Friday, 30 March 2012

Sure Maximum Protection

RRP: £5.30 for 45ml
available in 3 varieties: Clean Fresh, Confidence, and Sensitive

--What does the promo say?--
"Sure Maximum Protection is an advanced formula specifically designed to provide scientifically proven wetness protection for women who need the very best. It is formulated with TRIsolid, innovative body responsive technology which contains three important components:
1) The maximum wetness protection ever from Sure.
2) Encapsulated odour-fighting technology.
3) Skin moisturising ingredient.
Why apply Sure Maximum Protection at night?
Research shows that body temperature is not constant throughout the day, rising during the day and cooling at night. Under normal conditions body temperature varies from a night-time low of 36.5°C to midday high of 37.2°C. The rate we sweat is affected by these temperature variations. At night while the body is at rest sweat glands are least active and skin is more receptive to Sure Maximum Protection. This gives the formula time to work and build a strong level of protection for the day ahead. The deodorant cream has a clean fresh scent and 48 hour wetness protection.  Anyone who does not want to be held back by perspiration will benefit from Sure Maximum Protection Cream."

The boxes all have the same design in slightly different colours: razor-like sliver designs cut through the white box in blue, pink and purple respectively, while the info on the box tells you about the product concisely (although a little more information on the TRIsolid complex they are using would be nice). The dispenser itself is ergonomically designed and the click wheel is easy to use and control. The area from which the cream is dispensed consists of holes in a plastic surface, which is fairly standard for cream deodorants. The lid stays on and keeps the surface of the cream dispenser clean.

With two clicks of the wheel you're ready to roll: before you go to sleep, run the dispenser over clean dry underarms. Rub with the end of the dispenser until fully absorbed. When you wake in the morning, shower as normal; there's no need to reapply the deodorant. While this entails a slight change in routine, it's not too tricky to get used to.

A white cream that leaves no visible residue on clothes in the way that roll-ons and sprays can.

A very clean, fresh smell that's not too overpowering.

--Texture and consistency--
Creamy without being greasy or sticky; absorbs quickly into the skin.

Works well in a number of different situations and environments, including hotter as well as cooler temperatures (which is great for this heatwave that we've been having lately) and situations in which you feel stressed or nervous (it certainly didn't let me down during an interview I had yesterday). The only claim that doesn't stand up is the 48-hour one: after I'd passed the 24-hour mark I felt distinctly wetter under the arms (although happily no smellier! Every cloud...!).

--Value for money--
I haven't had to buy deodorant for some time as a bottle of my usual choice, Mitchum, lasts aeons. So when the price of £5.30 popped up, it initially seemed expensive, but then I wondered if I was just out of touch. To be honest, a quick perusal of Google Shopping seems to confirm my first instinct: the only other high street deodorants in this price range all seem to be boosting the RRP on the basis of a 48-hour claim (Dove is doing this, for example, and so is Nivea). Other deodorants at this price point seem to be higher-end brands or even organic brands (such as Vichy, Weleda and Dr Organic). I would therefore suggest that Sure are being a bit risky with their pricing and may wish to lower it a little to attract a few more customers. It is an excellent product nonetheless, however, and I will certainly continue to use it.

--Other comments--
The lovely people at Sure sent me the Confidence version and the Sensitive version of the deodorant. All of the comments above apply to both variants.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Have you tried the cure for overworked hair?

Being a natural blonde, I've always fallen back on my tried and tested faithful on the rare occasions that I've actually been allowed to choose my own shampoo and conditioner: John Frieda Sheer Blonde. It gives smoothness and bounce like virtually no other shampoo and conditioner, without weighing my hair down with any lingering greasiness or heaviness. En plus, it gives great luminosity to already naturally great colour. Brilliant Brunette, the accompanying shampoo in the range along with Radiant Red, also does wonders for the brown-haired beauties in my family. It can really be said that there are John Frieda hair treatments for everyone, whether you're looking to colour your hair or reduce frizz. 

This is even more true with the arrival of their new kid on the block, the family of John Frieda Full Repair hair products. Touted as 'the cure for overworked hair', it not only includes traditional shampoo and conditioner but also has one treatment that's just for the ends of your hair (where damage is often most visible - remember those split ends?), and a heat-activated styling spray, which ensures you don't undo all of your good work during blow-drying or straightening.

Claiming to help strengthen and detangle hair, the shampoo is available not only in the form of a 250ml stand-alone tube, but also in a travel-friendly 50ml format. The conditioner is only available in a halfway house of 150ml, but bolsters the work of the shampoo through one of the product family's main ingredients, Inca Peanut Oil. When used in the Perfect Ends Deep Infusion in conjunction with crambe oil (which contains omega-9 and is a relative of rapeseed oil), it promises to "[absorb] into worn-torn strands instead of just coating the surface" and to "leave hair smooth, shiny and full of body". There's a Sheer Mist too for the ends of hair, for those who aren't fans of infusions and just like to spray and go.

The styling spray uses similar ingredients and assures us that manageability will be improved and hair will be protected from heat to create natural movement and long-lasting hold, which certainly sounds like something I could use (to keep a style in place in my hair often seems to involve the use of products with similar strength to cement). I also often forget to use a heat protection spray, but with this coming in a 100ml bottle that can come everywhere with me, there should be no excuses.

But there's more to the Full Repair range than this: also on offer are a Touch-Up Flyaway Tamer (to combat frizz all day - oh John, is there nothing you don't know about my hair?!) and a Protecting Root Lift Foam, which adds extra volume right from the roots of your hair, as well as providing heat protection and preventing breakage. It just needs to be worked through your hair before the use of heat styling products such as curlers.

While I haven't been sent any of this product range to test (yet!!) it definitely sounds like an excellent complement to my hair routine and one I can add to my arsenal of friendly, reliable products to fall back on when the deluge of free press samples subsides. (While I know other bloggers sometimes just throw products away, even if unfinished, or pass them on to friends and family, I always try to use up the vast majority of products I'm sent, leaving the opportunities for free choice few and far between.) It definitely sounds like it could be a 'cure' for me and that, as is often proved to be the case, John Frieda's products meet almost every conceivable haircare need.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Clinique Age Defense BB Cream SPF 30

RRP: £25 for 40ml
# of shades available: 3 (with the third being an online exclusive)

--What does the promo say?--
"NEW Age Defense BB Cream SPF 30 is a medium to full coverage cream that reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, helps conceal imperfections and enhances skin's complexion. The formula calms skin and helps protect against UV and environmental damage while working to help balance the skin, and provides oil and shine control to extend the life of the foundation all day."

The pale green and silver ensemble is so far, so Clinique. Nothing outstanding here. Metal lid feels luxurious yet secure. Squeezing out of product from bottle is very easy to control.

The product insert gives a range of possible uses, so you need to apply it as you see fit. Either way, you start by applying it all over your face. This way it serves as a sunscreen (and therefore an anti-ageing product), concealer and moisturiser, which also claims to soothe, protect against environmental aggressors such as pollution, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and play the role of a foundation. So you can just stop there. OR, after you've applied it, you can use it as a primer - so you can continue applying the rest of your makeup as normal.

I find that shade 01 matches my skin tone very well, although if I had one teeny tiny criticism it would be that there is a slight off-white effect, which comes from the sunscreen element. This can be remedied through the artful application of powder - I'm currently using Benefit Dandelion and Arbonne pressed powder. Skins that are even paler could potentially just leave it at that, though.

Coverage is excellent. For me, the use of powder, while necessary to regulate the colour slightly, is not needed for extra coverage, while the use of concealer need only be minimal (and maybe even not needed at all on good days).

--Texture and consistency--
Is similar to a light foundation in its consistency; it's not creamy enough to match a tinted moisturiser, and yet doesn't feel at all sticky. I'm guessing the lack of total creaminess is due to the sun-protection properties.

Slightly chalky perhaps, but ultimately smells clean. Nothing from the ingredients list jumps out as being dominant.

--Effects on the skin--
Wow-factor effect comes mainly from the coverage provided as well as the longevity of the product (see below). Face feels moisturised and oiliness feels controlled, but no more than with the use of my regular ensemble of products. Skin is not irritated by the use of the product. Longer-term use and testing would be required to see if it really protected against environmental aggressors or provided an anti-ageing benefit. Sun protection is excellent.

Once applied, this doesn't need to be touched up. For this reason, it works well as a concealer, primer, foundation and sunblock.

--Value for money--
While I was initially a little shocked at the price, this comes into the same price range as foundations by Stila and Dermalogica. For tinted moisturisers the brand comparison is even better, falling into the same bracket as tinted moisturisers by Laura Mercier and Yves Saint Laurent. The appeal also comes from the fact that this BB cream, unlike a lot of Western offerings, actually seems to be a real contender to the multi-function products found in Asia rather than just being a tinted moisturiser under a different name. To recap, the Clinique BB Cream offers 9 separate functions (1. Concealer; 2. Anti-ageing over the long term; 3. Reduce the appearance of lines in the short term; 4. Defends against environmental aggressors;  5. Soothes; 6. Moisturises; 7. Controls oil; 8. Foundation; 9. Makeup primer). On the downside, though, this is expensive for a BB cream and you do have the feeling that Clinique are capitalising on the brand's image just a tiny bit: the only BB creams falling into this price bracket are the most premium lines from genuine Asian brands Missha and Skin79 (their normal products cost less than this). However, I would probably still buy it with my own money (I was sent a PR sample this time) due to its fabulous coverage, good colour match, ability to stay on the skin without turning my face into an oil slick, the fact that a little goes a long way, and the idea that while it is in the same price bracket as the brands mentioned above, it does so much more.

perfect partners
Chubby Stick Moisturising Lip Colour Balm, £16
Dramatically Different Moisturising Lotion, from £16.50
Quickliner for Eyes Intense, from £13

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

On a Quorn-style quest for a higher-quality life

We're always being told that we are what we eat. On the one hand I am naturally sceptical of this: having suffered with acne for nigh on 15 years, and having found that no change in diet seems to have helped the spots at all, I have no real reason to believe in it. On the other hand, I spent a little over a year as a vegetarian, giving up only when I got myself a French boyfriend (now husband) and realised a move to France (the land of the carnivore) was a real possibility. During that time, not only did my food bill go down, but I was also slimmer and had more energy. Even now that I eat meat again, I am still a vegetarian sympathiser and don't see the need to eat meat or fish every day at all.

There are plenty of beauty-related reasons to go veggie - as stated above, even without any meat substitute, my energy levels were through the roof and I enjoyed a slim yet pear-shaped figure (just "slim-ish" these days!). But what about those days when you just really, really miss sausages? Meat replacement products like Quorn can be helpful in this situation (although not in France, where I now live: even though the situation is improving, I have in the past picked up "meat replacement" products here to find chicken in the ingredients list). For those of you who aren't aware, products like Quorn are made up of mycoprotein, which is a protein that chiefly comes from a fungus named fusatium venenatum. And this protein/fungus has a lot of beauty benefits - basically, it is a superfood.
  • It's got all 9 essential amino acids, which are classed as 'essential' because the body doesn't make them - so we have to put them in. These not only contain anti-oxidants but also help to keep your hair, bones and nails in good condition. 
  • It's low in fat, which can be good for slimming if you're trying to achieve beauty through thinness. 
  • It's an alkaline product (other alkaline products include herbal teas, carob, and whole grains). This is good for your overall health: our diets should be 70% alkaline as our bodies find it harder to digest acids.
  • It contains minerals, including selenium (which protects cells from damage), zinc (helps keep hair and nail cells healthy, and helps with detox), iron (which is important for collagen synthesis, and thus anti-ageing), magnesium (for healthy bones and teeth), and calcium (which is good for strong bones, hair, teeth and nails - which is great news if, like me, you don't consume much dairy).
  • Quorn also contains plenty of B vitamins, which help with eye health, are anti-oxidants, help treat skin complaints such as acne, are anti-ageing and anti-stress, help with wound healing, and help to regulate mood.
Shepherd's pie - made with Quorn. Yes, really.
All of this (especially the bit about it helping with acne) made me wonder why I hadn't tried it (or at the very least, hadn't tried it for a very long time; I genuinely cannot remember if I ever sampled it during my vegetarian days, as I cooked a lot from scratch). I therefore set about trying to find some in France, which is as good as impossible. A shame, as I had (in a funny sort of way) been quite looking forward to sampling it. But it's certainly affordable (£2.09 for 2 quarter pounders, for instance), and could be a good, healthy way of satisfying a meat craving without actually eating meat. All other ingredients in your recipe stay the same, so it's hassle-free too. And if it helps your skin, your mood, your weight, your energy levels, your hair or your nails, so much the better, surely!

To set off on the road to a more beautiful and varied life couldn't be easier; there are plenty of recipes to get you going on the Quorn website and elsewhere. And let others know how you get on, be it here (should you have any beauty-related benefits to share) or on my other site, Ferret Food and Wines: make dishes! Upload pictures and recipes! Share your tips and experiences! You can also do the same on Quorn's Facebook page.

It looks as if I'll need to try Quorn in England if I'm ever going to (somehow I don't think I'll be able to convince my carnivorous French husband to become some sort of elaborate Quorn rustler on his trips to Belgium - where it is sold). But hopefully with the majority of my readers being in the US and UK you'll find it easier to come by - and will be able to report back on its effects on your skin, your health, your mood, and your life.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

St Ives Blemish Fighting Apricot Scrub

RRP: £3.99/150ml

--What does the promo say?--
"Goodbye Blemishes. Fight blemishes and breakouts with the power of nature. St. Ives Blemish Fighting scrub gently helps prevent and treat breakouts with ingredients from nature – and give you the confidence that comes along with having naturally clear skin."

While St Ives has always capitalised on its image of apricots, this has typically been accompanied by very pale colours (apricot, baby blue...) in the past. Not anymore: this squeezy plastic flip-top tube is now decorated with a bright orange strapline and a hot pink tab ringing in the changes. Orange and black text keeps things short and sweet and the St Ives logo is still recognisable and unchanged. The tube itself is very easy to use and doesn't leak at all.

Rub a 5p-10p sized amount between wet hands and massage gently onto damp skin. Wipe off using a damp flannel. Use 3-4 times a week.

A pale brown-peach coloured cream with dark brown flecks in it (that's the walnut shell and corn kernels that help exfoliate). Some of the exfoliating grains are left on the skin even after rinsing, which is a bit annoying.

Does smell like apricot, but I have the impression from the ingredients list that this is a synthetic scent (or at least the natural smell is pimped using synthetic products) due to the presence of the eternally vague 'Parfum (Fragrance)' that appears there. Smells nice nonetheless!

--Texture and consistency--
Satisfyingly scrubby without being at all irritating. You really feel like it's working as the walnut shell and corn kernels get to work.

--Effects on the skin--
Skin definitely feels smoother immediately after use, and longer term, blackheads and whiteheads cleared up. Blackheads that did reappear were much easier to extract and I definitely noticed a difference in the stubbornness of spots, redness of skin and general recurrence of acne when I stopped using the product. No going back for me now!

--Value for money--
This is an excellent product which manages to be simultaneously functional and luxurious. At £3.99 it's also bargainous, and while it's always been a classic, I can now see why. Without having tried any products from St Ives before, I now wonder where on earth I've been. Definitely a top quality product.

perfect partner
Deep Cleansing Body Scrub, £3.50/300ml

Friday, 9 March 2012

Net-A-Porter Faces of Fashion

One of my favourite games when the weekend paper comes into the letterbox is to get out the magazine and drool over all of the fancy clothes and accessories - specifically through the "If I Could Have Anything" game. I look at a page of products, without looking at brands or prices, and decide which item I would have were money no object. The best part of the game is the rare occasion when you find that the item you've just been lusting over is under £100.

Now you can play the same game via Net-A-Porter's spring ad campaign (entitled Faces of Fashion): watch the video, and enjoy the exclusive peek into the luscious wardrobes of four of fashion's most stylish women (including Theodora Richards and Elin Kling), deciding just exactly what you would purchase too in an ideal world. Lamentably my fave item (this skirt by Miu Miu) is £720. Doh.

Further information can be found at

Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-In-Place Makeup

RRP: £26.50/30ml
# of shades available: 24

--What does the promo say?--
"Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup. 15-hour staying power. Flawless all day. This worry-free, long-wearing foundation makeup stays fresh and looks natural through heat, humidity, nonstop activity. Won't change colour, smudge or come off on clothes. Feels lightweight and comfortable. Now the flawless look you see in the morning is the look you keep all day. Oil-free. Dermatologist-teste. Non-acnegenic. Fragrance-free."

Possibly the most impractical packaging in the world ever. It's a glass bottle, which maximises the luxury factor but has minimal practicality: I feel forever freaked out that I'll drop it against the sink in the bathroom and there certainly won't be any cutting it open to get out the last dregs towards the end. This, combined with the fact that you have to POUR the foundation out (there's no pump, dropper or anything to make dispensation easier) means that travelling with this foundation is out of the question. It looks glamorous, though, with its subtle gold and white detailing.

Pour out a small amount of the foundation (something between the size of a 5p and 10p coin is sufficient) onto the back of your hand. Use your fingers or a foundation brush to blend foundation onto a clean dry face. Finish with concealer and powder.

I was sold shade 2N2 (Fresco), which I was assured strongly by the saleswoman was the palest shade available in the line. I was a little sceptical, but bought it (I was buying it on a special offer basis - more details of which below). Silly, silly me. From what I can see on the website, 1C1 Shell, 1N1 Ecru or 1W1 Bone would have been more appropriate. I'd say Fresco is about borderline appropriate for me; better in summer than in winter, but easily fixed up with a) not being too heavy-handed in application and b) tarting it up by using a slightly lighter concealer and powder with the product. Still, I am not happy AT ALL to have been fobbed off in this way, so there's definitely a lesson here - if planning on buying a product like this, print out the shades first from the website and take it with you to avoid being sold a near-totally unsuitable shade. In terms of other visual qualities, coverage is good (see below) and the finish is the right combination of matte and sheer (perhaps erring a little more on the dewy side).

I've suffered with terrible acne for years, but even though it's finally beginning to clear up, I still need decent coverage. This foundation certainly provides that, taking away a lot of the redness and general 'obviousness' of the spots. Minimal amounts of concealer are needed as top-up.

A slightly chemical, nail-varnishy type smell which may put some people off.

--Texture and consistency--
I prefer Double Wear Light over this by quite a long way. While Double Wear Light is smooth and creamy, this is simultaneously runny and sticky. EW. On the flip side, though, it's not actually difficult to blend, even though it doesn't feel nice on the skin at all during application. Once dry it gives a smooth, slightly sheer finish.

Definitely does as promised - once this is on, it does not budge, which may allow some people to overlook the generally unpleasant consistency.

--Effects on the skin--
The thickness of this stuff would probably stop a speeding bullet, so it's hardly surprising that it seems to protect pretty well against sun, pollution, and general day to day activity. While it doesn't actively improve acne, it never promised to do this and it definitely doesn't make it any worse.

I had no difficulty using this, but then again I'm using a Dr Hauschka oil at the moment to remove makeup. You may find you have more difficulty using traditional lotions or wipes. I'd recommend an oil or gel makeup remover to get this off.

--Value for money--
As mentioned above, part of the reason for my impulsiveness and lack of research into the product was due to me buying it on a special offer basis just before Christmas. If you bought Double Wear, you got the matching Double Wear concealer with it for free. Knowing a good deal when I see one, I went for it the moment I saw it advertised in a magazine. This saved me £19 (or the equivalent thereof in euros), and as in all French parfumeries, I got a load of samples chucked in for free as well. Would I buy it again, though? £26.50 is still a fairly hefty price tag and I don't think I would buy it outside of a special offer. Certainly there's a lot to be said for having the right shade, so I'd probably be able to give a better verdict if I actually had this. However, the texture does NOT work well in its favour and for me is a major turn-off. I'll certainly use the bottle I have, but think harder before buying another. It's more likely that I'll stick to Double Wear Light in the future for its more pleasing texture and equally high quality delivery in other terms.

perfect partners
Foundation Brush, £28
Stay-in-Place Flawless Wear Concealer SPF 10, £19

Monday, 5 March 2012

Lacoste L!ve


Having just got back from a holiday in New York (more beauty-related features on this trip to come, so sit tight!), I know just what a vibrant place the city is. It therefore doesn't surprise me that Lacoste has chosen the city for its latest campaign, Lacoste L!ve, this spring.

Hosting a range of unconventional talents and colour, this Spring/Summer season Lacoste introduces you to real New York talents, including electro duo MNDR, punk hip hop group HeartsChallenger and street tape artist Aakash Nihalini.

All of these colours and beats can translated to makeup and accessories with bright neons, blocks of colour, and original details (not to mention the classic Lacoste crocodile), so that you can join in too. The Lacoste L!ve campaign certainly doesn't stop in New York, with celebrations going on as far afield as London, Istanbul and Shanghai.

Lacoste L!ve's collection includes accessories as diverse as leopard print socks, shawls with exclusive designs, commemorative keyrings, and vintage-style handbags, so anyone can get in on the act and still look individual by mixing and matching to suit their style.

Fans of Lacoste L!ve can also like, watch and follow using the following links, so as not to miss a thing. I personally love their perfumes, so will be keeping my eyes and ears open for sure.

Celebrity 'steppers' go crazy during Fairtrade Fortnight


It can be hard at times to truly stick to the Fairtrade philosophy all the time; no matter how smug you feel when you buy something off People Tree, there's always going to be that time when you can't resist that bargain lipstick from Maybelline. Celebrities are going to even greater lengths this Fairtrade Fortnight (27 February to 11 March 2012) to raise awareness, with luminaries including Louisa Lytton, Alistair McGowan and Simon Webb all starring in Youtube videos to encourage others to take steps to go Fairtrade.

Through the ‘Take A Step for Fairtrade’ campaign, the Fairtrade Foundation wants to see more individuals and businesses buying and selling Fairtrade products in the UK, The public are being asked to think about what they can do every day, every week or every month throughout 2012 and take a step to make a difference to the lives of farmers in the developing world who produce the products they buy.
With Fairtrade every step counts. In celebration of International Women's Day (March 8th), for example, L'Occitane have released a fund-raising, Fairtrade soap as part of a development partnership with a factory in Burkina Faso. The factory has been run entirely by women since 2010 and supports their emancipation - and for just $8 (or £5, or €4.50, depending on where you live!) the shea butter soap can help you feel good, smell good, and help others at the same time.

The more people that support Fairtrade, the more farmers and workers will be able to improve their lives through the better terms of trade it offers. And there's really no excuse on the beauty front: you can buy Fairtrade makeup from sites such as Big Green Smile, Fairtrade clothes from high street retailers such as Oxfam, and Fairtrade jewellery and accessories from sites such as Traidcraft. We all talk the talk, but how many of us actually walk the walk? I know I don't always.

The Fairtrade Foundation encourages everyone to start their journey at, and to check out the rest of the mini-series on the Fairtrade YouTube channel at You won't regret it!