Friday, 21 November 2014

Gift Guide 2014 - Beauty and Grooming

I think that there are few things as lovely a surprise and wonderfully decadent as beauty or grooming products as gifts. Especially when they are things you would never justify buying for yourself. High-end cosmetics and skincare are a nice gift idea for people already obsessed or even those not yet converted. Particularly skincare, taking care of your skin is important for everyone and the sooner you get started, the better. Christmas also means cute gift sets and special edition products.

Here's the stuff I picked out after a lengthy trawl all over the internet.

Beauty and Grooming

There's a mixture of types of products here. I didn't want to go down the route of "for him" or "for her", "for dad" or "for mam", etc. I personally think there's something a wee bit...condescending about that? Like, I don't know what your mother would like, if your sister wears makeup or if your brother likes to smell like fancy bath products. Obviously there is some traditional gendering present or insinuated but I didn't want to impose it on others. So, instead, I present things I thought were cool to do with as you please (or don't). The only thing I would say is that when it comes to skincare, men and women do have different needs and would suggest buying the prescribed sets for the indicated genders...even if your male friends are well jealous of your Eve Lom moisturiser.

Makeup suggestions come from a range of brands and price points. The Topshop Smokey Eye Kit has since sold out online but is available in stores at £22.00 and is not only sweet because it comes with an eye palette, mascara and kohl but also is sold in a box which makes it perfect to give as is or easier to wrap. The Nars lip pencils are not only dreamy colours but pretty damn good value at £32.00 for five high end lip products. And, while the Charlotte Tilbury palette may seem pricey at €50.00, it's the ultimate luxury palette in screen siren shades and uber-gorgeous packaging. More wallet-friendly options under twenty quid are the Etude House lipsticks, The Balm face palette and the super-sweet novelty lip glosses from Urban Outfitters in the shape of a mince pie and gingerbread man. Another inexpensive idea is the eye makeup keyring from H&M which makes for a really cool stocking filler and the nail polish cracker set from Urban Outfitters which I'd like as a pleasant change from ones with crappy plastic toys inside. My last pick here is the exceptionally gorgeous brush set from Bobbi Brown which is less affordable, more drool-worthy.

I've chosen two makeup bags/wash bags which really could be unisex - more so in the case of the Herschel wash bag and less so in the case of the ASOS makeup bag. I think both are simple but cute enough to also work for a range of different people and age groups in your life.

The remaining items are all grooming or skincare. The Eve Lom kit is a stunner, packed with awesome skincare, while the Clinique Good Skin for men is less aesthetically pleasing but equally effective. Speaking of stunning, the Baylis and Harding set is a steal with an amazing weekend bag and five products for under forty euro! This a seriously good deal and won't go remiss in anyone's life - whether it be a slightly out-of-touch dad in need of a little chic in his life or a boyfriend looking to make his wardrobe a little more grown up...or a Colette in love with the bag. The L'Occitane Shaving Tradition set is less good value but equally chic and adult - a serious touch of luxury for a dude in your life. More luxury is present in the form of the Laura Mercier Ambre Vanille bath set. It's one of my favourite scents for good reason and this set is pure decadence. Lastly, RJR John Rocha at Debenhams are offering these lovely little manicure sets and making the mundane seem wantable.

So, see anything you want...I mean any good ideas for gifts...heh...heh.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Le Skincare Routine

I love skincare.

More than makeup.

To many, it may seem like a boring chore (and I won't pretend I don't skip the full routine every now and again when I'm feeling super-lazy) but I think there's something really luxurious about high-end skincare. It's taking a moment to entirely focus your energy and time on yourself. And it sure is an easier way to take care of yourself than exercise or avoiding eating deliciously bad-for-you things.

Consistency is key with skincare so I never change my routine hugely. I swap out moisturisers or cleansers or rotate a few at any one time but the steps remain the same, if somewhat refined as I go forward.

Morning is very simple. I don't use cleansers and instead use plain water to wash my face because, unlike in the evening, my skin doesn't have a night of healing ahead of it. I don't want to strip it first thing. After washing my face, I use Lush's Tea Tree Toner and then Ren's Vita Mineral Omega 3 Optimum Skin Oil* to make sure the last of the impurities are cleansed and moisture is immediately returned to my face. Then I use a little of Ren's V-Cense Youth Vitality Day Cream*. To finish, I use a high SPF suncream.

The evening routine is more elaborate. I cleanse with VOYA's Cleanse and Mend* most nights but a couple times a week I use Yes To Carrots Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser, applying and massaging it very gently into the skin so as not to damage it. The same toner and oil come into play at this stage and then Ren's V-Cense Night Cream*. On top of this I apply Yes To Cucumbers Soothing Eye Gel and then a dab of pure tea tree oil to any blemishes I might have. Lastly, as I get into bed, I moisturise my hands with Laura Mercier's Ambré Vanille handcream (so lovely it makes drunk people stop in the street and demand what the smell is...several times) and apply a little of Eve Lom's Kiss Mix to my lips.

Other than this, I also regularly use Lush's Catastrophe Cosmetic and Mask of Magnanimity masks to try and keep hormonal blemishes in check, alongside Ren's Flash Rinse 1 Minute Facial* to brighten the skin.


And there we have it!

I won't say I have anywhere near perfect skin but it's certainly better behaved, softer and more well cared for. And I can attribute that to nothing more than the awesome products I use and research and time put into figuring out a routine that works for my skin - which is combination with dryness around the nostrils and an oily t-zone as well as being prone to hormonal breakouts.

I would also say that you can probably devise a more inexpensive system but I'm personally cool with spending a bit more, especially for products that are more natural...also, all products marked with a * have been sent or gifted to me so I'm a wee bit spoiled...

Monday, 17 November 2014


I've played personal shopper to many a family member and friend over the years. If people want to know where to buy a particular kind of garment they tend to ask me. I'm known to pick up ridiculous bargains - how many people can say they bought a pair of Stella McCartney heels for less than the retail price of most Primark heels?

See, shopping is kinda my thing. If it were a sport, I'd surely be representing Ireland.

And, charitable and kind soul that I am, I thought I'd share my skills with all y'all and help any dudes/people wanting to shop in the menswear sections (I know I do often enough) out there who might be looking to find the perfect coat on the high street. I've broken this down into categories and, if I'm honest, I think any well-dressed individual would be remiss in having a wardrobe without a least one of each of the following sorts of coats. But if you're only in the market for one of them, you're in luck too.

The Leather Jacket

Timeless, endlessly wearable and, if chosen correctly, durable. The right leather jacket can last a lifetime. But, if you're not yet ready to invest, a cheaper faux version can get you by (or if you're opposed to the wearing of leather). If you have the patience and time I would actually recommend trawling charity shops, thrift stores or vintage shops for this item. More often than not, you'll get a better quality, more inexpensive version than you will on the highstreet. For those short on time or energy, this is a less feasible option so feast your eyes on the beauties I've dug up below.

Menswear Outerwear - Leather Jacket

(From Left to Right: Zara, €89.95, H&M, €79.99, Zara, €49.95, H&M, €199, Zara, €49.95)

The Dressy Coat

Sure, you can't wear it with every outfit but clean lines underneath will immediately seem dapper. Hell, even sweatpants are a go if you want to do dressed-up sport luxe. Think of it as women do nice lingerie, the thing to make you feel damn good even on a crappy day. Plus, you can't really throw a parka on over a suit.

The Dressy Coat

(ASOS, €177.73, Topman, €165, COS, €190, ASOS, €142.69, Religion, €284.64)

The Everyday/Practical Coat

You might not be able to just throw that parka over a suit but you still need it, or something similar. Something just a stylish but a little less sleek and a little more practical. This is the coat you get the most mileage out of, the one to keep you warm and dry - it's one to think on a little.

Everyday/Practical Coats

(Top Row: Topman, €82, Topman, €140, Topman, €88, H&M, €59.99. Bottom Row: COS, €225, Topman, €76)

The Trench

A classic trench is exactly like a leather jacket, timeless. There is a sad shortage of the traditional variety in camel or beige in stores at the moment but the options below are pretty damn good all the same. This is one purchase you won't regret as long as you ensure a great fit with room for layers beneath. I've an awesome trench but you can't get a thick jumper underneath which renders it infinitely disappointing.

The Trench

(Topman, €115, Topman, €94, Selected, €89.57, Diesel, €355.45)

The Road Less Travelled

These picks are coats that are a little different, a little fresher, with a bit more flare or adventure. We're talking a-symmetry, vintage appeal, decadent fur trims, interesting silhouettes and material choices. Less wardrobe classics or basics and more something to try if you're feeling brave.

The Road Less Travelled

(Zara, €79.95,  American Apparel, €221.80, Zara, €159, Zara, €159)

Well, any particular favourites?

(Please note that all items were available going to press and this may not be the case if you try to purchase afterwards. Furthermore, all Topman prices are converted from pounds as this is the only price given online, the instore conversion may differ somewhat.)

Sunday, 16 November 2014


In the summer, my home is bursting with life. The hedges grow out, obscuring the roads, and the grasses grow tall. Before I started to suffer from hayfever, I would lie in the long cool grass and pretend to swim in it. I would hide from my parents and the merciless sun above (when it deigned to make an appearance at all). Still I become petulant when these things are sheared back, mown, put in "order". To me, it ruins the wild beauty all around that I love so.

In the winter, it is a different place. But it is beautiful all the same. Just different. It becomes bare and skeletal. All those abundant trees shake off their leaves and leave dancing limbs behind. The place is alive with noise rather than life; wind whistles through the emptiness and rain beats against the hard earth. Those same grasses grow lower and allow great sweeping views across starkly lovely landscapes, the peaks of Wicklow off in the distance. Though the sunsets come too soon, they stain the sky the most wonderful colours and the cool air is the sweetest and freshest I've ever known. I walk these paths and roads, ones I've walked thousands of times. I cycle with my parents. I laugh with my brother and sister. I chase after my ageing dog. I look around and, twenty-three years on, it is the most beautiful place I have ever known. I love my home and everything in it. It's not the stifling place that the nearby town where I went to school is - it's the place that bred me. It made that earlier version of me that knew nothing of unkindness or troubles and merely explored and questioned and adventured and tried. It was the giant garden of my youth and the haven of my teen years. And, now, it is my respite from adult life. It reflects who I am. I see myself in the wildness, in the empty ache and in the life-filled joy. 

I look around and I feel it in my heart, a sense of belonging so precious I know myself privileged to have it. I can see the love in the home I now spend less time in. But I know that it will remain my home forever more none the less.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Jessica Nails Peeling Nails Treatment Kit

For three months at the beginning of this year I was a vegetarian. One of the main reasons that that didn't continue any longer was because of my nails. I could immediately see that they had deteriorated terribly, which was shocking to me as they've always been strong and healthy. They were peeling and the visible toll on my body worried me. I kind of realised I'm not yet responsible enough to ensure I'm getting all the minerals and vitamins my body needs sans meat. Since then, their condition was made worse by my part-time jobs over the summer - stock-taking in dusty backrooms and then working in a kitchen.

It quietly worried me over the months as it wasn't improving.

When I got the chance to review Jessica Nails Peeling Nails Treatment Kit, I jumped at it. And, to be honest, I did expect it to work. I love Jessica Nails as a brand; season after season they have the best colours, any manicures from them have been perfect and the treatments I've used before for moisturising have worked to a tee.

I use it once a week and have done so for about a month now. I can honestly say I find my nails to be stronger and in a better condition.

It's a three part system which also allows for the application of colour but leaves the nails looking neat and pretty without any additions. First you apply two coats of the Fusion which fuses layers of nail together and strengthens and conditions. At this point you can add two layers of colour, if you wish. Then you apply a coat of Brilliance to speed up drying and add a gloss - this is to be repeated every three days top it up. The last step is to massage Phenomen Oil into the cuticles to nourish them and promote growth and keep nails supple.

This sounds complicated and time-consuming but I guarantee it isn't if I'm doing it on the reg. It's very easy to use and really doesn't take that long to do. In fact, it's a pretty therapeutic process.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone facing peeling nails. But the one thing I would mention is that sometimes sloppy application causes the edges of the topcoat to lift from the nail after a day or two making them look messy. Which is a pain but a rather minimal detraction from an otherwise awesome product.

The kit can be purchased online and in retailers and spas or salons carrying Jessica products and costs €20.

Do you have any magic solutions to major nail problems?

*This item has been sent to me to review but all opinions are my own and have not been swayed by a third party*