Saturday, 25 January 2014

Dincwear Women's Muscle Back Sweat Top

RRP: £37
sizes available: S, M, L

--What does the promo say?--
"Muscle back sweat top featuring a contrast drawstring hood, marl finish, front kangaroo pocket and fitted hem line with embroidered logo detail. 79% Viscose 10% Poly 7% Angora 4% Elastane."

--Appearance--
Dincwear's promise to combine dance, fitness and fashion seems to have been achieved in this high-quality item. The hood is great for warmth (or just shutting out the world) and the front pocket is both cosy and practical. As you can choose grey or black, the top's neutral colour goes with any bottoms that you care to wear. However, as the arm holes are rather large (which is not visible in the Dincwear website pictures) you WILL need a basic tank top or similar to wear underneath it. Again, as the top's colours are neutral, you can wear any colour. Dincwear would therefore do well to expand their range of crop tops and such in order to capitalise on this.

--Texture and comfort--
Again, this top seems to combine luxury and practicality. The inclusion of angora in the top's composition means it is supremely comfortable, which is helped by the 4% elastane (which adds stretch). Equally, the viscose and polyester are practical fabrics: viscose is structurally similar to cotton, and so allows breathability, while polyester is durable and provides insulation. As polyester does not absorb water (read: sweat), but viscose does, your clothing also doesn't get too soaked while you exercise!

--Practicality--
Washes well, and doesn't wrinkle easily when it's just been shoved in your wardrobe after a gym session.

--Value for money--
At £37, this is not a cheap exercise top, but is comparable in both price and style to tops sold by direct competitors, such as Pineapple Studios. However, its fashionable appearance and practicality mean it will be desirable for many. Having only had mine a month or so (thanks, Dincwear PR!) I can't yet comment on its longevity, but definitely will keep wearing it to the gym to find out.

perfect partners
Paneled Mesh Crop Top, £26
Paneled Mesh Body Suit, £37
2-in-1 Harem Jumpsuit, £43

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Boots No7 Stay Perfect Superlight Foundation

 RRP: £14.50
# of shades available: 14

--What does the promo say?--
"Stay Perfect Superlight Foundation offers non-stop complexion perfection with a barely there feel.
You can now achieve a naturally flawless look which will stay looking perfect for up to 24 hours, and with a texture so light you’ll forget you’re even wearing it."


--Packaging--
The brown square bottle is retro and original, meaning it should stand out on the shelf when it's released on January 22nd, 2014. The white text really pops out from the squeezy bottle and is kept minimal, meaning you get the information you need to know in seconds. Furthermore, the nozzle is nicely tapered, meaning it's user-friendly and leads to little wastage.

--Application--
A little goes a long way with this. Try a penny-sized amount for starters and then go from there, applying to clean dry skin using your fingers.

--Appearance--
The shade I was sent by No7's PR was unfortunately not a great match for me, so on that score it could have been a few shades lighter. However, with 14 available I'm confident I would find one to suit me. Coverage is medium, meaning that concealer and/or powder may be required afterwards for some people.

--Scent--
Nothing too strong, but slightly clay-like, if anything.

--Texture and consistency--
Dries powder-light - as promised, there's no heaviness or stickiness. It also blends well and doesn't seem to clog the skin. It is slightly runny, though, which may bother some people.

--Longevity--
Nothing remarkable to report; no better or worse than any other foundation.

--Value for money--
I was sent mine for free by No7's PR, so didn't pay, but in truth, I'd be hesitant to pay £14.50. While the texture once applied is pleasing, it doesn't provide enough coverage for me. I can also never resist comparing brand price points and I can't help but wonder who would pay £14.50 for a No7 foundation when you can get BareMinerals or Amie mineral foundation for the same price. In fairness, No7 is not the only high street makeup brand guilty of this price inflation - others, such as L'Oréal, are also at it. In my view, they need to be less cocky with their pricing, otherwise consumers will just walk away from what is otherwise a perfectly reasonable product.

perfect partners
No7 Perfect Light Loose Powder, £10.50
No7 Beautifully Matte Makeup Base, £10.50 (basically this, rebranded: http://tinyurl.com/kyha79c)
No7 Match Made Concealer, £7.50 
No7 Natural Blush Tint Powder, £8  

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Beauty Website Review: Instant Body Upgrade

With Christmas fading into a distant memory and summer holidays on the approach, thoughts often turn in January to the spare tyre sitting around our waists. How to shift it?! The problem with many diets or gyms is that we don't receive enough guidance and can easily fall off the bandwagon.

Donna Richards and Tora Cullip, health coaches, aim to provide an alternative through the Instant Body Upgrade programme, which is available for a one-off payment of £97. This payment gives access to the Instant Body Upgrade website, which supplies a host of resources and support from Donna and Tora themselves to help you get the body and confidence that you want. 

So what do you get for your £97? The three-pronged approach dealing with your mindset, metabolism and motivation is dealt with mainly through videos where Donna and Tora can talk directly to you and share their expertise. This allows you to see that their bodies really do look like the photos (!) and allows them to reassure you in a largely non-patronising way through their friendly hints, advice and tips. Inspiring fact sheets are also available for download, as are recipes to get your eating on track, and progress sheets to track your fitness and inch loss. Exercise videos, and Donna and Tora's responses to user comments, are equally valuable.

The nicest part about this programme is that it's got no gimmicks or fads attached. This is good simple healthy eating and exercise, packaged in a way that suits busy women and supported by Donna and Tora themselves. The diversity of resources available, presented using clear straightforward language, is another plus.

This is not to say that there are no possibilities for improvement. Firstly, as this is supposed to be a long-term lifestyle change, there need to be far more recipes available (rather than only a short ebook's worth). This could be easily achieved through having a recipe space available for users to upload their healthy finds and discuss recipes after trying them. Speaking of this kind of collaborative space, a forum page would be equally useful, allowing users to not only comment on individual pages but also interact with each other much more closely. However, as the Instant Body Upgrade site is merely a glorified Wordpress page, Donna and Tora would need to upgrade their website significantly to make this possible. Equally, a 'MyPlate' facility similar to that on LiveStrong would enable users to track their food intake in more detail, which is also important to a programme of this type.

Nevertheless, despite these suggested improvements and the fact that a 'body upgrade' can never be 'instant', access to this website is still worth the £97 price tag. It costs little more than a 3-month gym membership and has the added bonuses of free recipes and motivational support from professional coaches. The modifications mentioned above would make it even better value - but even as it is, it will see you well on your way to having something closer to the body you want by the time you have to hit the beach.

*Bianca's Beauty Blog was offered free website access by Donna and Tora.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Dr Hauschka Almond Body Moisturiser

 RRP: £24 for 145ml

--What does the promo say?--
"Ultra-rich care that gently nurtures the senses. Provides intensive, nurturing care for dry, sensitive skin, helps your skin prevent moisture-loss throughout the day, and helps your skin restore and harmonise its natural balance."

--Packaging--
A glass pump-action bottle that would look elegant anywhere. Sadly, no smaller sizes are available for travel.

--Application--
Massage into dry skin, ideally before bed or before getting dressed in the morning.

--Appearance--
A pale, cream-coloured lotion that sinks invisibly into the skin.

--Scent--
The almond scent is obvious as soon as the lotion comes out of the bottle - you don't even need to rub it in for the scent to be activated. Basically makes you smell like cake, which is always a winner.

--Texture and consistency--
Wonderfully creamy and luxurious. Not at all sticky or watery. Takes a bit of time to sink into the skin, however.

--Effects on the skin--
Skin is left beautifully soft both short and long-term, meaning that you wouldn't even need to use this daily to keep up the effects.

--Value for money--
As noted in other Dr Hauschka reviews, you don't get the best value by buying this in the UK - especially given my estimate that 25ml of this stuff will only moisturise your body twice at most (meaning that 145ml will only do 12 applications, tops). In Germany, this is priced at €17, so a much more competitive £14 in today's money, and even in France, with its RRP of nearly €22, you'll save a good £6. Definitely take the opportunity to buy this when in mainland Europe - it's a luxurious yet practical product that ticks all the boxes.

perfect partners
Almond St John's Wort Body Oil, £20
Almond Soothing Body Wash, £13
Almond Soothing Bath Essence, from £3
Moisturising Mask, £38
Almond Desires Gift Set (contains the almond body moisturiser and a soothing body wash sample), £24 

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Montagne Jeunesse Deodorising Foot Scrub


RRP: £1.09 for 25ml

--What does the promo say?--
"Take a seat and put your feet up. This natural Water Melon & Mint Foot Scrub removes dry and rough areas. The new anti-bacterial formula combats odour so your feet will be left feeling smooth and fresh all over."

--Packaging--
 The foot-shaped sachet is fun and different to other foot scrubs, although the slit in the side to peel it open is not all that helpful (have scissors at the ready). The Montagne Jeunesse packaging is always fun, young and bright, and this is no exception. However, Montagne Jeunesse appears to be phasing out the sachets in favour of larger bottles, which could be less convenient for travel but more practical overall.

--Application--
Massage into wet or dry feet until all rough skin is removed, using hands, a sponge or a loofah. Rinse off when done. Easy and quick.

--Appearance--
A light-brown coloured liquidy paste with dots of darker brown (the walnut shell granules). Leaves no visible residue on the skin after use.

--Scent--
While slightly sweet, the watermelon scent is not too overwhelmingly. Equally, the mint scent is not that detectable, although feet still appear to be deodorised successfully, so I'm guessing the mint is working its magic regardless.

--Texture and consistency--
Rather wet, unfortunately. The only problem with this product, as it does increase wastage.

--Effects on the skin--
As mentioned, this product deodorises effectively. It also follows through on its promise with regards to the disappearance of dry and rough skin, helping to send it packing.

--Value for money--
The £1.09 sachet is an absolute steal, especially given the product quality and the fact that it will scrub both your feet about four times. However, this makes me think that this will continue with the 80ml Foot Buffer bottle, which is set to replace this (and at its size is still fine for hand baggage travel - yay!), in terms of providing value that's as good or better. Definitely would carry on repurchasing the sachets until they're no longer available, and wouldn't hesitate to upgrade to the Foot Buffer after that. Nice work from Montagne Jeunesse as always.

perfect partners
Blueberry and Mint Foot Cooler, £4.99
Peppermint and Pumice Foot Buffer, £4.99
Cucumber and Mint Foot Lotion, £4.99
Cherry and Mint Tired Leg Gel, £4.99 

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Kiehl's Heat Protective Silk Straightening Cream

RRP: £15 for 150ml

--What does the promo say?--
"Created especially for wavy, frizzy, or curly hair in need of smoothing, our cream helps smooth hair and tame frizz without weighing hair down whilst protecting the hair from breakage."

--Packaging--
The yellow accents on this squeezy tube brighten up an otherwise dull item. The screw-top lid is practical and the overall design is suitably unisex.

--Application--
Run through the ends of wet hair (not the roots) before drying/straightening. Brush/dry as normal. Very easy. A 50p-sized amount should do it.

--Appearance--
A white, glossy cream that melts invisibly into the hair.

--Scent--
Clean-smelling and homely, a bit like fabric softener - which makes sense given the relatively neutral main ingredients (silk, soy and sesame). 

--Texture and consistency--
Beautifully creamy with no lumps or stickiness. As mentioned, it works beautifully with the hair to leave no stiffness after styling either.

--Effects on the hair--
Flyaway hair is tamed and made to feel beautifully smooth, soft and under control. FAB.

--Value for money--
As so little of the product goes such a long way, and there is NOTHING wrong with it (not even the price!), I'd happily repurchase this. Maybe my favourite Kiehl's product ever!

perfect partners
Amino Acid Shampoo, from £8.50
Hair Conditioner and Grooming Aid Formula 133, from £18.50