Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Ordinary | Revolutionary?

At this point, you probably know all about The Ordinary even if you've never actually tried anything from them. Posts about the foundations and skincare abound in the blogosphere, but I thought I'd join in and add my two penneth. The Ordinary is a makeup and skincare brand by the Deciem conglomerate and is the budget end of their operations. They've stripped back their products to the absolute basic ingredients found in high-end skincare and in doing so are able to sell pure, concentrated ingredients, without frills, very cheaply. A lot of the time what you're paying for in skincare is fancy oils and supplementary ingredients; The Ordinary takes it back to basics and gives you the bare essentials. This does mean that they won't work in exactly the same way as say, a £90 serum from Sunday Riley, but if you know exactly what you want to address and are on a budget, it can be fab. If you're here to read about the makeup, or "Colours", scroll on down past the skincare stuff for a chat about how I found the Serum and Coverage foundations. 

The Ordinary Retinol 1%, Hyaluronic Acid, Alpha Arbutin, Coverage and Serum Foundations Review

The Ordinary: Skincare

The skincare range is pretty confusing as all products are simply labelled with the name of the active ingredient, which is great if you're a chemist or Caroline Hirons, but for us mere mortals it involves a fair amount of googling. My skin is fairly dry and occasionally dehydrated. I also suffer from some residual acne and lots of redness from my pre-Accutane days. I have some contact dermatitis on my neck, and my skin is also quite sensitive (it didn't used to be, but apparently in 2017 my skin decided to have a hissy fit). To counteract the dryness I bought the Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, which basically makes your moisturiser more effective. I also decided to try and address my pigmentation problems and after a lot of confusion and adding about twelve things to my basket, I finally purchased the Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA, which is designed to "reduce the look of spots and hyper pigmentation". Since I'm now getting on a bit (25 is looming) I bought the Retinol 1%, which is supposed to be good for ageing but can irritate the skin. After testing everything for about a month I've had pretty varying results with each, mistakes were made, but I found some absolute gems!

Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 

Free from silicone, alcohol and nuts
Cruelty-free and vegan 

I now don't know how I ever managed without this. Within a week of use, it had completely eliminated the patches of dry skin on my cheeks that no amount of exfoliation or moisturising would get rid of, and my skin is plumper and more moisturised than ever. 
It's a clear solution in a bottle with a pipette, dispensed fairly easily onto the fingertips and smooths over the face pretty easily. I can't see this lasting longer than two or three months, but at a fiver that's not really an issue. 
I smooth it over my face and neck before moisturiser in the morning and sometimes the evening unless I'm using a serum that night. It's slightly tacky, and I think that's the place where it shows the cheap price point. My understanding is that for a higher price point you could get a less sticky formula that sinks into the skin more quickly, but for me this is great. In the morning I pop it on, brush my teeth and by the time I'm done it's soaked in and I can apply my moisturiser on top. I was already very happy with my moisturiser; I'm currently using my ever-faithful Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream (definitely getting the new SPF version when this one runs out!) but this has made it even better.
In case the word acid is freaking you out in the same way it did for me, I don't understand why it's called that. The ph is 6.5-7.5, so it's not remotely acidic, and it certainly doesn't do any of the things I would associate with acids like burning, tingling or generally feeling a little uncomfortable. All it is is slightly sticky.

Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA

Free from alcohol, silicone, nuts and gluten.
Cruelty-free and vegan.

I haven't seen many posts mentioning the Alpha Arbutin formula, so hopefully, this will be useful for some people! This is also in bottle-pipette packaging, again fairly easily applied with the fingers. I use this instead of the Hyaluronic Acid in the morning or evening before moisturiser. The HA in the name indicates that this includes some hyaluronic acid, although not in the same quantities as the HA 2%. 
This is designed to reduce pigmentation and general redness, and holy crap does it work. My skin is pretty pink-toned anyway, so redness in my skin really shows up; it doesn't help that I'm milky-white. While I don't feel like this has quite the same moisture-boosting effect that the HA 2% does, it still does a better job than my moisturiser alone, and it really works to reduce redness. 
In fact, this did such a good job at bringing down the redness on my face and neck that I've started using it elsewhere. I have a skin condition that causes a lot of pain and has left me with angry red scars on my body; it's chronic, so there's no respite on that front, but the AA is helping with the scars. These scars are pretty unsightly (imo) and I've been self conscious about them for a long time, but this is actually helping. I've tried Bio-Oil and other treatments for scars and stretch marks to no avail, but this is actually making a difference. It's definitely not a cost-effective way to use it, and this is definitely one of The Ordinary's more expensive products, it's still way cheaper than anything else I've tried, and it's actually working (can you tell that I'm a bit blown away?). Those scars are still visible, but even a slight reduction in redness is a massive boost to my self-esteem and confidence.

Retinol 1%

Free from water, alcohol, oil and nuts.
Cruelty-free and vegan.

I've used this less extensively than the other two it's something I would pick up when my skin is in decent shape and it's time to do some concentrarted anti-ageing work. However, of late my skin hasn't been at its best, meaning I've been reaching for HA or AA most of the time. As such they have seen a lot more use and are easier to form an opinion on. However, the few times I have used Retinol 1% it has irritated my skin and resulted in a few days of taking real care of it. This is my own fault, as my skin isn't really used to retinol treatments and The Ordinary do have a pretty extensive warning on their website. They have a more watered-down retinol, Advanced Retinoid 2%, which would have been a better fit for me. 
However, I probably won't be buying it any time soon, as I think that at the moment I'm more interested in focusing on my skin's most pertinent concerns rather than general anti-ageing.

The Ordinary Retinol 1%, Hyaluronic Acid, Alpha Arbutin, Coverage and Serum Foundations Review
Coverage Foundation swatched on the left, Serum Foundation swatched on the right.

The Ordinary: Colours

The Colours range currently only comprises two foundations and two primers. I've only worked with the foundations since I'm not really a primer sort of girl most of the time, and it takes so damn long for orders containing Colours to arrive that I simply wouldn't have had time to test them properly in time for this blog post. The Ordinary are in the process of moving to a much larger headquarters and warehouse, and subsequently will soon be able to improve their currently woeful processing and delivery times. I'll link a few reviews of the primers at the end for anyone interested in purchasing them, as I've generally heard positive things! The Ordinary website also lists "Matte Watercolours" and the enigmatic "Dropper" under the Colours section, so I'm looking forward to trying these future products; Matte Watercolours sounds right up my street!
As for the foundations themselves, they're both in pump packaging which I'm glad about, as foundation in droppers can get messy quickly. 

I tried applying both foundations with my fingers, a beauty blender, a buffing brush and a flat foundation brush. I'm not a fan of flat foundation brushes generally, and that held true in this case, just kind of moving the foundation around without really working it into the skin. It was much the same when using your fingers. With a buffing brush I found the finish a little patchy and needed more work to get an even finish, but by far the best result came with a beauty blender. I found that a light layer applied all over the face with quite a damp beauty blender, followed by a little extra product in places that need it most, like round the nose or on the cheeks, gave the best finish. Both foundations contain SPF 15.

The shade range for both foundations is good, ranging from very pale to dark with a variety of undertones. I have very pale, cool-toned skin, and generally have real difficulty finding foundations dark enough. I figured that a fiver each was as much as I would gamble on a foundation that's not available to swatch, but this turned out to be an excellent match. However, I do think they could do with a more shades for deeper skin tones.

Shade 1.0P
Free from alcohol, oil, nuts, gluten and soy.
Cruelty-free and vegan.

Designed to offer lightweight medium coverage, I'd say it delivers on that claim, although it's on the lighter end of medium. The formula is extremely runny but leaves the skin feeling dewy and like it can breathe. It doesn't cake around the nose and is generally a nice foundation for a bargain price. However, I found myself preferring the Coverage foundation, simply because I'm used to slightly more coverage. The finish is supposed to be semi-matte, but in my opinion is pretty glowy.

Coverage Foundation

£5. 90
Shade 1.0P
Free from alochol, oil, nuts, gluten and soy.
Cruelty-free and vegan.

The Coverage formula is designed to be, unsurprisingly, full-coverage. However, I found it to be closer to medium, especially when applied with a beauty blender. The pigment levels are clearly higher than in the Serum foundation, but it still applies smoothly and feels hydrating. The finish is semi-matte and wears really well on the skin. I do find that it cakes a tiny bit by my nose over the course of the day, but I find this happens a little with any foundation that isn't very sheer, so this isn't a deal breaker for me. It's easily resolved with a quick bop of a beauty blender or even just smoothing it with your fingers. I prefer this formula of the two, and this has actually become my favourite foundation of the moment. I'm more likely to use the Serum foundation at the weekends when I fancy giving myself a break from anything heavy, but the Coverage formula is my new everyday foundation. Even my beloved BareMinerals Original and YSL Touche Éclat have taken a back seat!

The Ordinary Retinol 1%, Hyaluronic Acid, Alpha Arbutin, Coverage and Serum Foundations Review

Overall, I am extremely impressed by what The Ordinary is offering at such a low price point; they've created exceptional formulas that work by removing the bells and whistles and focusing on effective solutions. However, their branding is confusing and the website is a minefield, requiring a fair amount of research or a pharmacy degree to be sure what you're ordering. It's times like this that I'm extremely glad for the blogging world, as without it I wouldn't have had a clue what to even consider buying without all the blog posts on the subject.

Other blog posts about The Ordinary for further reading and other opinions:
The Mischa Diaries
Covers: Advanced Retinoid 2%, Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5 and Alpha Arbutin 2% +HAAmelia Says
Covers: The difference between AHAs and BHAs, Glycolic 7% Toning Solution and the AHA and BHA Peeling Solution
Covers: Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil, 100% Plant-Derived Squalane, Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5, Natural Moisturising Factors +Ha, Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, Advanced Retinoid 2%, Salicylic 2% Solution, Lactic Acid 5% +HA 2%
The Makeup Directory 
Covers: The Serum and Coverage Foundations
Covers: Lactic Acid 5% +HA 2% and Lactic Acid 10% +HA 2%
That Grace Girl
Covers: Alpha Arbutin 2% +HA, Lactic Acid 10% +HA, Advanced Retinoid 2%, Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5
Hello October
Covers: Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5, Salicylic 2% Solution, Lactic Acid 10% +HA and Buffet
Makeup Savvy
Covers: High Adherence Silicone Primer, Glycolic 7% Toning Solution and Salicylic 2% Solution
The Beautiful Blue Bird
Covers: High Spreadability Fluid Primer
Really Ree
Covers: Serum and Coverage Foundations
Sparkly Vodka
Covers: Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5, Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, Vitamin C Suspension 23% +HA Spheres 2%, Lactic Acid 10% +HA 2% and Advanced Retinoid 2%

Not directly related but also worth a read is The Makeup Directory's Skin Care Ingredients Guide.

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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Texts I've Sent To My Mother

This is 100% inspired by Gwennan's post, which was all about the bonkers things she's sent to her mother. I'm pretty close to my Mum; we text on a daily basis and ring at least once a week. She doesn't live far away, but our schedules and busy lives are such that we don't see each other that often. As such, WhatsApp is our main form of communication, and we have some reaaally odd conversations. These are just a few of the things I've sent to my Mum in the last few weeks, taken out of context for your amusement.

"Put her on your head and tell everyone it's a really lifelike hat"

"A tiny panther!"

"Factor 50 and SHADE"

"I'm a pochemuchka and you're a friolero"

"Did she want treats or just attention?"



"We'll argue later!"

"Grampa keeps his kumquat tree on the windowsill"

"For ze big boaaaats!"

"Send spaghetti"

"Out clubbing with Colonel Badger"

"Did you steal my EHIC?"

"Hair stuck in the tram door, can't move"

"My people will call your people"

"Are you and Nan in the shower? Did they find you?"

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Monday, 26 June 2017

Pissed Off | Cohorted June Unboxing

Before I get into why I this month's Cohorted box made me so angry, I thought I'd be nice and talk you through exactly what I received. I'm going to attempt to be fair, but if some annoyance leaks through I think you'll understand why by the end. If you fancy a more positive read, check out May's Cohorted Beauty Box here.
Cohorted June Beauty Box 2017 Unboxing
The first product was the Bellapierre Glowing Palette, containing six highlighter shades for varying skin tones. It's cardboard packaging with magnets that hold it closed (always nice) and the powders are finely milled and melt into the skin. I honestly don't know how much use I'll get out of these, as at least four of the colours are a little dark for my skin. However, I think they'll make a fun alternative to my failsafe Becca highlighters. They don't swatch brilliantly and are a little lacking in pigmentation; I've swatched them here but they took a bit of work to even reach this level of colour. I've left the picture unedited despite my blotchy skin today so that you can get a better idea of the shades. I do think that at £40 this is a bit overpriced, but I think it will see some use in my collection.
Bellapierre Glowing Palette Swatches
 Bellapierre Glowing Palette Swatches
Also from Bellapierre was the Kiss Proof Lip Crème in Antique Pink. This is a liquid lipstick that dries to a matte finish and is designed to feel comfortable on the lips; I've found it to be drying, but no more so than the NYX liquid suede range or similar products. The colour is nice and will look good on most skin tones, although I'm not really a fan of liquid lipsticks in general. However, the packaging feels pretty cheap, lacking the proper suction I associate with liquid lipsticks and leading to me thinking that it will probably dry out pretty quickly. Once again, I also think it's overpriced at £20, easily comparable to much cheaper formulae. 

The third product was a nail polish from Kure Bazaar; an eye-watering shade of pink that you could really only wear in summer. It's not a colour that really suits me, but I would wear it on my toes. Kure Bazaar is free of four of the big nasties that are common in nail varnish, some of which are carcinogenic and bizarrely unregulated for nail varnish. At £15 it's pricey, but I haven't had a chance to test the formula yet to see if it's noticeably different in quality to some of the cheaper brands you'd find in Boots or Superdrug.
Cohorted Beauty Box June 2017 Unboxing
There were several products that I could have received for my final option, including travel size versions of the Living Proof Flex Shaping Hairspray, Too Faced's Better Than Sex Mascara and Living Proof's Restore Mask. I would have preferred any of these to what I actually received: Nars' Pure Sheer SPF Lip Treatment in the shade Greta, which is a very sheer beige-pink that doesn't show up on the lips and hardly at all in swatches. Now, this whole box is a bit of a disappointment as none of the content is really up my street, however, this lip balm actually enraged me. As I pulled it out of the box, had a quick swatch and nosey, I noticed a sticker on the side. A sticker that read "Tester". That's right, Cohorted had sent me and countless others a lip balm, that admittedly looked like it had never been used, that was designed for use as a tester. As one of the priciest beauty boxes on the market, this is not what I expect for my money. I cancelled my subscription there and then, and will not be returning to Cohorted. I could ramble at length at how inappropriate it is for a tester to be in a beauty box, but I think I'll leave it at that before I ruin my mood and my day, and likely yours as well. 
Cohorted Beauty Box June 2017 Unboxing
Cohorted, I won't be resubscribing. Thanks, but no thanks.

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Sunday, 25 June 2017

What I Learnt From Giving Up Sugar

I had two and a half chocolate chip cookies after tea today, so it's safe to say that I haven't exactly made a radical lifestyle change. I intended to give up sugar for all of May, but then I remembered that I had a holiday to France booked and there was no way I was going to say no to ice cream or pastries. So, I gave up all processed sugar for twenty days and that was tricky enough.

I pretty much stuck to everything I set out to do, not even dipping into my emergency punnet of plums, although a small part of me wept whenever my boyfriend would forget and offer me a biscuit. Those plums were the worst thing I've bought in a long time; several weeks later they STILL HADN'T BLOODY RIPENED. I left them next to a banana and everything! Come June and I'd binned them in a fit of rage. If anyone can explain this PLEASE let me know.

I did successfully give up processed sugar and a lot of natural sugars as well. Fruit was out (damn plums), obviously along with all biscuits, cakes and everything that makes life good. I also cut out a lot of bread and ready meals were way out, so I basically ate lots of fish and vegetables for most of the twenty days. I will admit to drinking a few sneaky diet cokes, but generally, I stuck to it pretty well! As to the actual effects, well, contrary to what everything online says, there weren't many...

I was grumpy AF 
For the first few days, I was pretty much a terror to be around. If I wasn't staring longingly as my boyfriend ate a biscuit, I was overreacting to every tiny thing. I was argumentative and unreasonable (no change there) and was generally a bit of mopey mess for a few days. However, this actually passed pretty quickly, and aside from the odd biscuit craving, I was fine. I mostly found myself fancying an apple or some orange juice, rather than chocolate or sweets. 

My skin got a little better
I have a whole host of skin conditions that just cutting out sugar isn't going to make any difference to, but I did find that in those twenty days there was a noticeable absence of any new spots, no doubt aided by the amount of vegetables and unprocessed food I was eating.  

Afterwards, things taste too sweet 
As it turned out, I didn't eat much sweet stuff in France, apart from an incredible peanut butter cake that tasted like a snickers; it was more of a cheese and wine holiday. However, when I did finally dive back into the sweets, they were actually too sweet, which is something I never thought would happen. It took me a good while to ease back into eating sugary foods, and I kind of regret letting it happen. I've now fallen back into my old, bad ways and I don't really like it. Despite the restrictions, I enjoyed the extra control it gave myself over my life and diet.

That's about it...
There were no magical changes to my sleeping patterns, no changes to my mood once I got past my cravings and no sudden increases in energy; all the things promised online didn't materialise. I wasn't exactly holding out hope for all these things as it sounded a bit too good to be true. Perhaps if I'd kept at it longer I would have felt a bigger change, but honestly, I enjoyed the experience as it was.

I go through phases of eating way too much sugar, in which I feel like my skin and mood get a bit worse, and this is a good way of getting out of that cycle. As a long term life change though? I'm good thanks. Reducing my sugar intake is something I think I would really benefit from long-term, but cutting out processed sugar is the road to madness. I enjoy sweet foods far too much, and refusing to eat it entirely doesn't just affect me, it affects those around me. 

I think I'm going to do another "no-sugar" phase from Monday, simply because I'm now eating way too much sugar again, and it's a good way to kick-start the process of eating a little more healthily. Let me know if you've ever given up sugar and how you got on!

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Thursday, 22 June 2017

When You Want To Run Away

Regular readers will have noticed my general absence from the airwaves for the last few weeks; it's already the 22nd of June and I've only published ONE blog post. I normally average two or three a week, so this is unusual, to say the least. That's not to say that I haven't written any, I've actually written several, but have ended up scrapping them in frustration, unhappy with the content, with the topic and with myself. That's really the crux of it; I've had a few weeks of tumultuous mental health and have generally felt really crappy about my blog. There's no real reason why, as there frequently isn't with these sort of things. My life is pretty decent; I'm content with where I am and what I'm doing, and the people I surround myself with. It could be better, but it could be an awful lot worse. 

Whenever I'm having a bad mental health day (or week, in this case), my immediate reaction is to want to do a runner. I'm an optimist in many ways, and this is never more evident than when my mood nosedives; rather than dwelling on the doom and gloom that it feels like I'm drowning in, I automatically want to get out of it. Unfortunately, the way out for me always seems to be to up-sticks and move away from everything I know. My mind tells me that the answer is to quit my job, leave everyone and everything and just move away. Literally run away and start again. Disappear and open a kayak rental shop in Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand. Or train as a scuba diver and explore the ocean floor doing retrieval for shipping companies. Or take a video camera and travel the world, hopefully eventually getting paid to be a news reporter in some far-flung place. 

I can't really afford any of these grand ideas, but at my lowest moments I reassure myself that it's doable, and I could find a way. This sort of thinking isn't healthy, particularly when the only things I'm unhappy with in my life are to do with myself, rather than anyone or anything around me. Were I to follow my feet and run away to open a café in Stockholm, those things would still be with me. Removing the people I love, the places I know and everything I've worked for wouldn't solve my problems; at best it would force me to face up to them, at worst it would send me into a disastrous spiral of depression. Every time I emerge from that negative headspace I'm so glad that I didn't give into my urge to flee; it really wouldn't be a good idea.

Whenever I get like this, there's still a rational little part of me that knows I need to snap out of it. There's no real way to do it, but there are a few things that I find help me when I'm seriously considering booking a one-way ticket out of here. I figure that if anyone else has a similar urge when their mental health deteriorates, these might be of some help. 

Bathtime and chill

Sometimes all you need is an evening off. An evening where you choose to forget about the washing you've got piling up, the essay you've been putting off for weeks or that family member that will not stop nagging you. If you get an opportunity to have an evening to yourself, take it and run with it. If you live with family that can be tricky, but sometimes all you need to do is ask to be left alone for an evening. If you're living with friends it can be even harder, in which case a trip back to the 'rents might be in order (they're also more likely to have a bath, which is a bonus). 

An evening of clichéd luxury: a face mask in the bath, surrounded by candles (keep the towels away from them folks, learnt that the hard way), and some chilled out music can work wonders. Start that book you've been meaning to read for months and generally wind down. Write a huge master to do list before you go to sleep, including what needs to be done by when, so that in the morning you know what you need to do that day and don't get too bogged down by everything. For real though, figuring out what can wait and what actually needs to be done soon makes such a difference to your to-do lists; all of sudden there are twenty-three things you don't need to worry about right now - hurray! Get an early night in clean pyjamas and hopefully, you'll wake up refreshed and feeling like you can tackle those things that have been piling up.

Take a day trip

Get on a train. Drive for a few hours away from where you live. Hell, even a walk to an area you don't know can be amazing. Getting out of the little bubble I live in helps me to breathe and get a little perspective on my problems. Even if I don't know what's wrong, getting some fresh air and seeing some new places makes me forget about things for a little while, and somehow, when I come home I feel a little lighter. There's more out there than just my confused headspace. 

I actually spend very little time in the area where I live; I live right next to Aldi and the tram stop I take to work, and I spend all of my free time out of my flat in the city centre. It's a bit odd, as it means a five-minute walk and I'm in a totally new area. Walks in the park across the road, playing with other people's dogs and generally getting outside have helped me so much in the last two weeks. I discovered a cool Asian market a mile or so away (that sells watermelons bigger than my thighs), a very nice housing estate that has many, many cats and a much quicker route to the post office, which is always handy. 

Book a holiday

I booked a trip to Japan, and my mood skyrocketed. This holiday has been in the works for a while; my brother is moving there in September so I'm going with him ahead of time to get to know the area and help him settle in. We're great friends and neither of us speaks the language, so it should be fairly hilarious. 

Just knowing that I have something to look forward to, a chance to get out of the country and see new things feels like a weight has been lifted. I realise that this is not a realistic option for a lot of people, but if you've got the money and have been thinking about doing it anyway, then just book it! Even if it's a night in a B&B or a hostel in Glasgow, if you've never been to Glasgow it's pretty exciting. Even if the trip isn't for months, just knowing that there's light at the end of the tunnel can help.  

As much as I hope that none of you feel like I have been over the last two weeks, if you are, perhaps one of these things will help you to gain a little control over your mental state and the world around you before you leave the continent to become a professional cage diver. 

Hopefully, there will be a serious increase in content for the rest of June (I feel seriously bad about it because the wonderful Gwennan has, once again, been propping up my blog). I'll try not to leave such a big gap before the next post!

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