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

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. 


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. 


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.


Softer, Clearer Skin in One Minute?


I'm really lazy when it comes to skincare gadgets and normally turn down opportunities to try them for two reasons: 1. I'm wary of triggering or aggravating my rosacea and 2. I honestly can't be bothered with the faff. 

What drew me to the Forea Luna 2 was that this particular model was specifically developed for sensitive skin - and the design and usage are incredibly streamlined. When it arrived I charged it with a USB at my laptop and THAT WAS IT. And wait for it... stays charged for 450 uses. That's two whole years with the amount of usage it gets from me. I'm in. I'll tell you what it does in a minute... which I wouldn't have been interested in if it weren't for all of the above. 

So Forea Luna 2 is a sonic cleansing device. It's made of silicone, fits in the palm of my hand and the little bristles are soft and flexible. You switch it on by pressing the fingerprint dent on the front and it immediately starts to pulsate, which can be increased or lowered with the + and - buttons according to your skin's needs. I find that mine works best with easily rinsed cleansers like OSKIA Renaissance Cleansing Gel or Antipodes Grace Gentle Cream Cleanser but reckon it's fine with most other than really cloggy balms or clay based cleansers. I wet my face, add cleanser, then move the Luna around my face in little circular movements for one minute. Rinse and I'm done. 

Designed to stimulate micro circulation, rid skin of toxins and other fancy stuff you can read more about here, the main benefits I notice are instant softness (like post facial exfoliation level) and clearer pores. My skin is prone to congestion and every now and then loses the plot... this helps settle and clarify it in a very gentle way. Oh and it's great at getting rid of any stubborn dry flakies. It feels as gentle as fingers on my skin and is really pleasant to use, much moreso than any of the more traditional face brushes I've tried. 


Foreo Luna's baby sister, Luna Play, is a teensy, super portable version that's a great way to try out this device for a fifth of the price. It does exactly the same thing in miniature. Only downside is that it's disposable, but 100 uses isn't to be sniffed at and the Play could easily last up to a year on twice weekly use, which is what I do on average. Literally the size of a cotton pad, this one is perfect for travel, though both are pretty neat and lightweight. 

I find my Foreo Luna 2 much more gentle on my skin than the Clarisonic; there's no need to replace brush heads and apparently it's 35 times more hygienic. Added to 450 uses per charge, only one minute to use and noticeably softer skin... I really struggle to find fault with this. 

PS the other side can be used for facial massage to assist absorption and efficiency of skincare products, but that doesn't happen in my bathroom because... faff! 

Find Foreo Luna 2 for sensitive skin at Cult Beauty or Foreo International, also available in versions for normal, oily and combination skins.  

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


Five Years. 1000 Blog Posts

My 1000th blog post, five years on... oh the pressure to mark such massive milestones in some amazing way! 

Do I share my 5 all-time favourite products?
Tell you a bunch of stuff you don't know about me?
Talk about the things I've learned through blogging?

I've thought about all of the above until my head spun, so decided to just start writing and see where it goes, which in a way, is the very essence of a blog. I had no idea where Strawberry Blonde Beauty would go when I started (I'd have chosen a cooler name for starters!) - I just wanted a creative outlet to share some of my interests with like minded people. Lots of others write way more worthy life-changing blogs and for a long time I was a bit embarrassed to say that I wrote about beauty as it seemed so shallow and superficial. I still feel a bit cringe and gloss over the details with certain people, but for the most part I've changed my mind about this.

I've decided it's ok to care about how we look. The truth is that a minority fall out of bed looking like someone from the cover of a glossy magazine (not many do, to be fair, and most who do probably don't even realise it.) I'm not one of those people. I know I'm not the worst but those unfortunate enough to see me top-knotted & barefaced on the school run will tell you that I look a hella lot better after hair & makeup (by me, obvs).

For me, using good skincare and makeup can mean the difference between walking up the street with my head held high and staring at my feet hoping I don't bump into anyone I know. I'm not proud of that, just being honest - and reckon more will identify than not. And yes, of course I'm thankful for my health and extremely aware that there are more important things in life. In the past six months I've gone through a marriage separation and moved my mum into a nursing home, with all the 'stuff' that leads up to that, so trust me - I know.

But I've finally accepted that it's ok to feel better with a bit of makeup and smoothed out hair... I don't need to feel guilty about this. I also know that there are days when a simple shower and clean hair can make me feel like a new human (mums of newborns will identify!). There are times when focusing on painting my nails can be a form of mindfulness and treating myself to a new lipstick feels more like self love than frivolity. There's a reason why it's call beauty therapy. Organisations like Look Good Feel Better have realised this too - and run workshops where qualified beauty volunteers (inc friends of mine) support women going through cancer to help them regain confidence.

The beauty industry is worth £17 billion in the UK alone - it's BIG business and an absolute minefield in terms of knowing what works and where to begin. If I can help even one woman spend her hard earned cash on a product that actually delivers and makes her feel good, then this blog is worth writing. I too get overwhelmed standing in Boots or Space NK like a kid in a sweet shop, wondering what to buy, whether it works and getting really cross when it doesn't. I depend on other bloggers enormously for reviews and swatches. And nothing makes my day like when a reader thanks me for a recommendation that they love. I know that there are a gazillion more bloggers than when I started out, including some ah-mazing new talent - and think most of us can work out who to trust these days. I must admit that for me, many of those are the bloggers I've loved from back in the day... British Beauty Blogger, Caroline Hirons and A Model Recommends to name a few.

For anyone thinking of getting in on the game I say:
  • Blogging is tougher than it looks and a much bigger commitment than you'd expect, but totally worth it in my experience.
  • Only write about something you're passionate (and knowledgeable) about. This will attract readers and keep you from feeling disheartened.
  • Don't force it. If there are gaps in my schedule (and there have been plenty, soz) it's because I'd rather write nothing than churn out something half hearted for the sake of it. 
  • Don't carbon copy - enough people are doing that already and it's the ones who stand out from the crowd who er, stand out from the crowd. There's a reason for that!
  • Do write the kind of blog posts you'd love to read.
My plans for blogging went from basically none, other than a fun outlet, to meeting a lot of amazing people, working with my favourite brands and essentially becoming a full time beauty writer. This still blows my mind. Things have been a little quieter of late than I'd like, but plans are afoot and I hope you'll stay around to see them unfold.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to those of you who have been with me since day one and to everyone that has stopped by along the way. I really do find it humbling that you're interested in what little old me has to say. I'm planning a giveaway to say thank you, prize ideas welcome in the comments! Also, feel free to request any particular product reviews or topics you'd like to see more of around here (or not). I do tend to focus on the things that I love and have personal experience of - as I don't feel qualified to comment otherwise - but your interests are always important to me too.

So there we go. I've celebrated 5 years of blogging and 1000 blog posts with a bit of a ramble. Nothing new then!  


A Facial in a Jar?

My sister is one of those people who immediately notice when a celebrity has had some work done. Random things that most wouldn't pick up on - like a slight change to a jawline or differently shaped teeth - it's as if she has a special beauty radar. She's also the first to spy when something changes about my skin (good or bad), so when she asked if I'd been using some special secret potion outside my normal routine, I realised that I hadn't imagined the difference this face mask makes.

I've repeatedly declared my love for the Oskia Renaissance Cleanser (review), so shouldn't be surprised that the matching Renaissance Mask is so darn good. It can be tricky to gauge the difference a skincare product makes as the changes can be very subtle, so it's exciting to try something with pretty much instant wow factor.

Oskia Renaissance Mask is designed to brighten skin leaving it feeling smoother and looking more refined. And in my experience, it does. Pure, natural active ingredients include fruit AHAs to exfoliate dead surface skin cells, papaya enzymes to unclog pores and lactic acid to increase cell turnover and soften lines. (Read the full science bit here).

It's a glow giver.

I just massage in a dollop of the peachy, rose scented gel (yes it smells as delicious as the cleanser!) until it turns white (in seconds), leave for 10-15 mins and rinse off with a damp flannel. It does tingle a little on my skin and leaves it slightly pink, which is absolutely fine - that's the AHAs working.

Bear in mind that my skin is quite sensitive and rosacea prone, so I'm very wary about using anything too strong on it and do have to be careful with chemical exfoliants. Naturally these things affect everyone differently so I always recommend trying a sample if possible, or at least patch testing, but the fact that this didn't irritate my skin is a really good sign.

After using this (once or twice a week) over the past month my skin feels softer, pores look clearer, I need to use less products and my makeup sits better on my skin. The flaky bits around my nose have gone and I definitely look more glowy. Normally I only get instant results like this from a facial at the same price as one jar, which I reckon will last me 4-6 months.

Oskia Renaissance Mask is available at Cult Beauty, Space NK and Look Fantastic.

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


Six Summer Body Fixes

Not that I'm saying our bods are less than perfect as is, but mine definitely needed some tlc before getting my pins out in the recent sunshine. Here's what I've been using to help things look and feel a little more presentable...

It all kicks off with a tropical smells-like-Summer shower with Dirty Works Coconut Body Wash. This has a rich, creamy texture and fresh coconut scent, thanks to actual coconut oil content - and the packaging is so pretty. You can pick this up for a couple of quid from Sainsbury's and we all know that supermarket beauty purchases don't count, right?

Once a week I'll go in with Aveda Beautifying Radiance Polish to slough off any dry skin and prep for self tanning. I'm very fussy about scrubs and everything about this one is perfect. Made with salt crystals and organic plant oils, it's dense and oily with the perfect amount of grit. The flip-up lid is an absolute game changer - no juggling a heavy jar, lid and a slippery blob of scrub! The scent of organic rosemary, lavender and bergamot is so uplifting I can't even tell you. This leaves my skin feeling super soft and with a little oily residue - definitely not enough to bother me but I don't tend to tan immediately after use. I mean in all honesty, I don't think it's necessary to spend a lot on a body scrub, but if you really want to treat yourself, choose this - you won't be disappointed!

I keep things gently buffed in between with my Korean Magic Peeling Mitt, which I find much more gentle than the Body Shop or Boots versions. It's semi abrasive on one side and smooth on the other, so helps prevent tan build up without removing it.

Speaking of tanning and luxury products, Vita Liberata's new Marula Dry Oil - the first self tanning oil with SPF50 - is the absolute bomb. Hand on heart I expected it to be greasy, messy and tricky to manoeuvre, but it's quite the opposite. This is a proper dry oil - I mean it does leave a lovely sheen on my skin, but does not feel oily - and I can happily dress a few minutes after application. It gives an instant faux glow which develops into the most gorgeous golden olive colour and makes my skin feel great too. I've used this on really hot days when I was out and about a lot and hadn't tanned the night before, resulting in instant colour, a developing tan and the peace of mind that I was protected with SPF50. I'd recommend this for Summer events, parties and BBQs where you're outdoors a lot. No point wasting that SPF in a night club and it's not one I'd use on holiday...  I wouldn't want to reapply every 2 hours (bit pricey for that and I'd end up with orange palms), but it's brilliant for special occasions and the colour and formula are seriously excellent.

PS regular SPF can be applied on top without smearing later in the day - I tested that too. PPS see below - it looks ombre in the bottle; shake before use and it becomes dark brown as in the top pic.

On days when I'm in more of a rush and want to give my skin a subtle oomph, I opt for Sanctuary Spa Wonder Body. If you've ever used a tinted radiance primer for your face, this is the equivalent for the body. The effects are subtle and it doesn't add a lot of colour or (any) coverage, but helps blur minor imperfections, gives skin a more even tone and just makes limbs look better! Infused with nourishing oils, it adds a whisper of colour (only noticeable on light to medium skin tones), hydration and a soft glow. Think a sheer my skin but better effect. I'm a fan.

To keep skin moisturised, I've been using two really intensive moisturisers. Bee Good NectaPerfector works really well at keeping stubborn dry patches at bay, in my case on shins, ankles, elbows and cuticles. Made with natural AHAs, waxes, plant oils and wildflower honey, this multi tasker can also be used as a face mask or scalp treatment.

For skin that feels parched all over, the Handmade Soap Company's Lemongrass & Bergamot Body Butter is hard to beat. I'd compare this to using a nourishing face mask on the whole body. Apply post shower, wrap up in a robe and relax to let it really soak in. This is a proper body butter, beyond your average rich body cream, with a texture like actual butter that melts onto skin with the most exquisite, uplifting lemongrass scent. Definitely one for dry skins (there's a body lotion in the same scent for all normal/oily skins), this is not one to apply just before you slip into a silk dress. It does take a little while to soak in and is more of a treatment than everyday product... emphasis on the treat.

The product I've used most from all of the above is Sanctuary Spa Wonder Body - so quick and easy to use with no fuss and I love the subtle blurred, illuminated effect.

Anyone else got their legs out yet? We've been so lucky with the weather here recently though it's due to pour today for my son's Sport's Day!


If you must (S)wipe...

I've been sitting on this post for a while, for obvious reasons. When it comes to skincare, I'm a huge advocate of thorough cleansing and am not for one second suggesting that anyone replaces that with a quick (s)wipe. There are, however, certain circumstances when wipes are better than nothing - and in those, I suggest using some with decent ingredients that won't strip your skin.

I was completely ignorant to the downsides of wipes until I had babies with sensitive skin, which heavy fragrance and a shedload of harsh chemicals in big brand baby wipes would aggravate. Sadly, attaching 'baby' to a product name does not equal skin kind. When I discovered how great they are at removing carpet stains, that said it all really!

While I'm much more likely to use micellar water than reach for a wipe (Bioderma is a long term favourite though I've recently discovered the rather lovely Dolce & Gabbana Cleansing Water), I recognise that there are some circumstances where this is less than practical. Like travelling (in flight, you can obvs cleanse properly when you land!), camping, or when you've already fallen into bed after a big night and can't quite make it to the bathroom (not that this has EVER happened to me *cough*).

So lately I've been trying out some posh wipes, launched by skincare brands whose cleansers I'm already a fan of: Clinique Take the Day Off, Bioderma Sensibio H20 and Pixi Moisturising Cleansing Cloths. They all work in terms of removing most of my makeup... I needed 2-3 wipes per cleanse (and yes I did go in with a second cleanser each time).

I find the original Bioderma Micellar Water (£7 for 25) more effective than the wipes in terms of makeup removal - it really is hard to beat - but when carrying liquids is impractical, Bioderma Sensibio H20 wipes come in a close second. The packaging is the most compact (there's less of them) and the wipes are scented.

Pixi Moisturising Cleansing Cloths (£10 for 40) with aloe vera and camelia oil have very little scent and a long, narrow shape, so you can kind of work along them, moving onto a clean bit if you know what I mean. They are stretchy, durable and not too wet.

Clinique Take the Day Off cleansing oil is one of the best makeup removers I've tried, so I had high expectations for the Micellar Cleansing Towelettes (£16 for 50) and they don't disappoint. These were the most effective at removing stubborn eye makeup, whereas all three did a fairly even job at face makeup removal. They are slightly smaller (by a couple of cm) but the biggest pack.

If you don't feel like forking out so much, Yes to Cucumber Hypoallergenic Facial Towelettes are my top budget option.

Just to emphasise, I do not recommend using face wipes regularly or long term - your face will thank you for a proper, thorough cleanse. Making this one change has made a bigger improvement to my skin than any single product.

I may have to follow this with a post on my favourite proper cleansers, just to balance things out!

So would you use wipes, do you already, never in a million? Leave me a note below... 

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

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