Sunday, 2 December 2012

How To: Side Swept Formal Hairstyle

My side-swept style
I know December has only just landed at our doorsteps, but this weekend, I've been feeling quite Christmassy all of a sudden!

This Sunday was one of those beautiful, golden and frosty mornings where the air feels like champagne. I went for a long, chilly walk along the misty river bank with my Mr, amaretto latte in hand. And then after story time with our niece and baking my signature Jack Daniels mince pies in the afternoon, and best of all, seeing the Coca Cola Christmas ad (commercial, I know, but it seems like its not the festive season until its on air), I've really begun to feel like the holidays are fast approaching!

In that spirit, I tried out a new hair style that I'm planning to wear to my work Christmas do, which is quite a glamorous, black-tie event. I'm wearing a full length gown, and I wanted a hairstyle that would be quite dramatic and 'Hollywood' to balance it.

Usually, I make a trip to the hairdresser before big events, but I thought the style I wanted to achieve would be fairly simple to create by myself, so I decided to have a go and see if I could try it myself. This saves my pennies and also gives me more time instead of rushing back and forth to the salon, can't go wrong!

I based this style on these gorgeous, romantic side swept styles with soft curls modelled by Eva Longoria, Penelope Cruz, Taylor Swift and Diana Agron. It was really quite simple to create and I love the overall effect!

Products and Tools:
Paddle brush (mine is from Tresemme)
Tail comb
Dry shampoo or a Volumising hair powder- I used Clynol Play
A curl spray - I used Umberto Giannini Old School Setting Spray
Flat irons or curling tongs- I used my GHDs
Strong hold hairspray - I used Umberto Giannini Rock n Roll Extreme Hairspray
A shed load of hair grips

How to create it:

1. First of all, smooth out your hair with the paddle brush to make sure there are no nasty knots and tangles- your hair needs to be super-sleek for this to work. The style is best created on 'day old' hair, as it has a bit more grip and guts than silky, freshly washed tresses.

2. Spray a dry shampoo into the roots or massage in some hair powder to plump up the roots and give the hair more hold.

3. Use your tail comb to section the hair into a low side parting. For the most flattering part, I traced a line up from my eyebrow and section off a two-inch piece at the front. Clip this to the side, out of the way.

4. Go in with the tail comb again and section off the piece of hair at the crown. Backcomb this piece at the roots, spritzing with a strong hold hairspray to fix. Use the paddle brush to smooth over the top section and clip this pouffed up piece out of the way.

5. Section the remaining hair off into pieces about an inch thick. Spray each section with a curl spray or a setting lotion that will help to lock the curl in place. Using your tongs or your flat irons, curl each piece and spray with hairspray.

6. Unclip the crown section and curl the ends. Push the 'pouff' upwards on itself and fix with hairgrips to lock in the volume.

7. Take the top few curls from the less full side of your parting. Twist and pull diagonally across to the other side of your head. Use two kirby grips crossed over to fix each piece securely and leave the tail of the curl dangling free.

8. With the bottom section, sweep it over to the opposite side, rolling it up as you go. Fix the bottom of the twist into position with more criss-crossed grips. This pattern really locks the style in place.

9. Seal the whole thing with more of the strong hold hairspray

10. If you have any, adding some jewelled combs or grips to the top of the low twist at the back can really add some glitz to this look.

And there you go! A very easy, quick half up half down, side swept look that's perfect for weddings, parties and any occasion you want to look pulled together quickly!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Five Favourites for November

It's been a while since I've done a 'Five Favourites...' post (see my June favourites, here), so I thought I would combine it with a few products I've amassed lately in sort-of mini hauls that didn't merit separate postings. All these things I would definitely repurchase, which has to be a good sign!

 1. Maybelline SuperStay 24h Foundation (£7.99)

This is not a new product, by any means, but it's new to me. I quite like Maybelline for foundations -  they seem to suit my skin- and have tried a few of them, but somehow this one passed me by. I went in actually wanting to try their new launch, FitMe, but I decided I didn't like it. It's gel-based, which is appealing to some people, but I don't get on very well with gel formulas (I sometimes use Mac Studio Sculpt, which is also gel-based but it makes me look very greasy and I'm not a fan). When I discovered it's only selling point is matching your skin tone, I wasn't impressed. That's not supposed to be a special feature- all foundations should match my skin tone, or I shouldn't be wearing it!

Instead, I found myself picking this up, intrigued by the promise of long-lasting, flexible coverage. I recently fell in love with Chanel's Lift Lumiere, but it's pricey so I'm saving it for special occasions. Most days I wear a BB Cream and some powder, but there are days when I need some extra coverage. I've been using Maybelline's Dream Nude Airfoam, but the foam format is messy and I'm nearing the end of my can, so this is my replacement.

It's comfortable to wear on the skin and long lasting- a perfectly decent, mid-range foundation that may well become my new weekday staple!

 2. Bourjois Volume Glamour Max Definition (£9.49)

I've wanted to try this mascara since it first came out, but it's always been sold out when I tried to find it, which made me want it even more. Like all my favourite mascaras, it features a plastic brush- I find they give a much better result than traditional fibre brushes. The result is volumised, thickened but still defined lashes. The brush has a special tip to catch all your tiny lashes, and the formula itself boasts volumising agents and black pearl extracts, which can't be bad! This product is really nice to use and easily buildable for mega-lashes. It doesn't flake out either, so it gets my vote. And, as ever, the super-cute Bourjois packaging make it really fun to use.

3. Bourjois Little Round Pot Light 01

Another hit from the French drugstore cosmetics brand, this eyeshadow is a new concept, designed to be highly concentrated and two times as luminous as a normal eyeshadow (how you measure that is beyond me, but still...) Using super-reflective mother-of-pearl pigments, the shadow feels silky and light on the lids, although I do find that the baked shadows require a firmer brush than I normally use to gather enough pigment.You can either apply it alone over the whole eyelid to brighten up the eyes, put it on with a dampened brush to ramp up the shimmery effect, or you can layer it over a normal eyeshadow to add a shot of pearly light to the colour. This makes it quite interesting- they also had an 'intense' darkening eyeshadow to act like a transformer too, but that just looked like a normal dark grey shadow to me!

This is really pretty and I've been relying on it for days when my eyes look tired and need an extra boost!

4. Umberto Giannini Glam Hair Rock N Roll Extreme Hairspray (normally £5.61) and Old School Setting Lotion for Big Hair(normally £5.49)

Ok, this is sort of a two for one situation, I'm putting both these products as one. I really like Umberto Giannini hair products, and have long been a fan of their Overnight Beauty Balm to sort out my parched, processed locks, so when I ran out of hairspray, I thought the time was right to try their Rock N Roll Extreme Hairspray. I was looking for something with a strong hold, and I am a fan of the gorgeous, fashion-girl illustrations they use on their packaging. Its a light spray that really holds, but most importantly, doesn't give that awful crispy effect bad hairsprays do, which means that although its strong, it's also lightweight and untraceable. It also smells gorgeous!

The second product was an impulse buy (at two for £7.00, it would have been rude not to really!), but is actually something I've been searching for. Despite not being poker-straight, my hair resolutely will not hold a curl. Despite investing in a quality curling iron, I've spend many an hour painstakingly labouring over my curls, only for them to promptly drop out within half an hour. Boo! I happened to mention this to my best friend's housemate, an American from the deep south where big, bouffant curls are a religion (her words, not mine!). I asked her what the secret to keeping curls in place was. She asked what product I used, which I replied was nothing but hairspray. Apparently, this is equivalent to building a house without the proper foundations! That kind of makes sense. She advised me to use gel, but I thought something must have got lost in translation because I couldn't imagine that working. However, I had read in the 'olden-days' of setting lotions and thought I needed something of the sort to make my curls stay. This product describes itself as 'bringing back the classic ‘set’ of the 50s but with a quick drying formulation. Gives volume, bounce and shine plus a long lasting hold'. I haven't actually tried it out yet, but I'm really excited to!

5. Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Exfoliation Treatment Pads (£12.99)

I read about these in the weekly bible (aka Grazia magazine),was sufficently intrigued to track them down, and after a couple of uses, I can safely say these will be a staple part of my new skincare regime. The little disposable pads aim to provide regenerated, smoother, brighter skin. They contain those key anti-agers, glycolic and hyluronic acid to stimulate cell turnover, plus blue daisy extract to calm the skin. They tingle a bit when you first use them- and the packaging states that you must always use a moisturiser with sunscreen as use can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.

I loved how bright, glowing and renewed my skin looked after using these. I think combining regular use with the paper collagen masks I love will hopefully really give my winter skin a boost and help to tackle the fine lines I've started to notice. They're such a quick and easy thing to do that really improves the look of your skin, I'm instantly a fan. If you don't like standing their using a scrub as well, they really do the trick!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Is This The Perfect Party Bag?

As you might have spied from my other posts, whether its cosmetics or pieces of clothing, I love it when things work overtime. Any product, or object, which promises multiple benefits or different uses gets my interest. Why? Well, just the convenience and the feeling of having bought something that's working hard and smart for me. I'm just fascinated by anything that multi-tasks.

Which is why I might well have found the perfect bag for me. Its from an online fashion boutique called POPKORS (which roughly stands for 'Popular Korean Accessories') and they sell a wide range of bags in loads of great designs for highly reasonable prices (with free UK shipping, to seal the deal). Some of the designs are blatant 'homages' to Hermes and Balenciaga, but they have some great own designs, too.

There were quite a few bags I would gladly have ordered on there, but it is the month before Christmas, so I can't really justify spending huge amounts on myself! So with massive self-restraint, I limited myself to this one:

I picked the beige (because I thought it would go with more), but I could have quite gladly had the black and the red as well! I love the chunky, oversized gold postman's lock, it's so chic. The slouchy, fold-over top is also brilliant. It works as a clutch bag, and I really think the design details on it are very elegant and designer-looking. But the best bit? The straps! Behold:

 Not only does this beauty have an elegant little chain strap, for when you want to hook it over the crook of your arm or sling it casually over your shoulder.....but it also has a really long, cross-body strap so you can wear it like a satchel (I like to be hands-free when I'm hitting the dancefloor!)

Honestly? I think I'm in love. This seems like my perfect bag. It could even work as a smaller day bag (I do haul a loooot of stuff around with me in my well-loved Alexa, but I could see me using this out on a shopping trip or nipping for coffee with friends).

If it's as nice as it looks when it arrives- damn international shipping, it's so slow!- I will re-order the black one in a heartbeat. It just looks so well designed and versatile, I can see me loving this bag for a looong time (perhaps even as much as my beloved Mulberry, and at a fraction of the cost to boot! This bag was priced at $30 AUS dollars, which was about £24 sterling).

POPKOR trade on eBay, so you can access their fabulous selection of bags online. I am definitely a fan, and will be purchasing again if all goes smoothly.


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Review: Freshlook Colorblends Contact Lenses

Trying out Freshlook Colorblends in 'Sterling Grey'
Coloured contacts. I learned this week that for an innocuous little piece of plastic, they can really divide opinions. In this day and age of Botox, boob jobs and body modification, you wouldn't think they'd be so controversial. But you'd be wrong, as I found out when I made my second foray into the world of lenses.

Let me start by saying I have absolutely nothing against brown eyes, they can be stunning. And I've never had a problem with my eye colour. It's quite a light orangey amber colour-exactly like my mother. But my dad and all his side of the family have a very distinctive family look- honey-coloured skin, dark hair and light blue eyes- and part of me has always wondered what I would look like with my dad's combination. And I find dark hair and blue eyes a particularly special combination (my Mr has this, and his DNA is great!).

So, I've always been slightly intrigued by the possibility of using coloured contacts to switch up my look. Now to me, this is no more offensive than dying your hair or using fake tan. We're so used to those kinds of appearance changes that it doesn't really phase anyone. And yet changing the colour of your eyes is seen as really wrong by some people, it seems.

My Mr was horrified when the nice package from dropped through the letterbox. He finds something horribly low-rent and tacky about using coloured contacts, and his disgusted and bemused reaction actually threw me pretty badly. "But why would you want to change your eye colour?" he asked. When I explained that to me, it was just a bit of fun to switch up my appearance, he didn't seem to agree. He made me feel pretty worried that I was doing something that would look awful.

But actually, I'm pretty pleased with the final result!

As mentioned, it was my second time trialling coloured lenses. The first try went disastrously wrong. I didn't know anything about lenses, or eyes in general (having 20/20 vision, I've never even been inside an opticians yet) and I didn't do any research before I ordered. I simply picked an unfeasibly bright blue and clicked to purchase.

When they arrived, I didn't have a clue what I'd ordered, how to insert them, how to care for them....and in short it was a disaster. I only managed to get one in and then promptly freaked out because I didn't know how to get it back out. In any case, I didn't really like the effect as it looked really bright blue, fake and weird. The second one I couldn't even get in because I kept blinking too violently and I was stressed out and panicked about getting them out. I didn't have any of the right storage equipment, so when I did get them out I did the wrong thing and tried to store them in a little tupperware pot with some tap water, where they promptly dried up and died before I could try them again.

This time, I was a little smarter. I did plenty of research beforehand, about different colours and brands, how to insert and remove the lenses, and proper storage and care of them as well.

Here is my first time guide to it for coloured contact lens virgins:

1. Spend time thinking about what colour you really want

It's all too easy to go crazy and opt for the shocking blue, vivid violet or bright green shades. And, if you are after a certain, larger than life look, then that's the result you'll get. However, if you're after a more passably natural eye and you're not keen on the idea of random strangers knowing you're wearing lenses, then consider a shade such as grey. This is a soft colour that subtly lightens dark eyes, without screaming 'obviously fake'. It's not the first shade I'd think of, but it's really pretty and subtle, especially on Oriental eyes. Of course, if you already have blue eyes and you just want to make them standout more, a vivid turquoise could really work. It all depends, so know what you're looking for and what you hope to achieve before you buy.

2. Research the brands available

With the thousands of review posts of pretty much everything invented, ever out there on the web, there's not much excuse for not doing your homework to choose the right lenses for you and getting a good deal on them. About 2 seconds of web research will probably show you that Freshlook Colorblends are generally considered to be the best currently available. There are lots of other brands too. Google Image Search will allow you to see the lenses in action on different types of people, and how it looks. Try to find an image of someone with a similar colouring to you to get an idea of how the colour might look on you. Now you need to find where to buy. Of course, your best bet may well be to visit an opticians, especially since they will probably show you how to put them in. But if you're impatient or price-consious, then you may want to order online. Once I'd decided I wanted to try the Freshlook Colorblends in 'Sterling Grey', I found a reputable, good value site- retails them at £7.00 per lens with free UK delivery (yes, right and left are sold and priced as different items, which I never suspected! Of course, this is because some people who actually need lenses for vision correction need different strengths and prescriptions in each eye. Duh!) If you don't need a prescription, just select 0.00 in the menu and make sure you order one left and one right eye!

With one lens in, so you can see the difference!

3. All the gear and no idea

Another thing I never understood before is that you don't just need the lenses, you need a few items with them! The lenses come in little, individually-sealed pods that don't re-seal. You will need somewhere to store them after use, and it must be airtight. Luckily, eBay can help you source these items real cheap. I bought a cute little white compact (search something like 'travel contact lens case' for similar) with a mirror, tweezers for picking up the lens, airtight lens case, and a couple of little bottles for holding a small supply of contact lens solution, and it was only £3! Then I also bought a big bottle of contact lens solution for a couple of pounds, again this can be sourced very cheaply. You really do need this stuff, so don't be tempted to leave it out.

4. Learn how to put them in and out properly

At first, I underestimated how difficult this can be. I figured that because I'm not especially squeamish about touching my eyes, it would be fairly straightforward. It was not. It was totally difficult, frustrating, and I hated the feeling of having a foreign object in my eye to begin with. So leave plenty of time before whatever event you want them for. I would suggest trialling taking them in and out several times before the day of whenever you want them for. The last thing you want is to be rushed and frustrated. Accept it's difficult and it takes practice to get right, and allow yourself enough time. It took me the best part of 40 minutes and countless attempts before I could get them into my eyes. Put them in before doing any make-up, as it can really make your eyes run and will probably ruin anything else you've put on your face!

Youtube is your friend. It has some excellent video tutorials that I'd highly recommend running while you try and put them in. Methods of insertion are varied, so take time to find what works for you.

Very straightforward tutorial on how to insert them here

This one is also great for newbies (mute to avoid the cheesy Japanese lounge-singer music)

And, how to take them out (although I found removing them very easy)

5. Shake Up Your Make Up

Of course, the beauty of changing up your eye colour, is that different eye make-up will now suit you! It's fun to play and experiment with your new eyes! I recommend trying out bronze shades or a classic smoky eye to make baby blues really pop, and if you're trying out brown eyes, purple and green shades will look beautiful and will really make your new colour stand out. Have fun trying new shades to contrast with and compliment your new eye colour.

6. Carry eyedrops!

If you've never worn lenses before, then you don't realise how much your eyes can dry out with lenses. To keep this comfortable, stash some eye drops in your clutch bag and carry them with you so you can freshen up with the lenses in.

So, what do you think? I think the grey shade is really beautiful and I've enjoyed playing about with my eye colour. I don't think there's anything 'wrong' with coloured lenses, but my husband's reaction has made me realise some people think its a bit weird or somehow insecure (I say: no more than any other hair dye, fake tan or cosmetic!). So, if you do want to try them, be prepared!


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Beauty Icon: Alessandra Ambrosio

I've decided to work on a series of occaisional postings concerning my Beauty Icons, the women who look so that they inspire me to try and improve my own look.

I already do an occaisional series of posts titled 'Loving Her Style', which are all about celebrities where I really like the way they dress and want to try and emulate it (see my posts on Zooey Deschanel, Mollie King, Lana Del Rey and Millie Mackintosh). But that's about clothes, and styling. And there's a whole group of women who's looks I love, but whose dress sense doesn't quite set my world alight, so that's what these postings are about.

First up, the magnetising Victoria's Secret model, Alessandra Ambrosio. Now, this lady has been on my radar for a while, but I never found her the most beautiful VS girl. And I actually still think Candice Swanepoel is the most stunning Angel VS has. But just lately, something about Alessandra has been really captivating my attention. I don't love the way she dresses (let's face it, she's more known for wearing bikinis than actual clothes and the pics I can find of her 'off duty' style show she's very bohemian, which I hate. Anything that looks as if it could smell of incense and patchouli skeeves me out!). But I do love her looks and her makeup.

Specifically, it was this Daily Mail picture of her dressed up as a 'sexy dictator' for Halloween:

Wow, just wow. And then I found myself trying to find out her beauty secrets, using her picture as a motivation to get my butt out of bed for morning gym sessions and avoiding cake! I think what I like about her most is that we have similar colouring, so I'm figuring a lot of her tips and tricks will suit me (although I couldn't hope to look as good!). Also, her look is really sultry, even slightly 'bitch face' which seems to be the type of beauty I admire most!

The Elements of her Look


  • Bronzed Skin - a key element of Alessandra's beauty style is her golden, sunkissed skin (which I guess is a must when you model undies for a living!). She has said that she prefers a natural tan and leads an outdoors life. But when you live in Blightly, where sunshine is rationed, you are going to need to fake it. I actually don't use fake tan, never have done, but I favour Garnier Summerbody Lotion in the winter to give a hint of a glow.
  • Shimmer Skin Makeup - for all those shoots and appearances, Alessandra states they make her body up with a shimmer lotion to enhance her tan. I recommend Pretty Polly Love Legs, to give your skin a similar polished sheen.
  • Shimmer Bronzer - Shimmery, bronzed cheeks are Alessandra's M.O. The best product for this is Bobbi Brown Shimmer Bricks, which allow you to blend different shades to get a multi-dimensional finish.
  • Shimmery Brown Smoky Eyes - Alessandra is queen of a more subtle style of smoky eye, where she shies away from black and uses deep browns to really give her eyes a smoulder that's actually very wearable. The shimmering chocolate brown and bronze shades in the Au Naturel eye palette from Sleek will give you this look.
Other Tips from Alessandra:
  • Drink coconut water to stay hydrated and promote a healthy complexion
  • Preparation H cream under the eyes can help with severe bags
  • The most important part of any beauty look is building the right foundation- this means regular exersize, staying hydrated and looking after your skin, nails and hair all the time. This will make anything you do on top look a 1000 times better! Attention to detail is everything!
  • Body scrubs are your best friend for when you plan to have a lot of skin on show
  • Get those big, flowing beachy waves by using a lightweight, volumising mousse on hair and then a large barelled curling wand. I just purchased the Diva Big Waves, a fabulous tool that either adds deep waves or lock the barrel together for a massive curl! I'll be doing a full posting on this soon.

There is this video where she explains her favourite products, courtesy of Modelinia.

This post from Talking Makeup shows a complete show look for Alessandra, done by make-up artist Polly Osmond, but using all VS products, here.

I love her hair colour-its a bit darker than my current colour, but still has a subtle golden sheen- how does she do that without her hair going lighter and lighter each time?

Who's beauty look do you love?

Monday, 29 October 2012

Review: Rodial BB Venom Eye

Concealer is a big deal to me, cosmetically. Mainly because my under eye area is an absolute battleground of fine lines, dark circles and morning puffiness that I really struggle with.

Unfortunately, its genetic and without surgery (which I’m not brave enough for!), there’s only so much you can do in the name of damage limitation. I know its better when I’m well rested and hydrated, but its always a concern of mine and I’m still searching for the holy grail of concealers to help me out.

I’ve never found one I loved enough to stick with so far, although I was pretty impressed with MeMeMe Correct & Perfect Concealer, which I’ve reviewed here.

So when I read about Rodial BB Venom Eye, I was very intrigued and keen to try some. This concealer launched on 19th August, at first exclusive to Harrods, but its now available from A big set back, to me, is the price. Now I certainly don’t mind paying for a quality product, but at £29 for 6ml (plus a postage charge if you don’t happen to live in London near Harrods), it is really at the top end of what I’d pay for a concealer -and certainly for a product I’d never tried before and couldn’t test before ordering, I thought it was asking a lot.

So, I did my usual trick and hopped onto eBay to see what I could find. There was only one on there, as you might expect for a new product, but people must have heard something good about it, because I did get into a bidding war. In the end I won, and I paid £22.

I have seen Rodial products featured in various magazines, but I haven’t tried anything from their range before- mainly because there aren’t any stockists where I live, and I don’t like to order cosmetics online if I’ve never tried them before. Knowing the right shade is important and its not like you can return things you don’t like! Rodial do mainly quite high-end skincare products, but have just branched tentatively into cosmetics, with a BB cream, concealer and a couple of lipstick shades.

And what’s so special about this product anyway? Well, Rodial state it contains:

•    Di-Peptide ‘SYN-AKE’ complex to target crow’s feet
•    Hyaluronic acid to plump and intensively hydrate the skin
•    Ronasphere LDP to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles
•    Light-reflective particles to immediately brighten the under eye area
•    Contains SPF

Before- no make-up at all!

After- using the Rodial BB Venom Eye

Effectively, it’s a skincare product with long term benefits as well as a concealer, which could well warrant the price tag if it’s good at both functions.

It’s currently only available in two shades: ‘Aspen’ and ‘Malibu’, with ‘Malibu’ being the darker of the two. Normally, as an NW20 this is what I’d go for, but the one I found on eBay was the lighter shade. I was a bit worried it wouldn’t suit me at all, but actually it works absolutely fine and doesn’t look bad.

The 6ml of product comes in what looks almost like a lip gloss packaging, with a doe foot applicator. It’s a very light, fluid consistency but despite this it gives a nice level of coverage, and as you’d hope, it doesn’t settle into the lines around your eyes. I blended it in with my fingertips as I actually believe that this gives a better finish on the under eye area than using a concealer brush.

The product is very long lasting, which is a big plus point in its favour- it did a full day at work without needing a touch up, but the packaging makes it quite portable if you did want to carry it with you.

The long term skin benefits will only be visible over time of course, so I can’t really comment on the cumulative effects, but based on the immediate results-I’m in love! I felt it dealt with my puffiness and discolouration an absolute treat.

Overall? This is seriously a new must-have for me and I feel like I’ve finally found an under eye concealer I’m happy to stick with for a while. My hope is that it really does have some good long-term positive skincare  effects and also that a little goes a long way. It will be interesting to see how long the tube lasts, because that really determines if I will buy this long-term. In my honest opinion, it could do with being £10 cheaper, in which case it would really be worth the money (and paying for postage on it, which always annoys me a little bit on small items).

If you have nightmares with your under eyes and you’ve exhausted a lot of different products without seeing the results you long for, I’d seriously recommend giving this one a go if you have the cash, it could be just what you’re looking for!

Do you know any wonder products for problem bags and circles? If so, share them below!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

TAG: Why Do You Wear Makeup?!

Posing in full war paint!
I can't resist a good tag post about beauty! Of course, it is rather a lazy way of ensuring that there's something to write about, but it can also give a lovely insight into the lives of those whose blogs we adore!

I've just stumbled across and started to follow the great site run by Sarah called Ohh So Glam!, which I love already. It's exactly my kind of read. I love it when you find a new favourite blog, because there's hours of fun to be had going through all the posts you missed! She'd posted a tag post recently, and it's only short, so I decided to have a go at filling it in!

When did you begin to love makeup?

I've seen lots of pictures of me when I was little, smeared in lipstick and blusher where I've clearly raided my mum's dressing table, so I'd have to say ever since I could toddle really! A lot of girls who love make-up have similar stories, so I really think its something that is quite often passed down from your mum. Among my friends that don't wear a lot of make-up, their mothers usually didn't either. But my mother is a total beauty junkie and she's probably the reason for a lot of my obsession with the stuff.

As a former professional dancer, my mum knew some really great cosmetic tricks, and could make herself look fabulous with powder and paint, which always fascinated me. I clearly remember her sitting me down and putting some kohl pencil on me for the first time for a school disco, and how mesmerised I was with the effect. I love my mum but we haven't always had the best relationship, and we now live miles apart so I don't get to see her as much as I'd like. But make-up is still something that brings us together.

She came up to visit last weekend and on the first evening, we had our make-up bags out to show each other our new buys! We're both always looking for exciting new products, and although our tastes are a bit different, we usually want to try a lot of the same things!

How do you feel without makeup?

Not very happy. I will go without if I'm popping to the gym before work or it's Sunday and I'm washing all my brushes or something, but I'm generally not happy about being seen in public without anything at all. That said, I certainly don't think women should feel pressure to wear cosmetics, which I explore in my 'Morningface' post, here. A lot is said about 'being the real you', but I always say that the real me wears eyeliner. I feel a lot more confident and free to be myself when I know my make-up is in place. Beauty is a pleasure to me, not a chore, and I really enjoy the time I spend making up each day.

What do you like about makeup?

The way it can transform your entire look, the confidence it gives me, and the 'me time' I get while putting it on! I love discovering new products and talking about them with people. I'm massively into self-improvement, both internal and external, and I love to witness the change from scruffy to glamorous! I've written a post in the past about Why I Love Make-Up, here.

Three 'Holy Grail' items?

Three? Three?!?! That's absolutely brutal. I'm just finishing a post on my 25 Can't Live Without Products, let alone three!! But if I really, really had to choose...

Vaseline Lip Therapy Rose and Almond Oil
I just can't live without this pink-tinted pot of wonder, especially since I discovered using it on my cheeks. There's no way I'd ever be without this!

Mac Fluidline
I'm massively into eyeliner, and I wouldn't feel like me without a quick slick of my favourite. I would really rather go without foundation than without eyeliner!

L'Oreal False Lash Telescopic mascara
My holy grail mascara, I love this product. As it was one of the first to advertise without false lashes, I was intrigued when it came out, and I've loved it ever since for the impact and definition it gives. It's been able to take the place of Lancome Fatale, which I was obsessed with and then they bloody discontinued (replacing it with something that was supposed to be better, and was significantly worse!). What I like most about both of these mascaras was that they have solid comb brushes that pick up a big reservoir of product for dramatic, but still separated lashes.

Please feel free to take this TAG and pass it on, and if you do answer it, post a link to your blog below, I'd be really interested to see what you think!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

October Beauty Haul: Chanel, L'Oreal Professionel,Balmi, Vaseline Limited Editions

A look using my new products- Chanel Lift Lumiere, L'Oreal Professionel Mythic Oi, Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in 'Rebelle'!
Hey Dollfaces

On Saturday, I popped into town to keep my appointment for HD Brows, and when I came out of the salon, I 'somehow' ended up veering into Boots and then John Lewis and making some beauty purchases (now how did that happen?).

I was quite excited because the Mr and I were going to see the Northern Ballet & Sinfonia perform Madame Butterfly. What a production! It was amazingly staged, really dramatic, and the dancing was spellbinding and so emotional. We both really loved it- we are getting seriously cultural in our old age!

Anyway, onto the shopping.

Vaseline Lip Therapy Limited Edition Pink Bubbly (£3.49), Boots

It's incredibly sad, but part of the whole reason I went into Boots in the first place was to hunt down this limited edition Pink Bubbly Vaseline. Tragic, I know, but y'all know how I feel about Vaseline. I worship it. Its my multi-tasking tin of wonder that soothes my chapped lips and glosses them, grows my eyelashes, highlights my cheekbones, softens my cuticles and...yeah...its one of those things I couldn't live without, pretty much. So when I saw they'd combined this wonder with champagne (also one of my favourite things) I was desperate to get my paws on some. At first, it was exclusive to Selfridges, which was sort of annoying. And I had a look on eBay where they were changing hands for a rather ridiculous £8 a tin (as if!!). But then, I saw a Boots magazine ad featuring the product, and my heart leapt. I raced there a week or so ago, only to emerge disappointed. But this time it seemed as though they'd gotten their act together, and there was a big stand promoting it.

I fully intended to buy two, anyway but then I saw it was on three for two, so I figured....why the hell not. Enriched with champagne grape extract and with a soft pink hue, this stuff is just perfect with a lovely, fruity scent. And my little stock should keep me going for quite some time....


Balmi Mint Lip Balm (£4.99)

Ok, I know what you're thinking. I've just bought a lifetime supply of Vaseline, why in the hell would I need more lip balm? Well, I am the type of girl that likes variety. Also, at any given moment, I will usually be carrying upwards of 5 lip products on me- because that's just how I roll. And anyway, I have been wanting one of these since seeing them on every YouTube beauty video ever (although I've since realised that most of what I was were EOS lip balms, which are very similar...) This is a cute little sphere that unscrews to reveal a ball of lipbalm inside, that you can attach to your keychain. I only picked Mint because I liked the colour of the ball, but there was also Raspberry and Coconut. I must say Boots is really coming on leaps and bounds in terms of stocking all these niche beauty products- they really have their finger on the pulse lately with unusual cosmetics and all the French pharmacy skincare brands, its brilliant. This balm is really creamy and pleasant and sorts out my winter-sore lips a treat- and I'd repurchase just for the cute factor! It contains Vitamin E, Shea Butter and Jojoba Oil, SPF 15 and a 'cooling action' which is lovely. All in all I managed to spend £11.41 just on lipbalm, which I think constitutes a serious addiction.

Chanel Lift Lumiere Firming and Smoothing Fluid Makeup SPF15 (£32.00)

For a while now, I've been wanting to treat myself to a 'serious' foundation from a big-hitter brand, and now I finally got around to it. I don't tend to wear foundation every day, just BB cream and a mineral powder, so what I was looking for here was a full-coverage foundation for nights out that still had somewhat of a natural look, but really delivered that flawless finish. And I think I may have found my perfect match! I think I'll do a proper review post on this product, because it deserves it. The lady at the Chanel counter in John Lewis was amazing, really nice and took lots of time with me, but not at all pushy. And I appreciate that, having worked on a few cosmetics counters myself and knowing that the sales pressure is on! I felt like a proper customer, not just a number. I think it worked better in John Lewis as their beauty department has less footfall than Boots, so they made me feel very welcome and took lots of time to find out what I was looking for and matching the shade very carefully.

The lady explained that although this is an anti-aging foundation, its higher coverage so it fitted more what I was looking for than the others. I told her anti-aging is absolutely fine by me! It also has a very hygenic pump which I like as it makes sure you get all the product out and keeps it bacteria-free.

This product is perfection. It feels so luxurious, lightweight and silky on the skin, but it gives a beautiful coverage with a velvet finish that's luminous without being greasy. It contains 'LiftOptic' complex to help diffuse fine lines, and a lifting polymer. Also, Camellia Oil to nourish and moisturise. A truly beautiful product that proves that, unfortunately, you really do get what you pay for when it comes to foundation. It's a bit too dear for me to be using it every day, but I am in love with this foundation and I will be using for my nights out!

Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in 'Rebelle' (£24.00)

Another thing I've really been lusting after is a proper, old school red lipstick. I personally think red lipstick can be quite intimidating. There's something very powerful and grown-up about it that a part of me really struggles with, even though I'm a certified, mortgage-paying, working grown-up myself. And it's difficult to pick a shade that really suits you as well. Luckily, the lady at the Chanel counter was really patient and tried some different shades on me. She really favoured one called 'Gabrielle' from a different line, but it was a very strong, dramatic red and it sort of made me nervous! However, when she tried this one on me, something just clicked. It felt right.  Chanel say: "ROUGE COCO SHINE Hydrating Sheer Lipshine provides lasting moisturizing shine in a water-light texture. The formula glides on for easy application, and a unique HYDRATENDRE complex hydrates and softens lips, giving them a healthier and fuller appearance. Available in a complete range of shades, from delicate beiges to dazzling berries, with a hint of shimmer to enhance a glossy finish."
The slightly more orangey tone felt more youthful and wearable to me. And the demi-gloss finish is a lot more in my comfort zone as it sheers the red out a lot. And now I've discovered the right red for me, I'm addicted! I thought it would be my night-time, winter season look but I've found myself wearing this during the day too. And again, as you'd expect from Chanel, this product just feels so good. Its so smooth and light on the lips, its like a balm. My new love!

L'Oreal Professionel Mythic Oil (£11.95)

I've found a new favourite, can't-live-without hair product. Having wanted to Try a hair oil for some time, this has really blown me away. I must admit that, once again, it was the pretty packaging that drew me into this one (predictable, I know!). But this product is not just a pretty face and really delivers. I did previously buy a bottle of organic Argan oil to use on my hair, and I have to say, I wasn't impressed at all. A little had no noticeable effect, a lot made my hair look stringy and greasy, so clearly you need to buy an oil that's specially formulated for use on your locks. Mythic Oil is a whole different experience. It's a special blend of avocado and grapeseed oil, and its really lightweight, so it won't make your hair lank. In fact, its pretty much a magic elixir for my frazzled, stressed out, overprocessed, colour-treated, heat-damaged nightmare hair! It does what no deep conditioner has properly done for me and made my hair feel beautifully silky and even shiny (my hair hasn't been shiny for many a year!), without losing any of the volume or freshness from washing. I put a little bit in when my hair was still damp and then a smidge more after drying and styling as a finishing touch. Wowzer. I love this! It also makes your hair smell gorgeous, as an added bonus. I can't believe how well this has worked out for me. Mythic Oil also has a range of shampoos and other products (available here), which I might well try!

And that's my little haul for now, although I'm also hitting the shops next week, so look out for more product updates!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Review: My HD Brows Experience

Image courtesy of HD Brows
Eyebrows are one of the things I totally obsess about, because they really can make or break the way your entire face looks. A good eyebrow shape can totally frame your face and in some cases, be as good as a facelift for freshening up your look.

Celebrities have long been aware of the power of a good eyebrow, and I've often wondered what magical process they undergo as soon as they hit the bigtime that seems to transform their eyebrows (along with their teeth, hair,style etc) to give their looks that extra touch of stardust.

And yet funnily enough, I had never heard of HD Brows until last week. Quite how this phenomenom bypassed such a beauty junkie as myself, I will never know. In fact, I feel a bit betrayed by Vogue, InStyle, Grazia etc for never seeming to mention it. I found out by chance when I was telling a colleague about my eyebrow obsession, and they mentioned it. Then when I googled fell in love with those images of perfectly defined arches. I had to get some of this HD action for myself! I literally phoned up the salon the same day and got an appointment for the next weekend!

Introducing HD Brows

So, what are HD Brows? Well, they are a specific brow-shaping technique (and a big range of branded products) involving seven separate steps, that can only be performed by an accredited professional therapist. There doesn't tend to be that many practitioners, but most big cities are now catching on. Luckily, I knew of NKD, a specialist waxing boutique based in Nottingham with a very good reputation, that has just branched into lashes and brows.

They provided a great service, booking me in easily. You pop in for a patch test at least 24 hours before the appointment, to make sure you aren't allergic to the dye used. When I arrived, I filled in a 'new customer' form to make sure I wasn't going to drop dead at any point in the process, and I also had a chance to look through a book they had from HD which showed some of the products, some celebrity testimonials ( "From Hollyoaks to Hollywood!", the book proudly boasted), and some before and after pictures that got me really excited as they all looked amazing! The magical transformation then takes place in the seven aforementioned steps:

Preparation and Assessment

Your beauty therapist will work out a shape that suits your face, consult with you on the type of brow you're hoping to achieve, what shade will suit your hair and skin colour etc


This is the step that requires the patch test- your brows are tinted using a coloured dye to the correct shade. This can darken or lighten the brows, and help to create a stronger shape by helping to get rid of any sparse areas.


This takes care of the major hair removal in one easy swoop.


Any denser or longer hair is trimmed to keep brows a very neat, uniform length


Threading then creates a very sharp, defined look, and takes care of those wispy baby hairs that grow above the arch


To finish off  the shaping process by hand and take care of any stray hairs


The experience is completed with the application of products and some advice on how best to maintain your new brow look.

I'm extremely fussy with my brows. I have never had them professionally shaped, although I have thought about it many times. I've always been too scared that they'd make a mess of it and I'd be stuck with odd, skinny brows that weren't to my liking, or thick, darkly dyed ones. Either would be a complete horror show. So I've relied on my own efforts with the tweezers, a good brow mascara, and a brown powder shadow applied with an angled brush for them to look half-decent. So I was excited but a little nervous to have them re-done.

I was hoping for more defination, a slightly higher and more defined arch, and just a more groomed overall appearance and....ta-dah!!
My new brows, courtesy of NKD Nottingham

 The Experience at NKD

I want to say that, overall, I am so happy with the way my brows turned out. I think the therapist did a great job of creating a cleaner, more defined shape that still suited my face.

Before, and after,the finished effect!
Side angle

However, the process could have been improved slightly. I thought the advice/consultation aspect was a bit lacking. She did ask me (breifly) what I was hoping for, but she didn't explain much about what could be achieved, about my existing brow shape and challenges, or any of the 'science' about it, which, as a beauty junkie, I would have been really interested in. When I called up I was told the appointment lasted an hour, but it only took 40 minutes and I can't help thinking that's because the much-vaunted 'consultation' element was missing here.

Similarly, she didn't discuss much in the way of maintenance with me, only saying that I should continue to fill in my brows with the powder I use to fill in the sparse areas, and that it should last 5-6 weeks before I needed to come back in.

However, treatment was quick and-importantly-not painful! I was a bit apprehensive about the threading (I've heard stories varying from 'didn't hurt at all' to 'surprisingly painful' from friends, and I'm a total wuss for pain). I found it a bit of a odd sensation- a bit like a serrated bread knife was cutting at the tops of my brows, but it wasn't too bad and I loved the really clean finish it gave to my brows. In fact, I'm a total convert to threading as a process.

After the hair removal, the therapist used a mineral powder to conceal any redness or irritation, and used what I assume must have been the HD Brow palette to fill my brows in and give the complete look straight away. This really gave a great effect and it would mean that if you were getting ready to go out, you'd be ready to go right away, which I liked. It also gave far more of a transformed look.

I know HD Brows also have a big range of products, from powder palettes to growth serums, but I don't know if NKD just don't sell them, because they weren't discussed with me at all. I did hear them say on the phone when I was booking in that one of therapists would be 'gone by then', so I don't know if a more experienced therapist had left, which would explain why the consultation element was slightly lacking- but that's literally my only reservation, the rest of the treatment and the overall look is great.

I was quite wowed by how good the brows looked -  and in fact, I visited a beauty counter afterwards to pick up a new lipstick and they actually commented on how nice my brows looked without me saying anything, which was a boost.

I paid £35 for my initial appointment, which I would say is fair considering the amount of different procedures that went into creating my 'brow look'. NKD then offer 10% off if you return within 6 weeks and a loyalty card that means every 10th treatment is free, which is pretty good.

The salon is really nice and well-designed, and I wouldn't hesitate to go back there (I'm already thinking about eyelash extensions there for the Christmas party season).

Although it would be fairly easy to maintain the look yourself at home once the inital treatment has established a shape, for you, I would definately return to the pros. And if you haven't tried HD Brows, I would urge you to make the small investment and look into it, because it really does change your face for the better!

And inspired by these amazing celebrity brow transformations!

Cheryl Cole: from council estate princess to the nation's sweetheart
Megan Fox is an arched icon
Liz Hurley: used to be seriously caterpillar browed
Cher Lloyd, looking frankly bat-shit crazy before her brow transformation, and groomed & gorgeous afterwards

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Review: L'Oreal Nude Magique BB Cream

I wanted to do a little review of a new (ish) product that has come into my life that I'm totally loving. Its been out for a while, but it hasn't really caused much of splash in the beauty blogging world, and I think that's because of the misleading name that they've given it. But its underrated and I wanted to show it a little love!

It's called Nude Magique BB Cream, by L'Oreal, which I think is the first mistake. It seems that every company is jumping on the BB Cream bandwagon these days, rushing to get a buzzword product on the market without really stopping consider what a BB cream really is, and if their product qualifies.

To my mind, a BB Cream should be a light foundation with lots of skin-loving goodies crammed into it. This product is neither. A better name for it would be what they have chosen to use as a subtitle: the 'Bare Skin Beautifier'. This would be a much more appropriate moniker, because its a lot closer to describing that the product actually does.

The package goes on to explain the product 'mimics the texture and tone of bare perfect skin' and promises '24hr hydration & SPF12'. And that, in a nutshell, is what makes this product so brilliant. It doesn't look anything like a foundation on, but somehow, it just delivers smooth, soft, glowing skin. The cream is made with 'smart pigment capsules', which comes out of the tube as a white cream with small lilac spheres that feel a little gritty. But as you massage it in, it adapts to your own skin tone, providing a seamless match (and it really was seamless on me!). My skintone is a sort of medium beige (NW20) and I realised when I got home that I had picked up the version for 'light skin tone' (there is a medium one too) but it didn't seem to matter at all.

L'Oreal claim that this product delivers:
  •  Flawless coverage
  • Perfectly even skin texture
  • Fresh dewy glow
  • 24hr hydration
  • Protects with SPF12
While I wouldn't describe my skin after as 'flawless' (lines and dark circles still very visible), it was a massive improvement without looking in any way as if I was wearing a foundation. I also did think it made my skin glow.

What I love about this cream is how smooth and even my skin looks after application. It will never replace a foundation- it's not meant to- but its perfection for those times when you just want to run to the corner shop without putting make-up on, or if you're going to the gym first-thing and you really can't face leaving the house without a little something. It fills that gap in my cosmetic secret weapons and for that reason I love it to pieces. I've also found something else- it makes a cracking primer as well. It leaves a really great base that make-up clings to.

Before applying

After using the cream
In short, this cream really is a 'bare skin beautifier' that is perfect for those times where even a light foundation is too much and you just want to look a bit more rested. Combine it with a wonder concealer and some Nanoblur and you really have a viable alternative to full make-up. A true unsung hero of the beauty counters!
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