Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Luxe Blush x 3


I have a long relationship with blusher and of all makeup products, it's the one that I value the most, which other pale faces among you may empathise with. It all started with a pinch of the cheeks when a cute boy boarded the school bus, moving onto a slick of my mum's lipstick smeared into the apples of my cheeks and culminating with a blusher collection that probably outweighs any other item I own. While I don't think it's essential to spend lots on blush, I do have a soft spot for a luxe compact - and am loving these three relative newbies.


By Terry Terrybly Densiliss Blush Contouring in Peachy Sculpt is a split compact of two velvety, soft-focus effect powder blushers with a striking quilted finish. The silver compact is weighty and so glamorous it's almost ornamental. The lighter blush shade has a little shimmer while the darker one is matte; together they give a very natural looking flush with a luminous, silky finish.



Bobbi Brown Blush Duo in Plum/French Pink is part of Bobbi Brown's new Malibu Nudes collection available in four different shades. Mine is Plum/French Pink, a dark plum with a pretty bright bright pink. Highly pigmented, this has great lasting power and gives a bright pop of colour to my cheeks that works really well with a nude lip and lashings of mascara. 


Givenchy Le Prisme Blush in Lune Rosee is my most used of these three with its perfect mix of pink, coral and peach and beautiful silky texture. The compact includes a soft brush which works well for on the go touch ups and has a built in mirror. The colours can be picked out individually on a smaller brush, though I tend to swirl them all together. Pigmentation can be as subtle or bold as you like... it's truly buildable. This is a limited edition compact and included in Escentual's current offer of 25% off everything until this Thursday with the code escentual25 here.


Swatches from the top are: Bobbi Brown Blush Duo in Plum/French pink (both shades swatched separately); By Terry Peachy Sculpt (two shades swatched separately) and a blend of all four shades in Givenchy Lune Rosee.

Any other blush fanatics out there?



Products featured on Strawberry Blonde Beauty include press samples and purchases. See my full disclaimer here.
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Thursday, 24 March 2016

Five Tried & Tested Hair Treatments


Tried & Tested: five great hair products, including one all-rounder and 4 solutions for very specific needs... 

THE ALL ROUNDER
Milk Shake Incredible Milk smells so good I'd probably use it even if it did nothing for my hair (but it does!). Made with organic muru muru, this coconut cocktail scented spray + leave in treatment offers 12 benefits, from repair and frizz control to UV and heat protection. Personally I appreciate the detangling and added shine the most. This is perfect for anyone who can't be bothered to faff about with multiple products (and that scent lingers all day). 

DRY & DAMAGED
If your locks are in need of tlc and you hate the feel of the usual oil or silicone based products, check out Living Proof Restore Instant Repair. I run this through my ends when they're looking worse for wear and find it smoothing and softening. I got mine in a Birchbox and am curious to try more from this US brand, so please holler if you have any recs. 

INSTANT HEAT PROTECTION
Joico hair products are consistently good in my experience and Ironclad Thermal Protectant  Spray not only works; it's also very clever. It comes in a generously sized can (no scrimping on protetction) and offers light hold, but best of all, it dries instantly. For anyone who forgets about heat protection until the last minute and then sits around waiting for hair to air dry or whipping out the hairdryer, this is a game changer. Alcohol denat is top of the ingredient list, presumably the secret behind the flash dry formula. While this could cause dryness in the long term, for me the convenience outweighs the concern and I'm happy to add extra moisture with other products. 

DRY & SENSITIVE SCALP
Aveeno Skin Relief Soothing Shampoo is the least sexy yet most valued product in this line up. Aveeno moisturiser was the  one thing that rescued my little boy's skin from eczema symptoms, so I couldn't wait to try the new shampoo. Colloidal oatmeal is the key soothing ingredient and I'm over the moon to discover a product that has cleared my son's dry scalp for the first time since babyhood. He's now 8, so it's been a long search. This also leaves my hair feeling soft and has been a bit of a family hit! If your scalp is dry or sensitive, I think it's worth a go. 

GREASY GAL
Last but not least, Aveda Shampure Dry Shampoo. This was a slow burner for me... I'm lazy with hair products and normally reach for a spritz-in dry shampoo, whereas this is a powder product. It was only recently that I discovered lightly squeezing the bottle releases a puff of said powder right where it's needed, like a traditional spray. (I've just checked the bottle instructions which state exactly this, oops!) This stuff is a godsend on days when I know I've pushed my not-washing-for-another-day luck a step too far. It absorbs excess oil like no other and adds volume that helps a make-do top knot look like I styled it on purpose. Result. 

What are your top hair heroes?
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Michael Kors Coral & Sexy Sunset


Michael Kors has launched two new limited edition fragrances for Spring, Coral Eau de Parfum and Sexy Sunset. Housed in striking coloured glass and gold bottles that complement the contents, they will look stunning on any dressing table. 

Coral is a fruity floral with lemon, pink grapefruit, tuberose and jasmine. Glamorous and vivacious, I imagine that this will be the most popular of the two. While I'd regard Coral as a daytime scent, I wouldn't restrict it to that. I tend to avoid heavy perfume if I'm eating out in the evening and think this is the kind of midweight that could work well day or night. 

Michael Kors Coral EDP is currently exclusive to Harrods and launches nationwide from 30 March 2016. 


My pick of the pair is Sexy Sunset, with top notes of nashi pear and freesia, and a heart of peony, rose bouton and jasmine, rounded off with soft woods. Personally I'd drop Sexy from the title; Sunset would suffice. (Ditto for my favourite Michael Kors, Sexy Amber.) 

There's something traditionally charming about this fragrance, which reminds me of leaning into a huge bouquet of roses, the stand out note for me. Warm, well rounded and overtly feminine, it's more floral than I'd normally go for, yet there's something irresistible about it. 

PS I'd describe it as extremely pretty rather than sexy. 

Michael Kors Sexy Sunset is available nationwide now in 30, 50 or 100ml. The best price I've found is here. 



Products featured on Strawberry Blonde Beauty include press samples. See my full disclaimer here.
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Monday, 21 March 2016

Morning Skincare Routine


My current morning skincare routine is all about putting some life back into this tired post-Winter face. Here's what I've been reaching for to boost radiance and hydration levels...

The first step in my routine is Elemental Herbology Vital Cleanse, with brightening Manuka honey, vitamin C and Papaya. This zingy gel to cream cleanser smells deliciously fresh and gives my face a much needed wake up call.

I love a morning spritz, currently courtesy of Sond Hydrating Face Spray, best applied from palms as it's quite full on (could just be my bottle). Sond is a new mostly natural skincare line aimed at 35+ sensitive skin. Based on collagen and hydration-boosting, anti-inflammatory silica, it's quickly become my new go-to on slightly fragile skin days. My favourite is the Firm & Smooth Revitalising Face Serum, which I find both soothing and softening. 

Clinique Pep-Start Eye Cream feels instantly refreshing and helps my eyes look more rested. On initial application it gently plumps up fine lines, temporarily of course, but every little helps! {clinique.co.uk}

Finally, Pestle & Mortar Hydrate moisturiser has been adding a comforting layer of moisture as the final step in my routine. This lightweight lotion instantly hydrates, right where it's needed, no hanging around for it to sink in. I don't doubt that it would be a match made in heaven used with the Hyaluronic Serum featured in my Best of Beauty 2015, but that stuff is like gold dust and forever sold out when I try to purchase. I've only just noticed that these products are made in Dublin... I may have to jump on a train to stock up! *edit* The Serum is now in stock again - I've just repurchased here, whoop! 



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



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Wednesday, 16 March 2016

SensatioNail Polish to Gel Transformer: Review + Tutorial



I've used Nailene's SensatioNail home gel kit since it first launched a few years ago. As someone who is tough on manicures, you can't beat the feeling of waking up to perfectly glossy, chip-free nails every morning. I don't use it all the time and own an embarrassing number of regular polishes too, so was excited to hear of the latest SensatioNail launch, a Polish to Gel transformer that converts any nail polish into a gel polish. 

Essentially, this is a bottle of clear gel polish (with magic ingredients, obvs) that can be used as a top coat or mixed with nail polish and cured under an LED lamp for a long lasting mani. Beginners to gel manis (or SensatioNail) will need to invest in the Polish to Gel Starter Kit to use this. If you already own a SensatioNail kit, there's no need to buy the full shebang; the little bottle of transformer can be bought separately and will work with your original lamp. 


WHAT'S IN THE KIT?


Everything you need to do a gel mani, except the nail polish you mix it with, which you presumably already own (only about six shoe boxes full, and that's after donating around 1/3 of it, oops).

  • An LED lamp with magnetic removable base so that you can use it for pedis, clever! This is the new lamp, which cures in half the time of the original one, is extra compact and powers via plug or usb lead (inc). 
  • Gel Primer
  • Gel Cleanser
  • Polish to Gel Transformer
  • Cleansing Wipes
  • Mixing pot (with lid)
  • Buffer
  • Orange stick


HOW DOES IT WORK?


There are two methods: one quick and easy; one more time consuming but worth the effort in my opinon. 

1. Top Coat - quick & easy
  • Paint nails as normal
  • Allow to dry completely (not just touch dry, so 30-60 mins minimum)
  • Apply Polish to Gel Transformer as top coat
  • Cure under LED lamp for 15 seconds
  • Wipe clean with Gel Cleanser (to remove sticky moisture layer)
  • DONE. 

2. Mixing Method - long haul

This works on the same principle as any gel manicure and taking the time to prep nails properly will contribute around 50% to the lasting power of your mani. If you're used to a home gel kit, this will be second nature, but will take time to get used to otherwise. Totally worth it. 
  • Push back cuticles with orange stick
  • File and buff nails
  • Wash hands
  • Apply Gel Cleanser - to remove traces of oil, moisture and dust
  • Apply Gel Primer - optional, will help manicure last longer
  • Apply Base Coat - optional, will help manicure last longer. Can use original base coat or Transformer
  • Cure 15 seconds under LED lamp
  • Mix 6 drops of chosen nail polish with 6 drops of Gel Transformer
  • Apply two layers of colour, curing each for 30 seconds
  • Apply top coat
  • Apply Gel Cleanser

That sounds like a lot of steps but each one takes seconds and the whole process takes me around 40 minutes. I tried both of these methods, with and without basecoat and found that the long haul Mixing Method helped my manicure last as long as a regular gel mani - 10-14 days. The Top Coat method chipped more easily than expected, though this may have been because my nails were so short when I used it that I couldn't cap the edges. 


TOP TIPS


  • Use a piece of tin foil (or cling film) to line the mixing pot to save mess and cleaning. 
  • Cap each layer of polish, painting along the free edge of the nail for an extra strong finish. 
  • Use a much thicker layer of Polish to Gel Transformer as top coat than your average top coat for a shiny finish (mine was quite dull before I did this). Alternatively you can use the regular SensatioNail top coat, which is mega glossy. 
  • Avoid quick dry (don't cure as well) or sheer (will look too sheer) nail polishes for the Mixing Method. Opaque colours work best. 
  • If in doubt about equal quantities, add an extra drop of Transformer. 
  • Mix really well; don't be half hearted about it or the formula won't peform or cure correctly. 
  • As with any gel mani, tidy up any mistakes before you cure. Polish on the skin or cuticles will cause the edges to lift and chip. 


MY MANI


I've tried this system twice now (testing different methods on different fingers/hands) and used Essie polishes both times. This one is Essie Bahama Mama, one of my favourite shades. I think it looks pretty good even if I do say so myself! 

So who is this kit for?

Anyone who enjoys a long lasting mani will appreciate this and it's a great way to use up neglected polishes. I think it will be particularly good for nail art... if you're going to all that trouble, may as well make it last! I have quite a lot of SensatioNail colours, but often wished I could give some of my favourite nail polishes the same lasting power - and now I can. 

In case you're curious, using gels occasionally hasn't caused my nails any damage... I'm very careful not to over buff and gentle with removal, both of which help. I'm also religious about hand cream and cuticle oil and do give my nails a break between polish (regular and gel).

SensatioNail Polish to Gel Transformer Starter Kit is available now at Boots

Fancy trying a kit like this or all sound like too much faff?



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Sunday, 13 March 2016

Votary Skincare: Naturally Luxe



Votary is a luxe natural skincare line born of a passion for essential oils and their effect on both skin and mood. Developed by top makeup artist, Arabella Preston and Charlotte Semlar, the products have quickly become must-haves among skincare lovers.

I first heard about Votary through Caroline Hirons and have had the pleasure of trialling three products over the last month or so (I took these pics when I'd only tried them a few times, in case you're wondering). It's a very concise line incorporating a cleanser, toner and three facial oils to calm, smoothe or heal, depending on your skin's needs.

The art deco green glass bottles with rose gold labels and stylishly simple branding look quite ornamental in my bathroom. (If you're thinking of giving one as a gift, you might like to know that they come packaged in stunning white embossed boxes). Oh and yay for pump bottles, pipettes and precise droppers, all of which make the products both hygenic and efficient to use.

The stand out for me is the Rose Geranium & Apricot Cleansing Oil. Thinner and lighter in texture than other oils I've tried, this feels (and smells) exquisitely luxurious on my skin. I use it at night as my second cleanse (after makeup removal) and as someone who considers cleansing a bit of a chore, I actually look forward to using this. It doesn't emulsify and must be removed with a warm flannel (it comes with a lovely fluffy one).

Step two is Lemon & Neroli Toning Serum, combining flower water, natural glycolic and hyaluronic acids in a watery liquid. I press a few drops between my palms, then directly onto my face, avoiding eyes. It smells as refreshing as it feels and gives my skin a dose of hydration and radiance right where it's needed (mine needs all it can get!).

A few nights a week, I've been using the healing facial oil with Rose Maroc & Sandalwood, described by Arabella as 'overnight first-aid for my face'. Perfect for dull, dehydrated skin like mine, using this feels like having a mini spa treatment in my own home, resulting in soft, velvety skin. It feels very refined in texture and lingers long enough for me to massage it in well, something I'm trying to take more time over.

I love that Votary has started off with a compact range, keeping things simple and perfecting what they do best. I've really enjoyed using each of these products, but if I had to choose one, it would be the Cleansing Oil, which feels more like a treatment than 'just a cleanser'.

Votary skincare is available at Liberty and votary.co.uk

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Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The beauty products you didn't know you needed



As someone who tests a lot of beauty products, it always piques my interest when something a little off piste lands on my desk. Admittedly, a lot of it is smoke and mirrors, but every now and then I come across an absolute gem. Today I'm talking beauty products that we absolutely don't need, per se, but since when did we let that stop us?...  


Oil that works under your makeup? Nope, I'm not kidding... On mornings when my skin is looking as parched as it feels, a few drops of Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Oil help adds radiance and moisture without making things too slippy or breaking down makeup. Very light in texture, this absorbs surprisingly quickly... I usually restrict it to areas where I'm more prone to dryness - avoiding the T-zone - and think it will work best on normal to dry skin. When it comes to adding longevity, I still prefer the Primer Water, but this one leaves me good to glow (sorry, couldn't resist)


If you want your face mask to work even harder, spritz clean skin with Origins Maskimizer and pat in before applying a mask. This mask primer preps skin, boosting absorption and hydration levels for more effective results. I've been using it on one side of my face only and can feel my skin more tacky on the other side, as if the product is sitting on the surface, whereas this encourages my face to hoover up the mask! After removal, my skin feels softer on the side I've used Maskimiser (yep, I was surprised too). If you're choosing what to splash the cash on, I'd opt for a great mask over this, but think skincare lovers who welcome an extra step will enjoy it. (My face is currently loving this overnight mask.) 


I've been intrigued by lip oils since Clarins and YSL introduced them a year or two ago, so hurrah for budget friendly option, GOSH Lip Oil. I use a face oil most days during the Winter, so why not treat my lips too? I'd describe the texture as a non greasy liquid balm; it doesn't feel oily and keeps my lips really comfortable. Mine is Raspberry 04 but they have minimal colour, so don't be too swayed by that.

Although my lashes are forever in need of a little boost, I couldn't imagine the benefits of a lash primer until I tried this one, which I think is the best around. Estee Lauder Little Black Primer has multiple uses: worn alone it gives the illusion of naturally dark feathery lashes. Layered under mascara it adds both length and volume - and applied as a final step it locks in mascara all day. I rarely go for the third option, but have been loving the first two steps since this launched last year. Oh and it's also brilliant on bottom lashes for non spidery definition.


Vita Liberata Body Blur is an instant, wash-off self tan-slash-body makeup with BB properties to blur minor imperfections and enhance the appearance of skin. It blends in quickly and easily leaving a glowing, luminous finish. While it may not erase quite as many of said imperfections as I'd like (ahem!), it definitely evens out skintone and leaves my limbs looking a lot more presentable than before. It's currently available in one shade that's a touch dark for my fluro Winter limbs, but should work well in Summer. Probably not an everyday solution unless your name ends in Kardashian, but a good special occasion option if you're planning to show a lot of skin.  


If you avoid hair masks for fear of them dripping all over your fave PJs or making your fancy towels grimy, Heat Treat may be the answer - and it claims to make hair masks work harder. The hair version of Origins Maskimizer, you might say. A microwaveable hair cap, worn over a hair mask, the warmth helps open hair's cuticles, making conditioning treatments extra effective and comes with a plastic liner to keep it clean. One for a pampering night in with the girls?


I'm a long term user of Sally Hansen's Invisible Lip Liner, but struggled to get my hands on a replacement, so was pleased to discover Pixi's Lip Contour Liner. The back of the packaging says 'Invisible Smudge Stopper' and I can't think of a better way to put it. I mainly use this with red or plum lipsticks which tend to bleed or stray a little, drawing a line around the very outside edge of my lips. The waxy texture keeps everything neatly in place and being transparent, it works with any lipstick shade.

Do you use any of these products - or think any of them are taking beauty maintenance a step too far?

Hand on heart, I can't describe any of them as actual essentials, but do enjoy using them - and would be particularly loathe to let you prise Lip Contour Liner or Little Black Primer out of my hands.



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Sunday, 6 March 2016

Clinique Pop Artistry: Lid Pops, Pop Lacquer & Pop Glaze


Clinique has added to its Pop Artistry collection with 3 new releases: Lid Pops, Pop Lacquer and Pop Glaze. The original pop stars - Lip Pop lipsticks and Cheek Pop blushers - are not only my favourite Clinique products, but some of my favourite lip and blush products ever, so I greeted the extensions to this line with open arms and high expectations. 

Here's how I got on...


LID POPS


Clinique Lid Pops are a collection of eye shadows with a similar texture to the Cheek Pop blushers. The baked formula feels silky to the touch and much finer than traditional powder shadows. Performance varies between the shades, with deeper tones having a stronger colour payoff. Willow Pop, the deep golden olive, is more pigmented than Cream Pop, a light peachy gold. 

This doesn't particularly bother me as I prefer deeper colours to look bolder and am loving Willow Pop for a more dramatic look, whereas I'm happy to wear Cream Pop as a more subtle wash of colour all over the lid or paired with a deeper shade for a smokey eye. Worth mentioning though in case you expect them all to be identical; there's not a huge difference, but it's there. 

Both of the above shades have a satin shimmer finish. I've also tried Vanilla Pop (not pictured), a matte yellow toned cream - again very subtle but makes a great neutral base worn alone or under other shadows. I struggle to find a shade like this that cancels out red and covers veins without looking obvious or powdery, so this one is worth a look and works well with Willow Pop.


POP GLAZE SHEER LIP COLOUR & PRIMER | POP LACQUER LIP COLOUR & PRIMER


Let's call these Pop Glaze and Pop Lacquer for short or we'll be here all day... 

Pop Glaze is a more sheer version of my much loved Lip Pop lipsticks. These have a nice amount of pigment for a more natural daytime look or anyone who doesn't like full on lipstick. They have more colour than the latest Clarins Joli Rouge Brilliant releases for example; I prefer these as they are semi sheer rather than very sheer and more easily buildable. This one is Melon Drop Pop, a bright Spring coral. 

Pop Lacquer lies somewhere between lipgloss and liquid lipstick. More pigmented than your average gloss but more user friendly than your average liquid lipstick, which I can sometimes find a bit messy and overwhelming. Essentially, this gives the look of lipstick with gloss applied on top, in one quick step. The petal shaped wand fits into the lip shape perfectly and leaves a patent shine with built in primer, helping the colour last once the shine has worn off. 

Cocoa Pop is the ultimate nude shade for me - the perfect amount of pink and brown that's just so flattering on. I've also tried Wink Pop (not pictured), a slightly paler, more milky nude, that's also pretty but would require lip liner to work for me. Cocoa Pop is so good I'm tempted to buy a back up - and that never happens. I just need to find the exact same shade in a regular lipstick. 


SWATCHES


Apologies for the goosebumps - I was completely frozen when taking these pics. From the left:
  • Clinique Pop Lacquer Lip Colour & Primer in Cocoa Pop 01 - rosy brown nude
  • Clinique Pop Glaze Sheer Lip Colour & Primer in Melon Drop Pop 02 - peachy coral
  • Clinique Lid Pop in Cream Pop 02 - pale peachy gold
  • Clinique Lid Pop in Willow Pop 05 - golden olive
NB In real life, Cocoa Pop looks slightly more pink and less brown toned than it does in this swatch; the colour of the tube pic is exactly how it looks on the lips. (Can't tell you how many times I tried to get this right - clearly need to learn how to work magic on photos - any tips welcome!) 

Clinique Pop Artistry launches 18 March 2016, available now exclusively at Harrods and clinique.co.uk My hands down top pick is the suit everyone nude, Pop Lacquer in Cocoa Pop.


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Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Jo Malone London Herb Garden Collection: Wild Strawberry & Parsley



Jo Malone London's Herb Garden Collection launches today and if you're on the lookout for a new perfume, this one really is a breath of fresh air. It includes five distinctive limited edition colognes encased in beautiful green glass bottles:
  • Lavender & Coriander
  • Carrot Blossom & Fennel
  • Wild Strawberry & Parsley
  • Sorrel & Lemon Thyme
  • Nasturtiam & Clover



My favourite Jo Malone scent is Blackberry & Bay, so this line up was pretty much guaranteed to win me over. Sorrel & Lemon Thyme immediately jumped out at me as I love a citrus scent and this one is so invigorating, though on my skin, I love Wild Strawberry & Parsley the most. 

This is no sugary fruit scent, though the soft juicyness is there, becoming bright and leafy when juxtaposed with peppery flat leaf parsley. Initially quite succulent and herbal, boosted by tangy tomato leaves and blackcurrant, the sweetness comes through quite quickly and settles somewhere in between. 


I love the attention to detail, each bottle a slightly different shade of green glass, the back decorated with one of its ingredients.


Check out those lush greens... NB I took this pic at the launch - this is not my dressing table - mores the pity!


How refreshing to see 80 year old model Gitte Lee as the face of this campaign. The actress and wife of late Dracula star, Christopher Lee, looks so very elegant and charming and totally at home in her herb garden.



Wild Strawberry & Parsley is the perfect Spring daytime scent and I've loved wearing it daily.

"A quirky tapestry of fragrant foliage, entwined flowers and fruit
...the aromatic artistry of herbs; verdant, crisp, juicy and sweet."

Jo Malone London's limited edition Herb Garden Collection is available now in 30ml bottles priced at £44 each - find it here

Which one appeals the most to you?

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