Thursday, 21 July 2016

MAC Brant Brothers 2016: Review & Swatches

MAC Brant Brothers is the brand's second collection with oh-so-beautiful New York socialites, Peter and Harry Brant (I hadn't heard of them either) and offers a palette of wearable neutrals for boys and gals alike. Much as I love a bright lip and pop of shimmer, my heart lies with products that make me look better without looking like I've applied a whole lotta slap. I'd much rather look good than have my makeup look good if you know what I mean? My eyes lit up when I saw this collection as I just knew it would deliver on that level and it absolutely does. The line, launching August, includes Pro Longwear Lipstain Markers, brow gel, black kohl and skincare, but my must-have is the eye shadow palette.


To be fair, I don't own any MAC neutral shadows, so maybe this is a bigger deal for me than most, but I'm so drawn to shades that mimic the natural shadows around my eyes, which these do. I very rarely wear black to be fair, except maybe pushed into the upper lash line, so I mainly use the other 3 shades in this palette.

The four shades in Eye Shadow x 4:4 Pillars (£27.50) are:

  • Mother's Milk - pale creamy beige satin (lid and brow bone)
  • Sandstone - matte taupe (socket)
  • Mystery - dark plum-toned matte brown (lash line and outer corner)
  • Carbon - matte black (upper lash line)
The first three make creating a very natural or smokey eye look in seconds an absolute breeze and I've used nothing else for several weeks. 


I'm not really a contour-er but the Pro Sculpting Cream Duo (£26.50) almost makes me wish I was. Hands down the most natural looking contour and highlight I've tried. 'Crevasse' taupe contour is cool but not muddy and 'Climax' white highlight adds cool-toned glow rather than shimmer. If you're after the full on Kim K look, this really isn't for you, but it absolutely works for adding subtle definition, which is where it's at. 

PS The Pro Beyond Twisted Lash mascara isn't part of this collection... I just included it here as it's pretty and I've been loving it to coat lower lashes while I have extensions. The entire wand and brush can be bent into any shape you like, which anyone who has manoeuvred lash extensions or finds mascara application tricky will appreciate! I normally bend it at a right angle to avoid poking myself in the eye.

You can see how creamy and malleable the contour in particular is here. It just melts into skin rather than sitting on top of it. I find that both work best applied with fingers.


Check out the deep gold Eye Kohl in El Dorado (£15.50) at the centre. To it's left, the Pro Sculpting Cream Duo and on the right, all four shades from Eye Shadow x 4:4 Pillars. I used the eye shadows to define my eyes in this pic.

The Limited Edition MAC Brant Brothers Collection launches in the UK in August 2016. 

Products featured on Strawberry Blonde Beauty include press samples. See my full disclaimer here. 

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Pixi Glow Tonic To-Go

Pixi's most travel-friendly version of Glow Tonic, To-Go Exfoliating Toner Pads, is about to hit shelves. I've come over a little nostalgic about it all after stumbling across my first posts on Pixi Glow Tonic... three whole years ago (here & here) and seeing how much the brand has grown. If that's not proof that it's remained a staple in my routine then I don't know what is.

For anyone unfamiliar with this gem of a product, it's an exfoliating toner which gently whisks away dead skin cells, soothes what lies beneath and helps speed up the growth of healthy new skin. In my personal experience, it progressively helps my skin look brighter and clearer, without causing irritation or triggering my rosacea. It won't work for everyone, (nothing does) but it works beautifully for a huge percentage of people, to the extent that it's reached cult status (thanks in no small part to a certain Mrs Hirons).

Pixi Glow Tonic normally comes in a bottle of peach liquid, applied with a cotton pad (see the usual packaging in this post). The new Glow Tonic To-Go is packaged in a tub of pre-soaked pads, the same size as an average cotton pad. 

Each one contains the right amount of product for a single use and is comfortable to use - ie not dripping wet. Just swipe a pad over your face (avoiding eyes), continuing right down the neck and decollete. This should be done after cleansing and before using other skincare products such as serum and moisturiser. 

If you have the original bottle of Glow Tonic then you don't need To-Go too - unless you're travelling - in which case, perfect. I have to say I really enjoy using these and find them easier than faffing with a bottle and pack of pads, though I am a bit of a lazy mare. 

I tend to use exfoliating toners less in Summer as they make skin more vulnerable to skin damage UNLESS you use a good SPF, which I do, so no logic there really! After a break of around 6 weeks, I've gone back to using Glow Tonic in its new To-Go form and was surprised to notice a difference in just over a week. I'm prone to congestion and annoying bumps just below the surface of my skin and this has made a marked improvement. Admittedly it usually takes several weeks at least for me to see a change, so I guess this was just what my skin needed right now.  Not complaining!

Glow Tonic To-Go Exfoliating Toner Pads launch on QVC on Tuesday 26th July and will be on shelves and online on the 29th, RRP £20.

Each tub contains 60 pads, enough for 1-3 months depending how often you use them. Some people use an exfoliating toner twice daily and others twice a week. Whatever works for you, but when introducing something new, it's best to start slow and see how you go...

Products featured on Strawberry Blonde Beauty include press samples. See my full disclaimer here. 


Thursday, 14 July 2016

The Body Sunscreens I took on holiday

I know I've been banging on about sunscreen quite a lot lately but it's really important to me and I hope I've helped some of you find one that suits. So far I've focused on facial sunscreens, but today I want to talk about those for the body.

The Ultrasun and Eucerin came on holidays with us last week, along with another bottle of the Eucerin Sun Lotion in SPF50 and KIKO Solar Protect in SPF30 (both used up). While Piz Buin Protect & Cool in SPF15 wasn't quite strong enough for a holiday abroad, it's available in SPF30 and is such a great formula I wanted to include it here. A mousse that cools the skin instantly on application, it's quick and easy to apply and feels lovely on - my kids love it, so a good option for any mums out there.

Speaking of kids, I should add that I chose to pack these specific products for a number of reasons. High protection is obviously top of my list - my daughter in particular is very prone to sunburn thanks to white blonde hair and porcelain skin (which strangely, does end up turning golden). She mainly used the Eucerin SPF50, which I reapplied regularly as she was constantly in the water.

As my son is prone to eczema, skin-kind Ultrasun has been our No1 since he was a baby. While we normally use the Family formula, new Ultrasun Extreme offers higher protection, has been developed for ultra sensitive skin and doesn't aggravate his dryness, eczema and prickly heat. Designed to offer a full day's protection with one application, I do tend to reapply (once or twice per day) in very hot conditions, especially when the children are in and out of the water. 

I used Ultrasun SPF50 on my upper body and a mix of the Kiko and Eucerin SPF30 on my legs throughout the trip - and my skin remained well protected with zero burning. The Eucerin Ultra Light formula sinks in and dries super quickly, so it's great for on the go and the Kiko is extra moisturising.

We spent the week at Biarritz in South of France and I'd go back in a heartbeat... one of the most beautiful places I've been. 

All of these sunscreens sit nicely on the skin - no sticky limbs, white cast or greasy residue in sight - and I'll happily use them again and again. You can read about the products I used on my face in this post. 

Which sunscreen do you use?

Products featured on Strawberry Blonde Beauty include press samples. See my full disclaimer here. 


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Jo Malone London Cologne Intense Body Creme: Velvet Rose & Oud

Jo Malone London has extended its Cologne Intense collection to include four indulgent new body creams... in weighty opaque black glass jars of pure decadence. Available in Velvet Rose & Oud, Dark Amber & Ginger Lily, Oud & Bergamot and Tuberose Angelica, the rich, sensual Cologne Intense fragrances pack more punch than the main collection.

I'm often drawn to body products as a softer way to wear heady scents like these and the Velvet Rose & Oud Body Creme lingers on my skin for hours. A definite evening fragrance in my book, the dark damask rose and smoky oud wood is balanced with touches of clove and praline. 

I am that woman who walks around sniffing her arms while wearing this... it's rather irresistible

I tend to restrict it to my upper body as it's so powerfully fragranced that I think of it as another way of wearing scent rather than 'just' a body cream. And I don't want to waste a drop. 

The consistency is a thick silky cream that leaves skin gleaming without a speck of shimmer, while feeling dry to the touch. Made with mineral rich samphire extract, it leaves my skin feeling soft and well moisturised.

While a definite luxe purchase, these are generously sized at 175ml and an absolute treat to use.

Jo Malone London Cologne Intense Body Creme is available now at Selfridges, John LewisJo Malone London or Bergdorf Goodman (US). 

Products featured on Strawberry Blonde Beauty include press samples. See my full disclaimer here. 

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Tinted Sunscreen: the easiest way to wear SPF

I know that a lot of people rely on SPF in their foundation for year round coverage, but in Summer I just don't think it's enough. A lot of brands have jumped on board to offer the reverse: sunscreen with a little colour and coverage - a clever, practical solution. 

Tinted sunscreen is the way to go for a light coverage with instant protection, especially good for anyone loathe to wear sunscreen. It just couldn't be easier.

These formulas can be worn alone, under foundation or paired with concealer, depending on how much coverage you need. I've worn them all three ways on different occasions and apply mine over my regular skincare.

Swatches from bottom up: La Roche Posay Anthelios XL BB, La Roche Posay Anthelios XL Anti-Shine, Eucerin CC in Fair. 

Three of the best I've tried are La Roche Posay Anthelios XL SPF50+ Tinted BB Cream (dry skin) and Tinted Anti Shine (combo/oily) formulas. Eucerin CC Cream SPF50 in Fair is my paler Winter skin option. This gives coverage similar to a light foundation, as does LRP Anti-shine, while the LRP BB is more sheer. Eucerin gives a satin finish, Anti-shine is very matte and the BB dewy. 

I'm currently using La Roche Posay Anthelios XL Tinted BB Cream, which looks dark in the swatch, but blended, pairs perfectly with a (self) tanned body. It's also been great on holiday when I didn't want to wear makeup OR look completely washed out.

PS you're not seeing things... I had to republish this post as it somehow backdated itself!

Products featured on Strawberry Blonde Beauty include press samples. See my full disclaimer here. 

Monday, 4 July 2016

GIVEAWAY: Stila Perfect Me Perfect Hue Palette

As promised, a giveaway to celebrate 5 years of Strawberry Blonde Beauty... I wanted to choose a gorgeous new product that would suit any one of my readers - and Stila's Perfect Me Perfect Hue Palette seemed... well, perfect!

The eye and cheek palettes are available in four shades to suit different skin tones: Light/Fair, Fair/Medium, Medium/Tan and Tan/Deep. Or you can choose whichever you prefer... I think I'd go for Light/Medium.

Each palette contains five eye shadows and two blushers in a mix of matte, shimmer and pearl finishes, all housed in a glam gold compact.

These swatches (by Stila) show how they look on the skin - every one of them looks stunning!


One winner may choose their preferred shade of Stila Perfect Me Perfect Hue Palette, which I will order online and have delivered to them directly. Entry (via Rafflecopter below) is open internationally and closes on Tuesday 12 July at 12am GMT.

Best of luck - tell me in the comments which shade you'll choose if you win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

NB The winner will be selected at random and prize is subject to availability. If your colour choice is unavailable for any reason, vouchers of equal value may be offered as an alternative.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Festival style beachy waves with ghd azores

While I'll mostly be fielding festivals from my sofa this year (still swooning over Coldplay at Glastonbury), I love the whole vibe of more relaxed Summer hair and makeup... and thought I'd share my version of a festival inspired look. Here's hoping the sun decides to put in an appearance soon to get us all in an al fresco mood!

I used the new ghd azores to create these casual, lived in waves... I rarely actually straighten my hair and think a little movement gives a more flattering look. The pearlescent green ghd v atlantic jade styler has contoured edges to help create curls and waves and an extra long swivel cord for easy manoeuvring from every angle.

HOW TO: Festival style beachy waves

  1. I start by blow drying freshly washed hair until it's reasonably smooth with a little natural volume. 
  2. Gripping small sections of hair with the ghds pointing downwards, I twist and pull at a diagonal angle, in a similar movement to curling ribbon. 
  3. Half way down each section of hair, I turn the styler in the opposite direction and repeat this movement, stopping around an inch before the ends. This creates more of a casual, beachy wave rather than precise curls.
  4. I begin each new section by curling it in the opposite direction for a more tousled finish and use different sized sections of hair each time... larger ones create looser waves.
  5. Once the hair has cooled, I comb through it with my fingers to add movement and a more piece-y look.    
ghd heat protect spray has been my go-to for years... I use it for an all over spritz, then add curl hold spray on each section for texture and lasting power with a similar finish to salt sprays.

I discovered the beachy waves method from the video in this tutorial if you fancy seeing how the pros do it. One thing that made a big difference for me was using the styler pointing downwards, which can be tricky from certain angles but definitely helps create a more relaxed wave. No idea why it works but it does!

*This post was sponsored by ghd

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

SPF on my Face right now

I've been trialing a lot of sunscreen formulas lately and noticed that facial SPFs in particular have become increasingly sophisticated, with a huge range of options for every skin type. I have a few sunscreen posts coming up, but thought I'd start with the facial products that I'm using the most.

First up, I was so happy to discover a sunscreen specifically for the eye area, more prone to sun damage and early signs of aging than any other part of the body. Ultrasun Eye Formula SPF 30 protects from UVA and UVB damage while also treating dark circles and fine lines, so a separate eye cream isn't required. I do sometimes add a light one such as Vichy Aqualia Thermal (love this) for extra hydration. I only need a tiny dot of Ultrasun Eye, which I pat on gently (rather than rub) right around my eye area. It's suitable for sensitive skin and doesn't irritate my eyes at all.

Sidenote: I've seen an improvement in hyperpigmentation since using OSKIA Renaissance Brightlight Intensive Pigmentation & Dark Spot Serum (review here) and am religious about protecting the eye area as a result. A skin specialist told me that a very small amount of sun exposure could undo all the good work so I'm not taking any chances!

For day to day protection I've really been enjoying La Roche Posay Anthelios XL Tinted BB Ultra Comfort Cream SPF50 and will definitely be taking this on holiday with me. A great option for dry skin, this delivers a healthy glow with a teensy bit of coverage - on a par with tinted moisturiser - which gives me enough confidence to go bare face paired with a little concealer. Day to day, it also works perfectly well under foundation. Oily skins may prefer the newer Anthelios XL Anti Shine SPF50, which has slightly more coverage and a matte finish. 

For on the go touch ups, Bioderma Moisturising Anti UV Mist is pure genius. While I wouldn't rely on this for a full day of sun exposure, it's great for maintaining protection throughout the day and works brilliantly over makeup. Lunch in the park or post work drinks al fresco, sorted. 

Despite the current rubbish weather, daylight is enough to make us susceptible to damage, even without any heat in the sun. If someone could arrange to bring back said heat, it would be warmly welcomed! 

Which SPF do you like to use on your face?

Products featured on Strawberry Blonde Beauty include press samples. See my full disclaimer here. 


Thursday, 23 June 2016

Skin Soothing Cream Cleansers

I mentioned the Antipodes Grace Gentle Cream Cleanser in my recent Foreo Luna post and thought I'd come back to it as I've had a bit of a thing for cream cleansers lately. While I'm a fully fledged member of the oil/balm thank you mam school of cleansing in colder weather, the lightness of a creamy cleanser is welcome in Summer. I don't use these to remove makeup, so this is a second cleansing step for me, or more often - a quick and easy morning cleanse. 

These two formulas are fairly similar and coincidentally both come in delicious cream metal tubes that I have such a soft spot for. My first dabble with organic Australian brand, Grown Alchemist, was the Vanilla & Orange Peel hand cream, which is as heavenly as it sounds. The Olive Leaf & Plantago Extract Cream Cleanser is ideal for dry and sensitive skins to calm and cleanse without stripping and rinses off easily leaving no residue. 

Shout out to my daisies... totally worth postponing the lawn mowing just to see their pretty faces. 

Antipodes is a New Zealand skincare brand that I often turn to when my skin is playing up a little and I'm particularly enjoying the Grace Gentle Cream Cleanser right now. This silky smooth anti inflammatory cream helps calm any redness or irritation as it cleanses and leaves my face feeling comfortably hydrated. If you get nervous about products aggravating your skin, I really rate this range... another two stand outs are the Aura Manuka Honey Mask and Worship Superfruit Antioxidant Serum.

Anyone else switch up their skincare with the seasons?

Products featured on Strawberry Blonde Beauty include press samples. See my full disclaimer here. 


Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Why use an eye shadow primer?

If you've never used an eye shadow primer then you're in for a treat. Essentially an eye shadow magnet and enhancer, it's one of those products that once you've tried it, there's no going back. It makes such a difference, with way more tangible results than a face primer.

  • eye shadow applies more smoothly and evenly
  • pigmentation is stronger; colours look deeper and brighter
  • there is way less (if any) creasing
  • lasting power is increased x 100.


Spread a small amount evenly over the eyelid with a finger tip and allow to dry for around one minute before applying eye shadow as normal. That's it. 

Some primers leave skin feeling slightly tacky or a little more matte than usual. This can be fixed by applying a neutral shadow (or translucent face powder) all over the lid with a fluffy brush. Everything will then apply more smoothly on top and it works equally well with cream and powder shadows.


I'm particularly prone to creasing so there's not a whole lot of point in me even wearing eye shadow without a primer. When I do, it keeps my shadow looking pretty perfect until I choose to remove it. Of course this varies a little between products; some may fade a little, but eye shadow + primer is a bit like Poundland nail polish + Seche Vite top coat. ie it can make average products look and perform like much more expensive ones. 

To use another nail analogy, I'd compare eye shadow with + without primer to regular nail polish vs gel nails. Both look good at first; one soon chips and peels while the other stays perfect and glossy until you remove it.

Of course all eye shadow primers are not equal and I have two distinct favourites. I've used NARS Pro-Prime Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base for years, almost exclusively since discovering it. It's a thick lotion which dries in seconds on the skin. The doe foot applicator makes it very easy to use, (though annoyingly mine has separated from the handle after a long period of use). 

Over the past few months I've been trying out MAC Prep + Prime 24 Hour Extend Eye Base and been very impressed. It has a waxy, balm-like texture and comes in a squeezy tube... the tiniest smidge about the size of a rice grain is enough for both of my eyes and it sets quickly. The finish is very matte, which may appeal to oily lidded girls, though I'm not one and still like it a lot. 

Other popular primers are Urban Decay Primer Potion, which I liked but don't think it compares to these two and Too Faced Shadow Insurance, which I've heard good things about but not got around to trying it yet (any thoughts welcome in the comments).

TIP: take care to blend primer at the edges of eye to avoid product gathering. 


For me, no creasing and added lasting power are the two main benefits of using an eye primer, but I thought I'd illustrate the instant effects too. I used two of my fave eye shadows for this, which was probably a bit daft in retrospect - rubbish ones would have given more dramatic results. This is the bronze shade from Bobbi Brown's Sunkissed Pink palette and the second darkest colour from Make Up Atelier Paris 5 Ombres palette in Bois de Rose (T19).

I used the same amount of product for every swatch, the first two on bare skin, second over NARS primer and third over MAC primer. Can you see how much more intense and even the colour looks over primer? What I should also have photographed was the result when I rubbed a finger and then tissue vigorously over the colours later. Those without primer smudged and disappeared quickly, while the others barely budged and needed makeup remover to take them off.

TIP: eye primer can also be used to help concealer stay put - 
I only do this on areas of redness rather than around eyes or on blemishes, which it might irritate. 

I'm sure many of you already use an eye shadow primer but I know that lots of my friends don't. If you love experimenting with eye makeup, or just want to keep your favourite neutral in place all day, it's really worth giving one of these a go. They both perform brilliantly - if I had to split hairs I'd say the MAC outlasts the NARS by a hair's breadth in terms of longevity (and is slightly cheaper), whereas some may prefer the lighter texture of the NARS and find its applicator easier to use.

NARS Smudgeproof Eyeshadow Base, £19.50 | MAC Prep+Prime 24h Extend Eye Base, £16

If you use an eye shadow primer, which is your favourite?

Products featured on Strawberry Blonde Beauty include press samples. See my full disclaimer here.

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