Chanel Eyes & Lips

[affiliate links & *press sample] 

I said I'd be back to talk about the (mostly) Chanel eye and lip products I mentioned in my previous  post... If you're after a neutral eye shadow palette, Chanel Les 4 Ombres in Clair Obscur (#308) includes a great edit of everyday shades that can easily be glammed up for evening with a touch of sparkle. I know I'm not alone in neglecting half of the shades in larger palettes, so enjoy using all four of these very wearable tones. 

The colours lean quite cool on me, my personal preference. I love the idea of warm toned shadows but rarely find them particularly flattering. From top left there's a mid brown, pale taupe, dark chocolate and vanilla shade. The two left hand shades have a whisper more warmth than those on the right. For day wear I used the lightest as a base, vanilla on mobile lid, mid brown in my crease and dark chocolate as liner. 

This pic gives a more accurate representation of the colours in the pan; they are neutral yet rich.

If you struggle with sensitive or panda eyes then *Poppy Sloane Tres Chic Mascara could be your new saviour. It's been a long time since I've tried a tubing mascara and I've been so impressed with this. It lives up to its zero flaking or smudging claims and the new formula adds substantial volume and curl.

Tubing mascara coats each lash with a literal tube of colour that stays put until removed with water and a little friction. I found the staying power a little bit too good (I swear you could go deep sea diving with this on and surface with perfect lashes). Waterproof makeup remover will have no impact... I found the best results with the Skin Nerd Cleanse off Mitt.

The two brushes in this pic are my favourite for eye shadow. The big fluffy one is a Kiko blending brush (similar here) and the other is a *Crease and Eye Smoother by Tina Earnshaw, which I use for smudging out liner. I've used these two daily for years and literally panic if I misplace either!

Shavata Brow Perfector Palette is one of the few I've tried that I think would work for pretty much anyone. It's really foolproof, easy to use and gives great long lasting results. Wax is built into the colour which really helps shape and hold brows in place all day. This one belongs to my sister who uses the darkest shade, while I use the lightest mixed with a little medium on the tails and love how the colour shows up on skin as well as it does on the brow hairs. 

Chanel Le Rouge Longwear Jumbo Lip Crayon is one of my favourite formulas, especially for this time of year. It applies like a well pigmented glossy balm lipstick and settles to a satin finish with surprisingly good lasting power. This shade is Au Naturel (#19) - apologies for not swatching but there was literally half a mm left and I will be purchasing another!

I'm wearing it with a L'Oreal liner in this instagram pic, along with the rest of the products featured. See the rest of the products in my previous post: Chanel Face.

*press sample

Chanel Face

[affiliate links]

I wore an (almost) full face of Chanel yesterday and was so happy about getting my glow on that I wanted to share my thoughts. I'd forgotten how much I love photographing makeup and have so many pics to share that I'm dividing them into two Chanel fuelled posts - one on skin/base products and a second on eyes/lips. (In no way swayed by a last minute drinks invite on this gloriously sunny evening.) 

First up, Chanel CC Cream. Not new, yet much hyped of late... and I had to find out why. Rich and creamy in texture, this performs as a light to medium foundation on my (normal to dry) skin. A definite notch up from tinted moisturiser, one light layer leaves a slightly sheer finish, while a little extra where needed covers enough to even out skin tone while allowing freckles to peek through. And in my case, the odd blemish and broken vein, yay. There are days when I prefer a little extra cover, but as a fan of skin-like finishes, this works for me. I'd rather go light on base and add concealer than look overdone... so much fresher and more flattering. 

These swatches are of Chanel CC Cream in shade B30, my (fake) tan shade. I'm naturally more of a B10-20 in Chanel, depending on the season. I photographed this in direct sunlight; it definitely looks more neutral toned on my face.

Chanel Palette Essentielle (Beige Clair 150) is a true makeup gem in my eyes. Creamy concealer, blush and highlight in one compact make everything so quick and easy. The concealer is hydrating enough to use around the eyes and dense enough to cover minor blemishes or redness. The blush adds the most flattering flush of coral - and the highlight, a sheeny luminosity for my favourite kind of ethereal glow. A  rare combination of luxurious yet practical (and great in a hurry) makeup. 

Swatches of Chanel Palette Essentielle in Beige Clair 150 (the lightest shade available): concealer, blush and highlight. 

I only needed a light dusting of powder around my nose and chin to avoid over-glow and set my concealer, so opted for Hourglass Veil Translucent Setting Powder. I can't deny that a good third of my pleasure in using this comes from the gorgeous packaging and that ingenious golden H decanter. Finely milled and 100% talc-free, this powder adds a soft focus effect and gently mattifies without dulling the skin. (Also available in a cute mini travel size!)

See the products applied (unfiltered) on my Instagram

Next time, Chanel eyes and lips...


Skincare Highlights from my Dressing Table

[includes a press sample & some links are affiliate]

In true old-school blogging style, I've swiped a handful of current skincare favourites from my dressing table to share with you. No fancy pics or theme, just some standout products I've really enjoyed using regularly in recent months. 

I'm a sucker for a hyaluronic serum and Hydr8 B5 by Medik8 is my latest love. In addition to a mighty dose of super-hydrating hyaluronic acid, Vitamin B5 boosts water retention levels for a plumping effect. I usually sandwich this between a facial spritz and my moisturiser. 

I was so happy to stumble across Dr Jart+ Ceramidin Cream in my local TK Maxx and it totally lives up the hype I'd read about it online. I've been a fan of this Korean brand for years and what I love most about Ceramidin Cream - besides that gorgeously retro metal tube - is the texture. Rich and smooth, it feels incredibly comforting and instantly nourishing on the skin, sinks in quickly and provides the perfect base for makeup. As the name suggests, it contains skin ceramides, moisture magnets that help dryness, sensitivity and redness. Can not fault it. I've just noticed that ASOS has a cute Ceramidin Discovery Kit for just £12, which seems a good place to start. 

Speaking of sensitivity, I have used up and repurchased La Roche Posay Toleriane Ultra Nuit twice in the past six months (the first bottle was a press sample). I'm prone to rosacea and congestion and like everyone, sometimes my skin just loses the plot and sometimes I want to use something I know is safe. Which is when I turn to this product, day and night if needed (though a separate day cream is available). I don't doubt that this has lots of magical properties but soothing and comforting are what I love this for. (Currently on offer on the above link*).

Eucerin is a brand I often use for body care - their cleansing body oil and moisturising lotions are fantastic if you're prone to dry skin conditions. I bought Sensitive Protect SPF30 when I started using retinol earlier this year (more on that to come in a separate post) and it didn't disappoint. Sinks in quickly, doesn't disturb makeup, leave a white cast or break me out - definitely recommend. The body SPFs are also great and I use them on my children too.

Last but not least, the latest addition to this line up is Image MD Restoring Facial Cleanser (press sample). I have great faith in Image and really rate their approach to skincare. I'll share more about some of their other products in the coming months but this cleanser is the stand out for me. It contains a blend of salicylic, glycolic and lactic acids to gently exfoliate as it cleanses and I've noticed a marked difference in the clarity of my skin since introducing it to my routine. Plus it's an absolute pleasure to use - a gel texture that rinses off easily. This is a professional product that you can source via Image here or buy online in the UK here.

That's it from me for today... I hope you enjoyed this rundown on my skincare favourites... more from me soon!


Summer Morning Skincare

I've been using the products in my Summer morning skincare routine for 3-6 months... (I try to protect against sun damage all year around). If your skin is in need of some serious rehydration, you're in the right place, as most of these products are hyaluronic based to boost moisture levels dramatically.

We have just moved house (hence disappearing 5 minutes after my return... sorry about that)... I always forget how all-consuming a house move is, but it's been well worth the late nights, hang nails and back ache! As I shared on Instagram on our first morning, I couldn't find my underwear or hairbrush but could put my hand on all of the above within seconds... I think that says it all!

While I enjoy using all six products in this line up, the stand outs for me are the cleanser, facial mist and SPF. 

Trish McEvoy Cleansing Balm has a gel to balm texture reminiscent of Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel (minus the rose scent)... it emulsifies really nicely and leaves my skin feeling completely clean and comfortable. I'll often use this as a second cleanse in the evening and it also doubles up as a vitamin-rich, leave-on mask. 

Emma Hardie Hydrating Facial Mist is a superfine spritz that's packed with hyaluronic and actually hydrates... it blows every other luxury spritz out of the water in my opinion and the lightweight tube makes it perfect for travel. I do use others but this one is a real treat. We will never be parted. 

Emma Hardie Amazing Face Protect & Prime has a lightweight silky texture that sinks in quickly, feels much more like skincare than SPF, and leaves a glowy, diffused finish on skin. If I was on holiday or outdoors a lot, I'd use a dedicated SPF, but as the last step of my routine pre-makeup, this works beautifully for me. 

I love a hyaluronic based serum and have been enjoying Skinceuticals HA Intensifier. This goes on straight after the facial mist to double up on hydration, while helping to tone and tighten skin. It sinks in quickly and I don't hang around before adding L'Occitane Aqua Ultra Thirst Quenching Cream. This deeply nourishing moisturiser is rich and hydrating without the usual heaviness of a cream... also available as a gel for oily to combination skins, it feels cooling on warm Summer mornings and sits well under makeup.

Speaking of cooling, Lancome Advanced Genefique Yeux Light Pearl has a really effective tear drop shaped metal applicator for applying the product in a 360 motion around the orbital bone... it feels super soothing on puffy eyes while addressing the whole shebang... from darkness to fine lines.

Do you switch up your skincare with the seasons?

Products featured on Strawberry Blonde Beauty include press samples & purchases and some links are affiliate. See my full disclaimer here.


Charlotte Tilbury At Your Lip Service Lipstick Trio

Charlotte Tilbury At Your Lip Service is a glamorous, limited edition lipstick trio, with two mattes and one cream shade to suit any occasion. From the old Hollywood-esque fluted gold packaging to squared off bullets and lasting formula, I'm a big fan of Charlotte's lipsticks - for me, her stand out product.

I'm all over the design of this little presentation box, which I think would make the perfect gift.

These golden cases bring a smile to my face every time I see one of them swirling around my handbag. My lipsticks are almost permanently divided between my handbags... never in my makeup bag or any one place. Just me?

On the left is The Duchess, from the super creamy, moisturising K.I.S.S.I.N.G range. The Queen (centre) and Legendary Queen (right) are both in the Matte Revolution formula, the most comfortable, velvety mattes I've come across. They look matte without feeling overly dry and while they don't set completely, I find they have very little movement or transfer and good lasting power.

(Heavy) swatches, from the top:

1. Matte Revolution in Legendary Queen - a brick red russet that works really well on redheads. I absolutely love this shade when I'm looking for long lasting drama... great for evenings out when I don't want to constantly reapply. This wears off nicely too, leaving a lasting stain.

2. Matte Revolution in The Queen - on me, this is a slightly 80s reddish bright pink, inspired by the Queen herself and not to be taken lightly. Everything else needs to be on point for me to pull this off - and for this reason, it's the one I reach for the least. A touch more pink and cooler in tone than it looks here.

3. K.I.S.S.I.N.G in The Duchess - this peachy pink nude is great for daytime, a fraction too pale for my skin tone when worn alone, but perfect when paired with the more mauve toned Lip Cheat liner in Pillow Talk (this liner is totally worth the hype). Like most moisturising formulas, this lipstick needs touched up more often than a matte, which hasn't stopped it becoming a regular everyday staple. Also lovely for evening with a slick of gloss and a smokey eye, it is soft and neutral, yet not too pale. 

Charlotte Tilbury At Your Lip Service is a limited edition set available at (works out £12 less than buying the shades individually.) If you're only after one lipstick, I'd choose Matte Revolution in Legendary Queen, K.I.S.S.I.N.G in The Duchess or my all time favourite CT shade, the pinky coral Amazing Grace.

This post includes a press sample and affiliate links. 

Hello, I've missed you!

When you've been offline for a while it's a little overwhelming coming back - and I feel it's only polite to explain my absence rather than just bursting into the room, raving about lipstick. 

This blog has never been about me, per se - and purposely so - I live in a small place; I have kids; am naturally quite shy and talking about myself just isn't my thing, but sometimes it's good to open up a little... 

Initially I took a step back from blogging for health reasons - acute back and neck issues which meant I couldn't sit at a desk or hold a camera (now under control if I'm careful). From the sidelines, I noticed the world of blogging and instagram become increasingly clouded with a negativity that I didn't want to be a part of - fakery, over-commercialisation, drama and airbrushing of photos, lives and truths. 

It's been good to get some perspective and in retrospect, I realise it's more important to remain grounded and true to ourselves than to walk away. Most people are hungry for authenticity and an impartial voice that they can trust; the essence of blogging when I began 7 years ago. This doesn't have to change... there are many incredible bloggers out there who continue to inspire me every day.

On a more personal note, I spent a lot of time with my mum in recent months, while her health declined rapidly. After many hours of hand holding by hospital beds, we lost her in April... something I'm still coming to terms with, one day at a time. I probably seem quite normal on the surface, but it's never far away. 

There has been a whole lot of happiness too... great times with family and friends, training as a make up artist, going to amazing gigs, and realising that I function best in a creative environment with a good dose of fresh sea air and sunshine. Really good coffee, chocolate and Prosecco all help too, obvs. 

There are loads of things I can't wait to blog about, but wanted to share all of this first. I haven't stopped writing about beauty (for magazines like Estila and The Wonderful World of Dance) but am committing to blog again because I'm still so passionate about it! 

I'm excited to share my beauty finds with you... from firm favourites to shiny new releases - and a few tricks I've picked up along the way. I also want to feature beauty tips for those of us who are no longer 21 (or 31... or 41 in my case), which I hope some of you will find helpful. If there's anything else you'd like to see, I'm all ears. 

If you're still reading, thank you for being here - I've genuinely missed it and it's good to be back!

The Best Winter Candles

I'm a fan of scented candles whatever the weather, but there's something about dark evenings (and afternoons!) that makes me appreciate them even more. These are my top three for the festive season...

Jo Malone Incense & Embers. Need I say more? I'm pretty sure the name alone is enough to convince you how gorgeous this is. There's something distinctly celestial about this scent, which is definitely more incense than embers. Not the type I burned at uni... but the kind of alluring smokiness that might waft through the air as you stroll by a beautiful golden temple on a heady evening (I'm there now - in my head - grounded only by the cuppa and Rich Tea next to me). Incense & Embers smells rich and reassuring, with leather and amber lifted by vetiver and fir... perfect for this time of year.

Field Day candles (formerly Bog Standard) are made a few miles up the road from me and the limited edition Winter scent is hands down my favourite. Its maker has mastered the traditional festive cocktail of cinnamon, clove and orange - which I usually shy away from - quite beautifully. Field Day Winter throws quite a lot of scent, yet has a sophisticated softness to it that smells much more expensive than its very reasonable price tag (£13.95). It reminds me of the kitchen while baking Christmas cake, with a pot of mulled wine simmering on the stove... I'd happily gift this to everyone I know for Christmas, confident that it would be a winner. I've been burning it a lot and everyone who comes into the house comments on how lovely it is. Very importantly (to me) - this is not so overtly festive that you couldn't burn it long into the New Year. Don't hang about though, a wee bird tells me there's not many left.

Neom Perfect Peace is an uplifting, soothing scented candle made with 25 (!!!) essential oils including pine, myrrh and lime. I prefer it to Neom's traditional Christmas Wish fragrance and think it makes a particularly good choice for daytime burning, perhaps even on The Big Day itself? It makes a striking centrepiece and I have a feeling it would work well paired with a glass of something sparkling, a theory I may need to put to the test...

What's your favourite Winter candle?

Products featured on Strawberry Blonde Beauty include press samples & purchases and some links are affiliate. See my full disclaimer here.

Glowing Everyday Beauty

I love glowy makeup all year round, particularly in Winter when I need a little help to brighten my complexion... here are my current go-to products for instant everyday radiance.

Applied under foundation, Amazing Cosmetics' new Illuminate Primer in Glow adds a subtle radiance that catches the light in a very natural way. As I'm greedy for the glow, I like to use it both under and over foundation, patting a little onto tops of cheekbones and browbones. This adds a silvery white highlight that works particularly well on pale skin, adding a naturally luminous effect rather than high-beam highlight. This sheer, water based formula - also available in Rose and Bronze - is more about brightening the complexion than prolonging your makeup.

Clarins Everlasting Cushion foundation adds a light to medium veil of hydrating coverage with SPF 50. This is the first cushion product I've tried and while initially sceptical, I love how quick and easy it is to use, allowing me to do my base in seconds. It applies well with the compact, a brush or beauty blender, though I find a brush works best. Coverage is lightweight and buildable, leaving a natural looking skinlike finish with a little glow. I'm not sure about the everlasting claims but the light compact with built in mirror is so perfect for touch ups that I'm happy to let that slide. (I have the shade 103 Ivory)

Trish McEvoy Liquid Face Colour is my new blush crush: a sheer liquid formula in a pretty pink twist-up, brush-on tube. The soft pinky peach tones of Shade 1 bring life to my cheeks, instantly adding a wide-awake, post-forest-walk effect. The formula is easier to apply than most and so much more flattering and forgiving than powder.

I tend to wear lipgloss a lot in Winter... it has a similar effect to highlighter in adding a little life to the face and Pixi Lip Lift Max is an old favourite that I always go back to. Worn alone, with liner or over lipstick, it plumps, smooths and just works. I veer between this and Sheer Rose, a beautiful dusky pink in the same formula.

Daytime glitter is totally a thing, especially on the cusp of party season - and it doesn't come much prettier than Topshop nail polish in Unicorn. This coats nails with rainbow micro glitter in a sheer peach base for subtle sparkle on nude nails or layered up to make a deeper shade twinkle.

A citrus scent may seem an odd choice for a November perfume, but I can't get enough of Pomelo Paradis - and as it makes me glow from the inside, I felt it appropriate to include here! Atelier Cologne recently opened a counter in my local House of Fraser (Belfast) and the first time I spritzed this on counter it made me smile so much it had to be mine. With notes of pomelo, orange blossom and vetiver, I can't imagine a more feel good scent!

Products featured on Strawberry Blonde Beauty include press samples & purchases and some links are affiliate. See my full disclaimer here.

SensatioNail Express vs Original Gel Nail Kit

The SensatioNail home gel nail kit was (to my knowledge) the first of its kind to launch in the UK several years ago. I've been using it regularly ever since, can't fault it and would probably include it in my top 10 beauty favourites of all time... reflected in my numerous posts and tutorials here. As someone who can't bear chipped nails, I love waking up to a perfect glossy mani daily for around two weeks - or until I get bored wearing the same colour. 

Over the last couple of months I've been testing the new SensatioNail Express Kit and thought it might be useful to compare the two and explain the main differences between them. 

The biggest selling point of the Express Kit is its simplicity. Essentially a one step gel polish system, all you need is an LED lamp and a bottle of Express Gel polish. It also comes with a buffer and orange stick, which I mostly use for clean up. That's it. 

Two coats of the polish are applied like regular nail polish, each cured under the LED lamp (comes on automatically when you put your hand in) for 30 seconds and that's you done... an instantly dry, touch-proof glossy manicure that lasts 7-10 days (according to SensatioNail). 

This pic shows me wearing two coats of SensatioNail Express in Red Your Profile (please excuse the pathetically short nails when this was taken). In my experience, the colour lasts more like 3-5 days, though to be fair I'm very hard on nail polish and most non-gel manicures only last me 2-3 days, regardless of brand or top coat. For me, this is a quick fix solution, as the name suggests.

So how does Express compare to the original?
This is what you get in the original SensatioNail Starter Kit (deluxe version pictured, with an extra colour). This application process involves multiple steps: primer, base coat, 2 x colour, top coat and cleanser - which takes me around 40 minutes. 

This pic was taken the first time I used the kit several years ago - can you sense the concentration?!

My favourite and most worn SensatioNail shade, Dusk til Dawn, sadly discontinued, though similar are available in both ranges. The original SensatioNail manicure lasts me for a solid two weeks. That's the difference. The extra steps mean it lasts longer on my nails, so if I want the colour to last, this is what I'll use. 

Initially, I was disappointed at the lasting power of my mani when using the Express Kit as the colour only stayed chip-free for several days, even when I did all the prep steps. I now 'get' that it's not supposed to compare to the whole shebang... it's a faster, more simple process for a quick, short term, instant manicure. I have continued to use it numerous times as find it so handy to have a perfect mani in minutes that I know will last all weekend at least - and have often been found applying it in the last few precious moments before a taxi arrives. For longer lasting results, I'll continue to use the original kit - or perhaps try the base/top coat with the Express. 

If I had to choose one SensatioNail kit, I'd personally go for the original Starter Kit as although a bit of a faff to apply, I find the application and results foolproof. If you already own the kit or like to switch shades regularly, it's worth trying the Express... just be realistic about your expectations. 

SensatioNail Express and original gel kits and colours are available at Boots

Products featured on Strawberry Blonde Beauty include press samples & purchases and some links are affiliate. See my full disclaimer here.

Gentle Exfoliator for the Face x 3

If you've never exfoliated your face, you're in for a treat. Regular exfoliation removes dead cells leaving skin looking more refined and feeling smoother to the touch. It allows skincare products to absorb and function more effectively, encourages cell renewal and even helps make up sit nicely on the skin. It's also easy to get wrong, either by aggravating skin with harsh, scratchy products or overusing acids that some skin types can't tolerate.

There's been talk of over exfoliating in the beauty industry recently - and when two skincare experts suggested I may be guilty, I sat up and took notice. For as long as I can remember I've been plagued with under skin bumps, so while my skin may look ok in certain lights, little pin prick sized bumps are visible on closer observation (and really bug me). I assumed that exfoliating would help reduce these - and at times it did temporarily - but I decided to ease off and see what happened. NB I also have quite sensitive skin and am prone to flare-ups of rosacea.

So I've cut right back on exfoliation (for now) restricting use to 2-3 times a week, with a mix of acids (separate post on my favourites?) and a super gentle physical exfoliant. Today I'm sharing my top 3 gentle physical exfoliators for the face - ie the kind that have (very) fine grains.

Dermalogica Superfoliant
This active powder resurfacer addresses the effects of ageing and pollution on the skin. Mixed with a little water in the palm, it becomes a mousse-like paste that is massaged into the face and immediately rinsed off. The ingredients - which activate on contact with water - include AHAs, purifying charcoal (it's grey!), niacinamide, red algae and fruit acids. According to directions, this is gentle enough to be used daily or on alternate days for sensitive skin (I use it less often). Daily Superfoliant is a pleasure to use and I particularly enjoy this one as an extra step after cleansing off heavier than usual evening make up, followed by my regular serum/oil and moisturiser.

Image Iluma Intense Brightening Exfoliating Powder
Image polishing powder contains natural botanicals, antioxidants and pumpkin enzymes to remove impurities and leave skin looking more radiant. Protein peptides with lactic acid help correct uneven skintone while liquorice extract brightens. I've only been using this one for a couple of weeks, so am hoping it helps reduce a couple of pigmentation marks over time. Initial impressions are good... of the three, it feels the most gentle on my skin, is softening and feels luxurious to use. Activated with water and massaged into the face, it has a surprisingly sweet scent, which I'm guessing is from the coconut milk powder. I've had great results with several products I've tried from this professional, salon-only brand, especially the Vital C range (T 0345 504 0461 for stockists).

Pixi Peel & Polish
This has been a regular part of my routine for quite a while now and I'll often use it before a special occasion to brighten my skin without irritation... I find make up applies particularly well afterwards. Described as a resurfacing concentrate, this cooling peachy gel is applied to dry skin like a mini mask for a few minutes before rinsing off... and can be massaged in pre-rinsing for extra exfoliation. Active ingredients include gently exfoliating lactic acid and natural fruit enzymes, cellulose and sugar extracts... it tingles slightly on my skin but not at all uncomfortably so. NB this tube was originally vintage pink... mine has faded from sitting on the bathroom windowsill, my bad but it looked so pretty!

All three of these products have micro-fine grains, almost dust-like fine - and do not irritate my skin. I also use them on my neck and decolletage, where I find coarser body scrubs too harsh. Decreasing exfoliation does seem to have calmed my skin - and somewhat ironically, improved its texture. I'm not where I want to be just yet, but it's a definite start. I previously used acids twice daily, so this has been quite a jump. I may go back to once daily but think twice is too much for me personally... there's no right or wrong here, so if it's working for you, keep going!

I'd love to know your experiences of exfoliation and which products you prefer to use. 

PS The candle in the pic is Garden by Field Day and reminds me of freshly picked tomatoes, a beautiful day time scent!

Products featured on Strawberry Blonde Beauty include press samples & purchases and some links are affiliate. See my full disclaimer here.

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