Lush Toothy Tabs and Powder Review

Lush Toothy Tabs and Powder Review

Toothpaste isn’t a product I’ve ever felt the need to experiment with, since almost every brand looks the same and feels the same to me, so I was intrigued when I saw Lush’s tooth products, which are completely dry – which totally confused me until I remembered that you brush your teeth beside a tap, and saliva exists, so it’ll end up wet anyway.

Lush have two tooth cleaning products: Toothy Tabs and Toothy Powder. Both products are dry, so they’re handy for travelling (no leakages or liquid allowances to worry about!).

Lush Toothy Tabs and Powder Review

Are Lush’s Tooth Products Too Abrasive?

First up, a bit of clarification: I’ve heard the rumour that Lush’s tooth products were too abrasive and could cause excessive tooth wearing, but once I actually Googled it, it turned out to easily busted thanks to some figures posted by Lush.

Teeth are made up of hard enamel and softer dentin, so a toothpaste’s abrasiveness is rated using its relative dentin abrasivity (RDA), with a higher RDA translating to greater abrasion, with the FDA-approved limit set at 200. The RDAs of some common toothpastes are listed here, with most whitening toothpastes at around 150-200 RDA. Lush’s Toothy products are on the low end of the scale (31-96). (I’m so glad they posted these numbers – I had a whole bunch of Moh’s hardnesses pulled up for some comparison work but this is much better data!)

Onto the products in action…

Lush Toothy Tabs

Toothy Tabs are small powdery tablets that come in a 100% recycled and recyclable plastic bottle. They used to come in a cardboard box, but I’m guessing the box got wet easily and all the tablets got ruined (contrary to my gut feeling, cardboard is usually less environmentally friendly than reused plastic!). You break a tab up between your teeth, do your best not to swallow it, then take your toothbrush and brush your teeth normally. Toothy Tabs comes in a range of flavours, including 6 new ones:

  • Sparkle – lemon, grapefruit and pepper
  • Miles of Smiles – triple mint (2 types of peppermint and wild mint)
  • Limelight – lime, lemon, baobab fruit
  • Oral Pleasure – rose oil, vanilla, daisies, passionfruit
  • Dirty – spearmint and neroli
  • Bling – orange and frankincense
  • Boom – sea salt, aniseed, pepper, cola

I tried Sparkle and Miles of Smiles. I was a little wary of the un-toothpaste-like flavour description of Sparkle, but after using it twice I got used to it quickly. Miles of Smiles is in traditional mint territory, though it’s a lot more minty and less sweet than my usual toothpaste. My teeth felt squeaky clean after brushing.

Lush Toothy Tabs and Powder Review

Lush Toothy Powders

Toothy Powders work on a similar concept – you dip your wet toothbrush into the powder to pick some up, then brush normally. I found this a bit less convenient than the Toothy Tabs, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to drop the whole tub onto the floor some day. These also come in a range of interesting flavours:

  • Tooth Fairy – strawberry
  • Ultrablast – mint, watercress and wasabi
  • Atomic – coffee, cardomom, cinnamon and clove

I’ve heard good things about Tooth Fairy, but I found that the strawberry flavour was a bit too weird and artificial for me. I enjoyed Ultrablast a lot more – it’s minty and refreshing, but not quite like a traditional toothpaste flavour. I haven’t tried Atomic yet. My teeth felt clean after brushing, but not quite as clean as with the Toothy Tabs. I suspect it’s because it’s slightly harder to use, so it’s harder to distribute the powder evenly over my teeth.

Toothy Tab and Powder Ingredient Analysis

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Burt’s Bees Lipstick Swatches and Review

Burt's Bees Lipstick Swatches and Review

Burt’s Bees have launched a new line of lipsticks. I’ve never had much luck with “natural” lipsticks – the ones I’ve tried don’t glide on well and end up patchy, or have poor pigmentation, or some other issue – but these are surprisingly nice!

Burt's Bees Lipstick Swatches and Review

Burt’s Bees Lipstick Swatches

There are 14 shades available – I tried 7 of them:

Burt's Bees Lipstick Swatches and Review

  • Nile Nude – pale caramel nude
  • Blush Basin – light dusty rose
  • Tulip Tide – pastel lilac
  • Fuchsia Flood – rose pink
  • Scarlet Soaked – deep bright red
  • Juniper Water – plum
  • Russet River – maroon

There’s also Sunset Cruise (orange-rose), Iced Iris (pale warm pink), Suede Splash (caramel brown), Lily Lake (purple-toned pink), Magenta Rush (magenta pink), Brimming Berry (berry pink) and Ruby Ripple (dark red).

They all have a glossy lip balm-like finish.

Ingredients: Diheptyl Succinate, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Capryloyl Glycerin/Sebacic Acid Copolymer, Cera Alba (Beeswax), Candelilla Cera (Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax), Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Behenyl Alcohol, Oleic/Linoleic/Linolenic Polyglycerides, C12-18 Acid Triglyceride, Lanolin, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Cera Carnauba (Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax), Moringa Oleifera Seed Oil, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Seed Oil, Sorbitan Tristearate, Glyceryl Caprylate, Aroma (Flavor), Tocopherol, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Lauroyl Lysine, Citric Acid, Linalool. May Contain [+/-]: Mica, CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), CI 75470 (Carmine), CI 77491/CI 77492/CI 77499 (Iron Oxides)

What I liked about Burt’s Bees Lipsticks

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Do Coffee Scrubs Work Against Cellulite?

Do Coffee Scrubs Work Against Cellulite?

Coffee scrubs are making a big comeback. With brands like Frank claiming that the caffeine in coffee scrubs can reduce cellulite, it sounds too good to be true. So are messy coffee scrubs worth it? What is Cellulite? Cellulite, also called lipodystrophy, is a change in how the fat under your skin is shaped, making it look lumpy or dimply …

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Why Coconut Oil Is the Best Hair Oil (and How to Use It)

Why Coconut Oil Is the Best Hair Oil (and How to Use It)

Why Coconut Oil Is the Best Hair Oil (and How to Use It)

The cult of coconut oil is going strong, and while a lot of the uses are pretty BS (pulling out toxins, for example), it is actually better for your hair than other oils! Here’s why, and how to best use it…

What Happens When Your Hair Gets Wet

First, we have to take a look at what happens when you wash your hair, at a microscopic level.

The outer layer of your hair is called the cuticle. It’s made up of rigid overlapping scales, full of keratin, a tough protein that also makes up a large proportion of your nails. The cuticle acts like a shield around the spongy interior of the hair, the cortex. The cortex and cuticle are all stuck together by the cell membrane complex.

Why Coconut Oil Is the Best Hair Oil and How to Use It

When hair gets wet, the cell membrane complex and the inner cuticle (endocuticle) soak up water and swell up, but the rigid outer layer doesn’t. This makes the scales stick up, and they get snagged and snap off when strands rub against each other or when you run a comb through it. This damage to the cuticle leads to split ends and breakage.

Why Coconut Oil Is the Best Hair Oil and How to Use It

How Can Oil Help?

There are 2 key ways that oiling hair can help. When oil is applied on hair after washing and before combing, it lubricates the hair so there’s less friction, leading to less snagging.

More powerfully though, adding oil to hair before washing, the oil coats the hair in a protective layer. Since oil is water-repellent, less water will get inside the hair, so there’s a lot less swelling. The cuticle scales stick up less, so less damage occurs.

Why Is Coconut Oil the Best Oil for Hair?

Coconut oil is particularly good because its structure means it can penetrate the hair shaft more than most other oils, leading to a stronger water-repellent effect. Here are the average structures of mineral oil, coconut oil and sunflower oil (all three are actually complex mixtures):

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What is thermal water and how does it work in skin care?


If you walk into a pharmacie in France, you’ll immediately bump into a giant display of thermal water spray cans. A whole host of French skin care brands like Avène, La Roche-Posay, Uriage and Vichy sell thermal water sprays. What is it, what’s in it, what does it do and how is it different from regular water?


What is thermal water?

Thermal water comes from hot springs. The water in these hot springs come from deep in the ground, where it’s heated by geothermal activity (the Earth’s natural heat which also causes lava to be molten).

What’s in thermal water?

It’s mostly water, of course, but it isn’t “just water in a can”! As the thermal water rises to reach the spring, it passes through rocks and soil which dissolve to add minerals to the water. The mineral content of a particular thermal water depends on where it comes from. The minerals include the ones found in your skin’s natural moisturising factor (NMF), like chlorides, sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

Here are the compositions of the 4 most popular thermal waters (source: Bacle et al., Int J Dermatol 1999, brand marketing materials). There’s some variation between batches of course, since it’s a natural mixture.

Composition (mg/L or ppm)AvèneLa Roche-PosayVichyUriage
Total dry residue207444512011000
Nitrates1.4TraceTrace< 100
Silica (SiO2)10.630-42

As you can see, the composition varies a fair bit, with Uriage, the thermal water with the highest mineral content, being 55 times more concentrated than Avène, which has the lowest mineral content.

Residue remaining after room temperature evaporation of 10 mL of Uriage Thermal Water in a 250 mL beaker.

“-” in the table means no data, since different thermal water brands like to highlight different aspects of their water. La Roche-Posay talks a lot about the selenium content of their water, while Uriage emphasises the high calcium concentration. Avène talks a lot about the 2:1 ratio of calcium and magnesium in their water.

There’s also nitrogen gas inside the can that acts as a propellant, to push the water out as a spray. Paula’s Choice writes that the nitrogen “can generate free-radical damage and cause cell death”, which luckily isn’t true, since nitrogen gas (N2) make up 78% of the air we breathe! It’s actually very unreactive, so unreactive that it’s commonly used in laboratories to flush out more reactive things like oxygen and water. (The papers cited in the Beautypedia article actually involve chemicals that just contain nitrogen atoms, not nitrogen gas itself.)

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How to Exfoliate 2: All About Chemical Exfoliants


Here’s Part 2 of this skincare series on exfoliation. Part 1 was on physical exfoliating tools and scrubs, this time we’re tackling the more complex chemical exfoliants, before moving onto picking the right exfoliation routine for your skin in Part 3. For a simpler overview, you can head to this exfoliation basics post, and for a more user-friendly version check out my free exfoliation guide.

What’s exfoliation again?

Your skin is covered in a thin protective layer of dead cells (the stratum corneum) which naturally shed over time in a process called desquamation. Sometimes this layer gets too thick, resulting in dull, rough skin. Exfoliants help the shedding along, resulting in more even, “glowier” skin.

What’s chemical exfoliation?

Chemical exfoliants help cells shed in a more indirect way than physical exfoliation, which works using friction between the tool or scrub and the skin. The mechanism of how chemical exfoliants work aren’t always obvious, but the most common theories and methods of how they work are:

  • by normalising cell turnover – that is, how quickly cells in the epidermis die and migrate to the stratum corneum, pushing old cells out. Exfoliants do this by travelling to living cells under the dead layer and telling them to change how they behave – in more technical terms, they act on receptors to upregulate cell division. (Technically, any ingredient that does this is a drug, but regulations around these “cosmeceuticals” is pretty iffy.)
  • by unsticking the cellular glue (desmosomes) holding dead cells together in the stratum corneum.

Chemical exfoliation is touted to be gentler than physical exfoliation, mostly because it’s less prone to user error. However, how well it works depends largely on the formulation of the product. A poorly formulated product might not work, or it might work so well that it irritates your skin and causes uneven pigmentation and chemical burns.

Product categories

Click on each heading to jump to that section.

Leave-on Hydroxy Acid Products

Hydroxy acids are the most common ingredients in chemical exfoliants. There are two main types:

  • Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), which includes ingredients like glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid and mandelic acid. Glycolic and lactic acids are most common in skincare, and the vast majority of scientific studies on AHAs are based on the action of glycolic acid.
  • Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), of which salicylic acid is the only one commonly used in skincare (I’ll be using the terms “BHA” and “salicylic acid” interchangeably).

A few ingredients are technically both alpha and beta hydroxy acids such as citric acid, which acts more like an AHA.

It’s not 100% clear how AHAs and BHAs work to exfoliate the skin – it’s likely to be a combination of the two actions described at the beginning: increasing cell turnover at the epidermis and unsticking stratum corneum cells. As well as just removing build-up of skin, they can also improve hyperpigmentation and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

There are a few key differences between AHAs and BHA/salicylic acid:

  • Solubility: The commonly used AHAs (glycolic acid, lactic acid) are water soluble, while salicylic acid is oil soluble. Theoretically this means salicylic acid is better for treating oily skin and clogged pores because they can penetrate through sebum and sebum plugs, but there’s a lot of variation between people’s experiences. You’ll generally find AHAs in products for dry, ageing skin, and BHA in products for oily, acne-prone skin.
  • Sun sensitivity: Glycolic acid is documented to cause sun sensitivity for a while even after you finish using it, while salicylic acid isn’t. Salicylic acid has a UV protective effect while on the skin, due to the benzene ring in its structure which lets it act as a chemical sunscreen. You need to wear sunscreen while you use alpha hydroxy acids, and for at least a week after you finish – otherwise, you can actually cause more wrinkles and uneven pigmentation and sagginess than you started off with! And you should use sunscreen with salicylic acid anyway.
  • Other effects: Salicylic acid can have some anti-inflammatory action, depending on whether enough gets through the skin – it’s actually one of the active forms of aspirin. Glycolic and lactic acids are humectants that act to slow down the evaporation of water from the skin.

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How to Exfoliate 1: All About Physical Exfoliants


Are you confused about how to choose the right exfoliation method for your skincare routine? This three-part series rounds up all the types of exfoliants for your face, with examples of products and their pros and cons!

This post covers all the physical exfoliation options. Part 2 will be on chemical exfoliation, and Part 3 will be a guide on how to choose the one(s) that will work for you. For a more barebones overview, check out this exfoliation basics post.

What is exfoliation?

Your skin consists of living skin (the epidermis), covered in a 15-20 layers of dead cells (the stratum corneum). The dead cells in the stratum corneum have an important role in protecting your living tissue from the outside environment. They’re completely replaced around every 2 weeks – the cells at the surface are constantly shedding. However, the shedding isn’t always regular, and sometimes it happens slower than it should. This leads to your skin being covered by too thick a layer of dead cells, which looks dull, uneven, scaly and flaky. Exfoliation helps the shedding along, ideally without compromising the ability of the stratum corneum to act as a barrier.

There are 2 main categories of exfoliation: physical and chemical. I’m including exfoliation tools under the banner of physical exfoliation, and enzymes in the chemical group.

What Is Physical Exfoliation?

Dead cells are buffed away mechanically using grainy products or tools. It’s a lot like sandpapering a block of wood or scrubbing tiles – the friction from rubbing an object back and forth over the skin lifts stuck cells.

Much like sandpapering wood, the harshness of physical exfoliation depends on a few factors:

  • what the exfoliating objects are like (how large, how hard, how smooth)
  • how you move them over your skin (how hard you press, what direction you go in, how long you rub it in for)

I personally find that rubbing lightly in small circles for a minute or two is more effective and less irritating than rubbing hard for a short period, with any physical exfoliation method.

Physical exfoliation has a reputation for being harsh, but I think it’s unfair – it can be very gentle, but most people use physical exfoliants way too frequently, and feel like it’s not working if they don’t feel raw and tingly afterwards. Don’t fall into this trap! It’ll make your skin worse in the long run, reducing the ability of the stratum corneum to act as a barrier against the outside world and prevent moisture from leaving (its barrier function).

Product categories

Click on each heading to jump to that section.

Plastic microbeads

These round beads are made of plastic and come in every imaginable colour. They used to be in tons of products because they’re really cheap and smoothly shaped, so they were budget-friendly and gentle on the skin.

However, it turned out that microbeads were an environmental pollutant – they made their way through the sewage system and into waterways, where environmental toxins (actual toxins) like pesticides latched onto them. When aquatic animals ate them, they would release the toxins. Nasty! (You can read more on microbead pollution on this post.)

Plastic microbeads were banned in a handful of US states after research showed that the beads were turning up everywhere. The Netherlands are in the process of phasing them out. Other Western countries are moving in this direction, so plastic microbeads are found in less products these days.

You’ll see them listed on the ingredients list as:

  • polyethylene
  • polypropylene
  • nylon-6
  • nylon-11
  • polymethyl methacrylate

You can find lists of microbead-containing and microbead-free products in your country on Beat the Microbead.

How to use

These are the standard scrub products – squeeze some into your hand, slap it on your clean face and rub around, then rinse.



It’s actually been quite difficult to locate plastic microbeads in my skincare collection – I only managed to find an old tube of Nivea Pure Effect All-in-1 Multi Action Cleanser, and a couple of Asian products (Muji Scrub Face Soap and Missha Cacao & Cream Facial Scrub).

There are lots of replacements for plastic microbeads available now, so you can still get your scrub on without as much guilt.

Jojoba Beads

One of the most popular replacements for plastic microbeads are jojoba beads. They’re made of chemically processed jojoba oil (the same process used to make solid margarine from liquid vegetable oil), and are usually listed as “hydrogenated jojoba oil” or “jojoba esters” in the ingredients list. These beads are translucent white, and they’re usually found in products as very fine grains.

How to use

Just like microbeads, these are straightforward scrubs. Rub them onto clean damp skin, rinse away afterwards.



These are particularly popular in products marketed as natural – they show up in Jurlique, Moreish and Neutrogena Naturals scrubs, as well as a Guinot Gentle Face Exfoliating Cream, a scrub/peeling gel hybrid. They’re popular but I’m personally not that fond of how they feel on my skin, so I don’t reach for these that often.

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How Do Cleansing Balms Work? The Science!


Cleansing balms like Banila Co Clean It Zero are very popular in Asia, and it’s made its way to Australia in the form of Trilogy Make-Up Be Gone Cleansing Balm. What’s in them, how do they work, and why are they different from cleanser or micellar water? Here’s the science!

What’s in a cleansing balm?

The concept of a cleansing balm is a lot like cleansing oil – the ingredients include a solid oily component, combined with a surfactant or emulsifier.

Emulsifiers or surfactants are double-ended molecules, one end of which likes oily substances (the “tail”), while the other end (or “head”) likes water. They help oily substances dissolve in water.


Interestingly, if you zoom in on the structure of a cleansing balm, it looks like inside out micellar water. The fact that it’s oil-based rather than water-based means that the surfactant tails point out into the bulk rather than in towards the centre of the spherical micelles.


How do cleansing balms work?

First, you rub the oily balm on your face to quickly dissolve your make-up into a melty mess. These balms usually go runnier as they warm up on your skin. Next, you splash water on your face – the dirty balm washes off cleanly thanks to the surfactant.

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