Monday, February 27, 2017

An Afternoon at Belgravia Studios

Hands up if you've ever been coerced by one of those people on the street offering you an amazing day out at their luxury beauty studios being pampered and photographed? Well last year my friend was and in the end had to sign up just to make the person go away - and she's not someone who rolls over easily! I was lucky enough to be invited along and as it was a Sunday before Christmas it made a nice trip out for us both, but how did the experience fair and is it something that I think is worth it?

There are a number of packages available at Belgravia Studios and I think what you might decide on or will be offered depends on what offers are available. In our case the session was booked for £100 which was a refundable deposit, so essentially the experience was free for us so a win win.

We arrived at Belgravia Studios which were very plush and looked nicer than my expectations and just a short walk from Kings Cross Station. The photographer was certainly a character and popped over and introduced himself and explained a little about what the photography session would include.

Next was the 'style consultation' from a Professional Make-Up Artist that includes a mini hand massage and mini manicure (just a file and one coat of paint), your skin cleansed, toned and moisturised, make up session and professional hair styling which is detailed on the offer.

Now this would the stage I'd be most critical at, whilst I appreciate that the make up was 'for camera' I didn't find it was anything particularly special and when I saw it outside the studios I couldn't wait to get home and remove it; its' certainly something to consider if you were planning to head out after your photography session. We left after dark and I was heading straight home so I wasn't too worried about any stares on the underground but I certainly wouldn't have gone out wearing it. We talked through that I liked a red lip and a vintage style make up was suggested but it wasn't anything beyond what I might do for myself, not even so much as some winged liner.

The cleanse, tone and moisturise was simply that to clean the face and there was no hand massage for either of us and in fact two other guests commented on lack of one and requested it before they left. Hair was at the hands of straighteners giving me some curls which I was happy with.

Next there was some more waiting around before we were led downstairs to the photography studio, a series of rooms and spaces which the photographer would make use of on our shoot. We had been asked to bring at least four outfits which left my friend and I panicking hours before we met and saw me dragging a heavy bag on the train with me laden down with shoes and dresses to choose from.

It would have been useful to know in advance that the photos primarily focus on head and shoulders and the need for 'outfits' or indeed shoes wasn't necessary, I didn't wear any in my photos so I had carried them unnecessarily.

The photographer as I mentioned was very good at his job and looked through what we had brought and pointed out what he wanted to see and in what order. The photo shoot was fun, my friend and I took it in turns, moving around the studio to the various 'sets' and posing for our photos. He was chatty (very much so!) and put us at ease not that either of us is particular adverse to having our photos taken and would exclaim various compliments at the photos being taken that I was actually quite excited to see the photos at the end of the session.

The photography portion of the day is actually very quick and soon we were returning to our normal clothes and were led back upstairs to await our 'private viewing session' which is really being taken into another room where your photos have been edited and touched up for you to pick from.

Our package included one free image and as we sat waiting I asked my friend if she knew how much the photos were, thinking my enjoyment of the photography session I might actually be tempted with an additional purchase or two. I was shocked when I was told £99 per image - they would need to be some pretty special photos to make me part with that cash.

This was where the hard sell began, my friend and I sat down and we were shown a slide show of our images with the 'sales assistant' exclaiming how wonderful certain shots were. Next step was to go through the photos removing any we didn't like and this carried down until we got a small selection left and were offered various packages to reduce the cost per image but still requiring us to buy multiple images at a few hundred pounds.

It came to a point that I actually had to be a little blunt with them and explain that I would not be spending any money on purchasing images as there were now that I particularly liked. Whilst I don't profess to be the most amazing photographer between my friends and I, I have a number of photos of both myself or with friends that I liked far more than what are very old fashioned in there style. This might be my exposure to the fashion blogger and street style of photography but I have no need for some head shot of myself adoring my walls - and if I'm honest I looked almost moody in most of the photos and missed my smile.

Having dropped that bombshell and my friend agreeing too that there was nothing she particularly wanted to part cash with we were left with each choosing our free image. Mine was the photo above, my only comment being the crease in the wallpaper ruining it. I was told for £2 I could have that adjusted which I was happy to pay for - to date I've yet to receive the adjusted image.

When my friend requested the refundable deposit the person handling our transaction was a little short as 'she'd never had to do that before' and it took some fussing about but was done.

In summary as a 'free' day out it was fun and made for a blog post but it's certainly nothing something I would pay for, certainly not at the prices listed. I would far rather seek the services of a street photographer and try that out than what I find an outdated and old fashioned service.

That said when I talked about my experience on Facebook some friends commented that they had been and actually spent in excess of £400 on their photos from the session so maybe it's just not for me.

What do you think of these photography sessions, have you ever had one or been tempted to book?

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Finding a Good Nights Sleep

I've discussed many times that I have dreadful sleeping patterns and habits. I will sit flicking through tv channels till all hours and even worse has been the latter months of my time at home that I find myself unable to kick start my day until early evening and continue through the night.

As I have begun interviewing for future jobs and my return to work is imminent I'm conscious of my need to adapt to normal business hours and an early morning commute into London that means trying to find one or two rituals and products that help relax me of an evening before bed.

First up is a relaxing bath, I've not a big relax in the bath fan I must confess but it's something I've enjoyed more off whilst having time at home and I've been using Imperial Leather Relaxing Sleep Bath Soak of an evening to unwind thanks to the Camomile and Ylang which aids restful sleep.

One ritual I'm find an ease at following is spraying my bedsheets with a pillow spray. I've been using pillow sprays for sometime although it's somewhat nicer currently that I can spray in a timely manner rather than spritzing moments before bed. The two I have in rotation at the moment are at two ends of the price spectrum, Ragdale Hall Sleep Pillow Mist is a mere £5 from Marks and Spencer and the mist I was first introduced to. For someone who usually turns their nose up at anything too 'lavender' this is a pleasing version of the scent that enjoy smelling as I might initially toss and turn in bed.

A little more expensive and to evoke the spa experience is Champney's Heavingly Days Pillow Mist* which also contains lavender mixed with geranium and chamomile and is a slightly more sophisticated smell and I also love spraying a little on my bedside lamp so that the scent 'burns' in the room creating a haven for bedtime.

This Works are well known for their pillow mist but it's the This Works Skin Deep Beauty Oil* which I keep in my bedside draw and apply the oil to my pulse points if I need to 'enhance feelings of well-being' and relax after a particularly stressful or tense day.

The final product is Melatonin in tablet form which is a manmade version of the hormone produced in the brain that helps regulate your sleep and wake cycle. My understanding is that it is only available to purchase over the counter in the US, where I picked up my stash and they have been used as an alternative to treating insomnia and for me they are priceless.

I had heard a lot about these through the wonder of the internet and finally purchased in Las Vegas last year but forgot about them as I struggled to fight my jetlag, when I finally remember I had them it was amazing at how they worked. My issue is primarily falling asleep and I find it difficult to switch off but all I need to do when I'm really struggling is to pop one of these tablets and find I drift off very quickly and easily.

So there are a few of my tools for finding a good nights sleep, what are yours?

*this post contains press samples and / or affiliate links

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Minimal Effort Make Up

Minimal Effort Make Up

I alluded to the fact earlier this week that I've been changing my make up habits recently due to my time at home following my redundancy. Whilst I'd often spend times at the weekend make up free because I've now find myself heading out perhaps for a coffee with friends and wanting to look like I've made some effort but not needing to go all out on make up. I appreciate that there are a number of products in this line up and it's by no means a no make up make up but its essentially the bare minimum effort I can make and look like I've made one.

Starting with the base and not wanting to waste my favourite foundations on a few hours wear and preferring not to pile on the slap there have been three products I've tested recently. First is the new to me brand and product IXXI Skin Enhancing Daily Defence Care Light Elixir* which is similar in design as La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo Unifant* in that both products are designed to even skin tone whilst offering skincare benefits. Where the Unifant from La Roche Posay is a lighter coverage I'm surprised at the extremely and almost flawless finish IXXI gives me that it has become my preference. The La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo Unifant has been saved for the real 'no make up days' and I've found myself throwing IXXI into my make up bag for overnight stays when I need make up the next day but simply for heading home.

Minimal Effort Make Up

The disappointing product has been the Physicians Formula Mineral Wear All in 1 ABC Cushion Foundation which I have since passed onto a friend to try out.  Whilst it does offer many of the qualities that Physicians Formula suggest; flawless skin-perfecting effects, blurring fine lines and the like unfortunately whilst I didn't think my skin was too dry of late it clung to any hint of dryness especially around my nose. I tried on a couple of occasions, using heavy duty moisturisers to combat any dryness and hydrate the skin but this cushion foundation sought them out so it was the oilier skin friend that has benefitted.

I've fallen a little out of love with the Maybelline Eraser Eye Concealer in recent times just from boredom more than any faults. It's a light coverage so works better with the heavier coverage from IXXI or on nights I've had a good nights sleep. It doesn't crease nor settle in fine lines and it's sponge applicator makes it easy to apply and blend with fingers which is great when in a hurry.

Sometimes I might reach for a dusting of a bronzer but usually I rely on a little blush and to compliment the red lip I'll get to later is the Wet n Wild Color Icon Blush in Rose Champagne. I picked this up in Las Vegas last year and it must of been on my radar for some reason or another. The first couple of times I used it I found it a little understated as a blush being a very pale dusty rose with a slight shimmer. I was almost ready to move it into the pile to pass on when I started developing this quick and easy look and tried it one last time and found I enjoyed it with this look. It's a blush you won't necessarily need a highlighter for, certainly for a shopping trip or drive home from a mini break but in the right light there is a shimmer there.

Minimal Effort Make Up

Brows are simply brushed over with a product such as the Wet n Wild Ultimate Brow Mascara which is becoming a new favourite and I forgo eyeshadow and instead just rely on mascara, the choice for a minimal make up look has been L'Oreal Paris Volume Million Lashes So Couture Mascara. I picked up this mascara along with the L'Oreal False Lash Sculpt Mascara, a duo recommended by Lydia Elise Millen and they do indeed work together to create a long false look but on it's own So Couture Mascara is more of a natural appearance but an enhanced one.

And the final step for me is red lipstick, as long as I have a red lip I feel happy and confident in my appearance. Two recent favourites I've been enjoying are the Chanel Rouge Allure Ink in Libre and Maybelline Vivid Liquid Lipstick in Orange Shot. Both products are similar in finish although the Chanel has a less matte look but I find I can easily pop these on and paired with the other products I look like I'm more put together and if I bump into someone I'd rather not have seen I have a war face on.

What products do you reach for when you're wanting a quick and easy make up look?

*this post contains press samples and / or affiliate links

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Pink Parcel - It's a Monthly Thing

Pink Parcel* is a monthly subscription service designed for us ladies to make that time of the month a little more enjoyable, if that is indeed possible, but they are certainly trying. Each month in addition to your chosen sanitary products you'll receive a selection of luxury products from make up to speciality teas and I was recently sent a box to sample for myself.

It is traditional in its service; for £10.50 each month your Pink Parcel will arrive containing all your goodies from one of the three delivery dates you have chosen that best suits your cycle and of course you can cancel or pause your subscription at any time.

Whilst you can gather a sneak peek at what treats will be included in your months box online, you will already know what sanitary products you have requested from brands such as Tampax and Always Infinity in various absorbencies to see you through the different stages of your period. 

The photo above shows you a sample of the sort of products you can find in your box each month, snacks, beauty products and even in Decembers' box was a fabulous pair of socks for those nights on the sofa with a hot water bottle feeling sorry for oneself but what did I think of the whole service?

In theory I love the idea but it's not necessarily something I would want each month but then this is the opinion of someone who has never been lured by beauty boxes. I would be tempted to have a subscription and then gift boxes as I saw fit to friends and family, perhaps the friend who is having a particularly rough visit that month or a young lady you know who has just started her periods.

Inside your Pink Parcel* will be a neatly arranged selection of boxes, containing 16 tampons, 8 pads and 6 panty liners and it was nice to have the drawstring bag which discreetly hides inside your bag. Again this is adequate depending on your periods length and needs. I didn't make use of the panty liners as they're not really something I reach for so they were wasted but the sanitary towels and tampons served me well.

Overall I think this will be of value to those who need a pick me up each month or have a love of subscription services. Perhaps I'm slightly jaded from my influx of 'blogger mail' and the fact I don't suffer too much at the time of the month and only for a couple of days at at time so for me it isn't a service I'd necessarily benefit from but I do think it is a nice service and something different providing products you need in addition to those you'd like to receive and are a treat. Of course it's also perfect for the forget types who find that visitor arrives just as you're out of your last tampon.

What are your thoughts on this service, would you be tempted?

*this post contains press samples and / or affiliate links

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Book Review | The Stylist by Rosie Nixon

My book reading has suffered from my lack of a London Underground commute of late so I'll refer back to a book I was sent last year and did actually manage to read, that book is The Stylist* by Rosie Nixon

If you are a fan of Rachel Zoe Project, Fashion Police of E's Red Carpet coverage and immersed in awards season right now you'll love this book. Mona Armstrong is the stylist to the stars with a diva like attitude who needs an assistant and sweeps Amber Green off her feet and whisks her to LA for Awards Season.

This is an easy read, it's nothing too complex but its a worthy read and a page turner which I read very quickly. Amber isn't your traditional ditsy character in this sort of scenario, she feels 'just like me', slightly flawed but not ridiculously so. Of course she doesn't plan to have her head turned, she's meeting and being mixed up with glitz and not so glamourous glamour so it is understandable she falls down a few rabbit holes. 

Of course there is the ensuing love story although it doesn't over take the story and is a little bit cheesy and predictable in it's nature but enjoyably so. All the characters in The Stylist leap off the page and I defy you to not to try and work out who characters are perhaps based on.

And if you're into such things this is the first HarperCollins book with a 3D cover; download the free app and The Stylist will come to life and there's many ways to share your red carpet experiences on social media. 

My reading might have suffered but being at home I've been able to test products that I would be less likely to reach for such as La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo+ Unifiant, Medium*. You'll be familiar with my love for the La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo in it's original form but last year they released a tinted version for those with blemishes they wish to conceal but without heavy make up.

I find that I'm comfortable enough in my bare skin for a quick pop to the shops at the weekend but that is obviously because I do not suffer from any serious or particularly 'visual' skin conditions or blemishes but others are not and it's great that there is now a product on the market that will assist them in their quest.

Despite my comfort in my own skin I have found that whilst being at home and perhaps rather than popping out to the shops I am heading into town for some more serious shopping I don't want a full face of make up but I am looking to look a little more polished and thats when I have been using La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Unifant*. I don't find it is a particularly high coverage but my complexiion is 'unified' and an imperfections or discolouration are visibly reduced. My skin has certainly improved in the time I have been off work in part from wearing less make up and using a product such as this which will still provide all the benefits of using the Effaclar Duo in its original form.

The Unifant comes in Light and Medium shades and is easily applied with fingers so it's great for travel and on the go. You'll find it quickly absorbs into your skin and pores do not become blocked. In 24 hours you will notice a reduction in your blemishes. If you're suffering from blemishes or redness this is definitely a product you should seek out to try.

Would either of these products be of interest to you?

*this book contains press samples and / or affiliate links 

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