Tuesday 28 January 2014

Souk Souk limited edition box

Sometimes I hate all the promotional emails I receive. You make up your mind not to spend anymore money and then you are bombarded with offers that feel to good to miss. The words "limited edition" seem to have an especially potent effect on me. Honestly it is like kryptonite that erodes all the remnants of my willpower.  That being said, I do think that Red carpets and Romance box is pretty special and is amazing value for money.

What is different about this box to their subscription and bespoke boxes as that you actually know exactly what is inside the box prior to getting it. However apart from the faith in nature shower gel/bubble bath, I haven't actually tried any of these products before (and some of the brands are also completely new to me). I decided to give a test drive to as many as I could straight away ( I mean it won't be there for a very long time, and I don't want you guys to miss out).

Xenca Organic Lipstick in Cherry.

This was one of the things that really made the box stand to me, I love a red lip and it didn't look like I had this shade of red (yes it seems like I am on a mission to acquire them all). Also the brand was unfamiliar to me so my interest was doubly piqued.
The lipstick tube is made out of reinforced cardboard, which gets extra eco points from me. I have to say I was not expecting the quality to be so good.

 It is so pigmented! Easily one of the best lipsticks out there. Very long wearing and even passed my "tea cup test", even though there was lipstick left behind on my cup, the colour on my lips remained very vibrant and did not need to be reapplied.  Now when I swatched the colour on my arm it looked like a cherry pink, however on my lips it definitely looks red, cherry red (it was very appropriately named).

 SOAK Yourself Handmade Soap Bar.

As my affair with handmade soaps continues I am very happy to add this one to my ever growing collection. The scent I have is Heather and Elderflower and it is very pleasant, herby and ever so slightly spicy. I haven't tried it yet but I really like the look.

Avril Certified Organic Mascara in Black.

A quick google search let me know that this is a very affordable mascara, so my mind was totally blown at how good it is. First of all it has a big-ish  fluffy brush that I for one appreciate (I really used to love dior show mascara mainly for the brush). It is so easy to apply, the formula isn't overly wet or dry, doesn't flake and gives amazing volume. It retails for 7 euro from their website. It is officially my number one natural mascara performance wise and I don't think anyone can beat it on price either. I can not explain how happy I am with this product, I have checking my reflection through out the day to make sure that it looks as good as I think, and it totally does!

 Avril Eyelash Curler.

I haven't tried this yet, but I am definitely interested to see how well it will compare to my shiseido one. Also just realised that I forgot to include these in the main photo...

 Avril Certified Organic Blush.

Try as I might I haven't been able to figure out what the name of this colour is supposed to be. It is a very natural looking blush, perfect for light to medium skin tones, but not for the darker ones.

I am surprised at how much I like it as I always go for blushes with more impact. I really like how non makeup it looks, it's perfect to wear with any pink or even red lip.

 Faith in Nature Shower Gel & Foam Bath. I generally prefer soap in the shower, however I am very much partial to a bubble bath. The scent of this one is raspberry and cranberry. It is fruity and sweet.

 Inner Me Beautify Me supplements.

 Super interested to try these out and will try to report on the results.

Avril 7-Free Nail Lacquer in Bollywood. This is officially my first 7-free nail varnish. I do like bright pink nails for spring and summer especially with a matching lippy. I already had my nails painted so didn't try this one out, but I will do a separate post on it soonish.

 Gwdihw Vanilla Natural Lip Balm.

 I really like how generous this lip balm tin is, makes it very easy to get the product out. It smells like vanilla used for cooking. Formula feels light, will see how well it stands up to winter weather.

 The Konjac Sponge Company Original Sponge. At this rate it looks like I won't need to buy a konjac sponge for at least another year as keep getting them in the subscription boxes ( I am not complaining, love those things). I am working on in depth post about the sponge, so will keep it short. It has made a huge difference to my skin this winter, would not want to be without one.

 Inner Soul Romance Me Body Oil.

I was really looking forward to trying this oil. I am a bit of a fan of Inner Soul, and it didn't disappoint. There is something so sensuous about the combination of rose and jasmine, and the fragrance lasts for a couple of hours on me. Totally saving this for a romantic rendezvous.

Peppy Galore Nurse Peppy Healing Balm.

 How I adore a multi purpose balm, and this one smells sweet and delicious, and comes in a cute heart shaped tin. It feels moisturising yet not at all greasy or heavy, I can see myself really liking it.

 A copy of the Little Green Magazine. I always appreciate the short but informative articles that come with souk souk boxes, but I really love the cover of this issue. Would really like to know what makeup was used on the model!

And here is a picture of me with all the makeup on from the box: lipstick, blush and mascara.

I can see how much thought went to into putting this box together, if you are getting ready for a romantic evening or a special event it has pretty much everything you need.

Monday 27 January 2014

Inside my makeup bag.

It is not a secret that I have enough makeup for a small army, and in order not to loose track of what's what I have a storage system in place. My latest addition to said system has been a little travel bag, with my most used day to day items, which I can also easily grab with me if I am going away for a weekend or something.

First of all I want to say a few words about the bag itself.

It is from Holistic silk and like all their products it is absolutely beautiful. It is a one compartment bag that is lined with metallic waterproof fabric, so super easy to clean. What makes this bag extra special is the fact that there is dried lavender hidden under the lining, every time you gently squeeze the sides of the bag you get a little aromatherapy.

Inside the bag:

My small Z palette of Kjaer Weiss products. I have four eye shadows in wisdom, cloud nine, magnetic and earthy calm. And I have two lip tints in passionate and goddess. I really love palettes, but when you by premade ones there is always a colour that you end up not using, so I really like making my own, and I just find Kjaer Weis to be of superb quality.

I have two nudist colorbalms from W3ll People (one of them in old packaging) in coral and poppy. I adore both colours and texture. They are just perfect for the minimal makeup looks. I think these lip products are hard to beat for daytime looks.

Lily Lolo lipstick in Parisian Pink. This has to be my most used lipstick this winter. It is a very flirty warm pink colour that is neither Barbie nor berry. Just a beautiful, subdued colour that brings sparkle to your eyes. The lipstick itself is very moisturising and is perfect for winter lips.

Real purity blush in shrimp. This is the colour that I have been looking for ever an ever. If anyone was a fan of Mac before going natural, there was this limited edition venomous villains blush in bite of an apple, this is a really good match to it. And it just happens to be everything I was looking for in a blush, but unable to find until now. It is somewhere between pink and coral, and absolutely fantastic at bringing out blue eyes and generally brightening up your face.

Kjaer Weis mascara. This is the mascara I am using at the moment. I like that it smells of roses and it has one of the best ingredients lists that I have come across. I think it is pretty decent at lengthening and darkening, but not at thickening.

The last thing I have in here is not actually makeup, it is a travel size spray from Lotus Wei. Specifically quiet mind. As I have a travel set, which I find very convenient, I swap between the sprays depending on what I feel is best at the time. Honestly these sprays are amazing and they make a huge difference, plus they smell awesome and easily double up as a perfume.

As you have probably noticed there are no foundation or concealers in here, and it's simply because I have rarely used them in the past few months so they have been sitting in a bedside draw instead.

Sunday 26 January 2014

Time for a cup of tea

I have lost track of how many cups of tea I have consumed this winter, most of them just to keep warm. However the blend I am talking about today is rather special, and is not something I drink everyday.

De Mamiel Beauty Tisane.

This Beauty Tisane comes in a pretty, dark glass jar, and if you decide to get it as a present for someone you really can't beat the presentation. I really like seeing all the flowers and herbs mixed together when you open the lid, and you get hit with that wonderful woodsy, slightly sweet aroma.

This is one of those blends that is good for body and mind. A word of warning, it doesn't have a very strong taste. I would describe it as delicate and clean, faintly floral. If I am pushed I can detect a hint of rose and a hint of chamomile. The reason why I like this tea (or should I say herbal infusion?), is not because of how it tastes, but for the effects that it has on me.

Midway through the cup my mind feels so clear, like all the fog from my thoughts has lifted. Yet I don't feel restless or anxious to keep moving, the way I do after having coffee. I feel grounded, and levelheaded, completely balanced.

My body feels slightly more rested, less lethargic I would say. And it might be in my head, but when I have this tea more frequently I notice the difference in my skin. It looks better hydrated and the puffiness that I occasionally get around my eyes goes away (the reason I know that its from the tea is because I have been slacking in the eye treatment department for the last few months).

The blend itself consists off pretty awesome flowers and herbs like Marshmallow leaf, marigold, lemon verbena, jasmine and rose amongst others (known for their anti-inflammatory, aiding digestion and relieving anxiety properties).

You need a heaped tea spoon per cup infused for about 8-10 minutes. The jar itself is fairly small 15g (compared to 50g that other De Mamiel teas hold for the same price) and that is the main reason why have it less frequently, despite noticing a huge improvement in both my mood and appearance.

The tea is made with 100% organic herbs and flowers, chosen for their purity and harvested by hand.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

No more dirty looks quarterly box

After my second subscription box from NMDL I received an e-mail about the fact that they are changing the price to $50, in order to provide a better quality box. However if I decide to renew my subscription my first box will be  $20, the same as it was before (so you can get an idea of what you will be getting). Naturally I decided to renew since I was just too curious. Is it worth $50? You can decide for yourself.

In the box:
A travel set by Rahua.

 I have heard so much about this brand and even though I have a couple of shampoo and conditioner samples I am yet to try it. What is good about this set is that I have an opportunity to try both versions of original and voluminous formula, and compare how well they perform over time as opposed to one use from a sachet.

A travel size of LuLu organics hair powder in Lavender and Clary sage.

 I have tried a sample of this in the past, and although I always have trouble with dry shampoos, from what I remember this one was pretty decent.

A sachet of Rahua shampoo and a sachet of conditioner. I like that these samples were included despite the travel set. They are so convenient to take with you on short trips, especially if you are flying somewhere and only want to take hand luggage.

Olivia Garden healthy hair bamboo hair brush.

 A good hairbrush is essential for healthy hair, and is never amiss in my household. In fact I have very high hopes for this one as it promises to be anti-static. It is beautifully crafted so if it works half as good as it looks I will be more than happy.

I haven't made up my mind whether or not I will keep my subscription, I am keeping my options open at the minute.

Monday 20 January 2014

Going natural

I like to think of January as a time for a boost of new energy, fresh ideas and a whole bunch of new years resolutions.

I thought I would compile a little guide (or food for thought if you wish) to anyone deciding to switch to natural and organic beauty. For as many have discovered it is frequently not an easy task.

It really all depends on how sensitive your skin is to change and different ingredients, how many products you like to have on hand, and how much you normally spend on them.

When you decide to swap it is very tempting to get rid of all your old products and start from scratch. In reality it is not such a great idea, especially if you use lots of different products, it would be a huge hit to your wallet to replace them all at once. In any case I would strongly advise to introduce no more than two products at a time in case of reactions.

Before you start you need to decide on your budget. I tend to categorise skincare and body products into four groups:

1. Affordable - under £15
2. Mid range - between £15-£35
3. Premium - between £35-£75
4. Luxury - over £75

Majority of my skincare falls into the mid range category, due to personal sensitivities, the results that I want to see from my products and the ingredients that I wish to avoid. There are a few hidden gems in the affordable category, and most of my body products come from it. You have to keep in mind that certified organic products will be more expensive, but also sometimes things like oils appear more expensive, but due to the fact that you only need a few drops they last for months and are actually great value for money. I wouldn't spend money on premium brands until I was happy with a good basic routine, as those products frequently contain quiet a cocktail of potent ingredients, which could make your skin unhappy during a transition.

One of the things to keep in mind that natural products frequently have less fillers and higher percentage of oils and butters than what your skin might have come across in the past. So even if you never had reactions in the past it is no guarantee that your body will except all the new products. As a rule I would choose to start with body products ( as this is the largest area that gets covered and would make the most impact in terms of exposure to chemicals).

I absolutely love a good artisanal soap, it lasts for ages, keeps your skin clean yet not dry due to all the butters and oils used (and it retains all of its natural glycerine), and there is no plastic bottle to get rid of once it's finished. My personal favourites are Osmia, bulles et molecules and Ambre botanicals.

When it comes to moisturising a body oil or butter is way more economical (and frequently has better ingredients) than a cream. One of my staples is Shea life mango butter, I just adore the scent, but they have other varieties. Also when I am a little low on cash I love straight up cocoa butter (if you like chocolaty scent there is nothing better), it leaves my skin smelling lovely and super soft.

Now choosing skincare is much more complicated, as skin on face and neck is a lot more sensitive, and even though skin on your legs feels wonderfully moisturised after using coconut oil, on your face it may lead to breakouts. Unless you already know what oils your skin reacts well to and otherwise, this is a time for caution and slow movement. Also keep in mind that you might not react well to an ingredient in its neat form, but as a small percentage in a cream it could be absolutely fine. I suggest introducing one product at a time and using it for full 28 days (which is the time that it takes for skin to renew itself) before introducing another one.

I would start with a cleanser first, than toner, and than cream or oil. Once you are happy with a basic routine, than you can introduce things like serums and masks.
Untill you know your sensitivities I would advise to sticking to products with shorter ingredients lists.
I really like the range from S.W. Basics especially their toner. I also can't get enough of the Konjac sponges, you can combine them with another cleanser if you want to or use on their own. I also really like manuka honey as a cleanser.

For makeup removal I tend to use coconut oil (make sure it is extra virgin coconut oil and preferably organic), however I always make sure to follow it with another cleanser (or Konjac sponge). Another good option is olive oil (actually most carrier oils will do the job, just choose the one that works for your skin).

Floral waters make wonderful toners I especially like rosewater. You do have to be careful to the method of extraction, as some processes use chemicals. My favourite is rosewater by Pukka, or you can always make your own from rosebuds or petals sold for cooking.

When it comes to moisturizing I tend to prefer oils, and if I need something lighter I mix a drop or to of my current oil with a little aloe vera gel. Simpler oils that I really like are Indie Lee squalane  oil and Pai Rosehip oil.

When it comes to hair care I have not found products that I would consider budget friendly. Due to personal sensitivities my choice of shampoos and conditioners is somewhat limited, and while I think that a cream or a face oil at £20 is mid range, a shampoo bottle for that price is definitely premium. So at the moment I use Yarok shampoo (the only consolation is that my hair doesn't need a conditioner with it, only a few drops of serum occasionally). I also really like Acure which is a little more budget friendly, but can be difficult to find in UK.

The last few words are going to be about makeup. I feel that this is the area where you can take more time, after you ditch your lipstick that is. If other cosmetics sit on your face over a layer of oil or cream (which makes them slightly less likely to cause harm), lipstick you and up eating at every meal, and every time you have a cup of water. I would also be a little weary of powder products as there is a possibility of inhaling it during application. I also found that my eyelashes became longer and healthier once I stopped using conventional mascara. It is no secret that I am very fond of Ilia lipsticks, but I have also recently discovered Lily Lolo and their lip products are of really good quality and more budget friendly (and they just happen to have a sale on right now). I also think that multi purpose products are a good way to go when you want more for your money and I can't say enough good things about RMS lip2cheek and W3ll people Universalist (initially pricey but you won't need to repurchase for ages, and you get 2 products in one).

I hope you guys find it useful and please share the products that made the difference when switching.