Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Super Facialist Una Brennan Rose Hydrate Peaceful Skin Night Cream and The Body Shop Vitamin E Nourishing Night Cream: you hunt for ages for one Holy Grail, pampering, non-stinging night cream you can put round your eyes, then two come along at once!

Greece, 1990, after a hard day's unprotected sunbathing
Given that it is still just into the New Year, I thought I would allow myself one skincare post before carrying on with the normal fare on Bonkers. Especially as my 2am googling of night creams has since borne promising fruit. Although I have arguably added mm to my crow's feet and several shades to my under-eye dark shadows by being up that late in the first place.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been searching for ages for a night cream that is within my budget (ideally under £15 in my head), suitable for oily skin and for layering over nocturnally applied serums - should that be sera? - that also feels luxurious and pampering, thick but not too cloying, and which would also crucially be safe for use on the delicate eye area.

I should perhaps backtrack and explain that my eye area has been woefully neglected most of my adult life. Till last Christmas to be exact, by which time I was already 55, and - as I have remarked before - the skincare stable door was firmly closed and the collagen long since bolted. To give you a bit of background (and please feel free to skip this next bit if you know it already), when I was young I was a real sun worshipper - I was actually asked for my passport when taking  my finals, albeit in rather un-pc jest. I wore Factor 2 at best till I was about 33, and only switched up to a staggeringly sun-obliterating Factor 8, as it seemed to me, because I was going to Australia for a month, and that was the lowest factor on sale over there.

I should also 'fess up that I didn't moisturise at all till I was in my 40s, mainly because my lodger had told me that L'Oreal cream was made from minced deer's hoohahs, but also because night creams used to migrate into your eyes in those days and sting like hell. I genuinely think that the products themselves have improved no end since the start of what should have been the formative years of my skincare regime, which of course they flagrantly weren't. So there was all of that...and then to add insult to injury, I fell asleep in the sun when I was 41 and both eyelids promptly ballooned and went bright red and twice as angry. If ex-Mr Bonkers hadn't inquired whether I wanted a cup of tea at one point they might well have exploded. And from that day forward I never put my face in the sun again, and took tentative steps towards wearing some kind of moisturiser, some of the time. On some of my face. But it was only last Christmas, as I say, that I really got a complete skincare regime together, which is now pretty much set. Happy to do a post on that some time if it would be of interest to anyone, but it is such a personal / variable thing I assumed it wouldn't, while the products I am featuring here have more general relevance.

1977, and a rare occasion of not exposing maximum skin to sun 

So, if failing to look after your delicate eye area were a criminal offence, I would surely be sentenced to life without parole - and with my meagre prison earnings I would barely be able to scrape enough funds together to buy a pocket tub of Astral to offset the creeping crepey-ness around my eyes, and other assorted ravages of time.

Actually, in the spirit of full disclosure I can reveal that a pocket tub of Astral was what I was using as my 'comfort layer' at night up until now, following the advice that if you apply serum as well, the main role of a night cream is to soothe and moisturise rather than to deliver extra anti-ageing benefits, though it may do that too. And you can even add a few drops of a facial oil to your moisturiser - thus it was that I occasionally sexed up the Astral with a sample of REN rose oil to give it a more high end scent at least. But Astral, allegedly the go-to emollient of Joanna Lumley, and which certainly seems to have served her well if that is all she's been using ;), is a bit rich for my liking, and has a slightly disconcerting smell of lanolin. I have just checked and it also has 'lanolin alcohol', whatever that is. Who knew that sheep came with integral stills! Anyway, my reading on the beauty blogs suggests that alcohol is not a great thing to put on even the oiliest of skins, so it was probably time to move on...

And it didn't take me long to identify two creams that  seemed to fit the bill - one in a Guardian article by beauty wonder guru Sali Hughes, and one I don't rightly remember where, but a beauty blog or news organ of some repute. And as you may have inferred from the title, these are firstly:

Super Facialist Una Brennan Rose Hydrate Peaceful Skin Night Cream (normally £16.99 but I got it on the Boots website for £9.99!)

I was drawn to the Super Facialist cream, which I have no idea how best to abbreviate though it desperately needs contracting!, firstly by the fact that it was created by a skincare expert - albeit a rather elusive one - secondly by the inclusion of a rose scent, which is very natural and realistic, and thirdly by the reference to 'peaceful skin'. Who wouldn't want their skin to be at peace, even if the rest of me struggles to sleep past 5am because of the kitten pummelling my head. Plus my skin really deserves to be at peace after 40 years of such sustained self-abuse.

The feel on my skin of the Super Facialist cream is luxurious, yet light and 'moist'. It smells quite lovely - the rose scent has that faintly metallic twang reminiscent of niche perfumes showcasing the note. It also leaves my skin very soft - the sort of sensation you would expect from a much more expensive product. And crucially I can put it on my eyes, which helps my whole (slightly hooded) upper eye area feel a little less taut and stretched when I wake up.

Oh, this may be one article where I read about the cream, and it mentions the inclusion of hyaluronic acid, rosehip, cucumber and willow, which together are good for hydration and elasticity. The anti-ageing ingredients are a bonus, as I say, given that I mainly rely on serums for that aspect of my nocturnal regime.

Caroline Hirons rates the Super Facialist line generally too, I see, and suspects the brand is some kind of a joint venture with Boots, limiting its appeal to UK-based readers, unfortunately. She describes it as a 'good priced range, and the products are for the most part, good'. And like my friend Gillie in the last post, Caroline Hirons is also not given to insincere blandishments. ;)

Then I also bought this, on the basis that I might get lucky with one out of the two, yet I like it just as much!:

The Body Shop Vitamin E Nourishing Night Cream (£13, and Sali Hughes' top budget recommendation)

Sali Hughes calls this one 'pampering and gently moisturising' and I would agree with that. The texture is denser and the colour faintly pink tinged - unless that is just the reflection off the label - with a subtle and delicate scent that I really like, and predictably couldn't possibly describe. Sali recommends it for 'all but oily skins', and I'd say it is not too rich at all for me. I guess my skin type could best be summed up as:

Combination / acne-prone / dehydrated / mature - and sometimes sensitive!

And though it might not seem that I conducted much research before lighting on these night creams, I have certainly tried and rejected a ton of such products in the past, including all sorts of less well known brands you find in T K Maxx, like Lange and Dr Lewinn, as well as the usual sub-£10 drugstore suspects from Nivea, Garnier, Boots, Aldi et al. Now I did nearly spring for the Olay Regenerist All Night Recovery Cream @ £21 odd, on the basis that I love the Olay Regenerist Daily Regenerist Serum, which I get for less than a tenner by buying bottles with Greek writing on them off Amazon. The associated night cream was also highly rated by Sali Hughes in the same article as The Body Shop one. But most of the many night creams I have tried had an annoyingly cheap / pungent scent, or were too expensive, or felt too rich or sticky or got into my eyes and stung. Which is of course precisely why I didn't wear night cream all those years...

And I have now finally decoded 'avoid contact with eye area', which may have unwittingly put me off a bunch of other possible contenders, because both the above products do in fact urge you to do this. I have decided that they are merely covering their backs, because if anyone's eye area is delicate it would be mine, and trust me when I say that these creams are extremely benign. So what the manufacturers must really mean is 'don't go sticking this in your eye per se', which is an altogether different matter, presupposing high levels of clumsiness and/or very big fingers. The creams certainly don't wander in there of their own accord.

So I would be interested to learn from readers of any more benign night cream recs you might have, ideally in the sub-£15 range (or $21.59 for readers Stateside ;) ). Therein lies the challenge I sense...


  1. I think I mentioned it already, but Boots Drop of Youth Sleeping Mask is a great product. It's called mask, but you use it like a night cream. It has a slightly sticky texture, and you should only use a little scoop. Very hydrating and tightening, without being overly rich. It's over budget, but comes in a 90ml jar for £24. And in the same sort of range is the Origins Over Night Hydration Mask, to be used a few nights a week, or according to skin condition. My only problem with that is the smell. Baby fruit juice vomit is the closest description I can think of. You did well with the Una Brennan, I think. Another, very cheap option, even for your oily skin, is to use a mix of natural oils - coconut/wheat germ/argan/almond/ etc from time to time.

    1. Hi Sabine,

      You did, and I went off looking for it at the weekend. I found a product of that name in The Body Shop, also 90ml and £24. Could that be the one? I didn't have the confidence to purchase in case there was also one in Boots I had missed.

      Here's a link to the one I did find:


      Which is the one that smells like baby fruit juice vomit, haha? I fear that could be a bit of a stumbling block. I do have a bottle of Argan oil and sometimes just rub that on my face instead of my normal regime, also that Bio Oil stuff, which is even tolerated by my eyes, though it is very manmade. I hadn't thought of an oil blend but that sounds lovely - I take it you mix your own selection of oils?

    2. Yes, that's the one. Shall I make you a little decant for you to try it? I can bring it to the PLL meet. I do indeed my own oil mixes, and have recently tried to make my own cleansing oil. I find it increasingly infuriating when cosmetic products claim to be pure to the point of containing nothing but 3 different oils and some water, and charging you silly money for the privilege.

    3. Ooh, a teeny one would be great, thank you! Good for you for making your own oils. I haven't quite graduated to cleansing oils, but am still hooked on Take the Day Off balm for makeup removal. Sali rates the oil Clinique have now launched, but I do find oil can get in my hair overnight so I tend to use oils more when I am planning to wash it the next day anyway. ;)

      Oh, I have a soap making kit under the bed if anyone wants it! One where you can add your own perfume at some point. Very keen to find a taker as I just know I am never going to make my own soap.

  2. Thank you, Vanessa, for your great information. I'm one of those people who also have been neglecting skin care. My face always has been baked under the sun, i have never used sun screen and haven't used serums till last year. If I were to borrow your words, I would be sentenced to life as well. Last year, for the first time in my life, I bought a night cream and a serum. They are still half full, because I keep forgetting to use them. I should be more serious about it.

    1. Hi Yukiko,

      It is heartening to meet someone else who has also been a bit of a slattern in the skincare department, and am happy you have started to dabble in a few choice products. When I started I also used to use creams quite fitfully, so I think that is normal, hehe. The big difference between us, looking at your avatar on Facebook, is that if you start now, you will have a headstart of 20-30 years on me, which is great!

    2. Hahaha, Vanessa, there's an uncanny force - actually called Photoshop - at work on that one!

    3. Oh, only very slightly, if at all. ;)

  3. I've been using sunscreen religiously for the last 15+ years but even before than I never spent too much time in the open sun because I burn easily.

    I do not use any special night creams - I just use moisturizers, sometimes combined with serums - so I'm not the right person to recommend any specific products. But you've inspired me to think more carefully about creating my night routine: I think I should be more diligent with the anti-aging effects. Thank you!

    1. Hi Undina,

      I do very much look up to you as the person with a gold standard skincare regime. Maybe if I had burnt more easily I would have stayed out of the sun more - I'd like to think I wouldn't have been that reckless! I was lucky to have olive-y skin at least.

      I know you are not supposed to need special eye creams - Sali Hughes specifically says that you can just use one your eyes tolerate, ditto Paula of Paula's Choice - however if I don't have an extra layer of unguent over my eye serum at night my eyes feel very tight and drawn in the morning. They are mega dehydrated, unfortunately, and the skin very thin and easily pulled even by dotting blobs of serum on. I am much happier putting something fairly creamy on top.

  4. I'd love to hear about your whole skincare routine, V. I find it interesting to read what other people do/use even it's not appropriate for my skin type.

    I like how Sali Hughes says that a serum is to treat your skin and the moisturiser is a blanket you put over the top for comfort.

    Nothing worse than a greasy, stinging night cream so congrats on your two finds.

    Too funny about your lodger and the deer's hoohahs :)

    1. Hi Tara,

      I owe you a big thank you for alerting me to Pretty Honest, too, and have now invested in my own copy, though thanks for all those handouts you made me!

      Sali's words about the moisturiser being a blanket are what inspired this quest really and I feel much happier for having one!

      I should maybe sue my old lodger for 'arresting' my self-grooming development by about 20 years, haha!

  5. Hi Vanessa. I have been slapping stuff on my face since I was about 13. Seldom expensive stuff though as I do not reckon it pays. I love the Body Shop cream, in fact all their moisturizers are nice. But my real favourite night cream is Lush`s Celestial Cream. It is fantastic on my skin. Have been using it now for about three years. Definitely worth a try if it comes your way. I did use a serum for a while but finished it and did not buy any more. Perhaps someone will sucker me into it as I run around Selfridge´s in a couple of weeks, which come to think of it is where I got suckered into buying my last one. Life can be strange. Bussi. xxxx

    1. Hi Val,

      I feel sure that regularly slapping inexpensive lotions on your face is much better than not slapping anything on at all like me, and very possibly as good as using more high end stuff.

      I will look out for Lush's Celestial Cream - hey, the very name is heavenly!

      My Olay Regenerist day serum revives the look of my eyes by day and has improved the texture of my face generally I think - it really does feel lovely and silky. I wouldn't say as much for the famous EL Night Repair cream I am just coming to the end of. I think I must need a shedload of peptides!

      Even Paula is complimentary about it here and she is notoriously backwards in coming forwards with compliments about products that are not her own. I will rebuy this on an open ended basis, heartened by the fact that Amazon seems to get stocks of weird foreign versions that go for a snip!


      I hope though that when you go to Selfridge's you don't cop for something you don't want, whatever it may be! xxx

  6. Where's Truffle??? Surely she wanted to test also? I love it when you link to the good Sali Hughes pages, I rate her so much higher than Paula's choice, where I have yet to find a single thing in her range which makes a (good) difference to my skin. My skin is so dry, a winter cream is virtually impossible to find, for all others my 'blanket' moisturiser is Embryolisse creme concentre, which I love. For night care I just add serum/ oils underneath, and when the temperature is below zero, I use Embryolisse baume during the day as a protective layer.
    However, I like the list, and of course I always like trying new things, so I might give the one or other a try :-)

    1. Hi Asali,

      I fear Truffle may well spend her nights licking off what I have so dutifully applied to my face last thing...;)

      I have a lot of time for both Sali and Paula, I must say, as I use a number of core products from the latter that are great for me - well, three so far, but I am convinced there are quite a few more that I would get on with. That said, I don't know how her range caters for very dry complexions.

      Embryolisse is ringing a bell - you may have mentioned it in a comment on one of my other skincare posts - and I am glad it works for you. Nordic climates must be quite challenging for all skin types, come to think of it.

  7. Perhaps I should give the products from Body Shop a second chance. Apart from body butter I seldom buy anything there. Will have to try Lush's Celestial Cream, too. Finding a good cream that doesn't cost a fortune isn't too easy, especially for use in winter with variation in temperature and cold wind making the skin red, irritated and dry.

    1. Hi Ingeborg,

      Yes, most people have access to the Body Shop at least, which is not true of the other cream I recommended. I do agree that it is difficult to find a really good one that isn't too expensive. And of course in your case you have pretty extreme weather to contend with! I have read up a bit more on the Lush cream, which is suitable for all but oily skins, apparently, as it is quite rich.

  8. I may have to give one of these a try (and I'm adding the Lush Celestial to the list too, for a test.) I am down to the eked-out last dabs of my revoltingly expensive but utterly lovely Zelens moisturiser but don't feel that I can cough up quite that much again. (Particularly because I fell off my no-buy wagon yesterday with a rather swish lippy).

    Having neglected my skin for, er, decades I rather tried to make up for lost time in the past couple of years, to find and actually *use* things that would help my poor face look less battered. (That said, some of that is just stinky genetics--thats, Pa, for the baggy under-eyes.) And it's complicated a bit by an increasingly awful allergy to all things coconut--and that stuff gets into almost everything these days. I used to be about as sensitive as a lump of concrete, but my skin has become so much jumpier in recent years. And I've not yet worked out what the other trigger is, beyond coconut-derivatives. I know it's in the generously-large sample pot of Cult51 cream I have. Grr.

    (Also a huge fan of the take of the day off stuff--thank you Hughes and Hirons--and for me it's also the balm rather than the oil. Even gets through the half-kilo of eye make up I tend to wear. Also a couple of the REN cleansers.)

    1. Hi crikey,

      Ooh, I have read all about the wonders of Zelens - it is much lauded on the blogs - but have never tried it myself, in case I fell for it, obviously! What was the swish lippy you just bought, may I ask? I have three Burberry lipsticks to my name, which is pretty decadent I guess.

      Am pleased to meet another fellow skin neglecter(sp?). I wonder if it is a peculiarly British phenomenon. Though I am sure your face doesn't look remotely battered, less than optimum parental genes notwithstanding.

      Then I was perturbed to learn of your coconut issue, though I do have jumpy skin myself these days, with no idea why. Good luck with the forensic detective work on the label of your Cult51 cream.

      You have remminded me that one of my New Year Resolutions is to use up more of my little postage stamp sized skincare samples - you know, the ones that look so flat you'd swear there's nothing in them, but there is. I never know how many 'servings' is in one of those sachets, and may overface my face with my generous application.

      I agree that the Clinique balm is ace for taking off makeup, really pleased with that aspect. Liz Earle not so much, hence why I use that for my morning cleanse, which consists more of kitten spittle.

  9. I am a big believer in the mood-enhancing power of swanky lipsticks--it's where one can be stupidly decadently extravagant without breaking the bank. The most wildly overpriced lippy (looking at you, Tom Ford) is less damaging than, say, even a humdrum cheapo pair of shoes as a "bugger it, I need/want a lovely thing" impulse buy. So there may, or may not be a reasonable collection of rather nice lipsticks in my make up drawers to document the indulgent-bad-mood-fixers of the past couple of decades. Ahem. This is a particularly blingy bulbous gold-case Dior Diorific one. Mitzah. It's rather a lovely dark mauve on me.

    I'm really glad I bought the Zelens cream. If nothing else, it got me into the improved habit of actually using moisturiser every day--if only to justify the cost of it. It's done me some visible good as well. So maybe it was worth the expense. I think trying a significantly cheaper alternative would be worth a go though, to test whether it was the fabulous cream, or just the daily application of *something* that does the trick. I do wish I'd developed better habit earlier, rather than sporadic periods of attention and neglect. But was oddly relieved when reading your post to find out that I'm not the only one. (I was never a sun worshipper, well, not past my teens as I burn too easily, but nor was I a sunscreen wearer. And that shows.)

    The coconut thing is deeply annoying. It started as a food allergy in my twenties, and in the past few years turned into a skin/contact allergy as well. Not death and choking--but awful gastric ick for consumption, and rapid-response itchy-red-bumpy skin off for contact. No bubble bath for me any more. Nor shower gel. Putting straight up coconut oil on my skin, though, would cause both. Wow, it was fun finding *that* out. (Sorry, am I over sharing?)

    With the samples--just pile in, I'd say, rather than eking them out! I suspect most of the little sachets and pods are two servings at most.

    Truffle is still providing the exfoliating wake up call, then?

    1. I totally get your argument for swanky lippy splurges, and isn't that backed up by correlations between economic recessions and purchasing behaviour - the so-called 'lipstick spike'? Okay, I may just have made that term up, but you get my drift.

      I can't wear mauve, sadly, but you might like Keep Mauving in that Rimmel Lip Balm range, or the Burberry Blueberry lip mist. The latter is such a euphonious name apart from anything.

      Who knows if the Zelens is doing the great job or assiduous moisturising, period. The only way to tell is indeed to carry on using a more budget option. I also swear by Nivea Light Day Moisturiser with SPF 15. Marvellous stuff that is not greasy on my combination skin.

      If you were not a sun worshipper you will have done your skin way less harm than me over the years, so pat yourself on the back for that at least.

      The coconut thing does sound awful. I know it isn't life threatening but you have reminded me of my ex's famous malapropism after attending a St Johns Ambulance first aid course, when he explained that he had learnt all about 'anaglypta shock'.

      Yep, you are spot on about the morning exfoliations! I swear her tongue is getting more rugged as she gets older...

  10. Hi vanessa
    Really enjoyable read and all the comments, I love hearing about others skincare/make up routines. I would love a post in more detail as I too have slightly oily skin spot prone skin and now I've hit 40 I want to protect as well. I have made notes on the Nivea light cream as the budget is tight. I had a sample of Estée Lauder serum which I liked but £50 plus is too much. This is very timely as the last few days I have been trading sali Hughes posts for serum recommends.
    Hope truffle is behaving!

    1. Hi Hayley,

      Nice to hear from you. I will do a post on my skincare regime sometime then, as you are the second person to inquire. People can always skip it if it is not relevant to them, I guess.

      It was a revelation to me in my research around the topic that even oily leaning skin needs oil, and shouldn't be unduly stripped of it with (particular kinds of) alcohol-containing products, as that only stimulates more oil production in a kind of vicious circle.

      Yes, the Nivea is called 'Daily Essentials Light Moisturising Day Cream for normal and combination skin with Vitamin E and Hydra IQ and SPF 15' to avoid any confusion - there are quite a number of different kinds in the range and I have managed to buy the wrong one in the past. Really handy for travelling too and just sinks in so well. For the summer I do use a higher SPF factor, but this is a winter staple.

      Truffle has just learnt how to leap on the kitchen worktop so I am afraid she is being a bit naughty at the moment!