Best of the Decade: Beauty and Skincare

…and all the products I’m taking into the next
Best of the Decade: Beauty and Skincare - The Cardiff Cwtch

Tell you what, I couldn’t quite get my head around how long a decade is or what that the passage of that chunk of time actually feels like until I sat down to write this post. Just looking at the contents of my makeup bag now compared to what they looked like ten years ago really drummed home just how much time has passed, and how much my habits have changed during it. How much I’ve changed! Or haven’t, in some case. You know me, I rarely dish out blog posts about beauty and skincare for the very simple reason that I don’t really shake up my stash all that often; I’d make for a very boring beauty blogger because I stick with the same tried and true products year in, year out – which may be the case now, but it definitely wasn’t ten years ago.

At the start of the decade I was 24 and had just moved to London with my then boyfriend, now husband. I was still clinging desperately on to my long (very split-ended) hair, had finally surfaced out of those horrendous teen acne years, and – seeing as I was finally in a steady job – found that I had a little bit more money to finally dip my toes into high end beauty rather than just cheap out down the Number 17 aisle (sorry Boots!). The problem was, I had absolutely no clue what was right for my skin or my hair – and as for makeup? Well, let’s just say that my forays into that were experimental at best. When I think about how much I spent on poorly-thought out beauty purchases during those ten years, I honestly want to weep. I crammed the tiny bathroom cupboard in my tiny London flat full of products that I very rarely repurchased or even finished. Yeesh.

So, heading into the next decade the biggest lesson I’m taking with me is that I really don’t need a lot of products. I have my favourites that work, and I’ll stick with them until they don’t work. Some of those favourites are high end, and some are drug store and that’s absolutely fine with me – the truth is that there are some products I feel that I need to or am willing to spend a little bit more on, and then there are some that I can totally cheap out on and then enjoy more takeaways as a result. 🙂

…Oh, and I need to drink more water. Lots of water.

Best Makeup Products of the decade - The Cardiff Cwtch

Makeup

The biggest change when it comes to slap over the past ten years is that I’ve gone from a massive tub of makeup, to one tiny makeup bag. It’s brilliant! Streamlining my kit means no more rummaging first thing in the morning, and less waste. It does also mean that I’m incredibly selective now about which products make it into that kit – and I’m willing to spend a little bit more on the ones I can’t live without like foundation, eyeliner, lipstick and eye shadow. I don’t tend to do a lot with my face these days – I go with pretty much the same look every day (dewy base and contour, eye shadow, winged liner, mascara, eyebrows, done!) and so I’ve managed to really streamline my makeup bag – especially over the past couple of years.

IT Cosmetics CC Cream

I could never seem to make up my mind when it came to foundations. In 2010 I’d just stepped into my twenties and out of my late teen acne phase and was very nervous about picking the right foundation for my skin. I tried so many – Benefit’s You Rebel (sadly, no longer with us – RIP) was my go-to for a while (I LOVED the scent of it, but its coverage was weak sauce), as was Bobbi Brown’s BB Cream – until Bourjois introduced their Healthy Mix Foundation. It was cheap, it smelled great and worked like magic on my sensitive, slightly red skin. I still love it, and still tend to use it on days where I don’t feel like I need a full face of makeup. But there’s a tragic end to this tale because in case you haven’t heard, Bourjois are actually pulling out of the UK market which seems absolutely crazy; it’s been my and many others’ favourite drugstore brand for a long, long time (I remember saving up to buy one their mascaras when I was 13!). Luckily for me, earlier this year I finally got my hands on the IT Cosmetics CC Cream and it’s a winner; the fair shade is a brilliant colour match to my skin, it evens out any redness, and the included Factor 50 SPF is definitely not to be sniffed at. Good shiz.

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Eyeliner

If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed about my face in the past ten years (other than the hairline wrinkles) it’s my winged liner – but it’s absolutely mad to think that I started the decade in a totally monogamous relationship with Bourjois’ Ultra Black Clubbing Liner. I’m amazed, they actually still make it! It was cheap, it survived a day of work with only minor fading (and plenty a night out) and even though you needed a very steady hand to apply it using that ultra fine, tiny brush, as far as I was concerned, there was no other liner in my life.

Then one day the romance just dried up, for no other reason than I had little bit more money in my pocket and fancied a change. I think it may have ultimately been something to do with the brush; I realised that it was taking too long to layer up in the morning before work, which meant that it could take a bit longer to dry (if I had a quid for all the mornings that poorly-timed sneeze ruined the whole job…). So I decided to give felt liners a go and – after hearing good things about Stila’s Stay All Day Liner– I haven’t used anything else since. It’s the one (for now, at least) – the formula’s great; it’s ultra black, sticks all day (it can even hold up through a Marley and Me tear test finale) and dries quickly. The fine felt tip not only minimizes the amount of product being used (every pen I’ve had seems to last forever), but it also holds its shape for months (no limp tips here 😉 ) – which is so important when it comes to getting a good, clean flick.

Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base

No surprises here; I started off the decade utterly clueless when it came to primers. I was also very skeptical of layering up products under my makeup having spent most of the previous decade suffering from severe acne. But, I did dabble and try a few when my skin stopped being a nightmare. I was a big fan of Benefit’s Dr Feelgood for a while (and it’s still bashing around, blimey!) – but I really didn’t enjoy the pad applicator. Then – tipped off by a friend with beautiful skin – I moved on to Clarins’ Beauty Flash Balm for a few years… until I decided – sadly – that it was far too small a tube, for far too much hard-earned cash.

I quit primers for a while after that, and then earlier this year I went to a Beauty Masterclass with Bobbi Brown and tried their Vitamin Enriched Face Base. Oh boy, this stuff’s good. A very pricey pot of perfection, but perfection none the less – and a small pea sized blob goes a very long way. It’s got a light, grapefruit scent and a moose-like texture that smooths onto the skin like a dream. Packed with Vitamin C and Shea Butter, it’s moisturizing but soaks in quickly and creates the perfect, smooth and healthy base. I absolutely love it, and my skin seems to love it too – it always seems to be better behaved when I treat it to a splodge of the stuff.

Best skincare products of the decade - The Cardiff Cwtch

Skincare

My current skincare list is a total mash-up of the best of both high-end and drug-store beauty – a mash-up of my former and current self. As I’ve already mentioned I suffered terribly with acne during my teens (so much so that I was put on the pill to sort it), and even though I started off the last decade with clear skin, I was definitely still stuck in a “I’m scared to put too much on my face and clog my pores!” mindset. Now firmly into my thirties, I think I’ve got a pretty good arsenal of products that my skin seems to love – some old favourites, some new discoveries – and the next challenge going forward for the new decade for me is to get my head around anti-aging products and successfully slip a few hard-hitters into my routine (I wrote a whole post about My Anti-Aging Starter Kit if you’re interested).

Kiehls Midnight Recovery Concentrate

Oh, my beloved. I can’t imagine the day that this miracle bottle doesn’t hold pride of place on my nightstand. I don’t feel the need to use it every night, but on bad skin days and late nights it’s my go to for a little bit of midnight magic – and I wake up with practically a new face!

Nivea Daily Rich Moisturising Cream

I’ve tried plenty of expensive moisturizers – I was a huge fan of the Kiehls Ultra Facial Cream for a while, as well as the Clarins Hydra Essential (until it caused a cataclysmic breakout) but, d’you what? None of them do the job that my cheap as chips Nivea Daily Essentials Rich Moisturising Cream does. I can slap the stuff on like butter without worrying about breaking the bank and my thrifty skin drinks it up like a Friday night G&T.

Elemis Gentle Rose Exfoliator

What a shift on this one. I started the decade using the Simple Exfoliating Scrub, then moved on to the Kiehls Epidermal Re-Texturising Micro-Dermabrasion Cream – but recently moved away from it because I was worried it was a little too harsh on my skin for weekly use during winter. These days I’m reaching for the Elemis Gentle Rose Exfoliator – it’s kinder to my skin, still does the job I need it to do (even in winter) and it smells divine. I’ve only dipped my toes into Elemis’ products over the past year or so, but so far everything I’ve tried, I’ve absolutely loved (particularly their Peptide4 Thousand Flower Mask).

The Body Shop’s Chamomile Balm

I’ve come along way in terms of makeup removal solutions – especially considering I started the decade using just soap and water. Oh the shame! My poor skin! And my poor towels! Nowadays I don’t have quite as much to scrub away, but taking off my makeup has gone from a chore to – let’s face it – one of my favourite bits of the day… along with removing my bra. The turning point came a few years ago when I tried the Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm. I loved how it just seemed to melt the makeup off my skin without any major scrubbing or faffing around with makeup pads. Along with the hot muslin cloths I had with the Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish Pack that really open up my pores, I felt like I found a routine I could really get on board with. However, these days I much prefer the Body Shop Chamomile Balm – it’s much cheaper and does exactly the same job as the Clinique one.

Origins Clear Improvement Charcoal Mask

Another one for my breakout kit. I went through an Origins phase about five years ago, and this is the only product that’s stuck around. It’s the only face mask I use to really get in and clean out my pores. Dries up existing spots and prevents future ones. Banging.

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Multi Purpose Oil

Back in the day I was all about the Body Shop Body Butter range, but now I’ve moved on to oils. I’m down to the last couple of drops of my Nuxe Body Oil and I will absolutely be picking up another. I know the scent isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I love the ease of this stuff – you just spritz, swipe and go, and it leave the skin with a fine gloss. You can also pour a little into your both water, spritz it onto your hair brush… it’s a swiss army oil. (?!) Decadent stuff.

Chloe Eau d’Roses

I’m not a big perfume wearer – as you’ll see, because I started the decade out wearing a combination of JLo’s Glow (…ah, the smell of that stuff takes me back to some places, man!) and SJP’s Lovely. Oh wow. But then, I caught a whiff of Chloe Eau de Roses and never went back. It’s shriekingly expensive stuff, but if I had to pick just one scent to wear for the rest of my life, this would be it.

Best haircare products of the decade - The Cardiff Cwtch

Hair

Just as with skincare, I’ve learned that when it comes to my hair – it’s best to keep things as simple as possible and not to keep trying new (and expensive) products in the hope of some miracle cure. At the start of the last decade my hair was in terrible shape. Years of heat styling, over washing and a move to London (and it’s horrendous hard water) really took its toll, and it took a long, hard slog to get it back into shape. Now, it’s as good as it’s ever going to get – and I mean that in the best possible way. I’ve learned that my thin and fragile hair and scalp just can’t take an overload of product (it just makes it look flat, and makes it break) – so I keep things simple. If you’re interested in reading about my hair journey then I wrote a post all about How I Got My Hair Back.

Garnier Ultimate Blends Oat Shampoo and Conditioner

So, I started the decade out a loud and proud Herbal Essences fan… and then my hair had a meltdown. Hoping for a quick fix, I threw a lot of cash at expensive hair care products and shampoos (I was using the Rahua Range at one point – pricey stuff – and it was bloody useless!). Nowadays, I know what my hair can and can’t handle, and that less is definitely more. I’ve been using the Garnier Ultimate Blends Oat Combo for sensitive scalp for a few years now and my hair seems to be happy with it. It’s gentle and… yup, cheap. (…It’s so gentle that my husband sometimes steals the conditioner for his beard.)

Toni & Guy Heat Protection Mist

After my hair meltdown days, I never go without a heat protector before using my curlers, and this Tony & Guy one is my favourite. It smells gorgeous (as does the whole Tony & Guy range of products) and works a treat. It also comes in a travel sized version – helpful!

L’Oriel Conditioning Mousse

My hair is limp, it needs lift – but it’s a bit of a Catch 22 because if I use too much mousse, then it falls flat under the weight and can also dry out my hair. Luckily, L’Oreal brought out a conditioning mousse that isn’t too heavy, and it works really well for me – especially given the added moisture boost.

So, what beauty products stuck with you through past decade? Which ones are you happy to leave behind? Let me know your favourites in the comments – especially your mascara recommendations! I’m still on the hunt!

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My Anti-Aging Starter Kit

Death Becomes Her…

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Let’s call this, “I’m a month or so away from turning 34 and need to start doubling down”, because the truth is that I’ve been a little bit lazy when it comes to anti-aging products up until now.  Although, maybe “lazy” isn’t really the right word.  First of all, I’ve got sensitive skin that’s acne prone and so have pretty much stuck to the same old skin routine and the same products all the way through my twenties.  The thought of  suddenly introducing active serums, acids and retinols felt a little bit… reckless. I mean, if it ain’t broke (or covered in hives and zits) don’t fix it, right?  Secondly, I haven’t – until recently – felt like I was clued up enough on this sort of stuff to take the plunge.  Which brings me to my third point, I haven’t really been bothered enough about anti-aging beauty to get clued up.

Honestly, I’ve always been really skeptical about anti-aging beauty products.  The whole anti-aging game has always felt a little “Death Becomes Her” to me (Remember that movie?  One of my all time faves!).  Isn’t it all just really, really expensive snake oil, and in the end a bit… pointless?  I’m not afraid of wrinkles – aging is a privilege, after all – but I wouldn’t mind holding off the effects for just a little while longer.  And if those products can solve some of my other skin issues then that’s a plus!  So over the past six months or so I’ve been swotting up on the ingredients of various anti-aging products and learning a little bit about what they claim to do, and then picked some inexpensive but highly-rated products from the pool to slip into my daily skin routine. I’m still mostly clueless and a little bit baffled and suspicious of it all, it has to be said.  But hey, I’ll tell you what I’ve learned so far, what I’m using and then I’ll let you know how I’m getting on in a couple of months. 🙂

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A313 Vitamin A Pommade

If the Beauty Boffins are to be believed then we should all be slipping a Retinol/Vitamin A product into our routine and using it three times a week.  Retinol is naturally occurring in the human body; it works hard to balance things out – it regulates oil production, stimulates collagen and increases cell turnover.  Not only is it claimed to be great for treating acne and pigmentation, it’s also said to be the miracle ingredient that boosts hydration and smooths out fine lines and wrinkles.  However, it can be strong stuff; it can increase irritation for those who suffer from eczema and rosacea, and can even increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight.  It also breaks down in sunlight.  So it’s important to ease yourself in slowly, never use it in conjunction with acids, only on bone dry skin (as Vitamin A reacts with water), use it only at night and always in conjunction with a day cream that’s high in SPF.

So, funny story, I actually picked up a double pack of the A313 Vitamin A Pommade for $5 while I was in the States.  I found it lurking at the bottom of a bucket at a Consignment Store of all places (basically leftover stock from Amazon sold on the cheap); no one had snagged it yet because it’s kind of difficult to tell what it actually is unless you’ve seen it before and read up about it – which is exactly what I’d done a couple of months earlier.  Previously known as Avibon, it’s one of those cult French Pharmacy Beauty Products that’s been raved about by celebrities and beauty bloggers alike – and honestly, I couldn’t believe my luck when I found it.  I’ve started using it twice a week to ease my skin in, and no more than a pea-sized amount for the whole face.  It’s got a texture like vaseline, hasn’t really got a fragrance and isn’t honestly the most pleasant thing that I’ve put on my face at night – but tell you what, it’s a bulldozer when it comes to cystic acne.  As for pigmentation and wrinkles, I’ll let you know!

La Roche-Posay Vitamin C Serum

On the nights I don’t use the A313 Pommade, I stick to old faithful and drench my skin in the Kiehls Midnight Recovery Concentrate – but up until now, I’ve been yet to add an oil or serum to my morning routine.  Enter the La Roche-Posay Vitamin C Serum.  We all know the health benefits of swigging orange juice and loading up on Vitamin C this time of year, but how exactly does it help skin?  Well, Vitamin C is basically a strong anti-oxidant that combats “Free Radicals”.  Great.  What the hecky peck are Free Radicals?  Free Radicals are essentially unstable atoms created by things such as pollution, cigarette smoke and the sun.  They can damage the skin by causing pigmentation and can also break down collagen in the skin and therefore cause wrinkles.  Tada.  Vitamin C neutralises Free Radicals and helps skin cells regenerate.  Not only that, but it can boost collagen production (effectively smoothing over wrinkles) and also fights pigmentation.

I was interested in adding a Vitamin C Serum because I’ve got quite a bit of pigmentation on my cheeks left over from cystic acne, and anything that’s going to kick butt against Free Radicals sounds good to me.  So I’ve slipped in the La Roche-Posay Vitamin C Serum into my morning routine; one drop of the stuff goes a long way, and I massage it into my skin before adding my daily moisturiser (the Nivea Daily Essentials Rich Moisturing Cream).  I chose it because a serum is the suggested way of introducing Vitamin C into your routine, but also because this one claims to be pretty good for sensitive skin – and so far so good!  It’s a little tacky as it sinks in, so I was worried about how it was going to sit under my foundation – but actually it sits under it quite well and adds a little extra glow!  Too soon to tell whether it’s working, but I’ll let you know.

Lancôme Génifique Youth Activating Eye Cream

So of all anti-aging products, I’ve always felt like eye creams are the biggest scam out there, and I promised myself that I’d never fork out a fortune on one of them.  However, I have introduced a couple into my morning routine, but not because they claim to prevent under-eye wrinkles.

I went to a beauty masterclass with Bobbi Brown not so long ago, and one of my burning questions to the makeup artist hosting the class was, “How do I stop the midday panda eye?”  I wear both a liquid and kohl eyeliner and use smudge-proof mascara, but no matter what I do or how I apply it all – I end up with dark smudges under my eyes by lunchtime.  The answer – I have on good authority – is eye cream.  Eye cream creates a base for your foundation, keeps it in place and therefore prevents things like mascara from sticking to it.  Tada.  And it works!  Who’d have thunk it?!  So, I go between the Elemis Peptide4 Eye Recovery Cream (which I was kindly gifted) and this little travel pot of the Lancôme Génifique Youth Activating Eye Cream.  Make no bones about it, this shiz is expensive stuff and I doubt I’ll be repurchasing, but it claims to fight under eye puffiness, dark circles and crows feet – in case you’re interested.  I don’t know if it does those things honestly, my under-eye area isn’t a priority for me, but it smooths on beautifully, works well under makeup and you barely need any of it to cover the whole area.

Jade Roller

(Another Consignment Store bargain!) So you’ve probably seen every blogger on the planet sneak a Jade or Rose Quartz Roller into their latest flatlay, and yeah, they look pretty – but do they actually do anything other than decorate a nightstand?  Turns out, yeah, they do.  Traditional Chinese Derma Rollers made from gemstones are used for facial massage – which is recommended by the Beauty Boffins to aid lymphatic drainage and boost circulation.  Combined, this can reduce puffiness, tone and brighten the skin.

It definitely gives my husband a good chuckle when he crawls into bed and sees me paint-rollering my skin last thing at night, and whether it’s actually doing anything remains to be seen at this point – but I like it!  I use it on the nights when I’m not wearing the A313 Pommade and use it straight after popping on the Kiehls Midnight Recovery Oil.  It’s cooling, takes only a few minutes and feels really, really nice!

Lots of Water!

Lastly – and the cheapest thing in my new anti-wrinkle arsenal… Water, and lots of it!  I’ve always been really, really bad at hitting the recommended water intake – other than when I’m on holiday.  When I’m out in the sun, I’m always swigging from a bottle of the good stuff and whaddya know? My skin always looks so much better for it!  It’s hydrated, clear and bright – and that’s what I want on the daily.

What anti-aging products are in your beauty bag at the moment?  Or are you an anti-aging skeptic like me?  Any recommendations, let me know!  Have a great week! 🙂

 

What’s in My Beauty Bag? – The Holiday Edition

“It’s the Humidity!”

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Is it too late for a summery holiday beauty post? I mean, I’m well aware that we’re technically in Autumn now and that traditionally by now most of us have stashed away our suitcases for another year… but actually, I think more and more of us are jetting off in search of some sunshine all year around.  Case and point: right now, I’m in Florida for all the R&R that I missed out on over the summer while I was sick (check out my Instagram if you’re not sickened by that and fancy travelling along with me…).  These days we’re not as confined to using up our holiday time purely during the summer months, and so Summer Beauty is becoming a year-long thing. More and more of us have that dash-bag of travel-friendly miniatures ready to go. Me included, and I feel like I’ve got a really good mix this year of both tried, tested and true products that I wouldn’t leave the UK without, as well as a few new bits and bobs I’ve enjoyed trying out.

Now that I’ve justified talking about Summer in September (😉), here’s what I’m packing…

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Nuxe Moisturising Protective Milky Oil For Hair

My love for all things Nuxe is no secret, and this bottle never leaves my side when I’m pool-side! I’ve got very fine, easily damaged hair and a scalp with a tendancy to burn if I’m not careful. The Nuxe Moisturising Protective Milky Oil for Hair, packed with water hyacinth oleo-active, coconut oil and kau pe flowers (it smells good enough to swig like a pool-side cocktail – but don’t…) protects your tresses and scalp from UV, salt and chlorine. Good shiz.

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Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic Spritzer

This little bottle of magic comes with me on the plane, to the pool and bangs around in my basket bag until it’s time to head home. The Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic is a handy and gentle moisturising toner infused with lots of skin soothing goodies like aloe vera, calendula, cucumber and chamomile – perfect for calming dry, sun-burned skin.

Toni & Guy Split End Concealer

Here’s one from my pre-holiday Boots Shop of Shame (…we’ve all been there!). I needed to pick up my favourite heat protection spray and tripped into a Toni & Guy 3 for 2 situation. I didn’t have time to get my dead ends trimmed off before going away (that reminds me; I need to book an appointment pronto tonto once I’m back in Wales!), and this little tub was my quick fix solution. I LOVE IT; it’s a tiny tub (no bigger than your average handbag Vaseline tin) and you need very little to get the smooth, moisturised ends that look as if you’ve just stepped out of the salon, as opposed to the frazzled ones associated with split ends. Oh, and it also smells gorgeous.

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Nuxe Rêve de Miel Deliciously Nourishing Body Scrub

I’m pretty sure that Rêve de Miel means “Honey Dream” (pardon my rusty Year 9 French…) – which is precisely what this tiny, travel friendly tub oozes. Firstly, body scrubs tend to come in massive, great big tubs which aren’t exactly travel friendly – however, this beauty is the perfect, travel-sized tub. And secondly, you don’t need great big scoops of the stuff as just a small amount of this honey-textured, nourishing scrub goes a long, long way.

Sally Hansen Nail Polish Remover Pads

If you’re a DIY manicure kind of girl like me, then you’ll know that the neat nail polish you paint on during your pre-holiday pamper sesh isn’t going to last two or three weeks away. No way! I used to lug a whole bottle of nail polish remover with me (which is ridiculous when all you really need is a couple of drops of the stuff!) until I found these handy little sachets by Sally Hansen while I was out in America. Now all I need to do is pop a couple in my bag and I’m good to go. Sadly, I don’t think SH still sell these anymore, but there are plenty of dupes out there that are just as good.

Toni & Guy Get a Grip Prep Spray

The other item in my Toni & Guy 3 for 2; this travel-friendly spray is a bit of a Swiss Army Knife for your hair; it does a lot. It detangles, it smooths frizz, adds volume, injects shine and helps to hold your do in place all day – even when it’s humid. I was umming and ahhing whether to bring my favourite L’Oreal Mousse away with me – I love it, but it’s massive – and wondered whether this could be a good travel alternative for my limp texture-less locks. Well, I wasn’t quite brave enough to ditch my holy grail hair mousse (just in case!), but, turns out that this little spray works almost as well. A couple of spritzes are enough to add a little oomph and ensure it sticks around throughout the day, no matter how muggy the weather gets – a little like sea salt spray but without its drying properties. I love it for my summer holiday, but not for year round use as it can feel a little too sticky and cloying if you use too much.

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Sudocrem

I don’t go away anywhere without my dinky pot of Sudocrem. Sure it’s boring, but blimey is it brilliant stuff to break out during a skin disaster. I use it on spots, dry skin, mosquito bites, sun-burn… it’s a lifesaver.

Simple 5 Minute Reset Hydrogel Mask

I love Simple’s range of sheet masks, I’m always popping a few into my basket whenever I’m at the supermarket and spot them on offer because they’re gentle, soothing and nourishing (and cheap!). I’m a big fan of the charcoal mask, but this 5 Minute Reset Hydrogel Mask is so cooling and soothing after a day spent in the sun – plus it packs 40 days worth of moisture. Not too shabby.

Have a lovely week! ♥️

*This post contains affiliate links; to find out what that means – click here.

Mirror, Mirror

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When do you feel that you look most like yourself?  For me it’s about twenty minutes before I fall into bed when I’m in my bathroom and about to take my makeup off (on one of the days where I’ve actually done my makeup – that’s very important; I don’t count the other days).  That moment before I scoop my hair up and run the tap, I lean on the sink and look into the mirror and actually recognise the reflection staring back as most like “me”.  Or maybe the more accurate way of putting it is that I actually like the reflection staring back.  I mean sure, it’s not as polished as the 10am version – but that’s okay and I kind of prefer it that way; it’s more realistic, less maintained (but at the same time not the horror show that is the 7am version).  I’m slobbing around in my pyjamas, my makeup’s worn in, I’ve shed my glasses, the curl’s mostly fallen out of my hair and I’m about to get into bed (the best time of the day, I think you’ll agree) so I’ve usually got a happy little grin going on.

That slightly dishevelled, chilled out and cheerful reflection is what I expect and hope to see in every mirror I come across day to day – not just in my bathroom one – but also in changing rooms, hotels, other people’s houses, the windows I walk past when I’m out and about, in photographs and in the eyes of everyone I know.  Kind of like the evil step mother in Snow White (Mirror, mirror on the wall…).  So, how come I NEVER do!  That bathroom reflection never bloody leaves the house and I feel like I’m constantly being pounced on by other reflections of myself that I don’t recognise AT ALL.  Like the one lurking behind me in that long, tilting mirror you get in every H&M fitting room that lets you see what you look like from a horrible backwards angle (“Jesus christ, is that what my nose looks like from the side???  That’s not me!”).  Shudder.  The horror at seeing a photograph of myself on a day where I thought I was walking out of the house looking absolutely smokin’ in that new skirt when actually – turns out – it makes my thighs look massive.  Yeesh.  Then there’s that weird moment where I try and correlate those two very different images of myself and work out which one is actually real – because there can’t possibly be two.  I’m just one person after all, I don’t have two sets of thighs.  So which is the liar: the camera or the mirror?

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We’ve all experienced those surreal moments when people actually voice how they see you.  The first time I became aware that other people might see me differently to the way I saw myself was when I was about seven.  I was in school, queuing up with the rest of the kids to go to assembly and one of them suddenly turned around in the line and gave me a long, hard look.  “…It must be really strange having one eye bigger than the other,” they said, then shrugged and went off to assembly without realising that they’d just performed the equivalent of a hit and run on my appearance, and man was it a kill shot.  I remember being simultaneously confused and completely horrified, because firstly I’d never noticed anything different about my eyes, and secondly – hold up – “is that what everyone thinks I look like!?  Am I a monster!”   Thinking about that now makes me laugh out loud (kids are dicks, aren’t they?) – I mean, how ridiculous!  But I never forgot it and – you know what? – there might actually be some truth to it because to this day I can never seem to apply my eyeliner evenly.  Oh well.

Why is it that criticisms of our appearance – however wide off the mark and ridiculous – are so easy to believe, but compliments aren’t?  There are some observations that we want to believe, but flat out refuse to – like a mirage.  For example, my husband is always telling me that there’s nothing of me – that I’m stick thin.  I know he’s not lying, but I’m convinced that he sees me as skinnier than I actually am because he’s taller than me and so he’s always looking at me from a slightly skewed angle (isn’t that mad?!).  A few weeks ago my sister-in-law turned around, pointed to my eyes and said they were “quite stunning” because apparently they’ve got a darker ring around the outside of the iris.  Excuse me, what?  Looking at my eyes in mirrors all my life I’d never once noticed this mythical dark ring – but she’s right, it’s there.  How the hell did I miss that?  Why didn’t I see it?

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It’s a kind of weird, daily challenge that we all face, isn’t it?  Gathering up all these different versions of ourselves and trying to marry them up with the one we accept as the “real” us (and that’s without adding that impossible bar set for us by the media, fashion and beauty industries).  I’m 33 and I still haven’t figured out which is the real one, or whether I care.  Is it that bathroom version?  The skinny one with the stunning eyes my husband and sister in law see?  Or the sloppy one my neighbours see at 7am when I walk the dog?  Or are they all way, way off?  Are my thighs big?  Are my wrinkles easy to spot?  I can’t for the life of me work out how I can look in a mirror and love my appearance one minute and then take a photograph two seconds later only to stab furiously at the delete button.  I have absolutely no idea.  There’s no easy answer except that I’m probably all of these different versions of myself and none of them at the same time – and that mirrors are very, very strange objects.

Fun fact, every time you see your reflection in a mirror it’s out by about 10 nanoseconds – so it’s a slightly younger version of yourself.  *eye roll* In case you wondered, that’s probably the real me – the one who has to punctuate everything with a nerdy fact. 😉

Spring Skincare Shakeup

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Hello Friday!  Hope you’ve had a good week whatever you’ve been up to – mine’s been absolutely mad.  It’s been one of those weeks where I haven’t actually done much or been out and about (lucky, I guess – the weather’s been mental here in Cardiff!), but have had a lot going on.  That being said, I’m so happy it’s the weekend – time for a little R&R and some pampering! 🙂

I feel like my skin’s going through a bit of a shift in season right now.  It’s been feeling a bit… winter-lagged (is that word?) for the past few months.  Dry, a bit sad-looking and a little bit more red and sensitive than it usually is – so, I’ve been loading up on anything that’ll inject it with some added moisture, scrub away the winter scales and inject a little radiance. But we’re heading into Spring now and so I’ve had a little bit of a skincare shakeup, and these are the products I’ll be using from now until the weather heats up.

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*Clinique Take The Day Off Makeup Remover for Lids, Lashes and Lips

I’ve been a massive fan of Clinique’s Take the Day Off Balm for a looooooong time.  It’s so satisfying massaging a blob of the stuff into my face and watching my makeup instantly dissolve.  Even more satisfying is smudging all my dark eye makeup until I look like something out of a horror movie – but sometimes I need a little extra elbow grease to remove all that liquid liner, waterproof mascara and liquid lipstick.  Enter Clinique’s Lids, Lashes and Lips formula which I was very kindly gifted by Clinique Cardiff.  It’s gentle (no stinging watery eyes or dried out lips!) and I’ve started using it when I go in for a second round of makeup removal – just to make sure everything’s squeaky clean before I start my deep cleanse.

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Kiehl’s Epidermal Re-Texturizing Micro-Dermabrasion

Honestly, I’ve been thinking of making the move towards acids when it comes to exfoliating my skin – especially now that we’re heading into summer and technically those dry scales of winter shouldn’t be a problem anymore – but I’ve been using this little number from Kiehl’s for so long that it’s going to be tough to try something new!  I’ve had really dry skin all winter and this dude’s been my one and only for scrubbing away dead skin and polishing up the new.  You only need a tiny amount and some gentle circular scrubbing and it really does the job.

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Nuxe Nirvanesque Enriche for 1st Wrinkles

I picked up this baby in TK Maxx when I was looking for something to really soothe my super dry winter skin at night and it’s honestly one of the most beautiful face creams I’ve ever used.  I mean, I’m a little way past “first wrinkles” stage – but this little gem’s been really helping to keep my skin feeling soft, smooth and hydrated – and dewy!  I wake up with “I’ve had ten hours sleep and ten bottles of water” skin, and it smells really lovely.  Unfortunately, I’ve got a funny feeling that they’ve discontinued it – I mean, a quick google will find you a tub of the stuff, but I can’t find it being sold on the Nuxe website – but hey, I’ve adored everything I’ve ever bought from Nuxe, so if anything it’s converted me into giving the rest of their skincare rage a go. I’ll definitely be on the hunt for one of their lighter moisturizers to take me through summer. 🙂

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*Clinique Dramatically Different Hydrating Jelly

As I said before, I’m still coming out of winter with skin suffering from a bit of a hangover.  It’s been dry, sad and a little bit more sensitive than usual.  I’ve only just started using this hydrating jelly from Clinique, but so far so good.  I’ve been using a very small amount in the morning just to give my skin a little bit of a moisture boost, and to protect it from pollution when I’m out and about.  Because it’s lightweight, I think it’s going to make a great moisturizer when the weather heats up over the summer and I might make a full switch over in a couple of months.  Early days though, so we’ll see.

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*Elemis Peptide 4 Thousand Flower Mask and Eye Recovery Cream

Still a massive fan of this combo – and I think I’ve spoken about them a few times already.  The Thousand Flower Mask is an absolute dream when my skin needs a bit of a pick me up (it really smooths everything over and brightens things up) – I tend to use it on a Sunday evening after a bath and after I’ve exfoliated with the Kiehl’s Micro-Dermabrasion Cream – just when my skin isn’t necessarily looking for any added moisture, just something to generally perk it up.  The Eye Recovery Cream has been working wonders on my tired, winter-lagged eyes – keeping those dark circles at bay and working on those fine lines. 😉

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Nuxe Nuxuriance Ultra Mask

Again, Nuxe are quickly becoming one of my favourite beauty brands – their products are all such a treat.  I picked up this little mask from TK Maxx (all hail) on a whim and have been enjoying pampering my skin with it a couple of nights a week before I go in with my moisturizer.  It’s packed full of Hyaluronic Acid to smooth out the fine lines I’m staring to get and also claims to plump up skin and even out tone.  It’s got a metal roller that you use to squeeze and apply the product, and as it goes on it cools and reduces any puffiness.  The only thing I don’t love about it is the smell… but to be honest, it soaks in so quickly that you barely notice it.

Have a great weekend everyone! 🙂

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