Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Caudalie Parfum Divin


You know when you fall in love with the scent of a beauty product and daydream about it being bottled? Well sometimes dreams come true…

Caudalie has done exactly this, by recreating the scent of its much-loved (by me and - it seems - anyone who’s tried it) Divine Oil in a perfume. I had high hopes and I wasn’t disappointed… it was bliss at first spritz. I’m a big fan of skin scents for Summer, which is exactly how I’d describe this - warm, sensual, musky, makes me swoon a little - just how I like it.

‘A rose, a little vanilla, musks, something wonderfully smooth...

When I close my eyes it reminds me of warm Summer evenings, yet works equally well as a daytime scent. It sprays in a fine, delicate mist and is difficult to overdo - heady but not overpowering; sweet but not sickly - suitable for women of all ages.

‘The queen of roses builds on scintillating grapefruit and spicy pink peppercorn, three rare "Uganda planifolia" vanilla beans, wonderful Virginia cedar and extraordinary musks.’


The elegant bottle reflects the contents perfectly - I love the pale gold ombre effect glass and ash wood lid. It’s heavy, substantial, but doesn’t take up too much space on my dressing table.

So if you already own the oil, do you need this too? I tend to use Divine Oil on my legs, so yes - I need this on my upper body where I can catch a waft of it throughout the day. If you use the oil all over, you’ll know that it’s pretty heady on its own and could probably skip this… *if* you can resist the temptation to spritz yourself in its loveliness.

Caudalie Parfum Divin is available at Escentual.com or Lookfantastic.com


Friday, 18 July 2014

Hydraluron Moisture Jelly


Following the success of its facial serum and moisture boosting mask, Indeed Labs is back with a third face quencher, its first ever moisturiser: Hydraluron Moisture Jelly. I initially assumed that this was another skin treatment, but it’s a straight up, standard moisturiser with a jelly texture - and my skin is loving it.

Suitable for all skin types, it offers instant and long-term moisture thanks to 5 complex actives including a hefty boost of our faithful friend, hyaluronic acid.


The packaging has been designed to release the perfect dose of moisture in one pump - I love these flat top style jars - so easy to use as well as hygienic.  There was a time when gel textures like this were considered less moisturising than rich creams, but that’s all changed as new formulas mean the gel can carry goodness even deeper into the skin, in a similar manner to serums.

Hydraluron Moisture Jelly feels cooling, soothing and comforting on my skin - slightly tacky on application, it dries quickly and makes a great base for make-up.

Hydraluron Moisture Jelly will retail at £24.00 for 30ml, but Boots currently has 1/3 off selected Indeed Labs products making it just £16.99 HERE.

Love a bargain… I wouldn’t hang about as I really don’t think you can go wrong with this.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Bronze Luxe


My bronzer usage is totally seasonal: it lives in a dark drawer all Winter while I embrace the pale - followed by a joyful reunion come Summer when the urge for a golden glow becomes irresistible. To me, bronzers are one of the most exciting Summer make-up releases and today I’ve picked four of my favourites from the 2014 line-up: Michael Kors, Bobbi Brown, Sisley and Liz Earle.


Packaging is important when it comes to bronzer. It’s gotta be pretty, practical and have a decent mirror. These four are on a par, apart from the Michael Kors which comes in a huge, heavy gold studded case. Practical? No. Beautiful? Yes. Set it on your dressing table and swoon.

Bobbi-Brown-Bronzing-Powder-Medium  Liz-Earle-Bronzer-quartet-2014  Michael-Kors-Bronze-Powder-Glow Sisley-BronzerIMG_5846

This bronze quartet includes 3 different levels of shimmer and 1 matte - nb these are heavy finger swatches to give you an idea of the colour and intensity. None of them look this shimmery or intense on the face.  Here’s my lowdown on each one…

Michael Kors Bronze Powder in Glow, £34.50 - the most user-friendly bronzer for pale skins that I’ve tried, I can sweep this on without having to be too careful or worry about overdoing it. I’ve been using it since my palest days and it’s one of the few that just might remain in my stash beyond Autumn. The formula is smooth, velvety and has a subtle sheen which is barely detectable unless you’re under a spotlight (not if I can avoid it).

Bobbi Brown Bronzing Powder in Medium, £28 - I’ve renamed this The Perfect Matte Bronzer, either for contouring or Secret Make-up days (just me?). I love its cool tones and even finish, which is great for deepening allover skintone, or adding colour to areas where the sun catches naturally - across cheekbones, temples and forehead. Although the Medium shade appears quite deep in the pan (also comes in two lighter shades) I find that it works really well on me - and is so finely milled that I have a lot of control over the finish. Speaking of which, its matte-ness makes this a great option for men looking for a subtle bronzed look.

Sisley Phyto-Touche Illusion d'Été, £66.50 - this gel-like powder is one of those that hurts to use the first time - it’s just so pretty! It applies beautifully, adding a gentle bronze glow to light skins and illuminating tanned skin. I find that one sweep gives a skin-evening ‘halo’ effect - almost like a bronze version of the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powders. Building up the product adds a very natural looking wash of radiant golden colour to my skin. In the swatches, the colour looks very similar to the Michael Kors, but it’s actually more yellow-gold toned with brush application. Like all Sisley make-up, Phyto-Touch treats your skin, thanks to moisturising natural extracts of Gardenia, Mallow and Linden Blossom.

Liz Earle Radiant Glow Bronzer, £19.50 - the different shades in this quartet make it very versatile - and swirled together they give enough depth of colour to work on light, medium and tanned skins (I generally avoid the darkest quarter). As it has quite a lot of shimmer, I only use this in the evening - if you prefer a lighter, matte finish, the Natural Glow Bronzer is great. It’s worth noting that this has quite a distinct, sweet scent, which I find quite overpowering, though am not aware of after application.

Have you tried any of these bronzers - or which is your favourite this Summer? If you thinking these are a bit pricey, I’ll be featuring some more purse friendly alternatives soon.  

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Four Budget Skincare Buys


Budget + skincare are not words that I often include in the same sentence, so I’m really pleased to introduce four recent finds under £10 that perform way better than their price tag suggests (and give some high end products a run for their money).

Bee Good Honey & Wild Mint 3-in-1 Cleansing Water, £10 here - you already know how much I love the Bee Good Creamy Cleanser (review here). I found the cleansing water super-refreshing and effective as the first step of my holiday skincare routine, removing most of my make-up with a single swipe. It dissolves make-up, cleanses and tones the skin and is gentle enough to use on eyes. Also lovely for a morning cleanse, the light, 100ml bottle is perfect for travel. I know there are cheaper micellars around, but the value in terms of quality is excellent - and it does fall within the £10 budget.

Super Facialist Purify & Refresh Face Scrub, £5.99 (on offer at Boots) here - I’m a huge fan of this brand and it’s always the first option I suggest when asked for budget skincare recommendations, as the quality is superb. Packed with effective actives such as salicylic acid and Vitamin B3 to tackle breakouts, it also soothes with Grapeseed Oil and Elderflower. The texture is superfine and it leaves my skin feeling extra soft and smooth. Currently 1/3 off at Boots, I honestly can’t believe this is only £5.99!

Mandara Spa Amber Heaven Softening Body Cream, £4.00 (on offer, different packaging) here - in all honesty this has been in my stash for a few months as I didn’t really expect to be wow-ed by it. More the fool me. As the name suggests, the smell is *actually* heavenly - and the sandalwood and patchouli element smells rich rather than hippy. Acacia honey, sweet almond & starflower oils and vitamin E mean it leaves the driest parts of my skin (shins and ankles) feeling totally nourished, with a lovely sheen. Feels like it costs £40 instead of £4.

Good Things Manuka Honey Radiance Face Mask, £3.99 (another offer!) here - I don’t generally associate clay masks with radiance, but somehow this works. It draws out impurities with white clay, brightens with papaya extract and soothes with Manuka honey and beeswax, all while smelling divine! This gave my post-flight and full day’s travelling face a real boost and didn’t leave it feeling at all stripped - a pleasure to use.

While luxury products will always be my first love, please let me know if you’d like me to include more budget finds in future. I’d love to hear your budget skincare recs - please leave me a comment below!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

He-Shi Rapid 1 Hour Liquid Tan

He_Shi_Rapid_1_Hour_tanI’ve had a long term love affair with He-Shi self tan and declared the Dark Foaming Mousse my favourite last Summer. Rapid 1 Hour Liquid Tan is the newest release from the brand - and I’m besotted. I’m rarely organised about self tanning and often don’t even think about it until the last minute, when I realise that my company for the evening may require sunglasses to avoid the glare from my skin.

This happened today and I wasn’t even going anywhere special, but it was hot, I was wearing a cami top and felt pasty. A two minute application of He-Shi Rapid 1 Hour Liquid Tan left me looking like I’d just stepped off the plane from somewhere exotic. As far as I know it only comes in Medium to Dark - and if you want a lighter colour, you just wash it off after the first hour, though personally I’d use a different tanner if you’re uber pale or only want a light golden tan. This gives a proper holiday glow… in fact the first time I used it I was asked twice where I’d been on holiday (this was before I went on holiday!) and both people (one a beautician) were amazed that my colour wasn’t natural.

This is a very runny liquid which basically looks like black coffee (like the original He-Shi Express Tan - this one just works even faster). Application with a mitt is essential - I pour a small amount directly onto the mitt, apply to skin, then repeat with the same amount for each matching limb. There is enough time to blend before this sets, though not loads, so don’t hang around. It is tinted, so you can see exactly where you’ve done (just me that forgets and re-tans the same limb otherwise?) and gives an instant wash of colour, so you’re good to go even during that first hour while it’s developing. I never wash it off after an hour - I just leave it all day/evening and have a shower before bed to avoid staining the sheets with the colour guide. The smell is average - there’s a slight whiff when it develops but it’s not overpowering, doesn’t bother me and is gone once I’ve showered. 

The final colour is an incredibly natural looking deep golden olive with zero orange tones - it looks very even and lasts around 5-7 days on me before I need a top up. Oh, my latest discovery for foolproof even colour is to go over the final application with a clean, dry tanning mitt. This has a similar effect to using a kabuki or buffing brush to finish your foundation - removing any excess, evening things out and buffing the usual dodgy areas: hands, feet and elbows. I do recommend using a moisturiser on these areas pre-application to avoid build up on dry patches and dilute the intensity a little. I’ve tested this with an all over body cream application prior to use and found it didn’t work as well as when my skin was perfectly dry. You know the score re exfoliating in advance etc, but if you’re nervous about self tanning, you can read more of my tips in a recent article I wrote for City Guide here. It’s also worth adding that if you’re a novice or not in a hurry, the Dark Foaming Mousse is probably a little bit easier to apply.

Well I got a bit carried away there, didn’t I? That’s what happens when I’m bowled over by a product. So much for starting the second series of Orange is the New Black this evening.

He-Shi Rapid 1 Hour Liquid Tan costs £22.50 from Space NK

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Bobbi Brown Surf & Sand: review & swatches

BobbiBrown-Surf Sand-Collection-Summer-2014Bobbi Brown’s limited edition Surf & Sand Summer collection was inspired by sandy neutrals, designed to create effortless beach to bar looks.

Surf Eye Palette

BobbiBrownSurf Sand BobbiBrown-Surf-eyeshadow-paletteBobbi-Brown-Surf-Eye-Palette-swatches Bobbi-Brown-Surf-Eye-Palette-swatches-flash 

The collection includes two eye palettes: Surf - above, and Sand - warmer copper and gold shades. Surf includes 5 shimmering gold tones, a matte cream shade and blue and green glitters. I was surprised to see the inclusion of brights and expect most will have a marmite reaction to these: they aren’t for uber bright fans as the colour payoff is very minimal. The colour-shy are more likely to enjoy the subtlety, though really, the colour is barely detectable.

Bikini Bronze, the strongest gold tone (top right) is the one I’ve been reaching for the most. Applied over primer this looks super intense and can be worn alone or as the basis for a smokey eye, while the lighter gold tones look good for a daytime wash of colour.

Personally, I’d opt for the warmer Sand palette, which appeals to me due to the variety of my kinda tones, good colour payoff (in swatches I’ve seen) and the inclusion of a deeper shade for contrast.

Brightening Blush + Sheer Lip Color

BobbiBrown-Pink-Lightening-Blush-Surf Sand  Bobbi-Brown-Sheer-lip-color-peach-sorbet summer-nude BobbiBrown-pink-lightening-blush Summer-Nude-Peach-sorbet-sheer-lip-swatch

The lightly pearlised blush in Pink (also available in Bronze) gives a subtle, pretty flush to the cheeks, which works well over bronzer on my skin tone but may not show up on darker skins. The first swatch is the main colour on its own and the second, all three swirled together, which looks pretty on upper cheekbones. I like this a lot and think I’ll wear it more in cooler weather when I’m paler.

Although described as sheer, the lipsticks can be built up to significant colour - I’ve used a double swipe for these swatches. Summer Nude is a more apricot tone than I’d normally go for, but surprisingly nice on the lips and gorgeously creamy in texture. Peach Sorbet is a soft coral with gold shimmer, something I’m not normally a fan of, but it does soften shortly after application into a really pretty shade.

Long-Wear Eye Pencil

Bobbi-Brown-longwear-eye-pencil-bronze-surf sand

Is it weird that my favourite from this collection is an eyeliner? Just look at it though… *swoon* - I’m a huge fan of bronze eyeliners and constantly trying new ones - and this one is utter perfection. It’s cooler and darker on application than expected, applies like velvet and lasts well on my eyes, perfect for a smokey smudge along the lash line.


In these pics I’m wearing the Pink blush (after a little contouring with bronzer), Summer Nude Lip Color, Sunshine Metallic Eye shadow (3rd left shade in palette, without primer) and the Bronze long-wear eye pencil.

Prices start at £18 and all products are available now at Selfridges or John Lewis.

If I had to choose from the Bobbi Brown Surf & Sand collection I’d go for the Sand Eye Palette, Bronze eye pencil and Pink Taffy lipstick. How about you?

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Beauty Treatments under one roof


People are often surprised to hear how few professional beauty treatments I’ve experienced. Much as I love beauty, make-up and pampering, it’s something I usually DIY, due to budget and time constraints, but was recently treated to a pampering morning at House of Fraser Belfast as a thank you gift - and thought I’d share my experience. Maybe I’m the last to know, but I honestly didn’t realise how many treatments were available under one roof.

First up was a hand and arm massage at Jo Malone, an amazingly soothing experience, during which I learned about fragrance combining and why we’re drawn to particular scents - all while sipping a glass of champagne.


Next up was a mani at the Nails Inc nail bar… I opted for one of the gel effect colours in Kensington Passage, a neon orange coral. I was really impressed by the Kensington top coat used over this - it was so glossy and long lasting I’ll be picking one up for sure.


The highlight for me was a La Prairie facial by the (breathtakingly beautiful) Emma. I was expecting a few products to be applied at the counter, so was pleasantly surprised to be whisked off to a pretty, dimly lit beauty room for a proper full-on facial. This was a completely incredible luxury treatment which I can’t recommend highly enough. It left my skin so glowing that I was quite happy to walk around the store make-up free for a while - a big deal for me, believe me!

Dior-makeup skincare

My final treat was make-up by Dior, with an Airbrush foundation base, smokey eye using the new eye shadow palette and a little bronzer and blush. I was out of my comfort zone with the orange toned eye colour, but the lovely Laura convinced me and I really liked how it looked on!

Final look   

This was my final make-up and nail look… note the uber chilled expression, a million miles from the one I arrived with that morning!

A friend has her brows done with Shavata in the same store and they look amazing. You can book in for each treatment with the individual brand or department, just like you would with a normal beautician - well worth enquiring at your local House of Fraser and I’ll definitely be back for more.


NB In case you’re wondering, this is not a sponsored post and I was under no obligation to blog about my experience.

Friday, 11 July 2014

New Look NEOM & a Burst of Energy


Most of the time I’m happy to use a fairly basic body product, though I do have to be careful as my skin is prone to dry patches and can be quite sensitive. Sometimes I fancy a little extra somethin’, either as an indulgence or for therapeutic reasons; NEOM happens to tick both boxes. There is a vast difference between body products that smell good; are ‘natural’; contain ingredients that actually benefit your skin or sense of wellbeing. In my opinion, NEOM is worth every penny as it makes me - not just my skin - feel good. To make it even easier to select the best products for you, the brand has recently repackaged and recategorised their lines (including some new ones) into Sleep, De-stress, Energy and Happy… ever feel like you could benefit from all four at once? Me too!

Neom-BurstofEnergy-hand body-wash

I chose Burst of Energy from the new range as the Grapefruit, Lemon & Rosemary scent is right up my street. I can’t begin to tell you how glad I was about this after a long journey and very little sleep this week - this stuff is like (healthy!) caffeine for the senses. There is no way that I would restrict the use of the Body & Hand Wash and Lotion to hands only - and if you try them, you’ll understand why. This scent is so good you will want to use it all over! In addition to Grapefruit, Lemon & Rosemary essential oils there’s a further 9 essential oils such as neroli and mandarin in the blend… that’s a whole lotta therapy bottled up.

I’m keeping everything crossed that this new fragrance is extended to candles as I’d love to be surrounded by it all day!

Isn’t the new packaging super chic? Check out new look NEOM at neomorganics.com

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Chattyblog & a Round Up!


As I very rudely slipped away on holidays without saying goodbye, I thought I’d share a quick roundup of what I’ve been up to. While it was great to have a break from work and the online world, I did miss blogging. There are numerous reasons why I blog, but the primary one is that I’m passionate about doing it and love the interaction I have with my readers and other bloggers. It was good to step back, take time out to ponder and get some sense of perspective, so there may be a few little changes afoot, hopefully for the better! One of the things that occurred to me was that I rarely share much about me, myself & I on here - a conscious decision as I’m quite protective of my privacy - but I think it’s all about striking the right balance.

I’m pumped with new ideas and as usual, am hoping I can find enough hours in the day to transfer them all from my head to these pages. I haven’t blogged as regularly as I’d like in recent months due to taking on more work (as a result of this blog) and it bothers me, so that’s another place I’d like to find balance. The truth is that blogging is a much more time consuming commitment than it appears - and unless I sit up into the wee small hours, it doesn’t happen. I could also improve on my time management skills, but with two young children (now off school for 8 weeks Summer holidays) and work commitments, that’s not always possible either. I’m working on it.

As I shared on Instagram today (I’m strawbryblonde on there if you fancy saying hello), the best thing about being home is a proper cup of tea… granny, moi? The second best is being reunited with my hairdryer - good lord I looked rough when I was away: 95% humidity + my usual frizz head  = not a pretty sight. Hats and topknots all the way. Add to that, 25 mosquito bites (which I’m allergic to, so each one swells up ridiculously) and huge sore spots as a result of switching up my skincare. Attractive. Today I blow dried my hair, was reunited with my beloved Bobbi Brown skincare (ode coming soon) and applied a full face of make-up. Best feeling ever… natural beauty I am not! *sob*

While away, we stayed in Bergamo in southern Italy, close to lots of great places to visit. The highlight for me was our time at Lake Como, the most breathtakingly beautiful place I’ve ever been - see the 3 pics above on the water. The cutie on the right is my little boy mesmerised by a baby ladybird on his arm. We stayed in a gorgeous rural house set in mature gardens, overlooking remote villages on the mountains (view from the balcony top left), went on a day trip to uber glam Milan (centre pic), ate ridiculous amounts of pasta and drank too much prosecco. It was perfect. Special thank you to my fabulous MIL, Linda for organising it all.

Well done if you’ve made it this far and as always, thank you for reading… it still amazes me that you do. Normal beauty chat resumes tomorrow! X

Saturday, 28 June 2014

In-Flight Essentials


As I’m off on holiday soon, I’ve been gathering together some in-flight essentials, which are more practical than beauty-focused really. Besides the fact that I have two young children, I’m not really the type for sky-high facials, but a a long drive to the airport and quite a bit of waiting around means a few little pick-me-ups won’t go amiss. My priority is always staying hydrated, so that’s what the majority of these picks are based on. Most are miniatures and the rest conveniently small… I still need to pick up a clear bag to store them in, so if you have any suggestions for something reusable (preferably available on the High Street), please let me know.


Mandara Spa Tropical Blooms Softening Body Cream with Jasmine and Ylang Ylang - this has a lovely calming scent that’s not overpowering, absorbs quickly and feels nourishing but not at all sticky. This 50ml tube is part of a little travel set and you can pick these up in Sainsbury’s (which technically makes them groceries, right?)

Bodhi & Birch Lime Blossom Protecting Hand Serum - I’ve written a full ode to this here, but suffice to say, it’s the scent - and how this makes me (not just my hands) feel - that keeps me coming back for more.

Weleda Wild Rose Deodorant - this is gently scnted of roses and is a natural formula, which won’t clog pores or stain the skin/clothing in the heat, so I’ll use it when I’m away too. I’ve been a fan of Weleda since I discovered it for my babies and have used their products ever since. Love that they bring out miniatures every year.

Balance Me Skin Brightening Hydrating Facial Mist - I always use this in Summer as it feels good, smells good and actually hydrates my skin thanks to hyaluronic acid and pineapple & rose floral waters. I usually store mine in the fridge and have a quick spritz to wake me up in the morning. Great on sun-drenched skin too.

Popbands - did you spot the cute neon hair band around the Facial Mist? I love Popbands as they’re soft, smooth and don’t pull at my hair or leave a kink where it’s been tied up. Designed to look cute when worn around the wrist as well as in the hair, this one is particularly pretty with the diamante heart design.


EcoHydra Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitiser - I used to be quite complacent about hand sanitisers and never used them regularly until I tried this one. Unlike most others, this is alcohol-free, so doesn’t dry out my hands. It’s a foam, which I much prefer to gel, contains aloe vera and has a lovely fresh smell. I’m reassured by the fact that it leaves no more than 10 germs on my hands, unlike the 10,000 missed by most High St formulas. Can’t argue with that - and personally I’d rather have hands that are properly germ free than ones that smell of strawberries.

SunSense Lip Balm SPF 50+ - admittedly this is more for use on holiday than in-flight, but no point in me bringing two, especially when this one works so well. The formula feels like a lip butter as it’s so rich and creamy - I just love it and it feels way more expensive than £5.99. It’s also fragrance free, contains Vitamin E and SPF50 - which isn’t easy to find in a lip product. I’m a huge fan of this entire range since discovering the sunscreen in Australia, where it’s made (they know a thing or two about sunscreen) and am so pleased that it’s now available here.

Aromatherapy Deep Relax Balm - this tiny little jar is perfect for travelling and I’m hoping it will calm any travelling nerves… I’m actually fine with flying but usually appreciate a little soothing with the inevitable tensions of the journey, so this is my little helper!

Jo Malone Wild Sage & Sea Salt - I promise not to spray this while on the plane - I find it quite rude when people impose their scent on everyone else. Just before boarding is fine - and for a little pep me up on arrival. You can read my full review on this scent here.


I spotted this 4 pack of travel bottles in Primark and couldn’t resist for £1 - I haven’t tried it yet so can’t vouch for how secure the bottles fasten etc, but thought I’d flag it up in case anyone is looking for similar as it’s so handy to have!

I’ll be writing a separate post on the beauty products that make it into my suitcase (ps there’s a lot more of them!). Do you think this stash looks reasonable or too much? If I did have to cut it back, I’d choose the facial mist, lip balm, Popbands and EcoHydra.

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