Until Caroline Hirons came along, cleansing really wasn't sexy. I've known Caroline since the very early days of this blog nearly seven years ago, and she's always been on hand with helpful advice and simple suggestions that can make a huge difference to your skin. She's the one who got my boyfriend into high potency fish oil supplements for his eczema (and changed his skin completely,) as well as introducing me to the benefits of double cleansing; Caroline was also the woman who introduced us all to the wonder benefits of Pixi Glow Tonic, and as a result has had an incredibly close relationship with the brand over the years. It was a natural fit for them to team up for her debut (and much anticipated) skincare product, and even more natural for it to involve double cleansing. The result of this partnership is an effective, affordable and innovative looking cleanser that's sure to be a sell-out when it launches in January.
I've always been a bit of a workaholic. As a child I juggled school with Brownies and three dance lessons a week, preferring to fill my time with activities rather than sitting around getting bored; as soon I was old enough I was working double shifts and juggling restaurant responsibilities with mini bar duty, and even at Uni I had a 'day time' job in House of Fraser and a 'night time' job in what can only be described as a drinking hole. (The emphasis on hole.) When I started this blog it was as a hobby; a form of escapism and a creative outlet that filled my otherwise dull evenings between dinners with friends and a cheeky cocktail or two. For years I always had my blog to turn to when there was nothing in my diary and even less on the telly, but this became a habit that was hard to break once it became my job.
About a week ago a little black box arrived on my desk, concealing a capsule collection of new products. At first glance it looked the same as many other things I'd seen before, but the accompanying literature told a different story: this was Beauty Pie and it claimed to be the driving force behind an industry revolution. Developed by the woman behind super successful brands including Bliss and Soap & Glory, Beauty Pie is an online-only digital members club that aims to bring 'luxury cosmetics at factory prices' to those that sign up. At a cost of £10.00 per month (for a minimum of three months,) being a member allows you to buy £100 worth of cosmetics (at the full price) for rock bottom prices every calendar month - and if you don't use your allowance, it rolls over. Intrigued?
If there was one perfect opportunity to indulge a little, then it's got to be Christmas. For the rest of the year we can find excuses not to treat ourselves or resist the urge to splash out on loved ones, but this one moment in time provides an excuse and reason to throw all that out the window. From glitter and champagne enriched shower gels, to gold-plated hairbrushes and luxury crackers, there are tonnes of super covetable gifts available this season - and if you're in a last minute panic ahead of the big day, let this provide a little inspiration. Whether you're shopping for a loved one that adores the luxurious, or simply want to treat them to some over-indulgent goodies, I've rounded up some of the best for your enjoyment.
Candle acquisition isn't something new to me. Even when I was a teenager my bedroom surfaces were covered in so many candles and tealights that it's a wonder I never started a fire underneath my Boyzone posters; I even spent the best part of a year creating my own and ruining every saucepan in the kitchen. (Mum wasn't happy.) Now I have a home to call my own and a fireplace that's just crying out to be decorated, that inner flame maven has gone into overdrive; at any given opportunity I'm lighting up my candle collection and watching the flames flicker. Isn't there something special about candlelight in the winter? One of my favourite things about this time of year is the new and limited edition home fragrances that hit stores, as well as the beautifully decorated little glass jars that just need someone to love them. There are so many great candles that will help to warm your home (metaphorically, not literally - no candle is *that* big!) this festive season, but here are five of my faves. I hope you like them as much as me.
How many of your loved ones struggle to take time for a bit of pampering or 'me time', especially around the festive season? If they're anything like my relatives, they spend too much time making the holidays perfect for everyone else and forget to look after their own bodies and minds. Is there someone in your life that either loves a bit of beautifying, or loves the idea but never finds the time or inclination? Wouldn't it be lovely if your gift was so much more than just another bath bomb or pair of socks - and instead provided them with an opportunity to chillax, pamper themselves and feel good? I've found some amazing treats that are perfect for those of us that love indulging in our beauty regimes, glitter and sparkle optional. Warning: you may find yourself wanting them all too.
Over the last twelve months I've definitely seen the inevitable onset of ageing, despite my expansive skincare routine and dedication to keeping my complexion looking fresh. Although my baby face keeps me looking younger than my years (and a great gene inheritance which is serving me well,) there are certain areas that I've forgotten about until a visible change becomes apparent; one of those key areas is the neck and décolletage. Even though my under-eye area is holding up well, I've definitely seen my jawline blur somewhat into my neck and leave me with the onset of a double-chin if I don't make a concerted effort to stand correctly. Although I can deal with fine lines and a change in texture, this is an area I'm increasingly concerned about and have more than a vested interest in maintaining. Collectively we have a tendency to focus so much on our complexions that we forget about an area of the body that's notoriously difficult to manage once left untreated; prevention is so much better than cure, but even if you've neglected this area completely over the years - help is at hand.
Hasn't this Christmas come around quickly? Normally I'm super prepared and have most of my gifts purchased by mid-November, but this year time has run away with me and I've barely given them a second thought. If, like me, you need to spend the next week prepping and picking up presents for your loved ones but only have a lunchbreak to spare, I've got some super handy last minute gift guides coming up to help you on your way - the first of which is for the girl in your life that just wants to have fun, no matter her age. It may be that she loves glitter and gold, anything with an animal's face on or scents that transport her back to sweet treats of her childhood, but either way these ten find will definitely put a smile on her face without breaking the bank. Plus, they're all a hop, skip or a click away from your doorstep!
The Importance Of Diversity In Beauty (PLUS Become One Of Dove's 'Real Women' In Their New Campaign!)
It's not hard to understand why women today are under increasing amounts of pressure to look and feel a certain way. Airbrushed images of stereotypical perfection are practically force-fed to us on a daily basis; everywhere we look there's an incredibly poised and traditionally beautiful woman in her undies attempting to sell us an idea of ultimate confidence. If we just buy that lipstick/drink that beverage/wear that dress/use that face cream we'll become the person we've always wanted to be! I've grown up believing that my body in its natural form is not to be celebrated; if anything it's something to be ashamed of and wrapped away, simply because I don't look like the six foot Amazonian Goddesses that strut down the runway or feature on the front covers of my favourite magazines. Beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, colours and forms, and it's vitally important that women are represented in all their glory - on the telly, in magazines, within the fashion industry and as part of beauty campaigns. None of us are the same and that's what makes us all beautiful; if we were all carbon copies the world would be a very dull place indeed, so it's vitally important that we learn to embrace our imperfections or differences and celebrate them. Whether you've got a wobbly bum, greying hair, laughter lines or all the freckles, you're beautiful just the way you are.
For some time we've been seeing curious innovations pop up all over the beauty industry that all have one thing in common: the fundamental point of difference is that they're bespoke to you and your needs. None of us have the exact same skin type or problematic areas, and with infinite combinations of woes it's increasingly hard to pick up a product off the shelf that's going to address our concerns. Offering products for oily, dry or combination skin is an outdated approach, with more and more brands understanding that you can be all of those things and more - depending what day of the week (or time of the month) it is. We've seen brands already dabble in the area of skin boosting solutions or bottles of product that will help create the perfect match (Clarins Skin Boosters and The Body Shop's Shade Adjusting Drops are a couple of great examples,) but in 2017 this trend is only going to get bigger. Like creating a recipe for our complexions, the key to success is being able to dial-up or dial-down certain ingredients - and stand out brands like The Ordinary are making this all the more accessible.
SPONSORED FEATURE IN ASSOCIATION WITH QVS BEAUTY
Over the last decade or so, I've learned a lot of things that have changed my beauty regime for the better. I now know the importance of double cleansing, why a night cream is a must, that cat flicks are all in the hand movement and that a great brush is the secret to 99% of makeup dilemmas. It's amazing the difference a small change can make to our routines, but the biggest for me has been the application techniques I've now perfected with the help of a few expert tools. Makeup brushes really are an essential, even if you rarely wear foundation and have only marginally more skill than your cat; they help to provide an even and professional application, a polished finish and a perfected look that's incomparable to one created with only the use of your digits. Over the last few months I've been taking a closer look at makeup brushes with QVS Beauty (including how to create the perfect smokey eye, what all those makeup brushes actually do and secrets that will change the way you use them,) but one question always remains: do I need to spend a fortune to get a good quality brush? The quick answer is 'no'.
SPONSORED FEATURE IN ASSOCIATION WITH AVALON ORGANICS
Until very recently buying organic beauty products was seen as a hop, skip and a jump away from embracing your full-on inner-hippy. Organic was theoretically a good idea, but it undoubtedly cost a premium and often involved less than pleasant formulas with a tendency to separate if they were left on your dressing table for too long. Rather fortunately for us, things have changed. Organic skincare is now readily available, as well as being affordable, and provides results that mean you don't have to compromise on efficacy or the sensorial experience that's so closely associated with our beauty regimes. I've never been one to be overly concerned with turning down a product (or meal) because it's not organic, but if we're presented with organic goods that do an equally good (or sometimes better) job then it's a no brainer; why would I want to use an overtly chemical lotion or potion if there was an equally good organic version? If the idea of buying organic still confuses you, here are the main reasons it's worth considering - and why you may want to introduce it to a loved one during the forthcoming gifting season.
I adore the bloggersphere for everything it's brought me. What started as a passion for nail varnish and hair serum has evolved into a full blown career, where I'm able to work with some of my favourite brands and experience things that money simply can't buy, as well as making friends with some of the most awesome and empowering women I've ever come across. Over nearly seven years I've curated my own (multi-award winning!) corner of the 'net, which I'm wholeheartedly proud of; love and passion is injected into every blog post that goes live, which is reflected in the amazing community of readers (you guys rock) that seem to regularly return for a little bit more. But the journey over that time hasn't necessarily been an easy one; there are pitfalls and downsides as much as there are highlights and freedom when it comes to working for yourself - in any capacity. The late nights, early mornings, weekends spent catching up and the daily struggle to get that shot in when the winter sun goes down at 3pm, just for starters.
Taking You To The Dark (Or Light) Side: Star Wars Launch SIX New Unisex Scents Fit For Any Super-Fan
This time last year we were counting down the days until The Force Awakens hit cinemas; over the next couple of weeks I saw it four times, to the point where I could practically recite each line and wore a different character t-shirt on every visit. This year we've got our tickets to Rogue One booked and we're ready to re-visit a Galaxy Far Far Away once again; Star Wars season is undoubtedly upon us and is becoming somewhat of a festive tradition! Since the first film was launched back in December 1977, a whole universe has captured our imaginations and had an impact on every element of popular culture. It was a film franchise like no other, proving that a female lead character didn't have to be a damsel in distress (in fact, she could kick some butt and save the day herself,) and the shiny heroes were more flawed than any that came before them. It's no wonder that Star Wars is possibly the most celebrated film franchise of all time!
I so often find myself rushing from place to place, churning through my inbox, juggling messages from across the 49 different apps on my phone, jumping on a conference call, picking up a parcel, remembering to pay my bills and make plans with my friends... And then the festive season hits and it becomes ten times worse. No matter how organised I think I am, in the run up to Christmas there's always too much to prepare and far too many things to do before we can finally switch off and crack open a bottle of bubbly. The holidays are always so much fun, but they can also be incredibly stressful as us modern women have so many roles to juggle and put so much pressure on ourselves to pull off the perfect occasion. From November onward we're often so focused on making the festivities the best they can be and pleasing everyone around us, that it's easy to forget to look after ourselves; in order to pull off a spread that Mary Berry would be proud of, it's important that we all take a step back and take a moment of 'me time'.
Totally Magical: Hogwarts In The Snow, The Ultimate Harry Potter Experience That Will Make Your Christmas
We all have our own festive traditions (be that trimming the tree, popping to Winter Wonderland, shopping for baubles in Selfridges or sipping on a mulled wine in your local pub,) but one of my favourites is fast becoming my annual trip to Hogwarts In The Snow. As a huge Harry Potter fan, when this opened up a few years ago my sister and I were practically the first in line to check it out - and we certainly weren't disappointed. From the moment you first catch a glimpse of the iconic Great Hall, to the closing breathtaking view of Hogwarts Castle, every moment is magical; so much so that I recently stopped by for the eighth time. (Is that a little excessive?) If you haven't been before, then the Warner Bros Studio Tour is home to all the sets, props, costumes and creatures from all eight of the Harry Potter films; the self-guided experience is a must for any fans of the franchise, as you can completely immerse yourself in the wonder of the Wizarding World.
Ten years ago if you prided yourself on a charity shop purchase or spent your weekends up-cycling, you may have been seen as someone with somewhat quirky interests. Fast forward a decade and we're now a generation that whole-heartedly embraces recycling, locally sourced produce, picking up a bargain in Primark or sourcing an old piece of furniture to re-purpose from Gumtree. Being thrifty has never been more on-trend, and sites such as Pinterest and Etsy provide us with endless inspiration and ways of turning someones trash into our own treasure. Not only is getting crafty a fun way to spend an afternoon, but creating something that was born from your own hands makes the end result even more satisfying; calligraphy, card making and knitting have all seen a resurgence in the last few years, as we look to channel our creative streaks in new ways. This Christmas Burt's Bees have made every effort to ensure their festive gifting is re-useable and recyclable; (is any of it made from recycled materials?) with some of their best selling and classic skincare treats being packaged in tins, boxes, cosmetic pouches and zippable containers, you can make use of the vessel well after you've finished the products. If you need some inspiration to help you turn these festive containers into something more exciting, then I've got some ideas to get you in the spirit.
A Bee Is For Life, Not Just For Christmas: Why These Stripy Creatures Are Essential To Our Wellbeing
Whether you love the sound of the honey bees pollinating the first blooms of Spring, or associate them with trying to get a piece of your sticky ice lolly on a warm Summer's day, there's no doubt that they play a fundamental role in our ecosystem. For such small, short-lived creatures, bees do a lot to keep the Earth in balance - helping to make approximately a third of our food supply, as well as keeping all kinds of spices, medicines and essential greenery flourishing. According to the British Beekeepers Association, the economic value of bees as pollinators of commercially grown insect-pollinated crops in the UK has been estimated at over £200 million per year; that’s a lot to be dependent on these stripy little creatures. Despite their importance, bees are in danger of disappearing from our environment - particularly due to the loss of natural habitats from modern farming practices, as well as the varroa mite that attacks honey bees and has killed the majority of the wild colonies. Our fluffy yellow and black friends need all the help they can get, so it's a good job brands such as Burt's Bees are making such a concerted effort to give their little communities a much-needed boost.
Gift giving, for me, is the best part of the holiday season. I love picking out things I think my loved ones will adore, or introducing them to new brands I know they'll become fans of throughout the rest of the next year. The Christmas period is the perfect opportunity to change things up and encourage the women (and men) in your life to establish a great beauty regime, so they can stick with those great habits in the months to come. Often we don't value our own skin enough to treat it to products and routines that will do it some good - but giving the gift of great skin is something your loved ones will cherish long beyond the start of 2017. Burt's Bees have a fruitful and exciting portfolio of natural gifts this Christmas, all of which work as great introductions to the brand as well as re-introductions to those that already love what Burt has to offer; they're so deliciously tempting that you'll even want to ask Santa for them yourself! If you want to make a New Year's resolution to adopt a more natural approach to your beauty regime, then this is a great way to start: simple, effective and affordable body and skincare products all wrapped up in beautiful boxes that don't even require extra wrapping. Which one tickles your fancy?
Wind, cold temperatures and air conditioning all have a drying effect on skin by drawing moisture away from the body; lips are particularly vulnerable because the skin is so thin, meaning many of us suffer with dry lips during the colder months. Many lip balms are enriched with irritating ingredients or components that actually exacerbate the situation (including excessive scents, preservatives or colouring,) leaving our lips in an even more worse condition than before. However, Burt's Bees classic formulas are made of 100% natural ingredients and nourishing beeswax that's harvested to seal in moisture and add a touch of lubrication. Available in a multitude of flavours and offering a huge array of benefits, these little wonder tubes are well deserving recipients of my 'best lip balm ever' accolade - so much so that there's always at least one (if not two or three) in my bag or coat pocket. There's no doubt they're a Winter essential, but what about other ways you can inject a little Burt's Bees balm into your festive season? I've got my thinking cap on just for you to list out ten alternative things you can do with your tube of nourishing balm this Christmas to inject a little Bee-utiful goodness into your day. You're welcome.