As I’ve mentioned before, when it comes to skin care I’ve always been a bit reluctant to try out new brands and products for fear that I’d spent a fortune on something that would make my sensitive skin flare up and therefore languish at the back of my bathroom cupboard cruelly mocking me whenever I went to get a new bar of soap. That said, I’m also Northern and love a freebie so when the lovely people at Balance Me got in touch to ask if I’d like to try some of their products I wasn’t exactly going to say no!
Founded in 2005 by sisters Rebecca and Clare Hopkins with an emphasis on creating natural skincare products, Balance Me is now a multi-award winning enterprise which is stocked in over 400 outlets including Debenhams, Waitrose and John Lewis (another beauty bugbear of mine is always reading about amazing brands and then never being able to find anywhere that stocks them!). Balance Me’s website also stocks the full range of their products and I love that you can search by skin type as well as by product which ensures that those with tricky skin end up buying the best products for them.
First up is their Rose Otto Hand Cream which won ‘Best Inexpensive Hand Cream’ (although on my budget I wouldn’t consider £14.50 ‘inexpensive’ but welcome to the world of fashion magazines…) at Instyle’s Best Beauty Buys 2014. I’m a bit rubbish when it comes to remembering to moisturise my hands even though my eczema means that they really, really need it so when I do remember, I need something extremely hydrating and nourishing to tide them over. Containing kukui nut and camellia oils combined with organic shea butter and smelling, shockingly, of rose, the cream has a smooth, rich formula which left my hands feeling extremely nourished and, more importantly, didn’t cause any reaction with my skin. It didn’t sink in as quickly as other brands I’ve tried (although perhaps I’m using too large an amount) but other than this, I can’t fault it!
Next up is the Natural Protection Moisturiser SPF 25 which is a new addition to the range for 2014. I always try to make sure that any creams, foundations or powders I use on my face have an SPF in them but very few I’ve found have an SPF as high as 25 which, combined with its anti-oxidant properties, makes this moisturiser a very attractive prospect. It can be used on its own, over your normal moisturiser or under foundation and I found that formula-wise, it absorbed very easily and didn’t feel heavy on my skin. Seeing as I decided to test this during one of the hottest weeks of the year, I’m more than impressed with how it performed and I didn’t have that ‘greasy’ feeling that you can get with normal sun cream when you’ve been out in the sweltering heat.
Finally, I have the Cleanse & Smooth Face Balm. Being a bit rubbish when it comes to beauty, the only other balm I’d ever used was lip balm and although I’m no stranger to cleansers, I’d never used one quite like this before. Obviously, consistency-wise it’s a balm but the texture is slightly gritty due to the oatmeal it also contains. Of the three products I tried, this is definitely my favourite. It felt wonderful on my skin and the oatmeal helped to remove all the grime built up over the day (so nice to use when it’s been so hot outside!) whilst the shea and coco butter left my skin feeling incredibly soothed. Once again my sensitive skin had no reaction to it (other than being left looking A. Maze. Ing.) and a little goes an awfully long way so at £10 for 40ml, this is definitely something that won’t be languishing at the back of my bathroom cupboard!
Overall, I’m massively impressed with the Balance Me products that I’ve tried and, as I’ve previously mentioned, I love how their website guides you by skin type to ensure you buy the best combination for your skin. Each product page also has a ‘Savvy Shopper’ tab with tips on how to get the best use from products which as a bit of a beauty and skincare dunce, I found really useful.
If, like me, you’re a bit reluctant to splash out on new brands without knowing how they’re going to react with your skin then you’re in luck as this month’s Marie Claire comes with a choice of two Balance Me products (the Cleanse & Smooth Face Balm or the Moisture Rich Face Cream) as well as a 20% discount code for their products online. I’ve already stocked up on another face balm as it’s the perfect size to pack for my holiday to New York in October. Oh and the magazine’s only £2.50 this month so MASSIVE BARGAIN!
The Easter weekend is upon us and aside from stuffing myself with chocolate and generally enjoying not being in work, I also thought I’d take the opportunity to share some of my Easter themed favourites with you…
I loved these Illamasqua nail polishes when they launched last spring and to be honest, I’m still pretty obsessed with them an entire 365 days later. I remember being struck by both their prettiness and distinctiveness and whilst other brands have launched similar polishes in the last year, I still don’t think you can beat the originals. The blue shade, ‘Fragile’, really pops on the nail and the pastel colours are perfect matches if you’re after an ‘I’ve got mini eggs for fingernails’ look (granted on paper it sounds like a slightly sinister look. A bit like that advert where everything the man touches turns to Skittles. But I digress…).
After waxing lyrical about my love of Luella Bartley in my previous post, it seems only fair to also lavish some attention on the other half the duo who in 2013 were appointed Creative Directors at Marc By Marc Jacobs. Katie Hillier has not only created accessories for brands such as Victoria Beckham, Luella and Stella McCartney but also launched her own label, Hillier, in 2010 and her distinctive ‘paperclip’ jewellery designs have been on my wish list ever since. Sadly for me, they’ve always been slightly over my budget so you can imagine my excitement when I spotted the ‘Bunny’ necklace in silver on Zalando at a pretty hefty discount (plus an extra £10 off thanks to a lovely discount code!). It’s super cute without being twee and in my mind a definite modern classic! Now let’s see if I have as much sales shopping luck when it comes to the duo’s first Marc by Marc Jacobs collection for AW14…
I’m now off to eat my way through the M&S Easter eggs which I ‘invested’ in to help style my photos. It’s a hard life…
As Manchester is for once bathed in glorious sunshine which makes my thoughts turn to spring, it seems a bit unfair to still be banging on about all things wintery but as I’ve *finally* got my hands on some full size bottles from Essie’s Winter 2013 collection, I thought it would be rude not to share some swatches!
First up is ‘Toggle To The Top’, a dark red glitter in a dark red base. This was my first experience of using Essie polishes and I have to say, despite the gorgeousness of the colour, I was a bit disappointed as it chipped horrendously and for £7.99, I want something with a bit more durability. Determined not miss out on having such a lovely shade on my nails however, I decided to layer it over two coats of Barry M’s ‘Red Wine’ which not only gave it staying power but also means that the polish will go much further! The above photo is two coats of ‘Toggle To The Top’ over two layers of ‘Red Wine’ and sealed with a top coat. The glitter distribution in the polish is fabulous and gives a sophisticated sparkle to brighten up dull days.
The second polish I bought from the collection is ‘Parka Perfect’ which is a greeny grey shade with a subtle shimmer. Although my best description of it as ‘somewhere near the colour of blu tack’ doesn’t perhaps make it sound very appealing, this is one of my favourite polishes for a long time and I’ve already stocked up on a couple of bottles before it’s discontinued! Unlike ‘Toggle To The Top’, I had no chipping issues with this polish (I’m typing this wearing a five day old application of the polish and aside from a little wearing at the tips, I’m still chip free!) and it’s so flattering on the nail. The above photo is three layers and a topcoat although you could probably get away with two coats on smaller nails.
So whilst my first foray into the world of Essie polishes was a mainly positive one, I’m not sure I’ll be rushing out to buy more in future unless the shade was spectacular or different enough to warrant it.
I’m not sure if it’s a rebellion against the dullness of January but I can’t seem to get enough of pastels at the moment (I’m also partly blaming Miu Miu’s S/S 14 campaign…). I picked up this turquoise (or ‘petrol’ as the website called it) leather pencil skirt and fluffy knit jumper from Topshop back in October and have been wearing them to death ever since! I always find Topshop very inconsistent when it comes to sizing, which is a shame as they had some really brilliant pieces for A/W 13, so I almost never tried on the skirt as I assumed, like previous Topshop pencil skirts I’d tried, that it would fit very oddly. Reader, it fitted like a glove (or at least a glove that gives you enough movement to walk and sit down in) and I’ve since bought an identical one in black.
I’ve teamed the skirt and jumper with my trusty Dune brogues, Essie nail polish in Parka Perfect and my Katie Mullally peg necklace. I love this necklace as it’s so unusual and it always picks up compliments whenever I wear it! I’m busy debating whether to invest in some New Balance trainers at the moment (another fashion ‘trend’ I was rockin’ at least 10 years ago along with dip dyed/ pink hair) and I think this pair from ASOS would go perfectly.
December seems to have flown by and I can’t quite believe we’re only five days away from Christmas! I’ve barely had time to catch my breath over the last few weeks and as well as a fantastic trip to London to see the Meadham Kirchhoff V&A Fashion In Motion show, most of my time has revolved around hitting the big 3-0. Now that I’ve almost recovered from an epic birthday weekend which included a go on a helter skelter (because that’s what grown ups do isn’t it?!), I thought I’d share some of the gorgeous presents I was given.
After blogging about it way back in June, I finally got my hands on an a-england ‘Rose With Thorn’ necklace in rose gold. It’s so beautiful and delicate in real life and definitely a piece I will treasure forever. A grown up birthday also demands a slightly more grown up wallet than my current Liberty Print Hello Kitty one so this Biba leather wallet is perfect!
Once a Manic Street Preachers fan, always a Manic Street Preachers fan so this Babycham gift set from one of my oldest friends (who’s also in the ultracool band Pris) really reminds me of my misspent youth. Coupled with an amazing mix CD (including a cover sleeve feature some of my more dubious outfit choices), this was the perfect nostalgia present.
It’s always lovely receiving presents on my ‘a bit too indulgent to justify treating myself to’ wish list so I felt like a very lucky girl this year. I’m a sucker for a good red lippy with MAC’s ‘Lady Danger’ being my go to shade (nothing like a strong lip to distract from you looking like death, a trick I employed over the days spent recovering from my birthday!) so I was glad to receive a new one to replace the rapidly running out tube in my handbag. I was also given the slightly darker matte red shade ‘Ruby Woo’ which I always debate buying when the weather turns autumnal but can never decide between it and ‘Russian Red’. I’m glad my sister took the dithering out of my hands and picked this shade on my behalf as it makes me feel very glamorous which is just how you should feel on your birthday!
Another brand I have trouble with is Jo Malone – there’s just too much choice! My friend who really knows her way around the range got me a bottle of the gorgeous smelling ‘Earl Grey & Cucumber’ cologne and my heart leapt at the sight of the little black and white box tied with their distinctive ribbon.
I’m not sure when owls became my thing (although I possibly kicked it off after buying a fantastic Lea Stein Buba Owl Brooch on eBay) but now most birthdays seem to feature them. For my 30th I was given this cute silver owl necklace from the shop at Manchester Art Gallery which matches a ring I have. I love a good art gallery or museum gift shop and my new necklace proves what amazing treasures you can find!
Completing the glam theme is this stunning Karen Mabon silk scarf. Again this is a brand I’ve previously blogged about and I utterly love Karen’s quirky designs. I’ve now got my fingers crossed that the Midnight Feast scarf from her winter collection is waiting for me under the Christmas tree…
I think it’s fitting that my final gift combines both my love of literature and, er, hot men… Pulp! The Classics is a new imprint which gives classic novels retro looking pulp fiction covers with a twist. Whether you like your Pride And Prejudice with a side order of Colin Firth’s ‘Darcy’ or, like me, the eternal youth of Gosling as Dorian Gray, the eight novels in the collection will not only brighten up any bookshelf but are also guaranteed to raise a smile from fellow commuters during the rush hour slog!
Now it’s no secret that I love a bit of Barry M when it comes to nail polish. Not only do their polishes come in a massive selection of colours and finishes but when it comes to wear and tear, they’re pretty indestructible and I can often get through an entire working week chip free! Although I love experimenting with polish, I’ve tended to stay away from textured polishes as I’ve worried the ‘gritty’ texture might start to get on my nerves after a few hours wear. That said, when Opi released their ‘Bond Girls’ collection of textured polishes earlier in the year, the jewel like tones almost tempted me to take the plunge if they’d been a tad cheaper (I love Opi but I’m not prepared to pay £10+ for something I might not like!). Thank goodness then for Barry M who seem determined to push the creative boundaries at the lower end of the nail polish market and have brought out a collection of textured glitter polishes at a purse friendly £3.99 each (plus some of the colours are pretty good dupes for a few of the Opi ‘Bond Girls’ polishes…).
I picked up three of the five polishes in the ‘Royal Collection’ – ‘Gold Majesty’, ‘White Pearl’ and ‘Purple Countess’ – on my lunch break last week and I think I can now declare myself a textured polish convert!
‘Gold Majesty’ is a textured polish packed full of, shockingly, gold glitter. I love, love, love this polish and it was the perfect shade to dip my toe into the textured polish water with! The glitter pieces are very small and densely packed together so not only do you get an amazing sparkle but the overall texture is like fine sandpaper. It went on without too much trouble (it’s a bit thicker than a normal glitter polish) and I used two coats although I could probably have gotten away with one as it covered so well.
Second up is ‘White Pearl’. Although I loved this colour in the bottle, on the nail it didn’t feel very ‘me’. Containing a mixture of white and iridescent glitters, it’s a very pretty shade and possibly once the weather becomes more wintery I’ll want something a bit more ‘Snow Queen’ but at the moment I’m just not loving it. The glitter pieces in this one also seem to be bigger than the ones in ‘Gold Majesty’ which means that the application wasn’t as easy and the final texture was a bit rougher than I would have liked.
The final polish I picked up was ‘Purple Countess’ which is a shade I think proper beauty bloggers would describe as ‘complex’. Although primarily a purple based glitter, it also has hints of browns, pinks, oranges and golds which catch the light and shimmer beautifully. I also tried this one with a top coat which really brought the glitter to life but sadly it didn’t photograph well (or at least the photos of no topcoat and topcoat didn’t look as different as they did in real life to make them worth posting). This is a great shade for autumn and also subtle enough for everyday wear if you don’t want to be too OTT but still have a hint of sparkle. Due to the finer glitter, ‘Purple Countess’ was much easier to apply than ‘White Pearl’ and took two coats to become opaque.
Overall I’m really impressed with the polishes and whilst I’m still not convinced about textured polishes in non-glitter shades, I can’t wait to try some more textured glitters. I might just have to purchase some of those Opi shades now…
As much as I love fashion and beauty, I’ve always been a bit rubbish when it comes to skincare. That’s not to say that I don’t look after my skin – I always make sure I remove all traces of make-up before bed and I love to treat myself to a Lush fresh face mask when unwinding after a long day but when it comes to the products I actually use on it, I’ve definitely always been at the budget end of the market. I’ve suffered from eczema for the majority of my life which has meant that not only does the skin on my face get dry and therefore needs a lot of moisturising but because it’s so sensitive, I’m reluctant to spend a fortune on ‘miracle’ creams and serums that might bring me out in a rash! Previously I’ve mainly stuck to Simple products but since moving into town, Aldi has become my local supermarket and their extensive Lacura skincare range has been catching my eye. Ever since the furore that Boots Protect & Perfect caused a few years ago, budget beauty brands have been in the spotlight and, it would appear, can give the more expensive names in skincare a run for their money. Having heard good things about Aldi’s offerings, I decided to pick up a few products along with the rest of my weekly shop.
My first pick is Lacura’s Daily Face Cream. Not only is this an amazing £1.49 but it’s also SPF 15 which means it moisturises AND protects your skin at the same time. I try my best to use products with an SPF but they can often be hard to find when you’re on a budget. The formula is a little bit thicker than the daily moisturiser I normally use (think sun cream consistency) but it sinks in well, moisturises brilliantly and so far I’ve not had any reaction to it.
My second buy was the Multi Intensive Serum Renew for £3.49. I absolutely LOVE this product. It’s a lovely consistency and makes my skin feel really nourished. I was initially using it at night before I went to bed but due to its general amazingness and price, I’ve been using it as a normal moisturiser (the Daily Face Cream layered on top) now that the temperature has decided to turn a bit more autumnal. Despite being very rich, it’s light on and a little goes a long way. My only complaint is that it seems to sell out very quickly so I must remember to stock up when I’m next in!
My final purchase is the Pro-Vital Hand Cream. I always seem to have a million hand creams on the go – in my bag, on my desk at work, by my bed, on the arm of the sofa – so I need one that not only moisturises but also won’t break the bank! Lacura have several in their range, all priced at 75p and I picked this one as the combination of beeswax and vitamin E really appealed. It sunk in very quickly and left my hands really soft (my eczema also means that my hands dry out very quickly too so it’s really nice to not feel that they look like an OAPs for once!).
Overall, I’m really impressed with the quality of the products as well as the price and best of all, Aldi don’t test their products or ingredients on animals. I’ll definitely be checking out the rest of the range, especially the cosmetics as I’ve heard that Lacura’s concealer pen is a very good dupe for YSL’s Touche Éclat…