Saturday, 29 May 2010

UNE make-up: Some reviews and an ultra natural FOTD

UNE cosmetics

I was at the the Bourjois press office a few weeks ago learning about the recently launched UNE make-up range. While UNE is brought to us by the Bourjois people, it's a standalone brand which has very little in common with the Bourjois brand we all know.

I loved the concept of UNE so I was really excited to try some of the products. 98-100% of the ingredients used in each UNE product are derived from natural origin. They've really tried to go all out on being "natural" and "organic"... You won't find any mineral oils, genetically modified organisms, artificial colourings or synthetic fragrances in any of the UNE range. They've even designed the packaging to be eco-friendly and fully recyclable (the mirrors can be popped out and re-used!).

In terms of the make-up itself, the UNE range comprises easy-to-wear, lightweight formulas, with shades that are inspired by skin, hair, lip and eye tones. Essentially, the UNE shades are designed to emphasise natural beauty.

After being shown the entire range and having a play with all the cute products, I took home some carefully chosen pieces from the range. I was particularly interested in trying the mineral foundations and face powders, but sadly, I didn't find any finishes that I wanted to take away. I've never really got on with mineral make-up. I find that the minerals separate on my skin, leaving the appearance of powdery "grains" on the skin while at the same time looking shiny. And my experience with UNE mineral make-up was no different I'm afraid.

However, I had much better luck with the eye, lips and cheek products, which I used to create this ultra natural FOTD (yep, pretty much look the same as I usually do):

UNE make-up FOTD

Here are my reviews on each of the products used:

UNE Sfumato Eyes Pencil in S24 and UNE Eye Brow Accent Pencil in B04

UNE Sfumato Eyes Pencil in S24 and UNE Eye Brow Accent Pencil in B04

UNE Sfumato Eyes Pencil in S24 and UNE Eye Brow Accent Pencil in B04 swatches

From left to right, Sfumato Eyes Pencil in S24, Eye Brow Accent Pencil in B04.

I really like this eyebrow pencil! UNE describe this as "powder in a pencil" but it's much creamier than my Dior Powder Eye Pencil, and deposits a lot more colour so I wouldn't really call it a powder pencil.  However, the colour is the perfect shade of neutral dark brown with no red or orange tones, and it's easily blended with a brush or even just a finger, making it foolproof for defining and filling in gaps in the brows. I'll definitely be using this pencil regularly!

I used the dark, smoky grey Sfumato Eye Pencil to line my upper and lower lash lines. It was nice knowing that I wasn't putting any dodgy chemicals into my eyes when lining the inner rims of my eyes. The lead of the pencil is quite dry and hard so it takes a lot of going over before a dark line is achieved. However, the colour is really easy to wear and it was a nice change from the browns and blacks I usually wear.

The staying power of this eye pencil is medium... it's not intended to be a "long-lasting" pencil like my favoured Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Eye Pencil, so I wasn't expecting it to look perfect at the end of the day! It would probably have smudged less on my lower lash line if I'd worn primer there.

UNE Sfumato Eyes Shadow in S11

UNE Sfumato Eyes Shadow in S11

In this photo, I've left the protective sticker on the mirror, but it removes to reveal a handy mirror on the outside which doesn't get dirty from the eyeshadow. Neat! There are three types of eyeshadows in the UNE range (all talc-free), "Nude Eyes", "Glimmer Eyes" and "Sfumato", but I found the Sfumato range much more pigmented. The others barely swatched! The Sfumato shade I chose is a dark, smoky brown, matte powder that works perfectly for casual smoky eyes because the shade is so neutral. Or it could be easily used as a liner instead of a pencil. Don't bother with the included brush though - it's too small to be effective!

I'm really pleased with this colour... it's a keeper for me! Love the way the case slides opens as well.

By the way, all products in the entire UNE range are designed to be applied with either brushes or fingers in keeping with their easy-to-wear philosophy, however I don't think this particular shade can be applied with a finger - it'll just end up patchy, leopard-print style.

UNE Breezy Cheeks Blush in B02

UNE Breezy Cheeks Blush in B02

Again, I've left the protective sticker on the mirror in this pic! This shade was a popular one at the event. The neutral pink looks so rosy and laid-back in the packaging. I've never been able to resist this shade of pink blusher!

This blush is a cream-to-powder formula which can be applied using fingers or a brush. It's not very densely pigmented, so I prefer to use the delectable UNE blush brush to pick up more of the colour. Applied on the apples of the cheeks, it gives a healthy flushed look... without looking like make-up. The finish is dewy.

The staying power of this blush is fairly low... it fades quite quickly. But it's so foolproof to wear and nice to carry around that it's a not a big deal to reapply during the day if needed.

UNE Sheer Lips Balm in S12 and UNE Lip-toned Colour in L02

UNE Sheer Lips Balm in S12 and UNE Lip-toned Colour in L02

UNE Sheer Lips Balm in S12 and UNE Lip-toned Colour in L02 swatches

From left to right, UNE Sheer Lips Balm in S12, UNE Lip-toned Colour in L02.

Now these are my favourite kind of lip products! No mineral oils, and sheer colours that are similar to my natural lip tone. The tinted lip balm feels very moisturising and has the slightest wash of nude, browny pink colour to stop my lips looking pale and sickly. The lipstick is the sheerest lipstick I've come across in a while... I had to really layer it on to get the swatch to show up. However, the colour is indeed "lip-toned" and perks up my lips nicely (my bare lips look patchy with bits of purple around the edges... mmm... sounds extra unattractive when I type it). The finish is creamy.

Here's a close-up photo of the lipstick on my lips:

UNE Sheer Lips Balm in S12 and UNE Lip-toned Colour in L02 on lips

UNE Skin-glow Pencil in G03

UNE Skin-glow Pencil

I've been using this creamy-textured pencil as a precise concealer for broken capillaries and freckles. The shade I chose is almost identical as my skin colour, so it's really easy to use as a concealer... I just need to "colour in" the problem areas and pat it in lightly, trying not to blend it away completely.

Overall thoughts on the UNE range

UNE is perfect for newcomers to make-up or anyone who finds it difficult to work out which colours suit them. I'm impressed at how all the shades I've tried genuinely work with my skin tone instead of against it (it's not just marketing then!), and the colours somehow just fall into place as if they were designed for me. If you love the natural look and muted colours, give UNE a look next time you're in Boots.

However, if you like wacky colours and making a statement with your make-up, give UNE a miss.

Oh by the way, the green pouches you saw in the first photo are for the blush and eyeshadow... they are so damn cute, like little iPod cases but for my make-up!

You can find out more about UNE at and you can find them in selected Boots stores (definitely at the big Oxford Street store near Bond Street station) or at The prices range from £4.99 to £13.99.

Disclaimer: All products were provided free of charge for me to try.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Le Métier de Beauté fans: Don't miss Ivan Castro at Liberty on 3rd-5th June 2010!

Le Métier de Beauté logo

I have just received the exciting news that Le Métier de Beauté's make-up artist, Ivan Castro, make-up artist to the world's most beautiful women including Nicole Kidman and Rihanna, will be visiting Liberty, London from 3rd until 5th June to launch the Le Métier Endless Summer collection and to share his expertise with a Make-up Masterclass.

Here's a little more information on Ivan Castro, and some links to photos of him... hmm... I want to be his friend...

Ivan Castro and singer Amerie
Ivan Castro demonstrates his techniques on actress Elle Travis
Interview with Ivan Castro and Mikey Castillo (Director of make-up for Le Métier)

If those links have got your attention, you can book in for your one-to-one make-up lesson with Ivan by calling 020 7734 1234 ext 2506.  Appointments cost £20, which is redeemable against any Le Métier de Beauté purchase on the day and if you spend over £50, you get a free blushing/bronzed duo worth £30... nice!

I know I'm really looking forward to meeting him anyway!  Must remember to take my camera...

Update (4th June 2010): See the photos from my appointment with the lovely Ivan Castro on my post here.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Yay for non-greasy, 5-star UVA sunscreens from Boots No7 and Tesco

I'd better write this post quickly before our burst of British summer subsides!  I just wanted to share with you a couple of recently discovered sunscreens that I am really impressed with, which are the Boots No7 Anti-Dark Spot Facial Sun Protection SPF 30 (also comes in SPF 15 and SPF 50) and the Soleil Beauty Hydrating Light Milk SPF 15 (also comes in SPF 30) from simple ol' Tesco.

Both of these sunscreens tick every box on my sunscreen wishlist which is composed of: 5-star UVA protection, non-greasy, non-sticky, non pore-blocking and good value.

Most importantly though, I need sunscreens which are a pleasure, not a chore to apply - otherwise I get lazy about applying them (especially for everyday, non-holiday purposes)... and these two products fit the bill nicely.

Boots No7 Anti-Dark Spot Facial Sun Protection

Boots No7 Anti-Dark Spot Facial Sun Protection

This tube of facial sunscreen costs £10.50 for 50ml but there are always Boots deals going on to get it a bit cheaper (e.g. currently 3 for 2).  Boots say that this easily-absorbed, no-shine lotion helps to reduce the signs of ageing with a dual action sun filter which not only reflects UV light but also acts as a powerful antioxidant against damaging free radicals.  It also has skin-brightening properties which helps improve the appearance of skin tone and prevents dark spots and hyper-pigmentation.

More cosmetically, this sunscreen is designed to be moisturising and slightly light-reflecting to add radiance and soften the appearance of fine lines.  And it's non comedogenic yay.

I bought this a few weeks ago for my trip to New York where I knew I'd be out walking a lot, but I've been using it generously this weekend too.  I'm usually quite bad with facial sunscreen - I often just rely on the SPF in my daily moisturiser even in very hot weather just because I'd never found my perfect facial SPF before.  However, I find this Boots No7 lotion so pleasant to apply and easily-absorbed that I can even apply it over my usual Clarins Hydraquench moisturiser without feeling like a greaseball.  I love the fact that it has the maximum 5-star UVA protection too (as do all Boots own-brand sunscreens).

I also like the glow it gives the skin when it's applied.  I'm not usually one for light-reflecting skin care products because they generally just make me look super shiny.  But the light-reflecting effect of this sunscreen is gorgeous... there's no shimmer or sparkle... just a soft, candle-lit glow.

The full ingredients of No7 Anti-Dark Spot Facial Sun Protection SPF 30 are:

Aqua, C12-15 alkyl benzoate, Octocrylene, Butylene glycol, Isotridecyl salicylate, Butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane, Polyglyceryl-3 methylglucose distearate, C18-36 acid glycol ester, Dimethicone, Butyrospermum parkii butter, Bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine, Cetyl alcohol, Titanium dioxide, Phenoxyethanol, Sorbitan stearate, Actinidia chinensis water, Polysorbate 20, Diethylhexyl butamido triazone, Mica, Tocopheryl acetate, Parfum, Acrylates/vinyl isodecanoate crosspolymer, Vitis vinifera seed oil, Sodium ascorbyl phosphate, Alcohol, Sucrose cocoate, Glycerin, Xanthan gum, Dimethyl oxazolidine, Potassium hydroxide, Agarum cribosum extract, Dipropylene glycol, Tetrasodium EDTA, Panax ginseng extract, Sophora angustifolia extract, Manganese dioxide, Ascorbic acid, Methylparaben, Aminomethyl propanol, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Isobutylparaben, CI 77891.

This No7 facial sun protection also comes in SPF 15 and SPF 50.  While I am using it over my normal moisturiser, it could also be used on its own in place of moisturiser if your skin isn't as dry as mine.

Soleil Beauty Hydrating Light Milk SPF 15

Tesco Soleil Beauty Hydrating Light Milk SPF 15

Now this stuff was a real find.  I bought my first bottles of it last summer from my local Tesco.  It drew my attention not just because of the price (it always seems to be at least half price at around £2.50 for 200ml), but also because it has 5-star UVA protection and because there is a little note on the bottle which says: "Developed by leading Australian Suncare Laboratories".

If anyone knows how to make good sunscreen, it's the Australians, right?

Similar to the Boots facial sunscreen, this Soleil Beauty sunscreen claims to be an anti-ageing complex with anti-oxidants to help neutralise free radicals, improve skin radiance and protect skin from signs of premature skin ageing such as brown spots and wrinkles.

Anyway, last summer I trundled home with three bottles of this.  And it's the best sunscreen I've ever used!  It's so light and easily absorbed that I can use it just as if it was my normal body lotion.  And it leaves my skin noticeably silky soft and touchable.  Thus I'm much more inclined to apply it even if I'm not going to be in the sun for long.  There's no strong smell either... so I don't feel weird wearing it when I'm not on holiday.

The best thing about this sunscreen is the price.  At £2.50 for a 200ml bottle, there's really no excuse not to stock up on it.  It confuses me when branded sunscreens are so expensive.  If we all followed the 1-2 hour reapplication instructions, each person would go through a bottle of sunscreen every couple of days... which works out pretty expensive if it's £10-£12 a pop.

Tesco also sell Soleil Beauty in SPF 30 which comes in a spray bottle rather than flip-top lotion bottle.  When you look at the ingredients, the SPF 15 and SPF 30 are pretty much identical formulations, but I prefer the flip-top container... I find spray bottles are better on holiday when there's more flesh to cover.

I love this sunscreen so much that I made my sister buy a couple of bottles today.  She's now a convert.

The full ingredients of Soleil Beauty Hydrating Light Milk SPF 15 are:

Aqua, Isopropyl Palmitate, Cocoglycerides, Cera Alba, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, Cetyl Dimethicone, Butylene Glycol, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, PEG-15 Cocoamine, Octocrylene, Phenoxyethanol, PEG-40 Stearate, Methylparaben, Acrylates/C10-30, Alkyl Acrylate, Crosspolymer, Parfum, Triethanolamine, Propylparaben, Ethylparaben, Disodium EDTA, Creatine, BHT, Niacinamide, Sodium Starch Octenylsuccinate, Maltodextrin, Calcium Pantothenate, Thioctic Acid, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Epilobium Angustifolium Extract, Pyridoxine HCI, Tocopheryl Acetate, Silica, Sodium Metabisulfite.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Andrea Face Spa Revitalizing Peel-off Masque: The 99¢ pore-busting face mask

OK, I admit the post title sounds a bit spammy, but I've stumbled across a fantastic beauty buy which in this day and age is virtually free.

I was in New York the other week and spent hours gawping at all the drugstore beauty products that I can't get in the UK. Honestly, how do you girls in the States manage to sift through all those products without feeling overwhelmed??

I was in CVS, and picked up this sachet of Andrea Face Spa Revitalizing Peel-off Masque for just 99¢. I knew I couldn't use it myself because it contains glycolic acid, which my skin doesn't seem to like anymore (it brings my skin up in little bumps), but the concept was so interesting that I bought it anyway, with the intention of "treating" my boyfriend with a post-flight facial once we landed back in London.

The contents of the sachet was a generous amount of fine, white powder that looks and smells a lot like sherbet. Mmm tasty... but DO NOT put your nose too close to this stuff - God knows what it does to your insides if you inhale it. One of the more interesting ingredients in this mask is algin, which is derived from seaweed, and which forms a gelatinous gum when mixed with water.

The instructions were to mix the powder in a bowl or cup with 1-2 tablespoons of water (I used warm water) until the mixture held together without being runny. It looked like plaster of Paris at this point.

I spread the mixture all over my boyfriend's face, but had to work fast because it seemed to solidify quite quickly, and then then left him to read his latest copy of Private Eye for 15 minutes.

On removing the mask, it had turned into a thick, rubbery, latex-like layer, which peeled off easily where it had been applied thickly (like down the centre of the face). However, where it had been spread too thinly around the edges and his hairline, it had dried hard and couldn't be peeled off. I ended up removing those residual crusty bits with a wet muslin cloth which softened the substance again.

Underneath the mask, his skin looked softer, smoother and indeed "revitalised". I did look out for any pore-shaped gunk coming off with the mask, but didn't see anything... (not that the mask claims to work like a pore strip or anything, but I couldn't help but look).

However, it was the next morning when the results really showed. My boyfriend claimed to feel gritty bits come off when he was washing his face, and had decided that the mask must have had loosened these "bits" out of his face. I dismissed his conclusion with "pffft don't be silly, it can't have been the mask - I didn't see anything come off with it last night".

But on (very) close inspection of his face, his previously manly, clogged pores on and around his nose had completely disappeared, and where the area had looked a bit "holey" before, now looked completely smooth. I promise, I haven't exaggerated!

One week on, his pores are still looking clear...

So... I've told him to go into a CVS when he goes back to the States next week for work and buy as many of these little sachets as possible. It's for his own good.

The full ingredients of the Andrea Face Spa Revitalizing Peel-off Masque are:

Magnesium Carbonate, Diatomaceous Earth, Algin, Calcium Sulfate, Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Glycolic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Fragrance (Parfum), Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate.

Update (18th June 2010): I ended up buying loads of these masques from and forking out for the crazy shipping costs to get them from the US to the UK. A tip I have for those of you who are trying the mask for the first time - DON'T use hot water - it makes the mixture dry too quickly before you can mix it and you end up with a lumpy cottage cheese mess (impossible to spread on the face) instead of a smooth paste!

Olay Total Effects Stretching Cloth Face Masks: Review

About 18 months ago, to my dismay I started noticing "signs of ageing" on my face (I did try finding another phrase that didn't make me sound like a TV ad).  I've always taken meticulous care of my skin so I'd naively assumed it would stay wrinkle-free and even-toned forever.  But now I'm noticing fine lines around my eyes that don't go away after moisturising, expression lines (especially the ones running from my nose to my mouth), and freckles that remain permanently after a tan.

The "signs" that I'm working on the most at the moment are the fine lines around my eyes that look worse when my skin is dry.  I figured they're the easiest to tackle.

So... my arsenal of anti-ageing products now includes a pack of Olay Total Effects Masks.  These masks are the wet cloth type with holes for your eyes, nostrils and mouth.  The masks are "infused with concentrated anti-ageing ingredients" (i.e. completely dripping and sodden in a gel/serum lotion which helps the mask stick to your face), and claim to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles, smooth skin texture, even out skin tone, reduce the appearance of pores, diminish blotches and age spots and intensively hydrate dry skin.

Wow that's a lot of promises!  I was only looking for a mask that would give my skin a moisture boost, but hey, I'll take all the other benefits too!

This sheet mask is really quite comical.  Once it's pressed on, it makes you look like something out of a horror movie.  And I must have an abnormally short face because the nose and mouth holes were really low down, cue my nasal complaints of "Can't. Breathe."  But once I'd nudged the cloth around a bit (it's not as stretchy as Olay make out), the mask was very comfortable and relaxing.  I left my mask on for quite a lot longer than the suggested 15 minutes - it felt too nice on!  I also liked the fact that the eye holes are narrow, meaning that the cloth can go right up to the base of my eyes.  The following photo is of me trying to look serene with the mask on, but still looking like I'm about to go on a killing spree.

Compared to a traditional mask applied from a tube, this cloth mask stays wet the whole time it's on, and the pressure of the wet cloth on the skin helps the lotion to sink into the skin.  The sogginess also feels nice and refreshing.

Once the cloth mask is removed, it leaves behind a layer of the lotion which you're meant to massage into your skin.  I found this layer a bit too tacky on my skin, so I wiped a little off with a dash of Liz Earle Skin Boost Tonic on a cotton wool pad.

I did actually notice a big difference in my skin with just the one treatment... my skin looked more "bouncy" and radiant.  The fine lines were still there but looked less dry and line-y.  There was no real difference in my freckles (a.k.a. my age spots) but I obviously wasn't expecting them to fade after one treatment (or even multiple treatments.  Sadly, I think my sun-induced freckling is here to stay).

These masks would be great after a long flight to get "aeroplane" skin back to normal.  Heck, they'd be great during a flight if you're brave enough.

I really liked using this mask and I'm interested to see whether the effects are cumulative, so I'm going to continue using a mask at least weekly.  I bought a box of 5 masks for £10.99 from Boots (currently on offer from £16.99) but I'll be cramming as many boxes as I can into my basket next time I'm in Boots while they're still on offer.

The full ingredients in Olay Total Effects Masks are:

Aqua, Butylene Glycol, Niacinamide, Glycerin, Panthenol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Tocopherol, Allantoin, Camellia Sinensis, Pisum Sativum, Carnosine, Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4, Sucrose Polycottonseedate, Isopropyl Isostearate, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, PEG-100 Stearate, Cetearyl Glucoside, Cetearyl Alcohol, Polyacrylamide, Laureth-7, Sodium Citrate, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Chlorphenesin, Benzyl Alcohol, Disodium EDTA, Ethylparaben, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Parfum, Hexyl Cinnamal, Butylphenyl Methylpropional.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Sanctuary Perfectly Polished Hot Cloth Cleanser: Review

As some of you know, my venture into hot cloth cleansers started several months ago with Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish (read my review of it here).  I still love this Liz Earle cult product and have made my way through three tubes of it since.  But now I feel like my eyes have been opened to a whole new world of hot cloth cleansers that I really need to give a go.  Thus when I came to the end of my latest tube of Cleanse & Polish, I took the opportunity to try a different brand, and came across Sanctuary Perfectly Polished Hot Cloth Cleanser.

The concept and instructions for the Sanctuary hot cloth cleanser is no different to Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish.  You massage the cleanser onto dry skin using your fingers to lift off make-up and dirt, and then wipe it off with a muslin cloth wetted with warm water (a muslin cloth is included in the box).

The Sanctuary cleanser has more of a balm/butter consistency rather than the creaminess of Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish (see below on back of my hand).  This makes it feel a bit thicker and a little less easy to spread, meaning I end up using more of it to get the coverage I like.

The smell is strong but not in an artificial way... it smells very spa-like; a little earthy and herby (imagine hemp, basil and hops).  It smells like it would do good things to your skin.

The Sanctuary hot cloth cleanser does a perfectly fine job of making my skin feel clean, but it's not quite as effective as Liz Earle at melting tough eye make-up.  It does dissolve it, but just not as quickly.  Which actually isn't a problem for me as I usually remove my make-up before cleansing anyway.  After wiping the cleanser off and rinsing with water, my skin feels fresh and squeaky clean with no residue.

So will I switch from my beloved Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish to the Sanctuary hot cloth cleanser?  .... No, after using Sanctuary for over a week, I still prefer Liz Earle.  I prefer the creamier texture of Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish and find my skin feels softer after using it.

The benefits of the Sanctuary hot cloth cleanser is that it is readily available from most Boots stores, whereas Liz Earle is quite difficult to get hold of offline.  And it's a little cheaper than Liz Earle.  I paid £9.78 for a large 150ml tube compared to my usual £11.50 for 100ml of Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish.

The full ingredients of the Sanctuary Perfectly Polished Hot Cloth Cleanser are:

Aqua (water), Theobroma cacao (cocoa) seed butter, Cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, Cetearyl alcohol, Cetyl esters, Glycerin, Cera Alba, Cannabis sativa seed oil, Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil, Polysorbate 60, Sorbitan stearate, Camalina sativa seed oil, Diazolidinyl urea, Sodlum benzoate, Disodium EDTA, Potassium sorbate, Anthemis nobilis flavor oil. Triethanolamine, Ocimum basilicum (basil) oil, Chamomilla recutita (matricaria) flower extract, Humulus lupulus (hops) extract, Linalool, Citronallol, Phenoxyethanol, Benzoic acid, Dehydroacetic acid, Ethylhexyglycerin, Polyaminopropyl biguanide.

By the way, I actually wanted to get the Soap & Glory The Fab Pore Hot Cloth Cleanser, but it was out of stock in every Boots I tried.  I am told it will be back in stock around mid-May so will jump on it if I see it on the shelves.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

My bridal make-up and hair trial with Sam Sham

Yesterday, I had a very exciting day because it was my bridal hair and make-up trial with Sam Sham, a make-up artist I stumbled across when looking for an expert in bridal make-up for Chinese/Asian brides.

At the beginning of the year when I started organising wedding stuff, I was adamant that I didn't need a professional make-up artist seeing as I dabble so much in beauty already.  But I was wrong!  Ha!  After a couple of shameful DIY attempts, I soon realised I was rubbish at photogenic make-up... I can only just about manage my everyday make-up.  I even tried watching a few tutorial videos, but I couldn't find any that catered for my hooded (but not mono-lidded) eyes which I find really hard to define without them looking harsh.  There's a niche for you if you're looking for one!

So, I gave in, and with a few deft Google searches, one name kept coming up in first-hand recommendations... which was Sam Sham's.  Sam's portfolio looked impressive - her career spans across fashion, advertising and film as well as bridal make-up so I got the impression that she really knows how to make someone look good in photos (which I seem to be more worried about than actually looking good in real life!  Oh the vanity!  But the photos are important right??  They'll be the only tangible memories of the day... well, apart from the "husband" of course).  So I got in touch with Sam, checked her fees were reasonable, and booked her for the wedding day and the rehearsal (which she advised we should do at least three months in advance).

Sam arrived at our house with a huge trolley case full of make-up, heated hair rollers and all sorts of goodies, and got right down to business.  I showed her photos of the dress I've chosen and a couple of photos of my usual look.  From that, she seemed to know exactly what to suggest and which examples to show me, which was handy because I had planned to collect photos of make-up and hair styles that I liked prior to the trial, but just hadn't got round to doing so.  We decided on neutral colours, with focus on the eyes.

I had my eyes closed for much of the make-up application, so unfortunately can't remember all the details!  But I know Sam finished off the base with Dior Airflash spray foundation to give an airbrushed look.  Dior Airflash seemed to be quite heavy coverage (it's of freckle-hiding strength) which I'm not used to because I rarely wear foundation.  But I can sacrifice the bare skin feeling if it makes me look flawless in photos.

On my eyes, Sam did one eye in silver grey (a bold look I wouldn't normally go for), and the other eye in bronze (what I'm used to), so that I could choose which I preferred.  She also applied a completely different style of strip lashes on each eye for comparison purposes.  One eye had very thick, striking Cheryl Cole-style lashes, and the other had more subtle lashes with more inter-lash length variation.  She applied liner and shadow to my lower lash line but left the lower lashes bare.

There was lots of expert contouring on my cheeks and jawline... ending up with a much more professional finish than one a plebeian like me could ever achieve.

Finally, she mixed her own neutral lip colour for me to finish off the look, similar to a colour I'd normally go for.

Sam was completely open to any ideas I had, or anything I wanted to try, but I was happy with the look she had gone for.  Although I did ask if she could try pinker cheeks (you know I love rosy cheeks!), and I also asked why she hadn't used mascara on my lower lashes.  She explained that with the big, uplifted lashes I was wearing, mascara on the lower lashes would be too much.  Interestingly, she said that the skyward-facing lashes with a clean lower lash was the most popular look with her Asian clients, and that a strongly emphasised lower lash is much more popular with her Caucasian clients.

Anyhow, she applied mascara on my lower lashes, and she was totally right - it just looked wrong next to the falsies... it looked too dolly-like, but it also visually pulled down my eyes and somehow spoilt the radiant, wide-awake look she had achieved.  Wow she knows her stuff.

After the make-up, Sam skilfully pinned up my hair in couple of different ways, but keeping the loose, casual look that I'd asked for.  We had a thigh-slapping laugh about the tight spirals that some brides still seem to ask for!  There was so much in the hair styling that I hadn't even thought of... like which side I usually pose on (apparently even models only ever pose on one side - so I'm not alone!), and which shoulder the single, asymmetric strap on my dress would be.  We ended up settling on a loose bun of curls on the side so that it could also be seen from front-on.  Sam suggested that I get a big white flower to go in my hair - so I'll be sourcing that from somewhere.

Below is the final look (although I think prior to the extra pink blusher being applied).  Blogger will probably make the photo all blurry though so you won't see the full airbrushed effect of the foundation and contouring!  The hair isn't fully done because we went light with the hairspray so that it was easy for Sam to switch the style until she found one I liked.  Hence the remaining flyaways!  Oh, and I still have different eye colours and lashes on in the photo - the eye furthest away from the camera is the eye with bigger lashes (which I'm going to go for, because the more subtle lashes don't have enough impact).

Asian Chinese bridal make-up and hair photo

I had such a great time having my hair and make-up done... and I'm so glad I've decided to leave my wedding day make-up to a professional so I can just sit back and relax!  The whole rehearsal took around 3-4 hours (it will only take about one and a half hours on the day), and I never felt rushed at any point.  I wholeheartedly recommend booking a professional make-up artist for bridal make-up if you can!  So much fun!  And lots of insider tips and celebrity beauty gossip throughout.  By the way, one of my friends came round to watch me being done up and also to give a second opinion during the trial, and I'm really grateful that she was there because I'm so indecisive.

If you're interested in booking a session with Sam (Samantha) Sham, you can view her portfolio at (Flash) or (HTML).  Most of her work is in London, but many of her clients are all over the UK, and she often works on photoshoots on location.  She obviously doesn't just do Chinese/Asian make-up as well - it's just that she is one of the rare make-up artists I found who is established in that space, where there seems to be a real gap at the moment.

Update!: You can see my hair and make-up on my wedding day on my post here.

Soap & Glory Face Massage Mini Mitt: Review

Last week, I picked up this Soap & Glory Face Massage Mini Mitt from Boots for £4.  I've been really into massaging my face ever since I started using Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish.  A little massage makes me feel like I'm improving circulation in my face and giving my skin a helping hand in ridding toxins and puffiness.  Soap & Glory recommend using this mini mitt if your skin looks tired and sallow.

This mini mitt is not really a glove-style mitt... it's a flexible silicone oval disc with a handle on the back.  It looks a lot like the "Scrublet" that comes with the L'Oréal's Perfect Clean face wash.  In fact, it looks almost identical to the Scrublet that comes with the American version of that product: L'Oréal Go 360 Clean.  The disc is made from 100% silicone, which makes it very soft and bendy.  Most of the disc area is covered in tiny little rubbery spikes, with one end covered in stumpier round nodules.

Soap and Glory Face Massage Mini Mitt

Soap and Glory Face Massage Mini Mitt handle

I use this mini mitt most mornings and nights.  I use my fingers to spread Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish over my entire face as normal, and still using my fingers, work the cleanser into the more crevice-y areas like around my nose.  Then I continue massaging using the mini mitt.  Yep, my cleansing routine seems to take longer and longer these days!  But I haven't adjusted the time I get out of bed accordingly, meaning I'm at least half an hour late for work every day.

I haven't noticed any "wow" results yet, but it does feel really invigorating to use the mini mitt.  It doesn't feel at all harsh on the skin because the spikes are so soft.  In fact, I'm not sure whether it even counts as exfoliation because it's not scrubbing the skin... just massaging it.

If you flip the mini mitt upside down, the little round nodules give a deeper massage because they're stiffer than the spikes.  They can feel quite tickly!

If you end up trying one of these funny-looking massage discs, one tip I would give is to dry your hands before picking it up, because it becomes seriously slippery and unmanageable when the handle gets wet... a bit like trying to rub a sardine on your face.
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