Archives for posts with tag: product discovery

2018-08-02 20.12.10Last month, I came across a discount code for a new subscription box that seemed a perfect match for a bookworm like me, so I decided to try it out. The appropriately named Reading in Heels is kind of like a book club for women…except you don’t just receive a handpicked work of contemporary fiction (or non-fiction) each month, you will also be sent a few other treats…Though if you’re anything like me, you’re not going to need the extra encouragement to put your feet up and bury your nose between the covers of a book (channel your inner Belle from Beauty and the Beast)!

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The contents of the box generally include a small variety of luxe beauty and lifestyle products, along with a yummy delight or two. Although I got my first box at half price, it usually costs a mere tenner (plus P&P) per month. When you consider the price of new paperbacks these days (nevermind hardbacks), this is definitely a bargain!

While Reading in Heels isn’t a conventional book club with members that regularly meet up for literary discussions, it does have an online community where we can post reviews. It’s not looking terribly interactive at the moment, but I’m hoping it will later expand to include a forum of some sort, similar to Good Reads.

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In truth, I haven’t read a real book in years, having become more accustomed to my Kindle. There are pros and cons either way, so I don’t really want to get into a debate about it. However, I will freely admit that I love the feel and smell of books, and miss being able to turn actual pages. Plus, the covers always look so intriguing. Our house used to be so full of books we had to donate quite a fair few to charity, and reluctantly came to the agreement that for every book we bought, we had to make room for it by giving another away. That was almost a decade ago, and luckily for us, eBooks soon came into existence. Yay!

Still, not all books have a (legal) digital version, so every now and then, a printed edition will find its way into my hands, borrowed or purchased at a knock-down rate…or in this case, materialise in a mystery box of goodies!

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Most of the books I read are novels, but sometimes, I’ll make an exception and delve into the world of non-fiction if the subject matter interests me enough. Since the last biography that captivated me was about the relationship between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, I am hoping that Ma’am Darling, another saga of royal proportion, will prove equally fascinating.

The first few chapters are quite humorous, but I’ve not encountered anything earth-shaking as yet. So far, the real Princess Margaret is (unsurprisingly) not coming across quite as congenial and engaging as her dramatised counterpart in The Crown, a more sympathetic character by far, and with more redeeming qualities. By all accounts, bona fide Margaret (sorry to say) is a bit of a cow…Fingers crossed that will change as I read on!

Just a brief mention of the other items in the box before getting to the ones I like best…

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The pencil from Night Navy and notebook from Coconut Lane look pretty enough, but it’s difficult to get excited over stationery when I already have loads of similar stuff lying around my work and craft space. I did have a quick nosy round their respective sites, and noticed some products on there which would make great gifts (whether for yourself or someone else), so they’re worth bookmarking for special occasions.

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If you’re teetotal (like me), but love the taste of booze (unlike me), you will probably enjoy the real wine gums from Vinoos. Though I’m not particularly fussed, these do really taste like rosé. They contain 0% alcohol, so you can indulge without worrying about the morning after (or triggering an allergic reaction). My only suggestion would be to keep these gums refrigerated before consumption…unless you prefer your wine at room temperature of course!

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My favourite things from this box – Eye Gels from Patchology. I have hitherto been fortunate enough to escape the onset of wrinkles, but age will get us all in the end. When I look hard enough, there are signs of crepiness beginning to appear under my eyes. However, that’s nothing compared to the dark circles I’ve had to put up with for most of my life. These panda peepers must be genetic, since nothing will get rid of them…even the corners of my eyes look bruised.

Although these gels don’t provide a permanent fix, I am pretty impressed by the results. The area around my eyes did look brighter the next day; the skin softer and smoother. The gels are easy to use and you’ll experience a pleasant cooling sensation, but don’t make the mistake of placing them the wrong way round (with pointy bits down) as I initially did!

38481200_1691435620966014_3122567848417820672_nIf a period of cosy nights in seems a tempting prospect, or if you’re contemplating a netflix/social media detox, book a date with yourself and subscribe to Reading in Heels. It’s all you need for some quality “me time” – something I will certainly be looking forward to now on a monthly basis! The only trouble is…where’s the new bookshelf to go? 😀

2018-02-17 23.24.52With all these parcels arriving for me every week, it really does seem like Christmas hasn’t already been and gone…It even snowed earlier today (not my video)! There was only a light smattering on the ground, but it’s not often we get winter flurries on the Fylde Coast so perhaps Navidad has stayed a little longer to sprinkle some joy before the spring showers arrive. 😀

As usual, I got a load of complimentary gifts through the post. February’s loot of freebies was a bit of a mixed bag – a combination of beauty products, food (not just for me, but for my fur baby as well), and even jewellery. Here’s a brief round-up of brands I received goodies from:

Some of them were samples, but a few were full-sized products sent to me in return for a review, or only the cost of delivery. In cases such as the latter, I would advise doing a bit of research to find out how the amount of postage compares to the retail value of the item.

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The Purina stuff took a little while to arrive, but I couldn’t help feeling a little excited to finally receive them, because…well…cats. 🙂 I am sure my fussy feline would agree! She’s a very picky eater, but loves most crunchy nibbles and Lick-e-Lix so these new additions to her menu will probably be most welcome…Fingers crossed!

I’m also quite excited about trying out the products from Skin Chemists as I’ve heard a lot of good things about how bee venom can benefit skin. Its effectiveness is (apparently) similar to snake venom (another popular ingredient at the moment) but I never got round to testing that because a lot of the well-recommended brands are pretty expensive. Actually, Skin Chemists isn’t cheap either, the bee venom moisturiser you see in the above pic costs over £40 in most stores (though you can get it much cheaper on eBay), so I wasn’t about to turn them down when they emailed to ask if I’d be interested in posting a review if I got it for free.

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Although I’m not generally too fussed about perfumes, Penhaligon’s fragrance profiling nearly changed my mind. I say “nearly” because all of this store’s aromatic merchandise comes with a hefty price tag, which is a bit of a disappointment to me as the chosen scents – Luna and Lothair – were exquisite, layered, and definitely to my taste.

The necklace was a lucky find as I’d been looking for something similar when I came across a facebook advert for it a few months back. I presume it was leftover stock Save Our Oceans needed to get rid of, because all I had to pay was shipping. All in all, a bargain!



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Just a quick mention of the next two Boxcitement deliveries I received – the January and February boxes. I would have blogged about them sooner, but so sorry I haven’t really had a chance to due to illness.

 

 

As I’ve started to amass quite a collection, I have set up a gallery with photos of each mystery item from every month. Feel free to browse through them on Google Photos if you’re interested in subscribing to Boxcitement’s service, and would like an idea of what you’d be signing up for.

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So far this year, I have loved everything they sent me, particularly the weekly planner pad, monthly goal checklist, and birdcage necklace. Some of the contents, though lovely and unique, aren’t really to my taste and are more my daughter Zhouyi’s style (like the wraparound bracelet above), so I gave them to her. Between the both of us, nothing in these boxes ever get the thumbs down.

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My only gripe is the chains supplied with the necklaces…they’d match the quaint look of the pendants far better if they were burnished brass rather than silver. I’ve got some of my own pseudo-antique chains and jump rings, so I swapped them as soon as I could, and look what a difference it’s made.

Icy storms and ill health notwithstanding, we’ve not had a terrible winter. What’s life without a hiccup or two? I’m certainly not complaining about all the treats that have come my way! Despite that, I wish spring would hurry up and get here, because it’s chilly up in my lofty lair, and I’ve had enough of filling up hot water bottles!

2017-12-15 00.51.39Apologies for this belated review as I actually started this trial more than a month ago. Sadly, being really ill took its toll and interrupted my new Your Good Skin routine. For weeks, I struggled to get out of bed, and sometimes couldn’t even stand up long enough to have a shower (let alone keep up with a beauty regime!). What’s more frustrating – I was only a few days away from completing the challenge! Be that as it may, I reckon I did do it long enough to find out if the above products work well on my skin. To be absolutely certain, I resumed use of them (for another week or so) as soon as I felt better.

You can read my first impressions of Your Good Skin here, but just to recap, I was sent the following full-sized freebies in return for a review:

• Balancing Skin Concentrate
• Pore Minimizing Tonic
• Oil-Lifting Make-Up Remover Wipes
• Instant Dryness Rescue Balm

As I wasn’t supplied with a cleanser or moisturiser to complete the set, I used some of the Boots points I had accumulated over the years to get the following two items:

• Nourishing Hot Cloth Cleanser
• ProVitamin Overnight Cream

2017-12-15 00.54.26This 28-Day Challenge puts the spotlight on the Balancing Skin Concentrate as it was launched only quite recently. However, it is best used in conjunction with other Your Good Skin products.



STEP 1 – NOURISHING HOT CLOTH CLEANSER

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I think I may have previously blogged that I’m not particularly keen on wipe-off cleansers, but I chose this to complement the other Your Good Skin items because I was worried the toner I received, in addition to a face wash, would be too drying. As expected, I did not get that tight feeling on my face after using this cleanser. The cream is quite thick and goes a bit paste-like when applied to dry skin (as per instructions) which means it does not glide on smoothly. As a cloth cleanser doesn’t usually foam up, I had to use more product than one that rinses off. There’s not much of a fragrance, and as far as I could tell, the cleansing was thorough as the toner-soaked cotton pad did not pick up any dirt or residue after this. It’s probably best to mention that my typical mode is makeup-free, so I am not sure how efficient this would be for someone who regularly uses cosmetics.



STEP 2 – PORE MINIMIZING TONIC

2017-12-15 01.20.33Again, not something I am in the habit of using as my regular face wash gets splashed off with cool water anyway. In spite of that, I do feel that this works brilliantly with the Hot Cloth Cleanser and Balancing Skin Concentrate. Although the shrinking effect on my pores was only temporary (this is true for all astringent toners no matter the spiel), they did seem less congested, and there was a light fresh sensation on my face after applying this. It can feel a little warm and tingly at first, but that’s most likely down to the ingredients getting to work, and the Pore Minimizing Tonic is otherwise quite gentle. The only criticism I have of this particular product is the smell…It is a little sickly, but fortunately, it doesn’t last and isn’t overpowering, so this is just a minor complaint.



STEP 3 – BALANCING SKIN CONCENTRATE

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This serum is the main feature of this challenge and is meant to restore natural balance and “improve the 5 key signs of visibly healthy skin”. The trouble is, I can’t actually figure out if the Balancing Skin Concentrate on its own would have made any difference as I did not use it in isolation. Yes, my skin did look a little less dull immediately after application, and felt softer as well, but those results could also be attributed to the cleanser and toner. (I will come to the moisturiser in a moment.) This is why I mentioned earlier that these three – cleanser, toner and serum – perform well in unison.

I found this concentrate easy to apply…A couple of pumps (as per recommendation) is enough to cover all my face, and it absorbs quickly into the skin. The fragrance is also quite pleasant. I am not really convinced that it regulates oil though. The parts of my face that tend to shine continue to radiate…less “like a diamond” and more like greasy pan after a fry-up. 😀 At first I thought it was the Overnight Cream doing it, so I experimented with a more lightweight moisturiser for a few days. Sadly, it did not produce a different result.



STEP 4 – PROVITAMIN OVERNIGHT CREAM

2017-12-15 00.56.16There is a day-time moisturiser available from Your Good Skin that comes with SPF 30, but because I prefer to use my own HG sunscreen, I got the night-time one instead. The consistency of the Overnight Cream is thick and rather rich (I assume the Anti-Oxidant Day Cream is less so). It doesn’t spread on skin very well, leaving a tacky film that takes quite awhile to absorb. To be fair, it is meant to be applied before bedtime, and has kept my combination skin fairly hydrated. The shine factor is (unsurprisingly) high, but I don’t mind that since my sunscreen has mattifying properties (for those times when I am out and about), and at night…well…I’m going to sleep anyway, so who cares what I look like, right?



OIL-LIFTING MAKE-UP REMOVER WIPES

2017-12-15 01.17.49Since I rarely wear makeup, I did not have much of an opportunity to use this apart from the one occasion when I tested the Marc Jacobs Beauty Matte Highliner from my first VoxBox. On that day, I had a full face on so I could take some nice photos to show off my new eye crayons. These wipes managed to rid my skin of most makeup except for what I had on my eyelids, but I suspect the problem lies in the Highliner which is heavily pigmented. I’d say these wipes are about average, and not much better or worse than others I’ve tried, including the really cheap ones from pound shops. Besides, I always follow up with a proper cleanser, and would never rely on makeup remover alone so that I can wake up the next day with pores as gunk-free as possible!



INSTANT DRYNESS RESCUE BALM

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Skin needs a bit of extra help during the winter months, so this came in handy a few times during the challenge. Nonetheless, claims that it provides instant relief and remains effective for 12 hours is a bit of an exaggeration. I often get scaly patches on my face when the weather turns cold, and dabbing this cream on affected areas did soothe it somewhat. It’s a good job the bottle is travel-sized, and doesn’t take up much room in my handbag, because I had to keep applying it quite a few times throughout the day. Whilst the Rescue Balm did keep some of the flakiness at bay, it never quite eliminated the problem. Eventually, I had to switch to the Aurelia moisturisers left over from a previous review, and that soon put my dry skin woes to an end.



OVERALL VERDICT

28 day challengeSo sorry for the slight blurriness of the final photo. I didn’t notice the low quality of it until a few hours later. The lighting was also poorer because it wasn’t as sunny that day, so this before-after comparison is probably not the most accurate! 😀

All images were taken within an hour after application. To demonstrate what I mean about how the Balancing Concentrate doesn’t do much to keep the shine under control, I took the last picture before putting on my mattifying sunscreen. It’s pretty obvious there is quite a contrast between that and the other two.

Contrary to what can be seen in the photos, my skin actually had the same colouring and tone (including blotchiness) on all days. I’m not sure why it had a pinker cast in the first two. I’m no expert, but according to my photographer hubby David, it might be to do with my phone’s white balance.

In all honesty, I was not completely wowed by my Your Good Skin experience because, to the eye, there didn’t appear to be any significant changes from start to finish. If I had to rate it out of five stars, I’d give it three…Not exactly holy grail material. Still, don’t let this put you off trying anything from this collection. I would recommend it for the following reasons:

These products are decent all-rounders. Granted, they do not perform miracles, but they were satisfactory in generally keeping my skin in good condition. Considering how ill I was during the challenge (and during the height of winter too!), I’d have expected my complexion to be far worse, but was pleasantly surprised that its health was maintained (as advertised).

Being more middle-aged than millennial, I am of course worried about the impact of ageing. However, I suffered from severe acne in my younger days, and though I did finally overcome it, I can never shake off the paranoia whenever a breakout occurs. I’ll admit I got the odd spot whilst using Your Good Skin. Nothing to lose sleep over…And it was probably down to hormones, what with it being my time of the month. I doubt any lotions and potions can put a stop to that! My skin is on the sensitive side, so not having to deal with any huge angry ‘eruptions’ on my face is a big plus!

If you’re looking for something to address specific issues (such as wrinkles, scars, age spots, etc), you’ll find more success in other products specially dedicated to those concerns, or possibly more invasive procedures (like laser, peeling, or derma-rolling, etc). That said, Your Good Skin does have a wide selection of skincare, so there’s a chance one or two items in the range could boost your existing treatments.

Would I buy any of them? The Pore Minimizing Tonic gets a definite “yes” from me, and it’s a “maybe” for the Nourishing Hot Cloth Cleanser and Balancing Skin Concentrate (mainly because I am currently using something else I like). Everything from the Your Good Skin range is very affordable, and that’s one of its biggest draws. Majority of the products are under ten pounds, and some even less than a fiver. With all of them being such good value for money, I think this brand is worth a punt at least.

27500985_10155903714310856_4956690107225114775_oLess than a month after my very first VoxBox was delivered, I also received a mystery box of free goodies from Triyit. As mentioned previously, this product discovery club is still in pre-launch phase, which means initial campaigns won’t be very big, so I was well-chuffed to be have been selected.

 

Unlike the VoxBox, I was not told of the contents beforehand, though I did have a suspicion it would be health-related, and I was proven right when a hefty box arrived at my house. As with most full-sized complimentary items, brands expect something in return. It’s not usually much…often just a review and/or exposure on social media.

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The Triyit box came with a campaign booklet that had a set of instructions for each product – little jobs which would lead to earning points towards another collection of freebies. Everything was very straightforward: snap a photo, then share it on any (or all) of the big platforms (Instagram, Facebook, and/or Twitter) using the relevant hashtags…All stuff I would have done anyway.



MOMA INSTANT PORRIDGE POT – PLAIN WITH NO SUGAR

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The first product I tried was a little pot of instant porridge from MOMA Foods. Oats are very kind to the tummy, and because of this, my favourite choice for breakfast. I prefer to cook my porridge (with lactose-free milk) in the microwave but, for the sake of convenience, have in the past tried Quaker’s Porridge Pots when out and about.

What makes MOMA’s gluten-free porridge different from most conventional instant porridge is the type of oats they use. They are wholegrain, with a generous helping of jumbo oats, therefore making them less processed and higher in fibre. MOMA’s blend of oats has a lower glycaemic index, and will keep you full for longer, making it a far healthier option than most brands.

The only other ingredient is low-fat milk powder, so all you need to do is add hot water and stir it thoroughly. Although MOMA does sell an interesting variety of flavours, the plain and sugar-free porridge leaves you free to improvise by mixing in fruit, nuts, or syrup (maple for me please). The texture of this porridge does take some getting used to as it’s quite gummy and chunky…definitely not as creamy as the porridge I normally have at home. That said, it would be pretty handy to have one of MOMA’s pots around when you’re on the go (or at work, like me in this instance). As you can see, it’s not very big, but it was certainly very filling and when lunchtime came round, I found I wasn’t hungry in the slightest!



LOVE CORN ROASTED SNACK – SMOKED BBQ

27878135_365661947235858_3985098939035549696_nMidnight snacks are a bad habit of mine. Actually, it doesn’t have to be midnight. I am often munching on something at bedtime. However, it is mostly junk food…sometimes chunks of cheese or salami, and even chicken drumsticks. It’s worse when on holiday in Singapore as my mum and I would drive around looking for food stalls (loads open late there), eventually consuming a heavy supper before slipping into a food coma at 2am!

The night (or should I say ‘morning’?!) I tried Love Corn‘s snack was probably the first time (in a long long while) I had something healthy past 9pm. It’s really yummy, moreish, and (being low-cal, high-fibre, vegan, gluten-free etc.) also completely guilt-free, making it great for those times when one is feeling peckish, even if it is at silly o’clock!



EAT REAL LENTIL CHIPS – SEA SALT

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I never buy ready-salted crisps, so I was a little sceptical when I opened the bag of Eat Real‘s Sea Salt Lentil Crisps Chips. Since it was Friday night (Netflix & Nom!), I made sure my more exotic-flavoured crisps (such as Wasabi Ginger, and Lobster Firecracker) and pork scratchings were on standby…just in case. I’m pleased to say I needn’t have bothered because the Lentil Chips were a treat and I soon scoffed the lot. Although they only had sea salt on them, the natural flavour of the lentils came through, making the chips quite tasty. I think I actually prefer them to the ordinary spud variety, and of course these will be much better for your body. They’ve even got a crunchier texture!

Other natural snacks by Eat Real are also available, and whilst I can’t list all the stores that stock them, I have previously spotted in Morrisons their Quinoa Chips which I will be adding to my next shopping list.



GET NOURISHED ICED COFFEE – HAZELNUT & CACAO MOCHA

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Although I often cannot do without my morning latte, I have to admit I predominantly get my caffeine fix from leaves rather than beans. However, when I do drink coffee, I like it extremely creamy and loaded with sugar. This Iced Coffee from Get Nourished only ticks the box for the former, but (for obvious reasons) not the latter. It does have a very strong taste, and (as expected) smells a lot like Nutella (not that I mind). To be honest, I wasn’t totally keen on this beverage. Yet, I was convinced that coffee-lovers would actually enjoy it, so I decided to get the opinion of a true connoisseur – my husband David…And guess what?! He gave it a thumbs-up! 😀

I suspect David’s conclusion was based mainly on flavour alone, but there are a lot of other benefits to drinks from Get Nourished. Like the brand name implies, their coffees are highly nutritious and ideal for those with a fitness regime that requires lots of energy and protein. Plus, they are also gluten-free and lactose-free. As an added bonus, Get Nourished will donate 1% of sales to The Kinetic Foundation, a charity that aims to improve Sport Education for kids.



THE BERRY COMPANY SUPERBERRIES – PURPLE JUICE DRINK

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I thought I’d save the best for last, because this drink is easily my favourite item in the Triyit box. If you love Ribena, but not so much a fan of the sugar that’s in it, and can’t quite stand drinking the ‘light’ version due to the saccharine taste of aspartame, this vegan drink from The Berry Company might convert you. Even my 17-year-old daughter Zhouyi, who drinks Ribena by the gallon, was impressed.

The Superberries Purple Juice is super refreshing, super light, and super delish. The Berry Company have got the fruity flavour and sweetness level just right, and it’s all down to the natural ingredients they use. There are no artificial additives in it, and as per the other products reviewed on this post, also free from gluten, fat, and GMOs.

Sadly, Purple Juice is not yet available in most supermarkets, and the one litre carton retails for over £2. This might change over time since it’s still a fairly new product. Until then, it’ll have to remain an occasional treat each time I visit my local Holland & Barrett.



Free gifts are always fun to review, and the Triyit box was particularly enjoyable…probably due to being filled with multiple goodies. It felt like it was Christmas all over again! Hopefully, this (and VoxBox) is only the beginning, with many more to follow. As they say, good things come in threes. Well, I’m keeping my fingers crossed it doesn’t just stop there!