Sunday, 31 January 2010

Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser review: Blown away!

Last week, I was sent some Liz Earle products to try, and I'm finally getting round to reviewing some of them after incorporating the new products into my skin care regime,

Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser

Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser

I'm going to talk mostly about the Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser which is the product that Liz Earle is most famously known for, and also the product that is the most drastic change in my skin care regime.

Here's the blurb:

Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser is a rich, concentrated cream that gently removes everyday grime and make-up, even stubborn mascara, to leave skin clear, smooth and exceptionally clean. Used with the pure muslin cloth provided it lifts away dead skin cells, revealing fresh, radiant skin.

Before I go into the product details, I should probably give some background to my usual cleansing regime. Up until last week, I've always used a foaming face wash (but always SLS-free). Ever since my teens, I've automatically reached for a foamy, rinse-off face wash because of the immediate fresh feeling they give and the fact they're fast to use. These face washes never really removed make-up on their own, so I always needed to use a face wipe beforehand to remove the superficial dirt and make-up.

My skin has been seriously dry the last couple of winters so I don't know why I carried on using a foaming face wash... I could tell it was stripping my skin of what little natural oil I had, leaving the top layer of skin dehydrated, grey and flaky. I don't really get spots or blackheads, but lately I've been getting these tiny blocked pores on my chin and sides of nostrils which don't ever seem to clear because the pores are too dry and tight to release the stuff they're holding onto. Sorry for the overly detailed description, but that's what I imagine is happening.

It's never even crossed my mind to use a cream cleanser. Especially not one consisting of ingredients such as cocoa butter and beeswax like this Cleanse & Polish. I've always been a bit dubious about cream or oil-based cleansers... I've never really believed they could leave my skin thoroughly clean. But my perception of cleansing has completely changed since using this product.

The instructions are to gently massage one pump (about a teaspoon-sized blob) of the cream all over dry (as in "not wet") face, including over the eyes. It's best to leave the eyes till the end to avoid smearing eye make-up all over your face. This "cleanse" step dissolves all my grime and make-up (even my mascara and thick lines of Smashbox Jet Set Waterproof Eye Liner). It doesn't sting the eyes either - I can open my eyes even with the cream all over them.

Cleanse & Polish is full of nice "natural" ingredients (and no mineral oil of course), but the one I most notice while I'm massaging it over my face is the subtle eucalyptus essential oil which is refreshing and decongesting (but thankfully nothing like Vicks Rub!). Notably, it also contains rosemary, chamomile and hops (full list to follow). The ingredients and massage work together to purify and tone the skin, and it all feels and smells super indulgent.

The next step is the "polish" step which involves rinsing a muslin cloth in "hand hot" water, wringing it, and then using it to polish the cream off the skin. I like to use the hottest water I can manage and then place the cloth over my face for a few seconds to steam it up a bit. I then use it to wipe off the cream using light, circular motions, concentrating on areas which are most prone to blockage (sides of nose and chin). The last step is to rinse (I prefer comfortably warm water for this). You can repeat the cleanse and polish steps if you want. I only feel like I need to repeat if I haven't removed any of my make-up before starting the cleanse and polish.

At first, I was surprised that my skin actually felt "clean" and refreshed after rinsing. I assumed the rich ingredients would leave at least some residue but it rinses completely clean without stripping.

I don't like using anything too abrasive on my skin, and the muslin cloth felt uncomfortably scratchy the first time I used it. However, it has softened up after a few uses and now feels much nicer on my skin. I don't feel the need to use an exfoliator when I'm using these cloths because they're enough to gently slough off dead skin. By the way, these muslin cloths should be put in a machine wash every few uses to stop them breeding bacteria.

So have I noticed a difference in my skin since using Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish? Well, I've been using it in the mornings and evenings, and I can honestly say I've already seen a difference. My skin gleams after the cleansing and polishing, and it miraculously feels "comfortable" after towel drying my face. I'm not kidding - my skin has been so dry lately that it was physically impossible to smile after washing my face. Of course I still need to wear moisturiser (damn you, hard London water!), but I don't feel like I need to slather it on like I used to. Out of habit last night, I dotted on about 3x more moisturiser than I actually needed, forgetting that now I can just use a normal person's amount of moisturiser.

The most interesting thing I've noticed though is that those persistent little blocked pores have relaxed their grip, and I've finally been able to neatly extract them. And wow that felt good. No new blocked pores have appeared either. I was a bit worried about the cocoa butter and beeswax (and other rich ingredients) blocking my pores but it turns out I didn't need to worry at all.

I will definitely, definitely be purchasing the product when it runs out. I love it. I've finally been forced to acknowledge that I no longer have teenage skin (although Cleanse & Polish is apparently pretty good on teenage skin too), and it actually seems silly now when I think that I was still using foaming face washes until last week!

Out of interest, I've been reading other people's reviews of Cleanse & Polish on MakeupAlley and some people have had reactions to the product... perhaps from the eucalyptus oil? If you know you're sensitive to mentholated products, or just want to try the product out, there are travel-sized tubes available to buy for £4.75. The 100ml pump starter with two muslin cloths costs £12.75.

The ingredients of Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser are:
Aqua (water), Caprylic/capric triglyceride, Theobroma cacao (cocoa) seed butter, Cetearyl alcohol, Cetyl esters, Sorbitan Stearate, Polysorbate 60, Glycerin, Cera alba (beeswax), Propylene glycol, Humulus lupulus (hops) extract, Panthenol, Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) extract, Anthemis nobilis (chamomile) extract, Eucalyptus globulus (eucalyptus) oil, Limonene, Citric acid, Sodium hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Benzoic acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Dehydroacetic acid, Polyaminopropyl biguanide.

Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic

Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic

Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic is an alcohol-free, non-drying toner. Actually, I keep calling it a toner, but it is officially described more as a "tonic" which leaves a fine layer of moisture on the skin and soothes and revitalises the skin with ingredients such as aloe vera, vitamin E and rose-scented geranium.

This "tonic" is as light as water, is really refreshing and soothing and has a subtle floral scent. Once I've swept it across my face using a cotton wool pad, my skin feels lightly hydrated, and I could probably just about go without using a moisturiser (I never thought that was possible).

The ingredients of Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic are:
Aqua (water), Aloe barbadensis (aloe vera) leaf juice, Glycerin, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, Cucumis sativus (cucumber) fruit extract, Calendula officinalis (calendula) flower extract, Anthemis nobilis (chamomile) extract, Humulus lupulus (hops) extract, Panthenol, Allantoin, Tocopherol (vitamin E), Tocopheryl acetate, Parfum (fragrance), Citronellol, Coumarin, Geraniol, Linalool, Sodium hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Benzoic acid, Dehydroacetic acid, Ethylexylglycerin, Polyaminopropyl biguanide.

Having never found a toner which provided any real benefits before, I've just added Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic to my list of dry skin must-haves due to its ability to noticeably hydrate and prep the skin prior to applying moisturiser. I find that my skin looks fresher and plumper after applying the tonic and moisturiser smoothes on more easily.

A 200ml bottle costs £11.25. Interestingly, you can also get spritzer bottles which would be fantastic for situations when air is really dry e.g. on flights or in air conditioned offices. Or you could just decant a bit of the toner into a travel-sized spray bottle.

Liz Earle Superskin Moisturiser

Liz Earle Superskin Moisturiser

Liz Earle Superskin Moisturiser

The Superskin Moisturiser is from the more premium-priced, extra moisturising range within Liz Earle.

Quick blurb:

Specially formulated to rejuvenate mature or very dry skin, this rich, luxurious, fragrance-free moisturiser, contains a powerful blend of high quality naturally active ingredients to smooth, plump and replenish for healthy, youthful looking skin.

OK, I definitely wouldn't call my skin "mature" yet! But I do fall into the "very dry skin" group. I've been using the moisturiser only at night because I use a Caudalie SPF cream in the day. This moisturiser is lovely to use... the second ingredient is cranberry seed oil, so the consistency is... well, what you'd imagine from a moisturiser with an oil base... I don't want to use the word "greasy" because that sounds derogatory and I really don't mind this consistency in a cream at all... but you know, it has that "all natural moisturiser" thing going on, as if you'd whipped water and oil together to emulsify it. Despite its richness, it absorbs well, and a little really does go a long way.

It is fragrance-free and the only scent is the slightest hint of rosehip seed oil (which although not mentioned anywhere by the brand, is an essential oil known for helping to fade scars and pigmentation).

The cream is packed with other "natural" moisturising ingredients like borage seed oil and shea butter, and antioxidants from vitamin E and pomegranate extract. So if you've got dehydrated, needy skin, this will really sort it out. I have no complaints so far! My skin looks and feels great after using this - like it's really being nourished. And do you know what? I think a little leftover dry, red patch from an old spot on my cheek has suddenly disappeared (it had been there for weeks) - I'm going to put that down to the rosehip seed oil.

The ingredients of Liz Earle Superskin Moisturiser are:
Aqua (water), Vaccinium macrocarpon (cranberry) seed oil, Glycerin, Ethylhexyl stearate, Rosa rubiginosa (rosehip) seed oil, Dicapryl carbonate, Tocopherol (vitamin E), Borago officinalis (borage) seed oil, Cetearyl alcohol, Butyrospermum parkii (shea butter), Glyceryl Stearate, Pentaerythirityl distearate, Punica granatum (pomegranate) fruit extract, Xanthan gum, Sodium stearoylglutamate, Sodium polyacrylate, Phenoxyethanol, Benzoic acid, Dehydroacetic acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Polyaminopropyl biguanide.

A 50ml jar of Superskin costs £31.50.

Disclosure: PR samples

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Smashbox Jet Set Waterproof Eye Liner: Review

Smashbox Jet Set Waterproof Eye Liner
I've been wearing Smashbox Jet Set Waterproof Eye Liner in "Midnight Black" every day since I bought it at the weekend, and I think it's brilliant.  I always line my upper lashline and at least the outer half of my lower lashline to give my eyes more definition, but I find that most liners (whether pencil or shadow) fade on my eyelids, and smudge under my eyes by the end of the day.

I did recently buy an Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil, but I find it difficult getting a neat line with a pencil.  Thus I sought out a "potted" gel eyeliner that I could dip my small angled brush into.

I tried this Smashbox Jet Set eyeliner on the back of my hand in the store, and after letting it dry for a few seconds, it literally did not budge no matter how much vigorous rubbing it endured.  I was sold.

The eyeliner is nice and creamy to apply, and glides on evenly (no blobby, wonky lines).  It dries quickly, so you need to work fast if you want to create a smudged effect.  Once the liner has dried, it stays put until you remove it with eye make-up remover.  It's crease-resistent as well as smudge-proof, so it looks as fresh at the end of the day as it does when first applied.  Truly impressive!  I can't believe I didn't try it earlier!

The pot is really dinky.  There's no point it being any bigger because I'd rather get a fresh pot every so often, rather  than have it dry out because I've had it for ten years.  I think I paid £16.50 for this.

Monday, 25 January 2010

A nice eye contour brush from Clinique

Clinique Eye Contour Brush

I bought this Clinique Eye Contour brush (£10) after work today.  This is actually my first ever contour brush <gasp> because I've never found one that looks like it would do a good job on my eyes.  I have weird eyes - they're obviously not anything like Caucasian eyes, and they're not "monolids" either, but there is still quite a lot of "hood" going on.  I see all these eye make-up tutorials on YouTube and think "hmm my eye crease doesn't look like that".

On my hooded eyelids, there's no point shading the real eyelid crease, because the crease is so hidden away that it wouldn't really give that deep-set contoured look.  So I'm supposed to shade just under the brow bone to give the impression of contour.  Sounds fine in theory, but in practice my brow bone area is actually very flat... and it's really difficult to draw in contours without it looking obvious.  Despite not owning a contour brush this morning, I still gave it a good go (with my new Illamasqua eyeshadows and also L'Oréal Studio Secrets "Nude" shimmery shadow on the eyelid) and got O.K. results, but I still need to practise. I just took a photo (argh why is it so orange-tinged?!):

Most eye contour brushes seem to be too pointed (giving too harsh a line) or too fluffy or flat (giving less control).  But this contour brush by Clinique is short-bristled and domed (if you look at the bristles from a bird's eye view, they form a circle) and it feels really good to use.

Here is a close-up of the bristles, which I had to get from the Sephora website because my ancient camera takes terrible close-up shots:

Clinique Eye Contour Brush

Update (2 days later):
I love this brush!  It makes contouring so much faster and easier!  How did I survive without it??

Saturday, 23 January 2010

My first foray into Illamasqua: Eyeshadows, blushers and lipgloss

I went to Selfridges today in an attempt to find a berryish pink lipstick to brighten up my face.  After trying on what felt like hundreds of lipsticks, I settled at the Illamasqua counter and let one of the nice girls try some products on me, based on my request for a natural day / bridal look.  I loved (and bought) everything she used (except a very chunky glittery powder she used under my brows and on top of my cheekbones).

The photos below are of me after the session (although the flash on my rubbish camera has drowned out most of the eye and cheek colour, and the glitter looks even worse on camera than in real life!).  I'll talk about the products used further down...

Illamasqua face

Illamasqua face

Illamasqua Powder Eyeshadow

Illamasqua eyeshadow in Servant, Heroine, Jules
From left to right, "Servant", "Heroine", "Jules".

She used "Servant" (eggshell) as a base up to my brows, "Heroine" (mid-toned taupe) all over my eyelids just past the crease, and "Jules" (milk chocolate) on my eyelid.  What I loved about these eyeshadows is that they're all completely matte, and it really feels like you can properly sculpt and shade with them because there's no shimmer to detract from the colours.  I couldn't get a good photo of the shadows on my eyes - I'm telling you, my camera is soooo bad (it's 5 years old).  All you can see in the photos of me is the glitter that was applied under my brows, which was super chunky. At least I know now to avoid any shimmer/glitter when I know I'm being photographed.  The eyeshadows were £14 each.

Illamasqua Powder Blusher

Illamasqua Powder Blusher in Tremble, Spite
From left to right, "Tremble", "Spite".

She used "Tremble" (pink) on the apples of my cheeks.  I would never have thought to try it because it looks so florid in the palette, but it's actually a really pretty, warm pink on the skin.  I was in a bit of a peach blusher rut up until now, so I love having this pink to play with!  Like the eyeshadows, this blusher is completely matte.

I spotted "Spite" (beige brown) on the counter and thought it would be perfect for contouring because it's matte and not too orange-toned.  So she used that under my cheekbones.  I think she was actually a little too light-handed with it though, because the colour hasn't shown up that much.  These blushers were £16 each.

Illamasqua Intense Lipgloss

Illamasqua Intense Lipgloss in Move

Illamasqua Intense Lipgloss in Move

I didn't find any colours I liked in the lipstick range, which was a shame because the lipsticks were really nicely pigmented.  However, the Illamasqua girl applied Illamasqua Intense Lipgloss in the shade "Move" on me, and I loved it as soon as she held up the mirror for me to see.  "Move" is a pretty, fresh pink.  It has mauve undertones like my natural lip colour, which is probably why I immediately felt comfortable seeing the colour on my lips, despite it being brighter than I'd usually go for.

I just went onto the Illamasqua website and "Move" is described as "deep purple" but it really isn't that purple! <shrugs>

The gloss itself is more pigmented than the average lipgloss (and much more pigmented that all of the "gloss lipsticks" that seem to be everywhere at the moment).  The colour is opaque on my lips and evens out my lip tone.  In the photos, the flash has made the gloss look very "wet" but in real life, my lips just look really smooth and even-toned.

What I love about this lipgloss is that it feels incredibly comfortable (that's the best word I can describe  it) on the lips.  The consistency is weightless and doesn't feel at all tacky or gloopy on the lips.  And it lasts well too - it doesn't even transfer onto the glass I'm drinking out of.  Amazing.  The Intense Lipgloss was £12.50.

I definitely want to try other products in the range now!  What do you think of Illamasqua?  Any must-have products in the range that I have to try?

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Ardell DuraLash Individual Lashes: Review and photos

Ardell DuraLash Individual Lashes

Today I tried out some Ardell DuraLash Naturals Individual Lashes which I bought from Boots.  I chose these because the flares are "knot-free" meaning that they don't have that weird black blob on the ends like other false lashes on the market - they taper to a flat point, and are thus more likely to look natural.  I bought both the "short" and "medium" flares, plus a vial of Ardell LashTite Adhesive (in "clear") which is specifically for individual lashes.

These lashes are designed to stay put until your lashes naturally fall out.  The glue is more like superglue than the rubbery white stuff you get with strip lashes... so your mistakes need to be few and minor!  You can apparently remove the lashes with mineral oil.

Ok, before I talk about the application, I should tell you that these are the first false lashes I've ever used.  I'm going to ignore the fact that I once shamefully failed to apply the Eyelure Girls Aloud "Kimberley" strip lashes.  I couldn't even get just one side to stick on in the right place!  And they looked ultra fake.  Well, they were Girls Aloud branded after all...

And just to refresh your memory, here is a "before" photo of my usual and unremarkable eyelashes sans make-up:

I followed the instructions to the word (mostly):
Thoroughly clean your eyelashes and eyelids so they are free of oil and make-up.   Pour a few drops of LashTite adhesive on a piece of foil.  Using tweezers, gently lift an Individual lash from tray and dip end into adhesive.  Starting at the center of the eyelid, apply lashes one at a time by placing the lash cluster on top of one of your own natural lashes with the end close to, but not touching, your eyelid.  Support lash gently with fingertips until adhesive sets.  Work towards the outer corner.  Return to center and gradually work inward until lashes blend.  Apply 10-15 lash clusters per eye. Individual lashes should be replaced as your own natural lashes shed (about 2-3 weeks).

I started on my right eye.  I found it easier to pull the lashes from the tray with my fingers rather than with tweezers because the concentrated pressure from tweezers caused a few kinks here and there.  The clusters have a bit of rubbery glue on the ends from being stuck to the tray... so I also had to use my fingers to rub off as much of that as possible so as not to affect the sticking power of the proper glue.

However, I used my Tweezerman slanted tweezers to do the lifting, dipping (in glue) and positioning.  I also used the blunt end of the tweezers to lightly press each cluster onto my natural lashes.  I found it best to lightly grip the clusters at the fluttery end like in this photo:

I was surprised how quickly I was able to stick the lash clusters in place on my right eye... there were no mishaps whatsoever!  I used five "short" lashes from the centre of my eye, and then five "medium" lashes for the outer quarter of my eye.  To see where I was going while applying each cluster (difficult because they blend so well with my natural lashes), I found it easiest to lift my eyelid up and look at my lashes from below.  I reckon it only took about 10 minutes, which is hardly anything considering I'd never applied individual lashes before.

My left eye however, took about 3x longer to do because my hand-to-eye coordination got all confused in the mirror.  I thus ended up with glue on my eyelid and down the length of some lashes. But I got there in the end with reasonably acceptable results (although nowhere near as neat and natural-looking as the right eye).

One tip is to pour just tiny drops at a time of the glue onto the foil, so that if it dries out while you're fiddling around, you can just pour another drop out, and less is wasted.

Once I was done, I cleaned off the dodgy bits of glue on my eyelid with a cotton bud wetted with oil-free eye make-up remover.  I went a bit crazy with the glue on my left eye, and unfortunately the glue dries shiny and crispy, but there seems to be nothing I can do to rectify that!

Ok, here are the photos of the results.  I haven't bothered to apply any lashes to the inner half of my eyes, and I haven't trimmed where there's a sudden jump in lash length, but I do plan to!  I also haven't applied any eye make-up.  You can click on the photos to zoom in if you want... you might see what I mean about the shiny glue (which isn't that noticeable unless you really look out for it... and presumably can be covered up with mascara).

Ardell DuraLash Individual Lashes after

Ardell DuraLash Individual Lashes after

Ardell DuraLash Individual Lashes after

Ardell DuraLash Individual Lashes after

The lashes feel really secure at the moment... but I don't know how they will fare with future eye make-up removal, face washing, sleeping etc. I will post an update once I've had enough time to find out!

By the way, I would feel comfortable wearing these lashes out without any eyeliner or mascara.  Apart from a bit of shininess at the base of the lashes (where I was being clumsy), they look really natural with no obvious "joins" apart from where I haven't trimmed them.

Each pack of individual lashes was £5 and the glue £4.50.

Update (1 day later):
Two clusters from each eye came unstuck while I was washing my face last night (I guess they were the ones that had the least glue).  However, when I woke up this morning (and after washing my face again), the remaining clusters were still intact and positioned correctly.  I had to fill in the gaps with new clusters, which took about 5 minutes, and I was then happy to leave the house with no mascara.  Not too bad a product at all!

Update (4 days later):
I'm still wearing these lashes... but on average two clusters (usually the short, inner ones) fall off every night while I'm washing my face, meaning I have to replace them in the morning.  For convenience, I just dip the lash ends into the tilted bottle of glue rather than pouring glue onto foil.  It still takes less time than trying to make my lashes look longer and fuller using mascara though, so I don't mind.  It seems that the clusters fall off from insufficient glue, or where the glue has become weak, rather than from natural lash-shedding.

So far, one person has asked me if I've done something different to my lashes after noticing they looked very Bambi-esque - and she was surprised when I told her I was wearing fake lashes.  So I'm relieved they look natural but still give noticeable oomph.  I've been concerned about the glue becoming slightly white in places where it is flaking, so I've bought some Ardell LashTite Adhesive in "dark" which apparently doesn't dry white.  It's very inky-looking in the bottle:

Ardell LashTite glue Dark

Update (5 days later):
Yesterday I had tried wearing mascara on the false lashes (to cover a bit of the white flakiness that had developed from the "clear" adhesive).  But when I used eye make-up remover that night, more clusters than normal came unstuck.  So then I thought it would be a good opportunity to remove all the false lashes to give my eyelashes a break.  The clusters on my right eye came away pretty quickly with a bit of oil-based eye make-up remover (I didn't have any mineral oil).  But when I moved onto my left eye, I realised how much glue I had used on that side.  It took forever to remove the false lashes.  I made a mental note to use the glue with a lighter touch in future.  Without the falsies, my natural lashes look extra plain and short, so I don't think I'll last long before I stick them back on!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Cheap silicone eyelash curler replacement pads

Silicone eyelash curler replacement pads

I found these Seki eyelash curler replacement pads in Boots (the one by Bond Street tube station).  They say on the back of the packet that they are "silicon rubber" so I assumed they would be as squishy (and thus as effective) as the original pad on my Shiseido curlers but they're not quite as squishy.  However, they're not nearly as hard as most curler pads... so they're not too bad.  And I only paid £2.99 for a pack of four.  Probably worth just buying the Shiseido pads in future though!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Face: Bronze eyes, glowy cheeks

With some time to burn "in town" yesterday, I bought a few bits and pieces to try out.  In the photo above, I'm wearing Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place ShadowStick in "Bronze" on my eyelid and lower lashline, blended with L'Oréal Studio Secrets Eye Intensifier eyeshadow in "Nude (511)" up to the brow.

I have highlighted my brow arches and the inner corners of my eyes with Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place ShadowStick in "Gold Pearl".  My waterline is lined with my new Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in "Zero" (plain ol' black).

I also bought Prestige Skin Loving Minerals Fresh Glow Baked Blush in the shade "Peach" which I am wearing in the photo.

I know the colours are hardly very adventurous but I'm trying to find some photo-friendly, long-lasting make-up in classic colours for my wedding this summer.  I'll probably be a cheapskate and do my make-up myself you see.  (By the way, if you have any tips, I'd love to hear them!)

Here are some mini reviews of the products while I'm here:

Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place ShadowStick

I really like the Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place ShadowSticks.  They glide on beautifully, and the colour result is smooth and intense.  They are highly pearlised, but this doesn't obscure the colour itself.  I can't imagine this stuff ever fading or creasing.  Yesterday I had swatches of it on the back of my hand and realised after washing my hands twice (with soap of course), the lines of eyeshadow were still there, pearl effect intact!

L'Oréal Studio Secrets Eye Intensifier

I picked up another one of these L'Oréal Studio Secrets Eye Intensifier eyeshadows after being impressed with the blue shade I bought a while back.  This "Nude (511)" shade is designed for brown eyes.  It looks pink in the packaging, but has no real colour once applied... it's a high shimmer nude.  It's nice.

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil

The Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in "Zero" is a joy to use.  True to its name, it glides on creamily, and has a long-lasting intense black colour.  The sales assistant was wearing a really cool blue metallic shade, and even though it was the end of the day, it still looked perfectly neat and vibrant around her eyes.

Prestige Skin Loving Minerals Fresh Glow Baked Blush

I was looking for a rosy pink colour for the apples of my cheeks, and thought this little dome of Prestige Skin Loving Minerals Fresh Glow Baked Blush looked cute.  When I got home, I realised that it's not very pink at all... and that the name of the shade is "Peach".  Whoops.  It's still the pinkest blusher I have though, and actually the colour works well with my skin tone.  It has an opalescent finish, so it gives skin a glow without actually having big shimmer particles (I try to avoid shimmer).  It's the kind of product that will give you shiny, round cheek apples.  I like it!

P.S. Sorry about the unkempt eyebrows in the photo <shakes head in shame>...

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Humidifiers for dry skin when no moisturiser works

I've noticed that in the past week, most of the beauty bloggers I follow have mentioned in one way or another that the cold, cold winter has wreaked havoc on their skin... I'm glad it's not just me!

If your skin has got to the point where literally no amount of exfoliation and moisturiser can make it look and feel normal, you might want to consider a humidifier. I bought one in October after one day gasping out loud at my reflection after washing and drying my face. My skin was so dry and tight, I hardly recognised myself. I looked like some kind of dried fruit delicacy. I have dry skin anyway, but that was just crazy dry... and the hard water in London really doesn't help. And if that wasn't bad enough, I kept waking up with ultra dry eyes too. Sometimes they were so dry, it hurt to open them.

Then I found myself wishing I was in a humid climate just so I wasn't so dependent on moisturiser and eye drops. As well as for obvious reasons, I love being on holiday in places like the Caribbean because the humidity means that my skin feels amazingly moisturised and supple, even without moisturiser.

That was how I ended up getting a humidifier. Sure I can make my skin look ok with a moisturiser (Caudalie Vinosource Moisturizing Cream-Mask specifically), but it's just not the same knowing that as soon as I wash off the moisturiser, my skin will be all grey and flaky again.

Apparently the optimum relative humidity indoors is between 45-55%. But since the cold snap started here, it's been going down to between 20-30% (I bought a cheap hygrometer from eBay... and have since become a humidity nerd, sorry). If I don't have my humidifier on, I can really notice the dry air. The skin on my hands feels more like tissue paper than human skin, and the air feels dry to breathe. I've even had a full-on nosebleed from the dry air this winter!

The reason why the air is so dry in winter is because cold air can't hold as much moisture, and then we have central heating on as well... so it's doubly bad. When the air is dry, it'll try to regulate itself by grabbing moisture from anything it can find... including our skin, eyes, lips, clothes etc. So it is literally sapping natural moisture from us.

So does a humidifier make a difference to dry skin? Yes it really, really does. I don't know how I would have coped this winter without my humidifier! It looks a bit weird in the house (my fiancé despairs of my multiplying household gadgets... Dulux PaintPod anybody?) but I love it. I have it on overnight too.

You can get a decent humidifier reasonably cheap these days... £30 even. I regret paying so much for mine (~£170 for an Air-O-Swiss E2441)... I always get drawn into technical specifications and end up wanting most expensive option. But as long as a humidifier gets moisture back into the air, it should be fine.

Questions I asked myself, and researched before getting a humidifier:

Will it make everything in my house mouldy?
  • Most humidifiers have a built-in way to keep the humidity at an optimum level so it'll never be too humid.
  • It has benefits for the house too. Apparently dry air is bad for wood furniture and flooring because it makes wood prone to cracks, and it also accelerates wear and tear in soft furnishings.
Won't humidified air carry more cold/flu germs and viruses?
  • Nope, unless the humidity has gone way above optimum, dry air is much worse for you because it'll dry out nasal membranes and thus make the body more susceptible to infection.
What's best betweensteam, ultrasonic and evaporative humidifiers?
  • Steam humidifiers use the most energy because they need to keep the water at boiling point.
  • Ultrasonic humidifiers are the most popular because they're silent, cheap to run and don't require filters.
  • I chose an evaporative humidifier because I was worried about the white dust that can be a side effect of ultrasonic humidifiers, but now I regret it because the filters are expensive and need replacing more frequently than I thought.
How much water does it go through?
  • It depends on how much of the day it's switched on, but I think mine's adding about 5 litres of moisture into the air in total day and night. I do have it on a lot at the moment though.

Ok I will stop going on about humidifiers now before your eyes glaze over if they haven't already... but it's something to think about if your skin has got to the stage where no moisturiser helps anymore.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Blog awards, plus "Colour" and "You're a Doll" tags

I'm feeling very honoured today because I have been nominated by two lovely bloggers for the "I Love Your Blog", "One Lovely Blog" and "You're a Doll" awards.  I am so flattered that people actually read my blog, let alone mention it on their own!

(I have to admit, I am still a bit confused over whether these awards and tags are separate or related to each other <embarrassed face> so sorry if I'm jumbling them up even more!)

So firstly, I was nominated by the very sweet Natalie at NaTGN with the "I Love Your Blog" (thank you!) award and tagged with the "Colour Tag".  She chose to tag me with the colour pink.

You probably won't believe me because of the overriding colour on your screen right now, but I honestly don't own many pink items!  I could only find three items to follow through with the tag!  Here they are:

And today, BeautyJunkieLondon (whose blog I enjoy immensely) nominated me with the doubled-up for efficiency "One Lovely Blog" award and "You're a Doll" award.  Thank you so much!

For the "You're a Doll" award, I need to answer the question "What character from a book/movie are you most like?"  Hmmm I'll have to come back to that one!

I'm really enjoying being part of the beauty blogging community... I love indulging in everyone's beauty chinwagging!  As well as NaTGN and BeautyJunkieLondon, here are just a few of my favourite blogs out of the many I read and enjoy (mostly British).  If your name is here, consider yourself nominated for a quadruple whammy of awards/tags (although I'm sure you will all have received many already).

Asian Beautifier
London MakeUp Girl
Secret Diary of a Beauty Addict
I Heart Cosmetics
Le Salon de Beaute

UPDATE:  Ok, I've finally remembered a character who I've been likened to, although she's not strictly in a film or book.  I'm a bit neurotic like Monica from Friends.  Everything needs to be in order, facing forward, and "just so" or I can't focus on anything else.  And I actually have real obsessive Monica behaviour like vacuuming the vacuum cleaner.  I always wanted to be more like Rachel though.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Eyelash perming at home: Clips method

I permed my eyelashes today after I realised they'd gone straight again after the last perm in November. My au naturel lashes are poker straight and grow downwards <sigh>. All you girls with naturally curly lashes don't know how lucky you are!

Anyway, I've been perming my lashes for almost a year every 4-6 weeks because my straight lashes are such a faff to deal with (heating lash curlers with a hairdryer, clamping at multiple points up the length of the lash, looking for mascaras which will hold the curl... etc). Also because curled lashes are more of a welcoming sight when I look in the mirror first thing in the morning. And it's nice on holidays too.

The equipment I use are eyelash perming clips (from the brand "SimplePerm") and a permanent lotion and setting lotion from Salon System (both from an eyelash perming student kit).

The clips clamp onto the lashes and push them upwards, a bit like an eyelash curler does. You're meant to put the clips in place before applying the permanent lotion (which is pushed through the rows with a brush). And then after 15 minutes, the setting lotion is meant to be applied without removing the clips. But I find that it's easier to apply the permanent solution first onto my lashes using a cotton bud, and then clamping on the clips quickly afterwards. This is what it looks like (no sniggering at the back please):

After 15 minutes is up (during which time the bonds in the hair are meant to have broken up), I remove the clips and apply the setting lotion with new cotton buds, then as swiftly as possible put the clips back in place. I wait another 15 minutes for the bonds to set in the new curled lash shape... then slide the clips up to remove them. Then a quick wipe over the lashes with a damp cotton wool pad, and it's all done.

I haven't been getting very curly results lately though. I think the permanent lotion has been exposed to air too many times and has become ineffective or something. The last couple of times I've permed, rather than curling upwards, the lashes have only managed to become slightly more lifted than they were before. So instead of pointing downward, they'll point forward... but not upward. But this time, it's almost like the perm hasn't "taken" at all.

Lashes pointing forward is still a whole lot better than lashes pointing downward though! If I need a more intense curl, I only need to squeeze eyelash curlers once at the base of the lashes and don't need to heat them first. But actually, a good mascara alone is sufficient to pull the lashes upward (I like L'Oréal Lash Architect for that).

Here are the results of the not-so-curly eyelash perm (sorry, I don't have a "before" photo but trust me, this is slightly more "curled" compared to how my lashes are naturally! But there's hardly any curl this time because I probably need to replace the old perming lotion):

I get much curlier results using the traditional "rollers" / "rods" method where the eyelashes are glued to a roller instead of clamped in clips. But the that method is unbelievably fiddly! It takes absolutely forever to evenly stick the lashes onto the rollers using weird Copydex-style glue, and then they become unstuck anyway once the solutions are applied. Also, the curl that results from using rollers is so drastically different to the straightness of my natural lashes, that it all looks a bit of a mess when the new lashes grow through (from 2 weeks after the perm).

Just need to add before I publish this post, I'm pretty sure eyelash perming is meant to be done at salons only, and not at home... so err... don't try this at home kids...

Update (17th October 2011): I've since found out that perm solutions become much less effective once they've been exposed to air! I think mine must have been completely neutralised over time! I've now started using the Lash Lifter kit from Cils France which comes with silicone shields (to give a more "lifted" look than traditional rollers and comes with single use sachets of perming and setting lotions. Here is an updated photo of my bare lashes since:

Lash Lifter eyelash perm kit results

Monday, 4 January 2010

Caudalie Vinoperfect moisturisers: Review

Happy New Year everyone!

I keep meaning to write reviews on the Caudalie Vinoperfect Day Perfecting Cream SPF15 and Caudalie Vinoperfect Night Correcting Cream I've been using, but I know that once I start typing, I'll be here forever (I tend to go a little overboard with the details).  But here goes...

Caudalie Vinoperfect Day Perfecting Cream SPF15

I'm on my second tube of this day moisturiser.   I chose it because it claims to boost radiance and reduce the appearance of existing dark spots and prevent new ones forming.  It apparently does this with the use of "Viniferine" (from the sap of vine stalks), which evens out the complexion by helping to distribute melanin more evenly rather than it clumping up and forming dark spots. From the Caudalie website:
"How does Viniferine work?

1/ Viniferine regulates existing dark spots
It controls tyrosinase, responsible for melanin overproduction.

2/ Viniferine prevents the appearance of new dark spots
It offers exceptional anti-oxidant protection.

3/ Viniferine evens out and brightens the complexion
It boosts microcirculation and improves melanin distribtion."

Sounds good, right?  Over the last couple of years, I've been on a few hot, sunny holidays and despite meticulous sunscreen application, I've noticed that those "freckles" that always used to come and go, no longer go.   They just come.  Sometimes I go to brush off what I think is a bit of dirt or fallen eyeshadow on my face and realise it's just a new freckle that has come out of nowhere.

Freckles on other people look great... but on me, I know they're not real freckles - they're hyperpigmentation (which sounds far less cute).  It seems to be common with Asian skin.  My mum has always been self-conscious about her freckles.  She has a lot of them which I suspect is because she's never worn sunscreen in her life (<sigh> I try to educate her on sunscreen but she won't listen).  I recently saw a greeting card in a shop which said something like "If one thing's certain in life, it's that everyone ends up looking like their mum".  And when I think about it, it's so true.  I'm looking more and more like my mum as I get older.  So if she's prone to dark spots, I know I will be too.

I admit I was completely drawn in by the radiance-boosting claims of the Caudalie Vinoperfect skin care range.  Yes, I'd like non-clumpy melanin distribution please.

I'm also keen to maintain an even skin tone to avoid ever needing to wear foundation. I've never felt I've needed foundation before, and I really don't want to add another step to my make-up regime. It already takes too long!

So what is the product like?  Well, the packaging is nice and it's in a tube which is handy for travelling.  The cream itself is white and definitely more of a rich, "cream" texture rather than gel-cream.  The whiteness and opacity reminds me of sunscreen, but it doesn't feel sticky or leave a white cast.  The texture is reassuring because it means the UVA protection is probably decent.  I hear UVA protector ingredients have almost no photostability and thus need other ingredients to stop the UVA shields degrading so quickly on exposure to sunlight or water.  These photostabilising ingredients are the reason why sunscreens and SPF day creams are usually a little more shiny than night creams.

The cream applies well on my dry skin, is moisturising and leaves a dewy finish.  It feels better quality than the Olay Complete Care moisturisers I was loyal to for ten years.

But does it reduce/prevent my "freckles"?  Well, I definitely haven't had any new freckles appearing since I started using it.  And my old ones have faded a little but that might just be from me being out of the sun.  It's impossible to know how much the moisturiser has contributed to this.  However, I'm definitely going to carry on using the Vinoperfect Day Perfecting Cream seeing as it seems fine and I'm actually happy with my skin at the moment... no real complaints.

The ingredients of Caudalie Vinoperfect Day Perfecting Cream SPF15 are:
Active Ingredients: Octocrylene 10%, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate (Octinoxate) 7.5%, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane (Avobenzone) 3%, Ethylhexyl Salicylate (Octisalate) 2%. Inactive Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Octocrylene, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate (Octinoxate), Butylene Glycol, Cetearyl Alcohol*, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane (Avobenzone), Ethylhexyl Salicylate (Octisalate), Squalane*, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter) Fruit*, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, PEG-20 Stearate*, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil*, Tocopheryl Acetate*, Bisabolol*, Panthenol, Parfum (Fragrance), Dimethicone, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Palmitoyl Grapevine Shoot Extract*, Caprylyl Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Acrylates Copolymer, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Tocopherol*, Pisum Sativum (Pea) Extract*, Cyclodextrin*, Citric Acid*, Phospholipids*, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil*, Polyglyceryl-10 Stearate*, BHT, Sodium Hyaluronate, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool.
*Plant origin

Caudalie Vinoperfect Night Correcting Cream

I've only been using the Vinoperfect Night Correcting Cream for a couple of months.  I hesitated before buying it because at the time I was convinced I was allergic to products containing glycolic acid.  But it turns out I'm not.

The night cream pretty much has the same claims as the Perfecting Day Cream, but in addition it claims to "accelerate skin's natural exfoliation, eliminating the melanin-loaded dead-cells (the areas where dark spots exist) to reveal smooth, luminous skin."  Ok sounds great, I'll take it.

The texture of the Night Correcting Cream is more silky than the Perfecting Day Cream.  It spreads easily and absorbs well.

The cream contains all of lactic acid, glycolic acid, tartaric acid and malic acid so I was a bit worried that it might be too harsh on my skin... but I haven't had any issues.  I don't think I've noticed any super radiance-boosting effects as raved by people in MakeupAlley reviews... but much like the day cream, it seems good so far and I have no reason to stop using it.

For both of these products, I think I'm mostly just riding on the product claims and going for the "prevention is better than cure" approach.  But maybe the fact that I have no new freckles is down to the products... only time will tell!

The ingredients of Caudalie Vinoperfect Night Correcting Cream are:
Aqua (Water), Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride*, Isononyl Isononanoate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter) Fruit*, Cetearyl Alcohol*, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil*, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil*, Squalane*, Cetyl Alcohol*, Peg-20 Stearate, Bisabolol*, Tocopheryl Acetate*, Parfum (Fragrance), Sodium Hydroxide, Carbomer, Palmitoyl Grapevine Shoot Extract*, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Glycolic Acid, Cassia Angustifolia Seed Polysaccharide*, Xanthan Gum, Tartaric Acid, Malic Acid, Sodium Phytate*, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopherol*, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract*, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Fruit Extract*, Vaccinium Myrtillus Fruit Extract*, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Fruit Extract*, Saccharum Officinarum (Sugar Cane) Extract*, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool.
*Plant origin

UPDATE (5 Jan 2010)!

Ha!  I was right!  I am allergic to glycolic acid (not sure why I feel so victorious about being right when it's me who suffers)!  Lately I've been noticing some tiny, red, pinprick bumps around my mouth and chin before going to bed... and I didn't think anything of it because they would be gone by the morning.  But they kept coming back every night and so after a lot of inspections in between all the different products I use at night (face wipes, facewash, toothpaste, mouthwash), I can now definitely say it's the Caudalie Vinoperfect Night Correcting Cream.  I'm guessing it's the glycolic acid because I have had similar reactions to other products containing it before e.g. Olay Regenerist Thermal Skin Polisher. Ah poo, I'll have to stop using the cream around the lower half of my face. Will be on the lookout for a new night cream now!
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