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!