Saturday, 31 August 2013

Review: MUA Lash Boom mascara

Not content with smashing price conventions and collaborating with boy bands, Superdrug's bargainous MUA brand has taken up the challenge of producing a great mascara for a tiny price. Lash Boom (which follows last year's Lip Boom) is a chunky purple volume-boosting mascara that costs just £3.

The brush has plastic bristles - usually a plus, but can occasionally be scratchy if they're too stiff. These aren't, they're soft and flexible. It's chunky, but not heading into toilet-brush territory. There's still scope for precise application. The end of the wand bulges outwards to give the impression of a spiked medieval weapon (and to deliver extra blackening power to the outer lashes).

On the upside, the formula is creamy, smooth and coats the lashes evenly. It's a little too lightweight to really cling to the lashes, but it performs well above its price-point. The pictures show 2 coats of Lash Boom (left eye) compared with 2 coats of YSL Babydoll. Babydoll gives more colour and definition, but for something less than a fifth of the price (Babydoll RRP is £24.50), Lash Boom performs superbly.

Negatives... the valve at the neck of the bottle could be more effective. It tends to leave blobs of mascara sitting on the ends of the bristles - you definitely need to swirl the brush in the neck to get rid of this. The tube feels a little cheap and plasticky, but for the price, this is entirely expected and fair enough.

I would definitely nip into Superdrug to pick up a tube of this if I were caught out without mascara. It beats the pants off other budget mascaras I've tried in the last 6 months.

It's out now at Superdrug, costing £3 for 7ml. (Mind the crowds of One Direction fans as you approach the shelf.)

Disclosure - PR sample

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Friday, 30 August 2013

Swatches: Urban Decay Revolution lipsticks in Bang and Lovelight, + 24/7 lip liners in Bang and Naked 2

Time for some more Urban Decay lipstick swatches! We previously showed you the vamp-tastic plum shade Shame and the workday pink Turn On, accompanied by their respective lipliners, Manic and Venom.

Today I'm swatching Bang, a kapow-bright orange-red, and Lovelight, a neutral with shimmer.

Packaging... the pencils are standard 24/7 format, but unlike the eye pencils, the lids and ends are greyish and matte, distinguishing them from the eyeliner versions when the two are mixed up in your pencil pot.

The lipsticks come in subtly textured high-shine gunmetal tubes. The bullets have a slanted, flat top, which as Gemma noted, makes them slighty more tricky to apply than the standard shaped bullet.

The new lipsticks replace the old style with the dagger-top handles, and thankfully, they've corrected the problematic bitter taste the old lipsticks had. The packaging is a bit more practical too - no more spiky dagger ends to tear the inner lining of your handbag. However, the embossed bullet has been lost too. Here's how they used to look:

Here's Naked 2 24/7 lip pencil. It's a classic matte YLLB (your lips but better) shade.

And here's Lovelight, worn on top. It's creamy with a hint of shimmer. Medium weight, not too drying. I picked this because it reminded me of Scratch, my old favourite UD lipstick. It's not an exact dupe, but it captures the same spirit of neutral colour + shimmer.

Bang 24/7 lip pencil. Lovely matte orange red. Just the right blend of waxy hold and smooth creaminess. I could imagine wearing this alone as a matte lip colour.

And with Bang lipstick on top. This is a creme finish, no shimmer, but plenty of shine.

The new Urban Decay Revolution lipsticks cost £15 each. The lip liners cost £13.

Find Urban Decay makeup at

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Thursday, 29 August 2013

Review: Red Carpet Manicure Gel Polish Starter Kit

It's been over a year since we reviewed the Red Carpet Manicure Gel Polish Pro Kit. Are gel nails still a thing? Most certainly - the gel trend has continued to rise along with the current "nail boom". We've seen high street and high end polishes mimicking the gel trend with gel-style polish ranges and high-shine topcoats. That glossy, bullet-proof finish is still very very much in demand.

We've also seen a rise in the availability of gel nail home kits, and gel colours in consumer-friendly bottle sizes (which cost £11-£12, rather than the £25 or so you pay for an OPI or Gellux gel polish colour). Superdrug are selling a home gel nail system in store, and there are several companies offering them online too, not least Red Carpet Manicure.

We previously showed you the Red Carpet Pro kit, which includes a large mains-powered LED light with timer. Today's post is about the Starter Kit, which has a portable lamp without a timer. It's powered by 4 AA batteries (not included), can also be plugged in at the mains, and it's smaller and lighter.

Everything else in the kit is the same - you get two 59ml bottles, one of prep solution and one of remover (which is basically acetone - ouch, cuticles), a bottle of nail colour in Red Carpet Reddy, a prep coat, base coat, UV top coat and cuticle oil, all 9ml.

The price difference between the two kits is around £25 - which would be nearly enough to buy 2 more gel colours from Red Carpet. The Starter kit is £65, and you're looking at £89.95 for the Pro kit.

So do you really need the Pro kit?

My results with the Starter kit are shiny, glossy, indestructibly strong and in every way a convincing gel manicure. These photos are taken after a week of wear. You can see there's no chipping, dulling or cracking, and the finish is as glossy as a fresh manicure.

The application process is pretty slow - the base coat, top coat and each coat of polish needs to be cured for 2 minutes, and you need to do 3 cures on each coat (one each for the fingers of each hand, and one for the thumbs). All those 2 minute cures add up, time-wise, but on the upside there's no drying time afterwards. Once you've completed all the cures and wiped the nails down, they're fully hardened.

If you're using the kit for the first time, read all the instructions before you begin. They're not written in a very helpful style, and some of the key information isn't presented in the order you need it - for example, I'd painted all 10 nails before I realised that they needed to be cured in separate stages. (Red Carpet - if you need a copywriter, drop me a line.)

It's worth noting that the Pro kit also needs each hand and the thumbs to be cured separately, but there's a shorter curing time with the full-size lamp, so you'll get your manicure done quicker with the Pro kit.

I did have to keep an eye on the clock during the curing phases, as there's no timer, but this wasn't much of a hardship. If I were doing gel manicures regularly, I would want the timer. But for personal use, I think the Starter Kit is fine.

Removal is interesting. It's done using the foil method, which is more commonly used for removing gritty and glittery polishes. First you scuzz up and ruin the shiny surface of the nails using a coarse file, which feels strange and somewhat rebellious. Then, after soaking cotton wool in the Erase acetone solution, you wrap it onto the nail using kitchen foil. After 10 minutes, remove the foil. With regular polish, the polish usually dissolves and comes away on the cotton wool. But with the gel manicure, the polish cracks and flakes off, rather than dissolving, so you end up with a strange shattered effect on your nails. Sadly I didn't take pics of this - I didn't expect it to be so remarkable, but you can see in this post at

Two tips I got from my friend Vix, who does gel manicures professionally...

  • Keep the base coat, colour and top coat well away from the cuticles. As the polish starts to grow out, any polish or base coat stuck to the cuticles will pull away, leaving a ragged edge that you will be tempted to pick at.
  • If you get bored of the colour during the life of your gel manicure (which can be 3 weeks) you can put ordinary polish on top, and remove it with ordinary acetone-free nail polish remover without harming the gel manicure's finish.

You can buy both kits, and a range of gel colours, at Red Carpet Manicure UK

Disclosure - PR sample

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Wednesday, 28 August 2013

NOTD: L'Oreal Colour Riche in Addictive Plum and Scarlet Tinsel

Another layering combo using L'Oreal's Colour Riche nail polishes.  The base colour is Addictive Plum, which is a lovely reddish plum shade, with a single coat of Scarlet Tinsel on top. Scarlet Tinsel is a really interesting topcoat - it looks like a plain red glitter in the bottle, but in the sunlight and on the nail, there are particles which flash red, pink and purple in there.  It's one of those shades which looks much, much better in reality than in photos.

Unfortunately, wear wasn't great on this one - a couple of days before chips started setting in around the edges of my nails.  Still, for something this sparkly and pretty, I'll take the poor wear in exchange for lovely party polish.

You'll find both shades at Boots, for a mere £3.99 each.

Disclosure: PR samples

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating our copyright.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Undecided: TRESemme Oil Elixir for Coloured Hair

TRESemme have just launched their own hair oil - it's called Oil Elixir, it comes in a surprisingly heavy glass bottle, and it smells absolutely lovely.  It can be used either as a pre-wash moisturising treatment, a styling aid, or as a finishing product for extra shine.

I've been using it for the past two weeks as a styling aid - if you can call leaving-your-hair-to-dry-naturally-in-the-hope-of-nice-curls-and-no-frizz styling.  I've applied three or four pumps to the mid lengths and ends of my hair and initially I was really, really impressed by the results.  My hair was smooth, shiny, silky, and my curls were more defined and less frizzy.  Even my ends looked healthy!  Instant love.

A couple of days later though, my hair seemed to look weighed down and a little lank after use.  I consulted the ingredients...

Whilst the oil claims to make use of "salon grade" oils, it's actually based on silicones and mineral oil, with a bit of seed/nut oil thrown in too.  This explains the build up in my hair - whilst the combination of cyclopentasiloxane and dimethiconol is apparently somewhat water soluable, I try to avoid shampoos with SLS in as they wreck my colour.  And obviously my SLS free shampoo wasn't doing a good enough job of removing the Oil Elixir.

So, my overall feelings on this product are a bit confused.  I love the smoothness, the shine, the curl definition - but I don't love the buildup.  Potentially this is a better product for those with colours which fade less than my bright red, who can therefore use a slightly more deep cleansing shampoo.  If you're interested, it will cost a mere £9.99 (much cheaper than some other hair oils I could mention).

Disclosure: PR sample

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating our copyright.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Quick Pick: Avon True Colour Eyeshadow Duos in Warm Cashmere & Crushed Orchid

Left to right:  Warm Cashmere, Crushed Orchid

Despite finding Avon's new True Colour eyeshadow quads distinctly underwhelming, I'm quite impressed by the True Colour eyeshadow duos.  At £6, they're a little more expensive per shade than the quads, which are £9, but the quality is much, much better.

Warm Cashmere
The colours are soft, not chalky, and whilst they lack that buttery gorgeousness more expensive brands have in their shimmering, metallic shades, they do blend well.  Warm Cashmere is a lovely, wearable duo of a slightly pinky champagne colour, with a warm shimmering beige-y brown.

Crushed Orchid
Crushed Orchid is a pretty duo of a silvery toned lilac and a deeper rich purple which almost looks navy in some lights.  Pigmentation on Crushed Orchid is particularly intense - these swatches are a single swipe with the included foam applicators - and while Warm Cashmere isn't quite so strongly pigmented, it's still pigmented enough to get easy payoff when applying it.

As with the other bits and pieces from Avon's new makeup collection, these launch later this month at the Avon website, costing a very reasonable £6.

Disclosure: PR sample

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating our copyright.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Review: Bare Minerals Lash Domination Mascara

Bare Minerals have launched a new mascara - it claims to be a 10 in 1 formula which lengthens, volumises, thickens, separates, lifts, lasts all day, fortifies with minerals, avoids clumps, doesn't smudge, and fights flakes.  Phew.

I do wonder if it's been named because the topics of domination and submission have been somewhat in the spotlight thanks to 50 Shades of Grey (which is terribly written, by the way).  Perhaps Bare Minerals want women to feel about this mascara the way they feel about Christian Grey.  I hope not, though, because even for a fictional character, he's a creepy bastard.

Anyway, I digress. The major selling point of this new mascara (in addition to the do-it-all formula) is the interestingly helix-like arrangement of small flexible plastic bristles on the brush.  I found that this arrangement worked well with my lashes when I rotated the brush through my lashes, rather than wiggling horizontally from root to tip.  If ever there were a reason for those self-spinning mascaras which were popular a couple of years ago, this bristle configuration is it.

Excuse the sunburn.  I went to Thorpe Park and paid more attention to the rides than to the state of my SPF on my sweaty face.  ALWAYS carry SPF, people.

The results are pretty damn impressive - two coats gives fluttery, defined lashes which are both voluminous and lengthened.  I also really love the way that this mascara dries soft and flexible, rather than hard and rigid (cough).  This mascara has gone straight to the top of the mascara drawer, and I've been wearing it pretty much every day since I got it.  Love.

You'll find it at the Bare Minerals website, as well as their shops and counters, and it will cost you a mere £16 - a small price to pay for a mascara that performs on a par with those from Lancome and YSL.

Disclosure: PR sample

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Saturday, 24 August 2013

Swatch: Paul & Joe Eye Liner & Eye Crayon Duo in 002 Fiji

This lovely double ended eye pencil is part of Paul & Joe's Beach Baby summer collection.  There are five shades in the full set, from sea-inspired turquoises to golden sandy shades.  This one, Fiji, mixes an eyeliner in a soft mid-brown with an eye crayon in a shimmering pink.

The eyeliner end is slimmer, with the mid brown colour being completely matte and somewhat sheer - I've needed to layer it a couple of times for a striking look.  For super natural, no makeup makeup, it's great for adding a touch of definition to the upper lashline in a single stroke.

The eye crayon end is slightly chubbier than the liner, but only very slightly.  Where the liner is matte, the crayon is gloriously shimmery - not in a glittery or obvious way, but in that lovely semi-metallic sheen way.  You can use this all over the lid, or as a brightening eyeliner.  It works pretty well applied lightly on the lower lashline to make me look a little more awake in the morning.

Swatched heavily, you can see the beauty in these colours - that pink is absolutely gorgeous against green or hazel eyes, and that brown is unusually soft and subtle - a big difference for me, given that my usual eyeliner pairings are all either sooty dark or bright.

The pencil makes for an easy way to get a couple of different eye looks from one product, making it perfect for travel or for holidays.  I did find the crayon side to be a little bit draggy if applying on a primed eyelid, but nothing so draggy as to put my off the product.  It is an expensive bit of kit, which I suspect would be easily dupable on the high street - but I always think you're paying more for the beautiful, whimsical packaging with Paul & Joe.

You'll find Fiji, and its more colourful friends, at BeautyBay, where they cost £22 each.

Disclosure: PR sample

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating our copyright.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Fragrant showering: Aromatherapy Associates Relax Body Wash

AromAssoc's glorious Deep fragrance now comes in a body wash - great news for those who prefer a quick refreshing shower to a languorous long bath. This pump-action shower gel has slightly different notes to the Deep Relax bath and shower oil - it contains lavender, petitgrain and vetivert, whereas the oil has vetivert, chamomile and sandalwood oils.

It's a light, fresh gel with a pleasant degree of lather. There are no parabens, sodium laureth sulphate or mineral oils, in keeping with the brand's natural credentials. I was expecting to be smacked in the chops with a powerful fragrance like the bath oil, but this is relatively delicately scented. I think I would have preferred something more intense, but if you like your scents light, this is good.

The packaging features AromAssoc's new logo, which shows three blossoms with stalks crossed in a triangle or "A". At first glance I thought these were feather dusters, but of course flowers makes more sense.

This costs £24 for 200ml - not cheap, but if you know someone who loves the smell, it would make a lovely indulgent gift.

Here's the product page on Aromatherapy Associates' website

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Thursday, 22 August 2013

Surprisingly Good: L'Oreal Ever Riche Perfect Elixir Spray Masque Spray

When this golden bottle arrived on my doorstep, I was pretty cynical about it.  Why, I wondered, would you want a spray hair mask, when it's so easy to just pick up a dollop in your fingers and smoosh it into your midlengths and ends?  Surely this is just a gimmick?

Turns out that it's not a gimmick, and it has an advantage over dolloping masks willy nilly on your noggin.  It's virtually impossible to overapply, thanks to the light yet still hydrating mist produced by the spray nozzle.  Spritzed into the hair after shampoo and conditioner (or just shampoo if the hair is fine or oily), it makes detangling a doddle and hydrates the hair beautifully without weighing it down.  Easy to rinse out too.  It's gone from being a product I didn't really see the point in to being a bit of a staple in the shower for when I want some lovely moisture without heaviness.

Find it at Boots for a mere £6.99.

Disclosure: PR sample

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating our copyright.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Meh: Avon True Colour Eyeshadow Quad

Avon's new True Colour collection includes lipsticks, lip crayons, and eyeshadows - today we'll be taking a look at the new eyeshadow quads.  Available in nine colourways, Avon promises "rich, saturated colour that glides on exactly as it looks in the palette".

The shades in each quad are numbered from one to four - and the back of the cardboard case gives you a basic idea of how to apply all four colours together, should you need a starting point.

Jeans is a collection of blue shades - from pale shimmering baby blue to a deeper denim.  I'm not sure that I'd apply #1 as a browbone highlight - bit too eighties - but I would apply it in the inner corner of the eye for a bit of brightness.

Unfortunately, Jeans doesn't really deliver on the promise of saturated colour - these swatches are fairly heavily done using the included sponge applicator, and I really struggled to get good payoff.

Metal Eyes is a collection of shimmering white, gold, bronze/brown, and pewter.

It's also pretty damn well pigmented.  All the shades swatch with a rich, buttery colour, with the white and gold shades having the most metallic sparkle to them.

Mod Muse is a lovely take on a mod-inspired neutrals palette.  It's predominantly grey, with a pretty pale pink included as well.

Again, the colours were a little too sheer for my liking.  Which is a shame, as that pink in the bottom left hand corner is absolutely gorgeous.  The #2 shade also turns out to have a little bit of a turquoise cast, which is pretty.

And finally, Stone Taupes.  I was most excited about this one - a collection of taupes with a multitude of undertones and finishes?  Count me in.

And again, the pigmentation is lacking.  The pinkish taupe is pretty but too sheer, and the browbone highlight shade is chalky.

I'm unfortunately quite disappointed in these quads.  They're being launched this month at Avon's website, and will cost a mere £9 - and I'd really hoped that they'd be impressive for the price.  Unfortunately not - of the four quads I tested, only Metal Eyes had any real pigment.  All four can be built up a little more if desired, but for me, having to build up colour in multiple layers is a no-no - particularly when the market is so full of pigmented eyeshadows.

Disclosure: PR samples

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating our copyright.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

NOTD: Bourjois Dangerous Wish

You can tell I've been wearing this rather gorgeous new Bourjois glitter polish for a good week, can't you?  Look how much my nails have grown in at the cuticle!  Anyway.  This is Dangerous Wish, which is one of the polishes Bourjois will be releasing for Halloween.  It's a lovely black jelly base with golden particles and hexagons - the surprise being that when the light hits it, the golden bits turn out to be holographic!  It's so pretty, and my photo here doesn't really show it in it's full glory, thanks to the lack of proper bright sun at 7AM.  It wears well, too - unusually I'd been wearing it for about five days when I took this photo, and there's only the merest tipwear visible.

This'll be out closer to Halloween, and it'll cost a very reasonable £5.99.

Disclosure: PR sample

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating our copyright.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Review: Eyebrow Shape at Shavata

A few weeks ago I went down to Shavata's new Brow Studio in Knightsbridge, where the lady who brought threading to the UK has set up shop alone, expanding from her concession in Harrods.  Most of her customers have simply moved with her, she tells me, and given the state of my brows when I left, I can understand why.

First off - the photo above is a computer rendering, not a photo, as Shavata hasn't yet had professional photos taken, the new studio being only a month old.  Inside, it does look similar to the rendering above, but not exactly the same - the colours aren't quite so striking, and there aren't quite as many embellishments and illustrations on the walls.  There are, however, plenty of eyebrow related quotes - my favourite is "eyebrows are sisters, not twins".  Very true.  Rather strangely for an upmarket beauty salon, the music played was all courtesy of a London radio station, traffic news and all.

Anyway, on to my brows.

This is a photo I took for a mascara review a few weeks ago.  My brows are growing in a bit, a little untidy, but not too bad.  Or so I thought.

This is a photo I took for another mascara review shortly after my Shavata brow shape.  Much, much better eh?  The brows are completely clean with no straggly hairs, and whilst the overall thickness has been maintained, my brows are a lot less heavy towards the inner corner of my eye.  I like, very very much.

Unfortunately the process of getting them into this shape wasn't quite so enjoyable.  One of Shavata's specially trained staff spent a short while trying to convince me to tint my brows dark brown (which I found strange, given that I walked in with my brows coloured auburn as they always are), and then moved on to discussing the shape when I refused a tint.  After agreeing to keep the thickness but generally tidy and streamline, she whipped out her cotton and began threading.

It was agony.  AGONY I tell you.

She told me repeatedly that it hurts more the first time, but I've had my eyebrows threaded regularly for quite some time now, and I've never experienced such a painful treatment.  The cotton broke several times, such was the force of it, and my eyebrows were red and angry afterwards.  And I actually cried out a couple of times - granted, I am an absolute wuss when it comes to eyebrow threading, but it was much, MUCH more painful than usual.

So, overall impression?  Incredibly good eyebrow shape, but at the cost of a fair bit of cash (£25) and a fair bit of pain.  Worth it for the results, but I think I'll go back to my usual place for maintenance of my new shape.  

Disclosure: Treatment provided free of charge for review.  

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Saturday, 17 August 2013

Illamasqua Sacred Hour - A/W 13 collection

Dusk and dawn are the two "sacred hours" providing the imaginative fuel for Illamasqua's new autumn winter edit for 2013. There's a pagan, woodsy feel to the collection, with campaign images that show two female figures, one for dawn, one for dusk, roaming through a lovely deciduous forest, and looking a bit like they're off to conduct a fertility ritual with a liberal scattering of crystals. Dawn and dusk are also important makeup-putting-on ritual times - first thing in the morning, and before heading out at night.

Will this brand ever run out of original ideas? In such a well-trodden, packed-out niche as cosmetics, it's always impressive how they come up with something fresh. I love seeing what they roll out each season.

The Sacred Hour collection gives a nod to the prevailing seasonal trend for full-on eyes and full-on lips (at once! Shock horror), and also includes some diaphanous duochrome shimmeryness, and some lush, full-on pigments as well.

The collection includes a new under-eye concealer, Skin Base Lift, which is designed specifically to nuke dark circles under eyes using a peachy compensating tone. There's a relatively small range of shades, but there's also a pure white, intended to be used with the coloured shades to add a lifting highlight element. The concealer is rich and creamy in texture, and adheres keenly to the skin of the undereye without much creasing or slippage.

There are two nail polishes in the collection, the green-beige duochrome Hemlock*, which is a repromote (as we used to say in the MAC days), and Facet, a beautiful mid-tone grey with coppery gold shimmer.

There's also a set of outrageously thick and feathery false lashes. These are inspired by one of the Illamasqua artists who wears multiple sets of lashes on counter, and the aim is to recreate her look with just one strip.

Probably the star of the collection is the new Reflection palette. Like last season's Paranormal palette, it features Illamasqua's exciting new liquid-gel-powder eyeshadows. They're designed to be easy to apply with fingertips, and the liquid-gel texture makes them extremely blendable and easy to layer. The Reflection palette is ideal for a neutral smoky eye. It's got a dark silvery gunmetal, a classic taupe, a warm bronze and an ivory-lemon sort of highlight colour.

There's just one lipstick involved, a cool, vampy plum called Shard, which Illamasqua describes as red-violet. This isn't such a pigment-fest as previous colours, taking a few swipes to show up true to tube on the lips. The texture's quite solid, giving it good stamina, but it's definitely best worn in combination with a balm.

Two cream-to-powder Velvet blushes round out the collection, the warm coral Sleek, which is in the group photos, and Peaked (above), an insanely pigmented cool rose.

FOTD: Featuring Sleek blush*, Reflections palette*, Skin Base in Light 2*, Shard lipstick* and Motto brow powder

Sacred Hour will be released on counters and in stand-alone stores on Monday 19 August, and is available exclusively at Selfridges from 9 August until the general release date.

*Disclosure - PR samples

This post originated at If you're reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen, violating our copyright.
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