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Several weeks ago, after an additional week or so of browsing the Lush website, I went off to Preston armed with a list and the intention to buy either the Angels On Bare Skin cleanser or the Fresh Farmacy one. I knew I wanted an exfoliator of some kind but I've also been going through a rebellious skin phase again (hoped I'd grown out of all that now) and, going by the online description, I thought Fresh Farmacy might help me out, too. Unlike the picture on Ciao, the slab of it that I saw in Preston doesn't have any reddish-orange bits on the top and it's actually moulded and scalloped a little bit so it looks as though it's been left to set in one of those flouncy old-fashioned jelly moulds, but it's far firmer than anything like jelly! Rather than steer me towards one thing or the other, the assistant in Lush gave me a sample of each cleanser to take home and try out and, impressively, the little slice of Fresh Farmacy I had lasted well over two weeks and the only reason I was compelled to stop using it was because my sister cleaned the bathroom and threw out what remained of my samples. (Hence I've just been online, shopping for replacements!)
I'd shortlisted Fresh Farmacy because the website describes it as "the soothing, cleansing bar to reach for whenever you see a spot starting to rear its ugly head" and I know that both the chamomile and calamine included in the ingredients are supposed to be soothing and a bit anti-inflammatory (after all, calamine's the stuff you put on when you've got chickenpox, so I imagined it must be in here for that reason). It also says that tea tree, lavender and rose are included and I can see the logic there as tea tree is quite famously good as an antiseptic/antibacterial ingredient and lavender and rose are meant to be calming and soothing so it seemed to me like Fresh Farmacy answered most of my problems. My skin isn't oily any more so I didn't mind that it didn't say whether oily skin would benefit or not.
Appearance-wise, Fresh Farmacy isn't really eye-catching - actually it looks like a lump of off-pink putty or firm plasticine and I would understand if anybody said the colour was insipid. As I've used it, I've noticed tiny slightly darker bits in it that are a little bit grainy but not particularly rough if I wipe the bar across my face (More on that in a moment!) but I'm not sure what they are. It has got a mild, yet distinct scent to it. The Lush website says that camomile and calamine are included in the ingredients and I think probably I can detect something a bit like calamine lotion in there, although I'm not sure I can pick camomile out and certainly can't smell rose, lavender or tea tree. It's very gentle and not too intense, which makes a nice change to me - having just been using one of the Clean and Clear products which had a frankly eye-wateringly strong smell to it, Fresh Farmacy feels like a much gentler approach. It lingers afterwards for quite a long time but it's really subtle and not too soapy or perfumed, a bit like the strength of baby soap scent, so it's not really obtrusive and I don't think it would be noticed by anyone around me unless they got really close to me.
That's not to say that it's so gentle as to be next to useless at clearing my face up, though. I'm using it along with Angels on Bare Skin at the moment, which is more of an exfoliator - I notice that Ciao have categorised this as a cleanser/exfoliator but I don't think that's all that accurate. I think "cleanser" would be closer to the truth and, in fairness to Lush, I have never seen anything on their website that suggests that Fresh Farmacy will exfoliate. Even when I went into the Preston branch and got a sample of this, the assistant didn't tell me that it would - and she really seemed to know her stuff, and even helpfully pointed out that Fresh Farmacy has a higher soap content than Angels on Bare Skin. (In case I wanted to avoid soap-orientated things, I assume.)
So, on to the complexion-improving properties Lush claim this stuff has. I've tried a lot of problem skin orientated toiletries and cleansers in the last fifteen years - some of them have been OK, some of them seemed to work and then got too much for me and others were totally ineffective. So I did wonder just what this bar of pink-beige stuff with tiny bits in it that made my mum ask, "Why is there a lump of pate on the side of the sink?" the other morning was going to do to my skin. The fact that my skin had reverted to its awkward teenage self was what made me like the sound of Fresh Farmacy when I was doing a bit of online window-shopping about six weeks ago - basically, Lush's write-up said it would cleanse gently and be effective on spot-prone skin which sounded perfect. So is it?
Actually, I'm quite impressed. Because I've got skin that looks clearest when I exfoliate regularly, I am alternating between this and Angels On Bare Skin (not in any specific order - I am trying to remember to use one in the morning and one at night, but I use what my face looks and feels like as a guideline so if I think it just needs cleansing it gets Fresh Farmacy and if it feels a bit grubbier it gets Angels on Bare Skin). The sample piece I got from Lush was quite small, about the size of a credit card and a bit thicker, so when I saw the price was based on a 100g quantity I naively underestimated how big it was going to be when I ordered online and got it through the post. I expected something around the size of an average cleansing bar or bar of soap, something that would fit in the hand . . . what I got was a great big block that reminded me of a thinner version of the pre-wrapped triangles of Brie you get in the supermarket, except this is firmer in texture and also taller. So this generous chunk surprised me in a very positive way - I am thinking of chopping it into chunks to make it last longer and generally be easier to handle when I'm washing my face, but at the moment it's still in one chunk and my current technique is to get my face wet, dip the end of the Fresh Farmacy into the water, wipe it across each cheek a couple of times so that I can see a bit of white lather on my face, then I dip my hands in the water and spread the lather over my face. (Realistically, "lather" is an overexaggeration but I can't think of a better word. It does look white and slightly frothy but it's a really fine flat froth with tiny bubbles rather than big clouds of bubbles. I like this aspect because, at the same time as I feel like it's washing my face effectively, it's not creating unmanageable bubbles that get up my nose and make me sneeze before taking minutes to wash off properly.) It washes off easily, too and makes the water look cloudy like it does if you wash your hands with normal soap, but the bubbles tend to have died down to nothing by then.
One word of warning on the fact that it comes in a block that I think should be mentioned is that, if it gets left on the side of a damp sink, it can develop a not-too-soggy but still jelly-like layer that some soaps tend to produce if left in a similar environment. The solution I have found to this (partly inspired by not wanting my mum or sister to take it upon themselves to throw it out during a bathroom-cleaning frenzy . . . these things happen in our house!) is to leave the Fresh Farmacy block to drip while I rinse my face, then wrap it in a thick piece of scrap cotton material (I do a lot of sewing, so I have loads of scraps lying about!) and leave it safely in my bedroom drawer. The bar dries back to normal quite soon in a dry environment and the bit of material stops it from marking the stuff in my drawers . . . and also makes the contents smell nice! On the plus side, this bar doesn't melt away very quickly like normal soap would, so I assume there is something in it that is very good at bonding Fresh Farmacy together.
I would reckon this is suitable for fairly dry skin as well as oilier skin (mine isn't as oily as it used to be, but it is still that bit too acne-prone for my liking!) but it's probably worth following this up with a light moisturiser if it's used on drier skin. A couple of times I have washed my face twice in one go with this (lathering up twice) but I don't suggest this on drier skin - it made mine feel just a bit too uncomfortably dry and made me want to reach for the moisturiser as soon as I could, so I get the feeling that Fresh Farmacy is far more effective if it's used once only. Maybe oilier complexions would be able to replenish the moisture level that bit faster, but a double wash with this is too much for mine . . . hence I am trying to restrain myself a bit! I've used it twice a day since getting it last week (and obviously had a bit of a taster of its effects a few weeks ago thanks to my sample piece from the shop) and I'm amazed to say that I actually can see an improvement in my skin. It's not flawless and frankly it probably never will be, but I do think it looks a lot clearer (which is all the more amazing to me because, when my package arrived through the post with this in it last week, it coincided with that time of the month when my face tends to go completely mad and yet I could still see visible improvements over the following few days) and less inflamed. It hasn't worked complete miracles on the typically spot-prone areas of my face (generally my lower cheeks and chin) yet but even so I can see improvements there.
I'm pretty sure I'm going to get this again when I run out, although it wears away so incredibly slowly that I can see it lasting for perhaps two or three months. If I get round to chopping it up into chunks, it might even last longer. Considering it's £5.50 for a 100g piece, I think it's pretty good value and I'm really pleased with the fact that it's clearing my skin up relatively gently - for this price, if it has this effect on my skin I'm quite content to have to buy a moisturiser too to take the edge off the dryness because it's not really going to break the bank! I've still got some of the first jar of the Organic Surge Blissful Daily Moisturiser left, which I bought last year and that counterbalances the slight dryness I get from washing my face with this.
Overall, definitely recommended, but probably best suited to oily to normal skin. I suspect it would be too much for really dry skin to take.