Thursday, 29 June 2017

Private Labelling In Skincare

Private labelling is something that happens across many different industries. A private label product is something that has been manufactured by one company but then sold under another company's brand name. It happens all the time, especially in the food, cosmetic & electronic industries. It lowers production costs whilst maintaining good profit margins & these discounts are often passed on to us as the customer. Many items in Aldi & Lidl are private label products and these are fantastic for people with a small food budget. I buy some private label stuff from eBay & Amazon which allows me to save a lot of money on various products. However when it comes to cosmetics I think it's a tricky subject. I tend to gravitate towards cosmetics brands where the founders have a lot of creative input. I want to buy something new, unique & different to everything else out there. Otherwise, what's the point in buying it? If brands use private label manufacturers they have no control over the formula or the ingredients used in their products. The only thing that changes is the packaging & retail price of the product. Most of the time it's generally not a bad thing. It's only when brands are dishonest about private labelling in a way that negatively affects consumers that it becomes something to be worried about.

There is a reason why I suddenly felt compelled to write about this subject. It's because I basically didn't really blog much last year & subsequently have a huge backlog of draft posts with fully edited photos to choose from. When I was deciding what to review next, I came across a post I had started about this Mint Facial Polish from Claudia Louch. I don't really like physical facial exfoliants so I used it as a body scrub instead but I didn't want to dedicate a few paragraphs to that boring conclusion. Before I received this item as my final PR sample from Claudia Louch I discovered something that has niggled me about the brand ever since. Whilst browsing Instagram one day I saw a skincare brand being promoted by influencers where the products had the exact same packaging as Claudia Louch. The names & ingredients were all exactly the same too. This brand was selling the products in America at a much lower price. I figured that they must have copied Claudia Louch as I had been told that she had personally helped to develop these products. When I asked the PR person I was working with about it they had no idea what was going on so I started to look into it myself.

I googled the product names which resulted in lots of reviews from myself & many other UK bloggers. It also came up with loads of random skincare brands that I had never heard of before, most of them based in America & most of them selling the same products also at a lower price. I eventually found some sites where you could actually order them wholesale & get your own brand name etched on the front of the bottle. I came to conclusion that Claudia Louch's skincare range was entirely made up of privately labelled products. Normally I wouldn't take issue with this. It's an open secret that Morphe brushes are private labelled but I still buy them & love using them. They don't purport to be anything unique so when I buy from them I know exactly what I'm getting. But in this case I feel that the selling of these skincare products was both unethical & dishonest.

It seems that Claudia Louch has since revamped her website with a different name & removed the shop section. When she did sell skincare products this Mint Exfoliating Facial Polish cost a whopping £59! A quick search for this product shows you can get it as cheap as £28 from another brand using the same manufacturer. I also found this brochure from the original manufacturer showing a production cost of $18.99 so the price has been marked up immensely. This was a PR sample so I'm not upset about the cost. However I do feel bad if anyone did purchase her products from my recommendation or the recommendation of many other bloggers who also received them as PR samples. Sure the products themselves were actually very good, I wouldn't have used them religiously if they sucked. But the whole story behind the brand & the creation of these products was a load of crap. In my reviews I defended the ridiculously high price tags because Claudia has years of experience as a skin specialist & we were told that she had a hand in developing the formulas. These blatant lies have left a bad taste in my mouth. If these were private label products she had no input whatsoever & insinuating that she helped to create them is not fair to us as informed consumers.

Maybe this doesn't matter anymore as Claudia Louch no longer sells these products on her website but I still think it's an important subject to discuss. As consumers we deserve to know exactly what we're buying & when brands start lying to us in this way it's completely unethical. What are your thoughts on private labelling in the cosmetics industry?

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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Bravura London Chemical Peels

It has been five whole years since I started treating my skin with chemical exfoliants. I actually can't believe it's been that long but this blog is proof that I first reviewed Alpha-H's Liquid Gold back in 2012. A lot has happened to my skin in that time. Spots, closed comedones, scarring... have all come & gone & come again. I've tried countless products over the years, all of which seemed to alleviate my skin troubles in the beginning but my spots persisted & my skin has never looked 100% perfect. I've even considered going on roaccutane but was never really sure if my blemishes were severe enough. The products I was using were mainly leave on treatments. I used things like the aforementioned Liquid Gold, Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, Eucerin DermoPurifyer Toner, CosRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid & AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid with varying degrees of success but ultimately none of them were quite enough to solve my skin problems.

Unsatisfied with the acid treatments I had tried, I began looking into hardcore chemical peels. I was so fed up that I really wanted to order some extremely high percentage acids from Makeup Artist's Choice but I was put off by the shipping & customs charges from America. Eventually someone on Reddit recommended Bravura London's chemical peels & I promptly visited their website to place an order. Bravura London were the first company in the UK to supply chemical peels for use at home. The owner Amanda Elias founded the company back in 2003 & she continues to give out personal product recommendations for anyone wanting to try their skincare range. All of their products are extremely well formulated yet very reasonably priced. Swapping out many of the items in my skincare routine for Bravura London products has been beneficial for both my skin & my bank account!

The first product I tried was the 2% Salicylic Acid. This BHA works wonders on spots, blackheads & closed comedones as salicylic acid exfoliates inside your pores as well as the surface of your skin. The application process of this peel is slightly different to many leave on BHA & AHA treatments. First you need to wash your face & then wait 30 minutes for your skin to return to it's normal pH level. Next you're supposed to decant some of the acid into a glass. I like to use one full pipette of acid & a fancy martini glass. I then apply the acid all over my face using the Chemical Peel Applicator Brush that I also ordered from Bravura. This fan brush is made from high quality synthetic Taklon hair. The bristles feel really soft & it's very easy to clean. It allows you to apply the chemical peel quickly & evenly without getting the product all over your hands. After two minutes you can wash it off & carry on with the rest of your skincare routine. You can increase the treatment time up to 10 minutes as your skin becomes accustomed to the acid. Unlike many chemical peels you don't need to use a neutraliser afterwards which definitely makes the whole process a lot simpler. Peels are bit stronger than exfoliating toners so the effects are more immediate & as I'm washing it off I can instantly feel the difference in my skin. It unclogs pores like a dream & my face is generally less congested. For best results you should use it every other night. Salicylic acid can be quite drying as it regulates sebum production so I always slather on my moisturiser afterwards but it could be the answer to a lot of oily skinned people's prayers.

Having fallen in love with the Salicylic Acid, I couldn't wait to try some more products. Next I ordered the 10% Lactic Acid along with the Revitalising Ginseng Toner. My skin tends to prefer lactic acid over glycolic acid as it's a milder exfoliant & far less drying. It's a much better choice if you have dry or dehydrated skin. Lactic acid is an AHA that increases cell turnover & boosts collagen production. This makes your skin feel smoother & more elastic. It also helps with blemishes, hyperpigmentation & fine lines. Regular AHA use will reveal a complexion that is more even both in tone & texture. When I started using this particular Lactic Acid it was at a higher percentage than I had ever used before. 10% is really quite potent so it might be too strong if you've never used any lactic acid. This peel has been infused with rose floral water which gives it a delicate rose scent & makes it a pleasure to use. You apply it in the same way as the Salicylic Acid but you need to leave it on for 5 minutes instead of 2. Treatment time for this acid can be increased up to a maximum of 15 minutes. I do find that my skin looks a bit pink after washing it off but this soon fades away & is replaced by a fresh, radiant glow. Again you can apply this every other evening or if you want to use it alongside the Salicylic Acid you can alternate them to avoid over-exfoliation. As with all chemical exfoliants it's incredibly important to wear sunscreen in the morning as your skin will be temporarily more sensitive to the sun. My skin feels noticeably softer & smoother after using this product. Lactic acid is a natural humectant which means that it helps the skin to retain moisture & this peel also features glycerin so it really is fab for drier skin types.

The one thing that annoyed me about using these skin peels was the 30 minute wait time after washing your face. Peels work best when your skin is at the correct pH level but sometimes I couldn't be bothered waiting so that's why I ordered the Revitalising Ginseng Toner as a pre-peel treatment. Bravura say that if you use this beforehand you can skip the huge wait time. It contains 5% glycolic acid which is the same amount as Alpha-H Liquid Gold. Personally this product did not work for me & it made me breakout in places that I had no spots in previously. I think that using two acids one after the other was simply too much for my skin. Now I just use the CosRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser beforehand to lower my skin's pH level. This works a treat & my skin reacts much better to the peels without having to wait after cleansing. I would highly recommend picking up some of Bravura London's at-home chemical peels if you feel that leave on acids are no longer working for you. The results I've had from using these products has been phenomenal & the extra effort required is definitely worthwhile.

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Thursday, 22 June 2017

LQ Liquid Health Supplements Skin, Hair & Nails

LQ Liquid Health Supplements Skin, Hair & Nails* - £29.99

We've all heard the phrase 'you are what you eat' before & it certainly rings true when talking about skincare. Changing certain aspects of my diet has personally helped me to combat issues with acne & eczema. Some changes can be as simple as avoiding dairy products but for other benefits supplements are a fantastic way to improve your diet & overall health. The latest trend in health supplements are collagen drinks as a tastier method of ingesting nutrients that claim to support beauty from within. I take a variety of daily supplement pills from Holland & Barrett but I've never tried a beauty drink before. LQ Liquid Health offered to send me a month's supply of their Skin, Hair & Nails liquid supplement & I was very eager to give it a go.

As we age our natural collagen levels start to decrease resulting in loss of moisture, reduced elasticity and the development of fine lines & wrinkles. This apparently happens around the age of 25 & at 28 I can already tell that my skin no longer looks quite as youthful (even though I still get spots!). Ingesting liquid collagen provides the entire body with the building blocks it needs to support the creation & repair of the body's connective tissues. These beauty drinks allow the collagen peptides to be delivered straight into the bloodstream to directly encourage the skin to produce more collagen & hyaluronic acid. This helps to inhibit the ageing process by boosting the skin's hydration levels whilst plumping & firming it up in the process. The main benefit of drinking these bottles over taking a pill is that you get a whopping 7000mg of hydrolysed marine collagen in each one which is clinically proven to have a positive effect on your skin, hair & nails. LQ use Peptan® which is a high quality source of collagen containing more than 97% protein & it can be easily digested by the body.

As well as collagen these supplements provide eight other important nutrients, all of which contribute towards the maintenance of healthy skin, hair & nails. These include hyaluronic acid, resveratrol, silicon & glucosamine. I'm sure we all know about about the wonders of hyaluronic acid by now. It's great for hydrating & plumping up the skin but it also helps to lubricate your joints. Resveratrol is a natural antioxidant with scientifically proven anti-ageing, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer & life-prolonging effects. Silicon contributes to the strength, integrity & growth of connective tissues including skin, hair & nails. Glucosamine is a substance found in the fluid around your joints and supplementing your diet with it can help with joint pain & general joint health. I'd definitely recommend it if you're into training at the gym. In addition to these key active ingredients they also feature Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium & Biotin. These beauty drinks are simply packed full of good stuff to help your body out!

Each bottle of Skin, Hair & Nails contains 50ml of liquid vitamin supplement. You're supposed to drink one bottle per day for at least one month in order to see results. The drink itself has a fairly pleasant passion fruit flavour. There was a bit of a metallic aftertaste which kinda reminded me of these chewable zinc pastilles that my mum forced me to take as a child whenever I got poorly. Luckily you can down these little bottles like a shot so the taste doesn't last long & you can chase them with whatever drink you like. I always took them straight after breakfast so I wouldn't forget. It took quite a while for me to notice a difference but by the fourth week of my trial I could tell that my skin looked plumper & felt better hydrated. These supplements also put paid to the fine lines on my forehead. I kept the rest of my topical skincare routine the same throughout so I do think that these drinks made a difference in that respect. As my hair is bleached it's quite easy to keep track of my hair growth from my dark roots. This was definitely faster than usual & the new hair felt stronger too. For some reason my nails didn't seem to benefit in the same way. They broke off the same amount as usual & grew at the same rate. Perhaps they would improve with further use.

Since finishing the month long trial my skin seems to have gone back to the way it was before with a bit of sagging & fine lines creeping back in. LQ suggest continuing to supplement with 3 or 4 bottles per week to maintain the benefits. However the main downside to these supplements is that they are quite expensive. Each box costs £30 & you only get 10 bottles for that price. Therefore it would cost you £90 for just one month. If you purchase them directly from LQ Liquid Health you can get 3 for the price of 2 so it's a much better deal but still an expensive thing to try out. Nonetheless, if you can afford it & want to suppress the visible signs of ageing or simply want healthier looking skin, these little bottles are definitely worth the investment.

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Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Happiness Boutique

Happiness Boutique Glamorous Over The Top Statement Necklace* - £24.50

For someone who used to relish over-accessorising every single day, recently I've found myself wearing & buying less pieces of jewellery. More often than not I simply throw on my name necklace with my Michael Kors watch and head out the door. When I do wear something different it's because I want it to stand out as an important part of my outfit & statement pieces are my favourite way to upgrade what could otherwise be quite a plain ensemble. I especially like to bring out my statement jewellery collection during the Summer when it's often far too hot to throw on more than shorts & a t-shirt. When Happiness Boutique, an online jewellery store based in Berlin, asked me to feature one of their pieces on my blog I was overwhelmed by the vast amount of gorgeous statement necklaces available on their website. I've been looking for something ultra glam to take on holiday with me & I'm incredibly pleased with the necklace I picked out.

This stunning statement necklace is fully decked out with rhinestones & intricate details that really catch your eye. It certainly stood out to me when I was browsing their website. All of their product photos are really clear so you know exactly what your item will look like when it arrives. Most products are also accompanied by many customer pictures so you can get some ideas of how to style each piece. This particular necklace can be styled in so many ways & would work well in many situations. You could wear it to work, out clubbing or on the beach - it really is that versatile. I adore all of the wonderful embellishments on this necklace. With all of the different layers & shapes it almost looks like you're wearing several different pieces at once. Each individual section is beautifully designed & they fit together seamlessly as a whole. It definitely lives up to it's name of being OTT & has the ability to instantly dress up any outfit. Despite being quite large, it's not too heavy & won't weigh you down during the day. It feels very sturdy and has an adjustable chain to suit loads of different styles of tops & dresses.

Happiness Boutique offer free delivery worldwide on all orders & my necklace arrived promptly despite coming all the way from Germany. It was packaged very securely so I wouldn't hesitate to order from them again. I think the price is quite reasonable compared to similar pieces I've seen on the high street & the quality is definitely more impressive. I absolutely love this statement necklace & I look forward to wearing it in Spain this Summer. I would highly recommend checking out Happiness Boutique's gorgeous fashion accessories. Alongside their fabulous range of necklaces they have some beautiful bracelets, earrings & rings too so you're bound to find something you love!

How do you like to style statement necklaces?

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Monday, 19 June 2017

FOREO Luna Mini 2

FOREO Luna Mini 2 - £119

The FOREO Luna Mini 2 is hands down the best thing that I have bought in the last year. I've noticed quite a few people questioning whether they should buy a Clarisonic or a FOREO Luna so I just wanted to give you the lowdown on why I think this particular cleansing device is so much better for your skin. About six years ago I bought a Clarisonic Mia. At the time I really loved it & thought that it was an incredible invention. I did go through what others had told me was the 'purge' stage as it did make me breakout for a while but my skin around these blemishes looked beautiful. Eventually I stopped getting spots from it but the effects were no longer that noticeable & I started to get broken capillaries on my face. This showed that the brush head was way too harsh for my skin & the 'purge' I had gone through was just my skin reacting badly to the intense irritation that the Clarisonic Mia was causing. I also found it annoying that you could never be sure if the bristles were really clean, you had to replace the brush heads often & you had to charge it all the time. I only had the device for about 10 months before it broke & would no longer charge. It took quite a while to get a replacement & by the time that Clarisonic had sent me a new one, I realised that my skin was better off without it.

The harsh physical exfoliation of the Clarisonic Mia had put me off cleansing devices for a vast amount of time. Having learned so much more about skincare I knew that chemical exfoliants were better suited to my skin. Then last year I started seeing lots of reviews for the little FOREO Luna Play. Many people that I knew had reviewed & loved their Clarisonics in the past were singing the praises of this tiny cleansing tool. It definitely piqued my interest but to me the Luna Play seemed like a waste of money as you can only use it 100 times before it dies forever. Instead I decided to go for the Luna Mini 2 as the size & shape of it were a happy medium between the original Luna & Luna Mini devices. The price was also smack bang in the middle of these two & at the time Cult Beauty had an offer on which meant I got a free Yu Ling jade facial roller as well so I got a pretty good deal! Of course, I went for the bright pink one but it is available in five other colours to suit your own style.

The Luna Mini 2 is a sonic cleansing device that delivers 8000 T-Sonic pulsations per minute. There are eight levels of pulse intensity so you can decide how powerful you want it to be. It features a three zone brush which is suitable for all skin types. On the front of the Luna Mini 2 there is a large surface area covered with long silicone bristles which gently remove impurities as well as a smaller patch at the top with thicker points for precision cleaning. On the back the silicone points are broader, denser & more tightly packed which specifically targets oily skin. I tend to just use the front of the device as I feel that the softer silicone bristles work well for my skin type. The silicone is nonporous & antibacterial so it's really easy to clean and much more hygienic than a brush. It is also 100% waterproof so you don't have to worry about keeping it in the shower. I absolutely love how long it lasts without charging. I've had mine for nearly a year now & I've only had to charge it once in that time. If only they could put that same technology into an iPhone! The main difference between a Clarisonic & a Luna device is that the Luna does not exfoliate the skin. Instead it just uses these T-Sonic vibrations to deeply cleanse your pores, kinda like an electric toothbrush for your face. It simply enhances the power of your cleanser and allows any products you apply after cleansing to penetrate deeper. This means that it fits in better with the rest of my skincare routine as I can still use all the acids & retinoids I want without over-exfoliating my skin or damaging the moisture barrier.

Using the device is incredibly simple. You just wet your face & apply your cleanser like normal. Then you wet the Luna Mini 2 & turn it on before moving it around your face in circular motions for one minute. It has an integrated timer so it pauses every 15 seconds to tell you to move the device to another area of your face. It also switches off after three minutes to prevent overuse. The only thing you have to be careful about is which cleanser you use with it. The instructions say to avoid using any clay-based, silicone-based or grainy cleansers with the Luna Mini 2. My favourite cleanser is the CosRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser & it works brilliantly with this cleansing tool. I use it with this cleanser twice a day, every day & my skin has never looked smoother. The results I've had from using this have been amazing. When I first bought it I wasn't too sure if it was doing much. From the very first use it will make your face feel baby soft & really well cleansed without any irritation whatsoever. But over time it really starts to work it's magic. It has made a huge difference to the texture & clarity of my skin. My complexion looks so bright & fresh and my makeup applies better too. I find that now when I do get a spot, the Luna helps to pop the head without causing trauma so I get minimal post-blemish scarring & everything heals up much faster. Overall I'd say it's definitely worth the investment. It's easy to use, easy to clean, easy to charge & it works wonders on the skin. What's not to love?!

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Tuesday, 13 June 2017

May Favourites

Diamond Whites Black Edition 100% Natural Charcoal Tooth Polish
To distract attention away from the wonkiness of my teeth I try to keep them looking as white as possible. I normally use Crest White Strips but they can make your teeth feel quite sensitive. Loads of these charcoal tooth powders have been popping up all over Instagram lately & as I do like to use some natural products I decided to order a tub from Diamond Whites. It is made from 100% activated coconut shell charcoal and claims to remove stains from your teeth, strengthen your gums & absorb toxins from your mouth. You just dip your toothbrush head into the pot, brush your teeth with it & then rinse really well. It literally turns your teeth black & looks really weird when you're brushing them. I find that I have to follow it up with my regular mouthwash & toothpaste to get rid of all the black residue. It makes such a mess & will turn your sink black too but I do think it works. It makes my teeth look sparkly clean & they feel thoroughly polished afterwards. These charcoal tooth powders are mainly for removing stains rather than proper teeth whitening but if you drink a lot of tea or coffee, it'll probably work well for you too. Just don't expect it to work miracles on really yellow teeth.

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution
The Ordinary's skincare products have fast become some of my all time favourites. The AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution is truly the crème de la crème & as my skin loves chemical exfoliants this product is a dream come true. It can be difficult to find such high strength acids in the UK, the most you'll normally find is about 10% so this is a special product indeed. In the bottle this viscous red liquid looks like blood but on the face it turns into a raspberry pink which indicates where you have applied the product. It also stops you from being tempted to leave it on overnight which could cause a lot of damage. Used properly this peel does all the things that acids usually do but TO THE EXTREME. It brightens your complexion, unclogs pores & gives you the most baby soft skin of your life. It might even cleanse your soul! When I first started using it my face would experience some intense tingling but now I'm more accustomed to this acid strength I apply it twice a week without issue. I rarely use any other acid products now, this is literally all I need to maintain clear, smooth skin.

NYX Pro Foundation Mixer in White
I seem to have accumulated quite a few foundations that are too dark for my skin. A lot of the time I'll really like the formula but the brand don't offer a shade that's pale enough for me. Instead of chucking these products out I decided to pick up a white mixer from NYX. This product can lighten foundations without altering their consistency or coverage whatsoever. I really like the tube packaging as it makes it easy to dispense the exact amount of mixer you need. It's such a useful thing to have & allows me to alter the colour of a whole range of products. You can even use it on it's own as a super pale matte highlight. NYX also have five other Pro Foundation Mixers (Opal, Luminous, Olive, Warmth & Deep) so you can create a custom foundation that's especially tailored to your needs.

Too Faced x Kat Von D Better Together Bestselling Mascara & Liner Duo
Two products that you never stop hearing about in the beauty community are Too Faced's Better Than Sex Mascara & Kat Von D's Tattoo Liner in Trooper. These two powerhouse makeup brands recently teamed up to bring us the 'Better Together' collection & while most of it didn't appeal to me, I was very excited about this mascara & liner duo. For just £18 you get a mini version of each product so it's a great way to try something new without spending tons of money. I always think it's a good idea to pick up a miniature mascara whenever possible because then it won't expire before you've used it all. The Better Than Sex Mascara excels at giving your lashes both tons of length & volume. It holds a curl really well & gives you a beautiful wispy effect. I love how it spreads out my lashes & makes them look much fuller. It lasts all day without flaking or smudging & is easily one of the best mascaras I've ever tried. I've been using Stila's Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner for the past couple of years & in general it's very similar to the Kat Von D offering. They're both highly pigmented, last all day long & don't transfer to my upper eyelid. The main reason I now prefer the Tattoo Liner is the super fine nib. It allows the liner to glide on smoothly & creates a really sharp wing. It's absolutely perfect & I will definitely repurchase it in the future.

Makeup Revolution Ultra Eye Contour Light & Shade Palette
I've been wanting to buy Kat Von D's Shade & Light Eye Contour Palette for years now as it's pretty much the perfect collection of neutral matte eyeshadows. It's the kind of thing that everyone should have in their makeup stash as it's such a versatile product. However it had taken so long for Kat Von D's makeup range to be stocked in Debenhams that I kinda lost interest as I do already have several similar eyeshadows. A few months ago Kat made the mistake of blasting Makeup Revolution on Instagram for copying her palette, informing millions of beauty lovers that you could pick up a dupe of the Shade & Light Eye Palette for a mere £8. That price combined with Superdrug's 3 for 2 on all makeup offer meant that I couldn't resist buying it & I'm completely in love! Sure the shadows may be slightly chalkier & produce a lot of kickback compared to the Kat Von D palette but the colours are near identical & they blend out really nicely. I know some people take offence to makeup dupes but I'm all for it. This was the first Makeup Revolution product that I've tried & it certainly won't be the last.

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