Sunday, 29 August 2010

I got married! Quick post before the honeymoon


Just a quick post, but I wanted to get one in because it will probably be my last for at least three weeks because I am going on honeymoon tomorrow, and I have been too disorganised to schedule any posts to go live while I am away!

I got married! The wedding was yesterday (Saturday) and the whole day went so swimmingly that I wondered whether I would wake up and realise that none of it had happened at all and I still had loads left to organise. But thanks to an amazing bunch of family and friends, and the brilliance of the venue's staff and our suppliers, the day was even better than we'd hoped for.

I felt really chilled and relaxed before and during the wedding. I was giggling the whole time, especially in the build-up to the ceremony with my three beautiful bridesmaids and the registrar who was brilliant - she was the perfect mix of professionalism and humour. I didn't quite keep it together just at the end of my vows though! A couple of small tears edged their way to the sides of my eyes and my voice broke up completely.. but of course I sucked it up. There was no way I was going to ruin the eye make-up that had been so meticulously applied earlier!

A couple of people have uploaded some photos to Facebook and it's really funny to see the day from "the other side". We'll have the official photographs in a couple of weeks, and we even got a videographer at the last minute thrown in because our photographer's friend needed to build up his portfolio. I can't wait to see it all because the day seemed to finish in the blink of an eye and I just wish there had been more time to spend with everyone and to observe everything happening around us.

Oh, a big thank you to Lina from MakeUpToMakeOut who came to be our DJ just at the end... she was amazing! I know she's more into rock than wedding disco music, so I'm really grateful for her gritting her teeth and getting through it! If you don't follow her blog already, you should - her make-up is always flawless (and seriously, you should see her gorgeous skin in real life) and she writes really well.

Anyway, I'm off to bed now... and I'll be back in a few weeks! I'm not sure where I'll be yet on honeymoon because it's a secret but I know it'll be very hot and humid. I'll find out at the airport! Byeee!!!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Varama Cover Cream: Used as an opaque undereye concealer

Varama Cover Cream

Continuing my search for an opaque undereye concealer, I stumbled across Varama Cover Cream camouflage make-up through my favourite YouTube blogger, OxfordJasmine who recently recorded a video review of Varama. I rarely watch YouTube videos because I'm too impatient and it's just faster to read words. But I find Jasmine very watchable...

Anyway, back onto Varama Cover Cream. This professional range is designed for serious opaque coverage for tattoos, birthmarks, scars, vitiligo and various other "skin conditions" (see all skin conditions here). It also claims to give a natural finish that is waterproof and smudgeproof.

The cover creams come in various base shades and "drop-in" colours that you can mix to create your perfect colour match. When I contacted Varama for shade advice, they sent me a sample kit (I was actually expecting trial-sized samples which I'm surprised they don't already sell). I was sent the two base colours, VC2 and VC3 and the Yellow "drop-in" colour.

VC3 is medium beige. It's almost a perfect match for me on its own (perhaps a teeny bit too dark), so I didn't need to use the darker shade or yellow drop-in. I've come across other "tattoo camouflage" products that require multiple layers of creams and setting powder, but Varama is just a simple cream product that can be applied in thin layers to get more coverage. It also spreads across large areas easily.

Below are the swatches of VC3, VC2 and Yellow, squeezed straight out of the tubes (sorry, I forgot to take a photo of them spread out).

Varama Cover Cream swatches

I know dark undereye circles are a minor "condition" compared to the others that Varama Cover Cream is designed for, but hey, it's a universal product so I'm still going to talk about it in the context of dark circles for this review.

When the kit arrived in the post, I had already applied my Temptu Undereye Concealer (read my review of it here). So I applied it over the top of one eye, and for comparison purposes I left the other eye with Temptu only. I used a combination of my fingers and a concealer brush to apply a few layers... I didn't think too much of it, it was just like applying any other liquid concealer. It's creamy, easy to blend (just make sure you've got the right colour!) and doesn't cake even with multiple layers. A little goes a really long way. Just the tiniest dot is needed for my undereyes.

In terms of opacity, Varama Colour Cream definitely feels more "camouflaging" than all of my everyday concealers. But the difference wasn't that noticeable until I took a photo 6 hours later, still with Varama only on one eye. I was very pleasantly surprised! In the photo below, I am wearing Varama Cover Cream on my left eye, and Temptu Undereye Concealer on my right eye. It has been at least 6 hours since application of either. Wow I didn't see that in the mirror! But the camera never lies!

Varama Cover Cream as undereye concealer

I was in a bit of a rush to leave the house after taking that photo so I quickly swiped on the Varama Cover Cream on my right eye using just my fingers and probably just one or two layers. I also reapplied over the top of my left eye (without it going crusty!). You can see the effect of the multiple layers in the photo below. My right undereye circle is more concealed than before, but not quite as much as the left eye which has had more layers applied.

Varama Cover Cream as undereye concealer

In terms of lasting power, this camouflage cream really does last all day. I found that it barely creased under my eyes and for the tiny lines that did appear, a light wipe with my finger was sufficient to blend them away.

Onto the ingredients. So you know how I go on and on about not liking mineral oil because it blocks my pores and sits on top of my skin feeling all slimey? Well, I won't pretend I wasn't disappointed that Varama Cover Cream has petrolatum as its second ingredient. But actually, the cream is so good at concealing that I'm going to pass over that fact. If I hadn't looked at the ingredients list, I would never have known that it contained petrolatum because it doesn't feel at all greasy. And it's not like I'm going to use it all over my face...

Here are the full ingredients of Varama Cover Cream (they're the same for all colours I have):

Varama Cover Cream full ingredients

Anyway, that's my review of Varama Cover Cream as an undereye concealer. It was vain, but hopefully useful to those of you looking for this kind of opaque coverage. I've also briefly tried it on larger patches of skin and the coverage is something you just don't get from cosmetics brand concealers.

You can find out more about Varama and see the other shades at www.varama.co.uk. A single 15ml tube will set you back £17.49 but a little really does go a long way because of how pigmented the formula is.

Disclaimer: PR sample

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Lavera Lip Balm in Soft Rosé: A fab non mineral oil lip balm

Lavera Lip Balm Soft Rosé

Ahh... another "natural" lip balm to add to my collection. Lip balms containing no mineral oil are really hard to come by (in the UK anyway!) so I seem to collect these like a kid collecting badges.

This Lavera Lip Balm is the "Soft Rosé" variant which is an unscented, raspberry pink tinted balm with a very subtle shimmer (barely noticeable).

The shape and colour reminds me so much of those retro lipstick-shaped sweeties we used to have back in the 80's. Does anyone else remember these?? In fact, my senses get totally confused because my eyes see fruity-flavoured sweets but my taste buds taste nothing. Mmmm... sweeties...

Retro lipstick sweets


Source: handycandy.co.uk

This lip balm doesn't transfer much colour onto the lips. It just makes my lips look a little fresher, with a hint of a pink sheen.


I really like this balm, it's definitely a keeper. It's moisturising without feeling too waxy, sticky or greasy. The price is very reasonable too at £3.75.

Lavera have a generous selection of lip balms made from organic oils and waxes, including some which have SPF. You can find them all on the Lavera website or from various "health shop" stockists. Definitely worth a look if you come across the brand!

The full ingredients of Lavera Lip Balm in "Soft Rosé" are"

Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter)*, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil*, Beeswax (Cera Alba)*, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter*, Squalane, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil*, Lysolecithin, Tocopheryl Acetate, Soybean Glycerides Polyglyceryl-3 Ricinoleate, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil*, Shellac Wax (Shellac Cera), Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil*, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil*, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oli*, Brassica Campestris (Rapeseed) Sterols, Calendula Officinalis Flower Oil*, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract*, Rosa Moschata Oil*, Tocopherol, Ascorbyl Palmitate, [+/- Mica, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Zinc Oxide (CI 77947), Carmine (CI 75470), Bismuth Oxychloride (CI 77163), Iron Oxides (CI 77491), Iron Oxides (CI 77492)]

Disclaimer: PR sample

Monday, 23 August 2010

Current obsession: Précision Cuticle Oil

Precision Cuticle Oil

I can't stop applying this Précision Cuticle Oil at the moment... I carry it around with me everywhere. From memory (threw away the box long ago), the ingredients are just safflower oil, Vitamin E and kiwi fruit extract.. and it smells really fruity.

My cuticles sometimes get a bit dry and sore for no reason (perhaps times of sluggish immune system?) so I'm using this to keep my cuticles and the base of my nails healthy. It comes with a standard nail polish style brush, so it literally takes seconds to apply (which is why it's so addictive).

This was a PR sample I got ages ago, but it's available to buy online from parksideprecision.com for £5.99.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Temptu Undereye Concealer: Review

Temptu Undereye Concealer

I am always looking for a good under-eye concealer for my dark circles but I just can't bring myself to buy the usual suggestions of Bobbi Brown and Laura Mercier concealers because of their high mineral oil content. I just don't like the feel of petrolatum and the way it blocks my pores.

I can't remember how I came across this Temptu Undereye Concealer because I hadn't even heard of the brand before (it's a U.S. airbrush brand). But when I read the description (and the 5-star reviews of it on Sephora.com), I knew I wanted it.

An innovative undereye concealer is infused with reflective diamond dust and antiaging vitamins. This formula's light-reflecting diamond core effectively diffuses the appearance of lines, dark circles and discoloration for a radiantly flawless effect. Vitamins A, C, E, and K work alongside cucumber and aloe to moisturize and smooth delicate skin, fight signs of aging, and revive tired eyes.

I managed to get hold of this product through good ol' eBay. Unfortunately, I had to pay a little over the odds for it at £28 (it's $28 in the States). I opted for the shade "Medium (108)" which is equivalent to "Beige" in Temptu's airbrush foundation range.

Here's what the concealer stick looks like... along with the translucent "diamond" core. I've never really understood why brands bother creating a separate "core" with different benefits to the rest of the product. It seems like a bit of a gimmick to me. Why not just have all the benefits rolled into one formula? Especially for something like a concealer where we're generally looking for as much pigment and coverage as possible.

Temptu Undereye Concealer tube

Onto the horrible, horrible "before" photo of my purpley-red dark circles with no make-up...

Temptu Undereye Concealer before photo

Below, I've swiped the concealer on quite heavily straight from the stick. The formula is really creamy and smooth so it doesn't drag the skin even if I apply it from the stick.

Temptu Undereye Concealer Medium 108 swatch

Below, I've used my finger to lightly pat the concealer in (left eye only).

Temptu Undereye Concealer after photo

I really like the texture of this concealer... it's so smooth and creamy and doesn't feel at all dry or cakey regardless of how much I put on. However, I don't think the formula is as pigmented or opaque as it could be... and I suspect a lot of this is down to that "diamond" core which is basically just a translucent wax in place of useful pigment.

Since taking the above photos, I have found a couple of ways to get more coverage from the concealer. One is to wear foundation underneath or anything that gives the surface of my skin more "tack" for the concealer to stick to. And the other is just better application technique... patting it on in layers using just the lightest touch of my ring finger or a concealer brush in order to get the thickest layer of product as possible.

The staying power is above average. The concealer seems water resistant and doesn't crease or get cakey.

The concealer does actually feel hydrating and soothing on the skin. I like the fact that the formula contains Vitamin K which is reputed to strengthen capillary walls and thus reduce the visibility of blood vessels through the skin. One of the reviewers on Sephora.com claims to be using the concealer as an overnight treatment as well!

I love the concept of this concealer but I just wish it provided more opaque coverage. Then it would be perfect! I would definitely be happy paying $28 for it if I was in the States, but £28 to get it to the UK may be a little pricey based on its undereye circle covering ability. Mind you, that's purely on principle, as a few Pounds spread over the lifetime (6 months+) of the tube is nothing really...

The full ingredients of Temptu Undereye Concealer are:

Caprylyl Methicone, Dioctyldodecyl Fluoroheptyl Citrate, Dimethicone, Ceresin, Methyl Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Isostearyl Neopentanoate, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Ozokerite, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethiconol, Squalane, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Tocopheryl Acetate, Polymethylsilsesquioxane Benzimidazole Diamond Co-Polymer, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Gum Acacia Senegal Gum, Sucrose, Retinyl Palmitate, Phytonadione. May Contain: Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, 77492, 77499), Bismuth Oxychloride.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Eylure Naturalites 116 false lashes: Worn on hen night the wrong way round!


For my hen night yesterday, I ended up wearing these Eylure Naturalites false lashes in style 116 (long but not too thick). BUT it was only after I had stuck them on that I realised that they were the wrong way round. After an obligatory "Oh maaaaaaan!!", I decided to just leave them as they were, seeing as it always takes me so long to get these things on. One day, I will be competent at putting on false lashes, one day.

I also considered trimming the longer lashes but actually the wrongness wasn't that noticeable... not unless you looked really closely!

Eylure Naturalites 116 false lashes

Eylure Naturalites 116 false lashes

Above, the lashes would have been perfect if I had just checked them before applying! It's only after seeing these photos and taking the lashes off that I realise how obvious it should have been that there's one strip per eye... DUH!

Eylure Naturalites 116 false lashes

My sister and I were cracking up at the above photo earlier today. She kept asking, "How did you not notice there was one per eye???"

Despite my stupidity, these lashes were the most comfortable lashes I've ever worn. I completely forgot I was wearing them. I'm looking forward to seeing what these look like when they're the right way round.

If you were wondering, my hen do was very civilised! We went out for a very nice dinner and then to a club, with lots of cocktails throughout. I made a special request to my chief bridesmaid for no L-plates, sashes, furry handcuffs etc. And definitely NO STRIPPERS. Actually, I was watching that episode of Friends today (watching TV was the only activity I could muster today) where it's Phoebe's bachelorette party and Danny DeVito turns up as the stripper. Oh man, so funny!!

Hope you all had a good weekend!

I bought these Eylure lashes for around £5 from Boots.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

I've been shortlisted for the Cosmo Blog Awards! WOW!

Source: cosmopolitan.co.uk

Guess what?? I found out this morning that I've been shortlisted for the Cosmo Blog Awards 2010! I'm so grateful for everyone who nominated me! Thank you! Wow it's so nice to think people actually took the time to submit a nomination! It's really surreal and quite funny to see my little blog listed next to all my favourite blogs!

Anyway, it already feels like a massive achievement to be shortlisted and I know some of the other beauty bloggers are hugely popular, so I'm not going to beg too much for votes (no point getting my hopes up, eh?). But if you did want to vote and show some support, all you have to do is...

  1. Go to http://www.cosmopolitan.co.uk/your-life/cosmo-blog-awards/special
  2. Click on "Beauty"
  3. Check the radio button next to my blog (on the second row)
  4. Scroll down the page, and click "Submit"

The last day for voting is 31st August 2010 so there's less than a week to get your votes in (extended from 18th August due to "overwhelming interest")!

Thank you so much everyone!

By the way, only one vote per user per category will be counted, so sadly you can't vote for more than one of your favourite beauty blogs. I guess they track whether you are the same "user" using your IP address... so you could always try voting for more than one blog from computers on different networks (home/work/school etc).

If you're having problems voting for me from your work computer, it may be because your workplace has one IP address for the entire network. But please don't give up - try voting from home or mobile phone. Thank you!

You can see the full list of nominees here.

Whoopeeee!!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Eylure Naturalites Intense 148: Photos of lashes applied

Eylure Naturalites Intense 148 false lashes

I picked up these Eylure Naturalites Intense 148 false lashes today as I thought they'd be good for my hen do this weekend (argh by the way), but alas I don't really like the way they look from the front. From the top and side, they look great, but the outer lashes hang down and make my eyes look droopy and sad! A shame because they are really nice lashes. I find Eylure lashes the easiest brand to apply and the most comfortable to wear.

Below, whoops I didn't quite stick the right hand side on properly. It has slightly missed my eyelid and is actually stuck to the base of my lashes in the middle.

Eylure Naturalites Intense 148 false lashes top view

The lashes look very demure as long as no-one looks at me front-on. Haha.

Eylure Naturalites Intense 148 false lashes side view

Maybe I just have the wrong shape eyes for these lashes, but they just look weird from the front!

Eylure Naturalites Intense 148 false lashes front view

I bought these lashes for £5.95 from Boots.

Monday, 9 August 2010

gloMinerals gloCheek Sheen in Peachy: Look familiar?

gloMinerals gloCheek Sheen in Peachy

I loved this gloMinerals gloCheek Sheen in "Peachy" the first time I set eyes on it. The colour is a gorgeous peachy pink with flecks of gold shimmer. It's designed to be a universally flattering shade for multi use on the cheeks, eyes and anywhere else you want a glow.

Does it remind you of anything? I'm pretty sure gloMinerals designed the colour to be as identical as possible to Nars The Multiple in "Orgasm".

gloMinerals gloCheek Sheen in Peachy

See below for a swatch. It glides on easily without tugging the skin, and feels almost like a silky powder to touch. It feels cooling on the skin so it's really nice to use in the summer. The formula also contains antioxidants and green tea etc.

gloMinerals gloCheek Sheen in Peachy

The only problem is how quickly the colour fades when I blend it! The colour is so beautiful but as soon as I touch it, the peachy pink colour almost disappears completely, leaving just the shimmer behind.

gloMinerals gloCheek Sheen in Peachy

However, the colour is so foolproof that it doesn't need much blending, so I just lightly pat it around the edges with my fingertips, without moving the colour around too much on the apples of my cheeks. And if necessary, I just pat some more of the product on in the middle.

Here's what it looks like on the face...

gloMinerals gloCheek Sheen in Peachy

gloMinerals gloCheek Sheen in Peachy

Despite the fact that the colour fades too darned quickly, I love gloMinerals gloCheek Sheen! It really does illuminate the face. It's quite shimmery but I don't mind shimmer in the summer. I hate looking flat and matte in the summer... it makes my face look like an egg around all the other radiant, tanned people.

I think this product would be great over a normal blusher to add more dimension to it. That way, there's longer lasting colour as well as the nice glow.

gloMinerals is still pretty hard to get hold of in the UK, but it's definitely a brand to check out if you can as they have some really nice products. For stockists or mail order, call 020 7491 0150.

You can gorge on the rest of the gloMinerals products at www.glominerals.com (with a link to buy online as long as you're in the US). gloCheek Sheen is listed there at $22... it's probably a little more expensive in the UK, like most things!

The full ingredients of gloMinerals gloCheek Sheen are:

Isopropyl Palmitate, Kaolin, Phenyl Trimethicone, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax/Candelilla Cera, Microcrystalline Wax/Cera Microcristallina, Silica, Nylon-12, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Tocopherol, Ascorbyl Palmitrate, Retinyl Palmitrate, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Dimethicone, BHT, Vegetable Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Mica, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, 77492, 77499)

Disclaimer: PR sample

Friday, 6 August 2010

A Red Carpet Facial with Rani Mirza: My pores are shown no mercy!

Rani Mirza salon, Knightsbridge

Above, waiting area of Rani Mirza's Knightsbridge salon.

The first time I met A-lister facialist, Rani Mirza, I told her that I wasn't really into facials... I'd been completely put off by an Elemis facial I had years ago which was nothing I couldn't have done myself with some oils and a bit of massage... all I had to show for my money was a mega greasy face which didn't even look or feel any better underneath the oil slick.

Taking my scepticism as a challenge, and noting my imminent wedding, Rani suggested I have a Red Carpet Facial at her salon in Knightsbridge, London. Given that Rani's clients include Naomi Campbell, Erin O'Connor, Anna Friel and Dannii Minogue, I was hardly going to turn down a "complimentary" facial.

The next week, I turned up at her private salon, tucked away down a side street away from all the Harrods-bound tourists, and had my faith restored in facials... or at least in facials by Rani Mirza.

The Red Carpet Facial has been a labour of love for Rani... she created this deluxe facial not just for her celebrity clients, but for anyone needing to look radiant for a big event such as a wedding. It's not cheap at £180 for two hours, but it's very likely the best facial money can buy.

Most of us will wince at that price, but if you have one day where you need to look like a star (especially if how you look that day will be captured in photos for the rest of time), the Red Carpet Facial suddenly makes sense. Rani's only aim is to have you leave the salon with glowing, radiant skin that is clean, toned and plumped. She recommends having the facial a week before the event (this is a serious facial with microdermabrasion and extraction), but she tells me she's done this facial even the day before on some of her clients.

The Red Carpet Facial isn't for the fainthearted... or for those just wanting a relaxing facial massage. I counted at least seven steps during the entire two-hour process. In between all of the deep cleansing, exfoliation and moisturising masks, there was intense steaming, extraction of blackheads/blocked pores, microdermabrasion and oxygen jets. Trust me, no pore was shown mercy.

I've never had my pores professionally extracted before. I didn't even realise I had that many blocked pores (I take very good care of my skin). But Rani was nimbly squeezing all over my forehead, nose and chin. And I'm not kidding, I heard popping noises.

She even used a (single-use) needle to gently break into the stubborn blocked pore on the middle of my forehead which had been there for months. It paved an outlet for a satisfying squeeze, to which she exclaimed in surprise, "That pore was full of fluid!" I had previously left it alone knowing that if started digging at it, I would only have ended up with a third eye on my forehead. Whereas Rani got it out clean... I can't tell you how satisfying that was!

Don't worry, it wasn't just about extraction, Rani also thoroughly massaged my face, shoulder and neck to aid lymphatic drainage before moving onto the rest of the facial.

I was worried about the DiamondTome microdermabrasion because my skin is quite delicate and blasting it with ground up crystals doesn't sound particularly gentle. But I've just found out that DiamondTome doesn't use crystals at all, just a diamond-encrusted wand, which explains why there was no abrasive grit and no ouch moments. I noticed Rani concentrated the vacuum around my brow bone and jawline (including just under the jaw). She mentioned this was great for lymphatic drainage too. Unbeknown to me at the time, I was later to get comments from two separate people about me "looking different" and that my "face looks thinner". YES!!! Did I just find a cure for my moonface??

One of the final steps was the Oxygen Therapy which was incredible. Its purpose is to stimulate cells and collagen production to leave skin hydrated and nourished. I don't know about that, but the jet of pure oxygen moving around my skin felt like heaven. Just breathing it in made me feel high.

Rani finished with another mask step, then applied eye cream (YonKa Nutri Contour Eye Cream) and moisturiser (YonKa Phyto 58). She actually used YonKa products throughout the facial, a brand I must now definitely check out.

When she was all done, I was prepared to see a red-marked face in the mirror after all the earlier extraction... but I was surprised to find there was no redness at all, not a pinch! I honestly don't know how Rani did it... whether she just has miracle fingers, or whether the later steps in the facial helped to calm any redness.

During the facial, I had been plotting in my head how I could get home without anyone seeing what I thought I must have looked like (red-marked and oily). But man alive, my skin looked AMAZING in the mirror. Amazing, I tell you! My skin looked perfectly even and dewy. Airbrushed. A friend the next day (who is used to my skin looking decent most days) actually noticed there was something different about me but couldn't place what it was.

So there you have it... that's what a £180 facial with the best facialist in town gets you. There was nothing in that facial that I could have done by myself. And despite her impressive client list, Rani remains distinctly humble and just so nice. She is pure professionalism and I get the impression that she wouldn't be able to sleep at night knowing she'd left a single one of her clients' pores uncleansed.

You can find out more about the Red Carpet Facial (and her standard facials) at ranimirza.co.uk. Make sure to read the glowing testimonials too. Or maybe don't if you're on a spending cut, because it'll be impossible to not to want a facial by Rani after reading them...

You can book an appointment with Rani by calling her on 020 7589 9080.

And you can find her salon at: 41 Beauchamp Place, London SW3 1NX (it's very hidden away which adds even more to the experience of feeling like you're part of a very exclusive secret).

Disclaimer: This facial was complimentary, but damn it, this is going to be an expensive habit...

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Aveda highlights: I've gone a lighter brown this time

I went back to Carl at the Aveda Institute in Covent Garden (London) this week to get my highlights done again, but this time opting for a lighter brown (last time I played it extra safe because it was my first time there). Here are some photos of Carl's handiwork, taken a couple of days later. Keep scrolling down for the full review, oh and also for details of the Aveda Black Malva Shampoo I bought.

Aveda brown highlights

Aveda brown highlights on black hair

Aveda brown highlights on black hair roots

Last time I had my half head of highlights done, I was really worried about ending up with thick orange streaks like the ones I'd had years ago (and which I still cringe about). I also didn't want obvious roots once it started growing out. So at the time, Carl agreed that he would only lighten my black hair with very subtle, fine chocolate highlights. He did a brilliant job... in fact so brilliant that no-one, not one person, noticed that I'd had my hair highlighted! It was only when my black roots started growing through that the difference in colour was noticeable! Oops... £115 those barely-there highlights cost me. Serves me right for playing too safe.

Anyway, having now gained my trust as a top notch colourist, I booked another appointment with him to go a lighter brown. He told me that the lightest I could go without using bleach was a couple of shades lighter than my current colour... which was fine by me. I wanted to make sure the colour was kept neutral too - no orange or red tones.

By the way, I didn't even realise black hair could be lightened without using bleach until that conversation! No wonder my hair didn't dry out from the previous highlights! It still feels in really good condition... not like hay at all.

As usual, Carl was faultless. And a genuinely nice guy too - none of that fake niceness you get from some stylists. However, I was passed onto a trainee to have the foils taken off and my hair washed and blow dried. And she was really rubbish at all of those jobs. She was really tugging on my hair to get the foils off... so much so that my scalp hurt afterwards. Then during the wash, she got wet hair and shampoo suds all over my face. She even did a crap job of blowdrying - she left the underside sodding wet and only blowdried the top layer... and even that was done badly.

I should've said something to the trainee or to the salon about her rubbishness... but as usual, I was too English and just thanked her. A trainee has to start somewhere though, right? I was just surprised that she hadn't been given better guidance before being unleashed on paying customers.

Anyway, at least Carl's highlights were top quality. I met a friend this evening who noticed my new hair colour straight away and who was amazed at the way it looked as if single strands had been highlighted individually. No orange streaks here! It was expensive (£115) but I definitely got my money's worth.

I was told there was little chance of my highlights taking on an orange tone, but that Aveda Black Malva Shampoo would stop it happening if turning ginger was a concern (yes). The salon only had 1-litre bottles (at £22.50), which was annoying. What if I end up not liking it??

Luckily the shampoo seems pretty good so far... it smells exactly like Dr Pepper, feels gentle and doesn't make my scalp itch. It has pigments in the formula to add cool tones to dark hair (to stop the ginger), so it comes out of the bottle purple-coloured. But weirdly, the foam is pure white so I'm not sure what happens to the pigments during lathering. Anyway, it's a nice shampoo. I didn't buy the Black Malva Conditioner because Carl said (Caaarl said..) that it might actually put too much pigment back into my hair and darken it.

Aveda Black Malva shampoo

The full ingredients of Aveda Black Malva Shampoo are:

Aqueuos (Water, Aqua Purificata, Purified) Extracts, Malva Rotundafolia Flower, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Bark Powder, Prunus Serotina (Wild Cherry) Bark Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Lauramidopropyl Betaine, Wheat Amino Acids, Pathenol, Tocopherol, Fragrance (Parfum), Glycerin, Basassuamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-6 Cocamide, PEG-7 Dimethicone C8-C18 Ester, Cocamidopropyl PG-Dimonium Chloride Phosphate, Polyquaternium-10, Isostearamidopropyl Morpholine Lactate, Sodium Chloride, Polysorbate 80,Tetrasodium EDTA, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Annatto (CI 75120), Blue 1 (CI 42090), Ext. Violet (CI 60730)

Whoops this was a particularly unstructured and not very concise hair update. Soz! But my finishing comment would be... if you have Asian/Chinese or black hair and you really want to go lighter but don't want thick ginger streaks or damaged hair (or if you need any highlights in general), Carl at the Aveda Institute in Covent Garden is your man. He's worth it, trust me! And for the shallow of you, he's pretty easy on the eye too.

You can find out more about the Aveda Institute, Covent Garden, London here.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Pupa Breast Enhancer Intensive Treatment review: First impressions

Pupa Breast Enhancer Intensive Treatment

[Update (22nd November 2010):  I have posted my final review here.]

It feels like I haven't blogged for ages, so let me start with the most interesting product in my backlog. Pupa Multivitamin AEF Breast Enhancer was Italy's top selling body care treatment product in 2009, and it's just arrived in the UK. What does it do, you ask? Apparently this cream is clinically proven to increase breasts by up to one cup size in just 8 weeks and to help achieve naturally fuller, firmer and more toned breasts.

This product is pitched at the same market as Rodial Boob Job which has very similar claims, but which costs a whopping £125 for 200ml. Pupa, on the other hand is much more affordable (relatively..) at £47 for 150ml (or £29.50 for 50ml). Potentially a cheaper alternative to having breast enlargement or breast lift surgery?

How does it work?

Pupa claim that from the very first application, the high concentration of Volufiline (a rare bio-extract of Asian Gardenia) works on the subcutaneous adipose cells, stimulating them to accumulate lipids (see below illustration and read more on the Pupa product page). The product works naturally, and doesn't affect the hormonal system.



First results should be visible after just 15 days' regular use, morning and evening... breasts should be rounder, fuller, more even and voluminous.

But that's not all. Pupa also claim that this cream supports breasts like a natural bra, with ingredients such as Bio-Soy Complex that form an invisible, tightening film on breasts for a natural "push-up" effect. Interesting!

So who is this product for?


It's "ideal for small or saggy breasts". Check. Seriously though, this breast enhancer is especially suitable for women with small breasts and "sagging" breasts, particularly after sudden weight-loss, pregnancy or breast-feeding. However, please note that you shouldn't use this while actually pregnant or breast feeding. Good job I am neither of those quite yet.

I fall into the "small" category. I've always been an A-cup... but it seems normal on my petite frame. Man, if I went up by one cup size, I'd feel massive and all self-conscious! Whenever I hear of people constantly fluctuating between two or more cup sizes depending on weight gain/loss or even their monthly cycle, I just can't fathom it. That seems like such a massive difference to me!

The application instructions are to apply morning and evening, all over the surface of the breasts, with gentle, round movements from the base, moving upwards and avoiding the nipples. For a satisfactory end result, this needs to be done for at least 8 weeks, without missing any applications. After 8 weeks, the results can be maintained with just one application per day. If treatment is stopped completely, breasts will go back to their previous shape as the fatty mass will eventually reduce.

A shot of the back of the box if you're interested (as always, just click to see a bigger image)...

PUPA Multivitamin AEF Breast Enhancer back of box

I've only been using this treatment cream for five days so far, but I have genuinely noticed a difference already. Not so much on the cup size yet, but I swear my boobs are rounder and more full. It was only after a couple of days that they felt kind of heavier (but more lifted at the same time). I really noticed the extra bounce and general mass when walking up and down stairs. I'd initially put this down to my hormones, but then I missed a day of applications, and the effects went away (oh no!). And now that I'm back on track, the effects have come back (yay!).

I know these results sound dubious... it's been less than a week, right? But I swear I'm telling the truth! Even now, sitting here in my Uniqlo thermal vest with hidden bra cups (nicer than it sounds), every time my arm brushes across when I'm typing, I can feel that my left side might soon overspill the bra cup.

Anyway, I will wait for any increase in cup size and will report back in about 7 weeks' time or whenever I see more results. Trust me, if I went up a whole cup size, I would notice! I'm not like one of my fluctuating-boobs friends who is always being told off for wearing a B-cup when she's actually a DD and vice versa. I would know if I changed bra size.

In terms of the cream itself, it's really nice to use. It smells soft and delicate, a mix between babies and continental pharmacies. It has just enough slip for massaging in, but at the same time is easily absorbed with no greasy after-feel.

Here are the full ingredients of Pupa Multivitamin AEF Breast Enhancer:

PUPA Multivitamin AEF Breast Enhancer full ingredients

And some quick stats from Pupa gained from a study conducted on 30 women over 8 weeks:

93% of women agreed that they had rounder breasts
90% of women confirmed their breasts were firmer
93% also agreed their skin was more compact
97% of women agreed that their skin felt more supple and nourished

So there you have it. Interesting stuff, huh? It's come at perfect timing too, because I now have less than four weeks to my wedding... and I could do with a bit of a boost round there to fill out a sweetheart bodice. Don't want to look like a child bride and all that.

You can read any details I've missed off on the Pupa website. For stockists, call 020 8398 9744. You can also buy online at www.beautique.com but it seems to be out of stock at the time of writing (not surprising, as it apparently sold 100,000 units in Italy after the first six months of launching).

This was a press sample, spotted and eagerly nabbed at a PR event.

[Update (22nd November 2010):  I have posted my final review here.]
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