Guide to Collagen for Women

Guide to Collagen for Women

There are a lot of collagen products appearing on the market within joint supplement formulations as well as supplements that come with the promise of younger looking skin. The latter especially appears in many perfectly-packaged forms from drinks to jellies.

I was intrigued as to whether there was any difference between the supplements on offer, in format, dosage and price. Most importantly though, I wanted to look into the evidence base to find out whether I could expect them to really work.

So, here's everything that I think you should know about collagen, plus reviews of some of your best supplement options

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Healthy Hair with Chad at Elajé

In the past six years, I don’t think I’ve returned to any hairdresser more times than I can count on one hand. The reason for this wasn’t always because I didn’t like the haircut, and it has never been a case of me not gelling with the hairdresser, it’s simply that no hairdresser ever demonstrated that they knew a thing about hair beyond how to wash and cut it. I was sick of leaving hair salons with my hair full of a plethora of products, even though my stylist couldn’t tell me how or why any of them were actually beneficial, beyond cluelessly saying “uh, they’ve got good ingredients…it might say on the bottle”. I was starting to lose all hope… Until I met Chad at Elajé Hair & Beauty*.

The Salon

Elajé is a stunning salon. It’s refreshingly spacious and modern with a really relaxed vibe. It’s clear that a lot of effort has gone into designing the perfect space to attend to the needs of all of their clients, with the option to have a private room for haircuts and treatments, free wifi and even iPads to use during your visit.

Elajé is located in central Cambridge, just a short walk from the train station, so even if you don’t live in the city, it’s easy to get to - and well worth the trip.

Chad Maxwell - Artistic Designer

Chad is quite simply the most talented hair stylist that I have ever had the pleasure of having an appointment with. His unrivalled passion for what he does is inspirational and his knowledge is second to none. As well as being a great stylist, he understands the biology of hair, the technology behind styling tools, and the science of product ingredients. As well as having this knowledge, he was keen to share it, and without me even having to ask. I am so delighted to have found such a gem!

He told me:

 "Being trained with top products and finding a passion for in depth knowledge is something I have always thought is important. A client is fully putting their trust in you so if you can't provide them with the information they need you are not fulfilling your job duty properly.”

Clearly, he just gets it.

It’s also remarkable that Chad is 20 years old (I couldn’t believe it when he told me!) with 5 years of experience already behind him. He trained with SeanHanna and with L'Oreal and Wella products, is a member of the GHD styling squad, and has worked three seasons at London Fashion Week. The day after I met with him, he was even working the Victoria’s Secret show.

Chad is super ambitious and a definite star in the making (he has the name for it too, right?!), so book in with him while you still can!

My Consultation, Cut and Finish

To start, Chad conducted a thorough consultation with me. We covered my last hair cut, my haircare routine, any issues I have with my hair, and my lifestyle. Chad also checked the condition of my hair and talked me through different styles and trends.

I felt that Chad put a lot of effort into understanding my requirements and I was really confident that he knew what to do with all the information that I gave him.

I was really happy with my wash and cut, plus the little complimentary head and neck massage, and the blow-dry was the best I have ever had. Probably because, like everything else, it was highly personalised. By understanding my hair weight and texture, Chad applied the best styling techniques to give extra volume and shine; and without a tonne of gunky products. He even gave me tips for replicating my salon blow-dry at home!

Ultimately, Chad provided a highly personalised treatment - something that only passionate creativity and a deep understanding of the field can enable.

Haircare Tips for Fit Girls

Throughout my appointment, Chad gave me lots of tips for looking after my hair, especially with the amount of time that I spend in the gym, and I couldn’t not share them:

1. Don’t tie up or put tension of any kind on wet hair. Hair is at its stretchiest when wet and this can cause it to snap or become damaged.

2. Don’t always tie your hair up in the same place. This is likely to cause kinks and weakness in the concentrated area.

3. Try plastic, spiral hair ties. I rediscovered a pack of invisibobble hair rings in my drawer after seeing Chad, and I swear by them. They’re great for preserving a blow-dry when you’re working out too!

4. Don’t wash it every day. Try using dry shampoo, or simply rinse and condition to refresh. This will help the balance of natural oils in the hair.

5. Avoid sulphates and silicone. Stick to high quality shampoos and conditioners where possible.

6. Use the right product for your hair. Your hair is a delicate balance of proteins and moisture. Avoid using ‘repairing’ products unless you’re sure that your hair has structural damage (from chemical treatments, for example), otherwise the extra proteins can make your hair brittle.

As well as having a brilliant cut and blow-dry, I learnt a lot about my hair and how to best look after it. I even had the opportunity to sample Elajé’s beauty treatment offering, as I was treated to a perfect manicure without even having to move from my salon seat! I had such a wonderful experience at Elajé and I would recommend them to anyone.

Head over to the Elajé website to learn more or to make a booking.

THe Harbour Club Chelsea: Amida Spa Review

I love the concept of spas as a wellbeing experience; to help you relax and unwind, and to groom you with treatments for healthy skin, body and mind. However, especially as I’m not much of a water baby, I can find it quite tiring spending a lazy day on a humid poolside.

With a hectic work and training schedule though, a few hours and an amazing treatment at the Amida Spa, part of Chelsea Harbour Club, was exactly what I needed to revive myself.

The Spa

I’d never visited any Amida Spas before as they are exclusive to Harbour Clubs and selected David Lloyd Clubs. Amida Spa at Chelsea Harbour Club is complete with a spa pool with heated loungers, saunas and steam rooms, and an aroma room, as well as showers and ice to invigorate you following a thermal experience. The spa also features a hydrotherapy pool, but this was undergoing renovation during my visit.

My favourite part of the spa was the gorgeous therapy and treatment area. As well as a corridor full of cosy, private treatment rooms, there is a light and airy reception area showcasing some divine products, as well as a nail bar and pedicure area.

The Treatment

While I was visiting the spa, I was treated to an Alpha H Intensive Brightening Facial*. When I had particularly problematic skin I had started using Alpha H Liquid Gold, which I found to work like a dream and it became one of my all-time favourite skincare products. So, knowing that Alpha H products are of a really high quality and were well-suited to my skin, I was excited to experience more of what their products had to offer.

The treatment is described as:

“a potent corrective treatment which uses fruit acids, enzymes and anti-oxidants to restore radiance, elasticity and luminosity to sun damaged and hyper pigmented skin.”

As I’m still suffering from some hyperpigmentation caused by bad acne over the past couple of years, this was perfect for me.

Step one of the treatment was all about relaxation; deep breathing and the inhalation of beautiful essential oils, which was really calming.

Following this, Alpha H products were used to cleanse and exfoliate my skin. I remember thinking how amazing they smelt; so clean, delicate and fresh. Usually at this stage, a glycolic acid peel would also be applied to the skin, but as I had some indication of skin sensitivity, my therapist mindfully decided it wouldn’t be best suited for me.

Next, a mask was applied. Over this, my therapist layered clingfilm and a warm towel to help to open my pores, allowing the mask to work as deeply and effectively as possible. It was a really weird sensation initially but highly beneficial. While the face mask was taking effect, I experienced a relaxing arm and hand massage. I didn’t realise until I had a hand massage that my hands were so tense or could benefit so much from such a simple treatment. It felt amazing!

Finally, my treatment was completed by removal of the mask, and application of intensely moisturising serums and creams.

My therapist did a brilliant job of explaining the treatment to me before starting, and provided thorough skincare practice and product recommendations following the treatment, which I found extremely valuable and loved how it made the experience even more personalised.

Next on my treatment wishlist is the 'Alpha-H Body Beautiful' Body Treatment.

The Club

I couldn’t visit the Harbour Club without getting a feel for the place, and I wasn’t disappointed. The Club was like a maze; deceptively large with many floors, doors and corridors to navigate and impressive facilities at every turn.

First, I took a peek at some of the 13 indoor tennis courts, which are what attract many of the club’s visitors, not least because, upon joining, all Members receive a complementary tennis assessment and are given a Harbour Club tennis rating to place them at the correct level for the club's coaching programme, leagues and tournaments. Impressive!

Of course, I was particularly keen to check out the fitness suite. Spread over 2 levels, one floor is dedicated to an extensive range of cardiovascular equipment, and another is kitted out with avariety of free and fixed weight equipment. Although it was under refurbishment during my visit, I was particularly impressed with this ultra-functional studio and would love to squeeze in a session with one of their 30-strong team of trainers at some point.

There are a great range of classes on offer in their sleek-looking class studios, which also includes a designated spinning studio and a dynamic pilates studio, impressively equipped with specialist equipment including reformers. It's must visit for anyone looking for a balanced workout to sculpt a strong and supple physique.

The Verdict

While I personally wouldn’t spend a day pool-side at a spa, combining a day of treatments and training at the Spa and Harbour Club would be my idea of heaven. The friendly and knowledgable staff provided an amazing service and I look forward to visiting again, especially to check out some of the freshly refurbished facilities.

Have you visited any Amida Spas, or had a chance to experience the amazing facilities at the Harbour Club?

Inner Me Supplement Review - #InnerMeDiaries Challenge

I recently look part in the #InnerMe Diaries challenge; a six week programme of pill-popping throughout which I documented my results. I was armed with pencils, scorecards and the Inner Me supplements of my choice; Beautify Me* and Energise Me*.

About Inner Me

After Inner Me’s founder, Nikki Cooper, was diagnosed with MS at the age of 28, she began taking supplements to boost her nervous system, mitochondria, and general wellbeing. However, Nikki also noticed other benefits such as dewy skin and glossy hair. This spurred Nikki on to collaborate with nutritionists and pharmacists to create a complete wellbeing package for women.

What I personally like about Inner Me is the strong branding, including an informative website (including 'Inner Menus’ and recipes to complement the products) and particularly pretty packaging, which is clearly designed with ease of use in mind. Especially during the challenge, I found it really useful that the days of the week were printed on the blister packs, and that the packets were discreet enough to pop in my handbag, so that I could ensure I didn’t miss a dose.

The Inner Me Products

Inner Me Beautify Me

The first product that I opted for was the Beautify Me Pro Skin supplement, which is described as the 'ultimate beauty supplement for skin, hair and nails’ - exactly what I needed. I was particularly interested to understand the properties of each of the individual ingredients in the supplements so would have loved to have seen a more comprehensive breakdown on the website.

Mainly though, I was pleased that Biotin and Selenium were included in this supplement, as they're well known for their contribution to the maintenance of normal hair and nails. The blend also contains Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) which contains sulphur, a popular ingredient in dermatology and one that I’ve found really effective in Ren’s ClearCalm3 skincare range. It is also a component of collagen and keratin, which most people know play a huge part in healthy skin, hair and nails.

Other key ingredients are Silica (from bamboo), Copper, Iodine, Zinc, Vitamin C, as well as Marine Chondroitin and Marine Collagen. However, as there are no RDAs for the latter two especially, it’s difficult to know whether these doses are likely to be effective. Compared to other supplements of Marine Collagen, for example, 100mg seems quite low.

Aside from this, the only down side to this product is that the selenium doesn’t have the most desirable scent, but after the quick job of swallowing the capsules, it isn’t something you need to think about again for another 24 hours!

Inner Me Energise Me

Secondly, the Energise Me supplement is blend of vitamins and minerals designed to support energy metabolism, as well as overall wellbeing. Notably, this supplement contains 100% of your RDA of vitamins D, a range of B vitamins, which are crucial in the process of turning food into fuel within your body (as is Coenzyme Q10, although the dosage in this supplement is at the lower end of the recommended dose), and Chromium, which aids in the regulation of blood sugar levels.

The blend also contains Magnesium and Creatine Monohydrate which are both important in energy metabolism. However, the doses of both of these ingredients is fairly low (the magnesium accounts for just 16% of your RDA, and the creatine is less than 10% of the dose that I would take as a separate supplement) and so having now learnt about the benefits of these supplements, I would definitely consider taking them in higher doses independently of the Energise Me capsules, especially given the frequency with which I exercise and weight train.

The Results

As I mentioned, I kept a record of how I was feeling throughout the #InnerMeDiaries challenge. In terms of my skin, hair and nails, I noticed some slight improvements over the course of the challenge. My nails were a stronger and, despite a little breakout, my skin has been incredibly soft and recovered quickly. In terms of energy, I have been feeling great. My sleep cycle has been better than ever in terms of waking up early (I’ve always been a stubborn night owl) and being more productive during the day.

How much these results can be attributed to the supplements alone, I can’t say; during the six weeks I also returned to university, had immersed myself in a new training and nutrition programme, and had got into some good new skincare habits. However, I do know that I’d rather be taking these essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients than not taking them. And, as I’ve already mentioned, I love taking them in the blends created by Inner Me and experiencing the other little delights, such as the stylish packaging, that come along with them.

Discount Code: Buy Beautify Me or Energise Me and Get One Free

If you’d like to try either (or both!) of these Inner Me supplements for yourself, by using one of the codes below you can double the amount of supplements that you can benefit from, by buying one pack and getting one free! I highly recommend giving them a go. Remember to opt for Beautify Me for a treat to your skin, hair and nails, or Energise Me if you are in need of an energy boost! Unlike some supplement combinations, these are safe to take together, so why not take advantage of this exclusive offer and trial them both.

BlondieBM (when purchasing Beautify Me)

BlondieEM (when purchasing Energise Me)

To use these discounts, simply enter the code at the checkout.

Have you tried any Inner Me supplements? Are you considering your own #InnerMeDiaries challenge?

Beauty Sweeties + The Healthy Beauty Ingredients to Know

These had me from the name. Two simple words that have an almost universal female appeal. At least, all of my female friends and family members that I mentioned them to couldn't wait to help me taste test...

Recently, when nipping into Holland and Barrett to pick up some of my favourite ready-to-drink shakes, I spotted Beauty Sweeties hanging along the shelves and absolutely couldn't resist. It's no secret that I am constantly trying to curb my dangerously sweet tooth. Fruity, jelly and gummy candy is my favourite, but I'm always on the lookout for healthier ways to satisfy my cravings. So, with 81% fruit juice, and the addition of 3 beauty nutrients, Beauty Sweeties ticked both boxes and I snapped up a couple of bags to put to the test.

The sweets are super tasty. I tried the honeydew melon and the pink grapefruit flavours (there's also a cranberry option) which were  both delicious, although I think the grapefruit was my favourite. Although gratifyingly sweet, they have a very natural fruit flavour thanks to the generous helping of fruit concentrate in the recipe. The texture is a soft, crumbly crystallised texture that reminds me of the sliced fruit jellies that tend to crop up around Christmas time. While I generally prefer something more satisfyingly chewy, I actually really enjoyed these. Plus, as they weren't as purse-friendly as something like Haribo, (£1.99 for 45g or £2.99 for 100g, although they tend to be included in H&Bs brilliant offers), I definitely made them last longer!

The lowdown on the beauty ingredients

Coenzyme Q10

CoQ10 has already been proven to treat conditions such as high blood pressure, cancers, heart disease, and Parkinson's disease, but it is also great for our skin. It is essential for the production of collagen, which declines as we age, and is also a potent antioxidant which can protect your skin from signs of UV damage, pollution and stress.  

Aloe Vera

You're probably most familiar with Aloe Vera as a topical treatment gel for sunburn, but Aloe Vera is also great for aiding digestion and other ailments. It is packed with vitamins, enzymes, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids, as well as hormones auxin and gibberellin which aid healing and are anti-inflammatory. No wonder its recent rise in popularity!

Biotin

As well as playing an important role in your body's metabolism, biotin is generally hailed as THE vitamin for glowing skin, long, shiny hair and strong nails. 

 

While I couldn't say if these sweeties provide a large enough dose of these beauty nutrients to be effective, it's nice to feel that they are at least a slightly healthier option! If you're interested in beauty vitamins, there is also a great range at myvitamins.com

Beauty Sweeties are a German company and the Fruit Confection range is currently exclusive to Holland and Barrett in the UK. However, a little birdy told me that other products, such as the Fruity Jelly Hearts (which I am absolutely dying to try) will be making their way to UK shelves in the not-too-distant future.

Have you tried Beauty Sweeties?

Perfect Legs Retreat at the Bulgari Spa

There are very few things that can get me out of bed at 5.30am, ready to brave London's commuting rush hour, but the opportunity to experience the new summer season retreat at the Bulgari Spa in Knightsbridge was an offer I couldn't refuse.

I arrived at the Bulgari Hotel and Residences around 9am where I was guided to The Spa, five storeys below the bustle of the city - a hidden sanctuary. Stepping out of the elevator was like stepping into another, serene universe.

After checking in at reception I was shown to the relaxation suite. Sometimes I get a little nervous about 'relaxing' and feel that I need to (somewhat counterproductively) plan relaxing activities - buy magazines, update my iPod, download some podcasts - but I could have happily stayed here all day doing nothing more than sipping on chilled coconut water and inhaling the heavenly aroma that fills the two-storey complex. Unfortunately, that would have meant I would have missed out on a 'Perfect Legs' treatment...

'Perfect Legs' is a 1, 2 or 3 day retreat at The Spa, where you can choose from 2 of 5 treatments each day, as well as enjoying the beautiful spa facilities. The taster treatment that I experienced included body brushing (which I've previously advocated here) and invigorating massage to detox and aid lymphatic drainage, helping to eliminate issues such as cellulite and fluid retention. I was really impressed with the treatment and the attention to detail throughout was second-to-none, from the luxurious detoxifying body oil that was selected, to the towels that were warmed for comfort.

Other impressively high-tech treatments available at the 'Perfect Legs' retreat include technologies such as Radio Frequency, Micro Needle Therapy, and Pure Flow, which uses the principles of counter-pulsation technology and compression to improve fluid movement in the body. I find the treatments so fascinating and am really impressed with The Spa's genuine focus on wellness.

Also worthy of mention is the beautiful pool complex, which features a 25m swimming pool and a gold-leaf tiled vitality pool. The Spa also has a steam room, sauna and ice showers, which I wish I'd have known about after spending a couple of hours in a  30°C poolside cabana. I know, I know... poor me...

For more information or to sign up for 'Perfect Legs' for summer, contact The Spa on +44 (0) 207 151 1055, or email london-spa@bulgarihotels.com, and be sure to let me know what you think!

Nip+Fab Fitness + Women's Health Magazine Subscription

I recently subscribed to Women's Health magazine and as part of an offer, I received a free set of Nip + Fab Fitness products. Despite having often been attracted to the name, the great branding and the lovely product packaging, I have always been sceptical of the effectiveness of Nip + Fab's products. I don't believe that there are really any lotions and potions that will provide quick fixes to "banish bingo wings" (see Nip + Fab's Upper Arm Fix) and tone tummies (see Nip + Fab's Tummy Fix). For this reason, I hadn't previously tried any of the range.

I believe (know!) that a 'toned' body is the outcome of hard work in the gym. However, I was quite pleased to see that the brand have a fitness range to compliment a good workout! I was excited to test them out and was almost converted...

Post Workout Fix - £9.95

This topical muscle cooling gel is something that I didn't think I would find a use for because if and when I suffer from aching muscles, I find heat an effective way to soothe them. Moreover, if I ever want to cool sore muscles, I don't believe that there is any substitute for a trusty ice pack.

However, when I tried this product, somewhat reluctantly, I realised that it wasn't intended to be an alternative to those things (and certainly shouldn't be, especially in the case of injury!), but was quite refreshing. Using the no-mess, easy-application rollerball, I rolled the liquid onto my quads after a hot post-Body Pump shower and found that the cooling (but not cold), soothing sensation (and refreshing scent) impressively lasted up to an hour!

For the past few months I haven't frequently suffered with DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and the accompanying motivation to find something that eases the pain, so I haven't tested this product's ability to lessen such discomfort. I imagine it could do a pretty good job, but I wouldn't recommend purchasing it on the off-chance. However, I look forward to using this product again and will keep you updated with any DOMS-related revelations!

Body Slim Fix - £14.95

This is the product that I was most sceptical of. It is advertised as 'a 2-in-1 moisturiser and toning gel to improve the appearance of body contours'. Of course, the most effective way to improve the body's contours (and not just the 'appearance of') is a great resistance training workout routine.

The ingredients of this product include cocoa butter (used in a wide range of moisturising products), caffeine and Unislim. Caffeine has been shown in some studies (at least one of which tested on rats, not women) to improve the appearance of cellulite. I've been unable to find out the details of Unislim. It would be great if there was a section of the Nip + Fab website that explained the benefits of each active ingredient in more depth.

I found this product to be pleasant to use but didn't see any results that I wouldn't expect from a standard moisturiser. I wouldn't use it as frequently as suggested (twice a day) for an extended period of time as I find that using this much product isn't necessary for my skin, and that my skin can become reliant on a moisturiser that I otherwise wouldn't have needed.

Circulation Fix Body Scrub - £9.95

I have no doubt that massaging in a great body scrub is a good circulation booster, however, I immediately questioned the need for a circulation fix post-workout, given that exercise itself improves blood circulation. The product is said to 'energise' and 'jump-start' the body but personally, I find that a good workout will have already had this affect.

This aside, I actually did like this product as a body scrub. I found that the packaging made the application and distribution of the scrub really easy and I liked the refreshing menthol element. I will definitely continue to use this product.

Overall, I'm still sitting on the fence with this brand. I really want to love the products and would definitely be open to trying some other items, especially some of the the new body blends (the fragrances sound delicious!), but I'm not sold...yet...

However, if you want to give this fitness range a try, I would suggest buying them as a fitness kit to save yourself some money! While you're on the website, I also recommend checking out the Nip + Fab blog.