Monday, 17 April 2017

MAC Single Eyeshadow Collection - 60+ eyeshadows - Review + Swatches

I've been picking up a MAC eyeshadow here and there for years - I've repurchased many and I've retired many too as my eyeshadow tastes have developed. I wouldn't say MAC eyeshadows are the best eyeshadows in the world by any standard but there are definitely a fair handful of amazing, iconic shades in the MAC lineup. Up until quite recently, I think a single pan eyeshadow was €12 but Brown Thomas recently slashed the price of single pan eyeshadows to just €7, so I thought it timely that I swatch some shadows and show my beloved readers what I rate and what I hate in the MAC eyeshadow world so far. I think most of the colours are available in Ireland also - I've picked some up in the US, the UK etc. over the years. The vast vast majority of the shadows below are all some degree of neutrals but that's because I wear neutral eyeshadows 99% of the time and I've invested in what I know I will get the most use out of.

MAC eyeshadows come in several different finishes - matte, veluxe pearl, velvet, frost, satin, lustre - and I think they have around 110 individual shades in their permanent single eyeshadow line. The pigmentation and ease of use varies across the finishes - I'm a big fan of the veluxe pearl shadows and the velvets are my least favourites. Some of the lustre shadows can be very poorly pigmented also and, as you will see below, the mattes are either amazingly pigmented or poor and washy. For that reason, I've put the finish in the description of each of the shades below, as well as the official description of the colour from MAC (where I think their description was misleading, I will let you know).

It's taken me a few years to accumulate these shadows and I've gone through multiple pans of several colours over the years. I've got 1 x 30 pan palette (the double-sided one packed with neutrals), 2 x 15 palettes (warm tones and cool tones), 1 quad with four of my most used colours and four single shadows that I have yet to depot. My double sided MAC palette is probably my most used item in my makeup collection - in my line of work, I don't get the opportunity to experiment with colours very often and though this palette might look boring, it houses some of my most loved and most used shadows. Enough blather out of me - now on to the swatches! 
Gesso is a matte finish shadow and is described as a vivid white and I couldn't agree with this description - it's a stark white, extremely brightening and the matte formula on this is dreamy.
Phloof is a frost shadow and is described as a frosted off-white - I would qualify this by saying it leans towards the pink/purple spectrum under a certain light. This is quite nice on the inner tear duct. It applies nicely.
Shroom is a satin shadow and is described as a soft beige with shimmer. I love this shadow so much I somehow ended up with two in my palette! I love wearing this on it's own with a simple colour in the crease like Cork blended out to oblivion for a simple, no-fuss eye look. Shroom was one of my first MAC eyeshadows and I will keep on repurchasing it.
Blanc Type is a matte creamy beige shadow, similar to Urban Decay Virgin. It's a good colour to apply before any other shadows as I find it brightens and neutralises any discolouration on my eyelids. 
Dazzlelight is a veluxe pearl shadow (one of my favourite MAC eyeshadow finishes) neutral beige with shimmer. I don't find myself dipping my eyeshadow brush into this one very often because I would almost always pick Shroom over it. 
Malt is a matte shadow described as a soft pinkish-beige - let me tell you, this is one seriously underrated eyeshadow in my opinion. I love this in the crease as a transition shade, it looks great on it's own or with any darker/bold shades. It's quite cool so it looks shadow-esque and very flattering. It also looks great on it's own on your eyelids blown out into the crease with some killer mascara. 
Nylon is a frost finish shadow and is described as a pale gold with icy shimmer. I bought this with the intent of using it as a brow highlight but it's too gold for my skintone. I sometimes put this in the inner corners of my eyes or dab a little on my crease when I am doing a burgundy/cranberry eye look - I like the contract of the frosty gold against a burgundy shadow like Makeup Geek Bitten.
Retrospeck is a lustre shadow and the shade is (bizarrely) described as "beached blonde". This is a great one eyeshadow wonder which surprises nobody more than me because it is a lustre finish after all. 
Era is a satin eyeshadow and is described as soft golden beige with shimmer - this is definitely more of a light brown than a beige shadow in my mind but it's a really nice shadow and easy to work with.
Omega is a matte shadow and described as a soft muted cool beige-taupe - I'm not sure if it's the coolness of this shadow or not but I love this in the crease. I know loads of fair haired folks use this in their brows also so if you've blonde eyebrows, this might be a good brow pick for you.
Wedge is a matte shadow and described as a soft muted warm beige taupe. What you see is what you get with this shadow.
Honesty is a lustre shadow and is described as a muted bronze - I would say this is more of an antique bronze because it is quite cool. I never find myself reaching for this shadow even though the pigmentation is remarkably decent for a lustre shadow.
Naked Lunch is a frost eyeshadow and described as a minimal pink with shimmer - I don't get pink vibes off this but it is one of my favourite MAC eyeshadows - so much so I have it in this palette and in a quad palette that I put together to bring with me when I'm on the go.
All that Glitters is a veluxe pearl shadow which means the formula is divine and this colour has been described as beige with gold pearl - beige just seems too ordinary a word to describe this. This is a shadow that goes with every other colour - pinks, purples, browns, blues, greens - if you don't already own this, I think you should consider rectifying that stat!
Vex is a frost shadow and described as a beige with pink-green pearl - in my eyes, this is more of a grey than a beige shadow, and I don't pink up on too much pink/green undertones to be honest. I very rarely use this shadow.
Tempting is a lustre shadow and is described on the MAC website as a sinfully rich cocoa - it's more of a rich caramel shade than rich cocoa in my opinion. 
Cork is a satin shadow and described as a muted golden-brown. I love this not just because it's called after my homeland but because it's one of my most loved and most used crease colours. It's not too warm, not too cool, not too light and not too dark. It's a must have and I happen to have two.
Woodwinked is a veluxe pearl eyeshadow described as a warm antique cold and this is one of MAC's eyeshadows that has achieved legendary status already so there is not much more I can add really other than to say that this is an incredible colour irrespective of your eye colour, it looks expensive and rich and because it's a veluxe pearl. the finish is incredible. This should be the top of your MAC eyeshadow wishlist if it's not already.
Coquette is a satin shadow and described as a muted greyish-taupe shade. It's a useful mix of mid-tone grey and brown and goes with a multitude of other colours. 
Sumptuous Olive is another veluxe pearl shadow so it's bound to be a good'un and this shade is described as a khaki with pearl. I very rarely use this shadow as it's a little greener than what I am used to and that intimidates me a smidge but this is a favourite for many, particularly green-eyed gals.
Patina is a frost shadow and another one of my favourites, described as a taupe brown with golden pearl. I've never come across another shadow like this. I love this all over the lids on it's own.
Sable is a frost shadow described as a gold plum with bronze pearl - as you can see from the swatch above, it's gorgeous
Mulch is a velvet shadow described as red-brown with bronze pearl - I feel like the pearl is more obvious in the pan than it is swatched but this is still a lovely shadow.
Satin Taupe is a frost shadow and one of MAC's most famous shadows in my opinion. It is described as a taupe with silver shimmer but I feel like that's too simple a description for a colour so rich - sometimes it looks purple to me, sometimes brown. It's a great shadow to have in your collection because it just does so much.
Twinks is a veluxe pearl eyeshadow described as a deep plum with pearl - I think it's more of a deep plummy brown than a deep plum but that might just be splitting hairs. 
Concrete is a satin shadow and described as a muted taupe brown - I rarely use it granted as I feel like it just looks dirty on my skin.
Brun is a satin shadow and described as a muted blackish-brown - this shadow is so muted, it might as well not exist. I find it hard to build up on the eyes, hard to get a decent swatch for this post, I don't think I even try to use this anymore.
Mystery is a matte shadow and described as a cool brown and that's pretty accurate, a cool dark brown. This is a great dark option for a brown smoky eye and can be used with pretty much any other colour to smoke it out.
Smut is a velvet shadow and described as a muted black with red shimmer - again, I'm going to say this shadow is so muted, there is no point owning it and I definitely would not recommend 
Soft Brown is a matte shadow and described as a soft golden peachy brown which is the perfect description. This colour is a dream to work with, easy to apply, easy to blend.
Amber Lights is a frost shadow and described as a peachy brown with shimmer - it's not vivid enough to be a coral but by no means boring enough to be a brown. I love this shade and I feel like it doesn't fully get the love it deserves.
Texture is a velvet shadow and again, is described as a peachy-brown with shimmer. It's lighter in tone than Soft Brown and reminds me a lot of the MAC ProLongwear eyeshadow in Uninterrupted which has now sadly/inexplicably been discontinued.
Saddle is a matte shade and described as a golden orange brown - this eyeshadow makes blue eyes sing, it's so incredibly flattering against blue eyes.
Brown Script is a  matte shadow and described as warm chestnut brown - I find this eyeshadow is a great alternative to when I want a really warm eye without using a burgundy or pink eyeshadow. 
Coppering is a veluxe pearl shadow and a super vibrant orange copper shade. I love it in my palette but barely use it because I am so intimidated by the brightness of it but this exercise has made me mentally note that I need to try to incorporate this eyeshadow. 
Espresso is a matte shadow and described as a muted golden brown but I don't find it to be too golden - it's a neutral brown in my mind - not too warm and not too cool.
Charcoal Brown is a matte shadow and described as a muted taupe brown - this is another one of my favourite crease colours.
Bronze is a frost shade described as a gold brown with gold-bronze shimmer - I admit that I was a little disappointed with this colour when I first purchased it as it's not the most pigmented and I don't reach for it very often.
Swiss Chocolate is a matte shadow described as a muted reddish brown and is a gorgeous crease colour. It reminds me of Makeup Geek Cocoa Bear. 
Antiqued is a veluxe pearl shade and described as an ash brown with bronze - I don't think there is anything ashy about this shade but it is a beautiful shade.
Star Violet is a veluxe pearl shade and described as a pinky-brown plum - I would add a bit of purple to the mix on that. This colour is a testament to what MAC do best - so many undercurrents and tones and colour combinations emanating from one single shadow.
Brown Down is a veluxe shadow and described as a teddy bear brown - it's light enough to blend out well for your crease but dark enough to pack on to the outer corners of your eyes.
Embark is a matte shadow and described as an intense reddish brown but my eye doesn't see much reddish in this. It's a very deep brown, very pigmented 
Deep Damson is a matte shade (though you wouldn't think it to work with it because it's hard and difficult to pick up) and is described as a deep burgundy. It's a pity this eyeshadow is so poor because the colour in the pan looks so promising.
Copperplate is a matte shadow and described as a cool taupe. It looks particularly gorgeous with purple and mauvey toned eyeshadows.
Quarry is a matte and is described as a soft muted plum brown shadow. This is one of my top 5 MAC eyeshadows without a shadow of a doubt. I love a cool mauvey eye and this colour is exquisite.
Haux is a satin shadow and not one I hear a lot about at that but it is described as a soft muted rosy brown. It reminds me of my favourite Makeup Geek eyeshadow Cupcake and I love putting this in my crease.
Shale is another satin shadow and is described as a mauve plum with shimmer. I don't notice much shimmer when I use this colour and it barely gets a look in to be honest because I'm just too fond of Quarry and Haux.
Trax is a velvet shadow and described as a burgundy plum with shimmer - a description which is too kind because this colour honestly doesn't look like much of anything - it swatches terribly and is so difficult to work with.
Blackberry is a matte shade and is described as a muted burgundy-plum brown - it swatches and applies darker than it looks in the pan but it goes so nicely with Quarry.
Fig 1 is a matte shadow and is described as a cool plum shade - I have really not heard anything about this shadow anywhere but I liked the look of it so I picked it up and I'm so glad I did because it really is something special, even for me who is stuck in a neutral eyeshadow comfort zone rut.
Sketch is a velvet shadow (which, if you haven't copped by now, means it should be crap) and is described as a burgundy with red shimmer. I get more purple vibes than I do burgundy vibes when I use this shadow but again, I love pairing it with Quarry or Haux.
Beauty Marked is a velvet and is described as a black with red sparkle - as you can see it looks very sparkly in the pan but when swatched, it's blacker than the matte black MAC eyeshadow (we'll get to that). It's a lot darker than I expected so I don't use it very often.
Shadowy Lady is another example of a very poor matte shadow and is described as a blackened plum. I've just given up on this - it's far too hard to work with because the brush just does not pick up product.
Silver Ring is a veluxe pearl eyeshadow described as a grey with silver sheen. I don't often do silver smoky eyes anymore if I did, this would be my go-to silver eyeshadow. The pigment and wear of this is incredible, I just need more excuses to use it.
Scene is a satin finish eyeshadow described as a muted blue grey - this is a great colour for a cooler subtle smoky eye as it's not too dark.
Print is a satin finish shadow and described as a muted grey with shimmer - there isn't too much shimmer to it in my mind but I'm pretty fond of grey eyeshadows and this one is right up there. If you're looking for an alternative to black, definitely consider this one.
Knight Divine is a veluxe pearl shadow and described as black with silver pearl. This eyeshadow, in my humble opinion, is seriously underrated. It's a gorgeous, packed with pigment silver over a dark base and looks great in the centre of the lid over a grey smoky eye.
Carbon is supposedly a matte finish shadow and is described as intense black but as you can see from the swatch about, it's absolutely rubbish. There are way better matte black eyeshadows out there so this is one I would definitely recommend skipping.
Lastly but by no means leastly, the remainder of my MAC standard single eyeshadow collection comprise of 4 single shadows and a 4 pan palette with some of my absolute faves. I don't propose talking about the latter as I have already given my two cents on those shades but I will quickly run through the single shades in my collection.
Vanilla is a velvet finish shadow and described as a peachy-ivory with reflects. This shadow, like most of the velvet shadows, is very poorly pigmented and barely shows up at all on my lids.
Electra is a frost shadow and is simply described as a silver. This was one of my very first MAC shadows and I've gone through a few pans in the last 10 years. I have cool colouring and blue eyes so I like silvers and greys and this one is just the right shade for me.
Club is a satin shadow and is described as a red brown with green pearl but it really swatches more like a brown. I was hoping this would be a duochrome shade but, even though it looks green/red in the pan, it swatches as a warm brown, and so I'm a little disappointed by it. It's grand but I've never felt inclined to depot it and put it into a palette and I just don't find myself reaching for it.
Handwritten is a matte shadow and described as a neutral brown shade. I can't remember why I bought this and admittedly I very rarely reach for it but it's a decently pigmented, rich reddish brown shade and I will definitely try to incorporate it into some eye makeup going forward.

So there you have it - my single MAC eyeshadow collection in it's entirely. This was a long post and if you've stuck with me to the end, you deserve a medal. As I mentioned in the beginning, I know my MAC eyeshadow collection is very neutral heavy but thats's just because neutrals have a special place in my heart and I don't veer away from them very often. I hope this post was useful for those of you looking to avail of the price slash on single MAC eyeshadows - I know I'll be picking up a few more before long! On that note, if you have any colour recommendations, let me know!

As a matter of interest, what's your favourite MAC eyeshadow shade?

Sunday, 9 April 2017

New Skincare Regime feat. IMAGE Skincare, Kiehl's, Bioderma, Pixi

I've always been a bit paranoid about ageing but I really feel now, having turned 30 a few months back, that I did not take skincare seriously enough in my 20s. I spent lots of money of creams and lotions and potions but never really educated myself on my own skin type and what I need, and never really stuck to a diligent routine. I've committed any skincare sins - using face wipes to take off my makeup in a hurry, falling into bed with my makeup on after a night out, not using a specific SPF under my foundations but relied on the SPF in my foundation instead - you name it, I've done it. But since I turned 30 in October, I'm super hyper sensitive about ageing, fine lines and wrinkles and I am absolutely dedicated to turning my skincare routine around and becoming far more dedicated to my one simple regime. So over the last few weeks, I've met the experts and I've just set up a skin routine now which I hope will reap benefits over the coming weeks and months and I think it's worth sharing so hopefully some of you will find this useful.
You will see in this post that the vast majority of my skincare in my current routine is from one brand, IMAGE Skincare. Now I want to clear something up right off the bat - yes, I've been invited to several IMAGE Skincare PR events before and yes, I have been gifted some of their products through the years. HOWEVER, this post is in no way, shape or form a sponsored post or any kind of paid endorsement - I've been gifted some products below which I will denote with a * but I have forked out hundreds of euros of my own hard earned cash from my non-blog related day job to put together a tailored skincare routine because I am 100% serious about protecting my skin. I don't usually feel the need to spell it out but I just wanted to clarify that for the avoidance of all doubt. So if you are still interested in reading about my experience and the skincare journey that I have embarked on so far, keep reading! 

Firstly, I know IMAGE Skincare has featured a lot in the press recently and is a firm favourite of not only many bloggers but also many skincare professionals, aestheticians and salon owners who have advocated their products. IMAGE Skincare pride themselves on being the most innovative skincare brand in the industry. It is a professional only brand which means you can only buy it from salons after a proper consultation with an expert - which might make you think that this brand is not easily attainable - but looking at the list of stockists on their Irish distributors website, there are salons in every county across Ireland that offer IMAGE Skincare and treatments. I've not yet experienced an IMAGE Skincare treatment but it's on my to-do list as a priority. I did have a consultation with an IMAGE expert at a recent launch party where I was grilled on my current routine, my lifestyle, my requirements and my skin concerns, and she put together a routine for me based on what I told her and that is what I have based my current regime on. 

I think at this point I should point out my own specific concerns and what I am looking to address specifically over the coming weeks and months. I have pretty good skin in that I have never suffered from acne but I do get hormonal breakouts from time to time, particularly around my chin area. I used to have very dehydrated skin but I've noticed it's not quite as dehydrated anymore, but my skin is pretty sensitive, especially to AHAs, and certain products I have used in the past have caused a horrific reaction that looks like I've had a cup of boiling water thrown on my face. I don't have any major signs of ageing yet apart from a crevice on my forehead between my eyebrows (I'm from Cork like and we're very expressive) and fine lines under my eyes. My two main skin concerns (apart from ageing) currently are congestion (I don't have acne but I feel like my skin can look congested) and dullness (lacklustre skin, no glow - and I don't mean an oily glow). I long for a fresh clean and clear complexion so that's the context for the journey that I am taking. 
First up - my morning or AM routine. I have to admit I was not one for any detailed skincare routine in the mornings before I started on this IMAGE Skincare path - my morning routine usually just consisted of removing any residual mascara with some micellar on a cotton pad and slapping on a bit of a moisturiser that sits well under makeup. I know, I'm a sinner. The products that I have been "prescribed" for usage in the morning are the Iluma Lightening Cleanser (rrp €35.50) which is a gel-to-milk cleanser which is meant to remove surface impurities and brighten the complexion, the Iluma Lightening Serum (rrp €52) which is a brightening serum which is supposed to promote a clear, fresh-looking complexion and finally, my SPF for the day, the Prevention Daily Matte Moisturizer Oil Free SPF 32+* (rrp €45.50) which provides broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection. I love the cleanser and the serum so far, as I mentioned I am not used to treating my skin in the mornings, and I'm still not 100% sure about the SPF. It applies nicely but does take a few minutes to go matte (I wouldn't say it's actually mattifying) but I will have to test this out with foundations over the next few weeks to make sure it doesn't wreak havoc on my makeup application. (*There was no full size available in the two beauty salons that I visited to purchase these products so I am using the samples that Victoria in Mudpie Beauty in Dundrum kindly gifted me to keep me going). I've also pictured my other facial SPF which I adore, the Kiehl's Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Sunscreen (rrp €39) - I love this stuff, it's amazing under makeup and I've not got as much as a single freckle despite spending a week in the blistering Italian sun since I started using this. 
I'm going to fast forward now to the end of the day when I am taking all of my makeup off. There is no greater feeling than washing away your face down the sink at nighttime I think. I usually start off by removing my eye makeup and the Nivea Extra Gentle Eye Makeup Remover (rrp €6.29) does a decent enough job of that - it doesn't sting my eyes even though it is quite heavily fragranced and it does a decent enough job at removing the first layer of eye makeup. I'm not sure whether I will repurchase it or not yet but for now, it's fine. I also have my trusty Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water (rrp €16.80) to take the first layer of my makeup away. This is my all time favourite micellar water since 2012 - I remember smuggling this stuff back in from France before it was available in Ireland. The final step in my makeup removal routine is the Pixi + Caroline Hirons Double Cleanse (rrp €30.95) - I've done a full blog post on this recently enough so you can refer to that if you're curious about this product but needless to say, I am nearly on my second pot and I love using it for removing my makeup.
My nighttime or PM skincare routine is a bit more intensive than my AM routine. Once I have taken all my makeup off, I use the Clear Cell Salicylic Gel Cleanser (rrp €35.50) to cleanse my skin and exfoliate. Now this is where expert advice is greatly appreciated - I would never in a million years have picked this out for myself because I don't have oily skin or acne and would be afraid that this would dry out my skin as I'm sensitive to acids. This is supposed to help with the congestion and I've been using it for almost a week already with no sensitivity or issues to report. For serum, I was prescribed two to use simultaneously but unfortunately only one was available in stock in the salons I visited. The one that I am using currently is the Ormedic Balancing Anti-Oxidant Serum (rrp €65.50) which is designed to balance your skin from within, restore it to its ideal moisture levels and leave your skin intensely hydrated with a healthy glow. The other one that I have been prescribed and which I am yet to find is the Ageless Total Pure Hyaluronic Filler (rrp €72.50) which is meant to pump pure hydration back into your skin. I love a bit of hyaluronic so I can't wait to try this out. I follow up serums with the "repair" stage and for repair, I was prescribed the Ormedic Bio-Peptide Creme (rrp €78) which is full of anti-aging nutrients and vitamins and, like the serum, smells absolutely incredible. This entire combination leaves my skin feeling so plumped and clean every night, I've really been enjoying it. Finally, I was prescribed the Iluma Intense Brightening Eye Cream* (rrp €68.50) which promises to help reduce visible signs of aging around the eyes including puffiness, dark circles and wrinkles. I was gifted this product a while back and have loved it since so I was relieved when this eye cream was the one that was prescribed to me. Lastly, I use the Ormedic Balancing Lip Enhancement Complex* (rrp €25.50) because this is hands down the most effective lip balm I have and I have excessively dry lips - they do get terribly sore, particularly in colder months or the change in seasons. 
Aside from the skincare that I was prescribed, there are a few more items which I have been gifted by IMAGE Skincare that I have incorporated into my routine. The Vital C Hydrating Hand and Body Lotion* (rrp €49.50) is one of the newest IMAGE Skincare launches and I was given this about two weeks ago at the launch party and I've literally been lathering myself in it since - it smells so good I can't even deal. It is super rich and infused with shea butter but my dry skin and particularly my dry hands just soak this up. I read a scary statistic somewhere recently that basically said your hands are the biggest giveaway of your age so now of course I'm paranoid about my 30 year old hands letting me down so I've been applying this every night before bed and a few times during the day. The Stem Cell Masque* (rrp €46.50) has been a favourite mask of mine for months - whenever I use it, I feel like my skin looks that little bit more radiant, so I'm looking forward to incorporating it into my IMAGE Skincare routine. Finally, the Iluma Brightening Exfoliating Powder* (rrp €40.50) is described as a polishing powder packed with micro-exfoliating beads and this is a joy to use - I wet my hands and sprinkle a decent amount of the powder between my hands to make an exfoliating paste- it feels so gentle on the skin but my skin feels so smooth and er, polished, after using it. This is a definite repurchase for me when it runs out. 

So - I know that looks lengthy - but as I mentioned earlier, I'm in my 30s now and I really feel a lot of pressure to look after my skin. I've invested a small fortune so far in IMAGE Skincare in particular and I'm so grateful to have been gifted some bits also but I would love for the summer months to roll around and for me to feel comfortable going foundation free. I cannot stress the importance of getting a proper consultation done by an IMAGE Skincare professional because, in all honesty if I was just handed the catalogue of IMAGE Skincare products, I don't think I would have picked out the same. I'm only little over one week into my new skincare routine and no adverse reactions so far thank god but not much of a noticeable difference yet - I'm not disheartened because I know it takes at least a month to see the full effects of a new regime. Believe it or not, I still need to supplement this routine with a few more products that have been prescribed to me - my consultant recommended that I take a daily collagen shot called Yana Daily Collagen Shots daily which I will probably give a try for at least a month. I've tried a couple of samples of the Ageless Total Overnight Retinol Mask which is supposed to be brilliant for anti-ageing (and felt great on my skin too) so I will try to incorporate that into my routine and of course, as I mentioned already, I need to get my hands on both the Ageless Pure Hyaluronic Filler and the Prevention+ SPF. I've also been advised to get some IMAGE Skincare peels so I will look into that too in the coming months. Either way, it's an exciting journey so I'm looking forward to sharing some insights with you on a periodic basis. 

I know this was a whopper long post but I just wanted to be as detailed as possible. It took a while for me to get to this point but turning 30 really has put the fear of god into me. 

Are there any particular skincare products or treatments that you are loving right now? 


Thursday, 30 March 2017

Penneys/Primark - 16 New Budget Beauty Hacks!

I'd say it's ingrained in the DNA of about 99% of Irish women to love Penneys (or Primark in the UK/US). For years, Penneys was the go-to for cheap and cheerful fashion fixes, but in the last two years or so, Penneys has morphed into an entirely different beast. One of the greatest reinventions in Penneys-land has been the introduction of their PS Love beauty lines, the introduction of beauty bars in large flagship stores (have you seen the one in the mothership store on Mary Street?) and of course, the inclusion of tons of beauty hacks in their seasonal line ups. I cannot go into a Penneys now without visiting the beauty section - along with their own budget beauty brands, most Penneys stores stock a variety of other brands too - Essence, Catrice, Wet n Wild, Rimmel, Flormar, Cocoa Brown, Maybelline etc etc. Now I know Penneys can be hit and miss and stock flies out the door but I just wanted to take this opportunity to share some beauty bits and bobs that I have found instore in various Penneys in the last few weeks and months - some that I have loved, some that I have loathed and some I feel entirely dispassionate about. Feel free to share your Penneys beauty hacks in the comments below too!
 The Come Clean Cloth is obviously a not so discreet version of the Makeup Eraser which I've seen in Sephora retailing for $20 for one single cloth. These Penneys versions are €4 for 3 - which is entirely more affordable. Now I could never justify paying the 20 odd quid for a single cloth no matter how miraculous it promises to be, so I joyfully picked these up. I don't like these as much as the next product but they are grand - like soft facecloths. Even though it promises to remove your makeup without water, I would definitely use makeup remover with these and I've been using the Pixi + Caroline Hirons Double Cleanse and it works a charm. I never re-use these as I use a fresh facecloth to take off my makeup every night. I can't comment as to whether this is a dupe for the much more expensive version but taking it for what it is, it's a nice facecloth for removing makeup.

The Come Clean Mitt, similar to the Come Clean Cloth, promises to remove your makeup with just water but again, I wear full face of foundation, eyeliner, mascara and liquid lipsticks most days and I just don't feel like water would be enough to thoroughly remove all makeup. We've seen the likes of these mitts before - the Nima Mitt and the Cleanse Off Mitt to name but two examples - but this one is different because the back of it is waffled and alot more exfoliating on the skin. I quite like it actually as you can be as vigorous or as gentle as you like with it. Again, I would only use this once before putting it in the wash, but at €3 for 3, it won't break the bank to have a few on the go.

Time to Come Clean Micellar Cleansing Water - I absolutely hated this. It's not fragranced but I used it once on one half of my face to remove my makeup and it made my skin very angry and red very quickly. I've banished it to the back of my drawer since and I will not be trying this out on my face again. It might only have been €2.50

Brush Cleaner is obviously based on the Sigma brush cleaning accessories as it is a soft silicone pad that you can slip on your hand and use to scrub the makeup off the innermost bristles of your favourite brushes. I quite enjoy using this, it makes the brush washing experience a little less tedious! I like that it's not a glove but that you can still put your hand into it to keep it steady and for €2.50, it's well worth the investment.
 PS Hollywood Oil Pulling Sachets - now the thought of swishing coconut oil around in my mouth for 15 minutes is seriously gag-inducing, in the interests of dental hygiene, it's worth it - right? I'm trying to psych myself up to try these out but I just can't muster up the courage. If you've tried them, let me know what you thought of the experience below in the comments!

Shoe Size Adjusters - now this is not strictly beauty but as someone with a very small foot (size 3), it's often difficult to get shoes in my size, particularly heels or shoes for work where a lot of brands start with a size 4. I saw these little foam adjusters and I thought they were the must ingenious idea EV-ER and if they work I am going to go back and buy them by the dozen.

PS Lip Scrub - I suffer from dry chapped lips so I thought a portable lip scrub would be a good investment but unfortunately it's not very scrubby and tastes like children's lipstick so this is a definite non-recommendation from me but I'm not going to cry over the €1.50 that it cost!

Small Plastic Pots - we're coming into holiday season again and these little pots are the absolute business for traveling. I like to decant my foundation/face creams/hair masks into these and bring them with me when I am travelling. I always stock up when I see them and I think they are only a €1 for 5 little pots so it's way cheaper than buying miniature sizes of your favourite products too!
The PS Insta Girl Flash Photo Powder has been doing the rounds on social media over the last few weeks since it was released along with the rest of the PS Insta Girl range. As if the name didn't give it away, these products are aimed toward perfecting your selfies for killer Insta photos. I've tried this powder a few times and I'm not blown away yet - it's very finely milled but also very blue and even though it doesn't leave a blue cast a la Smurf on my face when I apply it over my foundation, it certainly pales my face out a bit and leaves me slightly dead looking. Maybe I am not using it right or I haven't given it a fair chance yet but I'm not feeling the alleged genius in this product yet.

Masks - from lip masks to eye patches to bubbling face masks, there is a huge range of masks available in Penneys atm. I bought these with a great sense of trepidation - I have sensitive skin and I hate the Penneys Micellar Water. However, I had the same sense of trepidation about the Garnier Moisture Bomb tissue masks and my skin laps those up so I thought it was worth trying the once. So far I have tried the Cranberry Lip Mask (which must have been made for people with HUGE mouths because it covered half of my face and made no difference whatsoever to the state of my kissers!) and the Vitamin E Eye Treatment Patches which (miraculously!) did not irritate my eyes but I'm not convinced they did any good either as they are quite thin and didn't seem to be soaked in much product. The latter might be nice to keep in the fridge (handy resealable pouch and comes with 15 treatments) for a hot summer day when I'm feeling toasty but aside from that, with skincare, I believe (for the most part) that you get what you pay for so my expectations were pretty low and my experience was grand - no adverse reactions but no noticeable results.

Mixing Palette and Spatula Set - these first arrived in Penneys months ago and even though I searched high and low for them at the time, I was never able to find them in stock anywhere. One day when I was browsing the Penneys in the shopping centre that time forgot i.e. Nutgrove, I came across these so I of course picked up two for me and some more for my pals and I've loved using these. I often use lightening drops with my foundations and this palette is heck of a lot more convenient than applying both to the back of my hand! I haven't found a use for the spatula yet but give me time!

Pencil Sharpener - sharpeners are one of those staples that you take for granted until you can't find one and your favourite lipliners are nubs and badly need to be pared. I wasn't setting out to buy one but this little rose gold heart caught my eye and it's one of those dual sharpeners with a hole for normal pencils and a hole for chunky pencils. I bought two of these such is my fear of not being able to find my sharpener when I need it but for a €1 a piece, I can't complain!
Tan Be Gone Exfoliating Mitt - we're coming into tanning season now and I never sunbathe so I am reliant on the bottle to get my colour. I am pretty lazy in the summer months when it comes to taking care of my body skin - I lash on a bit of moisturiser but I practically never show any skin so I'm not too concerned with exfoliating/fake tanning during the winter months. I use this in the shower with my shower gel of choice and whilst it's definitely a good scrub, it's a step short of sandpaper for the skin. What I like about it is that it's mitt and not glove shaped, it's not too rough and my skin definitely feels smoother. It's probably not a revolutionary product but it serves it's purpose well.

Beauty Sponges - I've a couple of Beauty Blenders but I'm not a mad one for the beauty sponges usually so I picked these up a few months back to try out the different shapes and sizes and see if one of these would suit better. I got a 3 pack of the mini beauty sponges last year and I really enjoyed those for tapping a bit of concealer on my undereyes so hopefully these will be similar in texture.

Makeup Sponge Cleanser - People were losing their lives over this stuff when it first came out and after giving it a go myself, I can't really see why to be honest! Ok, it's cheap ish but actually it's not that cheap really - I will elaborate. Even though it costs just €2.50, the actual soap is so tiny and it's not fixed in the little pot that I just found I ended up with a fiddly little disc of soap for washing my brushes - grand for eye brushes and the like but more fiddly for foundation brushes. I way way prefer the Blank Canvas Cosmetics Brush & Sponge Solid Soap to this one - it's way bigger so easier to swirl your brushes, and the soap is fixed to the metal container so it's easier to go through numerous brushes in one cleaning spree. I've been using soap to wash my brushes for probably 9/10 years now and there is nothing at all wrong with an ordinary bar of soap that you can buy in the supermarket for less than a euro a piece. I used to use a Palmolive one that came in a set of 3 for €1.49 in Dealz and it was great! The soap didn't damage my brushes in any way and left them clean. This product, for me, was all hype and little substance unfortunately.

Makeup Sponges - lastly but not leastly, I think this 25 pack of disposable makeup sponges is the absolute business. Whenever I applied liquid highlighters with my fingers or a brush, I make a balls of it, but the pink sponges make it a doddle. I also like to bring the white ones with me in an empty mirrored compact to blot if I get a bit shiny during the warmest summer months - it's so handy when you don't want to add powder and you won't cry over tossing the sponge in the bin when you're done.

So as you can - definitely a mixed bag of products with some finds and some fails - but when the products are only a couple of euros a piece, how could you not try them out! I definitely think it's worth a chance because you never know when you might be on to the next big thing. The great thing about it is that if I was to walk into Penneys again in the morning, they would probably have a whole other range of goodies ripe for the picking! Have you tried any of these products and what did you think of them?

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Current Beauty Wishlist and Anti-Wishlist

When you love makeup as much as I do, the want is always strong, so I have a mental wishlist of makeup acquisitions on the go at all times in my head - the curiosity and willingness to try new beauty bits is like an illness. I thought that today, in sharing my wishlist, it would be good to also share my anti-wishlist i.e. the makeup things I am definitely not wishing for that haven't appealed or impressed me enough to justify parting with my hard earned dollas. As per always, this is just my personal opinion based on my own taste, likes, dislikes etc. so please don't take any offence (it's not personal lads, it's just makeup). 
So let's start with the positives - the things that I have been researching/ drooling over/ lusting after/ admiring over the last few weeks. 
1. The Zoeva Matte Palette - lord knows Zoeva do great eyeshadows and I've really enjoyed every other eyeshadow palette I've tried from them, including the matte shades, so this is something I will definitely purchase. In fact, I would have purchased already had it been available online but the Zoeva website has been sold out for weeks. Sad times. 
2. I don't think I have tried any Shiseido makeup ever (bad blogger) but the sound of the new Synchro Skin Glow foundation is getting me all hot and bovvered as it sounds right up my street. I do dip my toe into full coverage, matte or satin effect foundations from time to time but with the spring upon us, I'm feeling like a lighter base might be more in order. This is pretty pricey though so I am going to try to get a sample of this to try before forking out €48.
3. Since I hit the big 3-0 a few months back, I've been paranoid about interested in anti-aging skincare and taking care of my skin. I spend a small fortune in Space NK on skincare, thinking the more I spend on a cream the more effective it will be, but I'm not noticing any amazing benefits and I'm not happy with the texture of my skin currently either. I 100% am going to get myself an Image Skincare facial and prescription asap - I've tried some Image Skincare bits before that were gifted to me at a PR event where we got to meet the founders of the brand and my skin just lapped them up and loved life until they ran out. I don't want to just go into a salon to pick out some products randomly - I hold my hands up and am seeking expert advice. If you have any Image facialist recommendations in the South Dublin area, please let me know.
4. I was in London at the flagship Charlotte Tilbury store a few weeks back and I swatched the Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finish Powder on the back of my hands and it was so smooth and silky that I have thought of little else since, and I'm in the market for a new powder. The reason I didn't purchase there and then was because I have a love/hate relationship with Charlotte Tilbury products (I hated the Magic Foundation) so I didn't want to waste my money but I have loads of Brown Thomas vouchers burning a hole in my pocket and I think this powder just needs to be bought.
5. I was invited to the launch of the YSL Volupté Tint In Balm a few weeks back and I couldn't make it with work commitments but I have been suffering with dry chapped lips for weeks now and foregoing the lipstick where possible that this latest YSL innovation could be the answer to my prayers. PS look at the packaging - is it not divine! 
6. Another YSL offering on my radar is the new YSL The Shock mascara - I've gotten on well with Lancome mascaras in recent years and the before and after pictures I have seen of the newest mascara are literally pictorial depictions of what lash dreams are made of. 
7. Lastly but not leastly, I've seen pictures and reviews of the new Catrice Makeup Transformer Drops all over the interwebs but I have not yet found them instore or online to purchase yet and I am dying to! I'm all about a bit of foundation mixing to find that perfect blend and as someone with a drawer full of foundations both too dark and too light for my skintone, I could really do with these to help. I have high expectations of all Catrice products that I purchase because I think they are really an exceptional brand, particularly in base products. 
On to the anti-wishlist, these are things that have come across my radar that, frankly, didn't impress me much, certainly not enough to purchase them. I will elaborate below but suffice to say, it's just my opinion and it's purely based on my personal opinion. 
1. Benefit Galifornia Blush - the first of three Benefit offerings on this list. The colour is nice enough - a bright hot pinky coral - but it's not too dissimilar from any of the other blushes in my collection to justify paying €34 for it. I have completely outgrown the Benefit hype and packaging to be honest - 10 years ago I was obsessed with the brand, I think the Benefit Georgia Peach blush (inexplicably discontinued) was one of my absolute faves all through college. I don't like the look of the gold overlay on Galifornia and I am not a fan of the boxed blush packaging - it's too chunky for my packed makeup drawers. I'll be passing on this.
2. Natasha Denona Star Palette - now this is a beautiful palette and the colours really appeal to me but there is no way EV-ER that I would pay €165 for one single, 18 shade eyeshadow palette. Lunacy! 
3. The second Benefit offering is the rather silly Benefit They're Real Duo Eyeshadows. The premise of these is that you can use a weird sponge applicator yolk to apply the light and dark eyeshadow to your eye in one foul swoop and have a perfect eye look in about 1.5 seconds. I just don't buy this at all, but granted, I have not tried it out myself. I cannot see how that big sponge applicator yolk would apply one colour of eyeshadow well, never mind two different shades. Also, how pressed for time or lazy would you have to be to not have an extra 10 seconds to just do the job properly. The only thing this palette does to my eyeballs is make me roll them. 
4. Next on my anti-wishlist is the Smashbox Cover Shot palette (the Matte version is pictured). Main reasons I would not purchase this is that I have found Smashbox eyeshadow palettes to be SO hit and miss - and more miss than hit if I am being very honest. I've also seen some pretty damning reviews of these on social media so I'm more than happy to sit this one out.
5. Inglot have super impressed me since they released their amazing What a Spice Eyeshadows and What a Spice HD Lip Tints but one of their latest releases - the Freedom Highlighters - which admittedly grabbed my attention on release - does not appeal to me since I swatched them in person on my hand and was underwhelmed and heard a damning report from my hairdresser who was so annoyed that she forked out €40 blindly on the full set. 
6. The last Benefit instalment in my anti-wishlist is the Benefit They're Real Double the Lip lipsticks. These are supposed to be lipsticks with inbuilt lip liners and when I first spied these in a Christmas gift set months back, I thought they were ludicrous to be honest. Huge clunky packaging hides the fact that you actually get HALF the product in this lipstick that you would in a MAC lipstick (Benefit 1.5g v MAC 3g) , despite the fact that the Benefit offering is more expensive. I enjoy a gimmick as much as the next person but this is one gimmick I cannot in good conscience as a 30 year old woman get behind. Even if the lipliner part of the tip of their "unique" teardrop applicator does apply lipliner neatly, I can't see it lasting too long or prolonging the longevity of your lip colour/desired lip shape. 
7. I'm generally a huge fan of MAC cosmetics - I really feel like you get what it says on the tin for the most part. One recent release that didn't even slightly tickle my pickle is the MAC Quiktrik stick, a double ended, multi use stick for highlighting, contouring, bronzing or adding a pop of colour. I'm not the biggest fan of these purported multi-use products, and similarly I'm not really a fan of cream highlighting or contouring products so I'm happy to sit this one out.
8. Lastly but not leastly, Kylie Jenner's new Velvet Lip Kits are the latest in a long line of Kylie lip products and I'm not feeling too enthused about them. I will hold out to hear reports of how these hold up, but I would have concerns that a velvet finish wouldn't have great longevity. I might also just wait for a high street brand to bring out a cheaper alternative like Barry M did recently with their Matte Me Up Lip Kits. 

So there you have it - controversial or not - those are the products that have jumped out at me for both the right and wrong reasons this month. If you like the idea of anti-haul posts (i.e. someone explaining why they are not going to purchase a product), I recommend Anti Haul Blog because she regularly posts about makeup that she cannot justify buying and that inspired me to write this post. There is no way you can love and want all makeup products so why not talk about what doesn't appeal to you and why as well as what you are currently coveting?

What do you think of my picks? Do we have any lusts/ loathes in common?


Friday, 17 March 2017

Pixi + Caroline Hirons Double Cleanse - Review

This might be a very controversial statement but I have to admit I'm not the hugest fangirl of Caroline Hirons - not trying to take from what she does or what she has achieved but I have subscribed to her channel out of curiosity and unsubscribed again out of frustration several times. I do think she knows her stuff but her way of conveying it sometimes grates on me because she has that school mistress method of sharing information and that just doesn't appeal to me personally. One thing that Caroline has taught me and many others is the virtue of the double cleanse - i.e. cleansing your face not once but twice to make sure every single scrap of makeup is gone. I always double cleanse - first with an oil cleanser like the Clinique Take the Day Off Balm (which I love) and then follow up with a gel or cream cleanser (current favourite being the Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel/ Cream - which I also love). So when I saw the Pixi + Caroline Hirons Double Cleanse product in a basket in Liberty, I thought it was absolutely genius to put the two cleansers in the same pot and I bought it there and then and have been using it since. I don't know much about Pixi apart from their Glow Tonic (which I'm not a huge fan of because it aggravates my sensitive skin) so it was quite a whim purchase. It kind of kills me to support the Gleam team industry by purchasing the product but I'm always inquisitive about skincare and beauty products that sometimes I just cannot help myself.

I've been using this consistently every single day for the last three weeks and honestly I've enjoyed it so much that I have already ordered a backup from Cloud 10 Beauty (because having two half products means that you trough through the product way quicker!). I use an oily eye makeup remover like the Clinique Take the Day Off or the Clarins Instant Eye Makeup Remover to remove the bulk of the mascara/eyemakeup from my very sensitive eyes, spread a pea sized amount of the solid oil cleanser between my hands and massage all over my face (the way it breaks down makeup is incredible - so quick and easy through even the thickest foundations with no greasy or uncomfortable residue), wipe off with a warm facecloth, apply the cream cleanser all over my face (feels light and airy, not at all greasy and is very comfortable on the skin) and rinse that off also. I have tried swiping toner and micellar over my face after going through this process and there would not be a scrap of makeup left on it. My skin feels plump and smooth - not at all dried out or aggravated, and I have very temperamental skin so this is no mean feat.

The solid cleansing oil balm contains vitamin E, camellia oil and evening primrose oil which all promise to protect, condition, nourish, heal and moisturise your skin, whereas the cleansing cream product contains vitamin C, peptide complex and arginine which cumulatively endeavour to promote collagen and protect, relax lines and plump skin and improve cell renewal and elasticity. That's a WHOLE lot of skincare benefits packed in to one tiny pot. 

Neither the cream nor the solid cleaning oil are fragranced which I don't mind in the slightest - in fact, I am glad they have not been perfumed. The packaging is simple - it is what you see - one pot, two sides, two products side by side. I predict I will finish the cleansing cream up entirely before making my way through the cleansing oil which is a pity - I'm not sure the 50/50 partition for both products was the best idea - I think I would have preferred slightly more cleansing cream than the cleansing oil.

If you too are interested in trying out this product, it is available on Cloud 10 Beauty for €30.95 (and don't forget there is a 20% off code available in this month's Xpose magazine). It's also available in other Pixi stockists e.g. Marks and Spencer and Space NK and various online stockists e.g. Asos.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

L'Oreal Infallible Total Cover Foundation - Review

Since I was sent the L'Oreal 24H Infallible Matte foundation two years ago, I have been obsessed. It is one of my favourite foundations of all time - I have since repurchased it multiple times and in multiple shades and if it was to be discontinued I would be very miserable indeed. When it comes to foundations, I usually have expensive tastes, so for me to be smitten with a high street/ drugstore offering the way I am is unchartered territory for me. I think I have probably gone through ten tubes and it's the foolproof, failsafe foundation I always come back to. Since the original Infallible 24H Matte was released, there was a Glow version in the US - which didn't really set my world on fire - and the latest offering from the house of L'Oreal is the Infallible Total Cover Foundation. When it came out a few weeks back I jumped on it like a car bonnet and hotfooted it to Boots where I picked up not one but two shades to test out and I've duly tested it once since and can now report back. 

The L'Oreal Infallible Total Cover foundation is marketed as a full coverage longwear foundation with a weightless feel. It is supposed to provide full coverage with a matte finish and cover imperfections, redness, marks and dark spots. The last big claim on the packaging is Camo Stretch Technology which is supposed to assist with ultimate spreadability and even coverage. That's a lot of promise for one little bottle. It comes in seven shades - there is actually a shade lighter than Porcelain called Light Sand but from what I can tell, it is more yellow toned than the pink toned Porcelain - so there is hope for even the fairest amongst us, and overall the shade range is not too shabby for a high street offering. The packaging is the exact same as the Infallible 24H Matte foundation -  a squeezy tube with a pointy nozzle for more directed squirtage - and it contains 35 g/ml of product which is 5 g/ml more than your standard foundation. I got two shades - Porcelain for my very pale days and Natural Rose for the days when I have some gradual tan on or I'm just favouring a darker look.
Now when I am assessing foundation there are a couple of headings I always think of - applicability, longevity, coverage being the main ones. In terms of texture - this is a very thick, almost thick mousse type consistency when you squeeze it out of the tube but once you start working your brush into the product, it loosens up a bit and becomes much more workable. I've tried this foundation with several primers and I have to say, for a full coverage foundation, it applies very evenly, consistently, doesn't set down on your face too quickly and is nice and easy to blend out with a brush without any telltale streaks - something that foundations four or five times the price have not been able to master (yes Chanel, I'm looking at you!). I don't have oily skin, it would be dehydrated if anything, and I don't have any major breakout or pigmentation issues so I wouldn't usually go for something so full coverage but it wasn't really the full coverage claim that swung me into purchasing it. It was pretty full coverage on me in that it completely camouflaged any bit of redness on my face but I know that Gemma from Beautynook tried covering her tattoo on Snapchat (beautynook) with it and it was still clearly visible after about three layers, so if you have more than mild acne scarring or redness you need to cover, I don't know if you will find this full enough coverage wise. The rest of my makeup applied perfectly over the top of this foundation and didn't cause it to shift or budge which is a good thing.

In terms of longevity, bearing in mind that I have dehydrated skin so I'm not oily and if I do get any oily spots, it's usually on my nose and chin and it's nothing a spot of powder or blotting can't sort out. This foundation lasts well on me but probably not as well as the L'Oreal Infallible 24H Matte - after 8-10 hours, I notice a little bit of breakup around my nose but that's only on close examination, from a distance I think it looks fine. It doesn't feel very heavy on the skin for a lightweight foundation and it hasn't broken me out or given me any adverse skin reactions either which is always a bonus. 
Overall - I think this is a grand foundation but I think the full coverage claim is way overhyped - if you are looking for full on coverage I'd be more inclined to recommend the Vichy Dermablend, Urban Decay All Nighter Foundation or Estee Lauder Double Wear. I don't prefer this to the Infallible Matte 24 H foundation and that's the one I will probably continue to repurchase - I'll definitely use up the two bottles of the Infallible Total Cover foundation and it will be no hardship to me I'm sure. As the saying goes, if it ain't broke don't fix it, and the L'Oreal Infallible 24H Matte is still one of the most impressive foundations I have in my armoury. 

Have you tried any foundations from the L'Oreal Infallible range? Do you have a favourite budget foundation that you rate above all others?

Friday, 10 March 2017

Gold Fever Hair Extensions - my experience, maintenance, price etc.

I'm not the typical candidate for hair extensions - I have long hair and I have thick hair - in fact, my hair is extremely thick - I have about three heads worth of hair. I never sought out extensions for length or for volume - the two main reasons that folks usually choose to get hair extensions applied. I have been toying with the idea of getting a few extensions for years because I am into hair and I like to keep my mane in relatively good order - I called to a Platinum Luxury Hair Extensions stand at a beauty show a few years ago to ask and the girl was so uninterested and rude and unhelpful - she said my hair was too thick as it is and that she would have to cut into my hair for the extensions and sent me off on my merry way. I was almost embarrassed for having asked the question but annoyed that she didn't even let me explain what my main hair concern was. 

So you might too be wondering what was it that spurred me, with three heads of fairly long hair, to look into hair extensions? Well the easiest way to put it is that I have three heads of hair, but after 16 years of bleaching and heat styling, the very front bits of my hair are thin and wispy, and even though I get my hair trimmed every six weeks maximum when I get my colour topped up, the ends of my hair get really ratty after about a week and I like my hair to be cut pretty blunt at the ends because I wear it straight 99% of the time. So it's overall volume per se but I wanted to bulk out some of the thinner areas of my hair - more of an overall effect. 

Fast forward to November 2016 and I was in Brown Sugar on South William Street getting my hair coloured by the lovely Emma and cut by the equally as lovely Christian (who by the way has been shortlisted for the Image Magazine Business of Beauty Award for Best Hairstylist and if you would like to take my word and vote for him, here is the link) and I mentioned that I had been considering just a few extensions around the front and to thicken out those bits. Both were instantly supportive and immediately I had a consultation with the hair extension guru Norma-Jean who assessed my hair, told me that I would need two packs for a really natural finish, colour matched me and gave me a rough price for the extensions. I ordered there and then - I was relieved to have been listened to and excited to finally sort out my hair. I only wanted Gold Fever - having heard so much about them for the last year, and I thought if I was going to spend decent money on my extensions, I wanted ones which would last 6-9 months, as that's what I had heard from my friends who had Gold Fever. Anyone I told in my family or work thought that I was absolutely deranged to look for extensions when I already have thick hair but the heart wants what the heart wants and I had my mind made up.

Moving on to 22 December 2016 - extensions day had arrived. I booked in to get a half head highlights to top me up for the festive period, a Smartbond treatment with my colour and the extensions. After getting colour done, Norma-Jean set about applying the Gold Fever extensions, focussing on the front area around my face over each ear - about 18 on each side, and one band going along the nape of my neck (but obviously not next to my parting) to help thicken and fill out the very ends of my hair that get ratty so quickly. I cannot commend Norma-Jean enough - it's clear from talking to her and her amazing Instagram that she absolutely loves, eats, breathes what she does and all things hair and she is insanely talented at all aspects of hair, not just extensions, and she is also an overall fab person. All in all, two packs amounted to 50 bonds - which I thought would be loads on my hair - but actually is was just perfect. I was absolutely chuffed with the extensions when they were applied - the brief had been carried out perfectly, the colour match was perfect as there was a blend of colours similar to my highlights (more about this later) and the bonds were so small that they were not even noticeable.  I think the total cost was €400. I was very conscious of the bonds for the first 24 hours - it's not that they were tight but I could feel a little pressure where they had been applied, and I didn't sleep great the very first night as it was a little uncomfortable. By the end of the following day, it was like they were my own natural hair, I took to them like a duck to water. You can see the difference they made to my hair in this pic :
I straighten my hair all the time but I have naturally coarse, wavy hair, and I was worried that if I wanted to wear my hair wavy that the extensions would look like long scraggly straight bits - I can't even tell you how relieved and delighted I was that the texture of the extensions was the same texture as my own hair, naturally wavy but straightens and holds a style easily. It was such a love fest for the first month that I actually didn't know how I could ever go back to my natural hair. However, it's been 2.5 months and my feelings have somewhat changed so I am just writing about them now to enlighten anybody who may be in a similar boat because I have never seen or heard anything that wasn't an amazingly glowing review of Gold Fever extensions. I'm not going to slate them at all and I'm definitely not saying I would never go for them again, I'm going to probably cry when I get them taken out but I want to explain why I think I won't be getting them back in straight away.

The pros are of course what you have already heard if you have been researching Gold Fever hair extensions like I did - the bonds really are tiny, are comfortable once you get used to them. They are not invisible - I know mine can be seen when I tie up my hair - but I really don't mind it because they are discreet. The quality of the hair itself is amazing - it's as thick at the bond as it is at the very end of the strand - perfectly thick the whole way through which is exactly what I was looking for to fill out the ends of my hair. They are very easy to style and from the minute they are applied they just looked like my own hair. The hair is quite coarse in that it also holds a style - if I straightened it, it would stay straight for a few days, similarly if I curled the extensions, they would stay curled for a few days.

I'd be lying to my readers if I did not admit that there are also some cons, inconveniences and hardships with having and maintaining hair extensions. I'm pretty high maintenance when it comes to my hair anyway but these are probably the greatest cons that I have experienced. 

1. It is recommended to use sulphate free shampoo and conditioner to preserve the bonds. I'm a Kerastase junkie - I only ever use Kerastase products on my hair because they are they very best in my experience and my favourite range is the Bain de Force range. The sulphate free range from Kerastase is awful no bones about it - I could actually feel product build up at my roots, I hate the way it doesn't foam in the shower, I spent ages rinsing it off, the conditioner never got rid of my tangles in the shower and the condition of the rest of my hair deteriorated because I didn't want to use shampoos with sulphates near my bonds.
2. Because I really wanted to get value for money, I very much adhered to the no shampoos with sulphates rule. For the last few years, I've been delighted with my blonde highlights the day I leave the salon but two weeks later, my hair looks brassy and golden again and I hate that. Every single time I get my hair done I ask for ashy toners and even though the colour is fine when I leave the salon, it changes over a couple of washes. One way I try to mitigate against this is purple shampoos but I was unable to find a good sulphate free, easily available and effective sulphate free purple shampoo. I didn't think this through before getting my extensions and I found that even though the extensions matched my hair perfectly when I first had them applied straight after having my colour done, within 2 weeks, my extensions and the rest of my hair were a different colour, with the extensions being lighter and slightly ashier. Most people probably would not notice but I most certainly noticed - because most of my extensions are around the front of my face, I felt I could get away with an extra bit of lightness around my face. 
3. When it comes to brushing and styling them, they weren't too bad in the beginning. I mean you have extra hair that needs to be styled but I am used to styling thick hair so it didn't faze me. I only ever used The Wet Brush to brush my hair and it did a pretty decent job. Because I had quite a lot of extensions packed into either side of my head, it was very difficult to straighten the other parts of my hair in between the extensions which were wavy from the root. I purchased a slim hair straightener for this so that I wouldn't even inadvertently apply heat to the bonds (all about protecting those bonds!). The more my hair grew, and it grows pretty quickly, the most difficult it is to straighten those wavy bits without touching off the bonds. Apparently your natural hair can get matted at the tips where you have your extensions applied - I haven't noticed any matting but I have been good to brush my hair regularly and only ever use the Wet Brush and plait my hair at night time.
4. When I got my colour refreshed three weeks ago, the roots of the parts with the extensions could not be touched up which means that, despite the lovely Emma's best efforts, I have very patchy colour at either side of my head. I kind of knew that this was inevitable but at the same time, I find I'm paranoid a gust of wind will come and expose my deep dark roots at either side of my head (but I'm completely fine with the bonds being exposed).
5. I went for 2 whole months without shedding a fake hair and shortly after I last got my colour topped up about three weeks ago, an extension just slid out of my hair when I was brushing it one morning. There was no tugging or pulling, it just slid straight out (admittedly with a few darker hairs attached). I was a little dismayed but just wrote it off until a few days ago when I was brushing my hair the day after a shower and FOUR individual extensions just slid out of my hair - no pulling or tugging or vigorous brushing, they just came out. To say I am a little dismayed would be an understatement - I was hoping to get six months out of them and I lost 4 out of 19 from one side of my head after 2.5 months for some reason unbeknownst to me despite the fact I'd been taking care of them as best I could. They didn't come out on the bristles of my brush but I noticed after brushing my hair that there were a few long chunks at the bottom and when I tugged on them gently, they kept sliding down. Now I know it was only fake hair but this was not a nice thing to experience all the same and I was actually a little spooked. I feel like I am on borrowed time with the rest of them now and I think I would prefer to have them all removed than to have to pick them out when they get loose. I'm incredibly disappointed for this and I don't know if I would have paid €400 for them if they were only going to last 2.5 months. 
To be honest, the fact that (despite the hardship that I so willingly suffered in order to maintain the integrity of the bonds) that I'm down 5/50 extensions after just 2 and a half months is the main reason I think I would not get them straight away again - I love the effect of them and can tolerate the maintenance but I just don't want to be throwing an extra €400 at my hair every 3 months when I already spend that on highlights, cuts and Kerastase products. Even my own vanity has limitations of reasonableness. I am disappointed that other people can get 6 months, some even get 9 months out of them, and I'm worried I won't make 3! I'm actually reluctant to wash my hair now in case more fall out. I feel kind of caught offguard because I feel like nobody else seems to have experienced this, and that's why I wanted to share my experience. I was sure that if I took great care of them that they would last but alas despite my best efforts this was not the case. I've no idea why they didn't last - maybe my hair grows too quickly, maybe it was something I did. I also want to very clearly point out that I've no issues with the way they were applied or the brilliant advice that I was given.

This is definitely not a blame post and honestly I've nothing but nice things to say about the whole Brown Sugar team because they are simply the best in the biz - I just think that if I had read an account from someone who has not had the best experience with Gold Fever hair extensions or someone that has a hair story similar to mine that I might have been a bit more cautious to fork out for them, hence me taking the time to share my experience. All I ever see is raving reviews and pics of Gold Fever hair extensions carefully coiffed and curled with an Instyler and I just wanted to point out that it's not all that glamorous. 

I'm definitely not trying to deter anyone from getting Gold Fever or any other extensions, I had at least one great month with them and I loved the effect - for me, they are a very temporary and expensive treat. I feel quite unlucky in that regard to be honest. I'm definitely not saying I won't get them again - I almost definitely will for a special occasion or series of events - but I don't think I am going to get into the habit of getting these applied every couple of months back to back. 

If you have had any similar experience with Gold Fever or Great Lengths or the like, I would love to hear from you too - it might stop me beating myself up so much about it!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Barry M Matte Me Up Lip Kits - Review, Swatches and Kylie dupes

Now readers of this here blog will know that I succumbed to the Kylie Lip Kit hype last year mostly because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and I actually surprised myself by really really liking them. However, it can be pretty pricey buying these directly from the US as you never know when you will get slapped with a customs charge and the price of international shipping is also quite steep. I'm all about the alternative life - ColourPop just haven't quite set my world on fire with their liquid lipsticks - so when I heard that Barry M, a brand that I predominately associate with nail polishes, were bringing out their own 2pc matte lip kits, I headed straight to Boots to get my hands on them and picked up one of each of the three colours available. These are limited edition by all accounts so if you were looking to get your hands on them, I would go about it as soon as possible before they are sold out. 
Enough waffling aside and on to the product - and I have to say - I'm pleasantly impressed with the Barry M Matte Lip Kits. I will give you the full lowdown in just a second but I wanted to let you know that despite my reservations about what I perceived to be a nail polish brand capitalising on the Kylie lip kit craze, these are actually really excellent contenders. At €9 a pop, these will definitely not break the bank.

There are only three shades of Lip Kits available in the collection - Go To (nude), Pose (light pink) and Runway (deeper berry pink) - each coming with a matte liquid lip paint and lip liner. They promise a super light texture with a non-drying formulation and ultra long-wearing hold. There are a further five shades of matte liquid lip paint available in the Barry M line up but they do not come with the matching lip liners and I have yet to see these in any of the Boots stores that I frequent.

The lipliners are smooth and creamy but not greasy or slippy - I was very impressed with the texture of these. I usually find with more inexpensive lipliners that they are either too soft and creamy and slip all over your face or else they are hard as wood and need to be bate on to your lips. These perform equally as well as some of my favourite lipliners, and certainly at least equally as well as the Kylie lip liners. Like the Kylie liquid lipsticks, the formula of the Barry M liquid lip paints are equally as thin and equally as opaque. Some liquid lipsticks from the high street/drugstore can be quite thick but these Barry M ones are pleasantly thin and comfortable. I like the formula, it applies well over the lip liners and did not flake or crumble off, and because of the thin texture, they feel comfortable on the lips, you would pretty much forget that you have them on to be honest. In terms of longevity, they are not the longest lasting liquid lipsticks in the world, but instead of coming off in patches or flaking off, I have found that they kind of fade down and are easy enough to reapply. When you apply them, they take a little bit of time to dry down but when they do dry down, they go completely matte and you wouldn't even feel them on your lips. Like any liquid lipsticks, they will cling to your dry patches and sink into those fine lines but that's the nature of liquid lipsticks so I don't hold a grudge against these.
It's glaringly obvious that Barry M picked shades to dupe the Kylie Lip Kits but I have to admit, in my own personal experience from using both the Kylie Lip Kits and these Barry M ones, that they are pretty much the exact same thing. I do not say that lightly and I never like to deceive my readers who take time to read my posts with bogus 'dupe' claims. Aside from the price difference (which in all fairness is pretty significant given that a single Kylie Lip Kit is $29, international shipping is an extra $15, An Post could charge you either €7 or 8 for the privilege of charging you customs and customs could come to another €8 or 9). The Barry M lip kits are €9 a piece and they are well worth that. Now there are only 3 colours available and they are only limited edition, but I suspect if they do well that Barry M might make them permanent and introduce new colours to the lineup. All three shades are still available on the Boots website so if you are inclined to order them, I would do so at your earliest opportunity before they disappear. Don't say I didn't warn you!
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