Category Archives: Beauty Review

Two Favourite Balm Cleansers

When I get home from work the first thing I do after making a cup of tea is take off my make-up. I do a pre-cleanse with micellar water to remove my mascara and lipstick and then go in with a balm to get rid of the rest (base, concealer, blush, SPF).

Balms are my preferred evening cleanse because they are thorough yet feel good for the skin. There is also a therapeutic aspect to them; you literally feel like you’re wiping the day away.

I used to use micellar water to take off all my make-up because it felt easier than messing around at the sink with water. However, I found that it dried my skin out and using a balm is actually quicker as well as more effective.

I spread a blob between damp hands and apply it all over my face. I then run a fannel under the hot tap, wring it out and use it to wipe off the cleanser. They are more pricey than cream cleansers or face washes but last ages.

There are a few balm cleansers around but I like the ones that are solid rather than cream-like. Clinique’s Take The Day off Cleansing Balm is a cheaper alternative to those below, but the lack of scent makes it rather joyless.  I normally askew heavily scented products in skincare but cleansers are one of my exceptions because they don’t stay on the skin.

Here are my two favourites: –

 

 

Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm 

Two of the reasons I love this cult cleansing balm are that it’s oily and has a fabulous orange scent. It contains essentials oils of orange, neroli, mandarin, jasmine and rose in addition to moringa seed extract which has numerous skin benefits. The base is grapeseed oil and sweet almond oil, however unlike the next balm, it is not all-natural.

I’m not sure how it does it but this balm manages to act as a deep cleanse as well as a skin conditioner. I use it on those occasions when I have a full face of make-up or am purely craving that uplifting scent. As suggested by Emma Hardie, I sometimes use it as a mask while in the bath so the oils can sink in. It’s available from Marks and Spencer but there are often deals online. It comes with a nice cleansing cloth.

 

Jane Scrivner Nourishing Cleansing Blam

Someimes I want something simple which isn’t heavily scented. This Nourishing Balm fits the bill but is still a pleasure to use. It’s more waxy with a lighter consistency than the Moringa Cleansing Balm. It has the refreshing scent of an essential oil blend; the type you often get in all-natural products such as this. It contains organic jojoba oil, beeswax and essential oils of ylang ylang, elemi, eucalyptus, frankincense, lemongrass, lavender, myrrh, sandalwood and sweet orange.

As the name suggests, this balm feels really nourishing rather than stripping.  I use it on days when my skin feels dry/delicate and it leaves it feeling soft and plump.  Again, it comes with its own fluffy cleansing mit.

 

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Please let me know if you have tried either of these or your thoughts on other cleansers.

 

 

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The Boxwalla August Beauty Box

I feel closely connected to this particular subscription box. I first got to know Lavanya – the talented woman behind Boxwalla –  online a number of years ago through her perfume blog and then in person when she and her family visited London from California.

When her second child was born she blogged about how she had been inspired to start a new venture which turned out to be Boxwalla (which means a “box seller” in India). It was great to see the scheme grow and it has even been featured in Vogue.

Lavanya noticed I had recently got into skincare in a big way and kindly offered to send me the August Beauty Box for review.

 

 

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The lovely boxes are made from recycled cotton scraps

 

Before Boxwalla I had been very sceptical about subscriptions boxes. From what I could tell, you’d get one or two things you might be half interested in and then quite a few random bits and pieces of little value, just to bulk it out. Therefore the first thing that impressed me upon opening the box was that it contained three high quality, full sized products and no filler.

 

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Lavanya is passionate about green beauty but she is also only interested in those products that are nutrient-rich and actually work. I felt very fortunate that this box included two items from Odacité because I’ve been eyeing this plant-based brand for a while. However, after reading the packaging of both products I was still none the wiser as to what exactly they were and where they fit into my skincare routine.

 

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This is the where the Boxwalla card came into its own. It detailed not only what the main benefits of the products were, but how and when to use them. As suggested, after misting, I added 2 pumps of the Oleosomes Time Release Delivery Créme (moisturiser) to the Pa+G Serum Concentrate (hyperpigmentation treatment) and applied all over my face and neck.

The emulsion sank into my skin fast and left a non-sticky, velvety feel. I have been having issues with eczema and dehydration but my skin has been incredibly soothed and hydrated since using this concoction. I’ve have also been using the Créme as a stand alone moisturiser. It contains seed oils but smells like herbs.

 

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I only started using lip exfoliators recently and don’t know how I got along with without them before. My lips are smoother (obviously) and lipstick goes on better. The only issue is that I always end up accidently eating some, so an all-natural version is a definite plus.  Nordic Berries Lip Exfoliator by Henné Organics looks stunning, smells amazing and is gentle yet effective.

 

 

The box is great value at $54.95, especially when you consider the retail value is $131. The Odacité Oleosomes Time Release Delivery Crème alone costs £60 on Cult Beauty! There is limited availability to buy this box as a one-off if you’re interested.

 

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I really admire the ‘slowness’ concept behind Boxwalla.  It’s nice to find someone who is focusing on sharing high quality products with integrity by artisans and small businesses. This isn’t a throw away buzz which fades soon after the box arrives in the post. Every single one has been curated with care and it shows. Boxwalla make sure that each box builds on the one before so you don’t end up with random products that don’t fit together.

This isn’t just about Beauty either. There are also Food, Film and Book Boxes and all but the Food Box ship internationally.

Boxwalla is a subscription box done right.

 

 

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Holiday Sun, Skin and Hair

After sharing a photo of the inside of my suitcase the other week, I thought I’d talk about some of the many products I took with me on holiday.

We spent a week in Majorca with temperatures of 27 to 30 degrees C. I brought enough lotions and potions to cover myself, my sister and niece.

 

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Cleanser

I got Pixi’s Double Cleanse by Caroline Hirons in the re-issued Cult Beauty Box, just in time for my trip. It was handy to have a cream and balm cleanser in one container. I used the cream in the morning and the balm in the evening to take off my SPF. I liked the texture of both a lot. The cream is, well creamy, and the balm is nice and solid.

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Vitamin C

After cleansing in the morning I applied a layer of Vitamin C serum. This powerful antioxidant is a good way to counteract the damaging effects of sun exposure.  I took two from both ends of the price spectrum.

At home, I normally apply DCL’s C Scape High Potency Night Booster 30 in the evening because of its grainy texture. It contains 30% vitamin C (L ascorbic acid) and gives a sharp tingle on application.

As my skin got drier through the week, I switched to The Ordinary’s Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% vitamin C because it’s in oil form. I’m extremely curious about the new Vitamin C 30% Suspension in Silicone from The Ordinary. I suspect it stings pretty intensely. Let me know if you’ve tried it.

 

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Facial Sunscreen

For a base layer in the morning, I applied Anthelios XL Ultra Light Fluid SPF 50 by La Roche-Posay. It was indeed very light and a pleasure to apply.

For re-application I took Bioderma Invisible Fresh Mist SPF 50 which was a revelation. The mist is so fine you barely feel it hit your skin. This makes topping up your sunscreen an absolute breeze.  I never broke out, even with my combination skin.

 

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Body Sunscreen

I knew we’d be spending a lot of time in the swimming pool so I looked for a sunscreen that would stick. I researched a lot of high-end brands and while most say they are “water resistant”, I went for Marks and Spencer Ultra Defense SPF 50 because it’s “very water resistant”.

I bought the cream for applying in the morning and the spray version for re-application. Not glamorous, but the best for our needs.

 

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Lip Protection

Lanolips Tinted Balm is very moisturing and contains SPF 30. I got it in Rhubarb which is a natural-looking pinky colour. Good for poolside or on the beach when you’re not not wearing lipstick.

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Body Moisturisers

I took my trusty La Roche-Posay Lipikar Baume as well as the E45 Intense Recovery spray in case my skin got too over-heated from the sun.

I finished with a little Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse for the oil sheen and tropical scent (which my sister is now obsessed with). I didn’t wear any of the handful of decants I took in the end.

 

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Hair

I took travels sizes of Bumble and Bumble’s sulphate free shampoo and conditioner but the conditioner wasn’t mosituring enough after a day in the sun and pool. Luckily, I had brought along a small tube of Don’t Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask by Briogeo and that worked wonders. I honestly think my hair came home in better condition that when I went.

I’m still experimenting with styling my hair using Wave Spray by Quai, so the jury’s out on that one.  I shared my sister’s great smelling Sun Care Protective Hair Veil spray by Aveda for a UV filter and covered my hair as much as possible.

 

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At Duty Free on the return leg we tried a lot of perfumes to pass the time. Both my sister and niece have great noses. My sister spritzed Eau de Pamplemousse Rose by Hermes for the flight home while my niece said Angel Muse was her favourite. The reason being “It smells like Daddy’s Christmas cookies”.

 

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Do you have vacation sun, skin or hair care products to recommend?

 

 

 

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My Dehydrated Skin Saver – Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex by NIOD

I’ve been using hyaluronic acid products for a few years now to try and combat skin dehydration. I’ve tried a couple of different brands and gone through tube after tube, bottle after bottle.

Throughout this time, I never saw a noticeable difference in my skin although it felt good straight after application. I was convinced it must be doing something though. It’s one of the few products that has been proven to plump and hydrate the skin and I am forever hearing how it can ‘attract up to one thousand times its weight in water’.

I persevered with hyaluronic acid, even as my skin deteriorated last autumn and I developed an extremely dehydrated, flaky patch on my cheek. My skin had become ‘compromised’.

Then after becoming intrigued by The Ordinary, I read on the DECIEM website that the effectiveness of  hyaluronic acid to penetrate the skin depends on the size of its molecules. The Ordinary’s offering has three different sizes of molecule but the site actually points customers to sister brand NIOD for a more advanced formulation. Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex (MMHC) has – count them- 12 different sizes of molecule as well as a precursors to hyaluronic acid.

 

“Many products have used HA to claim hydration benefits, but HA is too large of a molecule to penetrate the skin and instead sits on the surface and can draw moisture out of the skin making the surface feel soft and hydrated temporarily.” – The Ordinary website

 

Therefore when I visited the London DECIEM store with Val the Cookie Queen in mid-May I decided to go straight for the big guns and purchased the more expensive NIOD version (£25 for 15ml or £38 for 30ml).

 

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I cracked open NIOD’s MMHC and applied a few drops after cleansing as instructed.

After one day there was a marked improvement, after two days the dryness was almost gone, after three days I was so happy to get my smooth skin back I can’t to tell you. I know it was the Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex that made the difference because  I hadn’t changed anything else.

Hyaluronic acid had finally lived up to its hype and done the business.

Since then NIOD have released MMHC2 with an improved formula, which they are calling ‘the second generation’ of MMHC. I will be purchasing it as soon as my bottle runs out.

 

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How have you got on with hyaluronic acid products?  Do you recommend anything else from DECIEM brands?

 

 

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What Do You Think of The Ordinary?

There’s been a buzz around skincare brand The Ordinary since it launched last year. They offer no frills “clinical technologies” at low cost, with the aim of improving price integrity in skincare. You can get most products for under a tenner and last week I finally jumped on the beauty bandwagon and placed an order.

The very first time I checked out The Ordinary website, I was so baffled by the long chemical names of the products, I clicked away pretty sharpish. I’ve only upgraded from a basic three-step routine relatively recently, so all the jargon was a mystery to me. Even the explanations of each product were as clear as mud. Unless you’re a beauty geek, you really need to research the ingredients and find the ones that are right for your skin type. Luckily there are lots of reviews around.

Thanks to a hugely helpful post by Victoria on Bois de Jasmin, I felt a little more confident. I did a bit more reading and tried again. This time I purchased Buffet, Natural Moisturizing Factors +HA, Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F (see what I mean about the names?) and 100% Plant Derived Squalane. All of these seemed suitable for my combination skin with dry patches.

 

My Routine

AM

‘Buffet’ is a serum containing a number of peptides which I apply in the morning after cleansing, in the hope it will increase my skin’s collagen. I love it and find it a dream to apply.

I follow this with Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F, which is a Vitamin C serum for brightening the skin. The Ordinary offer four different Vitamin C serums and this is what confused me the most. They do have a guide but it still uses a lot of technical language. In the end I plumped for Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F because it combines high potency with a very low risk of stinging.

The consistency turned out to be quite watery even though it’s a light oil. Next time I’ll go for the Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate which is a light cream formulation with a very low risk of stinging and medium potency.

Next is a couple of drops from my Paula’s Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster. In time I’ll be replacing it with The Ordinary’s version seeing as it’s  a whopping £38 cheaper!

Everywhere except my t-zone, I apply the Natural Moisturizing Factors +HA which is a non-greasy, easily absorbed moisturiser with added hyaluronic acid which has a comforting feel.

For sunscreen and its make-up priming properties, I finish with Paula’s Choice RESIST Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense SPF 30.

PM

In the evening after cleansing and toning, I use the Buffet serum again followed by Paula’s Choice Hyaluronic Acid Booster and Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment. But again, once the Paula’s Choice product runs out I’ll switch to The Ordinary’s Advanced Retinoid 2%.

Lastly, I apply the 100% Plant Derived Squalane to try and combat the patches of lizard skin on my cheek and neck which I’m thoroughly fed-up with. When I’ve used it up I’ll try one of the number of plant oils (probably the 100% Cold Pressed Virgin Marula) to see if that gives a better result. I finish my evening routine with Natural Moisturizing Factors +HA.

 

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The Ordinary’s “apothecary chic” packaging.

 

I want to try the Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% as a weekly exfoliating treatment but feel nervous about the fact it’s described a “peeling formulation”. If you’ve tried this direct acid, please let me know in the comments.

Apart from the Vitamin C Suspension 23% and the Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, you can use any combination of products as long as you apply the water based formulas before the oil based formulas (there is a table that tells you which are which). However, they recommend using no more than 3 serums at any one time.

Obviously I haven’t used the products long enough to review them, but overall I’m impressed with those I’ve tried so far. They are easy to apply and I’ve had no adverse reactions. What I’d love to hear about is your experience.

Have you tried anything from The Ordinary? Do you have advice to offer? If possible, please share how you combine your products.

 

 

 

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What Are Your Winter Skin Savers?

Like a lot of people, my skin always becomes drier in the winter but this year it’s suffered more than ever. Here in the UK, it’s been a colder winter than usual with temperatures in London consistently around 5 to 7 degrees during January. I have persistent dry patches on my neck and face which can itch horribly. Some products have helped, but I’m yet to find a magic bullet.

 

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Winter in a local park in London

 

I’ve been squirting a good amount of Johnson & Johnson Baby Oil into my bath water and once a week while having a soak, I apply Clarins HydraQuench Cream Mask which started to make a difference after three applications.  La Roche-Posay Lipikar Baume AP+ is still the best body moisturiser I’ve found.

I’m cleansing my face with La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo Cleanser after a recommendation from my pal Vanessa of Bonkers About Perfume (who has been blogging about her contact dermatitis). I’m following this with La Roche-Posay Soothing Lotion for sensitive skin because although toners are supposed to do no more than water, I like using them.

HydraQuench Intensive Serum Bi-Phase by Clarins is the consistency of water which makes it a little tricky to apply but also means I can use it on my parched eye area and it soaks in quickly. I follow this with La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Intensive Eyes. I’ve turned to Cicaplast Baume B5 Soothing Repairing Cream (again La Roche-Posay) combined with a couple of drops of RESIST Hyaluronic Acid Booster from Paula’s Choice for extra moisture, but the effects have only been temporary. MAC Prep+Prime Lip provides a moisturising base for lipstick.

 

 

Unless it’s a gym day, it doesn’t make sense to use an antiperspirant during winter so I’ve switched to Weleda Wild Rose Deodorant. This stuff smells absolutely fantastic when sprayed but isn’t potent enough to clash with your perfume.

At night I’m mostly sticking with my usual Paula’s Choice evening routine except I’ve dropped the liquid exfoliant while my skin is so sensitive.

I apply Nuxe Rêve de Miel lip balm before bed and the truth is that I’m more than a little bit in love with this product. Previously, I was using Lano Lips but my bottom lip still split open, which was beyond grim. Since using the Nuxe balm my lips have been totally transformed even though I wear drying lip pencils and matte lipsticks most days. It also has a gorgeous honeyed lemon scent.

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What products do you turn to in the winter to protect and nourish your skin? Have you found anything that works on dry patches? Should I just use Vaseline or is there a better alternative? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.

 

 

 

 

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In Rotation – December

For the last couple of years my perfume of choice for the festive season has been Tea for Two. It’s the spices that make it feel Christmassy. Funnily enough, I got a lot of cinnamon when I wore it last year but this year I’m mainly noticing the star anise. I wear it pretty much consistently from the 1st December until the 25th. One exception this month was a Board Meeting for which I chose Bois des Iles parfum. The golden sandalwood scent seemed to provide the right combination of sophistication and comfort.

 

 

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Last week we had the annual Perfume Lovers London Swap Meet which always causes much excitement. The idea is that you bring along the bottles you rarely wear and swap them for something someone else no longer wants. You get one raffle ticket for each bottle you contribute and then the numbers are drawn out of the hat, with 5 or so people going up to the table at a time to choose from what everyone has brought.

I took three bottles for swapping: vintage Diorella marked up as having a faulty sprayer in the hope someone could either fix or remove it; L’Eau Froide by Serge Lutens, which is a nice airy incense but not a patch on my holy grail Passage d’Enfer and finally, Poivre Piquant by L’Artisan Parfumeur which is a peppery milk and honey perfume with a splash of rose, but something I just never reach for.

It was a while before my first ticket was drawn but I spotted Ô de Lancome which I remembered Neil of The Black Narcissus writing about in his usual exquisite fashion, so I scooped that up. For my second  pick, again I saw a fragrance that I had a feeling another perfume pal (Ines) was fond of, Eau de Rochas. Read a lovely review of it by Angela on NST here.

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I was happy with these two swaps because I do have a gap in my collection for summery colognes with character.

By the time my third ticket was called the pickings were pretty slim but I got Bottega Veneta Eau Légère because I thought my work colleague would like it and indeed she does.

As for make-up, I’ve been wearing Sephora’s liquid lipstick in 01 Always Red because it’s a bold, Christmassy red. Although I’m starting to conclude these brighter reds don’t suit me so well,.it bears up really well to eating and drinking. I have my eye on the shade Blackberry Kiss for a future purchase.  I’ve been applying an equally festive shade to my nails; Pillow Talk by Leighton Denny.

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I felt bereft after finishing His Dark Materials but I’ve made a start on Wild: A Journey From Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed. It’s the true story of a woman who decides to trek the length of the Pacific Crest Trail in the States when at her lowest ebb. I’m hoping it will inspire a less arduous adventure of my own next year. Ideally I’d like a Christmassy novel but aside from re-reading A Christmas Carol, I can’t think of anything.

 

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What have you been enjoying this month? Any Christmas themed books to recommend?

 

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In Rotation

After enduring bad news across the world for the best part of a year, I’ve been feeling the need to retreat. I’ve always been a homebody but I’m craving time indoors even more than usual. After reading a lot of “improving” books this year, I’ve now escaped into the His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy by Philip Pullman. On these cold, dark evenings, it’s wonderful to get lost in this multi-universe adventure populated by witches, armoured bears and fearless 12 year-olds .

 

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A small thing that I’ve found to be very soothing on trying days, is painting my nails. The colours I’m alternating at the moment are the sophisticated berry of Butter London’s Queen Vic and the glossy dark navy of Chanel’s Marinière.

Happily, I’m still getting a kick out of my new found love of bold lipstick. I’ve even graduated from red to purple. MAC’s Rebel feels perfect for autumn and easy to wear because it isn’t as intense or blue toned as most in that shade range. The satin formula is also kinder to the lips in this chilly weather than my usual matt lipsticks.

 

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Chanel Mariniere, MAC Rebel and Butter London Queen Vic

 

One comfort food that is also healthy is homemade soup. Last weekend I made spicy cauliflower soup based on the recipe by Alice Waters (who incidentally is a friend and neighbour of Mandy Aftel). I found out about it from former perfume blogger Lavanya, who now runs the brilliant subscription box service Boxwalla.

Again, taking pleasure in the little things, I’ve been enjoying the aromas of autumn; bonfires, dry leaves, damp earth, misty mornings. It might also be my favourite time of year for perfume. Here’s what I’ve been wearing a lot lately:

Passage d’Enfer, L’Artisan Parfumeur

I recently got a back-up bottle of this one because it’s my favourite incense. Passage d’Enfer is woody, lightly resinous and has a hint of waxy white lilies which it gives it luminosity. It smells fantastic on a scarf and mingles well with the autumnal wisps of smoke in the air. Passage d’Enfer helps me feel calm and centred in this crazy world but it also has that touch of wanton florals. I adore this stuff.

Coromandel EdT, Chanel

This is one classy patchouli with lots of warmth and depth. It’s not super earthy but it’s not a dull, super clean patch either. It’s beautifully sophisticated and I enjoy it most at a bit of distance, so I tend to spray it on my wrists rather than around my neck. I particularly enjoy the touch of incense that comes out most in the base.

Tobacco Rose, Papillon Perfumes

Of course I love roses and this one is perfect for autumn thanks to its earthiness. Tobacco Rose is a rose bush firmly planted in the soil, not a sterile, disembodied bloom. There’s a reason patchouli is paired so often with rose and it’s exemplified here in the way it grounds the beautiful, rich red flower. I can’t wait for the next release from Papillon Perfumes which is coming in the New Year.

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What’s bringing you comfort this season?

 

 

 

 

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The Power of Red Lipstick

A recent survey showed that 54% of British women feel too shy to wear red lipstick. I could relate to this as I have been wearing pinky nude lip shades for the last 20 years. This was mostly because I didn’t think my lips were full enough and partly because I just didn’t see myself in such a statement colour. My lip shape hasn’t changed but caring about it has. Life is too short. I’ve decided to give red lipstick a go.

“Red is powerful, strong, smart, bold, sexy, lethally feminine and iconic…Nothing has such a glamorous,timeless appeal. It breaks my heart that so many women are scared to wear it” – Sali Hughes, Pretty Honest

I like the fact you can’t hide in the background while wearing red lipstick: it forces you to stand out. I was spurred on by Val the Cookie Queen’s post on Ellis Faas Red lipstick. She sent me some samples in  “Milky Lips” and I immediately liked the way it made me look and feel.

About a year ago, I bought Ruby Woo by MAC Cosmetics but wasn’t ready for it until now. It’s a highly pigmented, incredibly striking red and perfect for nights out.  I have discovered that I like matte finishes because they feel clean, modern and long-lasting. I also seem to be drawn to shades with cool/blue undertones, though I have no idea if this suits my skin tone or not. I’m trying not to get hung up on the rules.

I recently bought a Retro Matte Liquid Lipcolour by MAC in Dance with Me. This is a dark cranberry red and while I love the shade, I think it will take time before I feel confident about application. Unlike the lipsticks, I do notice how drying it is during the day so doubt I’ll re-purchase, especially considering the price.

For me, one of the most enjoyable things about a new passion is finding out all about it and the options available. YouTube has been invaluable for this. I have found the videos by French Canadian beauty vlogger Emily Fox, particularly helpful because they are so clear and she has great taste (as well as being very likeable and has a lovely accent).

After watching Emily’s MAC videos, I ordered Russian Red, a darker matte red which makes me feel very pulled together. I also got Flat Out Fabulous which is a gorgeous bright, yet somehow muted, magenta/plum. At the last minute I added Relentlessly Red to my basket which turned out to be a lighter pinky/coral red than suits my skin tone, but works well with a red lip pencil underneath.

I saw a Cruella Velvet Matte Lip Pencil by NARS on another vlogger and was wowed by its scarlet beauty. It does feel like a fairy-tale, wicked queen red. I particularly like that it’s a combination of a lip pencil and lipstick, so you don’t have to double up. The texture is beautifully velvety so it’s a dream to apply. I love it.

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Wearing Cruella by NARS on a work morning.

The only budget red lippie I’ve bought so far is Rimmel’s Lasting Finish Matte by Kate Moss in 107, which is the colour of red wine. I also have my eye on several Matte Lipsticks by NYX, namely Merlot, Bloody Mary and Eden.

I’ve bought a couple of coloured lip pencils to wear with the lipsticks and a clear one by Lord & Berry because I thought that would be easier on mornings when I’m rushed. You wear it just outside the lip line and it stops the colour bleeding around the edges. I am rather paranoid about not applying these bold and bright lipsticks flawlessly but my best is going to have to be good enough.

As Val says, wearing red is liberating, but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun. Now I want to spend the rest of my life in the Red Lips Club.

“When do you know you’ve happened upon the right red? Magic happens. Everything seems to brighten. The face lights up. The overall look -clothes, face, hair – comes together. The mood lifts. That is what I love about red lipstick!” – Dita Von Teese, My Beauty Mark

 

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Please share your favourite red lipsticks in the comments. I’m eager for more suggestions!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent by Mandy Aftel plus Ancient Resins Body Oil & Hair Elixir By Aftelier Perfumes

 

Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent

Mandy Aftel’s 2001 book Essence and Alchemy had a profound effect on me, as I know it did on many others in the perfume community. It cast a spell that seems to have enchanted me for life and even led to short-lived experiments with my own  oil-based perfumes.

While Essence and Alchemy intended to  give people interested in a perfume a grounding in natural perfumery, Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent  is aimed at everyone.  Mandy was moved and inspired by witnessing the effect re-connecting with scent has on people who didn’t think they liked perfume.

 

 “Watching them discover authentic aromas and their sensual pleasure is profoundly thrilling, like watching a starving person feast on a delicious smell.”

 

That’s not to say that those already addicted to fragrance won’t find plenty to love and learn in this meticulously researched book.  Mandy has collected a large array of antique books and we get to benefit from the knowledge she has accumulated over the years.

 “Indeed entering the world of fragrance is like falling through the looking glass and finding on the other side an everyday miracle, a mystery, a source of wonder. It is truly a transformative experience and one I am passionate to share”.

 

Mandy is beguiled by natural materials and she transmits that feeling so well. You don’t just get the facts in Fragrant but an intimate explanation of why these materials matter to us as human beings; how they connect with us on a deep level and have the potential to transform us. The fact that Mandy has not lost that sense of wonder or passion comes across on every page.

 

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Fragrant goes into much more depth than Essence and Alchemy and cleverly uses a different fragrant material to tell the multi-layered story of perfume and approach it from a number of interesting angles. “Cinnamon” tells the history of the spice trade which is entwined with that of perfume, while “Mint” goes into the use of remedies within the home and the intriguing Books of Secrets. “Frankincense” explores incense and spirituality,  “Ambergris”  focuses on animal derived essences and finally “Jasmine” is a thoughtful meditation on perfume and beauty.

There are recipes at the end of each chapter for very simple oil and alcohol based perfumes and I shall definitely be trying out a few for body oils as I’m mildly obsessed with those.

Aside from the content, the writing is beautiful.  Each sentence has its own gentle rhythm, which makes reading Fragrant an almost meditative experience.

Mandy manages to reignite the passion I felt when I first discovered the world of essential  oils and then perfumery. She has reconnected me to the visceral reason why perfume captivates me so much.

Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent is a gorgeous treasure trove of a book.

 

Ancient Resins Body Oil & Hair Elixir

Ancient Resins Body Oil & Hair Elixir is something I’ve wanted to try for ages so I reverently tipped some of the sample onto my fresh-from-the-bath skin.  I was intrigued to read that Mandy created it as an ode to singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen.

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It’s built around resins that have been prized since ancient times for their spiritual and healing properties. Ancient Resins contains frankincense, Balm of Gilead (poplar buds). benzoin, elemi and labdanum in a base of jojoba and fractionated coconut oil.

Frankincense is a distinctive material and I expected it to dominate but in Mandy’s seasoned hands it practically purrs on the skin, taking a back-seat to the balsams.

Ancient Resins is a seductively balsamic body oil with a subtle vanilla undertone.

What I was particularly pleased about was how quickly it was absorbed by the skin. The oil is not at all greasy so you don’t have to linger for long before dressing. It leaves the skin thoroughly moisturised and softly fragranced. 

Ancient Resins Body Oil & Hair Elixir is a real sensual pleasure both to apply and wear.

 

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Have you read Fragrant or tried any of the Aftelier body products?

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