LFW
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LFW: BACKSTAGE AND BEYOND AT PAUL COSTELLOE

think we could all use a dose of soft, pretty and innocent right now. Paul Costelloe brought his unabashed femininity to the runway READ MORE...
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CARMEN DELL'OREFICE TO OPEN SINGAPORE FASHION WEEK

Carmen Dell’Orefice...if this is what being in your 80s looks like then I'm looking forward to it! The legendary model, who once declared to Vanity Fair, “If I die, it will be with my high heels on”, is set READ MORE...
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BACKSTAGE AT JEAN-PIERRE BRAGANZA

This is what 'sex on a motorcycle' hair looks like! Well, it does to Jean-Pierre Braganza. For his SS15 show, 'Architectonic', he asked the Toni & Guy session team READ MORE...
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#UNLOCK ART FILM SERIES ENDS ON A HUMOROUS NOTE

The film series, #UnlockArt, produced by Tate and supported by Le Meridien, concluded with the release of the last of eight films, What's So Funny?, decided by an online poll READ MORE...
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NET-A-SPORTER LAUNCHES 7-DAY BODY REBOOT

NET-A-PORTER has gone sporty with their 7-Day Body Reboot, a daily fitness and healthy diet program presented as a video series. I think this is brilliant for two reasons. First, it's a smart way to promote READ MORE...
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WeSC & ALTEWAI SAOME LAUNCH HIGH END STREETWEAR

Following the wrap-up of Stockholm Fashion Week is the launch of a new collaboration between two Swedish fashion greats, skate/street brand WeSC and design duo Altewai Saome READ MORE...
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MADE LONDON RETURNS TO MARYLEBONE

The Design and Craft Fair, MADE LONDON, returns to One Marylebone 24-26 October to present the very best in contemporary craft and design. Showcasing over 120 READ MORE...
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September 28, 2014

LFW: Backstage and Beyond at Paul Costelloe with Toni & Guy

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I think we could all use a dose of soft, pretty and innocent right now. Paul Costelloe brought his unabashed femininity to the runway in his SS 15 collection of throwback dresses, skirt suits and coats, but his 'Angels' had just a bit of Bardot impurity to keep things fun. The look was 'ethereal and ladylike with a 60s twist' with nude faces and the hair manipulated into a wild beehive, sometimes tamed with a black velvet bow. 

The Toni & Guy session team, lead by Cos Sakkas, were a sight to see at work, whipping up the models' hair into a frenzy that made perfect sense once it was pulled into place. 

Want to get the look? Use these techniques and products:

  1. Prep hair with two layers of label.m Volume Mousse, blast dry and then work label.m Resurrection Style Dust from root to tip section by section
  2. At the nape of the neck twist hair and pin into a bun to act as an anchor for the rest of the shape
  3. Backcomb the top section of hair and pin the sides of the hair tightly back adding ends into the bun
  4. Create a side parting through the front and tuck behind ear securing with a bow and finishing with label.m Hairspray

Here's the Toni & Guy team in action, along with some shots from the show which I got to watch afterward. It was held at Simpson on the Strand in a beautiful room befitting the lovely collection:

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Speaking of blondes...this week I got to try the new label.m Brightening Blonde collection consisting of a shampoo, conditioner and balm. I'm always looking for ways to keep the brassy tones out of my blonde but naturally brunette hair, and after using the three products I noticed a difference in the colour immediately after blowdrying. There was an overall lift, and the different tones in my hair seemed more defined. Also, I love how the shampoo and conditioner work when using them in the shower - some shampoos don't feel moisturising even when they're formulated to be, but the Brightening Blonde made my hair feel soft immediately, and the conditioner was also surprising in that it was rich enough that I only needed the same small amount I used of the shampoo - usually I have to use two to three times that amount to get my hair smooth (probably helped along by the very moisturising shampoo!). The balm is lovely as well, and unlike some other products that might dull your colour when applied, this one doesn't compromise colour for softness - it keeps things light and bright. So I can happily say that Brightening Blonde is is a great range for blondes!

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September 18, 2014

LFW: Backstage at Jean-Pierre Braganza with Toni & Guy

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This is what 'sex on a motorcycle' hair looks like! Well, it does to Jean-Pierre Braganza. For his SS15 show, 'Architectonic', he asked the Toni & Guy session team to create 'dishevelled, very beautiful, soft, flowing, long hair' to complement the strong look of the clothes. Some of the designs reminded me of drapey origami, while others incorporated motorbike engines in print. The makeup was created by M.A.C. with artfully lined eyelids in a shape that looked like a bird's wing when closed. The clothes, hair and makeup combined to create one the most beautifully complete runway looks I've seen. Edgy yet very wearable in the real world.

If you want the 'Ethereal hippy girl meets biker culture' look and there is no motorcycle to be found, here's the technique:

  1. Create a deep side parting, prep the hair with label.m Blow Out Spray and blast dry. 
  2. Take label.m Curling Tongs 28mm through the ends of the hair to create slight movement but not a curl
  3. Tuck hair behind ears with the top of ear peeking out for a fashion edge
  4. Sweep hair to the opposite side of the head over the forehead, finish off with label.m Hairspray

You can watch the video to see how it's done by the Toni & Guy team, lead by Global Creative Director, Sacha Mascolo-Tarbuck:

Here are my photos from the very energetic JPG backstage at the BFC Courtyard Show Space at Somerest House:  

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And the man himself, Jean-Pierre Braganza:

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Fans of JPB might want to add this to their Christmas list or keep it in mind for style-conscious family and friends: label.m's latest designer collaboration is a variety of gift sets featuring Jean-Pierre Braganza's bold and beautiful signature prints, including a gorgeous scarf in black, white and crimson: 

Label

July 07, 2014

LC:M: Backstage at Orlebar Brown with Toni & Guy

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I'm taking you backstage again! This time at Orlebar Brown's Covent Garden shop where the SS15 collection of tailored beach and resort wear was shown both in in the shop, and to the delight of the neighbours, the street. Downstairs, the Toni & Guy session team were busy creating the 'groomed beach chic' look under the guidance of Silje Vincent. Silje explained that working with the models' individual hair texture was the best way to achieve the look. As you can see, the result is a polished style without any fussiness; it makes the guys look like they just have great hair. It worked particularly well on the models who had longer hair to work with, and it would move nicely with a breeze running through it on the beach (not that I'm thinking about it too much or anything).  

Here's how you can get Toni & Guy's groomed beach style, using the label.m Black Tourmaline Dryer and label.m Cutting Comb:

1. Prep hair with label.m Volume Mousse, label.m Blow Our Spray or label.m Sea Salt Spray depending on the hair texture (I have the label.m Sea Salt Spray which is great for adding texture to fine hair and perfect for a 'day at the beach' look)

2. Finger dry hair for tousled separation with label.m Black Tourmaline Dryer

3. Using a label.m Cutting Comb move the hair either off the face or across the forehead, which ever suits the face

4. Finish with label.mSouffle or label.m Power Paste for separation and

Label.m must have products: Volume Mousse, Sea Salt Spray, Blow Out Spray, Souffle, Power Paste.

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Paddy Mitchell gets styled.

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Aside from surprise parties, I don't think I've ever seen a room filled with so many excited, smiling people. It's a nice change from the usual 'I'm over it already' attitude you tend to see at the collections. You really know how to make a splash, Orlebar Brown. (You'll see why as you scroll down.)

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Dogs! Everyone was happy because people love dogs! A particularly beautiful specimen accompanied each of the tailored beach shorted models, including a massive Great Dane. In case you're wondering, the dog carer/trainer was right there the whole time and gave them water every 15 minutes, then after a while the models were told to put on flip-flops and take the dogs for a walk around Covent Garden to the delight of the neighbours. What a scene that was.

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June 20, 2014

LC:M: Backstage at Matthew Miller with Toni & Guy

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Yes, this is a men's fashion post. And it feels right. This season's London Collections: Men was my first ever thanks to an invitation from long-term London Fashion Week sponsor Toni & Guy to go backstage with their session team to cover the looks. My aesthetic preferences in both fashion and home decor have been shifting from the slightly fussy to pared-down and minimalist (the design of the blog is going to be overhauled to reflect this and it can't happen too soon). More gender neutral. Sometimes you need a palate cleanser and men's fashion seems to be the melon sorbet. 

I was able to attend three shows with Toni & Guy, the first being Matthew Miller, a British designer known for his structured tailoring, performance fabrics and engineered digital prints. The mainly navy pinstriped collection was inspired by WWII demobilisation suits which had a look of being taped up, sometimes with printed messages, and up close I caught some frayed edges on the lapel of an all-navy blazer which took the structured tailoring into a more casual territory suited for guys of the models' ages. Flower garlands - like memorial wreaths? - worn around the neck and wrists gave the outfits colour and organic texture. And then there was the hair which finished the look. Some of the models were cropped super short and therefore needed no styling, while others got the full seriously slick military treatment from the Toni & Guy team - headed by Chie Sato - who used their own army of tools and products to create "40's/50's military young boy with a twist".  

Want to create the look? Here how's Toni & Guy did it, using their session kit which included the label.m Diffuser, label.m Pin Tail Comb and label.m Pro-Advanced Straighteners:

1.This look works best for straight hair. Use a mix of label.m Extra Strong Gel and label.m Gel and apply product on comb and move through hair from roots to end.

2.From either the left or right side take a section of hair from the corner of the head to create a side parting. 

3. On the opposite side, depending on hair density, take a horizontal section to create an undercut look. On both sides of head comb hair until completely slicked back and then start drying the sections with a diffuser (and if possible a setting net - you can see one being used below.)

4. When dry, move to top part either combing to the side or forward and dry with a diffuser (again using net if possible). To make hair nice and flat use straighteners from corner to end of the hair to create texture and so that ends are completely straight. To finish, use label.m Hold and Gloss and blast with cold air for maximum shine.

I love the options this technique gives to a style that is short underneath and long on top; you can slick the top down on the side or wear it longer in the front depending how you're feeling that day. 

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April 13, 2014

Review: Pro Naturals Argan Oil Hair Repair System

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If anyone was in need of hair repairing, it was me. When I could no longer bear the shoe polish look of my virgin hair (or as close to virgin it could be after leaving it alone for about 18 months), I decided I needed a change and the only way to go was a lot lighter. It seemed cruel that my natural colour not only did absolutely nothing for me, but it actually made my facial features look harsh and it aged me. And cruel because virgin hair has two major things going for it that I couldn't continue to benefit from without great compromise: it's free, and it's healthy. But I was willing to sacrifice some money every eight weeks or so as well as some shine and elasticity to not have the grim reaper staring back at me in the mirror. (I do sound critical of myself I know, but if you saw my UK resident card, passport and drivers licence and random snapshots on friends' mobiles, you would nod enthusiastically for my plan. Not good, not good.)  

I started cautiously, going for the ombre or dip-dye approach to lightening because it leaves the roots natural, and so the look is pretty much maintenance-free. But despite having it done professionally, it fried my long hair so badly that I had to get inches cut off my layers, and that barely helped. Soon I'd had enough of this half-and-half look (I highly don't recommend it), so I had the top of my hair highlighted. But he didn't blend it in with the rest. I saw someone else a couple of months later and she brought all of the colours together. What a process! In the end I loved the colour, but my ends were tough and straw-like, despite having regular and generous cuts. I didn't know what to do - who wants hard hair? Not wanting to return to the unflattering natural colour or cut all my hair off, I stuck with it but was self-conscious of my weird 'do. Now what I'm about to say is going to sound like an informercial, but I assure you everything is true. And thank goodness it is or I'd be sporting rasta hats right now. 

With what could not have been better timing, I was sent the Pro Naturals Argan Oil Hair Repair System, which as the name suggests, is meant to fix damaged hair and contains natural ingredients with no sulfates. It includes a shampoo, conditioner, hair mask, and argan oil that can be applied as a leave-in treatment, and each product contains 100% pure Moroccan argan oil. I've been hearing great things about this oil for years and have been using it on my face, but this is the first time I've tried it in hair products. In all of my years of taking care of my hair I have never actually found anything that repaired hair, which would work by protecting and smoothing the cuticle so hair does not appear frayed and broken. I was hopeful, but not expecting any miracles; in my experience, only a brutal cut is the solution to damaged hair. The Pro Naturals website says to use the products for one week every six weeks, alongside your usual routine to repair your hair and maintain its health. Well, the first time I used the shampoo and conditioner - which smell fantastic by the way, as does the oil - I actually saw a difference in my hard ends, after blowdrying. I couldn't believe it. When I touched them my fingers felt something I didn't think was possible - soft hair! I hadn't even used the mask yet and was yet to apply the oil. I've since used the mask which is a dream, just like the conditioner which leaves your hair completely soft with very little product used yet neither weigh your hair down as they don't contain silicone, and no double application is necessary which is what I used to have to do with conditioner  just to get my hair tangle-free and soft in the shower. But my hair would still feel and look frazzled after blowdrying (if I didn't blowdry it just looked terrible so I couldn't win). The oil is great for keeping your hair soft from one shampoo to the next and seems to protect it from whatever makes it dull and damaged, such as heated appliances and environmental stresses such as pollution. It absorbs completely and your hair never looks oily. (High quality oils will never appear as oily.) And the smell is absolutely heavenly.

After a week of using the system and a week of my old shampoo and conditioner I still have soft hair; it does seem to have actually been repaired. The cost of the Pro Naturals Argan Oil Hair Repair System is £99, so it's an investment. But as you're only using it for a week every six weeks and each application is minimal, it will last a long time. It's also much cheaper to buy the whole set than purchase the products individually. 

Do I think the Pro Naturals Argan Oil Hair Repair System is worth it? Yes! It saved my hair, and now I can be blonde without looking like my hair is in pain - I can actually look good which is the point! I'm running my fingers through the ends right now and it feels great. Oh! One more thing. The last two times I had the colour done we did only partial highlights with peroxide, then the last time I had a whole head done and we used mostly bleach. With the peroxide, which is meant to be less damaging than bleach, I found my brush would get caught in my hair when it was wet and I had trouble blowdrying it, no matter how much conditioner I used. This time we did bleach all over and it should have been even worse, but thankfully I had just received the system and we used it to wash out out the bleach and condition it after (I have a mobile colourist come do it in my house) and not once since having it done have I had the brush drag through my wet hair. I want to horde these products so I never have to be without them. (I really should have done a before and after, but I had no idea the results would be so dramatic.) Highly, highly recommended. 

If you would like more information about Pro Naturals and keep up with their news you can follow them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google+

February 11, 2014

The Secret Anti-Aging Ingredient to Look For

Flawless_skinWe all rely on our skincare routines to deliver skin that's clean, healthy, and most importantly, young. We have our favourites - I won't give up my tried and true cleanser for anything - but we tend to be on a constant lookout for the next breakthrough product, the one that will give us quick, dramatic results. But would it surprise you to learn that sitting silently in your jar alongside the latest 'innovations' in anti-aging products is an inexpensive ingredient proven to significantly improve and reduce fine lines and wrinkles? 

Collagen is a natural protein that promotes elasticity in human skin. Anti-aging products contain a chemical known as peptide Matrixyl that is believed to nearly double the amount of collagen that skin produces, thus making it firmer and younger looking over time.

For years, peptide Matrixyl was known as a 'miracle ingredient' that helped cosmetic products reverse the signs of aging. Many cosmetic companies went to great lengths to protect their market share and keep this key ingredient a secret in an effort to stay competitive, citing their own proprietary ingredients as the miracle workers. But now that the secret's out, a veritable 'Matrixyl frenzy' has arisen amongst in-the-know consumers.

Many anti-aging products boast high numbers of peptides but rarely specify what kind. Since peptide Matrixyl has become known within the cosmetic community, women are now able to source products that contain the specific ingredient and ensure they're getting the most effective creams available.

To get the most out of your anti-aging products, look for those developed for night applications as this is the time when skin is most receptive to the active ingredients that fight signs of aging. During the day, skin cells are doing battle with everything from pollution to light, so night time is when our cells rejuvenate - but only if we sleep, so get as much as you can. As well as peptides, active ingredients found in night creams include vitamins, anti-oxidants and oils which work through the night to restore skin and prepare it for the day to come, and most women who use night creams will notice an improvement in their 'morning face' - I know I do! They're a lifesaver after a long day, and especially after a long night out. And remember that adequate sleep, proper hydration, and a healthy lifestyle are the most effective ways to look vibrant and youthful. 

September 25, 2013

Enhanced: Breast Augmentations Up by 35%

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We're not completely sure, but if Gwen did go for it, she opted for the subtle approach most women are choosing these days

If you haven't already noticed a certain 'enhancement' in some of the female figures around us, a recent article published on MYA has confirmed that we are indeed in the midst of a 'boob job boom'. In fact, this year has already seen a 35% increase over the number of breast augmentations performed in 2012, which appears to show that more and more woman are opting to go under the knife regardless of the restraints of the recession. And with three months still left to go until Christmas, it seems that the boob job trend hasn't even peaked. (Have you heard that the sale of lipsticks skyrockets when times are tough? I guess this is the more permanent version of doing something to feel better about ourselves when everything else is looking dire!)

What makes the boom even more surprising is what women are choosing to have done. One might assume that they're going in for an attention-seeking, more-than-ample bust like certain famous glamour models as was the trend in the past. You're there anyway, right, so why not make the most of it? Not quite. Today, bigger isn't necessarily better and quality is winning over quantity; the majority of these women are seeking only a modest increase in their breast size. According to the Aesthetic Plastic Surgery chairman, patients normally increase by only a cup size or two, indicating they are seeking a more natural enhancement over the car-crash-causing kind. 

While there are other avenues to explore if you want to give your bust size a boost, most women are eventually drawn to the instant results of implant surgery. But why the sudden increase? According to the broad spectrum of MYA patient stories, there are a multitude of reasons women are having their breasts enlarged, from insecurities about their body to seeking a little uplift after having children. As a result of its growing popularity amongst 'real' women, it is now viewed as a much more acceptable procedure and is likely a reason we feel more comfortable about seeking advice and information with regards to the operation.

Are you noticing this trend with your friends and aquaintances? I've been surprised several times in the past couple of years to find out that some women I know have implants, mostly because I'd have had no idea had they not told me, and they all cite 'I just want to look as I did before my kids' as the reason. Fair enough! 

July 05, 2013

Seven days, Seven styles - The Versatile Ponytail

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The ponytail; a hairstyle that is an absolute saviour when you simply don’t know what to do with your hair, or when your hair needs washing and you really can’t be bothered to make any kind of effort!

Whatever the occasion, the simple ponytail can be updated, adapted and changed to suit your individual look and the best part is, a ponytail only takes a few seconds to achieve.

Whether you add hair accessories to your ponytail or place it high or low, here are 7 ways you can channel this trend and style it differently each day. It really is that simple.

Monday morning: The High Ponytail

Most people either decide on a high or low ponytail depending on what suits them. If you prefer a high pony bring all the hair up just past the middle of the head and fasten securely with a hair band.

Tuesday: The Plaited Ponytail

Tie the hair in a ponytail as you would normally, section into three pieces, plait the hair and fasten the end with a hair band. Add an invisible ponytail if your hair is lacking thickness and volume for a plaited effect.

Wednesday: The Low Parted Ponytail

Use a comb to create a straight parting and then simply pull the hair back and tie it as low as possible at the back of the neck.

Thursday: The Twisted Ponytail

Once your ponytail is complete, take a strand of hair and wrap it round your ponytail to cover up your hairband.

Friday night: The Glamorous Evening Ponytail

Pull any loose strands of hair back tightly off the face, fasten with a hair band and secure neatly with a touch of hairspray.

Saturday: The Curled Ponytail

Once your ponytail is in place, take straighteners or a curling wand and create a few curls which will add volume to your weekend hair.

Sunday: The Poker Straight Ponytail

The simplest look of them all for the laziest day of the week! Straighten the hair from root to tip and then tie it up in a ponytail, voila!

Whichever ponytail look you are trying to achieve, take a look at the Hershesons website for tips and inspiration, or to browse a selection of invisible ponytail extensions.

Image: Courtesy of Hershesons.com

December 19, 2012

My Favourite Things for Holiday Prepping

It's getting closer and closer but I wanted to share some of my favourite products that are perfect for getting ourselves ready for festive events and also for gift-giving. Each are personal must-haves that I can recommend as products you can rely on to be of excellent quality and do what they promise. This is hugely important to us these days as no one wants to waste money - and time - on things that disappoint!

Ghd

ghd hairdryer I'd given up on buying professional hairdryers after two purchases, a few years apart,  turned out to be no better - and in the case of one, not even as good - as the cheap models I owned. I didn't see the point in spending four or five times the money unless the results were extraordinary (duh, a no-brainer obviously). My faith was unexpectedly restored when I tried the ghd air™ (£99) which promises to be "quicker and quieter with smoother and shinier results" due to its 2100W motor, body shape and advanced ionic technology. Let's focus on those words 'advanced ionic technology'. I've heard about this for a few years and paid no attention, I thought these were just the next beauty trend buzz words to get people to buy more products that they didn't need. ghd tells us this technology will "lock in moisture for softer, shinier results that last for longer, with far less frizzing".  Is this even possible in a product made for drying? Well, when I first tried this model a few weeks ago my hair was in need of a cut - my back layers were starting to take on that awesome pom-pom look which is always the point of no return, and the ends also needed a good trim thanks to the dry heat in the house we can't get away from in winter. The first time I used the ghd air™ I noticed it was really quiet (I'd gotten used to my old one sounding like a jet taking off in my ear) and it felt nicely balanced and streamlined, a good weight without being too heavy. And yes, it was powerful and dried my long hair quickly. But what I couldn't believe was that when I was finished, my back layers were defined again and not hanging in a frizzy mass; it looked like I'd just had a haircut.  Let me be clear: no one is lazier than me when it comes to blowdrying, I don't even use a brush while I'm doing it. I send that hair flying all over in a wild frenzy and then brush it out when it's all dry and hope for the best. My results were all down to this hairdryer and I'm still in disbelief at how well it works. I was able to put off my haircut for another three weeks and could have gone longer if I wasn't travelling to Toronto (that was my Christmas haircut). My hairdresser comes to me - mobile is so the way to go! - and I told her about my new magic dryer. She said she'd also been looking at it and asked if she could try it out on me. I said of course she could, other hairdryers are no longer allowed around my hair! She loved it and said she was going to ask for one for Christmas, and she also commented on the good condition of my hair before she'd cut it, she wasn't used to seeing it without the frizz. It's also great as a gift, presented in a very pretty, stud-embellished box. I can't recommend this hairdryer enough. It delivers what it promises.

PsPure + simple Skin Restoration Mask and Eye Brightening Cream As you know from my recent post gushing all over Pure + simple, I've been a huge fan of their holistic approach to skincare and wellness and have been using their natural, organic products for over a decade. I tried the Skin Restoration Mask ($16.45) a few weeks ago and when I saw that it left my skin incredibly soft and glowing and as smooth as glass, as if I'd done something far more extreme than applying a treatment, I realised how ideal it would be to put on before you go out on a special day or evening, as the first part of your makeup routine - you just don't want to waste that face at home! It is literally a mask, a gauzy piece you place over your face that's full of soothing rejuvenating ingredients. Give yourself at least 30 minutes to relax with it on so you get the full benefit (your eyes aren't covered so you can still see). For the eyes I love Pure + simple's Eye Brightening Cream. It's lightweight and has a firming and toning effect which is essential for me as I'm prone to allergies which make your eyelids feel 'loose' - not a good look. It includes a peptide complex that also helps to improve lymphatic circulation and elasticity to reduce under eye bags and puffiness (which I used to call My Morning Look). And dark circles are minimized by a flavone extract from the blue passion flower. Ultimately, I love the way it feels when I first put it on, like a breath of fresh air for your eyes. As always, the Pure + simple products deliver more than you had even hoped.

ZalandoZalando.co.uk During the holidays we're expected to dress up a few times, but I'm realistic and I always go for equal measures of looks and comfort. I know I'll be eating, so anything too restrictive around the waist is out, and I like a bit of stretch. But I still like nice details. Thanks to Zalando's wide range of clothing (massive, really) you can find any dress you need or want at any price point, and I found mine in this Private School jumper dress (£85). It's a stretchy knit (comfort!) that is easy through the waist (food!) and the intarsia collar and placket create a neat trompe l'oeil effect (detail!). It fits on the small side so you have to order up a size, but the quality is fantastic - the intarsia was perfectly knitted - and the shape is very flattering on the body. The black is nice and saturated, and the 'trim' is simple enough that you can play around with textured tights or go straight school girl with basic opaques. If weather permits, it looks fantastic with a simple black court shoe (or a bright if you're more daring), but if it's icy out and a heel means you'll wind up on your back on the pavement, this dress will also look great with a knee high wedge boot. (And don't most people want you taking your shoes off at the door anyway? I once had trouble getting a party guest who arrived with a friend of mine to take off her high heeled boots after coming in with slush all over them, she didn't want anyone to know how short she was. We already knew. When I pressed it she hopped up on the kitchen counter and stayed there most of the night.) And as for accessories? Styling can be fun, but I love it when the outfit is enough and a simple pair of earrings is all you need to finish the look. This is that dress.

ShapeweaShapewear.co.uk Ok, this is a bit weird because I am showing you my underwear, though that's not me in them (but you can think that if you want to). On the left is the greatest underwear ever, called Edgies (£9.99) due to their breathable Wonderful Edge® silicone finish at the legs that keeps them in place, and it really does, without any rubbing or irritation. In other words, you won't be dying to get them off at the end of the day. They're made of a microfibre that is so fine it's like wearing nothing, so they're invisible and totally comfortable. I go with the boy short style but they also come in other styles. In the middle is the Body Wrap Boy Short (£19.95) which is also invisible, seamless, light and comfortable. I go for these when I'm wearing a dress for a bit more smoothness through the hip. They come in a range of fashion colours and I love the Diva Dot in beige. Lastly, because I have a drawer full of bodyshapers that I just hate because they have weird seams that show through clothes in unfortunate places, and are not at all comfortable to wear (rhymes with 'Spranx'), I tried something different to wear under jersey dresses that hide no secrets. The Full Smoothing Bodyslip (£32.95) is by the same people that make the Edgies, so it's seamless and the hem doesn't ride up. And you don't need to wear a bra with it, it's got molded cups with adjustable straps and it does the trick for me (still feeling weird about telling you this). It's only a '1' for control (the lowest level) but it definitely holds you in. And there it is! If you're frustrated with your shapewear or even just your every day wear (Edgies are awesome for jeans and working out) I highly recommend giving these a try. And they're not expensive either. Win-win!

December 07, 2012

The Pure + Simple Way to Healthy Skin

Pure + simple's Kristen Ma explains why natural skincare is important for our health as well as beauty

Ten years ago, I walked into a beauty shop and spa next door to my office building at Yonge & Eglinton in Toronto. I'd worked next to Pure + simple for quite a while, but until that day had hesitated to venture in. The name suggested natural skincare, and I'd come to mistrust those who claimed to sell natural skincare products because I knew that a hugely popular, global company that based their entire philosophy on the concept were not as they appeared, and there had been an exposé on some smaller producers of 'natural' products mostly sold in health stores, which made me believe there was really no such genuine thing being sold commercially. (At this time I had no reference for Pure + simple,  unaware of their stellar reputation in the city and many awards. I was still kind of new in town.)

Do the Opposite

I finally walked through their door when I'd had enough of being greeted by the oil slick on my face in the washroom mirror at work. I'd never had oily skin before and didn't know what was going on. I bought blotting papers but they were a temporary measure. (One day my male director appeared around the corner of my cubicle and found me with one stuck to my forehead and each cheek, I'd just left them on for some reason. I said "Um, I've got a bit of an oil problem." Better to be honest because it certainly warranted an explanation, he thought I'd decorated my face with Post-its.) So I found myself standing in Pure + simple when a young woman, with skin so clear and fresh it reminded me of what skin is actually meant  to look like, approached. I told her about my problem and she explained that my skin was dehydrated and was compensating by producing more oil, and that I needed a heavier moisturiser to rehydrate and balance it. The last thing I wanted to put on my visibly oily skin was cream, especially a heavy one, but nothing I was doing was helping so I thought that sounded crazy enough to work. I bought the moisturiser she recommended and was really impressed that she was so confident about the principle behind what she was telling me, yet she was not at all pushy about it. I put it on that night and again in the morning. I remember the next day my face was hardly shiny at all and I couldn't believe how quickly it turned around, and the oil never returned. Needless to say, I went back. I wanted to know more.

Kristen Ma and Ayurveda

KmaThat vibrant young woman with the enviable complexion was Kristen Ma, co-owner of Pure + simple Inc., along with her mother Jean Eng. They created their first product range after finding nothing suitable on the market to address their skincare needs.  I found out that there is a specific ideology behind their holistic spas that I wasn't familiar with - both are Ayurveda practitioners in addition to being highly skilled estheticians, and approach the attainment of beauty through health. Kristen explains it for us in her first book Beauty: Pure + Simple - a must-read for anyone frustrated with their skin despite having tried everything, or just not feeling generally well (the two go hand-in-hand). Ayurveda guides us to live in harmony and beauty, according to our individual constitutions, known as doshas, and our environment. Unlike western medicine which focuses on alleviating symptoms and conditions with drugs and surgery, Ayurveda searches for the root cause and treats ailments from this perspective. It specifically considers the characteristics of the individual, while understanding that our mind, body and environment are always changing. Makes good sense, eh? I've been on the other side of the Atlantic for the past seven years but I always come back to Pure + simple when I visit Toronto - they do the most heavenly facials which are second to none, I've got one booked just before Christmas - and their products and advice always straighten me out.

The Products

Although I've been a Pure + simple devotee for over a decade, somehow the only products I'd tried from their proprietary line were their organic hydrosols which I just love - I alternate between rose and lavender, the latter also being great for oily scalps and refreshing what I call 'plane face' after a long flight. All of my skin and body products had come from their shops but from other high quality natural and organic lines they carried. Well, recently I found out what I was missing and was also introduced to products from the new specialised Holistic Vanity lines for Damage Care and Rosacea Care, Kristen's brainchild. All are made locally in Toronto using undiluted and concentrated, organic, therapeutic ingredients harvested seasonally and are free from ALL of the harmful ingredients commonly found in commercial beauty products (you can see a list of the undesirables at the bottom of this page).

So what do I think? I love the completeness of the Damage Care line which offers a treatment for each sin you've put your skin through at one time or another resulting in cellular injury. I'm guilty of causing some: sun damage (when I was a teen they still sold suntan oil with no SPF!) which leaves you with hyperpigmentation that becomes more pronounced as you age, and the thing we all do even though we know we shouldn't - picking. Those little scars your mother warned you you'd cause if you didn't leave your spots alone but you'd escape to the bathroom to willingly annihilate your face in private? Got some. Add the effects of pollution, stress and free radical damage and pretty much anyone will have a skin issue that needs addressing.

Damage-care-sign-900x600

These products gently yet effectively help improve specific damage symptoms:

Rejuvenating Rosewater Cleanser - It all starts with proper cleansing. This milk formulation hydrates depleted skin as it removes damaging surface impurities. My skin looks so fresh afterward as it contains absolutely no stripping agents to cleanse the skin.

Repairing Rosehip Skin Tonic - This tonic smells heavenly, thanks to water extracted from the rosehip fruit. Rosehip has been found to be excellent in treating pigmentation and is one of the only natural, non-bleaching ingredients to do this effectively. It's a treat to put on your face.

Edit: I clued in this morning that I didn't give the Rosehip tonic enough credit! I use it twice a day after cleansing and the lightning fast, almost complete removal of the hyperpgimentation on the sides of my face is probably due more to the tonic than the lotion below. The lotion surely does the job, too, but I use different moisturising products from this list on different days, and the tonic is consistently applied twice  a day so I think I owe it the credit for this small miracle of a transformation. Use it with the brightening lotion below and you'll be rid of that 'dirty face' look in days. Seriously. It's been three weeks for me and there's hardly anything there.

Brightening Hyaluronic Lotion - Something about the combination of seaweed extracts and the 15 percent hyaluronic acid - one of the best actives for increasing skin hydration and encouraging cellular repair - makes this hyperpigmentation fighting lotion work. I'd only used it a few times and wasn't even looking for any improvement as it was so early, when I noticed that the 'sandy' look on the sides of my face was reduced, looking a lot less blotchy and now barely noticeable. Amazing. And it achieves this without bleach. (Why would you put bleach on your face?!)

Regenerating Seabuckthorn Berry Oil - This is the healing one, helping to repair skin marks, weak tissue immunity and scarring. Loaded with nutrients, it's great for undernourished skin types and it also provides topical protection as a shielding barrier for damaged complexions. I still get a little surprised when I pump it and see its bright crimson colour from the Seabuckthorn Berry oil. But don't worry, the addition of evening primrose oil prevents it from staining your skin. I feel like I'm giving my skin a hug when I put on this soothing oil.

Restorative Raw Argan Oil - When my skin is angry (those hormonal times so enjoyed by my loved ones) I turn to this oil that repairs broken out, sun damaged, and inflamed complexions and helps to restore balance and increase tissue health. Made with raw argan, this oil is crafted with care by the artisans of an all-female co-operative in western Morocco. Its entire extraction process is done completely by hand and sustainably, employing a zero-waste approach.

And I have one product from their excellent Rosacea Care line which is the Comforting Camellia Oil. I don't have rosacea but my skin can go red and blotchy for some reason at times, so I'm glad I have this on hand. It contains skin comforting Camellia (green tea oil) as well as the ancient Ayurvedic anti-inflammatory Turmeric (also known as curcumin), and permeates deeply to charge the skin with extra resilience.

Don't be afraid of using these oils on on your face - all Pure + simple oil products are free of petrolatum and parabens and are non-comedogenic, meaning they will not cause breakouts. I can attest to this!

We've had some face-stripping windy and bitter weather here by the sea recently, and if my skin isn't protected properly I come home looking looking like a fine leather glove left on the radiator to dry out (I know what this looks like because I stupidly did this once). So on those days I've been using Pure + simple's Nourishing Sunflower Cream with an oil on top of that, and not once have I come in from the cold resembling a wizzened leather good. And you can blot with a tissue if you look oily, but I've never needed to, it absorbs completely into my skin and you would never know I put oil on my face. I always rub the excess oil left on the palms of my hands onto the backs, and from just this tiny amount I have seen a major transformation in how old my hands look. (Has anyone else looked down only to be horrifed that your hands look 20 years older than your face?) I am now a total oil convert. As long as it's Pure + simple.

For more advice on how to find that healthy balance visit Kristen's blog Holistic Vanity, and see her fantastic YouTube channel for all kinds of insightful videos including collaborations with other Toronto experts on topics such as healthy digestion, anti-inflammatory diets and DIY all- natural styling and beauty products.

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