Friday, 28 February 2014

February Favourites

Gosh, another month gone already? I know February's the short one but it seems to have just flown by! Thankfully that means spring is getting that wee bit closer (yippee!) but until it lands here are a few of my favourite things from the last four weeks.

My skin is having a little mini freak out at the moment. It's dehydrated, irritated and dear lord the blemishes! Fortunately I rediscovered an old favourite in the Clinique Anti Blemish Solutions Clear Blemish Gel and put it straight back into service to try and tackle the worst eruptions. Applied at night it forms a little seal over the spot, dries it up and draws all the yucky stuff out (gross) so irritation is calmed and the spot heals quicker. I have to admit it stings a bit and can leave a bit of a dry patch while it's doing its thing but it most definitely helps, especially when teamed with tea tree oil.

Something else saving my skin at the moment, or at least the foundation on it, is Soap & Glory's One Heck of a Blot. My office has horrible air quality when it's busy which dries my skin out, and it in turn retaliates by becoming oily so that by the afternoon I've got more than my fair share of forehead "glow" going on. However, gently dabbing this across it restores my preferred matte look without emphasising either my pores or my expression lines. It's my first foray into S&G makeup but I doubt it'll be my last.

Now that my hair is shorter it seems to look dirtier quicker than when I had epic lengths to hide the third day grit but washing too often leaves it dull and dry so I've been dipping my toe in the world of dry shampoos. I hate the smell of pretty much all the Batiste offerings and the Superdrug one I tried was totally ineffective but having seen the hype for Dove Style+Care Dry Shampoo I figured it was worth a try, and I'm happy to report that the hype was well deserved. It feels like it actually cleans rather than just masking the mucky bits, it doesn't leave white residue all over my black hair (not a good look) and it smells fresh but not overpowering. It even adds a nice dose of volume. Lovely!

On a totally random note one of my favourite finds this month is a simple anti-perspirant. One of my pet peeves is how difficult it is to find a truly fragrance free spray to keep me feeling fresh - many claim to be but there's always a hint of something lurking in there! I love the perfumes I wear so I don't want my deodorant interfering with them and fortunately this Sure Pure Protection genuinely doesn't have any scent whatsoever. Nor does it have any alcohol, parabens or colourants. Plus it's genuinely effective and the dinky compressed version is perfectly handbag sized for top ups on a long day. Sometimes it's the simple things in life, dontcha think?

My final favourite isn't a product as such but I've been enjoying it so much I had to share. I've been using Trilogy Organic Rosehip Oil every night for the last couple of months but recently I've started taking the time to do a good five minutes of facial massage rather than just slapping it on. The idea is to help with drainage to try and stop those pesky groups of spots forming in the lower areas of the face. I think it actually does help because despite my skin's little hissy fit recently my chin and most of my jawline, usually prime blemish real estate, have remained reasonably clear. It's also really relaxing so it's the perfect little extra step to help me chill out before bedtime.

February is traditionally miserable but what's been making your month that little bit brighter?

Thursday, 27 February 2014

What's on my nails #9

Firstly, I admit my nails are getting a tad long but I really haven't had time to sit down and do a proper manicure for ages! I don't like them too short but talons make it difficult to type so they will be shorter by next week.

This week I've avoided bright, eye catching colours as I think they can look a little much on very long nails. Instead I've opted for something more toned down, neutral and undeniably pretty, even if I do say so myself. Plus this manicure reminds me a lot of how my wedding nails looked so it feels sort of romantic nostalgic for me too.

After base coat I applied two coats of Ciaté Amazing Gracie, a beautiful rose-tinted ballet slipper pink. This isn't an opaque polish, more of a nail perfecting tint which would be perfect for a traditional French manicure or a simple barely there manicure. Over that I added one coat of No7 Pearly Pink, which I don't think is available anymore (I inherited my bottle from my mum) but is basically a very sheer pink/gold shimmer. There are plenty of similar polishes around, or you could opt for something with a lilac shimmer for more of a spring pop.

Do you like the understated nail look or are you all about the brights?

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Learning to Love Liner

My eyes are my favourite facial feature and I probably spend proportionately more time making them up than the rest of my face. Although my makeup collection is rather modest by beauty blogger standards I must admit the majority of it is eye based and although I'm always looking for new tips on how to do different looks I'm generally happy with my day to day look. However, there was one product I'd always wanted to master but never seemed to get right - liquid liner. Well, the time has come to woman up and learn!

I have two felt tip liners - the Kiko Ultimate Pen Long Wear Eyeliner, which has quite a fine tip tapering to a very fine point, and the No7 Stay Precise Felt Tip Liner, which is slightly thicker but more tapered. Both are very black and last for ages but I think the Kiko one slightly has the longevity edge. Both are very simple to use with good ink flow and being slim are well suited the liner novice like myself. Like all felt tip liners they're best stored cap down to prevent them drying out.

I'm still no expert but now at least I'm confident I can manage a reasonable line along my lashes. So here are the tips that really helped me get to grips with it:
  • If shaky hands are an issue (they certainly are for me) then try resting your elbow on a hard surface so you're not trying to support the weight of your arm while drawing your line.
  • Don't try and draw your line in one go unless you're super confident. Go from the inner corner to the middle then from the middle to the outer corner so you end up with the thickest part of the line on the outer corner.
  • I often find my lashes, which are quite long, get in the way so I simply hold them out of the way with my other hand leaving a clear canvas to draw on. 
  • If you're not sure where to place a flick then stick a post-it note along the line between the outer corner of your eye and the tip of your brow.  
  • Get yourself on YouTube and check out some tutorials to see exactly how its done. There are loads of good ones out there, including some which will show you the best line to suit your eye shape.
  • As the saying goes, practice makes perfect and that's certainly true here. I got into the habit of trying out my line before I took my makeup off each night for a fortnight and I improved really quickly. Just keep trying tit out and eventually you'll find a way of doing it that works for you.   
Applying liquid liner is definitely a skill but it's not impossible!

Are you a liquid liner expert or a novice like me?

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Lush The Sacred Truth

I've been eyeing Lush up for a while as I was drawn in by the promise of all natural goodness for my skin and finally took the plunge with one of their "so fresh you have to keep it in the fridge" face masks.

Faced (pun fully intended) with an array of interesting looking and smelling pots in the little Lush shop in Southampton I wasn't sure which one to try but the ever-so-helpful lady suggested The Sacred Truth might be a good place to start as I adore exfoliating masks. This one uses enzymes from fresh papaya to dissolve dead skin with added wheatgrass to feed up the skin beneath.

Let's be honest, this looks revolting - not unlike congealed mushy peas - and is one of those masks you can only use when you know no-one is going to be knocking on your door! Fortunately it smells better than it looks. It's not too lumpy to apply and I go for a good thick layer as this only has a fridge life of 3 weeks so it'll only go to waste if I don't use it. It dries on the skin after 10-15mins but isn't uncomfortable and doesn't require lots of scrubbing with a flannel to remove.

I can't quite put my finger on exactly what this does for my skin but it seems to rather like it. It doesn't exfoliate as thoroughly as my favourite REN Glycolatic Radiance Renewal mask but my skin definitely looked brighter and just, well, happier after this mask. Often I'll double up on masks, using one after the other to maximise the benefits, but I didn't want to with this one. I was happy just to round off with the rest of usual routine and go to bed, waking to really quite nice skin the following morning.

As a targeted treatment mask I don't think this would cut the mustard but as a treat once or twice a week it's rather nice. Will I repurchase it when my little pot runs out? Possibly, but then I'm a fickle beast so I'll probably have my eye on something else by then!

Have you tried any of Lush's super fresh face masks?

Friday, 21 February 2014

New Collection Eyeshadow Palette

I admit I am a sucker for eyeshadow palettes but being on a limited budget means I haven't gotten my hands on many of the high end ones we've seen released recently (Naked 3, you will be mine one day!). However, on a recent trip to Superdrug I picked up a new dinky 8 shadow plus highlighter palette from Collection 2000 which is more than enough to satisfy my eyeshadow cravings (for now at least). It's so good, in fact, that I may need to pick up the other three from the range, just to be sure it's not a fluke you understand. I'm talking of course about the Collection Eyeshadow Palettes and I plumped for the purple version.

Each palette comprises 8 dinky shadows, each about the size of a 10p piece, and one highlighter. The shadows are a mix of shimmer and matte and range from light to dark. They're also cleverly numbered with instructions on the reverse of the packaging to make any look you're aiming for as easy as 1-2-3. Although some of the shadows are a little dusty and some have less pigment than others they all give good colour payoff, apply and blend easily and have impressive staying power even without primer.

Purple is ideal for green eyed gals as it makes our eye colour really pop. The colours are a mix of pinks and purples including the most beautiful shimmer rose gold which was an instant favourite of mine. My favourite multi-shadow look is a combination of top left, middle and middle right as the shades seem to blend together the best without overpowering each other too much.

The Collection Eyeshadow Palettes are available in Superdrug for the special offer price of £2.99 (usually £3.99). Given the quality of these shadows I think that's terrific value for money!

Have you tried any of these palettes yet? Which is your favourite?

Thursday, 20 February 2014

What's on my nails #8

I really loved the spotty lilac manicure I did last week - I got so many compliments on it! This week I thought I'd do something similar but I was feeling a little princessy so I had to get some glitter in there. Anyway, its so miserable at the moment (take a look at Monday's flood post) I'm game for anything that might cheer me up!

The base colour is Maybelline Forever Strong in Ceramic Blue (MIA from Boots and Superdrug but freely available on Amazon or eBay). It's a lovely pale grey blue with a "porcelain" finish which dries semi matte or lightly glossy with a top coat. The glitter dots are a mix of Barry M Aqua Glitter and Ciaté Serendipity, which I think was only available with the Mini Mani Month advent calendar. Both are clear bases packed with turquoise and dark pink glitter respectively and required a fairly thick splodge to get decent glitter coverage.

Add a top coat once everything is thoroughly dry et voila - one pretty jewel-esque manicure!

Do you do glitter or would you opt for genuine nail jewels?

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Wet 'n' Wild Weather

Do you remember that Kevin Costner film Waterworld where the whole world was covered with water and people basically lived on ships? Well we're not quite there yet in Hampshire but we're not far off!

You can't fail to have seen on the news how badly southern England has been affected by the relentless rain and storms we've had since before Christmas. I can certainly vouch for the fact that it's rained almost every day and some of the winds we've had have been so strong my poor little car has been blown all over the road. Near where Mr P and I live the New Forest has taken some serious hits with large areas flooding repeatedly and loads of trees coming down meaning closed roads dangerous driving conditions.

 Fortunately Mr P owns a Land Rover Defender (recently dubbed man's answer to Mother Nature's bullsh*t) which he's been using to rescue flooded vehicles, clear roads and generally help the emergency services. I'm going to sing his praises for a sec because he does this without being asked, without being paid and in some of the worst weather conditions purely because he wants to help. With over twenty cars recovered (some of which he managed to restart and get the drivers on their way), half a dozen trees cleared from roads, many stranded people helped and countless drivers redirected it's safe to say I'm seriously proud of him. He even took one couple Christmas shopping 3 days before Christmas after their car was drowned by a thoughtless truck driver.

I'm pretty impressed with the truck too. OK it might not be a sleek looking sports car and yet it's noisy and drinks diesel by the gallon but it's taken everything Mother Nature has thrown at us. It even waded us to safety through 3ft of flood water (that's right up over the headlights!) in complete darkness at 2am when a tree came down behind us blocking our escape on a deserted road. 'Twas very scary let me tell you!

If it's flooded near you then please, please take care if you're driving anywhere. Use a bit of common sense and don't plow your car into water on the road. Take it slowly and carefully and if you're not sure you can make it don't try. Watch out for the wash caused by large vehicles

If you happen to be down our way and get stuck out in the New Forest keep your eye open for a bloke with long blonde hair and a big black 4x4. If he offers you some help, be sure to say thanks 'cos that's my man!    

Sunday, 16 February 2014

4 Steps to Straight Hair

A month ago almost to the day I had a whopping 10 inches cut off my locks, taking me from a hip skimming lady of length to a boob skimming long layered bob. Check out the before and after, complete with the world's worst selfie, here. Do I regret it? Not a bit of it! Honestly, it was the best thing I've done in a long time as now not only can I rock a pony tail without developing a killer headache but it takes literally half the time to wash and style. Hurrah!

So how am I managing with my shorter locks? I have to admit I've never been all that adventurous with my hair - it's almost always been long and way too thick to do anything with other than drag a brush through. Between that and being ridiculously busy at work recently it's meant I haven't had the opportunity to play with it as much as I'd hoped but one thing I have managed to do is truly master straightening it.

Step One: Get Product-ed up!
These are the products I use, starting with pretty damp hair to almost dry:
  • 4-5 pumps of Tresemmé Oil Elixir Colour to soften, nourish and protect my raven colour
  • A little dollop of Tresemmé Texture Style Velvet Cream to separate out the layers and give a slightly piece-y look 
  • A generous helping of Tresemmé Heat Defence Spray to protect from the ravages of my straighteners 
  • Sometimes if I'm going out I'll add a squirt of volumising mousse to really lift my roots, but I haven't found one I'm truly happy with so no recommendations as yet.
Step Two: Rough Dry
I won't straighten my hair unless it's bone dry as if it's at all wet it tends to singe and snap so I flip my hair upside down and blast it with my hair dryer on a medium heat. This helps to add a little volume too, especially if I'm using mousse as well, but also makes me look like I've been dragged through a henge backwards. Mr P thinks it's the funniest thing!

Step Three: Straighten
The key to getting a really slinky poker straight finish for me is to work with small sections and use a comb in combination with my Babyliss Pro Elegance straighteners (I have the navy blue version). I slowly work on each section lifting it up and away from my head slightly to prevent my hair being completely flat. It takes a bit of practice to coordinate running the comb through my hair directly ahead of the irons but this technique gives much better, longer lasting results than using the straighteners alone. Once I've gone through all of one side of my hair I run the straighteners over the whole of each side of my hair to bring it together and iron out any last little kinks.

Step Four: Finishing
The final touch is simply to comb backwards through my hair while it's still warm to stop it falling into my face too much. Depending on what I'm up to I might add a spritz of shine spray or muss up my roots some with a few strategic sprays of Umberto Giannini Backcomb in a Bottle. And that's my everyday straightening routine! On non-washing days a quick run over with my straighteners usually revives my style and gets rid of sleep-induced sticky out bits. 

What's your every day hair routine?

Friday, 14 February 2014

Balm Barmy

It's official, I love a good balm. I must have dozens of lip balms in various tubs, pots tubes and sticks and a good few non-lip offerings too. Here are three of my favourites...

Botanics Super Balm (Boots, £4.99)
This is a bit of does everything product with a host of skin friendly goodies including rosehip, sweet almond and jojoba oils and shea butter. It's also 93% organic, fragrance and paraben free and the little pot is the perfect handbag size. This is great for dry skin patches, especially on the elbows, knees and feet, and makes a super nourishing hand balm although it's a bit greasy for use during the day. I've also used it to protect a cold-ravaged nose (see this post) and a slightly weird tasting lip balm but recently it's been doing its best work on my eyes. My undereyes are incredibly dehydrated at the moment and nothing seems to moisturising enough for them but a thin coat of this over night seems to be really helping. I'm also rubbing it into my eyelashes and have noticed a definite improvement in them with less lash fall when taking my mascara off.

Badger Sleep Balm (, £3.99 and £6.99)
I lead a pretty stressful life which makes it really difficult to switch off at night. I lie awake thinking about work, blog ideas, house stuff I need to do - there's always chatter going through my head! I was a bit sceptical about so-called sleep balms but I picked this up in the sale anyway to see if it would help. Certified organic and scented with calming lavender and bergamot I actually don't care if this helps clear my mind or not - it smells divine! Happily, and to my surprise, a smear on each wrist and a little on my temples or behind my ears actually does a pretty good job of  helping me to switch off and drift off. I know the various sleep potions by ThisWorks are world famous in the blogosphere but I actually prefer the smell of the Badger balm and my mini version is dinky enough to take travelling with me. I'd still love to try that pillow spray though.

Rêve de Miel Baume Lèvres (Nuxe, £9.50)
No post on balms would be complete without the queen bee of lip balms (geddit?). Rêve de Miele is without doubt the best lip balm I have ever used. I'm sure most of you will be no stranger to it but for the uninitiated this is an ultra nourishing, non-greasy balm which is capable of working miracles on even the most chapped and dry lips. As the name suggest this contains honey, along with shea butter, plant oils and grapefruit essence, and smells like a fruity honey cocktail. Apply a little before bed and it will still be there working its soothing and smoothing magic in the morning. As it's a matte formula you can also wear this under lipstick or gloss to keep lips nourished all day. I haven't found it to negatively affect wear much either. Currently are offering a sample sized Nuxellence Jeunesse Yourh and Radiance Revealing Fluid if you spend £20 on Nuxe products.

A final word also has to go to The Body Shop Lip Butters which, at a mere £4 each, are great for. Quick lip pick me up during the day. My favourite is the coconut one but I also have my eye on the chocomania and charity dragon fruit flavoured foundation varieties.

Which balms have you going balm-y?

Thursday, 13 February 2014

What's on my nails #7

After last week's reasonably successful but very messy attempt at water marbling I thought I'd stick to something simpler in the nail ark stakes this week. I love polka dots (as you may have noticed in this post) as they're a simple easy to do design and paired with an inverse accent nail in can be quite eye catching.

I know it's all about Valentines Day this week with reds and pinks everywhere but I really wasn't feeling a full pink manicure so I opted for this pretty soft lilac instead. It's actually the lighter of the two L'Oréal ones that I used for my marbling last week - I liked it so much I decided to give it a chance to shine on its own. The colour is called Riviera Lilac and I can only find it online from Direct Cosmetics but I'm sure I've seen it in store in Boots too. The white I've used for my accent nail and the dots on my thumb is Barry M Nail Paint Matt White which, for a fairly liquid white polish, is reasonably opaque but the brush could be a bit chunkier for ease of use.

Polka dot nails really are quite easy to do. All you need is a dotting tool of some sort but you don't need to rush out and buy a proper one - I used the end of a hairpin which I'd straightened out and it worked just as well. Using a scrap of paper and a dollop of polish as a makeshift palette simply dip your tool and dot onto your nails gently in whatever pattern you fancy. You must let the dots dry completely before you apply a top coat though or you risk smudging them.

Have you gone for Valentines nails or something a little bit different this week?

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

TMI Part Deux

Welcome back to oversharing central! Today's extra special bonus post is the second part of my own version of the TMI Tag doing the rounds on YouTube...

26. The reason I started blogging
The original question is why you joined YouTube but since I don't have a channel (yet) I changed it. I got addicted to reading blogs as I was a bit sick of the impersonalness (is that even a word?) of magazines and blogs are so much more real. I started writing one because I wanted to join in the fun!

27. Fears?
I don't really have any. I own two pet snakes so I'm definitely not scared of them. I don't mind heights, water, the dark, wasps, bees or spiders (although I could live without the eight legged monsters which inhabit out garden - they're huge!). I have a bit of an aversion to Audi drivers when I'm out on my bike.

28. Last thing that made you cry?
An animal rescue programme

29. Last time you said you loved someone?
Earlier today, to my husband

30. Meaning behind your blog name?
Another adapted question. Handlebars because I'm a biker and hairspray because a) I'm a girl and b) this is primarily a beauty blog and it sort of fits.

31. Last book you read?
Blood Stone by Nate Kenyon (random Kindle purchase)

32. The book you're currently reading?
Sacrifice by Paul Finch (another random Kindle purchase)

33. Last show you watched
Castle re-runs on Netflix

34. Last person you talked to
Our husky Keeta - I told her off for trying to steal my bag of Sensations

35. The relationship between you and the person you last texted
My husband, asking if he was having a good day out with his mates

36. Favourite food?
Satay tofu and crispy seaweed

37. Place you want to visit?
Money no object, Route 66 on a Harley Davidson or Australia

38. Last place you were?
I popped into Southampton this morning

39. Do you have a crush?
No, I'm old and married.

40. Last time you kissed someone?
My husband earlier today

41. Last time you were insulted?
At work last week - I have better hearing than some of my colleagues think I do

42. Favourite flavour of sweet?
Rhubarb and custard

43. What instruments do you play?
The oboe since I was 8 and the flute since I was 14. I can tinkle on the piano and I've got my eye on a tenor saxophone...

44. Favourite piece of jewellery?
My engagement ring - a marquise cut diamond set in white gold with yellow gold shoulders. It's a very unusual cut and my absolute favourite. My husband chose it all by himself without even knowing that so it was just meant to be!

45. Last sport you played?
I went running a few months ago. That's the closest I get!

46. Last song you sang?
Tonight the World Dies by Avenged Sevenfold, loudly (and badly) in the car

47. Favourite chat up line?
Ugh, I hate them!!!

48. Have you ever used it? 
No. I'm actually incredibly bad at picking up on when they're being used on me as well. #oblivious

49. Last time you hung out with someone?
I'm hanging out on the couch with the dog and my husband - does that count?

50. Who should answer these questions next?

Phew, all that sharing is tiring work. I'm sure I deserve some chocolate now...

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The TMI Tag

I've seen the TMI Tag doing the rounds on the channels of some of my favourite YouTubers and I must admit its kinda nice to get an insight into some of the people behind those fabulous channels. Anyway, I figured if I enjoyed finding about my favourite bloggers and vloggers then it's only fair if I share too. So here it is, my very own TMI Tag! I've split it across 2 posts so you're not reading for hours - the second part will be in a special bonus post tomorrow. Let the sharing commence...

1. What are you wearing?
Right now as I type, my scruffy sitting-around-the house Lee jeans, a random khaki top from Tesco and a fluffy black cardigan. I have my cute little leopard print ballerina slippers on too.

2. Ever been in love?
Yep, twice. Once with my first serious boyfriend and then with my husband.

3. Ever had a terrible breakup?
Thankfully only one.

4. How tall are you?
5 foot 7 inches (but most people think I'm taller because I usually wear heels)

5. How much do you weigh?
I actually don't know as I refuse to have scales in the house but somewhere around the 9 1/2 stone mark. Not a supermodel but no need for WeightWatchers!

6. Any tattoos?
Four - a Chinese dragon on my left bicep, a tribal butterfly between my shoulder blades, a Chinese symbol on my right hip and an ambigram that says "work hard" forwards and "carpe diem" backwards on my lower back.

7. Any piercings?
Several! Four in each ear lobe, a helix and conch in my left ear cartilage, nose, tongue, both nipples and belly button top and bottom.

8. OTP?
Richard Castle and Kate Beckett (I'm watching Castle re-runs on Netflix)

9. Favourite Show?
Don't have one but I like a lot of American dramas - True Blood, Arrow, etc

10. Favourite Bands?
I listen to all sorts from Mozart to Manson! Currently I'm mostly listening to Rammstein and Avenged Sevenfold.

11. Something you miss?
North East England. It's where I'm from and where my family are.

12. Favourite song?
It's a toss up between Metallica's Unforgiven II (which I walked down the aisle to) and Nothing Else Matters from the S&M album with the San Francisco Symphony orchestra (our first dance).

13. How old are you?
30 (ancient)

14. Zodiac sign?
Virgo, maker of extensive lists!

15. Quality you look for in a partner?
Wicked sense of humour

16. Favourite Quote?
"A lack of planning on your part does not consitiute a crisis on my part" (when I'm at work)

17. Favourite actor?
Christian Bale

18. Favourite colour?
Purple and turquoise

19. Loud music or soft?
LOUD! You really can't play metal softly, it just doesn't work.

20. Where do you go when you're sad?
Bed, specifically the very middle of the duvet where I can hide from the world

21. How long does it take you to shower?
About half an hour. Is that a long time?

22. How long does it take you to get ready on a morning?
For work, about 40 minutes. Slightly longer at weekends because I can take my time (and I can never decide what to wear).

23. Ever been in a physical fight?
Yes, but only because I used to do karate. I've never been in a cat fight or anything.

24. Turn on?
Muscular arms (my husband's could rival Vin Diesel's. Yummy!)

25. Turn Off?
The usual - bad breath, bad manners

Stay tuned for more over sharing tomorrow!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Feet Treat

I post weekly about what pretty colours I'm wearing on my finger tips but what about my long suffering toes? Yep, that's them in the picture in all their weirdly long and bony glory!

Feet are pretty important things - imagine trying to walk without them! - but when it's cold we tend to encase them in socks and boots and forget about them. Why not set yours free and treat them to a bit of TLC this evening? Here are a few ideas to say thank you to your feet for taking you around all those sales recently.

Night Time Nourishment - get your hands on some seriously rich lotion or a luxe body oil and apply liberally to your feet before bedtime. Pop on a pair of socks to protect your bedding and intensify the effect and let all that moisturising goodness soak in over night. In the morning you'll wake to smooth, supple and wonderfully soft skin and conditioned, nourished toenails. Soap & Glory's Heel Genius is perfect for a night time treat. Similarly, pop a light layer of lotion on before you put your socks on of a morning to keep your feet feeling loved throughout the day.

Tired Toes - you've been on your feet all day and now they are aching. What do you do? Get yourself a bowl of warm water, add a generous helping of The Body Shop's Peppermint Reviving Foot Soak, immerse your tired feet and relax. The peppermint in this soak will not only refresh but will also help get rid of yucky smells. Follow up with an intensive lotion such as Peppermint Intensive Foot Rescue. There is also a matching Reviving Leg Gel for shopped-out pins.

Pretty Polish - toenails deserve colour too, even if they are hidden away in cosy boots at this time of year. Carefully cut and file your toenails (straight across rather than in a curve) and add a base coat, colour and top coat. It's actually much easier to try out nail art on your toes so why not make your big toenails into accents with polka dots, flowers or other pretty designs?

Rough 'n' Ready - if you have rough skin on your feet now is the time to start dealing with it before the warmer weather is with us. Get yourself a foot file or pumice stone, both widely and cheaply available, or one of those clever gadgets that looks like a mini sander and gently exfoliate and buff away those rough patches. I would suggest doing this before a bath or shower to avoid damaging water plumped skin and applying an intensive lotion afterwards.

How do you pamper your feet? Are you lucky enough to have someone who'll rub them for you? That has to be the ultimate treat!

Friday, 7 February 2014

Counter Encounters

I am not the most confident of people, especially around folks I don't know, and I hate being pestered when I'm shopping so visiting makeup counters can be a bit of an ordeal for me. It first started when I was a teenager and visited one particular counter, birthday money in hand, to invest in some quality skincare. Unfortunately the consultant lady left me in no doubt as to what she thought of a 15yr old darkening her counter and I left empty handed and thoroughly disillusioned. I've actually avoided that particular brand ever since, although I'm sure she was an exception rather than the rule. 

Fast forward half a lifetime and I've had many much more pleasurable experiences (including in the John Lewis Southampton beauty hall, pictured) but I've encountered a few more less than friendly people too. So here are my top tips for dealing with the makeup dragons of this world!

The Pushy Penelope - this sales assistant really, really wants you to buy stuff, preferably as much as possible and irrespective of whether you want it or if it suits you. She will usually pounce on you within seconds of your arrival at her counter and won't leave you alone. Her tactics can be quite overt ("you should have this...and this...and this") or more sneaky (while ringing up your desired purchase she casually says "oh you'll want this as well" and reaches for the extra product). The best way to deal with Penelope is to be firm and stick to your guns - if all you want is that single pan eyeshadow then say so. If she gets too pushy just walk away - chances are there's another counter for that brand somewhere close by.

 The Ignores You Ingrid - Ingrid is the opposite of Penelope and refuses to acknowledge your existence no matter what. You could be dancing naked around her counter and she would still look right through you! The best tactics to break Ingrid's icy facade are to either loudly say how much you would like to purchase a product but unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a sales assistant around (this works particularly well when her manager is around) or to approach another sales assistant, and explain that you would like some information on a product and you assume she must be the expert as her colleague has nothing to say. Never underestimate the embarrassment factor!

The Rude Rachel - you're happily swatching away and all of a sudden a presence behind you asks if you actually intend to buy anything today. Enter Rachel! She's impatient and rude and makes it clear she would prefer you not clutter up her counter actually looking at the products. Remember here that you're the customer and you have the choice over whether you spend your hard earned cash with her or not. Politely inform her that yes you would like to make a purchase but not before you've had chance to choose what you want and either ask for her advice (if you want it) or ask her to give you a few minutes. Knowing that she probably is going to get a sale will generally make her back off but if not then tell her you were going to but don't appreciate being rushed and will check out a different brand instead.

The Snobby Sarah - she makes it quite evident that her brand's products are far too expensive, posh or exclusive for the likes of you, a mere mortal, to be thinking of buying. My 15yr old encounter was most definitely with a Sarah and I encountered several in my student days when I wasn't dressed up smart for client meetings or court (I'm not a raving criminal - I did law). Her catty comments make you feel about 3" tall and 6yrs old. The key to avoiding a Sarah is all in the approach. If you act like you're sufficiently rich and important (aren't we all, even if just to our mums?) to belong at her counter she will generally assume you do. I'm not suggesting you put on fake airs and graces or come off just as high and mighty, but a little confidence goes a long way and if you are a young person avoid going in a big group as this will unfortunately make you a prime target.

Now I'm not for a second suggesting that all beauty counter sales assistants fall into one of these categories. The vast majority are really lovely, polite, helpful and friendly and make your beauty shopping even more fun. Where you are served by one of these lovely ladies be sure to thank her!

Have you encountered one of these makeup dragons or are you lucky enough to only meet Lovely Laura's?

Thursday, 6 February 2014

What's on my nails #6

This week I've been a little bit addicted to nail art videos, especially those by Colette from My Simple Little Pleasures - she does the most amazing water marbles! I love nail art but I've never really done much myself until now. Never one to shy from a challenge I thought I'd jump straight in with my very own water marble attempt and I think it turned out ok, but let me tell you it is way more difficult than it looks! What you're seeing is the result of a good hour spent making a proper mess with water and wet nail polish.

Water marbling takes a bit longer than a standard manicure and is a bit messy but worth it for the unique looking end result. If you're thinking of attempting this its definitely worth learning how to tape your nails off beforehand otherwise the clean up would be epic! I won't go into the details of how to do the marble as there are plenty of tutorials around and I really do recommend Colette's.

The block colour on my nails is Essie Where's My Chauffeur, a lovely greeny turquoise block of colour with not a hint of shimmer. Essie really do do good solid colours in the most beautiful shades. To do the marble I used the Essie polish combined with a bright purple and a lilac shade from the L'Oréal Color Riche Nails range. You need to use quite liquid polishes to get them to spread in the water and these fitted the bill perfectly. There's a bit more of the lilac in the mix than I'd planned but otherwise I think these colours go well together.

Have you tried nail art like this? Any tips you want to share?

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

My Skincare Routine - Eyes & Masks

In this final installment of my current skincare routine I'll be giving you a peek at the eye creams I currently like and my all time favourite face masks.

Eyes first, and I always apply my eye cream immediately after toner so it has a chance to sink in before other products get in the way as they can effectively seal the delicate skin making the eye cream less effective. Oil fans take note!

I have to say I've yet to be really impressed with an eye cream. Perhaps I'm expecting too much? However, I'm currently tapping on Soap & Glory Make Yourself Youthful Rejuvenating Eye Cream which contains all sorts of clever sounding ingredients to hydrate, smooth, firm and de-puff as well as Lightscramble Luminosperes (!) to illuminate and brighten. The hydrating and illuminating effects are the reason I bought this (that and the shiny shiny pot - yes, I am a magpie) and it does both reasonably well, sitting nicely under foundation and concealer, although I can't say it's done a lot for those expression lines.

For days when I want a lighter formula, or when the S&G cream isn't enough on its own, I also use The Body Shop Vitamin E Eye Cream. This is a light, very easily absorbed cream which is lovely for de-puffing and refreshing, especially when popped in the fridge for half an hour before applying. Again it's not "OMG this is amazing" but I like it because it's so simple. Also because it's light I can carefully tap a tiny amount under my eyes during the day and it won't particularly disturb my makeup.

Now, onto masks and by now you should be able to guess which brand I'm about to sing the praises of. Yep, it's REN to the rescue again! I make absolutely no apologies for being so obsessed with REN at the moment as their products have worked wonders on my skin in the last 3 months - better results than I've seen with any other brand.

My absolute all time no.1 favourite is the marmalade scented Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask which contains a cocktail of  natural fruit acids and extracts to seriously exfoliate and smooth the skin. This it does extremely well. REN recommend you leave this on for just 10mins but I've had it on for up to almost 2hrs and the results were just amazing, although I wouldn't recommend this if you have sensitive or irritated skin. It leaves my skin soft, considerably clearer and brighter looking and with greatly improved texture. The only down side is that the dog rather likes the smell too and tries to lick it off my face. Yuk!

The other mask with a weekly slot in my routine at the moment is REN's Clarimatte Invisible Pores Detox, a clay based dries-on-your-face offering which drags icky gunk out of my pores kicking and screaming (not literally because that would just be weird). I actually hate the feeling of clay drying on my face but I can overlook that in light of how clean this leaves my skin feeling. It is a bit of a pain to wash off though, requiring buckets of warm water and a good dose of toner afterwards.

An honorary mention should also go to REN's ClearCalm 3 Clarity Restoring Mask which I'm not using at the moment because my skin is behaving but which is a complete saviour when it flares up. This is a non-drying clay mask which does the usual pore clean but also has a calming effect on angry spots and antibacterial qualities to stop them spreading. Perfect for badly behaving skin!

So that's the end of my skincare tour. Have you used any of the products I've talked about? Do you have any recommendations for super duper eye creams with that elusive wow factor?

Sunday, 2 February 2014

January Favourites

My very first favourites post! I love reading these on other blogs so I had to include one on my own. These are 5 things I've really been loving in January (hint: the weather is not one of them).

A couple of weeks a ago I posted about the best concealer I've ever tried so naturally 17 Phwoarr Paint had to feature as one of my favourites, not just of January but frankly of all time! A great creamy formula which blends beautifully to give perfect coverage which lasts for hours. What's not to love? Read my original post here.

I was in the market for a new foundation so when one of my favourite bloggers mentioned a dupe for Georgio Armani Luminous Silk foundation, which I've been dying to try, I sat up and took notes. It turns out that L'Oréal True Match foundation was exactly what I was looking for and while I can't comment on its similarity to GALS I can confirm its a fab formula. It blends well giving enough coverage to hide most blemishes and even out skin tone, has a very natural semi matt finish and lasts for ages even on my oily patches - far better than anything else I've tried before. The shade range is also impressive and I had no problem getting a shade light enough for my milky visage.

Sticking with makeup, I said at the start of the year I wanted to wear more lipstick so I thought I'd start off gently with some sheer formulas in "my lips but better" shades. A quick swatching session in Boots and I fell in love with the Revlon ColourShine Lip Butters, so much so I now own four of them! The formula is very hydrating (essential on my dry lips) and the colour payoff actually isn't bad although my lips are quite pigmented so I get more of a wash of colour. Wear time isn't amazing but nor does it slide off at the mere suggestion of a glass of water. I have Pink Truffle, Berry Smoothie, Macaroon and, because I wanted to take the plunge into reds, Candy Apple. I love them all and am happy to report that lipstick, sheer at least, is becoming a regular feature on my face.

You may have noticed that I took the plunge and had my very long hair cut short at the beginning of the month (see a before and after here). Besides giving me a lovely new 'do my hairdresser gave me the lowdown on the benefits of hair oils, which I admit I'd avoided for fear of ending up with greasy locks. She managed to convince me so I turned to my favourite drugstore hair brand Tresemmé and invested in their Oil Elixir Colour for coloured hair which contains macadamia and grapeseed oils and a UV filter.
I'm rarely disappointed by Tresemmé's offerings and this is no exception. It smells amazing and sinks into my hair without any trace of greasiness or residue, leaving it smooth, shiny and incredibly soft and silky. It has instantly become a must-use after every hair wash!

I've been rounding up my skincare this month and mentioned in my Tone & Treat post I wanted to to try the Caudalie Vinosource SOS Thirst Quenching Serum to improve my dehydrated skin. Well I managed to get my hands on a bottle and I am sold! Usually it takes a little while for me to see he benefits from a serum but this one had an immediate effect leaving my skin calmed and much more hydrated. Expression lines, which I think are a combination of dehydration  and first signs of ageing, were plumped out and my makeup wore better than it has before, lasting pretty much an entire busy day in the office. Plus it smells wonderful and feels so light, almost like water. I now use this pretty much every morning.

So those have been my favourite things in January. What have you been loving this month?