OUTFIT OF THE DAY

I am dog rough sick today, so here’s a little OOTD from earlier in the week to keep my schedule until I’m feeling better!

 ootd18 Sweater: M&S
Leggings: M&S
Boots: UGG
Scarf: Hermes

I am so very, very sick! Every time I swallow it’s like someone smacks me on both sides of the throat. I’ve had a super busy week that I’m looking forward to talking about once I’m better though, so it was totally worth it for the experience!

Are you guys feeling well? Are you sick like me? Have you done anything fun this week? Drop me a line and let me know!

-A-

3 IPHONE APPS YOU NEED RIGHT NOW

I’ve been meaning to do a recommendation list for my top iPhone apps since I picked up my 6 Plus last year, but somehow I am only getting to it now! Rather than try to be original in listing obscure apps that people might not have heard of before I’d prefer to highlight the apps I absolutely can’t live without, the ones which I use multiple times on a daily basis. There’s a good chance you’ve heard of or installed these already, but just in case they’ve passed you by, here are three apps you really should consider adding to your iPhone if they’re not there already:

iphone

1. iCab Mobile
If I could only ever add one app to my phone, forever, it would be this one. Here’s why: using the internet on your phone feels a lot like going back to 2005 when the internet was slower and ads were everywhere… Until you install this baby. With built-in ad filters and the option to add custom filters like you can when using a computer, iCab brings the glorious, ad-free browsing to your phone.

It has a host of other great features, too, like customisable shortcuts, a great absolute full-screen mode, a really minimal interface, and the ability to create an account so you can synch content and preferences across devices (you can also run it on your iPad and computer, if you like). If you are a heavy web user on your phone, you will not regret the €2 you might spend on this app.

2. GMaps
Full disclosure: I don’t like Google. I don’t like their policies, their practices, or their ubiquity. I vastly prefer Apple, who are generally more careful with your data and your experience, as you are their customer, and not their product. Despite all of this, Google Maps is just infinitely better than Apple Maps. They have the experience and the data to make a superb mapping product, and that is exactly what they serve up for the low, low price of €0.

Google Maps is accurate, current, and has almost everything you’ll want to find on it. You can even save maps in advance for offline use now, which is possibly the best thing ever. So long as you turn off Google’s creepy and invasive tracking features, which isn’t at all hard to do, this is an app worth having.

3. GMail
As above, I have a lot of problems with GMail. As above, this does not prevent me from using their products when they outclass all other offerings in the field. GMail is one such product. Granted, it’s a little more cumbersome to use it as your primary app for push notification email since they turned that feature off for new devices, but there is a pretty doable workaround for that one.

I have a ton of GMail accounts from before Google’s policies became what they are, so changing to something else would be a pain in the backside. If you’re in the same boat, I do recommend this app when coupled with the workaround above. It’s an improvement over the built-in option that comes with the phone, so it’s worth your time.

The three apps above are the ones I really couldn’t live without, but there are a few others which should get an honourable mention. My Fitness Pal is a great weight/calorie tracker– their database is so exhaustive that most things are already available for selection to add to your daily food diary. Peak is a great Brain Training-style game that’s oodles of fun and annoyingly addictive. I’m also pretty fond of the Astraware Sudoku app, which saves me having to lug the paper version about.

I personally can’t be bothered with additional productivity tools; I find the build-in calendar and notes function handles more or less everything I need in terms of reminders and lists, and I’m not big into too many games (distracting) or social networking apps (data compromising), so these are the ones that get most of my time and attention… And my recommendation, as well.

What apps can you not live without? Are you an iPhone lover like me? Do you have any tech privacy tips you’d like to share? Drop me a line and let me know!

-A-

PRODUCT EXPERIENCE: ALONG CAME BETTY

It’s been a while since I discovered a surprise product that really impressed me, but this Along Came Betty scrub from Tesco has done exactly that!

betty1Most of the new products I try out these days come from recommendations or reviews I’ve read, but this was something I tossed into my shopping trolley a few weeks ago because I needed a replacement for the (also brilliant) Body Shop scrub I’d gotten for my birthday. I’m doubly grateful for that present now I’ve discovered how hellaciously expensive it is– so much so I couldn’t bring myself to spring for the replacement. I decided I’d try a supermarket alternative for a while, and if it didn’t work, I’d have to take the plunge and pick up the branded version. I am so glad I did…!

betty3

Along Came Betty One Pot Of Polish, despite the long title, is frankly amazing. At about €7, this is cheap as chips and astonishingly effective. After one use, my skin was smooth as a baby’s– Well, you get the idea. Honestly, nothing I’d ever used before had left my skin feeling anywhere near as nice as this! The effectiveness has not diminished with repeated use, and I think this (in conjunction with my Clarisonic Body head) are combining to completely rid my skin of any traces of unpleasantness like KP. It’s a sugar and salt scrub, so you get the best of both, and it’s got a lovely apricot scent. It’s quite scrubby, with little exfoliating particles, but doesn’t feel too harsh or touch on the skin. I love this stuff, I really do.

betty4

Here’s the down side: I’m pretty sure this is only available in a few, select Tesco shops (I picked it up in Dundrum, but it hasn’t been in most others I’ve visited). To make matters worse, I always find Tesco Ireland’s website be very lacking in its range… And of course, this isn’t available on it. If you live in the UK, however, you can order it through the site there, but it doesn’t seem to be available anywhere else.

If I can find this again, you can be very sure I’m going to repurchase, but alas, I have a feeling getting my paws on it is going to be tricky…

Have you tried this body polish? Are you likewise frustrated by product availability in Tesco? Do you have another body scrub to recommend? Drop me a line and let me know!

-A-

THE SINGLETON ON VALENTINE’S DAY

I’m never quite sure what to make of Valentine’s Day. I’m so habituated to being single for it that I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a boyfriend for V-Day… But I can’t remember the last time that fact bothered me, either. Consequently, everyone else’s excitement or upset about the whole thing kind of passes me by. I don’t have anyone to buy me presents, or anyone to buy presents for, but I don’t feel sad or unhappy about that. Valentine’s day seems to split people into camps: those who are loved-up and delirious about it, and those who are single and miserable about it. But what if you don’t fall into either category…?

You can ignore the whole thing since it doesn’t apply to you (which is what I usually do)… Or, you can go ’round your mum’s for a nice meal and some brandy.  Which is what I did this year!

v-day-dinner

Dinner was delicious fillet steak with garlic butter, chunky chips, and a side of sauteed mushrooms and onions. For extra calorie points, we followed this with chocolate truffles and ice cream…!  You only live once, after all.  After dinner, we watched movies (and ate more truffles) and generally had a lovely time. The important thing, I think, is make sure you like the person you spend it with, whether it’s your partner, your family, or yourself. At the end of the day (this day, and every other), that’s the only thing that matters: not who you’re with or what role they occupy, but how much you like their company. You can like a boyfriend’s company, or a mum’s, or your own, or all of the above. There’s nothing wrong with any of those, so long as there’s love.

If you’re coupled up this Valentine’s, I hope you’ve had a nice time with your partner. If you’re single this Valentine’s, I hope you’ve had a nice time with yourself and whoever else you might (or might not) have chosen to spend the day with. I know I did.

-A-

PRODUCT EXPERIENCE: ESSENCE #176

Just in time for V-Day, I’ve fallen in love– with a nail polish!essence1

 

Essence is one of the better budget brands out there when it comes to nailpolish– when it comes to most things, actually, but I’m basically blown away by this effort. It’s #176, and the title is Headphones On! I picked up this bottle in Primark, but you can probably get it in all chemists that still have some in stock– I got the last one, but there’s no indication it is a hateful limited edition, so you shouldn’t have any problems. It’s also a complete and absolute steal for a polish this gorgeous, and will cost you less than €3!

Now let’s get the toad on the table: the brush pretty grim. Basically, it’s pants. This makes me very sad, because the polish is basically perfect, but it will in no way stop me from using (and loving) this polish all the same.

What’s good about it? Basically everything else. I love how it looks– it’s incredibly unusual, for one thing… But for another, if your wardrobe tends in any way towards blacks, whites, or greys, it will go with almost any outfit. It’s a dark grey glitter with super-tiny silver glitter mixed in with slightly larger blue, black, and holo flecks. Here’s an extreme close-up:

essence3

That makes it look like the particles are larger than they actually are, so here’s an action shot so you can see it in-situ:

essence2

The glitter is subtle, but it gives a really beautiful effect with real depth and shimmer. I’m wearing three coats here, because it isn’t fully opaque otherwise, but once you do get to the third coat, it’s pretty much completely solid. To my surprise and delight, despite three coats and the density of the glitter, it doesn’t feel rough or textured and bumpy at all. It’s the smoothest-feeling textured polish I’ve tried in ages, and I love that so much.  Granted, my application in the photos leaves a little to be desired (which is partly owing to the bad brush– this was my first attempt, and I think I’ll get better with practice), but you can at least see the overall effect.

The problem with the brush is that it’s tapered at the edges, but also untidy; for me, this is the worst possible combination. Still, a little perseverance and care and you can do a reasonable job. It’s not something you can slap on too easily, but it doesn’t fight you every step of the way, either. The formulation is also a tiny bit on the thick side, but not so much that applying it is terrible difficult. It dries quickly, barely smells, and is reasonably long-lasting. I got three days before it started to chip– it does chip rather than fade, so if that bothers you, that’s something to be aware of. (I’m not usually a fan of chipping, but this is such a rock chick look that I don’t mind it; I think it seems kind of grungey and cool.)

Grey polish is definitely a thing for me– it suits my skintone, and my wardrobe, and my style. This is I will definitely be wearing this a lot, and I’ll be looking to buy it again. For €3 in Primark, how could you say no?

Are you a fan of Essence polish? Is this a look you’d like? Do you have another grey glitter to recommend to me? Drop me a line and let me know!

-A-

PRODUCT EXPERIENCE: ESSIE MILLIONAILS

Having chronically weak nails, I’m always on the lookout for products to prevent breakages, so when this was recommended to me recently, I was quick to try it out!

essie-millionails

A recent post by the lovely Heulwen at Rays of Heulwen drew the comparison between Sally Hansen Miracle Cure (my long-standing go-to nail hardener) and this stuff, so when the Essie version was hailed as being superior, it got my attention. I’ve taken quite a shine to Essie polishes recently, and while I find them priced a little high (they’re around €11 here in Ireland), there are certain things I’m prepared to splash out on when it comes to polish. One is a good black polish (black is my bread-and-butter polish colour– always has been and apparently always will be), and the other is a hardening product.

I don’t think I can over-estimate just how crap my nails are when left to their own devices. According to my grandmother, you could only have good hair or good nails, but never both. I’ve met plenty of people who seemed to disprove this rule, but it’s certainly true in my case: my hair is thick, shiny, and happy to grow to great lengths, but my nails… They’re weedy, brittle things which peel and snap at the slightest provocation, despite eating what I think is a fairly decent diet. I even tried a course of those vitamin tablets that are supposed to beef them up once, but all that happened was I got a face full of spots for my trouble. This is unfortunate for me, since I love long nails, and nailpolish, but in addition to having naturally weak nails, I’m also a fidgeter and a tapper, and I’m almost never off the computer, so my nails are in constant contact with a keyboard for a good chunk of the day.

I’m telling you all this to make the point that when it comes to nail hardeners, I’m a tough customer. My nails are useless by nature, and I put them through hell on a daily basis. In order to keep them from breaking, a product has to be pretty damn good… Which this undoubtedly is. What I’m not so sure of is whether or not it’s better than my previous product.

I rarely had breakages with the Sally Hansen,–not unless I really slammed my hand into something (I’m clumsy as hell, so this is not as irregular an occurrence as you might imagine). I had three breakages with this, and although they were minor and the impact had been pretty serious (it involved a fridge door; we shan’t speak of it), I don’t feel this protected me any better than the Sally Hansen product did. It did stop the nails from breaking badly, though, so clearly the chemistry of this formulation isn’t too shabby. (Yes, that pun was both lame and intentional.)

The thing which really bothered me about this product, though, wasn’t so much its performance as what I read on the back of the box in the shop when I was trying to decide which one to buy.  “For added strength follow Millionails with Grow Stronger base coat”, it says. I really don’t like the idea of having to use two products for the one job– shouldn’t two coats of this one be sufficient, instead? I don’t want to have to purchase two different bottles, and I feel it’s silly to suggest I should.

My biggest gripe with the Sally Hansen product is that the polish gets thick and gummy very quickly. I find I rarely use one bottle fully, having to bin and replace at about the halfway point since it’s just so thick it’s too difficult to apply after that point. This does not happen with the Essie version– it’s a far more liquid solution, which I find a lot easier to apply. Having to use two bottles, though, would mean each bottle lasts twice as long, and that increases the likelihood of the product thickening due to air exposure. The thinner formula is actually (in my opinion) the big plus for this product, so having to use two different bottles would cancel this out.

Consequently, I only bought the one, and perhaps that’s why I didn’t find it as “protective” as I might have liked. What I did like was how thin the polish was, and how quickly it dried. I’ve said before how much I like the brush with Essie polishes, and it goes double here– with a clear polish, I am lazy, and this brush is perfect for hit-and-miss application where you don’t care if you get some on your cuticles or fingers. It has absolutely no smell, and gives a lovely, mildly-shiny finish. I’ve applied this more or less every day since I’ve got it (when not wearing coloured polish, I tend to re-apply a new layer of clear protection every day, sometimes being lazy and slapping it on over the pre-existing coat) and there is as yet no sign of gumming or thickening.

There’s a lot to like about this polish, but I’m not sure it is the best polish out there for giving you hard-as-steel nails. I feel like there has to be something which combines the benefits of this (thin, quick-drying, beautiful applicator) with the Sally Hansen (super-tough nails) for some kind of ultimate, holy-grail strengthener which is easy to apply, doesn’t need replacing when there’s still half a bottle left, and makes your nails as hard as– Well, hard as nails, basically.

Have you tried Essie Millionails? Are you a Sally Hansen devotee? Do you think I just need to use another couple of coats of this stuff to get the unbreakable finish I was looking for? Drop me a line and let me know!

-A-

FACE OF THE DAY

As before, here’s the FOTD that goes with my most recent OOTD!

 

fotd1

Holy eyebags. Batman! Should have tried harder with the concealer, I guess. Oh, well. Did manage to kill the raging hormonal explosion on my cheek, so it might have been worse! Back to my beloved Naked 3 for the eyes here, but I am trying out something new with the foundation. I’m looking for something different at the moment, and in the running are Dior Skin Star, Estee Lauder Double Wear, and MUFE HD foundation. The trouble is, I’m both pale and yellow/neutral toned. Getting foundation to match this shade is, as I’ve mentioned before, nothing short of nightmarish. Consequently, I’m hoping to get to trial a few before ultimately making a decision. The lovely Anna at the Dior counter in House of Fraser in Dundrum was kind enough to give me a trial pot of both #10 (light pink-toned) and #11 (light yellow-toned) to use at home to see how it worked out for me.

I’m wearing #11 here, and I think it worked out okay! I am LOVING this foundation. I’m not 100% sure on the shade (I will want to try out the #10 first for comparison), but the foundation itself is lovely. It’s very, very buildable (I only did a light and sheer application here) and not heavy or smothering at all. Compared to the Urban Decay Naked Skin I usually use, this oddly feels far more… Naked. Despite this, it gives pretty excellent coverage. (Although as you can tell from the picture above, you might want to apply a concealer in the eye area with it too, or at least more than one light layer if you have persistent dark circles.) The only complaint I had was that oddly, at the end of the day, I had mascara smears under my eyes. That usually never happens with this mascara, and I’m wondering if I just didn’t give it enough time to dry (I was in a bit of a rush this morning) or if there’s something about this foundation that encourages mascara to smear? More testing definitely required– perhaps if I try it with a powder…

Here’s what else I was wearing:

fotdbb

Skin
Kiehl’s MicroBlur Skin Perfector (not pictured, because oops)
Inglot Cream Concealer in #60
Clinique Line Smoothing Concealer in #02 Light
Dior Skin Star in #11 Creme

Eyes
Eylure Brow Palette in Blonde
Urban Decay Naked #3 (Strange, Buzz, Liar, Factory)
Max Factor Masterpiece Waterproof Mascara in Black

Lips
Guerlain Gloss D’Enfer in #464

Cheeks
Benefit Dandelion Blush
Inglot
Face and Body Illuminator in #61

 
Do you have any foundation recommendations for me? What do you think of DiorSkin Star? Do you have any tips for encouraging your mascara to stay in place? Drop me a line and let me know!

-A-

OUTFIT OF THE DAY

My January fitness blitz has paid off and I am back in my skinny jeans! I don’t know why people knock the January fad-diet-trend; while it mostly isn’t sustainable in the long-term, it does help to melt off those stubborn Christmas pounds! Here’s what I’m wearing now I can embrace my full wardrobe once more:

ootd1 Scarf: Hermes
T-Shirt: Primark
Jumper: Band of Outsiders
Bag: Balenciaga
Jeans: Paige
Boots: UGG

Yes, those are indeed the new navy Uggs that I got for Christmas. I’m so happy with them! It’s so nice to be able to wear an all-blue outfit and not have to worry about pairing up black or grey accessories to off-set my black or grey boots. (I could, of course, just not wear Uggs, but that sounds painful…)

I’m also loving this scarf, which I’ve had for years. Funny horror story: I was severely overheated today in the shopping center while I was wearing this, and so took my scarf off and tied it to my bag. The damn thing FELL OFF while I popped out of Tesco to, um, dispose of my empty ice cream cup (I’m back in the jeans so I’m allowed ice cream, okay?). I didn’t even realise it was gone until some incredibly kind soul hurried after me with it to tell me I’d dropped it! I thanked her profusely, but I’m not sure any amount of thanks can be sufficient to someone returning an Hermes scarf that’s out of season. I don’t know who you are, kind stranger, but thank you so much, and I wish you all the luck in the world! You are a genuinely lovely person, and I hope you are having a wonderful week.

Have you ever lost a beloved item? Have you ever had one returned to you?  Have you ever been the kind soul returning someone’s lovely lost item? Drop me a line and let me know!

-A-

NAILS OF THE MOMENT

A while ago I picked up this blue glitter polish from Boots, and I’ve finally had a chance to try it out. Here’s how it looks:

 

nails1

It has to be said, I’m not as thrilled with this one (“Blue Glitter”) as I am its green counterpart. To start with, this is far less opaque, so I had to layer something under it. Not wanting to interfere with the pretty blue colour I bought it for, I’ve used this Revlon silver underneath. What really irked me about this polish, though, wasn’t having to use a base, it was the effect it had on that base– namely, it started stripping it.

nails1b

You see the little patch on my thumb and ring finger where the polish is almost see-through? That’s one of the spots where the blue lifted the silver. For me, this is one of the most irritating things a polish can do. The effect was less strong on the second coat, but there was still some noticeable and annoying shifting.

This polish is also quite textured, which I personally don’t prefer (but I know a lot of people do enjoy). It isn’t so textured that it’s rough or will snag on your clothing, and you can smooth it out with a layer of top-coat, but if you’re looking for a quick route to a smooth polish, this isn’t it.

On the plus side, the colour is extremely pretty. A very light sky blue with teeny-tiny multi-colour micro glitter, it looks absolutely gorgeous, and is surprisingly long-lasting. It also wears off rather than chips off, which is definitely my preferred option when it comes to light-colored polish. The polish itself is easy to apply, with both formulation and brush shape being pretty much perfect.

If you can overlook the part where it tends to strip whatever base polish you’re using (or if you can go without one), this is a decent use of your €3. If, however, you want absolute opacity and a smooth surface, maybe this isn’t the one for you.

Have you tried this polish? Do polishes that strip their bases drive you nuts? What’s your polish pet peeve? Drop me a line and let me know!

-A-

JANUARY BEAUTY ROUNDUP

The first month of 2015 has come to a close, and here’s what I was loving in January:

jan-favs

MAC brush #217
Urban Decay Naked 2
Charlotte Tilbury Portobello Girl lip gloss
Urban Decay Naked 1
Charlotte Tilbury Uptown Girl palette

If you’ve been giving any thought to purchasing any of the above, I would absolutely recommend them! They’re all great buys, and you can click on the links above to see my experiences with the products or how I’ve been using them. I have a feeling I’m going to be using these throughout February, but I’m not yet sure what else will be joining them…

What did you love using in January? Did you make any fun beauty discoveries? Have you identified any Feb favourites yet? Drop me a line and let me know!

-A-