Beauty: Minimalism

If you're a product junkie, you'll know the feeling of having a multiplicity of products in almost every room. Some things make it to those hallowed spots reserved for products in daily usage - see bathroom shelves and dressing table - while others are left strewn in drawers, wash bags and cupboards, just waiting to be rediscovered. A quick scan of my designated beauty zones (i.e. every room in the house) turns up bottles, jars and tubes for just about every skin and haircare concern: my routine is anything but minimalist.

Despite my accumulated stash product arsenal, I still hold the view that there is untold beauty potential in pharmacies and department stores across the world and my quest to uncover them knows no bounds. I want to try everything, but secretly, I crave a simple, paired back routine of beautifully-packaged products. Oh for a life without clutter and a bathroom shelf that looked this chic.

Clockwise from top left: Parsley Seed Mask £27 by Aesop, Mustard Soak £8 by Fig & Yarrow, Ocean Mist £18 by Sachajuan, High Potency Eye Lift £78 by Perricone MD, Nourishing Repairing Mask £16.94 by NOUNOU


Style: Winter Boots

I have two superficial wishes in life:

1. That I was still young and foolish enough to bear the pain of commuting in attractive footwear rather than comfy flats/clunky wedge boots

2. That I could afford to take taxis everywhere, thus rendering all footwear choices curb to cab decisions - that distance can be covered in six inch spikes no problem

This frustration comes from having invested in a long, belted, black cashmere coat. It's grown up and the stuff of winter in the city dreams. It's begging to be paired with a slim, equally elegant heel, and yet practicality wins out every time, and I find myself lacing into my trusty little wedges. Worryingly, these past few days have had me checking my reflection and wondering if I'm clomping headlong into goth town. Not the look I was going for. 

A few years ago, I bought these, and was mocked endlessly by the Yorkshireman for referring to them as 'winter boots'. He was clearly expecting something slightly more practical. He was right (as he usually is): weekly trips to the cobblers and aching feet meant they were consigned to the wardrobe for 'occasional wear' pretty sharpish.

So, my question is, what is the perfect boot for this time of year, factoring in the bleak English winter of rain, snow, ice and the ever-present burden that is having to leave the house for work? Do you plump for fashion over functionality, push through the pain for the love of a cute heel, or just forget the elegant commuter ideal and stick with something cosy?

I'd be happy to leave it to the fashion week pros if only it didn't look so good.

Images from http://thefashiontag.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/fur-coats-2014-trend/


Hair: Focus on Phyto

My quest for long hair came to a screeching halt at around 7pm on Friday when hair that fell past my shoulders was chopped into a jaw length bob, which notably, embraces my natural curl. I have been a life-long straightener, so this feels new, but I'm happy to say I'm no long phased by the rain: it's become something of an on-the-go styling product. Hurrah for being content outside in anything above 1% humidity.

My desire for long hair is never outweighed by my pursuit of soft, healthy locks, and the products I'm currently using were selected to get as much nourishment into it as possible. Amazingly, they're all from the same brand: Phyto. Plant-based, mostly silicone-free, and crucially, effective; it's pretty much the answer to my hair prayers.

Here's what I'm currently using:

Phytolisse shampoo £11.50, Phytophanere supplements £33.00, Phytokeratine thermal protectant spray £16.50, Phyto 9 day cream £14.50, Subtil Elixir £24.50 and Phytodefrisant straightening balm £14.50
From Phyto available at www.johnlewis.com

The standout products for me are Subtil Elixir and Phytodefrisant. The latter has achieved cult status with those of us 'blessed' with coarse, thick hair and it's managed to significantly tame my frizz, even if damp weather. It promises straighter hair with frequent use, and although it hasn't unraveled my curls, it has made them much more defined and manageable. Always a winner in my book.

Subtil Elixir (for dry and ultra dry hair) has been a revelation to me, and has filled the enormous hole left by the discontinued Phytonectar. This pre-shampoo treatment is a blend of camelia, corn germ, karanja and egg yolk oils (it is all about egg yolk when it comes to healthy hair) which regenerate and nourish the hair fibre. Camelia is a particularly light oil, so this isn't the kind of oil treatment that requires several shampoos to remove it all. 

I'll be reviewing the other products photographed above soon, and in the interim, I'd love to know your Phyto favourites.


This Week #2

My new winter coat - a wool and cashmere French Connection number scored on eBay for £80; the Shard on an exceptionally grey day in London
Oscar Wilde said that memory is the diary that we all carry with us: it keeps close the people we have loved and the things we have done. Time fades many things, but dear memories are something that, if we're lucky, are kept in sharp focus for a lifetime.

At times when life feels dull, it can be easy to forget that we are the authors of those diaries of memory. Try imagining yourself 20 years from now and picture the things that you would like to look back on. Now go out and write your history.


Body: REN Moroccan Rose Otto range

Moroccan Rose Otto body lotion £26, ultra-moisture body oil £34, and sugar body polish £32
From REN available at www.marksandspencer.com

When it comes to scent, there are few aromas more luxurious, evocative and calming as rose. Alongside its historic association with love, fidelity and romance, it is widely used in aromatherapy to soothe anger, ease anxiety and alleviate depression. You may not find yourself the recipient of a beautiful bouquet of roses as often as you might like, but with REN's Moroccan Rose Otto range in the bathroom, you will be too calm, too pampered and too indulged to notice.

As the name suggests, Moroccan roses are the cornerstone of these products, and REN's famous bath oil (not photographed here) contains the essence of 10,000 petals. Those of you who have experienced a rose garden in the height of summer will recall the feeling of being enveloped in that deep, heady scent and feeling utterly soothed. Imagine adding that fragrance to hot water in a candlelit bathroom and you can only begin to get a sense of the seductive intensity of these products.

The standout for me is the sugar body polish which leaves skin silky smooth and wonderfully scented. This is most definitely not a product for a quick scrub in the shower, but one for those pampering winter ablutions where bathing transcends the functional and becomes almost ritualistic.

Marks & Spencer is offering some fantastic REN gift sets which start from £25 and include all the products in the photo above, as well as a body wash. Clever REN always make it easy for you to try their products before committing to full size purchases, and indeed, to make your travels more luxurious with their decadent minis. It will make the perfect gift for a loved one this Christmas, or as an indulgent treat for those of you who need to zap the stresses of modern life.


This Week #1

I can't get enough of my faux leather skirt from Zara; a flat white and Sunday Times Style catch up at Gail's in Soho; that feeling when you thought you'd brought your concealer and instead you've brought a scarlet lippy. Thanks, Nars packaging...

Transforming a thought into an action takes little more than the will to do. As an idea begins to take shape, hands can be busy manipulating that cerebral gossamer into something tangible. Whether or not we choose to acknowledge it, we are constantly occupied in dictating our moods, shaping our environments and influencing our futures through the simple act of choice.

Practiced often enough, choice becomes habit. The activities we undertake daily - quietly, automatically, unconsciously - can be an open road to our hearts' desires, a pathway to contentment or a sheer drop into mundanity. It is said that 10,000 hours of practice are required to perfect a skill, but how many of us invest even a few moments' energy in pursuit of our dreams? 

Aristotle said that we are what we repeatedly do: our actions - the good, the bad, and the ugly - define us. They make us who and what we are. It may seem an overwhelming task to break old habits and form new ones, but cast your mind back to the opening line of this post: transforming a thought into an action takes little more than the will to do. Act now, and you're already a step closer to where you want to be.

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