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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I started a new Skin Cycling Routine with new Products to help my oily, sore skin to improve acne

I’ve incorporated skin cycling as my routine for a few months now. I decided to do a big skincare reset after getting home from my holiday in December where I experienced painful acne, caused (I’m 99% sure) by Elemis cleansing balm which triggered fungal-acne (although I haven’t been properly diagnosed).

My skin was red raw and covered in spots; some had white heads, others were just tiny painful bumps all over my forehead. Since I stopped using Elemis and reduced the number of products I use, my skin has completely changed, even before, after, and during my period when I’d normally get worse acne.

What is skin cycling?

It’s a night time routine where you use different products over 4 days. The goal with skin cycling is to improve your skin by:

  • reducing the number of products you are putting on your face
  • stopping overusing products that might be causing irritation
  • giving your skin time to breath after using harsh products, like retinol

Skin Cycling Routine – before and after

photo of my cheek with painful acne
Photo of my skin after holiday.- painful bumps
This was my skin after stopping using the Elemis, and just starting the Malezia
This was my skin after stopping using the Elemis, and just starting the Malezia with Skin Cycling
This was my skin after using Malezia for a few months - pic 3/4
This is my skin in April after using skin cycling routine for 4 months

What is an example of a skin cycling routine?

Skin cycling is a 4-day routine. If you start on a Monday, you will reset on Friday and start again.

Night 1 – exfoliate.

Night 2 – retinol

Nights 3 and 4 – moisturise.

I go into detail below what I do on each night, and also what my morning skincare routine looks like.

I use Malezia moisturiser after both nights following Exfoliating and Retinol

Night 1 – Exfoliate

Your first night is to exfoliate, which gets rid of all old and dead skin cells allowing products to get deeper into your skin and therefore work better.

This is the exfoliator I use – Paula’s Choice. It’s fantastic

My routine looks like this:

  1. Remove make up.
  2. Cleanse and tone skin. I use both Face Theory Freshening Face Wash C4 followed by Cera-C Pore Reducing Toner T1.
  3. Exfoliate using only a few drops. I use Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, which I find perfect on my oily and acne-prone skin. The day after using this product, my skin is GLOWING and spots are gone. I really love this product.
  4. After 10 minutes, I finish with a moisturiser

Night 2 – Retinol

Retinols can help reduce fine lines and wrinkles, by restoring plumpness. They can be harsh, so go easy with it – only 1 or 2 drops of a low concentration to start with. I use Pixi Botanical Collagen & Retinol Serum.

This is the retinol I use on Night 2 – Pixi Botanical Collagen Retinol Serum

My routine looks like this (the same as Night 1 apart from number 3)

  1. Remove make up.
  2. Cleanse and tone skin. I use both Face Theory Freshening Face Wash C4 followed by Cera-C Pore Reducing Toner T1.
  3. Add a few Retinol drops, nabbing on gently. I use Pixi Botanical Collagen & Retinol Serum.
  4. After 10 minutes, I finish with a moisturiser if my skin is feeling dry – I don’t always do this though.

Night 3 and 4 – Moisturise and recovery

After nights 1 and 2, your skin needs a break from the harsh chemicals, so nights 3 and 4 are for deep moisturising.

My routine looks like this:

  1. Remove make up.
  2. Cleanse and tone skin. I use both Face Theory Freshening Face Wash C4 followed by Cera-C Pore Reducing Toner T1.
  3. Moisturise. I use Face Theory Supergel Oil-free Moisturiser M3 followed by a thicker moisturiser to keep everything in my skin – Malezia 5% Urea moisturiser.
This was my skin after stopping using the Elemis, and just starting the Malezia
My skin starting to improve after following skin cycling and using Malezia

Following day – start again, back to night 1 (unless you’re new to exfoliating/retinol, in which case I’d add on another recovery day to reduce any skin irritation).

How many products do you use in total during night skin cycling routine?

I use a total of 8 across the morning and evening but not using them all every day.

Every morning I use:

  • 1x Cleanser. I use Face Theory Freshening Face Wash C4
  • 1x Toner. I use Face Theory Cera-C Pore Reducing Toner T1.
  • 1x Vitamin C. I use Face Theory Regena C30 Pro Vitamin C Serum with 30% Ethyl Ascorbic Acid
  • 1x Hyaluronic Acid. I use Face Theory Hylafecta 2% Hyaluronic Acid Serum S14
  • 1x Moisturiser. I use Face Theory Supergel Oil-free Moisturiser M3
  • 1x SPF. I use La Roche-Posay Anthelios 400 SPF50.

Night routine over the 4 nights includes:

  • 1x Retinol. I use Pixi Botanical Collagen & Retinol Serum.
  • 1x Exfoliator. I use Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
  • 1x Moisturiser. I use Malezia 5% Urea moisturiser plus sometimes the other one by Face Theory mentioned above if I feel my skin is needing even more moisture.

Do you moisturise every night with skin cycling?

I do personally, yes. After nights 1 and 2 of exfoliating and using retinol, I wait at least 10 minutes for the product to settle before moisturising.

I’m using 5% Urea moisturiser from Malezia as part of my routine. It’s one of my favourite skincare products. See my full review here.

How do you apply moisturiser when skin cycling?

If I’m using more than one moisturiser, I use the lightest/thinnest first followed by the thickest. This helps keep all products in your skin.

I use a pea-sized amount, and warm up for a few seconds between my clean fingers. Then I gently rub across my skin, patting the sensitive and thin skin around my eyes.

Does it change your morning routine?

No, skin cycling is for night time only. I don’t tend to change my morning routine no matter what day it is or what my skin is like.

My morning routine looks like this:

  1. Cleanse skin. I use Face Theory Freshening Face Wash C4.
  2. I then go in with a few drops of Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamin C. I’m using both Face Theory Hylafecta 2% Hyaluronic Acid Serum S14 and Regena C30 Pro Vitamin C Serum with 30% Ethyl Ascorbic Acid.
  3. Moisturise and bronzer – I use Face Theory Supergel Oil-free Moisturiser M3 mixed together with a bronzer. The bronzer I’m using is Indeed Labs Nanobronze Bronzing Drops. A tiny amount is all you’ll need.
  4. I finish with SPF. I’m currently using La Roche-Posay Anthelios 400 SPF50.

Does skin cycling routine actually work?

Yes. I will NEVER not use this routine to simplify my skincare. Not only has it massively improved my skin, it’s stopped me over-using products which has made it easier on my bank balance as I’m buying less!

Can you use face masks when skin cycling?

Yes of course! But if they are exfoliating, use them on night one instead of your normal exfoliator so you don’t over-exfoliate your skin. I personally use Sand and Sky pink clay (and Aldi’s £3 version!).

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Why you shouldn’t buy silk pillowcases plus comfy alternatives

I don’t know about you but recently I’ve been bamboozled with silk pillowcase ads on Insta. I actually nearly bought one because of the “amazing effects they have on your hair and skin”. They’re promoted at leaving your hair tangle-free after sleeping and skin super-soft because silk doesn’t soak up all your lotions and potions you put on your face before bed.

HOWEVER. I looked into it. Silk is NOT cruelty-free. Here is a quote from PETA, part of which I’ve blanked out because I don’t want to display upsetting info:

Silk is the fibre that silkworms weave to make their cocoons – outer casings that protect them during the pupal stage. But most of the insects used by the silk industry don’t live past this stage, because they [REMOVED] inside their cocoons, which causes the cocoons to begin unravelling so that workers can obtain the silk threads. Some 6,600 silkworms are killed to make just 1 kilogram of silk.

Quote from PETA – I have blanked some out of the text

Read the PETA article here.

What are the alternatives?

I did some research and found LOADS of alternatives. I ended up buying 2x white 100% polyester pillow cases from eBay for… £5.15. Yep, I was skeptical; here I was willing to buy a silk pillowcase at £20 and now settling for 2 at £5.15? I was willing to admit defeat if they were crap and handing over a fiver didn’t seem so bad.

Here is the item on eBay – nearly 10K sold!
Chuffed with my cheapo pillow cases
A close-up – doesn’t look like a cheapo pillow case

Are 100% polyester pillowcases any good?

Yes! They’re absolutely brilliant. They’ve been washed multiple times now and no signs of coming apart/ threading or anything else.

My hair is always really tangly after sleeping so I decided to test it. I’m not sure if the tangles are made during sleep or the fact I don’t brush my hair in the day (apart from the morning, if its lucky).

My hair in the morning – shiny & tangle-free – very surprised but happy!

I brushed my hair before bed (something I never do – who does?) and left it loose. In the morning, I brushed it again with my tangle tweezer and there were NO TANGLES – absolutely none! My hair was so soft and shiny. I’ve since tested it again and gone to bed with waves; I’ve woken up and they look the pretty similar as the night before – only a few minutes were needed to style instead of 15. It’s saving me time getting ready in a morning which I’m very thankful for.

I can’t comment on my skin yet; I’ve not had any acne since using these new pillowcases but I’d need to test them for at least a month before commenting (I’m just about to hit ‘acne’ stage of the month ughhh) Updates to follow!

Environmental issues with polyester

Although polyester is cruelty-free, it’s not without issues. It isn’t recyclable which in this day and age, we should all be making the effort to buy more sustainable clothing.

Hopefully these pillows will last a long time but when they’re ready to be upgraded, I’ll repurpose them and make something out of them:

  • Dog bedding – my dogs live in luxury clearly!
  • Use to keep documents in – they’re bigger than A4 so pretty handy for bulky bundles of documents
  • Keep paintbrushes in
  • Keep kitchen cloths in – stitch in a toggle which you can then hang
  • Keep pegs in – stitch in a toggle which you can then hang

These are my ideas – a quick Google search and there’s so many more! See this helpful blog on 7 ways to reuse and recycle old pillows.

I found this interesting article if you want to read more about the specifics on polyester fibres. Most went over my head but I got the gist!

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9 tips on how to reduce acne and take care of your oily, hormonal skin

For the past few years I’ve started getting a lot of spots the week before my period is due – bigger spots around my face and smaller ones across my forehead. Not only that, I also get spots throughout the month – on the sides of my forehead, my cheeks and my chin. After a lot of reading and getting advice from friends, my skin looks more glowy and any spots I do get fade a LOT quicker than what they used to.

Here’s my list of my top 10 things to do, and not do, to help reduce the amount of spots you’re getting:

  1. Don’t pop them!
  2. Review what you’re putting on your face
  3. Use clean towels
  4. Use clean pillow cases
  5. Are you removing all your make up?
  6. Clean your make up brushes
  7. What make up are you using?
  8. What vitamins are you taking?
  9. Get a spot clearing gel

Don’t pop spots

You don’t have to tell me how hard this one is. There’s not much else better than popping a good spot and having the gunk ooze out. But this is doing your face no good at all. The white stuff in a spot is actually magical liquid helping to GET RID of the spot. So guess what? By squeezing the white goodness, you are 1. removing the goodness fighting the spot 2. making the bacteria go further into your skin increasing the size of the spot and increasing the time it takes to go 3. probably going to leave yourself a scar.

Tips for leaving your spots alone

Don’t look in a mirror.

When I get in and take my makeup off, my most popular time of day for a good spot-popping session was after my evening shower, after I’d taken my makeup off. Spots look worse after a shower because the hot water makes your pores open.

After a shower, I don’t even go near my (amazing) magnifying mirror. I put my creams/moisturiser on without looking. I don’t see my face all red and by the time I look in a mirror, my face has cooled and any spots have reduced in size.

Review what you’re putting on your face

Be honest – how many products are you putting on your face in a day? When I did this assessment, I realised I was:

  1. cleaning my face with a product (morning)
  2. putting 2-3 moisturisers on (morning)
  3. putting primer on (morning)
  4. putting make up on (morning)
  5. removing make up with a product (evening)
  6. putting 2 moisturisers on (evening)
  7. putting on night cream moisturiser (evening)

So that’s a minimum of 9 different products I was putting on my face per day. Your skin is only thin – it can’t possibly hold this much. I figured something must be irritating it so I started to slowly reduce:

1. how much of each product I was using (1 drop instead of 2)
2. reduce the total amount of products I was using.
3. not putting products on all over my face – taking care to reduce the products added to my oily bits (forehead) in a morning

Now my routine looks like this:

  1. cleansing my face with a product (morning)
  2. add 1x 2 moisturiser including SPF (morning) I’ve stopped moisturising my oily bits in a morning which has done wonders for stopping my forehead being so oily by the evening. SPF still goes on all over, though.
  3. add primer sparingly (morning) not all the time if I’m not wearing makeup
  4. add make up (morning) not all the time
  5. removing make up with a product (evening) I use The Body Shop Camomile makeup remover on my eyes, but for my face, I use a reusable Face Halo pad
  6. NEW: cleanse & tone (evening) – cleansing and toning take off every last trace of makeup/dirt from the day
  7. putting 2 moisturisers on (evening) any other products such as Retinol 3x weekly – I use the same products but I use 1 drop instead of 2 and I don’t use harsh products on my dry patches like I used to
  8. add night cream moisturiser (evening) unlike the morning, I put moisturisers on my oily patches which can be washed off in the morning and doesn’t make my oiliness worse during the day

My skin honestly feels like it’s breathing again and my spots have reduced from this routine.

Use clean towels

If when you wash your face, you dry it with the closest towel… stop! Your partner could have just used that to dry their feet. Or bum, urghhhh. The towel could have been sat wet for a time, collecting germs.

I never dry my face with a towel. I usually leave it to dry – it only takes 5 minutes. Or if I need to, I dap it with 2 small pieces if toilet paper. I never use something that’s already out, having been used already.

The same can be said if you use a reusable make up remover cloth. If you leave it out damp or wet, it’ll collect mould so it’s the last thing you want to use on your face.

Use clean pillow cases

I sleep for 7+ hours so that’s a lot of time my face is lay on something. If you have spots, the bacteria will rub off on to your pillow and stay there, so the next night, that bacteria will make its way back to your face.

I make sure to never sleep on the same side twice. I have spares so I don’t need to wash my pillow case and dry it before re-using.

Are you removing all your make up?

I’ve used Face Halo for a while now with The Body Shop Camomile butter make up remover to remove not only face makeup but also eye makeup.

My Face Halo’s have seen better days
The Body Shop Camomile butter – for removing make up

I therefore changed my routine a little. I still use the camomile butter on all my face including my eyes/face, but I also use a toner & cleanser afterwards to remove any last trace of makeup.

Clean your make up brushes

Easily forgotten! If you’re constantly hiding spots, you need to constantly be cleaning your brushes.

I use ISOClean to clean mine which takes literally minutes and they’re as clean as new.

Clean your make up brushes weekly or even daily

What make up are you using?

Do you have new spots appear during the day? If so, that could be a sign your make up is irritating your skin.

Your best bet is to try and see what works for you. Read online reviews and use to check out the ingredients before you buy. It shows you any ingredients that could irritate your skin, in particular if you have spots, dry skin or oily skin.

What vitamins are you taking?

I’ve been taking biotin for hair growth. It works! But at the same time, too much, you guessed it, can bring on spots. I found this to be true. Since I’ve stopped taking a daily biotin vitamin, my spots have reduced. I now take only 2 per week.

Get a spot clearing gel

I’ve used Dermalogica Breakout Clearing Booster for putting on angry spots to help them disappear. I’ve also used Benzoyl Peroxide which kills the bacteria in spots, but it’s very strong and dries out skin, so use sparingly and be careful.

Update: March 2021

I’ve just started using polyester pillowcases which are soft enough to help improve your skin. They don’t soak in the lotions and potions you put on before sleeping, unlike cotton. I’m using them instead of silk, which isn’t cruelty-free. Have a read of my article where I discuss my new polyester pillowcases & show how my hair looks after sleeping. I was happily surprised!

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Make up Skincare

Removing make up with Chloe Morello’s Face Halo reusable face pad – honest review

I’ve followed Chloe Morello for a while and noticed her promotions for Face Halo makeup remover that you can use only with water. They are kind on skin as they are made of white fibre strands,

“100 times finer than human hair to remove and trap makeup”.

Around the edge they have a black rim made of satin which is soft to touch.


At $22 for a pack of 3, initially I thought they were expensive. But then I thought about it and considering makeup remover wipes are £2-3 for 20/30, is it really?

Considering you get “200 washes” out of each pad, not only is it better for the environment, it’s actually a cost-saving. It cost me £15.60 in total, so each one cost £5.20. You only need buy 3 packs of wipes and you’ve already gone over the price of 1 Face Halo. (That’s £0.26p per wash)  

The Body Shop cleansing butter is £10. They nearly always have discounts on their website. I got my latest batch with 25% off + free delivery.

My skin has improved

When I use this on my face, it feels lavish and like I’m actually treating my face each time. It doesn’t feel like it’s pulling on my skin and I never get any redness afterwards, proving how soft it is on my skin. Considering the skin around the eye is so delicate, this was really important to me. Especially as I’m moving into my 30’s, I need to take even more care of those soon-to-be wrinkles.

My skin has genuinely improved since using Face Halo. It’s so much smoother and looks fresher.


I don’t know what I expected, but considering I’ve been using them since the start of August, they are now looking – if being honest – quite gross. Every 2nd use I put them in the wash with my clothes then in the tumble dryer. I’ve never let the makeup sit on the Halo; I’ve always rinsed it after use. They are now stained which really puts me off using them.  The Face Halo website says:

If you give it a very quick hand wash right after using with warm water and soap the makeup will release easily.  If you leave it for a couple of days before washing it will take a little bit more time to release all the makeup.  In this case we like to rub two Face Halo’s together under warm water with some good soap (even a natural dish soap for heavier makeup), then throw into the washing machine!  

I have been doing this but they have still stained so I mustn’t have been doing it thoroughly enough. Maybe this is why they’ve bought out completely black Face Halos?


This will be my routine for a while. I absolutely love it. They go so well together. My face feels so clean I’ve actually stopped using moisturisers because my face doesn’t look like it needs it!

Update: 28 April 2019

I read up online how other fellow people are cleaning their Face Halos. From this advice I now:

  • clean after EVERY use – making sure it’s wet, I rub soap into the Face Halo. I rub the sides together to make a lather then after 30 seconds, I rinse. You’d be surprised at how much rubbish comes out.
  • I leave them on the radiator to dry in-between uses throughout the week
  • clean thoroughly in the main wash every week – I throw all 3 into my clothes wash each week.
  • I still use The Body Shop’s camomile on all my face but use a biodegradable wet wipe on my face and Face Halo on my eyes.

After a few months of getting a LOT of spots, I’ve stopped using Face Halo’s on my face. I just use them on my eyes, to remove mascara. After washing them with soap, I leave them on the radiator to dry. As it’s been warm, they haven’t been on, so they’ve been sitting there damp for a few days. This isn’t good, as bacteria loves damp conditions which could have been irritating my skin.

I’m not blaming these causing my spots, but since I’ve stopped using them on my face, I’ve noticed a small improvement. I still clean them as above, but I clean them much more thoroughly now.

Read about how I’m improving my spots and skin health.

Update: 16 February 2020

I’m still using (and loving) Face Halo – I got new ones for Christmas as I stopped using my previous ones due to their state! I’m being more rigorous now with my cleaning, making sure after each daily use I’m getting as much mascara out with soap as possible.

I was using The Body Shop’s Camomile cleansing butter with my Face Halo, due to reducing down the number of products I’m currently using on my skin, in an attempt to calm down my spots/acne. If you’d like to read more about other tips I’m doing to calm my skin, I’ve made a blog about it here. Face Halo gets rid of all my makeup without the need for the Camomile so it was an easy decision. I don’t have anything against the Camomile; it’s a great product, just not needed.

Update: 12 March 2021

Still using the same as above – using the pad on my whole face and the Body Shop camomile on my eyes only. I wash & re-use each pad once with soap (leaving on a radiator to dry in-between), then throw in the washing machine along with clothes. I clean my face with the pad first, then use it to get off mascara. I don’t use it on my eyes first as I don’t want to rub mascara all over my face!

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Crafting or DIY

What is the difference between vegan and cruelty-free makeup?

There’s a difference in Vegan and Cruelty-Free products:

  • Vegan is when a product doesn’t contain any animal ingredients
  • Cruelty-free is when the product hasn’t been tested on animals

Facts about China

With the amazing efforts of the Humaine Society International, China changed their laws in 2014 to the following:

  • Foreign imported ordinary cosmetics – still require animal testing
  • Domestically produced ordinary* cosmetics – animal testing no longer an absolute requirement
  • Both foreign imported and domestically produced ‘special use’** cosmetics – still require animal testing
  • Domestically produced ordinary cosmetics for foreign export only – have never required animal testing
  • Any cosmetic bought in China via a foreign e-commerce website – has never required animal testing.

*‘Ordinary’ cosmetics include make-up, fragrances, skin, hair and nail care products. 
** ‘Special-use’ cosmetics include hair dyes, perms and hair growth products, deodorants, sunscreens, skin-whitening creams, and other products that make a functional claim on the label.

Read the full article on

This means if a brand who is cruelty-free in the UK starts selling and importing products to sell in China, they are then tested on animals so the company is no longer Cruelty-Free. This happened to the brand Nars.  

Brands who test on animals

This list is from the Peta website dated 16.05.2018. It includes big brands such as:

  • Air Wick
  • Arm & Hammer
  • Aussie
  • Aveeno
  • Avon Products
  • Balenciaga
  • Benefit Cosmetics
  • Bobbi Brown
  • Braun
  • Burberry
  • Calgon
  • Calvin Klein
  • Caudalie
  • Chloe
  • Clearasil
  • Clinique
  • Diesel
  • Dior
  • Dove now cruelty-free!
  • Durex
  • Elizabeth Ardon
  • Estee Lauder
  • Febreeze
  • Fendi
  • Garnier
  • Galo
  • Hugo Boss
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Kiehl’s
  • L’Oreal
  • Lancome
  • Listerine
  • MAC Cosmetics
  • Max Factor
  • Maybelline
  • Michael Kors
  • Miu miu
  • Nars Cosmetics (they used to be Cruelty-Free but started selling in China)
  • Neutrogena
  • Nice and Easy
  • Nivea
  • Olay
  • Oomph!
  • Origins
  • Pampers
  • Pantene
  • Revlon
  • Schwarzkopf
  • St. Ives
  • Tresemme
  • Vaseline
  • Veet
  • Viktor & Rolf
  • Wella

The list goes on. For the full list, check out Peta’s website. Do the right thing and don’t buy from these brands. There’s no reason good enough for putting animals through harm and suffering.

Check which brands you use are Cruelty-Free on the Leaping Bunny website. 

Brands who DO NOT test on animals (hurrah!)

I’m chuffed to say this list is a LOT bigger than the previous one. Here are a few popular brands featured on the PETA website, but you can see the full list here.

  • Acure
  • Adaline & Co
  • Anastasia Beverly Hills
  • BareFace Cosmetics
  • Barefaced Beauty
  • Basic Bitch Cosmetics (gorgeous Lucy from Made in Chelsea!)
  • Bath Bomb Babes
  • The Bodyshop
  • Botanical Skin Works
  • Burt’s Bees
  • Chi Chi Cosmetics
  • Dermalogica
  • Dove – new! hurrah! See their statement here
  • Dr Roebuck’s
  • Iconic London
  • Illamasqua
  • LUSH Cosmetics
  • Mabel & Meg
  • Makeup Geek
  • ModelCo
  • MUA Makeup Academy
  • Ted Baker
  • The Honest Company
  • The Organic Skin Co
  • The Ordinary

High-Street Vegan and Cruelty-Free makeup

  • The Body Shop – Vegan and they do NOT test on animals. Everything ‘beauty’ you can think of including make-up, moisturisers, perfume.
  • B. Cosmetics (look in Superdrug) – Makeup including concealers, foundation, bronzer, primer, brows, blush, mascara, etc.
  • Barry M – the majority of their products are Vegan. A small number contain beeswax. They do NOT test on animals. Look in Superdrug – they sell a range of makeup including highlighter, foundation, concealer, mascara, primer, eyeshadow, nail varnish, etc.
  • HUDA Beauty – Most products are vegan. They do NOT test on animals. Products include mascara, eyeshadow, lipsticks, makeup brushes, etc.
  • GOSH – Some products are vegan and the list is here. They do NOT test on animals.
  • Dove – cruelty-free – can’t find info relating to if they are vegan
  • Kat Von D – Vegan and they do NOT test on animals
  • Optimum – Eye and face creams – check out their products on Superdrug 
  • Revolution Beauty / I Heart Revolution – Cruelty-Free. Not all products are vegan but some are – check out the Vegan section on their website for a full list
  • Solaite – Sun creams are vegan, see Superdrug’s website for details
  • Superdrug’s own branding has several vegan products (see their website filter here) – such as body spray, toothpaste, cleansing wipes, hair conditioner, shampoo, beard oil, pre-shampoo treatment, facial spritz and deodorant.
  • Too Faced – Cruelty-Free. Not all products are vegan but some are – see their vegan-friendly range here which includes the very popular ‘Born This Way’ foundation, mascara, bronzer, eyeliner, primer, etc.
  • Urban Decay – Vegan and they do NOT test on animals – see their cruelty-free makeup here which includes setting spray, foundation, concealer, mascara, lip gloss, etc.


  • The Co-operative sell their own-branded toothpaste – both Vegan and Cruelty-Free
  • Sainsburys and Tesco sell their own branded Vegan toothpaste (unable to find info if it’s Cruelty-Free too)
  • Advanced Pro have some toothpaste Vegan and Cruelty-Free

Products I’d recommend

The Body Shop fresh nude foundation 
It stays on all day (even on my forehead which is oily) It isn’t heavy but can be if you apply a few coats.

The Body Shop Vitamin C Skin Reviver
I use as a primer before I put my makeup on. It helps my skin look more awake.

The Body Shop Vitamin C and BB Cream for moisturiser

Dermalogica clay cleanser (for oily skin)
I use as a facemask but also as a 2/3 times-weekly to give my skin a good clean.

Mabel + Meg Lumilixir Serum 
I can’t rate this product highly enough. The company is Vegan & Cruelty-Free. Check out my article where I share the benefits I’ve found

Mabel and Meg Lumilixir Serum

The Ordinary
I bought these 3 beauties from LookFantastic for a HUGE grand total of…. £17.60. Seriously, I paid £17.60 for 3 bottles, all 30ml each. Absolute bargain. I use the Lactic Acid twice a week; and the other 2 I use 1 or 2 drops each before bed. My skin has never looked so fresh or plump.

Thank you to Michelle at BeautyEditor for her awesome review which helped me decide what to buy.

Need to check a brand/product?

First, try finding the company on Peta’s list. If you don’t get any joy, visit the brands’ website or do a Google search “Brand vegan” and I’m sure you’ll get the answer.

Check which brands you use are Cruelty-Free on the Leaping Bunny website. 

Making the change

It can be hard changing over to Vegan/Cruelty-free products. It feels like a minefield at first especially if you have certain products you’ve used forever and absolutely love.

Hopefully, this list has helped you understand there’s still a lot to do, and knowledge to share to make more people aware of what they’re putting on their skin.

What should you do if you’ve got products to use up?

My advice would be to use up everything you have. Use this time wisely to get to know the products you’ll replace them with.

Update: 17th February 2020

I’ve been using Aurelia products and absolutely love them. They are of course cruelty-free and some are vegan. One of the products I’ve been using is their botanical cream deodorant which is vegan (hurrah). See the vegetarian/vegan confirmation on the Aurelia website.

Dove are now cruelty-free! Hurrah! I have updated the lists above.

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How I protected and nourished my hair on the beach with coconut oil

My hair is up all the time on holiday. It’s never down and I never bother to straighten it. I’m also, always in the sea, so by the end of the day, my hair not only looks like rat tails, it feels horrible.

I bought coconut oil before I went which I’d heard was good at keeping hair nourished during beach holidays. I used it daily throughout my holiday and thought I’d share my very happy experience with you.

After swimming in the sea, you should take a shower. Salt water not only dries out your skin and hair, it leaves a sticky residue behind (gross). After each swim, I took my hair down so it was loose. I stood under the shower nearby and let the fresh water wash all over my hair. I didn’t shampoo it or anything. After a few minutes, I went back to my seat and brushed it until it was lug-free.

Taking about a pea-sized amount (I have long hair), I warmed it up in my hands. I then ran my fingers through the top and ends of my hair – being careful to avoid the roots as it can make roots greasy.

Once done, I scooped it up and put it in a french plait down my back. I like the French plait because it keeps hair in but it isn’t tight on my head, like a ponytail. When I undid it later in the day, it gave me lovely wavy hair.

Here’s a pic of me in the evening, back from the beach. This is after I’d had my hair covered in coconut oil all day. It was SO smooth, smelt amazing and was really conditioned. I hadn’t even washed it; this is when the coconut oil was still in my hair. All I did was brush it and put it up in a ponytail. It had dried on the beach with the coconut oil in it.

Not only am I using it but my Husband started too. He used it once after he’d been in the sea to de-fluff his hair. Guess what? Yep. He started using it in the evenings too instead of hair gel, and continued to use it even now we’re back from holiday.

I’ve used it as leave-in-conditioner a few times since I’ve been back, to give my hair a boost after being out in 35 degree heat for 2 weeks. It looks really shiny and moisturised.

As long as you don’t use too much, it makes styling hair so much easier. I sometimes wave my hair with straighteners. I’ve done it with coconut oil in my hair and the waves have never been as bouncy or as long-lasting. From the reviews on the Superdrug website, some ladies use it for their bleached-hair to keep it from drying out.

The coconut oil is solid in the container, so you need to pick it out with a nail.

I bought the coconut oil from Superdrug for £1.65. It’s cruelty-free and vegan, which makes this my new favourite product.

I’d definitely recommend it, especially as it’s cruelty-free! If you use it, drop me a comment and let me know how you get on.

More uses for coconut oil – further reading

Not just for beauty but potential nutritional value too. Check out FocusPerformance’s article | Coconut oil, Good or bad? 

Could coconut oil be used for hair growth? discuss the benefits, side effects and uses – worth a read if you’re worried about losing your hair.

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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!