Review – Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel by Benton

Benton Aloe

MY SKIN
Dry and sensitive, acne prone – primarily hormonal; eczema prone.

THE PRODUCT
Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel by Benton, hydrating gel, £17.58/100ml.

IN A NUTSHELL
Spoiler alert: I love and cherish this product like it’s my firstborn that brought eternal honour to the family (think Mulan).

At the beginning of the year 2018 I made some significant changes in my skincare routine. Up until then I was unhappy with the condition of my skin as I was continuously battling persistent acne and dryness with the occasional flare-up of eczema – but when it came it didn’t come to play, let me tell you that – since the age of 15. It’s been down to a mixture of reasons: hormonal imbalance (I have PCOS), stress, side effects from long term medication (steroids) and uneducated product misuse; these are just some of the reasons.During Christmas before that I had done some reading and binge watching on YouTube, I gathered as much information as I could and I came up with a new routine for my skin.

The aim of my new routine was to be absolutely minimal, very gentle, focus on hydration and protection, and most importantly not to overwhelm my skin. Prior to that I didn’t use that many products at a time, but I didn’t know a lot about what they were doing and I think I may have done some damage to myself because of that.

Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel is truly one of a kind, and a little unusual. It is without a doubt a gel, but less watery and more viscous in texture than you’d expect, so it’s almost reminiscent of a lotion. Upon application it glides smoothly and absorbs beautifully to make the skin feel instantly hydrated, but it also leaves a feeling of ever so gentle protection. I’ve been using it as my hydrating step after cleansing and toning, and before serums (if I’m using any) and moisturising. After about a week of use I started seeing a difference in my skin as it was clearly becoming more balanced from the ample hydration I was throwing at it. My complexion became slightly clearer and more glowing, my pores decreased in size ever so slightly and my skin was looking more plump with each day. After months of use my skin became unrecognisable with virtually no blemishes – something that I hadn’t experienced in at least 5 years – no dry patches and an overall fresh glow.

Let’s talk about the ingredients, because they are absolutely fantastic. It contains a host of incredibly soothing, nourishing and hydrating ingredients, 11/16 of which are botanical extracts. As could be expected from Korean skincare, some of these ingredients I had never heard of before, and the others had me enthusiastically nodding along with excitement.

Of the non-botanical ingredients we have glycerin and betaine – excellent humectants that draw moisture into the skin – and arginine, which has powerful healing properties and some anti ageing benefits. On the botanical side, the extracts from lichen and propolis have strong antibacterial and antifungal properties, making the gel effective at treating acne, while extracts from portulaca, szechuan pepper and green tea serve as antioxidants. To sum it up, the contents of this gel do a bit of everything.

The packaging is very simple and fuss free with no bells and whistles. It’s a very ordinary plastic squeezy tube with minimalistic design that looks elegant on a curated skincare shelf. Benton clearly put substance above style and for that they get serious brownie points from me. The tube allows superb control of the amount of product dispensed. The plastic is completely opaque meaning it protects the gel inside from turning in reaction to sunlight. But the thing I appreciate the most is that once you get low on the product you can cut the tube open and scoop out the gel stuck to the sides, thus getting 100% of your money’s worth.

FINAL VERDICT
I simply adore Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel; the apple of my eye. Seven months ago my blemished, red, patchy skin was bringing me to tears and was seriously bringing down my confidence and today I can honestly say that I love my skin and am very happy in it. For the first time in years I leave the house makeup free and I feel absolutely no shame about it. I firmly believe that Soothing Gel is one of the main reasons for the improvement in my skin. Of course it would be plainly foolish to claim that it is solely responsible for my current clear complexion – my new routine consisted of 4-5 other products that were new to me, and as time went on and my skin was getting stronger and healthier I started incorporating more and more products. They all worked together to help me achieve my goal.

I recommend this product for all skin types. It will quench thirsty skin while on the oilier type it will nourish without overwhelming. This is especially fantastic for those who are looking to rehydrate and repair their skin that might be suffering from damage to their skin barrier caused by neglect and dehydration. And on more balanced skin this is a perfect all-in-one product to give your skin the daily hydration it needs and deserves. You basically can’t go wrong with it and it holds a very special place in my heart. 

Review – Face Brightening, Anti-Spot & Anti-Pollution Fluid SPF50+ by Ultrasun

Ultrasun SPF

MY SKIN
Dry and sensitive, acne prone – primarily hormonal; eczema prone.

THE PRODUCT
Face Brightening, Anti-Spot & Anti-Pollution Fluid SPF50+ by Ultrasun, facial sunscreen, £28/40ml.

IN A NUTSHELL
My first ever experience with Ultrasun was with a body sunscreen that I’ve found incredibly effective. Upon realising that they also offer a variety of facial sunscreens I started digging and picked this as my first trial.

The Fluid is a hybrid of both chemical and physical protection against the sun. It boasts of patented technologies and makes many claims that make it sound like the Guardian Angel we’ve all been waiting for. On top of providing high protection from UVA/UVB radiation, the Fluid also claims to protect against infrared and pollution, to be fast absorbing, non-greasy, moisturising, ultra light, brightening and water resistant. It contains antioxidants like vitamins C and E for boosted benefits and a few botanical extracts to help nourish the skin. It doesn’t contain a lot of the nasties I try to avoid: octinoxate, fragrance and mineral oil being the main three.

I do not find this sunscreen fast absorbing, ultra light or non-greasy – but it’s not terrible. The most important thing is that it doesn’t break me out or dry out my skin while being highly protective. It’s rather thin in consistency, like a milky lotion, so it’s best to shake it up before applying. It’s relatively easy to spread across the face and rub in until absorbed, but I find that if I roughly spread across one area, focus on another, and go back to the first, it can get pretty tricky. It leaves the faintest of white casts; on my fair complexion it doesn’t bother me as it makes my skin tone look more even, but darker skinned people might find this a nuisance. I don’t like this to wear under makeup, as I find it just sits on my skin and as the day goes by, it will pill off my face – I’ve found it doesn’t mix well with oils, despite containing squalane. The Fluid leaves my face looking shiny and I can feel it on my skin most of the day.

I really appreciate the packaging of this product. It’s a squeezy bottle that’s sleek, small, fully opaque, and the cap is secure so you don’t have to fear any leakages if you put it in your bag. The box it comes in includes a guide to help you understand how much product you should be using for best protection – something I appreciate and have found very useful. All the information you will ever need is written on the box, inside and out, eliminating the need for leaflets that realistically no one ever reads.

FINAL VERDICT
This sunscreen is very effective in intense sun exposure, and for that, I take my hats off to it. It puts substance over style which I really appreciate. It’s very moisturising, non-irritating and has not broken me out. I do not enjoy wearing it due to its greasiness, pilling and mild discomfort of wearing, but I am willing to overlook this when times are hard. To sum it up, I do not intend to wear the Fluid on a daily basis, but on active days with intense sunshine and lots of exposure, this will be my Number 1 to go to and for that reason I will repurchase it when I run out.

Review – Silk Hydration Air Soft Face Lotion SPF30 by Hawaiian Tropic

Hawaiian Tropic SPF

MY SKIN
Dry and sensitive, acne prone – primarily hormonal; eczema prone.

THE PRODUCT
Silk Hydration Air Soft Face Lotion SPF30 by Hawaiian Tropic, facial sunscreen, £12/50ml.

IN A NUTSHELL
A combination of physical and chemical protection, the Face Lotion offers broad spectrum SPF30 with a boost of 12 hours’ hydration. This is the second facial sunscreen that I’ve found enjoyable to apply and wear, and I prefer this one for its price and accessibility (I will talk about the first at a later time). This was actually an impulse buy, and I have no regrets. Though I had my doubts about it, the Face Lotion has quickly become a favourite that I’ve already stocked up on.

At first glance, looking at the ingredients list left me feeling a little unsure; it goes on forever, and the first three quarters consists of words I can’t even begin to try saying out loud. I’ll hold my hand up to the fact that sunscreen ingredients are not my strongest point, so I don’t know whether this is good or bad, but I raised an eyebrow. Fragrance in the middle of the list was a big red flag. But towards the end of the list we have hyaluronic acid, silk amino acids, a vitamin C derivative and several botanical extracts including aloe vera, all of which made my eyes light up. The vitamin C especially (Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate) sealed the deal for me, as antioxidants enhance skin’s ability to fight external aggressors, therefore it amplifies the effectiveness of the sunscreen. There is no drying alcohol and no octinoxate – something I actively try to avoid – in the ingredients, so I thought this is worth the risk, even with the fragrance.

The claims on the bottle are ultra light texture, 12 hour hydration, won’t clog pores, suitable to wear under make-up and water resistant.

The packaging is sleek and plastic and features an airless pump which allows superb control of how much product is dispensed. The Face Lotion is yellowy in colour and of a light cream consistency. It is incredibly easy to spread out and rub into the skin without dragging. It absorbs well without leaving a cast, though I like to leave it for a few minutes to dry before applying makeup. I can attest to the compatibility with make-up claim, because everything applies beautifully on top of the Face Lotion without pilling – my biggest pet peeve. It also feels very hydrating but not at all heavy. It gives a bright glow – some might say shine – that I personally love, though I realise those with oilier skins might find it too much. At first when I applied this the fragrance made my skin feel numb and cold for a few seconds, but after a week of use I no longer get this reaction. I have been using this sunscreen for over a month now and I have no irritation, no breakouts, no sunburn, only a beautiful glow and hydrated skin. I haven’t been able to test it with water, but it doesn’t bother me either way as I would just re-apply after swimming. By the way, it smells lovely.

FINAL VERDICT
I was a little wary about this sunscreen to begin with… Too many times in my experience cheaper meant worse, and the affordability of this product (it’s always on offer somewhere) worried me that it would not be suited to my skin. I would prefer for this to not contain fragrance and to offer higher protection. But for how well it applies, makes my skin feel, wears under makeup, causes no irritation and contains no nasties (aside from fragrance) that I try to avoid, this one is a winner. I’m already stocking up on it during the summer sales.

Review – UV Super Moisture Milk by Skin Aqua

MY SKIN
Dry and sensitive, acne prone – primarily hormonal; eczema prone.

THE PRODUCT
UV Super Moisture Milk by Skin Aqua, facial sunscreen, £11.62/100ml.

IN A NUTSHELL
This won’t take long. I don’t like it. It broke me out, and when I used it on my chest I burned.

Let’s talk about the positives. This Japanese cult favourite has SPF50+ with a PA rating of ++++ – every skincare junkie’s dream. Though tiny and a bit of an eye sore, the bottle is well made, light, sleek, it has a squeezy nozzle and the cap screws on nicely without any trouble. The product is runny in consistency – indeed, like milk – and feels like a very light lotion going on the skin. Because of this applying a large amount isn’t a bothersome chore, which can often be the issue with sunscreens. It absorbs well without leaving a white cast, and my favourite thing about this is that it contains no alcohol or fragrance – heaven for my dry skin. One of the greatest highlights of this sunscreen is no drying alcohol which is near impossible to find in Asian sunscreen.

On the negative side I feel that the Moisture Milk made me a little bit greasy, which I think must have been the cause of my breaking out. I don’t know what it is, but while applying it it feels wonderfully moisturising yet something feels terribly off. Makeup did not wear well with this and I pilled around my hairy areas (hairline, brows). In the end this broke me out and I delegated it to body use, but it’s proven to be nothing more than a light lotion.

A brief look through the ingredient list brings no suspects to my attention that could indicate why I reacted to this. I’m also shocked that I burned with it, as I know this to be a favourite product of many people around the globe. Admittedly I bought this on Amazon, so perhaps it was an expired product… I don’t know, but this experience had been bad enough to make me not want to buy it again, especially as I’ve found a favourite since.

FINAL VERDICT
Again, in a nutshell, I simply don’t like Moisture Milk and enjoy very little about it. I’m going to assume it’s down to my skin being particularly finicky, because I’ve only seen good reviews about it thus fat. I will not repurchase this sunscreen and based on my experience I would not recommend it to anyone else either.

Review – Gentle Cleansing Milk by REN

REN cleanser

MY SKIN
Dry and sensitive, acne prone – primarily hormonal; eczema prone.

THE PRODUCT
Gentle Cleansing Milk by REN, milk cleanser, £19.00/150ml.

IN A NUTSHELL
The Evercalm range by REN is catered towards sensitive skin that’s not very happy, whether because of dryness, reactivity or acne. The lovely thing about Evercalm is that sensitive skincare generally can be used on all skin types. This cleanser was my very first experience with the brand.

True to its name, this cleanser is gentle and milky. So gentle and milky in fact, that I find it suitable only for my morning cleanse; it leaves behind a light and soothing blanket of feeling moisturised which in and of itself I love, but I find that because of it the Gentle Cleansing Milk can’t handle tackling the residue from the first cream or oil cleanser I would use in the evening.

This cleanser contains several ingredients whose properties are to soothe, nourish and moisturise; packed with fatty alcohols, shea butter, moisturising oils like sunflower or sesame seed and a handful of other botanical extracts. I find myself really feeling the effect of the oils used in this product because after washing and drying my face it feels as though I had already moisturised it. I personally love this effect, but I think others especially with oilier skin types wouldn’t enjoy it as much as I do. I’m a little confused about the presence of several essential oils and artificial fragrance in a product that’s aimed at sensitive skin… I suppose it’s there to improve the sensory experience of using a more expensive product, but personally I would rather be without it. The scent this addition achieves is very herbal that’s great first thing in the morning.

Gentle Cleansing Milk can be used on wet or dry skin, but I personally prefer to do it wet and delicately massage my face as I cleanse. Whenever I tried it dry I felt like I needed twice as much product and it didn’t feel as milky going on, but rinsing off almost makes it foamy and it takes a thorough rinse to completely remove. I highly doubt this will take off anything more than just the stress of the day/night (hopefully you’re not stressing at night!). Despite the added fragrance I use this directly on the eyes with absolutely no irritation.

FINAL VERDICT
I find this a truly fantastic option for my skin needs and I think that anyone with dry and sensitised skin would enjoy this cleanser as part of their routine. Yes, there are a few eyebrow raisers for irritated skins, but I think that the nourishing oils preceding them in the ingredients combat any potential damage they could cause. But, at the end of the day it’s all a personal choice.

At first I thought that this one bottle of Gentle Cleansing Milk would be enough for me in my life because it’s not revolutionary. However, as time goes by and I’ve used it every morning for about three months, I’m getting more and more hooked. I think this might end up being a repurchse!

Review – Lash Impact Ultra by No7

 

THE PRODUCT
Lash Impact Ultra by No7, £14.00/7ml, mascara.

IN A NUTSHELL
To keep it short, I do not like this product. I’ve had good experience with No7 mascara in the past and was due a new tube so I had a look around and picked this to try out. It claims to instantly give bold lashes with clump-free, full bodied volume with no flaking or smudging.

The first thing that REALLY shook me was the smell – it smells like straight up industrial paint. It wasn’t making my eyes water or giving me any kind of reaction, so I didn’t mind, I was just surprised. The formula is very wet and a lot of product comes out on the wand so I had to wipe the majority of it off before applying to my lashes. Even after doing that I simply could not apply this mascara without it giving me spider leg lashes that remained wet for a good 30 minutes. It flaked and rubbed all around my eyes within an hour or two and at the end of the day I had a classic case of severe raccoon eyes. After about a week of trialing I gave up on it and decided to give the formula time to dry out.

Fast forward four months. The formula is much drier now and it’s the perfect consistency that applies like a dream. It really gave me impressive volume and length that looked like false lashes. However, an hour later the flaking and smudging ensued. This was, sadly, the nail in the coffin.

FINAL VERDICT
I have used this mascara 10-20 times and each time I was borderline disgusted with how I looked. I was really disappointed with the last attempt because it started out so well. For the price especially I think this is not worth it, I would not recommend it, and mine is going in the bin.

Short Essay On Mental Health – When Coping Mechanisms Have Lives Of Their Own

My Most Recent Shopping Binge

I didn’t realise this for many years, but I’ve been struggling with depression for the majority of my life. I remember, as a little girl, being so unhappy with my life that I wanted it to end. I never spoke about it to anyone because my understanding was that it’s normal to feel sad and that thinking about death is just something everything does when they’re feeling sad. Now, as an adult with diagnosed depression, I realise that that’s when my problems have started.

I didn’t have any understanding of what depression is until I was about 17, when I was at my deepest and darkest low. Learning about this illness made me realise that along the way I’ve developed some coping mechanisms, and it made me realise that they started taking over my life and my mind.

I’ve struggled with disordered eating patterns since I started my A Levels. For months I would starve myself, then in a day I shovelled in the amount of food I would have eaten in that time, then I tried to purge and punished myself if I couldn’t do it and for the lack of discipline in the first place.

I am a little better now. I still restrict and binge occasionally, but not dangerously. It’s just something that I automatically reach for when things fall out of place and I can’t put them back in order. It’s still a cause for concern, but no one is concerned.

Until last night. And oddly enough, my binges are not what brought about the concern.

Last night I was consoling my mum who is unhappy at her job. It just so happens that I too am unhappy at my workplace and I’ve been job hunting the past couple of weeks. I was in very high spirits when I received three interview invitations over the course of one week, two of which I was REALLY excited for because they were actually close to my interests.

I went to the interviews and I’ve done my absolute best. I was really happy with myself for how I’ve done and I gave myself a good pat on the back and went home feeling hopeful. I never let my expectations get too high, so getting the call back with a rejection from both the places I was excited for left me feeling a little deflated, but ultimately I was okay. I had done my best, the interviewers told me they loved meeting me and that they’ll hold on to my details if anything else crops up.

But I wasn’t okay. Somewhere deep inside, beneath the layers of thick skin I’ve grown over the years, I cracked. I very tiny paper of me was devastated that I had done so well, the people I met loved me so much, and STILL I wasn’t good enough. It was a truly miniscule part of me that felt this pain, but it hurt so strong that I felt it on the surface too.

I felt I lost control of something that I was handling really well. For a year I’ve been wanting to change my job and my constant state of depression was stopping me from making that move. Now I took charge, went out there and got the results I was after, and in the end it all backfired. There was nothing else I could do; I was rejected for reasons I could not control.

Control is a significant element of coping mechanisms. The loss of control in personal life is counterbalanced by the creation of control in one’s behaviour. One dangerous example is eating patterns, as I had developed as a teenager. Now, as an adult, I’ve translated this to shopping.

So here’s my confession: I have a shopping problem. When things fall out of place in my life, I spend money. Last year I spent 4 months spending every single spare penny I had, and it was in things like makeup, clothes, books, food (so I could binge), and many other things I did not NEED, but WANTED there and then.

Fast forward to my heart-to-heart with my mum last night. I told her that these recent job rejections have really deflated me and made me feel helpless, and I started getting the urge to spend. Not to shop, not to buy something nice that I will enjoy, but to spend. It’s an itch that I can’t get to to scratch it away, and ignoring it doesn’t work as it keeps nagging at me day and night.

We concluded that I have the shopping equivalent of bullimia – the urge to buy more makeup and skincare than I can store and ever use up when I feel a loss of control in my life. It was the first time I ever spoke about it out loud as a coping mechanism and I realised that it’s not just a bad habit I have; it’s becoming a problem.

I’m not sure what to do about it now if I’m honest. But knowing that my mum is aware of this, knowing that she’s acknowledged it as a problem that I might need help with and knowing that I can talk to her about it is a huge weight taken off my shoulders. Therefore, if you have a similar problem, I urge you to reach out to someone or find a community that will make you feel understood. I’ve learned a lot about eating disorders from Mia on What Mia Did Next. The community she has created over the years is amazingly admirable and lovingly caring. Her videos have opened my eyes to so many things in this world, and not just from the point of view of an eating disorder sufferer. I highly recommend visiting her channel to everyone, regardless of the difficulties you’re facing in your life.

I wish you all strength, courage and perseverance in battling your inner demons. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, please reach out to someone. You may talk to me if you feel comfortable to do so – I would love to help, even if just by saying you’re not alone in this.

Until then – you are not alone in this. You can survive anything. And you will. Stay strong.