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.


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