Cucumber: Skin Saviour?

Cucumbers aren’t just a salad staple, they’re also a powerhouse of water and nutrients that our skin and body absolutely adore. For the body, they’re ace at helping to lower blood sugar levels and supply us with antioxidants; and are full of fibre, vitamins, and minerals to keep us ticking along nicely.

But the benefits don’t stop there, oh no they don’t! Cucumber is a godsend for our skin and complexion, supplying it with a plethora of benefits to keep it looking plump, smooth, and just, well, fabulous darling. Read on for the lowdown on why cucumber is our skin saviour.


Great Stuff To De-Puff

We’ve all been there: staring at ourselves in the mirror after a night tossing and turning (or on the dance floor), and wondering if anyone’s eyes have ever looked so puffy. While many eye creams are said to be able to help deflate these dark clouds, there’s actually a much simpler option waiting for you in the fridge. Cooled cucumber is full of the compound Ascorbic Acid- which actively works to prevent water retention. This means that cucumber can reduce swelling and puffiness under the eyes, and can cool the skin to help soothe any irritation.

Plus, due to the high levels of antioxidants and silica in cucumbers, they can also be used to brighten and lighten dark circles under the eyes- something worth remembering if your Tuesday night turned into more than ‘one little drink with work friends’.

We suggest: Placing chilled slices of cucumber over the eyes for 15-20 minutes to refresh puffy and tired eyes and brighten dark circles.

Prefer a product?: Lush Cucumber Eye Pads


Crystal Clear Cuke

Sick of trying every spot treatment on the market? Cucumbers have a mild astringency can be a miracle for removing excess dead skin cells and oils from the skin and tightening the pores to help reduce breakouts on the skin. Plus, the anti-inflammatory and soothing effect of cucumber can help to ease pain, redness, and irritation caused by sun damage, bites, and rashes. Sounds like a godsend for holidays abroad.

We suggest: Rubbing Cucumber directly onto the skin- on spots, rashes, etc, to help to soothe and cleanse the area.

We suggest: Mixing Cucumber water (get this from blending then straining cucumber) with a couple of drops of tea tree oil to make an acne-busting toner.

Prefer a product?: Kiehl’s Cucumber Herbal Toner


Soothe Baby Soothe

There’s little worse than looking down at a pair of sunburnt legs and knowing how much pain you’re going to be in for the foreseeable future- let alone the horrendous peeling to ensue. The great news is that the antioxidant and cooling properties of cucumber are renowned for being great at cooling and soothing hot, sunburnt skin and aiding in speeding recovery.

We suggest: Blend cold cucumber (skin and all) until it forms a smooth paste, then apply to any sunburnt areas of the skin. This should help to soothe the sunburn pain and reduce inflammation. Aloe vera gel can also be added to enhance the healing properties of the paste.

Prefer a product?: Peter Thomas Roth Cucumber Gel Mask  


Moisture Maker

Cucumber is almost drinkable- being 96% water, meaning it can be fantastic for providing our body with water, but cant actually hydrate and moisturise our skin alone. It does make an excellent base to other moisturising options, such as creams or natural aloe or honey, however, so we won’t be weirded out if you decide to rub it all over your face. You do you.

We suggest: Mixing the water from half of an unpeeled cucumber with two tablespoons of aloe vera gel. Massage into your face and let it sit for 15 minutes before washing it off with lukewarm water.

Prefer a product?: Ole Henriksen Cold Plunge Pore Remedy Moisturiser


Stop The Clocks

Not only is cucumber full of vitamin C which is great for stimulating new cell growth thus keeping your skin fresh and new, but it also contains folic acid which is a fantastic protectant against environmental toxins that often cause wrinkles and premature aging. Plus, they’re super high in antioxidants which we all know are the real skin saviours- reducing inflammation on the skin and keeping wrinkles at bay. Who knew that so much goodness could fit into the 4% of cucumber that wasn’t water?

We suggest: Mix a pureed half-cucumber with two tablespoons of plain yoghurt, apply to the skin and leave for 15 minutes before rinsing with warm water. Here cucumber’s antioxidative benefits and yoghurt’s exfoliating properties mix to give your skin an ultra-cleansing, hydrating, and age-slowing treatment.

Prefer a product?: Mokann Body Balm Melon & Cucumber


Is Cucumber a Skin Saviour?

So, is cucumber a skin saviour to you? It definitely is to us! I mean, let’s make this clear: you can’t live off it alone, and no food is a superfood if it’s the only thing you eat, but it sure is healthful alongside a varied diet. Trying to add more cucumber into your diet and skincare regime has been proven to show benefits, plus it’s all-natural and incredibly low calorie. What have you got to lose?

From crudités to salads, we love cucumbers here at Balance Box, and we’ll supply you with all the nourishment alongside it to fulfil your nutrition and make your diet healthier. With fresh meals made and delivered to your door, Balance Box meals are an easy way to reach your health goals. Interested? Find your perfect menu here.

How Does Pollution Affect My Skin?

woman washes her face because of pollution and skincare

Pollution and skincare

As much as it can be odd to consider the smooth film that keeps all our body together (our skin, if I didn’t paint a grisly enough picture) as an organ, it is actually the largest organ in our body and can be incredibly susceptible to damage.

While solid things can give our skin cuts and scrapes, environmental factors like pollution can affect our skin far more than you might have thought. We wear sun cream to protect from the sun, but protecting our skin from something like pollution- which gets worse each year, seems much less pertinent in our everyday skincare. We want to change that.

Pollution as an umbrella term can include the toxins in the air that we breathe, the toxins in the food and water we drink, and also the toxins that our skin soaks up. So many toxins so little time! (If we don’t laugh we’ll cry.) While some of this is out of our control, we do, thankfully, have the ability to give our skin a helping hand in the fight against pollution. Keeping our skin healthy doesn’t have to be emission… ha ha…


Let’s talk pollution, shall we?

It’s hard to track exactly how much of an effect pollution has on our  individual skin, as well as exactly which type of pollution is affecting us the most, but you can feel comfortable concluding that pollution damage is usually higher in more urban areas. I mean, that makes sense, right? More car exhausts, more factories puffing away, more people blowing cigarette smoke in your face, you know, classic urban area stuff. Although, Londoners may feel proud to hear that Oxford Street- once one of the world’s most polluted streets, with Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels often reaching up to ten times the legal limit, has lowered its NO2 levels by 97% since 2016. [1] Doesn’t it make you want to shed a tear… or is that just bus exhaust in your eyes? Moving on…

It’s extremely important to keep our skin protected from pollution even if we live in less urban areas, as there’s always some risk of pollution these days, and we should be keeping our skin healthy and strong anyway to keep it looking amazing. If you live in much greener areas we would always still recommend protecting your skin, but go lighter and treat your skin to that cleaner, fresher air that you have unlimited access to. (I’m not jealous, honest.) Overdoing the protection where it isn’t necessary won’t do your skin any favours.

You might even want to research pollution levels in your area so you know how much you need to be taking protective measures, just don’t use it as an excuse to act all smug if you live in rating 1 Cornwall or Norwich…

And what do these dreaded pollutants do to our skin?

A lot, irritatingly (pardon the pun). While some pollutants in the air, or particulate matter,  like smog, are too large to soak into the skin, others are so small that they get sucked up straight through our pores. Our skin is a barrier, and pollution is annoyingly good at damaging this barrier.

When these particles pass through our skin barrier they cause inflammation, dehydration, and just general disruption and unhappiness. A healthy and strong skin barrier is what keeps our skin, well, healthy and strong. Anything that disrupts, infiltrates or upsets our barrier is going to have a surprisingly profound effect on our skin. Air pollutants do exactly this.

Alongside breaking down our collagen levels- which keeps our skin plump and babies-bottomy, and causing premature ageing, they can also lead to dehydrated skin, sensitivity, dullness, uneven skin tone, and even acne. They can also combine with UV rays from the sun to cause even more damage- what a horrendous double act.

A joint study was carried out by Olay in which they found that those living in a highly-populated area aged 10% faster than their rural counterparts. [2] Ouch. Plus, those with sensitive skin as well as those suffering from inflammatory skin issues such as eczema and psoriasis, are even more susceptible to the skin barrier-breaking effects of air pollution. [3] As if eczema sufferers aren’t going through enough? Surely, there must be a way to keep everyone in urban areas from ageing at the speed of light? I mean, we’d of course love for the first step to be a drastic reduction of pollution and polluting outlets, but even with the increase in electric cars and green pledges, we don’t see that happening quite soon enough. So what can we do?


SOS- Save our Skin

Thankfully, addressing some of our pollution skin woes are much simpler than filling every car exhaust we see with cotton wool. The main fact of the matter is this: to help defend our skin against air pollution and its effects, we must maintain our skin barrier and keep it healthy and strong. This can be achieved in a number of ways.



  • Utilise detoxifying ingredients, such as charcoal and antioxidants to prevent any free-radical damage. Vitamin E products are great as they are packed with lovely antioxidants. Antioxidant foods are also fantastic at helping to maintain healthy skin. Balance Box meals are packed full of skin-healthy and antioxidant-rich foods to help support your skin barrier and keep you smooth and supple. For the skin, we recommend: Superdrug Vitamin E SPF15 Moisturising Cream and The Ordinary Pycnogenol 5%


  • Enjoy saunas when you can (what a chore… not). Utilise your sweat to flush out any toxins you have hiding in your pores, but be sure to moisturise afterwards.


  • Use detox masks. That’s right, getting your mask on has never been more important. Choose a mask packed with free-radical and pollution-fighting ingredients to help protect and replenish your skin. Try to do a mask whenever you have the time. Cucumber slices on the eyes are optional but advised for the full visual effect. We recommend: This Works Evening Detox Clay Mask



  • Do face peels. Acid face peels may sound like a torture method but are actually fantastic at-home treatments to help protect and clean the skin without damaging the skin’s barrier. We recommend: The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution



  • Try face sprays. When you’re in a rush or can’t deal with the indescribably foul feeling spending over 5 minutes in Piccadilly Circus gives you, face sprays are amazing to use quickly on the go to protect and cleanse the skin. We recommend: This Works In Transit Pollution Shield


  • Explore skin products to see what works for you. We’re loving niacinamide products at the moment for their restorative and strengthening properties, as well as their ability to exfoliate, moisturise, and help to keep acne at bay. Always keep your eye out for new pollution-busting potions and lotions. We recommend: Spectacle Performance Crème and Medik8 C-Tetra Lipid Vitamin C Antioxidant Serum 


  • WEAR AN SPF! Yes, you. Every day. Even on grey days. Even in the UK. Every day. We know how damaging UV rays are to our skin, and when they’re paired with pollution the double act is even worse. SPF products will help to protect the skin from the damaging effects of UV and keep that barrier strong. Trying to avoid the sun as much as possible or work in a windowless office? Consider a Vitamin D lamp to get the fantastic effects of Vitamin D without the sun damage. For the skin, we recommend: Heliocare 360 Fluid Cream SPF 50


  • Apply products to not just the face, but also the neck and decolletage. Pollution and UV don’t discriminate- they’re going to go after whatever skin they can get to. The skin on our body is just as important as on our face, and the neck and decolletage are easily visible. To reduce any sagging, wrinkles and additional damage, don’t leave them out of your skincare routine.


  • Keep your inside air clean, too. As much as outdoor toxins are often worse, indoor toxins exist as well. Usually resulting in a lack of ventilation mixing with chemicals in cleaning supplies and dust galore (who can seriously say they dust the house every day? Not I.), the pollutants in our homes can still play a toll on our skin. Consider an air purifier to keep your air ventilated and clean, or get your green fingers on some house plants for a more natural and quieter alternative. We recommend: Patch Plants Susie Snake Plant and Levoit H133 Air Purifier


    • Take pollution protection as seriously as sun protection. Our skin deserves it.




  • Over-exfoliate, as this will only upset your skin barrier and weaken it.


  • Use overly perfumed products. Fragrances can cause and trigger a number of different skin conditions and weaken our protective skin barrier, making it far more susceptible to pollutant damage. Keep anything funky smelling far away from your face. Please.


  • Overuse petroleum products. I used to be a stickler for petroleum jelly on my lips, and I distinctly remember my grandmother telling me she used to use it every day on her face as a moisturiser. The mind boggles. Petroleum jelly is actually water-repellent as opposed to water-soluble. Forming an impenetrable barrier over the skin, it traps toxins, dirt and pollutants, but keeps moisture out. Recipe for disaster really.


  • Go too ham on skin treatments. Keep your skin routine relatively short and simple and don’t overdo it on the acids and exfoliants. Too much of a good thing still stands with skincare, so make sure you’re not overcleaning and stripping the skin.


Keeping your skin protected against pollutants doesn’t need to feel like a list of chores. Once you sort out routines for yourself then it will become as easy and as normal as brushing your teeth twice a day.

We’d always recommend supplementing your skincare with skin-loving food, such as those full of antioxidants, because nourishing our bodies from within can help to rejuvenate our skin. At Balance Box, we always strive to ensure your body is healthy, happy and fighting fit to face the invisible enemies in our air. Choose your perfect box here.










Q&A with Marianna Franzese- Director and Owner of Curves Hampton

Marianna Franzese- Owner Of Curves Hampton


‘If I didn’t love what I do then I wouldn’t have taken it on while the world literally tipped upside down’.


We spoke to Marianna Franzese- Director and Owner of Curves Hampton, and chatted all things Circuit Training, female-only fitness spaces, the best fitness for weight loss, and non-boring snacks.

You became the franchise owner of Curves Hampton after the first lockdown in September 2020, how did this come about?

My involvement with Curves actually began when I was about 16. I was attending college and started working as a coach at the Hampton Curves, where I would be working out with our clients and motivating them- super hands-on. It was such a positive experience, but I had to step away from it due to starting an International Business degree at the University of Portsmouth- which really emblazoned a passion for business for me.

Then, three years ago, when I’d just left University (and had student debt coming out of my ears!) I was told that the current owner of Curves Hampton (a franchise with a five-year agreement) was selling, and wanted to know if I would take over. I knew I wanted to own my business and make a difference in some way, but with the financial burden of University still hanging over my head, I had to turn it down.

Jump forward to 2020 and I was contacted again and told that Curves Hampton was closing. We were in the throngs of the pandemic and, of course, gyms weren’t exactly thriving, but I just couldn’t have this gym closed down. Four days later I was signing the next five years of my life away.

Did you choose Curves because it was a business venture waiting to be completed, or was your love of fitness more of a deciding factor in choosing a gym?

Fitness has always been a hobby of mine and has always been in my life. It just always made me feel great, so being given the opportunity to pass this feeling along to others while also owning a business was a no-brainer, I had to do it.

Marianna- Owner of Curves Hampton using Circuit Training equipment

Would you say that you do more of the physical coaching or more of the admin side of things?

Right now it’s definitely 50/50, but I’m looking forward to coming off the circuit a bit- the admin role is a full-time job in itself! I really do love both sides, and I probably feel my best when I’m coaching people as it’s such a positive social environment.


”No distress here, just damsels.”



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I can imagine! Especially as Curves is a women-only gym. How important do you feel having women-only spaces is?

Honestly, I think it’s essential. I find during consultations that 9/10 clients haven’t previously dipped their toe into the world of fitness because they don’t feel comfortable in a gym space. Fitness should make you feel good- you shouldn’t have to feel restrictions and worry over what you’re doing or what you’re wearing, or if your actions are being watched and judged. You know when people try to give you patronising advice that you didn’t ask for in the gym? There’s none of that here at Curves. No distress here- just damsels.


What advice then would you give to people- of any gender, who might feel worried about going to the gym?

The number one piece of advice I would give to anyone who doesn’t have much experience with fitness, or is feeling worried about pursuing it, is to do it for yourself. Once you get into that mindset you don’t care if someone’s looking or what they’re thinking. Prioritise your body, mind and health; because no one else can do that for you. It’s not necessarily easy to get there, but once you think about fitness like that, then you can tackle anything.

”If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right!”


What do you think the best fitness for weight loss is?

I would always recommend a 60/40 split- with 40% being cardio and 60% being strength training. The weight you lose through cardio is often quick and may look great, but it’s not sustainable on its own. If you’re going to break down your body fat without compensating with muscle, the thing that will rebuild as soon as you stop the cardio or the diet is fat. As much as cardio is great, we need to be building up muscle to speed up our metabolism as well, so should make sure we’re getting lots of strength training in too.  We encourage people not to look at the scales, but instead to look at their body fat percentage.

Marianna- Owner of Curves Hampton using Circuit Training equipment

So Curves is entirely circuit training based, what do you feel is beneficial in keeping to this form of fitness?

You know it works! There’s just no doubt about it. You get a completely even split between upper body, lower body, and core training. You walk in and know you’re going to get a well-thought-out workout led by a coach that keeps it fun and changes it up.  At Curves we always say ‘If you are not having fun, you are not doing it right!’, because we always strive to make sure the circuit is fun and new. The hard work and thought are done for you, all you have to do is show up and sweat!

Instead of weights, all of our machines go off of resistance- they have pressure cylinders that contract and become heavier the more strength you put into it. It’s very HIIT based and we want you to go as fast as you can in the time you’re on each machine, but it means the machines are accessible for anyone of all ages who want to give it a go! The ages of our clients range from 17-75 because our machines are adaptable to any fitness level. Where else are you ever going to see a 17 and 75-year-old working out in the same space with the same facilities?


”Quick fixes aren’t sustainable with weight-loss.”


How would you suggest people best track their weight loss progress and fitness levels?

We actually hold monthly check-ups here at curves. We take your weight, your height, your body measurements, and then your body fat percentage and BMI. For those continuing long-term fitness, it is much more beneficial to just track body fat percentage and BMI because we want to make sure they’re getting stronger even if their goal isn’t to lose weight.

If clients are looking to track weight loss progress then they’re more likely to see progress in measurement changes and body fat percentage, though we recommend checking once monthly to show real progress instead of standard body fluctuations. We don’t want people obsessing and feeling bad about their journey.

Take your time with progress! You shouldn’t be after quick fixes because they’re not sustainable. Take your time and enjoy the journey. Try tracking workouts and keeping food diaries if that’s something that appeals to you- keeping track of the things we’re doing and eating daily can help us find positive patterns and what works for us for progress.



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How important do you feel eating well alongside exercise really is?

I’d say it’s 50/50. When clients join my gym, half of their consultation is about fitness whereas the other half is about their nutrition at home. We notice that for people who exercise without changing their diets they’ll quickly hit a weight-loss plateau and it’ll become harder to lose weight. Eating well alongside exercise will speed your metabolism and make weight loss so much easier.

Of course, there’s definitely room for leeway- If you didn’t eat well one week you know maybe you should push it a bit further with fitness, and if you didn’t do much exercise one week then you should compensate by eating a bit better. I always recommend water too- it’s so important for keeping healthy and is the hybrid between fitness and nutrition. If your food isn’t giving you enough hydration and you’re working out and using up more of your body’s hydration, you need to replenish it with water.

Marianna- Owner of Curves Hampton using Circuit Training equipment

What is the nutritional advice that you live by?

Colours! If your plate is colourful then it’s bound to be healthy. Make sure there’s a bit of green, red, white, starch, protein, veg. Keep it vibrant! If your plate of food is just one colour then something is wrong. Each colour brings a vital nutrient and it’s important to get a range of these.


”I’m a massive fan of the Balance Box Cocoa Bliss Bars- they’re like the healthiest bounty I’ve ever eaten!”


What is your favourite non-boring snack?

I am a nervous snacker myself. When I’m stressed I often want to crunch on something, so I need to be able to eat snacks with satisfying consistencies. It’s amazing how often we think we’re craving something like a bag of crisps or some chocolate but we’re actually just craving the satisfying crunch or creaminess.

I’m a sucker for any kind of fruit with peanut butter, carrots and houmous, and I’ll always go back to nuts as they’re delicious and satisfying while keeping me full because of their healthy fats. I’m also a massive fan of the Balance Box cocoa bliss bars too! I love bounty chocolates, so it’s like the healthiest bounty I’ve ever eaten. So delicious and they fill me up too!

balance box bliss bars

Are there any supplements that you take that you would recommend?

I take multivitamins in the morning and can’t recommend them enough. However great your nutrition is, there’s usually always a vitamin there that’s missing- especially when living in England and practically deprived of Vitamin D from sunlight! Supplementation is also really dependent on your diet- if you’re a vegetarian or vegan and find it slightly harder to get enough protein additional supplementation may be beneficial. People often turn to supplements for a quick fix- especially in terms of energy-giving supplements before a workout, but I often believe it’s better to simply eat an energising snack 30 minutes before the workout.


”Exercise is an outlet and a safe place.”


What does fitness mean to you?

Ever since I was introduced to fitness with Curves I’ve never been without it. One way or another I’ve integrated it into my daily life, and if I don’t work out then it’s usually attributed to feeling a bit down that day. Exercise is an outlet for me and a safe place where I can either think long and hard about things I need to sort through mentally, or just completely clear my mind and stop thinking for once.

I really think it’s the main thing that feeds my mental health and keeps me feeling good, helping to divide what’s for me and what’s for work- which any business owner will tell you can be super hard to get a grip of. It’s my ‘selfish time’, but I think everyone needs to be selfish every now and then and take time for themselves.




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