Friday, 31 October 2014

October favourites & fails

Hard to believe October is already over! One thing I'll never get used to living abroad is Christmas themed stuff appearing in shops and around the city before Halloween or Thanksgiving has arrived! Crazy talk. But, apparently Manchester is pretty well known for their Christmas markets, so to say I'm excited for the coming month is a massive understatement! Anyway, on to my favourites...


Marc Jacobs Marvelous Mousse Transformative Foundation: I've spoken about this recently in a Autumn FOTD here, and done a full review, so I won't bang on about this too much but I rediscovered it this month and I'm loving it. I also discovered the brilliance of applying it with a flat, traditional foundation brush (which I never do), and it's made it much less of a faff as an everyday option.

Rimmel Kate Matte Lipstick in 107 Wine: Again, I've been talking a lot about this one but that comes with the territory of being a favourite! A gorgeous reddish berry shade in a surprisingly easy to wear formula. I've been wearing it most days.

GHD: Most people try to reduce heat styling but after foregoing it for a while now, I pulled this out again and have been loving how sleek and silky it makes my hair. I know GHD now have different versions and colours and what not but mine is the original classic straightener and it's serves me just fine! I'm fiercely loyal to it.

Zara slip ons: I kind of fell in love with these on the spot one day in Zara and I'm so glad I picked them up. I love that the mix of leather, fabric and leather whilst still being monochrome. They look surprisingly chic for what are essentially sneakers, and I've found them to pair well with a lot of different outfits. Check out what they look like on in my recent outfit post. They are current season so fingers crossed you can still snag them.

Elizabeth and James Nirvana Black EDP: After liking this but not thinking it was a standout when I bought it as part of a Sephora set back in March, this has really been growing on me more and more each time I wear it. It's perfect for the season - warm, woody but with the sweetness of vanilla. Alongside Giorgio Armani Si, it's been the only fragrance I've been wearing this Autumn.


Yankee Candle Home Sweet Home Candle: Dean and I bought this for the flat and while it smells great in the jar it had pretty rubbish scent throw. I've found much better candles for cheaper in the likes of TKMaxx lately, let alone some killer high end options, so given I already don't like the packaging, I think I'm done with Yankee Candle!

Let me know what you've been loving this October!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

My favourite affordable makeup bits

I've mentioned before that one of the reasons I got into 'high end' makeup was because in Australia the markup on drugstore products was so high that it never felt cheap or affordable anyway, so I at least wanted the satisfaction of buying something covetable. But, over the last few years, and with my newfound access to Boots, I've discovered a bunch of things that are not just 'the cheap alternative' to something else, but rather products I would rate above and reach for over some of their more pricey counterparts.

L'Oreal True Match Foundation (golden ivory): I've been reaching for this foundation most days over all my others ever since I picked it up in my Boots haul. It's a medium coverage foundation with what I would describe as a 'healthy-looking' finish. It's not artificially glowy but also not dry or flat - it looks like you have really well nourished, hydrated skin. The staying power on my skin is good - I powder it (as I do all my foundations) and it lasts a full day still looking good. You can apply with fingers but I usually use my Real Techniques Buffing Brush which gives a quick and easy result. It's become my daily, no brainer foundation. It has been described as similar to Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk, but comparison aside it's a great foundation in its own right.

Rimmel Kate Matte Lipstick in 107 Wine: I first saw this on Amelia's blog but then independently was drawn to the colour myself in Boots. In a very short amount of time it has become one of my favourite Autumn/Winter lip colours. It's a bold red-toned berry in a satin finish - it's not totally matte but that also means it's not drying. It feels so comfortable I often forget I'm wearing it (which is both a relief given the sometimes high maintenance associated with bold lips, but also a liability - don't smudge your lips!). In fact, I love it some much I've started sporting bold lips on the daily.

Maybelline Age Rewind Eraser in Fair: I've used this product on an off since it launched a few years back - the one pictured is probably my 3rd or 4th and I have another unopened one in my reserves. I use this brightening concealer over a more peachy corrector because I have really bad dark circles, but most gals could easily get away with just this. The genius is in the sponge applicator which seems gimmicky and a little unhygienic, but actually applies product extremely well with little blending effort required.

Rimmel Scandaleyes Liner in nude & taupe: Probably my favourite pencil liner formula. This stuff stays in place - no smudging or transferring. I love the nude for in my waterline to cancel out redness, and the taupe as a subtle way to define my lower lashline.

Soap & Glory Solar Powder: I'm not a huge bronzer person but this one is as good as any I've tried. It's neither too grey or muddy, too red, or too warm and orange. One side is totally matte and the other has a tiny bit of shimmer but I don't think it really transfers much to the face. I tend to mix the two shades but obviously if you're very fair or a bit darker, you can cater the colour to suit your skintone.

I don't get sent products and everything that shows up on this blog are things I've bought to actually use myself, so I have no reason to buy cheaper things just to provide alternatives to my readers. These are the real deal!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Fiber mascaras compared

After falling head over heels for Kevyn Aucoin's The Essential Mascara, I've remained loyal to it for the better part of the past year. When it recently ran out I shuffled through my reserves and found an unopened tube of the much-lauded Fiberwig. So before making a repurchase, I thought I'd see how they compare?

Kevyn Aucoin's The Essential Mascara is my holy grail - it's massively volumising, lengthening and extremely easy to apply. The formula contains fibers that adhere to lashes resulting in a longer and thicker appearance. In my experience, it doesn't smudge or flake, but washes off easily with a swipe of Bioderma. While it stays in place during regular wear I wouldn't recommend it for weddings or any other occasions that are likely to be tear inducing because it definitely isn't waterproof! Read my full review and see photos here.

Fiberwig has been a mainstay in the Japanese market, thanks to it's unique 'tubing' formula. Rather than working with fibers, the formula coats lashes, forming a 'tube' around each hair. This means the formula starts out fairly wet, allowing you to build up a few coats as needed before it dries in place. In terms of removal, it doesn't come off using typical makeup removers, because it literally doesn't smudge. Rather, you need to massage your lashes between your fingers with a bit of warm water or your normal cleanser, which basically causes the tubes of mascara to slip off the ends - you can actually see the bits of mascara come off, but never get smudgy panda eyes. Formula-wise, I haven't tried anything else like it. In terms of effect though, I find the wet formula a bit messy to work with. It takes me a fair bit of work and multiple coats to get my lashes looking good, swiping both as normal and from the top of my lashes too. Once on I would say it does more in terms of length than volume - my lashes look well defined and separated, but definitely not as dramatic as with the Kevyn Aucoin. I'll happily use it up but if I had to choose between the two I still prefer the Kevyn Aucoin. I do however think it's worth having a tube of this on hand, even if only for those times I really need something that is completely and reliably water/budge/smudge proof.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

4 Autumn Outfits

I posted an Autumn fashion wish list a few weeks ago, so I thought that rather than leaving it there, I'd share with you what I actually have been wearing this Autumn. My style is very casual, laid-back and fuss free. I'm not big on patterns or frills and tend to stick to pretty basic neutrals, looking toward cut or texture to add interest. No surprise then that I felt very at home, fashion-wise at least, while I was living in Copenhagen. Groundbreaking, no, but definitely honest - check out four outfits I wore this past week.

Outfit 1:

  • J Brand 811 Mid Rise Skinny Leg Jeans
  • American Apparel T shirt
  • One by RAILS Kendra Button Down (from last year, see current season here)
  • All Saints Jinx Boots
  • Alexander Wang Kirsten Satchel - Navy with Rhodium hardware

Outfit 2:

  • Faux leather pants (TK Maxx)
  • White quilted jumper (Target)
  • Theory Elibeth Wool Coat (snagged at TKMaxx - score!)
  • Zara slip ons (current season)
  • Mimco bag (old)
  • Zara houndstooth scarf (last year)

Outfit 3:

  • MINKPINK 'Once Upon a Time' shirt
  • JBrand 910 Low Rise Ankle Skinny Jeans in Black
  • Alexander Wang Kori Leather Ankle Boots in Mink
  • Alexander Wang Darcy Slouchy Hobo in Luggage

Outfit 4:

  • JBrand 910 Low Rise Ankle Skinny Jeans in Black
  • Sweatshirt from Designer's Remix
  • Rag & Bone Harrow Booties
  • 3.1 Phillip Lim 31 Hour Bag

Friday, 24 October 2014

An Autumn FOTD

Today's look is a simple daytime makeup using a few of my favourite Autumn products.


I recently pulled out my Marc Jacobs Marvellous Mousse Transformative Foundation (full review here) and fell in love with it all over again. I've been using my Real Techniques Foundation Brush, which I reached for randomly one morning only to discover it's the perfect match for this cream base. For concealer I've been using my new Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage in SC-2 - I have owned this before but not in a few years and I'm happy to have it again. I use the peach shade under my eyes to cancel out darkness and the yellow toned side on any scarring and blemishes. Finally, I set the centre of my face with the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Diffused Light.


On cheeks I'm using one of my all-time-favourite Autumn blushes, NARS Sin. It's a gorgeous plum shade with subtle golden shimmer - it's perfectly seasonal and imparts a really pretty and subtle radiance. 


On my eyes I used a combination of two NARS eye duos which I love but always seem to forget about. I used the left hand side of Rajasthan all over my lid - a golden/pewter/taupe shade that is really gorgeous. Through the crease I used the left hand side of the Brousse duo, a medium-deep sable. And for liner I used the right hand side of the same duo - a dark purple. Together these products create a slightly golden bronzy eye with a defined but not harsh, and ever-so-smoky lashline which I really love. To finish off I added a bit of definition to my brows using my Anastasia Brow Wiz, and lashings of mascara - I'm trying out Fiberwig at the moment (review coming soon!).


A slick of MAC Syrup completes the look. Its a really pretty and very wearable plum shade in a comfortable and semi-glossy formula, and one I come back to each Fall.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Daytime bold lips

I've really been enjoying playing around with my makeup this Autumn and my most recent 'thing' has been to embrace bold lips on the daily. Inspired by an article I recently read that outlined beauty-related looks to embrace in your 30's, one of them was about having the confidence to rock a bold red lip sans 'an occasion'. I'm definitely not one for rules, but I do agree that as I've gotten older I've acquired a certain comfort with myself that allows me to really enjoy this look, without feeling self-conscious or overdone. Anyway, on to the lip colours!

To make this look wearable, my go-to has been an easy wash of warm matte shadow on my eyes, neutral cheeks, and of course said bold lip. I've been sticking to slightly vampy berry/burgundy shades, and my two favourites are MAC Rebel and Rimmel Kate Moss Matte Lipstick in 107. The former is a purple-based magenta that appears quite bright if patted on but deepens to a vampy shade when applied from the bullet. The latter is more of a berry shade with pink/red undertones. I would say the formulas are fairly similar - not completely matte, but definitely not glossy - more of a satin finish that increases staying power and leaves a decent stain to the lips. Neither bleed, and both feel surprisingly 'barely there' given how bold they are.

There's something really chic about a bold lip paired with a casual daytime look - the statement lip has the ability to elevate an otherwise simple outfit and a paired down outfit makes a bold lip more wearable. Loving it. 

Monday, 20 October 2014

How to have more productive days

Other than the research itself, one of my favourite things about doing my PhD is the flexibility it lends. Yes, I end up working most days and at weird hours, but I can also fit in a mid-day gym session, go for a drink mid-week or start my day at 10am if I wish. The obvious counterpoint to this, is that it takes a hell of a lot of self-discipline to make sure you're actually getting enough done. When your ultimate deadline is measured in years not days, and nobody is telling you what to do, it can be easy to think a missed day won't make a difference, but it definitely does.

The kind of responsibility is totally different from the scheduling of school or uni, or the structure and oversight of a 9-5 job. It is far more akin to somebody who works from home or runs their own business, albeit the tasks themselves are quite different. So I thought I'd share some of the steps I've taken to make sure I stay disciplined and have more productive days.

Set an alarm & get ready: There are two main points here. The first is deciding when you'll get up and then sticking to it. It can be 6am, 8am or 10, but make an agreement with yourself and honour it. This speaks to a broader point of taking the goals you set for yourself seriously. Even if the structure of your day is flexible, it doesn't mean you sleep in and laze around all day, lest nothing will get done. The second point is to get ready. Working from home may mean you won't go out all day, and there is certainly no dress code. But staying in your PJs can make work time feel like leisure time. I feel much more alert and attentive to my work when I get ready properly, even if it's for my own peace of mind.

To Do Lists: Some people are list people, and I'm definitely one of them. Set goals for your week and for each day and do the best you can to stick to it. Maybe even attach a small reward to each if it will help motivate you. Or, link them to a time of day - plan on checking off X number of things before lunch. Either way, having a written list of tasks helps you track your progress and feel confident about your productivity. Likewise, if you're slacking, you'll know it.

Partition your space: When at home I try really hard to work at my desk. Sure the couch is more comfy but I find the pace of my work and the level of my focus is much better if I'm in a space intended for working. Likewise, I've banned things like blogging or social media from occurring in my workspace. So, if I want to partake in these 'leisure' activities, I need to move out of my office and actually relax. When most of your work is done on a computer there is an easy blurring between what's productive what's procrastination, so making these rules with yourself is paramount in my opinion.

Change of environment: While I make use of my home office when I'm at home, one benefit of my work is that I can do the majority of it from anywhere. So, if I'm getting cabin fever or I find I'm not working at my peak, a change of environment can be really good. I've done a fair bit of searching to find cafes with wifi and power points and that are friendly to people taking their time, and with noise levels that suit me. I don't mind background noise but I know that if there is a single conversation going on next to me I'll get nothing done, so becoming familiar with places that work for you is really important. That, and invest in a pair of good headphones! Libraries are also fantastic - they are free, assured to be quiet, and the stacks of books and relics of prominent intellectuals around you can be good motivation!

RescueTime: When things were getting pretty out of hand, I decided to pay for an app called RescueTime. There are different variations of similar things, but this one tracks your computer activity and sends you daily and weekly reports about your productivity. You can customise your settings so it knows which sites or applications are 'productive' or not for your work and then you can see how much of your time you've spent e.g. reading PDFs or writing in Word, versus browsing facebook, youtube, or shopbop (oops!). You can also set goals, or have it block particular sites during certain hours, but I found just seeing the amount of time being wasted and knowing it was going to get recorded, was a good impetus to be more self-disciplined.

What are your tips for being more productive? I'd love to hear how other people stay on track!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Review: BECCA Ombre Nudes Eye Palette

I had not heard anything about this lovely little palette before coming across it on the Space NK website recently, and given the recent hype surrounding the Naked Basics II palette, I thought I'd be a willing mouthpiece for this PR underdog. (Paid for with my own money, of course).

The Ombre Nudes palette is an all-matte, neutral eye palette by Australian brand Becca. It contains 5 shadows, all of which are fairly warm or neutral toned. And, as its name suggests, it resembles ombre - the five shades are within a similar colour family but get progressively darker. The shadows are very silky, have good pigmentation, and blend easily. In terms of mattes, the formula is great. Only the middle shade I found slightly more patchy than the others, but even that one blends easily enough on the eyes. The palette itself is petite and good for travel - the shadows are generous but the packaging is minimal, which I love.

The lightest shade works all over the lid or as a brow bone highlight, and depending on what look you're going for the remaining shades can work on the lid, in the crease, or as a liner. The palette stands alone and you can build a range of full looks from it if you're going for a warm toned matte eye, ranging from light to smoky. Part of my motivation for purchasing however, is that it's the perfect supplement to all of those palettes I own wherein shimmer shadows dominate. I tend to use a matte brown to blend my crease most days, regardless of the rest of my eye makeup, and this little palette gives you every deepness of brown you would want, in one place.

I have not personally tried any of the Naked Basics palettes, but from what I've read and common complaints I think if you found the Naked Basics 1 too light, or the Naked Basics 2 too cool-toned, then this might be your perfect palette. I have a hunch that if you are very dark skinned the variation between the shades may not show up adequately, but for light and medium skin tones I think this provides a nice and varied range of shades. Is this the most swoon-worthy or exciting palette? No. But the prettiest to look at aren't always the most reached for. Overall I think this is a staple palette for mattes and I'm very happy to have it.

Friday, 17 October 2014

My exercise diary #1: Exercise without expectation

Having been an athlete for my entire childhood and adolescence, I more or less stopped cold turkey and haven't partaken in any intentional exercise in about a decade - i.e. my whole adult life. I walk around the city a fair bit and have no problems weight-wise, but recently, the feeling of being unfit was really just getting to me.

I think once I was out of shape, my prior athletic life was more of a deterrent, rather than a motivator. I felt a bit vulnerable, and like I should have been able to succeed at things I just wasn't fit enough for. I was also feeling a bit lethargic some days and thought a bit of exercise might boost my energy levels. The challenge is re-training myself how to be active, this time as an adult.

So, a few weeks ago, I joined a gym. How very cliche. I knew if I thought about it too much I'd never actually go for it, so I made an appointment for a tour and on the spot signed a 1-year membership. After a quick burst of excitement, my immediate second, third and fourth thoughts were "I immediately regret this decision", "I've just wasted a lot of money", and "Do I really need to do this for the rest of my life?" which were all totally predictable. But, I've now been doing this gym thing for a few weeks so I thought I'd share my thoughts.

  1. I really like my gym. It used to be a Virgin Active but got taken over by an organization in the UK called Nuffield Health. The equipment and facilities (including pool/spa/steamroom, etc.) are top notch, but it feels less commercial overall. I'm not at all into the "scene" of a gym and this was one of the big reasons for dragging my feet. My gym has more of a health mandate, and also employs physio therapists, nutritionists, etc... I don't need these but it gives the whole place a less cheesy, less go-to-be-seen feel about it which I really appreciate. They also write up training plans and do periodic overall health assessments to track your progress. The concern is with health, not with appearances and weight loss, which I really like.
  2. I have no expectations. I wouldn't mind some firming and toning, but I know I don't need to lose weight and I have no goals associated with it. I haven't owned a scale since about when I stopped exercising, and I find myself to be far more in touch with my body and its needs, rather than feeling dictated by some external measure. My 'training plan' is for overall fitness and I know what I'm doing will be beneficial to my health. I don't need to change how I eat (I already eat balanced), and I won't be skipping nights out so I can get up early to 'hit the gym' (I hate those people). I don't expect to necessarily fall in love with exercising, or to find it life-changing. I'm hoping I'll enjoy it enough to continue doing it, but that's it. No marathons, no competitions, no end goal. I feel no need to set a benchmark for me to either satisfy or disappoint myself. Exercising is just an activity that I've begun doing and it won't make or break me, which is exactly why I'll keep doing it.
  3. I like the solitude. A lot of things you read about staying motivated to exercise encourage you to rope in a friend or partner as a source of motivation. I'm the total opposite. I'm a bit of an introvert and I definitely don't foresee myself going to the group classes. To the contrary, what I've really been enjoying is taking an hour to myself to do something solitary. To run or use machines, or swim, and think, or not, and that's it.
Do you exercise or go to a gym? What do you like/dislike about it? How do you stay motivated?

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Review: Bleach London DIY Dip Dye & Super Cool Colours

I recently revealed my new DIY dip-died blue hair, and promised to thoroughly review the products I used to achieve this new look. I went for an at-home range (available at Boots) of products released by the oh-so-cool London-based salon of the same name: Bleach London.

DIY Dip Dye Kit (£7):

First things first: bleaching your tips. This kit comes with everything you need to successfully dip dye your hair. If you're going for an all-over bleach or balayage, I'd go for one of their other kits. I've never bleached my hair before but I found the kit pretty straightforward. The most important thing is that you want a smooth transition from your natural colour to the bleach - the ombre part of this equation. For this, they provide a clear gloopy serum that you apply where you want the ombre to start - I imagine this partially inhibits the effect of the bleach so you don't end up with stark lines. After mixing the bleach you apply it below this serum further down the strand and massage the hair where they meet to prevent harsh lines. I found this to be mostly effective, with only 1 or 2 strands coming out a bit harsher than I'd like (luckily since I was planning to put colour over my bleach this has since disappeared). I applied the bleach to 1-2 inch sections and wrapped the ends in foil. I lost track of the total time, but basically just kept checking until it looked done. Had I been keeping my hair just ombre (with no colour) I think this lightened my ends the perfect amount, and retaining some colour in my hair is what gave me the final 'petrol' blue result, but I'd probably want a more platinum canvas if I were to do this again with a pastel dye. The White Toner from the same brand was sold out on my trip to Boots (and unfortunately does not come with the kit, even though I'd consider it essential), so I used a different toner to wipe out the brassiness before moving onto colour.

Super Cool Colours (£5 each)

My first attempt adding in the colour was to use Violet Skies on its own, as recommended, on towel-dried hair. I wasn't too specific about the colour I was going for, but did have a sort of dusty blue-based purple in mind. I figured I'd start off light and could always amp things up. Unfortunately, despite leaving Violet Skies on my ends for nearly 3 hours (!) it had almost no effect on the colour of my hair. A couple tiny strands had a slight pink hue in the right light but overall it was almost totally ineffectual. I would say that if you're going for any of the pastel colours you really need to make sure you underlying bleached hair is essentially a platinum white. I went to bed a bit disappointed and had another go the next morning.

This time I mixed a majority of Violet Skies with only a small squeeze of Out of the Blue. I had seen photos online and knew the darker colour was much more intense and you could tell immediately in the mixed colour that it was going to be bold. I applied it carefully to my ends - dry this time - , trying to start at slightly different points, and more heavily at the tips than further up to get a nice transition (which luckily I managed to achieve). I left it in for 30 minutes and after rinsing was left with a very vibrant purplish-blue that is more 'true blue' in direct sun and more dirty purplish petrol blue in most artificial or low light. And I love it.

Ease of Use: I'm a total amateur and I still managed to achieve something I was happy with. I think starting gradually and taking your time is key. I also think if you have extremely specific expectations it's probably best to get it done by a professional. I'm not particularly fussy with my hair, and was going for something in the realm of a blue-purple so I wasn't disappointed with the result. The product is messy to use, and the bold colour will stain skin and bathroom finishes. I had to use acetone-based nailpolish remover to clean up my skin, and a pretty heavy duty bathroom bleach to clean the shower after rinsing the colour out. It also transferred onto my pillow, but again, came out with a wash and a stain remover. Bar the mess though, the actual application is pretty straightforward.

Aftercare: The packaging says the colour should wash out in 2-10 washes. I imagine the more pastel colours will fade more quickly. My bolder blue has now lasted through 2 washes and you can see in the photos above it has faded significantly, and the purple undertones are now basically gone. I picked up the Bleach London Silver Shampoo and Conditioner when I bought the original kit, and have been using exclusively these to help maintain my colour. My logic is that I'm trying to maintain a blue/purple, but I noticed it isn't sulfate free, so I'm not sure if it's best not have used this. Either way, you can tell that if I plan on maintaining a deeper more vibrant colour it's going to become a fairly high maintenance process. On the other hand, if you're just looking to experiment, this may be the perfect way.

Hope that helps give an overview of this product, how it works, and how it lasts. It's my first time adding vibrant colour to my hair so I can't speak to how it compares to other products out there, but if you can perhaps leave a comment below!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Top 5: A/W lip colours + a few honourable mentions

Another day, another countdown of some of my favourite seasonal products. This time, we're talking Autumn-Winter lip colours. Oh, and ignore the date in the photo, which I only realised after the fact implies that these shades are more suited for June! (Though... Aussie book, Aussie winter, it's all a matter of perspective!).

From L-R: NYX Tiramisu, YSL #14, YSL #10, Chanel Boy, Chanel Bonheur, MAC viva glam Cyndi, MAC Syrup, MAC Rebel

  1. YSL glossy stains #14 and #10: I'm pulling a cheeky move and including 2 in 1. The formula of these is fab - they are a lip stain that apply like a gloss, and leave a very long-wearing but comfortable, glossy finish. #14 is a deep vampy berry, and #10 is a true blue-based red. Both gorgeous options for a winter-time bold lip.
  2. Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Boy: My go-to pinky-nude shade in a super easy to wear formula. This is very similar to the colour of my lips but evens tone and texture, and provides a chic and moisturising finish. And, no mirror required.
  3. Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Bonheur: The same wonderful formula as Boy, but in a very wearable red-toned berry colour. This is a great one if you want to dabble in vampy colours but are a bit too sheepish.
  4. MAC Viva Glam Cyndi: One of my all-time-favourite lipstick shades, and one that I ration (it is, unfortunately, discontinued and as-yet not dupable). This lipstick is a muted, ever-so-corally red. It is a lovely way to wear a sophistocated red lip without making a massively bold statement or dealing with the high maintenance of going super bold. I absolutely love this colour and wear it day and night alike. (It's also perfect paired with a light shimmery gold eye, liner, mascara and a slightly pinched cheek for a super polished brightening look).
  5. MAC syrup: A light plummy shade, that is perfect as a day-to-day semi-neutral colour when the rest of your makeup takes on the slightly more berry tones for Autumn and Winter.

+ a few Honourable Mentions:

  • NYX butter gloss in Tiramisu: I'm sooo not typically a gloss person but I've been reaching for this too much to overlook it. It's a really pretty and absolutely no-fuss pinky-nude shade with a lovely non-sticky formula.
  • Mac Rebel: This is not as opaque on the lips as it looks in the tube - it's far more magenta and less scary than in the bullet. It's quite similar in shade to YSL #14, but with a less glossy formula. Great gently patted into lips for a daytime look, or straight from the tube for really a quite bold vampy, purple-toned magenta for nighttime. 

Sunday, 12 October 2014

True life: I have blue hair!

So this happened. And on a total whim at that (as you do). Although as someone who has previously gone from mid-back length hair to a short pixi cut with no warning whatsoever, deciding in the aisle of Boots that I want to dip dye my ends some variation of a purple/blue hue makes my brand of crazy seem at least mildly consistent. #bluehairdontcare

If I'm honest I was going for a dusty purple, but regardless, I actually really like how it turned out. The ombre transitions smoothly which was one of my biggest concerns, and hits right at my shoulder line which looks really cool against clothing. The colour itself is a sort of purplish petrol blue - it definitely looks more of a vibrant true blue in direct natural sun (first photo) and more of a dirty lilac blue in artificial or low light (second photo). I'm still getting used to it but I'd say overall I'm happy I went for it! I ended up using the DIY Dip Dye kit by Bleach London with two of their Super Cool Colours. I'll post a review soon of the actual products once I see how the colour lasts, fades, etc. Fingers crossed the answer is 'gracefully'.

Friday, 10 October 2014

A very Lush-cious haul

In general, my interest in Lush waxes and wanes, but I must say that the prospect of trying the Christmas bath products for the first time had me a bit excited with anticipation! A wave of Lush hauls seems to clutter my subscription boxes this time each year, with inarticulate but very convincing ooohs and ahhhs about how amazing it all smells. But, I've never had a bath in which to try these infamous goodies. Until now.

I must say that the store smells so strong that I think the scent of individual products can get lost. Things I expected to be ah-mazing kind of just blended together and smelt like nothing!? For this reason I ended up with fewer things than I had anticipated, but we'll see. I may go back for more.

Christmas releases:

Permanent products

  • Butterball bath bomb: Cocoa butter and ylang ylang.
  • Big Blue bath bomb: Seaweed, sea salt, lemon oil and lavender.
  • Green Bubbleroon bubbleroon (not pictured - I've already used it!): Juniper and citrus - I thought this smelled amazingly grassy.
  • Yuzu and Cocoa bubbleroon: Grapefruit, cocoa and coconut.
  • Big shampoo: I haven't used this in a few years, but overall this is probably my 3rd pot. It's a sea-salt based shampoo, with added citrus and seaweed. The salt is coarse but dissolves as it lathers. It definitely delivers on its volume claims, but it is quite clarifying - so make sure you pair it with a hefty conditioner for your ends.

What are you favourite Lush products? Any Christmas goodies you think I missed out on?! Please share!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Makeup menu #3: Autumn edition

I've been wearing the same makeup look for most days the past few weeks, which never happens. I'll blame my excitement surrounding my new-ish Charlotte Tilbury quad, which I don't seem to be able to overlook. So, I thought I'd take the opportunity to share with you the products that have been gracing my face.

Before I get into the products just a little disclaimer - I apologise for the photos above! A little secret - I'm rubbish at using my (read: Dean's) camera, so when the settings get stuck doing something I don't want I struggle to fix it! Hopefully you at least get a decent colour representation, even if the brightness and contrast are a bit f'ed.
For base I applied L'Oreal True Match Foundation in Golden Ivory, followed by Maybelline Instant Age Rewind under my eyes, and NARS Radiant Creamy concealer under eyes and on any spots. I set my base with a healthy dose of By Terry Hyaluronic Hydra Powder down the centre of my face. I used a tiny bit of Soap & Glory Solar Powder in a "3" shape to warm up my complexion just a bit, and NARS Madly blush on my cheekbones. 
For eyes I applied MUFE Aqua Cream in #13 as an eye base to hold my shadows in place. I used the Charlotte Tilbury Eyeshadow Palette in Dolce Vita - the champagne shade all over my lid, with the brown shade blended into the crease, and just a tad of the rust shade in the outer corner and crease. I skipped eyeliner of the top lashline but used Anastasia Covet Waterproof Eyeliner in Black along my lower waterline, and added lashings of Maybelline The Butterfly Mascara (False Lash Flutter in the UK) to my lashes. My brows need a serious threading session, but I kept things simple (albeit a bit untamed) with Maybelline Brow Drama Sculpting Mascara in Medium Brown.
Last but not least, a sweep of Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Boy, and that's lips done.
The camera is a bit unforgiving (and if I look tired it's because I am!) but in person I've really been loving this look. The eyes are just slightly smokey, and just slightly rusty - a combo that really makes my blue eyes pop. A slightly warm but neutral cheek and a 'my lips but better' nude make this a great look appropriate for day or night.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Review: L'Oreal The Butterfly Mascara (AKA False Lash Flutter)

I picked up the L'Oreal The Butterfly Mascara (named False Lash Flutter in the UK) on a whim during a jaunt to the States a few months ago and finally got around to giving it a go.

My overall impression is a bit 'meh'. On the upside, it is properly black, doesn't transfer or smudge (it is waterproof after all), and it does provide decent length to my lashes. Unfortunately, there are more downsides given my preferences. I find application to be a bit of a faff - the brush is plasticky which I don't find grips my lashes as efficiently as brushes with bristles. The brush is also tapered which I find works much better on my right eye than my left - I need to switch hands for the tapering to work (which I'd rather not do) and otherwise am unable to get symmetrical drama on my outer lashes. The formula is a little wet for my liking - things can get a bit messy and I've had to touch-up my eyeshadow with a cotton bud during application more than a few times. It doesn't necessarily require many coats, but if that's what you want to do then this doesn't layer particular well over itself (clumping ensues!).  It is difficult to remove but I don't really count that against it, since it's kind of what you asking for when you purchase a waterproof mascara. However, it does make my lashes feel very crispy and brittle, which may not bother some but again, it's not my preference.

This is the first mascara I've tried since discovering my all-time-favourite, the Kevyn Aucoin The Essential Mascara, so maybe I'm applying a bit of an unfair benchmark. The latter provides far better volume and application, and wins in all departments for me, except price, and that it's not (even close to being) waterproof. Even so, I've tried other more affordable drugstore mascaras that I would happily use and repurchase before giving this another go.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Top 10: A/W blushes

These Top 5's have been steadily expanding to include honourable mentions and other poorly-justified additions, so I thought rather than pretending, I'd make this my Top 10 blushes for Autumn/Winter 2014. Any less and it would be like picking a favourite child (though I'm convinced that happens even if we're not allowed to say it).

From L-R, Top-Bottom: Hourglass Radiant Magenta, Chanel Accent, MAC Warm Soul, Benefit Sugarbomb, Tarte Exposed, MAC blushbaby, MAC Salsa Rose. Top right 3 NARS blushes from L-R: Dolce Vita, Madly, Sin.

  1. NARS Dolce Vita: A matte, rosy-berry shade. This blush is super pigmented so care is needed, but when dusted lightly on the cheeks it offers a lovely deep pink-reddish flush.
  2. NARS Madly: A warm-toned bronzy-pink that acts as the perfect neutral blush when you want definition but don't want to distract from a bold eye or lip. It plays the same role as Tarte Exposed or MAC Blushbaby would, but is better suited when wearing a warmer-toned eye look.
  3. NARS Sin: A gorgeous plummy shade with a golden sheen. I wear this exclusively in the colder months, and would look fab on darker and lighter skintones alike.
  4. MAC Mineralize Blush Warm Soul: I wear this all year round because it tends to pull more bronze, or berry, or rosy, depending on what it's paired with and the tone of my skin. It has a slight sheen but nothing too highlight-y, and for that reason is super easy to pair with most looks.
  5. MAC Salsa Rose: This may seem like an odd choice but it's the perfect matte true red blush to give that "I've been outside playing in the snow" flush to the cheeks. Gorgeous with a light shimmery eye and a healthy slick of mascara. It's super pigmented so a light hand is paramount.
  6. MAC Blushbaby and Tarte Amazonian Clay 12 Hour blush in Exposed: As you can see, these are almost exactly the same shade. Even though Exposed gets all the attention in the blogging community, the texture of mine is very hard in the pan and I tend to prefer the MAC version. Regardless, both of these are the perfect shade to give a slightly taupy-pink, slightly contoured look to the face when you need some definition but don't want to add too much colour. (I believe NARS Douceur is in this camp too, but I'm yet to try it since these are so similar).
  7. Chanel Joues Contraste in 84 Accent: A more plummy and glowy version of Warm Soul that is absolutely gorgeous, and would probably be even more so on olive-toned gals.
  8. Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Radiant Magenta: I wasn't hugely enamoured with this when I first got it but I think that was mostly a problem of managing expectations with all the hype. The colour is a bright magenta made slightly warm by the addition of the veining of radiant light ambient lighting powder. The result is a beautiful glowy 'lit from within' blush that does wonders to brighten the complexion. (In other news, Hourglass is releasing a 3-pan blush palette for Christmas and I'm dying with excitement).
  9. Benefit Sugarbomb: This is light, fairly sheeny, and has an interesting mix of peach, pink and lilac (if you prefer matte blushes I would not recommend this). It manages to be light and slightly muted because of the lilac, and is a nice alternative to a more overtly berry/plum option. It's not one that would immediately come to mind as a favourite but I do reach for it often as a 'no brainer' blush when I don't know what else to wear - and, it covers the tasks of blush and highlight in one. 

The above are in no particular order, but if I had to play favourites, I think I'd prioritise NARS Sin, NARS Madly, MAC Blushbaby, Chanel Accent and Hourglass Radiant Magenta, but really, I love and would recommend all ten.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Review: hydraluron & pepta-bright by Indeed Labs

Purchased at the height of the hydraluron hype, I've waited a fair few moons to share my thoughts on these two offerings by Indeed Labs - hydraluron and pepta-bright.

Hydraluron: Billed as a moisture boosting skin serum, hydraluron is said to contain a pure form of hyaluronic acid, known for it's ability to hold many times its own weight in water. The idea is to apply this to a cleansed face, and top with a moisturiser to amp up hydration levels in your skin. This became a bit of a cult product in the last year or two, in part because of the hype instigated by a recommendation from Caroline Hirons, and in part because it's not too-often that you get excellent quality skincare (especially serums) at such a reasonable price point (£24.99).

So how did I get on? I'll start by saying it's a pretty bog-standard product to use. The serum is a clear gel, scent-free, and totally non-luxurious to apply. It doesn't feel particularly nice or nourishing on the skin, so whether or not it lives up to its claims takes a bit of faith. The upside is that since it does not use oils to hydrate, it shouldn't pose any problems for shine or makeup application in general. My skin tends increasingly towards normal-combination (oily T-zone) but gets noticeably more dehydrated in Winter. I have to say I felt a bit like this was the emperor with no clothes?! I honestly didn't see or feel much effect in my skin - the results were just was un-noteworthy as the application. Maybe I'm missing something, or maybe this works well for that added boost on skins so dry that a hefty moisturiser still isn't doing the trick, but for me it just felt like an added step in my routine, with very little effect. I won't be repurchasing.

Pepta Bright: This offering is a bit less spoken about, but probably does more closely target my skin concerns. Designed to help improve skin clarity, even skin tone, restore luminosity and radiance, diminish appearance of brown spots and hyperpigmentation, and maintain moisture levels, the claims are ones we hear often. I found it a bit difficult to decipher the active ingredients on the website because I'm not literate enough in ingredients lists without the idiot's guide, but Pepta Bright does seem to contain two proprietary ingredients - Chromabright and O.D.A White (whatever they are). It's meant to be used as a serum, but it definitely has a more opaque white cream-gel texture than does Hydraluron.

I've been using it morning and night for about 3-4 weeks now, and so far I've been very impressed. It feels a bit rich on the skin and at first I was concerned it may interfere with makeup but after a few minutes it dries down completely. I've worn this with and without moisturiser because I do find it quite hydrating on its own. Dare I say it lives up to all of its claims? My skin gradually became clearer over the first week of using this, and has since continued to look brighter, more even, and my hyperpigmentation seems to be much more easily covered by makeup (it's not gone, but definitely less pronounced). The serum itself is also nourishing and moisturising so you don't get the dryness that comes with for example, retinol treatments. It retails for £29.99 at Boots and I will be repurchasing.

Just goes to show that different products work for different people, and the hype doesn't always follow substance (at least given my own experiences with these products). Nonetheless, I'm definitely curious to try out more products from the Indeed Labs range, all of which seem to be targeted at specific concerns, which is a nice break from the products that promise to do everything except clean your flat.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

September favourites & fails

I love Autumn and the lead up to the holiday season but I'd be lying if I didn't say the year feels like it's totally getting away from me. For anyone who has done a PhD, you know that is the most horrifying feeling in the world!!! So rather than dwell, I'll pretend like things are all good, and share with you a short list of products I've been loving.


My skin had been acting up almost incessantly and I was feeling a bit desperate. Nothing seemed to be working until I gave these products a go - a sort of 1-2 punch that has really restored my skin.

  • Glamglow Mud Mask: I picked up a small pot of this in Sephora back in March but only recently pulled it out of my reserves.  It claims to have both short-term and cumulative effects and so far I'll back that claim. It's clay-based, so does wonders for deep cleansing, clearing and clarifying skin but doubles as an exfoliator - after it dries, rinse off with circular motions and you can feel it sloughing off all the nasties as well. A 'cult' product that actually is worth the hype.
  • Indeed Labs Pepta Bright: With the immediate problems kept in check by Glamglow, I turned towards this serum aimed at skin brightening, evening, and reduction of hyperpigmentation to deal with the after effects. I have a full review of this coming soon, but let's just say it's a big winner.


I had been feeling a bit 'meh' with my makeup looks lately, but with my skin now sorted, I've been getting into the swing of more Autumnal colours and really enjoying it again.

  • NARS Sheer Glow foundation in Deauville & NARS Pressed Powder in Flesh: (not pictured) - I spent the last week and a bit back in Copenhagen for work, where I've kept a small collection of cosmetics to avoid packing anew each time. Despite being more or less forced to use this duo, I must say that I've kind of fallen in love with this base combo (again). The foundation has surprisingly good coverage but retains a natural luminosity that is really beautiful, and when topped with the powder I found my base lasting in tip-top condition for what were unfortunately marathon work days followed by work dinners - the longest of which rounded out at 18 hours! I'm the crazy person those '24 hour foundation wear' claims are aimed at!
  • Charlotte Tilbury Colour-Coded Eyeshadow Palette in The Dolce Vita: I finally caved and picked this up and I'm sooo happy I did. I've been happily wearing this quad every day since purchasing it. I've already done a full review, so I'll leave it at that.
  • NARS Blush in Madly: An oldie but a goodie, this has been the perfect transition blush into Fall. It has a slightly bronzy warmth, but also pulls a little pink, and definitely has a neutral Autumnal tone that has been pairing absolutely perfectly with the Charlotte Tilbury quad, without being too colourful, bold, or distracting. It's gradually entering the ranks of an all-time favourite.

Fails: none!