Beauty

Halloween with #DebsGlamoween

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Happy Halloween ghouls and gals! Last week I hurried along to a frightfully fabulous beauty event held at Debenhams Bullring and it seriously got me in the spooky spirit. OK I'll quit the puns there, but it got me oh so inspired for Halloween and you can see my look here!

Debenhams hosted an extravaganza of Halloween beauty and we bloggers were treated to a masterclass from different counters. I don't always head to Debenhams first for my makeup buys but with the likes of Illamasqua and Make Up For Ever on my doorstep now, my product wishlist just got a whole lot longer.

First we followed a contoured skeleton look at Make Up For Ever, home of the HD foundation that was possibly my first ever Kardashian-inspired purchase circa 2011. I love the concession area they have now and these are the light-up mirrors of my dreams! MUFE have so many pro and niche products, from skin moulding putty to a very blood-like red liquid. I'm keen to try their base and finishing products as the quality is so high and they can ugrade your FOTD to flawless finish levels. Their HD powder is the one! We had a sample to take home with us and it's like applying fairy dust each morning - it's so light yet so good!

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With a glass of fizz in hand, we popped across to Illamasqua and all adored Chetna's cryptic clown look. I loved chatting to her about all of the different looks she was trying each day for Magikmasqua. HOW cute is this one! I've recently bought a palette, lipstick and contour duo after having a makeover there and I'm firmly an Illamasqua convert. They have some Christmas gift sets of all different sorts of products and we also tried the latest collect in aid of the charity S.O.P.H.I.E., which Illamasqua has a long standing partnership with.

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Next we took a seat the glitteringly gothic Urban Decay counter and watched the classic costume tutorial of 'I'm a mouse, duh!'. Genius! The unicorn tears are so sweet too. Absolute glitter goals! We cooed over the palettes and admired their adorable pumpkin. I've been waiting literally years for my perfect Urban Decay palette and as soon as they bring out a warm, peachy set, I'll be straight there. I haven't given UD enough focus in recent years as I feel they are all about the colour, and nowadays I'm not sure if brights really suit me! That is nothing makeover can't sort out though - I must book in soon and find my perfect UD shades!

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Thank you Debenhams for a hugely inspirational evening and a peek at some gorgeous products. I also included the evening in my weekly vlog below! Did you know I have started weekly vlogging again? Indeed I have!


A Skincare Transformation

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Last year I felt the urge to trade up my skincare. I was just really fed up of scrimping and feeling lacking. A final ripple of a quarter life crisis, I was ready to splash some hard-earned cash, even though it eternally feels like you do not have enough. I see friends and colleagues around me saving and going without for months, only to get on the property ladder and then have to scrimp even more! I work hard but I've decided I'm not going to spend my 20's stopping myself from doing things because I'm saving hard for the future. The future is now! And alongside a little saving, I can do a little spending. I've spent a couple of years really stepping away from luxury brands and skincare, visiting even Boots and Superdrug once in a very blue moon, and avoiding any impulse purchases. Well you only live once, and I'm still saving each month but I'm also spending a little, making the most of years I can't get back and perking up my life.

And I bit the bullet with my skincare! Mine was just not the one - I'd swipe away makeup with micellar water and splash on some moisturiser, then exfoliate when my skin was feeling especially drab or I was about to apply a lot of makeup. When your routine is minimal and has no real thought behind it, the last thing you want to do is go out and buy more products, clogging your face with layers of product and scent. I even had a few expensive oils but now I see there was no point in using them when my base was just not prepped. I never really cleared my skin to a high degree, and I never really fed it well. It was a cycle of not completely refreshing my skin and not feeling the benefits of any goodness.

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It began when I dived into Caroline Hiron's blog. Beauty bloggers rave about it and one day it was time for me to open my mind and listen to the skincare gospel. I'm not going to reiterate Caroline's advice but I can say that her routines work. Her advice works. It just does! I would start by reading her cheat sheets, the most succinct being the Routines cheat sheet that details the steps you should take. At first the sound of cleansing twice followed by acids (yikes), eye creams, oils, serums, moisturisers etc all in one morning seemed insane. In fact it's miraculous. After using products in this sequence, each step either perfects and clears my skin like nothing else, or gives it litres of goodness. Clogged, rough, irritated or heavy does not come into the equation. If you're not convinced on the need to double cleanse, check out this cheat sheet. To start formulating a shopping list back in September, I then browsed the other sheets that listed recommendations in each of the product categories, noting them down and shopping around websites to find which I could get the best deals on. Once your haul has arrived, visit the application cheat sheet to see which amounts best to use. Then you're on your way!

Since I've actually tried, tested and used up these products, here are my thoughts. You can search for them on Caroline's blog to hear the benefits of each one and why they are in her good books. I made orders on Feel Unique (great service and freebies), Cult Beauty (4 day delivery costs £4 and it came in ugly packaging) and on the high street, using discount codes and cash back sites to get even better deals.

Clinique Take The Day Off Balm - I thought Clinique was a brand all about the hype but it turns out it really does offer great skincare. I don't know how previously I was too tired or time-stretched to wash my face properly, and yet now it's something I look forward to as I know it's going to go well and I will end up with clear, clean and prepped skin, You get a mega 125ml of product so even four months later I have enough product left to last a couple more weeks, and teamed with a bog standard flannel, this takes off all of my makeup, including MAC Pro Longwear foundation. You don't necessarily need a specific balm if you don't wear heavy makeup every day, but I'm sure your face is covered in enough junk from transport, office air-con and pollution to justify it anyway. This is a definite repurchase. I toyed with Emma Hardy but this is half the price, or the Una Brenan oil which is always on offer in Boots.

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Ren Clarifying Clay - Now that most of your makeup is erased, the second cleanse can treat your skin type. I'm prone to a few blemishes and my skin can be clogged with city life so I chose a clay cleanser. This transforms into a milk, has a soothing botanical smell that is right up my street, and after a swipe of  flannel my skin is now just so clean and balanced. It's the best feeling, its almost addictive. The product is inside a sachet in a pump bottle, so in order to get all of the product out, I had to crack open the bottle somehow and cut into the sachet. Not very handy! But I would repurchase this, though I also considered the Clarins Extra Comfort Cleansing Cream which I would pick up if it was a better deal.

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Pixi Glow Tonic - I love exfoliators and when you don't take your makeup off properly, those dead skin cells really stack up. Previously my exfoliator gave me that fresh, smooth skin that was so ready for primer, foundation and concealer, but now I realise that is too harsh. The toner step in the iconic 'cleanse, tone and moisturise' routine that we all know was originally designed to be an acid toner, but the high street has taken the term and now any sort of water with a splash of chemicals can be called a toner. You're meant to use an acid to do all of the exfoliating work and not those scratchy, harsh beads or scrubs. Pop a touch of Pixi Glow Tonic on a cotton pad every night and you never ever feel the need to exfoliate with a scrub. Tight, flaky foundation is a thing of the past and my blusher and contour does not go patchy the way it used to. Your skin does 'glow' but in a natural way, not a red rashy way. I considered the Clarins Clarifying Lotion or the First Aid Beauty Pads but the Pixi toner has lasted me way longer than the 60 FA pads would have. I may try the Clarins lotion next as you can only get Pixi in certain places, but Caroline has stated only to use it a few times a week.

La Roche Posay Serozinc - This slipped out of my routine as I didn't really see the point! It doesn't add any benefit that's even comparable to the other products so why do I need a spray of water? It's a placebo product I feel!

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Body Shop Drops Of Youth range - I have reviewed these products already but they are all repurchases - especially the Bouncy Sleeping Mask. I use the eye serum morning and night and the other two exclusively at night. I want to try more of the Vitamin A and C ranges next so I have my eye out for a discount code! The Body Shop always exclusive their best products from their endless discount codes which is annoying.

Vichy Aqualia Thermal Serum - After I've cleansed, toned and rolled on the Body Shop eye serum above (do this before the following), I move onto an oil/serum and moisturiser/treatment. In the morning I use a serum and moisturiser, and in the evening I use an oil or the Body Shop concentrated serum above, and then a treatment like the Sleeping Mask. The Vichy serum was a great price in comparison to many serums and it's great under makeup as it sinks in beautifully. An oil or treatment that sticks around would really upset foundation. I'm not too dedicated to this though and may try another high street serum or maybe Clarins Hydraquench - can you see a Clarins theme here? They have good free gifts at the moment with multiple purchases hmm...

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Clinique Moisture Surge - I've ran out of this baby and I need another pronto. It's just perfect! Other brands offer similar gel moisturisers but this is so flawless under makeup, over the Vichy serum. I'd toy with exploring high street gel moisturisers though as I don't think its 'wet' formula is too unique, and a moisturiser can afford to be one of the cheaper products in your routine (ironic words there!) as it's just a barrier, rather than a treatment. I'm also sizing up the Indeed Labs Fillume.

Bio-Essence Aqua Droplet Sleeping Beauty Mask - Caroline Hirons flipped out about this mask but I felt stronger results in the morning from the Bouncy Sleeping Mask. Reading Caroline's review again, my rubbing motion may be better as a wipe and pat so I'll try that tonight as I never felt any 'droplets bursting'. I have quite a lot left so I'm unsure if it's a repurchase yet. It smells strongly of artificial watermelon and I'm not entirely sure that's on purpose. It's very cooling and like a whipped gel or very light jelly. It just doesn't feel like it sinks in and in the morning I can't spot a difference!

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So now I've ran out of my Ren second cleanser and the Clinique Moisture Surge, and I'm almost out of the Clinique TTDO, Pixi Glow Tonic and Body Shop Bouncy Sleeping Mask, although I have plenty of Bio-Essence left. The eye serum and serum concentrate from The Body Shop are still going strong, and the Vichy serum bit the dust first. Do you have any recommendations similar to these? I'm about to repurchase a bunch of things but I'm awaiting some great discount codes nearer the end of January! 


All Hail A #TilburyTaxi


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On a weekend you'll find me in rather a few too many taxis as my heels are not made for pavements, but I've never been in a taxi quite like this! A few lucky black cabs were treated to a Charlotte Tilbury makeover in aid of the Selfridges Live + Loud event and the email jumped out as a great way to get to know a brand I've never really tried. If only you could jump in every taxi, have a fabulous make-over and then come out the other side looking glam! Well the #TilburyTaxis offer just that when they pop up across cities, and my blogger credentials meant I had an appointment nice and early on Saturday morning to experience a complimentary quick trick by one of Charlotte's backstage Lead Artists Julia. I heard the appointments got booked up like hot cakes so I arrived fresh faced and ready to experience something magical.

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Now truth be told, I've never 'got' Charlotte Tilbury. The first time I explored the brand, the make up artist told me that Charlotte herself feels she has to always wear black eyeliner because she's a redhead and has fair skin. Now I'm a redhead with fair skin and I don't feel I have to, so that comment always stuck in my mind and whenever I pass the counter, I always think of it. I dabbled in the brand by purchasing Pillow Talk lip liner after Amelia Liana raved about it, and yes it is the most perfect pouty 'my lips but so much better' colour. At night I find it too pink but in the daytime it really enhances your make up to the most gorgeous level with just a sweep of the pencil. I checked out the Norma Parkinson collection launch too and that's where I just didn't feel the brand was for me. I put it in the box that I consider Benefit in - it's all about the brand. It's the packaging, the product names and the 'magical' effects that they promise that my sceptical side feels are a bit excessive. They fit perfectly into the world of marble beauty blogger photos, but I always feel to me that the most important thing when buying make up is the shade and finish on your own face, and it makes me feel dizzy when the fancy names and decadent packaging gets in the way. I feel I'm just being sucked in by the noise around the product rather than the actual thing!

But how many people rave about Charlotte Tilbury? Possibly every single blogger. So I have been itching to have a makeover at CT as you know that I usually always trial products at counter makeover appointment where you can redeem the cost. A qualified makeup artist hand-picking the shades and products for you is so important to me as you never know how something will look for certain before you've parted with your cash. My funds have been put towards different brands this year though, and so having this makeover was definitely a test for me. Could I be a Tilbury girl?

The answer is yes or else I wouldn't be writing this post! Charlotte Tilbury has a range of set make up looks where you can purchase the products as a set in a box. These have the hefty price tag of around £200 and a make up artist once told me that a gentleman selected a set for his wife, mistress and daughter one Christmas, choosing a suited look for each! My make up artist Julia was so sweet and was really excited to get started, as was I! Once I stepped into the taxi, I got swooped into the hype, with the mirrored draw stack full of the products awaiting. We chose the Vintage Vamp look, using antique gold and deep rouge tones for the classic siren look, swapping smoky shades for deep brown liner and rust eye shadow.

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And predictably I'm hooked! From talking to Julia, I learned that as Charlotte is such a well known and acclaimed make up artist, she would never put her name to any product that was not of a superbly high standard. After experiencing the range, the high price tags are justified in my eyes, which were framed in the most beautiful shades from the Vintage Vamp Luxury Eye Palette. That palette is what dreams are made of! I love the Barbarella Brown eye pencil too and the pop of ruby red blush in Love is the Drug. I really think I need to get this lip combo of Night Crimson Lipstick, Savage Rose Lipliner and Unleash Me Lip Lacquer. If only I wasn't going on a super expensive holiday next week!

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I did walk away with a few products and let me tell you, the £58 dent in my purse was definitely noticed. However I really was in love with these items and they were on my shopping list that day. They're not in a famed colour but it was the quality of all of the products that really made their mark for me. The Airbrush Flawless Finish powder was SO fine yet made such a difference. It felt like absolutely nothing on my skin yet did all the work of a heavy duty powder. A dust of this on your brush leaved a feather light layer to set your make up beautifully. I can't believe how great it looks without any cake. The Retoucher just seemed the perfect concealer. Hydrating, smoothing, pigmented, this was created by Charlotte to take out imperfections at the most close-up photoshoots. I am a little sceptical about pen packaging and I think it can conceal only a small amount of product, but so far it's a dream to use. I've been saving these for nights out and weekend looks, and even kept them in the boxes - such respect! I'm excited to feel part of the Tilbury gang now and will be scoping out the rest of the products for the Christmas party season.


The Body Shop Drops Of Youth Collection #BloggersSkincareGuide‏


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The Body Shop approached me at just the right time to discuss skincare advice for 20-somethings as I've been on a major skin hype recently. Major! It all began when I hit 26 and found out that from the age of 25, it's all downhill for your skin elasticity. Hoping to continue to party around the world well into my 30s, I want my body to be a temple and so it all begins with your face. It's the thing everyone sees the most, the basis of all of my beauty buys, and gets the most abuse from my lifestyle. Daily full coverage foundation, office air-con or heating, my commute pollution and the sun's rays all contribute to those fine lines, gaping pores, dry patches and stiff, dehydrated skin. I was also fed up of my budget skincare routine but not ready to land £85 on a face oil. My micellar water never left me feeling totally fresh-faced and my moisturiser sunk in straight away without a trace. Combination didn't even cover the sensitive, tight areas like my forehead and cheeks, but then my T-zone could move around any foundation by 2pm.

Throwing money at the problem is no way to begin a skincare overhaul; I needed to get my entire strategy in check. I started to read the cheat sheets on Caroline Hiron's blog and woah, I was finally awoken to the definition of skin care. I previously thought 'less was more' when it came to applying products to your skin, but Caroline's 5-7 step routine involves a concoction of oils and acids to remove all of the day's harsh effects and then to inject the hydration back in. Finally I could scrutinise an ingredients list, understand which products to choose for myself and take out the noise from a beauty world full of jargon like 'anti-ageing'. You can't physically age backwards, but you can take careful care of your skin, especially with the fast-paced and demanding life of your '20s.

And that's where the Drops Of Youth collection came in, much to the delight of someone who has been stalking The Body Shop emails for a discount code for months. There are so many good things said about the Bouncy Sleeping Mask and I was also shopping around for an eye treatment, so alongside landing £100 on a new Hirons-approved regime (I'll blog more on my haul next), the DOY collection was a seamless addition to the mix. The organic collection boasts that it aims to restore and replenish skin, and as someone that feels like they've aged ten years in the past two years, I would love to press rewind and get myself in check. After double cleansing, acid toning and spray hydrating, I move onto the Drops Of Youth Eye Concentrate. Any eye creams of the past have left my eyes streaming but I've been rolling this around my socket line and patting in any excess. I didn't realised before just how dehydrated my eyes were as I just assumed that the under-eye skin is naturally sensitive, to the point where any buffing brush felt scratchy if I blended out concealer and any smudge of mascara was an impossible pain to rub off. A few days into using the Eye Concentrate and my under eyes are stronger and much more comfortable. I like the gel formula as it sinks in effortlessly with a nice cooling finish. Now I've started using an eye cream, I can literally never go back!

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Onto the serum - it's imperative at night to use an ingredient-rich oil or serum before your moisturiser to really get to work. A moisturiser is more of a protecting coat rather than a treatment, so I examined the results of the Drops Of Youth Concentrate carefully as I had high hopes. Despite the instantly reliving effects of deep hydration, it does change the actual surface of my skin. My previously tight, restricted skin suddenly breathes a sigh of moisture as the thick gel is patted in. A few drops warmed up in your hands covers the face in a solution that sticks around, rather than absorbing and dragging. I wouldn't use this before make up but actually you will still see the effects the morning after anyway. With skin 100% hydrated, moving a make up brush of foundation around it feels totally comfortable! Compared with a water-based serum, the deep texture of this concentrate really gives a high dose of pampering that takes a few minutes to sink in and is 99% natural and all organic, so your skin can't really get enough.

Now the hero of the range: the Drops Of Youth Bouncy Sleeping Mask. I had my eye on it for so long as I looked at it like a cheat product. Anything that can make me disguise my lack of sleep due to late night Tumblring is a win. Apply a layer after the serum according to this helpful massage guide beginning with a move called 'over the rainbow' (really). Wake up with replenished, soft, indeed 'bouncy' skin. Happiness! OK seriously this stuff just works - you get a huge 90ml and a sweet little scoop which I actually keep inside the jar, and when applied to your beautifully serum-soaked skin, it acts as the final layer to keep the levels of moisture in your skin super high across the night. You do get that look of an undisturbed night's sleep as your skin is softened, has a lot of 'give' and is the perfect canvas for the day ahead. If I do my skincare as soon as I get home (on a good day!) and finish with this mask, even a few hours later I can still see it on my face via my skin looking dewy, shiny and plumped. After such a long skincare routine, your skin doesn't cling onto any products and suck them up - it lets them penetrate evenly and each product has chance to do it's rightful job. I will definitely be taking it on the plane for my Dubai holiday and reapplying religiously!

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And onto what I would call the bonus of the range, the Drops Of Youth Wonderblur. It's almost like a primer that's so hydrating, you wouldn't actually use it with make up. Hear me out here: I find silicone primers with an almost-perfect plastic effect are better to hold layers of make up. The Wonderblur would be perfect if you chose to wear no make up or had a beach day as it smooths out those lines and pores without the artificial feeling. Make up that's good for your skin? Yes please!

I just can't say enough how such an intensive skincare regime has left my skin feeling so much lighter, brighter and younger than before in such a drastic way. I will tell you about other products I've purchased recently soon, but I can wholeheartedly say I will be repurchasing this collection if the generous products ever run out! In the mean time I'll be trying to ensure I relax more often, keep the sugary treats to a minimum, get back in that gym, drink 3ltrs of water a day, and try to not read the entire internet before I eventually send myself to bed. I'm keep to try The Body Shop's Vitamin C range next, have you tried it? I also did a video below - my first 'sit down' video in so long! It was quite straight-forward to film so I might do some more in the future.


High Definition Brows @ Benito Brow Bar, Debenhams


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Did you know HD Brows is actually a brand and not just a treatment to get those brows on fleek? Well I've experienced a brow revolution and now I'm worshipping at the alter of brow benefits. I get my brows trimmed and threaded every month and there's nothing like the sleek transformation they give to not only your face but also the way your makeup looks. A tidy brow means a tidy look. There's an ahhh-mazing Polish salon near me that has the best brow gal who charges just £3 but I'm never in that area so I'll just get them done at my nail salon. There's no direction there though and while I am left with neat brows, you don't get the custom look that you get at a dedicated brow bar. The way they are shaped determines how they then grow, so a qualified brow professional will encourage and cultivate your brows to grow into the shape that best defines your features.

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High Definition is the brand that started the brow craze and they recently collaborated with Benito Brow Bar in Debenhams, Bullring. I had the premium brow treatment and it has literally transformed my look from the 3-week-post-threading version above to the defined sisters below. There is no 'one shape fits all' treatment here; my Elite HD brow stylist carefully tinted, waxed, threaded, plucked, trimmed away to reveal a set worthy of any Instagram close up.

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A life transformation may be a little extreme of a description but I've absolutely reaped so many benefits of having such defined and groomed brows. My beauty buddy Georgie always sang the praises of brow tinting as you wake up already feeling made up, but brows are such a natural part of a beauty routine that it's not comparable to fake lashes or makeup tattoos. They subtly frame your eyes and nod to your cheek bones, lifting your face shape, and if dyed correctly, the colour should compliment your eye and hair colour. When I look in the mirror first thing in the morning and attempt to get from the 'head smooshed into the pillow' look to 'fresh-faced and professional' and out the door by 7.32am (the 2 minutes is very important), my face already looks ready and presentable.
 
My brow artist explained how she had left certain areas to grow while trimming others in order to start to achieve the new shape naturally. She also showed where any make up was applied, which you can pick up from High Definition's own range. I've had my brows tinted at high street salons before and the dye has faded after a few face washes, but these brows still stand strongly a few weeks later. There are also no signs of needing to get them redone any time soon but I'm definitely going to book in again before my Abu Dhabi/Dubai holiday as they are perfect for a pool-side no-makeup look.

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A Boots Haul

 

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I've got a Boots haul to share which is rare for me because the term 'haul' implies gathering a large quantity of something or replenishing a load of things in bulk, and I'm not high maintenance enough to need that many backups! Usually I never buy things all at once. Almost all of my purchases are considered, meaningful or needed; a month is a long time and I'm always saving for X or forking out for Y, so I can't afford to be frivolous. I'll totally contradict this shortly as I've spent a bomb this month and splurged on lots of things I've had my eye on, but here are a few purchases I made recently.

It's shocking behavior for a savvy shopper like myself but I don't actually have a Boots points card because I never shop at Boots. Did you know that the discount shop Savers is owned by Superdrug? Well I get all of my toiletries and haircare from there for a fraction of the price of the same thing in Supers, and I'll price up Boots/Superdrug when I need to replenish any high street makeup. I find 99% of the time when I go into Boots, I will find five other items I will suddenly remember I 'need' and am tempted towards a 3-for-2 or discount promotion, and soon I'm £30 down when I went in for a shower gel. However my buddy Georgie was in town and I wanted to show her the rather large Boots in Birmingham city centre. I let loose and here's what I got!

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I was a long time user of L'Oreal Volume Million Lashes Mascara since my Uni days I believe and it's the big hitter for long lashes like mine. I get a lot of lash compliments and for some reason my lashes are just long, though I am still partial to a false lash. In fact in Uni I used to wear Eylure Double Lashes - yes, that's two layers of lashes! However I recently tried the Maybelline Colossal Mascara and I found the teeny tiny brush grabbed every lash, and the curved wand pushed them up to stretch as far as they could. I got another one of these in a promotion deal in waterproof as I actually missed using it, and the waterproof choice was because I'm going on holiday in November... watch this space!!

I laughed at the ingredients of La Roche Posay Serozinc as it's just water with salt and zinc added, but there was a certain hype that I could not resist. Now that I've bowed to the alter of Caroline Hirons though (more on that in a coming post), I can see this is a nifty product to layer just before your serum or moisturiser, I have literally read Caroline's entire blog recently and was trying to reveal the skincare epiphany to my friends today via Whatsapp but I just cannot translate. Basically Caroline knows her stuff and there is a world of benefits to reap by reading her cheat sheets. Fun fact - a guy we met in New York at the Yankees game said "So you're going to message me on the WhatsUpapp?" LOLz.

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I definitely sinned in the house of Hirons by buying this micellar water but as they go, I did enjoy swiping off my makeup with the Botanics All Bright Micellar Solution. Now I realise that was a lazy atrocity but I have a soft spot for Botanics and enjoyed using their balm cleanser a few years ago. I'll have to check out the ingredient list.

As part of a L'Oreal deal, I spied that the L'Oreal Color Riche Eyeshadow in Gold Mania was literally as intense as the name suggests, being the actual colour of gold rather than a mess of sparkles. Its buttery smooth and packs a punch when applied with a wet or Fix Plus-sprayed brush. A yellow gold makes blue eyes POP and nowadays I enhance my eyes with shadow rather than liner.

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These Masque Bar Sheet Masks were an impulse as they were reduced to £6, and I find clay or dry face masks unbalance my skin and leave it flawless for a moment but have no long term benefits. I chose the anti wrinkle set as they boasted the most hydration and indeed they are pieces of very slimey material. I like how you can rub the serum left on your skin into your face for extended benefits. A good pampering alternative to a drying mask that's impossible to get off and a treat for a night out to add a fun extra to your routine. I love getting ready!

I've seriously revamped my hair care routine since I started having highlights and have been left with straw if I'm not careful, and so I invested in an old faithful, the Charles Worthington Moisture Seal Intense Rescue Melting Balm. It's a wax that you warm into an oil in your hands and smooth on as a hair mask before washing. The oils and butters definitely give a dose of hydration to your locks and I save it for weekends. 

So there you go - a few treats to refresh my beauty routine :)


A Slice of Heaven: The Moseley Haven, Birmingham


This year had been a turning point in my focus on well-being, motivation and self-nurture. As a single, independent person I have a lot of 'me' time, but that also means I'm the only one responsible for looking after myself. When my to-do list gets clogged up with every single little thing I've been putting off or have yet to even start exploring, and the two free days of the week feel like they flutter by in a flash of errands and commitments, you do stop to ask if you are truly content, and secondly, if you are thriving. I usually skip the content part and push myself to achieve and set goals that never seem to end. This year I've been spending time reviewing and thinking mindfully about how I can be more 'in the present' and feel energised by my current situation and experiences, rather than propelling myself to a future dream that is never achieved because there's always a next step after that. Time to stop and smell the roses.

As much of a multi-taker that I am, I also know that sole, calm experiences are something I used to have a lot of, and now find hard to factor in. Whether it was browsing charity shops across the city for hours as a teenager hunting vintage clothing, to reading all of the books in the Young Adult section of the library, to writing blog posts about every little detail of my life in 2007, I used to glide into my 'me' time with ease. Now I fill it with errands, tax returns, courses, budgeting, or just reminding myself of what I should be doing, when in fact the world will not stop if none of those things are not done immediately. I slowly but surely turned over a new leaf and made a conscious effort to read, write and be open to 'treating' myself. After all, what are we working for if it's not to enrich ourselves, enabling us to create better lives for us and those around us?

I received a wonderful email from Alison Knowles, an experienced beauty therapist who recently opened a new beauty spa in local Moseley Village; The Moseley Haven. I'm so keen to explore the business' we have around us. I have grown up frequenting the green grocer and visiting the markets in town with my mom, and today I like to dabble in any local offerings, from dance classes to beauty to cocktails. There's nothing like experiencing a local independent, and Alison mentioned that her spa uses Eve Taylor Aromatherapy products, who is the creator of Dermalogica oils and the found of professional aromatherapy, with an OBE to prove it. I've had many facials, which I'll come onto next, and the products are a key player in not only the results, of course, but the facial experience itself. Eve Taylor is only available to professionals so this was a unique chance to try the skincare in all its glory. 

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On the bright Saturday morning I strolled along to Alison's beautiful house; if you know Birmingham then you'll certainly know that Moseley Village is so picturesque and serene. The spa is the most ambient, inviting space, and feels especially cosy but also refreshing and tranquil - a hard balance to reach. When going to an in-store or hectic spa, it does feel like an extravagant affair that I never know if I am 'grown up' enough for and also doesn't always feel private, but The Moseley Haven is so inviting and the sort of place you want to take your time to enjoy and appreciate - and never want to leave! After the warmest welcome from Alison, I felt right at home and settled into the heavenly, heated bed ready for the Skin Quenching Facial. The setting felt quite literally like you had stepped into an oasis of calm and it's easy to drift away. 

I started this blog almost nine years ago because when I feel passionate about something, I want to tell all of my family and friends about it. Facials and spa treatments are the most wonderful experience as there is nothing like the care someone gives your skin at that moment, the music, the excitement to see the results, and not to mention the amazing massages and treatments. If you have a good facial experience, this will include hand, neck and shoulder massages too! I urge everyone I know to have treatments alongside their usual beauty routines as I can't stress enough how luxurious they are and so much more of a buzz than buying a fast-fashion dress. The feeling is priceless!

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Each stage of the facial blended into one another yet each felt like a different chapter for the skin, and you feel more and more harmonious as the hour goes on. The Skin Quenching facial starts with preparing with the Balancing Cleanser, with Lavender and Jasmine, Sage, Linden Blossom, Rosewood and Soya to balance and harmonise the skin; then an all-important Enzyme Peel. Papain and Bromelain enzymes gently break down the surface skin cells and loosen comedones, aka blemishes, and Bentonite clay absorbs excess oils. Then there is an incredible lymphatic draining massage for the face and decolette using a treatment oil with Rosewood, which helps promote cellular stimulation, Jasmine for balancing the skin, and plant oils to protect moisture and natural oil levels. Facials are so important if you take your skincare seriously as there is just no way you could work this sort of magic on your face yourself. It's not just the products but the actual motions on your skin that really make the ingredients work and literally breathing life into your face contours. Yes - did you know a facial actually creates sculpted cheekbones and lifts the eyes, it's not just your skin's appearance that is affected.

The Soothing Masque gave the healing powers of Green Tea, and then Alison's favourite Oxygen Response Serum concluded the hour, which aids Oxygenation of the cells, leading to skin renewal and removal of those toxins. The treatment finishes with the Refining Eye Gel containing Algae and Seaweed extracts for firmness with reduced puffiness, and Balancing Moisturising Lotion with the star Vitamin E. Not only do you have a sublime experience, but you are also set to leave with skin that is perfectly primed and ready to take on the elements and continue working across your day, complete with SPF. Absolute bliss! My skin felt like a flawless canvas, glowing with hydration.

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The Moseley Haven also offers popular gel manicure and pedicures using China Glaze, lashes, waxing and massage treatments.

"Regular facials are so important to keep your skin balanced and looking at its best, using the right products will help with your skin tone and complexion, and the facial draining massage helps keep the skin firm and helps release any toxins which can lead to unwanted puffiness, dullness and keep the skin glowing and radiant.
 
Using products at home with a good skin routine is very important but the reason facials are great is because you get the facial massage which has so many benefits to the skin and really boosts your circulation.
 
Having regular treatments is also very beneficial to your well-being and gives you time to really relax and de-stress." - Alison Knowles
I also loved how the Eve Taylor products were based on natural essential oils; a reason the range was chosen as the signature for Alison; also making for a serene and natural experience. Paraben and fragrance free, and not tested on animals, it's practically saintly. Alison uses the peel or mask to exfoliate once a week herself and then applies either the Soothing masque to hydrate the skin or the Purifying masque to combat any impurities. Words of professionals are gospel to me! Why do I never use masks?!
 
The dream would be to have facials every few weeks and then continue on every month or so when you have settled into a great skincare routine. I can't say I ever have a constant run of feeling my skin is especially pampered, as once you have felt your skin after a facial you realise it's never been so clear or so hydrated. I'll definitely be visiting the spa again to influence not only my skin but also my well-being and self-appreciation - the prices are extremely reasonable too.
 
And Alison's top beauty tips? Always remove makeup before going to bed, always use a sunscreen on top of your daily moisturiser and don’t forget to include your neck and décolleté when you do your skincare routine.

Clarins Beauty Discovery Evening @ Selfridges Birmingham

I'm breaking up my New York posts to tell you about an evening I can only describe as fabulous! The Selfridges beauty personal shopper Rose is amazing at involving bloggers with the beauty hall, as there are always wonderful events, evenings and taster sessions to really keep up to date with all of the happenings across so many counters. 

I've had a few Clarins treatments before and would not spend my pennies anywhere else as it's truly a slice of heaven. It was a very welcome invitation to be offered to try out a relaxing after-work mini treatment at the Clarins Spa in Selfridges, followed by a makeover with the new makeup collection. It's so valuable to try makeup rather than buy off the cuff, and I am a firm believer in the counter makeovers you can have where the cost is redeemable. I'm always urging my friends to book one and discover a new way to do your makeup; it's at these makeovers that I've ever had any idea how to do my own!

It was a Thursday night and I ran a few errands around the shops before arriving to the little spa in a quiet corner of Selfridges. The rooms are tucked away so you don't feel in any way part of the busy beauty hall, and a glorious heated bed awaits, complete with a snuggly duvet. Experiencing a facial while tucked up in a soft, warm bed could not feel better. The lights are dimmed and your eyes are covered, while your head is soothed with relaxing sounds. It's not just your face that gets treats - in between cleansers, masks and oils, you receive neck, shoulder, foot and hand massages, giving the feeling of top-to-toe pamper. Just typing this gives me the dramatic urge to book in another treatment. Imagine having this monthly?! I might add it to my birthday wishlist for August. It is the most luxurious hour and a half of your life!

My facial was a mini taster and I was soon opening my eyes feeling like work was ten hours ago. It doesn't really matter that your face is now completely bare of makeup because your skin looks so good! Having someone else sculpt and massage your face achieves a result you simply cannot reach at home in the bathroom.

I was dreamily led to the Clarins counter and met the makeup artist Phoebe. Phoebe was an absolute ball and we gossiped the hour away. Makeovers are great when you can chat to the artist as the time flies and you don't even notice a whole face of makeup as been applied! I'm feeling really spendy this month as I'm teetering off the frugal wagon and just want a whole new wardrobe and beauty bag. I'm heavily eyeing up the Clarins Instant Light Base as my skin feels so dull and drab as the day goes on, and I had such a radiant complexion that evening. Plus I've started using SPF50 every day and it's making my foundation break up after a few hours.

The combination of glowing skin from the facial and a perfectly primed face made for a flawless finish of the Everlasting Foundation; possibly a contender for my MAC Pro Longwear. Phoebe also pulled out the new Limited Edition The Essentials palette and added a dramatic flick of deep bronze under my eyes which brought out the icy blue shades and framed my cheek bones. I've never done this before and tried it again that weekend for a night out! The palette is a true Naked contender and has a wider spectrum of shades.

I also loved the Instant Light Perfector, which the blogosphere has raved about since the beginning of time. The little tube of gloss adds a milky sheen that illuminates every curve of your pout without looking gloopy or sticky. It was so long since I've used a traditional gloss that I was quite amazed that I hadn't missed this step in my beauty routine! This was my only purchase and I've been using it during the day on its own and on top of all of my favourite nude lipsticks for an even more polished pout at night. Thank you to Rose and the Clarins team - I'll be stopping by once I've just up my Double Serum to try the Hydraquench range, and the Instant Light base is at the top of my shopping list. 


Clarins Skin Spa Birmingham: The Moisture Replenisher Tri-Active Facial Treatment


I have experienced heaven. I honestly have! This will go down as one of the most magnificent moments I have ever had as my recent facial at Clarins was absolutely divine. I was invited to try the spa in House of Fraser in Birmingham and I was not prepared for just how extensive and luxurious it would be. A total game changer!

I have mentioned recently that now that I am 25, I really need to act on the idea of 'prevention is better than cure' and invest in my skin. I am a believer of starting from the inside and getting your base right, as you could buy all the makeup products under the sun but it isn't going to be effective if you have only had a few hours sleep and have spent a week eating junk food and stressing out. I spent a long time figuring out why some people look so effortlessly stylish and I think it is all about having clear and tidy skin, hair and nails. Then soothing your soul means when feeling good on the inside, it radiates on the outside.

I have had facials before but these were honestly in a high street Chinese herbal medicine shop/salon and the benefits were more of the facial massage that really helped liven up my face before a night out. I also work a lot on the computer so the neck massage is also a fuss-free winner after a long week. I expected the Clarins facial to be just that - a few face creams and a massage, but it was SO much more.

With a demanding job and independent lifestyle, I am always on the go and monitoring my lengthy to-do lists. Taking time out to pamper yourself is now a necessary part of this cycle and will mean you are top of your game in other aspects of your life. The Clarins treatments not only targets your skin but they enhance your well-being and literally feed your soul. I was warmly welcomed to the spa by Abbi and discovered the safe haven of the treatment room. You actually lie on a raised bed with a crisp quilt in a low-lit room playing the soothing music that transports you from the street you have just left. It's very calming and inviting and you just feel like you want to be lying there forever. Abbi and I decided on The Moisture Replenisher Tri-Active Facial as my dehydrated skin definitely wishes I drink more water, even though I try to remind myself! You can undress if you wish and once you are cosied under the duvet and your facialist returns to the room, the lights are dimmed and the treatment begins. You don't feel exposed or even concious really as you float off into a blissful world.

The facial itself is a divine sequence of aromatic cleansers, masks, creams, and the Clarins Touch massage techniques that can only be described as ballet for the face! Mixed in is a head, neck and shoulder massage, arm and hand treatments, and even a foot cleanse, meaning you feel refreshed from top to toe and barely notice as each treatment glides into the next. It's so smooth that I was trying to take mental notes for my blog post but drifted off into a heaven of pure bliss and relaxation. The facial massage actually felt like there were 10 hands on my face and I felt so centred. I'm sure it would be very easy to fall asleep!

Afterwards you are slowly brought back to reality and have plenty of time to relax before sipping a drink in the bed and floating off back to the real world. I just couldn't believe how heavenly an rejuvenating an hour could be and it was pure and utter bliss. The treatment from start to finish felt so soothing and expert and you just know you are in very, very good hands for an hour and a half. What an experience! 

My treatment was complimentary so as to tell you all about the spa and experience, and so I felt that was definitely an excuse to walk away with my own purchase too! A few products were recommended to me at the end of the facial, but not pushed onto me, and I was really keen to have the Double Serum in my life. Abbi gave me a few tips on pushing it into my skin rather than rubbing it in, which mostly penetrates your finger tips, and I feel so good for having this in my routine now. I also booked in for another treatment before my holiday to Athens at the end of the month! I was just so impressed and would choose an appointment here over a new dress any day. The treatments are a good 90 minutes so you really do get so much for your spend, and would be wonderful before a big event too. The body treatments sound absolutely incredible; I have been eyeing up The Moisture Quencher or The Body Lift Sculptor as if my face can feel this good, imagine a whole body treatment! There is a treatment called The Sun Glow too which exfoliates and tans you - just imagine!

You can find out more on the website here and I would wholly recommend Abbi and the House of Fraser spa. I'm counting down the days until my next visit!


My Skincare Routine


Last month my skin went damn crazy and the spots attacked! I don't generally have problem skin but it does take a while to heal blemishes, and while one was subsiding, another would appear! The problem with spots is they often appear in annoying places like near your lip or right where your blusher sits, and sometimes it feels they make the biggest statement, despite carefully applying makeup. Applying makeup over a healing spot is even worse!

So here are a few things I was using at the time - and what cleared up my skin!

Garnier Fresh Refining Toner - I was looking for a toner to replace my B. Micellar Water to be sure every trace of makeup was removed each night, or to use to take off all of my makeup when feeling lazy. I like everything fresh and zingy, but this toner did not suit my dehydrated skin as it is a hardcore solution for oily skin. I didn't think it would especially matter but this really made my skin feel stripped and tight with each harsh application on a cotton pad. True to my thrifty nature, I have almost used it up just on my lower T-zone, but finally the bottle can hit the recycling bin.

La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo(+) - As soon as I started despairing with my skin, I knew I had to repurchase this cult gem. I used the product a few years ago as a daily moisturiser when it first reaped blogger hype, but I knew this time to use it on targeted areas and feed the rest of my skin with kinder serums. Banishing spots and unclogging pores with a moisturiser is usually unheard of, and let's face it, a product that actually 100% does remove spots is ironically rare, despite so many brands out there. If I would have known about this when I was a teenager, life would have been so much better! As a fresh gel/cream formula, you gently spread a dollop of this over your problem areas and it sits lightly on the skin; feeling just heavy enough to know it is working but still offering a refreshed, cooling feeling, rather than being sticky or oily. A few hours later the area is hydrated yet not greasy, and your spots are well on their way to healing - and no more return. Repeat use is meant to now reduce any marks or scars, and keep the texture of skin refined. Add a night of undisrupted sleep and eight glasses of water (and both are basically free) and you're on your way to a good skin day, every day.

Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentre - In the past I have found it tricky to find a moisturiser that primes for a whole face of makeup straight after. In the mornings especially, I don't have spare moments to wait for anything to sink in. I have tried Indeed Labs hydraluron in the past as a way to boost any moisturiser that followed, but thought it was pretty pants. Sam recommended Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentre in a Pixiwoo makeup video as the base for makeup, and it really does deliver at ensuring a perfectly softened face but a formula that doesn't tamper with any makeup then applied. Makeup wears off more slowly but holds a powder well without leaving a dusty or tight finish. Skin doesn't seem to change during the day and keeps a constant level of comfort that doesn't make me feel like I want to wash my face by lunch time. I got mine from eBay but I just spotted on the Boots website that the brand is now stocked there!

B. Revealed Glycolic Cleansing Peel - As the B. Micellar water was a past favourite, I was looking for a cleanser and stumbled across this glycolic peel in Superdrug. I was looking for a balm or oil to potentially shift makeup too, but this intrigued me as it was so cost effective, coming with a muslin cloth and a free gift with any purchase at the time! You can use this as a mask or a cleanser and as an AHA, glycolic acid (found in sugar cane!) is a natural way to shift the top layer of dead skin cells and thicken deeper layers of skin, hence why they are common in masks so they can really have the time to penetrate the layers. This cleanser is rather like a light paste that smooths on like clotted cream. The price and availability mean I will use this across the week, sometimes leaving it on for a little longer while I brush my teeth, and it keeps any congestion at bay. A gentle exfoliation with no scratchy beads and no redness is right up my street. I don't want to be putting anything brash on my skin and rubbing it all around, literally inviting wrinkles to form!

My regime is fine for day to day but nothing was very luxurious, powerful or particularly rich. As I glide (or stumble) into my late twenties, I want to be upping the ante with my skincare and to invest in some killer products. I've been dabbling with the Clinique eye gel too but want some more advice on the subject, and I really needed to add an oil or serum to the daily mix to feed this dehydrated face. That's where the Merumaya Iconic Youth Serum came in. I met their PR gal Lekha and a host of fantastic bloggers at the local Jekyll and Hyde bar, which I have definitely frequented for their creative cocktails. We had a fun, relaxed introduction to the brand across a few Breaking Bad-themed fluorescent blue drinks and Lekha confidently spoke the gospel of a brand that hand picks active, high performance ingredients to deliver the simple promise of youthful, flourishing skin in the most practical way. There isn't an extensive range of obscure varieties; there is a staple line with tried-and-tested, core ingredients that feel oh so good. The Melting Cleansing Balm has received a lot of blogging hype but I was chuffed to receive the Iconic Youth Serum in the goody bag, and ever since have supplemented my routine with the staple boasting the addition of peptides, minerals, plant cells and that good ol' hyaluronic acid. It's blended with a light essence to perk you up and it smooths in light a light gel. A delight! That's the way a blogging event should be done I feel, with the opportunity to really learn about the brand and relate to the product, rather than a showcase.