Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Cosmetics & Beauty News June 2010

Bianca's Beauty Blog giveaway! has kindly agreed to team up with my little website to give away a box of hair goodies to one of you lovely lot. We have three-step routines for our skin and nails, but not for our hair - until now. If you win, you'll receive one of their Start hairbrushes, one of their Style brushes, and one of their Finish brushes, which offer different tools for everything from detangling to adding shine. Along with that, you'll also receive some pretty hairclips that are perfect for summer. To win, please email soprano[UNDERSCORE]seraph[AT]hotmail[DOT]com with your name, address, and your reason for wanting to fix up your hair for the summer. The deadline for entries is 10am French time on July 10th, with the winner being announced the same day. Good luck :)

Beauty with a conscience
Over time, beauty companies have got more of a conscience, thinking more about the effects of their actions and behaviour on the world around us as well as on our own bodies. Thankfully, this doesn't seem to be something that's on the wane: Palmer's (of cocoa butter fame) will be supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month throughout October 2010, reintroducing the pink bottle of cocoa butter to this effect. Their Massage Lotion for Stretch Marks will also be available in a pink bottle for the first time, with 25p from the sale of each of the two bottles going to Breast Cancer Care. Simple is also running the race for life by supporting Macmillan Cancer Support - by going to, you can choose from any of their three packs by selecting the one most appropriate to your skin type. From your £10, a hefty £2 will go directly to charity. There's never been a better excuse to get spending.

Get ready for the launch
Lots of new beauty launches coming soon, so let's start at the top end of retail. Harvey Nichols is now home to Functionalab, which produces science-based beauty supplements such as liquid energy tonics and skin supplements, promoting beauty from the perspective of health. While several of the supplements retail at a wallet-busting £85, there are still plenty of affordable options, such as their £16 Zen, Energy and Beauty Tonics, and their £25 Hair, Skin and Nails Supplement.

Naturally Upper Canada is also coming soon to most major department stores, gift stores, and garden centres. After 40 years of success in the Americas, Asia, and of course Canada itself, it's finally coming here, and with nine unique products, each available in four divine-sounding fragrances (sweet vanilla fig, pressed olive avocado, cranberry moro orange, and warm honey nectar), it's surely set to be a hit in the UK too. It's 97% natural, super-affordable (with prices starting at only £2.50), has a range for babies, and includes everything from lip butter and nappy cream to salt scrubs and massage oils. What's not to like?!

Finally, also coming to the UK is the slightly strangely-named Snap-On-Smile. From the same company that brought us the Lumineers (which I think I may have mentioned before), the Snap-on-Smile is made of very thin but extremely specialised resin that resists staining and can be fitted onto your teeth in only 40 minutes' worth of dentist visits. Non-invasive (no drills or injections, yay!) and affordable, it should offer hope to many...although as the name suggests, they are snap-on only (read: you can't wear them all the time) and in no way pose a real challenge to more permanent solutions. Blast.

Here comes the sun
It's certainly been quite the scorcher lately, so it's important to take care of yourself. Among the many usual suncare brands vying for your attention in pharmacies and supermarkets, many established not-specifically-suncare brands and new ones alike are launching ways to protect yourself in the sun. Korres, for example, is bringing out SPF30 watermelon suncream for your face, as well as sweet orange cream for your face and body in a spray format (SPF25). Yoghurt cooling gel is also on their list to keep you fresh - and not burnt - this summer. Perhaps a bit further down the price ladder is Simple, with their SPF50 lotion for adults, £8 for 150ml, and their SPF30 spray for kids (£8 for 200ml). Cult French brand Melvita, which is now available in the UK, is also bringing out its ProSUN range this summer, which is unsurprisingly all organic and brings you tanning preparation milk, SPF30 suncream, tanning oil, and aftersun, from £16. Finally, there is Apicare, whose 4-in-1 care I trialled before. They are releasing a Manuka honey lip balm which has protection of SPF15. Containing honey, beeswax, and oils of almond, tea tree and sesame, and priced at £5, it's great not just for summer but all year round too.

A whisper on the wind...
The perfume market's gone pretty quiet as summer approaches, but there is one new release at least: Acqua di Gioia by Giorgio Armani. If you have an especially obsessive nose, the iPhone AppStore has also just launched iPerfumer, an app from Givaudan that promises to offer tailored advice on how to choose perfume. You can use it to create a profile, view or shortlist favourites, and have the app make recommendations for you based on what you've already looked at. I'll also soon be publishing a version of Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style over at Nieuwe stijloefeningen in a way that's designed to centre wholly on perfumery and olfactory senses (I'll be their first contributor to be writing in English). Watch this space for both!

So since we're speaking of apps, it seems like a good time to mention L'Oréal's new one. It offers a store locator and makeup tutorial videos, and uses hair and eye colour to make product recommendations, as well as an interactive barcode scanner which allows you to get tips and advice relating to a specific product while in store. It's free and everything :)
On the weirder side of things, a new website has launched to help you to get the lowdown on all your hair removal needs: the Ministry of Waxing uses digital orangutans as virtual guides to help you around the site, which introduces you to the Ministry's 27 salons in 9 countries and tells you all you need to know about hair removal. So go forth and let the orangutans tell you how to go from muff to buff. Yeppity yep.

Scrub up for summer
Arbonne is hot on the heels of its new cosmetics range with a new strawberry cleansing range - just in time for Wimbledon, too. The body cleanser (£19.50 for nearly 300ml) is packed with good stuff - not just strawberries but also lemon, rose, shea butter, wheat, oat, and vitamins A & E to help keep skin soft. Their two-in-one cleanser/toners (£18.50 each for 118ml; purifying for oily skin and hydrating for normal/dry) are equally innovative and luscious, containing strawberries, witch hazel, mallow, watercress, ivy and rosemary for the oily-skinned, and strawberries, rose, lemon, jojoba oil, shea butter, safflower oil, and vitamins A, C and E.

You can also carry on getting ready for the summer festivals with Johnson's Baby Skincare Wipes - perfect for staying fresh-faced even in the muddiest of conditions, they are espoused by celebrities such as Fearne Cotton and Victoria Beckham. At £2.69 for 64 wipes, they're a bargain too.

Win stuff!
With school and university holidays already starting, and people dreaming of, booking, and jetting off on trips away, most of us are already near-apopleptic with all the lovely excitement. But there's more! Yes, really! As well as entering my giveaway at the top of this entry, you can also have a stab at bidding on a Smashbox makeup set that contains £300 worth of stuff and is signed by Hollywood stars such as Amy Ryan, Gilles Marini and Sherri Shepherd. With proceeds benefiting the Hollywood Arts charity, bidding starts on July 8th and ends on July 10th here. You can also win tickets to see Breakfast at Tiffany's on the big screen on the 6th July by clicking here. Plus, as a bonus, you'll be entered into a prize draw to win the ultimate girls' night in - think hair and beauty products galore!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Arbonne Liquid Foundation SPF15

RRP: £29/30ml
# of available shades: 15

--What does the promo say?--
"Multitasking liquid foundation with skin-firming properties helps lift the appearance of facial contours, smooth and even skin tone, while providing sun protection."

The plastic bottle scores well for travel but not so much for sophistication. However, the sophistication level is compensated for by the chic slate-grey shiny lid and the overall minimalist design. The transparent pump-action bottle means it's easy to see how much foundation remains, and the rectangular prism shape is unusual too.

Only squeeze out a very small amount of foundation onto the back of your hand, as very little is needed. Stroke and blend onto face using fingers or a brush (sponges are evil and must be destroyed).

The shade I possess, Alabaster, is exactly perfect for my skin tone, providing an even and unified look as promised. Imperfections are concealed successfully, building on the previous work of concealer and primer, and the look overall is natural and beautiful. Less is definitely more with this.

--Texture and consistency--
Super-smooth and runny without being watery or uncontrollable. Blends extremely well and very little is needed (think a large pea-sized blob) to cover the face adequately.

As previously mentioned, excellent. Makes skin look a lot better and so confidence is increased as a result :)

--Value for money--
While this is certainly expensive, you easily get what you pay for, with one bottle lasting many months and offering excellent coverage every time. You are easily into the luxury target market here, and despite being a lesser-known brand, Arbonne's foundation does not disappoint. Price-wise it is on a par with companies such as Lancôme, Estée Lauder, Chanel, Clarins, YSL, and Dior, and with the SPF it also offers similar features. Even though this costs a bit more than I would normally spend, this foundation would make a superb gift as well as an indulgent treat for yourself.

perfect partners
Sheer Glow Highlighter, £29
Bronzer, £19
Sheer Pressed Powder, £25
Blush, £18
Crème Concealer, £16

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Ellis Faas Creamy Eyes

RRP: €28
# of shades available: 21

--What does the promo say?--
"Ellis has tested hundreds of eye shadows over the course of her career, and the moment she tried the formula of what has become ELLIS FAAS Creamy Eyes, she fell in love with its velvety texture. With its quick-drying properties and special blend of flower and coffee extracts, Creamy Eyes provides coverage without heaviness."

--Packaging--In keeping with the other products from the brand, the eyeshadow pen is a silver-bullet style canister that releases its colour through a sponge applicator at its end from manipulation of a click wheel. Easy, portable, convenient, sophisticated and edgy.

--Application--Just twist the end of the pen slowly until colour appears, then apply a little to your eyelid before blending using your fingertips. The brand recommends using different techniques for different looks, such as using it as a chunky eyeliner, creating a subtle look using blending, and using multiple colours for extra drama and flair.


The shade I was sent in 2010 - E104 - works well with my skin tone (pale) but is less bronze and shimmery than it appears online, instead being a more conventional brown and matte colour. Very classic and wearable. In 2018 I was sent shade E109, which as a creamy white defies instinct - most arguably wouldn't choose it - yet acts as a superb backdrop for just about any other colour you can think of, especially metallics (or can be worn alone if you are feeling especially bold).

--Texture and consistency--As promised, this is easy to blend to create subtle looks, or equally easy to just sweep across for something more dramatic. While it is a little paint-like, it is creamy, non-irritating, and easy to work with, which may be something that's especially important for those making their first forays into the world of makeup.

--Longevity--This product fares the best of all the Ellis Faas products I have tried in terms of staying power: no reapplication will be needed as this stuff does not budge (and yet it's easy to remove when you want to). There may just be such thing as the perfect eyeshadow.

--Value for money--
My comments here remain the same as for all other Ellis Faas products: they are expensive, but you are getting a classic yet on-trend professional quality product that makes a wonderful gift or a treat to yourself. Highly recommended.

perfect partners

Ellis Faas Foundation Skin Veil, €45
Ellis Faas Concealer, €29
Ellis Faas Compact Powder, €20
Ellis Faas Blush, €29
Ellis Faas Mascara, €25

Ellis Faas Glazed Lips, €27

Cattier Touch'Express

RRP: between £5.50 and £5.98 for 5ml (excluding postage costs)
Retails at: a selection of online outlets, including and

--What does the promo say?--
"The Cattier Touch’express purifies and neutralizes imperfections, relieves blemishes, and soothes. Its antiseptic formula dries out spots and cleanses and soothes the epidermis."

Comes in a slightly cumbersome cardboard contraption, which to its credit does adequately convey the benefits of the product in cartoon form. Throw the cardboard bit away and you are left with a sophisticated, simple, pharmaceutical-style tiny white pump-action canister with blue writing on it.

While it is advised to spray this directly onto the individual blemishes, and while this is certainly possible, too much oil is perhaps dispensed per spritz to deal with just one spot, so if you have a particularly severe case of acne, it seems more efficient and effective to spritz once onto each cheek and then rub over the whole face, taking care to avoid the eyes and lips (do this before moisturising, but after cleansing and toning).

The smells of the principal ingredients - rosemary, tea tree, and mint - are staple ingredients of products for acneic skin, and all come across strongly, with the rosemary providing a nice, quite different kick. The overall smell is quite strong so be warned!

A clear oil. No visible residue is left on the skin after use.

--Texture and consistency--
Rubs into the skin well, especially in tandem with the moisturising stage. Does not transfer too much too hands; not greasy or uncomfortable.

--Effects on the skin--
Immediately after application, skin feels cooled, refreshed and treated. Long-term, I noticed some improvement in my skin, but as with many skincare products for my skin type, I have found that it hits a plateau of effectiveness, although this perhaps says more about the severity of my own skin condition than about the quality of the product itself.

--Value for money--
Unfortunately, one canister of this oil does not last very long (only 4-6 weeks), and bought in France for its RRP there (€8) at the current exchange rate, value for money goes down more. It would need to work miracles for me given that stock needs to be replenished so often, and it hasn't done so, which is a shame. The price is not unreasonable overall, though, and other products from Cattier's range give you a bit more for your buck. For better value for money, Clinique's Anti-Blemish Solutions Clear Blemish Gel (£12) is recommended.

perfect partners
Purifying Lotion, £4.90/200ml
Purifying Mask, £4.95/75ml
Purifying Cleansing Gel, £6.25/200ml
Purifying Gel Cream, £6.25/50ml

Liz Earle Mineral Sun Cream SPF20

RRP: from £6.50

--What does the promo say?--"Perfect for all the family, our light, non-greasy mineral sun cream reflects rather than absorbs harmful UVB and UVA rays which can lead to skin damage and premature ageing."

The purple colour of the plastic tube is attractive and unusual for a suncare product. The flip top lid is secure and the information given on the front and back of the tube is simple and easy to follow.

Apply liberally to clean, dry skin; rub in until fully absorbed. All very normal - however, application is not always completely easy as the cream is very stiff, and so doesn't rub in as effortlessly as mainstream brands of suncream.

There is a very natural scent to this suncare product, which I believe comes chiefly from the green tea and shea butter that it contains. Subtle and unisex, it's not at all invasive and definitely beats the commercial suncream smell.

This, too, is also unlike the usual sunscreens that you see, but not necessarily in a good way; the lotion is an unattractive pale brown/beige colour which, while it is does not result in any visible residue on the skin, could initially put some people off. However, the fact that it is perhaps a more natural colour (rather than the doctored bright white that we are used to seeing dispensed from suncream tubes and bottles) may have the opposite effect for some.

--Texture and consistency--
As previously mentioned, this 'cream' is very stiff and not always easy to rub in. Prepare to put some back into it! However, despite this, it does absorb well. Good things come to those who wait...

--Protection factor--
At SPF 20, this should suit even children and the fair-skinned. It lasts well on the skin, preventing sun damage, redness and burning. However, the fact that it is not waterproof may be a major downside for some, as it would mean reapplying the product repeatedly before and after contact with water. Nevertheless, I have not tested this aspect of the product yet, so who knows? I could be pleasantly surprised to find that the warning of it not necessarily being waterproof is just the company covering their backs. We'll find out when I hit the swimming pool this weekend.

--Value for money--
Some obvious downsides - such as the potential lack of any waterproof quality, and the offputting colour of the cream - may deter some from purchasing this product. However, when you buy a mineral product, you accept that it is likely to be more natural than many normal off-the-shelf products, so some of these disadvantages are just the trappings of choosing to buy a more natural product. Technology may also develop in future so that a naturally nicer-looking and waterproof sunscreen is possible. However, despite these possible pitfalls, you are getting a high quality natural product that does work and that is barely more expensive than high street suncreams (Liz Earle's £18.50 150ml tube compares quite favourably with brands such as Soltan, Clarins and Piz Buin).

perfect partners
Sun Shade Botanical After Sun Gel, £13/200ml
Sun Try-Me Kit, £15.50
*I was sent this product as part of Liz Earle's New Suncare Offer, which contains a full size Mineral Sun Cream, a full size After Sun Gel, a 75ml Foot Spritzer, a 15ml Foot Scrub, a 15ml Foot Moisturiser, and a mini tote bag, costing £33.75 in total. More reviews coming soon!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Arbonne Creme Concealer

--What does the promo say?--
Masks imperfections, fine lines, dark circles and puffiness with a velvety formula that dries to a powdery soft finish."

# of shades available:
3 (light - medium - dark)

While the packaging seems robust, it lacks the wow factor somewhat and a mirror inside it (even though it would of course only be a small mirror - this is a very tiny and portable concealer compact) would perhaps be preferable to the lacklustre plastic window Arbonne has as part of the lid. It's also very 'fingerprinty' - much like Guerlain's compacts - so don't expect this to stay looking clean. These are only superficial problems, however.

Once you've done your usual routine (washing your face, and then applying face primer and eye primer if you use them), use your finger or a concealer brush to target blemishes or imperfections. This is easy enough to do; the concealer blends well and doesn't feel greasy on your fingers if this is how you're applying it.


--Texture and consistency--
Silky smooth and dries powder-light, as promised.

--Appearance and Coverage--
I'd normally be sceptical of face cosmetics that only come in three shades, and I stand by that. However, I'm lucky that the 'light' shade is perfect for me: it blends with my skin tone flawlessly. However, this is not to say that it's completely perfect; it doesn't always cover up really bad blemishes 100% and I feel that in this regard I have used better concealers (mainly by the now-defunct Prescriptives and by Clinique). Nevertheless, I'm aware that many people will not have blemishes that are as bad as mine and so for them it's unlikely to be of concern.


On this score, now, this concealer fares excellently: it compensates for any weaknesses in coverage by lasting all day long. You definitely won't need to retouch during the day with this, and it's wonderful to not have to think about it.

--Value for money--
I won't lie: this is definitely not cheap; BUT a quick sweep of the Boots website reveals that plenty of mainstream brands are more expensive, including Dior, Estée Lauder, Benefit and Lancôme. Even Olay's concealers are at times more expensive, so while this perhaps isn't intended for Maybelline fans, I'd still say that's pretty spanking value for money there. It's a long-lasting concealer that wears beautifully, and people with oily skin (who normally should avoid liquid or creme foundations and concealers - although that's not a rule that I'm very good at adhering to myself) just might have struck gold here. Price-wise, it's easily on a par with Clarins and Fashion Fair, while possibly even exceeding them in quality.

perfect partners
Mineral Foundation, £26
Pressed Powder, £25
Tinted Moisturiser, £24
Liquid Foundation, £29
Makeup Primer, £24

Monday, 14 June 2010

Don't Go To The Aftershave Counter Without Me

In the previous article in my perfume series, I mentioned the dauntingness of the perfume counter for women. However, it's also not always the most comfortable place for men either, and this is perhaps magnified by the fact that they perhaps feel that they shouldn't even being going into perfumeries at all. Boots or Debenhams is one thing; a specialist perfume store is quite another.

I also talked in my previous article about some of the negative attributes of salespeople in these shops; however, this is not to say that it's all bad. The UK and US' customer service is perhaps second to none, and it's something I've really missed since moving to France (where in the job for life culture, shop assistants do have a tendency to act like they're doing you a favour, and know that almost no matter what they do they'll still keep their job). If you're not sure about what to buy (which is perhaps especially true for men, given that they are often not as predisposed as women to be seduced by prettyful packaging), then you shouldn't be scared to talk to a sales assistant - many are friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. Nevertheless, as I have discussed in the past, there is nothing wrong with having some idea of what you're looking for before you begin, hence my little tour of the fragrance wheel, started in May.

While women's fragrances are likely to encompass all areas of the fragrance wheel, men's are likely to only fall into two or three categories, perhaps favouring woody and oriental scents over fresh and fruity ones (though that isn't to say that there aren't aftershaves that fall into these latter categories - Hermès in particular is a brand that thrives with its fruity and fresh fragrances, perhaps due to its marketing strategy of publicising them as unisex rather than specifically as male or female perfumes). Yves St Laurent aftershave boasts another wide range of scents, showing even as an example of just one brand that there really is a fragrance out there for every man. Kouros provides a highly 'woody' experience, featuring cedar wood and camphor wood, while still making mild forays into freshness with eucalyptus and into the oriental zone with incense. Woods mixed with spices come to men in the forms of La Nuit de l'Homme and (perhaps YSL's most famous fragrance?) Opium pour Homme. However, even at YSL things can still get floral and fruity for men: Jazz offers notes of rose and carnation alongside the heavier leather, Pour Homme incorporates lemon and lavender with those now-familiar woody elements, and lavender and rosemary meet clove and vetiver in Rive Gauche Homme. There - I bet you're feeling better about this whole aftershave thing already.

And now for an entirely subjective top 5 aftershaves from the man of the house:
Hermès Terre D'Hermès ("A woody, vegetal and mineral eau de toilette")
Dior Fahrenheit ("warm, subtle, and distinguished". Contains: nutmeg, sandalwood, cedar, patchouli...)
Chanel Allure Homme Sport ("Possesses a blend of vetiver, amber, neroli, Atlas cedar...")
Cartier Roadster (bergamot, mint, vanilla, patchouli, vetiver)
Dior Dune ("This masculine scent possesses a blend of leaves, basil, mandarin, moss, sage and cedar")
Hermès Voyage ("a woody fresh musky scent")

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Neutrogena Visibly Clear Pink Grapefruit Facial Wash

RRP: £4.99

--What does the promo say?--
"The unique formula in the Visibly Clear® Pink Grapefruit Facial Wash helps to effectively reduce blackheads and spots whilst the pleasant burst of grapefruit scent gives a much needed pick-me-up, leaving skin clearer and fresh. It also contains patented MicroClear® Technology, which offers a fast and effective solution for clearer and healthier looking skin. As you may know spot-causing bacteria can lie deep in the pores, but oil on the surface can make it difficult for spot-fighting ingredients to penetrate. MicroClear® Technology uses powerful sebum-dissolving agents to break through the oil, so that the spot fighting ingredient salicylic acid can penetrate further to help clear spots and prevent future breakouts."

A simple, clear, pump-action plastic bottle that speaks for itself by showing the natural pink of the gel glowing from within.

One pump of the gel into wet hands is enough to work up a good lather. Rub over your face and then rinse off with warm water.

A translucent pink gel that (perhaps sadly) lathers white. No visible residue is left on the face after rinsing.

Definitely very grapefruity :) Very refreshing and stimulating.

--Texture and consistency--
Very smooth and lathers quite well into a fine foam; not at all lumpy or irritating.

--Effects on the skin--
Skin outwardly appears calmer with less redness. In terms of reducing spots, it does do this to an extent, with some improvement being obvious, but I still found my skin to be a little oilier than I would like it to be. However, I'm aware that I'm a fairly 'extreme' case (having suffered with acne for the past 14 years) and that others may therefore see more dramatic results. It is also worth noting, though, that I have been using this product in conjunction with Lush's Tea Tree Toner and Paradise Regained Moisturiser, neither of which I have ever found to be very effective but am just trying to use up - meaning that perhaps if this cleanser was used in tandem with more effective products (such as Neutrogena's Pink Grapefruit Scrub, which is also coming out in July), the cleanser's full healing potential could be realised.

--Value for money--
I'll be honest - I had never really had a good impression of Neutrogena in the past, lumping it in my mind with other products of its price bracket that I have previously found to be ineffective, such as Oxy and Clearasil, but feel after using this product that I have been proved wrong, having seen some improvement during this trial. Most people (i.e. those with less severe and persistent acne than my own) should see impressive results with this product, so at £4.99, I'd say it's definitely worth a try. With a bit of luck, Neutrogena will also expand the range with toners, creams and masks to provide a fully comprehensive routine.

perfect partners
Neutrogena Visibly Clear Pink Grapefruit Scrub, £4.99 (out in July)