Birchbox-ing January 2014


January Birchbox was all about Tiny Tweaks - breaking resolutions into bite-sized pieces, focusing on some small daily changes that will make a big difference. Much more sensible than huge sweeping intentions that never materialise.

I’m late in reporting back on this, but if you like what you see, the January Box is still available - and I have a free delivery code!

In my box:

  • ITSU miso soup - a light & healthy miso soup to help shake off bad snacking habits.
  • Philip Kingsley Moisture Balancing Conditioner - I’ve used this before and loved it, so this went straight into my weekend away kit (a girl can dream)
  • Rodial Bee Venom Moisturiser - an anti-ageing weapon to stimulate collagen & elastin (not as scary as it sounds!)
  • Premae Anatomy Nutrients Instant Renewal Body Oil - one of my favourites in the box, I’m a huge fan of Premae, the first luxury beauty brand to be Allergy UK Awarded.  I use the Tender Tots oil on my little boy who has food allergies and it works wonders when his eczema flares up.
  • Vasanti Detox Nutrient Rich Purifying Facial Cleanser - great ingredients and a gorgeous texture.
  • Benefit The Pore-fessional - needs no introduction!

My only issue with this box is that I would have liked at least one full sized item and a make-up item, but that’s just my personal preference.  Other options are available and you will receive a selection of the products for each month, so each person receives different contents. 

Are you a Birchbox fan?

Find out more or subscribe to Birchbox here.



Models Own HyperGel: Review & Swatches


If you weren’t convinced by the at home gel kit in my last post, then Models Own new HyperGel collection might be more up your street.  Regular paint-on, swipe-off polishes in 10 colours from pastels to brights that leave a gel effect appearance on the nails - no UV or curing required.  After such a grey week I couldn’t have been happier to greet these pretty pastel shades which have made me look forward to Spring big time!

Models-Own-HyperGel-Pink-Veneer-brushModels-Own-HyperGel-Lilac-Sheen-Pink-Veneer-swatches Models-Own-HyperGel-NakedGlow-LilacSheen-PinkVeneerModels-Own-HyperGel-Naked-Glow-Lilac-Sheen-Pink-Veneer-swatch

The light dropped so much between me photographing the bottles and painting my nails that I didn’t have time to swatch the nude shade, Naked Glow, which is a shame as it’s a really wearable colour for my skin tone.  The two I have swatched are Lilac Sheen and Pink Veneer, both of which look much more sugary in real life and remind me of sugared almonds.

The lilac is gorgeous, the pink a touch too sweet for my taste, though I reserve the right to change my mind on this by Spring!  The colours are close to opaque in one generous coat, though I find two gives a better - and more gel-like finish, with a slightly raised effect. The texture is of course thicker than most Models Own formulas, so might take a little practice to create a perfectly smooth finish.  It’s tempting to add a top coat, though there doesn’t seem much point when you’ve selected a gel effect polish - it makes as much sense as putting a glossy topcoat over a matte polish - who, me?

As someone who often does gel manicures at home, these probably aren’t something I’d choose based on their main selling point, but I do like the colours and opacity - and they’ve definitely put a Spring in my step!

Oh yes - the reason I was so keen to share these today is that they are included in the Models Own sale which started today with 50% off orders of £25+ using the code HALFPRICE - full details here.  Models Own HyperGel colours are included in the sale as a pre-launch and will cost £5 each when they go into stores.



New: Fuse Gelnamel UK Review & Swatches - Na, No Way!


A first impressions post as this brand new product literally just landed today, but so far I’m completely WOWed by Fuse Gelnamel.  Neither gel nor polish, this is a ‘world first, one coat gel polish hybrid’.  Costing more than regular polish and less than gels, it takes minutes to apply and lasts for around one week.  Designed for chip-hating gals who like to switch up colours often, don’t want full-on gels and have neither the time or budget for high maintenance manis.  Now I do love a gel polish and have raved on here about SensatioNail (the creator of Fuse, incidentally) often enough, but sometimes I just don’t have the time - and I do get twitchy about wearing the same shades after a week - so frankly, I’m all over this!

In the Kit


Designed to be portable for on the go or hols, everything is mini - too cute! The products in this pic are actual size to give you an idea of just how teeny it all is (besides the bottles of polish, which are actually quite large).

In the front row we have:

  • cleanser
  • colour polish (mine is called Na-No Way!)
  • LED Lamp

And at the back:

  • cuticle stick
  • lint-free wipes
  • double sided buffer/file
  • plug
  • USB cable - just out of sight

The lamp is teeny because you use it for one finger at a time. It can be plugged into the wall as normal, or into your computer with the USB cable supplied.  I LOVE this as my SensatioNail lamp has a really short lead and I basically have to do my nails wherever it will reach.  Not any more! 

Speaking of which, the Fuse LED is designed specifically for use with these polishes to fuse/cure the 3 in 1 formula on individual nails in 30 seconds. The SensatioNail lamps will cure the polishes too, but will take longer (60-90 secs) - a matter of experimenting and apparently the same results can’t be guaranteed.

How it all works

Fuse-Gelnamel-Na-No-Way-bright-pink-fuchsia-gel-polishFuse-Gelnamel-LED-light-1-finger   Fuse-Gelnamel-kitFuse-Gelnamel-pedi-toes

Obviously you make sure nails are clean, filed and cuticles pushed back before starting - standard, then follow 3 steps, 1 nail at a time:

1. Buff the nail to smooth the surface and remove shine, then cleanse with lint-free pad to remove any residue, dust or grease. This helps the polish adhere.

2. Apply polish.  The colours (12 available) come in large bottles with a wide-ish square tipped brush. The texture is a bit thicker than regular polish - I found it pretty easy to work with (consistency is a bit like Seche Vite).  One thin layer is recommended per nail. Another can be added if you wish and I imagine opacity varies between colours, so it will be a matter of experimenting. I did one hand with a single coat and one with double.

3. Fuse under the LED light. Place finger on the little groove inside the lamp and press the button on the top to start - it automatically switches off after 30 secs. Cleanse nail again. Because there is no primer, base or top coat (hurrah!) the lamp is more powerful than regular LEDs.

That’s it! Now you’re supposed to buff/cleanse, polish, Fuse/cleanse each nail one at a time. I can understand why the Fuse-ing must be done individually, but I did the first buff & cleanse to all nails on each hand before adding colour, rather than one at a time - I’m crazy like that.

Fuse also works on toes! The roof of the LED light flips around on a magnet (see pic 4 above), so that you can put your toes underneath, as demo-ed with my pinkie! Clever.

Removal is done in the same way as standard gel polishes, but is quicker and easier minus the usual multiple layers. Soaking or the foil method using Acetone or SensatioNail Gel Polish Remover is recommended.

Swatches: Na-No Way!

 Fuse-Gelnamel-Na-No-Way-2-coatsFuse-Gelnamel-Na-No-Way-1 coat    

Na-No Way! looks fine with one coat - above left though I’ve a bit of a thing for totally opaque nails, so did the other hand with two coats - above right.  You can see that it has a thicker, more typical ‘gel’ look. Na-No Way! is a super bright almost neon pink and will be gorgeous for Spring/Summer.  There are 12 shades available at the moment - including glitters and a gorgeous dark called V-amp (next on my list), which is exactly as it sounds - Rouge Noir-ish. 

My Set Up


I loved the ease of an at-desk mani, with the LED lamp plugged into my laptop via the USB.  This was my first attempt and took around 20 mins in total (compared to 45 mins for a regular gel mani) - I can imagine cutting this down to 10 mins after a bit of practice.  I’m really happy with the results - I’ve tried scratching and chipping my nails the things I do for you ;) and nada, though time will tell of course…

The brand will soon have its own site where you can purchase the products directly, but for now, more info is available at SensatioNail or on twitter @FUSEGelnamelUK.  Fuse Gelnamel Starter Kits are exclusive to Boots (choice of 6 colours) at £35 each or 12 individual colours at £15 each here.

Do you like the idea of Fuse?


Sisley Phyto Lip Twist: Review & Swatches - Pinky & Berry


Sisley may be late to the lip crayon trend, but what an entrance - and in terms of quality, Phyto-Lip Twists are streets ahead.  Available from 1 February, this is a truly buildable product designed to colour, moisturise and firm the lips.  Made with plant extracts to smooth and protect, one slick adds a subtle, but definite, wash of colour, which can be built to the opacity of a lipstick, leaving a gorgeous shine to the lips.  At the risk of sounding a bit 80s, I can’t think of a better word to describe the texture than silky, as that’s exactly how they feel both in application and texture.  If you hate the feel of lipstick and the stickiness of a gloss, but want a wash of colour you can apply and forget about, your prayers have been answered.  You can’t really over apply this product, so lip colour newbies need not fear either.



No4 Pinky is a luminous fuchsia pink, more neon in the bullet than it looks in the pic above, though softer and more wearable than other neons (like Stila Electric Pink).  No5 Berry is a burgundy plum, super rich yet wearable and looks great patted on gently and blended with a finger for a berry stain. I used two swipes of colour for these swatches, though on my lips, draw them on 3-4 times as I’m usually up for a full-on lip!

“Phyto-Lip Twist combines skin care ingredients to moisturise and protect, with highly pigmented polymers for intense colour and a glossy finish.”

On the Lips


Excuse Squinty Face - I was so happy to see the sun today, I couldn’t bear to shut it out!

On the left No4, Pinky is a cool, blue toned bright pink with quite a glossy finish.  No5 Berry (right) is not matt, but has a subtle sheen rather than shine.  Both literally feel like a balm and I forget I’m even wearing them until I catch a glimpse in the mirror some time later and am pleasantly surprised at how long they last. OH - very important point: these are twist up crayons, so no sharpening required - happy days!  With some degree of trepidation I twisted one out to full capacity and wish I’d taken a pic as it was a similar length to a standard lipstick, not always the case with this kind of product.

I realise I’m raving here… these are literally my dream formula and I’ll be picking up at least one more of the six shades - Nude looks a little bit gorgeous for with a smokey eye.  Of course all this fabulosity comes at a price - well justified in this case - Sisley Phyto-Lip Twists will cost £28 each and launch on 1st February at



Hydraluron Moisture Boost Mask: Review


If you suffer from dry or dehydrated skin, you might like to check out Hydraluron Moisture Boost Mask - the latest release by Indeed Labs, makers of the original Hydraluron. 

This new mask uses a 3D time released hyaluronic acid (aka mega moisture) to treat dry and dehydrated skin, providing up to 24 hours of deep moisturisation.  Slower release of hyaluronic acid over time provides an extended feeling of plumpness and hydration.

The box contains four sachets, which I assumed would be filled with product, but they actually contain a face shaped piece of gauze/muslin soaked in product.  I removed all make-up, tied back my hair and lay down before unfolding the mask and placing it on my face.  You could actually sit up as it moulds to your skin (and stays wet), but it’s so rare that I lay still for 15mins I wasn’t gonna turn down the chance!  There are peepholes for the eyes, nostrils and mouth, so you can read or watch TV if you wish - and I see no reason why you couldn’t leave the mask on for longer.


My mask after use (sorry), but I wanted to let you see how it looked!

After 15mins I removed the mask, massaged the remaining serum into my skin (and rubbed the remainder over my neck, backs of hands and feet (didn’t want to waste a drop!).  I then applied moisturiser and relaxed.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but must admit my skin was glowing today. My moisturiser didn’t disappear on contact with my skin and I honestly looked like I had applied some kind of highlighting/glowy product (I hadn’t).  This gets a big thumbs up from me as a weekly or pre-special occasion treat. It would also be amazing after a long haul flight.

Hydraluron Moisture Boosting Mask is 100 percent free from animal-derived raw materials and organic solvent remnants. It costs £19.99 for four masks (20ml) and is available exclusively instore or online at Boots here.



Win: Palmers Cocoa Butter Intensive Relief & Pure Collection Cashmere Gloves

Palmers-Cocoa-Butter-Intensive-Relief-Body-Lotion-Hand-Cream Pure-Collection-Cashmere-Fingerless-Gloves

If your skin is feeling the pinch of bitter Winter winds, read on for a chance to get your mitts on new Palmers Cocoa Butter Intensive Relief Hand & Body duo and a gorgeous pair of Pure Collection cashmere fingerless gloves!

Palmers Intensive range keeps skin hydrated and irritations at bay.  Suitable for sensitive skin, a blend of anti-itch, soothing and deeply hydrating natural ingredients leaves skin soft and smooth.

Although the body lotion retains a subtle scent from the cocoa butter content, it is much milder than the version I used on my pregnant tummy many moons ago - and relieved the dry itchy skin on my legs instantly!  Hypoallergenic, fragrance free, paraben free and dermatologist tested it provides long lasting moisturisation for up to 24 hours.

AHAs in the body lotion gently exfoliate dry, scaly patches while Soy and Oat in both the hand and body formulas help alleviate itchiness and natural moisturiser, Urea hydrates.  Both the hand and body products absorb quickly, so won’t slow you down.  The addition of cashmere fingerless gloves / wrist warmers will be the icing on the cake for the winner!

To enter, please subscribe to my blog and leave a comment below saying which ingredient(s) in Palmers Intensive Relief Body Lotion helps alleviate itchiness?

This giveaway closes at noon on Thursday 23 January, when a winner will be chosen at random.




Sleek Blush By 3 Palettes: Pink Lemonade & Californ.i.a Review & Swatches


I make no secret of my love for high end beauty products, yet today’s launch of two Sleek Makeup Blush By 3 Palettes has reignited my blogging mojo more than anything I’ve tried for a while. With names like Pink Lemonade and Californ.i.a, my heart rate may have soared little before I even clapped eyes on these.   I’ve had mixed experiences with Sleek Blushers in the past, from glitter overload to whoa there pigments, but this time, they’ve come up trumps.

Pink Lemonade

Sleek-Blush-Palette-Pink-Lemonade Sleek-Blush-Palette-Pink-Lemonade-swatchesSleek-Blush-Palette-Pink-Lemonade-swatched

The Pink Lemonade palette includes two powders and one cream shadow in Icing Sugar, Macaroon and Pink Mint. 

  • Icing Sugar - cool pink powder blush with a fine gold sheen (not too much)
  • Macaroon - coral toned pink cream blush
  • Pink Mint - coral powder blush with gold shimmer

I’ve been reaching for this daily as my favourite of the two - the colours suit my complexion best and powder blush is my preferred formula. They work well on my pale Winter pallor, but as you can see from the swatches, the formula is buildable.  The powders also look good with a small amount of the Macaroon cream blush patted on upper apples of the cheek for added depth and an extra pop of colour.



Sleek-Blush-Palette-California-Californ.i.a    Sleek-Blush-Palette-California-Californ.i.a-swatchesSleek-Blush-Palette-California-Californ.i.a-swatched

The combination of this palette’s sunny name and bright peachy coral tones make me excited for Spring!  All three are cream blushers called: Newport Peach, The Surf and OC.

  • Newport Peach - orange toned coral
  • The Surf - a pale peach with golden shimmer. This looks matt in dull light and quite glittery under the sun or electric light.
  • OC - pink toned coral

Unlike some cream blushes which can be difficult to work into the skin evenly, these blend like a breeze.  Once they settle, they seem to slightly stain the skin, adding to their lasting power.  If you’re a cream blush novice, I think Californ.i.a would be a great palette to start with - they work perfectly fine with either fingers or a duo fibre brush.

I think the individual shade names of both palettes would work better in reverse. eg Pink Mint would suit Pink Lemonade’s cool pink and OC, Californ.i.a’s orange toned coral, but this is the order they appear on the label and I’ve been told it’s correct. 

Sleek Blush by 3 Pink Lemonade and Californ.i.a cost £9.99 each and are available from today at selected Boots and Superdrug stores. The only place I can find them online so far is directly from Sleek Makeup.


NYC Valentines Nails: Oh Soho Sweet


The arrival of this fresh and pretty NYC Valentines nail trio brightened up my week and brought a welcome respite from the darker hues I’ve been sporting lately.  From left to right, the colours are:

  • Long Time Lavender - a shimmery pink toned lilac
  • Oh Soho Sweet - a ballet pump toned peachy nude crème
  • Bubblegum Pink - an almost neon coral crème


I know I’ll love Bubblegum Pink come Spring, but for now, Oh Soho Sweet is my pick of the bunch. Clean, fresh and pretty, it reminds me of pricier lacquers by OPI and Essie - at a fraction of the cost.  Wearable with a semi-sheer finish (which unusually for me, I quite like) in 2 coats, I applied 4 for the above pic. 

NYC nail polishes almost always impress me with a quality comparable to their more expensive sisters.  They apply easily with a large brush and have a super glossy finish.

New York Color Nails, £2.49 each at Superdrug, though I’ve just spotted two of these shades for 50p each at Fragrance Direct! 

Pssst, while you’re there, you might like to check out some frankly ridiculous reductions on Becca make-up, brushes & tools, which I may have already hauled this week! Some of the items I bought are already gone, so don’t hang about - find them here.


Hotel Chocolat Beauty: Repose Cocoa Juvenate Candle & Shower Crème


It was news to me that Hotel Chocolat has an award-winning beauty and home fragrance range, the perfect indulgence to beat any lingering January blues.  Though if you’re expecting a non calorific chocolate fix, think again, as overtly chocolate, this is not.  Repose is a new addition to the Cocoa Juvenate range, designed to aid rest and regeneration… I’ll have a double helping of that please.

Warm and velvety, the cocoa base is blended with musk, sandalwood and leather, making it much more perfumed than the sweet, ‘edible’ scent that I expected.  It is in fact also available in a perfume, which I imagine to be rather gorgeous… I must pop into Hotel Chocolat next time I’m in town and have a sniff.  Although labelled a treatment candle, this is not a massage candle (another misassumption I made), but designed as a soothing, relaxing end of day treat-ment.  It fills the room softly without dominating it, which I love. 

“inspired by the scent of the cocoa groves around our Cocoa Juvenate Spa in Saint Lucia.”        *books flight*

The Shower Crème is rich and moisturising in texture, so only a little is required, but it’s the heavenly scent that gets me every time.  Made with West Indian cocoa butter, Moroccan argan oil, shea butter and rice germ oil, my skin loves it too.


Just look at that packaging… couldn’t get much more perfect in my eyes.

Hotel Chocolat Cocoa Juvenate Repose candle burns for 30-50 hours and costs £30, less than a lot of high end candles around. The Shower Crème costs £16 and the range is available here.

Have you tried anything from Hotel Chocolat - beauty or edible?!


Sweet Orange & Frangipani by Conscious Skincare

Conscious-Skincare-Sweet-Orange Frangipani-body-butter-bath-soak

At this time of year my arms and legs become susceptible to itchy, dry patches, so I opt for pure and natural body products as much as possible.  I find this helps reduce any irritation, though if you are sensitive to essential oils, take care to avoid them.  Conscious Skincare’s Sweet Orange & Frangipani duo has been cocooning me in gently fragranced, soothing loveliness.  While I favour the Bath Soak, who’s scent leans more towards the delicious sweet orange (I could literally inhale from this bottle all day), the Body Butter knocks most others out of the water.

Conscious Skincare is an award-winning British organic skin and body care brand, hand made using certified organic ingredients at its rural retreat in Wales.

“Every ingredient works hard to serve a specific purpose to benefit the skin and nothing extra is added for the sake of filling, colour, fragrance or bleaching.”

Conscious-Skincare-Sweet-Orange Frangipani-body-butter  

As I hope you can see, the texture is like a whipped, dense mousse, which melts into an oil on contact with the skin.  If you have severely dry skin, you’ll adore the instant relief that this brings. It does leave a slightly oily finish, so I tend to save it for evening use (post Bath Soak if possible!), but honestly it’s like a tub of velvety, moussey heaven - and a little dollop goes a long way.

The Body Butter is also available in Grapefruit, Lemon and Cedarwood, which I suspect may be my Summer fix!  I’ve just become completely distracted by the rest of the range mid-writing… the facial skincare (make-up remover and toning spritz) and Soothing Hand Cream for Hardworking Hands are all on my list. And I’m excited to read that they are also launching a children’s range - perfect for my little boy who has eczema.  Also impressed that some of the products are available in generous sample sizes (from £3.99) - a great way to try them before purchasing. If only more brands would do this!

These words by the brand’s founder, Rebecca Martin, made me fall in love with her a little bit (possibly because I shared the same childhood passions) …

“When I was 6 years old, I loved making mud pies and rose water. At 13, I performed a facial routine every Saturday, and now (some years later), I still love to follow my weekend facial treat.”

You can check it all out at


New Year, New Hair


Before & After

Happy New Year everyone - I hope you’ve all had a lovely break?  I’ve been taking some time off with family but have loads of absolute beauties lined up to share with you over the coming weeks (& may even divulge a few sneaky sale purchases).

Some of you will already have seen these pics on Instagram, but my first post of the new year seemed an appropriate time to share my New Hair.  Stepping outside our comfort zone can be unnerving - often because it just doesn’t occur to us - and until recently, changing my hair wasn’t really something I’d considered.  A little gentle coercion and a dollop of charm (you know who you are) soon changed my mind.  It’s worth noting at this point that I’d previously gone to the same hairdresser for 15 years before deciding it was time to shake things up a bit, so I entered the doors of Paul Stafford Hairdressing with an open mind. 

Paul Stafford is a multi award winning hairdresser who has cut the hair of everybody who’s anybody, is widely regarded as top of his game and heads up a brilliant team with his gorgeous wife, Leisa (he’s also an absolute geg and one of the funniest people I follow on twitter).  After a consultation with Paul and colourist, Aidan Bradley, I was convinced that I needed to take a leap of faith - and knew that if I could trust anyone with my hair, it was these guys.  The only colour I’d ever had in my hair before was a few surface highlights, once or twice a year - and although I’m a natural strawberry blonde, my hair was a much brighter red in my late teens/early 20s, but has softened over time. 

The guys didn’t think my highlights flattered my skin tone and looking at these pics (taken one week apart), I can see that they were absolutely right.  Admittedly I was particularly knackered and washed out in the first shot above, but still, the after shot shows a definite improvement according to most (although my kids took a while to come around to it!).


Post colour & cut, I was quite taken by the Fifi & the Flowertots look when my blow dried curls were pinned up to help hold them in place!  I would never have the patience to do this myself but loved having it done. Being pampered at the hairdressers is one of my favourite things and this was no exception… there was a fantastic buzz in the salon and a great rapport between the stylists.  Plus everyone who worked there was flipping gorgeous… I couldn’t take my eyes off all the girls’ hair and make-up!


Paul finished off the look before I went out to meet the first of the freak storms that had descended and ran about a mile up the road to my car.  Every. Time. The top pic was taken a couple of hours later on my way out, so thankfully it didn’t do too much damage!

What do you think of my new do? I know it’s not that radical compared to what some people opt for but it was a big change for me and I’m really happy with it… it’s given me a spring in my step and I’ve genuinely never had so many compliments.  I’m still learning to manage styling the new length and of course The Fringe (cows lick central), but it’s really refreshing to have a change.  I’ve had to shake up my make-up to balance out the new colour, so watch this space for more on that soon!

Happy 2014 and thank you all so much for reading - I don’t say it often enough, but I appreciate every single person who reads and subscribes.  Speaking of which, a quick hello to my fabulous friend Corinne who was gobsmacked to stumble across my blog this week & aghast as to why I hadn’t told her about it after almost 3 years (secret bloggers, come out of the closet!).  When we were out at Christmas I painted her nails a gorgeous Dior red in the middle of Hilton Hotel bar as you do… and she loved them so much she went out the next day and bought SIX bottles of nail polish… that’s my girl!  xxx

ps Do I need to change my blog name?!

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