Sunday, 26 October 2014

2014 Beauty Advent Calendar Round Up

I know, I know, it's not even Hallowe'en & I'm already talking about Christmas! It might feel like I'm wishing the year away, but many of these advent calendars get snapped up waaay before we hit December (some are already out of stock online!) so it's a good idea to get yours early in order to avoid disappointment. 

Below are some of my top picks but please do comment below if there are any others you think I should check out! Also, just a heads up that there are SPOILERS below, so if you'd rather not see what's in the boxes then click away now!

I really like the look of this set; it's got a great range of products & considering some of the brands that are included the price isn't half bad. The only thing I'm a bit disappointed by is the lack of actual makeup items, although obviously I understand that generally skincare items are more universal in their appeal. The big selling point of this set is the opportunity to try some cult products like Liz Earle's Cleanse & Polish cleanse, which some people might be reluctant to splash out on without sampling first.

A little more specialised than the "beauty" advent calendars, Ciate's Mini Mani Mansion is perfect for nail polish lovers. The set contains sample sizes of some classic shades, as well as one full-sized paint pot & 8 "effect" pots. Obviously this won't be to everyone's tastes but I can imagine it would earn you major brownie points from the younger members of your family who are just starting to build up their beauty collection.

Benefit's Candy Coated Countdown // £60 (currently out of stock online, may be available at Benefit counters)

Benefit's Advent Calendars have achieved cult status in recent years, hence it already being sold out well before the end of October. That being said, if you can hunt it down, it's a fantastic set full of samples of some of Benefit's most well-known products. Obviously samples aren't going to last forever but it does mean you can test items out & see which ones are worth you investing in (important, since Benefit's products certainly aren't cheap).

No. 7's 25 Days of Beauty Secrets // £35 (released October 29th)

I'm struggling to find any details on this one, outside of a couple of blogger reviews from people who got sent samples to check out, but it looks great & is definitely one of the more affordable options. From the spoilers I've seen, it also looks like there's a great balance between skincare & makeup items in the set, & No.7 are known for their high quality products making this great value for money.

Selfridges Enchanted Spells Advent Calendar 2014 // £85 (currently out of stock online, may be available in store & can be bought on Ebay for a considerable mark-up)

It's hardly surprising this has already sold out online considering you get such a fantastic range of high-end products. Yes, it's pricey, but there are several full-sized products which push the value way over what you're paying (although obviously the real value is in how much use you'll get out of the products).

This may not be the most exciting offering but it's definitely worth checking out if you love the Body Shop of if you've got a beauty lover in your life that's notoriously hard to buy for. This set contains a range of the skincare & bath items that the Body Shop is known for, along with a couple of makeup items which should be a nice extra surprise. You're unlikely to be blown away by this set, but equally I'd wager that every single item is something you'll use, so I guess it depends how much of a risk you want to take!

Can we freaking talk about this advent calendar. Yes, the price is ridiculous, & yes, you're probably going to need to be refreshing the page from midnight onwards on the 6th to get it, but just look at it! It looks so cool & I can't imagine you'll have any complaints when the set contains products from NARS, Dermalogica, & Diptyque. This is definitely a luxury set but if you've got a rich uncle in your life, why not?

What do you think of beauty advent calendars? Are they something you'd spend your money on or would you rather buy one or two products you know you'll love?

Review: No. 7's Beautifully Matte Foundation

Today's post is going to be an in-depth look at No. 7's Beautifully Matte Foundation. As I explained in my Mini Autumn Beauty Haul post I don't have a lot of experience with No. 7's makeup as it tends to be outside my price range, but with a couple of Boots vouchers to spend I decided to splash out. 

The foundation usually retails for £13.50, but it seems like Boots constantly has some kind of offer on No. 7 products meaning you can usually get a deal, even if it's just buy one get one half price. Obviously this is nowhere near the designer end of the market, but it is around double the price of most high-street foundations, so I was keen to see if it was worth the extra money.

As you can see above the packaging is really beautiful. The outer box is a metallic gunmetal colour with really clear white text. The shade is also clearly displayed on a sticker on top of the box, meaning you shouldn't have any problems with accidentally picking up the wrong one. There's also a great range of really light shades, although (predictably) fewer options if your skin is darker.

Inside the box is a frosted plastic tube containing the foundation itself. I really like the frosted-style as it makes it feel more high-end without any of the inconvenience of an actual glass bottle. Both the pump (yes, no fiddling about with spatulas!) & the lid are a slightly metallic black which again is nice & classic, although it can start to look a bit messy once you get foundation on it.

You get 30ml of product which is fairly standard for a foundation but because of the compressed bottle style, the foundation compartment shrinks as you use up the product, which should hypothetically mean less wastage.

The consistency is fairly thick and creamy, as you'd expect from a full-coverage foundation, but it's blends in flawlessly. I've been applying it using my Real Techniques Buffing Brush, & it gives a great finish, despite my brush being well-worn & due for replacement. The only slight issue I've found is with it sinking into the fine lines beneath my eyes, so you'll want to take care not apply too much around the eye area & make sure you set it well with a long lasting powder.

1. bare faced // 2. one layer of foundation // 3. foundation plus concealer // 4. full face of makeup

The coverage is genuinely fantastic - as you can see in the first photo I have pretty severe acne as well as a lot of redness which the foundation covers almost instantly. It also sets well, meaning any products placed on top should wear well throughout the day. Is it light-weight? Not really, but then what do you expect from a full coverage foundation? I probably wouldn't recommend this for Summer, but for Autumn/Winter the richer formula is absolutely perfect. 

The packaging promises an "all day shine free look" & it certainly has a beautiful velvety finish when first applied, but I definitely find myself getting shiny throughout the day. That being said, my skin is naturally super oily so you may find that if you're less prone to oiliness it'll stay matte for far longer. On the bright side, I find it touches up relatively well - almost as though the oil simply sits on top of the foundation, leaving the actual base intact - so after a quick blot & a swipe of powder you should be good to go, & the fact that it's not completely matte means it doesn't look unnatural when you first apply either.

I'm over the moon to have discovered No. 7's Beautifully Matte Foundation & it's definitely a new Autumn/Winter staple for me. While those with clear skin may find the formula a little heavy, it's a great full-coverage foundation, and - because of the thicker consistency - should suit both oily and dry skin.

Have you tried the Beautifully Matte foundation & if so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Introducing a New Family Member: Sesame

Ever since my partner & I started talking about moving in together after we graduated, we knew we wanted to get a cat. We'd both grown up with cats & as we got closer to moving I started checking the SSPCA website daily & sending my partner links to potential candidates.

When we finally moved we just weren't in the right place finally to get a cat, but when I got my job last month the hunt got serious. We knew we wanted to adopt (& I'd strongly recommend checking out your local shelters if you're looking for a pet) but we were struggling to find any cats that would suit us: we wanted an adult cat that was friendly & affectionate, & would be happy being indoors (living in a second floor flat so an outdoor cat just wasn't practical).

Then, one night, I discovered Pets4Homes where people can not only list pets they're looking to sell, but also pets that are just looking for a good home. Sesame (the name we've given her, Mitzy just wasn't cutting it) immediately caught our eye & we quickly texted her owner who replied almost immediately, explaining that her partner was allergic to her & therefore they were looking for someone to take her. 

After some back & forth, we agreed she could bring Sesame over that evening, along with her litter box, some food, & a couple of other items.

The first few days were a little tense: Sesame was super nervous & spent a lot of time hiding under the bed, but since then she's really come out of her shell. She's so affectionate, really playful, & majestic as fuck (hence the endless of photos of her on my Instagram). Getting up is so much less painful with her warm body tangling itself in my legs as I try to reach the bathroom & coming home from work to her sitting on top of the kitchen counter never fails to make my heart sing. She seems really content here & we couldn't be happier with the new addition to our family.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

A Quick Tour of My Dressing Table

One of the things I was most excited about when my partner & I moved into our new place was finally having a dedicated space to do & store my makeup after years of applying it over bathroom sinks & on window sills. 

I picked out the perfect dressing table on a slightly hellish Sunday afternoon Ikea trip - it's the Ransby model in black/brown - & after a couple of weeks for delivery, a whole day to put it together (with the obligatory arguing), plus another couple of days to get everything sorted, I'm finally happy with my set up so I thought I'd share it with you!

The top has a large square mirror which you can fold down - useful if you need your dressing table to multi-task as a desk - & plenty of space for whatever else you want to have easy access to. As you can see, I keep my hair-dryer & Wet Brush on the top, along with a box of everyday hair & skin products, & a few other miscellaneous items.

I did look into getting the clear Muji makeup storage that every other beauty blogger seems to have but it's just so pricey! Instead I use my collection of Glossyboxes & Birchboxes to keep everything organised - they're nice & sturdy, & the perfect size for an average sized makeup collection. I also found that the Birchbox lids are the perfect height for the top draws of the dressing table, while the boxes themselves work well on top for bigger items.

I keep my makeup brushes divided into two pots: my everyday face brushes including foundation, powder, blush and contour are in this cute candle holder I got for Christmas last year, & the rest of my brushes & spoolies are in an empty cotton buds tub (so glamorous). I find this really speeds up my morning routine as I know that all my essential brushes are in one place, & I only need to venture into the second pot if I'm doing a more complex eye-look.

Also on the top of my table is this little Kilner Jar of cotton buds. They're just so handy, especially for makeup emergencies, & I think the glass jar looks really cute. You can buy Kilner jars or Mason jars relatively cheaply on Ebay & they're perfect for storing cotton buds & balls, as well as bobby pins & hair clips.

The final box on the top of my table is my jewellery box. In the long run I'd like to get one of those necklace trees, just to make it easier to see everything & stop the necklaces from getting tangled, but this is a great compromise, especially since I don't really have that much jewellery (yet!).

Now it's into the draws. The two top draws (one on each side) are less deep than the bottom ones, making it much easier to access whatever's in there, so I've reserved the top draws for beauty products & the bottom draws for bulkier items, like my hot rollers. 

The top right draw contains all my face products. There are my foundations (just loose as they take up way too much space if I put them in a box), a box of face powders, blushes & bronzers, plus my Sleek face palette. As my makeup collection grows this box will probably need separating out, but as I only have a couple of each type of product it's fine for now.

Also in this draw is a box of all my lip products. Honestly, this box is already a little full so sometime soon I'm planning to separate it out, either by product type or by colour. I really love the acrylic lipstick storage boxes I've seen but I'm not sure how well they'd work for my (slight out of control) collection of Revlon Colorburst Balms.

In the top left draw are all my eye products, from eyeliners to eyeshadows, mascaras to eyebrow pencils. As you can imagine, it's pretty crowded & sometimes it's a bit of a nightmare trying to find that one product I need amongst everything else, so this is another box which I'd like to divide up at some point. This draw also contains my eyeshadow palettes; fortunately, although the draw is fairly shallow, I can still fit three palettes stacked on top of each other, unfortunately this does mean that I tend to forget about the bottom palettes.

Also in this draw are all my nail polishes. Honestly, this is probably the one box that I'd much rather was in a professional organiser, just so I could quickly see all the shades & also because they're so bulky that even with a relatively small collection there's already very little room left in the box. That being said, since I'm rarely looking for nail polish in a hurry it's less of an issue if it takes me a few seconds to find the right one.

Overall, I'm really happy with my new set up. It's obviously not perfect & if I had unlimited money there are definitely things I'd add, but it is functional. It allows me to quickly do my makeup in the morning before work with minimal hassle, & I've also found that having all my products in one place has made me more adventurous - I'll often spot something that I haven't used in a while & give it a try, rather than products languishing at the bottom of box for months.

I'd love to hear about your set ups, especially if you've got any secret organising tips - leave me a comment below!

Monday, 13 October 2014

October 2014 Birchbox Unboxing & Review

It definitely doesn't feel like a month since I reviewed September's Birchbox - I guess time flies when you're loving your job (or something!). 

This month's theme is 'Work It' & the box is all about getting motivated, meeting your goals & figuring out your work/life balance - all super relevant since I'm now in week three of my new job! The box is also a collaboration with charity CoppaFeel! so there's some great info on taking care of your breast health included in the booklet (which looks fucking fantastic by the way - pink & white with This girl is on fire written on it in block capitals).

I actually really like these more loosely themed boxes as I find the ones with more concrete themes can end up feeling a little forced (see June's World Cup themed box), but as always, the proof is in the products...

Opening up the box I was greeted by a very pleasant surprise: instead of the usual drawstring bag, this month's products were contained within this zippered makeup bag. Although I prefer to keep my makeup in something see-through when travelling I think this would be great for keeping things like nail files, cotton-buds & all those other miscellaneous items contained on the go.

The first product in the bag is this Balance Me Cleanse and Smooth Face Balm which retails for £20. I remember trying a Balance Me product in one of the Glossyboxes way back when & not being particularly impressed, & I'm afraid it's a similar story with this cleansing balm. Although I like the texture (it's oil-based & contains oatmeal powder for added exfoliation), it has a really strong scent which I just don't like. That being said, if you're less fussed about strongly fragranced products then this might be worth checking out as Balance Me's products are all natural & always seem to have great reviews - plus the full size version comes with a muslin cloth.

Ever since I got my hair cut to a shoulder-length bob I've been keen to find ways to add a bit of texture to stop it from looking quite so dull but I've been seriously struggling as my hair is so thick that it takes industrial amounts of product to make any styling stick. Enter the KMS California Hair Play Playable Texture which retails for £15.50. I haven't had a chance to fully try this out but my first impression isn't great - it's basically just an extravagant hair spray, definitely lightweight but without an ingredient like salt I think you'll be hard-pressed to get any dramatic styling out of it, especially if you have thick hair like me.

I immediately fell in love with the retro styling of this Cool Fix Gel from Shaveworks which retails for £11. It's also a really interesting product, the idea being that you apply it after shaving to combat ingrown hairs, razor bumps & razor burn. I'm super guilty of using my razors long after they should be thrown out & while I'm trying to get better I definitely think I'll be getting a lot of use out of this product. I can't quite pinpoint the fragrance in this one, but judging by the cooling & tingling sensation there's definitely some peppermint in there. It also contains a light exfoliant & salicylic acid to help tease out ingrown hairs & decrease scarring. This has a big thumbs up from me.

Another example of great product branding is this lip balm from Pixi in the shade Natural Rose, which retails for £8. I really love the '50s pastels & the gold lettering keeps it from being childish. When I opened it up, the balm itself is surprisingly opaque & a beautiful dusty rose shade. It's fairly opaque when applied to the lips too, although obviously being a balm it quickly fades & rubs off. My only issue with this product is the super strong vanilla scent - ideally I prefer my lip balms to be scentless but anything more than a hint of vanilla puts me right off.

The final beauty product this month is this Lollipops Nail Lacquer which retails for £7. Although this will be joining my already out of control red nail polish collection, at least it's a more wearable shade than the previous two lacquers I've received in Birchboxes. Having not worn it yet I can't report on how chip-proof or long-lasting it is, but the formula does seem a little thin so I suspect it'll need a couple of coats to build up a solid colour.

This month's lifestyle product is this hilariously kitsch lipstick pen. Something tells me this won't be replacing my trusty Uniball pens at work but it definitely beats last month's dried fruit.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with this month's box - it's full of products I'm genuinely interested in giving a go & I can definitely see me repurchasing the after-shave gel if it works out. What did you think of this month's box? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Mini Autumn Beauty Haul

Now I've started working full-time the temptation to just pop into Boots after work or during my lunch break is super strong & I'm lucky that it's only a small store so the financial damage is somewhat limited.

However, when I snuck in last week it was (relatively) guilt-free as I had a couple of vouchers to spend which I'd earned on an online survey site during my three months of unemployment (super glamorous, I know), so I picked up a couple of essentials & treated to myself to two products from the No.7 line, & I thought I'd share with you what I got.

Imperial Leather Pink Peony & Raspberry Body Wash // Was £2, now on sale for £1 - Since I started work I've mainly been showering at night, so I've been gravitating towards a lot more soothing scents, but when I saw this on the shelf I knew I had to have it. Peonies are my favourite flowers & while this isn't a traditional "soothing" fragrance, I do like the fact that it leaves me feeling fresh & clean, plus it lathers up well which makes it feel really luxurious.

Garnier Moisture Match Mattifying Fresh Cream // £5.99 - One of my biggest issues now I'm working full-time is keeping my super oily skin under control, especially since my hours are pretty flexible & I often need my makeup to last from 9am through 'til 8pm. Blotting & touching up with powder can only do so much so I decided to try out this "mattifying" moisturiser from Garnier. I'll be doing a full review in the next few days but so far I'm on the fence.

No. 7 Beautifully Matte Foundation // £13.50 - My oil-control issues definitely weren't being helped by the fact that I was using a pretty lightweight & dewy foundation so I decided to invest in something a bit more matte & full coverage, especially as we're well & truly into Autumn now. So far I've been absolutely loving the No. 7 Beautifully Matte Foundation but I'll be posting a full review soon with all the details, so keep your eyes peeled.

Witch Cleansing & Toning Wipes // Was £2.99, now on sale for £1.99 - I never thought I'd be a face wipes snob but somehow it's happened. I ran out of my old face wipes while we were living with my partners' parents & without a second thought picked up a double pack of ASDA wipes for £1 (what a bargain, I thought). Turns out there was a reason they were so cheap: they were dry as a bone & stank of chemical cleaner. I powered through one pack but by the time I was half way through the second I cracked & threw them away. Enter the Witch Cleansing & Toning wipes which I'm really liking. They're super moist & make easy work of eye make-up; the only slight downside is that they are quite drying but I tend to moisturise after using them anyway so it's no big deal.

No. 7 Match Made Stay Perfect Lipstick in Auburn Whisper // £9.95 - I've always been put off No. 7 cosmetics by the price & had I not had the voucher there's no way I would have picked this lipstick up, but I would have missed out because I'm loving this colour & the formula is amazing. I love a dark lip & could probably get away with wearing a deep plum or wine shade at work but it's just so high maintenance that I'd rather stick to less intense shades. I'd describe Auburn Whisper as a dusty rose shade with a hint of coral & it's really flattering - bright but not so intense that it overwhelms the rest of your look, & definitely not as mature as it looks in the tube. It's also super long-lasting & seems pretty immune to smudging, meaning you can swipe it on in the morning & not worry about it (at least until after lunch).

So that's my mini haul, what products have you picked up recently that you've been loving? Let me know in the comments!
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