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My Skincare Regime

After many years of struggling, I’ve finally got my skin to a place where I can happily leave the house without makeup. What I learned along the way is pretty obvious; if you want good skin, you have to put the effort in. I now know that all the products in the world can’t battle the worst hormonal acne, but the contraceptive pill can, and beyond that, it’s all about good habits, good moisturiser, and learning to take your makeup off no matter how drunk you are. I was not blessed with perfect skin, but I’ve learned how to make the best of what I have. Here are my current skincare favourites.

Balm Cleanser

I used cleasing wipes for years, but when my favourites (the Kleenex ones) were discontinued I decided to grow up and start removing my makeup the proper way. Let’s be honest, cleansing wipes are crap. Yes, they’re easy. But they’re also cheap, scratchy, and they do NOT remove all traces of makeup, no matter what the ads say. They are for lazy people who don’t want to make a proper effort. If you want good skin, you have to indulge it a bit, and a balm cleanser is perfect for this.

There are loads of great balm cleansers on the market, and I’ve tried many of them. Liz Earle’s Cleanse and Polish was my first foray, and I’d still happily recommend it for normal to dry skins. However, having experimented more, I now prefer an oil-based cleanser. This works on even the oiliest skins, despite what you may think. Monu Cleansing Balm is beautiful, but I found I got through it quickly because the texture was a little sloppy. Eve Lom’s famous cleansing balm was my next foray into balm cleansing but mine split and ended up all grainy (due to temperature changes, apparently). My favourite by far is Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm, which has the most incredible melting texture and smells insanely good. It’s almost a treat to cleanse with this at the end of a busy day. A little goes a long way so while it’s expensive, you’ll get your money’s worth. I don’t actually use it in the recommended way; the packaging says to mix it with a little water, but I just slap it right on my face, including the eye area, and massage it in gently before removing it with a wrung-out clean flannel soaked in hot water. It removes makeup easily and leaves my skin feeling fabulous.

Face Wash

After getting into cleansing balms, I quickly became a fan of the double cleanse to ensure all residue is removed ready for the next step. Once I’ve used my cleansing balm, I finish with a tiny dab of a liquid cleanser, massaged then rinsed with lukewarm water. This leaves my skin completely clean ready for my moisturiser. I use good old Cetaphil face wash, a classic that doesn’t foam, thus doesn’t irritate the skin. I usually buy mine on trips to the US as it’s cheaper, but you can pick it up at Boots too. I also use this in the mornings, as I only balm cleanse at night.


AHA Exfoliating Liquid

Like half of the internet, I have Caroline Hirons to thank for introducing me to the concept of acid toners. I’m loathe to use the word ‘toner’ though, because this product does so much more than the expensive scented waters I was fooled into buying in my teens (and flogging as a twentysomething). These liquids contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) which are chemical exfoliants that replace those absolutely awful gritty physical scrubs (stop using St Ives apricot scrub NOW). They gently dissolve dead skin to remove dryness, renew the skin underneath and generally make your face look awesome. I use Pixi Glow Tonic every other day, sweeping it all over my face with a cotton pad after cleansing. It is by far the product that’s made the biggest difference to my skin. I also use it on the tops of my arms to reduce the appearance of my stubborn Keratosis Pilaris.

Face Oils and Serums

I’m not particularly loyal to any one oil or serum. Depending on how my skin feels, I’ll use a different one to treat different issues. Basically, this is where I play around a little. My favourite oils are by Darphin, a brand that’s aromatherapy-led. Its jasmine oil is insanely beautiful, even if it is really designed for older skins. When I need a real treat I massage this into my face. I also love the L’Occitane Immortelle range. God knows if the claims are true about the ingredients, but the feel and scent of the products are gorgeous. In the morning, I use Estee Lauder Idealist Skin Refinisher, and have done for the last 6 years. It’s like a combination of serum and primer, and really smoothes out the skin.


I love moisturiser. I’ve been known to apply way too much and cause my skin to break out, but I’d rather that than have dry patches. My aim with my entire skincare regime is to have skin that doesn’t need foundation day to day. I’ll always have red patches due to my pale, pink-toned skin, but through sticking to a regime I’ve banished spots from my life entirely. At night I use the r/skincareaddiction-approved CeraVe in the tub, a does-it-all gentle moisturiser that works not only on the face but on the body too. This is another product I pick up in Walgreens or Target on trips to the USA. In the day I use Clarins Multi-Active Jour for a bit of wrinkle protection, followed by the most important step…


…sun protection. I wish I’d realised much earlier how important sunscreen is when it comes to your skin. It’s not about sunburn, it’s about anti-ageing. The sun is in the sky 365 days of the year, regardless of how strong it is or how much cloud cover protects you from it. When I hit my 30s I started using an SPF daily, and I wish I’d done so a decade earlier. I have pale skin that burns easily. I have moles on my forehead and below my eyebrows. Once I got a sunburn on my face that was so bad my nose blistered and my entire face basically peeled off in the following days (long story). Put simply, I need sunscreen. Every single day. I don’t want to get wrinkles, and I don’t want to get cancer. I use Murad Oil Free Sunscreen SPF 30 and it’s worth every penny. If I’m happy to spend £15 on a new lipstick at the drop of a hat, I see no reason why I shouldn’t spend the same on protecting my skin.

What are your skincare musts? Let me know what I’m missing out on!

Sponsored Posts, Uncategorized

How to wear cropped trousers


[l-r: Diane Von Furstenberg, Matthew Williamson, Tibi – all SS 2013]

There are certain styles that you never think will work for you, and cropped trousers have always been one of those for me. It wasn’t always that way – in my late teens I loved them, and had my fair share of black combat-style numbers that ended mid-calf. But pretty soon cropped trousers became last year’s trend and even my mother started buying them. During that time, I’d learned that there were alternatives for warm-weather dressing (like dresses, dresses and more dresses) and never really wore a pair of cropped trousers again. I was happy to leave them in the late 90s where they belonged, until now.

Because cropped trousers are back! Catwalk designers are raising the hemlines of their trews as well as their skirts. Suddenly, a slim pair of trousers for women that end that little bit too high feel right once again. The look is a more playful and 50s-inspired than the old combat styles of old, and the look feels more Audrey Hepburn, less Popstars: The Rivals. I’ve even given it a go myself – it all started when I rolled up the hems of my jeans, and before I knew it I was buying printed, slightly cropped trousers and trying to work them into my wardrobe.

I’d forgotten there were some great benefits to cropped trousers – they’re comfy in hot weather but provide a bit more coverage than shorts. There’s no risk of the dreaded upper thigh rub which anyone with a body like mine is probably used to dealing with when wearing skirts in very hot weather. They’re also a bit more appropriate for work than shorts, which all seem to be super-tiny at the moment!

My Top 3 Tips for Wearing Cropped Trousers


Keep it simple

The best cropped trousers are simple in shape, without too many pockets, details or anything that’ll add bulk. You want to keep this look sleek, slim and chic. When it comes to length, you need to be careful – anything too short and you’ll end up drawing all attention towards your thighs (which is ok if you’re happy with them, but I know a lot of us would rather people’s eye is drawn elsewhere).

Equally, anything too long and it’ll just look like your trousers are too short, rather than it being a deliberate move. I favour something that sits about 3 or 4 inches above the ankle (maybe a bit less if you’re on the petite side). Try them on with the footwear you’re going to wear them with – I recommend heels at all times to lengthen the leg, but the right flats are fine as well.

Experiment with colour

Obviously black is the classic, but this season it’s all about colour. Bold prints, like florals or graphic square prints look really great on cropped trousers – though watch that they’re strong and graphic, not old-fashioned and curtain-like. Alternatively, there are loads of great block colours like pink, green and blue floating about (try the range of cropped trousers from bonmarche) if you’re not brave enough for prints. Also, look out for black and white, monochrome is huge for Spring.

Go smart, not casual

Last time round when cropped trousers were in fashion they were usually worn casually. Too casually, if you ask me. Teamed with trainers and a fleece or t-shirt, they did nobody any favours. So this time around trainers are banned! If you want to make this look work with a high fashion spin, use off-duty models as your inspiration.

Layer up to highlight your best bits. Your legs will look longest if these styles are worn with super-high heels or wedges, and I’d then add a slinky top and a blazer or leather jacket, plus a pendant necklace or bangles. If you can’t do heels, keep your flats as simple as you can. Avoid chunky styles and any ankle straps and channel Audrey (queen of the cropped trouser) with a pair of ballet flats (pale colours that are close to your skin tone will work brilliantly) and a simple turtle-neck top or white blouse. In warmer weather, this is the perfect excuse to try flip-flops!

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Gemma Recommends, Uncategorized

Three designer inspired items I’m crushing on…

I always feel a bit naughty buying cheaper high street versions of designer clothes, but the truth is I’m never going to shell out £500 for a jumper that’s a one-season wonder, or blow £500 on shoes that I’ll only wear twice. If I had the disposable income to buy designer clothes all the time, maybe I would (I suspect I’d still love trawling the rails of Topshop, though). But right now, my designer purchases tend to be the things I know won’t date so quickly – handbags, coats, retro style dresses and so on. When it comes to trends and seasonal styles, I have to budget, which means fast fashion. I think so long as the items are designer inspired, not fakes being sold as if they’re the real thing, they only strengthen the brand they’re emulating by drawing more attention to the specific look or style. Besides, a lot of the designer pieces don’t hang around for long, and I’m sure Victoria Beckham isn’t sweating the fact a few cut-price retailers are selling low cost alternatives to her sold out dresses.

So on that note, here are three designer-inspired looks I’ll be sporting this season…

The Primark ‘Pow’ comic book jumper

You know when you see something in a shop, carry it around for a while, then put it down thinking ‘no, I don’t need this’, only to find yourself thinking about it for days afterwards, wishing you’d just gone ahead and bought it? That happened with me and this jumper. I didn’t buy it because I’d already bought two slouchy jumpers for Autumn and thought three was overkill. But when I saw it at The LOOK Show last weekend (pictured), I knew I’d made a mistake. I’m hoping my new ‘local’ store (the huge new Oxford Street East branch, which is 3 mins from my office) will still have it in stock so I can pop it on and pretend I’m wearing the 3.1 Phillip Lim it’s based on. This is going to become my weekend wardrobe – I’m getting more and more lazy and casual as time goes by.

Buy it: Pow! Jumper £14 at Primark Stores

Boohoo’s Cat Face Wedges

I already have the flat version of these, and I’ve just ordered the ridiculously cheap and stupidly high £15 wedges as well. Though I wish I could afford to fork out the £500 the Charlotte Olympia real deal would cost me, I just can’t, so I’m forced to go for the cheap option. The flat shoes get comments wherever I go in them. I recently wore them to go on holiday and even the tour group of pensioners on my flight asked me about them. So for £15, I thought I’d give their sister shoes a go. I’ve never been scared of things that are twee and a bit childish, and these really are big offenders in those stakes, but I think they add a sense of humour to a more grown-up outfit. Provided I can walk in them, I’ll be teaming the wedges with pencil skirts and blouses to avoid looking too ‘sexy secretary’, and with skinny jeans for the longest legs ever!

Buy it: Suky Cat Face Suedette Wedges £15 at Boohoo

Everyone’s collar-detail bodycon dresses

Where Victoria Beckham goes, the high street inevitably follows, which means this Autumn / Winter there are loads of fitted dresses with cuffed sleeves and high collars. I love Internacionale’s burgundy dress with black stripe detail, and obviously so does everyone else as the £19.99 bargain is sold out at the moment in everything but the smallest sizes. Loads of brands have versions of the drop-cuff dress in blue and khaki. Goddiva offers the best price – £28 for both colours. If you’re looking for larger sizes, the Contrast Collar & Cuff shift dress from M&S goes up to a size 22. My only concern is how this style will work with bigger boobs, as the high collar and fitted shape might end up giving the shelf-boob effect. I will be investigating this and doing some trying on!

Sale shopping, Uncategorized

Sale bargains I shouldn’t buy but probably will anyway…

This is a bit of a filler post, I have to admit. I’m showing you some of the stuff I’m not buying right now because it’s so hard to show you the stuff I have. There’s so much I want to show you – a new Linea Pelle bag, another beautiful Lady Vintage dress, some great finds from the sales…but getting decent snaps is proving difficult. I’m desperately trying to move away from the fuzzy shots I get in my dressing room (my camera really doesn’t like indoors lighting) but the constant rain and bad weather has been really affecting my ability to take decent shots outside (which also involves cajoling someone to take the snaps – something the boyfriend is not very good at). So while I wait for a Sunny moment tomorrow (IT HAS TO HAPPEN, right?) here are some of the items I’ve been coveting but attempting not to buy in recent days…

KG by Kurt Geiger ‘Gem’ snakeskin heels £35

Come on, they’re called ‘Gem’, how could I resist? I’m *so* close to ordering these but I know they’re too high and too ridiculous. I also don’t usually like snakeskin, but I’m drawn to these. As if the silver heels and snakeskin uppers weren’t enough, the ankle strap and the toecap are covered in little sparkles. I love my shoes to be completely ridiculous and I think these definitely make the grade. And there’s a £95 reduction. SO tempting! I fear I may end up heading to a store early next week to see them in real life and judge whether I’ll ever be able to walk in them.

G21 Giraffe print jumpsuit £20 George at Asda

It’s a jumpsuit, with giraffes on. I don’t feel like I need to say any more. Except that I also really like the strappy back, the slim trousers and the fact it’s only £20. My only problem with jumpsuits is the faff you have to go through if you need the loo. Still, it’s more practical in Summer than in Winter, at least you don’t freeze quite so much!

Olivia Rubin black floral swimsuit £17 Dorothy Perkins

Apparently I was the only one who loved the Olivia Rubin for Dorothy Perkins stuff (well, me and Una from The Saturdays) since it’s all now in the sale at drastically reduced prices. I love a good halter swimsuit and this one has the bonus of an added belt/waist panel – always good for drawing attention to the best bits. The only problem is I just sorted out my swimwear and I already have far more bikinis and swimsuits than I do days of the year to actually wear them, so I won’t be purchasing.

Blue patterned Mustique floral sundress £15 at Warehouse

Blah blah halterneck, blah blah sundress, blah blah floral, blah blah 50s inspired…you know where I’m going with this. This is a total ‘Gemma’ dress. The kind of thing my friends point out to me when we’re shopping together. And £15 is a bargain for a fab Summer holiday dress that originally cost three times that. The only problem – I’m not going on a Summer holiday (I’m away in September instead). And given the current rubbish weather, I doubt I’d get any wear out of this in the UK. Should not buy.

Harris chain heeled sandals from £7 a pair at Topshop

Toppers sandals for seven squids. If the aforementioned crappy weather wasn’t an issue, I’d be buying these up in more than one colour. As it is I already have two pairs of new sandals I’ve not even been able to wear out of the house yet. Damn you, rain!

‘Sexy plunge’ pencil dress £19 at ASOS

As you can see from the terrible pic on the right (oh, instagram…) I already have this in blue. And I love the fit. It doesn’t exactly give much room for movement, but it is the perfect holiday night out dress, which is why I’m tempted to order the pink as well, since it’s only £19. That said, I think the pink might be less forgiving in terms of underwear than the darker blue, and this baby definitely calls for scaffolding underneath!

Clothing, Uncategorized

Fitting Room Adventures: Pepperberry

Pepperberry is the recently relaunched clothing range from underwear afficionados Bravissimo. Available in sizes 8 – 18 in three bust sizes (curvy, really curvy and super curvy) it aims to cater for women who’re fed up of having to buy a size bigger to accomodate their bust. As a DD/E cup, I own a couple of dresses from the old Bravissimo range (bought in the sales!) and they’re a beautiful fit, but in general the range had a tendency to be a bit frumpy and boring at times, so I was excited to see what they came up with in this new incarnation. I’d heard whisperings that there was a bit of a 50s influence, and the image above (the first to be released) definitely supported that idea…

So off I trotted to Bravissimo’s Oxford Circus branch to take a look at Pepperberry for myself.

Sadly, I don’t really think on close inspection that it’s that different from what Bravissimo were offering before. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but for such a dramatic relaunch I was expecting more than a couple of token 50s dresses amongst all the usual jersey and satin. It’s still very much aimed at an older consumer looking for a working wardrobe and the odd formal frock, and a lot of the dress shapes are almost identical to ones the brand has been offering for years. There’s quite an emphasis on basics (like well-fitting jersey tops, shift dresses and lightweight jackets) and all the lengths are very classic and practical. None of this is a problem, but it’s not particularly exciting either.

For example, I tried this blue bow detail dress, which I think is very pretty, but even on my 5’7″ figure, I just feel it looks a tiny bit out of proportion and verging on the mumsy. I stood in the fitting rooms looking at this for ages trying to decide if I liked it or not. I love the colour, I love the fit around the bust, but it’s just that tiny bit too long. However, this one gets a definite thumbs up for anyone who’s 5’8 or above and busty – finally a dress that doesn’t finish around your bum!

I also tried on the coral shift dress in a heavy stretch satin with a diamante trim belt (£69). And let’s just say this was not quite so successful! I think this is one of the duds of the range, which is odd because it’s very similar to a Bravissimo dress I own. Alas, never before has a dress managed to look too small AND too big on me at the same time! I think the problem is the bust darts, which point up and outwards, giving me cone boobs, and the belt, which doesn’t stay where it’s supposed to be (and sits far too high up for my liking). But never fear, for there’s salvation just around the corner…

Quel surprise! The dress I ended up falling in love with was the one I’d first seen in that original promo image. I do love a good 50s sundress, and words can’t express how well this dress fits – it hugs my waist, but doesn’t pull at all around the bust, and because there’s a full skirt, I can get away with the 12 (Curvy) without it pulling around my hips like the red dress above. As I stepped out the fitting room to see this in the bigger mirror, there were two other women trying it on, both completely different heights and weights to me, but it worked for all of us. I can tell this is going to be one of the stand-out pieces from the collection and I actually think that purely for the fit, it’s worth the rather steep £55 price tag. Unsurprisingly, this is the frock that came home with me at the end of the day!

Overall, I think Pepperberry is heading in the right direction, but a few more directional pieces wouldn’t go amiss next season. There were a few other pieces that stood out that unfortunately weren’t in stock in my size that I would like to go back and try. The two-tone floral jersey dress with a deep V neck looks gorgeous in real life, and the Full Fifties Dress is also a big seller and comes in a lovely duck-egg blue. I also have my eye on the red notch neck shift dress, which is very Victoria Beckham-esque.

I’d also like to see them expand their size range: 8 – 18 is not particularly inclusive and I’m sure there’s a market for these items in plus sizes. Maybe next year!

Buy Pepperberry in selected Bravissimo stores, or online by clicking here.

Disclosure: Pepperberry allowed me to take home one item of clothing free of charge. However, I was not paid to write this feature and all the opinions are my own.

In My Wardrobe, Uncategorized

2011: The year of dressing dangerously

I really enjoyed wearing a different dress every day during Dressember, and it was definitely great for helping me drag my old dresses out of the back of the wardrobe. But I also think it made me a bit lazy. Putting on some tights, throwing on a dress and some shoes and calling it an ‘outfit’ is a bit too easy for a fashion fan like me. Especially when all the tights are black and all the shoes are flat. One too many jersey dresses with a long-sleeved top have made even me admit that at the moment I look a bit…boring.

So this year I’ve decided it’s time to shake things up a bit and get out of my style rut. I’m not about to suddenly change my look completely (denim and leather or twelve different shades of greige is just not me) but I do want to try a few more creative looks. I’ll still wear my dresses (especially on Frocking Friday) but during the rest of the week, I need to get a bit more wear out of the separates, the heels and the different coloured tights that are floating around un-loved. And when I do wear dresses, I need to accessorize them in a slightly more imaginative manner than ‘throw on a favourite necklace’.

So I’ve been secretly investing in things I’d like to give a go – trousers (!), big statement necklaces, suspender tights, skirts, blouses and chunky heels – and scoured, street style blogs and outfit posting communities like Weardrobe and Chictopia for a bit of inspiration.

From now on, it’s bye bye black (and boring dresses) and hello hard-to-wear trends! How long do you reckon this’ll last? I give myself two weeks tops!

[catwalk L-R: Emilio Pucci, D&G, Alice + Olivia, Elie Saab, Marc by Marc Jacobs

Clothing, Dresses, Tops & Tees, Tried & Tested, Uncategorized

Tried & Tested: INES Collection’s plus size prints!

I’ve been sitting on this review for months (literally) because I didn’t want it to disappear in the middle of all the Dressember madness, so please forgive the fact I didn’t tell you all about INES Collection sooner! The brand (available at, who ship internationally) offers affordable plus size dresses and blouses with an emphasis on prints – a great move as plus size fashion is so often black, black, black, and while some people can totally pull that off, others want a bit of colour!

I was sent the Graphic Pop dress ($72) and the Bird Calling blouse ($49) to try out, so read on for how I got on!

First things first – the smallest size Ines makes is and XS, which is the equivalent US 10-12, and that’s the size I tried. It roughly translates to a UK 14-16, and I’d say even then it’s on the generous side and the dress was particularly big on me. Nothing I couldn’t fix with a belt, but it’s still a bit blousy on my body, and I actually think it looks far, far better on the model, who fills it out much better than I do. This is a great shape if you want to emphasise a good waist (or indeed create one).

But in the interest of Making It Work, I wanted to go a bit further than just throwing the dress on and taking a couple of badly posed snaps, so here are some of the ways I would consider wearing it. I think because it’s quite a loud print, it benefits from being broken up with a bit of solid colour…

I think the dress is great for smart/casual looks. The length is really great (bang on knee length on my 5’7 frame) and it’s super comfy to wear. It looks like silk or satin but it’s actually polyester. Granted, that’s not the most luxurious of fabrics , but on the upside it’s easy to take care of and it barely creases. The dress also has a heavy reinforced hem to help it hang properly, and stop those Marilyn-on-a-subway-grate moments!

The blouse has the same elasticated empire waist as the dress, which is far more forgiving than a tight waistband or belt, making it a lot more comfortable to wear. There’s a little tie that you can use to cinch it even more, and the buttons are well-placed to allow for a bit of flesh-flashing without ever accidentally showing your bra in the process. I love the peacock print, which reminds me of the Matthew Williamson for H&M collection – which I invested heavily in! I tried the top with jeans (yes! me in jeans!) but it’d look great with a pencil skirt for a smarter look too.

Buy INES at now. Until the end of January, if you spend over $75 you can get a massive 40% off by using the discount code jan2011.

In My Wardrobe, Uncategorized

Get your dresses on for Frocking Friday!

If you enjoyed following the ladies (and gents!) taking part in Dressember, then you might like to know that some of the folks taking part are continuing their challenge to wear more dresses by taking part in Frocking Fridays. The premise is simple – every friday you must wear a dress and upload the pic to the Facebook group. Don’t worry if you missed the first couple of weeks, you can still join in and take part for the rest of the year. You can repeat dresses so don’t worry if you don’t have 52 of them floating about, it’s all about getting out of your jeans and trying something a bit more glam!

You don’t need to have a blog to join in the fun, though there are loads of bloggers taking part, and it’s great to see them talking about their choices. Pop over and see Amber, Fi, Caroline, Purdey, Spiragirl, Cassy and Tat for their Frocking Fridays so far!

Here are my first two…

I almost cropped the head out of this one because it’s such a crap photo, but never mind! This is a Bettie Page Clothing dress I bought in Vegas, and I think the last time I wore it was for a Mad Men themed party when I moved into my new flat. I’ve been there nearly two years so it’s high time I started wearing this a bit more often!

Week two and a a brand new dress. This is a sale find from Monsoon. I can’t remember the last time I bought anything there, but with two weddings to attend in the next few months I popped in to see if they had anything in the sale that’d work…and not only did I get the perfect wedding guest dress, I also found this baby for less than £20. It’s a tiny bit mumsy, but it fits so well, and I’ve always dressed a bit old-fashioned!