Following on from my *slightly* photo-heavy last post, no trip to New York would be complete without a spot of shopping. Despite the majority of my holiday budget being reserved for food, sightseeing and rather a lot of craft ale, I still indulged in a bit of retail therapy and whilst I managed to avoid any extravagant splurges (I’m not counting the skirt I bought from Orla Kiely as it was in the sample sale so, erm, technically a bargain it would be rude not to have bought…), I still came away with a few bits and pieces to serve as mementos of my trip.
As a massive fan of a good red lip, I’d heard people banging on about the wonders of Sephora’s Cream Lip Stain in Always Red for ages but, as they don’t have any UK stores, my New York trip was the first chance I had to get my hands on it. It dries to a bold, matte finish and whilst its classic red shade is darker than my beloved MAC ‘Lady Danger’ and therefore better for a more dramatic evening look, I can’t fault its staying power as it managed to survive an afternoon of burgers and beer in The Dead Rabbit without visibly shifting. The application can be a tad imprecise though so I’d definitely recommend using a lip liner to keep it neat and prevent feathering.
One of the joys of blogging is being able to bring designers I love to a wider audience and over the last year or so, I’ve written about a few of the jewellery brands I just can’t get enough of. Another name to add to the list is Virginie Millefiori who creates enameled pieces in brass, sterling silver and gold vermeil. I first stumbled across Virginie’s work at her stall in Chelsea Market on my second day in NYC but, as I was trying to be good and not blow all my spending money at the start of my holiday, resolved to return at the end of my trip and treat myself. Good plan had the stall not been part of a pop-up and therefore gone when I returned! Cue some frantic Googling (as I’d failed to actually write down her name!) and a dash across town on my last day to find a street market she had a stall at. Thankfully my quest wasn’t in vain and I managed to purchase this necklace (which reminds me more of a fox than a cat) which I’ve been wearing to death ever since. Next on my wishlist is this NYC necklace to go with the Peter Jensen Central Park print dress I picked up in the ASOS sale.
Every stylish girl needs a stylish boy to accompany her and thankfully I’ve found one who fits the bill perfectly. As a girl, I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to fashion but my other half bemoans the lack of decent, independent retailers selling affordable accessories for men and resents having to wait until Topman delcare dapper men ‘on trend’ in order to pick up the odd pocket square. New York however proved to be a treasure trove for the discerning gent with Chelsea Market offering cufflinks from Churoncalla as well as lapel pins and multicoloured shoe laces from Curated Basics. We also made pilgrimage to Fine And Dandy in Hell’s Kitchen, an Aladdin’s cave of stylish offerings where we picked up this cocktail inspired pocket square based on an original 1960s design.
New York shopping certainly caters for all budgets and is brimming full of big name department stores (I had a brief trip to Bloomingdales to pick up a NYC themed Christmas decoration as a gift), high street staples, pop-ups and quirky independents to suit all tastes. Sadly I didn’t get enough time to explore the vintage shops I’m told the East Village is brimming with but hey, a girl needs to leave something to do on her next visit doesn’t she?!
If you love Virginie’s designs as much as I do, she’s kindly given me a code to get 15% off her e-shop until the end of 2015. Simply enter ‘HOLLY’ at the checkout to be the envy of all your friends…
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!