My Handbag Essentials

If you have a large handbag, it’s so easy to take everything bar your vanity mirror with you on your daily ventures – after all, you never know when you might need to reapply that lippie, or spontaneously stay at a friend’s house overnight. But if you don’t like toting around a comically large Mulberry, or find that dragging your entire makeup bag everywhere is weighing you down, then it might be worth having a sort through your stash and narrowing your beauty essentials down to a few multitasking products. These are my handbag essentials for travel:

Dr Jart+ BB Beauty Balm is great for multitasking as it keeps skin hydrated and acts as a light coverage foundation. This is quite thick for a BB cream, which I think is perfect as it’s very moisturising, and gives decent coverage. Great for perking up post-partying skin. I also take NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer with me most places. It’s great because it takes up so little space, and gives me that little bit of extra coverage if my dark circles are looking particularly pandery the morning after a visit to Monsieur Raptor’s. Using this plus the Dr Jart+ BB cream eliminates the need to bring a moisturiser, primer and a foundation.

A lipstick is also a great idea, as it can really pull a look together, but that’s not the real reason I love to bring it along – my Clinique Different Lipstick is the kind of shade that can double as a blush! I just rub a little on the back of my hand, then apply it to my cheeks as I would a cream blusher. No one will suspect a thing!

I also love to include a petroleum jelly product, such as Vaseline, or this Papaya Gold Paw Paw Moisturising Balm in my bag-stash. Not only is it great for chapped lips, but can also be used for removing makeup, highlighting cheekbones, grooming eyebrows, and even as a thick moisturiser if you’re stuck somewhere overnight and your skin needs a drink.

A perfume also never goes amiss. I love Jo Malone’s 30ml bottles because they’re so dinky and handy to keep in a bag – the bottles may not be the most exciting shape, but that makes them excellent for travel. At the moment, I’m loving Blue Agava and Cacao because it’s a great Winter scent for day or night.

What bag would be complete without a resident hairbrush? I’ve had this one for years as it’s a great size and shape for storing in my handbag’s secret pouch. You could go for one of those mirror/brush contraptions, but I find them rubbish for brushing my hair, so I prefer to use a regular brush.

Lastly, not pictured here is Urban Decay’s Naked Skin Powder Compact, which I occasionally take with me on my travels to Monsieur Raptor’s when I have work the following morning. This is great because it pulls together my makeup look by mattifying the BB cream, but there’s also a little mirror and sponge included in the compact, so you don’t need to bring a separate mirror or powder applicator.

What are your handbag essentials? 

Boots No7 Beautiful Skin Day Cream Dry to Very Dry Skin Review

Don’t you just love those handy little vouchers Boots gives you for £5 off its No7 range? I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever tried No7 when I’ve used those vouchers. I think you get them when you spend £5 or more on beauty/skincare, so I tend to have a lot of them floating around at any given time. That’s how I ended up buying No7 Beautiful Skin Day Cream

I was recommended the version for Dry/Very Dry skin. It’s a heavy, cream-type moisturiser – which is understandable, given that it’s designed for dry/very dry skin – and it boasts an SPF of 15. Not much, but probably enough for everyday wear in standard British weather (i.e mostly cloudy and mild). It also claims to be hypoallergenic, which is something I’m a little skeptical of, especially considering it lists fragrance as an ingredient. 

I really wanted to love this product because I like the idea of Boots’ No7 range, and I like the look of their skincare. The packaging, I find, is classy and understated, and looks very pretty on my dresser. I also like that the skincare range is quite “basic” in the sense that it’s all categorised into skin type (Dry/Very Dry; Normal/Dry; Normal/Oily) and there’s about 5-10 products in each range, including a day cream, night cream, and a cleanser. This makes it simple, no-nonsense, and easy to understand. Brands like La Roche Posay or Avene, for example, are so complicated, it’s hard to remember which product is which, and whether it’s good for my skin etc. 

So it’s a shame that I didn’t get on with this. I found it was too heavy for day use under makeup – although please bear in mind this was during summer, in humid, muggy weather, so I might actually find it best suited to the rest of the year. I also found it felt a little greasy, and I’m pretty sure it broke me out. 

I guess you could put those issues down to the weather though, so if you have your eye on this and want to try it, go for it – especially with the Boots gift vouchers. You might find it works really well for your skin, and goes nicely under makeup during the colder months. 

On the plus side, it didn’t upset my sensitive skin. I’d recommend this moisturiser because it feels quite nice, I just don’t think it was suited to my skin. Perhaps I should have tried the Normal/Dry version instead. 

Have you tried Boots’ No7 Beautiful Skin Day Cream for Dry/Very Dry Skin?

Consistency: Very thick and quite heavy. Almost like Nivea Creme in the blue tin. Great for dry skin.

Sensitive Skin Suitability: 4/5. It didn’t upset me, but I worry about that fragrance.

Price: £12.50, but I bought it with a £5 off voucher.

Overall Rating: 5/10. Although I didn’t get on with No7 Beautiful Skin Day Cream, I want to be fair and say that 1. I tried it in summer, when I should have been using a lighter moisturiser; 2. I think it broke me out, but it could have easily been something else; and 3. It might not be the right product for my skin. If you want to try it, don’t let my experience put you off.

The thing about skin care is that it’s such a personal thing. With makeup, products can be universally shit, but skincare is different in that what works for one person may not work for the next person. 


Urban Decay Naked Skin Compact Powder | Review

I bought this completely on a whim because I’d splurged on a new perfume and thought “why not buy a new pressed powder too?”. #YOLO, or something I guess.

Anyway, I bought it in the middle of a heatwave, so I was desperately in need of a good powder that would help my foundation stay in place all day, without looking cakey and plastered on. The sales assistant at Urban Decay did a great job at selling me this, hyping up the following claims:

Designed to be virtually invisible once applied, our high-tech, jet-milled powder has an insanely silky texture that feels amazing on your skin. Optical blurring pigments instantly minimize imperfections, diminish shine and create a stunning soft-focus effect that looks professionally retouched. Unlike powders that leave skin looking chalky or cakey, Naked Skin Finishing Powder gives you a radiant complexion and NATURAL-looking Naked coverage.

It sounded great, so I thought I’d give it a chance. 

That was about 5 months ago, so I’ve had the chance to use it on my tanned skin in the middle of summer in sweltering heat, and also in November temperatures when my skin has lost its summer glow and the weather is a little kinder to makeup, so here’s what I found…

It doesn’t perform well over thick foundation in hot weather. I found it looked very caked on and noticeable. This was during a heatwave though, so I guess that can be forgiven. 

It does perform well in normal weather – normal British weather, that is, meaning “mild”. It gives a lovely, not-too-matte, not-too-polished look, so you won’t end up looking like a plastic doll – but I think that’s a good thing. 

Urban Decay Naked Skin Compact Powder isn’t not as good as my current favourite – Bobbi Brown’s Weightless Skin Compact – but it does a great job for a lower price.

The only thing I will say is that it doesn’t last long. I know I’ve had it 5 months, but I haven’t been using it for the entirety of that time period. I already touched pan after daily use after about a month, whereas I’ve been using Bobbi Brown’s compact almost daily for about 3 months and have barely made a dent.

I also don’t love the packaging – it’s a sort of gunmetal, metallic, shiny box which is trying to be luxe, but just fails because it’s covered in smudgy paw-prints from my makeup-stained hands. A bit gross, really. I do like that it has a mirror, and that it’s got a little compartment for a makeup sponge (the one that’s included is quite shit, but you could easily replace it).

I do like that it looks pretty natural and that the packaging is sturdy (so not much chance of breaking the product inside if you drop it) with a mirror and a sponge compartment.

Consistency: Finely milled so doesn’t look too “plastic” when applied over foundation.

Sensitive Skin Suitability: 5/5, no trouble.

Price: £22.00 at Debenhams.

Overall Rating: 6/10. Overall, Urban Decay Naked Skin Compact Powder isn’t perfect, but it’s not bad either. To be honest, Rimmel’s powders perform just as well.

Neutrogena Visibly Clear Rapid Clear Treatment | Review

After suffering an horrific face-plosion of whiteheads on my chin (the result of a poor choice in moisturiser) and clearing most them with with some benzoyl peroxide, I thought I’d look for a gentler solution that I could use every day, or every other day, without upsetting my skin too much. I knew the BP would be an extreme treatment, so I had no intention of using it every day, so I went into Boots to find something with a strong enough concentration of salicylic acid to not just prevent spots (like La Roche Posay’s cult favourite Effaclar Duo), but to actively combat them.

After perusing the ingredients of nearly all the spot treatments in the skin care aisle (!!!) I finally settled on this Neutrogena Visibly Clear Rapid Clear Treatment gel. It has salicylic acid listed as the 5th ingredient, so it looked promising.

I took it home and slathered a load of it on my chin, which had a few whiteheads and sebaceous filaments, and on a spot on my cheek. Slept, and dreamt of clear skin. Woke up to find the condition of my spots significantly improved – the SF’s had cleared very well, some of the whiteheads had just about gone, and the overall texture of my chin was about 80% better. The spot on my cheek had also reduced in size and redness, although not completely disappeared.

I tried it again the next night, and woke with similar results – whiteheads reduced again, and the overall texture and appearance improved a lot. 

It claims to reduce spot size in 4 hours, but I’m not so sure of this claim – that being said, I haven’t tried it and checked the results 4 hours later; I used it overnight. I still think it takes a day or two of use to really make a difference though – and I’m totally okay with that, I wouldn’t realistically expect a spot treatment gel to completely get rid of spots in a mere 4 hours.

The one thing I would say is don’t use this, then put moisturiser on straight away, then hope to apply foundation; it’s not going to work, and you’re going to end up with bits of moisturiser/spot treatment turning into slugs and slithering off your face. I’d recommend you leave it a good half hour to do its job/settle before applying a moisturiser and any makeup over it. For this reason, I think it’s better suited to use at night, probably before you go to bed.

Obviously it stings a little because it’s a spot treatment, but it doesn’t irritate my skin like the BP did. The BP burned and brought me out in a nasty reaction which needed to be controlled with hydrocortisone (rough, bumpy skin, dry flakies all over the place), but it did get rid of my spots. I’d leave the benzoyl peroxide as maybe a once a month treatment, and stick to the Neutrogena Visibly Clear Rapid Clear Treatment gel for 2-3 days a week usage on any breakouts – but that’s just me, you might have no problems whatsoever with BP and be able to use it daily.

Have you tried Neutrogena Visibly Clear Rapid Clear Treatment?

Consistency: It’s an almost clear gel.

Sensitive Skin Suitability: It’s a spot treatment, so it does sting, but I only used it on my chin, so it was okay. I’d be careful with it though if you do have very sensitive skin. 3/5

Price: £4.99 for 15ml. Quite reasonable if you ask me.

Overall Rating: 9/10. Does the job well. It would be nice if there was a spot treatment gel I could use every day that would work as effectively as benzoyl peroxide but without the nasty irritation.

10 Tips to Keep Nails Looking Sharp

Nail care is something a lot of us tend to neglect – and it’s so easy to neglect your nails because caring for them can be time consuming, fiddly and just plain annoying. Who’s got the time, effort and money to go for regular mani-pedis? I wish I did, but I just don’t. Even giving yourself a home manicure takes patience and effort (and I don’t exactly have those to spare) – first you’ve got to clean off your old nail polish, then you’ve got to file and shape and exfoliate, and paint them (a nightmare for the less-than-dexterous) and then wait hours for them to dry. God help if you smudge your polish, or you’ve got to lather, rinse repeat.

Screw. That.

  These are not my nails. My nails are gross.
  These are not my nails. My nails are gross.

But there are some things you can do to keep your nails healthy and looking good that are surprisingly easy and don’t take half as much time and effort as giving yourself a full-on manicure.

1. Clean off nail varnish stains with whitening toothpaste. It’ll make your nails lovely and clean, while also brightening them.

2. Eat more nuts and seeds. These have essential fatty acids and vitamins to help make your nails grow stronger. They’re also great for your skin and hair.

3. Take a supplement if you can’t get the vitamins from your diet – fish oil, vitamin e and biotin are all great for nail growth. 

4. Choose a suitable moisturiser. Try to find one without too much alcohol – the lower down the ingredient list the better. You can also buy some pretty great moisturisers with nail strengthening ingredients, like keratin.

5. Slather it on, then wear a pair of cotton gloves or socks on your hands. This will help you keep the moisture in, and stop the cream rubbing off. Vaseline works great for this, as it seals in more moisture. A great idea is to do this overnight to allow more time for the moisturiser to do its work.

6. Buy a cuticle oil. Nails Inc. do a great one with vitamin E and lavender. I find it’s really helped my cuticles from being dry and flaky when I use it once or twice a day, but you could just use almond or a similar oil.

7. Don’t clip cuticles; it can lead to infection and irritation. Try pushing them back with a cuticle stick instead.

8. Avoid acetone based nail polish removers as they can dry out your nails. There are plenty of great nail polish removers without acetone, and some of them have conditioning ingredients to help nourish your nails.

9. Don’t over-wash your hands as it’ll dry out the skin around the nails, dehydrate the skin, and cause nails to become brittle and thin.

10. As a rule of thumb: don’t wear nail varnish all the time! I know it’s great to experiment with different colours, textures, patterns etc, but try and give your poor nails a break in-between as daily wear can weaken your nails, causing them to peel and flake. And it’s not just the general wear of nail polish – removing it with acetone polish remover and peeling the varnish off is bad too.

What are your best nail-care tips?