Monday, 28 August 2017

Brunch With Kilkenny And New Irish Design For AW17

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to brunch at Residence with Kilkenny to view their AW17 collections. As I love brunch and have fond childhood memories of Kilkenny, I was pretty excited. When I realised I was sitting with editors from some of my favourite Irish magazines and a blogger I had interacted with before but had never met IRL, I was even more excited. Our table was completed with one of the brand's buyers who explained all about their choices and ideas during the show, which was excellent, giving us a really insight into where Kilkenny is going.

Kilkenny is known for their occasionwear and has been a stalwart provider of outfits for stylish Irish women in a slightly older age bracket. Moving forward, they are aiming to keep these loyal, and discerning, customers happy, while also targeting a younger audience and more day-to-day needs. Two new casual brands Beaumont and 10 Feet (available in Galway and Swords only) have been introduced and while Kilkenny showed picks from Fossil and Guess, they reaffirmed their constant commitment to Irish design with pieces from the likes of Fee G and Caroline Kilkenny.

When it comes to the actual look that Kilkenny are all about this season, there's good news: it;s cute and cosy. Seventies florals and bold colours from hot pink to bottle green to maroon abounded and layering with stylish jackets, casually tossed scarves and light knits was key. For special events, there was a nice sprinkle of some structured, interesting alternatives to the standard dresses that were also shown, such as the maroon belted jumpsuit that everyone was swooning over. With pieces to appeal to all sorts of age groups, styles and lifestyles, there really is something for everyone now. Would I have liked some slightly bolder and more surprising aesthetic choices thrown in there? Sure. But, for now, Kilkenny is striding into the future in a way that I can totally get behind.

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Monday, 21 August 2017

Why you NEED to visit the Voya Seaweed Baths & Spa in Standhill!

A while ago, maybe a year or so, I got invited to a Voya press day at their Seaweed Baths & Spa in Strandhill, Sligo. As it was on a random Wednesday evening and I don't drive, there was no way to the other coast of Ireland and back in a day. I had to miss it, which seriously bummed me out. Strandhill is where the brand was born, as a seaweed bath, long before it was a line of cosmetics, and, as a fan of the brand, I've always wanted to visit.

Seaweed Baths were once a common fixture of Irish seaside towns and, in the early 20th century, there were 9 in the small town of Strandhill in County Sligo alone. However, during the 50s and 60s, these fell out of vogue and, eventually, closed down. Then, in 1996, the Voya (then Celtic) Seaweed Baths was opened under the Walton family, reviving local tradition and combining it with a love for organic treatments. Since then, Voya expanded into production as well as treatments and has grown as a brand with a cult following. Its line of skincare products are stocked in stores and spas all around the globe and the baths are now a popular tourist attraction and spa that attracts 40,000 people to the area each year.

Fresh seaweed is harvested every day to be used at the spa for traditional seaweed baths and this remains one of their most popular treatments. While you can get all sorts of massages and facials and treatments, I really wanted to see what all the fuss about these baths was. I'm a massive fan of the Voya line of products and have always seen a visible difference in my skin when using them. I was curious to see what effect a treatment using pure seaweed would have, given that all of their products use it as a base. Seaweed baths are said to remove toxins from the body and accelerate the healing process and as I'm a clumsy individual with dry skin prone to hormonal breakouts (and I was in the midst of a bad one), that sounded good to me.

My college bestie and I decided to make the trip over to Strandhill but couldn't find a place to stay in the village (between the surf schools and spa, it's a popular spot), so we stayed in nearby Sligo Town. On the Saturday, we cycled the 10km to Strandhill, grabbed brunch on the seafront and then went for our seaweed baths. Let me just tell you, if you're looking to relax, cycling around Sligo, fresh sea air and good food and company is the perfect recipe.

We were already happy and full going into the treatment but when we got to our double room and got into the process of climbing gingerly into our tubs, we got giddy. The seaweed is even slimier than you are imagining, as it is in a small, controlled body of water and getting the temperature right for your own tastes involves a lot of squealing, laughing and dipping toes in and out. However, once we'd gotten into the water and used to the texture (and pretended to be swamp monsters by putting seaweed on our heads), the giddiness eventually dissipated and all that was left was being toasty and cosy.

I will say, however, that if you're like me and cannot stand having a warm head, the process can be a little uncomfortable at times and I wasn't able to completely relax. But, if you're one of those people who can sleep fully underneath covers, you'll be in heaven.

After we got out and got dressed (forgoing showers to let those good seaweed juices to soak into our hair and skin), we both felt soft and happy but it wasn't until days later that I really saw the effects of the bath. I've been having excellent hair days for over a week (despite several days where I couldn't brush it properly due to having given myself a minor head injury) and my skin is glowing. Those breakouts I was bitching about? They are well on the way to being completely healed. And my overall skintone is more even and happy. This may also have something to do with the fact that I bought a Voya moisturiser while I was at the spa and have been using it every day since but, either way, the proof is in the pudding (or smooth skin): seaweed is freaking magical. Seriously. I think I'm sticking with my Voya moisturiser this time because I had missed it - the occupational hazard of being a beauty blogger and testing new shit all the time is limited loyalty to products, I guess, but there is a reason I still think of this guy and mentally cheat on other moisturisers...

Anyhoo...if you find yourself out West and are looking to relax and try out a traditional beauty experience, I can't recommend this highly enough! It's only a pity that spas that offer seaweed baths in Dublin absolutely rip you off (whereas we paid 27 quid each), or I'd do it on the reg.

P.S. Sligo is more gorgeous every time I'm there...

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Note: This post is not sponsored in any way, shape or form and all opinions are my own.


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Thursday, 10 August 2017

Wading Through The Bullshit: Talking Silly Trends, Excellent Tips and Essential Basics With A Skincare Expert

You've probably all heard of "revenge body" before but, as I don't enjoy sweating or being out of breath, that was never going to be an option for me. When I first had my heart broken a few years ago, I decided I'd show everyone with "revenge face" and, in the following months, countless family members, friends and acquaintances noted that I was glowing. This was when my skincare routine was born and I've never looked back. In fact, today, I'm a bit of a skincare fanatic.

Previous to these events, my skincare routine involved washing my face at night (maybe), slapping on some moisturiser (very rarely) and using acne creams (during manic bouts of trying to obtain "perfect skin"). Horrifying as this may seem to me now, I don't think that I was much of an anomaly for a young Irish women. I think many of us on this island, in fact, don't take care of our skin unless we suffer from incredibly bad acne or are starting to worry about aging.

But that's changing. As beauty influencers continue to sweep the internet, the culture of filters and Instagram distorts our view on beauty standards further and skincare becomes trendier and sexier, people are paying more attention. Skincare routines are becoming something less for celebrities, beauty editors and the organised and more something that everyone is adopting in one form or another.

Yay, right?

Well, not so much, as, because of that trendiness, there are infinite opinions, sources and products out there. Beginning is overwhelming and, even if you already have a routine, you're likely to hear about fads, solutions and problems with your skin that you didn't even realise you had!

How to wade through the bullshit then?

This bit is tricky. It can be hard to know who or what to believe as the whole industry has an agenda, I mean it is an industry: the point is to make money.

However, as someone who reads about the industry a lot and gets a lot of press releases, I feel like my bullshit radar is pretty well-honed. When I started getting press releases from Anne McDevitt - a skincare and beauty clinic that has been an Irish industry-leader for decades - I noticed a distinct lack of nonsense between the lines. In fact, I can't put my finger on just why but, for some reason, I felt like this was a company that I could believe. So, I contacted them and finally found a skincare specialist to sit down and answer all of my (and some of your) burning questions.

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Manager Jenny Philpott agreed to chat with me about skincare concerns, basics, cosmetic procedures and where to start with an industry so oversaturated in information and claims to solve all of your woes...

The first thing I wanted to know was if there were any beauty trends that she saw lately which bothered or worried her and she was quick to answer: "Overdoing it on lip-fillers. We have a doctor who has been coming to us for sixteen years now and, from the get-go, he has always been 'less is more'. Suddenly that trend started to creep in of 'more and more and more' but he refuses to do that." That there are less conscientious doctors out there (including the one giving an acquaintance's 17 year-old cousin top-ups on fillers every couple of months), is concerning. While you might be tempted to go all out with cosmetic procedures and should always have the freedom to do as you please with your own body (*ahem**Irish government**ahem*), you should also ensure that your doctor isn't just taking money without putting your well-being first.

Jenny's biggest pet peeve when it comes to skincare is simpler, however: "Not taking off makeup! Or just using makeup wipes. Or, if you want to get technical about it, people who don't take advantage of exfoliating their skin. You can be religious about cleansing, toning and moisturising your skin but if you're not getting those antioxidants on there, you just won't get that 'wow' skin. You need to do all your steps - they're there for a reason!...But the makeup thing is a big one."

When I bemoan my own personal struggle to get others to abandon wipes, she has a simple solution: "Cotton wool. Throw the cleanser on, on the couch, as you're watching television, massage it in and wipe it off with cotton wool. The Ph of wipes is damaging to your skin and leaves it dehydrated, which means you're going to get lines and wrinkles that much more easily. If you're prone to acne, they can make you break out more. Irish skin, as well, is typically sensitive so wipes are really just not for us in any way."

If you're already throwing away the wipes and promising yourself to turn over a new leaf as you read this (I wouldn't blame you after that), you may wonder what a routine should consist of. Well, I'm not going to lie and Jenny wasn't either, there are multiple steps and for a reason. A routine should consist of cleansing, toning, an antioxidant serum, moisturising, eye cream and SPF during the day. If you don't have time for all that, at least get the SPF on. And the factor? "At least a 30! Makeup brands got into the trend of 15 but we're all about the 30 here." But how to top up with sun protection? Because, if you have makeup on or simply don't have a moment to pull out the cream and reapply, that's the awkward thing. "It is an awkward thing. Eminence have an SPF 30 mineral powder that can be reapplied throughout the day to top up your protection," which is pure genius and a really handy solution. Remember that SPF only last ten times its number - for example, SPF 30 is good for 300 minutes - so, be sure to top up somehow through the day!

Speaking of routine essentials, here's a question people always ask me: What even is toner and why is it so important? Can't you just skip it? As I never manage to form a convincing response on the spot, Jenny has a simple explanation: "It is to balance the Ph in the skin after cleansing. However, it also is great for getting rid of residue [dirt, makeup etc] that may be left on the skin and it preps the skin for the next steps of a routine."

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When it comes to more complex routines, we discussed the concept of visiting a skincare clinic regularly. I've always been intrigued by this but, in Ireland at least, it seems the territory of only the wealthy or those with very problematic skin. In other countries, getting regular treatments and facials is somewhat common-place but I think the cost and lack of culture of it here puts people off. I ask if there is a way to do this that might match normal budgets or if you merely have to suck it up and shoulder a heavy cost for such a thing? Jenny was quick to emphasise that at Anne McDevitt they will do their very best to accommodate people. "We'll do treatment plans and do our best for clients. If someone comes in and says, 'I've three months until my wedding, what can I do?' we'll make an ideal-world plan but, if that doesn't work because of budget or something, we'll find a way to work around it. It might be using stronger products at home as a substitute or coming in every three weeks instead of every two weeks. We always customise everything. So, even if you're just coming in for a facial, you'll get a different facial every time."

On the topic of facials, I'm happy to hear that they do extractions because I've, literally, never had a facial in Ireland where they've done extractions. "Pretty much, for everyone's skin, no matter how clear, we'll have to do extractions. A lot of places don't do them as part of facials, or they do them wrong. You need to lift the skin, lift the pores - you don't pierce them or break into them. We open them with ingredients and steam, as an add-on." When I mention that I remember my sister saying she'd never have a facial again after breaking out and how I explained that facials bring stuff to the surface quicker and shouldn't be had before big events, Jenny nods in agreement: "You want a facial to change your skin but it might not change it for the better, at first...but if you get regular treatments, you don't have to go through that downtime as badly because we're maintaining it."

If you do have a breakout (particularly because of pesky hormones), though, what should you do immediately to help? "If you can feel it but can't see it yet, it's going to go one of two ways - it's going to come to a head or it's going to linger as a little red bump. The best thing to do is to get a fruit acid on it like a poultice and pull it out as quick as possible. When you get a head, it's an infection at the surface and it is great if you can extract it out but if you don't do it right, it's going to cause it to spread or to cause damage to the skin. You could also just leave it to heal naturally and just cover it up in the meantime."

Just leaving things is sometimes the way to go and, certainly, some things are best left to experts. "You can go too far with skincare. People come in for glycolic peels - and they can be great - but if you start getting them every week, you can wreck your skin. Home versions terrify me and there's going to be an epidemic, in years to come, of pigmentation and damage done."

Speaking of protection and later issues with your skin, I personally wanted to know about anti-aging, especially after a beauty rep recently scared the crap out of me about it. Jenny assures me that, at 25, I can calm down and should only worry, "really, once you hit your thirties. It's different person to person but that's a general rule." To begin, you should be wearing SPF always throughout your life and this will help slow the aging process "but, once you get to your thirties, you need to start looking at ingredients. Acai berries, for example, are really hydrating and full of antioxidants to help slow down the aging process, not to target it yet. You want to encourage collagen production and keep your elasticity stimulated."

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It was at this point in our conversation that I became aware that some people might still be lost and that we'd just thrown a pile of information at them. Having researched the clinic in advance, I had seen that one of their services was a consultation and Jenny explains that this isn't just for those starting a course of treatments, they can help you design a routine that is right for your and your own concerns. Best of all, she assures me, "We won't just sell everything. We can go through products you already own and tell you what's what. We have a brand and we'll recommend products from it but we won't push products in people." My Spidey senses, it turns out, were right. "We don't lie. If someone comes in for a consultation with bad pigmentation, for example, I'm not going to lie and say I can get rid of it unless I'm a hundred percent convinced I can really make a visible improvement on it."

And if you just were to start doing things at home to help your skin right now? If you can't afford treatments or to greatly update your routine? Firstly, that whole water thing: "Increase of water intake. We used to typically say 2 litres but I read about increasing it to 3-4 and did it myself and it made a big difference!" Other than that? "Spend an extra minute massaging products in," and Jenny's golden tip: "Exfoliation."

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If you're interested in talking to Jenny or any of the specialists at Anne McDevitt, for yourself, just check out their website here. Thanks to Jenny for making time for me!

Note: This post is not sponsored in any way, shape or form and all opinions are my own.


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