30.1.16

TEN MINUTES WITH: LOUISE WESTRA, NUTRITIONIST & COLON HYDROTHERAPIST

Over the last couple of years I've been increasingly obsessed with what I put into my body as much as what I put on it. Although I love me some cake and have been known to scoff my way through a bar of Galaxy and suffer the consequences, I'm fascinated by the power of certain foods and how they can have a huge impact on our overall wellbeing. This initial mild interest became a full-on fascination after spending a few days with Louise Westra, the resident nutritionist and colon hydrotherapist at Gleneagles in Scotland. Her knowledge is vast and her passion is infectious, being able to diagnose and treat issues you never knew were there just after an in-depth conversation; she's prescribed me bespoke concoctions, and yes, even examined my bowel movements in an effort to cleanse me from within. Her experiences, career and daily life are utterly fascinating, so I asked her to let us into her world and give us ten minutes of her time... 


HOW DID YOU GET YOUR JOB?
I was living in Australia, but looking to come back to the UK, and saw the position advertised online.  To cut a long story short I flew to Hong Kong to meet Sue Harmsworth, founder and CEO of ESPA, for an interview. I was then subsequently interviewed via skype by the Gleneagles team and offered the position not too long afterwards (although it felt like a lifetime). 

CAN YOU DESCRIBE A TYPICAL DAY?
At this time of year I rely on an alarm to wake me, although my son is sometimes awake beforehand and making loud suggestions from his room that we get up! I go downstairs and feed our rabbit, put on some fresh coffee or I might have green tea. Food is a pretty big deal in our house so for breakfast we often make pancakes, or I may have made a breakfast crumble the night before so it just needs to be put in the oven to warm up. If I'm not quite so organised it could also be bacon and mushrooms with spinach, or even almond or peanut butter on toast. I usually have a day off during the week, so when I do I'll drop Noah off at school before trying to immerse myself in my Masters degree work. Otherwise my day is filled with consultations and/or supporting clients remotely via the phone and email, making up their herbal formulas, researching individual cases and updating notes. I also have clients into the spa for Colon Hydrotherapy treatments, or I may speak with prospective clients; often these come as referrals through existing clients who are happy with the care they have received and results we have achieved together (it’s definitely a collaboration). Alternatively I may be presenting to a corporate group, training with my team or writing my column.

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU FACE?
In Australia, where I trained originally and lived for nearly 14 years, there are now as many visits annually to Naturopaths as there are to GPs - so what I do is a normal part of people taking care of their health.  In the UK there is still a need for more understanding about the role that practitioners like myself can play in creating and optimizing health, and the breadth and depth of what we can achieve with our clients. Education and awareness plays a big part.

CAN YOU PINPOINT A PARTICUALR HIGHLIGHT TO DATE?
I’m fortunate to get so many wonderful moments working with clients as they progress in their own experience of health.  It is always really fab when you have great results with clients that were previously told they would just have to live with their troubling situation. Being invited to offer professional commentary on my first magazine feature was also a definite highlight for me.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
Watching people blossom once they start to experience a level of health and a feeling of vitality that they had either forgotten they could have, or had never actually known was possible.

WHAT'S THE BEST PIECE OF CAREER ADVICE YOU'VE BEEN GIVEN?
When I was completing my BHSc and was fretting about an exam or assignment grade a close friend said to me, "Lou, passes make degrees".  I laughed at the time but I have always remembered it.  Since then I have been able to sideline some of my perfectionist tendencies to realise that if you're someone who has a good work ethic and strives to do your best at any given moment, in time then that is usually enough.

IF YOU WERE TO GIVE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO SOMEONE INTERESTED IN YOUR FIELD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Irrespective of your qualifications, work on yourself first before dispensing advice to clients.  That way you will have a realistic idea of the challenges that people face when making changes that may go against accepted, mainstream dogma.

HOW DO YOU UNWIND AFTER A LONG DAY?
Listening to my son telling me about his day or hearing him read a story, ideally also with a sauna or a hot bath with ESPA Restorative Bath Oil. If I can get my husband to give me a foot massage too, then I am good for nothing except sleep!

CAN YOU LET US IN ON YOUR FIVE BEAUTY MUST-HAVES?
It differs a bit from season to season, particularly as as I read a lot of advice and listen to the spa team, but at the moment:
1. Image Vital C Hydrating Repair Crème - this got me through a recent skin issue with really dry, sensitized patches.
2. ESPA Skin Saviour; after the aforementioned incident, I realized I needed to protect my skin more than I had been doing - so I currently use this product twice a week as a face treatment overnight. This tip came directly from Sue Harmsworth!
3. Anastacia Brow Pomade (how could anyone not love this product?)
4. Lucas Pawpaw Ointment. They don’t let you become an Australian unless you can prove you keep this in your bag at all times!  Great as a lip balm and for various other uses.
5. Skinade: I know it’s a supplement but I couldn’t not include it. If I was going to a desert island and could only take one beauty product this is the one I’m packing!


Find out more about Louise and the services she offers at the Gleneagles Spa here

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29.1.16

THREE GREAT FOUNDATIONS FOR FLAWLESS, LIGHTWEIGHT & BREATHABLE COVERAGE

Finding the perfect foundation for your needs can be a challenge, but finding a foundation for your ever-evolving seasonal needs can be practically impossible. Sticking with one formula (and shade for that matter) for twelve months of the year is never the best idea (our skin needs are different throughout the seasons,) so I've always got a repertoire of bases I can rely on for my many requirements. It's easy to reach for a heavy base in the winter months, but actually a lighter alternative can allow skin to breathe and bring much-needed radiance to the complexion. The first few months of the year always see a sudden explosion of innovation, as brands cotton on to the fact that the spring months provide an excuse to try something new, and 2016 is no exception. We've already had the incredible BB Blur from La Roche Posay (read my review here,) but what other bases have I been turning to for flawless, lightweight and breathable coverage this January?


1. YSL Touche Eclat Foundation - Advanced Formula (£31.50) 
Although the original formula has been around for some time, this 'new and improved' version hits stores on February 1st. The lightweight texture is utterly beautiful, gliding over skin to leave behind a radiant glow while effectively covering imperfections; there's no mask effect, but the foundation dries to leave a delicately mattified finish that I adore. What I love about this is that it feels like I'm not wearing anything at all, allowing my skin to breathe while still providing a decent amount of coverage - the main improvement from the first incarnation, when coverage was a little *too* light for some. Available in over twenty shades, it's also great to see a brand embracing diversity and the huge spectrum of skintones we have in the UK. It may be pricey, but it's totally worth it - my new 'go to' for spring.

2. Smashbox Camera Ready BB Water (£29.00) 
The first of its kind, this BB Water is incredibly lightweight and runny - but easy to buff into skin. Although I find one application alone isn't great at covering imperfections or covering my dark circles, it is easy to layer and build the coverage until you're feeling confident. Because it’s alcohol-free, there is no drying, cracking or caking during wear, plus 'Photoset Polymers (taken from medical grade liquid bandage technology!) help it to perform all day long. The ultra-hydrating, oil-free formula creates a sheer, radiant finish that's a great alternative to traditional BB Creams, but still allows skin to breathe. I do find it has a tendency to move around and transfer throughout the day, so setting it with a light dusting of powder helps keep it in place. Although it's very much a 'daytime' base for me, I can imagine it being a great lightweight alternative for those of you that don't like to feel too foundation heavy.

3. Oxygenetics Oxygenating Foundation (£45.00) 
A breakthrough formula initially created by doctors for use after invasive facial treatments, this foundation has been painstakingly developed to deliver lightweight coverage that corrects and perfects simultaneously. Infused with a 'supercharged oxygen complex', this innovative concept optimises skin cell oxygenation to encourage cells’ repair and renewal processes; the result is a formula that promises to diminish scarring, combat dehydration, reduce redness, tackle fine lines and create the ultimate environment for healthy cells to thrive. Essentially a combination of potent skincare and makeup, this leaves skin feeling and looking healthier over time - while instantly helping to create a lightweight finish on the skin that's comparable to a BB Cream. It’s the perfect, weightless, flexible breathable base for all skin types. The price tag may make you wince, but you need only a pump or two to cover the whole face - plus there's no need to overload on skincare products underneath. It's been a firm favourite when I know my skin needs a treat.

Are you keen to try any of these lightweight formulas this spring? Do you have any other favourites in your repertoire that offer the same benefits?

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28.1.16

Making your own cheap & healthy superfood granola (HELLO FAB MORNINGS!)

Granola has long been perceived as a healthier alternative to sugary cereals and buttery toast, but did you know the majority of shop-bought granolas are saturated with sugar, fat and preservatives that our bodies really could do without? Making your own granola is super quick, super easy and super cheap - plus you can control exactly what you add to it, meaning you can make it even more beneficial. I love a bit of granola over my dairy free yogurt, or alone with a touch of almond milk and a chopped up banana. You can sprinkle a little over porridge for a crunchy top layer, or mix it up with some golden syrup and coconut oil for a flapjack-esque treat. I discovered this recipe by mistake, having attempted to make oaty cakes that didn't quite stick together; the result was a delicious and nutritious alternative to the granolas I'd been buying from Whole Foods, with the added goodness of the superfoods I've become so utterly obsessed by. If you want to give it a go at home, here is my incredibly easy recipe that will give your mornings a little boost...


All you need to create this concoction is a bag of oats (make sure they're completely free from any ingredient other than oats!) that you can pick up for a couple of pounds in your local supermarket, lots of nuts, seeds, superfoods and a sprinkling of dried fruit. Essentially you just wack it all in a bowl together, adding a couple of tablespoons of melted coconut oil and honey (pop it in the microwave for sixty seconds) to sweeten and help everything stick together a little bit. Here's what I used, but feel free to substitute and add in anything you've got lingering in the back of your cupboards... 

1 cup of raw whole rolled oats (aka old fashion oats)
½ cup of nuts, chopped if possible (I used whole almonds for this as I didn't have chopped nuts)
½ cup of seeds (I used pumpkin and chia which are hugely nutricious)
½ cup unsweetened dried fruit (dates, goji berries, raisins and apricots are perfect)
2 tablespoons of desiccated coconut (for a little texture and sweetness) 
1 tablespoon of bee pollen (a great anti-oxident and proven to fight off infection)
1 tablespoon of red berry superfood powder (or any other superfood powder)
2 tablespoons of melted manuka honey
2 tablespoons of melted virgin coconut oil

Once you've mixed it all together in a bowl, transfer into a shallow cooking pot or tray and bake for 20 mins at 170 degrees, or until the mixture turns a golden brown; I personally find that the cooking time changes every time I make this, so it's probably best to set a timer for every ten minutes and keep checking. This time around I added dates and a deep red berry powder, which turns the mixture a little darker, but usually it comes out a delicious golden brown colour. I'm a firm believer that cooking should be fun, quick and easy - and that recipes are there to be adapted, rather than followed to the absolute letter. I've never been a very good cook, but I've adopted the 'chuck it in a bowl' and see what happens approach to much success. As long as you add in lots of good-for-you nuts, seeds, superfoods and fruit, you can't really go wrong! Store the granola in an air tight glass jar and it will last for months too... Healthy, tasty and cheap as chips. 


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27.1.16

THE LASTEST INCARNATION FROM THE 'BE DELICIOUS' FRANCHISE: DKNY BE ELECTRIC

One of the most successful fragrance lines to ever launch has been DKNY Be Delicious and its never-ending flankers. (The technical name for those limited edition range extensions that boost the overall fragrance's positioning and relevance.) Every year DKNY launch a new incarnation of the concept based on our universal love for New York City, and this Spring they've turned up the heat and developed a trio of scents inspired by the neon lights and parties of the city that never sleeps. Definitely a world away from the delicate and sweet 'ice cream' inspired fragrances of last year, these three perfumes are bright, bold and fearless. I have a long-standing relationship with the Be Delicious franchise, so I'm always excited to see what they have up their sleeve - and although the packs won't be for everybody, the juice itself definitely don't disappoint. 


Citrus Pulse, Bright Crush and Loving Glow together provide a trio of scents that are wearable, subtly unique and universally appealing; Be Delicious somehow manages to transcend generations, tastes and styles like no other fragrance line. The orange Citrus Pulse features nectarine, tangerine, passion fruit, jasmine, frangipani, magnolia, musk, woods and benzoin, providing an energising take on the original. This is definitely a spring scent and one for fans of fruity fragrances, but most similar to the original green apple is Bright Crush (green.) Formulated with notes of melon, bergamot, currant, plum, frangipani, peony, golden amber, vanilla and creamy woods, this is a punchier version of the classic. Finally, Loving Glow (pink) contains notes of grape, currant, pineapple, apricot, vanilla, amber and musk; the result is a warm, sweet scent that remains elegant thanks to sophisticated notes of violet and jasmine. Although I'm not a huge fan of the super bright bottles (they remind me too much of glow sticks and my university days!) there's no doubt that the scents themselves are gorgeous. Who knows, the boldness of the caps may introduce a whole new generation to the deliciousness of DKNY, while keeping us long-term addicts hooked too.

What do you think of these new Be Delicious scents? Will you be snapping them up when they launch?


The 'DKNY Be Electric' fragrances are available from March, priced £37.00 each (for 50ml bottles.)

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26.1.16

MATTE LIPSTICKS ARE DEFINITELY HAVING A MOMENT (AND SLEEK'S NEW VIP LIP IS A BARGAIN)

Right now I can't go a day without a new lipstick launch landing on my desk. A few years ago we wouldn't have thought twice about opting for a gloss or balm on a daily basis, but now it seems we're more and more likely to throw a lipstick into the mix too - particularly a matte version. There's something a matte lipstick that screams elegance and sophistication, while providing a modern twist; the texture ensures a bold look that perfectly complements a radiant complexion, but it can be tricky to wear. Avon have already launched their lightweight and comfortable Perfectly Matte lipstick collection that's drawn comparisons with MAC (and come out on top,) but affordable beauty brand Sleek are also taking a piece of the pie with their new six piece VIP Lip collection. The semi-matte finish is the perfect compromise between super matte and the traditional glossy formulas we're used to, providing a wearable result and comfortable formula that's enriched with Vitamin E, shea butter and coconut oil to moisturise and nourish lips.


Although there are only a few shades in the collection, the price point means this is a great intro into the matte trend and the perfect way to change up your look for a new season. The focus is very much on coral and pink tones that suit our spring wardrobes, but I have it on good authority that they'll be adding to the colour spectrum over the year. The lipstick glides over lips to deposit a serious hit of colour without dragging, leaving a finish that's matte enough to look modern but without looking super dry; there's nothing worse than a matte lipstick clinging to every speck of dryness, so the combination of ingredients ensures that doesn't happen. I personally found the nude shade to be a little too nude and not great on my slightly dry lips, but the other tones are easy to wear and as comfortable as a lipstick gets. I'd love to see some berry tones within the collection, but this is a great starting point - especially as they're priced at a bargainous £5.50 each! At a third less than the MAC formula that's been incredibly popular over the last few years, you can't really say no.

What do you think of the matte lipstick trend? Would you give these new bullets from Sleek a go?


The new Sleek 'Lip VIP' Lipsticks are priced £5.50 and are available in six shades; currently stocked online and in Boots stores nationwide.

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25.1.16

#LETSTALKABOUTIT: SMEAR TESTS & CERVICAL CANCER PREVENTION WEEK

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under the age of 35; according to The Eve Appeal, fifty five women in the UK are diagnosed with gynaecological cancer every day, and twenty one will die from it - but it's actually one of the few cancers that can be prevented. Scientific evidence has shown that if women are screened every three years, more than 90% of pre-cancer cases are picked up and can be treated with very little inconvenience. Our regular smear test can hugely increase our chance of leading a happy, healthy, problem-free life, so why are attendance levels on the decline in the UK? Why are so many women scared of a simple and quick procedure that (put simply) could possibly save their life? Shockingly, a third of women between the ages of 25 and 29 do not take up their smear test invitation, while one in five don’t actually attend their appointment after it's been booked. Statistics have shown that (apart from an increase in 2009 after the death of Jade Goody,) the uptake of cervical screening has either fallen or remained unchanged for the past decade; that's simply not good enough.


Although smear tests aren't enjoyable, they're so quick and painless that we should all be making the time to get tested and look after our health. However, it seems that we all make excuses to delay our appointments - from not having the time, blaming work commitments, not being able to get a convenient appointment or simply prioritising everything else over a smear. Furthermore, the lack of clarity about exactly what happens can cause a huge amount of anxiety if you've never experienced one before; after all, none of us take particular pleasure from letting a complete stranger near our nether-regions, so our minds run wild at the thought of how horrendous a smear could actually be. Let me set the record straight: smear tests take less than ten minutes, for the majority of people they're absolutely pain free, the nurse really has seen it all before, and no, she won't be judging you on your knickers.

If you're concerned about the results coming back 'abnormal', then it may ease your anxieties a little to know that about 94% of tests come back completely clear or any abnormalities. I was shocked to learn that 20% of women say they associate gynaecological cancers with sexual promiscuity, even though there is no link between the two at all; abnormalities that are identified as part of a smear don’t mean you’re ‘putting about a bit’, nor does it mean you’ve contracted an STI. Abnormalities just mean there's been some kind of change in your cervix that needs a little investigation. It’s about time we stopped with the stigma, the lack of clarity and incorrect ‘Chinese Whispers’ basis of our information, and started acting like adults. A total of 4.31 million women were invited for screening in England in 2014-15, with only 3.12 million women actually turning up for an appointment - not only is that a fall of 3.3% from the previous year, but that's over ONE MILLION WOMEN that are just not getting tested at all.

This week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, a campaign set up to raise awareness of the importance of cervical screening and to kick-start conversations about an essentially preventable disease. What better way to start my #LetsTalkAboutIt series that with something that effects us all as women? If you're concerned about booking a smear for the first time, then I've outlined some faff-free information to help clarify exactly what happens and why you really shouldn't be worried...

What tools do they use during the procedure? 
A smear test involves two things: a plastic pair of forceps and a little plastic brush. Each time a smear test is conducted the nurse will use a brand new set, fresh out of the sterile packaging. The forceps are used to open the cervix so the little brush can retrieve a sample for testing; because no cervix is ever the same, there are a variety of sizes to make the procedure as quick and easy as possible. Your nurse will start with the 'average' size (which tends to be best for the majority of people,) moving up or down if required.

What actually happens during a smear test?
The whole process takes about three minutes from beginning to end. You remove your knickers and jump up on the examination bed, either lifting your knees or sitting in a frog position to give the nurse the best view and access point. The nurse will use a small about of lubricant on the forceps and insert them into your vagina, opening them slowly to allow her to find your cervix; once she's found the right point, the little brush is used to swish around inside and take a sample of cells for testing. As soon as the brush is covered (usually about five quick swirls) the forceps are removed and you can pop back on your underwear.

Does a smear test hurt? 
No, not at all. You may experience a little discomfort from the pressure of the forceps widening inside, or even a little tickle from the brush, but there is no pain whatsoever. I can assure you (if you've never experienced one before,) that after your smear you'll wonder what all the fuss was about. The key thing is to relax as much as possible and the procedure will take seconds.

How often should I go for a smear test? 
Your first smear test should happen when you reach 25; the reason it's not before is because historically smears were picking up on abnormalities that were just a result of the body changing and continuing to develop. After your first one you should pop back in every three years for a check-up; your doctor should send you a reminder letter, but if not make sure you know when you're due another test and book an appointment regardless.

Are there any side-effects?
You may experience slight period cramps or spotting for 24hrs afterwards, which is perfectly normal. This is simply because you've been prodded at a bit inside and your lady parts can be quite sensitive. Other than that you wouldn't even know you'd had anything done; you won't be hobbling around or be in any kind of discomfort.

How long will it take to get the result? 
Within two weeks you should receive a letter through the post confirming the results. If your test comes back as normal then you don't have to do anything at all. If your test shows abnormalities, then you'll be asked to pop back for a colposcopy at the hospital; this is simply a closer look inside your cervix with a microscope and isn't anything to worry about.

What happens if the results come back with 'abnormalities'?
There are two types of abnormalities - cells that are pre-cancerous and have the potential to develop into something more serious, as well as cells that will simply return to normal without any treatment whatsoever. An abnormal result doesn't mean cancer; an abnormal result doesn't even necessarily mean you've got pre-cancerous cells; an abnormal results simply means there's something worth having anther look at.

What tips would you give me for my first time? 
1. Wear a skirt or a dress so you feel less 'exposed' and nervous. If you have to wack off your trousers and literally lie on a table half-naked, then you're going to feel uncomfortable; if you wear a dress or a skirt you won't be able to see anything and the whole process will feel a lot more discrete.
2. Relax, don't panic and if you want to ask questions then ask: the nurses are used to seeing young women for their first appointment so they're happy to chat or take the time to explain and make you feel comfortable. The more tense you are the longer it will take to get the plastic forceps in, which is where it can become a little uncomfortable.
3. If you're nervous about getting your lady bits out in front of a stranger, take the time to have a little trim and pamper before your appointment. The nurses see thousands of vaginas every single year so they don't even pay attention, but it will make you feel more comfortable and confident.

This weekend, rather than talking about your latest Netflix obsession, ask your girlfriends when their last smear test was. If you can't remember the last time you had yours, it's probably time to book an appointment. If you've been putting it off, make a commitment today to ring up your doctor and put that bad boy into your diary in capital letters. If you've got a vagina, look after it. It's the only one you've got.

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IT'S LANDED IN THE UK: BUT IS THE NEW KARDASHIAN HAIR RANGE WORTHY OF THE HYPE?

Love them or loathe them, there's no denying that the Kardashian clan are the ultimate hair icons of our modern age. Adorned with thick, glossy and perfectly coiffed manes, over the last five years they've taken the world by storm one good hair day at a time - so it was no surprise when they announced the launch of their very own haircare range to the US back in 2014. Focused entirely on hair and featuring products to smooth, protect, mould and hold, the range is enriched with the deliciously scented black-seed oil to bring life to dull, damaged locks. The slick, elegant and simplistic packaging would definitely not look out of place on a Kardashian dressing table, so it's great to see them create a brand to be proud of and (according to sources) genuinely use. With prices ranging from £9.50-£11.50, the seven-piece collection is incredibly affordable and has apparently built up a 'cult following' overseas... But are the products worthy of the hype we're seeing online? I've been putting them to the test, and I can honestly say these are some cracking hair saviours.


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22.1.16

CELEBRATING WOMEN IN BEAUTY: TEN MINUTES WITH NICOLA NOLAN, PR & BRAND SPECIALIST

There's long been an assumption that the beauty industry is full of superficial bimbos that chose their field of expertise because they weren't good enough for anything else. The reality couldn't be further from that misconception. With so many different facets to an industry that's bursting with intelligence, wisdom and skill, the shiny and glossy exterior often hides what's truly going on beneath. What I love about working within beauty is that there are so many incredible women doing incredible things; from PR experts who spend their days building relationships and educating brands on how the digital space is changing, makeup artists who are responsible for bringing catwalk trends to the masses in a wearable way, to the women in lab coats who are developing formulations and concocting innovations that will revolutionise our routines. I'm well aware of the hardworking, determined and passionate individuals that are responsible for bringing that latest face cream or nail polish to market, but are you? To illustrate the many different sides of this multi-billion poound industry, over the course of 2016 I'm going to be bringing you a series of 'ten minute with' interviews with some of the most fascinating women I've come across in my six years of blogging. From facialists, nutritionists and digital innovators, to colonic hydrotherapists, photographers, designers and CEOs of global businesses, I can't wait to bring you their stories. My aim is to inspire, motivate, bring you a little 'behind the scenes' action and help break down the misconception that working within the beauty industry is something to be embarrassed about. We may not be saving lives, but if we collectively can make even one woman feel better about themselves then surely that's something to be celebrated?


To kick off the series, beauty PR and brand specialist Nicola Nolan has kindly let us into her world. Nicola was previously Marketing & PR Director for Neal's Yard Remedies, but now runs her own business (Black Book Communications) that specialises in working with niche brands with great stories and ingredients.

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF...
I was lucky to grow up in the Cayman Islands, which is where I think my love of sun, sea and all things sea shell related comes from. At school, I studied languages (French, Spanish, Latin and even sign language!) and went on to study International Management with French and Spanish at University. After Uni I moved to the big bright lights of New York City and worked in fashion sales and marketing; while I was there I met the Managing Director of luxury lifestyle PR agency Halpern, who offered me an internship. As soon as I got back to the UK, I packed up my bags and moved to London to give it a go. After two whirlwind weeks working on some of the most amazing events (including the Elle Style Awards and Sex & The City movie premiere,) I'd been totally charmed and convinced PR was for me! Luckily they offered me a job and the rest, as they say, is history. From Halpern I went on to an in-house role with Neal’s Yard Remedies, where I started as PR Manager; in my five years with the brand I progressed up the ranks, eventually becoming Marketing and PR Director - traveling all over the world to launch the brand in new markets and meet new international partners. Three years ago I bought my little flat in South West London, and two years ago I got the best flatmate ever: a rescue cocker spaniel puppy called Brodie!

HOW DID YOU GET YOUR CURRENT JOB?
Eventually I decided the time had come to take the huge leap from Neal’s Yard Remedies and set out on my own - so I launched Black Book Communications, a strategic PR and brand building consultancy. I wanted Black Book to be run differently to all the consultancies I’d worked with before, cutting all the white noise and nonsense out, to deliver results-driven campaigns for my clients that really work. It’s been a steep learning curve over the last few years, but I love what I do; every day is different and I wouldn’t change it for the world!

CAN YOU DESCRIBE A 'TYPICAL DAY'?
I start every day with a long walk with Brodie. After that, I head home and log onto my emails, ready for the day ahead. No day is really ever the same in my work which is what I love! My phone is by my side all day, every day, and I’m always on it answering calls and emails from press and bloggers, calling clients with updates and of course, checking social media to make sure I’m up to speed with all the latest news and reviews. I try and organise my weeks so I do two days in town for meetings and three days working at home, but that doesn’t always happen!

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU FACE?
Staying on top of everything when things are busy, and learning to switch off at the end of a long day!

CAN YOU PINPOINT ONE PARTICULAR HIGHLIGHT TO DATE?
There’s been a few things I’ve loved in my career so far, particularly all the traveling. I can’t pick one but there are two stand outs for me... The first would be the very first feature I worked on all those years ago, a three page Bare Minerals editorial in Sunday Times Style. I have it framed and on my office wall. The second would be visiting Downing Street to hand in over 100,000 signatures we collected as part of the Neal’s Yard Remedies Bee Lovely Campaign that I headed up. But also, opening up my favourite magazines, or logging on to read my favourite blogs, and seeing my clients getting great coverage is just such a brilliant feeling. It’s why I love what I do so much.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
The flexibility, the chance to get great brands into the spotlight and the travel.

WHAT'S THE BEST PIECE OF CAREER ADVICE YOU'VE EVER BEEN GIVEN?
To love what you do! Liking the brands and people you work with really makes everything so much more fun and enjoyable; working in beauty never feels like work to me. Finding what you love and making a career out of it is definitely the best advice I've ever been given.

IF YOU WERE TO GIVE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO SOMEONE INTERESTED IN YOUR FIELD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Network. It really is all about who you know and not what you know, so I’d say get out there and meet as many people as you can! Every day is an opportunity.

HOW DO YOU UNWIND AFTER A LONG DAY?
I call home and catch up with my parents, go for another walk with Brodie and head out for some food with friends.

CAN YOU LET US IN ON YOUR FIVE BEAUTY MUST-HAVES?
1. Water - and lots of it! Great skin starts from within.
2. Herbfarmacy Mallow Beauty Balm; I also use it as a cleanser.
3. KITA Metal Moisturising Serum Complex, which keeps my skin balanced throughout the day.
4. Pai Rosehip Oil - an amazingly rich oil that my skin really benefits from in winter.
5. Neal’s Yard Remedies White Tea Facial Mask; it the perfect weekend skin treat.


Find out more about Nicola, the brands she works with and Black Book Communications on her website here: www.blackbookcommunications.co.uk

Features PR samples unless otherwise stated. To read my full disclaimer, click here.  
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21.1.16

CULT AMERICAN FRAGRANCE BRAND 'BODY FANTASIES' LANDS IN THE UK

Although we're definitely spoiled for choice when it comes to beauty products, British consumers do have a tendency to feel a little hard done by when we can't get one of our favourite American treats in the UK. Slowly some of the most popular brands are being made available to us Brits (mostly thanks to international shipping,) but I'm sure there would be a stampede if even a handful were to be made available on every high street. Although I hadn't heard of cult American brand Body Fantasies before, a quick google and search online illustrates that it's got a place in the hearts of teens across the world - but it's also a firm favourite of many older women who just want a simple and affordable fragrance to pop in their bag. Their sweet, flirty and bold fragrances definitely won't be for everybody, but I can see why these jewel tones bottles have been so incredibly popular across the pond. Well, hallelujah, because Body Fantasies is coming to the UK!


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FIVE PRODUCTS THE EXPERTS AT BEAUTYMART THINK WILL BE HUGE IN 2016

The beauty industry is always at the forefront of change. Collectively we choose not to sit back and be satisfied with our old faithful products, preferring to seek out newness and subtle improvements that can really make the difference - and the clever people in lab coats deliver. It's not uncommon for us to look to other markets and beauty regimes for inspiration, putting our own twist on an idea that really resonates with women across the globe; can you imagine life without blending sponges, micellar water and BB creams? Korea and France have had a big impact on our regimes in the last five years, but where do we look for inspiration over the next twelve months? Known to be a powerhouse in beauty and experts in future trends, the co-founders of shopping destination BeautyMart are definitely the first people to ask when it comes to identifying what's hot and what's not. I've asked them to pinpoint the five products they think are going to be huge in 2016, and they've come up with some interesting ideas...


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19.1.16

MURAD'S BESPOKE APPROACH TO EXFOLIATION: THREE TYPES OF SCRUB FOR DIFFERENT NEEDS

For many years my experience with facial exfoliators involved a tube of brown gloopy stuff (packed full of apricot kernels) that practically ripped away the first layer of my skin. It's a common misconception that effective exfoliation involves a lot of elbow grease and a scrubbing action that's akin to cleaning a roasting tray; it doesn't have to be this way. Consistent exfoliation can not only ensure our skin is healthy looking and refreshed, but it also helps to prevent clogged pores, acne, ingrown hairs, scarring, blemishes and all kinds of infections. Exfoliation can also increase the effectiveness of the other steps in your skincare routine, unblocking pores and ensuring moisturisers can penetrate and get to work. This simple process makes such a difference to so many areas of your beauty routine that it really should be a no-brainer - especially as we age. Although we're programmed to naturally shed away old skin, sometimes we need a little helping hand. As we get older the 'cement' holding our cells together becomes thicker, resulting in a build-up of skin cells that makes the sloughing process more difficult to accomplish; this results in a dry, uneven, dull and less-toned appearance. By eliminating the build up of dead skin cells on the surface, the regeneration of new skin cells is stimulated which results in an improved appearance, tone, and feel of the skin.


But many of the exfoliators currently available are either too harsh, not effective enough, or full of ingredients we'd rather see the back of; it's difficult to find an exfoliator that meets your changing needs and can be integrated into your routine without doing you some serious damage. We all need a little buffing a couple of times a week, but depending upon our age, skin condition and seasonal concerns this buffing needs to be conducted to different degrees. Murad are fast becoming one of my favourite skincare brands, thanks to their unique approach and real understanding of the concerns that arise when we age. Unlike the usual 'one size fits all approach' that most other brands choose, Murad's portfolio of facial exfoliators are as targeted as their serums or moisturisers. With three to choose from, you can either pick the one that most meets your needs - or mix and match all three depending upon the time of year and your personal needs. 

1. DAILY EXFOLIATION: Age Reform AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser (£34.00)
This gentle but efficient exfoliator works to dissolve dead skin cells while renewing the skins texture. Containing salicylic, lactic and glycolic acids to encourage clarity and brightness by dissolving skin cell build-up, jojoba beads to further polish and re-texturise the skin, sodium PCA and jojoba seed oil to help counteract dryness, and liquorice extract to provide anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory properties to your skin, this is more than just your usual cleanser. I've been using this in the shower almost daily, as the gentle effects are suitable for use multiple times a week; it works better when used little and often, plus it's a great way to leave skin feeling super smooth without irritating. If you suffer from dry, sensitive or acne prone skin, this is a much more effective and suitable approach to a little exfoliation than what you may be used to.

2. WEEKLY TREATMENT: Murad Skin Smoothing Polish (£27.00)
A rich, creamy scrub designed to unblock pores and reveal a luminous, healthy-looking complexion, this skin smoothing polish is formulated with micro-polishing beads to buff the skin's surface. It helps to remove the build up of impurities, dead skin cells and excess oil, whilst punicic acid tightens pores for a refined appearance. Uniquely infused with Witch Hazel and cinnamon extract, the scrub balances oily, acne-prone skin without stripping moisture - something that a lot of exfoliators are guilty of doing. The more 'traditional' formula of the three, Murad have still created something that's comfortable and non-drying; this instantaneously leaves me with a smooth, soft and radiant complexion that my skincare and makeup loves. (My skin is so touchably soft that I have to force myself to keep my hands to myself.) It's great as a weekly treat or to use before a big night out - but just don't overdo it by thinking you need to use it every day.

3. A TARGETED BOOST: Murad Transforming Powder (£25.00)
A dual-action cleanser and exfoliator developed using 'the best of science and nature', this unique powder transforms into a foamy lather when it comes in contact with water. It's formulated with bio-enzymes to gently buff the skin's surface (removing oil, impurities and dead skin cells) for a brighter complexion, as well as being infused with salicylic acid and pumpkin seed extract to unclog pores. You can either use it alone as a gentle cleanser, massage into dull areas of your complexion to reveal your inner glow, or add the beads to other products for a targeted boost; I love the multi-functionality of these little grains, plus the fact they're not at all intimidating for those perhaps a little anxious about exfoliation. Suitable for acne-prone skin thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties too, this luxurious cleanser penetrates deep beneath the skin to leave a healthy-looking, blemish-free complexion.

Which of the three exfoliators would you opt for? Are you a little tired of overly harsh exfoliators that aren't exactly targeted to our needs as we get older? 


The Murad exfoliating products are available online and in House of Fraser beauty departments nationwide. Prices start from £25.00. 

Features PR samples unless otherwise stated. To read my full disclaimer, click here.  
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WHY ARE THERE NOT MORE AFFORDABLE, GOOD-FOR-YOU & GROWN-UP FACE WASHES?

Hands up how many of you are still using the same face wash you were ten years ago? Hands up if you're still reaching for the Clean & Clear, Clearasil or Witch products you relied on so heavily as a teenager? Although these won't do any damage to your skin as a fully fledged 'grown up', many of them have been developed with harsh and potentially irritating ingredients that specifically target the issues we have in adolescence. As we age our needs evolve; we should be more interested in removing build-up, gently cleansing, hydrating and caring for our complexions. I'm as guilty as the next person for reaching for a brightly coloured and sickly sweet bottle of foaming nonsense that's going to as much good for my skin as a three day old muslin cloth, however, I am making a concerted effort to opt for genuinely beneficial (or at least non-irritating or stripping) products that I don't have to worry about in the morning. Although I have a huge portfolio of cleansing balms and oils that I turn to of an evening, it's my morning shower routine that needs a little more attention. Over the last few months I've been having a bit of a love affair with Amie, a gentle but effective skincare brand that's bursting with goodness while being free from harsh chemicals. It's one of those brands that slips into my routine with very little noise, but it made me wonder what on earth I was using before it. When I started to think about face washes in general it became apparent that there's a real lack of affordable, grown-up and 'good for you' face washes in the UK - but why, when they're such a fundamental part of any routine?


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OVERCOMING TABOOS & STARTING CONVERSATIONS: #LETSTALKABOUTIT

Ladies, it's 2016. We live in a land that promotes freedom of thought and expression, encourages individuality and is totally intolerant to discrimination. Feminism has never been more topical and women's rights for equality have never been more on the agenda. Collectively we campaign for gay marriage, an end to FGM (female genital mutilation) and the right for smear tests from an appropriate age - but it seems we still shy away from some of the most relevant and basic issues that effect us as women. It seems that many bodily functions and processes still have a stigma attached, preventing us from actually discussing what could potentially be an important issue with even our closest of friends; from periods, pooping and waxing your foof, to depression, boobs and dealing with an STI, it's about time we opened up a conversation and stopped being embarrassed about things that impact us all. That's why I'm starting a new project simply called #LetsTalkAboutIt. I'm a firm believer in using my platform and influence to overcome barriers and provide a support network for those who need it, and this is the next step on that journey. 


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18.1.16

BEING PRETTY JUST ISN'T ENOUGH: CLINIQUE 'SWEET POTS' SUGAR SCRUB & LIP BALM

Looking back even five years, Clinique was one of those brands that had a bit of a fuddy-duddy reputation. Known for their (rather harsh and now a bit outdated) 'three step' routine, they dabbled in cosmetics but were more well known for their innovations in skincare than their lipsticks - but oh how times have changed. Fast forward to 2016 and they're known as a brand that pushes boundaries, injects a little fun alongside their serious scientific research and creates innovative products that spawn endless copycats. Can you imagine a world without Chubby Sticks? Or floral embossed blushers for that matter? These new little colourful macaron-inspired sweet treats have been on my radar for some time, thanks to the hype Clinique are very skilled at creating ahead of a launch, but after a long wait I've finally been able to put them to the test. Continuing to tap into the trend for sugar and spice and all things nice, these 'Sweet Pots' contain a sugary lip scrub on one side and a slightly tinted glossy balm on the other; together they aim to provide you with super smooth, hydrated and shiny lips that are begging to be kissed. But is innovative packaging enough to justify their £15.00 price tag?


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17.1.16

Make The Most Of Your Mornings: Get Energized & Ready To Face The Day

I've never been a morning person, preferring to start later in the day and work on until the early hours. Although that's all well and good while you're a student, as soon as you get into the 'real world' it's simply no longer an option. Working from home (or for yourself in general) does provide more flexibility, but I personally find that if I'm not at my desk by 10am I tend to faff away the day rather than productively ticking things off my to-do list. If, like me, you struggle removing yourself from the bedsheets and have a tendency to yawn your way through the first half of your day whilst consuming as much coffee as possible, then you may benefit from a few of the tips I've learned over the past few weeks. Admittedly I don't do this every single day, but when I really need to crack on and get things done it's the fool proof way to get my backside in gear and feel wide awake all day long. Here are the five stages that ensure you're energized, wide awake and ready to face the day...


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15.1.16

Can Avon Really Be Better Than MAC? I Put Their NEW Perfectly Matte Lipstick To The Test

You may think Avon is more suited to your Nan's beauty collection than your own, but over the last couple of years they've been making a real effort to overcome that misconception. We've all got fond memories of circling the pieces we'd like from the fortnightly brochure, but did you know as one of the world's biggest beauty powerhouses they're actually responsible for more innovation than pretty much every other name on the market? In the US Avon is synonymous with celebrity endorsement and affordable luxury, but in the UK we still seem to turn our noses up rather than embracing their truly effective formulas. There's a simple way to overcome that: create something that you claim to be better than MAC, and shout about it from the rooftops. Matte lipstick is definitely on-trend right now, thanks to the modern twist it adds to the traditional red or berry lip; although it can be tricky to wear if your lips have seen better days, if you pick a formula that works for your needs then the result is a powerful look you won't regret applying. If you're a fan of MAC's 'The Matte' lipstick but not necessarily the £15.50 price tag,  then you may be pleased to know that Avon's Perfectly Matte Lipstick is just as good for a fraction of the price. Isn't it about time Avon had their time in the spotlight?


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14.1.16

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR BEAUTY BOXES (AND WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM THEM?)

Nearly five years ago a concept launched into the UK that would change the face of beauty forever. The Glossybox subscription service was heralded as the most innovative idea in years, delivering thousands of monthly teasers and samples to women across the country - all with the aim of encouraging discovery and injecting passion back into beauty. Women signed up in their droves and the copycats soon followed, inevitably leaving disappointment to set in as the boxes soon began to lose their sparkle; all of a sudden the phrase 'beauty box' had negative connotations. Over the last twelve months the industry has definitely tried to push boundaries while bringing it all back to basics: their focus has been on creating amazing collaborations, innovative content and providing a platform for women to discover fabulous products and brands that they may never know about otherwise. With the likes of Glossybox, Birchbox, My Little Box and Latest In Beauty (amongst others) to choose from, we've never been more spoiled for variety - but how can these services continue to offer value, excitement and anticipation on a monthly basis? Well I asked, and you told me.


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JO MALONE'S NEW SCENT IS LIKE PARMA VIOLETS FOR GROWN UPS: ORRIS & SANDALWOOD COLOGNE

Whenever a new Jo Malone scent lands on my desk, I know I'm either going to love it or hate it. There's not much middle ground when it comes to their innovations, the Jo Malone perfumers producing unique and boundary-pushing fragrances that really do linger on the nose hairs and evoke some serious emotion. I've adored their Wood Sage & Sea Salt, been a bit 'meh' about their Mimosa & Cardamom, spritzed Tudor Rose until the very last drop, and almost made myself sick with the sweetness of their Bitter Orange & Chocolate; their juices definitely don't blend into the background. This time it's the turn of Orris & Sandalwood, a surprisingly sweet take on a floral scent that reminds me of my childhood thanks to the inclusion of violet. Described as "woody and floral, powdery and deep, the scent of the Tuscan hillsides with irises in bloom," the intensity of the fragrance is somewhat mesmerising and addictive.


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13.1.16

THE OBSESSION WITH SHEET MASKS CONTINUES: WHY ARE THESE THE HOTTEST THING IN BEAUTY?

They're the craze that's not only swept the beauty world, but the instagram accounts of the rich and famous - thanks to their slightly scary 'Phantom of the Opera' look. Landing on our shores from Korea in a big way in 2015, this year will undoubtedly be the year that sheet masks become a beauty staple amongst women wanting to boost their skin's hydration while investing in a little 'me' time. To the uninitiated, a sheet mask is made from cloth or paper saturated in skin-loving ingredients; with handy cut-outs for your nose, eyes and mouth so you don’t feel as though your suffocating, these masks are left on your face for fifteen minutes so your skin can absorb all the goodness they offer. The beauty regime of Korean women is something that baffles us all (who has time for ten different steps of a morning and evening?) but we can't deny the results it generates; sheet masks are a key part of that routine that taps into our need for immediate results, without the faffing. Although we were all initially skeptical, it seems our minds are increasingly open to innovation and efficiency in the beauty world - and sheet masks tick all those boxes. They may be definitely here to stay, but why are we so obsessed with these individually wrapped treats?


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12.1.16

ROSE GOLD MAKEUP STORAGE: INNOVATIVE & QUIRKY WAYS TO HOLD YOUR ESSENTIALS

I look at Instagram shots of people's makeup storage or perfectly organised dressing tables and weep a little inside. Although I want my home to be as immaculately organised as a Pinterest inspiration board, the reality is that I have a lot of stuff and that stuff inevitably spills out of every nook and cranny. My beautifully hand crafted dressing table may offer plenty of space for a normal person, but as a beauty blogger that continually has sacks of product arriving on my doorstep I need to be a bit more creative. I've used muji boxes, canvas baskets and stackable transparent containers to organise my wares, but they can be bulky and not exactly visually appealing. I'm constantly re-organising, downsizing, getting rid of bits and looking for economical storage solutions - but sometimes they pop up in the most unexpected of places. Over the last six months I've collected an array of 'rose gold' (yes, I know they're brass, but rose gold sounds way cooler...) containers that have allowed me to store bits and pieces effectively, but also in a really quirky and space efficient way; believe it or not these are all intended to be candle holders!


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11.1.16

TIME BOMB 'OVER EXPOSED RESCUE' BRINGS SUN DAMAGE TO THE FOREFRONT OF 'ANTI-AGEING'

It's important to be mindful of protecting our skin from the sun (regardless of the season) not only because of the associated skin cancer risks, but because UV exposure is the number one reason for accelerated ageing; nobody wants to speed up the onset of those fine lines and wrinkles, so integrating an effective and lightweight SPF into your daily routine is the simplest tactic towards prevention. However, there are a huge number of men and women for whom that damage has already been done. Although it's never too late to integrate an SPF into your routine (like this one from Hawaiian Tropic,) it's interesting to see more and more products pop up that are concerned with 'reversing' the damaged caused by over exposure to the sun. This latest launch from Lulu's (yes THAT Lulu!) skincare brand Time Bomb is simply called 'Over Exposed Sun Damage Rescue.' It claims to visibly improve signs of long-term photo damage, while restoring skin’s natural radiance and resilience; it doesn't take a scientist to understand the number one thing parched skin needs is moisture, but this adds a little more to the mix than just your standard pot of Nivea.


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DON'T SETTLE FOR BEING SELF-CONSCIOUS: GETTING SEMI-PERM BROWS WITH KAREN BETTS

We all have our little insecurities and those body parts we worry about; even supermodels fret about cellulite, a wonky nose or those inevitable spots that pop up around that time of the month. Although a survey amongst women would inevitably show up concerns around bums, tums and boobs, for me the big issue has always been my brows. Before I discovered the power of a full and perfectly-arched brow, I spent years trying to make the rest of my face work with only a smidgen of hairy goodness; there was always something not quite right. After I was well and truly educated on the benefit of a decent eyebrow pencil and the artistry associated with plucking, I've never looked back - a full and even brow can totally change the construct of a face. Over the last few years I've been filling in my brows with a selection of pencils, gels and waxes on a daily basis to ensure a more youthful and 'complete' look, but as soon as I'm makeup free I definitely start to feel self-conscious; if there was one product I'd take with me to a desert island, it would undoubtedly be an eyebrow pencil. My fine lines and eye bags don't bother me that much, and nor does my slightly greying messy hair, but my sparse and odd-looking brows really take me back to that awkward unsure teenager who worries what everyone around her is thinking. So it was time to do something about it, in the form of semi-permanent eyebrow tattoos from leading industry expert Karen Betts. The moral of the story? You don't have to settle for what your mumma gave you. 


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10.1.16

THE SECRET TO LONG-LASTING LIPSTICK? CLARINS INSTANT LIGHT LIP PERFECTING BASE

I write about lipstick a lot on this site and my collection is bursting at the seams, but the issue that arises time and time again is the lack of comfort and longevity that most offer. Although there are some great products that make the whole experience more enjoyable (my pick of five long-lasting and comfortable winter red lips is here!) what we all need is a little helping hand to boost the performance of EVERY lipstick. Clarins Instant Light balm and Natural Lip Perfector glosses are already some of my personal favourites, so when a handy little extension landed on my desk I definitely had high expectations. Launching just in time to catch the last couple of months of hardcore winter lipstick wearing, their new Instant Light Lip Perfecting Base has been developed specifically to help all textures apply better and last longer.


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8.1.16

THE OLYMPUS PEN CAMERA ONE YEAR ON: IS IT REALLY A BLOGGER'S DREAM?

Photography has become as big a part of blogging as the written word. The focus has evolved from wacking up a hastily tacken smartphone image, to investing hundreds of pounds in equipment and spending hours editing those shots so they look 'magazine' standard. I don't have any training whatsoever, but over the years I've honed my own skillset to a standard I'm happy to upload to this site on a daily basis - with the little help of a few tools. Although I started with a Nikon DSLR and cherished it for a good couple of years, twelve months ago I was lucky enough to be given the Olympus Pen and I haven't looked back. It's undoubtedly the blogging camera of choice (with the majority of your favourite bloggers and vloggers using it to create everything from their Instagram shots to video content,) and the reason is clear - it's the best camera I've ever used. Over the last year my love for this little gem has only expanded, dropping my previously much-loved but bulky Nikon almost completely in favour of it's handy features and awesome image quality.


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7.1.16

BANANA BREAD WITH ADDED GOODNESS: A HEALTHIER SUPERFOOD ALTERNATIVE

Cooking has never been my forte, but eating is. I'll never be a super slim girl because I enjoy my meals too much; the only way I've ever been able to effectively 'diet' is by cutting food out altogether, which is never a healthy option. The older I get the more interested I am in focusing on leading a healthier lifestyle and opting for better choices - both in terms of my diet and well-being. Last year I became a little bit obsessed with juicing, smoothies and superfoods, but as the year came to a close I found the blender sitting on my kitchen surface unused and unloved in favour of another biscuit. As we start a new year it's the perfect time to rekindle lost loves and form new habits, so I'm embracing my kitchen and committing to making the most of the recipe books and ingredients I've accumulated. First up, a new take on banana bread.


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THE NEW KOREAN TREND: SHATTERED GLASS NAILS

Korean beauty has had a huge influence on western launches over the last few years, and it's not stopping anytime soon. From the initial wave of BB and CC creams, to boosting serums, sheet masks, cushion foundations and prepping lotions, we have them to thank for much of our new purchases over the last twelve months or so. Although a lot of their most popular trends don't really translate to the UK (I'm talking about limp plumping gadgets and hair clips that hold actual plants!) one trend I think is going to be pretty big this year hails originally from their shores. Nails have been a bit of a boring category over the last few years, with the extremes of nude and berry tones taking the most coveted colour position, so it's about time we saw something new. Similarly, nail art has been on the down-low after a few years of taking prominence; we've had statement nails, cracked polish, ombre art and glittery tips, but nothing innovative for quite some time. One of the predictions for 2016 is that 'shattered glass' nails are going to be huge news - and Kure Bazaar have nailed (sorry) that trend with the launch of these limited edition nail decals.


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6.1.16

REVLON OVERHAUL THEIR MASCARA CATEGORY: EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS DISCONTINUED

Big news if you're a fan of Revlon, and particularly their mascaras. This January they're completely overhauling their mascara category and discontinuing every single product that's currently on shelf. In an effort to modernise the brand and simplify their offering (as well as saving valuable shelf space,) they're replacing their huge portfolio with five easy to understand tubes. If you've ever stood in front of one of their stands at Boots and wondered what on earth you should be buying, then this is good news - as they've removed all the complex and unnecessary names, replacing them with clear product benefits that make the shopping experience so much easier. You can choose from Ultra Volume, Super Length, Dramatic Definition, Volume & Length Magnified, or the Ultimate All-In-One which claims to provide the best of all four in one tube. It's a mascara revolution!


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5.1.16

I'M OVER IT. WHY WORKING FOR 'EXPOSURE' NEEDS TO BE LEFT IN 2015.

Imagine the scenario... You take your partner out to a hot new restaurant, order the entire menu (plus a bottle of champagne for good measure) and enjoy every minute of it. When it comes to the end of the meal and you're presented with the bill, you reply "but I've given you exposure by Instagramming it and telling my mum she should come too!" That wouldn't go down well. One of the hottest topics in the bloggersphere right now is the concept of working for 'exposure.' Back at the dawn of blogging it was incredibly worthwhile for bloggers to collaborate with brands and businesses for a little kick-back, as our numbers were small and it could genuinely add value. However, time has moved on and the roles have reversed - more often than not it's the blogger that has the larger influence, skill and knowledge that's in demand more than the products they talk about. Collectively it seems we're no longer willing to spend our valuable time creating content or endorsing something that's of no real benefit to us; we understand the value we offer and increasingly demand to be compensated accordingly. In 2016 it's about time that brands small and large wised up to the fact that promising us 'exposure' simply no longer cuts it, so how about we park that in 2015? 


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PERFECTION IN A BASE FOR 30+ WOMEN: LA ROCHE-POSAY EFFACLAR BB BLUR

As I get older my needs from base products are definitely evolving. I'm a little over dewy finishes that are often associated with youth, preferring to opt for more coverage and a 'blurring effect' to provide the appearance of radiance when my skin is actually crying from neglect underneath. BB Creams have been big news for a number of years, but I often find the result incredibly 'wet' and a little too reflective - they don't tend to conceal dark circles or cover imperfections, meaning they're only an option when my skin is actually looking pretty good. La Roche-Posay's new Effaclar BB Blur is a great alternative (particularly for women tackling the first signs of ageing,) as it blurs the appearance of pores, blemishes and fine lines while providing a mattifying effect and long-term control of shine. Unlike other BBs, this is a genuine foundation alternative and incredibly effective at doing what it promises; it's the best base product I've tried in ages.


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4.1.16

THE 2015 EDIT: THE 'BEST OF THE BEST' BEAUTY PRODUCTS FROM THE LAST 12 MONTHS

With hundreds of thousands of new beauty products hitting the shelves every year, it's hard to filter through and discover those little gems that really do make a difference. The beauty industry is incredibly clever at launching a product and claiming it to be revolutionary, when realistically it's just a re-packaged version of something that was discontinued five years ago. We're all sold 'miracle' creams and 'innovative' formulas on nothing other than a string of hope and good marketing, but I make it my priority to sift through the newness and bring you an edit of some of my personal favourites on a daily basis. But how do you whittle down the 451 posts I wrote in 2015 into a manageable edit of true recommendations? It's a hard job, but someone (i.e. me - who else?) had to do it. Here are ten 'best of the best' beauty products from the last twelve months and the purchases that you simply won't regret making - even during the cash poor weeks of January.


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1.1.16

FIVE REALISTIC BLOGGING RESOLUTIONS (FOR 2016 & BEYOND) WE CAN ALL EMBRACE

And another year begins. With the dawn of a new day we feel the pressure to overhaul our lives, take up a gym membership and refuse another glass of Pinot - but realistically those intense and unrealistic expectations will fall foul as soon as we hit February. I'm never one for resolutions, but the transition from one year to the next provides an excellent opportunity to reflect and establish objectives we really want to work towards. For me, the next twelve months provide an opportunity to carve out a forward-thinking space that I'll be excited about for years to come; 2016 will no doubt be an incredible year, but how can we all ensure that happens as efficiently and enjoyably as possible? I've pinpointed five achievable blogging resolutions for the next twelve months that we can all embrace for a happier future; there's no point in promising to commit to things that will fall by the wayside because they're not realistic. Will you be joining me in committing to keeping them?


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