Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Cosmetics & Beauty News (July 2012)

L'Occitane sponsors World RiderZ
As a brand that promotes honest values, strong ethics and positive change, L’Occitane has chosen to sponsor the WorldRiderZ in their round-the-world bike journey to raise awareness and funds to fight chronic kidney disease. During their London stop-over, Stephane Etienne and Paul Torriero visited L’Occitane boutique in Covent Garden where they were pampered with mini facials and treated to hand massages to ensure they’re set for the rest of their three-month journey, which spans 9 countries and 25,000km. Along the way they've visited 11 hospitals, held press conferences and filmed a Discovery Channel documentary. L'Occitane have also given 15% of their sales on specific days to the WorldRiderZ cause, as well as providing the lads with travel bags full of L'Occitane classics to keep them in shape (which contain, among other things, repairing shampoo, verbena shower gel and cade aftershave balm).

Also among L'Occitane's philanthropic adventures this month is their launch of a honey-scented candle to raise funds for UK sight loss charity the RNIB. Costing £13, the candle is available at shops nationwide as well as online.

She Said Beauty launches
Forget Facebook - if you're into beauty, She Said Beauty is where it's at when it comes to social networking. I've been on and tried it out and am very impressed: you're able to update your status and upload pictures just like on the Book of Face, but you can also follow fellow beauty fans like on Twitter, and choose your favourite products, brands and looks like on Pinterest - so it really does take the best of everything to make something new and different focusing on fans of cosmetics and skincare. ELLE magazine loves it and I'm sure you will too. There's also tutorials and trends and the chance to connect with beauty experts, so it goes beyond just a hodgepodge of existing social networks (although you can also connect your existing social network accounts to your SSB accounts for convenience and to make further connections). It's free to join and will have you reading articles and writing your own reviews in no time.

New Chubby Stick shade to crush cancer
United with Estee Lauder since 1994 in a yearly campaign against breast cancer, Clinique has launched a new Chubby Stick shade which will be available in October. The new Chubby Stick comes with its own limited edition trousse for the same price as a normal Chubby (€19). The line has already been hugely successful, with millions sold since its launch in 2011. It's hydrating, colourful and full of antioxidants - and this fundraising bent means it's also well on the way to helping in the fight against breast cancer too.

London via the world 
In its new Global Heroes collection, Molton Brown is taking consumers to and from London via the rest of the world. Guests at the Goring Hotel London between now and September 15 will be able to experience their bathing menu. Choose one of the five countries and a bath butler will draw the bath for you with the appropriate bath gel (choose from China, Madagascar, Florida, Guinea, or Australia), complete with a matching candle and specially-created cocktail inspired by the country. All of these experiences are priced affordably, costing a highly appropriate £20.12. If you can't get there, nab all 5 bath gels in travel sizes, in a special gift box, for £36 (I've been lucky enough to be sent this by Molton Brown, and will be reviewing it soon). Full sizes of each shower gel are also available separately at £18 per 300ml.

30 days of fashion and beauty is back!
The ultimate online beauty festival, 30 Days of Fashion and Beauty, is back this late summertime, kicking off with a new contest to win your perfect spa break. Say how far you would go for youthful skin (options range from 'drink lots of water' to 'go under the knife'), then enter your details and select the spa break you'd like to win from the options given. A great way to ease yourself into the new term as kids and teachers prepare to go back to school!

Make a wish
In fragrance news, we have heard whispers on the wind of Anna Sui's latest fragrance. Entitled Fairy Dance - Secret Wish, it uses fruity notes of tangerine and mango, spicy notes like pink pepper, sandalwood and vetiver and floral notes of peony, bamboo, rose and vanilla to create a warm and playful scent. This shimmering carton would make a perfect gift for any ladies with a summer birthday, and would make a welcome stocking filler too for any super-eager beavers who are already thinking of Christmas.

Harvey Nichols opens Beauty Bazaar
Hot on the heels of Marks and Spencers' new beauty hub, Harvey Nichols has announced that its own Beauty Bazaar will open in autumn this year. Aiming to provide a one-stop luxury beauty destination, Harvey Nichols will use 22,000 square feet of retail space spread over three floors in the LiverpoolONE shopping centre for this new venture. Big brands such as Crème de la Mer and NARS promise to be featured alongside niche companies such as Bliss, and personal shoppers will be available to tailor advice to customer requirements. Treatment services will also be offered in the form of a Blink Brow Bar, and spa offerings from Carita, ESPA, and The Organic Pharmacy, among others. A champagne and cocktail bar with glamorous floor-to-ceiling glass frontage ensures a sparkling finish to this high-shine experience. Follow developments and see what else will be available by using the hashtag #BeautyBazaarHN on Twitter.

folds right down to this
Give it some welly
So it's coming up to August, and the weather is behaving frankly bizarrely where I am. Brilliant sunshine in the morning (which means you put on a dress and ballerina pumps) gives way to extensive cloud cover (which means you change into jeans and a jumper), followed by driving rain (which means you break out the wellies). So what's one supposed to do on a day out? Pack a pair of FOLDABLE wellies, that's what. Soon to be available at www.thewellyshop.com, they're small enough to pop in your bag in case you get caught out, meaning they're perfect for every situation from packing for weekends away and attending outdoor weddings to the commute. In addition, they're available in navy, red or black to ensure you never go out of style while keeping dry either (although they are unisex, so even your bloke can bag a pair without embarrassment). Made by high-quality brand Hunter, they cost £79, but are likely to last you a lifetime. The durable sole, flexible leg and availability in UK sizes 3-12 means they should cover every eventuality. The Welly Shop is taking pre-orders now, and here's an exclusive 10% off code (XVPAV524) that they've given me just for you - meaning you pay £71 instead of £79 from now until the end of September.

    Pop princess Anja gives beauty tips
    And speaking of exclusive stuff, what would you say if a pop princess were to give you her personal tips on beauty? Norwegian starlet Anja is just breaking onto the UK scene, and you can watch her latest video here. But while you're preparing your best "I liked her BEFORE she was famous" line, you can relax in your smugness and take on some of her beauty tips. She recommends adding superfoods to an already healthy diet and switching chemical skin products for natural ones as a starter, as well as using a skin brush to aid circulation. 

    For a natural cellulite treatment, use a mixture of used coffee grounds and coconut oil - and she also recommends trying to get to a steam room, snow bath or sauna from time to time. Anja stays in her food cupboard for her cleanser and toner, mixing honey, natural yoghurt and ground almonds for a face wash and scrub in one. She tones with a mixture of distilled water, organic apple cider vinegar and a few drops of lemon juice to balance skin pH. If you need a vitamin C boost, why not try her concoction of lemon juice, aloe vera juice, vitamin C powder (use 1 teaspoon of each) and purified water? Pop into a spray bottle and use while on the go. 

    As for her masks and moisturiser, Anja reverts to classic ingredients Moroccan clay (as a mask for face, body and hair) and argan oil (to moisturise). Coconut oil makes another good hair mask, she says - leave in the oil overnight before rinsing in the morning with a gentle natural shampoo. Anja's hair is obviously important to her - she also mashes a banana with an egg and a spoonful of honey before putting it in her hair, covering with a hot towel for 30 minutes, and then rinsing for soft and shiny tresses. Argan oil or tea tree oil can also be used to treat the scalp - but Anja recognises, too, that there's more to beauty than just slapping on product after product (natural or no) - her other tips include keeping hydrated to avoid dark circles and, of course, getting enough rest to maintain that hectic popstar lifestyle. Sometimes it's easy to forget that all we need to do is keep up those basics to give us a good springboard for the rest of the day.

    Saturday, 28 July 2012

    Dolce & Gabbana L'Imperatrice Eau de Toilette

    RRP: £39/100ml

    --What does the promo say?--
    "L''Impératrice opens with top notes of rhubarb, red currant and juicy kiwi accord. Fresh watermelon accord in the heart of the fragrance creates a mouth-watering concoction that is then offset by the drama of pink cyclamen for an exhilarating fragrance sensation. The musky notes, sandalwood and grapefruit wood in the base notes are boisterous, brilliant and incredibly addictive."

    I just had a small vial sample of this, so can't comment on the real deal, but the pale pink seems quite ordinary and the outside of the spray bottle almost too minimalistic. However, as a collection the pastel colours harmonise beautifully, with each scent in the Anthology series (which comprises four fragrances for men and four for women) having a different colour, ranging from slate to green, passing through pinks, corals and yellows on the way. In a way, you arguably expect more for the money, but in another sense, if it means the company has spent money on the product rather than on its packaging, then so much the better.

    Spritz on pressure points and perhaps through hair for all-over impact.

    A clear liquid with no glitter or colourants; no visible residue is therefore left on skin.

    --Texture and consistency--
    No irritation was experienced while using this product.

    The first thing to hit you is the fruit, but it's not overly sugary and definitely not cheap (as some reviewers have derided it for being); it's completely authentic and nothing about it makes you feel like it's been synthetically put together, which means that someone somewhere has done an excellent job. However, I'd say that all of the fruits mentioned fuse together in such a way that you can only tells that each of them is there if you really think about it; none of them stand out individually over the other, making for a truly harmonious creation. If I were to think really hard and had to choose one, I'd say that the redcurrant notes were the most obvious. The muskier and woodier notes mentioned in the promotional material are barely evident. It's therefore more on the fruity and enthusiastic side rather than being yielding, without (at the same time) being overbearing or lacking in subtlety.

    Definitely not an all-day fragrance; by 4pm it had worn off, so expect to have to reapply at least once or twice during the day.

    --Value for money--
    I reckon that Dolce and Gabbana have pitched this at a good price point, with brands such as Kenzo, Givenchy, Guerlain and Hermes also selling their 100ml eaux de toilette for this amount of money. It's a small price to pay to buy into a real designer brand and for a high-quality, delightful fragrance that's suitable for all ages of women. It's just a shame there are no companion products (such as shower foam or body lotion) to go with this - but perhaps they're working on that. Either way, I would splash out on the whole bottle in future.

    Friday, 27 July 2012

    Molton Brown Relaxing Yuan Zhi Body Cream

    RRP: £16 for 200ml

    --What does the promo say?--
    "Yuan zhi root with vanilla, rose, and ylang ylang. Perfect for those with busy lifestyles, this moisturising body lotion is our yang to the yin. Soothe. Immerse. Unwind."

    Mine is one of the mini travel bottles you can buy on the site, which has a screw top in the same colour as the pump action mechanism that you get on the full-size one. The silver effect is glamorous and doesn't detract from the rest of the bottle, which is transparent, allowing you to see the off-purple cream within. It's plastic, which means it's light and practical, and the purple writing on the front is minimalistic and fits in well with the colour scheme of the product, while still obviously belonging to Molton Brown.

    "Apply to the skin in circular massaging movements after showering/bathing, or whenever your skin feels like it needs some TLC. For best results, use after Relaxing Yuan Zhi Bath & Shower Gel." No problems here. The lotion sinks in easily, so this takes mere moments.

    As mentioned, a light, faintly purple cream which leaves no residue on the skin.

    Yuan zhi is also known as senega root, and in truth it doesn't smell of much. The vanilla and rose included are also not especially prominent, with the ylang ylang perhaps the most detectable (even if only faintly). What's left is a very clean, slightly fragranced, cotton-like smell which proves pleasant and non-intrusive.

    --Texture and consistency--
    Smooth, unctuous and luxurious, this is a joy to use and soaks into skin easily without a hint of greasiness or stickiness. 

    The feeling of being moisturised lasts all day, although it's difficult to tell how long the scent lasts due to the further additions of perfume and sunscreen.

    --Effects on the skin--
    Senega root is traditionally used for a variety of ailments, including bites, coughs, colds, breathing difficulties, rheumatism and gout. Technically, then, in high enough quantities it should reduce inflammation and calm skin, and it did seem to reduce skin tightness, particularly after time in the sun, so is a great asset for summer. However, I think the moisturising qualities mostly come from the essential oils the product contains (vanilla, rose, ylang ylang, and meadowflower), which are extremely effective.

    --Value for money--
    At £18 per 200ml this isn't cheap and is on a par with brands such as Thierry Mugler, Vera Wang, Bulgari and Gatineau (perhaps indicating that you'd expect it to be more strongly perfumed!). However, this means it's an affordable luxury that everyone can enjoy. A little goes a long way, so one bottle will last longer than you'd expect too. You can also try to buy at outlet stores, such as the one located at Bicester Shopping Village, or in duty free shops, to save money, and don't forget to check the Molton Brown website for sales regularly.

    perfect partners
    Relaxing Yuan Zhi Bath and Shower, £18
    Relaxing Yuan Zhi Forte Candela, £55
    Relaxing Yuan Zhi Medio Candela, £36
    Relaxing Yuan Zhi Piccolo Candela with Metal Arc, £30
    Echo Yuan Zhi Bath and Body Gift Set, £72 
    Relaxing Yuan Zhi Ambiente, £22
    Radiant Lili-pili Hair Wash, currently £9 in the sale 

    Thursday, 26 July 2012

    Vichy Purete Thermale Soothing Eye Makeup Remover

    RRP: £10

    --What does the promo say?--
    "A gentle make-up remover for sensitive eyes that removes all traces of make-up and soothes the eye contour. Enriched with ultra-gentle cleansing agents and with hydrating and soothing active ingredients, this make-up remover is kind to the most sensitive eyes: allantoin soothes, cornflower extract combats irritations of the eye and eyelid, and vitamin B5 hydrates the eye contour. Your sensitive eyes are effectively and gently cleansed and the eye contour soothed. Tested on sensitive eyes under ophthalmological control. Hypoallergenic, with soothing and fortifying Vichy Thermal Spa Water. Non-comedogenic, suitable for contact lens wearers, and paraben-free."

    The cobalt blue plastic bottle has a white flip top and is transparent, so you can always see exactly how much liquid you have left and which also adds to the idea of 'pureness' inherent in the product line name. The blue and white colour scheme is not overly girly and information is kept minimalist but still useful. Opens and closes easily when needed without spillage during travel.

    Pour a small amount onto a cotton pad and rub over eyes to remove eye makeup. There's no need to rinse after use.

    Even though the bottle makes the liquid appear blue, once out of the bottle it's obviously clear. No visible residue is left on the face.

    Smells of cornflower, cotton and elderflower without being sugary or overpowering; is generally inoffensive.

    --Texture and consistency--
    Blissfully simple: there are no glittery or exfoliating particles, and as this is just essentially a micellar water, there's no stickiness or lotion-type qualities either, so there's no qualms about putting this near your eyes. 

    --Effects on the skin--
    This product removes eye makeup swiftly and effectively, with the possible exception of some exceptionally stubborn mascaras. It also really helps to calm the eye area, which is handy on waking, after sun exposure, after work, or just when feeling tired. However, it is useless at removing any other sort of makeup, although on the plus side it does double up as a handy toner. I don't wear contact lenses, so can't comment too much on this aspect of the product's promises, but as I experienced no irritation while using this product, I would verge more on the positive side.

    --Value for money--
    This is a high-quality product that does as it promises. However, it's not really 'for me': it's fine if you only ever wear eye makeup, but if I'm going to buy a makeup remover, I want it to remove all types of makeup, not just that used around the eyes. I also unfortunately didn't see its effects as a toner: while it's pleasant and refreshing to use, I had hoped that its non-comedogenic qualities would have improved my skin if I used it as a toner, but it didn't. In short, I wouldn't buy it again for myself, but would not hesitate to recommend it to others if I thought it was suitable for them.

    perfect partners
    3-in-1 Calming Cleansing Micellar Solution, £11
    3-in-1 One-Step Cleanser, £11
    Soothing Cleansing Milk, £11
    Hydra Soothing Toner, £11
    Hydra Perfecting Toner, £11
    Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover for Sensitive Eyes, £10.50
    Purifying Exfoliating Cream, £11
    Cream Mousse, £11
    Purifying Foaming Cream Cleanser, £11.50

    Wednesday, 25 July 2012

    WIN a pair of fake tan tights

    Yep, you heard me right. FAKE TAN TIGHTS.

    Thanks to my friends at TIGHTSPLEASE, I'm giving away a pair of these (in medium):

    In short, they're for people who've tried every fake tan method in the book: sunbeds, spray tans, lotions, sprays...and been disappointed with the lot of them.

    Equally, they're for people who've never forayed into the fake tanning scene before and fancy giving it a go. 

    Either way, they should be simple to use and give satisfying results. Put the tights on and massage your legs (they do provide a pair of plastic gloves too in case of staining, but there shouldn't be any), and when you take the tights off, you should be left with a gorgeous even tan. Once you've used the tights, they can be washed and kept as a normal pair of sheer 8 denier tights for you to wear all year round.

    They're worth £10 and I have a pair to give away.

    For your chance to win, comment on this post. It's just that easy!

    The competition's deadline has now been extended and will run until August 11th 2012 (23:59 UK time), and the winner will be announced on August 12th 2012. Good luck!!

    Tuesday, 24 July 2012

    At the (virtual) nail bar

    I don't seem to get the time or money to have my nails done often, which is a shame as I usually enjoy it when I do go. However, manicurists tend to be quite expensive in my area, and even the "cheapest" (at around £30 a go!) tend to be quite rough, making it a far less enjoyable experience. I normally resort to paying over the odds for a nicer experience or waiting until I visit my parents, where their local salon is far cheaper and take so much more care over you too. 

    BUT there is help at hand in the interim. You may remember that Marks and Spencer has reworked its beauty counter recently, offering visitors access to niche brands from all over the world. Part of this revamp is a virtual makeover service on the brand's website, which allows you to test the newest makeup colours and products on a digital version of your face, as well as select the right foundation for you, and find your perfect look. Another service it offers is the virtual manicure, meaning it's easier to get through those long gaps between nail bar visits.

    And it couldn't be easier to use: choose the photograph of a hand that most closely matches your skin tone, and then select colours that appeal from the colour wheel on the left, which magically appears 'painted' onto the nails in the photograph. I won't lie: at times the colour does look superimposed and not fully realistic, but it does give you an impression of how certain colours suit you. A 'history' is stored below the wheel so you can go back to a colour easily if needed, and the product is shown on the right with its full details and price so that you can add it to your basket right away if you like. Observe:
    Give it a go today :)

    Sunday, 22 July 2012

    Bobbi Brown Desert Twilight Eye Palette

    RRP: £48

    --What does the promo say?--
    "The essence of late summer in eight sultry shades (for that tawny skin-glow that happens just before dusk). Featuring a mix-and-play palette of neutral shadows to transition you effortlessly from summer to fall: a light base shade, six medium lid shades and a dark liner shade. Includes a dual-ended Eye Shadow and Eye Liner brush-all in a sleek mirrored compact-so you can apply everything like a pro."

    The silver and black flip-top palette seems durable and robust while giving an edgy and dramatic look. Inside is a generously-sized mirror, a good amount of each of the 8 colours, a protective sleeve to cover them, and a double-ended brush (one end is a shadow brush and one end is a contour brush). The brush is my only quibble with the entire ensemble: while the contour end is excellent for precise and intense colour application, you seem to need to work the shadow brush much more to build up colour. Even though it's clearly made with high-quality materials, I can't help feeling that a sponge brush would be better for short-term results.

    As mentioned above, the only problem with application is inherent in half of the brush provided, and you can easily substitute this for your own brush if need be. Some application instructions (for example, ideas on looks you can create) would perhaps also be beneficial. However, generally application is straightforward.

    This palette has been lauded by several users for its ability to take the wearer from day (with its nude shades) to night (with its sparklier hues) and I don't disagree: the range of possible looks is fantastic and the range of colours concerned (taupes and pinks) means that everyone should be able to extract several looks from the palette to suit them. Another reviewer also mentioned the possibility of using the darker shades to contour eyebrows, which is an extremely plausible idea that I had not yet considered. It's therefore multi-use as well as being very pretty, and you can either keep it subtle or vamp up the glitter according to your own individual style.

    --Texture and consistency--
    The glittery shades are not gritty in the least, and the other shades seem to go on smoothly too, although I believe you'd get more from the matte shades with a different brush, rather than having to constantly go back to the palette. With the brush provided it seems very difficult to pick up a good amount of shadow for speedy application.

    Occasionally these shadows have a tendency to crease or fade, but it depends on the day (e.g. how hot or humid it is outside) and whether or not you have used primer prior to applying the shadows. Generally, though, they last well, with a little going a long way.

    --Value for money--
    £48 is expensive, and even though in my experience the Bobbi Brown palettes last forever, plenty of palettes from less pricey brands do too. Equally, although the colours are pretty and last well, this again is something that isn't impossible to achieve elsewhere. For me, the main draws are the multi-use functions and the fact that this is part of a limited edition range. However, if you wanted to be part of this product range without breaking the bank, there are plenty of ways to do this through the many more affordable products (see below), all of which are listed in full here. The glosses, eyeliner, and cheek/lip colour in particular provide similar insight into the beautiful dusky evening shades offered by this palette. By all means consider this palette as a stunning gift option - but don't feel you have to miss out if you're on a tighter budget, as the entirety of this limited edition range is worth exploring.

    perfect partners
    Desert Twilight Limited Edition Bronzer and Blush Duo, £27
    Desert Twilight Limited Edition Nail Polish, £11
    Desert Twilight Limited Edition Creamy Colour for Lips and Cheeks, £12.50
    Desert Twilight Limited Edition High Shimmer Lip Gloss, £17
    Desert Twilight Limited Edition Mini Brush Set, £55
    Desert Twilight Limited Edition Long Wear Gel Eyeliner, £17
    Desert Twilight Limited Edition Long Wear Cream Shadow, £18

    Monday, 16 July 2012

    No7 Lift and Luminate Day and Night Serum

    RRP: £24.95

    --What does the promo say?--
    "No7 Lift & Luminate Day & Night Serum 30ml targets the most common signs of ageing in 45+ skin. Clinically proven to lighten age spots and visibly lift skin to reduce the appearance of deeper lines and wrinkles.
    This powerful day & night serum duo work together to effectively target the 3 key signs of ageing in older skin:
    1. Uneven pigmentation
    2. Lines & wrinkles
    3. Lack of firmness.
    After the very first application, skin feels smoother & looks more radiant. After 4 weeks skin looks younger & more attractive: it is more even toned, age spots are faded, deep lines & wrinkles are less visible and skin feels firmer & looks lifted.
    Both these light, silky serums contain our advanced lightening complex to help prevent & fade uneven pigmentation plus the highest level of our clinically proven Protect and Perfect anti-ageing technology to help restore skin structure.
    The refining night serum also contains targeted, L-carnitine, which helps boost skin renewal to even skin tone & fade age spots.
    Renowned for offering pioneering clinical proof for their products, Boots experts have developed No7 Lift & Luminate Day & Night Serum 30ml with one of the world’s leading experts in pigmentation, Professor Ortonne, Head of Dermatology at Hopital L’Archet in Nice.
    Professor Ortonne commented: “This has been a very exciting and innovative trial to be involved with. The results are exceptional, better than any other cosmetic product I have tested for the fading of age spots, with similar performance to the gold standard prescription only treatment after four months use.”
    Hypo-allergenic: Because all skin can have sensitive moments all our products are hypo-allergenic so they are kind to even the most sensitive skin."

    The day and night serums are presented in two separate tubes, with the night serum tube being blue while the day serum is white. The different colours are aesthetically pleasing and the tubes are easy to use too. Information is kept minimal and both fit in well with the No7 brand. Although a pump-action mechanism is perhaps preferable for cleanliness reasons, it is recognisably advantageous for such thick creams to be contained in tubes rather than in bottles. This also makes the serum stand out against competitors which do have their serums in bottles, such as Olay and Lancôme.

    Rubs in well all over the face and never fails to be easy to use.

    The day and night serums look the same (a pale off-white colours), and despite the luminescent effect that the creams have on the skin, the creams are not pearlised themselves. They leave no visible residue on the skin once applied.

    The creams have a pleasant fragrance that is mildly floral and slightly powdery. Very soft and mild scent; not nearly strong enough to offend.

    --Texture and consistency--
    While thicker than normally expected of a serum, the day and night serums both still rubbed in easily. However, the day serum seemed thicker than the night serum, which could appear incongruous to some.

    --Effects on skin--
    According to the Boots website, "after the very first application, skin feels smoother & looks more radiant". Our tester found this to be true without doubt; however, the claims that "after 4 weeks skin looks younger, more attractive, and more even toned" and that "age spots are faded, deep lines and wrinkles are less visible and skin feels firmer and looks lifted" were far less easily noticeable. No drastic changes really took place in our tester's skin during the trial period; there was a slight improvement in terms of radiance and depth of existing lines, but ultimately the main observation was that skin condition did not deteriorate, rather than that there was any massive improvement. Ultimately the claims made are so subjective ("younger and more attractive") that it would be difficult to say if they really did stand up or not.

    --Value for money--
    The £24.95 price tag seems reasonable given that the serum tubes lasted a long time (several months) and given that a small amount of improvement was noted (even if not the drastic changes predicted by the promotional material). This is also just about in line with market prices in some cases (prices are similar for products intending to achieve the same purpose made by brands like Avon, Olay, and Yes To Blueberries) but seems to push the company's luck in another way (is No7 really "worth" the same as similar products by brands such as Caudalie and Nuxe?). It's therefore really worth bargain hunting, so try to buy this product when there's an offer on at Boots (currently this product can be purchased as part of a 3 for 2 deal across selected products). Worth a try for minor short-term results, even if significant and longer-term results are less obvious.

    perfect partners
    Lift and Luminate Foundation, £15.50 
    Lift and Luminate Eye Cream, £16
    Lift and Luminate Day Cream, £23
    Lift and Luminate Night Cream, £23
    Lift and Luminate Regime Bundle, £47.95

    Johnson's Baby Oil

    RRP: from £1.30/100ml

    --What does the promo say?--
    "Locks in moisture for baby soft skin. It's a silky soft moisturizer for silky soft skin. JOHNSON'S® Baby Oil locks in up to ten times more moisture on wet skin than an ordinary lotion can on dry skin, leaving your baby's skin soft and smooth. This gentle oil is also easy to spread, so it's ideal for baby massage.

    For baby:
    • Moisturizes baby's delicate skin and helps protect from dryness
    • Pure mineral oil forms a silky barrier to help prevent excess moisture loss
    • Great for baby massage and parent-baby bonding
    • Clinically proven mild and gentle formula
    • Dermatologist and allergy-tested
    • Great for your skin, too!
    For you:
    • Locks in up to ten times more moisture on wet skin than an ordinary lotion can on dry skin
    • Use to soothe and relieve dry, rough patches
    • Leaves skin glowing and baby soft
    • Clinically proven mild."
     The clear bottle combined with pink and blue colourings makes it easy to see how much is left and gives as unisex an approach as is possible (although a gender-neutral colour, such as yellow or white, would be even better). However, Johnson's run into problems when trying to promote this product as a product for adults due to the safety cap (tricky to get off when you're supposed to be applying it to wet skin right after a shower or bath!). In this case, a pump-action lid would be better.
    --Usage instructions--
    Johnson's advise massaging the oil all over the body for baby soft skin - ideally into wet skin for even greater amounts of moisture to be locked in. This is not problematic aside from the packaging issue mentioned above.

    A clear, quite runny oil which leaves no visible residue on the skin.

    A powdery scent which is not unpleasant. The problem is that Johnson's Baby Oil is so ubiquitous that the scent is almost universally associated with babies! If the company is trying to target the product at women, they should perhaps consider adding a line of the same products with different scents - for example, a fresher or woodier scent - or indeed even a totally scentless range. However, saying this, the initial scent certainly doesn't linger, so wouldn't interfere with any perfume you may be wearing.

    --Texture and consistency--
    As mentioned, this oil is quite fluid, and sinks quite easily into the skin. It's not at all greasy, and its fast-acting mechanism means it's good for working women on the go.

    --Effects on the skin--
    Definitely locks in moisture for longer, with silker skin being noticed for days after just one application. Also makes a noticeable difference to distinctly dry or flaky skin, especially after sun exposure, and is as good for younger skin as it is for more mature skin. Truly a product for the whole family!

    --Value for money--
    A little of this product goes a long way, making it excellent value. However, a different dispensing mechanism would not only make it easier to use but also make it even better value, as it would reduce any wastage that may occur. The product also works well, completing the Holy Trinity of price, quality, and longevity. We'd even go as far as to say that if you used it on a regular basis (not even necessarily every day) you'd probably never get dry skin, ever. A great product to incorporate into every woman's bodycare routine.

    perfect partners
    24 Hour Body Lotion with Vitamin E, £3.05 
    24 Hour Moisture Radiance Body Lotion with Shea & Cocoa Butters, £3.05
    Baby Bedtime Oil, £2.80
    Baby Softwash Extra Care, £3.35
    Baby Lotion, £2.50
    Skin Perfecting Oil Spray for Stretch Marks, from £9.99
    Baby Soothing Naturals Nourishing Lotion, £3.35
    24 Hour Moisture Hand Cream, £2.09
    Moisture 2 in 1 Body Wash, £2.09
    Baby Aloe Vera Oil, £3.35

    Thursday, 5 July 2012

    All packed and with nowhere to go?

    Suffering from the British downpours? Watching friends swan off on their holidays? Feeling even more sucky because the British rain is making your hair frizzy? 

    Look no further: Perfumesclub.co.uk are hoping to not only fulfil your holiday hopes but also to sort your hair out with their latest prize draw. To boot, you can be sure you'll also be smelling sweet this year thanks to their other prizes: there are fifty £10 vouchers up for grabs to spend on the perfume site, as well as 100 Travalo refillable atomizer bottles to give away.

    But those aren't even the main prizes, oh no! I hear you screaming "but what about my hair?!" The second prize is a pair of GHD hair straighteners (the Peacock model; available in green, blue or purple), ensuring you'll be the envy of your friends for free. The first prize is even better, though: a 2-night trip to Mallorca for two, including travel and accommodation expenses.

    Any UK resident can enter via the Perfumes Club website, with winners being announced in October. It is so easy to enter (I just have) and who wouldn't want a free holiday in the Mallorcan sun? (Or GHDs, or vouchers, or perfume...)

    And when you've entered the competition, you should take a look around the Perfumes Club site while you're there. As well as selling perfume, they also sell aftershaves and other products for men, and offer highly tailored search options on makeup and tanning products, which allow you to search by price, brand, age, required SPF, skin type, and more. The products are heavily discounted and are from end-of-line ranges by brands such as Shiseido, Piz Buin, and Clarins. In addition, you can consult their own blog, get advice from their resident beautician, use their gift finder, and watch videos. I'll definitely be bookmarking for my future purchases. Until then, though, I'll be sitting back and waiting to see if I won anything. Winning stuff rules :)

    Kiehls Centella Skin Calming Facial Cleanser

    RRP: £26.50/200ml

    --What does the promo say?--
    "The PH-balanced formula cleanses skin and effectively removes makeup residue and impurities while helping to avoid the irritation common to sensitive skin. Use of this alcohol-free cleanser will leave skin feeling calm, clean, and refreshed without any sensation of tightness. Our formula is fragrance- and ideal for cleansing and soothing sensitive skin."

    The Dermatologists Solutions range (marketed in some countries as Derm Preparations) goes for a calming, professional, and unisex effect with its white labels and sparse black and red lettering. The pump-action bottle (in the case of the Skin Calming Face Wash) works well, dispensing just the right amount of gel each time. Does not come with a lid for travel, however.

    The product may be used with or without water. To use without, rub over the whole face and then wipe off with a cotton disc. To use with water, rub the product over damp skin and rinse with a flannel. None of this is tricky at all and it can even be used around the eye area to remove makeup.

    A translucent white gel that leaves no residue on the skin after use.

    Very clean; almost like cotton. This is probably also down to the camomile the product contains.

    --Texture and consistency--
    A smooth gel that is not runny or sticky. It's easy to rub over the face, but equally easy to wash off when you're done.

    --Effects on the skin--
    I have not used this product solely for cleansing yet - although I would do, as I have experienced calmer, less inflamed skin while using it as a makeup remover. It removes makeup quickly and effectively (even quite heavy-duty foundation) and it seems to be a great two-in-one product for travel or home use. It's so convenient to have a cleanser and makeup remover all in one bottle and thanks to the camomile and aloe vera it contains it's bound to do most skin types some good in the process.

    --Value for money--
    £26.50 initially seems to be quite a high outlay, but one bottle lasts many months, even given that it has a dual purpose. It's also pleasant to use and seems to do the skin good. Centella is also one of the main ingredients in Absolution's Day Cream, which costs double the price. I would definitely purchase from Kiehls' centella range again.

    perfect partners
    Centella Skin Recovery Salve, £39.50
    Ultra Light Daily Moisturiser, £31

    Monday, 2 July 2012

    Gimme head with hair, long beautiful hair...

    No matter how we like to style or wear our hair, looking good is a concern all year round. For some people, making their hair looks good requires the best possible kit at affordable prices - a combination which can be tricky to achieve with new, trendy bits of equipment seeming to arrive in the shops hourly and it becoming harder and harder to make your monthly wages stretch. But there are ways of keeping costs down and still keeping a hold on your style.

    I understand the importance of browsing in the shops and having a chance to physically touch, look at, and sometimes even try the item before buying. But sometimes it can pay to browse in store but then buy online; even with postage fees it often works out cheaper. Google Shopping is one of my best friends for this reason.

    It also pays at times to look in unexpected places. For a range of hair straighteners, for instance, would you have thought to try Argos? Or Lloydspharmacy for heat protection spray? These places, which are perhaps more famous for jewellery, gifts, prescriptions and TENS machines, also offer a variety of big brands and the latest technology at low prices - the heat protection sprays I mentioned start at just £1.99, for instance, while Argos' selection of straighteners sees BaByliss, Philips and Remington straighteners being offered at competitive prices.

    But along with taking care of hair comes times when we want to remove it completely - unwanted body hair and the beach just aren't compatible, after all. I usually wax, as my local salon charges just €4,50 per zone - meaning I can get my legs, bikini line and underarms done for just €13,50. But waxing is often more expensive in other areas and plenty of people are on the hunt for lower-cost or better-value options. Expensive hair-removal creams and constant-maintenance shaving regimes are frequently frustrating alternatives. You can visit Argos for laser hair removal too in the face of costly courses of salon treatment - their options are priced affordably, and even their more expensive hair removal systems, such as the Philips Lumea and the Rio Salon IPL Hair Removal System, still work out considerably cheaper than a professional course of treatment. Plus, there's the upside that you get to carry out the treatment in the privacy and comfort of your own home, at your own pace.

    It's things like this that sometimes make me think men have it easier - just a short back and sides at the barber's once a month to deal with, and the idea that body hair makes you more of a man means they can breathe much more easily. This is compared to women, who have to weigh up the costs of at-home hair removal versus the salon option, use four different products on their hair to remove the bed-head look and have to deal with hair dye on towels and ingrown hairs regularly. But luckily everyone - male or female! - can benefit from the one-stop-shop called Argos - complete with its laminated book of dreams - that seems to embody men's general desire to get shopping over and done with. Thanks to the system of ordering online or collecting in store, minimum queues and so much being under one roof, everything from model makeover days to laser hair removal is possible with next to no fuss. Great for those last-minute summer birthday buys and for great hair all year round.

    This post was brought to you in conjunction with Argos