Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Review: Neutrogena Hydra Boost


Hi Guys

I was so excited when I saw Neutrogena were releasing a Hydrating range, boasted to beat some of the higher end skincare products out there, I just had to give it a go. I have combination skin prone to dehydration so this range sounded perfect for me, lightweight, water based, moisturising etc...perfect! If you have read previous skincare posts of mine you will know Neutrogena is one of my favourite drugstore skincare brands so I had high hopes for this range. I decided to try the Hydro Boost Gel with SPF and the Night Concentrate.

I'll start with the Hydro Boost Gel. I have been using this in place of my regular serum and I'll say I haven't minded it. It sinks into the skin quickly and has enough slip in it that a small pump will do your entire face. It does have that slightly tacky finish due to the Hyaluronic Acid content but if you follow with a moisturiser that soon goes and leaves your skin feeling comfortable and hydrated. This range is quite highly fragranced so for those with fragrance phobia this is not for you, it also notes Alcohol Denat as one of the first 10 ingredients. I normally try to avoid anything containing too much fragrance and the nasty denatured alcohols but I wanted to try this range and it actually did not aggravate my sensitive skin at all. Its SPF of 15, while relatively low, is a great addition to the rest of my skincare layers. The largest portion of ingredients in this Gel after water (as it is a water based gel) are slip agents, silicone's and the alcohol denat, then a chemical sunscreen Phenylbenzimidazole Sulfonic Acid, more slip agents, PH balancers and THEN your Hyaluronic acid and olive extract followed lastly by several fragrance ingredients. 
Overall opinion on this product is, it's ok, it's nothing groundbreaking and far from a "wow" product but if your skin lacks moisture and your bank account lacks pennies then perhaps it's worth a try. If i had the option I would sooner reach for something like Hydraluron if it's around the same price range in your country as it packs more of a hydrating punch, doesn;t contain the nasty fragrances or alcohol and the Hydro Boost Gel offers nothing more beneficial ingredients-wise in my opinion. I have combination skin so I find that the amount of moisture these products provide is sufficient for me but fear a dry skin sufferer will not get enough from the Hydro Boost range.



I'll just say the night concentrate is much of a muchness also, same deal, lightweight water-based gel moisturiser but with the added negative of pot packaging, adding light contamination and a hygiene breach into the mix. Again the cream leaves a slightly tacky feeling after application but it seems to go away after a 30 minute-ish period and then just feels soft and looks nice and dewy. 

I will most probably finish up these products in all honesty as they don't seem to be doing me any harm, but exactly how much good they are doing is questionable. I just hate waste! At the end of the day they do seem to leave my skin feeling comfortable and hydrated but I do have to question how much of that is down to the hyaluronic acid and how much is down to lots of slippy, film forming ingredients. 

One word to sum up the Neutrogena Hydro Boost range?........MEH! 

Let me know if you have tried this range and what your thoughts were on it.

Thanks for reading!

Gem 

Sunday, 19 October 2014

My Autumn/Winter Lips

Lancome L'absolu Rouge in 131

Hi Guys!!

So I know I'm cheating a bit here as it is certainly NOT Autumn in Australia at the moment, although today you might  be fooled into thinking it is, we have thunder and rain and yesterday we had hail the size of marbles! Anyhoo, it's spring here but I'm getting myself all excited for my return to the UK in December and a cheeky little trip to NYC so I decided to have a play around with my favourite berry lips. 

From Left to Right: NYX Butter Lipstick in Hunk, Lancome L'absolu Rouge in 131, Nars Velvet Matte Lip pencil in Damned, Boots 17 Lasting Fix Lipstick in New Black, Kiko Ace of Diamonds Lipstick in 27.

From Left to Right: NYX Butter Lipstick in Hunk, Lancome L'absolu Rouge in 131, Nars Velvet Matte Lip pencil in Damned, Boots 17 Lasting Fix Lipstick in New Black, Kiko Ace of Diamonds Lipstick in 27.
First up NYX and Lancome are both a sheeny finish but still super long lasting on the lips. The coverage can take a bit of work to get even due to the slippy but highly pigmented formula but I don't worry that these colours will end up half way across my face by the end of the day. NYX looks a lot darker and more purple in the bullet but is a bright blue toned pink with a hint of purple and Lancome is a rich Bordeaux red.
Next up the only true matte in my berry collection and one that I went to the ends of the earth to get my hands on, Nars Velvet Matte in Damned. It seems this shade from the collection is limited to certain countries. I got mine from America in the end. It's a stunning blue toned purple that really makes green eyes pop and once this stuff is on, its on. It's pencil applicator makes it really easy to do corrections with no need for liner. It's not too drying on the lips but you do want to ensure they're in tip top condition if you plan on sporting the super matte lipstick as any flakes or lines will be accentuated.


























Boots 17 New Black is a super bold colour to wear full strength so I tend to smudge this one out or dab on with fingers Lisa Eldridge style. Sheered out this colour is purply pink with black undertones so super striking and a nod to the inner goth. Again the formula is super long lasting and has a satin finish.
Kiko Ace of Diamonds Lipstick in # 27 is my most recent purchase. My biggest enabler Viviannadoesmakeup worked her magic on me again. It's another great shade for green eyed gals.

Boots 17 in New Black dabbed on with fingers.






















Let me know your top Autumn/Winter shades in the comments below!

Thanks for Reading!

Gem :)




Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Salted Caramel Blondie Slice



























Hi Guys!

I know, I know, you're drooling right?

Get in the kitchen & make these immediately, you wont regret it....well you might if you count the calories, but who does that?

To make these deliciously chewy, chocolately, gooey goodies you need:

For the blondies - Recipe taken from Erins Kitchen
157g Plain Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda/Bicarbonate of soda
113g Butter softened
165g Brown Sugar
4 tbsp Granulated Sugar
2 Large Eggs at room temp
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
150g Dark Choc or Semi Sweet Choc Chips
For the caramel - used own recipe
120g butter
1 tin condensed milk
2 tbsp golden syrup
120g caster sugar
1 tsp sea salt 
For the chocolate topping - used own recipe
125g Dark Choc
125g Milk Choc


























Directions for Blondie
Preheat oven to 170c
Grease 9in silicone baking pan
Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl
In a separate large bowl beat the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until fluffy
Mix in the eggs one at a time and then add the vanilla
Mix the flour into the butter & sugar mix by hand taking care not to overmix
Fold in Chocolate chips
Spread batter evenly into the prepared pan,
Bake for 25 minutes, taking care not to over bake.
Once base is cooled you can prepare your filling.

Erens caramel filling recipe looked a little too wet for me, I prefer a more chewy caramel that sets and can be sliced through neatly so I used a more traditional millionaire shortbread caramel filling recipe. See above for ingredients.

Directions for Caramel
Put all filling ingredients into a saucepan, heat gently on low low heat until sugar is melted then bring to the boil. Stir constantly to avoid the mixture catching on the base and burning. Boil for 4 to 6 minutes until a nice rich caramel colour. Allow to cool slightly and then poor the mixture onto the blondie base spreading evenly.

Allow to cool and set in the fridge. When fully cooled and set, melt the chocolate using a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water or in the microwave.
Pour melted chocolate over the caramel and pop back in the fridge to set.

Slice. Eat. Enjoy

Thanks for Reading!








Sunday, 12 October 2014

Frizz Busters




















Hi guys!

Today we are talking all things frizz-fighting. Frizzy hair is something I have always, and no doubt, will always, have to deal with. My hair is naturally curly and quite porous so it's pretty much always thirsty for moisture. I need products that can satiate that thirst and keep providing it with moisture throughout the day.

I wont talk about shampoos etc today as I am a shampoo floozy and have not found my holy grail as yet. I've found some goodies, but nothing to write home about but as soon as I do, you'll be the first to know!

I do, however, have a pretty monogamous relationship with my post-wash products so that's what I'll be sharing with you today. These products do change depending on whether I plan to wear my hair straight or curly, but I'll get to that.

So first up, lets start with towel dried hair (and when I say towel dried I mean genty pressed using a towel, not vigourously rubbed, no arm workout required here. We frizz-prone gals need to be as kind and gentle to our hair as possible whether its wet or dry.
First product to hit my locks is a leave in conditioner, like I said I need as much moisture as possible for my oh-so-thirsty hair. For this I use Dove Colour radiance leave in conditioning spray. This leave in spray can be used on wet or dry hair and is a sort of milky consistency. It leaves hair feeling nourished and not too wet, important for if you are using on dry hair. It sinks in pretty quickly so I also like to give the ends of my hair a quick spritz every night before bed.

Next I add an oil to nourish and add shine, for this I use Moroccanoil Treatment. I love the feel of this treatment oil, it leaves my hair nourished and very smooth. It also claims to reduce drying time, which is  fantastic news for me as I have lots of hair!

The penultimate step in my four-step system is a cream, I find cream helps to seal in the LIC and the oil. For me, this is the step that changes dependant on whether I want a a natural curl, a more defined, tight curl or whether I'm going to use the straighteners.
If I'm reaching for the straighteners I use Kerastase Nectar Thermique for dry to very dry hair, this cream has built in heat protectant so perfect for use with irons or blowdryers.
For a more natural finish or sometimes also for use with my straighteners I use Brazillian Blowout Acai Daily Smoothing Serum. Now although this product is called a serum is is definitely more of a cream formula, this stuff rocks. If you can style your hair with a blowdryer then you need this serum/cream in your life as it will leave your hair silky smooth, protected from heat and UVA/UVB and you get a whopping 240ml for $40.
Lastly for a more defined curl with a bit of extra "boing" I use Moroccanoil Curl Defining Cream, this stuff is amazing, it really works to give those with lazy curls a bit of structure and discipline. It leaves no crunchy residue (provided you use it correctly and don't go overboard) and can be reactivated on second or third day hair with a bit of water.

For extra heat protection I reach for the tresemme heat styling protectant spray, especially if I am going over second or third day hair with the straighteners.

When all that is applied and may hair is fully styled I use Dove Pure Care Dry Oil to smooth any flyaways and add that extra bit of shine and as it's a dry oil it doesn't weight hair down or leave it looking greasy and you can use it in the ends every day until your next wash for a daily moisture injection.

Let me know your ultimate frizz fighting products in the comments!

Thanks for reading :)

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

When Life Gives You Lemons...





























Hi Guys!

I have had Lemons coming out of my ears of late so today I have a recipe for you for Lemon Curd & Pistachio Butterfly Cakes with Sweet Mascarpone.

For this bake I combined a few different recipes to create my own final product, the results are a soft bouncy sponge cake with a sweet, tangy lemon filling and a creamy refreshing mascarpone to counteract the tartness of the curd and a bit of nutty crunch care-of the pistachios.

Firstly, the day before baking the cupcakes, I made a batch of Lemon Curd using Curtis Stones Recipe, find it here. This makes a good two jars worth of delicious lemon curd but you should only need one for one batch of cupcakes as per the Recipe below from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.
I used their Vanilla Cupcakes  recipe for the sponge element of my cakes.

120g Plain Flour
140g Caster Sugar
1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
A Pinch of Salt
40g Unsalted Butter (room temp)
120ml Whole Milk
1 Egg
1/4 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F) Gas 3.
Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined. Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.
Whisk the egg, vanilla extract and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). 
Continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth. Do not overmix.
Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched.
A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. 
Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

While the sponges are cooling you can prepare your sweet mascarpone. For this you simply need:

1 Tub Mascarpone
3 Tblsp Icing Sugar (or less, taste after 2 to see if sweet enough for you, I'm a sugar fiend!)

Simply whisk mascarpone until soft, add the icing sugar and whisk again until completely incorporated. Refrigerate your mascarpone until your sponges are completely cool and ready to assemble.

When sponges are completely cooled, take a small sharp knife and cut a cone shaped segment of sponge from the centre of each cake and cut in half to create the butterfly wings. Fill the holes to the top of each sponge with a good dollop of lemon curd then pipe or spoon a dollop of sweet mascarpone on top of that. Take your butterfly wing pieces and place them pale side down onto the mascarpone dollop and then sprinkle your chopped pistachios between the wings.

Eat, Enjoy.

Feel free to share any of your favourite recipes that involve Lemons as I still have a good few left!!

Thanks for Reading!







Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Only Black Eye Pencil You'll Ever Need



























Hi Readers!

So....great news! I have finally completed my mission to find THE BEST black eye liner. I wanted something that was truly black, easy to work with, soft and blend-able, has staying power and wouldn't transfer from my water line.

Well by golly I think I've found it...

I have a fellow beauty blogger to thank for this discovery. Sharon from Sharon The Makeup Artist blog has used this eyeliner many times in her Youtube makeup tutorials but I was working my way through a vast collection of black liners already, testing and trialing and none of them were coming up to scratch, all absolutely fine for smudging in a smokey eye etc but none of them had the staying power when it came to tight lining that upper water line. They would all sting my eye when applied and therefore eventually transfer onto the bottom water line due to the fact that my eyes were watering so insanely.

So finally I decided to listen to the expert and I purchased the Eye of Horus Goddess Smokey Eye Pencil. Eye of Horus products are made with natural ingredients and designed for people with sensitive eyes or those who prefer to use natural products that are paraben free and not tested on animals.


Top: One swipe, no smudge. Bottom: One swipe smudged
I got absolutely no stinging with this eyeliner, no tearing or sensitivity at all and its the smoothest formula, a pleasure to apply and super comfortable to wear. it leaves no gritty feeling behind i your eye and caused no redness or irritation in the slightest. Along with all that fabulousness, it has staying power that you will not believe (will definitely require a good oil based cleanser to remove) and is truly black. its a matte finish with no glitter or shimmer in sight so a really natural look can be achieved or alternatively its buildable (for a short time, so work quickly!) and blendable for a vamped up smokey eye effect. You can use the blender sponge tip on the other end of the pencil for quick smudging. It also dries with a good amount of flexibility so you don't get and cracking when it sets as you can see from the swatch below.

Top: Several swipes built up, no smudge. Bottom: several swipes built up and smudged.





























Overall I'm more than impressed with this eye pencil and couldn't recommend it more and since dicosvering this I will definitely be trying some other products from the Eye of Horus range.

If you have a holy grail eye pencil I should know about please let me know in the comments!

Thanks for Reading!


Monday, 29 September 2014

Chanel April Dupe!!



Hi guys!!

I thought I'd let you in on an awesome dupe for Chanel's Le Vernis Nail Colour in # 533 April. This colour featured in my Top Nail Colours for All Seasons post and I've recently found an EXACT drugstore dupe in Rimmels Salon Pro # 707 No Need To Blush.
I can see very little colour difference in these two nail polishes, if I had to be picky I would say that Rimmel leans slightly deeper in the swatch but I think thats mainly to do with the texture, while Chanel is quite a thin liquid-like polish, Rimmels is slightly thicker therefore requires less layers to build a rich coverage and in this shot both hands have 2 layers. Rimmels brush is amazing, its huge and you can do one nail in 2 swipes and its tapered to mirror the cuticle curve so you are left with a great shape and makes painting the left hand (or right if you are left handed) much easier!
The finish on these is identical and both have good shine and longevity.


Pictured above: Chanel on the left, Rimmel on the right. 


Let me know any of your high end dupes.

Thanks for Reading!