Photography has never been a strength of mine and it's an element of blogging I've always struggled with. The written word is undoubtedly my strongest weapon, whereas transforming that into a visual representation has always been problematic; it's something I've actively had to try hard to perfect over the years, to the point where I continue to push myself and evolve my skills so that a three month old image can make me cringe with embarrassment. Although having a good eye can mean the difference between an ok image and an amazing one, there are little things you can do to create a bright and aspirational photograph every time - and it doesn't involve waiting for the sun to rise to the perfect position. Natural light is undoubtedly the best way to brighten a pic, but with the winter months fast approaching it becomes increasingly tricky if you're working full time and don't have a full weekend to prep. Over the years I've perfected the tricks you can use to ensure your images remain bright and fresh, even when there's no natural light to be seen - so why not give some of them a go and see if they can make a difference (especially now the clocks have gone back!)
Over the last couple of decades Chinese medicine has gotten a bit of a bad rep; walking through the tourist hub of Chinatown in London's Soho district, every other window is filled with anatomical diagrams and claims they can cure you of every body ache you've ever experienced. Slightly dusty shopfronts are adorned with herbs, lucky cat charms and trinkets to take away, while grey-haired women man the desk hoping for someone to step in and ask for help. Although this may create a perception of Chinese medicine that's a sham based on getting Westerners through the door, in actual fact it's a concept that's steeped in centuries of effective practice and long-standing traditions. It doesn't have to be just about acupuncture or strange smelling teas (although I've personally seen great results from both acupuncture and strange smelling teas!) because there's so much more to the practices that are adopted. Hayo’u is a brand that has its absolute foundations in Chinese medicine, after the founder Katie Brindle discovered the benefits it could offer following a road traffic accident and quit her job to start a degree in Five Element Acupuncture; she read voraciously even traveled to Asia to meet some of the masters of ancient medicine, the result of which is a concept that excitingly marries together Western troubles with Eastern solutions.
Fashion & Beauty Addicts Rejoice: Five Reasons You'll Want To Visit Bicester Village Designer Outlet
There's no shame in admitting that I like to shop; picking up a much coveted item of clothing or a statement accessory fills me with a buzz like nothing else. Although I love a bargain and rarely wear anything other than ASOS, when it comes to my accessories I'm all about a little luxury: carrying a designer handbag or wearing a beautiful piece of jewellery makes me feel fabulous, even if my shoes are three seasons old and I haven't washed my hair since Monday. Over the last few years I've been taking trips to Bicester Village for a regular hit of luxury shopping and to grab some absolute steals; this luxury destination is home to more than 130 boutiques of world-famous brands, each offering exceptional savings and a way to treat yourself to the things you never thought would be sitting in your closet. As it's only a short drive from my flat it's easy to pop in, grab a coffee with a friend and see what's new - even if the majority of boutiques leave me daydreaming about what it would be like to shop like money was no object. If you've never been to Bicester Village before then you really are missing out on a treat, even if high fashion or luxury goods aren't necessarily your thing, so here's why you'll want to put it on your 'to do' list stat.
The Affordable Face Oils You Need To Know About: Sanctuary Spa's New Skincare Provides A Treat For All The Senses (LBQ Reader Approved!)
SPONSORED FEATUREIt may seem like a fad, trend or craze, but facial oils have actually been used by skincare experts and therapists for decades as a way of treating skin in an effective and highly nourishing way. The multi-functional benefits a little bottle of oil can offer are in demand, and with good reason; saturated with effective ingredients in much higher concentrations than your usual moisturiser, they provide a great way to treat your skin without overloading it. Because oils are lipophilic (or fat loving) they pass though the lipid layer of the skin faster, preventing water loss and plumping skin with moisture more effectively. If you apply an oil before your anti-aging cream, the oil molecules also trick the skin into letting active ingredients (such as retinol, glycolic acid and vitamin C) penetrate deeper into the skin, without irritating the surface. An oil is a perfect accompaniment to a targeted skincare regime, adding a little boost when you need it most - whether that's before your moisturiser, as a night treatment, mixed with your foundation or even rubbed onto dry patches and cuticles. Although they can be intimidating, finding a great product that integrates into your routine is the first step towards great skin - and it seems that Sanctuary Spa may provide the affordable and effective solution you're looking for.
Elizabeth Arden's Iconic Red Door Spa Returns To London For The First Time In A Decade (Plus Get Your FREE Treatment!)
While in New York over the summer, I was mindlessly gazing out of a cab window while stuck in traffic only to realise we were right in front of somewhere very special. The iconic Elizabeth Arden red door was relatively inconspicuous amongst the Manhattan hustle and bustle, but I knew behind those statement panels was a world of pampering that I just wanted to taste; I’d never been so excited to spot a door frame (and probably never will again.) Until now the only way you could experience Elizabeth Arden professional treatments was if you jumped on a plane to JFK, but as of this week that’s all about to change. For the first time in a decade (since their Mayfair spa closed) the famous Red Door Spa is opening its doors in the heart of the capital; the new flagship counter in Debenhams Oxford Street will offer speed services (which include Oxygen Blast facials and pampering hand massages,) as well as a luxury treatment room which will exclusively provide the professional facial services found only in The Red Door Spas across America.
I'm a bit of a floozy when it comes to makeup. I'm happy to swap items in and out, put old favourites on the backburner or just generally try something new - because that's how you discover little gems like these ones. As we step into the new season we're already thinking about changing up our beauty regimes (darker tones, heavier foundations and more dramatic looks,) so it's the perfect time to invest in new bits and pieces that will help you feel fabulous every day of the week. I've picked out five great buys that I think will aid the transition while working hard to provide the results you want; starting at only £2.50, they're all deserving of the 'worthy investment' title as you'll be enjoying them all the way to spring.
Ever Had A Disastrous Hair Cut? Stop Opting For Supercuts & Invest In A Great Stylist (Plus Some Nightmare Stories To Explain Why)
We've all been there: money is a bit tight, you need a trim or a freshen up of your look - but instead of waiting until you can afford to book an appointment at the most popular salon in town, you swing by Supercuts and hope for the best. I spent many years on a budget and didn't quite understand why anyone would chuck fifty quid at a hairstyle, particularly when you could get one for a fraction of that amount. Cutting hair is cutting hair, right? How wrong can you go? The answer is very, and the proof is below. I would put money on the fact that almost every one of us has experienced a bad haircut at some point during our lives, whether that's a salon completely getting the wrong idea about what you requested, chopping off too much, adding layers when you specifically asked for none, dying your hair a funny colour or (even worse) slicing your ear with a pair of scissors. I like to put it down to experience, but that doesn't make it ok. It's about time we stopped accepting bad haircuts and disastrous salon appointments as just part and parcel of what we have to go through en route to our ideal style - and here's a little story to explain why.
The Ultimate Botanical Beauty Gift: Save A Fortune With Liz Earle's Incredible QVC TSV (All This For £49.96)
SPONSORED FEATUREOne of the brands I'm most grateful for this blog introducing me to is Liz Earle. Back in 2010 when I was a mere whippersnapper of a blogger, my skincare knowledge didn't expand past the basic brands that were stocked in Boots. I knew my professional hair care and I was hot stuff when it came to makeup, but skincare isn't all that interesting for a 27 year old with a pretty uneventful complexion. After I became immersed in every angle of the beauty industry via this here site, one of the brands that wholeheartedly embraced the bloggersphere and introduced me to a world of botanical wonder was Liz Earle. It started with their iconic Cleanse & Polish (which, yes, I still adore over six years later) and progressed to everything from their eye creams and body lotions, to intensive facial oils and overnight treatments; basically there's a whole lot of fabulous going on over on the Isle Of Wight (where the brand was founded and is still made, FYI!) and you need to know about it. Liz Earle offer effective, affordable, luxurious and emotive skincare products that are infused with botanicals and take inspiration from nature - and if their founder's skin is anything to go by, they surely do work!
Finally! Kat Von D Beauty Lands In The UK (And These Are The FIVE Makeup Bits You Need To Buy First)
It's one of the hottest and most anticipated launches of the year, with queues around the block of people waiting to get their hands on the much coveted liquid lipsticks and eyeshadow palettes; hoorah, because Kat Von D has finally launched on UK shores. If you've not heard of this makeup brand, then where have you been? The self-named brand is the brainchild of tattoo artist and reality star Kat, who was approached by Sephora because of her striking look and unique makeup application techniques; fast forward eight years and it's one of their best selling brands. I've been buying bits and pieces from Sephora stores in the States over the last couple of years, as it's one of the most recommended brands I've ever come across; my journey started with a liquid lipstick and felt-tip eyeliner, but on my last trip to NYC I came back with everything from khaki eyeshadow and concealer brushes, to liners and bases. The quality is outstanding, the packaging striking and the colour spectrum vast: this is a brand that's been needed on our shores for a long time. But if you're new to Kat Von D, have money burning a hole in your pocket or simply don't know where to start, I've picked some of my personal highlights for you to try before anything else.
So, how do you apply your makeup? Have you yet to progress beyond the suppleness of your fingers, or do you prefer the added benefit of a sponge? Perhaps you're all about the beauty blenders or have a portfolio of brushes that puts a professional makeup artist to shame? There's no doubt that the right tools can help provide a more flawless, precise and long-lasting finish, but many of us still feel somewhat intimidated by the huge plethora of brushes available and don't know where to start. Arming yourself with the information required to make informed decisions is the first step in embracing the benefit some handy tools can offer, so I've taken it upon myself to pull together a fool-proof guide so you can't go wrong. Here's a comprehensive list of the main types of makeup brushes you need to know about, why you need them and what to look for when making a purchase.
Beauty is big business. It's estimated that the global value of the market in 2014 was around $460 billion, which is unfathomable in a world where there are still people struggling to feed their families on a daily basis. There's no doubt that the power of a great lipstick goes beyond just making our lips look more delicious; it has the ability to fill us with confidence and perk up an otherwise dull day. Brands have understood this for generations, appealing to our insecurities and promising to fix them with any number of new wonder ingredients, but as consumers become increasingly savvy we're turning to budget buys as much as luxuriously overpriced ones. Not everybody has a never-ending pot of money from which to make non-essential purchases, so how can we make savvy shopping selections without compromising on the effectiveness of our routine? Over the last ten years I've been exposed to all number of brands and products, and as a result I've been able to understand what's worth the investment and what's not; if you want to become a savvier shopper, then I've broken some key beauty areas down into where it's worth splurging, where it's worth saving and where it's still up for debate. I hope it's useful!
PLUS WIN 1 OF 2 COPIES FOR YOURSELF TO DEVOUR AT HOME!I find it utterly fascinating how the digital world is embracing the beauty of the written word and so many bloggers are launching their very own real life tangible book. Knowing so much of our lives is spent with our heads in our phones and our fingers attached to a keyboard, there's something refreshing about holding a book in our hands and having something to ponder over while sipping a cup of tea. It's been two years in the making, but finally makeup maestros Pixiwoo are releasing their book 'FACE' and joining the party - and it was definitely worth the wait. You may know them as the incredible women behind the multi-award winning blog and YouTube channel, or the professional makeup artists that have been working in the industry for decades, or simply as the geniuses behind the brand Real Techniques, but either way you'll know they have a lot of advice and knowledge to share.
One of the things that's been frustrating me for a little while is the assumption that because I'm over the age of thirty, my interests span only the sensible and 'worthy of investment' and that I can't appreciate a little cuteness, kitchness or downright silliness. I hate to break it to you younguns out there, but you don't stop being attracted to pink/sparkly/animal-shaped things just because you're making mortgage payments or actually have money left over at the end of the month. One of my current favourite items of footwear is a panda pair of plimsolls, while I have a monthly subscription to Pop In A Box (those cute figurines of your fave telly shows) and I'm easily attracted to anything miniature in size. (When I first met my boyfriend I only fed him mini sized food, because I got a bit obsessed with the delights I discovered in Iceland.) I'm the one that introduced my best mates kids to Squiggle stationary and I still buy my sister toys for her birthday. If anything, I find a little childhood charm all the more important as I age - not only because its respite from the seriousness of my day-to-day life, but because it reminds me of so many happy memories growing up. I take a huge amount of pleasure from anything high on the cuteness scale, and that includes my makeup.
It's amazing how quickly you can adopt a new regime and forget what it was ever like before; I'm certainly like that with night creams, feeling somewhat unprepared and unpampered for slumber unless I've coated my skin in a delicious oil or cream that I know will get to work as I sleep. Although you can use any number of your 'daytime' formulas during the night too, the main difference is that night creams are saturated with ingredients that work best over a longer period of time while the body is resting. The skin can focus on absorbing the goodness, rather than protecting itself from environmental aggressors, and do so without the interference of makeup; I personally use my nights to layer up all manner of concoctions to provide not only an emotive pampering experience, but to ensure I awake looking and feeling fresh - even when I'm not feeling it. Over the last few months I've been putting all number of products to the test, but these five are the ones I keep turning back to. Although not all of them are cheap as chips, your skin is a worthy investment and a great night time regime is always something I would recommend; if you ever wish away those dark circles and dull skin of a morning, turning to one of these could be the answer you're looking for.
In the last couple of years the main influence on the beauty industry has undoubtedly been what's been going on in Korea, Japan and China. Their innovative formulas, unusual textures, revolutionary applications and bold packaging has left us intrigued and wanting more; we simply can't get enough of anything that looks cute, feels fun and generally makes beauty more interesting, so it's no surprise it's filtering down and influencing even the most British of brands. Models Own are possibly one of the most successful makeup brands in our recent history, but I have to admit many of their collections leave me underwhelmed. They've got a formula that works and they rarely divert from it, but that does leave a bland taste in my mouth that makes it hard to get excited about a new launch; however, with K-Kushion they've certainly peaked my interest as a collection that's genuinely worth the investment and incredibly on-trend. Inspired by the look and feel of products from the Far East, K-Kushion includes eyeshadows, lipgloss, blush and a highlighter that all utilise a cushion-esque application technique that ensures a pigmented, soft and beautiful finish.
With the change in seasons comes the inevitable update of both my handbag and what's inside it. I'm still clinging on to the idea of warm Autumn days, but realistically I've got the heating on and I'm already whipping out the intensive overnight creams to counteract the chill in the air. Continuing my new 'handbag essentials' series, I thought it was time to share what products I've been carrying around to help me transition into the next season while still feeling a little bit fresh and energised.
One of the most unforgettable days during our recent escape to Antigua was the day we spent on the catamaran. After a few days of doing little else other than basking in the sun, sipping tropical cocktails and eating our way through the evening buffet, it was great to get out of the resort and see the island from a totally different perspective. The adventure started at 1pm, avoiding the majority of the mid-day scorching heat, and we set sail to explore Green Island with a cold rum and coke in hand. Located about forty minutes from the St James' Club resort, this privately owned island provides the perfect location for a picnic amongst the white sandy shores - and an opportunity to spot a turtle or two.
SPONSORED FEATUREOver the years makeup formulations have moved away from their heavy incarnations, designed to work backstage at fashion shows or on-set during photoshoots, and towards concepts that have been created simple for daily moments of pleasure. The lines between professional and mainstream are becoming increasingly blurred, as makeup artists turn to more affordable brands and women seek out more professional alternatives. We're no longer constrained by one end of the market or the other, instead seeking out simply what works and meets our needs; never has there been such an exciting time in beauty, proven by the amount of brands that have been created with professional finishes in mind. One name I'm really intrigued by and excited about is LOLA - a British designed brand that's been created for professional make-up artists, by professional make-up artists, but still actively encourages women (and men) of all ages, skills and interests to get involved in creating their ultimate makeup look. With a wide range of colour, high quality textures and professional artistry tools on offer, LOLA's aim is to help every one of you to become your own expert make-up artist - by providing professional quality tools and make-up tips to help you along that journey.
Back in August (which seems like a lifetime ago) I was flown over to New York City to attend the global launch of Michael Bublé's debut fine fragrance 'By Invitation' - and more importantly, spend some time with the man himself. Although it was brief, it was an opportunity to quiz him on his love of fragrance and general relatonship with scent, as well as understanding why he created 'By Invitation' and what he wanted his fans to feel when they smelt it. You can see our little interview below (they did cut all the best - read cheeky/off-brand - bits from the edit, but it still gives you a great snippet of what Mr Bublé is really like!) and if you want more info on the scent itself you can read my review here. Suffice to say he's incredibly passionate about this project and it's so much more than just another 'celebrity' scent; I've been wearing it for weeks and know that every new person I introduce it to falls in love with it too. (Excuse the slightly limp hair and sweaty expression - New York was HOT that week and I'd just walked the Brooklyn Bridge!) Enjoy.
As consumers we have a long standing misconception that you get for what you pay for - particularly in skincare. With a new wonder ingredient popping up every few months, often fancy marketing campaigns and complicated names dupe us all into thinking it's the new-found secret to turning back the clock; whether that's gold flecks, the poop of a turtle or grass harvested only during a full moon, usually it's a load of old tosh created to make us part with our cash in the hopes of a better face. Although we can't actually stop our skin from ageing, there are definitely ways that we can keep it looking plump, fresh, vibrant and radiant for longer; many of the ingredients that we're told to invest in do genuinely help (Retinol, Vitamin C and Rosehip Oil among others,) but often they command such a high price tag it makes the formulas they reside in prohibitive. Not everyone can afford to spend £30 or £40 on a face cream, but I can bet that every one of us is interested in trying those ingredients that promise to fade away the early mornings. Deciem are a company I have a huge amount of love for, because they're so focused on creating products that truly work for the masses; none of their products command ridiculous prices and none of them promise things they can't deliver. With the launch of the newest brand under their name, The Ordinary, they're set to revolutionise the way we buy and use skincare once again - but this brand is anything but ordinary.
(PLUS WIN THE STYLING TOOLS OF YOUR CHOICE, WORTH UP TO £89.99)When asked to describe their hair, there's no doubt the majority of women would do so in a negative way. Whether that's using words such as frizzy, coarse, unmanageable, greasy, dry, dull, limp or simply a nightmare to style, we all suffer with daily hair issues and probably all wish we had a stylist at arms length to rectify them at all times. Way before I was into makeup I became somewhat obsessed with the condition of my hair; naturally it's a very dull mousy brown, frizzy, slightly curly and incredibly thin, so I spent the best part of the last two decades trying to make it look like the styles depicted in the pages of my magazines. I can recall the first incarnations of hair straighteners, investing in diffusers and even taking out portable styling tools in my handbag as the heat settings didn't set the style for longer than a couple of hours; I've dyed it every colour imaginable, cut it, grown it, stuck extensions to it and even spent a month with a fake and badly colour-matched bun pinned to my crown while I grew out a rather disastrous mistake. Now in my 33rd year (although I've learned to love what I have,) I know that great hair is sometimes just a snip, dye job or decent pair of hair straighteners away - because it's not what you have, it's what you do with it that counts.
PLUS WIN 1 OF 5 SETS OF MAKEUP BRUSHES TO GET YOU STARTEDA smokey eye is the epitome of timeless glamour and understated cool. Whether you pair it with a bold red lip for a vintage look, or embrace your inner rock chick by adding a sprinkling of punk, a wash of dark grey eyeshadow can really ramp up your eye makeup any day of the year. Even though it's a look that never seems far away from the catwalk, red carpet or cover of a magazine, it's still something that evades a lot of us as we struggle knowing where to even start. It's easy to get in a muddle and end up looking more like a teenage goth than a glamorous vixen, so I've broken down the steps (with a little help from the experts) so you can nail it every single time - just in time for the new season.
Have Beauty Advent Calendars Been Done To Death? Are We Over The Trend, Or Is It Just Getting Started?
When the Pumpkin Spiced Lattes are gracing the counters of Starbucks and the nights start drawing in, you know that the festive season is once again around the corner. Although the beauty industry starts talking Christmas from as early as July, it's October that really sees everything ramp up a notch - especially as the beauty advent calendars start making an appearance at any given opportunity. Over the last few years this ground-breaking concept has moved into the mainstream and captured the imaginations of anyone and everyone interested in beauty; it may have started as a premium way to discover beauty gems, but now you can't step sideways without discovering another incarnation of the idea. In 2016 we've got more choice than ever before, but I can't help wondering if we've reached saturation point. Has something that used to be the root of pure joy and festive spirit become a little limp and a bit meh? Are we so used to seeing the same idea, year in and year out, that it's lost its sparkle and become as expected as the TOTP Christmas Day special?
With a good concealer in hand, you can take on anything the day throws at you. As far back as I can recall I've been obsessed with finding a great concealer that blends away imperfections, disguises dark circles and doesn't cake by the end of the day. I've tried hundreds over the years and if there's one thing I've learnt it's that sometimes you have to spend a bit of cash to get a product that ticks all those boxes. Budget buys are all very good, but as I've gotten older I find they sit in my fine lines and look increasingly obvious - the complete opposite of what I'm after. After many years of testing and too many individual products to mention, I feel like I've finally been able to pull together a portfolio of concealers that I can rely on day-in-day-out to keep my complexion looking fresh and my dark circles banished for another day. Here are some of my faves that I just can't stop using, and think you may like (more than just a little bit) too.
Stepping onto a sandy shore can feel like the best thing in the world, so it's no surprise we often spend most of the year wishing away the weeks until it's time to do just that. Holidays provide not only an escape from the daily grind and an opportunity to breathe free, but a way to recharge our bodies and minds. If you've ever flown back with a touch of tan and wondered why you felt like a different person of a mere week ago, then you're not alone; it's been proven that even the shortest of breaks can help to rejuvinate our senses and leave us with a sense of wellbeing that's well worth the price tag of a flight to Spain. Dr Linda Papadopoulos explains that the benefits can be attributed to a combination of factors: "One of the best things about holidays is that by coming out of a routine... you're free to do as much or a little as you like, which in turn makes you feel more relaxed. This can help reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which when significantly elevated in the body can have a negative impact on organs such as the skin. As stress and anxiety decreases, mood increases - bringing many (often unexpected) positive benefits in how we perceive ourselves, motivation and productivity, and our general outlook on life."