Sunday, 28 February 2010

Cosmetics & Beauty News February 2010

Keeping beauty safe
Even despite the various medical advances that abound in our world today, you could argue that we are unhealthier as people are either too fat or too thin, consuming more of the wrong things, and interacting in increasingly polluted environments. The Safe Beauty Association takes this to another level, wanting consumers to be more aware of health issues in beauty, whether at the makeup counter or in professional salons, and encouraging a desire to decrease cross-contamination and diseases such as conjunctivitis. Launched in December, the programme is already gathering momentum and offers both individual and corporate membership as well as training and accreditation, bringing this issue deservedly into the spotlight. Find it at

Going your own Wei
With the arrival of Wei Beauty at SpaceNK, your skincare regime can truly be allowed to go its own way through the use of traditional Chinese skincare methods, there being four categories of product so that you're sure to find something to suit your skin. Choose the Chi range to purify with Chinese rose cleanser and pomegranate buffing beads; elect to energise with the Yang range, which contains jujube and goji berries to revitalise; replenish with Yin, which uses mulberry, safflower and lotus to nourish; and, for those of you with acneic skin, bring a sense of Zen to your bathroom with the range that uses lychee and chrysanthemum to correct, balance and restore congested skin. Available from Space NK now, starting at £15.

Incanto the Sixth
Salvatore Ferragamo is launching the latest addition to the Incanto perfume series this month, entitled Incanto Bloom. With so many floral undertones - freesia, champaca, grapefruit flowers, and tea roses - it's bound to attract the girly girls, but the added cashmere wood and musk make it more unusual and intriguing. And, starting at £29.50 for 30ml of EDT at, it's affordable too.

Scorsese's scorching Chanel project
Start thinking ahead Christmas, or perhaps get this one for your boyfriend or fiancé "just because": Chanel's new fragrance for men is sure to provide an edge to the world of aftershave, with its adverts being directed by Martin Scorsese and starring the suave French actor, Gaspard Ulliel. The only disadvantage is that it doesn't break until August 2010, just missing Fathers' Day. No further details about the fragrance are available yet, but with these two involved, it's likely to be simultaneously classic and on trend.

Stella's solid scent soars into stores
Following Jean-Paul Gaultier's solid perfume-cum-necklace last January, you can now team it with (or compensate for, if you didn't buy it) Stella McCartney's effort, the solid version of Stella, which is now available for $49 in the US, and is true to the original Stella, retaining its notes of mandarin, rose, peony and amber. In the UK, it's yours for free in Debenhams when you purchase any 50ml fragrance from the designer. I'd say that sounds like a bargain of the first order. A stylish and classic addition to any outfit!

Cosmetics Contemplations: Perfect By Nature

A rising phenomenon in the makeup world is the notion of natural cosmetics (which also encompasses mineral cosmetics, perhaps the most famous ambassador of this sector), which doesn't primarily mean a natural look or style, but which refers more to the ingredients used. The fact that search engines bring nearly 6 million results for 'natural cosmetics' is perhaps testament to how much this sector has grown and how popular it is today. Arising from concerns about the chemicals used in more mass-production cosmetics, natural cosmetics seek to use fewer chemicals and preservatives, hoping to more closely resemble something that you could knock up in your own kitchen.

Some of these natural treatments are as old as time itself, such as the use of honey masks on hair and skin. But the idea of natural cosmetics did not come to the mass market until the 1960s, where products began to emerge that were based on botanical ingredients such as watermelon extract and carrot juice. This is exploited to its fullest today by brands such as Lush and Yes To Carrots. But how do natural brands compare with non-natural brands? Natural cosmetics companies like the two aforementioned do not often have the advertising and distribution budgets to match, meaning that they operate very quietly and rely on word of mouth in order to sell their products. Sometimes this is successful and sometimes it is not, and a lack of advertising, or poor management of an advertising budget that does exist, is certainly not limited to the more modest brands: Estée Lauder brand Prescriptives was forced to close this January due to diminishing revenues (but if you never advertise and insist on sticking with rather dated branding, what do you expect?).

There is not really a great deal of comparison to make in terms of packaging; the natural makeup brands often have packaging that is just as effective and innovative as that of their higher-profile rivals. Occasionally it looks a bit less professional, but that is all. Price of the products is variable, but many natural cosmetics companies tend to offer extremely generous deals in terms of samples and shipping, which is not always something that is forthcoming from bigger names.

Ingredients are a trickier area of analysis: some brands that try to give a natural impression - such as Kiehl's, Liz Earle and Lush - often also contain ingredients that are considered no-go by purists, such as parabens, phenoxyethanol and sodium hydroxide. In some cases this is due to misinformation on the part of the consumer (read: people thinking ingredients are more dangerous than they are due to overhyped media portrayals) while others are perhaps more serious. Several consumers also report bad reactions from mineral makeup as a result of two commonly-used ingredients therein (mica, and bismuth oxychloride). However, the battery of offences is more serious on the artificial side, with many companies using phthalates, SLS, and (allegedly) animal testing in the making of their products.

There is certainly no problem in terms of the variety of natural products available: if you can buy it off the shelf from one of the big cosmetics giants, you can almost certainly find it in natural form too if you search hard enough (this is where natural brands can sometimes fall down - availability). Mineral primer? Vegan lipstick? No problem. However, is the efficacy the same? When it comes down to it, many natural products (in terms of skincare or makeup) don't always pass the test, but then again, several artificial products don't either. It all comes down to how dedicated you are to shopping around, and potentially being disappointed a few times (regardless of whether you go for natural or non-natural products) before you can find a combination that works for you.

Top 10 Natural Cosmetics Companies*
1. Afterglow Cosmetics
2. Lush
3. Jason Natural
4. Bare Escentuals
5. J Lynne Cosmetics
6. Ecco Bella
7. Lavera
8. Zia Natural Skincare
9. Besso De Natura
10. Carol's Daughter

Top 10 Mineral Cosmetics Companies*
1. Iredale Mineral Cosmetics
2. Monavé
3. Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics
4. Meow Cosmetics
5. Sheer Miracle
6. Dead Sea Mineral
7. Erth Minerals
8. Alima Pure
9. Lily Lolo
10. Elemental Beauty

Top 10 Cosmetics Companies*
1. Maybelline
2. Avon
3. L'Oreal Paris
4. Lancôme
5. Clinique
6. Revlon
7. Estée Lauder
8. Max Factor
9. Cover Girl
10. Shiseido

*first ten out of Google, more or less, with a little bit of help from

Friday, 26 February 2010

Liz Earle Superbalm

RRP: £15 for 30ml

--What does the promo say?--
"Our ‘emergency’ skin salve rescues and soothes skin. Made from pure plant oils and natural waxes plus shea butter, it gently softens and calms dry skin on hands, heels, elbows, lips and helps condition nails and cuticles."

The silver and transparent combination is a successful one, conveying something special without being too glitzy. It's simple, unisex and sophisticated, and the screw-top lid makes it easy to open it when you need it and to close it when you don't. The plastic packaging also means it's light, but the downside of this is that the fact of it not being made of glass and metal means you don't feel that you're holding something luxurious in your hand that carries the weight of every penny paid.

Smear onto any area of dry skin that needs attention, from your feet to your lips. The opening to the balm is also of just the right size that you can roll your heels and elbows in it quite comfortably, but for hygiene reasons I wouldn't recommend this unless you're really only going to use the balm on one part of your body (and you're not going to share the Superbalm with others). The only difficulty comes from the fact that the balm is very hard, rather than being softer like Vaseline or like your standard lip balm: it can mean that on larger areas of the body (e.g. feet) you have to be patient as it's not especially spreadable and you have to keep dipping back into the pot.

A pale, creamy, slightly yellow balm that leaves no visible residue on the skin.

A very hard balm, but it rubs into the skin very easily.

Divine - a bit like tea, though it's difficult to tell where this comes from due to the cornucopia of oils and waxes used in this product (specifically hazelnut, rosehip, avocado, neroli, lavender and camomile oils, and candelilla and carnauba waxes, as well as shea butter, beeswax, vitamin E, and echinacea). The citrusy scent of the neroli is also predominantly detectable.

--Effects on the skin--
Persistently hard and tough skin is made to feel baby-soft and like new. This effect is felt wherever the Superbalm is used on the body, making skin caressable and comfortable, and with irritation being greatly reduced. Wonderful stuff!

--Value for money--
Clearly palpable effects, both short and long term, coupled with highly reasonable pricing, make this not only a perfect personal treat but also a wonderful gift and an indispensable travel essential (anything multi-use is always good). It's also available in tiny 5g jars for under £5 should you want it for sample or travel purposes. Top marks.

perfect partners
Superskin Eye and Lip Treatment, £25/15ml
Superskin Moisturiser, from £11.50/15ml
Superskin Concentrate, from £17.75/10ml
Superskin Body Cream, from £12/50ml

Snowberry Deep Cleanser

RRP: from £25.50 for 15ml
retails at Harvey Nichols

--What does the promo say?--
"Perhaps the world's only cleanser formulated entirely from natural herbal oils, such as precious Neem, Inca Inchi and Passion fruit oils. An extraordinary, deep cleansing lotion, uniquely designed to remove stubborn makeup while maintaining ideal skin pH."

The boxes and pump-action plastic bottles in which the Snowberry products come are instantly attractive, featuring kitschy cartoon people holding banners that bear simply expressed but eloquent slogans about life. The brightly coloured drawings on a white background offset the calm that is created by the sophisticated opacity of the bottles, meaning that these products should appeal to a wide-ranging audience. The plastic bottles are recyclable but hard-wearing, simply designed but easy to use.

Snowberry advises that you can just smear this cleanser straight onto your face, but it's just as effective if you add a few drops of water and allows you to spread it over your face more easily (but don't expect any lather). Rinse off and follow with toner and moisturiser as normal.

The gel is bright orange and reminds me of a tangerine Body Shop shower gel that I had when I was younger. This doesn't leave any residue on your face after rinsing, but do expect it to turn your face cloth a bit orange, and don't be surprised if when you use toner there is also a trace of orange on the cotton pad too.

The most gorgeous of all of the Snowberry products that I have tried; a rich, natural, tangy tangerine that really wakes you up in the morning.

Very strange; not viscous like your usual gel, and not oily either. More velvety, while still remaining distinct from moisturisers. This is nice :)

--Effects on the skin--
Skin appears smoother, calmer and retextured with tone seeming more refined. For a couple of days I was also under the illusion that my acne was improved too. However, this latter effect certainly dissipated after a few days, when my skin returned to its usual sorry state. However, I was certainly very impressed in the beginning.
Snowberry's range, though, is also supposed to be anti-ageing, and seeing as I'm still under 25 I was in a fairly fortunate position to begin with, but I can't say I saw any miracles happen in this area.

--Value for money--
This is very tricky; the 50ml version of this breaks the bank at nearly £50, and £25.50 for just 15ml is pretty steep as well, especially since the initially promising effects on the skin don't seem to stretch into the long-term. While Snowberry is certainly different and appealing in its approach and ingredients, it still needs to consider how it compares. For £25.50 at Boots, for instance, you can have a whopping 400ml of an Estée Lauder cleanser, and brands such as Clinique and Dermalogica offer 200-400ml of cleanser for less.
To put this into perspective, 1.5ml of the Snowberry product lasts approximately fourteen days, meaning that 15ml would last about four and a half months, at a cost of around 18p a day. If the effects lasted, I would be more than happy to pay this. However, their ephemerality calls this into question. Shame, as the product itself is just lovely.

perfect partners

Snowberry Exfoliator, £21.50 for 15ml
Snowberry Toner, £24.00 for 30ml
Snowberry Day Creme Lite, £46.00 for 15ml
Snowberry Night Creme, £56.00 for 15ml
Snowberry Face Serum, £99.00 for 15ml

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Arbonne Eye Shadow

RRP: £8.50

--What does the promo say?--
"The eyes have it with these 14 moisturising formulas that enhance lids with gorgeous colour that won’t flake or smudge."

I can't comment on this in a great deal of detail given the sample nature of my test, but I do hope that the eyeshadow trays are fixed into the real compact much more securely than they are in the samples - mine were constantly falling out (though not to any damage, thank goodness). As a plus point, though, the application sponges appear to be sturdy.

Idiot-proof; even the most inexperienced of beginners will be able to get a good all-purpose look with these complementary eyeshadows. Just stroke across the eyelids, blend a little bit if needed, and voilà.

The choice of shades is, I think, about right: there are enough different colours to provide choice and variety but not so many that you're overwhelmed. They are all wonderfully flattering and natural-looking, and, as previously mentioned, a classy yet subtle look is easy to achieve. This result is not only suitable for work or for a low-key daytime look, but when layered can also be shimmery and special enough for night-time. On the website, the colours are divided into three groups according to complexion - Warm (6 shades), Neutral (6 shades), and Cool (2 shades) - so that you are able to pick the colours that best suit you. And, in case you don't already know which complexion category (popularised by MAC and the now-defunct Prescriptives) applies to you, there are also brief, readable notes on the website to help explain. The two colours I was sent - Dusk, and Tulle - are very classic and wearable. They make you look like you have put in so much more effort than you actually have (which is always nice!) and they go well with anything.

A very gentle powder that flakes easily in the tray and blends easily on the eyelid.

This is a tricky one. As the promotional materials state, the colours do indeed stay resistant to flaking, smudging and creasing. However, I did find that they faded, and that consequently at least one reapplication was required during the day.

--Value for money--
While the colours are certainly beautiful, you can have L'Oréal trios, which are of quite high quality, for less, but they may not be as natural as Arbonne's monos (which contain cucumber extract and aloe, making them suitable for those with even the most sensitive eyes, which the L'Oréal ones may not be). Revlon's ColourStay Quads also offer more colours in one compact for roughly the same money, so it's about choosing according to your needs: if the high street shadows irritate your eyes and/or you don't want to be one of the crowd, then Arbonne's eyeshadows may well be for you.

perfect partners
Virtual Illusion Dual Volume Mascara, £19
Virtual Illusion Liquid Eyeliner, £10
Wipe Out Eye Makeup Remover, £11.50

Sunday, 14 February 2010

JML Ped Egg

RRP: £9.99

--What does the promo say?--
"Hot-step your way to beautifully smooth soles! Original PedEgg from JML is the ultimate foot care treatment that’s taking the nation by storm. Its precision engineered with 135 stainless steel micro files to gently remove calluses and dead skin. With PedEgg you get that incredible, super-soft look and feel that everyone loves. Forget expensive pedicures! It’s a compact and cost effective solution to help rid dry, cracked skin on your feet. Safe and easy to use, this precision exfoliating treatment will transform the skin on your heels and toes, making it caressably smooth and irresistible to the touch. The unique egg shape not only looks great, but is ergonomically designed to fit perfectly into the palm of your hand for easy and convenient use. Best of all, PedEgg collects all the skin shavings in a convenient storage compartment, allowing you to use it anywhere with no mess. Emery pads are also included to buff your way to a baby-soft finish."

The promotional materials are all true: it's compact, practical, and has many different uses to cover most possible needs. There is a lid to close off the microfiles when you're not using the Ped Egg, there is a compartment below to catch dry skin, there are emery strips to use for maintenance once you've got rid of the worst of the dry skin, and the egg shape is definitely easy to hold in your hand. However, unless you plan on defying gravity while you do this, some dry skin does still annoyingly go onto the floor (even though most of it does go into the Ped Egg, so I'd still recommend doing this over the shower floor or even the toilet to minimise mess. The egg shape does also prevent you from smoothing off skin between toes, since it isn't really thin enough for this. The fact that the microfiles look like nothing more than a glorified cheese grater is slightly alarming, but it's easy enough to get over the appearance of them and move on.

As per the enclosed instructions, you must be very careful. While the Ped Egg is easy enough to use, it is imperative to keep checking the condition of the skin after every stroke. Because it is so easy to use, it's equally easy to get a bit devil-may-care and keep rubbing away at your feet with it without checking the skin (I've manage to make my big toe bleed twice because I wasn't careful enough - oops). Slow but steady wins the race and all that.

It is definitely gentle with there being no pain or irritation (unless you go too far, that is - see above).

Dry skin is reduced significantly along with any itching that this may have also brought with it. This is not just a short-term effect, either; after a couple of uses, you may find that you don't have to use it again for really quite some time, especially if you're using the Ped Egg in conjunction with a foot cream.

--Value for money--
The efficacy of this appliance cannot be disputed - I have seen worse, less long-lasting results after some very expensive pedicures. While you certainly have to be careful with it, this is the case with many household and beauty appliances, and it's a surefire way to get your feet looking good for the summer. Even though they need to work out a way to minimise mess, this is an indispensable product that won't need replacing anything like as regularly as a normal foot file. Thumbs firmly up.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Arbonne Shea Butter Hand and Body Care Duo

RRP: £35
available from:

--What does the promo say?--
"Soothes, softens and replenishes dry skin with moisture. Includes Hand Wash (11.5 fl. oz.) and Hand Lotion (11.5 fl. oz.). Available in a contemporary stainless steel caddy for easy use on your sink or counter. Gift boxed."

The context in which I received these products from Arbonne last month was as part of a limited edition Christmas gift set*, which contained not only the two products mentioned above, but also the now defunct Cuticle Care Pen, Intensive Moisture Balm, and Exfoliating Hand Treatment. In this set, the hand lotion and hand wash were both available in squeezy tubes. For the hand lotion, this was no problem at all. For the hand wash, however, it was - it's very tricky to put the lid back on such a thing when your hands are all wet and covered in soap. Plus, soap would collect in the lid, meaning some product was sadly wasted, and I found myself longing for it to come in a pump-action bottle. Thankfully, as you can see from the picture above, in this combination it does, and I think it's set off very nicely by the matching hand lotion pump and the silver mount.

Easy peasy. Pump some soap (just a small amount will do) into your hands, and lather under a running tap. Rinse off, then dry your hands. Application is equally easy with the hand lotion - just slather it on liberally as needed.

The hand wash is clear, while the hand lotion is a pale white. The lather created by the soap is also white, and no visible traces are left on the skin.

Perfectly natural and tallied with the impression the brand wants to give: natural, classy and realistic. Halfway between vanilla and chocolate, for those of you unfamiliar with the shea butter smell - so perhaps not especially masculine.

The hand wash lather is silky smooth, and the hand lotion absorbs quickly and effectively. As well as being a hand lotion, it's also a body lotion, meaning that you can use it on your feet, elbows, or anywhere else where you might be having trouble with stubborn dry skin.

--Effects on the skin--
While the hand wash made the skin on the tops of my hands feel soft, on the palms I just found it made it drier (however, my fiancé reported no such drying effects, so it's likely that this just varies from person to person). The hand and body lotion, however, gave me no such problem, although it's less effective on tougher dry skin, such as on the feet. You definitely have to be patient with it and keep on applying it regularly to see long-term results.

--Value for money--
The Limited Edition Hand Care Collection also retailed at £35, so in one sense it seems better value than the duo that's now being sold; however, these sizes are also much bigger, so it probably evens out. You get a high-quality, sophisticated, luxurious and generally effective product duo from a company that's surely a rising star in its field; what more could you ask for?

(* I'd advise you to get hold of this set as quickly as you can from Inspired By My Girls, which is the only place where you can still get the limited edition set apart from ebay. It's great :)
If you live in Australia, lucky you! If you order the Endless Love set or the Touch of Love set, then the Hand Care Collection is included. My favourite product from it is probably the Exfoliating Hand Treatment - it's innovative, smells gorgeous, and gets the job done.)

Friday, 12 February 2010

Clinique Aromatics Elixir Solid Perfume

RRP: £35

--What does the promo say?--
"The solid perfume. A new touch of sensuality with all the magic of Aromatics Elixir. An elegant spinoff from the Aromatics Elixir collection, which can find room in even the smallest pocket, for a small perfumed touch during an evening. Its floral motif makes it an elegant and precious accessory."

Satisfying and beautiful; impressive right from the start, it arrives in a small velveteen cream bag, and there is a gorgeous, simple yet classic floral design engraved into the lid. Easy to open and close (but only when you want to), the solid perfume itself is a delicate honeycomb colour that turns invisible when applied to the skin. The metal casing is of a delightful weight, reassuring you in itself of the care that has gone into ensuring the high quality of the product.

Rub the balm onto your fingers and then transfer onto pulse points (neck, wrists, and behind ears). No problems here.

Quite a hard balm, but you don't need very much per application. Instantly easy to tell that this compact will last ages.

Initially unappealing; it's more like something that would be worn by my grandmother. However, it's worth giving this scent time to develop: it soon matures into something more interesting and multi-layered, combining tradition with modernity. It's packed so full of lovely fragrances* that you're bound to find a note in it that you like, even if it might take you a little time to do so.

On the up side, this certainly packs a punch when it comes to staying power. By lunchtime it's still there and has found its harmony with your body, even if you applied it at 7.30. That's not to say it lasts all day, but just one reapplication per day would probably do it; two maximum if you really want to make an impact in the evening.

--Value for money--
Given the little you have to use each time, along with the stunning packaging and complex scent, I'd say £35 is very reasonable indeed. It's a surefire gift for women who love perfume, even if its scent is arguably not instantly lovable. You have to take the time to get to know it - but that, surely, is one of the joys of perfumery.

*for the record, those scents are: rose essence, sandalwood, camomile, oakmoss, jasmine, muguet, ylang ylang, patchouli, vetiver, musk, and amber.

perfect partners
Aromatics Elixir Decorated Bottle Perfume Spray, £60/100ml
Aromatics Elixir Velvet Sheer, £33.40/45ml
Aromatics Elixir Perfume Spray, from £19.50
Aromatics Elixir Eau de Toilette, £30.50/45ml
Aromatics Elixir Body Wash, £19.50/200ml
Aromatics Elixir Body Smoother, £22.50/200ml
Aromatics Elixir Body Cream, £24.50/150ml
Aromatics Elixir Body Powder, £20.50/75g
Aromatics Elixir Anti-Perspirant Deodorant, £12.50/75ml