Sunday, 31 January 2010

IMATS: Day Two Summary

The second day of IMATS started off with a bang in the form of a highly entertaining and illuminating interview with Oscar winning makeup artist Bill Corso. We were treated to a variety of anecdotes spanning his career, which has involved work on films such as the Grinch, the most recent Indiana Jones film, and Lemony Snicket (for which he won the Oscar). Coming across as a very down to earth guy, it was clear to see the amount of passion that he has for both beauty and SFX makeup, and also the amount of support he shows for other artists, both established and upcoming. Of his current project, currently filming in the UK, he said: "If you've sent me a resume for my current film, I'm sorry if I've not called you yet. In the next few weeks, you'll probably get a call - we need a lot of makeup artists".

In fact, day two was probably more geared towards SFX, with Bill Corso and Tom Savini speaking and the student competition being of the character variety. No words are needed to accompany these photos:

Sarah and I also got the opportunity to chat with the creators of Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics - more on that later when Sarah writes up a full report. We stuck our fingers into some more products, including some fabulously bright Kryolan shades courtesy of Charles Fox, and some beautifully textured concealers from Eve Pearl.

Finally, we were treated to a live session by YouTube sensation Koren Zander (EnKore), who showed us how to create a full face look using pure pigments and a few mixing mediums. Although clearly nervous about working in front of a real live crowd, Koren dished out plenty of useful tips and tricks and answered questions from the audience, as well as applying a full face of makeup.

So, all in all - was IMATS a worthwhile way to spend a weekend? You betcha - Sarah and I had a fabulous time meeting people, watching excellent demonstrations and interviews, being introduced to new brands, products, and techniques - and doing a little bit of shopping, of course. Another bonus was that this is one of the few times when it seems perfectly acceptable to talk to strangers about makeup on the bus! We'll definitely be in attendance next year.

If you were there - did you have a good time? And if you weren't - do you think you could be tempted for next year?

Interview: Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics

Disclosure - we were given product samples to review by OCC.

We were able to grab 5 minutes at IMATS with Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Creative Director and CEO David Klasfeld and Director of Creative Development Katie Pellegrino. After swapping notes on polish (Katie was quite curious about the Illamasqua NWS I was wearing) we asked a few questions about the phenomenal surge of OCC mania that has erupted across the internet.

As expected by everyone but the brand themselves, the Lip Tars had all but gone by half-way through the first day of the show. "We always sell out, and then we bring more the next time, then sell out again" says Katie, not altogether ruefully - it's a huge compliment to the products, even if it does mean it's tricky to anticipate and meet demands. We tell her there are people for whom the presence of the hallowed Lip Tar was a major draw to IMATS itself.

"That's my baby!" she says with a mock-wink. "We never realised it would be so popular. And the name - David wanted me to change it. He said nobody would buy a product called "tar" and want to put it on their lips! I really had to fight him on that."

But Lip Tar it is, and it's taken the makeup community by storm. Despite having several other products in their range, including loose pigment, glitter, nail polish and airbrush makeup, Lip Tar has become synonymous with the OCC brand.

The first two Lip Tars were Tarred and Feathered, the black and the white colours. Since then the range has blossomed into a riotous rainbow of 24 colours - from clear to fire-engine red to ultramarine blue.

So is there a flagship Lip Tar? Indeed there is - Complex, a pale lilac, was created by Katie for fashion designer Diego Binetti's Spring 2010 collection, and is currently the brand darling. It's not yet on sale. We *think* this is what Katie herself was wearing at IMATS (and which she artfully applied direct from the tube - a move not recommended for amateurs). Another icon is Katricia, another, bolder lilac that many made a beeline for at the IMATS stand.

So with Lip Tars setting the fashion and beauty world alight, have Katie and David seen any copycat products influenced by them?

David laughs - "If any of the big beauty labels saw our formula and the amount of pigment we use, they'd actually think we were insane. It's just such a niche product." I ask if he has any thoughts about MAC's Pro product Lipmix, a high-pigment tube-based gloss/colour hybrid of a similar ilk. Is it a Lip Tar rival? He doesn't think so - "It's a different product. Less pigment, a more matte finish. It's a good product but it's not the same thing. It is interesting though," he speculates, "how MAC have been promoting Lipmix a lot recently."

So surely OCC aren't going to rest on their laurels? What's the next step for the Lip Tar?

Well, the current project is metallics. So far there's no satisfactory way to get shimmer into Lip Tar format without it settling and separating in the tube. It can be done, but not without sacrificing the intensity of the shade - which of course would never do. A solution is in the pipeline - expect to see metallic Lip Tars rolling out in the near future.

In the meantime, David recommends creating a DIY metallic lip with a mix Lip Tar and Loose Colour Concentrate in the desired shade. I've tried it here with Authentic, mixed with clear Lip Tar - what do you think?

Finally, we asked how the underground popularity of Lip Tars among the blogging community had affected them. Did the bloggers who championed Lip Tar make a difference to the product's success?

"We wouldn't be where we are today without bloggers. We love bloggers."

Guys, we love you too.

Report: Alex Box Interview at IMATS

The compere comes to the front of the stage and says "There are a lot of people waiting outside. So please, if there is an empty seat beside you, or you have your bag on a seat, raise your hand."

A few hands go up, and a few more grateful latecomers are squeezed in to the packed auditorium, just in time for the show to begin.

By the side of the stage waits a slender, slightly stooped figure with bright blue trousers and a loud tweed jacket. Even in the darkness, unannounced and unassuming, she's impossible to mistake. "Why is her hair two different colours?" Gemma whispers to me. "Because she's Alex Box." I say "That's one of her things."

Alex takes to the stage after a blare of music and an introductory flash of lights. Her name is emblazoned on the huge monitor beside the stage area. She takes a seat at a table and crosses her legs, revealing a pair of astonishingly high red platforms.

She's rapturously announced by Michael Key of Makeup Artist Magazine, clearly an admirer of her work. Beside his easy American gloss, she seems slightly shy, almost reticent, but once she begins to talk about her artistry she becomes passionately expressive, raising her blue-nailed hands to accentuate her speech.

She's wearing a blue colour on her lips, which she explains is one of the Illamasqua pencils, applied as lipliner. "Did you match your lips to your trousers, or was it the other way around?" asks Michael. "It's an ongoing dialogue" she replies. Her wit is quick but she speaks almost humbly, careful of every word, as though she realises how closely everyone is listening and wants to make sure that what she says is what she really means.

We are shown a montage of lavish shots from her recent book, a collaboration with photographer Rankin. The variety is incredible. Michael remarks on the use of mixed media - makeup, drawing, Photoshop... but Alex reveals that actually no digital manipulation took place at all - she hand-drew the overlaid artwork, and as for the photomontage of arms and hands, "they were all cut out of Vogue and stuck down with Pritt Stick."

As a child, Alex was always drawing, always creating. She describes being given a Lego kit for Christmas and making a face massager with it. She was encouraged especially by her father, who introduced her to the music of David Bowie and exposed her to a range of alternative art and culture.

After school she attended art college, and was "on my way to becoming an artist" when she took to makeup, an area of work that grew naturally from the body-painting she was using in her college pieces. She is and has always been a multi-disciplinary person, drawing, painting, using makeup, and creating sculpture as different means of self-expression; "It's all legs on the same animal to me" she explains.

Alex feels that people have always been slightly uncomfortable with this multi-modality, looking to categorise her as one thing or another. Other artists were especially dubious when she began to work in makeup; "they thought I was entering some world of pink fluff... but of course it's not like that at all. I want to fly the flag for a different kind of makeup."

Her association with Illamasqua came about via an exchange on Myspace with the brand's founder, Julian Kynaston. He offered her the chance to help him create the line, and she jumped at it. As someone who had felt strong pressure to compromise herself and her work in order to fit in with other people's ideas, the brand's "think outside the box" ethos makes it a perfect place for Alex to thrive. The disregard for boundaries that is so central to her spirit is reflected in the way the line is organised - products are presented to the consumer just as they are, without any prescriptive instructions about how or where to apply them - blue lipliner being just one example of what's possible.

Indeed, anyone who has seen the work she's done both for the catwalk and in her book will appreciate that colouring inside the lines isn't where Alex's idea of beauty lies. Her looks are a riot of colour and shape, flowing from the face out over the body, into the hairline and even beyond the photoshoot itself - many are embellished afterwards by Alex working over the top in inks, paints and pencils.

But, asks Michael, what about the business aspect of running a beauty brand? Isn't that contrary to that organic, spontaneous way of working?

"Not at all. I love it." she replies firmly. "I'm a very disciplined person."

To achieve all that she has, there's no doubt that discipline and determination must have played a big role. Her commitment to her creativity is steadfast - even when sick and unable to work, she recalls finding herself drawing eye-shapes, as if compelled to keep creating things. "It's like a form of Tourettes" she says "it just comes out, I can't help it."

As for the future, Alex wants to share her experience and her views with other people - to get out, do workshops and give people a chance to work creatively. "I'm not interested in being in some ivory tower" she says. "Some people, they get so far, and then they kind of shut the door on people below them. That's not how I want to be."

Later on, Alex can be seen sitting at the Makeup Artist Magazine booth signing autographs for a long line of people. She's perched, not in an ivory tower, but on a stool, with those ridiculously tall red platform heels, tweed back bent and writing dedications in copies of her book.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

IMATS: Day One Summary

Today, Sarah and I had a fabulous time wandering around the exhibition hall at Alexandra Palace, and watching some excellent presentations: today was day one of London IMATS 2010.

We'll be reviewing and reporting in depth more as we test the products we've purchased, and write up our notes from the presentations, but for now, here's a summary of some of the interesting things we saw.

Firstly: the infamous Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Lip Tars. A bit of a beauty blogger hotspot, we heard that OCC had been a little naive about the potential demand for this product and that supply might be a little short. So we hot footed it over to their stand to swatch - these really are as pigmented and lush as all the American reports would have you believe. And they were reasonably priced; just £7. We bought 3 colours each, which we'll be reviewing in more depth pretty soon.

One brand which I'd personally never heard of was Yaby - founded by a former programmer (always a bonus for me, being one myself), this line carries intensively pigmented shadows, foundations, concealers, etc - packaged into tiny little dots in magnetic palettes. Which is really rather sensible - how often do we really get to the bottom of an eyeshadow? The smaller size means smaller prices, which means you can afford a wider range of colours. Sarah bought a few eyeshadows (I believe they were 2 for £3), and I bought a tiny foundation for just £6, reviews of which will follow shortly.

There was also a large display of Makeup Forever products, which have always been slightly hard to find and test out in real life, courtesy of Guru Makeup Emporium. The full line of eyeshadows, glitters, pigments, powders, etc were in attendance, with everything carrying a 35% show discount - I think we'll be heading back there tomorrow. I picked up a HD powder to test out at the knock-down price of around £14, compared to the £22.50 retail price. Some cute little sets were also in attendance; 5 mini Aqua liners in a tin for just £10.

The Crown Brush stand was absolutely heaving - with high quality brushes available from a very reasonable £2, you literally had to elbow your way through the crowds to pick out your brushes. Well worth it though; Sarah and I both chose an assortment of brushes (about 7 each), and paid about £16 - the price of maybe one MAC brush. Even without the show discount, these brushes are fabulous quality for the price, so I've no doubt that the stand will be heaving again tomorrow!

We'll be back at IMATS tomorrow, where we'll be listening in on more interesting talks, particularly some SFX ones, and possibly spending a few leftover pennies. If you were at IMATS today, hope you had a great time and picked up some great bargains - and if you're there tomorrow, hopefully we'll see you there!

Report: Terry Barber demonstration at IMATS

Today was the first day of the IMATS event, and needless to say both Gemma and myself have lots to tell you. There'll be even more happening tomorrow and it's going to take a few posts to get all our stories told. So first off, I'll be writing about today's first keynote speaker, Terry Barber, who is the UK and Europe Director of Makeup Art for MAC. He gave a demonstration and talk on makeup for film and music video.

Terry began by informing us that he was going to "do that thing of imagining everyone naked, because it makes you less nervous". We knew then that we were dealing with an artist free of prima-donna tendencies, and he confirmed this favourable first impression by giving us a thorough, clear and highly inspiring demo of how he goes about creating one of his looks for the screen.

The work in question was a look for black skin, inspired by the iconography of 70s blaxploitation movies ("Something very beautiful, but also very tough"), the 1920s entertainer Josephine Baker ("almost cartoonishly distinctive") and Barber's own contemporary work with artists like Grace Jones, Mary J Blige and Diana Ross.

He spoke very fondly of the famous names he works with, giving us intimations of the close relationships that are developed between subject and makeup artist. Grace Jones, he tells us, allows him to shave off her eyebrows, saying that since she spent most of the 1980s without them she clearly didn't need them. She also taught him many of the contouring tricks he used in today's talk. "I learned a lot from her" he said.

Terry's maxim is that every look has to reflect the person wearing it, their stage persona and their attitude. "You're not just there to make them look pretty." Pamela Anderson, for example, often asks him to "trash down" the looks he gives her, smudging eyeliner and creating an edgier and unpolished effect that meshes with her own personal style.

Terry's model for today, a stunning woman with very defined bone structure, had already been prepped with several shades of foundation before we arrived. Terry described how he likes to create a three-dimensional, textured effect for film and video makeup, providing the director "something to play with". Rather than simply creating an eye, a lip, a blush, he thinks in terms of the whole head in 360 degrees, he told us. Creating different surfaces, light-dark gradients and textures on the skin offers the director an extra dimension to work with, along with the lighting and camera effects.

The first step in creating this textured look involved several shades of concealer, which were used to highlight the areas in the centre of the face that are naturally caught in light - the middle of the nose, the cheekbones, the area around the brows. His aim was to create a "ringflash effect", with the middle of the face lit up and the edges falling away into darkness.

The concealer was set with a layer of colourless translucent powder, applied with a dual-fibre brush (Gemma identified it as the MAC 188). Terry said that the microfibre brushes in MAC's brush line "have changed my life". He described them as working like a paintbrush on the skin - applying colour across it rather than rubbing product into it.

At this point he stressed the importance of working quickly - makeup artists are always given a set time to achieve their looks and are always working against the clock. If you can work quickly, he says, people will book you more often. He advises learning to do a look in ten minutes, because sometimes that's all the time available.

Used to viewing his work in progress via a mirror or a monitor, Terry was clearly uneasy working "blind" with just a model in a chair. He frequently darted out to the front of the audience to check the look of the model from a distance - very much bearing out his description of seeing the whole rather than the parts of the face.

The model's eyes were dramatically defined with a black layer of Chromaline, (a Pro-only product, as was most of today's kit) swept from lashline to just under the brow and blended with a MAC 224 brush (apparently his favourite - he used these for more or less everything). A second Chromaline in rich purple was added up near the crease. Then he added a layer of Deep Blue-Green pigment over the top, to bring texture and movement to the lid. Finally, the model got a set of No. 36 lashes, applied artfully and poked into place using an orange stick.

The lips were the most attention-grabbing aspect of the look without doubt, outdoing even the neon coral 80's-look blush (which was actually a Pro pigment). Terry used Lipmix in red and orange, as well as deep black-red Nightmoth lip pencil, to create a stunning sunburst effect, finished with shiny clear Lipglass.

Perhaps following the philosophy of Grace Jones, he chose to minimise the brows, only running them through with some gel to tidy them.

"Oh and the last step in any makeup look" he said, as we marvelled at the transformation of the model's face "is to clean off the black smudge that you always end up making with your hand."
Affectionate laughter rippled through the auditorium as he took off the offending smudge with a q-tip.

Then he took a final step back to admire his work. "That's pretty nice" he said. "I'm kind of happy with that."

Friday, 29 January 2010

Lancome Hypnose Waterproof: Very Waterproof Indeed

Without going into too much boring (and frankly non-beauty related) detail, I've had a rather terrible week. I've been stressed, happy, sad, and upset. Thankfully though, from amongst all of these not so good things, a good thing has emerged.

Usually, it's kinda hard to test a waterproof mascara to its limits - you can dunk your face in some water, but that doesn't really model real life much. Lots of crying, however, is one kind of thing you might want a waterproof mascara to withstand.

This morning I applied some Lancome Hypnose Waterproof mascara, anticipating some tears; this evening, after many tears, my eyes are puffy, but my mascara has not budged. Nope, not one little bit.

Cloud. Silver lining. Excellent.

Available from Lancome's website (or Boots, if you want the Advantage points) for the princely sum of £20, which is a fair bit, but potentially worth it for the lack of panda eyes.

NOTD: Zoya Freja & Lippmann Collection Happy Birthday

I'm sorry both for the fuzzy photo and also for the fact that I'm shamefully featuring something that's so hard to get hold of in the UK.

The base colour here is Zoya Freja, a gorgeous shimmery metallic grey. Over the top is two coats of the Lippmann Collection's Happy Birthday, which has gorgeous multi-coloured large bits of glitter suspended in it.

If you'd like the Zoya polish, you can find it at, where they are £9.25 each. If the Lippmann Collection polish has captured your heart, eBay or a US based friend is your best bet. If, however, you know of a UK shop/webstore that sells it... let us know!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Review: Lush Dreamtime Bath Melt

In the midst of being a bit of a bubble bar fanatic, I somehow didn't notice that Lush had started making a new bath product. Bath melts are non-foamy, rich and creamy bars of goodness that melt slowly into the bathwater.

I picked up a Dreamtime melt to give this new (to me) product a bit of a whirl. I threw it into a bathful of hot water and hopped in with it; within five minutes or so it had melted into the water, turning it opaque and creamy - it almost looked like I was bathing in milk! The water felt slightly more moisturising and had a light coating of oil floating atop it, which I presume is due to the main ingredient of the melt, which is cocoa butter.

After luxuriating for an hour, I felt very relaxed and a little bit sleepy, which Lush say is down to the inclusion of jasmine, lavendar and sandalwood. After getting out, my skin was soft and clean; no light coating of oil on the skin with this. As a result I think this is probably a middle ground between a non-moisturising product (like a bath ballistic) and a heavier product like a bath oil.

While I wouldn't buy this again for the moisturising properties - I think I get a better effect out of a good bath oil - I'll buy it again for the luxury of it, the relaxing scent, and the fact that it washes away cleanly.

If you'd like to try one for yourself, you can find them at Lush stores or on Lush's website, at £2.90 for a 30g bar.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

IMATS London is already a record-breaker

(I fought back the urge to illustrate this post with a picture of the late great Roy Castle.)

We learned today that IMATS London has broken its own record - before it has even happened. Ticket sales are already at a record high for the event, although booking doesn't actually close until 5pm on Thursday (28th January). Hurry and get yours now from the IMATS website. After then, tickets will only be available on the door in limited numbers.

A quick reminder - speakers at the event will include Terry Barber of MAC, Alex Box of Illamasqua, and film SFX makeup artists Bill Corso and Tom Savini. Brands including Crown Brush, Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, Charles Fox, Dermalogica and St. Tropez will also be in attendance.

I'm quite excited!

Tools for Girls: Miss Army Knife

I think I'd probably like this more if it wasn't quite so pink (apparently everything "for girls" must be pink nowadays), but having had a look at my colleague's, I've got a little bit of gadget envy going on.

This play on a Swiss Army Knife (which has nothing to do with Victorinox) has a variety of useful tools including a tiny perfume vial, needle and thread, scissor, nail file, mirror, bottle opener, corkscrew, safety pin and screwdriver. Most of those are items which I can never find when I need them, so the thought of having them all in one unit in my handbag is quite appealing.

Of course, if they made one that also included a set of great quality fold-out makeup brushes, I'd be totally sold, but even without such fantasy implements, this'd make a great gift for a girl-on-the-go.

If you want one, or want to buy one for me someone, you can find it for £14.95 at

New From Lush: Lip Scrubs

If Sara Happ's very much hyped lip scrub was just a little too eye-wateringly expensive for you, Lush have released an alternative. Priced at just £4.50, it comes in three flavours - Bubblegum, Sweet Lips (chocolate), and Mint Julep, and like the Sara Happ version, is sugar based.

These are a revamped version of a product from the B Never Too Busy To Be Beautiful line, which is shortly closing down as an independent store.

If you'd like to try it for yourself, you can get them from your local Lush store, or their website.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Lush Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Lush currently have a boxed set of products available called Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. Unlike their normal gift box offerings, you get a choice of moisturiser sample and face mask with this one - and as the name might imply, you get products to use from head to toe.

The kit costs £12.50 and contains 9 products (and a cut-out-and-keep false moustache, for some reason). While this might seem like a lot of product, bear in mind that the sample sizes are only 10g, so depending on your selections, you're not making a massive saving. Based on per-gram prices calculated from the Lush website, my selections made my kit worth about £18.

For that, you get:
  • Your choice of full size face mask (I chose Oatifix)
  • Your choice of moisturiser sample (I chose Vanishing Cream)
  • Mini Sugar Scrub
  • Mini Each Peach massage bar
  • Lemony Flutter Cuticle Butter sample
  • Handy Guguru hand cream sample
  • Pied De Pepper foot cream sample
  • 45g Big shampoo
  • Vitamin C toner tab
I'm not going to go into depth about every product (I'll save those for in-depth reviews later). In general, this is a rather nice kit if you fancy a bit of a home spa afternoon, as just about every base is covered apart from maybe a bath product. It's also pretty good if you'd like to try a variety of Lush products without splashing out on the full size versions. Plus, if you decide you love one of your sampled products, the sample tins are worth £1 off a full size version in-store.

These are limited edition, so if you'd quite like to try one for yourself, get yourself to your nearest Lush store or to their website as soon as possible!

Friday, 22 January 2010

Cult Beauty: Seche Vite Fast Drying Top Coat

I must be one of a minority of people who haven't tried Seche Vite. For years, it's been touted as a celeb pick, professional choice, cult item - many a time it's been called the Best Topcoat Ever. And that's probably why I'd not tried it yet - partly because I like to root for the underdog, and partly because other "cult" items like Maybelline Great Lash and Clarins Beauty Flash Balm leave me cold.

In this instance, I'm regretting not buying into the hype sooner. Because in my opinion, Seche Vite is the Best Topcoat Ever. It dries very quickly - touch dry within a minute, and passes the gently-tapping-nails-together tackiness test within 10 minutes. Not only that, it gives a beautifully shiny and smooth finish, even over bumpy glitters. And I think I've been getting another day out of each manicure because of its protective powers.

Previously, I've paid £13 for a topcoat with a long list of promises that hasn't delivered on any of them, so I'm happy to pay a much more reasonable £8.99 for something which performs so well. This is going straight onto my absolute love list.

If you want to try it out for yourself, you can grab a bottle from at £8.99 for 14ml, or bag a two-pack for £16.99.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

TransDesign: Wonderfully Inexpensive Polish

A MakeupAlley contact of mine recently told me about Trans Design Inc, a US-based website who stock a wide range of nail polishes and other associated nail care products, including those aimed at professionals. I found that, unusually, their international shipping is quite good value, with a box capable of holding 9 full size polishes shipping via USPS for $18.

The polish prices are also pretty fantastic: the latest collection from OPI, the Alice in Wonderland collection, are $4.99 each. Yes, $4.99. Given that I've seen these on eBay for about £12 already, that's a very good deal. As well as the latest releases, Trans Design also have a good back catalogue of permanent line and older collection shades.

Trans Design carry OPI, Amour, China Glaze, Creative, Essie, Kolor Ring, Misa, New York, Nicole by OPI, Orly, and Sation polishes - and a wide range of treatment products too. This is quite exciting as some of these brands, which are not widely known in the UK - Misa in particular - are ones I've heard great things about from our US cousins. If you do end up using them - let us know whether the service is as fantastic as the prices!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Review - Elemental Herbology Cool & Clear Cleanser

This is the poshest cleanser I have ever owned. It is so posh that it actually comes in a cardboard box with a corrugated insert, like perfume does. So posh that it has a glass bottle with a cool lower-casey font design and brushed-aluminium lid. So posh that it costs £25 for 100ml.

Admittedly compared to the £460 Natura Bisse face cream used by Alex Box (as she tells us in her recent interview with Stylist magazine) it's pretty small beans. But for a person who gets angsty about spending more than £10 on a haircut, this was a significant outlay.

I know that the main buzz around Elemental Herbology is focused on their Cell Food serum, and I'm sure that's very good too. But I don't really use serum - there just doesn't seem to be time in my manic morning regime. And while I like oil cleansers, I really needed something I could use on a wet face in the shower while waiting for my conditioner to do its thing.

Cool & Clear was recommended to me for this very purpose by a Space NK sales assistant, and it fits the bill nicely. It's a foaming wash with a blend of essential oils, predominantly lavender (a scent disliked by the metrosexual BF who shares my bathroom, good good).

The pump action on the bottle ensures that I don't waste too much when I'm dispensing it, which is definitely a plus. However I've found that I do actually need about 3 or 4 squirts of this stuff to get a proper "clean" feeling on my face. It doesn't foam very readily. That's fine though, because I'd rather have that than heaps of SLS-based froth.

It's designed to regulate oily complexions, so it's not really a fit for my skin type (dry/combination with an occasional side-order of hormonal blemishes). I haven't found it at all drying though, even in this current chilly weather. It does seem to minimise congested pores, but not in any dramatically amazing way.

Overall, I'd say that this is a luxurious, enjoyable and effective product, but that for the price, I'd expect something with a little more of a "wow" factor. I'll enjoy using it, but I think once it's gone I might revert to the £15 Origins Perfect World I was using before.

For Our US Beauty Competition Winners...

I'll be packaging your prizes up tonight, as soon as I work out whereabouts my husband has hidden carefully tidied away the bubble wrap and padded envelopes. Hopefully a trip to the postoffice can be shoehorned into my day tomorrow.

We have one winner who hasn't yet emailed in with her address - Klara, winner of the lipstain and mascara prize, please get in touch within a week of today, or your prize will be given to someone else.

Review: L'Occitane Cherry Blossom Bath & Shower Gel

Sarah gave me a couple of travel size L'Occitane goodies recently (thankyou, Sarah!) and they are the first L'Occitane bits I've ever used. I chose to try out their Cherry Blossom Bath & Shower Gel last night.

Firstly, the scent - it's gorgeous. The L'Occitane website tells me that it's one of their best sellers, and I'm not surprised. It's sweet, but not too sweet, fresh and fruity, but still clean smelling and delicate. I absolutely love it. I usually veer towards scents that are more amber and musk based, and while this does have both of those in its base notes, it's much lighter than I would usually go for. Maybe it's the inclusion of cherry and cherry blossom notes; cherries are my absolute favourite fruit.

Scent aside, this is a pretty average shower gel - it foams up nicely, makes you feel clean, and doesn't strip the skin. The scent lingered on my skin for an hour of so after use. As a bath foam, it's probably below average for me - the bubbles (which were voluminous at first) disappeared after half an hour, which doesn't really fit in with my habit of taking hour (or two) long baths.

But the scent! I'm a convert. Because I bath more than I shower, I probably won't go out and purchase the full size Bath & Shower Gel... but L'Occitane do make a solid perfume of this scent, which might possibly happen to fall into my hands at some point soon.

If you'd like to try it, you can find it on L'Occitane's website at £12.50 for 250ml.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Pick of the IMATS

With under two weeks to go until IMATS begins, and the exhibitor list growing evermore, I'm starting to get excited. Not only are there some interesting brands exhibiting, there are some fantastic speakers scheduled - here's a summary of what I'm most looking forward to.

First and foremost, I can't wait to have a look at OCC's Lip Tars. Halfway between lipstick and gloss, these colours are painted on with a brush, and then dry down to a long lasting finish. They come in a huge variety of shades; you could literally mix up any colour under the rainbow. Although OCC do ship to the UK, I believe this is the first time we've been able to actually see them without purchasing on our shores.

If you have any interest in SFX makeup, a speaker list that includes Tom Savini, Bill Corso, and Neill Gorton cannot fail to pique your interest. Their film credits include Gladiator, Dawn of the Dead and the Grinch; these presentations are sure to be fascinating insights into the world of SFX makeup and prosthetics. My first-choice career was to be a SFX makeup artist - unfortunately it wasn't to be - so I can't wait to hear these guys speak.

A whole heap of professional focused brands and suppliers will be in attendance, including Yaby, Eve Pearl, and Charles Fox. There are also some brush suppliers in the form of Crown Brush, Royal Brush, and Hakuhodo - who sell hand-made Japanese brushes. Plenty of opportunity to discover some unusual products you won't find in the high street or at the beauty counter, which is a big pull for me - I'm starting to feel like a lot of the major lines are releasing the same products over and over again.

I'm also very much looking forward to meeting up with some of the large number of beauty bloggers who'll be there. And of course, Sarah and I will be reporting back (probably in great detail).

If you'd like to go too, tickets are still available and will cost you between £33 - £60.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Urban Decay Alice in Wonderland Palette: Coming in March

Just in case you've not heard, this season's most covetable limited edition palette, the Alice in Wonderland palette by Urban Decay, is due out here in the UK on 1st March.

It'll be a Debenhams and exclusive and will cost £28. In the US, where it's been available for a few days, these are attracting bids of around $100 on eBay - expect the same over here.

NOTD: OPI God Save The Queen's Nails

This is God Save The Queen's Nails by OPI, which I think was part of their British collection a few years back. I've not reached for it in ages but today I'm glad I did.

It's a strange colour that sits on the borders of chocolate brown, plum, and garnet - it has elements of all three colours depending on the light. Overall very pretty, despite some minor brush marks in the application. This was pretty much opaque in one coat, but I applied two for maximum depth.

If you'd like to try it yourself, your best bet is probably eBay.

Announcing... US Beauty Competition Winners!

Thank you so much to those who entered our US beauty competitions over the past week - we've really enjoyed reading all your recommendations and have picked up a few product ideas!

Without further ado, here are the winners, as picked out with If you're a winner, please email in to londonbeautyreview [at] with your handle, name and address. Drumroll please!

LashBlast Mascara and OutLast lipstains: Klara (comment 6)
Bath & Body Works Warm & Sensual products: La (comment 5)
Mosaic Powders & LashBlash Mascara: Get Lippie (comment 6)
Bath & Body Works Fresh & Floral products: Friya (comment 1)
Milani Luminous Blush & Coffee Shop Eyeshadow: Jo (comment 2)
Sephora By OPI polishes: PCMP_Forever (comment 7)

Congratulations girls, don't forget to email in to claim your prizes!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Thank you

Thanks to everyone who entered our week of American beauty giveaways. All the contests are now closed and we're randomly selecting winners for each prize.

Keep an eye on the blog for more giveaways in the near future, and good luck if you entered this one!

Indie Beauty: Om Shanti Bath Oils

I've been using Etsy, a site full of fantastic handmade goods which can be purchased direct from the craftsperson, for a long while now. I started off purchasing some truly unique bits for my wedding, and recently I've been exploring some of the handmade beauty products on offer.

Now, I absolutely adore bathing, so I decided that my first handmade beauty order would be a bath oil. The oil I purchased comes from Om Shanti Handcrafts, who make bath salts, bath oils, scrubs, lip balms, and more, in a variety of fragrances.

I chose the Mulling Spices bath oil - and it does indeed smell delicious. This is a deep, spicy scent which isn't overpowering at all. Composed simply of moisturising base oils and fragrance, this oil forms a thin layer on top of the bathwater, and after a good long soak, my skin felt very soft and smooth. The scent didn't linger, either.

For a good, basic bath oil which imparts plenty of moisture to the skin, and smells beautiful to boot, you can't really go wrong with this. Om Shanti ship quickly to the UK, and with each 55ml bottle costing just $6, you can feel good about supporting an independent craftsperson while getting a great deal.

If you'd like to try Om Shanti oils yourself, you can find them at

Dr. Bronner's Magic Shikakai Soap

Please note - this product was sent free of charge for us to review.

Cold weather is pretty much the only time I think about hand-care. After spending time out in the freezing icy wastes, I notice that my hands become dry and rough - and little wonder. Unlike my face, which gets regular doses of moisturiser and is routinely exfoliated and nurtured with lovely cleansing products, my hands, if they're lucky, get a bit of accidental moisturising when I go to apply body lotion and that's about it. Given that they are exposed to the elements just as much as the face and neck, hands really do deserve a better deal.

If, like me, you notice that your hands are getting a rough ride in the cold, you could do much much worse than invest in some high quality handwash like Dr. Bronner's Shikakai Magic Soap (£6.99 for 356ml/12oz) to cheer them up a bit. It's a liquid formula in a pump bottle, and is bristling with wholesome ingredients and credentials. It's also good for body and hair apparently, so you're bound to find a use for it even when the weather gets milder.

The brand story is an interesting one - the actual Dr. Bronner was a soapmaking entrepreneur with a mission to spread messages of peace along with his products, following his experiences in World War 2. True to this idealistic spirit, the "Magic Soap" formula is wholly Fair Trade and comes in 100% post-consumer recycled packaging. The company is now run by his family and celebrated its 60th anniversary year in 2008.

New for 2010, the Shikakai magic soap is the latest in a long line of products based around Bronner's original castile soap formula. The flagship ingredient, Shikakai, is derived from the seeds of the Acadia concinno tree which grows in southern Asia and is a traditional Indian cleanser. It's teamed up here with organic coconut, olive and hemp oils and Vitamin E. The variant I've been testing, Lavender, also contains lavender oil.

It's a caramel-coloured liquid, viscous but not thick, and slightly reminiscent of melted sugar. it lathers up very nicely, even in hard-as-nails London tapwater. The lavender scent is quite rich and lingers pleasantly on the hands for a short while afterwards. (My boyfriend doesn't like it much, but his general opinion is that lavender smells old-lady-ish.) It leaves my hands feeling soft and clean, with no tightness to the skin.

For a small indulgence with squeaky-clean conscience (and hands), I would heartily recommend this product. The £6.99 outlay may seem a lot for a handwash if you currently use bog-standard soap, but given the large size of the bottle and the quality and breadth of the ingredients (just look at all those oils), it's an absolute bargain. Plus you get to support an independent brand with a responsible ethos who take obvious care in creating high quality products. All-round win!

Find out more at or buy direct in the UK from Liberty, local health food shops or

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Weekend Giveaway: Sephora by OPI Nail Colour

In our final giveaway, we have two shades from the widely-praised Sephora by OPI collection.

Screen Test is a shimmering rich magenta colour; perfect for winter.

212-Sephora is a limited edition shade created to mark the new Times Square Sephora flagship store. A smoky black with copper, gold and iridescent glitter, this shade is only available online or at the Times Square store - very exclusive!

To enter, all you have to do is leave us a comment telling us about your favourite nail polish - what brands are the best? Entries posted before midnight on Sunday UK time will be counted, and winners will be selected at random next week. We don't require that you to follow us here or on Twitter, but if you'd like to, feel free! This competition is open to everyone, whether based in the UK or not.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Daily Giveaway: Milani Luminous Blush and Coffee Shop Eyeshadow

Today we've got two items from Milani, a drugstore brand with a big reputation.

Milani Minerals Blush in Luminous is often talked about in the same breath as NARS Orgasm - which is a compliment indeed. With the same universally flattering shimmery peachy-pink shade, this blush is supposedly more pigmented.

Milani Runway Eyes Eyeshadow in Coffee Shop; a rich, deep brown colour with golden sparkle. Comes with a double-ended brush and can be applied wet as an eyeliner, or dry as an eyeshadow.

To enter, all you have to do is leave us a comment telling us what your favourite blushers are. Entries posted before midnight UK time will be counted, and winners will be selected at random next week. We don't require that you to follow us here or on Twitter, but if you'd like to, feel free! This competition is open to everyone, whether based in the UK or not.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Review: Weleda Lemon Balm & Orange Conditioner

I recently spotted a few Weleda goodies in the organic haircare section of my local Waitrose. It was on offer, and it's silicone free, so I decided that it'd be rude not to check it out.

Formulated with organic lemon balm and essential oils, it has a fairly subtle smell - citrus-y, but not overpoweringly so. This conditioner is recommended for normal to oily hair, so it's not particularly thick or rich in texture - and despite being silicone free, it still has a decent amount of slip, so you won't need to use a lot of product to coat the hair. In fact, this product doesn't have any of the difference in texture that I've noticed with many other silicone free conditioners - I don't think you'd even notice the difference.

I've been using this as a conditioner wash (since I no longer use shampoo), and was hoping that it would be light enough that I wouldn't need to re-wash my hair every other day. And it is! It leaves my hair feeling soft and shiny, well-conditioned but not weighed down. I don't get greasy roots until 2 days after washing with this.

This isn't the cheapest silicone free product I've found thus far - it retails for £7.95 - but it's in no way as expensive as other brands with organic credentials (and still much cheaper than my previous Kerastase habit). Given that you don't really need a lot of product to get good results, I'll probably repurchase this one. And while I'm at it, check out a few more Weleda products...

If you'd like to try it for yourself, you can get it on Weleda's UK website at £7.95 for 250ml.

Daily Giveaway: Bath & Body Works Fresh & Floral Products

Today, we have a few more treats from Bath and Body works for you.

True Blue Spa Shower Cream (travel size) in Be More Pacific: formulated with Tahitian monoi oil, this shower gel is luxuriously moisturising and soothing, leaving the skin soft and smooth.

Antibacterial Hand Cream in Midnight Pomegranate: moisturises as it sanitises, with notes of blackberry, red pomegranate, cassis, patchouli and anise.

Body Lotion (travel size) in Coconut Lime Verbena: light but hydrating lotion perfumed a light tropical island inspired scent - don't worry, it's not too heavy on the coconut!

To enter, all you have to do is leave us a comment telling us what your favourite body products are - scrubs, lotions, oils, whatever! Entries posted before midnight UK time will be counted, and winners will be selected at random next week. We don't require that you to follow us here or on Twitter, but if you'd like to, feel free! This competition is open to everyone, whether based in the UK or not.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Daily Giveaway: Mosaic Powders & LashBlash Mascara

Today we're giving away three pieces of makeup you'd be hard pressed to find on our shores.

CoverGirl LashBlast mascara in Very Black: LashBlast was big news last year, with US based beauty blogs giving it great reviews. Many different variations have been released since then, but we're giving away one of the original formula.

Physician's Formula Shimmer Strips in Natural Glow: this pretty compact of complimentary, shimmering colours is a cheaper alternative to Bobbi Brown's shimmer bricks, and can be used as either a blush or a highlighter.

Milani Powder Mosaics in Honey Kissed; a versatile mosaic powder compact with no shimmer - use either as a multi-toned blush or choose individual shades for contouring.

To enter, all you have to do is leave us a comment telling us what your favourite mascara is - or mascaras, if you can't choose just the one! Entries posted before midnight UK time will be counted, and winners will be selected at random next week. We don't require that you to follow us here or on Twitter, but if you'd like to, feel free! This competition is open to everyone, whether based in the UK or not.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Swatch time! Fyrinnae Arcane Magic eyeshadows

Here's a little piece of universal harmony - today I've been very much enjoying Anastasia of Lipsticks and Lightsabers' enormous round-up of the year, where mineral/pigment company Fyrinnae win huge praise. Then I get home to find that the Fyrinnae stuff I ordered before Christmas has arrived from the States! Wahoo!

Love the attention to detail in the packing, everything carefully tucked up in black tissue paper, free sample, and free stickers as well.

I've long been obsessed with colour-shifting effect finishes on things - especially makeup. I have a love of multi-faceted iridescent surfaces, like the wing-covers of some species of beetles, that appear to change colour depending on how the light hits them. (The only exception is when it's a paint finish on cars, then it just looks sort of tacky.) It's apparently to do with the shape of the different surfaces on the particles involved. Different ones reflect different wavelengths of light. (NB science people, if you want to totally geek out about it like me, there's a great beetle-based research paper here)

Anastasia rightly told me that Fyrinnae's Arcane Magic range were the be-all and end-all hands-down best bet of colour-shift makeup. So I ordered samples of 8 shades in the range.

True to her recommendation, the colours are highly multi-faceted. I've done my best to capture the effects in these swatches, but needless to say the effect is MUCH more apparent in actuality. The effect is seen when the surface is in motion, and depends on how near your hand (or eye) is to a lamp or other light source. The colours will also look different in e.g. bright morning sunshine or late afternoon.

The eyeshadows are swatched in the same order as the jars in the lowest picture.
Top row L-R Archmage (plum to green with dark base), Avian Shapeshifter (pink to gold), Dark Fantasy (grass green to bronze), Dragonmagic (teal to purple to mid-green).
Bottom Row L-R Evocation (beige to mint green, which I totally didn't capture), Healer's Touch (pink to silver/taupe likewise), Stormbringer (baby blue to green to taupe), Warrior-Mage (pink to grey to green-bronze, with some microglitter)

Samples of the Arcane Magic shadows ( a generous heaping 1/8 teaspoon that's actually more like 1/2) will set you back $1.75 each, or you can pay $5.75 for the full jar. In English, that's £1.10 a sample and £3.73 for the full size. Buttons! And if you order $20 worth, your shipping, even internationally, is free.
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