Thursday, 31 January 2013

Cosmetics and Beauty News (January 2013)

Bejewelled, British style
I don't often post about jewellery and accessories on here - but in the interests of supporting a new British business, I thought I'd draw your attention to Heather and Grace's new range of stunning yet affordable jewellery. With pearl-effect bracelets priced at just £5, you can also get your mitts on other Accessorize-style bits and bobs, including brooches, earrings and badges. A perfect gift for any occasion - and you'll be supporting an independent business to boot. 

Brushing your way to beauty
We all know that we should brush our teeth regularly, and that many dentists recommend electric toothbrushes for the deepest possible clean. It therefore doesn't surprise me that a new market is now opening up for toothpastes that are designed to work with your electric toothbrush for an even brighter smile. Theramed Pro Electric is just one of these, offering three low-abrasive silica toothpaste types depending on your needs (whitening, active clean, and sensitive). This is all very well if these toothpastes genuinely do offer something different to conventional brands - but with a price point of around £2.99 (which is roughly the same as that of normal toothpaste), I'd hazard that electric toothbrush users have little to lose by trying Theramed's version. I'll definitely be trying to get my paws on some, given that my attempts to whiten my teeth are invariably a part of my daily routine in any case.

Everything fades away... runs a song by Mariah Carey. With luck, her new OPI collection won't fade too fast! This leading nail brand has teamed up with the popstrel to create eight new nail shades. The new collection includes four new Sand Lacquers for a matte yet textured finish, with added reflective sparkle, and the sultry yet innovative colours available (black with red sparkles, anyone?) should mean there is something for everyone. The collection of four mini Sand Lacquer shades is also priced at an affordable £12.95, making for a cheerful treat come payday.

Nail trends of 2013
The nail world is changing all the time, and while in 2011 gels were all the rage, and in 2012 it was all about wraps, some exciting new concepts are coming to the fore for 2013. For instance, China Glaze has launched a nail lacquer called Tranzitions, which reacts when a clear top coat is applied, creating a new second colour. This allows all sorts of patterns to be created with just one swipe of the brush. Both possible shades are indicated on the neck of the bottle, so no surprises - making for a fabulously innovative follow-up to similar products (such as No7's Stay Perfect Matte Top Coat). 

Even more creative is the concept of nail varnish rental. This sounded a bit too wacky to work when I first heard about it, but the more I consider it, the more it makes sense. Lacquerous, which launched officially at the end of 2012, allows you to rent the latest designer nail colours for a fraction of their retail value. All bottles are hygienically cleaned and sterilised before loan, and you must send them back in good condition at the end of the loan period, or risk being charged the full RRP. Alternatively, should you wish to keep the varnish, you can choose to pay the full retail value anyway. To my mind this is brill: how many of us have got too many old varnishes languishing in drawers that we can't bear to throw out? This system helps to alleviate ennui, be on trend, eliminate waste, and provide the opportunity for purchase if liked. Lamentably, it's only available in the US at present, but I can see the concept taking off on these shores soon. A solution to a first-world problem if I ever saw one.

At-home skin rituals
It's normal to sit at home feeling rubbish during January: I've already been signed off work for two days thanks to a shocking cold/flu/plague type thing, and have just had a lovely night in the toilet due to food poisoning or possibly even gastroenteritis (if the pharmacist down the road is to be believed). But there's no need to pay silly money to go to a spa to make yourself feel better, as with BareMinerals you can do it for free. Facialist Abigail James, who has fifteen years' experience, is working with BareMinerals to provide tutorial videos that can be viewed from the comfort of your home. This has the added benefit of you being able to see what BareMinerals' new January products (Multi Wrinkle Repair Serum, Extra Firming Neck cream & Intensive Glow Pads Brightening Treatment) look like on before shelling out the requisite cash.

It's actually quite easy being green
Contrary to Kermit the Frog, being green has got ever easier over the past few years due to the proliferation of now-iconic brands such as Green People. They're also helping to look after us during the winter months thanks to their newest line of body products. Their £19.95 body butter contains a host of good things, including cranberry, rosehip and pomegranate oils; omega 3 and 6; and Fairtrade lemongrass and rosemary. All of this promises to improve elasticity, reduce scars, anti-age, and protect dry skin. Also available is their sugar scrub at the same price, which, as well as helping to slough away dead skin cells, also contains moisturising agents such as shea butter. Both are certified organic, too, getting you off to a great start in 2013. Vaseline's Intensive Rescue range is equally indispensable in winter: with prices kicking off at just £2.99, their range of body lotions, repair balms and hand creams come with a sun protection factor, which is just as important in the colder months.

Sunday Sanctuary
In spite of all the great at-home products listed above, there are also some excellent free options, such as the Sunday Sanctuarys at Bar Galante on Sloane Avenue. Ladies can come along every Sunday between 1pm and 3pm and be pampered gratis with products from Bliss Spa, as well as being treated to classic films, Champagne Bellinis, and Argentinian canapés. Slippers and dressing gowns will also be available for use. To book your place, email rsvp[at]bargalante[dot]com - if I lived in London, I'd be there in a heartbeat!

Saving sharks with Chantecaille
Chantecaille's makeup palettes are well-known for their philanthropic aspect, and their latest one is no exception: 5% of the sales of their Save The Shark eye and cheek palette will go to conservationist group BLOOM. Inspired by spring runway colours and the freshness of the ocean, the palette consists of four cool shades: Great White (beige), Grey Reef (sandy grey), Black Tip (ocean blue) and Sea Anemone (coral). 

You're beautiful
Should you be wishing to start dropping hints to loved ones on the approach of the next big occasion in your life (or simply 'just because'), look no further than the packages offered by Michaeljohn Salon and Medispa: available exclusively in February, all packages (starting price £100) include a shampoo, cut and finish, a manicure, and a pedicure. Those willing to splash out on the £200 package also receive a bikini wax, eyelash tint and eyebrow threading session in addition to this. For those who just want to stay in the spa, the £140 package provides a warm oil massage with a manicure and pedicure. For an extra £15, the massage is replaced by a revitalising facial. For £200, you get all four, along with an eyelash tint and brow shape. Finally, the £150 package combines the best of both with a manicure, pedicure, salon blow dry, and a professional makeup session. I can assure you that these packages are top value (based on the eye-watering price of treatments here...), and that you are sure to have an unforgettable experience.

Fragrance news
The latest addition to Molton Brown's "Navigations Through Scent" series has just been announced, with Mahina taking inspiration from the sun-soaked lifestyle of Tahiti. Continuing with the concept of the unisex scent, Mahina uses tiare, vanilla and cedarwood to create a balanced fragrance for men and women. To celebrate the launch, Molton Brown has teamed up with Beach Tomato to offer lucky competition winners a 7-night trip to Tahiti, with goody bags for runners-up. Perfect for escaping the drizzle!

Other gorgeous-looking perfumes that have just hit the shelves include Guess Girl (raspberry nectar, melon, bergamot), Heidi Klum Surprise! (mandarin, pink pepper, benzoin), and Halle Berry Closer (waterlily, violet, cashmere musk).

Beating Botox parties
Worryingly little regulation exists regarding who can and cannot administer anti-ageing treatment Botox, leading to the existence of 'Botox parties' thanks to the proliferation of DIY kits for sale online. I've spoken before about my worries that people out there are actually stupid enough to consider injecting their own faces - and that web services are actually willing to facilitate this at-home idiocy. Thankfully, the Royal College of Surgeons agrees, and they too have spoken out against this lack of legislation. They call for a formal body to cover aesthetic practice and to see dermal fillers reclassified as medical devices, in order to ensure safety. In my view, the sooner this comes along, the better.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Dove Creme Mousse Body Wash

RRP: £2.90

--What does the promo say?--
"What is the Dove Difference? Creamy Nourishment. A beautiful pearlescent crème formula, unlike any other, transforms into a lush lather allowing our highest concentration of NutriumMoisture™ to nourish skin deep down or more beautiful skin. For best results use every day. Dove Creme Mousse Body Wash Brightening [...] rejuvenate[s] dull skin."

These plastic bottles stand up on their lids in the shower so that you can be sure of the mousse being right at the opening where you need it every single time. The designs are discreet, and yet the turquoise and navy versions distinguish well between the respective brightening and nourishing versions. This means that your odds of grabbing the wrong one on a sleepy morning should hopefully be low!

Only about a tablespoon of this is needed for a lather that covers your whole body. Take double the amount for an even more generous effect. Lather, enjoy, and rinse.

The brightening formula is more pearlescent than the nourishing one, but both creme mousses are brilliant white, while washing off invisibly.

Both just smell soapy, which in a way is a shame, but in another way feels right given that this product's USP is texture, not scent.

Creamy and luxurious just as promised, although occasionally proves a little difficult to rinse off.

--Effects on the skin--
While pleasant to use, I haven't noticed any immediate or long-term changes to my body skin during my trial of these products, so any joy you get from this product is likely to be purely sensory and short-term, rather than practical or truly restorative.

--Value for money--
These products are an absolute dream to use and really make your routine a luxury. However, the claims they make are far too vague and I don't think you can really expect to see much in the way of genuine nourishment or brightening here.
perfect partners
Dove Deeply Nourishing Body Wash, £2
Dove Purely Pampering Shea Butter Body Wash, £2.40
Dove Cream Silk Hand Wash, £2.30
Dove Complete Care Pampering Set, £3.75  

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Brighten up your January

  I am a complete sissy when it comes to hair. I have greasy roots and dry ends, and I'm definitely a wash-and-go kind of girl: no straighteners, no styling. Getting it done as quickly as possible is the name of the game. I have also never ever dyed my hair (OK, beyond those 80s-style hair mascaras). It's not that I've never been curious to see what I'd look like with a different hair colour; my eyebrows and lashes are dark, and I'd like to see what my blonde hair would look like if it were the same colour. And red appeals too, just because it looks so lovely when it catches the light. But the maintenance of it terrifies me, along with the subsequent expense, and we've all heard too much about how damaging hair dye can be to hair.

But for the braver amongst you, Schwarzkopf's Live Color XXL sounds right up your street: its Ultra Brights range features three semi-permanent colours in different shades of red to suit all personalities and tastes (Fiery Copper, Raspberry Rebel, and Pillar Box Red). While it can be applied to hair normally for bold and daring colours (after carrying out an allergy test beforehand of course!), but can also be mixed with normal hair conditioner for pretty pastel results (which should definitely appeal to people like me who fear that hair dye will damage their hair). It also washes out in 6-15 washes, meaning that you can also go back to your normal self easily if you're not a fan of the final result. At £5.49, it's also an affordable luxury. Maybe someday I'll also have the guts to have a the meantime, I look forward to hearing all your stories of your hair-dye fun :)

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Clean and Clear Deep Action Cream Wash

RRP: £3.50

--What does the promo say?--
"Clean & Clear® Deep Cleansing Cream Wash cleans deep down to effectively remove dirt, oil and impurities without clogging pores. Contains a special ingredient to help prevent spots and breakouts. The tingling sensation after use tells you your skin has been thoroughly cleansed, leaving it cool, refreshed and really clear."

In keeping with the same ergonomic design as the exfoliating daily wash, this is curved for a good easy grip, with a secure flip top lid. The green and white graduated colour palette is modern and appealing too.

Lather over damp skin and then rinse off. Easy as.

A luxurious white cream that leaves no visible residue on the skin.

Minty thanks to the menthol, but not overpowering.

--Texture and consistency--
Unlike a lot of products targeted at those with acneic skin, the cream wash's luxurious texture really allows you to pamper yourself each morning. 

--Effects on the skin--
The menthol provides a cooling, tingling feeling that gives you confidence in the idea that you'll soon see effective results. However, I think these products are ultimately intended for people with less severe or less persistent skin conditions than mine, as I really didn't see any significant improvement.

--Value for money--
While this is great for those on a budget, for me it didn't actually deliver in terms of ultimately reducing spots. A shame.

perfect partner
Daily Essentials Dual Action Moisturiser,  £3

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Bare Escentuals Prime Time Oil Control Foundation Primer

RRP: £19

--What does the promo say?--
"Put an end to midday shininess. Designed for oily, sensitive, and problem-prone skin, bareMinerals Prime Time Oil Control Foundation Primer is clinically proven to control excess shine. Apply this silicone- and oil-free primer prior to your bareMinerals SPF15 Foundation for evenly textured, shine-free coverage all day."

An unassuming white pump action bottle with grey lettering. Not exactly attention-grabbing; definitely functional first and foremost.

Rub onto clean dry face. Getting the right amount is a slight problem as this dries very quickly, meaning you need to remember exactly where you've applied it and waste time getting more out of the bottle to apply to places you haven't done yet; OR you pump out too much and end up applying it to your neck as well.

A perfectly clear gel. On the face, this is invisible.


--Texture and consistency--
Feels smooth on the fingers and when rubbing into the face, but has a slightly tacky and gritty finish; it also makes the skin feel slightly tight, like you have layered something onto your face rather than applying something that absorbs seamlessly.

--Effects on the skin--
In fairness, this does do exactly what it says it does: it controls oiliness brilliantly, and I think I even noticed a small improvement in my skin while using this product.

--Value for money--
Even if this product does do just what it promises, they have to sort that texture out to make this a more pleasant experience, especially for a £19 price tag (OK, so it's often on offer, meaning you frequently don't have to pay £19, but still). I'll be looking elsewhere next time.

perfect partners
READY SPF15 Touch Up Veil, £22
Advanced Protection SPF20 Moisturiser Sheer Tint, £27
Redness Remedy, £27
SPF20 Correcting Concealer, £21
SPF15 Matte Foundation, £25 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Clean and Clear Exfoliating Daily Wash

RRP: £2.99

--What does the promo say?--
"Clean & Clear® Exfoliating Daily Wash contains gentle micro-beads for effective cleansing.
Formulated to effectively remove dirt, oil and dead skin cells that can block pores and lead to spots and blackheads. Its exfoliating action will leave your skin beautifully smooth and clear."

The ergonomically-designed tube is curved at the top and slopes in at the bottom for an easy grip, and the blue and white fadeout design is attractive and unisex. The flip top lid is secure and eliminates wastage, and stands independently next to your sink with no problems.

Lather up and rub over damp skin before rinsing off. Rinsing off isn't always easy though as the exfoliating beads can stick.

A cloudy white gel with brighter white, but tiny, exfoliating beads. Occasionally the exfoliating beads can stick to the skin even after rinsing, giving the skin a slightly gritty and sticky feeling.

Slightly too masculine for my liking, although I can't tell which ingredient is giving it this quality.

--Texture and consistency--
While satisfyingly scrubby to use without being irritating, the problem comes after rinsing, as mentioned above, since the exfoliating beads tend to stick.

--Effects on the skin--
While skin is noticeably softened from the use of this product, I ultimately didn't notice an improvement in skin condition regarding spots. A real shame as this could have the potential to be an affordable and effective product for many.

--Value for money--
Not expensive - but didn't work for me.

perfect partners
Daily Essentials Deep Cleansing Lotion, £2
Daily Essentials Dual Action Moisturiser, £3.50

Monday, 14 January 2013

Cosmetics Contemplations: My Bach Flowers Experiment

I'd like to believe that I'm quite open-minded when it comes to alternative remedies. I've taken herbal diet pills, which I felt really helped to keep my hunger pangs down while dieting, and homeopathy has also really helped my father (possibly the most cynical, least happy-clappy guy alive) with his allergies. I can frequently be seen in Holland and Barrett during my visits to the UK, and cure-alls such as arnica and tea tree oil are permanent mainstays in my home. So perhaps it wasn't a great surprise when I said yes to my aunt, who required case studies as part of her training to become an official Bach Flowers practitioner.

You may have heard of Bach Flowers - but beyond Dr Bach's most famous Rescue Remedy, what else do you know about them? 

Dr Bach was an English bacteriologist and homeopath who rose to prominence in the 1930s thanks to his herbal remedies. He believed that plants' healing properties could be harnessed to not only treat physical conditions but also emotional and spiritual problems. The Rescue Remedy itself is famed for its ability to calm people who are struggling to deal with a stressful situation, and it contains a combination of five flowers: impatiens, rock rose, star of Bethlehem, cherry plum, and clematis. However, a patient's individual treatment may contain up to seven flowers, chosen from a list of 38. This is decided by a qualified Bach Flowers practitioner after consultation with the patient. This consultation almost takes the form of a counselling section, whereby the patient tells the practitioner what problems or worries they are currently experiencing, whether these are physical or mental. Patients are normally reassessed after six weeks, with a 1.5-hour consultation session setting you back around £50.

Patients take their seven flowers in the form of a tincture (in which the flowers are diluted with water and brandy), which can be consumed neat or mixed with a drink of their choosing. The Rescue Remedy itself is available as a tincture and as tablets. A Bach Flower cream and lip balm also exist, which are based on the Rescue Remedy, with the addition of crab apple for extra healing, and these can be used all over the body from face to feet.

I'm not going to go into all my worldly woes on here. But suffice it to say that after my free consultation it was recommended that I try a tincture consisting of the following:
  • mimulus (for known fears, including driving - this one I specify as it's relevant later)
  • impatiens (to encourage calm)
  • holly (to act against envy)
  • crab apple (for my acneic skin)
  • white chestnut (for persistent thoughts that prevent sleep)
  • larch (to boost confidence)
  • olive (for feelings of tiredness and exhaustion)
This tincture was given to me for free (but would normally cost about £5; some practitioners include this in the consultation cost, so check before booking). It was, however, also recommended that I use the Bach cream for my face and Rescue Remedy pastilles (again, for the driving issue). The Bach cream was given to me as a gift from my mother, but normally of course I would have to pay for this myself. As for the pastilles, I purchased these myself online (they retail at £5 a tin, but are often on 3-for-2 at Boots).

During the first 24 hours of my using the tincture, I noticed two obvious effects. One: a marked increase in my energy levels. Secondly, the best night's sleep I'd had in months. You could joke and say that this was down to the brandy that is also present in the tincture, but seeing as you take so little (16 drops a day - and bear in mind that the tincture also includes the flowers and water), I doubt that such a small amount of alcohol would make you sleep so well. Both of these aspects have continued to improve even though I now no longer use the tincture. It would be a lie to say that I never get exhausted or never sleep badly anymore, but there has without doubt been an improvement in the two-and-a-half months since my consultation.

I also noticed a reduction in envy while using the tincture, although there has been a small resurgence of this since stopping. I have coped well at work, with and without the tincture, managing my tasks with minimal stress in spite of a significant increase in workload. 

In addition, my skin condition has also improved slightly, although I think that this is thanks more to the cream than to the tincture - to the extent of drawing a couple of compliments. The cream itself is pleasant to use: it smells pleasantly of flowers without being a heavy scent and it also doesn't bog skin down in terms of texture. It's very light, and is slightly watery without being runny, absorbing quickly without greasiness. While not the most luxurious cream I've ever used, you could argue that it has made a small difference. One tube lasts 10-12 weeks and costs about £6.50.

The one area in which I saw no change, however, was my confidence in driving. I have been taking lessons since September and find that I become extremely nervous and panicky during them, even to the point of crying in the car, in spite of previous driving experience. This was not ameliorated by the pastilles or the tincture and so probably amounts to something that needs to be treated by a doctor.

I'm well aware that Bach Flower remedies have not had a very good clinical record, with the word 'placebo' having been thrown around a lot. However, I do think that placebos themselves have their own value, and that if these help someone to the degree that they do not then need to treat their ailments with further medicine or therapy, then they are ultimately positive. I also like the idea that in this way a person is able to self-medicate naturally. Nonetheless, there are clearly some things that people suffer with that cannot be 'cured' through Bach Flower remedies. Practitioners tend to advise that this may be the case and that anyone considering Bach Flower remedies should go through qualified herbalists, taking advice from doctors alongside and/or subsequently. In any case, I would be willing to continue with Bach Flower remedies in some of the forms that they take, as well as recommending this to friends and family, as I have to a degree found it to be effective. Now to send my bottle back for a refill...

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Clean and Clear Advantage Spot Treatment Gel

RRP: £2.99

--What does the promo say?--
"Clean & Clear® Advantage Spot Treatment Gel is clinically proven to start to clear spots after only 4 hours. The unique formula containing spot-fighting ingredients quickly rebalances the level of oil, helps fight problems causing bacteria and effectively purifies the skin all without irritating or over drying. After 4 hours, spot size and redness are noticeably reduced."

The sleek silver and navy tube is unisex and discreet, dispensing the product evenly with each use.

Apply directly to spots after cleansing and moisturising. Do not rinse.

A completely clear gel which stays invisible on the skin once applied.

Does not smell clinical or chemical; you could even say it's slightly fruity (could that be the moss rose or atlas cedar at work?).

--Texture and consistency--
Can separate slightly if it hasn't been used for a while, into a clear liquid and white gel. However, normally, this should take the form of a completely clear gel which rubs quickly and easily into the skin, with no stickiness left behind. This is an advantage that it has over its nearest market competitors.

--Effects on the skin--
Immediately upon application, there is a cooling feeling (perhaps due to the witch hazel) which makes you feel like this is really working. Sadly, I noticed next to no difference in the frequency with which spots appeared, or the speed at which existing spots went away.

--Value for money--
While not expensive, I did not find that this did anything for me. However, it's possible that it may work for others, so you haven't got much to lose by having a go, especially as one tube lasts quite a long time.

perfect partners
Advantage Fast Action Daily Wash, £2
Advantage Spot Control Kit, £13.99