Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Neutrogena Visibly Clear Pink Grapefruit Cream Wash

--What does the promo say?--
"Enriched with powerful MicroClear® technology, the gentle cream wash cleanses deeply, removing dirt, oil and impurities to help prevent spots and blackheads. With its creamy texture it purifies the skin without overdrying, while a wave of pink grapefruit uplifts the senses with a burst of invigorating freshness. Dermatologically tested and suitable for even sensitive skin."

--Packaging--
The classic stand-alone flip-top lid is a good one for travel - this one went on a nine-hour drive and back, with the holiday involving two different overnight stay destinations, and not a leak in sight. The pink and white combination is nice, too, and slightly unusual in a market where greens and blues tend to proliferate.

--Application--
Rub a blob of the cream between your hands and then smooth all over the face, avoiding the eye area. You don't even need to wet your hands first :)  Then rinse off using a flannel before proceeding with the rest of your routine.

--Appearance--
A pale pink cream that gives a hint of everyday luxury - lovely. No visible residue is left on the skin.

--Scent--
Bang on the money for the pink grapefruit there - you can smell it straight away and it doesn't smell at all overpowering or artificial - job well done.

--Texture, consistency and sensation--
As mentioned, the creaminess adds a great bit of luxury into your daily routine. Strangely, it is not difficult at all to wash off the face, but if there is any excess left on your hands you will need to use soap to get off any residue. The sensation during use is amazing - cooling and refreshing - and you really feel while using it as if it is doing something good.

--Effects on the skin--
I had already tested the original facial wash last summer courtesy of Neutrogena, so was really interested to see how this would compare. I had experienced more oily skin than I would have liked last time, which wasn't something I noticed this time around. Like last time, too, I did see a marginal improvement during this trial. Sadly, there was not quite *enough* improvement for me to consider buying this product again - although as I have said before in my reviews of other products (by Neutrogena and otherwise), as a long-term acne sufferer I appreciate I am a special case, so if you just get a few spots from time to time, this may well work for you. As claimed in the promotional material, it does not dry out the skin, so you need have no fears on this score. As I mentioned last time, too, if Neutrogena expanded the range further with masks, toners, moisturisers and wipes, the effects of the product may be maximised, as opposed to mixing the use of this product with stuff from another brand (Salcura for me at the moment).

--Value for money--
If you have more severe skin conditions, as I do, then something a little bit stronger in the same price bracket, such as Ten O Six's Pore Cream Facial Wash may prove a little more effective. At £4.49, though, Neutrogena's cream wash is not a bad deal at all, so even if you do try it and find it doesn't work for you, at least you won't feel too much out of pocket.

perfect partners
Visibly Clear Pink Grapefruit Facial Wash, £4.99
Visibly Clear Pink Grapefruit Daily Scrub, £4.99

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Cosmetics Contemplations: Can you fully trust a brand that only sells online?

With the rise and rise of online shopping, we could be forgiven for thinking that in just a few short years, physical shops will almost disappear to make way for the ever-expanding web hypermarket which promises to deliver anything we desire to our doors from just about anywhere in the world.

But are makeup and beauty products exempt from this tidal wave of choice online? While shopping via the world wide web does enable us all to discover products beyond our own back door, such an industry is arguably the one that has the ability to try before you buy most at its heart. Do people really have the confidence to buy a product, one that they have never tried before in real life, online? 

For lovers of large brands that already have a big presence in department stores, the answer can seem obvious. What better than to go for a wander around a few beauty counters, discreetly touch and sniff and try (and, for the more audacious, ask for a few samples), and then go home and try to find the product for less money on the internet? 

But what of brands who don't have the same physical presence? Smaller brands can find that the easiest way to start up is to go entirely online, so that they can make more money by needing to pay fewer staff and fewer overheads, rather than selling their products out of physical premises where these costs may become more of a concern. This means that the opportunity to try before you buy is not always there - and the very lack of a physical presence in a shop near them may leave buyers feeling more wary. And yet people do buy online without having tried the product, and smaller brands such as Lily Lolo and Bellapierre have indeed grown up into bigger brands by starting online.

How have they done it? And how can we as buyers know who to trust? As well as the issue of paying for a product that, for all you know, you may never receive (an ever-present peril of etailing!), there's also the notion of counterfeit products to contend with, whether through rogue traders on eBay or dodgy deals via group buying sites such as KGB Deals. One user of community forum MoneySavingExpert.com, for example, purchased a Benefit eye kit only to be told it was fake by department store staff (after hearing bad things about the company, she had gone in to have her kit checked over). "They even pointed out differences between the real deal and my fake one," she said, citing that her eye pencil had had 'Made in Germany' printed along it when it shouldn't, and that the compartment for the tweezers should be magnetic to stop them from falling out (hers wasn't).

One way in which such companies can build up trust is to do as Lily Lolo did - to sell small sample sizes on the site that potentially interested buyers could test out at a very low price before shelling out for a full-size pot. That way, people can make sure they are happy, and have a travel size on hand once they have bought the full size in the right shade. When Lily Lolo did get bigger, they started selling through another highly trusted retailer, TV shopping channel QVC, which is famed for its lenient returns policy (every purchase on QVC has a 30-day money back guarantee). 

Liz Earle is another beauty company which also now sells via QVC, but started out online and with only one physical shop (on the Isle of Wight). As well as offering Try-Me kits online, the key way in which the company was able to gain trust was simply by word of mouth and by being featured frequently in national press - the company often seems newer than it is because of the fact that they have had to build up trust slowly over a number of years.

But just because companies don't do these things, it doesn't mean that they shouldn't be trusted either. One of my favourite companies, Fyrinnae, produces mineral makeup at rock-bottom prices. You can't order samples, and they're not really known in the mainstream even though they've been around a while. So throwing caution to the wind and just ordering from them (especially when they're located in the US - across a mighty great body of water!) may have seemed foolhardy - but as a result I've discovered some brilliant products.

There are ways, though, in which you can protect yourself: does the website seem secure? Does it use trusted payment methods like WorldPay and PayPal (I know there are plenty of people out there with issues with PayPal, but I'm not one of them)? Is the seller themselves a trusted one with a good feedback rating? Do they post their own photographs of the product, or just use a generic copy of an image from elsewhere? Do they have a suspicious number of duplicate listings? It's important to check these things - not just to avoid being ripped off, but also for your own health (if a product intended for use on your face, especially around your eyes, is contaminated in any way, all you'll have bought yourself is a trip to the hospital). 

Take a good look yourself, and if you're still not sure, there are plenty of websites that try to help too, such as MakeupSavvy and SavvySkin. Ebay is even wising up to the problem and trying to protect its customers by publishing its own guide. Used products are also more likely to be genuine, and since something that's only been used once or twice is not going to be too different to a brand new product, I'd advise taking a punt on used products as well - just make sure you use a clean brush.

In short, then, you can trust a brand that sells online - whether that's its whole business or only part of it. Like anything else in life, just have fun and be careful while you're doing it.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Cosmetics & Beauty News August 2011

Natural beauty benefits of organic argan oil
Scientists have recently concluded that argan oil is one of the best oils for human health. The argan tree, native to Morocco, is known as the tree of life - and not without good reason, as its oil can be used not only to get loads of vitamins and nutrients but also to keep hair, skin and nails looking healthy and beautiful. Model Sophie Dahl is a fan, as is chef Heston Blumenthal. Ideal for all skin types, the oil protects, moisturises, and reduces signs of ageing as well as treating skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and acne scars. Best of oil (see what I did there? BOOOOOM), a wide variety of products using argan oil can be found at an equally vast range of prices, so that everyone can feel the difference: examples of products using the wonder oil are Mazuri Organics Olive Oil and Argan Oil hair treatments (just 99p, folks!), LPO Anti-Ageing Organic Argan Cream (£17) and Kiehl's Superbly Restorative Argan Body Lotion (£50 for the largest size). Other products that can help to treat such skin conditions are products containing Dead Sea minerals, such as those made by Malki.
Beer and barley spa treatments launch at Brown's Hotel
Brown's Hotel in London has added a new range of British beer and barley treatments to its already sumptuous spa menu in celebration of the Great British Beer Festival. The treatments blend Maris Otter barley with East Kent Goldings hops, Hooky Gold Ale from Oxfordshire and St Austell's Tribute Beer from Cornwall to create a truly unforgettable experience. Barley is high in vitamins (including B1 and B3) and minerals (selenium, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous and copper), and what's more, all treatments also kick off with a hot malt drink which is high in fibre and has a low glycaemic index (GI) and a unique barley snack created by the hotel's pastry chef. Whether it's a 90-minute pale ale pedicure, a 75-minute honey and barley facial (which also uses lagoon water and sesame seed oil) or a 90-minute barley body wrap you're after, you now truly can have your beer and drink it too. Prices from £85.

30 Days of Fashion and Beauty is back!
Giveaways and offers are now in full swing as September's calendar of events draws closer. The National Magazine Company is also offering stacks of free hints and tips online as we get back into the swing of work, school and university. Prizes include Elemis spa treatments, £500 to spend at Reiss, Bellapierre makeup, and bottles of Lolita Lempicka fragrance. I'd get entering if I were you. 

Debenhams launches 'boob job in a bra'
Aiming to give the biggest boost on the high street, Debenhams have launched its Triple Boost bra. Allowing women to enhance their bust without the cost or pain of surgery, the bra is available in several colours and has taken two years to perfect. Three separate foam pads in varying densities are pushed in different directions, resulting in a maximum impact of cleavage and shape. The different pads enhance the shape of the bust, provide a boost, and add extra uplift. The bra is available in sizes 30A-38DD, and costs £22. 

Boob job...in a glass?!   
Even more wacky is the new collagen drink that's just hit the shelves in the UK. Pure GOLD COLLAGEN contains hydrolysed collagen, hyaluronic acid, borage oil and vitamins to tackle ageing skin. While collagen drinks have been popular in Japan for some time, they are only just arriving in Britain. The ingredients supposedly work together to add moisture and plump up the deeper levels of the skin - as opposed to topical skin creams that only work on the outer layer of the skin (the epidermis). 10ml should be taken every day for four weeks to see noticeable results according to clinical trials in France - following these tests, the 47 participants showed a 28% decrease in skin hydration, 19% increase in skin suppleness, and a 30% decrease in wrinkles. The 50ml bottle, on that basis, should last you 5 days, meaning you'd need 6 bottles to get you through a month. At £3.60 a bottle, is the total monthly cost of £21.60 worth it? You decide.

Supporting Breast Cancer Care
(I'll stop talking about boobs in a minute. I promise.)
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and many brands are reissuing classic products in pink packaging to help get people thinking about and examining their chests - remember that men can get breast cancer too! Palmer's, for instance, has reintroduced the nation's favourite cocoa butter in a limited edition pink bottle, with 30p from each sale going towards the support of men and women with breast cancer. Mineral makeup brand Jane Iredale is also not missing out, with 100% of the net proceeds from its new product, Lollipops and Roses (a Swarovski-decorated keychain lip duo that comes with its own mirror - £19.95, available from September), also going to a charity supporting breast cancer awareness. Finally, Clarisonic is also supporting through sales of its paisley range, including the new Clarisonic Mia; £3 from each sale will go to Look Good...Feel Better.

In the pink
Fragrance brand Impulse has teamed up with fashion brand Lipsy to create a limited edition hot pink dress to celebrate their latest fragrance, Very Pink. The off-the-shoulder dress has a delicate drape sleeve and an embellishment at the waist. The dress is available at full price now from www.lipsy.co.uk, but as a special offer for Impulse fans, you can get the dress from any of the following stores for HALF PRICE when you show your can of Very Pink (£1.99) to the cashier:
  • 22 – 26 Cameron Walk, Metro Centre, Gateshead, NE11 9ER
  • 82-88 Queens Street, Cardiff, CF10 2GR
  • Westfield, Ariel Way, London, W12 7GA
  • 122 Regents Crescent, The Trafford Centre, Manchester, M17 8AA
 
UK women less confident than their sisters in the States
According to a survey by Mama Mio skincare, American women could teach us Brits a thing or two. 15% of American women claim their birthday suit was made to be shared, compared with 10% of Britons. Just 12% of British women feel happy in a bikini compared with 30% of Americans. Thirty-five per cent of Americans rated their boobs 'beautiful' compared with 20% of UK women, and that 20% rears its head again, with that percentage of British women thinking their posterior is their best feature, while 30% of American women are happy to bare their bottoms. 
The 'Net-A-Porter' of beauty
Finally a version of Net-A-Porter has arrived that we beauty buffs can love: www.nuusuite.com is a one-stop beauty shop founded by makeup artist Deborah J Francis. Exclusive brands include Jason Shankey, Gielly Green, MUD, Natural Empathy, and many more besides. Shop by your skin type, hair type, or what's new in; there's even stuff for men. If your order comes to over £40 you get free delivery too - wherever you are in the world.

QVC Beauty Awards winners revealed 
Throughout July Beauty Month, 15,000 QVC viewers voted for the products that they themselves have used and loved. The winners are:
Best Moisturiser: Liz Earle Superskin Moisturiser, £33
Best Flawless Finish: Bare Escentuals SPF15 Foundation, £20
Best Anti-Ageing Product: Liz Earle Superskin Concentrate, £38
Best Haircare Product: Liz Earle Botanical Shine Shampoo and Conditioner, £23
Best Eyecare Product: Gatineau Melatogenine Futur Plus Eye Concentrate, £46.50
Best Nailcare Product: OPI Twice The Envy, £16.75
Best Bodycare Product: L'Occitane Shea Butter Ultra Rich Body Cream, £24.75
Best Makeup Must-Have: Bare Escentuals Mineral Veil, £17
Best Facial Cleanser: Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish, £25
Best Handcare Product: L'Occitane Hand Cream Duo, £30
Best Concealer: Bare Minerals Multi-Tasking, Well-Rested and Maximum Coverage Concealer Brush, £25
Best Lip Product: Gale Hayman Lip Lift Duo with Collagen and Vitamin E, £21.75

Also in award news comes the message that eco-luxury skincare brand Bodhi has been shortlisted for a UK Beauty Award for its Ylang Ylang Incensa, a sensual bath and shower therapy that uses a higher-than-average percentage of essential oils, making it therapeutic to body and mind. This comes just one year after the launch of the brand's first range. Top beauty journalists and buyers will vote to decide the winner, which will be announced on December 2nd. Well done and good luck!

Stock up on essentials
In these wallet-crunching times, it's only understandable that companies don't want to put prices up - but sometimes they have to. Thankfully, The Organic Pharmacy has given its fans a warning in advance, saying that "from September 15th our products will cost a little more due to a price increase in our ingredients. This is so we can continue to remain true to our principles of bringing you the best products with the best organic ingredients as we have always promised to deliver you. Stock up on your essential products before the price increase - buy online or in store by September 14th."

Ancient beauty secrets from Queen of Aleppo
It's all about the oils this month! Olive oil has been popular for hundreds if not thousands of years as a way of taking care of our health and beauty from the inside and the outside. Queen of Aleppo's 100% natural soap crafted from olive and laurel oils is proving that ancient techniques can still work wonders today. The soaps are handmade in the winter, dried on racks, and then aged in subterranean chambers, during which time the soap becomes a deep golden colour and pH levels change naturally to match those of the skin. Perfect for all types of skin, from baby to mature, it can also prove a space-saver when travelling as it can be used to wash hair as well as skin. It also floats in water, so no chance of losing it in the bath! Costs from £3.25.
Coconut oil has also been recommended recently by the International Institute for Anti-Ageing (IIAA) as a way to help soften skin. Products recommended by the institute include Environ AVST Pre-Cleansing Oil (£15.95) and Jane Iredale PureGloss (£15).

Bee friendly
Some of you may remember my earlier post about actions taken by beauty company Neal's Yard to help protect the declining bee population. French organic beauty brand Melvita is now getting in on the act, having joined forces with frozen yoghurt company Yuforia. Buy one of the limited edition frozen yoghurts from Yuforia's Covent Garden or Soho stores, and you'll be helping to raise funds to build a third beehive on their roof. Bee-yoo-tiful. (BA-DUM-TSSSH.)

Topman launch first fragrance range
This September will see the long-awaited launch of Topman's fragrance and grooming range. The range - which will launch exclusively in Topman Oxford Circus and Selfridges department stores on September 22nd before going nationwide to all Boots and remaining Topman stores a week later - will consist of two eau de parfum fragrances (16 and 27) and an essential hair and body range offering hair putty, body wash, deodorant and a body spray, all carrying the 27 fragrance. The fragrances are brought to the Topman customer at the price of £15. "No.16 gives a sense of cool fresh air using three key top notes - bergamot, poivre and a woody ozone accent - which are amplified by the heart and edgy base of amber, labdanum and musks. No.27 had to have ingredients that would be addictive and distinctive, so we chose a wild accord of clarysage, anise and neroli with a magnetic character of vetiver and nutmeg for the heart, and added tenacity to the end composition with four notes of oakmoss, frankincense, cedarwood and musks," says Azzi Glasser, the perfume designer.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Akileine Regenerating Cream for Very Dry Feet


RRP: £5.25/50ml; £10.25/150ml (www.akileine.co.uk)

--What does the promo say?--
"Made of shea butter and horse-chestnut extract, this cream intensively moisturizes, nourishes, smoothes and protects dehydrated, dry keratinised and rough skin. It prevents the formation of calluses and gives back the skin's suppleness while maintaining its natural pH."

--Packaging--
Akileine cleverly but simply distinguish between different foot care needs using different bright colours. The range for dry feet is bright blue. No softly-softly pastel approach here; this is a company that knows what it does, what it wants to achieve, and how to get it - fast. The screw-top lid is easy to remove when you need it, but stays secure when you don't.

--Application--
Rub into clean dry feet, not forgetting to get right in between your toes, and rub in until fully absorbed. Nothing tricky about this - the cream is luxurious but fast-absorbing.

--Scent--
Shea butter is detectable but not prominent; the arnica used in the product is more obvious. Despite being packed with chestnut and peanut there is no real nutty odour.

--Appearance--
A white cream that rubs invisibly into skin.

--Texture and consistency--
Perfect in my eyes: rubs in quickly and well in spite of its thickness. Luxurious, creamy, and not at all runny or sticky. A joy to use.

--Effects on the skin--
Clears up dry body skin better than any other cream I have tried, including prescription stuff. That's on very hard layers of skin, too. Well impressed - these guys are definitely foot specialists.

--Value for money--
It's arguably not the cheapest cream out there - at £10.25 for 150ml, you're in the same realms as brands such as L'Occitane. Nevertheless, it's still effective and affordable - what more could you want? I would definitely buy again.

perfect partners
Hydra Defense Balm, from £7.50
Softening Lotion for Dry Legs and Feet, from £7.25
Foot Peeling Creme, £10.25
Foot File, £6.95 

Friday, 5 August 2011

Bath and Body Works Into The Wild Body Lotion


--What does the promo say?--
"Bath and Body Works Into The Wild Body Lotion.Shea Butter, fast absorbing Jojoba Oil and protective Vitamin E, hydrates skin with moisture to leave skin feeling incredibly soft, smooth and nourished of exotic mandarin, lush petals, and white woods."

--Packaging--
The burst of colour is naturally the first thing you notice - it jumps off the bottle like a shattered rainbow. Here it is contrasted nicely with the white of the bottle; in America it is also available in tube form, and the kaleidoscopic design covers the entire thing. The lotion comes out of the vessel easily and closure is firm and secure, without being too difficult to open when you do want to use it.

--Appearance--
A white cream that gives no hint of the bounty that lies beyond, and that rubs invisibly into skin.

--Scent--
Does exactly what it says on the tin: you get an immediate feeling of escapism and fresh air thanks to the white woods, petals and fruity scents. Saying that, though, I can't say the mandarin comes through too strongly - but the smell is one that I just find so divine that I'm willing to forgive it. It is quite musky without being vanilla-like, so if you're not into musk, stay away! However, I think there's something in this for every woman - it's floral and feminine while still being exotic and packing a punch.

--Texture and consistency--
Not at all sticky; sinks into skin perfectly.

--Longevity and effects on the skin--
The scent doesn't endure exceptionally well, but it was the moisturising effects that I was after - I am sick of being told by beauty therapists how dry my body skin is. As far as I'm concerned, this stuff worked - no positive comments, but certainly no negative ones either. I've also been using this in conjunction with the Into The Wild shower gel, which has the same moisturising properties (but is sadly unavailable in the UK).

--Value for money--
At this price, it falls into the same league as similar products by Burt's Bees and Essie, which I think is the right place for it. A little goes a long way, too, so you shouldn't need to replace it for a while after the initial purchase. A good exotic-seeming buy that is readily available at home.

perfect partners
Into The Wild Body Mist 236ml, £10.25
Liplicious Lip Gloss Into The Wild 14ml, £5.15
Into The Wild Perfume for Women 75ml, £18.30

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Ex-smokers to be captured by famous photographer Rankin

SPONSORED CONTENT
 

Famous photographer Rankin is looking for ex-smokers, or people who are trying to quit smoking, from across the EU, to be photographed by him and in doing so make history by participating in the latest campaign to be pro ex-smokers. By going to http://exsmokers.eu, you can enter yourself as one of the prospective 27 European ex-smokers to take part in the project. If you're chosen, you'll be brought to London to be photographed. Rankin enthuses about the project below:



Although, as you will have noticed above, this is a piece of sponsored content, the damage caused by smoking is something very close to my own heart. Not only do I work in an affluent international school, where worrying numbers of young people with too much money at their disposal take up smoking despite our best efforts to dissuade them, but both of my grandfathers also died of lung cancer because they smoked. Smoking not only makes you smell bad and burn a hole in your pocket, but it can yellow your nails and teeth, and accelerate the ageing process. Hardly a way to make yourself look beautiful. But more than that, smoking can cause a long, horrible, premature and painful death. Seriously - it's never too late to stop. If you're a smoker and want to quit, or already an ex-smoker, I really encourage you from the bottom of my heart to sign up.

Beauty Byte: Free Blistex Raspberry Lemonade Lip Balm

Blistex have recently launched a new product: Raspberry Lemonade Blast.

A summery, fun lip balm which contains moisturising ingredients and sun protection, its launch is being celebrated with Blistex giving away FREE samples of the lip balm via its Facebook page. Like the page, fill in your details, and a sample will be winging its way to you.

Samples are limited, so make sure you get in there quickly. Enjoy!


Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Nanocosmetics: a bright future, or clouded with doubt?

SPONSORED CONTENT
As I mentioned in my recent news post, nanocosmetics are potentially the rising star of the beauty industry this decade. Micro-particles are being used in just about everything from nail polishes to sunscreens to anti-ageing products, as these tiny molecular compounds are able to penetrate skin more deeply and produce better results. Great strides have been made in this field, so we can arguably expect to see in the near future more and more cosmetics that are both
beautifying and medically enhancing. Similarly exciting advancements are found at fashion merchandising colleges as well. It's therefore unsurprising that several big brands such as The Body Shop, as well as smaller brands such as Fiabila, are cashing in on the upward trend, with patents in this field having increased by 103% in the past seven years. But despite all of these globally known brands taking it so seriously, could it be nothing more than a flash in the pan?

This is certainly a possibility - and here's why. It's often been found in tests in the past that anti-ageing creams are not as effective as they are made out to be, doing little more for your skin than your average high street sunscreen. This is because if they were genuinely effective, they would have to be sold as medication - maybe even behind the counter of a pharmacy rather than off the shelf in a supermarket or branch of Boots. Can you really see your favourite foundation going that way? And if it did, would you still buy it, or would it be too much trouble?

Some fear that the use of this technology is racing ahead of the research done and potential repercussions. The words 'cancer' and 'genetic disorders' have been floated more than once in relation to nanocosmetics, and German citizens have even been warned by the country's Federal Environment Agency against using products containing nanoparticles, given that the impact of these nanoparticles upon the environment is not fully known. Another problem is that products containing nanoparticles are not always labelled as such - and if there's one thing that consumers like, it's transparency. Which? magazine, in 2008, demanded that such products be independently tested for safety - and it is a little worrying that of the 67 companies that Which? surveyed on this subject, only 17 firms responded - and that of these 17, only 8 were willing to provide information about how they use nanotechnology.

But all information needs to be regarded with an analytical and impartial eye: much of the criticism levelled at the use of nanotechnology in cosmetics comes from three years ago or more, and as with any technology, three years is a long time. We may as well count in dog rather than human years. And with the release of a new book this year on nanocosmetics and nanomedicines, we may get even closer in 2011 and beyond to discovering the truth of the matter.