Monday, 30 March 2015

Pai Echium & Argan Eye Cream

A Model Recommends is a big fan of Pai Skincare, and the eye cream in particular. My quest for a decent eye cream continues; for some reason my eyes seem to be really sensitive and water almost with the touch of any cream. So, I thought I'd give this one a try.

First, some background on Pai Skincare: it's a British skincare company that produces products particularly with sensitive skin in mind. It's organic - obviously - and the company prides itself on being very clear what ingredients are in the bottle. It's been around since 2007 and all the products are manufactured in West London. I like the philosophy: how does the product stack up?

The echium and argan gentle eye cream  is extremely light and hydrating. The website tells you 'it's rich in rare and incredibly effective forms of Omega 3 & 6 that smooth and soothe the delicate eye area'. Also it helps 'improve the appearance of fine lines, keeping skin soft, plump and beautifully supple' thanks to the linolenic and steridonic acids.

I've been using this for more than a month and can confirm it does smooth and soothe the eye area - it's definitely helped with my dark circles too. The cream isn't scented and a little goes a long way. I use it under the eye and on the orbital bone - and I use it both in the morning and at night.

The only issue I have is the packaging: it's impossible to tell when you're getting low on the cream and suddenly, one day, you just realise you've run out. That's not ideal if you're not the type of person that keeps back-ups.

But, that's the only issue I have. This stuff is a pleasure to use and I'll definitely repurchase. It's £28 and you can buy it online here and here.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Kiehl's Blue Herbal Spot Treatment

Just recently, I've had a few breakouts that are far from ideal. I don't get that many spots, so when I do, I moan constantly. I did actually want to try the Origins Super Spot Remover but I couldn't find it anywhere quickly, so I popped into the Kiehl's at Waterloo station and picked this up instead.

It's a salicylic acid treatment, well known for its blemish treating properties. Prepare for a slight sting when you apply it - personally, I quite like that, as it makes me feel something is really being done. The best thing is that it can be applied over make-up, so you can put it on throughout the day and it does offer relief to those really painful bumps under the skin.

This doesn't produce results overnight; it takes two or three days to fully kick in. For me, that's how long spots tend to last anyway, so its difficult to know how effective this treatment really is. What it definitely does, though, is offer some pain relief, and given that it's a clear gel, it's far more usable during the day than my trusty Germolene.

I'm going to make an online order of the Origins one, so I can do a comparison next time I need it. I'll keep you posted.

Kiehl's Blue Herbal Spot Treatment is £15 and available here.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Recent empties

I've not done an 'empties' post before - and, being honest, I rarely drain product bottles dry of their contents before moving on to the next one. But, in the interests of my bank balance, I've decided to make sure I use things up properly (unless, obviously, they make my face fall off first). So, here's my first round up of products I've used ever last ounce of  - and whether I'd repurchase or not.

Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel - a soap free, foaming gel cleanser. I haven't used a huge number of Dermalogica products, but the ones I have used I've been impressed with. This leaves the skin clean, without drying it out. It's gentle but effective. It doesn't replace my Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish (or Eve Lom, when I'm feeling flush) but it does the job.
Repurchase? Probably in the future. But not right now. 

Chanel Ultra Correction Lift - an anti-wrinkle eye and lip product. As you can tell from the picture, it was a sample. Any good? Of course it was. It's Chanel. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find it  for sale anywhere online, so that's the end of that. Probably for the best - for my wallet at least.
Repurchase? I would if I could. But I can't. 

La Prairie Cellular Swiss Ice Crystal Eye Cream - another sample (obviously. I can't be spending £161 on eye cream. Well, not just now anyway). I absolutely love this range. Before you get ahead of yourselves, I was given some of these products (sample size only) by a good friend who's a regular user of this brand. Lucky her. This eye cream is brilliant - not quite as good as the dry oil - but a close second. 
Repurchase? Absolutely - when I get a pay rise, or win the lottery. Whichever comes first.

Nivea Micellar Water - an absolute bargain at the moment (on offer for just £2 at Boots). Does what it says on the tin - removes make-up basically. You'll need a separate eye make-up remover though - it's not good enough for that. But, at £2, who can complain? Personally, I prefer the Garnier version, which I think is a bit better at tackling the eye make-up and that's usually on offer too. It's around £3. So not much preference really.
Repurchase? Yes, if on offer and the Garnier one isn't.

Boots Essential Cucumber Toner - claims to be refreshing and toning. For me, not so much. Cheap as chips (£1.50) but I'd say it's worth a little bit extra to get something with a bit more bang for your buck. I was sorely tempted to bin this before I got to the end. Be impressed with my self-restraint.
Repurchase? No.

Clarins Super Restorative Serum - I love this stuff. LOVE it. It just works. And I'm afraid you can tell the difference compared to cheaper versions. Plus, if you needed any further convincing, Caroline Hirons (a true genius) says that if you invest money in any part of your skin care routine, it should be your serum. That's all I need to know....
Repurchase? A thousand times yes. 

Nuxe Creme Fraiche de Beaute Light - bought in France whilst on a 'pharmacie' splurge, just to check the French still had it. (They do, by the way.) I used this up, even though it was a bit light for the thick of winter - my skin has been ridiculously dry. This stuff is really light and hydrating - maybe not enough for winter, but I think it would be fantastic in the summer. It doesn't have SPF though, so you need to add that in to your routine. 
Repurchase? Yes, in the summer.  

La Prairie Cellular Swiss Ice Crystal Dry Oil - as per the above. This oil is amazing. It is the stuff of miracles. My skin has never looked so good. It's an oil, but it's not oily. It smells divine. Okay, it definitely should (it costs £213) but still. Every time I used it was absolute bliss. My skin has been suffering serious withdrawal symptoms. Which it will have to overcome for now. Another one to add to the list after that lottery win. 
Repurchase? Yes. If inspiration on numbers for the lottery strikes, do tell. 

Kiehl's Creamy Eye Treatment with Avacado - one of Kiehl's best sellers, and rightly so. This saved my eyes through winter. It's pretty heavy, so I used it as a night eye cream, but it did wonders - my under eye area is very dry, so I need something supercharged to sort that out. 
Repurchase? I'm thinking I'll be making space for this in October. 

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Kiko haul

Kiko Milano is an Italian cosmetics brand that's been around since 1997. The price points of its products are entirely affordable, but cheap make-up this is not. The website claims that it has a range of 'cutting edge make-up' - and having mooched about the store on Regent Street for far longer than I should, I can concur that the range is innovative and just a little bit different. Naturally, you'd expect nothing less from a brand build on 'Made in Italy' values.

I wanted to buy a lot more, but I restrained myself on this first visit. I was very keen on their Palette Clics System - very similar to Bobby Brown's Pan Palette system - although there isn't a mirror - but at a quarter of the price, you can forgive that. Especially right now, because it's all on half price offer - both the palettes and the eye shadows. At those sorts of prices, it would be rude not to.

I bought the Eyes Clics 04 - there are four spaces for the eye shadows of your choice. £2.50. Bargain. I then opted for the following eye shadow shades: 201 Sparkling Silk (white); 233 Pearly Mahogany (pink/purple); 235 Mat Chocolate (brown) and Pearly Fern Green (green - obviously). Each one is currently on offer for £2,80. But don't be alarmed. If these don't float your boat, there are a whopping 88 shades to choose from. These shadows are highly pigmented and apply really easily. Although they definitely won't last the 12 hours they claim, they do last fairly well, especially with a primer underneath.

The shadows pop into the Clics palette easily enough - there's a slight magnetic pull to keep it all in place, but it's not so strong you can't get them out again.

I also picked up a green eyeliner - I recently heard that green eyeliner applied in the waterline help brighten the eye, and I wanted to try it out. It works a treat by the way - definitely give it a try. I opted for the Kajal pencil, specifically designed to go inside the waterline in the colour 112, Green Grass. It cost £4.20.

(Excuse the damaged eye shadow in the top left of the palette by the way - it was like that when I took it out of the box, and I haven't got the energy or inclination to go back and get another one - it was only £2.80.)

I thought that was it for my first go, but on the way to the tills, this little lip balm beauty called out to me.

This balm is both hydrating and has SPF 15 - a winner just before spring arrives. I went for the coconut colour - obviously - but there are a variety of colours. The shea butter and vitamins are extremely moisturising and you can apply without a mirror. Even better, the packaging is brilliant. I really hate lip balms in little pots - you can apply this straight from the bullet without any mess or fuss. It looks a lot more expensive than the £5.90 it costs. I will be picking up a couple more colours shortly.

Overall, this brand is definitely worth checking out - the sheer range is phenomenal. Even the most fussy of people would find something to suit. If you're not lucky enough to live near one of the stores, fear not - the online shop is brilliant. Even better, they are currently offering 20% off everything. Let me know how you get on!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

How to hire a nanny

I was out for dinner with some friends when someone said something incomprehensible: 'there is life beyond good nannies, you know'. Now, I love my friends dearly, but clearly this particular friend has lost the plot. Because, obviously, there is NO life without a good nanny. And that is the absolute truth.

I honestly believe that out of the three of us (me, my husband and our nanny) I am the least important in the equation. We didn't strike it lucky first time; our first hire was an absolute, unmitigated disaster. I can still remember the train journey where Mr. M. and I decided, somewhere around Wimbledon, that we just couldn't bear the thought of the children being with that 'nanny' for another hour, let alone another day, and jumping off the train to about turn and send her (gently - we're not awful people) packing. Because there's nothing worse than leaving the children with forlorn looks on their faces as you close the door goodbye. 

Our current nanny has been with us for almost three years. She is, without doubt, the best thing that happened to us. She's hands on, part of the family and excellent with the children. At the same time, she doesn't overstep the mark and never replaces me as a mum. In short, she's part of the family.

Over the past couple of weeks, no less than three separate friends have been in touch to ask how to find a nanny - and I do vaguely remember the issue of appointing a nanny a whole headache to get your brain around. Who on earth came up with the idea that is was okay to quote salaries in nett (and not gross) figures? So, just because people have been asking, I thought it might be helpful to give you the benefit of my brilliance - or, at least, share how I got lucky:

1. Use an agency. Unless you know the ins and outs of qualifications and training - which I absolutely do not and had no intention of learning - you need someone to do this for you. They charge a fortune - but let's remember that you're trusting the person you employ with the most precious thing in your life, so it's worth getting someone that's properly qualified to do it. They'll also verify the qualifications and check things like criminal records - so it's worth it. Find an agency that is either recommended by someone you know, or has significant support online. You want reputable and responsible. And make sure you check references - be ruthless, because you won't want any doubt in your mind the first day you leave the kids with this newcomer.

2. Use a company to sort out the tax. The genius that suggested that nannies should be paid nett wage only - the onus is completely on you to sort our their tax as well as your own - is hopefully gainfully unemployed by now. How it's possible I don't know, but basically, when you're arranging the salary, you'll be negotiating in nett pay - so you'll need to remember to set aside money each month to pay employer NI and tax. You'll need to pay this on a quarterly basis - but seriously, spend the £200 a year to a company that will figure it all out for you and remind you when to pay. They'll even throw in payslips for your nanny. It's another con - and don't get me started on the fact this all comes out of your nett salary (so you're paying tax twice) - but unless your day job is being an accountant, it's not worth the hassle. Just be thankful you're not schlepping the kids to nursery every morning and think of that as a small cost to pay.

3. Be completely honest with your nanny. Anything can be agreed in advance. If you're also expecting them to clean the house - I wouldn't recommend it, but it's up to you - then you need to be clear about that before they start. Also be honest about the hours you want them to work. There's no point being late every day - that won't make for a happy household. Most nannies are pretty reasonable, but it's your responsibility to set the standards. We, for example, make it clear that washing the children's clothes and changing the children's beds once a week is part of the job. Changing our bed isn't part of the deal - and we keep it that way.

4. Treat them as you'd like to be treated. Agree a 'kitty' amount each week for them to spend on entertaining your children. Don't make them ask you for money - it's awkward for everyone. Also, if you ask them to stay late, or to babysit, pay them properly. Expecting them to be grateful for keeping their job is unlikely to keep them with the family for the love of it. 

5. Remember this is their career. We have an annual budget to pay for training and maintenance of particular qualifications - such as first aid certificates. It's as much for your children's benefit as theirs - and generally, it helps to remind you that you're managing someone's career. 

Of course, there are differences - often, in London, people travelling the world do a spot of nannying to cover the bills - and to give themselves a roof over their heads. For those of us in the suburbs, live in nannies aren't so common (for one thing: living in Esher is hardly the most compelling prospect in the world, compared to Kennington) - and the majority of them are more career minded. Whatever you're looking for, just remember: when you find one that's good, hang on for dear life and do everything you can to keep them. Your children will thank you - and you'll sleep better at night. I promise. 

Monday, 2 March 2015

February favourites

I cannot believe we're at the end of February already. I've been making some fairly serious life changing decisions recently - but more on that another time. Right now, it's time to round up favourites from the month. So, let's get started...

First up: an oldie but a goodie, the old Naked palette from Urban Decay. My favourite of the three versions, this one is the original and best. I love all 12 colours, but I've been particularly defaulting to naked and half baked for my everyday work make-up. This rediscovery has reminded me that I must buy the all-in-one Naked on the Run palette sooner rather than later.

Staying on the make-up theme, I could not have been without my Charlotte Tilbury primer and foundation this month. My skin hasn't been at it's best and this combo works wonders for fooling even me sometimes into thinking it's better than it is. I reviewed them both earlier this month here.

Final make up one for this month: Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet Lipstick in hot pepper. My transition to the bold lip is complete, which I'm very happy about. I *almost* feel undone without lipstick now - which is a major turnaround for me. These little wonders from Bourjois are outstanding. Highly pigmented, these don't dry the lips and last for ages. And I do mean, properly ages - you can eat and drink your way through dinner, and it's still going strong. Even better, they are currently on offer at Boots - 3 for 2. What are you waiting for?

Skincare wise, as I just mentioned, my skin has been quite the trauma this month. Although Aldi's serum didn't make my face fall off, I'm afraid there's just no substitute for the Clarins Double Serum. Marvellous stuff.

I've also been religiously using the Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse that I bought last year whilst on holiday in France. My skin has been really dehydrated and this oil is like an overnight treatment. If your skin is taking a beating in this up and down weather, I really can't recommend both this and Clarins' serum enough.

I still haven't got round to testing out Bioderma's micellar water, mainly because the Garnier Micellar Cleansing water is so damn good, there's just no reason to try anything else. It leaves my skin feeling squeaky clean, without being drying in any way. It's around £5, but usually on offer at Boots or Superdrug - I'd definitely recommend trying this out if you haven't already.

Because I was a very good girl last year, Father Christmas bought me a Diptique candle and I haven't been disappointed. I got the Baies fragrance and it is absolutely divine. I have used almost every day this month. Yes, £40 for a candle is ridiculous, but as an indulgent present as a treat, you can't go wrong. If you're a mum, I'd be adding this to the list right now...

And finally (not pictured), I've also been loving the BBC's 'Inside the Commons' series that ended last week. It really is a wonder this country functions at all - if you get the chance, it's compelling viewing.