Thursday, 31 March 2011

Lip of the Day: Lord and Berry Vogue Matte Velvet Lipstick in Cupid

This is Lord and Berry's Vogue Matte Velvet lipstick, in the shade Cupid.  It's a gorgeous, rich red shade which looks like it'd be pretty universally flattering.  Vogue Matte Velvet lipsticks are intended to be a modern, wearable way of wearing a matte lip, with the emphasis on great pigmentation and comfortable wear.  The pigmentation is indeed pretty fantastic - this is two swipes across the lips - but I'm not convinced about the comfort level.  I've found that this lipstick does dry out quite quickly on my lips, generally within a couple of hours - which isn't quite as good as my favourite matte by Lipstick Queen.

On the upside, the Lord and Berry lipstick comes in at around £10 - much more affordable than the Lipstick Queen range, which are around £17.  For the price, it's a decent matte lipstick, and if you're experimenting with the look, well worth a try.

If you'd like to try this lipstick for yourself, you'll find it at ASOS, where it costs £9.95 and is available in a few more shades.

Disclosure: press sample

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Review & Swatches: Urban Decay Afterglow Cheek Tint in Fetish

Urban Decay's new Afterglow Glide-On Cheek Tints are lightweight, non-greasy tints designed to provide a flush of colour which can be built up from sheer to striking.  Encased in a pretty purple compact with silver snake design, they're available in seven shades - this is Fetish, described as rose pink.

In the compact, you get a dinky mirror (always useful) and a pan of meltingly slippy tint.  The texture of these really does glide onto the skin - rubbing a fingertip across the pan warms the solid product, transferring easily to the fingertips and then onto the skin.  It feels more like a high end lip balm than it does a cream blush - once warm, the product is extremely emollient.  With this kind of texture, you might imagine that it would leave the skin feeling a little tacky or greasy.  Not so - the product melts into the skin, leaving a sheer flush of colour with a gentle sheen, and no obvious residue.

Swatched directly from pan to fingertip to hand, the colour is a pretty, rosy pink with a slight golden shimmer. A single layer, blended out, is very subtle indeed.

Perfect for a light, natural look.  The cheek tint layers well, too, so if this kind of light flush is too subtle for you, it can be built up to a more intense look.

For me, I'd probably prefer these to be a bit more pigmented, as I like my blush to be quite noticeable - but on days when I'm going subtle and pretty, this works a treat.  The sheerness makes it easy to regulate the colour on pale skin, and if you find yourself overapplying blush, these tints will certainly help you to keep it natural.

Available from amongst other sites, each Urban Decay Afterglow Cheek Tint costs £18 - not cheap, but for such an easy to use and versatile product, a price I'd be happy to pay again.  What do you think?  Tempting?  Do you like your blush light or strong?  Let us know in the comments!

Disclosure: press sample

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Review & Swatches: TRUST Lipstick

The Prince's Trust is a bit of a British institution.  The charity works with young people to help them get ahead in life - offering courses, grants and advice, generally helping young people to reach their full potential, regardless of their circumstances.

Makeup artist Karen Alder has created a beautiful, easy to wear red lipstick, TRUST, on sale in April, with all proceeds (less VAT) going directly to the Prince's Trust.  Alder, an established artist who has worked with Kylie amongst others, got her start in the industry thanks to support from the Trust.  

The lipstick itself is presented in a clean, white plastic case emblazoned with the word "trust" in matching true red.  The colour is a neutral toned red - cool, clean and classic, I'd expect this shade to be totally wearable by all skintones.

The lipstick is medium pigmented, with a couple of passes over the lips needed to get a truly opaque, bright finish - a single layer gives you a soft, rosy red look.  The shade is fantastic - a step away from the usual deep or cherry reds I usually wear, it's summery, fresh, and topped off with a bit of gloss would be wonderfully juicy.

The satin finish looks modern and fresh, and the formula is pretty good too; it lasts a few hours on the lips, and whilst it does dry out towards the end of the wear time, it's certainly not the worst semi-matte lipstick I've tried.  This would be a great addition to any lipstick lover's wardrobe.

TRUST lipstick goes on sale from the 2nd April, and will cost a mere £8.  It will be sold exclusively via QVC, both online via the QVC UK website, and through some dedicated slots on TV - look out for Karen Alder (and a few celebrity endorsers) popping up with red lip tips.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Count Your Stash: Colour Cosmetics

This weekend, I decided to bite the bullet and count the number of colour cosmetics I own in the categories of blush, eyeshadow, lip colour and nail polish.  I've long known that I own rather a lot of makeup - but still, I manage to justify buying more because I genuinely believe I'm missing some key shades.  But... having counted, I'm now fairly sure that I can't really have any gaps at all....

shades of blush

shades of lip colour

shades of nail polish

shades of eyeshadow

That's a staggering 349 shades in total, not even counting eyeliner (I don't really buy eyeliner that often).  I'm well aware that this number might not seem all that massive to some; but for me.. it's too many.  I'm unlikely to ever use up all that product.

So, next time I go shopping and coo over yet another red lipstick I will remember this number, and think carefully before I add to it.  

That said, it would be easier to remember if it was a nice round number... so maybe I will buy that Chanel Rouge Coco Shine after all...

How many lipsticks, eyeshadows, blushes and nail varnishes do you own?  What's your magic number overall?  Do you even care?  Let us know in the comments!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

NOTD: Lippmann Glitter in the Air

Ah, good old Deborah Lippmann - we can always be assured that any glitter polish added to her already comprehensive range will be a breath of fresh air.  Glitter in the Air - part of the spring offering from the brand - doesn't disappoint.  Inspired by Pink's performance at the Grammys (apparently she wore a sheer sparkling bodysuit), it's a milky, sheer bluish base with blue and rose pink glitter.  As usual, the glitter varies in size: the largest cerulean blue and rose pink particles may be the most noticeable, but there's also a light sprinkling of tiny silvery blue, opalescent glitter in the background.

The base is very sheer - making this a layering polish rather than one you can wear alone.  Above, I've applied it over two coats of Leighton Denny's Up in the Air (I do like a bit of synchronism!), which is a cool silver with lilac undertones.  Two coats of Lippmann over the top gets you the sparse-yet-sparkly cover of glitter as shown.

Gorgeous.  I think I'll be wearing this over a wide variety of base colours this spring - certainly makes for a nice break from the back-to-back pastels spring usually brings for nails!

If you like the look of this, you'll find it at House of Fraser's Apothecary, where it will cost an eye watering (but totally worth it in my mind) £16.

Disclosure: press sample

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Review & Swatches: Kryolan Shades Palette in Tokyo

Kryolan are a professional makeup brand who've been creating products geared towards film, theatre and TV for 65 years.  Known for their vivid, true to pan colours and multitude of shades, this five pan palette is one of their latest products.  Tokyo, pictured above, contains four shades of red of varying depth and a white-gold.

Presented in a sleek silver case with an eyeshadow brush, the palette provides a good spectrum of red shades - perfect if, like me, you like to wear red eye looks.  The palette itself is pretty light, but is made of metal, and feels like it'll be sturdy and durable.  The included brush is thankfully not a sponge applicator, but a proper brush, and is actually of reasonable quality.  

None of the colours are massively highly pigmented; the matte reddish brown on the far right is probably the most intense shade, and makes a very flattering liner either wet or dry.  The three red shades in the centre really vary in pigmentation; the left most red, an almost tomato-y orange red, is rather hard in texture, and I've had to really work my brush into the pan to gather enough colour to show up on the lid.  The middle shade is a beautiful rust red with a golden shimmer, and is much easier to work with - only a couple of swipes needed to get excellent payoff.  Finally, the purple toned red, which is second from the right above, is again pretty shimmery and of medium pigmentation, requiring the same amount of work as it's left hand neighbour.

On the eye, with the two mid-reds on the lid, the purple red in the crease, the brown used damp as a liner, and the white patted gently into the inner corner.  This colour combination is hugely flattering on my greenish eyes, and the finish of the shadow is rather unusual for me; there's a slight dimensional sheen, but no obvious sparkle.  Very pretty!

At £16.30, the palette isn't a definite bargain, but it's also not bad value.  At around £3 a shadow, this is reasonably priced way to get an instant collection of red shadows which are flattering, and easy to layer up to your desired intensity, rather than being strong straight out of the palette.  I can see myself getting a lot of use out of this palette in the coming months.

If you'd like to try Tokyo for yourself, you'll find them online via Love Makeup, where the palette will cost you £16.30.  What do you think?  Love a red eye look?  Tried Kryolan before?  Let us know in the comments!

Disclosure: Press sample

Friday, 25 March 2011

Review: The Body Shop Bath Gloves

I recently had £30 to spend at the Body Shop courtesy of an excellent (and very popular) Groupon deal, and popped these bath gloves into my basket alongside hundreds of bottles of TBS' excellent shower gel (I might be exaggerating a bit there, but only a touch).

Ever since, I've been using the gloves alongside the aforementioned shower gels - and they are absolutely, positively fantastic.  Made of scratchy nylon, you stick your hands in them and then wash as normal.  The gloves help to get more lather out of whatever shower gel you're using, and because they're a bit rough, they provide some very good exfoliation too.

And even better, there's no faffing about with bath puffs (which I always drop into the bath, thus wasting shower gel), and no need for a separate body exfoliator (which I invariably forget to use); these are the ultimate lazy-girl body exfoliation effort.  Everyone washes, and with these, everyone can exfoliate at the same time.  Perfect.

On the downside, they are really scratchy - to the extent that they make my elbows smooth (good), but also to the extent that if I overrub on a particular area (ahem), they can leave my skin looking a bit red and irritated (bad).  So, if you buy these (and you should!), go a bit easy with them.

Bath Gloves are available in a multitude of colours from the Body Shop, where they cost a very wallet-friendly £4.  What do you think?  Tried these?  Tempted?  Let us know in the comments!

Wahanda Offers £20 Sanctuary Skincare Spa Heroes Kit

On Monday 28th March, Wahanda will launch two deals that'll see the popular Sanctuary skincare brand partnering with someone other than Boots for the first time.  The Sanctuary Skincare Spa Heroes set will cost £20 - and includes:

  • Radiance Boosting Facial Oil (30ml)
  • Perfectly Polished Hot Cloth Cleanser (150ml)
  • Warming Microbrasion Polish (100ml)
  • Warming Charcoal Detox Mask (100ml)
That's pretty much a home facial routine which, with its full size products, will last you for a good old while.  Not bad for £20.

If that doesn't tickle your fancy, there's also a side deal comprising of Pro-Collagen products - again, costing £20.  This'll include:

  • Pro-Collagen Youth Serum (30ml)
  • Pro-Collagen Night Concentrate (50ml)
  • Skincare Collagen Boosting Mask (100ml)
These are being touted as Mother's Day deals, but I'd be quite happy to buy one of these for my Mum and one for myself - I've tried and liked the Sanctuary facial oils in the past, and at £20 a set, these are too much bargain to miss out on for me!

If you'd like to grab one of these deals, you'll find them on Wahanda on Monday.  What do you think?  Tempted?  Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

EOTD - Nars Nouveau Monde

I wanted a Nars eyeshadow duo for a long, long time. On many occasions over the years I brought one as far as the till in Space NK, before bottling out at the last moment due to the absurd £23 price tag. These days, £23 doesn't seem like as much as it did when I was a student, but it's still a pretty steep ask for two pans of colour.

On hearing the news that I had a new job a few weeks back, I went out in a fever of jubilant excitement and bought (among other self-indulgent rewards) Nouveau Monde, which is one of four new duos in the Nars Spring 2011 collection (including the stunning blue Bateau Ivre). I had to make my purchase in a rush, so I wouldn't stop at the last moment. Do I regret it? Absolutely not.

Nouveau Monde is a typically quirky Nars pairing. ("It shouldn't work, but it does" might be a good motto for their duos.) On one side, iridescent sheer lilac with a subtle glitter. On the other, olive green on a heavy dark brown base.



There's something about this pairing that just absolutely *works* for me. It brings out the shape and colour of my eyes wonderfully. I look in the mirror while wearing this and just think... "yeah". Which is kind of what all makeup should do, in my opinion.

Nouveau Monde, £23.50, Nars.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

NOTD: Models Own Pro Black Grape

This Black Grape, which is from the new Models Own Pro range.  A gorgeously deep, almost blue purple, with pink, purple and blue microshimmer, it's absolutely beautiful.  The formula on this polish is a little bit thicker and more easily spreadable than the standard Models Own polishes I've tried, although I've found that the wear is around the same; this lasts about two days before tipwear creeps in.

But hey, it's so gorgeous I'll happily reapply every two days.  The microsparkle is so pretty.  Non-flash photos are best for showing those subtle sparkles, so here's a couple so you can see more of this ever so pretty effect.

Lovely, eh?  Black Grape, and the rest of the Pro line, are making their way into Boots stores from now - Sarah spotted them at Liverpool Street station in London this weekend - and will cost £8.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Review: NuBo Velvet Cleansing Cream

NuBo make serious, high end skincare with a pricetag to match.  The products are designed to keep the skin looking youthful by invigorating the skin on two levels; by fighting damage caused by free radicals, and also by "convert[ing] toxic waste into oxygen and water within the skin cell".  Now, I'm no scientist, but I can't help but view the latter claim with a healthy dose of cynicism - it sounds a little bit like alchemy to me.

Either way, one certainly can't dispute that the products are extremely luxurious.  Packaged in a clean, simple, expensive looking container, Velvet Cleansing Cream is a thick, creamy cleanser which I've been enjoying for the past month.  It's a bit like a traditional cold cream in texture, but feels lighter once applied to the skin - two pumps is enough to coat the face in a thin layer, which almost melts into the skin as you massage it in.

It's rose scented - but not synthetically so.  In fact, it smells exactly like the rosewater I like to use for making cupcakes.  After use, my skin feels incredibly soft and almost plumped up, with the residual dirt of the day effectively lifted off (I use this after an oil cleanse to get off the worst of my heavy mascara).  Since I cracked open the gorgeously sleek tube, my skin has been very well behaved, too - my regular monthly dose of spots has failed to appear, and I've not suffered from any extreme oily nose incidents or found any dry patches.

All this, of course, comes at a price, with the Velvet Cleansing Cream costing a slightly eyewatering £28 for 100ml.  My tube has yet to run out, though, and I've been using it for a month and a half, twice daily, so it's not like it runs out amazingly quickly.  That said... it's not something I'd buy again for its anti-aging properties (although I might well for that glorious scent).  It spends so little time on the skin that apart from a good cleansing with a softening finish, it's not going to make-or-break an anti-aging skincare regime.  If you're looking for a thoroughly good, thoroughly luxurious cleanser, though, and you've got £30 in your wallet for it, then this is a great product to try out.

If you'd like to try NuBo's Velvet Cleansing Cream for yourself, you'll find it at Beautique or on NuBo website, where 100ml will cost you £28.

Disclosure: PR sample

Monday, 21 March 2011

NOTD: Illamasqua Velocity

This is Illamasqua's Velocity, a dirty, dusty grey toned purple.  I bought it because I was so very impressed with the wear of Radium, which I'd had applied at a recent event... and I've been pretty impressed with the wear on Velocity too.  This photo was taken after three days wear, and as you can see, there's barely any tipwear to be seen.  Chips started creeping in after four days, which for me is rather good.

As with Radium, two coats was enough to provide a good covering of colour, although if I was being picky, a third coat would have blocked out the tiny bit of visible nail line I could sometimes see in natural light.  The polish itself was smooth to apply, medium thick in texture, and dried relatively quickly.  It did need a big, thick coat of topcoat to smooth out the slightly streaky finish - but that's a problem I expect with this sort of cream finish, dusty shade.

I've had a fair number of compliments on Velocity - it's a subdued but still eyecatching choice, and I don't think I've seen another colour quite like it.

If you'd like to try Velocity for yourself, you'll find it at Illamasqua's website, where it will cost you £13.50.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

FOTD: Caravaggio

I've been lusting after NARS Caravaggio eyeshadow duo for ages; it contains two of my all time favourite eyeshadow colours; pink and purple.  In a moment of weakness, I caved - and I'm so glad I did.  It's gorgeous.  A full review and heap o'swatches will be upcoming, but for now, here it is in FOTD form.

Cosmetics a la Carte Skin Velvet Foundation in Ivory 
Smashbox Halo Powder
Cosmetics a la Carte concealer in Rose
NYX Powder Blush in Raisin

Chanel Le Crayon Sourcils in Auburn (brows)
NARS Caravaggio eyeshadow duo
Clinique High Impact Curling Mascara

Clinique Lip Liner in Plush Pink

Finally, just to give you a slightly better idea of the colours in the Caravaggio duo, since my hooded lids obscure the best of it, here's an eye closeup.

 Disclosure: Items in italics are press samples

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Lip of the Day: Estee Lauder Pure Color Lipstick in Blushing

I absolutely love Estee Lauder's Pure Color lipsticks.  Designed to be long lasting, with comfortable wear, they deliver on every promise: the colours last for ages on the lips, and don't dry out as some long wearing lipsticks can.  The pigmentation is fantastic - a single swipe over the lips gives opaque, rich colour, with a moist, buttery finish.

Seriously, I think these are probably some of the most comfortable lipsticks I've ever had the pleasure of wearing - a must if you like your colour rich and your lips moist.

Anyway, this is Blushing - a sort of warm rose netural.  Despite being fairly neutral in tone, it's definitely not one to go for if you're looking for an unobtrusive natural lip - the colour is strong and luscious, despite being a fairly subtle shade.

Available at Boots stores and anywhere else you'll find an Estee Lauder counter, as well as online at Estee Lauder's website, Pure Color lipsticks cost £18 - expensive, but worth every penny in my view.  Having absolutely loved this and Extravagant Berry, I'm definitely buying more.  What do you think?  Have you tried Pure Color lipsticks?  Let us know in the comments!

Disclosure: PR sample

Friday, 18 March 2011

Nails Inc Introduce Crackle Polishes

Crackle polishes are looking like an unstoppable trend for this year, with all the big nail brands jumping on the bandwagon.  The latest is Nails Inc, who have just released three crackle polishes in black, purple and hot pink.



Available now from the Nails Inc website, each crackle polish will cost £11.

Superdrug Introduce Fish Spa in London Store

Despite recent concerns that fish spas aren't particularly hygienic, they're popping up in more places than ever.  And now, thanks to Superdrug, fish spas are coming to the high street.  Their Kensington High Street store in London will now be offering fish manicures and pedicures, with more stores to follow.

The prices are reasonable; a 20 minute nibble followed by a 5 minute massage will cost £20, or if you're in a rush and don't fancy the massage, the fish part alone will cost £15.

What do you think?  Tried a fish pedicure?  Want to?  Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Review: Remington Cordless Lady Shaver

Disclosure: PR sample

Whilst I love having smooth legs and armpits, I really hate shaving.  I've long been annoyed by the insanely high price of razors and blades, and given my epic clumsiness, am well used to nicking myself on the ankle.  I'd not really explored the electric shaver area as I thought that they looked like a bit of a faff compared to the quick zip-zip-zip shaving action of a traditional razor - so when I received Remington's Cordless Lady Shaver to test, I wasn't entirely convinced I'd like it.

The shaver itself is a fairly functional looking thing, with the only interesting accent being the lilac power switch.  Gently curved, it fits well in the hand and is easy to hold and control - even when your hands are slippery in the shower or bath.  And whilst it's safe to use in both the shower and the bath, the biggest benefit of the shaver (for me at least) is that it can also be used on dry skin.

I'm a bit forgetful, and I've lost count of the number of times I've been getting ready for work, ready to brave the summer weather with bare legs, and realised that I could do with shaving my legs.  I then have to half-undress, hop into the bath, and quickly shave and rinse down my legs, adding minutes to my already cramped morning routine.  This shaver, then, with its lovely foil, is perfect in that it allows me to give my legs a quick going over without hopping into the bath and lathering up - which is a definite time saver (shaver?) if you're in a rush.

As lovely as no-soap shaving is for your legs, I'd definitely not recommend it on your armpits - I've had a go, in the interests of scientific testing, and found that I ended up with some very irritated and very red armpit skin.  Ouch.  A bit of lubrication is definitely needed for pits and other, ahem, sensitive areas.

At £29.99, it's not particularly expensive compared to a razor - with a pack of eight blades costing around £17 (£17!!!) and a razor body costing £4.  I can sometimes get through razorblades at an alarming rate in the summer (not least because I lose them in the bathroom cupboard), and the replaceable bits on the shaver only need replacing every six months or so, making it a good value for money purchase.

That sense of value, and the fact that I've yet to cut myself whilst shaving with it, pretty much means that I'm now a convert to the Cult of Shaver.  Granted, it's not quite as quick as a traditional razor with sharp blade - you have to go more slowly, and often a couple of times up each leg - but the lack of blood and expensive razorblades makes this little unit a winner in my book.

If you'd like to try the Remington Cordless Lady Shaver out for yourself, you'll find it in many an electrical store, and online via Tesco Direct, where it will cost arund £30.

What do you think?  Are you more fond of a razor or do you have a shaver?  Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Review: Prai O2 Infusion

Described as a "foaming lotion", this Prai product claims to protect the skin against the signs of aging and to boost radiance.  I think it's a sort of high tech face mask - you use it a maximum of three times a week, leaving it on the skin for a few minutes, and remove it with a cloth or warm water.

The texture, though, is unlike any face mask I've tried before - the thin, orangey lotion spreads easily onto the skin, and after a scant few seconds, bursts into a profusion of tingly foam.  On the face, this foam bubbles and fizzes in a strangely tickly fashion - it feels like there's definitely some kind of chemical reaction going on.  This isn't a static, sit-there kind of mask.

As you can see, the foam is quite light and airy.  According to the Prai website, the foaming action is supposed to help carry oxygen to the surface of the skin; it's this oxygen which is supposed to have a brightening affect on the skin.  In fact, the use of both foam and oxygen reminds me of Bliss' Triple Oxygen Mask, which I've not tried personally, but which seems to have had relatively positive reviews.

Anyway - let's get down to the before and after photos, shall we?

left: before; right: after

Whilst I think my skin looks a little brighter in the right-hand after photo, I don't think the results are staggering.  That said, though, my skin isn't exactly dull to start with, and I can image that if I tried this product on a bad skin (or even hungover) day, I'd probably like the results a lot more.

Overall, this is a tingly fresh mask, which provides a little bit of a brightening boost.  The product costs a fairly reasonable £19.75 for 40ml - and given that you barely need three pumps per use, I'd imagine that the bottle would last a fairly long time.  Word to the wise, though - if you're considering trying this, and your skin is dry, you might find it a bit irritating - some of my friends with drier skin have found the product pretty unusable, so probably best for those of you with slightly dry / oily / combination skin.

If you'd like to try this product yourself, you'll find it both on QVC and at the QVC website, where 40ml will cost £19.75.  What do you think?  Tried any oxygen masks yourself?  Let us know in the comments!

Disclosure: PR sample

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Lip of the Day: Urban Decay Lip Junkie Gloss in Wallflower

Urban Decay's latest lip glosses, Lip Junkie, are non-sticky, ultra-shiny glosses which promise to plump the lips long term, with a 40% increase in volume promised when used daily for a month.  I don't know about you, but I rarely wear the same gloss/lipstick two days running, so I can't see myself managing to use it every day for a month... but hey.  As with most lip plumping glosses, there's a tiny amount of tingle when you apply this, but a lot less than some of the more hardcore plumping glosses released in the past few years.

This shade, Wallflower, is a gorgeously creamy neutral which is just fantastic paired with a strong eye.  The gloss itself isn't sheer, but not fully opaque, providing enough colour to give an even, smooth finish, but not so much that it looks too heavy.  One of my favourite things about this gloss is the minty sweet scent - which corresponds to a gloriously sweet taste.  I can't help licking my lips when I wear this!

The packaging of the Lip Junkie glosses is also pretty great, with the squeezy tube being soft and yielding enough to be easy to use, but not so flexible that you overapply.  The slanted applicator is perfectly shaped to apply the gloss, too.

Available at Debenhams, Boots, and online via, Lip Junkie glosses cost £13 each.

Disclosure: PR sample

Monday, 14 March 2011

Boutique Review: Cosmetics à la Carte, Knightsbridge

Nestled in a tiny, charmingly pretty arcade of shops in Knightsbridge, Cosmetics à la Carte's flagship store is a far cry from your average department store makeup counter.  With a calm, laid back atmosphere, it's staffed by beautifully made up and utterly approachable women - you'll find no snottiness here, and certainly no mismatching orange foundation.

The brand was founded in 1973 by Lynne Sanders, a cosmetic chemist who is still closely involved in the formulation of Cosmetics à la Carte's products - I'm told that she can be found in their labs most days, working on products.  The philosophy of the brand is more centred around the needs of the individual than it is around projecting a particular style - whilst you'll find a few promo images at the boutique, you'll also find that they depict a variety of looks, from ultra light and natural to dramatic.  And indeed, when I popped into the boutique for a foundation matching session, I found that the makeup artists on hand were interested in nothing less than exactly what I wanted.

After asking plenty of questions about my preferred finish, coverage level, skin type and skin concerns, the artist immediately honed in on their palest, most neutral toned foundation, which has a semi-matte finish.  Luckily for me, it turned out to match my skin perfectly, so there was no need to mix and match a custom shade.  Had it not matched, I was assured that the wide variety of foundations available would be mixed and mixed until we happened upon the absolute correct shade for my skin.

The service level at the boutique is fantastic - the other staff were unobtrusive, and the artist working on my face was attentive, knowledgeable, and careful to listen to every opinion I had.  As well as doing the usual makeovers and foundation matching, and the unusual foundation mixing, the brand also offer a custom colour matching service - if you've got a long-discontinued favourite lipstick, eyeshadow, powder or gloss, they will mix a close match from their gamut of shades for £47.  If you want to go one step further and replicate a much-loved product exactly, their labs can create up to three varieties for you to test at home, with the end result being a perfect recreation.  At £200, this service isn't cheap - but if you've got an unmatchable, absolutely perfect shade you just can't live without, it'll be worth it in the long run, as re-orders are £50 once matched.

And that, in my view, is the unique selling point of Cosmetics à la Carte - their products, whilst functional and lovely, aren't massively unique, but their approach absolutely is.  From the moment you step into the boutique, the staff go the extra mile to make sure that your visit is all about making sure you get exactly what you're looking for out of your makeup.  If you want lovely products, tailored exactly to you, and an unhurried and personal shopping experience, I'd definitely recommend you head down to Knightsbridge.  Particularly if you find foundation matching difficult!

Cosmetics à la Carte can be found at 19B Motcomb Street, Knightsbridge, and their products can also be found online at their website.

Disclosure: Gemma was treated to a complimentary foundation matching session and took away some samples to try out.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Models Own Launch Smash Up Crackle Polishes & Pro Range

Model's Own, much loved for their multitudinous shades of reasonably priced nail polish, are really hitting us with exciting releases this spring.  First up, as part of their nail art collaboration with cult salon WAH Nails, Smash Up polishes - that oh-so-hot crackle finish in nine colours.  We can't wait to try these out.  They'll be available in April, with the Model's Own site carrying all nine shades, and Boots stores carrying a subset.  They'll cost a rather reasonable £6.

Secondly, a whole new selection of polishes under the new Pro line, which are formaldehyde, toluene and DBP (known as the Big 3) free.  The polish will also include vitamin E, and UV filters, to help your manicure last longer without fading, and to help promote nail growth.  The new line, which will be available exclusively in Boots stores at first in a new professional nail care area - which in itself sounds pretty interesting.  After that, Model's Own are targetting high end department stores and salons.  The range is made up of a staggering 54 new shades.

What do you think?  Excited by any of these new products?  Let us know in the comments!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Review - Tom Ford Champaca Absolute (Private Blend Collection)

Gold accents, embossing, smoked glass, heavy, bevel-edged bottle... everything about the packaging of this fragrance (and every other one in the Private Blend line) oozes expensiveness. This 50ml EDP (and to be fair it IS an EDP, and a very long-lasting one at that) costs £118. Which is, indeed, very expensive.

We already told you about Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille, also from the Private Blend collection. That was a bit of a gourmand adventure. With Champaca Absolute, the experience is blatantly, defiantly floral.

My first thought when I saw the name "Champaca" was of Ormonde Jayne, who pioneered the little Indian bloom onto the niche fragrance market nearly ten years ago. OJ's Champaca is a warm, ricey-starchy and quite friendly scent, and I was expecting something similar from Tom Ford's rendition. However, the TF champaca is cooler and much more aloof - to begin with at least.

It starts out with a hectic and quite exciting jumble of flower petals, starchy smells and alcoholic, white-wine type  notes, with a sticky, red, resinous smell kind of humming away in the background.

As it begins to settle, there's quite a surprising (and on me, almost abrupt) shift into white flowers - cool, composed and entirely in control. As if the perfume had burst into the room all excited, then realised that it was in the middle of a formal gathering and very quickly pulled its socks up and put on a demure front.

I'm not a big white-flower person, and actually find jasmine, lily-of-the-valley type smells rather sickly and nauseating on the whole. This middle phase isn't my favourite part of the fragrance as a result, but it's by no means unpleasant to me - the flowers are balanced finely with the red resin smell I mentioned earlier, and they don't tip over into sickliness. Instead there's a grown-up kind of classic feel to it. It's a "proper" perfume smell - quite timeless and elegant.

The dry-down is where I really got into Champaca Absolute. The cool flowers back off and the resin-warmth plays on, mellowing out into a glowy, dry version of itself. Still floral, but no longer in that fresh, tidy way. Think late afternoon sun shining through a bead of amber, or illuminating a big jug full of a daffodils. It's lazy, luxurious, generous, effortlessly sensual. I love it.

You can buy Champaca Absolute online from Harrods (they also carry the entire Private Blend collection)

Friday, 11 March 2011

Review & Swatches: Sleek Blush in Pomegranate and Rose Gold

I'm a bit late with this, I know - it's been a few months since Sleek released their blushes.  I saw them in the flesh at IMATS in January; Sarah and I couldn't resist the special deal on 4 shades and bought two each.  I've been a bit down on Sleek in the past - having stuck my fingers into some of the older iDivine palettes in Superdrug and found them immensely oily, I'd been steering well clear.

These blushes, though, are definitely not oily - soft, buttery, and very pigmented, they're actually rather gorgeous.

A single dip into the pans will give you enough colour to give your cheeks a pretty glow - I've dipped my brush into Pomegranate twice in the past month and ended up looking a bit clownish, so slow and gentle is definitely the way forward with these.

Left to right:  Rose Gold, Pomegranate

From the swatches, you can see that Rose Gold is a little more natural on the skin in terms of colour, but has a really shimmery finish which is pretty full on in direct light.  Pomegranate is a fantastic colour: a clean, cool, bright raspberry, it injects a lot of colour into my face when I wear it.


Rose Gold

At just £4.30 each, these are definitely worth investigating if you like your blushers.  There are lots of colours available - 9 in total - and the high pigmentation and excellent blendability make these little pots a bit of a bargain.  If I had to have one criticism, it'd be that the packaging can be difficult to open - but for the price, I'm prepared to accept that.

If you'd like to try Sleek's blushers for yourself, you'll find them in Superdrug stores and online at Sleek's webstore.  What do you think?  Tried these?  Let us know in the comments!

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