Monday, 11 November 2019

Life Update - An Operation - Derotational Femoral Osteotomy

I want to start today’s blog post with two apologies. Firstly, to apologise for the lack of content in recent months – it’s safe to say I’ve been slacking a bit (OK, so actually my health has been rubbish and so I haven’t been able to write so much). But that’s in the past and there’s not much I can do to change that. And secondly, I need to apologise for the fact there probably won’t be much content going up for the next few weeks at least. Not the greatest place to start a blog post! But I wanted to use this post to give you a bit of a life update and let you know why I won’t be around much over the next few weeks, so at least you know I haven’t completely forgotten my blog!

In short, I’m going into hospital to have quite a big operation – a derotational femoral osteotomy (I’ll explain more in a minute!) It was meant to be happening on Thursday 7th November, but I had a phone call last week to say it had been postponed. So it is now (hopefully!) happening on Tuesday 12th November instead. As well as wanting to update you in this post, I also thought it would be useful for others, and myself, to document my journey through the operation and recovery. When I found out I would be having this surgery, I started searching online for information about the procedure. But I found it really difficult to find anything relatable. I did manage to find a couple of people on Instagram, who I have found talking to invaluable. But apart from that, all I found was a lot of medical information, mainly relating to children having the procedure, but nothing written first-hand by adults who have gone through it.

I guess I should probably start by explaining what the operation actually is! In layman’s terms, the surgeon will be making an incision into my right thigh, breaking my femur (thigh bone), rotating it to the correct position and holding it in place with a metal rod. I asked on Instagram if anyone had any questions they would like answering when I made a video and wrote a blog post about this, and one of the main questions people had was ‘why are you having this operation?’ 

It all started a few years ago, when I went to my GP because I was getting a lot of pain in my hips. I have always had problematic hips – when I was born, I had congenital hip dysplasia, which meant my hips dislocated very easily and I had to be fitted with a Pavlik Harness to allow the hip sockets to grow properly around the ball of the hip joints. Thankfully, this corrected the hip dysplasia, but I have still experienced instability, subluxations and constant pain in both my hips. A lot of this was eventually put down to me having Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), but as the pain got worse, my GP decided to refer me to my local hospital to see an Orthopaedic Hip Surgeon. After seeing him and having some general x-rays taken, he could find no obvious problem with the hip joints and so the increasing pain was just put down to my EDS. 

But my GP had also made a referral for me to be seen by an Orthopaedic Hip Specialist at University College London Hospital (UCLH) at the same time. This obviously took longer to come through, and when I received the appointment I did contemplate cancelling it, as the local consultant had already told me that there was nothing wrong. But I decided to go ahead with the appointment ‘just in case’ and so, a couple of years ago, I went up to London to see the specialist. After a thorough examination, he sent me to have some more x-rays and a CT scan of the whole of my upper legs. When I went back to see him again, he told me that both of my thighbones were rotated too far inwards, at quite a high angle. This means that the hip joints aren’t sitting properly and so, are moving around in an unusual way, which could be causing some of the pain. It also means that the rest of my leg is wonky too – my knees face inwards, rather than pointing straight out, and when I walk, my feet tend to turn in and I walk on the outer part of them to try and compensate. All in all, nothing really lines up!

To begin with, we decided not to do anything drastic, so I was sent away for six months to see how my symptoms progressed. Unfortunately though, the pain and instability just seem to be getting worse, so we eventually decided that surgery would be the best option to try and rotate the femur back into the correct position. They can only do one leg at a time (because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to walk at all!) and the recovery period is pretty long, so it’s not going to be a quick fix. One issue is, we’re not sure how much of the pain is caused by the deformity in my femurs and how much pain comes from my EDS. So it could be that, we could do this operation and my pain and instability don’t get a whole lot better. On the other hand, it could give me some significant improvement in the long run.

There are risks, as with any operation, although having EDS does make things a bit more complicated as my bones and joints are more likely to move around. I’m likely to be in hospital for at least three days, possibly longer – it depends on when we can get my pain under control, how I recover from the general anaesthetic and what my mobility is like. I will be on crutches for quite a while, as I won’t be able to put my full weight on my leg while the bones fuse back together again. As my mobility is already pretty limited, it’s likely I will have to use my wheelchair a lot more, as I think I’m going to struggle on crutches. We have also had a stair lift installed, which is going to be beyond helpful for getting me up and down stairs when I get home. 

As I mentioned already, the recovery time is pretty long. I’ve read that it can take your femur up to six months to completely heal, and obviously there will be lots of physiotherapy needed to try and get my muscles and joints working properly again after surgery. I won’t be able to drive for at least a month to six weeks, and after then, it will just depend how I’m feeling and whether I could perform an emergency stop. So there’s going to be a lot of hobbling around (well, more-so than usual!) and I think I’m just going to have to take things a day at a time, certainly for the first few weeks.

I think this is the most nervous I’ve felt about any operation or procedure I’ve had, but then this is probably the biggest surgery I’ve had to date. I’m quite anxious about the operation itself and whether everything will go to plan. But I’m also not looking forward to being up in London away from my family while I’m in hospital. Usually, when I’m in my local hospital, my family are able to visit most days. But that isn’t going to be possible while I’m in London, so I need to make sure I take lots of things to keep me occupied while I’m recovering. 

I’m probably most anxious though, about the recovery period once I’m home. It feels strange to me, putting myself through something that I know will make me a lot worse to begin with. Any independence I currently have is going to be gone, and I’m going to be essentially starting from scratch again. I’m going to have to re-learn how to walk and will have to learn to ask for and accept help from the people around me a lot more than I currently do. I am a bit worried about how my mental health will fare, as I know it’s going to be a tough few months getting used to a new normal. But I hope that, once I’m feeling a bit better from the initial operation, I will be able to get out and about a bit with the help of my family, and go and see some of the Christmassy things nearby. 

As both of my femurs are wonky, once I’ve completely healed from this operation, we will have to look at me having the same operation but on my left leg. And my surgeon has also said that this operation can make my lower leg look/feel quite wonky, so it may be that I will need an osteotomy on both lower legs at some point as well. But I’m trying not to even think about those things at the moment and just concentrate on getting through this surgery first!

I think that pretty much describes everything that’s going to happen and I hope it explains why I may not update my blog for a little while. But if you do have any other questions that I haven’t answered, please do feel free to ask, either in the comments or on my social media. As I said earlier, I do hope to try and document this process as much as I possibly can, so I will try and take photos and videos while I’m in hospital so that I can keep you up-to-date with my progress both on here and on my YouTube channel. And if you want to keep up with how things are going on a more day-to-day basis, please follow me on Instagram and Twitter, as I hope to keep them both updated while I’m in hospital. I will also need to be kept distracted while I’m recovering, so I would really appreciate any messages you fancy sending my way!

I’m hoping that, once I’m on the mend, I can start updating my blog more regularly, as I have lots of ideas for posts I want to share! So please don’t forget me while I’m away – hopefully I’ll be back posting again very soon!

Have you had a femoral osteotomy? Or do you have any questions you would like to ask about my experiences of it?

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Botanics Skincare

Although I love experimenting with pretty make-up, I’m definitely a skincare girl at heart. I just love trying new products, pampering myself a bit and to have my skin feeling the best that it can. Although I certainly have some favourite products, I do like to wander round a store or browse online looking at other products on the market, and I’m always interested in trying new things. A while back, I was running out of a couple of items so decided to ask around for recommendations, as well as having a browse around my local Boots store.

First up, I needed to find a new toner. I’ve tried all sorts of toners over the years, from budget versions from the likes of Garnier, Nivea and Simple, to more expensive ones like the Pixi Glow Tonic. Although I enjoyed using all of these, I fancied a change. And while perusing the shelves of bottles and boxes, I came across the Botanics All Bright Cleansing Toner. According to Botanics, if you’re looking for a dose of radiance then this is the toner for you! I’m quite lucky with my skin, but one thing I do tend to find is that it can look a bit dull and tired. This toner contains Hibiscus, known for its brightening properties and exfoliating flower acids, which also improve skin’s texture and radiance. It sounded like just what my skin needed, and at £5.49, it wasn’t going to break the bank either.

I’ve been using it daily since then, and am nearly at the end of my bottle, so I feel I can now give it a proper review. After cleansing my face, I pop a bit of this on a cotton wool pad and sweep it across my skin, neck and dĂ©colletage. Unlike some toners I’ve tried, it feels gentle and delicate and hasn’t irritated my skin at all. It has a very subtle scent, which I quite like, as it doesn’t feel too overpowering. After using it, my face doesn’t end up feeling tight either – just cool and refreshed, ready for my moisturiser. I’ve received a few compliments recently, from people saying that my skin looks healthy and radiant, so I guess it must be doing what it’s meant to! Overall, I’m really enjoying using it (so much so that I’ve bought another bottle to replace this one when I finish it!) and am really happy with the way it leaves my skin looking and feeling. 

The next thing I wanted to replace was an under-eye treatment. Again, I’ve tried various things over the years, but my particular favourite was the No Puffery™ Cooling Roll-On from Origins. Unfortunately though, at £25, it isn’t something I can repurchase very often, so I wanted to try and find a cheaper alternative that gave similar results. I asked around on my social media for recommendations of a roller-ball eye treatment and a few people suggested I try the Botanics Brightening All Bright Refreshing Eye Roll-On. I really wanted to stick with a roll-on treatment because I just love the cooling and gentle massaging effect it has under my eyes at the end of the day. This one also contains Hibiscus, which was chosen for its skin brightening properties (essential when you have bags as big as suitcases under your eyes!) and it also helps to hydrate the under-eye area. 

As with the toner, I’ve been using this eye roll-on for quite a while now and am so happy to have found a cheaper alternative to my favourite Origins product (this one is only £8.99, rather than £25). It feels gently cooling under my eyes, which is great when they’re feeling uncomfortable and puffy, and it’s also really easy to apply. I tend to get a lot of headaches/pain around my eyes, and this feels so nice to apply – I’m tempted to keep it once it’s empty, just so I can massage under my eyes when the pain gets bad! The actual treatment is very gentle, with the same delicate scent as the toner. I definitely think it has brightening properties, as although I still have dark circles (it will take a miracle to get rid of those!) they do seem to be a bit brighter than they were before I started using this.

Although I’d heard of the Botanics range before, I had never really ventured in to trying any of the products. But after trying these two out, I wish I’d given the range a chance sooner! At Botanics, they believe in the power of plants for their holistic benefits to improve more than just your skin. They search for the most effective plant extracts to target skin’s specific needs and sustainably source these extracts from around the world. Their beauty products are formulated with plant extracts, natural and organic ingredients and are all developed to be effective while staying true to their ‘inspired by nature’ philosophy. They also like to make sure that their products don’t cost the earth, which is always a bonus.

After reading a bit more about the Botanics brand, and also trying a couple of their products, I will definitely be trying more from the range. I love that they are made from natural and organic ingredients and that they sustainably source these from around the world. The fact that the products feel gentle on my skin, whilst still working, is a massive positive for me. And, of course, it’s great that their range isn’t too expensive either!

Have you tried any products from the Botanics range at Boots? If so, what are your favourites that I should try out next?

Friday, 11 October 2019

Tea Travels - Afternoon Tea at Beatons Tearoom, Crowthorne

Regular readers of my blog will be aware of my ‘Tea Travels’ series, where I talk about different afternoon teas I have tried and what I think of them. I’m a big fan of going for afternoon tea (as is my Mum, so we often go together!) and so I thought writing a series about my experiences would be a good way to share my love of afternoon tea with you. Hopefully it will also give you some ideas of places to try if you’re like me and love the afternoon tea experience. And so, today, I’m back with another post in my Tea Travels series.

A few weeks ago I went for afternoon tea at Beatons Tearooms in Crowthorne with my brother, Richard, sister-in-law, Lisa, and my nephew, Noah. It was my birthday present to Lisa back in April, but we had only just got round to actually organising it. Beatons Tearoom and Bookshops have places in Wiltshire, Dorset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Shropshire and Berkshire. They exist to give people a peaceful and relaxed experience in stylish yet cosy surroundings. They’re inspired by society photographer Cecil Beaton and bring gracious hospitality, home made cakes and light meals to the table seven days a week. So whether you’re looking to relax and unwind over a pot of your favourite loose leaf tea, browse their specially curated selection of books to discover something new to delight, or treat yourself or your friends to a luxurious English Afternoon High Tea, Beatons, according to them, is the perfect choice. 

I had been to Beatons for food before, but never for afternoon tea, so was interested to see what it would be like. I rang and booked our table a couple of weeks in advance, which I would definitely recommend doing because the cafĂ© was really busy and they needed notice to prepare the full afternoon tea. And so, on a warm summer’s afternoon, we made our way over to Crowthorne High Street to Beatons Tearoom, where we were seated at a beautifully laid table with a reserved sign on it.

First, we were presented with the extensive tea menu and given some time to choose which teas everyone would like. There were so many different varieties to choose from, so it took us a little while to make the final decision! But in the end, I went for the Cherry Sencha – a Green Tea with delicate rose and natural cherry. We were also asked to choose which cake we would like with our afternoon tea. There was a large table overflowing with different types of handmade cake – from Carrot Cake and Brownies to Victoria Sponge or Chocolate Cake. I opted for the Coffee and Walnut Cake (as did Richard) and Lisa chose the Carrot Cake. We also ordered Noah a strawberry milkshake and a huge chocolate brownie.

Our teas arrived first – each of us was brought a different coloured teapot with a loose-leaf tea brewing inside. They had really thought of everything, as we also had a timer to let us know when our teas should be perfectly brewed, and each had a small saucer to place our used teabags on. My Cherry Sencha tea was incredibly delicate, floral and sweet – the perfect accompaniment for afternoon tea as the flavour wasn’t going to overpower the tastes of the food. 

And within a few minutes of us having our teapots, the elegant cake stands arrived, laden with delicious looking sweet and savoury treats. We started with the array of sandwiches that were beautifully displayed on the bottom of each cake stand. We were certainly spoilt for choice when it came to sandwich fillings! There was ham with tomato relish; cheese with onion marmalade; Brie and cranberry; tuna mayo; Coronation chicken and egg mayonnaise. And both plates were garnished with a generous salad. We quickly started to sample all the different sandwiches, which were all incredibly tasty. My personal favourite was probably the Brie and cranberry, but there wasn’t a sandwich that I didn’t like. 

Once we’d demolished the sandwich platters, we moved on to the scones – we had been given two large scones each! The scones were light and fluffy, tasting delicious wish lashings of jam and clotted cream. I always put jam on first and then cream (so that I can put a nice big dollop of cream on top!) – which way round do you do it?! After enjoying one scone, I decided to take the other one home with me, as I was feeling rather full already and still had my piece of cake to eat!

I’m glad I left room for my cake, as it really was tasty. The sponge was moist and full of flavour with pieces of crunchy walnut dotted through it, and the buttercream complimented it beautifully, without being overly sweet. And apparently the Carrot Cake was just as good (and Noah’s Brownie went down pretty well too!) It was a lovely way to finish off our afternoon tea experience. 

We had a lovely couple of hours at Beatons enjoying their afternoon tea. It’s a comfortable and cosy setting with a relaxed atmosphere, and I love the fact they also have a bookshelf in the corner where you could buy a book to read with your cuppa. The staff were friendly and welcoming and made us feel comfy and calm as we enjoyed our food. The Windsor Afternoon Tea cost us £20 per person (not including Noah), which I thought was very reasonable for the amount of food we were given. You could also ask for as much tea as you liked, which is always important! It’s definitely somewhere I would be happy to visit again (either for afternoon tea or something like breakfast or lunch) and if it’s somewhere you haven’t been before, I would recommend giving it a try.

Are you a fan of afternoon tea? Where are your favourite places to go? Perhaps I can add them to my list!

Friday, 20 September 2019

What if getting your Smear Test isn't straightforward?

According to the charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, attendance for cervical screening (or smear tests) is at a 19-year low in England and a 10-year low in Scotland and Wales. This means that, when they receive their invitation letter, one in four women are not making an appointment to be checked. Things are going on to try and help reverse this shift. For example, the recent Channel 4 documentary about Jade Goody’s life, which includes her journey with cervical cancer, has got a lot of women talking about, and booking, their cervical screening tests. And recently, Zoe Sugg (aka. Zoella) uploaded a video that showed her having a smear test and asking the nurse various questions about the procedure. Over 1.4 million people have watched it so far. And it’s not just these high profile celebrities who are raising awareness of why it’s so vital to go for your cervical screening appointments. You only have to look at Instagram to see hundreds of thousands of pictures discussing the importance of having regular smears. 

And don’t get me wrong – this movement of women taking ownership of their health and encouraging others to do so too is fantastic. And for most people, these campaigns are enough to inspire them to book an appointment and get checked themselves. But the thing I struggled most with, was trying to find stories from people for whom having a smear test isn’t as straightforward as most people say it is. In amongst all the amazing posts and media about why it’s so important to have a smear test, I also found a lot of content shaming people for not having one. And that’s why I have decided to write this post. Not to put people off going for their appointments or to scare people off who haven’t been for a test yet. But to reassure others that they’re not alone if they struggle, for whatever reason, to go for their cervical screening. And that that struggle is nothing to be ashamed of. 

Like most women, I received an invitation to go for my first smear test just before my 25thbirthday. As someone that has had a huge number of medical tests over the years, I wasn’t too worried about the prospect of another one and so, fairly quickly, booked in with my GP Practice. On the day of my test, although feeling a little apprehensive about something new and different, I went in to see the nurse on my own, as I have done with many tests before. She asked me all the usual questions and told me how the test would be carried out, and then asked me to lay on the bed so she could proceed with the test. And this is where things started to go wrong. I found the test incredibly painful – so much so that I was in tears because of it. It didn’t help that the nurse I saw didn’t seem to be particularly gentle or sympathetic, and made comments about how difficult I was making it. After what felt like ages she finally managed to get the sample and I left feeling completely traumatised. 

Thankfully the result came back negative, so I tried to just forget about my experience for the next three years. But when my next invitation letter came three years later, the panic set in. I just couldn’t face going through that experience again. In the end, I went to talk to my GP about it. She told me that it was my choice whether I went to have the cervical screening done and that I didn’t have to get it done if I didn’t want to. But the problem was, I did want to – I knew how important the test was and I wanted to make sure I was doing everything I could to keep myself as healthy as possible. We talked about it quite a lot and in the end, decided that I would give it a try and if things really didn’t work, then we could talk again. She did also recommend asking the nurse to use a smaller speculum. 

And so, with a lot of apprehension, I booked in for my second cervical screening test. This time round, I decided to take my Mum into the test with me for some moral support. Pretty much as soon as I entered the room though, the nurse asked me why I’d brought my Mum in. I explained that I had found the test traumatic last time and for a couple of other reasons as well, I just needed someone I trusted with me. The nurse then told me that it was very strange that I would bring someone in with me and that she’d never seen anyone else need to do that before. My Mum was told to wait in the room next door while I had the test, so I was effectively on my own. So before we’d even started the test, I was feeling humiliated and upset for being what I now felt was strange. And the test didn’t go much better. We had the same problems with excruciating pain and the nurse not being particularly gentle while she tried to find my cervix. She kept telling me that my cervix was in a funny place and that I shouldn’t be in so much pain. Despite all this, somehow, she managed to take a sample and I left. 

I remember leaving the Doctors Surgery and bursting into tears – I felt like there must be something really wrong with me. Everyone else I had spoken to or heard talk about having a smear test said it was, at worst, a bit uncomfortable, but was over in a couple of minutes. So why wasn’t it like that for me? Ever since then, I have felt embarrassed about the whole process and the fact I couldn’t do what every other women could apparently do. 

Then a few months ago, I received my next invitation letter and my anxiety hit the roof again. This time, I really was tempted to just not go because after two horrible experiences and some other life events that have happened, it felt like burying my head in the sand was the easiest thing to do. Problem was, I had been getting some bleeding in between my periods and knew that, if I went to see my GP about it, the first thing she would say is that I needed a smear test. Plus, the bleeding was also giving me massive anxiety because I had no idea what was causing it. So I could either ignore my letter and continue to worry about the bleeding, or book an appointment and worry about the test instead. I went for the second option.

Out of all the medical tests I’ve had (and some have been pretty horrible) I think this was the one I felt most anxious about. In the weeks leading up to my appointment I was getting panic attacks, not sleeping properly, nightmares and generally just felt awful. The day came and this time my appointment was with a new nurse I had never seen before. I decided to go in on my own and I’m pretty sure as soon as I sat down the nurse could tell how anxious I was! She talked to me for quite a while, going through the normal questions and asking about previous tests. I tried to explain to her about the problems I had had with my previous tests and how worried I was about being there. I also spoke about my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and how it can make it more painful to lie in the correct position. She was very sympathetic, listened to me and I didn’t feel judged at all, which started to put me at ease. As I lay on the bed, she explained exactly what she would be doing and showed me the instruments she would be using. She had got out a smaller speculum at my request and showed me exactly how it worked. Then she told me she would talk me through everything she was going to do and that if, at any time, I was finding it too difficult, I could ask her to stop.

The first time she tried I think I nearly shot through the roof because of the pain it caused, but true to her word, she immediately stopped and gave me some time to just breathe, move around and relax. When I was ready, she tried again, and this time, although it was uncomfortable, I wouldn’t say it was painful. I tried to focus on my breathing to keep myself calm, but after a while, the nurse told me that she was unable to find my cervix and would need to try again. My heart sank. But the nurse was lovely about it. She told me to make my hands into fists and then place them under my bottom, as this would help to tilt my cervix into a better position. She then tried again, and in a couple of minutes the test was complete. I think I nearly cried with relief this time rather than from pain or embarrassment. 

After I’d got dressed, I sat down with the nurse again, and she told me that I have a tilted cervix, which is what makes it harder to find. She reassured me that a lot of women have it, so it’s nothing strange or abnormal about me. She also told me that I have something called a cervical ectropion, which is very common among women who are on the pill, and could well be causing some of the pain and bleeding. I honestly just wanted to cry – finally someone was explaining to me why I might find having a smear test more difficult than some. This time, I left my appointment feeling relieved and empowered, all because I had a supportive nurse that really listened to my needs and worries.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still pretty anxious about having to have my next cervical screening in three years time because I know that it is still likely to cause me pain. And being disabled just adds to the issues by making it more difficult to access. But I guess I wanted to tell my story because it shows just how important it is to find a medical professional that you can really talk to about your worries when it comes to your smear test. There are so many different things that can be put in place to make the experience more manageable for you – that could be using a different sized speculum, having a friend/relative come with you (which, by the way, is completely normal and lots of people do it!), making adjustments for a disability or even going to a specialist hospital clinic for people who find smear tests particularly difficult.

So whether it’s your first smear and you’re scared of the instruments they use, whether you need to wear fancy underwear or if they will judge you for how you look down there. Or if it’s your third, fourth, fifth plus test and you’ve had experiences in the past that might make the whole process more difficult for you. My biggest piece of advice is to just talk to someone. Whether that’s your Mum, sister, friend, GP, the nurse or even a charity like Jo’s Trust (0808 802 8000). If something is worrying you about your smear test – anything at all – please talk to someone. I promise you’re not alone in finding it difficult. And the more we speak about our own experiences, the more people will realise that every smear test is different and that it’s OK if yours isn’t a straightforward process. 

Have you found having a smear test difficult? What advice would you give to others in a similar position? 

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Empties - August 2019

Back in March I published my first ‘Empties’ post, where I spoke about some of the products I had used up. I really like hearing what bloggers thought about products they have completely finished, as it’s good to know they’ve given something a really good try, so I thought I would make it a regular series (well, as regularly as I can use things up anyway!) I’ll still be writing about some of my first impressions of products too, but I think talking about a product you’ve used over a longer period of time means you can really work out whether you liked it or not. It’s taken me a few months to build up another collection of empty products, but I now finally have a decent amount to talk to you about. So, here are some of the products I finished up in August!

My first empty for today is one that I’m pretty gutted about to be honest, as they no longer sell it – the Dream Time Temple Balm from Lush. I received this quite a few years ago now, but you need so little with each application that it lasted forever! The product is basically like a hard lip balm, but rather than putting this on your lips, you can rub it into your temples or other pressure points like your wrists. It is scented with lavender and chamomile, to help the user have a deep and restful sleep.

I got into a routine of applying this every night before I went to bed, and although I’ve found a different sleep balm to use now, I’m really missing this one! I often struggle with anxiety, especially at night – my brain just likes to run away with itself when the world goes quiet. But having the scent of this lingering on my skin was often enough to help me to do some controlled breathing and start to relax, so I could drift off to sleep. If you’re looking for a range of products with a similar scent, I would recommend checking out the Sleepy products, although unfortunately they don’t do a sleep balm any more.

Next up is the Dr. PAWPAW Original Balm, which I think I received in one of my beauty subscription boxes when I was still getting them. It is marketed as ‘the original balm you can’t live without!’ although, before finding it in my box, I had been living without it, as I’d never got round to trying it! It is made in the UK from a variety of natural ingredients including paw paw (not entirely sure what that is!) When these ingredients are blended together, they create a multi-purpose formula that can be used for a whole handful of things including as a skin protector, moisturiser, nappy cream and lip finisher. It also has healing properties and can be used on sunburn, skin irritations and as a hair conditioning treatment. 

I can’t claim to have used it for all of these things, but for those that I did use it for, I found it pretty magic! For example, back when the weather was colder, the inside of my nose became really sore. So I started putting a little bit of this on the sore places at night, and within a few days my nose had begun to heal! I also used it on my dry, cracked lips, and again, within a few days they were feeling so much better. I can’t believe after all the hype I’d heard, that I hadn’t got around to trying this out for so long. I really need to buy myself another tube now that this one is empty.

My next empty product was actually a free sample that my Mum received when she bought a standard sized item as a gift – the Molton Brown Ylang Ylang Body Lotion. This lotion is a relaxing blend of ylang-ylang, cardamon and sweet vanilla, and normally comes in a 300ml bottle with a pump. It’s not the type of fragrance I would ordinarily gravitate towards, which is why I love a good free sample, as it allows me to try things I wouldn’t normally go for. I actually liked the scent a lot more than I thought I would and with it being a higher-end product, the scent lingers long after you’ve applied the lotion. It’s a lovely thick product, but absorbs well and doesn’t leave you feeling greasy, which is always a bonus! If I were to buy a standard sized bottle, I’m not sure if it would be the first scent I would choose, but after trying the sample I definitely wouldn’t discount it as I used to.

Whenever I think of ESPA, I always think of luxury spa treatments and beautifully indulgent products. And the ESPA Optimal Skin ProCleanser certainly didn’t disappoint. This is a 3-in-1 skincare essential – an effective gel cleanser, exfoliator and mask that will help to nourish and visibly brighten the complexion. Moringa Seed Extract cleanses and removes all traces of make-up while gentle Jojoba Spheres buff away dull cells, revealing a radiant, youthful glow. 

I absolutely loved using this skincare product and always felt like I was giving my skin a bit of an extra treat. I particularly love the little Jojoba Spheres, which melt away as you massage the product into your skin. Because of these spheres, I would have to spend a little bit longer rubbing the product into my face, and it was nice to just take that little bit more time over my skincare routine sometimes. The full-size product is quite pricey, but if I were treating myself or asking for a gift, I would definitely go for this product again.

Another brand that automatically makes me think of luxury is Aromatherapy Associates, and I was lucky enough to try a sample size of their Hydrating Renewing Rose Cleanser recently. This is a rick and velvety cleanser, which is ultra-gentle yet really effective. Infused with an essential oil blend of radiance-boosting finest Damask Rose and complexion-balancing Geranium, it brightens and hydrates. Alongside that, silky Jojoba oil melts away impurities and make-up to leave skin dewy, freshened and petal-soft.

This was another product that I absolutely loved using as part of my skincare routine – I only wish it hadn’t been so small and run out so quickly! Rose is one of my favourite scents and always makes me feel quite nostalgic, reminding me of the Turkish Delight that my Grandad used to love. So I’m always excited to try any product scented with it. This felt comforting and gentle to use on my face, and left my skin feeling nourished and glowing without being too drying. 

Since my hairdresser started using hair oils on my hair, I have got quite into trying out different types and different brands. I recently finished using this Pantene Smooth & Sleek Dry Argan Oil, which is actually recommended for dry hair (although I wouldn’t necessarily say that mine is particularly dry). It helps to make the difference between straggly, dry ends and a luxurious glossy mane, and even with my fairly ‘normal’ hair, it left it feeling shiny and hydrated. The blend of Moroccan Argan oil and lightweight Pro-V complex ensures you get the benefits of Morocco’s famed beauty elixir, without the greasiness associated with the 100% pure oil. 

Proven to add moisture for 24 hours, the Argan Dry Oil is the ideal treat for thirsty strands and is particularly good for fine hair.  I have very fine hair, and find it can be really difficult to find an oil that doesn’t weigh my hair down. But thankfully, this one didn’t leave my hair feeling heavy or greasy. Plus the bottle lasts ages, as you don’t need a lot per use.

Unfortunately, there are always going to be products that I don’t get on so well with, and this time round one of those was the Garnier Pure Active Sensitive Anti Blemish Clarifying Tonic. I’m a huge fan of the Garnier Micellar Water, so when I saw this I thought I would give it a try. It is meant to help tighten pores and soothe skin. With Witch Hazel extract, it is formulated for sensitive skin with imperfections and combines effectiveness with a gentle, hydrating formula. It is also hypoallergenic and ph neutral for optimal tolerance.

I will say that it felt quite cooling and soothing when I applied it to my skin, but I really just wasn’t that keen on the gel-like formula. I found it quite messy, as it would drip off my cotton pad and be difficult to apply if I put even a little too much on. I don’t by any means think it’s a bad product, and like I said, I love a lot of other Garnier items, but I just don’t think this particular formulation was for me. I think I’ll probably stick to liquid toners in future.

This next product is one of my all-time favourites, and I’ve lost count of how many bottles of the Simple Kind To Eyes Make-up Remover I’ve bought now! It cleanses effectively yet is gentle around the delicate eye area. It is also an oil-free formulation and even removes waterproof mascara, as well as soothing the area around the eyes. This contains no artificial perfume or colour and no harsh chemicals that can upset sensitive skin. It is also dermatologically tested and approved.

As I said, I’ve been buying this for quite a while now – I’ve tried other eye make-up removers, but this is the only one I’ve tried so far that doesn’t irritate my eyes. I’ve used some that have literally had me crying in pain, despite saying they’re sensitive, while others haven’t particularly hurt, but they also haven’t removed my make-up. Whereas this one ticks both boxes for me – it doesn’t hurt my eyes and it removes my make-up really well. Plus, it is really inexpensive – what’s not to like?!

I’m pretty sure this next item came in some sort of Christmas gift set or something, so I’m struggling to find a link to the Baylis & Harding Wild Rose & Raspberry Leaf Hand & Body Lotion unfortunately. It has a lovely soft floral scent, which is perfect for a hand lotion that you don’t necessarily want to linger too long. The actual product is quite a thin lotion, a bit more on the watery side, rather than being very thick. However, this didn’t stop it from moisturising my hands well, especially over the summer months. I’m not sure how effective it would be during the colder wintertime, as I’m not sure it would be thick enough, but certainly for everyday moisturising when the weather is good, it definitely did the job.

The Aussie Deep Treatment 3 Minute Miracle Shine is another product that I continue to re-buy. This treatment deeply nourishes and revives tired locks into full beam shine in just 3 minutes. It gives dull hair a shine super boost adding gloss to every strand, with Australian Ginseng extract and Pearl powder. The Aussie products always smell absolutely delicious, and this one is no exception! I would definitely say my hair routinely looks tired and dull, but one use of this just peps it back up again and leaves it feeling hydrated and happy. I keep meaning to try some of the other Aussie products when I get the chance – if they’re as good as this one then I can’t see my bank balance being very happy!

I wasn’t quite sure whether to include the Colgate Plax Gentle Care Extra Mild Mouthwash, as it’s a bit different to hair and skincare products. But I use it so much I thought I might as well add it in, in case you’re looking for a new mouthwash to try! This alcohol-free mild formula has been specially developed for people with sensitive teeth and gums. It’s clinically proven to provide 24/7 bad breath control and fight over 99% of bacteria, leaving your mouth feeling fresh and healthy. 

I use this in the morning and the evening, as the instructions suggest, and like it so much that I’ve continued to buy it for at least a year now. I’m not a big fan of alcohol in mouthwash, as I tend to find it too strong and it leaves my mouth with a funny taste. So when I found this Colgate one without alcohol, I thought I would try it out. It feels gentle on my mouth, which for someone with sensitive teeth and gums is always good. And it never leaves me with a funny after-taste, but instead makes my mouth feel fresh and clean. Plus it’s pink (although of course, that’s not what initially drew me to it!)

I’m pretty terrible when it comes to moisturising my body, so I try and improve my chances of doing it by finding products that smell and feel nice on my skin. The Garnier Body Tonic Hydrating Lotion is enriched with Phyto-caffeine and seaweed extract, for skin that feels firmer and more toned. It has an ultra-fresh and hydrating formula, and promises smoother skin from just 7 days. I really love the smell of this lotion – it’s fresh and uplifting and always lifts my mood when I use it. The lotion isn’t particularly thick, which means it absorbs relatively quickly, so no sticky skin for ages afterwards. With regular use, I definitely started to see a change in the appearance of my skin, with it becoming smoother and firmer. 

I hadn’t used Herbal Essences for years before I decided to try this Herbal Essences Bio:Renew Shampoo in Grapefruit and Mint. It is crafted with a blend of essential antioxidants, aloe and sea kelp, as well as having 0% parabens, silicones, gluten and colourants. It promises to help bring your hair back to life, and this particular fragrance also helps to boost hair volume (which, as someone with ridiculously fine, flat hair, I am always looking for!) It smells incredible, as does most of the Herbal Essences range, and left my hair feeling bouncy and soft. It was nice to find a shampoo that doesn’t weigh my hair down, so I will definitely be trying some other products from the range to see what they can do for my hair. 

The last product that I’ve finished up recently is the Vo5 Nourish My Shine Oil Heat Protect Spray. Vo5 believe that hair shouldn’t be dull, life shouldn’t be boring and that you should never restrict your self-expression. They recommend using Vo5 spray for a silky smooth and shiny finish to your hair. It also features heat defence to help protect against damage caused by heat styling tools. I use this on wet hair before I start to blow-dry it by spritzing a few sprays across my hair both underneath and on top. It’s difficult to tell if a heat protection spray is working, but I definitely notice my hair feeling more dry when I don’t use this. I also think it helps my hair to look more glossy and healthy after every wash, and I like the thought that my hair is being protected from the heat of my hairdryer. 

And that brings me to the end of another selection of empty products that I’ve finished using recently. I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about some of the things I’ve been using recently and find my reviews helpful if you’re looking to buy some new products yourself. I would be really interested to hear if you’ve tried any of these things and what you thought of them! Or, if you have any recommendations for things I might like to try based on what I’ve spoken about today.

What do you think of the products I’ve reviewed in today’s post? Are there any products you’ve been enjoying recently that you think I should try?