Monday, 28 December 2009

Beauty keepers for 2010

My persistent search for perfect beauty products seems to have paid off this year - I'm finding that I'm repurchasing loads of things, and have fewer and fewer extraneous bottles lying around... <whoop!>  Here's what I'm currently loving and will be continuing to use in 2010...

Skin care

Day moisturiser:  Caudalie Vinoperfect Day Perfecting Cream SPF 15
Night moisturiser:  Caudalie Vinoperfect Night Correcting Cream
Dry skin treatment:  Caudalie Vinosource Moisturizing Cream-Mask (worn as moisturiser)
Eye cream:  Caudalie Vinosource Moisturizing Cream-Mask (worn as eyecream)
Face wash:  Neutrogena Visibly Clear Spot Stress Control Daily Foam Wash (salicylic acid, and no SLS)
Face wipes:  Boots No.7 Quick Thinking 4-in-1 Wipes (the best ever!)
Eye make-up remover (non-waterproof):  Garnier Clean Sensitive Delicate Eyes Make-up Dissolver
Face exfoliator:  Caudalie Gentle Buffing Cream and Ginvera Marvel Gel
Lip balm:  REN Biomimetic Perfect Lip Honey


Primer:  Bare Escentuals Prime Time (although don't need to use much now I've found e.l.f. HD Powder)
Face powder:  e.l.f. Studio High Definition Powder and Laura Mercier Mineral Finishing Powder
Eyeshadow primer:  e.l.f. Mineral Eyeshadow Primer
Undereye concealer:  Lily Lolo mineral foundation in "Blondie"
Blusher:  e.l.f. Mineral Blusher in "Coral"
Highlighter:  MAC Strobe Liquid
Sculpting:  Ruby & Millie Face Enhance (duo of dark and light powder)
Eyebrows:  Dior Powder Eyebrow Pencil in "Sable"
Mascara:  L'Oréal Lash Architect ("Midnight Black") on upper lashes, and L'Oréal Telescopic ("Carbon Black") on lower lashes
Lash curler:  Shiseido
Lipstick:  Revlon Matte "Mauve it Over"


Shampoo:  The Body Shop Ginger Anti Dandruff Shampoo
Conditioner:  The Body Shop Honey Moisturising Conditioner


Body moisturiser:  Dove Pro-Age Beauty Body Lotion (ultra hydrating, SPF 4, AHAs, and no mineral oils!)
Sunscreen:  Tesco Soleil Beauty Hydrating Milk SPF 15 (bargain, non-greasy and 5-star UVA protection)
Hair removal:  Boots Smooth Skin IPL permanent hair reduction

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Shampoo and conditioner: The difference between cheap and expensive?

I just read with interest a post by A Beauty Junkie in London who was pondering whether it is worth paying for high end hair care.  One of my favourite topics!

I really believe that the price or brand of a shampoo or conditioner makes no difference to the efficacy of the product.  As with many other products, people often end up paying for the "brand" with shampoo and then being disappointed with results which don't reflect the price they paid.

I've been critiquing shampoo and conditioner with eagle eyes since about 8 years ago when I was silly enough to use a home pre-lightener on my dark brown hair, which then turned it into a big bush of bright orange hay.  It took four years to grow out completely... along with a multitude of hair dyes to get it back to a presentable colour.  As you can imagine, my hair and scalp were not in good condition!  My hair was so porous!  At one point, I was finding hairs which were split into three or more "ends" <shudder>.

During those four years and more, I was desperate to get my hair back to its former healthy, glossy state.  I went through so many products, from Superdrug's own-brand to salon brands.  And I spent far too much time seeking out niche SLS-free and silicone-free products.  What I learnt is that there is no difference between amount of money spent and results.  It just depends on the product itself and the right balance of ingredients for your hair type.

Only in the last two years have I found my perfect shampoo and conditioner, which are humbly from The Body Shop.  The first time my boyfriend came home with the Ginger Anti Dandruff Shampoo, I turned up my nose: "I can't use that - it has SLS!"  And I don't even have dandruff, just a dry, sensitive scalp which reacts to most products.  But I used it out of interest, and it felt so refreshing to be using a shampoo that actually lathered properly (I know foam is not indicative of a good clean, but no-one can deny that it feels good!).  And it rinses clean too.  I was worried that I'd be left with an ultra dry scalp like with all other products containing SLS (and particularly anti-dandruff shampoos), but to my surprise, my scalp was fine - and doesn't itch anymore - not even when I've left it three days before washing (rare - honest).

So that was the end of the 6-year reign of the SLS-free shampoos.  I guess my scalp can cope with a little of it...

However, I'm still a major advocate of low-silicone or silicone-free shampoos and conditioners.  If you find the right ones, your hair will look good for longer, and you won't need to constantly switch products to get the same "first time" result.  The problem with silicone-based products is that they leave build-up on the hair shaft, which makes your hair lank and dull after a few uses.  And if you're using the same products over and over again, your hair never gets a chance to shift that build-up.  To counter this, shampoos end up having too strong a detergent action, in an attempt to strip the old, dull silicone before a new, shiny layer goes on.  So over time, the hair becomes more dry underneath the superficial shine.

Other downsides I've found of silicone-based products are: hair becomes limp quicker and thus requires more frequent washing, build-up on scalp turns into grease and flakes (gross!), and little spots develop on sides of face and back where hair touches.

The Honey Moisturising Conditioner from The Body Shop is the conditioner I've been looking for my whole life.  It contains some silicones (Quaternium-80 and Amodimethicone) but they're relatively far down the list of ingredients compared to brands like Pantene, Fructis, Redken, Kerastase etc.  The Honey Moisturising Conditioner has been life-changing.  Every wash, it leaves my hair glossy and tangle-free and miraculously stops those frizzy, sticky-up hairs around my parting.  But most importantly, my hair still has bounce.  There's no point me having shiny hair if it's just hanging there.

So after that, I decided a little silicone in the conditioner is fine - although I still recommend avoiding it in shampoos to prevent build-up.

But anyway, here's the lowdown on the many other shampoos and conditioners I tried and discarded during my obsessed years (well, the ones I remember and in no particular order!):

The Body Shop Honey Moisturising shampoo

I used a few bottles of this (before discovering the Ginger shampoo) because it was SLS-free but still quite foamy.  However, it left my hair dull and heavy after a while, and my scalp would itch if I went more than two days of not washing my hair.

TIGI Catwalk Oatmeal & Honey Treatment shampoo and conditioner

Ahh... the early days!  Smelt divine.  The conditioner was low-silicone and packed with moisturising ingredients like avocado oil.  It felt nourishing but would stop "working" after a while.  The shampoo was horrible - too siliconey and left my hair greasy and my scalp itchy.

Mastey shampoo and conditioner ("moisturising" and "repairing" ranges)

A niche SLS-free and silicone-free haircare brand (rare at the time) which was soooooo difficult to get hold of in the UK, but I managed it for a couple of years.  The shampoos were great, but there's so little lather that I got through those expensive bottles too quickly for my liking.  The conditioners were effective too... but I eventually got fed up with how difficult it was to buy.  Amazing quality stuff though.

Redken All Soft shampoo and conditioner

A proper "salon" silicone-laden product!  Left my hair incredibly shiny and swingy the first wash, but would stop "working" after the first go.

KMS Silker Reconstructor and shampoo

Shampoo was rubbish - greasy and itchy.  But I had a long term relationship with the low-silicone Reconstructor which claimed to reduce the porosity of hair.  It really did make my hair silky and less porous... and smelt of cherries yum.  But the dreaded itchy scalp soon returned.

Superdrug Naturals Henna & Sweet Chestnut Intensive Conditioner

Low-silicone, cheap as chips, and actually quite good!  Used for a year.  Gave good shine and bounce.  I would have continued but it wasn't quite right for my sensitive scalp.

Superdrug Colour Enhance Intensive Brunette conditioner

Not quite as good as the Naturals Henna & Sweet Chestnut Intensive Conditioner (above) but ok for the price.  Horrible "chemical smell".  My scalp didn't like this at all.

Duchy Originals Rose & Mandarin shampoo

SLS-free and silicone-free.  Smelt of Turkish Delight (and old ladies).  Reasonably priced but nothing special.  Almost no lather, so I just ended up using loads each time.

Original Source Almond & Coconut conditioner

Silicone-free.  Really nourishing.  Left my hair in better and better condition with each use.  Used for a year.  Unfortunately, my hair took too long to blowdry after washing due to the high levels of natural oils in the conditioner.  Apart from that, a fantastic high street conditioner.  Shampoo not worth talking about.

L'Oréal Elvive Nutri-Gloss Intensive Shine Masque (pink pot)

Low-silicone (unusual for a L'Oréal product!).  Fairly moisturising but there's something not quite right with the texture of my hair after using it... like heavy-feeling.  And like the Original Source conditioner (above), the balance of oils is not quite there.  There's too much palm oil, meaning that it takes longer to dry my hair.  Plus the texture and smell of the product are really cheap.

JASON Natural Sea Kelp Conditioner

Very low-silicone but nothing special.

Avalon Organics shampoo and conditioner (various)

SLS-free and silicone-free.  Nothing special.  Low lather (but more than Mastey and Duchy).  Didn't really leave my hair feeling moisturised.  Still used for ages just for its SLS-free and silicone-free status and ease of purchase at the time.

Naked (from Boots) shampoo and conditioner (various shine-enhancing / moisturising / detoxing)

SLS-free and low-silicone.  But not great.  Leaves my hair tangly, limp and dull, and not great on the scalp despite seeming gentle.  Completely de-bounces too.  Doesn't feel luxurious to use.

Australian Organics shampoo and conditioner (various)

SLS-free.  Meh nothing special.

Bumble & Bumble Seaweed conditioner

Low-silicone.  Texture is too "watery"... no shine or bounce.  Not really moisturising enough for me.  Maybe better for fine hair.  Smells nice though.  Shampoo leaves my scalp really itchy.

James Brown Dry Hair Conditioner and Intensive Mask

Similar to the Naked conditioners... leaves my hair tangly and dull.  The non-intensive conditioner is low-silicone (being more based on oils and butters).  The intensive mask is more siliconey.  Fragrance is too artificial and perfumey.

Aussie 3 Minute Miracle conditioner

Silicone-free (I think).  Bought it back in the day when everyone thought it was amazing.  Artificial bubblegum smell.  At the time, somehow managed to leave my hair more dry and hay-like.  Rubbish.

LUSH Retread conditioner

Silicone-free.  Urgh gross gross gross... feel sick just remembering using it all those years ago.  Smelt awful.  Horrible too-natural texture (like yoghurt).  Left my hair super lank and dull.  And it went mouldy in the pot quickly (but good excuse to throw it out).

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Caudalie Vinosource Moisturizing Cream-Mask: My winter skin saviour

Caudalie Vinosource Moisturizing Cream-Mask
I don't know about anyone else, but the winter air and central heating has sapped any natural moisture out of my skin (and I didn't have much to start with... boo).

However, my ultimate skin saviour this winter has been Caudalie Vinosource Moisturizing Cream-Mask which I bought last year, in the same dry-skinned situation.   At the time, I bought the product to use as a mask but it didn't make any difference to the condition of my skin once it was rinsed off.   So the tube sat unused and lonely for several months.

But when the cold came this year, I tried using the product as a moisturiser instead... and it was the best discovery I've made all year.

The Cream-Mask is ultra rich but it sinks right into the skin to do its stuff.  I'm currently using it every day and night as an eyecream and as an additional layer or mixed in with my normal moisturisers (Caudalie Vinoperfect Day Perfecting Cream SPF 15 and Caudalie Vinoperfect Night Correcting Cream).

After application, my skin looks soft, dewy (but not greasy!) and radiant again - none of that grey, lacklustre winter skin for me thanks.

The tube is generous and cheaper than the non-mask moisturisers in the Caudalie range... it's around £21 for 50ml)... so it's great being able to pad out my existing moisturisers with it... credit crunch and all.

And as with most Caudalie products, there's no conspicuous scent, and it's full of grape-based antioxidants and polyphenols.  I'm really loving Caudalie skin care products at the moment (as you can probably tell).

The ingredients of Caudalie Vinosource Moisturizing Cream-Mask are:
Aqua (Water), Glycerin*, Isononyl Isononanoate, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil*, Sorbitan Stearate*, Peg-100 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate*, Ceteth-20, Hydroxyethylacrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyltaurate Copolymer, Squalane*, Cetyl Palmitate*, Dimethicone, Cetyl Alcohol*, Butylene Glycol, CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), Sodium Dehydroacetate, Caprylyl Glycol, Polysorbate 60*, Parfum (Fragrance), Tocopherol*, Carbomer, Sodium Phytate*, Sodium Hydroxide, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract*, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Palmitoyl Grape Seed Extract*, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Carboxymethyl Betaglucan, Benzyl Benzoate, Citronellol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene, Linalool. *Plant Origin

Thursday, 17 December 2009

New blog address!

Today I am moving my blog to a brand spanking new address.  Hopefully is a little more obvious and easier to type into the browser  ;-)

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

REN Biomimetic Perfect Lip Honey: Best lip balm *ever*

REN Biomimetic Perfect Lip Honey

Brrr... Snowing here in London.  Winter's arrived, and thankfully so has my REN Biomimetic Perfect Lip Honey (plus cute samples!).  This is the best lip balm ever... I've been using it since it came out in the last couple of years.

I'm a lip balm addict.  I've tried and tested most lip balms on the market, and always have at least two in my handbag, one on my desk, another couple on my dressing table, one in the bathroom etc...

But not just any old lip balm makes the cut.  I don't use lip balms containing mineral oil because they just don't moisturise my lips effectively.  Most lip balms contain paraffinum liquidum or petrolatum.

Plus I once read as a teenager that a woman ingests half a lipstick a year.  Given how much balm I put on my lips, it's best to play safe with ingredients.

However, most "natural" lip balms are too greasy (too much oil or shea/cocoa butter), too waxy (too much beeswax), or just taste yuck (e.g. overpowering rose / bergamot / geranium / vanilla / lemon etc).

REN Biomimetic Perfect Lip Honey is the perfect balance of moisture, slip and wax.  There is an initial pleasant citrus flavour but it's ultra subtle.  And it really sorts out dry, flaky lips.  If you have dry lips, you need this!  It costs £9.75 but lasts ages because it doesn't need to be reapplied it as much as some other balms.

The product blurb: "Formulated with a biomimetic complex to give you perfect looking lips. Smooth. Nourished. Plumped. Protected."

The ingredients:
Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Cera Alba (Beeswax), Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Oil, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Mel (Honey), Lecithin (Source Soybean), Oryza Sativa (Rice) Germ Oil, Hellianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (Source Coconut Oil), Benzyl Alcohol (Source Essential Oil), Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Palmitoyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein (Source Palm oil & Wheat), Dipalmitoyl Hydroxyproline (Source Aminoacid), Ribes Nigrum (Blackcurrant) Seed Oil, Oryzanol (Source Rice), Omega 6 Ceramide (Source Carthame), Phaeodactylum Tricornotum (Vegetable Plankton) Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Flower Oil, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Citrus Nobilis (Mandarin Orange) Peel Oil, Parfum (100% Natural Fragrance), Limonene, Linalool, Citral, Laminaria Ochroleuca (Algae) Extract, Tocopherol (Vitamin E).

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Dior Powder Eyebrow Pencil in "Sable": The perfect eyebrow pencil

Dior Powder Eyebrow Pencil in Sable

I'm just cracking open my replacement Dior Powder Eyebrow Pencil after my last one became just a stub of its former self (after 3 years!).  I absolutely loooove this eyebrow pencil.

This product's been out for yonks, but it rarely gets the recognition as it deserves.  If you find it difficult getting a natural look with wax-based eyebrow pencils, you'd love the Dior Powder Eyebrow Pencil.  It gives the same effect as applying an eyebrow powder with an angled brush - but you get the practicality and control of a pencil.

I use the "Sable"/"Sand" (453) shade which in real life is the perfect matte, taupe/grey-based brown.  My brow hairs are dark, but not very full - so without shading, they just look a bit grey.  Most browns out there have too much red in them and just look weird on me, but it's hard to go wrong with this pencil.

If you've had issues finding a good brow colour, you should check out the range.  Apparently, "shades closely match hair shades for a strikingly natural result" (from the Dior product page).

The powder eyebrow pencil comes with a handy brush on the end to brush out the colour or soften lines, plus a decent sharpener.

You can buy it from the usual department stores for around £15, or online at or

The ingredients are:
Polymethyl Methacrylate, Kaolin, Talc, Diethylhexyl, Sodium Sulfosuccinate, Magnesium Aluminium Silicate, Algin, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Disodium EDTA, Citic Acid, Cyclodextrin.  May contain: Mica, CI 77163 (Bismuth Oxychloride), CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), CI 77491, CI 77499, CI 77492 (Iron Oxides), CI 77742 (Manganese Violet), CI 77510 (Ferric Ferrocyanide).

P.S. Whilst looking online, I just noticed that Chanel and Givenchy have since brought out their own versions of powder eyebrow pencils too.  I'm pretty sure Dior were there first though!  Here are the links:

Chanel Sculpte Sourcils (£15.50)
Givenchy Eyebrow Show (£13)

Pencilled brows

Friday, 11 December 2009

L'Oréal Studio Secrets "Eye Intensifier" Eyeshadow and Eyeliner: Review

L'Oreal Studio Secrets eyeshadow and eyeliner

Yesterday, I tried out my new L'Oréal Studio Secrets Eye Intensifier eyeshadow and eyeliner for a Christmas party.  And the verdict is... I like them very much.

The concept of the Studio Secrets Professional range is that by using make-up colours that are complementary (or contrasting) to your eye colour, you can intensify certain shades in your natural eye colour and make them stand out.  For example, if you have brown eyes, you might want to bring out the gold tones.

My eyes are a mid-dark brown colour, so I picked a blue (shade 552) eyeshadow from the "brown eyes" range, and a blue (shade 650) eyeliner from the "dark eyes" range.  There was a blue eyeliner in the "brown eyes" range too but it was a bit too cobalt for me.... mine is a more subtle grey-blue.

Both the eyeliner and eyeshadow are metallic and a little shimmery (but not so shimmery that you can't see the colour itself).

I find that L'Oréal eyeshadows are not usually very pigmented, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that this Studio Secrets eyeshadow brushed on nice and dark... mmmm.  Applied over a primer (I'm loving e.l.f. Mineral Eyeshadow Primer at the mo) and nude base colour, it blends really well, so you don't end up with harsh lines.

The eyeliner lead is soft and creamy and glides on without pulling the skin.

As promised, the blue shades flatter my brown eyes and don't look as harsh as I thought they would.  I usually struggle to create smokey eyes because sooty greys and blacks overpower my natural eye colour... and then I just look dull and tired.  And brown shades can look a bit dowdy on me.  But the blues work! Who'd have thought.

You can find the L'Oréal Studio Secrets range in larger Boots and Superdrug stores in its own separate display.

Here's me wearing the eyeshadow and eyeliner:

Me wearing L'Oreal Studio Secrets eyeshadow and eyeliner

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Size 3 shoe rant

I've been having problems finding shoes to fit my size 3 (UK) feet for at least the last couple of years. Pretty shoes always gape at the back on my feet as if I've bought a size bigger than I should have - a really bad look with high heels.  I thought my feet must have shrunk but I've just discovered the real reason.  Most UK retailers have rounded up the UK size 3 to Euro 36 when in fact, a true size UK 3 is Euro 35.5.

Maaaan so annoying... don't they know how heartbreaking it is to slip into a pair of the most beautiful shoes in the world, only to find you look like a kid wearing her mother's shoes?

Anyway, if anyone else out there is having the same problem, try Marks & Spencer.  They're the only high street retailer I know of who sells a true size 3.  And they don't just do granny shoes - they usually have quite trendy styles in their Autograph and Limited Collection ranges - honest!

The only other brand I know comes up small is Guess (try Selfridges and House of Fraser)... if you can contend with the 5 inch heel that they insist on putting on their entire collection.

Monday, 7 December 2009

L'Oréal Telescopic mascara vs. Lash Architect mascara

L'Oreal Telescopic and Lash Architect mascaras

I've been using L'Oréal Lash Architect mascara in "Midnight Black" for a few months, and thought it was my perfect mascara until the latest tube started getting clumpy after just a few weeks' use.  So yesterday I picked up L'Oréal Telescopic mascara in "Carbon Black" hoping that it would be as good, but without the clumping, as I keep hearing people rave about it (although to be fair, those people already have amazing natural lashes <sigh>).

Lash Architect

Lash Architect is meant to be a "false lash" effect mascara and it really is fantastic for giving you that thick, dark "fringe" of lashes with just one coat.  It lengthens, thickens and holds a curl (a deal-breaker with my poker straight lashes) and is the best mascara ever for not smudging.  It comes off easily with a face wipe or any water-based eye make-up remover.  If you prefer, it'll actually dissolve with plain water as well and can then be wiped off.  Good if you have sensitive eyes and don't want to use chemicals around your eyes, bad if you're crying or get caught out in torrential rain without an umbrella.

The reason why I buy Lash Architect in "Midnight Black" is because unlike the "Carbon Gloss" or Waterproof versions, "Midnight Black" doesn't contain alcohol.  Someone I know once had a 1cm bald gap on her lashline after using waterproof mascara (containing alcohol like most waterproof mascaras) daily for years.  It dries the follicle out.  But don't worry, her lashes grew back after switching to an alcohol-free mascara.

The only issue I've been having with Lash Architect is that my latest tube is a bit globby after only having it a few weeks, and I always need to have a metal lash comb on hand when I use it (the Ruby & Millie folding brow and lash comb is perfect for this).


Telescopic claims to magnify and lengthen lashes, and has a thin, comb applicator.  The formula is ultra smooth and glossy, and coats the lashes like a dream.  The comb wand finds and defines every single eyelash, and is particularly good for coating the lower lashes without getting mascara everywhere.  Telescopic doesn't claim to provide any volume, and you definitely won't get much from it.  Rather than the dramatic "fringe" that Lash Architect achieves, you instead get glossy, "spikes" of lashes... a bit like when lashes are wet after washing your face.  It's definitely a more natural look.... but there's no drama.

Actually, thinking about it, I always find that Lash Architect is better after a couple of uses because the formula dries out a little and thus coats on thicker.  Maybe Telescopic will be the same.  We'll see.


Both mascaras are great, just for different purposes.  I'll continue using Lash Architect on my upper lashes, and Telescopic on my lower lashes, or when I fancy a more natural look (i.e. any time when I'm being lazy and don't want to faff around with a lash comb).

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Boots Smooth Skin IPL hair reduction system: Review after 48 weeks

Boots Smooth Skin iPulse

[Update (9th May 2011):  Remember to also read my latest post on the new iPulse PLUS, Boots Smooth Skin iPulse PLUS: New and improved!]

I had a session on my Boots Smooth Skin Intense Pulsed Light system today. I bought it pretty much as soon as it came out (around April/May '09) so I've been using it for approximately 48 weeks... that's four times longer than Boots say it takes to achieve "permanent hair reduction". So it's time for a review for those of you considering purchasing the system.

For anyone who hasn't heard of Boots Smooth Skin or IPL/iPulse, it's basically a system which uses an intense light to deliver heat down the hair shaft to destroy the follicle and thus prevent regrowth. Smooth Skin was the first system available for home use, and it promises "permanent hair reduction" after 6-12 weeks of weekly use. IPL works best on fair skin with dark hair because the heat is absorbed by pigment and melanin (it'll burn darker skin). The hair needs to be shaved immediately before treatment to increase the chance of the heat reaching the hair follicle.

Does it work?:

Boots Smooth Skin IPL really has worked for me. The areas I've treated (underarms and bikini line) are pretty much bald. Currently if I don't use the Smooth Skin system for 4 weeks or more, some hair does start growing back.. but it's sparse and much finer. As soon as I notice this regrowth, it only takes a couple of weekly zaps to get rid of it again.


I started noticing results after just 4 weeks of using my Smooth Skin system (but I was naughtily using the system 2 or 3 times a week in the initial excitement)... it was actually seriously impressive how quickly it started working! I have medium-toned skin and thick, black hair on my underarms and bikini line, so I guess my hairs had optimum pigment to absorb more light and hence carry more of it to the follicle of the hair to destroy it.

After the first 12 weeks, I noticed to my delight that I could go weeks without having to shave at all... but then I left it for 4 weeks and most of the hair grew back... I mean, not even just in patches. I was so disheartened!

Despite the disappointment, I decided to plod on and keep zapping the hairs until they disappeared again... and they did. And now there is hardly any regrowth. I think the hairs just needed multiple zaps over time before their follicles were fully destroyed. I've also been able to move up from the gentle setting to the medium setting in the last couple of months, so that's probably helped. The medium setting used to smart too much when there were more hairs absorbing that heat. We'll see what happens over the coming months... fingers crossed that all my hard work isn't for nothing.

I'm now trying the Smooth Skin system on my upper lip (I feel so attractive saying that... NOT). It's been about 12 weeks so I should be seeing significant hair reduction. But I'm not convinced. The hairs on my upper lip are dark but very fine, so maybe they're just not very efficient in carrying light through to the follicles. Who knows.

I don't bother doing my legs because the hairs there are practically invisible... I don't really ever need to shave them... something I'm thankful for, because some girls I've spoken to have given up hope of achieving any kind of results because it takes them around 3 hours to do their legs... and it's really boring.


  • Being able to go on holidays without taking razors or epilators etc... ahhh freedom...
  • Any regrowth is sparse and hair is finer, meaning zero ingrown hairs from the start
  • Not needing to wait for ugly regrowth before next treatment (unlike waxing)
  • Potential for never needing to remove hair ever again... for the rest of your life
  • Never having to forego wearing a sleeveless top in the summer just because you've forgotten to shave your armpits
  • Being smug in the fact that your friends still use old-school razors and wax


  • Despite claiming to be a pain-free way of removing hair, it still hurts quite a lot (like rubber bands being pinged on your skin) when that much heat hits your skin... especially in the early stages when hair density is high. But no pain, no gain
  • Having to wait patiently between zaps for the handset/bulb to charge up (the wait is much longer than they say)
  • Takes aaaaaages! The treatment area on the handset is tiny and if you're as obsessive as me about not missing any spots, it's up to 30 mins for underarms, and a little longer for bikini line depending how much you're removing. I hear it's up to 3 hours for the legs if you're doing it properly. Again, much longer than they say
  • The bulb overheats quickly and requires a cool-down period, leaving you waiting for up to 30 mins before you can attempt any more zaps
  • Not knowing if hair will completely grow back in the future if you leave it for long enough
  • Needing to be dedicated and diligent about using the system at least once a week for the first 6-12 weeks

If there are any updates, I'll post on this blog. So watch this (currently hair-free!) space.

Update (11th April 2010): Read my follow-up review and round-up of other home IPL systems on the market here: Philips Lumea vs. Boots Smooth Skin iPulse vs. Remington i-Light

Update (9th May 2011): iPulse have brought out a new, improved model of Boots Smooth Skin, which you can read full details of on my post, Boots Smooth Skin iPulse PLUS: New and improved!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

More e.l.f. goodies - Eyeshadow Primer, Mineral Blusher and Shine Eraser

ELF goodies

I received my latest ELF order this morning... and I'm very pleased with my choices...

Mineral Eyeshadow Primer

ELF Mineral Eyeshadow Primer

Firstly, the ELF Mineral Eyeshadow Primer turns out to do what it promises. It's a sheer, creamy, almost serum-like formula which goes on matte and silky at the same time.  It's fine to just apply with fingertips.  Once it's dried (just a few seconds), you are left with the perfect base to apply eyeshadow.  The primer gives something for the colour to grip onto, meaning that you get a truer, more opaque colour.

For the last 12 hours or so, I've had eyeshadow on one eye with no primer (just moisturiser), and one eye with the ELF Mineral Eyeshadow Primer underneath.  The eyelid with no primer looks greasy (mmm... greasy eyelids... nice!) and you can clearly see the shadow has faded (it looks more like just a sheer wash of colour) and is settling into my eyelid crease.  The eyeshadow with the primer undercoat looks as fresh and vivid as when I first applied the shadow.  Yay success.  And a bargain too at only £3 on (much cheaper than the Urban Decay and Too Faced eyeshadow primers that this is supposed to be just as good as).

The ingredients of the ELF Mineral Eyeshadow Primer are nothing suspicious:
Isododecane, Cylopentasiloxane, Octyl Palmitate, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Dimethicone, Polyglyceryl-4 Isostearate, Triacontanyl PVP, Propylene Carbonate, Titanium Dioxide, Tocopherol, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), Mica (CI 77019), Bismuth Oxychloride (CI 77163).

If you're thinking of buying this Mineral Eyeshadow Primer, be sure not to confuse it with the Eye Primer and Liner Sealer in the ELF Studio range which I didn't get because the first ingredient of that one is paraffinium liquidum (mineral oil).  I really don't like cosmetics which are mineral oil based... they always, always block my pores.

Mineral Blusher in "Coral"

ELF Mineral Blush in Coral

The next product I'm really pleased with is the ELF Mineral Blush in "Coral" ($5.00 / £3.50).  I was looking for a new blush because my skin is way too pale and pasty at the moment to be wearing my Elemental Beauty "Fudge" browny pink blusher which I bought just before the summer.  After reading all the reviews, I plumped for the shade "Coral" because the other shades sounded too pink, too light or too dark.  I was a little worried that it would be too orange on me but it's just perfect... it's a neutral peachy pink which doesn't look orange at all.  When it's on my cheeks, it is the exact same shade that my nose goes in the cold weather.... so it just looks like a healthy glow.  This blush looks matte in the pot, but it actually has a little shimmer in it.  Not chunky glitter shimmer - just a bit that you'll see in certain lights.  In the past, I've ordered blushers only to find that they make me look like a disco ball... not a good look.

The ELF Mineral Blusher ingredients are similar to any other mineral blusher on the market:
Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Boron Nitride, Caprylyl Glycol, Tocopheryl Acetate. May Contain: Bismuth Oxychloride (CI 77163), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI77499), Maganese Violet (CI77742), Ultramarines (CI77707).

Shine Eraser

ELF Shine Eraser

Lastly, the ELF Shine Eraser sheets are nothing spectacular but they do the job (blot excess oil and remove shine) and are cheap. They are quite thin and papery feeling (and are an odd colour with what looks like tiny wood chips in them! Think recycled paper that you used to make at school using old mulched up paper) but are deceptively strong. They do rip, but not as quickly as some other paper-based oil blotting sheets I've tried. They are obviously not as effective as the famous Clean & Clear blue oil blotting sheets, but they're much cheaper and fine for the average greasy face, or when you don't want to feel as if you've had all your natural face oils completely sapped by mysterious blue rubbery sheets. A little natural oil is good... no-one wants skin that looks like a cheap IKEA lampshade.

If you like ELF products, you might also like my review of ELF Studio High Definition Powder.

e.l.f. High Definition (HD) Powder: Review

ELF Studio High Definition (HD) Powder

I was just about to write about some new e.l.f goodies I just received in the post, but ended up writing a long review for the ELF High Definition Powder instead... which really deserved to be in its own post... so here it is...

I'm going to start off talking about the ELF High Definition (HD) Powder which I got a couple of weeks ago... because it's a really great product but if you haven't actually got the product in front of you, it's difficult to know what it does and what it feels like.

This High Definition powder isn't like your standard talc-based powders which leave the skin chalky and "mature"-looking.  It's made up of only two ingredients (Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Silica).  "Dimethicone" is a type of silicone, which is also used in face primers to make the skin look and feel smooth.  The "silica" in the powder is an absorbent mineral which will stop you looking shiny and keep your make-up looking fresh for longer.

The powder is completely white, fine-textured and feels really nice and silky.  It comes in a nice pot, with a good quality powder puff (which also helpfully blocks the holes when the lid is on so that the powder doesn't spill out).

When you apply the powder to the skin, the whiteness completely disappears and the powder almost melts into your skin to the point that you can't see it at all.  But you'll notice the difference immediately - it really evens out the texture of the skin, mattifies it, and leaves your skin feeling soft and silky.

I just apply the powder using a puff (I hold the puff in place over the holes while turning the pot upside down).   I know some people like to use a brush but I just can't see how I can tip the powder out in the pot without it going absolutely everywhere.

The original reason why I wanted to try the powder is because I wanted to make my life easier.  For everyday, I usually use Bare Escentuals Prime Time (a liquid primer) and then Laura Mercier Mineral Finishing Powder.   The two together give me oil control, smoothing and very slight coverage.  But those two products are on the expensive side and it's kinda a waste of time and money to use them even when I'm just at home.  So I thought the e.l.f. High Definition powder might let me skip a step and save some pennies at the same time.

I've tried every possible permutation of e.l.f. HD Powder, Prime Time and mineral finishing powder combos... I've tried using the HD powder as a finisher over my normal make-up (not bad, but kinda defeated the purpose of me buying it to save time!).  I've tried using it over Prime Time (kinda felt like the two products were doing the same job and there's zero coverage from the e.l.f. powder, so a pointless combination).

I've now decided the best application of the e.l.f. HD powder for me is as a primer (i.e. in place of where I'd normally use Prime Time).  That way, I get oil-control and smoothing.  Plus mineral make-up glides on really smoothly over the top of the HD powder.  On its own, the HD powder doesn't really do anything for coverage or evening out skin tone, but now I'm just being pernickety!

I wouldn't recommend using any liquid products over the top of the e.l.f. HD powder because the silica already on the skin will absorb moisture in the liquid make-up before you get a chance to apply it properly... meaning that you'll get dry, streaky patches rather than smooth, radiant skin.  If you normally use liquid foundation, blush, highlighters etc, then I recommend you only use the e.l.f. HD powder as a finisher right at the end.  Just dab a tiny amount on with the puff, or dust a little on with a big face brush.

So does the HD powder make you look better in pictures?  Yep it certainly does.  The layer of silicone on top of the skin completely smoothes over any not-so-smooth bits, meaning that light bounces off more evenly and makes your skin look great in photos.  You know when you see a close-up photo of yourself and reel back when you see big white shine patches on your face and visible pores?  This powder will stop that.  It's airbrushing in a pot.  It also lasts all day and is completely colourless so will work on all skin tones.

The only downside is that the HD powder can be quite drying and leaves the skin feeling tight if it's not well moisturised or if you're in a dry climate, but the feeling does pass after a while.

Also, be careful when tipping the pot without the powder puff in place, because the fine powder really pours out of the holes!   I made the mistake once and ended up with it all over my hands and room once I opened the pot again.  Another tip is to not completely peel off the protective sticker.  Cut off one half of the sticker and leave the other half stuck down. Otherwise you'll always get too much powder coming out.

ELF Studio High Definition (HD) Powder

See the e.l.f. High Definition Powder U.S. product page for more reviews and to buy for $6.. or if you're looking to buy it in the UK (£6), see the e.l.f. UK product page which doesn't have reviews for some reason.

Ok, I hope my post has helped anyone who was unsure whether to try the product or not.  It's well worth a try, especially at the price.  It's a genuinely innovative product and nothing like anything you might have used before.
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