Sunday, 31 May 2009

Cosmetics & Beauty News May 2009

It's not that easy being green...
However, Avon makes it easier by introducing several new products to bring a little verdure to your face and body this spring and summer. Christian Lacroix has released a new scent for Avon in the US (presumably to come soon to the UK as well), Absynthe (retailing at $32), stating that he draws his inspiration from the colour green, chartreuse in particular: "its rich, mystical color reminds me of the citrine and topaz gemstones found on exotic embroideries". Top off with Avon's True Colour Eyeshadow Single in Celedon and the Glimmersticks Eyeliner in Emerald, and you're good to go.

Stay fresh and matte with Rimmel
The deluge of new summer ranges from cosmetics companies can be a little hard to keep on top of. However, Rimmel's new matte foundation seems set as a worthy contender to Revlon's new tinted moisturiser: lightweight, non-comedogenic and containing salycyclic acid to treat troubled skin, it should help you feel your best without feeling bogged down by your makeup during the summer months. Equally, to make sure you spend more time having fun on the beach than gazing into a hand mirror, there's also their Kiss and Stay lip gloss, which promises to be food-proof, kiss-proof, and to stay put for 10 hours.

Revlon signs Jessica Biel as brand ambassador
Following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Halle Berry and Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel (comedy actress) is the latest famous face being used to flog Revlon's wares. Chosen by Revlon executives for the ways in which her young and modern attitude convenes with the brand philosophy, Biel is reportedly delighted to be associated with such an international enterprise.
In other collaboration news, Lost actress Evangeline Lilly and Slumdog Millionaire's Freida Pinto are to join the arsenal of famous faces advertising L'Oreal products.

Ich bin ein ARTDECOfan
German cosmetics brand ARTDECO arrives on British shores this month. With its HQ in Liverpool, there will also be outlets selling the products in London, Suffolk, Salford and Cardiff. The brand offers an impressive range of makeup colours as well as skincare products and spa products, and you can order online at


If you've always wanted to be able to take your prized straighteners and hair dryer on holiday with you, but always struggled to find the extra corner in your suitcase to hold them, you need look no further - Little Rebel has just released one of each appliance at just the size of a biro (and with worldwide voltage they're perfect for jetting across continents). Available from all leading hair salons, the best part is that at just £24.99 a piece they're an absolute snip.

Here comes the sun
And with the sun means taking care of your skin, and a whole new range of products to help you cope. Adding to Vichy's standing as a high-quality suncare brand, we now also have Hampton Sun, available exclusively at Space NK this summer. Offering impressive treatment for every category of sunbather, products range from a 'serious shimmer' self-tanner to sunscreen and after-sun. From £25.

It's competition time
Envision Beauty, which proudly donates 10% of its profits to charitable organisations such as Project Concern International, is this June teaming up with Sakroots, a textile company which also finds ways to give back to the community, in order to give away a prize of $200-value, comprising an Eco Harmony Drawstring Bag and a Brightening Cleanser. Mmmmmm free stuff. Enter here:

Say hello, wave goodbye
With the departure of Stila from UK retail, there is naturally much mourning among the beauty community. However, all is not lost: I am thrilled to announce the arrival of Lola Cosmetics, which, while their products have been available on Powders and Potions for some time, has not exactly been the most accessible US brand to date. Available in Britain from June, the brand is the home of the Refine Eye Mousse Base and Primer, which can easily rival Benefit's and Urban Decay's eye primers any day of the week.
In further news, here's a sneak preview of Guerlain's Autumn/Winter collection:

Are we in a state of lust? Yes, yes we are.
Available from August; prices starting at £17 (assuming prices will be the same as the Paradis Exotique collection, that is).

Keeping it real
In a market that's ever-more concerned with knowing where products come from and how they are made, there's arguably always room for another natural range. This one, amaZene, uses Amazon-rainforest-derived resources, with a holy trinity at the heart of every product: Acai (a fruit with high antioxidant power), Babacu (a palm oil known for its superior emollient properties - I'm feeling a little dubious about the inclusion of this given recent news that it's not as environmentally friendly/renewable as initially thought) and Cupacu (seeds from an Amazon rainforest tree). Beyond this triad, there are six ranges to choose from: Avocado & Andiroba, Cocoa & Copaiba, Coconut & Buriti, Mango & Murumuru, Papaya & Acerola, and Passion & Fruit, all of which should bring a touch of Amazon authenticity to your bathroom. Available for purchase online at

Plastic is Out, Natural is In
On 26th May, avid fans took to the streets of London, starting at Carnaby Street and finishing at Leicester Square, to support Jergens Naturals in a lively march to highlight the importance of natural beauty. The key communication was this: your body's not synthetic, so why use a moisturiser that is? Ruby Hammer, international makeup artist, has been a keen supporter of the Jergens brand for many years. She enthusiastically led the parade highlighting that Jergens Naturals body care is the modern way to moisturise naturally, offering highly effective moisturisers for 100% beautiful skin through 95% natural ingredients. Ruby said of the day, "I’ve always been a strong supporter of natural products, and it was great to be part of the day. The amount of people that came along to show their support for Jergens Naturals body moisturisers was fantastic to see. It just goes to show that natural beauty really is the way forward."

I look handsome, I look smart, I am a walking work of art...
In a bid to help the Waterkeeper Alliance, which protects the waterways on which all living things depends, Kiehl's have dressed up their Argan Lotion to create the Superbly Restorative limited edition collection with labels designed by Adrian Grenier (actor), Kelly Slater (pro surfer), Erykah Badu (singer), and three students from Parsons Art School. Help charity AND jazz up your bathroom? YES I say to that.

Fashion Monitor Daily
Jergens PR

Caudalie Instant Foaming Cleanser

RRP: £14 for 150ml; £7 for 50ml

--What does the promo say?--
"This gentle cleanser transforms into an airy mousse for delightful soap-free cleansing. Skin is left fresh and clear, but never stripped."

A nice-looking opaque white plastic canister, with a silver logo featuring a bunch of grapes (presumably to underline the 'vinotherapy' that pervades the Caudalie philosophy). Pump-action; comes in smaller size for travel.

The Caudalie website recommends that you apply this to damp skin morning and evening, massaging with circular motions, before washing off with warm water. You can also mix it with the Gentle Buffing Cream for mild yet rich exfoliation. However, I found that the quantity required is difficult to get right, with too little leading to inadequate cleansing and too much leading to wastage.

Being packed full of good stuff like sage and camomile as well as the token grape extracts, it naturally smells divine and fruity.

A white foam which disappears and becomes transparent on the face, though encouragingly becomes a thicker, creamier and more luxurious foam when rubbed between wet hands.

A smooth foam that glides easily across the face and is easy to rinse off. However, I earlier mentioned that it is difficult to get the required quantity right, and this is exacerbated by the fact that if you apply too little, this dries very quickly on the face, meaning that while you can add more, it's a little counterproductive if what you've already applied has already evaporated.

--Effects over time--
Sadly, I noticed no improvement (although no worsening either) of my somewhat acneic skin during my use of this product, although I am willing to attribute this to the fact that this cleanser is allegedly 'for all skin types' and that I arguably require something more specialised. I also noticed no especial smoothening or softening effects.

--Value for money--
This didn't really work for me, though its pleasantness to use and its natural origins could tempt me to try another Caudalie cleanser (such as their Cleansing Water, which contains mint). For more apparent results at a similar price, I'd steer readers in the direction of Liz Earle or Garnier.

perfect partners
Gentle Buffing Cream, £17 for 60ml
Vinopure Purifying Concentrate, £25 for 15ml
Vinopure Matte Finish Fluid, £25 for 40ml

Cosmetics Contemplations: How Much To Pay?

What is ridiculous? What is too much or too little? While constrained by income, some/most of us are also constrained by some sort of personal morality regarding money. Even if we can afford to spend £50+ on a face cream, or at least can save up for it, we often choose not to. But why?

Speaking as a Brit, we can perhaps put this down to a) the country's history of restraint and the stiff upper lip and/or b) our naturally inbred sense of cynicism. There's perhaps just something in us that can't or won't trust what the companies are putting in the products, particularly since that programme in the Dispatches series where they revealed that many anti-wrinkle creams actually made women's wrinkles WORSE and that the placebo given to the control group (suncream) worked just as well if not better. This, in turn, is perhaps responsible for the rise and rise of natural products in Britain today. We want to know exactly what we are getting for our moolah, and this is where bloggers like myself and my colleagues, as well as review websites like Ciao, come in. Between us we can test a good number of products and give others more of an insight into how much of a product's price tag is really down to the product's efficacy, ingredients and expertise, and how much of it is down to paying for overpackaged products and the privilege of having certain brand names in your makeup bag.

So, to the first question. What counts as a 'ridiculous' amount to spend on makeup? This will of course be highly dependent on your income and how much you care about your skin. Everyone will have a different threshold on what counts as an investment in the future of your skin (keeping it hydrated and protecting it from sun damage) versus what will do absolutely no good at all beyond lining the pockets of a few fat cats. On a personal level, I would hesitate when it came to spending over £30 on a single makeup product, and over £50 on a skincare product; by this point, in my view, you should definitely be consulting other people beyond the sales assistant.

At the opposite end of the scale, however, we have not the issue of what is 'too much' but instead what is 'too little'. While it's true that low-priced products can be extremely clever (take Bourjois' Little Round Pot blushers, for instance, or the multi-use Sudocrem, which can be used on acne as well as on babies' backsides), there is such thing as being too good to be true. A little sleuthing on the Boots website reveals that you can pay as little as 77 pence for a moisturiser (with the next one up still at just £1.19). Is this product from the Boots basics range just being honest and giving you the simple truth of the matter, or is it likely to be packed chock-full of nasties? (Sadly, I can't answer this, as the Boots website doesn't provide a list of ingredients.) There is, to my mind, such thing as being so cheap that it can arouse suspicion (the meat that McDonald's uses in its burgers, for example - less than £2 for a burger just can't be good).

However, this does bring me to another point: that of packaging. Packaging (or rather, overpackaging) is one of the beauty industry's greatest sins. Certain companies have latched onto this and now play more towards users' sensibilities - Kiehl's, for example, reward you for bringing back empty bottles, and Lush has for a long time forsaken the demon plastic for cardboard, paper, and the sale of reusable tins. But as for brands who don't follow this example, you have to ask yourself how much you are paying for the massive box in which your tiny product arrives (and this includes delivery boxes and packaging when ordering online). Moving away from general environmental buffoonery, you also have to consider over-frilliness and over-prettiness in a product's packaging. Does it really need all those bells and whistles, and how much extra are you paying for it? (This is all without mentioning how often consumers will happily pay more than a product's worth just because the packaging is pretty *cough*Benefit*cough*).

The only solution (of sorts) to all this, of course, is to know what you're buying, particularly if a product is really expensive. Does the company use parabens in its products? Do they enable the recycling of packaging, or only use minimal packaging? Is the product actually of high quality? If you don't like it, then vote with your feet. New products and beauty companies are being generated all the time, and even though certain brands hog all the limelight, with a little clever purchasing power you only ever have to pay what you want to.

And, of course, there's always ebay.

Skincare solutions
Recession budget: Lloydspharmacy skincare. Total cost of cleanser and moisturiser = £8.98
Back-in-the-black budget: Liz Earle skincare. Total cost of cleanser and moisturiser = £36.50
Treat-yourself budget: Clinique skincare. Total cost of cleanser and moisturiser = £42.50
Credit-card budget: Guerlain skincare. Total cost of cleanser and moisturiser = £75
I-just-won-the-lottery budget: Creme de la Mer skincare. Total cost of cleanser and moisturiser = £176.19

Makeup solutions
Recession budget: EyesLipsFace, or ELF. Total cost of foundation, lipstick and mascara = £4.50
Back-in-the-black budget: Maybelline. Total cost of foundation, lipstick and mascara = £17
Treat-yourself budget: Urban Decay. Total cost of foundation, lipstick and mascara = £40
Credit-card budget: Nars. Total cost of foundation, lipstick and mascara = £68
I-just-won-the-lottery budget: Chantecaille. Total cost of foundation, lipstick and mascara = £111.16

Friday, 22 May 2009

NeoStrata Bionic Face Cream

RRP: £25.50 for 40g from Only Nature

--What does the promo say?--
"An anti-aging cream which provides intensive moisturisation for all skin types, including rosacea and atopic patients. It is ideal for use on dry skin and in post-procedure care with glycolic acid peels, non-ablative laser, IPL and microdermabrasion."

--About the brand--
"NeoStrata products improve the visible signs of aging or sun-damaged skin and treat various dermatological conditions including acne, dry skin hyperkeratosis and hyperpigmentation. Uniquely formulated with alpha hydroxyacids (AHAs), polyhydroxy acids (PHAs), and Bionic PHAs, these products can also enhance the therapeutic treatments and skincare recommended by physicians. These products contain various concentrations of AHA and PHA ingredients as well as sunscreens (SPF), lightening or anti-acne agents so that the appropriate therapy can be matched to any skin type or condition. The AHAs and PHAs with antioxidant properties provide help with repairing past damage as well as helping to prevent future skin damage."

Very medical-looking, with just green and orange stripes to adorn a simple white plastic tube.

After cleansing and toning, rub into face and neck. It's also recommended that sunscreen is used with this product (presumably due to the alphahydroxy acids, or AHAs, which can make skin more sensitive). Not a problem - there are plenty of decent suncare products for face out there, and many makeup products also contain an SPF as standard.

None, it appears.

A translucent white cream. However, once rubbed into the skin, I find that it makes the face look a little shinier than I would like (though I do have oily skin anyway).

A very stiff cream that nevertheless is absorbed easily by the skin.

--How does your skin feel afterwards?--
Soothed, calmed and moisturised.

--Effects over time--
I noticed virtually no change in terms of appearance or overall skin quality; acne didn't get worse, but it didn't get better either, and I'm still pretty young at 23 so don't have that many wrinkles to fight. There may have been a slight improvement in the lines that were beginning to appear in my forehead, so I'd definitely be interested in seeing how the Bionic Eye Cream fared on the more severe eye area wrinkles. However, in order to give a more accurate assessment, I will be passing this on to a family member with older, more sensitive and less oily skin, to see how this works on the cream's target audience.

--Value for money--
Honestly? This strikes me as being a tad expensive for what it is (though with not being part of the target market or having the target skin type, I appreciate that any miracle effects may have passed me by), and I won't be trading it in for my Liz Earle moisturiser any time soon. While I was initially also a little surprised to see Only Nature selling it on their website (since it's chock-full of parabens and doesn't exactly read like a Lush ingredients list), I have since been informed that while the company started out as an aromatherapy retailer, it has since expanded to include high-technology products as well. I can therefore forgive them for this, especially since I can believe that the Neostrata face cream would be effective on skins recovering from medical or cosmetic procedures and on skins that are especially dry or sensitive, and the cream is at least not tested on animals (quite right too, since testing on animals for cosmetic purposes has been illegal in the UK since 1996). Stand by for a fuller report.

perfect partners
Neostrata Bionic Lotion, £22.50 for 100ml
Neostrata Bionic Serum, £26 for 30ml
Neostrata Bionic Eye Cream, £25.50 for 15ml

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Jergens Skin Firming Body Moisturiser

RRP: £2.44
also available in Skin Hydrating, Age Defying, and Extra Softening versions

--What does the promo say?--
"Made with 96% natural ingredients, this highly effective formula visibly moisturises and firms cellulite prone skin in just one use. Key natural ingredients are pomegranate (source of powerful antioxidants, known to savage free radicals, which reduce skin elasticity), aloe (for moisturising, cooling and firming) and white tea (anti-inflammatory; contains anti-oxidants). Other ingredients are jojoba seeds, soy beans, cotton seeds, sunflower, palm kernels, grape seeds, green tea leaves, greater celandine, and dog rose."

--About the brand--
"Since 1901, Jergens® body moisturisers have been the smart choice for those who want soft, smooth and beautiful skin. As America’s best-selling bodycare range – beloved of Hollywood stars and top make-up artists for over a century – Jergens® skincare experts have now created and brought to the UK a range of highly effective natural moisturisers. All our products are formulated from the finest plant-derived extracts, delivering effective body moisturisers for women of all ages, and for a variety of skin types. Jergens® Naturals™ products work with your skin’s natural processes to provide instant body hydration. They’re 95% natural and 100% effective - no compromise. The experts behind the Jergens® brand passion for the environment runs as deep as the hydrating action of its body moisturisers, with all of the products made in the UK, keeping carbon miles low, not tested on animals and paraben free. Say goodbye to synthetic moisturiser, and hello to naturally healthy skin."

A lovely, graceful-looking plastic tube that stands freely on its lid. A sort of yeasty colour, it's decorated with a willowy leaf pattern, with the 96% natural ingredients claim, product name and brand name made clear and kept simple. The tube is generously-sized and seems to close securely.

Apply liberally to thighs, bottom, and anywhere else where you'd like to target the appearance of cellulite.

The pomegranate does come through, but it doesn't seem as fruity as other products containing it that I've used recently (e.g. from Lloydspharmacy). Perhaps other products have had the smell enhanced artificially; perhaps in this product the scent is tempered by the inclusion of the other, also rather fragrant, ingredients. Who knows? Somewhat bizarrely, though not unpleasantly, I was also reminded of the smell of baking bread while using this product.

A perfectly smooth off-white lotion. No visible residue is left on the skin.

A little runny perhaps, in that it slides down your fingers a little when initially squeezed from the tube, but it doesn't squirt excessively from the tube, leading to wastage, and nor is it greasy or slow to absorb.

--How does your skin feel afterwards?--
Adequately smooth and moisturised. It also seems to have the added bonus of calming my legs, acting as preventative care from the weird itchy/prickly heat I seem to experience as summer approaches.

--Does it fulfil its promise?--
This product promises to reduce the appearance of cellulite, and it definitely does this - I don't know that I'd subscribe to the theory of it doing this in one or two uses, but I certainly noticed a difference within a week. Skin feels firmer and cellulite appears reduced. SCORE.

--Value for money--
Just excellent. Why would you buy Clarins', L'Oreal's, or any other company's overpriced anti-cellulite treatment when you can have this? Jergens don't use parabens in their products, they don't test on animals, and they keep their prices honest. An ethical bargain. All they need now is to release hand creams, facial moisturiser and cocoa butter body lotion for stretch marks, and they'd be completely set.

To celebrate the launch of Jergens®, America’s best selling body care band, Ruby Hammer, International make-up artist and Jergens® Naturals™ fans will be marching for natural beauty.
The lively march will start at Carnaby Street and end In Leicester Square. The team will be campaigning to highlight the importance of caring for your skin naturally – come down and witness this event first hand. There will be a few surprises in store!
Mannequins of all descriptions will be joining in the march, and the mannequins say it all - our skin is not synthetic so why use a moisturiser that is?
Starting at the bottom of Carnaby Street (12.00), walking up towards Argyll Street, onto Regent Street and finally finishing at Leicester Square
Tuesday 26th May 2009, 12.00pm

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Sisley Soir de Lune

RRP: from £48 for 30ml at

--What does the promo say?--
"Exploding into an array of scents, Soir de Lune provokes you to indulge in midnight love & fantasy. It's delicately encased in a luxurious round vessel that glows so lustrously it reminds you of the magnificent full moon on a romantic starlit night. The crowing glory is a sculpture that represents a passionate kiss."

The bottle is inspirational and original, encapsulating the modernity of scribbled handwriting with a more classical moon and sun stopper. A beautiful bottle that would look great on any dressing table. The little box my sample came in is also lovely, with pink and gold glittery dots decorating a white background.

Spritz around your pulse points (wrists, behind ears) for a subtle impact.

Containing rose, chypre, and patchouli, this sounds inviting from the start. However, unless I'm missing something, it was a huge disappointment. It was cloying and thick, not subtle and light as I'd hoped. It was extremely difficult, if not impossible, to pick out the ingredients used individually, and the overall result was almost suffocating. It also seemed to have little or no development - normally fragrances change harmoniously over the course of a wear, having distinct base, heart, and end notes, but this remained impregnable and 'old'-smelling - completely unsuited, in my view, to younger wearers, despite the innovative and appealing bottle design.

It has this in its favour, lasting very well on the skin (bit of a shame when you can't wait to take it off though).

--Value for money--
The older generation may find this reasonable, but for the younger and more cash-strapped, there are better, more age-appropriate fragrances out there that are also a little kinder to your bank balance (think Jeanne by Lanvin for the more feminine among you and Jean-Paul Gaultier's Madame for those after something a little funkier).

perfect partner
Sisley Soir de Lune Body Cream, £57

Friday, 15 May 2009

L'Oreal Paris Colour Appeal Trio Pro

RRP: £6.84
# of shades available: 7 (Beige Taupe/Blue Eyes/Doutzen Kroes; Sapphire Crystal/Blue Eyes/Milla Jovovich; Toffee Crystal/Hazel Eyes/Penelope Cruz; Honey Brown/Hazel Eyes/Penelope Cruz; Plum Crystal/Dark Eyes/Eva Longoria; Golden Green/Green Eyes/Aishwarya Rai; Platinum Rose/Grey Eyes/Laetitia Casta)

--What does the promo say?--
"The Color Appeal Star Secrets eye shadow collection has been specially designed to offer women everywhere made-to-measure shades that enhance the colour of their eyes.

Created in collaboration with 10 L'Oréal Paris ambassadors, these signature eye shadow collections are designed to bring out the stars in women everywhere. The ambassadors can be used as a guide to help you choose the best Star Secrets trio to enhance your colouring."

Black and shiny with cute sparkling stars spangling the lid in gold, along with a transparent window so that you can see the shadows neatly imprinted with 1, 2 and 3, and a gold scrawl of a signature from the celebrity whose colours you have chosen (I went for Laetitia Casta - grey eyes, or platinum rose). Inside are two adorably sculpted sponge applicators that are occasionally a bit fiddly but generally well-shaped for the purpose of application. The only annoying thing is the lack of mirror inside (and in my view there is room for one). Pretty and functional.

James Kaliardos, L'Oreal's in-house makeup artist, advises the following:
"Application guide:
1. Start with the darkest shade, colour 1,along the upper and lower lash line (colour 1)
2. Next apply colour 2 across the eye lid, blending it into the outer corner of the eye socket
3. Finally apply colour 3, the lightest shade, under the brow bone and in the inner corner of the eyes as a highlighter. For an even more intense look, start by outlining your eyes with a Contour Khôl eye pencil."
While I'm sure this looks nice, I'm pretty sure the colour holds better if this process is done in reverse (which shouldn't change the look of it and if anything should make it look even more naturally blended).

Perhaps a little flaky when you drag the brush over, but generally fine - no powder falling into your eyes, the eyeshadow adheres to the eyelids well, and it's easy to remove when you want to do so.

Mine worked really well not just for my eye colour but also for my general skin tone and hair colour. The shadow provides subtle and yet slightly special colour, with the three given shades working together very harmoniously. The slight shimmer present in the colour means that it isn't too showy for everyday use, but can take you through to evening easily, and would work well for women of all ages.

One palette certainly lasts ages, and in terms of daily use, it lasts really quite well on the eyelids, with only the barest minimum of creases. Not bad for less than £7.

--Value for money--
As already mentioned, L'Oreal has fulfilled their brief completely on this one, providing wearable colours for all ages and complexions at a reasonable price. Team with one of their Made for Me Naturals lipsticks (equally easy to choose the right one with the personalisation strategy they have going) and you'll be completely set.

perfect partner
Contour Resist Eyeliner, £4.39
Made for Me Naturals Lipstick, £7.82

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Impulse Goddess Body Fragrance

RRP: £2.10 for 75ml

--What does the promo say?--
"Dermatologically tested, gentle on your skin. Only you have the power to make your personality shine. Glow with happiness. Be proud of who you are. Impulse Goddess: irresistibly radiant."

A pleasant yellow colour with a vibrant peach, red, white and orange flower bursting out, adjacent to the scribbled Impulse logo in black. A spray top with no separate lid but which can be clicked open and closed by means of a small rotating screen-like apparatus. It's good that Impulse have done this as far too many body spray manufacturers (including Impulse themselves back in the 1990s!) have lids on their sprays that can easily get lost.

The Impulse website advises you to hold the can 15 cm from the body and spray, obviously keeping away from the eyes.

Claiming to offer oriental and citrus notes in Goddess, Impulse certainly delivers, with both concepts being clearly distinguishable. Got to love it when a perfume smells exactly like it says it will. This is something that Impulse has always been good at - as well as successfully targeting their audience of girls and young women aged 11 to 30, their scents have always been reliable, accurate and faithful. On the rare occasion that Impulse does celebrity endorsements (like they did with the Spice Girls during my teenage years) they always seem to produce a fragrance that correlates well with the celebs in question too.

I won't lie to you: at £2 a can, it doesn't stay on the skin all day. However, it puts up a fair fight against other, more expensive, fragrances which sometimes perform very poorly on this score.

--Value for money--
For a cheerful, light fragrance that does exactly what it says on the tin at credit-crunch-busting prices, an Impulse fragrance is always a good choice. With a brand that's always on the button with the latest fragrance trends, in an easy-to-chuck-in-your-bag format, it's fairly safe to assume you can't go wrong - whether you're a young teen just starting out with perfume or a self-assured young woman. Girl power it is.

list of scents available from Impulse
Hint of Musk (lime, jasmine, wood)
London (grapefruit, jasmine, vanilla)
New York (apple, red fruits, jasmine, sandalwood)
Paris (orange, tamarind, tangerine, jasmine)
Siren (water flowers and cedar)
Tease (zesty pineapple and exotic wood)
Temptation (vanilla and amber)
Thrill (mandarin, rose, amber)
TrueLove (freesias, amber)

Estée Lauder Beautiful Love

RRP: £29.36 for 30ml

--What does the promo say?--
"The fragrance that celebrates the joy of romantic love.
Lush Magnolia Blossom, rich White Jasmine, Mango Mist, Heliotrope and Vetiver release an emotional rush like the feeling of new love.

Fragrance Type: Romantic Floral

Top Notes: Open-air florals with fresh wet accents excite the senses with the possibility of love.
• Fields of Magnolia, White Freesia and Marigold send signals of love.
• Radiant Mango Mist, watery Cantaloupe and sheer White Pomelo Zest create heart-racing effervescence.
• Wet Ivy Leaves and Pink Pepper add vibrancy, a feeling of pure exhilaration.

Heart: A gorgeous bouquet of lush white flowers seduces the senses with voluptuous allure.
• Jasmine, Tuberose and Tahitian Tiare portray sensual femininity.
• Tantalizing Rose, Osmanthus, Carnation and Black Violet add sophisticated drama.

Base Notes: Warm rich woods and a sumptuous creaminess ignite the senses and deepen the passion.
• Heliotrope, Vetiver, White Orrisand a luscious Whipped Cream accord evoke pure passion.
• Sandalwood, White Moss, and a hint of Patchouli embrace the floral bouquet, creating great depth."

This fragrance comes in two different bottle variations: for the 30ml and 75ml versions, the bottle is curved and sensuous with a delicately decorated gold-effect cap. The 100ml version is a sturdier square flacon. The rounder bottle seems to sum up the product concept more accurately, though.

Spray wherever you'd like to be kissed, as Coco Chanel would say.

While certainly very pleasant, this is a fairly conventional fragrance. It's quite flowery (not in a negative way, you understand), and none of the aspects that would have made the perfume more interesting (e.g. mango, pink pepper, black violet) seem to figure at all highly. 'Vibrant' is certainly not a word I would use to describe the scent, though it definitely fulfils the brief of romance. Another thing this fragrance has in its favour is the fact that it's very light and delicate, therefore making for an excellent daytime scent. Very agreeable, feminine and classic, even though it offers nothing really unusual.

Sadly not good at all. Expect to reapply several times a day.

--Value for money--
The price of this is fairly standard, starting at nearly £30 for as many millilitres. However, given that the fragrance doesn't really offer anything new to the perfume market generally, you may wish to go for something with a little more personality (so as to get a little more bang for your buck). Nevertheless, this is a fairly safe bet that can be enjoyed by all, from your sister to your gran, and is a great and wearable fragrance for everyday use.

perfect partners
Beautiful Love Body Lotion, £29 for 250ml

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Crème de la Mer Refining Facial

RRP: £59 for a 100ml tube

--What does the promo say?--
"This multi-action complex instantly smoothes and boosts skin's brightness and radiance - revealing a fresh new surface. The Refining Facial utilises fermented acidic sea muds to soften skin and gently lift away dry surface cells. As the cream is lightly massaged onto the face, pure diamond powder and polished sea quartz perform as physical exfoliants while smart minerals convert the massage action into energy. Circulation is immediately stimulated and skin is awakened."

White, with the classic pink and green Crème de la Mer gracing it for company. A stand-alone plastic tube.

As I have found, there are two ways with this. The Crème de la Mer website recommends massaging this onto clean, dampened skin before rinsing well and following with a toner. However, you can also use it as a mask by spreading it thinly onto clean dry skin with fingers or a spatula, leaving it on for 15 minutes and then rinsing off.

Lovely and minty - delish!

In keeping with the scent, it's a beautiful minty green, with the exfoliants dotted visibly in the lotion.

A luxurious, creamy and slightly stiff lotion that spreads easily onto the face and washes off well.

--How does your skin look and feel afterwards?--
Miraculous. As well as feeling ridiculously smooth (for DAYS after you've done the treatment, not just in the immediate aftermath), skin also looks visibly much better. Pores are clearly tightened and made to appear smaller; complexion and skin tone are evened; face looks powdered and smooth, as if you'd just that moment put on your foundation, concealer and powder.

--Value for money--
Ahem. This is the tricky part. At £59 for 100ml, it's at the cheaper end of Crème de La Mer's product range, where prices frequently exceed double this. It's therefore the only product that I might ever be in with a shout at buying (or at least putting on my Christmas list). However, you only need a ridiculously tiny amount each time (I reckon my minuscule sample pot will do me at least three applications) and it blows other face masks and skin perfectionist products out of the water. If you were thinking of purchasing a serum at £70-odd, say, in the hope of your skin looking better for it, I'd say don't - get this instead. Best. Facemask. Ever.

perfect partners
Crème de La Mer Moisturiser for Normal to Dry Skin, £88 for 30ml
Crème de La Mer The Tonic, £44 for 200ml

Alberto Balsam VO5 Hot Oil Treatments

RRP: £4.10 for 60ml
versions available: Moisture Soak, Silky Smooth, Deep Nourishing

--What does the promo say?--
"Get dramatic results in just one minute. Your hair looks strong, healthy, and vitally alive. A must-have for hair that's been damaged from coloring, blow-drying, straightening, or other processing."

The oil comes in individual see-through tiny plastic tubes, with teat-like tops which break off easily when you want to use them - even when you're in the shower and have slippery hands. Each 15ml tube contains one treatment. Professional yet easy to use. For the pressed-for-time among you, there is also a 'Showerworks' version, which you don't need to preheat and which comes in a big tube just like your regular shampoo or conditioner.

Preheat the tube in a cup of hand-hot tap water for one minute, then break off the top of the tube and massage the contents into shampooed hair. Shampoo out after leaving in the hair for one minute; no need to condition. Use once a week.

No discernible scent.

A honey-glaze type colour which leaves no visible residue or colour in the hair.

Oily, as you would expect, but not sticky. It runs through the hair quite well, but doesn't make your hair feel very conditioned during use - just kind of rough. Washes out easily.

--How does your hair look and feel afterwards?--
Bouncy, soft, moisturised and full of vitality. Generally top-notch results. These effects lasted, too - hair felt much better for days, and presumably continued use over weeks would improve the hair condition generally (oh, the sadness of only having one tube).

--Value for money--
Excellent for such solid results. It's also easy to use and at only just over £1 for a treatment, that's a hell of a lot cheaper than some hair masks or a trip to the salon. Class work from an unjustly underrated brand.

perfect partners
Deep Nourishing Elixir Shampoo + Conditioner
Moisture Soak Elixir Shampoo + Conditioner
Silky Smooth Elixir Shampoo + Conditioner

* all £2.14 each for 300ml

Thursday, 7 May 2009

at the beauty counter

Took some time out from my food shopping the other day to check out some of the newest products to hit the makeup counter, and got a few surprises along the way. You'll be pleased to hear, perhaps, that this was IN the supermarket, so credit-crunch-busting prices and brands abound. Your credit card can stop screaming for the moment.

First up, I went to have a looksee at Revlon's Beyond Natural Skin Matching Makeup. An imitator of Avon's Personal Match Barely There Makeup, it's a tinted moisturiser that starts out white, then adapts cleverly to your skin tone. Sadly for them, Avon's version is just that bit cleverer. Both contain an SPF, but even though Avon only offers three shades (light-medium-dark), while Revlon offers five, Revlon have got the colour so very wrong (at the lighter end of the spectrum at least). I smoothed some of the 'light' shade onto my hand, and it was far too dark - it reminded me of the muddy look Nivea's tinted moisturiser gave me when I tried it last summer. Bad batch? Possible, but unlikely (this is rare). I'd therefore advise the pale and interesting among you to stay away from Revlon's attempt at this product until they've got it right and go for Avon's instead (which at £7 is £2 cheaper than Revlon's too).

I then moved on to Maybelline's counter to see what all the fuss surrounding the new Dream Satin foundation was about. Ladies, it's all true - it blends seamlessly, the colours are great, and it moisturises beautifully too. Reminded me a little of the new DiorSkin Nude range, which is great for the old bank balance. However, I was shocked at the contrast between Dream Satin and another Maybelline foundation, Wonder Finish - it was really incredibly runny and was just in a completely different league in terms of quality. Always try before you buy, and don't necessarily rely on how other foundations from the same brand have worked in the past (I also took a look at Maybelline's new Liquid Mineral foundation, but seeing that the list of ingredients was as long as my arm AND contained parabens, I was less than impressed). However, in perhaps better news, I've also heard that across the pond Maybelline has recently added to the arsenal of vibrating mascaras. Can't wait for it to come out here and see how it compares to its more famous competitors.

In terms of other new mascaras, the one I've found most exciting to date also comes from the high street in the form of L'Oreal's new Telescopic Explosion mascara. Imitating Givenchy's Phenomen'Eyes with its spiky-balled brush, it should be a hell of a lot more affordable than the £17 Givenchy asks for theirs. Also on the L'Oreal front, they have their new Studio Secrets range, which consists largely of primers but also features eye and lip colours as well as a foundation with a built-in brush. While this all sounded very exciting at the first listen, close up it seems that it's nothing that you can't get from other brands. What is fairly attractive, however, is their new range of Shine Gelée Lipsticks, which takes advantage of their recent Royal Jelly technology (as seen in their Royal Jelly shampoo). The lipstick comes in 5 shades, is ridiculously cheap at £6, and to me really seems to provide a cross between a lipstick and a gloss, providing the cohesive colour of the former and the shine and moisture of the latter. Top.

Finally, there is of course the classic straight-from-the-salon French beauty brand, Jean-Claude Biguine. It's common here for high-end hair salons to also sell their own line of makeup, and Biguine's is good (I own one of the pressed powders - luminosity galore!) - as well as being fairly and affordably priced, it's also environmentally friendly, allowing you to buy refills for your products as well as buying them new. Very few brands seem to do this - EyesLipsFace (ELF) does, as do Elysambre (another French brand) and Bobbi Brown, but examples are generally few and far between. Jean-Claude Biguine products are generally on sale in supermarkets and at selected branches of Monoprix as well as in the Biguine salons, and it's already available in most of mainland Europe as well as in the US, Japan & Canada. Perhaps one day they will hit Britain too :)

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Intensive Moisturising Hand Treatment

RRP: £14

--What does the promo say?--
"The perfect companion to our original classic. This fast-absorbing gel cream for the hands moisturises for up to 8 hours. Soothing emollients smooth and soften rough, weather-exposed skin. Signs of dryness and cracking are reversed so hands feel and look soft and touchable."

Pure white, classic and simple, with just the Elizabeth Arden logo and product details in black and a silver band cinching in the circular lid as adornments. The lid is a screwtop and the tube stands on the lid easily in the bathroom. Some of the more modern tubes may have the dopey watermarked 8s all over it in grey as well (why fix what isn't broken? I ask...).

Apply liberally as often as necessary.

A perfectly smooth and soft white cream which leaves no visible residue on the hands.

It's difficult to find information on what this actually contains (especially when you throw the box away...ahem). However, a lot of digging later, I found that its ingredients list included shea butter, vitamin E, an African grass named Imperata, geraniol (which has a rose-like odour) and citral (which unsurprisingly is lemony). I was pleased to have correctly picked up on the lemon scent, but there's also a more herby, botanical scent there which I can't quite place. Anyway - the upshot is that it smells very nice. Unusual yet traditional and easily unisex - it has a sharpness to it that isn't too feminine to put off the guys.

Bang on perfect - absorbs almost instantly.

--How does your skin feel afterwards?--
Immediately smoothed and softened. Dry patches are also sent packing after just one or two uses.

--Value for money--
While not exactly the cheapest hand cream out there, it's also a long way from being the most expensive. It's also arguably multi-use - as well as being used in a practical way as an effective treatment for dry skin, it's also great to keep by the sink or in your bag to just add a touch of luxury to your day. This combines Atrixo's efficacy with a bit of classic glamour. Nicely done. And best of all, you can get it in a 3-pack at Boots with the Body Moisturiser and the original Skin Protectant for just £25 here.

perfect partners
Eight Hour Skin Protectant, £12 at
Eight Hour Lip Protectant Stick, £10 from
Eight Hour Intensive Moisturising Body Treatment, £15 from
Eight Hour Intensive Daily Moisturiser for the Face, £26 from Debenhams

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

celebrate Chanel N°5

Launched today at , the fragrance's latest campaign consists of a short film starring Audrey Tautou (of Amélie fame) and celebrates not only Chanel N°5 and its iconic history but also its newest version, l'Eau Première (which came after the Eau de Toilette and the Eau de Parfum). Described as a fresher, easier version of the original Chanel N°5, it's aimed at women who loved the original and yet found it still didn't work for them.

May 5 2009 has therefore been designated by the city of New York as Chanel N°5 Day, and for one week only (May 5-11) a stretch of Fifth Avenue will become Avenue N°5. The ad itself commemorates the fragrance successfully, simultaneously embodying its romance, its femininity, its gutsiness, its glamour, its mystery, and its coexistent worldliness and otherworldliness. Thanks to the good folks at Chanel, I now have a whopping 150ml bottle of the Eau Première to lavish upon myself (will report back asap).

For now, however, check out the ad itself here: , and enjoy the behind-the-scenes clips here:

L'Occitane Almond Apple Sweet Peel

RRP: £19.50/

--What does the promo say?--
"Almonds and apples are found in Haute Provence. Almonds offer skin their nourishing, softening and firming properties. Organic apples refine skin’s texture and protect from free radicals, preventing premature aging. This exfoliating treatment contains crushed almond shells for a gentle exfoliation, an organic apple extract to refine skin’s texture and apple cider to tighten pores. Enriched with almond oil, it leaves skin soft and supple. Skin is deeply purified, its texture is refined, smoother and softer to the touch."

In keeping with their other products - shiny silvery screw-top lid, clear pot, concise label. While it's of the right size for hand-luggage travel at 100ml, I'd be concerned about it perhaps being a little heavy - the glass pot is quite chunky - and with the opening at the top being quite large, you also want to make sure to keep it upright.

"Use once or twice a week", advises the L'Occitane website. "Apply on damp skin, avoiding the eye contour area. Gently massage, then rinse off." Pretty easy, though make sure the cloth you use to rinse with isn't too wet otherwise this can make rinsing more difficult.

A lotion reminiscent of apple purée, combining sand and stewed apple in its colour. When exposed to the air (say, if you leave the pot or sample sachet open) it forms a caramelly crust, which is not only quite interesting but also reinforces the natural impression L'Occitane aims to give.

Gorgeous - marzipanny, apply, completely conforming to what you'd expect. However, it's subtle enough to not interfere with any other scented products you may be using.

Exactly the right combination of scrubbiness and smoothness, as well as not being too runny. It feels like you're giving your face a really good clean without irritating your skin.

--Short and long-term effects--
Short-term, the skin is rid of dry patches and skin feels impossibly smooth. However, you need to use this very frequently for an exfoliator (a few times a week) in order for the dry patches to be properly seen off, as they do recur with surprising speed otherwise.

--Value for money--
This is a toughie. My usual buy (Lush's Ocean Salt) and my current object of lust (Vichy Gel Exfoliant) are both cheaper. For an experience of pure luxury, go for this; for greater long-term effects, plump for Lush's Ocean Salt, or something else a little bit stronger.

perfect partners
Almond Apple Cleansing Oil, £15.75
Almond Apple Toning Cider, £12.75

Avon Celestial Eyeshadow

RRP: $8
# of shades available: 2

--What does the promo say?--
"Make eyes glisten with the Jillian Dempsey for Avon Celestial Eyeshadow, a marbleised baked shadow that blends on as smooth as stardust in shades inspired by the ocean and sky."

A sophisticated yet simple sturdy black circular container, made from plastic, with a clear domed lid so that you can see the colours all the time. The lid clips closed well, and being a baked shadow, no flakes of shadow come off and litter your bag when you're on the move. However, as with several Avon/Jillian Dempsey products, they could play up the association with her a little more - the signature appears in white on the black cardboard box, but that's all.

This can be applied wet or dry, so if preferred, just wet the brush before application and proceed as normal. Make sure it's dry before you add any other colours or liners (but this doesn't take too long).

The Sunset Sky shade laces blue with pink, while the Moon Sand shade has veins of brown in the gold. This provides a subtle and nuanced effect that also conveys great realism - their sources of inspiration in this Spring Colour Collection are immediately apparent. The finish is metallised, but even when applied wet for extra intensity, the effect is still quite subtle and can be worn for day or night. It also mixes well with other shadows - I have used this with all ranges of eyeshadow, from Stila to Prestige Cosmetics.

Doesn't flake off at all when using the brush, and yet the brush picks up the colour well. The lack of powderiness suggests it's quite finely pigmented, and the colour glides over the eyelids smoothly.

This creases more when used dry, so I'd suggest using this wet for a more flawless look that you don't have to touch up as often.

--Value for money--
As always with Avon, you're getting an up-to-the-minute product that's of a good standard as well as having the association with the celebrity makeup artist Jillian Dempsey. While not perfect, this is a fair backup and competitor to the similar baked shadows by Stila and Urban Decay.

perfect partners
magiX Tinted Face Perfector SPF15, $10
Spectralash Mascara, $9.50
Big Colour Glossy Lip Pencil, $6*

*While this is an existing Avon product, there are four new shades available for spring (Glossy Rose, Glossy Celestial, Glossy Sand, and Glossy Sunset). Glossy Celestial is a bit redder than the website makes it appear, so think carefully about your shade choice (though I am ridiculously pale!). Check out my review of the original Glossy Lip Pencil here.