ELF Studio Makeup Mist & Set

Over the weekend I decided it was time to have a little clear out of my dressing table. Now that Autumn has arrived, it is time to pack away those bright lipsticks and revisit the warmer shades that have made their way to the back of my drawers. Whilst sorting through my collection, I stumbled upon the ELF Studio Makeup Mist & Set that was still wrapped up in its packaging (oops!) and decided to put it to the test. I’m not the biggest fan of setting mists, but I did read that this was a fantastic dupe for Mac Fix Plus. 
The bestselling, invigorating mist not only moisturises and soothes the skin with its Aloe, Green Tea and Cucumber ingredients, but also claims to keep makeup in place all day. The lightweight formula (alcohol free) promises to improve makeup wearability and prevent colour from running or fading. Simply spray 16-18 inches away from face (with eyes closed!) after makeup application or throughout the day for a quick refresh. Let the mist dry naturally on the skin or blot with tissue to help speed dry if necessary. 
After using it religiously over the past couple of days, I must say I am not a fan. I am not sure if I have purchased a ‘dodgy’ bottle, but the mist sprays in all different directions! I did pump a few times into a tissue to see if it was blocked, but it didn’t seem to make much difference. I felt that it left my face extremely wet, and I was conscious of blotting quickly to ensure my makeup wasn’t left streaky. On a more positive note, I really like the ingredients, but can’t help but think it would be more beneficial in my skincare routine as a toner than my makeup. 
I have recently visited the ELF website to confirm the price of this product, but noticed that it is no longer listed (apart from in the US). As far as I am aware, it has been rebranded as their ELF Revitalising Mist £7.50 (in new swanky packaging) and has added ingredients of Witch Hazel, Rosemary, Chamomile and Honeysuckle, yet still claims to refresh makeup. It has a mixed array of reviews, mostly positive and a few helpful tips I thought I would share. A couple of people have mentioned that they don’t spray this directly on their face, but on their brushes prior to makeup application. I dampen my Real Techniques Complexion Sponge with water on a daily basis, but may try spritzing with the Mist and Set formula from now on.
What are your thoughts on the ELF mist products?

NVQ L2 Hairdressing

This Saturday I will be starting my NVQ L2 Hairdressing course and I couldn’t be more excited. Back in 2013/14 I completed my NVQ L2 Beauty Therapy on a part-time basis alongside my current full time job, and I will be doing the same again this year. When I graduated from University back in 2012 with a Business Studies degree, I knew I wanted to use it towards a career in the Health and Beauty Industry, an area I am extremely passionate about and enjoy. My long term goal is to eventually own my own business, but I want to ensure I have the adequate qualifications and experience to offer a top class service to my future clients.
The NVQ L2 Hairdressing course covers the following topics;
  • Follow Health & Safety Practice in the Salon
  • Develop and Maintain Effectiveness at Work
  • Promote Additional Services or Products to Customers
  • Colouring
  • Blow Dry
  • Styling
  • Finishing
  • Reception Duties
Many of these modules overlap with Beauty Therapy, so I am hoping to use them as recap sessions. The maximum number of students in each class is 4, therefore the sessions will be intimate and there will be ample opportunity to ask questions and get immediate help if needed. You are required to buy a basic kit (£130) and black tunic uniform with name badge (£35) prior to the course taking place. This differs from my Beauty Therapy Course, as full kit was included in the price, but was shared with fellow students. Priced at £820 for the 25 week course, it isn’t exactly cheap, but having a full time job means I am able to afford the payments comfortably.
From the beginning, my plan was to always study Level 2 in each unit (Beauty Therapy and Hairdressing) whilst working full time, and then attend any specific follow-up courses once qualified depending on Business demand – I will be sure to keep you all updated on how I am getting on throughout the Academic year!

The Importance of Body Brushing


During the summer months, body care is a top priority in most beauty routines, however as we head into the cooler seasons, certain areas tend to become neglected. The thought of standing nuddy in your bathroom freezing your butt off whilst you apply various lotions and potions is our worst nightmare and that’s why most tend to skip out important steps.
To put it simply, detoxification is performed by many of our major organs, glands and transportation systems (gut, kidneys, liver, lympthatic system etc.) and body brushing helps detoxify and stimulate this method. 
Body brushing is easy to do at home and simply involves using a soft natural brush to exfoliate the skin, starting with your feet and working your way up yours legs, always brushing towards the heart. Use long sweeping strokes and apply a pressure that is most comfortable, but avoid sensitive areas such as the face and/or broken skin. It is usually performed on dry skin, but many people prefer to do it in the bath/ shower (to keep warm!). Body brushing is a way to stimulate organs to detoxify, which helps with the skins natural healing process as well as many other benefits;
  • Can help eliminate cellulite
  • Exfoliates dead skin
  • Help the skin to look young and supple
  • Eases muscle soreness
  • Stimulates circulation 
Being an avid fake tanner, exfoliation and body brushing is essential part of my beauty routine in order to ensure even application, coverage and fade. Whilst running a hot bubble bath, I use a long handled body brush and use a comfortable amount of pressure, in circular motions, all over my body, focusing on my problematic areas (tops of my legs and bum). Once I have shampooed, conditioned and conducted all other routine essentials, I then finish with a creamy shower gel and my trusty pair of exfoliation gloves to leave my skin super soft and prepped for a fresh layer of fake tan.
Image Source: http://blog.freepeople.com/2014/06/beauty-rituals-benefits-dry-body-brushing/

Max Factor Colour X-pert Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

Being an avid winged eyeliner wearer (pretty much on a daily basis), I have mentioned a handful of my favourite eyeliners in various makeup posts here on BT. I go through stages of loving kohl, gel and liquid formulas, but always tend to stick with my trusty picks. Barry M Waterproof Kohl Eyeliner Pencil has without a doubt been a staple in my makeup bag for the past couple of years, but I only tend to wear it in my lower lash line. It is a super soft, long lasting, extreme back pencil sold at a budget price – highly recommend! Another favourite of mine is the L’Oréal Superliner, but after it being out of stock on several Boots visits, I had given up and was on the hunt for something similar. My want list included something super black, waterproof and with a very fine brush, and first impressions of the Max Factor Colour X-pert Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner fit the bill!
This eyeliner has a very precise dip-in tip which can be used to create bold, dramatic eye looks. Its waterproof formula gives an intense finish and fabulous staying power against humidity, rain and water. Encased within slim black and gold packaging, it is also available in 4 vibrant shades to compliment a variety of makeup looks. 
For those that struggle with winged eyeliner, begin with a kohl pencil to draw an outline on your eyelid as a guide to follow. Tilt your head back at a slight angle, and keep your hand steady using a flat surface (jaw bone is most convenient!). Gently lift your eyelid taut and apply the liquid liner in a continuous line from your inner to outer corner, following your kohl guideline. For a striking look, finish with a flick from the outer corner of your eye. Trust me when I say practice really doesn’t make perfect. 
I have been using this eyeliner religiously for the past couple of months and there is no sign of it drying out (a common problem with some liquid formulas). Priced at £6.99 it is super affordable, easy to use and has become a firm favourite in my makeup routine – a definite repurchase.

Maybelline Eraser Eye Concealer

L-R Nude, Light

The summer is undoubtedly one of my favourite seasons and like most, my skin becomes much clearer. A touch of concealer, a dusting of loose powder (t-zone) and a generous swirl of bronzer is as complicated as my base gets. Before I jetted off on holiday, my Mum bought me the Maybelline Eraser Concealer as she had been using it for a few weeks, and was raving about it. I packed it in my make up bag alongside my holy grail Collection Concealer, as a precaution in case I didn’t get along with it!
My first impression was a little apprehensive as I struggled to click-release the fluid into the sponge applicator. After approximately 20 twists (or more!), the sponge filled with concealer and I applied it directly under my eyes. I used the tip of my Real Techniques Complexion Sponge to press the product into the skin and set it with loose powder. The colour ‘light’ suits my pale skin perfectly, but also works well with a (fake) tan to highlight and lift dark areas. Throughout the course of the holiday, I continued to use it under my eyes, and on several pesky ‘sun cream blemishes’- simply apply product to the back of your hand and cover blemishes using clean hands to avoid spreading bacteria. Its micro-corrector applicator allows for smooth, even coverage and its active formula of Haloxyl reduces the look of puffiness and fades the appearance of dark circles. 
I have continued to use this concealer daily since returning to the UK, and have just repurchased another two in the shades Light and Nude. I am in love with their colour (great for pale skins), formula, coverage and overall natural look. I apply following my Origins GinZing Moisturiser and haven’t found it to leave my skin feeling dry or cakey. In addition, after doing a little research online, I have read that they do a similar formula (and packaging) in foundation-form, and I am eager to try it out as we approach the cooler months!

Bourjois Glamour Max Waterproof Mascara

Regular readers of Beauty Toolkit will know that the Bourjois Glamour Max Waterproof Mascara is one of my all-time favourite make up products, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t actually written a full review on my blog! Seen as I have recently re-purchased a new tube (in new striking blue packaging), I thought I would take the opportunity to snap a few photos and share my thoughts. 
Bourjois claim that this mascara gives 10 times more volume than an ordinary mascara and an impressive 24 hours hold. Its large, full rounded brush with ultra-soft fibres visibly boosts lashes to give the ‘wow factor’. The formula is enriched with black pearl extract which gives deep black colour to the lashes, whilst still being suitable for contact lens wears and those who suffer with sensitive eyes. 
The large rounded brush was the main visual aspect that originally caught my attention. Although a little fiddley to begin with, larger mascara wands are much more effective at coating individual lashes from root to end (tip: use the very tip of the brush to coat the outer corner and lower lashes). The colour Noir is a rich glossy black that gives a bold dramatic look to those with naturally fair coloured lashes. In terms of formula, this mascara does have a bit of a reputation for clumping, but I find it useful to wipe away excess product off the wand and build up volume and colour with several coatings. I always opt for a waterproof formula as regular mascaras tend to transfer on to my upper lids throughout the day. The only downside is that they are often a nightmare to remove - I swear by the Garnier 2in1 Daily Essentials Eye Makeup Remover or any similar oil & water formula (oil is an extremely effective ingredient for breaking down and removing waterproof products). 
The only negative point I have concerning this mascara is the fact that it does leave my eyelashes feeling quite dry once removed. I have fallen into a regular habit of applying a thin layer of Vaseline to my upper and lower eyelashes each evening after my skincare routine to soften, nourish and rehydrate them overnight.

CND Shellac FAQ

I always get asked so many questions when sporting a shellac manicure - “how much does it cost?”, “how long does it last?”, “how is it different to ordinary nail polish?”, so I thought I would put together a post detailing the treatment and answering some of the above common questions. 
Shellac is a treatment that is much more durable than a regular manicure. It is often referred to as a gel manicure that promises smudge-proof nail colour that can last up to 4 weeks without chips or breaks. The special formula applies just like regular nail polish, but has specific preparation steps that must be adhered to achieve maximum results. Shellac is cured by UV light and the treatment takes approximately 30 – 60 minutes to complete - nails are fully dry by the time you leave the salon. There is no drilling methods present in a shellac manicure, meaning nails are not left dry, thin or torn. Shellac nail polish is an excellent choice for strong healthy fingernails and those willing to spare a few minutes each day for homecare. Applying cuticle oil daily will keep the nail bed hydrated, nourished, strong and healthy underneath the porous polish. 
Shellac is best suited for those who want to maintain their natural nails for 14 days or more (lifestyle dependant). New nail growth is often the only reason to head back to the salon, but users must be aware that cleaning products, chlorine and other household chemicals can cause the polish to peel or chip. It is not recommended for those who have extremely damaged nail beds, split or peeling nails. These issues will affect durability and should be corrected by a qualified Manicurist before discussing shellac application. 
It is recommended that shellac only be applied by a licenced and fully trained Manicurist, as improper tools, techniques or products will leave less desirable results. The average price for a CND Shellac Manicure can range from £25 - £35 depending on the detail of the treatment (simple file, buff & polish or a full length manicure). There are a wide range of colours available, which can be layered for a desired effect. 
I absolutely love CND shellac manicures, but personally like to give my nails a ‘breather’ every couple of months. During this time, I cut my nails fairly short, apply a nourishing nail strengthener (OPI Nail Envy is incredible) and use lots of luxurious thick hand creams/ mask to repair any dry areas of skin. Shellac does get quite a lot of bad press for dehydrating and damaging healthy nails, but if correct application and removal is adhered to with regular ‘pamper breaks’, there is no reason for nails to suffer.

Lancaster Self Tanning Melting Delight

I have been back in the UK for exactly 2 weeks now, and have managed to maintain a strong tanning regime. I have fooled most into thinking that my bronzed glow is natural, so I definitely can’t afford to have any tanning disasters! 
I packed the Cocoa Brown Tanning Moose and St Tropez Daily Tanning Moisturiser in my suitcase, but whilst browsing the endless beauty boutiques in Tenerife, I stumbled across the Lancaster Self Tanning Melting Delight Sublime Intense Glow. Keen to intensify my tanning regime, I popped the 03. Intense ‘Trip to Copacabana’ formula into my basket.

This is a fast-drying (face) and body cream contains a self-tanning agent with melanin to mimic a natural colour. It is enriched with coconut water extract to keep the skin hydrated and allow for smooth, easy application. Lancaster promise an even, flawless, no-fuss and streak free application – everything that you look for in a fake tan! 

As much as I love using the Cocoa Brown Tanning Moose in the UK, I do find it a little drying in the summer, so would definitely recommend packing a cream or lotion to keep the skin soft and hydrated. The Lancaster Melting Delight is a rich tinted cream which can be easily worked into the skin using upward strokes. I chose the 03. Intense colour as I wanted ultra-dark coverage and this did not disappoint. It creates a gorgeous bronzed colour (no orange tone) once developed, and has a relatively discreet scent that isn’t overly ‘biscuity’. I applied this each night after showering (teamed with light exfoliation) and was left with a natural-looking glow. 

A small amount really does go a long way, so I have plenty of product left to use now I have returned home. The colour is extremely long lasting, yet isn’t an absolute nightmare to completely remove after approximately 10 days wear. Priced at £26.00 from Debenhams, it definitely fits into the medium to high-end price bracket, but it is such a lovely luxurious product to use that it is definitely worth it, and I am keen to more products in the Lancaster range. 

Do you have any Lancaster product recommendations?

Summer Holiday 2015 | Instagram

I have been back in the UK for a couple of days now (sob!), so thought I would pick up my blogging mojo with an Instagram update post – (for those that aren’t following me already, come find me @justinebalfour). I had an incredible 2 weeks in Tenerife and look forward to sharing different aspects (hotel, outfits, sightseeing etc.) over the next few weeks. I hope everyone is having a fabulous summer and I am loving reading lots of sunny themed blog posts – keep em coming!

The day before I jetted off, I booked myself in for an early morning spray tan appointment. I chose the Sienna X Express Tan as it is a natural golden colour and only needs to be left on for 2-4 hours to achieve a subtle glow. I also gave myself an at-home shellac manicure & pedicure, opting for the colour CND Tropix. As we had an afternoon flight, I booked us into Hickories in Chester for breakfast – this is Pauls favourite restaurant, and seen as it was his Birthday the following day, I couldn’t resist! The crispy bacon and maple syrup pancake stack is incredible! Naturally we needed a selfie as we pulled into Manchester Airport Jet Parks before hopping on a shuttle bus to the terminal. I was a little anxious at wearing white to travel in, but I had no food disasters and it showed off my tan beautifully. The fourth photo was taken on Monday morning from my sun lounger entitled ‘I could think of worse Mondays!’.

I couldn’t resist another cheeky selfie on our third evening – here I am wearing a neon pink flowery skater dress that I bought from Select. We spent our fourth day exploring Las Americas and Costa Adeji, and I chose to wear my black and white beach dress from Primark. We did make a quick stop to one of the beach front bars for a cocktails! Pina Colas are undoubtedly my favourite holiday drink – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic varieties! I was planning on putting together a couple of blog posts whilst I was away, but we filled our days with so much that I didn’t get around to it. I did manage a Beat the Heat post detailing this year’s holiday essentials which you can read here.

You can take the girl out of England, but you can’t take England out of the girl - I had a fry up every single day with the most delicious frothy cappuccino and fresh apple juice. We loved Costa Adeji so much that we made a second trip in our Rental Car. This particular spot was postcard worthy and below sat the most gorgeous hotel with double bed loungers and a Jacuzzi pool. On our journey back to our hotel, we stopped at Monkey Park (an attraction not advertised by Tour Operators, but well worth a visit!). They had small monkey enclosures you could walk through – it was certainly one of the most personal wildlife centres I have ever visited. Finally, I picked up the Roberto Cavalli Exotica in Duty Free and it became my holiday scent - since I have returned home, I think back to such incredible memories and experiences each time I spritz. It was certainly a holiday I won’t forget.

Beat The Heat

Instead of putting a June Favourites post together, I thought that I would share some of my Beat The Heat holiday essentials whilst away in a hot climate. I am currently sat (shade) sunning myself by the pool in Tenerife with a piña colada slushy in hand - pure bliss.

The Origins Ginzing Moisturiser has several mentions here on Beauty Toolkit, and it is undoubtably my favourite holiday (and mostly all year round) facial moisturiser. The gel-like consistency, strong citrus scent and non-greasy formula makes it perfect for morning and night use during a hot break. I like to store mine in the (mini-bar) fridge for super cool application after a hot bath/ shower.

Bronzer is a summer holiday essential of mine due to a hefty fake tanning routine. The day before I depart, I like to book myself in for a spray tan, and then keep up my bronzed glow using daily tanning moisturisers and lotions. This year I have brought my St Tropez Daily Moisturising Lotion and Cocoa Brown Tanning Mousse away with me, and will be sure to review both products after the 2-week break. The Rimmel Stay Matte Powder is a staple in my make-up routine, so it is no wonder that I love their Natural Bronzer compact for both day and night. 

I recently posted a photo of the Pantene Youth Protect BB Creme on my Instagram page (@justinebalfour) and I haven't put it down since. It is a lovely lightweight leave-in conditioner for the ends of dry damaged hair - especially those that have had a little too much sun. It's leaves hair soft and hydrated without feeling weighed down. 

Bold lips were a summer essential of mine last year, and this year it is no different. These chubby lip pencils are great for fuss-free application with a statement look. I wear a variety of the Revlon ColorBurst shades day and night as they finish off an outfit and make it look really put together. 

This gorgeous Elf Studio Blush Compact in shade Twinkle Pink looks fabulous with a tan. The colour compliments a bronzed glow perfectly and is super long lasting - even in hot weather. I simply apply a light application on the apples of my cheeks and blend out. 
What are your Beat The Heat essentials?

Maybelline Dream Flawless Nude Foundation

As we have been experiencing some surprisingly glorious weather in England over the past couple of weeks, I have been on the hunt for a new lightweight liquid foundation. My Revlon Colourstay Foundation in Shade Buff is still my holy grail, but it is starting to feel a little heavy on those warmer days.
Cue the Maybelline Flawless Nude Foundation, which is marketed as an ultra-fine, lightweight formula which can be applied by hand, like a face cream. Maybelline state that the formula is 12 x finer than their #1 Dream Satin Liquid, yet gives a flawless finish. The coverage is natural, yet buildable, and doesn’t give a heavy or caked-on effect. It is encased within glass packaging (love) and has a special teardrop shaped applicator to provide the ‘perfect’ amount of product. It is available in 7 different shades and priced at a reasonable £8.99 online here.
I have been using this foundation on a daily basis for the past couple of weeks within my usual makeup routine – Origins GinZing Moisturiser as a base and a dusting of Rimmel Stay Matte Powder on my t-zone. I must admit, I haven’t been blown away with this foundation at all. It’s extremely thin formula is fairly difficult to work with, and I just don’t get on with its teardrop applicator (pump lover!). Be warned that the colour 10 Ivory is a little on the orange side for us fair skinned girlies too. I have also noticed dry areas around my nose appearing mid-afternoon, but made no improvement when I used a much richer moisturiser.
This product has fabulous reviews and is raved about within the blogosphere, so don’t be put off by my fairly negative views. I would love to know what skincare/ powder products you use alongside this foundation from those who adore this foundation.
What are your lightweight foundation favourites? 

Holiday Beauty Preparation

Last year I put together a post detailing my holiday body prep and aftercare advice (which you can read here), but the steps specifically surrounded my routine the evening before. Since I have just under 3 weeks to go until I jet off to sunny Tenerife, I thought I’d share with you some of the steps in my beauty routine I have already started to take, or will be taking over the next few days leading up to my holiday. 

I have been on a fairly strict health & fitness regime since the start of January, and body brushing/ exfoliation has gradually become a new obsession of mine. Body brushing is great for encouraging circulation, battling stubborn areas of cellulite and improving the skins texture. Not only is my skin noticeably smoother, but it is in great condition for even safe tanning once on holiday. I dry brush in circular motions, in the direction of the heart before I take a bath or shower. 

This year I plan on getting a spray tan a couple of days before I depart, and therefore need my skin to be in tip top condition to withhold that bronzed glow. Daily light exfoliation and moisturiser whilst out there should allow me to get a good 5-6 days before I have to completely scrub off and begin a fresh coat of tanning moisturiser. Those that don’t want the hassle of hair removal should book their waxing appointments a couple of months in advance to receive maximum hair free results. 

Facial skincare before a holiday requires a gentler approach of (chemical) exfoliators, soothing toners, and hydrating moisturisers. Specific face masks targeted at problematic areas are useful a few weeks prior to departure, not only for treatment, but as a confidence booster before you go bare faced. Water is also a key step in achieving great holiday skin, and you should aim to drink around 8 glasses a day to really help flush out your body. Add a piece of sliced fruit (lemon/lime) if you struggle to motivate yourself to drink it plain. 

I re-touch the roots of my hair on average every 6-8 weeks, and always apply colour the week before I go away. I have been a lover of the Garnier Olia Permanent Hair Colour for quite a while now due to their natural flower oils and no ammonia formula. (I have recently switched from their 10.0 Very Light Blonde shade to 10.21 Pearly Very Light Blonde as it is less on the yellow side). Chemically-enhanced hair obviously needs a little TLC all year round, but especially before, and after, suffering in a hot climate. Therefore, hydrating hair masks, treatments and oils are essential to ensure hair is kept strong and healthy. 

I am always sporting a shellac manicure, but allow myself a couple of weeks break every few months to give my nails a ‘breather’. I already have a pretty good nail care routine, but for those that don’t, you could either treat yourself to a pre-holiday manicure/pedicure, or conduct one yourself at home. Simply trim your nails using clippers, and file (in one direction) to the desired shape. Apply a clear protective base coat, chosen colour and a chip-resistant topcoat. Incorporate a hand cream into your routine (I keep one on my desk at work!) as well as a cuticle oil (essential if wearing shellac). 

Do you have any pre-holiday beauty tips? Stay tuned for more sun related posts to come on Beauty Toolkit!

Calvin Klein Lip Balm Pots

So after an extremely long week of battling food poisoning, I am back. I posted a photo of the Calvin Klein Lip Balm pots on my Instagram and promised a full review here on my blog.

Lip products are undoubtedly my favourite make up product, and teamed with a slick of black winged liner make a perfect day or night look. Now we have finally reached the warmer months, lip balms are perfect handbag accessories, especially for those looking for lightweight, fuss-free application. These long lasting balms are available in a variety of shades and priced at £2.99 individually are bargain-friendly. Some of the colours provide intense colour, whereas others give a sheer glossy finish.

I received 4 colours in a gift set for Christmas; Pots (top), Rich & Famous (left), Boy Famous (right) and Holiday (bottom). Pots gives off an rich, pigmented plum colour whereas the other 3 colours are relatively sheer. Not only do they smell delicious, but they are fairly long lasting and a little really does go a long way - I know these will be a staple in my handbag this summer. 

What are your favourite lip balms? 

Boots Time Delay Cleansing Oil

Facial cleansing, for most, is seen as a chore and the quicker your daily face can be removed, the better. Personally, it is one of my favourite steps in my skincare routine; I always remove the majority of my make up with either a cotton pad teamed with a generous soak of micellar water or a gentle face wipe catered for sensitive skin. Wipes are seen as a crime by most Beauty enthusiasts, but I find they remove most of your make up without the need for a second cleanse using an expensive oil or balm.

I have already mentioned before that my skin type is normal with the odd hormonal blemish, so most oil or balm formulas don’t case any complaints. Although a little messy, I love nothing more than giving myself a lengthy facial massage with a rich oil; it removes waterproof make up and leaves my skin cleansed, soft and hydrated. Simply dispense a small amount into the palm of your hand and massage into dry skin in circular motions. This Boots Time Delay Cleansing Oil is gentle enough to be used on the eyelids and lashes when rinsed thoroughly with warm water. 

At £5.99 this is a budget-friendly, yet effective, cleansing oil that dissolves all traces of makeup, including waterproof mascara. Luxury feeling oils such as Grapeseed, Rosehip, Jojoba & Olive leave the skin feeling clean and moisturised, with no greasy after-feel.

Do you have any cleansing oil recommendations?

Brand Love - Soap & Glory

Soap and Glory are one of my favourite British beauty brands. I love everything about them; packaging, product names, quality and scent. They are super affordable, and release the best gift sets during seasonal events. I thought I would share with you some of my all-time favourites - enjoy!

The Righteous Butter RRP £10.50
An intensely creamy body butter infused with softening shea butter and aloe vera. It is incredibly moisturising and has a ridiculously addictive Original Pink fragrance scent. Simply smother and massage all over the body after a hot bath/ shower for velvety soft skin.  
Heel Genius RRP £5.50
This foot mask doubles as a foot cream and aims to recondition rough feet in a single overnight session. It contains allantoin (which causes Keratin in the skin to soften), glycerine (helps seal in moisture), macadamia oil, menthol, bilberry, orange and lemon fruit acid. Simply massage a generous amount into clean tootsies each night and apply a pair of cotton socks to aid hydration. 
This shampoo claims to be suitable for all hair types (including highlighted and heat processed) as it contains no build up formula. Its ingredients include; raspberry fruit vinegar, panthenol (adds shine) and glycerine, all aiming to gloss, smooth, repair and strengthen unruly hair. Massage a small amount into wet hair and rinse (optional - follow with the Glad Hair Day Conditioner) 
Hand Food RRP £5.00
This is hands down (excuse the pun) my favourite product within the S&G range. I always have a tube either on my desk, bedside table or in my handbag (often all three!). It is scented with the Original Pink fragrance and contains shea butter, macadamia oil and marshmallow. It doesn’t leave the hands feeling greasy, but soft, smooth and hydrated. 
Clean on Me RRP £6.00
This creamy, yet clarifying, shower gel feels luxurious but with a budget price tag. It contains natural mandarin peel extract and a built in body lotion. Scented with S&G’s famous Original Pink fragrance, it is a shower delight; skin feels clean, yet conditioned and topped up with a thick moisturiser, skin will feel dreamy
Scrub of Your Life RRP £7.00
This foamy scrub contains small microbeads which are effective, yet gentle, at getting rid of dry, flaky skin. Like most of their products, it is scented with the Original Pink fragrance; simply scrub (in a circular motion) into wet skin and rinse thoroughly. I personally find it far too course for facial use and firmly believe specific products targeted at the face/neck should be used separately. 

What are your Soap & Glory favourites?

Current Skincare Saviours

I posted on Instagram earlier last week that I was having, what can only be described as a ‘skincare meltdown’, and had reached for a couple of saviour products which can be relied upon to work wonders. I have already reviewed a couple of the products mentioned below in depth (linked in pink), but I thought I would put together a little round up post of my most-reached for favourites during ‘meltdown moment’s.

Firstly, a little description of my skin type; normal/dry with the odd hormonal breakout. Being fair skinned, I have quite a lot of natural redness, and this is amplified when using warm/hot water and most exfoliating products. That being said, it can often feel quite tight and sensitive, and I am usually drawn towards products which aid hydration whilst being kind to my delicate skin.

My favourite Sunday pamper mask is the Simple Deep Cleansing Face Mask. This draws out any unwanted impurities, such as oil and dirt, without setting hard. It is an extremely moisturising mask which doesn't leave the skin feeling tight but clean, soft and hydrated. 

The Origins GinZing moisturiser is a fairly recent purchase of mine, yet has definitely made its mark. It is light, yet moisturising, and has a divine citrus scent. Although not specifically tailored for dry skin, I find this super hydrating, and it is a product that will be very hard to contend with. 

La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo is a product that I use sparingly on specific problem areas of my face. Any hormonal blemishes will be quickly reduced using this gel-like formula. This particular skincare product is a big name within the blogosphere, and rightly so. 

Benefits ‘Its Potent’ Eye Cream is a sample sized product within my collection. I have been loving use this pot of goodness over the past couple of weeks, in order to hydrate and reduce my dark circles. It’s a rich, yet non greasy, consistency that sits perfectly under foundation/ concealer. 

What are your skincare saviours?

Rimmel London Wonder'full Mascara

Another week, another mascara review; I must admit, mascaras are definitely my ultimate makeup guilty pleasure. I tend to have a handful on the go every couple of months (for try and test purchases only, obviously), as I love experimenting with ways to accentuate and define my naturally fair lashes. I always sway towards waterproof formulas as I find them the most long lasting and fuss free (no annoying transfer after a long day in the office).

The Rimmel London Wonder’full Mascara promises full volume without clumps due to its Argan enriched formula. It claims to leave lashes conditioned with a lightweight feel; sounds fabulous. Encased within an eye-catching gold bullet, it has a large ultra flex brush with soft bristles to ensure even, yet full coverage from root to tip, and priced at £7.99 it definitely falls into the budget-friendly bracket.

I have been using this mascara on my upper and lower lashes for the month or so, and I can’t say I have been left overly impressed. I do love the large brush as it is very similar to Max Factor False Lash Effect which is one of my all-time favourites. I also like the fact the formula is enriched with Argan Oil as you feel you are repairing the rocky relationship with your lashes after years of tugging and pulling to remove ample product. However, it definitely doesn’t give a volumised effect (even with the use of eyelash curlers), but rather leaves lashes limp, spidery and lifeless. Regardless, Rimmel is still one of most loved high street brands, but unfortunately this mascara didn’t quite tick all the boxes.

Have you tried the Rimmel London Wonder’full Mascara? What are your thoughts?

(Fifty) Shades of Grey

No February Favourites from me this month as I haven’t tried (or rediscovered) any new products that have really stood out. However, I am having a bit of a skincare meltdown at the moment so stay tuned for a current saviours post. I haven’t published a makeup related post for a while now, so I thought I would create a smoky everyday look (with an optional bold lip) sticking with the Fifty Shades of Grey hype. I read all three books when they first came out, but I am yet to see the film - even my Mother has seen it before me! 
I created this look using my BH Cosmetics 120 Colour Eye shadow Palette which I have featured a couple of times here and here. I used my current favourite base of Revlon Colorstay Foundation shade buff (applied with Real Techniques Complexion Sponge) and set with Rimmel Stay Matte Powder shade transparent. I then applied several shades of grey, ensuring the darkest colour was applied in my crease and blended out towards a wing. I used the matte white to highlight the inner corners of my eyes (topped up with a cream highlighter) and brow bone. I curled my lashes and coated in lashings of mascara - currently testing out the Rimmel Wonderfull Mascara (review to follow). I lightly filled in my eyebrows using my MAC Eyebrow Pencil shade Fling and a dusting of MAC Blush in Pink Swoon on the cheeks. I wanted to add the option of a bold lip using my Rimmel Apocolips in 102 Nova, pictured in the final photo. This make up look could definitely be developed to transform it into evening wear by adding liquid eyeliner, false lashes and bronzer.
I am definitely a lover of natural shadow and bold winged liner, but I really like to accentuate my eyes using only dark shadow shades - expect more makeup looks to feature soon!
What make up looks would you like to see on Beauty Toolkit?


Garnier Express 2 in 1 Eye Make-up Remover

Regular readers of Beauty Toolkit will already know that I am a big fan of the Garnier 2 in 1 Eye Makeup Remover. Its oil and cleansing water formula ensures quick, fuss-free removal of even the heaviest of eye make-up. At £3.25 for 200ml, it definitely falls into the drugstore bracket and I personally find it extremely long lasting (definitely value for money). I was scouring the shelves one Saturday afternoon to repurchase when I noticed it was out of stock. Sitting next to its usual spot was the New Garnier Express 2 in 1 Eye Makeup Remover. Eager to try an updated version, I popped it into my basket without hesitation.

In terms of size, you are noticeably getting less solution (125 ml) for a slightly higher price (£3.49) - However, it promises to remove make-up quickly, yet efficiently, whilst protecting the lashes using a non-greasy formula. Enriched with naturally derived Arginine, it leaves a protective layer on the eyelashes so they feel cleansed, yet cared for. Simply shake the bottle to mix the two phases together, apply a few drops to a cotton pad and hold against the eye area for a few seconds, allowing time for the make-up to dissolve. Gently wipe from the inner corner moving outwards and repeat if necessary. The formula is even suitable for us contact lens wearers! 

I love the new purple shaded formula, and can definitely notice a difference in terms of greasiness (or lack of). However, I have only been using it for the last week or so, and I am already nearly half way through the bottle. I don’t agree with its added ‘express’ tag, as I find it just as effective as the original version. I haven’t been so disappointed that I wouldn’t go out and re-purchase again, but I definitely would choose the original before this ‘express’ version when given the option. I am currently on the hunt for a drugstore cleansing oil that is gentle enough to use on the eyes and face. If you have any suggestions, they would be greatly appreciated!

Have you tried the new Garnier Express 2 in 1 Makeup Remover? Do you have any cleansing oil recommendations?

The Me-Time Tag

Oh I do love a good bloggers TAG! - thank you to Jenny for inviting me to ramble away about all aspects of my ‘me-time’ routine. I would definitely categorise myself as a people’s person, but on the other hand, I thoroughly enjoy quiet time after a hectic week at work. I think it’s extremely important to set as much time as possible aside each week to have a good old pamper sesh. I would like to nominate Hannah and Gillian (and anyone else who would like to take part) who are both fabulous girlies with fantastic blogs that I love reading - be sure you check them out! 

1. What do you watch or read during me-time?
More often than not, I can be found lounging on the sofa scrolling through my Bloglovin’ feed on my iPad, catching up on missed beauty posts from throughout the week. Reality TV is also my guilty pleasure and includes the cringe worthy shows such as Geordie Shore, TOWIE and Real Housewives that I can’t help but watch! Aside from technology, I also really enjoy reading books/magazines; I am currently reading Sali Hughes Pretty Honest and loving it! (A definite must for all beauty lovers).

2. What do you wear during me-time?
#nobra - may be a little TMI, but I cannot fully relax until that bad boy has been taken off. During the colder months I will always reach for my fur-lined onesie and a pair of fluffy socks, but in the summer months, a comfy pair of shorts, vest top and a pair of my faithful Havaianas will suit. 

3. What are your me-time beauty products?
I will always begin with a hot bubble bath, cleanse my face with a current favourite oil/balm and exfoliate with my St Ives Apricot Scrub. I will then moisturise my body and blast some tunes with a face mask on before finishing with a generous scoop and massage of my Origins GinZing Moisturiser on my face and neck.

4. Current favourite nail polish?
I included my current favourite shellac colour in my January Favourites which you can read here. Bluesky ‘Ruby Sparkle’ - a deep red glitter that I just don’t want to switch from as we approach the transition into Spring!

5. What do you eat/drink during me-time?
Lemon & Lime sparkling water (addicted) with lots of ice and some brie and crackers!

6. Current favourite candle?
I’m Justine and I’m a candleaholic; I am currently burning a large 3-wick vanilla candle from Matalan which I obsessed with. I also have a pack of rose scented tea lights from Ikea which I love burning in my collection of holders.

7. Do you ever have outdoor me-time?
Paul and I try and spend as many Sunday mornings as possible on various walks within Wales. It is such a good feeling having a ‘blow-out’ and really getting the heart pumping, before returning to a well-deserved Sunday Roast. I love the outdoors, and even a leisurely stroll around the Historic Chester Walls of an evening really works wonders.

8. Would you ever go see a movie alone?
I would never say never, but can’t imagine myself doing it!

9. Favourite online store?
Amazon and eBay are quite possibly my most used websites . Beauty-wise Look Fantastic have really upped their game, and their service, availability and delivery is fantastic. In terms of online fashion stores, I Love ASOS, Miss Guided and Boohoo.

10. Anything to add? What else do you like doing during me-time?
Cleaning! I know its lame, but de-cluttering and organising in my own time, at my own pace, is extremely therapeutic. I always find that I get a better night’s sleep when everything is clean & tidy.

Be Mine Valentine

Valentines Day is definitely a 'holiday' that Paul and I like to celebrate; even if it is just sitting down to a home cooked meal and spending some quality time together. In the early days, we would make a bit of a fuss, and would get all dolled up for a posh meal and a few glasses of champers. Fast forward 7 years (and being a Rugby Widow) our day was spent apart, but we did sit down later for a Nandos Takeaway. Even though I didn't get to see him for much of the day, my make-up was appropriately themed, so I thought I would share the key products I used.

I am currently enjoying my break from shellac nails and making the most of having the opportunity to re-paint my nails every couple of days! It has meant I have been able to rediscover some old favourites and this weekends pick was Essie's Jam N' Jelly £9.35 on my fingers and toes. It is a gorgeous rich, fuchsia pink with a slight shimmer - one of my ultimate summer favourites. 

I'm not much of an eye shadow lover, but on special occasions I like to push the boat out and experiment. I decided upon this shimmering Bourjois Intense Eyeshadow 01 £6.99 as it is neutral enough for daytime wear, yet has a sparkling edge. It is a highly pigmented gold shade which is extremely easy to blend out due to its silky formula. (FYI it is ophthalmologically tested so great for us contact lens wearers!). 

The Revlon Colorburst Balm Stain in Lovesick £7.99 is a staple in my make up bag. As you can see from the photo, it is extremely loved, and is brought out on pretty much a daily basis (come rain or shine!). These chubby sticks are perfect for everyday or special occasions as they are super easy to apply and top up on the go. I especially love them for meal dates as they are super pigmented yet don't transfer or smudge - winner!

The Rimmel London Wonderfull Mascara £5.99 is a relatively new discovery that I am currently testing out. It promises full, conditioned volume without clumping due to its Argan Oil formula. The ultra flex brush allows easy application from root to tip, and I must say, so far so good. I absolutely love the rose gold packaging and the lightweight feel of the product on the lashes - review to follow

Finally, a perfume favourite in the form of Nina Ricci - La Tentation de Nina which I have reviewed here. Not only is the eye-catching bottle a fabulous shape and colour (pink & gold), the fragrance is divine.

How did you spend your Valentines Day? Did you use any particular products?

Aussie Miracle Dry Shampoo

Don’t get me wrong, I love the feeling of clean, freshly washed hair. However, most days I am sporting a rather voluminous up do and silky soft hair is often unmanageable and seriously hard work to deal with. I have got into a regular routine of washing my hair twice a week and reaching for dry shampoo on those desperate days when I am in need of taming the grease. As I have extremely blonde hair, I have quite often used talcum powder, as not only does this whiten yellow-ish roots, but also soaks up excess oil. Up until now, Batiste has always been my go-to, but I have recently stumbled upon the Aussie Miracle Dry Shampoo Mega Instant.

Aussie have released 3 different products in their dry shampoo range; Mega Instant, Colour Mate and Aussome Volume. Each are infused with their classic Australian Jojoba Seed Extract (believed to naturally condition your hair) which helps create its unique scent. Aussie promise to revive dull, greasy hair and transform it into fresh, foxy locks in a matter of minutes.

This dry shampoo doesn’t leave unsightly white powdered marks in the hair (pet hate for dark haired girlies out there), or leave it feeling weighed down. It smells incredible (as do all Aussie products) and definitely transforms greasy hair into clean, manageable, volumised locks. Priced at £4.99 for a large 180ml bottle or £2.29 for 65ml, it is definitely not a budget product, but if you are looking for quality teamed with results, this can of goodness ticks all the boxes. 

Have you tried the Aussie Dry Shampoo range? What are your thoughts?

Eyebrow Routine | Very Fair

Eyebrow Queen I am not. It has only been the past couple of years since I have really started to get into my brows and have tried and tested many a product for all us extremely fair haired girlies out there. I was born with non-existant eyebrows and have grown into an adult with non-existant brows (sigh). On the bright side, I have found a couple of fab products which are extremely easy to use (especially for amateurs) and are a light enough colour to experiment with, in order to avoid dramatic product overload which can often look unsightly. 

When I first began my hunt for the perfect fair eyebrow kit, I remember stumbling upon Shannon from Shaaanxo on YouTube and she raved about the ELF Eyebrow Kit in ash (image:right) as she felt it was the best match for her newly bleach blonde hair. It's container is divided into two; pigmented wax and a complimenting setting powder, added with a double sided brush to help arch your brows easily when filling them in. This duo set in an inexpensive and affordable way of experimenting with brows, especially for first timers. I ended up switching up the included brush with the Real Techniques Detailer Brush as I found the longer handle a lot easier to work with.

MAC Eyebrow Pencil in Fling (image:left) is my latest holy grail brow product and is now a staple in my make up routine. Its self-sharpening, fine pencil tip is great at creating delicate brush strokes when filling in eyebrows. I follow the natural shape of my brow and extend them slightly using a light hand. When getting ready for a evening occasion, I tend to add a little more pressure in order to deepen the colour. Not only does this help frame my face, but gives a little more depth in photographs! 

Eyebrows are definitely still very new to me, but I am enjoying experimenting with different types of products in a variety of colours to find my perfect match. I definitely prefer the natural brow look, topped up with a light product. 

Do you have any brow recommendations? 

January Favourites

I probably highlight this in the majority of my favourite’s posts, but how quickly has this month gone?! Most of us have been wishing the month away after the dreaded January blues - dreary weather, low on cash, and the depressive lull after the Christmas festivities. This month, my favourites comprise of new discoveries, old favourites, and products I have purposefully dug out in preparation for the spring/summer months.

The Origins Ginzing Moisturiser and Maybelline Colossal Mascara are both new discoveries that I purchased over the Christmas period and have been so obsessed with, I haven’t put them down since. I have reviewed them both, so be sure to check out my thoughts here and here. 

An additional new discovery is the Benefit It’s Potent Eye Cream. Although at the grand old age of 24, I am yet to suffer from under-eye wrinkles (touch wood), I often sport dark circles - especially after a fun-filled weekend.  I am a big fan of the Simple Hydrating Eye Cream, but as a beauty blogger, always on the look out to try new products. The consistency is luxuriously creamy, yet soaks in quickly without leaving a greasy residue. I’m not sure whether I have noticed brightening results, but it certainly works wonders in terms of hydration. It is one of a handful of Benefit products I have tried, and it has left me wanting to try and test more!

Those who are frequent readers of Beauty Toolkit will already know that I am a big fan of the CND Shellac Range. At an average price of £15 per bottle, they are not within everyone’s budget. I had a little research online at cheaper Shellac alternatives and read a mixture of positive and negative reviews on the Bluesky Shellac Range. So far, I haven’t experienced any problems and have been obsessed with this red glitter in 'Ruby Sparkle' all month. If anything, these polishes compete with CND in terms of quality, durability and expansive colour range. I will be sure to do a post soon dedicated to shellac nails, and the application and removal process.

On Monday evening, Paul and I took the plunge and booked our summer holiday! Since that very moment, I have already begun to take minor steps surrounding beauty preparation - teeth whitening being one of them. A copious amount of coffee consumed within an office environment is deadly, and I have noticed it has left my teeth slightly stained. These Crest 3D White Strips (I buy mine off eBay) are great at whitening teeth quickly and effectively; gleaming teeth and bronzed skin give a naturally fresh look in the spring/ summer months.

What have you been loving this month?

Balance Me Cleanse & Smooth Face Balm

After an afternoon of browsing the shops and flicking through endless beautiful pages of my new Next Home catalogue, I am now sat down with a cuppa and cheeky slice of chocolate chip loaf. I have a lengthy beauty pamper planned for this evening (standard weekend), and this includes using my sample tube of Balance Me Cleanse and Smooth Face Balm 125ml £20.00. 

This balm is a 100% natural, oil-based, luxuriously fragranced cleansing balm for normal/dry skin prone to sensitivity and/or redness. It is jam packed full of anti-oxidants such as Arctic cloudberry and fine oat powder to soothe, smooth and cleanse the skin without leaving it feeling tight and irritated. The mix of camellia, kukui nut and rosehip oils with cocoa, mango and shea butters enables make-up to be easily dissolved - quick, fuss free and a post luxurious feel. Simply massage into the face and neck in circular motions (the oatmeal gently polishes and buffs away dead skin cells and encourages cell renewal) and remove with a warm muslin cloth/ flannel (optional - finish with a splash of fresh cold water). 

This minature tube of goodness is the first cleansing balm I have tried, and I must admit, I may be putting my milk and lotions to one side. My skin is left feeling 'facial' hydrated, soft and smooth, whilst effectively removing my daily face. The bespoke blend of English camomile and red mandarin oils give this cleanser a heavenly aroma, something which I adore. I can't speak on behalf of other Balance Me products, but if they smell and give the same results as this balm, I'm sold!

Have you tried this Cleanse & Smooth Face Balm? What are your thoughts? 

Maybelline Colossal Go Extreme Mascara Leather Black

Another year, another new mascara to put to the test and review; I’ve stated numerous times that nothing yet has quite matched up to my beloved Bourjois Volume Max Waterproof Mascara. However, this Maybelline Colossal Go Extreme Mascara Leather Black £6.99 could definitely give it a run for its money!

It has a large double pump wand that is encased within a contrasting black and yellow bullet. The formula is not overly thick, so it doesn’t leave the lashes overloaded with product, or a clumpy look/feel. I always go for a waterproof formula, as I find them tremendously long lasting and tend not to transfer on to the upper/lower lids throughout the day. Using my Garnier 2 in 1 Eye Make-up Remover (review here), this mascara can be removed hassle-free, with no excessive tugging or pulling. The leather black colour is extremely glossy and it certainly lives up to its name of Colossal Extreme lashes; 2 coats, working from the root to tip, gives dark pigmented voluminous lashes.

Have you tried the Maybelline Colossal Go Extreme Mascara Leather Black?  What are your thoughts?

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