Primer: what's it for and do you need one?

Does your makeup ever seem to disappear throughout the day? Do enlarged pores bug you (even when you know deep down no-one notices them but you)? If so, it could be time to add a primer to your beauty routine.

I used to daydream about primers when I was younger (and probably spottier) - before such a thing existed - or at least to my knowledge. Imagine if there was a product we could layer under foundation to make our skin look smoother and more perfect I'd think. Well, now there is...

The Benefits

Some primers tick one or two boxes while others claiming to tick them all, but generally speaking, they:
  • Instantly minimise the look of pores, so that skin looks more refined
  • Help foundation apply more smoothly and evenly
  • Increase the lasting power of makeup throughout the day
I don't use primer every day. a. it's an extra step I don't always have time for and b. I have a thing about overloading my skin, so I save it for days when I want my makeup to look its best and go the distance. Primer is also a gift in extreme weather - on freezing cold days when my base seems to be whisked away with wild winds, or in scorching sunshine when it melts off in the heat.

Which one to go for?

For a long time I used Laura Mercier foundation primer (which I still rate), but have rotated the above trio in recent weeks and months.

Dermalogica Hydrablur Primer is a new release aimed at dry and dehydrated skins, very welcome in a sea of mattifying products that leave my skin looking dull and drab. A thick-ish creamy paste, it immediately blurs imperfections for a more even looking base, and that's before makeup. In fact I reckon that non makeup wearers would enjoy this too. Although aimed at dry skins, it does contain mattifiers to reduce any oily sheen on the T-zone, mushroom extract to reduce pore visibility and hydrators to maintain moisture balance. (Officially launching 1 Feb, I've spied this already at Selfridges.)

Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water is one that I reach for a lot. I know it's hard to believe that something so apparently easy can work wonders, but it does. This can be sprayed on skin either to prime it before makeup, or afterwards to set it by sealing everything in. I get best results by applying it before, though have added it after when I forgot! This is such a fast, easy step that's really effective and the fine mist settles quickly on my skin. Silicone, alcohol and oil free, this is a good choice for anyone with sensitive skin - and also helps keep skin hydrated.

This Works In Transit Camera Close Up is a multi-tasking mask, moisturiser and primer in one that's especially handy when tight for time. I'm not sure about the mask element, but combining the moisture and prime effects in one product is pretty clever and it does seem to plump and smooth my skin. The pump bottle is easy and hygienic to use and I like that the integrated primer means no need to add an extra step on hectic mornings. If you have dry skin, you may need additional moisturiser underneath (I do). Like Hydrablur, this minimises the look of pores on contact, as if by magic.

In Summary

All three of these products help my makeup last longer and reduce the amount of foundation I need to use by around one third - it just glides over the top and less is absorbed into my skin. Hydrablur and In Transit both reduce the appearance of pores while Photo Finish Primer Water is more about elongating wear time and leaving skin looking dewy. I find Dermalogica the most skin refining, while In Transit and Smashbox are both great in a rush. I reach for Smashbox the most day to day as it's so darn easy and either of the others on special occasions.


My Thoughts on Laura Geller Makeup UK

I recently had the chance to try Laura Geller makeup for the first time after receiving the Sweetest Thing gift set. Although this particular one is only available in a few places now, there are lots of similar ones around and most products are available individually, so I thought I'd share my thoughts. 

Best known for her illuminating baked powders, Laura Geller is a New York makeup artist who began her own collection 20 years ago, with a line of easy to use, accessible products for real women. 

My most used item from the set is Blush-n-Brighten in Pink Buttercream, a lovely pinky coral that leaves cheeks looking healthy and glowing. It's really pigmented so I can see this lasting for a really long time - one touch of the brush (no swirling) is enough for both cheeks.

I'm not a big fan of powder foundations as I have dry skin - and Baked Balance-n-Brighten Foundation in Fair doesn't really offer enough coverage for me - but I have enjoyed using it as a setting powder, with a touch of extra coverage where needed.

Baked Highlighter in Golden Rose is a pretty creamy champagne shade with lots of shimmer. The Opal side of the Baked Marble Eye Shadow Duo works just as well as a highlight even though it's a bit too shimmery for my eyes. The Violet shade is gorgeous, with a subtle brown duochrome and smooth, blendable texture - not a colour I'd normally wear, but really striking. 

Overall I'm impressed with my first experience of Laura Geller makeup - it's good quality and well priced... I'd skip the lipgloss (sweet and sticky); the blush and eye shadow were definitely the standouts for me. 

There's a wide range available in the UK at Cult BeautyHouse of FraserBeauty Bay and QVC. The sets work out at good value and seem to be launched regularly... this one looks particularly lovely (and on sale!) - I'm tempted by the lip print bag alone! 

Have you tried anything by Laura Geller? I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts. 


Clarins Joli Rouge Brilliant Lipsticks 2016: Review & Swatches

If you like a subtle wash of sheer colour on your lips then look this way... Clarins Joli Rouge Brilliant lipsticks have been reformulated for 2016, now extra moisturising with ultra fine pearl particles and a shiny finish. Extremely comfortable to wear, I'd describe the result as mid way between a tinted balm and lipstick. 

These are heavy swatches with 4-5 passes from each bullet, more to give you an idea of the colour than the formula; one or two layers will give a much more sheer finish.

The colours from top to bottom are: Raspberry, Fig and Tea Rose. Raspberry is a just bitten dark pink; Fig - a mid brown nude with subtle shimmer and Tea Rose - a peachy nude, a whisper too pale for me, though a lip liner could probably fix this.

On most days I prefer my lipsticks with a bit more va va voom (the original Joli Rouge are right up my street), but if you prefer a subtle wash of colour and balmy texture, these may be worth a look.

I actually think it's useful to have at least one formula like this in your collection. I call them pocket lipsticks - the kind I carry in a pocket (or bag!) and apply on the go, no mirror required. (This is a common occurrence for me since having kids, along with pocket concealers - Maybelline Age Rewind is a good one).

Clarins Joli Rouge Brilliant Lipsticks in Raspberry and Fig are good go-with-anything colours that are easy to wear and leave lips looking polished without being the main focus of your face. Also good for no makeup days.

Do you prefer your lipsticks sheer or more pigmented?


Best of Beauty 2015

Better late than never, eh? I'd been thinking a lot about whether to blog about my 2015 favourites until a few of you requested it, so here we are. What to include was a bigger decision - oh the pressure! These are my from the heart, most adored and used products of the past year. The ones I'd recommend in a heartbeat (and regularly do), that make my heart flutter a little, every single time - they're just SO good. 

I've a lot to get through as you can see, so will try to restrict this to a product link, brief explanation of my appreciation and a link to any previous reviews. The numbers are just for reference; these aren't listed in any particular order.


1. OSKIA Renaissance Cleansing Gel - gentle rose scented gel that melts into an oily balm on contact, rinses off easily and leaves my skin feeling soft and cherished. The most exquisite cleanser I've ever tried in terms of use. Thankfully my skin likes it too. 

2. Yonka Vital Defense - I really haven't shouted about this enough and it's GORGEOUS. I've saved about a teaspoonful in the tube until I get around to repurchasing. Intensely hydrating and radiance-giving, this feels incredible on my skin. Looks like the packaging has had a pretty update too. 

3. Pestle & Mortar Pure Hyaluronic Serum - applied under moisturiser this gives instant, deep hydration - pumped full of hyaluronic acid, it's my skin's favourite drink. This is the best serum I've tried for dehydrated skin, leaving it plump and glowy. It's regularly out of stock, but you can pre-order on the above link. Currently enjoying the new Hydrate moisturiser which I'll review soon.

4. Bumble & Bumble Surf Infusion - not to be confused with the original Surf Spray, this one is designed for dry, coarse hair and leaves me with super soft waves that aren't crunchy or weighed down. Best for longer, thicker hair types and smells like Summer! Full review 

17. Alpha-H Liquid Laser Super Anti-Aging Balm - The one that almost got away, this rascal rolled off when I was photographing the rest but was too good to exclude. If your skin is getting on a bit, feeling parched and looking dull, you need this. A solid balm that melts into the skin and produces instant bliss, not even exaggerating. One of those never want to be without products that I use most nights. Full review


5. Pixi Illuminating Tint & Conceal (in Light Glow) - This little beauty gives my skin life. Think a glowy primer and tinted moisturiser hybrid, with a built in concealer in the lid for extra coverage. Great worn alone in Summer, I often wear this under foundation when my face needs an extra leg up. It's swoony. Previous review

6. Bobbi Brown Intensive Skin Serum Corrector and Concealer - this duo cancels out darkness and adds light under the eyes. No drying, caking or creasing into lines, this is like switching on a light bulb in my eye sockets, with less effort. While I like both a lot, the Corrector is the one with the most magic powers; I imagine you could create a similar effect by using it under your existing concealer. I know a few of you have been using both and appreciating the results as much as I have. A game changer for dark shadows, especially if you're prone to dryness. Full review

I have a serious soft spot for lipsticks - and out of everything - selecting these was the trickiest. I'm never without at least one of these within reach and have used all three at least once a week (if not daily) for months on end. 

7. Clinique Pop Lip in Plum Pop - a soft, creamy, wearable dark mauve/ soft plum that's perfect for every day. I'm a fan of many shades in this line (eg Poppy Pop and Bare Pop) as the formula is superb, but Plum Pop has been my most used. 

8. KIKO Intensely Lavish Lipstick in Mild Sangria - a gorgeous berry red that works really well on my pale skin. I've worn both this and Lusty Peony 01 from KIKO's Rebel Romantic Collection a lot in recent months. See swatches and pics of me wearing both here

9. Tarte Coconut Oil Lipstick in Primrose - this deep berry wine lipstick is infused with coconut oil for the most delicious creamy texture with full-on pigment. Great for both day and evening, this is my go-to when I need to bring my face to life. Stunning shade and formula - please bring more of these to the UK please QVC! 

10. Smashbox Double Exposure Palette - the colours and textures in this palette continually pull me away from more neutral options. Well pigmented and buttery soft, they're some of the best formulas I've tried. As you can see, I lean towards the right hand side of this palette, though do dip into the beautiful metallic navy (bottom left) for nights out. Intensified with a spriz of water, the deeper shades make great liner colours too and are so pigmented I only need a little, as you can see, despite regular use. 

11. Bobbi Brown Full Coverage Face and Touch Up Brush - dreamily soft, this is the perfect shape and density for seamless application of liquid foundation, while the smaller end pats and blends in concealer as gently as a little finger. 

12. Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes Mascara - worth the hype, this delivers big lashes with very little effort. Not one to choose if you prefer the natural look, but if like me you can't be bothered faffing with a million layers and want instant drama now, this is awesome. 

13. By Terry Ombre Blackstar in Bronze Moon - I reach for this regularly as it's the perfect sweep of metallic bronze eyeshadow in crayon formula. Great with a smudge of Brown Perfection along the lash line. There are cheaper dupes out there, such as KIKO Long lasting Stick Eyeshadow (just ordered a few at half price!), or Topshop Smoke Stick in Fools Gold. Original review. 

14. Bare Minerals Frame & Define Brow Styler - If the only thing that bugged you about Anastasia Brow Wiz was continually breaking the nib when you put the lid on, then try this. The formula is very similar except this one has no lid on the end with a twist-up nib. Kudos Bare Minerals - it really is the little things! The super skinny nib creates natural looking hair-like strokes and Universal Light is the perfect ashy shade for me. 

15. Tom Ford Frantic Pink blusher - the ultimate coral pink blush with a radiant finish, I appreciate this most on days when no amount of makeup seems to make me look better. This gives my cheeks (and whole face) instant life, for which I'm eternally grateful. A little goes a long way, blends beautifully and it lasts all day. 

16. Viktor & Rolf Flower Bomb - I have a serious weakness for perfume and switch them up regularly, but this velvety, musky floral has hit me the hardest this year. If, like me, you assumed this would be overpowering, try a spritz on your wrist and see how it softens... I can't get enough of it. 

That's all folks! Spot any of your favourites here - or have any recs of your own for me to try?


The New Luxe Lip Fixes

If, like me, your lips are the first to suffer in a cold snap, you might like to check out some of these new lip fixes. Think balm with added benefits, taking lip care to new levels. Bobbi Brown Extra Lip Tint, Clarins Instant Light Lip Perfecting Base and Clinique Sweet Pots all hit counters this month, so I thought I'd highlight the differences and share my thoughts on each one.

If you're after a no fuss luxe fix then Bobbi Brown Extra Lip Tint is hard to beat. Olive oil complex, vitamins E & C and Babassu palm seed oil combine to moisturise and smooth lips with a silky, ultra comfortable finish. A natural looking pink stain leaves my lips with a subtle pink hue and will look slightly different on everyone, depending on your own base colour. My lips don't look as if I'm wearing a product, just healthier and prettier. This doesn't have as much colour as Dior Addict Lip Glow, for example. In a nutshell, Extra Lip Tint makes lips look prettier and feel better with long lasting effects. PS if you're not familiar with Bobbi Brown's Extra skincare range in which this sits, I highly recommend trying it out.

Bobbi Brown Extra Lip Tint (Limited Edition), RRP £25 is available now as part of the Bobbi Glow Collection.

If your lipstick rarely lasts past breakfast, check out Clarins new Instant Light Lip Perfecting Base. With similar nourishing powers to the Instant Light Natural Lip Perfectors released this time last year, this transparent balm also claims to hold lipstick in place for up to 6 hours. Enriched with plant extracts including shea butter and smoothing botanical pearls, the formula contains a mimosa wax complex to trap moisture as well as plumping peptides. It leaves a whitish hue on first application and feels like balm, yet has a semi matte finish. While it does add some staying power, I think this will be affected by which product you're wearing on top; a satin or matte lipstick will of course last longer than a sheer one. A big plus for me is that this definitely gives lips a smoother finish, helps lipstick grip better (like a primer) and prevents colour bleeding at the edges... particularly useful for women of a certain age *cough*. Probably not a must-have but a definite treat in your makeup bag!

Clarins Instant Light Lip Perfecting Base RRP £18 is available now.

Clinique Sweet Pots in Black Honey, Candied Cassis and Sweet Rose
And finally, the fairest of them all, Clinique Sweet Pots Sugar Scrub & Lip Balm is a dual product with a fine sugar exfoliator on one side and tinted balm on the other, all wrapped up in cute macaron style packaging. The bottom half contains the scrub while the top is balm; the two held together by a silver band in the middle (see above). Too cute.

Clinique Sweet Pot in Black Honey. Left: Balm; Right: Scrub
The scrub side contains a cocktail of natural ingredients to buff away flakies, with beet sugar granules, jojoba seed oil, shea butter, avocado and grapeseed oils. I'd prefer this side not to be tinted, as I have to be careful not to use it over the lip line or things could get a bit messy! I do however like that the texture is super fine, so it doesn't feel like it's tugging at lips and removes dry bits very gently. (You're supposed to tissue off before adding the balm, though I did a taste test in the name of research... and yes, I approve!)

The balm side is all about smoothing and moisturising with a whisper of tint. Aloe leaf extract, coconut oil, shea and murumuru seed butters really do leave lips feeling extra soft and while the tint is visible, it's very subtle. My favourite is the darkest, Black Honey, which is also the most noticeable, but wear the balm over lipstick if you want more colour. These are super cute and fun - and they work. I imagine they will attract a new younger customer to Clinique, though am sure they'll be loved by all ages!

Clinique Sweet Pots Sugar Scrub & Lip Balm, RRP £15 launch this Friday, 15 January.

What's your favourite cold weather lip fix? After such a mild December this brrrr-ness is a bit of a shock to my system... every year I forgot how cold the cold actually feels (!!!) until it happens - and then am always taken aback! 


Max Factor Marilyn Monroe Lipsticks: Review & Swatches

Red lipstick is always a good idea in my book.  I often compare the experience of wearing one to a pair of killer heels; somehow elevating from the outside in, adding a spring to my step that's particularly welcome in January.

Max Factor has released a new collection of four Marilyn Monroe inspired red lipsticks, designed to suit every skin tone, thanks to undertones of orange, blue and purple.

If you've always wanted to wear a red lip, this is a great place to start. Not only can they be matched to your colouring, but they are unusually wearable for a red lipstick. Grapeseed, avocado butter and light reflecting pigments deliver a lightweight, nourishing formula that can be applied semi-sheer or built up for a more intense look.

This took me completely by surprise as I'm used to red lipstick that's either heavily pigmented (most of them) or properly sheer for a wash of colour. This lies somewhere in between, making these perfect for both beginners and regulars. Don't get me wrong; there's nothing wishy washy about the pigmentation, I'm just noting that it can absolutely be built in layers, making it a lot less daunting than most. Just me who usually has to psyche myself up before going in with a red bullet?!

The formula is lightweight and moisturising; I'm not scared to eat in these and the colour doesn't migrate on me, even without lip liner. The finish is sheeny at first and the colour wears nicely, leaving an allover stain rather than a dark outline. Two layers, blotting and another layer gives me decent wear time.


These are swatched in order of shades 1,2,3,4 from the bottom up and each swatch is 2-3 passes of colour.

1. Marilyn Ruby Red - the original shade loved by Marilyn, this is a bold, true red and the one that suits me best. The most neutral of all four shades, I'd choose this if you're unsure which would work best for you.

2. Marilyn Sunset Red - an orange red for warm or olive skin tones.

3. Marilyn Berry - this has blue undertones to complement pale or cool complexions. I assumed this would work best on me but found Ruby Red more flattering.

4. Marilyn Cabernet - a rich deep red with purple undertones for darker skins. Again, I was really drawn to this and assumed I'd find it flattering, but the thinking behind these shades clearly works as it wasn't so good on me.

Saying that, there are no rules here and the rest of your makeup, hair colour etc will affect how each shade looks, so go with whichever you prefer. While I wasn't matched on counter for these, I do find the girls on my local Boots Max Factor counter particularly helpful (and non intimidating!) if you do need some advice.

I snapped these on my phone this morning to give you an idea of how the product looks applied. 

Left in glasses, wearing one layer of Ruby Red #1; Right, wearing two layers. The sun also came out for the second pic (a minute later), slightly annoying but at least you can see the sheen!

See what I mean about how versatile these are? One layer looks everyday while two looks more made up. Ok, enough raving already...

 Max Factor Marilyn Monroe lipsticks are £7.99 each HERE.

Taking Time to Be Grateful

Hey everyone, it's been a while... I didn't plan to take a break through to the New Year but once I started I knew I needed to. It felt so good to completely relax with no obligations, enjoy quality time with family and friends and ignore social media most of the time. Guessing I'm not alone in this?

I'm not really one for New Year's resolutions, but on a day when many of us have at least a flicker of dread at life returning to normal tomorrow, it seems a good time to share one thing I'm committing to in 2016. 

Appreciating what I've got. 

It's all too easy - especially at this time of year - to be aware of what's missing in our lives and focus on the negatives. So I'm making a concerted effort to acknowledge the good stuff - and hope that writing daily in this lovely book will inspire me to be more grateful for what I've got. Not that I'm not already, but I think I should focus on it more. 

I know we're only a few days into January, but I've already been amazed at how much I've wanted to write about, filling whole pages when I assumed it would only be a line or two. I know there will be days when I struggle to think of anything, but so far it's varied from my little boy stroking my hair during his bedtime story to a last minute dinner invite just as I wondered what on earth to cook that evening. I don't think anything is too big or too small to be thankful for... more often than not it really is the little things.

I write in mine when I get into bed at night and find that it helps me feel calm and positive as I go to sleep, rather than with a racing mind full of to-do lists. My beautiful book was a press gift and sadly not available to buy, though any notebook will do if you fancy joining me (I always spy lovely ones in TK Maxx). 

Oh and for those of you who kindly shared suggestions of where to purchase nice bedding via Twitter recently, I hope you like my new Snowdrop set in the background, a Christmas gift from my lovely sis, which is exactly what I wanted - pretty, fresh and modern. 

Finally, a thank you to all of you who read this blog - I'm genuinely grateful to each and every one that stops by and even more so, to those who keep coming back. 

I wish all of you a wonderful 2016 - Happy New Year! xXx

© Strawberry Blonde. All rights reserved.
Blogger templates by pipdig