Friday, 31 August 2012

New eyeshadows + Odyssey palette from Clarins

I've been testing out a three new eyeshadows and a quad from Clarins during the last week or so. The shadows are from the new singles range - 16 mineral-based colours that range from basic neutrals to surprisingly vivid brights. The three colours I picked are Lavender Tea, a plummy taupe, Silver Green, a shimmery khaki, and Slate Blue, an almost-matte blue-grey.

 Each one comes in a mirrored compact in Clarins' classic cold-gold finish. They're very luxe-looking and enjoyable to pick up and use, although they do attract more than their share of fingerprints. The colours here may be muted, but the payoff is very good, as the swatches show. I've found all three of these work well as a quick all-over-wash colour. They're ideal for work mornings.

The eyeshadow quad is from the forthcoming Odyssey collection, which will come out in mid-October. The case is printed with an ornate circular design - the same design is embossed on the accompanying face palette's lid and powder surface.

The collection is inspired by Greek mythology, and the eyeshadow colours are smouldering neutrals. The standout shade is the foiled gold - it's a creamy consistency that can be built up from a hint of gold sparkle to pure gold leaf all over the lid. It's quite mesmeric. There's just a hint of it in the quick look below.

The other shades are high-quality, smooth and well-pigmented, making this a winner of a palette for those who need to go neutral for work or prefer their makeup subtle. The three flanking shades make for a great warm-neutral everyday look, with the foiled gold providing the "dress up" element for special occasions.

Ombre Minerale eyeshadow singles are £16 each and are available now from Clarins 
The Odyssey palette is £30, out in October.

Disclosure - PR samples

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

EOTD: Back to MAC

Pretty much every beauty addict goes through their "MAC phase" - building up a collection of eyeshadows, lipsticks and lipglasses from the permanent line, and rushing to the counter for every limited collection to add the most coveted LE shades to their stash. Sooner or later, the ardour cools and you step off the merry-go-round of chasing collection after collection, returning to a more level-headed relationship with the brand.

My MAC phase lasted from around 2005 - 2007, and I've still got some of the colours I collected during that time. Many of them are discontinued now, but I still like to revisit them from time to time, particularly the eyeshadows in the three 15-palettes I amassed on a crazy shopping trip to New York in 2006.

Here's a look using some of my oldest and best-loved MAC eyehadows - Bitter, Blu-Noir, Tilt and Vex. Of the four, only Tilt and Vex are still on counters, and it's no wonder, as the pink-green duochrome on a champagne base and the blue/green/purple shift are both timeless classics.

Did you have a MAC phase? What were/are your big loves from the brand?

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Swatches: Makeup Forever Aqua Shadow Pencils in 20E Pearly Taupe and 4E Matte Taupe Grey

Having tried and hated Make Up For Ever's Aqua Cream products for being too greasy and creasy, I was a little anxious about trying out their latest waterproof product.  One of the artists at Sephora in San Francisco recommended them for an easy smoky eye which wouldn't budge.

Having given up on trying anything on my eyes without a hefty dose of primer, I was hoping that these chubby pencils might last a few hours on my lids without creasing.  I was pleased to discover that they actually last all day - so far, my record is around 16 hours with no creasing and good strong colour throughout.

There is, unfortunately, a downside to this supreme stickiness.  Unsurprisingly, it's the texture - whilst it remains mildly emollient just after application, the richly pigmented cream sets down and becomes unbudgeable within thirty seconds.  The key to good application is to stroke it onto the lid quickly, then blend quickly with the fingertip - and avoid layering.  Apply a little more thickly and blend less for intense colour - layering just creates an uneven mess.

I've been particularly appreciating these underneath my eyes, where even be-primered liner or shadow often ends up a little smudged and panda like after a long day.  These beauties don't budge at all, even without primer under the eye.  Perfect for a quick smoky eye with the taupe on the lid and the grey blended into the outer third of the eye and in the lashline.

All in all, these are lovely - and I would totally buy more.  They're good for a thick liner effect, or for a smudgy lid colour.  I paid $20 for each at Sephora - and in the UK, you can find them at Guru Makeup Emporium, where they cost £15.75.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Mystery Vaseline contest!

Vaseline have another mystery flavour in the pipeline, and they've decided to begin the launch with a blogger crafting competition. Mystery tins were mailed out to UK bloggers with a juicy selection of crafty bits including sequins, ribbons and glitter. Our task: guess the new flavour and jazz up the blank tin using our creative skillz. The payoff: a trip to Paris for us if the tin is picked... and a trip to Paris for a lucky reader too.

My eyes generally light up at the prospect of anything crafty, so I was thrilled to empty out a Jiffy bag full of these exciting art supplies.

Also inside the bag were some clues as to the mystery flavour.

If that weren't enough, one of the ingredients on the tin is "wine extract"... so I think it's pretty safe to say that the new flavour is... Pink champagne.

I based my design around the famous quote attributed to Dom Perignon, the 17th century monk who was involved in producing the first champagne. On first tasting the bubbly, he supposedly said "Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!"

Whether or not that's true, it was good inspiration for my star-covered tin. I also gave it a studded edge with some some pink gem decals, and added a bit of glitter to some of the stars.

The new Vaseline flavour will go on sale in Selfridges on 5th September, costing £3.49.

We've also been told that the people at Vaseline would really like to hear your suggestions for future limited editions. So if there's a flavour you'd like to see created, let us know in the comments.

Disclosure: tin and craft bits supplied by PR

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Liberty London Bath & Body Range

Liberty are releasing a new bath and body range, comprising of hand wash, hand lotion, body wash, and body lotion, in typically English scents - lavender, geranium and rose.  They've caught my eye mostly because of their packaging, which incorporates an abstract, floral print which was
designed for Liberty in 1975. It's clean yet pretty, unfussy yet detailed, and would look pretty chic in any bathroom.  Prices start at £18 for the hand wash, which is a reasonably luxe price for a luxe department store.  The range has been created by Liberty's beauty buyers, so it must be of a high level of quality to match with their usual exacting eyes, and all the products are made in Devon.  Lovely stuff - I can see these products making a lovely gift.

Superdrug Flutter toiletry bags - bargain

These cute toiletry bags are launching at Superdrug in October - and at just £6.99 for all three, that's your weekend skincare, touch up makeup kit, and lipstick stash all covered for very little cash.  I'm definitely picking these up when they're available!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Paintbox Soapworks: Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground Sorbetto and The Immaculate Confection Slip

These products are my first foray into Paintbox Soapworks.  For those of you not in the know, the company make artisan soaps, scrubs, lotions and potions in a variety of interesting scents, sold via handmade goods powerhouse Etsy.  Sorbetto is an emulsifying sugar scrub, and Slip is a hand and body lotion.

I chose to pick up the Sorbetto in Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground, described as "the quiet, introspective side of fall", with notes of "woodsmoke, rustling leaves & the dark chill of an autumn night."  It's a little more patchouli heavy than I'd imagined - perhaps a little too much for my own liking - but otherwise, the description is bang on - it's highly evocative of that rich, earthy scent you get during the autumn in woodlands.  The scrub itself is rather lovely, and gentle enough to use reasonably frequently - the emulsifying action means that it's not massively intensive.  The scent is gloriously intense in the shower, but doesn't linger on the skin after use.

The Immaculate Confection is a gloriously sweet fragrance with notes of chocolate, vanilla, honeycomb, and all things delicious.  The scent makes me a little hungry, and I almost want to eat my own arm when it's coated in this stuff.  I'm not normally one for body lotion - I hate having even slightly tacky or coated feeling limbs - but this one is a keeper.  It's light, wonderfully slippy, and sinks in very quickly, leaving absolutely no residue on the skin whatsoever.  The scent lingers on the skin for a good couple of hours before it fades.

Unfortunately, Paintbox Soapworks don't have these two specific products in stock any more - such is the nature of a small supplier producing small batches - but I'd highly recommend the texture of Slip, and whilst I've not been bowled over by Sorbetto, I do think it's a nice, gentle scrub I'd happily use again.  Prices are around £6.50 for Sorbetto, and £5.20 for Slip - definitely not cheap, but given the interestingly different fragrances and the fact that you're supporting a small business, they're prices I'm willing to pay.

Find the range at the Paintbox Soapworks Etsy shop.  Be warned that shipping is rather expensive, so it's generally worth buying more than one product at a time (like you need an excuse to do that!).

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Tom Ford A/W 2012 - Ingenue and Temptress

I got a look at Tom Ford's new colour collections for autumn last night, and after the interest shown on Twitter I thought I had better do a post sharpish. There are two colour "stories" - Temptress, which is all about greens, teals, vampy cerise pinks, drama, sexiness etc. Then Ingenue, which is your smouldering nudes and hint-of-a-tint type stuff.

Standouts include the two new palettes (Enchanted, neutrals, and Emerald Lust, greens and teals) which are made in a new wet/dry formula, and have the usual range of finishes, from sheen to sparkle. Both are stupendously pigmented and buttery. Ingenue just has the edge for me, but I'm on a taupe kick at the moment so my judgement may be cloudy.

Also worth keeping an eye out for is this mind-meltingly bright blush from Temptress, called Narcissist. "Almost-shocking pink", says the press release, but I'd say they could lose the "almost". There's an ultra-pigmented cerise lipstick too, called Aphrodisiac. Rawr.

On the Ingenue side, there are two interesting new product formats. A lip and cheek balm/stain called Tainted Love, which comes on like a standard TF lipstick but has a rounded tip for easier on-cheek doodling. It's very sheer and moisturising, and leaves behind a warm rosy stain. There's also a wine-red gel eyeliner called Plum Absolute. I only swatched this with a fingertip, not a brush, but it seemed surprisingly subtle and sheer.

Price-wise, the palettes are the same price as the permanent-line Tom Ford palettes, £65. Sixty-five smackers is quite wallet-battering, but if you think about it like 4 high-end single eyeshadows it might just be justifiable. If you squint a bit. You know what I mean.

Here are some terrible-quality phone camera swatches, in iffy light. I'm really sorry:

I don't have prices for the other bits, but am waiting on more info and the collection's (gorgeous) promo image from TF's press office, so will update this post when I do.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

NOTD: Milani 3D Holographic Polish in Hi-Res

This rather special lavender holo is a real bargain - I bought it some years ago from Cherry Culture (as you can tell from the original post I wrote about it's sister, Digital) and it's still pretty damn fabulous.  It applies evenly and smoothly, being completely opaque in two coats, it dries quickly, and it has a really strong holo finish.  Also, the pale shade combined with the holo finish means that chips and tipwear aren't massively obvious, which gives it a great wear time, combined with it's already impressive 4 day chip-free wear time.

I wish we had Milani in this country.

CherryCulture are still selling it, and it's even a little cheaper than it was when I first bought it, at just $3.99 a bottle.  Absolute bargain.  Maybe I'll buy a couple more shades...

Monday, 20 August 2012

Tales from the USA

A short while ago, I spent a week in the Bay area of San Francisco. Admittedly, several days were spent in corporate heaven in Silicon Valley, but I did manage to get a couple of days in the city (and at least three trips to Sephora).

I took the opportunity to try out one of the new Hourglass Opaque Rouge liquid lipsticks, after trying and failing to find one of Stila's Stay All Day lipsticks in a neutral shade that didn't make me look a bit dead.  I tried Edition - a soft pink with a subtle golden shimmer.  And I was surprised to find I hated it - it didn't dry down properly, leaving my lips slightly tacky, and it wore off after lunch.  I took it back.

I also spotted the new Pantone foundation colour matching machine the internet has been talking about so much - it samples your skintone in a variety of lighting conditions and uses the data to select the perfect foundation shades for you.  Unfortunately, I failed to either try it out or take a photo.  Oops.

Another thing I failed to take a photo of was the entire stand of Hello Kitty themed makeup.

Having dropped my usual Kiko red brow shade on the floor and smashed it to bits, I also picked up a Makeup Forever red blush to apply on top of my brown brow-filling shade.  As a result, my brows now match my hair much better, even if my husband's convinced that I'm colouring them in purple (pah).  The Sephora professional brow brush I picked up is fantastic - firmly bristled, with the exact right size and shape for brows, it's a bit of a bargain at $14.

Before you think I spent my entire trip in Sephora and/or Walgreens, I'm pleased to let you know I also spent quite a bit of money at Bettie Page in the Haight on yet more Fifties silhouette clothes.  And then ensured I wouldn't be able to fit in them by eating this monstrously large brunch of pulled pork eggs benedict.  No, I didn't manage to finish it.

Overall a rather successful trip (on the shopping front and the work front).  I just wish there were more/bigger drugstores around - the smaller Wallgreens and CVS stores in San Francisco proper don't have the treasure trove like selection of drugstore stuff that you'll find at places like Target.  Perhaps that's not a bad thing for my wallet, though....

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Soapsmith - bathroom goods from London

Our town couldn't be much more in the limelight right now. First the Queen, now the sports thing - we're in the international public eye like never before. A great time to be launching a London-themed range of bathroom products, right?

That's what Soapsmith have done, but their London-themed soaps, bath stuff and body care range are anything but a gimmicky tie-in. Think gorgeous quality artisan-type products with well-composed, complex scents. The fragrances are all named after parts of town, from the soothing Lavender Hill to the zingy Limehouse. My favourite is Brick Lane, which taps up the East End's Bengali heritage to create a sumptuous blend of spices and wood notes.

The soaps are old-school - big chunky blocks of glyceriney goodness that are embossed with the brand's trademark "S". Really satisfying to use - much more tactile and enjoyable than a pump bottle of liquid soap.

The bath salts feature a little scoop to prevent you getting carried away and dumping the whole lot in the tub. I tried this in Lavender Hill - it's a soft, gentle powdery lavender, and makes the water very soft. I didn't really appreciate the lavender "bits" in it though, as they got everywhere and reminded me worrying of drowned spiders.

I also tried the body butter in Camden Town. This scent smells quite unusual - somewhere between a sugary, minty stick of rock and the Soap & Glory "pink" smell. The website says it's "coconut, bergamot and a hint of musk". The texture of this is divine. It behaves a lot like coconut oil - it's solid at room temperature but on contact with the skin it melts down into a light and very emollient balm texture.

The packaging is clean, clear and very tasteful, with uncluttered text and a clear colour theme for each scent. The quality is as good as it needs to be - solid and utilitarian. It's quite gender-neutral too - you could definitely give the soaps as a gift to a friend of either sex.

Soaps are £7.95 each for 150g and you can buy them from Roullier White, where you'll get free samples if you buy two or more.
The full range is available to browse at, where there's a full offline stockist list.

*Disclosure - PR samples

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

NOTD - Models Own Indian Ocean vs Essie Lapis of Luxury

Indian Ocean is one of the Models Own Beetlejuice duochromes. It's been knocking around for a while now, and I scoured Boots branches for it on release, but this was the first time I got around to wearing it. Following the advice given on other blogs, I layered it with a sky blue shade, Essie's Lapis of Luxury. The reason being that this polish is so very sheer that it's only a hair's breadth from being classed as a topcoat. It would have taken about 10 coats to hit opacity otherwise, and with a duochrome this pretty, I don't want the bottle to run out too soon.

A workmate described this as looking "like the belly of a really cool fish", and I think she's captured it perfectly. It has small glass-fleck particles - it's not quite a pearl or metallic finish, the particles are too big - that shift from pink to yellow. 

I wore this polish to the Olympics. It's got blue, and red (ish), and the white's kind of implicit, so it's maybe a patriotic manicure, just about?

Models Own is currently on a buy-one-get-one-half-price deal at Boots. You can buy Indian Ocean for £5

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

A brief note on brows

I see this sight in the mirror every morning when I'm halfway through my makeup, and it never fails to remind me of the Power of the Brow:

Left: brow filled in with powder. Right: ungroomed puny brow exposed to world.

I never used to fill in my brows, finding that every pencil I tried was either pitch black or created terrifying ginger eyebrows due to red undertones. I wandered around with both brows looking like the sad example on the right up there.

Then I had a brow epiphany when my mum gave me some makeup she'd bought and then decided against. (My mum has never worn makeup - go figure.) There was a grey-ish brown shade in her rejected stash that turned out to be my ideal brow colour. Nowadays I've found some alternatives, and Illamasqua's Motto is the one I always recommend for those who find everything else too red.

Do you fill in your brows? Powder or pencil? Did you have a eureka moment, or have you always filled in your arches? Tell us in the comments.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Quick Pick: Gillette Venus Spa Breeze Razor Blades

I picked these rather oversized razor blades up in a whirlwind trip to Boots the other day, attracted by their claim that the pink bars eliminate the need for a separate shaving cream or body wash.  I was half expecting them not to really work - I think I thought that the slightly rubbery pink bits would provide a little bit of slip, but not really enough compared to a separate cream.  But I was absolutely wrong - used when the legs or underarms are wet in the shower, the razor glides smoothly across the skin, providing a close, clean shave with little lather and no irritation.

At around £9.60 for four, these are certainly an expensive way to shave - but if you're looking for something quick and easy to use, and which takes up less space in your bathroom or your bag than a razor plus shaving cream combo, they're pretty great.  Find them at Boots.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Nails of the Week: Red Carpet Manicure Plum Up The Volume with Gelish Ali Baba's Sim Sala Bam

I've spent the past week in the Bay Area of San Francisco on a work trip, and as always, I applied an LED-cured gel manicure before I went.  I used my Red Carpet Manicure home gel kit, and decided to pair up my cream finish RCM Plum Up The Volume shade (which is more of a slightly purplish pink to my eyes) with a couple of coats of Gelish's Ali Baba Sim Sala Bam.  A bit of a mouthful, that last one, although with it's multi-dimensional pink and blue shimmer on a purplish sheer base, it definitely made a worthy addition to my manicure.  I didn't know that the Gelish colours actually layer well with the Red Carpet Manicure base/top coats - apparently not all gel polishes are alike, but Gelish and RCM are close enough that you can mix and match the colours.

This photo was taken after a week and a bit of wear.  My nails have grown a fair bit, leaving a reasonable sized gap between them and the polish, but the finish is still incredibly smooth and glossy, with no signs of wear at all.  Impressive stuff.

Disclosure: Original Red Carpet Manicure kit was a PR sample.  Ali Baba's Sim Sala Bam and Plum Up The Volume were purchased by me.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Review: Thai Combination Massage at Sabai Leela

The other day, I swung by Sabai Leela, a Thai spa situated between Earl's Court and West Brompton, which also happens to be rather close to where I work.  The deceptively large spa offers a range of facials, acupuncture, waxing, manicures, pedicures, and a very comprehensive list of Thai style massages.  I chose to try out a Thai combination massage, which includes both intense acupressure, gentle stretches, and a more traditional relaxing massage to round it off.

The treatment began in traditional spa style, with me dumping my work bags and clothes into a locker, and donning a cream coloured waffle robe before pottering down to one of the underground treatment rooms.  Now is not the time to bemoan the prodigious size of my rear end, which made the waffle robe a little bit too form fitting, but it is probably the time to put down the Lindor.

Once settled in the treatment room, I lay face down on the massage table, expecting a standard massage administered with strong hands.  Gentle tinkling music played softly in the background.  Through the face-hole in the table, I could see an attractive bowl of flowers and pebbles instead of a utilitarian floor (nice touch, that).  And as soon as the massage began, I realised that the Thai style of massage was entirely different to anything I'd ever experienced before.

Instead of using fingertips to dig into tense muscles, the therapist climbed up onto the massage table with me and used her elbows, fingers, and other pointy bits to thoroughly pummel my tense muscles into submission.  She arranged my arms and legs into interesting contortions, and using her own bodyweight, gently led me through stretches as well as using direct pressure.

It was not relaxing.  It was not even really enjoyable.

And yet, it was incredibly, amazingly effective.  My shoulder muscles, which are almost always bunched up, relaxed to the point where I felt surprisingly flexible and loosened up, almost as if I'd done a bit of pilates.  After the acupressure part of the massage, I was expecting a softer, more gentle relaxing massage, but I soon found that whilst it wasn't as intense as the acupressure, it certainly wasn't as gentle as I thought it would be - the therapist continued to knead my muscles with a fair bit of pressure and strength.

Afterwards, I felt the most relaxed and bendy that I'd felt in a long, long time.  All the stress and all the knots had quite literally been pummelled out of my body, and whilst it wasn't a treatment I enjoyed - probably more a treatment I endured - the end effect was the most significant I've ever experienced from a massage.

If you like your massages to be akin to some gentle stroking which leads to a short nap, you won't like the Thai combination massage at Sabai Leela.  If you like your massages to leave you feeling relaxed, de-stressed, flexible and refreshed, then you absolutely will.  I'll definitely be going back.

Thai Combination Massage starts at £55 for an hour, going up to £105 for a two hour pummel-a-thon.  You can find out more about the massages on offer via the Sabai Leela website.

Disclosure: Treatment received free of charge for review purposes
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