Friday, 17 November 2017

UK CCOs - Cosmetic Company Store (Estee Lauder companies)

Did you know we UKers too have CCOs? Well we do! I recently had to be in Portsmouth for the day, and was able to sneak off and hit the outlet shops of Gunwharf Quays. Many Christmas presents were sorted, as they have some great deals. But here, I'll just focus on the spoils to be found in the CCO.

Before I show you, here is the list as far as research can determine, of the UK Cosmetic Company Stores. Please be aware they do not sell online, so you will not find an associated website; any websites trading under similar names are just aiming to confuse you.

Bicester Village Oxon
Clarks Village Somerset
Swindon Designer Outlet
Gunwharf Quays Portsmouth
Freeport Braintree Essex
Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet Ellesmere Port
McArthur Glen Outlet Bridgend
York Designer Outlet
Livingstone Designer Outlet near Edinburgh
The Quays Gloucester

If coming from London, Bicester is nearest at a 40 minute train journey from Marylebone. However Portsmouth has a rich history and is a lovely place to visit, plus my suspicion is that you get better deals. The service in all the shops I went to was first-rate.

 Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
Get off at Portsmouth Harbour Station (pictured) Spinnaker Tower in background - from this tower you can see across the English Channel on a fine day

Anyway let's get to the CCO now. It is owned by Estee Lauder, so naturally encompasses:

Estee Lauder, MAC, Smashbox, Aveda, Origins, Tom Ford, Bobbi Brown, Darphin, Aerin, Bumble and Bumble, Clinique, Donna Karan, Michael Kors, Ojon and Glamglow.

(+Others which are owned by the company but these are the ones I spotted.)

The nice thing about these stores, and in some ways even better than the discount, is finding gift sets, travel exclusives, asian-aimed skincare which is hard to find in most stores, or limited edition pieces.

As it was near Christmas (unless this is commonplace) they had many gift-wrapped bundles and I even managed to find a gift-wrapped bundle on 50% off the original CCO price, for just over £12, and it looks like it must have cost me upwards of £40. They even gave me my purchases in an elegant white laminated bag and wrapped it in red tissue paper inside. I got the same high-end treatment (or better) as I would expect in a department store, whilst getting reduced prices. The shop was very neat and testers were clean and available for virtually every piece there. It was a real pleasure to browse and shop, and the staff were helpful and friendly.

I was very restrained because I'm on an unofficial "low-buy". There comes a time in a makeup addict's life when you do become jaded. At this point I have so much that it's a rare time when I see something that doesn't instantly remind me of at least 3 dupes in my stash. I do buy essentials like mascara and skincare which run out, but the days of amassing collection pieces just to prove "I woz here!" have all but gone. The occasional holiday piece if it's really breathtaking, but the average MAC collection just isn't the milestone it used to be...

MAC do many more promotions online than they ever did 'in my day', too. There is no doubt that their stranglehold of even just ten years ago, has been slackened by social-media fuelled indie brands. Indeed, MAC are now collaborating with Youtube celebrities at a frenzied rate. I remember when Temptalia did an April Fools spoof post about her collaboration with MAC - Just a year later, it was true. This was 2011, and I would say that's possibly the zenith of when the tide really turned. My point being, that some of these CCO discounts (typically only about £10 saving) can be equalled using a cashback site (I like Topcashback) and buying from sites which are offering gifts or other enticements; just the other day MAC was giving away a limited edition blusher from a random LE collection in 2016 with minimum purchase, which clearly was otherwise destined for a CCO. So in other words, the thrill of a CCO is to be taken in context.

That being said, it was immense fun to see old collections brought back to life. MAC Trolls and the infamous bright blue and green lipsticks collection which reduced MAC to literally giving them away were present and correct. A few odd Mariah Carey items and a lone brush set from Nutcracker Sweet. So far so predictable. They also had a large amount from the moribund Estee Edit collection. I fought against my resentment of the cringey names and bought the last "Mega Chorella" soap bar for £12; as far as I can see from ingredients it is identical to the current Estee Lauder Algae soap which is £20.

But the surprise was to see lots of current products, even Estee Lauder Doublewear was there! - and not just the dark shades as is usually the case. Plus my favourite powder Lucidity. Clinique stalwart skincare items such as Dramatically Different Gel, and some brushes, eg a MAC 239 at around the £15 mark. (I didn't remember paying much more than that and frankly that price seemed high for a CCO to me, but it was still nice to see an iconic MAC brush in a CCO.) There were also gift sets including an Estee Lauder set I bought online a while ago for about £30 and considered a great deal, for about £20 in the CCO. (3 minute makeup bag which I blogged about here.) There were some novelty Glamglow mud masks, and limited edition Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess items, Clinique palettes, Bobbi Brown shimmer bricks. They also had the Estee Lauder Crescent White collection which I always enjoy finding to try out in person. The BB cream and the sunscreen are superb. They sadly didn't have the Origins Spot remover or my favourite Aveda smooth Infusion shampoo (although I did score the smooth infusion mask at half price of CCO price bringing it to a tasty £9) but when shopping at an outlet, obviously it's a place where you have to be adaptable. I would highly recommend a visit and I can personally say that Portsmouth was a really fun day out. Not to mention that if you're a history buff, they have some great museums there too.

Estee Lauder Crescent White

...Let me know in the comments if I have missed out any CCO UK locations. And report back with any of your own CCO finds :)

Friday, 10 November 2017

First Impressions of MAC face set Whisper of Gilt and comparison "dupes"

I'm shocked that MAC seems to have manufactured enough of these sets with Whisper of Gilt - either this is most unlike them, or people are not as desperate as one may have supposed. (Sadly, begrudgingly, I do belong to the desperate category, so I can't gloat.) I was dreading the brush, which I assumed would be a cheap and nasty scratchy affair, but actually it's replaced my MUD powder brush and I really like it for powdering and for contouring and even for blusher! So that was an unexpected bonus.

Now onto the highlighter itself. A lovely lady on Instagram (I hope she doesn't mind me posting her name, krys503) warned me before I got my delivery, that it was neither as "blingy" nor as "peachy" as the original Whisper of Gilt. I forgot to ask which original she was comparing it to, but it made my blood run cold - because the blinginess and the peachiness is exactly why Whisper of Gilt is my favourite ever highlighter. I have Anastasia So Hollywood but that lacks the beguling peachiness. And I have the original MAC Oh Darling (I hear the permanent is different but I can't comment as I've never tested this in person) but Oh Darling, although I have now grown to love it, has a far more brownish copper hint than the Whisper of Gilt peachy hint.

Here is the swatch which I was sent on Instagram which apparently shows the difference. Original on the left and new release on the right;
To me though, it was pure pleasure to see the new one which I feel is still peachy and wonderful. Perhaps time has misted over any supposed discrepancies, but to me, my worst fear was that Whisper of Gilt had been watered down to being like Anastasia So Hollywood, which, whilst beautiful, is little more than a pale gold highlighter. I'm very fussy, so many "dupes" are to my mind, merely versions on a gold theme.

MAC new Whisper of Gilt v MAC original Oh Darling

Oh Darling on left, Whisper of Gilt right. Notice copper v peach undertones
As above, slightly blended

The only thing which I don't like is that the website has this listed as a "9g" compact whereas in fact it has 7.5g. I emailed MAC but so far they have kept this misleading description, which I think is a little rude. But overall it's a wonderful re-issue, the compact is gorgeous hammered metal effect and the snowflake embossing is irresistible. The bag is dependably tacky but the brush is a great addition, perhaps not for using as a highlight brush but you will find it a useful tool and it's synthetic so hasn't shed. Overall I'm really thrilled with my purchase.

The £1.49 hair miracle oil

For months now, I have struggled. My loyal and faithful hair colourist absconded from duties. She is now a 2 hour trip away, which ultimately became too ridiculous. For some reason it's proving impossible to find a colourist equal to her skills. I am very fussy and a perfectionist, and have been lurching from one poor job to the next.

I have tried to steer towards chains but I've now had horrible services with HOB and with RUSH and my hair has been suffering. (If anyone has a great hair colourist in London I am keen to hear from you...!?)

Anyhow, to help matters, I've used Redken anti-snap and also had a couple of Olaplex treatments. But, I must say, this unassuming bottle has proven the cheapest by far, and surprisingly effective! I much prefer it to Moroccanoil as it has no silicones and it's surprisingly non-greasy. It's also been a joy to use on my hands and cuticles. It's in the "ethnic hair" aisle in Superdrug, but I have Caucasian fine hair and it's not been too heavy for me.

Give it a try, only £1.49 at Superdrug!

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Guerlain Holiday 2017 thoughts

The other day I was able to take a look at Guerlain's latest holiday offering at House of Fraser. I must say, the sales assistant was very knowledgeable (Jessica) which was most refreshing! We were able to reminisce about past Christmas collections and debate which meteorites were the best ones yet. (a fraught topic which could induce fisticuffs.) Sadly, I came away without the new meteorites. I love the gold opulent house it's in, but the perles themselves are just a touch too glittery for my liking. The lipsticks, whilst wonderful, are red, and as much as I love red lipsticks, they initiate so much cacophony when worn, that I rarely get to use the enormous collection I already have. Terracotta Gold light was similar enough to the erstwhile Sun in the City, which is in fact too gold for me to use.

So, this post will only discuss the Guerlain top coat mascara in Gold Light. "Adorn your lashes, eyebrows and hair with precious hints of gold!" Guerlain advises. Incidentally, Guerlain have the best writers, and best images. This year the inspiration comes from an art-deco 1920s jazz age and evokes Americans in Paris. The colour scheme is black and gold. Take a look:

Gild your eyes with the luxurious GUERLAIN Gold Light Top Coat - Lash, Brow and Hair Mascara, a limited edition mascara that will frame eyes in molten metal.

Inspired by the preciousness of gold, this sumptuous, glimmering top coat will help you to create an endless array of luxurious looks with a bold twist. Its deep golden hue sparkles with intensity, transforming your look in a single stroke.
Apply to the tips of your lashes, or through your brows and hair to create add a festive finish to your everyday look.

I haven't bought this yet, purely because I first wanted to check it didn't smudge or fall out. Although I think it did fade, I loved the dainty fairy lights effect, and it did not flake or fall. It's like a dusting of sparkle over your usual black mascara, and it manages to be gold but not infantile. This is definitely not a 'need', but ironically that's exactly why it's such a must-have. It's imperceptible until you blink or your eyelashes catch the light. It's a snip (for Guerlain) at £20.50, and I've seen it online for £18.45 here (N/A link)
The only thing I am upset by, is the packaging. It contains less product than, say, Maxi Lash (one of my favourite mascaras) at 4.5g, but why does it have to look like a tester? If ever a mascara deserved to be in an ornate gold tube, it's when it's a gold mascara topper, surely!
Nonetheless, I will be getting this as I think it's a beautifully done. And I thought it might be easily mimicked by an Urban Decay gold heavy metal liner I had, but that is a glitter and the Guerlain is more of a liquid gilding. I also had a liquid gold body lotion which I thought I could apply with an eyeliner brush, but this too failed to create a convincing gold flash. So: this is a unique product which I highly recommend. These pictures were taken at the end of a long day, but the effect has remained.

Shampoo review: Wella Elements Renewing

After years of using and loving Aveda Smooth Infusion shampoo, it didn't seem quite as incredible as it always had been. It still smelt divine, and I always, always had people deeply inhaling my hair and marvelling at the heavenly scent. But it didn't keep my hair clean for as long. And besides, I was beginning to resent paying hundreds of pounds a year for shampoo. I decided, perhaps I'll take this opportunity to step away from sulphates and parabens. Now, I have no idea what these are, as I'm not a chemist and science can only bamboozle me, but they sound bad... and if I was going to make a dramatic switch then I might as well change the entire approach.

I researched online and found glowing reviews for the Wella Elements Renewing shampoo. This is officially described as: "Sulfate free shampoo that renews the moisture of the hair, preserving and nourishing it from root to tip. Exists in 250 ml and 1000 ml." Naturally, being a greedy sort, I went for the 1000ml. I didn't realise, but for some reason, the bottle has a huge gaping neck, so I had to then buy a separate pump. Anyway, my review will not be a good one...

This, to me, smells like apple juice concentrate from a carton. Not bad per se, but not good. Perhaps my hair needs sulphates, because this literally doesn't clean my hair! I have never had this before. I have to wash my hair three times with this, as it doesn't lather well. And then, every time I've used it, my hair looks lank and greasy - right away! So disgusting. Perhaps if you have frizzy or curly hair, the way this makes the hair 'piecey' and stick together might be a benefit. But to me, this is utterly dreadful. 

Does anyone have any shampoo recs that won't break the bank? (Or do I need to shuffle back to Aveda?) Please let me know below!

& If anyone wants this please DM me using my contact details!

MAC Whisper of Gilt is online now (UK)

I am simultaneously excited and disappointed in myself -  for I have been unable to snub MAC! I, like many, waited and pined for Whisper of Gilt to return as a stand-alone product, unimpinged by an alien half. And here it is, albeit reduced from 9g to 7.5g, in a beautiful frozen glass effect compact. I vowed that by now, there were many Whisper of Gilt clones, and MAC had missed its chance. But the flesh is weak, I have succumbed.

It's £35 and comes with a rather tacky bag and a synthetic short handled brush. I've heard that MAC are discontinuing their natural hair brushes and will be moving to all synthetic soon; not sure if this is true. Anyway... If you want it, it's online NOW!

I really hope it's as amazing as I remember... with a wonderful peachy pink flare within... We shall see. I'll update with thoughts.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Allure magazine A lure?

Yes, that's right: my conclusion, having read the 'editor's letter' available online, is that Allure magazine is ironically simply trying to lure in the grey pound. Do they honestly abhor the concept of anti-ageing? If so, why pick Helen Mirren who has had and admitted to having work done? As far as I'm aware, she's had a facelift and no doubt has a regime of peels, fillers, botox. So, she knows how to use them in moderation to avoid us being able to ridicule her for 'chasing youth', and that, presumably, is what is being applauded.

To me this is a cynical ploy to act as though they are at the forefront of some kind of revolution. I pity anyone who falls for it... No fool like an old fool, eh?

Allure seems like one of the more intelligent woman's magazines but it often looks like it's trying too hard. Until they put non airbrushed non operated non hair extension-ed non injected women on the cover, what is their point? And in any event, let's be frank, we want to see beauty, we don't honestly want to buy a magazine with a 'people of Walmart' poster child on the cover. The simple truth of the matter is, since the dawn of time, youth and beauty, are linked. Not inextricably linked, but there is a fact: looking good once you're older than 30, takes effort. Effort may mean just eating better and drinking water and exercising. But it's certainly not the bloom of youth that comes effortlessly from being, well, in the bloom of youth.

Women over 30 hopefully have the intelligence to know that calling something "anti ageing" doesn't need to considered in the same lexicon of "anti fungal" and "anti virus" and "anti anxiety" as the editor's letter suggests. Buying a cream labelled "anti ageing" doesn't mean you wish you would die young and never age, or that you renounce all wisdom and knowledge accrued with ageing. It means, clearly understood because you're old enough and self aware enough to accept it, that with ageing comes age spots, wrinkles, uneven texture, sagging. Is there any point pretending we want these things?? Is there any point pretending that we don't want to look like we have a fantastic body, fantastic shiny hair, fantastic gleaming even-toned skin? Why create this absurd Emperor's new clothes phenomenon by claiming, after the horse has bolted (a very hasty search of past Allure covers shows that they have never been mindful before - yes, I know, they say they know they were part of the problem...) that suddenly we object to being promised a remedy to these side effects of ageing?

I believe that magazines aimed at teenagers - and more to the point - online blogs and sites and instagram and social media, are a threat to emotional well being and are dangerous. Because when you're young you're very impressionable and vulnerable.But telling a woman old enough to recognise marketing babble, that she will now no longer have to endure the term "anti ageing" is really pathetic. The magazine is not claiming to actually address the true issue: celebrating ageing in all its undisturbed damage (and it is damage, let's not be coy). They want to have their cake and eat it. They will hoodwink us by saying that they champion age, while putting a woman who's had a face lift and who is posing with an undeniably young tattooed model's arm. Why the need to enhance Mirren with this young arm, why not let the age stand alone or be enhanced, with another aged woman? To put Mirren in this setting makes the cover seem diluted and made more palatable; it seems to signal it as a gimmick and a novelty. In fact, what they ought to be doing is accepting that beauty can and does exist in every age, and there is no point in being touchy about the fact that after 45 you certainly won't have the same, ahem, allure, as someone in the 20 year old bracket. Yes, it's probably linked to fertility. Sad but why be in denial. However, an ageing face can be beautiful and inspiring by virtue of its age, with an erstwhile beauty that still shines through proudly.

 Audrey Hepburn. "I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls"

This is not to renounce advances in science, quite the contrary. One is welcome to fight ageing with all one's finances and all one's efforts. The fight will probably be lost - who, seriously, is convinced that these fillers giving an old cheek the same volume as a young one, looks anything other than a blown up old bag? But regardless, the procedures give the patient a sense that she has done all she can and has at least tried to stem the ravages of time... Do not go gentle into that good night...

So don't treat this fight as anything other than "anti ageing" and don't just lead down to an inevitable sickening platitude or euphemism. If it's because you're ashamed to have a cabinet full of labels screaming "anti ageing", that's one thing, and if it bothered me that much I would put masking tape on it or rip the label off... but I would be no less ashamed if the label said 'plumping and smoothing' than if it said 'anti ageing'. If it's because you genuinely think "anti ageing" is an insult, then why not just stick to a slathering of vaseline when your skin feels tight, and let ageing take its unabated course. By 'plumping' for that plumping cream, you've admitted this is a fight against ageing. You're old enough to accept this without a cynical ploy by a magazine taking payments from these companies and taking photo-shopped images from plastic surgery celebrities who swear on paper that this is down to healthy eating. To force brands to rename creams just to spare your feelings?! How about they say they'll no longer run adverts for anti ageing creams unless the celebrity is actually ageing? Or unless the celebrity is actually ageing without surgical intervention? Hmm well that is a step too far, evidently.