Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Cheat Sheet - Eye Cream

There are two camps when it come to eye cream:
  • Those that definitely do
  • Those that think its unnecessary and a waste of money
Unsurprisingly I am very much the former. An eye cream has been part of my routine since my 20's. I didn't start earlier because I was pretty healthy - never smoked, didn't really drink per se and was a teenager who didn't particularly think about eye cream one way or another. Once I was pregnant with my first child (at 22) I changed my mind.

The saying 'the eyes are the window to the soul' is derived from similar medical terms meaning the eyes are literally the window to what is going on inside the body - at all times. If you are blessed with youth and spectacular health your eyes are, I'm sure, clear and bright and the skin around the orbicularis oculi (think panda eye) evenly toned and and coloured.
However, for most of us - the above is no longer the case. 

Everything affects your eye area.
All of your internal organs are reflected in them...
Liver problems - yellow eyes
Lymph drainage system - puffy, dark circles
General mild illness - dull 
Medication (especially antibiotics) - discoloured, puffy, dull, dehydrated
Smoking - grey, dehydrated 
Lack of sleep/too much sleep - puffy, dark circles, grey 'tired eyes'
Diet - including too much salt, caffeine and alcohol - puffy, dark circles, dehydrated
Sun damage/ageing - wrinkles, dehydrated

It's a minefield. The bad news is that any cream would be hard pushed to fix the above. If you are unhealthy internally, a topical cream will not magically fix you. What they will do however, especially when used in conjunction with a concealer, is temporarily mask some of the above. While we're on the subject - any ethical retailer will advise you that the effect of a cream will wear off if you discontinue use. 
No cream is a permanent 'fix'.

I like a separate eye cream for a number of reasons but mainly because I am extremely prone to puffy eyelids and really dark circles. Both genetic, both nothing I can do anything about (excluding surgery for the lids) - BUT - some things make them much worse and heavier formulations found in most moisturisers are one of them. I like thin serums and dedicated formulations for eyes for that reason.

A few do's and don'ts:
  • Do NOT use mineral oil around your eye area - don't use it anywhere - but especially the eye area - you'll be puffy like never before
  • Don't be tempted to use more than the advised amount - its unnecessary, could cause irritation and waste your money
  • If you have eczema or psoriasis in the eye area - which is very common - you can use thicker creams on the lids as you'll need them - depending on the severity of your condition they should probably be prescribed by your doctor - although you may find a nice organic balm somewhere - no beauty house should claim to treat those problems
  • Do use only the lightest of serums on the eyelids for the same reason as the mineral oil - puffiness
  • Keep it simple - too much fragrance in a product can really irritate the eye area - your eye cream does not need to smell - of anything
  • Most allergies to eye products and eyeshadows/mineral makeup are caused by an ingredient called Bismuth Oxychloride. It is used to give the shimmer/light reflective 'glow' and is one of the biggest allergens I have witnessed in the industry. If you've previously never been able to use a particular eye cream or eyeshadow and had it blamed on 'your eyes' by a brand - check their inci list. You'll probably see it on there. If you can't use mineral makeup because it itches - you need to use a brand that openly says 'no bismuth oxychloride' when they are talking to you.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Cheat Sheet - What facial?

Despite their popularity and the continued growth of spas and salons - the average woman in the UK has a facial 'as a treat' across three occasions, a birthday, Christmastime/celebration or their wedding.

There is nothing more frustrating than looking forward to something, paying out good money and coming away feeling dissatisfied so I thought a general guide of what to have and when might prove useful.

Most facials contain the following steps:

Exfoliation (sometimes with steam)
Application of product

Types of facial


Will include massage, extractions, steam and possibly machinery


Lots of massage, possible steam and lots of masks/serums


Massage, clay masks, steam, extractions


Machinery such as microdermabrasion, light therapy, galvanic, Caci and serums/massage


Deep cleanse, exfoliation, extraction, masks

There are lots of facials on offer - this is just a broad spectrum to give you a basic idea.

Getting married

You don't want to walk down the aisle on the biggest day of your life with a beetroot face or spots. If you want to gear up for your wedding and you skin needs a little help...
  • Try and start around 4 months before - 6 if you can afford it
  • Have a couple of maintenance facials 6 weeks apart and then a pampering facial a couple of days before the big day itself
  • Avoid machinery, extractions and anything you haven't had before on the last facial before the wedding
If your dress is backless or low on the back - consider a back facial. All those people staring at your back acne while you're saying your vows. Eeww.


If you fancy a one-off treat for a special occasion go for pampering. 
  • You want something that includes plenty of massage, masks, serums and moisturisers to leave your skin plumped up and bouncy - something that will last for around 48 hours.
  • Avoid extractions or too much steam which can leave you red faced and dehydrated
  • This is not the time to have a go at those spots

Facials with a purpose

If you have any of the following...

Sensitive - avoid steam, deep clay masks, most machinery - especially microdermabrasion and blackhead extraction 
Rosacea - avoid steam. deep clay masks, fruit acids, microdermabrasion
Acne - avoid mineral oil massage - ask what they are using for massage - a LOT of brands and more surprisingly, well-known facialists use mineral oil as a massage lubricant
Ageing - avoid too much steam

If you are receiving chemotherapy or recently finished treament - avoid massage. Especially lymph drainage massage. Most good facialists should ask you to fill in a questionnaire before your treatment to highlight any concerns anyway - if they don't, leave. Simple as.

I've written previously on what to expect from a good facial - this will hopefully just give a little guidance as to which type to spend your money on.

Hall of Fame - Darphin Purifying Balm

If there was such a thing as a 'Church of Beauty' - I would surely worship at the altar of this product.

I first used this when I worked in SpaceNK in the 90's. I took a sample home (technically not allowed but we'll brush over that) when my skin had a couple of breakouts and was so impressed by the overnight results that I started selling it like hot cakes. Customers had similar reactions to the product and it has been a staple in my routine ever since.

What's in it?

A mini rant. Apologies about the quality of the above picture but I searched far and wide online to find the ingredients (for ease) and couldn't find them - anywhere. I was so annoyed I dug out my spare pot from the back of the cupboard and quickly fired this off.
Online retailers need to seriously up their game when it comes to ingredient listing - some do, most don't. I went to every single retailer of Darphin. No full inci. Infuriating. And what's even more annoying? The paid-for ads on google - that say 'Darphin Purifying Balm' - and then you click through to find they don't even SELL it. Sod off and stop wasting my time.

I've been inspired by this little episode to always show the inci listing on the product I am posting about - because clearly - there is a need. This is something that is regularly done by London Makeup Girl - the most ethical blogger out there. So Grace, *tips hat* - I'm joining you.

Right - now that's sorted - these are the key ingredients - to my mind..
Apricot Kernel Oil
Sunflower Seed Oil
Vegetable Oil
The above 4 form the base. Good, non-clogging oils - note the lack of mineral oil!

Sage Oil
Nutmeg Kernel Oil
Tea Tree Oil
Thyme Oil
Grapefruit Oil
Rosewood Oil
Balsam Oil
The above are just a few of the oils included and are by turn, decongesting and anti-bacterial.

What's good about it?
It does what it says on the box - The leaflet included in the product says 'ideal for combination to oily skin, prone to imperfections, with a dull, unhealthy appearance.' Personally I would argue with that. It may have been designed with that skin type in mind, but I find this works really well on all skin types. Sensitive, ageing, dry - it ticks every box.
It's not full of 'filler' ingredients - its fairly pure.
Smells beautiful - not vital, but important to me.
It lasts AGES - a little goes a long, long way.

Its worth mentioning two further things. Darphin do have another balm - Aromatic Renewing - I suspect this was released to cater for the older, dryer market in response to the popularity of the original Purifying. It's good, but I MUCH prefer Purifying Balm.
And - huge credit to Darphin here - since I first bought this product in the 90's they have made it completely organic. It's EcoCert certified and is now called Organic Aromatic Purifying Balm.

If your skin is dull, needs a little glow, is prone to impurities, oily, sensitive, dry - whatever: this product works. Highly - and always - recommended.

Darphin Organic Aromatic Purifying Balm is around £40.00 and is available at pretty much every major online retailer. ALL of whom need to start listing ingredients. On everything. I'll link to the ones that DO in future.

Monday, 21 November 2011

New Launch for 2012 - Aveda Invati

Let's set the scene. The picture above shows my brother, my father and my uncle. Oh and me. Spot the difference? I'm the one with hair. Well, not counting Dad's moustache. As you can see from said picture my father's genes run strong in our family. And that's just with the cheeks. Since I hit 40 (yes a few years ago now) I have noticed more hair in the plughole after a shower and a definite thinning in the front parting. People say they can't notice but I can.

So I was more than a little excited when I attended the launch of Aveda's newest range and discovered it was for ages 35-40+ who were concerned with thinning hair. Bliss.

Invati is the first major launch from Aveda haircare for years and from my impressions so far, well worth the wait.

There are 3 products in the initial offering.

Exfoliating Shampoo £18.50

Thickening Conditioner £20.50

Scalp Revitalizer £41.00
Invati is 97% naturally derived and improved hair loss by 33% in trials. It is specifically for women who are concerned with hair loss, thinning, loss of volume, lack of density and a tight or dry scalp - all signs of ageing.

The Invati range is designed to invigorate and stimulate the scalp thus exfoliating the hair follicle and removing the build-up of sebum and product that can inhibit healthy hair growth. Using a mixture of ingredients but primarily naturally derived salicylic acid, turmeric and ginseng so far - it does what it says on the bottle.

I felt a difference in the thickness of my hair after the first use and there is definitely less hair in the plughole. The fact that it does all of this without coating it in silicone (M*r*cc*n Oil anyone?) and chemicals is not just an added bonus - it's bloody genius.

Also, being Aveda and to my mind the most eco-aware brand on the planet - they have partnered with Indian farmers to source Ayurvedic organically-grown herbs while supporting local communities through projects to repair ageing water systems in two villages. Aveda don't just talk the talk - they put their money where their mouth is. Something I'm glad that the Lauder group continued after their acquisition.

The only thing negative is that I will run out of the shampoo and conditioner before it launches in January.

For more information on Aveda, their products and current projects around the world - here.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Heads Up! Elemis TSV - QVC 20th November

Attention all Elemis and QVC fans - Elemis's final TSV of the year is this Sunday 20th November and has 10 - yes TEN airings throughout the day.

The Five Piece Tranquil Indulgence Face and Body Collection includes all of the above plus a final secret product which will be announced with the lovely Keeley at Midnight on the 20th. It is priced at under £40 and guarantees a 50% saving. As you can see from the picture the new Pro Radiance Hand and Nail Cream launches with this TSV - it doesn't go on general release for another 3 months so this is your chance to try it. I've had a sneak preview and it doesn't disappoint.

Fingers at the ready.

QVC - Midnight 20th November. Item no 200194

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Evelyn H. Lauder 1936 - 2011

Source - Forbes

'In capturing a singular moment, photography has also helped me learn how to let go of things I want to hold on to so tightly. You can't hold back time, but you can look forward to what's coming next and do everything in your power to create the best possible future.'
Evelyn H. Lauder

Evelyn Lauder.com
Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Friday, 11 November 2011

New Fragrance for 2012 - Vivienne Westwood and Vera Wang

Last week I had a sneak preview of new fragrances for Valentine's Day - the two stand out ones for me being Cheeky Alice from Vivienne Westwood and Vera Wang's Princess Night.

Cheeky Alice is a follow-on from Naughty Alice and although is made of lily of the valley, rose and peony has a definite undercurrent of something altogether sexier and heavier. Perfect for Spring.
Prices start at £32.00 and it is on counter 1st February 2012.
I was working in Harvey Nichols when the original Westwood fragrance launched. Amongst the madness of queues a lovely Japanese gentleman approached me and said 'Excuse me - you have Vagina Westwing?!' Haven't looked at her the same way since.

Being unable to afford a Vera Wang dress I'll have to settle for a fragrance - which on reflection, is what clever marketing teams hope we all do with every launch. And also why famous faces make more money from fragrance than anything else.
That aside, I LOVE this fragrance. Its like a spicy fruit compote (and you thought I couldn't review fragrance! Pah!) with raspberry, watermelon, jasmine, spicy orange and the two killers - musk and vanilla. And a word about the bottle - completely encrusted and heavyheavyheavy. Love.
Prices start at £32.00 and it's on counter from 11th January.

L'Artisan Parfumeur

News reached me yesterday of the passing of Jean Laporte, the man who founded one of my favourite fragrance houses L'Artisan Parfumeur in 1976.

L'Artisan was truly one of the first niche houses and his work was exemplary.

I had been planning a L'Artisan post for a while so thought it would be appropriate to mention two of my L'Artisan favourites here.
Unlike some tuberose fragrances, Nuit de Tubereuse  is built around an absolute of tuberose and is at turns, woody, spicy, citrus and light. A confusing but intoxicating scent and utterly divine. Also possibly my favourite perfume bottle - ever.

I can't think of L'Artisan without thinking of amber, and my preference is for the Extreme version. It's a soft mix of vanilla, geranium and amber and is for me, a must for the colder months.

I'll be wearing it today.

Brilliant Reds - NARS and Daniel Sandler

Having rediscovered the joy of a red lip recently, these two have moved swiftly to my everyday make-up bag and are beautiful, gorgeous reds.
Impulse is part of Daniel Sandler's collection for Winter and is gob-smackingly beautiful. Every time I wear this I get compliments. It has the same lovely texture as the All for Eve RED that Daniel created, is non-drying and smooths on with no effort at all. It leans to the blue side on me which is perfect as coral = clown for BM.  £13.30 from Beautique.
A+ all round.

Slightly darker, I spotted this NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in SpaceNK a couple of weeks ago, applied it, and fell in love. It's called Cruella. 'How apt' say you? How rude.
These pencils are like painting your lips with a chubby crayola but the application is really easy, soft and smooth. £17.50 from NARS online.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Chantecaille Christmas - Updated

Some prettiness for Midweek. These are coming soon to a counter near you - and being Chantecaille, they are gorgeous.

Limited Edition Evening Duo Palette

The Evening Duo is a Limited Edition Swarovski bejewelled eyeshadow palette containing two new colours: Charmeuse, a soft pearl with a delicate shimmer and Carbon, a highly pigmented jet black matte. The set comes with two custom designed brushes is £75.00 and available from Harrods.

And for the first time all five of the Chantecaille fragrances - of which Kalimantan - above - is my favourite, are available as a 7.5 ml roll-on in a beautiful faux-croc envelope-style pouch which of course matches the packaging of the respective fragrance.

The roll-on is also available with the matching candle in a similar faux-croc bag as another Limited Edition set in Tiare and Frangipane only.

And finally - look at this... *sighs*

The Chantecaille Crystal Collection is has been created by Cimon, whose renowned sculptures are adorned with crystals and these promise to bring a new level of exclusivity to the term 'Limited Edition'.  If you take yourself down to Harrods you'll be able to order the fragrance of your choice - and collect it four weeks later... The fragrance is normally £150.00 so I weep at the thought of the price of this beauty - but that's not the point - is it?

No on-counter date for any of the above as yet. But they're on their way!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Cheat Sheet - Dry or Dehydrated?

I change my skincare 'wardrobe' every time I change my actual clothing wardrobe over from winter to summer and vice versa. However, this weekend I realised I had probably left it a couple of weeks too late as my skin was dull as ditchwater, flat and dry to touch. That coupled with the blog posts and tweets I've seen recently about dry skin/skin feeling tight etc leads me to think this little guide might prove useful.

Are you DRY or DEHYDRATED? (or both!)

Dry and dehydrated skins have similar characteristics, but different underlying reasons.

Dry Skin - normally a skin type but can be a temporary skin condition
  • caused by lack of oil in the skin
  • small pores
  • 'tight' feeling
  • may be flaky
  • milia, blackheads and spots may still be present
  • skin looks dull
  • skin is not plump
  • doesn't absorb products easily
  • easily irritated - more likely to suffer reactions to products
  • aggravated by poor skincare

Dehydrated Skin - is a skin condition affecting any skin type - including DRY
  • caused by lack of water in the skin
  • pores can be large or small
  • skin feels tight and dry although it can confusingly sometimes look oily and have breakouts
  • absorbs moisturisers really quickly
  • blackheads and spots are still visible
  • makeup disappears (and goes patchy) throughout the day as the skin is absorbing any water in your foundation
  • skin looks 'ashen' 
  • aggravated by lifestyle circumstances - may suffer from a lot of headaches

Skin is made up of 70% water - around  20-30% of that is in the epidermis (top layer of the skin). In normal circumstances, your hydrolipidic film acts as a regulator and barrier - retaining moisture and protecting against germs. If - for whatever reason that is compromised, the moisture in the epidermis evaporates too quickly and the normal, healthy state of the skin is compromised.

The reality is that most of us at one time or another - but ESPECIALLY at this time of the year - are dehydrated.

Any and all of the following can cause dehydration - standby!:
  1. Environment - wind, cold air, dry air, too much sun, air conditioning, central heating
  2. Diet - the wrong foods, alcohol, caffeine, not eating enough water-heavy foods, not drinking enough
  3. Lifestyle - stress (hello?!), poor skincare routine, using the wrong products, medication - including birth control, smoking
  4. Genetics - monthly cycle, pregnancy
It is quite common to be both dry and dehydrated but if by looking at the above you have ascertained that you are one or the other - these do's and don't might help.

Do and Do Not:
  • Do upgrade your moisturiser to something suitable for dry skin if you recognise the signs - go for products using the words 'nourishing'
  • Do change your moisturiser to something labelled 'hydra' or 'hydrating' if you suspect you are dehydrated
  • Make sure you are not using products that are too harsh or too stripping for either
  • Do steer clear of foaming anything  - keep the bubbles for your dishes
  • Do use balms, oils and serums for dry
  • Do use milks, specified oils and treatments for dehydrated
  • Do stay away from mineral oils, silicones (in skincare - not makeup), lanolins and synthetic fragrance which will make a dehydrated skin worse and make a dry skin scream for help

A word on supplements - omega oils found in either flax or fish oil supplements will help both dry and dehydrated skins - however, you'll need a good 3 months to see the benefits on your skin so if you want to think ahead for the deep winter of end Jan/Feb you could do worse than to get cracking now.

    Friday, 4 November 2011

    Diptyque Christmas

    I'm a Diptyque fanatic. I trained in the brand and sold them when I worked at Space over 10 years ago and it has stayed with me ever since. One of my all-time favourites is the collaboration with John Galliano.

    During his recent 'troubles' (ahem) this was discreetly taken off the shelves but was still, thankfully - for my own selfish reasons, available under the counter. If you haven't smelt it it's basically churches. Well, 'intense incense inside an old cathedral that just celebrated Bonfire Night' churches... brilliantly described non?

    When Spring rolls around I change my candles the way I change my clothes. Out comes Roses and Rose Geranium. Summer brings Tuberose and Gardenia. But Winter is where Diptyque come into their own.

    They make Winter and Christmas smells like no-one else and do not hold back on the pungent, heavy smells of pine, oranges, spruce, plum, incense, amber and burning wood.

    This year's Christmas collections bring the usual Winter Coffret which this year contains Feu de Bois, Pomander and Pine and two Limited Editions:

    Epinette - this year's take on Pine.


    Perdigone - a warm fruity plum.

    I know some would prefer it if Diptyque used 'clean' waxes but I'm happy to keep using them until they do - or even if they don't. I like them too much to give them up.

    These are priced from £45 and available through Diptyque online and select Diptyque stockists.

    Aromatherapy Associates Christmas and Rose Skin Tonic - Review

    I'm a big believer in going to the experts in their particular field for product - i.e. don't buy your makeup from a skincare brand and don't buy your skincare from a fashion/make-up brand. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule but Aromatherapy Associates are hard to beat in their field.  Geraldine Howard and Sue Beechey have been doing what they do brilliantly as AA for over 25 years and individually since the 70's.

    I have been using the Rose Skin Tonic day and night for weeks now and it is definitely helping my confused, combination, dehydrated skin. High quality rose tonics/toners are hydrating while also being slightly astringent - which is perfect for me, especially at this time of year. It's also competitively priced at £22.00 for 200ml. I am obsessed with toners/tonics - but I won't pay a fortune for them.

    Gifting comes naturally to AA and this year's Christmas offering is just beyond....

    Comfort 3 wick Candle - 42 hours burn time - £45.00
     Can someone bring the above to my husband's attention? Ta.
    Perfect Partners Relax and Revive - £15.00

    Ultimate Bath and Shower Oil Collection - £49.00
    And if you're in London - you can now buy all of the above in their new flagship boutique and treatment rooms in Montpelier Street in Knightsbridge.

    Aromatherapy Associates is available at the aforementioned store, online, SpaceNK and spas/salons across the country.

    *PR sample

    Thursday, 3 November 2011

    Soap & Glory Cosmetics Launch

    Marcia Kilgore is a genius. I don't throw that word around thoughtlessly - she just IS. The woman behind Bliss and Fit Flops is in a league of her own. I remember being at a talk she gave to industry people a few years ago just before the launch of Soap & Glory. She was presenting the concept of the brand to the bigwigs at Harvey Nichols when they asked her 'Why Harvey Nichols would possibly sell something so cheap and 'mass' market?' to which she went around the table and asked each of them 'How much do YOU spend on a shower gel?'
    The answers were resoundly 'not more than a fiver' and she sealed the deal. At the same event she mentioned how the trademark office hung up on her team when they tried to register 'Sexy Mother Pucker' thinking it was a prank call...

    And thus Soap & Glory launched in Harvey Nichols Beyond Beauty whilst simultaneously becoming the Number 1 brand in Boots. In the beauty industry - this is unheard of. You're either 'mass' - and sold in chemists/supermarkets etc or 'prestige' and sold in department stores such as Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges. To cross over takes real skill in marketing and good product with no BS. Women are not fools.

    So: after the huge success of the bath and body range (of which I have a healthy stalker-like obsession) which included a little dabble in cosmetics - comes the official launch of Soap & Glory Cosmetics.

    Affordable, funky in style and staying true to the original S&G ethos of fun 50's packaging and images - it's undoubtedly going to be a sure-fire success.

    I personally showed no restraint when invited to their Head Office and spent a good hour ooh-ing and aah-ing at the new products on offer which include Fabulipstick, Show Good Face foundation, Cheekmate cheekstain and various eye products including kohl pencils, eyeshadows and mascara....

    Thick & Fast Mascara
    In fact my only gripe is with the mascara. A big brush does not necessarily big lashes make. It's too big to actually be able to get it on the lashes successfully. And the formula is a little dry. I have used it over another mascara to give 'oomph' and that works well - but for me, it's not great for normal everyday use. Sadly.
    Glow All Out Luminizing Face Powder
    Glow All Out however is lovely. I need a bronzer to stop me looking like death and my bronzer of choice this year has been New C-ID's Coral Glow. This is a great cheaper alternative. Lifts off nicely on to the brush and doesn't look orange or dry. I know my bronzers. This is a good one.

    Sexy Mother Pucker in Yummy Plum
    Predictably, from a Sexy Mother Pucker addict, this is my favourite. There are other colours but this one I think is the most user-friendly. It gives great sheer colour - and you get the notorious SMP 'burn'. LOVE.

    Soap & Glory Cosmetics prices start at a bargainous £5.00 and are available from Harvey Nichols and Boots - although surprisingly not from their own website. Sort THAT and it'll be damn near perfect.

    P.S. - As I hit 'publish page' S&G is on 3for2 in Boots.

    P.P.S. - the above were PR samples - but I'm off to Boots to stock up on all things Righteous Butter....