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What to buy from Sephora now they ship to the UK
Bath & Body, Beauty, Makeup, Skincare

What To Buy From Sephora Now There’s UK Shipping!


UPDATE: I’ve heard reports that some items actually won’t ship to the UK due to various restrictions. Hopefully these will be lifted, in the meantime, there may be a little trial and error when adding to your basket. I’ll add alternative UK stockists for as many products as I can shortly!

Sephora is finally available in the UK again! I first discovered the French beauty mecca on school exchange trips to Caen, and briefly enjoyed a time when there were some branches in the UK in shopping centres like Merry Hill and Brent Cross. Alas, the world wasn’t ready for a high end beauty shop back then, and Sephora pulled out of the UK in the mid-2000s. Since then, most of us have come to know the brand for its incredible US stores, full of brands we can rarely find (or afford) in the UK. Even with today’s rubbish exchange rate, it’s still cheaper to buy a lot of brands in the USA, so when I discovered that the US site is now shipping to the UK I couldn’t wait to share the news! When I did so on twitter, Selina asked me if I’d share my tips on what to buy, and of course I couldn’t be happier to ramble on about the beauty products I love and covet! So scroll down for my tips on the best brands to grab from Sephora while you can.

Tip: If you select UK as your international shipping destination before browsing, the cart will populate in pounds. There’s a flat rate of £10 postage if you spend over £75. Remember there could also be customs charges when your package arrives in the UK, but even with these added costs, you may still make savings.



Benefit is significantly cheaper in the states (eg. The Porefessional is £25 ($41) in the UK and $31 in the US) and you often get new products first. You probably know some of the bestsellers, like Benetint, and Hoola bronzer, but I have a few hidden gems to share. Top of my list is Creaseless Cream Shadow in Skinny Jeans, a lovely smudgy pewter. Every time I use it, someone comments on my makeup. I also really rate Dallas cheek powder, which is perfect for English Rose skin like mine that doesn’t suit a lot of bronzers. Another old favourite of mine is one of their first products, Dr Feelgood, a skin balm that was the precursor to many modern primers.


Anastasia Beverly Hills

If you’re serious about eyebrows, Anastasia is your girl. She makes all kinds of products for sculpting and taming brows. I’ve got my eye on the new Dipbrow Pomade, which was sadly sold out when I last hit a bricks and mortal Sephora store. I have tried Brow Wiz and the Tinted Brow Gel, both of which are some of the best products in terms of both texture and colour that I’ve tried.


Too Faced

Too Faced is one of those cutesy packaged brands that I just can’t ignore, but the quality does vary from product to product. Shopping in the US will save you up to 30% on some products. The palettes are super cute and if you’re not too fussed about heavy pigment and perfect textures, you can get some great value buys. I love their Chocolate Soleil bronzer, as do plenty of others it would seem, as it’s party of the brilliant value Beauty Blogger Darlings kit which is a great intro to the brand. I also like the tiny credit card sized Glamour To Go Palette.


Marc Jacobs Beauty

This launched exclusively in Sephora (and some MJ stores) last year, and is near impossible to get in the UK. Everyone was so excited about this line when it launched and I’m happy to say that it delivers on more than just lovely packaging! Of what I’ve tried, the nail polishes come in great, unexpected colours and the lip Gels have the most incredible pigment and texture. I’m pretty sure the whole range lives up to expectations, though!



Stila isn’t massively cheaper in the USA (maybe a couple of pounds per item, depending on the exchange rate) but if you’re doing a big order it may be worth slipping a few products into your bag. This is one of my all time favourite makeup lines, and it’s rare I make up my face without using something from Stila! My top tips are eyeshadows in Diamond Lil (the perfect silver taupe) and Kitten (the ultimate ‘inner corner’ shadow), Smudge pots (Stila’s version of gel eyeliner) and the absolutely brilliant Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick.


Bumble & Bumble

I have a love/hate relationship with Bumble & Bumble. I love their styling products, I hate their creme de coco shampoo and conditioner. The hero product for me is the Thickening Spray which adds body at the roots, gives hair a workable texture and makes it so easy to style. If you have hair that goes flat on day two, a spritz of this and a blast with the hairdryer will work miracles. Also worth trying are the Briliantine (a kind of serum/finishing cream for smooth, shiny lengths), Defrizz which does exactly what it says on the bottle, and the Let it Shine spray. You’ll save about $6 per purchase compared to UK prices.


Tarte Cosmetics

This brand has long been a US best kept secret, but it will finally be coming to QVC this year. Right now pickings are slim, however, and on Sephora you can buy the whole lot. Those with money to burn should go all out and get the Cheek Stain Collector’s Vault which contains 8 of the brand’s bestselling multipurpose push-up gel sticks. Otherwise, I love the Maracuja Lip Exfoliant for a pre-lipstick scrub and moisturise, and I’m tempted by the Brow Mousse (mousse!) and the Amazonian Clay Shadow Quads.


Bare Minerals

Along with Stila, this is probably my most-used makeup brand. I rarely use anything except Bare Minerals, and I usually stock up in the US, where you’ll save the equivalent of around $11 on a foundation. I wear the Original Foundation in Fairly Light, buffed in with a big kabuki brush. I also couldn’t live without Stroke of Light Eye Brightener. The shade luminous 1 is perfect for reducing dark circles on my rose-toned skin (though it’s not a heavy concealer – you’ll need foundation underneath). Makeup wise, the brand makes loads of great mineral products in good day colours, and don’t forget the Marvellous Moxie lipgloss, which has a killer formula in lovely shades.

Other things to keep an eye out for:

Beauty, Makeup

Five great makeup treats for £10 and under


When it comes to makeup, I’m proud to say I’m not a snob. There are so many great products out there at wallet-friendly prices that I don’t see the point in spending more than needed to get a colour fix. I invest in the things that need it – decent foundation, good concealer, soft, well-pigmented eyeshadows, luxury lipsticks in colours I wear a lot – and I have to confess I do get sucked in by pretty packaging and thus have a lot of Stila, Benefit and Too Faced palettes and gift sets. But when it comes to day-to-day makeup, a lot of the stuff I love the most comes from drugstore brands like L’Oreal, Revlon, Rimmel and Maybelline. I think these brands do brilliantly at bringing us cheaper versions of the coolest new formula or makeup trend, and when I’m trying something new like a bold lip or a strong blusher, I always go for a cheap fix. Here are five of my current favourites…

Maybelline Superstay 10 hour tint gloss £6.99

I always go a bit mad in Walgreens when I’m in the USA stocking up on brands that are either unavailable in the UK, or much cheaper in the USA. Maybelline is one such brand, and after buying one of these tint glosses on my first day in Vegas, I ended up going back for another the day I left. I love the melty texture, long-lasting tint and soft feeling on the lips, and the colours are beautifully wearable, even the bolder shades. The texture and feel is almost identical to the much-loved YSL Rouge Pur Couture Glossy Stain, right down to similar shaped applicators. The gloss of the Maybelline one fades quicker, but I don’t mind that given that a more matte look is more stylish at the moment.

Soap & Glory ‘Archery’ brow tint and precision pencil £10 (currently discounted to £8)

I love the really polished look you get from a brow wax and powder applied through a stencil and I have a great kit for this (from Shavata) but to be honest I can’t be bothered to do that every day. But because my hair is now a bit darker, I really need to add a bit of definition to my brows. This great 2-in-1 product was a brilliant find. On one end is a tinted pen, the other a self-sharpening pencil. I use the ‘Love is Blonde’ colour which just defines my light brown brows enough. The tint in particular is really great – I’ve never seen an eyebrow product like it and it really helps to neaten up a permanent gap I have at the bottom of one brow! It only takes a few seconds and really makes a difference to my face.

Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Lip Balm Stain £7.99 (currently discounted to £5)

I get really dry lips at this time of year so I’m currently buying these up in loads of colours. They’re the perfect combination of lipstick and balm, and while they’re not as long-lasting as the Maybelline tint glosses, they’re beautiful to wear and so easy to apply from the pencil applicator that your barely need a mirror. This product is the cheap alternative to the much-loved Clinique Chubby Sticks, and to be honest they’re so good I’d never consider paying out twice the money for the more luxury alternative. The colours are more pigmented than you expect, but still soft enough you can get away with a bolder shade than you think (shown above is ‘Romantic’). Next on my list is the hot pink worn by Emma Stone in the ad campaign.

E.L.F Studio High Definition Blush £3.75

This is a brand new product from bargain beauty fiends E.L.F, and the moment I saw it I knew it had to be mine. I find cream blushes work much better in winter, when my skin is dry and powders can look a bit chalky. This heavily pigmented blush comes in a tiny pump bottle – don’t be put off by the dinky size, it’ll last you ages as you only need the tinest bit for a full flush of colour. It really is super-rich in pigment, and you’ll need a very light hand and a good brush to get the best effect (the E.L.F studio stipple brush is the obvious partner – as good as brushes that cost five times as much). My shade of choice is ‘Superstar’ a rich peachy pink.

L’Oreal Superliner Eyeliner £6.49

I’m a slave to gel liner and have never really got on with liquid liners before, but this great find from L’Oreal may have changed my mind. I now have it in three colours, including the slightly sparkly ‘crystal’. It’s brilliant for creating 50s flicks, and much easier to carry around than a gel liner and brush for touch-ups. The tiny tube houses a clever brush that’s basically a hard, pointy sponge. It doesn’t give as much as traditional liner brushes which I find much better for getting a neat line. You do need to shake the tube before every application though (and when re-loading the brush) or it goes thin very quickly. Lasting power is great, though. Once this stuff dries, it’s there for the whole night!

What are your fave beauty buys for under a tenner?


Long hair how-to: French plait headband updo

My poor old hair has been through a lot, and right now it’s longer than it’s been since my childhood. It needs cutting – I’m going to lose good few inches to get soft, shiny ends back – but before I do that I wanted to put together some tutorials for some of my go-to long hairstyles. When your hair gets this long, wearing it loose all the time gets boring, and your hair gets tangled and messy very easily. But finding updos that work with this much hair takes a bit of trial and error (and a lot of kirby grips). At the moment I’m loving milkmaid braids but I wanted to do my own take on them.


The one thing I dislike about classic milkmaid braids is you end up with a parting all the way down the back of the head, and the style really only looks nice from the front. So with this look, I’ve changed the way I plait it to be bit more messy, with a raised french plait that coils all the way around the head. This really keeps the hair secure, and it looks much more interesting from the back. This is not a style that’s easy for beginners, but practice and you’ll get it. The joy of it is it looks better if it’s a bit scruffy, so don’t worry if you’re still learning.


If your hair is shorter, you can still try this, but you’ll have less hair to bring back up onto the head, so you’ll need to pay a little more attention to how neatly you section off the hair at the sides and where you pull it from when you’re braiding the top. If you have longer hair it doesn’t matter as the plait will come up and cover any strange partings (you can really see this in the video).


This might look like a style that takes ages, but the video is less than 10 mins long and I do the whole thing for you in real time. It’s much easier to perfect than you think, once you get used to gripping various sections of hair as you readjust your hands!

Beauty, Gemma Recommends, Makeup

Summer 2012 beauty essentials (old friends & new finds)

I haven’t done a beauty post in a while, but don’t let that fool you into thinking I haven’t been using all kinds of weird and wonderful products! In preparation for moving into our new flat, I’ve been sorting out my makeup drawers (yes, plural – perks of the job). Most of this has involved chucking out dried-up old products and giving away bits I know I won’t use, but it also meant I rediscovered a few great products I haven’t used in a while. Throw in a few new bits I’ve tried and fallen in love with, and it’s the perfect excuse for a bit of a beauty update. So without further ado, here are some of my favourite beauty bits at the moment…

top beauty products

Inika All Natural Mineral Bronzer in ‘Sunkissed’ £19.40

If you want a bronzer that’ll give you bang for your buck, this is the one to go for. To say a little goes a long way is an understatement. Just the tiniest sprinkling of this on the Inika kabuki brush (I’ve spoken about that before) is enough to give a gorgeous glow. Because it has the same formula as mineral foundation it needs to be buffed into the skin rather than brushed on – if you brush it, it’s too heavy, but the result once it’s blended properly is a lovely ‘glow from within’ look. I love mineral products because they’re so gentle on the skin and don’t clog like some powders can, and Inika is one of my favourite brands because they also do a good range of colours.

Topshop Nail Polish in War Paint £5

The nail polishes are definitely the stand-out products in the Topshop makeup range, and this is the ultimate nail polish colour for Summer. I got it in a goodie bag and I’m now completely obsessed with it. it’s the perfect orange-red-pink coral mix with a really flourescent pigment, and two coats is enough to get a smooth finish. I love a really strong coral shade for toenails, especially with a tan (fake, of course) and this has totally eclipsed my previous favourites (M&S ‘Flame’ and Revlon ‘One True Coral’). I’m going to be wearing this on my toenails all Summer. It might even make it to my fingernails if I can keep them out of my mouth for long enough to grow them.

Boots 17 Berry Crush Lip Stain £4.99

I’ve had limited success with these pen-like lip stains – the Max Factor one I tried was dry as a bone – but I really rate this bargain 17 version. It’s got great staying power and it’s not as drying as some of the other brands. It has a felt tip pen style applicator with the tint in on one end, and a clear balm on the other to give a glossy sheen. This lasts longer than I expect but it does need topping up. The tint stays on for ages and the colour is really bold, so I love this if I know I’ll be eating or drinking. It also makes a good base for lippy. Annoyingly there’s no shade name on the tube but I believe the one I have is ‘Smokin’ Hot’, and it looks like this on…

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Carina $22

Stila is one of my favourite beauty brands of all time (you’ve seen me rave about Diamond Lil eyeshadow before), and I’m really excited about some of the new products that are coming later in the year. This is one of them, a lipstick in a gloss tube that packs a serious amount of colour with a really modern matte finish. It feels almost powdery when it’s dried so it does need some lipbalm underneath, but it’s not as drying as you’d expect and the colour payoff is worth it. Carina is a hot coral, but I’m after the bold red next! It’s available in the US already and will be coming to the UK soon. Here’s how it looks on the lips…

Trish McEvoy Eye Base Essentials in Bare £21

With products like mineral eyeshadow and MAC pigment, an eye base is essential to provide a smooth, even canvas and help to ‘grab’ the colour. I was given this product about a year ago but I’ve only recently started using it, and I love the way it works to prolong eyeshadow wear and to brighten the eye itself. Sometimes I even use it without shadow to cover any redness or uneven colour around the eye. But where it really comes into its own is as an eye primer with bold or shimmer colours to make sure they last as long as possible. A little goes a long way, which hopefully justifies the price, but if it’s too much for you, e.l.f do something similar for £1.50 – it’s not a patch on the Trish McEvoy version, though.

Rimmel Lash Accelerator Mascara £8.99

This is another thing that’s been floating around my makeup drawer for a while (as you can probably tell from the fact the words have rubbed off the side). I wasn’t so sure when I bought it that it would give enough length and volume for me – I love a big, fat lash and this is more of a day mascara. But recently I’ve been using it every day and I love the fact that the black is really, really dark and strong. Though it isn’t massively volumising, it lengthens without clogging, and as a plus it’s got ingredients that are supposed to encourage lash growth. I haven’t seen great results from that, but I’m using it in conjunction with Rapidlash at the moment and hoping the two together will give me killer lashes by September! I’ll keep you posted.

Max Factor Xperience Foundation in Light Ivory £9.99

I’ve always rated Max Factor foundation – since the days of Panstick the brand has always made great base. I use mineral foundation most of the time, but when I want something more dewy, or if I’m using liquid products over the top (like cream blush or highlighter) I use this. It gives really good coverage without a heavy feeling and has an SPF (only 10, but it’s better than nothing). It’s incredibly lightweight, it lasts ages and the shades are great – light ivory is perfect for my pale, pinkish skin. I apply it with a foundation brush (from The Body Shop) to ensure even coverage.

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide On Pencils in Covet and Lucky £13 each

Most eyeliners that claim to ‘glide’ do nothing of the sort. They drag and catch, clogging on any tiny crease. These liners, however, do exactly what they claim. They’re a gel-like formula, super-soft and creamy, and they go on brilliantly. I love the variety of colour that Urban Decay offers. Right now I love Covet, a shimmering emerald green, and Lucky, a bronze/brown. Here they are together (Covet on the top lid, Lucky on the bottom) with the mascara and eye primer mentioned above.

Disclosure: I bought the 17 lip colour, Rimmel Mascara and Max Factor foundation. The other products were press samples.

Beauty, Gemma Recommends, Makeup

Top Ten: Beauty Booty (the things I love right now)

My day job at Latest in Beauty means that I’m constantly reading about, looking at and testing new beauty products. And I really do believe the LiB mantra that it’s so easy to be overwhelmed by the choice on offer. In the last month alone I’ve been introduced to three premium haircare brands, all of them lovely, and the beautiful high end moisturisers I get to test out have made me a bit of a skincare snob, every month or so finding a new ‘miracle’ product that sucks me in! But I also know a lot of it is just clever marketing and a few extra ingredients, and while I love the pricey stuff, I also loving hunting down a cheaper ‘dupe’. As a result, when it comes to my own beauty regime I have quite a mixture of favourites, from £8.50 fragrances to £125 serums. And while I have few old faithfuls, I often change around and use new things as inventive new products are launched. So here are my top ten finds of late (with a couple of very old faves thrown in for good measure). I’ve tried to keep these on the cheaper side, so now £100 products here. The priciest is a £35 cleanser that’ll last you months and months…

Lee Stafford Hair Growth Treatment £7.99

I’ve been using this for a month or so and my hair has never looked or felt better. It’s not that it suddenly gives you Rapunzel-like lengths (though my hair did seem to grow very quickly in the last month – perhaps that’s all the wishful thinking?) but massaging it into the roots once or twice a week between shampoo and conditioner will get your hair into really good condition and stimulate the follicles so it has the ability to grow longer and stronger before it falls out. The pink treatment gives amazing shine and softness, and I have definitely noticed more hair growing through – I have little ‘sideburns’ where the sides are growing, an area where my hair has always been a bit finer. The little £8 tub doesn’t last very long, perhaps 6 – 8 treatments max, but it’s often in Boots 3 for £12 deal so you can stock up for a bit cheaper.

Eyeko Graffiti Eyliner Pen £5.50
I got this at random in an Eyeko surprise bag, and having always favoured gel / cake liners, I wasn’t expecting to use it very often. But after playing around a bit, it’s got me hooked on the sharp, defined line you can get from a liquid liner and I’m finding I reach for this quite frequently when I need to quicky ‘do up’ my face. I try not to wear loads of slap to work because my skin is at its best when I don’t mess with it, but this is a good one to chuck in my bag for emergency dolling up! It’s also got great staying power, so great for Summer when smudgier liners can melt off far too quickly.

L’Oreal Volume Million Lashes £11.29

Pardon my French, but I bloody love this mascara. Every time I wear it, someone asks “are they your own lashes?”. It’s the business for a really wide-eyed, false lash look. And when it comes to mascara, I don’t do subtle. I like drama, or nothing. L’Oreal are the unspoken heroes of the drugstore mascara world (even if the mascaras are over a tenner each). My formerly beloved Maybelline The Falsies, Lash Stiletto and Colossal have languished in the bottom of a drawer since I bought this stuff, which gives me ridiculous length and loads of volume with only a few coats (ok, four) and barely a clump in sight. Seriously, buy this stuff. Buy it now. If you go to Boots and spend £15, you get all kinds of freebies at the mo.

Monu Cleansing Balm £35
Thirty five quid may sound like a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a cleanser, but please bear in mind that £35 gets you a tub the size of your head, stuffed to the brim with amazing, gooey, melty, oily goodness. I use this to remove makeup at night. I can’t be doing with messing around with rubbishy lotions and scratchy cotton wool, and I find facial wipes don’t even begin to remove all my mascara. So given the choice I will always go for an oil-based cleanser that ‘melts’ off makeup and makes my skin feel properly clean without being stripped of moisture. To apply this balm, you just scoop up a finger-full, spread it gently over the face and then remove by massaging the face with a muslin cloth soaked in hot water and wrung out. I find it’s fine all around the eye area and I apply it liberally to my lashes, but more sensitive folks may find the perfumes too strong so be careful. It smells absolutely delicious and as you only need a little, a tub lasts ages and ages.

Vita Liberata Sheek Silken Mousse £20.50
I have tried countless fake tans over the last few years, and for me formula is the most important thing. Spray is too messy to apply, lotion takes too long to dry. Wipes – ha! Streak city! Tinted mousse is a dream to work with. It’s easy to apply without missing anywhere, it’s almost impossible to apply too much and it dries really quickly. Though I don’t fake it that often, when I do, it’s always been with St. Tropez mousse, and I never thought another brand would steal its crown. But Vita Liberata has done it. Essentially, the two products are almost identical, but the guide colour is slightly lighter and the end result slightly darker with this baby, which it why it wins out. There’s also an intense version if you like an even deeper tan. Last time I used this (applied with a mitt to avoid orange hands) there were absolutely no streaks or patches. Not even on my feet / ankles. It faded quite evenly too, and the DHA smell is minimal. If the only fake tan you’ve tried is Johnson’s Holiday Skin, it’s time you upgraded. You won’t regret it. I also really like Beautylab Peptide Tanning if I have more time to let it soak in.

Organic Surge Overnight Sensation Cream £7.99
I’ve been spoiled over the last year or so having access to some amazing high-end products through work, and I have a tendency to recommend ridiculous products that no normal person would ever spend £125 on. So this time I’m going to sing the praises of this £7.99 pot of wonder instead. The Organic Surge range is a real hidden gem. Easy enough to find (in larger Boots stores) but often overlooked, it offers really well thought-out products with high quality ingredients at stupidly low prices. This night cream is really gorgeous and a joy to use. If you like rose oil, you will love this. It sinks in beautifully and isn’t too heavy, and my skin feels really soft by morning. I use this after I’ve used the monu cleanser above, for that final boost of essential oils without as many chemical ‘nasties’ as some or more affordable beauty brands.

Inika Cosmetics Kabuki Brush £23.50
I’m a slave to mineral foundation. I love the coverage, the weightless feel and the fact it doesn’t cause breakouts on my skin. I’ve tried various brands and to be honest, most of them are pretty good (though I sway towards Bare Minerals) but when it comes to application, there’s only one brush that’ll do. In fact, I love this kabuku brush so much I now have two. Inika is a reliably great Australian mineral brand that offers a whole range of great colour cosmetics and tools. The foundation is a bit on the shimmery side (see my review here) but the brush is just perfect. Densely-packed but incredibly soft, it’s perfect for buffing without scratching the skin. And it’s synthetic, so it’s ethical too. I also use it to apply Inika’s bronzer, another big winner in my book!

Stila Eye Shadow Compact in Diamond Lil £13
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I think this is the best eyeshadow in the world. Everyone needs a great taupe in their makeup kit and as far as I’m concerned this is the ultimate. I’m onto what I think is my third pan of this now, having hunted it down on eBay when Stila was pulled from the UK a couple of years ago. Now the brand is back, and you can get Diamond Lil in its own little compact. I will be stocking up, because without this, I couldn’t do a good smoky eye, I couldn’t do my standard ‘corporate’ makeup, and I couldn’t do my ‘today I actually bothered to wear makeup’ look. I reach for this at least once a week. It’s the most beautiful, soft, easy to apply shadow in a gorgeous multi-purpose shade. It verges more on the silver than the brown (beauty bloggers call it ‘mushroom’) with lots and lots of shimmer, but no harsh glitter or foil finish. It blends like a dream, lasts ages and looks amazing on just about every skintone. I also absolutely love ‘Golightly’, a shimmery mid-brown.

Boots Essentials Roly Poly £5.36 (also comes in blonde in store)
Right now, in the world of Fash-on, topknots are ‘the thing’. If you go to an event, you are likely to spot at least one willowy girl sporting a dishevelled bun right on the top of her head. Sadly, I have yet to work out how to pull off this look. I look like a complete idiot. So instead, I’ve toned it down a bit to something that’s a bit more ‘me’. My take on the fashion topknot is more of a dishevelled ballerina bun. And for that, to build lots of volume and give me some support, I need a ‘roly poly’. There’s also a version without the popper called a ‘donut’ which is equally as useful, but I find once I’ve put my hair in a ponytail and backcombed it, it’s almost impossible to get a donut ONTO the ponytail. A roly poly you can clip around the base of a backcombed ponytail, then just wrap sections of fuzzy hair over the base and pin then underneath. Et voila, bad hair day hidden, fashiony hairdo achieved. Don’t forget to add half a can of hairspray for hold and ‘texture’ too.

Harajuku Lovers Sunshine Lovers G Fragrance £8.50
I’ve been wearing this super-cute, super-cheap perfume loads recently for the simple fact that it smells just like holidays. There are three perfumes I associate with this scent, and ironically they’re all celeb fragrances (the others are Sean John Unforgivable Woman Black with notes of Pina Colada, and Jennifer Lopez Miami Glow which smells like suntan lotion). This one, from Gwen Stefani’s adorable Harajuku Lovers line mixes coconut with apple, jasmine, mandarin and all kinds of other lovely stuff in a really nice, affordable Summer fragrance. On Sunny days, I always reach for this to make me feel a bit more like I’m on a beach in the Bahamas, rather than a bus in Balham!

Disclosure: Monu, Vita Liberata, Organic Surge, Inika and Harajuku Lovers products were press samples. Others I bought myself.

Beauty, Tried & Tested

Get Bikini Ready: Ministry of Waxing Tried & Tested

They say that once you ‘go to Brazil’ you never go back. And The Ministry of Waxing definitely makes said trip a bit easier to bear.

I’ve always been a slave to Veet cream and a bit scared of salon waxing, but after getting one done for a review through work, I became a convert. I originally visited Ministry of Waxing on a cheap Keynoir deal, but have been back twice since and will no doubt continue to. The salon itself is more like a cool bar than a beauty salon, with lots of chrome, red leather, mirrors and quirky touches. You can get a variety of waxes, choosing from a takeaway style ‘menu’ at reception, but what they specialise in is the classic Brazilian wax. There are now Ministry of Waxing salons worldwide, but the brand started out in 2001 as the first salon to bring the Brazilian to Singapore.

What I like about this place is the theme suits the treatment. This place doesn’t take itself too seriously, which I think is important when you’re about to strip off and flash your bits to a complete stranger. Everything is a bit more relaxed and dare I say it, a bit sillier. It suits the embarassing experience of a Brazilian so much better than a salon that plays panpipe music and is full of sweet, softly-spoken therapists who insist on refering to you as ‘we’ throughout the treatment. “So, what are we doing today? Are we having everything off?”

At Ministry of Waxing it’s a bit more relaxed, there’s clubby music playing and the therapists are friendly without being too OTT, getting you through the wax quickly without any messing about, ensuring the treatment is as pain-free as possible.

But don’t let the laid-back atmosphere make you think you’ll be getting sub-standard service. The salon observes strict hygeine rules. All your stuff goes in a locker, there’s absolutely no double-dipping (a new wooden spatula / stick is used for every swipe of wax so no germs get into the wax pot), you get a hygiene wipe before the treatment begins and the chocolate-scented wax is removed without strips so it’s really fast and there’s very little mess.

As a cute touch, you also get given a monkey shaped stress ball to squeeze! I have to say, I’ve never really needed mine. The waxes I’ve had have been about as painless as you can get. Yes, it does hurt, especially on the very sensitive bits, but it’s a short, sharp pain that’s over really quickly, the soothing ‘Ice Cream’ they use at the end stops it hurting much afterwards, and the super-smooth results are worth it. The therapists will even go over with tweezers to make sure there are no missed bits.

I’d definitely recommend The Ministry of Waxing to anyone in London who wants a wax without all the fuss. It’s a must if you have a particularly teeny bikini to wear on holiday! They even do a ‘virgin Brazilian’ for newbies so don’t worry if you’ve only ever used cream or shaved before, they’ll be gentle with you and I’m pretty sure there’s nothing they haven’t seen before!

ps. Pop a couple of Nurofen half an hour before your wax for a pain-free treatment. I then use men’s sensitive aftershave balm for the first few days afterwards to sooth the skin, then Boots ingrown hair treatment if I get any bumpy regrowth. Exfoliating is a must too, I go for one without any oil in, and apply very gently!

Ministry of Waxing, Floral Street, Covent Garden

Beauty, Uncategorized

Big Girl’s Beauty – gradual self tanners


Everyone looks better with a bit of colour, but full-on fake tan can be a bit much, not to mention difficult to apply if you have ample curves. There’s nothing worse than streaky fake tan on your lumps and bumps! Luckily, the range of gradual tanning creams are much easier to apply without making mistakes. They build slowly over a few days, they don’t smell as strong as full strength offerings, and they don’t leave your towels brown. I tried a few to find a favourite…

1. Johnson’s Holiday Skin Body Lotion (Normal to Fair Skin) £4.88

The original gradual tan, Holiday Skin is still one of the best value, and I think gives some of the best results in terms of colour of the cheaper products. They’ve created various formulas, including a darker one and a gradual face tanner. Over 3 days, this gave a beautiful Summer glow without looking too fake. The stronger colour does mean slightly more attention has to be paid to how you apply it, though. The first time I used it I had a few streaks because I applied it like moisturiser, not fake tan! Make sure you apply it evenly over all your body (sparingly on knees, elbows and ankles) and wash your hands thoroughly after you’re done. Also bear in mind though this has a fresh scent, it can smell a tad fake tan-esque as the colour develops, but it won’t linger like a stronger product.

2. Dove Summer Glow Beauty Body Lotion (Fair to Medium Skin) £4.88

This is subtler and more idiot-proof, so if you want a really natural result and find it difficult to get to grips with the application of fake tan, this is definitely the one for you. As it’s Dove, the cream is a rich moisturiser which goes on beautifully, but it can remain tacky for a little while after application. I skip this on hot nights when it can feel greasy and sticky, but it’s lovely if you have dry skin. The colour builds up very gradually (you’ll need 4 – 5 days to notice anything resembling a ‘tan’ but you will ‘glow’ earlier than that) and it doesn’t smell as strongly of fake tan as the Johnson’s product. In fact, it barely smells at all. Definitely best for fairer skins, though they have formulated a darker version.

3. Piz Buin Summer Sensation Daily Body Lotion £7.99

I love Piz Buin SPF products, so it’s no surprise their gradual tanner is a winner too. It’s a bit pricier, but it mixes the good bits of the Johnson’s product (colour, quick drying feel) with the smell, texture and glow of the Dove product, so I think it’s worth it. It soaks in quickly, the colour is natural but visible after a few days, and it fades gradually. I find this is particularly good for ‘topping up’ a regular fake tan. I recently tried a spray tan for the first time and it went surprisingly streaky. A quick top-up with this and I looked a lot better!

Piz Buin got in touch to let me know this product is now discontinued, and has been replaced with the exciting-sounding Colour Dial self tanning lotion (£17.61), which allows you to choose from 5 different shades for the exact colour you want.

4. Palmer’s Natural Bronze Body Lotion £4.89

Ladies and gents, we have a winner! I can’t say any of the gradual tanners above aren’t worth a go – they all do what they say on the tin – but this one tops them all for one reason and one reason only. It smells delicious! While other products attempt to mask that fake tan smell with fresh scents, this one goes for a creme caramel chocolate scent that masks that digestive biscuit scent perfectly, leaving you smelling good enough to eat. Add to that a cocoa butter formula that moisturises well, and a colour that rivals all the others for that natural glow. The only downside is that the pump action tube quickly clogs up and turns a dirty shade of brown…but it’s a small price to pay!

sttropeztan5. St Tropez Everyday Body Lotion Medium to Dark £13 UPDATED!

After this story went live, the folks at St Tropez got in touch to see if I wanted to try their gradual tanner too. I’m a big fan of their products, but this is a pricey option at up to £14 a tube depending on the stockist, so I had high expectations! Luckily, it didn’t let me down. I’m incredibly fair skinned, but the medium to dark worked really well. In a day I had a glow, in two days a light tan, and in three my legs looked like I’d tanned them with regular St Tropez, but without the hassle of washing off the guide colour & coping with the smell. St Tropez products now have the swish-sounding Aromaguard™ fragrance technology…in laymans terms that just means you don’t smell like stale digestives as it develops. The colour is really natural and streak free too. I was really impressed, and would seriously consider splashing out the extra for this in the future. The only downside is it’s very thick (it’s full of aloe vera) so rubbing it in takes effort and it does remain sticky for a while. I don’t mind this, but those in a hurry may find it a hassle.