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Beauty in Scottish Borders - Stobo Castle with serene surroundings

Beauty in Scottish Borders - Stobo Castle with serene surroundings

Beauty across borders: Stobo Castle in the Scottish Borders

Just over one hour from Glasgow lies the stunning enclave of Stobo Health Spa which is nestled among the tumbling hills of the Scottish Borders. After driving for over an hour along quaint country roads, you arrive at this beautiful building which houses over 40 spa treatment rooms, full service restaurant, bar /coffee shop and hotel accommodation. It is not only the spa vibe which instills calm - the natural serene setting of snow dusted hills with sprinklings of spring greenery and forests stripped from a incessant arctic inspired winter, act as antidote to stress.

Myself and friends enjoyed a package deal of £129 which included board, 3-course dinner, breakfast and 3-course lunch. In contrast to reports from family and friends, we found the meals outstanding - wild bass, raspberry cheesecake, smoked salmon and lentil soup were personal highlights.

Faultless service and setting from the spa facilities as well. The main pool area is surrounded by several steam, crystal, aroma (eucalyptus) rooms and laconium in which you could easily lose a day hopping in and out of these sanctuaries. A whopping indoor jacuzzi and hidden outdoor hot tub complete their water therapies. The spa reception area shrieks with natural light and covered with terraced seating for you to effortlessly lounge in day and night.

In terms of treatments, I enjoyed a quick 30 min back massage for £29. Although highly enjoyable (even included much needed pressure point massaging to diffuse strain from luggage carrying), I was anxious about time - by the time I had zoned out, the massage was over. Friends enjoyed facials (Darphin, Gatineau and Elemis are retailed here) and mother-to-be massages.

Stobo castle spa, setting, spacious rooms, marvellous meals and friendly staff are all highly recommended. Would advise visitors to bring workout gear (loads of free classes and also forest walks) and opt for the longer spa treatments to really reap the benefits of Scotland’s only destination spa.

Beauty Sleep and Supplements

Escaped the spring snow in London and headed to The Vitality Show to discover the latest and greatest in the British beauty and wellness industry.

Earls Court exhibit space was heaving with lanes of stalls packed with items for beauty omnivores: cellulite combating workout clothes, collagen drink shots, Amy Child’s beauty (?) essentials, spa retreats in Brazil, homemade cosmetics and the latest explorer cars. Experts organised discussions at wellness theatres dotted around the floor space and group sessions of yoga ticked away in quiet corners.

Some of my favourite discoveries included Aduna World (suppliers of powdered baobab - African fruit buzzing with nutrients and a zesty taste), q cucumber drink (sparkling spring water infused with fresh cucumber flavour - imagine how an English summer party would taste) and bounce balls (protein packed energy balls - favourite is coconut and macadamia which transports you to tropical climes).

My favourite brand was Better You who specialise in transdermal supplements (topically applied via bathing or oil spray). Having spotted their award-winning magnesium flakes in Liberty department store in London, I was intrigued to find out more. Their owner Andrew Thomas walked us through the whys and wherefores of their approach and how magnesium and vitamin d are common deficiency in today’s society. This deficiency leads to sleep, stress, and multitude of health ails.

I purchased their magnesium flakes and sampled them last night in foot bath. After soaking my feet in warm water infused with these flakes, I fell straight to sleep at 10pm and slept right through to 6am. Woke up rested and feeling floppy (that euphoric feeling after a long weekend/ holiday/ massage/ yoga session). As someone with a tendency to suffer from Sunday night insomnia, absolutely delighted and will try out again - no wonder these feel-good flakes won Harper’s Bazaar Hot 100 award for night-time treatments.

Beauty sleep - trying out Magnesium Flakes from British brand Better You. Simply add these flakes to bath or foot bath for relaxation properties in 15 mins. Winner of Harpers Bazaar Hot 100 in their best night product category in 2012.

Beauty sleep - trying out Magnesium Flakes from British brand Better You. Simply add these flakes to bath or foot bath for relaxation properties in 15 mins. Winner of Harpers Bazaar Hot 100 in their best night product category in 2012.

Beauty x Borders - France - Gadget to create your own cosmetics

Tech-savvy gadgets have transformed our kitchens with brands such as Kitchenaid, Nespresso, Vitamix and Cuisinart becoming household names. The food and beauty-focused French believe there is room for one more so Rowenta launched a DIY device to make your own cosmetics chez vous.

Priced at under €200, this Naturalis package features:

- device with 3 settings (cooling, warming, cleaning), along with mixing and emulsifying tools,

- recipe guide,

- accessories: 2 x 100ml pots, 2 x 50ml pots, 2 x 15ml pots, 2 dosage spoons, 1 spatula and 1 glass,

- starter set: emulsifying lotion, gelling agent and preservative.

The website features recipes to whip up lotions and potions for the face, body, hands, feet and hair with natural ingredients (note: the ingredients like apricot oil, aloe vera and coconut oil must be sourced and bought from another source). Currently available in France.

Beauty x Ages: non-toxic, odourless and wash-off nail polish for girls

One of my favourite things about Christmas is getting the chance to playtime with nieces and my friend’s children. Some of them enjoy nothing more than smearing make-up over their faces and applying pretty polish to their fingernails. The thought of putting “adult-appropriate” formulas on them has never appealed to me so I have happily discovered new brand Little Bu which offers non-toxic, odourless and wash-off nail polish for little girls.

Available in 12 shades and one top coat, these are easy to apply and leave a fresh, glossy finish. Love the colours, concept and the ease of removing with water.

Priced at £9.95 GBP. Retailers in UK are mainly London-centric, including Harrods. Global shipping available from their website

Iluvlittlebu non-toxic nail polish for children

Iluvlittlebu non-toxic nail polish for children

Health/ Beauty x Borders - Scotland - supplements, detox, slimming and diets.

Born and raised in central Scotland, I can solemnly testify that the descriptors “healthy liver” and ”slimming” are not normally attributed to my motherland during the “silly” social season. Recent reports in UK publications, The Guardian and The Herald imply otherwise with new year herbal supplements from (or emblematic of) my native land being heralded as new quick fix fads to detox, diet and diminish signs of festive debauchery.

First up, Milk Thistle (Silymarin) herbal supplements in capsule or liquid form have been touted as a hangover-helper which helps promote liver health. A powerful antioxidant, Silymarin has been used for over 2000 years by herbalists to treat conditions for the liver and gallbladder. The Guardian reports that Tesco have seen a 80% increase in sales for the year. Nutritionists recommend not to take with food, instead either 30-60minutes before or after meals. Aside from supermarkets, other stockists include Boots, Holland & Barrett and one of my favourite supplement ranges Viridian offers a liquid format.

Slimming is big business year round and The Herald newspaper in Glasgow reports that a 100-year-old Scottish recipe is the inspiration for the latest weight management supplement “quantrim.” At the turn of the centry, Scottish herbalist William Box created “Slimwell Anti-Fat Slimming tablets” with Bladderwrack “black” seaweed and Cleavers plant extract. The same ingredients have now been placed in Quantrim’s new slimming pills which claim to "increase metabolism, burn calories, manage appetite". £34.95 for one month supply and available direct from Quantrim website.

While both seem to be interesting fixes, I will stick with dosing down the drinking, rich food and amping up exercise. Happy Hogmanay!

Beauty x Borders - San Francisco - #2 Lash Bars

San Francisco seems to embrace the “specialty” salon concept Lashfully is another eloquent example of this.

Lashfully is a SF-based start-up lash salon which offers expert custom-made, semi-permanent eyelash extensions. Friends of mine raved about the sublte enhancement that their specialists offer but it is rather pricey with $150 initial investment, followed by monthly “check ups” of $75. Like The Dry Bar, memberships are available for savings.

For those not willing to invest in long-term extensions, Lashfully offers “lash-extension light” for $50 which lasts 4-7 days - perfect for brides or special occasions.

With four locations in California (San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Newport Beach and Walnut Creek), will be interesting to see if they expand throughout the US. Could be interesting concept for UK given the success of Blink Brow Bars via their network of stand-alone and store locations in Selfridges, Fenwick, Space NK, Harvey Nichols, House of Fraser and John Lewis.

Beauty x Borders - San Francisco - #1 Blow Bars

Aside from The Blow Bar and Hershesons, the concept of Blow Dry Hair Bars is still in its infancy in the UK. In contrast, the “blow out” in the US is big business with companies such as Blo expanding in US, Canada and Asia. From my New York years, Blow in the meatpacking district was always my favourite and I discovered another new one in San Fran - The Dry Bar.

Nestled on the hip slopes of Filmore Street, The Dry Bar specialises in Blow Drys - no color, no cuts, and no extensions. For $40, you “pick your poison” and in approx 30 minutes, you walk out feeling full-on fabulous. The “poisons” are:

- Straight up: simple and straight

- Manhattan: sleek and smooth

- Southern Comfort: big hair with volume

- Cosmo-Tai: lots of loose curls

- Hot Toddy: messy and beachy

For under 10 year olds, you can enjoy the “Shirley Temple” for $28.

Snacks are available and seems super-social concept with memberships and private parties available for bridal showers and girl’s night out. Predict that this could be the next craze in UK.