We all know the feeling of agreeing to take part in secret Santa at work then desperately struggling to find something for Laura in accounts, who you've spoken to twice. It can be really stressful trying to find an original gift for under a tenner, so here's some great options available online and in the shops.
Mills & Boon Modern Girls's Guides £3.49 each here.
Hailing from London's trendy King's Road, Duck & Dry is a blow dry bar offering a menu of styles using their signature range of hair care products, which are now available to buy online from here. Their products are made in Somerset, using natural ingredients such as honey, coconut oil and shea butter, in a weightless silicone free formula. I've been using the Liz Earle shampoo and conditioner (review) and I've been quite happy, but when I saw Duck & Dry in December's issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, I just couldn't resist. Their products promise to be lightweight, adding volume, fullness and shine - just what I've been searching for.
Up, Up & Away Shampoo £14 for 250ml. What they say:
Take your tresses to new heights with this beautifully scented and luxuriously smooth Up, Up and Away Shampoo. Its feather light formula delivers a squeaky clean and weightless finish while adding fullness to your hair. Packed with natural active ingredients and essential oils, it leaves hair super soft and shiny. The perfect addition to your hair care regime.
Packaging. The packaging is very minimalist and chic. However it's not the most practical for a shampoo and conditioner, as I find the screw top extremely fiddly to use in the shower.
Product. The shampoo is clear and almost sticky - must be the honey. I find a small amount does the job, so a bottle will last ages. The scent has two layers - the first one is herbal, almost medicinal, and the second one is light and floral. I can't say it's my favourite, but it isn't bad. The more I use it the more it grows on me. The shampoo leaves my hair squeaky clean, but feeling extremely dry and rough. It feels very harsh despite the natural ingredients, and as someone with particularly knotty hair, it made me wonder how I was going to get a hairbrush through it.
Up, Up & Away Conditioner £16 for 250ml. What they say:
Add a boost of moisture and lustre to your hair with this post-shampoo treat! Up, Up and Away Conditioner is ultra-lightweight, boasting a unique blend of natural active ingredients and essential oils that work to nourish and hydrate. Leaving hair perfectly detangled with just the right amount of oomph and body ready for your styling regime. Packaging: The packaging is the same as the shampoo, which I found pretty impractical. It was quite difficult to get the product out of the bottle as it's a thick formula, so this required a lot of squeezing - way too much effort than it should be.
Product. The scent is a muted version of the shampoo, it smells very organic which I quite like. It's a thick formula, doesn't my weigh hair down but doesn't do a great job of detangling my hair either. I don't think it works particularly well with the shampoo, as the shampoo is so harsh. I think it would work well paired with a more nourishing shampoo though.
Verdict. I wanted to love these, but they just didn't wow me. The shampoo left my hair very light in a 'stripping your hair of all moisture' kind of way...so technically those claims are true. It left my hair very rough and frizzy, needing to use a lot of styling products afterwards which weighed my hair down in the end. The conditioner was quite nice, but given how difficult it was to dispense the product, it just wasn't for me.
Luxe monthly subscription service Not-Another-Bill have teamed up with Harper's Bazaar to create the hamper of all hamper's designed to be the gift for the woman who has everything, the contents of this luxury hamper include:
There's a lot of buzz surrounding foundation sticks, so when one of my favourite brands launched their own version I was excited to try it out. Hourglass describe this as having the coverage of a concealer, the fluid texture of a liquid, and the weightless feel of a powder, so how could I not try it, right? At £42 for 7.2ml it's by no means cheap, but boasts twice the amount of pigment of a regular foundation, so you can expect to achieve high coverage using minimal product.
Here's what Hourglass have to say about the product: A revolutionary foundation stick with the coverage of a concealer, the fluidity of a liquid, and the weightlessness of a powder in a longwearing waterproof formula for undetectable full coverage. The unprecedented concentration of pigment in this foundation provides maximum coverage with minimum product, concealing all discoloration and imperfections for flawless skin with a seamless finish.
Packaging. Hourglass always seem to impress with their packaging, and this is no exception. The foundation is housed in a sleek triangular shaped bullet which feels luxurious and heavy, despite it containing only 7.2g of product. It takes up next to no space in my handbag and is small enough to fit into a clutch - win. Shade Range. There are 26 shades to choose from ranging from blanc - a pale off-white, to espresso - a deep dark brown. I think the shade range is excellent, and very true to life. My shade is shell - a light neutral with the perfect balance of pink and yellow tones.
Formula & Application. It's incredibly creamy and literally melts into a liquid. I used the recommended brush to give it a proper trial (which was also £42), however it would work with any foundation brush that has short, dense bristles. It buffed into my skin really quickly with minimal effort, but I found it transferred a lot which is a deal breaker for me.
Finish. There's no doubt that you can build this up to achieve full coverage for a flawless finish. However I found that less is more, unless you're going for a really 'made up' look. It photographs beautifully, hiding minor imperfections and causing no flash back, but it just doesn't look natural. I was quite disappointed with how much I had to build this up to get the desired coverage, despite it containing twice the amount of pigment of a normal foundation.
Longevity. It started to break apart on my t-zone after a couple of hours, despite being set with powder. It became really shiny at the four hour mark so I had to reapply by lunchtime - disappointing. I appreciate that everyone's skin reacts differently, but if you have oily or combination skin this will probably slide off your face in no time at all..
Verdict. I was quite disappointed. I expected greater longevity and better coverage for the price tag. I had to apply a lot of product to get the coverage Hourglass promise, which made it look unnatural and cakey. For that reason it was a big thumbs down for me.
Indigo, my Shih Tzu would give Rapunzel a run for her money. They're a long haired breed which means a lot of maintenance. During her little life she's had plenty of different hairstyles - that's part of the fun of being a long haired dog owner. Because her fur grows so quickly she goes to the groomers every six weeks. If I leave it any longer, she starts to resemble a stray.
While her fur growing skills are impressive, this fluffy little animal seems to get matted all the time. I brush her fur, then she messes it up. A small knot turns into a small mat, which eventually turns into a big ball of matted fur, I cut it out, we start again. You get the picture.
Over the years I've bought loads of brushes for her. From sets aimed towards long haired dogs, to brushes designed for humans. Molly Mouse on the other hand, is the opposite when it comes to grooming. She's a Chihuahua, so like most breeds, her fur sheds. A weekly session with a Furminator, review here, is essential. A lot of dogs don't enjoy being groomed and it becomes a chore, but the right brush can make it less of an ordeal. Here are the brushes that I've found most effective in de-tangling Indigo's fur:
Tangle Tamer by Denman £5 from John Lewis.This brush is aimed towards children who have long tangled hair, so it's bristles are quite soft and don't pull. I find it excellent to use on Indigo's tail to make it's tangle free and silky. As most dog owners know, during a walk your dogs' tail can accumulate a lot of dirt and debris, I find this brush is excellent for removing whatever has attached itself and making it clean again. I use this on her fur when it's dry, as it doesn't remove tangles on wet fur very effectively.
Denman Shower Brush £2.27 from Look Fantastic.This little brush is the ideal size to use all over Indigo's body. The bristles are short and firm, so there's not a lot of give, making it great for stubborn tangles. She absolutely loves the massage she gets from this, and begs me not to stop. If you have a pampered pooch, I can guarantee they're going to love being groomed with this. I use this all over when her fur is dry, and on the length of her body when it's wet. It's not the most gentle on wet hair/fur, so I only use it on the parts of her body which are clipped short.
Wet Brush Pro £8.90 from Just My Look.I've got a lot of love for this brush, for both myself, and Indigo.It untangles my hair without pulling, and it does the same for her. Its' bristles are so flexible they don't tear through hair or cause damage, so there'll be no doggy tantrums. Because they're long and bendy, they're great on areas of longer fur, such as the ears and tail. There really isn't a better brush for long hair/fur when it's wet. I feel like everyone needs one of these in their life, be it for yourself, or your pooch!
I've got nothing against brushes aimed towards pets, don't get me wrong, I'm a massive fan of the Furminator. However, on the most part I don't find them as effective as the brushes above, which are human hair brushes. I find the quality far superior than dog brushes and the price is often a lot better, as you're not paying a premium for a pet product. I'd love to know your thoughts, and any recommendations if you think there's a better brush out there.
My first monthly favourites post! These are the products I've been reaching for during the month of October.
MAC Fix Plus Spray. Although this has been around forever, it's completely new to me. I'd been using the Urban Decay All Night setting spray for what feels like years. While I thought it was quite nice, I didn't think it really did much, but I kept using it until it came to an end. Fix Plus ticks so many more boxes for me. It sets my makeup, gives a bit of life to matte foundations, and smells delicious! The only downside is the spray itself is quite concentrated, compared to the UD which is more of a fine mist.
Trilogy Rosehip Oil. I'm obsessed with this!I've been adding a couple of drops to my day cream to prep my skin for winter. I put this on again at night to prevent my skin from becoming dehydrated. The packaging is super easy to carry around with no spillages, and the dropper makes it easy to dispense the right amount of product. I love it so much I keep it in my handbag.
Illamasqua Heroine Eye Shadow. I've been using this as a contour powder since Nikkie Tutorials recommended it for light skinned girls. Its a cool toned taupe, perfect for my skin tone.
Dior Skin Nude Air Powder. I love the gorgeous silver packaging of this compact. It feels expensive and luxurious. The powder itself is very sheer and gives a luminous finish. It's more hydrating than mattifying, so I use this to highlight and set my under eye area in the lightest shade.
L'Oreal Volume Millions Fatale Mascara. This is the newest offering from L'Oreal in the volume millions range. At first I was sceptical about the large plastic wand. I thought it might make my lashes a bit clumpy, but that's not the case at all. I'm a massive fan of YSL Babydoll mascara, and have to say that this is just as good, if not better.
Bobbi Brown Blush in Nude Peach. I love this subtle peach blush! I tend to find one I like and stick to it, and this is my favourite at the moment. I've got a couple of Bobbi Brown blushers, and find they last forever as they're so pigmented. Being such a small size makes it an ideal choice on the go.
Biona Raw Virgin Coconut Oil. I've been using this on my hair a couple of times a week as a pre-shampoo treatment. It's quick and easy, and helps to keep my hair soft and shiny while I'm growing it out.
Mac Lipstick in Pure Zen. My perfect nude. It's so creamy it's like a cross between a lipstick and balm. It's a highly pigmented peachy tone, which means one swipe and you're done. The only downside of this creamy formula is longevity issues. I find it wears off after an hour, sometimes less.
Dior Star Foundation. I didn't think I'd like this, but I can't get enough. It's so brightening without being overly dewy. It isn't the longest wearing foundation out there, I find it lasts about three to four hours before it starts to break down. Its great for people looking for light to medium coverage with dry or dehydrated skin. Or anyone needing a bit of sleep in a bottle!
I was recently at my local Liz Earle counter looking for some everyday skin care products, and was introduced to their Skin Repair and Boost range. Being a massive fan of their Hot Cloth Cleanser and range of hair care products (review here), I was intrigued by their skincare.
Skin Boost Tonic £14.50 for 200ml. This is an alcohol free toner which comes in a twist cap bottle for ease of use, with naturally active ingredients, such as:
I use this hydrating toner morning and evening as the next step after cleansing my skin. It feels incredibly soothing, and the fragrance is very calming and uplifting. It hydrates my skin and removes any last traces of makeup, without leaving an oily residue. It's packed full of antioxidants to nourish and balance the PH levels of your skin. The thing I like most about this is toner is that it hydrates and balances without leaving an oily residue, making it great for people with combination/oily skin.
Skin Repair Light Moisturiser £20.25 for 50ml. This is the light version of their skin repair moisturiser, with naturally active ingredients, such as:
I've been using this moisturiser daily after cleansing and toning. It's aimed towards people with combination/oily skin, as it contains smaller quantities of oils than the original formula. If you have combination/oily skin this could be your holy grail day cream. I find it leaves a matte, shine free finish, but feels nourishing at the same time. After using this my skin feels hydrated, but not oily as it does with heavier creams. I find it sinks in really quickly, making it an ideal daytime moisturiser, and a great base for makeup. One pump does my whole face, so I imagine the bottle will last me a few months. The only downside to this is that because the bottle has a pump, there's no way of knowing how much is left.
Liz Earle didn't disappoint. I couldn't be happier with this duo. I love that they're packed full of natural ingredients, and cater to us oily skinned girls. They're now my go-to moisturiser and toner, and have pride of place on my bathroom shelf. Do you share my love for these products?
They say there's a story behind everything, and this couldn't ring more true than the reasons why I decided to get Indigo. I was quite nervous about writing this, as it gets quite personal but I wanted to share more than just a birthday post with you.
It was Indigo's 4th birthday while we were away, so we had to celebrate on a different day for the first time in her little life. This made me feel like a bad dog mum, but hey, it's not like she'd know any different, right? We took her and Molly Mouse to Hylands Park which is a really beautiful local park, bought her some presents and a specially made cake for dogs, which you can see here.
I owe a lot to her, which is why I spoil her so much. The first time I saw her I knew she was everything I needed. That's because four years ago my stepdad died of a brain tumour. It happened completely out of the blue and unravelled very quickly. He suddenly started to forget little things, which we thought might be old age creeping in. But after a few tests doctors were saying the C word, and everything happened really quickly from there. He had stage four glioblastoma, and three months from his diagnosis he died. I didn't take it very well, we were really close. He was my dad, the one I looked up to and turned to. I was in quite a dark place, and while this was going on my long term relationship broke down, and I found myself living alone for the first time in my life. While living alone can be fun, anyone that's been there knows how depressing it can be coming home to an empty house day after day.
I suppose my life changed a lot that year, and I needed something positive to focus on. So I decided to get a little Shih Tzu, and quite honestly she's the best investment I've ever made. Slowly, day by day, this fluffy little dog made me happy again. For that I'll always be grateful to her.
I'll never forget how she pulled me out of that dark place and made me smile again. I'm not saying the answer to a bereavement is as simple as getting a pet. But for me, she gave me a reason to get up in the mornings and made me enjoy life again.
Puppies, babies, weddings, we all need something positive to focus on. There's something beautiful about new beginnings isn't there. If you can relate to my story, or have a special one of your own I'd love to hear it.
I was in Ibiza a few days ago soaking up the last of the summer sun. We spent five days relaxing by the pool and dining at some of the top restaurants on the island. Temperatures reached 26 degrees, which was absolute bliss.
We stayed at the Insotel Fenicia Prestige, a five star hotel located in Santa Eularia. It was a short walk away from the beach, and set in a secluded area of town. Being low season meant that we only had to share the hotel with a handful of guests.
When we go away I like to write a list of places we want to go. I like to be prepared, and find this saves a lot of time. I take my diary with me and write the names and locations, so we know what our options are. Everyone likes having options right? This time though, M gave me a list of all his favourite places on the island, so we went with that. And to be honest, it turned out pretty great.
We went to Amante one evening to watch the sun go down before dinner. We had a drink on the man-made beach, then had dinner overlooking the sea. It's definitely worth taking a special trip here. The view is breathtaking, and the food is typical brasserie style, so it caters to most tastes. The real star of the show was the view. Pretty don't you think?
I love reading other peoples' 'what's in my makeup bag' posts. I love knowing what products people can't live without, what they reach for the most, and what they choose to carry in their handbag everyday. Since I'm off to Ibiza tomorrow, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to do a travel edition.
I'm not great in the mornings, and it's a 4 am start, so needless to say I'm going to keep things simple. I know some people wouldn't bother at that time of the morning, but a bit of mascara never hurts.
Since I have checked luggage, most of my makeup is in my suitcase. These are the essentials I'll be carrying around in my handbag and relying on in the morning.
Armani Lasting Silk Foundation. I've only been using this for a few days, so I have no idea how it fares in the heat. I've packed a back up, just in case! I would love to hear your thoughts on this foundation. I own Luminous Silk and while it's one of my favourites, it doesn't last too long on my combination skin.
NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer. My trusty NARS concealer never lets me down, so I've packed it in hope of hiding the telltale signs of an early start.
Bobbi Brown Blush in Nude Peach. I've only had this for a couple of weeks, but find myself using it on a daily basis.
Hourglass Strobe Lighting Powder in Incandescent Light. I've got the mini version of this, so it's perfect to travel with. I don't see the need to pack multiple highlighters, so this is the one.
Tarte Tartlette in Bloom Eye Palette. This is a beautiful nude eye palette, perfect for both daytime and nighttime, so this is the only eye palette I'm taking. It's a bit bulky for travelling, but once it's closed it's secure. I'd prefer to take my original Naked eye palette, but the packaging is quite flimsy, so I'm not confident I wouldn't end up with a big mess in my handbag.
L'Oreal Mascara and Dior Lash Primer. Since my lashes are long, I use volumising products and these work great together. The mascara is an old release, but it works. If you've ever found your lashes to be stiff or crispy, this might be worth considering.
Charlotte Tilbury Lipstick. I'm taking the shade B!tch Perfect with me, as it's one of my favourites at the moment.
Givenchy Le Prisme Blush. Technically it's called a blush, but I have the shade bronze. I've had this for years, passed down from my mum, and it's still as good as new. It's my all time favourite bronzer which can be used for contouring too, as it's not too orange and comes with an angled brush.
Urban Decay Optical Blurring Brush. My favourite foundation brush, I'm never without this.
What do you think of my travel essentials? Is there anything you'd add to the list?