26 February 2010

Blog woes, Beauty Expert and Becca! (and Zuneta)

Hi all, the lack of my digital camera charger (now traced to a hotel in Surrey!) combined with being away last week and ill with tonsillitis most of this week has led to a woeful lack of blogging of late, so apologies for that. I've enjoyed keeping up to date with everyone else's beauty adventures though, and to cheer myself up I today placed my first order on beautyexpert.co.uk as I had a 15% off code after making a purchase from Figleaves (see end).

I bought a few pieces from Becca (a brand which I've never tried before) - the cream blush in Turkish Rose which seems to be a cult shade (I know London Make Up Girl is a fan of this one), eye tint in Vicuna and a sheer lip tint in Estella which I understand to be a pinky nude. I don't usually get on with matt nudes but I like the idea of a sheer one so I'm looking forward to trying that.

Other things in the Becca line I liked the look of were the lipgloss in Bellini, the Beach Tint in the new shade, Raspberry, and another cream blush in Frangipani. Also was tempted by the lip sheer in Milla but I have a lot of sheer berry shades so I passed on that. I might have to go back for a second look next month though as the code is valid til the end of March. Anyone have any other Becca must-haves (or must-avoids?). Incidentally there are some great videos from Zuneta*, which I guess is a rival to Beauty Expert, on You Tube, showing how to apply various Becca products.

I also bought Eve Lom's Rescue Mask which I've been meaning to try for a while and my skin certainly needs rescuing at the min! I was tempted by the Ren Enzymatic Skin Soothing mask which gets great reviews on the site and is £10 cheaper but I've been curious about the Eve Lom for a while so that won.

Less than an hour after I placed the order I received an email saying it had been dispatched, which is surely some sort of a world record! I will blog when I've had a chance to test out (and photograph!) my 'haul'.

The code for 15% off at beautyexpert.co.uk is FIG15 and it's valid until the end of March. Okay it's only intended from those who've purchased from Figleaves but it's already on several of the 'vouchercode' sites so I see no harm in sharing it here!

*Zuneta: I received an email from Zuneta a couple of days ago telling me about a 20% discount code 'Zunelle' but it didn't say when it expires. On two ocassions I've tried to make purchases from the Zuneta website only to receive an error message saying 'please enable cookies in your browser to continue'. Despite disabling virtually all cookies on my laptop I've never been able to actually buy anything, so I've kind of given up on Zuneta for a while as I can't be bothered to look into it at the mo - but hopefully someone else can make use of this!

15 February 2010

Begone winter colds - Vicks First Defence (it works!)

I haven't done much blogging over the past few days as I have infuriatingly lost the charger lead for my digital camera (I know, excuses excuses), but I just wanted to do a quick post in case any readers out there are suffering with a winter lurgi of some sort.... please please please try Vicks First Defence.

This stuff works! Anyone who sits near me at work or anyone who complains of a sniffle of any sort will have heard me getting positively evangelical about this stuff. I haven't had a cold for about two years since using this stuff (*3-week chest infection in Nov 09 excluded - and I didn't try the FD on that one) - any sort of sniffle, sore throat or cough, or if I'm in close contact with anyone with a cold, I immediately whip this out and stick it up my nostrils three times a day as directed (just squirt don't inhale!). Whenever I've been even close to developing a cold (we all know the signs), this stuff wipes it out within a day or two, before it even has a chance to develop into that fuzzy head ill feeling.

I know this isn't strictly beauty blogging but then having a red, bunged up nose, cough, dry skin and generally looking rough is not very beauteous is it? So if anyone's suffering out there, please give this a go. I even coerced my sceptical boyfriend into trying this when he came down with a cold a couple of days before Valentine's day... by Sunday he was right as rain and now too has joined my unoffical Vicks First Defence fan club.

Apparently this stuff works by attacking the cold at it's source, removing the virus before it has a chance to develop. Basically it attaches to virus where it is multiplying in your nose and causes irritation that causes you to 'expel' the virus.  I think it also changes the pH of inside your nose to make it less 'germ-friendly'. My bro (who is a doctor) scoffs at the supposed mode of action but for me the proof is in the pudding!... as long as I remain sniffle free, I'll keep using First Defence. It may not be pleasant but it's so much better than getting a cold.

Retails at £5.99 at Boots (and worth every penny!)

10 February 2010

The eyes have it

I've been using eye cream since my late 20s, and much more regularly since hitting my 30s when fine lines and dark circles seemed to appear overnight! Now I always apply eye cream morning and night - and although I the fine lines don't seem to be disappearing, my skin in that area does feel comfortable, moisturised and doesn't look too terrible - no crows feet as yet. As I've been through a few different eye treatments in the past couple of years, from drugstore to super expensive (yes Sisley I'm talking about you!) I thought it might be useful to do a review of each to help anyone who's looking for a new treatment. Would love to hear what creams have worked for any other 30-something ladies out there too.

1. The cult one
Garnier Caffeine Eye Roll-On

Although I don't have problems with puffiness my eyes do tend to look quite tired - I rarely wear dark liner for this reason (well not first thing in the morning!) as I feel it accentuates this. I really like this roll-on treatment for how awake and refreshed it makes my eyes feel, and I think there's a visible difference too in that the area seems to look tighter and more toned. I also think (not sure here) that it makes my fine lines slightly less obvious. The only reason I don't use it more is that it is not a great base for under eye concealer which I wear most days - it is basically quite wet in consistency and does sit on the skin; you can pat it in quite easily however it leaves a slightly sticky residue which doesn't work well with the undereye highlighting pens I use.

Overall though I think this is a great product and I'm interested in trying the new one which contains a concealer (and may just solve the above problem!). I'd definitely repurchase this for when I need a quick fix (and don't plan on wearing much make up!)

Rating: 4/5
£9.99 for 15ml at Boots but can be picked up cheaper online, also frequently on special offer

2. The natural one
Liz Earle Daily Eye Repair SPF 10

I really like this cream and it's the only eye treatment I've ever repurchased. It goes on smoothly, brightens the eye area and is a good base for concealer, plus has the added bonus of an SPF 10. This was the first eye cream I tried and after this I found I was unable to go without something on the eye area. This represents fantastic value for money too. I'm not a massive fan of all Liz's products (I don't think I like the Smoothing Line Serum that this is often sold with)  but I do love this.

Rating: 4.5/5
£12.75 for 10ml at lizearle.com

3. The night-time one
Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Recovery Complex

I received a sample pot of this when I purchased the Night Repair for the face. I do use it at night but I'm a bit 'meh' about it. I don't really like the consistency - it's kind of a mix between a serum and a cream - and feel it sits on my skin a bit. Don't hate it, don't love it - wouldn't repurchase but if I received another free pot I'd use it!

The Boots website states that this cream is intended to reduce fine lines, dryness, puffiness and dark circles around the eye area.

Rating: 3/5
£33.50 for 15ml at Boots

4. The super expensive one!
Sisleya Eye and Lip Contour Cream

I absolutely loved using this cream, it was a dream to apply, so thick and luxurious but still feeling light on the skin and very easily absorbed, however I felt that this cream is perhaps not quite right for my 30-something skin. Although it moisturised the eye and lip area, I felt that this is perhaps more suited to those with older, dryer skin - I didn't feel like it made much difference to my fine lines or shadows which are my main problems. Is a great base for undereye concealer though and did add a fairly youthful sheen to that area.

NB The Sisley website www.sisley-cosmetics.com claims that this cream produces a 23% reduction in lines and wrinkles in six weeks...!

I paid £80 for a 15ml tub of this about a year ago in House of Fraser but I'm shocked to see it's retailing at £110 on Strawberry.net. Not sure how much this now costs at a Sisley counter.

Rating 3.5 / 5 (But I would definitely return to this cream in about 5-10 years time, for the sheer luxury factor if nothing else!)

5. The wild card
Kiehl's Abyssine Eye Cream

This is my current eye cream - my boyfriend bought me some for my birthday last summer and I've barely dented the surface - a little really does go a long way. So far, I do like this cream - it's light and refreshing and applies easily, and it's also a good concealer base - I'm just not sure whether it's actually doing anything for my skin!

The Kiehl's website describes Abysinne as a 'survival molecule' which thrives in ocean thermal vents (?!) and says this cream helps soothe skin, reduce appearance of lines and wrinkles (I don't really feel it has done this) and protect against free radical damage. Perhaps this one is a skin investment cream rather than an instant results treatment such as the Garnier. Overall I'd say that this is a good all rounder and I like the idea that it could be protecting against damage. I might just give this another whirl if and when I ever run out!

Rating: 3.5/5
£29.50 for 15ml at kiehls.co.uk

All in all I've liked all of the cream's I've tried. It's actually very difficult to review eye creams (and skincare in general) as the effects are often so subtle - not like trying a new lipstick for example - and it's almost impossible to ascertain scientifically whether they've had any beneficial effect. However I do think a good eye cream should be an essential part of everyone's beauty routine. I'd say the Liz Earle is my current favourite and a great price. I think I'm going to try Origins Ginzing next though as I keep hearing great things about this, so if anyone's tried it let me know!

Hope this is useful and I'll be doing a similar post on face creams soon.

PS I really do believe though that getting enough sleep and drinking lots of water is much more beneficial for the eye area than any cream - unfortunately I never seem to get enough of either!

3 February 2010

Calling all curly girls

I've just about had it with my stupid curls! 31 years of age and I'm still unable to manage them. So much so that I'm seriously considering getting a Brazilian blow dry and some new GHDs, having a fringe cut in (something I've always yearned for) and living the rest of my life as a straighty.

The right cut... the best products.... the correct way to dry.... all of these curly hair  secrets are still completely unknown to me. I once had a fantastic experience, at a salon in Nottingham, where two stylists spent half an hour twirling thin sections of my hair before drying it under a lamp. The result? Gorgeous, glossy bouncy ringlets that stayed curly and glossy until I washed my hair (and returned to the inevitable dullness and frizz).

I've spent the last ten years unsuccessfully trying to recreate this myself - no stylists since then (even in some of the more renowned London salons such as Trevor Sorbie) have offered to style my hair in this way, and my suggestions to do so usually just resulted in some half hearted twiddling. I hunted out one of the most highly recommended curly hair salons in London, Unruly in Notting Hill, but left a bit disappointed in my rather lackadaisical stylist and with rather crunchy curls (albeit a good cut). I've had triangles, steps, boy-short hair (surely the ultimate curly hair no-no) - all sorts of hair disasters in my quest for the perfect cut (and stylist), the only consolation being that my hair grows very quickly so most disasters are fairly short lived.

Here's a typical example of me with rubbishy curls - straggly, dull and badly cut (and dyed, ugh, not a good look!)... you get the picture (nb this was also taken a few years ago!)

and here's me with beautified straight locks....

I've tried the 'cult' curly products such as John Frieda Frizz Ease serum and Aveda Be Curly. Not good results (does serum do anything at all for curly hair? I'm not convinced). The most success I've had has been with Toni and Guy's Label M curl cream. I use this in my current routine, which involves washing and conditioning hair with head upside down in shower (to encourage curl separation) using a moisturising shampoo and conditioner combed through, rinsing, then shaking head in a 'dog out of the rain' style fashion to further separate the curls and get rid of excess water, than gently scrunching in a bit of the curl cream (again with minimal 'interference' to the curl as I was advised at Unruly) before letting my hair dry naturally or with a diffuser (I've found letting it dry naturally gives a glossier but looser curl, whereas the diffuser gives a curlier but crunchier and frizzier curl........ nothing is ever simple as a curly girl!)

I do love having my hair straightened, I feel glamorous and 'together' and I do find my features somehow look better. But, as my mum points out in that way only mothers can do, straight hair 'just isn't me'. I just want to figure out how to make my curls look their best before they start thinning and going grey, which I'm sure isn't too far down the line!

So come on curly girls, tell me your secrets - what products you use, how you wash and style your hair, good styling tools, where you get your hair cut... let's make 2010 the year of ravishing ringlets!

Just thought I'd finish with this pic of Billie Piper in Secret Diary of a Call Girl, as I think her curls look absolutely adorable here. Although there is definitely frizz present, it somehow looks cool with this style. (I can, with a lot of effort, make my curls look like this, but they always fall out after a couple of hours).

2 February 2010

Nivea Soothe and Protect - winter lip salvation!

After waxing lyrical in an earlier blog post about how I *never* have dry lips thanks to my ever faithful Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream (asking for trouble really), wouldn't you know it, my lips were hit with the most hideous blight of dry, cracked skin I've ever experienced. (This has been a particularly skin-unfriendly British winter hasn't it?). I had a particularly horrible dry patch on the bottom of my lower lip which just would not go away despite me positively submerging it in EHC at regular intervals and which prevented me from wearing any sort of lipstick or gloss.

I was in Oxford Street on a very cold Saturday afternoon and the dry lips were becoming a distraction, so I dove into Boots and emerged with the first thing I could lay my hands on - Nivea Sooth and Protect. I was not expecting miracles, but this cheap as chips stick sorted out my chapping within a couple of days, and relieved my lips straight away.

This comes with me everywhere now. And as it has an SPF 12 will surely be a great companion come summertime too.

And less than £2!!

Elizabeth who???