Sunday, September 29, 2013

Marie Claire's 25th Anniversary Celebrations & The First Ever Murad Day Spa Retreat

As part of Marie Claire's 25th Anniversary, London has been playing host to a number of special events throughout September.  As part of these celebrations, Murad were hosting it's first ever Day Spa Retreat at The Mayfair Hotel.

The event itself promised attendees the opportunity to meet Dr Murad and his son Jeff Murad, the VP of New Product Development, a treatment from a menu which included Indian Head Massages, Leg Lifts and Radiance Boosting Facials, a high-tech skin scan and a goodie bag full of some Murad Essentials.
I'm a recent convert to Murad. I'd been walking past the concession in my local department store for some time and had been tempted to stop by on numerous occasions.  Then fate struck me, I'd been flicking through my September copy of Instyle and there in front of me was an irresistible Murad offer; a bumper bag of goodies with any purchase.  Not being one to miss out on a deal, I finally plucked up the courage to stop by the counter.  As a starting point I was directed to use the Essential-C Cleanser which is part of the Environmental Shield Range and helps to protect the skin from free radicals and repair environmentally damaged skin, which is ideal for those living in the city.  After a couple of weeks I was told to pop back in for a free facial and a chance to talk about the products and have a closer look at my skin.

It was on my revisit that I was told about Dr Murad's impending to visit to the UK and being the product and beauty addict that I am, I jumped at the opportunity.  I mean, how often do you get the chance to meet the founder/creator of a skin care line, naturally my other half was brought along to enjoy the ride!

Now for those who don't know much about Murad, here's my Murad 101:
  • Dr Murad has 18 dermatological based patents with over 50,000 existing for the brand alone.  This includes patents on products within the Blemish Control Line which can boast an overall reduction of spots and acne of 90% in just 4-weeks great for those with problem teenage skin
  • Vogue have called Dr Murad one of the country's top dermatologists
  • Dr Murad was the first to introduce a range of Dr branded skincare
  • Murad are based in LA and are firm believers in Inclusive Healthcare - it's not just about the skincare, Murad also focus on supplements which benefit your body from the inside
  • Murad are one of the few brands to offer a full refund on their products in 30-days if you're not 100% happy with the results, now that's confidence in your products!
We were joined at the event by the Dr and his son, Jeff Murad who is the VP for New Product Development. The Dr then spoke to us about life as well as giving us a brief science lesson on skin!  What struck me most about the Dr's presentation was that there was no sales pitch, in fact, he barely mentioned his skincare at all instead focusing on taking care of yourself from the inside out. This will ultimately help to keep our skin youthful and glowing.

Another super important tip for good skin is to eat water dense foods such as cucumbers and watermelons. The water here is more structured thus keeping your body hydrated for longer than compared to when you simply drink 2 litres of water a day.  In the battle for hydrated skin, the Dr has now also created a new solution, which like another well-known skincare product helps to attract water to the skin, binds water to the skins surface and helps your skin to retain water.

He also suggested that 20% of the food we eat should be comfort food.  Why I hear you ask? Because eating these foods make us smile, they make us happy, and when your heart is happy, your skin will naturally glow.  This is fantastic news if you've got a sweet tooth like me, I'm certainly not willing to give up the cupcakes any time soon, and besides who would keep you updated with all the delicious food I've been eating!
The main focus, and what I took away from the talk is that you should stop striving to live up to everyone else's expectations, you are your own worst critic (so I was told directly by the Dr), your smile is your most beautiful aspect, and you should learn from your inner toddler.  This final point especially rings true, when we were young we were so curious, free of inhibitions, we were just happy being ourselves, being free and we were comfortable within our own skin.  As we get older, this all changes as rules and regulation of working life become the norm and the stresses of  these changes can really take their toll on our skin and our health.
Once the Dr had finished, it was time to move on to the high-tech skin scans. Here, a specialised camera scans your face so you can see what is really going on underneath all that make-up.  I was good and only wore a slick of mascara so hopefully the machine didn't have to work to hard. Once your face has been scanned, the consultants can point out where the early signs of ageing are creeping in, any areas of pigmentation, sun-damaged skin, acne, redness and congestion of the pores and can tailor a routine to fit your needs.  Another plus with the Murad range is there is something to suit every single skin care concern with 8 different ranges which can be mixed and matched to suit you.
The final part of the day involved a mini facial in the treatment rooms which was incredibly relaxing. My skin was thoroughly cleansed before a Glycolic Peel was applied and left for a couple of minutes.  This is an intensive exfoliating treatment which encourages faster cell turnover to reveal glowing skin, there a slight tingle whilst the treatment was on my skin but that let me know it was working.  The peel was then removed and my skin moisturised with the Essential-C Day Moisturising cream, again from the Environmental Shield Range which smells incredible.  Ad had the same treatment and he even noted that his skin had never felt so soft, both of us still had wonderful skin following a very good nights sleep.
After the facial, I had the chance to invest in some new products which were recommended based on the results of my skin scan.  At the moment, my skin is a little dehydrated with signs of hormonal ageing so I grabbed the Time-Release Blemish Cleanser and the Skin Perfecting Lotion.  Ad also grabbed some goodies as well, I can't wait to see how he finds the results!

To top off the experience we were both given a goodie bag with Murads Summer Essentials.  I received a travel size of Essential-C Cleanser, which I've loved using to date so this was a welcome treat, a broad spectrum sun-cream (which is handy if your moisturiser doesn't have an SPF), a pomegranate lip-gloss which again, smells wonderful and has a cheeky bonus of having an SPF, active radiance serum which promises results within a week and finally a lovely beach bag.
Whilst the summer sun might be dwindling away, my skin will still be glowing.  Please keep an eye open for my review on the Clarifying Mask which has already proven itself to be a star product in my books and I've only been using it for a couple of weeks!  If you'd like any more information on Dr Murad and his products then please go to the Murad Website, here you can also find out what products will be right for you by taking their free online test.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Don't Have Time To Workout & [Insert Other Excuse Here]

Let’s face facts; everyone has time if they’re completely honest with themselves. The reality of the situation is that they just don’t want to make the time.

No, I'm not being mean or unrealistic either!

The fitness market itself is booming and generates billions of pounds per year. As a result, companies need to find new ways to appeal to their consumers which includes acknowledging that not everyone is young, single and sans children. As the industry continues to grow, so do the options available to you regardless of age, budget and time, you just need to know where to look.

Now, when I first started really thinking about working out I was pretty broke, and I mean really broke. Never being a real fan of joining a gym (and not being able to afford it either) I invested in Jillian Michaels 30-day Shred which was a bargain at only £5 if purchased from HERE and promised results after only 20 minutes a day (plus a warm up/cool down) with three levels of intensity. The only other thing which I needed was a small set of hand weights, a set of 1kg weights can be picked up from Sports Direct, again, for well under a fiver. Cheap, cheerful and no fancy equipment required.

As a boost to my new exercise regime, I thought I could use a diet plan to run alongside and which wasn't going to cost the earth to follow! Step forward, Special K.

Special K offer a free diet plan which is available both online and via a free app. You enter some simple bits of information and they will tailor a plan to work around you. There are free recipes which are generated for all of your meals throughout the day (none of which are particularly complex), advice forums and support if you need it. There is also a tracker where you can enter what you’re eating, what exercise you’re doing and it lets you know how you’re getting on. Did I happen to mention it’s free??

Another fantastic resource which is free can be found online. Lionsgate BeFit have several videos on their Youtube channel which range in length, intensity and target body area from trainers such as Jillian Michaels, Jane Fonda, Denise Austin, Royce Clayton and more.

So I suppose my first point is you don’t need to join a gym or spend thousands of pounds in order to get yourself started; if you can’t afford £10 for the basics, then look outside your front door! That road right there is free to run on any time of day.

Right, now to move on to the issue of not having the time; as I've said above, the 30-day Shred workouts by Jillian take 20 minutes, everyone has 20 minutes in their day. Whilst I know there are other trainers/DVD’s out there, I find the workouts Jillian Michaels has to offer work best for me and get my heart rate up, plus if I'm having an off day, she always tells you how to modify the moves to make them simpler and vice versa if you’re feeling strong. If you don’t like the idea of 30-day Shred, she also has a DVD called Kickbox Fast Fix which is 20 minutes all in. Two of the three levels don’t even require any equipment at all!

Another trainer who I've recently discovered is by Shaun T who has a programme called T-25, if you've heard of the Insanity workout programme this is a super condensed version which takes 25 minutes. There are two phases, Alpha and Beta and the workouts range from pure cardio to abs to upper/lower body so all areas are covered. Now I should warn you, these workouts are tough but you’ll definitely get a lot out of them if you stick at it.

Still convinced you can’t find an extra 30 minutes? Firstly, bear in mind those 30 minutes only make up 2% of your total day. Secondly, try waking up 30 minutes earlier than usual if you’re a social butterfly and can’t find time in the evenings. I personally like to head straight home from work and crack on with my workout before I settle in, then I can shower and climb into my PJ’s for the evening but if I'm busy, I find the time in the mornings before I head to work.

Once you get going, there are endless resources which you can use to support a healthy lifestyle. I have a couple of favourites at the moment, one of which being James Duigans Bodyism Website, which posts healthy recipes from his Clean & Lean Diet and hints and tips on moves which can be used to target certain body areas but I'm happy to tell you lots of others – all you have to do is ask.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stressed Out Skin? Fear Not...Kiehl's Are Here To Offer A Helping Hand!

Now Ladies (and Gents) we all suffer from stressed out skin ever so often; air-conditioning, over-exposure to the sun, bitter winds, and dare I say it, hormonal fluctuations can all lead to your skin playing up.

"But I'm not stressed" I hear you cry...I'm sorry to say it, but your skin says otherwise.  It's in your DNA to release certain responses when under strain which result in your skin becoming dry, blotchy, red and sadly, usually at the worst possible time. You may even suffer with random outbreaks of spots when your skin is usually bright, clear and generally well behaved.

Step in Kiehl's Skin Rescuer a daily moisturiser priced at £29.50 for 75ml.
The sign outside the Kiehl's store promised to combat the physical signs of stressed out skin reducing redness, blotchiness, dehydration and even help skin which looks fatigued.  The results suggested that with 4 weeks use your skins overall appearance could be improved by as much as 100% all with the added bonus of the product itself being paraben free! CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
As you can see, the moisturiser itself comes with a pump dispenser which is quite handy for ensuring you don't use to little or to much on your face.  Other points of note are that this can be used as both a morning and evening moisturiser and works well on top of any serums which you're using; I've used this with both my day and night serums.  The moisturiser itself is light, non-greasy and is easily absorbed into the skin; I found it to be a delight to use without affecting my make-up.

I used this for a couple of days initially and the results were fantastic, my skin had calmed down massively with the red patches reducing by almost half. As I have two day moisturisers on the go, I've taken to alternating between the two and using this mid-week while I'm longing for the weekend to arrive!

So, how does it work?

The moisturiser contains chamomile which  is known for it's calming qualities, mannose which helps to protect and maintain the skins barrier and rosa gallica which helps to reduce the skins sensitivity thus reducing the signs of fatigue and redness.

For those who are looking to dip a toe into the Kiehl's range, this is a fantastic place to start. Remember though, good skin care is no substitute for a good nights sleep which is a natural stress reliever and is always guaranteed to give your skin that inner glow.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fiery Foods Festival - Brighton

Being the foodie I am, it should come as little surprise that most weekends in the life of Laura involve good food in one form or another.  My default setting when it comes to the TV is the Food Network which drew my attention to the Chilli Festival in Brighton - given the incredibly toasty summer, I thought to myself "wow, what a great idea".
Pachadis, chutneys, ketchup, marinades, cakes, chocolate, fudge and cooking oils were just some of the uses I came across in my culinary travels on Saturday.  Although, before I continue I should point out I'm more of a Korma girl when it comes to chilli heat, whereas Ad (my better half) is the equivalent of Dave Lister.
The Festival itself is a great opportunity for food fans to sample chilli in all of the above formats, whilst it may be a little daunting for the more timid chilli fan, it was incredibly surprising to hear the vendors insist that for them, it's all about taste. The Gentleman at Grim Reaper Foods advised that whilst, yes, his food did have a kick, this didn't compromise the flavour of his sauces.  He was quite right, I've recently discovered Chipotle Sauce so spotting the Jekyll or Hyde....You Decide sauce (which has won a Gold Taste Award in 2012) I thought I'd give it a go.  The sauce itself had a wonderfully smokey flavour which builds to a heat which I was able to tolerate, but the most important thing - I could still taste all the different flavours!  This stuff would be amazing on a bacon sandwich the morning after.
One of my favourite aspects of the festival was the use of chilli in sweet items - cake, chocolate and fudge to name but a few.  The fudge I sampled at Yum Yum Tree Fudge was absolutely wonderful, containing less sugar than your conventional fudge but making no compromises on taste.  There were two varieties of chilli fudge available, one being somewhat warmer than the other; my preference? The chocolate chilli fudge was delicious with a subtle chilli flavour that just warms the palette - I also walked away with a bag of their mango fudge, not chilli based I know, but no less yummy. If you fancy trying some yourself and you're London based, make a B-Line for Harrods soon.

Perhaps what drew in the most crowds over the course of the day was the chilli eating contest.  Now before you roll your eyes I should point out a couple of the rules. Firstly, the chillies are all eaten raw (note the use of the word eaten). All contestants must chew the chilli, it is not acceptable to just bite and swallow.  Secondly, no drinks are allowed between the rounds; if a contestant chooses to take a drink, then they are eliminated; similarly if one hiccups something which is more than a hiccup (use your imagination), then you're also eliminated.
The contest started out with 15 hopefuls, only two of whom were women; please make a note of the fact that there is a bucket in front of every contestant (not that they were used; one such person opted for the floor instead).  The aim of the game was to get through 12 rounds, each one increasing in intensity in terms of chilli heat.  The heat of a chilli is measured in Scoville Units (SHU), the competition started at 2,000 SHU and ended at 1,400,000.  To give you an idea, a JalapeƱo is only 7,000 SHU and is mild in comparison to the finale, a Moruga Scorpion which can range from 1,400,000 to 2,000,000 SHU.  As the event progressed it was clear some of the contestants were in a considerable amount of pain with only 2 remaining for the final three rounds.  Panic not though, once the contest was over, paramedics were on sight with sugar and milk to ease the stomachs. 
Whilst I wasn't brave enough (or stupid enough, I'll let you decide) to try the stronger hot sauces on offer, the tiniest dip in a sauce or a chutney would be sufficient to ascertain whether it would be something you'd enjoy.  I did get the chance to watch Ad try a Moruga Scorpion paste and the pain is quite clearly evident on his face!  I can safely say, I was glad I wasn't him this morning.

Let's not forget that even if you don't intend or cannot stomach to use a hot sauce on its own,  just remember that as a last minute addition to a stew, it can add a whole new depth to your dish and give that extra layer of flavour.

All in all, a great afternoon with a rare opportunity to sample a wide array of chilli-based products which will satisfy everyone from the most timid to the downright heroic.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Organised Clutter That Is My Dressing Table

This is my dressing table – every woman probably has this space somewhere in her home, be it tucked away in a bathroom cabinet or an entire shelf crammed full of the ‘essentials’ that make up your everyday routine. I thought today it might be fun to share mine. 

I have OCD about things being tidy so as you can see, my space is organised into body care, hair care, skin care and even my perfume collection is neatly placed together with a few knick-knacks dotted in between.

You might have noticed there are quite a few sample sizes floating around – skincare is an investment and before I decide to commit myself, I quite enjoy having the opportunity to try a product for a month or so to see if it suits my skin or even makes the differences it claims to make.

My essentials are:

Cotton Pads – these really are indispensable, they’re handy for applying your toner, make-up remover and even a wipe off cleanser.  You can normally pick these up for around 99p so there’s no excuse not to have some stashed away!

Finishing Powder – Whilst summer has been all about the dewy fresh faced look, I prefer a more matte finish – this stuff is also great for helping to keep any excess oil at bay.

Clinique Superbalm – Whilst I almost always have a lip balm handy, this stuff is great for those few occasions when my lips get really sore.  I apply this before heading to bed and my lips are always right as rain the next morning.  The product is so iconic that it now comes in a range of colours so it’s great for day time use as well.

Pureology Split-End Treatment – I frequently colour my hair so I’ve been a Pureology convert for a while now.  For those who aren’t familiar with the brand – its vegan, paraben free and consistently wins awards for its ability to care for coloured hair without stripping the colour.  This product is great if you’ve got longer hair and you’re trying to buy a little more time between cuts. 

L’Oreal Mythic Oil – When it comes to multi-functional products this is a bit of a godsend.  I tend to use this on my hair while it’s still damp to help speed up the drying time (no seriously, it really does!) and give my hair a little more shine.  This can also be used to tame flyaway’s once your hair is dry/styled or as a nourishing overnight treatment to be washed off in the morning.  A little really does go a LONG way.

Body Brush – These have been mentioned by beauty editors till they’re blue in the face – I use this solely on my legs and thighs which takes me a whole 60 seconds.  Elle Macpherson swears by a body brush to the extent she’s released her own electronic rotating version – nuff said.  Also be sure to moisturise your body every day, especially in winter when your skin takes much more of a beating.

Perfumes – I love anything which is rose based and a little sweet.  Even when I’m buying a new fragrance, it’ll tend to have the same sort of base note.

Cleanse/Tone/Moisturise – These are the three skincare steps you really need to follow – there are no excuses!  I don’t think people always realise how important toning your skin is! Panic not – I shall do a more in depth post on this soon. 

I have three moisturisers on the go at the moment; two for the day depending on how my skin is looking and one for the evening.  I also have two different serums; one for day and one for the night (bonus points for guessing which one is which).

And finally:

Eye Cream – I cannot stress how careful you need to be about using your normal moisturiser around your eye area.  The skin around your eyes is incredibly sensitive and delicate which is why it can be prone to puffiness/dark circles and dryness (woo-hoo!).  The skin here is also much thinner so if your normal moisturiser is full of harsh chemicals, these can be absorbed and damage the area even further!

What are your everyday essentials?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ideal Shades for Autumnal Nails

Normally, I'm fairly loyal to my nail varnish brands - O.P.I, Nails Inc. and the occasional Sally Hansen polish are the only brands which frequent my incredibly cluttered nail varnish drawer.

The pigments are true to form, the formulations are long lasting (which is ideal if you're heavy handed like me and particularly careful) and they don't dry out my nails.

Now the colder weather is setting in, I'll be switching my nail varnish to more autumnal shades of deep reds, plums and dark neutrals.  Recently, I received a bottle of No.13 Reverence De Bastien in my September Birchbox and the sight of the colour alone was enough to get me a little excited.

I had heard of Bastien before, his reputation lies in the manicures and pedicures conducted at his spas worldwide which have received critical acclaim.  Magazines such as Instyle and Harper's Bazaar had often listed his treatments as a must have, awarding the same numerous awards in the process.  Naturally, the 'nail lacquers' as he calls them peaked my interest at around £16 a pop.
As you can see, the colour itself it is a deep dark red - almost akin to a Claret wine colour (I've taken photos in two different light settings so you get an idea of how the colour can change depending on the light).  The product promised to be 3 Free which is something I have noted brings it in line with other key players in the industry.

For those who aren't sure - 3 Free means free from Toluene, Formaldehyde and DBP.  These are often added to nail varnishes as a result of their ability to make a polish more flexible and give the dried varnish that shiny smooth finish which you so often see.  As you'd expect, these sorts of formulations can damage your nails, not to mention the fact that they're toxic to your body and so should be avoided if possible!

I found the varnish easy to apply - only two coats gives the depth of colour which you can see above.  I followed my usual technique of base coat, two layers of varnish and a top coat to help the varnish last a little longer.  I've had the varnish on for a few days now and the varnish has not chipped at all so in terms of durability this is definitely one to consider if you're heavy handed like me.
My only criticism of the product would be that it seems to 'bruise' quite easily.  I applied the varnish at around 8 in the morning and it looked wonderful all day.  However, after having gone to bed and woken up the following day my nails have imprints from whatever fidgeting I've done during the night - these imprints are what I've affectionately termed bruising.  Normally, I only find that this happens if I've done my nails about an hour before heading to bed so I was a little surprised to find the same had happened despite having done my nails so long beforehand.

All in all a vibrant colour which is true to form and long lasting with a slight tendency to bruise.

I'd love to know what colours you look forward to using as the weather takes a cooler turn.

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