New Year, New… oh sod it, never mind.

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It’s the headline I dread as a beauty writer. In fact, I refused to write a piece under it last year and this year nobody asked. I think perhaps the tide is turning away from thinking January is a good time to start dieting and detoxing yourself into misery? Let’s hope so. Because I say: don’t go changing. In fact, I am still eating cheese boards for lunch and having a little Prosecco party most evenings. I am going to up the yoga content of my life this year, just not at the precise second while I’m still nursing the ribs of an infected chest and a fully stocked inbox. Nope, I am enjoying a sloth’s entry to the new year, looking forward to the new opportunities and soon-to-be-changing seasons without denying myself a single thing. Give yourself a break.

What I am doing though, is a whole lot of restorative bathing. I’m back on the relaxing lavender essential oils (one of the only things I trust not to disrupt the pH balance of my bits when bathing) and despite the abundance of central heating, my skin is actually smoother and softer than it’s been in ages thanks to a well-timed return to my favourite moisturiser: Pestle + Mortar Hydrate. I’ve been writing a big skincare feature for a magazine which required me to try a bunch of new serums and creams, and while some have been awesome, my skin is clearly pleased that I’ve reverted back to my usual routine. Because sometimes getting back to the OLD you is the best bit about the post-Christmas period. 

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HAUTE MAMA: Helen Cordy of Wood/Grey

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Bloody hell. I’ve just recently discovered Wood/Grey and now I need to change everything in my home in order to be happy. Helen Cordy has THE most beautiful taste and brilliant collection of what are now ESSENTIALS in my mind. The cushions! The throws! Also, the gorgeous Herbivore range for bath and body – the Coco Rose Body Polish is enough to send me into a spin. Helen is also a mum, and so here are her top tips on the products that got her through pregnancy and beyond… GT

“My beauty routine has vastly changed in the last few years.  I certainly choose my products a lot more carefully, considering the ingredients in a way that I didn’t really do before my pregnancy.  Something that’s also changed is the convenience factor; products need to be easy and quick to use as the luxury of time for myself doesn’t really exist anymore between being a mum and running Wood/Grey!

Some friends gave me a lovely care package when I was expecting and that’s how I discovered Bloom and Blossom Indulgence Bath Oil £18.  It’s a blend of natural essential oils including Sweet Almond, Ylang Ylang Flower and Lavender and several others.  I became totally addicted, it made a huge difference to my skin, with the oil continuing to be absorbed into the skin after the bath.

036My make up routine is pretty minimal these days; mascara, loose powder, a little blush/bronzer if needed and the most important one, concealer.  I suffer from what must be a pretty common mum problem, dark circles under my eyes!  T
he most effective one I’ve found is Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer £22.50.  I definitely couldn’t be without this little saviour.

I often end up letting my hair dry naturally as I always run out of time, so my go to hair product is Herbivore Botanicals’ Sea Mist Salt Spray in Coconut £18.  It helps create those elusive beach waves and smells truly amazing.  All Herbivore products contain only natural ingredients with no fillers of any kind.  I’m a real convert.”

 

Haute Mama: Steph Douglas, Don’t Buy Her Flowers

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Steph Douglas, founder of Don’t Buy Her Flowers and writer of The Sisterhood (And All That) blog, photographed in Central London.

Steph is one of those brilliant women who wants to make motherhood – and indeed, womanhood – a nicer hood in which to find yourself. Rather than the wilting flowers that give you one more job to fit into the nappy-feed-rock-clean-soothe cycle of the newborn days, Steph suggests you send your most loved new mothers a kit of things she’ll actually LOVE – magazines, sweet treats, Cook vouchers and beauty products galore. Since launching focused on gifts for new mums, they’ve organically grown for other occasions – thank you, birthday, anytime someone needs a bit of a pick up. Have a browse at Don’t Buy Her FlowersI’ve already bought several of these boxes and the general response is a tearful ‘ohmygodireallyneededthat-sob-sob-sob’. But yesterday she launched my new fav – the Time Out Box (£91-£201, for London residents only) is for new mums but really, anyone you think deserves or needs a treat, including a voucher for a MILK Beauty treatment. A review for their manicure will be up soon, courtesy of pregnant lady, Nicola of Cissy Wears – suffice it to say, this is something a mum is sure to love. Someone comes to you AT HOME to pamper you in the comfort of your own home, while you feed / eat / snore. 

Steph is also a bloody nice woman. If I ever have another kid, I’d like someone to send her round, please. With one of each of her mega boxes. So now, here’s what the woman who is curating the best post-birth gifts uses on that smashing MUMFACE of hers. GT 

Seche Vite £11 – I am TERRIBLE at painting my nails. It’s not so much the actual painting, but having the time or patience to dry them properly. I inevitably do them before bed and then fall asleep and they get all smeary. Then Clemmie Hooper told me about Seche Vite. Chuck it on after you’ve painted and they dry super quickly, it smoothes the finish and the colour lasts longer. You can even fix chips with a top up of polish and this. I don’t want to say life-changing, but…

Clarins Instant Concealer £22 – When you have baby-induced eye bags, you need the good shit, and it turns out YSL Touche Eclat is actually a highlighter, so I read about this in Glamour and haven’t looked back.

If I had to choose one favourite treatment, it would have to be a pedicure. I just can’t replicate what they can do in a salon and a bright toe massively lifts big, dry mum feet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Midwifey Hooper’s bump lotion of choice is…

…Weleda Almond Sensitive Skin Body Lotion!

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 22.19.17Wonderful Clemmie Hooper – advocate of happy mothers and birther of beautiful babies – is currently caring for her two daughters AND two newbies: newborn twin girls. Back when she was pregnant she kindly tried out some of the products I myself missed out on while pregnant, and you can read her thoughts on perineum massage here and face moisturiser here.

This is the final instalment: what she put on her bump!

“I used it on the bump, legs, arms – all over. When my skin felt really dry and so tight and stretched, it just felt so nice. Especially after a warm bath. It’s so light it’s almost like milk, so it absorbs really quickly  without sticking to your clothes like some of the oils I tried to use. It smells great too – I love the smell of almonds anyway, but this is subtle enough that it doesn’t linger, and I feel confident to use it on the kids now, too. You don’t know what your skin will do during pregnancy, but ultimately this was just so soothing.”

Weleda Almond Sensitive Skin Body Lotion is £13.95. Clemmie is over at the unmissable Gas & Air Blog and @midwifeyhooper on Twitter and Instagram.

Perineum Massage – It’s Midwife Recommended!

clemmieWhen I was pregnant, I sort of scan read something on Perineum massage and quickly skipped ahead to the bit about the cervix’s ability to stretch enough to allow a baby’s head out. “Maybe it won’t hurt that much, sounds pretty stretchy,” I thought to myself. Again, when the NCT tutor told us a tiny bit about PM, I thought, yeh not for me. A foot rub, maybe, but that sounds…No.

But were to get pregnant again, I would definitely consider a little pampering of the perineum, especially as the wonderful Clemmie Hooper – midwife, editor of GasandAirBlog, soon-to-be published author and even sooner-to-be mother of 4 (her new twins will be en route very soon) – recommends it. She is joining as a guest editor on PBG, and has been trying out a few beauty products for me during her pregnancy, but Weleda’s Perineum Massage Oil floated to the top of her must-have list.

“A lot of pregnant women worry about stretch marks and spend loads of money on products to prevent them,” Clemmie told me recently, “But don’t forget, a tear could be so much worse! Plus, getting to know your body again – even if you’re on baby no.4 or 5 – can’t hurt, can it?” Good point, and though I didn’t suffer tears, I can confirm an episiotomy (what felt like a forced tear) can definitely smart a bit and it can take months until you feel back to normal again, sometimes longer.

“We midwives always recommend a natural oil like olive oil, but it can be a bit too close to cooking to get your head around putting it THERE,” says Clemmie, “It’s nice to have something developed especially for using internally that’s naturally scented with sweet almond oil. It won’t disrupt the balance in your vagina like a perfumed oil might, and there’s so much of it – you can use it for baby massage after the birth.”

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“I always think, if it feels nice during pregnancy, you’re more likely to use on babies. You do look at products differently when you use them on kids – you don’t want anythin

g perfumed or anything that isn’t natural.

Which is why Weleda is so good. I used the Weather Protection Balm on my first two daughters, and will definitely keep this oil in the nursery, too.”

So I’d say that’s a YES to Weleda’s Perineum Massage Oil £8.95 Weleda.co.uk

 

 

 

REVIEW: Aromatherapy Associates Ultimate Pregnancy Massage by Sarah Tomczak

photo copy 6We have recruited another FANTASTIC writer to investigate the wonderful world of pampering-for-pregnancy: Features Director of Red Magazine, Sarah Tomczak. She is now about to welcome her second child into the world, but we got in there quickly and sent her to Aromatherapy Associates for the only massage I myself enjoyed 3 years ago during my own pregnancy. Here’s her honest review of the treatment. GT

Aromatherapy Associates Ultimate Pregnancy Massage, 60 minutes, £90.

A pregnancy massage is a funny thing – in some ways you want to be handled with kid gloves, in others you want the most uncompromising, knot-releasing massage of your life. At Aromatherapy Associates, I pretty much got both.

The ‘ultimate rose pregnancy massage’ I went for, was in a way misleading, because I was actually given a choice of three body oils (each recommended because it has a lower concentration of essential oil than normal so is safer to use during pregnancy and more gentle on extra-sensitive noses too). I chose a nourishing oil simply by it’s scent (ylang ylang, vanilla, coconut) but as the endless winter and pregnancy have both made my skin far drier than normal, this made perfect sense.

The reassuringly gentle bits about my treatment were as follows: lying on my left-hand side for the back massage or propped up with cushions for the legs and shoulders bit and also avoiding the pressure points on my lower back during the massage (which can impact the baby). The wonderfully rigorous bits: a good firm massage which focused on removing the sitting-at-a-desk-all-day knots in my shoulders (which I’d mentioned at the start – but you can focus on any niggles you might have), a surprisingly effective head massage and a great facial massage (nourishing my dry complexion with specific facial oil – it’s the only time my skin hasn’t felt papery in the past six months).

I’d like to be able to give you an analysis of the massage from start to finish but I drifted into a scented sleep three quarters of the way through. Testament to a truly relaxing treatment and a toddler at home who wakes at 6am daily without fail.

The only downside? I didn’t love the ‘bump’ massage I received halfway through. My therapist had mentioned it at the beginning and said it was optional. I don’t usually have a problem with things like this, so didn’t protest but actually it felt strangely intimate.

I realised the only people who stroke my bare bump are my husband and me – and I quite like keeping it that way.

Otherwise this was the perfect way to soothe my body and spirits.

Review: BLISS Great Expectations Pregnancy Massage by Ellie O’Mahoney

BLISS PIC Another pregnancy treatment reviewed by our wonderful editor at large, Ellie O’Mahoney. Sounds like I need to get pregnant again…. GT

Bliss Spa, Sloane Avenue
Great Expectations, 75 minutes, £120

I don’t want anyone to touch me. I’m 9 months pregnant and feel like I have a puppy attached to my abdomen. A cute-as, much wanted puppy but a wriggly little thing none the less. So before the 75-minute massage starts at Bliss I warn my therapist that I’m feeling heavier than a sausage roll and probably won’t be able to relax. No worries, she smiled, I’ll do my best.

Ah the wise woman. She had faith in her skills even if I didn’t.

Great Expectations is a straight forward massage for expectant women. It, thankfully, involves the requisite number of pillows (TONS) needed to make any heavily pregnant woman comfy. One to hug, one between the knees, one under the head and one under the bump. Bliss. You turn on your side while the therapist goes at your back, shoulders, arms, hands, bottom, legs and feet.

So much for not relaxing. I was putty. So much so that I caught myself drifting off to sleep twice. This may have something to do with the fact that I’m exhausted through lack of sleep at the moment but I also credit my therapist’s hands with some kind of magic.

She was ultra responsive to any jumps on my part. When I flinched as she touched my feet (I’m always ticklish there) she used her arm instead to massage them. Something no other therapist has tried – and it turns out a much softer approach for the sensitive skinned. I actually enjoyed a foot massage for the first time. See, miraculous.

The music is worth mentioning too. Massage music is just that – music you’ll never hear outside that dark little room. Whale sounds if you will. Bliss, though, play proper music during treatments. Proper music that relaxes you but proper music, with lyrics and tunes that make you feel like you’re at home. Or at least at home with a kickass masseuse.

I thought I was too pregnant to benefit from a massage – and I did ask her not to touch my bump, it’s wriggly enough as it is without any extra stimulation but 10 days from due date, the 75 minutes did me such good. If only it were available on the NHS.

How to shop for your baby’s first Christmas…

image found on Babydino
image found on Babydino

I’m going to let you in on a little secret here. No matter how many times you read The Snowman to them or hold them up to the Christmas tree, a baby under 2 will most likely miss the point of Christmas. They certainly won’t be expecting any particular presents and they WILL be more interested in the mountains of wrapping paper than what is within. It doesn’t mean you should forgo presents altogether, and actually there’s a real bonus to Christmas shopping when you have a newborn: lots of the best products are wrapped up in gift sets so you save a little money on each item. This is the gift guide for you, for your pregnant friends and to leave at your in-laws house so they don’t even THINK about wrapping a giant gorilla for your newborn.

Organic Babies Hello Baby skincare gift set £15.95

This genius kit includes a mini Soothing Baby Salve and Dry Skin Baby Lotion – a great way to try out a new product, lighten the load of your changing bag or to fill your wash bag for that Christmas visit to the in-laws. There’s also a 100ml Baby Wash & Shampoo (one of my absolute favourites – see my review here) – which is well worth the price on its own. The set contains NO nasty chemicals (SLS, SLES, parabens, alcohol, foaming agents or artificial fragrance) and so should suit the most sensitive of skins. This is the one I’ll be giving to pregnant friends this Christmas, too – perfectly peachy baby skin in a box.

Tommee Tippee Closer To Nature Baby Healthcare Kit £11.95

I haven’t addressed baby nails before, mainly because IT FREAKS ME OUT TO EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. Honestly, those tiny, delicate fingers and you’re supposed to take a device designed to slice and dice to them?! But equally I couldn’t bring myself to chew on them either, so I’ve become very adept at a baby mani. You need to find your own way through the scissors vs clippers debate and this kit has it all. Chuck in the aspirator (let’s not discuss this one, but I can confirm: essential during the winter months), and thermometer, it really is a bargain. It also contains the softest hairbrush ever, the very thing that I used to gently work the cradle cap away (lubricated by Organic Babies Soothing Baby Oil).

Blossom & Bloom Mother To Be Trio Set £45

The ‘mother to be’ bit in the name is misleading – this will make A.N.Y. adult human being beam. Ok, so it’s not strictly speaking FOR your baby, but happy mother = happy baby, so they say. And it just so happens that this set contains Anti Stretch Mark Cream (my favourite during pregnancy and since then), Revitalising Leg and Foot Spray (this too I have reviewed here) and the gorgeous Indulgence Bath Oil. I’m anti-bubble bath because of the potential irritants, especially just after labour, but this aromatherapy blend is skin-softening and SAFE.

REVIEW: Aveda hair colouring by Ellie O’Mahoney

Ellie and Mark's Wedding-226a-XL My colleagues figured out I was pregnant before the 12 week mark because my hair was in such spectacularly bad shape. In an effort to reduce the baby’s exposure to toxins, I went cold turkey on hair colour as soon as we started to try to conceive. This wasn’t as big a sacrifice as it might seem – I’ve never been a once every six weeks highlighter. I’m lazy where beauty’s concerned and as hair salons’ prices have crept up in recent years, I stuck to the laidback beachy vibe of my Cornish roots (pun intended) and booked in for a colour topup twice a year only. But the problem is that in the months before getting pregnant I bought my first house and in so doing gave away all my worldly goods and reduced my expendable income to zero, so by the time I got pregnant, my hair was already in dire need of a good blonding.

 

The NHS is reasonably unclear about whether to dye or not while pregnant saying: “Most research, although limited, shows that it’s safe to colour your hair while pregnant. Many women decide to wait to dye their hair until after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when the risk of chemical substances harming the baby is much lower.”

 

So far, so confusing. But it does suggest that: “Highlighting your hair, by putting the dye only onto strands of hair, also reduces any risk. The chemicals used are only absorbed by your hair, and not by your scalp or bloodstream.”

 

So when it got to the point where my boss told me that she was staging an intervention and pretty much ordered me to sort out my by then greying, half blonde, half brown moptop, I felt, at six months’ pregnant, that I was past any point at which I could cause the tiny one any damage and, at any rate, I’d be having the less risky highlights. Safe, see.

 

But I couldn’t shake the feeling that in the name of vanity I was exposing the babba to a whole host of bleachy chemicals. Which is when I thought of Aveda, whose tagline is “connecting beauty, environment and well-being”. Their website is covered in talk of: “the art and science of pure flower and plant essences,” so if any salon was going to protect my baby from the potential perils of dyeing my hair, these guys would.

 

I booked in for a Aveda Full Spectrum™ balayage. They’ll only let you have it done after you’ve passed the 21 week mark, which is interesting considering the dye consists of 99% naturally-derived formulas. I was due to have highlights but when I explained to my lovely colourist that I was still a bit nervous about having my hair coloured while pregnant, he suggested balayage. Kate Middleton’s a big fan and I can see why. It basically involves painting ammonia-free dye onto the hair to create a more low-maintenance, natural look. It also reduces the risk of the uniform streaks that highlights can sometimes create and frankly if Queen of Hair Kate’s into it, I’m into it.

 

It was a shock looking into the mirror immediately afterwards. I was convinced it was too orange but within a few days, my eyes had adjusted (and friends had reassured me I just wasn’t used to seeing my hair coloured after having left it so long) and I loved it. I loved it so much in fact that I didn’t need to do anything to it before I got married six weeks later. It’s natural-looking, glossy and by God if his constant kicks are anything to go by, hasn’t done the baby any harm at all.

REVIEW: Elemis Nurturing Mother To Be Massage by Ellie O’Mahoney

baby bumpAre you having trouble sleeping? Suffering from leg cramps? Ellie O’Mahoney might have just the thing… GT

I breezed through the second trimester laughing in the face of insomnia, piles and acne. I was so smug with my power pregnancy that I even got married at six months pregnant, jumping around to House of Pain until 1am.

And then came the fall. The third, rotten, sleep-evading trimester from hell. Leg cramps wake me up with a start six times a night and in between that, I’m in and out of the loo up to four times a night. Then there’s my complete inability to find a comfortable position to sleep in. I bought a Dreamgenii pillow – basically a man-shaped feather cushion – which helps me stay on my right side, but going on for six times a night, I wake up having rolled onto my left side and received a jab in the ribs from the baby who isn’t keen on diverting from the recommended norm.

So when I was offered the chance to road test a massage that promised to (1hr 15 minutes) ease tension and boost relaxation, I waddled as fast as I could to the Mayfair-based Elemis spa.

The last thing I can do or want to do is to lie on my back or front, but an enormous beanbag solves that. It’s not a little unlike the Dreamgenii cushion, just three times the size. You lie on your side propped up by towels and cushions that your therapist artfully arranges around you. Then your spine, legs, arms, hands and head are massaged using the gorgeous Elemis’ Japanese Camellia Body Oil Blend, which claims to hydrate dry skin, improve elasticity and help guard against stretch marks. It also smells like actual heaven. Next, Elemis’ Instant Refreshing Gel is applied to your feet to reduce swelling – so very needed when the weight of a predicted 10lb (I know) baby is pressing down on your legs. Finally, there’s a mini facial using Elemis’s Cellular Recover Serum and Pro-Collagen Marine Cream.

The therapist, thankfully, doesn’t go near your bump and approaches you with all the care of midwife handling a newborn. I slept that night for the first time in months. If only I could have one a day til B Day.
Prices from £95. For more details visit elemis.com