Thursday, 29 September 2011

A Momentus Day for Melanie...

image from We Heart it

Well, I can officially strike off one of the items on my '30 Before 30' list -  i've got rid of my overdraft!

In the grand scheme of things, and compared to other graduates, my overdraft wasn't exactly huge or debilitating, but it's been a long hard slog to pay it off (something which I was desperate to do before it started accruing interest), and when I checked my bank balance this morning and realised I was 'in the black' for the first time in about 5 years I was really quite proud of myself!

The challenge now will be to be sensible with my money and try and manage it better: i've started drawing up a list of all my direct debits etc at the start of every month so I know what i've definitely got to pay out for, and i've also got a finance table insert for my Filofax which lets me know when, where and how much i'm spending - fingers crossed I stay on the right track!

Melanie x
Wednesday, 28 September 2011

E.L.F. Haul

I recently took advantage of E.L.F. (Eyes Lips Face)'s 'last ever' (I don't know if I believe this!) 50% off sale, and ordered a few (thirteen) bits and bobs.

I'm hoping to swatch/review all of these at some point soon, so watch this space for those, but for now you can have a wee nosy as to what I ordered!

All prices listed are after the 50% discount.

Super Glossy Lipshine in Angel and Goddess (£0.75 each)

Studio Cream Eyeliners in Copper and Gunmetal (£1.50 each)

All Over Colour Stick in Spotlight and Lilac Petal

Dramatic Lash Kit (£0.75)

Eyelash Colour (£0.75)

Studio Powder Brush (£1.50)

Zit Zapper (£0.75)

Nourishing Cuticle Pen (£0.75)

Studio Eyebrow Kit in Ash (£1.50)

HD Powder (£3.00)

All for £18.95! (Plus £2.95 delivery)

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Style Crush Of The Week: Holly Willoughby

Holly Willoughby is the epitome of yummy mummy (as Keith Lemon says, when pregnant she's Holly Willoughbaby, and when not she's Holly Willoughbooby!) and a lady who brings old-school Marilyn Monroe glamour to the 21st century - i'd die for her figure!

Her wardrobe largely consists of really classic pieces combined with killer evening dresses (her presenting slot on Dancing on Ice is the perfect showcase of these) - not to mention her collection of designer handbags!

This is my favourite most-recent outfit of Holly's. I love the shoes and the Mulberry Alexa, as well as the really delicate necklaces she's fond of wearing  - it reminds me of the sideways cross necklace trend.

Bag envy! She remind me of Jackie Kennedy here (from the neck down!)

Holly Willoughby Handbags
Chanel and Alexander McQueen in the one outfit!

Who's style have you been loving?

Melanie x
Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Review: Liz Earle Sheer Skin Tint

I have been debating on and off all day whether or not to do this particular post, as more often than not when a new product from a popular brand/range is released, every blogger and their dog does some sort of article/review on it (Illamasqua Theatre of the Nameless being a prime example), and I personally find it a right reading turn off!

However, after trying this particular product, I thought it would be worth putting what I personally thought of it out there (and I will say in advance it's not all gushy-gushy, oh-my-god-it's-my-HG product thoughts!), and if it helps you decide to buy (or not to buy) it, then so be it!

If you've ever bought anything from Liz Earle you'll know you get sent regular (quarterly?) 'newletter'-type booklets, containing info on all the Liz Earle products and ranges.

This latest booklet of delights came packaged along with 3 samples of Liz's latest beauty offering: the Liz Earle Sheer Skin Tint, in the shades 01. Bare (for fair skin tones), 02. Beige (medium shade) and 03. Beach (for suntanned, olive-toned and most asian skintones).

Being as 'pale and interesting' as I am, I opted to try shade 01. Bare.

You do get quite a decent amount in the sample sachets - i've managed to get about two applications (days) worth from it, and I have been quite generous in my usage - with the full product retailing at £21.00 for 40ml.

The Sheer Skin Tint has been launched by Liz Earle as part of their foray into make-up, and is described as:

The perfect way to enhance your skin. Our rich and creamy, yet lightweight formula leaves all skin types looking naturally dewy, even and radiant. With mineral UV SPF15, it’s enriched with our own blend of natural source vitamin E, borage and avocado, specially selected to work in harmony with our skincare range.

From this (and the name) I presumed that Sheer Skin Tint would simply be a tinted moisturiser of sorts, but it's actually incredibly thick, possibly even more so than the Revlon Colorstay i'm using at the moment and REALLY smells, and not pleasantly: it distinctly reminds me of playdough/plasticine, and actually lingers on the skin for some time after application sadly.

Despite being developed as a simple skin 'tint', the formula is, as I suggested above, really quite thick and creamy, and can easily provide quite extensive medium coverage (does that make sense?), although the pesky redness around my nose still remains a problem.

It does blend out quite easily (Liz Earle suggest simply using your fingers, although I prefer to either use a foundation/stipple brush or blending sponge), and for a 'skin tint' has rather good staying power (the picture below was taken after i'd got hom from work).

I'm also really pleased with the colour match/adaptability to my particular skin tone - I've always struggled to find a foundation which matches my pale complexion without washing me out completely, but this blends out beautifully to leave no tell-tale marks.

Because of this, I want this product to work for me and I want to like it, I really do, but sadly I just don't!

The aforementioned smell really puts me off, and when the tint is blended out on the skin, it feels really tacky (like when you first put foundation on, before it 'dries' and sets)...and stays that way. All day. Ick.

The product has been developed to give a dewy, 'natural radiance' to the skin, but instead I experienced shine overload with this product - and not in a good way.
Sometimes I actually think I bit of natural skin oil/shine can make you look quite healthy (Barbara at The Persian Babe is a fantastic example of this: she has naturally oily but incredibly beautiful glowing skin), but this was too much - with this and the smell combined I felt like some sort of plastic dolly!
I haven't tried using a powder over this (as i'm not a setting powder user), but I can imagine that because it is so tacky, the powder would settle in places and look a bit dry and cakey.

It is a product which has been aimed at women of all ages, skin types and skin tones, but I actually think it might be suited to a more mature or dry skin type which needs an injection of thick moisture/coverage.

Liz has stated the product has been 3 years in the making, but I sort of feel like this could just the 'prototype', and maybe it might evolve into a better product once they receive feedback and can develop it a bit more to suit the needs/demands of consumers.
I can imagine there will also be demand for a greater range of shades to suit more skintones.

The good news is, if you happen to order the full sized product, it comes with the three sample sachets, with the idea being that you try these first, and if, like me, you aren't keen on the product, you simply send the full (unopened) product back.

I'd love to hear what you think of the Sheer Skin Tint if you've tried it, or if you're planning on trying it.

Liz Earle Sheer Skin Tint is available:
By mail: 01983813913
In selected John Lewis stores, Fenwick of Bond Street, Atelier Living and QVC.

Melanie x

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Review: Badger Balm Cuticle Care (plus organic skincare discussion)

I don't know what it is, but I have become OBSESSED with everything organic recently; both in terms of what I put in and on my body.

Organic skin care products are made with ingredients that have not been subject to toxic chemicals, and contain no unnatural preservatives or parabens, nor are animals allowed to be tested or harmed in any way in their production.

The more consumers are learning about the 'bad' side of chemical-packed beauty products, the more quickly we seek out other (better) options, and the beauty industry is quickly cottoning onto this, hence why organic skincare is becoming one of the fastest growing areas in the beauty/skincare industry today.
Doing some research on the benefits of organic products not only answers the question of why I should use organic skincare products, but also replaces it with why wouldn't I use organic skincare products, particularly when they are becoming so much more accessible and inexpensive to buy?

Token quote: 'you should never put anything on your skin that you wouldn't put in your mouth.'

Bearing this in mind, enter stage left the almost-edible cuticle-care balm by Badger.

I'd never heard of the Badger company before, but happened to come across their products whilst shopping on Fragrance Direct for some sort of cuticle oil/cream.

You can find out all about the Badger brand by clicking the link above, but, in a nutshell, all Badger products are free from chemicals and synthetics, and are rich in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidents.
The Badger collection includes lip, hand and foot balms, as well as sleeping and muscle aids.

The vast majority of the range comes in little round tins (think pocket-Vaseline tins) of varying sizes with really cute illustrations on the front and nice product names such as 'Healing Balm for Hardworking Hands' and 'Badger Bali Balm After Sun Skincare' (I don't know about you, but this kind of thing really appeals to me. Sad but true).

My own little tin of Cuticle Care cost £3.99 for 21g (RRP £4.59).

As you can see from the photo below, it is quite similar to Vaseline in colour, but in texture it's a bit more 'solid' (if that makes sense), and a little goes a long way - a tiny amount melts on contact with the skin and goes further than you would expect (hence why, despite using it every night for the past couple of months i've only made a small dent in it!)

This little tin is absolutely packed full of (mostly organic) all-natural ingredients, with no added fragrance:
All these yummy natural ingredients make for a real herbally smell when opening the tin - the one thing it actually reminds me of is fly spray that you use on horses (if you have a horse you'll know what I mean)!

The product has been marketed (as the name suggests) as a cuticle balm (a job it performs perfectly), but i've also found it is an excellent all-rounder, much like the cult-classic Elizabeth Arden 8 hour cream skin protectant: i've used it on my cuticles, as a lip balm, even on a really sore patch of sunburn on my chest.

However, unlike the Badger Balm, the 8 Hour Cream ingredients are not organic, or indeed even all-natural:

Petrolatum 56.8% - man-made
Lanolin- natural
Mineral Oil - natural
Fragrance - man-made
Salicylic Acid - natural
Propyparaben - man-made
Castor Oil - natural
Corn Oil - natural
Tocopherol - natural
BHT - man-made
Iron Oxides - natural

Given that the 8 Hour Cream has an RRP of around £25.00 for just 50ml, I think i'd rather pay the £4.00-odd for my Badger Balm and be safe in the knowledge that i'm getting a multi-use product that is not just packed full of natural ingredients, but actually works, and is really inexpensive into the bargain!

I'd love to hear if you've got any favourite natural/organic products that you think I'd like to try.


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Review: EcoTools 6-Piece Eye Brush Set

I have been meaning to sort myself out with a set of 'proper' make-up brushes (as opposed to the various odds 'n' sods i've accumulated over the years!) for some time now, and, after a serious period of researching, made the conscious decision that I not only wanted to invest in brushes that were practical, but earth/animal friendly too.

(I should note here i'm not trying to go all Greenpeace/save the whales etc on you - i'm not a vegetarian, and do - ashamedly -still use products by companies which test on animals, but it is an issue I have been considering for some time, and have made the conscious decision to try and buy vegetarian/vegan make-up/skincare/haircare and so on products from now on - purely for my own personal reasons).

After my aforementioned research, it became apparent that ecoTools are the company to go to when looking for 'earth friendly' beauty products/tools at reasonable prices.

EcoTools is a brand from Paris Presents Incorporated, a company started in Chicago in 1947 and is now a leading provider of branded and private label personal care products. Paris Presents Incorporated other brands also include the Ms. Manicure label and Real Techniques by Samantha Chapman.

EcoTools is the final outcome of Paris Presents Incorporated's decision in 2007 to make their products and daily business practises more earth friendly, launching an entire range of bath and cosmetic accessories that  are (as the name EcoTools suggests) eco-friendly.
Sustainable resources are used in all EcoTools products, such as bamboo (a highly sustainable plant), cruelty free taklon bristles and recycled/recyclable materials (i.e. recycled aluminium on the brush ferrules).

EcoTools is also a 1% For The Planet Member, which means that 1% of annual sales are donated to environmental organisations that create a healthier/better place to live.

Unlike many websites/companies offering 'organic'/vegan/natural etc products, the EcoTools range (considering that it only launched in 2008) is really extensive and impressive: as well as make-up brushes, cosmetic bags (including a range designed by Alicia Silverstone), bath tools (i.e. facial sponges and body brushes) and their own range of bath and body care products are on offer (all of which are hypoallergenic, dermatologist tested, never tested on animals and paraben/phthaltate free).

In the UK, the EcoTools make-up brushes are available in Boots and Tesco supermarkets (i'm not sure about the other big brand supermarkets - if you've seen them please let me know!), and on various places online.

I tracked down this reputable Ebay seller and opted for the Bamboo 6 piece eye brush set (RRP £12.99, but I got mine for £7.50 plus 0.75p P&P)

The brushes arrived in a sturdy resealable/reuseable plastic pouch (presumbly recycled), containing a little storage/travel pouch made from natural cotton and hemp with a built in mirror.

The brush handles are made from bamboo, with 100% cruelty free taklon bristles held on with recycled aluminium ferrules, and whilst admittedly the brushes are not the softest of soft brushes out there, they are still very gentle and comfortable for use around the delicate eye area.
The bristles are very densely packed, and have the feel, appearance and quality of brushes which are often sold for ridiculously higher prices (cough, MAC, cough cough!).

This gorgeous little set has been marketed for 'eye makeover on the go' therefore are smaller than standard make-up brushes in terms of length (the average length is about 4 inches - see below for comparison with E.L.F.'s blending brush), but not uncomfortably/unpractically so - I have big gangly fingers and can use these just fine!

The actual brush heads are of normal (if not larger in some cases) size, as you can see below when compared to a five pence piece.

The five brushes provided are of varying sizes, and thus can cater for almost any eye-look (save perhaps a fine line or lining on the waterline).

Smudge Brush
This dinky little brush has been designed to smudge shadow and liner along the lash line for a smoky look, although I think it could also be used as a concealer brush for blemishes.

Petite eye shading Brush
This is the perfect inner-corner or crease brush, for when you want to use deeper or accent colours for a bolder, smoky look.

Highlighting Brush
EcoTools promote this as the perfect brush for highlighting the brow bone and inner corners of the eye, but as a brush which is very similar to the MAC and even E.L.F. (see above - E.L.F. on the left, EcoTools on the right) blending brushes, I have been using this to blend out my eye colour rather than using it simply to highlight.

Angled Crease Brush
This brush is very similar in shape to that of the E.L.F. Studio Line angled contour brush and has been designed to softly apply colour to the crease for definition.
However i've found it's a tad on the large side for me and my hooded eyelids (bah) so i've actually been using it to blend out concealer, as the synthetic bristles mean it doesn't absorb any product.

Large Eye Brush
This is a beastie of a brush! It's HUGE! (I've sat it beside the tiny smudge brush so you can see the size difference). Out of the 5 brushes I actually think I like this one the most, as it makes applying and blending base-eyeshadows really quick and simple.
It packs on colour without any fallout - me likey!

The EcoTools 6 piece eye brush set gets a big thumbs up from me: practical, excellent quality/'performance' and guilt free - I can't wait to try more from the range.

Have you tried EcoTools?
What would you recommend I buy next?

Melanie x

NOTD: Rimmel Lycra Pro - 420 Aqua Cool

Another day, another nail polish, this time the turn of Aqua Cool from the Rimmel Lycra Pro collection.

This is THE most stunningly beautiful pastel shade of cornflower blue, and one I keep catching myself admiring on my nails ever so often!

This is actually the second shade I've purchased from the Rimmel Lycra Pro range (the other being a french manicure nude shade which i've yet to feature in a NOTD post - watch this space!), and I really quite like these polishes: good consistency (not quite as thick as the Barry M polishes) and staying power, beautiful range of colours, practical brush shape (I HATE square-tipped brushes!) and reasonable price - RRP £4.59 for 12ml (although I got mine from savers for £3.59).

If you're looking for the perfect fresh, funky and eyecatching shade, then I thoroughly recommend this little beauty (and don't listen to what your parents might say - my mum said I looked like I had bad circulation!!)

Melanie x