Boswells Blog

20th April 2016

Finding the Right Luggage for You

Finding the Right Luggage for You

When Francis Boswell began his small business in 1738 he probably didn’t envision that 278 years later not only would the store still be here, but that it would have grown to include so many departments. But the store began its long and fruitful life by selling travel goods to the people of Oxford. 

Naturally the travel industry has rather changed over the centuries, and if you’ve had a look at what’s on offer in the luggage world recently you may have noticed that there's enough variety out there to make your head spin. Worry not, Charlie from our Luggage Department has offered up his superb advice to help demystify finding the right luggage for your needs. Here's what he had to say...

Keep scrolling to read the whole blog, or to read a specific section, simply click the links below:

Size                                      Style                             Other Things to Consider

Weight                                  Warranties

Choosing the Right Size Case

Members Suitcases ImageCharlie: If you're trying to avoid having to check in luggage altogether, or simply want to make the most out of your carry on, allowance size can be everything. Whilst the vast majority of airlines adhere to very similar restrictions on hold luggage, cabin luggage allowances can (and do) vary wildly. What may be permissible for one airline may very well be considered to be oversized for another. 

Sky cabin Case


The maximum size allowed on an airline is restricted to 56cm tall by 45cm wide by 25cm deep by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) and, at the time of posting, this size is used by British Airways and EasyJet. However as mentioned above many airlines will come in well below these restrictions, with some airlines allowing only cases shorter in height, narrower in width, shallower in depth or any combination thereof. Click here for a brief summary of some of the major airlines' carry on restrictions. 

S'Cure Interior Image


An important thing to note is that when an airline is measuring the size of any bag you're taking with them, it's the extreme of each dimension that is measured. This means that the bulge of the front pocket to the rear of the case, and the very top down to the base of the wheel is what will be taken into account. This can have a noted impact with 4 wheel cases, with the wheels located externally under the base of the case, raising the height up by as much as 4 or 5 cm.


Plane Image

Beyond the issue of size, weight limits are set by different airlines once again to varying levels of restriction. Whilst some airlines don’t mind what you take as carry on, as long as you can manage it yourself, others restrict you to weights little more than that of an average handbag.

We can’t stress enough the importance of checking the restrictions on your tickets prior to travelling. The knowledge that you are travelling safely within whatever limits are placed on you will make the journey not only easier and calmer, but also potentially a considerable amount cheaper.


Weight & Construction

Charlie: With the temptation to over pack for an upcoming trip and the looming prospect of potential overweight fees, making sure your luggage comes in under the weight limit has never been so important.

Travel Scales

Whilst the weight of a suitcase may only be a small portion of the overall value when the case is full, the benefits of selecting a lighter model to start with can be the difference between having to pay additional baggage costs and slipping in under the wire. Many ranges can be considered to be “lightweight,” and are labelled as such, but it’s important to compare what different ranges are offering in order to find one that suits your needs. A lighter case may very well have slightly smaller dimensions, for example, or have fewer internal pockets and dividers, which may be something you find useful when travelling. 


Samsonite ImageIt may also come as a surprise, but some of the very lightest cases are now hard sided options, which traditionally have been the heavier, more durable choice compared to their fabric counterparts. The decision between opting for a hard sided or soft sided case now sits as a choice between the specific features available within those ranges, rather than a material principle. For the vast majority of hard sided options an expander and external pockets aren't available as features, and if these are something that you live and die by using then the choice may well already be made for you. If you can live without these features then the choice opens up much more. The material a case is made from also has an image of defining its durability, but in reality each type has its own vulnerabilities and in the end it comes down, far more, to the quality and level of investment in a piece, which will better predict its life expectancy.


Selecting a Style

Marvel Suitcase Image

Charlie: If we can pass one piece of advice onto our customers when it comes to the style of luggage to look at purchasing its “try to say no to black.” Now we will be the first to admit that as a colour black has always been considered a classic and the only consistently stylish colour, season after season, but this has left the vast majority of cases on any trip to be almost identical. If you can avoid having a plain black suitcase and go for something a little more standout it will repay you many times over in saved minutes waiting at the luggage carousel after a long flight.

Uplite Case Image


Soft sided fabric suitcases may not have the most adventurous colour pallet on the whole but you can still find some light options in teals, pinks, reds and greens, for example. When it comes to hard side cases you’ll find even more options, ranging from simple bold bright colours to graphic designs and repeated patterns, the sky is the limit.


Having said our piece against black suitcases, we must counter it by saying that all is not lost if you do already have a plain, dark case that you travel with. There are of course ways around the monotony of monochrome with brightly coloured luggage labels, straps and padlocks to add a little individuality, and to make recognition and collection that little bit easier.


Advice on Warranties

Beach ImageCharlie: Many luggage manufacturers have a well-deserved reputation for standing behind their products’ quality and durability through their manufacturer’s guarantees. These warranties are, by and large, limited to defects in either the materials used or the standard of workmanship. Whilst there are a couple of exceptions to this, the vast majority of brands will exclude damage caused by mishandling or natural wear and tear from their responsibility. This is not to say that these guarantees are token gestures, rather that they divide the responsibility for care between the maker and carrier fairly.


For peace of mind we would always advise our customers to inspect their luggage on receipt from a carrier, be it an airline, coach company or cruise liner, and note any signs of damage. If you are unfortunate enough to find signs of mishandling then be sure to document it and raise a query with a member of their staff at the point of collection. This will make the claim much easier to process and much more likely to go through with minimal difficulty.

Airport Image


For processing guarantee claims manufacturers may operate on either a repair or replacement service, with companies such as Samsonite carrying spare parts for cases for many years after they last sold them. This can be a valuable service where only a minor fault renders a case unusable but could be easily fixed, such as a sticking trolley handle or a broken wheel.

(Image Credit)

Other Things to Consider

Manoeuverability

Spinner WheelAs well as size and weight, it can be helpful to consider what other factors are important to you when choosing a case. Manoeuvreability can have a big impact on how smoothly your journey goes, and if you’ve ever had to make a quick dash between gates or terminals with luggage when changing flights you’ll agree some good wheels and a sturdy handle can make all the difference.

If you’re likely to be doing most of your travelling around airport terminals, you may find a 4 wheel spinner case glides alongside you most easily, but remember these will also add to the height of the case, and the wheels are more exposed to damage than on a 2-wheeler. A 2-wheeled standing case is well suited to rough terrain, such as pavements and curbs, and so may be just the thing for train journeys and UK excursions. Remember though that this type of recessed wheel, along with telescopic handles, will use some of the case’s internal space up too. Upright Wheel Image

It’s important, also, that you’re comfortable with the size of the case that you choose, and that the length of the handle suits your needs. Something that is either too big or too small for you to easily manoeuvre is probably not your ideal suitcase! If you're likely to be travelling home with more than you left with, having been on a serious souvenir binge, remember that you will need a case that can accommodate those extra items, and don’t forget to take this additional weight into consideration when you initially pack.


Security

If you’re travelling to the USA then its strongly advised that you invest in a TSA lock, which allows customs officials to open your case if necessary without having to damage your lock. These can be used if you're travelling to other destinations too, although customs may still need to cut the lock to check your case. An increasing number of cases are now available with the TSA lock built in, which is especially useful if you are a frequent visitor to the USA, or other TSA supported destinations.

Come Visit us In Store

Luggage Department Image

Getting the right luggage to suit your needs is an important part of any trip, and so picking a suitcase that's going to be a loyal and convenient travelling companion is key. To make the best possible choice of case we highly recommend popping in to store to speak to one of our fantastic in-house luggage experts, and to get a thorough look at what's on offer. Our Luggage Department can be found on the ground floor, by the Broad Street entrance of the store, and we have a growing range of luggage available on our website also. And finally, wherever you're going, whether its within the UK or abroad, for business or for pleasure, be sure to have a memorable, enjoyable and safe trip! Bon Voyage!

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3rd April 2016

Discover Spring at Boswells

Discover Spring at Boswells

Easter is behind us, the clocks have had their annual shuffle forward, and wherever you look there are plants beginning to blossom and bloom. Spring is finally in the air! 

Getting Ready for Spring

Sunglasses ImageWith any luck the change in the season will bring with it a welcome change in the weather. But with the nice weather comes the need for a few warm weather essentials.

Jaso Sunscreen Image

That’s right, it’s time to stock up on sunscreen, dig out some cooler clothing and don your sunglasses in anticipation (and hope) of a little sunshine. If last year’s pair is looking a little worse for wear, or if you simply fancy a change, we have lots of great sunglasses to choose from, both in store and online. And when things finally start to heat up, we highly recommend the Jasön and Vichy sun protection ranges to keep you and your family safe and unburnt when you’re out enjoying yourselves.

To keep cool at home you may want to switch to a less bulky duvet. A Fogarty wool duvet actually adapts to your body temperature, making it ideal in any weather. Alternatively you could try a Fogarty Supatherm duvet, which includes a 4.5 tog and a 9.0 tog duvet, which can be used individually or put together for extra warmth in the Winter months.

We suggest some 100% cotton bedding to go with the duvet, as its nice and breathable, and cooler too as the nights get that bit warmer. We have some gorgeous Deygongs cotton duvet sets at the moment, with fantastic Spring designs. And if you really feel like spoiling yourself, we have a range of luxuriously soft Belledorm Egyptian cotton sheets, available with either a 200 or a 400 thread count! Ooh comfy!

Bobble Image

The very hottest weather is most likely a way off yet, but we recommend getting yourself set up with a fan before-hand, as they tend to fly off the shelves during a heatwave, and getting hold of a trusty ice cube tray to keep your drinks icy cool when the time comes isn't a bad idea either. We also recommend investing in a water bottle to keep yourself hydrated. The Bobble water bottle is especially ingenious, as it filters your water for you as you drink!

Spring Adventuring

Samsonite ImageIf you’re off on your travels in the next few months, whether it’s within the UK or further afield, you’ll need to be stocked up on travel essentials before you go. As well as a superb luggage department chock-full of suitcases and backpacks, we have lots of handy travel accessories to get you started, ranging from travel pillows and suitcase locks to travel irons and travel games. We also stock travel adaptors, so there’s no need to get to your destination only to realise that you can’t charge your phone and other important gadgets—just be sure to check that the voltage is compatible first! And, once again, we can’t recommend a generous supply of sunscreen highly enough, especially if you're going somewhere hot!

Enjoying the Great Outdoors

Gardening Image

With the nice weather comes every excuse to get outdoors and enjoy it. If you’re feeling particularly green fingered you might want to get stuck into some gardening, and there couldn’t be a better time to start getting your garden or allotment ready for the Summer ahead.

We have some fabulously designed V&A and Orla Kiely gardening tools and accessories, which make an excellent treat for the avid gardener. If you spend a lot of the time in the garden you may also want to take a look at the Heathcote and Ivory and the Bronnley RHS gardener’s hand care ranges, to keep your hands happy after a long planting session. If you don’t have a garden to poke around in though, you needn’t feel left out, we have some windowsill friendly gardening sets too!

Getting Out and About

Southpark Image

Oxford certainly has no shortage of gorgeous green spaces to venture out to on a sunny day, with a selection of parks and meadows to choose between whenever the sun does make an appearance. The hard decision really comes when you have to choose just how to make the most of this beautiful, leafy city. picnic is always good fun, and works well whether you’re headed to South Park or Port Meadow, but be sure to stock up on plastic and paper plates, cups and cutlery before-hand, as well as the all-important blanket!

(Image Credit)

Hunter Kite

You may also want to treat yourself to a Mobicool Thermoelectric cooler to keep your food nice and chilled. If you fancy making a trip of it, we have lots of fun outdoor toys and games to keep you entertained, including kites and Frisbees, as well as rackets, bats and balls for those that are into their sports! Click here for more information on picnic essentials to bring along! 

A warm day could also be a great opportunity to give punting a go, or to try out some of the city’s many scenic walking and cycling routes. However, if you have hayfever, don’t let it keep you from enjoying this stunning season while it lasts. Come and have a chat with our friendly pharmacist for suggestions to keep your allergies at bay. You may also want to stock up on tissues while you’re here!Punting Image

And, we also have you covered for when those inevitable Spring showers strike, with a huge variety of trusty Fulton umbrellas of all sizes and strengths to choose from, including our exclusive Boswells Oxford Skyline folding umbrella! 

So here’s to all of the Spring fun that lies ahead, and fingers crossed for a gloriously sunny season for us all!

(Image Credit)

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22nd March 2016

Chocolate, Eggs and Easter Treats Explained

Chocolate, Eggs and Easter Treats Explained

If the mere thought of Easter gets your mouth watering in anticipation of all of that chocolate, then this is probably the blog for you. We’ve done a little investigating into how chocolate eggs came about as an Easter mainstay, as well as why chocolate is so widely loved—it turns out there may be more to it than it just being scrummy…

So, Why Easter Eggs?

The egg holds significance at Easter in more than one sense. It was regarded as a symbol of new life and fertility in many ancient cultures, including the pagan customs that are thought to have been integrated into Christian traditions. And so of course Easter, with resurrection and rebirth at its core, has rather logically adopted the egg—this symbol of new lifeinto its festivities.

Egg Hunting

Another reason why the egg has long been associated with Easter is that in mediaeval Europe, eggs were not to be eaten during lent, and so were viewed as a treat. Because of this, eggs would form an important part of the Easter meal, and would also be given to children and servants as an Easter gift. 

In many European cultures the tradition of decorating eggs with paint or dye was, and still is, quite common. Other mediaeval Easter traditions that have survived the test of time include egg rolling, in which decorated eggs are raced down a slope, as well as the all-important egg hunt. 

But Why Chocolate?

Centuries passed, and the egg at Easter never quite fell out of favour. In the 17th century artificial eggs would be given as gifts in place of real ones; the most famous being those made, some time later, for the Russian Czar and Czarina by Peter Carl Fabergé. However, the chocolate Easter egg didn’t make an appearance until the 19th century, as eating chocolate (rather than just drinking chocolate) was only invented in 1830. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for it to occur to someone to combine the traditional egg with the delicious, newly available, eating chocolate.

Easter Eggs ImageThe first chocolate Easter eggs were made in France and Germany, and because the moulding for hollow eggs hadn’t been developed at that point they were solid. In 1875 John Cadbury began production of hollow dark chocolate eggs, which, unsurprisingly, caught the attention of a sweet-toothed public, and have been an Easter favourite ever since—especially since the introduction of milk chocolate, which dominates much of the Easter egg market today.

(Image credit)

Why We Love Chocolate

The British love affair with chocolate seems to go back as far as 1657, when it made its debut in London, and today we are ranked the third biggest consumer of chocolate in the world. That’s right, current statistics show that the average Briton consumes 11kg of chocolate each year! One survey even revealed that many Brits consider the humble chocolate bar preferable to a holiday abroad. But why do we love chocolate so much?

Theories and studies attempting to answer this question seem to be fairly conflicted. There is still a lot that we don’t know about chocolate’s impact on our brains and bodies, and whether its effects are ultimately good or bad for us is still under debate. Some think that chocolate’s hold over us is connected to a chemical that it contains called phenylethylamine, which is the same chemical that the body naturally releases when you fall in love. Phenylethylamine stimulates the brain to release dopamine, promoting blissful emotions. In fact just thinking about chocolate can release dopamine. Some pictures of chocolate, at this point, surely couldn't hurt then...

In moderation chocolate is said to make you feel good, although studies show that too much chocolate-induced dopamine may actually have the opposite effect on your mood. Dark chocolate, in particular, also releases small amounts of serotonin, which is said to have a calming, anti-depressant-like effect. And chocolate also releases endorphins, which have a somewhat stress-relieving, euphoric effect on the brain. This may explain why chocolate eggs became such a popular Easter tradition.

Other studies show, however, that the most satisfying part of the chocolate experience is all about the senses. The smell and the melt-in-your-mouth texture of chocolate provides a pleasurable experience in and of itself. And, well, it’s hard to argue that the taste of chocolate plays no part in our coming back to it time and time again—no one eats 11kg of something a year if it isn’t honestly delicious!

Enjoying Chocolate This Easter

Praline Egg Image

Chocolate Counter Image

Whatever the appeal though, chocolate seems to hold a firm place in our hearts, and surely never more so than at Easter. So, if you’re feeling the need for some serious chocolate appreciation this Easter we have some things both in store and online that are sure to make you smile. 


As you might imagine, we have a great selection of mini foiled eggs and chocolate bunnies 
to get your teeth into at the moment. We particularly recommend the Gut Springenheide egg—a real eggshell filled with yummy praline chocolate. They’re beautifully decorated too so you could even have a go at egg rolling before enjoying the treat inside the shell. But, of course, the chocolate fun needn’t be confined to Easter eggs, we have some fantastic luxury chocolate boxes from Guylian to choose from too.

Egg Hunt ImageOr, if you really feel like spoiling yourself (or someone else who you think deserves a treat) we highly recommend a visit to the chocolate counter in our Gifts department, where you can choose from a selection of mouth-watering confectionaryand its there all year round too! Yum!

If you’re popping in to store with the kids between now and April 3rd you may be pleased to hear that our Easter Egg Hunt hunt is back. Children aged 12 and under can enter to win the grand prize, which is a massive 45cm tall chocolate Easter egg! Simply pick up an entry form and let the clues lead you to the eggs to enter into the prize draw. Whether you’re hunting for eggs or just eating them though, we hope you all have a fantastic, chocolatey, Easter!
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27th February 2016

A Brief History of Celebrating Mums

A Brief History of Celebrating Mums

Mother’s Day is once again almost upon us, and this year quite early. Not to worry though, the daffodils are out and blooming, and there’s still plenty of time to make plans! To get in to the spirit of things we’ve put together a brief history of the day, and a few ideas to help you make this year’s Mother’s Day special.

The Origins of Mothering Sunday

Picking Flowers ImageMothering Sunday can be traced back to very old roots indeed, tied primarily to Christianity. Its origins stem from the pre-Reformation celebration of Laetare Sunday, which is the fourth Sunday of Lent. On this day, in 16th century England, churchgoers would return to their home towns and villages and attend their “mother church”—the church in which they had been Christened. Many were as young as 10! Having taken up domestic and other apprenticeships away from their home towns, opportunities to return home and to be with family were scarce, but employers would give young workers the day off to go home for Laetare. Historians note that children returning home would often pick flowers on their journey, which they'd give to their mothers. Some would also take home a simnel cake (a traditional fruit cake with marzipan, and a real treat mid-lent), which was often given to them by their employers for their families 

Mother and Child Image

So these scarce trips, in which people would visit their “mother church” became occasions to visit family, to spend precious time with their actual mothers.

This was often the last chance to do so until the following Christmas. Given this old tradition, it isn’t exactly hard to understand where the association between the fourth Sunday in Lent and celebrating our mothers came from.

Mothering Sunday in the 20th Century

Over the centuries the celebration of Mothering Sunday dwindled, and eventually became largely unobserved until, in 1921, a woman named Constance Smith published a booklet entitled The Revival of Mothering Sunday. Smith documented the old traditions surrounding the fourth Sunday in Lent, cementing the day as “the True and Ancient Day in Praise of Mothers,” as she called it. 

Gift Image

Smith was in part inspired by the efforts of an American woman, Anna Jarvis, who had (successfully) campaigned for a day to honour mothers in the U.S. Constance Smith’s campaign to revive Mothering Sunday were not in vein, and the idea caught on quickly—especially in the immediate wake of the First World War, in which so many mothers were suddenly bereft of their children. 

The American celebration is observed on the second Sunday of May (when Jarvis lost her own mother) and is called Mother’s Day, while the British, Lent based, event is technically Mothering Sunday (but often abbreviated to Mother’s Day). 

Celebrating This Mother's Day

Simnel Cake Image

 

Today we continue to honour our mums with gifts and cards on Mothering Sunday, but also with flowers, unknowingly echoing our 16th century ancestors. Aside from its more religious origins, the fourth Sunday of Lent has become an opportunity to show appreciation for our mothers. And what an amazing bunch they truly are!

 

(Image Credit)

If you’re looking for ways to make your mum feel special this Mothering Sunday, why not try your hand at baking her a traditional simnel cake? They’re also traditional for Easter, so if you’re a simnal fan you’ll have the perfect excuse to make another one a few weeks later too! Our Cookshop has plenty of fantastic baking equipment to help you get started. Or, if you’re not a natural chef, and attempting to bake will likely make your mother question who the cake wielding imposter before her is, you could treat her to lunch or Afternoon Tea in our 1738 tearoom instead.

My English Summer Image

Be sure to take a peek at our range of Mother’s Day cards in store if you're still looking for something special.

There’s quite a variety, so whether you’re looking for something warm and fuzzy in sentiment, or something with a more humorous edge, we have plenty to choose from. 

Best Mum Card

And, if you’re looking for the perfect gift, we have a selection of great ideas from jewellery and beauty gifts to pamper her with, to gifts for the homeOr why not have a browse for something you know your mum will love? Whatever you have in mind for this Mothering Sunday though, be sure to make some time for the woman herself (whether it’s in person or over the phone), and show her just how fantastically appreciated she is! Thanks Mum!

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22nd February 2016

LEGO® The Big Bang Theory

LEGO® The Big Bang Theory

James in our Toy Department has the rundown on LEGO®'s most recent Ideas release: The Big Bang Theory!

LEGO Big Bang Theory Set Review

As a new set with wide appeal, LEGO® Ideas The Big Bang Theory is sure to bring a smile to the face of every fan of the comedy programme we have all grown to love. Even if you’ve never bought a LEGO set in your life there's a lot of detail, as well as a lot of references, in this playset that are sure to make you gasp with glee as you recall the hilarious origins from the show.

The Minifigures

The set includes seven Minifigures (highly unusual for a set of this size) with all of the main cast members present.

Sheldon ImageSheldon

First up is Sheldon; the character the show tends to focus on. The best part of this Minifigure has to be the torso, which accurately features a long-sleeved blue shirt under one of his trademark t-shirts, this one with the highly recognisable flash logo. The head is double sided, as with all of the figures, showing Sheldon’s grin, which I would venture to say is based on his unsettling fake smile.

Amy Image


Amy

Amy is one of the most accurate representations in this set; her usual, quirky fashion sense captured nicely with the printed cardigan. She also has another face with a slight grin that reflects the character well.

Leonard Image

 

Leonard

Next up is Leonard (wearing the same outfit he wore when he proposed), whose simple design is effective in pulling off the look of the character. Some nice touches are the hood printed on his back and his alternate face with a disgruntled expression, usually displayed to Sheldon.


Penny Image

Penny

Penny, next door neighbour to the boys, is also here. With long blonde hair and a pink shirt she closely resembles her on screen counterpart. And, although she smiles most of the time, this LEGO Penny is equipped with a sneer that suggests she doesn’t quite understand something, such as the card game: Mystic Warlords of Ka'ah.


Howard Image

 

Howard

Another great figure in the set is Howard. Not only does he sport a new hair piece, but the Minifigure also features printed sideburns. Best of all is the printed belt, another recurring feature of the show, which resembles a retro gaming controller. Overall this is a great Minifigure.

 

BernadetteBernadette

From the star necklace she always wears to the colourful floral clothes, Bernadette is, in my opinion, the best and most accurate of all of the Minifigures in this set. She even comes with a harsh angry face, which perfectly portrays her angry side.

  

Raj ImageRaj

Last, and by no means least, is Raj. With great printing, and even his dog Cinnamon (though not the right breed it’s still a nice touch), Raj is a fantastic Minifigure. The icing on the cake has to be his second face which shows him lost for words.



The Set

The build itself depicts a corner of Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment, with all the features found on the set meticulously recreated in LEGO form to be played and displayed with. The sofa and armchair are included, as well as an additional black chair, which can either represent the director’s chair or can be used to sit an extra figure in.

LEGO The Big Bang Theory Image

Shelves Image

Leonard and Sheldon’s bookshelves are also featured, complete with books and an interesting array of items: from various globes to the iconic green lantern power battery. Four mini-dolls are included to represent action figures, as well as printed Chinese takeaway boxes, a newspaper, a mug for hot beverages, a white board complete with lipstick pens, and a full set of cutlery (even saucepans and spatulas!).


DNA Image

The DNA spiral is striking, and the walls are covered with paintings and posters that are all screen accurate which, along with the brick built carpet, gives the set a pleasant techni-colour scheme. But, the highlight of the room has to be what’s printed on the white board: a reference to the episode “The Bozeman Reaction,” in which Sheldon plays Pictionary with Penny and a sleeping Leonard.The board is a nice puzzle for fans to work out.

Also note that, as a LEGO Ideas set, the box and instructions are of a far better quality than normal, and the instruction book even has a little info on the show and the set’s creators!

Final Verdict

As a fan of both LEGO and The Big Bang Theory I was thrilled when this set was announced and snapped mine up quickly. As a LEGO Ideas set it is one of a kind, being the only Big Bang Theory set, making all of the Minifigures in this set exclusive.
Pick up yours in store or online today!

Also check out the other LEGO Ideas sets, such as LEGO Doctor Who!
Click here to read the review of LEGO Ideas Doctor Who.

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4th February 2016

Celebrate This Valentine's Day in Style

Celebrate This Valentine's Day in Style

Egg Ring ImageIf you've glanced at the calendar lately you will undoubtedly have noticed that it's once again time to start plotting the perfect Valentine's day celebration—just the thing to brighten up the tail end of winter! To get you started we've put together a few ideas to help you make the day a success. 

Why not start the things off with a Valentine’s breakfast? It’s a great opportunity to get creative and make heart shaped pancakes or eggs for someone special in your life, capped off of course with a sparkling glass of buck’s fizz. Valentine's day falls on a Sunday this year, so this could be the perfect excuse for a leisurely breakfast in bed.  

Champagne Flute ImageIf you’re in need of supplies, we have plenty of goodies in our Cookshop to help make your breakfast a heart-shaped success—try a Zeal Silicone Egg Ring in the shape of a heart, or a heart shaped cookie cutter should do the trick for the pancakes (or toast if you prefer). We also have a wide a selection of champagne flutes, which are great whether you're celebrating at breakfast or at dinner. We even have some heart shaped plates, if you really want to go all out!


Floating Petals ImageIf you're planning to set the mood for a romantic dinner for two, candles are a must. With plenty of options, from taper candles and church candles, to tea lights and scented candles, creating a little atmosphere shouldn’t be too tricky (although, as ever, take great care with anything that’s alight!) You could also try sprinkling a few rose petals around the home—we have some artificial petals that are great for the bath too, as they float in water.

Card Image

If it’s choosing the perfect gift that’s got you tied in knots, there are always the time honoured classics: chocolates and flowers. We have a wide range of delicious Guylian chocolates to choose from, not to mention the fantastic chocolate counter in our Gifts department, where you can pick out the tastiest looking chocolates to spoil your Valentine with. While you're at it, you could check out our selection of silk flowers, which won't wilt the second Valentine's Day is over. And, of course, whatever you do, don’t forget the ever important Valentine’s card—the perfect accompaniment to your gift!

Necklace Image

To leave your loved one feeling sufficiently pampered, see the Valentines section of our website for suggestions on other classic romantic gifts. However, if you know that jewellery will be well received, why not take a look at our full range of Espree jewellery? We also have an excellent selection of cosmetic and beauty products to choose from: from perfume and cologne, to make up and shaving soap, there's a little something for everyone. 

Wallet Image

And if your partner isn’t a fan of red roses and things covered with hearts, not to worry, there’s no reason why you can’t make a walleta bag or even the latest LEGO set a romantic gesture par excellence! We highly recommend having a look at our selection of designer watches from Ben Sherman, Police, Obaku and Oasis, which are all reduced at the moment. Our range of stylish cufflinks by Duncan Walton are also worth a gander, especially if you're shopping for a particularly dapper gent. 

Sparkling Afternoon TeaIf you think your other half is best suited to pick their present and they haven't been dropping hints, then why not treat yourselves to lunch or an Afternoon Tea for 2 in our 1738 Tea Room and then whisk them to our Gifts or other departments for a shopping trip. A Sparkling Afternoon Tea for 2 is a great gift in itself and the vouchers don't have to be used on the Sunday itself. 

Or, if you're feeling like being adventurous with your Valentine's shopping this year, why not have a browse for something less conventional that you know they’ll love? And for those of you celebrating solo this Valentine's day, we heartily recommend making a day of it—pamper yourself with an extra special breakfast, and treat yourself to something that you've had your eye on! However you spend this Valentine's Day though, and whoever you spend it with, we hope that you get thoroughly spoilt to your hearts content!

Banner photo copyright of Wilson Hui, cropped from original.

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3rd February 2016

Get To Know LEGO®'s Newest Minifigure Arrivals

Get To Know LEGO®'s Newest Minifigure Arrivals

We're excited to say that the latest LEGO® Minifigures are here! To celebrate, and to kick-start your collection, James in our Toy department has put together all the must know information on the newest little LEGO folk.

The next series in LEGO®’s hugely popular Minifigure lineseries 15 is out and with it comes a plethora of inventive and exciting new characters to collect. This time the LEGO group has gone with a more general theme, having previously done The Simpsons and Halloween themes. With Series 15 we are treated to a wide range of figures from Astronaut to Animal Control Officer. Each minifigure is sold separately in a blind bag, with a total of 16 to collect.

The Farmer Image

Farmer

The first figure in the series is the Farmer: a great figure with boots, an overall, a hat and a pitchfork. But best of all is the brown spotted pig, who not only fits on studded baseplates, it also has a stud on top to allow a Minifigure to sit on him!


AstronautAstronaut


Resembling the classic Space Minifigures from the 1980’s, the Astronaut comes well equipped for space with his oxygen tanks, helmet and gold tinted visor. LEGO fans will recognise the classic space logo printed on his flag.

Frightening Knight Image

 

Frightening Knight

Printed from head to toe in green robes and wielding his morning star weapon, this knight is truly terrifying. From the thick helmet and spiked shoulder gear, to the red-eyed bear on his shield, you can tell he is a knight to be reckoned with.


Clumsy Guy ImageClumsy Guy

This is a great, unique figure that will fit into any LEGO theme, from City to Superhero. The poor guy has had a pretty large accident and now has a set of crutches, a head bandage and even a signed leg cast. Perhaps his t-shirt is indicating the cause of the accident? That’s for you to decide!


Tribal WomanTribal Woman Image

This highly detailed figure has very ornate clothing, with tassels printed on her legs, arms and torso, as well as a rare hairpiece with detachable feathers. But that is nothing compared to the first LEGO baby in history! Not only is a Minifigure able to hold the baby, but you can also attach the baby to the figure's back.


Flying Warrior Image

Flying Warrior

This Minifigure appears to be entirely gold coloured, and is going to be highly sought after as a result. Aside from the head and the arms the rest of the pieces are pearl gold: from the wings and the spear to the chest plate and the head gear.


FaunFaun Image

This figure resembles Mr Tumnus thanks to the new legs piece (or should that be hoofs piece) as well as the head piece, which features ears and horns sticking out of messy hair. The inclusion of a flute is a nice touch, as is the torso printing, which shows tufts of fur coming from the legs.


Animal Control Officer Image

Animal Control Officer

The Animal Control figure isn’t too special, although the skunk badge on her arm is cute and her trousers include side printing, but it's the skunk and net that are the main attractions. The skunk is a brand new piece with white printing and a fluffy tail that really sets it off.

The JanitorJanitor Image

This figure will look great in any LEGO City setting and is a representation of a stereotypical janitor, complete with blue suit and cap. The moustache is highly appropriate and the new mop head is a great mould that would look good in the hands of the 11th Doctor from the Doctor Who set.


Ballerina Image

Ballerina

Sure to be a hit with aspiring dancers, the ballerina comes with a new tutu and perfect detailing; from the criss-cross ribbons of the shoes to the silver flower hair pins in the tied up bun.


Laser Mech Image

Laser Mech

This is the evil counterpart to the orange and white Mech from Series 9, but there’s more than just a change in the colour scheme. This figure has a set of transparent blue and black wings, not to mention a cool dual moulded blue blade. Topped off with both a chest piece and a helmet, there are plenty of pieces to this figure. Not to mention the ‘Tron’ like printing hidden underneath.

Kendo Fighter


Kendo Fighter

Equipped with dual Katanas and blue protective armour, the Kendo fighter is an interesting character based on the Japanese martial art, Kendo, which uses bamboo swords. As well as providing fun perhaps this figure will be educational to those who did not previously know about this fighting style, such as myself.


Shark Suit GuyShark Suit Guy

The next in the line of Minifigures in costume, the shark guy is sure to be a hit thanks to the large head piece, complete with fin and tail. The Minifigure may not seem too happy in the picture, but he comes with a double sided face that has a far happier expression.

Wrestling Champion Image


Wrestling Champion

Seemingly based on WWE wrestlers, with his large belt, the wrestling champion comes with shaggy hair and a gold cup to show he really is the champion.


Jewel ThiefJewel Thief Image

This figure brings to mind the DC Superheroes villainess Catwoman, and features a black mask with a suit to match. The accessories are fun, the harpoon gun being a favourite of mine, and the diamond is the quintessential jewel for the thief to steal.


The QueenQueen Image

Last, but certainly not least, is The Queen. A unique figure in many ways, but most unique of all is her new dress piece, which accurately portrays the medieval style. The large two piece cloth robe helps tie her in with the series 13 king.


So which Minifigure do you want most? Series 15 is now available in store and online! And if you need a place to play with your figures, how about the LEGO Creator 31050: Corner Deli? Or you could take a browse through our LEGO collections for ideas for fun sets to treat your latest Minifigures to! Enjoy!

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27th January 2016

2015's Cooking and Dining Bestsellers

2015's Cooking and Dining Bestsellers

Once again we’ve had a good look at some of our top sellers from over the past year, but this time looking at the best-sellers from our cooking and dining ranges. We've broken things down in to two lists, one with the best-selling cooking items and the other with the top dining ranges. So whether you love to cook, dine, or both, why not take a look at what was in high demand in 2015?

Cooking

Paring Knife Image5. Kicking off our list is the trusty paring knife—an essential for budding chefs and reluctant cooks alike. With its small, but useful, blade the paring knife is ideal for everyday tasks like peeling fruit and veg, chopping, or for more artistic jobs such as scoring patterns into pastry. The paring knife is one of those must have items for every kitchen, and so little wonder that the Sabichi stainless steel paring knife sold so successfully throughout 2015.


Royal Cuisine Image4. The 16cm Royal Cuisine Stainless Steel Induction Saucepan has proven to be something of a favourite over the past year. That’s probably because this ferric pan can be used just as easily on induction, electric, ceramic, halogen and gas hobs so, whatever your cooking preferences, this saucepan is always up for the task, and at a great price too. We’re also told that stainless steel is often the preferred cooking material of professional chef’s. But of course it’s not just the pan that matters, but also what you put in it! Let’s hope that all of those saucepans are now off living lives of culinary excitement throughout the area.


3. Sometimes the top selling products are the ones that provide crucial functions but that keep things nice and simple too. The plain spatula from Stow Green is next on our list, and given how useful it is it’s hard to argue with its success. Especially great for cooking in a wok or on a skillet, this non-conductive spatula is great for protecting your hands from the heat, unlike many metal ones. And, as a versatile tool, they aren’t half bad for stirring batter either. They really are very useful, so little surprise they remain a year-round favourite.


Skewer Image2. Clearly the Oxford area has seen its fair share of barbeques, fondu parties and other similar get-togethers in the past 12 months. Our second best-selling cooking item of 2015 was the Kitchen Craft pack of 100 bamboo skewers, a product that, despite its apparent simplicity, is adept at being the cause of much merriment at a wide range of events. As a great, easy way to make tasty treats, and a dining utensil at the same time (whether you prefer a kebab or chocolate dipped marshmallows) the skewer has it covered!


Pancake ImageSlotted Turner1. Although chances are you have at least one of these somewhere in your kitchen, our top selling cooking item of 2015 may still surprise you. The Nylon Slotted Turner sold in impressive quantities, and as a faithful cooking ally we agree that we’d feel a bit lost without one. Not to be confused with the spatula (and the key is in the name), the slotted turner is fantastic for serving and turning a whole range of tasty food items on grills and in pans, from pancakes to burgers...its enough to make your mouth water just thinking about it!

This slotted variety lets any oils and fats drip away and back into the pan—which is better for both the food and for you, not to mention, of course, that this nylon essential won’t scratch and scuff your pans. It’s not difficult, then, to see why the nylon slotted turner has proven so popular with our customers, and remains a firm favourite!

(Image Credit)

Dining

For those of you more interested in the dining side of things, we’ve taken a look at our bestselling ranges to wine and dine off over the past year.

Yong Ming Image


5. The Yong Ming bone china range has been fantastically popular. With its sleek, classic white design, and added strength (at a great price) it’s fairly easy to see why. In fact the Yong Ming 14cm bowl has been so popular that we’ve temporarily sold out. No to worry though, the rest of the range is in stock, and more are on their way!


Zawiercie Image

4. The next item on our best-selling list has been a notable favourite among both our in-store customers, and our online ones alike. The Zawiercie Majestic range of artfully designed and made glasses is undoubtedly deserving of its place on such a list. Designed and made in Poland, these glasses come in an extensive variety of shapes and sizes, including champagne saucers, tumblers, sherry and brandy glasses, as well as the ever popular red wine glass (the most successful item of this highly popular range). Each glass has been hand made in Zawiercie’s distinctive style, which refracts the light quite beautifully. These glasses are all made from crystal, which is that bit stronger than your average glass. Bravo!

Spectrum Image


3. Firmly holding its ground in third place is the fantastic and affordable range of Spectrum porcelain plates, bowls and mugs. With their distinctive splash of colour around the rim, but classic design, they really are rather lovely. We’re inclined to believe that it’s no coincidence that this range hit its peak in popularity around September and October 2015 (when the university year began), as they offer a fun, elegant and affordable means of dining, whether you’re on a student budget or not.


Ravenhead Essentials2. Rather fittingly, the second-to-top selling dining range was also a firm favourite around last September and October, and another fantastically priced selection of products, if we do say so ourselves. With a huge selection of different glasses for everyday use (pint glasses for example) to ones for special occasions (champagne flutes), the Ravenhead Essentials range has been understandably successful this past year.


Colourworks Cutlery Image1. So what have we sold in the greatest quantities to accompany you through your mealtimes? Its rather obvious actually, but we do enjoy creating an air of mystery…it turns out that people flocked to our Cookshop department in search of cutlery. See, quite logical really because, unless you've been putting the bamboo skewers to good use, chances are you’ll be needing some utensils to eat with. But we’re not talking about just any cutlery. This is the top selling range after all: the Colourworks cutlery range from Kitchen CraftTa-daa! Available in striking colours so that you can mix or match to your liking. We sold almost double the amount of Colourworks cutlery last year than we did the impressive Spectrum range! 


Other favourites throughout the year were the Bodum Cafetiere range (because what good is your Spectrum mug without something to go in it), and the Stow Green Laptray in assorted designs. But, while the right cooking equiptment or china and glassware can really make all the difference to your meal, we're not going to pretend that the food itself isn't the most important part. So why not cook yourself something special and sit down to lots of delicious meals over the coming year. Or, if you fancy treating yourself, come visit our fantastic new 1738 tearoom, where we'd be delighted to spoil you for a little while!

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16th January 2016

Our Countdown of 2015's Top Toys

Our Countdown of 2015's Top Toys

It’s been a busy year in the toy world, with lots of great new releases, such as the incredibly popular Live Pets, TY’s Cecil the Lion Beanie Baby, and a whole host of fantastic new Star Wars toys. We’ve taken a look back over the past year to see which items most consistently captured your imaginations. In order to give you an idea of the sheer range of popular 2015 toys and games, we’ve divided our top-selling toys into two categories: pocket money toys and best-sellers over £10.

Pocket Money Favourites

Our top selling pocket money items are in many ways both surprising and perfectly logical. These are the toys that have been bought in the greatest quantites throughout the year, and we found that it's largely those classic games that, at some point or other, we've all played that live on the most.


Dice Image5.The dice has been a firm favourite for milennia, and here it still is, on our 2015 list of best-selling toys! Presumably that's because we all know, as did the Ancient Greeks, apparently, that at the heart of a good game is a good dice! Its fantastic to see that something so simple, but seemingly fundamental, can still hold its own for popularity. 


Playing Cards Image

4. In a similar vein, we found that good old fashioned playing cards have also managed to maintain their status and have proved as popular as ever, providing great entertainment value for a whole range of occasions and across all age ranges; little wonder that they were bought in great numbers all year round then! 


HOT Wheels image

3. Another favourite over the past year, and the perfect purchase on a pocket money budget, were the Hot Wheels Basics Cars. With a variety of different miniature die cast vehicles to choose from, Hot Wheels has something great to offer for any junior car enthusiast; something that hasn’t changed since the late 1960s.


2. Our second best-selling pocket money item has done impressively well, especially when you consider that it was only released four months ago! The LEGO® Minifigures Series 14 Monsters has proven to be extremely popular, and in high demand. And rightly so. This series of Minifigures includes a Zombie Pirate and a Monster Rocker—really, what’s not to love?! Overall 2015 has proven to be a good year for Minifigures, with four of the top ten best-selling toy items being the various series of these fantastic little LEGO people. And we’re very pleased to announce that the latest instalment, LEGO Minifigures Series 15, is now available in store and online!


Marbles Image 11. In terms of the sheer quantity of items sold from our Toy department in the past year, though, nothing comes even close to beating one particular toy… Care to hazard a guess? You may be pleased and surprised to learn that it’s the marble! In fact, we sold almost double the amount of our small 14-17m marbles than we did the series 14 Minifigures! And the medium, 22-25m, marble ranked impressively high on our list as well. 

Marbles Image 2

The marble has enjoyed over 150 years as a firm favourite, and a childhood ally for multiple generations, so we’re delighted to see that its popularity hasn’t diminished with time. Marbles are often best selected in person, as the right marble can just catch your eye, so why not pop in to store to see our full range, and choose yourself a winning marble!


Top Selling £10 and Up Toys

Oxford Monopoly Image5. No list of best-selling toys is really complete without at least one edition of Monopoly. And, we’re proud to say that on this occasion it’s the Oxford edition that has made it onto our top-sellers list! Great for a little Oxford tourism on a rainy day. You can buy up The Kassam Stadium or The Ashmolean Museum, or even the home of Boswells itself, Broad Street! No arguments here, this is a great game.


Bananagrams4. Our next toy favourite is a great travel game for all of the family, aaand it looks like a banana. No, seriously, it does. Bananagrams is a clever word game that stretches your vocabulary, is fun, educational, and comes in a banana pouch that makes it really portable and easy to spot in your bag. Having first been released only 10 years ago Bananagrams is possibly the least established best-seller mentioned here—pretty remarkable to have been one of 2015’s favourites then! We’re impressed!

Rubik's Cube3. Wowing and frustrating all who’ve tried their hand at it since 1980 (when it was released internationally), the Rubik’s cube has lost none of its prominence. But then, for some of us, 36 years doesn’t sound like anywhere near enough time to finish one of these incredible and complex puzzles (we’re told that its possible in 10 seconds!). As a perennial favourite, the Rubik’s cube has managed to hold its spot as a best-seller with relative ease. We should have more stock in soon, but if you can't wait that long, there are now new Rubik’s challenges to attempt and lose your patience with too, such as the Rubik’s Twist and the Rubik’s Void.


Star wars Image

2. Star Wars kind of had to make an apperance somewhere on this list, and it hasn't disappointed. In the number two spot on the list is a LEGO® Star Wars item: the LEGO Jedi Interceptor. While this set has vanished from our shelves at lightspeed, don’t worry, there are still plenty of other great LEGO Star Wars sets in stock for you to try your hand at in 2016.


1. Any guesses as to what the most successful toy over £10 was over the past year? If you guessed that it was something you build out of LEGO®, then you’re very warm indeed. In fact it was the LEGO Ideas, limited edition, LEGO Birds set, which flew off our shelves and sold out phenomenally quickly in the run up to Christmas. We can only imagine that there are some fantastic examples of these birds now all over Oxfordshire as a result. While we don’t have any more of this particular LEGO set, luckily LEGO Ideas has not been idle. We still have their LEGO Dr Who set in stock, as well as their latest release, LEGO The Big Bang Theory, which is now in store and online! Keep an eye out for more limited editions on our website throughout the year!


2016 looks set to be another great toy year, with lots more exciting things to come from LEGO®, a summer of superhero flicks that doubtless promise some great merchandise, not to mention The BFG, Angry Birds and Ghostbusters! And who knows what else lies ahead! Plus, of course, those classic items won’t be going anywhere fast, they’re classics for good reasons. And, beyond the best selling items of course there’s something to be said for those toys that speak more personally to individual tastes. Whatever lies on the horizon though, here’s to a fantastic, toy filled 2016!

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6th January 2016

How to Banish Dandruff This New Year

How to Banish Dandruff This New Year

Managing Dry Scalp and Dandruff 

There may not be white snowflakes on the ground, but we may see the odd white flake on people’s shoulders this winter. Dry skin is a common problem and when it affects the scalp we see the evidence of dandruff very clearly. It affects both men and women, mostly in their twenties; it is the most common scalp problem to walk into a Pharmacy.

Winter Image

There are several factors that control the occurrence of dandruff and, like snow, cold windy weather is one of them. Wintry weather and moving between warm buildings and cold environments has a drying effect on our skin and almost everything you do to your hair can have a drying and damaging effect. Of course, the last thing you want is to spoil your crowning glory. Too many sugary and refined carbohydrates and not enough nutrients like Vitamin B and essential fatty acids can also dry the skin. Not such an easy fix at this time of the year.                                                                                                                                        Image copyright of torange.biz.                           

Hair Brush ImageThe elements you can control are making sure you eat well, brush your hair regularly, and generally treat your hair gently when shampooing and drying. The dandruff that you see is usually made up of piles of dead skin cells and regular brushing will encourage these skin cells to shed normally. Apart from unsightly clumps of dandruff, ready to fall whenever you move your head, the scalp can become itchy. Of course, do check that the white bits in your hair aren’t crawling nits, which is a whole other problem. Not scratching an itch can be almost impossible to do, but try rubbing or massaging the area rather than getting your nails out. You can also try to brush your hair gently to avoid getting an infection. 

Dandruff ImageAnother cause of dandruff is an overgrowth of a fungal yeast, previously known as pityrosporum ovale, but now called malassezia - try saying that after a few mulled wines! Seborrhoeic dermatitis can affect the whole body and might be caused by that same fungus: it can look more serious and might need a visit to the GP for a prescription of anti-fungal, or even antibiotic, treatment.

Never Fear, Anti-Dandruff is Here!

Those embarrassing dandruff flakes can be cleared up easily with a specialised shampoo. Which one to use can be a harder decision; generally speaking if you haven’t seen an improvement within a few weeks, try a different one. Once you do see an improvement stick with it, as it may come back. Anti-Fungal shampoos containing Zinc Pyrithione, Coal Tar, Arachis Oil, Extract of Coal Tar, Ketoconazole, Selenium Sulphide, Ciclopirox Olamine, Undecenoic Acid all help to reduce the overgrowth of yeast. Keratolytic, Salicylic Acid and Benzalkonium all help to remove the build up of dead skin cells and can be found in combination with some anti-fungals. Ask your GP, as these can be cheaper on prescription.

Here at Boswells we have a range of specialised shampoos including (in our cosmetics department):

In the Pharmacy we have:

  • Selsun ImageSebamed Anti-Dandruff Shampoo for an oily dandruff prone scalp. £5.10 200ml.
  • Selsun Shampoo 2.5% w/v (Selenium Sulphide) Medical treatment for Dandruff £5.53 150ml. Not recommended for children under 5 years old. 
  • Capasal Therapeutic Shampoo (Salicylic Acid 0.5% w/w, Coconut Oil 1.0% w/w, Distilled Coal Tar 1.0% w/w;) £9.38 250ml. For dry, scaly scalp conditions, and to remove previous scalp applications.
  • Neutrogena T/Gel Therapeutic Shampoo Coal Tar Extract. £5.90-£9.10 125ml-250ml.
  • Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo Fragrance Free. £6.48 60ml.
  • Alphosyl 2 in 1 Shampoo Medicated Coal Tar. £6.99 250ml.
  • Oilatum Scalp Anti-Dandruff Shampoo £9.18 100ml. For itchy, flaking scalps, including stubborn dandruff.
  • Neem Shampoo £5.99 200ml. Contains extracts of Neem leaves and has a soothing action, leaving the scalp and hair feeling fresh and healthy. Keep out of reach and sight of children. Not suitable for those with nut allergies and not for use during pregnancy.
  • Head & Shoulders: the classic choice of various shampoos, conditioners and 2 in 1's. £2.99-£3.10.

Head and ShouldersDon't forget that if you use harsh shampoos they can dry the scalp out, so don't overdo these products, as you could make things worse! Call in to Boswells and ask the advice of our pharmacists to prevent this from happening. There are many other products designed to moisturise your hair and scalp, including deep oil treatments that can be left on the hair. If you really want to give your dry itchy scalp a treat, Baby Oil and Baby Shampoo are the key. Gently massage a few drops of Baby Oil into your scalp, place a shower cap over your hair and leave for an hour while you relax. Later use the Baby Shampoo to gently rinse the Oil out, leaving your skin richly moisturised and flake free. This treatment does not increase the dryness of the scalp skin, which makes dandruff worse.

So why not start the New Year with a happy, flake free scalp? Enjoy!

Banner image credit, cropped from original.

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