Saturday, 31 December 2011

Always Read The Label: Vinies Luminous Skin Mask sample in Boudoir Prive November Box

November's Boudoir Prive box contained two small samples of Luminous Skin Mask, made by natural brand Vinies Ayurveda's Soul.  Being a bit overrun with products and a bit low in time, I've only just managed to get round to trying them... and I'm really wishing I hadn't.  I applied the brown, potent smelling mask to my face in the bath and washed it off a few minutes later after my skin started to feel overheated and a little bit burn-y.  Five minutes later, I was out of the bath, frantically pressing a cold-water drenched flannel against my very red, very irritated face.

These photos were taken after twenty minutes of using a cold water compress, and after taking an anti histamine.  In the full face photo, you can clearly see a red line of irritation near my hairline - it's most clearly visible by my temple - which follows the exact area where the mask was applied.  The mask left my skin feeling inflamed, overheated, and very, very angry.  As it turns out, the ingredients (mostly clay with some spices and oils) are intended to provoke a slight reddening in the skin under normal circumstances- apparently this means that the product is working.  The redness is supposed to fade after fifteen minutes or so, leaving the skin looking soft and radiant..  This information wasn't provided in the Boudoir Prive beauty box, nor was it printed on the samples.

Many others have reported severe or slight reactions to this product via Boudoir Prive's Facebook page, and the experience has no doubt been made worse by the fact that not enough information was provided about the product in the first place.  I've thrown the rest of my samples out - and from now on, I'm likely to view new products from unknown brands a little more suspiciously.  Granted, as responsible owners of skin we should be patch testing every new product before slathering it on our faces - but in all reality, I doubt many people actually manage to do this consistently.  In future, I'll do my homework (via a bit of judicious Googling) on new products before I slap them on.

Have you tried a sample of this product?  What were your experiences?  Let us know in the comments!

Friday, 30 December 2011

Review and Swatches: Rockalily Lipstick in Roulette Red

Rockalily is a company founded by the wonderfully named ReeRee Rockette, a classy dame who dresses in a vintage inspired rockabilly style which goes hand in hand with a great red lip.  The lipstick range was born in response to a lack of a perfect lipstick in the market - Rockalily lipsticks promise great pigmentation, comfortable, non-drying wear, and a non-feathering matte finish.

First impressions of the packaging are good - I love the tattoo inspired leopard and lily graphics on the box.  The lipstick itself, however, was less love at first sight - the tube is black plasic, a mix of matte effect and shiny, and it's rather lightweight in the hand.  It feels a little bit hollow, and a little bit cheap, in fact - which, given that the lipstick costs £14, is a little bit disappointing.

The shape of the bullet is unusual - it's a slim ovoid shape, as opposed to the more common teardrop shape.  The smaller surface area makes it much easier to apply this colour straight from the bullet than a "normal" lipstick - and it also allows for much more precision around the edges of the lips, which is a definite bonus as far as I'm concerned (I rarely use a lip brush for red lips).  

Whilst I was disappointed with the packaging of this lipstick, I am absolutely bowled over by the pigmentation, texture and wear.  A single pass over the lips deposits rich, opaque colour with a semi-matte finish, and the colour feels comfortable on the lips for hours and hours.  After four or five hours, it fades down into more of a cherry-stain, and reapplying over the top of the left overs is perfectly easy to do.  The fade is completely even, with no red outline and bare inner lip at all, just an even, softened red throughout.

My lips haven't felt dry or uncomfortable at all whilst I've been wearing this lipstick, and I've been wearing it a fair bit since I bought it.  In fact, the formula is so wonderful that I've been wearing it more than my much loved (and much more expensive) By Terry lipstick.  I've already bought another (in the wonderfully named shade of Sailors Beware), and I'll definitely be looking out for new shades being added to the collection.  If you're a lover of a red lip... BUY THIS.  You won't regret it.

Rockalily lipsticks are available exclusively from the Rockalily website, where each lipstick will cost you £14 + P&P of £2.50.  There are 4 permanent shades available. with 4 limited edition shades around at the moment.  Tried Rockalily?  What do you think?  Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Quick Pick: Margaret Dabbs Exfoliating Foot Mousse and Intensive Treatment Foot Oil

A while back, I had a Margaret Dabbs medi-pedi at Harrods, which I enjoyed very much.  To ensure my tootsies (stupid word, no?) were kept in the best condition in between treatments, I was sent some products from Margaret Dabbs' home care range to try out.  

The Intensive Treatment Foot Oil is a pretty self explanatory product.  It's an oil.  You spray it on your feet after a good file and scrub.  It provides intense moisturisation and leaves my feet feeling incredibly, amazingly soft once it's sunk in.  An added bonus is that it has a gloriously light, fresh scent, based on citrus fruits, which is a great remedy for tired feet at the end of a long day.  At £24.45 for 100ml, it's an expensive treat - but you use so little of it per spritz that I'd imagine a single bottle would last a long, long time. 

The Exfoliating Foot Mousse is a rather unappetising looking (and smelling) product, all things considered.  It's clearly built for performance, not for style.

A thick, gritty brown paste, it comes with it's own little scoop so you can avoid getting it under your nails, and as the name would suggest, it's got an air whipped texture that's a little lighter than your average scrub.  The gritty bits are pretty hardcore, tackling dry, rough skin with ease and leaving the feet feeling clean and soft.  As well as scrubby bits, the mousse contains Emu Oil, which helps to soften the skin as you scrub away.  At £15.35 for 100ml, this is also a bit on the expensive side - but again, you need very little, and it's so very effective compared to other scrubs I've used that I'd quite happily repurchase.

Used together, the Exfoliating Foot Mousse and the Intensive Treatment Foot Oil are pretty much a weekly pedicure essential for me.  As you may have read in the past, I have horrible feet which require orthotics and are always looking hard worked and ugly.  The two products almost make me feel like I could wear open shoes again - the difference in softness between before and after is quite staggering, and I've worked both products into my weekly routine.  Wonderful.

Margaret Dabbs Intensive Treatment Foot Oil and Exfoliating Foot Mousse are available from the Urban Retreat Beautique.  What's your favourite pedicure product?  Let us know in the comments!

Disclosure: Press sample

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Pick of the beauty sales... so far

Hands up if you couldn't resist nipping online on Christmas afternoon to take a look at what was coming up in the sales... Yeah? Me too. Well, between that and the Queen's speech, there wasn't much of a contest I'm afraid.

So where are the best bargains to be had? The big department stores seem to have very similar bits and pieces in their online sales this year - it's almost like they're all coming from the same big warehouse or something. Hmm. There are a few notable exceptions though...

Here are the bargains that have been filling up my online shopping baskets. (Whether I clicked "buy" or not will perhaps become apparent in later posts.)

Boots have lots of perfume gift sets as usual, and they've also done their usual thing of reducing all their stickered Christmas gifts by half. My picks would definitely be among the Poppy King for No 7 gift range, especially this gorgeous little red lip palette reduced to a bargainous £5. It's currently sold out online, but keep an eye out for it in store and with any luck the site will replenish its stock too.

There are also some very cute mini No 7 nail polishes to be snaffled up (£5 for a set of 5), and of course Boots is the place to go for all the discounted Soap & Glory gifts you can shake a pink retro-themed stick at.

The one to nab at Debenhams is absolutely the Urban Decay Book of Shadows IV, reduced to £36.80 (was £46). Did they order too much stock this year? They also have some steep discounts on This Works sets, and don't forget to check their offers on The Sanctuary if your local Boots has run dry of the set you want.

Space NK
The Space NK sale is now on officially, after a 24 preview for N.dulge card members. They've slashed most of the Absolution range by 50%, so it's definitely a good time to try this innovate natural skincare line if you haven't already. (Best not to count on re-buying it from Space NK though - discounts this wide don't look hopeful for the brand's future at this store.)

You can also expect to find lipsticks and eyeliners from Chantecaille and By Terry at half price (Chantecaille lipstick for a tenner? Yes please) and a very tempting gift set of 3 candles from Diptyque reduced from £60 to £30.

With only 30% discount on their beauty sale, ASOS aren't tempting us as much as they might, but there are some good value Frederik Fekkai, Bliss and Paul & Joe seasonal sets that are worth a look if you particularly like those brands. I'm very very keen on these Manhattan collection palettes, £22 (were £30), which contain eyeshadow, blush and highlighter in a white Art Deco style case.

Have you found any unmissable bargains in the sales? Post a link in a comment - enable us!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

NOTD: Essie Spaghetti Strap + Butter London Tart With A Heart

This Nail of the Day is all about Butter London's gloriously sparkly Tart with a Heart.  It's a polish chock full of teeny tiny glitters in a myriad of colours - a little like Deborah Lippmann's Happy Birthday, but with finer, more subtle, less shouty sparkle.  Tart with a Heart has a slightly golden jelly base, which looks pretty sheer and nothing-y on its own, so I chose to apply two twinkling coats over two coats of Essie's Spaghetti Strap, a pale pink cream polish, to give that glitter something to sit upon.

The effect is incredibly feminine, but not too sweet - I've caught myself staring at my nails a few times since I applied this manicure, watching the glitter twinkle under both natural and artificial light.  This combo also lasted very well - four days with no chips or tipwear before I decided to remove it to apply something else.  Removal was actually reasonably painless for a glitter - my nails did require a bit of soaking under a removed-drenched cotton pad for a few moments, but nothing like the insane amount of soak-and-scrub a chunkier glitter polish would require.

Gorgeous.  I suspect I'll be layering this shade over the top of all kinds of colours in the coming months -I can see it looking pretty spectacular over black, deep blue, or purple for sure.  I got my bottle from Harvey Nichols online - where it cost me £12 - but they now seem to be out of stock.  At the time of writing, it's in stock at The Beauty Booth for the same price.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

For those of you celebrating Christmas today, we wish you a relaxing and fun day with a stocking full of beauty treats (hopefully!).  We've got plenty of beauty bites ready for that no-man's land between Christmas and New Year, so stay tuned... but for today, we'll be decking our lips with our favourite red lipsticks, whacking a load of glitter on our nails, with the aim of twinkling like a Christmas tree all day.  Have fun!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Things I Have Used Up

It's quite rare for me to actually finish things.  Shampoo, conditioner, and cleanser maybe - I get through so much conditioner that quite a lot of empty bottles come out of my bathroom - but nothing else, really.  Perhaps because I have so many duplicate bits of stuff that actually getting through something is quite an achievement.

This month, though, I've managed to finish three things that have been a regular staple for quite some time.

Too Faced Shadow Insurance is something I've never actually reviewed, but have used solidly since I bought it about six months ago.  I bought it because I'd heard that it performs much like Urban Decay's cult classic primer potion, but without the slight difficulty in blending you can get with UDPP.  Also, it comes in a tube - meaning I've been able to squeeze every last drop out.  It does indeed perform like UDPP - easy to blend onto the eyelid, very easy to blend over, and holds shadow in place for a good 18 hours.  I will definitely repurchase this.

Chanel Le Crayon Sourcils is a wonderful eyebrow pencil which straddles the line between hard and soft.  It's easy to feather plenty of colour onto the brows with this pencil, and equally easy to remove any excess if required too.  It also comes in a shade called Auburn, which has enough red in it to look sensible next to my bright red hair.  I particularly like that the pencil is double ended - one end is the actual eyebrow pencil, and the other is a firm bristled angled brush, perfect for softening the brows if required.  I've now switched back to brow powder - but if I wanted to go back to pencil, this'd be my choice/

Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax Bath Oil* is an incredibly luxurious, pungently scented bath oil.  A little goes a long way, and a bath with this always leaves both my bathroom and my skin deliciously fragrant, and my mind feeling relaxed and sleepy.  The glass bottle looks smart on my bathroom shelf, and the overall quality of the product makes it worth the slightly spendy price.

Disclosure: Items marked * were PR samples

Friday, 23 December 2011

Glitter lovers take note: Deborah Lippmann Get This Party Started set out now at House of Fraser

If you loved the unabashed glitter-fest that was Deborah Lippmann Happy Birthday (or its doppelganger Rainbow Connection from OPI's Muppets collection), get ready to add this gift set to your online shopping basket, ASAP. Get This Party Started features the original Happy Birthday, along with two re-mixes - Forget You, which features the rainbow glitter on a black jelly base, and Candy Shop, which is the same thing on a pastel pink base.

Best of all, it's only £28 for the set. Given that Lippmann polishes retail at £16 each, this is excellent value. Easily reason enough to treat yourself ready for New Year's Eve.

Deborah Lippmann Get This Party Started nail polish collection, £28, House of Fraser

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Review: Yes To Carrots Hair & Scalp Moisturising Mud Mask

As my hair gets longer, I notice the return of an old enemy: split ends. We all know that no haircare product can heal split ends (yet), but regularly deep conditioning can help keep them at bay, so a well-priced, high-performing mask that I can use once or twice a week is definitely good news.

I've found exactly that in Yes To Carrots' hair and scalp mask. It's a tub of sherbet orange coloured opaque creamy goo that contains just about everything bar the kitchen sink in terms of natural ingredients: Dead Sea water and silt, olive oil, sweet almond oil, jojoba, macadamia, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot (of course), orange juice, spirulina and algae, chamomile... the ingredients list reads more like a salad recipe than a cosmetic product.

It has a sweet but subtle scent that I've never smelt anywhere before - probably a result of the unique mix of ingredients. It comes in a screw-top tub, allowing you to dip in your hand and pick up a satisfyingly hefty pawful to spread on your head and hair. The directions recommend leaving it on towel-dried hair for 12-15 minutes - good news if, like us, you enjoy lingering in the bathtub with a book.

The results: noticeably more shiny, bouncy hair that feels smooth to the touch and not at all weighed down. I haven't noticed any real difference to my scalp, but it was pretty OK to start with.

It costs £8.20 for 250ml - a snip compared to some of the more high-end salon products we've tried. And given the amount of natural ingredients it packs, and that it's formulated without parabens (though I did spot Dimethicone on the ingredient list), it should be a winner with those who like their products natural as well as effective.

Buy Yes To Carrots Hair & Scalp Moisturising Mud Mask online at Victoria Health

Disclosure - PR sample

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

NOTD: Leighton Denny Graycious + Andrea Fulerton Striple & Sparkle Gloria

This bottle of Andrea Fulerton's Stripe and Sparkle had been sitting around in my polish drawer for quite some time, and I decided recently that it was time to break it out and get a bit creative.  I've done coloured tips before, usually with a normal nail polish with a normal width brush.  The thin, precise brush supplied with the Stripe and Sparkle is actually much better suited to coloured tips - it's thin enough that you can just stroke it across the tip of the nail using its entire width.

The other half of the bottle contains an ultra fine glitter in a complimentary shade, in this case a royal blue to match the mid blue of the polish.  To apply, you simply sprinkle atop wet polish - which is really just as messy as it sounds.  The effect is pretty, but also a bit of a pain to clean up.

Anyway - if you'd like to try a spot of nail art, you'll find Andrea Fulerton Stripe and Sparkle in Superdrug stores, where it will cost you a reasonable £4.99.  If you quite fancy the dark grey cream of Leighton Denny Graycious, you'll find it at the Urban Retreat Beautique, where it will cost £11.25.

Disclosure: Graycious is a PR sample.  I bought the Stripe and Sparkle myself.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Need a last-minute beauty Christmas gift? L'Occitane have you covered

Panicking about last-minute Christmas shopping? Don't worry. L'Occitane's gift boxes are an all-in-one perfect-present solution and they're so pretty you probably don't even need to wrap them up. They even come with a gift tag so you can write a message to your lucky recipient as you dash home from the shops to get your present under the tree just in time.

L'Occitane have really pushed the boat out this year with an impressively wide range of gift boxes, featuring almost all of their major scent lines, including Verbena, Lavande, Shea Butter, Pivoine Flora, Fleur Cherie, Rose 4 Reines (pictured) and Cherry Blossom. Each one has contents that are a little bit different, but you can expect soap, hand cream, body lotion, shower gel, EDT and generally everything you might want to layer yourself (or enable the layering of a lucky recipient) in one of L'Occitane's fragrances and get smooth happy skin courtesy of their renowned shea butter formula moisturisers.

They represent excellent value too, with an average saving of around £20 compared to buying the individual products, and of course you get the sturdy and very attractive gift box in which the products are nestled in tissue paper - a guaranteed "oooh" unwrapping moment.

Prices range from around £25 to £60. The Rose set pictured is £46. See the full range of gift sets at the L'Occitane website

Disclosure - Verbena gift box received as a sample

Monday, 19 December 2011

Quick Pick: Shu Uemura UV Under Base Mousse SPF30

Personally, I don't really care for primer too much, unless it's one that gives a high level of SPF protection.  Primers with SPF can often be heavy on the skin, and any primer that combines a high SPF with a light texture is a winner in my book.  NARS Multi Protect Primer has been my primer-of-choice for ages now, with its creamy texture and feather light finish.  This Shu Uemura UV Under Base Mousse, however, has blown the NARS primer out of the water, taking lightness to a new level.

The mousse comes in a single shade called Beige - which is a little misleading, as despite the tiny touch of warmth in the product, it leaves no colour whatsoever on the skin once applied.  I use about half of the amount pictured above for my whole face - roughly a walnut sized blob - and find that the air whipped mousse blends quickly and seamlessly across the skin.  It sinks in incredibly quickly, and leaves the skin feeling completely clean, almost as if no product had been applied at all.  

It's really the lightest, most unnoticeable primer I've ever used - which, given that it gives SPF 30 protection, is pretty damn impressive.  At £29 a can, it's reasonably expensive - but as with the NARS product, it's absolutely worth it.  If you'd like to try it for yourself, you'll find it at the Shu Uemura website.

Disclosure: PR sample

Sunday, 18 December 2011

New love: Clarins Blue Orchid Face Treatment Oil

Winter is the perfect time to fall in love with facial oils. Somewhere between a mask and a serum, they go on before moisturiser and provide an extra hit of hydration to the skin last thing at night. They're luxurious to use and generally allow you to wake up with skin that's absolutely moisturised and rocking a bit of an extra glow.

Clarins have 3 new facial oils coming out in January 2012 [EDIT - commenters have told me that they aren't new, but a repackaging of an existing product]:
Blue Orchid - for dehydrated skin (remember dehydrated skin is different from dry skin. Dehydrated = not enough water, dry = not enough oil)
Santal - for dry skin
Lotus - for combination or oily skin

Each costs £29 for a rather generous 30ml. Since you only use 2-3 drops with each application, a bottle of one of these is likely to last a good long time.

I've been trialling Blue Orchid for a few weeks now and I already know, even though I've hardly made a dent in the bottle, that it's a definite re-purchase.

For one thing, it does exactly what it says on the tin: I've found myself reaching for it every time I feel like my skin's dried out and looking flaky or dull, and it's delivered every time, returning my normal levels of moisture overnight.

Another huge point in its favour is that it smells beautiful. It's a little bit chocolately, strange to say given that the hero ingredients are blue orchid, rosewood and patchouli. It's good the cool earthiness of patchouli and the delicacy of rose going on too. It's delicious to fall asleep with this on your skin.

I also really like the science-class style pipette dispenser and the chunky oval-shaped glass bottle. It's hygienic, elegant and very practical - you can take complete control over how much you use each time, so there's no risk of wasting any or accidentally pouring it into your lap my mistake.

The consistency is thin-ish, for an oil, and very light. I find that it spreads quite easily on clean skin by itself, but I'm told that a bit of toner on the skin before application will make it apply very smoothly. It leaves the skin glowy rather than shiny (definitely not greasy) and doesn't interact adversely with the moisturiser I'm currently using (Pai Chamomile and Rosehip).

Look out for these facial oils on Clarins counters from January, along with a set of 3 body treatment oils that complete the collection. Apparently all of the formulations were created by Mr Clarins in 1954 and are 100% unchanged. They're also free of preservatives and artificial fragrance. Well, why mess with a good thing?

Disclosure: PR sample

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Review: By Terry Terrybly Lipstick in 202 Fanatic Red

Behold, ladies and gentlemen; the most expensive lipstick I have ever purchased.  At £31 a pop, Rouge Terrybly lipstick is a super-luxe choice for those of us who absolutely adore lipstick.  It's supposed to be anti-aging, extra fine and silky-smoothing (not my words) in texture, and highly pigmented to boot.  When I tried it on recently at an event, the artist compared it to Tom Ford's iconic (and similarly expensive) lipsticks, but naturally said it was better.

First off, some packaging porn.  This lipstick is one of those which come in a little velvet bag, as if it were a piece of fine jewellery as opposed to a mere cosmetic product.  The outer box is a beautiful purple-blue, and as you'd expect, contains many long words and patented ingredients, all of which add to the sense of spending a lot of money for a (hopefully) good reason.  Teasing open the velvet bag, you find a heavyweight, silver casing which is beautifully embossed on the lid.  It has an incredibly satisfying magnetic click closure - you know, the kind you sit and play with for a good ten minutes, open-close-open-close-open-close.  Or maybe that's just me.

Speaking of embossing, the lipstick itself is also embossed - it bears the Terrybly moniker.  This is as good a time as any to segue from the lipstick itself to a bit of confusion over the whole Terrybly sub-brand.  For the life of me, I cannot understand why Terry has decided to apply a play on the word "terribly" to a line of high end cosmetics.  Granted, one could assume that it's because they are so terribly, terribly luxurious - but you could also maybe say that they are terribly expensive, wear terribly, or smell terribly strongly of rose.

Applied, this beautiful blue based red looks fabulous (and makes my teeth look whiter!).  It's worth pointing out that I applied it straight from the tube, onto lips which were a little bit dry and tight, and they still look lush.  This is a single pass over the lips, which gives you some idea of how intense the pigment is in this lipstick.  I love the semi matte finish - it looks sophisticated but not at all dry.

The texture is also fantastic - whilst the lipstick applies very smoothly, gliding onto the lips in a way you'd expect from a balm like product, it sets fast within thirty seconds or so, and leaves a weightless, comfortable finish.  It doesn't last quite as long as some of the luxe red lipsticks I've bought in the past, weighing in at around 3 hours, and it does dry the lips out towards the end of the wear time.  I also noticed a bit of uneven wear going on.

So, is this lipstick worth £31?  Well... for a confirmed lipstick addict like me, the answer is pretty much a yes.  It's luxurious, the colour (while not entirely original) is fabulous, and the texture is to die for.  If the wear was as impressive as it's other attributes, I'd be rushing out to buy more.  If you'd like to try out one of these for yourself, you'll find them at SpaceNK, both in store and online.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Review & Swatches: Giorgio Armani Eyes to Kill Intense Eyeshadow in 5 Gold Blitz

Giorgio Armani Eyes To Kill Intense eyeshadows are intended to provide gorgeously rich, shimmering colour with a texture that's not quite a powder, but isn't a cream either.  They're much like the L'Oreal Infallible shadows released a while back in terms of promises, but with a much more usable, blendable texture.  Some may also compare them to Chanel's Illusion d'Ombre eyeshadows, which I've reviewed here and here - but whilst the high shimmer finish is similar, the texture really isn't.  

I chose to use some Selfridges birthday vouchers on shade 5, Gold Blitz, which isn't really all that gold - more bronze.  

The packaging is classic Armani - all sleek black and glass.  Inside the little pot you'll find a decent amount of shadow, held down by a plastic stopper thing.  I think it's supposed to hold the shadow down in the jar.  You can see immediately that Gold Blitz is a deep, shimmering bronze colour - it has an almost metallic sparkle in the jar - and that high sparkle finish translates very well once swatched.

Mmm, shiny.  The texture is quite soft and silky, with a slight amount of creaminess which just seems to enhance the shadow's ability to blend.  It's very pigmented - a light touch of brush to shadow is needed to avoid over-application and fallout under the eyes.

I've been really enjoying wearing this shade alone with plenty of mascara for an easy, pretty-but-edgy day look.  The bronze colour brings out the green in my eyes, and it's very flattering to my complexion.  Plus, I reckon that with a bit of black shadow smudged into the lash line, this would translate very well into a smoky night look.  Which would be intense, but not so intense you couldn't wear red lipstick.  My kind of look.

Overall, very impressed by this - the colour is great, the payoff is excellent, and the metallic finish is gorgeous. I'll definitely be checking out the other shades in the range.  At £24.50, these are certainly not affordable - but I love them anyway for the beauty of the finish.  And because a little bit of Armani in the makeup bag makes a girl feel a little bit squishy and happy inside.

Available in 12 shades, you'll find Armani Eyes To Kill Intense eyeshadows in store and online at Selfridges.  What do you think?  Tried these?  Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Gift of the Week At Boots: Soap and Glory Big Splendour Set

Last year, Soap and Glory's bumper Big Pink Tote was the Christmas bargain, following on from 2009's Hat Box.  This year's Big Spendour set is just as good - from Friday 16th December - Friday 23rd December, it'll be available for the special price of £25, instead of the £60 RRP.

It contains:

  • Larger-than-life lip plumper
  • Clean On Me™ creamy clarifying shower gel 500ml
  • The Righteous Butter™ body butter 300ml
  • Pulp Friction™ body scrub 250ml
  • Face, Soap & Clarity™ fresh facial wash 150ml
  • Off Your Face™ cleansing wipes
  • Heel Genius™ foot cream 125ml
  • Hand Food™ hand cream 125ml
  • Mist You Madly™ fragrant body spray 250ml
  • Sexy Mother Pucker™ lip plumper in Candy Gloss 7ml
  • Calm One, Calm All™ bubble bath 500ml
Whichever way you look at it, that's a heck of a lot of product for £25.  It'll become available online from 4am on Friday, and from opening in store, and Boots are predicting a bit of a stampede (unsurprisingly).  Grab it fast if it tickles your fancy!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Quick Pick: Ojon Damage Reverse Restorative Hair Serum

The instructions for Ojon's Damage Reverse hair serum say to warm two drops in your palms, then run through the hair.  Pah, I thought.  My thick, dry, curly hair requires far more than two paltry drops.  Pah.  And then of course I totally overdid it and ended up with overloaded, oily hair.  More fool me.

You really don't need more than four drops of this wonderfully rich elixir.  Warmed in the palms, it's silky and smooth, and two to four drops gives you just enough to add moisture and smooth mid lengths and ends.  I often run the leftovers on my palms on top of my head to smooth down any wayward frizzies.  

I've not noticed a huge difference in the condition of my hair since I started using this product, but it has become an essential for adding smoothness and shine, particularly pre-blowdry or when my hair has air-dried naturally.  It also smells fantastic - warm and spicy, very winter appropriate.  

At £22, this isn't a cheap product - but given that you need so very little of it, I can't imagine you'll find the 50ml bottle running down anytime soon.  The shiny smooth finish it gives is well worth the expense.  At the moment, there's a Winter Rescue gift set available at the Ojon website which gives you the hair serum (full size!) plus a little shampoo and conditioner for just £22, so you effectively get the shampoo and conditioner free, compared to buying the full size serum.  Assuming you even need an excuse...

Disclosure: PR sample

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Review: Kiehl's Rosa Arctica Youth Regenerating Cream

At a recent event, I was introduced to Kiehl's latest moisturiser, Rose Arctica.  Branded a "youth regenerating cream", it claims to keep skin looking youthful whilst reducing fine lines, wrinkles, and providing excellent hydration.  It apparently contains something called "Haberlea Rhodopensis", a plant which can withstand months and months of extreme dehydration.

The pretty pale green glass pot provides a whopping 50ml of product - which, given the cream's rich texture, means that you're actually getting a good number of months moisturisation for your money.  And wow, the texture is incredibly thick - it's almost like a wax, as opposed to a cream - a dab scooped out of the jar with a fingertip doesn't spread at all without a good bit of massage and the warmth of the fingers.

And therein lies the problem for me - this cream is too rich and and too heavy for my skin.  At the event, I was told that despite its heaviness, it was suitable for all skin types - but having used it for a month, I can't agree.  My slightly-dry-with-normal-to-oily-t-zone skin found this way too heavy, and whilst I didn't notice any rebellious breakouts, my skin just felt a little bit coated and treated throughout the day.  I tested this cream out in November - and whilst the weather wasn't freezingly cold, it was still slightly chilly in places - and still, I found this too moisturising.

While this product very definitely isn't for me, I suspect that it will suit those with more mature skin, or those suffering from extreme dryness.  A small dab left my skin feeling overloaded for an entire day - so I can well imagine that on truly dry skin, a small dab would ease tightness and provide moisture for an entire day.  If your skin is dry, tight, or dries out during the day, I'd definitely recommend hot-footing it down to a Kiehl's store to grab a sample - this could well be your winter saviour.  For normal, oily, or slightly dry skins - stay well clear.

Kiehl's Rosa Arctica cream is available at Kiehl's concessions and stores, and via their website, where a big ol' 50ml jar will set you back £45.  If your skin is on the dry side and you decide to try it out - please do let us know how you get along with it!

Disclosure: PR sample

Monday, 12 December 2011

Christmas Gift Pick: Clinique Chubby Sticks Set

When Clinique released Chubby Sticks in April, they were an instant hit.  The combination of juicy, subtle yet buildable colour and glossy shine in a balm like base made them an easy to use, easy going lip option that was perfect for summer days.  At part of their Christmas offering, Clinique have popped four mini Chubby Sticks into a cute silver makeup bag and put it on sale for the very reasonable price of £27.  Which makes a pretty lovely gift for pretty much anyone who loves a lip product.

Given how fast the original Chubby Sticks sold out in April, this set is sure to sell quickly, so if you fancy one for yourself or someone you love, pop over to the Clinique website now.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Review: Gielly Green Nourish Hair Mask

Gielly Green is a very upmarket boutique salon headquartered in Mayfair, London.  Alongside the salon, which promises an old-fashioned approach to customer service, there's a range of high performance hair products which harness natural ingredients.  The Nourish hair mask is designed to leave the hair looking nourished and healthy, but without weighing it down.

Presented in a heavy, beautifully designed pot, the Nourish mask looks every bit a high end hair product.  It feels weighty in the hand and looks rather pretty sitting on my bathroom shelf.  I'm sort of in two minds about this sort of packaging - the clear acrylic base looks fantastic, but given that the product is contained only within the central cylinder, it does take up rather a lot more room than it strictly needs to.  Not too big a problem unless you have a tiny bathroom, or a reasonably sized bathroom stuffed full of product (ahem).

Anyway - the mask itself is incredibly thick, as you can probably tell from the photo above.  It has a creamy, rich, whipped texture which is not unlike freshly made buttercream icing.  Yum.  Despite the thickness, this mask is remarkably easy to distribute through the hair - it has plenty of slip, and I needed a much smaller dab than I expected to saturate my thick hair with product.  The scent is described as pamplemousse and cassis, but in reality, it doesn't really smell all that strongly - slightly fruity and very creamy, but very subtle.

After fifteen minutes in the hair, the mask rinses cleanly away and leaves the hair feeling incredibly silky and smooth.  It definitely lives up to its promise of being a lightweight product - despite applying quite close to my roots, my hair still felt light and bouncy, which I found quite surprising for something so rich and thick.  I'd definitely recommend this if you've got hair that's a little bit frazzled, and want to avoid the oil-slick action you can sometimes get with intensive conditioning masks.

Gielly Green Nourish hair mask is available from the Gielly Green website, where a 200ml pot will cost you £29.50.  Spendy, yes - but given the small amount needed to saturate the hair, and the size of the tub, it's likely that using this as a weekly treat will still give you a good couple of months use before it runs out.

Disclosure: PR sample

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Quick Pick: Origins Clean Energy Cleansing Oil

I adore a good oil cleanse.  I'm a firm fan of Shu Uemura's classic cleansing oil, particularly in the light Fresh variety, so I was keen to test out Origins' cleansing oil, Clean Energy.  Designed to remove dirt, makeup and pollutants whilst preserving the skin's moisture levels, this oil is a little thicker and more, well, oily than others I've tried.

One thing I really like about this oil is the scent.  It's light, fresh, and citrus-y, no doubt down to some of the essential oils used to create it.  Comparatively, it's one of the best smelling oil cleansers I've ever used - the Shu ones are a little bit perfume-y, and the Muji one I've tried was clearly unperfumed and didn't really have a scent at all.

A small puddle of oil is plenty to effectively remove all makeup and dirt from the face - no second cleanse required.  It spreads easily over the face, and remains slippy and silky until you add water, which makes it pretty useful for a spot of facial massage whilst you cleanse, if you go in for that sort of thing.  It does emulsify with water, going more milky than brightly white as I've noticed with some oils.  It's also incredibly easy to rinse clean - a splash of water and the skin is left looking and feeling clean and soft.

Overall, I've really been enjoying this cleansing oil, and I definitely feel that it's a better option for the colder months than my usual Shu favourite, as it really does leave the skin feeling moist as well as clean.  The only thing that prevents me from giving an all out recommendation for this product is the packaging.  It's crap.  Underneath that curvy cap, you'll find an open neck on the bottle - no pump, and no filter top, just an opening around the size of a penny.  This pretty much guarantees that product gets wasted - I always tip too much out of the bottle.  Add in a pump or even a squirty-filter thing, and I'll be more convinced.

If you'd like to try Origins Clean Energy cleansing oil, you'll find it at the Origins website, or at Boots online, where 200ml will cost you £17.

Disclosure: PR sample

Friday, 9 December 2011

5 of the best: dingy, grungy green nail polishes

Here are some of my favourite grungy greens, from dark olive to pale sage. I actually thought these were similar and in some cases identical in colour when I thought of them separately - it was only when I got them all out in a row that I realised how very different they are (and how it's quite justifiable to own all of them.)

A smooth 3-coater with a rich olive/army green hue. The brush isn't the greatest. Not a colour I've seen done by many other brands, although Me Me Me have a good dupe called Proud.

Index finger: Illamasqua Hectic £13.50
I've got a bad feeling Illamasqua are going to discontinue this stunning bright olive green creme - it's been in their last couple of sales and is currently "waiting list" status on their site. I really hope they don't, because it's a perfect example of an army green polish. Anyway, if you see it, grab it, it's great! (My bottle has some annoying sticky label residue on it)

Middle finger: Me Me Me Long Lasting Gloss in Distinctive (£4.50)
This is a warm, dusty khaki that performs much better than its drugstore price might suggest. It goes on very smoothly and is opaque in a couple of strokes. The brush is flat and has a curved edge that makes application easy.

Ring finger: OPI Stranger Tides* (various prices around the web, but currently £6.99 on BeautyBay)
I've blogged before about this surprisingly elegant grungy pastel green from OPI. Several months on, it's still a favourite, both for its colour and its excellent wear.

Little finger: Bourjois 10 Days No Chips shade 23 (£5.99)*
A beautiful glossy khaki shade that is richly opaque without being thick or dragging during application. The brush has a slanted tip to help with touching up (to achieve the advertised 10 days' wear). The lid of the bottle co-ordinates with the shade and opens and closes with a satisfying "click".

Do you like grungy green nail shades? Any that you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments.

*Starred products are PR samples
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