coffee in essa

Easy like a Sunday morning in Essaouira… 

Once in a blue moon, we get an email from someone, asking “What sort of beauty products do you review?”

Answer below (or SKIP THIS and go straight to some of the products that have been impressing us during our Awards judging – find out who’ll win and make the top three in each category on Friday 7 March).

OK so “what brands/products do we review?”

1. Ones that are better than good.  Good is good.  Brilliant is better.

2. Ones worth spending your money on, because we’re 99.9% sure you’ll like or love them, hand on heart. Beauty mistakes can be expensive and our job is to filter the stand-outs for you, honestly and objectively.

3. Ones by big brands, small brands, natural/organic brands and not quite so organic sometimes (especially on the makeup front, as a lot of the natural/organic makeup brands, we feel, still have a way to go in terms of formula, colour palettes, etc.)

On the skincare front, natural and organic brands are among the real winners. Why? Because skin is our largest living, breathing, self-renewing organ. Like us it thrives on oxygen, hydration, nutrients and a pollution-free environment. It doesn’t like, on the other hand, too much sun, smoking, stress, smooth-operating, suffocating silicone, petroleum jelly, hidden allergens, etc. and the only way to know what you’re spending your money on is to read the label on your packaging or your pot. (NOT the main label on the front, although organic certifications such as the Soil Association and Natrue logos help sort the organics from the not so organics but it’s more complicated than that – too much to go into on a Sunday afternoon – maybe for a new post!)

4. We love ethical brands and brands that give back. Life is about spreading the love, not hoarding for ourselves, there’s plenty to go around it all comes back to us.

5. We get excited about the innovative beauty entrepreneurs and “new” floats our boat, too. You’ll see more than a few young, smaller rising star brands on The Beauty Shortlist, well before they make their way into the beauty mags, before their founders even have the budget to take on a PR. (Kudos to the other bloggers who are early adopters too).

Frankly, we don’t need a press release to tell us how good a brand is although we really respect the hard working PRs we work with. We’re gluttons for legwork when it comes to scouting brands ourselves, we do the trying and testing, scrutinizing the labels, slathering ourselves for 7-28 days in body lotions and “better ageing” serums so that you can take our word for it if we say something is good.

It’s worth remembering that for skincare it takes a month to really see results – the 28 day cycle -so we try and test facial products for as long as possible, normally a month at least.

So “yes” to new brands, new breakthroughs, new formulas, new treatments, new skin foods, new anything which is exciting, which works, which makes our lives better.

Now for a quick sneak peek at a few things we’ve been testing and (really) liking…

First up:



swell group

This trio will sort your not-so-thick tresses out – like a blow dry in a top salon in a bottle, Swell is good for your hair. And as a smoother, detangler, glosser and volumiser, this 3-step Advanced Volumising Shampoo + Volumising Conditioner + Volumising Root Nutrient Complex system really works. The Guardian’s Sali Hughes is a Swell fan, too.  Why the rave reviews? Try Swell’s travel friendly £21 TRY-ME KIT.

TOUCHE BY FLAVIEN –  This ultra-nourishing, very luxurious hair care range has really been impressing us this month. The hero ingredient is prickly pear (barbary fig/cactus seed oil) which is on the beauty radar this year for skin and we’ll be seeing it more in hair products, too – you’ll also find Touche By Flavien at Urban Retreat.

Touche by Flavien range

We’ve been loving…Touche by Flavien’s prickly pear-based elixirs for hair

NATURALMENTE – Italian biodynamic hair care range Naturalmente reminds us somewhat of Aveda and it’s fast becoming a green blogger favourite. If your hair loves “gentle” and you love plant-powered hair products, Naturalmente is definitely a brand to try – our favourites are the Rosemary & Lavender Shampoo and the Sandalwood conditioner. Looking forward to trying more of the range this spring – we’ll report back.

naturalmente range

One of our favourite Italian exports at the moment – Naturalmente hair care




Avoid the argan bargains and buy the real thing – your skin, nails and hair will thank you

Wildwood Groves

If you haven’t discovered yet, can we just say their Rose & Frankincense Argan Oil is – for lack of another word – stellar?

This is one of the few argan oil brands we’d buy in a very (VERY) crowded, confusing argan market, and if you love the idea of argan mixed with lavender, blue yarrow, mimosa and other pure essential oils, nobody does it better than Wildwood’s founder Ruth Hajioff.

Side note: Ruth visits Morocco regularly and owns her own argan press (which is important for quality control) and she was selling her products at Borough Market well over a decade before everyone else jumped on the argan bandwagon.  Also worth checking out is her Nectarome range, created by Dr. Jalil Belkamel who has a doctorate in essential oils.  A word of warning: if your argan oil is cheap, it’s most likely been mixed with sunflower, almond or other oils.

One way to spot a “fake, not 100% pure Argan”

Argan is getting mixed with all sorts of things to bring the production price down.  And that doesn’t help the consumer or the Berber women who produce it (it takes forever to make argan oil – the nuts are cracked by hand and inside the kernel is shockingly small – only about the size of a largish pine nut!) One of the ways you can tell if the argan oil you’ve just bought is absolutely pure or not, says Ruth, is by putting your bottle in the fridge.  If it’s mixed with other stuff, the argan will separate and sort of “sit on the top”. 


Moving along to the skincare counter now, these two products could not be more different but we’d rate both as brilliant.


Argentum’s la potion infinie – Not sure what else to say other than this advanced, very different firming skin hydrator has – in 3 words or less – “blown our minds”. This is a need-to-know-about product and we’ll be reviewing this around Awards time, later in March. The website is as magical as a fairytale.  And la potion infinie lit up our January.


What they say: “Comprising of Silver Hydrosol & DNA HP it is a super hydrating, restorative, anti-age cream”

What we say “Agree 100% – review to follow”.  Or maybe we won’t bother because Thom at Manface’s review pretty much says it all – read Thom’s really well-written, insightful, informative review HERE

Bee Yummy Skin Food – Another “so glad we tried this” product, now in the UK at A BEAUTIFUL WORLD, it’s loved by Georgia Jagger and we think you’ll like it a lot (LOT). Why? Because this simple looking pot is packed with live, raw and skin-energising good stuff including bee pollen, royal jelly, propolis,  St. John’s Wort and fir needle extract for Vitamin C – see what Laura at FabTips says about it HERE


Hot on the heels of the raw food movement, the raw beauty revolution is one of the trends to watch this year and Bee Yummy is a perfect example of the power of raw.

Join the Raw Revolution at A Beautiful World (also check out The Body Deli – review coming soon!)


This year, 55% more brands entered our Awards than last year and the pile of products to get through is the size of a small mountain (huge thank you to our PR agency @AmazingPRLtd for all your help this year, and to our 5 judges and the other testers, too,  there is no way we could do this without you, can we book you all in for 2015!?) 

Coming soon: We speak to Liz Earle about her latest venture in our ongoing series about beauty entrepreneurs, “Women We Love” (not just women, we’ve got two men lined up, too!)

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