The Best Of 2013: Skincare

As 2013 is drawing to an end, I thought I'd put together a post detailing my favourite products of this year. In terms of skincare, I've had a pretty big revelation since beginning this blog back in February. My skin was near-perfect for months, and then in July, I took the decision to come off the antibiotics I had been taking. Since then my skin went from bad to worse, most likely a side effect of my hormones balancing themselves out again. I've had some real lows in terms of cystic blemishes, constant patches of nasty bumps, dryness.. Fortunately, it finally seems as though my skin is sort of back on the up and- other than drinking lots of water and keeping an eye on my diet- these are some of the products that are helping me through.

Kicking things off with cleansers, which I have in abundance, I've realised that cleansing gels and milks just don't cut the mustard with me.. particularly not in the winter. Instead, I've been turning to a duo that have really been a pretty perfect pairing. First up, Clinique's Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm is just a god-send for removing makeup, a hard balm that melts into a fluid-like oil upon application, this feels luxurious but has a complete no fuss approach. It's fragrance free and just gets the job done, working fantastically as a first cleanse. The main showstopper when it comes to cleansers has got to be REN's ClearCalm 3 Clarifying Clay Cleanser though- I must have repurchased this a good three times since first using it because there's just nothing wrong with this cleanser. It's creamy but also clay-based so it stays on the skin nicely, massages in well, feels very soothing, softens the skin immensely and just leaves my face feeling totally balanced, soft and clean without feeling remotely tight. I usually apply this by firstly wetting a flannel with hot water and holding it onto my face to prepare it to receive the product, then massaging the cleanser in with short gentle strokes, leaving it on for half a minute or so, and then carefully removing with the hot flannel- making sure not to rub or pull at the skin at all.

2013 will always be remembered as the year that I discovered exfoliating toners. The two that have battled for contention have been Pixi Glow Tonic and Clarins Gentle Exfoliating Toner, the latter a gentler, less punchy almost dupe of the former. Both contain acids that slough away dead skin cells and really help make the skin appear more radiant, I've been using these on any rough patches to help smooth over, reduce redness and generally improve skin texture and evenness.

I haven't really been very diligent at all with moisturisers. I know it's probably awful to say, but I've found that since rotating them out of my skincare routine my skin has improve massively. Once my skin gets back to normal, I'll start re-introducing moisturisers back into my routine, but for now, I'm mainly getting my hydration fix in terms of Aveda's Intensive Hydrating Masque, a perfect one for people that find their skin to get quite irritated by moisturisers, this cooling gel mask applies to the skin and literally feels completely weightless. I was initially worried that this would irritate my skin but I can't even feel it whilst it's on and it's so easy to remove, everyone should have this in their stash.

Masks are just some of my favourite products around. I usually apply them on a Sunday and perhaps on a Wednesday, and the one that's been getting the most attention from me is Aesop's Parsley Seed Cleansing Masque. It's just an all-round do-gooder that really does help sort out a whole host of problems plus it lasts for absolutely ages, the full ode to can be found here.

My favourite treatment has without a doubt got to be Mario Badescu's Buffering Lotion. I've only had this little bottle for a few months but it has become an absolute staple in my skincare routine so I've used up quite a lot of it- it's definitely something I'll be repurchasing though as I really don't think I can be without it next year. The bottle contains some liquid that you shake well before applying to cleansed skin- I found it best to apply neat, not sandwiched between toner and moisturiser- and it is just an absolute miracle worker at calming down cystic breakouts, along with any other raised bumps/sore spots. At first this was quite drying on my skin because I was using it constantly on quite a large surface area that didn't all need it, so I'm only using this exactly where I need it and it's just working absolute wonders on preventing cystic blemishes from causing havoc.

I know this was a lengthy post so thanks for sticking through to the end, my blog has slowly shaped itself around skincare, it's something that I've become really quite interested in so I doubt that the make up version will be anywhere near as long! Do you have a stand-out favourite skincare item for 2013?

A Few Christmas Bits...

I thought I'd post a few bits and pieces that I was tremendously lucky to receive from my parents this year. Despite having sent a Christmas wishlist to my mum a couple of months ago, I couldn't remember what I had asked for by the time the 25th came around. I was literally over the moon to open all of these bits, I think this year was generally quite successful present-wise as my parents also seemed to love theirs!

The first thing I opened- post stocking fillers of course, which were top notch this year- was this LED light for my camera. I saw Kate mention this in a post a few weeks back and just thought it would be a really handy thing to have. It's basically a smaller version (although it is actually huge compared to my camera haha) of studio lights so hopefully whilst using this, my photo quality will improve. Also, whenever I get home from work it's always pitch black so it'll be great to use as a daylight alternative for us night owls.

Figuier also made it onto the list, and I've been burning it all day. I expected this to have a cleaner burn but it's actually not as clean as some other candles I'm harbouring, but the scent is exquisite so I'm letting that one slide. Obviously the packaging is also to die for, I'd be lying if I said that the gorgeous trademark Diptyque votive wasn't one of the main reasons I wanted this!

I've mentioned Aveda's Hydrating Masque in a few posts, a moisture-boosting mask that you slather on for five to ten minutes before rinsing off. I've already used this twice since Wednesday and I've found the perfect pairing to it, which I'll be writing all about very soon. It's early days but for now, you just need to know that it's awesome. I usually have a problem with sodium hyaluronate in products, but this caused my skin absolutely no irritation at all, so thumbs up on that front.

My mum also picked up two more things that have been on my wishlist for quite some time now. MAC's Plumful is literally a 'my lips but better' shade for me, I have quite plummy toned lips naturally and this shade just completely enhances them and is a perfect one for lazing around the house in/wearing to work. The lustre formula is my favourite too, they are so creamy and they smell incredible! If you've been reading my blog for a while then you might recognise an obsession with the Hourglass Brow Arch pencil. Well, it's finally in my stash and I'll confirm, it's just as good as I expected. I was quite worried about 'Soft Brunette' being too light and ashy for my brows but the colour payoff is actually really great and very natural, I can see why this shade suits so many different skin tones.

Other presents have included books, pajamas, some stationary bits, board games, more candles and a partridge in a pear tree. I hope you all had a lovely Christmas! I may have done some boxing day sales shopping- online, of course, I don't have a death-by-stampede wish, but I'm sure you'll be hearing all about that soon...

The Sunday Post: Gingerbread People

I've been craving gingerbread biscuits for ages, I always make them around Christmas time but this year has definitely been the best. I used this recipe from Waitrose as it looked the least complicated of all, but I did have to tweak it a bit to get the right mix, and the end result was crisp on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside golden brown traditionally gingery gingerbread people/christmas trees/snowmen..

You will need:

- 125g unsalted butter
- 100g dark muscovado sugar
- 4 tbsp golden syrup
- 325g plain flour (sifted)
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 3.5 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon

1. Start off by mixing together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon in a bowl, making sure they're all well combined.

2. Gently melt the butter, sugar and syrup over a low heat in a saucepan, regularly stirring to ensure the mixture doesn't stick to the pan, until the ingredients resemble a smooth sauce- it looks a bit like barbecue sauce but bear with me on this one.. Once they're combined, take the saucepan off the heat and leave it to cool slightly, but continue stirring (I let it cool for a couple of minutes, you still want it to be warm).

3. Pour the sugar/syrup/butter sauce into the dry ingredients and mix together with a spoon, although you will probably need to get your hands in there to really get it all together. The dough should be smooth and quite stiff- wrap it in clingfilm and pop it in the fridge for about 30 minutes to stiffen up further.

4. Flour the surface and turn out the dough, and then begin rolling. I found it easier to chop the dough into two and roll one half out at a time, as half of the dough will provide enough biscuits for one tray, and it's just a bit easier that way. At this stage, my dough was stiff but cracked around the edges, as long as you keep rolling, pushing the edges together, and rolling again, you'll be left with a nice flat dough- you want to roll it to about 3mm.

5. Using some cookie cutters, or if you don't have any then you could use the rim of a glass to make rounds, carefully cut out your shapes and place them onto a greased baking tray. Bake at 170 C on the middle shelf for about 13 minutes.

6. When the biscuits come out of the oven, they will probably still look slightly doughy- but resist putting them back in for any longer as they will harden up as they cool down. Pop them on a cooling rack and once they've cooled, feel free to eat them all up!

This recipe made about 22 medium sized biscuits (there are definitely not twenty two on the plate in the photo, that was taken the next day and I had already munched my way through loads- they're that tasty!). These would be perfect treats to eat on Christmas Eve whilst watching some festive movies, or equally perfect given as a gift to a loved one. You could also hang these on the tree as decorations if you wanted to, although I'm not sure mine would make it all the way to the tree without getting gobbled up!

The Body Shop Facial Massager

It's no secret that I've been lusting after the jade roller for quite some time, but when I heard that The Body Shop had produced their similar-ish dupe, I just had to give it a go. Using Caroline's tutorial-style video, I've been imitating her sweeping strokes along the jawline and neck, and things are feeling smoother already. This particular product differs from the jade roller in that it's not made of cooling jade, and it's not a smooth oval-shape.. alright, I'm still lusting a bit.. but essentially they do the same job.

Facial massagers like this one supposedly encourage and aid lymphatic drainage, so you're basically gently pushing the nasty bits underneath the skin away from your face. It's supposed to show visible results on under the skin bumps with continued use but my issue around my jawline was my complexion being slightly uneven and I would genuinely say that this has helped to patch things up. You could also take the massager further up onto the face- hell, go crazy with it- but that's something that I'm slightly wary of doing because most of my face is feeling really sensitive at the moment and I prefer to use it on tougher, normal skin.

If you're interested, this retails at £6 from TBS, but I picked it up at an absolute steal price of £3 on a 50% promotion that I'm not sure they're still running. That's about the same amount as a magazine, a coffee, that family-sized pack of M&Ms (I see you there).. you get the point. It's cheap, you need it- that's all.

The Sunday Post: It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Things have been slightly slack on the Sunday front lately; I've just not really been in the house much so I've not had my camera around. A couple of weeks ago, Sunday involved a mass shopping trip with my best bud who was briefly home from uni, and last week included a cinema trip with my sister to see 'Frozen' (which was pretty good; me and Kate go and see the annual animated Christmas movie of the year and this was by far the best.. plus it was a musical!) followed by more shopping.. Christmas related this time. I'm currently relaxing on the sofa, indulging in tons of custard creams.. the pre-Christmas healthy diet starts tomorrow, honest! Is it really that obvious that I'm a festive fanatic? I thought I'd just use today's post as a way of showing you some of the home decor bits and pieces that I've been getting on with in my spare time to make the house feel just a little bit more.. what's that word?.. Right, festive.

1 // Christmas is clearly nothing without a good ol' tree 2 // There's a few little decorations on the mantlepiece lined with some tinsel, somehow my parents have made tinsel slightly less tacky! 3 // Second to Elf, The Polar Express is probably up there in my favourite Christmas movies of all time. I'm watching this whilst wrapping presents right now 4 // Lights around the window are such a pretty way of making things a little more festive in my bedroom 5 // I bought this bedding the other day at an absolutely steal price from ASDA (yep, I didn't know they did anything other than food either), it's out of stock though unfortunately!

What have you been up to today?

Beauty Haul #2: Christmas Buys

Guys, I know. Christmas shopping is supposed to involve buying presents for other people but I felt super spend-happy this month and ended up placing a pretty huge order on the Debenhams website after seeing that they were offering 15% off all beauty bits and pieces.

After surfing around the MAC section, I noticed that the Pro Palette Quad was only £5ish so I automatically threw it into my online basket without even thinking that I'd need to fill it up. I've been wanting to get into wearing eyeshadow for quite some time now but I've never really thought I suited it properly as my eyes always seemed to be too hooded- damn you DNA- for it to even show up, but a recent eyeshadow discovery led to a lusting for some proper experimental shades, so after much umm-ing and ahh-ing, I chose Club, All That Glitters, Sumptuous Olive and Cork. It was painstakingly difficult to choose a 'perfect four' and I'm not yet sure whether I've got the right combination, but time will tell- and I'm sure that there'll be a post coming your way soon. It's a bit pointless owning eyeshadows without a brush, and MAC's 217 brush is a pretty standard buy for anybody setting out into the world of eyeshadow. It's a do-it-all kind of 'pack it on, smudge it in, blend it out' kind of product that I'm so excited to start using!

I really fancied picking up a peachy pink shade to add to my lipstick collection, and I remembered Anna mentioning something about how Urban Decay's Revolution lipsticks were supposed to be pretty on-point so I picked up her favourite shade, Streak. It is the prettiest peachy-pink, and is the perfect start for steering me away from my beloved dark reds. Speaking of dark reds... I did also pick up Chanel's Rouge Coco lipstick in Rivoli, but I promise you I'm not contradicting myself, this one is actually a Christmas present for a friend of mine. Promise.

Moisturisers have been the floosiest part of my skincare routine for as long as I can remember, I've just never really found 'the one'. They're just all pretty average. Since suffering a mass breakout and using some drying products on my skin, I was in much need of hydration, so I really wanted a hardcore moisturiser.. Enter: Origins High Potency Night-A-Mins. I've got quite a few Origins' products in my stash and I've not really been let down by any of them so far, so this seemed like a good option.

My final, and most guilt/eye-wince inducing purchase was Estée Lauder's ANR II. In hindsight, I wish I hadn't picked this up now just due to the price, but I have other facial oils that last for bloody ages as you only need the tiniest amount, so I suppose longevity-wise it's works out to be not too bad (plus, 15% off made it more bearable). For winter, my skin has just been lacking in a whole bunch of areas; it's been dull and uneven and I'm looking forward to seeing whether this could help patch things up slightly. I'll keep you posted on that one...

Have you bought yourself a cheeky christmas present or two (or five) this year?

Home Fragrance Christmas Wishlist

Santa baby, please slip a candle under the tree.. for me.. Okay, so that's not how it goes. But how better to introduce you to part two of my Christmas wishlist/gift guide series, and this time I'm bringing you my picks of the home fragrance category. Candles are one of my favourite items, and I really don't think you can go wrong with a good candle- who wouldn't want to receive a beautiful votive for Christmas?

First up is a dupe for Diptyque's 'Figuier' candle- I slipped into & Other Stories a few weeks ago and stood in the bath and body section for a good ten minutes smelling the scents and their fig range was just bloomin' gorgeous, I've been obsessed with figgy fragrances ever since. This Muji candle in 'Green Fig' is a pretty good size for only a snip of 'Figuier' although as I understand it, the candle isn't quite as potent. Next up is Neom's 'Tranquility' offering, a soothing combination of lavender, basil and jasmine that is supposed to make for some heavenly relaxation. I've been pretty stressed out lately due to my busy schedule juggling three jobs plus studying for my exam retakes, so this seems absolutely perfect for helping me wind down in the evenings. Similarly, although This Works' 'Dream Team' duo isn't a candle or strictly a home fragrance, I've been struggling to get to sleep lately and think that this calming set of pillow spray and rollerball oil could help.

On the lustability factor, Diptyque will always be top of my list for fragrance. Their Classic Coffret contains three of their best-selling scents; Figuier, Baies and Roses. Diptyque have a lot of these coffret sets out at the moment (although I'm not sure how available they are.. it is Christmas!). Since I saw Anna mention Malin + Goetz's Dark Rum candle, I have just been in love with the idea of owning it. I'm not a drinker by any means, I can't stand wine/beer/champagne but pour me a very occasional glass of rum and I'm yours. Dark rum has a really distinct scent, and I can only imagine how gorgeous this smells combined with top notes of bergamot and plum, middle notes of leather and -you guessed it- rum, and base notes of amber-patchouli and vanilla...

I'm slightly cheating by mentioning Muji's 'Log Fire', a.k.a 'Feu de Bois' tin dupe in here as I picked one up a couple of weeks ago- review here- but I just couldn't not mention it, it's just the cosiest smokiest (in a good way) candle ever, evoking memories of snuggling up by a warm crackling fire on a crisp winter evening. Another candle that sounds like it would awaken similar memories is Laura Mercier's Warm Roasted Chestnuts Signature candle. Just the title has me doing some hardcore heart-eyed emoji faces. It just sounds perfect for Christmas. 

So that's my home fragrance wishlist/gift guide sorted! Are any of these on your wishlist?

Clarins Gentle Exfoliating Toner vs. Pixi Glow Tonic

It's pretty well known by now that Pixi's Glow Tonic is one of my all time favourite skincare products, and rules the roost when it comes to exfoliating toners, but a couple of months ago it's last drop was lovingly eeked out onto a cotton round, so with the knowledge that Glow Tonic is a pain to get, I thought I'd shop around for an alternative. Enter: Clarins' Gentle Exfoliating Toner.

In terms of product comparisons, I think Pixi wins hands down. The Clarins offering has a slightly tackier almost gel-like texture and is only recommended to be used a couple of times a week (although Caroline puts this down to the fact that bigger beauty houses tend to play things safe) whilst Glow Tonic is an simple liquid tonic, and works well when used most nights in my opinion. The Glow Tonic is much stronger and you can really feel and see results- both contain salicylic and glycolic acid, although the Gentle Exfoliating toner doesn't have nearly as much- from first use, continually. My skin is always so much smoother, brighter and just feels more revitalised with Pixi (plus it's one of the only products I've found to active work on resurfacing the skin and tackling those nasty scars), and it just packs much more of a punch, which I prefer, despite the fact that I have slightly sensitive skin.

Packaging-wise... I'll give you that one Clarins. The pump can get a bit annoying but it seems that Pixi have taken notice of this and are changing it for the online release- seriously Pixi, how 'soon' is 'coming soon'?!. For the price points, you can pick up the Clarins for about £25ish/150ml whilst Pixi offer up the Glow Tonic at a mere £16 for a whopping 250ml. I would definitely say that if you've been using the Clarins number for a while and either aren't seeing great results/want to step it up a level, then maybe integrate some Glow Tonic into your routine.

So which one will I be repurchasing? Sorry Clarins, I'm with Pixi on this one. Hands down.I can't even believe I've not repurchased already, I'm just waiting for Pixi to hurry up with that online release.. hint hint

The Christmas Tag

Since venturing out into the world of tags with my 'Skincare Tag' post, I'm a little bit hooked. They're a really fun way to find out more about the people behind the blogs, and I think they make for interesting reading (props to Georgina for creating this one)! As Christmas is right around the corner, I thought I'd hop on board the Christmas tag.. Just spreadin' the cheer.

1.  Do you prefer a real Christmas tree or synthetic?
Unfortunately I'm actually allergic to most evergreen conifers- Christmas trees included, which sucks as they always look so much better when they're real buuuut it's all about the synthetics in our house. 

2.  You're in a coffee shop, it's December, what do you pick?
When it comes to drinks, I'm probably the least interesting person ever. It's all about the water, all year round- I'm not a huge fan of anything else really, but my Costa-obsessed brother has a penchant for frosted peppermint hot chocolates.

3.  Whats your favourite colour scheme for decorating the tree?
It's all about the red, orange and greens- keeping it traditional over here! I'm also quite the stickler about not having homemade ornaments on the tree, it can just take a tree from looking quite elegant and classic to a tacky mess within minutes... (speaking from experience, having once tried to put a school-made clay dinosaur as the tree topper one year..)

4.  Giving or receiving?
I'm really not a huge receiver, it's wonderful when people put the time and effort into picking a lovely present out for you and I appreciate that massively, but I just love giving- without sounding too 'Miss World'. I'll keep a list stashed away under my bed to make notes on any time somebody mentions something that they need/want throughout the year so that there's not a mad rush to find out in December, and that way people can usually tell that you've really paid attention to what they said months ago, it's just quite nice.

5.  To mince pie or not to?
Mince pies go down an absolute treat in this house, we'll usually bulk buy a few packs at a go and they'll all be gobbled up by everybody that very same evening, but I've never had one. Raisins are a no-go area.

6.  What's your traditional sunday lunch?
Some form of Quorn with all of the usual trimmings, vegetarian Christmas dinners aren't massively different to carnivorous ones!

7.  Christmas day fashion
I'll usual laze about the house in my comfiest Christmassy pajamas until 10am-ish before changing into something a little bit nicer for dinner, and by the end of the evening I'll be in a festive jumper of some kind watching the special festive TV shows; Downton Abbey, I am ready.

8.  What's your favourite Christmas song?
Just one? Nope, nuh-uh, not going to happen. I love them ALL. (Does anybody else know the entire Mean Girls dance to Jingle Bell Rock?... yes I am legally an adult.. promise!) 

9.  What's your favourite Christmas film?
Elf is bloody brilliant, the Home Alone franchise is great, the Nativity films are a must-watch and I'm also a fan of the annual animated ones- Polar Express, Arthur Christmas-  but I just don't think you can beat Love Actually.. (well, maybe it's a tie between that and Elf).

10.  Open presents before or after lunch?
We open our presents before breakfast, let alone lunch! We usually see other family members throughout the day so it's nice to spend some traditional family time in the morning, with my elflike sister Squidge as the designated 'present-giver-outer' of the morning.

I tag everybody to do this tag, and then comment below when you have done because I would love to give them a read! 

Muji 'Log Fire' Tin Candle

I've heard quite a bit about this candle lately after seeing many posts heralding it as the dupe for Diptyque's 'Feu De Bois'- something that I heard Jen going on about, but was unsure whether I'd like, so I was massively happy to pick up this little Muji offering at £3.50, a snip of Diptyque's £20-40 price tag.

Firstly, I have to say I wasn't a huge fan of the scent pre-burn, it was really smoky in quite an heady kind of way, but once I started to burn it, it just gradually filled my room with a subtle warm, woody aroma, very reminiscent of sitting by my grandmother's log fire on Christmas Eve, and perfect for snuggling up on a cold winter's night with a film and some friends. The eighteen hours of burn time that this little tin offers is plenty- and although I'm now more certain that I'd like 'Feu De Bois', I've grown slightly attached to this number, so I might have to pick up a different one from Diptque (I've got my eye on Figuier, as you might find out in my next Christmas Gift Guide post). Muji do offer a surprising range of candles though if you're into something a little sweeter, but for this season, I think they're onto a winner with this one.

Also, some people aren't a fan of the packaging but I quite like it, it's simple and self-explanatory. Fair enough, you probably won't be using the tin as a fanciful brush holder but as a way of trying out scents, I really think this is great, and it's probably going to be an evening staple in the lead up to Christmas. 

Have you tried/would you like to try any candles from Muji?

The Wonders of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil- that's the proper organic, raw, virgin, non-GM, cold-processed sort of course- is one of the strangest things I own, beauty-wise. The oil is hard and white at room temperature, but turns into an actual clear oil once melted, no microwaves needed, just the magic of hand warmth.

The main reason why I wanted to try coconut oil is for the hair benefits; using this one the ends of your hair pre-shower gives an extra nourishing boost post-rinse.. not unlike that of Philip Kingsley's beloved Elasticizer, so I was massively sold on that point alone. After a quick check online, I discovered the many wonders of coconut oil, and naturally gave them all a go. As a moisturiser, I'll throw this on any dry patches of skin, making sure it's really rubbed it quite well (for any massage lovers out there- and let's face it who isn't?- this is a little pot of heaven) and I'll wake up in the morning with baby soft, smooth skin. Mmm. I've even been known to apply a smidge of this to my cheeks when they start to feel a bit chapped, so it's a multi-use moisturiser really. Oils are also always going to be pretty good at removing eye makeup- I usually turn to my trusty Clinique TTDO balm for this but when time is short (read: bedtime laziness sets in), a teensy bit of this warmed up between the fingers and smoothed over the eyes will de-slap your eyes in a jiffy.

Mix a spoonful of the stuff into your bath for a gorgeous coconut-scented soak as it works nicely as a bath oil, or use it as a cuticle oil, leave it on for ten minutes or so as a hydrating mask, or just as a general facial moisturiser- it's a bit too heavy for my personal tastes but I've heard that it's supposed to be good stuff for a bunch of facial issues, helping everything from acne to eczema. Oh, and it's obvious use is for cooking. But I'm definitely not up to culinary scratch so elaborating on that one is out of the question, there are instructions on the tin if you want to go there.

Do you know of any other uses for coconut oil?

REN Samples: First Impressions

REN are quickly becoming one of my favourite skincare brands; they cater for a wide variety of different skin types, their products are fuss-free but deliver effective results, and they've always got some sort of offer running- including throwing in a few samples with your order (okay, that last one is just a bonus). Samples are a great way of testing products before you buy them, and REN thankfully offer those in teeny tube size form opposed to sachets- my all time sample pet-hate. Over the last six months or so, I've rounded up quite the collection of REN samples, so with a couple of hits and misses, I thought a first impressions post was in order... well, it's about time!

The Frankincense Revitalising Night Cream has a really distinct scent that reminds me of sandalwood.. I could be totally off but it smells a bit furniture polish-esque. It's quite thick but didn't massively wow me, it just worked like a pretty average moisturiser but there weren't any miracle moments. Next up, the Micro Polish Cleanser; as much as CH has instilled in me the value of a good exfoliating toner- I think a manual exfoliator is a good thing to have on hand, and this one has such tiny little micro particles that it's not even close to the ghastly apricot kernels that Caroline so hates- rightfully so. I used this before a cleanser, not instead of one, just to gently buff away at some rough patches of skin that I had on my forehead, and it worked pretty well. REN's Hydra-Calm Cleansing Milk really is quite milky, and for a cleanser I find it sort of difficult to use, it just doesn't really feel up to the job of a proper evening cleanse but for a gentle morning cleanse, this is perfect. Where to start with the Satin Perfection BB Cream? One word comes to mind: 'orange'. I can appreciate that it's difficult to cater to different complexions when you only have one shade- what is that all about REN?- but I can't really see this suiting anybody that isn't fake tanned to the nines. Sorry, but it's a no from me.

Their Invisible Pores Detox Mask is probably my second favourite thing out of the entire REN range. It's pretty well loved by everybody and with good reason, it's a clay mask with really great decongesting properties, making my skin feel smoother and softer immediately after use without any tightness or irritation. Definitely one for the repurchasing list. Now, onto my favourite product, the ClearCalm 3 Clarifying Clay Cleanser. I won't bore you with my adoration for this one. I have an ode to here, but it's my current morning and evening cleanser plus I've repurchased three times, so that probably gives you a pretty good idea. Possibly the most hyped of the entire range, the Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask is probably the one that I'm most on the fence about. It's quite messy and thick to apply and it's one of the ones that is so sticky that it's difficult to remove aswell. I personally couldn't see a huge difference with this, although the centre of my face did look slightly more radiant. Potentially not worth the hype, I'm not sure.

Do you have a secret penchant for REN? P.s, if you fancy some Christmas promo-code loving, type XMAS20 in at the checkout. Yeah, you can thank me later...

Stripped Back Skincare

I've really been trying to strip my skincare routine back to the very basic essentials lately, to try and find the cause of what's been breaking me out/to put my skin back into its comfort zone. These are the products that I always find myself going back to because they just work without irritating my skin at all; my cleanser of choice has been REN's ClearCalm 3 Clarifying Clay Cleanser (really REN?!). My ode to this cleanser details why this is a top cleanser pick, but the fact that I've already repurchased this despite it still going strong goes to show that it's just all-round creamy goodness- oh, and it's currently on a 33% extra free deal, that clearly had nothing to do with it... 

Next, I'll go in with my Mario Badescu Buffering Lotion, a liquid treatment for cystic blemishes- despite MB recommending sandwiching this between toner and moisturiser, I've been really laying off the toners lately and just applying this neat, it works a ton better but unfortunately does dry out the skin quite a bit. So moisturiser-wise, I've really not found the right one for me, I've been gravitating towards Neutrogena's Visibly Clear Pink Grapefruit offering, which is alright and great for sensitive skin, but it's not massively moisturising. I do have quite a few moisture masks and other moisturisers, but all contain ingredients that I'm wary of right now, so if anybody has any moisturise-boosting suggestions then please, please let me know (Aveda's Intensive Hydrating Masque is top of my list, Hydraluron is out of the question, it's definitely not for me!). I'll finish off with a slick of Nuxe's Reve de Miel lip balm for that extra nourishment factor- the trick is to apply a small amount and really massage it into the lips, it's usually on my beside table and is the last thing I do before going to sleep. 

For masks, which I usually apply twice weekly (Wednesday and Sundays), my number one best friend of all time has to be Aesop's Parsley Seed Cleansing Masque. Everything about it just suits me down to the ground, from the skin-loving ingredients to the impressive clarifying results, it's just a really great one to have in your stash and it lasts for ages so the longevity of it weighs out the pricey cost. 

What products do you find yourself going back to time and time again?

Christmas Wishlist: Beauty Edition

Beauty Christmas Wishlist
Jouer In The Red kit £45 Laura Mercier Silk Creme Foundation £33 Origins High-Potency Night-a-Mins £34 Mac Plumful £15 Origins Clear Improvement Mask £22 Anastasia Brow Wiz £15.50 Estee Lauder ANR II £48 Bobbi Brown Rich Chocolate Palette (limited edition sell-out boohoo, but similar ish here, £37.50) Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer £21 Laura Mercier Natural Nudes Palette £31 Hourglass Brow Arch  £26

Kicking off the festive season, I'm bringing you a mini-series compiling all of the things on my Christmas list; it'll be broken down into Beauty, Hair & Fragrance, and Miscellaneous (Books, Fashion, stocking fillers etc), one per week in the run up to Christmas. I usually make an almighty wishlist and give it to my parents for them to pick a few things from, so that Christmas morning is always a lovely surprise.. and I'll usually buy the rest of the products in January sales. Oops. 

You can probably notice that palettes play quite a frequent role in my wishlist this year- beauty brands have just been knocking them out left right and centre and I'm coveting them all! I've been lusting after Jouer's In The Red palette since its release earlier this year, comprising of the whole face round-up, this is perfect for those 'bold-red-lip' kind of nights. Next up is Laura Mercier's Natural Nudes Palette, a gorgeous warm set of four eyeshadows coupled with bronzer, blush and a miniature lip glacé... it's a great way of experimenting with some LM products and would be perfect for everyday on-the-go use. Last but certainly not least is a Christmas wish of mine: 

Dear Bobbi Brown. Please, please bring back the Rich Chocolate palette. Please. Please please please. Yours always, SB.

I completely missed the release of this perfect palette a few months back and I'm totally kicking myself for it now. I'm trying to be more adventurous on the old eyeshadow front but this palette would have made things so much easier. Fortunately Bobbi Brown have launched a new palette, the Warm Smoky Eye, so I might just have to pick that up instead before it sells out.. 

Laura Mercier's Silk Creme Foundation is one of the few brands that caters for paler complexions, and seeing as 'Soft Ivory' seems like a pretty perfect colour match for my skin, it seems like a done deal. Do I need another foundation? Maybe not, but I definitely wouldn't mind unwrapping this on a frosty Christmas morning.. Nars' Radiant Creamy Concealer falls under similar territory, it's something else that I've only ever heard good things about, it's great for underneath the eyes and would make a loving addition to my beauty stash. My penultimate makeup wishlist-ers are two brow pencils battling for my festive affection, the Hourglass Brow Arch and Anastasia's Brow Wiz, the latter of which is more affordable but the former is the one that edges it for me. The last makeup item is MAC's Plumful, a gorgeous plum non-vampy lipstick that I've been craving so much that I genuinely had a dream that I bought this in Selfridges. Alas, I didn't -insert teary emoticon-.

Finally, a couple of skincare items have weaseled their way onto the list: Origins' Clear Improvements Mask and High Potency Night-a-Mins both have rave reviews, and I'm in dire need of a new moisturiser and would love to give the charcoal mask a whirl so these just had be included. Estée Lauder's ANR II is a well loved facial oil that regenerates and sorts out a multitude of beauty sins, I'm not desperate for it yet so I might wait until post-Christmas to pick it up but it still deserves a place on the list. 

I'd love to know what you're asking for this Christmas, so please let me know in the comments!

The Sunday Post: Lazy Day

Let's face it; Sunday's really are for lazing about...

1 // Sorting through old magazines to make some space in my bedroom. More reading than sorting may have taken place.. 2 // My parents surprised me with a festive advent calendar today (you're never too old for chocolate!) 3 // Slicking on a layer or two of Rimmel's 'Rapid Ruby'- it's much more of a deep wine red than shown #lightingproblems 4 //Wrapping myself in blankets of nourishment post-shower, my hair has had a much needed tend to 5 // I may or may not have spent the entire day in super comfy lounge pants- an old Primark purchase- with some even comfier fine knit 3/4 length sweaters, thanks New Look! 6 // After having written a few blog posts- there's an exciting festive series coming up- I'm currently curling up with a book on the sofa.

Plans for the rest of the evening are cooking up some dinner, and watching Strictly, the X Factor and of course, I'm A Celeb. Evening skincare routine, then off to sleep with some bedtime tunes. What have you been up to on this lazy day? 

Daily Makeup Routine

Over the past few months, makeup posts have been few and far between, but throughout this month I've tried to include a bit more of the ol' stash (see: The Lash DuoNails: Barry Mand The Brow Duo). Well today's post includes my daily.. well, as often as I wear makeup i.e never at the weekend.. makeup routine. And it's pretty much entirely drugstore! Yeah, yeah, thank me later.. 

First up with the bases, I've been really loyal to my Bourjois Healthy Mix for a long time now, but the shade range isn't great so I usually mix a bit of Rimmel's Match Perfection in with it to lighten it up slightly and that works a dream when applied with the Real Techniques Expert Face Brush. I'll then go in with my Collection Lasting Perfection concealer to hide those dark shadows and cover any blemishes- I've been using this for ages and I'm slowly becoming disillusioned by it so I'm hunting down a better offering (suggestions?). Then I'll go in with the lips, and I always start off with an SPF lip balm to smooth and protect; Nivea's Sun Protect is fine, sometimes I'll go in with Nuxe's Reve de Miel if I want a really opaque, matte lip. Then I'll swipe on a layer of Revlon's Kissable Balm Stain in Crush which is one of my favourite lip products because it can be built up to create a seriously dramatic lip or brushed on for a barely-there light plum look. Sometimes I'll finish up with a bit of Maybelline's Baby Lips in the Cherry Me shade for a slightly glossy sheen. 

I've been over my entire aforementioned eye look in the past month but for a quick summarise, I'll brush through my brows with a mixture of the two brown shades from Avon's 'Tiger's Eye' palette and then comb into place with the Rimmel eyebrow pencil in Dark Brown. The last step involves a quick curl of the lashes with my trusty Shu and then a light coating of Max Factor's False Lash Effect mascara.. My eyes are somewhat hooded so eyeshadows don't feature much in my everyday routine but I will occasionally brave it with some neutrals- crazayyy.

Do you recognise any of these products from your makeup routine? Let me know in the comments below!

Mario Badescu Buffering Lotion

I'm sure everybody is aware by now of the horrible skin situation I've been having lately; it's really pretty bad. To make things a thousand times worse, I've been plagued with not just one, but six really tender, sore, red cystic lumps on my forehead and it's just making me feel terrible. I'm only really ever concerned with spots when they are sore, which doesn't really happen to me often, but when it does (like now), I'm just massively aware that they are deep down, will take forever to heal, and will just sit there feeling painful for aaaaages before leaving a massive scar. Fun fun fun.

After a little twittery chat with the lovely (and very helpful) Jen, I picked up MB's Buffering Lotion and I've been applying it religiously about three times a day- well, as much as possible considering I'm out at work for ten hours or so most days-, for a consecutive week in a desperate attempt to soothe, calm, reduce inflammation etc. After two days of consistent use, most of the bumps had stopped hurting, and I even caught some of the nasty ones early enough to prevent them from worsening, whilst after a week's use, everything's back in check. My skin has literally gone from massive eruption to under control, I just wish I knew what had caused them in the first place. A couple of things that I will recommend with this is to use it straight away so that you can potentially prevent the cysts from occurring, and definitely still use the lotion for a few days after everything feels better. Just in case.

The Buffering Lotion is infamous for its ability to treat the deeply-rooted cystic blemishes and contains Allantoin to "calm and soothe inflammation and promote healing, whilst also containing anti-redness and healing ingredients that promote tissue regrowth on acne damaged skin." a.k.a every cystic sufferer's dream. It is packaged in a fuss-free white little bottle (gahhhd I love Mario Badescu when it comes to simplicity), and is one of those layered products that you have to shake well before use- make sure the lid is definitely on when you shake it up though.. it sounds obvious but my bathroom walls are now covered in the stuff. It applies as a white-ish liquid that is clear once gently tapped onto any blemished areas and smells pretty strongly of alcohol although that dissipates almost immediately and I find that it really helps to reduce redness straight away, perhaps due to how it sits very nice and subtly on the skin. I used to be one of those people terrified to do anything other than cleanse, tone and moisturise with cystic breakouts but this has really converted me and I couldn't recommend it enough for anybody else that suffers with horrible painful cystic bumps. If you do, chin up, you aren't alone!

If you fancy getting your mitts on this just in time for a (hopefully) clear-complexion Christmas, then it's around the £16 mark, I got mine from BeautyBay 'cause free delivery. Obv.

The Lash Duo (Trio?)

When it comes to lashes, mine are pretty much all-round failures. Poker straight with absolutely no lift or natural curl, I always shunned mascaras completely from my makeup stash until discovering the wonder that is an eyelash curler. I had previously attempted to layer on all sorts, from the lash-volumiser to the lengthener, separators, curling- you name it, I tried it. But nothing really showed up.. I still couldn't see my lashes, and I sure as hell didn't see any fluttery-ness going on.

So I decided an eyelash curler was needed, and not just a cheap as chips (read: totally ineffective) one. I just had to see what all the fuss was about so I plumped for the Shu Uemura, naturally. It is friggin' amazing, a few pumps along the lashes (my trick is to push the curler up towards the forehead for a super curl) and I can actually see my lashes. And they are actually doing the whole flutter thing. It's amazing what difference an eyelash curler makes; without one, I really don't see the point in owning mascaras- unless you have naturally curled lashes- and it has become an absolute inherent staple in my routine. The Shu ones hold a curl all day long and just really help to open the eyes so I'm recommending these to anybody that a) doesn't use an eyelash curler and/or b) has elephantine lashes and/or c) doesn't see a huge difference when they use mascara!

Next up comes the mascara, and I'm not massively fussy on which one I get. I have quite long, thick lashes so volumising and lengthening aren't claims I'm fussed on, and Shu's got me covered on the old curl front. My only real criteria is that the mascara doesn't make my lashes clump together (secondary school memories), which is something I find to depend more on the type of wand. I've got two lash-boosters tying at first place in the favourites chart, L'Oreal's Telescopic Waterproof and Max Factor's False Lash Effect offerings, the former has been unfortunately discontinued though so I'm trying to use it sparingly but FLE is a pretty good dupe. Both leave my lashes clump-free, add a little length and volume without looking like an attack of the dreading spider-lash, and they still do that fluttery thing..

Have you got a similar lash duo? Let me know in the comments below!

Skincare Saviour: Ren ClearCalm 3 Clarifying Clay Cleanser

A few months back, I received a sample of this cleanser, used it all up and then didn't really think about it, but since the awful state of my skin lately- England's autumn/winter weather causes absolutely chaos with my skin- I decided to take a trip down skincare memory lane and ended up remembering that I wanted to purchase a full-size of this... so I did.

I had heard nothing but great reviews about this cleanser, with some bloggers deeming it a holy grail skincare product, and after a few weeks of trialling it, I am sold. The texture of this is just absolute creamy clay perfection that glides over the skin; it smooths right over any rough patches of skin (it's quite nice if you harbouring some blemishes to not be able to feel them whilst cleansing) and I happily spend a good few minutes massaging this into the skin before rinsing it off. This just leaves my skin feeling so soft and smooth, blemishes are soothed and my complexion just feels really healthy post-use, and it doesn't dry out my skin like some other clay cleansers so it's really perfect for winter. I had only planned to use this occasionally due to the tremendous growth of cleansers that have appeared in my collection, but since using this for the first proper time a few weeks ago, I've been so impressed with the results that it's taken pride and place as my go-to cleanser.

Ultimately, I can safely say that this is a cleanser that will be repurchased indefinitely. At £18- check out Kate's current 20% off deal too- I think it's a truly great buy- plus you get a whopping 150ml- and definitely an essential for anybody in the market for a new cleanser, or even if you're not.. it's Christmas soon...

Nails: Barry M's 'Blue Moon'

I've been all about the deeper berry shades lately but my younger sister actually picked up this polish for me a few weeks ago and whilst I originally shunned it slightly for being a pastel- pastels in winter? Madness- it turns out that 8 year-old Squidge was onto a winner with this one.. I think.

I always find Barry M formulas to be seriously thin so it takes a few applications to build up the colour (I'm only wearing two coats here by the way, I didn't realise quite how thin this was until I saw it outdoors), and they are definitely prone to smudging without a top coat so beware of that, but Barry M do also rock a vast colour range. This particular shade- Blue Moon- is a pale frosty blue, perfect for an icy 'winter wonderland' feel, and despite not usually suiting pastel colours, this works quite nicely against my pale skin, and it's only £3 from Boots. Thanks sis...

The Brow Kit

There are two things I don't feel comfortable leaving the house without- my lipstick and my brows. Evidently it's difficult to leave my actual eyebrows at home, but I don't feel as though any look's complete without a set of combed through, filled in brows, so without further ado, here's my daily checklist for keeping the affectionately known 'slugs' in place:

The Comb Through

Many people use a spoolie to comb through their brows, but I prefer a standard eyebrow comb for two reasons. Finding a spoolie is absolutely impossible, and my brows are quite structured as it is so I don't really have to play about with the shape of them too much. I'm currently using the comb/lid of a cheap Rimmel brow pencil (mini review: the pencil was way too hard for my brows and the shade is too terracotta-y despite being 'Dark Brown') and it's treating me just fine- a quick whiz through with that is all they need.

The Fill-In

For ages, I've been using my Avon palette in 'Tiger's Eye' to fill in my brows- I'll mix the bottom two shades for a more dramatic look or simply just brush through the lighter brown shade. These two are the perfect brow shade for me, totally matte, pigmented enough to last all day and not fall down and lean to cooler undertones so there's no hint of red around. Unfortunately the palette was limited edition and I can only find it on eBay (here) which sucks as it also contains a perfect inner corner highlight-esque shade but MAC favourites 'Omega' and 'Charcoal Brown' are excellent dupes for the browns. I fill mine in using a small angled brush from an old birthday gift- the name has worn off, sorry for the lack of availability again- you can find these pretty much anywhere, the MAC 266 is similar but slightly smaller so better for finer, more precise strokes.

The Upkeep

It's not part of my daily routine but to keep my brows in check and ensure there aren't any strays, I like to tweeze them with my Tweezerman tweezers (record amount of 'tweezer' mentions right there), it's all pretty standard stuff, but I always make sure to only tweeze beneath the brows, never above. My mum plucked her brows to a fine line that she promises me was on trend in the '80s but her eyebrows never grew back to their original thickness so I'm super wary of that now.

As I said before, my brows are fairly good at holding their shape so I don't really need to use a brow gel for anybody wondering why I've left them out. I've tried out a couple and they just don't really seem to do much except streak my brows with white flecks and leave them feeling pretty crunchy- it's not pretty. Anyway, despite lusting hard after the Hourglass Arch (I neeed it!) that's my brow kit.

What's yours?

The Sunday Post: Baking with Friends

I absolutely love reading lifestyle posts so I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon slightly with this post. I planned on just having a lazy day today, so I spent the morning finally completing my UCAS application (yay yay yay) whilst watching Friends reruns and painting my nails like the unproductive adult that I truly am. To celebrate, I whipped up a batch of festive vanilla biscuits- using this recipe- I'm a strong believer in the whole 'it's never too early for Christmas' theory so why not crack out the old snowman cutters and make a gigantic mess in the kitchen!

With Grease on for a bit of background noise.. and the occasional Summer Lovin' singalong, I surfed the internet for some recommendations on where to visit in New York. I've not been before but am taking both of my parents next February for a week as a surprise Christmas present for them and I'm massively excited but equally dubious about where to go so if you guys have any recommendations on places to visit then please let me know in the comments or via twitter.

Right now, I'm YouTubing (this is what Sunday's are for right?)- I just cannot get enough of Jamie Campbell Bower (in more ways than one, mmm) at the moment- whilst preparing this week's blogposts. Then tonight, I'm looking forward to just curling up on the sofa with some pizza to watch some tacky x-factor performances *guilty- Luke is just adorable* before Downton Abbey- tonight's episode is going to be absolutely insane, I'm ridiculously excited to see it.. yes, I'm a massive television fiend on Sundays. I've also been given the all clear by my driving instructor to book my test so I'll probably end up doing that at some point later on too.

As a final sidenote, massive congratulations to Zoella on picking up the BBC Teen award for Best Vlogger- it's well deserved!

Disappointing Products #2

I'm not going to sugarcoat anything here- what may seem a disappointing product to me could be a 'holy-grail-sarah-what-on-earth-are-you-talking-about' product to you because after all, we're all different. That said, I have been underwhelmed by a few products in the past few months...

The Nivea In-Shower Body Moisturiser was branded as a time saving, slather it on in the shower, quick fix kind of thing, but it just didn't appeal to me at all. I found that it really dried my hands out and was difficult to apply- even post-shower my legs just felt sticky and not moisturised so I handed this around the family to try out and it's a thumbs down from everyone. Even one of my incredibly nonplussed brothers. I think I'll be sticking to the body butters from now on. An almost cult product upon release, I heard rave after rave about
Rimmel Salon Pro 'Reggae Splash' and just thought that it seemed to suit all skintones, even pale vampires such as myself so I faced my peachy orange nail coloured fears (thanks for that Barry M and your Peach Melba) and just found that the formula was so thin, it chipped a ton quicker than my other beloved Rimmel polishes, and the colour was just horrendously neon looking against my complexion. This last one might seem surprising, as Hydraluron is a truly coveted skincare item but this Caroline Hirons-approved hydrating serum just did not cut the mustard for me at all. I saw that almost all of my favourite bloggers had a tube of this tucked in their stash so I raced out to buy it and I've now tried using this a good 5/6 times but it always brings out little bumps around my chin and forehead and doesn't particularly seem to plump up my face as much as I'd hoped.

In the words of our trusty Simon, it's a no from me. But what do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Aesop Parsley Seed Cleansing Masque


Branded as 'a gentle yet thorough deep-cleansing treatment that extracts impurities clogging the pores, to smooth and refresh the skin', the Aesop Parsley Seed Cleansing masque contains aloe, rosehip seed, lavender oil, evening primrose, and parsley seed oil (obvs), and it's a pretty near-perfect mixology. I'm a big fan of clay masks but this is unlike any other that I've tried; it's much thinner in consistency and is pretty much translucent on application before hardening to a standard white colour. I usually leave this on for twenty/thirty minutes (or however long it takes to dry) before rinsing off with lukewarm water and my face always feels incredibly refreshed, clarified and just properly cleansed. I do experience a slight tightening sensation with this but it fades away after a few minutes so it doesn't bother me.

I have been suffering from a seriously plagued forehead at the moment and I can confirm that this helps to soothe things and help move the whole 'Project Perfect Skin' along although I wouldn't expect any overnight miracles. Aesop recommend using this twice a week but I may have already slathered it on three times this week and it's only Thursday.. oops! I think it's pretty obviously by the now-messy packaging that I'm a huge fan of this stuff and it's something I'd recommend to anyone.

Overall, at £27 for 60ml, it's on the pricier side of things but if you're a real face mask lover like myself it's a sound investment and I will absolutely repurchase this. Sod it, why not break tradition and buy yourself a Halloween gift?

I've been enabled...


Lately, I can't get enough of Suzie's blog and videos, and after discovering that we have a similar skin type and reading her rave review, I just had to pick up Clinique's Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm. I'm not totally sold on it just yet; it's a fragrance-free, sensitive skin certified balm that turns into the most luxurious silky oil when massaged into the skin. True, it does leave my face feeling totally nourished and I completely get why it's awesome, but it does leave a slightly oily residue on my face whenever I use it that I'm not 100% sure on yet- but as it is intended for the first cleanse... I couldn't resist this next one. Another Suzie inspired purchase was Una Brennan Super Facialist Purifying Cleansing Wash, a thick non foaming, non-sulfates gel that smells divine (it reminds me of a eucalyptus spa room) and is ridiculously affordable, cashing in at around a tenner. It's early days with these cleansers but I have a feeling they'll be a pretty good duo.

What would an 'enabled' post be without a VDM-influenced buy? Bourjois Happy Light Foundation is everything that I would want in a non-cakey light coverage foundation that lasts for a while and has a pretty natural finish. Now, the shade range truly does suck but hopefully Bourjois will realise the demand and delve into the depths of darkness(? Will you do that Bourjois? Will you?!), but I'm finding the shade 50 to be a relatively okay match for me. Anyway, it's a good'un and that's a fact.

So I now have lots of cleansers on rotation, yet another Bourjois base and an eager eye for more recommendations.. Have my enabled purchases further enabled any of you?

The Skincare Tag

I've not yet branched into the realms of tags, but with skincare forming the basis of my blog, where better to start than with a skincare tag (which I first read over here- check out Annabel's blog!) so without further ado... 

Describe your routine in 5 words...
Layered, relaxing, cleansing, nourishing, soothing.

What's your skin type?
Slightly to the combination side of normal and little sensitive. 

What is your favourite skincare product?
I'm just going to have to go with the Aesop Parsley Seed Cleansing Masque. It is just heaven in a little tube- I find it makes my skin feel quite tight for twenty minutes or so after rinsing it off but it just always makes my skin feel amazing and it's just perfect in terms of texture/benefits/results etc.

Top blemish zapper...
I don't usually use acne treatments because anything that 'dries out spots' tends to dry out the skin around them too, in turn giving the blemish it's own little (or large) pedestal. Much more a fan of the good ol' CTM routine but I think a great clay mask- see above- can really help out with redness and inflammation. 

Face wipes... yay or nay?
Never ever ever ever ever ever ever (anymore- my mum uses them religiously so when I first started wearing make up we only had face wipes in the house.. thanks Jen..)

Toner... yay or nay?
I'm not even going to pretend to understand toners but I'm a fan of Pixi Glow Tonic, so yay for that!

High end skincare or high end makeup?
I'm a big fan of the whole 'splurge on the skincare, scrimp on the makeup' theory. If your skin is looking good, make up will just enhance it. That said I think there are some great budget picks for skincare- perhaps a Drugstore Skincare Picks post is in order..

What is the most universal skincare product you've tried?
It's got to be Bioderma. Or any sort of micellar water but I'll go for Bioderma because you can choose one to suit your skin type (sensibio, sebum etc). Always make sure to follow with a cleanser though!

You're in a pharmacy and can only pick up one item - what would it be?
I'm thinking Paris so La Roche-Posay's Serozinc comes to mind. I've only heard good things about this toner and it sounds pretty good- if I could cheat though, I'd say everything Isabelle Bellis used in this video.

Top skincare tips.
I've done a post on mine here, so to summarise...

1. Drink lots of water every day (I probably drink around three litres).
2. Get your skincare routine down to something you are happy with but also, switch it up from time to time. Rotate products so that your face doesn't get too used to them.
3. Clean out your diet and I mean cut out the sugar. As much as you can. After a couple of days you won't miss it anymore and you'll begin to associate nicer skin with healthier foods.
4. Relax- make sure you feel calm as much as possible, watch a feel good film or do some baking, just do something that you enjoy to eliminate stress.
5. SLEEP. (I suffered from insomnia for two years and now I just look tired all the time so please get lots of sleep, you'll feel and look much more refreshing the next morning!)
6. Oh, and facial oils are your BFF for hydration purposes, press them into the skin- a good skincare routine is all about layering...
7. Never rub your skin- treat it like silk and gently pat it dry post-rinse.

So that's it for the skincare tag! I tag you all to put your own spin on this post and let me know in the comments below if you decide to do so, I'd love to read some! 

Meet my new favourite thing...

So a couple of months back I went for a little spa week away and rather inadvertently left my camera charger at the hotel (hence a lack of structured blog posts) but instead of just buying a new camera charger for my horrible old Canon P&S, I considered my options.. As blogging is something that I am actually really enjoying and would love to continue and improve upon, I thought a slightly better camera is needed so, SB readers, please say hello to my lovely new toy!

I've wanted a proper DSLR for quite a while now, so after hunting around for what seemed to be the best camera for amateur-ish but wannabe pros, this is the one that came out top (it's the Canon EOS 600D by the way). Needless to say I am super excited- getting the 'package delivered' text notification felt like Christmas- to get to grips/use it so you can finally expect regular blogging. Yep.. I'm just spreading the cheer today!

If you've got any tips or advice then feel free to leave them in the comments box below or tweet me @101SB, and, as always, have a lovely weekend (and a lovely Friday too, can't forget about that).