The Secret Beauty Value of Olive Oil (as Known by Italian Women)

Pssst! Did you know that a potent beauty product may well be lurking in the back of one of your kitchen cupboards? The title of this blog post admittedly contained a spoiler but read on to discover the multitude of beauty benefits that olive oil has to offer…

Olive oil is renowned for its health benefits and forms a central part to the much proclaimed Mediterranean diet- I saw that for myself when I spent time living in Italy.  However, less well known is that olive oil is regarded as a key component of the beauty regimes of many Italian women.

Modern science has revealed the plethora of antioxidants within olive oil that nourish the skin and help retain its natural softness. The most potent ingredient in olive oil is Hydroxytyrsol. This super antioxidant and anti-inflammatory is rare and has been found to be effective even in small concentrations in benefitting general health and appearance.

If it’s Good Enough For Sophia Loren…

Legendary actress Sophia Loren has long vocalised her penchant for olive oil, apparently including two tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) in her daily diet but in addition to this she rubs a small amount into her skin as a moisturiser.

There is no need to shell out for overpriced beauty brands of olive oil- ordinary supermarket bottles do just fine. It is best to select one labelled as ‘extra virgin’ as the quality will be it’s highest.

EVOO Baths

Apparently Sophia Loren adds a couple of capfuls into a hot bath to nourish her skin. If it is good enough for her, it is good enough for me and after trying it I am a convert. I often run a bath with a sock full of oats hanging underneath the tap to make the water luxuriously milky, then add a dessertspoonful (which is more than sufficient) of olive oil. Contrary to what you might expect, the oil does not rise to the surface and float on the water, but is easily absorbed due to the pores opening up as a reaction to the hot bathwater.

Oil Massages

Oil massages have been practised by ancient civilisations such as the Romans and remain popular today. Olive oil is absorbed relatively quickly and it is thought that the oil may be absorbed into the bones thus helping to strengthen them. Much is known about the hazards of brittle bones in old age leading to osteoporosis, and this possible preventative measure is one worth taking. Applying EVOO to your skin, whether through massage or rubbing it in yourself in place of a body lotion, means that your skin enjoys the same anti-inflammatory effects as ibuprofen. You may notice a reduction in the redness and prominence of rosacea and acne, stretch marks and other skin conditions. It is also thought that the presence of the powerful antioxidants helps reduce the risks of melanoma (skin cancer).

For all but the driest skin types, it is usually best to emulsify the oil with water- adding the two ingredients to a spray bottle and shaking well before spraying to apply directly to the skin works perfectly. The oilier the skin, the greater the concentration of water should be. Adding a squirt of your favourite perfume or essential oil is highly recommended.

Olive Oil Exfoliating Scrub

Mix a couple of capfuls of olive oil with a fistful of sugar to exfoliate your body and slough away dead skin cells to reveal a smoother skin surface below. Wash away thoroughly with your usual shower gel.

Face Mask

Suitable for almost all skin types, use olive oil to make a nourishing face mask.

For oily skin, create an emulsion from equal parts of olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

For dry skin, combine olive oil, runny honey and possibly egg yolk as an optional extra.

Leave the mask to work its magic for ten minutes, then rinse well with cleanser and a flannel.

Strong Nail Treatment:

To strengthen your nails, add a drop or two of your favourite essential oil to a capful of EVOO. Massage well into clean nails and the cuticles.

Hair Conditioning Treatments

It was my Italian female friends who introduced me to olive oil hair treatments when they raved about how well they worked on their own tresses. They all had enviably radiant heads of hair so I duly purchased my first ever bottle of EVOO and, following their advice, combed it through the ends of my hair and left to work its magic for a few hours under a towel. I was certainly pleased with the results and would recommend the same procedure to anyone with medium to long hair. Adding a couple of drops of an essential oil of your choice makes the experience more fragrantly pleasurable- I love peppermint or rose.

Afterwards, shampoo and condition your hair as normal and you will notice how well nourished your hair will both look and feel. You can even contain your oiled hair within a shower cap and sleep on it to enable the oil to penetrate deeply while you sleep for the maximum benefit. A word of advice- unless your hair is very dry at the roots, it is best to avoid applying the oil to the first few inches of your hair as the roots naturally contain their own oils and the excess olive oil may prove difficult to remove and the oil slick look is not a very becoming one!

If you prefer a variation on the olive oil treatment with the addition of extra ingredients, try adding one or several of the following to two tablespoons of olive oil: 2 egg yolks, 2 tablespoons of honey.

Have you tried using olive oil in any beauty treatments before? Are there any here that you plan to give a try? I would love to hear about it so please do leave an answer as a  comment.

P.S.- I have recently read a fantastic Kindle book by Jane Beckenham called ‘The Art Of Making A Home You Love’. I actually know Jane through a writer’s course we both took part in and for a while now I have enjoyed reading her regular blog posts. No surprise then that her book is similarly engaging.

I would heartily recommend it to any of you who have an interest in making your home the best it can be. Thanks to Jane’s inspiring and positive approach, I’m already feeling spurred into action into making low-cost, practical changes.

COVER Jane's book FACEBOOK SIZE

Here is the blurb for Jane’s book:

Are you living in CHAOS?

Are you frustrated your home isn’t your sanctuary?

Do you want a calm environment, one that you love, but unsure how to create it?

The Art of Making a Home You Love is a workbook that will guide you (gently) to creating your vision, planning it, and putting it into action.  It’s not about tossing everything out or buying you, but it is about decision making and analysing what you really want so that you can create a Home You Love, one that is your sanctuary and nurtures all who live there.

Here is the Amazon link to check it out – you can use the look inside feature and read the first few pages.

6 Tips For How to Stay Feeling Chic During the Summer

During the last month we have experienced a heatwave here in the UK, even though it’s technically still Spring. In many ways I adore the warmer months of the year and feel more alive during them- the longer, lighter days feel full of promise and offer more opportunity to get out and enjoy life than the winter months. The warmer weather is all the more welcome given the protracted winter we experienced this year, too.

However, I have found in recent years that the heat tends to make me feel a little… well, hot and bothered at times. I suspect this feeling also boils down to having three small people to run around after, too!

No doubt other women feel a similar way so I’ve compiled a few tips to help stay feeling fresh and chic during the summer months.

1. Suncream

Yes, I know this one is so obvious it shouldn’t even need a mention. Yet I have to confess that there have been occasions when I have forgotten to apply suncream to myself, even though (or perhaps because) I am a stickler for ensuring my kids are always slathered in the stuff. My awkward skin type of oily yet sensitive makes finding a suncream that neither breaks me out in spots nor flares up redness something of a challenge. My best solution so far is Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid, which I buy from Amazon. It comes available in several different SPFs, from SPF30 to SPF110 (nope, that’s not a typo).

photo of woman in a sunflower field
Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com

2. Style a Hat

Hats offer unbeatable protection from the sun, and anyone who has suffered the horrors of heatstroke will agree that it is worth wearing one to protect your head from the powerful rays beaming onto your head if you are going to be out there for hours at a time. There are many choices of style available which will vary somewhat according to what is in fashion on a given year, but classic straw or fedora and raffia hats come in a range of colours with a huge range of ribbons and trims available.

3. Banish Thigh Chafing

Ugh, what could be more irksome than chafing thighs? There are plenty of expensive products out there offering to solve the problem, but I find that a small amount of coconut oil applied to the problem area of both inner thighs works perfectly. If you do a lot of walking then you may need to re-apply it halfway through the day but that’s all.

The other option is to wear very short shorts underneath your dress or skirt. You could keep any laddered tights from the winter and snip the lengths of them off from mid-thigh, as this also prevents the friction.

4. Painted Toenails

Ok, ok, so this one doesn’t exactly offer any type of bodily protection from the heat but it will give you a boost each time you look down and catch a glimpse of your perfectly painted toes. There seems little point in bothering to paint toenails in the winter but when they are on show so much in summer they always addd a touch of glam, especially in a bold, bright colour and matched with your fingernails.

woman wearing yellow spaghetti strap top and round sunglasses
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

5. Sunglasses

Sunglasses get donned by the Italians at the merest hint of sunshine, any month of the year, as I couldn’t fail to notice when I lived there. The general rule seems to be: the bigger, the better. As well as providing crucial protection for your eyes from the potentially damaging rays of the sun, sunglasses up-cool any outfit so are a must have accessory.

6. Matt Face Powder

No matter how well you apply your makeup in the morning, a high temperature can have it all slipping and sliding off your face in no time at all and leaving it shiny. This is not a look most of us aspire to, so setting your morning makeup with pressed or loose powder can help make it last a little longer and re-applying the powder a couple of times a day is a must. I like to start with a mineral powder foundation in the morning such as Lily Lolo’s.

I hope you found these tips useful and would love to hear any of your own. How do you stay feeling cool and chic during the warmest part of the year? Please do answer with a comment below 🙂

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How to spend less on your food or grocery shopping

How to Spend less on your Food or Grocery Shopping

Just a few years ago, our grocery bill used to be below the average spend for a family of our size. Gradually though, our grocery spends have crept up frighteningly fast.

Ok, some of the increase can be attributed to to the increase in the number of people we have in our household and the corresponding spends on nappies, fruit, snacks etc. But if I’m honest, we have become a bit lazy and allowed convenience foods to sneak into the trolley far more than they ever used to and those convenience foods obviously cost more. We don’t buy a ridiculous number of takeaways, but even these have been happening more frequently than they used to.

There’s no excuse for this really, other than perhaps for a few months when our youngest was a newborn and I was recovering from surgery. Bad habits snuck in and products that we bought as a one-off due to a promotional price became regular purchases at the standard price.

Anyway, it’s time to rectify the situation. Here are the steps I intend to follow:

Carry out a stock take 

Our freezer is pretty full right now. I need to grab a pen and paper and jot down everything contained within the drawers of it. There is quite a bit of meat and fish I suspect, plus some Quorn (a meat substitute that is vegetarian but we like despite being omnivores ourselves).

Our cupboards also contain a fair amount of canned vegetables, beans, packets of couscous and rice.

Meal plan

I need to sit down and plan which meals can be put together from the freezer and cupboard ingredients. To be honest, I suspect there are quite a few! Hopefully this will have a positive effect on our grocery bill for the next month as we eat out of the freezer and cupboards so buy less new stuff.

Although I usually meal plan a whole week, the dinners for different days often get switched around depending on what we feel like eating or if unexpected events crop up.

Use the slow cooker (AKA crockpots)

I have been a fan of slow cookers ever since buying our first one in 2004, the year that I first moved in with my now-husband. They are wonderful for several reasons.

Firstly, you can bung in all your ingredients first thing in the morning, or even the night before if you like (just refrigerate the ceramic pot overnight to keep chilled if you do so). Switch it on before you leave the house, then return from work at the end of the day to the scent of a delicious, cooked meal ready to tuck into. What could be better?

Secondly, slow cookers are economical because they use a similar amount of energy to a light bulb. They can be used to cook cheaper cuts of meat which, due to the lengthy cooking time, turn from tough to tender and meat literally falls off the bone.

Lastly, the nature of one-pot cooking means less clearing up to do after dinner. That can only be a good thing in my book!

Try out new recipes 

I have a ridiculous number of cookbooks. Yet we seem to eat the same meals over and over again. So, I intend to flick through some of the books and mark the most appealing recipes to try. There are lots I still intend to try in my newest purchase, 5 Ingredients by Jamie Oliver. It makes sense that if I use fewer ingredients in a recipe (as long as they aren’t ridiculously expensive ones, such as caviar and saffron ;)) the cost will hopefully be brought down, too.

Let’s hope that following these steps results in us saving money, eating more healthily and enjoying our food more.

How about you? Do you have any tips to share on reducing your grocery bill? I would love to hear them.

My favourite Budget Beauty Buys

Over the years, I have sampled a huge range of different brands of cosmetic and toiletry products. Often, these purchases came about as a result of being persuaded by a product review in a magazine that a particular product would solve whichever beauty woe I was experiencing, or even, dare I admit it, because a particular advert was so appealing. I guess companies don’t spend millions of pounds on marketing for no reason, after all!

Are the high-end products worth the extra cost?

These days, I’m generally not convinced that most high-end (or even mid-range) beauty products justify their price tags. When you turn to peruse the ingredients label of any pot of cream or lotion, the first ingredient listed (as having the highest volume percentage)  is invariably aqua (ie, plain old water). The second and third ingredients are often similar in both budget and high-end products, too. It seems hard to believe that the amounts used in the lowest volume ingredients are going to be enough to make a significant difference to my hair, skin or whatever, most of the time.

So, these days I tend to try low-cost ranges first, and only if I dislike them do I upgrade to costlier ones. I am pleased to say that I have found some firm favourites amongst the budget brands, which I shall reveal here.

Shower creams and gels

I used to love treating myself to Molton Brown shower gels (or asking for them for Christmas and birthday gifts). The scents used in them are distinctive and delicious, it’s true. But one day I decided that literally washing £20 down the shower drain for ONE bottle of shower gel was bordering on obscene. A couple of years ago we went on a summer holiday the the Vendee region of France and I picked up a few bottles of French shower creams to try from the local supermarche.

There is a French company called Les petit Marseillais which produce a lovely range of different types of toiletries with beautiful scents, all at a good value price. After sniffing dozens of different bottles before deciding on just a few to purchase (this habit drives my husband crazy; he can’t for the life of him understand why I don’t just glance at the fronts of the bottles to choose between them then hurriedly toss a bottle in the trolley), I found one with a ‘black orchid’ scent which smelled divine. That was the shower cream I used for the entire holiday and when we arrived home in England I was delighted to discover that Palmolive make their own ‘black orchid’ scent shower cream. I’ve been using it ever since, apart from using ones that I’ve been gifted. I think it smells far more luxurious and high-end than the price of it suggests. Recently I saw it was on sale in Wilkinsons store at only 90p a bottle and couldn’t resist stocking up.

Hair care

For hair, I tend to find that it’s better to keep switching the shampoos and conditioners that I use regularly. As soon as I wash it with a different one it seems to become squeaky-clean, as though residue from the old product has been removed. Or perhaps I just imagine that. I like Alberto Balsam’s tea tree and mint shampoo for the super fresh smell (usually not costing much more than £1). Conditioner-wise, I like Tresemme or even the imitation versions of it (in an almost identical size and white-coloured bottle) from Aldi and Lidl. Also Gliss conditioner is great for colour-treated hair and widely available in pound shops).

In terms of hair treatments, I adore Natural World’s Brazilian Keratin Hair Treatment oil. It’s available from online retailers such as Fragrance Direct, Amazon and Ebay for just a few pounds plus postage and a small 100ml bottle lasts months because you literally only need a few drops each time, perhaps half a teaspoon. I only use it after every other hair wash (otherwise it gets too sticky and greasy) and by smoothing those few drops down the ends of my hair when it is just damp it gets less tangled and keeps the condition better.

Make up

I don’t wear a lot of makeup, but spending five minutes applying a little makes me feel a lot better about coming downstairs and facing the day. To even out my skin tone, I used to love Barbara Daly oil free foundation. Sadly it suddenly became discontinued last summer so I had to find a replacement. This replacement has been Max Factor’s Facefinity All Day Flawless 3-in-1 Foundation, which is ok but I don’t love as much as the Barbara Daly one.

Other days I use a loose powder foundation- a mineral one by Lily Lolo. This is nice and gives fair coverage but only works well if your face is well-moisturised- don’t make the mistake of applying it to dry skin or else every dry patch and line will be emphasised!

For mascara (which I don’t always wear), Maybelline Great Lash is a good budget one that I often come back to. Currently I’m using a Dior mascara called Diorshow, which my lovely sister treated me to for my birthday and it is great quality. Or perhaps it’s all in the wand, rather than the mascara itself, as some experts say.

Well, that’s most of mine. Do you have favourites that you would never switch from? I’d love to hear them.

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Hair colouring and styling on a modest budget

Nothing beats that wonderful feeling of just having had your hair done and walking out of the salon knowing that your hair looks its best, does it?

Every now and again I decide that I am bored with my hair colour. I can’t claim to have ever changed to particularly exciting or wacky shades, and the pattern seems to be that in the summer I enjoy my hair being a dark brown shade when my skin darkens a little. Then when my skin pales in the autumn, I find that going a lighter, blonde shade is more flattering and I look less ‘washed out’ than I do with dark hair over the winter.

When I used to get a full head of highlights in a hair salon, I was usually pleased with the end result but found it a less pleasurable experience to pay a huge sum at the end. When your hair is classed as ‘long’, which generally includes anything below shoulder-length, you generally get charged more (I guess due to extra long lengths of foils being used and it taking a little longer to carry out). I found that £80-£100 was pretty standard to be charged, especially if I was having a trim as well.

Now, I appreciate that hairdressers often do a great job and have to earn a living, and when I was earning a full time salary I didn’t mind paying that price (too much). However, now that I am a stay-at-home-mum only working a few hours a week in private tuition, we have less money coming into the house and it makes sense to cut back on discretionary spending such as hair and beauty treatments.

In our town, there is a further education college that runs hairdressing courses. There are two levels of study: NVQ2 and NVQ3. The NVQ2 is the basic level of hairdressing qualification and towards the end of it, from April-June, the students have almost qualified so I am happy by then to book in for a hair colour treatment. Even better though, the NVQ3 students have already passed the NVQ2 level of study and many of them already work in salons as hairdressers – they may have their sights set on becoming a salon manager or acquiring additional skills in hairdressing to add to their bows. I must admit that for something as skilled as highlighting, especially as I have long hair and sometimes ask for two or even three colours to be woven in at once, I tend to ask for an NVQ3 student to carry it out. When you call your local college hairdressing department you can ask when the NVQ3 classes are to ensure you book for one of those if it’s your preference.

The main benefit of having your hair done by a student is obviously the low price. On my below shoulder length hair, even with 2 different colours woven in I don’t pay more than £25. If the student who does my hair does a good job and/or has a friendly, pleasant manner, I make a point of slipping them a tip too, mindful that they are students (or recently qualified hairdressers).

Understandably, lots of people are rather horrified at the prospect of a lesser qualified person setting to work on their precious tresses. There’s no need to be afraid, though. Overseeing every class is a tutor, who I have found without exception to be very exacting and sets high expectations of the students. She checks over the initial consultation and will voice any concerns she has before the colour etc is mixed. I have to say that on a few occasions the tutors (who are themselves highly experienced hairdressers) have made some thoughtful and valuable suggestions about my hair, that I hadn’t considered previously and led to a better end result.

So this is all sounding great, right? Getting your hair coloured at a snip of the salon price, are you wondering what the downsides to be mindful of are?

The main one is the additional time to allow for the treatment to take. The nature of the student needing to consult with their tutor at every stage, often having to wait while the tutor is occupied with other students, means there is extra waiting around. Plus of course, the fact that the student is less experienced means that certain procedures such as foils can take them longer to do. Personally though, I am quite happy to sit and read a book or magazine and see it as a treat to get some time to myself!

The second thing to factor in is that colleges only open during term time and have long summer holidays. So from mid June to mid September you probably won’t be able to get yourself booked in there and will need to either wait it out or make alternative hair treatment arrangements.

Still, for myself, the benefits outweigh the inconveniences, especially considering the money I save each time. I enjoy speaking to different students as well, most of whom express gratitude that clients such as myself make the effort to attend the college to get my hair done, as they can’t pass the course without carrying out a certain number of treatments on real people.

Simple trims and cuts I usually ask my mother to do, as well as for simple home dye kids when I apply a whole-hair colour. I should mention that my mother did actually train as a hairdresser many years ago before her current career, but wouldn’t feel comfortable attempting foil highlights as it isn’t a procedure she was ever taught.

Do you spend a lot of money on your hair? Perhaps you would consider giving your local hair college a try, too? If you are a non-UK reader, I imagine that there are similar setups with hairdressing colleges needing members of the public to come in and work on. Perhaps you have your own moneysaving hair tips to share- I would love to hear them.