Monday, 29 December 2014

A year in review: 2014's Killer Products

2014 has been a great year for beauty.  We've seen millions of variations on tubby pencils, micellar waters continue to be a big thing on the high street as well as from high end brands, and cleansing conditioners became king.

Over the year, I've declared a few truly excellent products BUY THIS NOW items, which conveniently makes it much easier for me to compile a review of them, and to reflect on whether they're still favourites.

The first stand out of the year, and the only nail polish to truly knock my socks off, was the rather beautiful Into the Night by Girlie Bits, an indie brand which makes the most stunning holographic and duochrome polishes.  I still wear it, and I still stare at my nails when I do.

On the hair side, I fell firmly in love with L'Oreal Elvive's Fibrology hair care, which promises and delivers thicker feeling hair.  I don't use the shampoo (it contains the dreaded colour-dulling sulphates) but the conditioner, serum and mask have all earned permanent places in my bathroom.  Perhaps the highest praise is that my husband uses them too, and chooses to repurchase the shampoo every time he runs out.

More recently, I tried out Bumble and Bumble's Blow Dry creams, and found that they really do help you get a smooth blow dry with minimal effort.  You only need a little bit, they make the hair super shiny, and they smell neutral to boot.  I'll be repurchasing the original Straight version when my sample is finished.

Macadamia's Flawless Cleansing Conditioner was one of the first widely available cleansing conditioners, and it's lightweight yet still nourishing formula cleans the hair beautifully, reduces blow dry time, and leaves the hair smooth and shiny.  Lovely it is, but it's perhaps telling that I've not repurchased it.

One product I completely failed to write about, but absolutely adore, is the Babyliss Big Hair.  The first couple of times I used it I managed to tangle my hair up rather impressively, but with a little practice this rotating brush has become my favourite way to style my hair.  Used on damp hair, it gives a shiny, bouncy blow dry which almost looks like a professional has done it.

These recently released Bourjois Mega Liner and Volume 1 Seconde mascara are still getting used virtually every day.  Intense black pigment, easy to use packaging and very reasonable pricing make this eye pairing a winner.

On the other end of the price scale, I found my Holy Grail waterproof mascara.  Clarins Truly Waterproof mascara stays put, wears like iron, and gives a very defined, voluminous look.  I've been through three repurchases since my sample ran out earlier this year.

Eyeshadow wise, there have been a lot of beautiful palettes I've fallen in love with this year, but this small, super-cheap palette from Makeup Revolution combines flattering shades, good pigmentation and excellent blendability with a teeny tiny price.

I'd heard of Amazing Concealer before, but hadn't quite appreciated the power of the tiny tube until I tried it.  The pigmentation is intense, and you only need the tiniest bit to erase dark circles and blemishes.  It's economical too - my tiny sample tube is still going strong.

Unsurprisingly, I found a handful of really good lip products this year.  My absolute favourite is this Sephora Give Me More Lip sampler, which contains seventeen products in mini sizes and a variety of shades and formats.  I still carry around a number of products from it at all times, and I really love the cute little lipsticks as well as the huge variety I got to try out from a single set.

Kiko's Unlimited Stylo lipsticks were a revelation in long-lasting matte at a budget price - at least 8 hours of wear combined with intense pigmentation made these gorgeous lipsticks an absolute winner for me.  Hibiscus Red, a pink-toned red, still lives in my makeup bag, and I get it out every time I want a power matte red which will last with no maintenance.

At the other end of the price scale, there's no doubt that Estee Lauder's Pure Color Sculpting Lipsticks are expensive at £24 a pop, but they're so beautiful.  Creamy in texture and with incredible pigmentation and impressive wear, they're luxurious, functional, and come in a very wide array of colours.

When Bourjois entered the fray with a matte liquid lipstick, the world sat up and took notice.  Rouge Edition Velvet are a range of easy to apply, beautifully soft matte liquid lipsticks which last well and are very easy on the wallet.  My favourite shade, Frambourjoise, has earned me many a compliment this year.

So that's it!  The cream of the products I've tried this year.  What have been your favourites?  Let me know in the comments!

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

Monday, 22 December 2014

Surprisingly Good: Revlon ColorBurst Lacquer Balm in Enticing

I was buying some new Revlon lipliner for my eyebrows the other day, and I decided to take advantage of a buy-two-things-get-a-lipstick-free offer.  I chose this rather lovely ColorBurst Lacquer Balm, and I chose to buy yet another red shade - completely unnecessary, but hey.  For a mere £7.99 you get a chunky, Chubby-like pencil which delivers surprisingly pigmented colour, with a lovely comfortable feel on the lip and a tingly peppermint flavour.

Having a balm-like base, it's somewhat caring on the lip - I've worn it a few times and found that my lips remained soft and hydrated during the entire wear time.  The obvious downside is that the wear time itself isn't amazing - a couple of hours after application I find I have a soft ruby red stain, which is nice in itself, but not quite as lovely as the opaque, satiny red lip above.

All in all, I'm impressed with ColorBurst Lacquer Balm - it's comfortable, and looks a lot more expensive on the lip than it actually is.  If you're looking to experiment with brighter colour, or you just want a good whack of pigment which isn't drying and you don't mind sacrificing wear time, this is definitely a product to try.  Find it at Boots now.

Disclosure:  Received free because I bought some other Revlon products with my own cash.

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

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Meh: Smashbox Primer Water

Meet the latest addition to Smashbox's primer family - Photo Finish Primer Water.  Billed as a lighter, more versatile product than the iconic Photo Finish primers, it delivers an ultra-fine spritz which can be used before foundation to prime the skin, and throughout the day whenever you need a hit of hydration.  It can also be spritzed onto brushes to apply eyeshadows wet.

It's true, this is a very light product - it produces the finest mist I've ever seen come from a spray bottle, and unlike some other sprays the distribution of water on your face is fine and even - no random wet patches where a bigger droplet has landed.

But does it actually work as a primer?  I'm not convinced.  I've been using it for a couple of weeks now, and whilst it's certainly refreshing to apply, I can't say I've noticed any difference in the application or longevity of my foundation after using the primer water.  It's hydrating, but only temporarily, and I've not really noticed any benefits from applying it atop my finished makeup as a fixer either.

Overall, then, it's nice enough (and the fineness of the spray is amazing) but not really worth the staggering £20 pricetag for a 150ml bottle.  If you're interested in trying it yourself, it's released in February 2015.

Disclosure:  PR sample

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

Friday, 12 December 2014

BUY THIS NOW: Bumble & Bumble Blow Dry in All-Style, Straight and Repair

My friends, I'm shit at blow drying my hair.  You see, I have rather a lot of it, and I get bored quite quickly, and so I usually end up just blasting it dry and ending up with a red/pink lion's mane.  Recently I bought a Babyliss Big Hair, which has helped quite a bit, but I still get bored, and sometimes it still turns out a bit fuzzy, thanks to my hair's natural inclination to be 80s big and fluffy.

When I received these new Blow Dry creams from Bumble & Bumble I wasn't really expecting a lot.  I've got a fair few blow dry creams already, and they don't really make a difference to my hair.  At £23, they're not cheap, but wow - these do make a difference to my hair.  All-Style is designed for thinner or more oily hair, and it's not quite heavy duty enough to deal with my colour-treated fuzz, but the original Straight version and the new, seriously hydrating Repair version are veritable blow dry genius.

A small squidge smoothed through the hair magically coats it, protecting it from heat, and encouraging it to dry faster and dry smoother.  With a hair dryer and a paddle brush, I can dry it absolutely straight - straight enough that my colleagues notice I've straightened it.  With my Big Hair, I can get a smooth, bouncy, curly-ended blow dry which actually looks as if someone skilled did it.

And I swear it takes less time to dry my hair with this stuff than without.
And my hair lasts so much longer than normal in it's shiny blow dried state, rather than returning quickly to curly fuzz.


These creams are going to remain a big part of my hair styling routine until they run out, and then I will buy a new tube of the Repair variety, which really quenches my dry ends.  If you struggle to blow dry your hair, these creams are absolutely, definitely, completely worth trying.

Disclosure: PR samples

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

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Bourjois 1 Seconde Nail Enamel in Grey To Meet You and Glitterizer

Meet two new polishes for the Christmas season from Bourjois - bucking the usual festive themed colours, they've gone monochrome instead of red and green.  Grey To Meet You is a gloriously deep rich grey shade, and Glitterizer is full of flaky silver glitter which works beautifully well on top of Grey To Meet You for an edgy yet still sparkly nail look.

Both are from the 1 Seconde range, which means you get an excellent brush which spreads colour quickly and evenly across the nail.  You'll need two coats of Grey To Meet You for an opaque finish, and unfortunately Glitterizer isn't particularly smooth in the application - there's a bit of selective poking requires to get the glitter evenly distributed across the nail.

Find them at the usual Bourjois stockists for £5.99 each.

Disclosure: PR samples

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

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Things I Don't Need: Chanel Rouge Allure Lipstick in Pirate

I need more red lipstick like I need more full skirts.  Or more black tights.  Or more of anything I already have quite a lot of.  But, you know, when you find yourself in Debenhams in Oxford Street fifteen minutes early for an appointment, what's a girl to do?  Buy unnecessary red lipstick, of course.

I'll admit I bought this because my hair has newly returned to red from bright, neon pink, and the thing I missed most whilst having pink hair was the ability to wear red lipstick.  Particularly gloriously ruby reds like this.  So I bought a new one.  Mostly because it's ruby red, and it's called Pirate.

Fun fact:  the Chanel lady put me off buying a Rouge Coco because the entire range is being discontinued.

Anyway, Rouge Allure is a gorgeously creamy, well pigmented lipstick which glides onto the lip, stays moist throughout it's slightly better than average three hour wear time, and wears down to a lovely ruby stain on the lip.  It also comes in very interesting packaging - you click the golden bit on the black tube inwards, and out pops a golden tube containing the Chanel-embossed lipstick.  Clicking it in and out of the black casing is very, very satisfying indeed.

Granted, at £26, this is a very luxe lipstick - I'm sure I remember a time when high end lipsticks meant spending around £20, rather than the edging-close-to-£30 people are now charging.  Even so, I absolutely love it - for the richness of the colour, for the very enjoyably functional packaging, and for the lovely satiny feel on the lip./  Find it at Boots.

Disclosure:  Bought by me.

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

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Collectif Lucy Hat

I know this isn't the usual post about some kind of beauty product, but LOOK AT MY NEW HAT!  My team held a Secret Santa event this week at work, and I was the very lucky recipient of this rather lovely vintage style hat, from my favourite shop, Collectif.  I absolutely love it, and I was so pleased that my Secret Santa chose such a fitting gift.  Best Secret Santa ever.

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

Monday, 8 December 2014

All Finished: Smashbox Photo Set Finishing Powder

It's rare for me to completely finish a makeup product, so when I do, it's generally a sign that a product is very, very good indeed.  Smashbox's Photo Set Finishing Powder is one of those super light, silicone/silica powders which sets makeup and absorbs oil without looking cakey at all.  It's a bit scary looking in the pot, being bright white and not unlike icing sugar, but once it's on your face, it gives you a soft focus, polished look which lasts and lasts.

At £19 for 4.8g, it's well worth the cash.  Well, until you realise that it's actually exactly the same as the Eyes Lips Face version, which costs a paltry £6.95 for 8g.  I know which one I'll be repurchasing!

Disclosure:  Originally a PR sample from a long, long time ago.

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

Thursday, 4 December 2014

BUY THIS NOW: Bourjois Ultra Black Volume 1 Seconde Mascara and Mega Liner

One last post about the latest from Bourjois, and then I'll stop, I promise.  After the mildly exciting new(ish) lip colours and the pretty exciting new cream eyeshadow colours comes the very exciting ultra-black editions of Bourjois' existing Volume 1 Second mascara and Mega Liner.  First off, a note on Ultra Black editions - I'm not entirely sure why so many brands release their mascara and eyeliner products in 'black' and then follow up a new months later with 'ultra black'.  Sure, there's a difference, but how many people are really going to choose black over ultra black?

Pondering aside, the reason I'm so excited by these two products is perhaps partially because this is the first time I've tried either, so I'm definitely excited by the ultra-dark colour, but also excited because they perform so damn well.

1 Seconde Mascara claims to build volume super-fast - and whilst it's definitely not possible to get voluminous lashes in a single stroke (a single second), a single coat of well applied, root-to-tip-wiggled mascara gives excellent volume with decent definition, all in a rich, smoky black shade.  If you want to really up the ante, you can try layering, although after the first coat you'll need to be careful of clumps.  For a mere £9.99, this is one of the best speedy-volume mascaras I've tried in quite some time.

The Mega Liner, £7.49, is a slightly more daunting prospect - it's chiseled, fat nib allows you to apply a fine line or a really thick graphic one.  I've been using it for a finer line - my eyes are too hooded to manage graphic eyeliner particularly well - and I've found that I need to be careful not to let the nib to rotate whilst stroking along the lashline - if it does, the result is a variably thick line which is then a bugger to replicate on the other eye.

With a steady hand, though, the result is a smooth, even, perfectly opaque line which stays on remarkably well.  It performs just as well as Urban Decay's Ink for Eyes, which is double the price at £15.  Paired with the Volume 1 Seconde mascara, you get a wide eyed, polished and defined look, perfect for early winter mornings and late Christmas party nights.  It's rare for samples to immediately become every day essentials, but since I received this perfect eye pairing, I've been using them more or less every day.

Disclosure:  PR sample

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

Bobbi Brown Scotch on the Rocks Lipstick in Bordeaux

Bobbi Brown's Christmas collection features deep red lips and sparkling golden eyes - nothing particularly new or exciting.  The Bobbi factor means that the reds are flattering on all skin types and have textures which blend the best of pigmentation and moisture for a luminous finish, and the golden eyes are lit with sparkling shades which are buildable from subtle to intense.

This lipstick is an absolute corker - named Bordeaux, it's probably the most full on of the Christmas lipstick shades (the others are a neutral pink and a classic red).  It's a gloriously deep, rich wine-red, with a semi-matte finish.  I absolutely love it, for being a flatteringly neutral toned deep red, and for being an alternative to the usual classic blue red most brands trot out at this time of year.

Most interestingly, it has a very curved, contoured tip to the bullet - the surface you use to apply it to the lip is concave, meaning that it (in theory) hugs the lip as you apply it.  I found it a little awkward for the top lip, and very ergonomic for the bottom lip, so somewhat mixed on results - I also suspect that those with lips less full than mine might struggling to avoid going over the lipline.  You can see in the photo above I've gone a little outside my top lipline anyway.

At £22, this isn't a cheap lipstick, but it's festive packaging, Bobbi quality, and neutral, suits-all shade makes it a Christmas hit for me.  Find it now at the Bobbi Brown website.

Disclosure: PR sample

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

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Meh: Clinique Foaming Sonic Soap

Hot on the heels of the release of Clinique's Sonic System Purifying Cleansing Brush comes Foaming Sonic Facial Soap, £16, a foaming cleanser specifically formulated to work with the cleansing brush.  Apparently, it helps the bristles glide across the face, gently removing dirt and impurities.  Much like any other cleanser, in fact.

The only difference I can detect between this and the other foaming formulas I have at home is that this stuff is slightly thicker, with a more dense lather which doesn't easily fall off the face - more useful when you're spending longer cleansing with a device, true.  All in all though, I don't think this cleanser really offers a lot over and above the cleanser you already have in your bathroom when it comes to pairing with a sonic cleansing brush.

I remember Clarisonic doing a similar thing when they first released the Clarisonic brush onto the market - it came with three mini cleansers, and you could repurchase full sizes.  Evidently, few people did, as Clarisonic now only offer a single cleanser, which compared to the five million different types of skincare brush they offer HAS to say something about the viability of the cleanser-specifically-for-skincare-brush market.

Anyway, I digress.

If you need a new cleanser anyway, and you're in the market for a cleansing brush, this one's perfectly decent.  If you're the proud new owner of a new cleansing brush, don't rush out and buy this cleanser until the one you already have runs dry (and if you have as many cleansers as I do, I suspect that might take some time).

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

Sunday, 30 November 2014

The best of Christmas gift sets

It's that time of the year again!  Here are a few of my favourite gift picks, starting with Boots' gloriously kitsch Hello Kitty Bath Confetti.  At just £5, this makes a great little present for small kids and big kids alike, who'll appreciate having a Hello Kitty tin to hide things in once the sherbert bath confetti within has been used up.

On a slightly more grown up note, this Box of Delights from the Sanctuary contains nine bath and body treats, with six full size products.  It's also a mere £22.50 in Boots' Black Friday weekend sale - usually £45.

Any bath lover would be pleased to receive this box of ten miniature Aromatherapy Associates bath and shower oils.  Granted, each oil is good for only one bath, and at £35, this makes for a slightly eye-watering cost of £3.50 per bath, but these silky, fragrant oils are well worth it.
Less luxe but more fun, this Soap and Glory set features bright, festive packaging, a pun-tastic name, five travel sizes featuring the brand's most popular products, a bath puff, and a pair of snuggly socks (presumably for wearing whilst your foot cream sinks in).  At £20, you get a decent amount of product for your money, and Soap and Glory's slightly quirky retro appeal means this is a sure bet for any age.

Everyone loves a Philosophy 3-in-1 - and this Christmas Cookie variety is no exception.  480ml costs a very reasonable £14,  Who doesn't want to smell of freshly baked cookies this winter?
If you're lucky enough to be heading over the pond, have someone who can send you stuff, or are happy to order online from Sephora and brave the wait, this Chroma Eye Palette contains a whopping 54 eyeshadows and 12 eye pencils, as well as a double ended brush.   Sephora's in house makeup line is often overlooked in favour of the brands they sell, despite being very well priced for the quality - and indeed, this set is only $65.

 I really, really hope I find one of these NARS Virtual Domination blush palettes under the tree on Christmas morning - three natural blush shades, a super size bronzer, and a shimmering highlighter make it everything you could need for cheeks in one palette.  At £45, it's pretty expensive, but it's also very, very pretty (and NARS blush lasts for ages, so you know, quite economical really).
 It feels like the whole world has been singing the praises of Hourglass' Ambient products - and this Ambient Blush Palette looks gorgeous.  It's rather eye wateringly expensive, at £56 for three shades of blush, but you know... Still want it.
I'm including Sephora's rather excellent Give Me More Lip set because I bought one, and I absolutely love it.  I pretty much guarantee that any lip lover will adore it too.  You get seventeen mini lip products for just $59, which is a bargain, and the cute sample sizes are guaranteed to cause cooing.
For the more adventurous lip lover, this $56 set of twelve mini Lip Tars in matte and metallic finishes promises endless creative opportunities as they can be mixed and layered for a really interesting and artistic lip.  Or, you know, just applied for a highly pigmented pout.

By Terry's Baume de Rose is a bit of a cult classic, and the new tinted ones have proven themselves pretty popular too.  Normally a single jar costs £35, but you can get five mini-tubes for £55 - still incredibly expensive, yes, but for the Baume de Rose lover it presents a great opportunity to play with the new colours whilst ensuring soft lips all winter long.

And on the topic of soft lips, this Kiehl's lip balm set contains two tubes of the original Lip Balm #1, and a single tube of Mango flavoured Lip Balm #1.  At £19, this is begging to be broken up into stocking stuffers for beauty lovers, or given to someone with a serious lip balm addiction.

Nails Inc's Christmas sets are surprisingly thin on the ground this year given the well-priced bunper sets they've offered in the past.  This Be Gelous set, £42, contains six shades of their very popular gel-effect polish in classic suits-all shades.

Finally, this No 7 12 Colours of the Year features twelve shades picked to follow the seasons.  At £25, each polish costs just over £2, making this a bit of a bargain, whether you give it as one gift, or split it up between multiple stockings.

What are you wishing for this Christmas?  What are you buying for others?  Let me know in the comments!

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

Friday, 28 November 2014

Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet AW2014: Personne ne Rouge and Happy Nude Year

Personne ne Rouge

Happy Nude Year
Bourjois' AW2014 collection continues with a new shade of the rather excellent Rouge Edition Velvet lip colour, and a repromote of an existing favourite.  Personne ne Rouge is a bright, true red, and Happy Nude Year is a peachy pink nude which'll thrill those who found the collections existing nude, Nude-ist, a little too brown based.

As usual, the texture of these lip colours is amazing - gel-light, surprisingly soft for the level of pigmentation, and so weightless on the lip that you'll almost believe you're not wearing lip colour.  If I had to pick a lip product of 2014 (please don't make me), these would definitely be in the shortlist.  And in the top five, for sure.

I'm not going to ramble about the amazing formula again - I did it enough in my original review - but I will just say that Happy Nude Year is a lovely brightening nude which is much more modern than the original, slightly retro Nude-ist shade.  If you're after an easy wearing matte nude, you should definitely give Happy Nude Year a go.

Find these now at Amazon for a mere £8.99.

Disclosure: PR sample

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