9 January 2012

Figs & Rouge lip, face, hand & body balms

I love a general purpose balm and my daughter is a big lip balm fan,  so I was very pleased to receive two Figs & Rouge balms in the post for review. Figs & Rouge balms are organic, petroleum free and really moisturise the skin - I've used mine on dry patches such as elbows and fingers as well as lips. Plus the retro packaging is really very lovely.

Being the daughter of a beauty journalist, my 8-year-old has already got expensive taste in products. Being a skinflint mummy, I managed to accommodate her taste this Christmas by putting one of these Figs & Rouge balms (plus a sample size Clinique lipgloss) in her Christmas stocking this year - resulting in many extra mummy points.

Bonnie is using the Wild Cherry. Here's what she has to say: "It feels really nice on my lips, and it also has got rid of the dry skin around my mouth. It smells really lovely and the pot is very cool". I'm using the Aloe & Mint. Again great packaging, a more grown-up scent, but really I'd happily use either.

Figs & Rouge are available from Boots, Urban  Outfitters, ASOS, Whole Foods Markets and other stores. They're around £5 each. More info at www.figsandrouge.com and follow them on Twitter @figsandrougeuk - watch out for Friday giveaways!

14 December 2011

Life got in the way: An apology

I've neglected my blog. I've neglected by blog so much I'm ashamed of myself.

To cut a long and tedious story short, this last 6 months have been manic. But next year is looking more settled, bright and organised.

So I will get back to this. I promise.


6 July 2011

Skin Science - Lunchbreak Lift

I really loved the Skin Science products I tested recently, so I'm happy to report that on 17th, 18th and 19th July the Skin Science Lunchbreak Lift facial is available in Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, London.

It's a 30min treatment which promises to leave skin energised, plumped, lifted and glowing - and all for only £30 which is redeemable against any Skin Science products purchased on the day. Personally I'd go for the Bio Active 24hr Protective Complex Cream with SPF 15, it's fabulous.

Call  020 7235 5000 Ext: 2705 to book your appointment.

4 July 2011

Customer service: or what to expect when things go wrong

Sometimes, in the world of hair (and beauty), stuff goes wrong.

There are many reasons. People make mistakes. We have nasty reactions to things we had no idea could be a problem. We forget to disclose every other treatment we’ve had to the stylist - the list goes on.

But this post isn’t about blame; it’s about customer service, because for me, a truly great salon is one that knows how to handle things if they do end up with a disaster on their hands. 

Us beauty writer types aren’t immune. I’ve spent many years trying to improve the condition of my hair, but a recent hair disaster has finally taught me to think seriously before trying yet another revolutionary treatment.

I had a semi Brocato treatment at Equus, and it was lovely. So lovely in fact that I went ahead and booked in for the longer lasting version, the Curl Interuppted Smoothing, which theoretically should have worked, but was, without shadow of a doubt, a very bad decision. Yet not as bad as what happened to this cat.

The salon did ask me all the usual questions about colour, previous treatments etc, and I answered honestly. But I didn’t do my own research, or, if I’m honest, really think through the consequences of it not working. 

After the treatment you leave it 48 hours before washing. And it was at this point that it became clear my hair was damaged. To cut to the chase I needed two inches cutting off. Gulp.

Now, first things first, Equus were brilliant. I was VERY upset but Jack Howard is the perfect salon manager. He made it clear that his priority was to make sure my hair sorted out as soon as possible, and also to work out what went wrong. 

I'm not naming the stylist here because I don't think it's relevant. What's done is done, and I feel all parties (including Brocato, the stylist, Jack, and even me) have taken responsibility for what happened and besides, after everyone's best efforts we're still not 100% sure what went wrong. Though that’s frustrating, I’ve realised that blame isn’t going to fix my hair, but that Jack is.

So back to my original point – salon customer service. Since my hair disaster I have received the most exemplary service from Equus imaginable. Jack made a commitment to work with me until we are both 100% happy with my hair, and he’s honoring it. I’ve been back every six weeks for colour and trims, and in one instance a blow dry and manicure when I was heading to my hairdresser friend’s 40th birthday party. I’ve also been supplied with a huge box of home use products from Brocato.

I’m relieved to say my hair is now well on the way to recovery. Regular trims and some gorgeous balayage colour from Jack, alongside conditioning treatments means we’ve made great progress. Yes it is two inches shorter, and although initially that was a shock, I’ve actually come to really like it this length.

As I said, sometimes things do go wrong, and anyone going for a treatment should discuss any risks with their stylist, research the products, read reviews and ask for a patch test where possible. But remember, even when you’ve done all these things, there’s still a small chance that a treatment won’t be perfect for you.

But if you do have a disaster, or even if you’re just not totally happy with the result - the sign of a good salon and hairdresser is their commitment to work with you to put things right.

As Jack says: “Nobody likes it if something goes wrong but it doesn't mean that the hairdresser/client relationship is over. If anything it can be strengthened by the right attitude and skills of the salon.”

How else could I explain how the manager of the salon where I experienced some problems with a treatment, has now become someone I’d call a friend. Now that’s customer service.

21 June 2011

Priori Advanced AHA Daily Defense SPF30

I'm always on the look out for a daily face cream with a high SPF.

My requirements are:
Not too greasy
Doesn't give me spots
Isn't jam packed full of chemicals
Doesn't give me sore red patches
Doesn't leave a white residue
Doesn't cost as much as a weekend break.

Lately, even creams that I used to like have given me problems, I recently re-puchased Origins A Perfect World SPF 25, which I used to love. Now it gives me spots. Very annoying.

So I was very keen to try this new product from Priori. I have a fair bit of sun damage, in my teens I really believed that coconut oil was all I needed all summer long. If only I could go back and shake myself. So now I'm ultra careful, but decent levels of SPF can be tricky when you've got sensitive skin.

You don't need much of this cream, I'd recommend squeezing a small blob onto the palm and warming it by rubbing between your hands to thin it a little before applying. On me, it does sting/tingle slightly when I first apply it - which is sometimes a sign I'll get a reaction - but the feeling quickly goes, and luckily I've had no bad reaction at all. No spots, no soreness, no greasiness.

It also contains AHA, so it's targeting the signs of ageing I already have, as well as helping protect me from the sun.

Another bonus - it's only £17. It's not that easy to track down , so call 0845 555 2121 for stockist info.

20 June 2011

YOUTH - supplements to help stop ageing, by Dr Sister

Regular readers will recognise the name Dr Daniel Sister as being my go-to man for ahem, let's called it 'aesthetic maintenance'. 

He's a very respected doctor, who specialises in non-invasive cosmetic procedures, from injectables to peels, hormone balancing to lipotherapy.  He's utterly honest and trustworthy, with a reputation for not going ahead with procedures he things unnecessary - a breathe of fresh air in the beauty industry.

As well as introducing groundbreaking new treatments into the UK, Dr Sister has been working on a food supplement aimed at stimulating the production of growth hormones. Growth hormones deplete as we age - our body make less and less - leaving us to age as, amongst other things, our skin looses elasticity - so taking a supplement to boost production seems like a no-brainer.

Although similar products have been available before, this is the first time there's genuinely been enough of the right stuff in one capsule to show any benefit. This is because rather than mixing with up with other ingredients, the focus of this capsule to just on boosting production of growth hormones and YOUTH does this through a combination of amino acids and marine plant extracts.

YOUTH is available through Beauty Works West (which is also where he practices) and is £59 for one months supply or £150 for a three month supply. You should be able to see a difference in around six weeks but the effects are cumulative, so you will need to keep taking them.

Personally I'd recommend a consultation with Dr Sister to discuss how you are ageing and make sure it's the right thing for you. Go see him, have a chat, and tell him I sent you x

16 June 2011

Miracle product: Dr Lewinn's Renunail

It's rare that I rave about a product quite this much, but this particular product is truly fabulous.

My nails were going through a scrappy phase. Breaking, flaking, never getting to any length. Generally looking sad and uncared for, no matter how much effort I went to. But this all changed with, quite honestly, the very best nail product I have ever tried.

Dr Lewinn's Renunail Nail Strengthener goes on like clear nail polish. Put two coats on to start with, and then apply another layer every day for five days. You don't remove each day, just build up layer on layer, which gives a lovely finish. Then remove and start again. Repeat three times, then allow your nails to 'rest' for one - two weeks.

Oh and I also massaged Renunail Nourishing Oil into my cuticles after each coat has dried.

My nails are now, quite simply, fantastic. Even a manicurist has asked me my secret.

Dr Lewinn's Renunail Nail Strengthener come in a double size bottle (30ml) and retails at £21.
Renunail Nourishing Oil is £13 for 15ml.

I don't normally over-plug where to go and buy stuff, but I really, really want you to buy this, so it's available from Debenhams and other retailers, call 01892 750850 for details.

Without a doubt, one of the best beauty products I have ever tried.

Paul Mitchell giveaway!

It's time for a summer giveaway!
The lovely people at Paul Mitchell Luxury Hair Care are offering 5 lucky Beauty Cult readers a set of holiday style essentials worth a whopping £24.99!  Packed in the limited edition drawstring wash bag (very handy for your holidays) is Shampoo One® for a gentle tropical wash, The Conditioner™ for multi-use leave-in moisture (a great summer product), Soft Sculpting Spray Gel® for a soft natural style and Freeze and Shine Super Spray® for lasting shine and hold with essential UV protection to help look after your hair in the summer sun.
To win a set just follow Beauty Cult and leave a comment including your email address or twitter name. Oh and if you want to tell me your ultimate holiday beauty product that'd be smashing.
Closing date is midnight 30th June 2011. UK only.  I'm picking the winners and my decision is final. So there.
Plus - if you visit a participating Paul Mitchell salon and purchase any four Paul Mitchell 100ml products you'll receive the fab candy stripped wash bag worth £8.99 absolutely free! Yes Free! Available at participating salons throughout July and August 2011.

And the winners are: 


Thanks for entering, I'll be in touch to arrange for you to receive your prizes! 

9 June 2011

Can this beard trimmer handle Mr Beauty Cult's beard?

I like a hairy man, and luckily Mr Beauty Cult has a fair bit of facial hair, which over the years has developed from rock star side-burns, through to designer stubble and on to his current, rather dashing, short beard. 

The thing with a short beard (I've learnt this through hearing his almost daily rants) is that it takes maintenance. And as with any beauty task, maintenance requires the right tools. So when I was offered a Remington MB4110 Beard Trimmer Stubble kit to try, I though this might be the beard trimmer to stop the whinging...

So now I'll hand over to Mr Beauty Cult.

"I own four beard trimmers, none of which I like.

Actually there is one that I quite like, but I lost its charger on holiday so now it's useless. Instead of buying a new charger for it, which would have cost the best part of 20 quid, I bought a cheap beard trimmer from Boots' own range. Being cheap, it's not powerful enough and chews up my beard rather than trimming it. Basically it's useless.

I do have a travel Remmington which I was pretty happy with except that the trimmer guard never fitted properly and eventually snapped in half rendering it, you guessed it? Useless, well almost; I still use it for a close trim around the upper lip and nostrils.

So how will this new Remmington MB4110 fare against the challenge of my beard. Things get off to a bad start because the ubiquitous numbering system used by every beard trimmer I've ever used, which tells the user how close the trim guard is set, is missing. It's been replaced by a fine measurement wheel, but I only realise this after I've shaved a big tramline into my cheek. 

I don't like this new fine measurement system. How am I supposed to know the exact measurement I want my beard to be, down to the millimetre? All I know is my neck and moustache are a 3 and my cheeks are a 4. Anyway enough about that. Once you master the fine measurement this trimmer is actually pretty impressive. It is well made, powerful enough, slim enough for travel and can even be charged by USB which might seem like a novelty at first, but I suspect will prove very useful for my various trips abroad."

So there we have it. He did have a strop about the measurement system, and believe me, as male strops go it was a big one. But overall he's impressed. And he's a hard man to please. So if you fancy letting your man grow a beard, get his the Remington MB4110 Beard Trimmer Stubble kit so you don't have to listen to his daily moans about beard maintenance. 

And for all you clean shaven fans out there - you don't know what you're missing :)

24 May 2011

My oh my another luxury brand that I love - Skin Science

It's been a long time since I've risked a new moisturiser, I'm not a girl who takes skincare risks easily, and let's face it, every time you try a new skincare product there's a little bit of risk involved.

Skin Science is a new brand from Norway, which is said to be inspired by the marine life along the country's Arctic coastline. It contains ingredients which scientists claim have a radical effect on the skin. These include - 
Spermine - an antioxidant estimated to be 25-30times more powerful than vitamin E
Omergatri - an omega-3 product from Atlantic salmon, but a nano-encapsulating version that's odourless and can be delivered deep into the skin
Zonase X - a natural exfoliant from salon embryos - discovered because salmon hatchery workers have smooth hands, despite working in freezing cold water

I tried the Bio Active 24hr Protective Complex Cream with SPF15. I've rarely used the same face cream during the day and at night - but actually this really does the job. It's not too heavy to apply make-up over (actually it creates a lovely base), and although it feels a little light for a night cream, my skin doesn't feel dehydrated in the morning. Personally for me, SPF 15 isn’t enough through the summer, but that’s a personal niggle. After two weeks of use my skin is looking better than it has in a long time, even though I've been going through a particularly busy/stressful time (normally enough to knock my complexion for six).

But the real gem in this range is Bio Active Instant Replenishment Complex. It’s a set of seven little tiny ampoules are used after peels or laser treatment, can be used as a complete course, or anytime your skin needs a pick-me-up. Just use half of an ampoule in morning and half at night. I've in love. They really make a huge difference to my skin making it much softer, smoother and far more radiant. I’d recommend exfoliating before use to really feel the benefit.

Also I used a tiny dab a day on a scar/dry patch from a particularly nasty spot, and it vanished in days.

This stuff isn't cheap,  I know I say that often, but there you go. But the results are great, so in this case, you get what you pay for.

Bio Active 24hr Protective Complex Cream with SPF15 is £85 and the Bio Active Instant Replenishment Complex is  £120

Skin Science is exclusive to Harvey Nichols nationwide and the range also includes a mask, eye cream, serum and a moisturiser aimed at older skin (not sure why I wasn't sent this, perhaps the PR company missed my rants about turning 40 this year?).

17 May 2011

Origins gift set - fab purchase!

I wandered into Harrods the other day in search of an Origins moisturiser with high SPF. I went for A Perfect World Age-defense with SPF 25, as I've used it before, it's just about the highest SPF I can tolerate with getting a nasty rash.

Now usually I come away from beauty counters having spent three times as much as I thought I'd spend. But not today. The lovely, if slightly overly made up Origins Lady (the most black eyeliner I've seen during the day time since a daytime Siousxie and the Banshees gig), showed me that currently you can buy A Perfect World as part of a gift set for only £1 more than it costs alone. So for £32 I got:

A Perfect World SPF 25 50ml
A Perfect World Antioxidant Cleanser 50ml (hubby loves this)
Clear Improvement Mask 50ml (again, Mr Beauty Cult is a fan)
A Perfect World Eye Treatment 5ml (ok sample size, but still it all helps)
And a cute little facial sponge, which I've not tried it yet.

Quite simple, the best beauty bargain I've come across in a long time.

There's more info on the Origins website, and the offer is not exclusive to Harrods, so get shopping!

27 April 2011

Decleor Expression De L'Age Relaxing Eye Cream

This is a lesson in NOT listening to the lady behind the counter.

I LOVE this eye cream. I've raved about it many times before. However, recently when I went to buy some more, it was out of stock. So I allowed myself to be convinced that Decleor's Experience De L'Age Triple Action Eye and Lip Cream was even better. Big mistake. It's not better at all. It's not terrible, but it's not half the product this is. But lady behind the Decleor counter was clearly after a sale, and I was suckered in.

Lessons learnt:
1) It's good to try new products but ask for samples, especially when considering £43 eye creams.
2) If something works brilliantly well for you, stick with it.
3) Decleor Expression De L'Age Relaxing Eye Cream is the best eye cream ever, it hydrates, firms and make me look wide awake when really I'm a walking zombie.

For more info try the Decleor website.

6 April 2011

Jack Howard: Hair genius

Recently I was moaning about my hair on Twitter. There's nothing unusual in this, apart from this time someone listened, and that someone was hair genius Jack Howard.

Jack felt he could help my dry, frazzled hair, so I promptly turned up at his salon the following week and put my hair in his hands.

With over 25years experience in salons, Jack has spent the last 17years in America, working with many well known personalities from the world of news and politics. As a senior portfolio artist for L'Oreal Professional Jack has also taught across the United States.

These days Jack is the manager of Equus Hair. One of London's oldest salons, Equus was established in 1953, and a few of its clients look like they've been regulars since then. But this is a salon going through a transition, and Jack is at the heart of it, breathing new life into what was something of an institution.

So what did he make of my hair? Well for once I got an honest answer. Too many hairdressers have claimed that the right products, changing the hair dye used, using chemicals, not using chemicals etc would change the fact that my hair (in some sections) grows dry and frizzy. After a good rummage through my hair, Jack could see that it really does just grow in bad condition. And it always will, but with help, I could learn how to manage it.

We started with my colour. I'm a dark brunette, but these days my colour has started to look brassy within 3 weeks of colouring (maybe something to do with turning 40?) so Jack suggested some changes. Rather than a solid colour, like I usually have, Jack recommended two formulas - one at the front and one for the back, he then highlighted with foils and his 'secret formula' to control the brassiness.

At the same time I was also treated to a Knightsbridge manicure by Ines. My nails are painted in Essie Luxedo, which rocks so much I order some online the same evening.

I then met Jack's colleague Darren Eaton, a smoothing maestro, for a Semi Brocato Curl Interrupted treatment. Unlike other smoothing treatments, this contains none of the nasties associated with brazilian blow dries, in fact it's so gentle that Darren doesn't need to wear gloves.

After a quick trim, stylist Arturo (brooding and Spanish), blow dries and runs some special vibrating straighteners through my hair to seal in the treatment. I'm advised not to wash my hair for 48 hours, and to only use sulphate free shampoo.

So how was it?

Well the whole experience was glorious. The salon is fabulous, and despite some of the regular clientele literally dripping with gold and royal wedding invitations, it's very down to earth and comfortable. Jack and his team could not have made more of an effort to make me welcome. My hair is great. I'll admit it's a shade lighter than I'm used to, but I think Jack was nudging me in the direction of something a little more flattering for my age!

I've had loads of compliments, friends have wanted to know who did my hair. Even the hubby is impressed.

The Brocato has definitely improved the condition of my hair, it's softer, less frizzy and easier to manage. It's still not perfect, but it's manageability I'm trying to achieve not perfection. And this is only the four week version, I'm popping back next week for the more intensive version.

Jack Howard really knows hair. He understands it inside out, he's a master of colour with some secret formulas and tricks up his sleeve. He's not just a hairdresser, he's a hair genius. Plus he's a lovely guy!

Equua is not cheap. It's not even mid-range. But you do get what you pay for.

A tint starts at £99, the foils at £75 for a face frame.
Brocato Semi Curl Interrupted £120
Knightsbridge manicure £35

Oh and my manicure lasted for 6 days - a record for me!

Jack also specialises in Balayage, a method of highlighting that gives amazing natural results.

For more information visit the Equus websiteJack's own website or follow Jack at @jackhowarduk or Darren at @darreneatonHair

25 March 2011

Paul Mitchell Awapuhi Wild Ginger

My hair is shocking. I won't go into detail here, because frankly I've ranted about it enough already. Let's just say I'm always on the look out for products that will breathe life back into my stressed, frazzled locks.

This new range from Paul Mitchell promises to do just that. The key ingredient here is the awapuhi, which is a type of ginger plant found commonly through India, Polynesia and Hawaii. Hawaiian women squeeze the juice from the flowers to use as a shampoo and conditioner - and oh if only my hair looked anything like a Hawaiian ladies....

To give them even more clout, these products also contain 'KeraTriplex', Paul Mitchell's own Keratin blend, and as we all know, keratin is vital for strong, healthy, shiny hair.

I tried the Moisturising Lather Shampoo, Keratin Cream Rinse, Keratin Intensive Treatment and Styling Treatment Oil.

I really love this shampoo. It's a struggle to find a shampoo that's kind on dry hair, but doesn't leave you with greasy roots, but this is perfect. It's also got a fab scent - a bit like ginger beer, perfect for waking you up in the shower.

The Keratin Intensive Treatment is recommended for use weekly, and the first time I used it I had good results - with my hair feeling softer and smoother than it had in ages. Next day (yes I have to wash my hair daily, mainly as it dries out over the course of 24hrs), I moved onto the Keratin Cream Rinse, and unfortunately this wasn't enough for the really dry areas of my hair, so from that day on I've used the Cream Rinse all over, and the Intensive Treatment on the areas I know need extra care.

As for the Styling Treatment Oil, you can apply to towel dried hair, but this method didn't work for me, leaving my hair a little heavy. However it does work really well as a moisture top up through the day, disappearing into my hair but leaving it more manageable.

Now we're not talking miracles here. My hair is still shocking. But it's less shocking that it was a week ago, and we can't expect miracles overnight can we? And other than my trusty combo of Kerastase Bain Divalent Balancing shampoo and Macadamia Deep Repair Mask, I've not found anything else that can even get me through one day without literally wanting to tear my hair out. 

The lovely people at Paul Mitchell tell me that with time the overall condition of my hair should improve, but of course as I started from such a bad place, this will take a while!

Moisturising Lather Shampoo 250ml £15.95
Keratin Cream Rinse 250ml £17.95
Keratin Intensive Treatment 150ml £22.95
Styling Treatment Oil 100ml £24.95

The range also includes a Texturizing Sea Spray, as I to look messy and windswept at the best of times this wouldn't be for more, plus there's a Shine Spray and Finishing Spray.

All products are available from Paul Mitchell salons.

17 March 2011

A chance to meet Space NK's founder!

We all love Space NK. I never fail to get a little bit excited when I visit a store, and I know most of my readers share that feeling, so the chance to meet the founder is a great opportunity.

Nicky Kinnaird, founder of Space NK, is visiting the UK to make some rare public appearances at selected Space NK stores over the next few weeks....and what's better she'll help you make sure you're buying the very best products for you!

Appointments to meet Nicky need to be booked (contact your local store), and cost £60, but the price is redeemable against products in store. So if you’re heading out to buy beauty products anyway it's a no brainer, you'll be spending £60 on products that you can be sure are right for you.

Consultations with Nicky last for 15mins, and as an added bonus you’ll also get a 30min make-up lesson with a professional.

17th March - Loughton – 10-2pm
18th March - Kingston 10-2pm
23rd March - Glasgow - 10-2pm
24th March – Edinburgh, George St - 10-2pm
25th March - Cobham – 10-2pm
31st March – London, Northcote Rd – 10-2pm