31 October 2013

Launch: L'Occitane Grasse Collection Fleur d'Or and Cedre EDT

L'Occitane, earlier this year, launched their fragrance line, La Collection de Grasse. After recently adding their fifth scent, Ambre & Santal, the company is adding two more for the coming winter season today - Fleur d'Or & Acacia and Cedre & Oranger.

La Collection de Grasse is a natural ingredient fragrance line, that combines a scent from Europe to a more exotic scent available elsewhere. The four original fragrances include Vanille & Narcisse, Magnolia & Mure, The Vert & Bigarade and my personal favourite, Jasmine & Bergamot. I personally really like the line because it's exactly what it says on the tin. The fragrances are very simple, yet the two components are chosen so well that despite the 'stripped down' nature of the scents, they come across very sophisticated and classy.

Fleur d'Or & Acacia and Cedre & Oranger

Fleur d'Or & Acacia
This scent combines mimosa (fleur d'or) and acacia, which creates a really fresh top note, with a sweet and floral undertone. You can also smell a hint of honey, which means it has that warmth appropriate for the winter, but the slightly zingy note of the mimosa balances it out to a really nice scent.

The line also comes with a shimmering Shower Gel, Hand Cream, Luminous Oil, Body Milk, Perfumed Soap and a Scented Candle. I've tried the Hand Cream and Luminous Oil, and am very impressed by both. The hand cream is a similar consistency to their best selling Shea Hand Cream, but with a very different scent. It's the right amount of richness for this time of year! The Luminous Oil is also really nice, as it absorbs quickly and leaves your skin incredibly supple. It can also be used in your hair.

A little bit random, but I was REALLY impressed by the spray on the EDT bottles - very evenly dispersed and a fine mist! The Luminous Oil, on the other hand was a wee bit splurty and dangerous.. Also, I love the glass bottles in the EDT and the Oil - the square, I think, looks really crisp and the '&' emboss is classy. I'm not 100% convinced on the aluminum lids but, I do like the gold more than the silver.

Cedre & Oranger
While the Grasse Collection is technically unisex, this particular scent is marketed towards men. As such, I had Ben put it to the test. Much like Fleur d'Or, it mixes a woody cedar with a crisp orange, which again, creates a really unoffensive and balanced scent. It doesn't particularly strike winter, but it's more of an all-year scent which probably appeals to the anti-shopping men out there!

The other products in the line include a Shower Gel, After Shave Balm, and a Scented Soap. Ben really enjoyed the Shower Gel, saying it lathered well and I definitely noticed that the scent lingered nicely on his skin. I personally really liked this scent on Ben, and it might just be by chance that this is the kind of scent he likes but I do think it's a safe bet if you're looking to buy for a guy this Christmas!

As these are both Christmas releases, they come with a limited edition sleeve on the normal boxes which are slightly more festive than the mainline Grasse collection. In addition, some of the non-EDT products are limited edition. However, all the scents in the collection are available in £65 gift sets for the festive season!

The fragrances retail for £49 each for 75ml, and are also available in their Christmas gift sets.
See the whole collection from today on the L'Occitane website.

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30 October 2013

Some New (High End) Skincare Friends.. #2

Maybe it's because the coats are coming out, or perhaps I'm just reaching that point where I'm running out of all my products at the same time.. but I've recently had another infusion of new products into my skincare routine. All of these products are pretty expensive so I've given them a go with my uber-critical hat on, to see if they're worth the big bucks.. Dun dun duuuuun.

This is one of the two products I've tried from Yon-ka's offering for the winter season, aimed at providing some intense hydration to your skincare routine.

Does it work? It does, and very well at that! With my skin, you can tell its properly hydrated if I don't get under-the-skin spots, and with this, I rarely do. I love the consistency - it's really light and absorbs nicely. However, I have to say that it's no Hydraluron nor Dr. Jart+ Water Up Serum, which are much cheaper, and much more intense that they get rid of these spots for me within a few days. But I know this level of potency isn't what everyone wants, especially if you're looking for a daytime serum! As such, while I started using it as a night-time serum, using it as my day-time one has worked a treat because it's so easily absorbed and wont make a difference to the finish of my skin, whilst keeping my skin hydrated throughout the day. If you're looking for a good, day-time hydrating serum to keep you going, this is one to consider! 

Having loved Yon-Ka's Creme 28, despite finding it a wee bit heavy at times, I was curious to see how the Hydra No1 Creme compared.

Let's just say this is my preference of the two. The consistency is much more like a typical moisturiser, except pretty thick. The wonderful part, however, is that like the serum, it absorbs beautifully which is something the Creme 28 didn't do quite so well. It doesn't leave me greasy in the morning, just nourished and plump. I feel like it really helps to lock in the hydration that I put on my skin through previous steps in my routine, as well as add some of its own. Definitely a great nighttime moisturiser pick, and a step in the right direction from the Creme 28. But are there similar products for less out there? I think so.

You may have seen a bit more of L'Occitane when you've been out and about recently, and that's because they've relaunched one of their most popular lines - the Immortelle line. New to this is their L'Occitane Lotion Divine which isn't what you would typically call a 'lotion' on this side of the globe.

This formula is more like what you would find in East Asia - a cloudy, slightly viscous liquid designed to be an activator, and used between your toner and serum. I've seen my Grandma use similar products on her hand and tap it into her skin, whereas saleswomen at counters have told me to drench cotton pads and push it into your skin, so as to not evaporate any product with the heat of your hand. Either way, I'm a pretty big fan of the concept and quite glad that L'Occitane, despite not being an Asian brand, is taking part in introducing it to the Western market.

Anyway, I've found that using this has boosted the hydration that my skin gets and I do think my serum and night-time moisturiser works better when I use this product - my skin seems much more receptive to absorbing the products, as well as to its qualities than without it. In that way, it may be a way to save a few pennies here and there. I think for the curious, the skincare afficionados and hydration-desperate of us out there (hello!), it's an addition to your night time routine that you may find really benefits you in the long run.

Because I'm a bit of a lucky sod, I've now tried all three of HealGel's products (review of HealGel Intensive and HealGel Eye here), and I think this moisturiser is my favourite - it's quite close between this and the Eye. It's not only unique in the market but also very effective.

As you know, my skin needs hydration to keep the spots at bay, but the second level - i.e. when there's a good amount of hydration but not 100% enough for my incredibly needy skin, I can tell because I get juuuust a bit of shine - completely manageable - on my nose (because my skin tries to compensate for the lack of hydration).

And that's precisely where we're at with the HealGel Face. After the REN Ultra Moisture Day Cream and the Origin Vitazing (both of which keep my completely oil-free and spot-free) HealGel Face not only moisturises the top layers of your skin, but really reaches down to the bottom layers to hydrate your skin from within. Putting aside my own diva skin, I think this moisturiser would be absolutely perfect for most people with normal to combination skin. It's a genuine hydrator, and will save you the effort of sifting through the products that merely sit on your skin and hope for the best. Again, much like the serum, while my alternatives are less pricey, more hydration isn't always what everyone wants. Since switching the above Yon-Ka serum to the day time, this moisturiser has been perfect for my routine! For those who need a bit of a balancing act, this may be the one for you.

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29 October 2013

Make Up Forever Mat Velvet+

It's no secret - I love Make Up By TiffanyD. I have learnt so much for her, and have loved so many products that she has recommended. And so as a foundation junkie, there was no way I wasn't going to yearn after her favourite foundation, the MUFE Mat Velvet+.

Unfortunately for the UK, MUFE is not widespread here and is only available in store (and online) in PAM. Luckily for me, living in London I was able to go visit and get a proper colour match. Since that day, I've gave nothing but praises to this foundation!

The Easy Bits
The price is.. well, pricey. It's £30.50 for your standard 30ml and thus comes in at about the Chanel, Dior ranks in terms of price. As such, I'd recommend some hefty online researching and if you can, a bit of sampling before you make the purchase. This is definitely not an all-rounder foundation as I'll explain later, and will only be worth the money for people looking for a certain foundation.

The packaging is quite similar to Chanel's Vitalumiere Aqua but slightly better. My main niggle with the Chanel is that you have to rest it upside down for the product to come out easily and I've got none of that with MUFE. I also quite like the spout-style packaging because it's really easy to control. I probably won't be saying that when I'm trying to squeeze out the last drops!

The Consistency
It's what I would describe as super creamy. It's reaaally moist - almost bouncy, and spread so well so it's easy to blend. Despite its natural matte finish, you don't really feel much powder in the formula. It's really easy to work with, and for that reason I find it a little bit better than MAC Studio Fix Fluid. Although it's heavy enough to use with something like the Beauty Blender, it's also soft and blendable enough to use with buffing brushes, and my absolute favourite, the Sigma F84.

The Finish
As you can see below, this isn't as matte as the name makes it out to be. In fact, you can compare the MAC SFF and MUFE below - the MUFE has much more glow and light-catching properties to it. So really, I'd say it was more natural-matte than it is pure matte.

I also find it incredibly long lasting, and great for those full and busy days. It's also described as water-resistant, so Britons - get on this, it's about to get wet 'round here!

In terms of coverage, I think in some ways this covers better than the likes of MAC SFF. Because it's creamier, it blends over the skin much better and covers everything quite evenly. Overall, I'd rank it medium to high coverage - very similar to MAC SFF.

The Shade Range
One thing worth mentioning is the poor shade range in this line, and I think it pretty much applies to all MUFE foundations. I was lucky enough to find shade 35 to be a great match - a slightly warm neutral tone, in a medium shade, but there are pretty big gaps in between, both in shade and in tone.  I would say 35 is best for someone leaning slightly neutral in the NC25-30 range. You can see the whole colour spectrum on Karla Sugar's page.

The Verdict
I love it. To me, it's like a softer, creamier and more natural version of MAC SFF. It covers really well without being overbearing, and it has a great glowy-matte finish. The lasting power is great for anyone always out and about, and it applies great with almost anything you throw at it - but I do recommend the Beauty Blender and the Sigma F84 the most. While I do love my MAC SFF and it has been my go-to foundation these past few weeks, I think this may be something that a lot of people wished MAC SFF was but was left disappointed. Despite its relatively high price point, I think it's worth trying if you wanted something a bit more natural than your typical MAC SFF, Estee Lauder Doublewear and Revlon Colorstay trio.

 (weirdly you can tell the shade from the last two digits of the reference number)

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28 October 2013

Shu Uemura Eyelash Curlers vs. MAC Full Lash Curler

My make-up changed dramatically when I first got my Shu Uemura curlers - my eyes felt more open, I could get away without wearing any eyeliner, and overall, it gave more of a feminine touch to any look. 

Unfortunately as with all good things, the Shu came to an end, and 2 years after I'd gotten it, it started to hurt a bit to use and the curls just weren't lasting as long. And while I would've happily gotten a second pair in Japan where it is £9, I refused to pay an extra £12 here in the UK when I'm going back in a matter of months. So I decided to try a new and a much lesser known one - the MAC Full Lash Curler. This post is a comparison of the two.

Colour & Price
I do quite like the black curlers - I think it's a nice twist and kind of like the limited edition Chanel ones that went around a few years ago. Although it really wasn't that big of a deal overall, this black MAC curlers are from their Carine Roitfield collection. The price however, is what I was very impressed with - it retails for £16 

The Structure
I think the structure of the two are almost identical, but the key differences are as follows:

1) Shu opens wider than MAC.
I'm not sure how much of a difference this makes, but I do feel like you have to clamp harder on Shu - maybe it's just the distance?  You don't need as much force for MAC. As such, it might be slightly more gentle on the lashes than Shu. However, it's also hard for me to compare because obviously with MAC being newer, the rubber is much firmer and thus having more resistance and applying more force.

2) Shu is at a steeper angle than MAC.
This didn't make too big of a difference to me, despite having enormous cheeks, but Shu might be more comfortable if you have especially adorably bubbly cheeks.

3) The curve at the top is steeper, but also wider on MAC.
Although in the past I've felt Shu fits perfectly on my eyelids, since using MAC I feel like it gets in the corners better. This, I think, is very key in finding which one is better for you.

The Effects
Now you guys know I love my Shu - they made my excessively stubborn, floor-obsessed eyelashes stay curled for the whole day like nothing ever before, and with the help of a slick of great mascara, my eyelashes became the least of my concerns for the past 2 years. They literally curled them, and they stayed there. So how does the MAC compare?

I'm pleased to report that I'm pretty damn pleased.

I'm not sure if why, but I've noticed that it gives more of a soft, flexible, natural curl - it may be because as I said earlier, it seems to be a bit more gentle than Shu. Shu sometimes could give a bit of an angle where you clamped it (or perhaps I just don't know my own strength, eh ;)). However, it's a double-edged sword because I think Shu is a little bit stronger, and lasts longer. Shu practically froze the eyelashes in place. That being yet, MAC has yet to disappoint in the sense that my eyelashes have never been droopy at the end of the day - just not as, "it looks exactly as it did this morning" as Shu.

The Verdict
Myeaaaaah, I'm really not sure.. they're both pretty damn good! Those who have especially stubborn lashes may want to start with Shu, just because they seem to be a little bit stronger. But if you have a wide or very curved eye, Shu might be a bit of a faff to get to your corner lashes, and I would recommend the MAC one. One thing to note is that MAC also have a half-lash curler, which I've heard curls even better than this full-version - so that may be an option if you're looking for something stronger but don't want to pay the extra £7.50 for a Shu, or want to supplement Shu with something as strong that reaches the corners. 

What I can vouch for, whichever you choose however, is that the Shu and MAC full-lash curlers are both products that do their jobs, and they do it well. In my opinion, they are both very safe investments I highly recommend that will bring you satisfactory results especially when you have incredibly stubborn lashes!

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27 October 2013

REN Rosa Centifolia 3-in-1 Cleansing Water

REN is a blogger-favourite brand. Micellar waters are the beauty industry equivalent of the "best thing since sliced bread". So what happens when the two marry up? Unfortunately, nothing spectacular.

Let's start with how I use this - I use it in the mornings if I don't have time to do a full cleanse. I wipe down with this, and it removes whatever decided to latch on over the night. This is something I do with other micellar waters, but I think this might takeover as the only product I'll use for doing so because frankly.. I can't use it for anything else.

The one thing that made me strike it off completely as a make-up remover is that it stings your eyes. In this day in age, you can't be expected to use a separate eye make-up remover from your face, it's just too old school. Not only that, I don't have the most sensitive of eyes, and I was absolutely STREAMING.

However, the formula itself really isn't that great at removing make-up - which is why I really only use it when I'm not wearing make up (bizarre). I think it moves make-up rather than REmoves it and it doesn't leave a particularly nice finish because of that - a bit sticky and grimey. My skin doesn't feel refreshed at all.

So who do I think it'll work for? Errm, at a stretch, maybe people who don't wear eye make-up and wear lighter foundations. And for people like me who get lazy in the mornings! However, I've also recently received feedback on someone that enjoys this product who wears heavier base make up, and she likes to use it as a first step at removing make-up, then following up with a thorough cleanse.

The packaging is great, and the smell is of lovely, genuine rose and I can't fault REN for either of that. But overall, I'm really disappointed with this product and more disappointed that I'm writing this review. And although I got this as a sample, I know this is something I would've considered in the future to purchase myself because of my past experience with REN so it's really quite sucky (technical term). If you love this product, I'd love to hear from you to know what I'm missing out on :)

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23 October 2013

Review Series: Primers #1

I think one of the most common sets of questions I get asked from my friends is - what is a primer, do I need one, and if so, which one. Day to day, I'm not a massive primer girl. But if I know I'll be out for a long time or if I'm going out-out (as we so articulately all call it), you can bet that there'll be a layer of primer somewhere in the midst of my product-infused face.

So which ones are my favourite? I've tried several: Hard Candy's I used to like to mix with a heavy foundation, AVON's Illuminating one is quite nice and I like Youngblood's and Murad's as well. I've also used the more liquidy Japanese primers from Maquillage and Lunasol which are both really quite nice but a big culture shock to us who are used to silicone-based ones. However, when it comes to cost performance, my favourite was Lanacane. Yes, Lanacane, the anti-chaffing gel. Smother it all over your face, and it'll be worth the 5 seconds of shame at the till. (And yes, after that whole list I still maintain that I'm not a massive primer girl..)

Anyway, I digress (massively). Today I'm talking about the three primers that are currently in my possession.  I thought it might be good to write "Review Series" to fill you in on some products of the same type that I am trying and comparing at the moment. Hopefully having mini-reviews in one place will help you get a better idea on which one might be best for you, and overtime you can look through different Parts to find a good overview!

Let's start with my bottom line for primers - the basic standard, if you will: it has to make foundation last, smooth out your skin and if possible, minimise the appearance of pores. On that basis, here's Primers 1 :)

This primer has been doing the rounds recently, and as per usual, I'm hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. Firstly, the packaging is pretty bad. The spout is the size of a needlepoint (slight exaggeration), and it's really awkward because this is a product you need a fair bit for.

This leads me on nicely to the consistency. It's not one of those products where you only need a tiny bit - you need a decent amount i.e. it doesn't spread very well. So considering it's quite expensive, it's not the best value. At £37.50, it's probably more expensive than your foundation.

The actual performance, on the other hand, is quite good and does what a primer should do (not too much emphasis on minimising pores though). I think this one would be better suited for the oilier of ladies, because I find it works much better on the centre of my face where I get a little bit of oil whereas on my cheeks it can feel a little bit drying.

Anyway, what sets it apart are two things: the skincare qualities and the shade. The shade is a pink-toned medium skin colour which I am NOT a fan of. Sure, you're going to put foundation over the top but who wants to see their faces look ashy and deathly at 6am in the morning, when life feels like shit anyway? Not a fan.

However, the skincare qualities set this primer apart regardless. It has SPF30 which is a godsend for ladies who cannot be bothered to apply SPF otherwise (*raises hand*) and if you know anything about dermalogica, it's probably because someone's been raving about their amazing skincare line, or you saw them in a salon. This one is from their anti-aging line: it speaks for itself, the contents are good despite the not-so-great superficial aspects of it. And let's not forget the fact it does what a primer should.

Preceded only by the likes of smashbox and Benefit Pore-fessional, I imagine a lot of people know about the bareMinerals Prime Time. This is probably my favourite of the lot, because it's a no gimmick, basic silicone primer - and a really really good primer at that. It spreads easily, it noticeably minimises the appearance of pores, it's CLEAR (who knew that would annoy me off so much? Definitely not a morning person, me) and it's not a bad price. It comes in at a mid-range £18.50, and the brand is also incredibly accessible. If you have additional skincare concerns, they have modified formulas for redness, oiliness etc., This one makes my make-up last perfectly, and it adds no shine nor mattness, and gives you everything you want from a primer without altering your finish. 

pur is a relatively little-known brand which is from the United States and stocked at M&S Beauty Halls. This one is perhaps the most unconventional of the three, in that the consistency is like foam - it feels whipped. It's so light, smoothes really well and does indeed help with pores and making your foundation last - it ticks all the boxes of a great primer. However. And this is a big however - it does make your foundation a little bit dewier.

I imagine half of you went, "wheeeey!" and the other half went "..oh." So yeah, it's not an all-rounder but I think for those who suffer with dryness, this would be a godsend. Remember how I said it was like foam? When foam or whipped products dissolve, it ultimately turns into liquid, right? It's kind of the same with this primer - once you blend it in, it's really really hydrating and I quite like it for the dryness on my cheeks. It's also really light because of the consistency, which means people who usually have dull skin and may want a bit of glow, or people who feel like silicone-based primers are just too much, wont feel like it's weighing the skin down. Because of this, I think it's a very well-crafted product for the right people.

Also, it's worth mentioning that pur's star product is their compact mineral foundation, which means that people who use powder or mineral foundation may find this primer to work better than silicone-based ones, or it might counteract the dryness you might get from buffing powder in with brushes (I find that, anyway)!

This one is £22.50 for a tube, but given the unique properties I think it's totally worth it despite the not-so-sexy packaging. It also comes in four shades including this white one for colour-correcting properties. These are blue, green and peach :)

Left to Right: Dermalogica, bareMinerals and pur

What's your favourite primer?

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6 October 2013

Happily Stuck in a "Rut"

We all get in a rut right - but why be so negative? Sometimes we're in a "rut" because we're happy with the way things are. Especially when we're talking make-up and beauty, find something you love and hold on to it for dear life! (And hope it'll never get discontinued.. I probably just jinxed everything now.)

For years I've been going for the natural matte finish with relatively strong brows, thick winged liner, neutral eyeshadow, spider lashes, heavy contour and nude lips look.. and it doesn't look like they're going anywhere any time soon! At the end of the day, you've got one face (my make-up drawer would suggest otherwise) and there's going to be certain techniques and products that work best for what you've got. I've found the journey to my "rut" quite exciting, actually, and while I do sometimes contemplate trying new techniques - I always come back to this. Call me boring, but I think you're at your best when you're happy with who you are!

A cheeky way to cover chin-cne..

These are the things on my face in the photos, and all of them are some of my favourite products of all time - the Clinique Cream Liner (review here), Maybelline Instant Age Rewind (review here)and the Sephora Jumbo Liner (review here) are things I will recommend to anyone and everyone. But there are a handful that I use everyday and therefore slip under the blog radar that I really must tell you about, and some that I just have never found an alternative for!

HD Brows Palette in Foxy
One such product is this HD Brows Palette in Foxy. The thing I don't think many brow products cater for are black haired-gals. We are no longer in the 90's where it is acceptable to have blue-toned grey browssssss *breathe in*.. am I correct. (And yes, the full-stop is deliberate, there is no question here).

So when I see a hint of ash in a dark brown brow product, my heart leaps with joy, no joke. But the first product to make me do that was this palette from HD Brows, and since then I haven't strayed one bit. Although over time, companies seem to be catching up to the 21st century and catering a bit more for the post-blue/grey brow generation by making ashy grey or ashy brown shades (off the top of my head, Anastasia, Shiseido and Shu Uemura), my loyalty remains with HD Brows.. at least until I finish this pot, because £20 for a full palette of which I will only use 1/4 of is a bit wasteful.

Chanel Poudre Universelle Compacte
If you watched my monthly favourites, I apologise (if you haven't.. ahem. Not really, but here's a link if I've sufficiently guilt tripped you), but this powder is the best powder on the market - in my humble opinion. A virtually untraceable layer of powder that both sets your make-up without making it matte and softens the minor imperfections on your face. It's like soft-focus in real life.. Chanel says you're welcome.

Rimmel Moisture Renew Lipstick in Nude Delight
 3 years. 3, long, YEARS I've been going on about this lipstick and my love for it is still going strong. I mean, that's longer than some marriages.

This sunscreen-smelling tube of pigmented creaminess is not only the perfect formula, but the perfect shade. A peach-based nude for the medium skintoned girls is hard to find, whether you're in Superdrug or Harvey Nics. Tried and loathed all of Barry M Marshmallow, MAC Creme de Nude and YSL Rouge Volupte Nude Beige? If this is you, I encourage you to pop to a Rimmel counter, and see if this is the one!

When I heard there were new Moisture Renew lipsticks coming out, I was in a flurry of panic and excitement - would they be coming out with a better version of my Nude Delight? Or would they completely scrap it and replace it with the new line? To my knowledge, there is nothing like Nude Delight in the new line up so.. off to Boots I go - "Your whole stock of Nude Delights please.. yes, the whole thing. Thanks."

MAC Studio Finish Concealer
3 years? Pfft, please. This one's been around in the Yu Camp for even longer. A nifty packaging with a formula that is longer-lasting than liquids, and better coverage than powders. This is the only pot-based cream concealer I have seen, and while packaging may not matter too much to you, I like the amount you get in a pot as opposed to a stick, and I like the colour range that MAC has to offer. (Although I'd quite fancy comparing it to the NARS stick concealer.. they look better for larger areas!)

There is little else I'd recommend to anyone for covering blemishes, and I still stand by what I said in 2010 - this product made the biggest difference to my confidence whilst recovering from my acne-infested teenage years. And even for that alone, this product is a rut I'll happily be stuck in for even longer!

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5 October 2013

September Favourites 2013

I am so excited to show you guys my monthly favourites this month because there are so many gems in here. Some of them I've rambled on about before, and some are brand new things. Not quite sure what I was on, but I'm pretty mental passionate in this video.. I hope you like it :)


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