Friday, 29 January 2010

Hypnotherapy and Weight loss: Does it Work?

For those of you who read this site regularly, you'll know that I went to London for a meeting on Wednesday, and that I said it was was for something exciting. Well, I'm going to be doing a blog for Lowri Turner's new site Va Voom Health. 

As well as an experienced journalist, Lowri is also a trained hypnotherapist and nutritionist. She offers combined programmes using a range of techniques and I'm going to be testing one out! 

I met Lowri on Wednesday to discuss my general health and to decide on an appropriate programme. I was also hypnotised (briefly). It was just like the lying down bit at the end of a yoga lesson where you go all sleepy and fuzzy. Very relaxing. 

Next week I'll be picking up the various supplements I'm going to be taking to sort out my irritated tummy and other ailments. 'At least six' apparently: listen for the rattle! I'll also be given a diet programme and a list of foods to avoid (wheat, milk, nightshade vegetables – so far!) I'll be undergoing regular hypnosis with Lowri, as well as listening to hypnotherapy cds in bed at night. 

So, what will all this supplementing and hypnotising and intolerance-avoiding achieve? Well, that's what I'll be reporting. It has been suggested that I video blog. Terrifying prospect but I'll give it a go. 

I'll link to the site when my first blog's up so you can see what I'm up to. There may be some crying over pieces of half-eaten toast etc. I love bread! I'm going to be loitering in the gluten-free aisle at Tesco with an annoyed expression. Hopefully at the end of it all I will be lighter, have more energy and better skin. Stay tuned to find out!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Bobbi Brown: Choosing a Foundation

After my meeting yesterday, I trotted off to meet Rebecca from fabulous beauty blog, Le Salon de Beaute, and we headed straight to Fenwick. 

At the Bobbi Brown counter I was traumatised to discover that finding a foundation match entailed middle-of-shop makeup removal. Thank god Grace (London MakeUp Girl) advised me that Fenwick would be quieter than Selfridges.

Makeup lovingly removed, three stripes of foundation stick were drawn down my cheek to see which colour matched. What else but Porcelain? The Bobbi Brown lady (  Lawae? I'm afraid I can't read her writing) recommended Moisture Rich Foundation SPF 15 for my normal to dry skin and proceeded to apply it with a foundation brush. 

The effect was natural-looking coverage with a dewy finish. She then added Touch Up Stick concealer in Porcelain and Pot Rouge blusher in Powder Pink, all of which I was very tempted to buy. The makeup artist chatted with us while she waited a few minutes to see whether the foundation disappeared into my skin or needed blotting. She added a tiny touch of Sheer Finish Pressed Powder in a scary white colour, which was actually translucent, just on my T-zone, leaving a subtle sheen across my cheekbones.

Rebecca then held my wrists and forbid me from laying down my card for the entire Bobbi Brown makeup counter and we hurried off in search of refreshments. In fact, we were having so much fun I didn't even ask for any samples. Durrrr. 

All-in-all I was impressed with my first Bobbi Brown experience; the quality of the products and the expertise and knowledge of the makeup lady made it quick and painless. 

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

London Calling

I'm off to the capital today, in search of those streets paved with gold. How pretty. I'll try to blog about it tonight, although London always tires me out and gives me achy feet!

I also wanted to tell you that yesterday I successfully took back the oh-so-disappointing Revlon DoubleTwist Mascara. If you intend to try something similar on a product you've bought and aren't satisfied with, prepare to feel very embarrassed and cheeky.

Adopting my most horrified and incredulous expression, I approached the cashier in the small branch of Boots where I live and started my monologue. She did not look impressed. It wasn't until I took out the mascara in question  pulling out the wand to show her the mass of guck on the brush and reiterating that it created one big eyelash on each eye  that she softened and did a typical mum-esque, 'Oh that is poor'.

The lady then told me that I could swap it for another of the same mascara, which I declined, still full of disgust at said product. Eventually I was offered an exchange for whatever I wanted of similar value. One eyeliner and an eyeshadow later; thank you and goodnight.

I'm not sure you could get away with this in a larger Boots, in fact they would probably look at you like you were mentally ill. If you happen to be in a small town, however, you could always try your luck, if you've got the nerve. Don't ask, don't get, as they say.

Leave a comment and let me know whether you think my actions were commendable or despicable!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Beauty Essentials: UK and France

SO FAR, SO CHIC is in fantastic company today, as we're featured in a piece on British beauty bloggers posted on French site, 30 ans en beauté.

Site editor, Chris d'Ego, asked each of us to reveal our favourite French products, as well as beauty treats she should pick up during her trip to London.

I struggled to narrow down my French favourites to only a couple of things; intense jealousy for their amazing pharmacy brands was gnawing at me as I pondered. However, I was more than happy to recommend some excellent British brands for Chris to try.

My must-buys included Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser and bargain makeup brand 17 from Boots' Soft Liner Eye Pen.

Click here to see all the products beloved of my fellow British bloggers.

Styes in their Eyes

I’ve noticed quite a few people holding ‘blog sales’ recently; that is, beauty bloggers selling the products they no longer need/want. While I’m all for recycling and thrift, isn’t there something undeniably iffy about paying for someone else’s castoffs?

If it were clothes, that would be different – you can wash them. If the products were unused I’d also have no issue. It’s the idea of buying used makeup from a stranger. I’m not up for that.

I’ve swapped makeup with friends plenty of times; that colour isn’t good on me but it’ll look great on you, that kind of thing. But these are people I know, not strangers poking their (potentially unwashed) fingers in my blusher pot.

It’s not just the idea of buying used products either – the thought of selling my own ‘pre-loved’ makeup is equally unappealing. I’d be too embarrassed to consider it; the way I wish people felt when they offered used spot sticks and similar at car boot sales. What a nerve!

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with bloggers wanting to sell off their excess products: when you love makeup it’s easy to find yourself drowning in lipsticks and eyeliners. It’s just not something I can see myself participating in unless, perhaps, it was something like a foundation, where the dispenser is fixed and doesn’t come off.

Maybe I’m a germaphobe, and I’m sure most people are perfectly clean, but used makeup doesn’t sound hygienic to me. Visions of styes and cold sores swim before my (blissfully uninfected) eyes, and I know that I’d rather pay full price for something new. 

Monday, 25 January 2010

Product Update: Jergens Naturals

A few of you were intrigued by my post on Jergens Naturals Extra Softening body moisturiser, and I promised to update you with my thoughts on it. 

I'm pleased to report that after using this body lotion for ten days, my skin is much softer and smoother. The tight feeling I had across my back has completely gone and I no longer feel like a husk! 

The mild smell doesn't interfere with my perfume, which is important to me, I'm also fairly happy with the way it sinks in. I find that if I apply a bit too much I get that white appearance for about 30 seconds, but other than that my skin isn't greasy and (most importantly) skinny jeans can be donned immediately! 

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Wonder Perfect Eyes

It’s not very often I come across a product and think, ‘Damn, I’m going to have to buy this for the rest of my life.’ But that’s what happened when I first tried Clarins Wonder Perfect Mascara.

It wasn’t love at first site: I dislike the chunky, plastic tube, which I assume is supposed to look like metal? It doesn’t. What happened to the actual metal of the chic red tubes, Clarins?

Packaging aside, I was immediately impressed with the way it applied; no blobbing or clumping, and I didn’t need to wipe any excess off the wand. No bits fell under my eyes either (unlike Revlon DoubleTwist Mascara, which I keep alluding to in a faux-mysterious way, and which was shockingly bad). Wonder Perfect opened up my eyes and coated and curled each lash evenly (I didn't use eyelash curlers before applying). The comb and wand were easy to use and just the right size. 

These pictures show me sans mascara; with one coat on both upper and lower lashes; and with two coats on upper lashes only. You can see I wasn’t kidding about being pale – my eyelashes are blonde with white tips and my eyebrows are virtually white too!

I’ve been more than pleased with this mascara’s staying power. After a day’s wear it looked virtually identical to when I first applied, with little or no flaking beneath the eye. 

I’ve never been able to find a cheap mascara I was content with, and even though £18 every few months is a lot, I can't see me using anything else now that I've tried this. A true 'holy grail' product, and I don't say that lightly. It's available in three colours: black, brown and blue. I always go for black, even though it looks quite dramatic on me. I'm not one for subtle lashes! 

Saturday, 23 January 2010

About Face: Scott Barnes' Celebrity Airbrushing

Isn’t makeup amazing? I mean, just look at Jennifer Lopez on the new Scott Barnes book, About Face. See how careful shading and contouring slims the bridge of her nose and changes the shape of the tip? Rigggght. I would’ve thought the point of a book about makeup was to show the different looks that can be created through application techniques and products. Maybe this is what the inside of the book's about.

In both its US and UK forms, the cover depicts a strange-looking JLo doppelganger, with altered, shrunken nose. The airbrushing on the US edition concentrates largely on the bridge of Lopez’s nose – removing the line of the bone and narrowing the overall width. The UK version goes even further; shrinking her entire nose and elevating the tip. It looks pinched, too small for her face and odd.

Why the publisher, Barnes or whomever was in charge of the cover felt the need to alter Jennifer Lopez’s distinctive and already very attractive features is beyond me. I like the look of her real nose, it’s characteristic, it’s in line with her Latin American heritage and it suits her. Why does worldwide celebrity, Jennifer Lopez, need a Barbie nose to sell a book?
This comes in the same week as we see US ‘reality star’ Heidi Montag reveal the results of her second round of cosmetic surgery – a whopping ten procedures in one day.

Through her efforts to conform to the Hollywood female stereotype, Montag has successfully wiped all character and charm from her face, leaving in its place a blank, waxy expression reminiscent of a computer game character, and aging herself ten years in the process. Looking at her, it’s a relief to think that, at least for now, Jennifer Lopez only looks weird on a book cover. Heidi’s unrecognisable face is permanent.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Chanel's Mushroom Love

Being a bit of a beauty blogger (I wrote for Beauty Guerrillas too), I get sent a lot of press releases and also enjoy reading about new products as featured on all my fav blogs. I see so much stuff, most of it very lovely, that I don't often get over-excited about a new release. I’m rarely drawn into PR hype either. All this makes me feel like even more of a schmuck for what I’m about to say… I WANT CHANEL PARTICULIÈRE! And I mean really want.

I enjoy painting my nails occasionally and favour neutrals, dark colours or reds for fingernails. You will never see me wear yellow, blue, purple or green, partly because they remind me of the polishes I bought when I was young, which instantly puts me off, and partly because I just can’t carry 'whacky' colours on my pale-but-not-in-a-good-way skin tone. I could never have got away with Chanel's last 'cult' offering – Jade. 

I don’t know whether this shade will suit me, but I’m desperate to try it. The fact I noticed Lauren Conrad wearing a polish that looked suspiciously like Particulière on both fingers and toes, did little to curb my enthusiasm! Roll on 29 January when this shroom-hued delight will be available at Selfridges. 

Thursday, 21 January 2010

What I Bought Today

While I meant to wait until London next week to go shopping, I accidently popped over to Cheltenham today and made a few purchases. Whoopsy! I'm supposed to be getting paid over the next few days, fingers crossed this happens, seems as though I already spent it! 

French Connection Dress
I never normally buy French Connection, but they had a sale on and I really wanted a cute day dress to wear to my meeting. The Sweets Dress doesn't have much ‘hanger appeal’ but it’s actually quite stylish on. It's also available in red. I paid £51 – I don’t often spend that much on a dress but it’s good quality fabric and it's just the sort of thing I wanted – however, one glance at the website reveals it's priced at £45! I will be investigating!

Fenn Wright Manson Blouse
This navy-blue silk blouse with small red polka dots has beautiful sleeves and is a great fit. It’s sort-of what I wanted for my 'voluminous shirt' look, and it was in the sale for £28. This must be what quality feels like. 

Clarins Wonder Perfect Mascara
I’ve been loving a tiny sample of Clarins Super Volume but, having read Get Lippie’s rave review of their new offering, I opted for this instead. After the disappointment/horror of Revlon DoubleTwist Mascara, which I bought yesterday (and will be attempting to return as 'crap'), I was desperate to get something decent. It promises volume and impact from the first application, so we'll see if I like it as much as Wonder Volume. I nearly choked when the assistant said it cost £18; I'm now expecting wonder-perfect lashes!

Clarins Instant Eye Make-Up Remover
Having suffered through nearly the whole bottle of Dermalogica Soothing Eye Make-up Remover, the thought of Clarins Instant Eye Make-Up Remover – one of my favourite breed of part-oil removers – was just too tempting. Especially as Debenhams have an offer on where you get loads of goodies when you buy one skincare and one makeup item. 

I'll do some reviews of these products and might even write a scathing post about the aforementioned Revlon disaster. (I actually had to take my mascara off and redo it with another brand; one big eyelash on each eye isn't the look I'm after.) That's my budget expended for a while - except of course, the little pot I'm reserving for Bobbi Brown foundation!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

My Little London Shopping List

Next week I’m off to the big smoke for an exciting meeting, which I’ll hopefully be able to tell you all about afterwards. While I’m there I thought it would be rude not to partake of the very generous amenities offered by Oxford Street and suchlike. I have no money, but that’s pretty much irrelevant. Here’s my wish list so far…

Bobbi Brown Foundation

Not sure which one yet – I’ll be relying on the makeup lady at Selfridges – but every beauty bod in the business raves about it, and I want a piece of the action! The Luminous Moisturizing Foundation beloved of DINKYLondon looks like a good place to start the swatches.

Evolve Body Moisturiser
Ever since the lovely Grace at London MakeUp Girl recommended it, I’ve been keen to try Evolve Radiance Boost Smoothing Cream. Today she told me about a shop called Content, which not only stocks Evolve, but many other natural health and beauty treats. I will definitely be stopping by.                                

Something Topshop
Much as I hate the scrum involved in entering tweenie-hell, otherwise known as Oxford Circus Topshop, I still always go there when I'm in town. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually managed a purchase but I’m in the market for some kind of voluminous blouse to wear with skinny jeans and heels. Think Lauren Conrad (always).

Being a bit of a country bumpkin, I'm not too clued up on cool London shops, so if anyone has any insider advice or recommendations, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Bargain Beauty - Parissa Wax Strips

I had a negative experience with a home-waxing kit years ago; huge, fat sheets of wax flipping all over the place and sticking to everything, impossible to hold them taut etc. It was a (painful) disaster and one I quickly abandoned. However, when a friend recommended Parissa recently I decided it was time for Round Two. Hand me the ibuprofen.

The Parissa Wax Strips – Face & Bikini set contains eight tiny, double-sided wax strips, each about the size of a plaster. The strips split into two, which gives you enough pieces to do either several modest bikini waxes or one full-on Paris Hilton.

First off: if you’re no good at inflicting pain on yourself, these strips aren’t for you. Having been to a salon for a ‘Hollywood’ in the past, I remember how painful it was, and I’d say it was about the same as using this kit. (Mind you, I did come away with sticky bits of wax on me, so it probably wasn’t the best experience: never trust a beautician with wicker furniture.) However, if you can take a bit of pain, the results I had were excellent, and definitely worth the effort. 

Afterwards you will be left with the charming plucked-chicken effect, but Parissa have a solution for this. Each of their waxing kits comes with a glass vial of azulene oil. This wonder-stuff instantly soothes post-waxed skin, as well as helping to prevent ingrowing hairs. By the next day my skin was back to normal; not remotely sore or irritated. I was very impressed. I didn’t get one ingrown hair either. I then enjoyed weeks of carefree bikini time, without a single stray hair to spoil my fun. 

Parissa is available from Boots, Whole Foods and Fresh and Wild. This kit costs around £7.99. 

Monday, 18 January 2010

Waxing Nine 'til Five

It has recently come to my attention through conversations with several friends (who shall remain nameless) that average British ladies are getting on the LA less-is-more waxing bandwagon.

And I’m not talking about an occasional ‘Hollywood’ prior to jetting somewhere hot and donning an unforgiving string bikini. I’m talking year-round, these-girls-don’t-even-have-boyfriend’s waxing EVERYTHING off mega grooming. I didn’t know women like me were setting money aside for monthly trips to the beautician’s even during winter. Without going into details, I’m blonde, and not a very hairy person, but still. These ladies are no Godzillas either. One has to ask, do they really need to wax their bum cracks? 

When did it become mainstream for women to pay strangers to wax their bits during sub-zero January temperatures when every ‘layer’ counts? I understand LA is warm year-round and you might suddenly find yourself nude in the Grotto at the Playboy Mansion of a Wednesday evening, but in Gloucestershire!? We don’t even have a Zara!

If you want to wax everything off all the time, that’s your prerogative, I just wonder when women decided that hair-free was the only way to go. I can’t help pondering if it’s covert self-consciousness brought about by over-exposure to American telly; not to mention literal over-exposure of celebs like Britney Spears. After all, who would’ve imagined 10 years ago that we’d all have seen Britney’s Brazilian by now? It’s almost the norm to open Heat and see a pixilated pic of Paris Hilton’s hoo-ha.

I’ve also noticed an alarming trend for celebrities in leotards. It’s as if uber-short skirts weren’t quite revealing enough, now we have to see them on MTV in their knickers. Lady Gaga’s next outfit will probably involve glitter nips and a heart-shaped merkin. That'll definitely require a trip to the salon: if she’s in the locale, my friends can recommend some good ones. 

And coming up next, because I'm nothing if not contradictory, Parissa Wax Strips, Face & Bikini.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Five Shoes for Winter

In these times of economic strife, we're all being more considered in our spending. But while I might cut back in some areas, there are others that must retain a decent portion of the budget: for me, that's beauty products and shoes. For this reason, I've put together a guide to my five essential shoes for winter, in order to help prevent unnecessary or impractical purchases (although those are usually the most fun!).

I've purposely picked shoes you can actually buy, so as not to tease! I've also gone for quite classic, plain choices, just to give an idea of the sorts of things I mean, and to ensure each shoe is highly wearable. But if you want your going-out shoes in ruby red patent leather, I'd say go for it!

Work Heels
Nine West, Landlock

Black Courts
Kurt Geiger, Esme

Black/Brown Heeled Boots
Faith, Mork

Black/Brown Flat Boots
Dune, Clover

Leather Pumps
Topshop, Maxwell

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Bargain Beauty - Jergens Naturals

Thanks to the utter failure of my current body lotion to actually moisturise my dehydrated skin, I am now a raisin. When one finds oneself becoming a raisin emergency measures must be taken. I popped on my coat and rolled my raisin behind straight down to my local Boots to find something cheap and effective to salve my poor, dry skin.

Still reeling from the recent discovery that evil parabens could be secretly worsening my little KP problem, I had to hunt for something more natural. Forced, therefore, to dismiss 98 per cent of the products on offer, I settled on Jergens Naturals Extra Softening, which at a discounted price of £2.44, didn’t hurt my bank balance either.

This moisturiser relies on shea butter to help maintain moisture levels and provide an instant softening effect. The smell is very, very subtly fruity, which I’m happy about, and the lotion sinks straight in. My skin is left smooth and silky, but without greasiness. After a few applications of this stuff, I’ll be a juicy grape again in no time! 

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Fern Cotton Has My Boots

One thing I didn’t mention in my Tagged: Getting to Know You post is my passion for shoes. After all, it’s not exactly news when a girl can't resist a pair of purple suede ballet pumps with bows on the front. We will be glossing over the fact I once asked my mum (her again) if I could sleep with my new shoes next to my pillow.

Now 26, my feelings for shoes have not diminished. I have probably about two suitcase’s worth (separated into ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ boxes!) but I always want more.

Recently I came across this picture of Fern Cotton wearing a fabulous pair of boots. Madly in lust with them, I trawled through every shoe website I could think of until I found what appeared to be the same pair at ASOS. They’re Kurt Geiger and cost a hope-shattering £200.

Obviously I went straight to the KG website and found them on sale for £79! Time to pull my top over my face and skid across the kitchen floor on both knees shouting, "THERE IS A GOD!" Until, that is, I spotted une petit détail: ‘Sold Out’.

It was just like the time the Clarks assistant told me they had none of the ruby red patent maryjanes in my width measurement. Gutted. Back then I would’ve cried, now that I’m grown-up I’ll just… drive to Cabot Circus in Bristol to see if they have a pair in the KG shop? Failing that I will definitely admit defeat (while checking eBay and planning a very specific robbery on Fern Cotton’s house).

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Tagged: Getting to Know You

The lovely Joy at DINKY London tagged me and I’m happy to join in. As Joy recently proclaimed on twitter, ‘Blogging is my cocaine,’ and boy, does she mean it. DINKY London is chock-full of fantastic fashion, beauty reviews and chic buys for the home. 

Coming up, seven facts about me:
  1. It’s always good to start with a song. I made this gem up as a protest against tidying my room when I was little. Here are the lyrics: "Me and me and me and me and me and me and me and me and me and me and me and me and me, what a wonderful world of me’s." Great huh? My family all like to sing this whenever I do or say anything they think is self-serving.
  2. I’m magazine obsessed. If I never get to work at a glossy I’ll have missed my calling. Able to home in on a discarded 'InStyle' from five carriages away, a packed train is no obstacle in the face of such desire. The magazines I’m not subscribed to are read during loitering sessions at a number of different newsagents. The trick is to leave just as the staff are getting annoyed.
  3. I love Michael Jackson. Should that be past tense? Say it isn’t so! Maybe it’s because I was born the year 'Thriller' came out, and we had the album on cassette. I used to listen to it and ‘Bad’ on my Sony Walkman. Until I was about eleven I thought the lyrics to Smooth Criminal were, ‘You’ve been hit by, you’ve been struck by, a smooth crimical.’ The song title provided no clues.
  4. I’m an expert wig spotter. I haven’t studied to acquire this knack; it’s simply a natural gift. Bad wigs are very offensive (I’m looking at you Robin Gibb) and can potentially spoil an evening’s telly watching. I doubt I’ll be able to watch the new Sarah Jessica Parker film, ‘Did you hear about the Morgans?’ because, having seen the trailer, she’s wearing an atrocious wig throughout.
  5. Organising stuff makes me happy. The recent restructuring of my built-in bedroom cupboard has since provided hours of smug pleasure. My particular penchant for making piles of one thing, like towels, and slotting them in neatly alongside other stuff, in a way that's both practical and aesthetically pleasing, provides the ultimate in organisational satisfaction.
  6. I’m a perfectionist. When I publish a new blog post I will have gone in and out of the ‘edit post’ option on Blogger at least ten times; fiddling about in the HTML, moving the images around, changing the title and altering what I’ve written. The phrase ‘that’ll do’ is something I would never say. This trait can be problematic when working with a jaded designer on a magazine, but I usually get my way in the end.
  7. Since I quit my job and moved back in (temporarily!) with my family in Gloucestershire, I’ve rediscovered my childhood love of the countryside. Walking the dog in the fields where I used to make dens makes me smile, or at least it did during the summer. Now I’ll go to the park and race around in the snow, wondering if it’s wrong to make snow angels on your own (it is and I didn’t). Top tunes on my ipod don’t hurt either: sometimes I’ll even sing!

So far, so chic:

Monday, 11 January 2010

Perfumes: The A-Z Guide

Most women love perfume, but some women really love perfume. My mother (so frequently mentioned I’m thinking about giving her a tag) let out a screech of pain and almost wept upon realising she’d gone away for the weekend sans-scent.

I have a particularly sensitive nose, which is both a blessing and a curse, depending on who or what is in my vicinity. I avoid getting downwind of people who look suspiciously like they might smell of drains. My favourite sniff is Hermes Kelly Caleche Eau de Toilette. With just the right amount of floral and a hint of leather, it’s my version of cat nip. I bought the Eau de Parfum as well, thinking it would be stonger/last longer but the formulation’s different. Not quite as delicious, in my opinion.

I recently purchased ‘Perfumes: The A–Z Guide’ for a friend with a borderline-weird obsession with all smells: I knew she would truffle through it for hours. A book about perfume might sound dull to some, but this little gem is anything but. Written by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, it’s so much more than a perfume guide. It’s almost a book of short stories – each entry weaves a delicate web of novel comparisons, harsh dismissals and comic asides. 

Even holding the book at the awkward angle necessary to look up all my perfumes without bending the spine, I was immediately absorbed. There are top 10’s of different types of perfume: oriental, amber, chypre etc, which make it easy to discover which scents you are drawn to and others you might like. Many perfumes are mocked and ridiculed (some of which I own); others are praised with such enthusiasm you feel you must smell them immediately.

The paperback was released in October 2009 and has been updated to include over 400 new frangrances. There are even 20 pages of perfume FAQs to resolve any niggling dilemmas. I definitely need to buy myself a copy: it’s available now on Amazon.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

A Few of My Unfavourite Things

ince my posts thus-far have been fairly positive, I thought it time to redress the balance. Wouldn’t want you thinking I like every pot and potion I dip my little paw into…

Dermalogica Soothing Eye Make-up Remover
As I’m addicted to their Daily Microfoliant, and most of the products I’ve tried have been good, I didn’t expect to dislike this eye makeup remover quite as much as I do. With a strong preference for part-oil products such as Botanics, No7 or (ideally) Lancome (which I love but don’t often buy because I get through a bottle in about four hours), it’s already at a disadvantage. I can’t stand foaminess and when I wipe cotton wool soaked in this over my eyes it feels like I just stuck my head in a bubble bath. You’re meant to apply it to wet cotton wool and rinse off, but I’m in my bedroom, already half-asleep as I take off my eye makeup, not in the bathroom. I’m always tempted to get out of bed to rinse it off though, since it floods my eyes. It does the job of removing my makeup, but there's nothing soothing about the experience.

Vaseline Essential Moisture - Conditioning Body Lotion
The blurb on the bottle talks about skin being made up of 90% water, and how we lose a pint of water throughout the day. Well, water is what this lotion feels like when you put it on. Some moisturisers have that aqueous texture, as if they're mimicking your skin and sinking right in. This sinks right in, never to be seen again. It leaves no residue and my skin just feels… exactly the same as it did before I applied. I like my body lotions to leave a bit of a sheen, or at least for my skin to feel smooth after. This stuff must be absorbed into some dehydrated internal organ because it certainly doesn’t do anything on the outside of the body. Maybe it would provide adequate moisture in the summer, when skin’s not so dry and conditions aren’t so harsh… but I doubt it.

Aromatherapy Associates Enrich Body Scrub
This one, I’ll admit, is a case of my personal taste, rather than a dud product. When browsing the sale items in Space NK recently my spirits soared as I spotted something 'Aromatherapy Associates'; those connoisseurs of essential oil and all things gorgeously scented. They sunk again a second later when I realised it was the ‘Enrich’ range. I had been given the body scrub a while ago and, despite my best efforts to love it, I cannot stand the smell. This scrub contains pure coffee, frankincense and grapefruit, said to invigorate. I love coffee, and Cindy Crawford supposedly exfoliates with coffee grounds to prevent cellulite, but there’s no morning-latte whiff about this, and now my shower’s filled with brown bits. The texture’s fab - you can feel the quality - and the oils immediately hydrate skin and leave it lovely, but nothing makes up for that funky smell. I’m not surprised it was in the sale.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The Fairest One of All

As previously bemoaned, my skin hates winter. Dry, flaky, deathly pale; without makeup I look as if I’m desperately in need of a large portion of vegetables/have contracted rickets. Laura Mercier Illuminating Tinted Moisturiser is one product I rely on to bring my face back to life.

It really does make skin look ‘lit from within’ – to borrow a usually-false advertising term – thanks to a super-fine shot of shimmer that adds radiance without naff sparkle. It skims over imperfections rather than highlighting them and gives the complexion a healthy glow.

For extra coverage it can be layered or mixed with foundation and topped with concealer to cover blemishes. Skin-friendly SPF 20 ensures protection from those winter rays. All very handy if, like me, you look more Wicked Queen than Snow White in the harsh January light.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Une Question De Style

Just why are the French so chic? Or should I ask instead, are the French really so chic? Because, and maybe this was just a ‘90’s teenager trend, every French exchange student (male or female) that passed through our school wore the same snowflake-print fleece and red/blue Kickers booties. 

Even my friends and I dressed better than that, and we wore hoodies and Carhart jeans for two years solid during Sixth Form. I didn’t see one trenchcoat-wearing girl with slippy caramel-coloured hair and sunglasses. The cool gene obviously doesn’t kick in until the early twenties, or never if you live in the suburbs.

Reading FabSugar’s imaginatively named 10 Fashion Observations, Straight from Paris I caught myself doubting whether our London lovelies really could hold a Diptyque candle to their Parisian sisters. There's just something about the French. For a start they stick to classic colours: black, white, nude, beige, red, navy.  But, if you’re mixing a wardrobe comprised of only six colours, surely it’s easy to look stylish? Nil points.

The British are more eclectic; we don’t raise a perfectly arched brow of disgust if a girl’s patterned coat clashes with her skirt. I am deliberately distrustful of the matchy-matchy brigade. But somehow the French manage to do it without looking twee. I think it’s something to do with the plate-glass shine to their hair, and the conspicuous lack of jewellery. The girls all seem to have perfect skin as well: they do say the French take their grooming very seriously.

Where the Parisians have us beat is their demand for quality. There’s no Primark in France (although there is a Facebook group, ‘We want Primark in France!’). They have that nonchalant attitude that whispers ‘Oui, I’ve had this cashmere coat for YEARS; I don’t even REMEMBER where I got it. Oh yah, look, c'est Chanel.’ Whereas my clothes are cheap and they’re old. If I was saving for Chanel I’d be naked, unable to have ever bought any other item of clothing. 

It’s part innate style, part attitude. You’d never hear a Parisian bragging, ‘You like? It cost 10 euros!’ But l I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pride in bagging a bargain, and I’m definitely not throwing away my H&M. 

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Paraben-Free for Perfect Skin?

You know that question, ‘If you could change one thing about yourself physically, what would it be?’ Well I’m far from perfect, but I could go to the gym, and I could stop eating chocolate, which would blitz my body worries; I wouldn’t use my ‘one thing’ on that. What I want, Mr Genie, if you’re asking, is perfect skin.

After suffering from a spotty face for quite a few years, I’m conscious of every scar and open pore. Although the spots are (mostly) gone now, thank god, my magnifying mirror obsession remains. And it’s not just my face I fixate on; the skin on my body isn't perfect either. It get’s dry, it’s pale and even turns a bit purple in winter! I covet that Eva Mendes glow, like gently polished gold.

I’m obsessed with exfoliating, both face and body. I feel like my skin doesn’t do it efficiently enough itself so I have to help it along. I get those weird upper-arm bumps, which make you look as if you never go outside. ‘Keratosis Pilaris’ is the medical name.

I use L’Oreal Exfotonic every day to try to keep my arms bump-free. With AHAs to melt away dead skin cells, as well as rough ‘scrubbie’ bits, it’s the only scrub I've tried that actually smoothes skin. As a result of all this scrubbing I don’t really get the bumps, just the marks from the bumps, ie pink dots. Still not good.

While preparing to write this post I accidently came across an interesting piece on The Paraben Free Princess, in which a reader explains that her KP disappeared almost immediately upon switching to paraben-free products. I have to admit, I’ll choose Redken over 'Natural Aloe Shampoo' any day, so to test this theory would be a real stretch for me and my hair. I expect my beloved Exfotonic would be out too. But I really do detest these bumps… After some more research on treatments for KP I'll report back. My hair may smell of Aloe when I do.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Forever Flawless

There are only three products that I consistently and unfailingly repeat buy: Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant, L’Oreal Exfotonic and Prescriptives Flawless Skin Concealer. Those of you in the know will have made a pained ‘ssstttttttttt’ noise at that last one.

Yep, Prescriptives, bestower of my mostly-convincing, fake-flawless complexion, is going out of business. Or rather, parent brand, Estée Lauder,  is closing it down. This is old news, announced months ago, but January is the last month the brand will be available to buy.

I heard on the grapevine (aka my mum told me) about a little something called 50% off in House of Fraser stores starting Boxing Day. Being a cunning sort, I set out to befriend the (fittingly named) Laura, who works on the Prescriptives counter in Cavendish House, Cheltenham.

Due to my albino-self requiring the palest shade, ‘Level 1, Warm’, I’d already sent mum in to panic-buy me a full-pricer  before Christmas, which is when she’d sussed out the sale. In other words, she’d laid the groundwork.

When we sidled back in, all familiar, lovely Laura recognised Mummy Wheat and offered to put some stock by for me. ‘How many of the Flawless Skin do you want? ‘All of them.’ Which sounded pretty rock ‘n’ roll, but turned out to be three.  Still, three for £8 each instead of £16? I’ll throw in an Instant Gratification Skin Renewel Peel as well then; don’t mind if I do.

So now I’ve got three new concealers, one I’ve only been using a few weeks and an old almost-all-gone one as a spare. Should last me a couple of years. Onto what’s so good about this stuff (and why you should try to get hold of some while you still can)…

1.            The shade. The fact it comes in warm or cool tones is simple, yet genius. I don’t know why more brands don’t do it.
2.            The coverage. It’s dense without being cakey. It covers spots, open pores and redness, but it’s barely detectable on the skin.
3.            The formulation. Non-acnegenic, waterproof, fragrance free AND contains SPF 25. (I’m falling in love all over again writing this, while simultaneously weeping.)
4.            Staying power. If you apply this and set it with a bit of powder (I often just use bronzer) it stays on brilliantly, requiring only minor touch-ups.
5.            The packaging. A smart silver compact with a mirror in the lid. Simple enough but so many brands' concealers fall short (I’m looking at you Bobbi Brown). My only grumble is that the silver comes off eventually, leaving bits of ‘glitter’ on my face.

So there you have it. If you already use Flawless Skin I know you’ll be gutted like me and hoping for a fitting replacement to emerge in time, when the loss isn’t so fresh. If you don’t use it, I bet you want it now! 
House of Fraser online no longer has it, but try your nearest store because Cheltenham still have the colours the annoying albino girl didn’t buy. QVC have a 3 Piece Flawless Skin Collection available for £45.50, which contains the concealer, the Flawless Skin Foundation and Flawless Pressed Powder. If all else fails… try eBay. It’s a great place to get hold of sold-out products or discontinued stock. You have to be persistent though; save a search and have them email you when the product is listed. 

I’m sorry to blog so enthusiastically about a product you might not be able to get hold of, but I had to write a little love letter to my Flawless Skin. 

Lover for Life

If you’re still using an exfoliant that relies on apricot husks or scratchy little spheres to scrub your face smooth, you’re missing a trick. Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant is my one true skincare love and the only product I’m interested in having a monogamous relationship with.
Just mix this unassuming white powder with a splash of water in your hand, rub it into your face for a minute and prepare for dry bits and unsavoury scales to be swooshed away with the aid of rice enzymes and salicylic acid.
It’s gentle, doesn’t irritate skin and creates the perfect base for make-up when followed by any half-decent moisturiser. And while a pot of this wonder stuff doesn’t come cheap at £27.75 (cheapest I've found online) from Beauty Flash, it does last for months – and I use mine every day. Obsessively.
*Updated from a post I wrote for Beauty Guerrillas in 2008, courtesy of Joy Scott at DINKY London. I'm as obsessed with it today as I was then! 

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Handy for Winter

When the weather gets cold my skin dries out like an old, abandoned husk. Whatever I do, no matter how many ‘intensive’ moisturisers I layer on, it’s still the same: flakey, dry, unpleasant.

My face won’t allow its dry self to be made-up properly, my back looks fine but gets tight-feeling on the bit I can’t reach, and my hands, well, let’s just say I recently referred to myself as 'Nosferatu' while making the requisite ‘reaching’ movement à la the film.  

I’ve tried every hand cream under the sun; none of them repair the damage. I have to walk the dog about 5000 times a week, so they take a beating.

Luckily my thoughtful Aunt sent my mum a lovely bottle of Liz Earle's Hand Repair for Christmas. Fantastic natural ingredients, such as bergamot, chamomile, neroli, hops extract and vitamin E, mean it smells fresh and herbal. There was no need for my usual rub-backs-of-hands-together technique to avoid the dreaded slippy palm. It sinks straight in, no greasiness and it’s good for nails too. I love the matte finish it leaves, courtesy of the Talc.

Within a couple of days my hands no longer resembled those of the undead, and they’ve stayed moisturised, even though I haven’t been using it religiously. The pump-lid bottle is also super-useful, although I don’t know how you’d get the dregs out once the pump stops working. There's a range of sizes available with prices starting at £8.75 for a 50ml tube – up to £19.25 for the 150ml.