Saturday, 24 April 2010

Review: John Frieda Root Awakening Shampoo and Conditioner

Shampoo is a very personal thing. Just like a foundation, what you think of a shampoo is determined by your personal hair type and preferences, and one girl’s beauty must have is another’s fail product. However, sometimes hair products come along that are universally admired as a sort of ‘best in class’ – think Matrix Biolage or Joico’s K-Pak. These are products that are generally accepted to work very well on most people, but although they provide a gold standard, their price puts a lot of people off. So, what’s a good everyday compromise? We want something that will perform effectively without breaking the bank. I think the John Frieda products have always hit this mark very well. I’ve always enjoyed using them and gotten good results, whichever range I’ve tried – and I’ve tried a few!

My hair type has changed quite a lot over the years. When John Frieda’s Frizz-Ease range first hit the shelves here, it was a godsend to me with my thick, frizzy, unruly hair as a young teenager. It was literally the only product that made my hair look good, and I bought it religiously. As I’ve gotten older my hair isn’t really frizzy any more, but it is a lot thinner and a lot drier from years of straightening and highlights. I went from my natural dark brown to quite a light blonde for a couple of years. Loading my hair with peroxide meant it could turn brassy and harsh-looking very quickly, so I came to rely on Sheer Blonde a lot, especially the violet-tinted conditioners designed to counteract brassy tones. When I eventually gave up on being blonde – as the maintenance, cost and time spent in the salon was getting ridiculous – and dyed my hair back to brunette, it was in pretty dried out condition. I’d managed to kill the natural glossy shine that I’d been so proud of. So now I need a product that will deliver that shine and moisturise heavily. I’ve tried the Brilliant Brunette Liquid shine range and really liked how it made my hair richer and more shiny.

I have a theory though, that you should switch brands of shampoo/conditioner on every new bottle. It’s something my hairdresser told me a while back – that if you consistently use the same cleansers for your hair, it becomes too ‘used’ to the ingredients and they stop being as effective. This could well be apocryphal, but its something I believe from experience. So even though I liked Brilliant Brunette, I wasn’t going to return to it for a few months.

I’d been using a Charles Worthington Salon Results duo for the past few weeks, which I was distinctly unimpressed with. Although advertised as ‘moisturising’, it didn’t seem to do much in that way for me. The formula was really runny, and it had a blah, non-descript smell. Overall, it needed binning (or palming off on my boyfriend, who doesn’t much care what he uses to wash his hair).

So, when I saw there was a new offering from the John Frieda stable, I was curious to try it. Boots were running a deal on it – 2 for £6, whereas its normally £5 each, so a decent saving was made! ‘Root Awakening Strength Infusing Shampoo and Conditioner’ sounded like just the ticket for my stressed-out, dry, breakable locks.

The range promised to leave hair soft, shiny, strengthened and full of bounce. It’s not an organic product, and nor does it mention use of any plant extract apart from Eucalyptus, but from the look of the packaging I would have expected it to be a bit more keen on its plant goodies – it comes in the usual tall John Frieda tube coloured light green, with a raised skeleton leaf design on the front. It isn’t the most attractive packaging in the world, but certainly nothing bad. You get your 250ml, which is quite generous.

The shampoo provides a medium lather and it smells almost minty, although not overpowering – sweet but clean and fresh at the same time. The conditioner is a rich cream consistency. Both products go in easily and wash out well. It left my hair feeling very light and clean – almost the experience you get from using a clarifying shampoo designed to remove product build-up. My hair was very soft – a lot more so than using my pervious shampoo and noticeably a bit more shiny. I enjoyed using this and would recommend it and repurchase it. It isn’t the best shampoo I’ve ever tried, but it’s a solid performer that left my hair looking really nice and smelling fresh. A well timed product for spring/summer and well worth a try, although not as ‘green’ and ‘botanical’ as the packaging seems to imply.
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Sunday, 18 April 2010

How To: make a porn star martini


I went out for drinks last night at a cute little bar called Tilt that does blues and cocktails -both very well indeed. It's tiny, but it does what it does extremely well and is a breath of fresh air in a sea of chain bars. I ended up having this fabulous creation (awful name, absolutely divine drink)and wanted to share the recipe. I used to work in a cocktail bar breifly myself in my student days and I still enjoy getting all the ingredients and having a go myself. Definitely going to turn my hand to this one soon:

How to Make a *Porn Star Martini

Ingredients:

1 shot of vanilla vodka
1 shot of Passoa
1/2 a passionfruit
1 tsp vanilla sugar
50ml champagne, cava or prosecco

Method:

Rim a martini glass with vanilla sugar. To do this, hold the rim of the glass first to a saucer of water, then into a saucer of vanilla sugar.

Optionally, fill the martini glass with ice to chill the glass while making the cocktail.

Add the vanilla vodka, Passoa and 1tsp of vanilla sugar to a cocktail shaker. Scoop the seeds and flesh of a half a passion fruit in on top. Replace the lid and shake vigourously.

Discard the ice cooling the martini glass and empty the mixture from the cocktail shaker into the glass. Top with 50ml of bubbly. Placing the passionfruit shell, filled with bubbly, into the glass. Serve cocktail with a tall shot glass filled with bubbly, too!

This was absolutely gorgeous! I could easily while away a sunny evening sipping these.

Outfit and make-up post to follow.
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Five Favourites: Cheek Products




I’ve put together a series of posts about my ‘top five’ favourite products in each make-up category that I’ll be posting occasionally. Of course, these all change periodically as I find new products that excite and interest me. I like to try a range of things and I’m always enticed by an innovative formula or pretty packaging! But my main focus is on finding products that perform well and deliver on their promises.

I’m a normal person, on an average wage, so my buys are affordable, but that doesn’t mean I don’t expect them to be great. I think make-up companies need to be responsible for delivering on their marketing hype and that a reasonable price-point is no excuse for a bad formulation.

I follow a lot of beauty blogs, but I’ve grown a little tired with some of the bigger ones, whose authors are ‘bought’ (either outright with cash or with free samples) because you can’t really trust that their opinions are unbiased. Well, I’m just an ordinary girl and I’m not sure if anyone even reads this, let alone being on any company’s ‘hotlist’ of bloggers to target!

Of course, when it comes to make up, it is largely trial and error – everyone’s skin tone and skin type are different, plus their personal preferences will vary too. But these products have worked for me and may well work for you too. So here is the round, unvarnished truth on a few great cheek products….and one to avoid!

Mac Blushcreme ‘Posey’ 

 I know I’ve spoken about this before, but to me, it’s the holy grail of blushers. It can be hard to find ones that suit my skin tone for some reason – a lot of pink colours can look very fake on me, so for years I would only use apricot or bronze colours. But I still wanted pretty pink cheeks! This colour seems to be made for me. It’s very blendable, so I can go from a whisper of colour to a bold cheek as quickly as I need to. The cream formulation makes it look very natural, even if I’m wearing a thicker layer. I always use my fingers to apply, even though the shop assistant at Mac told me to use a brush – but her finish seemed a little thick, whereas rubbing it into the apples of my cheeks with my fingers makes it look perfect. If you’ve tried a million blushers and still haven’t found one you love, I’d definitely recommend giving this a go.

Smashbox Blush/SoftLights Duo ‘Super/Model’ 

I’ve found myself using less and less powder formulations for the cheeks as time goes on and I get more into my make-up. I do believe its harder to get a good colour and a natural finish, but they are better for sculpting. I will make an exception for this Smashbox product though. The powder is very silky and finely milled, meaning you get that smooth finish. It’s easy to sculpt with and create defined cheekbones, plus this version includes a highlight powder with a lovely, pearlescent finish that goes on equally smoothly. The product is really long lasting as well. This shade is quite a warm, orangey pink, while the highlight is almost apricot-toned, so its very flattering on warm skin tones. It looks most natural with a bit of a tan. Beautiful!

Tarte Cheek Stain ‘Blissful’  

Tarte are one of my favourite ever cosmetics lines. They market themselves as ‘enhanced naturals’ because all of their products are eco-friendly and packed full of brilliant natural ingredients, and yet they don’t compromise at all on performance. There is an impressive list of skin goodies for this blush- ‘as they put it themselves:

'The tarte t5 super fruit complex™ is a proprietary blend of the five most active superfruits: goji, acai, maracuja, acerola and pomegranate. The first blend of its kind, the t5 super fruit complex™ is loaded with naturally occurring, antioxidant rich nutrients and vitamins that have been known to deliver refining, anti-aging and skin-restorative benefits with each application.'

Sounds good, huh? The product is a solid stick and it goes on super-sheer and soft. It males skin look sheeny and glowing – an odd expression but kind of how you’d want to look on your wedding day, sort of ‘super’ natural. A really good choice for a ‘no-make-up’ make-up look! The only drawback is that Tarte aren’t currently stocked in the UK, and there’s a rather snotty message on their website that basically implies they don’t care and aren’t seeking any UK stockists, which seems odd when clearly they’ve had enough questions about it to make it an FAQ on their website! So, if you want some, you have to either eBay it or use one of the American PO Box services, which basically gives you a US PO Box address, and for a small fee, forwards the goods delivered to it to your UK address. This is only worthwhile generally if you’re ordering a lot of products, and it galls a little bit paying twice over for delivery, but Tarte is still a great line. There should be a petition to get them stocked in the UK though!
   

Ruby & Millie Face Gloss ‘Champagne’

This is strictly more of a highlighter than a blush in the shade I’ve chosen, which is a shimmery pale gold. But it had to make the list because its something I consistently re-purchase. There is a big range of other, pinker shades too. It’s a sheer but still highly pigmented product in a little slide-up stick that goes on really well and lasts the distance. The red shades have a glossy shine to them that kind of provides a built-in highlight on the cheek as it catches the light. There’s a wide range of colour options available, with some really dramatic shades in the line if you want to try something a bit different.

Eyeko Fat Balm 

This product is a bit of a multi-tasker, one of those all-purpose formulations that goes on anywhere. There are a few different options, but I have the ‘Strawberry’ version. Its of most use to me in the winter, when I’m after a red, sheer finish that makes it look as if I’ve just been for a brisk walk! It really stays on and makes the cheeks look healthy, although light application is something I would recommend as it would be easy to go overboard on something with such a dark colour. Needless to say, you can also use it on your lips where it has a conditioning effect.

Honourable Mention: L’Oreal Blush Delicieux ‘Bronze Magnetic’ 

These blushes are one of the best drugstore buys out there. The colours are really pretty, and go on evenly. They don’t last as long as some other blushers, but they’re very respectable for the price. They used to be a favourite of mine, and although I’ve since moved on, I think they are a good place to start when you want to work out what suits you. The best part about them, in my humble opinion, is the packaging! They come in a little plastic compact with a mirror and a flat brush, and they’re not bulky at all so very easy to slip into your day make-up bag. The brushes are actually very good quality – even after using the product up, I’ve kept the brushes to use as my travel blush brushes, because they fit the bill so well. I think the shade I’ve chosen is not a UK product - I purchased it from eBay a while back as it was a shade I hadn’t seen before. And its an amazing, 3D- looking bronze, shot through with gold and red. A really unusual shade, and very nice on warmer skintones.

Avoid: Urban Decay Blush Powder ‘Lounge’ 

There are a lot of fabulous things about Urban Decay, it’s a brand I think highly of, but this blusher breaks that mould. It’s one of the worst blushers I’ve ever tried. Firstly, the shade of the one I have looked like sunburned skin – a really dark browny-red that looked almost painful! It went on waaay too dark as well, and looked totally un-natural and weird. Secondly, it didn’t blend very well – once it was on there in a dark strip of colour, nothing seemed to blend it away enough. Thirdly, it was so sparkly! This might be a good thing sometimes, but it just added to the unnatural appearance of the blush as a whole. I wasn’t overly keen on the cheap looking purple pearly plastic compact it came in either - looked like something that had dropped out of Barbie’s make-up bag, or like the ‘fake’ make-up little girls have! Lastly, the powder had a really heavy scent - like sandalwood joss sticks. It stank, and I don’t think make-up should ever smell heavily – that’s what my perfume is for! I think they might have revised the colours and formulations since I used it, but all the same…bit of a fail!

Something I want to try: Daniel Sandler Watercolour Blush

I keep seeing this product pop up in magazines and I’m quite curious to try it, although I don’t know of anywhere offline that stocks it, so I’d have to do some research first. The colours look really pretty, and it’s a liquid formulation, plus the name makes me think you’d get a really gorgeous wash of colour from it. There are two or three colours in the range I’d quite like to try: view the entire range here. There’s also a special brush ‘Waterbrush’ that you can buy to apply the product. It seems like there’s a few products in his range I would like to try!

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Sunday, 11 April 2010

Get The Look: Spring 2010 Fashion Picks

Hello All,

Well, I hadn't written anything about fashion or style lately, mainly because I was confused about how to make spring/summer 2010 my own. I really liked the sharp shoulders and rocky, black leather and studs looks we saw last season, so I've found it hard to let go of that aesthetic and move on to something else. Ah, fash-wan, you are a cruel mistress.

But the recent burst of sunshine over the weekend helped to inspire me, got me thinking about ligher textures and colours and how I could navigate my way through a season that seems hell bent on florals and stonewashed denim, neither of which fit with how I want to look.

It's taken a while, but I think I've come up with a solution that works for me, and now I'm all fired up and ready to go shopping to bring it all to life. So, first up, I created this set to reflect how I'm going to approach spring dressing when the shops are such a mine field to me at the moment.




There's a dreamy romance in the air. The look I'll be going for in the new season features:

* nude leather
* a palette of: mint green/nude/grey/navy-blue
* fishtail plaits and messy braids and buns
* gold necklaces and bangles
* playsuits
* draping

And I've already got my eye on a few items I want to buy to drag my wardrobe into the new season:

All Saints 'Orielle' Nude Shoe-Boots

Until the weather is warm enough for sandals (which seems like it might be a while yet), there needs to be some alternative that's warm, but still goes well with spring dresses and shorts. I found these shoeboots which I think will bridge the gap nicely. I've picked these up new from eBay - not sure if All Saints are still selling them. The nude colour makes them appropriate for spring and will hopefully add a little new season edge to my outfits!

'Darling' Necklace

I really love this 'darling' gold necklace. It kind of reminds me of when name necklaces had a big moment when Sex and The City was around. I think its actually been sufficiently long since then to bring them back. I've always favoured silver jewellery, but I'm actually feeling like I want some gold now for some reason. I love the word 'darling' too, you can almost hear the plummy sound of it when you look at this necklace. Best of all, its only eight pounds from Boohoo.com.

Eyeko Vintage Polish

This is a fabulous jade colour - a greeny blue that I suspect was created partly in homage to Chanel's Nouvelle Vague, but it still seems really spring like and a new and unusual colour for nails. Available from eyeko.com for just three pounds fifty.

Also, I found a really good tutorial on YouTube from Imogen FoxyLocks about how to create a fishtail braid - this is a key look for the new season thanks to fashion editor's favourite Mr Alexander Wang.

I'm planning to go into town in a couple of weeks and try to find a few more items, so I'll be sure to update then!


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Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Review: Bumpits!


Barbarella- the original 60's siren!


Apologies for the dodgy facial expression and lack of make-up - I can't pose properly unless I'm tipsy...



I have Bumpits!!! And boy, am I excited about it. I’ve been wanting to get my hands on these for the longest time, since hearing raves from bloggers across the Pond about them. But I couldn’t find them anywhere, even on eBay. It seemed the world wasn’t catching on as fast as I wanted.

Then on Monday I was at my local supermarket picking up the ingredients for my lamb tagine, and there they were, staring at me! I was hugely excited! I wouldn’t have thought Asda would catch on where Boots and Superdrug haven’t, but I guess you can never tell.

For years, my beauty icon has pretty much been Barbarella. I love the smoky, fluttery bambi eyes, arched brows, pink pouts and big, wavy hair of the era over every other beauty look and return to it time and again. And yet achieving the ultra-volumised hair to go with that look can be difficult. I’m not very skilled at backcombing, and I’ve never managed to achieve enough lasting height through this alone, so I thought were going to be the answer to my prayers.

For anyone who hasn’t heard of these items yet, they are sort of spiked plastic arches that you grip into your hair near the roots to ‘lift’ it and create that 60’s style volume at the crown that stars like Cheryl Cole and Pixie Lott always seem to have. If you want to create a beehive, a volumised ponytail or even just a nicer shape to your hair, they’re supposed to help. And if you’re like me and would describe yourself as ‘rubbish with hair’ (while still wanting it to look great!) they are a cheat’s way to look as if you’re blessed with thicker hair. Already being a fan of false lashes, self-tanners and teeth whiteners (in moderation of course – there’s no way I’d want to end up looking like Jordan and it’s a fine line!) this seemed like the logical next step.

I paid £10 exactly for my pack of three. I’m not sure if this is a good deal or not, seeing as I haven’t found them any other place, but it was worth it to me, as I’ve been itching to try them. You can buy then in a blonde colour option or a dark brown/black, to blend in with your hair. Unfolding the pale pink tissue paper in the box (nice touch) I uncovered the three Bumpits – medium, large, and a very small one which must be intended for fringes or something. I’m not sure because the instruction booklet – despite being touted on the box as a ‘styling guide’, was fairly pants and didn’t include that information. There was also a black plastic teasing comb included in the package. The instructions give a basic ‘how to’ which is not that informative – you’d be better off having a look on YouTube for some instructional videos – with a couple of styling ideas – a sort of mini-beehive or volumised chignon/French pleat, using Bumpits with a pony tail, ‘double Bumpits’ (using two at once), and the basic inserting method.

I didn’t really get the time to have a proper play with them at the weekend although I wanted to, so before work on Monday morning, I thought I’d just have a quick go with them. I didn’t expect them to be very easy to insert or to be possible to use for a quick hairstyle before work. I was thinking of them more as something for going out that would need a bit of work to use. But actually, they were both very quick to put in and fairly easy. I can tell they’re one of those things that look better the more practise you get, but my first attempt looked passable enough to wear to work, which was more than I expected.

I just went for the one Bumpit, and used the medium sized one. To insert, I made a horizontal parting in my hair, across from ear to ear, just before my crown. I brushed my hair upwards, so I was holding the ends, pulling it up towards the ceiling. My hair is naturally used to parting at the side and wanted to naturally fall back that way, so I made sure to give the roots a liberal blast of hairspray. I then backcombed the bottom three inches to the scalp. I could have done more here to make the hair even bigger but I was pushed for time, so I went quickly. Spraying and combing as I went, I built up a little volume. Then it was time to insert the Bumpit. I put it next to the base of the section I’d lifted upright, and wiggled it around to give the teeth of it some grip into my hair. I was most concerned that it wouldn’t stay in properly and might fall out on my walk into work, although it actually held really well. The parted section of hair is then brushed back over the Bumpit to cover it up and sprayed again. The makers recommend using a strong-hold hairspray for the backcombing and a medium hold one for replacing and holding the hair on top, but I just used my usual hairspray for both. Now I had a little instant beehive – although because I was worried about walking to work destroying all my handiwork, I also added two hairgrips to each side to pin the raised section of hair and make it stay in shape.

Once in, they recommend that you don’t keep touching them, as this can cause the hair on top to shift and the top of the Bumpit to show through. I ave to admit I didn’t manage to follow this, and my hand automatically went to my hair all the time to check it was still in place. But I think this is down to the fact I haven’t used them before and didn’t know how well they would stay in. Now I know they pass the acid test of a full working day still in place, I probably wouldn’t touch them all the time.

I’m pleasantly surprised by how easy they are to use and how well they work. Give me some practice and some hairspray and I’ll be a pro in no time! The only drawback for me was that I thought they gave me a slight tension headache during the day – like wearing a tight headband when I was in school, but it wasn’t unbearable or anything. I think Bumpits are a wonderful idea for creating hairstyles for special occasions or just trying out different twists on standard hairstyles and I’m really pleased I’ve managed to track them down!

I’ve since found you can order them at Amazon.co.uk or at the JML website if you want some in the UK.
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