Saturday, 27 August 2011

Holiday Prep: Moroccan Beach Basket

This basket came all the way from Morocco to Stroud where I bought it at the Farmers' Market to use as a beach bag. Finally I have one. We couldn't resist putting the dog in it – not for long though. Charlie was highly unimpressed at being mocked in such a disrespectful manner.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

How Cool is This?

Spotted on Pinterest. Ring by Kiki de Montparnasse. Image from The Trend Report. Oh to have money for the pretty things I'd love to buy...

Holiday Prep: Getting the Bright Basics

With just over two weeks until we leave these frigid shores for sunny Sicily I am getting excited! I've been squirrelling away bits and pieces to take with me, researching the best products and also on a never-ending hunt for the perfect beach bag. The preparation (and shopping!) is all part of the fun of going on holiday and making the most of it.

I've been loyal to L'Oreal Solar Expertise for years (smells good, easy to rub in, no heat rash) but fancied trying something new. Having used P20 and Ultrasun once-per-day sunscreens in the past and been unconvinced (P20 was okay; Ultrasun was thick, white and sticky) I saw Fleur de Force recommend Piz Buin 1 Day Long in a YouTube video. The Boots website showed positive reviews and Superdrug had it on buy-one-get-one-free. £40 later I have two SPF 30s and two SPF 15s for my boyfriend and I to use. I'm a bit worried about going as low as SPF 15 but there was nothing in between and I didn't want to return as pale as I left! I might take some backup Solar Expertise just in case.

For my face I'll be using La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL SPF50+ Fluide Extreme and SPF50+ Melt-in Cream. The former I have been using every day for the last month. It has a light texture and smell, doesn't make me breakout and moisturises sufficiently for me to bypass moisturiser most days. It tints skin slightly paler than normal and does make your face feel a tiny bit chalky if you touch it with your hand but it's still superior and more pleasurable to use than any other facial sunscreen I've tried. It also provides a good base for makeup. I've not tried the Melt-in Cream yet but will report back on both after my holiday. The weather in England this summer isn't much of a test!

I spotted this huge stripy beach towel in John Lewis when getting the ingredients for a cake and knew I'd be coming back for it. I'm obsessed with stripes! It's also big, thin and fluffy – perfect beach towel material.

The natty little nautical bikini is an Accessorize purchase. My breton stripe fetish remains unstemmed and even though I'm a bit worried about this style on me, I couldn't resist. Must diet and fake tan.

Illamasqua 'Collide' is a polish I've wanted ever since May. A retina-burning neon pink; I've yet to try it on fingers but it's perfect for toes.

If you're lucky enough to have been abroad this year and have any 'vacation' product recommendations, please leave a comment. I still need to sort out some colour and UV-protecting hair products to look after my bleached-out, dry old hair. 16 days to go!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Review: Alpha-H Facial at Fern Skin Clinic

It's been a month since I had this facial so I'm certainly in a position to talk both short- and long-term results. Advantage to being slack?

The clinic is a short walk downhill from Belsize Park tube station (do not be tempted to climb the bazillion steps up out of the underground like I did. Painful. Sweaty. Take the lift.) The clinic itself is simple, clean and quiet.

My smiling therapist Jodie Bloch greeted me with the kind of radiant, perfectly clear skin I dream of. After being taken to a small treatment room I was advised to take off my top-half clothes and lie under the towel. I appreciate a therapist who tells you exactly what to do so you're not left in a quandary of bra removal.

I'd already filled in a very thorough skin and health questionnaire but Jodie also asked about my skin and turned the lights up to have a good look at my face. I was in a talkative mood and we chatted about our lives. This was lovely for me as I don't see a facial as a particularly relaxing experience. It's functional. I'm sure that had I been quiet Jodie would have followed my lead.

She prefaced the treatment by saying 'I'm going to do a lot of exfoliating and extractions'. I felt the need to say, 'I do exfoliate! I have lazy skin!' as Jodie got to work cleansing my face. She used Alpha-H Triple Action Cleanser, explaining that it's good for breakouts. I only had a couple of spots at the time but I'd told her my skin was prone. She then applied Micro Cleanse, a granulated exfoliant containing 12 per cent glycolic acid designed to dislodge dead skin cells.

Next she applied the Purifying Clay Mask mixed with Alpha-H's signature product, Liquid Gold. This was followed by the best and the worst bit of the facial: extractions. She apologised in advance for any pain caused but (wanting the best possible result) I told her to go for it. Jodie approached the task at hand with zeal and was vey quick and efficient. I appreciated her perfectionism. If you're a real wimp you might struggle, but for anyone in search of an effective facial without all the fluffy-fluffy-cotton-wool-cucumber-wiping, this is your treatment!

Clearly satisfied with her work, Jodie then used Age Delay facial oil for a facial massage. After this she disappeared briefly (as therapists tend to do) and left me wondering what was next. Turns out she'd been mixing one of Alpha-H's professional products, the Azulene Mask with Bilberry Extract. This incredibly thick mask is hugely calming to skin and provides a perfect final stage to the facial.

Immediately following the treatment my skin looked buffed, healthy and glowing without any hint of redness. I was loathe to apply makeup straight away but an hour or so later I stopped in a cafe to put on some mascara as I was off to another event. I ran into Louise of Get Lippie who said my skin looked good, which was nice, especially as I felt pretty bare-faced.

Jodie had warned me that I might get spots as my skin 'detoxed' and this was the case. The day after the treatment my skin still looked great. Two days after I had a minor breakout. In the weeks following my skin was pretty clear, which is very unusual for me. It's now a month after and my skin is getting congested again. If I lived in London I think I would try to raise the £72 it costs to have this facial once every six weeks. I can imagine it making a huge difference to my skin.

I've been using the Alpha-H samples I was given at an event earlier this year and I think it's time I invested in the full-size products; they warrant a separate review. Anyone using or wishing to try Alpha-H, you must wear SPF 50 on your face every day to protect your glycolic-buffed skin from the sun.

Fern Skin Clinic is the only clinic authorised for Alpha-H facials.
QVC seem to offer the best prices for Alpha-H products online.

Facial courtesy of the lovely Alpha-H PRs.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Scarlett Johansson Covers French ELLE

I'm fashion magazine obsessed. If I could afford to I'd buy ELLE, Red, Vogue, InStyle, Harper's BAZAAR, Easy Living etc every month, and hey, as this is a fantasy why not throw in ELLE Decoration? (I like nosing at other people's stylish homes and stockpiling ideas.) I only came across these images from French ELLE's July issue today but I love them a little bit. I'm telling myself that a lot of airbrushing went on; otherwise that's just too depressing. Guess this is what divorcing Ryan Reynolds to date Sean Penn does to a girl's waist. I'd be gutted too.