A Buyers Guide To Makeup Brushes

In my last post, I talked about how I consider makeup an art form. And when it comes to applying your makeup, like any artist, it is worth investing in good quality tools. One of the most important tools in the application of your makeup is your brushes. Good brushes can make all the difference between your makeup looking ‘good’ and ‘great’.

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Good brushes are one of the most important makeup tools you will use

Everybody wears different products and applies their makeup differently and so will require different brushes to suit their needs. The main brushes which I use on a regular basis are a brow brush, an eyeshadow brush and a face brush. These are basic brushes which are used by most of us on a daily basis and so it is worth buying the best you can afford. There are many other types of brush available for different purposes and it is up to you to decide which ones you need depending on the type of makeup you wear.

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Assess the quality of your brushes before you buy

Although there are many different styles of brush available to buy, the key points to consider when choosing your brushes are –

Bristles – The bristles on a brush will be either synthetic or natural. Synthetic bristles are stiffer and offer a more controlled, precise application. These are therefore a good choice if you are working with liquid makeup products. Natural bristles are soft and allow more scope for blending so work well with powder based products. However, bristles are obtained from animals such as squirrels and rabbits so if this is an issue for you, stick with synthetic.

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Many makeup artists such as Bobbi Brown have their own range of high quality brushes

Cruelty free – If you do not wish to use brushes with bristles obtained from animals, there are alternatives that are soft and perform much like a natural brush. Too Faced cosmetics have a great range of high quality, soft synthetic brushes. Other companies such as Younique make brushes using animal hair that has been obtained in a cruelty free manner.

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Too Faced cosmetics have a great range of cruelty free synthetic brushes

Quality – Run your fingers through the bristles to see if there is evidence of shedding. Poorer quality brushes are much more likely to shed. Test brushes out by seeing how they feel against your skin. A good quality brush should feel comfortable to hold and easy to control.

Size – Some makeup products come with a brush included although these are usually very small and are designed to fit inside a compact and therefore are not the easiest to work with.

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Chanel Kabuki Brush

Whether you use two or three basic brushes or have an entire professional style roll, using these basic tips will help you to choose the best brushes for your needs.

Until next time, stay beautiful x

The Artistry Of Makeup

In a previous post, I talked about whether the beauty industry and the professionals that work within it were taken seriously enough. In this post, I would like to continue on that theme and talk about whether makeup should actually be considered an art form. Art elitists would probably say ‘no it isn’t’, but I beg to differ. Some consider makeup as a ‘cover up’ –  a way to fake beauty and to dupe the outside world into thinking that you are more attractive than you actually are.

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Day Of The Dead inspired makeup

I totally disagree with this point of view. Yes, makeup can be dramatic and over the top. You can take it further and make yourself literally look like a different person. But it can also be subtle, delicate and a way to enhance your own natural beauty. A way to accentuate and bring out your best facial features. The scale of what can be achieved by applying makeup, the scope for creating different looks and the way you can express yourself with how you look are to me, why it should be considered an art form.

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A beautiful combination of false lashes, eyeshadows and jewels

An un-madeup face is like a blank canvas. As if painting a picture, you prepare the surface you are about to work on – your skin. Then like creating any other piece of art, you can play with colour and techniques. You can coordinate your makeup with your hair and clothes. Just because the medium we are working with is our own face, it doesn’t mean that we cannot create something artistic and beautiful.

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An unusual pink inspired makeup look

I think we are beginning to see a change as to how makeup is perceived as an art form. For years, fashion design has been considered an art and we are now seeing the makeup on models at fashion shows being given almost as much attention as the clothes themselves. Like a creator of ‘fine art’, a makeup artist makes skillful use of colour, shadow and light. Anyone who has tried their hand at contouring and highlighting will tell you, it’s not an easy skill to get right!

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A striking purple makeup look

Many of the characters that we see in films – Voldemort, The Joker, Mystique…Their looks are all a result of special effects makeup artists. So why do some people judge women that wear makeup? Why are they seen as attention seeking (particularly from men) or shallow as they cover up their face with makeup? I am comfortable with or without makeup. Some days I wear very little or none at all and then other days, I will go all out and wear a full face of cosmetics. It just depends on how much time I have, what I am wearing, where I am going or how I am feeling. It doesn’t mean I am shallow, it just means I enjoy having fun with the way I look and enjoy looking different sometimes.

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A theatrical, innovative makeup look

So the next time someone tells you you’re wearing too much makeup, tell them – ‘it’s not makeup, it’s art’. 🙂

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Beautiful, bold use of black eyeliner and red lipstick

Until next time, stay beautiful x

All About Aromatherapy

To me, there are few things as relaxing as enjoying a hot bath scented with beautiful smelling oils. Lots of bathing and shower products contain essential oils which are extracted from natural sources such as flowers, fruits, leaves, bark and other plant parts. It is widely acknowledged that essential oils can benefit your mind as well as your body.

Here’s a quick rundown of some common essential oils and their benefits. Try adding these oils to your bathwater or if you can’t find the proper aromatherapy oils, look out for one of the many products that contain these ingredients. As well as in bath and body products, you can also enjoy the aroma of these oils in other products such as scented bags, candles and diffusers.

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Essential oils are available from retailers such as Neal’s Yard

Please note that some essential oils are not suitable for pregnant women and there is a lot of debate (and confusion) as to which ones are suitable and which ones aren’t. However, if you’re not pregnant, go ahead and enjoy…

Eucalyptus – Great for when you’re feeling ill. It helps to relieve joint pain and will help you to breathe easier.

Frankincense – A relaxing oil that’s good for the skin.

Lavender – A calming oil to relax the mind, soothe tired muscles and promote sleep.

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Lavender is one of the most well known oils

Lemon – Lemon can help to lift your mood and ease a sore throat.

Lemongrass – Can help to relax muscles and ease digestive discomfort.

Mandarin – A citrus oil that can help to relax and de-stress.

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Mandarin oil has a lovely, citrus scent

Neroli – A floral oil that can benefit your skin and uplift your mood.

Orange – A sweet, citrus oil that can help you breathe easier and promote a feeling of calmness.

Patchouli – A soothing oil that can help to look after your skin.

Peppermint – A cooling oil that can help with digestive discomfort and help you breathe easier when you have a cold or flu.

Pine – A fresh scented oil that can help to relax aching muscles.

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Pine oil has a lovely fresh scent and can help to relax tired, aching muscles

Rose – A sweet smelling, floral oil that benefits the skin.

Sage – A cooling oil that can help to ease joint and muscle pain.

Sandalwood – A woody, masculine oil that can help to promote relaxation.

Tea Tree – A cleansing oil that can act as a natural antiseptic.

Ylang Ylang – A calming oil that can benefit your hair.

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Ylang Ylang, a sweet smelling, exotic flower found in many bath products

These are some of the most commonly found but there are also many other oils available. Beauty is all about the mind as well as the body and it’s so beneficial to take some time out from your day to relax and unwind. I’m pretty keen on keeping fit and after a hard workout, taking a hot bath with oils such as eucalyptus and pine feels so good! Hopefully this post has taught you a little bit about the different oils so you can choose the products that will benefit you the most.

Until next time, stay beautiful x

Anti Ageing Treatments Explained

In my last post, I talked about the different changes in our skin that occur as we age. It prompted a fair bit of discussion with fellow bloggers and readers as to what can actually be done once we show signs of ageing. Is there any way that we can really turn back the clock and make ourselves look younger once our skin has lost it’s elasticity and youthfulness? As I have mentioned before, prevention is definitely better than cure when it comes to maintaining your skin’s appearance as you get older. Whatever care you take of your skin when you are young will pay dividends in the future. If you haven’t taken care of your skin, there is no magic treatment that will cure years of neglect and a bad lifestyle. There are however, loads of treatments out there designed to improve your skin’s appearance. Here’s a few of them…

Botox – The infamous Botox is one of the most well known anti ageing treatments. It is injected into the skin and works by paralysing the muscles in the injected area to reduce lines and wrinkles. It is especially popular in the forehead and eye area. Botox is a relatively new treatment however and the long term effects are not yet known.

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Botox is often used to treat fine lines in the eye area

Chemical peels – Sometimes referred to as skin peels or acid peels. This is where an acid or chemical (such as alpha-hydroxy acid) is applied to your skin to dissolve the outer layers. The idea is that it temporarily reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. As the outer layers of skin are removed, it will make you more susceptible to UV damage afterwards and many people suffer adverse reactions. Never, ever attempt to do this yourself. This is strictly to be left to the professionals!

Collagen – Another well known technique are collagen injections. Collagen is a naturally occurring protein in the body and this technique involves injecting collagen directly into the dermis (deepest layer) of your skin to plump up wrinkles. People often have their lips injected with collagen to achieve a fuller appearance although this can go badly wrong if you have an allergic reaction!

Dermabrasion – Like chemical peels, this treatment is designed to take your skin back to the lowest possible layer to temporarily banish wrinkles and lines. Instead of using chemicals or acids, this treatment uses wire brushes or diamond wheels. Think of it as a more extreme version of exfoliating. Again, this technique is to be left to the professionals.

Facial treatments – A good skincare routine can work wonders. Get into the habit of cleansing, toning and moisturising on a daily basis. Exfoliating at least once a week and indulging in a weekly face mask can also keep skin looking clear, smooth and fresh.

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Even something as simple as exfoliating and using face masks can help to keep your skin looking fresh and smooth

Moisturisers – As the skin ages, it loses moisture and becomes drier and more in need of hydration. Moisturisers don’t add moisture to your skin, they actually work by forming a barrier that locks in existing moisture. They can also provide protection from environmental conditions such as UV rays and pollution. There are many moisturisers available that are formulated for mature skin and contain active ingredients such as peptides that work to temporarily reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. However, do not be tempted to use anti ageing products if you have young skin in an attempt to prevent ageing. They are formulated for older skin. The best thing you can do as a young woman is to stop smoking and use sunscreen.

Many of these treatments have to be performed several times for results to appear and as the results are temporary, require use on an ongoing basis. As well as the aforementioned treatments, some people also turn to cosmetic surgery to reduce the signs of ageing. But the ageing process in inevitable. You cannot stop your biological clock. Some treatments will have a temporary effect or delay the inevitable but really the best thing you can do is to look after your skin when you are young, prevent as much sun damage as you can and don’t smoke.

Until next time, stay beautiful x

Your Age And Your Skin

Recently, I have talked a lot about skin. And for good reason – any beauty regimen should begin by taking good care of your skin. And the earlier that you begin to care for it, the better. This is so important as when we get older and use and abuse our bodies, the appearance and condition of our skin will begin to reflect our age and lifestyle. Skin tends to go through phases according to our age and if we know what to look out for, we can begin to take preventative steps to keep our skin looking it’s best.

When we’re young, most of us are lucky enough to have unblemished skin. As we get older, our skin will gradually change. Here is a short guide to what can happen to your skin at various phases in your life and how you can help to keep it looking it’s best.

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Hormonal changes can cause skin problems in our teenage years

Teenage years – Many of the skin problems we associate with teenagers such as acne are a result of hormonal changes during puberty. Oil glands in the skin are stimulated by hormones causing an over-production of oil which ends up clogging the pores and resulting in spots. Enlarged pores can often be a problem during teenage years too. This is often as a result of oil clogging up pores and once you have them, they will stay with you. This is why it is really important to get in the habit of cleansing and looking after your skin at as young an age as possible. Many of us (including myself) with fairer skin will begin to develop freckles as a result of sun exposure. Cover up with sunscreen to help prevent more from occurring. Do not be tempted at this age to use cosmetics and skincare products designed for more mature skin – it will do more harm than good!

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Me aged 23. Your skin should be at it’s best in your twenties

Twenties – If you are in your twenties, in theory your skin should be at it’s peak. The upheaval of puberty is over and your skin should have settled. Spots and acne at this age are often the result of hormonal changes during your menstrual cycle and possibly as a result of hormonal contraception. If you have freckles that do not fade over winter, they will stay with you. If you don’t want anymore appearing, protect your skin from the sun. Remember that poor lifestyle choices now such as smoking, lack of sleep and too much alcohol will take their toll on you as you get older. If you have not already established a good skincare routine, now is the time to do it. Invest in your skin now and your future self will thank you for it.

Thirties – This is when your skin will begin to dry out and show signs of ageing (although this can start in your twenties if care is not taken). At this age, prevention is better than cure. Protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun, regularly exfoliate and moisturise and don’t forget to take care of your hands and neck. Keep these areas moisturised as they are often one of the first places we begin to show signs of ageing. Look after the thin, delicate skin around your eye area with specially formulated products and wear sunglasses.

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As I enter my thirties, I need to take care of my skin to prevent premature ageing

Forties – This is when wrinkles that developed in your thirties will now become a permanent feature. Your skin will begin to lose elasticity and collagen production starts to slow down. Look for products that are formulated for more mature skin containing ingredients such as peptides and retinoids to help your skin appear firmer. Your skin will also become thinner and more prone to sun damage so if you have never taken sun protection seriously in the past, now really is the time to do so.

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This lady is 50 and proof that taking care of your skin in your younger years will pay huge dividends as you age

Fifties and over – No matter how much you have looked after your skin in the past, this is when your skin will begin to show it’s age. The protein fibres and fatty deposits beneath your skin are disappearing and your skin will begin to feel looser. Wrinkles become more deep set and the skin becomes dryer. It is more essential than ever to eat well, exercise and keep your skin well moisturised and protected from the sun.

A philosophy of ‘prevention is better than cure’ is the number one thing to remember when it comes to the ageing process of your skin. Begin to look after your skin as early as possible. If you develop a good skincare regimen, protect your skin from the sun and enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle it will pay dividends in the future that your sixty year old self will thank you for.

Until next time, stay beautiful x

An Ancient Egyptian Guide To Beauty

Makeup and cosmetic products are far from being a recent invention. For centuries, men as well as women have been looking for ways to enhance their appearance using cosmetics. The Ancient Egyptians were innovative thinkers that made a massive contribution to mankind with inventions that are still in use to this day such as the doorlock and written language. But we can also thank them for another thing which many of us also use on a daily basis – makeup.

We now know that some of the techniques they employed were highly inadvisable such as painting their faces with a deadly mixture of lead carbonate and water. They did however pioneer techniques we can learn from and use today. Here are some of them.

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The Ancient Egyptians didn’t just give the world the spectacular pyramids, they also invented some great beauty products too

Beeswax – The Ancient Egyptians realised that beeswax had moisturising properties and regularly used it to moisturise their skin from the effects of the hot Egyptian sun. You can buy ready made moisturisers containing beeswax or alternatively you can make your own in combination with other ingredients such as olive oil.

Egg white facials – Ancient Egyptian women used egg white facials to pamper their skin. To make your own, simply whisk one egg white with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, apply and leave for 10-15 minutes before rinsing away with tepid water.

Perfume – Perfumed oils containing frankincense and myrhh were popular in Ancient Egypt. DKNY Delicious Night is an example of a modern perfume containing these ingredients.

Kohl – Outline your eyes with a thick line of kohl eyeliner to recreate the look of beautiful Ancient Egyptian women such as Cleopatra. For a really authentic look, team with coloured eyeshadow.

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The Ancient Egyptians created kohl eyeliner

Milk and honey – The Egyptian queen Cleopatra famously bathed in milk to maintain her beautiful skin. To try this for yourself mix fresh milk, honey and almond oil into your bathwater.

Sea salt scrub – For a truly authentic Ancient Egyptian style bath, use ground sea salt as a body scrub to exfoliate your skin after a milk bath.

Rosewater – The Ancient Egyptians created all manner of cosmetic and beauty products using natural ingredients. One such product was rosewater which they used to nourish their skin. There are a number of rosewater beauty products available to buy from facial toners to bath oils. Or if you enjoy getting creative, make your own rosewater by boiling rose petals (make sure they are free of chemicals) in spring water.

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Rosewater works as a great natural toner for skin

Apple cider vinegar – This was used as an invigorating face wash. To try it for yourself, add a 3:1 ratio of apple cider vinegar to warm water.

This is just a few of the amazing, natural beauty techniques that the Ancient Egyptians pioneered. The trend for cosmetics derived from naturally based ingredients is far from a recent phenomenon. The Ancient Egyptians were way ahead of their time.

Until next time, stay beautiful x

The Properties And Benefits Of Argan Oil

There are so many different lotions and potions available to care for your hair and skin these days that it’s difficult to choose the right one. If you take a trip into your local drugstore, you will be greeted by row after row of shelves full of various products, all promising to work wonders and create miracles. I think really the only way to find out which products are right for you is to experiment and try for yourself. One of my favourites that I’ve been using for a while now is argan oil.

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Argan oil is renowned for making hair soft and manageable

Sometimes referred to as ‘liquid gold’, argan oil is a natural product, extracted from the kernels of the argan tree which is native to Morocco. It is often used as a moisturiser as well as in products to care for your hair. This is due to the fact that the oil has a high nutrient content and is rich in fatty acids, anti-oxidants and vitamin E which is vital for healthy skin and hair. Argan oil is renowned for making hair soft, silky and shiny and to help make frizzy hair more manageable. Other reported benefits of argan oil for hair include the promotion of healthy hair growth, prevention of scalp dryness and itching and the restoration of dry and damaged hair. As a non-greasy, easily absorbed oil it is often used as a skin moisturiser which can benefit dry skin in particular. It is also known for it’s anti-ageing properties and many advocates of argan oil have stated how it has helped their skin conditions such as acne and eczema. I have used argan oil to help treat dry skin on my elbows and knees and it worked very well for me and left my skin beautifully soft and smooth with no irritation.

Because of it’s beneficial properties, celebrities including Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron, Kylie Minogue, Madonna and Taylor Swift are all users of argan oil to help care for their hair and skin. It’s even beginning to appear in mascara formulas as it’s claimed it helps to make your lashes longer and more lustrous. My hair is very dry and has a wiry texture (it almost feels like fine fishing line) and argan oil in it’s pure form really helps to add moisture and softness to my hair. Even if you are lucky enough to have naturally soft hair, argan oil is a nice finishing touch to add extra gloss and shine.

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Argan oil is extracted from the fruit of the argan tree

Although finding shampoos, conditioners, hair styling products and skincare products containing argan oil is easy, due to the oil’s rarity they come at a relatively high price. As I mentioned before, the oil is extracted from the argan tree which is found in southern Morocco. The traditional method of extracting the oil was to collect argan fruit, dry it, extract the nuts, crack them to reveal the kernels and then to crush them to release their oil. The process was done by hand and took fifteen hours of labour and thirty two kilograms of fruit to produce just one litre of oil! These days the kernels are mechanically cold pressed (heat damages the oil’s chemical properties). The tree is rare, extracting the oil is labour intensive…hence the high price. However, the good news is a little oil goes a long way.

The scarcity of the argan tree is where the problem lies. There are so many products on the market now which contain argan oil or are marketed as ‘argan oil’ or ‘Moroccan oil’. But if you examine the label, there are often other ingredients (such as silicon) in larger quantities than the actual argan oil. Cosmetic companies need to work hard to ensure that the supply of argan oil is sustainable and of a high quality, untainted by other oils or substances.

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Look for products that contain as much unrefined argan oil as possible

So how do you know you are getting the real deal? If you are buying a product containing argan oil – check the ingredients. Look out for ‘argania spinosa kernel oil’, it should be high up the ingredients list and ideally, the product should contain as few ingredients as possible. The more ingredients that the oil is mixed with, the less effective the oil will be. If you are buying pure argan oil, make sure it is in a dark coloured bottle as the light passing through a clear bottle can break down the oil’s chemical properties. Some products that are marketed as argan oil also contain a carrier oil such as olive or sunflower oil. Also be aware of the price you are paying. Argan oil doesn’t have to cost a fortune but at the same time, it is a rare oil that is labour intensive to produce and so isn’t usually sold at a ‘giveaway’ price. The best argan oil product isn’t necessarily the most expensive but remember the saying, ‘you get what you pay for’.

I am currently using hair products containing argan oil from one of the best-selling brands in the UK and will follow up this article in the near future with a product review…

Until then, stay beautiful x