Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Daroko Power Styler

RRP: £12
Stockist: www.daroko.com

--What does the promo say?--

"Turn your hair dryer into a powerful styling tool with this ceramic nozzle attachment. Improves your blow dry instantly and achieves shinier, smoother, longer lasting blow dries in less time! Suitable for all hair types."

--Packaging--
The plates that comprise the power styler are tiny, so are brilliant for travel. It would be great if they came with a tiny travelling case too (made of fabric or plastic) as the plastic casing they come in initially is perhaps too flimsy for long-term use.

--Appearance--
As mentioned, these plates are tiny (about the length of your little finger). They have two clips on each plate, and come in a variety of colours: the ones I was sent are the bright pink shown above, but you also have the choice of orange, black, silver, blue or purple.

--Usage--
These plates are very easy to clip onto any hair dryer nozzle that has a flat straight edge (like the one in the picture above). Even if (like me) you never normally use your hair dryer nozzle, you will find it easy to attach. Just attach the nozzle to your hair dryer, align the plates at the top of the nozzle, and then push down the clips so they are secure. Then blow dry your hair as you normally would. Just one word of caution; the plates do get very hot (as they are metal/ceramic...) so do be careful not to catch your face, neck or ears while using them. Holding sections of your hair taut, like you would when straightening your hair with traditional irons, before running the plates down them can help to prevent this.

--Effects on the hair--
This ticks all the promised boxes. Hair is straightened effortlessly and quickly for an effect that lasts all day; frizz is reduced, and blow drying did indeed seem to take less time. It also, of course, takes less time than using traditional hair straighteners to tame unruly locks. BRAVO.

--Value for money--
An affordable and effective alternative to traditional straighteners that would make a great stocking filler this Christmas. Would recommend.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

No7 Instant Radiance Under Eye Concealer

 RRP: £13.50
# of shades available: 8

--What does the promo say?--
"Cheat your way to the appearance of bright, healthy and youthful eyes with our No7 Instant Radiance Under Eye Concealer. Blends seamlessly with you No7 Match Made foundation, covering dark circles all day long and reducing the appearance of puffiness and fine lines for up to 8 hours."

--Packaging--
The silver tube is elegant and sleek, so looks great in any bathroom and slips easily into any handbag. You don't have to stand there endlessly clicking the top like a loon while you wait for the first dose of the product to come out, either. Even once you've got started, the amount of product coming out of the pen is easy to control, too.

--Application--
If using as a concealer, apply over blemishes or discolorations once you've applied your primer and foundation. If using as a highlighter, dab onto brow bone and/or cheekbones at the same stage. Can also be used to deflect dark shadows by using sparingly around the under-eye area. All very simple.

--Appearance--
Definitely increases radiance in the areas applied, and doesn't act badly as a concealer either. The lightest shade worked perfectly for me, matching my skin tone very well. Beware the difference between this (which comes in 8 different shades) and the virtually indistinguishable Instant Radiance Concealer, which has exactly the same packaging but only comes in 3 shades.

--Scent--
Nothing discernible.

--Texture and consistency--
Smooth, light, and easy to blend. Top marks.

--Coverage and longevity--
I'd say coverage is medium to light, meaning it's probably not the best for hiding your acne. However, it seems to last well enough, meaning your new-found radiance should take you through the day with relative ease. Perhaps, though, No7 should consider renaming it as a highlighter (rather than concealer) to give consumers a better idea of what they can expect from the product.


--Value for money--
While it seems a little bonkers that this is £1 more than No7's Instant Radiance Foundation, as an alternative to YSL's Touche Eclat (which this is clearly intended to be) it's an excellent choice, particularly as it's around 50% less than the price of the original cult classic. Nobody will know the difference! Was sent mine for free by No7's lovely PR, but would buy it out of my own money and recommend it to others :)

perfect partners
Perfect Light Loose Powder, £10.50
Natural Blush Tint Powder, £8.00
Instant Radiance Foundation, £12.50
Instant Illusions Airbrush Away Primer, £19.50 

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Caudalie Crushed Cabernet Scrub

RRP: £21.50 for 150g
 
 --What does the promo say?--
"A professional treatment used in Caudalie’s Vinothérapie® Spas in Bordeaux, France, this natural, grape-rich body scrub made with exfoliating grape-seeds, rich honey, softening brown sugar and 6 essential oils, leaves the skin smooth, ultra soft and silky. For anyone looking for deep exfoliation combined with slimming action. 99% natural ingredients."

--Packaging--
As mine came as part of a gift set from my sister-in-law, it was in a tiny kilner jar. This appears to be in a plastic tub with a black screw-top lid. The advantage of both is that you can get right in there with your fingers to scoop out the last dregs (as opposed to, say, a tube). However, the opening mechanism of the kilner jar may be easier to grab hold of in the shower when you're trying to open or close it with slippery fingers.

--Application--
Caudalie's website recommends usage twice a week on damp skin. I was using mine every day to attack the dry skin on my feet and didn't suffer any ill effects from this, so you probably could use it more frequently on really tough areas. Twice a week, however, is probably a good idea if you are just trying to maintain normal skin condition.

--Appearance--
A brown, grainy scrub in which the crushed grape seed and sugar granules can be easily seen.

--Scent--
Despite all of the essential oils this contains, the only scent I could pick up on was the bitter, anti-oxidant smell of the crushed grape seed. Luckily, this isn't overly bitter or overpowering, so perhaps the essential oils used serve mainly to balance this out, rather than to be the stars of the show themselves.

--Texture and consistency--
Very good for a gentle yet effective attack on dry body skin. However, it might be too harsh for use on your face, just in case anyone was thinking of trying it: as mentioned, the exfoliating agents used are clearly visible and exist in quite large granules. The essential oils make the scrub smooth, not sticky, and the scrub as a whole is easy to rinse.

--Effects on the skin--
Clearly diminishes the quantity and appearance of dry skin, and then subsequently manages skin condition. Skin is smoothed and moisturised simultaneously, leaving you feeling like you've had a luxurious yet effective experience.

--Value for money--  
While the price may initially seem a little steep, here are some thoughts to consider: a) you get the desired results; b) the experience of using this product is spa-like rather than purely utilitarian; c) if you want high-quality ingredients, then you have to pay; and d) even my tiny jar lasted ages, so this cavernous and heavy-duty pot should endure for an eternity. Would recommend.

perfect partners
Contouring Concentrate, £24
Draining Herbal Teas, £10
Nourishing Body Lotion, £20

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Scholl Nail Beauty Set

 RRP: £40

--What does the promo say?--
"This useful Scholl Nail Beauty Set includes 13 different manicure and pedicure attachments, and an integrated nail dryer."

 --Packaging--
The box is Scholl's usual cheerful blue and yellow, which means you immediately associate it with a trustworthy and implies that the product will be effective. The nail beauty set itself is compact and practical, meaning you could easily take it with you on holiday or to a sleepover, without it a) falling open in your bag and spilling all the attachments everywhere, or b) it taking up too much space. Each attachment has its own individual space in the carry case, and the nail drier is well integrated into the tray as well. The lid is an attractive blue-green colour and is made of see-through plastic, evoking images of sea, spas, and swimming pools, which all adds to the general notion of well-being. There's room enough, too, between the lid and appliance to ensure that there is enough space for the mains wire (no matter how haphazardly you shove it in there) and the instruction leaflet (which comes in English and Arabic).

--Usage--
The aforementioned instruction leaflet is clear and concise, and comes with a handy diagram that labels each attachment with a letter for logical identification. It would be even better if each attachment had the corresponding letter marked on it, or if the kit came with stickers for you to mark them yourself - some attachments are quite small and look similar to others. Still, you could always do this yourself with a permanent marker. The two-speed manicure pen is easy to use and not at all painful (even if the whirring sound is a little reminiscent of a trip to the dentist), and can be used either wirelessly or while plugged into the mains (the same is true of the unit itself when you wish to activate the nail dryer). The attachments are also easy to clip into place and then to remove, which along with the painlessness of treatment makes the set ideal for beginners who may lack confidence with professional-seeming instruments.

--Results--
The various files shape nails and cuticles effortlessly, leaving a smooth rather than ragged finish. The buffing discs are also effective once you've finished evening out the nails that have a rougher texture. However, the cones for removing rough skin are perhaps the stars of the show, transforming your lizard feet in moments. The integrated nail dryer is also convenient and does the job well.

--Value for money--
The efficacy and simplicity of this kit makes the £40 price tag a pleasant surprise. Scholl could easily charge double for it and it would still be worth it. However, the £40 RRP keeps it accessible for all, and it's perfect for keeping your feet in top condition in between (or perhaps even in place of) professional pedicure sessions. I was sent mine for free by Scholl's lovely PR, but would definitely pay out for it and recommend it to others (FWIW, Amazon and Argos are the main suppliers).

perfect partners
Velvet Smooth Essential Moisture Cream, £5.99
Velvet Smooth Foot Soak, £6.99
Colour Pop Foot Spa, £30 
Fungal Nail Treatment, £19.40

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Salon Review: The Golden Touch, London

London correspondent Gemma Summons road tests one of the capital's premier waxing salons.

Sometime earlier this summer, somewhere in the nooks and crannies of Soho, I was invited to a salon called The Golden Touch. No, not a ‘massage’ parlour, though I did have a happy ending, of sorts. The Golden Touch was run by the very lovely, very bubbly Hannah Salisbury, an Aussie who has a wealth of experience in intimate waxing. She has been head of the training school of the same name for some time, and has built up an excellent reputation teaching therapists in the London area. 

I am by no means a wax aficionado. (Make of that what you will). Previous memories of being waxed involved being taken down into a scary basement, with sullen, silent women essentially pouring lava onto my dainty areas and ripping them to pieces mercilessly. Safe to say I didn’t go back for a while (years). Waxing is punishment enough without it being medieval. So, thankfully, Hannah welcomed me into her salon with open arms and put me at ease.

She left me alone to freshen up before taking me into a small room with the radio playing. She explained the process of waxing to me and why hot wax is the best way of waxing in order to minimise pain and reduce regrowth. Throughout the wax she kindly talked me through what she was doing whilst giving me helpful advice about aftercare, as well as friendly chatter between us about our days/lives/etc. The wax itself, she admitted, is never going to be the most comfortable experience in the world (why lie?), but she did her absolute best to minimise the discomfort, and I genuinely can say that it was a world away from my previous experiences. I felt safe, relaxed, and in experienced hands (which is all anyone wants down there, obviously). The results were great and, with Hannah’s advice, lasted a long time.

I would thoroughly recommend a wax at The Golden Touch - Hannah offers good quality, practical and affordable intimate waxing with very good customer service as well. Sadly The Golden Touch is temporarily closed at present; however, Hannah is still offering therapists professional training in intimate waxing and the salon's return is promised soon. If you want the therapists of your salon to be taught by the experts, look no further.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Impulse Rock and Love Body Spray

RRP: £1.99

--What does the promo say?--
"Rock & Love is an oriental scent featuring a mix of fresh and fruity fragrance notes, including amber and orange blossom, which combine to produce a bright, sparkling scent, perfect for an on-the-go fragrance boost. The perfect pairing for any rock inspired look, Rock & Love is an effortlessly cool yet chic scent, designed to be the ideal handbag essential to take you from day to night."

--Packaging--
The cool silver background and the almost neon flowers marry to create an almost tattoo-esque concept thanks to the rebellious lines and extreme colours, while the flowers themselves also evoke the Oriental feel intended by the fragrance's principal notes of amber and orange. The turning plastic cover is a lot more convenient than a separate lid, and the spray mechanism itself is strong.

--Application--
I'd say you're best off spraying a mist of this in front of you and stepping into it to let it fall gently over your hair, skin or clothes, rather than directing the jet straight at yourself (see below for reasons why).

--Scent--
A bit overpowering, which is a shame (hence the suggestion above to use sparingly). However, the overall idea is nice: the amber comes through clearly to create a musky, mature result without being a perfume fit for your grandma. The edginess is perhaps created by the orange blossom, although this isn't nearly as detectable as the amber.

--Longevity--
As mentioned, this is powerful stuff, meaning you should be able to just spray once and be done for the day. Handy for the busy and/or lazy!

--Value for money--
At £1.99, this won't break the bank, meaning that even if you dislike it, you haven't lost out. However, on this budget, you simply can't expect the depth and complexity of higher-end fragrances, so allow the price bracket to be your guide and set your expectations.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Dove Caring Protection Body Wash

 RRP: £1.99

--What does the promo say?--
"Nourishment that protects your skin. Our Caring Protection body wash protects the surface of your skin while cleansing. It contains NutriumMoisture with a high level of natural oils and skin natural lipids. The combination helps restore the protective surface of your skin to keep moisture in. Feel the care of the rich and creamy formulation. Naturally protecting, always beautiful."

--Packaging--
The predominantly white bottle is calming and gender-neutral, while the hints of gold and royal blue provide a touch of class. The small blue flip top lid is easy to open and secure to close, even with wet hands, and minimises wastage thanks to its effective dispensing action.

--Application--
Rub into wet skin while showering, delight in the silky lather for as long as you want, and then rinse off.

--Appearance--
The gel creme that initially comes out of the bottle is white and almost pearlescent. This transforms into a robust yet luxurious white foam that leaves no visible residue on the skin.

--Scent--
Freshly laundered cotton is the primary scent evoked; the overall effect is homely and natural rather than seeming overly perfumed, so shouldn't interfere with your usual choice of eau de toilette.

--Texture and consistency--
Creamy and indulgent. As mentioned, a rich lather builds up on contact with water, and it stays on your skin for as long as you want it to before rinsing. 

--Effects on the skin--
In truth, I noticed no difference in terms of moisturisation compared to the other shower gels that I currently have on rotation (a selection by Lush, Deep Heat, and Bath & Body Works). However, it's possible that over a longer period of time a difference might manifest itself thanks to the sunflower and soybean oils that this product contains.

--Value for money--
At a mere £1.99 a punt (less if you catch it on offer, as it is at Boots currently), it's worth a shot for the heavenly shower experience this provides. This product's silky lather is hard to beat, and definitely welcome after a hard day's work, a full-on gym session, or a poor night's sleep. Definitely give it a try. 

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Rococo Chichi Whipped Shea Hair Butter

RRP: £7.95
Stockist: http://www.rococochichi.com/

--What does the promo say?--
"This nourishing butter stimulates the scalp and softens, fortifies and revitalises lacklustre hair.
Free from chemicals, preservatives, parabens, SLS, artificial colours and perfume."


--Packaging--
A discreet little tin which is brightened up by the cheerful rainbow of dots. The minimal information on the label, however, means that the overall effect is not too crowded.

--Application--
Rococo Chichi recommend using this in several different ways: as a pre-wash conditioner, as a styling aid, or as a tamer of frizz and split ends. Just take a little from the tin with your fingers and massage into the ends of hair to condition and style. If using as a pre-wash conditioner, leave for a minimum of 20 minutes (or even overnight) before washing out with shampoo. Easy as.

--Appearance--
A luxurious, creamy-looking wax that seamlessly slicks hair into position without making you look like you've overdone the hair gel.

--Scent--
The shea hair butter comes in a scented and unscented version, and while the unscented version smells pleasantly of the nut oils used, the rosemary shines through in the scented version. A natural aroma in all cases.

--Texture and consistency--
Not at all greasy, sticky or slippery; easy to apply to the hair and to rinse out. Any excess can be rubbed into your hands - all of those essential oils and natural butters make great moisturisers. 

--Effects on the hair--
Hair is effectively tamed, with your split hairs and frizz being shown who's boss. It's also a brilliant natural conditioner.

--Value for money--
At £7.95 for 100ml this is brilliantly reasonable compared to commercial products (not least because a little goes such a long way) - and it works so well on dry hair too. Even though I was sent mine for free by Rococo Chichi's PR (thanks!), I would definitely spend my hard-earned on this. Makes a brilliant gift for yourself and others.

perfect partners
Whipped Shea Body Butter (available in Lavender, Vanilla or Unscented), £9.95/150ml
Whipped Shea Hand Butter (available in Lavender or Vanilla), £3.50/30ml
Whipped Shea Body, Hands and Hair Gift Set (various scent combinations available), £20

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Old Wives Tail Melado Organic Hair Growth Oil Treatment

RRP: £13.99 for 100ml
Stockist: http://www.oldwivestail.com/ 

--What does the promo say?--
"A unique blend of 100% organic oils that will give the kiss of life to even the most dry and damaged hair. Rich in natural vitamins, antioxidants and proteins just one sacred drop of Melado will do wonders for your hair and scalp. The natural vitamins and omegas in Melado restores shine and deeply moisturises the hair back to health. When massaged into the scalp this oil will stimulate and encourage healthy hair growth by penetrating deep into the roots and strengthening each hair follicle."

--Packaging--
I love that the clear jar lets you see exactly how much is left at all times; it's also securely packaged, with the lid being easy to close to ensure that you don't lose any. The design (font etc) seems quite amateurish, but hopefully this is something that will improve as Old Wives Tail grows and the business has more money to plough into a more professional-looking package. The jar is also not a good idea: while when securely closed you won't lose a drop, and the jar means you should be able to scrape out every last drop with your fingers, it's very very difficult to get out the exact amount you need without spilling any. In this respect a pump-action canister would be more user-friendly. 

--Usage--
OWT recommends massaging this into into damp hair once or twice weekly "to stimulate long, healthy, nourished hair growth." You should leave it on for a minimum of an hour, or overnight, before rinsing with fresh water and shampoo (I found that shampooing and rinsing twice was best to be sure that the product was out). They say that you can use conditioner on the ends of your hair only afterwards, before styling as normal, but I didn't feel this was necessary; hair already felt sufficiently nourished. I also tended to just go for the overnight treatment rather than the hour's treatment: I might have time to strut around my flat in the morning with a towel on my head for an hour before having to get back in the shower to rinse it off in the holidays or at the weekends, but that's not going to fly during a normal working week. Wrapping your oiled-up hair in a towel overnight sounds like a hassle, but really isn't, so I'd definitely recommend doing this so that your hair gets the most possible out of the treatment. OWT also says you can use the product to tame flyaways, frizz, and split ends, just by using a drop of oil after blow drying, but I found I could never get the amount right to stop my hair turning from volumized and luminous loveliness back to oil slick - and as frizz is already reduced by using this product anyway, it seemed a tad unnecessary.

--Appearance--
A golden oil that gives a really luxurious impression.

--Scent--
A gorgeous aroma of lavender that's pleasant and natural without being overpowering. 

--Texture and consistency--
Despite being an oil, it doesn't feel sticky or greasy in the hands, and it slicks through the hair easily without leaving too much excess on your hands (and even if you are left with some, just rub it into the backs of your hands - oils are terrific for anti-ageing too). It also washes out after two shampoos - so again, if using a hair oil seems like too much hassle, it's certainly no more faff than washing out any other hair styling (say, backcombing!).

--Effects on the hair--
First of all, it really seems to clean the hair, which makes the product a great ambassador for the "co-washing" trend that's currently sweeping the world of beauty. Hair is left feeling smooth, cleansed, and strokeable, which also indicates the effect that it has on the way your hair feels. Rather than your hair being weighed down by pollution and commercial hair products, hair feels lighter and unencumbered. Furthermore, it feels cleaner for longer - I found I could go a whole day longer without washing my hair once I'd used this. Being able to wash your hair only twice a week rather than three or four times doesn't sound like a big difference, but it is. The process of styling the hair is also improved, as the oil seems to help significantly with detangling, and once you've styled your hair, frizz is reduced, with hair looking lighter and more volumised. Longer-term, the oils that compose the product will help to protect your hair from the damage caused by heat styling products (such as straighteners and hair dryers), and I do notice that my hair is looking lovely and long - another incentive to keep using the product, as my hair typically grows slowly and I would like it to be longer. Overall an excellent result.

--Value for money--
Although I was sent mine for free by OWT, I think £13.99 for a jar represents superior value for money, not just given how little you have to use each time, but also given the undeniable results that are achieved. These products definitely deserve to become better-known and more widely-used, meaning I would definitely purchase this product and others from the range in future (especially as the company's worldwide delivery charges are so reasonable too!). Highly recommended :)

perfect partners
Melado Organic Hair Growth Mask, £14.99
Melado & SOS Duo Organic Mask, £24.99
Melado & SOS Duo Organic Oil Treatment, £21.99
Scalp Massaging Hair Brush, £8.99
Wide Tooth Comb, £3.99  

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Boots Tea Tree and Witch Hazel Charcoal Facial Wash

 RRP: £4.25

--What does the promo say?--
"This Daily Detox Facial Wash contains antibacterial Tea Tree Oil and skin-calming Witch Hazel in conjunction with activated Charcoal to keep your skin clear and healthy by gently cleansing and attracting dirt like a magnet, drawing out deep down impurities & excess oil without over-drying. Leaves skin feeling deeply-cleansed, smoothed & radiant."

--Packaging--
The dark grey and pale green colour scheme is definitely new and different in a positive way; it's unisex, grown-up, and accurately reflects the product's ingredients, while also being distinguishable from other similar products. The flip-top lid also closes securely, meaning no worries about this exploding all over the inside of your suitcase when travelling.

--Application--
Wet your face and lather up a pea-sized amount of the product between wet hands. Rub all over the face, then rinse off, either under the shower or by using a face cloth.

--Appearance--
Dark grey - although happily this leaves no visible residue on the skin afterwards!

--Scent--
Slightly charcoaly, but not in an overwhelming way.

--Texture and consistency--
A slightly-sticky, slightly clay-like lotion lathers into a smooth grey foam. This washes off easily and doesn't leave any apparent traces.

--Effects on the skin--
When you use the product, there's immediately a lovely cooling effect - I'd guess from the tea tree and witch hazel, which are both known to have this property. Once rinsed off, skin also seems calmer and mattified straight away. Unfortunately, this doesn't last; while the product doesn't dry out the skin (which is appreciated!), it's not pleasant to feel like you've turned into an oil slick by the end of the day either. Consequently, and perhaps unsurprisingly, I didn't notice any massive improvement in my skin condition during my 4 weeks or so of using this product (in conjunction with the mask and scrub that are also in the range).

--Value for money--
This costs less than a fiver, so won't break the bank (and I was even sent mine for free by Boots' PR, so at least I didn't waste any cash on it), and so for that reason alone it's perhaps worth a try if you suffer with spots. However, my long-term acne problem is well-documented on this blog (17 years and counting, people!), so it's maybe unsurprising that what could be considered a relatively 'budget' product didn't make much of a dent. Sorry, Boots :(

perfect partners
Tea Tree and Witch Hazel Charcoal Facial Scrub, £4.59
Tea Tree and Witch Hazel Charcoal Face Mask, £3.59