Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Review: Royal and Langnickel 18 Piece Essentials Brush Roll

Disclosure: PR sample

Royal and Langnickel manufacture a very wide range of brushes.  Sarah's used their art range in the past, so when we were offered the chance to try out some of their beauty brushes, we jumped at the chance.  I received this 18-piece Brush Essentials set, which contains (you guessed it) 18 brushes in a handy pleather roll.

First off, you'll find five face brushes.  From left to right, a foundation brush, angled blush/contour brush, small blush brush, domed powder brush, and an extra large fluffy powder brush.  Of these, I've become a real convert to the smallest blush brush (third from the left) and the big fluffy powder brush (at the end on the right) - both have dense, soft bristles and are very effective at both picking up powder and softly applying it to the face.

Next, you'll find seven eye brushes.  From left to right, there's a small stiffly bristled pencil brush, an angled eyeliner brush, a flat brush for concealer or cream eye products, an tapered crease brush, an angled eyeshadow brush, and two sizes of fluffy eyeshadow brush.  Of these, I've been most impressed by the smallest eyeshadow brush - I don't have one quite so small in my collection, and I've found it very useful when I'm trying to apply shadow precisely to a small area of my eyelid.  All of these brushes are relatively soft, apart from the tapered crease brush - the hairs are rather stiff and quite scratchy.  It's still plenty good at blending colours into the crease, but doing so isn't really particularly comfortable.

Lastly, a selection of miscellaneous brushes.  From left to right, there's the ubiquitous mascara spoolie, eyebrow/eyelash comb, sponge applicator, fine eyeliner or detail brush, capped lip brush, and fan brush.  Now, I'll readily admit that I have absolutely no idea what I'm supposed to do with the fan brush.  The only time I've seen them used is in salons, where they're used to spread masks onto the skin.  I've been using it for gently stippling highlighter onto my cheekbones, and it's soft and floppy, making me think it's used mostly for finishing.  The fine eyeliner brush is excellent: it has that density of bristles and firmness that make it very effective for lining - I hate fine liner brushes that flex too much as you use them.

The whole package rolls up neatly into an easily transportable form which snaps closed to keep the brushes within nice and secure.  I absolutely love the way that so many brushes are easily accesible from such a small package - my other brushes are arranged in glasses on my dressing table, and I've found myself reaching for this brush roll more often that I've searched through the glasses looking for a particular brush.  The set is also fantastic for travel, and I've been slinging this into my weekend bag instead of choosing individual brushes since I received it.

The brush roll costs a mere £39.99 - which, given that one of my most expensive MAC brushes cost £30 on its own, is a bit of a bargain, working out at just £2.22 per brush.  Granted, some of the brushes are a little bit scratchy, and I'm unlikely to use some of them (sponge applicator!), but given the number of brushes that I will use, and the very portable nature of the set, I'm pretty convinced that this brush roll provides a good balance of value for money, and decent quality.

Available exclusively on Amazon (for some reason this particular set isn't available on Royal and Langnickel's website) for just £39.99, I'd highly recommend this if you're looking for a travel friendly set of brushes, or are just starting out with your brush collection.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Review: Clinique Vitamin C Lip Smoothie

Disclosure: PR sample

When Clinique's latest lip gloss, Vitamin C Lip Smoothie, in the Strawberry Bliss shade, dropped into my paws the other day, I was very pleased: I'd seen adverts for them on the tube and had decided that this was a lip product I wanted to try.  I'm not quite sure why - there's nothing massively innovative about the product - I'm choosing to believe it's the "smoothie" part of the name, which for me conjures not only images of fruity healthfulness, but also makes me think of food... and products which are food related are quite likely to get love from me.

Anyway.  What we have here is a brush-tipped, twisty-ended tube of sheer but buildable lip colour, which contains vitamin C and anti-oxidants so that "lips look and feel their healthy best".  I can't quite work out exactly how these ingredients benefit the lips; the product description is pretty vague.

The texture of the gloss is fairly thick, and while it's not the stickiest gloss I've ever applied, it veers more to the sticky end of the spectrum than some of the silicone heavy, slippy glosses on the market at the moment.  Application is pretty easy, thanks to the flexible brush tip, which allows you to paint on the gloss precisely.  The combination of thick gloss and brush tip, though, means that if you leave a long while between applications, you might need to brush off the dried in product before twisting the base to dispense more.  This is one of the problems with this kind of packaging, although the plus is that the gloss itself is kept sealed against contamination, as it's never directly exposed to the air.

I really, really like the colour of the Strawberry Bliss shade.  A pretty medium pink with subtle golden sparkles, it goes on sheer, adding just a hint of colour to the lips.  It also adds a lot of shine.  For me, this is the perfect partner for a more strong eye look, or for days when I just can't be bothered with maintaining a strong lip colour.  Added to the very pretty effect is the staying power: I've been applying the gloss at 7.30 in the morning on the way to work, and can still feel and see it on my lips at midday.  Generally, one or two top ups during the afternoon and early evening are enough to get me through the day.

Overall, I'm really enjoying using this gloss - the combination of the pretty colour, great wear, and comfortable feel make it a cut above many of the other glosses I own.  I'm already considering buying another.  If you turn to gloss for a low-effort option like I do, you'll probably find that this is right up your street.  My only reservation is that at £13.50 for 1.5ml, this is a rather expensive gloss - an Estee Lauder gloss, for example, costs around £15 for 6ml.  That said.. I've never actually finished a gloss, so I'm not sure the relatively expensive price is enough to put me off.

If you'd like to try it for yourself, you'll find it at Boots and the usual department stores, or online at Clinique's website, where 1.5ml will cost you £13.50.

The Non-Shiny Glowy Base: Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Part 2

Our recent review of Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector mostly focussed on its usefulness as a highlighter.  This was entirely down to my hatred of an all over glowy look - which on me, usually translates into shine and glitter and general ick.  A couple of people asked if the Becca fluid would work well mixed in with foundation, and so this afternoon I had a go, and guess what?  I'm pleasantly surprised.  Skin looks healthy with a bit of a glow, but even with a flash there's no shine or obvious glitter.  Brilliant.

I used a tiny pump of the Shimmering Skin Perfector and mixed it in with two drops of my usual MAC Studio Fix Fluid foundation - the ratio was about two parts foundation to one part skin perfector.  I think it looks fairly subtle and perfectly appropriate for the day.

Thank you, lovely readers, for busting me out of my glow-hating bubble!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Three perfect miniatures for your Christmas stocking

Disclosure - Bare Escentuals and Aromatherapy Associates items are PR samples

It pretty much goes without saying that tiny things are adorable. Miniatures are brilliant for travel, testing or just admiring, and the run up to Christmas is a fantastic time to find your favourites writ small. Here's a (miniature) selection of stocking fillers from this year's holiday collections.

1. Philosophy Grace miniature collections, £28.40
If you've never tried Philosophy's "Grace" fragrances, this is the perfect introduction. Classic Pure Grace and Amazing Grace are joined by the more recent Baby Grace, Inner Grace and the newly added Eternal Grace. Each one is 10ml, which should be enough to whet your appetite before opting for a full bottle. These scents are all  light, fresh and airy, so they're perfect gifts for friends and family who aren't usually into perfume.

Find these on QVC now at a special "try me" price of £28.48 (usually £34.50). The saving nicely cancels out the £4.45 P&P.

2. Bare Escentuals Big & Bright Mascara & Eyeliner duo, £12

Add a zing to your makeup bag (or someone else's) with this small but perfectly formed gift offering from Bare Escentuals. You get a miniature Flawless Definition Mascara (which received the official LBR seal of approval from Gemma), plus a tiny version of the Big & Bright eyeliner in Bronze, a smooth and pigmented dark metallic brown that's extremely flattering, particularly on blue or green eyes. This kit is fantastic for keeping in your handbag, as it's easy to apply quickly for big impact on the go.

Buy from department stores and Bare Escentuals counters nationwide.

3. Aromatherapy Associates Heavenly Oils duo, £14

Aromatherapy Associates products don't come cheap, but in our experience they're worth every penny of their indulgent pricepoint. The Heavenly Oils duo is a great opportunity to try out two limited edition AA bath and shower oils at a very modest price. The set includes Breaking Dawn, a bracing blend of ravensara and eucalyptus, and Silent Night, a soothing concoction of chamomile and vetivert. Each bottle is a tiny 7.5ml, but the oils are so concentrated that you can enjoy a fragrant bath with just a few drops.

The Heavenly Oils (and other covetable scented gifts) are available from www.aromatherapyassociates.com 

Saturday, 27 November 2010

E.L.F. Third Birthday Offer

Until midnight tomorrow, E.L.F. are offering both free shipping and a free eyeshadow palette when you spend £10 or over online, in celebration of their third birthday.  How very generous of them!  The eyeshadow palette is chosen at random for you, and won't show up in your basket. 

Use offer code 3BIRTHUK if you're in the UK, or 3BIRTHEU if you're in Europe to take advantage.  I'd highly recommend their HD powder, and I've heard great things about their Studio line - I think I might pick up this corrective concealer palette, a snip at £3.50, and possibly a couple of their NARS-a-like blushes, also £3.50.  If you go for it, let me know what you get!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Review: Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector

 Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector is a bit of a cult product.  A multi-purpose liquid moisturiser, it comes in five shades and adds a gentle luminosity to the skin.  I've had my bottle for a while now - and I've found that it's one of the most subtle but effective highlighters I've ever had the pleasure of using.

Apparently, it can also be used as a moisturiser, or mixed in with foundation to create a dewy look.  For me, though, it's mostly used as a highlighter: the level of pigment and shimmer in this liquid is too full on for me to apply all over my face.

 The packaging is simple and elegant, with the pump protected underneath an outer cap.  The pump itself also sports an inner cap, meaning that you're well protected against the outer cap falling off and squirting the inside of your makeup bag.  You get a whopping 50ml in the bottle: and given the amount of shimmer in each drop, you're unlikely to get through this at a fast pace.

The dot to the right is the amount dispensed with a half press on the pump.  This is the smallest amount you can get out, and it really does pack a shimmery punch.  This is the Pearl shade, which is recommended for pale skin or to add a bright luminosity.

The shimmer is a very fine pinkish white, with no glitter.  It does indeed look pretty noticeable swatched on my hand, and a small amount patted into the skin gives a subtle glow rather than an overly sparkly or shiny finish.  Texture wise, it's light, easily blendable, and doesn't feel greasy on the skin.  As a highlighter, it lasts very well - I can generally still see it on my cheekbones after a full day's wear.

I love applying this cream to my browbone, the tops of my cheekbones, and on my cupid's bow for a polished look.  As you can see from the photo above, the effect is noticeable but natural - absolutely no glitter here!  The tiny dot shown in the photo above is about twice what's needed for this kind of subtle glow.

Admittedly, at £32, this product isn't cheap.  Given the teeny tiny amount needed to get your glow on, though, it's a price worth paying - I can't imagine I'm ever going to run out of this.  And even if I did, I'd still repurchase: this is the best highlighter I've ever tried.

If you'd like to try it for yourself, you'll find it at Zuneta, where 50ml will cost £32.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

EXTREME: Collection 2000's £2.99 super-liner

Collection 2000's new Extreme felt tip liner claims 24 hour wear for £2.99. Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?

Actually, it's pretty close to the mark - I wore the blue shade yesterday from morning until late evening with barely a smudge. UDPP was involved, but I was still pleasantly surprised to have intact winged eyeliner at the end of the day. Here's the blue shade applied over UDPP with a dash of mascara.

There are 4 shades available - Blue, Black, Purple and the ever-popular Teal. I picked up the first three (I have so many teal liners already) in Boots' current 3 for 2 cosmetics offer.

They're sleek black pens with snap-on lids. Pretty standard as cosmetics packaging goes, and by no means an obviously low-end product. At a glance, these could pass as liners from more expensive brands.

The nib is soft and flexible, and delivers a well-defined line in one stroke. It's very quick and easy to apply. There's no dragging, and no layering up of watery translucent product. The colours are vibrant and highly pigmented - not for the shy or fans of the subtle "naked eye" look. They're not completely opaque, but at the price, the delivery is impressive.

I recommend these as a cheap, reliable buy if you're looking to create a dramatic look for the party season. One word of warning though - the blue and purple shades have a tendency to stain, so make sure you have some heavy-duty eye-makeup remover on hand to remove every last bit at the end of the evening.

You can buy Collection 2000's  Extreme 24 hour liner from Boots (though it's not listed on their website yet - come on Boots!). It's currently available as part of their 3 for 2 self-selection cosmetics offer. You can also find it at Superdrug and Tesco.

CherryCulture Thanksgiving Sale

Another holiday (in the US at least), another CherryCulture sale.  Get 20% your order between 24th and 28th November with the code TG20 - and happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

NOTD: Orly Out Of This World

Another day, another Orly polish - having absolutely loved Halley's Comet, from the Cosmic FX collection, I just had to buy a few more.  This is Out Of This World, a gorgeously foily plum with duochrome shimmer.

In most lights, it's a deep, rich purple, with blue, purple and red microsparkle.  Under some lights (most notably the flourescents in my office), the sparkles look bronze, completely transforming the look of the polish.  So, so pretty.  This one isn't quite so flashy as Halley's Comet - it doesn't have that ethereal inner glow - but it's still a gorgeous winter option.

If you'd like to try it for yourself, you'll find it at Beauty Chamber, where a bottle will cost £8.95.

This photo was taken after two or three days of wear - the shrinkage at the tips is due to the bottle of Seche Vite I picked up in the US.  Having not used Seche for a while, I really noticed the shrinking effect this way round.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

One note wonder? Not a Perfume by Juliette Has A Gun

Disclosure - PR sample
Juliette Has A Gun - Not A Perfume. (Well, maybe she should put the gun down and head to the nearest department store?)

Having previously encountered Miss Charming and Lady Vengeance, and liked both, I was especially pleased to be able to try the latest from quixotic French fragrance house Juliette Has A Gun.

JHAG nose Romano Ricci has an established penchant for Ambroxan, a synthetic version of ambergris. It's a musky, woody, warm scent that's usually used as a base note, and it appears regularly in the JHAG fragrance library. In the case of Not A Perfume, Ricci has brought the anchoring background player to the forefront and created a fragrance that's dedicated entirely to this single note.

Not A Perfume has been received with puzzlement by some fragrance afficionadoes. (In particular see the comments on this review at Now Smell This.) How can a scent with just one constituent be called a perfume? Isn't that just a raw ingredient bottled and sold as a finished composition? How is this different from Escentric Molecules Molecule 02 (also pure Ambroxan)?

Perhaps they're valid questions. The production costs probably don't tally with the retail price. (Although when do they ever?) But this is a dilution of Ambroxan, a specific and deliberate concentration. And concentration can make a huge difference when it comes to fragrance. Dilution can unpack a range of hidden nuances from an ingredient, like the colours that appear in chromatography when you add water to pigment. For example, indole smells floral at low concentrations but at high concentrations it's redolent of sewage.

I can't comment on the similarity to Molecule 02, as I don't own it (although I have sniffed it in the past). I would like to compare the two fragrances carefully, but would do so with an open mind, rather than assuming JHAG's version is a copy. I suspect that the dilution will make a difference. I doubt very much that you could short-cut to a cheaper DIY Not A Perfume just by purchasing the raw ingredient, although I've seen this suggested on several fragrance blogs.

So what does it actually smell like?

Not a Perfume has a gentle, almost creamy softness that clings to the skin. At first spritz I got a strong impression of apples, or maybe more like apple pie - apples softened and warmed.  I'd draw parallels with Sarah Horowitz Perfect Veil, although Not a Perfume is more subtle and less overtly sexy. It lasts phenomenally - one spritz first thing in the morning will easily carry through until late evening. Personally, I adore it.

Not A Perfume is available from Selfridges, costing £77 for 100ml EDP.

What do you think - is this a loving meditation that brings out a hidden gem in perfumery, or just an "Emperor's new perfume" whose bluff should be called? Let us know in the comments!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Review: Liz Earle Brightening Treatment Mask

Disclosure: PR sample

Liz Earle's Brightening Treatment Mask claims to instantly revitalise the skin within just a couple of minutes.  Formulated for dull skin, it's labelled as being unsuitable for sensitive skins: it uses some fairly intense ingredients which have been known to aggravate sensitive skin, such as witch hazel, camphor oil and white clay.  Applied to the skin and left for just one to two minutes, this tingly mask draws out impurities and wakes the skin up, leaving it refreshed and with a natural glow.

I decided that the best possible time to test this out was the Sunday evening after my friend's hen party, which had seen me up til 3AM dancing, and imbibing a fair few lemonades.  Naturally, my skin was looking and feeling just as tired as its owner, so I pulled this tube from my cupboard and gave it a shot.

The mask itself is creamy and spreadable, and has that thick, unctuous consistency common in masks containing clay products.  After the required two minutes on my face, the mask had tightened noticeably, and I'd noticed a distinct tingling sensation, which is normal, according to the tube.  I removed the mask with a dampened muslin cloth to find skin that was looking much brighter than it had before.  My skin also felt incredibly clean, and a little bit tight with it - a good shot of moisturiser is definitely needed after using this mask.

All in all, a great mask to give you a temporary lift if you feel your skin is looking dull.  It certainly made me look more human post-hen-party, and given that it takes effect so quickly, I'll definitely be using it again in the mornings when I'm struggling to get going.

If you'd like to try Liz Earle's Brightening Treatment Mask, you'll find it on Liz Earle's website, where the starter pack, containing 50ml of mask and a muslin cloth, costs £12.75.  I really like that you can also grab a smaller travel size, ideal for a trial run or two, which costs £4.75 for 15ml.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Wedding Makeup

When my friend Amanda asked me to help out with her wedding makeup, I was more than happy to help, but also rather terrified.  I mean, I think I'm reasonably good at applying makeup on myself; I'm used to the needs of my skin, my own bone structure, and the best way of opening up my eyes.  Someone else's face poses much more of a challenge, particularly if it's for arguably the biggest day of their life.

Anyway, we had a bit of a trial and came up with the vintage inspired look above.  Amanda herself seems happy, and looks absolutely gorgeous, so I'm feeling confident that we can pull it off on the Big Day.  The list of products used is far too long to be listed in its entirety here, but the highlights are:

Would you be comfortable doing your own makeup on your wedding day, or would a professional makeup artist be a must-have?  Have you ever done a friend's makeup on their big day?  Pass on your opinions, experiences and tips in the comments!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

NOTD: Lippmann Across The Universe

Dear readers, I have failed you.  I took approximately 30 photos of my nails adorned with Lippmann's Across The Universe, and only one turned out non-blurry and accurate, and it's the one which highlights the terrible bitten state of my cuticles.  I'm so very sorry.

Cuticle awfulness aside, this is a very rich and complex polish: a deep blue jelly texture with suspended turquoise, blue, silver and green glitter in varying sizes.  I'll readily admit it looked absolutely crap for the first two coats: thin and streaky, I was seriously worried it'd be a 5-coater.  But the third coat brought it all together: the blue base became opaque, with bits of glitter showing through.

I really like how the base is sheer enough to show the glitter particles from the various layers; it gives this polish a much more complex finish than just a basic blue with glitter on top.  It's prettily, delicately sparkly too - not obviously glitterball, but eyecatching enough.  I've had a fair few compliments on this.

Wear was decent; a few days later and I had a few chips.  Unsurprisingly, it was an absolute bugger to take off - lots of remover needed, and a bit of picking too, for the last stubborn bits of glitter.  Still, totally worth it in my book.

If you'd like to try this for yourself, you'll be able to find it at Apothecary at House of Fraser, where it will cost around £14 - remember that Apothecary is still rolling out nationwide, so you may still need to wait until the New Year to find Lippmann products on our shores.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Review: Rituals Shanti Shower Paste

My recent trip to New York saw me wandering around Heathrow Terminal 4 at six in the morning, eager to begin my holiday.  My husband had already begun his by drinking Guinness for breakfast, so I figured I might as well kick off by purchasing a product of some description (as you do).

I was met by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic man in the Rituals store - he took me through the whole range, and was very perky for that time of the morning.  After sticking a variety of scents under my nose, I settled on the Shanti Shower Paste.  Formulated with Indian Rose and sweet almond oil, it's got an exotic, heady scent which I absolutely love.  Rose products can veer towards being incredibly sweet, and luckily this isn't one of those scents - the undertones are more more sensual, almost oriental, making it a very sensual showering experience.

The paste itself is very thickly textured, and the word "paste" is entirely accurate.  This is one shower product that won't drip off your hand, to run wasted down the drain.  Massaged over the skin, it emulsifies slightly, but doesn't foam at all - and indeed, a quick look at the ingredients shows that it doesn't contain SLS.  Despite not lathering, the skin feels thoroughly clean after use, and very soft.  That gorgeous scent lingers on the skin for about an hour after use before fading away.

All in all, for a product I bought mostly on a complete whim, I'm very impressed.  If you're a regular reader, you'll know that I usually can be found lazing in the bath rather than having an efficient shower - but the heady, spicy scent, lack of down-the-drain wastage, and soft skin delivered by this might just tempt me into the shower more often!  I'll definitely be investigating more Rituals products soon.

If you'd like to try this for yourself, you'll find Shanti Shower Paste at the Rituals site where it will cost you £7.90 for 150ml.

Have you tried Rituals?  What's your take on the brand?

20% Off At SpaceNK

Just a quick post to let you know that SpaceNK are once again offering 20% off products purchased in-store or online.  To take advantage online, just use the code GLAMSLAM at checkout.  If you want to get 20% off in-store, you'll need to print out an email - feel free to get in touch with us if you want it forwarded to you.

The offer is on until midnight on Sunday 21st November.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

NOTD Strawberry nails by WAH Nails & Models Own

Disclosure - PR sample/treatment

Here's a bit of nail art inspiration courtesy of WAH Nails, who invited us to their ultra-hip Dalston salon to celebrate the launch of the new WAH/Models Own nail art pen.

I was given a preview sample of one of the nail art pens (initially available in black and white, but planned to roll out in all of Models Own's stupendous shades). Unfortunately, I've not been able to produce anything fit to see the light of day. I thought I was the artistic type. Sigh.

I'll keep practicing. In the meantime, here's some much more accomplished work from WAH nail technician Zara, who adorned my digits with the very sweet Strawberry manicure (RRP £26).

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Cold Sore sufferers - you need this

A colleague of mine flew in from the States this week. She brought along a pretty nifty cold that she'd picked up on the plane (you know those international jet-setting colds that pack a real global punch). Spotting my immune system for a soft touch, it quickly made me its home and I spent this weekend lying wretched in a pile of snotty tissues.

To add insult to injury, I also developed a merry garland of bright red cold sores across my upper lip. If you suffer with cold sores yourself, you'll know that they love to strike when the immune system is compromised (they spend the rest of the time skulking around in nerve endings around the mouth, waiting for a good moment to strike).

Until earlier this year, my response to this would have been to reach for the Zovirax and pray, probably to little effect. However, since then I've discovered a device that has changed my attitude to cold sores entirely. I wasn't phased. I just reached for my Boots Cold Sore Machine.

The machine (which I believe is a Boots-branded version of Virulite) is a  humble-looking white plastic device. It has an "on" button (1), a flashing indicator light (2) a recessed mouthpiece with a bulb (3), and a compartment for a battery. That's pretty much it. The secret lies in the wavelength of light (1072 nm, to be exact) produced by the bulb. It's an infra-red light, invisible to the naked eye, that cuts healing time by as much as 50%. It's thought to work by triggering an increased immune response when shone onto the afflicted skin.

Using it could not be simpler. You place the device against the skin, allowing no gaps for light to enter, and press the "on" button. Then hold still for 3 minutes while the indicator light flashes and the machine does its work. After that, you're done - two treatments twelve hours apart should be enough to send a cold sore packing.

It might sound a little too good to be true, but light-based treatments of this type have been proven effective in clinical trials (that's tests on real live people) published in various peer-reviewed scientific journals (like this one). Versus aciclovir (the active ingredient in creams like Zovirax), Virulite improved healing time by an average of 4 days. Seriously, that's pretty good.

I'm recovering from my cold now (day 3 - sneezing phase over) and of the three cold sores that made a bid for self-expression on my top lip, two have retreated to the point of invisibility, and the one I didn't catch quite as quickly has moved on to the dry scabby stage. (Did you think beauty blogs were all about prettiness and nice things? Yes? Tough.)

If you suffer from cold sores, I can't recommend this treatment to you more highly. It's perhaps more a health than a beauty purchase (although let's be honest, having a big red blistery mess on your lip isn't exactly attractive) but it's well worth the £35 asking price, especially when you consider how much you'll save on other treatments.

Monday, 15 November 2010

When Good Facialists Go Bad: Gennie Monteith

Me and Wahanda are firm friends.  They provide gloriously priced treatments via their excellent mobdeals, and I hand over my credit card details time and time again.  A short while ago, I paid £25 for a 90 minute custom facial with Gennie Monteith, a "bespoke facialist" who is described as "renound in her field".

Unfortunately, since buying the deal, I've been unable to get hold of Ms Monteith to book in my treatment.  I sent an email, and received no reply.  I called, no-one answered; I texted, no-one responded; I called again and found that her voicemail was full and I couldn't leave a message.  When I did eventually manage to leave a message, I didn't hear a peep back.

And sadly, I'm not alone in my bad experience - the reviews on her page on Wahanda are a mixed bag, with some people raving about the quality of the facial, and others complaining that Gennie Monteith didn't return their calls, failed to turn up, arrived late, or talked all the way through the facial.

I got in touch with Wahanda Customer Service today to be told that I would receive a refund - Ms Monteith has, apparently, sold too many vouchers and isn't really succeeding in booking many people in at all (or, indeed, phoning them back).  As always, I received a prompt reply from Wahanda, and my refund is on its way.

If you also bought into the Gennie Monteith facial deal for Mayfair, London - get in touch with Wahanda to get your money back by emailing customer.services [at] wahanda.com.  As for Gennie... this kind of unprofessional service pretty much guarantees that I'll be looking elsewhere for a bespoke facial, and dissuading friends from visiting her.

Did you buy one of these vouchers?  What was your experience?

OPI and Katy Perry Collection includes Crackle Top Coat

OPI's latest collection is a collaboration with Katy Perry.  The four shades don't look massively unique (although I do rather fancy that sparkly blue), but the highlight of the collection is the Shatter Top Coat, a black top coat which forms a "chic cracked pattern within minutes". 

Sounds familiar, right?  Like Barry M, OPI have jumped on the crackle top coat bandwagon which was set off by IsaDora.  The Barry M product has been wildly popular due to it's low price (£3.95) and wide availability both on the web and at Superdrug stores, whereas the original IsaDora product is quite hard to find - I've yet to spot one.  

At £10.95, the OPI offering is on the expensive side, compared to the Barry M - so the question is whether the application or effect is different or indeed better with the OPI product.  If you'd like to try it out for yourself, it'll be available in January, from Lena White.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Notes from a Big Country: US Beauty Report

After a week traipsing around New York, I'm back home with a bump and very, very much looking forward to a long hot bath.  But first, here are a few beauty related things I learned on my trip to the Big Apple.

A week without my Clarisonic has left my skin in a terrible state; I left it at home because I was worried it'd turn on in my luggage and cause a security alert or something (yes, I am paranoid).  I dutifully oil cleansed my makeup off every night, but evidently a single cleanse was no match for city grime; I've now got a delightful crop of spots.  The first thing I did when I got through the door was to Clarisonic my face, and I feel a lot better for it; truly, it's one of those products you don't realise how much you love until you stop using it.

Sephora, once a place where I could spend hours staring at products only found in the US, is no longer quite the draw it used to be.  Makeup brands such as theBalm, Makeup Forever, and Smashbox are no longer inaccessible in the UK; with the advent of the Internet much of what I found in Sephora could be ordered in the UK.  Of course, the exclusive products are still out of our grasp - like the Sephora by OPI nail collection - but luckily, I've brought a little bit back to give away.

Speaking of Sephora by OPI, they now have a range of oh-so-trendy nail stickers, developed by Minx.  Costing $15 a pop, the single use sets have some very cool designs, but I didn't indulge - mostly as the package claims they last for only 1 - 2 days.

Manicures, pedicures, and now threading are available in the city at very low prices.  I saw manicures for $10, and threading for as little at $6 or $7.  Threading is becoming more and more popular in the UK and as a result, cheaper, but I don't think I've ever seen a session advertised for around £4.  I suppose the low prices are related to the difference in what's considered maintenance versus a treat - I don't know anyone in the UK who has regular maintenance manicures, whereas it seems that in the US, regular manicures are the norm.

I discovered a new haunt in Rickys NYC - less makeup, more skincare and haircare than you might find in Sephora, with a massive range of brands, some European and some American.  I found Miss Jessie's curly haircare, Manic Panic hair colour, Essie and OPI nail products, and a wide range of brushes, hair styling tools, and more.  High end to low end, I spent a very happy half hour trawling the shelves of the Fifth Avenue branch.

And finally... interestingly, most of the Sephora branches I popped into were still sold out of the UD Naked palette! Looks like the well-hyped palette is still in demand, despite it being part of the permanent range!

Rouge Bunny Rouge on SecretSales Now!

Gorgeously pretty brand Rouge Bunny Rouge are currently on sale via private sale club SecretSales.com, with up 50% off a selection of products.  At the time of writing, there were still plenty of lipsticks, eyeshadows, lipglosses, eye glosses and a few skincare items available, all at a heavy discount.  Lipsticks and eyeshadows, usually priced at a fairly weighty £22, are just £11.

If you've wanted to try the brand but have found the pricing a little too high, now's your chance!  Despite having a groaning dressing table full of lipstick and eyeshadow, I rather think I'm going to try at least one of each.

The sale runs until midnight November 17th, and you'll need to sign up as a member on SecretSales.com to take advantage.  Let us know what you snap up!

Friday, 12 November 2010

Review: CoverFX Natural FX Water Based Liquid Foundation

Disclosure: PR sample

CoverFX is a Canadian brand, new to our shores via House of Fraser.  Rather unusually, they are entirely focussed on base products: the range is made up of primers, foundations, concealers, powders, and bronzers.  Created as a result of working with people with skin conditions, the brand aims to bring a range of coverage densities from light to very heavy, with as natural a finish as possible.

In amongst the press releases we received were some quite startling photos of people who had been taught how to apply CoverFX products to disguise skin conditions such as acne or rosacea.  They are, quite frankly, staggering.  It's images like this that remind me that the few spots I get in the average month aren't so bad.  They also remind me that makeup has a place outside of enhancement and artistry; for some people, it enables them to blend into a crowd where previously their skin had attracted stares.

Anyhow - on to the main part of my review.  I was given a tube of Natural FX Water Based Liquid Foundation, which is a medium coverage liquid foundation.  Despite not being the heaviest coverage product available, it's still billed as capable of disguising acne, redness, under eye circles, bruising and even tattoos.  I don't have any particularly bad skin conditions that need disguising (nor do I have any tattoos), so what I'm mostly looking for from the foundation is evenness, and coverage of my slightly red cheeks and spot scars.

The foundation itself, despite being water based, feels rather thick and heavy.  Unlike many formulations, it doesn't have that ultra spreadable silicone based texture, and as such if you try to rub a glob across the face, you'll find that you end up with a bit of a mess.  This really needs to be applied on top of something emollient and moist to give a helping hand with blending.  I've been applying it by dotting it across my face with my fingertips, and then gently blending out.  
Once applied, the foundation provides very good coverage even with the small amount of product shown above.  The finish isn't entirely matte, but retains a slight sheen that looks pretty natural.  So how does it look?

The slight redness in my cheeks, as well as my lovely red spot scars, are effectively covered.  The small amount I blended over my under eyes has also taken the edge off my dark circles, although I definitely need a little bit of concealer and powder to truly hide them.  My skin looks more even, and indeed, not obviously made up.  I've achieved this level of coverage with a relatively small amount of foundation; using a bit more would provide even more coverage.

 I'm pretty impressed with the coverage and the natural finish of this foundation.  It also lasts very well, sticking to the skin effectively and not budging when I get a little sweaty glowy on the Underground in the mornings.  That said, this is not a light foundation - despite being water based, it feels quite heavy, and I was concious that I was wearing it.  

At £35 for a 30ml tube, this is an expensive foundation.  Given the amount I've needed to use, however, I would imagine it will be lasting me for a good few months yet.  Ultimately - if you have a skin condition, or require heavy coverage, CoverFX is a brand you should definitely investigate.  With a wide shade range spanning cool, warm, and neutral undertones, and including 34 shades, it's likely that you'll find something that's a good match for your skintone with CoverFX.

If you'd like to try this foundation for yourself, you can find it in House of Fraser stores - I went along to the Oxford Street store to get my skintone matched.  You can also buy online, although obviously it's well worth to visit the counters to get the best match.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Review: MAC Green Gel Cleanser

Disclosure:  This product was passed on to me by a friend.

Whilst I've been a lover of MAC's Cleanse Off Oil for quite some time, I've never really ventured into trying any of their other skincare products.  Quite a few of them are listed in cult favourite lists, but for me, MAC is for makeup, not for skincare.  So when a friend passed on her bottle of Green Gel Cleanser, I was curious to see how good it is.

Described as a "fresh, vibrant, skin tingling cleanser", it's a foaming gel format.  The product description really emphasises the freshness and lightness of it, so it's definitely designed to be more clarifying and less moisturising.

Firstly, I really dislike the packaging of this product.  It's encased in a simple squeezy bottle, with a fairly large hole in the top, and a rubberised, tight fitting cap.  The problem I have with it is down to the squeezy bottle and the large aperture; squeezing the bottle gently invariably results in a big glob of product being dispensed into my palm.  I strongly suspect that this is causing me to work my way through the bottle faster than I should be!

Once lathered up, the gel makes a very light, watery foam.  You do need to use a fair bit of water to get it to lather; too little and you get virtually no bubbles, and a product that doesn't slip on the skin, but once foamy it drips off the hands and face, giving you little time to work it into the skin.

Applied to the face and sluiced off with plenty of water, it's rather good; it leaves the skin feeling clean and fresh, and most importantly, with no tightness or dryness at all.  That said, I'm not sure that it's really doing much towards deep cleansing: my skin feels clean, but not really clean.

All in all, this is a pretty decent face wash which would be greatly improved by more usable packaging.  At a cost of £14 for 150ml, it's rather expensive - and given the wasteful bottle, it's not an expensive product that'll last a long time.  Decent enough, but I won't be repurchasing.

If you'd like to try MAC Green Gel Cleanser for yourself, you can find it at MAC stores and counters, and online, where 150ml will cost £14.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Review - Clinique Strawberry Fudge palette (Christmas 2010)

Disclosure - PR sample

Clinique has never been a brand I would look to for innovative colour cosmetics. Harsh, perhaps, but true. I associate them more with skincare, and quality makeup basics like foundation and mascara, which they do very well indeed, but not colour. This perception has been challenged by the Strawberry Fudge palette, released for Christmas 2010 (available 12 Nov).

It's packaged in a solid double-walled plastic compact with a mirrored outer finish. The top of the palette is decorated with radiating circular lines - kind of bauble-like, but tastefully abstract. Inside, a large high-quality mirror takes up the entirety of the inner lid (excellent) and in the lower half, 3 eyeshadow pans and a large blush pan are arranged alongside a good-sized brush tray. I'm not wowed by the mini blush brush and applicator that come with the palette, but they're certainly fine for travel.

Overall, the packaging is very well designed and seems durable. (I'm not going to drop it on purpose to test that theory. I like it too much.)You can even lift out the insert containing the pans and brush tray, to give the palette extended use as a compact/mini brush case once you've exhausted the pans.

Colour-wise, I'm truly impressed. The star of the show is a perfectly balanced, vibrant and eye-catching pink/gold duochrome. It's by no means my only pink-gold duochrome, but it stands out a mile due to the way the pigmented base perfectly complements the gold highlight. In a makeup collection (such as mine) where duochromes abound, this one easily takes the top spot. In use, it actually does look like two equally pigmented eyeshadows blended together, not just a main colour with a slight cast on top of it. It's backed up by a sophisticated warm raisin shimmer that provides a perfect crease accent, and a versatile matte that's somewhere between black, grey and brown. Here are all three shades on the eye, photographed in sunlight and lamplight.

The blush, New Clover, is available individually and is apparently the inspiration for the whole palette. It's one of Clinique's strongest sellers and is a matte dusty pink that would work on pretty much anyone.

All in all, this palette is highly recommended and well worth the £25 price tag.


Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Review: Dirty Works Think Of England Bath Soak

I happened to spot this bath soak whilst in Sainsbury's the other day.  With it's retro packaging, playful naming, and pinup girl on the bottle, I immediately thought that it looked like a cheaper version of Soap and Glory - and as S&G make my favourite bath foam ever - the legendary Calm One, Calm All - I thought I'd give this a go to see how it stacks up.

At £2.99 for 350ml, it's a little bit cheaper than the Soap and Glory variety, which costs £5 for 500ml.  The scent, like the Soap and Glory product, is inoffensive and almost imperceptible.  Once added to a running bath, you get mountains of light, fluffy bubbles - many many more than with S&G.  The bubbles, however, don't feel quite as moisturising.

For me, the biggest sticking point for bubble bath is how long the bubbles last.  Calm One Calm All lasts a good couple of hours with regular hot water topups, which is my benchmark for long lasting bath goodness.  So, in the nature of scientific testing, I lay back and thought of England (do you like what I did there?) to see how long the bubbles stuck around.  As it turned out, it was about an hour, which is better than most bubble baths, but not quite as good as Soap and Glory's Calm One Calm All.

Unfortunately, I can't shake the feeling that this is a slightly cheaper rip off of Soap and Glory's very distinctive style.  As a bubble bath, it's actually pretty decent - definitely better than others in the same price bracket - but the parallels between its branding and S&G's mean that it has a lot to live up to.  I won't be repurchasing - but will be investigating some of the other products in the range, to see if there's anything unique to the range worth trying on its own merit.

If you'd like to try it for yourself, you'll find Think Of England Bath Soak alongside the rest of the Dirty Works range at Sainsbury's, where 350ml will cost you £2.99.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Review: Shu Uemura Stage Performer Instant Glow

Disclosure: PR sample

As a general rule, I hate products which claim to give the skin a "glow".  That glow usually translates into a shimmery/glittery/shiny/sweaty finish, which might look good with a tan and beach-swept hair, but looks pretty bad on pale skin on the train in the morning.  So I usually avoid glowy products like the plague.

Thus, it was with a bit of trepidation that I slid Shu Uemura's new Stage Performer Instant Glow out of its box.  Housed in a sleek black tube, this product looks expensive; and at £35 a tube, it rather is.  It claims to keep the skin hydrated, and to make it look more luminous, translucent and smooth.

The consistency of the product is a relatively thin cream, with strange solid bits suspended in it.  I was told that these are micro-spheres which burst open as you smooth the cream across the face, providing the glow.  The light, silky texture means that you don't really need a lot to distribute a thin layer across the face, and once applied there was certainly no gritty feeling - so I imagine the micro-spheres had indeed burst.

As with many primers, the most obvious and immediate effect is that the skin feels silky smooth (that'd be the silicone then).  Applying foundation on top was a breeze, as the slip provided by the cream helps liquid foundation to glide on with little effort.

Did it make me glow, though?  Let's examine a before and after photo.

Hmm.  I think my skin looks a little more luminous, but as someone with fairly bright skin anyway, the effect isn't immediately obvious.  But hey - there's no glitter.  No shine.  No shimmer.  My skin just looks like my skin, albeit looking a little more even, and with a little extra luminosity.

As a primer, this stuff is very good, being light, silky and smooth, and helping foundation to glide onto the skin more easily.  As a glow-giver though?  It's a difficult one to call.  I think it does give a little bit of a glow - and I'm very pleased that it doesn't give any over the top shimmer or shine - but it's a little too subtle to be worth the hefty price tag for me.  If you're in the market for a luxurious primer which promises more than just some lubrication, this might be a good one to try.

If you'd like to try Shu Uemura's Stage Performer Instant Glow cream for yourself, you can find it at Shu Uemura counters or at Liberty online, where it will cost you £35 for 50ml. 
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