product review

Review: Phyderma products

SecondCherry rates this:*********( 4.5/5 )

Premium skincare products with a silky feel on the skin.

The people over at Phyderma recently sent me a few of their products to review, so I thought I'd share my findings. 

Esprit dOrient

First up is the Esprit D'Orient (Eastern Spirit) Brume Parfumé Corps & Cheveux (Hair and Body perfumed spray, 24.90 euros), with organic argan oil and silk extract. This is a product you use on dry hair or skin, or after a bath, and it act as a conditioning spray. For me, the smell is a little sweet and doesn't suit my personal taste, nor did I find it made much difference to my hair, which is already fine and silky. However, it works very well as a freshen-up - for instance, if you're going out for the evening and don't have time to bathe before changing.

I also found another use for it, not advertised on the product, and that is as a freshener for sheets or for clothing that's hung too long in the wardrobe. For this purpose, it works brilliantly, due to the clean smell and the very fine diffusion - it's unusual to find such a fine actuator on a skincare product (it's more like Elnett hairspray), and this delivers a micro-fine, even spray with no droplets. If the fragrance was different, I would probably use it on my face and hair, but as of now, it's mostly being used on my pillow and sheets each evening. The pearl-coloured can looks quite nice on the dressing table, too. 

SubliLift mask

The second product I tried was the SubliLift Masque Lift Éclat (Radiance Lifting Mask) with Bio-Cellulose - Oslift (oats extract and 'botanical' extracts). This is the new kind of disposable one-use-only mask that has come from Asia, and consists of an impregnated bio-cellulose mask trapped between two layers of paper. You peel off the backing paper, position the mask with its cut-out eyeholes over your face, tap it down and then remove the top layer of paper.

For someone who has not tried this technique before, it felt very strange. The bio-cellulose has a cold, slightly unpleasant feeling, but you quickly get used to it. The mask dries a little and on my skin produced a tingling, cooling effect, followed by noticeable tightening. All I was hoping was that the DH wouldn't come in and start making Leatherface remarks.

Afterwards, I noticed that my open pores were very definitely less visible and my skin looked smoother. To be honest, I was slightly disappointed that it worked, because at 59.90 euros for a pack of four, it's well out of my normal price range. I used two masks on consecutive days and the effect was noticeable.

Personally, I would regard this mask like a spa treatment and use it in the run-up to an event such as a wedding or a school reunion when I want to look my absolute best. 

Phyderma Perles de Jeuness

Product number three was Perles de Jeunesse (Pearls of Youth, 69.90 euros), a new serum in the Caviar Time Collection, which uses plankton extracts. This is something of a flagship product for Phyderma and makes use of a new airless pump dispenser, so I was keen to try it. In my view, the outer (card) packaging rather lets this product down, as it looks like a supermarket brand and for the premium price, I'd expect something more enticing, but the inner packaging is lovely - high-end superclear acrylic with gold detailing and a gold actuator, which looks elegant on the bathroom shelf. 

The pearls themselves are visible inside the bottle, and they look great - about the same size and shape as real seed pearls, with a sheen that gives the product an exotic appearance. I was a bit surprised when the dispenser didn't actually dispense a whole one for me to pop open, but in fact it pops the pearl inside the tube and dispenses exactly one dose onto the back of your hand. I find two doses is about right for both face and neck.

The product is very silky and watery, with a pearlescent sheen, and absorbs very nicely into the skin. My skin is very sensitive and prone to itching and hotspots, but this has caused no irritation at all. As to its claims to reduce wrinkles, I couldn't speak, but it certainly reduces the appearance of wrinkles - I tested it first on the backs of my hands, and it made them look much smoother. The product is also very agreeable to use with its silky feel and very light, clean fragrance. You can always add more layers of product if your skin is dryer.  

I probably wouldn't buy this product for myself, to be honest, because of the price, but I would certainly wangle it as a present.   

Phyderma Soin Combleur De Rides

The last product I tried is the one you would have to pry out of my cold, dead hands. It's the Soin Combleur de Rides (Fill Out Wrinkles, 39.90 euros) with hyaluronic acid and silk extract. This is a silicon primer of the Smashbox type and comes in an airless pump (ever my favourite mode of delivery). The bottle (unlike the one in the photo) is in frosted glass - very luxe - with a superclear acrylic cap, which looks great in the bathroom. 

The product, as you would expect from a silicon primer, has a very silky feel on the skin, making your complexion look instantly matte but dewy. It also has a trick up its sleeve in the shape of very fine mica particles that give a subtle sparkle. I absolutely love this product and would definitely buy it again. 

Incidentally, after using all four products for about a week, I was told - quite out of the blue - by a friend that my skin was looking 'radiant'. Mmn. At the age of 52, I don't get 'radiant' very often, so this is well worth bearing in mind.  

Phyderma products are available from affiliated stockists and and


product review

Review: Alchemilla Exfoliating Facial Scrub by Elevation 3196

SecondCherry rates this:**( 1/5 )

This facial scrub resulted in a bad reaction, but it's the lack of response from the company that bothers me.

Elevation 3196 facial scrub

I recently bought a couple of facial scrubs, which I mentioned in a recent post. One was a cheapie, by French budget brand Callibelle and the other was an expensive one from niche French firm Elevation 3196 – Alchemilla Exfoliating Cream. Both were based on ground almond kernels.

At 39 euros for a 50ml pot for the Elevation product, you might expect something remarkable, but in fact the two appeared to be very similar, except that the Callibelle, which costs only three euros, had a rather nicer texture and smell. It was, however, full of parabens while the Elevation product was all-natural, so the latter played into my preferences for natural products. The Elevation product was also much more nicely packaged, in white card outer packaging and a glass pot rather than the Callibelle's cheapie plastic tube. 

Burnt faceIt’s not a given, however, that natural means plain sailing – just look at what the Elevation 3196 scrub did to my face. This image is taken around 15 minutes after I’d applied it, when it was already starting to cool somewhat, but the burning, tingling, stinging feeling lasted for several hours. My face was absolutely on fire. Luckily I work from home, and didn’t have to go out that day and once the heat in my face had cooled, there was no permanent damage.

Burnt closeI do accept that these things sometimes happen, but I was somewhat bemused as to which ingredient could have caused it. Unfortunately I had already disposed of the ingredient list, which was on the outer packaging, so I wrote to the company’s customer service department to ask advice, as obviously I would like to avoid this happening again.

And? Nothing. No reply. It’s been a week now and I think that’s long enough. For obvious reasons, I won’t be buying any products from Elevation 3196 again.

It is a shame when even a niche company cannot be bothered to reply to a politely worded query sent via their own website. I had really rather liked the sound of this firm, but that's the end of that relationship. 

For those who are interested, btw, I later found the ingredients list online. It is: water (aqua), helichrysum italicum flower water, glycerin, polyglyceryl-4 caprate, caprylyl/capryl glucoside,chondrus crispus (carrageenan), benzyl alcohol, xanthan gum, sodium benzoate, sucrose laurate, potassium sorbate, alcohol, spiraea ulmaria flower extract, artemisia umbelliformis extract, fragrance (parfum), limonene and linalool. 


product review

Review: Woolpower 200 zip turtleneck

SecondCherry rates this:*********( 4.5/5 )

Woolpower's 200gsm layers are the lightest in the range.

Woolpower 200 Zip turtleneck

I found out about clothing from Swedish outdoor specialist Woolpower only recently, when reading the Ray Mears blog. 

Since remaining warm in winter is one of my obsessions, I was interested to see what Mears recommends when it comes to thermals. His site sells a Woolpower garment, but only in olive green, so I had a search around, found the Woolpower main website and had a shufty round.

What's special about Woolpower garments is the Ullfrotte fabric. Developed in collaboration with the Swedish military, it has a smooth outside and a terry loop inside like a towel, in a mixture of non-mulsed Patagonian merino (for warmth) and synthetic (for strength), including 2 per cent stretch. It can be washed at 60 degrees. The garment pieces are knitted in northern Sweden, on a round loom, without seams, and the sleeves are then set in, so there are few seams to chafe or weaken. Each item is hand-assembled in Sweden and signed by the worker. 

Woolpower zip neck

The Woolpower site is well worth a look, but they don't sell direct - you have to find a stockist, and for me, that meant online, since I don't live anywhere near a retail outlet. In the end, because I specifically wanted a red garment, which are a bit rare (usual colours are black, navy, grey and olive), I ordered from Lissom and Muster. The shipping was a whopping £16 but my garment was only £59, which was a real bargain - they're normally 99 euros and above. 

For my first foray into Woolpower, I chose the zip-neck turtleneck in 200gsm, the lightest weight the firm makes, and a garment that I think is very attractive. It will be obvious to anyone used to cold-weather gear that this weight is most manufacturer's mid-weight. Other weights include 400, 600 and even - for socks - 800, designed primarily for people who have to be sedentary in freezing conditions, such as when ice-fishing. 

My item arrived in about a week from Lissom, and in a Woolpower box. Since I was on the point of going out, I stripped off my Finisterre Eddy tee and put this on instead. I was immediately struck by its light weight and somewhat 'spongy', soft feel.

I am a size 14 - maybe a 16 on the butt - and bought a Medium, feeling that this would be the 'safest' fit. I didn't want to risk a Small without trying it on and I figured that I could always wear a Medium as a mid-layer. This might indeed be how I wear it in future, as it is indeed a slightly loose fit. The sleeves are very long (the garments are unisex, so it has to accommodate male monkey arms) and somewhat baggy, and it feels a tad like an old-fashioned Shetland jumper in cut.

Notably, the back is very long, cut to keep your kidneys warm, and in my case, it comes right down below my bottom, which feels extremely snug. Next time, I might go for a Small as my base layer, to make it easier to tuck into trousers.

Over it, I wore my usual grey cashmere boyfriend cardigan. It was 6 degrees today in Normandy and as a coat, I wore my Burberry raincoat with zip-in wool lining (IE: a medium-weight coat rather than a warm coat). And after that, I forgot I was wearing it. This is basically what I want from a thermal or base layer - that you can put it on and forget about it, that it's warm, soft, doesn't hamper your movements, etc.

It's only day one, but so far I'm very pleased with this garment and am looking at ordering more in the future, probably a 400 vest and a 600 jacket to get a spread of the different weights.  


product review

Review: Lodesse creams for dry skin

SecondCherry rates this:*********( 4.5/5 )

Lodesse is a dry skin specialist that makes the most heavenly creams.

Lodesse no 1

I was recently given several dry skin creams to try from Lodesse, a new French skincare company that specialises in dry and sensitive skin. It was founded by a woman named Carole Fichter, who - unusually for France - has no academic training in cosmetology, but was a dry skin sufferer looking for a solution to her problems. She devised the range after working with dermatologists, nutritionists and biochemists over a number of years. 

My skin has become much drier with age and now absolutely drinks in moisturiser - to the extent that at home I don't wear foundation, so that I can add moisturiser throughout the day, so I was looking forward to trying the products.

The the products I tested - in thumbnail-size samples - were the Crème Seconde Peau no 1, and balms Baume Seconde Peau no 2 and no 3. All three are water-free formulations (ie: based on waxes and oils) based on alpha-lipoic acid, vitamin E, myrtle polyphenols, co-enzyme Q10, olive-oil-derived squalane, wheat ceramides and phytosterols. They all cost 85 euros for a 40ml pot, which seems steep but you really need a very tiny amount at a time. 

Crème Seconde Peau 1, for normal to dry skin, also contains cupuaçu butter, sesame oil and buriti oil. Baume Seconde Peau 2, for dry skin, also contains shea and cupuaçu butters, oils of muscat rose, argan, nigella and jojoba, and carnauba wax, and Baume Seconde Peau 3, for dry to very dry skin, contains the same ingredients as Baume 2, but in a different formulation.  

Of the three, no 1 is the most pleasant to use, with a whipped-cream texture that sinks beautifully into the skin. I found this a great cream for use during the day. The other two are heavier - in particular, no 2 is very waxy and has to be left to melt a little on warm fingertips before use - and are better applied at night.

After only a few days of using these creams I could feel a distinct difference in my skin, with far less tightness and irritation, and it felt smooth, plump and nurtured. I would definitely consider buying Nos 1 and 2 for day and night use.

Other products in the range are:  

* Démaquillante soin velouté (makeup remover - 200ml, 26 euros), with coconut and sesame oils and vitamin E; 

* Lotion tonifiante (toning lotion - 200ml, 21 euros), with laurel hydrolat, ginger extract, gingko extract and ginseng extract; 

* Lotion apaisante (soothing lotion - 200ml, 21 euros) with marine serum, verbena, cornflower, mallow and elderflower.

At the moment, the products are available only from the Vitalibio website and a handful of retail outlets, but you can find out full information about the range at 



book review

Review: Phoenix Rising by Nicola Newsome

SecondCherry rates this:*********( 4.5/5 )

This Black Beauty tale for the modern age is a galloping good read.

Phoenix cover

Phoenix Rising by Nicola Newsome is the story of a horse.

Told in first person, Black Beauty style, it details the rise and fall and rise again of Phoenix, a filly bred to be a racehorse but who nearly dies due to the incompetence and neglect of one of her many owners. 

Newsome is a horsewoman who volunteers at a horse refuge (part of the proceeds of the book go towards the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Centre, UK), and she's  filled with righteous anger about the ill-treatment of equines at the hands of humans.

From thoroughbreds created to race and fit for nothing else, to twitching, to hard bits and tough breaking, lack of proper feed and exercise, starvation, neglect and outright cruelty, Phoenix encounters everything that life might throw at a single horse as she is sold from pillar to post and back again and crosses the Channel from England to France - the land where recalcitrant horses are eaten. 

On her journey through life she encounters many other horses, each with their own history, and humans of all kinds - good riders and bad riders, horse-whisperers and drunks, passing farmers and enthusiastic pony-clubbers, with the ever-present threat of the knacker and the butcher awaiting any horse that can't earn its keep or dares to show resistance to its fate. 

Newsome's knowledge of riding, training and horse communication lend the book great authenticity and fascinating detail (I, for one, did not know horses can't vomit), and parts of it are both terrifying and moving. Each chapter ends with a cliffhanger, making it ideal to read to children in bed, or for older children to read a chapter at at time, but be warned - like its great Victorian predecessor, there are real deaths and real cruelty in this book; it is not a Disney version of horse life and Newsome clearly wants us all to think harder about our relationships with and exploitation of animals. 

Phoenix Rising is downloadable from equestrian specialist publisher Lavender & White (lavender& for £3.99.



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