Saturday, 23 November 2013

JML Hot Buns

RRP: £9.99 for a box containing 2 Hot Buns
# of shades available: 2 (dark and light)

--What does the promo say?--
"Hot Buns is a simple styling solution that gives you beautiful buns quickly that last all day. They're so simple to use, just roll, snap and wrap. The light, net fabric grips hair gently, but firmly, making it easy to roll and keep in place. And once they're in place, they won't come loose, no matter how active your day. Hot Buns don't just create great buns, but they also give you beautiful curls too - just let your hair down to reveal perfect controlled curls. You can even leave your Hot Bun in all night so you can flaunt curls in the morning – so much easier than using heat. With Hot Buns, enjoying stunning buns or perfect curls has never been simpler."

The box gives a good illustration both of what the product itself looks like and of the kind of style that can be achieved. While the font and layout is not necessarily modern, it is functional and clear. The Hot Buns themselves come in a plastic bag inside the box, which is perhaps unnecessary.

--Usage instructions--
The instruction leaflet inside the box lays out the process clearly. It is even easier to visualise if you watch the short instruction video on the JML website. Basically, you use it as follows: tie your hair up into a ponytail at the height where you want your bun. Make sure the Hot Bun is unclipped so that it forms a straight line. Align the end of the ponytail with the middle of the Hot Bun and roll the Hot Bun up until it meets your head. Bring the two ends of the Hot Bun together and clip into place using the popper. Pull out the elastic from inside the Hot Bun and tie it around the bun to secure it. Gradually then fluff out your hair from the top down so that it covers the Hot Bun. And that's really all there is to it. I watched the video, and found it seemed simple; happily, in reality it really was.

I'd recommend doing this when you haven't washed your hair for a couple of days, as the style will hold better (this is true of any type of styling). Your hair should also be shoulder length or longer. Those with shoulder length hair or slightly longer (like myself) will find that the smaller Hot Bun is better for them, whereas those with much longer hair will find that the larger Hot Bun is better.

As a blonde, JML sent me the light-coloured Hot Bun pack at my request, and I found that this matched my hair colour well. Once I'd put my hair up, it helped form a professional-looking bun, as I had been able to fluff out my hair to cover most of the Hot Bun itself easily. As the promotional material promises, when you take out the Hot Bun you are also left with beautiful curls. I haven't tried using this overnight yet for curls in the morning, but I think it would work, as the Hot Bun is soft and flexible enough to sleep on.

The Hot Bun holds hair in place securely without feeling too tight or causing headaches. However, a few slightly shorter strands of my hair were inclined to come out of the middle of the bun slightly, so for some people, a couple of hair grips could be helpful, even if not strictly necessary. The bun also stayed up all day, which is a great benefit compared to other methods of tying your hair into a bun.

--Value for money--
Even though mine was free, I would spend £9.99 on this. It does exactly as it says on the box and is effective for an affordable price. The Hot Buns also seem hard-wearing enough to be used many times and to hold a style, while still remaining soft and flexible enough to be comfortable. Would definitely recommend :)

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Botanics 97% Organic Hot Cloth Cleansing Balm

RRP: £6.99

--What does the promo say?--
"This organic deep-cleansing balm contains a luxurious blend of Shea Butter, Rosehip and Jojoba Oil to leave skin smooth and beautifully clean. The ultra-rich softening formula swiftly lifts make-up, while the gentle polishing action of the muslin cloth helps dislodge pore-clogging debris, revealing your beautiful radiant complexion. Rosehip is nature's nourishing gem. The seeds are a rich source essential Omega oils, which help to improve suppleness and keep all skin types beautifully soft and healthy looking. Our beauty scientists use active plant extracts approved by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, to bring you beautiful skincare that's proven to work. We've taken steps to reduce our impact on the planet at every stage in this product's journey."

The white pot means it's an economical product - you can scrape out every last drop. The muslin cloth it comes with is also a bonus.

Rub onto your face and then remove with either a) a cotton pad (to remove makeup) or b) the muslin cloth, soaked in hot water (to clean your face normally). Luxurious, easy and comforting.
A rich yellow waxy substance that leaves no visible residue on the skin.

The ingredients used combine beautifully to create a natural, slightly floral fragrance, with the jojoba, beeswax, shea and almond perhaps being most prominent.

--Texture and consistency--
Satisfyingly smooth without being greasy. Easy to remove.

--Effects on the skin--
Makeup is removed easily and skin feels cleansed, calm, soft and radiant. Acne is also improved.

--Value for money--
I was expecting this to be much more expensive than it is. A high-quality product that's a joy to use and yields excellent results too. Mine was free, but I would definitely stock up on this once my press sample has run out.
perfect partners
93% Organic Super Balm, £4.49
80% Organic Hydrating Eye Cream, £6.99
Organic Facial Oil, £4.99
81% Organic Hydrating Day Cream, £6.99
100% Organic Rosewater Toning Spritz, £3.49
82% Organic Softening Cleanser, £3.59 

Monday, 11 November 2013

Pure Chimp Natural Cream

RRP: from £9.95

--What does the promo say?--
"We wanted to create a true 100% natural cream because we know the less a product is processed the more benefits you will get. After lots of testing (no animal testing) with wonderful natural ingredients we created a super hero amongst creams.
other benefits of our 100% natural cream
100% Natural = More Nutrients = More Benefits. Hemp oil and wax will help to soothe your skin. Safflower oil will give your skin the essential fatty acids it needs to add a glow. Super high in naturally occurring Vitamin E - good for healing your skin. We use Hemp Seed Wax in our natural cream (a rare ingredient), which allows your skin to breathe & is easily absorbed. A lot of natural creams use beeswax, which just sits on your skin. A nice long shelf life of 18 months. Apply to your face, body, hands, feet or hair. Suitable for ages 3+. In extreme cases can be used alongside steroid creams.
Every single ingredient: hemp seed wax, safflower oil, hemp seed oil, sunflower oil, lavender oil, wheatgerm oil. That is all!"

The black and white colour scheme and line drawings are reminiscent of other unisex crowd-pleasers, such as Edward Monkton's amusing doodles. The screw-top pot is solid and easy to use, ensuring that you can get every last drop out of the pot.

Rub into dry skin anywhere on your body. Depending on your skin it could be a bit rich for your face, but you should be able to use it without problems on your hands, feet, legs, arms, etc.

A yellowy, thick, slightly grainy cream that nevertheless rubs invisibly into the skin.

The lavender oil is immediately released when rubbed into the skin, fragrancing your body and the room. The other ingredients aren't really detectable.

--Texture and consistency--
While the main ingredients aren't detectable in terms of scent, they come into their own when it comes to moisturization. Despite the cream's slightly grainy texture, it absorbs quickly, and you can really feel the benefits of the sunflower, safflower, hemp and wheatgerm oils.

--Effects on the skin--
Even stubborn skin is moisturised as nature intended. Fab!

--Value for money--
A very reasonably-priced and effective natural product, from a brand whose offerings could easily rival those of Lush. Can't wait to buy more when my sample runs out. Wonderful stuff :)

perfect partners
Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder, £9.95
Organic Spirulina Powder, £9.95
Organic Maca Powder, £9.95
Super Combo, £19.95*

*contains 1 Natural Cream, 1 60g pot of spirulina and 1 60g pot of maca

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Slapping it on

What do you use to put on your makeup? Sponges? A roll of brushes, makeup artist-style? Or just your fingers?

All of these methods have their advantages and disadvantages. People don't always like to get messy by using their fingers and some fear that sponges and brushes harbour too much bacteria. However, fingers and brushes can be easily cleaned, sponges can be cheaply replaced, and all provide good coverage, while brushes have the added bonus of providing extra precision (especially around smaller areas where more detail is required, such as around the eyes and lips).

But when it comes to brushes it can be difficult to know where to start. Virtually all makeup brands sell their own, and pharmacies, supermarkets, and other beauty retailers usually manufacture their own brands as well. So how can we mere laymen know what to go for?

People aren't wrong to fantasize about the makeup brushes of makeup artists, such as those by MAC, Daniel Sandler, Jemma Kidd, Kervyn Aucoin, Sue Devitt, Laura Mercier, Paula Dorf, RMK, and Suqqu. They're made with high-quality materials and can be kept and used for years with proper cleaning. However, with all of the brushes listed above costing at least £10 each, it can become a costly endeavour.

I've personally had great success with brushes from ELF (Eyes Lips Face), which are affordable yet durable. But now there's a new player on the market thanks to some great foundation brushes from Mii that I've found: even though its cheapest brush is still £14.95, the website runs special offers regularly, meaning that you could still grab a bargain if you keep your eyes open. The brushes are especially adapted for mineral makeup (which Mii also sells) and the bristles are beautifully shaped for ultimate definition. This wide range of high quality makeup brushes offers something for everyone meaning that you should without doubt find something to suit your needs - and even if you don't manage to find a bargain before Christmas, you can always put a request for some in your letter to Santa (or better yet, on your shopping list for the January sales). That way, you can be sure to start 2014 by slapping it on in style.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Spa Review: Sofitel Chain Bridge, Budapest

When staying in a top-class hotel for a weekend in one of Europe's most vibrant capitals, what could complete the experience more than a treatment in the hotel spa? Our stay at the Sofitel Chain Bridge Hotel in Budapest (soon to be reviewed on sister blog The Flying Ferret) provided luxury at virtually all levels thanks to the uber-comfortable beds, friendly staff, vast breakfast options, and health and wellbeing facilities. The hotel provides free access to a serene swimming pool and well-equipped gym to all guests, as well as the use of two sauna cubicles (warning: watch out for naked Germans). This is further complemented by the services for which you can pay, which comprise massages, facials and more.

I was lucky enough to be able to receive a treatment on the day of arrival, despite telephoning for the appointment just a few hours before the available slot. Staff speak good English and specifically ask you to arrive ten minutes before the appointed time - not just to ensure efficiency but also to allow you to enjoy tea with honey and lemon (which is brought to you by spa staff on an elegant wicker tray) in the relaxing reception area prior to your treatment. This is a simple yet luxurious touch that costs little; all spas should be offering this.

The theme of elegance and politesse was reinforced by the beauty therapist introducing herself by name and offering a handshake before leading me through to the manicure and pedicure area, which is just off the pool area, next to the gymnasium. An array of nail colours and finishes are available, and you are given plenty of time to choose (in my case, while my feet had time to soak in a warm foot bath). This diversity continues in the choice of treatments itself, which caters for all budgets (my pedicure was a modest €34, but there were plenty of even cheaper as well as more expensive options) and needs (you could have a specifically medicalised pedicure, for example, if required). Unusually, despite the fact that several high-profile brands are used by the spa (namely Sothys and OPI), the sale of these products is not pushed at all, leading to an ultimately no-pressure approach, which is refreshing compared to many other spas, who often seem to make the sale of these products their main goal.

Unfortunately, it appears that no Sothys products were used during my treatment, as when asked about the exfoliants, creams and so on that were being used on my feet, I was only told that they were not by Sothys. The jars and bottles were also kept under a cloth, which can lead you to believe that the products used are merely cheap concoctions. As well as brand name-dropping to sell products, in a way spas do need to mention the names of the products being used and show the customer the packaging: rather like tasting a fine wine, we need to be sure that we are getting a high-quality, genuine article (who wants to order a Château Lafite only to find that it was just cheap plonk knocked up in a farmer's shed?).

However, this was slightly made up for by the fact that the beauty therapist gave me many other useful tips to treat the recurrently hard skin on my feet: as well as recommending steroid creams (which can normally be prescribed by a doctor), she also talked about good old-fashioned home cures, such as Epsom salts. Equally, she was diligent in making my feet look less lizard-like and more baby-soft, taking plenty of time and care. While more drying time for the varnish would have been better (using an air dryer, for example), the rest of the process was just as meticulous: after soaking my feet, they were dried, scraped, exfoliated and moisturised before nails were cut and filed, cuticles were trimmed, and coats of polish applied.

My only other bugbear was with the atmosphere of the treatment room: dim lighting is surely customary, and yet I had standard wattage throughout my pedicure. Soothing background music is also always better than silence. However, these are small criticisms that can be easily rectified, and in the end I was happy not only with the final result but also with the time and care taken for the price paid (€34 is not much for a pedicure in a five-star hotel, given that this is a standard high-street price across much of Europe). The Sofitel brand's reputation was therefore safely upheld, and I would be more than happy to use the chain's facilities again. Now to maintain my feet's new-found baby-softness before my next chance to have a pedicure in December... 

Sofitel Chain Bridge, 1051 Budapest, Széchenyi tér 2, Hungary

Saturday, 2 November 2013

No7 Match Made Concealer

RRP: £7.50
# of shades available: 17

--What does the promo say?--
"No7 Match Made Concealer hides everything from blemishes to age spots, uniquely matched to your skin tone using No7 Match Made. Find your perfect concealer match with our new Match Made Concealer Sticks. Flaws, blemishes and age spots are erased in an instant, leaving you with a beautifully even skin tone. The easy-to-apply formulation lasts all day to keep your skin shine free and flawless. Up to 16 hours' wear. Now available in 17 skin-true shades."

The ergonomically-designed tube incorporates a slight curvature, and its cool white colour evokes peace and snow on the approach to Christmas. The lid stays on securely, which is always handy. However, it could do with coming with a small concealer brush, as there is quite a lot left in the tube even when you can't twist up any more.

Apply straight from the tube, or use a concealer brush (or even your fingers!) if preferred. I'd recommend applying after foundation, but before powder, to maximise coverage.

Even though I hadn't been able to get to a Boots store to try the Match Made service (which scans an area of your face using a machine to match your skin tone to the best concealer shade for you), the shade I was sent worked brilliantly for me. It's really excellent to see that Boots are finally beginning to widen the number of shades they offer in order to appeal to as many people as possible. Coverage is quite good, too.

--Texture and consistency--
Creamy, blendable and soft, but still durable. While not quite as heavy-duty as something like Benefit's Boi-ing for example, it's still reliable and puts in a good performance.

It lasts quite a long time on the face, so repeated applications throughout the day are not required. However, its soft consistency does mean that a fair amount of concealer does come off the stick with each application, so one tube itself does not last long (although that probably depends on the number of blemishes you're looking to cover, too).

--Value for money--
This is a good concealer that comes in an encouraging number of shades. However, my tube only lasted about a month, and for £7.50 I might have hoped that it would last a bit longer - after all, £90 a year on concealer is quite a lot.

perfect partners
Beautifully Matte Makeup Base, £10.50
Stay Perfect Eyeshadow Trio, £9.50
Stay Perfect Mascara, £12.95
Beautifully Matte Foundation, £12.95 

Friday, 1 November 2013

Glo Minerals Exfoliating Lip Wand

RRP: £9

--What does the promo say?--
"Exfoliate and moisturize lips in one quick step. Jojoba and nourishing wax microcrystals combine to soften, smooth and hydrate lips. Apply throughout the day as needed to exfoliate and hydrate lips. Nourishing wax microcrystals gently slough away dry skin particles to reveal a softer, smoother lip surface then melt on contact and seep into the exfoliated surface to deliver supreme moisturization."

The silver tube is sleek and futuristic, and the lid fastens securely.

With winter on its way, I'd recommend applying this one daily, or perhaps even more frequently. Apply to lips using a brush or straight from the tube as preferred. Can be worn alone, or as an undercoat for lipstick or lip gloss.

Virtually invisible. Possibly a slightly pale sheen, but nothing more.

None, particularly.

--Texture and consistency--
Delightfully scrubby without being rough - and thankfully, as promised, the exfoliating beads really do dissolve, meaning that you don't feel like you've just been for a walk along the beach in a windstorm.

--Effects on the lips--
Eliminates dry patches and moisturises perfectly.

--Value for money--
Again, this one was free, but is worth every penny of the £9 asking price, in my view. Trumps even my previous favourite - the £8 Body Shop Lipscuff.

perfect partners
Protective Liquid Foundation, £37
Bronze, £30.50