Brushing It Off - Hydrea London Natural Body Brush

I picked up the Hydrea London Natural Body Brush (phew, that's a mouthful) in Content many moons ago with the intention of using it every single day. Unfortunately it hasn't quite worked out that way, what with my tendency to hit snooze on multiple alarms and not always having time to drag a brush through my hair, let alone over my body. But if you are the kind of person whose life moves at a more leisurely pace, this little tool could significantly change the way you get ready in the morning.

The benefits of dry body brushing are many: it's a useful weapon in the fight against cellulite; it improves circulation and boosts lymphatic drainage, thus helping the body to eliminate toxins; it exfoliates the skin leaving it oh-so-smooth to the touch and unclogging pores, which in turn helps to prevent those pesky ingrown hairs we all know and loathe.

My main reason for jumping on this particular bandwagon was, of course, my bacne. I was hoping to increase circulation to the skin there and maybe even reduce some of the scarring at the same time. While I'm still sure this brush is capable of doing both of those things, my inability to stick to a routine means that I probably haven't been brushing on a regular enough basis to see the benefits others have.

That being said, I did see evidence of some of the above and also a couple of unexpected effects. Smoother skin? Check. You can actually see the dead skin buffing away in a cloud of dust - admittedly kinda gross but strangely satisfying. Fewer ingrown hairs? That's another check. Improvement in the texture of old stretchmarks? Yes, check! The biggest surprise for me was how the experience of dry brushing made me feel, in one word: alive. Whenever I do get around to it, I find the whole process so invigorating; it's like a rush of energy, so I can see why it's recommended that you do it first thing in the morning and not last thing at night!

Getting back to the brush in hand (or not, as the case may be), the handle is the perfect length for me and while I was initially worried the bristles might be too harsh for my sensitive skin, it's all about the amount of pressure you apply. Pink and tingly = good. Red and raw = bad. The great thing about dry brushing is the amount of effort you have to put in in order to reap the rewards: very little, five minutes will do in fact. However if you really want to relax and enjoy the almost meditative effect of the brushing motion, I'd allow at least fifteen.

A couple of things you need to know before you begin: dry brushing is best done before a shower, and the direction of your strokes is important; you should always brush towards the heart. I like to start with my feet, working my way up each leg then moving on to the arms. The stomach is the one area where it's recommended you brush in an anti-clockwise direction. Then it's on to my back, where I use downward strokes, and finally finish up with my neck and chest. Afterwards hop in the shower and if you're feeling brave, alternate between hot and cold water to really get things moving!

I'm Still Here

Regular readers of my blog (or those who have just recently stumbled upon it) may have been wondering where I've been for the past five months (yup, it's really been that long; I checked. If you still don't believe me, you can find my last post here). I didn't plan to take a break from blogging, it just sort of happened. Life happened. I went back to college. I gave up teaching in order to study veterinary medicine and hopefully one day save all the animals.

I knew being away from home would be hard. I knew I was going to miss my family and my pets like crazy. I even knew that being a mature student would present its own unique challenges (my fellow classmates do not get hangovers and many have never seen Titanic or The Matrix, I kid you not). But I was not expecting the absolutely horrendous homesickness that I experienced those first few weeks. I hadn't realised that I would no longer be able to sleep without the warmth and weight of a cat on my feet or at the end of the bed. Then there were the more practical issues, like finding my way around a new city, figuring out how to work the immersion/cooker/dryer, and even re-learning how to study and take notes.

I don't think I've ever been as busy (read: stressed) as I have been these last few months: Leaving my job. Finding somewhere to live. Moving out. Moving in. Cooking. Cleaning (so much cleaning). Meeting new people. Making new friends. Trying not to lose touch with old ones. Sometimes studying. Always learning.

I've missed blogging. I've missed writing about the things that I love (or don't). I'm hoping I can find a way to fit it all in. Every time I start freaking out over my decision to dedicate the next five years of my life to learning a completely new profession, I remind myself that good things take time. So with that in mind, stick around; things are about to get interesting.

Only The Sun Should Be Shining - RMS Beauty 'Un' Powder

Is this a shiny T-zone I see before me? - Shakespeare (whenever he looked in the mirror). If only poor William had managed to nab some of the stage make-up his actors wore, although come to think of it, it was lead-based and probably would have killed him. Nowadays while we may still suffer for our beauty (as anyone who's ever endured a bikini wax can confirm), we no longer die for it.

And so today we continue my love affair with the work of Rose-Marie Swift and her line of pure as pure can be cosmetics (you can read my review of 'Un' Cover-up here), which is about as far away from the toxic make-up of the Elizabethan era as you can possibly get. As the RMS Beauty site points out, the line is in fact about "supporting your natural beauty and long-term health" and "reviving your youthful glow and letting that shine through, rather than covering and concealing with layers of chemicals." While I'm all for letting my inner beauty shine through, I really don't think she meant for it to radiate from forehead to chin.

Long before RMS Beauty's tinted 'Un' Powders came along, there was the one, the original 'Un' Powder. So finely milled you might find yourself doubting its very existence but let me assure you that it is very real and very effective. Don't be alarmed by its snow-white appearance, the colour disappears on contact with your skin and only its amazing oil control absorption abilities are left behind. It comes with its own powder puff but after sifting a little into the lid, I prefer to use my Real Techniques Powder Brush to sweep some along my T-Zone, being careful to bring it in around the sides of my nose. It mattifies oily areas with ease and leaves skin feeling flower-petal soft.

At £28 from Content, it's not the cheapest way to set your make-up but having tried talc-filled drugstore alternatives, the money's worth it if it means not wanting to scratch my face off come 5 o'clock. The only reason I'm not awarding this powder Holy Grail status is that I can't shake the niggling feeling that I might prefer one of its tinted brethren, fickle beauty blogger that I am.

Un(der)cover Lover - RMS Beauty 'Un' Cover-up

I think the title says it all really but I'm going to open this review with a rather bold statement: There is absolutely nothing about this concealer that I don't like. Nada. And that's left me in a bit of a predicament. I'm here at my laptop, fingers poised above the keys, ready to present my findings, weigh up this product's pros and cons, and there just don't seem to be any. Cons, that is. Of pros, there are many. 

So I'm left here staring blankly at the screen and scratching my head because this just never happens. To me, anyway. Never has a product not only met my ridiculously high expectations but exceeded them so easily. From the texture, to the coverage, to the durability, to the shade, to the packaging, RMS Beauty 'Un' Cover-up ticks all the boxes and then some. Holy Grail Concealer, consider yourself found.

Thick and creamy, 'Un' Cover-up applies like a dream straight out of the pot, melting into my skin and leaving it velvety-smooth to the touch. I could not for the life of me get this on to my face using a brush but I reckon the product needs to warm up a little under your fingertips before it becomes spreadable. I usually work it into the sides of my nose and around my chin to camouflage any redness and then pat into place using a damp sponge. As for blemishes, I gently dab a bit of product on each one (yes, there's usually more than one) and then blend carefully into the surrounding areas et voilà, flawless. Even if I do say so myself.

The coverage this concealer gives has to be seen to be believed; I sometimes wear it alone as an all-over foundation on days off and it evens out my skin tone beautifully while remaining sheer enough to let my own skin (read: freckles) shine through. It doesn't slide right off my oily T-zone or cling to the dry patches on my cheeks. While I have used it to disguise my dark circles, I do sometimes wonder if it's a tad heavy for the delicate under-eye area although it never sinks into lines or looks caked-on as many a concealer has for me in the past.

And I'm relieved to report that while I was initally worried when I saw that coconut oil (with which I have a love/hate relationship, mostly hate) was first in the list of ingredients, after several months of use there have been zero reactions.

Shade 22 is perfect for my post-winter paleness (I do love me some alliteration) and since it looks like summer won't be paying a visit to The Emerald Isle any time soon, I don't have to worry about it being a little too pink for when (if?) I get a tan. This concealer (£28 from Content) and my Kjaer Weis foundation are a match made in make-up heaven and I genuinely get a little thrill every time I step back from the mirror and see the magic they have worked on my face.

It is my strong belief that make-up should be worn to enhance your skin, not hide it, and that's exactly what 'Un' Cover-up manages to do.

Don't Tell Me What To Do

I'll be the first to admit I have a bit of a problem with taking orders from people but only when those orders don't make any sense to me. Which is why it bugs me more than a little when I see article after article telling me how I should adapt my behaviour/ lifestyle/ personality/ appearance in order to fit in/get thin/find a boyfriend or the current favourite, not get raped.

Maybe I like being different. Maybe I'm comfortable with my current body weight. Maybe I'm happier single. And maybe, just maybe, being subjected to a sexual assault (or any crime for that matter) has a lot less to do with the victim and a whole lot more to do with the person that chose to commit that crime in the first place.

So shouldn't all these warnings be aimed at them and not their potential victims? Why should I feel like it's my responsibility every time I walk out my front door to somehow make myself less desirable to a would-be attacker? How many of us have had well-meaning friends and family wag their fingers at us and say things like "I wouldn't wear that if I were you" or my personal favourite "Are you sure it's safe to *insert activity here* alone?"

No, sadly I can't guarantee that if I get a taxi alone, go on holiday alone or do pretty much anything outside of these four walls by myself, no harm will come to me, but am I supposed to let that stop me from doing all the things that I need/want to do? Am I meant to live the rest of my life in fear of what may or not happen?

Then there's the conflicting advice: Walk tall and confident to scare them off but not enough to attract any unwanted attention, and of course have your phone in your hand, ready to dial, although now come to think of it that might tempt muggers so maybe have it within easy reach but you know, not visible to the naked eye.

When it comes to clothing, who decides how short is too short? What is knee-length on a friend could be ass-grazing for me as I'm tall and kind of leggy. Should I carry a measuring tape with me at all times to ensure I don't go beyond someone else's perceived limits of decency? Exactly when is a skirt acceptable to wear? The whole thing is so ridiculous it makes my head hurt.

"Don't go anywhere alone at night", is drilled into our heads from an early age but I wonder if the same could be said for boys. And I wonder still if we replaced that message with something altogether more rational-sounding, such as "Always be aware of your surroundings", what effect would it have on our streets, workplaces, classrooms, and on society in general?

Earlier this year, comedian Sarah Silverman sparked controversy when she retweeted a list of tongue-in-cheek "Rape Prevention Tips", originally posted online by Leigh Hofheimer of the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The list was clearly intended to highlight society's tendency to blame the victim in the case of sexual assault.

So tell me, are we teaching men to be fearless and women to be fearful and, if so, why? If I am ever lucky enough to have a daughter, I want to instil in her the belief that she can do anything and is in no way restricted by her lack of a Y chromosome nor in any way weakened by it. Being a woman is not a handicap, so why do some insist on acting like it is?

Getting Messy To Get Clean - S5 Nourish Cleanser

You know those bad relationships we sometimes find ourselves in? In the beginning everything's fresh and new, you're all loved-up and willing to overlook the other person's obvious flaws. Then gradually the cracks start to appear and no matter how hard you try to convince yourself that things will get better if you just give it enough time, you know somewhere deep down inside that it's a lost cause and you should just cut your losses and move on. That's how I feel about this cleanser. Harsh, perhaps, but true. 

Oh how I wanted to love S5 Nourish Cleanser, not just because of the small fortune I shelled out on it (£32 - that's pounds, people. I shudder to think of what that works out as in Euro). But also because I've spent the better part of a decade searching for a cleanser that does just two things: 1. Removes all traces of make-up, including but not limited to waterproof mascara And 2. Does not break me out. But alas, it does not seem meant to be, for no matter how hard I try - I'm still trying in fact, 200ml is a surprising amount of product to get through - I just can't seem to get my head around this cleanser.

While it does seem to fulfil the second part of the brief - I neither experienced a decrease nor increase in breakouts with regular use - it most certainly does not meet the first. The only way this cleanser leaves my face feeling/looking properly clean is if I give it a good going-over with my Konjac sponge. Used alone and I might as well be splashing water on my face because it just moves my make-up around. Consistency-wise, it's thick, sticky and gloopy, rather like honey, and upon contact with water it turns into a milk.

The funny thing is, I didn't set out to make this review quite so negative and there are actually days when I quite enjoy using this cleanser - in conjunction with my Konjac sponge, of course - it's just that when a product makes the rather bold claim of being able to remove not just makeup but heavy makeup, well then call me irrational, but that's just what I expect it to do. However as I raise my head from the sink and peer groggily at the mirror, I'm consisently disappointed to find zoo-worthy panda eyes staring back at me. While I personally was quite happy with the ingredients list, I do wonder if the fragrance - strong enough to bring a tear to the more sensitive-eyed among us - might bother some. My biggest peeves are that the bottle leaks, now matter how/where I stand it, and that if I get this stuff anywhere near my eyes, it irritates the hell out of them.

If I'm being very honest (when am I anything else?), this is one of those products I'm just going to use up because I really, really hate waste. I'm currently less than halfway through the bottle but I'm determined to finish it before I allow myself to even look at another cleanser. Overall I would say the S5 Nourish Cleanser is perfectly fine for those intending to do a double cleanse but it's just not what I, being short on both time and patience, am looking for. Woe is me and my bank balance.

A surprising update: My mother loves this!

All About That Base - Kjaer Weis Cream Foundation

For just a few minutes every morning, I get to pretend that I have perfect skin. And as anyone who has ever suffered with acne knows, you can't put a price on that. This foundation is life-changing. Do you hear that? It will change your life. And trust me, I don't make such a statement lightly. Look at that for packaging. I mean, just look at it. Could it be any more beautiful? If you read that in Chandler Bing's voice, it'll be our little secret. Everything about this product whispers luxury; it doesn't have to scream, it's far too classy for that.

Once you've gotten past its bold red exterior (I have to admit it took me a minute, I gingerly lifted the lid as if I was unveiling a piece of expensive jewellery, which in a manner of speaking, I suppose I was) inside lies a gleaming silver compact which is, get this, refillable. So for those of you currently balking at the price, rest assured you only have to fork out such a hefty amount once because after that you'll just be paying for the very reasonably priced refills. I got mine in Content for £49 and last time I checked, the refills were £29, which, let's face it, is what you'd pay for most non-drugstore foundations these days.

The surprisingly weighty compact is a joy to behold and hold and having had it knocked around my bedroom more than once by mischievous felines, I can indeed confirm its sturdiness! It has a delightful swivel mechanism which means less time faffing about with lids.

Now on to the creamy goodness that lies inside. Kjaer Weis Cream Foundation is buttery-soft, melting right into your skin and leaving behind a semi-matte finish. On less oily days, I don't even bother following up with a powder. So many foundations these days describe themselves as being "buildable" but this one actually lives up to its claims. On days off I've used the bare minimum, just enough to even out my skin tone and hide any major redness, and on work days I lay it on a bit thicker to give me the medium coverage I so desperately need under the harsh fluorescent lighting of a classroom. I've even worn this on nights out and it has held up surprisingly well under the flash of a camera.

Having read the online recommendations, I was sure I was going to be the shade "Illusion" but thankfully one of the Content Beauty girls set me straight and told me I was in fact far more closely matched to "Paper Thin".

As for application, I tried using my Real Techniques Buffing Brush and my Beautyblender but neither were as effective as my fingers. The foundation warms up nicely on contact with my skin and allows me to smooth it across my face, blending and patting into place as I go, and there isn't any strong scent which can sometimes be a bit off-putting. While it covers blemishes nicely, it's a little too heavy for under my eyes but I guess that's what concealer is for.

The result is a flawless, streak-free finish with no tell-tale tidemarks. I never really got the whole "Your Skin But Better" claims until I got my hands on this and even my sister - who is really not known for her diplomacy - agrees. And remarkably enough, it doesn't just slide off your face halfway through the day. Nope, it's still there when I get home from work.

I'd recommend this to anyone with oily or combination skin (like moi) but I'd be hesitant to splash out if my skin was any drier. If I skimp at all on prep i.e. fail to thoroughly cleanse, tone and moisturise, I do notice it has a tendency to cling to dry patches on my cheeks or around my nose. I suppose that's the trade-off of using a cream, as opposed to a liquid, foundation. And for anyone who may be troubled by the fact that coconut oil is pretty high up on the ingredients list, don't be. I, too, break out whenever I use this much-lauded oil on my face/hair but for some reason, after several months of using this foundation, my skin has never looked better.

Everything about this product makes me feel like a movie-star when I use it and for that reason (and the many more mentioned above) I hereby dub Kjaer Weis my Holy Grail Foundation. Let the bowing begin.

My Thoughts On Thoughtfully Magazine

Move over Cosmo and the rest, there's a new mag on the shelf. I've always been a lover (read: hoarder) of magazines. If that first issue gets me hooked, you've got a reader for life. As long as the publication in question doesn't start to let its standards slip or fill every second page with perfume and designer clothing ads - which unfortunately is often the case - I'm unwavering in my support.

Thoughtfully is a new lifestyle magazine with the usual entertainment, travel, fashion, food, health, and beauty features but approaching everything from a greener perspective. It has the potential to fill what I see as a massive gap in the market and will appeal to those of us trying to be more conscious of what we put on/in our bodies and its effects on the world around us. I was lucky enough to win a copy of the magazine in a recent giveaway by Organic Beauty Talk.

The publication itself is thick and substantial, more like a book than a magazine, which is good because I just know I'm going to want to read it again and again. As for its content, it was so refreshing to find that there wasn't any filler content or tired rehashing of the same done to death uninspired topics, like 10 Ways To Get A Guy/An Ass Like Kim K. I enjoyed Susannah Compton's feature on The Healing Power of Essential Oils; Brandie Gilliam's article on The Dangers of Microbeads was fascinating while the Greek Goddess-themed editorial was just gorgeous. Peppered throughout with seriously stunning photographs, Thoughtfully is the kind of magazine you want to display proudly on your coffee table.

Unfortunately it isn't currently available to buy in stores, something they're working on, and while you can order the print edition from their site, they only ship to the U.S. Thankfully they also offer a digital edition which is available to download as a PDF for just $5. The second issue is scheduled for release in Spring 2015 and I for one can't wait to get my hands on it, or my eyes as the case may be.

If this post sounds a lot like a love letter to Thoughtfully magazine, well I guess that's because that's exactly what happened when I read it; I fell in love. Finally, a magazine I can relate to, one that features recipes I want to make and products I actually want to buy. Thoughtfully gets you thinking and I can honestly say I'm a better person for having read it.

Out With The Old And In With The YOU

We've all done it. The Facebook purge. Our feed is littered with engagement announcements and ultrasound images on a constant basis. Snapshots of someone's dinner, a smug selfie. Every now and then, online and in real life, it's time to trim the excess. But how do we decide who to cut and who to keep?

The Frenemy

These are the people who won't acknowledge your existence when you pass them in the street but are more than happy to scroll through, and maybe even (bitchily) comment on, those photos you just uploaded. They could turn back-stabbing into an Olympic sport, if they were so inclined. You and this other person secretly (or maybe not so secretly) can't stand each other but are both willing to keep up the pretence of friendship for the sake of your partner, your mutual friends or your working relationship.

The Faker

One look at this person's Facebook page will bring on a bout of serious life envy. But it's all a big fat lie. That photo she just uploaded of her and her boyfriend, staring lovingly at each other (or the camera) complete with matching smiles and colour-coordinated outfits? Well just last week she was on the phone to you for hours sobbing her heart out because he cheated on her, she cheated on him, or heaven forbid, they cheated on each other. Then he broke up with her... She broke up with him... And so the saga continues. Just not online. No, an entirely different (carefully constructed) picture of their relationship is presented to the world. Everything that comes out of this person's mouth needs to be taken with one massive pinch of salt, and I mean everything.

The Fair-weather Friend

In the words of Flo Rida (how do I even know that?), "Come on baby, let the good times roll." This person is happy to hang with you as long as everything is nice and easy. Shopping the high street. Gossipping over a lazy lunch. Pointing out lads you fancy in the pub. Sharing the cab home after a night out. The two of you do everything together, except the things that really matter. Because the moment things get tough or you try to have a serious conversation about anything that doesn't immediately concern her, she's gone. Poof. Leaving nothing behind her but the ghost of her perfume.

The Ditcher

You were there for her through every trial and tribulation. You listened when no one else would, even when it meant losing the will to live. You became a frequent sight at local cafés and pubs, tissues at the ready, nodding along sympathetically and doling out pretty damn decent advice (even if I do say so myself) only for it to be ignored time and time again. But the second someone better, more interesting or more useful to her comes along, you're dropped faster than you can say "Third Wheel".

The Downer

Then there is another type of friend, one that is somewhat harder to identify, that person who has ceased to contribute anything positive or of any real significance to your life. An encounter with this so-called friend, no matter how brief, leaves you feeling bad, about your life and about yourself. It's not that she isn't a good person or that she's done anything wrong per se, it's just that you're no longer benefitting from having this person around. Of course it could simply be that you've outgrown one another, your lives have taken different directions and you no longer have anything in common. Whatever the reason, you know deep down that this friendship isn't what it once was (or what it should be) but due to some misguided sense of loyalty, you're determined to hang on in there till the end, even if it kills you.

In the spirit of the new year and making a fresh start my advice to one and all is as follows: Let go or be dragged.

It's taken me a long time to realise that there are certain people in my life that I no longer want to be there. And I've discovered that it is much harder to cut ties with these people than I originally thought. Frenemies I can handle; I have neither the time nor the patience for them anymore and if anyone wants to ask me why he/she is no longer friends with me on Facebook, I'll be only too happy to share. But those other friendships, the ones that are balanced oh-so-precariously, have to be handled with care. You don't want anyone's feelings to get hurt and a part of you is still wondering if what they (read: your mother) say is true, that you can never have too many friends. Wrong. It is my firm belief after much experimentation this past year that it is better to have one good friend as opposed to ten rather crappy ones.

If it was mouldy old bread, then we'd have absolutely no qualms putting it in the bin where it belonged so why when it's our friendship that has gone stale are we so reluctant to let it go? (Yes, I too am now doing my best Idina Menzel impression.)