Saturday, 24 December 2011

A little bit of winter sweetness: Bésame Cream Rouge

 I've been feeling distinctly Rydell High recently, all blushed, flushed and bright, a 50's school girl who wears her boyfriend's pin and just had her first kiss.  It's this Bésame Cream Rouge in Crimson*, which looks like one of the most terrifying colours I've ever seen, but applies like I'm a teenager staring dreamily at her boyfriend during a night at the drive-in movies.

It's one of those multi-use types I love so much, where I can wear matching hers and hers cheeks and lips and feel ridiculously pretty and flushed - the type of flush which is sweet and youthful rather than floozy or pantomime.  It blends to this transparent, gel kind of blush, and sits lightly on the skin without feeling heavy and has been perfect succour for the cold winter nights drawing in, and frosty mornings miserably attacking the car with a scraper and some de-icer.

Sometimes you feel like a beauty product was just made for you and you alone, and this is one of those: a cherry red flush makes me feel like the pony-tailed ingénue straight out of the 50's, twirling her hair and making eyes at a boy over some ice cream sundaes.

Even though it's kind of not the time to say it, HAPPY CHRISTMAS! I hope you all have a lovely time and enjoy it, whatever you're doing. I just ate a rather large cheese fondue, had some wine and curled up with the cat and her pink nose and paws.  Perfect :)

* Item provided for review, and all my opinions are my own. Because I simply don't talk about things which aren't beautiful. This may or may not have been written with the aid of a few glasses of wine.  Author apologises.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Carmine November Box Review

I was nervous for Carmine's November offering, and with good reason.  Where other beauty box brands have always created hype with their first boxes to gain the maximum subscriber increase in the shortest amount of time, they rarely deliver the goods for the new subscriber on the second box.  I think you all know what I'm getting at here, and I can probably sum it up in precisely one word: Batiste.

You can see why I was nervous.  I had no reason to worry, though.  Even though I do blog for Carmine as one of their freelance writers, whatever I say on my blog is unflinchingly honest and unrelated.  Even so, a small part of me, even though I hold no bias, felt like I really wanted Carmine to do well for their second box, to succeed where others failed.

L-R: New CID i-Pout in Belle, Dainty Doll Eyeliner in Shake Your Tailfeather and Cosmetics à la Carte Brow Ink in Taupe.
- Cosmetics à la Carte Brow Ink in Taupe:
My favourite product of the box.  The timeliness of this product being in my box is spooky - I'd had the page from Cosmetics à la Carte open for weeks (I'm a serial tab-hoarder), contemplating whether or not to purchase it to replace my Suqqu pen.  The colour is a little warmer than I was expecting, but I like the flexible nib, which reminds me of Lancôme's Artliner.  It is possible to use this as an eyeliner too, but the shade doesn't suit me ever so well on the lashline.

After using Cosmetics à la Carte Brow Ink in Taupe.

It does, however, deliver great, natural-looking brows and works well to both draw individual hairs in and to go for a more full-whammy kind of look.  I'm aware Carmine polled their subscribers on what colour they wanted out of a possible 3, a tactic I'm impressed with after Glossybox sent out HD Brows palettes for black hair to blonde people.
- Dainty Doll Eyeliner Pencil in Shake Your Tail Feather: I was excited to see this in the box, but I feel the execution of this pencil is a bit below par.  The packaging is gorgeous, and the colour is beautiful too, but I had to scrape this across my hand to get much pigmentation. It definitely needs a warm-up/blast with the hairdryer.
- Lulu's Time Bomb Flashback Night Cream: This is not a brand I'd heard of, and I didn't know Lulu had released a skin care brand! This is a decent size and undoubtedly something I will use. I am not fussed on the smell, but I do like that it sinks in quickly though I can't speak for the anti-ageing results in a week's worth of use.
- Neom Real Luxury Organic Body Lotion: I mentioned in my slightly damning Boudoir Privé review that body lotion doesn't excite me at all.  That still holds true.  If you could only see my collection of unused body lotions, they just keep multiplying! Neom are an up and coming brand which have received a lot of positive acclaim recently.  I would've personally preferred the body wash, but that is the luck of the draw!  This is a very decent-sized sample, and it is a lovely lotion to use (and I know that, as receiving a lotion in my box prompted me to start doing that whole moisturising thing).  The smell is not my cup of tea.
- New CID i-Pout Lipstick in Belle: I find the packaging gimmicky for this: I can honestly say I've never needed to apply lipstick in the dark! However, from what I've seen from the shades in other people's boxes, Carmine picked shades which were quite safe for a variety of skin tones, and the lipstick glides on the lips very smoothly.  I like the colour much more (when I tried it on again today) than I did initially, though I am not keen on the frost, and I will definitely wear this a lot.

Wearing New CID i-Pout in Belle (with the sloppiest application ever).

I actually think Carmine did very well with this box, the only low point for me being the eyeliner, which I find very hard and dragging across the delicate eye area.  I friggin' love the brow pen and have used it to death - it's replaced my usual routine as it's so much quicker.  I respect the fact that Carmine polled subscribers on their hair colour, too.  I'm really excited to see how Carmine do for December now!

Unrelatedly, I actually saw Carmine tweet the other day that you can now buy the October and November boxes as gifts (either for someone special, or for yourself), and I quite like that idea.  It comes in special Christmas packaging, which is quite sweet - or it's just good if you missed the other boxes *coughTHEBALMBLUSHcough*

OH.  And a shameless plug for my most recent articles because I'm still a beaming parent watching their child's first steps: if you want to see me take on Twiggy's 60's Mod look then click here, or if you want to see my experience with Cosmetics à la Carte, click here!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Flash Review: Benefit They're Real! mascara

I didn't expect to like this.  Benefit and I usually have a relationship based on shivering cold indifference, where Benefit tries to be all 'But look what I can do!' like a hysterical child and I just shrug and continue trying to blend the hell out of my war-painted Benetint streaks on my cheeks, which look like I've face-planted into a beetroot.

It's safe to say, Benefit and I usually just don't get on, especially due to the usually over-enthusiastic nature of their staff, who seem to take every opportunity they get to swipe some form of glitter-laden radioactive powder product over your face and convince you it makes you look really healthy.

A couple of things changed a week ago on a routine shopping trip.  I was doing that loitering thing, where I wait for the Benefit sales assistant to be busy hard-selling someone else before I grace the counter with my presence and analyse everything in a sort of Bruce Willis 'get in and get out' fashion (but I don't usually go for the army rolls, as that kind of practice is usually considered uncouth in a crowded shop).  I should say at this juncture that I am a completely awful candidate for bored sales assistants. I am the queen of 'Oh, I'll be back later' and fake contact details; I simply do not like it when people try to talk to me when I'm browsing, even if it's their job.

Anyway, I got snagged by an assistant who was hiding (hiding!) behind the counter bending down below eyesight, and I asked the fateful question which sent me spiralling from haughty disregard of Benefit to handing over my card and paying for yet another thing I didn't need.

It was all in her lashes. They were so curly and thick and I wanted them. And then she told me what it was, and I felt conflicted - buy another Benefit product and hate it? Or maybe, just maybe?

And that's how we got here.  To a review which was supposed to be of the flash variety, but, as with all of my posts, I… have no excuse. I'm completely incorrigible.

My bare, sad lashes.

An unimpressive picture trying to illustrate the volume and curl. Do you know how hard it is to take a photo of your own eye? This is the best one of about 40.

1. In the thick of it: I have straight lashes which are not really anything in any spectacular way. They're not really long, or short. They don't do anything special, they just exist and cause me to spend lots of money on mascaras.  They're Real! really thickens and lifts my lashes, and not just temporarily - my lashes stay curled and perky the whole day, and my lashes look so awake and my eyes look brighter.
2. Givenchycheat!: The end of this brush is sort of mace style, like the renowned mascara designed by Givenchy.  According to Benefit lore, it's supposed to help lengthen the lashes… It sort of just clumps them up for me. In fact, I don't get a lot of length from this mascara, but the fact that I get such a curl means length is less important.
3. Exercise-proof: This mascara does not smudge, flake or budge throughout the whole day, and survives every hour-long work-out (and I mean, there is some seriously gross sweaty-face going on there) without smudging at all. There's a down-side - it takes some effort to remove.  It's very resilient, let's just put it that way. Even the Bioderma takes a couple of passes.
4. High and not quite dry: This mascara seems to take ages to dry on me - I'm one of those types of people who seems to sneeze 50% of the time while applying mascara, and smudge everything everywhere.  Add into the mix that it's also kind of hard to remove and you've got a bit of a mess on your hands, especially if you smudge it on your top lid.
5. All in the clique: The packaging! I don't really care much for the aesthetic so much as the execution: the tube clicks shut, so you know it's properly air-tight and isn't going to dry out too quickly.

The conclusion:
Winner winner, chicken dinner. Whether or not it's worth the price of £18.50 is up to you - I do think it's overpriced - but it's a fantastic mascara.  I get great volume and all day curl hold in this, and it's really really black without going grey at the end of the day.  The wand, however, is sort of a tromp l'oeil. It looks like those rubber wands that have become really prevalent recently, but the spikes are harder and… spikier. Just don't poke yourself in the eye, because it hurts even more than with a normal mascara.

I'm impressed, Benefit. You're out of the doghouse, for now...

Friday, 28 October 2011

Boudoir Privé: The Review.

Over a month ago, Boudoir Privé offered me the chance to try one of their boxes for review.  I didn't exactly jump at the chance so much as accept their offer with a little bit of a shrug and not much expectation.  There was something which irked me about Boudoir Privé's launch strategy from the off, really: the whole thing of getting people to compete, tweet and paint neon letters across any and every social media platform for the privilege for early entry to sign up for the first box didn't sit well with me.  In fact, it annoyed me - it was a peculiar internet popularity contest, where we all tweeted our hearts out and competed to… have early access to spend a tenner.

There was something so transparent and greedy-minded about it in that sense.  Obviously, the first box sold really well, but I was turned off by it - especially when a series of clues led to the contents of the first box being revealed. Tea? No thanks.

That, in itself, is slightly hilarious. I love tea.  I could write a blogpost even longer than that eulogy to the Chanel lipsticks I wrote, solely about tea.  Tea is like air for me.  I am not impressed, however, when a couple of teabags make their way into a box of beauty samples, whatever their antioxidant count.

So, you can see why I was sort of curious, but also slightly unenthused.

The September box - their second box - arrived, and actually, I loved it.  However, there were two strong reasons as to why you haven't seen a review on it before now.  The first - I didn't want to pipe up and join in the blogosphere flood, lost in a sea of 'oh! But there's a Zoya polish in there!'.  The second - I wanted to see how this box fitted in with the general trajectory of their boxes.

First things first: The box.
The box feels cheaply made, and is a Glossybox clone.  Sure, they've got their own stamp on the lid, and the box is put together differently, but it's the exact same shade of pink, with black tissue paper and a pink ribbon.  My box quickly became unglued and fell apart too - not really re-useable. It went straight in the recycling.

The October box which so impressed me was not because of the volume of its products, but for the quality and (imagined) thought processes involved.

It contained:
- Zoya Nail Polish in Marina: Great! My first experience with Zoya and it's from their new, really popular collection.  Came with a little swatch sheet for the other colours, although this element seemed wasteful - what am I supposed to do with it after looking at it for a bit?
- Macadamia Hair Oil: I had actually been using this product for a long time before it appeared in my Boudoir Privé box and had just run out - so was pleased my supply was replenished. A little bottle actually lasts forever, and keeps the ends of your hair healthy and soft. I love this stuff.
- Colbert MD Nourish: Eye Cream: Holy crap, expensive. I didn't really see a noticeable difference to my undereye area, but it was a nice cream to use and not a brand I'd usually be able to afford.
- Cargo Cosmetics Boogie Nights Eye Pencil in Aqua: Love a bit of makeup, just wish they'd give me a more universal colour. The pencil itself is okay.
- Tropic Skincare Body Smooth: Smells great, though a bit oily and leaky. Not a brand I would've bought from (but then Susan 'Do the French like their kids?' Ma annoyed the crap out of me during The Apprentice, sorry Susan.)
- Agent Provocateur L'Agent EDP: Cheap cheap cheap! I could have acquired this for free by asking at a perfume counter.
- Mai Couture Blot & Bronze Sheets: Seemed like a throw-in last-minute decision.  Who thought it would be a good idea to combine bronzer and blotting papers?! My forehead usually gets oily - so I tried one of these. Great - I had a lovely glittery brown rectangle on my forehead. Unimpressed.

Overall, it contained a lovely mix of products of things that I was really curious to try.  I was actively interested.

So then, I picked up my card, used the £5 voucher in my box and subscribed for another month…

And after this month, I unsubscribed.

After hearing everyone cooing on Twitter about how great their boxes were, I was excited to get my box this month - and then I opened it and felt bored:

- Korres Quince Body Butter: I guess this is the thing people were excited about? I don't know if I'm suffering from beauty box fatigue or what, but body cream does not excite me.  At all.
- Leonor Greyl Huile de Palme: This is a nice product, but not well-timed. Most people had theirs arrive semi-frozen - not ideal for testing it out. It's nothing a quick blast with a hair-dryer couldn't fix, though.
- Cetuem Illuminating Mask and Crème de Lite: I just… felt bored by this one. The product samples are slightly mean, and it's only a brand which are hovering on the periphery of my consciousness.
- Rose&Co Rose Petal Salve: Boring again. I have a Vaseline Rosy Lips, which is pretty much the same thing.  I get that you can use this everywhere for 'everything', but it doesn't fit in with Boudoir Privé's theme of luxury products - a tin of this costs a fiver. I'm not griping about it in the sense that it was cheap - I'm griping because it's a boring product and I expected them to be more imaginative.
- Studiomakeup Liner Styler Pen in Black: I perked up momentarily. The tip of this is fine and the product is nice and black. However, after leaving it 15 minutes to set, it promptly smeared everywhere. It would not survive even a teeny splash of London drizzle.
- Mémo Paris Les Echappés EDP: This sample feels bigger than a standard little sample spray, and it doesn't smell unpleasant, but it does smell every masculine to me. Again, a perfume sample. It's lazy, and hardly anybody likes them.

So what impressed me?
- Interesting products: Some of the products I received in my box were great, and lots of them I'd never tried.
- High quality: I'm not bothered on receiving full-sized products in every box - what I'm looking for is quality samples. Boudoir Privé seem to be about less mls, more exclusivity, which I quite like as I'm not then forced to use up a product I hate.

What didn't impress me?
- Brand identity confusion: I don't count Rose Petal salve as a luxury beauty sample.
- Boring/rubbish product choices: Poorly performing makeup products and too many of the same kind of product in one box.
- Perfume samples: Pretty much everyone hates them, because fragrance is one of the most subjective beauty items. If you're going to put perfume in, then it should be a freebie, not one of the 6 products. If I can get this for free just by asking at the perfume counter then it shouldn't be in there.
… and last but not least…
- 'avec amour' on every email and notecard: French people know what I'm talking about here - this phrase keeps being bandied around because of the French brand name, but it is just a meaningless platitude (genuinely - it isn't something French people would say and doesn't make much sense). Seriously, Boudoir Privé, learn the lingo or just speak plain English.

To round it all up:
I was initially pleased with this brand, until I received a box which left me feeling bored and uninspired. If you enjoyed your box from this month, then good for you - truly. This box fell short of my expectations.  However, what I will say is that I much much prefer Boudoir Privé's communication methods and ability to take client feedback on board - they now send out a shipping email and keep customers updated on the status of their box.

I like that a lot in a brand, and if you want good customer service rather than shouting your thoughts into thin air, like a lot of people end up doing at Glossybox, then this is the brand for you.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

A few things to love, vol. 2

Actually, this was just going to be a longwinded and unavoidable (perhaps also unashamed) ramble about one of the most stunning I-want-to-bottle-this-look-and-wear-it-forever blush shades I've ever come across. It was going to be a no-holds-barred extravaganza, charting my voyage from dubious indifference to stumbling, really falling in love and envisioning us skipping across fields of daisies to clichéd orchestral swells heavy on the strings.

The problem is that I fall in love every 10 minutes with blush. As much as I tell you that this one is different, and this one is the one, I'd be lying. But it's in the top 5.

So, I didn't want to rehash an old story, where I tell you exactly what he wore, what she wore, what they ate and what happened at the end - so I thought perhaps I'd do a post about a few more things to love, and sneak it in. I'm sure you won't even notice it's there. The makeup I wear is always so indicative of one particular favourite product, almost like the other products are favourites by proxy, because the one product makes everything else look so good.

1. Daniel Sandler Watercolour Blush in Pop: This is a limited edition shade for Macmillan Cancer Support on that I pounced on while discovering Daniel Sandler's cosmetics for the first time while writing my first Carmine article. Old habits die hard, MAC trained me well for knee-jerk limited edition paranoia. This is one of the most perfect blushes I have ever found, and also one of the weirdest. It comes in a little dropper bottle, and you need the tiniest dot. It gives a watermelon pink flush which just makes me feel like I don't need any other makeup. I feel bright and beautiful and kind of want to marry it a bit.

PS: Dear Daniel, if you're reading this - make this shade permanent! Hopeful from SE London.

2. MAC Matchmaster Foundation: I'm going through a foundation bad patch and Matchmaster is the only thing keeping me sane. I'm cool with the fact I only get 9 hours of good wear out of it, I came in with low expectations on that point. The finish looks great on my oily skin - not too matte and just naturally radiant. It's handy I have a bit of a tan to wear it, but I'm going to have to lighten it before long, so I'm really enjoying it as it is right now. Oh, the simple pleasure of wearing a foundation straight out of the bottle with no need for adjustment…

3. NARS Mascate: It lasts 6 hours, and I ate toast and butter, and drank tea and coffee (not all at once, that's just beverage-related greediness). And don't we need to talk about the colour? It's the perfect in-between red shade. It's not POW - it's got a little depth to it, making it perfect for Autumn.  

4. Chanel Illusion d'Ombre in Mirifique: I've had the rockiest of rocky roads with this particular Chanel offering - where the others applied so smoothly, this one crumbles and pouts and turns its back on me. When I can force it into submission, I've been loving it as a more subtle iteration of my usual black winking cat-eye - the shimmer lends it this greyish graphite colour which is beautiful and soft.
Chanel Illusion d'Ombre in Mirifique.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Carmine Flash Sale.

First off: my first article on Carmine launched! It was on Daniel Sandler's Eye Delights, which are little pots of loose pigments, and which actually started a bit of an obsession with Daniel Sandler cosmetics in general (may or may not have "accidentally" clicked purchase on a couple of Watercolour Blushes...) I'm pretty psyched (that is so 90's to say that!) to see my first article go live, so if you want a look, click here.

So, I have a last piece of Carmine-related news for you to end your week on: Carmine have decided to extend the offer of a flash sale to everyone for the next 72 hours (instead of the original 50 people stipulated), so to those of you who couldn't decide, or needed a little nudge, you have until 15:15 on Monday to purchase your box with my discount code linked below (while stocks last, of course!)

Just to let you guys know, I'm under no obligation to post this up, or indeed, post about Carmine at all: although I am lucky enough to be collaborating with them (I do feel so lucky after all!), this blog is not a platform by which I intend to advertise everything and anything Carmine. It may feel to a few of you that all I've posted about recently is this new venture - but that's because it's just launched, and I want everyone to be as excited as I am - I mean, have you seen the first box yet? IT HAS A BLUSH IN IT.

The code will entitle you to 50% off your first box (+ £2.75 shipping and handling), and after that it automatically convert to the £10 monthly subscription after the first month - which of course, you can cancel any time you want to.

So here we go: click here to go through to Carmine on the following link to be taken straight to my personal discount code for you guys - it should be pretty self-explanatory.

Have a lovely weekend, everybody.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The curious condition of only being able to wear red lipstick.

There must be something about my face which makes hairdressers mention cutting in a full fringe within five minutes of sitting in me in the chair and being swept into the robe. I really don't get it, usually I feel like my face is big enough already, and my nose is long enough without a full fringe to make it stand out and give me that medieval monk look.

Every so often, however, I manage to let myself get talked into it, because I'm impressionable in the face of blind enthusiasm and mildly scared when they start to wave the razor-sharp scissors around in excitement. This time was one of those rare moments where I just meekly sat down in the chair and said 'just make it better'. This is usually a phrase I use in utter coiffure desperation, when I am mere seconds away from hacking at my hair with kitchen scissors, laughing maniacally all the while in that kind of pupils fully dilated and eyes rolling in my head kind of way. In my weak state of total agreement, he also decided to dye it a reddish-brown, and told me my hair lacked style all over and that he would snip this, that and the other.

I agreed, not really knowing what it was going to look like.

Admit it, this photo reminds you of the creepy twin girls in The Shining.


As he dried it, my blood ran cold. I've spent the last two days getting used to my new look, and now I'm really starting to love it (plus, it looks great with my awesome wooly kitty hat!), but it's a bit weird, because I've reached two decisions on the full fringe:

1. I feel a bit like a doll. Or like I'm channeling some serious Japanese street fashion in the Lolita trend. I asked for the fringe to be blended out so I could put it up without feeling bald at the sides of my head, but now I feel decidedly Lolita when I look the the mirror.
2. The only appropriate lipstick I can wear is red/red-related colours. Subtle won't cut it. This look needs power lips.

So now I'm stuck at this cosmetic impasse, and keep feeling that wearing a lip other than red would be unfaithful.

Well, that's no bad thing.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Carmine: First box review!

So the first box launched from Carmine, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you on it! Obviously, for me, seeing the finished product after a couple of weeks of being OMGSQUEE! ridiculously excited for the launch was a key element: I wanted to see the final box, presentation and see how people would react to it.

Let's just get one thing excruciatingly clear at this point: I am not being financially compensated to be nice about this box, and the fact that I am a freelance columnist for Carmine has no bearing on my overall opinion! Okay? Good. Let's also make a note: my blog will not be flooded with monthly Carmine posts, as that's not what I'm about (even though I might spam you with links to my column as I'm a bit proud!).

First impressions of...
- The shipping box: Carmine ship their boxes in a tangerine container with prominent branding, though it seemed almost like the shipping box was slightly undersized for the jumbo Carmine box inside!
- The box: Very sleek, very high quality, made of recycled materials. It is bigger and deeper than all the other boxes I've seen. Took me a while to get the lid off! Neon green on the inside, makes a change from all that pink...

- The contents:
Balance Me Super Moisturising Hand Cream: I have eczema on my hands so was interested by this 30ml sample size. The 100ml full-sized version retails for £14.50 and is a multi-award winning product. The reason I was interested is because it's a natural product which will keep my hands moisturised in between slathering them in steroid cream. I like the cream itself very much - it is lightweight and quickly absorbed without being too greasy, but the smell is very much an acquired taste. It smells very strongly of lavender and rosehip, something my mum would love.
Daniel Sandler Eye Delight in Peach: Not a colour I would have picked for myself, but it's a pretty micro-fine loose eyeshadow with a pearlescent sheen. Very pretty and easy to blend.
Trind Nail Repair Natural: A Dutch brand and not one I've ever heard of! This is the only brand I've not yet had time to try out. I'm quite curious to, however, as I do have weak nails (and I'm prone to unconsciously chew on them when I get stressed) and this gets 4 and 5 star reviews on average.
TheBalm Fratboy Blush: EEEE! I was so excited to see this and give it a swatch! I've never tried TheBalm and I was delighted to discover a pinkish peach blush inside. It can go a little powdery on use, but it's very pigmented and smooth and a really flattering colour. I can see Carmine tried to cater to a range of different skin tones with this product, a fact I'm grateful for!
Caudalie Quenching Sorbet-Crème: This smells really great and is extremely lightweight for a moisturiser designed for dehydrated/dry skin. That's not exactly my skin-type, but I can definitely appreciate how quickly it sinks into the skin and it's not a brand I've tried.

The verdict:
I'm actually pretty pleased with the contents of the box this month as it contains a good mix of brands I've not had much experience with. I'm especially excited at the blush, and two makeup items in general, as makeup is more my area than skin care. I'm also pleased to see 3 full-sized items in one box, though I know that this is a perk rather than an ongoing thing.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

A new beauty box from Carmine and some incredible news.

I've been keeping a monster of a secret for a couple of weeks now, and it's getting a bit hard to contain it any longer (plus you can't feed it after midnight and walkies in the park are becoming problematic as it keeps mistaking people for food), so I'm officially allowed to tell you what it is, in that rushed squeaking with excitement kind of way.

Carmine is a brand new and innovative beauty box subscription service launching TODAY, and it feels like I'm selling it a bit short when I call it a 'beauty box'. You know how I mentioned in a recent post that I respect an intelligent brand that wants to tell me a story? Carmine kind of want to do that.

Alongside their monthly beauty box, which is £10 per month (plus £2.75 postage and packing as postmen don't work for free), by the way, Carmine want to give you a little bit extra than just a blurted-out hastily-typed card informing you of this month's products in over-the-top cheery jargonistic style. They want you to know things and to spin you a little story about why they love what they picked and then more than that - they want to create an online community where you can think, discuss and have an opinion about their products, rather than just tacitly accepting the contents of your box and then passive-aggressively moaning on Twitter about the things you didn't quite like. You'll also be able to participate in activities and competitions and complete a little quiz to determine your beauty profile and personalise the contents of your box - I'm a 'classic' and 'glam' girl by the way (which is obviously completely correct!)

Carmine base their brand identity and community on a specific ethos: that the beauty addict on the street with that perfectly-pencilled insouciant cocked eyebrow and flash of red lipstick has just as many secrets to spill as the resident industry experts. They want there to be actual content to read and view and experience on their website written by that aforementioned beauty addict on the street.

Does that girl on the street with the flash of red lipstick remind you of anyone? This new launch is huge for me in another way. You know I mentioned that part about how I respect a brand that wants to tell me a story? Well, as part of their online community, Carmine have asked me to be one of their freelance beauty columnists on their website. I'm one of the most verbose people I know, so words rarely fail me, but I feel I can only relay my excitement in the medium of a high-pitched squeal (or possibly an OMGOMGOMGOMG followed by jumping up and down on the soft furnishings).

I get to do something I adore (don't worry, they set me a word limit), and write about my favourite subject, and it is one of those rare, incredible opportunities where you almost want to say to the person talking, 'I'm sorry, I thought I misheard you there…' I feel so incredibly privileged to be a part of this as it is really set to turn the tables on the beauty box phenomenon. I will be writing 2 articles a month, one on a product in the box, and another on something of my choice, and believe me when I say I'll be spamming your Twitter feeds with links as soon as my articles go live.

In the next few days, I'll be launching a little giveaway where there will be 5 chances to win the first box from Carmine, and there's also going to be one super-mega-amazing competition coming up which you're definitely not going to want to miss (trust me, my eyes went as big as saucers).

I'm sorry for the hideously long post - but then that's what you expect from me anyway! I've been excited about this for what seems like an eternity - I'm still repeating the words 'beauty columnist' in that awestruck manner and not quite believing it has all happened.

I hope you're all as excited as I am! As I said - it seems unfair to call it just a 'beauty box' now, doesn't it?

*Please note my usual honesty and integrity will not be changed by the fact I'm working with Carmine - I am as always completely honest about everything because it's impossible for me not to be, I have far too many opinions.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Chanel lipsticks make you sexy.

The Chanel lipsticks came to me quite by accident. For all my elaborately-constructed prose about makeup and one's beauty coffret, I'd somehow managed to bypass owning any Chanel products until an accident one Christmas where I mistakenly bought my mother the same lipstick as the year before. I've owned Chanel foundations before, though, but owning a foundation is simply not in the same league as the flight of frivolity of owning a beautifully-packaged Chanel lipstick, is it? A foundation is just that: a sturdy base built to withstand the elements, but a lipstick from Chanel is something quite different, and something quite special.

She maintains I did it on purpose, in that sort of lo-fi expensively-wrapped schadenfreude way that I'd routinely pull everything from my drawers and cupboards when I was little and then gigglingly drag her by the hand up to my room with the promise that I'd tidied my room up as a surprise, only to push open the door and watch the horror creep in through the early smile lines on her face.

Actually, the first one was an accident, just to clear it up. I did that kind of 'boy' thing of blindly picking something I liked because I thought she would like it. And she does like it, just not two lipsticks' worth. So, I helpfully redistributed it into my own possession, and wore it nonstop for a couple of weeks, and her name is Gabrielle. Gabrielle is an elegant lady with a little shine and a soft, sweet red appeal, like that juicy apple offered to Snow White. She has bite, but she's not so overt.

L-R Dragon and Gabrielle.

The second Chanel I ever had came to me by way of an uncalculated purchase. My Boots Advantage Card points had been teetering, 46 mere points away, from something beautiful and shiny and much-coveted. It was never helpful that I always had Franky flaunting and flirting it and making me feel I couldn't live without it. On the way to a job interview a couple of weeks ago, it started to rain. I was wearing the most hole-ridden pair of flats in the whole world and water came in and it felt like the whole world was against me: rain, a job interview, soggy feet and rapidly curling hair which was recoiling from the deluge and leaving me with disturbing kiss-curls. I'd forgotten my umbrella too.

It was a bad day, but then it got better. Through the purchase of a pointless umbrella (another to add to my stash), my balance heaved itself, puffing, over the finishing line, and I bounced up the stairs to proudly present my card at the Chanel counter and demand my prize: Chanel Dragon. And even though I never got the job (what's one more rejection when you've applied for 15 part-time jobs in retail, after all?), I wore Dragon for the whole week after and walked tall, if slightly bitchily (because red gives you that kind of hair-tossing strut and you want to wear heels). Dragon, to me, is Gabrielle's sister, spiky, bitchy and would stare down a Honey Badger and win.

I'm in Dragon. Honey Badger doesn't stand a chance...

I think you know that with me, it's nearly always the story I have to tell you in a roundabout way, rather than succinctly telling you, 'Here is a product I like. Here is why I like it.' I like the way my little tubes of red have found their way to me by an unconventional route, and even more, how I remember exactly what that strange route was.

Has a beautiful product ever 'found' you in a weird and serendipitous way?

Monday, 5 September 2011

Illamasqua and the Theatre of the Nameless.

I so very often get caught up in my own swirling narrative that it's nice to sit down and be told a story myself for a change. Illamasqua handed me a syrupy cocktail in a dimly-lit bar on the first day of September and told me a new one about lusty ladies and a bawdy Berlin subculture of the 1920's where rusty-lipped fallen maidens slithered into a luridly codified underworld and lured twitchy men with borrowed names away from the grey-tinged gloom of Weimar Germany by the colour of their boots. They were called, as might seem obvious, the Boot Girls, and were dominatrices who chose a more semaphoric method to advertise their services to questing clients looking for specific debaucheries on a breathless no-names-exchanged basis.

No-names became stage-names in the next story we were to be told about the glittering world of Cabaret, a world where the corsetry was tightly-laced, yet the morals were undone. We were introduced to 20's anti-darling Anita Berber, whose proclivity for decadence, debauchery and drugs landed her notoriety along with her provocative nude dancing. Her carbon-eyed aesthetic provides one of the key pieces of imagery Illamasqua brought forward and updated into the new collection, a sinister cabaret of dulled candle-lit hues of dark corners in Cabaret bars and backstreet Berlin, lit with a sprinkling of feminine hues and embracing the art of the performance.

And so we entered the Theatre of the Nameless, a perfect name of two parts. The art of performance, in whatever guise it takes, versus the idea of anonymity, the dark corners, quick fumbles and dulled senses of Berlin's 20's underworld. If Illamasqua's tag-line has always been 'makeup for your alter-ego', then they've hit the nail on the head. It's all a performance: sit back and enjoy the show.

I like an intelligent brand, and I like a brand who tell me something new. Illamasqua is now firmly-established as both. Their new collection is, quite frankly, awesome, and their launch event was pretty great too. The look is heady, sooty, muted, with little flashes of high colour. The dim light made it near-impossible for my little point-and-shoot with minimal spangly settings to cope - so I'm going to point you to this comprehensive post by the fabulous Sinead for all the products swatched.

One of the hotly-tipped products for the new collection are the rubber-look nail polishes, accessorised with fetishistic rubber lids. I don't have a bottle to show you, but here are my nails freshly-painted by a lovely lady at the event:

Starting from the index finger: Vice, Faux Pas, Kink and Taint.

I really liked the finish of these, they are sort of matte and sort of not. Kind of a half-way house between two finishes. The greyish purple, Faux Pas, is a beautiful colour, and Vice is a lovely autumnal shade. I thought I was going to hate Kink and Taint, but they lack the yellowish tones I was fearing and I quite liked them in the end.

Some swatches from the new collection. From the top: Morale Powder Blusher, Berber Pure Pigment and Violate Sheer Lipgloss (doesn't look that sheer to me!)

Another product which caught my attention was introduction of shimmer blushes, which are smooth, pigmented and beautiful. I received Morale, a stunning rosy fuchsia pink, which applies beautifully (although I do have to be careful!) and wears surprisingly well for a powder blush.

3 new Pure Pigment shades were released: Berber, Beguile and Zeitgeist. Beguile is beautiful. David Horne (the director of New Product Development) described it as another member of the Static family, but described wanting it to look 'like water'. It is really, really beautiful and catches the light, and it's on my list. I received Berber to try, a rusty raspberry red. After shying at the colour, I gave it a go over a black base for some evil villain chic:

Berber Pure Pigment shown here over Chanel Illusion d'Ombre in Mirifique. Topshop Vamp lipstick on the lips, with Violate Sheer Lipgloss and Berber pigment patted in the centre. Morale Powder Blusher on cheeks.

When later questioned, Kiwi's answer to the question 'Do I look scary or sexy?' was 'unsure'. I was satisfied with that.

Berber is richly pigmented and works beautifully when mixed with a lipgloss or patted in the centre of the lips for a little extra vroom vroom. It's not a colour I would usually pick, but Illamasqua's ethos of alter-egos had me looking for mine for a bit, and practising my best RAWR! faces in front of the mirror.

I also received one of the new lipglosses on offer, and this was the one that made me slightly terrified. A forest green?! On me?! Luckily it goes really well over lipsticks like reds to deepen and smuttify the colour. Belladonna was another shade released - a gorgeous raspberry red. One of my picks.

My favourites from the whole collection were the more subtle products, because I'm a subtle girl, but I do like to feel like the anti-heroine every so often. My picks then: Ambition and Morale Powder Blushers, Androgen Cream Pigment, Beguile Pure Pigment, Belladonna Intense Lipgloss and Faux Pas Nail Polish.

All in all, Theatre of the Nameless is a fabulous, intelligent collection with well-conceived products and a bit of drama, which is the way Illamasqua seem to like things.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

A trip to Illamasqua.

Hilariously it has come to the point where it's past the point of apology with the length between my last post and this one. It's kind of that awkward stage between where I'd usually be all like 'oh sup, I got busy' and throwing open the doors in declaring 'THAT'S RIGHT, I'M BACK' with a huge proud fanfare. So I'm kind of at that shuffling impasse where you try to get out of a lift and the person tries to step the same way as you and you do that awkward two-step. Or when you accidentally voice your thoughts out loud and then someone coughs and you realise that you said something really peculiar about hat-wearing weasels that did have a context only in your brain.

So I'm going to do this, and only once: if it's your birthday RIGHT NOW I'm gonna yell 'SURPRISE!!!' and jump out of a cake. And then we can put an end to this awkward halfway house of long pauses. But seriously, I've always been sporadic anyway. Right? (On a side-note, it was Franky at Love Audrey's birthday recently, and hers is a blog I wholeheartedly adore, so you need to go over there).

A while ago, I was happily and unselfconsciously passive-aggressively bitching on Twitter (as you do) and I got caught. Hilariously, I was talking about my general dislike for all things Illamasqua and how the products weren't for me, and promptly landed myself in the gaze of Illamasqua founder Julian Kynaston.

So, I got invited to a course, free of charge, at Illamasqua in Beak Street London, which I was curious to try. Julian offered to prove me wrong, stating he liked a challenge. I accepted.

I ended up trotting along to my course on a Friday afternoon. I was expecting it to be more hands-on than it was, granted, but actually it was kind of nice to not have to do my own makeup. Clare was my makeup artist for a day-to-night style session, where she took me through the basics of Illamasqua's skin sketching technique, using the cream pigments to their best purpose and finally, transformed me into some kind of glamazon pouting-not-myself thing. I felt like I needed the gloves and the cigarette holder and I'd be draped over a piano in a 20's speakeasy somewhere.

So here's what Clare used to create the look:

- Satin Primer
- Skin Base Foundation
- Cream Blush in Rude
- Loose Powder in 005
- Emerge Cream Pigment (Under-eye corrector)
- Hollow Cream Pigment (Contour)
- Eye Brow Cake in Gaze (I think!)

- Medium Pencils in Vow, Interrograte and Honour
- Eyeshadows in Trollop, Forgiveness and Lestat
- Eye Liner Cake in Mislead
- Pure Pigment in Fervent
- False Eye Lashes in no. 19

- Medium Pencil in Severe
- Lipstick in Diablo
- Intense Lipgloss in Succubus

Trying out Skin Base was something I zoned in on long before my visit so I was really excited to see it in action. I ended up taking a complimentary bottle of it home with me, only to find that the shade applied in the shop (where the lighting was not so hot) made me orange. The thing that impresses and scares me in equal measures about Illamasqua, then, is their presence in the vaguely-termed world of Social Media, an omnipresent Twitter vulture of a brand circling high and swooping on those who breathe the name. After bemoaning my rubbish shade match on Twitter, another Illamasqua-ite told me to email him and he'd send me a replacement.

Err, hello. Illamasqua have it nailed in the customer service stakes, this was honestly the best experience I've had with any kind of brand, especially considering the stonewall silence you tend to get with MAC in regards to a complaint (don't get me started on MAC - I can bitch for hours about how there are usually about 15 members of staff on shift at Selfridges London and how all of them are gossiping and ignoring you when you try to get their attention… Oh, you got me started).

Other than that, what can I say? I now have a wishlist as long as my arm for Illamasqua products and their Skin Sketching technique has become an everyday action for me, as ingrained as filling in my eyebrows and stroking on the mascara. Having being taught how to use the products properly and making more informed product decisions, I'm pretty switched on to this brand now - and I'm definitely switched off to MAC - whose constant rainbow-hued vomiting of NEW! COLLECTIONS! with limited edition products of continual below-par quality has helped me curb a minor addiction.

The only problem now I love Illamasqua products? Restraining myself and hiding my credit card...

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Review: Real Techniques Stippling Brush

On the subject of stippling brushes I am notoriously hard to please. A small parade of brushes have passed in and out of my displeased possession: the infamous MAC 187, homage to disappointment (on 3 separate occasions of owning it), the bijoux-sized MAC 130, so small I actually got bored applying foundation, and then most recently, the E.L.F. Studio Stippling Brush, the copycat that never was. And then there was the Real Techniques brush designed by Samantha Chapman and made by the people who make Eco Tools.

I'm not really sure why I was drawn to buying it after that weak litany of stippling brush-related failures, but £10 or so and a couple of days later, and a package from was delivered to me by the cheery postman.

I'll be blunt on the design: I really don't like it and if I saw it in Boots with no prior knowledge of its quality, I'd probably pass it by and leave it for the more teenage consumer. I am past the stage of thinking pink or any other bright colour is a 'cute' addition and the Hello Kitty thing passed me by anyway. The aesthetic of this brush is a personal thing however, which doesn't change my opinion of the overall quality or experience using it.

The brush comprises of an aluminium all-in-one ferrule and handle with a rubberised base. It has been designed to stand up by itself; I guess that'd be useful somewhere. I imagine the majority of us store our brushes in some kind of pot/jar/thing/whatever, so the feature, at least for me, is pretty redundant. The aluminium handle, however, makes the brush lightweight without the flimsiness of the E.L.F. Stippling Brush impostor, and it feels well-made and durable.

The bristles are short, synthetic and densely-packed on this brush; I'm reminded of a MAC 130 duo-fibre brush, but a little bigger and less boring to use. The bristles are sufficiently soft and good quality with no shedding or dye leaking to speak of, however this is not a review based on a long-term usage so I will update as I see necessary. Where I've always found stippling brushes really floppy and useless and was fed up of continually poking myself in the eye with the errant 187 bristles, the bristles here are stiff enough to stipple or buff without any splaying - it almost feels like they're bouncy!

The first time I used this I got a flawless effect on the skin by using the stippling method, but I also used a lot more product than usual. It worked really well with my Estée Lauder Doublewear and my MAC Pro Longwear, both more difficult foundations to work with. It performed well with cream blush products too, but I wouldn't recommend it for powdering your whole face unless it's brush laundry day as it's simply not effective enough - why send a little brush to do the work of a big brush?

Overall, I'm really pleased with this brush and the way it performed: it cost me a reasonable £10.99 and is good quality. It is well-made and sturdy, and has withstood very regular washings, and quite a few of them. The size of the brush made it big enough for quick foundation application, but still small enough to fit around the contours of the face. I don't like the price increase for the UK market and it isn't the best brush I've ever used. Do I like it? Yes. Is it reasonably-priced? Yes. Do I think there's just a teeny bit of hype surrounding this product? Definitely, and that's something to bear in mind.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Review/Swatches: FACE atelier Façade, the new wonder product

Lazy girls like me like multi-use products; I'm the type of girl who will buy a 3-in-1 of anything to make life easier. FACE atelier pretty much just launched one of those products recently and I managed to get my scrabbling (and extremely lucky!) little hands on some samples to test out. I've kind of been smugging my way around Twitter about these and cooing about them without actually delivering any goods.

Because I'm given to preamble, I'm going to stop myself there. Sometimes there just isn't enough room to tell you the story, various hijinx or completely unrelated trivialities that make me seem like I'm interrupting myself (even though I am).

FACE atelier Façade is... on the face of it, a lip and cheek stain, but to say that makes it sound boring and like a generic product. It simply doesn't compare with other lip/cheek stains I've tried on the market (oh BeneTint! Are you back there again trying to grovel for another chance?), because the texture, feel and way it blends are something completely new and unique to me (and also completely divine and amazing, but we're getting to that).

From the top, clockwise: Cha Cha, Godiva, Livid, Chameleon and Arabesque.

Façade is a silicone-based lip and cheek stain with a gel-like texture which sets as powder. It's incredibly silky and light and gives a translucent and matte wash of colour which builds effortlessly.

... Of the review, that is. I was actually going to call this 'I can't believe it's not butter!' but I saved that for here. Just because it's just a tiny bit too stupid. On application, this product is a dream. It's this velvety, smooth Vaseline kind of texture without the grease. It has this buttery feel that just melts into the skin and lips and almost slips over the skin.

The silicone formula gives it a longer drying time, affording plenty of time to blend the formula over the cheeks and basically ensuring that the product is as fool-proof as possible. It deposits a sheer wash of matte colour over the cheeks and lips and is endlessly buildable - and you really don't need much to give yourself a healthy flush.

On the lips I get around 3-4 hours wear of these, but they don't dry my lips out due to the silicone in the formula allowing it to almost 'float' over the skin instead of sinking into fine lines. On the cheeks I get all-day wear from these, a perfect, delicate, diaphanous flush with just a little product. They are moisture and sebum resistant and blend perfectly over even powder products - I wore it over a mineral foundation and it blended no differently.

One of the coolest things about this product is the ability to mix it up to get your ideal colour. I've grown quite fond of mixing Cha Cha and Livid for a sunblushed red, or Chameleon and Livid for a more Snow White kind of pinkish red.

Speaking of colour, I'd better show you what all five of the colours look like:

Arabesque: I'd describe it as a neutral-brownish peach with a hint of pink on my skin tone. It reminds me of MAC's See Sheer lipstick.

Cha Cha: A warm peach. One of my least favourites as I felt like it imparted the least amount of colour to my lips and seemed to pill/gunk up a little more, but it still did give me a beautiful almost 'caught-the-sun' flush to my cheeks.

Chameleon: A blue/cool-toned pink. This one is my absolute favourite.

Godiva: FACE atelier describe this as 'cherries dipped in chocolate'. So accurate. On my cheeks this comes out as berryish pink. So beautiful for Autumn.

Livid: A bright, cherry-ish red, absolutely stunning on the lips and works on the cheeks great too! Apparently I chewed my lip before taking this photo - sorry for the bald patch on my lip!

I love these forever, and have worn basically nothing else for the couple of weeks I've had them as they're so easy to chuck on with one eye open (that's mostly me in the mornings) and completely foolproof. The colours do look intimidating before they're blended, but rather like the NARS Multiple Tint Tubes in their array of neon-seizure colours, the FACE atelier Façade lip and cheek stains sheer down and blend out beautifully. They come packaged in a squeezy tube, so perfect for both on the go and kits too and FACE atelier sell samples of the product for $1 at their website. Basically, they're damn amazing. I don't know how to end this review because I could wax enough lyrical for ten thousand candles: FACE atelier really hit it out of the park with this one.

You can buy these in the UK at Coco Beau for £22.50. Well worth it, I'd say.

*DISCLOSURE FTW: I was provided with these little samples by Coco Beau, and I'm neither affiliated with Coco Beau nor FACE atelier. I am not being financially compensated for reviewing this product and am, as always, very honest.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Hell hath no fury like a blogger scorned: The rise and rise of Eyeko.

Eyeko is that bijoux cosmetics brand which seems snugly nestled in some kind of Anglo-Japanese rut where the brand claims to be staunchly British but with a strong kawaii aesthetic. I've never really had anything bad to say about the brand; if anything I've championed their Big Eyes Mascara and how beautifully it provides just the right amount of length and volume for my middling lashes.

That stops today.

Exhibit A: as archived by the Internet Wayback Machine, August 26, 2010 (although I bought the mascara around March this year and it was still around £8...)

Exhibit B: as archived by er... me. June 18, 2011.

You know when it's nothing personal, and it's not you, it's me and all those other platitudes you'd say when breaking up with someone? All of the above to Eyeko. Oh, and no offence.

You see, Eyeko, the makers of the beloved mascara, realised a few days ago that the blogosphere is raging about their current price hike. Even the people that don't like the mascara. Even the people who don't really care about Eyeko at all. You see, Eyeko, news travels fast and most of us aren't happy.

Eyeko were quick to respond to the rumblings of discontent on Twitter by pointing them to a blandly written post (obviously sweetly signed off with the phrase 'love Eyeko', as if expressing devotion to the 'fans' while conveniently hiding behind a brand name wasn't patronising enough). To quote Eyeko in their twee excuse-fest (which you can read in its entirety here):

Eyeko Mascara for Big Eyes launched in 2001 in top stores like Selfridges and Harrods London. At that time the price was £15. Over the years we have changed the packaging, tweaked the formulations and moving forward we are offering you a more premium product.

Let's pick it apart.
Eyeko Mascara for Big Eyes launched in 2001 in top stores like Selfridges and Harrods London.
- Great, and so what?
At that time the price was £15.
- So why was the price of the mascara dropped to £5, and then later raised to £8? My extremely limited business experience (watching The Apprentice) would see dropping the price as a negative... And anyway, just because it was £15 once doesn't mean doubling the price is appropriate after you yourselves dropped your own prices.
Over the years we have changed the packaging, tweaked the formulations and moving forward we are offering you a more premium product.
- Yes, and the latest formulation before this new launch was terrible and prompted me to stop buying your products at all.

We have read your comments on the new price of Eyeko Big Eyes Mascara. Our best-seller has been revamped and upgraded. The new price will reflect a better, reloaded formula that creates even bigger, longer and fuller eyelashes. We aren’t increasing the price, what you’ll see and experience is the NEW Eyeko Mascara for £15. You can still find the current version of Big Eyes mascara in the London Eyes Set.

We have read your comments on the new price of Eyeko Big Eyes Mascara.
- Not sure I believe you...
Our best-seller has been revamped and upgraded. The new price will reflect a better, reloaded formula that creates even bigger, longer and fuller eyelashes.
- No. Now I definitely don't believe you.
We aren’t increasing the price
- Whoopsy daisy! It appears you're tripping over your own excuses here... Let me help you up!
You can still find the current version of Big Eyes mascara in the London Eyes Set.
- How helpful! To get hold of your old mascara, I now need to buy a set worth (relatively speaking) £28 for the sake of a mascara.

The thing is (and this is the real kicker), if I'm going to pay £15 for a now likely-to-be-average mascara (which used to be good, by the way, but the price kind of sours that a bit), I'd frankly do a u-turn and head straight to the nearest YSL/Dior/Estée Lauder counter, hand over an extra fiver and get a mascara that has established the brand to go along with the price-tag.

Don't read me wrong on this post - don't see me as being overly-combative or cantankerous (although I can be, so you might be justified). What really gets me about this price hike isn't in fact the money, or the continual promises of bigger! better! MORE AWESOME! formulations, because those have never happened in the past. What did bother me is the self-apologetic blog post about it, and the patronising way we were told to be excited for the next big venture. In light of all the Ambassador programme scam drama, you'd think they would've stopped trying to make excuses by now and tell us straight what we're getting. As long as you tell me I'm receiving a sub-par product at an inflated price and I buy it - well more fool me.

Drop the shovel, Eyeko, and step away from that hole you're digging before it's too late.

What's your view?

Sunday, 12 June 2011

FOTD #7: The one where the story's more important

Have you ever seen that scene in Scrubs, where Turk attempts to sneak in from a night out, and in his attempts to not wake Carla up he straps pillows to his feet?


Allow me to educate you:

It has been a little quiet around here recently, and here I am, attempting to sneak quietly back in, but I've been caught with one leg halfway through an open window, or tripping over the vacuum cleaner with high heels in hand while groping my way blindly through the house. If you're wondering about the vacuum cleaner thing - it sounds like exactly something I'd do when trying to sneak into the house due to Kiwi's negligence.

We have an agreement: I hoover, and Kiwi wrestles the thing back into its Harry Potter-sized bijoux cupboard-under-the-stairs (in a flat which actually has no stairs, but that is its name nonetheless, because what else do you call it?). So anyway - I probably would trip over the hoover, and last week, I went headlong over the iron which Kiwi had thoughtfully left for me as a dangerous gift in the middle of the floor.

...I like to think in these moments that he's only concerned for my fitness and mental alertness by doing such things.

So, anyway - a face of the day. Yesterday we went to Birmingham to see a man (Kiwi's cousin) about a car... Which is now ours. YAY. On the way home, the CD player broke. I bought 3 Glamour magazines and helpfully redistributed them (sans freebies) among passengers of the 12:03 train to Birmingham New Street. And then we celebrated having a new car by driving to the supermarket like the excited boring adults that we are, and we bought heavy things we'd never normally be able to carry the 20 minute walk home.

But - about the makeup. I rediscovered a little item long ago purchased, a Superslick liquid eyeliner by MAC in Marked for Glamour, a beautiful mid-grey with a soft pearly sheen. And well - I bought it, and rarely wore it. I love grey, because it's not black. It allows for this beautiful softness, but still with the definition and coquettish flicks I'm addicted to. Blush wasn't a hard one: pink and matte, maybe a slight sheen, but I veered away from my usual suspect in favour of another product I rarely use. And then for the lips? A new product I happened to have a sample of, a teeny-tiny sneak peek of something very special: FACE atelier Façade lip and cheek stain. It's a velvety siliconey smoothy dreamy thing to apply and lasts amazingly and and and... I want to tell you everything I love about it (having owned the sample pot precisely 4 days) but that's for another day.

I hate these pictures, but I had a story to tell today.

Now Playing: something ridiculously hip, indie and cool...

Posing live from the train to London Bridge.

Products used:

- Estée Lauder Double Wear Foundation
- MAC Pro Longwear Concealer
- Kryolan Anti-Shine Powder
- MAC Briar Rose Beauty Powder

- MAC Paintpot in Painterly
- MAC Superslick liquid liner in Marked for Glamour
- Bourjois Volume Glamour Ultra Black Mascara

- FACE atelier Façade in Chameleon (available at Coco Beau).

Monday, 9 May 2011

Something New: iPulse Boots Smooth Skin Plus.

I'll confess, I've known about this forever, and have been excited about it for forever too, and biting my tongue about it has been difficult. I would have sucked as Lily and James Potter's secret-keeper and Voldemort would have been all up in my grill about this and I would've just been all like 'alright, but only because you're the most evil overlord of all time since Sauron so I guess I should probably tell you before you avada kedavra me or sic your gigantic snake on me.'

Yeah. That'd be it. BUT! Luckily for the Potters, I managed to keep schtum long enough for the launch of the new iPulse Boots Smooth Skin Plus machine (which is today, by the way! Run, DON'T WALK!) I'm actually feeling pretty privileged to have been sent this new machine as a follow-up to my nervous and uninformed purchase around a year ago.

When I bought the original machine, I really wasn't expecting anything, having pretty much tried everything from those awful Rio home electrolysis machines to costly salon IPL. I really wasn't expecting it to work and resigned my life to a life of shaving and those sore red legs you get when you go paddling in the sea straight after de-Yetifying yourself.

(I'm weirded out that my computer hasn't put the squiggly red line of SPELLED RONG under de-Yetifying. Are Apple keeping a secret from me?)

So, when it started working, and I started getting balder, it was a bit weird, and also a bit of a revelation. No £300 per session painful IPL treatments? No awkward chitchat wearing ridiculous looking goggles while a lady works on unmentionable areas? AND I can watch True Blood/America's Next Top Model/The Apprentice while doing it? Yeah. Sign me up and call me the poster girl for iPulse.

... If you don't know what iPulse Boots Smooth Skin is, I'm going to give you a brief run-down. And then you can go read the other post I made about it, which will tell you MORE things in MORE detail. Here's some Q&A (which I loltyped T&A and then felt awkward):

What is iPulse/Boots Smooth Skin?
- It's an at-home IPL system for hair removal.

That's cool. What's IPL?
- It stands for Intense Pulsed Light, which is exactly what you'd get in the salon and is based on laser hair removal (but better). It uses light to target the hair follicle and disables hair growth when the hair is in a particular stage of its growth cycle, the anagen stage. You use it with the gel provided to both focus the light on the area you're treating and cool down the skin.

What's the difference between iPulse Boots Smooth Skin Plus and IPL at a salon?
- Time, convenience, privacy. Other than that, the salon treatments are at a higher intensity, so a month to 6 weeks is required for the skin to repair. With the Boots Smooth Skin, the intensity of the light is lower and you need less time to repair - but as you do the treatment every week, the cumulative amount of energy could be similar (I don't know - I'm not a science-type. All I know is I've seen quicker results from Boots Smooth Skin Plus than salon treatments because the wait-time is shorter between treatments.)

Who's it good for?
- Both women and men, but NOT all skin tones, and NOT pregnant or menopausal women. It works best on really pale-skinned people with dark hair - but will work on hair that is darker than the skin. It will not work on blonde, red or grey hair. It cannot be used on darker than Asian skin tones at present because it's dangerous and may cause burns. On darker skin tones, the light is absorbed by the skin rather than the hair follicle as it's attracted to the pigment in the skin. Also, if you're a tanorexic, you should either clean off the fake tan or avoid the iPulse for 30 days after having been in the sun.

Is it permanent?
- As long as you follow the treatment through its 12 week cycle, and subject to hormonal changes, you will see permanent hair reduction. If there are any hormonal imbalances or changes, it may cause more hair to grow, which will require further treatment. Hormonal hair in general, such as upper-lip hair, may not disappear completely with iPulse use, rather it will thin out considerably and become finer and lighter.

Does it hurt?
- Providing you've selected the correct skin setting and you've applied a thick layer of the gel, then not especially - but you may feel a warm or tingly sensation. It takes a bit of getting used to - and remember that pain is a completely subjective thing.

Any specific preparations before treatment?

Shave the area so that the light can target the hair follicle. Don't wax or epilate in the treatment areas during the 12 week course, as this rips the hair out, meaning you'll have no hair to treat - and the treatment would be useless. Use a white eyeliner pencil to conceal moles, too. And a thick layer of gel straight from the fridge is a must.

I have a lady-tache. Can I use it on the face?

- Yep. It's safe to use on the face, apart from around the eyes/orbital bone and the mucous membranes (like the nose). Just don't use it on your eyebrows even if you're a huge fan of the no-eyebrows look, because you won't be able to control where the light hits, and you certainly won't grow the hair back there (remember that time you accidentally plucked off an important bit of your eyebrow and you had a gap for months? Imagine that, but forever. Just don't do it.)

So what makes it different to the Philips Lumea/Remington i-Light?
- Neither of those systems offer permanent hair reduction - they actually put the hair into a dormant state for 3 months instead, at which point it'll aaalll start to come back again.


1. Aesthetic: I've heard the first handset described rather unflatteringly as resembling a Tomy Toy Telephone. How do you even sex up a hair removal device?! The new handset is cleaner, sleeker and better designed; the new, longer cable winds neatly underneath it and it's just more cohesive with the trigger button nice and big, and handily lit up when the unit is ready and all contacts are aligned on your skin.
2. Electronic Skin Tone Sensor: A handy device which was definitely absent from the original Boots Smooth Skin kit; it analyses
3. Wider range of skin tones: The new iPulse now caters for up to skin tone 4, whereas previously it only catered up to 3.


4. 20,000 flashes: That's 10,000 more than the original one - and 10,000 was more than enough to treat the average woman's lower legs, underarms and bikini line. 20,000 is definitely an improvement (duh!), especially if you're prone to hormonal changes (such as PCOS for example). In the event you do run out of flashes, you can send the handset in to be refurbished for a fee - but my original machine purchased over a year ago is still going strong!
5. Easier to clean: The old unit has prongs/sensors on the head which were kind of annoying to clean around. The new unit has the sensors flush to the glass and it's really easy to clean.
6. Shorter recharge time: The old unit took about 6 seconds to recharge between each pulse, whereas the new unit is about 3 or so, depending on the setting you're using.
7. Smaller plug: Gone are the days when I have to unplug lots of things on my extension plug wheel to fit the old monster of a plug in. The new plug is a normal size, hooray! It's such a small detail, but I'm really pleased!

Don't get too comfortable, as I do have one niggle about the new unit: it seems noisier. It rattles and seems to be more obtrusive than the original unit - is it just my imagination? Maybe it is - but the noise just seems more rattly and annoying.

The final word:
So, do I think it's worth the money? Absolutely, considering I come from the perspective of having had both salon IPL and the Boots Smooth Skin machine. My salon treatments were around £300 a pop (and that was back in 2005!), so this is a much more preferable alternative for me. The new Boots Smooth Skin Plus retails at £399.99, as compared with the original model's £281.90 - but the leap in features is worth the more expensive price tag as iPulse have opened their product to a wider market.

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Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Cami, Becca and the unavoidable love story.

Occasionally I hit this bumbling rut with words where I'm clearly at a loss to say anything of use, just because I love to write, and unless I have something to say in a suitably overly-complex and verbose way (I'd hesitate to say 'eloquent' or 'whimsical' as those sound far too complimentary), then I don't actually want to say anything.

So, I found a perfect product from a new brand and I'm completely in love, because I'm struggling to find the appropriate words to describe and quantify my love for it. There seems to be this void in syntax and vocabulary to describe the perfection that is Becca's Lip and Cheek Crème in Tuberose.

It might look little, but in the pot there is some definite punch hidden beneath its sweetly coral contents. It's a pigmented creamy product, which blends easily without being sticky or greasy. On the lips, it's beautiful, particularly if you coordinate it with the same on the cheeks for a perfect Spring flush, although it can be a little drying. I love it so much it spends its days being transferred from dresser to handbag and back again; it never, ever ends up being put away. I ordered some more Becca products straight off the bat... I'm sensing a dangerous affair.

The thing is, it was a throwaway purchase whilst buying another coveted item (which, incidentally, I'm still eyeing suspiciously while using this second-choice one with complete aplomb), and I didn't really expect to dreamily envision candlelit dinners and a photo album filled with snaps of us enjoying ice creams in matching sweaters. Sorry Guerlain Blush G - I think it would be better for both of us if we were just friends for now...

Becca Lip and Cheek Crème in Tuberose on cheeks and lips.

Same again, in different lighting with a touch of saturation to show the colour.


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