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?



Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge


























Just under a year go, I did a post on the Cosmopolitan Blend Perfection Sponge which you can read here. I had initially bought it as a dupe for the ever raved about Beauty Blender after I scrolled though endless swooning reviews from fellow bloggers. That being said, I am now on to my second sponge (due to wear and tear), and it still remains the only piece of beauty kit that I will reach for to apply my foundation and/or concealer. I am overwhelmed with the flawless coverage that make-up sponges produce, and can safely say that I won't be venturing near brush tools for quite sometime.

Since I am endlessly declaring my love for beauty sponges, I thought it was only natural to have a browse online at other competing alternatives, and stumbled upon the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge £5.99. I am a big fan of the Pixiwoo sisters, and already a lover of their brush line in terms of powder, blush and contour, which have featured many times here on Beauty Toolkit! 

This particular sponge is different in a variety of ways; it doesn't need to be damp before application, it has three distinct surfaces that give three different ways to apply foundation/ concealer and a flat edge to allow for contouring around the eyes and nose. Simply use a stippling motion with liquid foundation to create a smooth, enhanced and flawless finish. 

The only negative I have on this tool, is that I found it to soak up a little excess product on first use (in comparison with my previous Cosmopolitan Sponge). I adore the three surfaces, as each can be used differently to cover certain areas of your face - I especially love the pointed end to apply concealer into the corners of my eyes where I am prone to redness. 

Have you tried the Real Techniques Complexion Sponge? Do you have any recommendations on other beauty sponges?

Origins GinZing Moisturiser



I recently posted on Instagram (@justinebalfour) a photo of the Origins GinZing Moisturiser (£23.00) , after having a little nosey in my Mum’s skincare collection over the Christmas break and sneakily giving it a try. Since that very moment, I couldn’t resist the urge to purchase my own tub, so without hesitation, I placed an order on Feel Unique.

This pot of goodness is filled with skin-boosters such as Panex Ginseng and Coffee Bean to instantly hydrate and refresh the skin without leaving a greasy residue. The lightweight, gel-like consistency gives a healthy, vibrant glow to tired looking skin in need of an energy boost.  It can be applied to the face and neck AM and PM - personally I find it a great base under makeup. Its fresh orange citrus scent is divine, and that alone was a huge selling point for me.

Having normal/sensitive skin (with the occasional hormonal breakout), I haven’t had any problems using it over the last couple of weeks. In my opinion, the formula is light enough for those with oily/combination skin, but possibly not hydrating enough for those that suffer with extremely dry skin. However, teamed with an added moisturising serum, this duo could work wonders.

Origins self proclaim that their whole GinZing range is ‘like a shot of expresso for tired skin’ - I want it all!

What are your Origins favourites?

2015 New Year's 'Resolutions'



I'm really enjoying spending my Sunday afternoons snapping blog photos and just casually typing up posts with a cuppa in hand. A little late on the bandwagon, but after a busy first week back at work, I really wanted to sit down and type up a handful of my new year's 'resolutions' that I would like to achieve over the next 12 months. Obviously the whole eat less, exercise more is top of my list (once again), but this year I don't want to put too much pressure on myself, but slowly incorporate them into my everyday lifestyle. 

1. Improve blog photography
I studied A Level Photography at College and really enjoyed it. The majority of our time was spent learning and developing images with a manual camera and I didn't really get a chance to delve into the digital world. This year, I would not only like to improve my blog photography, but also my images offline. I am super excited to take my camera away with me on trips this year, and make myself a promise to start printing and hanging them around our new home. 

2. Adopt a healthier lifestyle
I mentioned above that the motto 'eat less, exercise more' was once again at the top of my resolution list, but I realised that it is included every year and tends to fail every year. Sticking by the whole 'not putting too much pressure on myself' plan, I thought I'd aim towards a healthier lifestyle; taking the stairs, making healthier meal choices when eating out, switching up fizzy drinks with flavoured water etc. I got a Breville Blend-Active® for Christmas and I have loved experimenting with fruit and veggies for breakfast - stay tuned for a full review and some of my favourite recipes coming soon!

3. Switch off 
As much as I enjoy blogging and using other social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, I really want to challenge myself to regularly 'switch off'. With Spring/Summer approaching, it is a perfect time to enjoy walking and other outdoor activities. Growing up, the only time I was ever inside was to sleep & eat, and my parents would constantly have to nag me to come in! For a living, I spend most of my day in front of a computer screen, and this year I really would like to make a concious effort to step away from technology, and spend more time with my lovely friends and family.

What are your 2015 New Year's 'resolutions'? 

Bare Minerals ORIGINAL SPF 15 Foundation



























For me, January has always been a detox month - whether its switching up my diet, skincare, wardrobe and/ or make up. After a fun-filled and hectic Christmas, I love nothing more than quiet evenings spent de-cluttering and re-organising. This new year, I began with my everyday make up staples, it was time to throw out those dried out mascaras, ditch the heavy foundations (which have been doing nothing for my dry winter skin), and thoroughly cleanse my brushes of their glittery party dazzle. 

Let me introduce Bare Minerals Original Foundation in 'Fairly Light'; a mineral powder designed to give flawless coverage with a bare skin feel. Its fine texture makes it extremely buildable (sheer to full coverage), without feeling cakey. It's creamy formula means it keeps skin hydrated, whilst portraying a powder finish. The high quality ingredients ensure it won't irritate sensitive skin, and provides an SPF 15 to protect the face (and neck) from harmful weather conditions. 

Simply swirl a small amount of product in the lid with a large fluffy brush (I personally love the Real Techniques Blush Brush), tap off any excess, and buff into the skin using circular motions, working your way from the outside of your face, inwards. Continue to apply the product until you are satisfied with the finish! 

Mineral foundations are usually my go-to products during the warm summer months. However, seen as I have been big on my skincare the past few weeks, I decided I would be ruining all my hard work if I was to layer a heavy base, so decided to opt for something a lot lighter.

Do you have any 'Beauty Detox January' rituals?

Guest Post "New Year, New Me" Sherlock-Fitness


January is almost always a time when people regret their over indulgence from the festive period.
What are you planning on doing about it this year?
Is your new years resolution to go the gym more?
Do you usually struggle to stick to your resolutions come February?

The answer is you are doing too much and your lifestyle cannot handle it.

Change has to be slow.

If you don't go the gym at all and your resolution states you are going to go 4 times per week, after week 2 you will probably be physically and mentally exhausted. You need to ensure that your exercise regime fits in with your normal everyday life. For January, try going once a week and make it part of your routine. After 4-6 weeks you will find that it becomes ingrained into your lifestyle, to go, say, every Monday. It is at this point when you should add another session.

Using this method, by the time May comes and you're ready for the final push to get your bikini body ready for summer, you will be in a routine of going to the gym the 4 times a week your resolution stated in January.

A few tips to keep it up;

  • Go the gym in the mornings. Most gyms open at 6/6.30 giving you enough time to workout, shower, and get to work.
  • Pack your bag the night before if you go before work. If you go to the gym after work, take your kit with you and go on your way home.
  • Take photos and measurements on the first of every month to help document progress (don't trust the numbers on the scales (THEY LIE!))
  • and lastly, enjoy your fitness journey. Getting in shape should be enjoyable. The human body is an incredible machine and when utilised properly the possibilities will amaze you.

NYE | Make Up Must Haves



























A little late on the NYE blog post bandwagon, but I wanted to include a post dedicated to the make up must haves that I had to include into my routine on the night - these can be used for any party occasion.


I had a pretty chilled night spent with friends (which included a slightly heated game of Pictionary!). I always enjoy getting ready for a party, so I spent most of the afternoon chilling with my hair in rollers catching up on my favourite blogs. I experimented with grey shadows to create a smoky look (with falsies), and finished off with a bold lip. I used my Sally Hansen Airbrush legs on parts of my body that were exposed, and topped it with my Gok Wan Shimmer Cream. I regret that I didn't take a good quality photo on my camera, but you can check out some photos on my Instagram - justinebalfour

I cannot believe how quickly January is moving already! I have had a fantastic Christmas break, but now looking forward to the spring/summer months!

What were your NYE make up must haves? 

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