Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Review: Real Techniques Powder Brush

As soon as Sam Chapman's Real Techniques brushes launched, they very quickly established themselves as a must have amongst bloggers, beauty editors and beauty enthusiasts alike. Even now, months and months on, the hype has barely died down. So, when it came to slowly rebuilding my make-up brush collection (due to a naughty puppy deciding that make-up brushes would make the perfect chew toy), it only seemed a natural choice to go for a Real Techniques brush.

The brushes are all colour coded, so you know which brush to use for your base, for the finish or for your eyes. Just to make things even easier, they have a description printed on the side of the handle, just so you always know which brush to reach for, even long after you've chucked the outer packaging. They are all made from synthetic taklon fibres, which means they are all cruelty free - always a bonus!

To be completely honest I find the wide base of the powder brush a tad bulky and difficult to store. I much prefer to stick my brushes into a pretty brush holder and you wouldn't fit more than two or three of these into even a larger sized cup. On the plus side, the rubberised handle does make it very easy to get a good grip on the brush and it sits very comfortably in my hand.

I have to say that overall this brush is an absolute pleasure to use. The bristles are incredibly soft, but still manage to hold their shape very well and seem to pick up the perfect amount of powder to set my make-up without making it look cakey. Even after a few months and regular weekly washes there's been no splaying, no shedding and none of that weird hard feeling that some brushes can get.

I'm already eyeing up the Core Collection next!

The Real Techniques powder brush retails at £12.99. You'll be hard pressed to find better value for money than that when it comes to make-up brushes!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Recipe: Creamy, healthy spring greens soup

Happy Easter, everyone! It's Sunday and that means it's time for another lifestyle related post. This time I thought I'd share with you a recipe for a tasty green soup which is healthy, filling, easy to make and delicious! I got the original recipe from Popsugar Fitness, but I adapted it a little bit to suit my tastes and needs and I'm very pleased with the result and will definitely be making it again.
(NB: A saucepan may or may not have been accidentally set on fire during the creation of this post. I guess I'll never be one of those swanky, sophisticated food bloggers, oops!)

For two portions you will need:

  • Half an onion
  • Half a small, green chilli (I used birdseye)
  • A drop of olive oil
  • About 5-6 leaves of chard or spring greens
  • A good handful of spinach
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp low fat cream cheese

Start by finely dicing the onion and the green chilli. Remove the pith and the seeds from the chilli if you don't want too much heat, or use a whole chilli if you want it a little hotter!

Saute the chilli and onion in the olive oil in a saucepan over high heat until the onion becomes translucent. Keep stirring to prevent it from sticking.

In the meantime, start chopping your chard or spring greens, depending on which you're using. You want to separate the crunchy white stems from the leafy green bits. Add the white bits to the pan with the onion and the chilli and saute for another 3-5 minutes.

Add the green bits to the pan along with the spinach. Heat, while stirring until all the spinach has wilted, then turn the heat down to medium.

Add the vegetable stock to the pan, cover and let it simmer for about 5-10 minutes.

Turn the heat down to low and add the cream cheese and peanut butter. Stir well to dissolve any lumps.

Transfer about half of the soup into a blender and whizz until smooth. Alternatively, if you have a hand blender you can just puree it right there and then in the saucepan.

Return to the pan and turn the heat up one last time until the soup starts bubbling away. Adjust seasoning if you need to, though I find that the peanut butter, veg stock and cream cheese make it salty enough, while you get a little heat from the chilli.

And tuck in! Serve with some bread if you're really hungry or just slurp on its own. It tastes rich, indulgent and creamy and definitely not like a healthy recipe.
I wasn't too sure about the peanut butter at first, but it turns out that it goes beautifully with the green vegetables adding an almost meaty taste to a vegetarian dish.

Let me know in the comments below if you decide to give this recipe a go! 

Review: Simple Kind To Skin Perfecting BB Beauty Balm

I'm going to go all out here and say that BB creams are quite possibly one of the greatest beauty hypes of the last few years. I hate the weight of a heavy, full coverage foundation, but my skin isn't always that pixel perfect for me to bypass any base whatsoever. Tinted moisturisers tend to give too little coverage and are often also quite rich, but BB creams are the perfect middle ground.

It seems like everyone and their nan has brought out their version of a BB cream, which quite often doesn't have much in common with what the term was originally set out to mean (and don't even get me started on CCs and DDs and EEs and what-nots). But when Simple, which is probably my favourite affordable skincare brand, released a BB cream there was no way I wasn't going to give it a go.

There is only one shade to universally suit all skin tones and originally that had me a little worried. Then I opened the tube and thought there was absolutely no way that shade was going to suit my pale complexion - I thought the cream was a write-off before I'd even tried it. I started blending and my face went an unnatural orange colour. Then I blended some more - still orange. I blended some more and all of a sudden, like some sort of magic trick, the orange disappeared and I was left with skin that was slightly mattified but still had some of its natural luminosity peeking through. Evened out just enough to give that extra boost of confidence, but not so much that it would look unnatural.

Simple Kind To Skin Perfecting BB Beauty Balm; Left: unblended / Right: Blended in
As for the texture it's a lot less thick than all the other BBs I've tried before, which personally I think is a bonus. It might sound a bit vain, but I like to have a very light base on when I go to the gym or for a run, but it's imperative that it doesn't clog my pores when I get sweaty and this fits the bill absolutely perfectly. But also for days where I feel like my skin needs just a little pick-me-up instead of a lot of coverage, this does a great job. You can see me actually wearing this BB cream in this Face Of The Day post.

So in the end, what I thought would be a write-off turned out to be yet another great product. I still feel like adding two extra shades - one lighter and one darker - would be a good idea, just so that those of us with particularly light or very dark skin don't have to blend quite as much. But overall, this gets a big thumbs up from me!

Simple Kind To Skin Perfecting BB Beauty Balm retails at £8.99

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Review: Nair Brazilian Spa Clay

Let's talk hair removal, ladies. While it might not be the most glamorous subject, it's still a firm part of most of our beauty routines, so we may as well get it all out in the open!
When it comes to getting rid of pesky body hairs I usually reach straight for the razor. Epilators seem like a bit of a faff and when I tried waxing at home the result was usually sticky and patchy. I had a few run ins with hair removal creams when I was younger, but I found them to be too much of a faff and the smell to be unbearable.

Creams do have the advantage, however, of keeping your legs stubble free for up to a week, while I can only get away with not shaving for two days, maybe three or four at a push. Formulas have changed since I first used a tube of Veet in my parents' bathroom aged 13, so I decided it was time to give them another chance.

What I liked about this Nair cream in particular is that you can leave it to sink in in the shower, so no standing around naked with legs covered in cream for ages! The texture is nice and thick - you can definitely see where they were going with the clay - but it doesn't clog the drain or leave a mess in the shower. The smell is rather inoffensive, as well. Yes, there's a hint of chemistry lab about it, but it's nowhere near as bad as what I remember. The added spatula helps to coat the skin evenly so that you don't miss a spot, though I did find it a bit scratchy when it came to removing the cream at the end.

So far, so good. When it came to results, however, my enthusiasm waned. Even after leaving it on for the maximum time allowed, it still didn't manage to remove all hairs. The result was exceptionally patchy and I can't really figure out why - I'm not even that hairy (sorry for the mental image there). In the end, while it did leave me stubble free for about a week and a half, the uneven result meant that I had to go over some bits with a razor anyway. Effectively, the whole thing felt like a big fat waste of time.
On the upside, it didn't irritate my skin one bit and actually left it feeling rather soft, which is impressive for a hair removal cream. The tube also lasted for about three applications all over - I'm talking ankles to mid-thighs, so it's not the worst value for money. But I think I'll still stick to razors for now - or maybe next time I want smooth legs for more than a few days I'll just get over myself and let a professional wax the whole lot off.

Nair Brazilian Spa Clay retails at £6.99 for 200ml.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Love Me Beauty Box April 14

I gotta admit I wasn't too keen on this month's Love Me Beauty Box when I first saw the options. Two repeat brands and products I'll use but wasn't overly excited about meant that for the first time I seriously considered just skipping the month altogether. But after opening it and having a proper look at all the products I can honestly say I'm glad I didn't. Let's crack on, shall we?

Full size: £6.25

At first I thought I wouldn't have any use for this rollerball. It's recommended for stretch marks and scarring and I don't have any stretch marks and all the various little scars all over my body (what can I say, I'm clumsy) have already faded. I couldn't really think of any dry skin areas either other than my legs and I could imagine it being a right pain trying to apply oil in a rollerball to such a large area. 
After doing a bit of research I found out that you can also use this on the face, so I might try it in place of my overnight serum or moisturiser. If that doesn't work, it's also meant to be really good for sunburn, so I might try that if I spend a little too much time in the sunshine.

Full size: £6

Models Own is a repeat brand for Love Me Beauty and you could choose from either another nail polish or this nail art pen. In all honesty it was mainly this product that drew me towards this particular menu. I've never really tried my hand at nail art as I didn't expect to be any good at it, but it's about time I at least gave it a go.
Sadly I managed to break off all but three of my nails last week, so it's going to be a little while until I can try this out properly.

Full size: £9.50

Neal & Wolf is another repeat brand, but while I've tried quite a lot of their products almost every single one was a hit, so I don't mind getting another one. At first I thought this was a sample size, as it is more on the smaller side, but it's actually a full sized product. I've not had a shine spray for years - it's one of those things I always considered buying but never got round to it, so I'm happy to finally have one in my stash. And who knows, a little might go a long way.

Full size: £9.99 for 250ml / Sample value: £1.20

I'm not overly sure what to think of this product just yet. I much prefer to use the same brand shampoo and conditioner and as a matter of fact I don't even use normal conditioner, as I tend to alternate between purple shampoo/conditioner combo and a deep repair hair mask. I'm sure I'll find a way to use it anyway and on my long hair the sample size should be enough for about two washes.

5) Various Bonus Items
Value: £30.72

This month Love Me Beauty included a few items in their box that weren't on the menu listings or on the card that accompanied the box. I actually received the Melvita Extraordinary Water in last month's box and I still have about a quarter of the bottle left, but I'm actually really happy that I got another one, as I love it to pieces and was looking at getting a full sized one.
The Hello Fresh voucher also got me very, very excited. I've been thinking about trying this food delivery service (they deliver fresh ingredients and recipe cards and then you get to cook the food from scratch) for a while, but I've been put off by the price. Now I've got the perfect excuse to give it a go!
The two sachets of the Weleda Stretch Mark Massage oil weren't such a great hit. As I've already explained above I don't have any stretch marks or any scarring that could be helped, so I tried to use it on my dry legs. Not only did the oil in a sachet make a huge mess, but it also left me feeling very sticky and made it almost impossible to put on some leggings.

Total value: £53.67

Even though I originally thought there would only be four items in this box I ended up with a total of six (seven if you want to count the gift card which will most definitely be used) and the value is among the highest that I've seen in these boxes. None of the items are hugely exciting, but I'll find a way of using everything, so it's another hit from Love Me Beauty!