Beauty Without Fuss

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Back Soon!!

  


Get Lippie (the blog) is just having a short break whilst Get Lippie (the writer) finds that having a full-time job and trying to write a book whilst still having an actual life at the are all making things just a bit hectic. 


I'll be back soon, bigger, better and smellier (ha ha!) than ever, I promise. In the meantime I'll pop in every now and again with the occasional review and links to things I've written/filmed/recorded elsewhere … see you in the summer! 

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Monday, 20 March 2017

#IncredibleMedicine on BBC2 this week! (9pm 22nd March)


Or: The story of how I accidentally became one of "The Most Extraordinary People In The World"*.

I got an email last July asking me if I wanted to take part in a documentary about my smell loss. I get quite a few emails regarding my anosmia every week (I write about it a lot, lets face it), so didn't particularly pay any special attention to this one.  I responded asked for more details, then found myself having a long, long conversation with a BBC researcher and got very, very excited about being on the telly, then heard nothing.  For AGES...

But before I get into the whys and hows of being featured (in a tiny way) on a major documentary series, let's back up a moment and talk about why the BBC wanted to feature me and my "story" at all.  I'm not one of the biggest or "best" bloggers, after all, so why me?

Well ... My name is Louise Woollam, and I'm "the perfume writer who lost their sense of smell" in what could be seen as a dumb cosmic joke.  It's funny, really, a person who writes gently-amusing (occasionally award-nominated)  prose about fragrance on the internet loses their sense of smell and then whines about it continually for several years. Let's make some telly about it! Yes, I'd be rolling my eyes about now if I were reading this too.  It's fine, get it out of your system. I'm going to tell you more about it regardless.

This time three years ago, in 2014, I had a perfectly normal sense of smell, and had just NOT WON a fragrance-writing award (it's fine, I'm genuinely not bitter - it was about fragrances from the pound shop. No one ever won a fancy-pants award writing about those), but I was just about to catch the cold that turned my life upside down.  That cold didn't feel much different to any other cold, but the after-effects still linger to this day. A life without smell, whether or not you relied upon your nose as much as I did back in the "before", is grey and dull and stressful, and is also one where the simplest of pleasures to distract yourself, such as a glass of wine, or a great meal, or even a cup of coffee or the smell of a hug from your loved ones, are denied to you. I spent the best part of a year getting used to my new smell-free life, which was surreal and bonkers and hugely isolating, but then things got worse, which lead me to another different life. 

This time two years ago, back in 2015, I was deep in the blackest pit of despair you can ever imagine. Life had segued from my anosmic "glass box" existence, to living in a surreal smell-landscape where every single item you encounter in life, from shower gel to toothpaste, takeaway curry to a supermarket sandwich (and let us not even mention the circle of hell that is a kitchen to parosmic) to even the smell of your own wet hair could make you throw up, no matter where you were.  When something as simple as a colleague accidentally making me some coffee instead of tea would mean that you might have to leave the office for the day, or just walking past someone smoking in the street would also mean puking and weeping.  The absolute worst day of my existence happened around this time, when, after a fight about perfume on facebook (where else?)  I found myself face down on the floor of the bathroom covered in puke because the smell of my hot, wet hair smelled so damn bad, and I realised I was wondering whether or not I could go on.  Anosmia may have ruined my life, but parosmia nearly killed me.

Nothing smelled good, nothing tasted good, nothing felt good, I couldn't get away from the smells, and I was crippled by them so much on a daily basis that there were days I could barely leave the house.  My ENT doctor told me two things during this time: "You know that Michael Hutchence? He lost his sense of smell, you know, and some people think that lead him to kill himself".  Well, to say I have some sympathy with Michael Hutchence on this one would be a mild understatement.  I have wondered at several points, if, possibly, Michael Hutchence and I shared the same ENT.  I was so damn angry at this idiot for saying this to me, I can't even begin to describe my feelings about it right now. At a different visit I was crippled, crying, and on my knees begging for help, thinking that I was insane in the face of these smells, when he delivered his real zinger:  "One day you'll back on this and laugh".   Essentially: "suck it up".  Suck. It. Up.  Can you imagine a doctor saying this if I'd gone blind from that cold.  Or deaf?  It'd be unacceptable.  But because it's "only smell" it's considered fine by the medical community to dismiss the problem.  Smell is the least of the senses, in that sense.  Well, bollocks to that thinking, say I. Smell is important, and medics dismiss it to the intense frustration of their smell-disabled patients, and doctors who tell patients to "get used to it" deserve scorn, not admiration.

Whilst I can, in fact, laugh about some of my experiences now, there was literally nothing funny about the situation I found myself in. Fearing insanity and completely unsupported by my specialist medical team, I was misunderstood generally. It was hell. The truth is that the sense of smell is a neglected one, and even in circles where people really appreciate "smells", there is a lot of mistruth spoken about anosmia and (to a much lesser extent) parosmia by people who rely on spreading fear about losing your sense of smell for their own living.  There are more than a couple of master perfumers who need to learn more about smell-loss, to be honest, but I shall mention no names here.  Anyway, I digress.

I have to say here, that I'm on the "lucky" anosmics.  I'm recovering.  Thanks to my own damn stubbornness in refusing to give up wearing, and writing about, perfume (yes, even with no sense of smell, and especially with a distorted sense of smell), it turns out I was unconsciously smell-training myself throughout this time.  I'd read about smell training back when I was deeply parosmic and just the thought of deliberately smelling aromatherapy oils (particularly given my deep antipathy towards "woo" medicine anyway) when I just knew that would make me sick, struck me as a terrible idea!  

Nonetheless, I doggedly wore a different perfume every day, smelled it deliberately regardless of the reaction, and wrote a line or two about it on Instagram even if what I wrote was mostly just a memory. There are now over 400 of my "mini-reviews" on Instagram via the hashtag #LipsNSpritz.  Through doing this, I discovered that there, in fact, were things I could smell "properly", and I have even, with the help of perfumer Sarah McCartney, created a couple of fragrances that smell good to me - and smell good to other people too! - which is an amazing thing to have been given the opportunity to do.  One of them donates funds to Fifth Sense, a pressure group that helps out other people with smell and taste disorders.  

Smell training (even in as haphazard a way as I discovered it)  has, for me, given me some of my life back.  There are still things I can't really smell - not being able to smell anything burning is a particular worry.  Not being able to smell farts, slightly less so - and trying to review perfumes is more akin to trying to do a jigsaw puzzle with my nose, than making up a story to go with a pretty smell which is basically what it used to be.  Nonetheless, I am persisting, and I will continue to do so - the three Jasmine awards I was nominated for by the Fragrance Foundation last year remain a huge point of pride (even though I didn't win.  Again), and I it remain an ambition of mine to be the first post-anosmic perfume writer ever to win a Jasmine Award.  One day.  I'm hoping to do more work in the smell-training arena in the coming months too.  I'm speaking at the Royal School of Medicine in a couple of months, and you can bet if I could remember my idiot-ENT's name, I'd be forcing him to listen to what I have to say about my "treatment" from him.  I will say this though: my GP was amazing, and I did get more help from him and support than I did from any "specialist" I saw during that time.  He was a lifesaver, literally.

So, er, yeah. That was a really long way of getting around to saying that the BBC eventually did get back to me and I spent two hugely amusing days last year being followed around by TV crews, doing deeply random things and I really hope the film gets across just some of the difficulties of being anosmic, and parosmic.  I'm terrified of watching it (the BBC haven't let me have an advance copy in spite of me begging for one on several occasions. Damn their eyes!), but I do know I'd have been hugely grateful if someone else with the condition had spoken out about it back when things were at their darkest for me. Life isn't dark any more, and I know I'm not alone in suffering these conditions, and that's a huge relief.  If my little film helps anyone else, then whatever kind of perfumed wanker I look like come Wednesday evening, it will have been worth it.

BBC2 9pm, Wednesday 22nd March.  Be there.  Me, I'll be cringing behind the sofa for several days afterward.  If you Tweet, I'm @Get_Lippie, and the hashtag is #IncredibleMedicine.

I'm hugely indebted to Linda Pilkington at Ormonde Jayne, and Navabi (as well as everyone else linked to in this article - such as Sarah McCartney, Smell Training and Fifth Sense) for their help and assistance in the making of this film.  Thank you.

* Stop laughing at the back! This was the working title of the show, and it's what it'll be transmitted as in international markets**
**[faints]

The Fine Print: SQUEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!


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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Beauty Pie - the buyers club for beauty lovers(?)


So, Beauty Pie, then.  Launched with no little amount of hyperbole towards the end of last year by Marcia Kilgore, the founder of (amongst others): Soap & Glory and FitFlop.  Hyped as "makeup without the markup", the website boasts of "luxury" lipsticks from £2.84, eyeshadow palettes from £6.94, and foundations from £4.75.

Sounds amazing, right?  By cutting out the middleman, using generic packaging, and charging a £10 per month subscription fee, Beauty Pie acts like a "buyers club" for loyal beauty fans wanting bargains on high-end cosmetics.  I was sent a box of the hero products just before Christmas (alas, mostly unusable, because of the random - too brown and nude - colour selections), alongside a free 3 month membership, and I recently activated that membership and made some more suitable purchases to test out the service before I finished finalising my thoughts.  

Before I get into opinions though, here are some facts:

Each product description on Beauty Pie gives you the member price, and the non-member price.

Your £10 subscription fee allows you to buy £100-worth (at the "non-member" prices) of products, which is realistically around three or four products, depending on what you buy.

Your minimum membership period is three months.  

Meaning that if you only find a single product or two that you fancy each month, then they will have cost you (using the example products above): £2.84 + £6.94 + £4.75 + Shipping (£5.22 x3) + handling (2% of order cost x3) + £30 Membership fee which is around £60.48, meaning that each product actually cost you £20.16.  Of course, if you ordered all three products at once, you'd save yourself £10.44 in postage fees (and I've used the minimum fee here - it's changeable depending on what you order), making each product cost £16.68. 

And, at present, it is definitely entirely possible that there is only one or two products that you'd feel like buying each month, because the selection is definitely limited.  It took me till March to activate my free membership, because when I first went to fill my basket back in December, there simply wasn't anything that I fancied buying. There were several things I stuck in my basket, I didn't particularly want them, and they were there just to make the most of actually placing an order, but I was ... underwhelmed.  Now, admittedly, I'm a beauty addict, and there isn't much I don't have (I could wear a different lipstick every day for at least the next 6 months without a repeat, probably), but even so, I found the pickings thin.

However, if you don't make a purchase in a particular month, your £100 allowance (or, any unspent allowance if you didn't fill your basket) rolls forward.  So, if you join and don't buy till your third month, you'd have a £300 allowance, and would make a saving on the postage costs.  It, kind of, evens out.

Selection-wise, things have definitely improved recently with the addition of the eyeshadow palettes (which I think have been well selected colourwise), and some accessories like a brush kit, but there is - for me - still not a huge amount to choose from. This will change throughout the year, as they add more and more lines, and I believe skincare launches in April.   But it's that element of picking and choosing that is problematic for me, because most of the pictures on the Beauty Pie website are CGI, and the colours are incredibly difficult to select, as a result.  There are no swatches, no natural light, no photographs of the products in use, and the descriptions are minimalistic at best.  

The website is great, however, for listing the breakdowns of the prices and for featuring complete lists of the ingredients - I noticed that practically everything is listed as paraben and fragrance-free (I'll come back to fragrance though), and the entire range is also cruelty-free, which is definitely something to be applauded.  


L-R Everyday Great Skin Foundation in Beige, Supercolour Kohl Eyeliner in Soft Black and Futurelipstick Matte in Red Light
Beauty Pie are pushing the idea that these are "luxury", and "high end" products very, very hard, which leads me to address the elephant in the room: are these products worth the "non-members" prices quoted?  Well, the short answer is: No.  Not really. There's nothing about the products you buy here that could possibly justify the "non-member prices" listed here, for a number of reasons.  But does this mean they are bad products?  No, actually, definitely not.

If I was asked "are they worth the prices you pay for them" though?  Then I'd reply that depending on how often you order, and how carefully you order, they might be.  

Let's take the Supercolour Kohl Eyeliner, for example.  The non-member price listed is £15.00, but you can buy it for £2.04.  At the £15 pricepoint, a good comparison might be the Urban Decay 24/7 Glide on liner which normally retails for £15.50. Ignoring the packaging, which is bound to differ, in consistency, Supercolour surprised me, actually.  It is good and black - blacker than expected given the name "soft black" and is soft and applies easily.  It doesn't last that long, but in a £2.04 eyeliner, this isn't so much of a problem.  However, in a £15 eyeliner masquerading as a £2.04 eyeliner, it is more of one.  Urban Decay lasts longer, and is better in the waterline too.  I would not, ever, pay £15 for the Supercolour Kohl Eyeliner, but if the "non-member price" was listed at around £6-8, I'd believe it.

Likewise the Futurelipstick Matte, which would ostensibly retail at £20.  Lipstick Queen Sinner lipsticks retail at around £22 and have better pigmentation, alongside a better texture and they smell better too; of nothing. For some reason all Beauty Pie lip products smell rather strongly of toffee - and I wonder how that has happened given all their products are ostensibly unfragranced.  Fututrelipstick Matte is a fine, nice lipstick.  Nice pigmentation, comfortable to wear.  If I'd spent £6.99 at Superdrug on it, I'd be very happy. at £2.84 + postage and handling and membership, it's fine.  If I'd spent £20 I'd be bitterly disappointed at the cheap smell, the cheap packaging, and the just average wear, however.

That thought brings me to the Everyday Great Skin Foundation, which smells of nail varnish remover.  And disgustingly so. It may well be a great product, but I can't bring myself to put it on my face, to be honest.  I can't think of any "luxury" (or even high street) brand that would have allowed a product that smelled this bad to be sold, especially for £30! Even at £4.75, it's a little overpriced, to be honest. Especially when you add in the difficulty of selecting the correct shade in the first instance.  I am aware I have a smell disability, and I thought for a while that this might be my problem rather than a problem with the product itself, but I've read some other reviews with similar thoughts. So if you're not bothered by the smell of your products, then do crack on and let me know how wrong I am, but for a "luxury" product to smell this bad - and it is a bad smell, not merely "a smell I don't particularly care for" like with the toffee lip products above - is beyond the pale, to be honest.

And then there is my final thought, whilst everyone likes a bargain (and I LOVE a bargain, me), a beauty brand stands or falls on the value for money, whatever the price point. If I can tell, objectively, that a £20 lipstick lasts longer on the lips than a £6.99 lipstick, and won't leave my lips chapped and dry, then I'll probably buy the £20 lipstick, and yes, I know that the majority of that cost is on the packaging and the scent.  Here's the thing though, I LIKE fancy packaging, it turns out.  And I really don't like it when expenstive makeup has cheap packaging - I like the full package, and I don't really mind paying for it.  But also wanting value for money (and it is the consumer who decides this, according to their budget) is why independent beauty reviews are important, and this is why I'm still blogging about makeup, these days.  Colour selection from a brand will also have a part to play in making my selections too - if I need a specific shade, and the cheap one has it and the expensive range doesn't, I might make a different decision.  But with Beauty Pie, one can't make those decisions because you can't swatch, and the colour pictures on the website can't assist in those decisions.

Once you factor in all the on-costs these products aren't as cheap as they appear, and nor are they the great value I'd like them to be.  That your £2.04 eyeliner might end up costing more like £6-8 or even £17 by the time you get it into your grubby little paws doesn't bother me that much (though your mileage might, as they say, vary) it's still a "cheap" eyeliner. But will it be a great eyeliner?  For me, Urban Decay do GREAT eyeliners, even at £15 a pop.  The Beauty Pie liner is just an okay liner, at whatever price you ended up buying it for.  However, if you're happy with "okay" pretending to be "premium" albeit with the bells and whistles stripped out, then that's great too. I like the bells and whistles, personally. 

What really bothers me is that the website tell you that you're getting a £15 product, and, actually, the products don't measure up to the standards of "real" £15 products.  I like that my real luxury products smell better, and feel better, and look better in the packaging, however, I must add here, that I actually quite like the simple packaging of Beauty Pie products, they're nicely branded, visually striking, and look good together. That they don't look expensive isn't, particularly, a problem ... But there is an entire sensory element missing from Beauty Pie for a number of reasons.  If I buy an expensive product, I expect more from it.  If I buy a cheaper one, I have a different set of expectations.  If I buy an expensive product at a cheap price, I don't really expect a cheap product with a fake high price discounted to make it look like a bargain, and to me, that is what Beauty Pie looks like.   

In conclusion, I do actually think Beauty Pie is a great idea. But if you go in expecting Tom Ford/Charlotte Tilbury/Chantecaille/Chanel, or even Mac-level quality, you're going to be disappointed.  However, if you want a source of cheaper Rimmel/Revlon/No7/Gosh-level products quality-wise, then you might just have found the beauty retailer of your dreams.   I am disappointed Beauty Pie isn't real "buyers club", and only offers own-brand products, but maybe that might change in the future, and the membership fee will be really worth it if they expand in that way.

I still have two months left of my membership.  There's a brush set that I might invest in once I can purchase again, but beyond that ... I just don't know.  Beauty Pie might be cheap, but it's  .... complicated.

The Fine Print: PR samples and purchases


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Monday, 6 March 2017

Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Oil



Clinique Take the Day Off cleansing oil is a staple of my routine, and frankly, I'm really embarrassed that it's taken me till now to review this product!

I have sensitive skin, and this, coupled with a rather, um ... magpie-like ... approach to collecting skincare can cause occasional problems.  However, Clinique Take the Day Off oil has never, ever caused me a problem. Unencumbered by essential or mineral oils, or even, weirdly, any oils at all (the short ingredients list is full of oil-like ingredients, but of actual oil in the formulation; there is none), TTDO is a silky-feeling cleanser that removes every single scrap of makeup and sunscreen without ever stripping, or irritating the skin. And it is deliciously inert, unfragranced, and just a great choice for sensitive skins because of it.

Whilst I don't use it every day, where it becomes invaluable in my collection is when I'm introducing new products into my routine.  As I have sensitive skin (I think I might have mentioned it once or twice over the years), introducing a new product into an established routine can be traumatic, so I have a couple of products that I fall back onto, ones that I know never irritate.  And I use those religiously alongside any new product to ensure that any results (good or bad) come directly from the product I've changed, rather than the routine itself.  I also have an SOS skincare routine for those times when my skin is just being irritable, and TTDO oil has made it into both those routines. Other products that I rely on for testing purposes include La Roche Posay Serozinc, and Murad Hydro-Dynamic Moisturiser, and the SOS routine is different again.  For a product to make both lists is very, very rare.

 Clinique Take the Day Off oil is both gentle on the skin, and a powerful cleanser. It takes off almost all makeup just in one cleanse, and emulsifies beautifully.  Also, it lasts almost forever, I've had a bottle on the go ever since the launch, and only recently had to buy a backup. I can't imagine life without it.  At around £19-£22 for a big 200ml bottle, it's a bit of a bargain too.

The Fine Print: PR samples and purchases


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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Aedes de Venustas Signature - Review


 

 
March has finally arrived, and in some books (okay, mine), that means spring is nearly here.  It has been a long, long winter for me, and I'm craving greenness, brightness and the smell of living things.  A bottle of Aedes de Venustas signature fragrances turned up on my desk quite unexpectedly last week, and it has fulfilled all my spring-y requirements beautifully.

I was reading recently, and some "science" reports popped up that stated that a marked preference for bitter tastes might mean you're a psychopath, and went on to extrapolate that a marked liking for black coffee, gin and tonic, or even dark chocolate (!) might be a pointer to your mental state. In that case, I found myself wondering if a marked preference for sour might be the sign of being a total misanthrope?  For my name is Get Lippie, and I love sour things and hate people.  The reason why I mention this will become clearer later.

Aedes de Venustas begins with vibrant rhubarb, nostril-tingling and mouth-puckering in the most delightful way. It invokes memories of me, as a child, with my parents digging around in the vegetable plot that we dug out in the back garden one summer.  That was the summer in which we simultaneously discovered that rhubarb was the only thing that would grow in our rocky, clay-heavy patch, and that the entire family hated gardening.  These days, I love rhubarb in any shape or form, whether raw with the fresh cut end dipped in sugar (a crunchy, textural magnificence), or cooked into a dessert item, or in a very specific chutney from Waitrose that was the only way I could eat many meats when my parosmia was its crippling worst.  I love it in soaps, hand lotions, candles, shower gel anything. I mean, who hasn't taken a 3 mile detour (on foot) during a trip to Paris to see if a particular shop has restocked a much-loved rhubarb shower-gel, hmn*? Just me?  Anyway, rhubarb is a wonderfully astringent scent, akin to lemon and grapefruit, but with a slightly greener, more vegetal aspect to it.  As rhubarb is technically a vegetable, this shouldn't really be a surprise, I guess.

Aedes de Venustas, in spite of pairing rhubarb with the soft green fuzziness of tomato leaf, the clean and flinty mineral tones of vetiver, alongside just a whisper of bright green apple, deftly avoids being a gourmand fragrance, in spite of its fruity star guest. By avoiding any sugar in the mixture whatsoever, and allowing the sharp green and pink stalks of rhubarb to take centre stage and dominate the scent throughout the wear, Aedes is a sour-fragrance lover's delight, a fruity fragrance for grownups, if you will. This is no "rhubarb and custard" confection and I, for one, am grateful for that.

 Aedes is a fairly linear fragrance, in that what you smell at the beginning is more or less what you will smell throughout, but the dry-down does pull a little sweetness through as the rhubarb fades, and some of the other fruits (berries, mostly, I think) in the composition begin to assert themselves.  It's fairly quiet, and I find I need to apply quite heavily to get the full effect (but please, of course, bear in mind that I have a compromised olfactory system), but this isn't a fragrance that is likely to offend in the office, as the sillage is quite low, even when application is a little heavy-handed.

All this said, Aedes de Venustas turns out to be a proper love-it or hate-it fragrance in the Lippie household. My "auxilliary nasal unit" (aka: MrLippie) properly hates this fragrance.  I mean, properly hates it.  He thinks it smells of something rotten - that'll be the unusual sourness - and refuses to come anywhere near it.  Which is a shame, as it's really quite beautiful, if a little strange at first smell, fragrances aren't often sour, which is a huge shame as there's a lot of beauty to be found in sourness, sometimes, you just have to be prepared to look for it.  Said the misanthrope ...

* On their honeymoon.
 
The Fine Print: PR samples and purchases 



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Monday, 27 February 2017

No7 Lift and Luminate #BetterTogether Trial Results and Review


This is a sponsored post on behalf of No7

In January, I started taking part in the #BetterTogether Challenge with No7, whereby I was going to be using only their revamped range of Lift and Luminate skincare for a month.  Now, I'm back to talk about the results!

Now, it has been a heck of a challenge for me, and the temptation to continue picking different bits and bobs from my collection to suit different requirements on a day to day basis has been strong! But, I've managed to stay completely true to the challenge throughout the month I've had the products, and only supplemented the range's core day and night moisturisers, serum and eye cream with appropriate cleansers and toners as required.  

So, how did I get on?  Well ... colour me hugely impressed, actually.  I don't say that lightly (or even often), but I've been delighted with the condition of my skin throughout the trial, and I've even begun to wonder if all the chopping and changing I do normally is maybe not the best way to treat (my) sensitive skin.  My skin has been smooth, soft, and with far fewer of the under-skin "irritation bumps" I quite regularly get around my eyes, which is my usual sign that my skin has been overstimulated and usually means I need to remove something from my routine. My skin is even noticeably less red, which is amazing.


Both the day and night creams are smooth and rich in texture, but don't feel oily on the skin. They leave behind a nice velvety feeling on the face, which makes a great base for makeup in the case of the day cream.  My skin is on the oilier side, and I haven't feel the need to add extra oil to my skin under either cream, even though it's winter and supplementing with oils is usually standard for me in the coldest months of the year.  Both the day cream and eye cream feature SPF -  something I usually avoid in my skincare, preferring to add a separate SPF on top, but I haven't had any problems with it in either product.  The serum is velvety and sinks in really easily to the skin, again without leaving a greasy base behind.

Have I noticed a huge improvement in my skin?  No, not a huge one as I was starting from a base of healthy skin anyway, but there is definitely a noticeable difference, my skin is calmer and more even, and I'm very happy with it.  It seems that things in skincare land really do work "better together", and these products are joining my regular arsenal right away. You can shop the Lift and Luminate range here: No7 Lift and Luminate Range at Boots

The Fine Print: This is a sponsored post on behalf of Boots No7 which also features PR samples. Links in this post are not affiliate links.

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Sunday, 26 February 2017

Anosmia Awareness Day 27th February 2017


As is now traditional around this time of year, it's time for me to point out that Anosmia exists, and list some resources for people who may be affected by this life-changing, but barely-known condition.  My life was turned upside down in 2014 by the simple act of catching a cold. My olfactory nerve died as a result of that cold, and life hasn't been the same ever since. I still feel the effects of that cold, and the resulting anosmia, every single day of my life.

Imagine never knowing if something smells bad, whether it's your home, your food, yourself.  Imagine never being able to smell your loved ones again, your babies, your partner, your family - not being able to bury your nose into their clothing and just inhale their essential scent. Imagine a sterile world where nothing smells of anything, and you feel completely isolated as a result.  That's anosmia.

Or conversely, imagine a world where things smell too much, but every single thing smells wrong.  Like, for example, spending a year or two where every single thing you smell smells like it's burned. Or rotten, or burned and rotten.  Then imagine every single thing that you taste also appears to be burned or rotten, or both.  That's parosmia, and that was my life for a very long while.

Or imagine that you constantly hallucinate bad smells, and can't think of anything else whilst it's happening. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night thinking your house is burning down.  Or that everywhere you go is covered in gasoline.  That's phantosmia, and it's incredibly difficult to live with.

Then there's cacosmia, and I have just one word for you here:  sewage.  Imagine your whole life smells - and tastes - like sewage.   I have been there, and I can tell you it was the worst time of my life.

Tomorrow, many anosmics across the world will be wearing red and using the hastag #anosmiaaware on Twitter to share their stories of anosmia, and I'll be amongst them. If you're interested in finding out more about the condition, you can have a look at the following links.

Anosmia Awareness Day Official Site (with further links): https://www.anosmiaawareness.org/social-media/
Fifth Sense (advocacy group for people with smell and taste disorders) http://fifthsense.org.uk

Oh, and my story will be featured on episode five of "Incredible Medicine: Dr Weston's Casebook", which airs on March 22nd at 9pm on BBC2  where I'll be talking about my struggle in learning to live with my conditions, and regain my sense of smell. I'm bloody terrified.

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Monday, 20 February 2017

Zelens Extreme Velvet Lipsticks - Nude Plum, Red, Dark Red, Merlot

Zelens Extreme Velvet Lipsticks in Nude Plum, Red, Dark Red and Velvet Get Lippie 20170219

When I heard Zelens were launching a new lipstick range, I was delighted, for Zelens are one of my (if not the very pinnacle) favourite skincare brands of all time, and so I was incredibly excited at the thought of actual lipsticks from them.  I already own several of the lip glosses that were launched a couple of years ago, and they're amongst my most-used lip products.  Then, when I saw the actual Extreme Velvet Lipsticks in the flesh, I was even happier, for instead of releasing a range of crowd-pleasing insipid nudes and baby-pinks, like so many ranges these days, the colours (inspired by the favourite colours of the patients seen by Dr Marko Lens, the brand founder, in his surgery) are bold, and rich and deeply, deeply pigmented.

And they're beautiful.

Zelens Extreme Velvet Lipsticks have a soft and hydrating matte formula, which is full of lipids and waxes, and they also contain both hyaluronic acid and an ester of retinol (to encourage cell-turnover and collagen production),  all of which are designed to treat the lips as well as colour them. These are a great, exceedingly comfortable and non-drying wear.  Whilst not promoted as a long-wearing formula, I have found that they wear well without needing a touch-up for around six to eight hours. And without leaving a red ring of doom, too! They fade gently and evenly, even after eating or drinking.

Zelens Extreme Velvet Lipstick swatches in Nude Plum, Red, Dark Red and Velvet Get Lippie 20170219
Swatches in natural light (l-r) Nude Plum, Red, Dark Red and Merlot
I have, of course, gravitated towards the redder end of the colour choices in my selections - there are nine shades in the range, the others are Nude Pink, Nude Beige, Cinnamon, Raisin and Tea Rose. 

Nude Plum is a great "nude" shade for people who (like me) don't really wear nudes, with plenty of pigment, and without that nasty "concealer lip" effect.
Red is a bright and slightly warmed orange-based red that colours beautifully in one swipe of the bullet.
Dark Red is a slightly warm deep red wine shade.
Merlot is an even deeper version of dark red, a little difficult for everyday wear for me, but just stunning with the right outfit.

I'll probably pick up Tea Rose at some point as it's a great everyday colour, and I have a feeling it'll be quite versatile with the depth of pigmentation on offer.  If I have one criticism of the range (and it's a minor one, admittedly) it's that I'd like to see a brighter deep pink in here too because as it stands, the range is slightly skewed dark and warm, but actually that's not really a bad thing in the bland sea of nudes that tend to predominate these days.

 The lipsticks cost £32, are housed in handsome silver tube with a screw-top lid and are available exclusively from the Zelens website


The Fine Print: PR samples and purchases

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Friday, 17 February 2017

Amouroud Silk Route Fragrance Review





 I haven't read too much about the release of the latest fragrance from Amouroud; Silk Route, and I'm wondering why that is?  I attended the launch back in December, and I was a little captivated.

Silk Route is, like all Amouroud fragrances, based around Oud, but is not an in your face "oud" fragrance. It surprised me by being positively gourmand, and in my favourite way: creamy, without being too sugary.  It might have been the Christmas connection - Harrods in December might well be one of the most Christmassy places on earth.  (It's also hell, but that's by the by) - but this reminded me of eggnog.  A boozy (rum), creamy mass of spice (nutmeg) with a hint of dark, damp wood beneath, it's not the brand's easiest wear - smelling like a pudding isn't appealing to everyone -  but it's truly lovely regardless.  At least, to my nose it is, it reminds me of two of my favourite fragrances of all-time; Safran  Troublant, which I wore to my wedding, but with softer, less zingy spice, and a slightly more pudding-y aspect in the dry down; and of Amaranthine, with the slightly corrupt milkiness and creamy aspect, but it's a little more mainstream than Amaranthine.

It's a deft and cuddly fragrance, warming and comforting, like a bowl of your favourite hot dessert on a cold winter's night. Or beautiful pain d'epices straight from the oven.  Glorious. But not for everyone.



The Fine Print: PR sample

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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Jusbox Perfumes: Use Abuse Review



 Sometimes a packaging concept is just so perfect that it hits all the right notes for a brand.  Italian music-lovers Andrea and Chiara Valdo created Jusbox and launched their initial four-fragrance range last summer, and it's just too beautifully done to go without comment.  From the gorgeous 78ml bottles to the stunningly detailed vinyl record-like lids, to the detailed boxes and packaging materials, every detail seems to just hit the right spot, and it's a joy to behold.



The four fragrances in the initial launch are each inspired by a different era of musical history, from  Micro Love, a cold and metallic incense inspired by the early 90's and the music of U2, to 14 Hour Dream, a spicy melange of ginger, saffron and vanilla which was inspired by the early 70's and a little remembered concert by Pink Floyd, to Beat Cafe, the smell of cigars and brandy inspired by Bob Dylan and the Beat Generation of the sixties.

But it is, of course, the 80's-tastic fragrance Use Abuse, inspired by the magnificent Freddie Mercury that I want to talk about, having grown up in that decade and all. Described by Jusbox as a tribute to all things in excess, and said things unconstrained by limits (whatever any of that actually means), Use Abuse is actually a huge white floral, containing "overdoses" of tuberose and jasmine sambac tempered by a wash of clean sandalwood in the base. Use Abuse - teetering on the edge of bad taste in all manner of ways, from the name, to the description and onwards - could have been a headache-inducing nightmare, in the style of Giorgio Beverly Hills and Poison and the like, but it lacks the throat-catching character of either, and also won't make your eyes water.

Starting with a clean yet fizzy waft of mandarin orange and bubblegum (from the tuberose), Use Abuse is both amusement-inducing, and retro, without being simply a nostalgic exercise.  On the skin it blooms with some rather plastick-y and synthetic white flowers when the jasmine arrives - and let us face it, there was very little natural about the 80s - but remains fizzy and fun throughout the wear, without ever really revealing anything particularly significant down in the depths of the dry-down. It's rather linear, but that first hook grabs you in and doesn't really let go whilst you're wearing.  Like a pop song you know is tacky and cheesy, but gets you onto the dancefloor every time anyway.

Altogether a lot cleaner and very much simpler than the actual fragrances we wore in the 80's, Use Abuse is isn't nearly as subversive, or even as deep as it'd like us to think it is (more Stock/Aitken/Waterman than Mercury et al) but it's none the worse for that. It's a good, fun wear, in what might just be the most perfect container of its type I've ever seen, and you can't really get more 80's than that.

£130 from Selfridges.


The Fine Print: PR samples and purchases


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Monday, 13 February 2017

Beaufort London Fathom V Fragrance Review


 I confess, I'm sat here at my keyboard with literally no idea of what I'm about to write, so if this "review" of Beaufort London Fathom V makes even less sense than usual, you'll know why.

First things first, since losing my sense of smell nearly three years ago, and being still deep in the recovery phase from parosmia (where everything I smell is distorted to a greater or lesser degree), I have to confess that I really miss the smells of nature, the good, the bad and the ugly.  I've cried twice in the last three years on smelling particular fragrances (once on smelling Sel Marin by James Heeley, which is about as photorealistic a treatise on the salty smell of the seashore I've ever encountered, and the other on smelling a saffron fragrance that made me realise my synaesthesia hadn't disappeared entirely), and this, the salty smell of a rockpool suffocating with slowly drying seaweed at dawn also makes me a little emotional in similar ways.

Beaufort London make extremely uncompromising fragrances which are always unexpected, and it must be admitted that this can make them very challenging to wear, but I've worn Fathom V a few times now, and I love it a great deal.  It's the greenest fragrance I've encountered; to the extent that MrLippie has exclaimed "that's VERY green!" when I've just sprayed it in a different room to him (he normally has three categories of smell: "sweet", "orangey", and "strawberry", which, bearing in mind I very rarely wear sweet OR fruity fragrances can make getting his opinion on things rather challenging when he's acting as my "auxiliary nose*"), and he's right.  It's so very green that they might have to invent another category of green entirely just for this single fragrance.

It is green like the aforementioned drying seaweed, but also green like the stems of freshly bashed flowerstalks when you walk past a florist on the high street, and green like the greenest kale smoothie you can imagine, and as a result, it's a bit like everything green in nature has blended itself into some huge (hopefully friendly) green monster and come up to smack you one in the face with a soft yet huge green fist in a, you know, good way.  It's also salty and woody, and, strangely, earthy, like the roots of a plant you've just dug up. Think of crushed sap and mud, on the edge of a wooden-handled metal spade you're using at the seaside and you won't be far wrong.

I grew up in an inland (river and canal) port-town and Beaufort London Fathom V inspires in me a longing for a home that doesn't exist any more, which in fact has never really existed anywhere except the inside of my head, and as a result it makes me long for places and times that would be impossible to get to any more, even if they were real. Can you be homesick for a place you've never been? Fathom V is the concentrated and distilled smell of the British coastline, natural and raw and blunt and untamed, and it's just plain sublime.

It's one of the most amazing smells I've ever encountered, I'm just not entirely sure it's actually a perfume.  In candle, or room scent form, I can imagine this is fantastic, and I'd welcome my house smelling this amazing way.  On my skin though, it makes me tearful for a time and a place that I've only ever imagined.  A frankly astonishing feat, especially when you remember I haven't smelled anything resembling "home" for years.

You can, and should, buy Beaufort London Fathom V here.

*All anosmics have a partner/ who acts as an external sense of smell, normally checking for the less pleasant aspects of life with a corrupted olfactory system.  BO, that random smell in the back of the fridge, burning toast etc

The Fine Print: PR samples and purchases


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Thursday, 2 February 2017

Guerlain Parure Gold Radiance Foundation - Rose Clair




  
There's no getting around it, £55 is very, very expensive for a foundation.  There's such a wealth of wonderful foundations around the £20-30 range these days (and even less, truth be told), that why would you even think about splashing out on something costing double the average?  That was my thinking before I bought a bottle of Guerlain Parure Gold Radiance Foundation, anyway.

However, and quite surprisingly, I haven't regretted a penny of this purchase, and it's unlikely that I'm going to, because this sky-rocketed to the top of the list my favourite foundations right after the first wear, and I've been kind of limiting my use of it since so I don't run out.  Crazy, huh?  Yeah, I know.



Housed in a handsome black glass bottle, Parure Gold has a pump mechanism, and promises full, but glowing, coverage and boy, does it deliver!  A silky-textured liquid, it smoothes easily over skin, and blends beautifully, covering even the reddest of red skins.  I am prone to extremely high-colouring, which is one of the banes of my existence, but Parure Gold copes with it very well, even when I'm in full flush, and keeps it at bay (or at least well-hidden) throughout the day too.

Unblended - (my hands are much paler than my face, bear in mind)

Blended.
Whilst the coverage is full, it's not mask-like, and still leaves your skin looking like skin.  It's layerable without caking, and your skin glows beautifully without looking shiny, glittery or greasy.  It's exceptionally forgiving of lines and wrinkles and seems to skip over pores without gathering in them. It lasts very well, and I've not found that it needs any real touching up over the course of a day, either.  I'm seriously in love with this stuff.  When your foundation needs to deliver, this delivers in spades.

In full, natural daylight (no professional lights/filters here!) and unedited (SOOC).
I did several days filming with BBC2 last year for a documentary (more about that soon), and this is the foundation I'm wearing for all of them.  I'm mostly saving it for high-days and holidays at the moment, but I'm wondering if this is a false economy?   So yes, expensive for sure, but what price confidence?

The Fine Print: Purchases



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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Pixi + Caroline Hirons Double Cleanse #PixiPretties Collection


Right. I've started this "review", like, fifteen different ways now, and they were all a complete bag of utter shite.  I'm out of the habit of blogging at the moment, admittedly, and I can't deny it, but there's no way for me to write a "proper" review of this anyway. She'd squash me. The truth is that Caroline is a friend of mine, and Pixi Double Cleanse  is going to sell BAJILLIONS of units regardless of anything I have to say (as it should) because a) it's fupping brilliant and b) Caroline is also fupping brilliant.  So, I'm just going to say whatever I want.  No change there, really, but anyway ...



Caroline has been talking about making a skincare range for the best part of a decade now, and I know that she has turned down any number of offers to work with other brands.  She chose Pixi over them, because they gave her the freedom to put precisely what she wanted into the jars, and she believes in their integrity as a brand.  Personally, I don't get on well with all of their skincare products (but what I do use, I love) having sensitive skin, but they're an excellent, mid-priced range, that cater for a range of skin-types and conditions without overselling themselves.

Double Cleanse is gorgeous.  I'm not a huge fan of overly-scented products, and I react to products that are filled with essential oils, so discovering that both the "solid oil" and cream sides of the container are completely unscented, and not full of essential oils was a delight.  The jar is bifurcated, containing 50mls each of a silky balm that melts instantly on contact with skin, and a rich cream cleanser that feels wonderfully hydrating on skin.  The balm will destroy any makeup it comes into contact with without stripping the skin, and the cream is ...




... well, I'm not usually a huge fan of cream cleansers tbh, preferring to use them only when my skin is irritable, or irritated, and then usually in conjunction with my other "SOS" skincare products (which I haven't needed much recently), but when I have used this one I've found it rich and creamy, and wonderfully soothing, and very much like the much-missed Clarins Extra-Comfort Cleansing Cream (the one in the jar, not the less-good reformulated one in the tube), so I'll give it a pass on this occasion.

I've had my jar for a couple of months now, and it's been the cleanser I've reached for again and again and again in that time, and it's brilliant, but I do have a gripe with the packaging.  Whilst having both cleansers in the one tub is actually a brilliant idea, it's not ideal if you have a marked preference for one kind of cleansing over another.  I'd buy a full-size pot of the balm cleanser in a heartbeat, you don't need much, and it's fabulous, but I'm definitely not using the cream side as much (I'll be honest, I don't always cleanse twice, because I'm a lazy bitch), and the sides of my jar are uneven as a result. I will not finish both sides of the jar at the same time A little bird* did tell me at the official launch last week that this pot may end up being the "travel" size, which would be a perfect use for the current packaging.  I just hope that means that full sizes of both cleansers are on the way.  Fingers crossed!

 Pixi + Caroline Hirons Double Cleanse costs £24 and is available from both Pixi Beauty and Marks & Spencer.

* Actually quite tall, really.

The Fine Print: PR samples and purchases


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Tuesday, 24 January 2017

No7 Lift and Luminate #BetterTogether Challenge


 This is a sponsored post on behalf of  No7.

It is always good to challenge yourself to do something different once in a while. Towards the end of last year, some exciting (terrifying!) opportunities arose for me, and they have led me to challenge myself to do more exciting - and different - things this year, too.  And, as a skincare junkie, who better to partner with for my first big challenge of 2017 than Boots, and the UK's number 1 serum brand: No7 Lift & Luminate Triple Action?



To prove that things work #BetterTogether,  Boots have  revamped their entire No7 Lift and Luminate skincare range so that every item, including the day cream, the night cream and the eyecream now incorporates all the same great skincare benefits as the Triple Action Serum, and clinical trials suggest that 88% of users reported better results when using the Lift & Luminate serum alongside the day cream. To back up those results, Boots have also challenged 10 UK bloggers  to use only this range for the next month and report back on how they get along. I was one of the lucky ones selected, and I’ve been trialling for a few days already. I’m looking forward to seeing how the next few weeks go!



It’s a big change, using skincare from only one brand, but it's an exciting challenge for me, as it's something very different to my usual routine. No7 is a brand I trust though, and Lift and Luminate is a range I’m excited by.





The nine other bloggers working #BetterTogether in this challenge are:


Hayley Carr             londonbeautyqueen.com
Kate Marten             katelouiseblogs.com
Tracey McAlpine     fightingfifty.co.uk
Jane Cunningham    britishbeautyblogger.com
Alex Garman           heartbeauty.net
Lisa Barrett              glowology.co.uk
Fritha Strickland      tigerlillyquinn.com
Jo Middleton           slummysinglemummy.com
Sareta Fontaine       kikiblahblah.com


Please go check them out, they’re amazing.


The Fine Print: This is a sponsored post, which also features PR samples  

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