Reading List

I went shopping today after dropping my boyfriend off at the station. He's spending NYE in London while I stay with family in Manchester, so after saying goodbye, I consoled myself with a bit of retail therapy. Urban Outfitters was crazy busy, but I found a quiet spot and had a flick through some of the books, and decided on my style reading list for 2011.

All the images are courtesy of amazon.co.uk where you can buy both of these stylish tomes.

Face Hunter
The Sartorialist

I love nothing more than looking through style and design books on a rainy weekend, so I am really excited to receive these when I return to London in January!


Beauty: Christmas Gifts

I've really enjoyed seeing everyone's gorgeous Christmas presents this year, and thought I'd share a couple of my beauty gifts with you, one of which is so special that I was actually shaking when I tore off the wrapping paper to reveal a very unexpected surprise!

Firstly, I am super excited that my parents got me the lovely Estee Lauder Double Wear eye set. The cute little pouch contains a concealer, dual ended liner (one end is black, the other brown) and a Double Wear mascara. I'm obsessed with Double Wear eyeliner, but have tried neither the concealer nor the mascara, so I'm really looking forward to giving these a try. Saying that, the mascara will be alternated with another mascara, for reasons listed here!

Secondly, and the one I'm so excited about is something I never thought I'd see again. A few months ago, I wrote about how I managed to recreate my favourite perfume, the sadly discontinued Marc Jacobs Blush, by combining a couple of Sanctuary moisturisers. As lovely as this combination is, it's nowhere near as intense as the real thing, so you can imagine how stunned I was to unwrap this on Christmas morning...

My Mum scoured the globe and eventually uncovered a gift set with a stockist who had one solitary box left. That box turned out to be one of the most wonderful, thoughtful and precious gifts I've ever received. Thank you, Mum. Christmas is such a special time of year, and although it's nice to be indulged and to get lots of lovely treats, I would be content with this one box. It's so wonderful to receive a gift like this: one that shows the person buying it knows you inside out, and would go to such trouble to find the one thing that you thought you'd lost.
So, these are my favourite gifts; what were yours?
Finally, some happy news, and a little glimpse into my silly world. My dear friend and former flatmate Patrick got engaged over Christmas and I couldn't be happier for him. When we lived together, he fell for my beloved childhood teddy, and did a fabulous job of creating a rather decadent, delinquent personality for him. Anyway, when I heard Patrick's news, I couldn't help but get Pooch in on the act, and below is the aftermath of his private celebration, complete with Breakfast at Tiffany's fantasy, the cork of his champagne bottle, saved for good luck, and the obligatory Holly Golighty glasses. Congratulations, Pats! x


Beauty: Rimmel Lash Accelerator

Tomorrow I am heading straight for Boots and no amount of snow will deter me from my quest. What I thought was an average product has turned out to be an essential, and it seems I'm finding out the hard way. The mascara that promises lash retention really did work, as evidenced by the fact that I have a newly lost lash to wish on every day. Rimmel Lash Accelerator (LA), I'm sorry for abandoning you. I hope you'll come home with me tomorrow!

Two weeks ago, I ran out of LA mascara and, after not seeing a massive increase in the length of my lashes, I decided to return to Maybelline's The Falsies. Despite loving the long, glossy lashes is gives me, I've noticed that, every day, I'm losing at least one lash per face wash, and over the months of using Lash Accelerator, I noticed only a couple of lashes lost. I'm not saying none fell out, but I was certainly better at holding onto them!

I'd always expected that I'd end up a hostage to fortune after taking the plunge with a lash growth product, but with my lashes thinning to the ocular equivalent of Cheryl Cole's barnet pre-extensions, I am very happy for my ransom to go unpaid, and for Rimmel LA and I to live out our days together!
Have you tried a lash growth product and then gone back to a regular mascara? If so, what happened?


Lifestyle: The New Year Beauty and Style Honours

If you're anything like me, you're probably contemplating your new year's resolutions whilst surrounded by empty chocolate boxes and a half drunk glass of champagne. It's always so easy to decide these things when you have a good supply of sugar and alcohol on hand! The effort comes when we all go cold turkey on the 1st Jan! Ugh, don't mention turkey...

Anyway, I'm not talking about vowing to lose seven pounds, giving up chocolate forever and going to the gym nine times a week, but instead, those nice, achievable resolutions. The ones that involve nothing more taxing than, say, buying some fabulous new beauty products and letting them do all the hard work for you. So grab another box of chocolates, top up your wine glass, and make some simple resolutions with the help of my top picks from 2010.

If 2011 is your year for clear skin...

...then head over to Liz Earle. The fact that this brand is by far the most reviewed on my blog should give you an indication of just how much I love the range, and the skincare is without doubt best that I've ever used. Whether you have dry, oily or combination skin, Cleanse & Polish takes care all of your makeup removal and skin clearing needs, and the toner keeps everything perfectly balanced. I can't imagine my routine without C&P, and its my number one recommendation.

If 2011 is your year for fabulous hair....

...then hair oil is what you need. Shu Uemura Nourishing Hair Oil and Phyto Nectar are firm favourites, and MoroccanOil gets fantastic write ups, too. If you're on a budget, you can do a lot worse than a weekly treatment with good old olive oil, so there's really no excuse for dry tresses next year!

If 2011 is your year for style...

....then check out The Blonde Salad, Fashion Toast, Style Bubble and Park & Cube. Chiara, Rumi, Susie and Shini are by far the most stylish ladies on the blogging block, and there is always something inspirational on their regularly updated sites. The photography is fantastic, and their stunning styling is the perfect fashion fix for those of us who get a little tired of the same old images in the same old magazines.

If 2011 is your year for getting body beautiful...

...then Tracy Anderson is your girl. Her DVD is both utterly mind-boggling in its lack of explanation yet completely effective when you finally memorise it! Tracy's approach works your accessory muscles to pull everything nice and tight, leaving your muscles long, lean and feminine. Ignore the negative reviews (and subsequently, the burning in your thighs), and embrace her mat workout to get the beach body you've always wanted!

Hope that helps. What are your resolutions?
Image courtesy of solariasun.com

Style: Leather Shorts

After much procrastination this morning, I eventually decided to brave the sales, and boy, am I pleased that I did. Selfridges was completely packed, with people queuing for the Gucci and Chanel concessions, and I saw about 30 women jostling to grab what they could of the reduced YSL makeup. Deciding that I had neither the desire nor inclination to fight for lipstick or handbags, I headed upstairs where I stumbled upon the most wonderful and unexpected sale bargain I think I have ever found. A pair of black leather shorts from Theory.

Aren't they just the cutest? If you'd asked me this morning whether I'd be up for investing in a pair of leather shorts, it's highly likely I would've said 'no'. I've never looked in my wardrobe and thought, 'you know what's missing here? LEATHER SHORTS!' and yet here I am, the proud owner of the butteriest bum cover I've ever seen.

I also bought some fab skinny jeans from Goldsign which just fit so perfectly, that they may quickly become my go-to jeans brand. All in all, a very successful trip!

I've also made a decision about blogging in the new year. I spend so much time reading fashion blogs, shopping, and playing dress up, that I've decided I'm going to take the plunge and start including more fashion-related posts here. This means buying a new camera, and also convincing my boyfriend to photograph me (as well as learning to be confident in front of the camera) but its something I really want to try out. There will still be plenty of beauty posts, but I want to make this blog a true reflection of the things I love, hence the little move to a slightly more fashiony angle. Let's see what the new year brings, but I hope you'll enjoy what I come up with!

And if you've bought anything fabulous in the sales, it goes without saying that I want to hear ALL about your purchases! x


Style: Sale Shopping

Sale shopping. We plan the day with military precision, put on our comfy shoes and prepare for battle. Your style inspiration is selected, you vow to buy a few classic investment pieces and some solid basics. In your head, you will leave with armfuls of purchases that would have Emmanuelle Alt asking you for style tips. But rather than making those few classic buys, many of us walk away from the sales with clothes that make us look less like this...

...and more like something from the John Paul Gaultier World Traveller collection. Sorry JP: I just didn't get this one.

So, to avoid scary sale buys, here's my pick of what I'll be hoping to get my hands on come Boxing Day.

Marc by Marc Jacobs Percy bag, now £87.50 from £175

Marc Jacobs bags are such a great buy. The leather is fabulous, and the styles so classic and wearable. This was great value at £175, but at £87.50, it'd be rude not to.
Draw In Light dress, now £91.20 from £228, Liberty

I love this dress. So easy and chic, and perfect with a leather cuff, a cute jacket and some
fabulous chunky heels.
Manolo Blahnik shoes, now £220 from £440
Classic, gorgeous, perfect. I can't wait to get back to London after Christmas in the hope that there's a pair of these left in my size. Please, Santa...
1st image courtesy of jakandjil.com, 2nd from style.com and others from Liberty.


Style: 70s

Grab your disco shoes because we've come over a little bit 70s here at The Beauty Hall. As regular readers will know, I am always dreaming a season ahead, and this winter is no exception. As the snow lies thick and the cold wind blows outside, I have fast-forwarded six months and am contemplating my summer wardrobe purchases. I know, I know.

The blame for this seasonal prematurity lies very squarely at the feet of my long-time love of fashion. As the resort collections begin to filter into the shops and online retailers move from chic tailoring and gorgeous knits to wispy chiffons and colour pops, my mind is swiftly transported somewhere warmer. I guess that's fine as long as I don't take this summer style outside. Brrrr!

Having spent the evening scouring style.com, it seems that the catwalks have been awash with the glamorous vibe of the 70s: asymetric shoulders, billowing skirts, block colours and a bit of chic denim.

How amazing is this gorgeous asymetric number from Lanvin? I will definitely be recreating this look with a slightly more high street price tag (and I'll just have to hope that there's a wind machine poised ahead of me to get the 'swoosh' factor!)

Gorgeous Gucci. I love everything about this look. The beautiful burnished gold accents, the fabulous teal, and those incredible sleeves. Lust.

I completely love this cute weekend/holiday look from Gucci Resort. The thought of white trousers slightly terrifies me, but this is just so adorably chic that I'll be seeking something similar for my January city break to Palma. The heels may have to be slightly more practical for all the shopping, though!

It had to end on a beauty note, didn't it, and who better to epitomise that heady 70s glamour than the gorgeous Bianca Jagger? As beauty shots go, it doesn't get much better than this for me. The red lips, the smokey eyes, those perfect cheekbones, and the best brows in the business. J'adore.
Will you be rocking 70s glam next season?


Skincare: By Terry Baume De Rose Review

By Terry's Baume De Rose is one of those products that seems to come with its own gravitational force for lip product obsessees like me. Ever since Laura of lollipop26writes declared it her go-to balm, I knew it would only be a matter of time before I caved in and bought one myself.

And so it was that I wandered into a packed Space NK last weekend and chalked up my first By Terry purchase. My Mum was visiting for the weekend and, as we were both suffering a bit of winter lip chappage, we got home and dipped into the gorgeously luxe pot for our first rose-scented applications. The balm smells divine, is long wearing and adds a subtle lustre to lips. It is suitably slippery for the grease-addicted amongst us, but not in the least goopy: the perfect balance!

The next morning, we compared notes on the balm's overnight performance: the uncomfortable cracked corners of both our mouths were markedly improved, and Baume De Rose was declared a success.

A week on, and I'm about a fifth of the way through this pot, which is probably something close to reckless considering its £32 price tage. I'm disappointed to say that, despite numerous liberal applications both day and night, my lips still feel uncomfortably dry when I wake up in the morning, although I've happily bid farewell to the cracked corner of my mouth that was both painful and not particularly glamorous! Consequently, I will be returning to Burt's Bees for my daily staple lip balm, and By Terry will sit bedside for occassional use. It seems strange that it worked for me on a more extreme issue but that it doesn't provide enough comfort to be used on a daily basis, but I guess everything has its purpose! I'm not sure that I would rush to buy this again, as I think there are plenty of cheaper products that deliver equal if not better results for daily use. Sigh. I was really hoping this would be my perfect balm.

That means my search continues for the perfect everyday lip balm continues, and all recommendations will be gratefully received! So come on, ladies: what are you lip balm loves?


Skincare: Nubo Cell Dynamic Stimulating Moisturiser

Given that everything as far as the eye can see is sitting under a blanket of snow, I thought I'd get in on the act and sit under my favourite winter white blanket while I catch up on blogging. I managed to catch the last train out of London yesterday so I'm happily tucked up at my parents' house and feeling very relieved that I will be spending Christmas at home! I hope your plans aren't being disrupted by the cold weather.

So here I am, with an enormous pile of products in my eyeline to make sure I get through as much as humanly possible today!

First on my list is a bit of a luxury cream in the form of NuBo's Cell Dynamic Stimulating Moisturiser SPF 20. With it's £135 price tag, I had very high expectations, and I am pleased to say I'm not disappointed with the product. The packaging is beautiful, sleek and ever so slightly space age. Let's hand over to NuBo for the description:

NuBo Cell Dynamic is a critically acclaimed super-powerful complex which activates cells to rejuvenate your skin. The innovative energy recycling system tackles anti-ageing on two fronts – crucially focusing on both the causes as well as the visual external effects.
Traditional anti-ageing formulas force your skin to work over-time to generate collagen and elastin - ultimately producing damaging waste toxins and free radicals as bi-products. This results in a sluggish metabolic cycle and skin resumes its tired and aged look.

The unique NuBo Cell Dynamic patented formula goes beyond traditional anti-ageing approach. It re-invigorates your skin – not only fighting the damage caused by external free radicals but going much deeper too, inside skin-cells.

NuBo Cell Dynamic advanced energy-recycling technology eradicates blocking toxins and radically improves the metabolic cycle to clear a pathway for effective delivery of bio active boosters creating a cycle of a self-maintained rejuvenation.

Beyond all this, it's free of parabens, SLS, petrochemicals, colours and fragrance. All round, it sounds pretty good, doesn't it? And, you know, it really is. My skin looks instantly radiant when I apply it, and over the past five weeks, I have definitely seen a bit of an improvement in my skin. I say a bit, because I don't currently have any major skin ageing concerns, although at 28, it's definitely something that I want to keep on top of. Would I spend another £135 on buying this again? I really love it, but I think my skin is still a little too young to see drastic results, although I will definitely go back to this when I'm starting to see the first of the fine lines that I'm certain aren't too far away! Saying that, its plumping and firming qualities make me wonder how long I'll be able to resist purchasing when this bottle runs out, and I will certainly want to try other products in the range. This will be a fantastic buy for women in their early to mid 30s and beyond, and I guarantee you will absolutely adore it. Everything about this product says 'luxury' and it gives considerably better results that say, Armani's Crema Nera, which I have previously raved about (which, incidentally, is double the price!)

Have you tried this brand, and do these high end luxury creams appeal to you, or are they simply just too expensive to justify?


Male Grooming: Liz Earle

I've written about my lovely boyfriend several times, and those of you who read Modesty Brown will all know a bit more about him than you might like! Here for the first time on The Beauty Hall, the one known as 'The Boy' takes over the reviewing. Over to him, and allowing him a bit of poetic license. After all, we know that he is partial to the odd beauty product, whatever he might say...
Liz Earle is a company better known for beauty products for women. However what is less well known is that the entrepreneurial Ms Earle has diversified and produced a line for men. Displaying the chic, understated packaging women have come to expect from the company, this is a welcome development for any man who has had to listen to their girlfriend wax lyrical about Liz Earle’s products.
I am not usually one for beauty products, a fact which continually astounds my girlfriend. (The Beauty Hall: Er, my pillaged products say differently, Mister!) Tubes of moisturiser and packs of facepacks, given as presents, sit unopened in my closet. I am sure this is typical of many men the country over. This is not to say I do not like being pampered, just that who can be bothered with it all? Don’t women do enough of that stuff for men everywhere? And do we really see any difference as a result of using these products?
Well, I can say if the three products from Liz Earle I have been using are anything to go by, all men should be bothered and the difference is apparent from the first use. Asked to try the men’s Cleanse & Polish, Sensitive Shave Cream and After-Shaving Moisturiser, it would be fair to say I will be taking a bit more time with my morning ritual in the future.
First of all, they all smell great. Whiffs of eucalyptus oil, herbs like rosemary and sage, and hints of menthol greet you as you apply all the potions. Secondly, the use of all natural ingredients is a massive draw, being as they are for a very sensitive area, though men might not like to admit it.
The Cleanse & Polish is very straightforward, just use instead of soap, twice a day and wash off using the provided flannel (or whatever!) It made my skin feel incredibly clean and light and did not dry it out as can often happen with soap.
The shaving cream is, to my mind, something of a revelation. Easy to apply and quick to provide a generous, luxurious lather, despite the relatively tiny amount needed, I do not think I will be using any other product on my face. It gave me one of the closest shaves I have had and without the post-shave rash, the bane of my pre-work preparation!
Finally, the moisturiser is the perfect accompaniment, post-shave. Light, quickly absorbed and smelling good and manly, it helps calm things down and protect the face after being attacked by our razors.
All in all, Liz Earle has three products here that are an excellent introduction for any man into the world of beauty products, so often dismissed as just being for girls. If these are representative of the rest of their line, I can see what all the fuss is about. More please!
The Cleanse & Polish Starter Kit is £13, Sensitive Shave Cream is £10 and the After-Shaving Moisturiser is £16.50.


Gift: Christmas

I've loved reading all the fabulous Christmas gift guides over the past month, and I'd hoped to have mine written weeks ago. However, much like my own approach to Christmas shopping, here I am on the last minute, but hopefully fellow disorganised souls will appreciate a bit of last-minute guidance. Just make sure you don't all rush out and deplete supplies as I still need to buy these for my family and friends!

This first installment contains gifts for the more mature lady, although the majority of these gifts would be suitable for women in their mid to late 20s and beyond. Where my friends and family don't guide me on what they want, I tend to buy treats and the sort of things that people wouldn't always buy for themselves, although as a beauty blogger, that concept is a little alien to me, as I buy everything I want! So, here's my little edit of what I think will make lovely gifts, and I've tried to keep it on the reasonable side in most cases, but do forgive me where I apply a bit of 'luxury license'. It is Christmas after all.

The White Company White Cashmere Candle, £28

I absolutely love scented candles, especially in winter. It's so nice to cosy up with a good book and a mug of hot chocolate, while a candle envelops you in a soft glow and fills the room with a beautiful fragrance. The new White Cashmere range at The White Company is a combination of fresh, zingy, and ever so slightly masculine vetivier, with warm, spicy cardamom. I absolutely love this clean yet rich scent, and think it's the perfect spring fragrance. Definitely the kind of luxury we should be spreading at Christmas!

Prada Infusion D'Iris Bath Salts, 500g, £34

These baths salts come in a gorgeous pale green presentation box, the salts beautifully bagged inside, and the delicate silver scoop sitting on top. It smells of white flowers and talcum powder, and makes for a decidedly decadent bathtime. If you really feel like spoiling them, throw in the scented drawer liners. Totally over the top, but it makes getting dressed on those chilly winter mornings just about bearable.

Chanel No.5 Eau de Toilette Refillable Purse Spray, £58 (Chanel counters nationwide)
I got this for my Mum last year and she describes it as her favourite Christmas present ever, which makes me very happy. As always with Chanel, this comes beautifully boxed (and it can be gift wrapped at the counter for the time-poor amongst us) and contains three 20ml refills and one sleek and sophisticated black container with a pop-up gold push button spray. It's so lightweight and practical that it's perfect for carrying around in your handbag, and is more glamorous and infinitely more practical than decanting your beloved fragrance into a fiddly atomiser. Several fragrance companies have caught on to the idea so if your Mum isn't a No.5 fan (although I'm yet to meet anyone who isn't), shop around and you may find something similar.

Liz Earle Ultimate Christmas Hamper, £163.25
Ok, so this is where my festive indulgences meet their peak price, but considering how much you get, this gift makes for exceptional value. It contains a whopping 16 full size products, and is tailored to skin type, meaning you can buy a hamper with perfect products for normal/combination, dry/sensitive and combination/oily skins. If you have a stressed-out, busy female relative who loves a bit of indulgence but doesn't always treat herself, then this may just be the perfect gift. Otherwise, it's for the woman who has everything, but just doesn't have any Liz Earle products. You can read my many, many rave reviews of the Liz Earle range if you like to do your research, but rest assured, you can't go wrong. There are plenty more gorgeous Christmas gifts from Liz Earle ranging from a fantastically afforable £8.25, so check them out here if you're looking for anything from a small stocking filler to the above hamper, which, let's face it, is more of a 'bathroom filler'!

I'd love to know what you'll be buying this Christmas and I hope my little edit is helpful!


Skincare: Liz Earle Deep Cleansing Mask Review

Wow, it has been ages since I last posted and I have to say, it feels good to know that I will have several posts written by the end of the night, and that there will be few items ticked off the vast 'to review' list. As any beauty addict knows, just because I'm not writing doesn't mean I haven't been buying and trying lots of lovely things that I want to share with you!

My biggest wake up call on my lax blogging of late came when I was fully prepared for a relaxing Liz Earle Deep Cleansing face mask, but found that the tube was empty. Never have I actually used up an entire product before I came to review it! This, however, gives you a good indication of just how much I loved this, and I will be repurchasing on my way to work tomorrow (nope, I can never get past John Lewis without popping in, which is unfortunate, as I pass it twice a day, Monday-Friday!)

The mask itself is the usual heady concoction of beautifully scented botanicals, containing clay, manuka honey and geranium to draw out impurities and tone and balance the skin. It's recommended for combination to oily skin, and has definitely helped me battle those pesky hormonal breakouts, which at 28, are even more frustrating than when I was a teenager! I've been using this after Cleanse & Polish and the Gentle Face Exfoliator as a twice-weekly bathtime treat, and it really is fantastically relaxing, alongside being super effective, but really, what else do we expect from the lovely Liz? As for the exfoliator, it's easily the best facial scrub I've ever used, with the grains being the perfect size to give a good deep cleanse and the cream thick enough that it doesn't all run off your skin as soon as you apply it. The exfoliator can be used as often as needed but I use it two to three times a week, depending on my skin. My boyfriend loves this product, so it's another bulk-buy for me, because as always, he likes a liberal application!

A Deep Cleansing Mask Starter kit (pictured above, which comes with the two sponges) is £12.50 and the Exfoliator is £12.25. These products aren't suitable for sensitive skin types, who should go for the Nourishing range instead.


Makeup: Lanvin hearts H&M

Today was unlike any other Tuesday in central London. A queue of 400 waited poised outside H&M on Regent St, each eagerly anticipating the launch of one of the most exciting collaborations in recent years. That’s right, ladies: we’re talking about the day that a bow-tied, bespectacled man with a flair for the romantic opened his world up to the masses. I can’t count the number of people I saw laden with bags as I walked to work, and after seeing the dresses in the window, I found myself wandering to the store at lunchtime, wondering whether I’d find anything more than shell-shocked sales assistants with the odd stiletto print on their chests after the earlier stampede...

So at lunchtime, I joined the queue in store and waited for the rope to be released for our allotted ten minutes of pawing the collection, looking in at the dresses and finding myself utterly underwhelmed at the spectacle of 50+ men and women clamouring to grab whatever they could. I’m not knocking the pieces, but seeing what looks like half of London fighting to get their hands on one of 20ish items in the collection makes me wonder how long it would be before I ran into one (or more likely, 100) women wearing exactly the same thing as me. There’s something about the whole experience that made it feel less desirable, less special, and that’s what stopped me buying any clothes today: it was less shopping, more ‘grab it before it goes’. I’m sure lots of people who bought today absolutely love their purchases, but it struck me that the apparent desire to get something which seems exclusive because of its designer provenance, but is anything but as soon as it appears on the rails of one of the biggest high street chains in the world, has overtaken the minds of many a sane fashionista. I guess herein lies one of those fashion mysteries that we’ll never solve: people who love fashion so often want to be known for their style, which you’d think would mean carving out their own niche, but invariably what’s desirable becomes ubiquitous, and soon we’re all dressed the same and wondering how it happened. I write this while looking at the Breton top on my ironing pile, so I am certainly not ruling myself out of that number!

Regular readers will know I’m not a big designer spender, so I’m certainly not opposed to the concept of high street and designer collaborations, but I love putting outfits together that reflect my personal style, and I’m not quite sure how I’d do that with a fashion piece so striking, so distinctive, that it’s instantly recognisable. Maybe I don’t have the vision, or maybe I just don’t have enough accessories. Anyway, that’s just my thoughts on the whole thing: I’m not judging those who bought one of the dresses, but it was my first experience of a collaboration launch day, and it got me thinking about fashion and style, and how you work a hot pink, off the shoulder ruffle dress in your own way when there are 10 other people in the room wearing the same thing! If any of you have bought from the collection, I’d love to know what you got and your take on the whole concept.

All that said, I’d be a very bad beauty blogger if I went in there, saw there were lipsticks in the collection and left empty handed, so after discovering that the only shade left was red (other shades were plum and a rose pink), I grabbed the adorable package and made my way to the till. The box is super cute, but the lipstick case is not quite as chic as I’d expected. Red, boxy and with a little ‘Lanvin hearts H&M’ logo, it’s getting a ‘could do better’ rating from me. The lipstick itself, however, is super pigmented and a gorgeous Russian red, so definitely a lovely, chic winter shade and great quality for the price (£7.99). For those of you who’d like a little piece of the collection but don’t have a spare £100, or like me, don’t want to look like everyone else, I’d say bag a lipstick and sleep soundly, safe in the knowledge that you’ve reduced your odds of turning up at the Christmas party wearing the same dress as every other woman in the room


Confessions of a beauty addict...

I'm over on the brilliant Modesty Brown today confessing all my deepest, darkest beauty sins. If you're not familiar with Jane's blog, get over there now as it's a fabulous read, and the Friday Confessional is always a good chuckle!

If you're curious to know my biggest beauty disaster, and why my boyfriend always gets scared when the rain clouds gather at the weekend, hop over there to find out!


Beauty: The Beauty Hall's Big Foundation Survey!

Ladies, it's time for a rant. It's not often that I feel like having a good moan, but tonight is one of those nights, and it's one thing in particular that's getting on my nerves: foundation shades, and notably, how hard it is to find one that matches my skintone.

So, let me give you the back story. Firstly, my skin is pale. It's the kind of pale that often renders me a glowing white shape under flash photography; the kind of tone that would make Snow White look like she'd spent a healthy summer on a yacht in St Tropez. Yep, that pale! Over the past two months, I've been stealthily swatching and sampling various brands, both high and low end, and the results are dire.

Looking at the vast majority of 'designer' brands, even the lightest shades are too warm for my skin tone, with NARS and Illamasqua supplying the only shades that vaguely match. And popping into my local branch of Boots to grab at bottle for under £10? Forget about it. I knew I wouldn't be the only one, so I spoke to friends to find out about their experiences. The results confirmed my suspicions, and each of the girls I asked had a similar story to tell: pale girls, Asian girls, black girls whose various skin tones never seemed to be the ones replicated in those pretty beauty counter bottles. They came to the unanimous conclusion that chemist/drugstore brands just didn't carry anything suitable, and many - including me - couldn't even find a close match with brands that sell foundations for upwards of £25. I know we can't all expect to find a perfect match with every company, but how can it be that, in this day and age, many of us don't see our beauty represented on the counters across the world?

We shared stories about how the palest amongst us have been matched with warm beige shades, told by the MUA that 'this will warm your skin tone', when the rest of our bodies are lily white and we didn't ask for our skin tone to be changed. Darker skinned friends had been offered shades that were too light, or had the wrong undertone, which left them feeling annoyed that they hadn't been listened to, and frustrated that so many brands were still getting it wrong.

I've very recently had a great experience with NARS, buying their two palest shades after the MUA showed me the quantities to mix to preserve my naturally pink undertone, whilst keeping the shade as light as possible. Much better than the Chanel MUA who said, 'you should conceal the pink tone to your skin so you have a neutral base to work with.' Judging by her orange face, she wasn't really an advocate of natural beauty, but it's not the greatest strategy for making your potential customers feel good.

So, I've created a little survey as I want to know what your experience is. It would be fantastic if you would take five minutes to complete the survey by clicking through to the link at the end of the page. Please invite as many people as you can to complete this, as I think it's so important that the beauty world understands the needs of so many of its customers. We want to spend our money, but you've got to supply us with the right products!

To complete the survey, click on the following link http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GG7VM56

Image courtesy of sheknows.com


Long time, no post!

Hi everyone!

Firstly, I am SO sorry for not having posted lately. I started my new job three weeks ago and it's going brilliantly, but keeping me very, very busy. I've found myself leaving the office at 6.30pm, arriving home an hour later armed with a Thai takeaway and then been fast asleep by 10pm! Oh the glamour! Anyway, I've started to feel a bit more human this weekend, so I'm just hoping you haven't all forgotten about me.

So, over the next few weeks, we've got Christmas gifts, skincare, shopping and plenty of gorgeous things to lust over. Normal service has resumed!

Also, I'm having a bit of a sale and have got a few bits on ebay, including the dresses above and some Lancome and Giorgio Armani foundations (about half used). Click through here if you fancy a bargain!



Fragrance: An Accidental Perfumier

I can't think of anything in my beauty collection that is more important to me than my perfume. Fragrance comes to define us, with long-lost and much loved relatives materialising in an instant when we catch the passing scent of their favourite perfume. The scent of lavender and white flowers reminds me instantly of my grandmother, Rive Gauche of my glamorous Mum in the 80s, Boss of my Dad, Giorgio Armani of my boyfriend, Bulgari Black of my friend Becca and Jean Paul Gaultier for men on practically every man I've ever had a crush on! I come from a long line of signature scent-wearers, and there's definitely one that I consider mine. My collection consists of four fragrances, the most beloved of which is almost empty and can't be replaced. That perfume is Marc Jacobs Blush, and I was devastated to learn earlier this year that it had been discontinued.

I always got the impression that Blush wasn't especially popular, but for me, it was my perfect fragrance. Jasmine, bergamot, freesia, orange blossom, honeysuckle and sandalwood combined to produce a scent reminiscent of a balmy night in a beautiful white flower garden. My boyfriend calls it simply 'your smell' and my friend Nadia said the start of spring to her was marked when I switched from the heavy, sensual Chanel Allure back to Blush. Living on the rations of my final bottle really isn't fun, and I've spent a summer in Diptyque's Vetyverio, and as much as I love it, it doesn't feel quite 'me'.

But last night, I made a discovery that was as suprising as it was exciting. As I'm staying at my parents' house at the moment, I don't have all of my usual products with me, so when it came to adding a moisturiser on top of my Sanctuary body oil, I reached for an unopened jar of The Sanctuary Bidadari Shimmering Body Souffle. The cream itself is thick and golden, and imparts a subtle lustre to skin, and like all their creams, it's left my skin silky smooth. What I wasn't expecting was the fragrance that enveloped my body: it was Blush! The souffle contains jasmine and ylang ylang, while the oil contains bergamot, sandalwood, more jasmine and citrus oils. I spent 10 minutes sniffing my arm to make sure I hadn't imagined it and then went to see my Mum. "What can you smell?" I asked, offering my arm. "Blush", she replied. Granted it doesn't last as long as the perfume does, but for those of us with an empty space in our hearts for a fragrance long since departed, this will go some way to filling the gap.


Skincare: Nubo

I got a very special package in the post today, one that's got me much more excited than usual. Say hello to Nubo's Cell Dynamic Stimulating Moisturiser SPF 15.

While doing some research on skin ageing a few weeks ago, I stumbled across Nubo's website and quickly found myself lost in the sleek and chic world of 'cosmeceuticals', the term coined for skincare products that blur the lines between cosmetics and pharmaceutical products (and hopefully, blur the lines on our faces, too!) Some of you may recall from past posts that I used to work for a world renowned dermatologist who specialises in anti-ageing research - oh, the samples he used to give us! Consequently, I have a great interest in the science of skin ageing and the products that have been developed to address our major age-related concerns, which in some cases, have been proven to reverse the signs of ageing. Yes, I'm talking about No. 7's Protect & Perfect serum...again!

Nubo's range starts at £30 and goes all the way up to an eye watering £200 (this product retails at £135). My project over the next month will be to test a range of cosmeceutical skincare products to see which of them live up to their promises, and which are a waste of money, whether they're reasonably priced chemist brands like the No.7 serum or the high end luxury of Nubo's range.

I'll be reporting back after 3-4 weeks so stay tuned!

What are your thoughts on cosmeceuticals? Are you attracted by skincare products that are developed on sound scientific research, or do you dismiss it as another marketing ploy to get us to spend yet more money?

Health: Winter

Hands up if you are prone to coughs, colds, sniffles and generally feeling a bit 'ick' in winter? *raises hand*

I love the colder months, but absolutely loathe the number of bugs that start to spread at this time of year. At the start of last winter, I was working for a big University and I seemed to be constantly fighting one bug or another, so this year, I'm taking action with Operation Zap that Cold! If your health suffers at the onset of winter, read on!

The reasons why we are more prone to infection in the winter are varied: we spend more time indoors where UV light is unable to kill some viruses, air conditioning units spread viruses across buildings, our diets change and often include less fruit and vegetables, and children returning to school is obviously a hotbed for bacteria spreading! All in all, making it through the winter without a sniffle is a tough challenge. My fight this year begins with taking a cocktail of supplements to give my body a much needed immunity boost.

I'm currently taking Vitamin C and a high dose of Echinancea to keep the bugs at bay. Vitamin C is an essential element for a healthy immune systems, and Echinacea is proven to reduce the risk of catching a cold by half. Bee Propolis and Blue Green Algae supplements are also excellent anti-viral supplements, but I stopped taking both given the high dosages required (bee propolis is taken up to 8 times a day!). Taking a daily zinc supplement helps the body to fight off rogue viruses, but you can also get zinc from your diet by eating lean meat, cereals and seafood. Bright coloured vegetables not only add a bit of vibrancy to your meals but give you a much-needed boost of essential vitamins: make sure to add red, orange and dark green vegetables to your daily diet.

Although they've been on sale in every chemist since the outbreak of swine flu, alcohol hand gels are not always recommended by medics on the grounds that they reduce our immunity to bacteria that the body can easily fight off. A very senior medical colleague of mine once said to me that we shouldn't even wash our hands that often, which really made me think twice about tucking into the sandwich platter he'd just unwrapped! They're also incredibly drying for skin, so if you can, avoid using them unless you have an immune deficiency that requires you to do so.

Finally, if you are a glasses or contact lens wearer, you can take comfort in knowing that you at a reduced risk of picking up bugs than those of us who don't wear them. The eyes are one of the easiest routes for infection into the body, so you have a handy first line of defence!

Image courtesy of listzblog.com


Loves and Loathes: October

I start my new job a week tomorrow and it's made me realise that I really need to get better organised when it comes to writing blog posts. At the moment, I am a freelance consultant, who works from home, which means that it's not difficult for me to spend an hour here and there writing whenever the mood takes me. But next week sees me return to office life full time, so it won't be quite as practical for me to spend a lunch hour photographing my latest beauty buys! For that reason, I'm going to try and get some regular themed posts, like this one: Loves and Loathes.


Shu Uemura Nourishing Hair Oil - I have never had a product that is more 'in' than this one, and I can honestly say I'd give up every single thing in my hair and beauty product collection to keep hold of this little beauty: it's THAT good. In the 6 weeks I've been using it, my hair has gone from quite dry, occasionally dull and unruly, to shiny, silky gorgeousness. Despite using it 3 times a week, I have used about a tenth of the bottle, making the £32.50 spent on it pretty good value.

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Recovery Complex - I have a love/hate relationship with eye creams. I have invested so much money in creams, gels and lotions that have done absolutely nothing to moisturise or brighten my under eye area and was starting to lose faith in ever finding anything that works. Then in steps this little miracle. I managed to get my hands on a month's supply of this product when it came out and it's done everything that I always hope an eye cream will do. Dark circles have been reduced, and my under eye skin looks radiant and plump with health. I will definitely be buying this when my supply runs out.

Lookbook.nu - I could quite easily lose myself in this website. I absolutely love style blogs and this website is almost like a speed style blogging experience! I have found so many fabulous bloggers since coming across this site, so to ensure my reading list doesn't expand to the realms of the ridiculous, I am really restricting the number of times I'm allowed to look at it!!


Chipped nail varnish - I ran out of my beloved Barry M 3 in 1 basecoat last week and haven't been able to get my hands on a replacement bottle yet. In the few days since it ran out, I have worn two different nail polishes, both of which have chipped within a day! I quite enjoy painting my nails, but having to touch them up every 24 hours is slightly ridiculous. I'm really lucky to have naturally strong nails that grow to a nice, elegant length, but I so often find myself wishing I had an excuse to get gel nails! The thought of ruining my natural nails really bothers me, so maybe I will look into having my nails Minxed to cut down on my home manicures. Either that or I'll just go and buy the Barry M basecoat!

Sugar - You may have read my post about cutting sugar out of my diet. I've managed to eliminate the vast majority of refined sugar from my diet and, although it's been tough, I'm really happy that I've made the decision to avoid it. Over the past 7 days, I've felt healthier and had more energy which has really boosted my commitment to stay away from it long term, so I hope I the resolve stays! I can't promise that as the night's draw in, I will be able to say no to the occasional hot chocolate, but the long term impacts of a sugary diet will hopefully be enough to help me resist temptation!

Barry M Instant Nail Effects giveaway winner

And the lucky winner is....


Congratulations, Claire! Your Barry M Instant Nail Effects is on its way to you. Can't wait to see what you create!

Thanks to everyone for entering and stay tuned for another giveaway soon :)



Body: Sugar

I'm sure you've all seen or heard about the reports published a few weeks ago on the effects of sugar in our diets. Most of us think of fat as our number one enemy to looking good and feeling healthy, but evidence shows that sugar in our diets will prematurely age skin, as well as contribute to causing other conditions such as tooth decay and diabetes. Sugar is proven to be as addictive as heroin, with tests showing withdrawal symptoms like headaches, cravings and forgetfulness when it's removed from the diet. Have you ever felt like that after a bowl full of broccoli?

So what happens when we consume sugar? The basic science is that sugar is energy in one of its simplest forms. This means that the body can instantly absorb it without having to convert it or break it down into a usable format, which is why we so often reach for a chocolate bar when we're tired or need an energy boost. But did you know that it takes only half a teaspoon of sugar to pick up our energy levels, when the average chocolate bar contains seven teaspoons? After eating such quantities of sugar, our bodies need to control this energy spike, so insulin is produced to regulate our blood sugar levels. Insulin promotes the storage of fat, so a diet high in simple sugars will mean that you're more prone to weight gain, putting you at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Is that chocolate bar sounding less appealing now?

If that wasn't enough to put you off, how about the fact that sugar contributes to skin ageing? According to Dr Frederic Brandt, "In a nutshell, sugar hastens the degradation of elastin and collagen, both key skin proteins. In other words, it actively ages you." This process occurs because sugar consumption triggers a process called glycation, where sugar binds to the collagen and elastin fibres in our skin, making them less elastic until they break. The collagen and elastin proteins then mutate, resulting in the formation of new molecules called Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs) which destroy the stronger type II and type III collagens, leaving skin without its spring. What this basically means is that skin sags and wrinkles because there is reduced collagen and elastin to prevent this from happening. Estimates say that a diet without sugar helps people look up to 10 years younger!

I've always known about the health impacts of sugar, and thought that I had a fairly healthy diet (despite my love of white pasta). After researching the impact of sugar on the skin, I have to say, I was shocked to realise that my love of fruit, honey and even the occassional diet drink and glass of wine are all contributing to my continued cravings for the sweet stuff.
Consequently, I have cut down on all sugar sources over the past six days (although I am still keeping some fruit in my diet), and I have to say, I feel great. I am a big advocate of a balanced diet which in my opinion has to include carbohydrates (unless you have a medical reason to exclude them), so I have swapped refined white pasta and rice to the wholewheat 'as nature intended' versions, the teaspoon of honey I have in my daily berry smoothie has been replaced with a squeeze of agave nectar which tastes as delicious as it sounds, and the cans of Diet Coke I would treat myself to every now and again will be skipped to ensure that their artificial sweeteners don't continue to fuel my cravings for sugar.

Here are my top tips for cutting sugar out of your diet:

1. Even those of us who consume relatively little sugar will find this a struggle for the first few days. Headaches and cravings are all likely on days 1-3, and you may feel like crap by day 4. But by day 5, you'll have increased energy and will start to wonder what you ever saw in sugar!

2. If you already consume a lot of refined sugar, this is going to be a tough one. Instead of cutting it out completely and going cold turkey, do it stage by stage. For example, if you have more than one sugary snack per day, try replacing one of those snacks with a slice of wholemeal toast with a thick spread of humous, or a handful of unsalted brazil nuts or almonds, which are packed with good fats and will release energy slowly. If you have one sugary snack a day and don't want to stop straight away, buy a smaller version (i.e. swap a Mars bar for a KitKat - there's no way I'm recommending you eat half and store the rest of it for tomorrow as chocolate can speak to you from the fridge!) for the first few days and then switch over to the snacks suggested above. For sugary drink lovers, fill a two litre bottle of water and drink from that all day. When your energy dips, reach for nuts or seeds instead of the Coke.

3. Check the labels on EVERYTHING you buy, and avoid processed foods as much as you can. Any ingredient that ends is '-ose' is a sugar (i.e. glucose, fructose) and is therefore to be avoided. Fruit juices should be cut out wherever possible, and healthy looking snacks like dried fruit are one of the biggest sugar fiends, so avoid them if you're serious about this! Nothing is safe from sugar: check your 'healthy' breakfast cereals and even your loaf of bread. Sugar is added to so many more products than you would expect!

4. Get organised: plan your weekly meals (including lunches at work) and shop for ingredients at the beginning of the week, including buying a good stock of snacks. Knowing what you're going to eat for every meal and being prepared will mean that you are less likely to order a pizza because there's nothing to eat.

5. Swap refined, white carbs for their wholewheat equivalent. Yes, brown rice takes ages to cook, but some genius realised that it can be frozen, so buy yourself a bag and don't give me any excuses about not having time :) The texture and nutty taste can take a little adjustment at first, so plan meals with tasty sauces like a homemade chilli con carne with rice (or 'chilli con Quorn-ay' as the meat-free version is known in our house!) or a pasta bolognese. Remember, pre-prepared sauces will often contain sugars, so source some good recipes (I'm happy to help with this).

6. Cook with beans, lentils and pulses wherever possible, as they are a great source of energy and very filling. Lentil and vegetable soup, a bean stew or even a delicious cassoulet will be great, easy meal options. I tend to throw a tin of butter beans or a few handfuls of red lentils or barley into most of the soups I make, making them go a little further and giving a healthy boost at the same time.

7. Avoid everything with Nutrisweet, Xylitol and other artificial sweeteners like Canderel and Sweet & Low. Keeping those in your diet ensures you're still receptive to sweet tastes, and will consequently continue to crave them. Use agave nectar to sweeten yoghurt, herbal tea and smoothies.

8. Picking up on your snack supply, keep wholewheat crackers like Ryvita, humous, olives, unsalted nuts and seeds, vegetable sticks (carrots, celery and cucumber with humous makes a yummy snack) and cottage cheese at home and work so that you're always able to pick up a healthy snack wherever you are - remember what I said about dried fruit, so don't be tempted! Don't overdo the nuts. Although they contain good fats, fat is fat when consumed in large quantities. A handful counts as a portion, and you should avoid having more than that in a day. I have two snacks a day - one mid-morning and one mid-afternoon - between my three meals and this keeps me ticking over.

9. Most importantly, eat a healthy, balanced breakfast. I make my own oat and berry smoothies using frozen berries, a handful of oats, a tablespoon of natural Greek yoghurt, oat milk and a squirt of agave nectar to balance out the natural tartness of the ingredients. I'm happy to supply the recipe if you'd like it! Other good breakfasts would be a bowl of porridge, wholemeal toast with humous or scrambled eggs: basically anything that has a good balance of carbs and protein.

10. Take it as an excuse to cut out caffeine as well. You may lose the will to live after the first few hours without sugar and caffeine, but so many good things will be happening to your body alongside this natural energy boost that you may as well try and take advantage of this!

11. If you do get a hideous craving and can't escape it, put half a teaspoon of sugar under your tongue. This is enough to boost your energy without continuing the pleasure cycle of devouring your favourite choccy.

12. Cut down your alcohol intake as much as possible, particularly reducing consumption of beer and wine. I'm not saying rule it out: work, the boss, kids, telesales calls and our beloved partners all play their part in pushing us toward the Chablis, but keep it to a minimum, and save that glass of vino for special occasions. Weight loss will follow!

Finally, have a look at the following sugar contents and imagine what each of those teaspoons is doing to your skin and your body. Not so delicious, is it?

550ml bottle of Coke - 14 teaspoons of sugar
One slice of cheap white bread - up to 3 teaspoons of sugar
Average chocolate bar - 7 teaspoons of sugar
250ml shop-bought smoothies - often up to 7 teaspoons of sugar
Takeaway sweet and sour chicken - a whopping 19 teaspoons of sugar
I'm not saying that I'll manage to resist a nice square of chocolate every now and then, but I think knowing the facts will help me to keep to one square rather than a 1kg slab!!
Did you know about the ageing effects of sugar and will you be cutting it out of your diet? Would you like any more info on meal planning/recipes to help you in your sugar free quest?Image courtesy of 2dayblog.com

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