Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Review: Benefit Rockateur Blush

I've been meaning to review Benefit's Rockateur blush (RRP £23.50) for a while now but I kept holding off because I couldn't quite make up my mind on how I felt about it. I'm still not sure but I figured a review might help me settle it once & for all.

First up, packaging. I have a real love/hate relationship with Benefit's box blushes. On the one hand, it's great that you can swirl your brush around without losing any product, but on the other I think they look really cheap (not great when you're paying almost £25 for a blush) & they're super bulky making them a total pain to travel with.

In terms of shade, Rockateur is a rose gold, with a light shimmer which translates to a lovely glow on the skin. If you're not into the super highlighted look but still want a healthy glow, Rockateur is a great option. However, I do find the pigmentation to be really lacking (again disappointing considering the price). I have relatively pale skin (NC15-20) & I have to work hard to build up the colour, swirling my brush in the box & applying multiple layers. This might be great if you prefer a light wash of colour, but it means that if you like a bolder blush you're going to get through this product pretty damn quickly.

All of Benefit's box brushes come with a small, square brush which is handy if you're travelling but otherwise a complete nightmare. I find these brushes impossible to use & can't imagine keeping it in the box as it would get covered in powder.

Overall, I think Rockateur is a pretty colour but it's certainly not unique & when you can pick up Sleek's Shimmer Blush in Rose Gold (which has incredible pigmentation) for almost a fifth of the price, I'd save your pennies on this one.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

First Impressions: Paula's Choice Skincare

The Paula's Choice motto is "no-nonsense skincare, based on published research" & when I stumbled across their site a few months ago I found it really refreshing. 

All their products are cruelty-free & there are no added fragrances or colours (a big plus if you have sensitive skin). There's lots of chat in the product descriptions about ingredients (Vitamin C, salicylic acid, etc.) but no wild promises about results (something that really bugs me about mainstream skincare brands). 

The emphasis is on educating customers so they can make informed choices about the products they buy, & nowhere is this more clear than on the Paula's Choice sister site Beautypedia. Now, to be clear, Beautypedia is run by Paula's Choice so I tend to take the reviews of PC products with a pinch of salt, but I've generally found them to be fair, & I now basically don't purchase products without first checking out their reviews.

So, what did I buy?

It's no secret that my biggest skincare concern is acne, so I went ahead & purchased a trial set of the Clear Extra Strength line, which contains a two week supply of their core acne-fighting products: the Clear Pore Normalising Cleanser, the Clear Extra Strength Anti-Redness Exfoliating Liquid with 2% Salicylic Acid, & the Clear Ultra-Light Daily Mattifying Fluid with SPF 30+. I also picked up a trial sachet of the Skin Perfecting Gel Exfoliant, just in case the extra-strength version was too intense for my skin.

I would always recommend picking up samples for skincare products before you commit, but with the Paula's Choice acne-fighting range I'd say it's essential. Not only are they fairly pricey, but the active ingredients - particularly salicylic acid - won't be right for everyone, & the last thing you want is to be stuck with a product you can't use (although PC do offer a 30-day money back guarantee).


The Pore Normalising Cleanser (RRP £14.50) is a clear, very runny gel formula which lathers up nicely when mixed with water. It's super effective at breaking up light to medium makeup, although I found it quite irritating around my eyes, so tended to use a makeup remover first so I could focus the cleanser on the less sensitive areas of my face, where it's really gentle. I didn't find it drying at all, & the inclusion of an anti-bacterial agent means it should help keep your skin clean & clear. Personally, I prefer an oil or balm cleanser, but I can't fault the effectiveness of this product.

Next up is the star of the show, the Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution (RRP £23.50). The liquid formula means you use this much like a toner, applying it using a cotton pad following your cleansing routine. Because it contains salicylic acid, I did find it left my face looking a little red & shiny following use, but it quickly faded & if you use this as part of your night-time routine it shouldn't be an issue. I did try the gel formula as well which you apply more like a serum, massaging it on with your finger tips, but honestly I found the liquid version easier to use, especially since - like the cleanser - you want to keep this away from the more sensitive areas of the face.

The final step is the Ultra Light Daily Mattifying Fluid (RRP £29) which is essentially a moisturiser with added sunscreen for use in the morning. Although the opaque white liquid was a little intimidating at first, I found it blended into the skin well & left no visible residue, perfect for applying makeup on top off. I don't generally use sunscreen every day (I know, I know), but when using products containing salicylic acid it's important you do, as the acid can make your skin more vulnerable to sun damage. I didn't end up repurchasing this as it just felt a bit pricey, but I honestly can't fault it.

So, what about the results? Am I now a smooth-skinned goddess?

The short answer is no, I still have acne, & if I'm honest I found that during the first week & a half of using the products my skin actually got worse, particularly on my cheeks which hadn't really been a problem area for me in the past. Apparently this is fairly common, as the products penetrate deep into the skin & draw out all kinds of grim stuff which appears on the surface as breakouts (so maybe best to avoid starting this routine just before a special day).

So why the glowing review?

Well, four weeks on, & I can honestly say Paula's Choice has changed my life. I no longer get cystic acne on my face or neck, which considering the fact that in the past I generally had at least three large, under-skin spots at any one time is a minor miracle. My acne scarring has also been significantly reduced, & the areas of my face which are spot-free look really smooth & healthy. & finally, the life-cycle of my acne is now around 24 hours (that's from first feeling a spot emerging to being completely clear), which is incredible considering I used to have breakouts that would last for weeks on end.

These aren't miracle products, but the reality is that miracle products just don't exist. Thanks to Paula's Choice my skin now feels like it's on the mend & it looks better each day. For the first time in years I feel in control of my acne, & if you've struggled with acne yourself you'll know how much of a big deal that is. I would 100% recommend this line to anyone with severe acne & I'm pretty sure I'm going to be a Paula's Choice devotee for life now.

(I'm aware that this review might seem too good to be true, but I bought all these products myself & am in no way affiliated with Paula's Choice. I just think they're really great.)

Sunday, 12 July 2015

ASOS Dungarees Three Ways

If you follow me on Twitter you'll know that I've been debating buying a pair of dungarees (or overalls, whatever you want to call them) for a while now but I'd never quite found the perfect pair. 

Then, in a moment of desperation, I purchased this pair from the ASOS Tall range. I've bought a couple of items from the range before, since they go up to a size 20 & often have more fashion-forward pieces than the Curve range. The sizing can be a bit unpredictable (I originally purchased these in a 20 & ended up sizing down to an 18) but with ASOS' returns policy that's not really an issue.

One of my big issues when I was considering buying a pair of dungarees was that it was really hard to find clear and honest photos of plus size women wearing them, so I figured today I'd show you three different outfits starring my new favourite item of clothing.

Check Shirt - New Look  //  Dungarees - ASOS  //  Shoes - VANS

Look One - Weekend Casual  //  Dungarees are perfect for lazy weekends - they're super comfy & really practical (this pair even has a little pocket on the front which you can easily store your phone, keys & cash in). Can we also talk about topknots for a second? I know they're a bit weird looking, but I've been loving them lately, mainly because they keep my gross, half-grown-out fringe out the way.

Shirt - ASOS  //  Dungarees - ASOS  //  Shoes - Oasis

Look Two - Workwear  //  I know that in some more formal offices you might not be able to get away with dungarees (especially as a plus size woman, since we often get judged extra harshly on our appearances) but they are relatively easy to dress up. Just add a shirt, some fancy shoes, & a little bit of jewellery (I love the masculine edge a chunky watch gives) & you're ready to go.

Bralette - River Island  //  Dungarees - ASOS  //  Bag - ASOS  //  Bracelet - ASOS  //  Shoes - New Look

Look Three - Night Out  //  Obviously dungarees aren't going to replace a sweet cocktail dress but they can give a grungy edge to a night out. Here I've paired them with a cotton bralette & chunky gold jewellery for a sexier vibe, & my trusty lilac feather clutch keeps things fun.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

My Current Skincare Routine (for Oily & Acne-prone Skin)

I've spoken before on this blog about my struggles with acne & for the past six months I've been on a mission to get it under control. Some of that has been lifestyle changes: drinking more water, washing my makeup brushes regularly, upping my fruit & veg intake etc. but most of it has been figuring out which skincare products work for me & which are doing more harm than good (I'm looking at you St Ive's Apricot Scrub).

It finally feels like I've cracked it. My skin is by no means acne free, & some people with clearer skin would probably be horrified that I'd considered this an achievement, but for me, getting to a place where my skin-tone is relatively even, my acne is mild & short-lived, & my scars fade quickly, is a big deal. So, I figured I'd talk you through my skincare routine & share some products that work for me (just as a side note, even though I love all these products, there's no guarantee they'll work for you, so I'd always recommend getting testers before committing, particularly with the pricier products).

I do understand that a lot of these products are expensive, & I would love to recommend some cheaper alternatives, but honestly I've just never found any high-street products that work for me, particularly when it comes to combating acne. If you do have any suggestions for products, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.

These first three products have all been staples in my routine for a while, but I've yet to find anything that's as effective, so it looks like they're here to stay.

1. Liz Earle's Cleanse & Polish // £26 - I used to be a total face scrub addict & was convinced that aggressive daily exfoliation was the key to clearer skin, but having done some more research I now know it's much healthier to either use chemical exfoliants (more on this in an upcoming blog post) or to just gently exfoliate with a face cloth. Hence why I love really buffing in Cleanse & Polish, & then using a muslin cloth to remove any excess product & makeup residue. I tend to use a makeup wipe beforehand, just because I feel like it gives me a deeper cleanse, but this product is totally capable of removing even heavy eye makeup.

2. Dr Jart Water-Act Skin Mist // £15.95 - I received this in a beauty box forever ago & for ages it just sat in my cupboard, but recently I've been spritzing it on to my face after cleansing to help retain moisture. It's also really refreshing, so great for hot Summer days.

3. Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions All-Over Clearing Treatment // £20 - When I reviewed Clinique's Anti-Blemish Solutions Three-Step System I said that this was the only product I could see myself continuing to use, & I wasn't lying. It's become a skincare staple, & the fact that my skin gets noticeably worse when I skip using it means I won't be switching things up any time soon.

These next two products are relatively new additions to my routine, but they've been working miracles so I didn't want to miss them out.

4. Ole Henriksen Truth Serum // £44 (prices vary, so it's worth checking around for good deals) - I know this is pricey as fuck but thankfully a little goes a long way, & the results for me have been life-changing. Vitamin C has a whole range of skincare benefits but what finally convinced me to purchase this was the promise that it would help fade acne scarring, something that I've become more aware of as my active acne has reduced. I know buying this a major commitment so if people are interested in a more in-depth review with before & after photos then I'm happy to do that.

5. Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief // £34 - When I was younger I would avoid any form of moisturiser, afraid that it would make my skin more oily, but since learning that excessive oil production is often a response to dehydration I've been on the hunt for a lightweight moisturiser to complete my skincare routine. Extended Thirst Relief has a lovely gel consistency that sinks into the skin super quickly, with no greasy residue, & leaves my face feeling significantly firmer.

I'm always on the hunt for even better products, but for now I'm really happy with where I'm at, & after all my research I feel far more confident purchasing products because I know exactly what to look for & what to avoid.
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