Friday, 8 November 2013

top 3: oils

I use at least one oil on my skin each and every day. Be it sandwiched between a serum and moisturiser in the morning for an added layer of protection during the winter months or as a nourishing mask on those days when my skin needs a little TLC. Seriously, I can't get enough of the stuff, so I thought I'd introduce you to my top three 'can't live without' oils.

First of the bunch and a long standing staple in my beauty kit is coconut oil; a product which seems to be receiving a lot of attention within the blogging community of late thanks to its nutritional benefits as well as the moisturising properties that have had me hooked from first application. On days when my skin looks as though it's teetering on the edge of a nasty break out, I tend to ditch my usual PM routine in favour of a thick layer of this mixed with a couple of drops of lavender and tea tree oils. As well as being incredibly moisturising, the antibacterial properties of the coconut oil, combined with those of the tea tree, help to nip any spots in the bud, whilst lavender works to heal and fade existing scars. 

Castor oil is a relatively new addition to my beauty cupboard but after a few weeks of religiously massaging into my eyebrows a night, I can safely say I'm hooked. It may still be early days but my once abused brows are looking thicker than they have in years and I'm putting it down to the follicle stimulating properties of this little bottle of goodness. Rich in fatty acids, castor oil has a low molecular weight so is readily absorbed by the skin and hair. This, combined with it's ability to increase blood circulation, supposedly encourages the flow of nutrients to follicles, nourishing existing hair and promoting further growth. 

Last in today's line up and a bit of a celebrity on the blogging circuit of late is rosehip oil. I like to apply this at night post serum for an added boost of hydration before my regular moisturisers. Once again, this oil is rich in fatty acids as well as antioxidants which are well regarded for their ability to protect the skin from free radicals and help in the prevention of premature ageing. Rosehip oil is also excellent at fading scars thanks to its unique combination of vitamins and fatty acids which have been shown to reduce redness and hyperpygmentation, improving both the colour and tone of skin. After years of picking at my skin during times of stress, I was left with lots of scars across the lower half of my face and this is one of several trusted products that I would recommend to anyone with a similar problem. My scars have faded noticeably since I started incorporating this oil into my daily routine and I credit it with the vast improvement that I've seen in the general evenness of my skin tone over the past year. 

Thursday, 7 November 2013

recent repurchases #1

Blogging has done nothing to discourage the skincare hussy in me and I rarely repurchase a product, no matter how much I've enjoyed using it; the grass is always greener as they say. There are, of course, a few exceptions to this rule and after a recent flurry of shopping expeditions in the wake of the untimely demise of half of the contents of my bathroom cabinet (does anyone else have a problem with skincare products running out within about a week of each other?), I thought I'd run you through those items that I'll repurchase time and time again.

First up is the Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm. A favourite within the blogging community and with good reason. Not only does this remove makeup with ease, but it leaves the skin baby soft with zero residue. Yes, I've dabbled with cheaper alternatives (most notably the Cleanse and Smooth Face Balm from Balance Me) but none have reached the bar set by this beautifully scented product. 

Another blogger favourite to have established itself as an essential step in both my AM and PM skincare routine is Hydraluron, a clear gel like serum that I apply before moisturiser to boost the skin's elasticity and plumpness. I'm sure that you've all read countless reviews of this product already so I won't attempt to write a lengthy essay on the scientific benefits of hyaluronic acid, the serum's key ingredient, but I will say that the condition of my skin took a nosedive at the point my last tube ran out. 

The last product in today's line-up may not be skincare related but as I seem to be incapable of leaving the house without a quick spritz, I though it would be rude not to include it. Molecule 01 from Escentric Molecules supposedly melds with natural pheromones to create an individual scent that is entirely unique to the wearer. Whilst I find it difficult to detect the woody yet undeniably fresh scent on myself as the day progresses, other people seem to go wild for it and I've had several strangers sheepishly tap me on the shoulder to ask what I'm wearing. 

So those are my recent repurchases. What are you 'can't live without' products?

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

laura mercier secret camouflage

When it comes to concealers, I'm firmly in camp liquid and rarely sway from my beloved Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer. That was until the unthinkable happened and my perfect shade, Vanilla, disappeared from shelves up and down the country, leaving me with a gaping hole in my blemish covering arsenal. After making a valiant (but ultimately unsuccessful) attempt at rekindling my love affair with Collection's Lasting Perfection Concealer, I arrived weeping and incoherent at Space NK's Covent Garden store and fell to the feet of the nearest sales assistant, pleading for a solution to my woes. Ok, well that may have been a slight exaggeration but thankfully said sales assistant saw the desperation in my eyes and immediately homed in on the Laura Mercier stand. Several trips to the window later (better light equates to a truer match) I had my perfect shade (SC-2) and merrily trotted back to my long suffering boyfriend, Secret Camouflage in hand. 

Now the first thing I should mention about this product is that is couldn't be further removed from the Radiant Creamy Concealer. For starters, it's hard and I mean seriously hard. There's none of the 'dab, blend and go' that I so love about Nars' offering and I would advise tackling application with a suitably sized brush (this and this work well for me). Another notable difference is the combination of two shades within the compact, one to match the skins depth of colour and another to match its undertone. Whilst this may make for a slightly more time consuming application process, it also allows for a certain amount of flexibility when it comes to matching the product to your skin tone. After all, no one is exactly the same shade all year round. 

Coverage wise, I'd place this product on an even keel with the Radiant Creamy Concealer but a word of caution; the finish is no-where near as natural on the skin over large areas which is where a good brush comes into play. Dabbed lightly over a blemish and feathered outwards using small strokes, even the darkest of scars disappeared before my very eyes with just a small amount of product. Time consuming? Slightly but having barely made a dint in both shades since I picked up this compact two months ago, I foresee it lasting a very long time. 

So will I forego a repurchase of Vanilla now that it's hit shelves once again? Probably not. After all, a girl can never have too many options but if you're on the fence about Nars' offering and are looking for a similarly(ish) priced alternative, I'd point you firmly in the direction of Laura Mercier's Secret Camouflage.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

limp lashes

My eyelashes may be a reasonable length but thanks to their tendency to droop towards the floor, you'd be forgiven for thinking they were non-existent. In my quest for perky lashes, I've sampled every mascara out there and I dread to think how many discarded pairs of curlers are lurking unloved in my cupboard. Recently, however, my prayers were answered in the form of Kevyn Aucoin's take on this essential tool. 

Now it's worth mentioning that I had a brief dalliance with the Shu Uemura eyelash curlers last year and despite the significant hype surrounding this beauty blogger favourite, I was a mite underwhelmed. With this in mind, I was a little apprehensive to shell out for Kevyn Aucoin's offering, particularly when I discovered that the late makeup artist had designed Shu Uemura's cult product. Thankfully, the lovely ladies at Space NK's Nottingham store swayed me and, further encouraged by some N.dulge points that were burning a hole in my wallet, I hurried home to put my new toy to the test. 

The first thing I noticed about the Kevyn Aucoin curlers was that its curved rubber pad is a lot thicker than that of Shu Uemura's offering. The vertical 'blade' is also a little off centre and meets the pad closer to the eye which makes it a lot easier to achieve that wide-eyed look by curling the lashes closer to the base. This, combined with the more pronounced curve of the tool, means that whilst it's possible to curl those lashes that often get missed at the inner/outer corners of the eyes, the risk of pinching is considerably higher - trust me, I've had the tear stained cheeks to prove it. 

This minor health hazard aside, I would wholeheartedly recommend these curlers to anyone who suffers with limp lashes. Not only do mine now point skyward but, with a little added help from by go to mascara, they do so all day long.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

top 3: eyebrow pencils

Along with around half the female population of Britain, telling my 16 year old self to step away from the tweezers is number 2 on my list of things to do should I ever stumble across a time machine (right after I confiscate the blue eyeshadow). Nowadays I'm a reformed character, though my once majestic caterpillars suffered an assault too many during the reign of the tweezer wielding teenager and as such, a good brow pencil is something that I have come to rely on. 

One of my favourites, and a tool that seems to have left a trail of bitter reviews in its wake, is the Kevyn Aucoin Precision Brow Pencil. I have the shade Basic Brown and whilst I was wary of shelling out on a product that many had insisted would fall to pieces given the slightest bit of use, mine valiantly held strong to the very last twist. With a nib finer than any run of the mill brow pencil out there but with none of the associated hassle of sharpening, it should have been a pivotal moment for my brows. Sadly, however, I had one major gripe; the colour. In this case, 'Basic Brown' turned out to be 'Brown With An Irritating Hint of Red' and so my quest for the perfect brow pencil continued.

Next to make its way into my shopping basket was the Anastasia Brow Wiz in the shade Medium Ash, a firm favourite amongst brow aficionados and with good reason. Boasting a nib to rival Kevyn Aucoin's offering in the fineness stakes, as well as a handy spooly tucked away at the opposite end of the pencil, I was poised to award the Brow Wiz holy grail status, particularly once I discovered that 'Medium Ash' was indeed a delightfully ashy brown. However, on what was later referred to as the day that Becky cried over an eyebrow pencil, Anastasia's cult product unceremoniously clicked its last click and left me in the lurch after around a month of loyal service. 

With this tragic loss fresh in my mind, I embarked on a mission to find a replacement, eventually settling on the Brow Lift Three-Way Shape, Lift & Shade Tool (take a breath) from Charlotte Tilbury's debut makeup collection. The shade Brooke S, though a little lighter than my beloved Brow Wiz, is ideal for creating subtle definition and, combined with the hardness of the pencil, makes it virtually impossible to recreate a scouse brow. As for this three-way business, Tilbury's offering also houses a spooly as well as a shimmery highlighter, designed for use on the arch for "an instant brow lift". Quite the all singing, all dancing wonder product you might say. Well yes, but once again, I have a few reservations. Firstly, that nifty highlighter is all well and good if a little champagne shimmer is your thing but I'm all about the matte products when it comes to accentuating those arches (see Benefit's High Brow and the NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil in Milk) so this function is lost on me. In fact, I'd much rather forsake the highlighter altogether in favour of a little more pencil which brings me nicely to my second reservation; lifespan. Unfortunately, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Brow Lift is going to last about as long as my beloved Anastasia Brow Wiz but the jury's still out on that one. In the mean time, I plan to be prepared for its eventual demise and the Hourglass Arch Brow Sculpting Pencil is currently loitering in my online Space NK basket. Should I take the plunge?

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

giorgio armani fluid sheer

After discovering the base combination to end all base combinations recently, my makeup routine became a lot more predictable and I found myself reaching for the same few products each morning. Whilst this didn't exactly make for good blogging material, the major upshot to my sudden lack of interest in adding to my stash was a distinct decrease in my monthly outgoings. Sadly, however, these new found powers of self restraint proved to be entirely temporary as I fell of the wagon in a big way this week. Cue Giorgio Armani and his Fluid Sheers...

I picked up shade 4, an alarmingly vibrant egg yolk yellow which wouldn't have even made it to the swatch stage had it not been for this post from Meg over at Lips So Facto but, suitably inspired by my recent success in the field of base mixology, I took the plunge and although my wallet may still be recovering, I've yet to experience a single pang of buyers remorse. 

A little definitely goes a long way with this illuminating fluid so I tend to dab no more than a lentil sized amount (trust me, a pea sized blob would leave you looking jaundiced) onto my cheek and brow bones for an incredibly natural glow with not a hint of shimmer. I've also mixed it with a few of my heavier coverage foundations and whilst I wouldn't advise pairing this product with the Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer, I'm pleased to report that it works almost as well as Becca's Shimmering Skin Perfector when mixed with the Laura Mercier Silk Creme Foundation. 

So, I may be back on my unofficial spending ban but are there any more shades of the Fluid Sheers that I should be tempted by?

Monday, 12 August 2013

skincare shake up: cleansers

Balance Me Cleanse and Smooth Face Balm (£20.00) |  Ren ClearCalm 3 Clarifying Clay Cleanser (£18.00)  |  Super Facialist by Úna Brenna Rose Calming Creamy Cleanser (£7.99)

I don't know if this is a phenomena unique to my (Homebase finest) bathroom cabinet but all of my skincare products have a nasty habit of running out within a week or so of each other. As well as being incredibly inconvenient, it also tends to result in some eye wateringly pricey Space NK orders and whilst I'm all for accumulating Indulge points, that winter coat won't buy itself. With this in mind, I've been stocking up on some slightly less pricey alternatives to my old favourites.

First up is a product whose purchase was entirely influenced by the source of 99% of my skincare knowledge, Caroline Hirons, and despite finding a place for itself in my night time routine as a perfectly adequate first cleanse, the Balance Me Cleanse and Smooth Face Balm has to be the first Caroline influenced purchase that I haven't fallen madly in love with. To be fair to the Balance Me team, I'm almost certain that my feelings of indifference for this product stem entirely from my devotion to Emma Hardie's cult cleanser but times are hard, so if putting up with the greasy residue that the Cleanse and Smooth leaves behind sees me inch one step closer to the coat of my dreams then so be it.

Next in the line up is another product to receive the Hirons seal of approval and one which has muscled it's way into my morning routine as chief cleanser since its purchase a few weeks ago; the Ren ClearCalm 3 Clarifying Clay Cleanser. Creamy yet refreshing, this product doesn't strip my skin at all but leaves it feeling thoroughly cleansed and baby soft. 

Finally, let me introduce you to the new recruit that I'm most excited about; the Rose Calming Creamy Cleanser from the Super Facialist range by Úna Brennan which has slotted itself nicely into my evening routine as a second cleanse. Creamy as advertised, it leaves my skin feeling as soft and nourished as many of my pricier cleansers. The slightly overwhelming floral scent is its only downfall in my opinion but if roses are your thing then you're on to a winner.

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