Rainy Days & Benefit's They're Real Mascara

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

It's an un-remarkable, rain-drenched day here in South East London and I'm feeling a tad blue. Baby boy (or BB as I will now refer to him), started part-time nursery to give mama more time to make money. You could say it went exceptionally well. He ran in, announced 'it's just me,' stopping only to wave and say 'see ya later.' I'd promised myself that I wouldn't look back but, silly moo that I am, I did. Clocking his scrubbed little cheeks and shiny smile nearly killed me. His shoe lace was undone. So, what to do then when you're feeling ho-hum? Head home via a latté at Cafe Rouge (naughty, naughty, lazy mummy), apply more make-up and write about it, naturellement.

Benefit's They're Real Mascara, £18.50, isn't for shy and retiring types. This, ladies, is full-on fabulousness and a make-up genre I haven't entered into for quite some time. It's a sad truth that I've lived mascara-less for the best part of a year but, in all honesty, I just can't be fagged with shifting the end-of-the-day dregs. This one, I could make an exception for. 

First off is the clever-clogs brush design. Staggered bristles grab every teensy lash when the brush is used horizontally but, and here's the smart bit, tilt the wand vertically and the 'custom tip' (a crown of evenly spaced bristles), comes into its own to accent the outer corners of the lashes for a wide-eyed effect, add extra drama to the tips of the lashes or boost the lower lash line. 

The formulation is deep black, very glossy and curls like you wouldn't believe (I could feel my saggy lashes rising), and although not cloggy does have substance; instantly making lashes appear fuller. Applied to one eye the results were scarily good - slightly Clockwork Orange. Applied to both eyes and we're talking serious flutter, dolly-style. Load it on and four coats later you could be in reality TV territory. A more judicious application and you'll still have stand-out lashes, albeit more subtle ones. In either case it's all about instant, confidence-kicking glamour. I predict a hit.

Crown Brush Blusher Palette

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

I've been itching to try this palette ever since I read a review by the British Beauty Blogger. Blusher is a staple item in my make-up bag (err, trolley), as I've the kind of whey-faced complexion that tends to draw concerned comments like, 'are you sickening for something?' On the post-natal ward where my son was treated for jaundice a midwife quipped that I could use twelve hours under the UVB lamp myself. How I laughed.

Still, she was right about the familial link. My grandmother has exactly the same skin tone, historically attracting similar comments. During the war, her parents got so cheesed-off with people querying their daughter's constitution that they spent precious ration coupons on Bourjois Rouge to tint her wan cheeks rosy.

Vintage Year: Bourjois Rouge circa 1930s.

Back to the present day and the palette in question. When I first clapped eyes on this sleek, substantial box I was a little bit in love just lifting the lid because here, if you're a habitual cheek colour user, are ten pans of heaven. It's difficult to make out in the photograph above, but only two of the tones are actually matt (top left and top right), whilst the rest have a lovely soft, sheen. There's a whole world of pink but each, I can assure, differ in their undertones. Most easy-wear are the peachy hues but what I've most enjoyed about using this palette is that it encourages experimentation.

After giving each shade a whirl individually I've taken to layering. A chalky pale lilac/pink over the light bronze looks pleasingly directional without entering into kooky mum territory; although to be fair, I'm all for a bit of eccentricity. There's even a spot-on matt contour shade. Years ago a make-up artist told me that the perfect colour for carving out bone structure is a marron/brown tone - this is it. Granted it looks scary in the pan but in reality is much, much sheerer than you'd imagine. 

I'm finding it hard to dredge up any real cons; the colour pay-off is good, the blusher itself long-wearing. My only minor criticism would be that you do get more powder 'shedding' than you might be used to with a baked blusher but, for £14.72, I'm certainly not complaining. www.crownbrush.co.uk

MumTime at The Sanctuary Spa

Friday, 26 August 2011

What! No C-Beebies? The sound of spa-aah...

When I was pregnant and existing in a rose-tinted, bump-stroking, bubble of expectation a colleague mentioned - in that been-there-got-the-t-shirt tone which is especially annoying -  that when the baby came brushing my teeth would feel like a spa treatment. Two and a half years on and I see her point. It goes without saying that I love my boy more than life itself and there are many priceless, magic moments to be found in the mundane but - if time is a luxury - surely the ultimate luxury is finding time for yourself? Enter The Sanctuary spas new MumTime package devised in association with MumsNet.

The package - running on weekdays from 10.30am to 2.30pm - offers full use of the spa's facilities (including the Koi Carp Lounge, pools, jacuzzi, heat and steam rooms), a Sleep Retreat or Infrared Experience session and a 25 minute treatment of your choice for £80. Click for further details. 

With my last spa treatment being a pregnancy massage, just the thought of time away from assembling train tracks, crafting Play-Doh potatoes of precisely the requested dimension or loading another acre of washing into the machine seemed highly decadent; especially mid-week on a day usually earmarked for work. To then find myself stretched out in the tension-draining heat of a sauna on a Wednesday morning was just blissful.

The Sanctuary - a women's only spa in the heart of London's Covent Garden - is deceptively large. You enter through what appears to be a shop front on Floral Street but which actually, after ascending a flight of stairs, opens out into a concierge reception area and a warren of relaxation lounges, pools and treatment rooms. After you've checked in, the staff suggest taking a guided tour before going it alone. I wiled away a good 20 minutes in the changing rooms trying out products and marvelling at the availability of dressing gowns and towels (always a treat when you don't have to wash them yourself) before heading off to the pool. 

Following a dip in the jacuzzi I spent most of my time supine in the Koi Carp Lounge, arguably the centre-piece of the spa. Here, comfy seating (including two huge cocoon chairs), low-lighting and orchids are plentiful and women bury their noses in magazines, chat over coffee or curl up on scatter cushions taking the opportunity to catch some zzz's.

The Koi Carp Lounge

After lunch, I experienced a Sleep Retreat session which takes place in a mezzanine level of the Koi Carp Lounge. Initially, I was slightly disconcerted to be able to make out the shapes of fellow 'sleepers' in the darkness but once I'd realised this was communal snoozing it was still relaxing, tucked up, as we were, in a row of massaging, chakra-balancing beds. I did, however, ditch the guided meditation headphones. When you're used to the incessant chatter of a pre-schooler the opportunity for occasional silence reigns supreme. 

Finally, I wound up the afternoon with a 25-minute Sanctuary back, neck and shoulder massage. My therapist expertly eased the tangle of knots across my back and worked around my shoulder blades using the tips of her elbows; a technique which in my opinion is the mark of a good, if productively painful, massage. Afterwards I was walking-on-air relaxed and could turn my neck without tightness for the first time in weeks. 

Verdict: A good-value (for central London), accessible treat to enjoy alone or with friends. The surroundings are suitably pampering without being pretentious and the staff friendly and helpful. I particularly liked the fact you can tote around your belongings (books, magazines, glasses) in a waterproof spa bag although all mobile phones must stay in your locker - a blessing in disguise. The Sanctuary does have a communal feel - you will see other women chatting and sharing the facilities - and no doubt becomes busier towards the end of the week. Overall, however, it was a rare and highly enjoyable dose of relaxation. I left with a spring in my step and a rested spa-ahh! glow. 

Scrubs Up Nicely

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Feeling as though I've been unceremoniously dragged through a hedge backwards (and then shoved hurtling forwards) is par for the course at present. I miss being on top of my beauty game. Gone are the days of luxuriating in candle-lit, oil-laced baths whilst applying ridiculously expensive face masks and hair unguents. Now, a tiny person with a teeny patience threshold stomps purposefully around the bathroom looking for ways (that may or may not involve A&E) to force me out of the water. 

Still, you only need 60-seconds to get the benefit of DHC Olive Corn Body Scrub & Polish, £12.50. Corn cob granules give a satisfyingly gritty texture (and this is grit that keeps on giving - I counted an impressive 20 scrubs per area in one application), whilst olive oil and vitamin E leave skin silky smooth and moisturised. If the devil really is in the detail it's a welcome change to see my dusty ol' limbs looking healthier and more hydrated. What I really love though, is the way the product lightly lathers with the fresh fragrance of natural lavender oil. These are the days when a little bit of luxury goes a very long waywww.dhcuk.co.uk

Tip: if your skin isn't sensitive apply treatment-style to dry skin (brace yourself, it's a little ouchy) and shower off for extra smoothing results.

Setting Out My Stall

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Mama Loves Pretty HQ

So, a blank e-page beckons with boundless blogging potential but OH MY the pressure of posting. Talk about performance anxiety. It's like writing in a brand new exercise book only to discover you've penned an unsightly blot and must now dispose of the evidence toute suite – right down to the paper shreds snagged behind both staples. Praise be to the preview facility. 

Still, it's time to feel the fear and publish it anyway. Mama Loves Pretty is ALL about putting a spring in your step. Getting your beauty groove back with little luxuries, feel-good frippery, pampering, positivity and wise words from wise industry types. I can't promise it will be life-changing but am hopeful of delivering a lift. Dance as if no-one is watching, blog as if no-one is reading. But hey, if you were... I would really love that :)

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