Thursday, 23 December 2010

Makeup must-haves for a Christmas break

Although my plan to jet off to some far away clime has been dashed by Heathrow's weather woes, I will be going away (ahem to North of UK) and as always the thought of packing is besieged by the panic of - what makeup to take?!

This year has been easier than ever though, I have my instant faves. Trish McEvoy has always been my fail-safe route, the compact and neat design system is a natural choice for travel. I recently reviewed the new Classic Brush set, and it is adorable and wonderful - an absolute pleasure to use. The brush set takes the decision making out of my hands, all I need is that and my trusty MAC 187 and I'm ready for Stage 2.

The gorgeous Trish McEvoy tiny eyeshadow "Emergency Card" was bought precisely for me to be able to think "Panic over, I've got my Emergency Card!" - I love the way it does justice to the feeling of being overwhelmed when considering what eyeshadows are needed aargh?!

I also absolutely adore my new Louise Young eyeshadow compact, which is all mattes. It seems I will take both. The Louise Young compact has only just gone live on the website and I snapped one up, I knew that it would be impeccable, and it seems it has not disappointed.

Foundation obviously Estee Lauder Double Wear. Blusher will be Bare Escentuals but I cannot decide which shade, they are all so pretty. Probably a pink though, I have been loving the Limited edition Pink Ribbon blusher from the Beyond Gorgeous Set. Side-note, I read (alas too late) that this set was on sale from a website for £18?! I have never bought from the site but it looks good, and right now they currently have a huge £111 set for £34 if that is any consolation.

I am also going to take my magic powder, MAC Perfect Topping (sadly L.E, we await its return one day.)

Lipsticks will be one frosty nude for night (MAC Front Lit, also sadly L.E) and one basic flesh nude, probably MAC Kinda Sexy. I have also just picked up MAC Stone lip liner, which Pixiwoo Nicola suggests makes lips look plumper, so will try that out and report back. I am debating the merits of a bold red lip but right now thinking against the idea.

I will probably take a liner, the Jordana liners are great (sadly not available in UK) but in truth both my eyeshadow palettes have fantastic definer shades in which I can use with my Trish angle brush and get brilliant results. I will probably take my Clarins eyebrow pencil, even though, again, I could use my Louise Young brown shade and the angle brush.
For mascara, although I really quite like the new Collection 2000 Fake Lashes, I will stay true to my Lancome Hypnose. Oh and have you tried the new Accessorize range? I love the Diamond lipglosses, so sparkly and yummy butter smell. I might pop one of those in.

Skincare wise I have just picked up Eucerin Q10, the so-called miracle cream, but although I adore its butter smell (yummy again), I fear it may be the culprit for my current breakout. Very annoying and means I will lean heavily on my reliable Origins Spot Remover to sort it. Also of course I will surreptitiously apply Lancome Effacernes to conceal all, it never lets me down. I set it with MAC Blot powder, or my fast fave, NYC Smooth Skin pressed powder in Translucent.

With my two palettes and my fairly neutral face and lip supplies, I believe I will be able to create a wild variety of looks, from deep purple smoky eye to neutral eye to brown smoky eye or russet smoky eye. And of course nothing less would suffice.

Oh and PS. My makeup bag, immortalised in this video, has been stolen! I left it out for a moment and it was gone. Inside it, aside from what was in the video, I had added in a Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge. However although I really miss the actual bag, and brush, and my Kryolan lipstick will need replacing ASAP, and of course I do feel the irritation of having to collect up a new makeup inventory to cart around, I cant help but feel proud that I deliberately packed it mainly full of samples and nubs.

That is my one fear, losing all these travel goodies - shudder - perish the thought. What are YOUR travel makeup essentials for crimbo??

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Becca Fallen Angel palette: Review

I recently attended a Becca event with my friend Moodeve. It wasn't a PR event but it was invite only, and with its guestlist and its dark interior and champagne and mince pies, plus a DJ at hand, we literally did forget we weren't simply enjoying a drink at a swanky bar! That is greatly to Becca's credit. From what I can tell, Becca's wistful and romantic consistently perfect promo images, combined with a soft selling approach, marks it out from the rest. It's SO refreshing to not be pressurised to buy. There was no pointed "Can I help you!" attack.

In addition there was a manicurist, and some eyelash treatment I believe, though sadly I arrived too late for either (weather was snow and ice so the journey was extra daunting.) We ambled over to the neatly arranged Becca counter where a very friendly makeup artist gently offered a makeover. Moodeve was given a beautiful smoky eye using the eye palette, minky brown and grey with a touch of purple. I caught sight of the Fallen Angel palette and was instantly struck by the apricot shades. Wearing peach blusher is relatively new to me, I'd spent years sticking to pinks. I just find peach is more natural and better with a bold eye. I bought it for the special evening discounted price of £29.50. It is usually £35.

It was only at home that I realised the amount you get it rather paltry - a Becca cream blusher is 3g for £22, and these circles are 1.3g each. So in effect you are getting £28.60 worth of product for £35. You do get a lovely compact and a little brush, but I'd have preferred no brush and more product. I have already made a dent in my palette so I doubt it will last more than a few months at best. Still, cream products are best finished quickly.

Nectar is a pure tawny coral, lasts about 3-4 hours and fades (however this is usual with cream blush on my skin so not a surprise. Lasts an hour at best on lips. Very flattering shade though when freshly applied.)

Sunrise is a more orange coral but very sheer and high shine. Appealing vanilla scent and not too sticky. However must be packed on to get brilliant gloss. Lasts longer on lips than Nectar does, and feels very moisturising.

Narcissus is the trump card for me. This tawny gold has the exact same excellent consistency of NARS Copocabana multiple, it feels creamy but dries almost to a powder, yet looks uber glossy. This looks just like real, gleaming skin. Lasts fairly well (5-6 hours) and can be extended by a light dusting of powder. I have been using a goody bag present, the Becca Loose Shimmer Powder, in Princess, which is almost a blusher shade on me but works ideally with Narcissus.

Please watch my video review here for a closer look.

Overall grade 7/10
-- Because I love the shades and on its own cream product terms, they work great. Best for: a quick pick-me-up.

Becca Fallen Angel palette, limited edition, £35

[picture above taken from Becca website]

Monday, 13 December 2010

Generic Geriatric

Getting old is now out of style. Wrinkles are shunned more than ever, and procedures which mimic (yet never quite convince) continue to feign plump dewy skin. More worrying still, perhaps the most distressing aspect of plastic surgery: the trend to efface individuality, ethnicity, and in short, personality.

I have nothing against plastic surgery per se; I knew a friend who grew up so tormented by her (how can I put this delicately) huge banana nose, that she would pretend to have a perpetual cold - a handkerchief functioning as a permanent shield. At 16 she had a nose job, and now is confident and walks with her head held high. Who could condemn such an outcome?

Recently I was watching an interview on TV with Bette Midler and I saw elements of Kylie Minogue. The two look nothing alike naturally, but evidently some generalsing ingredient is at work. Spot the difference:

Clearly as a laudable result of the triumph of feminism combined with general modern ideology, women are no longer expected to hang their boots at 30. Instead, wearing tight leather and indeed thigh high boots is probably now becoming the domain of the over 30s proving they still are desirable - if anything more desirable, they try to insist. Marketing campaigns to appeal to women with cash to spare (professional women or bored housewives - no matter) are encouraged by visions of Sex and the City, or Sharon Stone and Andie McDowell fronting skincare adverts; Kate Moss, Charlize Theron fronting perfume adverts. Gone is the option to resign yourself to fate and nature's cruel finality. If attractiveness has been intrinsically linked to fertility and youth, then fake that and carry on as you were. Of course nature is still a powerful Titan, but science conquers all.

Hacking and stretching and plumping their way towards perfection, we are deluged with celebrities who all blend into each other, particularly as they age. And character-full noses or features which betray too much ethnicity, are ebbed away to present an apparition of Beauty.

In modern times where ostensibly there is an acceptance for global beauty, it appears that the reality is that what we really have come to accept is the perfect mix - caramel skin, westernised features. Too much divergence risks their universal appraisal.

Of course there is a timeless and borderless appreciation for beauty, which has been broadly summarised as long limbs, even features: in short, the mathematical inherent nature of beauty as a calming vision. But ageing has historically been a time for beauty to mellow and be replaced by sober dignity, untempered by the pressures of being attractive. Yet now women expect themselves to remould their beauty and re-instate their youth by force.

- This is a good thing! Our lifespans are longer, therefore by default the stretch of time we feel inclined to be fertile/attractive is accordingly extended. Of course only a bigot would return to the days in which a 40 year old single lady could only be described as a hopeless spinster, and dictate that women should know their place, etc. Nevertheless, the trend for plastic surgery which gives women a mask, is horrifying too. Men in the public eye also succumb to plastic surgery, but women have makeup tricks to easily soften and enhance their surgeon's work, which arguably gives them a dangerous carte blanche.

Unfortunately, big noses and big lips seem to go hand in hand if left to nature...

Noses must be straight, denying its atavistic qualities, and of course hair smooth and preferably lightened....

Skin must be taut, put cheekbones or lip enhancements in for any softness though... And (optional but advised) at this stage, best get a toy-boy to complete the effect.

And if your features are not the ideal man's woman, just shape them until they are...

I actually really miss Jordan's old nose, it was much more elegant. She was so much better before. Oh dear at what she has become...

(Couldn't do a piece on plastic surgery without this one, ouch it hurts to look at that wince. Poor thing.)

And those who believe surgery enables them to distil the best parts of their beauty...

Kim Kardashian used to look like her sister, now she looks like her mum (mystery... ahem)

*Disclaimer: I have no medical training and all opinion is subjective.

All photos from Google.

...What are your thoughts?

Friday, 3 December 2010

A Brand: new make up identity

I want to briefly talk about the importance of branding, again. A product is a faceless void until it is named, defined and marketed. On the other hand, if a product is under-defined yet still dazzling, it won't take long before word gets out and it is defined and marketed for them, in effect, by make-up artists and consumers who leak it via the network of blogs and forums.

The first "Brand film" Illamasqua commissioned supposedly shed light on their roots. In truth, it left me more confused than before - I always knew there was some manufacturing link between the wonderful Kryolan, and Illamasqua - yet this film implied they were one and the same... hmm, Kryolan lipstick £6; Illamasqua £15? And although I appreciated the film's potted history, I didn't like the way it glamorised smoking, which I think in this day and age should never be allowed. However I have just seen their new film titled "Vicky & Vic" which is a rather more light-hearted way of explaining what they mean by an 'alter ego'. Vicky McClure looks equally fantastic as a blonde or with jet black hair, and is a very charismatic actress for the company to have. Illamasqua have steadily crafted a real brand image and know their target.

On the other hand, Sleek makeUP was apparently initially devised for dark skinned makeup fiends to have a high street specialised option. Indeed, there was a huge gap in the market. Soon enough though, the blog world learned about these cheap and highly pigmented options, and Sleek was seized upon by all. To commemorate their newly acquired 20,000 "likes" on Facebook, Sleek tantalised their fans with promises of a huge "50% off Bonanza". They had a daily countdown, then proceeded to admit they had forgotten their offer, and got the day wrong, and generally gave a very, ahem, shall we say "human" face to the brand.
Riddled with errors, and inundated with angry and confused comments on their Facebook wall, the whole offer culminated in the code not even working. Knowing (since such was the cause of the offer, afterall) that they had so many eager fans, it seemed ludicrous that the website crashed and was unresponsive - and then, when it finally did 'work', as soon as the code went in, the basket was emptied. Only the most dogged customers stood a chance of getting their order by sheer force of luck and determination. As for myself, after 2 hours of filling and re-filling my cart, I gave up and simply emailed the company my list and asked them to process it from there. My email was ignored and today after a couple of weeks grace, I phoned. It seems my order will not be honoured, and Sleek are blaming SagePay for the fiasco. I have been told that there will be another sale soon, however when I asked them if it would only benefit those who could persevere all day long with a dodgy website, I was given no guarantee that anything had changed. All this means is that their fantastic and kind gesture to reward their staunchest fans, has simply antagonised many.

What is the best way to invest in your fan base? Offers that are not manifested are surely best avoided altogether. It seems that Illamasqua's level headed way of ploughing their prizes into creative contests is a far more effective approach. However for people who love makeup but make no pretence at being a makeup artist, this is not a universal reward. I think when a brand recognises a loyal customer, it should be like going to a coffee shop or hairdresser, you amass tokens which can ultimately be traded in for a freebie. MAC has realised this and has its 6 empties "recycling" programme. Whether this is mainly for recycling or for customer retention is a moot point but the result is the same: people like to be valued, and people love freebies and discounts. If you are going to create a following for a new makeup range, it must be managed well and appeal to all. Concentrating too hard on creative flamboyance risks alienating neutral makeup fans, and promising too much to all merely risks disappointing many.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Best Blowdry of my Life!

Yes folks, I have had plenty of blowdrys in my time, yet never has a hairdresser given me instant 1940s movie star glamour. It is almost always dried to poker-straight, glossy perfection, or occasionally flicked outwards, but always very polished and tame. This time, thanks to Esther from Tommy's (salons in Wales, unluckily for me!) I have been treated to a bouncy, voluminous head of hair and have felt like a 1940s starlet, and it took a hairdresser to make me realise that poker straight salon hair "doesn't suit your personality" - How did she know? I didn't even realise it myself until now! Judging from their website pictures, the same eye for detail and expert knowledge has enriched their salons. Esther and her husband Tommy are so friendly, and most definitely have a passion for hair: instantly knowing exactly what it needs. Perhaps this explains why the eponymous Tommy Van der Veken has been chosen to partner with Schwarzkopf and help represent the new release, Essensity.

Essensity is gorgeously packaged, it looks expensive and refreshing, in fact it reminds me of an aloe vera leaf or a cucumber. As the colour suggests, this is a natural, yet unremittingly professional, range. Although a multitude of products were used on my hair, it looked shiny yet very light. And even now, a couple of days later, it looks pumped up and brilliant. Usually despite my most valiant efforts to cling on to a blowdry for days on end, by the very next day the serums and texture creams have wrecked havoc, and what was once glossy and tousled transmutes into a greasy gunky lank horror.

The fact that my hair still feels light and has retained its shape must be testament to the range used, "Volume". I have been given Volume Shampoo, Volume Conditioner, Volumising Cream, Texturising Mud, and Natural Shine Serum. All are priced reasonably for a professional range, around the £10 mark. I shall report back on my findings, once the dreaded day comes when I must wash out this beautiful blow dry and attempt to recreate it for myself.....

P.S. If you live in the Wales area, Tommy's salon have a Blow Dry Lounge where a blow dry costs from as little as £10!
Call Chester 01244 315 515 or Ruthin 01824 709 977 to find out more.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Thanksgiving voucher from SkinCareRx

Well sadly Thanksgiving isn't celebrated here, I love turkey and used to really enjoy my American host serving me turkey with cranberry sauce... Oh well maybe some day it will catch on, like Halloween slowly has. And maybe one day we will also get these "Cyber Monday" and "Black Friday" deals. At this point, I can only sigh with envy. However our kind friends at SkinCareRx have organised a very generous 25% off code. Just type in the Friends and Family Coupon* Code: FF25
*Excludes some brands. Expires Dec. 1, 2010.

Now is the perfect time to get some specialist skincare organised. I have recently been using the 100% Pure Pineapple enzyme mask, and the MD Forte Glycare II, and I am hoping for dramatic results! I also received a mini sample with my order, M2 Skin Refinish 20%, and I love that too, truly excellent products. For a more gentle option for sensitive skins, La Roche-Posay have solutions for most ailments. SkinCareRx have a very impressive and varied range of brands, most of which are only otherwise available in specialised salons.

Check out the website now to see the current deals available, and be sure to see the Apothica and SkinCareRx Facebook pages for tons of prizes they'll be giving out! Looks like fun!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Princess Makeup etiquette

Kate Middleton is finally headline news for all the right reasons. Following on from my last post where I wrote about diamonds, I may as well put in a gratuitous picture of her engagement ring (which poignantly was the one worn by the late Princess Diana.)

Kate Middleton is a "commoner" with no blue blood at all and, at nearly 29, the oldest ever woman to become engaged to a Prince of England. These two facts make her very approachable for the masses. She is just one of us. And at first I bitterly thought, the least Royals should have to do is marry for allegiances, they shouldn't be allowed the privilege of marrying for love! But now it seems clear, that if the looming wedding is going to dilute the angry atmosphere created by cuts and more cuts, then the only way it would, is if the bride to be were "our face". And no one has perfected the girl next door pretty like Kate has.

Instead of a lot of makeup, Kate favours glossy hair in a natural tone, and minimal foundation, hardly any blusher or lipstick, but usually has eyeliner all around the eyes. I wonder if a very made up princess would even be socially acceptable in fact. Dark smokey eyes would probably be completely out of the question. Shame really as I think Kate Middleton looks older than her years, and a bright dose of blusher and perhaps a little blue eyshadow instead of the pencil liner would lend her a more youthful spirit.

Check out Kate Midleton's makeup faces below...

 fun night out makeup during her brief split from Prince William, the makeup is more dramatic
 off duty and on duty, the makeup is equally minimal

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Beauty in Jewellery: Diamonds are a girl’s best friend

Jewellery can equally be seen as fashion, adornment, a way to denote status and wealth, personal beliefs, or to mark cultural events. Recent theorists have argued that humanity has always been conscious of the body and adornment, and speculate that even in prehistoric times, body painting and jewellery, in the form of stones, shells, teeth and feathers, were used to beautify – or possibly to ward off evil, or otherwise as a mark of social rank. Even animals have been seen to use feathers and bright materials to decorate their surroundings. Beautiful materials, notably precious metals and stones, have been an intrinsic part of humanity since the dawn of time. And nothing has come closer to embodying this lust for status and beauty, than the diamond.

The earliest citation of diamonds is in the 'Arthasastra' (“The Lesson of Profit”) a Sanskrit manuscript. During this period, (320-296 BCE) rough diamonds were often kept and regarded as talismans, though sometimes natural diamonds were placed in rings. Alexander the Great is heralded as the first person to import diamonds to Europe (327 BCE). An enduring tradition began when Maximilian, Archduke of Austria, presented Mary of Burgundy with a diamond ring to mark their engagement.

Resisting corrosion, diamonds stood for the fortitude of a lifelong partnership. The engagement ring had existed since Roman times, but had previously been a simple iron band. The 5th Century Roman writer Macrobius records that this ring was worn on the fourth finger as it was believed that the vein there flowed directly to one’s heart.

And it was of course in 1948 that a copywriter at the N.W. Ayer Advertising Agency created the unforgettable slogan, "A Diamond is Forever", which has since come to define diamonds generally, and cement the modern notion that diamonds signify the ultimate and most serious of gifts.

 Hollywood films promote the glamour of diamonds. 

Initially, jewellery was ritualised, worn to protect the wearer and buried with them as precious aids to carry into the afterlife. Steadily, jewellery became prized for its own sake. Within medieval times, jewellery was worn to celebrate Christian themes, but also to boldly advertise the wearer’s social rank. The jewellery still retained its protective and magical power, and was made up of precious gemstones which were polished not cut, and precious metals painted with enamel, as colour was the most important element. 

By Elizabethan times, engraving and enamel became more complex, and began to incorporate portraiture as a mark of individuality. Precious stones were believed to have healing powers, and were tailored to the wearer’s needs. Garnet for instance was thought to strengthen the heart. As international trade increased, the availability of gemstones was greater and cutting techniques improved, to ensure gems sparkled even in dim lighting. Diamonds sparkled more than ever before and inevitably came to dominate jewellery designs by the late-1700s. 

Diamonds were celebrated in many 19th Century pieces, as jewellery took its cue away from the industrial revolution, which showed an increase in urban life, and instead looked to the past: to romantic notions of purity, floral designs or classical inspired motifs. Perhaps spurred on by the sudden archaeological finds of the time, there was a trend for jewellery modelled on ancient styles. As the century progressed, jewellery became more mainstream and less elitist as the Middle Class was born. From 1850 machine made jewellery became common, and although not mass produced, it heralded the future of jewellery. This in turn caused its own reaction, as artistic purists rejected the trend for machine made pieces, and instead crafted individual creations with deliberately hand assembled stones.

The fusion of art and materials came to a head with the Art Nouveau movement, where colour and design were favoured above the ostentation of dazzling precious stones. Glass and enamel were used in conjunction with precious diamonds and gold, causing a radical shift in the way jewellery was appreciated. Art Deco design built on this, with styles becoming even more modern, with daring angular shapes and witty juxtaposition of gemstones.

Nowadays there are many modern techniques, using new man-made materials, but the attraction to the diamond has never been muted and shows no sign of abating. Whether flaunted by rappers and actresses at Red Carpet events, or worn by the masses within a small engagement ring, the diamond has proven to be a timeless and endlessly desirable stone.

Picture credits: 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes', 20th Century Fox 1953; 'Diamonds are Forever', United Artists 1971; Engagement ring by Abazias.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


I have always been partial to a metallic eye look, so it was rather inevitable that I would fall for these. But the absolute best thing about them, is that as soon as I put this on I think: "Oh I don't need much makeup today."  You see, I put this on before foundation, to avoid fallout, and the bright rush of colour just brings all focus to the eyes and makes the skin look luminous too somehow. What an amazing ability!

Every time I wear these I get compliments. (for reference, I was wearing the gold "Glisten" in this video.) So I have two shades in particular that are my favourites - they manage to be sultry, yet modern. Sultry almost inevitably harks back to 1940s or 1960s etc... Not anymore! Step forward the new, modern metallic instant smokey eye. Unfortunately these shadaws do not come out until December, but it's worth the wait. And they are from a rather unlikely source... Introducing, Bare Minerals High Shine Eyecolour.


In order: Bronzed, Frost, Glisten and Spotlight. Below, Bronzed (with a darkened crease) and Frost (worn alone.)


Yes Bare Escentuals, famed for their natural shades in small sifter jars, have for the first time brought out eyeshadows that are dramatic, metallic, and not loose in pot form. In neat tubes with a soft sponge tip applicator, they take minimal effort, are very gentle on the eye area (no dragging at all) and you need hardly touch your lids to get the full power of these high shine colours. It looks like a foiled eyeshadow or a carefully applied pigment, and some of the shades are so complex that the way the light hits them makes the colour alternate beautifully. My favourites, "Glisten" and "Spotlight", are examples of this. Glisten is an iced gold, beautiful on any skintone and perfect for everyday wear. Spotlight is an antiqued greenish gold that is so enchanting, flashing green and gold and almost taupe when worn as a blended everyday eyeshadow. Indeed all I did was apply the colour using the sponge tip, then take a blending brush and blur the edges. One step instant smokey metallic eyes, though it looked like I had spent a long time perfecting! Effortless elegance, and all the colours look fantastic with black lashes and liner for ultimate high shine with impact.

Available in 6 shades. there is also a warm toned copper, called 'Bronzed', which equally can be worn as a daytime shade, and will look the best on blue eyes. The Silver shade, 'Frost' is a bright silver, very intense and especially ideal for night time looks. There is also a metallic teal, 'Electric', and a deep plum shade, 'Moonshine', and they too look like must-haves judging from the promotional images!

Priced at £14 and containing 1.5g, these are an excellent buy - they're certainly in a different league to your standard eyeshadow - only the lightest tap is needed for full-on colour. I highly recommend these and each tube is sure to last a long time. In terms of wear, I wore them over Two Faced Shadow Insurance and they held up all day and into the night. Be sure to check them out, hopefully they are not Limited edition (will find out and update), as these are extremely different to anything else the brand has, and a brilliant contrast.

Bare Escentuals will also have wonderul gift sets available from November. I tried the 9-piece Beyond Gorgeous set (£45) and you can see my review on that, as well as a recap of the eyeshadows review, over here. Bare Escentuals make the best blushers, and the one in that set, "Pink Ribbon," is a winner in itself.

Available from Nov/Dec 2010 from selected counters and all Bare Escentuals Boutiques.

Bare Escentuals website