Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Arbonne Pampermint Gift Set

RRP: £31.50
--What does the promo say?--
"Nourishing cream and gentle scrub pamper your soles and your soul — a gift of cosy comfort right down to the tips of your plush socks. Set includes FootWork Foot Scrub (Net wt. 12 oz.), SoleMate Foot Cream (Net wt. 9 oz.) and Signature Socks in a holiday gift box."

Apart from the box being a bit bashed around the edges by the time it got to me (but that's the French postal system for you), I have no complaints. In fact, I find the packaging and overall scheme positively inspiring: the combination of the peppermint scent with the red and white stripes suggesting candy canes is a perfect fit for the holiday season. In addition, the foot scrub and cream pots (plastic, with screw top lids) also come with little red snowflakes drawn on them. Brava! All incredibly sweet and festive.

Rub the foot scrub into wet or dry skin as you prefer before rinsing off. Apply the cream onto dry feet before bed and then slip on the socks to seal in the moisture as you sleep.

The socks are quite clearly the most dazzling thing appearance-wise about the entire set; even just looking at them makes you feel comfy and cosy with their baggy, fuzzy cheer. The foot scrub is an off-white, grey-green colour, in which flecks of exfoliant can be seen, and the cream is white and stiff, rubbing into the skin invisibly.

The peppermint smell is there one hundred per cent and really helps to wake you up on those cold winter mornings, as well as helping to calm you down on winter nights.

--Texture and consistency--
The cream is a bit 'blobby' and difficult to get hold of, coming out of the tub in white lumps. While it's still easy enough to blend in (even though it looks and feels stiff), I think most people would still prefer a more luxurious, creamier sensation. The foot scrub is better at this, and still washes off easily to boot. The socks are joyfully just as heavenly as they look, making you feel as innocent and comfy as a child waiting for Santa.

--Effects on the skin--
The socks alone are a really comforting and calming experience, possibly claiming the crown of being the softest, nicest socks I've ever worn. The cream and scrub, used together, also really help to minimise dry skin and restore softness.

--Value for money--
While this appears expensive at face value, it is better value for money than some of Arbonne's other gift sets, with the high-quality products evening out to be around £10 (and a few pence) each, which is no more than you would pay in other more widespread outlets such as The Body Shop. For a unique and wow-factor gift for the special lady in your life this Christmas (or hey - even just yourself) this Christmas, I'd say look no further. Tis the season!

perfect partner
Mint Latte Eyeshadow Palette, £42

Baylis & Harding Sweet Mandarin and Grapefruit Cleansing Hand Wash

RRP: £2 for 500ml

--What does the promo say?--
"Sweet Mandarin and Grapefruit, combined with vitamin A, B & C to create our classic fragrance which features in this sophisticated hand wash."

The large bottle and copperplate capital logo design is suspiciously reminiscent of the more expensive Molton Brown label. However, it's clear that when you copy something good, at least you know that what you end up with looks nice too, and this would look great in any bathroom, although a change of packaging for something more original might not be such a bad thing. On the flip side, though, the transparent yellow/gold design is undeniably pretty.

Easy as pie; lather up under warm running water to leave your hands clean, soft, and smelling sweet.

A translucent yellow colour which reflects what you would expect from the ingredients while still at the same time leaving no visible residue on the hands after use.

More musky than grapefruity, and perhaps lacks the intensity of higher-end products. Nevertheless, the scent makes the product enjoyable and uplifting to use.

--Texture and consistency--
Lathered up well, although the consistency of the gel was perhaps a little slimy.

--Effect on the skin--
Left hands clean and soft; skin was not dried out or irritated.

--Value for money--
At such a low price there is very little to argue about; however, consumers who have tried the obvious rival brand will find themselves comparing the products automatically, which when there is such a huge gulf between the two brands in terms of price and such similarity in the packaging is a hard thing to stand up to. However, the attractiveness and affordability of the products make an excellent Christmas present in their eye-catching gift sets and these are definitely a low budget way to add some luxury to your bathroom.

perfect partners
Mandarin and Grapefruit Indulgent Moisturising Hand Lotion, £2 for 500ml
Mandarin and Grapefruit Restful Bath Foam, £3 for 750ml
Mandarin and Grapefruit Balancing Shower Creme, £3 for 750ml

retails at: www.baylisandharding.com and at various high street retailers

Monday, 6 December 2010

Your key to beauty

I've talked before on this blog about how beauty is more than skin deep. While I don't specifically endorse certain types of intervention into our natural beauty, such as cosmetic surgery, I do endorse other interventions into our inner beauty from without. And don't we just all dream of how our ideal holiday would be just the ticket to perk us up from the inside?

By playing Radisson Park Inn's game online, you could win just that before 2010 is out. All you have to do is play their surprisingly addictive game here, dropping room keys into lines Connect 4 style. Get 4 in a row and you win the game. However, you don't have to get 4 in a row in order to get a chance of winning a holiday. The odds are all on your side: the game is easy and fun, you can play as many times as you like, and you get an entry into the draw to win an iPad or a £250 voucher for Radisson Park Inn Hotels - whether you win or lose the game.

As with a lot of things, there are a few provisos for pepping up your inner beauty (a lot of these hotels have spas, people). You must be over 18 to enter, and you must be living in the UK, Germany, Austria or Switzerland to be eligible. If you play before December 18 2010 (as many times as you like, remember) then you have every chance of winning - especially with two prizes being awarded per week (one iPad, and one £250 hotel voucher). At the end, all entries are mixed up and drawn from again for the grand prize of seven nights' accommodation at selected Radisson Park Inn Hotels in Manchester, Berlin and Djerba. Now, wouldn't that be a great Christmas present?

It's sometimes difficult to know how you'll benefit from visiting a hotel spa until you have a chance to do it: last time I went to one (for the record, though, it was not a Radisson Hotel but a hotel with a Nuxe spa in Paris) I was pampered impeccably and left feeling like I was walking on air and ready to take on the world. While some of that comes from the confidence boost you get from having your outer beauty preened and seen to, the feeling of destressing and relaxation cannot have a price put on it. Equally, your inner beauty can benefit from travel in general. While I have not visited any of the destinations that constitute the hotels in Radisson's grand prizes, I have been fortunate enough to travel the world over, including America, Thailand, and North Africa as well as plenty of places in mainland Europe. My next trip will be to Tenerife in a couple of weeks' time, where I hope to try out one of those fish spas for the first time. If you want a luxury holiday too, I'd advise you to get playing and get 4 in a row.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Bluebeard's Revenge Luxury Shaving Cream

RRP: £14.50
available from: The Shaving Shack, Safetyrazors.co.uk, Elm House Products Ltd

--What does the promo say?--
"Designed by a real life Blue Beard who was bored to death with being a Desperate Dan look-alike, The Bluebeards Revenge™ is a paraben free, premium quality shaving cream with added ingredients to specifically combat tough stubble. It has been formulated to our unique specification in one of the UK's premier male cosmetics laboratories who are renowned experts in the field of shaving cream."

The shiny blue box combines a white skull and crossbones with a somehow still classy-looking jar that comes with a silver-effect screw top lid. A shaving brush is also included, and the whole ensemble is easy to use. The Bluebeard's Revenge reports that girls have been making up an ever-increasing percentage of their customer base, so the female contingent may wish to skip the use of the brush, but the male tester on this side says that the brush is easy to use and is even a bit of a novelty in an age where most men don't reach for the shaving brush automatically.

An almond-sized blob should cover your whole face (for gents), so an even smaller amount is required for ladies who are looking to get rid of persistent unwanted facial, underarm and bikini line hair. Shave off as normal with hot water and a decent razor.

A pearlescent white, thick luxurious cream that should appeal to everyone. It's quite stiff, too, implying that it is a bit more heavy-duty, going beyond the airy-fairyness of your average shaving foam or face cream. No visible residue is left on the skin after use.

Quite masculine, staying true to The Bluebeard's Revenge's word that it conjures images of a traditional barbershop with a modern twist. I suspect some vetiver in there, although the ingredients list gives nothing away save the inclusion of aloe vera. Possibly too masculine to truly appeal to girls - if I were working at The Bluebeard's Revenge, I would seriously consider putting out a version of the cream that uses the same technology but has a different smell - perhaps something more neutral or something that uses essential oils such as lavender or lemon that may appeal more to the XX market.

As previously mentioned, it's very stiff, but you get a good lather with no effort at all and it washes off easily too, leaving skin feeling insanely smooth and soft after use.

--Effects on the skin--
The most notable immediate effect, baby-softness aside, is the fact that this cream delivers an incredibly close shave, which will alone keep the unwanted hairs at bay for longer even if the stubble-busting technology itself were a load of old cobblers. Him indoors did unfortunately find that he experienced greater sensitivity after using this compared to his usual shaving cream (which, for the record, costs exactly the same), but that to the contrary this lessens if you use the cream having not shaved for a couple of days (as opposed to shaving every day). From my experience, I found no sensitivity occurred while using this product, even when tackling a few unwanted hairs on my own face, so it quite clearly depends on the person. It's also difficult for us to know if the product really reduces stubble, as I am normally a waxer (plucking out hairs that grow on my face), and him indoors has only used this new cream once a week. I'll be passing it onto my dad, whose stubble also regrows quickly, for further tests.

--Value for money--
For a totally vegetarian, paraben-free product that also works well and contributes to charity with every pot purchased (money is donated to Help For Heroes for every unit sold), you're getting a good deal here on a unique product that poses a credible challenge to the domination of the hair removal market by Gillette. Don't hesitate to go out and buy it for the man in your life this Christmas - or even as a Christmas present to yourself.

perfect partners
The Bluebeard's Revenge Scimitar Double Edge Razor, £29.99
The Bluebeard's Revenge Doubloon Bristle Shaving Brush, £6.99
The Bluebeard's Revenge Shaving Cream, Brush, and Mach3 Razor Gift Set with Free Balm, £49.99
The Bluebeard's Revenge Post Shave Balm, £9.99

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Almost got enough for that Crème de la Mer hamper you've had your eye on...?

Sponsored Post

Or maybe not? With the David Linley Keepsake Box and its Crème de la Mer contents retailing at a bank-busting £795, it's enough to make any beauty lover's credit card cry. But all of your luxury beauty dreams (and indeed any other) may be about to come true thanks to Paypal, who are offering you the chance to win £40,000. It's the equivalent of a year's salary for some, and all you have to do to enter is to shop with Paypal in order to automatically receive a ticket for the draw. So what would you do with £40,000? Would you head straight for the Bond No 9, Chantecaille and Crème de la Mer counters? Would you spend it on a series of pampering facials at top class spas around the world? Or finally get that liposuction you've always wanted? It's easy to see how £40,000 could quickly go on making you look and feel more beautiful.

Then there's always the possibility of making yourself feel more beautiful from the inside out: spending the money on fun times with friends and family is another good place to start.

Perhaps best of all, this draw is weekly, so you have plenty of chances to win, as the more times you buy, the more opportunities you get to be in with a shout at the cash. Find out more at www.paypal.co.uk/win

So feel free to start shopping with Paypal - and fantasising about what you'd do with the money. Five links to get you started:

http://www.reviveskincare.com/store/home.jsp (RéVive Skincare)

http://www.cledepeau-beaute.com/ (Clé de Peau Beauté)

http://www.laprairie.com (La Prairie)

http://www.chantecaille.com (Chantecaille)

http://www.cremedelamer.com (Crème de la Mer)


Enter now for your chance to win!

And don't forget to check out the terms and conditions: https://www.paypal-marketing.co.uk/win/terms/


Good luck!

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Wednesday, 3 November 2010

No7 Stay Perfect Matte Top Coat

--What does the promo say?--
"This year, we're unveiling the amazing matte coat that leaves nails looking like they just stepped off a catwalk. The sans-shine look popped up at a show after show and with this clear miracle, you can add edge to any base shade.
Simply apply over dry polish, just one coat is enough to achieve knock out nails."

Fairly standard stuff from No7 here. Whether that's dull and boring or classic and sophisticated really depends on you. The gold writing on the bottle is not only pretty and festive but is also readable and provides the essential information in few words.

Apply the nail colour of your choice first and then leave it to dry. Once dry, apply this top coat. One go-round should suffice.

Inside the bottle, the varnish looks weird - part white and part clear - with the parts clearly separated, as if the varnish is old and doesn't mix properly. However, this is no worry when actually applying the top coat as application is clear and cohesive. Not only this, but the visual effect delivers as promised: the result is a near-instant mattifying of your chosen colour for a modern, funky look that is seriously impressive.

You want that traditional nail-varnish pear drop anaesthetic type smell? You got it.

--Texture and consistency--
In spite of the initially worrying appearance of the product inside the bottle, as described above, this does not translate into stickiness or difficulties in application. The polish glides on smoothly and is quick to dry.

While the promised effects are there, what we need to remember is that the primary purpose of a top coat is to protect your colour and make it last longer. Sadly, this product does not really do this - I noticed chips within a day or two.

--Value for money--
At £6.75, this is not horrifically expensive, but lamentably it's not the perfect product yet. I'd say it needs to go back to the drawing board so that it will make your colour last longer before it can really help you 'stay perfect' and thus merit its price tag.

perfect partners
No7 Stay Perfect Nail Polish, £6.75
No7 Stay Perfect Eye Shadow, £7.50
No7 Stay Perfect Foundation Compact, £13.50
No7 Stay Perfect Lipstick, £9.50
No7 Stay Perfect Nail Tip Whitener, £6.75
No7 Stay Perfect Smoothening and Brightening Eye Base, £7.50
No7 Stay Perfect Eye Mousse, £8.75

Sunday, 24 October 2010

JML Pampered Toes

RRP: £9.99/pair

--What does the promo say?--
"When you look in the mirror what do you see? Your face? Your body? What about your feet? Being constantly on the go, no-one considers the daily pressures and tensions your feet are subject to. They particularly suffer when crammed into high heels, shoved into pumps or wedged into sandals. Don't ignore them - use Pampered Toes to stretch and strengthen them! Pampered Toes are a plastic toe stretching device that helps to revive and condition cramped feet....[I]nspired by yoga exercises for your feet[,] the device helps to increase circulation and stretch your tendons. It makes exercising your tootsies as easy as watching TV. When life runs you off your feet, take a few minutes to relax with Pampered Toes."

See-through plastic packaging and clear no-nonsense titling helps the product to make immediate impact. However, it is not easy to open and there is one big CON: once opened, even as carefully as possible, the Pampered Toes are left with no form of more permanent packaging, such as a carry case or storage device. The reason why this is so annoying will come later...

--Usage instructions--
We are advised by JML to "simply slip them over the tops of [the] feet". This seems fairly easy at the outset, with there being one hole in the "ladder" for each toe. However, this is slightly reliant on your feet being a certain shape or size: my little toes are ridiculously small and piggy and so only just barely fit into the hole meant for them, even with the plastic "ladder" being fully wedged down between my toes. Perhaps these need to come in different sizes?

These are a pleasant pale pink, and also come in blue. Of course you look stupid with your toes poking out of them, but I think by now we girls are used to looking stupid in the name of beauty (designer shoes, face masks, pore strips...). A more obvious up side is that it really doesn't take very long: just 10 or 15 minutes for your feet to feel more relaxed.

This is why the fact of these not having their own box or storage facility is extremely annoying: the gel from which these are made is not exactly sticky (and in fact, to the contrary, their softness, coolness and pliability makes them feel extremely pleasant on the feet), they do seem to attract dust and hair, meaning you will basically need to wash them every time you want to use them, or keep them in a Ziploc bag. This is definitely something that could do with improving - the prospect of washing mine is extremely offputting (although admittedly it doesn't help that I defied the health and safety warnings on the packaging and also walked around while wearing them).

--Effects on the feet--
There seem to be a lot of medical (or at least holistic or therapeutic) terminology and meaning attached to this product, which seems to on immediate sight lack any verification by a recognised health professional (by "recognised" I mean someone that the general public would recognise, such as Embarrassing Bodies' Dr Christian Jessen). It would therefore need a doctor to tell me whether these really did prevent hammer toes, poor circulation or bunions, stretch my tendons or strengthen my toes, as claimed by the product's PR. However, this much is obvious: it is, for whatever reasons, a very relaxing experience: feet really do feel less stressed and tense after use.

--Value for money--
I'd really want an endorsement from some kind of health professional before I made any judgement on the perceived physical benefits of this product. However, for a relaxing spa-style experience I would definitely recommend it to make you feel like you're walking on air - they just need to give the poor things a home of their own to make the experience completely hassle-free. Now, where's my Enya CD, incense sticks and face mask...?

perfect partners
Ped Egg, £9.99
Snuggie, £24.99 for 2
Circulation Enhancer, £149.99
Deluxe Bath Spa, £59.99

Johnson & Johnson 24 Hour Exfoliating Body Wash with Shea Butter

RRP: £3

--What does the promo say?--
"JOHNSON’S® Gentle Exfoliating Wash gently exfoliates with unique beads that melt and condition your skin to leave it feeling soft and smooth. This soft, lathering, creamy formula hydrates and pampers your skin, leaving it moisturized for 24 hours. While other exfoliating washes may feel harsh, JOHNSON'S® Gentle Exfoliating Wash has been developed to be gentle enough for everyday use, even on sensitive skin. So every day you can enjoy light exfoliation to reveal beautifully fresh, radiant skin."

Its soft, near-chocolatey colour gives the impression of luxury, with the feather illustration adding softness and the sturdy plastic flip-top lid and the bottle's ergonomic shape making the whole thing practical to use. All in all, a perfect package.

Lather up with a little water and rub over the body, paying special attention to areas where you want to avoid ingrown hairs, such as under the arms, and then rinse off. This can be done just using your hands, but for extra exfoliating power you can always use a sponge exfoliating puff, or loofah.

A translucent brownish-gold gel with faint dark exfoliating beads embedded in it. No visible residue left after use.

Buttery and chocolatey. Simply delicious; a sublime start to winter mornings.

--Texture and consistency--
Exfoliates well without being too harsh, and the gel, while not making a supremely creamy lather, uses what little lather it does make to its fullest advantage, providing a silky cleansing experience.

--Effects on the skin--
As well as leaving skin smooth, clean and soft, it also has an immense practical use, particularly for those who wax or epilate, as it makes significant headway in eliminating and preventing ingrown hairs. I definitely noticed the difference when I stopped using it. This definitely ticks all the right boxes.

--Value for money--
Your £3 buys you an undoubtedly perfect beauty product that pampers you to princess-like perfection while taking care of your body at the same time, so that it's in a state you're proud of. Full marks - I don't think I'd be without this in my shower now. Useful AND beautiful!

perfect partners
Johnson & Johnson 24 Hour Moisture Hand Cream, £1.99
Johnson & Johnson 24 Hour Body Lotion with Vitamin E, £2.99
Johnson & Johnson 24 Hour Moisture Radiance Body Lotion with Shea & Cocoa Butters, £2.99

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Liz Earle Foot Scrub

RRP: £10.25/100ml

--What does the promo say?--
"Our new Foot Scrub gently yet intensively exfoliates hard, rough skin on your feet to leave them ultra-smooth and buffed to perfection. This hard-working scrub contains natural pumice to remove dead skin cells, softening avocado oil and wheatgerm oil rich in vitamin E plus the invigorating aromas of peppermint and rosemary essential oils."

--The packaging--
More practical than the frankly bizarre pump-action foot cream in the range, this squeezy plastic bottle sits comfortably on its lid and is easy to grip in the shower.

Liz Earle recommend daily use on damp skin, concentrating on the balls of the feet, the heels, and between the toes.

A light blue-grey colour that seems entirely natural to the product, scrubs white onto skin, and leaves nothing visible in its wake after rinsing.

Fits in well with the rest of the range to eliminate odour without being too clinical; the peppermint and rosemary smells are most prominent.

Simultaneously creamy and scrubby; provides the perfect combination in order to tackle tough skin while still pampering your feet luxuriously. Non-irritating.

--Effects on the skin--
Following the directions of daily use on damp skin showed great improvement, especially in conjunction with the companion moisturiser.

--Value for money--
£10.25 seems expensive at face value, but this stuff is packed full of natural and effective ingredients, basically fulfilling my requirement of what makes the perfect beauty product: something that is a luxurious treatment while being effective. In addition, other products in this category seem to offer much less for prices that are far more jaw-dropping: Benefit, Bliss and Jo Wood's body scrubs will all send your wallet running for the hills. Liz Earle's prices therefore seem to sit nicely between cheaper high street products that are of lesser quality, more expensive high street products that also fail to emulate it, and higher-end brands such as Biotherm, Clarins and Clinique that offer an experience similar in quality but much higher in price. And best of all? It comes in travel size as well from just £4.50. Don't hesitate to invest in this for your feet: your toes will soon thank you for it.

perfect partners
Foot Moisturiser, from £4.50
Foot Spritzer, from £4.50
Cotton Rich Socks, £4.50

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Cosmetics & Beauty News September 2010

Protect your skin - all year round
A study conducted recently by the University College Hospital, Besancon, in conjunction with Boots' No7, finds that not only can skin damage occur when skin is exposed unprotected to sun through glass (such as through conservatory windows and car windows) and that 83% of women are unaware that they should be protecting their skin with an SPF product all year round - not just when on their usual annual summer holiday. Boots helps to combat this with their release of the first 5-star rated UVA daily moisturiser in the UK - No7 Protect and Perfect Intense Day Cream - which helps to protect skin from the sun as well as repair already existing signs of ageing.

And for sensitive skin too...
...there's Allergy UK-approved extreme tolerance skincare range, NATorigin. Approved also by the Vegetarian Society, packaging is fully recyclable, and the products themselves contain a minimum of 97% naturally-sourced ingredients - and the range, available from www.natorigin.co.uk, has also been nominated in three categories in the 2010 Pure Beauty Awards to prove it. With prices starting at £6.75, the range contains red seaweed and raspberry seed oil to nourish, hydrate and purify. Sounds good to me.

Think pink with Estée Lauder  
In support of Breast Cancer Awareness, Estée Lauder is launching its Pink Ribbon Collection this October, comprising two snazzy new makeup sets complete with pink mock crocodile clutch bags. The Elizabeth Hurley Lip Collection gives you two double-ended lipgloss wands for a total of four gloss shades (Nude Rose, Rock Candy, Brazen Berry and Extravagant Pink) for £25, while the Evelyn Lauder Lip Collection offers three shades of Pure Colour Lipstick - Tiramisu, Candy, and Rubellite - for £25. To complete your look, there's the Estée Lauder Jewelled Pink Ribbon Pin, whose £10 retail price goes to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in its entirety. As for the makeup sets, £7.50 from each purchase also goes directly to the charity. Who could ask for more? Look good and support a charity at the same time.

Get Bobbi Brown in your stocking this Christmas
Bobbi Brown's new teen beauty book and palette are sure to feature on many a girl's wish list this December. In Beauty Rules, out now, Bobbi gives tips on everything to build beauty inside and out, including exercise, being a great friend, and of course plenty about makeup. The accompanying new website, www.BeautyRules.com, gives just a taster of what you can expect - and could even benefit us 20-somethings who are still teens inside.

And the winner is...
Thanks to our good friends at Purity Organic Skincare, I have been able to give away five full sets of the range this month. The five winners are:
Rachel Barnes, Maidenhead
Jessica Collier, Brighton
Sarah Long, Woking
Mary Richardson, Hull
Sabrina Stadler, Glasgow

Enjoy your products - they should be with you soon :)  Happy October, everyone!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

No7 Stay Perfect Trio Eyeshadow

RRP: £9.75
 # of shades available: 12
--What does the promo say?--
"No7 Stay Perfect Trio Eyeshadow conains a selection of high impact colours that blend effortlessly and last for hours."

Fairly standard ovular black plastic with a little window to look through. No mirror, but a brush is included (even if the curve of it sometimes makes it more difficult, not easier, to manipulate the shadow). All in all, nothing to write home about.
The Boots website recommends applying the lightest colour all over the eyelid, up to the brow bone, followed by the medium shade just up to the crease of the eyelid. The darkest colour can be used to follow the line of the eyelashes before blending in. Basically, it's not rocket science.

The shade I was kindly sent by No7 is only identified as 'matte', but looking at the website's current selections, it is closest to Good Earth, with a creamy base colour, a pale brown middling colour, and a slate grey liner shade. It's quite a nice combination on the eye, but not as versatile as other trios I've tried (Revlon, I'm looking at you), and as you will see below, it's quite an effort to get anything to show up at all.

Strangely, this trio of shadows is nowhere near as easy to manipulate as the new mono shadows that No7 also sent me from their autumn collection. As quite a few reviewers on the Boots website point out (you have to scroll through quite a few pages to get to the lower-rated reviews: cunning tactic there!), you have to scrub at the eyeshadow for ages with the brush in order to pick up any and when you do apply it the paler colours in particular are very faint. Applying eyeshadow just shouldn't take this much effort and persistence. However, the darkest colour in the trio is better.

Can't complain - but when the shadow barely shows up on the eye to begin with...

--Value for money--
No7 seem to be trying in their makeup to compete with other similar brands, such as Revlon, and while in the past I was often pleased with their products (the Sheer Temptation lipstick/gloss hybrid is a godsend!), in more recent times I have been less pleased with the overinflated prices which do not deliver on the quality so often. My advice? If you must buy a No7 eyeshadow, perhaps go for one of their mono shadows (of which my more positive review will soon follow), but if it's multiple colours you want, the up-and-coming Prestige and Front Cover both offer far better value, as does the more mainstream L'Oréal.
perfect partner
No7 Intense Volume Mascara, £11

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Schwarzkopf Gliss Shea Cashmere Shampoo and Conditioner

RRP: £1.59/bottle
Retails at: Sainsbury's, Superdrug, Savers, Bodycare

--What does the promo say?--
"Hair Repair - Repairs Inside the Hair Cell
Dry or Lifeless Hair
Easy Combing & Cashmere Smooth Hair
Suitable for Daily Use
The nourishing formula with Shea Butter and Cashmere Protein provides the hair with intensive care and tangibly more suppleness."
Like many other brands of its type, it reaches its target audience of women aged 20-30 with soft pastel colours, although the purple is a bit more zingy and adds a nice touch. The unusual combination of shea and cashmere immediately conjures images of softness and luxury, and high technology is also evoked in the illustrations on the bottle. With the shampoo bottle standing on its flip-top lid and the conditioner bottle having its lid at the top of the bottle, the slightly opposing yet harmonious design works well too.

Massage the shampoo into wet hair as normal before rinsing out, and then add the conditioner, smoothing it down the full length of the hair, or just on the ends if this is where you have most difficulty with dryness, and then rinse out completely after a few minutes.

The shampoo is a lovely pearlescent slightly beige/off-white coloured product, which continues to create the image of something truly luxurious in the shower. The conditioner is slightly yellower and more matte than pearlescent.

The shea butter is expectedly prominent; you are definitely given what you are promised. Always nice to have a slightly chocolatey start to the morning!

No problems here: it wasn't too sticky, too thick, too runny, or too anything. The  conditioner is creamier and less runny than the shampoo; both products are very manageable and easy to control and rinse out.

--Effects on the hair--
Truthfully, Schwarzkopf's claims on this shampoo and conditioner are very modest, so you cannot claim that they do not deliver. The main claims are "increased suppleness" and "cell repair", with the former being very subjective and the latter being presumably only something that could be tested by a scientist. However, I did thankfully experience increased softness in my hair, which I assume to be down to the various proven conditioning ingredients within, such as glyceryl cocoate (derived from coconut) and wheat protein, as well as the cashmere protein and shea butter mentioned in the brand's promotional materials. I was therefore fairly pleased with the products, in spite of the fact that they didn't quite deliver the high-shine result I was after (but hey - you can't have everything).

--Value for money--
Being a hair colour company primarily, I had always (perhaps stupidly) presumed that Schwarzkopf's products were expensive (since hair dye usually is) and was very pleasantly surprised to find this retailing at such an affordable price. It easily competes with others in its price bracket, such as Aussie and Trésemmé, as well as with others of a higher price range, such as John Frieda. Would buy again - they just need to bring out a hair mask now!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Purity Organic Skincare Giveaway

Our kind friends at Purity Organic Skincare are giving you the chance to win one of five full sets of the range.

For your chance to win, email soprano[UNDERSCORE]seraph[AT]hotmail[DOT]com with your name and postal address before the end of September (closing date = Sept 30 2010, 23:59:59 UK time). Winners will be selected at random and announced on Bianca's Beauty Blog on October 1st.

Good luck :D

Friday, 10 September 2010

Johnson & Johnson Daily Essentials Rehydrating Night Cream

RRP: £3.99

--What does the promo say?--
"Johnson's Rehydrating Night Cream, enriched with Skin Essentials,replenishes essential moisture lost during the day whilst caring for normal skin with:
• Skin loving minerals known to restore skin vitality
• Glycerine known to help support your skin’s hydration overnight
Results: Awaken to beautifully soft,refreshed skin.
Dermatologically tested, suitable for sensitive skin."

I know it's not tremendously practical to have a glass jar, but it is so nice and luxurious (and better for the environment too). Again, the pink and white may be a bit off-putting to some. The jar is a nice size, too: not too big. 

Smooth a small amount over face and neck every night after cleansing and toning. 

A thick, white, luxurious cream.

Again, that rose-tinted scent that plagues this range and is its main disadvantage.

Despite its thickness, blends in really easily and doesn't make your skin feel bogged down or oily.

--Effects on the skin--
In conjunction with the cleanser, this did seem to improve my skin a little and added some luxury to my routine. However, it is not suitable to double up as a day cream, as skin seems to become more oily more quickly this way, so if you are going to purchase this range, make sure you get the day cream too.

--Value for money--
Offers better results than a lot of more expensive brands, and provides a recession-proof, quality alternative to skincare at a lower price.

perfect partners
Daily Essentials 24h Day Cream for Normal Skin (SPF15), £3.99
Daily Essentials Refreshing Gel Wash for Normal Skin, £2.99
Daily Essentials Refreshing Facial Cleansing Wipes for Normal Skin, £2.99/25 

Johnson & Johnson Daily Essentials Refreshing Gel Wash

RRP: £2.99

--What does the promo say?--
"Johnson's Refreshing Gel Wash, enriched with Skin Essentials, gently lifts away impurities whilst caring for normal skin with:
• Skin loving minerals known to restore freshness
• Vitamin C derivative known for its antioxidant properties
Results: Skin is cleansed, feels soft and refreshed.
Dermatologically tested, suitable for sensitive skin."

The image of the feather is nice, although all that pink may put some off. The plastic bottle is a good chunky size without being overbearing and the flip-top lid is practical and sturdy.

Wet hands, lather up a small amount of gel wash, rub onto face, and then wipe off with a damp flannel. Simples.

A clear gel with tiny pink exfoliating beads suspended in it. Leaves no visible residue after use.

The thick rosy scent of the product pervades the entire range and I really feel that Johnson & Johnson have really left behind their modern female market with this. Women today tend to expect something more botanical, clinical without being chemical, or even something with no scent at all, rather than something so cloying, powdery and frankly old-fashioned.

The exfoliating beads are pleasantly scrubby but not especially heavy-duty and the gel is refreshing as promised. No problems here.

--Effects on the skin--
After using this (in conjunction with one of the range's moisturisers) I felt like I'd had a good luxurious facial done, which was an impressive start. Equally, despite using a product for normal skin even though I have very oily skin indeed, I didn't note too many negatives: while it didn't give me the perfect skin I dream of, and didn't seem to speed up the elimination of any existing blemishes, it did seem to significantly reduce the number of new blemishes that appeared. Skin was calmed and less red, too, although not as much as when I was using the Origins product that I was sent to test recently. This is probably down to the minerals that the product contains, such as zinc, which is known to help healing.

--Value for money--
Since you can hardly argue with £2.99, or with the positive effects that I did experience, I'd definitely be interested in trying the brand's range for oily skin. However, since the product does contain various alleged nasties such as SLS, you would possibly want to aim a bit higher with your budget in order to avoid these.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Cosmetics & Beauty News August 2010

Purple is coming back!
With such luminaries as Kim Karadashian and Salma Hayek all having been seen recently in purple, you can be sure that the colour is making a comeback. Which is good news for me, since it's my favourite colour! It's also the colour of Givenchy's new version of fragrance Rewind Play FFWD for Her Intense, which comes with a lovely glittery edge. The pink version is a lighter version or the normal version of the intense scent, both containing amyris wood, sandalwood, and tiare flower. The intense version adds pink peppercorns, orange flower, orchid, tonka bean and patchouli, while the normal version uses white peach, bergamot, sweet pea, magnolia and musks instead. Both are available now to help you spread the purple love from £34.50.
The colours also feature in No7's new limited edition autumn tribal range, which is only available until October 5th. Thunder and Peacock, both mono eyeshadows priced at £8 each, use rich blues and purples, while the £13 Limited Edition Eye Palette marries purple with orange, green and blue.
To cap it all, Lush's new TucaTuca fragrance, which starts at £5.50, contains violets and jasmine, so that you really can be purple all over. 

Have your cake and eat it
So it seems that good things really do come in small packages. Cake Beauty's 11-piece sample set sounds positively delicious, containing travel/gift sizes that include everything you could possibly want: shampoo, conditioner, refreshing mist, bath and shower gel, body mousse, body lotion, hand creme, and a hand and cuticle buffer. The set also offers an array of to-die-for flavours, including satin sugar and milk made. Available from a range of hidden independent boutiques around the world as well as around the web (see here for more info), it's a snip at around £30.

Arrivederci le vacanze...
So the holidays may be over with the prospect of returning to work or school looming on the horizon. However, Mama Mio has a solution to save your hardworking legs. Lucky Legs Cooling Serum not only brings relief to exhausted and swollen limbs but also makes your legs shimmer and sparkle with a touch of glitter. At £15.50, it should put a spring in your step, Italian style.

Back to school
If work doesn't appeal, there's always school. The Makeup School, recently set up by Jacqui McElroy in East London, offers courses to even complete beginners, and will give you all necessary theoretical and practical knowledge and advice to make up yourself and others. Check out www.themakeupschool.co.uk for more.

There's an app for that
The passion for mineral and natural cosmetics is now also increasingly combining with the new craze for smartphone apps. In their iPhone app, Pür Minerals offers you a commitment-free way to try out a new look. Add a photo of yourself to the app, click a product, select a shade, and experiment with products. You can then share the photo if you want, or start again, or click directly through to Pür Minerals' retail partners to purchase the products you've selected. Now that sounds convenient.

Under pressure
Plenty of us can feel under pressure at work, but many of us ladies also put our bodies under pressure by wearing high heels day in day out. The elegant-sounding Foot Petals offers products that claim to transform "even the most uncomfortable of shoes into walking-on-cloud experiences". Although the products themselves sound a bit 90s - Killer Kushionz, Heavenly Heelz and Sole Stopperz to name but a few - they look like they are easy to slip into your shoes and conceal as well as protect your feet with. Available from http://tszuji.co.uk for UK buyers.
Miss Oops is also another good brand to help keep you as cool as a cucumber: the new Rescue Sponge helps you to get rid of makeup stains and deodorant stains from your clothing fast for £8 and Mishap Tape covers all manner of sins for just £5.50. Available at Space NK now!

Gucci Guilty
Among the myriad new perfumes coming out this autumn is Gucci Guilty, which stars in its very own film noir style clip created by the author of Sin City. To celebrate the fragrance's release, they are also running a competition whose first prize is tickets to the MTV Awards this September. Good luck!

Super Summer Saver
Don't tell anyone, but Waitrose are giving you the chance to save your hair and your money from now until September 21, with there being 25% of all Tommyguns hair products.
Melvita is also bringing out a new organic hair care range, so there should be no struggle in getting your hair back into shape.

Ecoluxury from the Emerald Isle
Irish brand Max Benjamin reminds us of the importance of eco-friendliness all around the home with his Eco-Lux candles, which, as the weather gets colder, will be a welcome addition in helping us all to cosy up in a fully sustainable way. Made from 100% soy wax, the £18 candles are slow-burning and last longer than paraffin equivalents. The 15 seasonal fragrances, such as Dodici (rosemary, lemon, lavender, and marjoram), are all made from fine holistic oils, and are available from Selfridges London and Manchester as well as at www.maxbenjamin.ie.

There's something in the air
There's something very exciting in the air at The Fragrance Shop from today: any customer who spends over £10, in store or online, will receive a 'golden ticket' scratch card that gives the chance to win big prizes, including exclusive 'money can't buy' city breaks. There are also thousands of runner-up prizes and money-off vouchers up for grabs, but the big guns include Marc Jacobs bags, luxury perfumes, and trips to New York and Milan. You have until the end of September to try and win - see here for more info: www.TheFragranceShop.co.uk/goldenticket

Equazen eye q Omega-3 Capsules

RRP: £8.03/60 capsules from www.chemistdirect.co.uk

--What does the promo say?--
"Equazen eye q is a great way to get your Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids. They are called essential because your body can’t produce them so they have to come from your diet – it’s essential! These essential fatty acids play a vital role in almost every part of our bodies, including the brain. So taking Equazen eye q as part of your regular diet may help to maintain certain aspects of brain function such as learning ability."

An attractive design on the box and bottle that uses silver, yellow, white and blue. However, my problem with the packaging - box and bottle - is that it does not explain enough to the consumer about what it is or what it will do. On the front, we are told that the eye q capsules are "a high-EPA fish oil formula", but we are never told what this means or what it will do for us. On the up side, the main benefits of taking the capsules (maintain concentration levels and help healthy brain development) and the directions for use are clearly and concisely listed.

You are supposed to take 6 capsules a day - i.e., two with each meal - for the first twelve weeks of taking them, which decreases to two per day thereafter. This is relatively easy to adhere to, but there are always occasions when you will forget to take them, such as when you are in a rush in the morning or when you are eating a meal outside the home. Should be swallowed whole with water or juice.

--Scent and taste--
None, which is always good. I had never taken fish oil prior to being sent these, but I have heard that some fish oils can cause an unfortunate "fishy burp" style reflux. Nice. None of that with this, thankfully.

Pretty normal fish oil style capsules: they are not too big and have a shiny, golden appearance.

--Effects on the body--
The effects stated on the box are fairly difficult to quantify or measure. My medic sister backed up the claims, saying that they should help to maintain the health of brain and eyes. I can't say I've noticed any increase in concentration or mental quickness, however (if we're looking for things that we can measure and report on easily), and I've even arguably experienced drier eyes in the period of use. The press release that accompanied the delivery of these capsules told an extended story: as well as boosting the health of joints, heart, brain and the eyes, it also alleges that the capsules should "moisturise hair, skin and nails from the inside out and even help boost general well-being[...]boosting nail growth and strength [and] giving a gloss and added volume to hair." My sister was more sceptical about these cosmetic claims. The main difference I noticed was that my eyes, while perhaps drier towards the end of the course (c. 4 weeks), did seem brighter. Hair may have been marginally more voluminous, but it certainly wasn't made any smoother or shinier: I visited my hairdresser about a week into the course and he was horrified at how dry and damaged my hair still was. I have seen no improvement in my skin and my nails are just as brittle as they usually are. Wellbeing = no change.
In short, effects are minimal to non-existent.

--Value for money--
£8 for 60 capsules may seem reasonable at first, but this quantity only lasts 10 days. I was sent two bottles (so £16 worth) and as previously stated, this, although meant to only last 20 days, lasted me a bit longer due to occasionally forgetting to take the capsules. I therefore estimate the overall course to have lasted around four weeks. I don't think that taking them religiously would have increased the effects much, and £16-£20 a month seems quite a lot to pay for something that doesn't do very much. Equally, this link proved interesting reading as to the value of this product, and leaves me wondering why Equazen have not removed their previously slammed claims from their packaging (it is still there on the bottle and box in black and white three years later).  My advice? Spend the money on Vitamin C instead, or if you're really concerned about getting Omega 3 and Omega 6 specifically, just eat lots of yummy mackerel, sardines and tuna :)

perfect partners
Cardiozen (30 capsules), £9.93
Equavision (30 capsules), £12.04
Eye Q Baby (30 capsules), £9.73
Eye Q Chews Strawberry (30), £4.35
Eye Q Liquid Citrus (200ml), £9.73
Eye Q Smooth (240ml), £11.29
Mumomega Capsules (30), £9.93

Monday, 30 August 2010

A Fresh Start

In previous months I've worked around the fragrance wheel, showing you how to recognise oriental, woody, and floral fragrances. There are just two areas still left to cover: fresh and fruity fragrances and fougère fragrances.
The 'fresh' category of the fragrance wheel (used to categorise all fragrances) incorporates water, green, and citrus-style smells. Not as commonly found as the other categories on the wheel, this does not mean that they are any less appealing. Hermès goes out on a limb with its unisex, fruity and fresh scents, such as Jardin Après Le Mousson, and another brand to make use of the fruitier side of life is Ralph Lauren, with perfumes such as Safari. While it also incorporates spices and woody notes, it uses lemon and juniper to create a unique citrus fragrance. And if it doesn't quite go far enough for you, you could also turn to other Ralph Lauren perfumes such as Ralph Rocks. The bright orange bottle is undoubtedly lurid, but it packs a positively tropical punch with its blend of kiwi, passion fruit and citrus fruits. 
For a fresher option, Issey Miyake's perfume for women presents L'Eau D'Issey, which promises to "bring together the benefits of earth and water". It uses cyclamen, which although it is a flower, is grown from tubers, which also produce potatoes and truffles. 

 Plenty of other ladies' perfumes allow outdoor girls to pick the fragrance that's just right for them. Examples of fruity fragrances can be found at DKNY (Be Delicious), Yves St Laurent (Champagne), Moschino (Cheap and Chic), Calvin Klein (CK One Summer), and Cartier (Eau de Cartier). For fresh or green perfumes, you can plump for Bond No 9, Charlie by Revlon, Versace Metal Jeans Women, or Diorissimo by Christian Dior. By looking beyond the obvious floral or oriental scents, you should be able to find a perfume that's right for you - a task often easier said than done, I grant you.

But what do you do when all of the areas on the fragrance wheel appeal to you, and you want something that mixes them all?

This is where the fougère fragrances come in. They sit in the middle of the fragrance wheel, and their name is French for fern, which might imply that they belong more to the fresh and fruity family, but in fact they contain elements from all four of the main categories: "the freshness of from the Citrus family, floral notes of lavender, the spicy-sweetness of a Floral Oriental, the ambery depth of an Oriental and the Mossy Woods warmth of sandalwood and oakmoss." (Thanks, Wikipedia!) Another notable feature of the fougère family is its unisex quality: while often worn by men, there's nothing to stop women from wearing them too. Davidoff's Cool Water is a famous example for men, while Guerlain's Jicky is an example that is mostly worn by women. Often containing elements such as lavender and oakmoss, they offer that touch of je ne sais quoi on your skin. 

Finding fougère perfumes for women can be tricky; even in this age of equality, and in spite of the fact that the fougère family does incorporate aspects of all four fragrance families, the fougère scents are more often than not associated with men. But it's not impossible:  Eau d'Elide (Diptyque), English Fern (Penhaligon's), and De Bachmakov (The Different Company) are touted as unisex fougère options. Ben Sherman's 2Tone can be worn by women, as can Luciano Soprani's 2, O Boticario's Acqua de Colonia, and Yardley's English Lavender. But these just scratch the surface; Fragrantica offers a full and detailed list of fougères on offer. But ultimately when perfume shopping the important thing is to find a fragrance that you like - not one that necessarily conforms to the label - man or woman, fougère or non - that someone else has given it.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Origins Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Advanced Face Serum

RRP: from £41/30ml

--What does the promo say?--
"Calms. Soothes. Makes skin more resilient. The result: visible ageing is slowed. Now that’s a relief. Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins™ Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Advanced Face Serum is formulated with scientifically proven, newly discovered anti-irritant ingredients of Chaga Mushroom, Pleurotus Mushroom, Certified Organic Sea Buckthorn, Spike Moss and Mangifera Leaf Extract. This upgraded, more-potent formula works faster on skin and builds on the clinically proven success of the original ingredients in the current Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins™ Collection: Hypsizygus ulmarius, Cordyceps and Reishi Mushrooms, Turmeric, Ginger and Holy Basil. According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information, “the Chaga Mushroom is claimed to have beneficial properties for human health.” Pleurotus Mushrooms have been used by a variety of cultures for their beneficial properties. Sea Buckthorn, valued for its golden-orange fruits, provides Vitamins C and E, Folic Acid, Carotenoids, healthy Fatty Acids and Flavonoids. Spike Moss delivers rapid relief to the look of sensitive, red skin. Mangifera Leaf Extract offers Anti-Glycation benefits, helping to reduce the appearance of sensitivity.

Recent clinical and sensory studies were performed on hundreds of women from both the United States and Japan. Participants ranged from having normal skin to being dermatologist-diagnosed rosacea patients. After testing was conducted, Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins™ Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Advanced Face Serum was clinically proven to:
√ Soothe Skin’s appearance
√ Reduce the appearance of Redness
√ Strengthen Skin’s moisture Barrier
√ Boost a look of Clarity

After just 1 month of continuous use:
96% said their skin felt soothed
94% said their skin appeared healthier
94% said the redness in their skin looked reduced
88% said their skin looked calmed and felt less reactive or sensitive
84% said their skin felt stronger and more resilient."

The box is a calming, natural, unisex and unusual combination of dark green and white. Kept simple, it explains everything you need to know in concise and understandable terms. The dark green pump action bottle is mysterious and translucent as well as functional.

Serums are traditionally applied after toning, but before moisturising. Apply directly to the skin or mix with moisturiser morning and night. No problems here.

An unattractive runny beige lotion which thankfully blends into skin invisibly.

As you would expect, it has the clean earthy smell of fresh mushrooms, but it's in no way overpowering. It's perhaps a bit of a shame that the other ingredients, such as ginger and basil, don't get more of a look-in.

--Texture and consistency--
A smooth lotion that easily absorbs into the skin, whether on its own or mixed with your usual moisturiser.

--Effects on the skin--
Skin felt instantly smoother, and within a week seemed calmer and less red, as well as showing a demonstrable improvement in the number and severity of spots. I had previously read online that while mainly targeted at rosacea sufferers, those with acneic skin also saw a positive difference, and thankfully for me, the internet wasn't wrong. Huzzah! As for any anti-ageing claims, I'm not sure I'm convinced, but then again, I don't really espouse anti-ageing products anyway: just a normal moisturiser or even a sunscreen will do, surely?

--Value for money--
For something that really does provide relief and an improvement in skin appearance and health to sufferers of acne and rosacea, it's worth paying up - and if you can't quite stretch to the £40-£50 required, you can still test the technology in the smaller and more affordable £29 Skin Relief Collection. Additionally, Dr Andrew Weil, who has worked with Origins to make this products, donates all after-tax royalties and profits from this product range to the Weil Foundation, which supports the advancement of integrative medicine and the training of doctors, so there's an extra feel-good factor too.

perfect partners
Mega-Mushroom Face Cleanser, £23
Mega-Mushroom Treatment Lotion, £23
Mega-Mushroom Face Lotion, £46
Mega-Mushroom Face Cream, £46
Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Collection, £29
Mega-Mushroom Eye Makeup Remover Pads, £21
Mega-Mushroom Eye Serum, £36
Mega-Mushroom Skin-Calming Face Mask, £31
Mega-Mushroom Body Cream, £36

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Liz Earle Foot Spritzer

RRP: £7/75ml

--What does the promo say?--
"Spritz your feet, legs and ankles with a cooling and invigorating burst of 9 essential oils including rosemary, spearmint and peppermint. This fast-drying spray fights odour-causing bacteria to help keep skin fresh. Available from 18th May to 5th September 2010, while stocks last."

Fits in very well not only with the Liz Earle brand as a whole but also with the rest of the footcare range, with its simple blue styling. The spray is easy to use and does not jam.

Spray onto legs, feet and ankles whenever they are feeling hot or tired.

A clear spray which is invisible on the feet, which is quite a feat given how many foot sprays leave a powdery residue behind.

The predominant scents are the mint and rosemary, although it's nice to know that there are so many other good things in the spray too (the other oils help to soften skin, soothe aches and pains, calm stress, and tone the skin).

--Texture and consistency--
The spray is non-irritating in spite of the strong mint smell and the high content of essential oils. Incidentally, the spray does not feel oily at all.

--Effects on the skin--
The downside of the spray not being oily at all, despite it being composed primarily of essential oils, is that it is no substitute for other foot treatments: if your feet are dry, you will still need to use creams and scrubs. The spray is intended as a complementary product to these rather than as a replacement.

--Value for money--
The majority of foot sprays on the market are medicinal, with the prices of many of them approaching or even exceeding the price of the Liz Earle product. Very few foot sprays are intended as a pure luxury, and this product is perhaps unique in that it does both. Affordable, luxurious and high quality, it's definitely worth having for the summer months - but it's also limited edition, so get your mitts on it while stocks last.

perfect partners
Foot Scrub, from £4.50
Foot Repair Moisturiser, from £4.50
Cotton Rich Socks, £4.50

AmorePacific Moisture Bound Refreshing Essentials

RRP: $50

contains: 1.0 oz Moisture Bound Refreshing Hydra-Gel, 1.0 oz Treatment Toner, 0.25 oz Treatment Enzyme Peel, 1.0 oz Treatment Cleansing Foam

available at: Sephora US

--What does the promo say?--
"AmorePacific Moisture Bound Introductory Collection Refreshing Essentials for Combination and Oily Skin is a limited-edition ensemble of handy skincare must-haves. These luxurious products are all you need to make your oily skin healthy, resilient, and age-resistant. Keep your complexion youthful and glowing—at home and on-the-go!"

Very plain and bland, and not in a "wow, this looks really expensive and sophisticated" way (even though it is certainly the former). The whole design just looks like it has had little to no effort and time spent on it, and the bottles themselves look like something you'd find in a hotel room. Even just looking at it, you don't feel like this is going to be worth $50, especially since the sizes of the products are very small (when I was sent this, I thought this was just the sample size, but nope - they do actually want you to pay $50 for these tiny things [they are the size of what you get in a hotel room, too]).

--Application and usage--
No problems here. The cleanser lathers up well with a little bit of water and you only need a pea-sized amount. Rub onto damp face and then rinse off. The toner, again, just needs a little dabbed onto a cotton pad and you're away - sweep over face and neck and then wait for it to dry off a little before applying the moisturiser.
The enzyme peel is a little more unusual: tip a little into your hands, perhaps at the same time as the cleanser, mix with a little bit of water, rub over your face, and then rinse off.

The cleanser is a stiff, slightly opaque white cream/gel containing tiny blue exfoliating particles, and makes a white lather when mixed with water. The toner is an unusual rose pink colour, and the moisturiser is an equally unusual duck-egg blue, slightly opaque gel. None of these leave any visible residue on the skin after use. The unorthodox enzyme peel consists of a creamy yellowish powder, which washes off clear.

The cleanser, enzyme peel and moisturiser just smell slightly soapy - a surprise given all the good stuff they contain, such as ginseng, green tea, and bamboo, which you'd think would give the products a more distinctive smell. The toner comes up to expectations, smelling as it looks (slightly rosy).

--Texture and consistency--
All of the products are really nice to use, with the cleanser being smooth and luxurious, the enzyme peel being satisfyingly scrubby, and the toner and moisturiser proving cooling.

--Effects on the skin--
Sadly, despite all of the botanical stuff this line contains, my skin just did not like this range. I suffered breakouts and my skin has been worse while using this than it has been for a long time. In the more detailed press release I was sent, I was promised "healthy, radiant, vibrant skin" and that pores would be unclogged, the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles would be reduced, and that undamaged skin would be revealed to me thanks to the enzyme peel. Unfortunately I saw none of this and was gagging to get off this and back to my usual products.

--Value for money--
As already implied in the packaging section, you do not get very much for your money in terms of product volume, although saying that, the pack will easily see you through a holiday and beyond. I do not think that the brand image correlates well with the price of the products and certainly, for me at least, the results do not either. For better value travel products, American buyers would be better off steering clear of this and going for travel sizes from Liz Earle, Clinique, or Molton Brown. If, however, you do decide that any of these products might be for you, US buyer or not, the larger sizes of the individual products are likely to provide better value for money, as well as being more widely available.

perfect partners
Intensive Vitalizing Eye Complex, $125
Lip Treatment, $35
Skin Energy Hydration Delivery System, $35
Natural Protector SPF30, $65