Monday, 31 May 2010

Counter Culture: Beauty Base at Westfield, London

This weekend, I took a trip to Westfield with a few friends.  Towards the end of our trip, we stopped off in Beauty Base, a self service fragrance and beauty store in Westfield which claims that your shopping experience will entail "no pushy sales assistants, no waiting at a counter to get served".  Given some of the brands on offer, I found it weird to say the least.

Guerlain and Shiseido nestle either side of a Barry M display.  Nail polishes by LA Girl sit in an aisle just across from a massive display of La Prairie creams, one of which is proudly labelled £425.

There's a Milani stand, which I excitedly examine for Luminous blush, the infamous Orgasm dupe, but unfortunately they don't have it.  This is the first time I've spotted this US drug store brand on our shores, and it's within a few metres of a row of skincare products by Darphin, REN and Dr Hauschka.  A massive range of fragrances for women, men and even children is available, including the full gamut of "celebrity" fragrance.

The prices at Beauty Base are pretty much the RRP that you'd expect to pay on counter or via the web, so this isn't a discount shopping experience.  You are paying full price for high end products, but without the counters.

And you know what?  As I stood, perusing these high end cosmetics in a setting that felt much more like a branch of Superdrug or Boots, I felt distinctly weird.  Personally, the act of shopping for high end makeup demands a more personal service from counter staff.  For all that I dislike pushy SAs who are unwilling to allow you to browse, I like having a be-uniformed staff member, trained in the brand, there to answer questions, help me try on different colours, and recommend things I'd never considered.

What do you think?  Should high end cosmetics be as easy to pick up and purchase as low end ones, or do you like the extra attention you get on counter?

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Treatment review - Liz Earle skincare tutorial

Disclosure - service was provided free of charge by PR

Earlier this week I wandered out in the blazing sunshine to attend a skincare tutorial with Liz Earle's treatment manager and skincare expert Jo Givens at the Liz Earle store in Chelsea.

The skincare tutorial is part of Liz Earle's range of treatment services, and costs a rather daunting £45 for 45 minutes. It's a one-on-one session designed to allow clients to discuss skincare concerns and learn how to adjust their skincare routine to address them. It's also a chance to learn exactly how to use Liz Earle products and how to get the best out of your skincare generally through application techniques and advice.

On arrival I was given a cup of iced tea and a very thorough pre-treatment questionnaire to  fill in, covering my medical history, current skincare routine and  various other relevant details. I filled it out sitting in a very welcoming relaxation area at  the back of the store.

As Beauty Mouth points out in her  excellent "facials  checklist", you should always expect a history to be taken or to  have some discussion with your therapist before any treatments. Liz  Earle's questionnaire is very thorough (down to asking how firm you like  the pressure during a massage).

Then I was introduced to Jo, and led through into the treatment area of the store, which is blocked off from the shop floor by a door and passageway (good for keeping the noise out).

I'd say the service is probably most suied to those with a particular or acute skincare concern, like an outbreak of acne, eczema or rosacea. I am lucky enough to have pretty easy-going skin, although I have started to see the dreaded First Signs Of Aging in the last year, particularly in the form of smile-lines and crows feet around my eyes. That was the first thing I raised once I was sitting in the treatment room (light, very spacious, spa-esque music playing) with Jo.

Jo had set out a tray containing all the Liz Earle skincare products for us to run through, and we sat down and started chatting. Jo explained that she could either talk me through the products, or I could apply them myself following her instructions. As I had come bare-faced to the session, I thought I would opt for the latter.

She showed me a simple 2-minute massage technique I could use with my cleanser, and also gave me very detailed advice on how to handle my skin, what sort of strokes to use and what level of pressure I should be applying (I am far too rough with it at the moment). She explained, using a diagram, how fine lines appear and where they originate in the skin. Her explanation made good sense to me and tied in logically with the advice she gave me. Having studied biology, I'm generally pretty sceptical about "the science bit" when I hear it from beauty professionals, but Jo's reasoning seemed very sound to me.

We moved on to treatments, and Jo showed me several auxiliary products in the Liz Earle line, including the Gentle Facial Exfoliator. This is simply a version of Cleanse & Polish with additional Jojoba beads for mechanical exfoliation. I liked the simplicity of that, and it seemed very logical to me to keep the formula the same and just add exfoliators rather than create a whole new product for skin to adjust to.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Philips Lumea IPL review - final verdict

Disclosure - PR trial/sample

I have now completed my eight-week trial of Philips Lumea. I have had four sessions, each two weeks apart, which took place under brand supervision at the Lumea "pop-up spa" in London.

The fact that it was a supervised trial meant that the timing was regular and my technique for using the device was exactly as intended by the manufacturer. I hope these reviews will be quite representative of the results you can expect if you follow the directions thoroughly.

In the interest of speed and convenience, I was testing the device on my armpits (which I photographed for you last time - no more pics though, it was just too terrifying).

After my first session, I noticed a real difference in the amount of regrowth (you have to shave before using IPL devices like Lumea, so this was shaving re-growth rather than regrowth from IPL-removed hairs). After that I saw slow but steady reduction in the amount of remaining hair patches over the subsequent weeks.

Now at 8 weeks, I'm seeing about 70% less hair on one side and 60% less on the other. I have also seen a difference in the skin around the remaining hairs - I don't see the dark shadow of new hairs lurking underneath the skin anymore - just clear skin, as if hairs had never grown there.

Sadly my time with Lumea has now come to an end, and since I already have a Boots iPulse Smooth Skin that I'm testing, I doubt I will buy a Lumea to continue my trial with (one IPL machine is enough, even for me). However in the 8 weeks I used it, I definitely saw a noticeable reduction in hair and I'm confident that if I kept going with it I could reach a more or less hair-free state given time.

In terms of useability and comfort, Lumea is superb. It is well designed, easy to handle and requires minimal prepping of the skin (no gel!). Its only shortcoming when compared to the Boots iPulse Smooth Skin (in my eyes its main competitor on the UK market) is that it only claims to provide a temporary result. If the power were increased to offer a permanent effect, I'd be recommending it wholeheartedly. However, I think most people will expect a permanent result for something at this price point (Lumea is £399), and would be disappointed that they'd have to keep using this every two weeks to keep their hair-free results. Don't get me wrong, it's a vast improvement on shaving and waxing. But ideally we want something we can stop using after a while, and Lumea makes no promises of that. I learned at the sessions that there has been anecdotal evidence of long-term users being able to space out their sessions to 4 weeks, but this isn't "official" information and shouldn't be taken as an indicator of performance.

Verdict - great design, great results, but the lack of a permanent outcome lets this product down.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Bakel skincare - all thriller, no filler?

You may have heard of this Italian skincare line on other blogs. It's an interest-grabber, mainly because of the unique way it's formulated.

The concept behind all 7 products in the line is 100% active ingredients. Everything in the bottle does something for your skin. Literally everything. So no carriers, no preservatives, just active substances.

Two things came to mind on reading this. Firstly - how will the products last over time without preservatives, and aren't carriers a necessity with chemically volatile substances? Secondly - with no fillers, the proportion of each active ingredient must be pretty large. I usually take claims of "contains natural/active XYZ" with a pinch of salt because I assume the said ingredients will be present in miniscule amounts, far too small to have any real impact on the skin. With this line, not a concern, since there are only active ingredients involved.

Another fact that leapt out was that these products are stupendously expensive. Most are £85 for 30ml (one or two are £90 for 30ml). So not for the faint of wallet. But if you're a skincare fiend, this line is definitely one to have on your radar.

I haven't used these and I can't tell you how they perform, but I am intrigued!

Here's a quick run-down of the Bakel line. Quotes are from press materials.
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"A powerful antioxidant formula which hydrates, nourishes, and soothes from the first application."  

"A powerful antioxidant formula that fights the action of free radicals which are responsible for ageing of the skin. It helps to promote smooth wrinkle free skin, is suitable for all skin types and can be used daily on its own, or after the application of JALURONIC or MALIC."  

"A hydrating, replenishing and lifting treatment; which keeps skin luminous and fresh. It is suitable for all skin types before any other treatment and can be used daily before any other treatment."

"An anti-ageing formula which treats skin lacking in firmness and elasticity and promotes supple, firm skin. It can be used daily on its own or after the JALURONIC or MALIC."

Q10 - B5
"An anti-wrinkle formula containing co-enzyme Q10 which protects from free radicals and help maintain healthy skin and vitamin B5 to soothe and firm the skin. It can be used daily on its own or after the application of JALURONIC or MALIC."

"A moisturising anti-wrinkle treatment containing Vitamins E and A which nourish the skin and protect from free radicals maintaining healthy skin and prevent the formation of wrinkles. It can be used daily on its own – it is especially useful before or after exposure to the sun, or skin exposed to a very cold climate."

"A revitalizing and brightening treatment -ideal for lightening age spts and adding a glow to skin. It is ideal to use every second day before any treatment."

Bakel products are available from Space NK and Harvey Nichols. (SpaceNK link is an affiliate link - we will receive a small commission if you click on it and then buy something.)

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

HD Powder Showdown: ELF vs Makeup Forever

Disclosure: I purchased the Makeup Forever HD powder myself, and the ELF powder was a PR sample.

Makeup products bearing the High Definition moniker have become more and more common in the last year or so, supposedly because of the need for products which help the skin to look flawless and natural even through high definition cameras.  For normal consumers, this doesn't apply quite so much - our skin isn't filmed and broadcast on the big or small screens, we have significantly less close ups - so HD products are becoming more synonymous with ultra natural, ultra flawless finishes.

Both ELF and Makeup Forever make HD powders, which are transparent, fine powders designed to set foundation and give a soft focus finish.  The major difference between the two is the price point - the ELF powder retails for £6, and the Makeup Forever powder costs £22.50.  The question is, does the Makeup Forever product offer enough more to justify the price difference?

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Review: Penhaligon's Bluebell Bath Oil

Disclosure:  This was a PR sample.

Penhaligon's is classically British, luxurious and understated, and for me at least, one of those brands I'd heard of, but never really tried.  When Sarah and I received a bottle of their Bluebell bath oil, I jumped at the chance to test it, being the bath fiend that I am.

Bluebell is a fragrance intended to evoke the scent of bluebell filled woods.  Penhaligon's say:

Tremendously evocative of wet earth, moss and rain, it softly detonates across your scent receptors and instantly transports you to the woodland, surrounded by dripping leaves, skin tingling with spring.

And indeed, that's a very accurate description.  Despite having no memories of ever playing in a bluebell wood, this smells precisely as I expect a bluebell wood to smell - gently, softly floral, with an earthy undertone.  This fragrance is utterly unique, and utterly timeless - it doesn't smell stereotypically over flowery and old lady, nor is it a modern, defined fragrance.  I think that most people, regardless of age or fragrance preference, would find it rather pleasant.

Pouring a little bit into a full bath of warm water causes this fragrance to fill the bathroom, but not so much that it's overpowering.  The oil emulsifies a little in the water, melting away to make the bathwater feel soft and luxurious, but not overtly oily.  While it does make the skin feel soft, the main draw is that gorgeous scent, which makes for a very tranquil bath.  That tranquillity isn't spoilt by the oil leaving a residue on the bathtub; this washes away cleanly.

The packaging is absolutely lovely, although not the most practical thing in the world.  The be-ribboned retro glass bottle with its stopper look very smart in my bathroom, but the ribbon trim gets dampened with oil very easily, and the wide mouth of the bottle makes it difficult to control exactly how much oil is splashed into the bath.  And given that a bottle of this glorious stuff costs £35, it's not really something you want to be sprinkling in the bath liberally.  For your £35, you get 200ml of oil - which, compared to an Aromatherapy Associates oil at 55ml, is quite generous; but this is still a spendy product.  

I really, really love this oil.  I know I say that about most bath oils - but the scent of this just takes me into a very tranquil place.  It'd be a lovely thing to receive as a gift, and its timelessness makes it appropriate for a wide variety of ages.  Spendy or not - I will be buying more when the bottle runs dry.

If you'd like to try it for yourself, you can buy it from Penhaligon's website, where it will cost you £35 for 200ml, or in one of Penhaligon's stores or concessions.  They even have an outlet at Bicester - I'll definitely be stopping in next time I'm there!

Monday, 24 May 2010

L'Oreal - statement on animal testing policies

Following my post on YSL Touche Eclat, we have been contacted by L'Oreal and provided with the following information about their animal testing policies. I am reproducing it for public reference, as it came to us straight from the horse's mouth. It's not easy to find a statement from L'Oreal on this issue using Google.

As per below, L'Oreal no longer test their finished products on animals, and stopped doing so before the practice was definitively outlawed. However, there's nothing below about the current practice of testing ingredients on animals, which as per this statement provided to OxfordJasmine, still goes on as far as we are aware. What is emphasised is that L'Oreal are working hard to research alternatives. This is good news, as it means they're going to be well prepared for the absolute ban on testing cosmetic ingredients on animals, when it comes into force in 2013.

Good for their business, and good for the consumer as it means that hopefully there will be less reason for governments to contest the enforcement of the 2013 deadline.

All I can say is - good, but hurry it up! :)

L'Oreal's statement:

L’Oréal voluntarily stopped using animal testing for the evaluation of its entire range of finished cosmetic products in 1989.  It was possible to do this due to the considerable time and effort we have invested for over two decades, including developments of databases on ingredient toxicity profiles and the results of a large-scale programme carried out over several years to develop appropriate in vitro methods such as Episkin.  Moreover, we have also co-operated with our competitors in this common objective.

We are totally committed to a future without tests on animals.  We comply with all EU and national laws in ensuring the absolute safety of our products.  These are positions we share with The Body Shop whose policy of not using any ingredients that have been tested or retested on animals for cosmetics purposes since the end of 1990 remains unchanged.

The industry and many opinion formers believe that this common objective of eradication of animal testing for safety purposes can only be totally achieved through research, development and validation of alternative methods and approaches.  L’Oréal has invested more than any other company in this endeavour during the last 25 years.   This is a fact that was recognised and endorsed by Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop and campaigner against animal testing for cosmetics.  Below is some more detailed information regarding this subject that you may find helpful.

Some of our achievements to date:
  • in the early 1980s, L’Oréal developed Episkin - reconstructed human skin models complete with a barrier function.  These have since been routinely used to obtain a better understanding of the biological mechanisms of skin and to evaluate the efficacy and tolerance of our products. Some of these models can be used to study skin pigmentation or its immune response;
  • a specific protocol, using the company’s reconstructed epidermis model Episkin, has been validated by the European Centre for Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) for the purposes of evaluating skin irritancy and corrosion.  This method provides a full replacement for the corresponding animal test;
  • our researchers have also developed the first epidermal model containing Langerhans cells which play a decisive role in the skin’s allergic response.  Having been a pilot for a European Commission programme, similar models are currently being studied as alternative methods to skin allergy tests; and
  • the acquisition by L’Oréal of the tissue engineering company, Skin Ethic, is further testimony to our continued commitment to the development of alternative methods to replace animal testing.

L’Oréal is an active member of the European Partnership for Alternative Approaches to animal testing (EPAA) led by the European Commission, and we are committed, in our field of expertise, to progressing and promoting this programme.

For your reference, please visit the website for Episkin -

Giveaway - Dove, Vaseline and Sure hampers for 3 readers

Disclosure - prizes are provided by PR for the purposes of the competition

The sun is out in London and to improve the mood even more, we are giving away three massive bumper bundles of goodies from Sure, Vaseline and Dove.

Three individuals will win the following:

  • Dove Summer Glow Beauty Body Lotion  (RRP £4.99) 250ml
  • Dove Original Beauty Cream Bar (RRP £1.54) 2x100g
  • Dove Triple Moisturising Beauty Care body wash (RRP £1.99) 250ml
  • Vaseline Intensive Rescue Soothing Hand Cream (RRP £3.39) 50ml
  • Vaseline Intensive Moisture Locking Body Lotion (RRP £2.99) 250ml
  • Sure Crystal Clear Aqua roll-on (RRP £1.69) 50ml
  • Sure Maximum Anti-Perspirant Deodorant (RRP £4.99) 50ml

The giveaway will run for 2 weeks from today (closing on Monday 7th June). To enter, just write us a comment telling us what your favourite "basics" are. That is, the day-to-day items that work best for you and that you return to time and again. Could be deodorant, nail polish remover, body wash, anything that you buy over and over because it works well for you.

Please also include an email address, Twitter @name, blog URL or similar so we can notify the winners and get their postal details.

Good luck!

Review: Naked Curl Tamer Styling Mousse

I'm a big fan of Naked's range of silicone free conditioners, but I'll admit that I've found the styling products I've found to be a little bit disappointing, possibly because serum is a product that just doesn't really feel right without silicone.  Anyway, I picked up a bottle of the Curl Tamer Styling Mousse a few months ago, and am finding that it's not a disappointment at all.

I used to love mousse - dispensing a golf-ball sized ball (why was it always a golf ball?) into my palm, raking it through my hair, and then ending up with perfectly defined but utterly crispy curls.  I never really minded the crispiness really, it was pretty easy to scrunch out.  Since going silicone free though, I've found it hard to locate a silicone free mousse with hold, and I had high hopes that this one would be the answers to my crispy crunchy prayers.

This mousse isn't really in the same category - in fact, I'd probably call it more of a foam than a mousse.  You certainly can't dispense a golf-ball shaped ball into your hand, as it comes forth from the bottle in a light froth.  Two pumps is enough to adequately coat my hair, which is fairly thick and a coupla inches below my shoulders.  I've been scrunching it into my hair from the ends upwards, and have found that it definitely does help to define and hold the curl in my hair as it dries, without leaving a trace of crispiness.

It also plays very well with other products, and being Naked and silicone free, is incredibly light - you can barely feel it in the hair once it's been applied.  There's also no build up, and I've had no ill affects from reapplying a tiny amount to my dry hair in order to tame a bit of wayward frizz, or from applying a bit more halfway through the air drying process.

While it does help to define and hold the curl, there are a few conditions.  It needs to be scrunched in, and once applied, it works best if you don't touch the hair at all.  A little bit of scrunching is OK, but when I touch my hair too much after application, I find that the effects are cancelled out.  

Overall, this product, while not totally lifechanging, has become a firm part of my hair styling regime.  I love the lack of buildup, the lightness, and the way that it leaves the hair feeling soft, not crunchy.  I will be repurchasing for sure.  If you'd like to try this one for yourself, you can get it from or Boots stores, at the wallet friendly price of £3.99 for 15ml.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

The Clarisonic Diaries: One Week In

So, I've had my Clarisonic for a week now.  Angels have not started singing every time I pick it up, but I'm definitely enjoying using it - it's quite staggering, the feeling of cleanness, compared to how clean my skin felt after a single oil cleanse before.

My skin doesn't seem to be loving it quite as much as I am, though.  I have suffered a few spots this week, possibly because the deep cleaning has been dredging up dirt from deep within my cavernous pores, or possibly because I'm a bit stressed at the moment.

SATC deals from Wahanda

Here at LBR, we're definite fans of Wahanda and their Mob Deals. I have to say that I'm not quite as crazy about the Sex and the City franchise (it was a good TV show, but the last movie wasn't amazing, and I don't get the whole fandom thing), but as the new movie is released next week, I thought it would be nice to feature Wahanda's SATC-themed offers for your delectation. They've put together treatments to tie in with each of the four SATC women's looks.

Here's the gen from Wahanda's press office (complete with dreadful pun in first paragraph...

Get the look of your favourite Sex & the City girl through in time for next week’s SATC2 release! Thanks to Wahanda’s exclusive offers and unbeatably low deals, your SATC make over will cost a fraction of the usual price – so get Carried away…


Known for her big hair and love of shoes, we salute Carrie’s style through and through. Get her look with a celebrity haircut and finish with Michael Barnes Hairdressing – artistic director to the stars, including Keira Knightley and Lily Cole. Prices start from £19.80 – 40% saving.

With an infamous passion for shoes, Carrie’s feet won’t know the meaning of ‘day off’. Make sure your feet look as gorgeous with Pacifica Day Spa’s 25% exclusive offer on all treatments including pedicures through Prices start from £11.25 – 25% off.


Ever the pristine princess, Charlotte always manages to look gorgeous without making us hate her. Well, perhaps a little bit…now you too can get her immaculate complexion with a free Skin Assessment and Mini Facial at Ark Skincare centres in London – a saving of £25 thanks to Wahanda!

It is clear Charlotte loves to run, but keeping fit alone can be hard. Why not treat yourself to your own personal trainer with The Bankside Health Club’s free 3 day trial for you and a friend, which includes over 50 fitness classes, gym and personal training.

She may be the oldest member of the gang but Ms Jones is never one to shy away from her body. Dance your way to a more confident you with the sexiest of dances – Salsa. Through Wahanda book a beginner’s class at one of London’s City Academies, with a 50% discount – just £5!

Keep your figure in tip top condition like Samantha’s with three luxurious body treatments rolled into one, including a full body exfoliation, a relaxing massage with essential oils, plus a specific mask/wrap, all for £68 – a saving of 20%, available at the Chelsea Day Spa.


Even cynical mother of one Miranda manages to look stylish and stunning…most of the time. Remember that bikini incident in SATC 1? Ensure ‘that’ holiday blip doesn’t happen to you with 20% off all waxing on your first visit to Hydrohealing in Notting Hill, courtesy of Wahanda. Prices start from £10.

Even though Miranda holds down a full time job and baby Brady, she shows it’s possible to do it all and still find time to unwind with her girls. Treat yourself and a friend to a proper two for one pamper day at any one of Bannatyne Spas nationwide, which includes a back, neck and shoulder massage followed by a scalp massage, for just £59 – 50% saving!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Update - Boots Smooth Skin IPL trial

Disclosure - PR sample

Last time I wrote about the Boots iPulse Smooth Skin IPL device, I mentioned that my first experience was a bit "yowch".

I'm using the unit on my bikini line, and I tried it on the "light" and "medium" settings, both of which stung quite a bit.

I have more positive news this time. Following the advice of Beauty Scribbler (who's a seasoned Smooth Skin user), I set the unit down to "dark", the lowest setting, for subsequent zapping sessions.

Since then, I've had much better luck. There are still occasional stinging moments, but overall the experience is painless. It's much like using the Lumea in that I get just a burst of sudden warmth when I hit the trigger. This makes sense to me given that the Smooth Skin's range of energy output is 7-10 joules, where Lumea's is 2 - 6.5, suggesting that high settings on Lumea correspond roughly to the lowest Smooth Skin setting in terms of power. (Figures from Beauty Scribbler's excellent IPL comparison post.)

Results-wise, I'm very impressed. As with Lumea, I saw results following the first session. I'd say at least 50% of the hair had gone after that first go (how permanently, I'm not sure). Follow-up sessions had less of a dramatic impact. The results are pretty patchy - I'm sure that's at least in part because of my rubbish technique, but I had the same thing with Lumea on my underarms, so it's also probably because of the way my hair grows.

I'm finding the trailing cord a bit of a pain, especially in combination with the gel. I need to angle the head carefully in order to get the sensors to connect. In doing that I find that the wire often ends up dragging in the gel and messing up the careful layer I applied. I also use the "prints" the handset leaves in the gel to check where I have already zapped, so having the cord drag through those also disrupts that process.

The time between zaps is quite short, and it's easy enough to get my bikini line done in a half-hour session at most. The unit does need a "breather" after several shots, but it's not maddeningly long until it's ready to go again.

Since switching down to "dark" I feel much better about the Smooth Skin than I did previously. I did notice after my first session that the areas I'd treated on "light" had better results than those treated on "medium", so it may be that I'll see an even slower response from "dark". However I'd rather that than be in pain or damage my skin.

Stay tuned for more Smooth Skin results in the next few weeks.

Friday, 21 May 2010

MAN REVIEW! Soap & Glory Knock Your Spots Off

Disclosure - PR sample

Here's another of our illustrious MAN REVIEWs, this time from Vas, who you may remember from my post about my experience at his podiatry practice, The Shah Clinic. Vas sportingly agreed to continue his LBR involvement with a review of Soap & Glory's Knock Your Spots Off, a topical blemish treatment from S&G's new(ish) men's range.

Take it away Vas...

I was recently offered this little tube of a million ingredients to try out. Now I don’t have particularly spotty skin – nor is it flawless, so I thought I’d be an appropriate guinea pig for it.

On first glance, it’s hard to actually work out what it is until you study the packaging which is full of phrases like “super powered” and “it puts the kung fu grip on zits”. I think this product is possibly aimed at a younger audience than me.

It contains salicylic acid which is mildly anti-inflammatory, aloe vera to calm and Cypress extract which is antibacterial, and claims to work on pimples and razor bumps.

Taking off the top feels like you have opened a bottle of vodka as the high concentration of alcohol hits you. The gel is clear and fairly thick in consistency. The package advises to apply directly to a spot. However this does mean that after its dried you are left with a crusty white bit on your face so you may want to rub it in a bit.

After using this product for a couple of weeks I found it made minimal improvement to any pimples and no difference to razor bumps – but then my stubble is dark and coarse. 

It’s a good combination of ingredients that would work if they upped the concentration of salicylic acid which tends to be miniscule in supermarket spot treatments. Not sure about the humungous list of ingredients either.

Unfortunately this one was not for me. There are better products out there.

Knock Your Spots Off is £5.99, available at Boots, who are currently offering 3 for 2 on men's skincare.

Review - Touche Eclat by Yves Saint Laurent

Disclosure - PR sample

We were contacted recently with news about the iconic Touche Eclat, YSL's famous clicky golden highlighting pen. Touche Eclat has been around for years and is of course massively famous, and that's not news. The news is that Touche Eclat has gone a bit 2.0, with a dedicated website, Facebook page, downloadable content and Twitter account. You can view the making of the new TV ad via these channels too.

We were also sent some of the pens themselves to have a play with. At £24.00, Touche Eclat is not as hideously expensive as some of the high end items I've purchased. But it's always been something I've seen as unattainably "grown up" makeup, so it was quite interesting to meet it up close.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

25% Off NYX at CherryCulture

I feel sorry for my wallet.  Run, don't walk, to get 25% off NYX products at CherryCulture until 25th May.

Lip of the Day: Stila Twinset in Demi Scarlet

When Sarah gave me a dual-ended Stila Twinset in Demi Scarlet a while ago, I decided that it was one of those long-lasting lipstick and topcoat things, popped it in a drawer, and forgot about it.  For some reason I pulled it out again recently, and was very pleased that I had.  It's not actually a traditional long lasting lipstick and topcoat, but a creamy liquid lipstick with a semi matte finish and a tinted gloss.

I've been wearing the lipstick side this week and have fallen firmly in love.  It's well pigmented, very creamy (almost mousse-y in fact), and has a beautiful sheen which stops it from looking entirely matte.  The wear is very good; a little touch up after lunch was all that I've found necessary to maintain the look.  It's also very comfortable, drying down a little after application but never getting to that dry, cracked stage.

Unfortunately the product has been discontinued, but it's still relatively easy to find on discount cosmetics sites like BeautyBoxx, where it will set you back a mere £4.  I think I'm going to pick up a couple more shades!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Animal testing - the rabbit in the room

EDIT: I have been discussing this post with a fellow blogger via email, and she's helpfully pointed out that it could be clearer and comes across badly from some points of view. So I am editing the content as of 21/5/10. Edits are in purple.

As a consumer, my stance on animal testing is pretty simple. I don't want to spend my money on brands who test their products or ingredients on animals. I don't think human vanity justifies a living creature's suffering. For medicines, I can accept that it's necessary. But if it's just a case of wanting to look nicer, then for me it's not OK.

But that's about me as an individual. London Beauty Review, which I am only one part of, is not a "cruelty free" blog. But as I am one of the people who use it as a vehicle for writing, it has reflected my views somewhat so far, and quite a lot of products on the market have been omitted from my posts for this reason.

Recently, as the blog has taken off and seen more brand involvement, I have found avoiding the animal testing more and more difficult. We receive a lot of review samples, and for me to pull my weight as part of the blog and still avoid animal tested products is pretty tough. The first consideration is readers and what they want to see, so if we are sent something relevant to our demographic, we do want to cover it whatever it's origin (see Touche Eclat post as at 21/5/10). It's especially awkward when I discover that seemingly "OK" brands are in fact owned by larger, animal testing corporations. (The most obvious example being The Body Shop, which despite its reputation for squeaky clean ethics, is owned by L'Oreal, one of the biggest proponents of animal testing in the world today.)

I have found myself doing a lot of research and hand-wringing over the issue, and I have learned that companies and their marketing agencies can twist words in ways that'll make your head spin. There are all kinds of ways to make products with animal-tested ingredients sound whiter than white. It takes a lot of work to keep up with who owns who and who is doing what, as any cruelty free consumer knows.

I also learned an exciting fact about cosmetic testing legislation. In 2003, a law was passed banning animal testing for cosmetic ingredients/products in the EU, with an enforcible deadline ten years into the future. It will also be illegal to market and sell products whose ingredients were tested outside the EU. I.e. by 2013, everything for sale in our shops will be, by law, cruelty free. The battle against animal testing is now pretty much won in the UK - it's just a question of waiting a couple more years for the practice to stop for good.

With this in mind, and with a lot of thought, I came to a decision about blogging. While my personal beliefs remain the same, I now have a new set of considerations. Namely, that in line with the mission of LBR, I want to provide thorough and representative coverage of the UK cosmetics market in my blog posts. So when a review sample is offered to me, and I know it's going to be of interest to the readers, I'm no longer going to say an outright "no" if it doesn't meet my personal criteria on animal testing.  

Please note that I am limiting this to review samples not because I like a freebie, but because I still don't want to put my hand in my pocket to fund animal testing. If the blog gets sent something, I want to do my share of the work in terms of reviewing. But I am not going to go so far as to purchase items that fund animal testing myself. If they come to me, I'll handle them my way. But I'm not going out looking for them. Make sense?

Instead, here is what I plan to do. (Note "I" - this is about my blog posts, not LBR as a whole.) As with our "freebie" dislcosure, I will add a note to any posts where I know that the product I am discussing is produced by a company that engages in animal testing (or is owned by a larger company that does). That way, readers can get the low-down on the product with a review, and make their own decision about purchasing it based on their own beliefs, instead of being blinkered by mine.

I don't think I am doing either the blog or myself any favours by pretending that animal testing companies and their products don't exist. There are blogs that provide a fully cruelty-free review and FOTD/EOTD resource, but LBR is not one of them - it's not the remit of the blog. If people come here, they can't/don't assume that everything is cruelty free. The animal testing concern is my personal issue alone. If I can provide a review for those who aren't too worried about the issue, that's great for them. If I can also explicitly share my knowledge about what is and isn't animal tested at the same time, I feel that that is also a useful disclosure. It means I can do my share of the work of this blog, and also spread some awareness about companies who test on animals at the same time.

It's not a perfect solution, but in the short interim until animal testing companies are forced to change their ways for good, I think it is the best I can come up with. Roll on 2013!

I hope this will be helpful to you, and that I haven't lost too much respect for compromising my principles.

Review - Melvita Naturalift

Disclosure - PR sample

First things first - this product is great. It's not great because it's ECO-Cert accredited, or because it's cruelty free, or because it's infused with active naturals (although all those things are good).

It's good because it is an absolute pleasure to use. I added this moisturiser to my daily routine after receiving it from Melvita PR a few weeks back. It has plenty of competition on my dressing table, but it is one of the few things I reach for daily.

There are a few aspects to its awesomeness; one is the smooth, clean-looking packaging and the satisfying ergonomic pump, which dispenses just the right amount of product per push. Another is the gentle, uplifting scent (oaty-herbaceous, with a slight floral hint). Maybe the best thing of all is the texture - this is the only anti-aging-type moisturiser I've used that is light enough to sink straight in without greasy residue. It hydrates more or less instantly, leaving behind nothing but softness and that lovely gentle scent.

I'm getting to an age (28) where I'm starting to think about anti-aging skincare, and it's good to know that Naturalift is working on keeping the wrinkles at bay. Honestly though, I'd buy it even if it had no such properties. Simply put, I just like it.

If I have a complaint, it's the lack of SPF, although I suppose that would interfere with Melvita's commitment to organic. Other than that, pretty much my perfect moisturiser. £30 for 50ml from Melvita.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

An evening with Andrew Collinge

Brands that embrace bloggers - it's pretty mind-blowing stuff. Inviting us to events, getting to know us via phone and email, meeting up for drinks... it's truly amazing to realise how seriously the industry takes the humble blog these days. It happens to us more now than it used to, but it never quite feels "normal". There's always a sense of "really, who, me?"

So how about being invited round for the evening by a celebrity hairdresser?

I'm sure you can imagine my feeling of total overwhelmed-ness when I turned up at Andrew Collinge's house last week for a get-together with Andrew and some of my fellow bloggers. After ringing the bell, the door was answered by a tall, slim man with tousled silver hair, who introduced himself as... Andrew Collinge. The man himself. Answering the door, for me.

Taking a seat in the elegantly modern living room, I was offered a drink by a slim woman with a perfect silver bob. That would be Andrew's wife Liz Collinge, whose colour-theory based makeup range was a big seller in Boots during the early '00s. A makeup artist whose name is embossed on several of the older makeup brushes in my collection. Getting a drink, for me.


Monday, 17 May 2010

Diet Coke City collection - a tie-in too far for Nails Inc?

Disclosure - PR sample
As you already know, unless you live in a cave or have selective nail-polish-blindness, there is currently a Nails Inc/Diet Coke promotion on at Boots. When you buy two 500ml bottles of Diet Coke, you get one of the four special edition polishes above for free. The shades are (L - R); London, Paris, New York, Milan.

We received Paris and Milan to check out, and I've been wearing them (one on each hand, high-school style) for the past few days. Like all Nails Inc polishes I've tried, the wear is outstanding, application is easy and satisfying and the colours are rich and deep. The same is true of London, which I picked up for myself in Boots. I don't even like Diet Coke, but I saw Get Lippie wearing it when I last saw her and it's too good a colour to pass up for less than £2.

Which brings me to my one misgiving. I think Nails Inc make great products, but I worry slightly about their current penchant for giveaways. First on the front of magazines (most recently 3 exclusive colours for InStyle's June edition) and now with soft drinks. These polishes are supposed to be worth £10.50 a bottle - but how seriously can you take that price bracket when they're literally giving away full size products en masse, on a regular basis?

It's basic psychology - if you put two things together, and do it enough times, you get an association. Your brand becomes synonymous with free things. "£10.50?" says your consumer, "for something that comes free with a soft drink? I don't think so."

I Just hope Nails Inc haven't walked so far down the giveaway path that they can't find their way back again.

Review: Filiz Aveda Lifestyle Salon & Spa, Kingston Upon Thames

Last week I dropped into the Filiz Aveda Lifestyle Spa, located at Bentalls department store in Kingston, my nearest decent-shopping town on the south-west London / Surrey borders.  After a lovely day of floating around doing some light shopping and lunching in celebration of my birthday, I was hoping that a indulgent Aveda facial would relaxing finish to my day.

The Filiz spa is absolutely beautiful - the photo on the left shows the waiting area, which consists of a comfy sofa set in a sunken area bordered with softly glowing lighting.  The overall vibe is mood-lit, deeply tranquil, and very exclusive feeling; quite a feat when you remember that you're actually on the top floor of a department store, opposite the toy section.  I'd booked myself in for an Elemental Nature facial, which was rather expensive at £75 for an hour.  I was assured that while the facial treatment itself was an hour long, the usual consultation and form filling bit incorporated a foot soak and scrub, which took the total pampering time up to an hour and a quarter.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

The Clarisonic Diaries

I've been hankering after a Clarisonic ever since I heard about them.  It's a beauty product! It's a gadget!  It vibrates!  Instant love.  However, it's also pretty darn expensive, with the classic version costing a cool £150.  Which goes some way to explain why I didn't buy one as soon as they landed in the UK via SpaceNK.

I was lucky enough to get some SpaceNK vouchers for my birthday this year, and as I pondered just how many NARS blushers and Rococo nail polishes I could buy, it struck me that I could buy a Clarisonic.  Actually getting hold of one was pretty difficult - I walked into SpaceNK, and asked for one, only to be told that the classic isn't normally stocked in store, and that I couldn't use my gift vouchers online.  The store ordered one in for me, and I faced a gruelling wait of a whole week before I could get my hands on my new gadget.

So, now I have it in my sticky hands, and I've charged it for the requisite 24 hours (which was a bit of a chore - honestly, if I buy something, I want to use it IMMEDIATELY, not wait a full day).  What I propose to do is this - in order to decide whether it actually makes a difference to the skin, I will use it for a month without changing any other product in my regime, take photos every week, and compare at the end.  Read on to see my initial before photos (if you dare).

Friday, 14 May 2010

A Little Reminder Of Why I Adore Urban Decay Primer Potion

In my fog of sleepiness this morning, I managed to apply Urban Decay's cult Primer Potion onto only one of my eyelids.  How I managed this I have no idea, but it has served to remind me just why I love the stuff so much in the first place.

It's quite clear to see that on the right, my oily lids have consumed all the eye shadow, causing it to crease and even completely disappear in patches.  It's worth mentioning that this is the bit of creasing left over from the very end of the day, as I did attempt to re-blend the creased shadow back into place a couple of times today (which clearly didn't work).  On the left, however, the primer has held the shadow in place perfectly.  These photos were taken after about 12 hours of wear.

So, if anyone ever asks me if Urban Decay Primer Potion really does work, I will continue to wax lyrical about its virtues, and now I have the photos to prove it.

Katy Messer - independent makeup artist at Fenwick's Brent Cross

Disclosure - Katy is someone I know personally, which is how I learned about this service

Makeup By Katy is a blog you may be familiar with, and a fine blog it is too - but it barely scratches the surface of Katy Messer's immense makeup know-how. With 13 years' experience under her brush-belt, she's a fount of knowledge and is more than happy to share it around. Her expertise is now available to customers at Fenwick's, Brent Cross, where she offers one-on-one appointments with personalised consultation, skin care and full makeup.

I've met Katy a few times at events and we've chatted frequently via Twitter, and I was delighted for her when she announced she was going freelance and working part-time at Fenwick's. On a less personal level, I thought the service seemed like a wonderful alternative to the usual beauty-hall model, where advice and demonstrations are heavily biased towards one brand or another and finish up with a sales pitch. The beauty of Katy's service is that she's totally brand-neutral, doesn't work on commission and can offer you her honest advice and some quality playing-with-makeup time.

With that enticing prospect in mind, I jumped on a bus over to Brent Cross Shopping Centre in north London to experience the service for myself.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Review: Rimmel 1-2-3 Looks Mascara

A couple of weeks ago, I begged you for mascara recommendations.  There were some fantastic suggestions, ranging from budget to luxe, mainstream to obscure, and I chose to start off by buying Rimmel's latest offering, 1-2-3 Looks Mascara, mostly because I happened to be passing a Boots on my lunchbreak.

This mascara is intended to give you several (go on, guess how many!) looks from the one tube.  It manages this by having a dial on the packaging, which you can turn to get different levels of volume.  This works by moving the well in which the mascara sits away from the brush, so that at the lowest setting (one), the brush gets a light coating of mascara, and at the highest (three), it's well loaded up.

The brush itself is a fairly normal sized and slightly stubby affair.  It has flexible plastic bristles, and isn't quite as long as most other brushes I've encountered - you won't be able to coat the lashes across the whole eye without moving it around quite a bit.  It is, however, a nice brush - easy to wield, difficult to poke yourself in the eye with, and thanks to the plastic bristles, it gives good definition if you apply carefully.

Now, I personally don't really understand why you wouldn't use it on maximum all the time, but in the interests of scientific testing, I bravely tried it on all three settings.  I pretty much gave up on the lowest setting, as it basically just coloured my puny lashes and didn't do much for volume; I can imagine if you have naturally thick lashes, the first setting would be a good daytime option.  The picture to the right shows the second setting, which makes my lashes long, full, and fluttery looking, also in a very daytime appropriate way.

On setting three, my lashes certainly have more volume at the root and midlengths.  The effect is more dramatic and less fluttery, and I found that I had to work much harder to achieve the definition and separation that I found easy with setting two.  This is probably because the brush is significantly more loaded with mascara on setting three, so you have to put in more effort to get a non-clumpy result.

The mascara formula is rather nice; it dries on the lashes relatively quickly, and once dry is fairly soft - no hard, brittle feeling here.  The wear is also rather nice; a good eight hours went by with only minor flaking, although I did find that the majority of the flaking seemed to end up on my waterline rather than on my cheeks. 

For the grand price of £5.99 (it's on offer at Boots right now with £2 off the £7.99 RRP), this is a very serviceable budget buy.  The three in one concept isn't as gimmicky as I thought it would be and I was pleased to find that it actually works. I will continue to use it until the tube runs dry; I can't see myself repurchasing (too many other mascara fish to fry) but I am enjoying using it.

If you'd like to try this one for yourself, you can find it for £5.99 at Boots.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

LBR on Facebook: We're staking out some new social media territory

We've just started up a Facebook page.

Why do we need another page? Well, it means you'll be able to get your LBR hit via Facebook if that's your preferred medium. You'll be able to see all our posts there as they are published, plus extra waffling from us in the form of status updates. There's also the opportunity to leave comments for us and other readers, all in one easily-visible place.

Outside of the blog itself, LBR has been mainly Twitter-based until now, and we've decided to branch out a bit. Twitter's often more about bloggers talking to one another than talking to readers, and maybe Facebook can provide another kind of dialogue. Or maybe it'll just be a place to cast your eye over our recent posts to see if any catch your interest. Or maybe not. It's sort of an experiment.

Here's our Facebook page - please feel free to "like", comment, or use it to get in touch with us.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Lush "Grass" shower gel - evocative, but not in the way they intended...

I love Lush shower gels. My favourites are The Olive Branch and Tramp, and I'm partial to several of the others too. And though I find the sales patter a bit claustrophobic and the soapy smell a bit overpowering, I do like to visit Lush to keep stocked up on these and check on what's new in store.

In a minor "splurge" moment yesterday (following some good news) I picked up the new shower gel, "Grass". It contains neroli and bergamot (citrusy goodness, sounding promising) and wheatgrass (reputed to be nourishing), as well as the new "Ninja" fragrance. (I have no idea what that is, I just read it on the Lush website.) As I was feeling exuberant, I purchased the medium-sized 250g bottle, which costs £8.75.

It smelled pleasant in the shop, but honestly, who can smell anything properly inside a branch of Lush?

The acid test came when I actually applied it in the shower... and was transported in memory back to childhood summers, running in from the garden with filthy hands, or helping my dad in his garage workshop. Happy memories... of my dad taking my grubby little kid-hands and cleaning them with Swarfega.

Yep - whatever nourishing mix of unguents Lush has added to Grass has created a scent that my olfactory system interprets as virtually identical to the popular industrial hand-cleaner.

Of course, Swarfega is also green and gets you clean. But I don't think that was the association Lush was going for.

I'm mostly just amused by this. I don't mind using up my Swarfega shower gel - as I say, it brings back happy memories. Will I repurchase? Probably not... the original is much much cheaper.

Review - Jo Hansford Anti-Frizz shampoo & conditioner

Disclosure - PR sample

Jo Hansford's famed hair-colour expertise makes her a natural choice for a celeb haircare range. 

This one's a cut above (owww, I'm going to pun hell, aren't I?) most in terms of how it's pitched - the shampoo is £14.50 for 250ml and the conditioner £16.50 for 250ml, and the range is found in Harvey Nichols. Definitely one for the discerning shopper with a sizeable budget.

What makes them special? Well, apparently "the Anti-Frizz duo combine the repairing properties of ethically harvested Castanha do Brasil from the Amazon, with Sunflower Extract which extends the life of colour. Keratin boosts the hairs strength, improving its protein structure and protecting the hair from further external damage, while UV filters protect against sun damage." (from press release)

The colour-care aspect will be a driving factor for many, as this is JH's whole area. As my hair isn't coloured, I can't comment on how effective the products are in this regard. I applaud the multi-tasking approach though. The ethical considerations are also a welcome aspect. Slightly surprised to see SLS in the ingredient list of a colour-caring product, but I'm sure Jo knows what she is doing.

In practice, both products get high marks. The packaging is neutral and sophisticated, and although having screw tops rather than flip caps makes opening slightly more time-consuming, it's classier somehow - less utilitarian. There's a lovely satsuma-grapefruit medley going on scent-wise ("green jelly" is how my boyfriend, who has also tried them out, describes it), with a slightly baffling undertone of Marmite. Nice, though.

I found that after using both products, and the conditioner especially, there was a noticeable "coated" feeling on my hair. The conditioner doesn't create the usual slippy streaming effect on rinsing. Instead it clings to the hair with a kind of waxy, squeaky after-effect. Despite this, hair stays easy to brush and style, and feels definitely clean.

On air-dried, curly hair, I'm afraid I was still getting frizz  - but I think that's only because I skipped on my usual serum and curl-styling products when testing these. It isn't a *lot* of frizz, and the curls are quite well defined. On other occasions when I blow-dried smooth, the effect was very soft and shiny with lots of movement.

One warning - after a couple of weeks straight of using these products, I did need to strip the build-up out of my hair with a clarifying shampoo. 

Verdict - nice products for a luxurious treat, but honestly not ones I'd buy repeatedly (unless I won the lottery), mostly owing to cost per ml.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Shamelessly Gushy Review: Le Metier De Beaute Lip Creme Lipgloss

Sarah and I recently attended a Le Metier De Beaute event at Liberty where we were introduced to a variety of the brand's very luxe products, in particular some of the new summer colours.  I, however, was distracted as always by the lip products.  Especially this beautifully sparkly, red lipgloss, which is a very similar hue to my hair.

I swatched it on my hand and was immediately impressed by the level of pigmentation - the Lip Creme Lipgloss is more of a liquid lipstick than a traditional sheer gloss.  The texture is smooth, creamy, velvety, very moist, and not at all sticky.  There's a lot of sparkle - in this particular shade, Framboise, it's a golden microglitter, which really shows up in direct light, but is more subtle under softer lighting conditions.

I decided to get my wallet out and buy myself one.  This is despite the PR lady offering to send me one in a few days if I emailed her - I was just so excited by the colour, the pigmentation and the texture that I just HAD to have one NOW.  Naturally, as soon as it was in my hands, I applied a full lipful and then went about the rest of my evening.

Now I've had a chance to wear the product for (several) full days, I'm even more in love with it than before.  It looks absolutely beautiful applied - it's the kind of red that isn't too in-your-face for work, but can be layered up a little or paired with a smoky eye for nighttime glam.  It leaves my lips feeling moisturised, it's incredibly light to wear, and it smells pretty, like almonds.

The best thing about this gloss, though, is the wear.  The wear is so impressive that some of my friends have commented on how well my lipstick has lasted during a day out.  Most days, I apply it just as I leave the house at 7.15 in the morning, and it only begins to look a little bit ragged at about 5pm.  That's a staggering amount of longevity for a gloss.  While it does lose some of the shine throughout the day, the pigment remains, softening down into a pretty stained flush on the lips.  It also wears completely evenly - I've not had any of the ring-of-death (Sarah's phrase) of pigment around the outside of my lips with a faded middle. 

I love this product.  I really, really love this product.  So much so that I suspect I will be popping into Liberty to buy all of the other colours.  Yes, at £22 it's expensive for a lipgloss, but it's worth it for the beautiful colour, the comfortable texture, and that extraordinarily good longevity.

If you'd like to try Le Metier de Beaute Lip Creme Lipgloss for yourself, you can buy it from Liberty for £22.  The website has a few colours, but sadly not this one, which is Framboise.

Friday, 7 May 2010

NOTD: Models Own Disco Mix

This is Models Own Disco Mix, a super glittery mix of blue and fuschia.  It takes a good three coats to get this kind of opaque glitter finish, but in my sparkle-loving opinion, it's well worth it.

Application is pretty much the same as with other glitter heavy polishes - not particularly smooth, slightly thick, but rather quick drying.  It did need a coat or two of Seche Vite to ensure a glossy finish, which I find to be the norm.

This photo was taken after three days of wear - there's a bit of tipwear, but in general, it's worn very well.  Unlike some other glitter polishes, it's not started flaking off in great sheets either.  Compared to my last experience with a Models Own polish, this is a great improvement!

If you'd like to try this out for yourself, you can get Disco Mix direct from Models Own, and now in branches of Boots, for £5.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Quick FOTD with OCC Lip Tar & Stila

Here's a quick look using the following products

OCC Lip Tar in NSFW (these seem to have dropped off the map a bit, which is a shame because they're still as brilliant as they were back in Jan when they were getting so much hype)
Stila Oil Free Foundation in Shade A (as concealer)
Stila Convertible Eye Colour in Stone (gawd bless those bargain websites)
Belvada Noir sliding mascara (it's £5 in Boots at the moment but it's not that amazing, I am just using it up because I bought it out of curiosity)

Click for more pictures and a couple of close-ups

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Guest post on Zuneta - "What are we avoiding again?"

Today's Zuneta guest post is the last in a series of 3. I'll be taking a break and (hopefully) be back on Zuneta in a few weeks with more posty goodness.

I've chosen to write about a few of the "bad" ingredients we're often told about - including mineral oil, parabens, and sulphates, and I've given a quick run-down of the reasons (if any!) to avoid them.

Please head over to Zuneta and check it out - I'd love to know what you think!

Review: Pro Makeup Brushes

Disclosure: PMB sent along a few brushes for us to review.

Pro Makeup Brushes was started by Kate Lyon, who went into business in 2007 having worked in the beauty industry for a number of years.  The company aims to provide professional quality, reasonably priced brushes, and not only supply to individual makeup artists and the public, but also customise brushes for companies such as Elizabeth Arden.

Refreshingly, the range does not contain 100000 subtly different "essential" brushes (yes, I'm looking at you, MAC) - there are fifteen brushes available.  Of the brushes I was sent, there are three which have become favourites.  The large fluffy eye brush, pictured to the left, is big and soft enough to quickly apply eyeshadow to the lid as a wash, or to pack colour on while blending the edges out.  While the bristles are not the softest I've ever felt, they balance softness with effective colour pickup.

The tapered blending brush is also made of goat hair like it's fluffy cousin above.  It's a fairly dainty tipped brush, and I find it to be exactly the right size for quickly defining the crease.  As it's still quite fluffy, it blends at the same time as applying the colour, and it enables me to apply a two shadow blended eye look in about three minutes flat.

The standout brush for me, however, has got to be the large face contouring brush.  I quite like a bit of contouring, and have been using tapered blush brushes, making this is a complete departure from the norm for me.  Using the flat of the brush to apply colour in a relatively straight line under the cheekbones results in a more precise application than I've managed before with a tapered blush or contour brush.  Also, it's much easier to get the angle of application right with the straight edge as you can align it with the angle of your cheekbone.

All in all, I've been very impressed by these brushes.  While they aren't the softest thing ever, they are definitely effective.  I also really like the white bristles, which make it easy to tell when you've picked up too much colour, or are in dire need of a brush washing session.  The quality is consistent; Crown Brush are a favourite of mine for cheap, decent brushes, but the quality can vary widely between individual brushes, but this is not the case with PMB.

If you'd like to try these out for yourself, you can get them direct from PMB via their website, where the contour brush will cost you £15, the fluffy eye brush £10, and the tapered blending brush £11.  They also sell the full set of brushes in a roll for £90, which is a fairly good price to pay for a full set.
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