A little bit of Lush

Coming home for the holidays means getting to combine my skincare stash with my mum’s and my sibling’s, so lots of awesome stuff to try out! For someone with a real aversion to smelly products, you’d think I despise Lush… Well I didn’t go in the store for a good three years after one opened in our town cos the scent from it is so strong you can smell it from across the street. But when my sibling started buying their products, I just had to hold my nose and dive in, cos Lush make some really nice stuff…

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These are my favourites from our house Lush collection (I’d show you the bath bombs, but they don’t last long enough to get pics – straight from store bag to bath!). First off, how neat is that packaging? I love a strong design, and monochrome with a bold font is a great choice. And for bonus points, the tubs are recycleable, and if you take five of them back to the store you get a free fresh face mask!

Onto what’s actually in those tubs…

Herbalism is a cleanser with a unique formulation. It’s solid and you take a little dot of it – like a pea sized amount – add a dash of water to make a thick paste and smear it all over your face. Wash off with a warm cloth and you’ll have squeaky clean skin. It really is a thorough cleanser, but it doesn’t leave tight or dry skin afterwards. It’s designed to combat grease and it does seem to work – some non-drying cleansers can leave you a bit oily but this really does a great job of balancing oil-fighting with keeping your skin soft.

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Weirdly it reminds me of pesto, especially when it’s in paste form! Pesto’s made of pine nuts, I think, and Herbalism’s main ingredient is ground almonds, so not far off! There’s also nettle, rosemary and sage for that herby smell and some flower extracts (gardenia, rose and chamomile). Maybe be a little cautious if you have really sensitive skin though, as it does contain some perfume. At £6.25 for 100g it isn’t the cheapest cleanser on the market, but that solid formulation means it’ll last an absolute age.

Next up is another face product, Mask of Magnaminty. The name kinda gives it away – it’s a mint based face mask. In contrast to Lush’s fresh face masks, however, the use by date on this is a decent length and you don’t have to keep it in the fridge (thank god, my flatmate would get seriously creeped out if I started keeping toiletries with the salad). Mask of Magnaminty looks like what a proper face mask should look like to me – like alien mud.

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 Mask of Magnaminty is designed to tackle spots, and I’m going through a good skin phase anyway, so I can’t really comment on that aspect of it, but as a refreshing mask to clear out my skin once a week I’m loving it. It goes on really smoothly and then you wait 5 to 10 minutes for it to ‘set’, just til it’s dry to touch. It does get a bit tingly as it dries! When you wash it off, there’s ground aduki beans to act as a natural exfoliator, so give your face a gentle scrub with a wash cloth rather than rinsing this mask straight off. There’s also peppermint oil, and this is what makes it so minty fresh and tingly – it’s supposed to stimulate blood flow to your skin. It really does feel refreshing and my face feels like it’s had a good cleanse. I just use it once a week as a kind of intensive treatment to sort out any nasty stuff that might be lurking in my skin. Just don’t get it anywhere near your eyes, it stings like hell! It’s £4.95 for a small tub (125g) and £8.75 for a large one (315g) – I have the small tub and expect it to last me til at least the start of winter.

Last but not least is Sympathy For The Skin. This moisturising lotion is a go-everywhere superstar. The formulation is a little ‘looser’ than other creams, which is supposed to be so that everything gets absorbed more easily. It certainly rubs in really well, and feels rich and luxurious without that greasy after-feel.

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Time for an admission – I can’t stand cocoa butter. It makes me nauseated. I love chocolate, but cocoa butter is pretty much an automatic veto on a product. However, I love this stuff. Maybe it’s the fact that cocoa butter has been combined with bananas and vanilla, so the smell is a hotchpotch of them all – like soaking yourself in dessert! STFS really does leave you with silky soft skin, and the supersized tub will last ages even if you’re like me and keep dipping into it every time you walk past it (what can I say? It’s addictive!), so I can’t even begrudge the £10+ price tag.

So, those are my favourite three Lush products at the moment? What are yours?

My fave handbag – Aldo Ullum

I seem to be getting quite a few hits from people google-searching for this bag, so thought I’d do a post about it! I bought my Ullum a month back as a gift to myself for finals, and it’s every bit as awesome as I’d hoped. Aldo (not Aldi, as some of my friends keep getting it confused for!) do great bags and this is the second one of theirs that I’ve bought – I also have their Giannitti striped satchel.

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The colour really doesn’t show up well in this photo, but it’s a lovely apple green, bright without being overly garish. It’s definitely the right shade for summer but I’ll be taking it right into autumn to brighten up my outfits.

 At the back you’ll see two poppers where the ‘belt’ of it ends – these are real poppers, so if you need the top of your bag to widen to fit something big in, you can undo these to expand it.

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The padlock at the front sadly isn’t real, but on the up side it’s very lightweight compare to how it looks! Who actually wants a real padlock on their handbag anyway? I tend to think zips are quite enough faff without adding keys and whatnot… It’s a nice feature and I love that there’s a little coloured band on it that matches the rest of the bag.

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Inside… Three compartments. That middle one is massive – throw in a change of clothes, your make up bag, lunch, an umbrella… it just seems to absorb stuff, you can pile things in and from the outside it could still look almost empty. It’s because the base is almost 20cm wide. This means it’s perfect for weekends away, as it’s just under Easyjet’s new minimalist cabin baggage limit of 50x40x20cm, being about 40x40x20cm. Aside from travelling, these dimensions mean it can take textbooks or files with ease. There’s no zip on this main bit, but there’s a magnetic popper on the inside to hold it closed.

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The front and back compartments are full depth and zip shut. I usually put my filofax in one of them to keep it separate from the rest of my things, and any papers I’m carrying in the other, as it keeps them flat. Papers in the middle compartment tend to slip down across that wide base and get a bit dog-eared.

This super storage bag has even more hiding places though, as in the main compartment there’s a little zipped pocket on the back ‘wall’, and facing that is a pair of pockets for phone/keys/pens. There really is no excuse not to be organised with this bag!

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Any downsides? Well, a cream interior was never going to last long with me, so it’s gained a few pen marks already and I have no doubt it’ll be covered in ink by the time I’m done with it. It can get pretty heavy – if you carry it in the crook of your arm you’ll definitely feel it, but just consider it a cheat workout for your arms! Last but not least – it’s not leather. I’ve got one corner that’s scuffed already (I think it brushed against a wall whilst I was walking) and with the base not having any ‘feet’ like many bags of this style do, I’m concerned that the bottom corners are only going to get increasingly scruffy.

Overall I absolutely adore this bag though. It’s going to take me from hospital placement straight to the airport and not look out of place in a bar either.

If green isn’t your thing, the Ullum is also available in a very stylish black, taupe, and ‘snowy’, which is white. I’ve also seen a red one, but that doesn’t seem to be on the Aldo website. Black, taupe and green are all £50, but the snowy one is currently in the sale for only £29.99!

What’s your favourite handbag?

Empties – bit of a mango theme!

I brought loads of half empty products home with me from uni to use up over the summer break (great excuse to go shopping at the start of term!), so my empties collection is just starting to build up. Rather than talk about loads of items at once, I want to break it down into little groups of things that go together.

First up, my Body Shop shower products, both in Mango flavour!

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This is the Body Shop Mango Body Scrub. I’ve never been a huge user of body scrubs, but with summer arriving and wanting to try out some fake tan products, I knew a decent scrub would make my skin silky smooth and perfect for tanning. This Body Shop scrub came in a gift box a while back with soap, body wash, body butter and a shower pouffe, but alone it sells for £12.50 for 200ml.

It’s pretty unique in the scrub market for being a combo salt and sugar scrub – this means it’s a tough exfoliator but also adds in moisture to your skin, hence the suggestion by Body Shop that the Mango scrub is for very dry skin. I usually suffer from really dry elbows and knees, so a great test zone for this stuff, and I can vouch for its hydrating powers. I’ve also been using it on my upper arms and thighs, where I often get little spots on my skin that I suspect are the tiniest of ingrown hairs (eww), and after using this scrub for a few weeks I can safely say these are a thing of the past, yay! So, super smooth silky skin – total winner. Not to mention the gorgeous mango scent!

The only downside is that a 200ml tub doesn’t last that long, and my puny hands can’t get the screw lid off in the shower – if I forget to unscrew it before I get in, no scrubbing’s happening that day! Because it’s a tub, water can get into it pretty easily in the shower, which can make the product a bit watery – I haven’t seen any problems from this though.

Would I repurchase? Probably not on it’s own. There are some great scrubs out there for better value. I’d love to use it again though, so if I came across it in a multi-product box like the BodyShop gift boxes I’d think about it!

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I also finished the Body Shop Mango Shower Gel. I think this came in the same giftbox as the scrub, but I’ve had this shower gel at my boyfriend’s house all year – we live several hundred miles apart in term time, so I leave a few toiletries at his to save having to faff about with mini bottles at airports etc (though these shower gels do come in a 60ml size that would be ideal for flying with). This shower gel is great for that because it lasts so flipping long! I’ve had an identical size bottle of the Strawberry version at my flat that I’ve been using daily to see how long they actually last – it made it from January to July easily. Six months for a £4 (for 250ml) shower gel?! Best value for money ever! The key is to use the body pouffe that comes in the gift sets (or pick one up separately for only £1.50), this means you only need about a 5p sized amount to do your whole body.

It’s a really nice shower gel as well, with a nice subtle fruity scent that doesn’t linger on you after it’s rinsed off – I can’t stand my shower gel competing with my perfume etc. I love that everything in the Body Shop range is colour coordinated to its flavour, so this mango gel is a sweet pale orangey-yellow colour.

Would I repurchase? Already have done! Picked up two in the sale earlier this summer – another Mango and a Strawberry.

I know loads of people went crazy in the BodyShop sale this summer, so did you get any Mango stuff? What did you think of it?

Oxford Campus notebooks

Somehow I came home for summer with no notebooks. This is totally out of character for me as I usually have at least a couple of spares to hand! It meant a quick trip to the stationery aisle of Sainsburys during the weekly shop, and I came away with these lovely A4 Oxford Campus notebooks – and they were on BOGOF!

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I was in a bit of a rush, so I just grabbed the first two notebooks off the shelf, and am pretty pleased with the ones I got – a vibrant but not fluorescent pink, and a deep black. Both have glossy card covers that mean the notebooks bend a little but not excessively. They have identical designs on the front, with a line about the paper quality blah blah blah, but I love the lion crest! Especially on the pink one, it looks really cute but smart.

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Inside is a personal page for your contact details. Fairly standard, but there’s also a space for little doodles or notes – such a nice idea! Just having a separate page at the start for details really sets these Oxford notebooks above others that simply give you a wirebound pad of paper. These would be perfect for school or college.

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A slight hint that these might actually be designed for students is the space to fill in your timetable, on the back of the personal details page. As an aside – I totally envy people who actually have a fixed timetable; mine varies every week! I’m using these notebooks to study a little over summer though, so I’m going to use the six rows to plan my study schedule for the holiday weeks. It’s nice that it includes weekends in the timetable too.

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Above you can see the seriously awesome paper that everyone raves about – this is quality paper! Crisp, white, already perforated and punched to pull out and file away, with a pink margin (this isn’t exclusive to the pink notebook, they’ve all got it) for neatness. You get 140 sheets per notebook, which makes them around a centimetre thick – not too bulky, but enough paper to keep going for a while.

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The reason people adore this paper? 90gsm, thick enough to write on in proper ink without show-through, bleeding or feathering. The notes above are in gel ink (I don’t own a fountain pen to test this stuff out with!) that usually has pretty bad issues with show through on normal paper. I’ve written on both sides of that sheet, and you can barely see a hint of a shadow of the text on the other side. Brilliant.

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And a little bonus… Buy any three A4 or A5 promo Oxford Campus notebooks before October, and you can send off for a free superhero/stuntwoman t-shirt! I’m definitely doing this – bagsy that superhero shirt!

I seriously love these notebooks, think you could officially call me an Oxford Campus convert! It’s been pointed out to me that while the Sainsbury’s BOGOF deal is good (I got these two for around £3), Amazon tend to have multipacks of 5 or so of these notebooks for even less money per notebook (though not right now, rather inconveniently).

Are these notebooks your stationery superhero? Or is there something even better out there in the paper stakes? Let me know in the comments!

Garnier BB creams: Ultimate summer makeup!

In this heat, foundation is way too much makeup for me to wear. It feels thick and heavy, and it melts off anyway. So I switched to BB creams – my first foray into this! In an interesting twist, I bought the Garnier Miracle Skin Perfector BB cream for combination/oily skin at the same time as my sibling bought the Garnier Miracle Skin Perfector Original BB cream, so this seems like a great opportunity to show both of these products together.

The MSP for combination to oily skin (which I’ll refer to as the “matte” version throughout this review) claims to give you immediately perfected skin, with anti-shine, blurred pores and imperfections, even tone and boosts glow, moisturises, and gives SPF20 protection.

The MSP Original claims to even tone and boost glow, blur imperfections, smooth fine lines, give 24hr hydration, and SPF 15 UV protection.

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L: Garnier BB cream Original, R: The mattifying version

The first thing you’ll notice is that, despite being the same price, the matte one for combo skin is a smaller tube (40ml compared to 50ml), so less product for your money. That said, the skinnier tube is so much easier to fit into my makeup bag for on-the-go touch ups!

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L: mattifying BB, R: standard BB

Note that in the picture above the creams are the opposite way round to the previous pic!

The formulation is totally different – the original BB cream is quite thick, whereas the matte version is a lot more liquidy. This doesn’t seem to make too much difference in application though, they both blend in really well. The matte version just spreads a little further across your face due to being thinner. The difference in formulation probably explains the different tubes – if you squeezed matte BB cream out of the thicker tube with wider opening in the cap then you’d be covered in it instantly! The coverage of both is a perfect balance between concealing and letting your features show through – in summer I don’t want to hide those freckles! The matte version has more of a concealing effect, and I look more like I’m wearing makeup, if that makes sense? Like the original version is very good at the “my face, but better” concept, it looks really natural. Staying power is also amazing with both – the heat is so much that I fully expect to have sweated off most of my makeup  by the end of the day, but these creams are still clinging on!

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L: matte, R: original

You can see in the pic above what I mean about the matte version going further. And look at the colour! These are both the “Light” colour, but the matt version comes up a few shades paler – I had to wait til I had a touch of tan on my face before the original one looked ok on me. If you’re superpale, the original BB cream will probably come up too dark for you. There’s a slight hint of the colour difference when you look at the tubes they come in, as the matte is noticeably lighter, but given that they come in boxes you can’t tell this until you’ve got it home!

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L: matte, R: original

Here I’ve blended them out a bit under each swatch. My arms are ghostly pale so both of these come up a little too visible, but I promise that on my face they come out looking perfectly normal! The matte version really does do what it says on the tin – my face has no hint of shine (though in this heat, I’ll admit that doesn’t last too long!) and it gives a really good base to set the rest of your makeup. The original version I actually prefer – you get a bit of a glow and a touch of shine along the cheekbones, nose etc just give a bit more of a summery feel! The one downside to it is that it can feel a touch sticky (I think this is due to the thicker formulation) and trying to put a powder blush on top just leaves powder where the brush first hits your face and no further. I think a cream blush would probably blend beautifully over it though.

So, do they match up to their claims of instantly perfected skin? I found that the original version did a better job of disgusing my pores, gave a better glow and felt more moisturising, but the matte version beat it for evening out tone and hiding imperfections. And in the midst of summer, I’m always a bit swung by the promise of a higher SPF – the only glitch to this is that I’m now so used to my BB cream providing sun protection that on my make-up free day I totally forgot to compensate with suncream and had a bit of a red nose and cheeks for a day! Oops!

I’ve not tried the rest of the Garnier BB cream range (there’s one for sensitive skin, an anti-aging version, and an eye cream) but I’m loving both of the two I’ve tried. They’ve both got major plus points, and I can’t pick a definite winner between them, so go for the one that best meets your requirements – matte for its anti-shine and good coverage, original for a great glow!

What do you think to the Garnier BB cream range? Would you agree that it’s the ultimate summer makeup product?

Organic Surge – blissful indeed!

A 75% off sale is too much for me to resist, so when Organic Surge dropped it’s prices recently I was straight in there to try out this brand. I got the Gentle Cleansing Lotion and two pots of the Blissful Daily Moisturiser (and free delivery, yay!).

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My Organic Surge goodies!

I’ve never paid much attention to what I’m putting on my skin, but the idea of coating myself in chemicals doesn’t sound great, so I’m excited about exploring organic options. Organic Surge focus on using naturally derived ingredients and no parabens or sodium laureth sulphate (the stuff that makes cleaners etc foam up). This means beautifully scented products full of essential oils!

The cleanser has rosemary and lemon, and they’re gorgeous together – I’d expect lemon to overpower something as subtle as rosemary, but they make a great combo. It’s a white milky lotion that you apply with fingers or a cotton pad, and remove with a fresh cotton pad. Applied to my face, it’s soothing and gentle. Whilst it did come off with a cotton pad, bringing my make up with it neatly, I’m not sure about using a cleanser with no rinse step, so I’m still splashing my face with water after, if not quickly swiping over with micellar water for a final refresh. My face definitely feels clean after this lotion though, and slightly moisturised – it claims to be hydrating, and I’d agree with that.

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The moisturiser, however, is my new favourite product. With sweet almond, cocoa butter, and a good helping of essential oils and flower extracts, it feels luxuriously rich whilst soothing and fresh – I’ve been reapplying it throughout the day in this heatwave for that cooling feeling! And that citrus scent – utterly gorgeous (I’ve picked the jar up to sniff it at least a dozen times whilst writing this post). My skin feels a lot more hydrated after using this moisturiser, and it sinks it quickly to let me apply make up easily over it. I’ve not even been using a primer before make up because my skin feels so good after using this! As if it couldn’t get any better, the glass jar makes it look suitably posh sat on my dressing table. The blush colour labelling is also prettty stylish. And all that for just £8 a jar (and I got it for just over £2!) – my only regret is that I only got 2 in the sale, I should have stocked up properly as this is definitely going to be a staple of my daily routine from now on.

Have you tried Organic Surge products? What’s your favourite?

Dream creams for hands

I have a problem. I fell in love, but I let it get away. And I can’t afford to get it back.

What I’m talking about, of course, is my wonderful affair with Clarins Hand & Nail Cream. I was given a small tube of it in a gift bag at a uni fashion show, and it made my hands beautifully soft. And it smelt gorgeous, and the packaging was simplistic but stylish. I loved it. So I bought another tube, and the affair continued.

Until it ran out, and I couldn’t afford to replace it. Since then, my handcream dreams have been to find a perfect dupe, one that moisturises without leaving my hands damp, shiny and stinking. There’s been quite a few challengers for this contest…

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The hand cream contest contenders

First up, Neal’s Yard Remedies Bee Lovely Hand Cream.

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It was a magazine freebie, but in the shops it’s £10 for 50ml. That’s almost as pricy as Clarins. But maybe it might be better? Don’t hold your breath, it wasn’t. Thick, smooth, but didn’t soak in very quickly – I just want to be able to pick up paper without leaving a mark, it’s not much to ask! The honey smell was gorgeous though, and I love the bright yellow and black bee-themed packaging. (As an aside, I just got NYR’s Power Berry Face Moisturiser in another magazine and already have the same plus points to make about it – awesome smell and pretty packagaing! I’ll blog about this once I’ve given it a proper try-out!)

The next contender was another freebie, this time from a newspaper voucher: Crabtree & Evelyn’s La Source Hand Cream.

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Ordinarily it’s £9 for 50g (and I have no idea how grams coverts to ml in hand cream, but it’s a smaller tube than my 50ml ones I think?). I picked La Source because the shop assistant assured me it was the plainest scent. I disagree – wearing it makes my hands smell like an old people’s home. The nicest explanation of that is that there’s a hint of talcum powder. It’s a very moist texture – I know, it’s a moisturiser, Sherlock, but I’ve also tried hand creams that verge on being gels (Neutrogena Norwegian Formula, I’m looking at you, you horrible hand-burning substance) – and rubs in really well. I just don’t want Granny-scented hands.

Still on the scent warpath, I checked out a few contenders in Boots. I was keen to try Philosophy Hands of Hope, because I’ve heard great things about the brand in general.

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I love the style of the packaging, such a simple layout and with awesome product names. Hands of Hope was a gorgeous texture, rich enough to feel luxurious but rubbed in well and I was stroking my hands for a good while after because they were so soft! I just can’t stand the smell of it. Is there a theme developing here? In the battle of hands versus nose, I will take bone dry hands every day over having an odd scent wafting from them. I was kind of glad Philosophy was a dud anyway, £16 for 120ml is beyond my student credit card allowance.

Another little yellow tube, this time from Vaseline – their Essential Moisture Clean Feeling Lotion.

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Super value at only £2.99 for 75ml (and I got it half price in Boots, so 10% of the price of an equivalent Clarins tube!), I’ve been throwing this in my handbag for top-ups during the day. The scent is pleasant (it’s hard to describe – it’s not fresh, so I’d say it was a warm scent) and has had several compliments from my classmates. It contains oat extract, the same as the Aveeno range that’s recommended for sensitive dry skin, so it’s really nice for my eczema-prone skin. So great smell, great value, ideal for my skin type, why am I not jumping for joy? It just doesn’t seem to have a long lasting effect. Used regularly, my hands aren’t particularly in any better condition than when I don’t use hand cream. When I’m not in a miracle-expecting mood, however, this stuff is lovely.

The last hand cream I’ve got on the go is another cheapy – Sainsbury’s Vitamin E Hand & Nail Lotion, just 88p for 75ml. Yes, not even a quid for a decent sized tube.

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It’s quite a thin formula compared to the richer textures of the C&E and NYR offerings, but it sinks in pretty nicely and doesn’t leave that slightly greasy after-effect that thicker creams have. And the scent is unobtrusive. One downside – the thin formula means I’m really nervous about it leaking in my handbag, because the flip lid isn’t the sturdiest thing I’ve ever seen, so it stays at home.

So, what did we learn from this? Cheap handcream trumps £10 per tube stuff. Or I am just ridiculously neurotic about how my hands smell! And whilst I haven’t found my Clarins dupe, I’ve found two options that’ll tide me over until I either find my dream cream or start finding extra money down the back of my sofa. That’ll do.

[Apologies for the stock photos borrowed from brand websites/Google Images for this post – I left the camera memory card with my photos on it at uni!]