Sunday, 13 December 2015

OOTD: Christmas Partywear with Simply Be

I resisted buying this gold sequinned number from Simply Be for so long, but when I found myself dress-less a week before my work Christmas party it felt like fate. It's possibly the most expensive dress I've ever owned, but it's such a special piece I don't feel like it's over-priced & it's well-made meaning that - if I take care of it - it should last me a good few years.

This isn't a style I usually go for as dresses which are tight around my hips often make me feel self-conscious, but I sized up to give myself a bit more room & it feels great. The dress does look a lot shorter on me than it does on the model, but I think that's because I've belted it at the waist, & honestly I prefer the shorter length as it balances out the high neckline & long sleeves.

I also love all the little details in this dress like the sheer sleeves & deep back - again they help keep it from looking too modest. It also has a thick black slip under the sequinned mesh meaning it's really comfortable to wear & is surprisingly warm - perfect for Christmas nights out.

I chose to pair the dress with black tights & boots since I'll be walking to my work Christmas lunch, but it would look equally great without tights & a pair of strappy heels. I honestly can't wait to wear this to my work Christmas party & on Christmas day.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Three Things To Do in Edinburgh During December

While I love living in Edinburgh all year round, I think the city really comes alive during December & there's so much to see that I thought I'd pick out my top three Winter attractions for you.

1// Christmas Markets
Edinburgh currently has two Christmas markets: the traditional European market on Princes Street & the Scottish market in St Andrew Square. Both are great to wander around if you just want to get in the Christmas spirit but they're also fantastic for last minute present shopping & the food is amazing (I'd particularly recommend the Bratwurst in a pretzel roll & the fondue hot chocolate from the Princes Street market). The only downside is that they can both get pretty busy & there's nothing like being pushed along by the crowd to ruin your day, so I'd recommend going on a weeknight if possible & avoiding the week before Christmas altogether (the St Andrews Square market is also significantly quieter even though it's only a five minute walk from Princes Street).

2// Jenners
Jenners is an Edinburgh institution. Until it was acquired by House of Fraser in 2005 it was the oldest independent department store in Scotland, & I personally love that fact that it has managed to retain a lot of its charm while still being home to all the big brands you'd expect from a mainstream store. Not only is Jenners perfect for picking up more luxury gifts (for yourself or others) but it also has a fantastic toy store in the basement, the sweetest little Christmas shop, & some stunning decorations.

3// Royal Botanic Gardens
If the thought of crowds makes you cringe then I can't recommend this final attraction enough. Edinburgh Botanic Gardens are only a 20 minute (& £1.50) bus ride from the city centre & come December they're almost deserted. If you're feeling brave you can walk round the whole gardens, or for £5 you can spend a couple of hours wandering through the heated glasshouses before grabbing lunch in the main cafe. On a clear day there's something really relaxing about following the trails among palms & cacti, wrapped up in a coat & scarf.

What attractions from your home town would you recommend people check out during December? Let me know in the comments below, & if you're not already following me on Bloglovin go ahead & click here to stay updated on my posts.


Sunday, 6 December 2015

Top Four Cleansers for Sensitive Winter Skin

Regardless of your skin type, come Winter the combination of freezing weather & central heating means we all need a gentle cleanser that can remove makeup without stripping the skin of moisture. Enter my top four cleansers for sensitive Winter skin.

1 // L'Oreal Paris Skin Perfection Micellar Water, £4.99
Perfect for: mornings & make-up free days

If you're looking for a gentle, hassle-free cleanser then micellar water is for you. Simply place a small amount on a cotton pad, then apply to your face & neck. Although micellar water lacks the power to cut through more heavy-duty make-up, it's perfect for a quick cleanse in the morning, or as the second step in your night time cleansing routine. I also find that a cotton pad soaked in micellar water & held on the eyelids for 10 seconds is great at loosening up waterproof eye makeup.

2 // Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish, £15.50
Perfect for: luxury bitch nights in

Long Winter evenings are the perfect time to pamper yourself & Liz Earle's cult cleanser is a great start to a night of face masks & drinking glasses of wine in the bath. Apply to dry skin (makeup optional), rub in & then remove with a warm, damp cloth. This cleanser is surprisingly good at removing long-wearing makeup & also helps exfoliate without causing damage to already sensitive skin.

3 // Bioré Deep Pore Charcoal Cleanser, £3.29 (currently on offer)
Perfect for: cleansing in the shower

I first heard about Bioré from Rachel Whitehurst but at the time their products didn't seem to be widely available in the UK, so when I spotted the Charcoal Cleanser in my local Tesco I figured I'd give it a shot. It seems fairly generic, quite similar to things like the Simple Face Wash, but it does work well as in-shower cleanser. It's nice & thick, lathers well but doesn't leave my skin feeling too dry, making it great for Winter.

4 // Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Oil, £22
Perfect for: removing hardcore makeup

As someone with super oily skin I had avoided cleansing oils in the past but Cliniques Take the Day Off Cleansing Oil has turned out to be the perfect match for my Winter skin. Like the Cleanse & Polish you simply apply a couple of pumps to dry skin, massage in, & then remove either with water or a damp cloth. Not only does it cut through hardcore makeup like it's nothing but it also leaves my skin feeling super soft. This has quickly become my go-to cleanser.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

2015 Beauty Advent Calendars Round-Up

2015 Beauty Advent Calendars

In the past couple of weeks, my 2014 Advent Calendar Round-Up has seen a sudden spike in views so I figured it was about time to do an updated version for this festive season. Like last year, these aren't necessarily the most impressive calendars (excuse you Charlotte Tilbury Book of Makeup Magic) or the best value, but they are the calendars that I would most love to receive.

1 //  M&S Beauty, £25 (when you spend £25 on M&S Beauty)
I've been on a huge M&S kick lately & I think many people would be surprised by some of the brands found in their advent calendar this year, including Stila, REN, Rituals & several other well-known names. The price also makes it a fantastic deal compared to some of the other calendars in this list, especially if you were already planning on doing some of your Christmas shopping in the M&S Beauty aisles.

2 //  Benefit Party Popppers, £34.50
If you've been reading this blog for a while you'll know that I have a pretty love/hate relationship with Benefit. However, a lot of that comes from the huge variation in quality between their products, so this cute advent calendar seems like a good way to try before you buy. You're only getting 12 "deluxe sample" sized products here so it's not fantastic value for money, but I think this would be a lovely gift for a teen who's just getting into makeup.

3 //  Lush 12 Days of Christmas, £49.95
One of the biggest issues with beauty advent calendars is the risk of ending up with products you won't use, which is why I love this Lush one. 12 of their best selling festive products in a lovely retro-style package. Yes please.

4  //  YouBeauty, £59.95
I actually bought the YouBeauty advent calendar last year (you can read my initial first impressions as well as my reviews of all the products here) although it's worth noting that the price has gone up £10 since last year. What YouBeauty do well is variety - there's a real mix of products & brands in this calendar, all of which would appeal to a wide range of people (I think this would be sweet to share if you lived in a home with a couple of beauty-lovers).

5  //  The Body Shop, £60/£80
This year the Body Shop have released two advent calendars: their standard one for £60 (which you can buy online here) & a premium one for £80 which it looks like you can only find in-store. Honestly, these both seem a little overpriced (but then I feel that way about the Body Shop's products too) but it looks like a nice mix of products (skincare, fragrance & makeup) & you know the quality will be good.

6  //  No.7, £38
Boots' No.7 range doesn't get the credit it deserves in the beauty world - I'm a big fan of their foundations, lipsticks & eyeshadows - & at £38 for 25 products (including 6 full size items) this seems like great value for money. My only reservation is that (like a lot of beauty advent calendars) No.7 have stuck to more neutral items to maximise the calendar's appeal, which means that if you favour bolder shades this might not be for you.

7  //  Selfridges Beauty Workshop, £60
This is definitely the luxury calendar of the lot, although in terms of price it's pretty reasonable. Inside are some amazing product samples from brands like Eve Lom, Ole Henriksen & OCC making this the perfect choice for someone who knows their stuff in terms of beauty but still wants to treat themselves in the run-up to Christmas.

Even though I swore I wouldn't get a beauty advent calendar this year some of these have me seriously tempted. Which calendars have caught your eye this festive season?

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

OOTD: #FatGirlsCan Wear Turtlenecks

Plus Size Turtleneck OOTD
Turtleneck: M&S  //  Necklace: Next  //  Belt: Primark  //  Skirt: New Look  //  Tights: ASOS  //  Boots: New Look

Growing up chubby meant I internalised a whole range of bizarre rules about what I could & couldn't wear, & for some reason turtlenecks ended up firmly in the second category. 

I think maybe the ~*logic*~ was that all that extra fabric snuggled round your neck would instantly remind people how fat you secretly were, but fuck that because turtlenecks are super cosy & perfect especially for transitioning into Winter.

Plus Size Turtleneck OOTD

Finding plus size turtlenecks can be tricky, but I've been loving the selection at Marks & Spencers, & am totally angling for this cashmere number to find its way under my Christmas tree. If you have a relatively small bust I'd also recommend checking out the "men's" section of sites like ASOS as men's basics tend to be cheaper than women's & the sizing is often slightly more generous (I wear a 20 in women's & a XXL in men's).

Plus Size Turtleneck OOTD

I also think turtlenecks look great layered with other pieces, which is good news for me as I've fallen back in love with my Winter coat from last year. I bought this mint number from New Look when I first started working last Autumn & it still looks great, plus it's more practical than my Simply Be Shaggy Fur Jacket when the weather gets really cold.

I took today off work in order to spend it with my fiancé who'll be heading to the US for three weeks on Thursday & that meant I had a bit more time to spend on my makeup. I'm still loving my Laura Mercier Artist Palette - Kir Royal & Espresso Bean make for a great purple smoky eye. If you'd be interested in more details on the makeup I'm wearing in my OOTDs let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Review: Benefit's Hello Flawless Oxygen Wow Foundation

When it comes to foundation I have a serious case of the grass is always greener. I love my Estee Lauder Double Wear - it's far & away the best foundation I've ever tried - but what if there's a better, cheaper formula out there that I'm missing out on because I don't want to take the risk? 

I know it's ridiculous, but that's how I ended up picking up Benefit's newest Hello Flawless foundation (RRP £26.50).

Benefit Hellow Flawless Oxygen Wow Foundation

I really like the packaging - it feels a lot less kitsch than Benefit's usual style, with just small accents of pink to make the black & white pop (it really reminds me of Topshop's packaging, which I love). I also like that the foundation comes in a pressurised tube with a pump for minimal product waste as this is one of my biggest complaints about Estee Lauder's Double Wear.

My foundation came with a little blister sample of the Stay Flawless primer, which is great, but I wasn't a fan. The primer was rock solid & had an almost waxy consistency. I know that it normally comes in a stick form, & it's possible that the warmth from your skin could help soften it, but applying directly to the face isn't exactly hygienic.

Benefit Hello Flawless Foundation I'm Pure 4 Sure
L-R: No product; foundation; foundation & concealer. I'm wearing the shade I'm Pure 4 Sure which is around NC15.

When I was testing this I did have some fairly dark acne scarring around my chin, & with Hello Flawless being marketed as light to medium coverage I didn't have high hopes, but I was impressed by how well it disguised even some of the more noticeable marks (you can only see a few of the darkest scars in the second photo).

In terms of application, I found the formula to be a little difficult to work with simply because it's very liquid & buffing it in with a brush resulted in a streaky finish which I ended up evening out with a sponge. It was relatively easy to build coverage without it becoming cakey, but I did notice it clinging to some of my drier spots.

I also had some issues with the finish, which ultimately are what made this a thumbs down from me. 

Firstly, despite being described as "natural" & "luminous", I found it to be incredibly matte with an almost powdery finish. I have super oily skin but this foundation seemed to make me look dull & lifeless, which isn't great, especially as I was hoping this could be an option for when I didn't want to wear a full face of makeup. 

The second issue is that this foundation just WILL NOT SET. By the end of the day, pretty much all the coverage had gone, having transferred onto every surface my face had been remotely near: my hands, my clothes, my boyfriend's clothes, my cat... To be clear, I set this with powder at the beginning of the day but it seemed to make zero difference.

Even with a shit ton of highlighter I feel like my face still looks flat & there's some noticeable flakiness on my skin which just doesn't happen with Double Wear. As someone with acne-prone skin, the coverage just isn't quite their either, although I can see this working for someone with clearer, combo (not too dry, not too oily) skin.

If you've tried Hello Flawless, I'd be interested to hear about your experience - please leave me a comment below.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

OOTD: Simply Be Shaggy Fur Jacket

Simply Be Shaggy Fur Jacket

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you've probably already seen me talking about this shaggy fur jacket from Simply Be - I've been obsessed with it ever since I first spotted it & basically haven't taken it off since it arrived (lovingly wrapped) a couple of weeks ago. 

It's the perfect combination of sensible Winter coat & statement piece. The fact that it's faux fur & fully lined mean it's super warm, but the shagginess of the fur & the ombre make it feel really #luxurybitch. It's a total compliment magnet too & who doesn't love compliments on grey Winter mornings? 

My only real complaint about this jacket is the lack of pockets - I get that it's not supposed to be super practical (I imagine it would be hell wearing this if it rained) but Edinburgh is already getting chilly & I like having somewhere to shove my cold hands.

I also want to give a shout out to these tassel zip ankle boots from New Look. I'd been on the look out for some new ankle boots for a while & when I accidentally bought this exact pair in two different shades (black from the New Look website, light brown from ASOS) I took that as sign I really did love them. Because they're wide fit they're really comfortable, & the heel height is practical without being dull. Win.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Review: Kyloe Gourmet Steak Restaurant & Grill

The first time my partner & I went to Kyloe we were celebrating his graduation with his parents (& thankfully not footing the bill). It was incredible & we kept saying we'd go back but always found something else to spend our money on, so when I spotted Kyloe on the list of locations taking part in the Edinburgh Restaurant Festival nothing was going to stand between me & a return visit. I was so committed I even booked the afternoon off work so I could properly enjoy it.

For those of you who live within travelling distance of Edinburgh, the Restaurant Festival is not to be missed. For ten days (it finishes this Sunday - the 18th) restaurants across the city are opening their doors & offering super affordable set menus for both lunch & dinner. The standard lunch menu at Kyloe runs to around £11 for a main, but my partner & I had a three-course meal for just £15 each - pretty sweet.

From the outside, Kyloe doesn't look like much - it sits on the West end of Princes Street surrounded by fancy hotels & bars. The entrance itself is through the Rutland Bar, & the restaurant is upstairs so it feels quiet despite being on a busy road.

The interior is subtly expensive with leather, wood & cow-hide. It feels luxurious but still warm & comfortable, something that expensive restaurants often lack. It's definitely not the sort of place where you feel awkward or embarrassed.

A big perk of the location are the fantastic views: along Princes Street, down Lothian Road & up to Charlotte Square. It's prime people-watching territory & obviously my new Simply Be jacket goes great with the grey skies.

The food more than lived up to my memories of it. Despite Kyloe being a steak restaurant I wasn't really feeling it yesterday, so instead I went for wild mushrooms on toast, followed by smoked salmon risotto, & a cookie sundae. It sounds like a lot but the portions were perfectly sized & we both left feeling content but not overly full.

Last but not least I want to give a shout out to the service. All the staff were super attentive & although it was clear that other guest were paying full price for their meal, it didn't feel like we were treated differently because we were eating off the set-price menu.

If you're ever in the market for a special meal out in Edinburgh I would always recommend Kyloe, & if you can make it to the city before the end of the weekend definitely check out the Restaurant Festival. There are over 30 restaurants taking part, & with £15 lunch menus & £25 dinner menus you can't really go wrong.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

OOTD: Transitioning into Autumn

Autumn in Edinburgh is a hard season to dress for. Clear blue skies mean my usual Autumn palette of black & grey feels too dark, but as the weather gets colder my Summer wardrobe just doesn't cut it any more. So what's a girl to do?

 The answer is layer like my life depends on it. By adding a lightweight trench coat & black tights to a Summer dress, you can easily transition to Autumn with style & comfort.

This dress is from ASOS & although I'm not usually a fan of florals, I love the large abstract print. The swing shape also makes it really easy to wear & three-quarter length sleeves mean I can still (just about) get away with wearing it without a cardigan.

The trench coat is from New Look & the fit is incredible. The longer length feels really sophisticated & I love that even though it's a cheaper piece they haven't scrimped on the details. It's also great to find a coat that I can comfortably button up, even over bulkier items of clothing, making it practical too.

Let me know in the comments below how you're transitioning into Autumn.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Contouring, Bronzing & Highlighting for Beginners

Contouring, bronzing, & highlighting are staples of the beauty world but I know lots of people are still afraid to give these techniques a go because they think they require expert knowledge to pull off. 

I also know there are lots of tutorials out there already, but I find a lot of them assume at least some prior knowledge, so today I wanted to go back to basics with a 101 post & provide some foolproof tips on contouring, bronzing & highlighting.


At their most basic level, all these techniques are illusions. I don't mean that in a negative sense, I purely want to emphasise that the aim is to give the impression that your face has certain qualities - which you may or may not have naturally - & this can help guide you, both in your product choices & your technique. 

I also want to emphasise that these techniques will not ~*improve*~ your face - your face is already fantastic. They will, when done a certain way, make your face appear closer to euro-centric beauty standards, but you are under no obligation to do this - if you'd rather use these techniques to emphasise your cute round nose, your chubby cheeks & your double chin then go for it!

So, what's the point in using these techniques?
The aim of contouring is to give the illusion of shape & structure. This is done by mimicking shadows which trick the eye into thinking that certain features - for example, cheekbones or your jawline - are more prominent.

Bronzing is intended to give the illusion of a sun-kissed glow, like you've spent the week running around the English countryside, eating strawberries & wearing not-quite-enough SPF. It can also help warm up your complexion if you're natural quite pale but don't want to deal with tanning (whether naturally or out of a bottle).

And finally, highlighting is intended to give the illusion of a ~*healthy*~ inner glow (whatever that means). Basically, a lot of foundations - particularly full-coverage ones are more matte than our skin is naturally, so highlighting helps bring everything back to life, & stops your face from looking super 2D.


L-R: Contour, Bronzer & Highlighter

Buying products to contour, bronze & highlight with can be a bit of a minefield, especially as lots of brands will use terms like contour & bronzer interchangeable. However, there are some basic guidelines which can help you pick out the best products for you.
Contour shades should generally be a couple of shades darker than your natural skin tone, cool-toned & matte. This is because you're trying to mimic your face's natural shadows, which are generally not super warm. Some beauty bloggers & vloggers will use a bronzer to "contour" with, but strictly speaking this is just a more precise application of bronzing. My personal favourite contour shade is Illamasqua's Powder Eyeshadow in the shade Heroine.
Bronzers should again be slightly darker than your natural skin tone, but this time warm-toned. Avoid anything too warm as it can look orange on your skin & instead aim for something close to your natural tanned skin. A lot of high-street bronzers are super shimmery which can look nice when combined with a tan, but a matte shade is more natural looking. I'm a big fan of the Too Faced Milk Chocolate Soleil Bronzer.
Highlighters should be significantly paler than your skin tone, but match your natural undertone. For example, if you have a warmer skin tone then a warm or yellow-toned highlighter is more likely to suit you, while cooler skin tones are more likely to suit pink-toned shades. The level of shimmer in your highlighter is up to you, but I particularly like Becca's Shimmering Skin Perfector (Pressed) in Moonstone because the glow is more metallic than glitter-based.


1 // Prep your base - Because these techniques are an illusion, a clear base will help them stand out & prevent them from looking muddy. If you're contouring on top of a light coverage foundation, or without a base then I'd suggest using a lighter touch than if you're wearing a full coverage foundation.

2 // Contour - The classic places to contour are: just under the cheekbone, along the jawline & down the sides of the nose. When chiselling out your cheekbones it can help to suck in your cheeks & then "draw" a line, starting at your ear to around two thirds of the way to your mouth. You can then blend this line out to make it look less stark, but I'd recommend blending upwards only to avoid it looking muddy - you want the "shadow" to still look sharp. With both your jawline (just under your jawbone & down your neck) & your nose (either side of the bridge), less is definitely more - a natural contour should be subtle enough to enhance your features without drawing attention to itself.

3 // Bronzer - The general rule is to bronze anywhere you would naturally tan. In practice this means your temples (either side of your forehead), your cheeks (just above where you've contoured) & the bridge of your nose. You can also bronze along your jawline, which creates a classic 3 shape on the side of your face - easy to remember & difficult to mess up.

4 // Highlighter - As with contouring, the aim of highlighting is to enhance your natural features, so most people choose to highlight the areas where light naturally hits the face: the cheekbones (between your bronzer & your under-eye), the bridge of the nose, & the Cupid's bow (just above the lips). You can also highlight above & below your brow arch, & your chin, but as someone with naturally oily skin I tend to avoid going all-out because it can quickly veer from inner glow into super sweaty territory.

As you can see above, on a blank face contouring, bronzing & highlighting can all end up looking pretty extreme but when elements like brows, eyeliner, blush & lipstick are added it all comes together.

Hopefully this run-down has helped clarify a few things about these techniques, but if you have any further questions please don't hesitate to let me know on Twitter or in the comments below.
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