Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Get yer LV, Channel and Yvee Saint Laurent Cheap as Chips!

When I worked on the fragrance counter in Boots at the tender age of 15, I distinctly remember one chap asking for "Channel and Yvee Saint Laurent" to test.  He ended up buying Charlie, one of the best-selling fragrances of the 1980's at a fraction of the price.  That was my first exposure to luxury brands (not the Charlie bit).

These days, I quite like luxury brands but I'm fussy.  I no longer want Louboutin shoes at any price having seen a succession of people I don't want to look like wearing them.  However I do lust after a Chanel bag and am working out several ways to get one without paying the going rate.

Chanel Vintage often appears on BrandAlley and SecretSale, but are gone within minutes.  You don't stand a chance of snagging one but there are other sites where they hang around a bit longer.  Try www.vintageheirloom.com or www.lxrco.com where the bags give you a chance to make an informed decision.  Both were recommended to me by Jane Cunningham at www.britishbeautyblogger.com who has forgotten more about Chanel than I'll ever know.     However, I still struggle to bring myself to buy a second hand bag at that price.  I want a new one with at least 50% off!

There is a whispered, hallowed event that takes place every so often when top journalists and influencers are invited to a Chanel bag sale.  It's impossible for someone like me to get on the list - I need more of you to follow the blog (more than 4, anyway).   However, even once you're on the list, queueing for hours in the cold (I hear that the top hotels have banned the sales from their rooms as they think the queues not appropriate for their image), you have to pick from what's there.  Now, that may be brilliant, but it may not be quite right and you'll still be paying a lot of money.

This lovely glossy terminal has a Chanel shop and this is where a colleague suggested I try my luck.  Her theory is that you get the VAT back by taking your bag of the country.  Not an insignificant amount on a Chanel bag.  However, research shows this is fine for her, with a mother living abroad who visits, purchases and then gives the bag to her daughter when she gets out to the Far East.  This is not fine for the rest of us as you have to be able to prove you will be out of the UK for 12 months, if not, goods will be confiscated - not really the point, so this is won't work either.

No, not an option at all.  Illegal and completely against the point of owning a luxury brand.  It isn't just the logo, it's the quality of the product that I want to experience. 

So, I visited the Bond Street store, the new Chanel shop which is the biggest in Europe.  I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised at how charming the staff were and keen to explain what we were looking at - not the products, the store design.  The Murano glass sculpture which represents Chanel's pearls, the upstairs showroom that replicates her Paris apartment lounge, the couture items loaned from recent catwalk shows & the symbolism in them.  It was very pleasant and no, I wasn't buying, I was just nosing around and they were charming about it.

No, there's only one thing to do, hope that someday I can afford this type of spend and then make a day of it.  Pretend I've no idea which bag I want & spend at least an hour choosing, get it wrapped and then go for a fantastic lunch.  One thing I will do though, is keep the receipt - the market in second hand Chanel bags is fantastic.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013


This week, I've got a fabulous work experience girl with me who is the daughter of friends up the road (there you go, my hand is declared in that I know her).

I firmly believe in proper work experience opportunities for young people as I doubt any of us knew what we wanted to do when we left school - I never thought I'd do this.  Anyway, I love having her, she's calm, capable and does what I say which makes her perfect.

What I hated was the paperwork that now surrounds these placements.  Of course, no one wants to put a child in danger, but I work from home with no employees so we don't have Employers Liability Insurance (which I've had to take out for this week), we don't have the plugs and electrical appliances checked, the boiler hasn't been serviced in the last 12 months and no, the stock room (where I keep press samples) is not quite as H&S ready as perhaps they would like.

The coordinators at the school really can't have much on as they've been on the e-mail or attempting to phone every five minutes to see if I had sorted the insurance.  To be blunt I don't want to have insurance in place longer than I need to (as it's a business expense) so I did leave it until 4 days before she was meant to start.   However, I said I'd have it in place and I did but the e-mails between the school, the college (which was involved, I'm not sure how) and me went on and on.  Allegedly, the school reads out the names of the pupils in assembly who's companies haven't completed all their paperwork - why don't they just stick them on a stage with silly hats and point to them throughout break?

I'm a small business, I don't have staff because business can be uncertain and I've made people redundant in the past - it wasn't pleasant for either of us - and I don't want that expense or pressure right now.  I can't be the only business that is working hard, doing okay but keeping business finances tight, but it comes as no surprise to hear that my workie's friends are almost all in primary schools shadowing teachers.  A public enterprise has all the time and resources to tick the boxes.

I'm sure they don't all want to be teachers, but I'm equally sure I won't have a workie again and I bet many other small companies are exactly the same.  She lives up the road to me but I'm not allowed to take her to the station in my car so her mum is having to drive us both whilst the fear of God has been put into me when we go to London for a series of meetings on Friday.  I might wrap her in bubble wrap before we go.

Everyone knows that you won't get much done when you have someone shadowing you for a week so it's a real investment in time and energy into that person, time and energy that we need for business frankly.  Schools, don't make it even harder for kids to find their vocations.

Monday, 10 June 2013


Cellulite is one of those really tricky beauty problems.  To be perfectly honest, weight loss is relatively simple – less in, more out – it just requires self-discipline and that’s where most of us fail.  Cellulite is tricker, depending on your genes, lifestyle, hormones and your skin type, most of which are out of our control.  Lifestyle is about the only one we can have any decisions over and as there are claims that up to 70% of cellulite is down to lifestyle we can help ourselves an awful lot.   Treatments to help are out there, but bear in mind that results always vary from individual to individual so what works for one may not work for you.  Here are the few that I’d actually recommend.

Hypoxi Training
 The image doesn’t really tell us what’s going on here.  This is a salon-based treatment (there are just two centres in all of Sussex) that requires you undertaking 2-3 sessions each week for 30 minutes each session.  The model’s lower half in a sealed chamber (a bit like a canoe seal) and she is sat on an exercise bike.  You pedal for 30 minutes and during that time there is a vacuum that sucks and releases air in the chamber.  The idea is the vacuum is literally pulling your blood through the lumpy fat cells towards the surface of the skin.  When the vacuum releases, the blood moves back into the system and flows around the body.  The bit that makes sense to me is that if you feel your fatty areas after you’ve exercised they are normally quite cold, which means your blood supply isn’t getting into them.  By forcing blood into these areas through the suction, you’re helping improve your circulation, which must be a good thing for cellulite reduction. 
Price:                        Check Groupon and online for offers.  Price around £60 per session, but 
                                   there are deals to be had
Salon:                        hypoxi.com

Another salon treatment, but this one lifts and rolls your skin, breaking down fibres that are holding the bumpy bits of fat in place.  With this treatment, there’s no exercise involved, so if you want a passive solution, this could be it.  Endermologie also works on scar tissue and has a host of celebrity fans.
Price:                        £55 per session
Salon:                        lpgsystems.com

There are lots of very good reasons to do Powerplate (or similar) training.  For women, it helps increase bone density and fight osteoporosis and it improves cellulite four times faster than if you were on a treadmill for the same amount of time.  You stand on this vibrating platform and it wobbles you with small but incredibly fast movements, stimulating blood flow all over.  Ten minutes is all you’ll need and probably all you can stand.  I felt very sick when doing this – must be the motion – but it does give great benefits so see if you can take it
Price:                        from £10 for 10 minutes
Salon:                        powerplate.com/uk/

Elemis Skin Brush
Body Brushing is great for skin all over, but if you concentrate on cellulite you will see an improvement here too.  The Elemis Skin Brush is made of high quality Cactus bristles that assist the internal system by kick-starting the circulation and sweeping away dead skin cells. Brush upwards from the soles of your feet, avoiding sensitive areas.
Price:                        £20.00
Stockist:            timetospa.co.uk

Soap & Glory Sit Tight Super Intense XS
Caffeine packed cream complete with massage head applicator.  Personally, I don’t think creams can make any real difference to cellulite, but coupled with the applicator this one is better than many.  If you want a product in a jar to do the job, this one will give temporary assistance.
Price:                        £16.50
Stockist:            boots.com

bliss fatgirlsoap

This is a caffeine-boosted soap with massaging nubs that you work into the skin.  The theory is the massage element coupled with the ingredients will not only help revitalise skin but will also help contour.   Jojoba beads are added to help with exfoliation and massage.
Price:                        £14.00
Stockist:            blissworld.co.uk

Oh dear….
Last week I wrote about the Elemis Marine Cream at £99.00 a pop.  I have one in the cupboard so I got it out to test, only to drop it on the floor and lose half of it to the carpet.  That’s Karma in action for recommending something at that price!

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Thermasoft Bootees by Alessandro

I am in love.

I am just trying out a product given to me by alessandro International called Thermasoft Bootees.

Meant for a salon or home pedicure, they're not cheap at £9.95 a set, but what utter bliss.  I would use these even on a cold winter night when you just want a bit of warmth in your feet.

You get two plastic boots and a disposable measuring jug.  Into each boot you pour 2 x 6 oz lukewarm water and leave it to brew for 3 minutes.  After this, you pop your feet into the inner liner and the boots heat up.

As you can see from my picture, the boots aren't much of a look, but the inner liner is laced with Shea Butter so when you take them off feet are silky smooth and princess perfect.  These are great as a home treatment - no mess, very easy to use and they work.  Buy them at www.alessandro-international.co.uk

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Happy Birthday to Me!

Significant birthday portrait below!

Sea Beauty


Judging by the number of people on the roads down to the coast last weekend half the county was heading to the sea.  There are tremendous beauty benefits to be had from the sea including just inhaling the ozone given off by the waves, which is fantastic for your health and skin.  Many beauty companies have been harvesting the sea for ingredients for years and here are a few of my favourites.

Weleda Salt Toothpaste

This toothpaste avoids fluoride and goes for natural ingredients to get your teeth really clean.  Packed with sea salt, and sodium sulphate to help keep gums healthy, this toothpaste stimulates salivation and so promotes self-cleansing to reduce the formation of tartar.   It’s an acquired taste but many people swear by it.

Price:                        £4.50, 75ml

Stockist:            weleda.co.uk

Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray

If you love the look of your hair after a day on the beach, windswept and beautiful, then try this spray in styling product. Work through damp or dry hair and let it dry naturally or blow-dry with a diffuser for windswept softness.

Price:                        £20.50, 125ml

Stockist:            bumbleandbumble.co.uk

Thalgo  Sweet and Savoury Body Scrub

A delicious combination of Sea Salt, Cassonade Sugar and plant Essential Oils, this scrub helps eliminate rough patches, smooth the skin and leave it feeling beautifully soft.  Delicately fragranced with notes of Mediterranean Essential Oils, your skin is left smooth, toned, and radiant.

Price:                        £39.50, 250g

Stockist:            thalgo.co.uk

H2O Plus Sea Salt Body Wash

I tried the body scrub from this range and thought it a really well made product with a fabulous fragrance.  The entire range is based on marine extracts and the Body Wash includes purifying sea salt and red algae to lightly lather away impurities while infusing skin with mineral-rich moisture.

Price:                          £13.00, 370ml

Stockist:            marksandspencer.com

 Phytomer Sun Soother After Sun Face Mask

We’ve all done it, spent too long in the sun and now our face is burning up.  This facemask by Phytomer uses moisturising and comforting marine ingredients to replenish your skin after exposure to the sun – bliss.

Price:                                    £24.00, 50ml

Stockist:                         bathandunwind.com

Crabtree & Evelyn La Source Foot Remedy

Even if it’s raining today, you’re still thinking about sandal time.  Crabtree & Evelyn's La Source Moisturising Foot Remedy includes shea butter, sweet almond oil, and marine extracts to help feet feel supple and conditioned.

Price:                        £15.00, 100g

Stockist:            bathandunwind.com

Elemis Pro-Collagen Limited Edition Marine Cream

I’ve got two pots of this, given to me at different stages and I can’t bring myself to use either.  The price is huge for a pot of cream and I really like Elemis – imagine the disappointment if it doesn’t work!  However, it does get rave reviews so I’m going to start using it, as it’s no use to anyone in my cupboard.  Marine extracts, great claims and a fabulous feel – try it and I will too.

Price:                        £99.00, 100ml

Stockist:            feelunique.com

Aromatherapy Associates Triple Rose Renewing Moisturiser

I know it says rose, but one of the key active ingredients is sea algae.  Algae are used in a number of ranges (Including Thalgo and Phytomer) because of its great properties for tightening skin and adding anti-oxidants. 

Price:                        £54.00, 50ml

Stockist:            aromatherapyassociates.com

Transformulas Mid-Life Marine Miracle Crème

This critically acclaimed anti ageing cream uses a rich marine cocktail to heal and transform the complexion. Wrinkles and fine lines appear to be reduced while skin firmness and elasticity are increased.   I’m not sure about the “Mid-Life” bit in the title but I suspect it’s telling us that if you’re in your 20’s there are better products out there for you.

Price:                        £41.95, 15ml

Stockist:            transformulas.com

Sunwards Face Cream SPF 30

I know we ran this a few weeks ago, but I’ve been using it all over the weekend and what a lovely product it is.  If you get to the beach next weekend, grab some of this and protect your face from the rays!

Price:                        £13.50

Stockist:            skinmed.co.uk

There's no Creme de la Mer in this review although it's the obvious choice to put in.  Firstly, they don't send out samples to test.  Now, I'm not looking for a full size pot, but if you can't test a product, what can I say about it?  I have tried the eye cream before and it wasn't the "wow" product I was anticipating, but we all agree not every product works for every woman.  Secondly, their latest special edition is £275 per pot.  I like a good quality product as much as the next girl but I can't recommend this in the current climate - what do you think?

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

 Hello all!  Sorry, am back to at least weekly posting now so here we go:

I know, we've had some sun!  Two things happen when the sun comes out; we see how tight last year's summer clothes are (very depressing) and we start to think about sorting out our bodies, in particular, de-fuzzing legs, underarms, bits - they all need our attention now but with so many options what to do?  Here's my beauty guide to your choices.

Now I love razors as they are quick and easy.  There's no truth in the beauty myth that if you shave your legs the hairs will grow back stronger.  What happens is that because you blunt the end of the hair it grows back the same thickness as the hair shaft, so there's no tapering.  In other words, it just looks sturdier.  However, if you have dark hairs this is less of a suitable option as re-growth is reasonably fast.
TRY:                          Gillette For Women Venus Razor
Price:                        £6.49
Stockist:                   boots.com

Hair Removal Cream
In my youth these were cumbersome, messy, smelly creams that were a real pain.  It didn't help that I was impatient and couldn't wait the full time.  These days, they have no unpleasant smell and curved spatulas to help with application & removal.
TRY:                        Escentially Smooth Hair Removal Cream
Price:                       £5.99, 100 ml
Stockist:                 Boots.com

Not just for girls, waxing has many options for both men and women.  It is the main choice of hair removal and you can get home waxing strips, wax rollers or go to a salon.  In salons, the latest thinking is cold wax.  Now, I've tried them all and there's no getting away from it “discomfort” is involved.  However, waxing does give 2-3 weeks hair free pleasure.  You'll need to keep a pair of pointed tweezers at the ready for strays that grow back faster or ingrown hairs, but waxing does work.
TRY:                        Veet EasyWax Electrical Roll-On Kit
Price:                       £29.99
Stockist:                 veet.co.uk

I can’t be the only one who thinks of that scene in the brilliant comedy series Gavin & Stacey, where Nessa and Stacey are bleaching their upper lips!   Not removal, but disguise, bleaching does minimize appearance.  Be careful, bleaching can result in the hair becoming brittle and liable to break as well as possibly sensitising the skin.

TRY:                        Jolen Crème Bleach

Price:                       £4.40
Stockist:                 feelunique.com

Plucking or Threading
Like most people, I’ve only ever used plucking or threading for brows and I suspect that these methods are best suited to tiny areas.  Take care as when the hair is plucked out in the opposite direction to the natural fall of the hair growth, the follicle is likely to be distorted, so only pluck in the direction of the hair growth.

TRY:                        Tweezerman Fruity Slant Mini Tweezer

Price:                       £14.50
Stockist:                 tweezerman.co.uk

Epilators are designed to pull the hairs out from the roots (just like waxing), but doing so through mini spinning “tweezers” that are electrically powered.  The advantages are that modern epilators work on short hairs of 2mm, so you don’t have to wait for the regrowth that you do with waxing.

TRY:                        Braun Silk-épil Dual Epilator 7891 Wet & Dry Cordless Epilator

Price:                       £169.99
Stockist:                 boots.com

IPL (Intense Pulsed Light)
Your IPL treatment can fairly claim a permanent reduction of growth.  This means it should be clear for a year, but it may grow back.  These treatments are expensive and they do not work on all skin types or colours, so check whether this is suitable for you before buying.  I know people who think the Philips Lumia is fantastic and it is a great home option.

TRY:                        Philips Lumia Precision Plus

Price:                       £450.00 (yes, I know, but no spending on waxing ever again)
Stockist:                 philips.co.uk

Laser is the most recent newcomer to hair removal. Legally, laser manufacturers can claim permanent hair reduction but not (to date) removal, and it is said to be an effective method of hair management. Currently, laser cannot successfully treat light blonde or white hair and, in fact, can strip the colour from some hairs, often leaving white hair remaining which then have to be removed with electrolysis.

TRY:                        Rio Laser Hair Removal System

Price:                      £102.12
STOCKIST:             argos.co.uk

This is a professional treatment, not to be tried at home, but it is the only really permanent hair removal method.  Try it for small areas of hair that you want rid of – on the chin or neck – and see how you get on with the method.  Needles and electric current involved, but close your eyes and it’s over in nano-seconds.
TRY:                        Elainestoddart.com

Elaine will be able to recommend your best local practitioner.  My thanks also to her for her help in creating this article, as no one knows more about hair removal!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Samantha Brick - Is She Right?

I've been thinking about Samantha Brick and her comments about women's jealousy over her self-acclaimed beauty and I think she's right, but not necessarily in the way she thinks.  It's not that we deny her beauty, if she feels it that's fantastic for her and we don't need an opinion on that, but the problem is if the rest of us cannot stand to hear a woman proclaim that she IS beautiful - why do we have a problem with this?  So few of us have the confidence to actually say that we look okay, let alone beautiful, that when one woman dares to say such a thing why don't we think "Good for her, how lovely that she feels that way."

Why we don't is the really interesting point of the whole thing.

I meet a lot of women in my world and many of them make the very best of what they've got, yet they still pick on some part of themselves to fixate about - why? We women constantly self sabotage and have low self esteem and there's really no need for it.

I read somewhere yesterday (possibly Daily Mail, possibly Pure Beauty magazine) that women are turning away from model images and increasingly want to look the best they can at their age and with what they've been given.  I'm not totally convinced this is true as the aspirational images fed to us by the beauty industry are very unlikely to go away, but how wonderful would that be if we all said "Shove it, I don't care what the 20 year old model promoting the anti-ageing range or the 50+ clothing line looks like, what matters is what do I look like when using these products?"

Samantha Brick may be onto something...

Natural Beauty

There is so much confusion surrounding organic beauty that I don’t even know where to start.  Different international accrediting bodies have different standards so what might be allowed by the Soil Association might not be allowable by the OFC in Australia.  Likewise, “you out there” seem to be moving away from pure organic products but instead, you seem to want products that work – who’d have thought, eh?  So, here’s a selection of “natural” products that I think will tick your boxes and two others that I give a standing ovation to – read on to find out why.

 Weleda Skin Food
Created in 1926, long before petrochemicals began to find their way into women’s cosmetics (gosh, don’t start me off on that one) this is an enduring “must have” to help dry skin.  62% of the plant ingredients in this range are cultivated in organic or biodynamic environments and they don’t use artificial preservatives.    In short, people whom care about what goes into their product and how it’s made.
Price: £5.95 for 30ml
Stockist: weleda.co.uk
Green People Daily Aloe Shampoo
West Sussex, we need to gather this brand to our bosom as it is based in West Grinstead.  Organic shampoos are difficult to make as we consumers don’t understand shampoo with low foam and so presume they don’t work.  In reality, this shampoo will do the job very nicely thank you and will even foam a little to keep you happy whilst being very gentle on your scalp.
Price: £9.95 for 200ml
Stockist: greenpeople.co.uk

Dr Hauschka Facial Toner
This is a certified “natural” range, but what we do know is that it is celebrity-adored.  Looking beyond this, the word “anthroposophical” crops up (as it does with Weleda) and this is all about how the products are made – in short holistic, respectful of life, in harmony with life.  Plant based, this toner lives up to its reputation.
Price: £22.47 for 100ml
Stockist:            drhauschka.co.uk

Organic Pharmacy Carrot Butter Cleanser
Soil Association approved and 99.9% organic this is a great product.  Use it in the same way you might use other solid cleansers, massaging into dry skin before removing with a hot damp cloth.  I’d be tempted after to use a micellar cleanser or regular toner afterwards to ensure that all traces of make up/grime are gone, but it’s not necessary.  This will not only cleanse but feed your skin with lots of good stuff – not many cleansers can do that.
Price: £29.95 for 70ml
Stockist:            theorganicpharmacy.com
Peony Gold Juniper Exfoliating Crystals
I love this brand for admitting that they are organic and natural by default!  The company chose to base their brand on the healing properties of White Peonies, but as a protected flower these are grown in very carefully controlled biodynamic environments and so the supply is, by default, organic.   This exfoliator mixes peonies with Gold Juniper to create a blend that detoxifies, eliminates dead skin cells and stimulates skin cell renewal
Price: £20.00 for 15mg
Stockist:            peonyskincare.co.uk

Avene Micellar Lotion Cleanser
Micellar water is one of the newest style cleansers and contains small oil molecules in spa water to lift dirt, make-up and oil from the skin.   I’ve been testing this product and I love it.  It could be a toner as it has the same type of feel so it takes a bit of getting used to but it’s packed with Avène Thermal Spring Water and soothing alpha-bisabolol to leave the skin clean, soft and soothed.   
Price: £12.50 for 200ml
Stockist:            Boots.com