It’s a cornucopia post today and a bit of a long one so you might want to pour that cup of tea / glass of wine before you start. I’ve been testing a lot of beauty products over the last few months and a few have made my ‘must tell readers about…’ shelf. So I’ll start with those and then move on to menopause followed by a bit of a midlife melting pot. By the end of it there should have been something for everyone or you may just decide that I’m losing the plot. Either way, it’s probably our last chance for a ‘proper conversation’ before the summer wind-down begins so I’m hoping you’ll have something to add in the comments.
Let’s ease our way in by talking about beauty which isn’t something I cover often because I find a lot of products are difficult to quantify. I don’t believe that anything in a pot can stop you from ageing so what I’m looking for are products that will help me to look my best at the age of 52. For me, the important thing is that my skin is as springy as it can be and that it bounces light – so in beauty speak, my focus is on glow.
No one thing is going to make your skin glow, you don’t need me to tell you that before you even think about topical products you need a good amount of sleep, diet that includes healthy fats, exercise that raises your heart rate and clean air.
Once you’re on top of that lot, I’ve found that skin care products that hydrate, exfoliate or encourage cell turnover can quite literally improve your skin overnight. So as you can imagine, when I was sent a ‘Glow Collection’ by Beauty Expert, I was happy to dedicate some time to testing the contents.
You may already know Beauty Expert, I’ve talked about them before but if not, it’s an online beauty store which is part of The Hut Group. It’s at the very top end of their portfolio and I’d call it a thinking woman’s beauty store – along the lines of Space NK or Cult Beauty. The brands that are stocked are tightly edited and there’s a lot of helpful content about the effect of specific skincare ingredients in their blog.
They select brands based on performance so you’ll probably find a few that you haven’t heard of before and there’s also a complete French Pharmacy so you can easily spend virtual time in Paris. The main benefit of shopping here over somewhere like Space NK is the fact that they have the buying power of the Hut Group behind them so prices are often lower and there’s usually an offer on.
They often put together an edit to achieve a specific result and as I said, a few weeks ago they sent me their Glow Collection to trial. It contains the six full sized products below which have a collective value of £277 for £99.
The Glow Edition (gifted)
I’ll start with the one that I wasn’t particularly keen on which is the scrub but then that’s purely because I don’t like using water on my face unless I’ve been down in London. My skin is quite dry and I feel rinse-off products strip it too harshly. I also haven’t trialled the Acid Fix yet because I’m in the middle of testing another product that has a conflict with it so I can’t comment on that.
However, I really like the Filorga Sleep and Peel which is a night cream that includes AHAs and BHAs to polish the complexion. The Time Bomb oil is the first oil I’ve found that actually sinks into my skin rather than just sitting on top of it making my make-up slip off as soon as I apply it so that’s a great result for my cheeks which always feel dry. The Manuka Hand Oil is nice to apply at night, my hands seem to be ageing quickly so I feel as though they’re being given a treatment while I sleep.
The absolute hero product for me though is the Eve Lom Transforming Mask. I’ve never really been a fan of Eve Lom products before but this is different. It feels a bit like smothering your face with Vaseline when you first apply it but then it starts to sink in. You can use it as a 30 minute mask but I’ve ben leaving it on overnight once a week and my skin hasn’t felt as soft and hydrated as this for years. I’m not saying that it erases wrinkles but it really does put the bounce back into your complexion, I’m so impressed.
The other thing I really like about this collection is that it comes with a little ‘book of beauty’ which not only explains the products in more depth but gives you a guide to product layering along with a masterclass on which individual ingredients work well together and which should never be combined. So for example a good formula is Hyaluronic Acid + Vitamin C + Retinol OR Acids but never Acids and Retinol together.
This set is really good value but if there’s something else you’re looking for Beauty Expert is a great place to browse. Be warned though, I lost an evening just clicking through their blog.
Continuing with the theme of glowing summer skin, Vita Liberata sent me a selection of their products and there are two that particularly stand out. If you don’t already know the brand, Vita Liberata was founded by Irish midlifer Alyson Hogg and it offers an ever growing range of organic tanning products.
I discovered their multi-award winning Body Blur last year. As someone who is hopeless at applying fake tan, it comes to my rescue all year round and I use it whenever I have pale bare legs on show. It stays on until you wash it off and not only gives legs some colour but it also adds a sheen which seems to airbrush your skin texture. It helps to bounce light away from blemishes, bruises and open pores. All you have to do is smooth it over your legs using the Vita Liberata mitt and you’re done, no worrying about streaks or patchy bits of dry skin, just gleaming legs.
Body Blur(bought personally SS19 gifted SS19)
Café Crême is the lightest but I use the latte shade and the problem is finding it in stock because it sells out everywhere – there’s currently more stock here.
The other product they sent that has really impressed me is their new multi tasking face-tan. It’s like Body Blur but for the face. I’ve been using it as a primer underneath make-up and it gives skin a candlelit glow. At the same time it’s building a gradual tan so that your face slowly has some natural looking colour.
I was sent the pale latte which is a bit ghostly for me to wear on its own so I’m going to buy the latte for when we go on holiday. I don’t wear foundation in the heat and it will be great because it has such a lovely effect. I usually use Chanel Les Beiges Sheer Healthy Glow but I’d say that this is twice as good.
Again it’s sold out nearly everywhere but here’s some more stock.
Now this is one of those deliveries that was a complete surprise, I’m still not sure who sent it but it arrived when I had some friends over for coffee. Of course they wanted me to open it there and then and inside was a selection of products from the new Meg’s Menopause range.
You probably know that the celebrity Meg Matthews has launched a website dedicated to menopausal matters and this collection is an offshoot. It’s a bit of a curious mix – you can almost imagine a product team sitting around a conference table brainstorming it because it ranges from vitamin sachets to intimate lubricants to hyaluronic acid.
We haven’t discussed menopause on here for ages and a little while ago a reader asked me why. It’s because so far I’ve been lucky and thanks to the HRT that I take, I tend to forget about it. The only slight perimenopausal symptom I really notice is that my body temperature has changed so I don’t feel the cold like I used to. This winter was the first time for years when I didn’t wear thermals at all and only needed a coat on a few occasions.
Of course opening this box meant that we all started chatting about menopause in a way that we usually only do after a few glasses of wine and it was really interesting to hear how everyone is experiencing it differently. The products that really caught everyone’s attention were the vaginal wash and moisturiser. It seems that the one thing that everyone has in common is dryness and discomfort so I suspect there was a rush on some of these products later that afternoon. You can find the full Meg’s Menopause range here.
We had a look at Meg’s site which is relatively new so it lacks depth in terms of content. It includes a helpful list of symptoms though which is useful if you’re floundering and wondering whether you’re in perimenopause (any time from your late 30s onwards). It’s amazing to read that menopause even affects your teeth and actually that’s another problem I’ve had – three of my teeth have broken and had to be capped over the last five years.
And while we’re on the topic of menopause, Mpowered Women is a really good new menopause website that launched a few weeks ago. Although it has a whole community of women behind it, Saska Graville is leading it – her name may be familiar to you from her years on Red magazine. Her editorial experience means that it’s well researched and well written. I really enjoyed reading the candid interviews with a wide range of women including Louise Minchin, India Knight, Skye Gyngell… and even me – I’m delighted to be in such esteemed company.
I like its intelligence and its positivity. It doesn’t have that dumbed down, tabloid tone of voice that often seems to accompany menopause discussions, implying that we need to be spoken to in words of one syllable. So do go and have a look – and tell me what you think. I’ve been promising Saska that I’d point you in her direction for a while and I know there’s nobody better to get the conversation going and give her feedback than you.
My birthday came and went and I still haven’t pondered over the ‘stock take’ that I usually do. I think it’s partly because I don’t have a clear picture of the rest of our year. Only the youngest will be going back to school after summer. The middle son didn’t get an offer for his preferred acting degree and has decided to take a gap year so that he can try again next year. If he doesn’t succeed, he has an offer from his second choice to fall back on. I’m glad he isn’t going away yet because neither he nor we feel he’s quite ready. When his exams are over, he’s going to spend a year ‘trying a few different things.’ What they include I don’t know… but time will tell!
The eldest is also still mid exams and contemplating staying on to do a Masters. He’s been offered a very good funding package but there’s a part of him that’s ready to start his career. Over the Christmas holidays he did some training courses that qualify him as a bouncer so along with some of his rugby friends, he’s lined up a summer of working at festivals (and enjoying them when he’s off-duty). In the meantime he’s thinking through his options and… not joining us on holiday this year.
Words of wisdom from Lindsey
I was talking about all of this to Lindsey in the comments a little while ago, explaining that it leaves me feeling in limbo and I hope you don’t mind Lindsey but your reply was so good that I just want to repeat it here:
“I’m with you in that transition Nikki and know just how you are feeling -I think unsettled probably covers it…yes? Uncertainty about the future of each of your boys and knowing that your sphere of influence is slowly diminishing while their independence is ever growing, thoughts like have you prepared them well enough to survive the bumps and highs and lows they will encounter during their fledgling flights and indeed as they mature into adults.
Motherhood is amazing but it also brings a unique kind of grief. I think it’s up there with death, divorce, moving house etc but it’s not considered as such so we suffer silently. We have to let go of the most precious parts of ourselves and if they are going to go on to become well adjusted adults we have to be there for them without appearing to be there – a rock with plenty of safe harbours should the boat run aground but also lots of support and patience and strength to refloat those boats out to sea again.
It doesn’t stop and the most difficult thing I find now when mine are in their mid 30s is recognising that they have their own lives, households and responsibilities and opinions that we have absolutely no claim on. It’s recognition in a way that we have done a good job raising well balanced, good citizens of our world but oh it’s so hard. BUT since Phil retired we are closer than ever, married 45 years in June we are re-discovering life together post kids and work and enjoying connecting in each others company. So remember that although we will always grieve we will also have a new freedom to open our wings and fly. Re-reading this it sounds a bit soppy but oh well pressing send……..!”
That’s exactly it Lindsey. EXACTLY!
And this is why this blog means so much to me, it’s a melding together of our collective experience and just sharing it can make us all feel less alone sometimes.
Words of wisdom from Lesley
So that response from Lindsey, along with a piece that I read recently sums up how I’m feeling more clearly than I’ve been able to articulate. This comes from an interview with the wonderful Lesley Manville in The Guardian and it’s been on my mind ever since I first saw it.
She was talking about her sudden rise in notoriety; she’s had a mixture of roles in film, theatre and of course TV recently. Please don’t say you haven’t seen Mum yet – if not, as soon as you’ve finished reading this post watch it – I insist. Here’s the link.
Anyway, here’s an extract from the interview:
“‘This is a golden period’, she says, ‘in which film companies and television companies see there is a market for strong female characters beyond the age of 40. I’d just like there to be more of it, so that my girlfriends and peers and colleagues who are my age but not enjoying the kind of halcyon days I’m enjoying can share in it, too. More,’ she says. ‘More, more, more. It’s important for young people to see that older people have not turned off a button and become this kind of muted, non-feeling entity.’ She is speaking quickly now, in long sentences that showcase the kind of stamina for which she is known. ‘I do want to go out dancing and get sweaty and drink too much and go home at three in the morning, and I do want to have sex, and I do want to dress how I want to dress, and I want to have a life and be able to choose what I want to do; and I am over 60.'”
That’s exactly it Lesley. EXACTLY!
I don’t know about you but somewhere in the midst of all of this is where you find me; mourning the moving-on of my boys but also boosting the gas on the flame that’s been smouldering away as a pilot light since they were born.
In the meantime, as there wasn’t anything that I wanted for my birthday, I felt able to buy myself these shoes this week. They fit into my plan to buy less but better because I intend to still be kicking up my heels in them at my 102nd birthday party – God and everything else willing!
They’ve arrived and they’re beautiful – comfortable and easy to walk in but most importantly they hold the promise of good times to come. And that’s what we need to focus on my friends – let’s hope they’re just around the corner. In the meantime, I’m enjoying these words from shoe guru Roger Vivier:
“To wear dreams on one’s feet is to begin to give reality to one’s dreams.”
Have a lovely weekend – I really hope this post has made sense, let me know!
Disclosure: “beauty, menopause and midlife musings” is not a sponsored post, reviews are independent and all gifted items have been declared.
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