Thursday, 28 February 2013

Cosmetics and Beauty News (February 2013)

Have an environmentally friendly Mothers' Day
Still searching for that perfect Mothers' Day gift in time for March 10th? Look no further than Environ's gift set, which promises to protect skin from environmental aggressors and fight ageing simultaneously. Its four 20ml products and one 50ml product allegedly give "real results" thanks to their vitamin-packed formulae, and the sizes are convenient for travel too. However, it's not easy to order, as you usually have to go through an Environ consultant, but do check for stockists, or try websites such as Care Concept, Touch of Skincare and Ebay.

You could also try Beau Choix for your gifts this year, specifically its Nahbi Gold range, which features masks, cleansers, moisturisers, toner, and serum containing gold nano-particles. Claiming to reduce fine lines, heal sun damage, brighten skin and reactivate elasticity, the products also contain organic green tea and frankincense extracts. With products starting from £25, it's affordable too. Mums can try the deep cleansing 10-day Sheet Mask Set for this price - and why not get one for yourself too?

Tales of London
In a similar vein to Molton Brown's Global Heroes set, Ashleigh and Burwood has now set out to express a little bit of London in a range of scents for the home. The Tales of London range consists of six scents, each named after various London neighbourhoods, and all are available in candle and reed diffuser form. Covent Garden evokes its famous flower markets thanks to notes of rose, jasmine, galbanum and rosemary, while Knightsbridge goes for fresh and sophisticated with moss, ginger, basil, grapefruit and lime. Buckingham uses rose, mandarin, bergamot, and patchouli to create an air of decadence and royalty, and Westminster continues the historic theme with black pepper, amber and lemon. Piccadilly is more playful with vanilla, tonka bean, candy floss, freesia and peach, and Portobello completes the range with mimosa, cardamom and musk. Definitely sounds better than the smell of cigarette smoke that pervades our apartment block...

Sustainable spray
Speaking of the banishment of bad smells, some of you have probably already seen the adverts on TV extolling the virtues of the incredible shrinking deodorant cans in the brands made by Unilever (Sure, Dove and Vaseline). The new compressed aerosol contains the same amount of deodorant as exists in the normal-sized cans, but contains less propellant, and thus takes up 50% less space in your bathroom cabinet. The smaller can also reduces the amount of aluminium and the carbon footprint of each can by 25%, and the fact that more can be transported at once also means a reduction of Unilever lorries on the road by 35%. As one famous retailer says, every little helps...

Gimme a head with hair, long beautiful hair 
Ever heard of the Brazilian blow-dry? London's Michaeljohn Salon has now launched a formaldehyde-free alternative, the Biolustre Revamp Smoothing Treatment. Specially formulated to rebuild weakened hair, it's a treatment for damaged locks that's packed with replenishing keratin to make hair feel nourished, shiny and soft for up to 14 weeks. Its patented polymer links the keratin with the hair to create a permanent protective seal that penetrates the hair shaft and bonds to the hair's inner cortex. This sounds perfect for hair like mine that gets greasy at the roots but dry everywhere else - but sadly it's only available in their Mayfair salon as yet, and not as a commercial product for at-home use.

However, it's far less expensive than another of the latest innovations to hit my inbox recently. Truffle, by Fuente, is a shampoo and hair conditioner system that uses diamond dust, meteorite and white truffle to create an 'intelligent' product that restores every hair type to top condition. The ingredients contain minerals that are extremely suited to human hair and scalps, and took four years to develop into a usable at-home formula. All of these top ingredients come at a price, though - the shampoo and conditioner set costs £275 for half a litre of product.

Much more within budget is FAST - a fortified amino scalp therapy that promises to almost double the rate of hair growth. Great for people like me whose hair grows slowly, FAST took 15 years to develop and is suitable for all hair types (e.g. curly) and people (men, women and children). I'd love to see my hair grow at the extra 2 inches a month it proposes, and at £24.99 for 600ml, it's luxurious without being out of reach for the recommended daily use. It's also completely organic and paraben-free, which is a bonus for those who consider these aspects to be important. I'll definitely be checking it out during my next visit to the UK.

Not just a pretty face

I'm already enamoured with new brand Wild About Beauty, and they've just launched their newest collection, which includes limited edition nail varnishes, and a palette entitled Safari Nights. Featuring corals, pistachios and bronzes, these new shades should see you through the spring and into the summer season. The polishes, named Flora, Martin and Tanwen, are free of traditional nail varnish ingredients such as formaldehyde and toluene, and the paraben-free multi-functional Safari Nights palette features gold and copper eyeshadows in powder and cream formats, as well as nude highlight, blush and lip colours to suit any skin tone. But it's about more than just the face, with Wild About Beauty donating £4 to the Born Free Foundation from the sale of every Safari Nights palette.

Also new on the cosmetics block this season is Clinique's Chubby Stick Shadow Tint for Eyes, which follows the international success of the Chubby Stick for lips. Ever-practical and available in a range of candied hues, they're out now at £19 each. Make sure you don't miss out!

In addition, two beauty brains have recently launched an online version of beauty concept BeautyMART. Anna-Marie Solowij (beauty writer) and Millie Kendall (of Ruby and Millie fame) have created magazine-style pages that play on a loop, featuring must-have products backed up by expert tips. Unlike with a magazine, however, you can shop straight from the page - and to me this sounds like an important future step for the magazine industry.

The best of British
Spa brand ESPA has recently announced that it has joined forces with the English National Ballet to create new products and improve existing ones. With both focusing on British heritage, and on quality performance beautifully delivered, this seems like a perfect partnership, and natural next stage for ESPA in the light of their previous collaborations with artists: past links have included chocolatier William Curley and designer Julie Verhoeven. Dancers have been busily testing products and providing feedback to shape ESPA's future offerings, with the brand's Replenishing Facial Oil and Soothing Bath Oil already receiving compliments. Waiting with bated breath to see what the second act holds for this duet.

Exposure to second-hand smoke reduced - but still too high
The latest European Commission report on smoke-free environments finds that we are doing well in terms of cutting down second-hand tobacco smoke, but still could do better. Twenty-eight per cent of Europeans were exposed to second-hand smoke in bars in 2012, which is a massive reduction compared to 2009's 46%. The report also shows that the economic impact of indoor smoking bans has been limited, neutral, and even positive over time; however, some member states are still lagging behind in terms of regulation and subsequent enforcement. According to conservative estimates, over 70,000 adults in the EU died due to exposure to tobacco smoke in 2002, with many of them being non-smokers who were exposed to second-hand smoke in the workplace - so any reduction does signify real progress. Happily, all member states report that they have adopted measures to protect citizens against exposure to tobacco smoke, although enforcement is still a problem in some places. If you care about the health of your friends and family, you'll stop smoking - or at least stop smoking around them.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Cosmetic Contemplations: Beauty Bargains

As befits my role here as a beauty blogger, I love trying as many new beauty products as I can get my hands on. But while I do get sent lots of lovely things for free (perfume from Grasse has arrived in the mailbox this morning), I too am of limited means and so am always on the hunt for bargainous products. So how can you get the best deal? Here are my tips:

  1. Shop in the country of origin. As I noted recently in my post about Dr Hauschka's Rejuvenating Mask, importation costs inevitably add to the retail price of a product. Dr Hauschka's products, for instance, cost around €20 more in the UK than in their country of origin (Germany). So if you can, get your products directly from the host country: shop when you go there, or give money to a friend who's going and get them to purchase for you.
  2. Wait a while after a product has been launched. Occasionally, products will have promotional launch prices. However, most of the time they will be more expensive at their launch and then prices will calm down later. Often, it's worth waiting.
  3. Look out for special deals. Some pharmacy chains are particularly good at offering deals - when you buy your preferred product, you may get something for free with it (I bought an Estée Lauder foundation last year and got the matching full-size concealer gratis), or the pharmacy may offer discounts on bulk purchases (such as buying 2 or 3 of the same product at once). Boots is pretty good at this, but so are French pharmacies, which can be particularly handy if you are following the advice detailed under point 1.
  4. Hunt for lookalike products. Sometimes when you're really strapped for cash you just can't afford the latest brand-name product that you've got your eye on. However, plenty of people are in the same situation and can report back on products that do the same job for less money. One of my fave finds is Sephora's Colorful Duo vs. Nars eyeshadows - but you can find lots of other tips on discussion fora online, such as's "Cheap Smellalikes" thread, which offers alternatives to expensive perfumes.
  5. Use Google Shopping for the best prices. Google Shopping is basically my best friend. Type in the product you want, and they'll find just about all the retailers selling it, which you can rank by price (with or without postage costs). Google also for reviews of the retailers if you are unsure about their reputation - this will also alert you to any retailers that may be selling fakes.
  6. Wait for the January sales. This applies to online and in-store sales; you can often get brilliant bargains. This January, I got the Benefit Cabana Glama palette for a mere €18,50 (£16) at Sephora, as opposed to its usual retail price of €37 (£31.99).
  7. Search for discount vouchers. More commonly available in relation to online transactions, discount voucher websites can get you codes for all kinds of things from free postage and extra freebies to money off your order. Reliable websites include Voucher DiscountCode, VoucherCodes, and MyVoucherCodes.
  8. Buy "secondhand". This one is a bit more fraught with risk: we're all familiar with the world of product expiry dates and the potential risk of infection from using products that have already been used by others. However, I've had so few problems (and even then only very minor issues) that I've been happy to "buy secondhand" before now and would do it again. Quite often on websites like Ebay, you will find products being sold that have only been used once or twice. Because of this, you can have the product you want at a heavily discounted price when it's essentially as good as new. Some products will also be ex-display and will be sold at a reduced rate for this reason.
  9. Use group buying sites and gift sites for beauty treatments. Spa breaks can often seem so out of reach - but thanks to group buying sites and gift websites, which have been able to negotiate special deals on your behalf, there's a chance that you'll be able to pamper yourself for only a few pounds.
  10. Grab free samples whenever and wherever you can. Sign up to free sample newsletters, check brand websites, 'like' your favourite brands on Facebook and Twitter, and shop for your favourite products in department stores or on websites where you know they give samples with purchases. That way, you'll always be aware of competitions or special giveaway events, and if you've had the chance to try a product before you buy the full size you'll know if you like it or not - and if you don't, then that's a massive saving.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Dr Hauschka Rejuvenating Mask

RRP: £35/30ml

--What does the promo say?--
"This pack brings life and vitality to pale, dry skin and helps improve the elasticity of pores. It can also help with the healing of scar tissue. Nurturing plant oils soothe and calm sensitivities as well as moisturising the skin."

An almost medicinal metal tube with a plastic white screw-top lid and minimal writing. Only the characteristic orange band for decoration gives it away as being a Dr Hauschka product and not something your doctor would prescribe.

The Dr Hauschka website advises use once or twice a week for best results. The mask (which I was kindly sent by Dr Hauschka's PR bods) should be applied liberally after cleansing and toning, left for 20-30 minutes, and then removed with a moist cloth. It can also be applied to heavily scarred areas lightly, on a daily basis, underneath moisturiser and makeup, to act as a day-to-day healing agent.

The "mask" is in fact a thick cream, and the colour is a sickly-looking yellow-green colour. But don't let this put you off in the least: it leaves no visible residue on the skin and the colours come from entirely natural sources.

Refreshing, citric and herbal, meaning that this makes for a unisex product that can be used by all, although it's difficult to say where the scent comes from exactly, as the preparation is packed with good things, including apricot, borage, and jojoba oils.

--Texture and consistency--
Unlike a 'normal' face mask, this doesn't dry on your face. It comes out of the tube like a thick cream and stays that way throughout the 20-30 minute wait. The skin seems to absorb what it needs and then you can wipe away any excess. In spite of all the oils used, it's not greasy in the least, and it's easy to wipe off the excess too.

--Effects on the skin--
Skin definitely feels significantly softer after use, and even though I've only used it twice, I can see a small improvement in my skin already, with there being fewer spots and less redness.

--Value for money--
This is an interesting conundrum. To my mind it's an effective, luxurious product, made with high-quality ingredients, so theoretically I shouldn't baulk (much) at the £35 price tag, particularly as it does seem that one tube would last you a while. However, given that it costs €27 (today: £22.84) in Germany and around €32 (£27.07) in France, it's definitely worth waiting for your next hop to the continent to purchase this, as the UK markup seems a little high. Nonetheless, would definitely recommend.

perfect partners
Intensive Treatment, £48.45
Cleansing Cream, £14.95
Clarifying Toner, £24.95
Normalising Day Oil, £24.25
Rhythmic Night Conditioner, £44.95
Facial Steam Bath, £26.45
Cleansing Clay Mask, £25.45
Pure Care Cover Stick, £17.25
Daily Face Care Kit for Oily Skin, £17.95
*these are the recommended 'partner' products for oily skin. For recommendations for dry skin, sensitive skin, and other skin types, consult the Dr Hauschka website.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Cosmetics Contemplations: Knowing Your Beauty Alphabet

To beauty bloggers and columnists everywhere, 2012 will surely be remembered as the year of the BB cream (I'm still busy trialling a huge quantity of them; prepare for a post on a battle of the BBs in 2013!).

To some, it could still seem slightly baffling as to what a BB cream even is exactly: just about every brand going has jumped on the bandwagon, and all of this new information could seem a little overwhelming. It's important to note that there is a clear difference between a tinted moisturiser and a BB cream: tinted moisturisers obviously moisturise (and with that comes anti-ageing qualities), but also offer coverage equivalent to a light foundation. They often contain sunscreen as well. BB creams are supposed to do all of this and more, and to my mind any extra qualities should be quantifiable - not just something vague like added radiance. BB actually stands for "blemish balm", so the first thing on the list should be an ingredient that actively combats blemishes (whether this is tea tree, salicylic acid, or another spot-fighting agent). They can also act as a makeup primer, meaning that this is another step that BB cream users can skip. In Asia, where the creams are extremely popular, they frequently contain a whitening agent, which understandably doesn't go down too well in Europe. In the West, BB is often said to stand for the far more woolly "beauty balm", which means that many products given this label are little more than tinted moisturisers with a different name. To me, that is a real shame, as there is little worse to me in the world of consumerism than shoppers being out-and-out conned. 

However, this bombardment of information is set to become even more bewildering in 2013 thanks to the inception of CC and, yes, even DD creams. So what are the differences between DD creams, CC creams, BB creams, and tinted moisturisers? 

CC can stand for "complete correction", implying that these would be good for those wishing to blur pigmentation and scars. However, CC is also reported to stand for colour correction, complexion control, and various combinations of these words, making them far less distinct from our friends the BB creams. They are essentially supposed to be revamped versions of BB creams - doing all that they do, but with more radiance, more and longer-lasting coverage, and with a lighter texture. In addition, they are meant to have an even lighter texture, and come in different tones for different needs, in the manner that we are already used to with concealers and primers (pink, yellow, blue, green and lavender, to correct redness, dullness, and so on).

The DD creams are meant to provide us with our daily defense. These, though, are not for the face, but for the feet and body. Given the battering my feet seem to get each day even when wearing flat shoes, this is a revolution that I am looking forward to. As well as softening the toughest skin like regular body creams, the more heavy-duty DD creams also promise to reduce other body blemishes, such as stretch marks.

Amazingly, AA creams also already exist (although they are far less common). These can theoretically be used by people with any skin type, and typically contain avocado, alpha lipoic acid, allantoin, and vitamin A to help with anti-ageing and general skin condition. Further to this, there are even whispers on the wind of EE (early elimination) creams - although it seems that very little is known about these at present.

You could ask why all of these categories are even significant. For genuinely new types of cream, it should be easy to distinguish these from others and not become confused. For other creams that are easy to mix up with others, surely it shouldn't matter what they are called or marketed as if they are right for your skin? 

However, to my mind, it does matter - firstly from the point of view of cost. Clinique's BB cream is £25, while its tinted moisturiser is only £21.50. This also works for more affordable brands: Nivea's tinted moisturiser costs around £3.50, but its BB cream is closer to £6. If the BB cream genuinely offers different benefits, then a higher price can perhaps be justified - but if there is no difference at all (as is often the case in the West, whose brands frequently put notoriously little effort into their BB creams), then why should the consumer pay more for what is essentially just the bandwagon of a new trend, even if the difference is in name only?

Then there is the basic matter of integrity and transparency, and respect for the customer. If you treat your customers like idiots, and they find out, they will vote with their feet.

So my advice is this: don't touch a BB, CC, or DD cream with a bargepole unless you know full well what you're buying, and can justify the cost, knowing that the product is genuinely different to existing concepts. I therefore offer this handy "cut-out-and-keep" guide, just the right size to keep in your purse, so that you know what you're getting:

Type of cream
This cream should :
Moisturise, anti-age, have an SPF, offer light coverage or better, combat blemishes
Moisturise, anti-age, have an SPF, offer medium coverage or better, combat blemishes and scars, come in different tones for different needs
Be for the feet and body, intensively moisturise, reduce body blemishes

And as jokes abound regarding the similarity of these cream names compared to the nation's bra sizes, it's my hope that retailers and manufacturers will wise up and begin to inform consumers better about their choices. That, after all, is why I started blogging - and rest assured that as soon as more information about EE creams (and who knows? FF creams, GG creams...) becomes available, I will be right here waiting for you.