Boots finally acknowledges my desire to shop without speaking to anyone

Despite the fact that Boots has the best customer loyalty scheme anywhere, my interest in the store waned over recent years. This is probably due to my increasingly expensive taste in skincare products and make-up, and the fact that I bore easily. This also has to do with the fact that buying products off the Boots website has been a seriously disenchanting experience, with broken links, understocked items, and an excessive wait for my purchase to arrive.

This past weekend I went to the Boots in St Enoch Centre for the first time in months, and it was like rediscovering an old friend. Though I really do like avoiding the crowds and ordering things online, nothing beats the browse, particularly with toiletries. Buying lipstick or perfume online, without the chance to sample the goods, can be a very risky proposition. And there were new brands and new items I was very happy to see. This Boots now sells Barry M cosmetics, so I can restock my beloved Dazzle dust in Mushroom (pictured) without paying a delivery charge. I also came across travel sizes of the Prevage anti-aging treatments for skin and eyes – allowing me to try the products without the hefty £75 price tag.

The most exciting feature of the Boots experience though has to be the arrival of self-service checkout. You can use the nifty machine regardless of your method of payment; you can even pay for things with Boots points. And as you’re scanning and bagging everything yourself, you can save yourself the embarrassment of sharing your more personal shopping habits with a cashier.


What is a paraben and why don’t I want one?

By now you’ll have heard about nasty parabens but do you know what they are?

A paraben is essentially a preservative that many cosmetic companies use to lengthen the shelf life of their make-up and toiletries. Liz Earle, purveyor of ‘naturally active skincare’ and creator of the cult sensation Cleanse and Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser, has a very handy and informative guide to preservatives on her website, and defines parabens like this:

Parabens are a family of ingredients widely found in nature, especially in foods such as fruits. They are esters of para-hydroxybenzoic acid, hence their name, and include methylparaben (E 218), and propylparaben (E 216).

The Liz Earle site actually asserts that parabens are not harmful. In fact, she goes so far as to say:

Parabens are frequent in nature and can be considered to be ‘green’, bio-degradable and natural.

Say what? This runs contrary to everything I’ve ever heard on the subject. I decided to do more research. I looked to the Sense About Science website, run by an independent charitable trust that responds ‘to the misrepresentation of science and scientific evidence on issues that matter to society’.

I wasn’t able to find anything specifically on parabens, but they did have a lot of information about chemicals generally, and misconceptions about the use of chemicals in our day to day lives. By the way, be sure to check out how they slam the detox industry as well as celeb pseudo science – I actually laughed out loud when I got to the part where they quote Madonna as saying:

“That’s something I’ve been involved with for a while with a group of scientists —finding a way to neutralise radiation.”

Posing for nudie pics, writing children’s books, nuclear physics - is there nothing that woman can’t do? Anyway, the site is amusing and interesting but, a word of warning. Sense About Sciene have been accused of partiality, and one of the members of their Science Advisory Board is a reputed global warming sceptic.

An article in Wikipedia seems to think parabens are okay, but the neutrality of the article was questioned, and one should always be cautious about Wikipedia’s accuracy. Doing a general search on Google shows up as many sites saying parabens are helpful as there are saying they’re harmful. One thing they all agree on, though, is that they are widely used because they have been considered safe for many years. There are studies that show they are safe, though there appears to be studies saying they aren’t safe. I found one article that even said that one kind of paraben caused premature aging of the skin! Of course, this article sited no references what so ever. It also mentioned the fact that using moisturisers with parabens allowed the preservatives to absorb directly into the bloodstream. But, scientists quoted on the Sense About Science website claimed that ingredients in skin cream don’t actually get absorbed into the blood stream at all.

Who to believe? I guess the answer here is that you won’t find an answer here! There are companies that don’t use parabens in some or all of their products, so they are possible to avoid. I guess this is just something that each person had to decide for herself – what can I live with? What do I believe, which sources of information seem more trustworthy to me?

I will be posting another entry soon on paraben free costmetics and where to find them.



Everybody loves it. Right? My question is, why? I used to love it too, but lately it’s been leaving me a bit cold. Everything seems a bit cheap without actually being inexpensive.

I bought a super cute flower ring there on Saturday, but when I got it home, I noticed that one of the petals had been broken off. I’m guessing that this is not the first time the ring was purchased and returned because it didn’t have its original packaging when I bought it. The staff were very nice about it and happily exchanged the ring for a new one. But today while I was getting dressed, the ring caught on the top I was putting on and the flower broke right off. So, do I try to glue it back, or do I return it again. Again! This is not how I wish to spend my time, but throwing £8 into the bin isn’t how I wish to spend my money, either.

Yes, Accessorize has bags and flipflops and scarves galore, but so does TK Maxx. TK Maxx does require a rummage, but it’s so worth the time and effort. Last time I was there, I bought a silk Moschino scarf that originally cost £160 – I got it for £16! And it’s adorable and easily added the requisite stars to my Spring/Summer 08 wardrobe. On that same visit, I bought an oversized clutch in dark pink patent leather. After I returned some cropped linen trousers to Boden for having a slightly odd fit, I found some at TK Maxx for a third of the price.

TK Maxx, or TJ Maxx as it is called in America (and don’t think the market research that went into changing that J into a K didn’t cost a fortune) is not news to anyone, as it’s been in Glasgow for years now, but at times I forget about it, or I get put off by the picked-over shelves, the long queues at the tills, or women running around, pushing their overly large shopping carts like they’re at the roller derby. But when you find just the right accessory, or that incredible cardi that no one else will have, and you see the lovely ‘RPR’ vs ‘Our Price’ tag, the flush of excitement comes rushing back.

The TK Maxx at the Fort is usually less crowded and good for home decorating. The one on Sauchiehall Street can be great for bags, but my advice is to go during the week if you can. Take a half-day from work and grab some brands that can’t be found in the original US version of the store like Miu Miu, Moschino and Coach. And now they've made it easier to find out when a visit is worth the bother, as you can sign up for their fashion news. This means you'll get an email when they're expecting a delivery of something fabulous.


Indulgent hair time at James Dun's House

Reasons I’ve stopped going to my stylist at Eden:

  • I’m never in Hyndland
  • My stylist at Eden has the universe’s shortest attention span, and though he’s lovely to talk to and does a great hair cut, I rarely have 5 hours to spend in a salon
  • I have the universe’s second shortest attention span, and I love things that are bright, shiny and new

Reasons I went to James Dun's House:

  • It’s in my neighbourhood
  • I like Aveda products (Eden uses Aveda too, which is why I first went there)
  • I love things that are bright, shiny and new

My advice – go there. My new stylist, Jenna, who by the way looks like Deborah Harry, engaged in a real conversation with me about my hair and what I wanted. She also offered advice, so while I felt that she was listening, I also felt that she was being honest about what she thought and what was possible. No pretending to listen and then sneaking around the back of my head doing what she secretly wanted to do anyway.

After my hair was washed, my stylist gave me a vigorous neck and shoulder massage. This was followed by an expert hair cut and finish, while I also received a hand massage. There was discussion of hair products, which products my stylist would recommend, which ones she used, but there was no hard sell, so I felt I could leave without buying anything. The best part was my new client gift certificate, which allows me to choose between an intensive hair and scalp damage remedy treatment or a full spectrum semi permanent hair colour. I’ve opted for the hair colour, which I discovered by looking up their website when I got home, is worth £20.

I’ve already made an appointment for my next hair cut in three months, which is unusual for me. Sometimes I go nearly a year between cuts, but I’m starting a new regime. I’m calling it ‘attempting to look like I own a mirror.’


Nars written backward spells Sran

Which means absolutely nothing. But did you know that Nars now does skincare? Of course you did. Did you know it’s fabulous? I’m sure you would have guessed as much, as Nars is the renowned cosmetics company that brought us the multiple in orgasm, and body glow shimmer, not to mention about a thousand great lipstick and eye shadow colours.

To date, I have only tried the balancing foam cleanser and the balancing moisture lotion. I was in Virginia for my sister’s wedding recently, and my husband and I took a drive down to Charleston, South Carolina for a bit of sun, southern gentility, and ghosts. King St in Charleston is boutiques a-go-go, so I had had had to go shopping. Among the gems I found there was Stella Nova, a cosmetic boutique much in the same vein as Space NK, though with fewer stark white surfaces. I was looking for a new cleanser, as my beloved Korres white tea gel wash was feeling a bit harsh in the hotter climate. The saleswoman, who was cursed with combination skin like me, recommended the Nars cleanser. I bought the moisturiser too, because the packaging is just too beautiful. The products come in matt white bottles and tubes, made of heavy glass and plastic, with the familiar Nars logo in thin black letters. They look great in my bathroom.

But beauty is skin-deep, so the real value was revealed after I washed my face. My skin was baby soft, and the redness was completely gone. And even though it was hot enough outside to cook grits right on the pavement, the moisturiser did not feel heavy or greasy in the slightest. It might even replace my usual summer favourite, RMK’s skintuner (a genius, splash-on moisturiser).

You can buy Nars products from Frasers or Space NK, or direct from the Nars website: www.narscosmetics.co.uk. The balancing foam cleanser is £24.50 and the balancing moisture lotion is £40.00.


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