Lush Oxford Street: First and Second Impressions

It would take but a little scrolling from a novice SWB reader to discover that I am an unabashed Lush fan. I use a multitude of their products on a daily basis, support their ethics and love their innovative and fabulous cosmetic creations. When I saw the teasers for their new flagship store flash up across their various social media accounts, I knew that I would have to visit as soon as I could after launch day. Rumours flew of a colossal unit with vast displays full of mountains of new, exclusive products; of a store filled with innovative features quite unlike any other Lush shop worldwide. I wanted to see it all for myself.

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The Oxford Street store is located about two minutes walk eastwards along Oxford Street from Oxford Circus tube station, just next door to Marks and Spencer. The chic black frontage stands prominently between the other name brands, but the experience inside is quite other. The front of the shop peels open, unencumbered by dressed, inaccessible windows. The whole feel of the place, as with all Lush outlets, is hands on. Even in the heart of the busy city, Lush unabashedly wants you to touch all of the things.

The unit itself goes back and back and is truly vast. Set over three floors, the new store has plenty of room for elaborate displays featuring live plants (to highlight the ingredients of their neighbouring products), countless sinks for demos of the new innovations and lofty display units to fill the space floor-to-ceiling with eye-catching colour.

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As you enter on the ground floor, an enormous round demo sink greets you to the left (and is usually populated with one of the new bath bombs), with handcare and deodorants on the right. On entering the store on my first visit, I was instantly greeted by a staff member and treated to an on-the-spot hand massage and treatment featuring two of the new products (Salted Coconut Scrub and Elbow Grease). This area also houses the hand/body lotions, and here I noticed that some staple products have been given a better size range. They now come in a half size, and a double size, modelled below by the ever charismatic Simon.

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After handcare, you progress past the stairs and haircare into the back part of the shop, which is full of skin care, facial skin care, a vast display of soaps and shower products, the all new make up sections and mouth care.

Let me break that down a little, and it will have to be a little because, despite have spent hours in Oxford Street, the shop is so overwhelming and there is so much to see that I simply haven’t made it round everything yet.

The facemask display is much larger, with seating for consultations with an attending member of staff. Incidentally, I noticed that staff were zoned to product ranges, which meant you could always find someone if you needed help, despite the crowds. There are three or four new facemasks. I’ve only picked up the one designed for sensitive skin (Rosy Cheeks, a rose based formula), but there is also a mushroom based mask with a yoghurt consistency much like Sacred Truth (It’s called The Man in The Mushroom Mask), a bright blue delight called Don’t Look at Me and I think I saw a black, charcoal one too… Lush have also added another non-fresh (by which I mean that it doesn’t require refrigeration) mask to their repertoire in Cup o’ Coffee, which is mocha-y and delightful.

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I didn’t have time to check out skin care, but the soap display, like a gleaming multi-coloured candy land drew my eye. Old favourite scents have been reformulated into new permanent products (like Maypole, which smells like candy canes), and old products have been brought back, like Milky Bar. All of the current soaps (Rock Star, etc) are present, but in new shapes to catch the eye. Oxford Street also boasts a selection of cold-pressed soaps, which are a new product entirely. Cold pressing helps preserve more goodness in the natural ingredients, so these products should be extra nourishing. They also have a small range of ‘luxury’ soaps. These are very soft in consistency, pricy compared even with the regular soaps, but luscious in fragrance. I highly recommend checking them out- though I have forgotten their names, the aniseedy one and the almondy one are particularly lovely.

Shower is another area where Lush have upped the anti. A few store staples seem to missing from Oxford Street, which makes me wonder if they are being retired, but in their place are probably a dozen new gels, jellies and scrubs. Fan favourite scents like Lord of Misrule, Comforter and Yuzu and Cocoa are represented in new ‘Shower Creams’, which are aerated and rich in wheatgerm oil. Other product scents have new homes in new products. Tuca Tuca massage bar and fragrance is now Don’t Rain On My Parade, Wicci Magic Muscles is now 93,000 Miles jelly, Rub Rub Rub shower scrub is now a solid body scrub bar and Cocktail perfume (my FAVOURITE) is now Wash That Man Right Out of Your Hair shower gel. There are also Soap Sheets- solid, sponge like wash cloths that are actually made of soap. I have no idea how they work, but they are pricey.

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A section I want a spend a day in, and alas have spent about ten minutes in is the all new makeup section. Lush already has a makeup line, Emotional Brilliance, but the Oxford Street shop has a massive upgrade. Various new powders, solids, crayons, pomades, mascaras and solid lipsticks have joined the party. When I’m next up, I want to spend a good long time having a full consultation. For now, I have three lipsticks that I am LOVING: Witty (Lilac), Secure (Blue-Black) and Soul (Iridescent Shimmer).

In mouth care, which is like a pick a mix leading up to till, there are lots of changes. The existing toothy tabs (solid natural toothpastes- you should try them!) have been repackaged into more practical recyclable plastic bottles, with some being given an updated look (Chou Chou is much prettier now with pink dots)and some being reformulated into tooth powders. There are also several new tooth care products- Tooth Fairy powder for those with a sweet tooth, and new tabs Bling Bling (a citrussy gold tab), Oral Pleasure (fruity and purple) and Boom Boom (charcoal for a deep clean). There are also new lip balms with fruity flavours like lime and passionfruit, and they look to be vegan. The one downside to this section is the low position of the products (hip-waist height on me, and I’m short!), and I really don’t like the way they’re displayed. They are laid out like the sweets are at other highstreet shops- as temptations while you’re queuing, or things you might have forgotten on your way round. Frankly, they shouldn’t be- it undermines the value of the products. If the display was in the same location, for the same function, but more creatively laid out and at a better height, I’d be more happy. As it is, the products are designed to be picked up as an after thought by the customer, as it seems they were an after thought for the creative team.

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Downstairs in the basement level, you will find the Gorilla Gallery. This installation houses some of the stories and inspirations behind the artistic perfumes in the Gorilla Perfume range. I haven’t been able to go in yet, but I have heard very mixed reviews, though generally positive. This area also houses the Gorilla Perfume collection, including the exclusive and otherwise retired ranges that have previously only been available online or at the Gorilla Perfume shop in Islington. My favourite perfume, Cocktail, is available there, as well as the full released range from the new Volume 3: Death, Decay and Renewal, rather than just the in-store picks. This area has some more facial care products, the full massage bar range on a huge table, and the entrance to the Oxford Street Lush Spa.

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Upstairs on the first floor is my least favourite area (after mouth care) and probably my favourite area too. Right at the front, looking out over Oxford Street herself is the Fun area. This popular, multipurpose product isn’t my cup of tea most of the time, so I haven’t really explored it, but this would be a great place to park with the kids if you go as a couple, while one of you browses. There’s plenty of room for them to play with this, well, fun product.

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That ‘least favourite’ area I mentioned is the gift section. For me, it’s sterile, bland, and looks like Ikea threw up. Pure white and boxy, the area is generic high street, not rustic and warm like the rest of the decor of the shop. One step out of the gift area and you are in the bath zone, which is like a farmer’s market, and much more on style. I love this area. The products are in plentiful supply, with dozens of new innovations. There are at least 5 demo sinks set around an island- perfect to compare products all at once. The bombs look like fruits, and it entices you to pick them up and smell them. There are too many new products here to count, between the new bombs, new bubble bars, new reusuable bubble bars and wands, reformulated old favourites and all new bath oil pick and mix. It’s truly a candy land of bath goodies, and if this is what you love about Lush, you NEED to go and experience it for yourself.

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Overall, Oxford Street is overwhelming. 220+ new products over three floors, a gallery, a spa, live hair treatments in a barbers chair, vast new ranges to explore… it’s an entirely new experience quite unlike a visit to your cosy local shop. This is Lush on not an industrial scale, but certainly a massive leap for a company that started in a tiny unit in Poole (which, incidentally, they still own). This feels like the direction the company should be going in. They aren’t compromising on their morals, their great and award winning customer service, their innovation, their creativity or their emphasis on the natural and the handmade. What they are is a slicker, smoother, sleeker, better creature altogether- a more modern, yet nostalgic version of themselves. And I can’t wait to go back.

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An SWB Announcement- Blog plans and future.

Hello darlings.

It’s been eons since I wrote to you, and frankly that’s not on. My emotional health has been suffering due to a lack of creativity in my life, I’ve felt guilty and stunted due to not providing content, and this negative atmosphere has only exacerbated the situation, causing a backlog in topics, meaning some limited edition products have become unavailable before I’ve had a chance to talk to you about them. And that, frankly, SUCKS.

I think I need to make a change, and take the pressure off myself for the moment. I need to write whatever comes naturally right now, and now worry about keeping the blog balanced between food and beauty. That has been weighing on my mind lately- not because I want to stop food writing, but more because I haven’t had anything to talk about- I’m cooking a lot at the moment, but not desserts (which I’m known for) and nothing innovative. I’m working hard at the moment on my job, on other projects and on my health, so cooking is more for sustenance right now than adventure. That doesn’t mean it isn’t tasty- I make a batch of my chilli nearly every week and it’s wonderful- but it does mean it’s not good blog fodder. Also, with my forays into YouTube starting, I haven’t had anywhere suitable to film a food video at all.

I consider myself a food writer. The way I view the topics I write about is as cook. I’m interested in how ingredients work, smell and feel, and how they combine to make something more than themselves; how they work as a recipe. This hasn’t changed, but the fact is that for right now I haven’t got anything foodie to talk about. I do however have A LOT of beauty and lifestyle stuff sitting on the back burner while I’ve guilted myself over not providing food content.

So, to hell with that, I’m just going to write. If you’re only here for the food, I understand, and I’ll see you again later in the year when I’m feeling foodie again. If you love the beauty stuff, then stick around. There’s a lot more to come really soon.

Love and kisses, and thank you for your patience and continued readership.

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Special Delivery! February Birchbox

Hello kittens!

I haven’t had a moment to sit down and chat Birchbox in a while, but since I’m currently working my way through this month’s samples, now seemed a good time to hop back on that wagon.

For those who don’t know, Birchbox is a beauty subscription box. Each month, Birchbox sends you approximately five beauty samples and one or more ‘lifestyle’ items (for example food or accessories). The sample sizes are generally large or full sized products, and by reviewing those samples on the website, you can accrue generously offered points to spend in the well stocked Birchbox shop. I’ve been having Birchbox delivered, on and off, for two years, and I love it. It always brightens my day when my box shows up, and I’ve fallen for certain brands based on those samples.

This month’s box theme is Birchbox Loves. Let’s get to it.

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First up, the London Butterflies Bath Salt Scrub. Whilst I’ve never heard of this company before, I’m familiar with the concept of scrubs, and own a couple I’m fairly faithful to. The sample size of this product seems very generous, and the packaging is beautiful- clean, pretty and luxurious. No expense has been spared, and the 34g sample is a perfect miniature of the full sized 225g product.

The product is described as being full of ‘Dead Sea Salt and Sweet Almond Oil’. It has a fresh, soapy fragrance- very classic and pleasant. Disappointingly, it’s not almondy in scent, despite this being the top ingredient. You can almost smell the saltiness of it, however. It doesn’t contain any synthetic scrub elements either- no plastic beads or the like. This is a huge bonus for me, as I HATE those synthetic beads with a passion- they’re crap for the environment, and can easily be replaced with salt, sugar or sand for a similar effect.

I’m really excited to try this product, and I’ll be pretty broken up if it’s a let down. It seems to tick all the boxes otherwise. I also think it’s pretty on theme. It’s a product that’s obviously had some love poured into its creation, it’s a pampering goody, and it makes me excited to try it.

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Next we have a product by a brand that Birchbox introduced me to, and I love. theBalm cosmetics produce a wide range of cosmetics, but this one is a highlighter. Cindy-Lou Manizer is marketed as a multipurpose product- highlighter, shimmer and eyeshadow. It’s a very pretty shell pink colour with a touch of shimmer for extra luminosity- similar in tone to products I use for highlighters already. I imagine it would be perfect for a dewy, spring/summer look. The formula is very light too- barely there and pleasant to the touch.

theBalm always has fantastic packaging, even for their samples, and this one is a miniature version of the full sized product. The outside looks like a wanted poster for the glossy, illuminated Miss Cindy-Lou Manizer, aka ‘The Con-tour Artist’, who is ravishing in her retro prison stripes. The packet itself is magnetised card over plastic, and opens to reveal a dainty pan of product. It’s cute, feels well thought out and expensive, and is full of the tongue in cheek humour theBalm love to use.

As with the first product, this product feels very pamper-y, and perfect to brighten up your skin for a youthful, first-date look. And I love, love LOVE theBalm, so for me, that puts it on theme too.

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The third item is an eyeliner pencil by Cynthia Rowley Beauty. My sample is black. A quick swatch on the back of the hand reveals the soft, almost oil pastel-y formula of the product, and a rub with my hand reveals its sticking power. According to Birchbox, it can be blended for a smokey look, but I imagine you would need to layer it up for anything more than a smudge. I’ve actually tried this pencil a few times, and it’s pretty nice. The formula goes on nicely without any drag around the sensitive eyelids. Unfortunately it’s not waterproof, and I have allergies, but otherwise it lasts all day.

The pencil itself is a cute mini pencil in lovely matte black with a glossy highlight, gold font and festive golden baubles on the cap. Cynthia Rowley Beauty isn’t a brand I’m familiar with, but this pencil seems pretty good and I look forward to trying it. And really, who doesn’t love a pure black eyeliner?

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Moving on to haircare, Birchbox have sent me the Liz Earle Beauty Co. Botanical Shine Shampoo. I’ve heard excellent things about Liz Earle, and enjoyed the sample of facial cleanser I was sent in another box.

The sample size is a generous 50g, presented in a tube. Also included is a brochure about the rest of the Liz Earle range and their ingredients. The product has a powerful, tart and fruity fragrance, very sweet and reminiscent of fruity sweets. It claims to be ‘naturally active’ and rich in vitamin e, aloe vera, shea butter, apple and orange extracts. The product contains no animal extracts and is It is also SLS/SLES free, which many people will find appealing. Personally I have no preference regarding SLS (which is a surfactant- what makes most shampoos, soaps and shower gels foam and move over the skin), but this is the first shampoo product I have tried without, so it will be interesting to see how it performs. If it does all it promises, I’ll love it!

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Wild About Beauty is a cosmetic line created by Louise Redknapp and MUA Kim Jacob. A few boxes back Birchbox sent out some of their creme eyeshadow range. This month, they’ve supplied us with a full sized product- their Rose Water Illuminating Serum. I really like WAB’s packaging- deep maroon-purple with black silhouettes of insects, feathers and leaves, with contrasting silver text. It’s not the cleanest I’ve seen, but it is pretty. Inside the box, the tube’s colour palette is inverted. The 30ml tube has a pump cap.

This serum is rich in rose water, which is beautifying and soothing for sensitive skin, along with several other natural extracts. It claims to have anti-oxidant and anti-ageing properties, and is designed to boost the radiance and lustre of the skin. Unlike most serums, which in my experience are best applied alone or before moisturisation, this one is designed to be used alone or after moisturisation, almost like a primer.

The serum itself is prettily perfumed, and has a pink iridescent shine to it. It sinks in quickly upon application and leaves the skin smooth and smelling sweet and musky. I look forward to seeing how effective it is on my face, and under makeup.

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Finally, we have this month’s lifestyle item, which is The Chia Co’s Oats + Chia product. This is an instant porridge- you only need to add hot water to have a quick meal. The sachet I got was mixed berries flavour, and honestly, I’m impressed by the ingredients. There is no rubbish in this porridge mix: whole grain oats, chia seeds, coconut sugar, dried mixed berries, virgin coconut oil, and that’s it. No additives or flavourings or preservatives. This product is dairy free and vegan, and also purports to be Non GMO and Kosher. Chia seeds are a super food- packed full of omega 3, fibre and protein, and this seems like a great way to get them into your diet.

The packaging is cute and blocky, with big bold text and clean lines. Very nice indeed- I look forward to giving this a go!

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All in all I thought the box contents were great. There was a good mix of product types, but still plenty of makeup, which I obviously love. All of the products felt geared towards pampering yourself- a beautiful scrub, a luxurious shampoo, a beautifying serum, a nutritious and delicious porridge, an illuminating highlighter and a fierce black eyeliner. Whether that makes you think of a perfect pre-date pack (this box was released for Valentine’s Day, after all), or just a way to love yourself and beat those winter blues, I think it was pretty on trend, without being gaudy and covered in love hearts and false sentiment. Good job, Birchbox. Now, was this box value for money?

  • London Butterflied Bath Salt Scrub: 225g product costs £35, so this 34g sample is worth £5.29
  • theBalm Cosmetics Cindy-Lou Manizer: £16 for 8.5g product, so this 0.57g sample is worth £0.30
  • Cynthia Rowley Beauty Eyeliner: £11 for 1.19g, so this 0.8g sample is worth £7.79
  • Liz Earle Beauty Co. Botanical Shine Shampoo: £10 for 200ml, so this 50ml sample is worth £2.50
  • Wild About Beauty Rose Water Illuminating Serum: full size, £22

The Chia Co Oats + Chia: 5 pack is £4.95, so this sample is worth £0.99

Total: £38.87

This box was super generous: even after shipping (£2.95 of the £12.95 total cost) this box is worth more than three times what I paid. This of course doesn’t include the points I will earn back for a) having bought the box, and b) reviewing the products on Bichbox’s website. Also, there were no duff products this month- all killer, no filler. I’m really pleased with this box, and I’m going to enjoy pampering myself with all the products.

If this has piqued your interest, and you want to join in the Birchbox fun, click here to start!

Later days!

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Valentine’s Day at Lush- Video!

Hello kittens!

Apologies for the silence following my 2015 planning post. I’ve been very ill with the flu, and it’s taken me a while to recover and get myself going. As promised, I’ve made a video! I’ll still be writing here, but one of my goals for this year was to give YouTube another go.

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This time, I’m looking at all of the great products Lush have given us for Valentine’s Day- two bath bombs, three bubble bars, a soap, a shower gel and two lip products. Look out for DeeDee chiming in part way through!

As per the video, I am living for the Unicorn Horn. I’m a huge unicorn fan in all walks of life, so the name and imagery is right up my street. What wins it for me, however, is the cosmic, magic potion-y herbal fragrance- it’s very relaxing for body and mind.

The Kiss lipgloss is a super addition to my lip care products. I’m not much of a gloss girl, but this one I can get behind- it’s smooth and subtle, not sticky or tacky. It looks really pretty over colour, or on nude lips, and is really kind to your skin.

Prince Charming, Prince Charming, ridicule is nothing to be scared of… not that I would EVER ridicule this guy. I LOVE this fragrance, LOVE the effect the combination of softening, soothing vanilla and enzymic fruit notes have on my skin, and love the sweet-tart fragrance on my skin. Yum!

All of the products in the video are being discontinued on saturday in the UK- Valentine’s Day itself. Therefore, if you love any of these, or want to try them, stock up as soon as you can!

That’s all for today- I’m going to go and rest up so I can bring you more content soon.

Later days!

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Lush Christmas review: Shower products

Hello kittens!

Today, I’ll be looking at the shower goodies Lush have put out for us this Christmas.

Beyond their ever popular shower gels, Lush have an array of innovative shower products to make you feel clean, fresh and adored. For Christmas they’ve released a bunch of these, including two Fun products, which directly help the children still affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Gold Fun

Rich in honey-caramel sweetness and pretty golden lustre, Gold Fun is as beautiful and decadent as it is, well, fun. Like all Fun products, this doughy soap can be used to wash your body, hair, as bubblebath and as a toy. The sweet and skin kind honey notes in this product are popular with kids of all ages, and this makes a great gift for someone who is young at heart.

 

Snowman Fun Kit

Looking for a Secret Santa gift that comes in at £5? The Snowman Fun kit is perfect. Sweet and fruity smelling but compliments moisturising carrot oil in this three coloured Fun set- black, orange and white. This kit can also make penguins! This is an awesome stocking filler for anyone who enjoys a bath (or a shower- fun works well in both). Also, you can make a beautiful inky black bath if you use just the black part of the product.

 

Snowman Shower Jelly

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Shower jellies are just shower gels with their water removed, and seaweed added to set them. They’re vegan, long lasting and tons of fun. This snowman has the same scent as the Snowman Fun Kit (which is the same scent as Carrot Soap, from 2014’s easter range) and the same ingredients- skin softening carrot oil and lovely fruity buchu. With all that seaweed, he’s extra moisturising too, and pretty darn robust. Either use him whole like a wobbly bar of soap, and allow to dry in his pot or on a soap dish, or break a piece off and scrub him inside a shower lily.

 

Rose Jam

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This is my favourite lush fragrance- floral yet heady and involved, grown up and sexy. This shower gel shares its scent with several year round products, but I am thrilled that this shower gel is back. Rich in organ oil, it is very moisturising, and makes a great shampoo as well as a shower gel. The double dose of rose is great for troubled winter skin and the vanilla is likewise very calming and gentle, while lemon brightens.

So White

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Crisp and appley, So White is as light as powder snow, and lovely as its name sake fairytale princess. This product was designed by the staff of the Kyoto Lush store, who were invited over to Lush HQ in Poole to work on a product. It shares its scent with the bath bomb of the same name. This is a great product to use in the morning, or any time you need a breath of fresh air. However, with soothing rose and moisturising rice bran oil, this is still a kind and caring product for the harsh winter months.

 

Hot Toddy

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I LOVE spicy scents and flavours, so I was thrilled to see this scent return (it used to be a bubble bar) as a glittery, festively red shower gel. This shower gel is like a big warm Christmas hug- warm and sweet clove, earthy patchouli, warming cinnamon leaf oil, aromatic and bright citrus notes and softening carrageenan seaweed. If you don’t love this product, I’m judging you. It’s like mulled wine, but for your skin!

 

Snow Fairy

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She’s baaaack…

You can hardly have failed to notice that the lady in pink has returned again this Christmas. Sweet and candy scented  and blissfully pink, she has a huge fanbase, and not just kids and teenage girls either. To me, Snow Fairy smells like pear drops. Other people get bubblegum or candy floss. Whatever she smells like, she’s delicious and adorable, and this year the shower gel is enriched with moisturising seaweed and pretty lustre.

 

The next and final part of the review will be all the other products Lush have brought out for Christmas this year- cleansers, lip and body care products.

See you soon!

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Lush Christmas review: Bath Melts and Soaps

Hello kittens!

Today I’m going to focus on the festive bath melts and soaps Lush have graced us with. Hope you enjoy!

Bath Melts

Bath Melts are single use products designed for those looking for a really pampering treat. Unlike fizzy bombs or crumbled up bubble bars, melts melt away over a longer period of time. They were generally made with cocoa and /or shea butter, which will deeply soften and moisturise the skin. They are truly indulgent and ultimately skin kind. For the best results, either add to the bath while the water is running, or run your bath too hot, plonk in your melt, and watch it slowly infuse its moisturising ingredients and beautiful fragrance into the water.

Snow Angel

Do you like marzipan, glitter and feeling like a butter-skinned goddess? Then you will love Snow Angel. This massive melt is indulgently moisturising and delightfully festive.

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Rich in cocoa butter, Snow Angel is obviously very skin kind and moisturising, but cocoa butter is also reputed to be excellent for scarring. Other ingredients include rose absolute, which obviously smells lovely, but is also good and reducing redness and soreness.

It’s good to note that the lustre and glitter in this heavenly melt are all non-plastic.  Lush recently redesigned all their glitters and lustres to remove plastics and therefore minimise the ecological impact of said sparkles. The glitters are now made with seaweed, and will begin to break down in your bath. The lustres are mica based.

Being so big, you could very easily break this melt in two, but it is designed for just one bath.

 

Melting Snowman

In Lush Christmases past, this adorable little puddle of a guy was one of the few Lush items that had a festive, spicy fragrance. This year, he’s in good company, but I’m still glad he’s back.

IMG_6415The Melting Snowman’s  spicy notes come from warming cinnamon leaf oil, so he’s great to help unwind sore muscles after a long day. Like all melts, he turns the bath water into a softening milk. Of the three Christmas melts, I would say he’s probably the least indulgent, but I still adore him. Also, he’s the only non-glittery melt, which for many will be a plus.

 

Star Light, Star Bright

Do you prefer silver to gold? Then Star Light, Star Bright is the melt for you. If Snow Angel is a comforting and sweet, Melting Snowman is warming, then Star Light, Star Bright is restorative. Zippy ginger and bright lime will help energise, while lavender and extra moisturising oils and butters including shea and coconut with balance, calm and spoil your skin.

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When this super glittery melt hits the water, the lustre and glitter comes off pretty quickly, leaving a bright white star in a twinkling sky. Inside there is more lustre, just in case you hadn’t got enough from the first hit. This melt is probably the most moisturising of the three, with Snow Angel a close second.

 

Soap

Cut to size for you in store, the beautiful wheels of handmade Lush soaps are much gentler to the skin than many high street equivalents. They are filled with natural oils and conditioners for great fragrance and skin feel, plus they are put together in the most imaginative and creative ways. All the of the Lush Christmas soaps are vegan, and feature their new soap base, which has no petrochemicals, and are, as far as possible, palm oil free.

Baked Alaska

Sherberty and beautiful, this soap comes into stores are a sphere, and is expertly cut down unto bars. Bright and citrusy grapefruit oil and lemon myrtle make this soap a real breath of fresh air. It’s still nice and skin kind though, with rapeseed and coconut oils to soften your skin.

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Inside its white meringue-like outer layer, the soap herself is blue, filled with orbs of bright colours. It reminds me of the northern lights, or the way fairy lights look through a rainy window. Whatever it looks like, it’s a lovely and uplifting soap with intense cleaning properties.

 

Reindeer Rock

Do you like The Comforter bubblebar? Do you like reindeer? Do you like sparkle? Then you’ll love this soap.

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The look of this soap is inspired by cave paintings of reindeer in their native Norway, where the lingonberries used in this soap are grown. It has a beautifully sweet, but not cloying fruity fragrance. That fruity scent comes from those afore mentioned lingonberries and also cassis, which is balanced by cypress and bergamot. Like Baked Alaska, Reindeer Rock also contains rapeseed and coconut oil to soften the skin.

 

Snow Cake

A returning favourite, this pretty white soap, gestured with a bright layer of gold lustre, smells of sweet marzipan. This is a nice gentle soap, with rose to soothe redness and soreness, plus rapeseed and coconut oil for moisture.

IMG_6479This is the only one of the Christmas soaps that isn’t guaranteed palm oil free. It features the same palm oil free base, but one of the ingredients cannot be guaranteed to be Palm Oil free at this time, despite Lush’s best efforts at their end of the production process. To be honest, Lush is so many leaps and bounds ahead of every else in this regard, and they’ve given their all to avoiding this unethical ingredient, so I think its best to give them the benefit of the doubt.

 

Yog Nog

Someone I know thinks this soap smells like a dirty toilet.

This person is wrong, because this soap smells like a delicious confection, and you will be hard pressed not to take a bite out of it when you smell it.

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The soap itself smells so caramelly because of the tonka in it. A relative of vanilla, this bean has a more burnt sugary note that its lighter cousin. Paired with creamy soy yoghurt, spicy clove bud oil and the dusting powder of nutmeg and cocoa, to me this soap smells like Pierniczki, or other Christmas gingerbread. That soy yoghurt, plus rapeseed and coconut oil, make this a beautifully softening soap.

 

Next time I’ll be looking at the Christmas shower products, including shower gels and Fun.

Later days!

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Lush Christmas: Bubblebars and Wands

Hello kittens!

Here’s the second segment of my Lush Christmas review. Today, we’re looking at the ultimate bubblebath experience- bubblebars.

Bubblebars

Bubblebars, like the bomb formula, were developed by the Lush founders to provide a gentle alternative to commercial bubble bath products. They’re also solid and ‘naked’, like many Lush products, which reduces packaging. They soften the water, produce lovely bubbles and just like ballistics, are vehicles for colour, skin kind ingredients and fragrance. However, unlike bombs, bubble bars can be broken up for multiple uses. Most bars can provide two baths worth of bubbles- some of the larger ones can do six or more.

Holly Golightly

Oh god I love this beautiful creation. Like a Christmas pudding plated in perfect Tiffany silver, this large bubblebar is the perfect gift for anyone who a) likes festive spice and b) enjoys an Audrey Hepburn reference.

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Holly Golightly’s holly topped and silver lustred outer coating yields to a vivid, holly-jolly green. She shares her fragrance with the shower gel Hot Toddy- warming cinnamon leaf oil, festive cloves and aromatic patchouli give a mulled feeling, only richened by the sweet orange and lime oils. It’s a really festive and restoring bath- perfect for a pick me up or a refreshing cool down after a hard day.

Being so large, you can get 4-6 baths out of this bubblebar. I like deep baths, and I like to spoil myself, so I use about half.

 

The Christmas Hedgehog

This cutesy little fella has a clarifying, cool fragrance, shared by last year’s Christmas soap, Noriko. He’s one of the most moisturising bubblebars out this year, thanks to his blue spines being made from a cocoa and shea butter rich bath melt formula.

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Floral ylang ylang complements balancing lavender in this bubblebar, with rose absolute to help with redness and soreness brought on by the cold weather.He’s also covered in pretty glitter and star confetti, for added festivity. In terms of size, he’s quite small, so he’s really only good for 1-2 adult sized baths.

 

Drummers Drumming

This bubblewand makes me smile every time I see it. Now, a bubble wand is like a concentrated bubblebar that you don’t crumble. Instead, you swish it like a magic wand in the water to release the bubble mixture, or run the tap over it into the bath, then allow it to dry off. In this way, bubble bars can be used again and again for 6-10 or even more baths.

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Drummers Drumming has a sweet strawberry scent, the same as the massage bar Strawberry Feels. It contains frankincense (aka Olibanum), if you weren’t feeling festive enough already, plus lovely bright bergamot and sweet, toning geranium. All I know is that is smells delicious, lasts ages, and looks like a retro drumming toy. You can actually use it for this purpose, as the jingle bells (also reusable- my cats are going to hate me) will give great percussive noise as the wand is spun.

 

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve has been a festive favourite for several years at Lush. Its beautiful, dreamy fragrance of sexy jasmine and floral ylang ylang have been recaptured in the bath bomb Northern Lights this year, but I know no bath of mine is complete without some bubbles.

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Last year this fair sized bar (about 2-3 baths worth) was purple, but this year she’s a deeper blue, which I think gives a nicer colour in the bath.

 

The Christmas Penguin

If you like Monty, you’ll love this returning little guy. The Christmas Penguin is almost too cute to crumble. Almost.

He’s quite a large bubblebar, so you can easily get 2-3 baths from him. His fragrance is all citrus- aromatic bergamot, sweet orange blossom, bright and brassy lemon and bold mandarin give him a real zing to perk you up.

I love this little guy- he’s a great present for any penguin lover, and he also boasts a super unisex fragrance, so he’s a good option for any pink-shy men in your life. I know my brother received a few of these last year (for the former reason- he loves penguins).

 

Candy Mountain

Creamy Candy is one of the most popular year round bubblebars. Candy Mountain, its shimmery, swirly festive sibling is like a bigger, better version of it. Bigger, because its tall cone shape makes it suitable for 2-3 baths, and better because it’s shiny. Pink and white swirls give this bomb a real touch of Hooville charm. And now I need to rewatch the Grinch. Oh no.

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Like Creamy Candy, this bubblebar has a sweet candy fragrance and is packed with delicious and moreish vanilla. This also means it’s great for sensitive skin. This is a really pretty bubblebar in the water, and just as she comes.

 

Magic Wand

Snow Fairy fans! Bubble fans! Fear not! The Magic Wand has returned to fill your bath with pretty pink bubbles and oodles of pear drop-esque candy sweetness. Just like Drummers Drumming, this wand will last you for ages.

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Finished with a lovely little bell, I feel like a true mahou shoujou (magical girl- it’s an anime thing) with this one. Someone get me my moon tiara and shuffle my Clow cards.

 

I really love the selection of bubbles this Christmas, but with out a doubt my favourite is Holly Golightly. I love her intensely spicy smell, pretty glitter, festive form and bright green colour. Second place goes to Drummers Drumming, as it makes me smile, smells fantastic, and the beautiful two tone effect it creates in the water is super pretty.

Tune in next time for bath melts and soaps!

Later days!

sigdraft

 

Lime Crime Velvetines review

Hello Kittens!

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen me rocking several shades of delicious Lime Crime lip colours. I wanted to talk to you a little about them and my experiences with them.

Lime Crime launched in 2008, and is a cruelty free cosmetics company. Many, if not most, of their products are also vegan. They are headed up by kooky brand owner Doe Deere, who is a self-proclaimed ‘Unicorn Queen’, day-dreamer and colour fanatic. The brand hosts a range of vibrant nail, eye and lip colours so your makeup can be as expressive as you are. Based in Los Angeles, their products are available in the UK via select online boutiques, and shipping from the US is also available.

Velvetines are one of the Lime Crime’s most iconic and famous products. They are a lip colour product with famed staying power, high pigment and high ethics. The formula applies wet and sets matte, leaving your with velvety, rose petal lips. The Velvetine product launched with two colour options only: Red Velvet (a deep, rose petal red) and Suedeberry (a brighter, paler, almost corally red-pink). Since then the line has swelled with the addition of Pink Velvet (a deep pink), The Clueless Witch Collection (Black Velvet (black), Salem (brown) and Wicked (oxblood)) and most recently Utopia (a bold orchid). A new shade, Pansy (violet) has been announced in the past couple of weeks, with another greige shade, Cashmere revealed last week. No release date has, as of yet, been confirmed.

Though I came across the brand some time ago, and lusted after their products, I finally picked up some Velvetines for my brother’s wedding. I needed a red lip colour that would last all day, despite champagne toasts and wedding breakfasts. I decided to try the classic red shades Red Velvet and Suedeberry. I have since added Utopia to my collection because I am LIVING for purple this autumn.

Suedeberry

Described as a 1950’s Hollywood light red, I thought this was going to be the colour I wore for my brother’s big day. I was wrong. The Lime Crime website has since changed their description of Suedeberry to Coral Red, which is much more accurate. This bright, light colour is almost more on the pink and coral spectrum than red. That being said, it’s really very pretty.

However, in terms of staying power I don’t think it lasts as long as I expected from a Velvetine. It lasts about as long as a lip stain- so, if you eat or drink, you will lose part or all of the colour. The weird thing about Velvetines is that when they dry, they are touch proof, but as soon as they get wet they sometimes flake away. Suedeberry seems to do that quite a lot. The colour pay off also is not as strong as I expected. It’s about 90% opaque, so if my lips are naturally looking particularly pink, their colour will show through, particularly if I paint my lips a little bigger. I wonder if I got part of a dud batch.

This is still a great product that I love and use regularly. It just wasn’t quite the colour I was expecting, nor was in this life changing product, either.

 

Red Velvet

Red Velvet was a colour I had always wanted to try. I worried if it would suit me or not, and I was fairly sure it wasn’t the colour I needed for my wedding outfit. However, it turned out to be perfect. Yes, it was deeper in colour that my dress and hat, but I loved it.

The formula is completely opaque. Like Suedeberry, it sets touch proof, and like Suedeberry it can lifted by liquid, but it seems to have a much better formula than Suedeberry. I touched up my lips twice at the wedding- once after the breakfast, when a tiny bit of the colour in the inside of my lips had flaked away, and once later in the night, when I’d had several glasses more wine, and the same thing had happened. The lip colour lasted 16+ hours with two minor touch ups, whilst I ate, drank and made merry. This stuff is the real deal, and does exactly what the product promises. I was very impressed.

The shade of Red Velvet is incredibly bold, and I get a lot of compliments on it. However, it’s also so bold that I sometimes feel self conscious wearing it. Also, if it smudges for any reason, and you haven’t got make up remover with you, you are in trouble.

 

Utopia

Utopia is a stunning bright orchid- the colour of the year this year, and one of my favourite lip shades. Some sites are describing this shade as magenta, and whilst is can come out quite pinky compared with some orchid products, it’s definitely purple, not pink.

Morning 💋💕 #boldlip #limecrime #bombshell #benebabe #professionalpaleperson

A post shared by Natasha (@shewhobakes) on

I’m kind of in love with this colour. It’s got a great colour pay off, and great longevity. The formula is very similar to Red Velvet, rather than the slightly weaker formula of Suedeberry. I wore it recently to a friend’s hen do, and also to work, and in both cases it lasted really well all day, with maybe one or two small touch ups. Because I have a cooler skin tone, if this shade flakes a little on me after drinking, it’s not as obvious as with Red Velvet or Suedeberry.

 

All in all, I’m a total convert to Velvetines. They are the lip product I need, and have pretty much spoiled me for all others. Nothing compares to their matte perfection, wild colour payoff, daring shades and amazing longevity. I’m already planning to pick up Black Velvet soon, and I’ll be all over Pansy when it comes out.

The pictures in this post are from my Instagram. If you want to keep up to the minute with all things SWB, why not follow me there?

Later days, sweethearts!

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Lush Christmas: Bombs and Ballistics

So… this post is somewhat belated, considering the Lush Christmas range launched in October, but hey, I try not to feel festive until after Halloween. Let’s do this.

Lush LOVE to go bonkers with new product releases for all holidays, but none so much as Christmas. Ignoring the Halloween products which are staying for the festive season, Lush has 30+ Christmas products this year, excluding gift sets (which are plentiful and GORGEOUS). For ease, I’ve separated them off into their categories: Bath Bombs, Bubblebars, Bath Melts, Soap, Shower and Miscellaneous, which covers a mixture of lip, skin and face care. Today, I’m looking at at the ever popular bombs. Obviously, this post is very picture heavy.

Bath Bombs

Also known as ballistics, these bath fizzers are designed to soften water for sensitive skin, whilst infusing the water with colour, skin kind oils and beautiful natural fragrance. These products are pretty much a gateway drug to the world of Lush- many people never get beyond this part of the shop, and many don’t know that Lush do a whole lot more than just make lovely bath goodies. That isn’t to say they aren’t excellent at making lovely bath goodies, as they surely are.

Dashing Santa

As bright and sunny in fragrance as his boots are gold, this bath ballistic (or bomb, if you like, though he’s hardly bomb shaped), Dashing Santa is a classically festive shaped bomb with bright festive colours. His shape is based on the Cosmetics to Go delivery man logo (this is the company that preceded Lush), but dressed in up a traditional santa outfit. His fragrance is all things orange- gutsy mandarin, sweet orange flower and aromatic Bergamot.These beautiful oils and extracts make for an uplifting, citrussy bath- perfect for the party season.

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Cinders

Cinders has been a Lush Christmas favourite for years, so it’s no surprise she’s back. Sweet and spicy, she simulated the fizzing and crackling of a warm hearth, filled as she is with popping candy and cuddly warming ingredients and scents. Sea salt softens the bath water and provides extra skin nourishing trace minerals, while almond and sweet orange oils sweeten and cinnamon leaf oil warms. This bomb is good enough to eat and leaves you smelling and feeling like a festive confection.

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So White

So White is inspired by Snow White, with her bubble-mix rich white ‘skin’, and her red-as-roses core. Crisp apple fragrances are quite apart from a lot of the usual Christmas fare. Light and beautiful flower notes complement this fragrance- namely rose, orange flower, bergamot and neroli. She’s quite a grown up and pretty bomb, and goes well with the So White shower gel if you need more bubbles.

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Luxury Lush Pud

Another returning Christmas favourite, this technicolour Christmas pud has the same sweet and lovely fragrance and the year round bomb, Twilight. Lavender is sweetned and softened by caramelly Tonka and perfuming Ylang Ylang for sophisticated candy sweetness. I adore Twilight, so I love this bomb.

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Shoot For The Stars

If you like honey, caramel and glitter, you’ll love this bomb. This bomb leaves streamers of bold colour and silver glitter on a deep blue backdrop as it fizzes round your bath, and has the same delectable fragrance as the ever popular Honey I Washed the Kids soap and year-round shower gel It’s Raining Men. For those who don’t know, it smells like honeyed creme brûlée. It has a citrussy addition of sweet orange and bergamot to balance out the fragrance.

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Golden Wonder

This returning creation is probably the most grown up and indulgent fragrance in the bomb range this year. Sharing its chocolate, citrus and boozy notes with two other products in the Christmas range, Golden Wonder is a treat for the senses. This large ballistic is covered in gold lustre, and has a secret filling. It’s and indulgent, grown up and beautiful bath that anyone would be overjoyed to take. Lime and sweet orange provide zingy citrus, while cognac oil adds sophistication. An alcohol-free version of this product is available online.

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Father Christmas

This ballistic returns each year with a new twist and different classic fragrance. This year he has the beloved Snow Fairy fragrance, so he’s a great addition for any S.F. fan. For those who don’t know, Snow Fairy smells like sweets, particularly (to me, anyway) Pear Drops. It’s sweet, intoxicating and addictive, and has been a seasonal favourite for years. Big and super festive, he’s a classic stocking filler. He also has a touch of bubble mix in his formula, so he’s extra softening and lovely.

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Butterbear

Oh my gosh, is this guy cute. He’s also super reasonable. Butterbear has the same sweet and heady vanilla-tonka fragrance as the year round classic Butterball, but instead of being round, he’s a cute, tubby little bear with a cocoa powder nose. He’s adorable. He’s a nice size and price for a stocking present or kid’s bath bomb, and with added chunks of cocoa butter he’s lovely and moisturising too. Perfect for the cold and skin-cruel winter months.

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If I had to pick a favourite from this selection, it would have to Golden Wonder. Cinders is a close second, as I love anything spicy, but as a little bomb, it is kind of the pauper to the prince that is Golden Wonder. Plus, Golden Wonder has the more exciting light show in the bath.

I’ll be back soon with the next segment of my review.

Later days!

sigdraft

Special Delivery! Birchbox September 2014

Hello kittens!

Time to catch up on Birchboxes of the recent past! The September box followed the theme of Happy Days, with a bright turquoise box to shake things up this time. The box is designed to be turned into a, for lack of a better phrase, Happy Box. I’ve encountered similar ideas in therapy before- putting together self-soothing kit consisting of a box of items to lift the mood via the five senses. It’s why I tend to have something crafty (touch), some perfume (smell), some chocolate (taste), a book (sight) and ready made playlists on my iPad (hearing) by my bed. I think using this box to do that for yourself, whether you have clinically diagnosed anxiety or not, is and excellent thing to do. And it’s also a great excuse to have chocolate by your bed.

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The box this month felt really jam packed with stuff- the reusable drawstring bag inside was completely packed with goodies. I’m going to start with the extras first.

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This photo clip screams nineties/early noughties tat to me. Blergh. However, the idea of having a photo of something you care about nearby to boost your mood fits into the theme well. It’s not always possible to have a pin board or even room for a photo frame by your desk at work, but you probably have room for this. I think this is nice item for Birchboxers who are parents to give to their children instead, as the photo clip  would be a fun way for them to display their pictures in their rooms.

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This is probably going to find its way into a recipe, and then into my mouth, rather than the other way around. I do like dried fruit, I’m just a sissy about committing and eating it, or pretty much anything that strays beyond my bubble of food safety sometimes. It’s a full sized snack pack though- if you like dried fruit, this would be a good item for your happy box!

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Yaaaaaaaaaas! I’ve been wanting to try a beauty blender for an age, yet haven’t got round to picking one up. Theoretically it should fit in with my beauty regime well, and maybe tempt me back into the world of liquid foundation. I know that basically its just an egg shaped sponge, but let a girl dream, won’tcha? I think most people would be very happy to see this much hyped item, complete with solid cleanser, in their box, so I guess that fits into the theme. I also love the no-holds-barred pinkness of this product. Eee!

This *seems* to be a full sized product. The cleanser is just a puck of the solid cleansing product, rather than it being in its own pot, but otherwise it seems to be identical to the full product

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Birchbox asked their subbies in late August which product they wanted in their boxes. They had a couple of different options, and I chose Modelco Lip Laquer in ‘Viva’, a pretty corally pink. I really like this idea, and I hope that Birchbox do it again. It’s great that subscription boxes are generally a surprise, but it was nice to feel like the curator of your box for a while, and helps avoid inappropriate shades being sent to people.

As it was, my box came a little, er, half-baked. The Lip Laquer had been omitted, as had all the usual paperwork inside the box, and I had a mascara instead. A quick phone call to Birchbox (I must emphasise how friendly their staff are, how quick they are to fix problems, and how swiftly they answer the phone!) and this was rectified. I can’t complain, as I got an extra product out of their goof, so happy days!

I am not great when it comes to lipgloss. I have a dainty little mouth, and I feel gloss often makes it look smaller, rather than juicier. Also, I wore it a lot in my teens, and it feels a bit young for me now (she says, aged a whopping 27). Still, this gloss is a very pretty colour with good colour payoff. It’s very sticky, which can be a problem if you want to build it, but it’s nice enough, and it lasts pretty well, by gloss standards. It also now reminds me of my holiday, which makes me happy. I’d definitely use it again.

As for the mascara, I have SO many mascaras, it’s kind of insane. Particularly as I only really use one or two regularly. I really need to ‘shop my stash’… maybe I will do that in another post. I will try this one… but it goes to the end of the queue.

Another thing- Birchbox are throwing around a lot of Modelco products of late. Not a criticism, merely an observation.

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Agave Healing Oil is a hair treatment oil. These are all the rage at the moment, but I have been using hair oils for a few years now. They are excellent products to use between washes, or at the end of styling for shine and to repair damage and nourish the hair. Agave looks to have come excellent ingredients. Baobab seed oil is a super food for the hair, like Argan on steroids. It also contains Agave sugars and leaf extract, hence the name I imagine. Agave nectar is considered a superfood for the body- I’m worried this might be sticky on the hair, but likely not. There’s a bunch of other ingredients, but notably coconut to moisturise and vanilla, which is very gentle and conditioning for skin and hair. You’ll probably also smell great when using this product. I’ll definitely give it a go, and after all, a great hair day is a happy day!

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Serums are one of those products that a lot of people don’t know what to do with, and ask me about. Is it a moisturiser? Do I only use it at night? In what order do I use it and my other products?

For those who don’t know, serum is an intensive, concentrated treatment for the skin. It should be used at least once daily, usually at night, before moisturising. It *is* a moisturising product, but it tends to be a much richer, often oilier formula, designed to give a powerful dose of nutrients to the skin, as well as drenching it in good oils.

This serum is designed for day use instead. You would use this, again, before your moisturiser, after toning the skin. With vitamin C to help treat discolouration (sun spots, age spots etc) and repair cells and collagen to plump out fine lines, this serum is designed to help with signs of ageing from sun exposure, and generally give your face some love so you can get back to enjoying your day. I’ll definitely give this one a go.

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One thing that causes me stress about my face, more than anything else, is my dark circles. I’m never going to get rid of them completely, but I can at least try and show my eyes some love. This is what this Benefit product is all about. It’s Potent is a brightening eye cream designed  to combat dark circles. It’s nice and light and milky- you don’t want to out any heavy creams near your eyes, as the fats will build up in the thin skin there and make your eyes appear more puffy. I actually already own this product, though I’ve misplaced it currently, so I’m very glad of a travel sized spare. It contains a variety of skin firming ingredients, and loquat extract, which fights free-radicals to prevent and heal signs of ageing.

All in all, this box made me very happy. The products are all very nourishing, feel good products, with a few frivolities thrown in too. But how does the value of the box stack up?

  • Birchbox Photoclip: £0.99? It’s very hard to put a price on it.
  • Urband Fruit Magnificent Mango Snack: £1
  • beautyblender and solid blendercleanser :£26
  • Modelco Lip Laquer in ‘Viva’: Full size £15, but volume on both full size and sample is undisclosed. I estimate it’s about 1/3 the size, so £5
  • Agave Healing Oil: £16 for 60ml, so 4ml sample is worth £1.06
  • Skin & Co Sicilian Light Serum: £29 for 30ml, so 5ml sample is worth £4.83
  • Benefit It’s Potent! Eye Cream: £25.50 for 14.2g, so 3g sample is worth £5.39

Total: £44.27

That total is insane, but I may have been a little generous on the beauty blender. However, that is how much the equivalent product cost. It bears mentioning my erroneous extra, too.

Modelco Power Lash Black Mascara: £24 for 10g, so 5g sample is worth £12

Grand Total: £56.27

This is the most value I’ve ever gotten out of a Birchbox, even if I may have been generous on the beautyblender. I knew this box felt jam packed. Birchboxes usually come in around £25-£30 value mark, so double your money (including p&p), but this one is more than twice that. So thank you, Birchbox. You’ve made my day very happy indeed!

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