Archives for category: Beauty

2018-04-22 17.22.10…a rose still wouldn’t taste as sweet as it smells. Though its natural flavour is too distinctive to be mistaken for anything else, it is actually very subtle. Not so when these crimson blooms have been made into syrup, as I recently discovered!

Now that the days are getting warmer, I’ve been putting my blender to good use by making us loads of refreshing smoothies. However, the Rose Green Tea I made the other week reminded me of a fragrant ice-cold beverage I used to enjoy as a child growing up in the tropics. It is commonly known as Bandung in the Malay Archipelago, possibly a variant of the popular Rose Milk brought over by Indian immigrants generations ago.

Summer lovin’ had me a blast
Summer lovin’ happened so fast

Aside from being a fab summer drink, the colour alone is enough to set off my mental playlist so it repeats the Grease soundtrack over and over again, with particular emphasis on the above verse so I now can’t get rid of that earworm. Perhaps they ought to re-name this milkshake The Pink Lady!

2018-05-06 17.50.50There are many variations of Bandung, but it is essentially a mixture of rose syrup, milk, cold water and ice. Be forewarned: unless you have a super sweet tooth, go easy on the syrup as it is incredibly saccharine. Some recipes call for condensed milk, but I would personally not recommend it. Evaporated milk is a better option, or the regular stuff you’d put in your tea. Unsweetened dairy alternatives will also work.

You could try making your own rose syrup, but I’m saving my supply of petals for other projects, so I turned to good old eBay and bought myself a bottle of Natco‘s. All ingredients went into my trusty blender, and pretty soon I had myself a frosty and frothy (frosthy? 😀 ) pink concoction served with edible gold sprinkles and of course…a cocktail umbrella, because no sunny day is complete without that!

2018-05-06 19.22.34My love affair with rose as an ingredient continues, and has extended from culinary endeavours to skincare. I have a few plans in mind and would ideally prefer to use rose essential oil in my beauty products, but it is very very dear, and with good reason. The purest rose otto requires tens of thousands of roses to be distilled just to fill a mere 5ml bottle. It is, however, considered worth the expense because of the benefits to both mind and body. My previous blog post doesn’t even begin to touch on the merits of this botanical wonder.

A cheaper alternative would be to buy a blend, and supplement it with homemade rose-infused oil. The latter is easy enough to achieve. There are a few different methods, but I believe the ‘sunlight version’ yields the quickest result. All you’d need is one part crushed or bruised dried rose petals to one part carrier oil. Grapeseed oil is fine, but sweet almond, jojoba, and even olive oil will also do. If you choose to replace the dried petals with fresh ones, ensure they are from organic roses (so no chemicals have been sprayed on them) but still be wary of mould forming due to moisture content.

Place both ingredients in a clean jar and give it a good swirl to make sure the petals are all submerged. It is absolutely crucial that your chosen vessel did not recently contain anything pungent. Otherwise, you’d be making the mistake I did with my first batch of rose oil. The jar in question had Country French sauce in it a few weeks prior, and it initially seemed like a long soak and a few hot washes did get rid of the smell. Oh, how I was mistaken…The end-result of my rosy enterprise had to be binned because garlic is nobody’s idea of perfume!

Get a pot of water on the boil whilst filling the jar. Once it’s bubbling, turn the flames off and sit the jar in the hot water. The heat will help to release the rose scent into the oil. When the water’s cooled down, move the jar to a location that gets lots of sunlight and let the infusion process continue for at least another 24 hours. The longer you leave it, the more potent it will be. I left mine to sit on the window sill for a week before straining it.

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Another piece of advice: have some coffee filters ready, or empty teabags. Depending on how well you crushed your rose petals, there may be some tiny bits in your oil that a muslin or cheesecloth may not catch. If so, you’ll be glad to have these little paper sieves at your disposal. Give the petals a proper squeeze during this procedure to extract every last drop.

2018-05-07 18.34.03The final step would be to decant the oil into a dark bottle to preserve it. Your rose infusion is now ready to be used neat, or in another beauty recipe. Concentrated in a receptacle (regardless of jar, bowl or bottle), it might give off an odd earthy aroma, somewhat akin to wine. Like me, you might wonder if something’s gone horribly awry. Though I can’t quite fathom the cause, I’ve found that it isn’t one for concern. When applied to skin, the oil did exactly as expected, which was to leave me smelling of roses. 🙂 ❤

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The vernal equinox took place a week ago, and marking this astronomical occasion was the usual Google Doodle, which led a couple of my colleagues to remark: “I’m sure the first day of spring has already been and gone!”

They’re not wrong…Meteorologically speaking, it did. As explained by our Met Office, there are (just to confuse us) two dates – one determined by temperature, and the other by our planet’s position. Regardless of how you prefer to split up the seasons, the weather is definitely warming up, and despite freak snow flurries not long ago, daffodils here have finally gotten the memo. I actually noticed a few tentatively poking out of the ground on the way home from work last weekend, so yay! At last!

Sunny days beckon – time to banish that winter pallor and prep your skin for summery outfits by putting the radiance back in it. What better way to celebrate this period of regeneration than with natural homemade skincare?

Rounding up the ingredients to make your own body wash is relatively simple. They are available at many online stores or marketplaces. You’ll also most likely be able to buy them at your local health store on the high street.

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Three key elements are required – castile soap, raw honey, and coconut oil. You can then add your own choice of essential oils, depending on what your skin needs and/or fragrance you like. For my body wash, I have used grapefruit and rosemary. As a prelude to the recipe, I thought I’d touch briefly on the benefits of all these items:

CASTILE SOAP
Sourced from the Spanish region it was named after, this cleanser is made from olive oil, and its use can be traced back to Queen Cleopatra. Besides being kind to the environment, it is also not animal-based, which should please vegans and vegetarians. Although gentle and safe enough for sensitive skins (including those who suffer from eczema etc.), castile soap does clean very effectively without drying your skin. It can also fight acne since it possesses antibacterial properties.

RAW HONEY
The most natural and least processed form of honey is best for this endeavour since you’ll want to make the most of its skin-saving qualities. This is a staple ingredient when it comes to DIY beauty. Unpasteurised (aka raw) honey is full of anti-ageing antioxidants that can bring a glow to your complexion. It is antibacterial and clarifying as well, thus helping to unclog pores, whilst healing and soothing your skin at the same time.

COCONUT OIL
I am never without several jars of this tropical wonder because it is such a great all-rounder. Not only can you cook and bake with coconut oil, but it can also work miracles on your skin and hair. Particularly with regards to the latter, coconut oil has rescued me from more than a few tangly snags and frizzy disasters. This oil is an excellent moisturiser, and has the ability to penetrate far down into the skin to repair collagen layers. It is hypoallergenic and locks in moisture, creating a physical barrier against all sorts of harmful agents – such as pollution, harsh UV rays, and free radicals. Being both antibacterial and antifungal makes this oil an ideal deep cleanser and make-up remover (eyes included). Since it literally melts in my hands, I would normally apply coconut oil (solid at room temperature) straight from the jar. However, to make this body wash, you’d have to liquify it using the double-boiler method.

GRAPEFRUIT ESSENTIAL OIL
Just the smell of this oil alone is a good reason to add it to your beauty regime. It is a fabulous energiser and stress buster. Due to its lymphatic stimulant and diuretic traits, grapefruit oil is often listed as an ingredient in cellulite-busting and firming creams. A robust circulation booster, it can also dilate blood vessels and relieve inflammation. Combine with a carrier oil (such as coconut) and you have a nourishing salve that wards off toxins and builds skin immunity.

ROSEMARY ESSENTIAL OIL
As a natural deodoriser, this will keep odours at bay. The same characteristic, plus the limonene and camphor it contains, also repels insects, especially mosquitoes. Rosemary oil is an anti-inflammatory which aids healing, and even reduces puffiness. Rich in nutrients, it’s been described as an efficient combatant of sun damage and age spots, with fatty acids that can aid in tightening skin. Being an astringent means rosemary oil can act as a toner when mixed with a carrier. Add to that its muscle-relaxant capabilities, and you have another versatile must-have for DIY skincare.

2018-03-18-19-13-534doneGRAPEFRUIT & ROSEMARY BODY WASH
Moving on to the how-to part of this post, it goes without saying that you’re going to need a bottle (preferably pump) to decant the body wash once you’ve made it, along with a bowl, spoon, and the following:

100ml Melted Coconut Oil
100ml Raw Honey
225ml Castile Soap
20-25 Drops Essential Oil

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First, put the coconut oil and honey in a bowl. Give the mixture a bit of a stir, but don’t worry too much if it doesn’t come together.

Next, add all the castile soap gradually, stirring gently as you do so.

Last to go in is the essential oil…It can be just one type, or you could create a blend (like what I did with grapefruit and rosemary).

There are no hard and fast rules here. The advantage of a homemade beauty product is the wherewithal to customise it to your taste and requirements, so feel free to experiment. 🙂 If it’s your first time dabbling in aromatherapy, my advice is to start off with small amounts of oil. Some are considerably more potent than others, and you don’t want to end up with a potion that’s too overpowering!

Once all the ingredients have been combined, pour the concoction into a bottle, and that’s it…all there is to making your own body wash at home! The only thing that remains is to stick a label on. I didn’t have any waterproof ones appropriate for bathroom storage, so I just used old-fashioned DYMO (or rather, MoTEX) labels. I love that retro look; they even come in quite handy when decorating gift boxes.

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You can tell from my photos that the various elements of the body wash do separate eventually, but it only requires a little swirl or shake prior to using. Although it doesn’t lather much, this body wash will still leave you feeling thoroughly cleansed. My hubby David isn’t too keen on the fatty smell of castile soap, but all I can detect is a faint whiff of the medicinal which I do not mind. I did expect the fragrance to be stronger, but it was surprisingly mild. Perhaps more drops of grapefruit oil is called for…

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To complete this body pampering set, I also made a matching sugar scrub. It is more suitably used as a treatment, rather than a stand-alone cleanser. Natural scrubs generally need a bit of a stir beforehand, and this is no different. As with all aromatherapy bath and shower products that are oil-based, take care not to slip when using them. Your shower floor or bathtub may even need a quick swipe with a soapy sponge after you are done.

The grapefruit and rosemary infusion gives off a lovely fruity and fresh scent (slightly minty), as can be expected from a citrus and herb combo. I was initially concerned that the sugar would dissolve too quickly in the wet, but I needn’t have worried as the crystals more or less kept their form throughout, and some even had to be jetted into the plughole before I got out of the tub. As an exfoliant, this body scrub beats any other I have ever bought and, together with the body wash, works superbly well in keeping my skin soft and smooth.

So pleased with the success of this “no poo” equivalent to body care that I am now considering this sugar scrub as another DIY Spa Kit to add to my Etsy store, which will soon be re-opening. I have a few other ideas as well, so be sure to keep a lookout for new products coming out later this year by subscribing to my blog. TIA! 😀

2018-02-17 23.24.52With all these parcels arriving for me every week, it really does seem like Christmas hasn’t already been and gone…It even snowed earlier today (not my video)! There was only a light smattering on the ground, but it’s not often we get winter flurries on the Fylde Coast so perhaps Navidad has stayed a little longer to sprinkle some joy before the spring showers arrive. 😀

As usual, I got a load of complimentary gifts through the post. February’s loot of freebies was a bit of a mixed bag – a combination of beauty products, food (not just for me, but for my fur baby as well), and even jewellery. Here’s a brief round-up of brands I received goodies from:

Some of them were samples, but a few were full-sized products sent to me in return for a review, or only the cost of delivery. In cases such as the latter, I would advise doing a bit of research to find out how the amount of postage compares to the retail value of the item.

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The Purina stuff took a little while to arrive, but I couldn’t help feeling a little excited to finally receive them, because…well…cats. 🙂 I am sure my fussy feline would agree! She’s a very picky eater, but loves most crunchy nibbles and Lick-e-Lix so these new additions to her menu will probably be most welcome…Fingers crossed!

I’m also quite excited about trying out the products from Skin Chemists as I’ve heard a lot of good things about how bee venom can benefit skin. Its effectiveness is (apparently) similar to snake venom (another popular ingredient at the moment) but I never got round to testing that because a lot of the well-recommended brands are pretty expensive. Actually, Skin Chemists isn’t cheap either, the bee venom moisturiser you see in the above pic costs over £40 in most stores (though you can get it much cheaper on eBay), so I wasn’t about to turn them down when they emailed to ask if I’d be interested in posting a review if I got it for free.

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Although I’m not generally too fussed about perfumes, Penhaligon’s fragrance profiling nearly changed my mind. I say “nearly” because all of this store’s aromatic merchandise comes with a hefty price tag, which is a bit of a disappointment to me as the chosen scents – Luna and Lothair – were exquisite, layered, and definitely to my taste.

The necklace was a lucky find as I’d been looking for something similar when I came across a facebook advert for it a few months back. I presume it was leftover stock Save Our Oceans needed to get rid of, because all I had to pay was shipping. All in all, a bargain!



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Just a quick mention of the next two Boxcitement deliveries I received – the January and February boxes. I would have blogged about them sooner, but so sorry I haven’t really had a chance to due to illness.

 

 

As I’ve started to amass quite a collection, I have set up a gallery with photos of each mystery item from every month. Feel free to browse through them on Google Photos if you’re interested in subscribing to Boxcitement’s service, and would like an idea of what you’d be signing up for.

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So far this year, I have loved everything they sent me, particularly the weekly planner pad, monthly goal checklist, and birdcage necklace. Some of the contents, though lovely and unique, aren’t really to my taste and are more my daughter Zhouyi’s style (like the wraparound bracelet above), so I gave them to her. Between the both of us, nothing in these boxes ever get the thumbs down.

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My only gripe is the chains supplied with the necklaces…they’d match the quaint look of the pendants far better if they were burnished brass rather than silver. I’ve got some of my own pseudo-antique chains and jump rings, so I swapped them as soon as I could, and look what a difference it’s made.

Icy storms and ill health notwithstanding, we’ve not had a terrible winter. What’s life without a hiccup or two? I’m certainly not complaining about all the treats that have come my way! Despite that, I wish spring would hurry up and get here, because it’s chilly up in my lofty lair, and I’ve had enough of filling up hot water bottles!

2017-12-15 00.51.39Apologies for this belated review as I actually started this trial more than a month ago. Sadly, being really ill took its toll and interrupted my new Your Good Skin routine. For weeks, I struggled to get out of bed, and sometimes couldn’t even stand up long enough to have a shower (let alone keep up with a beauty regime!). What’s more frustrating – I was only a few days away from completing the challenge! Be that as it may, I reckon I did do it long enough to find out if the above products work well on my skin. To be absolutely certain, I resumed use of them (for another week or so) as soon as I felt better.

You can read my first impressions of Your Good Skin here, but just to recap, I was sent the following full-sized freebies in return for a review:

• Balancing Skin Concentrate
• Pore Minimizing Tonic
• Oil-Lifting Make-Up Remover Wipes
• Instant Dryness Rescue Balm

As I wasn’t supplied with a cleanser or moisturiser to complete the set, I used some of the Boots points I had accumulated over the years to get the following two items:

• Nourishing Hot Cloth Cleanser
• ProVitamin Overnight Cream

2017-12-15 00.54.26This 28-Day Challenge puts the spotlight on the Balancing Skin Concentrate as it was launched only quite recently. However, it is best used in conjunction with other Your Good Skin products.



STEP 1 – NOURISHING HOT CLOTH CLEANSER

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I think I may have previously blogged that I’m not particularly keen on wipe-off cleansers, but I chose this to complement the other Your Good Skin items because I was worried the toner I received, in addition to a face wash, would be too drying. As expected, I did not get that tight feeling on my face after using this cleanser. The cream is quite thick and goes a bit paste-like when applied to dry skin (as per instructions) which means it does not glide on smoothly. As a cloth cleanser doesn’t usually foam up, I had to use more product than one that rinses off. There’s not much of a fragrance, and as far as I could tell, the cleansing was thorough as the toner-soaked cotton pad did not pick up any dirt or residue after this. It’s probably best to mention that my typical mode is makeup-free, so I am not sure how efficient this would be for someone who regularly uses cosmetics.



STEP 2 – PORE MINIMIZING TONIC

2017-12-15 01.20.33Again, not something I am in the habit of using as my regular face wash gets splashed off with cool water anyway. In spite of that, I do feel that this works brilliantly with the Hot Cloth Cleanser and Balancing Skin Concentrate. Although the shrinking effect on my pores was only temporary (this is true for all astringent toners no matter the spiel), they did seem less congested, and there was a light fresh sensation on my face after applying this. It can feel a little warm and tingly at first, but that’s most likely down to the ingredients getting to work, and the Pore Minimizing Tonic is otherwise quite gentle. The only criticism I have of this particular product is the smell…It is a little sickly, but fortunately, it doesn’t last and isn’t overpowering, so this is just a minor complaint.



STEP 3 – BALANCING SKIN CONCENTRATE

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This serum is the main feature of this challenge and is meant to restore natural balance and “improve the 5 key signs of visibly healthy skin”. The trouble is, I can’t actually figure out if the Balancing Skin Concentrate on its own would have made any difference as I did not use it in isolation. Yes, my skin did look a little less dull immediately after application, and felt softer as well, but those results could also be attributed to the cleanser and toner. (I will come to the moisturiser in a moment.) This is why I mentioned earlier that these three – cleanser, toner and serum – perform well in unison.

I found this concentrate easy to apply…A couple of pumps (as per recommendation) is enough to cover all my face, and it absorbs quickly into the skin. The fragrance is also quite pleasant. I am not really convinced that it regulates oil though. The parts of my face that tend to shine continue to radiate…less “like a diamond” and more like greasy pan after a fry-up. 😀 At first I thought it was the Overnight Cream doing it, so I experimented with a more lightweight moisturiser for a few days. Sadly, it did not produce a different result.



STEP 4 – PROVITAMIN OVERNIGHT CREAM

2017-12-15 00.56.16There is a day-time moisturiser available from Your Good Skin that comes with SPF 30, but because I prefer to use my own HG sunscreen, I got the night-time one instead. The consistency of the Overnight Cream is thick and rather rich (I assume the Anti-Oxidant Day Cream is less so). It doesn’t spread on skin very well, leaving a tacky film that takes quite awhile to absorb. To be fair, it is meant to be applied before bedtime, and has kept my combination skin fairly hydrated. The shine factor is (unsurprisingly) high, but I don’t mind that since my sunscreen has mattifying properties (for those times when I am out and about), and at night…well…I’m going to sleep anyway, so who cares what I look like, right?



OIL-LIFTING MAKE-UP REMOVER WIPES

2017-12-15 01.17.49Since I rarely wear makeup, I did not have much of an opportunity to use this apart from the one occasion when I tested the Marc Jacobs Beauty Matte Highliner from my first VoxBox. On that day, I had a full face on so I could take some nice photos to show off my new eye crayons. These wipes managed to rid my skin of most makeup except for what I had on my eyelids, but I suspect the problem lies in the Highliner which is heavily pigmented. I’d say these wipes are about average, and not much better or worse than others I’ve tried, including the really cheap ones from pound shops. Besides, I always follow up with a proper cleanser, and would never rely on makeup remover alone so that I can wake up the next day with pores as gunk-free as possible!



INSTANT DRYNESS RESCUE BALM

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Skin needs a bit of extra help during the winter months, so this came in handy a few times during the challenge. Nonetheless, claims that it provides instant relief and remains effective for 12 hours is a bit of an exaggeration. I often get scaly patches on my face when the weather turns cold, and dabbing this cream on affected areas did soothe it somewhat. It’s a good job the bottle is travel-sized, and doesn’t take up much room in my handbag, because I had to keep applying it quite a few times throughout the day. Whilst the Rescue Balm did keep some of the flakiness at bay, it never quite eliminated the problem. Eventually, I had to switch to the Aurelia moisturisers left over from a previous review, and that soon put my dry skin woes to an end.



OVERALL VERDICT

28 day challengeSo sorry for the slight blurriness of the final photo. I didn’t notice the low quality of it until a few hours later. The lighting was also poorer because it wasn’t as sunny that day, so this before-after comparison is probably not the most accurate! 😀

All images were taken within an hour after application. To demonstrate what I mean about how the Balancing Concentrate doesn’t do much to keep the shine under control, I took the last picture before putting on my mattifying sunscreen. It’s pretty obvious there is quite a contrast between that and the other two.

Contrary to what can be seen in the photos, my skin actually had the same colouring and tone (including blotchiness) on all days. I’m not sure why it had a pinker cast in the first two. I’m no expert, but according to my photographer hubby David, it might be to do with my phone’s white balance.

In all honesty, I was not completely wowed by my Your Good Skin experience because, to the eye, there didn’t appear to be any significant changes from start to finish. If I had to rate it out of five stars, I’d give it three…Not exactly holy grail material. Still, don’t let this put you off trying anything from this collection. I would recommend it for the following reasons:

These products are decent all-rounders. Granted, they do not perform miracles, but they were satisfactory in generally keeping my skin in good condition. Considering how ill I was during the challenge (and during the height of winter too!), I’d have expected my complexion to be far worse, but was pleasantly surprised that its health was maintained (as advertised).

Being more middle-aged than millennial, I am of course worried about the impact of ageing. However, I suffered from severe acne in my younger days, and though I did finally overcome it, I can never shake off the paranoia whenever a breakout occurs. I’ll admit I got the odd spot whilst using Your Good Skin. Nothing to lose sleep over…And it was probably down to hormones, what with it being my time of the month. I doubt any lotions and potions can put a stop to that! My skin is on the sensitive side, so not having to deal with any huge angry ‘eruptions’ on my face is a big plus!

If you’re looking for something to address specific issues (such as wrinkles, scars, age spots, etc), you’ll find more success in other products specially dedicated to those concerns, or possibly more invasive procedures (like laser, peeling, or derma-rolling, etc). That said, Your Good Skin does have a wide selection of skincare, so there’s a chance one or two items in the range could boost your existing treatments.

Would I buy any of them? The Pore Minimizing Tonic gets a definite “yes” from me, and it’s a “maybe” for the Nourishing Hot Cloth Cleanser and Balancing Skin Concentrate (mainly because I am currently using something else I like). Everything from the Your Good Skin range is very affordable, and that’s one of its biggest draws. Majority of the products are under ten pounds, and some even less than a fiver. With all of them being such good value for money, I think this brand is worth a punt at least.

2018-01-30 02.57.06At last!!! In less than six months, I have managed to get my social impact score on Influenster up to a level which qualifies me for a VoxBox. Actually, I am not entirely sure if it’s down to that, or if it’s to do with the surveys and reviews I do on a regular basis. No matter, because…success!

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Once Influenster emails to confirm you’re due to receive a box, and updates your profile with the relevant badge, you will have a specific time-frame (usually a month or sometimes more) to complete a set of tasks as part of the product’s social marketing campaign in order to increase your chances of earning more full-sized FOC goodies. This typically involves sharing a tagged image on Instagram, and posting an unbiased review of your complimentary item (or in this case, items).

My Marc Jacobs Beauty Matte Highliner VoxBox actually arrived about a fortnight ago, but I was unable to take any action due to very ill health. Fortunately, I am now recovering (just about!) so this blog will soon be seeing a lot more activity as compared to the past few weeks.

2018-01-30 17.05.22To be honest, pink (of any hue) is not a colour I would have chosen for myself, but having thought about it, I am glad they didn’t send me black/brown (which is what I was initially hoping to find in the box). I am, at best, a novice when it comes to applying make-up, and the bright colours forced me to come out of my comfort zone to experiment.

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I had originally planned to test my new Marc Jacobs acquisitions as eyeliners, but because I prefer a more natural look, later decided to see how well they would perform as eyeshadow instead. As you can see, the Highliner is very strongly pigmented. The consistency is much like crayon (hence the name!) and goes on very smoothly. This, I think, is part of the reason it is so versatile.

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The Marc Jacobs Gel Crayon comes in a variety of shades, and can be used in a multitude of ways (and not just in the eye area). My VoxBox even came with a little booklet that contained a few tips and ideas.

Unlike most conventional eyeliner pencils, you don’t need a sharpener. To extend the crayon, simply twist the bottom end. After a brief moment puzzling over how to achieve a fine point (warning – it does get blunt real fast), I worked out that the easiest method is to gently pinch the tip (it’s quite delicate) with a piece of tissue whilst rotating it a few times.

What impressed me most about these Highliners is their superb staying power…Once applied, the colours did not fade or shift in the slightest. This is a huge change from most of the eyeshadows I’ve tried, none of which would last for more than a few hours due to my combination skin that tends to grease up easily.

The downside to this long-wearing trait is the difficulty I had with blending. As it sets so quickly, the trick is to work fast and build up the colour bit by bit. It does help a little if you have have primer on. Unfortunately, the application of so many layers also meant removing the Highliner required a bit more effort than what I am accustomed to.

Apart from the above criticisms, this product is overall of very high quality. Retailing at around £20 each, the Gel Crayon is way out of my acceptable price range, but for anyone who is a little more experienced and wears make-up frequently, I’d say this is a brilliant investment.

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Still wish I’d been sent blue or green though…There is a story behind this I may share one day, but I am sooo not into pink at all! 😀

2017-12-15 00.49.20…to be giving! But what makes me equally joyous, is to be on the receiving end too!

A month or so ago, I blogged about how you can get your hands on free products, either through social media, or joining marketing campaigns. Since then, I have been sent many goodies that I didn’t have to pay for, and amassed quite a growing collection. It’s almost like Christmas come early!

2017-12-15 01.32.54There are basically enough items here to fill the average subscription box, except most of these did not cost me a penny. However, there were a couple of occasions when I had to pay a quid or two for postage. I always suspect the amount does cover the cost of production, and the reason brands give them away for so little money is because they need to get rid of overstock. Still, majority of products are in launch phase so all you may be asked to do is review the samples you receive. Personally, I think it’s a fair bargain.

A new range of freebies that I am particularly excited to try out is from Your Good Skin by Boots. The full-sized beauty products below were delivered entirely for free, and in return I have to commit myself to the 28-Day Challenge, plus share my results on social media. There is one catch – in order to be selected for this campaign, you do need to have over 1000 followers on Instagram.

2017-12-15 00.51.39The Balancing Skin Concentrate is the focal point of this challenge, but included in the package was the Pore Minimizing Tonic, Oil-Lifting Make-Up Remover Wipes, and the Instant Dryness Rescue balm.

I don’t wear make-up frequently, so would have preferred to receive a cleanser instead of the wipes. However, as luck would have it, my Boots card has loads of points because I haven’t spent any of them in ages. So, to treat myself, I used them to order the highly-recommended Nourishing Hot Cloth Cleanser (to counteract the toner) and ProVitamin Overnight Cream. Since I didn’t technically hand over any money, I guess I kind of got these for free too!

2017-12-15 00.54.26Your Good Skin also has a day moisturiser with high SPF, but I decided against buying that as I’ve already found my HG (Holy Grail) sunscreen and don’t want to replace it with anything else. I reviewed Bioré UV Perfect Milk for Face and Body not long ago, and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for decent protection from photoaging. I figured that if the Balancing Skin Concentrate isn’t hydrating enough, I’d just apply a little of the ProVitamin Overnight Cream under the Perfect Milk sunscreen.

While my freebies were on their way to me, the support team from Your Good Skin emailed to suggest I post a ‘before’ picture of myself so I can share the progress of my transformation. I made up my mind to start the challenge after a late night out to a Christmas party. It’s one of the few occasions I would wear make-up, so I knew my skin would not be at its best the next day.

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And I was right…In the first photo, you can see some light foundation just about hiding a spot on my chin, but I swear it actually ballooned overnight because the next pic of me in the morning shows a definite flare-up. Two new tiny spots were also beginning to form under my nose. Boo!

Well, Your Good Skin aims to improve your skin so it becomes visibly healthier, or your money back. I don’t think I would qualify for the latter, but Boots skincare products are generally effective so I’ve got nothing to lose. Hopefully, at the end of four weeks, I will emerge with more “good skin days” as advertised.



INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Here I am again, on day one of the challenge, face sans make-up, freshly washed (hence a little pink and blotchy), and with Your Good Skin products duly applied.

2017-12-19 14.21.34If you’re wondering why I have one eyebrow slightly raised, it is not a response to this new beauty routine. This expression is normal for me…I constantly go through life in a mildly bemused state. 😀

Where the new lotions and potions courtesy of Boots are concerned, everything’s so-far-so-good. It’s of course too early to tell if they are benefiting me in any way, but I don’t seem to be allergic to any of the ingredients and my skin is sensitive enough to react quite quickly. There is hardly any fragrance to all the products (though the toner smells a bit weird, almost sickly), and some of them don’t glide on my face as well as I’d hoped. The moisturiser in particular feels quite tacky and takes quite awhile to absorb. That said, it does appear matt after application, so I suppose it’s the end result that matters. Also, the spot on my chin does seem a little less red and angry, so perhaps the new stuff is doing something after all!

I’ll blog about this again at the end of the challenge, and in the meantime, I shall keep all my fingers (and toes!) crossed that this will be (as touted) a “journey to better skin for life”!

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At last!!! After an almost two-year hiatus, I have opened my Etsy shop again! As stated in a previous blog post, I did a mini trial run of my DIY Spa Kit for Foot Scrubs in 2015, and soon sold all of it, even gaining a couple of five-star reviews from happy customers. 🙂 Unfortunately, due to personal reasons, I then had to take a break from production.

I am now back, hopefully for good, with a couple of other products and possibly a few more in the pipeline (depending on how this takes off) for 2018. Please be patient and bear with me…I am still very new to running a business, and can only manage a small volume of stock. This really just started out as a hobby, so any helpful suggestions would be welcome!

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The main item I am selling now is the DIY Spa Kit which can be personalised with a gift tag. Not only can the Lavender and Peppermint Foot Scrub be customised to your (or the recipient’s) preference, you will also be learning about making your own natural beauty remedies in the process.

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The kit contains everything required to make two jars of foot scrub, along with a recipe and a detailed explanation of how each ingredient can contribute to your well-being. If you have bought one of these and require the instructions in large print, please contact me and I will send you a copy.

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Another product I have added to my shop is the Chalkboard Door Hanger Gift Set. I made one for my daughter awhile back and thought it’d make quite a unique present or stocking filler. This would probably appeal more to children, though teenagers might appreciate the novelty too.

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The set includes both white and coloured chalk, and sponge eraser in a selection of style and colours…Perfect for doodling a warning to potential intruders, or for those times when you just need a bit of peace and quiet!

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Since this new beginning ties in with the festive season, I am offering a discount to celebrate the occasion. Simply type in code XMAS10 when placing your order, and you will receive a 10% reduction on orders £10 or more. However, this Christmas deal won’t last long, so take advantage of it before the sleigh bells start ringing!

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At this point, you’re probably wondering: “What?! Who on earth wants that?”…Then again, I’m sure you’ve probably also heard of good bacteria, like in yoghurt, drinks, and other types of food. Well, it seems that the beauty industry isn’t immune to the benefits of these microbes either, because…enter PROBIOTIC SKINCARE!

Following on from my previous post regarding subscription boxes and freebie campaigns, I began to notice a change in my social media feeds, facebook in particular. Loads of ads like those below began to appear…

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I guess my interest in giveaways must have been noted by its algorithm, especially after I clicked through to order free samples from Angela Langford. (No, no, these aren’t the ones with the helpful bacteria. I’m just going off on a tangent!)

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Although I didn’t think what was sent to me made any immediate difference to my skin, I have to say the service from Angela Langford was very well personalised. As a result of a questionnaire I filled in when placing the order, a letter came with the specially selected skincare kit along with advice specific to my conditions. Sadly, as the samples were not very generous, I was unable to make any sort of judgement. However, don’t be put off trying it out as everybody’s skin is different. Plus, it doesn’t cost much more than the small postage fee.

I fared a little better with Aurelia’s 3-Step Probiotic Kit. As mentioned earlier, I’d recently been getting more than my fair share of facebook posts about free stuff. One of the latest was a call-out from Aurelia for Brand Ambassadors. After signing up, you’d be sent the Starter Set (worth £45) for free, and apart from the £3 delivery, the only thing you’ll have to do in return is review the items they send you. As an added bonus, you also become part of their VIP panel which entitles you to perks like discounts and more samples.

Well, the OCD side of me was initially a little apprehensive about slathering bacteria all over my face, but we’ve all read about how good these little ‘creepy crawlies’ can be for our internal organs, and what is the skin but another large organ. Besides…it’s free!

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I received the starter set a couple of weeks ago, along with an extra free sample, and finally got a chance to try them out. I have to admit, I’m a sucker for nice packaging, so if I had to rate Aurelia on that alone, I’d rank them pretty high up…maybe not right at the top, as I’m not a huge fan of jars (for hygiene reasons) even if they do look aesthetically pleasing. That’s not going to tell you if you’ll get your money’s worth though!

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If you need instructions and a list of ingredients, all of that can be found at Aurelia’s website, but here’s a card they provided to explain how each step in the routine is meant to bring out the best in your skin.

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MIRACLE CLEANSER

As I prefer to wash my face in the shower, I find it more convenient to use a cleanser that can be rinsed off with water. Anything wipe-off is normally a deal-breaker. That said, my night-time regime is a little more flexible, so I was willing to compromise a little, just to see if Aurelia’s oft-touted award-winner could make a difference.

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The Miracle Cleanser is perfect for anyone with dry or sensitive skin as it’s thick and creamy, and it came off easily using a damp Antibacterial Bamboo Muslin. As Aurelia only supplied one, I used my own flannel the next morning and can’t say I noticed any variation between the two. My skin did feel thoroughly cleansed without the tight feeling you can sometimes get. Having said that, it’s not a problem I have with my usual facewash either. I won’t say anything miraculous happened, but my skin did feel a bit softer after using Aurelia’s cleanser.



REVITALISE & GLOW SERUM

Next in line is a serum that purports to “transform dull, polluted and fatigued skin, for an instant luminous, dewy and radiant glow”.

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It was actually as lightweight as advertised, and very easy to apply. You don’t need much of it so a little will go a long way. I should say that at this stage, everything is smelling utterly divine. It’s a really fresh natural scent, almost medicinal, but in a citrusy-herby kind of way. This serum absorbed rather quickly so I was soon ready for the next step.



CELL REPAIR NIGHT OIL

This isn’t part of Aurelia’s main Anthology Set but you can add another free sample to your order, and I chose the Night Oil. According to the website, this has to be layered “over Aurelia Revitalise & Glow Serum” but “underneath Aurelia Cell Revitalise Night Moisturiser “.

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As you can see, the oil is pretty runny. I think I may have used a bit too much as my face became rather shiny after applying this. That isn’t a major concern as I’m not bothered about what I look like when I’m in bed and the lights are off! The only thing I care about is whether everything I’ve subjected my face to is worth the effort and expense. The latter isn’t an issue in this case, but Aurelia’s prices are not exactly High Street friendly.



CELL REVITALISE NIGHT MOISTURISER

And now we come to the final act of my bedtime beauty tableau. Amongst other virtues, the Night Moisturiser also claims it can help “wind down and prepare for a restful night’s sleep”. I was pretty tired anyway, so I didn’t need much assistance to nod off, but I could detect a hint of lavender in the fragrance, and that is known for its soporific quality.

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This cream is very rich as per Aurelia’s description, and that definitely contributed to my facial wattage. If my husband were still awake at this time, I’m certain he could read by the light of my countenance.



CELL REVITALISE DAY MOISTURISER

I diligently went through the same process again the next morning, but with the Day Moisturiser instead. Although it is supposed to have a “matte-finish”, I’m afraid it didn’t have that effect on me. In fact, you can see that the cream looks just as rich as the one for night-time.

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It could be a combination of all the products (obviously minus the Night Oil), but if you want something that controls shine whilst out and about, this moisturiser really isn’t for you. That said, my face didn’t feel like it had as much of an oil slick on it as the night before. Furthermore, it did seem to radiate less after I’d given the cream some time to sink into my skin.

Just to demonstrate, here are a couple of photos I took sans makeup – the first one almost immediately after application (with slightly damp hair!), and the next about an hour later.

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CONCLUSION

I am not able to comment on the long-term effects of Aurelia’s Probiotic Kit as I’ve only just started using it, and some of the samples will most likely run out in a couple of weeks. Although the products are suitable for all skin types, I’m not entirely sure as to how friendly bacteria would alleviate common problems like age spots, large pores, scars etc. As Aurelia’s signature ingredients are formulated to “calm the natural immune triggers in your skin which can be overstimulated by pollution and stress”, there is a possibility their 3-Step Routine will eventually lessen the impact of rosacea, acne, and even smooth out the effects of ageing.

My combination skin was going through a flaky patch, and from past experience, I knew it would take quite a number of days (sometimes more than a week) to balance itself out. However, this Starter Set managed to fix that within 24 hours. That’s actually a great result, so I highly recommend this if your skin frequently suffers from dehydration.

I must admit my skin did look healthy and nourished after its probiotic exposure, so it stands to reason that regular use of Aurelia’s probiotic line would only improve it further. My main point of contention is the cost of it all. There is no doubt that these are luxury products, so if money were no object, go ahead and take a punt on this.

I can no longer find the relevant facebook post for Aurelia Brand Ambassadors, so perhaps there was a cutoff date. However, a search online led me to a competition for Discovery Kits. Hopefully you’ll be one of the lucky 500, and get to put probiotic skincare to the test before spending a mini fortune.

Personally, I have come across natural skincare that can do almost as good a job without taking a huge chunk out of my wages. Aurelia might out-perform cheaper brands (and some homemade concoctions) slightly, but until I have an income that can match my growing wishlist, the hunt for something better-yet-affordable must go on. 😎


It’s been a long time coming, but my Etsy store will soon be re-opening. Back on sale will be the previously mentioned DIY Spa Foot Scrub Kit, which (as can be seen on the postcard above) has gone way past its prototype stage, and was trialled awhile back with great success…It really was a pleasant surprise when all the kits sold out as quick as they did, despite the lack of any publicity beyond word-of-mouth amongst my own social circle.

There will also be a couple more new items, including this Chalkboard Door Hanger Gift Set, which would make a great present for kids, and a perfect stocking filler. I gave one to my daughter last year, and faster than you can say “YouTube”, she’d personalised it with her own ‘On Air’ sign to keep us from knocking on her door when she’s busy vlogging. Oh, how quickly they grow up!


As yet, I haven’t got a specific ETA for when all the products will be ready to make an appearance. However, it’ll only be a matter of weeks, and definitely in time for Christmas orders, so as they say…watch this space! 😎


Money might not be able to buy you happiness, but as a cousin of mine used to say, it can buy lots of things that will make you happy! 😀

The last year or so, I’d been regularly dosing myself with little bursts of joy in the shape of monthly subscription boxes, but the trouble with them (since their contents are usually meant to be a mystery until receipt) is that they can be a bit hit-and-miss. Every now and then, when you get a lovely surprise in the post, it’s like Christmas come early, but on other occasions, you find yourself faced with a bundle of disappointment. Still, there’s always the option to recycle anything you’re not so keen on as a present for someone else whose taste or lifestyle runs different to yours. You’d have at least saved yourself the expense of forking out for that year’s Secret Santa, so it’s a win-win.

As I don’t tend to use cosmetics often, I could see a lot of products going to waste if I subscribed to the likes of Birchbox or Glossybox since both are too beauty-specific. For me, the ideal box would contain a broad selection of items. Back then, the best one that fit this description was from PopSugar. Unfortunately, it was (and still is) far too expensive. Plus, it doesn’t deliver to the UK, which means it’s basically no good to me at all. However, as these subscriptions grew in popularity, an assortment of boxes began to appear on the scene, from those specialising in geek collectables, to the ones curating samples of whisky.


The first one I tried out was Fancy Box, but after the initial excitement had worn off, I realised that most of the stuff I’d been sent seemed to be overstock they were trying to get rid of. By this time, Birchbox had started to include in their repertoire other things apart from toiletries and make-up, but the range was limited so I continued to um and ah.

Then everything changed when I came across My Little Box. At £14.95 (including postage), it ticked all the right boxes: affordable, great quality, wonderfully packaged and best of all, a wide variety of unique products – Lifestyle, Fashion Accessories, Gadgets, F&B, Home Decor, and some were even Craft-related. Each month’s box also had a theme that came with its own mini magazine.

I wish I’d kept up-to-date with my blog as not a month went by when I wasn’t pleased with the delivery from My Little Box…literally everything was worth posting about, so it’s a good job I took lots of photos which I’m happy to share.

Sadly, and with great regret, I had to put a temporary stop to my subscription, but that was due to personal circumstances at the time, and not because I’d found fault with My Little Box. Not one to despair (for too long), I soon embraced other alternatives by signing up to social marketing campaigns. The outcome can be intermittent I’ll grant you, but these methods cost nothing more than completing a few short surveys and/or posting reviews. I was initially a little concerned that this would attract more spam to my inbox, but it’s been a few months in and what I feared has not materialised.

So, if like me you’re not averse to treats (well, we all need a pat on the back just for getting through life, don’t we?!) but are far from being besties with your bank manager, I highly recommend joining a couple of these perfectly safe #GotItFree sites:

bzzagent.co.uk and triyit.co.uk

I have been successful with BzzAgent so far, and turned into a five-year-old ripping open a giftbox as soon as my first freebies arrived – bottles of Dove Shampoo and Conditioner, both full-sized.

In return, all I had to do was post my thoughts on how I got on with the products, but that takes hardly anything out of me since I’m already in the habit of frequently sharing my (solicited or otherwise!) opinions online. The other discovery club Triyit is still in its pre-launch phase, but I received an invite yesterday, so fingers-crossed I will qualify for a box at some point next week.


For those of you who are pretty active on social media and write reviews as a matter of course, Influenster has recently extended its reach to the UK. It works a little differently to the two sites above, since I suspect much depends on your online clout. I only joined up a few months ago, so hopefully I can build up my social impact over time as freebies from the VoxBox look pretty high-end.

I have no idea how long it will take me, but I intend to have some fun along the way! 😀