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Monday, 27 February 2017

No7 Lift and Luminate #BetterTogether Trial Results and Review


This is a sponsored post on behalf of No7

In January, I started taking part in the #BetterTogether Challenge with No7, whereby I was going to be using only their revamped range of Lift and Luminate skincare for a month.  Now, I'm back to talk about the results!

Now, it has been a heck of a challenge for me, and the temptation to continue picking different bits and bobs from my collection to suit different requirements on a day to day basis has been strong! But, I've managed to stay completely true to the challenge throughout the month I've had the products, and only supplemented the range's core day and night moisturisers, serum and eye cream with appropriate cleansers and toners as required.  

So, how did I get on?  Well ... colour me hugely impressed, actually.  I don't say that lightly (or even often), but I've been delighted with the condition of my skin throughout the trial, and I've even begun to wonder if all the chopping and changing I do normally is maybe not the best way to treat (my) sensitive skin.  My skin has been smooth, soft, and with far fewer of the under-skin "irritation bumps" I quite regularly get around my eyes, which is my usual sign that my skin has been overstimulated and usually means I need to remove something from my routine. My skin is even noticeably less red, which is amazing.


Both the day and night creams are smooth and rich in texture, but don't feel oily on the skin. They leave behind a nice velvety feeling on the face, which makes a great base for makeup in the case of the day cream.  My skin is on the oilier side, and I haven't feel the need to add extra oil to my skin under either cream, even though it's winter and supplementing with oils is usually standard for me in the coldest months of the year.  Both the day cream and eye cream feature SPF -  something I usually avoid in my skincare, preferring to add a separate SPF on top, but I haven't had any problems with it in either product.  The serum is velvety and sinks in really easily to the skin, again without leaving a greasy base behind.

Have I noticed a huge improvement in my skin?  No, not a huge one as I was starting from a base of healthy skin anyway, but there is definitely a noticeable difference, my skin is calmer and more even, and I'm very happy with it.  It seems that things in skincare land really do work "better together", and these products are joining my regular arsenal right away. You can shop the Lift and Luminate range here: No7 Lift and Luminate Range at Boots

The Fine Print: This is a sponsored post on behalf of Boots No7 which also features PR samples. Links in this post are not affiliate links.

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Sunday, 26 February 2017

Anosmia Awareness Day 27th February 2017


As is now traditional around this time of year, it's time for me to point out that Anosmia exists, and list some resources for people who may be affected by this life-changing, but barely-known condition.  My life was turned upside down in 2014 by the simple act of catching a cold. My olfactory nerve died as a result of that cold, and life hasn't been the same ever since. I still feel the effects of that cold, and the resulting anosmia, every single day of my life.

Imagine never knowing if something smells bad, whether it's your home, your food, yourself.  Imagine never being able to smell your loved ones again, your babies, your partner, your family - not being able to bury your nose into their clothing and just inhale their essential scent. Imagine a sterile world where nothing smells of anything, and you feel completely isolated as a result.  That's anosmia.

Or conversely, imagine a world where things smell too much, but every single thing smells wrong.  Like, for example, spending a year or two where every single thing you smell smells like it's burned. Or rotten, or burned and rotten.  Then imagine every single thing that you taste also appears to be burned or rotten, or both.  That's parosmia, and that was my life for a very long while.

Or imagine that you constantly hallucinate bad smells, and can't think of anything else whilst it's happening. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night thinking your house is burning down.  Or that everywhere you go is covered in gasoline.  That's phantosmia, and it's incredibly difficult to live with.

Then there's cacosmia, and I have just one word for you here:  sewage.  Imagine your whole life smells - and tastes - like sewage.   I have been there, and I can tell you it was the worst time of my life.

Tomorrow, many anosmics across the world will be wearing red and using the hastag #anosmiaaware on Twitter to share their stories of anosmia, and I'll be amongst them. If you're interested in finding out more about the condition, you can have a look at the following links.

Anosmia Awareness Day Official Site (with further links): https://www.anosmiaawareness.org/social-media/
Fifth Sense (advocacy group for people with smell and taste disorders) http://fifthsense.org.uk

Oh, and my story will be featured on episode five of "Incredible Medicine: Dr Weston's Casebook", which airs on March 22nd at 9pm on BBC2  where I'll be talking about my struggle in learning to live with my conditions, and regain my sense of smell. I'm bloody terrified.

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Monday, 20 February 2017

Zelens Extreme Velvet Lipsticks - Nude Plum, Red, Dark Red, Merlot

Zelens Extreme Velvet Lipsticks in Nude Plum, Red, Dark Red and Velvet Get Lippie 20170219

When I heard Zelens were launching a new lipstick range, I was delighted, for Zelens are one of my (if not the very pinnacle) favourite skincare brands of all time, and so I was incredibly excited at the thought of actual lipsticks from them.  I already own several of the lip glosses that were launched a couple of years ago, and they're amongst my most-used lip products.  Then, when I saw the actual Extreme Velvet Lipsticks in the flesh, I was even happier, for instead of releasing a range of crowd-pleasing insipid nudes and baby-pinks, like so many ranges these days, the colours (inspired by the favourite colours of the patients seen by Dr Marko Lens, the brand founder, in his surgery) are bold, and rich and deeply, deeply pigmented.

And they're beautiful.

Zelens Extreme Velvet Lipsticks have a soft and hydrating matte formula, which is full of lipids and waxes, and they also contain both hyaluronic acid and an ester of retinol (to encourage cell-turnover and collagen production),  all of which are designed to treat the lips as well as colour them. These are a great, exceedingly comfortable and non-drying wear.  Whilst not promoted as a long-wearing formula, I have found that they wear well without needing a touch-up for around six to eight hours. And without leaving a red ring of doom, too! They fade gently and evenly, even after eating or drinking.

Zelens Extreme Velvet Lipstick swatches in Nude Plum, Red, Dark Red and Velvet Get Lippie 20170219
Swatches in natural light (l-r) Nude Plum, Red, Dark Red and Merlot
I have, of course, gravitated towards the redder end of the colour choices in my selections - there are nine shades in the range, the others are Nude Pink, Nude Beige, Cinnamon, Raisin and Tea Rose. 

Nude Plum is a great "nude" shade for people who (like me) don't really wear nudes, with plenty of pigment, and without that nasty "concealer lip" effect.
Red is a bright and slightly warmed orange-based red that colours beautifully in one swipe of the bullet.
Dark Red is a slightly warm deep red wine shade.
Merlot is an even deeper version of dark red, a little difficult for everyday wear for me, but just stunning with the right outfit.

I'll probably pick up Tea Rose at some point as it's a great everyday colour, and I have a feeling it'll be quite versatile with the depth of pigmentation on offer.  If I have one criticism of the range (and it's a minor one, admittedly) it's that I'd like to see a brighter deep pink in here too because as it stands, the range is slightly skewed dark and warm, but actually that's not really a bad thing in the bland sea of nudes that tend to predominate these days.

 The lipsticks cost £32, are housed in handsome silver tube with a screw-top lid and are available exclusively from the Zelens website


The Fine Print: PR samples and purchases

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Friday, 17 February 2017

Amouroud Silk Route Fragrance Review





 I haven't read too much about the release of the latest fragrance from Amouroud; Silk Route, and I'm wondering why that is?  I attended the launch back in December, and I was a little captivated.

Silk Route is, like all Amouroud fragrances, based around Oud, but is not an in your face "oud" fragrance. It surprised me by being positively gourmand, and in my favourite way: creamy, without being too sugary.  It might have been the Christmas connection - Harrods in December might well be one of the most Christmassy places on earth.  (It's also hell, but that's by the by) - but this reminded me of eggnog.  A boozy (rum), creamy mass of spice (nutmeg) with a hint of dark, damp wood beneath, it's not the brand's easiest wear - smelling like a pudding isn't appealing to everyone -  but it's truly lovely regardless.  At least, to my nose it is, it reminds me of two of my favourite fragrances of all-time; Safran  Troublant, which I wore to my wedding, but with softer, less zingy spice, and a slightly more pudding-y aspect in the dry down; and of Amaranthine, with the slightly corrupt milkiness and creamy aspect, but it's a little more mainstream than Amaranthine.

It's a deft and cuddly fragrance, warming and comforting, like a bowl of your favourite hot dessert on a cold winter's night. Or beautiful pain d'epices straight from the oven.  Glorious. But not for everyone.



The Fine Print: PR sample

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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Jusbox Perfumes: Use Abuse Review



 Sometimes a packaging concept is just so perfect that it hits all the right notes for a brand.  Italian music-lovers Andrea and Chiara Valdo created Jusbox and launched their initial four-fragrance range last summer, and it's just too beautifully done to go without comment.  From the gorgeous 78ml bottles to the stunningly detailed vinyl record-like lids, to the detailed boxes and packaging materials, every detail seems to just hit the right spot, and it's a joy to behold.



The four fragrances in the initial launch are each inspired by a different era of musical history, from  Micro Love, a cold and metallic incense inspired by the early 90's and the music of U2, to 14 Hour Dream, a spicy melange of ginger, saffron and vanilla which was inspired by the early 70's and a little remembered concert by Pink Floyd, to Beat Cafe, the smell of cigars and brandy inspired by Bob Dylan and the Beat Generation of the sixties.

But it is, of course, the 80's-tastic fragrance Use Abuse, inspired by the magnificent Freddie Mercury that I want to talk about, having grown up in that decade and all. Described by Jusbox as a tribute to all things in excess, and said things unconstrained by limits (whatever any of that actually means), Use Abuse is actually a huge white floral, containing "overdoses" of tuberose and jasmine sambac tempered by a wash of clean sandalwood in the base. Use Abuse - teetering on the edge of bad taste in all manner of ways, from the name, to the description and onwards - could have been a headache-inducing nightmare, in the style of Giorgio Beverly Hills and Poison and the like, but it lacks the throat-catching character of either, and also won't make your eyes water.

Starting with a clean yet fizzy waft of mandarin orange and bubblegum (from the tuberose), Use Abuse is both amusement-inducing, and retro, without being simply a nostalgic exercise.  On the skin it blooms with some rather plastick-y and synthetic white flowers when the jasmine arrives - and let us face it, there was very little natural about the 80s - but remains fizzy and fun throughout the wear, without ever really revealing anything particularly significant down in the depths of the dry-down. It's rather linear, but that first hook grabs you in and doesn't really let go whilst you're wearing.  Like a pop song you know is tacky and cheesy, but gets you onto the dancefloor every time anyway.

Altogether a lot cleaner and very much simpler than the actual fragrances we wore in the 80's, Use Abuse is isn't nearly as subversive, or even as deep as it'd like us to think it is (more Stock/Aitken/Waterman than Mercury et al) but it's none the worse for that. It's a good, fun wear, in what might just be the most perfect container of its type I've ever seen, and you can't really get more 80's than that.

£130 from Selfridges.


The Fine Print: PR samples and purchases


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Monday, 13 February 2017

Beaufort London Fathom V Fragrance Review


 I confess, I'm sat here at my keyboard with literally no idea of what I'm about to write, so if this "review" of Beaufort London Fathom V makes even less sense than usual, you'll know why.

First things first, since losing my sense of smell nearly three years ago, and being still deep in the recovery phase from parosmia (where everything I smell is distorted to a greater or lesser degree), I have to confess that I really miss the smells of nature, the good, the bad and the ugly.  I've cried twice in the last three years on smelling particular fragrances (once on smelling Sel Marin by James Heeley, which is about as photorealistic a treatise on the salty smell of the seashore I've ever encountered, and the other on smelling a saffron fragrance that made me realise my synaesthesia hadn't disappeared entirely), and this, the salty smell of a rockpool suffocating with slowly drying seaweed at dawn also makes me a little emotional in similar ways.

Beaufort London make extremely uncompromising fragrances which are always unexpected, and it must be admitted that this can make them very challenging to wear, but I've worn Fathom V a few times now, and I love it a great deal.  It's the greenest fragrance I've encountered; to the extent that MrLippie has exclaimed "that's VERY green!" when I've just sprayed it in a different room to him (he normally has three categories of smell: "sweet", "orangey", and "strawberry", which, bearing in mind I very rarely wear sweet OR fruity fragrances can make getting his opinion on things rather challenging when he's acting as my "auxiliary nose*"), and he's right.  It's so very green that they might have to invent another category of green entirely just for this single fragrance.

It is green like the aforementioned drying seaweed, but also green like the stems of freshly bashed flowerstalks when you walk past a florist on the high street, and green like the greenest kale smoothie you can imagine, and as a result, it's a bit like everything green in nature has blended itself into some huge (hopefully friendly) green monster and come up to smack you one in the face with a soft yet huge green fist in a, you know, good way.  It's also salty and woody, and, strangely, earthy, like the roots of a plant you've just dug up. Think of crushed sap and mud, on the edge of a wooden-handled metal spade you're using at the seaside and you won't be far wrong.

I grew up in an inland (river and canal) port-town and Beaufort London Fathom V inspires in me a longing for a home that doesn't exist any more, which in fact has never really existed anywhere except the inside of my head, and as a result it makes me long for places and times that would be impossible to get to any more, even if they were real. Can you be homesick for a place you've never been? Fathom V is the concentrated and distilled smell of the British coastline, natural and raw and blunt and untamed, and it's just plain sublime.

It's one of the most amazing smells I've ever encountered, I'm just not entirely sure it's actually a perfume.  In candle, or room scent form, I can imagine this is fantastic, and I'd welcome my house smelling this amazing way.  On my skin though, it makes me tearful for a time and a place that I've only ever imagined.  A frankly astonishing feat, especially when you remember I haven't smelled anything resembling "home" for years.

You can, and should, buy Beaufort London Fathom V here.

*All anosmics have a partner/ who acts as an external sense of smell, normally checking for the less pleasant aspects of life with a corrupted olfactory system.  BO, that random smell in the back of the fridge, burning toast etc

The Fine Print: PR samples and purchases


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Thursday, 2 February 2017

Guerlain Parure Gold Radiance Foundation - Rose Clair




  
There's no getting around it, £55 is very, very expensive for a foundation.  There's such a wealth of wonderful foundations around the £20-30 range these days (and even less, truth be told), that why would you even think about splashing out on something costing double the average?  That was my thinking before I bought a bottle of Guerlain Parure Gold Radiance Foundation, anyway.

However, and quite surprisingly, I haven't regretted a penny of this purchase, and it's unlikely that I'm going to, because this sky-rocketed to the top of the list my favourite foundations right after the first wear, and I've been kind of limiting my use of it since so I don't run out.  Crazy, huh?  Yeah, I know.



Housed in a handsome black glass bottle, Parure Gold has a pump mechanism, and promises full, but glowing, coverage and boy, does it deliver!  A silky-textured liquid, it smoothes easily over skin, and blends beautifully, covering even the reddest of red skins.  I am prone to extremely high-colouring, which is one of the banes of my existence, but Parure Gold copes with it very well, even when I'm in full flush, and keeps it at bay (or at least well-hidden) throughout the day too.

Unblended - (my hands are much paler than my face, bear in mind)

Blended.
Whilst the coverage is full, it's not mask-like, and still leaves your skin looking like skin.  It's layerable without caking, and your skin glows beautifully without looking shiny, glittery or greasy.  It's exceptionally forgiving of lines and wrinkles and seems to skip over pores without gathering in them. It lasts very well, and I've not found that it needs any real touching up over the course of a day, either.  I'm seriously in love with this stuff.  When your foundation needs to deliver, this delivers in spades.

In full, natural daylight (no professional lights/filters here!) and unedited (SOOC).
I did several days filming with BBC2 last year for a documentary (more about that soon), and this is the foundation I'm wearing for all of them.  I'm mostly saving it for high-days and holidays at the moment, but I'm wondering if this is a false economy?   So yes, expensive for sure, but what price confidence?

The Fine Print: Purchases



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