Do any of you have any huge objections if I widen the scope of my monthly favourites round-ups to include stuff other than beauty? I feel it would inject some new and welcome joie de vivre into what is an old – yet surprisingly still very popular – format.
The only problem might be (spoiler alert!) is that some of the items, if I’m let loose completely from my self-imposed constraints, might be a bit random. For example this month, had I been given free rein, I would most probably have included a faux-antique rug in my favourites as well as a vintage BelgoChrom table I picked up (not literally) from Belgium for an absolute steal.
I don’t mean to imply that all of the favourites would be interiors-related – I’ve also had a great love-affair with a new Amazon Prime TV series this month – I’m just throwing some examples out there. So what do you think? Death to the (exclusively) beauty favourites? Bring in a new era? Or are you change-averse?
(If you are incredibly change-averse then I do genuinely feel for you. 2020 is most certainly not your year.)
Let me know in the comments, please – I do love a spot of market research on here! But for now, on with the beauty favourites. I’ve mostly avoided skincare this month despite racking up a fair few new discoveries that were deserving of a big mention, and that’s because I’m judging the Marie Claire skincare awards. It would be slightly disingenuous to go shouting my mouth off about my favourites whilst others are still doing their solemn judging.
So two bodycare items, two makeup favourites and one thing that is skincare but not quite as you know it. Shall we start with that one? It’s called a ZitSticka and it’s a small patch infused with potent spot-fighting ingredients that you stick over an emerging or early-bird blemish. You know when you have that hard swelling beneath the skin and your heart sinks because you know it’ll take long and painful days to erupt into anything you can (illegally) squeeze?
That’s what these ZitStickas are aimed at. I actually did an ad for this product at the very start of the year, having used it over the Christmas zit period, but I’ve had a fairly spot-free spring and summer and so hadn’t needed them since. But boy did last month’s PMT week see a beauty of a boil! The perfect pustule to place a Sticka on and I was delighted to find that it worked just as well as at Christmas. From hard, red skin to…absolutely nothing.
The raised bump didn’t disappear completely overnight, I had to take the patch off in the morning and double-obliterate it with a second one, but after that it simply dispersed. No squeezing necessary, which was good as it’s a very bad thing to do with a hard and horrible spot like that.
And to bodycare, where a Mitchum deodorant stole the show. On closer inspection, a “man’s” deodorant but I’m not really sure what makes it manly. The smell is “Cedarwood” but I find it fresh and figgy, which is why it’s in the faves (a good deodorant smell is hard to find), the formula is creamy, aluminium-free and effective.
True fact: to test efficacy I always do a half-half trial, whether it’s foundation, SPF or an exfoliating body lotion. You need to keep one half of your test area free from the product being tested – in this case it was so that I could gauge that day’s sweatiness with one pit and the sweat-fighting prowess of the anti-perspirant with the other.
It did well. The depths of the underarm were fresh even after a brisk walk down the river on a hot day wearing inadvisable levels of cashmere.
You can find Mitchum’s Natural Power deodorants here at Boots*, they are £4.50.
A seasonal favourite now, in the shape of Weleda’s Pine Bath. I know I’ve mentioned this a fair bit over the years and usually it’s more of a winter staple, but I ran out of Epsom Salts the other day (shock horror! fear not, I have reordered) and bathing just wasn’t bathing without something added to the water.
The Weleda bath milks are excellent – lavender would be my warmer months option but nothing beats pine for a bit of a Christmassy run-up. Again, I know I’m early – I’m not wishing Christmas upon anyone for the moment, the last thing we all need is another bloody school holiday! – but if you’re craving those crisp nights and blustery russetty days, this will be your bag.
Weleda Pine Bath Milk is £14 here*.
My next favourite is actually a whole category and so I’m going to sort of mulch over it – if you want more of an in-depth explanation of it then watch the video below. It’s mascaras. All mascaras. I’ve had a sort of renewed falling-in-love of them and have been testing out loads. I am going to be back with a video of my favourite four new mascara launches in the next week or so, but if you can’t wait that long then know that these are currently “the ones”:
Marc Jacobs At Lash’d Mascara, £25 here*
Charlotte Tilbury Push Up Lashes Mascara, £23 here*
Urban Decay Lash Freak Mascara, £21 here*
Dior Overcurl Mascara, £28 here*
All do things to my puny, barely-there lashes that would definitely win prizes, if there were prizes for lash transformations.
And finally another favourite that I’m not going to explain at length; it’s basically anything from Trinny London that counts as “makeup in pots”. In particular the cream eyeshadow in Truth and the cream blush in Electra. I’ve used both so regularly that it would be disingenuous for them not to make an appearance in the monthly hall of fame. You can read my full review of the eye2eye shadows here and the cream blush is online here*.
And there endeth the beauty sermon: it’s all on video right here if you want to see items up close and personal or find out about the makeup I’m wearing. Any extra details are written below the video pane. Enjoy – and let me know whether you’d like me to expand on my favourites categories!
Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Foundation in B30, £40 here*
Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow, £49 here*
Pat McGrath Permagel Lipliner, £25 here*
Pat McGrath Lip Balm, £35 here*
Jumper is from Cocoa Cashmere here
Amazing abstract painting in background is by Holly Delaney
I always feel like a right berk recommending this to people when I can’t pronounce the name properly – I mean, how on earth do you say OI Oil without looking as though you’re doing an extreme facial yoga move? – but recommend it I do. A lot. Because, despite trying dozens and dozens of smoothing creams and silkening serums and pomades that promise to tame fried locks, this is still one of the very best things I’ve found.
Davines OI Oil.
I’m not 100% sure on how to say the Davines bit, don’t have a clue on the OI bit, but don’t let pronunciation faze you: because surely that’s one of the great things about internet shopping? Being able to order stuff that you can’t pronounce in real life. Or, even better, being able to order all of the stuff that is too humiliating to do face to face.
(The fact that I now can’t think of a single thing that would humiliate me to buy face-to-face means that I have sunk to new lows. Unctions for various complaints of the orifices, athlete’s foot cream, stuff for ulcers and boils, bunions and buboes; the pharmacist in my local Sainsbury’s has seen it all and neither of us bats an eyelid. I always wonder whether it’s the combination of shopping items that cause’s embarrassment, rather than the items themselves. Though to be quite honest I rarely overthink this nowadays. I mean, if you found yourself at the checkout with a cucumber, some lard and a packet of condoms then you’d probably want to rethink your shopping list but I can’t think of much else that would make me pause for thought. Just to be clear, I’ve never rocked up to the tills with that combination of items, but once I did buy just an aubergine, two courgettes and a large pot of yoghurt because I was making an emergency vegetarian curry for a visiting friend and the man at the checkout said “that looks like a fine Saturday night in.” WTF.)
Where am I going with this? I have no idea. Poor you, clicking on a seemingly innocent haircare review and being plunged into the depths of my meandering mind. OI Oil. No idea how to say it, because they’ve capitalised the O and the I which further confuses me – if it’s not “Oi Oil” then is it o-eye oil?
I like to think you shout it, like Harry Enfield pretending to be a builder.
“Oi! Oil! Over ‘ere! Come on then if you think you’re ‘ard enough!”
But I’m guessing that would be off-brand. Davines is a very high-end, high-performance haircare brand and I’m not sure that Harry would be their poster boy. Everything I’ve tried from this company has been gorgeous, effective and a cut above much of the competition, so I’m going to be sensible from now on and give it the credit it deserves.
OI Oil Absolute Beatifying Potion is a hair-finishing serum that contains oil, but doesn’t quite behave like an oil. Which is a blessing for those with fine, easily-weighed-down hair. You get all of the sheen and conditioning benefits of the oil (roucou oil, which is apparently 100 times richer in beta carotene than carrots; handy if you, like me, would like your hair to be able to see in the dark) but you don’t get the greasiness.
Obviously if you pour the stuff on and baste your whole head in it, things would start to get greasy, but why would you do that? You need a minimal amount – for long hair, I’d dispense about the size of a 10p coin – and that minimal amount manages to groom, tame and polish without any heaviness whatsoever.
My hair just looks sleek and smooth, but not in that nineties Jennifer Aniston way that needed four hours of straightening to achieve – the surface just looks healthy and…well pulled together. So I’d use the OI Oil on days when my hair looks tousled, for example, leaving it looking tousled but incredibly healthy, rather than tousled because it’s just dry AF and I haven’t had my split ends cut off in five or six months.
How do you use Davines OI Oil? Well here’s the most beautiful bit: pretty much in any way you want. Massage into damp hair and allow to air-dry, massage into damp hair before blow-drying, smooth over dried ends to get rid of frizz or spread a small amount between palms and then press them lightly down the lengths of a finished style to give it polish and sheen.
My most-employed way of using OI Oil is on hair that I’ve basically washed and forgotten about, hair that has dried into a huge Helena Bonham-Carter bird’s nest on my head, tangled and stressed. And you know that when you’ve left your hair to riot like that then there’s very little you can do to pull it back from the brink – some of my lowest hair moments have been when I’ve brushed my hair out from the freshly-washed bird’s nest and it just sits, lank yet somehow still frazzled, hanging down in tattered curtains on either side of my face.
That is when OI Oil comes into its own. On my fine, colour-treated hair it just seems to perform small miracles, working its way through the damage to come out with something that’s a hell of a lot more than just presentable. And yes, a glance at the ingredients list tells you that the silicone-heavy formula is very much in a similar arena to your Frizz-Eases and your Moroccanoils, but there’s something about this one that works incredibly well on my fine, blonded hair.
You can find Davines OI Oil online here* – a small bottle is £24, but a large bottle, which is almost three times the size, is £35. On the one hand, a small bottle would probably last you an age and I’m always hesitant to recommend unnecessary super-sizing, but the numbers here point in only one direction. Economy of scale and all that.
I raved about this wondrous shampoo and conditioner duo just after Christmas but – as usual – it has taken some time to edit my written review. Mind you, that’s not a bad thing at all, because it’s given me a chance to test Olaplex 4 & 5 (sounds like a virus) to an almost obsessive degree.
You may have heard about Olaplex; it started off as an in-salon, professional product for helping to drastically repair and strengthen damaged hair, and it was one of those treatments that people whispered smugly about, people who were in the know.
“Your colour looks nice, darling, where did you get it done?”
“Oh, you know, darling…Barnabas does it.”
(I am hugely aware that these fictional people already sound like total twats. If truth be told, I’m regretting having even started the off-piste dialogue section, but now I’ve created Mandy and Gwyneth I feel I can’t stop. Forgive me, Olaplex, they’re not going to do much for your street cred, old Mands and Gwynnie, but they absolutely are OMG obsessed with your product, so it’ll all be good PR in the end.)
“The Barnabas does your colour?”
“Yes, darling Gwynnie, always has done always will.”
“Well, not always.”
“He will have to die at some point.”
(I’m not sure where I’m going with this. Someone intervene. I think it’s the sinus medicine I’m on, it has sent me totally bonkers.)
“Well, Gwyneth, there’s no need to wish ill on someone like that, he’s -“
“I’m not wishing ill, Mandy, it’s a simple fact of life. He will, at some point, die. Anyway, Jonas does my hair and look how strong it is, despite the fact that I bleach the living tits out of it every four weeks. Touch it Mandy. Touch it.”
“I don’t need to, Gwyneth. It looks strong as a horse’s mane. You basically have a horse’s mane. You’re basically a hor-“
“Olaplex, Mandy. My hair has never felt so strong and healthy. So robust. So…”
“Empowered. I know, Gwyneth darling. I get Olaplexed too. Olaplex one and two. Stronger hair, stronger you.”
OH MY GOD, OLAPLEX, I’VE WRITTEN YOU YOUR NEXT WORLDWIDE AD CAMPAIGN! That’ll be £450 please.
Anyway, Olaplex is the kind of strengthening treatment that people (especially people who bleach the bejeezus out of their hair on a regular basis) can’t get enough of. Steps 1 and 2 are the in-salon parts, with 1 being the bit that you apply when you’re actually having your colour done and 2 the after-rinsing part. Many colourists mix it directly in with the hair colour or bleach and it helps to rebuild the structure of the hair, making it smoother and stronger. Despite the hair being dead. Which is weird, when you think about it. It’s a bit like using No More Nails to glue a skeleton back together.
And there’s a home bond-strengthening treatment, now, as well as the in-salon steps; there’s step 3, the Hair Perfector, which is a pre-shampoo leave-in treatment, and there’s step 4, a shampoo, and step 5 which is a conditioner. Oh, and step 6, which is something you leave-on after you’ve rinsed out all the other gubbins.
Here in this review I’m talking specifically about steps 4 & 5, but I will come back to 3 (and 6!) in a later post. I need to try them properly, but as far as I can tell step 3 is a kind of Elasticizer-style pre-shampoo deep-conditioner and step 6 (The Bond Smoother) is more of a leave-in treatment that protects against frizz and so on when you’re blow-drying.
So far, however, I haven’t felt as though I’ve needed them at all. The shampoo and conditioner work amazingly well on my hair, leaving it feeling so (empowered) strong and smooth, I haven’t really felt the need to reach for the stronger stuff. The big guns.
Partly because I can’t imagine what the big guns might actually do. I don’t want to go OTT. I mean, can hair be too strong? Could that be a potential problem? I have visions of me whipping my mane over my shoulder and accidentally killing someone. Or demolishing small buildings with my plait. Mind you, it could be quite useful if I wanted to lasso things. Buffalo. Horses.
Anyway, the shampoo and conditioner are bloody brilliant. I have the proper “wow” sensation when I use them – even before drying my hair off I can feel that satisfying slip, the slip that I haven’t really had since first dying my hair. (Twenty five years ago almost. I first had highlights at sixteen, I saved up money from my weekend job and went to a place that used a crochet hook to pull massive wads of hair through a rubber hat with hundreds of slits cut into it. The indignity.)
You can find Olaplex at Space NK here* – small bottles of the shampoo and conditioner are £13, bigger ones are £26. I will report back once I’ve tried steps 3 and 6 – if I haven’t garrotted myself with my strong-as-steel ponytail in my sleep.
If your hair is weak, frazzled, generally just dry and shite (name of my new hair serum I’m going to bring out – Dry n Shite) then this stuff is well worth a try. I mean, if you can get your salon to use the first steps when you’re having your colour done then all the better, but my colourist doesn’t, and I am still having great results from the home stuff. It gives me the weighty, swingy feeling that I love but none of that horrendous semi-oily residue that some strengthening products seem to leave – have you ever experienced that? Like a rubberised coating that won’t come off? Argh! Well Olaplex doesn’t do that. All hail.
Oh this is an excellent buy if you’re after a hard-working cleanser that won’t break the bank. It’s a true all-rounder that can genuinely be used by all skin types, even sensitive and – please sound the bargain klaxon! – it’s one of the most budget-friendly cleansers out there.
The Squalane Cleanser from The Ordinary is exactly what it says it is – a cleanser with squalane. Of course there are other ingredients in the mix, but squalane is the hero here and a mighty and worthy hero it is too. Squalane is a powerful skin moisturiser that also has antioxidant benefits – it boosts suppleness and helps to prevent moisture loss and generally goes about its business in a very efficient and effective way. As a key ingredient in the Squalane Cleanser, it’s light enough for oily skin, provides instant relief for dried-out skin and does a thorough-yet-sensitive job of makeup and grime removal on all types of skin.
The Squalene Cleanser feels like an oily cream-gel when you squeeze it out of the (incredibly handy, very lightweight, perfect for travelling) tube. I realise that “oily cream-gel” covers just about every base when it comes to texture, but it’s an accurate description – it looks like a cream-gel, has the lightness of a cream-gel, but on application you instantly feel the gorgeous oily slip. Perfect for properly massaging in, especially over eye makeup, it quickly turns into a more liquid oil and then rinses off clean.
There’s nothing to dislike about this product, really – I suppose if you were very oily or acne-prone then the texture might be off-putting, but there’s no residue at all after rinsing. There’s also no tightness whatsoever, which is a problem with even some of the oiliest-feeling balms out there! Skin just feels cleansed and balanced. Can’t ask for much more than that…
To use it, apply to dry skin (at least I do, to get maximum oily massage opportunity!) and then rinse after you’ve really worked it in and broken up the dirt and makeup. You can use it twice, of course, or even thrice if you’ve had a day of it or you’ve been on one of those army training simulation courses where you have to crawl through the mud beneath nets and then hide in a cave, or if you’ve been playing Widow Twanky in the panto and caked yourself in greasepaint.
Squalane Cleanser is £5.50 for 50ml (find it at Cult Beauty here* and FeelUnique here*) but you can get a whopping 150ml tube (as photographed above) for £13.90 at LookFantastic here*. Personally I feel as though the 150ml should be the widely-available size – 50ml is great for travel but I get through it too fast!
UPDATE: Deciem have a 23% sale on at the moment which makes the 150ml cleanser £10.70. You can find the Deciem website here*.
As I write this, I am officially in PMT Skin Week, which is the one week in each and every month that my skin is in danger of going completely haywire. If anything is going to go wrong with my skin then it goes wrong now. Angry, bumpy jawline, weird forehead dryness, little sore patches around my eyes, an oil slick down the centre of my face – you name it, it’s on the list of potential problems.
There are a few different things that I tweak in my skincare routine during PMT week, including upping my cleansing game (a thorough balm cleanse night and morning, if I can bear it) and choosing slightly lighter day creams, but the key change (and arguably the most important one) is the addition of a BHA exfoliant.
A beta hydroxy acid exfoliant (salicylic acid) has the power to unclog, clarify and pore-refine but at the same time it’s calming and soothing and helps to reduce that horrible angry redness that often appears along with your hormonal spots.
So if your skin is angsty, bumpy and sore but also feels highly sensitive (quite literally a representation of your entire physical state when you have PMT, come to think of it!) then a BHA liquid is what you need. Swipe it on and leave, it’s a quick and simple step that’ll make a huge difference, especially if you usually just try and “ride it out” when it comes to your PMT skin.
My most frequent BHA-of-choice is Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid. I’ve written a full review post on this brilliant skin-clearing liquid here, but to recap, it’s a wipe-on-and-leave BHA exfoliant that will soothe as it effectively cleans out your pores. Blackheads, pustules, acne bumps, all will benefit from a swipe-over with this salicylic acid toner.
You apply the Skin Perfecting Liquid after cleansing and before serum/moisturiser – just pat on with fingertips or wipe with cotton wool and then leave. Here are four great little product combos that I use when I have PMT and my skin is on the spot-prone-but-sensitive side. The product list isn’t exhaustive – I could go on all day with good suggestions! – but they give you a good idea of what I’m looking for in a PMT skincare routine. A thorough cleanse that doesn’t leave skin stripped or tight, a BHA exfoliant and then a light-but-powerful moisturiser.
Sensitive Oily Skin Routine
Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, £25 here* – to remove all makeup, including eye, and thoroughly cleanse skin without stripping it.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid – to exfoliate and clear out pores without irritation.
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Fluide, £14 here* – to moisturise and soothe without leaving a greasy residue.
Dry, Angsty PMT Skin Routine
Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, £25 here* – as before, to remove all makeup, including eye, and thoroughly cleanse skin without stripping it.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, from £10 here* – as before, to exfoliate and clear out pores without irritation.
Murad City Skin Overnight Detox Moisturiser, £70 here* – to effectively brighten and intensely moisturise overnight.
Oily Dehydrated Skin Routine
Dr Sam’s Flawless Cleanser, £16 here* – a lightweight gel but a thorough cleansing option.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, from £10 here* – to exfoliate and clear out pores without irritation.
Indeed Labs Hydraluron Intense Moisture Lotion (full review here) – to hydrate without any heaviness or grease.
Spot-Prone SPF Routine
Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, £25 here* – as before, you know the drill!
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, from £10 here*.
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydrating Serum, £28 here* – ultra-lightweight hydration to slip on before…
Sun Project Light Sun Essence SPF50, £21 here* – barely detectable and feels beautiful on the skin.
As I said before, I could swap in hundreds of different products here – maybe every time I do a skincare product review I should show how it fits into a routine, like the above? Let me know if that would be helpful!
You can find Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid online at Amazon* (£12 for 30ml here), Lookfantastic (from £10 for 30ml here*) and Cult Beauty here*. It’s unbelievably great on teen skin as well as PMT skin and an easy daily add-on to your routine if you suffer with adult acne.
Whilst we’re on the subject of PMT: since having babies I now get pre-menstrual symptoms of absolutely epic proportions. I mean I’m almost dangerous in terms of mood and I feel drastically, genuinely quite ill. No cramps at all, ever, which used to be crippling pre-kids, so it’s a swings and roundabouts kind of situation but boy the moods. Do we need a separate post on this?