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2015 was the year that...

...I made an appearance in Casualty, one of the shows I really wanted to work on.

...I won VIP tickets to the BAFTAs, along with a BAFTA nominees goody bag, an overnight stay in a 5 star hotel in London and a £500 House of Fraser voucher.

...I landed a role on a big film (I'm talking Disney here!) that involved 26 days filming but was cancelled the day before my costume fitting.

...I went on holiday for the first time in 6 years. Only to Bournemouth (in November) but I really enjoyed it and got to see the wild ponies in the New Forest.

...I finally discovered I did make it into The Theory of Everything and can be seen clearly on screen. 

...I became the treasurer of paranormal research charity ASSAP (Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena).

...I saw Avenue Q. It was so funny (and so rude! #TheInternetIsForPorn).

...I went ghost hunting with my boyfriend, a friend from the pub quiz and Reece Shearsmith (The League of Gentlemen, Psychoville) and me and Reece both nearly had a heart attack when my friend accidentally knocked over a bottle of Coke and Reece got locked in his room!

...After five years of being brunette I decided to try being a redhead.

...A large purple dinosaur partially demolished our garden wall (or rather storm Barney structurally damaged our wall and we had to push it over because we live on the end of a road and didn't want it to fall on anyone).

...I electrocuted myself!

...I met lots of Dane's when my boyfriends family flew over for his dads 90th birthday.

A few things I'm hoping will happen in 2016

...I will get a publishing deal for the results of my PhD research.

...I will finally be able to move out.

...I'll get a role in Sherlock and the next Guardians of the Galaxy film (I was up for a role in the Sherlock special on tomorrow night and the first Guardians of the Galaxy film and didn't get either *inserts crying face emoji*)

What have you got up to this year?

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Long Tall Sally Christmas gift guide #OneForYouOneForMe

Although money is tight this year I have to admit there has been a little bit of 'one for you one for me' when buying my Christmas gifts. So when Long Tall Sally told me their Christmas campaign for this year was #OneForYouOneForMe and asked if I'd like to be involved I had to say yes! Long Tall Sally asked me what I'd love to receive from their Christmas gift guide...
Long Tall Sally #OneForYouOneForMe

As I write this the temperature outside is 15 degrees (say what December?!) but overlooking that, usually in December and around Christmas time I'm all about being snugly and cosy and this year (despite the fact it might as well be April outside) I'm embracing my new addiction to a daily hot chocolate with mini marshmallows. As I spend a lot of time at home I spend a lot of time in PJ's and it's a bit of a tradition for my mum to buy me new ones every Christmas. Being tall a problem I have with PJ's is most flap around my ankles, which isn't particularly cosy. I had a pair of LTS PJ bottoms for years and I loved them. They were actually too long (because for a tall girl I actually have quite short legs) and too big (after I lost some weight) but as they have a draw string that actually works I just pulled them tight. This year they finally fell apart, helped along by a cat claw that said cat decided to poke in my bum cheek, and I've missed them. So I'd definitely love a new pair and I'd go for the Knightsbridge check pyjama pant (on sale £19). 

With a comfy pair of PJs you need a soft fluffy robe, even if it is just for throwing on to answer the door to the postman. I've never had a full length one before, or one with a hood, so my choice would be the Super soft hooded robe (£55). Can you imagine how warm and comfy a floor length hooded robe would be? 

I don't have any wacky Christmas jumpers but I do have one that came from LTS last year that is subtle but still Christmasy, featuring a piece of mistletoe and two robins. I don't really have the spare money at the money to spend on a very Christmasy jumper that I might only wear once or twice so I like the Fairisle sweater (on sale £40) as the snowflake looking design works as a subtle Christmas jumper but could actually be worn all through the winter!

Long Tall Sally #OneForYouOneForMe

If I'm going to be spending any amount of time outside in winter I do need to wrap up well or I get terrible back ache if I get cold. A scarf is a must for keeping warm and I love the look of the Long length chunky knit scarf with pom poms (on sale £12). It looks huge (which obviously equals warm and snugly) and luckily for me it doesn't contain any wool so I won't end up wanting to scratch my skin off. I love the charcoal grey rather than black and I'd probably spend most of the time playing with the pom poms. 

I have low blood pressure which means my hands and feet regularly feel like blocks of ice in winter. You know the thing doctors clip onto the end of your finger to measure something or other? The last time the doctor tried to do that she actually asked if I was dead! I also like to try and protect my hands from the cold anyway to try and stop my skin becoming really dry so gloves are a must for me when it's chilly outside. Woolly gloves don't really cut it for me as I find they let the cold in easily and are a nightmare if they get wet, so leather or suede gloves is the way to go. I have a pair of leather gloves I treated myself to several years ago, but they're looking a little worse for wear now, so I'd love a new pair. As I have almost freakishly long hands and fingers a pair of gloves from LTS would be perfect and I like the look of the Leather gloves with ruching (£45) as the ruching will keep them snug on my hands and not let the cold in.

The final item I'd love doesn't really fit in with the warm/comfy/cosy/snugly theme I've gone for so far but involves glitter, lots of glitter, and it's the good glitter that doesn't end up coming off and covering everything in sight. I spotted the BFT Dazzle glitter boots (on sale £55) in the LTS catalogue and they most definitely caught my eye. I have a pair of Irregular Choice purple glitter brogues that I adore (that I really should start wearing more) and I'd love something similar in a boot version. Unfortunately I've left it too late now and they no longer have my size, but I can always daydream!

Long Tall Sally also asked me what I would pick to give to my loved ones as a gift (#OneForYouOneForMe remember!). In my immediate family, although myself, my brother and my dad are all tall my mum is about average height, so it wouldn't be ideal to treat her to anything from Long Tall Sally as it would probably swamp her! She does actually have slightly larger feet than me though, and as Long Tall Sally's shoes start from a size 7, if I had the money to treat her I'd probably get her a gorgeous new pair of boots. 

If you're after a last minute gift for a tall lady in your life you can find the Long Tall Sally Christmas gift guide here. Some of the items I've mentioned here are no longer showing in the gift guide but you can find them around the site in their respective categories. 

Have you adopted #OneForYouOneForMe this year? 

*For writing this post Long Tall Sally sent me the Knightsbridge PJ bottoms

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The Christmas gift bargains

Like most people I love a bargain, especially in the run up to Christmas when it's time to buys gifts for your loved ones. Grabbing your Christmas gifts when they're on offer means you might be able to get something that would have been out of your price range otherwise; this was definitely the case with my brothers present this year. Several of my Christmas gifts this year I've got on some kind of offer so I thought I'd do a post to show you what I've saved where. I apologise that most, if not all of these offers are no longer available, but they're something to bear in mind for next year.

Christmas gift bargains
Christmas gift bargains
Christmas gift bargains
Christmas gift bargains

These are probably the least Christmasy pictures possible but I didn't have any decorations to hand to use and I didn't have much time as I didn't want my mum to come in and see her Christmas present. So I've improvised with a sprig of Picmonkey holly to try and add a little bit of Christmas to them!

3 for 2

3 for 2 is always is a great offer whatever time of year. I'm on a really tight budget for Christmas gifts this year and decided for my mum I'd buy a selection of different beauty crackers/baubles and box them up together as like a little hamper. I can't remember if I decided to buy the Roger & Gallet Hand & nail cream crackers first and then discovered they were on 3 for 2 on Feelunique or whether I browsed the offer and found that they were included, but I snapped up all three. These are already great value, as the price of the cracker is around the same price as the hand cream is on its own, so getting them on 3 for 2 was a complete bargain. They're £6 each so I got all three for £12. I'm slightly disappointed that they don't quite look like crackers, but that doesn't really matter, she'll get the idea. Mum gets through so much hand cream (and usually comes to me to see what's in my stash when she runs out!) and I often buy her new ones she's not tried before as gifts. I haven't tried these ones before myself but I've heard good things about them and have been meaning to try. Oh and there's also a little sample of one of their fragrances in each one too.

Black Friday

Although I tried to avoid Black Friday as much as possible this year it's actually the perfect opportunity to grab some bargain Christmas gifts. When I received an email from Escentual about a small selection of products they had at half price I spotted the perfect gift for my brother. I know he's a fan of Jean Paul Gaultier Le male as he's asked my mum for it in the past, so I had to grab this gift set for just £20. I'm personally not a fan of the shower gels and body lotions that you get in fragrance gift sets but even if he doesn't use the shower gel £20 is still a bargain price just for the aftershave on its own. I wouldn't have been able to afford this full price so I'm really pleased I was able to get it for such a bargain price. 

Boots star gifts and offers

As I'm sure you're aware each year Boots run a star gift offer where each week one of their gift sets is available for a reduced price, usually around half price. The gifts they choose to include are normally quite expensive ones, around £40 - £60 full price, so it's a great opportunity to grab an amazing gift for a bargain price. Technically I don't think the Nails Inc Alice & Olivia cracker set was a star gift but for a limited time this was available for £25 rather than £40. As I've already mentioned my mums gift this year is made up of various different beauty crackers/baubles. When I spotted this I thought it would be ideal to split the set up and use it for part of my mums present, my brothers girlfriends present and I might just keep one for myself as well! The crackers contain one full size glitter shade and five mini sizes (5ml), two in nude shades and three in deep, dark shades.

When I got them I discovered you can't actually tell what shade is inside each cracker from the outside (apart from the one with the glitter shade in), which was a bit of a problem as I wanted certain shades for certain people. But as the ends are secured with those tie things you get with food bags it's very easy to open the cracker, check the shade, and seal it back up again. I was concerned the brushes would be tiny on the mini sizes meaning they'd be difficult to apply but when I opened one (the one I'm keeping!) I was pleased to find the brushes are actually full size. In fact the brushes are so wide you can only just get them back in the bottle without bending a few bristles back. The brush covers most of my nails in pretty much one swipe and is probably a little too wide for my little finger nails.

As there's only one full size shade in them I'm not sure I'd pay £40 for them but I think £25 is a bargain, especially when they've covered two presents (and a little treat for me!).

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Givenchy Le Rouge Sensuously mat lip color

In general I tried to avoid Black Friday as much as possible (which is pretty much impossible!) as I didn't want to be tempted into buying things that I can't actually afford at the moment. But when I received an email from Escentual offering early access to a small but amazing Black Friday offer I did actually squeal (which I then tweeted to Escentual so they knew how amazing they were!). I think there was only around 21 products in the promotion, but they were all amazing products and were available at half price. I snapped up a Jean Paul Gautier set as a Christmas present for my brother (which I will probably be touching on in another post) and then spotted a Givenchy Le Rouge lipstick, which I've actually had my eyes on for a few months now, so I snapped that up too.

Givenchy Le Rouge Sensuously mat lip color
Givenchy Le Rouge Sensuously mat lip color

The downside of the offer was that this was only available in one shade; Rose extravagant. If it had been a colour that really didn't appeal to me then I wouldn't have bought it, as there's no point buying a shade you're not going to use no matter how cheap it is. But as this is a shade I would have considered purchasing anyway I went for it. The Le Rouge lipsticks have a RRP of £25, so £12.50 is a complete bargain. 

Being Givenchy this lipstick just screams luxury. The lipstick comes in a very sturdy black cardboard box that has a leather effect to it and white writing and the only colour on the box is a gorgeous glossy cherry red Givenchy logo and the words 'Genuine leather'. Yes, the lipstick casing features genuine leather. Not great if you're vegan (but then it also contains beeswax), but for non-vegans a real touch of luxury. The lid of the lipstick is covered in black leather with a silver look (not real silver!) end featuring the Givenchy logo and a silver strip running down the side of the case with the word Givenchy engraved on it. At the bottom of the case there's two little silver pyramid shapes you use to grip the case so the lid can be removed. The lid is held really secure so I do sometimes have a little trouble getting the lid off. Once the lid is removed you find a silver bullet casing featuring Givenchy engraved under where it is engraved on the lid. You then wind up to reveal the lipstick bullet which is also engraved with the Givenchy logo. This is most definitely the kind of lipstick you won't mind pulling out in public, and waving around a bit of people see it!

As the name suggests it is a matte lipstick (although I'm not sure why this is spelt mat?) but it is such a pleasure to apply and wear. It glides onto your lips with ease, there's no tugging or dry feeling formula with this baby, and you probably only need one swipe too. It is a lipstick rather than liquid lipstick, so it doesn't dry down to a full matte finish, but it is pretty matte for a lipstick. Even though it is matte I didn't think it would stick around for that long but I've been really pleasantly surprised. Last week I popped this on before a long car journey, a Chinese meal featuring several courses and a nap and afterwards although it maybe could have done with a little touch up it was still in place. I'd say this could be a five hour one, amazing stuff!

The shade is possibly a little summery for this time of year but I do like the option of a bright shade all year round and I've been enjoying wearing this over the last week or so. I'm sorry I don't have a swatch photo to show you because my camera has gone to heaven (Santa is bringing me a new one), my phone won't focus properly on a swatch and I couldn't find my dads camera. When I checked for swatches on Pinterest before purchasing this I thought it might be similar to MAC Impassioned and I wasn't far off. This is a little lighter and maybe slightly more towards the coral side of things but they are quite close shade wise.

I'm so glad I snapped this up for just £12.50 as it's a gorgeous lipstick and if I was a little bit richer right now I'd definitely pay the full price of £25 for it. Rose extravagant is currently out of stock but there are plenty of other shades to choose from on the Escentual website.

Have you tried a Givenchy lipstick?

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Lush Cranberry festive face mask

When I attended the Lush Meadowhall VIP re-opening party I received a goody bag that contained some Toothy tabs (you'll find a post on them here) and some bath products (posts here and here) and was told that I could also have a skin consultation and then choose a face mask to take away with me. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to have the consultation as it was very busy, but obviously I did pick up a face mask to try. I've tried a few of their face masks in the past (including Cupcake, Catastrophe Cosmetic and Oatifix) but I wanted to try one that I've not tried before. The one I really wanted to try was Rosey cheeks, but I couldn't find one on the display, so instead I decided to try their festive new addition Cranberry*. 

Lush Cranberry festive face mask

This contains cranberries to work as an antioxidant, fennel seed infusion (and also fresh fennel) to cleanse, rose clay for the gunk you want out and argan, patchouli, lemongrass and sandalwood oils to leave your skin nice and moisturised. There is some talc in there though so if you don't like talc in your face products this would be one to avoid. 

The last face mask I tried from Lush was Oatifix and I really did have a problem trying to get that one to stick to my skin (and then once it was in place I couldn't get it off!) but there's no such problem with this one. It's nice and soft and smooths over the skin easily. As is the case with most Lush face masks (unless you're using the new self-preserving Mask of Magnamity one) it should have been kept in the fridge and therefore it's super cooling to apply. The main thing I've noticed about applying this one is that it has a very strong scent to it and checking the ingredients it does contain perfume. If your skin doesn't like perfumed products or your nose is particularly sensitive to strong smelling products applied to your face then I would give this a miss. I'm ok with the smell but it is just boarding on being a little too overpowering for me. 

After leaving on for 10 minutes or so this is very easy to remove. You can use a splash of water and a quick rub round with your hands before another splash or two to rinse or of course you can use a flannel or muslin cloth to gently wipe it away. Once rinsed away I'm left with bright, calmed, moisturised and happy looking skin. As I have dry and often dehydrated skin I do have a problem with some masks drying out my skin and leaving it feeling a little tight and rough, but this wasn't a problem at all with this one. 

I've forgotten to double check the expiry on this but if I remember correctly the fresh face masks usually have something like 3 weeks on them? I've always found that they can last much longer than that and I'm up to around 7 weeks with this one and it's still perfectly fine. I just keep going with them until they start to dry out or the smell or appearance of the product starts to change. Then it's time to get rid and pick up a new one. Don't forget to keep hold of those black pots though as once you have five you can take them back to store and exchange them for a free mask.

I'm really enjoying using this mask and if you'd be ok with the strong smell I'd recommend giving it a try. Be quick though as although I don't think it says limited edition on the pot (I don't have it with me to check!) it is part of the festive collection so I don't think it'll be around for long.

The Lush Cranberry festive face mask is £6.75 and is available on the Lush website and in Lush stores. 

Which is your favourite Lush face mask?

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Invisibobble traceless hair rings

I've always been curious to try Invisibobbles but when they were first released I believe they only came in bright, very obvious colours. At the time I had pretty much black hair and didn't want to use something like a bright bright pink bobble as it would be too obvious against my hair. I was pleased to see that they later released some darker, much more subtle colours, but I never got round to actually picking some up. So I really pleased to see a pack of Invisibobbles in my amazing September Glossybox.

Invisibobble traceless hair rings

Invisibobbles are strange looking little things! I'm not sure if people still have home phones anymore (we still do) but if you do and it's not cordless then there will be a coiled cable attaching the earpiece to the phone. This is what Invisibobbles look like; a ring of telephone cable. The idea behind them is that the coiled ring places uneven pressure on the hair, which stops the bobble making a kink in the hair that will be visible when the hair is down. They also shouldn't cause tension headaches because although the hair is held securely it's not held tight. I originally thought that Invisbobble referred to it being invisible in the hair and thought that was impossible when they come in such bright colours. But it obviously refers to the lack of tell-tale kink rather than that you can't see them in your hair. To be honest I've never really been that bothered by this kink, what attracts me more to this kind of bobble is that it's supposed to be kinder to your hair. 

I didn't think these would do a good job of keeping my hair up but to begin with actually they do. The issue I have is that as I use them they start to stretch. They do spring back to shape when I take them out again but they become stretchier. When new I wrap one round twice and it holds my hair securely but as I use them I then have to start wrapping them round three times and they don't hold quite as securely any more. When I do take my hair down it is indeed kink free. Although these are snag free I do have to be careful when I remove them that they don't tangle slightly where I've looped it to wrap it round my hair for a 2nd/3rd time. I've also found that mine are slightly picking up my hair colour, but that would be because the bobbles are a pearlescent white and my hair colour is red, so this is inevitable.

I do really like these bobbles but I feel the stretching means that I would get through quite a few as eventually they would become too big to be as effective as they were when new. They appear to range between around £3.75 to £4, so they're not that expensive but are a little more expensive than I'd like to pay if I'd need to replace them regularly. I personally think the ones that are a tied piece of elasticated fabric work better for me.

Invisibobbles are now available in Boots and you can pick them up on the Feelunique and Glossybox websites.

Have you tried Invisibobbles?

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Lush Limelight Toothy tabs

I've spotted Lush's Toothy tabs both in store and online but they're not something that I've personally considered trying in the past. The Toothy tabs used to come in a little cardboard box, similar to a little matchbox, but they've recently had a makeover and now come in little plastic bottles. They've also introduced Tooth powder, which I believe is a brand new product. When I attended the Lush Meadowhall store re-opening party I found a bottle of Limelight Toothy tabs* in my goody bag.

Lush Limelight Toothy tabs
Lush Limelight Toothy tabs

If you're a traditional mint fan when it comes to toothpaste then you may want to go for Dirty or Miles of smiles as these contain mint, but if you fancy going for something different then there's five others to choose from. I'm not entirely sure what each of the others taste like as they have various different flavours in them but Limelight contains lemon and lime so you get a citrus sherbet type flavour. Unless you've tried unusual flavoured toothpastes before they can feel a little strange at first.

The idea with Toothy tabs is you pop one in your mouth, chew it up and then brush your teeth with it. Just don't forget that it's not a sweet and end up swallowing it! There's no warnings on the packaging to say that you shouldn't swallow it, so I doubt it would do you any harm, but you will have wasted a tab and will have to chew up another one. I don't have a powder to try but I guessing the way these work is that you wet your toothbrush and dip it into the powder so it sticks. I would imagine any other way of trying to use it would get very messy.

As I said these do take a little getting used to but once you've nibbled it down into a paste it's just like a thin toothpaste. You won't get mountains of froth like most traditional toothpastes but there's definitely enough there to give your teeth a good clean and when I've finished it doesn't feel any different to when I clean my teeth normally, apart from that there's no minty feeling. One thing I would say about the ones I have (I don't know about the others) is that they do contain lustre. I know Lush apparently like to pop some glitter/shimmer/lustre in most products now but come on, this is toothpaste!

I have no idea if you can recycle standard toothpaste tubs but as with the majority of Lush packaging the Toothy tab bottles are recyclable but you could also make use of the packaging for something like storing hair grips or any small objects. I would say these are probably great for travelling as unlike traditional toothpaste tubes there's no chance of this getting squished and covering everything else in toothpaste. They also have a long date on them (mine have 14 months) so you can save them for holidays/weekends away. I'm not sure exactly how many are in there but there's definitely enough for at least two fortnight holidays if you brush twice a day. I'm not sure that I'll be switching over to using these instead of traditional toothpaste, but it's a nice product, especially if you like your products a little different.

The Toothy tabs are £4.95/£5.95 each and are available from Lush stores and online

Have you tried Toothy tabs?

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Scholl foot care - Dry skin, smelly shoes and sore feet!

Although I do take care of my feet in the summer when they're on show in sandals I do tend to forget about them in the winter when they're wrapped up in socks and boots. So I gratefully accepted a foot care package from Scholl to help me look after my feet this winter. I was sent the Dry skin instant recovery cream*, Fresh step shoe spray* and the Party feet ultra slim invisible gel cushions*.

Scholl foot care products

I don't suffer from smelly feet but what I do have a problem with is smelly shoes, which mostly affects my ballet pumps in the summer. I often have to throw away a perfectly good pair of ballet pumps that still have plenty of wear left in them because they've got to the 'too smelly' point, where you can't risk taking them off in public. I'm feeling so attractive right now! There's not a lot you can do about this as you can't really stop your feet sweating, but you can use something like Scholl's Fresh step shoe spray as a kind of Febreze for your shoes. This eliminates odour instantly and provides 24 hour odour protection and freshness. I've found that this is quite a wet spray, so it's not one to use if you're in a hurry and need to put your shoes on straight away as you will need to leave it to dry. I won't have as much need for this now we're in autumn but I'll definitely be stashing this away for next summer.

Like most people I have to keep an eye on my heels or they get dry and rough and in no state to pop in some pretty sandals in the summer. As I've already mentioned I tend to forget about my feet in the winter but nobody wants nasty heels any time of the year. The Scholl Dry skin instant recovery cream contains something called Deep Hydrate which exfoliates dry, dead skin cells allowing moisture boosters to penetrate deep into the skin. What surprised me about this is that as you apply the cream it feels slightly gritty against your skin. I guess the idea is it lightly exfoliates the skin as you apply it. This is very light exfoliation though so it's not going to work miracles. If your heels are particularly dry I'd recommend exfoliating them first either with a manual scrub, manual file or one of the new electronic files, as if you do have quite a build of hard skin the cream won't get through it.

Scholl foot care products

Something I've always had a problem with is shoes hurting me. It doesn't matter what type of shoe it is, even ballet pumps will usually end up rubbing me somewhere. It's only normally boots I can get away with and even then I have had pairs of boots that have hurt me. I remember thinking years ago how amazing it would be if you could get some kind gel or something similar you could stick to your shoes where they hurt you to stop them rubbing. Somebody else must have had the same idea as me as I later discovered Scholl party feet. These are gel cushions that come in various different shapes and sizes with a sticky back so they can be attached to the inside of your shoes. I've been using these for years and they can be a real life saver. You can get them to go on sling back straps, under the balls of your foot, at the back of your shoe to stop it rubbing on the back of your foot and 'sore spots' which are small circles you can place anywhere in your shoe where it might rub. The sore spots are particularly useful for where my little toes are slightly deformed and sit curved outwards rather than flat (I'm so sorry if you hate feet!) and I use the heel shields in every pair of ballet shoes/pumps I own. Although the glue on them is pretty good I do find they usually come unstuck after a while but I then just add some super glue and then they're in there for life!

Scholl products are available from Boots stores and the Boots website.

What do you use to take care of your feet?

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An update to the eggsperiment - Nicka K Professional airbrush FX blending sponge

Back in June I did a post on an eggsperiment (I know, dreadful!) comparing the Primark make-up egg, Real Techniques Miracle complexion sponge and the original BeautyBlender. I crowned the Miracle complexion sponge as my favourite of the three with the BeautyBlender coming a close second. Since then I have gained yet another make-up sponge which came in my October Glossybox. This one is the Nicka K Professional airbrush FX blending sponge. As I now have four make-up sponges from different brands I thought it would be a good idea to update my eggsperiment and compare this one to my existing three.

Nicka K Professional airbrush FX blending sponge

The main different between this sponge and the others is that this has what I can only really describe as an 'hourglass figure' with a 'waist' or groove in the middle of the sponge. At first I thought this was a little pointless when it comes to using the sponge as it doesn't appear to add anything to how you can apply your product. But when I used it I then realised this actually gives you a good grip on the sponge, either using your fingertips or by resting the groove in the crook of your thumb holding it in place with your index and middle fingers. You can use the curved bottom for large areas of the face and the pointed top for getting into areas like the eyes and around the nose.

Nicka K Professional airbrush FX blending sponge
Nicka K Professional airbrush FX blending sponge

Price wise this one costs £6.50 meaning it's slightly more expensive than the RT one (around £6) and much cheaper than the BeautyBlender (£16). This is a much denser more solid feeling sponge than the RT and BeautyBlender, it's much closer in feel to the Primark sponge. I didn't find that this one particularly swelled up after running under water but then I often don't run it under the tap for long enough (I'm impatient) but this might also be because it's a denser sponge so it requires more water. 

As this is quite a solid sponge I don't find this as comfortable to use as a softer sponge. It's far from uncomfortable but as I stipple foundation onto my face it feels quite solid, especially on bonier areas like the cheek bones, brow bone and the jawline, and I'm not really keen on this, I personally prefer a softer feeling sponge. 

Like all of the make-up sponges I've tried this does provide a really nice almost airbrushed looking finish, but because of how solid the sponge feels it's definitely not my favourite. My favourite out of all four sponges is still the RT one followed by the BeautyBlender and then it's a close call between the Primark and Nicka K sponge. I think the Nicka K one just wins because of the unusual shape, although I don't think this is really needed.

Are you a fan of make-up sponges and which is your favourite? 

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The Body Shop Christmas hand creams

They're back again! I'm a huge fan of The Body Shop's little hand creams and last Christmas I was very excited to see they'd released some new limited edition scents in their Christmas collection. Last year we had Glazed apple, Frosted cranberry and Vanilla brûlée and I completely fell in love with Glazed apple. I originally bought one of each scent to try as they were on 3 for 2 when I bought them, but when I tried to buy some more Glazed apple was sold out, so I never managed to get my hands on any more.

I've been waiting with baited breath for this years Christmas collection to see if Glazed apple would make a return, and of course it did. The Body Shop would have been crazy not to bring it back if it really was that popular last year!

The Body Shop Christmas hand creams - Glazed apple and Frosted Cranberry

This year has seen the return of both Glazed apple and Frosted cranberry, but Vanilla brûlée has been replaced with Frosted plum. Although I did like Vanilla brûlée I think Frosted plum will probably be more popular. 

This year has seen a price increase for my favourite little hand creams but they're still a very reasonable £4 each. They're the perfect size to drop in your handbag and they're the only hand creams I will currently use throughout the day because they absorb so quickly and don't leave any kind of greasy feeling behind. 

Glazed apple has a gorgeous sweet, crisp, fruity scent that makes my mouth water and Frosted plum has a slightly more tangy but still sweet and fruity scent. I've only bought one Glazed apple one so far this year, which may well have been a mistake if they completely sell out again, but I'm glad I got my hands on at least one if they are going to sell out again. 

If they were on offer I would have also picked up a Frosted cranberry, but I didn't want to spend £12 on hand cream in one go. I'm pretty sure I will be heading back to pick up another Glazed apple and Frosted plum (if they don't sell out) and if they are on 3 for 2 I'll definitely treat myself to one of each.

The Body Shop Christmas hand creams are £4 each and available in store and on The Body Shop website.

Have you tried The Body Shop's hand creams?

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Lush Five gold rings Christmas bubble bar

Earlier this month I reviewed the Lush Star dust bath bomb from their Christmas range that came in my goody bag from the Lush Meadowhall VIP re-opening party. Today I'm reviewing the Five gold rings bubble bar*, which was also in my goody bag.

Lush Five gold rings Christmas bubble bar

As the name suggests this features five gold rings (so it's not actually a bubble 'bar') that are secured together with a piece of orange string. The string isn't the prettiest to be honest but I guess it doesn't need to be as it's only purpose is to hold the rings together. As I'm sure you're aware by now I'm not a fan of glitter in bath products at all and unfortunately each of the rings is completely covered in gold glitter. You only have to touch one of the rings and your fingertips turn gold, which is then a pain to remove. I would never actually buy a bath product like this myself but as this was included in my goody bag I feel obliged to try it out and report back for my lovely readers. 

I'm assuming that as there are five gold rings the idea is that this will do five baths, although the five rings might just be to fit in with the name. I started off with one ring but ended up adding another because I wanted more bubbles. However this might be because I have problems adding bubble bars to my bath. There's no pressure behind our hot water so to stop the cold overpowering it you have to add some cold to the bottom of the bath then top up with just hot water. This means the hot water is very hot, so I can't actually crumble the bar under the water, I have to crumble it and kind of flick it into the water and I think this effects the amount of bubbles produced. 

In a recent chat I actually picked up a great tip for adding bubble bars to your bath. I don't know who tweeted it as I don't follow them so unfortunately I can't credit them but it apparently originally came from a Lush staff member. They said to use a colander to hold the bubble bar under the running water. As the water dissolves the bar this apparently produces masses of bubbles and depending on the size of the bar means you can get more baths out of it because you need to use less. I'm planning to buy some bubble bars for my dad for Christmas (I so converted him to Lush baths!) and I'm going to grab a cool little colander from somewhere to go with them for a bit of a novelty. 

Back to the Five gold rings bubble bar, the rings are really quite soft which I was really pleased about as I do struggle to break up harder bars, so much so they make my fingers really sore. Inside the bar is like a toffee colour and as I've already mentioned this is completely covered with gold glitter. There is a light scent that I would say is possibly vanilla/toffee/cinnamon ish but I could smell this most on my fingers after I'd crumbled the bar. This turns the water yellow, which unfortunately does look a little like you've had a wee in the bath, and the gold glitter is suspended in the water. 

All the glitter sits on the bottom of the bath once you've drained it but this is easily rinsed away and I was surprised to find that very little glitter was left on my skin afterwards. This one isn't particularly skin softening as there isn't really anything in there to achieve this and it's also worth nothing this one does contain SLS, which does disappoint me a little. I've already gone SLS free when it comes to washing my hair and am considering extending this to other products, I'm just a little concerned this might limited my choices too much. 

At £4.95 for what is effectively five small bubble bars this is very good value but it's not one I would personally buy again, mostly due to the glitter. If you like the look of the Five gold rings bubble bar you can buy yours in store or online.

Have you tried anything from Lush Christmas range?

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Birchbox x Skinnydip (November 2015) - Squad goals

At the beginning on November Birchbox Instagrammed a picture of this months box (technically there's two, more about this shortly) and I was so excited by it I regrammed the picture to my own Instagram. In case you haven't seen it yet this months box features a collaboration with quirky accessories brand Skinnydip and to celebrate the box has had a very Skinnydip style mermaid esq makeover. There are two boxes available, a pale blue one and a darker blue/purple one, and both feature the same seashell design and updated Birchbox x Skinnydip logo. There is no pick your box this month though, you have no choice over which one you receive. I had my fingers crossed for the darker box but actually got the lighter one. Although I'm a little disappointed it's still a very pretty box I'm pleased to have.

As you may be aware I don't currently subscribe to any beauty subscription boxes but order boxes one off if I love the look of the contents. As much as I loved the look of the box itself I don't order them based on the boxes alone, I always wait to see what the contents are, but as soon as I saw the contents of the November box I'd ordered it quicker than you can say Birchbox!

Birchbox x Skinnydip (November 2015) - Squad goals
Birchbox x Skinnydip (November 2015) - Squad goals

Although #SquadGoals is probably THE hip term of the moment and I can see why they've used it I have to admit I do find the term a little cringy (it's probably my age, I also hate bae!). It does accurately describe what is a very good round-up of brands/products though.

Lets start off with the disappointing sample. I've mentioned before that I don't believe there's a place in beauty boxes for tiny perfume samples you can pick up for free in department stores, so I was disappointed to see the English Laundry sample. The saving grace is that this is actually a 'beauty extra' rather than one of my samples. The perfume smells nice enough but it's not really my kind of thing.

Birchbox x Skinnydip (November 2015) - Squad goals

The first sample is a Cowshed Cow pat hand cream (worth £8), which is the only full size product in my box this time. In the last few years I've gone from not using hand cream at all to becoming pretty dependent on it, so a new hand cream to try is always welcome (even if it is called Cow pat!). Unfortunately this isn't one I can use as it contains lavender, but as my mums default when she runs out of hand cream now is to come to me to check my stash, this will be going to her. 

One of the products I really wanted to see lurking in my little drawstring bag was the Living proof Restore instant repair cream (30ml worth around £6). I'm currently trying a Living proof product that I don't think is working for me personally, but I'm definitely curious to try more of their products. Their products are quite expensive (this one is £25 full size) so it's nice to have a sample size to try before committing to an expensive full size product you might not like. I don't suffer from split ends at all since I started dying my hair, but after everything my hair has been through recently I do have some breakage I'd like to attend to.

I have a few of Lord & Berry's lipstick crayons and I love them. So when I saw a Lord & Berry product was included, even though I didn't know what it was, I wanted it. This is the Lord & Berry Silhouette neutral lip liner which is a translucent liner. I believe this is a sample size and the full size is worth £8.50/£9. I already have a liner like this from The Body Shop but I prefer this one because you can sharpen it (even though you can't actually see it!). The idea is you apply this around the edge of your lip line and it's completely invisible (so can work with any lip colour) but stops your lipstick bleeding. A product I think any lipstick lover should have.

I've only tried a few REN products but have loved the ones I've tried, so I was happy to see the REN Wake wonderful night-time facial (10ml sample size worth £8), which I haven't tried before. I don't know much about this product other than that you pop it on before bed and wake up looking gorgeous (hopefully) so I'm looking forward to slapping some of this on.

The final sample is a little pot of Trilogy Make-up be gone cleansing balm (10ml sample size worth around £2.50). I usually prefer cleansing oils rather than balms but I've seen this popping up on a few blogs recently and it comes highly recommended so I'll see how I go. Off the top of my head I don't think I've tried a Trilogy product before so this will be my introduction to the brand.

There are also two additional perks of the Skinnydip collaboration. The first is that if you're a new subscriber you can upgrade your box to include a Skinnydip phone case (with iPhone and Samsung S series versions available) for the reduced price of £4 rather than £12. The second is that on the back of the Birchbox booklet in your box you'll find a code for £10 off an order off at least £24 from the Skinnydip website. Including the box, the contents and the offers available I think the November Birchbox is pretty amazing and I'm really glad I decided to order it. You can sign up for a Birchbox subscription on the Birchbox website.

What do you think of the November Skinnydip collaboration box?

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Protecting my hair colour - going sulphate free

Recently I've been thinking about shampoo. As you may be aware I've recently switched to using colour protection shampoos because my hair is now red and as you may also be aware red is a very difficult colour to try and keep in your hair. 

Although I've been aware of sulphates in shampoo I've never really given them much thought. Sulphates (or sulfates outside of British English) are detergents that are added to products to produce a foam or lather to help remove dirt and oil. You'll find them in cleaning products but also in personal products such as hand soap, shower gel and the product I'm talking about here, shampoo. To check if a product contains sulphates you'll need to look out for Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS) or Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate (SLES) in the ingredients. Sulphates are a known irritant and although they effectively remove dirt and grease from your hair they can also be stripping, removing your hairs natural oils and causing it to be dry. 

Sulphate free colour protection shampoos

I was using two different shampoos for coloured hair that I featured in this post. It was only after reading Jemma's post on a sulphate free shampoo that she was using that I thought to check the ingredients in my colour protection shampoos. When I did I found that there was SLS in both of the shampoos I was using and that it was the second ingredient after aqua (water). As sulphates strip hair of its natural oils this means they will also strip hair of artificial colour. It makes absolutely no sense to me how you can claim that a shampoo is colour protecting when the second highest volume ingredient in the product is one that by its very nature will strip colour.

As I can't afford to keep up having my hair dyed in a salon (and also because neither of the two hairdressers I went to actually gave me the colour I wanted) I've taken to box dyes. Despite using a permanent dye the first time I dyed my hair myself it washed out completely in three weeks and I was back to my stripped colour. Admittedly I do tend to wash my hair every-other-day as it gets dirty/oily very easily, but washing out completely in three weeks is far from ideal. Despite my dislike of dry shampoo I've decided it's something I need to start embracing to try and help my hair colour last longer and I've also made the decision to go sulphate free when it comes to shampoo.

It's all very well deciding to go sulphate free, but this really does narrow down your options. Not even considering standard shampoos I discovered that every single colour protect shampoo I checked in Tesco contained SLS. Going sulphate free means in general you're going to have to move towards high-end products and therefore obviously high-end prices. So far the only budget option I've found is L'Oreal Hair expertise Pure colour shampoo and even then this isn't that cheap at around £6. I'd been looking around for this after receiving a recommendation and happened to stumble on it half price in Wilkos. It's also currently on two for £9 in Boots, so there are offers around. When I first checked this one I found something called Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSA) in the ingredients and I did wonder if this was still a sulphate with a slightly different name. A quick Google search revealed that this is actually a 100% natural origin alternative to sulphates that is derived from coconut and palm oils. So this is one that's ok to find in colour protection shampoos.

I have to say I'm really disappointed that high-end colour protection shampoos also contain sulphates as this is a really cheap ingredient. This effectively means some high-end brands are charging a lot of money for cheap ingredients that won't protect your colour despite the claim on the front of the bottle. So far I've only found two high-end sulphate free colour protection shampoos, and one of these isn't very easy to get hold of, but I really haven't checked out many so far. The first is the Maria Nila Luminous colour shampoo (£14.99) which is currently only available in the UK from Sally stores and the Sally website. The other is the Paul Mitchell Ultimate colour repair shampoo (£7.75 - £39.25) which is more readily available. I have a travel size of the Maria Nila shampoo to try but don't currently have the Paul Mitchell one. 

So the sulphate free colouring protecting shampoos I'm currently aware of are (price lowest - highest):
As I come across more brands/products that offer sulphate free colour protection shampoos I will update this post. I also intend to try all of the ones I come across so I can review them, but you'll have to bear with me as this might take a while!

Have you ever considered going sulphate free?

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Vichy Dermablend Corrective fluid foundation and setting powder

There are several foundations I have my eye on that I haven't actually tried yet because I haven't got round to buying them or because they're a little on the pricey side and ideally I'd like to try a sample before investing. One of these foundations is Vichy's Dermablend. Although this is around mid-range (£18) I've always been a little cautious about colour matching and whether a full coverage foundation like this would work for me. So I was delighted to receive an email from L'Oreal, the parent company to Vichy, asking if I'd like to try some Dermablend products. 

I was kindly sent the Vichy Dermablend Corrective fluid foundation*, Dermablend setting powder* and a foundation brush*.

Vichy Dermablend Fluid corrective foundation and setting powder
Vichy Dermablend Fluid corrective foundation and setting powder
Vichy Dermablend Fluid corrective foundation and setting powder

Although my skin is doing quite well at the moment I do go through periods of breakouts, scaring, redness and dark circles (usually all at the same time, what a lucky girl) and often each of these things can be quite difficult to try and cover. I'm not a fan of plastering on makeup to try and cover issues like this, as often I think it draws attention to the area, so full coverage foundations are not something I've really tried before for fear of ending up with a caked on look. 

Dermablend was created by an American dermatologist, Dr. N. Craig Roberts, back in 1981 (so it's a year older than me) and it apparently changed his wife's life. The Dermablend Corrective fluid foundation contains a high concentration of pigments to provide a better coverage than standard foundations that is buildable, highly blendable and provides a natural finish. It's suitable for sensitive skin, is non-comedogenic (doesn't clog pores), long lasting, and contains SPF 35. Other products available in the range include a Corrective stick (concealer), Corrective compact cream (compact cream foundation), Total body corrective foundation (a foundation for use on the body) and of course the setting powder that I'll also be talking about here.

Previously I wouldn't have been able to use the Dermablend Corrective fluid foundation as the lightest shade available was Opal, which would have been too dark for my pale, almost see-through skin. Luckily Vichy have now released a lighter shade, Porcelain, for pale ladies like myself and this was obviously the shade I chose to try.  

There's a sleek black theme through the whole Vichy Dermablend range and the foundation comes in a very easy to use squeezy tube. I was expecting the foundation to be quite thick but actually it's not really any different from a standard foundation. Although it is a little thicker than I'm used to at the moment as I currently use the YSL Fusion Ink foundation, which has a lighter more serum like feel to it. Because the Dermablend foundation is high coverage I'd definitely recommend starting off with a small amount and building it up if you need to. To start with I went for my usual method of application using my RT buffing brush. Buffing this in feels a little drier than I'm used to but I found that with a little more work it did blend well. However I found that buffing this into my skin meant the foundation settled into my pores and although it didn't look bad from a distance up close it did have a 'speckled' effect over some areas (particularly my cheeks and chin) where it was sat in my pores. I didn't find that it clogged up my pores and caused any breakouts, but I wasn't keen on how it looked on my skin. 

Although I'm not a fan of using foundation brushes for applying my base I next tried using the foundation brush that Vichy sent with the products. I found that as long as I was careful with my blending I didn't end up with any brush strokes and although this method was better than using a buffing brush I did still slightly end up with the 'speckled' effect.

Knowing that a sponge usually provides the most natural, almost airbrushed finished this was the method I tried next and I found that this was by far the best method of application. Pressing the foundation onto my skin with a sponge prevented it settling into my pores and provided the best finish. As I used a damp sponge this did sheer out the coverage slightly but I just applied some more to the areas that needed it. 

Coverage wise I personally didn't quite find this to be full coverage, but then I've used grease paint (stage foundation) in the past and that stuff is full coverage (and nasty!). It did very well at covering breakouts, scaring, redness and dark circles but I was cautious about adding more and more and instead went for a small amount of concealer over the top. 

I really wanted to love this foundation, and I do think it's a very good foundation, but unfortunately it didn't work well with my skin. I usually have dry and dehydrated skin that strangely can become oily in places when I cover it with foundation, usually on my chin, eye lids and sometimes around my nose. I did like the look of my skin when I first applied it, but I really don't think this would last 12 hours on me as it just doesn't sit well after a few hours. I think I might reach for this if I do need a good level of coverage, but not if I need my makeup to last really well, if I'm on set for example.

Vichy Dermablend Fluid corrective foundation and setting powder

The Dermablend setting powder is a loose powder that fortunately comes with a sifter (to help prevent those little snow storm accidents) and puff applicator. The powder is white, and is very white when first applied, but when you pat this into the skin it becomes translucent. You do have to be careful not to apply too much though or it can look a little powdery. As I mentioned above once I apply makeup over my chin it can become oily and usually it really does go for it. Often within an hour or two my chin can be a bit of an oily makeup mess and I'm yet to find a powder that really does hold this off for at least a bit longer. Although I do like this powder it doesn't appear to help with my makeup destroying oily skin conundrum. If you're happy using the puff to apply this you could carry this with you for touch ups throughout the day as long as you're careful and make sure you screw the lid back on tightly.

Although I'm disappointed the Dermablend products didn't work so well with my skin I think they are good products and I'd recommend giving them a try if you're looking for a high coverage foundation. You can find the Vichy Dermablend range on the Escentual website and in Boots stores and the range is currently on offer at both retailers.

Have you tried any Vichy Dermablend products?

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Benefit boutique Birmingham event

At the beginning of October an email popped into my inbox inviting me along to see Benefit's new boutique in Debenhams in the Bull Ring, Birmingham. I RSVP'd to confirm my place and headed over there on 22nd October.

Benefit boutique Birmingham

I'm afraid taking some pictures was pretty much an afterthought before we left and these were taken on my phone, so they're probably not the best.

Although the Benefit boutique is new to Debenhams I don't believe it's brand new, I believe it may have been there for at least a few weeks. I don't get over to Birmingham very often (even though it's only an hour from me) but if I remember correctly one of the Benebabes said it was originally in John Lewis, or a similar large store in the centre of Birmingham. The store rebranded their beauty hall so all of the concessions had the same simple look, no matter what brand they were, and as I'm sure you're aware that's just not Benefit! So they moved over to Debenhams so they could continue being bright, girly and gorgeous.

When I arrived straight away I was asked what makeup look I'd be interested in trying and was popped on a stool for a Benebabe to give me a little makeover. I think I went for a day look (I can't actually remember now!) and the products used on me included the new Air Patrol eye primer, They're Real liner, and They're Real coloured mascara. I'm a big fan of They're Real mascara and have used it in the past but Air Patrol and the They're Real liner are both new to me. During my makeover I did ask about my favourite BADgal mascara in plum and was told it's now been discontinued. I'm so disappointed! 

When I received the email about the event we were offered one free service with the choices being a brow arch and tint, a spray tan or a body treatment. As I've been growing out my brows all year and have been desperate to get them shaped for months I went for the arch and tint. I had no idea Benefit offered services such as spray tans and body waxing but the Birmingham boutique has two rooms to one side; the very pretty one pictured below for waxing and another plainer room for spray tanning. I don't know if these services are offered at other counters/boutiques across the country?

Benefit boutique Birmingham
Benefit boutique Birmingham

As soon as my makeover was completed I headed over to get my brows sorted. This was my first time having my brows waxed, so I was a little nervous, and although it did sting a little it really wasn't too bad. This took a while to do but the Benebabe that tended to my brows for me talked me through everything and said I was doing very well for a virgin waxer (gold star for me!). I can't believe how good they look now their shape is no longer caterpillar! The only issue I've had since having them waxed is that the skin around my brows did dry out afterwards, but this isn't unusual for me, and I also had a few spots where I was waxed. After my tint I would say my brows are possibly a bit too dark for me, but that may well be because I'm just so used to them being quite light as I'm naturally blonde. I have recently tinted them myself at home but I was quite cautious and didn't go too dark.

After my brows had been transformed I was then lead away from the counter and taken to Chi Kitchen where an amazing Asian buffet had been laid out for us featuring sushi, spring rolls, calamari and other amazing dishes. I had no idea this was going to be part of the event and I love Asian food, so this was a lovely surprise. I believe Chi Kitchen is technically in the beauty hall and is tucked away in a corner, so it might not be one you'd necessarily spot, but I'd definitely recommend hunting it out.

Benefit boutique Birmingham
Benefit boutique Birmingham

After filling our tummies we all realised we hadn't actually taken any photos (hence why there's none of the buffet, we just tucked in!) so we headed back to the boutique to have a look round and take some snaps. My local counters where I live and where my boyfriend lives are both quite small, with just one double-sided display, so the Birmingham boutique felt massive to me. One thing I noticed about all of the displays was just how neat and tidy they were and there wasn't a single product out of place or missing. Obviously all of Benefits Christmas gift sets were also out in force for eager and organised Christmas shoppers. This years packaging is probably not the most Christmasy but it's certainly very bright and eye catching. To be honest I haven't actually checked any of the sets out yet, so I don't know what's included in them this year but there are plenty of them so there should be something for everyone.

I would have loved to have treated myself to a product or two that I'm lusting after but money is a little tight at the moment so I was very restrained. We were kindly given a goody bag though that contained mini samples of the original Porefessional* and Porefessional License to blot*. I already know I'm not a fan of the Porefessional primer because I don't like silicone primers, but I'm looking forward to giving Licence to blot a try and am hoping it might work miracles on my oily chin.

Thank you to the Birmingham Benebabes for inviting me along and for my new brows. If you're not local to Birmingham you can hop on over to the Benefit website to locate your local store and of course you can order online.

Are you a fan of Benefit?

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