I have to say, I'm rather partial to scrubs. I'm not referring to the unsavoury layabouts that the 90's pop trio TLC sang about. No, in this instance, I'm talking about scrubs of the spa variety. Once you've got into the habit of exfoliating regularly, be it your body, or your face, there's really no going back. There's nothing quite like it for sloughing off dead skin, boosting cell turnover and leaving skin soft as silk and glowing with health. Even the actual process of massaging a scrub into the skin boosts circulation, aiding in the elimination of toxins from the body.
So, when a few weeks ago, I received an e-mail about a new champagne and pomegranate scrub, I have to admit, my interest was piqued. The Natural Spa Factory is a British brand, specialising in the production and supply of spa products to select spas and hotels in the UK. There's a strong emphasis on creating products that are "as natural as can be". The PR blurb rather tenuously ties in this product with the forthcoming royal wedding of Kate Middleton (or Catherine, as she has been ceremoniously re-branded by the palace courtiers)
Granted, the product is called "Royal Scrub". Yes, it contains champagne, and it was indeed conceived to commemorate this grand occasion in modern British history, but what else the impending nuptials of the future king of England has to do with this product, genuinely escapes me. I suppose I do have something of a bee in my bonnet about this particular subject, as every fashion and beauty PR in the land seems to be using it as an opportunity to market something. I'd rather not debase this blog by emulating the tactics adopted by tabloids to boost their circulation figures, so we'll stick to the product, its active ingredients, and most importantly, its efficacy.
The sample I received in the post, was in fact a sachet the approximate size of a pop tart. When I opened it, I managed to squeeze out the scrub contained within, which in reality was no more than two tablespoons worth (and that's a generous estimate). How a serious journalist is supposed to review a scrub when sent a portion of such diminutive size, I'm note sure, but I did give it my best shot. Measuring in at 5ft 9", I'm hardly a hobbit in stature, so it's safe to say that there was enough product to scrub one limb (I settled on one of my legs). I did like the texture of the product, the salt crystals worked their magic, and post exfoliation, the dry patches of skin on my knees and calves were a little smoother.
But the reality is that you could achieve the same results (if not better) by purchasing exfoliating mitts and adopting them once or twice a week in your bath or shower ritual. If you are super serious, why not use the scrub with an exfoliating mitt, you'll reap double the rewards. Dry body brushing is another superb option, I suggest doing it in the morning prior to showering, starting at the soles of the feet, brushing in firm strokes towards the heart. Avoid sensitive areas (unless of course you are partial to a little S&M - hey, I don't judge). When working on the chest area, scrub down towards the heart, and when working on the arms, start at the fingertips, brushing upwards towards the shoulders. This will not only do a fabulous job of eliminating any dead skin, it will also boost your circulation, lymphatic drainage, and the elimination of toxins from the body. If you have cellulite, this is a brilliant way of tackling the dreaded orange peel effect, it really does work wonders. After showering / bathing, I suggest massaging a body oil into skin while its still wet (this locks in essential moisture). Pat dry and you'll be raring to go.
In its defence, the product's unusual ingredients do have documented health and beauty benefits (which, when you cut to the chase, is the genuine USP). Having worked as a fashion and beauty journalist for over five years, I've reviewed countless body scrubs from the world's leading brands (E'Spa, REN and The Sanctuary to name just a few), usually formulated with salt or sugar crystals, but this is the only one I've tried that has been formulated with champagne, pomegranate and fennel. In a market that's saturated with copycat products, it is so easy to become jaded, so I was rather pleased to be surprised.
Salt, not only the title of a recent action film starring Angelina (adopt-a-child) Jolie, is well known for its positive health benefits. Perhaps not when ingested in large quantities, but certainly when applied topically as a scrub, or used as a soak, be it in bath salts or mineral rich Dead Sea mud. Highly efficacious as an exfoliant, salt crystals are abrasive enough to have a superbly smoothing effect when massaged into skin, in the bath or shower. Personally, I'd suggest opting for a good soak, as salt water not only aids in drawing toxins from the body, it is also superb for treating minor skin ailments such as psoriasis and eczema, not to mention aching limbs and muscles.
While we're on the subject of Dead Sea mud, I can't even write those words without chuckling. I blame this episode of Absolutely Fabulous (Series 2, Episode 2), in which Edina (Jennifer Saunders) has a Dead Sea mud wrap in an effort to shed the pounds, only to find, post treatment, that her body has absorbed the mud, resulting in an unwanted weight increase, to which she exclaims in horror; "I've put on twelve inches all over my body! I mean my body absorbs mud! Every pore is now an over-eater!"
You may think champagne an odd choice for a body treatment (even if Kate Moss and Johnny Depp were alleged to have bathed in it at the Portobello Hotel in the 90's). In fact, champagne contains grapeseed extract and grape resveratrol (a bioflavenoid), which is a formidable antioxidant, more potent than Vitamin C or E, clinically proven to protect skin cells from environmental aggressors and premature ageing (champagne, the fountain of youth, who'd have thought it). It has even been proven to prevent the mutation of healthy cells into cancerous cells, also inhibiting the growth and spread of tumours. It's no wonder then, that Caudalie, the luxurious French skincare brand, has built a formidably successful product line around the humble grape.
I consider myself to be pretty savvy when it comes to the arena of holistic health and beauty, but the only time I'd encountered fennel prior to this, was in herbal tea and certain culinary dishes (specifically Indian cuisine, in which fennel seeds are used to minimise flatulence). Formerly an official drug in the United States, fennel, like peppermint, is known for combating indigestion. When applied topically, it is nothing short of miraculous, with documented benefits including antioxidant and detoxifying properties. It prevents water retention, minimising puffiness, whilst soothing, cleansing and toning the skin (who'd have thought it).
Pomegranate, on the other hand, has been on my radar for years. For one, the luxury beauty and lifestyle brand Rodial has based its entire product portfolio on the antioxidant benefits of pomegranate elegiac, proven to slow down the breakdown of collagen in the skin, in turn, helping the skin to look younger, for longer. When ingested, pomegranate is proven to reduce cholesterol.
In summary, this product excels on the antioxidant and detoxification fronts, so if you are concerned with maintaining youthful looking skin and eliminating toxins, it's definitely worth a try.
Royal Scrub - £18