Beauty Bible

Nobody’s Perfect

Nail scrubber

Every cloud has a silver lining, they say – and for those of us at Beauty Bible, it is seeing how everyone’s gone au naturel, in the past few weeks. Google ‘bare-faced celebrity’ and you can marvel at an unrecognisable Drew Barrymore (we spot a grey hair at that parting, along with the manicure-free nails), an equally low-key (yet so pretty) Kate Hudson, and – our favourite – Jessica Chastain, without a single swipe of make-up and looking more beautiful (and definitely more relaxed) than we’ve ever seen her. Away from the red carpet, in the comfort of their own bedrooms or living rooms or kitchens, they’ve been free to let their hair down. (Roots ‘n’ all.)

Part of that, of course, is simply that actresses can’t rock up to their derms for Botox jabs, models are suddenly required do their own make-up/hair (and probably don’t know how), and everyone (including us) is mourning regular hairdressing appointments. But we think it goes deeper than that: an actual seismic shift which comes down to: ‘I’m happy to be alive. That’s more important than looking flawless.’ Read More…

TLC for Hands

Pink background with thumbs up hand with pink rubber glove on

Poor, poor hands. Have they ever taken such a battering? Assaulted by the alcohol in most sanitisers, washed for a total of minutes a day while singing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice over, under our breaths. (Personally, we really wish someone would come up with an alternative to that which is the requisite 20 seconds long, or forever more when we wish someone Many Happy Returns as we head in their direction carrying a large cake, we’re going to be thinking of the corona-nightmare.)

Handcare might seem pretty low down the list of priorities right now, when we’re fretting about so many other ‘bigger’ issues. But with hands at risk of becoming so dry that they get papery and even cracked, that’s really not good news, either. Cracked skin can become infected skin – red, sore (and as we all know from a mere paper cut) the number of nerve endings in our wonderfully dextrous, gloriously sensitive hands means that the pain of any cut or hand injury seems way out of proportion to its size. (And besides, aesthetically, does anyone really want hands that feel like sandpaper…?) Read More…

The Beauty Bible Awards 2020: Five Of The Best

Beauty Bible Awards 2020

We could be forgiven for having a bit of a lie-down at Beauty Bible – because we’ve just unveiled the winners across 100+ categories of product, trialled by REAL women in REAL time to help our readers find products that REALLY work. (Sorry for the shout-y capitals, but we’re feeling a bit over-excited!) It’s been our mission, for 24 years now, to help women take a short-cut to products that really work – and it comes as no surprise to us that many, many of the Award-winners can be found right here on VH, because Gill (like us) knows a good thing when she sees (and sniffs) something.

As a little taster of the results, we thought we’d share five of the top-scoring products – all of which feature on VH. And don’t take our word for their fabulousness – because the comments say everything.

Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax Bath & Shower Oil

Here it is again! Our all-time favourite bath treat, one we give away to countless friends and colleagues, when challenged by sleep issues or having a tough time. We’ve lost count of how many times this extraordinary bath treat has floated to the top of our annual rounds of testing. It’s a legend in its own bathtime…

OUR TESTERS COMMENTS: ‘10/10. What can I say about this product other than WOW!? The fragrance is just beautiful and lifts my mood straight away, lasting a while after use. My skin was left feeling super soft and silky. It promises to be calming and promote good sleep and it exceeded the claims. It’s amazing. A little product goes such a long way’ • ‘I was tired before using this bath oil for the first time as we’d just travelled to America the day before. While running the bath I was a bit dubious if it would work or not, but I was blown away when I got in the bath, and relaxed that much I fell asleep!! My best bath ever’ • ‘Every time I use it, this trusty product deeply relaxes both body and mind, clearing worries and left my mood lifted and calm.’

Margaret Dabbs Foot Hygiene Cream

The cornerstone of award-winning foot expert Margaret Dabbs’ range, this is described as a ‘miracle in a jar’, whose effects go way beyond the cosmetic. In fact, it’s a semi-clinical formulation that targets athlete’s foot, food odour, painful and blistered skin and even verrucas. It doesn’t sound glam – but testers LOVED it!

OUR TESTERS COMMENTS: ‘My job entails me being on my feet much of the day and I have a baby. This left my feet feeling amazing after application, especially if they had a tough day; the main thing was how soft my skin was, refreshed and smelling lovely. One big thing was that the blistering on the sides/soles of my feet was greatly improved and overall I had much less dryness’ • ‘I’m a nurse and am on my feet a lot of the time; I also have children so am running around after them. I noticed the fresh feeling straight away – I felt like my feet were in a spa, they felt cool, swelling was reduced almost immediately.’

Temple Spa Sugar Buff

This has climbed the leader board to the top slot: Bronze two years ago, Silver last year and now (ta-dah!) in Gold position, with a fantastic score of 9.37/10 across our ten-tester panel. As the name implies, it’s a Mediterranean-inspired sugar exfoliator with a luscious texture, featuring moisturising and firming olive oil, grapeseed oil, fig and pomegranate extracts and vitamin C, with a wonderful, naturally relaxing aroma of lavender, patchouli, eucalyptus, rosemary, grapefruit and clove essential oils.

OUR TESTERS’ COMMENTS: ‘I absolutely loved this product. I never really bother with scrubs so this was a nice me-time product. My skin is normally quite dry and ashy-looking after a shower so this has really changed the game for me. Super-soft skin almost feels like velvet to the touch, and I don’t need to moisturise at all’ • ‘I was not wearing skirts or shorts because of the dry rough condition of my legs, and my elbows also looked and felt rough. After I started using this, my elbows felt so soft that a friend of mine felt the need to tell me so! I got tons of compliments on how my legs look; they are glowing, even without any other moisturiser. This product has transformed my skin.

Temple Spa Eye Truffle Complete Eye Rejuvenator

Altogether Temple Spa scooped an amazing 14 Awards this year, so we don’t feel bad about including a second Gold here… In previous years, Skin Truffle was our highest-ever scoring miracle treatment). This addition to the line-up is an eye care all-rounder, tackling dark circles and puffiness, frown lines and crow’s feet and pigmentation issues, while bringing radiance to the eye zone. Testers’ verdict? It works a treat.

OUR TESTERS’ COMMENTS: ‘The time of the miracle has not passed! I have some “expression” lines around my eyes, they are quite visible. Day 14 – I’m addicted! I look into mirror and cannot believe the improvement in texture, firmness and colour around the eye. I would not believe that just cream could do it, without actually trying it. Amazing product that has taken years off my face. I am still amazed when I look in the mirror. The best eye product I’ve used in years and believe me I’ve tried a lot at all price ranges’ • ‘By the end of testing my eye area looks brighter and smoother, with fine laughter lines significantly reduced. A luxurious product that does exactly as promised’ • ‘Absolutely in love with this rich but light eye cream. I’m a busy mum of three-year-old twins and unfortunately suffer with lack of sleep and not having enough time to introduce beauty regime in my life. After a couple of weeks of using this product, dark circles under my eyes are much less visible plus I don’t look so tired anymore. My work mates are asking if my kids have started to behave and I am finally getting enough sleep. Unfortunately not… but I have this miracle cream! It lives up to all the promises.’

GOLD (JOINT) AWARD Aurelia Refine & Polish Miracle Balm

One of the highest-scoring products we’ve ever had, in 24 years of Beauty Bible testing – a completely staggering 9.75 marks out of 10 (which basically means most testers did give it a 10), and something you’ll find on our own bathroom shelves, as it happens. In addition to gentle rice refining beads, there are enzymes to literally dissolve dead cells, in a balm-like base that you massage into skin, then emulsify with water to transform into a milk that can be swished away.

OUR TESTERS’ COMMENTS: ‘My skin now looks so much cleaner, brighter and more moisturised, younger and very healthy. After using the scrub over a period of time, small blackheads have become lighter and fewer which this scrub is really cleansing my skin from a deeper level than my cleanser is able to do.  I couldn’t believe how soft and plump skin felt, too. I hardly needed any moisturiser’ • ‘After using for the first time my skin looked great – noticeably brighter, fresher and glowing. After seven days it looked radiant. After 28 days I was hooked. It made a noticeable different to my skin’ • ‘Using the product is a lovely experience, with its beautiful spa-like scent. After the first week – during which I used it the recommended three times – my skin just felt better and better. My skin was much smoother and softer and make-up was sitting much better and lasting longer. The improvements continued. People have noticed my skin is looking smoother and less congested.’

Make Up For Grown Ups

make up brush with glitter on light pink background

It used to be so easy: slap on any old rainbow colours, all the shimmer you like, get away without wearing any foundation because your skin’s naturally lovely (barring the odd blemish). Result: gorgeous. Of course, it still pretty much is that easy, if you’re under about thirty. Then definitely by thirty-five, it all starts to change. The ‘canvas’ isn’t so smooth, and gravity kicks in (especially on eyelids). Read More…

New Year’s Beauty Resolutions

light blue paper tear revealing text underneath

We love a New Year. A completely clean sheet of paper – even more so, with a new decade ahead of us. (Sarah never drinks, but that’s why you also won’t find Jo indulging in more than a sip of Champagne on New Year’s Eve. Why would you want to start a new year, or a new ten-year phase, feeling rubbish…? We’d rather get up and at ‘em, Hoovering under the bed and heading outdoors for lungfuls of fresh, cleansing air.)

New Year is famously a time of re-evaluation – casting off the old, embracing the new. A time of good intentions – but also, of realistic goals, because otherwise it’s just too easy to ‘break’resolutions and write off the next 363 days. Instead, we think resolutions should be like horse-riding: you fall off (which Sarah has done spectacularly on at least one occasion), and you get back on again.

Our beauty philosophy, though, hasn’t changed fundamentally from when we started writing books together back in 1996. Powered by common sense and insights into the beauty industry – and, through our Beauty Bible Awards, into what works and what doesn’t – we’ve seen fads come and go, over our years in the business. As we proudly proclaim on our own website, we’re about ‘real beauty and wellbeing for grown-ups’. So here’s what we resolve to do, at the start of a year – make it ten – so full of possibilities.

We resolve to re-evaluate our skincare regimes regularly.

Skincare needs change, over time. For instance, Jo always described herself as having ‘dry, sensitive skin’. And then one day, not long ago, she woke up and realised: actually, her skin’s not so dry and not so sensitive anymore, either. Fact: over time, our skins’ needs shift, especially at times of hormonal upheaval – but it’s incredibly easy to get into a rut.

Really think about the products you use every day, and question whether they’re delivering. Are you over 35? Time to add in an anti-ageing cream. (Though eye creams can be introduced from late 20s onwards, since signs of ageing first show up there.) Skin feel tight? Sign of dryness. Ask yourself every single time you finish a jar or bottle: is this delivering what I want? If not, make a switch and go for something new. But don’t just chop and change for the sake of it; that’s what we used to do, in the early days, and it definitely triggered years of touchy skins for both of us.

We resolve to make a date night every week. With ourselves…

When you’re having to give everyone around you plenty of TLC, nobody need feel guilty about being kind to themselves. In fact, if you don’t, you’ll soon be running on empty. Stock up on products which deliver real TLC, such as Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax Bath & Shower Oil, or their Inner Strength. Place a soothing Space Mask over your eyes. Slather on a body oil afterwards (we love the neroli, lavender, rose and mandarin scent of Aurelia Firm & Revitalise Dry Body Oil), smooth the fantastically nourishing Ameliorate Intensive Foot Treatment into feet – and for a really kind-to-yourself feeling, slip them inside a pair of luxurious cashmere socks, warmed by a hot water bottle.

We will try a ‘beauty dare’, once a month.

Don’t let yourself become one of those people who can say ‘I’ve been using exactly the same products for years…’ Introduce one item into your regime that you don’t already use; ‘date night’ is the perfect opportunity, as you’ve already set aside the time to pamper yourself, and can ‘play’ with a different styling product, a ‘root touch-up’ product, a scrub mitt, really giving a bit of thought to what you like about the texture, the effect, perhaps (where relevant) the fragrance. Then get in the habit of using it…

We resolve to be even more sleep-obsessive.

Having recently listened to a fascinating Desert Island Discs with circadian rhythm expert Professor Russell Foster, we’re more obsessed with sleep hygiene than ever before. He actually believes that before long, we’ll regard lack of sleep as something akin to smoking, in terms of the health damage it inflicts. You might have thought that while you snuggle down beneath your crisp white sheets at night, relaxing and restoring energy was all you were doing. But scientists have now pinpointed that at around 1 am, the body is at its most resourceful – helping to repair and renew skin, as well as other body cells, while we slumber sweetly. So beauty sleep really is that – which is why it’s so vital to make sure we get your zzzzs, and slather on creams that take advantage of your natural circadian rhythms.

Our mantra is going to be ‘skin-plification’, in 2020.

We’re totally over ‘K-Beauty’, a.k.a. Korean beauty, a trend imported from South Korea, which proposes the idea that you need at least seven or eight different products each morning and evening. You don’t. You really don’t. You don’t need to spend the money, OR the time on an over-complicated regime; what you need is products that really, really work. (That’s what our Beauty Bible Awards have always been about.) We expect to see a lot more multi-tasking products like LixirSkin Universal Emulsion, which can basically be used as cleanser/moisturiser/body cream. And hallelujah for that.

We resolve to make this the year that we give your hands the TLC they deserve.

Hands work so hard for us: chopping vegetables, dancing across keyboards of all kinds – and communicating love and affection. Isn’t it time to return the favour? For silky, smooth hands, lavish care really has to become a many-times-a-day habit – rather than a quick squirt of cream in a posh restaurant loo! (Sound familiar…?) Always worth repeating, the best tip we ever heard is to keep a hand cream next to every set of taps in your life – and in our handbag. (Favourites, to be found here on VH: Lanolips Rose Gold Hand Cream Intense, and Margaret Dabbs Intensive Hand Hydrating Lotion.)

We will be completely ignoring ‘influencers’, and turning to trusted sources for info.

OK, a little New Year rant here. We’ve been in this business a l-o-n-g time, and met a huge number of experts. We’ve always believed in scratching deep beneath the surface and not taking things at face value, and that’s the foundation on which we’ve built our reputation. But today, there’s a huge buzz around ‘influencers’, who are often paid to take pretty pictures of themselves, supposedly as a result of using this product or that product. Fact: many of them don’t know their AHAs from their elbows and wouldn’t know what to say to a dermatologist, trichologist or psychologist if they met one.

As trends go, the ‘influencer’ is a bubble poised to burst, and we’re already hearing that there’s a swing back towards knowledgeable writers and experts who really know about skincare, or nutrition, or yoga, or cosmetic ‘tweaks’ – people like Alice Hart-Davis, Fighting Fifty’s Tracey McAlpine, Lucia Ferrari, Ingeborg van Lotringen (who just left Cosmo, but expect her to pop up somewhere soon…) Want real beauty advice for real life? Look to a grown-up.

We’ll always be here for you – and it only remains to say: don’t just have a gorgeous year – have a gorgeous, healthy decade…

The Best Christmas Gift Ideas

Blue paper shoppign bag with blue tags on blue floor with one single red tag visible

Not sure if you’ve noticed, but there’s a shift away from Christmas presents this year. Lots of people we know are going without, or giving to charity – which is lovely, and has its own feel-good factor, of course. And we kind of get it. Both of us have received too many presents over the years which just aren’t ‘us’ – and soon after Christmas make their way to a carrier bag near the door, waiting for the next stroll past Oxfam. (Or in Jo’s case, the boot of her car – it being safer to transport unwanted gifts to the next town, lest her friends spot their rejected presents in a too-local charity.)

But this, for us, is where beauty ‘treats’ score, as gifts. Chosen well, they simply don’t hang around for long enough to gather dust. And over the years, we’ve learned which gifts are pretty fail-safe choices. Mostly because they’d please us, and we love a bit of pampering and self-TLC, and have spent enough time in this business to know what’s worth asking for, and what’s worth giving.

This year’s best Christmas gift ideas

Bottom line? We’d happily put any or all of these on our own ‘Dear Santa’ lists. And we suggest you might like to do the same.

Lixir Skin Good Skin Trio Mini Set, £34. From the genius cosmetic formulator Dr. Colette Haydon (a woman behind more beauty brands’ offerings than many of us have had hot dinners), three of her own bestselling products in generous travel sizes: Electrogel Cleanser, Universal Emulsion (which can be used on the body as well as face), and glow-getting Vitamin C paste. We could literally survive being cast away on a desert island, skincare-wise, with this lot.

Aromatherapy Associates Ultimate Bath & Shower Oil Collection, £65.What can we say? Hearts leap, smiles broaden, foreheads un-crinkle upon opening a gift box of Aromatherapy Associates Bath & Shower Oils. Multi-award-winning (including countless Beauty Bible Awards), they’re still the most effective mood-shifting oils we’ve ever used, and in this set, find 10 x 9ml sizes including classic Deep Relax, Inner Strength and Support Equilibrium. We know NOBODY who wouldn’t be thrilled with this. (Except Gill, who’s allergic to essential oils!)

Lebon Orange Gift Set, £29. Toothpaste, we hear you chorus? Toothpaste for Christmas? Well, this isn’t any old toothpaste: it’s Lebon organic toothpaste, created by perfumers in Grasse, and is basically the Chanel or Gucci of oral care. This set includes three fabulous flavours: mint and cinnamon Villa Naocarlina; mango, mint and papaya Back to Pampleonne (with brightening papaya enzymes), and pineapple/rooibos/mint Tropical Crush. We promise it’ll make the recipient smile – and that bit more brightly.

Lanolips Coconutter Cracker, £10.99. Well, the contents of this cracker sure beats a bad joke and a party hat: a pair of Lano’s coconut butter-enriched skin treats – 101 Multi Balm Coconutter (which excels at pretty much any skin challenge you throw at it), and the lavish-before-bedtime Coconutter Hand Cream Intense. Wafts of tropical coconut, but not enough to tip the product into the realms of Bounty bar sweetness.

ilapothecary Beat the Blues Ritual, £85. Definitely the priciest present on our shortlist, but if you’ve someone who really deserves something special and is perhaps having a tough time, look no further. Denise Leicester’s aromatherapy blends are astonishingly powerful – transformative, actually – and this features three products to be used alone or synergistically: Beat the Blues Rollerball (always in our handbags – frankly you could wear this tuberose-rich oil as a perfume, and we know people who do), Beat the Blues Shower & Bath Oil and Beat the Blues Room Spray. They are spectacularly good for anyone suffering from SAD, BTW, also featuring clary sage and geranium (for confidence and self-esteem), and petitgrain which is just a little ray of sunshine in its own right, as an essential oil.

This Works Choose Sleep, £10. Formerly known as the ‘Can’t Sleep Kit’, the most brilliant little Christmas stocking or Secret Santa gift, featuring 5ml sizes of Deep Sleep Stress Less (could come in v-e-r-y handy on Christmas Day itself), and Deep Sleep Pillow Spray, which is clinically proven to improve your zzzz’s. Right up there with the loaves and fishes in miracle terms, so far as we’re concerned.

Temple Spa Quietude, £25. Can we just recommend this for anyone who’s expecting a frenzied household over Christmas? You might suggest they open this early, to spritz this into the living room before the chaos of present-opening, actually – because this zingy, aromatic blend of lavender, cedarwood, cypress, clove, vetiver, orange, patchouli, frankincense and chamomile dials down the stress level immediately.

Beauty Bible Lip Balm, £6. Last but not least – and what can we say…? We honestly think this stocking-stuffer-sized balm is the best we’ve ever tried and are chuffed to bits that entirely independently, so did the diligent testers whose scores earned it a Beauty Bible Award. It’s big, it’s fat, it’s luscious – and our lips can’t get enough of its all-natural formula. Now, where’s that mistletoe…?