Sunday, 30 May 2010

Cosmetics & Beauty News: May 2010

S-s-s-slither into s-s-s-summer
Makeup and skincare companies are always trying to outdo each other with weirder and more wonderful products to tempt their clientele, and Rodial may just have done it with their newest innovation of Glamoxy Snake Serum. The neuropeptides it contains mimic snake venom to allegedly incite stunning anti-ageing results. At £125 for 25ml, however, it certainly isn't cheap. For those with money to burn only.

Topshop makeup hits the shelves
With fashion outlets H&M and ASOS already offering makeup ranges, it's perhaps surprising that Topshop is so far behind on this trend. It's about time they caught up, so let's hope that their first makeup range is worth the wait. Featuring dazzling and contemporary colours at affordable prices, they're sure to have young afficionados flocking. I'd personally be wary of the skin products, as at present they only offer three or four shades, but the glittering colours and zebra-print style packaging available across the range should still prove attractive to most.

Burt's Bees Goes To Brazil
To celebrate the new launch of its Açai Berry lip balm, Burt's Bees is giving away a trip to Brazil in its competition. Enter from now until the end of 2010 to win such delights as a $250-value Burt's Bees gift basket as well as an all expenses paid luxury trip to Brazil. So, if you're a US reader, go here to enter:

Celebrity faces
As well as Lancôme signing Penelope Cruz as the face of fragrance Trésor, Pur Minerals has also just signed Jackie Gomez (Beyoncé's favourite makeup artist) as official makeup artist. Welcome one and all :)

And speaking of fragrances...
Stella McCartney has just brought out the latest variant of her classic Stella scent, Sheer Stella. Developed exclusively for this year, the designer has reworked her rose-based perfume by making it organic. The limited-edition bottle is also a work of art in itself, having been designed by renowned British artist Philip Jones.

Here comes the sun
With summer coming, and with National Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month just coming to an end, it's more important than ever to make sure you're protected from the sun's harmful rays, whether with clothes (such as sunglasses, T-shirts and hats), accessories (umbrellas) or sunblock. With so many brands out there offering undeniably hip products that are also effective, there's really no excuse. Check out Vichy, Surv-Vival, Liz Earle's mineral sunblock, and Smart Girls Who Surf, for products to suit you.

Touch-ups on the go with Arbonne
Just because summer is on its way it doesn't mean we're any less busy. Travel products are a booming business and companies are catching on to marketing products that are easy to use on the move. One such example is present in Arbonne's 30th Anniversary Lipstick Ring: priced at £22, also has a handy mirror along with the lipstick (shade: Satin) encased in a chunky pearl design. I personally think it looks mighty fine; if having lipstick right at your fingertips doesn't keep you looking fabulous all day long then I don't know what will.

Simplicity with the Stars
Sometimes it's nice to know that not all of the stars are going for wallet-busting products that can only serve as the fabric of our dreams for most of us. So it was a relief to hear Kylie Minogue say recently that she has used Botox in the past, but no longer does, turning instead to the classic and affordable Pond's Cold Cream. We can only hope that she wasn't just paid to say that, but knowing how effective this stuff really is, I can only say that even if it isn't true, it darn well should be.

Keep your skin Crystal Clear this festival season
All that mud and all those communal toilets can sometimes get in the way of you looking your best during the festival season. While Marks & Spencer is filling its shelves with festival essentials from tents to suncream, Crystal Clear has also got the skincare side covered, from its Revitalising Tonic to its classic Protect and Repair, which comes packed with a whopping SPF40. Available from

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Don't Go To The Perfume Counter Without Me

When beauty guru Paula Begoun's book, Don't Go To The Cosmetics Counter Without Me, was released in 2007, it was an immediate success. The very fact of the book's existence, along with the fact that it has consistently sold so well, with new editions coming out every year, is testament to the increasing vastness and complexity of the cosmetics market. With Paula having also previously written Don't Go Shopping For Hair Care Products Without Me in 2004, one does wonder if her next project might be a similar book on the subject of perfume, since this too is a market that can be overwhelming.

Step into any cosmetics store worldwide - whether it be a branch of Boots, Marionnaud or Sephora - and while the cosmetics franchises themselves take centre stage, look beyond them and you will see that the store is often lined wall-to-wall with women's perfume and men's aftershave, as well as spin-off products such as perfumed body lotions and shower gels, deodorants and gift boxes. While these stores are rarely short of someone to jump on you the second you walk in, with a sprightly "Can I help you?", quite often the salespeople will have a hidden agenda (i.e., to make commission on whatever they sell, perhaps even with a point of pushing a specific product), which may not always involve helping you find the right product for you or whoever you're buying for (one can quite easily see briefings of department store staff as having a Lionel Hutz-style dialogue: "The right [product] is the one that's for sale. The right buyer is anyone."). So while people perhaps do want specialist help - especially when it is so difficult to know where to begin - it's often important to the consumer to have some control over the situation.

There are, as I see it, a few ways around the intimidation that can be created by the sheer scale of the industry and the number of available products. One way is to head for smaller stores that are still specialists in perfume, such as The Perfume Superstore, The Perfume Shop, L'Artisan Parfumeur, or Penhaligon's. Smaller shops mean smaller displays, so that you can actually see what you're looking at, and more personalised attention from shop staff (as well as just more attention in general), as well as a more specialist service.

Another way to navigate the sea of scented water is to get clued up at home. Go out as an informed shopper, and you'll have more of an idea of what to look for on your own, without necessarily needing to enlist the help of a sales assistant or wander around the shops in a state of bewilderment. In this series of sponsored articles, I'll be going over the fragrance wheel, recommending different brands and types of perfume and aftershave that you and your man may enjoy, among other things.

The fragrance wheel is basically this:
This is the worldwide framework used to categorise scents, making it easier for everyone, from parfumiers to shoppers, to find their way around.

Starting today with oriental fragrances, and moving later in the series to the other categories, we can see both just how complicated perfumery is, and yet how comfortingly it can also be simplified. One such example of an oriental fragrance is Estée Lauder's Youth Dew, which, with its elements of amber and sandalwood, comes into the subgroups of Soft Oriental (the former) and Woody Oriental (the latter). Oriental fragrances such as this one can initially smell very strong when first sprayed on, but it is worth mentioning at this point that perfumes and aftershaves have three 'notes': the top note, the one you initially smell, later settles down into its base and heart notes, which is dependent not only on how the perfume develops with the minutes and hours but is also dependent on how it reacts with your body, to in a way create its own uniqueness on you. After a few hours, then, the Youth Dew settles down to become a softer and subtler blend that can be worn by all ages. Other examples of oriental fragrances (which typically include notes of orange, vanilla, spices, amber, incense, sandalwood and patchouli) can be found in Chance by Chanel, Fendi by Fendi, and Estée Lauder's Intuition.

Even then, the scents listed above still smell different, so perhaps obviously, the most important thing is still to get out there and smell them. Spray them onto yourself (but no more than 1 perfume on each arm) and walk around with them on for a few hours to see how they turn out. Many perfumeries also leave out little strips of cardboard so that you can spray onto them by way of a sample and write the perfume name on. Perfume can be expensive, and one bottle can last such a long time that it really is like an investment - so take your time before you buy.

Coming soon: finding your way around the rest of the fragrance wheel

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Apicare Cleanse Me 4 in 1 Manuka Honey Wash

RRP: £8.50/70ml

--What does the promo say?--
"This gentle, soap free wash is so effective it is suitable for use on hair, face, hands and body. The mild, soap free wash contains naturally soothing Aloe Vera, Green Tea Extract and New Zealand 16+ Active Manuka Honey to gently cleanse hair and skin without drying. Combined with a fragrant blend of balancing essential oils, this foaming wash is designed to be used morning and night to cleanse and refresh the skin."

Simple and cheerful in yellow and white, the honey bee bullet points serve as a playful way to highlight the product's uses. However, I'm not quite sure what the 16+ in front of "Manuka Honey" on the first bullet point is supposed to signify as this is never fully explained. The packaging is very usable, anyway, and suitably dinky for travel purposes.

For hands: rub onto wet hands and then rinse off. For face: rub onto wet face and then rinse off. For body: rub onto wet body and then rinse off. For hair: rub into wet hair and then rinse out. Simples :)

A slightly yellow, runny translucent gel that leaves no visible residue on the skin or hair after use.

Smells very lemony; delish. Sadly it doesn't really linger on the body after use, though.

--Effects on the skin and hair--
Face, hands and body are all washed adequately, leaving skin smooth, calm and clean.
The hair, however, is a different story. As a shampoo, the product is extremely difficult to wash out and hair is left almost greasier than when you started. A shame.

--Value for money--
This is really more of a 3-in-1 product than a 4-in-1 due to the epic hair failure detailed above. However, multi-use products get a big thumbs up, especially since it can actually be quite difficult to get a product to do more than one thing well (even more so given that some companies even seem to struggle with getting the original thing right to begin with), so for it to get three things right is still very good. The travel size is a big plus and the price tag is affordable too. For a sweet-smelling product that takes us all one step further towards being able to travel on hand baggage only by doing 3 things at once, I'd definitely recommend this. Just pack a Lush solid shampoo to cover the rest.

perfect partners
Saving Face Skin Balancing Face Moisturiser, £8.50
Protect Me Manuka Honey Lip Balm (SPF 15), £5.00
Rescue Me First Aid Manuka Honey Gel, £12.50

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Ellis Faas Blush

RRP: €28 for 2.8ml
# of shades available: 4

--What does the promo say?--
"Made with essential oils,rose water and vitamins C and E, ELLIS FAAS blush gives cheeks a touch of colour while cooling and toning the skin for an instant fresh look. Apply a dot of colour directly to the middle of the cheek with the signature ELLIS FAAS pen and fade out with your fingertips or with the sponge that comes with the powder. ELLIS FAAS blush ensures a dewy finish and long-lasting glow."

The signature Ellis Faas pen is eyecatching and unusual, though the click-wheel on this can be a little annoying and time-consuming to operate. However, it is easy to control, so you shouldn't end up wasting any product.

After applying your usual base (if any), dot three dots of the blush onto each cheek and blend in. Add further layers, if desired, for extra impact and intensity; set with powder if liked.


Smooth yet rich and luxurious; easy to blend.

The beauty of this is that it's difficult to get wrong; no clownalikes here. It's one of the most natural-looking blushers I've tried, giving just the right amount of colour. Of the four shades, I own S302 (the second palest) and it's perfect for English roses like us. The fact that it's easily buildable to achieve different effects means that nobody should be disappointed by the fact that there are only four shades available.

Falls somewhere between the lip products (which fare worse in this regard) and the eye products (which fare better) from this brand: you may need to reapply once a day. However, the professional quality of this product is obvious.

--Value for money--
As with all Ellis Faas products, while it is expensive you do get what you pay for. A professional matte finish is provided, which is easily adjustable to take you from subtle day to more intense nighttime looks. Easy to see why this is popular on the catwalk, the makeup is durable not only in practical terms but also in terms of the look it provides. This will never date.

perfect partners
Foundation Skin Veil S101
Concealer S201
Compact Powder S401
Mascara E401
Milky Lips L207
Creamy Eyes E108

Elizabeth Grant The Socializer

RRP: $40
--What does the promo say?--
"Last night you owned the bar - today, own the boardroom. Two eye treatments with all the hydrating, cooling, soothing, de-puffing, dark-circle-erasing, and illuminating action we could fit in each tube. Bright Lights uses mica, a mineral light diffuser. Instantly brightening, it's the key to looking like it never happened. Late Nights blends peptides & Ulva Lactuta to repair, awaken, de-puff & rejuvenate. Exceptionally lightweight eye treatments dispensed in 2 click pens packed in a shiny, re-useable tube. Twist your troubles away with this carefree tube that’s in every true fashionista’s bag."

Certainly very shiny and eye-catching, with the reusable external tube twisting around to reveal different images beneath of a girl in various outfits, reinforcing the idea that this stuff will take you from day to night with minimal effort. I'm not convinced that the click pen is the most usable option, though, although it is fashionable. I'd personally plump for a rollerball version instead.

Select the cream that you require (day or night) and click the end of the tube until enough product appears at the pen end. Less is definitely more and you really don't need much. Smear the amount that appears underneath your eyes and onto the brow bones and then blend.

A slightly translucent white cream which fades to invisibility once rubbed in.

Nothing detectable; clean without being clinical.

--Texture and consistency--
Quite watery, but still easy to blend in.

--Effects on the skin--
I don't normally review anti-ageing products as I'm so sceptical about their performance (or lack thereof). I was therefore amazed to find, after a week or two, that I really thought that The Socializer had made a difference. I have a few fine lines under my eyes, and I don't know if it was my imagination, but the lines seemed less deep than before after sustained and consistent use of this product. I'm not so sure about any depuffing, dark circle-busting or illuminating action, since I didn't really require this to begin with, but the feel of the creams when rubbed in certainly err on the cooling and soothing side. So even if the lotion fails to illuminate or depuff, I'm still happy if it lessens the look of lines. (However, I've also passed this to my mum for a second opinion, so watch this space.)

--Value for money--
At the moment this is tricky: the price of the product ($40, at today's exchange rate, is £27, or €32) seems reasonable in relation to its efficacy and presentation. However, while shipping is available worldwide from, to Europe this comes at the extortionate rate of $33, so if you really wanted to do it this way, you've either got more money than sense or you've got lots of generous friends to buy from the website with and thus split the shipping cost with. However, don't despair too much, as my sources tell me that this product will soon be available in UK boutiques before long. I'd therefore say to UK buyers to keep your eyes open and be patient, and buy this only when it hits UK shelves.

perfect partners
Dark Circle Treatment, $30
Eye Contour Smoothing Mask, $30
Line Erase, $40
Vitamin C Eye Cream, $25
Vitamin C Illuminating Eye Pads, $28