I’ve ever known, who had died at the ridiculously young age of 62 of a super-speedy brain tumour. My friend Sarah Charles was the embodiment of hostess-with-the-mostest, with more style in her little finger than most of us have in our bodies – and without an unkind atom in her body (though nevertheless, an acid wit).

I have rarely seen more Champagne at a wedding than at Sarah’s send-off. There was delicious food, laughter, and we all wore the bright, colourful clothes that Sarah so loved. Although Craig and I had to leave early (to attend my very-much-alive brother’s 60th), I’m reliably informed she was ultimately sent off into space in a rocket (or at least, her ashes – which had been previously obtained via the local crematorium – were). But in the hours counting down to that firework finale, we all stood around sharing joyous memories of our friend – very much that ‘don’t mourn that I’m dead, celebrate the fact that I lived’ vibe. And that’s what I want, too.

Actually, I already know where I’m going to be buried. (No fireworks for me, thanks.) Craig already bought me the tree and planted it on a piece of land we have. Nice birthday present, darling! No, seriously: I don’t at all mind contemplating a long lie-down under the shade of a beautiful (and what I hope will by then be really large) weeping beech, just a pine-cone’s throw from his Cedar of Lebanon. (I like to think of future generations playing hide-and-seek under its canopy of copper-leaved branches.) For the actual burial, I’ve got my eye on a very fetching ‘Beauty Bible pink’ glitter cardboard coffin (though I might have to do a bit of research into the eco-friendliness of the glitter). Music-wise, I’m having Carly Simon, with one of my friends charged with picking the exact track (preferably not ‘You’re So Vain’, but I’ll be past caring) – and Pharrell Williams’s ‘Happy’, because really, who can be miserable to that track? And I really, really, really don’t want people to be miserable.

And this is the point: I really think we need to stop thinking about death and funerals as something ‘other’ – something we only address when it hits us in the face. Elsewhere in the world, death is much more a part of life – as in the Day of the Dead, when Mexicans remember friends and family who’ve died, decorating brightly-coloured altars and wearing equally eye-popping clothes. (So much nicer than funereal black.) I like the South African idea of the ‘after tears’ party, more like an Irish wake, involving a lot of drinking and joking and focusing on comforting the surviving and remembering the deceased in the fondest way – as we all, surely, want to be remembered. And then, of course, there are Irish wakes themselves – life-affirming, laughter-filled and very, very hangover-inducing.

Ironically, when my mother received her cancer diagnosis (and a six-month death sentence with it), she said it was one of the best things that ever happened to her – because she felt really alive for the first time. (And how many times have we heard that?) She appreciated in sharper focus every day, every rainstorm, every sunbeam, every morsel that she put in her mouth, every bark of the bloody dog, every conversation, every laugh, every rose and every courgette she picked in a way she’d never done before. She went on to defy her doctors’ prognosis and live for six years longer than they’d predicted.

But when she did finally succumb, we discovered that my mother had planned everything about her own funeral: the music, the poetry, the readings (maybe that’s at least partly where I’ve got it from) – though even my father didn’t have a clue she’d done so till afterwards. The great thing is that it completely spared him (and us) from having to second guess ‘what she would have wanted’ – and if nothing else, that’s a huge kindness to the traumatised bereaved. I’m fairly sure that if she’d hung on until more recently (she died when I was 27), Mum would have gone for a wicker coffin and asked us all to weave flowers through it, as we did for a friend recently. Or maybe a cardboard coffin on which we could all draw, paint and write (as someone else in my circle wanted, for her not-so-long-ago funeral).

I honestly believe that if we spend a bit more time thinking about our own funerals, and about death, then gradually it works to take some of the fear and panic away; that’s surely why the network of Death Cafés is flourishing (there’s probably one near you), at which people sit around and bust the taboo of talking about it.

But for me, the really great thing about thinking about death – about pink glitter coffins, weeping beeches, Carly Simon, or whatever YOU would like for your last, great party – is that it also makes you think about life, and how precious it is.

And we could all do a bit more of that.