Tuesday, 31 January 2012

It's about time.....

My name is Caroline and I have a confession to make. Until a few weeks ago I had never sat behind the wheel of a car. Well, I am BRILLIANT at dodgems, but a REAL car? No.

I moved to London when I was 17, met the OH at 19 and have lived in Central (ish) London ever since. In the early days we didn't need a car, then we started the family and couldn't afford a car, then we had more kids, then I focused on my career...blah bah blah.

I've come to realise that learning to drive is similar to having a baby. There's never a right time but you'll know when its necessary/you absolutely need to...

Suddenly I was 42 and still not driving. And it had become not only embarrassing, but a massive inconvenience. I am now at the age where I want to be able to pick my older kids up when they're out late or far away (boys if you're reading this - I am NOT going to become a taxi) - and the deciding factor was a week late last year when both of my parents had a 'procedure' two days apart from each other. The thought of relying on British Rail to get me up North in a hurry was terrifying. Enough.

So the first payment on my bank card for 2012 was for driving lessons. And this morning I passed my theory test. 
I'm booking my test today and as much as I dreaded the lessons at the beginning - I'm now beginning to enjoy them.

Will keep you posted on my progress but for the love of car crashes please keep your fingers crossed for this old bird?!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Civil Wars

One thing I love more than beauty? Music. Live it, breathe it...obsessed. It's how I met the OH. Singing on stage. (4 kids and 40lbs ago but whatever..)

Last October the mister said 'You have to listen to THIS.'

'THIS' was The Civil Wars on Later with Jools Holland. <---- that performance led to the band trending on twitter worldwide straight after the show. By the next day the import-only album was no.15 on the iTunes chart in the UK.

By the time they got to the chord changes at 2.40 into the song I had downloaded everything they had released from iTunes. And when it finished I played it again. And again. And again. I've pretty much had them on repeat ever since.

If you've ever had anything resembling a relationship you have to listen to this:

Poison & Wine

The back and forth, his-and-hers telling of the story is completely mesmerising.

In a world full of homogenised, manufactured, meaningless, talentless dross, these two unbelievably, beyond-the-norm ridiculously talented musicians have literally given me hope. Even their tumblr is gorgeous. 

Barton Hollow is being released as a single on 5th March.

The album of the same name is out the same day. 

They're also touring in March. Beg, borrow, steal or BUNK IN (sorry but needs must and they're worth getting arrested for) to see this band.  
Adele - who they supported on her last tour - said 'The Civil Wars are by far the BEST live band I have EVER seen.'
Get in there early. They've since been nominated for 2 Grammys and are about to go global.

The last time I was this excited about music was when I first heard Jeff Buckley. Enough said.

I love them more than Emma Hardie cleanser and Alpha-H Liquid Gold. There. I got some beauty in.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Absorbency, medication and inflammation... a request from Twitter...and how to make the perfect cup of tea.

I've had a few questions on Twitter this week that take more than 140 characters to respond to!

Firstly, medication and the effects on the body and skin - meds can affect the skin in all sorts of ways - but the most common reaction is inflammation in one way or another. Just a reminder that I am under no illusions that I am a GP! - this is just my training, experience and reactions from customers and clients.  
Antibiotics tend to dry you out and can cause either redness and/or rashes or, as in my case, you go 'grey' and lose colour in your face. This usually leads to people saying 'You look really rough!' Um thanks.
Ditto most other meds. And I'm talking about prescribed medication - not over the counter paracetamol. 

The thing that's best for skin that is under the influence of any medication? Just go down the anti-inflammatory route. Cut out sugar, alcohol, smoking (don't get me started), lower dairy intake and be careful using really active ingredients in products - your skin is trying to cope with enough without making it work harder. 
Use a soft cleanser - preferably a balm or oil (as always non mineral oil based), find a nice cooling spray toner/tonic such as Avene, and a really hydrating moisturiser. Water based is safe all round. If you're particularly oily or dry supplement with a suitable oil in the evenings.
Cleanse, spray, moisturise, spray again. Think of your routine as 'putting out the fire'.

Absorbency. I was tweeted by the lovely Liloo  this evening to ask my opinion on a particular new launch claiming to be 300% stronger than other antioxidants used in products. Or summin. 
My concern with brands that talk the talk about miracle ingredients is the delivery system.

Let me set the scene: When you make a cup of tea in a cup - why do you not add the milk to the mug first? 
Because the fat molecules in the milk are bigger than the holes in the teabag. If you add the milk first the tea stops brewing and you get a cup of cat pee. No matter how hard you squeeze it against the side of the cup with that teaspoon.

Your skin, like a teabag, is not designed to just absorb willy-nilly. If it did - you wouldn't be able to take a bath - you'd drown.
You can have the best ingredients available on the market but if they're not in a specialised delivery system - such as a nicotine or HRT patch, they will just sit on the surface of the skin - or evaporate off. Take retinol. When it first came on to the market, the delivery system was sub-standard and the product sat on the surface of the skin - causing irritation and in some cases burning people who then went out in to the sun unknowingly. Most people would return their products saying 'I've had an allergic reaction'. Then came micro technology and THEN came nano technology. Which basically means the molecules of the ingredient in the formulation are smaller than the entry points on the epidermis. 
So when you're about to buy an expensive face cream, don't worry so much about the ingredients - its bound to have some excellent ones. Ask how they plan to penetrate you. You know you want to.

That's all. Remember this though: 
  • In-vitro and in-utero testing is fabulous - but how do they intend to get it INTO your cells?
  • Whatever you use, whatever they tell you, nothing, NOTHING penetrates further than the dermis that is NOT IN A NEEDLE. 
Now. Someone put the kettle on. And do it properly please.


Holy Crapbags! One of my favourite body moisturisers EVER - and one of Boots best-selling items - Soap & Glory's Righteous Butter, is launching in a MEGA 1 litre-sized Limited Edition on 1st February.

I make no apologies for it - I love this product. The smell, the formulation and the packaging. 

And it's going for £25.00. £25.00 for a LITRE of product?

Form an orderly queue peeps. And get THE HELL out of my way!

My Daily

Just a quick one - I'm over on My Daily today with my Hero Product.. No surprises for guessing what it is....

At least I'm consistent.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Paris - L'Opera

I went to Paris last Friday for work meetings and with an hour to kill between meetings I decided that instead of walking around L'Opera and ignoring it completely - as I have done for over 10 years - the shame - why not actually do a little sight-seeing?

So for a very brief diversion from skincare and the like - just cast your eye over these.......

Le sigh......

More over on Picture Heavy Post....

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Mineral Oil - a rant

I go on and on about mineral oil all the time and am always asked what I have against it. 

Here's the thing.

It has no benefit to your skin. Whatsoever. Companies use it because it's cheap - it's not even cheap - the big oil companies pay people to take it off their hands.

Plant-based oils are far more beneficial to the skin - but they are more expensive. That is the only reason more companies don't switch from mineral oil to BETTER options. 
Honestly, when I see pots of cream that cost hundreds of pounds/dollars and the first listed ingredient is 'Petrolatum/Mineral Oil' I could LITERALLY headbutt the counter.

Yes, you get brands saying 'But it's refined medical-grade mineral oil!'. 

Well Whoopie-DO. *jazz hands*

I suppose that means an omelette isn't really an egg. 

You all have a choice - and each to their own. I haven't used mineral oil on my face for over 20 years. And I've never put it on my kids faces.

That's all.

Beauty News Round-up

A little round-up of stories this week - first up...
  • A reminder. Invati - the new range from Aveda that I reviewed late last year is on counters now. If you are worried about thinning hair - give it a go. I found it really good.

  • FOUR London are teaming up with Daniel Sandler and offering a Consultation Evening next Thursday on 19th of January. The experts at FOUR will be giving colour consultations, Daniel will be giving MU tips and experts will be on hand from Dr Duve skincare to give you advice on how to get the best out of your skin. All with a glass of bubbles. To attend - simply email shirley at sdpr.co.uk
  • Jo Malone announced this week that Charlotte Stockdale would be their new 'Style Editor'. In all honesty I'm not sure what a 'Style Editor' will do. Or how it will affect the brand. Very few brands are as visually strong as Jo Malone.
    I recently attended a CEW talk given by Jo herself to launch her new brand Jo Loves - during her speech she said that trying to pick which brand she loved more would be like 'trying to say which of her children she loved more'. I wonder what the original 'nose' makes of the new 'Style Editor'.
    Perhaps the original Jo Malone company (owned by Lauder since 1999) injecting newness into the range will be good for them - and good for the consumer.

  • To celebrate the launch of their new counter in Harvey Nichols London - Stila are having a lipgloss amnesty 'Stila Steal' on 19th of this month. Just bring any lipgloss to the counter from 10am and they'll exchange it for a brand new 'Kitten' Lip Glaze.
    Interesting sidebar: Stila Lip Glaze is what I sold to my rudest customer ever when it was originally in Harvey Nichols in the late 90's. *waves at Naomi Campbell*

Frankly it's ABOUT TIME that Stila is back where it belongs. I could never get used to seeing it in Boots. Heartbreaking. It needs to be back in SpaceNK before I can sleep properly at night though.

  • Speaking of SpaceNK - lots of fabulous new ranges coming their way in the next couple of months - the most exciting for me being Kevyn Aucoin.
    It's 10 years this May since the unexpected death of one of the greatest MUA I have ever seen in action. I'm so glad his estate kept his new (at the time) range going. What better legacy? Look out for Celestial Powder and the Sensual Skin Enhancer. Hurry up and get here!

Monday, 9 January 2012

Marie Claire Best Beauty Twitter Awards

Well it would appear that shouting at people on Twitter about their incorrect/lame/wrong use of skincare is popular?!

Yours truly has been longlisted for Best Beauty Twitter over on Marie Claire.  I do like a bit of a twitter rant and if you win? - you get to tweet for Marie Claire (I'm not entirely sure they've thought this through)!

Now the competition is just RIDICULOUS - the other people nominated are fabulous. I mean beyond fabulous... but in for a penny....

If you follow me on twitter and can spare a mo, please do vote for me. Much appreciated.

It won't stop me shouting at people on twitter if I lose, but I'd maybe get to shout at a lot more people (give great advice) if I WIN. Score!

You can vote here.

Thanking you kindly. 

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Guide to Paris - Part 1 - Travel and Champs Elysees

Years ago, when I was working for a big brand in Europe, I was fortunate enough to 'have' to visit Paris once a month - for work. Paris is also where I did advanced facial training (a bizarre blog post all in itself).
I have a soft spot for Paris - and most things French. Except snails. Never succumbed. 

I've developed quite a few favourite shops, restaurants and sights to see and thought it might be worth sharing a few..

A few travel tips first.
  • Always Eurostar. Never fly. Unless you live in Scotland perhaps but seriously - I can get to Paris in the same amount of time it takes to get up North to the homeland. No waiting for luggage - no 2 hour check-in. Bliss.
  • Buy a Carnet on the Eurostar - and buy it early - they sell out. A Carnet is 10 metro tickets and costs around 12 euros. Buying it on the train means you avoid the queues at Gare de Nord. Think any tube station on the first day back to work after Christmas/School holidays - horrible queues. The Metro system in Paris is delightfully easy to use - and safe. You'll spend so much time walking you won't use all of your tickets if you're just going for a quick visit.
  • Don't try and hail a cab in Paris - they have to use taxi ranks - you can't hail them down in the street. Painful. But there we are.
  • If you are taking a taxi from Gare du Nord avoid the queue in the 'official' huge taxi rank on the outer right of the station. Exit the station at the front, cross over and turn left and walk for about 50 or so metres? There you'll find another taxi rank with no queue. So worth it.
  • If you can, try and avoid ordering a cab through your hotel for your journey back to the station/airport. The cab will add a good 8/10 euros just for the pleasure of picking you up. If you have been shopping for England - order the cab but make a point of asking how much the fee will be for collecting you. Cheek.
Once you've arrived and are ready to go - hit a specific area and stick to it for an amount of time if you can - don't faff around running back and forth all over the place.

First up - the Champs Elysee
You need the Metro Franklin D Roosevelt. Not Champs Elysee. That would be similar to getting off at Marble Arch when you want Tottenham Court Road. 

Exit left out of the station and walk up a block and there you have the beauty bloggers Promised Land.
The flagship Sephora is always packed but has plenty of staff to cope - queues are kept to a minimum.  The French love a French brand. Priority is given to Dior, Givenchy, Lancome, YSL and Chanel. You'll find plenty of Chanel Seasonal Colours/Limited Editions that sell out in the UK in days, Make Up For Ever and Sephora's Own Label to get you started.
A word on the Sephora/Karl Lagerfeld collaboration. I love Chanel. I mean LOVE. Who doesn't? But WHAT IN THE NAME OF BOUCLE was KL thinking with this collaboration? When we went there was plenty left on the shelves - which is always a bad sign - if it's not good enough for the French etc..and the quality was just awful. He can't need the money - or the press? 
I considered buying a few pieces for Ava's collection - of which she remains clueless but will thank me one day - but couldn't bring myself to do it. Bad quality, bad choice of product, bad idea. And unnecessary.
I stuck with Chanel. Maybe that was the thinking? Anyway..

Next up - and practically next door, is Guerlain. I blogged about our tour of Guerlain last time we were in Paris - you need to go to the Guerlain store. Firstly, the staff and service are exquisite. Polite, friendly and no pressure. I managed to get my Grandmother (in the banner) a Shalimar Dusting Powder for Christmas - not available in the UK - the staff gift-wrapped it in nano-seconds and threw in a lot of samples for her too. All sorts of fabulous.

On the block down from Guerlain is a Monoprix
Monoprix is the French version of Tesco - but you will have all manner of fun in one of these if you like things such as Bourjois, Bonne Maman jam, pre-packed Croque Monsieur cheeses - anyway - I recommend doing your supermarket shop on your last day/at the end of the day. Too heavy otherwise.

Exit Monoprix and walk down a block and you'll find Biologique Recherche. Home of the infamous P50 and well worth a visit. Unfortunately due to EU ingredient regulations the best version of P50 is now only available in the US. Humbug all round. Still worth seeing just for the products.

By now you're probably hungry - it's probably lunchtime and you NEED to visit La Relais.

See those people? That be a food queue. We went back the next day - early.
If you're vegetarian look away now.

The staff ask you two questions when you sit down at La Relais.

  1. How do you want it cooked? (medium rare)
  2. What do you want to drink? (bottle of red s'il vous plait)
That's it. Steak and chips - TWICE. Not for 2 - two servings per person.

The good news is that there are branches in London. Go. But as with Paris - go early to avoid queues.

Next up: Boulevard Haussmann and L'Opera.