Friday, 31 July 2009

Cosmetics & Beauty News July 2009

Fragrance news
The news of up-and-coming fragrances just keeps on hitting my inbox thick and fast, with new fragrances from Marc Jacobs (LOLA, coming this August), Viktor and Rolf (Eau Mega, autumn), Jean-Paul Gaultier (Rose 'n' Roll, to celebrate Ma Dame's first birthday with new vinyls-themed packaging in September), Bond No 9 (Andy Warhol Success is a Job in New York, Oct 1st; Harrods for her/him, out now) Diesel (Fuel for Life ltd edition summer) and Stella McCartney (Stella NUDE, Aug 22). Fashion label Joe Bloggs is also launching its first fragrance range in September for boys aged 7-16, which will include a hair and body wash as well as an eau de toilette, and GAP's first fragrance range will be coming soon to The Perfume Shop too.
The Stella NUDE fragrance looks to be just as high quality as the brand's previous fragrances, and will feature a unique blend of grapefruit, vanilla and pink pepper with Moroccan rose, as well as including a lingerie mist for your underwear drawer in the line. Marc Jacobs' LOLA seems similar, also using the pink peppercorn, rose and vanilla. After my disappointing experience of Diesel's Fuel for Life, I can't say I'm too excited about the new edition, which to me just seems to be a last-ditch attempt at invigorating perhaps disappointing sales figures (assuming other people's experiences of the perfume were similar to mine). And while Viktor and Rolf's new fragrance looks glamorous, it just doesn't seem to have the ground-breaking-ness of Flowerbomb.
However, my favourites are by Bond No 9. Having recently released fragrances exclusive to Harrods (for him and for her), I'll definitely be trying to pick some up on my next trip through the duty free (I say that because sadly it isn't cheap...). With mirroring colour schemes (gold background with green H's for the girls, and vice versa for the boys), both in matching snazzy star-shaped bottles, it looks like possibly the most interesting thing to hit the perfume market in a while. The male scent is said to be woody and herby with a piquant edge, while the female scent sounds warm and fruity, featuring mandarin and nutmeg. The only thing possibly even more exciting is their new Andy Warhol-themed fragrance, out in November and entitled 'Success is a Job in New York', with equally arty packaging. Retro-tastic.

Essere bella
Adding to the spectrum of mineral makeup brands, bellapierre will be launching on QVC UK this August. Equally, in the world of anti-ageing, Swiss skincare brand Fenjal has launched Vitality, a new range created especially for maturing skin. Featuring grape seed oil and vitamins C, E and B5, it's also affordable, with its body washes, scrubs and lotions starting at just £2.99. And if all that's not enough to keep you looking beautiful, LA fashion brand Ella Moss has teamed up with Prescriptives to unveil a brand spanking new eye palette.

New faces
Twiggy has recently been announced as the new face of Olay Definity, and whether her glowing and taut skin is really down to the product range is difficult to say, but you've got to admit that she looks good, and that Definity is just so nice to use generally that you haven't got much to lose. Fiona Phillips, ex-GMTV presenter, will, however, be looking after Olay's new Aqua Physics range (which contains marine fennel and comprises a day cream night cream, eye cream and serum). Sienna Miller is also the representative of BOSS Orange, and Charlotte Gainsbourg will be fronting Balenciaga's first fragrance.

Professional secrets
With L'Oreal's Studio Secrets line having proved so popular, and with Avon's long-running collaborations with figures such as Jillian Dempsey and companies like Marimekko, it's obvious that the public's appetite for professional knowledge just keeps on growing. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Rimmel London has just appointed Kirstin Piggott as its official makeup artist and spokesperson. Celebrity hairdresser Mark Hill has also just launched three new salon-quality haircare ranges so that you too can have the hair of the stars.

Your own beauty salon...at home?
We keep hearing more and more about do-it-yourself kits so that you can spruce yourself up at home. Putting aside the monumental stupidity of DIY Botox kits, there are home teeth whitening kits, home waxing kits, and even products that claim to rival the effects of microdermabrasion. Home manicure kits have also been a regular fixture on shelves for years. Now an at-home threading kit can be added to the list from Sun Maita, so that you can carry out a procedure normally only done professionally in order to remove unwanted hair. The concept sounds slightly suspect, but developed by professional aestheticians Anita Sun and Sara Maita, it's been carefully engineered to replicate the exact angles used by master threadists. The kit, available from www.sunmaita.com, also contains a pre-treatment and post-treatment lotion, although at $150, it doesn't exactly come cheap.


And the winner is...
Some blinding choices and some blunders in Cosmopolitan's Beauty Awards and Fragrance Awards this year. I cannot agree, for instance, that Dior's J'adore is the sexiest fragrance, and I just feel that they've only chosen Chanel's Eau Premiere because it had so much publicity. However, the choice of Thierry Mugler's Angel body line is an inspired one, as its fragranced shower gels and body lotions are something it does excellently. I'm also wondering what Cosmopolitan's readers were on when they voted Maybelline's Dream Matte Mousse their foundation of the year. Unless you have perfect skin, it's really awful stuff, as it just highlights what you want to hide. I'm equally surprised that Dove's Hair Minimising Deodorant got a mention. Nevertheless, there are plenty of good choices in there too, with La Roche Posay getting some awards for its suncare and blemish-busting products, as well as (of course) the eternally brilliant Bourjois winning an award for its Little Round Pot Blusher. For the full lists of winners, see here and here.

Dark skin? No problem
It is a common complaint among people with very pale skin (like mine) or very dark skin that high street brands just can't do enough to meet the needs of their skin tones. This is particularly problematic for black women, and while there are brands like Iman and Black'Up, it's still a burgeoning industry. However, a new brand has now joined the pack in the form of Orissa Cosmetics. Specially developed for women with darker skin tones, it includes carefully selected shades of foundations, eyeshadows, blushers and bronzers that are designed to enhance and match dark skin. As well as being resistant to water and humidity, it has natural UVA and UVB protection (SPF 15-30) and is hand-made in the UK using natural earth minerals. I'm pretty jealous. If they could only make a range for the ridiculously pale too...
Another favourite Asian brand is cult beauty company AmorePacific. Over 60 years old, the brand has just launched in the US with its indigenous Asian botanicals (including bamboo sap, red ginseng, and green tea) and is a favourite with a number of celebrities, including Sienna Miller and Uma Thurman. The introductory kits include all kinds of treasures, including toners, creams, oils, and enzyme peels, and are retailing at $50 per kit in US branches of Sephora. Here soon as well, we hope.

And speaking of botanicals...
Bath and Body Works has just released a limited-edition botanicals range of affordable hand washes and shower gels. Inspired by American landscapes and traditions, and using natural ingredients cultivated in the US, the range comprises Washington Apple, Napa Grape, Siesta Key Lemon, Savannah Mint, and Montana Sky. Sounding both original and delicious, I can't wait to get my paws on some. Prices start from $6.50.

And scarlet and black and ochre and peach...
Well, not quite, but Ruby and Millie are launching a new range entitled Scarlett and Crimson for young teenagers. K by Beverley Knight also launches on September 17, and Jemma Kidd's new diffusion makeup range, JK, lands on ASOS this summer (only available for six months, so you'd better hurry!). With this lot, you should have no trouble painting your face in all colours of the rainbow.

A clean start for la rentrée
Here in France they've already started on about la rentrée (back to school) and it's only the end of July! Nevertheless, while you stock up on whatever you need for September, you might as well make sure your face has a good clean start too, with Dermalogica's new range of the same name. Deviating nicely from Dermalogica's usual packaging by using some bright colours for a change, Clean Start is designed specifically for the needs of teenage skin, and has eight products in the range, including cleansers and night-time treatments.

Flawless and radiant? Let's hope so
Treating your skin and still looking good at the same time is not always easy. CoverFX, though, are the latest brand to bring us products that do both with style. Using Dermaveil technology, product number one is their Smashbox-style primer, entitled Brite Prep FX Anti-UV Foundation Primer, which as well as creating a smooth base for makeup, also contains treatments for healthier and more radiant skin, covering your sunscreen, primer and anti-ageing creams in one tube. The Conceal FX Camouflage Concealer can be used for virtually any need, from covering up birthmarks and skin trauma to erasing redness and under-eye circles. If it's also water-resistant, as they claim it is, then this could be a real winner. Finally, the Mintglaze FX Lip Primer softens appearance of lip lines and hydrates lips while also providing a sun protection factor of 15. Multi-use products for the win.
*available at Harvey Nichols

Summertime...and the living is easy...
Especially when you have some decent aftersun at bay to make doubly sure that your skin is protected by the sun. You should of course be using a high-quality suncream as well, but hey - even the best of us has an occasional accident. To help, Tammy Fender has released a luxurious after-sun range to deal with all possible scenarios, including a Roman Chamomile Tonic and a Chamomile and Helichysum Intensive Repair Balm. As well as treating sun damage, the products are multi-use, helping to heal blemishes, reduce scarring, fade under-eye circles and stimulate cell growth and renewal through the use of high-grade essential oils (meaning that if your chi is lacking calmness and inner peace then it will give your spiritual side a good massage too).

Bonnes vacances!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Avon SpectraLash

RRP: £10
# of shades available: 2

--What does the promo say?--
"Innovative mascara gives three looks in one tube - just twist up the unique packaging to customise your preferred level of volume, from a full everyday look to dramatic high-impact look. Clump-proof and flake proof. 10ml."

--Packaging--
Very inventive, as expected, with delicate grey swirls cutting through the black as a contrast to the chunky bright purple dial on the end of the mascara tube.

--Application--
With the lid still firmly screwed on, choose your level of mascara intensity. Dial up 1 for a light everyday look, 2 for a still everyday look with a little more 'hey, look at me!' factor, and choose 3 for a volumised nighttime look. Then unscrew the lid, pull out the wand, and apply normally.

--Appearance--
There is a very definite difference between all three of the stages in terms of volume, length of lashes, and intensity. In addition to this, they are all clump-free too, giving a really professional finish.

--Texture/consistency--
As mentioned, the formula is clump-free; it's also very smooth and easy to apply, while drying quickly (but not too quickly).

--Longevity--
Almost too good - it can be difficult to remove properly.

--Value for money--
£10 might seem a lot for what is essentially a high street mascara; however, the quality of the formula is excellent, and you're effectively getting three mascaras in one. I'm also so entranced by the genius of it that I can't wait to try the SpectraColor Lipstick. With a bit of luck, Avon will soon bring out a dial-up foundation à la Revlon too.

perfect partner
Avon SpectraColor Lipstick, £7

L'Oreal Studio Secrets Smoothing Foundation

RRP: £15.99 (currently on promotion at £11.99)
# of shades available: 8

--What does the promo say?--
"Professional application: The precision brush of L'Oréal Paris Studio Secrets High Definition Smoothing Foundation blends the smooth foundation into the skin, resulting in perfectly even coverage. Tailor-made shades: shades have been adapted to a broad range of skin tones. Soft, supple, almost elastic. The foundation smoothes on easily giving a smooth, even finish. The "soft-focus" effect leaves the skin beautifully smooth, provides luminosity, making the skin look radiant and glowing. The complexion looks truly sublime."

--Packaging--
An honest size (unlike No7's built-in brush foundation) and a travel-friendly size and format too (saves you packing an extra foundation brush). Bottle is simple and sophisticated, bearing L'Oreal logo and product information in black.

--Application--
Pump some foundation into the brush using the button at the other end of the bottle. Blend outwards towards jawline, making sure you also blend into contours carefully for a flawless result.

--Appearance--
The shade I was sent was good for me in summer, but I wouldn't want to use it in winter. This does imply, though, that there would be numerous options for all skin tones. Blends in naturally and provides fairly good coverage (though people with blemishes will need to have some concealer on standby as usual).

--Texture/consistency--
Fluid, smooth and balanced. Perhaps not my favourite from foundations I've used previously, but this will always be a very personal thing for people.

--Longevity--
Stands up easily to its competitors, especially when finished with a pressed powder.

--Value for money--
Honestly? I'd say £15.99 is a tad expensive for something which, for me, lacked the wow factor. At the promotional price it's probably alright, as it provides a sound built-in brush mechanism at a travel-friendly size without being cumbersome. It's also a good touchstone for people who don't know where to start with foundation, as the colour matching at Studio Secrets counters seems fairly reliable. However, for the same price, you can ultimately get a wider range of shades and nicer textures from Max Factor.

perfect partners
L'Oreal Studio Secrets Anti-Shine Mattifying Primer, £9.99
L'Oreal Studio Secrets Lipstick, £8.99

Purity Anti-Ageing Serum and Mask

RRP: £8.99

--What does the promo say?--
"A powerful boost to your skin's natural processes. Cranberry seed oil with Omega 3, 6 and 9 assists in moisture retention. Rose water helps to tone the skin, and vitamin E acts as an antioxidant. This combination is designed to improve and protect the health of the skin. Product ingredients: water; sweet almond oil to soften, moisturise and condition skin membranes; aloe vera to soften the skin; rose water to tone the skin; vitamin E to act as an antioxidant; and cranberry seed to give Omega 3,6 and 9."

--Packaging--
The usual purple and white concept of this line is enlivened by a little red writing this time, presumably to express the presence of cranberry seed. I like it. Plastic pot with plastic screw-top lid.

--Application--
As a serum, just rub a few drops into the skin before moisturising. For use as a mask, layer it up liberally onto clean, dry skin. Leave to dry for 5-10 minutes and then wash off.

--Appearance--
A translucent white gel-like substance that dries clear on the skin when used as a mask.

--Scent--
No discernible scent.

--Texture/consistency--
In its immediate form, it's just like a normal gel. Not sticky or lumpy. On the skin, however, when being used as a mask, it dries quickly to be quite hard and prone to crack (not that this is a problem, of course - that just tells you it's time to wash it off!). Strangely as I imagine rubbing egg white onto your skin would be like.

--Effects on skin--
As someone who is a mere 23 years in age, I can't really comment on the anti-ageing element. Perhaps if they brought out an eye cream...?
However, as a mask, this product performs impressively well, retexturing and smoothening skin to an impressive degree.

--Value for money--
This is a high-performance face mask for the money paid; it's also great for city slickers with not much time on their hands, as this has a really quick drying time too. If the serum works well, then so much the better - at half the price of No7's Protect and Perfect, you don't have much to lose in the first place.

perfect partner
Purity Organic Skincare Anti-ageing Moisturiser, £7.99

Purity Conditioning Cleansing Lotion Makeup Remover

RRP: £4.99

--What does the promo say?--
"An effective skin conditioning cleanser with a blend of coconut based ingredients and avocado oil to breakdown and remove the day's make-up and grime. Oats, amino acids and aloe help to retain moisture combined with euphrasia and rose flower water that leaves the skin soft, toned and conditioned. Product ingredients: water; palm oil to condition skin; aloe vera to soften skin; avocado oil to condition the skin; oats to condition; rose flower water to tone; and amino acids to absorb moisture and prevent skin shrinkage."

--Packaging--
Initially slightly confusing - the flat plastic top is split into two half-moon shapes and it's not clear from the start what you have to do. When I first pressed down on one of the half-moons and heard a loud cracking sound I thought I'd broken the bottle; however, all this does is raise the other half moon up to reveal the aperture through which the product is squeezed. You then just push down the second half moon when finished to make the top of the bottle flat again. This is the same as with the facial wash. Once you've done it once, there's thankfully nothing confusing about it, with the secure closure making this good for travel.

--Application--
Squeeze out a 10p-50p sized amount of the product and apply to face before wiping off with a cotton pad to remove makeup.

--Scent--
The loveliest of all the products in the range; the rose water really comes through nicely without being overpowering.

--Appearance--
A bog standard white lotion, much like any other makeup remover on the market.

--Texture/consistency--
Not too runny and you don't get a slight watery excess when the product is moved around in your palm as with some other makeup removal products. Glides over the skin and is easy to remove.

--Effects on skin--
Removes makeup highly effectively and seems also to be a fairly effective cleanser, making skin feel ridiculously soft (even if it sadly didn't help to ameliorate the acne situation).

--Value for money--
At £4.99 this isn't expensive in absolute terms, but it is expensive relative to other makeup removers - makeup removers by Olay, Simple, Boots, and Amie all come in cheaper, as do certain products by L'Oreal and Nivea. However, there are plenty that are more expensive too, so make of it what you will. It is certainly a very nice makeup remover that is travel-friendly, does its job effectively, and feels and smells really very pleasant. My only concern with this product is the fact that it uses palm oil, which following worries about its economic and environmental sustainability is something that many companies are cutting down on the use of in its products. Seeing as the avocado oil in this product does the same thing, why use it at all?

perfect partners
Purity Facial Exfoliator, £5.99
Purity Regenerating Overnight Moisturiser, £7.99
Purity Facial Wash, £4.99

Purity Facial Moisturiser

RRP: £5.99/50ml

--What does the promo say?--
"A light mousse moisturiser with a blend of coconut based ingredients plus sweet almond oil, shea butter, and vitamin E which assists in retaining moisture and leaving your skin soft and balanced. Product ingredients: sweet almond oil and coconut oil to soften, moisturise and condition skin membrane; shea butter to soften and condition; beeswax to soothe and protect; vitamin E to act as an antioxidant; aloe vera to soften."

--Packaging--
A plastic pot with a screw-top lid; standard white and purple lid in accordance with the rest of the range.

--Application--
After cleansing (and toning, if like me you're a bit of a toner junkie), rub this into your face at the start of the day. Complement with Purity's overnight moisturiser in the evening.

--Scent--
Natural coconut and almond smells are the most prominent. Delicious.

--Appearance--
Stiff, white lotion that leaves no visible residue on the skin once rubbed in.

--Texture/consistency--
Weirdly, it feels more like I would expect a night cream to feel: very thick, luxurious and soft. However, it rubs in very well, not needing extra time to sink in like a night cream would. I like a bit of luxury in the morning, so could definitely get used to this...

--Effects on the skin--
High levels of softness and strokability that see you right through to bedtime. It didn't improve my acne, but it didn't make it worse either, and in any case it never claims to do this.

--Value for money--
A lovely, luxurious and yet light moisturiser for daytime at a reasonable price. What more could you want?!

perfect partners
Purity Organic Skincare Regenerating Overnight Moisturiser, £7.99
Purity Facial Exfoliator, £5.99
Purity Conditioning Cleansing Lotion Makeup Remover, £4.99

L'Oreal Studio Secrets High Definition Lip Liner


RRP: £5.49
# of shades available: 8

--What does the promo say?--
"For the 1st time L'Oreal Paris has brought you a complete range of coordinated lipsticks and lipliners for a perfect lipcolour every time. The lead in the High Definition Lipliner easily achieves a high definition line. The texture is soft and creamy and is very comfortable to apply as well as being long-lasting."

--Packaging--
Nothing to set the world alight - the pencil is the same colour as the liner itself, bearing silver writing and a secure lid. But then again, I am comparing it to the seriously edgy design of the (much more expensive) Giorgio Armani lip liner...

--Application--
The Boots website instructs as follows: "The secret to a perfect lip contour is to make the lip liner practically invisible. To achieve this blend the line from the outline of the lips towards the middle. The texture of the L'Oréal Paris Studio Secrets High Definition Lipliner is soft and blendable, and makes this application technique easy." No quibbles about that. The natural colour makes this even easier - more of which in a moment.

--Appearance--
Now, I have already spoken (in my review of the Studio Secrets lipstick) on how I didn't feel the colour quite matched my skin tone, and how I felt that L'Oreal would do well to further subdivide the shades to take account of skin tone as well as hair colour. This lip liner being the same colour as the lipstick that would allegedly look great on me, I was perhaps understandably wary. However, I needn't have worried - it makes lips look naturally fuller with the use of the L'Oreal Studio Secrets lip lacquer, and matches perfectly colour wise, as well as looking generally very good and natural on me. Score.

--Texture/consistency--
As promised, it is smooth, creamy and easy to apply.

--Longevity--
About average - won't survive a meal.

--Value for money--
This falls about in the average price range for lip liners, most closely matching Revlon. This price accurately reflects its performance - the only area on which it really falls down is on how long it lasts, but given the many other positive aspects of the product, I'm more than happy to keep reapplying it.

perfect partners
Studio Secrets Lipstick, £8.99
Studio Secrets Ultra-Glossy Lip Lacquer, £7.99

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Estée Lauder DayWear Plus Multi Protection Tinted Moisturiser

RRP: £22.50/50ml
# of shades available: 4

--What does the promo say?--
"This tinted moisturising lotion enhances skin with a hint of healthy-looking colour. Plus, like all DayWear Plus formulas it actively shields skin to help prevent lines before they appear — so your skin looks smoother and healthier, longer. Contains anti-oxidants (red tea, grape seed, vitamins C & E, white birch extract, eukarion), SPF 15, and Estée Lauder's Tri-Lipid Blend for extra moisture."

--Packaging--
Bearing the trademark gold Estée Lauder logo with matching long gold lid, you feel like you're buying into a luxury brand from the start. Beautiful aqua colour bottle to fit right in with summer.

--Application--
A pea-sized blob is enough for your whole face. After cleansing and moisturising, rub onto skin, making sure you blend in evenly at the edges.

--Appearance--
A creamy, stiff lotion that looks luxurious and lump-free. On the face, it provides extra colour in a very natural way, with a dewy finish that really wakes up skin. Sadly, though, it provides little or no coverage, so make sure you have your usual concealer at the ready.

--Scent--
I can't say that the cucumber scent that they promise was really detectable; however, before reading that this was supposed to be present, I'd have said it was scent-free. Take from that what you will...

--Texture/consistency--
Really excellent - blends in easily, is completely smooth, doesn't clog pores or feel heavy...lovely. What more could you want?

--Longevity--
Lasts pretty much all day. Again, though, this doesn't mean much for people with blemishes.

--Value for money--
This is starting to be a bit steeply priced for a tinted moisturiser; however, you need to use less at a time than with cheaper brands, so perhaps it ends up being worth it in the end. Inclusion of all those anti-oxidants and the SPF is encouraging, and this would be good for any girl or woman's skin during summer time. If you want a nice present for someone with a summer birthday, you can't really fail with this.

perfect partners
Idealist Pore Minimising Skin Refinisher, £49 for 50ml
DayWear Plus Antioxidant Creme SPF15, £30 (available for both dry and normal/combination skin)
DayWear Plus Multi-Protection Antioxidant Lotion SPF 15, £32 (available for both oily and normal skin)
DayWear Plus Base SPF30, £29

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Smashbox SPF Photo Finish Foundation Primer

RRP: £23.24 for 30ml
available from www.qvcuk.com and www.justbeautydirect.co.uk

--What does the promo say?--
"Coming in a new airless pump, this innovative product from Smashbox lets you create a flawless base for your make up - it's SMASHBOX Primer, protector and corrector ‘all-in-one’ with the newest, hottest primer. With the same complexion perfecting formula as the best selling SMASHBOX PHOTO FINISH FOUNDATION PRIMER, but with an added SPF 15, and, an advanced skin treatment called DERMAXYL™ COMPLEX that moisturizes the skin and works to reduce the appearance of those irritating little lines and wrinkles. So you’re not only going to get smoother, longer-lasting makeup, but over time you’ll also see the positive anti-aging effects of DERMAXYL™ COMPLEX on your skin. Although the active ingredients give this a pink tinge - this product goes on the skin completely clear and is suitable for all skintones."

--Packaging--
Having only tried this on a sample basis, I can't claim any expertise on this product's ease of use and so on. However, I've got to admit that it does sound pretty good: pump-action bottles are generally sound for travel purposes and if, as the promotional material says, it also uses airless technology, this should prevent the product itself from becoming contaminated by the entry of harmful bacteria in the air.

--Application--
As with all primers, really - just smear a small pea-sized amount over a clean dry face before applying makeup.

--Scent--
Nothing detectable. Always good :)

--Texture/consistency--
Velvety, smooth and not at all sticky, yet still made me feel that this is what smearing Vaseline on my face would be like, particularly given the next section below regarding visual results. Glides over the face, allowing any future makeup to be applied smoothly and quickly (no need to wait after application).

--Appearance--
As promised, the gel is a slightly off-pink tinge, but goes onto the face clear. And this is, in fact, the worst part: you need to already have perfect skin to see the refinishing effects promised by the product. It provides no coverage whatsoever and while it may promise some sort of anti-ageing effect over time, I can't say I'm convinced.

--Longevity--
There are, at least, no problems here, with the product keeping your makeup on all day.

--Value for money--
To me this just has 'con' written all over it - although, to be fair, this is my reaction to pretty much every clear gel primer on the market. While it's great that this contains an SPF (not sure that I can think of any other primers that do), I'm not sure that you need to pay £23 for the privilege; just buying a decent sunscreen for face would also cover the anti-ageing base as well. Even Smashbox's Anti-Shine Compact or Gel would be a better buy. With this primer offering no coverage or any real correction, you're better off plumping for a primer from No7 or L'Oreal that has more purpose and a lower price tag.

perfect partners
Smashbox High Definition Concealer, £18.98
Smashbox Soft Lights Fusion Bronzer, £16.15
Smashbox Artificial Lights Luminising Lotion, £19.29
Smashbox Sheer Focus Tinted Moisturiser, £17.12

Thierry Mugler Innocent Secret Crystal Shower Gel

RRP: £21/200ml from www.escentual.com

--What does the promo say?--
"A delectable new fruity fresh fragrance that sparkles with charm and daring sensuality. Mouthwatering and mischievous, it wets the appetite for what lurks underneath seeming innocence. An enticing mix of citrus and sun-drenched fruits with delicate, dewy petals and a luscious praline swirl."

--Packaging--
A small pale pink tube, funked up by a black flip top lid and the Thierry Mugler star. The only irritating thing about it is that the nozzle is slightly inset compared to the rest of the lid, making it difficult to make contact with your fingers as well as resulting in excess gel spills all around it. The lid closes securely, though, so there should be no leakages while travelling.

--Application--
Lather up and rub over wet body during shower or bathtime before rinsing off.

--Appearance--
A pale rose-pink gel with no sparkles, shimmer, or other unnecessary hooha. This turns into delicate off-white bubbles that leave no visible residue on the skin after being washed off.

--Scent--
Lives up almost completely to the description provided in the promotional material: there is a light duskiness, but the fruitiness packs a powerful punch too. Infuses the shower with its intensity, making for a pleasurable showering experience. On the skin, it is lifted to something that's completely wearable for sunny days. Only thing missing is the "praline swirl" that's talked about, but I don't think that this really leaves a gaping hole in the shower gel's concept. The innocent floweriness gives way easily to the punchy fruit secret before fusing into an overall veil of youth, femininity and summer. Surprising and sweet, it completely fits with the Thierry Mugler and Victoria's Secret brands.

--Texture/consistency--
Lovely smooth gel - so light that it feels like water. Very little viscosity, but still completely controllable. A high quality gel.

--Longevity--
It didn't last for as long as I would have liked it to (not sure if it even made it to lunchtime), but after the intensity of the shower experience, it's entirely possible that after a while you just stop smelling it anyway, with it only being really perceptible to other people.

--Value for money--
This is undeniably expensive. However, you're buying into a high end brand, so it is to an extent only to be expected (especially given that said product is on its way off the shelves completely). You might need to ebay or Christmas/birthday-list it, but it's definitely a great and unusual addition to any girl's shower.

perfect partners
Thierry Mugler Innocent Secret Delicate Body Lotion, £23/200ml
Thierry Mugler Innocent Secret Eau de Toilette Spray, £29/50ml

also available at: www.amazon.co.uk, Macy's. EDT still available also at Victoria's Secret.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Guerlain Paradis Exotique Ombre Eclat

RRP: £33
available from www.slapiton.tv and at Harrods

--What does the promo say?--
"Guerlain Paradis Exotique Ombre Eclat 4 Shades Eyeshadow is a beautiful limited-edition collector's item for riveting eyes. Discover Guerlain Guerlain Paradis Exotique Ombre Eclat 4 Shades Eyeshadow is vibrant, exotic, sparkling and extremely sexy that gives the eyes a bright fashion look with a modern bronzy twist, for a truly captivating look. An exhilarating palette of four shades: pink, orange, green, brown embellished with an exotic leaf motif in pearly green. The celebrated metallic compact designed by Herve Van der Straeten dons a new dress for spring, in a pure and fresh bronze-green subtly etched with delicate plant motifs and an elegant, slender bird of paradise."

--Packaging--
Simply gorgeous - just opening it is like unwrapping a present. To begin with you have the black box, shot through with grey lines and bearing the Guerlain logo. Then you have a black velvet drawstring bag (again bearing the Guerlain name, this time in curly silver script), and inside the bag, along with the substantially-sized compact, is a little booklet of instructions giving details of possible combinations to help you make the best of the eye colours. The compact itself contains two sponge brushes, one smaller and more tapered than the other, opens and closes easily, and the compact lid has an embossed design of beautiful tropical fronds, as well as the curly Guerlain logo engraved at the bottom of the lid. It contains a goodly sized mirror and a plastic tray to protect the shadows and hold the brushes, and the shadows themselves are embossed with an extra fronds design in gold powder. Sadly, this powder is gone after the first application, but the colours are just as lovely even when it's gone. The only disadvantage is that it's very easy to get fingerprints all over it, so just pick it up at the edges.

--Application--
As mentioned, the instructive booklet is really helpful for giving you room to try out lots of different looks - all of them successful. This means that application is made easy for even the most inexperienced of makeup wearers, although a little patience is required to work up the amount of colour needed on the brush.

--Appearance--
A really unique, subtle look that's great for spring and summer. All of the colours are visible individually as well as blending seamlessly together for an opalescent rainbow look. Boyfriend didn't like the green quite so much, claiming it looked more yellow than green, but the other colours are sublime, especially the pink. The finished look is surprisingly matte, and, as previously mentioned, not too in-your-face either. I can also see this colour combination working for all ages and complexions.

--Texture/consistency--
Finely pigmented, so, as I said before, you need a little patience to get the necessarily buildup of colour on the brush prior to and during application (as is in keeping with other Guerlain eyeshadows, such as the now defunct Meteorites Eyeshadow Pen). However, it's worth it in the end for the excellent results.

--Longevity--
This is part and parcel of the aforementioned excellent results. Lasts all day without even a hint of a crease (though this is with the help of an eyeshadow primer, of course, but not all eyeshadows fare as well with one). Absolutely no complaints.

--Value for money--
I can completely understand people baulking at the price of this; indeed, I myself dithered for quite some time before making my purchase. However, it has already proved to be a worthy, versatile eyeshadow. Buy it now, before it disappears off the shelves to make way for Guerlain's Autumn/Winter 2009 collection.

perfect partner
Paradis Exotique KissKiss Gloss, £16 (available in 3 shades)

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Pearl Drops Instant White

RRP: £6.85 from Express Chemist

--What does the promo say?--
"Pearl Drops Instant White Brush On Tooth Veneer is a breakthrough teeth whitening innovation that gives you a beautifully whiter smile immediately after just one application! The white liquid adheres to your teeth in seconds to give them a brilliant natural-looking white veneer, which remains on your teeth until you brush it away with a toothbrush. It is the ultimate cosmetic accessory. Simply brush on to instantly leave a white veneer. Like your make-up, you can carry it in your handbag and reapply it whenever you want, wherever you are, to maintain a confident and radiant smile!"

--Packaging--
It's got to be said that they've done a nice job with the bottle - at first glance it could easily be mistaken for a lip gloss, nail varnish or travel perfume bottle, with a nice squarish container made of transparent glass, small and discreet silver writing, and a silvery lid. Very practical and portable with an easy-to-use, nail polish-type brush.

--Application--
It is recommended to polish your teeth each day for few days before using Instant White, using a tooth whitening toothpaste. You then need to shake well before using the veneer to mix the product, ensuring that the teeth you want to treat are as dry as possible (e.g. by rubbing them with a tissue immediately before application). Then apply the white liquid to your teeth with the fine brush applicator, and for extra whiteness, you can add an extra coat.

--Appearance--
A great surprise; I'd envisaged something resembling Tippex. However, this is a transparent fluid containing tiny silver sparkles.

--Scent--
Slightly minty and medical. Not at all unpleasant.

--Texture/consistency--
Smooth to stroke on, but quickly turns tacky, and takes longer to dry than the impression given on the packaging.

--Results--
Sadly I saw no effects whatsoever, even with adding the extra coat. I also cannot comment on how long any whitening effects would last, both for this reason and the fact that I could not stand the tackiness when waiting for the stuff to dry, so I brushed my teeth to remove it probably 3-5 minutes after application.

--Removal--
Easy to brush off when you do want to remove it. I do get the impression that the staying power in terms of colour would be good, though, if you got it to work in the first place.

--Value for money--
If you can get this to work on your teeth, then the price of it (roughly £7) then is, I suppose, not too bad, especially since you don't seem to need very much per application. However, as a long-term fluorosis sufferer (wow, I'm sounding like a one-stop medical pitstop here...fluorosis, acne and hyperhydrosis all in one person!), I saw no effects at all, and so for this reason alone it was not worth a penny. Sorry Pearl Drops.

perfect partner
Pearl Drops Daily Shine Whitening Toothpaste, £1.95/50ml

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Weleda Sea Buckthorn Creamy Body Wash

RRP: £6.95/200ml

--About the brand--
"Weleda was founded in Switzerland in 1921 by a Dutch medical doctor Ita Wegman and the renowned philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Weleda was established in the UK shortly after in 1925. Our aim is to help everyone, old and young, to restore health and maintain wellbeing. We are committed to doing so naturally, ethically, safely, without animal experimentation and without damaging the environment. This is not a marketing ploy but a way of life and is deeply rooted in all aspects of our business. These beliefs affect every decision we make at Weleda."

--What does the promo say?--
"The new Weleda body washes contain eco-friendly cleansers made from sugar and coconut which together with the other ingredients cleanse, moistures and care for the skin, whilst being kind to the environment as they are totally degradable and do not harm marine life. This revitalising body wash is a delicate composition of antioxidant-rich biodynamic sea buckthorn Oil, blended with the fresh aroma of sun-blessed oranges, mandarins and grapefruit from pure essential oils. A revitalising fruity fragrance for shower or bath."

--Packaging--
This is pretty basic recognisable Weleda logo, simple product details, and a white flip-top lid, all backed by vibrant orange.

--Application--
Directions for use: Apply a small amount to the body using hands, loofah or washcloth and gently massage. Rinse thoroughly. Easy peasy.

--Appearance--
A slightly orangey/yellowy coloured cream with no lumps or other visible particles.

--Scent--
Immediately tallies with the product description, and is very naturally scented. Nice one.
Having never smelt a sea buckthorn, I don't know how much of it is detectable in the scent; however, Wikipedia reveals a lovely picture of bright orange sea buckthorn berries, whose initial layers can be used for products like this one, with the bottom layer being edible and thus able to be used in syrups, jams and whatnot, which would indicate that on its own it has a discernible smell and taste of some kind.

--Texture/consistency--
Beautiful: creamy, soft and luxurious. Easily a rival to the better-known Imperial Leather and Dove. Lathers very well.

--Longevity--
While the scent doesn't really linger, the softness does. Skin is strokeable all day.

--Value for money--
The price of this falls right between that of your average high street shower cream and your high end luxury shower cream (just to throw a couple of examples out, Imperial Leather's shower cream is £2 at Boots, while Kenzo's FlowerbyKenzo shower cream is £19). For all the natural stuff in there, though, and the general perfection on pretty much every level, I'd say it's worth it. Not to mention that it's less ubiquitous than Lush.

perfect partners
Sea Buckthorn Body Lotion, £6.95/100ml
Sea Buckthorn Body Oil, £8.95/100ml
Sea Buckthorn Hand Cream, £4.95/50ml

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Cosmetics Contemplations: Are The Days of Botox Over?

What do monkeys, sausages, and improperly aligned eyes have in common?

It sounds like one of those questions faced by contestants on popular British TV programme QI. The answer? They all relate to the genesis of the now world-famous Botox treatment. The German physician and poet Justinus Kerner in the early 1800s described the botulinum toxin as a 'sausage poison', since the bacterium often caused poisoning by growing in improperly handled or prepared meat products. Purified just over 100 years later for medical use, it took many years (and many monkey experiments) before the toxin could be used as a medical treatment for strabismus, a condition in which the eyes are not properly aligned with each other. In 1989 (when the commercial name 'Botox' began to be used), the bacterium was also approved as treatment for facial spasms and tics. Cosmetic use commenced officially only in 2002, and while such a short time has passed since then, you will barely find a person in the developed world who won't know what Botox is. The bacterium, while purified and so on, is still the most toxic protein known, and yet people continue to choose to inject it into their faces and necks to get rid of almost imperceptible and perfectly natural lines. Slightly frightening, that.

However, as quickly as Botox has become famous in the past seven years, more natural (and at times less invasive) alternatives have sprung up to challenge the procedure. One of these is Evolence. While it does the same job as Botox, in the same way (you have to go to a clinic and be injected with needles), you may be able to sleep more easily afterwards, for the dermal filler used is not Botox but is, instead, pig collagen, which is the closest natural alternative to human collagen that you can get. Evolence stays where it is injected, and adds strength and support to the existing network of skin cells, giving skin a fresh and radiant look with fewer lines and more volume. Perhaps best of all, it's also more cost-effective, lasting double the time of Botox treatments (Botox will only last for 4-6 months before it needs to be done again).


However, should the prospect of being injected not be particularly appealing, there are still plenty of other solutions on the market to compete with Botox. One, famously used by Victoria Beckham, is Natralox cream, which contains amino acids, vitamins A and C, hyaluronic acid (the same stuff as is used in injectable fillers), and argireline, which claims to relax muscles. There's also the Athena 7 Minute Lift (£50), and Protox 10 (sometimes known as Pretox 10), which is a gel that can either be used alone or as a sort of 'Botox enhancer', meaning that patients allegedly have to undergo fewer procedures. Still, at nearly $100 for a 50ml tube, it's not exactly affordable.

Finally, there's Frownies - a system that combines face creams and stick-on face patches to bring similar effects to Botox. But you have to use the whole system for it to work (apparently), and that takes time and patience, which I'm guessing is not always what the pressed-for-time woman is looking for. And, equally, at $140 a pop, it's something that needs to be considered carefully before your credit card is shown the light of day.

Leaving these at-home alternatives to Botox aside for a moment, perhaps even more horrifying than this is the fact that you can even buy DIY Botox kits on the internet, complete with needles and with facial maps showing where to inject. While it's pretty clear that if you're stupid enough to try this, you probably deserve to be rushed to Casualty, demand feeds supply, meaning that there probably are some bozos out there injecting their own foreheads. So at least the above mentioned home kits don't resort to this. But if you must go for the route involving needles (I can appreciate that it involves less time and patience and may be safer if nothing else), it's perhaps worth bearing in mind that nobody knows yet the long-term effects of sending the chemicals involved in Botox coursing around your body (because, let's face it, it has to go somewhere), and that like it or not, there have been deaths caused by Botox. At least brands like Evolence offer a halfway house, allowing the convenience and safety of a trip to a salon while still using a natural dermal filler (which should help to appease those who want to know what's going into their bodies). Methinks Botox had better watch out.

-UK buyers can purchase Natralox from www.nutritioncentre.co.uk, the Athena 7 Minute Lift from www.athena7.co.uk, Protox 10 from www.upforlife.co.uk, and Frownies from www.frownies.co.uk
-For a list of doctors qualified to carry out the Evolence procedure, visit www.evolence.com
-Don't even try to buy a DIY Botox kit. Just don't. Unless you want to end up dead or in hospital.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Purity Organic Skincare Facial Exfoliator Deep Pore Cleanser

RRP: £5.99 for 100ml

--What does the promo say?--
"A deep clean from ground coconut shell in a blend of coconut oil, sweet almond oil and aloe vera to leave your skin cleaner, softer and brighter.

Product Ingredients: Water; Coconut oil to act as an emollient and moisturiser; Sweet Almond oil to soften, moisturise and condition skin membrane; Coconut shell to act as an exfoliator; Aloe Vera to soften skin.

About Purity: Purity Organic Skincare is a range of certified organic skincare products which use intelligent ingredients, that are few in number but highly effective. A combination which results in beautiful skin and is kind to the earth. Less is more in beauty. 99.2% of the total of ingredients are of natural origin; 89.4% of the total of ingredients processed from Organic Farming."

--Packaging--
A lovely serene white tube with a white and purple label. I love purple generally, but especially like it here, in a skincare world where blues and greens are all the rage. There usually seems to be a little exfoliator leakage in the lid every time I flip it open, which is a tad annoying but nothing serious.

--Application--
Whether alone or mixed with cleanser, rub onto wet skin, massaging well. Rinse off with a damp flannel. Easy, and rinses off relatively well. Using a toner afterwards will get rid of any remaining bits of exfoliator.

--Scent--
Surprisingly bland - does not match up to the distinctive essential oils that are detectable in other products in this range. Nevertheless, there are no odd or unpleasant smells, and this should be great for people who like fragrance-free products.

--Appearance--
A white, runny lotion, dotted with dark brown spots of ground coconut shell.

--Texture/consistency--
The lotion is smooth and works well with the natural scrubbiness of the coconut shell (which, incidentally, works far better than the artificial beads used in some exfoliators).

--How does your skin feel afterwards?--
Smoothened and retextured. Great stuff!

--Effects over time--
Highly effective. While it doesn't 100% banish dry patches, it does help enormously, and reduces dry skin over time to create a more unified skin tone. 80%-90% effectiveness, I'd say - I still get blackheads after a few weeks of use.

--Value for money--
More effective than some exfoliators that are double the price, almost immediately visible effects, and it's packed full of lovely stuff. With a bit more time (1 month+), I hope that those blackheads will disappear too.

perfect partners
Purity Facial Wash, £4.99
Purity Organic Skincare Facial Moisturiser, £5.99
Purity Regenerating Overnight Moisturiser, £7.99

Sunday, 5 July 2009

L'Oreal Studio Secrets Lip Stick

RRP: £8.99
# of shades available: 24

--What does the promo say?--
"L'Oréal Paris Studio Secrets Lipstick shades have been created to suit over 30 natural lip shades. L’Oréal Paris’ first range of tailor-made shades, developed according to 4 phenotypes: blonde, light brunette, dark brunette, dark-skin tones. All lipstick shades are classified into 6 colour categories: nude, coral, pink, red, plum and brown. The oils and emollient pastes are well-balanced to create a creamy texture, with stand out colour. L'Oréal Paris Studio Secrets Lipsticks are formulated to suit every type of make-up look; from neutral day time, to evening high glamour. The textures and effects provide either a glossy, satin or matte finish."

--Packaging--
L'Oreal has reverted to squarish packaging, while the current fashion seems to be for rounder lipstick canisters, and squarer lipgloss tubes. The transparent plastic on the middle band is very Thierry Mugler-ish and edgy, and the lid comes off easily when you want it to, while closing securely when you don't.

--Application--
The lipstick's end is cut off flatly rather than being tapered; whether this aids or hinders application depends on your point of view. I personally found application to be hassle-free. Can be worn with L'Oreal's Studio Secrets matching lip liners and lip glosses, or can be worn alone.

--Scent--
While I can't speak for all 24 shades, Pink 220 for blondes smells like candy floss! Always a pleasant surprise when you're used to the usual waxy odour of current market lipsticks.

--Texture/consistency--
Very smooth on initial application, although can become a little drying later.

--Appearance--
Whether Pink 220 just wasn't right for me, or for what I was wearing when I tested it, I just didn't feel that it pushed my buttons. The colour was beyond candy floss - almost a sort of neon pink. Probably would look better on blondes with more tanned skin, which perhaps suggests that L'Oreal should take their personalisation strategy further and match, say, two of the colours available of the 6 per hair colour to skin tone as well (thus subdividing each hair colour category into lipstick colours for pale, tanned, and dark skin). I did like the matte finish, though, and would be prepared to try the nude colours available for blondes.

--Longevity--
Relatively good - I'd say 5 or 6 hours (though as I said, it does become a little drying on the lips as time goes on, even while the colour remains).

--Value for money--
While the concept of this is nice, and L'Oreal have brought their lipsticks properly into the 21st century with this, I would rather go for a lipstick from the brand with a more reliable personalisation strategy (their Made for Me Naturals range, which looks more realistic and is less drying on the lips). They're doing the right thing with this, and allowing consumers to tailor their makeup choices according to hair, skin and eye colour is something that's worked well for them in the past - but with this there are definitely some improvements to be made.

perfect partners
L'Oreal Studio Secrets Ultra-Glossy Lip Lacquer, £7.99
L'Oreal Studio Secrets High Definition Lip Liner, £4.99

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Avon Bond Girl 007 Eau de Parfum

RRP: £16 for 50ml

--What does the promo say?--
"Velvety florals, cool freshness and warm woods."

--Packaging--
While the box is perhaps a little tacky (silvery, with viewfinder-style swirls), the bottle itself is much better, embodying a womanly figure while still incorporating a James Bond gadgetry-style application point. The half-ring at the top helps rather than hinders application, and the top of the bottle is chunky and impressive. The spritzer works well, and because it's small it's also very targeted (you spray your wrists and it doesn't go all down your skirt or top).

--Application--
Spray onto pulse points at wrists and behind ears. Another new one I've heard recently is spraying into the hemline of your skirt so that the fragrance may be effectively diffused, but I don't much fancy having to wash out perfume stains.

--Appearance--
The liquid is a gorgeous and fashionable coral pink that is invisible when sprayed onto the skin.

--Scent--
While this is perhaps not the most refined scent on the market, it does at least deliver what it promises (which is more than can be said of some other fragrances). Florals? Check. Warm woods? Got it. Cool freshness? Perhaps not as obvious as the other two characteristics, but it is there. The result is a fragrance that not only transcends generations (you can wear it with style, but so can your mum) but is also light enough for summer while still being intense enough for winter. It also fits extremely well with both the celebrity chosen to front it (Gemma Arterton, who starred as Agent Fields in Bond film Quantum of Solace ) as well as with the Bond theme. The packaging and fragrance together make this perfect for the gutsiest of girls as well as the most feminine.

--Longevity--
Lasts longer on the neck than on the wrists, but the quality in this area is sadly generally average. Expect to reapply every few hours.

--Value for money--
This fragrance is full of personality, both in terms of its advertising campaign and in terms of the scent itself, so it doesn't surprise me that it's been such a success (Avon are still running it after nearly a year: PRs had word of it last summer, it came out in October 2008, and was a Christmas best seller in that year also). As compared to other commercial perfumes, the price is also right, and the scent matches up to its description, even if the longevity of it falls slightly short for an eau de parfum. As someone who's coveted this ever since she first got wind of it, I'm pleased to have finally got my greasy little mitts on it (though I don't know why I hadn't managed to procure it before now, since it came out when I was still an Avon representative, meaning that I could have had a discount on it!) - it completely fulfils my expectations and continues to fly the Avon flag high.

perfect partners
Avon SpectraColor Lipstick, £10
Avon SpectraLash Mascara, £10

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Liz Earle Orange Flower Botanical Body Wash

RRP: £10.50/200ml bottle. Also available in 100ml (£7.50) and 30ml (£4.25).

--What does the promo say?--
"Wash daily with this divinely scented body wash. With naturally derived foaming agents plus soothing organic oats and yarrow, it leaves every skin type fresh, soft and smooth."

--Packaging--
The tiniest available body wash is in a squeezy tube with a screw-top lid, whereas the larger sizes look like they're made from harder, thicker plastic (and it's difficult to tell whether that's a screw-top or flip-top lid in the picture). In any case, it appears that all of the packaging looks the same apart from this. It evokes calm blue oceans rather than orange flowers, but nevertheless would look nice in anyone's bathroom as well as fitting in nicely with the Liz Earle concept.

--Application--
As usual really: rub onto wet body while showering or bathing, work up a lather, and then rinse off.

--Scent--
Exactly what it says on the bottle: the orange scent comes through just divinely.

--Appearance--
The body wash itself is a runny transparent gel. A light white foam is created during use that leaves no visible residue on the skin once washed away.

--Texture/consistency--
The gel is irresistibly smooth and the bubbles appear almost immediately once you start using it. The bubbles also easily rival any artificial shower gel and stay on your body for as long as you want them to while still washing off easily.

--How does your skin feel afterwards?--
I've never really had a problem with dry body skin, so can't really report any change there (since my body skin seems to regulate itself fairly well on its own). However, it is a fairly gentle body wash, so can believe that it would soothe sensitive skins (unless, of course, you happen to be sensitive to essential oils).

--Longevity--
Skin feels clean, soft and smooth both short and long term. Sadly, the scent doesn't really linger for long after washing (barely an hour).

--Value for money--
While this is on the expensive side for a shower gel, it really is divine to use and I love the natural foaming agents (it's mostly soap tree bark as far as I understand). The citrusy yet perfumed smell wakes you up gently and the texture means that the gel glides over your body with the greatest of care. Would definitely buy again.

perfect partner
Orange Flower Hand Wash, from £4.25