Normally this brand would have been beyond my budget, however I received a couple of 10ml tubes of this hand cream to sample. Apparently it’s one of their best sellers, despite the price tag of £19 for 150ml (£8 for 30ml).


Aqua/Water, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Glycerin, Dimethicone, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed) Seed Extract, Mel Extract/Honey Extract, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Fruit Extract, Althaea Officinalis Root Extract, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Brassica Campestris (Rapeseed) Sterols, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Xanthan Gum, Parfum/Fragrance, Polyacrylamide, Peg,100 Stearate, Propylene Glycol, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Ceteareth-33, Alcohol Denat, Laureth-7, Benzoic Acid, Dehydroacetic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Benzyl Alcohol, Benzyl Benzoate, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Linalool, Citronellol, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Coumarin, Alpha, Isomethyl Ionone, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene, Geraniol.



    • Cost – to me, £19 for 150ml is quite expensive. Perhaps this could be justified if it did an exceptional job, but I find that cheaper brands of hand cream seem to work just as well for me.
    • I find the smell off-putting. I find it hard to describe – it’s quite a strong, sharp smell. It can’t be the Shea butter (which apparently either has a nutty smell or no smell depending on whether it’s refined) so perhaps it’s the added fragrance in the ingredients list.

Personally I wouldn’t be willing to spend £19 on a tube. Perhaps it would work more for me if my hands were in a more desperate situation, but personally I don’t find it to be worth it.

Also, even if price were not a problem I would prefer not to use it due to the smell, unless I had really dry hands. However, a brief Google search seems to indicate that most people don’t have a problem with the smell (although there is at least one other person who does) so it’s probably down to individual preference.

From my own point of view, I give this a rating of 3/5.


When I purchased a tube of BB cream from South Korea about 2 years ago, I received a few free samples alongside my order. One of the samples was for Tony Moly’s I’m Real Avocado Rich Cream. Being slightly prone to acne, I was put off by the description of “rich” and consigned the sample to one of my drawers.

Unfortunately, this year I seem to be plagued by dry, sensitive skin. Perhaps it’s my chronic sun cream use (see Colin’s Beauty Pages – section on potential disruption of the outer layer of the skin) or perhaps age is catching up with me. Just in case you were wondering – I am sure it was not related to the BB cream since I finished the tube a long time ago or any other new facial skin care products, as I had not had a change of regime for about a year.

I finally decided to give the sample a try – see below for my thoughts. I went on to purchase a jar at US$12.36/£8.24 for 90ml (price in May 2015 including delivery, from Beauty Net Korea), so my experience is based on about 4 weeks’ use of the cream.


  • I like the texture – doesn’t feel too thick or rich
  • I like the scent – I suppose I’d describe it as fresh and fruity. It doesn’t actually smell like avocado (which is fine by me).
  • It seemed to moisturise and calm down my dry patches.
  • It did not result in any breakouts or irritate any facial rash.
  • Reasonably affordable.
  • According to Momomango and Urban Outfitters, Tony Moly do not test on animals.


  • It might not be rich enough for those with truly dry skin.

In conclusion, I’d recommend this cream to those with normal or slightly dry skin. I am happy that it did not cause any adverse reactions, however if you have sensitive skin I would recommend that you purchase a sample first to test.

From my own point of view, I give this cream a rating of 5/5.

I realise that the timing of this post is a bit late with regards to summer, however I imagine that sun cream is still useful on sunny winter days (and if anybody is lucky enough, upcoming winter sports holidays) so here goes.

More recently, I have found that my facial skin is drier than it used to be. This has not always been the case – so I have been wondering if I have finally started to feel the effects of aging on my face and/or if this might be due to my use of chemical sun cream over the past few years. On Colin’s Beauty Pages, it was hypothesised that chemical sun cream might disrupt the barrier function of the outer layer of the skin (see link). I read his blog post prior to deciding to use sun cream on my face on most days, but given that it is far easier to buy chemical sunscreen I decided to do so anyway. More recently I decided that I would like to try out physical sun cream, but the challenge was to find one that I would like, wasn’t too expensive and preferably wasn’t tested on animals.

This review is for Aubrey Natural Sun Green Tea SPF30 sunscreen, which uses 12% zinc oxide and 5.6% titanium dioxide to provide UVA/UVB protection. As of October 2015, it costs £12.98 for 118ml and the ingredients are listed as follows:

Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 12%, Titanium Dioxide 5.6%,
Inactive Ingredients: Purified Water, Simmondsia Chinensis Oil*, Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil*, Galactoarabinan, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Stearic Acid, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Butyrospermum Parkii Butter*, Camellia Sinensis Seed Oil*, Brassica Campestris / Aleurites Fordi Oil Copolymer, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice*, Glycerin, Epilobium Angustifolium Flower / Leaf / Stem Extract, Glyceryl Caprylate, Glyceryl Undecylenate, Leuconostoc / Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Lonicera Japonica Flower Extract, Lonicera Caprifolium Flower Extract, Populus Tremuloides Bark Extract, Gluonolactone, Tocopherol, Citric Acid, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Powder*, Xanthan Gum, Tanacetum Annuum Oil.



  • Didn’t give me breakouts – great!
  • Rubs in reasonably well
  • It bears the EU “UVA” logo, so the UVA protection is at least a 1/3 of the given SPF
  • Unobtrusive smell – although it has a faint scent which reminds me of green tea powder. Strangely enough, I have tried their Natural Sun Unscented SPF 30 sunscreen and find that the smell is comparable, so I don’t think it’s the green tea in it which gives it the scent…
  • It has an expiry date on it – something which is surprisingly lacking on most sunscreens. I know that most sunscreens are supposed to last for 2-3 years if not opened and stored properly, but still it’s reassurance of some sort.
  • Water resistant for 40 minutes.
  • According to their website (accessed 25/06/2015), “our testing has shown that the average particle of micronized titanium dioxide in Aubrey sunscreens has an average size of 202 nm, or twice the largest size considered a nanoparticle, while the average zinc oxide particle is more than 1,000 nm, or ten times the size of a nanoparticle.” This is good if you are worried about the potential effect of nanoparticles penetrating the skin.
  • Biodegradable and Reef-safe – should you happen to go swimming in the sea with your sunscreen, you can be happy in the knowledge that you are not contributing to chemical damage of coral reefs.


  • It does leave a slight whitish cast. I find that it blends in quite well on my skin, however am not sure how it would blend on darker skin tones (e.g. black or south Asian). I have the impression that repeated application throughout the day reinforces the whitish cast.
  • The UVA protection could be better – it is less than equivalent to SPF15 as it bears the FDA warning for products that are broad spectrum with SPF values from 2-14. (See this FDA’s Final Regulations section via this link: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm258416.htm). As it does bear the EU UVA logo, the UVA protection level must be at least 1/3 of the SPF so it probably offers a UVA equivalent of SPF10-14.
  • Repeated application – say, about more than 2 times – results in a sticky feeling. That having been said, this is meant to be water resistant for 40 minutes.
  • It is recommended that this sunscreen is used up in 6 months of opening. This is less compared to chemical sunscreens I have used (12-18 months).
  • You need to remember to shake the tube before use. When I first opened the seal on 1 tube I purchased, the cream seemed to have separated by a fair amount. According to the Aubrey Organics website, they don’t use “synthetic emulsifiers to bind the oil and water phases of our products” and “this does not mean the product is spoiled, nor does separation lessen the product’s effectiveness”. I presume that suitable natural emulsifiers don’t exist?
  • For this particular tube, I had to take off the top, squeeze it a bit to let out the air and then massage the contents a bit to mix it up again. I think that the fact that this was a new tube (possibly lying untouched in a warehouse for some time) might have contributed to settling and separation. After having used the tube for about a week or so, the contents seemed to be reasonably well mixed and I have no problems with separation.

I would buy this sun cream again as I’m glad to have found a mineral sun cream that’s within my budget and which seems non-comedogenic for my skin. In my opinion, this is a reasonably good choice if you are looking for a purely physical sun cream which is environmentally friendly and free of animal testing.

Given the potential for stickiness, I would recommend this as best as a facial sun cream on days when you are indoors for a significant part of the day, i.e. if you don’t plan to apply it too many times throughout the day. Otherwise, this is still reasonably fine on sunny outdoor days when one needs to apply really frequently.

Also, I am not sure if it would blend in well on dark skin – but this is because I do not have naturally dark skin so have not tried it out. Based on my understanding, this is due to the titanium oxide and zinc oxide usually present in (purely) physical sunscreens.

I tried out this moisturiser while on the search for a moisturiser that would help with my slightly dry but acne prone combination skin. I was attracted by the promise of “optimal hydration” for normal to combination sensitive skin, as well as the non-comedogenic properties.

Note that there are 2 versions of this product – one with SPF and one without. The version I tried has SPF20.

For those interested, this is the ingredient list:

Avène thermal spring water (Avène Aqua), ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, octocrylene, bis-etylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine, cyclomethocone, aluminium starch octenylsuccinate, polymethyl methacrylate, potassium cetyl phosphate, benzoic acid, beta-stiosterol BHT, caprylic/capric triglyceride, carbomer, chlorphenesin, disodium EDTA, fragrance (parfum), glycerin, glycine soja (soybean) seed extract (glycine soja seed extract), hydrogenated cocoglycerides, lecithin, PEG-32, PEG-400, phenoxyethanol poloxamer 188, sodium chondroitin sulphate, sodium hydroxide, tocopheryl glucoside, xanthan gum.


  • Light feel – great for oily parts of combination skin.
  • Suitable for sensitive skin (according to the box – didn’t cause any adverse reaction for me)
  • Non-comedogenic
  • SPF20
  • Avène does not test on animals for new raw cosmetic materials and finished products

The cream did not have a particularly pleasant or adverse smell – the smell is reminiscent of sun cream (to me, anyway).


  • Did not seem to help dry areas of my face at all. I think applying the cream was better than applying nothing, still I was a bit disappointed since I hoped this would “hydrate” my skin.
  • Quite expensive – £13.50 for 40ml at Boots (as of May 2015)
  • No mention of UVA protection on the tube, so not  ideal as standalone sun protection.

I think this cream is ideal if you are concerned about acne and want a light, mattifying moisturiser for normal to oily skin. I don’t think it is suitable if you have true combination skin which can be dry or oily in different areas – it didn’t help at all on the drier areas of my face. To be fair, the inner leaflet did state that the “UV textures (of their products) are both lighter than the classic corresponding textures”. However, it would have been more helpful if this statement had actually been on the outside of the box so that I could have found out before buying it! To explore the discrepancy between the description on the box vs. that on the inner leaflet further, the inner leaflet stated that “its airy texture is a real pleasure“, while the box  promised “immediate and intense, long-lasting hydration of the skin”).

Given that it didn’t do that much for me and is quite expensive, personally I wouldn’t buy this moisturiser again . I wish I had been better informed about the true texture/suitability of this product prior to purchasing it.

Based on my personal experience, I give this cream a rating of 2/5.

I don’t see myself as much of a gourmand. I have simple tastes, and easily settle into habits. However, I do enjoy good bread. Unfortunately, I currently reside in a country whereby Chorleywood Process Bread (CPB) accounts for 80% of the bread [1] which is – in my opinion – the antithesis of flavour and texture. In my humble opinion, it is a pity that the majority of the UK population are quite happy to eat “plastic” bread, only good for smothering in sandwich fillings or toasting. It doesn’t even stay fresh for long once it reaches the shops. It only seems fresh as it stays artificially soft – thanks to undeclared processing aids and high speed mixing – hence the widespread usage of mould inhibitors (e.g. proprionates). Still, the stuff goes mouldy rather quickly. No wonder we throw away 32% of the stuff [2].

Meanwhile across the Channel, even basic white bread is good enough to be eaten au naturel; many people routinely nibble at their baguette (de tradition française) on the way home from the bakery. I am sure it is not only because they might be hungry for their breakfast/dinner. When was the last time you saw someone tear open their plastic bag of CPB on the way back from the supermarket to enjoy the taste? I’m not even a fan of baguette – in fact I think it is potentially quite boring, relative to other types of bread widely available throughout France and the rest of continental Europe.

CPB also lacks texture relative to proper bread. Azelia of Azelia’s Kitchen has a web page illustrating the difference in texture between CPB and proper bread, which I recommend. I can verify her findings – I usually avoid CPB as much as possible, but having been forced to buy some when I ran out of homemade bread on holiday, I found that poking a slice of fresh homemade bread results in spring-back, while poking a “store-fresh” slice of CBP with approximately the same force results in a mushed dent in your bread. I don’t like squashed bread so I’ll have the fresh bread please, over CPB.

I am not saying that continental-style bread is superior to British bread. I just think it’s sad that many people in the UK don’t seem to care enough about the taste and texture of their bread. I imagine that prior to rationing and the invention of CPB, British bakers probably had bread to be proud of, too. Whatever happened to coburgs, cob loaves, bloomers, barm cakes, stottie cakes, manchets and Kentish Huffkins, to name but a few? I made a small cottage loaf for fun the other day – a loaf shape as pictured in the evocative painting below titled “Baking Bread” by Helen Allingham (19th century).

My small cottage loaf, 21st century

Unfortunately, I could find little definitive information on the history of this intriguing loaf. Was it made in that shape to resemble a round cottage, or to save oven floor space? Perhaps the extra 1/3 on top was in response to heavy penalties (first set in law in 1298) for selling short-weight bread? [3] Should it be eaten by separating the 2 sections, or by slicing through the entire thing? I wish I had definitive answers. In contrast, you can tell that the French take their bread seriously – they even have a law specifying what can and cannot be put into bread, for it to be called “pain de tradition française”, “pain traditionnel français” or “pain traditionnel de France” (or any other combination of these terms)[4].

CPB is also potentially harder to digest than proper bread. On one of the NHS Live Well webpages on digestive health (last reviewed 24/05/2013), Dr Isabel Skypala (specialist allergy dietitian at the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust) was quoted as saying: “Bakeries in supermarkets use the Chorleywood bread-making process, which cuts out the second rising to speed up the baking. People seem to have more problems digesting supermarket breads, so I’d always recommend avoiding store-bought loaves.”[5]

Given the general lack of availability of proper bread, it is ever so easy and quick to make your own. Very little effort is involved in producing bread – most of the time elapsed involves the dough fermenting, proofing or baking (i.e. sitting around without any effort on your part). I quite often spot bread machines for sale at car boot sales – I obtained mine very cheaply that way. Even if you don’t have a bread machine, kneading only takes about 10 minutes and can be great (even cathartic?) fun, as you feel the dough turn into a lovely smooth mass. Kneading times can be cut down by autolyse – this is letting the flour and water sit around for about 20 minutes after having combined them briefly. Speaking of which, according to Dan Lepard you can even bake a good loaf of bread without any kneading [6]!

I hope that more people will take up bread making as a hobby. It is cheap, easy and ever so rewarding; a delicious loaf can be made with just bog-standard flour, water, salt and yeast (not forgetting an oven, but most people tend to have one). Plus, it means you will be able to eat bread the way it was meant to be.

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-13670278
[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17353707
[4] http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000000727617
[5] http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/digestive-health/Pages/cutting-out-bread.aspx
[6] http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2007/nov/24/foodanddrink.recipes

Looking back at my last sourdough/natural leaven post, I realise that I have made a bit of progress since the days of creating sandwich bread with sourdough taste and texture. Inspired by the likes of Azelia’s Kitchen and Weekend Bakery, I decided to try something different. I made mini-boules with a rustic crumb developed by stretch and fold technique, with greater hydration (i.e. higher proportion of liquid, at about 70%).

I used the exact same flours (1/2 Aldi’s house brand strong wholemeal and 1/2 Allinson strong white) and salt proportion which I used to make my sourdough sandwich bread. So the different results I achieve now are purely down to the different techniques I use, and the use of more liquid.

Stretch and fold involves pulling the dough in one direction at a time and folding it back on itself at various intervals, prior to the final shaping and baking. There is a video illustrating how this is done here. If you like rustic style bread with irregular holes, I recommend stretch and fold.

Also, stretch and fold works well as a gluten development technique in high hydration recipes; wet dough is less easy to knead than firm dough. You can see that it made a reasonable crumb even with my 50:50 mix of strong wholemeal and strong white flour.

By the way, if you like a crisp crust I recommend using steam in the oven. Although I was doubtful that my domestic oven would be able to retain steam, pouring boiling water into a hot metal tray on the bottom shelf of the oven worked really well for me.

The process of baking using natural/wild leaven (or sourdough) has fascinated me for some time. I suppose that there is nothing wrong with commercially cultivated leaven per se; it was just intriguing to imagine that the right strains of bacteria and yeast could be domestically cultivated just using flour and water.

My previous (and only other) attempt to cultivate sourdough failed, due to unwanted mould growth. That time round, I used a BBC recipe involving yoghurt. I later wondered if it had something to do with the yoghurt as in my experience, yoghurt always seems to grow mould eventually if kept too long in the fridge.

Sometime around late April this year, I endeavoured to give my sourdough experiment another go. Having done a bit more reading on the subject by this time, I decided to avoid the addition of raisins, yoghurt or other items purported to host wild yeast and bacteria. This was done based on the hypothesis that the strains on these other food items might not be the types that thrive on cereal grains and as such, might not be optimal for leavening purposes. In the worst case scenario, I thought this might introduce unwanted organisms which would then compete with the desired microorganisms for resources.

So this time round, I used tap water and organic wholemeal flour. (I started off using khorasan as that was the only organic flour I had in the house, but gradually introduced wheat to the extent where the flour is now probably 99% white wheat). I also used a little rhubarb to start, discarding the rhubarb after I saw activity in 2 days. Here it is, bubbling away.

By the end of the 7 days, the starter was reliably doubling in volume during its growth cycle – a sign that I would be ready to bake.

It was all very exciting trying to decide how I would make my bread. I gave up looking at other people’s recipes and decided to design my own, based on all the reading I had done on sourness levels, hydration, etc. I decided to use with a high proportion of starter, as I was mindful that others in the house might not appreciate “sour” bread. And then I finally saw proof (pardon the pun) that I could successfully cultivate leaven at home:

(I have used my starter to make 1/2 white 1/2 wholemeal bread (pictured above) and 100% white, both with success.)

How did my bread compare to home-made bread otherwise made with commercial yeast? Well, for one the crumb is more moist, reminiscent of rye bread but with the lightness of wheat. There was a slight acidity to the bread accompanied by a complexity of flavour.

The taste reminded me of rustic bread (not necessarily rye bread or pain au levain) from continental Europe, primarily France and Germany. I am almost tempted to buy a proving basket and experiment with using part plain flour/higher hydration to emulate continental European bread.

I think I was successful in my attempt to temper the acidity. I had unexpected visitors the next day and the bread was eaten with no complaints by young children and adults alike. That having been said, I noted that the sourness was most obvious when consuming it au naturel (as you can do with good bread) – my visitors had it with margarine, jam etc.

I now look forward to a weekly sourdough bake!