Friday, 30 November 2012

Cosmetics and Beauty News (November 2012)

 OPI falls through the sky 
In celebration of new Bond release Skyfall, OPI have released a limited nail collection exclusive to shopping channel QVC. Comprising four limited edition shades plus the award-winning Nail Envy treatment, the kit represents excellent value at £28 (or under £6 per product). Perfect for creating bold statements and polished glamour this winter, I can't wait to try out the new shades, which are cleverly named after Bond films. You Only Live Twice is a pink/red concoction, while The Living Daylights allows you to add glitter to any shade. Casino Royale is a classic purple, and On Her Majesty's Secret Service should take you from work to nights out thanks to its cool blue/grey shimmer. A fabulous Christmas gift for the female Bond fan in your life!

Lift your life with Lebanon
If, like me, you're constantly on the look-out for the hottest new perfume on the block, look no further than Reem Acra's Eau de Parfum. Lebanese couturiere and bridal designer Reem has harnessed the powers of perfumer Pierre Negrin to create her signature scent, which includes ginger, peach and orange notes. The beautiful gold bottle is embellished with a dove pattern and would look lovely on any dressing table in 2013.   

On a quest for quality of life
As well as just being fun to use, evidence is emerging that cosmetic products and good physical appearance could even significantly improve your quality of life (or QOL). The authors of the study, which has been published in the Archives of Dermatology, have even developed a new QOL measuring instrument called BeautyQol, which has been tested on more than 3200 subjects across the world. The instrument is said to provide one overall QOL score as well as five sub-scores for social life, self-confidence, mood, energy and attractiveness, and allows the impact of cosmetics on QOL to be scientifically measured. This means that comparisons between populations, products and situations could now be possible, making for interesting developments in marketing and the genesis of new products. Pilot studies have already been carried out in relation to pigmentary disorders and oily skin, among other parameters. By measuring how much cosmetic products improve QOL, BeautyQol allows to evaluate how much they also improve general health, according to the World Health Organization definition of health: "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity". The BeautyQol instrument is also going to be adapted to more countries in order to better assess cultural differences in the use of cosmetic products. If this gets off the ground it could be fabulous in terms of helping people everywhere to balance their well-being; for the moment it does sound expensive, however.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Details of new Christmas collections have continued to flood my inbox this November. One thing to watch out for is Heyland & Whittle's Orange Spice Collection, which promises to spice up this festive season with all kinds of holiday accessories, including reed diffusers (from £16) and candles (from £12). The zesty orange scent, which contains cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, promises nothing but joy. For gifts for the younger members of your family, try looking to the iconic Pineapple Dance Studios, which have just launched three new fragrance gift set ranges at Boots. Try the Choose Dance scent for something fresh, the fruity and refreshing Studio 79, or the simply-named Pineapple for those who prefer the soft, floral and feminine. Containing 50ml of fragrance, 100ml of body lotion and 100ml of body wash, these are fab value at £13 each. At a similar price, Crabtree and Evelyn's sparkling Christmas choices would be perfect for anyone in their mid-twenties or older: their £9 shimmer lip gloss comes in three shades, and their Golden Petals Body Nectar and Bath & Body Wash start at £12.
And, for really lightning-speed Christmas gifts, the uber-time-pushed can always visit Harvey Nichols' beauty vending machine, which is part of their fourth-floor BeautyMART. With clever kits and quick picks just fingertips away, you can choose from over 100 iconic beauty brands as a gift to your loved ones - or yourself.

If you're looking to pep up your smartphone in preparation for the party season, look no further than Mobile Makeover, which offers access to over 50 step-by-step makeup and hair tutorials, each created by a professional makeup artist or hair stylist. These include photographs, instructions and recommended products, and cover everything from everyday looks to high-impact fashion. You can even search by occasion and skin tone, and check your final look using the mirror function, so that you can be confident in the results. While sadly not yet available for Blackberry (my phone of choice), if it were, I would definitely get one, as for £1.50 it sounds well worth the cash.tylist in your pocket, for less than a price of a lipstick.

Websites to watch
I'm always looking for innovative new beauty retailers, and Mumpreneur has just given its gold award to one that sounds like it fits the bill, with Cocktail Cosmetics being a one-stop shop for organic, natural, vegan, and niche beauty brands. Another one that I like the sound of comes in the form of Lucy Victoria, which specialises in products that aren't widely available in the UK, currently carrying products from Bath and Body Works mainly. However, they have plans to expand to include other popular brands, such as Victoria's Secret and CO Bigelow. I'm just waiting for them to start stocking Helena Rubinstein and Prescriptives: two of my faves that are no longer sold in Britain. However, being a big Bath and Body Works fan means they're already on my watch list - and they should be on yours too.

From spa to you
If you have serious money to burn, you could also consider investing in an Aureus luxury massage couch this season. A bespoke piece of furniture designed to complement the design of your home, but when I say serious money, I mean serious: prices start at £12,000, which I suspect is beyond the reach of most of this blog's readers (not to mention this writer!).

More affordable is the £60 Dream On massage, as recently launched by Spa & Massage to promote healthy sleep patterns. Integrating reflexology, Swedish massage and head massage, with the use of organic lavender oil, it promises to combat some of the most common contributors to a troubled night's sleep. Massage is proven to increase the body's production of serotonin, which in turn helps to stabilise melatonin levels and restore circadian rhythms to improve the length and quality of sleep. With just five clinics in the UK, though - and all of them in London - this will also only reach a fairly limited audience. However, as someone who regularly has trouble with sleep, just about anything appeals: even if I have to travel and/or spend in order to get it.

But even this is not always necessary to help calm anxiety and relax the muscles: sometimes all you need is a bottle of Palmer's, a willing helper, and one of these - a combination which really helped to relieve my twisted shoulder just the other night, and all for a darn sight less than £60.

We got retro style
Perhaps what the above shows is that sometimes the most traditional methods can be best, and it appears that this is something also espoused by Along Came Betty, which takes its inspiration from 1950s Hollywood stars. With luxurious ingredients that promise high-performance benefits, the recently-expanded range of products is sure to have something to help every starlet this season. I've personally got my eye on their Pore.fectly Clean range (from a mere £3.99), which would be perfect in helping me banish excess oil from my perpetually clogged skin. Another big plus is this range's antioxidant content: amazing for those who, like me, are trying to combat spots and ageing simultaneously. I also fancy testing their B Brilliant BB Cream (£5.99) and comparing it to the battalions of blemish balms that I've already tested this year. Given that it's available at Tesco, you can even pop it in with your weekly shop.

In an equally fun retro twist, Betty Boop has been chosen as the face of Lancôme's newest mascara, Hypnôse Star, which should make for some eye-catching ads on my commute. Build up the layers so that you can go from fresh and luminous in the daytime to glamorous and intense at night; Betty even shows you how to do it here. 

For your pre-tox
In the run-up to Christmas I try to "pre-tox", as a means of limiting the damage that the season will surely bring my way. This covers my diet, but also extends to my skin. One thing that could help is Aduna's baobab, brought from rural Africa to the shelves of Britain’s most prestigious department store, Harrods, as well as Planet Organic, Revital and Nutricentre. Baobab is a 100% natural, nutrient-dense raw wholefood with one of the highest antioxidant capacities of any fruit in the world - and Aduna has made this pure, nutritious supplement available in three different formats with its Feel Good Fruit range. As I'm feeling a little rough around the edges at the moment thanks to a sore throat, it sounds like it could be a welcome addition to my day on several fronts - and the African women who've used it to boost well-being and general health for centuries surely can't be wrong. With prices from £17.99, it's not cheap, but it's still affordable, and definitely not prohibitively out of reach for most.

Valentine's Day at Tesco
You wouldn't believe that the big firms are already dropping Valentine's Day press releases into my inbox, but they are. Tesco is already working on its range of beauty gifts for two months' time, releasing beautiful images of its Calcot Manor bath and body care ranges. With hand and body lotions promising the perfect day, and with prices from just £3.99, there's plenty to love about this Valentine's collection.

Boosting business in 2013
Also to look forward to in the new year is the opening of L'Oréal's largest factory to date. No matter what people say about L'Oréal, you can't accuse them of not boosing the economy with their 66000m² building in West Java, Indonesia. Having already invested €100m in the project, I hope that the high standards of investment will continue with L'Oréal paying their new employees correctly. The company's executive vice-president of operations hopes that it will be a new production hub for South-East Asia and to supply the region with "products with superior quality and value.”  The new facility means there are now 43 L'Oréal factories worldwide, with the Java factory alone set to produce 200 million units, with the hope of eventually producing 500 million units per year. The entire factory has been built according to US standards of excellence, sustainability, and safety, and will employ 450 people. The levels of poverty that exist in some areas of Indonesia are appalling - and I hope that L'Oréal's business projects in the country will also prompt other companies to invest, as this can be the first step in lifting poor countries to a better future.

Tis the season to be pale
The negative effects of sunbed use are already well-known, and a GP from the British Association of Cosmetic Doctors is now publicly supporting a ban on young people using them, following the publication of a new report that suggests that hundreds of thousands of skin cancer cases are caused by them every year. The review, entitled 'Indoor tanning and non-melanoma skin cancer' and published in the British Medical Journal, claims that each tanning session increases skin cancer risk by 1.8%, and adds that the risk increases for under-25s. The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers the process "carcinogenic to humans", and Dr John Tanqueray agrees, stating that over recent years he has "noticed more skin cancers occurring at a younger age than before," and that "sunbeds are contributing to this." At least three of his patients have asked for laser treatment to remove a mark, which he has then had the unpleasant task of diagnosing as skin cancer. He goes on to state that anyone with concerns should visit their GP for a professional assessment. I say don't let the desire for a tan ruin your Christmas - or your life. Get yourself to the doctor if needed, and reduce your UV exposure from today in any event. Stay safe and enjoy December :)

Have yourself a floral little Christmas


We say it with flowers all year round, but it seems that we forget about flowers at Christmas once the rain and cold weather sets in. But this seems silly given all of the seasonal plants that are available to brighten those dull days: poinsettia, holly and mistletoe all feature, as do more unusual flowers like winter aconite, Christmas rose, and African violet. There's no reason to stop flowers being your gift of choice this winter, with Interflora offering a range of affordable combinations - such as one which uses holly, blue spruce, and snowed eryngium, to name just a few. 

But if you don't fancy purchasing actual plants, plenty of other ideal Christmas presents also contain winter flowers - particularly when it comes to beauty buys. Yves St Laurent's perfume, Cinema, contains amaryllis, which are very popular in winter due to their ability to bloom well indoors. Neal's Yard also makes a mahonia gel, which promises to clarify acne-prone skin thanks to mahonia's anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities. The cold-tolerant witch hazel is also widely used for the same purpose. And the reed diffuser set made by Wax Lyrical not only uses holly and ivy, but also white jasmine and rose, to create a truly Christmassy feeling throughout your home.

Interflora is helping to spread the word about how flowers can be part of your home and beauty routine all year round - hence why Christmas gift hampers from Interflora, featuring more unusual seasonal fare, are also now available. The company is widening its market, no longer offering just flowers, so that you can please all your relatives from a one-stop shop. Try their Heavenly Scents Happy Box (£50), which contains frangipani shower gel, lavender hand lotion, and a Coeur de Fleur citrus candle. The Divine Elegance box (£80) does not focus entirely on beauty, but includes an evergreen reed diffuser alongside elderflower liqueur and other Christmas treats (Prestat truffles, anyone?). Finally, their A Little Life Happy Box (£100) also manages to sneak in a floral fancy: recipients can enjoy a geranium hand lotion after a green tea bath, as well as Belgian chocolate, an embossed journal, and a cashmere eye mask.

In short, saying it with flowers this Christmas couldn't be easier. And thanks to all the other gifts they've thrown in, I have a feeling that plenty of people will be sending a thank-you note to Interflora in January.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Avène Cleanance Soapless Gel Cleanser

RRP: £8.25/200ml

--What does the promo say?--
"Ultra mild cleansing gel for blemish-prone skin. Helps purify the skin and regulate oil secretion. Paraben-free."

I was sent a few mini samples of this from online pharmacy Farmaline, which came in a transparent squeezy tube with a screw top lid. However, other users on the web report that the full size has a twist-open lid which dispenses the product in a very controlled way and closes securely. No problems in any case.

Only a small amount of the product is needed - just a pea-sized amount is fine. Lather up, rub it onto the face, and rinse with a damp flannel. Job done.

The gel itself is pale blue, but lathers up to a white creamy foam. Rinses off with no visible residue.

Smells of soap even though it's soap-free. This seems to be thanks to an artificial fragrance used as part of the ingredients. Make of that what you will.

--Texture and consistency--
The gel itself is smooth, not sticky, and the lather that builds up with the addition of water is luxurious and plentiful. This washes off easily and makes for a pleasant experience.

--Effects on the skin--
Skin feels smooth and like oil production is under control. The effect is similar to having had a really nice facial! Over time, acne is reduced.

--Value for money--
With so little product needed each time, one bottle of this would last you ages. Avène is a cult brand in France and is stocked in every pharmacy and supermarket, and it seems that the French are onto something here for sure - I definitely noticed an improvement in my skin condition in just a few days of use. I would definitely purchase a full-size bottle.

perfect partners
Cleanance Anti-Shine Purifying Lotion, £8.75
Cleanance Anti-Shine Regulating Lotion, £10.50
Cleanance K, £10.50
Triacnéal Treatment Cream, £23

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Helpful Herbs for Health and Beauty (Barbara Griggs)

--The blurb--
"Herbs have a myriad of uses, and not just for cooking. Herbs are also incredibly useful for healing the minor medical miseries of life (and some of the major ones too) and in many cases, they are more effective than the pharmaceutical alternative.  Nothing zaps a sore throat faster than Propolis, sorts out a painful gum infection more efficiently than a shot of Marigold or takes the sting out of sunburn better than Aloe Vera.  For as long as people have been able to pick berries and forage for food, herbs have been used for medicinal purposes. There is even evidence to suggest that Neanderthal Man knew about and used herbs. Country people the world over have always relied on them, especially when no other doctoring was available.  And you don't need to be a trained herbalist to be able to use them. It’s simple. All that is needed is information, inspiration and a little savvy and that’s where Helpful herbs for health and beauty comes in! Discover the many medical uses of nature's bounty, and also find out the canny natural beauty tricks that really work."

--The review-- 
Homeopathy and herbal remedy garners a range of different views, from those who dismiss it all as sheer quackery to those who shun traditional medicine in its favour. Barbara Griggs, the author of Helpful Herbs for Health and Beauty, does not quite fall into this latter category, but offers us so many solutions for everyday illnesses and injuries that don't involve talking to someone in a white coat that it's hard to not sit up and listen.

Sensible and realistic, Helpful Herbs serves as a Bible for all ages and ailments, as well as seeming to cover every eventuality. Its many short chapters are easy and readable to consult, although the 'how did it go?' section is awkwardly named. It presents a good combination of familiar and new ideas, enabling readers to already feel slightly expert while learning new things.

Some of the recommended herbs are repeated often, but this is hardly Griggs' fault, as many of them have multiple uses, and this won't be so obvious if you are using the book encyclopaedically, rather than reading it chronologically. Some information is also covered less well, with more expansion being required: how are novice readers supposed to know, for instance, how often to use the greasy hair remedy, or whether to use this in place of shampoo or in addition to it, or what a 'reliable' brand of herb is? While it's refreshing to not see an author name-dropping, a little more guidance in this area would have been appreciated.

Nonetheless, the author is extremely informative and authoritative without being patronising, and gives plenty of useful information on incompatibilities between different herbs, as well as regularly advising readers to consult qualified herbalists if unsure and to continue to see traditional doctors for more serious illnesses. Griggs' advice is backed up with plenty of statistics and published research, and her own long publishing history is equally reassuring. At times contradictions are present: for instance, valerian is not to be used if the patient is depressed, but at the same time, it can be used to help sleeplessness caused by anxiety. The author indicates that she is aware of these contradictions, however (and there are not many of them in any case). There are also one or two omissions: chicory (which can help to treat sinus problems and gastroenteritis), for instance, is a commonly-used substitute for coffee, and while herbal tea is talked about a lot, no mention is made of this. A chart at the end of the book of ailments and solutions would have also been greatly prized, although the bibliography, suppliers list and list of herbalists is excellent.

Helpful Herbs is in the end an honest guide: magic is not promised, and caution is urged. There is plenty of food for thought here - far more than the "52 brilliant ideas" promised by the book series name. It utilises an international approach, with tips taken from around the world, and covers health, beauty and well-being, thus making it truly all-encompassing. Highly recommended.

other works by Barbara Griggs
Baby's Cook Book (1979)
Home Herbal: A Handbook of Simple Remedies (1983)
The Food Factor (1986) 
Superfoods (1990; with Michael van Straten)
The Superfoods Diet Book (1994; with von Straten, Mason, and David)
Green Pharmacy: The History and Evolution of Western Herbal Medicine (1997)
The Complete Woman's Herbal (1999; with Anne McIntyre)
The Green Witch: A Modern Woman's Herbal (2000)
Superfoods for Children (2001; with Michael van Straten)
Superfoods Super Fast (2006; with Michael von Straten)

(cross-posted to Bianca's Book Blog)

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Bianca's Beauty Blog's eyeliner test

Our Eye and Eye Makeup Correspondent, Gemma Summons, recently received a batch of 17 eyeliners to test. Let's see what she thought...

As you know I'm a complete eyeliner fiend - wear it every single day (probably more than I should), and I've tried a fair few over the years. I'm pretty made up (HAHAHA geddit) about these eyeliners as I'm used to paying the same amount of money (~£5) or even more for what are, frankly, inferior products to these.

I'll be commenting on these in order of preference (lowest to highest).
High Drama Intense Liquid Eyeliner 
The press release says: "17 High Drama Intense Liquid Eyeliner is a smooth and intense liquid eyeliner with a precise and easy to use applicator. Perfect for creating a 'high drama' effect!" £3.99 
I'd say this is a solid 'entry level' eyeliner. It's very, very similar to the Rimmel Exaggerate Eyeliner (to which I was a devotee for years) in pretty much all respects - the packaging, the shape of the bottle, the price, even the brush (very sturdy - more like a felt-pen tip than a brush) and the look you get - a matte finish, with the claim that it lasts up to 25 hours. However, I reckon if you got it wet - rain, tears, sweat after a gig/rave/club, any other liquid (don't really want to know, to be honest), it wouldn't live up to this claim. It is a lot more watery than the other two eyeliners. This does mean that it's so much easier to remove, which is crucial if you're just getting the hang of liquid eyeliner. The tip makes it easier to get the shape you want if you're unpractised, and because it's easier to remove, it's easier to touch up any mistakes. Especially if you sneeze just after applying it, which, by the way, happens to me on at least a twice weekly basis and is infuriating. But, for me, it's a bit too... meek. If you can call liquid eyeliner meek.

Wet Look Lacquer Eyeliner
The press release says: "17 Wet Look Lacquer Eye Liner gives a wet look shine once dry, giving a lacquered edge to any eye look." £3.99

I really like this one. It's got a thinner 'handle' which makes it look that bit more slinky than the High Drama eyeliner, and sits in your hand more like a pen. This has an actual brush - not too thick and not too thin, meaning that you can go for the sleek, classy 'barely there' eyeliner flicks, or you can build it up if you want to. Because it's a brush it's more flexible, so it's better if you're a bit more confident with eyeliner in the first place. This is also because it is pretty sturdy - you will need a decent eye make-up remover for this one. It will stick around all day and all evening, providing you're not, I don't know, swimming or something. And even then I reckon it would stand a good chance. One really good thing about this eyeliner is the look - like it says, it does have a wet finish. It looks shinier than the High Drama eyeliner, and is much thicker when you put it on. I reckon this would be best for a glam, glossy look, whereas the High Drama eyeliner might be better if you want a smudgier, smokier look.

Tattoo Me 
The press release says: "New 17 Semi Permanent Liquid Eyeliner, for up to 48 hours' wear." £4.99
I am speaking as a hardened addict of eyeliner. I LOVE THIS. It is so flipping resilient. AND CHEAP. The packaging is a lot chunkier than the others - it is effectively a normal tube (so in that respect I think I'd prefer it if the lid was more pen like and a little longer, to help you when applying it). The look of it is similar to the Wet Look eyeliner, which I like, but the brush is slightly longer and the eyeliner itself is thick and slightly sticky looking, but don't let this put you off. They aren't lying when they say it lasts 48 hours. It does. It IS semi-permanent. They tell you to use an oil-based eye makeup remover to budge it, and you will need to. I wore this and had run out of make-up remover, and despite washing my face several times with cleanser, it was still there. And the morning after. And for the rest of the next day. Given that it's taken me years to find an eyeliner that would actually stay where it is supposed to without having to fork out about £15 for the privilege, this is a revelation. This is perfect for if you can't bear to be seen without eyeliner - not that I'm advocating this, but it will survive the gym, gigs, clubbing, rain, kneading dough (see below... not that you'll be doing this with your face on a regular basis but you never know), FESTIVALS (an actual godsend) and, y'know, the morning after (wink). What a glory to wake up with your eyeliner still in place and not smeared halfway across your face like you've taken part in some bizarre tribal ink ritual rather than a night of passion. I think you could go swimming in this, if you really wanted to. Actually brilliant.

I tested each out on my finger (top left: Wet Look Lacquer Liner, top right: High Drama Intense Liquid Eyeliner, bottom: Tattoo Me semi permanent liquid eyeliner) and wore them all day - doing day to day activities. Washing my hands, rubbing my hands, even KNEADING DOUGH (yeah that's right, bread baking) to compare them and to see how much wear and tear they would realistically withstand. 
Wet Look Lacquer Liner: a pretty tough cookie, surviving repeated hand washings. Didn't survive the baking session, as it flaked off (but that's fair enough).
High Drama: is really for 'light users' as opposed to the 'hardened addicts' of eyeliner. It washes off fairly easily - which is good if you're a no-fuss girl and just want your make-up to wipe off easily - maybe less so if you want staying power. Or indeed, live in Wales, like I do, where it feels like it rains 98% of the time.
Tattoo Me: oh my god, THE COCKROACH of the eyeliner world. It is bulletproof. It survived everything, including the dough kneading (I gave it a fairly good bashing too - was unleashing female wrath on the bread that day) and was still on my finger 48 hours later. It really, really does what it says on the tin.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Cosmetics Contemplations: Nails made new

Of all aspects of my beauty routine, nails are way down the list. I'm good at some things to do with beauty: I cleanse, tone and moisturise morning and night with near-religious fervour and do my best to get in a mask and exfoliation session once a week too. I also try to exfoliate and moisturise my body as often as possible, and am pretty good about getting to the beauty salon once a month to get everything waxed as well. I'm also the one that you see doing her makeup on the commute so that colleagues don't see her looking like the Bride of Frankenstein.

Other things are highly dependent on money and time. I just don't have the spare cash to go to the hairdresser more than about twice a year, and don't have the time or patience to maintain my nail polish every time it gets chipped. Hence why I can be frequently found seeking solutions on this latter point in particular. I've tried nail wraps, press-on nails, and gel nails. But these all too often are either difficult to apply, don't come off easily enough, don't last the distance once you have got them on, or damage your nails in the long term. So, in short, I usually end up leaving my nails looking au naturel.

None of this is helped by the fact that my nails are weak. They break so easily and I only feel that none of these products - including conventional nail polishes - can do them much good.

Nonetheless, I did stop when I visited the weekly market in St-Ambroix recently and saw a representative of Ongléo doing demonstrations. The source of my intrigue was that I had never seen the technique or product type before - you'd think that companies like JML or QVC would have had a field day over something like this before now, but non.

So how does it work? You take a flat, thin metal plate, which is engraved with a variety of designs, either for the middle of the nail surface, or intended to be imprinted across the nail tip in the style of a French manicure. You paint your nails with a base colour of your choice (even clear is OK) and leave this to dry before proceeding, though, the reason for this being that the design needs a base to cling to rather than just the naked nail. Paint nail varnish across the design that you want to use, and then scrape away the excess using the blade provided. The blade handle has a set of dots on either side, and it can be helpful to know that you need to have the smaller set of dots facing you as you scrape away. The plate comes with a stamping device too, and this is what you need to push down hard into the varnish-filled engraving. Then push this down onto your nail and lift away to reveal the imprinted design. When you've done all of your nails, finish with a top coat to protect the pattern.

Sounds easy? It looked pretty easy too when the representative was showing us, so we ended up being convinced into buying a set each. For €15, the metal plate, stamp and blade was ours. 

Understandably, our first attempt was not great as the technique does take practise, with the most difficult aspects being which way to have the blade facing, not using too much polish (or not enough!), and pressing down hard enough (firstly on the metal plate, then on the nail) to leave a decent imprint. But with this being my half-term holiday, I was determined to have another go. So about a week later, with the initial design fading, that's just what I did. And here's the result:
 You'll note that conveniently I've only chosen a few of my best nails to show you. My left thumb nail didn't go too badly either, however.

Once you've got the hang of the technique this does all go more quickly and can create an impressive result (bear in mind that the above was only my SECOND go). However, I still wouldn't say it was super quick; I doubt I'll be doing it every week or anything. I'll be even more impressed with it if the effect is truly long-lasting. 

In any case, this is a fun and inexpensive way to get some good patterns on your nails. I'll definitely be practising my technique so that I can sport the US flag design that came on my plate in time for Obama's RE-INAUGURATION in January :D  Yeah :D

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

17 BB Cream SPF25

RRP: £6.99
# of shades available: 3

--What does the promo say?--
"17 Blemish Balm BB Cream. All in one magic make up. Improves skin within 4 weeks."

The black and yellow colour scheme has fun, summery, "bumble-bee" type connotations which make the whole thing seem very cheerful. Block capitals on the front of the box and tube keep information to a minimum while making sure you know all that is vital. However, further details are forthcoming on the back of the box and tube, more so than on the Boots website (ultimately the product promises to prevent breakouts, minimise pores, control oil, give a flawless finish, conceal imperfections, and protect skin thanks to the SPF). The squeezy tube is easy to use, ensuring that no product is wasted, and the lid clicks closed securely.

Pat the cream gently onto clean dry skin. Finish with powder if desired.

This BB cream gives far better coverage than most other Western products of this type: rather than being sheer, it offers full concealment of blemishes, and despite there only being three shades available, I found that the 'light' version sent to me by 17's PR was a perfect match for my skin tone. In fact, coverage was so good that I often found myself bypassing the concealer that I keep by the side of my bathroom sink - so if this product can streamline my makeup routine, so much the better! Delivers a flawless finish as promised, although whether or not a product minimises the appearance of pores is always going to be difficult to measure.

Scentless, I'd say.

--Texture and consistency--
Very creamy and luxurious without being heavy or bogging the skin down. A little also goes a really long way and it's very easy to blend, too.

Lasts quite well throughout the day, although could perhaps do with one touchup after 5-6 hours of wear. Still, at this price I'm not complaining; many more expensively-priced products do worse.

--Effects on the skin-- 
Thanks to the SPF, this product stood up to the South of France sun for a week straight, meaning I didn't have any sunburn or redness on my face. I also did notice an improvement in my skin condition over four weeks' use, as 17 said I would. A wonderful product!

--Value for money--
Excellent. It works brilliantly and is priced modestly in line with competing products made by Garnier, Maybelline and Superdrug - and can even give more expensive brands a run for their money. I would definitely purchase a replacement tube as soon as this one runs out. My faith in 17 is restored!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Lush Dorothy Bubble Bar

--What does the promo say?--
"Somewhere over the rainbow, baths are blue. If you’re not already a friend of Dorothy, isn’t it time you tried it? A blue skies thinking bath that takes you out of the monochrome and into a colourful fantasy, where the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true. This bath smells so great you might want to stay in there quite some time, so take a good book, a glass of wine and something to munchkin."

Being Lush, they've stuck to one of their trademark paper bags for this one. You can buy a tin if you like, however.

--Usage instructions--
Drop into the bath and watch the bubbles foam up! So simple and fun to use that it's practically child's play.

The beautiful rainbow combined with bright blue is cheerful and basic, meaning it's enough to provide us with the best of childlike joy. I didn't find that the bathwater went that blue, but the mounds of white bubbles alone were enough to make me happy. No colourful dye or residue was left on the skin after use. The bar also kept its shape and colour even after one half-hour use.

The product uses ylang ylang, gardenia and orange in its formulation, with the ylang ylang perhaps being the most obvious. The scent also fills the bathroom for ages after use, making for an aromatherapeutic experience for you to enjoy long after you've pulled the plug.

--Effects on the skin--
After a bath in this, skin is left feeling smooth and soft until the next morning. A delight.

I had planned to luxuriate in my bath until the bubbles had long gone, but after half an hour and decidedly prune-like skin, I reluctantly let the water out, even though the vast majority of the bubbles had stayed put. No two ways about it - this is an enthusiastic product from a passionate brand that delivers on what it promises. En plus, the bar itself had nowhere near run out, leaving plenty for another day.

--Value for money--
Curiously, the British RRP is not available on the Lush website at present, but the product is still selling as normal in the US and France, for $6.25 and €5.45 respectively, and there is no sign online of the product being discontinued (there were rumours of this happening in 2010, but all of the whispers on the wind proved to be unfounded). So we can safely assume that the product is being sold somewhere in the region of £4 to £4.50 (based on the exchange rates today for the prices given above). This is clearly in line with other eco-friendly bubble baths, such as those from companies like Earth Friendly, The Eco Bath, and Logona. It's also on a par with novelty bath bubble bottles for children, such as In The Night Garden and Toy Story 3-themed bottles currently being sold, meaning it's neither suspiciously cheap nor outrageously expensive. Fun, natural, and long-lasting - by all accounts I'll definitely be back for more bubble bars from Lush, be it for gifts or an indulgent treat.

perfect partner
Relax...Take A Bath, £12.50
Dreamtime Luxury Bath Melt, £3.15
Twilight Bath Bomb, £3.20

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Soap and Glory Off Your Face Cleansing Cloths

RRP: £4.50/25 wipes

--What does the promo say?—
"Soap & Glory Off Your Face™ contains 25 cloths in a handy resealable fliptop lid pouch. With a mix of skin softening glycerin, quick cleansing agent and PORESHRINK-RS, Soap & Glory Off Your Face Cleansing Cloths are your quickest route to clean." 

The pink and white design featuring the Soap and Glory logo means this packet of wipes wouldn’t be out of place in a candy floss factory, and doesn’t give a terribly modern impression. And yet retro is ‘in’, so it somehow works. The peel-back lid is supplemented by a plastic outer casing that cleverly clicks closed. However, this doesn’t quite keep the wipes as moist as you would hope for. Perhaps it's thanks to this that it's recently been replaced by a more tightly sealing peel-back lid, with the plastic outer casing having been ditched.

Wipe over face to remove makeup, and/or to cleanse. Easy as pie.

The wipes are white, and the fluid they are soaked with is clear, which means no visible residue is left on the face. The wipes also have a slightly raised pattern on them to help with exfoliation.

A very clear, cotton-style scent. Not too perfumed or artificial.

As mentioned, the raised texture of the wipes is excellent for exfoliation, without being abrasive or irritating. The cloths are ultimately smooth, satisfying and effective.

--Effects on the skin—
In the short-term, makeup is removed, skin is exfoliated, and the face feels really clean and smooth, as if you’ve just been for a really expensive facial. Longer-term, it’s possible that I did see an improvement in my skin condition, noting slightly more radiance and calmness; however, as I was only using the wipes on an intermittent basis, this judgement may be slightly skewed.

--Value for money—
 At £4.50, this seems on par with other wipes, and given the results you get, it seems good value for money - especially at a price that's equivalent to 18p a wipe. Their multiple function also makes them perfect for travel: one pack of these means you don't need to take any separate bottles of makeup remover, cleanser, toner, moisturiser, or exfoliator. But sadly for me they don't go any further than a travel solution: with 25 wipes in a pack, and me using 2 wipes a day, one pack wouldn't last me any more than 2 weeks - and £9 a month seems to be a bit much to spend on a regular basis. However, this product did give me an excellent impression of the Soap and Glory brand, and it's even better value when bought as part of a gift pack. Wouldn't hesitate to recommend to friends.

perfect partners
No Clogs Allowed Deep Pore Detox Mask, £11
Scrub Your Nose In It Face Scrub and Mask, £7.40
The Fab Pore 15 Minute Facial Peel, £8
Clear Here 25 Cleansing Cloths, £4.50 
Dr Spot Invisible Spot Fighting Gel, £8