Blogging Tips - How To Take Great-Looking, Bright Photos In Winter

How to take great looking, bright photos in winter
While I love a lot of things about autumn and winter, having crap lighting to take blog photos in is not one of them. After four years of trying different ways to avoid the ‘winter dullness’ in my images, I thought I’d share a few tips and tricks with you to help you get those lovely bright shots, whatever the weather.  

Zoom in less and get closer to your objects – I often end up using the standard kit lens on my Canon 600D to take lots of my photos. This comes with a zoom, but I try to avoid using it as it can automatically change the camera settings and will often make your images seem darker. The best bet is to zoom out and get closer to your object to take the shot. The less you zoom, the more light it will naturally let in.

It’s time to go manual! I know a lot of people find these settings to be totally baffling at the best of times (me included) but a few simple adjustments can make all the difference.

Shutter speed – The lower the butter speed, the brighter your images, (so 1/30 rather than 1/200) as it lets more light into the lens. However, the lower you go, the more stable you need to be, so it’s worth investing in a cheap tripod to keep the camera perfectly still while you shoot.

ISO – this sets the sensitivity level to light for your camera, so can naturally brighten your images.  100 is the lowest ISO and is best for naturally bright, sunny weather. It doubles in number each time, so 200, 400, 800. The higher the number, the more sensitive to light your camera will be and the brighter the image will get. There’s a trade-off however – the higher ISO can make images look grainy, so ideally you want to keep it as low as you can get away with if you’re looking for really crisp images. I normally play around with a few different ISO settings so that I can make a decision about how much brightening I want/need to do in Photoshop afterwards without having to re-shoot all the images.

Use a reflector - a simple white reflector (via Amazon) placed at the opposite side of your image to the light can help to lift it and add extra brightness where it needs it. A big piece of white card or a very crisp white sheet could also work - they're just there to help lift the image, not feature in it, so experiment with what you have!
How to take great looking, bright photos in winter
Time it right – summer is great for photos as it gives you loads of hours in the day to take them, even before/after work if you’re lucky. Winter is a whole other ball game and you need to plan, plan, plan. I set aside 2-3 hours at a weekend to take photos for 4-5 blog posts and will always try to time it as close to midday as possible in winter. The light is never as bright as the summer months so you have to worry less about glare, but doing it on a nice, bright day, as close to noon as possible will give you the most light. You might also have to move your photography set up to another room that gets better lighting in winter (I tend to set up under the biggest window in the house).

Photoshop is your friend – I’m not a big fan of huge amounts of Photoshop, but it really does help if you want to bring out certain colours, remove too much warmth/coolness or generally just brighten the image up a little. I use a Creative Cloud version, which means no massive outlay cost (it’s about £9 a month) and is well worth the spend.

The Curves tool is my favourite to use as you can play around with everything from brightness to contrast in one easy tool. If you still feel like you need a bit extra, then use the Brighten function, not the Exposure one as Brighten will look a lot more natural and doesn’t wash the image out as much. It’s also worth playing with the Colour Balance tool as I find I often get a more yellow tone on images in the darker months that I want to remove.

There are huge numbers of Photoshop tutorials on YouTube, so I haven’t gone into loads of detail on specific steps, but if you’d like to know more, please just let me know.

Buy some lights – if all else fails, a ring light or a couple of larger photography lights can be a lifesaver. Amazon have some for reasonable amounts of money and it will give you a lot more freedom in terms of when you can take your photos throughout the day. They can be quite large and a pain to set up, so do a bit of research before investing. I’m looking at several at the moment, so if you have any recommendations, let me know in the comments below.

What are your tips and tricks for perfecting your blog photos in winter?


Diptyque Christmas 2016 - Un Encens Etoile Candle

Diptyque Christmas 2016 review - Un Encens Etoile Candle
Diptyque Christmas 2016 review - Un Encens Etoile Candle
Diptyque Christmas 2016 review - Un Encens Etoile Candle
Every year, I’m always excited to see what Diptyque will be bringing out for Christmas. I have a bit of a thing for their candles at the best of times, but the Christmas ones are really something special.

This year they’ve created a ‘Night at Diptyque’ theme, which tells a magical tale of Henri and a snowy winter’s night at the boutique on 34, Boulevard Saint Germain. I won’t spoil things by telling you the whole tale (you can find it on their website closer to Christmas), but it brings to life the whole concept behind the three festive candles and the beautiful illustrations that grace the packaging this year.

There are three limited edition candles in the range, all of which are available in the smaller 70g size (£28) or the larger 190g (£48). You can choose from:

Un Encens Etolie – spices, incense, elemi, cloves

Epices et Delices – gingerbread, star anise, cinnamon and honey

Le Roi Sapin – pine, resin, cedar and patchouli

I have the ‘Un Encens Etolie’ candle and can honestly say it’s one of the best candles I’ve come across. The scent is warm and spicy, but without being too overpowering. It fills the room with a beautiful scent and the blue glass and decoration is just stunning to look at. I often end up buying the more woody, pine scented candles from their Christmas range as I love the freshness they bring, but Un Encens Etoile is that little bit more mysterious and unusual.

A quick trip to Space NK yesterday revealed that they had launched all of their Christmas goodies, so I had a VERY good sniff of Epices et Delices and I can confirm it smells just like warm gingerbread. Yum. Probably not one to burn if you’re feeling a little peckish, but oh so Christmasy with its mix of spices.

These candles are always very popular, so if you’re after a specific one, then I’d recommend ordering asap as stock does sometimes disappear quite quickly. I’m not sure I can pick a favourite; if I’m honest, I want to go back for the other two so I have a complete set! But that might just be down to my *minor* Diptyque addiction. Ahem.

You can find the Diptyque Christmas collection at their boutiques and via Space NK and Liberty London.

Are you a fan of Diptyque? Which of the Christmas collection do you like the sound of?

*contains PR samples  



When Own Brands Get It Right - Marks & Spencer Formula Absolute Ultimate Sleep Cream

Marks & Spencer Formula Absolute Ultimate Sleep Cream review
Marks & Spencer Formula Absolute Ultimate Sleep Cream review
Marks & Spencer Formula Absolute Ultimate Sleep Cream review
I could happily spend hours wandering around the M&S beauty halls. They have an excellent range of brands and make it really easy to find exactly what you're looking for. Up until now, I have to admit that I've completed ignored their own brand products - for some reason they never really jumped out at me and instead I'd head straight towards the brands I was more familiar with. That was clearly a HUGE mistake on my part as they're actually surprisingly good. And affordable. Double win.

I've been testing out the new Formula Absolute Ultimate Sleep Cream for just over a month now and I've been harping on to everyone I meet about how good it is. I bloody love a good night time product (see some more favourites over here) and anything that promises to give me the look of eight hours sleep, even when you haven't had it, is going to be a winner as far as I'm concerned.

Formula Absolute is a new range for M&S and feels like a really premium range. Everything from the heavy glass jar, through to the silky feel of the product just screams good quality.

You use it in place of your regular night cream or oil, massaging a thin layer into the skin before bed. They promise you'll wake up with refreshed looking skin (as if you’ve had 8 hours sleep) even if you're lacking a bit on that front. They've even quantified this with scientific trials to back this up - not a small claim indeed.

While you’ll get an immediate boost, over 2-4 weeks of daily use will give you the best benefits. It not only gets to work on fatigued skin, but also helps to combat age spots, deep lines and firms the skin. I don’t have an issue with deep wrinkles at the moment, but I’ve been really impressed on all other fronts – I think it’s helping me look much less grey and tired than I would normally be with all the dark mornings, so for that I am very thankful!

The formula is quite rich, so depending on your skin type, you may need to adjust how much you use in order to get the right ‘dose’. I’ve found that it does leave a very light film across my skin after the main bulk sinks in – nothing to worry about, but more of an ongoing ‘silky’ feeling that lasts through until the next morning. It’s also not heavily scented which I’m really happy about. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good essential oil, but sometimes it’s nice to have a product that is less perfumed, especially at night.

The Ultimate Sleep Cream costs £22 for a 50ml pot but easily rivals others I've tried at three times that price. If you’re on the hunt for a new night treatment, then I wouldn’t hesitate to pick this up next time you’re in M&S.

Have you tried anything from the M&S own brand skincare ranges? Would you be tempted to give it a go?

*contains PR samples


Fragrance: Michael Buble By Invitation

Michael Buble By Invitation fragrance review
Michael Buble By Invitation fragrance review
It's not often you get a male celebrity launching a female only fragrance, but that's exactly what Michael Bublé has done with his brand new launch, By Invitation. 

By Invitation is Michael’s first ever scent and is aimed at creating a fragrance that he both loved and the women in his life would love wearing. It mingles top notes of bergamot, lemon and red fruits; heart notes of lily of the valley, rose, peony and wild jasmine; and base notes of patchouli, vanilla, praline, white amber, musk and cedar wood.  It's a warm, oriental floral scent that's not too heavy and doesn't have the overly sweet scent that so many celebrity fragrances can have (yay!).

Michael was heavily involved in the creation of the fragrance, working with leading French perfumer Karine Dubreuil-Sereni. He says that ‘the idea was to create a special ‘invitation’ to fans into my new world of fragrance. I’m inviting women to enjoy a beautiful scent that represents my personal taste and imagination. By Invitation is what I’d call ‘love in a bottle’. 

I have to say, I am loving this fragrance. It feels perfect for autumn and winter as the slightly spicy, oriental notes add a warm finish, but the bergamot and red fruits help to keep it nice and light. I’ve worn it as both a day and night scent and it works just as well as either. 

The bottle feels very luxurious with its heavy glass and gold details around the top and outside. The pull off cap reminds me a lot of traditional style perfume atomisers, which I love (I still have some of my mum’s). I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the price; a 30ml EDP retails at £29, 50ml £39 and a 100ml £55. It’s more affordable than I thought it would be, but it’s nice to see a scent that’s bridging that gap between traditional celebrity scent and high end luxury. 

Whether you’re a Michael Bublé music fan or not, I’d definitely recommend giving By Invitation a try next time you’re near a stockist. And if you’re on the hunt for a gift idea for a Bublé lover, then you DEFINITELY need to add this to your shopping list. They will adore it! 

By Invitation is available via Michael Bublé Perfume (online) and The Perfume Shop. 

Have you tried the new scent from Michael Bublé yet?

*written in collaboration with Michael Bublé Perfume



Three High End Liquid Lipsticks You Need Right Now

High End Liquid Lipstick launches from YSL, Too Faced and Giorgio Armani
High End Liquid Lipstick launches from YSL, Too Faced and Giorgio Armani
High End Liquid Lipstick launches from YSL, Too Faced and Giorgio Armani swatches
Giorgio Armani, Too Faced & YSL swatches
The liquid lipstick trend sees no sign of slowing down and I for one am very happy about this. Not only does it give me an excuse to stock up on lots of new shades and formulas, but I tend to prefer a liquid lipstick over a traditional one these days. I thought I'd share a few of my current favourite high end formulas with you - there have been a lot of new launches in the past couple of months, but these three are the ones I've been wearing constantly!

Giorgio Armani Lip Magnets - I literally don't have a bad word to say about the new Giorgio Armani Lip Magnets. I love the packaging, the product is amazing and I'm quite tempted to pop to a counter to see what other shades they have (someone stop me, please!). I initially thought they were nail polishes when I opened the delivery as they're a totally different shape to most of the longer, thin style liquid lipsticks I've seen so far. The clear base means you can see exactly what shade you're getting and the pointed doe foot applicator perfectly hugs the shape of your lips. They work best applied in very thin layers, so wipe any excess off and start from there. You can easily add a second layer for extra intensity if you like, without running the risk of any feathering or flaking. There are 12 shades in total to choose from, all of which have a semi-matte finish. Once set, these wore easily for over 5 hours on me, so minimal top ups throughout the day. The brighter shades also stain like you wouldn't belive, so you'll need an oil-based remover to get rid of any lasting pigment at the end of the day! £27

YSL Vernis A Levres Vinyl Cream - YSL are definitely the liquid lipstick kings and the new Viynl Creams are great. They have more of a glossy finish to them that wears off after a couple of hours and leaves behind a matte lip stain. For the best coverage with these, apply in very thin coats and layer up for additional pigmentation. The diamond-shaped applicator makes it really easy to get a very defined edge and wear time is excellent one that initial sheen has worn off. There are 12 shades available, covering everything from subtle rose pinks through to shocking fuschia pinks (my personal favourite!). £26

Too Faced Melted Matte - I love, love, love the formula of these super mattes from Too Faced. Their original Melted lipsticks were always a tad on the sticky side, but these have a very traditional matte finish and dry down to a flat matte in just a few seconds. The pigmentation is excellent and you'll only need a single coat for full coverage. I get around 4 hours wear before any fading, but you will need to re-apply after a meal as they tend to rub off when eating. There are 16 shades to choose from; my current favourite is Queen B, which is a pinky lilac, but 1998 and Miso-Pretty are also high up on my list of shades you need! £19

Are you a liquid lipstick fan? Which brand/shade is your favourite?

*contains PR samples


9 Products for a Quick and Easy Halloween Makeover

9 beauty products for a quick and easy Halloween makeover
9 beauty products for a quick and easy Halloween makeover
9 beauty products for a quick and easy Halloween makeover
9 beauty products for a quick and easy Halloween makeover
Halloween is just around the corner, which means it's time for my usual panic about what to wear to my friend's annual party. I think Halloween is one of those days that you either love or absolutely hate. I am definitely a lover, but tend to opt for something quick and easy as my makeup transformation skills are pretty slim (if you want some serious inspo, check out Phee instead).

So I thought I'd pull together a few bits that can help transform you into a Halloween Queen with minimal effort needed. Perfect for a low-maintenance look or one that you can throw together with a black outfit and feel like you're part of the costume crew...

For the eyes, Make Up For Ever's lash range is second to none. Their regular lashes are great, but I think they really come into their own with the more outlandish styles. The purple and black ombre lashes would look great paired with a more colourful eye, or provide a pop of colour against something more smokey.

If you're after colourful shadows to make an impact, then Urban Decay's Moondust palette is the one to go for. Each of the ten shades is packed full of glittery, bold pigments, which transfer onto the lids with ease. The Vego and Element shades would work nicely for a more sparkly version of Harley Quinn style makeup, or why not layer up more for a rainbow effect.

MUA is also a great brand to go for for affordable options - their Elysium Shadows palette gives you everything you need for a smokey eye and the blue shades help to add something a little different from the usual black and grey. I've also picked out their Velvet Lip Lacquers from the Luxe range as they last for absolutely hours on the lips! Although Iced might not be a shade you'd use on a daily basis (although I do quite like a blue lip!), the formula is amazing and I'd definitely recommend trying some others post-Halloween,

MAC's Liptensity lipsticks are a new favourite of mine (full review here), so I thought that the Blue Beat shade was well worth another mention. There's been an unintentional blue lipstick theme with this post, but I suspect it's a colour that most of us would never dream of wearing day to day, so Halloween gives us a chance to wear something more unusual. Blue Beat is much deeper than MUA's Iced and has a rich, creamy formula that won't leave you with dry lips halfway through your party. If you want to stay away from all the blue, the Ciate's Lip Velvets are also a great pick as they're long wearing, but comfortable on the lips and the deep berry shade I've chosen can easily be worn again and again over winter.

When it comes to hair, I think it's a bit tricky if you're not dressing up as a specific character and have a full on costume/wig. Toni & Guy's Black Widow spider clip looks appropriately spooky enough, but gives you a lot more freedom in terms of styling. I'll be weaving mine in among a lot of braids and backcombing this Halloween, but it would work equally well clipped onto a hat or even as a broach as an extra costume addition.

Last up is the nails! Models Own's HyperGels will give a traditional Halloween vibe with its glossy black finish, although I'm definitely drawn to Orly's new Mulholland collection for something a little different. Meet Me At Mulholland has ALL the copper glittery vibes about it, whereas Hillside Hideout is more mauve, shot through with a golden shimmer.

Are you a Halloween fan? What will you be dressing up as this year?

*contains PR samples


Tarte Christmas and Holiday Collection 2016

Tarte 2016 holiday Christmas makeup sets - Amazonian clay 20 shadow palette
Tarte 2016 holiday Christmas makeup sets packaging
Tarte 2016 holiday Christmas makeup sets - Amazonian clay blushers
It’s still October but I’m going to talk Christmas right now and I’m not even sorry. I think you’ll forgive me when you see the Tarte Christmas sets though – I mean, aren’t they just GORGEOUS?!

I used to sit on the Sephora website for hours trying to decide what to order once they put the holiday sets online (Tarte was always top of the list), but thanks to QVC’s beauty team, you can now order directly via QVC UK for all your Tarte needs. Yay!

I’ve got two different sets to show you today-  one features four of their key Amazonian Clay Blushers and the other is an eye shadow palette that I think every single person needs. Honest.

The Sculpted Cheeks Deluxe Amazonian Clay Blush Set retails for £34.50 but has a value of over three times that. There are four of their most popular blusher shades (Royal, Vibrant, Genius and Pop), all of which have been infused with Tarte’s infamous Amazonian Clay formula. There’s a good mix of shades, through from a barely there nude to a much bolder pink, all of which could work on most skin tones. Like all Tarte blushers, these are really pigmented and long-wearing and the fluffy brush included with the set is the perfect shape for a light application.

If you’ve never tried a Tarte blusher before, or are just a bit addicted like me, then this set is definitely one to put on your Christmas list. The blushers aren’t quite full size, but contain a decent amount of product given the price.

For me, the real highlight of their Christmas collection comes in the form of the 20-piece Amazonian Clay Eyeshadow Palette (£43). I have been obsessed with Tarte eyeshadows for a long time –their Rainforest of the Sea palette is one of my favourites and one of the few palettes in my collection I’ve ever hit pan on. I think the Christmas palette is going to pip the top position though as it is just amazing.

You get twenty shadows for your money, all of which are really good sized pans. As you’d expect from Tarte, it’s a mix of safe, incredibly wearable neutrals shades, with a couple of bolder ones thrown in for good measure. While they don’t profess themselves to be a brand that goes in for lots of bright shades, this is a palette that you will use day in, day out (and might even want to buy a backup of it!) for the entire year.

My favourite shades are On the Monet, Medium and Mosaic, but I don’t think there’s really one that I won’t end up using. I love that they’ve included a couple of richer, more colourful shades like Getty up & go and Seascape as it helps to add an extra dimension to the palette, rather than just being 100% nudes.

Every shade I’ve used has excellent pigmentation and durability – they last for an entire ten hour day with minimal fading or creasing, even without a primer underneath. There’s also a good mix of matte shades and more shimmery ones; I do find the shimmers to be slightly smoother in terms of application, but the mattes are nice and soft with a good depth of colour.

They've also include a double ended brush, which is super soft, yet dense enough to pick up just the right amount of product. One end is designed for direct application and the other for blending, so you'll have everything you need without any need for extra tools.

Both of these will be popping up on QVC Beauty over the next few weeks, but they’re starting to appear on their website now if you don’t want to wait. They also have some great gifts that feature the new Lip Sculptors, one with eight mini Creamy Matte Lip Paints and another with four Tarteist Eye Liners.

Are you a fan of Tarte products? What do you think of this year’s Christmas/Holiday gift sets?

*contains PR samples


This Week I'm Loving #2

This week's favourites
This week's favourites
Well, I said in my first weekly favourites post that it would be an irregular feature and it turns out it’s been even less regular than I had initially planned. Oops. I do love a good roundup post, but wanted to change tack slightly and talk about a wider selection of things that I’ve been enjoying this week/over the past few weeks rather than just all the top beauty products.

I know this will probably be an unpopular one, but I have been SO happy to see the weather turning colder. I flipping love autumn and everything that comes with it, especially cold sunny days at the seaside. Yes please. Add in the fact I can now wear all my favourite boots and an actual jacket without sweating to death and it’s been a winner of a week as far as I’m concerned.

As someone who doesn’t drink coffee, I always get a bit sad when it’s Pumpkin Spiced Latte season and I’m not getting involved. That all changed after discovering the amazing Spiced Pumpkin Pie tea from Bluebird Tea Company, which mingles all the best bits of autumn into a delicious mug of chai tea. The only bad bit about it is that it’s limited edition, so I might have to stockpile in advance to keep me going for the rest of the season. I also had a taste of the Choco Pops tea and OMG YUM.

This week I’ve been trying to be a better blogger and actually catch up on some of my favourites. It’s all too easy to let blog reading slide when you have about a gazillion things to do, but I’ve really enjoyed spending some time with Vintage Vixon, Hannah Gale, Expat Makeup Addict, Beauty Junkie London, Makeup Savvy and Frock Me I’m Famous this week.  

The colder weather does mean it’s time to bust out the hand cream, so a tube of Jurlique’s finest is going into every bag I own, along with a giant tube of the rose scented one on my desk. It also means stepping up the moisturiser, so I’ve switched to YesTo Coconuts Souffle (full review over here) which is lovely and rich but not so heavy all your makeup slips off an hour later.

L’Oreal’s Miss Hippie Waterproof mascara has also been top of my makeup list this week – it’s very rare that I love a high street mascara but I love the volume you get from this one! Giorgio Armani’s new Lip Magnets also need a special mention ahead of a proper review next week. These semi-matte liquid lipsticks are DIVINE and I can’t get enough of them at the moment.

One thing I haven’t been loving is exercise and I really need to change that. At the moment I’m in danger of going into full on sloth mode with some quality PJs and a whole load of white chocolate fingers, so I really need to give myself a kick start and find something fun to do in the colder, darker months. Any suggestions?

Last up, is the Lulu Guinness Vaseline collaboration. It’s hard not to love Lulu Guinness’ quirky range of bags, so when this popped up on social media, I knew it would be popular. I went into 3 Boots stores before finally finding some (very popular, apparently!) so got over excited and bought four. Yup, four. As someone who doesn’t use Vaseline very often, it seems excessive, but I’ll be giving these to friends and family as little stocking fillers come Christmas and keeping one for myself in my keepsakes drawer. They’re £2.99, but the super cute tin is well worth the extra spend!

What have you been loving this week?


4th Blog Birthday Giveaway

Tales of a Pale Face fourth blog birthday giveaway prize
Tales of a Pale Face fourth blog birthday giveaway prize
Tales of a Pale Face fourth blog birthday giveaway prize
Tales of a Pale Face fourth blog birthday giveaway prize
I can’t quite believe it, but it’s my blog’s fourth birthday! That time has honestly flown by so quickly and it seems like only yesterday that I decided to start it on a grey October evening, while sat at home on my pyjamas. Like a lot of bloggers, things have evolved over time and I’m pleased to say that I think I’ve grown with it over the past few years – if you want to see one of the original posts, please visit here and have a good look at those lovely, out of focus iPhone photos.

The blog would be nothing without all of you lovely people that read it, so to say thank you to all of you (old and new readers) I’m running a giveaway. One reader will be able to win all of the beauty goodies above, plus a few extra surprise ones. There's lots of my favourite beauty brands included from Pixi to Diptyque and B. to Dolce & Gabbana. In total the prize is worth over £200 and I hope you'll enjoy what I've picked!

All you have to do to enter is complete your chosen entry methods via the Rafflecopter widget below. The giveaway is open Internationally, although the prize might need to be edited slightly to accommodate any international postage restrictions. It closes on Sunday 6th November at 11.59pm.

Good luck and thank you again for reading!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Going Rose Gold: Models Own Gilt Makeup Collection

Models Own Gilt collection review and swatches
Models Own Gilt collection review and swatches
Models Own Gilt collection review and swatches
Models Own Gilt collection matte lipstick swatches
Lipstick swatches
Models Own Gilt collection palette
Rose gold and copper tones are EVERYWHERE at the moment, with us bloggers definitely making the most of the on trend look. I *may* be partial to a rose gold pineapple or two in my home, but what I’m really loving at the moment is Models Own's new Gilt collection, which takes that trend and puts it into some really beautiful, affordable makeup.

Gilt is the second large makeup collection from Models Own, following on from their rather epic launch a few months back. It’s pulled together some of their key products and shades and packaged them up in limited edition rose gold packaging that’s every Instagrammer’s dream.

The standout piece from the collection for me are the Gilt Luxestick Creamy Matte Lipsticks. The texture of these is great – more of a satin finish than a traditional matte and incredibly pigmented in just one swipe. The magnetic lids are a cute little addition – I am rubbish at clicking lipstick lids back on all the way so have had several accidents inside handbags before – the magnets help stop that from happening and definitely make it feel much more secure! There are five shades available in the Gilt range: Rose Petal (a blue based pink) and Wild Rose (a soft, peachy rose) would be my two favourites.

A close second in terms of ‘wow’ factor is the 3 in 1 Gilt Face Palette. It’s got a mix of eye shadows, lip colours and a blusher inside, plus a couple of very cute (but not great quality) brushes. The shades have definitely been created to be very wearable and will suit most skin tones and I can see this one being very popular at Christmas if the stock hangs around until then.

Models Own’s Lip Gunks are an interesting one – they’re a decent dupe for OCC’s cult Lip Tars with a slightly glossier finish. They’ve added one shade for the Gilt collection, which comes with a rose gold mixing tray, rather than the standard silver. It’s a pretty universal pinky-red colour, but the magpie in me would’ve loved to have seen something a little more unusual. Maybe a true rose gold lip colour?

Other items in the range are a Face Base Primer, I-Definer Kohl Pencil and Hypereyes Mascara, which have all been given the Gilt packaging treatment.

It’s not their most exciting launch ever (that one’s coming soon, so more details on that shortly!) but it’s definitely one that will appeal to the masses and will no doubt get used hundreds of times over in those rose gold Instagram shots. Prices start at £7.99 for the lipsticks, kohl and mascara and go up to £19.99 for the Face Palette.

You can find the Gilt range via Models Own stockists and Models Own online.

What do you think of this new collection from Models Own?

*contains PR samples



Autumn Skincare Must-Haves £15 and Under

The best autumn skincare for under £15
The best autumn skincare for under £15
The best autumn skincare for under £15
I’ve made no secret of the fact I REALLY love Autumn. I know most of you looooove the summer, but while I do enjoy a sunny day and a beach, autumn is basically my idea of heaven. Now, that’s partly because it’s cold enough to wear my cosy AF Ugg slippers again and partly because I don’t have to worry about burning if I spend longer than five seconds out of the shade with no SPF on (#gingergirlproblems). Add in plenty of hot chocolates and ALL the Primark PJs and there’s literally nothing better.

That said, my skin doesn’t love it quite so much – a few cold days and it dries out quicker than you can say ‘Pumpkin Spiced Latte’ and needs a bit of TLC. So I’ve picked out some of my essential skincare items for autumn, all of which cost £15 or less. As let’s face it, Christmas is coming and we all need to buy ourselves beauty advent calendars lots of gifts for other people.

Nivea Double Effect Eye Makeup Remover – this is such a good beauty staple if you wear a lot of eye makeup like me. It dissolves everything in seconds (even waterproof mascara) and won’t leave you with greasy, stingy eyes afterwards. £3.69ish

YesTo Coconuts Ultra Hydrating Soufflé moisturiser – first up, this stuff smells good enough to eat. It’s like shoving a Bounty on your face and I have to try quite hard not to taste it as I suspect it won’t be as yummy as it smells! The Coconut range from YesTo is all about dry skin and the Souffle Moisturiser is my top pick from the lineup. It’s got a lightly whipped texture to it, so lighter than a traditional cream, but is very rich and nourishing at the same time. It sinks in to the skin really quickly, so works well as a base undermakeup and even my dehydrated combination skin doesn’t get oily when I use it. YAY! £12.99

Garnier Moisture Bomb Tissue Mask – I love a good sheet mask, but some of them are really pricey! Garnier’s Moisture Bomb mask is great for dehydrated or dry skin as it rehydrates thirsty skin in a matter of minutes. The Day Cream from the Moisture Bomb range is also really great, but I love the mask for a more intense burst. It’s only £1.49, so a really affordable treat and one I’ll be using throughout the colder months.

Lavera 3 in 1 Face Wash, Scrub, Mask – what a great multi-use product! This mild cleanser contains very gentle particles that will give skin a good exfoliation at the same time as you cleanse. It uses salicylic acid to help prevent blemishes, plus organic mint for anti-bacterial properties. I’ve not used it much as a face mask as I prefer to use it every other day as a quick exfoliant and cleanser but I suspect it will be great as a weekly treatment for oilier skin types. The creamy texture means it’s not at all drying, and depending on your skin type, you can use more/less regularly as needed. £7.99

Argan+ Multi-Action Eye Cream – my eyes are always the first area to show any tiredness or bad habits, so a decent eye cream is always on my skincare shelf. I love Argan+'s – it’s light in texture and quickly absorbed, so doesn’t interfere when you apply makeup on top. I find it’s great for rehydrating the eye area and gets to work on any fine lines that might pop up (hello early 30s). If you suffer from puffy eyes, pop on some cotton pads soaked in cold water for a few minutes and then apply this one you’ve removed them. It works a treat, trust me! £12.99

Good Things Manuka Honey Radiance Face Mask – Manuka Honey is such a hero ingredient, but it’s normally really pricey, so I had to include this radiance boosting mask from Good Things! It uses Manuka Honey to help brighten and add more radiance to the skin, along with white clay to help remove any impurities. This is a great one to use once a week, but for an extra boost, you could always use this first and then bump up the moisture with the Garnier Moisture Bomb Sheet Mask. It’ll be like a mini facial from the comfort of your sofa… £5.99

What are your favourite autumn skincare products? Are you a fan of any of these?

*contains PR samples



MAC Liptensity Lipsticks Review

MAC Liptensity lipstick review and swatches on pale skin
MAC Liptensity lipstick review and swatches on pale skin
MAC Liptensity lipstick review and swatches on pale skin
MAC’s new Liptensity lipstick formula is one you're going to love. I suspect we all have at least one MAC lipstick in our collections - they seem to be a beauty lover’s ideal purchase - but the new range has really won it for me.

Liptensity are a satin finish that are jam packed with pigment. You really only need a single swipe on the lips to get a really full colour, all thanks to a special tetrachromatic pigment technology.

They have a creamy texture and don't drag during application and the medium sized, slightly slanted bullet means you can apply without a brush, making life much easier.

There are 24 shades in the range in total, with 6 being limited editions. I've been testing three of them out and can safely say that all three have performed equally well. Smoked Almond is a brown toned nude that's a touch too dark for me, but it applies so evenly I can totally forgive it! Claretcast is a mid-toned, berry pink shade and my favourite of the three - it's great for a pop of colour with a simple makeup look. I wasn't expecting to like Blue Beat as blue lipstick is WAY out of my comfort zone but I was inspired by Lex to give it a try. Now, it won't be everyone's cup of tea but I actually really love it! I'd initially thought it might be good for Halloween but I can see myself wearing it for a night out too.

MAC say Liptensity have up to an 8 hour wear - I got about 4 hours before needing to top up, slightly less if eating a big meal. They tend to fade quite evenly though, so you don’t end up with just a large ring of lipstick left on the outside of your lips and nothing in the middle!

One of the things I love most about these little beauties is the coloured lids. Such a simple thing, but OMG it’s a life changer and one thing I wish MAC would introduce across some of their other ranges. No more scrabbling around trying to find the right shade when they all have identical black packaging! Or trying to remember what shade belongs to what name without having to open them up and check (if you can do this I 100% admire you).

Liptensity are on counters now, priced £17.50 each.

Are you a fan of MAC lipsticks? What do you think of these new launches?

*contains PR samples


Stoptober - How I Quit Smoking and My Top Tips On Breaking The Habit

Stoptober - you got this
One thing you probably don’t know about me is that I used to be a smoker. Not just a social smoker, but a real, start the day with a Marlboro Light-type smoker. I stopped smoking around 7 years ago after a good decade of puffing away and if I’m honest, it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done.

October is also ‘Stoptober’ – a month where there’s a big focus on helping people give up smoking, hopefully for good. If you’ve been smoking for a while, it can seem daunting to try and quit, so I thought I’d share how I did it, along with some tips and tools to give you a better chance of succeeding.

Like a lot of people, I started smoking when I was at school. It was largely down to peer pressure and wanting to fit in with my cool, new 6th form friends who all seemed to enjoy chuffing away on a Richmond Superking around the back of the school gates. A few sneaky cigarettes later and I was hooked. I honestly thought I’d managed to hide it really well from my parents, who I knew would be horrified. That was, until the day that I was planning my 18th birthday party with my Mum and she turned to me and said ‘I know you’ve been smoking’. After recovering from a mini heart attack (and quite frankly a huge amount of disappointment in my stealth skills) I ‘fessed up and that was the end of that conversation.

I carried on smoking for almost a decade – social occasions, the trip to work; everywhere had its own association with smoking. I was that person that would go to the gym and light up a cigarette after an hour’s cardio, the one that used to be a semi-professional singer and still smoke in between sets. I always knew it was bad for me, but never really considered stopping.

There wasn’t any great event that prompted me to quit smoking. It just suddenly became something I had fallen out of love with and knew I didn’t want to do it anymore.  Stopping smoking initially seemed quite scary. I’d never tried before and was worried I wouldn’t be able to do it. I researched lots of different methods – from nicotine patches, to self-help books and everything in between.

In the end, I decided I wanted to try it alone and after reading a copy of Allen Carr’s ‘EasyWay to stop smoking’ book, I set a date for my last ever cigarette and decided that would be it for me.

I can laugh now about how easy I thought it would be. Although the initial couple of days were hard as the nicotine was wearing off, it was the few weeks that followed that were the worst. So much of the reliance on smoking comes out of habit and every time I got to one of my usual cigarette breaks, I felt incredibly restless and tetchy knowing that I wasn’t going to have one. But I persevered and the longer I went without one, the easier it became. Days became weeks and weeks became months and aside from one *tiny* gin-related slip up, I’ve stayed well clear ever since.

So I thought I’d share a few of the things I found useful throughout my journey. I’m not going to talk about the money side of things as let’s face it, we all know it’s expensive, but if you want to smoke, you will find the funds for it. Instead, here’s a few real-life, handy hints that I hope might help if you’re considering quitting this Stoptober

My top tips for quitting smoking

Have your final cigarette at the end of the day. That way you can wake up with a fresh start and go from there. You’ll also have started the nicotine withdrawal process in your sleep, so you’ll hopefully have less time to grin and bear that part of it (it’s around 3 days for it to leave your bloodstream).

Focus on WHY you want to quit. Make that the real focus of this and remind yourself of it every time you feel tempted to have a cigarette. Write it down, set a reminder on your phone – anything that keeps it at the forefront of your mind.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Giving up on will power alone is HARD. Your local Well Pharmacy has lots of really useful services and advice that can help. Whether it’s advice on NRTs (nicotine replacement therapies), a private 1-2-1 with a trained member of staff or the free NHS stop smoking service which is available at selected stores. Apparently you’re 4 times more likely to succeed with the help of a pharmacist, so it’s well worth speaking to them!

Avoid phrases like ‘giving up’ as it makes you feel like you’re being deprived of something. You’re not giving up anything – instead praise yourself for making a positive health change.

Change your routine – to break the cycle of feeling like it’s ‘time’ for a cigarette, it really helps to switch up your normal routine. Drive a different way to work so you don’t get to your usual point and want to light up; plan activities during your lunch break to distract you and get out and about in the evenings. Anything to distract you from the need for a smoke. 

If at first you don’t succeed…don’t stop trying! Very few people succeed on their first try, so keep persevering. Try different NRT methods (gum, patches, lozenges) until you find something that works for you – Well Pharmacy have lots of half price offers throughout October on NRT products, so you can switch it up at a lower cost and see which ones you prefer. 

Quit with a friend – if you can get someone to quite (quit) with you, it can really help to motivate you along your journey. If none of your close friends are also smokers, how about your wider social media circle? 

I hope you find these tips helpful. Are you planning to quit for Stoptober? Or have you previously given up smoking? I’d love to hear any of your stop smoking tips – leave me a comment below! 

*post written in collaboration with Well

To find your local Well pharmacy, visit well.co.uk/Pharmacy-Finder 

For more information on Stoptober, visit https://stoptober.smokefree.nhs.uk/#lxY3v6SqZQ83gphW.97


Top Ten: Beauty Advent Calendars for All Budgets

Rituals beauty advent calendar 2016
 This year there are a HUGE amount of beauty-related advent calendars. It seems to have grown year on year to the point where virtually everyone seems to be bringing one out, which I honestly don’t think is a bad thing. I’ve spotted almost 40 of them so far, and no doubt more are to come!

Any excuse for a daily beauty treat throughout December is totally welcome as far as I’m concerned, and I’ll be showing you a few options in more detail over the next couple of weeks. Some sell out incredibly quickly, so I’ve picked out ten of my favourites to get your started. I’ve tried to cover every budget from £10, right through to a whopping £250, so depending on how flush you’re feeling, there should be something here for you.

Diptyque £250 - with 16 mini candles and 8 other treats, it’s definitely topping the premium end of the range. If you’re a Diptyque brand fanatic, then it really will be a beautiful treat or gift idea come Christmas. Like Liberty’s calendar, they do tend to sell out very quickly, so make sure you’re ready to pounce

Liberty £149 – my personal fave! It’s a bit of an investment, but the contents are worth over £400 in total and the 25 drawers contain a mix of luxury brands like Diptyue, Le Labo, Mailn + Goetz and lots more. It launches at the end of October and will sell out VERY quickly! The drawer style calendar could also be reused next year if you fancy making your own.

Kiehls £95 – one for skincare lovers, this features a mix of their hero products, all in perfect travel size minis.

Selfridges L’Oreal £95 – this is always a good one as it contains a mix of brands that fall under the L’Oreal parent umbrella, so look out for 24 treats from the likes of Viktor & Rolf, YSL, Lancome, Urban Decay and Kiehls.

Look Fantastic £70 – Look Fantastic’s first calendar was a big hit and they’ve promised that this year’s is going to be even better! It features products worth over £300, so is great value for money and will have a mix of full size and travel sized makeup, skincare, body care and hair care. You can order now, for dispatch later this month.
ASOS beauty advent calendar 2016
ASOS £50 – I am so excited for the ASOS beauty calendar. It’s amazing value for money at £50, with contents worth £175. Their beauty lineup has gone from strength to strength over the past year and the calendar definitely reflects this. Find treats from brands like Elemis, Philosophy, YesTo, Burt’s Bees, Egyptian Magic and Balance Me. It’s one of the few available now, so if you’re eager to purchase early, then go, go, go!

Ciate £49 – I’ve been buying Ciate’s Mini Mani Month since it launched and it’s one of the few nail polish focussed calendars on the scene. You get 23 mini polishes in a variety of finishes (including nail care and toppers), plus one full size surprise shade on 24th. It’s good to see they’ve introduced their new Gelology range to the calendar this year – you’ll get everything you need for a gel-style mani. The box design is also very cute and a change from previous years, although the boxes do tend to fall out quite easily if you try to stand it upright (minor fail).

Rituals £49.50 – A great choice for anyone who loves a pamper session, Rituals calendar has 24 minis inside. There’s a mix of different Rituals/scents, including Sakura, Hamman and Laughing Buddha. It launches later this month via the Rituals website.

Makeup Revolution £30 – an all makeup calendar is never a bad thing, especially when you add Makeup Revolution into the mix! I spotted this at a recent Superdrug event and was really impressed with the contents. There’s a mix of glosses, palettes, strobe cream, highlighters, brushes and more. The price may also drop depending on special offers, so do keep your eyes open for this one. It’s available now.

Dirty Works £10 – not all calendars have to be pricey and I think Dirty Works is a brilliant example of this. They’ve packaged up 24 mini treats, including a body scrub, body lotion, nail polish, bath pearls, mirror, shower gel and more. There’s a really good variety, especially given the price and it’s nice to see something so affordable for a change. Find it in Sainsbury's from October.

Have you got your eye on any beauty advent calendars this year? Which ones are your favourites?


How To Get Rid Of Those Meh Moods In 6 Easy Ways

bath tub filled with flowers
‘Meh’ days. We all have them. Hell, I’ve been feeling pretty ‘meh’ for the past few weeks on and off and sometimes you just have to give yourself a kick up the backside and say ‘ok now, it’s time to move on’.

My own ‘meh’ mood has been down to a combination of general life stress, tiredness and a whole load of ‘am I doing this well enough’ around my blog, which when all combined, have led to me feeling uninspired, lacklustre and like I generally just want to hibernate.

Now, I can’t change all of those things all at once, but what I have done is create a few easy steps to work my way back into a better, more positive frame of mind. If you’re feeling a bit shit at the moment, give them a try and I hope that they’ll help make a difference.

Turn off social media 
Our social media addictions can make us feel grumpy and inadequate at the best of times, so put your phone down and step WELL away from it for a while. Less distractions will help you focus better and the constant stream of filtered positivity will only make you feel worse. Unless you only follow accounts made up of cute animals, in which case, keep watching.

Do something physical 
My natural reaction when I feel a bit rubbish is to sit on the sofa and curl up in a blanket with a packet of Maryland cookies and a large G&T. While this might be great in the short term, it doesn’t really help and I often end up feeling sorry for myself and crying over episodes of Don’t Tell The Bride (seriously, who lets a man choose their wedding dress for them?!). Give yourself a burst of endorphins and go do something physical instead. It doesn’t have to be a massive sweat-fest, just a gentle walk or a few sets of squats will do. Anything to get you moving and away from the sloth pose.

Go and hug someone 
Your mum, your boyfriend, the dog, next door’s cat. Whatever. Make it a really decent, long hug and have a little cry if you need to.

Eat something with vegetables in 
Like the Maryland cookies example above, while it’s tempting to face plant a box of Asda’s chocolate covered mini donuts, you’ll feel better if you feed your body something vaguely nutritious. Get some decent protein in you, a nice helping of carbs and pack it out with veg on the side. Make it simple – you want to save your energy for all those squats. If you still NEED something after that, then go for the chocolate. At least you can feel semi-smug.

Turn up the music 
Put your feel good songs on and go for it. Dance around your living room, sing along loudly, whatever. Avoid any music that makes you feel emotional or reminds you of a bad time – we’re all about creating the happy bives right now. For me it would be a toss up between Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and some sort of Motown megamix. It’s hard not to want to join in when you have really loud 70s disco music playing, trust me.

Plan something exciting
Sometimes the ‘meh’ comes from life just being a little bit too ‘life’. Routines are great, but they can take it out of you a bit. Get a date in the diary to see a friend, plan a day out somewhere new or even book a full on holiday. The more things you have to look forward to, the better. I'm currently counting down to a spa day (HELLO MASSAGE) and a day at the Harry Potter Studio Tour with Leanne (totally not my 3rd time, nuh uh).

What are your top tips for lifting your mood?
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