It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas....

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

231215xmas candles775
Firstly, I need to apologise for my prolonged absence from my blog. It's my first winter blogging, and I've found it really hard, from lack of sleep, work going completely crazy, losing my weekends constantly to helping my parents out at their business, as well as just going into winter hibernation mode. I know, terrible excuses, but there you have it. I've also had a bit of an off-moment with beauty, where I was feeling a bit rubbish about my skin being dry and blotchy, and then having the most godawful experience with some new products I used to try rectify it. Nightmare! I'm pretty sure this is also why I've not been as interested in the all the Christmas beauty specials out at the moment. Maybe it's just because I've not been feeling all that Christmassy lately, all the festivities have me feeling a bit 'meh' at the moment. Not that I don't enjoy Christmas, far from it, it's just that this year, the excitement seems to have missed me.

However, one thing I always indulge in at this time of year without fail, is candles. The dark nights just call out to have a candle burning away in the background, and there are two that I picked up which have been putting some festive cheer in me.

The first is Mrs Todd's Citrus and Cinnamon which I first read about on Ruth's blog here. It's a fairly traditional smelling candle to my nose, with citrus and spice notes through the main body of it, but with a little added depth from the musk note, and jasmine mixes it up a little by giving it a tiny bit of freshness. I think the jasmine note is a great idea because 1) jasmine is one of my favourite flowers and smells and 2) sometimes the whole citrus and spice scent is so common, it's nice to give it a little more edge. For £28, I think this is a lovely candle that still looks and smells luxurious, but without breaking the bank.

The next one is probably the best candle I've bought in a long time. Feuilles de Tabac by Miller Harris is a wonderful mix of smoky, woody and green scents bundled together, with a slight church-y incense feel to it. I've never bought anything from Miller Harris before, but this definitely has me wanting to buy more. I much prefer this to the Diptyque Feu de Bois, because the fresh pine scent gives it a little more dimension, and stops it from being an overwhelmingly smoky scent. If you are happy to spend £40 and find yourself slightly put off by the Diptyque version, or are looking for something which smells slightly more sophisticated and layered, I really recommend this one.

Are there any seasonal candles that you would recommend to get me out of my winter blues? Let me know in the comments!

Skin Saver: Antonia Burrell Radiant Light Facial Serum

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

antonia burrell
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I adore serums and oils. I love it even more when you get a serum that is an oil, especially when it's been packed with so many good ingredients. Back in August I read an amazingly helpful review from the wonderful Kal from the Cluttered Closet about the Antonia Burrell Radiant Light Facial Serum, and for some reason, I couldn't get the thought of it out of my head. Something about the fact it was completely natural, packaged in a completely black glass bottle that meant business, and had rave reviews convinced me to buy it.

The Radiant Light Facial Serum is a deep orange serum oil which includes Frankincense, Rosehip, and Carrot Oil amongst other things. The aim of this serum is to reduce scars and pigmentation, evening out skin tone, as well as whacking in moisture into your skin. The Antonia Burrell site gives a full list of ingredient which you can list up, but I'm sure most people who are interested in beauty will have come across something that has Rosehip in for its benefits. Frankincense helps protects your skin as well as assisting the Rosehip with scar reduction. To be honest, every single oil that has been included in this serum has some benefit to the skin, and you can tell that they have been carefully selected to create something amazing.

I've been using this product religiously everyday since buying it back in August, both morning and night. It was a little bit heavy during the warmer weather, but I really didn't mind it at all. After using this, my skin immediately feels comforted and hydrated, so that feeling alone has been worth more than enough to spend a little time letting this sink in in the morning during those warmer times. The smell might not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's the kind of scent you should expect with something that's packed with so many natural ingredients, and personally, I find it kind of comforting. In terms of results, I think it has helped reduce my acne scarring, although since I get hormonal acne a lot, I keep getting new spots that need to clear up and heal while I've already got skin that is healing. What I have really noticed since introducing this into my routine is how much more moisturised my skin feels overall. I also think it has been helping to balance out the oily vs dehydrated parts of my face. I'm not quite even in that sense yet, but I've seen a huge improvement. This is my first product from Antonia Burrell, and I am so impressed with it, I can't help thinking that I should try some other products because I'm convinced they'll be just as fantastic.

The killer here? The price: £58.80 for a dinky 15ml bottle. Ouch. Serums and oils have always been something I tend to spend more money on, simply because I think they are the powerhouse of my skin routine so I'm not actually that freaked out I spent so much money on it. Also, seeing just how much I rely on this product, and the fact that you only need one pump at a time, it's actually delivered on the value for money front, as there is just so much left in the bottle despite the fact I've been using at least two pumps a day for the past two months. I was actually really lucky that I managed to use a discount code for lookfantastic.com and bought it from there, saving myself nearly £20! Honestly though, I've come to love this product so much, I'd actually happily buy this again, even at full price. I think if you were really not keen on spending this amount of money, you could make do with the Pai Bioregenerate Oil, but personally, I've seen and felt much better results with the Radiant Light Facial Serum, so there's no doub tas to what I'll be repurchasing again!

Do you think you will give this serum a go? Have you tried any other Antonia Burrell products? Let me know in the comments!

Catching the Urban Decay Bug

Sunday, 25 October 2015

urban decay
Recently, my makeup stash has begun to overflow, so in my efforts to try and rearrange my beauty bits and bobs (and generally failing), I've realised that I've kind of caught Urban Decay fever. This time last year, I had very little from Urban Decay. I'd used and liked the Primer Potion, and regularly used the Naked 2 Palette which I've had for some time, but not much else for a long while. Then they opened up their store in Covent Garden, and slowly but surely, it's been creeping its way more and more into my beauty cupboard. Their lipsticks which were raved about in lots of blogs last summer got my interest up, but it was actually visiting their store during my lunch break that gave me the time (and space) to swatch, and walk away with a lipstick.

But, it was only really this year since August that the fever really got a hold of me. In fact, I can pin it to the exact date. 6th August. I know, I know, it might sound sad, being able to pin the date, but this was the day that lovely Heather from Porcelain Beauty hosted a meet-up and demo of the Smoky Palette at the store, and talked through all her favourite products that really got me interested. After buying the Smokey Palette, I've since gone back and invested in another eyeshadow palette, foundation, eyeliner and shortlisted a whole load of other things to try.

I think the reason for it is the fact that Urban Decay have come such a long way from the garish bright colours that I always used to associate them with. Yes, they'll always be known and loved for their Naked palettes, but for some reason, for years I've associated them with vivid and scary pinks as well as electric blues for eyeshadows. They've really moved on in the past few years, and it's a great positive change, because their products can appeal to everyone across the board, no matter what kind of look they like.

I still feel a bit unfamiliar with the brand, so would love to know which products I should prioritise getting. You can see pretty much all the UD products I've got right now, so let me know in the comments which things you think I should get next!

Dior Star Foundation

Thursday, 22 October 2015

diorstar
I've been having a bit of a foundation funk lately, where nothing in my foundation stash has really been appealing to me, not even my usually reliable Chanel Perfection Lumiere. I've been ill for a while recently, and you can really tell with my skin, so I've been in need of something that covers or blurs any scarring or imperfections on my skin, without feeling heavy and cloying. It's funny how tastes change so dramatically. A little over a year ago, I would have said I only ever want to use really thick formulas when my skin was in this state, now I want something that I can't feel.

Well luckily for me, the Diorskin Star Foundation is pretty much exactly what I need. Lightweight but still very buildable, this foundation is a dream to wear. I did actually try this on last year as soon as it launched, and did like it, but didn't feel the need for it in my foundation wardrobe (or possibly because it came out around the time I usually have to buy all my family members birthday presents, I was kind of broke?). Now I know better. I should have invested in it straight away. The formula for this foundation does apply really sheer on the skin when you dab with a light hand, giving the thinnest veil of coverage, or can be built up to blur out scars. It's very comfortable to wear, and at no point do I really 'feel' it on my face like I do with some of my other formulas. It also manages to still make me look healthy, which is kind of amazing considering I've been so under the weather. I feel like my skin sort of gives off an actual glow, but somehow it manages to semi-mattify everything so I don't look like a glaring lightbulb at the end of a working day. Even skintone, good coverage, lightweight, and so natural looking, I really see myself making sure I always have a bottle of this in my makeup drawer.

I also decided to give a different sponge applicator a go, investing in the Dior Backstage Blender which is a definite step up price wise from my Real Techniques sponge, and also a real step up in terms of quality. Comparing the two, the Dior version is much denser and more solid, which you can really tell when you squeeze the two to see which one compresses more. I also think that the Real Techniques one absorbs too much product which ends up wasted. I've been told that the Backstage Blender has been made with a more solid internal core, with only the outside part of the applicator being porous, and after using it, I think this probably is the truth rather than marketing spiel. Anyway, I am so glad I've been using this, because it makes applying foundation really easy to use, and the finish looks a tad more even than with a brush. If I were using a brush, I'd probably finish off with the sponge anyway, so it makes sense for me to just go in with this one. I have been seriously loving using this sponge, I've actually not used a brush once since I got it. Less washing for me to do at the end of the week, win win!

Conclusions here are that if you are looking for a foundation that can make you look like the picture of health with 8 hours sleep a night, then this is the one for you. If you want it to get a much more even and smooth finish, or are just looking for a new applicator, then investing a little bit more in the Backstage Blender is something I won't hesitate to recommend. Time to celebrate the end of my foundation love dry-spell, I'm all starry-eyed over this one.

A nail collection fit for winter: Essie Cashmere Matte

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

essie cashmere matte
The cooler months have people reaching for their knits in England, and nothing beats the comfort of cosy cashmere. There's something to be said about pulling on that cashmere jumper or wrapping yourself in a cashmere scarf that brings a little sophistication along with that snug feeling. Essie, very aptly, have brought out a collection that sums up the cosiness of cashmere, both in the colour and texture.

The Essie Cashmere Matte collection features six very pretty shades that all dry out to a matte finish, but there's something rather unique about them that has sort of converted me to matte nail polishes. I'll admit, my first encounter with matte nail polishes (OPI's You Don't Know Jacques) several years back was accidental, and I really didn't like the finish. I found it too weird, and just far too flat for my liking. With the Essie Cashmere Matte collection, this is completely avoided somehow, which has really surprised me. The colours either have shimmer running through them, making them duochromatic, or if they don't have shimmer, somehow really glowy looking.

I made use of a 3 for 2 offer in Boots on all Essie polishes and picked up: Cozy In Cashmere, a greige-taupe that turns purple in certain lights because of the blue shimmer, All Eyes On Nudes, a lovely café-au-lait colour, and Coat Couture, a mauve-grey hybrid. These colours are all stunning. I am absolutely in love with Cozy In Cashmere, it looks so pretty on. I thought Coat Couture would be my favourite, but Cozy In Cashmere has completely stolen its thunder. I didn't expect to like All Eyes On Nudes so much, because I was worried it would be too flat on the nail, but it really does exude that strange glowy quality I talked about, it just looks perfect on and is that wonderful caramel-y shade I've been looking ages for!

Such pretty colours, gorgeous colour effect, and glowing quality, there has to be a catch right? Yep, I'm afraid so. My recent purchases from Essie have vastly improved in longevity, but my encounter with Cozy In Cashmere just didn't work out that way unfortunately. A little streaky to apply, and only 3 days before major, and I mean major, chipping ensued. Chunks out of it. Not a great performance there, which is such a shame because I adore the colour. It's possible that this happened because I didn't put a top coat on, but I only have shiny or gelly topcoat in my collection, and that would completely defeat the point of wearing a matte polish, right? Oh, the dilemma! I think I can get away with painting a shiny topcoat over All Eyes On Nudes, but I rather like the matte effect of the other two colours.

If anyone can give me suggestions on what I can apply over the top to keep these on my nails for longer, send them my way immediately! The colours in this collection are just so pretty, that I'm sorely tempted to buy some of the remaining ones in the collection, but the longevity issue is really holding me back from committing to the collection fully!

Keeping track of your nail stash

Sunday, 18 October 2015

nail polish organisation
I have a lot of nail polish. A lot a lot. I always seem to be trying to clear my stash out, successfully managing to remove two or three bottles, and then finding that a trip to Boots or somewhere ends up with me putting two or three new bottles into my stash. Whooops.

During my periodic tidying up of my collection, I sometimes find that I've ended up with colours that are just too similar to each other to have really justified buying, or accidentally bought dupes. I keep my polishes in old Jo Malone boxes, so that I can keep space wasting to a minimum, but it doesn't really help eliminate accidental dupe-buying. I can't be the only one who has accidentally gone home with a polish colour that is already in their stash! In an attempt to be more organised and less spendy with my nail polishes, I knew that I had to do something to get more organised, and I think I may be onto something here.

What I did was to buy 50 plastic nail art display tips (is that their name?) off eBay for £3, went through my polish collection, painted and using a cd pen, labelled each one. After that, I organised the swatches into colour families, e.g. blues, reds, etc and took photos of the groups with my phone. This way, every time I find myself tempted in the aisles of Boots or Space NK, I can refer back to my pictures and see whether or not I've already got something similar. It might not completely stop me from buying a colour if I find myself desperately wanting it, but I think it will help me stop and think first before buying bottles willy-nilly.

If you find yourself in the same situation, hopefully you'll find this advice helpful and try it out too! It is a bit of a faff at the beginning, but if it saves you some pennies or 'accidental dupe frustration', I think a little effort is worth it. Let me know if this post has inspired you to tidy up your nail polish collection too!

Shine On with Dior Addict Lipsticks

Thursday, 15 October 2015

dior addict lips
Dior have recently relaunched their Dior Addict lipsticks, with brand new packaging and a new formula. Just look at how everything shines! The box, the packaging, the lipsticks, everything literally gleams. Described on their website as a lipstick with a 'hydra-gel core with a mirror shine', I really wouldn't disagree with the description. Made with three oils (I have yet to work out what oils have actually been used), this is a very moisturising formula, so have no fear of your lips drying out with this formula, or of it tugging at your lips. Dior have labelled their oils as the 'sensorial', 'comfort' and the 'shield' oil, all rather fancy names for their different functions. From what I understand, the Sensorial one helps keep the formula smooth and easy to use, the Comfort one is, quite naturally, for keeping your lips moisturised, and the Shield oil is to help keep the colour on your lips for longer.

I'd call the new lipsticks a crossover between a thick lipbalm and a lipstick. I suppose you could say that it is a lip tint, but it goes much further than that in the colour department. They're more like a really thick version of the MAC Huggable lipsticks, but go on much more smoothly, sit far more comfortably on the lips, and pack a load more colour. I have the shades 578 Diorkiss and 976 Be Dior; Be Dior is the shade you see Jennifer Lawrence wearing in the ads, which is a bright raspberry colour with a fuschia shimmer, while Diorkiss is a warm rosy pink.

It is possible to get a really precise line with these lipsticks, using a lipbrush, but I like these for a more casual look, smoothing it on the lips straight out of the tube. For more colour, and to get the really shiny effect, you'll need to go into the lips a few times, as a one-coat slick won't cut it. It seems a bit more effort, but to be honest, they are so easy to apply, and I find these a great option for adding colour to my lips with minimal effort, and keeping my lips hydrated at the same time. My lips have been having a bit of a tough time lately from illness and stress, and I've been opting for these when I need to keep myself from looking like death warmed up but still want a little tender care on my lips.

If there's anything I'd advise about these, you don't really need lipbalm before applying. If you do, the colour might end up sliding a bit too much over the place, and frankly, that's not a good look for anyone! These do verge onto lipgloss territory, but I think they're much more longlasting and a tad less sticky than most lipglosses I've come across. Verdict: if you're looking for something comfortable to wear on the lips during the colder months, but still want something that has colour, I highly recommend these.

The new Dior Addict Lipsticks retail at £26.50. I got mine from Boots because they had a 'buy 3 products and get 1000 points' offer on.

MAC Guo Pei collection

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

mac guo pei
I think it would be an understatement to say that this collection has been highly anticipated. A collaboration between MAC and the Chinese designer Guo Pei has been making some waves on social media, and it's not hard to see why. The beautiful gold packaging with beautifully floral-printed yellow fabric covering makes for a more decadent, and decidedly premium-priced makeup collection. Guo Pei is famous for her extremely elaborately decorated and hand-sewn pieces, and you can see (and read) how her attention to all details has been applied to this collection. Not only did she sketch the fabric covering design herself, she also designed six dresses as inspiration for the collection that took three years to develop. Three! I don't read much about the inspiration or timelines behind other MAC limited edition collections, but this strikes me as the work of someone who is dedicated to detail and is extraordinarily passionate about what they do.

The collection itself has sixteen pieces, including eyeliners, lipstick and blushes amongst other things. I was actually sick the day of the release, but forced myself to stay up and refresh constantly in the hope that I would catch it as soon as it was out online. Then of course, I told myself it wouldn't hurt to sleep for an hour to help me recover, and lo and behold, it is released. When I wake up, most of it is sold out. Weep. I was lucky enough to catch the Beauty Powder from the website though, and a pilgrimage to Selfridges yielded me my lipstick and blush choice, so everything worked out in the end for the most part.

The pieces are stunning to behold. I'm not surprised MAC slapped up the price for these, in fact, I'm sure they're a tiny bit more expensive than the usual limited edition pieces, though I may be wrong. The packaging is very very light, and almost fragile. I personally won't be carrying the blush anywhere with me for fear of breaking or scratching it. I also think the fabric covering (the first time MAC has ever used fabric coverings) might well pick up dirt rather easily, although it's more densely woven than some material, so if you want to keep it looking pristine, it may survive being carried around in a clean cosmetics bag. The etched flower on the powder and blush completes the beauty of these products, though it does make it a little bit harder to bring myself to swirl my brush in!

I bought myself the blush in the shade Red Water Lily, which is a light coral pink. I would advise a very light hand with this one, as before I knew it, I had made myself look like I'd had one drink too many far too early in the morning, and this was using my RMK blush brush which I use to tone down my more pigmented blushes. With a light touch, it's a pretty blush to get that flushed look on your face. It isn't the most unique colour out there though, as it reminds me of one of my NARS blushes.

I also picked up the lipstick in Ethereal Orchid, described as a mid-toned dirty coral. In the tube it looks more like a nudey-brown-tinged pink colour, but really does come off coral on the lips. It's in a Lustre finish, quite shiny and rather thin, so don't expect it to hang about for very long. I had to reapply quite often, but that's probably because of my bad habit of biting my lips more than anything else! I would say though, each application with minimal drinking/eating in between should last you about three hours before you need to apply another coat. It's not the most moisturising formula, but it's not the most drying either, so I would suggest treating your lips to some lipbalm before wiping it off and applying the lipstick.

As for the Beauty Powder? Well, unfortunately I can't review that, because I had to send it back straight away. MAC in all their wisdom, post products by Royal Mail, and in minimal packaging, so it came in a simple thin jiffy bag with no extra padding. I opened the bag up to find that it had been dented, bent up at one corner, and it must have been knocked really hard because the lid no longer aligned to the bottom. Needless to say I was very upset and had to return it. I wrote a note to point out that it arrived damaged, and even wrapped it in more bubble wrap to stop it breaking. I'm keeping my fingers crossed I'll get a refund, and will then try my luck in Selfridges to see if they have any stock in left still. MAC, if you read this, I don't want you to go down the other route where you used massively oversized boxes to send things, but considering how much money I paid for one product, perhaps using small boxes might be an idea?

So, thoughts. Apart from the disappointment of receiving a damaged product, and the possibility of never getting it (the power of the words 'MAC' and 'Limited Edition' tend to do that anyway), it's a very pretty collection. I wouldn't say the products themselves have blown me away entirely, and the colours seem fairly dupable. The prices are also eye-watering/heart-stopping/"oh my god my boyfriend/mother is going to kill me if they find out I spent this much!"-panic inducing, especially when what you're really paying for is the packaging. However, if you read the inspiration and thoughts Guo Pei had about this collection, 'the garden of the soul' and the spirit of happiness, I think you'd find it difficult not to feel a little happiness and tranquility when you look at this collection. One word of advice though for keeping up that calm 'garden of the soul': just don't look or show anyone the receipts for these, ok?

Face Paint: The Story of Makeup by Lisa Eldridge

Sunday, 11 October 2015

face paint 1
On Wednesday, I was fortunate enough to secure myself a place at the At Home with Lisa Eldridge pre-book launch event for her new book, Face Paint, where in a series of small hour-long sessions, we would get to hear Lisa (yes, I'm going for first name terms!) talk to us about what inspired her behind writing this book, a small q-and-a, watch a funny short video she has started for the promo, view some of her vintage makeup collection, as well as receive a copy of the book before everyone else and have her sign it.

Hosted in the Liberty Heritage Lounge, Lisa had a hand with how it was decorated, transforming it into something akin to her home, so that we would feel like we were in the House of Eldridge itself. Let's just say it must be a very cosy and undoubtedly stylish house because there were some gorgeous furniture pieces in there. I went for the earliest slot, but even this was completely packed as, so popular is Lisa, that I expect everyone who read her post about it immediately subscribed booked themselves for the event.

As for the lady herself, Lisa is exactly how you would expect from her videos, and more: beautiful, charming, and funny. Truly, she was absolutely lovely in person and so down to earth. Talking about the process and inspiration behind her book, she revealed that she had actually originally written it as a documentary, but had been turned down when she approached a producer, long before she moved into YouTube. At the same time, Lisa had been building up her vintage makeup collection, colleting pieces that signified different aspects of makeup history.

Well, I'm extremely happy that she kept up her passion for vintage and historical makeup, because she has produced a wonderful book, that has been thoroughly researched, beautifully photographed and presented, and more importantly for me (I studied history), organised extremely well. A walk through the history of makeup could be a very long and extensive one, and I'm sure Lisa could write a few more books on the topic, but she managed to organise the book into two sections, the history of makeup and the creation of the makeup industry.

The history of makeup could have been a very long section, but Lisa managed to channel her focus around three colours: red, white and black. I think if she had tried to do it chronologically, it would be all over the place, and possibly a little boring to follow. Instead, Lisa takes us around the world through various cultures and time periods to talk about the different makeup trends and attitudes. She also slots in various different quotations and smaller snippets of stories. You can also tell from the presentation and layout just how much of a hand Lisa had in the design of the book; everything is aesthetically pleasing and the art design is second to none.

face paint 2
The second section of the book focuses on the development of the makeup industry and the different ingredients that are incorporated into products. Throughout the book, you'll also find a lot more of the "who's-who" of the women who have led the way in terms of makeup looks, including Twiggy, Elizabeth Taylor and Amy Winehouse amongst others.

This book will be a lovely addition to anyone's library, and not just for a makeup-lover. Lisa's writing shows just how passionate she is about the subject which really carries through in her writing, and more significantly, it doesn't just chronicle the history of makeup, it tells a history of women, and their place in society with it. It seems rather ridiculous now to not have thought of it before, but during the talk and in reading this book, I came to appreciate even more the fact I've been born in this time. Something that I take for granted is the seemingly small and unimportant act of putting on makeup each day, is in fact a symbol of my freedom. I can choose and create a new look (or wear the same as before) everyday, because I feel like it, without having to worry about conforming to the judgement of religion, politics or men. I have that choice, you have that choice. The story of makeup is very much the story of women, and hearing Lisa talk, as well as reading about it has made me not only appreciate that I'm continuing the tradition of beautifying myself with products in the same way Ancient women have done, but also my place in society now.

Sorry that this has become an extremely long post, but it's hard not to have been inspired from meeting the brilliant Lisa, and reading such an interesting topic. I hope that if even if you don't buy it, you get the chance to read it somewhere, not just for its fantastic visuals, but also for the thought-provoking writing inside it.

The book is officially launched on the 13th October.

Chanel Autumn

Saturday, 10 October 2015

chanel autumn

Oh yes, it's Autumn. Time to get out your hats and scarves, dig out your jumpers, and if you're like me, start wearing darker and moodier colours that just don't work during the warmer months. Berry and dark navy colours rule supreme for me at this time of year, but a certain Chanel release had me on tenterhooks as I waited for them to appear in store, and this was the Autumn 2015 release. Rather unusually centered around the colour green, I was immediately intrigued. A quick visit to the Chanel store in my lunch break let me satisfy my curiousity with the two things that picqued my interest the most.

I love Chanel polishes because of the wide choice of colour, and will almost always only buy a nail polish from their limited collections, and this was no exception. The colour that really had me jumping up and down was the brilliantly dark Vert Obscur. I saw swatches of this about a month ago and thought that there was a gap in my collection that needed to be filled by this. An intensely dark green, this colour has a bit of a blue base, so if you don't apply enough or use really really thin layers, the green will look more of a teal. That's where I hit a problem with this nail polish. I found the formula really difficult to work with. I did my best to make sure each time I dipped the brush back in, that it was covered with the same amount of formula or I removed the same amount, but with two layers, I only really managed two or three nails per hand that looked the same, and would end up adding another layer to those ones, only for them to end up much darker than the ones I thought were right. This ended up with me applying three or four layers on some nails just to get them to match as much as possible. As you can expect, this meant it took ages to dry and solidify completely. The killer? The ridiculous number of layers on my nails meant that they stayed softer for longer, so I ended up with nail wear within three hours. Three. Gah! If the formula weren't so difficult to work with, then this polish would be lovely. I will give you that my nails are a pretty colour that can look black or dark green in different lights, and is so so shiny even without a topcoat, but I'm going to have to really want this colour on again before I put in all that time to use it again.

Fact: when I went to my Leavers' Ball (the first one, GCSE year), the only makeup I wore was green eyeshadow. Oh yes, you read right. Green eyeshadow. I remember it exactly even now, it was a Seventeen by Boots eyeshadow in a clear round plastic pot. It was a sort of khaki brown-green that had a tiny bit of shimmer running through it. I adored it, but since I didn't really wear any other makeup again until a few years ago, I never wore it or bought another green like that again. Well, now I am sorted for my green fix. The Tisse D'Automne quad is a beautiful but slightly unsual combination of pink tones and green tones. One shade is a definite pink, the one diagonally opposite is a sort of caramel, while the last two are very much green. The top left is a khaki green, and the bottom right is a very dark olive green. It sounds odd, but these colours work together beautifully, and I've been reaching for this palette on a daily basis since I bought it. Aside from the colours, I am very impressed by the palette in how comfortable the shadows feel on the eyelid, they are really blendable and stay on the lid for my whole working day without any real fading. While I'm not fussed about the other Les Quatre Ombres since I have colours that are similar for most of the permanent range, this particular palette fills a gap in my eyeshadow collection, so I'm happy I made the commitment to buy it.

If you are more patient or better at applying nail polish than me (not hard, honestly, I sort of slick it on and hope for the best), or want to buy the beautiful palette, then you'll be happy to hear House of Fraser still have some in stock, although the palette is going to sell out much faster for sure. The palette is something I highly recommend, I think everyone would be able to create a look they like from this, whether it be a bit edgy or a bit more ladylike, just be prepared to become obsessed with it!

Bioderma Hydrabio Riche: the one to fire me up about moisturisers?

Thursday, 8 October 2015

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I'm a moisturiser floozie. For someone who is obsessed with hydrating their skin, I'm not actually that fussed about moisturiser as a product. Yes I will always use it, but I never find myself fired up over it. You'll find me cooing over masks, treatments and serums, but quite 'meh' about moisturisers. I do always finish off with one before I apply my makeup, to try and seal all the other products in, and to create a little bit of a barrier between my skincare and my makeup, but only because I feel like I ought to, not that I want to. Since I always tend to get GWPs or extra large samples of moisturisers with things, I haven't actually gone out to buy one in a long time, I just work my way through samples that I don't really care about, then toss them away to try samples of something else, hoping I'll find one that makes me want to buy a full size.

Truth be told though, I've been getting a bit bored with this approach, so decided to knuckle down and get on with looking for one. A 3 for 2 offer in Boots on skincare, as well as the fact that they had just landed in store, meant that one dreary afternoon after chatting to a sales assistant, I walked away with the Bioderma Hydrabio Riche, in the hopes that it would make me interested in moisturiser again, as well as deal with the dehydration I constantly battle.

I had high hopes here, after all there are several key phrases on the bottle: 'hydra', and 'very hydrated sensitive skin', and 'deep care generating hydration'. It's also colour coded blue. Yes I know, seems trivial, but in my mind, I link blue with water, so makes sense with this range to colour code it blue. It comes in a very easy to use pump system (and a good solid one at that), which is my favourite, because it's hygienic, can dispense exactly the right amount for your needs. It also comes mostly unscented, and in a way that is hardly detectable or noticeable, which is perfect for anyone who doesn't like fragrance in their skincare, or gets irritated by it.

Perhaps it was because I picked up the 'Rich Cream' version, but I don't feel myself loving this moisturiser when I put it on. It feels like the emollients I used to have to pick up on prescription and would have to smother myself in. Yes, all moisturisers are technically emollients, but applying this to my face makes me see that word in my head. It feels so industrial. I also don't feel like it's really making all that much difference in the hydration department on its own, but I guess I've not been using it long enough to really see dramatic improvement. It definitely forms a very solid layer between the rest of my skincare and any makeup I put on afterwards, to the point my skin feels heavy. This all sounds like I'm going to end on a down note, but I'm hopeful that as the weather gets steadily colder, and my skin will want more comfort, this moisturiser may well come into its own. If not, I'm willing to give the other moisturiser in the Hydrabio range a go once this is finished, as well as the serum, but then again, I might be tempted by something else instead. Clearly, if you put your moisturiser in blue packaging, and slap on the word 'hydra' somewhere, you'll have my attention.

Bioderma is (happily for us all!) available in Boots. The Hydrabio Riche Rich Cream is £14.00

Hourglass Arch Brow Pencil comes in new colours

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

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The Hourglass Arch Brow Pencil has been something that has been in my makeup routine for some time now. Its wide nib deposits a wonderful waxy formula that holds my hairs into place, and in the easy format of a pencil which I get on with really well. I can alter the way I'm holding the pencil so that the angle is different for whichever purposes I needed it. Trying to draw in extra hairs, or add fullness in different areas, this does everything. What's even better is that the colour range has finally been extended. I was using Dark Brunette which leaned a teensy bit warm in the brown territory for me. I much prefer mine with a grey base, and Hourglass have answered my prayers, and probably the prayers of many other people, because they've added not one or two new shades, but six. SIX. I bought myself the shade Darkest Black. I know the recommendation is to go a shade lighter than your natural hair colour, but considering how my hair is very dark anyway, and the fact that this has a very ashy-grey base, it really does work. I always reach for my Hourglass eyebrow pencil because I can work very quickly with this and still get really good results, it comes with an excellent brow brush (they should sell this as a separate tool I think!), and stays on all day. When I say all day, I really do mean it. My foundation may slide, my eyeliner may smudge, but my eyebrows look exactly the same as they did in the morning when I first put my makeup on. Now that they've added just the colour I need, what more can I ask for? If you haven't tried this out, you might not get the hype, but believe me, it really is worth it! Get yourself to a Space NK now and try it yourself!

The other Real Techniques tool

Thursday, 1 October 2015

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I know that I've technically ended my Budget Beauty Month Series, but there's at least one thing I felt I had to talk about anyway, and that's the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge, something which I was a bit sceptical about before, but now find that I have to make a little extra time for in my makeup routine. Essentially, it's a sponge, no getting round it. While I normally prefer not to use sponges for applying makeup, this sponge is really very good at helping to smooth out and finalise the end 'product'. It pairs perfectly with my Louise Young Foundation Brush, which if I'm not careful, can leave faint brush lines in my foundation. With the Miracle Complexion Sponge, I'm able to smooth at my face with the flat side, and tap and blend with the rounded side, as well as get into little nooks and crannies round my nose with the pointed end. It might not look much, but this little tool is a trooper at getting your foundation to look like your natural skin!

Now why would you spend £5.99 on this instead of some random sponge which you could probably get off of Amazon or eBay for half the price? Well, I think I've already gone over how the different shapes and sides of the sponge can do different functions, so that's why. I haven't yet bought a Beauty Blender to compare it to, since that's the daddy of the makeup sponges, but since that is almost three times the price, I'm not sure I really need it because I'm happy with the Real Techniques version. As with all applicators, it can get a little grubby looking during a week, but it washes so easily, you don't have to worry about it. Function and form for a great price, can't ask for more really!

Budget Month conclusions

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Budget beauty conclusions v2
Another month has almost completely gone, and with it, my Budget Beauty Month Series has come to and end. It's been an interesting journey for me; not only have i managed to push myself out of my comfort zone with different products, I've managed to see that just walking a little bit further during my lunch break, ie to the nearest big Boots rather than the Space NK round the corner, that gems can be found at all prices. No, not everything that I tried and used during this series has wowed me or made me swear off the temptations of the high end spectrum, but it has taught me that a certain level of open-mindedness and willingness to go through mud to find pearls can pay off. That's far from saying the budget end of beauty is full of duds, far from it. If anything, I've learnt that there are lots to cater to every taste, you just have to find the things that really do it for you. I think the thing that I learnt most is that the mid to high-end range do more exciting skincare that I prefer using. There are some exceptions which I've covered in my shoestring-skincare post, including a renewed love of the Una Brennan Superfacialist range. The things I think the budget market excels at is the colour side of things, such as lips nails and even blush. I didn't get to talk about Barry M nail polish, which aside from Essie, provide my budget polish fixes. In fact, there's a few more things I didn't manage to fit into my posting schedule for this series, which I'm going to have to write about at a later date. I really did think I wouldn't have enough to write about for this series, but I ended up with too much!

I think that in writing this series, I've done myself the biggest favour, even more so than for readers, because I've opened my budget horizons a bit more, and am more willing to use even the cheapest things that I wouldn't really have given much thought to before. I may not be sold on certain things, and will still be picky about certain things (if the fragrance part of things like blushes and things were toned down, then I'd be less picky I think) but I'm now far more willing to give more budget things a go, which will be a win for me and my wallet!

I hope everyone who followed the series through or even just dipped in and out found the series helpful! If you have any other budget recommendations for anything, then I'd love to hear them so that I can add them to a list of other budget things to give a go. All the comments I've received during the month have been really helpful in pointing me towards brands and products I've not tried before, so thank you for them!

Budget Lip Colour round up

Sunday, 27 September 2015

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I'm sure you've wandered round the aisles of Boots and Superdrugs, haphazardly picking up lipsticks and lipglosses, swatched like a maniac, and then tossed them into your basket without thinking, before leaving the store with your purchases, and wondering if you really just bought four lipsticks in one go. Yes, yes you did, and you know it. Lip product is the area I think budget excels at, there's a big variety in finish and application style, there's more than enough to satisfy everyone's tastes. I went through as much as I could of my collection (there's so much, I've ended up storing them all over the place and in multiple bags), so here's an edited list of some of my favourites:

Bourjois Velvet Matte: these are my favourites of the bunch. Easy o apply, with a fantastic colour pay off and depth, and fairly long-lasting, these are the budget versions of one of my favourite high-end lipstick, the Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipsticks. My go-to shade is Happy Nude Year, which is a very wearable and pretty pink. What is really good about this formula is that it's easy to reapply and layer up, so even if I've smudged off some by eating or my bad habit of biting my lips, I can easily reapply without the worry of weird peeling which you can get with some liquid lipstick formulas. A brilliant lipstick, which I think everyone should look into if they haven't already.

Revlon Colour burst Matte Balm: Another matte formula, but in a super easy to apply pencil format. I'll admit the shade that is in the picture is a tad odd for me, making me look a tiny bit washed out and not quite the right tone, but I sometimes use it as a base for a different nude lip to go over. The lasting power is very good on this, which is one of the reasons I really like it.

MaybellineColor Sensational Shine Gloss: one of the few lip glosses I own, I really enjoy slicking this on when I'm in a rush and want just a tiny bit of colour to pepp up my look. Though it is a gloss, it's not too sticky which is really good, and smells slightly fruity without being overpowering, so thumbs up for that!

Kiko Cosmetics Intensely Lavish Lip Pencil: This is a lip pencil from the Rebel Romantic Collection, in the shade 01. This is a browny-pink that leans towards a raspberry red in some lights. This is so comfy to wear and doesn't tug on the lips at all. Though some people might use it just for lining, I rather like using it all over the lips on its own. The lasting power of this is surprisingly good, though I do find it a teensy bit drying and have to apply lip balm on top for a little bit of comfort.

Rimmel Moisture Renew Lipstick: these lipsticks are soooo comfy to wear. The shade I have here is In Love With Ginger, which is a brilliantly fiery orange-red that has a tiny hint of coral on me. They're quite a shiny lip colour though, 'moisture' being the keyword here, so if you like mattes, you probably want to head to one of the other options. This formula isn't the most long-lasting either, but then again, that is to be expected from this type of formula.

I would say that those four have been my regulars more than any of the others featured in the picture, though all of the ones that I've not mentioned are excellent picks. I was obsessed with the Rimmel Apocalips for about 3 months and refused to use anything else when they first came out. They're a tad too sticky for my liking at the moment, but that's probably because I'm currently more into my mattes at the moment. The Rimmel Kate Moss lipsticks are always very reliable, with a great number of shades, which they're always adding to or expanding with new ranges like the Nude range. In all fairness, I have only tried out a fraction of all the budget lipsticks out there, there are just too many for me to try! If I've missed out any of your favourites, let me know in the comments so that I can give them a go!

Drugstore liners

Thursday, 24 September 2015

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I wear eyeliner practically everyday. I feel as if my look is never complete if I'm not wearing an eyeliner, or eyeshadow doubling up for it. My eyes are not particularly defined with my monolids, and coupled with my rather thin lashes, I can't get away with just going out with only my face base done, otherwise I end up looking washed out. Eyeliner is a simple way for me to look 'done', which means I can get away with being ultra lazy at times and go out with just foundation and eyeliner. Only problem is that eyeliner tends to smudge all over the place on me, and because of my monolid fold, it tends to get swallowed up and spread out. Because of this, an eyeliner has to pass quite a few things in order for me to keep on using it. They are a)easy to use, especially in my bleary-eyed morning state, b)be very black and stay black all day with minimal if no fading, c) not smudge at all if possible.

I favour pen-style application, because I'm just too clumsy with the skinny brush applicators-too bendy for me-so of late, my budget options have been the L'Oréal Superliner Blackstar, and the Soap & Glory Supercat eyeliner. Both are in pen forms, though the L'Oréal option is shorter and fatter. I find the L'Oréal version easier to use because the tip doesn't really bend, but I have to admit the Soap & Glory one is far superior in terms of colour depth and longevity. If you compare swatches, it is much blacker than the L'Oréal. The only thing I would advise with this one if you have hooded eyelids or very low folds like myself, is that you wait until the formula is dry on your lid before blinking/opening your eye. It'll get messy otherwise, and you'll end up having to clean or start over again, and ain't nobody got time for that in the morning! I alternate using this and my Tom Ford eyeliner, which is horribly expensive. Though I prefer my Tom Ford Eyeliner, the Soap & Glory option is more travel-friendly, so it's always the one I take with me on my travels, both because of its size and its reliability.

I've also included in the picture a very much used Bourjois Intuitive liner, which is a budget version of the Clarins Three-Dot Liner. It's very easy to use, and depending on how you hold and tilt the pen, you can make the line as thin or thick as you like. I used this extensively for a very long time, but found that it faded in colour on my eyelids very quickly. It stayed on my lids, but it would end up being very washed out fairly quicky.

I also have taken to filling in my waterline recently, though I have a tendency to switch between doing this religiously everyday, and then not bothering for a while. Currently I'm in my 'on' stage, and to do this, I've been reaching for my Lord and Berry Smudgeproof liner. This is my first Lord & Berry purchase and I a very impressed. I'll admit it as the packaging that suckered me in at first, the bold printed black and white box caught my eye, as did the word 'Smudgeproof'. I would say that when you apply this, you've got a few seconds to smudge it out, and then it stays fairly consistently on the skin. The waterline is a bit different, because it's closer to your eyes, and I have a tendency to get watery eyes or rub them (or rub them and be the cause of my own watery eyes, catch-22), so you may experience a small bit of smudging, but it's nothing too drastic. It looks far more deliberate than the smudging I experienced with the Rimmel Scandalous Kohl where it looked like I'd been bawling my eyes out in the rain. At £8.50, it's not the cheapest option you can find, but it does a far better job than my Chantecaille eyeliner that I am just trying to use up for the sake of it.

These products are my eyeliner line-ups, but if you have any recommendations for others I should try, please let me know in the comments!

A budget palette worth looking at: L'oreal La Palette Nude Rose

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

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Eyeshdow palettes have become two-a-penny since Urban Decay brought out their first Naked Palette, but it's only recently that the budget market has brought out palettes that are more than just four or five shades. While I was browsing, I saw the Maybelline The Nudes palette, and was very much considering it but then I remembered that I already lots of bronzey-brown eyeshadow colours at home and really didn't need anymore. The same logic applied when I saw the L'Oréal original nude palette. Then as my eyes landed on the La Palette Nude Rose, I remembered how I hadn't been sold by the Urban Decay rose gold palette, because it was too pink. Comparing that with this one, I could see that though the shades weren't so brown based, it definitely wasn't so pink to make me look odd. Considering the 3 for 2 offer Boots had on L'Oréal at the time, it wasn't any surprise in the end that this was the one I picked.

The palette is housed in a very slimline and low profile black plastic casing. Nothing to write home about particularly, but I like how unfussy it is, and that it's actually rather transportable. The brush/sponge applicator that comes with it really is unmemorable. It was a bit awkward trying to pull it out, which meant that I accidentally scraped one of the eyeshadows with my nail. If you were absolutely in a pinch, it is just about usable, but using your own brushes would be better.

I have to say, I'm really rather impressed by the mattes in this palette, and have been using them on a daily basis for an easy day-to-day look for work. The shades I tend to reach for the most here are the 3rd, 4th and 7th ones from the left (would be so much easier if they had numbers or shades). I'm less keen on the shimmery colours, but I don't tend to wear shimmers anyway. The colour payoff is a it mediocre however, because all of them need going over several times in order to get them to show on my eyelids. The mattes have reasonably good lasting power with a primer, but then I find nearly all mattes from most brands last reasonably long with a primer.

At the normal price of £14.99 I think this would be a tiny bit steep for what I would choose to pay for these shades, because I only really use three shades, but £9.99 is a reasonable price for 10 shades in a small palette, three of which I can easily wear daily. I don't think that the performance has made me think it is an absolutely necessary addition to my stash, nor has it made me think I need to buy the other palette, but I'm reasonably happy with it enough to use it, so all in all, not a bad purchase.

Have you tried this palette out? What are you thoughts on it? Do you have any favourite shades?

Doing skincare on a shoestring

Sunday, 20 September 2015

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Budget Beauty Month has seen me cover a lot of makeup brands and products, and the reason for that is that it's very easy and accessible to buy things like lipstick, eyeshadows and even foundation at less than £10. Buying skincare on a budget is a tiny bit more difficult, but there is actually quite a bit of choice there. It really does depend how low you want to go with your pricing, and whether you think you are going to get the best ingredients for that value. There's also the grey area of where does the top-end of budget products get priced at: does the Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Balm get classed as budget at £28, because La Roche Posay's more expensive treatments go up to the £30 mark? Don't fear though, there are a number of brands out there that do excellent skincare, all of which you can buy in a price range of £5-£20. If you want to go higher than that, I think I would venture to say that is the 'mid-range' market. Here's my round-up of some of the best budget-skincare buys and ranges I have stocked in my cupboard:

La Roche Posay: Ah, any beautynista (is that a word?) probably has tried or wanted to try the Serozinc spray, and now that its available at Boots for only £8.50, I don't know why you wouldn't. There's also the Effaclar range which is a staple for many people who have problem with blemishes, and Cicaplast for soothing and repairing. I find the packaging and presentation of this brand really soothing, something about it makes me feel reassured that I'm buying excellent quality products even if I'm not paying out of the nose for it. Out of all the French pharmacy brands that have made it here, this is by far my favourite. Bravo to Boots for making this brand so readily available to us in the UK now.

Bioderma: Although this is my least favourite of the French Pharmacy brands, it's still a pretty reliable one and now that it's stocked in Boots, really accessible. You've probably owned at least one bottle of their Micellar Water, no? I'm currently trying out the Hydrabio range (fighting that dehydration, you know the drill) so I'll report back to you on that.

The Body Shop: Old reliable in the UK, I can't help but put them in this list. They have staple ranges which cover off a lot of skincare complaints, and in recent years they've really been upping their game even more. The Vitamin E serum is on my list, and only at £15.; I need to try the Drops of Youth sleeping mask, and the newly released Vitamin C range has my name all over it.

Kiko: Although I've only just started using Kiko products recently, I have to say I've been really impressed by the value for money they offer, and the fact that their skincare range is by no means small. I may be less than happy with the state of fragrance in their serum that I got recently, but I've read some good things about the Skin Trainer range, and it's not often you can find serums that are less than £25, so I'm very intrigued.

Bravura London: this is a brand that I heard of about two years ago and then promptly forgot about until recently. I'm going to do a full post of two of their products I bought recently, but just so you have an idea of their price range, they do chemical exfoliators and toners for £10! Bargain.

Superfacialist by Una Brennan: No budget skincare list would be complete without this brand. This was the first skincare brand I ever bought into when my interest in beauty and skincare started, and though I've gone off to try other brands, I'll always happily go back and try some other stuff out, especially since the range has been expanded significantly from its beginnings. A full post on the goodies I got for my re-introduction to the brand will be up soon.

I've heard a lot of good things about the L'Oreal skincare range, but don't really have any experience of their products, or other budget skincare brands and products. Any pointers to some good skincare brands and products would be really appreciated, so please point me to them if you can!

L'Oreal Le Blush

Thursday, 17 September 2015

L'Oreal Le Blush
I've already dipped my toes into the Budget Blush realm with the Max Factor Creme Puff Blush, and fallen in love with them for their quality and colour, but I felt it was high time that I tried out some other budget blushes, and when I saw the 3 for 2 offer at the L'Oreal stand, I thought that it was a sign. I picked up the True Match foundation which I've already reviewed, another which is due to be shown off here, and also, the Le Blush in Sandalwood Pink.

This blush is housed in the dinkiest packaging ever. Not quite as stripped back as the Makeup Revolution blushes, but then, it does cost a few pounds more. It comes with its own teeny mirror and tiny little brush, which is quite useless in my opinion, so it'll just stay sitting in the bottom layer of the blush packaging forever more. Despite its small size, I'd say that there is quite a lot of product in the packaging. The colour packs quite a punch as well, being a pretty pink that will perk up your complexion. I think it might be a bit too bright for pale skins, and would suit medium toned skins better, giving you a more natural flushed look.

I did experience quite a lot of fallout with this though, even using the lightest of touches from my blush brushes, and always ended up with a lot of product on them and blown about, as you might be able to tell from the picture. Now that I've gotten used to it, I know that I literally just have to do the gentlest of dabs from my RMK blush brush to get the right amount of blush for my cheeks. While I've managed to sidestep this issue, I have a major bugbear with this blush, and it's the smell. Oh my. Why on earth did L'Oreal think it was a good idea to make a blush reek of slightly sour candy? In fact, the smell makes me think more of fried tomatoes that have been sprinkled in sugar. Bleurgh. I don't mind a little scent to my makeup, but seriously, this is just so overloaded with scent, it really takes away from a perfectly nice blush.

This blush is actually a really nice colour, and one I genuinely would like to use, but I find the smell off-putting to the point that I just think I'll open it and immediately close it again, which is such a shame. Sorry for being a bit down in this review, but I've always found perfumed makeup products a bit hit-and-miss, and unfortunately this one is a miss for me. If you aren't bothered by scent so much, then this colour is a lovely shade to add to your collection and one you should consider. For me, I'll just have to see if there are any other budget blush options that are as good as the Max Factor ones. Do you have any recommendations for me? I'd love to hear them!

The None-Real Technique Brushes you should look at

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

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Since the explosion of Real Techniques onto the Budget Beauty Scene, brands and manufacturers have realised that beauty fanatics now know it is possible to bring us the makeup tools we want and need without causing us to wince in pain at the cost. £26 for an eye brush? Only as a treat, and if you feel like you absolutely need it. More and more brands other than Real Techniques are bringing us brushes we want to add to our collection and at great value. We can now buy two or three brushes for the same price as one MAC brush, and it doesn't have to be Real Techniques. In this post I round up the three brands that I think are really worth looking into for brushes if you haven't already.

Zoeva: Needs no introduction at all really. These brushes are seen all over the place, especially their highly coveted Rose Gold collections. I have yet to dip my toes into their sets, mostly because I bought a few of their brushes already that feature in them, and have yet to justify having my brush collection spill over 3 pots just to accommodate them. (I'm pretty sure I would get asked serious questions from the other half!) I rely on the 225 Eye Blender for all eyeshadow application, and use the 102 Silk Finish as one of my buffing brushes, rotating in whenever brushes need cleaning. I also have the 101 Luxe Face Definer, shown above, which I adore, but sometimes can't bring myself to use for fear of ruining its lovely white hairs. Daft I know, I'll get over it at some point, because it's very good with bronzers. These brushes get a whole lotta love for their great quality and presentation, and excellent value for money.

KIKO: Everyone knows KIKO for their cosmetics, but I've not read much about their brushes. Picking this up on a whim while browsing the new collections, the Rebel Romantic Face Brush has been a surprise love for me. Fantastically soft and in stunning presentation, this brush is an absolute beauty. It's double ended, and is designed to be a companion to the Perfecting Bronzer, with the larger brush specially designed with a slightly lighter circular spot in the centre to match the bronzer. There is a smaller brush on the other end which goes really well with contour, blush and highlighting products. The only problem with it being double ended is that I don't want to store it standing up, in case I squash the hairs! This really has encouraged me to go back and try out some of their other brushes.

Lottie London: Wow. Just wow. An accidental find which I stumbled on while browsing one of the only interesting stores in a visit home, Lottie London are a great budget brand that is more aimed at a younger market, but hey, the bargain hunter in me couldn't resist. To judge a brush range, I always pick up a face brush because they cover so much more of the face. In this case, I chose the Tan Time Bronzer Brush. Dense, fluffy, and ridiculously soft, this brush is that good, I have been making a list of all the brushes I want to pick up from them. Also, the most expensive brush they offer is their Kabuki Babe Brush at £9.50. £9.50!! That is insane! Another thing I love about this brush range is the fact that all the brushes have cute bright colours that make them really easy to distinguish. Trust me, when you're as bad as me in the morning, bright colour coding is a huge help. I've just discovered ASOS stock Lottie London as well, so time for me to fill my boots with this brand from the comfort of home. Win win.

The growing market for budget brushes and tools is expanding, so I hope that this post has directed you to a few more, I'm always happy to help people save some money on tools, they can be so dear. There are loads of brands out there that I have yet to try, but I'm always willing to try more, so send me your recommendations if you have any!

Going extreme budget: MUA and Makeup Revolution

Sunday, 13 September 2015

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I have to confess that though I've seen products from these brands reviewed and shown all over the place, I've never tried any of them until now. And blow me down, am I impressed. A big range that covers most things, including general makeup items as well as the not so usual prep-and-prime things, I was so impressed that before I knew it, I was completely loaded up and an assistant came and gave me a basket.

So what did I pick up? Two blushes and a Setting Spray from Makeup Revolution, and the MUA Pro Base Eyeshadow Primer, and all of these for less than £10! The question is, how did they perform?

The blushes I picked up were in the shades Love, which reminds me of a slightly lighter and pinkier version of NARS Douceur, and Treat, a pretty peach pink which has shimmer running through them. Both of them are lovely colours and have such a huge colour payoff, I would advise using the lightest of touches and really dusting off any excess, otherwise you could end up looking like you've been smacked in the cheeks. The packaging was quite awkward to open at first, but I think that's to be expected from very basic packaging. All in all, a lovely little find at £1 each!

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The other two finds have been probably my most exciting. The Setting Spray is very good. Really very good. So much so, I'd say it's almost comparable to the Urban Decay setting sprays, and only at £5. The only reason I would say it's not quite as good as the UD ones, is the fact the spray is quite aggressive and doesn't have a very wide range, so you tend to get hit by the spray in a smaller area. If the nozzle were improved, then I would be extremely happy. It is very cute looking in a white and rose gold bottle, so fair play to them with trying to make it look a bit more lux than the price it is.

Possibly the best find here has to be the MUA Eyeshadow Primer. It's like a cross between the UD Primer Potion, and the NARS Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base. With a doefoot applicator like the NARS, it has a creamy consistency that is literally the halfway point between the UD and NARS, but with a warm colour that is close to the UD Primer Potion. It goes on without tugging my eyelids, and I really did see improved lasting power for my eyeshadows. I don't think it is as long lasting as the UD or NARS versions, but it's good enough, and at £2.50, I'm really not going to argue!

These two brands have been surprise hits with me, and I'm very keen to go back for some more stuff. Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

A Budget Serum: KIKO Moonlight Oil Seum

Saturday, 12 September 2015

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In a recent trip to KIKO where I was determined to buy my first products from them (I know, I've never bought anything from them before, shame on me) I was confronted by such a huge range of products at such good prices, I was at a bit of a loss what to buy or even look at. The obvious things to look at was the Romantic Rebel collection that has been making the rounds on social media and blogs, but there was also the other limited collection that I hadn't heard of at all, the Midnight Siren collection. Sleek black packaging rules the roost here. What I did see in the collection that really caught my eye was the inclusion of a serum oil. Not very common in a limited edition makeup collection. This immediately got my attention so I snapped it up.

The Moonlight Oil Serum is described as an greaseless oil with anti-aging, detoxifying and glow-giving properties. With Jojoba oil, Camelina Sativa oil, Mastic Gum and Grapefruit extract, these core ingredients pack in a punch and would feature in serums that retail at double the price. My personal experience with jojoba oil has been really good, it gives deep moisturisation and really helps with clearing up skin. Mastic gum has anti-bacterial properties, so this will help get rid of any nasties that could lead to blemishes. Camelina Sativa Oil is a good anti-oxidant and moisturising oil that is high in omega-3 oils, and Grapefruit is a commonly used anti-oxidant in natural remedies. Not bad going for a skincare product that costs less than £19. It doesn't surprise me though that Kiko have gotten into the oil/serum scene; they already have a serum in their skincare line that I've read great things about, and it was high time that someone brought out an oil-serum that didn't take a chunk out of your wallet.

The packaging and dispensing of this has to be one of the most genius things I've seen lately . You twist the cap a little and the top pops up; you then fully unscrew the cap, and you push down on the top like a pipette dropper. This is so clever! I was seriously impressed by this, so serious praise goes out to Kiko for some clever packaging innovation.

This serum is very similar to the REN Vita Mineral Omega 3 Optimal Skin Serum Oil, although it's a bit more watery by comparison. This does mean it is a tiny bit easier to absorb, but also means the dispenser tends to give out a little bit more than I would normally use for my face. This does mean it probably gives out the right amount for a luxury pampering session, and packs a whallop in the moisture department. I personally wouldn't say it's greaseless, and is much more suited to night time use. In fact, I don't think you would need a moisturiser on after this, it works as the last step in a night-time routine.

If there's one complaint I have here, the fragrance in this lets it down. Fragrance is listed in the ingredients, and rightly so, because it's quite strong and sweet. I think if you don't mind added fragrance in your skincare, then you will be fine with it but if you are a bit sensitive, then you might want to bear that in mind before buying.

Apart from this one small thing, this is a great alternative to the REN serum oil and great value at less than £20. Will you be giving this on a try? Do you have any budget serum recommendations (that aren't Hydraluron)? Let me know in the comments!

L'Oreal True Match Foundation

Thursday, 10 September 2015

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Oooh, my first drugstore foundation! I say real, because though I own the Bourjois CC Cream, it's a CC Cream with minimal coverage. The L'Oreal True Match Foundation really is my first actual foundation from the lower price-point. I feel a little embarassed to say it, but at the same time, I am so bad at finding the exact match for my skin, and have trouble with the lighting in Boots and Superdrugs that each time, I tend to think "oh I'm this shade, no I'm this shade" and end up walking away because I am too scared of getting the wrong shade and looking like I'm a visitor from the sitcom Benidorm or turned into a ghost. However, for my Budget Month series, I steeled myself and successfully managed to find a few that matched my skin, and here is a review of the first.

The L'Oreal True Match Foundation range is quite vast. I am amazed that they had such a huge range of shades. You will need to go to a larger store to see the full range, there are just so many. I think you would be hard pressed not to find one that is reasonably close to your skin, so bravo L'Oreal for that. They cleverly have sectioned the shades into Fair, Medium and Dark, and tones of warm, medium and neutral, to make it easier. You might feel overwhelmed by it all, but at the same time, you've got pretty much all shades and tones considered here. My face is still slightly tanned from summer, so I picked up the shade 5.N Sable Sand. The reason I was happy with the shade range is that I find drugstore foundations always lean fairly pink which doesn't suit my skin; this range covers that problem off.

The foundation itself is easy to use, coming with a built in pump dispenser. Seriously, high end foundations need to start thinking about how unfair it is to make us buy separate pumps considering their foundations are pricier, when L'Oreal and other budget foundations can sell theirs with one built in. Ok, little whinge over, back to the review. Two pumps gives full coverage, so I tend to dispense one and a half pumps to get a medium coverage, and then apply concealer to any scars. It's an easily buildable foundation though, so you can go full-on if you like. The foundation is very comfortable to wear, and starts off looking quite natural. I've heard it's been compared to the Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk, but on my skin as it is, it actually reminds me more of the NARS Sheer Glow. Including the lasting power. Though I like the NARS Sheer Glow, it slides and ends up being greasy after about 5-6 hours. The L'Oreal True Match behaves very similarly on me, but I think I look greasy within 4 hours. Not good by my standards. I find setting powder is a must with this foundation, and to really combat shine, I put on powder before and after I apply foundation. Yes I look very matte for a while, but then by the end of a working day I don't look like a greaseball.

I did have the problem also that it ends up looking a tiny bit too dark by the end of the day, so if it did manage to start impressing me during the change in season, I would have to pick up a lighter colour. I don't dislike this foundation as such, but I won't lie and say that I'm in love either. Though the shade range has impressed me, I think it's going to take a change in my skin situation for me to really embrace it. If I were into giving ratings, I think this would score a 6 out of 10. Not bad for my first drugstore foundation, but not great either. Do you have any drugstore foundation recommendations for someone who is a bit phobic of them?

The drugstore mascara that has entered my stash: Maybelline Lash Sensational

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

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I'm a fussy one when it comes to mascara. My eyelashes themselves demand it. They are stick straight, thin, point downwards and refuse to hold a curl without the strongest and most stubborn formula. I've gone through a range of mascaras, from top end to budget, and nothing has come close to being a suitable replacement to my favourite Japanese ones, the Kiss Me Heroine Make Long and Curl or the Make Volume and Curl. These are lightweight formulas that come in waterproof and super-waterproof which is the one I swear by. These mascaras give me fluttery long lashes, with varying degrees of volume, and hold a curl all day without flaking. A bit of a pain to take off, but what do you expect from the words 'super-waterproof'. Any other mascara that passes through my hands and on my lashes has a lot to live up to.

Which means I was very pleasantly surprised by the new Maybelline Lash Sensational. I'd seen this pop up a few times on my Instagram, and decided to pick up a tube. It comes in non-waterproof and waterproof formation, and naturally I picked up the waterproof version. The packaging comes in the standard Maybelline fat tubes which annoyingly don't slot into my usual pot of products I keep at hand in the morning, though I'll admit, I rather like the colours of the tube (it's the small things that make me happy). The brush comes with dual purpose plastic bristles. The top part is fairly flat, while the bottom part fans out into a semi-circular shape. I use the short bristles for my initial application, to cover all lashes including the shorter ones, before going over with the longer bristles for a bit more definition and volume.

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The formula however has been the most surprising thing. Not too wet and not too thick, this has been really good at holding up my lashes for the whole day. It dries fairly quickly, which is an important thing to me because I normally am limited for time in the morning (read slow-moving, and end up having to rush) so need something that dries quickly so that I can get my glasses on and go. I do end up with spidery lashes that can clump if I go overboard with the layering, but that is to be expected. I'll admit, it's still not as good as my favourite Heroine Make ones, but it's a mascara that I am happy to use as a backup or an alternative to them, and at £7.99, I don't think I can argue with the results for that price. This has been a happy drugstore discovery for me, and the very first low-end mascara I will keep in rotation.

Have you tried out the Maybelline Lash Sensation? Do you have other drugstore mascaras that you would recommend to me?

Budget Month Essie Staples

Sunday, 6 September 2015

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There's something to be said about the fact that though I lean towards high end beauty out of preference, my nail polish collection is mostly dominated by Essie. A huge range of shades at great value, and a mostly reliable finish, Essie are undoubtedly one of my go-to brands for a nail fix. Out of all the shades I own, I've narrowed it down to five that I think anyone who has never (why?!) bought any Essie before should start with. They are:

Sole Mate: a gorgeous deep red wine colour that is perfect for getting that vampy look in the colder months. There's no way you don't feel a bit of a siren when you put this on!

Meet Me at Sunset: A dazzling bright orange that I swear by in the warmer months. The formula is admittedly very thin, or at least my bottle is, which really irritates me when applying but the colour more than pays off for it. I dare you not to feel happy and summery when you put this on. This is quite close to Chanel's Holiday nail polish, so why spend £18 when you only need to spend £8?

Lapis of Lazuli: Now, I could easily substitute this one with Saltwater Happy which I wrote a rave review of here, or you could choose the very popular Bikini So Teeny. I think a cornflower or pastel blue is a staple, because it will look perfect in spring and summer, adding a bit of colour without being overly bright. Exactly which blue out of these three you want will depend on your preference of colour tone.

Sand Tropez: I was very close to choosing Master Plan, but this one sneaked in and stole my heart instead. This is a very new addition to my collection, and I'm already in love with it. A gorgeous grey-toned beige, this is such a sophisticated looking colour that is a dream to apply. Honestly, what took me so long to buy it?

After School Blazer: Last but not least, this wonderfully rich and dark navy blue, another one I love cracking out in the darker months. It looks wonderful with some glitter layered on top too! This is a great one to have for someone who is a little afraid of wearing a pure black nail varnish, but is looking for the same effect.

So this is my Essie starter kit narrowed down to 5. If I hadn't been very strict with myself, I'm sure I would have ended up with a lot more (or just all of them) in this list, I just adore their colours. Are you an Essie fan too? Which colours would you have in your starter kit?

Budget Month Series, or Do You Really Get What You Pay For?

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Budget Month
Budget Month. That's right, I decided some time ago to purely focus on the Budget Beauty Spectrum for a whole month, and September seemed like a good month to do it. I never thought of myself as a product snob, because I do love certain drugstore products-you only have to look at my Essie-dominated nail collection to see this-but when I thought about it really hard, I'd never really tried very hard with drugstore foundations, concealers or eyeshadow products. I've been very selective with what I buy from the drugstore, so it felt like a perfect time to correct that.

Also, I had other reasons to run a budget series:
1) people are going back to university and school, and if you were like me at uni, you blew your loan which you receive at the beginning of the month on things and then ended up being cash strapped for the rest of the term. As I have a steady job, I thought this would be nice to try and remind any students who are trying to be conservative with their money that it is perfectly doable to maintain a beauty and makeup routine that is made up mostly of drugstore and budget beauty. I hadn't come across the world of beauty blogging at the time, so didn't have the benefit of advice from people, and know that I certainly could have done with it.

2) on a more selfish note, I've got to fork out the better part of my wage this month to pay for new windows to be installed in my flat. The joys of owning a home! So yes, money saving, at least for September, is the aim of the month.

I hope you'll find this series helpful. I'm sure we all get wrapped up in the launches and posts out there about higher end beauty. I certainly get distracted and tempted by the gorgeous blushes of Hourglass, the sweet-shop appeal of MAC and the elegant allure of Chanel (see what I did there? Allure? Chanel? Never mind, I'm just getting overexcited), and only occasionally see posts about drugstore beauty here and there. By writing this series, and by only focusing on lower price point beauty products, I hope to open my eyes more to all the drugstore beauty out there, and maybe save me some pennies on the way!

Do you have any drugstore beauty holy grail products you think I should try? Let me know in the comments!

Budget Month: The Real Techniques Brushes I can't do without

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

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A budget month would not be complete without a look at some of the best budget tools available in the business. The Real Techniques brushes really were revolutionary when they came out; no longer was it necessary to have to go to premiere counters and hand over £20 for eye brushes and upwards of £25 for any kind of face brush. Now, we can buy good quality brushes in a set for the price of one MAC brush. Since then, the different budge brush options have upped their game all round, and I don't think there's a beauty lover out there who doesn't have at least one Real Techniques tool in their arsenal.

That being said, not all of the Real Techniques tools float my boat, some miss the mark completely. I had a look through my collection and decided on 4 that I use so often and don't think I could do without.

Buffing Brush: The brush that first introduced me to the motion on buffing and changed how I apply my foundation. This comes in the core collection set, but frankly, this brush alone is worth the price of the core collection. Dense and fluffy, this will really improve your foundation game. I've since added other brushes of the similar vein to my collection, but this is one I will always still pick up and use.

Setting Brush: I got this in a set, but you can get this on its own. I think it is a mini version of their Blush Brush; fluffy but at a small size so that you can gently apply setting power to exactly where you need it. I also find it helpful if I'm using a powder highlight, because I can pinpoint above my eyebrows rather than whacking it all over my forehead with a big brush and getting that lightbulb look (yay! Shiny!).

Contour Brush: Another brush that came in the Core Collection, which I rely on for applying any kind of contour. I have a small face, so using a large brush doesn't work for applying bronzers when I'm using them to contour. The Contour brush fits perfectly into the nooks of my face to give it some shape and leave it less pancake like.

Blush Brush: Last but not least, the Blush Brush. I've heard some people call it the perfect blush brush. To me, it's the perfect powder brush. It's a bit on the large size for me to apply blush without it covering my whole cheek (and look like I did when I was five and got at my sister's makeup collection), but it works perfectly as a powder brush. I tend to prefer natural bristles for powder products, but this picks up just the right amount on its very fluffy bristles, and I can be very controlled with my application. If you haven't used it this way, give it a try and let me know what you think.

So that's a roundup of the Real Techniques brushes I use on a daily basis. I do flit about at times, but I know I can pull these out when I need something to rely on. Do you have any Real Techniques tools you can't do without?

August Favourites

Sunday, 30 August 2015

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It's that time of the month where I talk about my favourites for the month, so here they are:

Chanel Le Vernis 767 Fraicheur: it was inevitable that this would feature. I obsessed about getting this nail polish before I managed to get it, and I obsessed about it even when I did get it. This has to be one of the prettiest colours I own, and not only is it truly dreamy, it's so easy to apply and surprisingly long lasting for a Chanel polish. Win-win.

Korres Wild Rose CC Cream in Medium: When I initially picked this up in Greece, I was quite excited about it, but it was rather thick for the hot weather there. Now that I've been back in England for a while, I've had a chance to really appreciate this. It's quite thick, you can really tell it's a CC Cream as opposed to the Chanel Healthy Glow Fluid I was using, and so it covers up redness and creates a very light veil of coverage over imperfections. It won't mask them completely, but it's enough for me to feel like I can get away with just this and no concealer when I'm on a quick trip to the shops.

Jo Malone Eau de Cologne in Blackberry & Bay: Yep, this is here again. One of my discoveries in late spring, I've been loving it for summer. The small bottle I have means I can carry it around with me in my handbag or when I'm travelling, and top up easily.

By Terry Ombre Blackstar in Violet Orchid: I love these, but normally Misty Rock would be my go-to. This month however, I've appreciated how lazy I can be using this, and the fact it can be my eyeshadow and eyeliner in one.

REN Vita Mineral Omega 3 Optimum Skin Serum Oil: This is a little thick for hot days, but considering how England has been having its usual summer temper tantrums, I've been cracking this out on the cooler days and layering this on. Coupled with a good hyaluronic acid, such as the Deciem Hylamide (on a good day, read my thoughts on that here), this sinks in, and I can feel it nurturing my skin all day.

Lipstick Queen in Jungle Queen: I've had this for a while but it's only this month really that I've found myself reaching for it. A lovely orangey-red that is very comfortable to wear, this is has been my go-to red lipstick for nights out of late.

Lipstick Queen in Hang Ten: I am surprised by how much I've been enjoying this . It's so sheer and barely there, and basically a lipgloss/lipbalm, but I can't help but reach for it and slick it on when I don't want to commit to a lipstick all day, but want to add a little something to my lips to complete my look. Plus, I'm a sucker for that orange packaging!

So that's another month's favourites done and dusted. What have you enjoyed this past month?