Friday, February 28, 2014

Empties: February 2014

Happy end of February!  March is always a good month for me because it's my birthday month, but with two business trips to Cairo, my parents here for 10 days and an exam on the 7th April it's going to be a very hectic one!

Above all are my February empties.  I always seem to have tons and my posts were getting so long that last month I trialled a new way of doing 'empties' posts where I just pick out that stand-outs for the month.  I got good feedback so I'll do the same this month.

I chose 4 standouts-all for being great products!

First up is the Clarins Pure Melt Cleansing Gel.  I have been using this as my first, make up removing cleanse in the evening.  You massage the non sticky gel into your skin where it turns into an oil on contact.  I then emulsify it with water and finally remove any excess with a wet flannel.  It smells like peaches and does a great job at removing make up.  I loved it so much I immediately bought another one.  It feels like a really luxurious treat at the end of the day and feels lighter on the skin than the cleansing balms I have been using over the past year.

Next up is the Rimmel Wake Me Up concealer.  I was so impressed with this concealer for disguising under eye dark circles.  The texture was just right-not too thick that it creases throughout the day but not too thin that it doesn't conceal well.  For the price point I actually think it is better than the much hyped Nars cream concealer.

Next a hair product-the Bumble and Bumble Blondish Hair Powder.  This powder is fabulous for giving some oomph to my flat and fine hair.  It gives hair that matte and almost gritty texture that means styles stay all day and it keeps grease at bay too.  It's not cheap sadly, retailing at £28 a bottle but when I ran out and went back to Batiste I really missed this spray and am about to place an order for a couple more to get my mum and dad to bring over when they come in a couple of weeks.  After blow-drying I simply spray through my hair, let dry for a few seconds and then brush through.  

Finally is the Alpha H Liquid Gold.  I have read lots of reports on this but it is a holy grail product for me and I can say with 100% confidence the right way to use it.  It's NOT a toner-I saw Caroline Hirons rant about this recently.  It's a glycolic acid treatment for your skin that helps not only with improving cell renewal and anti aging but, more importantly for me cystic acne.

It's not to be used daily, every other day in the evening is the maximum amount of times you should use it.  You should thoroughly cleanse your face as normal and then swipe this over your skin using a cotton pad.  You do not use your normal toner before or after and you do not use any other skincare on top of it, you just let it dry (as you would toner) and then leave it on your skin to work overnight.  It will tingle until your skin gets used to it.  It's the AHA's getting to work.  Obviously if you have super sensitive skin you should patch test but don't think a tingle is 'wrong'.  This product really turned my skin around this time last year and I don't think I will ever be without it.  Now I don't use it every other night, I just use it as needed if my skin is playing up.  My review of the product and (awful) before and after pictures can be found here.

You can find out more information about Serozinc, Caudalie Vinosource, Perricone MD Cold Plasma and MD Formulations Facial Cleanser empties in my post about my skincare routine here.

You can read a review of the Givenchy mascara here (it's not very complimetary!)

Do you use and love (or hate) any of these products?


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush

You know my mantra. 'Why buy one when you can buy (insert any number bigger than one here)'

That's how I came to own 5 of these beautiful new Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush compacts.

Firstly the package is really stunning.  Housed in the same, but more petite packaging as the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powders (I own 5 of them too....), they come in a gold compact with a mirror.  Sleek and lightweight from the outside, almost a work of art on the inside.

I found each blusher to be consistent in texture-a very lightweight, silky and extremely finely milled powder.  Each blusher is unique because of the way the pan is pressed so although I can give an approximation of how the colour shows on me, each one will differ slightly depending on the marbling in the compact you buy.

The idea behind these new blushers is to take the unique lighting effects of the Ambient Lighting Powders (Dim, Luminous, Radiant etc) and then combine them with a pop of colour.  I really like the Ambient Lighting Powders for setting my make up, my favourites being Dim Light and Diffused Light.  The result is that these blushers literally melt into the skin giving that soft focus, seamless effect.

The other thing I really like about this blushes is the lack of shimmer in them but they still give you a glow, a healthy radiance.

I was also surprised how pigmented the blushes are, especially radiant magenta and luminous flush and all of them are buildable on the skin.  The only downside of them all is that the longevity isn't amazing.  I would say 5-6 hours on a good day.  But the fade is even so you don't end up like a patchy Aunt Sally as the colour fades.

Also to note, these powder swatch powdery with your finger.  Please try them on your skin as they are a completely different texture on your face on the top of foundation, powder etc.

Here's how they look on the skin-for reference I am NW15 in Mac foundation, so pale....

My Luminous Flush is a pretty even split between the coral pink and the beige/orange tones.  I think this is my favourite one and it looks quite a golden peachy pink on my skin.  It has a sheen but no shimmer on me.  It is quite similar to NARS Daydream which I also love.

My Mood Exposure is mostly the dusky plum colour shot with a neutral undertone.  This reminds me of Chanel Accent but is much less shimmery.  This is perfect for day and looks seamless on.

My Diffused Heat is predominantly a orange-red with yellow accents, but actually pulls quite a strawberry pink on me.  It has warm golden undertones, again no shimmer but a beautiful sheen.  This is the easiest to overdo-the first time I used it I definitely overdid it as it's really pigmented!  It's very pretty though and easy to wear.

My Dim Infusion is the least pigmented of the five and has an even distribution of the orange and yellow tones.  The result is a subdued peach flush which is extremely easy to wear.  This was the poorest in wear time and I would be wary of buying this if you are darker than about an NC/NW25 skintone as the colour payoff may be poor.  For me though, I really like it on my skintone.

My Radiant Magenta is fuchsia pink laced with coral and the most pigmented on the five.  I really like the way it perks up my skin although I think it would look better with a tan!

So what do you think?  Have you bought or have your eye on any of them?


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Current skincare-am and pm routine!

Over the Christmas period (which seems a lifetime ago to be honest!) my skin was really suffering and bad skin always affects my self confidence.  I made a few tweaks to my skincare routine and touch wood, it has been the best behaving it has in a long time.

I am no skincare expert but here are my current am and pm routines.  For the record I have combination skin and my skin concerns are cystic acne spots every now and again, mainly around my chin and jawline (had none since the first week of January though touch wood again), enlarged pores and the odd small whitehead and blackhead.

I have learnt so much about skincare since I have been blogging and it is a real passion and interest for me now.

In the morning I start by massaging the MD Formulations Facial Cleanser into my dry skin.  Initially I was using this as my second cleanse in the evenings and it just wasn't fitting into my routine well so I switched it to my morning cleanse and now I love it.  It's a light, white lotion containing glycolic acid so it sometimes tingles when I apply it to my skin.  I feel like it's just a nice light cleanse for the morning and washes off easily without needing a flannel.  Despite the name it does not exfoliate manually i.e there are no grains in the lotion.  MD Formulations will soon be leaving the UK so stock up now if you're interested!

I then spritz my skin with Serozinc which is a Zinc Sulfate solution in an aerosol.  It provides a good antibacterial base for the rest of your skincare.  This is the second or third tin of Serozinc I have used and I have to say I am not enjoying it as much as I first did.  But it is good.  And it's cheap (I purchased mine from an online french pharmacy).  Am looking forward to trying a new hydrating toner when I use this up.

I then apply my eye cream and I am currently using the Laura Mercier Flawless Skin Tone Perfecting Eye Gel Creme.  I have to say I am not very impressed with this-the texture is very silicone based and it actually feels like you're putting vaseline under your eyes.

It does feel quite soothing and it dries quickly but I would not repurchase this.  It claims to brighten and depuff, improve tone and texture.  However I haven't felt like I have seen any benefit from using it.

I have then been using this Perricone MD duo.  They are hideously expensive and my experience with them hasn't been plain sailing.  In fact I stopped and then re-started using them three times before I worked out it wasn't them causing the breakouts I was having (It was, it seems the Kate Somerville Goat Milk cream).

Perricone MD Blue Plasma is a non acidic daily peel.  You put 3-4 drops from the pipette into your palms and then press it onto your skin.   It dries almost immediately and has a slightly tacky finish.  It claims to resurface the skin without causing redness or irritation.  It removes dead skin cells and adds moisture to the skin.  The end result is soft and smooth skin, reduced pore size and diminished wrinkles.  My experience is that it does indeed leave your skin very soft and does not irritate the skin.  I have been using it for about 10 weeks now but I haven't seen a noticeable reduction in pore size (a big concern for me).

Cold Plasma is complimentary to Blue Plasma and is applied after applying the Blue Plasma.  It's a light gel/serum that absorbs easily and quickly and claims to tackle the 10 most visible signs of aging.  I found the more I used, the more my skin liked it.  A more is more approach.  I would love to buy this for my mum and get her into a proper skincare routine and see if she likes it.  I have felt my skin has been more radiant since using the cold plasma but not enough to make me want to repurchase it right now.  I am 33 and so aging is becoming a concern but not enough to justify the price of this, as after 10 weeks I am now on the last dregs of the jar.

Finally, before I apply my make up I apply a thin layer of this light moisturiser.  My skin does not like heavy moisturisers at all, hence why I don't use one in the evening.  It really does like this light fluid from Caudalie and I would definitely repurchase this moisturiser.  It doesn't give a very matte base but it absorbs instantly meaning you can get to work on your make up.

In the evening I take a little more time over my routine, although in total it doesn't take me more than 5 minutes.  I remove my eye make up first, usually with the Garnier Soothing 2 in 1 make up remover-it's cheap and effective and I get my mum to bring it for me from the UK or bulk buy when I come home.

I then use the Clarins Pure Melt Cleansing Gel to remove my make up.  I wear make up every day (unless I am literally dying with illness) and so I want to ensure I really thoroughly remove it at the end of the day.  I have been using a lot of balm cleansers in the past six months-like Emma Hardie, Elemis, Clinique Take The Day Off etc so this was a bit of a departure for me.  But it is amazing.  It's a peachy scented gel that you apply to dry skin and then emulsify with water.  It's really easy to spread over your face and doesn't have that 'I'm spreading thick honey all over my face' feeling you get when you apply something like Emma Hardie.  I rinse my face and then finally remove any excess with a damp flannel.  This is important otherwise I can feel like I have a film on my face.  It feels very gentle and can be used around the eyes and leaves skin feeling clean and soft.  I have already purchased another one.

As my second cleanse I am using the Zelens Radiance Luminous Facial Cleanser.  To be honest I am just using this up and haven't been terribly impressed with it.  There is nothing offensive about it, it just hasn't blown my socks off considering it costs about the same as gold!!

Again I massage it into dry skin and then rinse and flannel off.

For my second cleanse in the evening I normally look for a cleanser with skincare benefits (usually for me with an AHA) but I would say this Zelens cleanser is a basic cleanser at best and I wouldn't repurchase.

Double cleansing is something I have been doing for about a year now after reading a lot of posts on Caroline Hirons blog and I have noticed a real difference in the clarity of my skin.  Using a flannel has also been an absolute game changer for me in my skincare routine-so cheap, so simple and so effective.  I literally own like a million now!

I then apply my eye cream-I am currently using the Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye.  This is an excellent eye cream, it's nourishing whilst being very lightweight, I have seen a visible difference in fine lines and dark circles and I would definitely repurchase.  It absorbs really quickly as well.

I then move on to my double tone regime.  I am currently using the Biologique Recherche P50W toner as my exfoliating toner which I apply first, sweeping it over my skin with a cotton pad.  P50W is the mildest of the P50 formulas and something I wouldn't buy again.  I like the tingle of an exfoliating toner-the AHA's bursting into action on your skin.  Again this is crazy expensive and I do not think it any better than the much cheaper La Roche Posay exfoliating toner or the Michael Todd AHA Lemon toner.  But I do love a good exfoliating toner-they exfoliate your skin by removing the top layers to reveal new shiny skin underneath.  They add radiance.  They fade old scars.  They give you baby soft skin.  They kick start your skin into renewing itself.

I then spray with Serozinc as my hydrating toner step.  As I mentioned above I am not enjoying this toner as much as I have previously and am looking forward to trying something new when this runs out.  But my skin does seem to like this combination and has been largely blemish free since the start of 2014.

You can read about the benefits of double toning from my post here.

As I mentioned earlier, I do not use a night cream in the evening but I do use a serum or an oil.  Currently I am using the La Roche Posay Effaclar Serum and the Clarins Lotus Face Treatment Oil on alternate evenings.

With both of these products I apply 3-4 drops from the pipette into my fingertips and then press the product into my skin before lightly massaging.

The La Roche Posay Effaclar serum is a fairly viscous but non oily serum that smells slightly clinical.  Again this contains 2 AHA's-a glycolic compound and LHA and states it refines pores, smooths wrinkles and boosts radiance.

I've found that this serum in particular seems to stop upcoming spots in their tracks and has been good for fading acne scars.  My skin also feels so soft after using it.

The Clarins Lotus Face Treatment Oil is an incredible recent discovery and I recently wrote a full review on it here.  It is slightly heavier than the oil I was using before this one (the Kiehls Midnight Recovery) and I was worried when I first started using it I was heading for breakout city.  But my skin was so bad I was desperate and this seemed to get rave reviews.  And from the very first usage it was love.  I don't know how it does it but this oil absorbs oil.  Seriously it actually regulates and controls oil.  When I wake up the next morning my skin is less oily and less shiny.  I don't get it but I like it!  It smells heavenly as most Clarins products do.  I use 4 drops pressed into my skin and then leave it to do its thing.  This oil is specifically for oily and combination skin and contains rosewood, geranium and lotus extract.

The only problem I have at the moment is that some of these products are now on their last dregs-the Clarins and MD Forumlations cleanser, Serozinc, the Cold Plasma and the Caudalie moisturiser will all be in my Feb empties.  Thing is, I love trying new things so my routine will still be shaken up again!

Oh and one thing I did forget to mention, and it literally is a holy grail product for me is Alpha H Liquid Gold-which I reviewed here and is one of my all time most viewed posts.  I always have a bottle of Liquid Gold in my bathroom and use it whenever my skin feels like it's going to break out.  It's a little miracle worker and I strongly recommend it for anyone with problem skin.   You can see my before and after pictures in the post I have linked in.

Do you use any of these products in your routine? 


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

New daily makeup additions

So recently I said goodbye to Nars Sheer Glow foundation, Illamasqua Masquara and the Shiseido Mascara Base and here's what products I replaced them with.

First up, lets talk foundation.  I purchased the Chanel Perfection Lumière quite a while back when I was in New York.  The packaging is perfect.  The glass bottle has a pump built in (I wish Sheer Glow did) making dispensing the product easy peasy.  The colour is a brilliant match for my skintone.

What I tend to go for in a foundation is a heavier coverage with a matte (ish) finish.  The Chanel sales girl said this would be the best for me.

This foundation is very matte when you apply it-far more matte than Estee Lauder Double Wear or Nars Sheer Glow.  Because of that it can look a bit flat so I have taken to mixing in 1 pump of Mac Strobe liquid before I apply it.

It definitely applies best with a brush-I used the Real Techniques Expert Face brush most of the time.  I find it difficult to blend with my fingers because it dries so fast.  It gives good coverage but still feels lightweight on the skin.  It is long lasting but I do need to powder the foundation a couple of times a day to blot down shine, the matte effect doesn't seem to last on me.  However that may be down to the primer I am using as that is a 'radiance giving' primer.  It's an ok foundation but I am not loving it and this isn't my holy grail foundation.

I really really liked the Illamasqua Masquara (far more than I expected to to be honest) and had high hopes for the Guerlain Noir Couture as it's replacement.

The packaging is lovely-quite a heavy black and silver tube-very sleek looking.

The mascara has a 'three ball' brush allowing you to use the wand horizontally and vertically.  To be honest I don't see any benefit from the brush shape over a normal wand.

The formula is creamy and not overly wet, but a lot of product gathers on the end 'ball' tip so you need to wipe that away.  The mascara claims to offer 4 benefits-intense volume, strong curl, infinite length and complete lash care with the patented 'Lash Booster Expert Complex'.  Again, I don't feel this mascara lives up to those claims.  I get a little bit of length and it is very good at separation but my lashes look thin and spiky with this mascara on.  I also don't get the 'intense black lashes' look that I like as it doesn't volumise very well.  I'm disappointed.  Whilst I haven't really experienced significant smudging or flaking with the mascara, it definitely seems to 'fade away' during the day, leaving your lashes feeling a bit naked.

I thought maybe adding a mascara primer might help so whipped out my Diorshow Maximizer.

I was unimpressed with the formula of the Shiseido version-I didn't feel it deposited much product onto the lashes or gave much extra 'oomph' to my mascara.

And straight off the bat I am going to say that I feel the same about this Dior version.

The plastic brush is quite long and is quite stiff and inflexible.  Nevertheless I can definitely 'see' this primer on my lashes because it is white.  But the formula is quite thin and I don't see that plumped up effect I saw when I used the Mac Prep and Prime mascara base.  The Mac primer literally doubled the thickness of my lashes.  The Mac Prep and Prime base was a thicker consistency though, the Dior one feels feather light on the lashes.

The reviews are so good of this primer so I am going to stick with it and maybe trying adding a bit more each time I use it.  And also try it with another mascara.

Not glowing reviews of any of the products I am afraid but these are my initial impressions after using them daily for a couple of weeks now.

Have you tried any of these products?  I would love to know your thoughts.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lip Six!

Here's my last six lip picks

Top row (L) MAC Cremesheen lipstick in Shy Girl (R) Tarte Lipsurgance matte lip tint in Glee

Middle row (L) MAC Amplified lipstick in Cosmo (R) Chanel Rouge Allure Velvet in 317 La Préciuese

Bottom row (L) NARS lipstick in Dolce Vita (R) MAC Satin lipstick in Retro

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Clarins Lotus Face Treatment Oil-The review

My latest love is the Clarins Lotus Face Treatment Oil.

I have oily/combination skin which this oil is specifically designed for and at the start of January my face was literally a place of unhappiness.  I was desperate to find something to get rid of the breakouts round my chin.

I had read really positive reviews about this oil and had a bottle in my skincare stash and decided to see if it lived up to the rave reviews and would help my skin get out of its sorry state.

This oil contains extracts of Rosewood, Geranium and Lotus and smells absolutely incredible-very spa like.  Most Clarins products do!  The Clarins website says this oil will purify, hydrate, tone and balance the skin.

I have been applying 4 drops, dropped from the pipette onto my finger tips and then pressed into my skin before lightly massaging.  From very first use it was love.  The oil feels slightly heavier and more luxurious than the oil I had been using before this (Kiehls Midnight Concentrate) and I was a bit concerned it might overload my skin.  I know it can feel like a weird concept-put more oil on my already oily skin?  Initially my skin did look oily on application but after a couple of hours I looked in the mirror and my skin looked almost matte.  My skin had literally drunk it up. An oil that absorbs oil?   The next morning my skin was definitely less glowy (in a good way) than normal and since then I have been using it every other day as my final step in my skincare routine.

My skin has been clear and hydrated since I have been using this oil.  I have been using it for 6 weeks now and look how little I have used from the bottle.  I think this is going to be pretty much a permanent fixture in my skincare routine.

I purchased mine from Bloomingdales in Dubai Mall.  You get a massive 50ml for about £30 and I would highly recommend this for anyone suffering from congested and oily skin.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Charlotte Tilbury Cheek To Chic, Swish and Pop Blusher in Love Glow

Swatches in direct sunlight

Swatches in the shade

In the spirit of Valentines weekend, 'Cheek to Chic, Swish and Pop' blushers in 'Love Glow'is featuring on my blog today.

The blush is a very lightweight and slim circular compact with a large mirror.  Each blush in the range has 2 complimentary shades-the outer 'swish' colour to apply all over the cheekbone and the inner 'pop' colour to highlight the centre of the cheek.  Application of this method is a little tricky given the layout of the blush, it's difficult to avoid picking up the centre colour when you're trying to 'swish' so in the end I just end up swirling my brush around the whole pan to pick up both colours. 

Love Glow is far more shimmery than I expected it to be and the two colours together remind me of a pinker toned version of Nars 'Super Orgasm' blush.  It's incredibly pigmented and you only need the lightest touch.  The powder is very finely milled and silky, almost creamy.  I applied it using a Mac 168 large contour blush.

I think this blusher is too shimmery for me personally to use in the daytime but could be pretty in the evening.

Have you tried any of the Charlotte Tilbury products?  I have also reviewed her Uptown Girl palette, Dolce Vita palette and 5 of her K.I.S.S.I.N.G lipsticks so far.

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