Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Review and Swatches: Urban Decay Stardust Sparkling Lipgloss in Glitter Rock and Andromeda

These Urban Decay Stardust glosses are intended to give a sparkling but not scratchy effect, inspired by twinkling stars.  Packaged in chunky, heavy plastic, they look spectacular in the tube - Andromeda, the peachy pink on the right, even has a bit of a gold-fuschia duochrome thing going on.

Glitter Rock, Andromeda (shade) 

Glitter Rock, Andromeda (bright sunlight)

One thing's for sure: these glosses are incredibly glittery.  The base gloss is sheer and jelly like, with the star attraction being the oodles of glitter within.  The sparkle particles aren't all the same shade, but rather slight variations on the fuschia pink and peach of Glitter Rock and Andromeda respectively, and Urban Decay are right on the money when they say that the glitter isn't scratchy.  It really isn't.  Once applied, the gloss feels absolutely smooth with no grittiness.

The gloss texture is pretty heavy - it's thick and a little bit sticky on the lips, which can be annoying on blustery days, but does mean that you get a very decent amount of wear time.  I've been applying these glosses on top of lipstick, and have found that they last for a good three hours before they dry down completely, which is quite impressive for something with such a shiny, wet look finish.

Glitter Rock, in sunlight, applied over a light stain using NARS Terre de Feu

Overall, these glosses are very pretty, and remind me a fair bit of MAC Dazzleglasses - but with a more smooth, more glittery finish.  Perfect for a night out, layered over a bright or deep lipstick, or used alone or sparingly over a more neutral toned lipstick for daytime.

Urban Decay Stardust Sparkling Lipgloss can be found at BeautyBay, where each tube will cost £14.

Disclosure: PR samples

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Swatches: NARS Powder Blush in Sin

I recently purchased NARS Sin, mostly because I happened to be in Selfridges with Helen of Just Nice Things fame, and she pretty much told me I had to.  And I am so, so glad I did.  It's a gorgeous, well pigmented berry toned blush with a very soft luminescence to it, and it's just fantastic for winter.

I think that the best thing about this colour is that whilst it's the kind of shade that injects warmth and colour to the face, it's actually reasonably cool toned.  There's no red or orange in this shade at all.  I find it a really complimentary shade on my skin, which runs a little bit cool from neutral.

The biggest surprise with this blush was the pigmentation - I'll admit that the first time I applied it, I did my usual soft-swirly thing and ended up totally overdoing it.  A single light touch of a brush to the pan is enough to start with - it's much easier to build up a pretty flush that way.

Lovely.  I think I'll be wearing this shade rather a lot this winter.  It goes particularly well with neutral eyes and plum lips, but in general it's a pretty versatile colour, and one I'm very pleased to have added to my collection.

NARS Sin is available from HQHair, where it will cost you £20.50 - spendy, but absolutely worth it to my mind.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Quick Pick: UNE Beauty Radiance Day and Night Creams

I went on holiday recently.  Whilst I was packing my beauty case (clearly the most important thing in my whole suitcase), I realised that I didn't want to take my jar of thick, heavy, winter-ready moisturiser with me.  So I threw these cute little tubes from UNE beauty in, and off I went.  Radiance Restore is a nourishing night cream, and Radiance Reveal is a moisturising day cream, and given that they're part of the UNE range, they are made with natural, organic ingredients and no parabens.

I've only had the chance to use them for a week, so I can't really wax lyrical on the long term effects of using the products.  I can, however, tell you that I was seriously impressed by the textures - both creams feel incredibly light on the skin, sink in reasonably quickly with a bit of massage, and leave no residue or heavy feeling at all.  The night cream soothed and calmed my slightly sun-pinkened skin, leaving it feeling well hydrated, fresh and clean.

I'll definitely be revisiting these products for summer, or whenever I feel the need for light products which feel barely-there on the skin.  If you'd like to test them out for yourself, you'll find them at Boots, where the Radiance Restore night cream and Radiance Reveal day cream cost £12.49 respectively, which is a very reasonable price indeed.

Disclosure: PR samples

Sunday, 27 November 2011

NOTD: Nubar Gem

When you find a nail polish which bears a shortened version of your name, you have to buy it, right?  Even more so when the colour happens to be an incredibly unique, pretty shade you could happily wear every day.  Nubar Gem is all of the above to me - like so many Nubar polishes I try, it's unusual, very easy to apply, and pretty darn hard wearing.  A sort of plum tinged taupe with a multitude of holographic sparkles, I've never seen anything like it, and absolutely love the way it looks on the nail.  This is three coats - and I've managed to get around five days wear out of it with a good topcoat.  Simply gorgeous.

Nubar Gem is available from Feel Unique, where it will cost you £8.05.  It's part of the Prisms collection, featuring polishes packed with holographic glitter - and I suspect I'll be investigating a few more of those soon!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

EOTD: Off The Wall Flowers by Soap & Glory

Off The Wall Flowers is the brightest of Soap & Glory's 3 Lid Stuff eyeshadow quads. It features a sandy pearlised highlighter (with a cute embossed detail), a plummy brown, a shimmery aqua and and ever so slightly chalky matte cool pink. The pans are about the size of MAC eyeshadows (and the palette's not unlike a MAC palette either).

Here are all 4 shadows worn on the lid...

And here, of course, are the swatches.

Soap & Glory Lid Stuff palettes are £10 each, available from

Friday, 25 November 2011

Our Christmas Beauty Wist Lists

It's strange but true... no matter how many products a beauty blogger has crammed into every drawer in the house or overflowing from an ever-expanding row of storage units, there are always those few things we simply can't help coveting, stalking and eventually caving in and buying. It's illogical, nonsensical and ridiculous, but it's nonetheless totally unavoidable.

So we're not even going to apologise for the following list of totally unnecessary and indulgent things we're currently jonesing from the creme de la creme of cosmetics purveyors. It's just the way we are...


1. Nars Nagauta Kabuki brush set
It's a combination of two of my favourite things. Makeup, and bento boxes. And it's my favourite colour - red. Mmm... bento...

2. Tom Ford Private Blend Santal Blush
I've been mildly obsessed with this leathery coconutty fragrance ever since we were introduced to it at the launch of Tom Ford's makeup line a couple of months ago. Whenever I see a tester, I spray myself with greedy abandon.
3. By Terry Baume de Rose SPF 15
Terry has a way with roses. In fact, she has a patented technique for processing them into the most delectable beauty products around. This balm is magical stuff, but it's also £35 for 10g, which means I'm going to have to do quite a lot more rationalising and self-deluding before I can bring myself to purchase it.
4. Le Metier de Beaute Kaleidoscope eye kit
I regret not getting hold of one of these before they departed from the UK. Such a cool design, and such beautiful quality products...
5. Diptique Feu de Bois candle
Diptique candles are one of those deliciously premium things I remember spying on the shelves of Space NK long before I got into blogging or high-end beauty. For some reason, I've still never got around to buying one, but if I did, it would be Feu de Bois (woodsmoke). Gorgeous.

6. Jonathan Ward Russian Collection candle - The Empress and Darya
Yep, another candle. (I sense a new addiction forming.)I fell a bit in love with this candle at Jonathan Ward's recent press launch. It has a leathery liquoricey clove & cinnamon medley with added incense and wood that's somehow both mysterious and very comforting.


1.  Graham & Green Art Deco Triple Mirror
If my dressing table wasn't covered in random tubes and pots, hair bands, odd socks, and about 20 Muji drawers full of makeup, it would have one of these beautiful triple mirrors standing upon it.  It'd also be a proper dressing table and not a cheapo one from Argos that I've never quite gotten round to replacing.  But hey, a girl's got to start somewhere, right?
I tried this on at a recent event and fell in love.  The colour is gorgeous.  The texture is fabulous.  The packaging is stunning.  At £31, it's more expensive than a Tom Ford lipstick, though, and I'm not entirely sure I can make a random lunchtime purchase of it.. so it'd take someone really special to buy it for me (I hope my husband's reading this).

Yes, it's a classic, and although I've loved it every time I've spritzed it upon myself, I've never quite bought a bottle.  A rich, heady scent bursting with spice and warmth, it's perfect for winter, and thus perfect for Christmas.

Every time Guerlain release one of these beautiful vintage style bottles filled with delicate shimmer powder, I shiver a little bit.  They are simply gorgeous - the bottles alone would get pride of place on my aforementioned dressing table, and the subtle shimmer is something I'd truly enjoy spritzing on my face, my hair... everywhere.  This year's offering made doubly gorgeous with the 30s styling and deep turquoise colour.  I love it.

I had a little sample of this once.  It's so strong that it almost makes me feel sick for a few minutes after I apply it - but after drying down, it's the headiest, muskiest, most sultry thing I have ever had the pleasure of sniffing.  And it's miles away from a traditional rose perfume.  Tauer describe it as being like a "thick flying oriental carpet with floating rose petals", which would make me want to buy it even if I didn't love the perfume itself as much as I do.

What's on your wishlist for Christmas? (Or just for the sake of it?)

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Review: Philips Lumea Precision home IPL device

Philips Lumea Precision is a new-generation update of the Lumea IPL device, which we trialled in the spring of last year.

Lume Precision is physically very similar to its predecessor, with the same body and charging system (you plug it into the mains via a detachable cable). It has a couple of new additions - firstly, a new case, which slightly resembles a Breville toastie maker when closed, and has snugly-fitting compartments for the Lumea, its charger and even the plug it comes with. Everything fits neatly and securely in the case, which means it's good for travelling.

Secondly, there's an alternate attachment for the business end - a smaller window with stronger light filters (on the right, below). This allows you to blitz sensitive areas, including the face, which will be great news for anyone who was frustrated by other IPL machines' limitations in being able to tackle facial hair.

There's also the advantage of a longer time between charges, and shorter pauses needed between flashes. This makes a real difference, especially when you're covering larger areas like the legs. I found that I could do both lower legs in half an hour (or within the duration of an episode of Firefly, anyway) without the machine needing a cool-down break or running out of power.

There are one or two tiny design fixes I wish Philips would make to the Lumea - most notably, I wish they'd move the setting adjustment buttons away from the handle, as it's very easy to accidentally ramp up the power while gripping the unit and give yourself a stronger zap than you intended. Ouch.

I also wish there was some kind of protective cover over the lens when using the regular attachment - the window doesn't have any kind of cover so any dust or bits of white eyeliner pencil (which I use to mark out guidelines on my legs) can get onto the lens and potentially cause damage and get burned onto the lens if they're not cleaned away quickly.

Those very small gripes aside, this is definitely the best IPL device I've tried. It's quick, efficient, very simple to use and has plenty of settings and options that allow you to get a good result whatever your skin's sensitivity or the area you're using it on.

I found over time that ease of use is a real factor with IPL machines - the Boots Smooth Skin has really fallen out of favour with me because of the corded handset and the need to apply conductive gel while using it. It's a terrible reflection on me, but it was just too much hassle to use. I find it very boring and painstaking to IPL myself and as a result I often put it off. Having a machine that's fast and easy to use maximises the chances of me sticking with it long enough to see real results.

Since using the Lumea Precision I've totally de-hairified my lower legs to the point where I only need to shave them about once every two weeks. When you compare the half-hour spend every other week with all the time and expense of shaving daily in the shower, it's most definitely worth it. And who doesn't need an excuse to sit down and watch an episode of their favourite box set once every couple of weeks?

Lumea Precision costs £449 and is available from

Disclosure - PR sample

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Lip of the Day: Diego Dalla Palma Classic Lipstick in #2 Rosetta

Diego Dalla Palma is a new kid on the makeup block in the UK, despite being a well established brand with a great professional reputation in Italy.   Their prices are in line with high end department store ranges such as MAC, with a lipstick costing £14.  Strangely, the brand has launched initially into Tesco, as part of their new beauty hall offering, which promises a more department store like experience inside Tesco stores.  It's also available as part of Tesco Direct, meaning that you can order the products in to your local store (and hide them amongst the carrots on the way home).

Anyway, on to the Classic Lipstick.  The texture is pretty classic - it's a heavy, almost waxy lipstick which carries full opacity pigment.  It stays put on the lips for quite a while, but like many heavy textured lipsticks, it does dry the lips out a little during the wear time.  This colour is a pretty pink, which will appeal to many - although for me, it's a little frostier than I'd usually wear.  The whitish flash in the colour looks awful alongside shiny or shimmery eyeshadows and blushes, but worn with mattes, I can just about take it.  I'd be curious to try one of the more cream finish shades - I tried on a beautiful ruby red at the launch party for the brand, which worked perfectly with the heavy opaque formula.

Diego Dalla Palma Classic lipsticks are £14, and are available via Tesco Direct, or in their beauty hall, if you're fortunate enough to have one nearby.

Disclosure: PR sample

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Jonathan Ward's new Russian Collection and candle-making technique

This week I attended a very red event. In the Crimson Room at the Soho Hotel, a group of guests assembled to celebrate Jonathan Ward's Russian Collection and see first-hand the artisan pouring techniques and wax blend that he uses to create his luxury candles.

Jonathan Ward is a British brand with resolutely ethical, small-business values - each candle is hand-poured, and uses sustainable materials, from the glass to the cardboard outer packaging. The brand is sold mainly through Whole Foods at the moment, although you can expect to see it branching out this year thanks to a solid cult and celebrity following.

Jonathan Ward himself is tall, softly-spoken and quite charming, and speaks with an authentic passion about his products. The candles are created and marketed by a small team based in London, and led by Jonathan himself, who is very much a hands-on business owner (in a similar way to Linda Pilkington of Ormonde Jayne) who is completely dedicated to making the products as good as they can possibly be. Jonathan works with a perfumer (I'm not sure who) to come up with the scents, which are complex and layered like fine fragrance. You won't find any generic combinations or even soliflore scents in the range - they're all creative compositions.

The Russian Collection consists of three candles. Kartushya, which was the focus of the event, is a spicy, boozey woodsy scent perfect for winter. The Gypsy is a jasmine-laden floral, again with a woody base, and The Empress and Darya is a gorgeous leathery-liquorice sort of smell with cloves, cinnamon, vetiver and cedarwood. (This one is going on my Christmas list.)

In order to show us how the candles are made, Jonathan and the team brought along a pan, a hob, a bag of soy wax and a chunk of beeswax, along with a bottle of incredibly precious concentrated Kartushya perfume oil, which he gave us to sniff before mixing the wax - it's powerful stuff.

The first step is to melt down the beeswax - carefully stirring and monitoring the temperature so it doesn't burn. The beeswax plays an important functional role in making the scent from the candle spread out into the air while it's burning. It also creates a beautiful honey smell, which filled the room as Jonathan melted it in the pan.

Next, grains of soy wax are poured in and slowly melted. As Jonathan's assistant Justine stirred the pan, we looked in and saw the grains mixing with the beeswax into a kind of wax-risotto. It took a few minutes for the whole lot to melt into a clear liquid, and in the meantime we tied the wicks in the candle glasses to get them into the right positions.

There were some powerful red cocktails being served, so the knotting techniques weren't as precise as they might have been...

Finally, the wax was poured into the glasses, in two stages. Justine supervised me as I poured mine, showing admirable restraint as I very nearly poured too much. The wax hardens from the bottom up, and you can see it beginning to go cloudy as it sets. At the final stage, Justine adjusts the wicks so they're perfectly in position, before adding the final layer of wax on top.

Once cooled, the candles are put into their beautifully designed cardboard boxes, which are made without glue for sustainability reasons.

And there you have it! A sustainably sourced, hand-poured, seductively scented premium candle in my favourite colour - red.

The Russian Collection is out now, and is absolutely worth exploring if you like your scents dark, complex and rich. There's also a new range of diffuser scents on the way - just 3 scents at first, but hopefully more as the brand gets more into its stride.

The Russian Collection candles come in 2 sizes -

Large: £35 - 8.5oz (241g) , burn time: 45hrs
Medium: £25 - 6.5oz (185g) , burn time: 30hrs

You can find Jonathan Ward London candles at branches of Whole Foods and at

*Disclosure - Kartushya candle was given to me at the event

Monday, 21 November 2011

New Love: By Terry Sheer Expert Foundation

By Terry is a brand synonymous with opulence, for me.  This foundation, Sheer Expert, hammers the luxury home - a 35ml tube costs a staggering £44.  At a recent event, I was told that this makes it an affordable foundation, since most of By Terry's foundations are around £60.  Gulp.

Anyway - Sheer Expert comes in twelve shades, and promises the usual gamut of skin smoothing, age blurring, flawless finish goodness you'd expect from a high end foundation.  And boy, does it deliver - assuming your underlying skin is in reasonably good nick, this sheer foundation delivers flawless looking skin with a natural, lit-from-within finish.

Above, I've applied it alone over clean skin - and I think my skin looks pretty darn good.  Even and glowy with a semi matte finish, this foundation really looks like my skin, but better.  The texture is very silky, and feels very similar to one of my other favourite sheers, Armani Face Fabric.  The By Terry product feels far more refined, however, spreading incredibly easily on the skin and giving a gorgeous glow as opposed to a natural matte powder finish.

Now, aside from the rather scary price, I have one problem with this foundation.  Like many By Terry products, it's strongly scented with a heady rose aroma.  Personally, I like it - but I suspect that some would rather have a foundation without a strong scent, whether it's all natural or not.

Anyway - I'm a bit bowled over by the finish of this foundation, and although it is insanely expensive, the radiant finish is worth the extra cash if you've got the capacity to spend it.  I suspect it'll take me a long while to get to the bottom of my tube, as you need so little of it to cover the entire face, but when I do, I reckon I might end up repurchasing.

Sheer Expert foundation is available from SpaceNK, where it will cost you £44.  Given the high price, I'd highly recommend popping into SpaceNK to try it out before you buy.  If you like the sound of this, but prefer more coverage, there'a a sister product called Cover Expert which promises much the same as Sheer Expert.

Disclosure: PR sample

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Amazing Elemis Set at QVC Today

QVC's Today's Special Value (TSV) items are often a bit of a temptation for beauty addicts.  Today's offering, from Elemis, is no exception - for just £39.96, you get a five piece set containing several cult items:

  • Pro-Collagen Marine Cream (30ml) - award-winning moisturiser helps to actively reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles whilst hydrating your skin

  • Pro-Radiance Cream Cleanser (150ml) - formulated to deeply cleanse your skin, gently dissolving make-up and daily grime to a radiant, youthful-looking complexion

  • Pro-Radiance Hand and Nail Cream (100ml) - luxuriously rich hand cream quickly absorbs to instantly hydrate hands and condition your nails. (QVC exclusive)

  • Frangipani Monoi Body Oil (100ml) - super-hydrating oil designed to leave your skin feeling silky soft and beautifully fragranced. It can be used as a massage oil and a hair treatment

  • Tranquil Touch Bath Elixir (300ml) - enriched with cocoa butter, patchouli, cedarwood and vetivert to leave your skin felling soft and delicately scented

  • All of which comes in a sleek navy washbag.  That's a fairly large volume of product for a reasonable price - and if you buy more than one set, you get £4 off each additional one purchased.  I think I'll be buying some of these for Christmas gifts (and maybe a sneaky one for myself!).

    Run, don't walk, over to the QVC site, where this Elemis TSV will be available until midnight or until it sells out.

    Saturday, 19 November 2011

    Review: Urban Decay Book of Shadows Volume 4

    BOS 4 has been out for a while now, but I thought it might be helpful to review it ahead of Christmas as it's likely to be on a lot of people's Christmas present wishlists.

    The first thing I want to say is that this palette is BIG. Compare BOS 4 (on the right here) with the previous editions and you can see that there's been a steady increase in bulk with these palettes over the years, with BOS 4 exceeding BOS 3 both in width and length.

    It's not a portable palette by any means, although the BOS format has always been more of a dressing-table piece, so hopefully this won't put people off it.

    Design-wise, it's very attractive, with a mix of embossed, holographic and coloured graphics on a black background. On the front cover, linear patterns radiate out from a large UD logo, along with a burst of butterflies, a photomontage of animals and swirling, ethereal shapes.

    Inside, the butterfly theme continues, with clear plastic butterfly cut-outs applied around the mirror and on the horizontal surface under the lid. There's also a card in a slide-in holder, and a folded shelf-type thing designed to hold your smartphone. The card features 5 QR codes which you can use to download 5 videos on your phone, each one with a tutorial. The idea is that you put your smartphone on the shelfy bit and play a tutorial as you do your makeup, assisted by the speaker which is included in the box (along with a USB to 3.5mm audio jack and 2-ended 3.5mm audio connector).

    I have to say that the speaker doesn't really measure up to the "big sound" advertised on the box - it's not great, pretty tinny and not much better than the speaker already included in my HTC Sensation smartphone. I'm sure the cables are fine, but overall I don't think the multi-media concept is a winner for UD. They would have done better to stick with the intricate pop-ups they've featured in previous Books of Shadows. Makeup is their thing, not hardware - and that's fine.

    There are 16 shadows:

    Baked (shimmering bright copper)
    Bender (shimmering dark mossy green)
    Blue Bus (bright blue w/ purple shimmer)
    Bust (taupe brown w/subtle gray shimmer)
    Cobra (sooty black w/golden shimmer)
    Crystal (light silvery blue w/multi-dimensional shimmer)
    Gravity (deep vibrant purple w/ multi-dimensional glitter)
    Gunmetal (dark metallic silver w/silver sparkle)
    Hijack (greyish green w/blue and green shimmer) 
    Lost (shimmering dark brown)
    Midnight Cowgirl (shimmering gold w/gold sparkle)
    Midnight Rodeo (metallic medium brown w/silver and gold glitter)
    Missionary (light taupe w/pink shimmer)
    Sin (shimmering champagne)
    Skimp (shimmering ultra-light nude)
    Zephyr (shimmering off-white)

    (These are all UD's descriptions).

    You also get a full-size Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in Perversion (black), which is as precise and excellent as its more colourful sister Retrograde, plus a miniature UDPP in the new squeezy tube format, and a small Supercurl Curling Mascara, which I haven't tried yet.

    I really like the colours in this BOS. It's the first one in the series that really seems to have a clear colour story to it. Previously, they've been a general mix of colours, but this one is definitely based around purples, greens, blues and neutrals, with colours varying from delicate highlights to vivid jewel tones.

    Top to bottom: Baked, Cobra, Gunmetal, Blue Bus

    Hijack, Lost, Gravity, Bender

     Bust, Crystal, Midnight Rodeo, Sin, Midnight Cowgirl

    Zephyr, Skimp, Missionary, Bust (again)

    My favourites are Hijack, Gravity and Crystal, and while I've got to say I wasn't totally delighted to see Midnight Cowgirl and Midnight Rodeo again, there aren't any colours in this palette that I won't get some use out of.

    At £46, it's the priciest BOS yet, but given the quantity and variety of products included, it's a definite bargain, and contains everything you need for hours of creative enjoyment and myriad beautiful eye looks.

    You can buy Urban Decay Book of Shadows 4 from Debenhams, where you'll currently get a handy 10% off all beauty.

    *Disclosure - PR sample
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