Counter Service

I'm not scared of much in life (bar rollercoasters that go upside down and maggots) but I do get terrified at the thought of approaching a cosmetics counter. You can never just 'casually browse' at a counter, you have to hardcore shop, i.e. be sold to whether you like it or not. So many times I've strolled over to have a quick look at the new products on offer, a pretty display or just been lured by loud music, and quickly regretted that decision. If you touch anything it's an automatic signal for 'come straight toward me and give me the hard sell, not giving in until you've got me to buy this and three other products.' And the makeovers... don't get me started on the makeovers. If I wanted to look like Jodie Marsh dressed as a clown then I'd have gotten my 12yr old male cousin to have done my slap for me. It frustrates me so much that they can see what you 'normally' look like when you approach-slash-are-beckoned-over, but insist on completely changing you into a make-up whore.

The Good Old Days

It's for the very reasons above that I want to share a positive story with you. Yep, a positive story that includes a beauty counter and a make-up artist, just to prove that they exist. This Saturday afternoon I had nothing to do but wander around Westfield shopping for a new dress and perusing the shelves of Boots. I'd been sent a couple of Dior products in the morning to try so I wanted to see what else they had on offer at the counter. A lovely lady approached me and after a few minutes of chatting, discussing my blog and the Dior products she really made me feel at ease and was in no way giving me a hard sell - in fact I made it 100% clear from the outset that I wasn't buying anything because I already had some products to try at home.


Antoinetta (I think that was her name and I feel incredibly guilty for not being able to remember it!) spent about an hour with me, running through all the products within Dior's make-up and skin care range and was incredibly honest. There's nothing I hate more than being told a product is fab when it's really trash or that it's suitable for your skin when it's obviously best suited to Pat Butcher. She recommended products, told me which ones she used, let me try and play at the same time as answering all of my questions.

Yep, I heart Dior now.

The best part though was that she carefully approached the issue of testing some on my skin. She didn't sit me down, strip me of my make-up and begin a transformation, but first tested on small areas of my face and hands, ensuring I was comfortable and at ease in the middle of a shop. As we went on she asked me at every stage if I wanted to try it on my face, if I wanted her to remove my make-up, if I wanted to try mixing this with that... I didn't feel at all pressured, and as a result let her remove all my make-up and test about 10 products on me. She used cleanser and toner, serum and moisturiser, brightening cream and foundation, then topped it off with powder, blush, bronzer and even a dab of lipgloss.


I think other ladies working on counters should learn from this delightful woman. If you make people feel comfortable, make them think that it's their idea to try products, then they're much more likely to want to find out more and therefore actually buy anything you recommend-slash-force-on-them. If you're nice to people, are interested in them and their skin/routine then they're much more likely to listen to you and have a positive perception of your brand. Having left the counter I couldn't wait to go home and try the products I'd been sent. She even gave me a couple of mini samples of the products to try, which I've been using since then, after she recommended them. Now I've discovered that helpful make-up counters aren't a myth I'll be searching for decent ones high and low... but for now, Dior in Westfield London should be your first port of call.

Shea Me Your Barnet

L'Occitane make some fab skin care products and, as my previous posts explain, I'm now in love with a lot of them. Their hair care was recommended to me by one of their lovely shop assistants, so what's a girl to do but try? I was sent Ultra Rich Shampoo and Conditioner to get stuck into, and seeing as I've barely used anything but my beloved Paul Mitchell Super Strong since about 2005 I was both nervous and excited.

The products contain shea butter to nourish and restructure hair from roots to tip, as well as claiming to smooth and detangle. It also says that it protects hair from the elements, including the sun, wind, cold and over-processing - so basically helping it out after a temperamental August! The packaging is gorgeous, yet simple, as expected from L'Occitane so you feel like you've got a bit of glamour on your shower shelf before you even begin. I made sure I used this for ten days before writing, purely as it's so easy to make a judgement on shampoos/conditioners before they've had time to settle in and start working.

The first thing that struck me about the shampoo was that it didn't lather that well. It's best to stand out of the water and lather your hair up to get it squeaky clean and feeling properly washed, but the lathering of a formula doesn't necessarily mean it's cleaning better. In fact, the easier it lathers, the more cheap ingredients it contains - we've just got a perception that a good shampoo should be nice and bubbly. The lather had very small bubbles, meaning it was a fab product that was really getting rid of the gunk in my barnet. When I rinsed, my hair really did feel super clean, even if not instantly nourished.

The conditioner smelled great but was surprisingly thin. As it contains shea butter I expected it to be thick and creamy, but in fact it was quite runny. This meant I had to be careful when I left it to soak into my hair, really massaging it in and avoiding water while I waited. To start with I was using loads of conditioner as I felt it wasn't covering my hair properly, but as the week went on I realised that a little went a long way and I didn't need to cake my head in the stuff to get a good result. Again, when I rinsed I really did get that squeaky clean feeling.


For the first few days I wasn't feeling that great about the products, feeling that I wasn't really getting much moisture or nourishment. I was used to coming out of the shower and feeling instantly like my hair was in a fab condition, but these products definitely took a couple of days to settle down. Once they did, the results are pretty good. My hair does feel nourished and stronger, giving me a great base to build on. I feel like my hair is manageable and in good condition, as well as smelling amazing. I didn't get a super shiny effect from L'Occitane, but I did feel like the internal change was where the focus of these products lay.

These both retail at £11.00 and for that price I think you're getting a pretty darn good product. You won't get anything in Boots that comes close to this, so it's definitely worth a little extra cash for some great ingredients. I can imagine these working really well for those of you that have bleached, brittle or over-processed hair that's in need of a good holiday. These products are the only ones that have come close to converting me from my beloved Super Strong, so I'm going to keep with them. They're best sellers so that many people can't be wrong. You never know, I may have a Jen-Aniston-Swish in no time!

Oil Me Up

My hair routine in the morning goes a little like this... shampoo, condition, add some serum and hair straightening cream, spritz with heat protection spray, blowdry and finish with shine spray. So that involves four products after washing, even more if I'm going somewhere when it then includes hairspray and/or mousse. I've got it down to a swift routine, but not only is it a pain in the arse (meaning I can't just do a wash-n-go thing) but it costs me a bloody fortune. Bare this in mind when I tell you about my new must-have hair saviour...

I'd heard about Moroccan Oil. I'd heard it was supposed to be amazing for your hair, but in my niavity thought it was something along the lines of a posh olive oil. (I'll pause here to give you time for a giggle at my stupidity.) Bloggers and websites had been going mental for the stuff so I couldn't wait to get my hands on some. I was lucky enough to be sent a few products from the range and yesterday I ripped open the parcel to investigate my treasures, jumping in the shower straight away. I washed and conditioned my hair as normal, but after reading the instructions of the oil treatment decided to do absolutely nothing to it apart from wack in a 50p sized amount.



I was worried that I'd put too much in, but according to the instructions it has unique properties so that all of the product is absorbed, leaving no residue. True! As I dried my hair there was no 'sticky' feeling I sometimes get with products, my barnet already felt smooth and silky and dried quicker than normal. It even seemed to 'fall' into it's style without too much effort, when normally I spend ten minutes splitting my parting and sweeping my fringe! After I straightened it I left it and did absolutely nothing else for the rest of the day. No serum, no straightening cream, no shine spray. Nada.

The oil claims to condition and strengthen hair, restoring hair to a manageable, shiny and soft state - it does all this and more. Considering I usually use four different products to finish my hair, this one single blob of oil managed to achieve all they do and some. My hair is now silkier and smoother than it is when I come out of the hairdressers, bouncy, shiny and very, very touchable! I'm suprised it hasn't gone greasy with the amount I've been fiddling with it in pure amazement of how such a small amount of product can change a head of hair.

I tried it again today, just to make sure it wasn't a one-off or influenced by anything else I was doing - the results were exactly the same, if not better. This truly is a miracle in a glass bottle. Moroccan Oil Treatment is supposed to work even better over time, restoring hair and repairing it to a healthier state, so I can't wait to see the results after I've been trying it for a few weeks. It's not cheap, at £29.95 for a 100ml bottle, but considering you need such a small amount and it's like five products in one, it's well worth the investment. If I could send you all little baby bottles to try I would, but this bad boy is staying with me under lock and key.

No 7 is No 1

As a beauty blogger I get sent a lot of products to try and review, I'm emailed hoards of press releases and a trawl round my local Boots turns into a research project. Very rarely do I now go into store for a specific product I'm after, and even more rare is when I've been reccomended something by someone else - the shame! This week one of my colleagues had a lovely nail varnish colour on which turned out not to be a colour, but a new top coat from No 7. So impressed was I that today I rushed down to Westfield to grab one up myself.


Boots No 7 release limited editions and seasonal products more often than I paint my nails, so rarely do I ever pay that much attention to them. However, as part of their new Autumn range (I know, it's still August but it fels like bloody Autumn!) they've released a limited edition Stay Perfect Matte Top Coat. In the bottle it looks opaque and slightly pearlescent, but when applied it changes the shiniest of polishes into a delicious matte effect. The polish dries literally in seconds too, meaning sudges are minimal.


I've tried to take some 'before' and 'after' shots but they havent come out that well. I'm wearing a lilac polish and have decided that paler shades work better, although the matte effect would also look wicked on a black or navy shade. The top coat really smoothes the polish and minimises any split nails you can normally see poking through. Overall, it gives a really elegant finish and can make any cheap polish look premium. Even better is the fact that Boots are currently running their £5 off vouchers in store, so although this is normally £7.25, at the moment you can grab it for the bargainous price of £2.25 - what are you waiting for?!

Lipgloss Heaven

If there were statistics on the most lost piece of make-up in a girl's bag I would guarantee it would be lipgloss. No matter how many I put in my bag I always seem to lose them - I swear there's an evil fairy collecting them up and building a nest. Because of the pure turnover of lipglosses in my possession (I won't bore you with a graph) I resent paying much for them, but cheapo prices normally mean cheapo quality.


The lovely ladies at E.l.f (eyes lips face) recently sent me a huge box rammed with lipglosses from their collection - you could almost hear my heart rate increasing with excitement at the sight of that many lustrous colours. As I'm such a generous lady (!!) I handed these out to all my friends and colleagues like sweeties to children - seriously, I may as well been handing out money for the reaction I got - for them all to test. The results were a resounding success.


We've all been trying Hypershine Lipgloss, Liquid Lipstick, Plumping Lip Glaze and the new Minty Lipgloss. All five types of gloss provide a fabulous result without the product being grainy or 'plastic' like, as well as having beautiful fresh fragrances and a slight cooling sensation on your lips. All of the applicators are soft and pleasant to use, my personal favourite being the 'smooth glide on applicator' from the Liquid Lipstick. The range of colour is great too - providing everything from clear and nude tones, right through to bright pinks and deep browns. When they're applied to lips they blend with your natural lip tone well, so it doesn't look completely false or hidious, just a lovely glossy colour.


I'm in love with their new Minty Lipgloss which launches soon in even more colours. The pack is more premium looking than the rest, with its square case and black matte lid, and looks a lot more expensive than it actually is (£3.50!) The colours are slightly shimmery so they catch the light perfectly, while the minty fresh sensation really wakes you up and even gives the impression of just-brushed-your-teeth-breath!

This is a fab range of lipglosses that are so cheap it actually pains me to say that they start from £1.50. For this quality you'd expect to pay at least triple that. This brand seems to be something of a trade secret, available from only limited places, but they do have a website which delivers ridiculously quickly. At these prices you can afford to buy one of everything!

Safe Pouting

We all like to go out, have a few drinks and a dance with our girlie mates. In fact that's probably what the majority of you will be doing this weekend. But with drink spiking and date raping on the increase, these simple nights often turn into scary disasters that are putting more and more girls in danger. How many of you know someone who's had their drink spiked? I do.

When I was at Uni I went out to a notoriously messy club with my flatmates, meaning we were gonna get annihilated and dance the night away. The night took a suprising twist when after 30 minutes my housemate hadn't come back from the bathroom. When we went to find her the toilet door was locked, she was collapsed on the floor and there was no way of getting her out - she couldn't even stand up or talk. It was one of the scariest nights I've ever had. Eventually we managed to talk her round to pulling the latch herself, but then it was our job to actually wedge open the door and attempt to get her home.


Since then I've had my drink spiked on two occasions. Both times I was in a familiar environment surrounded by friends, once in my local pub and once at a house party. One minute I was fine and dandy, the next I couldn't talk, could barely stand and once I managed to get home (god knows how) I've never been more ill in my life. This is the point - it's not just when you go to a dodgy club or unknown bar that this can happen; it's not necessarily going to be that weird guy eying you up at the bar, it could be the hot friend of your mate. Just because you think you're street-wise you aren't necessarily aware of your surroundings.


This is why I'm so pleased that someone has realised this is a serious and growing issue and decided to do something about it. '2 Love My Lips' is a new lipgloss brand which not only make fab glosses in a range of perfect colours, but each gloss comes with its own 'drink testing kit' so you can feel safe and secure wherever you go. All you have to do it drop a small amount on each end of the litmus paper and if it changes colour someone's trying to do bad things! Easy peasy. Not only do you have a fab gloss, but you're ultra safe and ready for a night out.

The glosses are available in five colours, ranging from clear right through to bright pink, and cost only £9.99 - a small price to pay for your safety. For more information check out their website: http://2lovemylips.co.uk/

The Apothecary

Yesterday I was invited to the launch of House of Fraser's new specialist beauty department, The Apothecary. Taking inspiration from the rustic shops of yester-year, the new fixtures and fittings really create an air of intrigue and excitement around the products that they hold, rather than just being another modern beauty hall.

The idea behind the new department is that all of the products that they hold should be showcased, accessible to customers who can enjoy browsing the shelves, and shopping for that new moisturiser should be an experience, not a stressful nightmare. The preview room was truly beautiful, each product range being dealt with in a way which means you're as interested by the brands you know as the brands you don't.

These new 'Apothecaries' will be launching nationwide in every store from October, each store receiving their own bespoke design so that every House of Fraser will be different. Just check out the pictures below to see how fabulous it's going to look...


To coincide with the launch, there will also be some fab new brands on offer to complement the existing faves like St Tropez and Molton Brown. Some of my highlights included these amazingly cute vintage lip tips from MOR, Hissy Fit's fabulous chocolate orange smelling make-up, Body America's organic skin care range which I wanted to swipe and run away with, as well as exclusives from Eylure and many, many more that I can't remember! There's even an exclusive 'Apothecary' range which has been formulated especially for House of Fraser themselves - I got to take home some of the hand lotion and hand wash and they're absolutely delicious.


I can't wait for the Apothecary to launch in the London branches. I can see many a beauty blogger spending way too much time perusing the shelves and spending their well-earned cash!

Blush Me Beautiful!

I like a good rosy cheek. As a paler lady, the rosy cheek is my saviour as it makes me look less like Sophie Ellis Bextor in the midst of winter and more Cheryl Cole pre-exotic holiday. I do have numerous blushers in my possession, ranging from the very cheap to the very expensive (with Benefit somewhere in the middle) but always a good quality colour. I’ve been using Benefit’s Throbb for a good few years, as it seems to last practically a lifetime, but now there’s a much cheaper alternative from the people at MeMeMe.

I was sent this lovely package and instantly was struck by the similarity to Benefit’s Throbb, which was already in my make-up bag. The box is exactly the same size and shape (as well as quality) but also comes with a small mirror in the lid, as well as a cute little brush to apply it. I was really keen to try it to see if the similarity was just in appearance...



The formula is soft and silky on your skin, perfectly complemented by the ultra soft brush that’s included. I was concerned that it wouldn’t apply enough formula as it’s not very thick, but it does the job well. The shade I’ve been using is simply called ‘pink’ and it’s a lovely bright colour without being too harsh or clown-looking! When you apply it to your cheeks it doesn’t come out bright or heavy, but is able to be build up to a colour that suits you. (I really detest when blushers are so bright that you put one sweep on and you’re already looking like Krusty the Clown.) The payoff is really very similar to the result I get with Throbb, so this is a winner!

I really like this product and it’s definitely going to take me into the winter season, adding a flash of colour that can either be worn under bronzer or alone. As a cheaper alternative to Benefit it does the job and looks pretty in your make-up case. I think these will be available in September – I have asked for more details so I’ll let you know asap!

Hair Miracles

It's all very well and good me yabbering on about all these products I'm using, but what do you love? What are your must have hair products that help you out of a sticky situation? I asked my fabulous facebook fans to let me in on their barnet secrets and here are my top five...

1. Laura O'Connor - Tresemme Heat Defence spray.
My hair has been bleached until white and has been every colour possible. I wash my hair at least 5 times a week, I always use a hair dryer on it and I do love my straighteners. Tresemme Heat Defence really does protect your hair without adding a build up. It smells nice without being over-powering and it’s simple to use. Just spray on damp hair and off you go. It's also a bargain price too... I get compliments on my hair as it’s so shiny!


2. Ruby Maria Majhi - Herbal Essences Beautiful Ends Split End protection cream

The damage from my hair dryer, my straighteners and the sun has caused my hair to have an outburst of split ends, but now I've finally found a product that magically makes them disappear! It's called Herbal Essences Beautiful Ends Split End protection cream - my hair loves it and it's a joy to use because, like all Herbal Essences products, it smells beautiful. I've been using it for just over a week, brushing it through damp hair after a shower and I virtually have no split ends any more! A miracle for our hair ♥


3. Rachel Noble – Olive Oil

I have SO many beloved, and not so beloved hair products, but the one fail safe I've been using for the past ten years is good old olive oil. We all have it in our cupboards, it's nice with a bit of French bread, it's cheap, and it's probably one of the best intensive conditioning treatments around! Apply to your hair, wrap it up in cling film (I didn't promise you'd look good...) and then enjoy a couple of hours with a bit of crap TV or a good book. Shampoo out, et voila... Strong, glossy hair with minimal effort! And if you can't be bothered with that, there's always Kerastase :)


 4. Mel Twominuterinse Matthews - Three Summer Essentials!

First off it’s Charles Worthington’s UV protection styling spray. It was amazing at protecting my hair and keeping it nice and moisturised whilst on holiday! I went from frizzy beach hair to sleek beach goddess. It has a really fresh fragrance and is available in a travel size, perfect for taking away!

Second its Herbal Essences split ends protection cream. You just apply to the ends of your hair after washing; I’d just had my hair cut and had to have 2 inches off the bottom to get rid of all the dry split ends, so I wanted to keep it looking that way! As I can be a bit of a slave to my straighteners I do get very dry ends! This cream is great, smells like raspberries, and keeps my ends protected and soft - I love it! Look out for offers too as I got mine for only £1.99!

My 3rd product is the new Pantene Pro-V Aqua Light spray! This product is lovely and doesn’t weigh down your hair at all or leave any residue! I’ve used it on both wet and dry hair with great results, allowing me to style my hair, tackle fly-aways and leaving a nice glossy sheen afterwards. This is definitely a new fave product of mine!


5. Bettie Beige - Tresemme
It took myself, my mum, my gran, two of my step sisters an numerous relatives over 19 years to find products that worked on my hair. Being mixed race with very curly but very fine hair I fail on both accounts; European products don't control my frizz and Afro products drown it. So when I stumbled across Tresemme I never actually thought it would work. I started off using the Freeze Hold Hairspray - which believe me, is not for the faint hearted. I've gone to sleep after a heavy night an woken up like I was in Eastenders with my hair exactly how I'd left it the night before (shame about the face though eh?). I then added to my collection the Reconstructive Hair Masque which I can happily leave in for 3 days, and when I wash it out my hair actually feels like I imagine Cheryl Cole’s does in that advert *adopts geordie voice* "an remember girls, we're worth it too". I have to say that I now also use (not all at the same time you understand) the Salon Finish Mousse, the serum and also the Detangling Spray. People always comment on my lovely smelling locks and my frizz free curls. So for any ladies out there despairing at their mops, give it a go - ask for samples, nab your friends and if all else fails bankrupt your man\dad\self in the pretence of research.

 
So these are my fans faves... what are yours? Have you tried any of these? I'm definately putting them on my shopping list!

Fake Bake for New Look

My guilty pleasure at the moment is New Look. I’ve been going back to the brand of my yoof and hooking myself up with some ace pieces of clothing at really quite cheap-as-chips prices. They seem to be on the ball, following the latest trends that can be found in Topshop for ten times the price, with collaborations with Giles Deacon hitting the shelves every few months. Their latest collaboration is with beauty favourite Fake Bake. They’ve launched a collection of staple pieces that suit their customer, whilst remaining within their price range.

The collection consists of a body polish, oil free moisturiser, self-tan and instant tan and they all have cute names such as ‘Pasty to Tasty’ and ‘Rough to Buff’. I saw these in Westfield a few weeks ago after I’d been hunting them down for a while and I have to admit I didn’t realise what they were to start with! The packaging and image is so different to Fake Bake that I don’t think you’d realise they were from the brand unless you took the time to read the packaging or you were purposefully looking out for them. As they’re very, very pink they certainly stand out, but because of this they do look a little tacky – but hey, I’m probably not your normal New Look customer and these are definitely aimed at a younger audience than me!


I’ve been sent the body polish and wash-off tan to try and have been buffing my skin to perfection over the last few days. The body polish is a bright pink colour and comes in a generous sized bottle, adorned with silver lettering. Amongst the ‘grown up’ lotions and potions on my shelf it does look a bit Disney Princess, but you know what... I love it! It smells really fruity, slightly of berries (but I don’t have a nose for picking out exact smells) and feels lovely on your skin. It has just the right amount of grainy kernels to polish your skin, exfoliating away your nasty dead skin bits, without scrubbing you raw. It’s not at all greasy like a lot of other polishes, and washes off easily leaving you with glowing skin.

This is perfect for preparing your body for tanning – and obviously why Fake Bake are so successful as they know their stuff! – so I can’t wait to try the fake tan too. At the moment I haven’t had reason to slap on the brown stuff, but when I do I’ll let you know how I get on. But for the time being, grab yourself some Fake Bake polish at the bargain price of £4.99 – yep, less than a fiver!

Busy Bees

Currently in my handbag there are three lip balms and two lip glosses. (FYI they include Vaseline Rosy Lips, Blistex, Bourjois Effet 3D, Avon Glossy Delight and a cheapo thing I picked up from H&M) Wherever I go I have, have, have to take at least two lip products with me, just in case I lose one or have an emergency dry lip situation. There's nothing worse than sitting at your desk all day trying not to lick your lips because they're super sore from lack of attention.

Today these lovely products have been pushed aside in favour of my new classroom pet - Burt's Bees. Now, I wasn't familiar with this brand at all until a few weeks ago when a friend of mine started talking about it when we were perusing in Boots. I knew the range was supposed to be fab, so I was excited to give it a whirl. Today I've been sent a collection of cleansers, which all smell delicious and can't wait to be slapped on my face, as well as two sumptuous lip balms which have already been slapped on my lips.

The existing lip balm has already become a cult product, and with two new additions to the range I hope every lady on the planet can get their hands on one. The two new flavours on offer are Acai Berry and Mango Butter. Both smell deliciously fruity without that sweet sickening sensation you get from a lot of balms. The stick glides on easily, leaving you with a layer of product that isn't sticky or gloopy, and doesn't need re-applying every ten minutes. I've had mine on for nearly two hours and I don't yet feel the need to put on another coat (other than the fact that I just like putting it on!)

The sticks are 100% natural and have a beeswax base, meaning they're nourishing and moisturising as well as being free from nasties. Each variant serves a different purpose so you can get away with buying both without feeling guilty:

Rejuvenating & Reviving: Lip Balm With Acai Berry is infused with the powerful superfruit Acai Berry, native to the Brazilian rainforests. This hydrating ingredient is known to contain antioxidants, Vitamins A, C, D and E, as well as healthy Omega Oils. Lips feel incredibly soft and rejuvenated.

Nourishing & Enriching: Lip Balm With Mango Butter, a luxurious lip balm with the delicious benefits of Mango Butter. This ingredient has amazing emollient and moisturising properties. For lips that feel soft and healthy, try this truly special lip balm.

All of this goodness for only £3.50... make sure you put them on your shopping list this weekend.

Top Ten Countdown

Having worked in the beauty industry for my entire career I've marketed a lot of gumph, but also a lot of fantastic products. It's so hard to know what to trust, what to buy and what to not waste your pennies on. Through my blog I aim to give top tips and review products I truly love, as well as giving you the low-down on ones I didn't. Here are my top ten beauty product must-haves that should be on every girl's bathroom shelf.

1. Paul Mitchell Super Skinny Serum
I have naturally curly (meaning bird's nest frizzy) hair so I invest a lot of time, effort and money into attempting to make it super sleek and reminiscent of a shampoo advert. This rarely happens, but one of the products I haven't been able to live without for the past five years is hairdresser's friend Super Skinny Serum. This comes in a pretty huge bottle so lasts for around 6mths (fabulous value for money) and is super light, so it's perfect for those with fine hair or who're scared of product abuse.

2. Redken Anti Snap
This is a recent discovery of mine. Due to the aforementioned frizzy hair I straighten my hair at least once a day. This means my hairdresser kills me when I pluck up the courage to go and get a battering. On my last visit she recommended I start using this to help strengthen my hair and protect it from heat damage - all you have to do is blob in a few drops like a leave-in treatment, or for added oomph put ten drops in your hair and sleep on it overnight. It's made my hair super shiny and soft already, with much less baby hair where I've snapped it all off!

3. Batiste Dry Shampoo
I don't really need to explain this one. Since Batiste exploded onto the scene as a festival essential, it's made the transition into our daily beauty regime. Never before have so many girls been refreshing their hair between washes! They're continually launching new fragrances, my favourite being 'Blush' because it smells all ladylike!

4. Bourjois Express eye make-up remover
A make-up artist told me many moons ago that dual-phase make-up removers were the way to go. Since this golden nugget I've never looked back; there are no more panda eyes for me! I used to use Chanel's eye make-up remover, but when Bourjois launched their very own last year I switched for the cheaper option which doesn't scrape on quality. No other eye make-up remover gets every last scrape of mascara off.

5. Maybelline Dream Mousse Concealer
I'm very fussy when it comes to concealer. It has to be just thick enough to cover my bags, not too greasy so it doesn't slide off my face by lunchtime and the perfect shade to match with my pale complexion. Only a few brands have ever come close (including the most expensive and premium,) but the one I keep going back to again and again is Maybelline. Even when I worked at a cosmetics company I still used to go back to this. It's light, airy, covers dark circles and lasts all day. Plus it's always on offer!

6. Black eyeliner (various brands)
Every girl needs a stash of black eyeliners, preferably khols or with smudgy formulas so they can double up as a smokey eye pencil. My favourites include Bourjois, Rimmel and No7. Make sure you keep your pencils sharp, but not ridiculously pointy, so you can create a sharp line across your lid.

7. L'Occitane hand cream
Because of the amount of typing I do (and the fact that I'm a little OCD and wash my hands about 20 times a day) I always have a hand cream with me. The best I've ever found is by L'Occitane, comes in a giant metal tube and is super creamy. The formula is rich and thick, meaning it's full of goodness and shea butter, which absorbs super quickly into your hands. Although this is pretty pricey it's well worth it and lasts for ages - a little goes a long, long way.

8. Revlon nail polish
It's always tempting to buy varnish from cheapo brands that are offering two polishes for under a fiver, but when it comes to nails you definitely get what you pay for. Revlon are my favourite nail brand as they not only have some amazing colours, but they're always super on-trend, the polishes are delightful to apply and the colour lasts longer than anything else I've tried. It's worth paying a little more for a big treat.

9. Radox Muscle Soak Herbal Salts
If you read my blog then you'll know that Tuesday nights are bath nights. It's the one day of the week I take to unwind, put on a face mask and hair treatment and soak it up in a nice warm bath. Radox herbal salts are a great alternative if you don't like bubble bath (I hate when it gets in my hair) and really soothes your muscles, leaving you chillaxed and ready for the week ahead. The aroma invigorates your senses and even leaves your bathroom smelling delish.

10. Dove Summer Glow tinted moisturiser
As a pale 'English Rose' type I rely on fake tan in the summer months to stop me literally blending into the background. Although I love other brands for a more noticeable, all over tan, Dove Summer Glow is great for a subtle and natural result that you can build up over a few days. It's super moisturising and the colour is perfect for us pale ladies; it doesn't even smell so there's no excuse not to grab a bottle!

So there are my top ten beauty buys. What are your must-haves?

Useless Males

Does your boyfriend/husband/housemate steal your beauty products? Are you constantly being left with nearly-empty bottles of £20 conditioner, that you can only get from your hairdresser, because some silly sod has used it? Then there's a genius idea launching this week that may be able to help you out...
There's a new brand in town by the name 'Men Are Useless'. (Bravo to the person that came up with that - we all know they are.) They offer a monthly delivery service of essential products direct to your letterbox, so there's no more running out of shaving gel. They can choose from two packs containing everything a boy could need, including shampoo, body wash, razors and shaving gel, all from the measly price of £9.99 per month - that's less than I spend on tampons!

I just thought this was a cute picture!

Ashamedly, according to the 'Men Are Useless' survey, 78% of men admit to 'bathroom theft'. Asked to name their most desperate bathroom moments, one in five admitted to washing all over with conditioner, with 7% saying they’ve resorted to using washing up liquid. Washing up liquid?! They need sorting out pronto.
Here's what Paul Johnson, Men Are Useless founder, had to say: “The idea behind Men Are Useless is very clear – we’re here to cover the boring, but important, bits of men’s lives and we’re starting with the UK’s first monthly male toiletry delivery scheme. Let’s face it - men would rather be out there catching baddies or practicing wheelies than browsing the shopping aisles. Our service will bring relief to men and women alike – great brands brought together on a monthly basis either as a way of avoiding that last minute dash to the shops or as a gift for someone useless.”

All of the goodies you get in your parcel!

I think this is an absolute amazing idea. Having lived with my fair share of boys in my 27 years, I'd do anything to get them to stop using my beautifying products. This is a perfect pressie for the man in your life, or even just a nudge in the right direction to your pesky housemates. I know what I’m buying my cousins for their next birthday! Make sure you go to http://www.menareuseless.com/ for more details.

UPDATE
I received a lovely box in the post over the weekend and I have to admit that I now want to sign up to 'Men Are Useless' myself! The box was full of lovely manly things, a hilarious letter and postcard, sweets and even a pressie for the postman. You're gonna have to prise some of this stuff away from my hands before the men folk get hold of it - I'm definitely keeping that shower gel! Check out the pics below...

I love Zena

I'm an accessories fiend. There's nothing more satisfying than changing that black dress you've worn out for the last four Saturday nights with some major accessories. (I do that a lot, not because I don't own 600 dresses, but because I'm just too lazy to not wear my old favourites.) It's so frustrating though when you're wearing the same Topshop necklace as 25 other people in your local bar; it kind of undermines your individuality. Which makes my new find even more satisfying.

Me & Zena are a lovely jewelery company, producing truly unique pieces that not only look cool, but are undoubtedly an investment. The brainchild of Zena Mckeown, Me & Zena have so many adorable pieces in their collection that it's no wonder they've already been snapped up by celebs including Frankie Sandford (The Saturdays) Ellie Goulding and Pixie Lott.

Every item has so much detail that they're a steal. My favourites are the pieces below - I'm lusting after the robot, praying for the UFO and begging for the spinner heart. This is a fab place to start if you want great pieces at reasonable prices that nobody else will have - for the time being anyway, before it becomes super famous!

For more info go to http://www.meandzena.com/
 

Tasty Tan

If you ask people what their biggest beauty disaster has ever been, I guarantee you about 75% will say something to do with fake tan. Whether it's  going orange, dying hands, streaky legs or generally just looking like you've been in the booth with Ross from Friends, it's really easy to go wrong. I've had my fair share of disasters (some of which are still visible on facebook,) the last of which being spray tan related when I actually turned a darker colour than Jordan on holiday. It was not a good look. Since then I've been pretty unwilling to step back into the paper knickers, but St Tropez twisted my arm and tempted me to try them out again.

I was invited for a St Tropez spray tan at INC Space in central London on a dreary, drizzley Tuesday afternoon, one day after returning from a festival I had yet to truly recover from. I really wasn’t in the mood, but I dragged myself down with the promise of a night watching Big Brother as a reward. (Is that really a reward?!) Although the place was pretty hard to find, once I was in it was so relaxing and pristine I almost fell asleep waiting for my beauty consultant. (Or was that the festival hangover?) She was so lovely, putting me at ease, explaining the products, letting me try the new range, discussing my needs and what products to use. My fear of the spray gun quickly evaporated - but the paper knickers were still pretty terrifying.

Baring in mind you literally stand in a metal booth in a pair of paper pants that barely cover your bum infront of a complete stranger, I was surprisingly comfortable in her company. Chatting away she started spraying, explaining what she was doing as she went along, making sure she moisturised my knees/elbows/feet and wiping away excess formula off my nails and around my face. Before you know it I was out of the paper undies and back into my proper ones.



My colour was really rich, without being overbearing and obviously fake. I didn’t come out looking like I'd just been tanned, which is so often where salons have fallen short before - putting so much product on I looked like a woman from the Caribbean. It smelled lovely and subtle, rather than intense and deep like the old St Tropez formula, so I didn’t even mind keeping it on all night until I could wash it off the next morning. When I did I was extremely impressed with the result; my colour was sun-kissed not sun-snogged, natural not un-holy. You couldn’t necessarily tell I'd been tanned, but I didn’t get a lot of comments about 'looking glowing' or asked if I'd been on holiday. Result!

I felt sexier and more confident in what I was wearing for the five days it lasted. There was barely a change in colour for the first three days, it only starting to fade on the forth, and only now (6 days later) do I pretty much look my natural colour. Some areas are inevitably still darker, as it's the dead skin cells that the tan clings on to, but overall there wasn’t a dramatic end to my tanned days. I'd definitely go back and put on the paper pants again - especially if there was a special occasion. Lesson learned: always go to a decent salon and don’t trust someone that's more orange than Jodie marsh. Thank you St Tropez!

Fruity Follicles

I get sent quite a lot of stuff in the post from various brands and PR companies, but rarely am I wowed and exited so much that I rip open the packaging even though I'm already running 20 minutes late for lunch. This is what happened at the weekend when I recieved a new Denman bush in the post.

I have to admit I'm rubbish when it comes to brushing my hair. The only time it happens is when I come out of the shower and need to struggle with the knots I seem to have a knack at creating. My hair is usually so limp that brushing it makes it even flatter than a squashed pancake. For this reason alone, I haven't bought a brush for about five years, only own one 'proper one' and about five mini handbag sized varieties. I was in desperate need of this little bugger.


Not only is this brush a classic (even I know Denman brushes are a must-have) and pulls through my hair better than anything I've owned since I was about twelve, it only smells of strawberries! Yep, this is a scented hairbrush! Random I know, but I love it... it smells subtly fruity without being overwhelming, but doesn't transfer to your hair so you smell like a walking, talking strawberry. There's a delicate design on the handle too, just in case you dont know what fruit it smells of.... maybe.

These fab brushes are also available in apple, dewberry and sherbet varieties. If I brushed my hair more than four times a week I may have rushed out to buy one, but right now this will last me for another five years.

Nifty Nicola

Nicola Roberts, of Girls Aloud fame, launched her own range of cosmetics a good few years ago now (I want to say 2008) and created a stir in the industry. Dainty Doll was formulated especially for us ladies of a whiter-than-white complexion, when the lightest foundation/powder/concealer just wouldn't do. Initially developed as one of those "Girls-Aloud-go-do-things-they've-always-wanted-to-do" programmes, it was launched onto the mass market and was available through retailers such as ASOS.

Now for a while I've been trying to track some of this down. It seemed to have disappeared off the face of the planet and even from sites where you could normally buy. On ASOS there's now only one product out of a whole range available, in the sale at 50% off. What the hell is going on?

Well, a recent press release seems to have cleared this question up for me. Dainty Doll is being re-launched (or are they just forgetting about the range that's been around for a good few years?) this month exclusively in Harrods. The packaging is slicker, completely black with a red-head model oozing femininity and shouting out to you that she's pale and proud. The range is more extensive, including foundation, concealer, powder, blush, lipstick, lipgloss, eyeshadow and base, and considering it's being sold exclusively in Harrods isn't that pricey at between £11 and £19.


I'm confused though - why are they talking about this as if it's completely new? Am I missing something?

A NOTE FROM NICOLA:  
“I am proud and excited to reveal my new makeup line, Dainty Doll, developed especially to enhance the beauty of fairer skin tones. Created using the finest quality, skin-loving formulas to help cover, perfect and care for your skin, my new Dainty Doll range makes it much easier for those with paler skin tones to achieve the ideal shade every time.”

This is all very well, and I am excited to try, but it's been done already! I can't wait to get my hands on the products and give you a proper review, but until then this is all the information I have. And if you fancy meeting Nicola herself (she's very lovely, extremely shy and not intimidatingly pretty) then pop down to Harrods where she'll be making a personal appearance to launch her 'new' range at midday on 24th August.

UPDATE:
I've had an update from the PR company representing Dainty Doll. Basically Nicola has been able to spend a lot of time being involved in developing a new range, perfecting the formulations and extending the products/shades on offer. The 'new' Dainty Doll is produced by a completely new company who are behind the Girls Aloud lashes from Eylure, so continuing the successful collaboration. So, in fact, this is completely new! Even more reason to try it...

Essential Brushes you NEED in your make up bag

Makeup is only as good as the tools you use so it pays to have a good set of sturdy brushes in your makeup bag. Many make up artists have paid through the nose for their equipment but you need not spend a fortune to get a few essential tools every woman should have. There are many brushes companies tell you that you must have, but I’ve narrowed down the essential ones I have in my own makeup bag to ensure seamless application of your slap.

Large and medium sized rounded eye shadow brushes.
These are an absolute must as they allow you to blend colors effectively and because they’re round they shape around the contour of your eye. You want these brushes soft, not square and hard. A good one I have is by Ruby & Millie and it’s priced at only £9.50 from Boots.

Small sized concealer brush.
When you want a good finish to get rid of those pesky under eye circles, it’s best not to apply it with your fingertips as the skin under your eye is very delicate. It’s worth investing in a good concealer brush as it’s a must for anyone that’s serious about makeup. I have a great one by a company called Prescriptives and you can get it online for around £15.00.


Flat foundation brush.
A must for applying creamy foundation. This gives a better finish than using your fingers or a sponge and is also great for highlighting/contouring. Foundation brushes can be very expensive, but it’s worth investing in one if you want a great finish. Clinique do a great one for £20.00 at Debenhams, but it looks beautiful in your makeup case and feels amazing on the skin! A great investment.

Lip Brush.
You can get these rather cheaply, and it’s great for getting a good lip line rather than relying on the lipstick itself. Pick these up for under £5.00 at any Superdrug.

Fine angled brush.
This brush is a great investment if you love your eye colors as it allows you to apply shadows in all areas of the eye, seamlessly and precisely. I never bother with the makeup brushes you get in palette eye shadows as I find these aren’t very accurate. Ruby and Mille do a great one for less than £7.00 at Boots. It’s also great for filling in eyebrows if yours need some help!

Blush/bronzer brush.
A makeup kit without one of these large, full brushes is not complete. It allows you to apply and blend your blusher or bronzer evenly.  Get a natural brush instead of a synthetic one as not only does it feel nicer, I find the distribution to be more even. Nature’s Mineral’s blusher brush, at £14.00, is a bit pricey but worth it as it fits neatly into your makeup bag as it’s so compact!

Metal eyebrow comb.
A great tool you can use to comb and shape your brows. You can pick these up in Boots or Superdrug for next to nothing!

You can mix or match these depending on what kind of make-up you use, how much you’re willing to spend and what works for you. Just don't forget to clean them regularly!

WRITTEN BY LONDON BEAUTY PRINCESS

OMFG!

Today has been the most surreal day. I was happily tottering off to a meeting in Soho when I got a message on my twitter feed: "Congrats to all those who've been nominated in the Cosmo blog awards!" My response was to ask who'd been shortlisted and if it was anyone I know... the response I got was the craziest thing I've experienced in a long, long time!

"You, you bloody idiot!"  "Check the site, NOW!"  "Oh, nobody special..."
 

Oh my bloody god. I've been nominated! Me! OMFG. Never in a million years did I think that, after blogging since only April, I'd be shortlisted with thirteen other amazing beauty blogs for a chance to write in Cosmo magazine itself. This is crazy.

Please, please, please be ever so kind and vote for me in these fantastic awards. It would mean the world to me. I don't expect to ever come close to winning, but I never thought I'd ever be nominated so stranger things have happened. Click here to vote for me while I go have a lay down and a G&T.

Rock n Roll

This week I has my first spray tan in nearly five years, (another post to follow on that!) so while getting in a relaxed mood ready to strip down to a pair of delightful paper knickers, I was able to peruse the new St Tropez range. I've always been a fan of their self-tans and gradual moisturisers but didn't have a clue they'd recently started to do wash-off bronzers and body make-up.


All of the products were delightful, giving a really natural colour with a little bit of shimmer, but my favourite find has to be the Bronzing Rocks. Imagine a pot of bronzing pearls, imagine the pearls being mini rocks straight off the beach, imagine these rocks being a beautiful bronze colour... that's what they're like. The rocks are a substantial size (about 1cm) so you get a good amount of product off them with your brush. The colour itself it a natural bronze without being too 'fake', so it inevitably suits every skin tone. You can even pick up the rocks individually if you want an intense result, applying straight onto your face, eyes or even lips.


My lovely beauty technician applied this to me after my spray tan to give definition and depth to my face. I almost wanted to nick the pot and run away with it! Although these are quite pricey, at £30 for a pot, they'll last ages and are really worth the investment for a great quality product. Rock n Roll!

Sea Air

You all must know by now that my new favourite brand is L'Occitane. Everything they make seems to give me goosepimples and want to rush home to have a shower/slap on some moisturiser/clean my face! Imagine my excitement when I found out about their new range of limited edition products, inspired by the Calanques on the southern coast of France. Here's what they have to say:

"Embark on an olfactory journey to the Calanques and make your summer last a little longer... Inspired by this true haven of peace, the new fragrant collection from L’OCCITANE is bursting with fresh, sunny and aquatic scents, for a unique feeling of well-being."

The range is unisex so you can even buy the man in your life a special pressie, while secretly using it yourself. I'm in desperate need of the soap-on-a-rope... not because I use soap, but because it will match my bathroom perfectly! The packaging is delish and has already been picked up as must-haves by magazines such as Stylist. Get down to L'Occitane and grab some now before they all go.

The beautiful French coast