Monday, 31 August 2009

Cosmetics & Beauty News: August 2009

Survive summer skin with Elizabeth's Daughter
Just because the summer months are drawing to a close, it doesn't mean that the sun's on its way out. Your skin needs protecting and hydrating all year round, and one way of doing this is with products from Elizabeth's Daughter. Their daily moisturiser, £24, contains SPF15 as well as fresh pumpkin, shea butter, vitamin E, and oils from rice bran and sesame seeds, and for a little light refreshment, the skin spritz (£18) contains lots of lovely stuff from rose water and aloe vera to mountain balm and strawberries. The best of the lot, however, is probably their multi-purpose soothing and glossing balm (also £18), which contains apricot butter and meadowfoam, and can be used on any area of the body that needs TLC, from lips to heels. While the fact that the brand was originally designed for young girls makes the price tags seem a little surprising, this translates into an affordable treat for adults. Stockist details available at .

Keep your hair radiant too
Summer often has a delightful side effect of making already blonde hair blonder and making skin more radiant. I reckon that the above on Elizabeth's Daughter already has the latter part covered, but for the former, I've just been sent John Frieda's delightful Sheer Blonde Go Blonder, which allows hair to keep that sunkissed look all year round. Having used John Frieda's stuff before, I already know that things are probably going to go well.

Calling all Gok Wan fans!
I'm sure that all fans of the beauty guru will forgive my returning to skincare for a moment, because following his past collaboration with Dorothy Perkins (to make stylish clothes for normal-sized girls), Gok is teaming up with Boots to create his own skincare range. You can bet it'll be just as affordable and attractive as his clothes lines, and featuring everything from body scrubs to hand creams, the Gorgeous range is rolling out in larger Boots stores from September 14. Sounds good to me.

Be a VIP with Beauty VIP
October sees the launch of Beauty VIP - a beauty membership club offering access to exclusive discounts and treats. Unlike most VIP clubs, however, it seems both simple and affordable: you buy the Beauty VIP book for £30 from your nearest bookshop, which not only comes chock-full of reviews, interviews and tips, but also entitles you to receive a membership card which gives you access to more than 250 discounts at a variety of beauty hot spots, ranging from hair salons to luxury spas, as well as a year's worth of other beauty savings. Not to be missed!

Do it yourself
Well, with a little help from Josie Maran too. See in the below video how to make lavender and argan mist, using ingredients from your own garden. Credit-crunching AND naturally good. Josie's Argan Moisturising Stick - a multi-use treatment for dry areas - has also recently launched at Sephora for lucky US and mainland Europe buyers.

Snuggle into autumn
Essie's new autumn collection not only draws on the warm berry shades that we know and love, but also incorporates happy brights, and more formal greys and browns. The nail colour names are also a welcome change from the usual territory of 'blush' and 'orgasm', taking their inspiration instead from our autumn and winter wardrobes. So pull on your angora cardi, and for the first time deck your nails in it too.
If you fancy something with a little more of a megawatt shine, though, you could always try Rimmel's 60-second nail varnish, which comes with a patented Pro-Cision brush to make application just that little bit easier.
*UK buyers can purchase Essie nail colours from

Celebrate Organic Fortnight
I've already reviewed the fairly snazzy Purity range from Superdrug, and it's now getting involved with Organic Fortnight (September 5-20), by offering discounts on the Purity range as of yesterday (August 30) and free Purity samples for anyone who orders from the Superdrug website between now and October. Superdrug is also offering free updates on the range from and from , but even more excitingly, the first 30 people to place orders with their fashion affiliate,, will receive a Purity gift basket worth £50, to celebrate sustainability and Fair Trade.
Korres is also participating, with its new Materia Herba range centre stage. Adhering to strict ECOCERT standards, it offers cleansing, moisturising and anti-ageing products for all skin types, starting at just £20. Available September 2009 from Liberty and from November 2009 at Harvey Nichols. Beautiful!

The summer holidays may already be over, but looking ahead to half-term travels this October, there are plenty of fabulous travel kits on the market, such as Dr Hauschka's new offering. For a mere twenty-four of your English pounds, you can grab yourself a cleanser, two toners, a day cream, a hand cream, an eye cream, and a lip salve, containing all kinds of delicious stuff from carnauba wax to candelilla. So what are you waiting for?!

This works
Or at least, let's hope it does. It sounds good on paper if nothing else: This Works combines effective skincare with aromatherapy to create its newest additions. Fresh Skin, £20, is an alcohol-free toner containing malachite and oak bark to harmonise, balance, soothe and calm skin, while Perfect Hands, £18, contains various elements of loveliness from coconut oil to musk mallow. Available now from .

Happy 10th Birthday Pixi!
Makeup brand Pixi celebrates its 10th birthday this year with the release of its Wake Up Kit for eyes, created by Petra Strand, the progenitor of the brand. Designed to help you create smoky eyes flawlessly, Strand says that the colours are inspired by autumn in her native Sweden, mimicking nature and seeming to have appeared organically on the face. Available soon from, I think that creating the smoky eye look just got easier, even for beginners with makeup, and perhaps even better, the West London store also offers affordable makeovers from just £15.

Getting the most out of your skin not only recommends products based on your skin condition and skin type, but will also take the lead from you by taking account of the products you already use, and recommends products based on what others with your skin type are using too. You can use this to form a 'virtual shelf' of products, as well as checking out blogs, creating your own 'skin profile' and chatting in the website's forum. Use the invite code exclusive to this blog - Bianca - so that you can join up for free.

Wishing you a romantic autumn
Pinks are contrasted by grey, beige and gold in Givenchy's stunning new autumn palette, and the autumn look is completed by uber-glossy lips, available in Gloss Poétique Rose, Rouge Interdit Poétique Iris, and Rouge Interdit Poétique Camellia. With the eye palette priced at $53, it is undeniably expensive...but oh so worth it. Je vous souhaite donc un automne poétique...

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Cosmetics Contemplations: Creating Your Signature Scent

Since the 1950s (when teenagers first realised that they actually had their own identity) people have become more demanding, more assertive, and more individualistic. This ranges from making one's own choices (i.e. not having things decided or arranged by one's parents) to being more demanding as a consumer, and the latter is particularly evident in the cosmetics market.

It is difficult to tell exactly when custom cosmetics became more popular, although I'd hazard a guess at it (at least as we know it) being at some point in the past fifteen years. However, at its most basic level, it arguably goes back further, at whatever point in time skincare companies decided to differentiate between those with oily, dry, normal and sensitive skin, and when makeup companies started to increase their spectrum of foundation, concealer and powder colours. Certainly it appears that the one-size-fits-all approach is fairly risky, and, in today's market, fairly primitive as well: there are still companies that assume that one cleanser will suit all skin types, or that one concealer colour will seamlessly blend with any skin tone. While occasionally this is successful - I'm thinking of Liz Earle's cleanser, for one - on the whole the maxim holds that if you are trying to please everyone, you'll actually end up pleasing no-one (or at least very few).

Then, one day, someone clever presumably picked up on this potential for dissatisfaction, and correctly assumed that the possibilities for appeasement among the perfection-seeking, beauty-conscious population were endless. Ever since then, the market for customised cosmetics has become increasingly more popular - not just out of a more demanding psyche, but also because humans are always seeking perfection, and custom cosmetics give them the illusion (or perhaps reality) that they will be able to achieve it.

So what's available? At the most sophisticated, and perhaps most well-known level of its kind, Prescriptives offers custom blend foundations, lipsticks and glosses, powders, concealers, bronzers and tinted moisturisers. This doesn't come cheap, with their custom blend foundations starting at £45 - but as one of the very pale, who has often suffered with the 'palest' shade of high street foundation streaking on orange, the motives of a Prescriptives custom blend buyer are fully understandable.

There are, of course, plenty of other custom blending companies (see the list at the bottom of the page). But if you don't have that kind of money to blow on just one foundation, there are (thankfully) other options. At a baser level, Revlon and L'Oréal are perhaps the most prominent high street exponents of customised makeup. Revlon brought the customisable foundation to the high street buyer last year with its Custom Creations foundation, which allows the user to turn a dial to darken or lighten the foundation, adapting it to a summer tan or paler winter skin. Avon has done something similar with its SpectraColor lip gloss, whereby consumers 'dial up' the strength of colour required.

L'Oréal, however, is the undisputed king of this particular high street niche. As well as its Made for Me Naturals Lipstick and its Colour Appeal Trio Pro, which allow users to select lip and eye products according to their eye colour and hair colour, the recently rolled-out Studio Secrets range takes this to a whole new level, with colour charts available alongside the products in the line to help users extend the concept in even more detail. And yet it's not as confusing as it sounds on paper, making it very consumer-friendly, and, perhaps most importantly, idiot-proof.

However, a less generalist approach is available, even from very mainstream brands. Two products have found their own stronghold, even among this already niche market (albeit a steadily increasing one): lipstick, and fragrance. Lipstick matching is arguably even more important, and even trickier to get right, than foundation matching: finding the right lipstick shade is further affected by things like teeth discolouration, and by the fact that a dream lipstick shade being discontinued can set you back even further in seeking a unified look that suits you. While getting your own lipstick blended (by Prescriptives, 3 Custom Color, or by ColorLab at Selfridges, among others) might seem like you're paying for the most expensive lipstick on the planet, presumably this is offset by the fact that you no longer have to waste money on lipsticks that make you look like a vampire.

The custom scent market is perhaps newer, but it is definitely there, and with easily accessible brands, too. By going to , for instance, consumers can use Bath and Body Works' new application to create a customisable fragrance profile, offering up the perfect scent for any mood and occasion by choosing characteristics to describe themselves. Unlike most customisable fragrance companies, Bath and Body Works allows perfume lovers to do this reasonably.

And is it really worth it? I should say so. I've never made a failed selection yet at L'Oréal's counter, and have heard great things about Prescriptives' services. The beauty of all this is that custom blending is available at such a variety of prices - ergo, you simply can't go wrong.

Customisable cosmetics brands
Prescriptives -
Giella -
ColorLab -
Mukha -
Justine -
Joya Beauty -
3 Custom Color -
Face Saver Cosmetics -

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Top Products 2008-9

Best Shampoo: Kiehl's Rice and Wheat Volumising Shampoo
Gives some vigour to lifeless hair, making it silky soft too.

Best Hair Conditioning Treatment: Alberto Balsam VO5 Hot Oil Treatments
The ultimate salon-quality rescue treatment in your bathroom.

Best Heat Protection Hair Product: Tresemmé Heat Protection Spray
Still got it.

Best Deodorant Brand: Mitchum
Yes, you really can go for 48 hours on one application.

Best Skincare Regime: it's a tie! Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions/Liz Earle
Clinique gets you the results you want - fast - with the greatest in lab technology. Liz Earle is not quite as quick, but you will get results eventually - all with luxurious natural products.
A special mention also goes to Garnier's Vital Restore Daily Beauty Serum and to Lloydspharmacy YOUR Organics Anti-Ageing Night Cream, for restoring vitality and smoothness to skin.

Best Exfoliator: another tie! Lush Ocean Salt/Purity Organic Skincare Facial Exfoliator
Purity uses coconut shell to send dry skin packing, while Ocean Salt uses (as you'd expect) great chunks of sea salt. Both strong natural contenders to get you smooth skin.

Best Face Mask: Crème de La Mer Refining Facial
Expensive, but oh so worth it. That diamond dust really does get you some sparkling results.

Best Intensive Moisturiser: Liz Earle Intensive Nourishing Treatment Mask
Wakes up your skin with its essential oils and creamy texture.

Best Suncare Brand: still Vichy.
Its facial suncare smells of celery, but protects marvellously and doesn't bring you out in spots. Top.

Best Hand Cream: Atrixo
Sends dry patches packing.

Best Foot Cream: Boots Gorgeous Feet Reviving Overnight Rescue
Smells like chocolate and vanilla, and restores your feet to smoothness in no time.

Best Body Moisturiser: Jergens
At supermarket prices, it hydrates your skin and banishes cellulite naturally.

Best Primer: No7 Shine-Free Makeup Base
Works so well that you can even use it to fight shine when you're not wearing any makeup at all.

Best Eye Primer: Benefit Lemon Aid
While a little pricey for what it is, there's no denying that it evens skin tone around the eyes and keeps eye makeup in place.

Best Concealer: L'Oréal Touche Magique
There's quite simply none better to create a flawless look with great value for money.

Best Tinted Moisturiser: Avon Personal Match Barely There Makeup
It's had some stiff competition this year, but the rivals just couldn't knock it off the top spot.

Best Foundation: No7 Stay Perfect
Creates a flawless base that minimises redness and stays in place all day, without feeling too heavy on your face in the summer.

Best Face Powder: Benefit Dandelion
Excellent for a flawless finish and for adding extra glow and colour. A versatile product - just make sure you go bargain hunting for it.

Best Eye Colour: Guerlain Ombre Eclat Paradis Exotique
This has been the best addition to my makeup bag in a long time: as well as staying put all day, the colours are innovative, fresh, and great for spring and summer.

Best Mascara: Givenchy Phenomen'Eyes
Originally touted as a limited-edition product only, I rushed out and bought it, and wasn't disappointed. The good news, however, is that it's still around. Get it now.

Best Kohl Eyeliner: it's a tie: Avon Color Trend/Giorgio Armani Smooth Silk
Pick the Avon for its cheap and cheerful durability, and Giorgio Armani for this plus sophistication and versatility.

Best Blusher: Bourjois Little Round Pot
Quite simply the best.

Best Lipstick: MAC Pro Longwear LipColour
While it can occasionally feel a little gritty on the lips, this is easily forgiven by the fact that it won't move an inch by day, but is easily removable when you finally want to kiss it goodbye.

Best Lip Balm: Kiehl's #1 Lip Balm
Having the reparative facility of a balm, but with the shine of a gloss, it's perfect for any girl who needs a glamorous lip balm that works miracles at a reasonable price.

Best Lip Gloss: Benefit Her Glossiness
Again, not worth the high street RRP, but with its gorgeous colours, witty names and fruity scents, it's well worth bargain hunting for.

Best Makeup Compact: Too Faced Little Pink Book
Contains everything you need in one tiny, lightweight 'book'. Genius.

Best Makeup Remover: Estée Lauder Take It Away
Melts away makeup without a trace.

Best Brand: Liz Earle
They are ambassadors for beauty, providing head to toe natural care for men and women and for all skin types and ages. A modern, honest brand that delivers palpable results at reasonable prices. Truly a job well done.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Boots Gorgeous Feet Reviving Overnight Rescue

RRP: £2.19/50ml; £6.49/150ml

--What does the promo say?--
"Boots Gorgeous Feet Reviving Overnight Rescue works to melt away dry skin & renew texture. Take a step in the right direction and give hardworking feet a pampering overnight treat. Simply massage this deeply restorative cream into feet before bed and wake up to skin that’s soft, smooth and renewed. This incredible formulation works to dissolve hard skin and regenerate fresh new skin while you sleep."

A see-through, squat glass jar with a shiny pink lid. This is all set off by the pink label, which only tells you what you actually need to know. Lovely. Comes in a pink box for ingredients information and suchlike, though I'll tell you here that it contains grape seed oil, cacao butter, bilberry leaf extract, sugar maple extract, lemon peel, and lemon flowers. Delish.

"Apply a generous amount of cream to clean dry feet before going to bed. Wear cotton socks overnight to seal in the treatment." Not a problem - in fact, you don't even really need to use cotton socks with it as it sinks in so well on its own.

A thick creamy white lotion. Leaves no visible residue on skin.

Lovely! Like vanilla and white chocolate.

Does not leave feet leaving greasy, and rubs in very well, leaving feet feeling smooth and soft.

--Long-term effects on skin--
Excellent - I was having real trouble with my feet, with a truckload of dry skin that just wouldn't shift (even with the help of a Scholl foot cream). Still not perfect yet, but there's been a huge improvement, which I'm sure will continue.

--Value for money--
Even the dinky 50ml pot lasts ages and ages (I've been using mine for weeks and have barely made a dent in it), so it's worth every penny of the £2.19. Buying three of these in a row, rather than getting the 150ml pot, barely costs you a few pence more, so if this is easier on young spenders' purses, don't hesitate to do it that way. A fantastic foot cream that should be by every girl's bedside table.

perfect partners
Gorgeous Feet Amazing Anti-Rub Stick, £3.91
Gorgeous Feet Deeply Intensive Moisturiser, from £1.99
Gorgeous Feet Fantastic Foot File, £3.49
Gorgeous Feet Heaven for Heels 2 pack, £3.49
Gorgeous Feet Plaster Combination Pack, £3.49
Gorgeous Feet Feet Powder Soft Refreshing Lotion, £4.99
Gorgeous Feet Rapid Cracked Heel Repair, £4.99
Gorgeous Feet Sensationally Smooth Foot Scrub, from £1.99
Gorgeous Feet Soft Step Insoles, £1.99/pair
Gorgeous Feet Soothing Foot Soak, £4.99
Gorgeous Feet Flip Flop Cushion, £3.99/pair
Gorgeous Feet Toe Nail Conditioner, £4.99
Gorgeous Feet Ball of Foot Cushion, £3.79

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Philosophy Amazing Grace Firming Body Emulsion

RRP: £25 for 16 fl.oz

--What does the promo say?--
"Philosophy's Amazing Grace Firming Body Emulsion (473.1g) is a brilliant, body-firming moisturiser! The perfumed, polyphenolic emulsion is a multi-tasking moisturiser that revitalises dry, aged or wrinkled skin with a unique blend of antioxidant vitamins E and C, shea butter, macadamia nuts and olive oils."

Much like the matching shower gel, it comes in a rounded, hard plastic bottle with a black flip-top cap (though the picture shows a pump-action bottle, so I'm going to assume it's still available in both types of bottle). Nothing difficult about this.

Apply liberally to arms, legs, breasts, and stomach...basically anywhere apart from your face that needs it. Rub in to leave a light sheen on skin and leave to sink in.

Slightly cottony; reminiscent of freshly laundered bedsheets. A perfectly acceptable, neutral and pleasant scent that won't interfere with perfume. However, this product presented the same problem that I've had with other Philosophy products: there is no indication anywhere on the packaging of what the scent actually is. Even the ingredients list just says 'fragrance'. Now, don't get me wrong, while the scent does arguably embody the essence of 'grace', that doesn't mean that I don't want to know what the scent actually is. In fact, it concerns me: if Philosophy were using natural scents in their products, surely they would want to say? If this really does contain shea butter, nut oils etc, I'm surprised that they don't want to make more of it on the bottle, rather than just giving it a passing mention in the promotional material.

A white, smooth lotion.

Basically perfect: not too runny or thick, definitely not sticky, and seems to sink into the skin quickly.

--How does your skin feel afterwards?--
Pretty smooth, so on the surface of it, it appears to do a good job. However...

--Long-term effects on the skin-- apparently doesn't actually work. I've been moisturising my entire body with this stuff for a couple of weeks now and had been thinking that it was doing a fairly good job. But then today I went to have my legs waxed, and the beautician asked me if I used a body lotion on my legs. I said yes, thinking she was going to say that she could tell because my skin was soft, or something. However, she said quite the opposite - that my skin was dry! Great! So at least one skin professional thinks that this stuff does not work...

--Value for money--
Given the above, and given the price of this, I would definitely not buy this again. It's nice enough, but not worth the price tag, and for something that is artificially fragranced (come on, there's really no need for it), doesn't contain an SPF AND apparently doesn't work, I'll be avoiding like the plague. Go for a Lush, Body Shop or Liz Earle body moisturiser instead.

perfect partners
Amazing Grace Shampoo, Bath and Shower Gel, £17.50
Grace Fragrance, £29
Amazing Grace Eau de Parfum, £38
Pure Grace Hot Salt Scrub, £19.50
Pure Grace Shower Cream, £17.50

Sunsilk Silky and Straight Shampoo and Conditioner

RRP: £2.19 each for 200ml. However, prices vary across the internet, starting at just £1..
Other varieties from the Sunsilk range: Lively Blonde, Deeply Brunette, Care and Repair, Colour and Shine, Waves and Curls, Fresh and Flowing, Voluptuous Volume

--What does the promo say?--
"Is your hair stuck between straight and curly, neither one nor the other?
Sunsilk Silky & Straight Shampoo and Conditioner, enriched with satin proteins, will help smooth your hair along its whole length, leaving it fabulously sleek and shiny."

A cheerful purple tube that sits sturdily on its plastic flip top lid in the shower. The quality of said lids varies - my conditioner lid closes very well but the shampoo lid is weaker, meaning that lots of water collects in the lid during showers. It's also too big to take on holiday with you if you're travelling on hand luggage, but is a good size for everyday use.

Massage the shampoo through wet hair and then rinse. Then stroke the conditioner through clean, rinsed hair and leave on for 2-3 minutes before rinsing out. You can repeat this procedure again if you like, but to be honest, it's not really necessary.

A nice clean cotton-type scent. While this is nice, maybe something more fruity, matching with the purple bottle (blackberries perhaps?!) would be a welcome novelty to rival brands such as Herbal Essences. However, it's definitely not unpleasant and shouldn't offend anyone.

A white, glossy lotion, with the shampoo being runnier than the conditioner.

Very smooth. No problems here.

Fairly easy to rinse out; I occasionally find that I miss the very front of my scalp, but I think that's due more to my own shortcomings than to those of the shampoo and conditioner.

--How does your hair feel afterwards?--
I have very dry hair, so perhaps the Care and Repair version of Sunsilk would be better for me. You've probably already guessed that my hair still felt quite dry after the use of this shampoo and conditioner. However, there was nevertheless a definite improvement.

--How does your hair look afterwards?--
Definitely straightened. Good job!

--Value for money--
This is about the price of your average shampoo and conditioner, and I think that its price and its supermarket audience is reflected in both this and the fact that as with most supermarket haircare you do seem to end up using a fair amount of the stuff each time as compared with more expensive haircare. However, the bottles do seem to last a really long time despite this (though the conditioner always runs out before the shampoo...why?!), and deliver solid, dependable and palpable results every time. I've never had anything but a positive experience with Sunsilk, having also tried their range for blondes, and it's a great cheaper alternative to brands such as John Frieda. Onto the Care and Repair range for me, then...

perfect partner
Sunsilk Silky and Straight Leave-In Cream, £2.19

Monday, 10 August 2009

Kiehl's Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion

RRP: £15.50/250ml
available at SpaceNK, Harrods, and

--What does the promo say?--
"This formula was created in 1964 as a spot treatment for oily, blemish-prone areas and helps to prevent razor discomfort after shaving. Not tested on animals."

Kiehl's packaging is notoriously rubbish (see my previous posts on products from this brand), but I've had no problems with this so far - the lid seems to shut securely and so on, and the plastic is see-through so that you always know how much you have left. Topped with the brilliant vintage apothecary style label and the blue liquid shining through the bottle, it really stands out on the shelf.

Pour a small amount of liquid onto a cotton pad, and after cleansing, wipe the cotton pad around your face to pick up any excess oil and dirt traces. Then moisturise as normal.

Disappointingly chemical - it's fairly plain that anything that colour is not going to be entirely natural, but given that it contains aloe, limonene, witch hazel, camphor and menthol, I'd have really expected a more natural smell.

Bright blue, but no visible traces are left on the skin.

--Short-term effects on the skin--
Not great. I personally found that using the toner made my skin feel slightly tight afterwards, though this is only a temporary effect that subsides quickly, especially once you've applied moisturiser. However, I've also been sharing this toner with my fiancé, who is equally oily-skinned and reports no such effects (perhaps because male skin is different to female skin?).

--Long-term effects on the skin--
Mild to good - oiliness is definitely reduced and I saw a mild improvement in my acne. So in short, it does ultimately do what it says it will.

--Value for money--
UK buyers definitely have the upper hand with this product - if buying in euros it is more expensive - but even then it's hardly cheap, being only 50p cheaper than Clinique's Anti-Blemish toner, though it is more expensive than my next favourite, Liz Earle's Instant Boost Skin Tonic (which is £11 for 200ml). While this toner did get me some visible results, and while one bottle has lasted a long time even with two of us using it, I ultimately would probably not buy it again, as I just feel that the tightness experienced in the immediate seconds after use is just never a good sign.

perfect partners
Blue Herbal Gel Cleanser, £20/250ml
Blue Herbal Moisturiser, £24/100ml
Blue Herbal Spot Treatment, £14/15ml

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Barbie Loves Stila Paint Pot

RRP: $40, €35

# of variants: 4 (1959, 1971, 1980, 2000)

contains: essentially what you get in every pot is a three-shadow eye palette, a lip product, and an eye product, with the lip and eye products being from Stila's usual catalogue and with the eye palette being an exclusive.

(shown left-right, top-bottom: 2000, 1980, 1959, 1971)

--What does the promo say?--
"In this collection created to celebrate Barbie's 50th birthday, each paint can features the look of an iconic Barbie doll from the past five decades, and inside each can is everything you need to get that beautiful Barbie doll's signature look. The Barbie Loves Stila paint can also includes a "Barbie Look Book" that includes a history of each top-selling Barbie doll over the last five decades."

The pink paint can is a little difficult to open, but is enticingly decorated, with a picture of the relevant Barbie for the year concerned (you can have a Dita von Teese style for 1959, a Malibu Barbie pot for 1971, a pot for Halle Berry style complexions for 1980 [think it's the big hair that does it for the decade] or a more modern Barbie for the year 2000). The lip product and eye product in the pot (from hence I refer to the 1971/Malibu Barbie pot) are of Stila's usual packaging standards, with the lip gloss being operated by a plastic twist-syringe style mechanism (see-through so that you can see how much you've used) and the mascara being in a chic silvery tube. My one complaint was with the eye palette box. While nicely designed with a Barbie picture and magnetic closure, I was horrified to discover (when I tipped the open box upside down to see the product information on the back) that the pan shadows are not glued or stuck down in any way. This meant that two of my shadows sustained slight damage when they fell out of the box. Great. Poor showing really - even EyesLipsFace, a much cheaper brand, sticks its shadows inside its palettes.
Lamentably, my pot also did not come with a Look Book, though perhaps it's just the American ones that do.

Nothing tricky about this. Apply the mascara and lip gloss as usual. The lip gloss doesn't take long at all to appear at the end of the pen, even on the first use - just twist and go. Helpfully, the bronzer that comes with the two shadows can also double up as a liner or even as an eyeshadow itself if used carefully.

The 1971 and 2000 pots are likely to be the ones that suit most complexions, with the 1959 and 1980 pots being slightly more niche. The blue eyeshadow in the 1971 pot is a bit daring, but is fine when used sparingly, and the nude shadow is great for any occasion. The mascara is wonderful - highest quality mascara that I've used in ages. The lipgloss is very subtle and will suit just about anyone.

The lip gloss is slightly sticky, but not too bad. The mascara is completely clump-free and the eyeshadows only crease minimally, if at all.

The lip gloss smells and tastes like bubble gum, which I was initially taken aback by, but I know that I would always rather have this than a lip gloss that tastes and smells like soap (cheers, Clarins...).

The eyeshadows put in a fairly good performance, though they're not always completely crease-free. The mascara holds almost too well, with it being difficult to remove; by contrast, the lip gloss does not stand up brilliantly, with reapplication definitely being needed after eating.

--Value for money--
I admit to being slightly foxed by this. When I bought mine, it was in the sale, so I got it for €5 (bargain!). The original price label said €14, so I was surprised to log onto the French Sephora website and find it retailing for €35. Part of me thinks that I wouldn't pay the full RRP for it, but when you add up the normal retail prices of the original items, it soon surpasses the price of this kit (the lip glaze alone is €19, with the mascara coming in at €12, and with the Stila mono shadows costing €14 and quads costing €32). It therefore seems that you do get rather good value after all, and given that this is coming out in the UK (I don't know when, but I know it is), I'm guessing it will retail at about £20-£25, which seems reasonable enough. I do wish, though, that they would stick those damn eyeshadows into the palette. Come on, Stila. You know it makes sense.

perfect partner
Barbie Loves Stila Talking Palette, $40

Logona Cream Concealer

RRP: £12.80
available worldwide. UK shoppers can buy from and from

--About the brand--
"The story of LOGONA is closely associated with the rise of the German natural marketplace, where the company today serves as a leading supplier of natural personal care products. During the 1970s, a wave of environmental consciousness and activism rolled through Europe, giving life to many alternative enterprises and political groupings. Organic agriculture, renewable energy and environmental responsibility became the watchwords of this movement. In 1975 in Hanover, Germany, a group of friends opened a shop featuring the few available products that fit the values of this new, green alternative movement. To expand their store’s selection, this “Lorien Goods” group began to import products, and then to wholesale these products to other stores. In 1977, they tried their hand at manufacturing simple bodycare products, and the LOGONA idea was born.

Bodycare products manufactured and packaged from a broad ecological standpoint resonated with a growing number of consumers. The product line has steadily expanded over the years to meet growing consumer interest. Today, over 200 natural personal care and cosmetic products carry the LOGONA label.

Strict ingredient quality standards have always been fundamentally important to LOGONA product formulation and manufacturing. LOGONA products utilize the highest quality, natural raw materials, such as premium vegetable oils and waxes, herbal extracts and floral distillates derived from organic agriculture and wildcrafting.

Aside from rigorous ingredient standards, LOGONA products must also conform to industry leading ecological standards regarding minimal resource consumption during manufacturing, and minimal and recyclable packaging for the finished products."

--What does the promo say?--
"A silken textured concealer cream used in much the same way as our coversticks. Goes on quickly and easily with the new applicator. Tone irregularities such as visible capillaries, dark areas around the eye, age spots and small scars."

Very innocuous and not particularly unusual - a slim, transparent plastic canister with a sponge applicator attached to the lid. Transparency is always good so that you can see how much you have left, and the sponge applicator means you've got everything you need with you so that you can touch up while out and about. The Logona logo is very minimalist and sophisticated.

"Following an application of liquid foundation, apply the concealer to the problem areas, blending gently with your fingertip. Follow with a powder to blend and fix the concealer." No problems here. The concealer blends well with any foundation, tinted moisturiser or powder you happen to be using.

A very pale, creamy lotion that sits well on the skin and blends very naturally. The paleness is great for me, since so many concealers look orange on my skin, but the fact that there's only one shade available for this particular concealer (the Logona coversticks have more shades available for some reason) means that many people will be closed off to buying this. For those with the right skin tone, though, the overall effect is natural, matte, and unified.

Perfect - creamy and luxurious without being runny.

Sadly, not as great as I would like. This means you do keep needing to reapply this, and as a result, my tube is almost finished, and it feels like I only bought it five minutes ago (the reality is probably about 6 weeks). Damn.

--Value for money--
As nice as this is to use, as as nice as it is that this is a natural, organic product, you do need to keep reapplying it, so it doesn't exactly have this in its favour. Consequently, you do need to top up your supplies more often, as the tube runs out quickly, and frankly, I think that the RRP is perhaps a bit steep for the time that one tube lasts. Even Clinique's new anti-blemish concealer is cheaper (it's £11.50), so I feel that this is a bit much to pay for something with no healing ingredients such as tea tree oil, no SPF, and for something that only comes in one shade. Curses.

perfect partners
Logona Highlighter Pencil, £9.30
Logona Pressed Powder, £14.19
Logona Natural Makeup Fluid, £14.68

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

King of Shaves Woman Azure

RRP: £4.99 for razor and three cartridges

--What does the promo say?--
"Enjoy the “Queen of Shaves” with King of Shaves the UK’s second biggest shaving software brand. Its first ever ‘hybrid synergy’ system razor for women, the Azure is available nationwide in Sainsbury’s stores for just £4.99 (handle plus three cartridges). Combining shaving comfort and performance with elegance and style, the Azure delivers the Queen of Shaves, without the expense of many of its competitors.

The debut of the Azure follows hot on the heels of the continuing success of King of Shaves’ multiple award winning men’s razor, the Azor, which is now available from most major UK retailers. Launching in striking ‘on-trend’ black and gold, the Azure Aura combines shaving comfort and performance via an internationally patented TST (Touch Skin Technology) elastomer skin bumper and pivot system. This allows the Endurium coated, super long-lasting blades to shave at optimum pressure against the skin whilst a larger soft rubber ‘bumper’ helps reduce risk of unwanted nicks and lifts hairs for a smoother shave.

The Azure’s uniquely patented wishbone-shaped head design provides greater visibility when shaving and the ergonomically designed, lightweight handle allows for a superbly comfortable shave which effortlessly follows every contour and curve of the skin.

As with its male counterpart, the Azure demonstrates King of Shaves commitment to the environment. ‘Ecoptimised’ in all stages of manufacture, the handle for the Azure is made in the UK with all packaging minimised and either already recycled or 100% recyclable."

An unusual departure from the usual angularly-shaped razors, without being as large as the ubiquitous Gillette Venus razors. Very feminine and elegantly shaped. It also comes in a useful lightweight box made of thin plastic that houses the little box of razor blades too, although sadly it's not really intended as a travel case as it isn't designed to close once you've opened it the first time.

Lather up the area to be shaved using a shaving foam and then drag the blades against the growth of the hairs before rinsing the razor blades under a stream of water and repeating as necessary.

--Razor-cut potential--
No problems at all - the blades have plenty of grip without being irritating to the skin and the handle makes the razor easily controllable too.

--How does your skin feel afterwards?--
As stated, there is no irritation at all.

--How does your skin look afterwards?--
Pretty good - smooth, clean, no red marks, no cuts.

--Does it de-fuzz adequately?--
Yes. The flexibility of the blade joint means that this even applies to trickier areas such as heels, bikini line and underarms.

I've been using this daily now for at least three weeks and there are still no signs that the blade needs to be changed. I would therefore expect it to last for at least as long as blades usually do, perhaps even slightly longer, so a change will probably required every 6 weeks.

--Value for money--
It's a full three quid cheaper than some of the fancier Gillette razors, and for this it's lightweight, recyclable and effective. Replacement blades are also cheaper than the leading market competitor. It's a very real encouragement to consumers to look beyond the most immediately available option, and with very good reason.

perfect partners
King of Shaves Woman Azure 4 Pack Replacement Blade Cartridges, £4.99
King of Shaves Woman Shaving Gel, £3.99

*available from Sainsbury's and from