Top 10 Tips to Prepare For a First Time Cruise

If you’re going on a cruise for the first time and want some tips on how you can make it that little bit easier, read my tips below.

I’ve been on 4 cruises with P&O Cruises now. From 2 weeks in the Caribbean to a week in the Mediterranean. Over this time I’ve added small accessories to my luggage, as well as knowing what to expect when we arrive and depart. My list below is the top things to know and take with you (although I’ll probably need to make another part!).

Table of contents:

Black Tie Night – what are they? Do you have to do them?

Black Tie Nights are when you dress in your most fancy clothes to dine in the evenings. You would generally dress up for evening food and afterwards, if you’re seeing a show or going for a drink. You tend to get at least one Black Tie night on a 7-day cruise however our last 7-day cruise had 2. They tend to be on days when you’re at sea and aren’t docking anywhere.

If you don’t want to dress up, you don’t have to but the places you can go are limited. You usually aren’t allowed in the main restaurants, but going to the buffet and a few other smaller places is allowed. You’ll find out about where you can go in the daily newspaper you get each evening for the next day. This is either posted in your room or put in your post box outside your door.

We’ve only done one Black Tie night in our whole time cruising and weren’t impressed. We assumed it would be different somehow from the other nights, but the food was the same quality without any special entertainment/drinks etc.

Drinks Packages

Alcoholic and soft drinks aren’t in the price for a P&O Cruise. You have to pay, even for water bottles.

You pay for drinks packages which tend to have options for kids, alcoholic drinks, and non-alcoholic drinks. You can choose to buy a package either before or during your cruise. We aren’t big drinkers so we don’t buy one, as they’re pretty expensive. That being said, on our last cruise, we bought a bottle of gin from duty-free which you’re allowed to take with you (although buying booze at port stops isn’t generally allowed – they will confiscate it until you leave). Then we purchased tonics all week! This saved us a LOT of money.

For water, we refilled our bottles at the water stations within the buffet restaurants. You aren’t allowed to directly put your water bottle up to the machine due to health & safety – so we simply filled a mug up and then poured in our bottle – we didn’t get told off. Water from the taps in the room didn’t make us poorly but it didn’t taste quite right, so we opted for this. Water machines are located next to the outside bars (near where you sunbathe) and buffet restaurants, which are generally open all day. I think you can buy regular water bottles too from behind the bars.

Buying things onboard

You don’t use cash on board at all. When you first arrive in your room, outside in the post box you will have documents to read and a cruise card (each per person). This cruise card is what you use to buy everything – whether it’s a drink, an ice cream, an excursion, a dress from one of the onboard shops, or even buying euros from reception.

You’ll also use it to get on/off the ship. It’s pretty important to keep a safe hold of it until you leave.

Daily Newspaper Agenda

Each afternoon, your room cleaner will put a newspaper in your room relevant to the next day (or leave it outside your room door in the post box). This newspaper has a lot of useful information in it, such as excursion times, “what’s on” from films to evening events, and opening times for all the restaurants.

It gives a brief overview of the place you’re docking, and what type of night it is (Black Tie for example).

Excursions can be expensive

You can book these either before the cruise (you pay upfront), or during the cruise when you can use your onboard spending money to pay for them. You’ll find out how long the cruise takes, plus any transfer time.

We’ve found the full-day excursions take anything from 1-3 hours travel time to and from your destination which is a long time to sit on a bus, especially if you hate being on buses! These longer ones tend to include food, but be weary if you’re fussy or a vegetarian – the options (in my experience) are always lacking so we end up visiting the buffet restaurant, or grabbing a pizza on our return!

Some of the shorter excursions don’t include food, so always worth checking and taking pastries from breakfast. These shorter ones can also be expensive. Our most recent cruise was to Malta, where an excursion cost £30 to take you into the town centre – we walked it in 30 mins whilst sightseeing. We’ve shared taxis with others before, to save on costs. Worth knowing though that if you’re late back to the ship and you aren’t on an excursion, they can leave you behind!

Pack light – limited room!

Unless you’re a lucky so-and-so who’s booked a suite, the bathroom shelving sizes are quite small. I would suggest packing light and using reusable small bottles for things such as shampoo, conditioner or any other large bottles you’ll only use a few times, to save on counter space.

Got a balcony? Buy a clothes line!

We tend to get a balcony room and make full use of the outside space! We bought this clothes line which is extremely handy for drying your clothes during the day/night. You can get things cleaned but it’s pretty expensive to have them do this for you. We bought ours for £5 from Amazon.

Buy a cheap washing line to use on your balcony
Buy a cheap washing line to use on your balcony – otherwise you’ll be stuck if you need to dry your clothes

Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with this:

Washing line - P&O Cruises
Washing line in our bathroom – not the most efficient!

Hometime – what happens?

In the daily newspaper already mentioned, you’ll also get an envelope the morning of your 2nd-to-last day. This envelope includes important and helpful info including:

  • How to organise your suitcase
  • Boarding passes
  • Luggage tags
  • Flight times/what time to be ready and where
The leaving envelope you get the day before you leave includes helpful information and important documents
The leaving envelope you get the day before you leave includes helpful information and important documents
Instructions on flight times when it's time to prepare to leave your cruise
Helpful info part of the envelope you get when leaving – this includes flight times and where to meet before leaving the ship
Sorry, it’s a bit blurry – this is what you get in the leaving envelope; more helpful information.

We were flying on Thursday at 5pm, and had to have our suitcases ready for collection the previous evening – yep, that’s right – from midnight we didn’t see our suitcase again until we got back into Manchester. We also had to be out of the room by 8am to allow the staff enough time to clean the room before the next guests arrived that day. Not ideal but had to be done.

You have to leave your suitcases outside the room the previous evening, with all luggage tags added. You get these in the envelope.

Our luggage tags and boarding slip for our suitcases
Our luggage tags and boarding slips for our suitcases

As we had most of Thursday to wait for our departure time, we left the ship and walked around our port – for this holiday, it was Malta. We could have stayed on the ship and enjoyed a day of sunbathing. You obviously still have access to everything; the gym, restaurants etc. When we got back from walking around Malta – at around 3pm, we had a shower in the gym and some food, then chilled reading until 5pm when we had to make our way to the restaurant to be organised to leave.


Evening dining is a little bit different. You have the buffet where you can just turn up, plate the food yourself and sit down wherever. There are a few speciality restaurants where you book and they have a cover charge (anything from £10-£30) and lastly, you have the main restaurants offering Club or Freedom Dining. The difference is with Freedom, you can turn up at any time and sit in a different place. With Club, you sit in the same place at the same time each evening. Read more here. We tend to stick with Freedom and ask for a table for 2. Cruises tend to recommend being open to socialising, so sharing tables. We sat near tables of 5 couples who enjoyed sharing their evening with others.

Get lost

I wouldn’t try to find your way around the ship, especially the bigger ships, as you’ll only frustrate yourself (or is that just me?). We stayed pretty much in the middle of the ship, so we got familiar with where our closest lifts were, and how to get to certain places like breakfast etc.

Find your preferred place to sunbathe then get familiar with how to get to places you’ll visit often – the bar, toilet, restaurants etc. This made my life less stressful as I no longer worried about getting lost!

Some lifts only go to certain floors. For example:

  • the lift at the FRONT of the ship might only go down to level 6 so if you want to go down to level 5, you’ll need to walk across to the next set of lifts and either walk down 1 flight of stairs or take a lift down 1 floor
  • the lift at the BACK might be the only one to go UP to your preferred sunbathing spot – the lift in the middle of the ship might go up to floor 16, then you’ll need to walk up 1 flight of stairs or walk to where the lifts can take you the remaining way.

Sometimes you have to walk to more lifts to get to the floor you want, or use stairs. Don’t worry about this – look and study the map you get with your cruise card.

Other tips

I only wanted this blog to be top TEN tips so I’ll combine this next one! I would recommend buying these useful items:

  • Adapter with several plugs and USB – no more fighting for space! This one cost us £14 from Amazon.
Charger with multiple plugs and USBs
Charger with multiple plugs and USBs
  • The bathroom is small with limited space, so I take pretty much everything in smaller plastic bottles to reduce the space needed
  • A hanging toiletry bag you can hang from a door that contains your products helps reduce room taken up in your bathroom. I have the small & large sizes – WANDF brand here from Amazon.
A hanging door toiletry bag is SO useful for reducing clutter in your bathroom
You don’t get much bathroom surface space, so I use a hanging door toiletry bag for everything
  • Packing cubes! They’re so handy for keeping things organised. You can take them from your suitcase into drawers and keep your dirties in one, making sorting washing on your return quick and easy. If you aren’t sure, I’d buy cheap ones and then invest in some good quality ones. I got a pack of 6 (3 sizes) from LeanTravel for £45. Worth every penny.

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How does Tretinoin work and how does it help acne?

Tretinoin is in the cream I’m getting in my Dermatica subscription to fight hyperpigmentation/melasma on my forehead. It’s strong stuff, so I’ve done research and thought I’d share my findings.

[Tretinoin is used for] Topical preparation to reduce hyperpigmentation of skin,
such as persistent freckles, dark marks (lentigines) or
melasma. Tretinoin works by increasing the skin cell turnover rate,
which helps exfoliate the skin and improve the signs of

from the leaflet in my Dermatica skincare subscription

Is Tretinoin a retinol?

Retinol and tretinoin are both retinoids (vitamin A) but tretinoin is more concentrated and therefore can give quicker results. It can also aggravate the skin more quickly as it’s stronger.

When I started Dermatica in May, the cream included 0.025% and it took 2 more months to take me up to 0.05%. I have recently reduced to 1 pump, instead of 2 at night, as my skin was feeling dry (it’s never dry) and slightly irritated. I took a few days off, with extra moisturiser, and it’s fine again.

You’re only able to get Tretinoin via a prescription, unlike retinol which is readily available online.

Being careful with retinoids

As with any intense skincare, such as retinoids, I personally take it day by day. As I’ve mentioned, my skin started to become irritated so I gave my skin a few days off and added lots of moisturiser to my morning and evening routine. Once I found my skin was back to normal and happy again, I introduced the cream again but only 1 pump this time instead of the usual 2. I’ve kept it at 1 as I feel that’s enough for my skin.

If this keeps happening, I’ll most likely ask Dermatica to reduce my subscription back down to 0.025% again.

What does Tretinoin do to the skin?

Tretinoin is used to treat skin conditions such as acne, scarring and hyperpigmentation. It helps to exfoliate the skin so although it helps with skin renewal, it can cause irritation because it’s so intense.

I use it in the evening before I go to bed. I put the cream on, then wait a few minutes (normally I clean my teeth) then I follow up with 2 moisturisers.

Since May, each monthly subscription has included Tretinoin and I’ve seen huge improvements to my melasma.

Tretinoin 0.05% / Niacinamide 4% / Azelaic Acid 4%
1st month on Dermatica, May 2023 – Tretinoin used 0.025% to treat melasma on my forehead/sides of cheeks
Dermatica personalised skincare with Tretinoin Hydroquinone Niacinamide Azelaic Acid
4th month on Dermatica, August 2023 – Tretinoin used 0.05%

Tretinoin with Hydroquinone

According to the leaflet I got with my Dermatica subscription, they both go hand in hand together.

Topical preparation to reduce hyperpigmentation of skin, such as persistent freckles, dark marks (lentigines) or melasma. Tretinoin works by increasing the skin cell turnover rate, which helps exfoliate the skin and improve the signs of photodamage. Hydroquinone is a depigmenting agent that interrupts the production of melanin pigment to help lighten the skin. Combining these active substances can help target and improve different skin concerns simultaneously.

Info from a leaflet in my Dermatica subscription

Using other products

When I use Tretinoin, I stay away from acids, such as salicylic acid or ascorbic acid (vitamin C) unless it’s in the morning (at a different time than using tretinoin).

I also moisturise more than usual, including lots of high SPF to give my skin as much protection as possible.

What skincare are you using?

I’ve been using Dermatica since May and I’m happy with the results. I started to see results within 6 weeks, with quite dramatic results within 3 months. See my full article on my 4-month experience with Dermatica here.

Tretinoin, 0.05% per tube - the first 2 months was 0.025 Hydroquinone, 4% per tube From looking at my upcoming formulas, they are introducing Niacinamide 4% and Azelaic Acid 4% in September (this will be my 5th month)
Dermatica personalised skincare review – with Tretinoin Hydroquinone Niacinamide

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Shokz OpenFit Review after using for 2 months

I bought Shokz OpenFit for myself as a birthday present back in July, so I figured it was about time I did a thorough review of my thoughts, how I’m using them, and my suggestions if you’re not sure about purchasing.

First of all, they’re very unique headphones built with certain features, including:

  • DirectPitch technology – they aren’t bond conducting – but use this method for open-ear listening, which “addresses vibration and neckband issues”
  • Situational Awareness – The headphones are open-ear so they don’t block other sounds around you.

Table of contents:

Other benefits include:

  • Comfy over-ear design to hook around your ear, to stop them falling off. They don’t sit in your ear so there’s no feeling of claustrophobia others can give
  • Long battery life
  • Great call quality with a microphone
  • Sweat-resistant and resistant to ‘light rain’
  • Quick syncing – as soon as you put them on, they’re activated (doesn’t take a few seconds like others)

The target audience is outdoorsy people, which makes sense given the top features are situational awareness, sweat & light-rain resistance. I’ve been using them a lot inside too which I’ll detail below.

Shokz OpenFit Headphones review - what's included in the box
What’s included in the box – the headphones, charging case, outer case (with loop), charging cable and instructions
Shokz OpenFit Headphones review
Sleek and comfy, the hook goes behind your ear

What are they great for?

I’m using the OpenFit constantly. I keep them in my ears pretty much all day. I find them extremely comfy and forget they’re in most of the time. They’re synced with my mobile but can be quickly synced to my laptop if I need it. You can’t unfortunately sync them to 2 devices at the same time but it’s not too much drama to swap.

Shokz OpenFit Headphones review
Thumbs up to using the headphones during a workout – this is me indoor cycling plus having done skipping

They’re the best headphones I’ve ever used for calls. I haven’t tried with work calls on Teams yet.

The sound quality is excellent. They connect quickly, there’s no lag in putting them on. I listen to music with Spotify but also switch between social apps making it better so my husband doesn’t have to listen to my tiktoks. I sometimes just use one headphone which works well even if the other is put back into the charging box.

I use them for working out. I do a range of sports including boxing, indoor cycling, skipping, HIITs, weights, pilates and outdoor walking (plus running which I’ve mentioned below in the negatives). They stay on and don’t move. They’re also not dripping with sweat when I take them off after a workout, unlike other in-ear ones (sorry, TMI?).

I’ve also made some YouTube videos using them for sound – they pick up my voice clearly and never drop out.

Shokz OpenFit open-ear wireless Headphones review
I forget I have them in because they’re so comfy and don’t make me feel claustrophobic

Any negatives?

As mentioned above, you can’t sync to 2 devices at the same time. Although connecting them is quick and easy, it’s still a small annoyance especially when their other headphones can be synced to 2.

I’ve just started running and whilst the situational awareness is great, if there is wind, it does hinder it somewhat. If it’s windy when running, it means I have to turn my music up to hear it, reducing the feeling of situational awareness.

Similar to cooking, weirdly – if I’m frying food or have the air frier on – I have to turn the volume up high which I don’t like doing. As they aren’t in-ear, they don’t shut out outside noise. I know, I know – it’s obvious, but I hadn’t considered these scenarios. If I’m boxing or using weights, I can now hear everything – previously with my Samsung buds, even though I hated how uncomfortable they were, they’d tune out the noise. I didn’t consider this!

What are the touch actions like?

Shokz OpenFit Headphones review
The touch control instructions

I can’t get to grips with the touch actions yet. I don’t like the feeling of pressing into my ear, so I haven’t been using them. You can press forward or back to change the song, but (weirdly?) you can’t change the volume. You can also pause, but it takes 2 taps which I don’t like as I usually miss the part you have to press, so it takes more like 5 taps. I hated this about my old Samsung buds as tapping them was uncomfortable. That being said when I have used it to forward through a song, it works and takes probably 2 seconds to complete.

The Shokz OpenFit charging box and case

Shokz OpenFit Headphones review
Here is the charging box placed in the outer case. Lovely design and quality from both

I didn’t realise I’d get a case, so that was a happy surprise. It has a loop too making it easy to keep close on your wrist. The charging case is lovely to use and fits the headphones nicely. There’s a cute quiet ‘snap’ when you reattach both headphones and it highlights green or red to indicate charging.

Shokz OpenFit Headphones review
The outer case has a small flap pocket for the USB charging cable
Shokz OpenFit Headphones review
The headphones and the charging box – very easy to pick up and put back away

My personal choices

I’m a HSP – a highly sensitive person – anything noisy affects me. I’m super sensitive to noise and hate loud noises. I’ve always been obsessed with headphones. I’ve tried cheap £20 headphones from Amazon, and Samsung Buds (I sold mine to put the money towards these) and I use Bose over-ear for work calls (with Teams) which helps to cancel out noise when in the office.

I love these Shokz OpenFit headphones. As mentioned, I hadn’t considered using them to do noisy things won’t drown out the noise which is weird considering they aren’t in-ear, so it’s obvious! I don’t regret buying them and would recommend them.

I’m on the lookout for better headphones to use for work. My Bose ones need the volume tweaking for EACH CALL which is a nightmare – okay, more like a small, constant inconvenience but when you’re on 6 (minimum) calls per day, it gets a bit annoying. The OpenComm ones are tailored for this but just under £200. I’d rather go for the cheapest, but they’re for sports, so I’m not sure if the microphone would be any good. I’ll update this blog if I decide to buy any.

How much are Shokz OpenFit headphones?

I bought them from the UK Shokz website for £179 but I signed up for the newsletter that got me 10% off so in total I paid £161 + free delivery. You can also buy them from Amazon, John Lewis, Selfridges etc.

If I’m accepted as an affiliate, I might get a discount code so I’ll post that here. Stay tuned! Until then, do as mentioned above to get 10% off or wait until Amazon Prime Day to see if they’re on offer.

Are Shokz OpenFit waterproof?

No, but they are sweat and rain-resistant. So basically they give the go-ahead for wearing in light rain but nothing heavier, although I’ve seen blogs from others who have worn them in heavy rain with no problems. This is from the UK Shokz website:

OpenFit features IP54 water resistance and is designed with a double-layer waterproof steel mesh and gauze for additional protection and enhanced sound performance.7 During your sweatiest of workout sessions, keep enjoying your music or audiobook worry-free.

Are Shokz OpenFit headphones bone-conducting?

No, they aren’t. This is from the UK Shokz website:

OpenFit isn’t a bone conduction headphone. Shokz introduces DirectPitch™, a brand-new audio experience made for OpenFit. It allows for premium audio quality that perfectly balances bold highs, clear mids, and surging bass.

I haven’t tried the bone-conducting headphones so I can’t comment but I’m pleased with OpenFit for sound quality and comfort.

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Dermatica Prescription Skincare – 4month review before and after photos

After returning from holiday, I had full-blown hyperpigmentation from sun damage across my forehead and down the sides of my face. It wasn’t anything I’d experienced, mainly acne and oily skin. This was entirely new for me so I had some investigating to do.

Dermatica personalised skincare with Tretinoin Hydroquinone Niacinamide Azelaic Acid
Nov 2022 – My hot, abroad holiday seemed to worsen my skin as you can see here. Lots of pigmentation, and dryness not to mention (undiagnosed) fungal acne

I’d always had a slight discolouration on my forehead after getting burnt a few years ago, but going on holiday in the sunshine not only gave me a tan, but made the melasma so much worse as you can see. My forehead and sides of my cheek came out worse – this is in November 2022 just after my holiday.

I had no idea what it was, so obviously Googled it and found it’s Melasma which is similar to hyperpigmentation, but even after reading a lot, I’m still not 100% sure what the difference is. I think Melasma is symmetrical whereas hyperpigmentation is in smaller, more condensed areas. As soon as Dermatica saw my photos, they instantly told me I need treatment for Melasma so that was that.

Table of contents:

What is Dermatica and how can they help?

Dermatica offers personalised skincare with strong prescription ingredients, such as Tretinoin, which is what my formula includes, to reduce the melasma.

Dermatica personalised skincare with Tretinoin Hydroquinone Niacinamide Azelaic Acid
Different types of problems Dermatica can help you with – photo taken from the homepage

You start your consultation online by answering questions and uploading photos – this allows the Dermatica team to review to ensure they recommend the right products.

You upload photos every month or so into the online system so it’s really easy to look back and compare.

Dermatica personalised skincare with Tretinoin Hydroquinone Niacinamide Azelaic Acid
My progress photos in my Dermatica account

It’s a personalised service, which is one of the main things I was looking for. I wanted something to help that was tailored to me and matched my skin; I didn’t want something random from Boots or The Ordinary (although I love them) that’d be too harsh and worsen my skin. I wanted something to help as quickly as possible.

Tretinoin, 0.05% per tube - the first 2 months was 0.025

Hydroquinone, 4% per tube

From looking at my upcoming formulas, they are introducing Niacinamide 4% and Azelaic Acid 4% in September (this will be my 5th month)
This is my Dermatica product – simple but nice packaging with a helpful leaflet
Tretinoin, 0.05% per tube - the first 2 months was 0.025

Hydroquinone, 4% per tube

From looking at my upcoming formulas, they are introducing Niacinamide 4% and Azelaic Acid 4% in September (this will be my 5th month)
Each delivery includes a handy leaflet explaining the process and helpful information

What’s in the Dermatica personalised formula?

Your formula is personalised but I’m happy to share mine. I’m using Dermatica to ‘fix’ my melasma/hyperpigmentation.

This is why I was happy to go with Dermatica. The formula is personalised and tailored, meaning the formula is changed as my skin does. My skin has been using the above ingredients since my first order at the end of May (so let’s say June). My skin has had time to get familiar with the ingredients to reduce irritation before it changes.

My treatments so far:

  • 1st tube, May 2023 – Fluocinolone Acetonide 0.01% + Tretinoin 0.025% + Hydroquinone 4%
  • 2nd tube, June – Fluocinolone Acetonide 0.01% + Tretinoin 0.025% + Hydroquinone 4%
  • 3rd tube, July – Tretinoin 0.05% (increased from 0.025) / Hydroquinone 4% cream
  • 4th tube, August – Tretinoin 0.05% / Hydroquinone 4% cream

My 5th month is going to be in October rather than September, as I’m a little behind in product so I can skip a month. October includes – Tretinoin 0.05% / Niacinamide 4% / Azelaic Acid 4%. I’ve been putting it on every night so I’m not sure how I’m so far behind. The product seems to last for ages even with the smallish tube.

Before and after pictures

When you first purchase, you upload 3 photos – front, left and right. These photos are what the experts use to determine what to put in your formula to fix whatever problem you’ve mentioned.

The photos are also kept within your online account, so you can refer back to see how far your skin has come. You aren’t likely to notice a difference when you’re looking at skin every day, so it’s nice to see the photos side by side (if not a bit cringe).

Dermatica personalised skincare before after pictures
This is in my online account – you upload photos every month or so to easily compare and look back to see if your skin has improved
Tretinoin 0.05% / Niacinamide 4% / Azelaic Acid 4%
1st month of using Dermatica – May 2023

From the first photo at the top of this blog back in November when I got home from holidays, I waited a few months as I wanted to finish all of my existing products. You are advised to reduce using other products with Dermatica as they can affect the results. You can still use SPF and makeup though, see more info further down this blog.

Tretinoin 0.05% / Niacinamide 4% / Azelaic Acid 4%
2nd month of using Dermatica – June

The lighting is different but you can’t see much difference. It says on the website it can take anything up to 8 weeks to see a change.

July, below, is probably the most dramatic change.

Dermatica personalised skincare with Tretinoin Hydroquinone Niacinamide Azelaic Acid
3rd month of using Dermatica – July
Dermatica personalised skincare with Tretinoin Hydroquinone Niacinamide Azelaic Acid
4th month of using Dermatica – August. These pics were taken just before my period so my forehead is more spotty than usual.

I’ll keep updating this blog with new months.

How long do the results take?

It says on the website results can take anything from 8-12 weeks. I saw a difference within 6 weeks but most noticeable after 2 months.

If you don’t see any results, you can get in touch with them to discuss and they will look at/change your formula. It’s personalised to you, so it should be working for you. If you aren’t seeing a difference, I’d double-check what else you are using – other products could stop Dermatica from working. Are you using enough product? I put at least 1 pump worth on each night before bed.

How and when do you use Dermatica?

I put one pump on my face before going to bed. I was using 2 pumps, but found my skin going slightly sensitive, so reducing back down to one has made my skin feel better again. I apply it then clean my teeth, giving the product at least 3 minutes to sink into my skin. I finish off with moisturiser.

How much is Dermatica and are there discounts?

Your first monthly order is £2.90 then it increases to £24.99 per month or you can buy as a subscription which gets you discounts, see the below photo (or use my discount code, see below).

Each month you get a tube of product which slowly changes to increase certain ingredients as your skin gets familiar with it.

Dermatica personalised skincare with Tretinoin Hydroquinone Niacinamide Azelaic Acid
Dermatica price options if you take out a subscription

Want a discount? Click on my link below to get your first month for £2.90 and 10% off your next one:

Click here to use my link then add ‘ahoybeauty’ to the discount box on the payment page – see below for what it should look like.

Can you use other products alongside?

They recommend you don’t, as it could stop Dermatica from working or interacting. You can still use it with SPF though, and make up.

Dermatica’s official stance is on their website:

The active ingredients that we use can increase the sensitivity of your skin. So, we recommend keeping your skincare routine simple. A cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen are more than enough during treatment. Exfoliants and toners containing salicylic acid, AHAs, BHAs, glycolic or lactic acids should be avoided. They can increase the sensitivity of your skin, and our treatments will help to exfoliate the skin. Products containing retinols can promote further peeling, and should also be avoided. Vitamin C can be used in the morning if you apply your treatment at night, and hyaluronic acid is fine to use. You will get a guide on how best to integrate your treatment into your current regime. Our dermatology team are also available when needed to check on any other ingredients.

In Dermatica FAQs

See the Dermatica full FAQ section here.

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Make up

Foundation Brush vs Beauty Blender – Which One Is Best?

I’ve been obsessed with makeup since my teens and have worn lots of different foundations for over 20 years (don’t do the maths). Here are my top tips on the coverage differences between using a brush vs blender when applying your foundation!

I have an oily t-zone and dryness around my nose. When wearing foundation, I generally don’t wear any if I’m at home. I wear a light amount if I’m nipping to the shops or out to see a friend. I go heavy if I’m out all day (to make sure it lasts) or if I’m going out for a night out.

I tend to go between a brush vs blender sporadically. It also depends on what’s clean. I clean my brushes and blenders often – at least once a week with ISOclean, so I use the alternative when things are drying.

Brush vs Blender – what are the differences in the finish?

I’m currently liking using a blender as I’ve opted for a lighter finish recently. The blender tends to soak up more of the foundation than a brush, which helps when using the brush to get a heavier finish and more coverage.

I always wet through and then dry the beauty blender, which allows the foundation to glide on my skin. If the blender is dry, it takes forever to use, and the coverage isn’t as good.

In comparison when using a brush, the foundation tends to sit on top of my skin instead of soaking in. This helps you achieve a heavier look with more coverage.

Beauty blender foundation finish review
I’ve used a damp blender to get a lighter finish here. I could go over my skin again to get heavier coverage.
Beauty blender foundation finish review
Different lighting + a slightly heaver finish

Which should I use?

I’d recommend using both and finding out for yourself. It’s easy for me to say which I prefer, which is either depending on how I’m feeling and what coverage I want.

Beauty blenders are super cheap. I use these: you get 4 sponges from Amazon for £5 £3.99!

These are the beauty blenders I use – 4x for £3.99 from Amazon!

Brushes are more expensive, but they last years. I use Il Makiage’s 100 ‘blending brush’ which is £38 (use ‘welcome10’ for 10% off) which is the best foundation brush I’ve used. It’s dense but soft, allowing you to buff and pat the foundation into the skin for a glowy finish.

Another benefit to a beauty blender is that you can use the same one for concealer as well as foundation and powder. I don’t do this with brushes; I have one for each foundation, concealer and powder, which takes up more space if I’m travelling. I can take a blender in my bag on a day trip to touch up foundation, concealer and powder which saves room.

Here I am applying Il Makiage foundation with a beauty blender:

Il Makiage 100 Foundation Blending brush review
Using a brush, it gives you more coverage as less product soaks up into the brush
Il makiage review - using woke up like this foundation
Personally, this is heavy for me to try to cover my chin spots – this is using a brush

Buy the 100 brush from Il Makiage here for £38 (use code ‘welcome10’ for 10% off) and here’s the Il Makiage foundation. I’ve been using both for years and I’d highly recommend them.

How do you clean the blender and brush?

I use ISOclean to clean my brushes and I put the beauty blenders in my clothes washing using a mesh bag I talk about below. I have 3 foundation brushes in total, and about 7 beauty blenders, so I always have others to use when some are being cleaned.

After using either a brush or beauty blender for a max of 4 times or if it’s over a week, I then wash it. Bacterial build-up on your skin transfers to them, so you really don’t want to be using dirty tools on your face.

Some people don’t like putting beauty blenders in their clothes wash due to the fabric wash/conditioner, but I don’t mind it and haven’t noticed any skin problems. I put the blenders in a mesh bag from Amazon in the washing machine, so they don’t go missing, then simply hang it up to allow them all to dry. I use these mesh bags (30cm X 40cm) from Amazon for £4.99 for 2. They work for other things too, like socks or bras etc – anything you don’t want to lose in your washing!

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How To Dermaplane Easy At Home in 5 Simple Steps

I’ve dermaplaned my skin for years and I love it! Not only does it remove dead skin cells to make skin appear brighter, but it also removes the hair too, so anything you put on your face, like make-up, smoothes on better and stays on for longer.

Here’s how I use Estrid Dermaplaning Kit to get smooth skin. I use it once every few weeks and no, the hair doesn’t come back thicker/longer/darker.

Estrid Dermaplaning Razor Kit - smooth skin
You get 3 in a pack for under a fiver – the top folds in for safety and is great for travel (as it takes up less space)
Estrid Dermaplaning Razor Kit - smooth skin
Estrid Dermaplaning Razor Kit – you get 3 in a pack for under a fiver
Estrid Dermaplaning Razor Kit - smooth skin
Estrid Dermaplaning Razor Kit - smooth skin

How do you start to dermaplane safely?

I practised on my leg first as it’s easy to nick yourself at the start when you aren’t familiar with how to use a razor. Your face has lots of small bumps and thin skin, so you need to be really careful. I still nick myself even now if I’m not paying attention.

I use the razor along with the hair – don’t go against the hair growth. Doing this you’re more likely to hurt yourself as there’s more resistance so it’s easier for the razor to move when it shouldn’t.

I usually start at the sides of my ears and slowly move back and forth until I get down to my chin on either side. I tend to do the fiddly bits (around my lips) last, as that’s when I’m most comfortable with the razor and less likely to nick myself.

Estrid Dermaplaning Razor Kit - smooth skin
Estrid Dermaplaning Razor Kit – smooth skin by arching the razor in a light, downwards motion
Estrid Dermaplaning Razor Kit - smooth skin
Very comfortable to hold due to the nice shape of the tool
Estrid Dermaplaning Razor Kit - smooth skin
I mostly love to shave the sides of my face, which collects the most but I also use around my lips, and to help shape my eyebrows (I hate plucking)
Estrid Dermaplaning Razor Kit - smooth skin
Look at all that fuzz!
Estrid Dermaplaning Razor Kit - smooth skin
So satisfying!! As you can see, the hairs are very thin and whispy – they haven’t changed or gone darker/thicker since I’ve started dermaplaning

Get it for £4.95 with free delivery from

How do you prep your skin?

I dermaplane after a hot shower so my pores are open, and I use soap or sometimes FaceTheory cleanser. I lather up the soap so it’s thick, then rub it gently into my skin. As the soap is thick, it stays on the parts I haven’t done yet, so it’s easy for me to see what skin I still need to do.

When I use soap, I can actually hear the hair being cut! Very satisfying if you like that kinda thing…

What about skincare afterwards?

If you have sensitive skin, you might need to moisturise lots afterwards as your skin might be sore. I personally don’t have sensitive skin, but I always make sure to use lots of moisturisers afterwards.

Does the hair grow back thicker, longer or darker?

I have light hair so it was never dark, but no, I can confirm it is the exact same as what it was before shaving. The colour is exactly the same, and so is the hair thickness. It doesn’t grow back longer either.

Estrid Dermaplaning Razor Kit - smooth skin
Be gone, wisps!

Get it for £4.95 with free delivery from

What are the benefits of dermaplaning?

I dermaplane because I don’t like my lil’ blonde moustache or whisps growing at the sides of my ears. I love to use the razor around my eyebrows too, to help to give them shape as I hate plucking.

It helps make-up go on smoother and stay on for longer. I’ve also noticed my make-up isn’t as patchy by the end of the day because my skin is smoother.

Estrid Dermaplaning Razor Kit - smooth skin
The fuzz grows back exactly the same as it did years ago before I started dermaplaning

Is dermaplaning the same as using a razor?

Yeah, they’re pretty similar, but dermaplaning is a closer shave so it takes off the top layer of skin too. It helps my makeup stay on for longer, and look better, because it’s being put on smoother, less bumpy skin.

How often do you dermaplane?

I shave every few weeks. I could probably go for a month. The hair doesn’t grow any longer either; it seems to grow to the same length then just stops.

What razor do you use?

I used to use cheapo Amazon razors but recently I’ve been using the Estrid starter kit razor (for legs etc) and found out they do dermaplane razors too so I bought some for £4.95 for 3, and you get free delivery.

Get it for £4.95 with free delivery from

See my Estrid starter kit blog here that I use on legs, etc. It’s different to this Dermaplaning razor.

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FUL Intense Moisture Hair Mask Treatment Review

Why do you need a hair mask and how is it different from regular conditioner I hear you ask? Well, the FUL hair mask is different. It includes a pH-balanced formula to deeply condition your hair with super nourishing ingredients including shea butter and coconut oil.

If like me you use coconut oil after being in the sea, you know how much it helps reduce frizz, and softens your hair.

Fancy smooth hair? Get 20% off on – use my discount code AHOYBEAUTY20 to get this 300ml tub for £25.60 down from £32.

FUL Hair Conditioner Mask Treatment
FUL Hair Conditioner Mask Treatment | It’s a big 300ml tub

Regular conditioner is used in the shower and is rinsed off after a few minutes. With this FUL hair mask, you shampoo your hair as usual but apply this treatment and leave it on – then rinse off after 10 minutes. This allows the hair to be properly soaked and reap the nourishing benefits.

FUL Hair Conditioner Mask Treatment
FUL Hair Conditioner Mask Treatment

Have I been using it the recommended way?

Unfortunately not, no. Who has time to have a shower, shampoo hair, get out, towel-dry hair, apply a hair mask, wait 10 minutes then get back in the shower and rinse?

I have however found a way to incorporate the mask into my hair care several times a week and can safely say, I’m impressed. I’m able to leave my hair wet so it dries naturally because the mask has calmed my frizz so much, I don’t need to blow dry it straight.

How do you use the mask treatment?

If I know I’m having a shower in an hour or so (maybe I’m about to work out) I’ll add a big blob throughout my hair from the middle down to the ends. I love using my tangle tweezer hair brush to comb it through – not touching the roots, making sure I get every last hair. Then I put it in a bun, or low pony and do whatever I need to. After an hour or so, I have a shower to rinse it out. Then I shampoo my hair but I don’t re-condition it, as it’s already conditioned enough.

The outcome is lovely shiny conditioned hair!

Fancy smooth hair? Get 20% off on – use my discount code AHOYBEAUTY20 to get this 300ml tub for £25.60 down from £32.

FUL Hair Conditioner Mask Treatment - during
FUL Hair Conditioner Mask Treatment | luckily I work from home so I was able to apply and work at my desk!

What type of hair is it good for?

Mainly for dry/damaged but I’d say if yours needs some TLC, then go for it.

FUL Hair Conditioner Mask Treatment - afterwards
FUL Hair Conditioner Mask Treatment | this is my hair after using the mask, and then left dry after shampooing. Completely different to my usual random-curl-frizzy mess

Where can I buy it? How much is it?

Buy it from for £32 – get 20% off with my discount code AHOYBEAUTY20 making it £25.60 for a whopping 300ml!

So far, I’ve used this twice a week and the tub is showing no signs of having any used! It’s a huge tub and one that’ll probably last for months.

I’ll keep updating this article with how much is left.

Tell me about the ingredients

Does it contain parabens, sulphates or silicone?

Nope! None of those according to the website.

Is it vegan and cruelty-free?

Yes and yes!

Full ingredients list here:

Aqua, Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Chloride, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Propylene Glycol, Butyrospermum Parkii Butter, Cetrimonium Chloride, Cocos Nucifera Oil, Parfum, Benzyl Alcohol, Polyquaternium-37, Isopropyl Alcohol, Quaternium-80, Hexyl Cinnamal, Citric Acid, Benzyl Salicylate, Limonene, Polyquaternium-11, Dehydroacetic Acid, Linalool, Disodium EDTA, Coumarin, Geraniol, Sodium Hydroxide, Citral

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Health and Wellbeing

What are the top 10 benefits to Cordyceps in Mushroom Coffee?

I’ve replaced my morning coffee with London Nootropics who sell 3 coffee flavours; one of which contains Cordyceps and Ginseng.

It’s called ‘MOJO’ and has SO MANY amazing benefits I wanted to write about my experience with it.

What are Cordyceps?

Cordyceps are a fungus, thought to increase the body’s production of the molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is essential for delivering energy to the muscles. This may improve the way your body uses oxygen, especially during exercise. It is also a potent antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties.

What are the benefits of London Nootropics Cordyceps Mushroom coffee?

  1. Increased energy and stamina: Cordyceps mushrooms can provide a natural energy boost, enhancing physical endurance and strength but without the coffee crash after a few hours.
  2. Improved physical performance: Cordyceps can enhance aerobic capacity, increase oxygen flow to muscles, and improve resistance to fatigue. I have a MOJO coffee 30 mins before a workout to give me a boost that even lasts way after my workout.
  3. Immune system support: Cordyceps mushrooms have immune-boosting properties that can help strengthen the body’s defense mechanisms.
  4. Enhanced brain health: The bioactive compounds in Cordyceps have been associated with cognitive benefits, potentially improving focus, clarity, and mental performance. I have a MOJO mid-morning or early-afternoon to give me extra energy if I’m struggling for whatever reason.
  5. Adaptogenic properties: Cordyceps are adaptogens, which means it can help the body adapt to physical and mental stressors, promoting overall well-being.
  6. Antioxidant activity: Cordyceps mushrooms contain antioxidants that can help protect cells from oxidative damage and support cellular health.
  7. Natural and pure ingredients: The adaptogenic coffee blend is made from premium natural ingredients, free from preservatives and artificial sweeteners.
  8. Made in London: The coffee blend is manufactured in London, ensuring quality and freshness.
  9. Endurance and vitality: The blend is specifically designed to promote endurance, strength, and vitality, making it ideal for physical activities and combating fatigue.
  10. Convenience: I simply add a sachet to hot water, stir, and either enjoy it black or with soya/oat milk. Also good with normal milk.

If you’d like to try the coffee by London Nootropics, feel free to use my discount code ahoy10 for 10% off your order on You can get a box of 12 sachets for £15 which can either be just 1 flavour or a mixture of 3 (so you get 4 each).

I personally get the big box every 2 months. It contains 60 sachets (20 of each flavour) and is discounted due to me having a subscription 🙂 I tend to have either MOJO mentioned above in the morning or early-afternoon, as well as FLOW, and then ZEN in an afternoon as it contains CBD so doesn’t give the same buzz as the other 2, but still tasty and delicious.

Morning coffee 'mojo' with soya milk - London Nootropics Cordyceps Mushroom review
Morning coffee ‘mojo’ with soya milk – Mojo contains cordyceps and ginseng
London nootropics coffee close up of the box - I buy the big box and get 60 sachets split into 3 flavours. London Nootropics Cordyceps Mushroom
London nootropics coffee close up of the box – I buy the big box and get 60 sachets split into 3 flavours
london nootropics mushroom coffee review - zen cbd ashwaganda. London Nootropics Cordyceps Mushroom
This is a sachet and shows how much you get – it’s a lot!
London Nootropics mushroom coffee zen review. London Nootropics Cordyceps Mushroom
London Nootropics mushroom coffee zen

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Health and Wellbeing

London Nootropics Adaptogenic Mushroom Coffee review: My Top 10 Favourite Benefits

After buying 8 large boxes since February 2022, I’ve got a thing or two to say about London Nootropics mushroom coffee!

One of the biggest changes is how it’s replaced my morning filter coffee – my favourite thing. I now have ‘Flow’ which is one of the flavours available from the brand.

Changing coffee to mushroom coffee has lowered my anxiety, reduced jitters and actually helped me to concentrate for longer periods of time. I wouldn’t go back to normal coffee now for these reasons plus I don’t miss the crash!

Here are my top 10 favourite things about London Nootropics Adaptogenic Mushroom Coffee:

  1. Dragon’s Den Backing: The brand received support from two dragons, demonstrating their credibility and passion.
  2. Flavors and Benefits: They offer a variety of flavors infused with beneficial ingredients like ginseng, lion’s mane, and ashwagandha.
  3. Pure Natural Ingredients: The coffee is made from high-quality natural ingredients, free from artificial additives.
  4. Balanced Energy: Unlike regular coffee, it provides a sustained energy boost without sudden spikes or crashes.
  5. Mushroom Coffee: It contains medicinal mushrooms known for their antioxidant properties, immune system support, and anti-inflammatory effects.
  6. Pleasant Taste: Despite being mushroom coffee, it doesn’t taste like mushrooms and offers a unique and enjoyable flavor.
  7. Mental Well-being: The inclusion of adaptogenic properties helps the mind and body adapt to stressors, promoting balance and well-being.
  8. Compatibility with Milk: It blends well with different types of milk, including soy, oat, and regular milk. I have on its own too with just hot water. It’s delicious!
  9. Convenient Sachets: The coffee comes in sachets, making it easy to take on-the-go and enjoy a delicious cup anywhere.When I visit the office for work, I usually take 2.
  10. Subscription Option: Their monthly subscription box provides a cost-effective and convenient way to enjoy the coffee regularly. I have a ‘big box’ on regular 2-month order, for £48.

Get 10% off with the coupon code ahoy10 (add on basket page) – referral code:

If you’d like to read more about the flavours and the boxes, read my thorough London Nootropics blog here.

london nootropics mushroom coffee review - zen cbd ashwaganda
london nootropics mushroom coffee review – zen cbd ashwaganda
London Nootropics big box - 3 flavours, 60 sachets
London Nootropics big box – 3 flavours, 60 sachets
Morning coffee 'mojo' with soya milk
Morning coffee ‘mojo’ with soya milk

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Make up

My Top 10 Favourite Things About Il Makiage Woke Up Like This Foundation

Imagine a foundation that not only flawlessly matches your skin tone but also delivers long-lasting coverage and a natural matte finish. EVEN on oily and acne-prone skin (like mine). I’ve tried and tested Il Makiage’s Woke Up Like This foundation so you don’t have to.

From its cruelty-free and vegan formula to its skin-friendly ingredients, here are my top 10 reasons why this foundation has earned a place in my makeup bag.

il Makiage woke up like this foundation skincare make up review
The left side shows just how much a few pumps manages to cover. My dark circles, redness, hyperpigmentation are covered
  1. Lightweight and Buildable Coverage: This foundation has a lightweight texture that feels comfortable on my skin. It offers buildable coverage, which lets me customise the level of coverage I want, from light to medium or even heavy. I don’t normally go heavy but have done for nights out and it stays in place until I take it off (especially if I prep my skin with primer)
  2. Natural Matte Finish: I like the natural matte finish that Il Makiage Woke Up Like This foundation provides. It gives my skin a flawless, uniform look without looking overly matte or dry.
  3. Long-Lasting Formula: Even after wearing the foundation for 17+ hours (see below pics), it stayed in place and maintained its coverage. I no longer have to worry about my makeup fading or melting away throughout the day.
  4. Accurate Shade Matcher: The Shade Matcher tool called “PowerMatch” on the Il Makiage website is incredibly accurate. Answering a few questions helped me find my perfect shade (#35), and it turned out to be a spot-on recommendation.
  5. Suitable for Combination Skin: I have combination skin (and a very oily forehead) so I was worried it’d make my skin worse or flare up with acne. It didn’t exacerbate my oily areas or dry out the sensitive parts of my face. I wasn’t itching to get it off after a long day like I normally would be and it didn’t make my spots break out.
  6. Skin-Friendly Ingredients: Il Makiage Woke Up Like This foundation is enriched with Vitamin E for anti-aging benefits. It also includes hyaluronic acid for hydration, protection, and filling in wrinkles. These ingredients contribute to the overall health and appearance of my skin.
  7. Dewy, Yet Non-Greasy Finish: Despite having a matte finish, this foundation gives my skin a dewy glow without making it look greasy. It strikes the perfect balance, making my skin look fresh and radiant but not greasy.
  8. Resistant to Sweat and Workout: I was pleasantly surprised to find that this foundation stayed intact even after a sweaty workout. It didn’t clump, melt, or become patchy, maintaining its coverage and longevity.
  9. Cruelty-Free and Vegan: One of the top reasons I love Il Makiage Woke Up Like This foundation is that it is cruelty-free and vegan. I can feel good about using a product that aligns with my values.
  10. Excellent Customer Service: Whenever I had questions or needed assistance, the Il Makiage customer service team was prompt, polite, and helpful. Their dedication to customer satisfaction enhances my overall experience with the brand. I got in touch via their Facebook page.

How I use the foundation on Tiktok!


my full @IL MAKIAGE ‘woke up like this’ foundation make up routine. I’m shade 35 & was matched using their powermatch quiz #makeuproutine #ilmakiage #ilmakiagefoundation #ilmakiagereview

♬ ALMOST HOME – Mad Adix, Marc Steinmeier
Here’s my Tiktok on how I use the foundation

My honest summary

In conclusion, Il Makiage Woke Up Like This foundation has become one of my favourite make-up products. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a high-quality foundation that is good for oily skin.

If you want to try it yourself, go through PowerMatch, the shade matcher. If you decide to return the foundation, you get a longer returns window if you go through PowerMatch so I’d suggest doing it! It only takes a few minutes.

How much is Woke Up Like This?

It’s £39. It’s free delivery over £50. Signing up for a delivery subscription every 4 months costs £35.10 so a 10% discount. Use the discount code welcome10 for 10% off.

Look at the Woke Up Like This foundation here or go straight and get your perfect shade with PowerMatch.

Il makiage review - using woke up like this foundation
Shade 35 – see below for how this looked after 17hrs
Il makiage woke up like this review - using woke up like this foundation
After a 17hr day including walking in the rain and sweating! My chin spots are visible but still not too obvious

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My photo, hi I'm Rachael

Hi, I'm Rachael.

This is my beauty website where I review lots of different products, from make up, to CBD coffee and vegan moisturiser. I've been using products for over 20 years, so I hope I've gathered some tips and tricks to share, plus I'm always learning so I'll be sharing them too. I have oily-skin, that's acne prone, so join me as I navigate this new age being a millennial!