Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Review | Palmer's Purifying Mask

*Miracle product alert!*

My skin has been going through a pretty rough time recently. I've been working really hard at confronting my anxiety and taking positive steps forward but because it's involved a lot of emotional digging and determination I think my skin has gone haywire as a result! 

This morning I decided to treat my skin to some TLC. I purchased Palmer's Purifying Mask (£5.99 at Superdrug) a month or so ago but have only just got round to testing it out, and I wish I'd made use of it sooner! I know I often fall in love with beauty products, and I don't want to sound like an over-eager blogger who can't differentiate between good/great/life changing (well, in the beauty side of life!) but believe me when I say that in terms of sorting out my skin this mask really is life changing! My skin had gotten so rough and red from bouts of dermatitis and acne that I'd honestly forgotten what it felt like to have 'normal' soft skin on my face, particularly on my chin and forehead. After using this for the first time not only did my skin look far less red, to the extent that my mum commented on how healthy my skin looked, it felt like 'normal' skin again; smooth, soft and not at all rough. A real miracle product. 

Here's a heads up on my crazy skin and its complicated requirements *sigh* I suffer from outbreaks of dermatitis on and off, particularly on my chin and forehead. Along with these unsightly rough, dry, flaky patches my chin is acne prone, involving both under the skin cystic spots and blackheads. When dermatitis and acne combine I find it really difficult to control or shift either one. Products designed for spot prone skin dry mine out even further, while products targeted at very dry skin aggravate spots. I've found the best method of cleansing for me is using a hot cloth cleanser every evening, as it gently sloughs away dead skin and flakes while soothing spots and leaving my skin well nourished. I love using face masks for an extra deep clean but have found lots irritate my sensitive, crazy combination skin which is frustrating. Not this Palmer's miracle though!

The key ingredients in Palmer's Purifying Mask are kaolin clay for deep cleansing and sweet almond oil for softening. There's a handy ingredients chart on the back of the tube detailing other main ingredients and how they benefit the skin, which I love as it makes it so easy to see whether or not it might meet your skin's needs. Alongside kaolin and almond oil are moisturising cocoa and shea butters and antioxidant Vitamin E. If you've used any of the other facial skincare products in the Palmer's range you'll know that they actually have a floral white lily fragrance, rather than chocolatey cocoa butter, which I'm a little bit saddened by because I love the original cocoa butter scent! But I guess it might be a tad overwhelming applied to the face. I've used the sensitive skin facial wash gel and calming lotion before and loved those too, so I suspected the mask would be suitable for my skin, but I didn't realise just how fab this it would be!

I applied a light layer to my chin, forehead and nose and left it on for ten minutes to let it work it's goodness. It feels completely comfortable on my sensitive skin and although it hardens slightly it isn't too tight and it doesn't hurt, which is a problem I've had with other clay based masks. I then removed it gently with a warm muslin cloth. The results really are instant. The red inflammation on my chin was almost entirely gone; the skin was no longer rough in texture at all, and all bumps and blackheads had reduced in size. I ran my finger back and forth over my chin in wonder; how did it work so fast?! I honestly can't remember a time when my skin has felt or looked as soft and healthy as normal skin does. Plump, healthy, smooth skin. The results last, as my face still feels incredibly soft now, hours after and with a layer of make-up on. Because of how smooth my face feels I was able to apply foundation with ease, with no flaking or clumping. Everything looked better, from foundation to concealer to powder. 

I am totally head over heels in love with Palmer's Purifying Mask. I can't promise it will be a miracle product for everyone who uses it, but it definitely is for me. I feel like I've finally got my skin back, even if the results don't last forever. I feel much more confident today, as the redness is gone and my skin feels so much purer and healthier. It looks so much better than usual! I'd highly recommend this if you're looking for a gentle yet effective mask on a budget, as not only is it brilliant for sensitive crazy skin like mine it's also very affordable at only £5.99. I won't be without this from now on! 

Browse Palmer's products here

Imogen x 

Monday, 29 July 2013

Disappointing Products | Makeup

The suspects...

*Taking cover from die hard Apocalips lovers* I kid of course, as obviously different products suit and agree with different people, and where would we be without variety in the world? I thought I'd round up some of the makeup items I've purchased over the past few months that have unfortunately failed to impress for various reasons. I'm quite fussy with texture and colour, and so I'm sure some readers will absolutely love some of the products featured, but alas what suits some of us might not suit others and vice versa. 

MUA Undress Me Too eyeshadow palette £4

Generally I'm a huge fan of MUA palettes and I was so excited to give this one a go as I'm a sucker for neutrals and this collection looked promising. Unfortunately, having experimented with it a fair few times I've decided it just isn't for me. There seems to be quite strong silver/pale blue undertones to a lot of the shades in the palette which doesn't appeal to me and unfortunately some of the shades look a little bit odd with my complexion. I've also found that unlike other MUA shadows these ones don't seem as pigmented and I need to apply quite a few layers to achieve a strong amount of colour. Ah well, you win some, you lose some. 

Seventeen Brow Scultping Pencil 'Natural Brown' £2.89 & Eye Kohl Soft Smudge Pencil 'Mocha' £2.89

Oh man, was I disappointed in these pencils. I only bought them as emergency items when staying at my fiance's sans makeup bag one weekend, but I figured as Seventeen have lots of great quality products these would be OK to use. I was wrong. Firstly, the eyebrow pencil. I found this has a very stiff, dry consistency making it difficult to use, and it also has an ashy finish which is off putting. The colour looked extremely strange on my brows, with very strong grey tones and I hated it as soon as I put it on. It was near impossible to blend properly and it dragged and tugged like crazy. Not a fan. As for the eye liner, as soon as I opened this the tip fell clean off which immediately irritated me. What if I couldn't find a sharpener?! It does an alright job of lining the upper lid but it's also quite stiff and therefore drags along the eyelid. Not impressed at all. 

Maybelline Mega Plush Volum' Express Mascara £7.99

This mascara seems to divide opinion and I'm firmly in the 'I hate it' camp. I found the 'flexor-brush' to be a complete gimmick and a nuisance when applying to my lashes. The idea is that it 'flexes' and bends as you apply, to help you grip the lashes, but I found it did the opposite and made it extremely difficult to get a good grip. The formula was lumpy and flaked like crazy throughout the day, and it failed to really define or do anything that noticeable to my lashes. It smells good though. So that's a plus. I guess. 

Bourjois Cream Blush '01' £7.99

I love cream blush so I was looking forward to trying out this little peach pot from Bourjois. It does seem like a very small pot for £7.99 but I thought I'd give it a go anyhow, especially considering the rather impressive stats given on the Bourjois website. 100% of 33 users found it 'very easy to blend', apparently. Well I must have freaky cheeks because I find the texture quite dry and not as creamy as I'd like, making it quite difficult to blend over foundation without sort of rubbing my foundation off in the process. While I quite like the peachy colour I do find it quite pale and in hindsight I think I prefer a slightly darker peach coral. So, a combination of the wrong colour choice and the wrong formula for me *sad face*

Rimmel BB Cream £6.99 & Match Perfection SPF15 Cream Compact £7.49

Two very simple reasons for disliking these. Rimmel BB Cream turned me into an absolute grease ball half an hour after applying, and I suffered a nasty allergic reaction to the Match Perfection Cream Compact. I actually really liked the texture of the Cream Compact but soon after using it I developed a horrible red rash all over my face that took days to calm down. I found that the BB Cream didn't deliver good coverage and it smells like old sun cream which I don't find all that appealing. I favour a base that keeps me relatively matte, so this isn't the one for me. I am, however, a big fan of Rimmel's Match Perfection liquid foundation which doesn't bring me out in a rash, thankfully. 

Maybelline Cover Stick £4.09

This was another emergency purchase and unfortunately it wasn't the wisest one. I really like Maybelline foundations so figured I'd like this stick concealer, yet it has a bizarre waxy consistency and it has a really greasy finish. It also has a very strong plastic soap smell which lingers after applying. While the coverage is decent it just doesn't feel comfortable and it doesn't have a matte finish, which is crucial for my shine prone skin. 

MAC Studio Finish Concealer £15

'Surely not?!', I hear you cry! There's no denying that the coverage this little pot delivers is superb, as is the initial consistency. I find it perfect for covering dark circles but it's when applied to blemishes that it all starts to go wrong for me. I've noticed that after a few hours the formula begins to break down, separating and leaving a strange film on my skin. If it happens to get wet at all it turns into a gooey texture which isn't very appealing! It also looks very shiny after a few hours and when touched up with powder it turns into a bit of a clumpy mess. While this pot has lasted me well over six months and while it's great for covering dark circles, I won't be repurchasing after it eventually runs out. Back to Benefit Boi-ing for me!

Bottom to top: Bourjois 'Peach on the Beach', Rimmel Apocalips 'Celestial' and 'Stellar'

               Bourjois Color Boost Glossy Finish Lipstick 'Peach on the Beach' £7.99

At first glance and at first swatch I loved 'Peach on the Beach' but I just can't get on board with the texture and finish once applied. It looks like a lovely juicy peach colour in the tube but I've found it too orange on my lips, which sounds silly but it just looks a bit odd with my fair complexion. Plus it really seems to cling to any dry bits and emphasises every crease on my lips which I don't like. I thought I'd love this but alas, once again, it just isn't meant to be. 

Rimmel Apocalips Lip Lacquer 'Celestial' & 'Stellar' £5.99 each

It's not so much a colour issue I've got with Apocalips, it's an application and finish issue. I love the idea of the rich, opaque, glossy lacquer and the colour range is really impressive, but I find it difficult to apply these neatly without colour bleeding like crazy beyond my lip line. I find myself constantly checking my lips when I'm out and about for colour control purposes, as I find that these smudge quite easily and never really feel that 'secure'. I've also found that colour constantly gets on to my teeth somehow which makes me feel very self-conscious! I'm constantly licking my teeth which makes me look strange and I worry about smiling properly in case my teeth are smeared with lipgloss. I really, really want to love these as I do like the colours and they have a unique texture but I'm just too nervous to wear them! The smell is also a bit of an issue as they have a very artificial sweet scent that is a little cloying. I'm still tempted to give some more shades a go but I'm worried I'll just end up with lipgloss covered teeth all the time! Waah. 

Have you tried any of the above? What are your thoughts? Let me know what you think!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Tarot | An introduction

Although Thoughts on Beautiful Things consists mostly of beauty related posts, tarot is a vocation I hold very close to my heart and after sharing some tarot information with interested beauty and lifestyle bloggers I thought I'd publish a post explaining a little bit about what tarot is and what it involves. Every tarot reader has a different style and approach. I approach tarot as a tool for personal development, insight and growth; reflecting on the past, centering on the present, and providing insight into potential futures. I hope you find the following interesting, please feel free to comment!

Exploring the cards with one of my friends at a recent Tarot evening I hosted

The Tarot might be something unfamiliar to readers of my blog and so I thought I'd try my best to answer some common questions in order to explain what the tarot is and, perhaps more importantly, what it isn't (!) I started reading the cards casually about two years ago and attended an excellent tarot course at Treadwell's in London at the start of 2013 in order to further my knowledge and enhance my reading skills. One of my long term aims for 2013/2014 is to set up my tarot reading business as I truly believe the cards can be used as a powerful and empowering tool for healing, growth and understanding. Below are some common questions people often ask about tarot, and my personal responses. 

What is the tarot?

Simply put, the tarot is a deck of seventy eight cards featuring illustrations (in more modern and popular decks), numbers and symbols. Tarot consists of the Major Arcana, Minor Arcana and Court cards. The Major Arcana is a set of twenty two cards depicting 'the fool's journey', or the journey of the human spirit from birth to enlightenment. It begins with The Fool, who is 0 and therefore numberless, and ends with The Sun, number 21, symbolising understanding and enlightenment . Each card represents an archetypal experience or state of being which we can encounter at different stages in our lives and in different situations. These cards tend to relate to big life events involving change, loss and/or joy. I often use the Major Arcana cards in meditation as they can act as pathways into exploring and understanding where you are at certain points in your life. There are figures such as The Hierophant, who represents spiritual study and learning; The Empress who represents abundance in nature and sensuality; and Death, who represents necessary change and an acceptance of loss. 

The Minor Arcana consists of four suits of ten cards, each suit associated with different elemental properties. Wands represent fire and therefore action and the spark of inspiration; Cups represent water and therefore emotions and relationships; Swords represent air and therefore thought and the intellect; and Pentacles represent earth and therefore material goods, wealth and 'earthly' things such as work, study and health. Each suit runs from an Ace, symbolising the pure gift of the suit, to ten which represents the full fulfillment of the suit. The Minor Arcana cards tend to symbolise everyday situations, emotions and occurances. The illustrations range from positive to negative, although really there are no inherently 'positive' or 'negative' cards in the tarot. It depends on the interpretation and the situation at hand as to whether we see things positively; and even the 'negative' cards can have positive meanings when considered carefully. 

In addition, there are four Court cards per suit: a Page, Knight, Queen and King. These figures tend to represent either a person the querent knows and who is somehow influential on the situation at hand, or an element of the querent themselves. Of course, we are fluid and ever-changing and developing, and so you can be a mixture of Court figures simultaneously. 

The cards are used in conjunction with each other during readings in order to shed light on whatever question or issue is being explored.

Where does the tarot come from?

Good question. This is something hotly debated within the tarot community, although it seems to be generally agreed that the cards probably originated in Italy during the Fifteenth century. There are those who believe the cards come from Ancient Egypt, and various other theories. From what I have read on the topic it seems likely that the cards are not as old as people once believed. It has been suggested that they began as an Italian card game before being used for divination purposes. Some might argue that if they began life as a game, how can they be used for divination or personal development? The archetypal imagery used on many decks somehow gives them universal appeal and universal reach; I tend to see the cards as a tool enabling access to the inner self and subconscious. Whether they started as a game doesn't really bother me, as they seem to do the job of divination and self understanding very well regardless!

The tarot became increasingly popular in the early twentieth century due to the workings of Arthur Edward Waite, a member of The Golden Dawn, a magical order interested in the tarot amongst other things. He commissioned an artist named Pamela Colman Smith to design a deck of tarot cards and most modern decks are based on these cards today. Smith included images on all of the Minor Arcana cards; previously readers relied on the basic suit symbol and number to interpret the meanings of the Minor cards in readings. Smith's images are rich in symbolism and her inclusion of androgynous figures and ambiguous facial expressions lends the cards to multiple possible interpretations, depending of course on the specific reading. I tend to use the Robin Wood tarot for my readings, which is a deck based on the original Rider-Waite imagery but with the inclusion of Pagan elements and bolder colours. 

There are now thousands of tarot decks available, featuring a wide range of styles and imagery. From cat illustrations to photo imagery to black and white decks, there are so many options available, which makes reading tarot even more exciting! Who doesn't love a bit of shopping?! 

What does the tarot do? Doesn't it involve all sorts of spooky and dangerous things like communicating with spirits and even the Devil?

In a word, no. The tarot is not religiously affiliated, although the Catholic Church did (still does?) ban it due to not understanding what it was/is. It's due to a lack of understanding that people assume there is something sinister about the cards. They're just cards! When you think of it that way, what harm could they possibly do? Any power or meaning attributed to them comes from the querent, not the cards themselves. They reflect the inner thoughts and patterns of the querent; they do not carry any separate power or meaning when not in use. While there may be readers who design card spreads to connect with past lives or to connect with the deceased, most readers use the cards for purposes of the here-and-now variety, seeking guidance and understanding on current issues and future potential. When the cards reveal something to us, I believe it's really ourselves revealing what we most need to know, through the cards as a tool. 

Tarot has absolutely nothing to do with the Devil, a Christian concept separate from the cards. It is true that many decks incorporate religious imagery; for example in the Rider-Waite pack there is indeed a card called The Devil, and the Druid Craft Tarot deck contains a lot of Pagan and Wiccan imagery. But the cards don't necessarily literally mean what the picture shows; the pictures are symbolic and there to be interpreted. So, The Devil can represent feeling chained to unhealthy patterns of behaviour or materialistic pursuits. It doesn't literally mean the presence of the Devil in the Christian sense. 

Can tarot predict the future?

While the tarot is used for divination it doesn't and cannot show set-in-stone predictions of your future. Time is fluid, we are fluid. We change our minds, adjust our thoughts, change our patterns of behaviour, make millions of decisions every day. The cards show possible outcomes based on your current behaviour and current ways of thinking, but these are always subject to change. I'm very hesitant to make 'concrete' predictions because in my experience this isn't the most empowering way of reading the cards for someone. While an outcome might be strongly indicated by the cards, and while I wouldn't shy away from explaining it, I always aim to set such potential outcomes in the present and give the querent an opportunity to explore and examine their current behaviour and thoughts, rather than simply stating 'this is going to happen'. This allows you space to examine and reflect upon whether or not you would like to aim towards a different outcome, or whether you'd like to change your approach in dealing with something likely to happen. That, for me, is an empowering reading; one that emphasises choice. Sometimes predictions aren't so clear, which often suggests that spending some time looking within is necessary. For example if you'd like to know when you're going to meet 'the one', it might be more empowering to ask 'what do I need to know about myself and relationships' before diving straight into possible futures. 

You'll often find that tarot readers may have certain subjects they don't feel comfortable reading about because the nature of prediction can be a tricky one. I don't do health, legal or third party readings for this reason, and because I'm not a doctor/lawyer! I wouldn't feel comfortable reading about these subjects and so I make this clear to anyone requesting a reading from me. Responsible readers will have codes of ethics which they abide by in order to give you a genuine, respectful and safe tarot reading. 

Tarot isn't just used for divination. It can also be a powerful tool for healing, for reflection and for meditation. It can help unlock repetitive patterns that no longer serve you, as well as providing focus for reflection on your needs and desires. It can be used in manifesting goals and in planning for the year ahead, amongst other things. I'm currently using tarot alongside Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques in order to manage and change anxious thoughts. Tarot is not limited to fortune telling, although it is able to do that too. 

What about the scary cards? I wouldn't want one of those to pop up in my reading!

It's true that some of the cards look, at first glance, quite frightening. The Tower shows a lightning bolt striking a tower, sending two people hurtling to the ground at breakneck speed, fire raining down from above. Death shows the skeletal figure of Death riding on a majestic white horse, while people of various ages respond to him with sadness, fear and hope, depending on their perspective, as he rides on. These cards very rarely indicate a literal explosion or death; they symbolise emotional processes that we experience throughout our life, often encompassing a message of hope and strength among the devastation. The Tower can symbolise the need for sudden change, for something to shake us out of our inattention or inertia in order for a fresh start and new beginning. Death can symbolise the need to acknowledge and accept a situation, to leave it behind and move forwards confidently in order to truly grow and move on emotionally from a situation. In my mind these are actually very positive, life affirming cards; they represent opportunity and second chances, a fresh start and a chance to take a different direction. They represent rebirth. 

How does the tarot actually work?

Another good question, and one that I'm not entirely sure I can answer! Psychic readers seem to use the cards as a way of accessing channels of information about the querent and the querent's future. I'm not a psychic reader, I'm an intuitive reader, which is different. I pick up on energy from the querent, in person if they're in front of me, or through 'tuning in' when doing a distance reading. I'm not quite sure how to explain it. I visualise the person, focus on their question or concern and tune into their energy as I shuffle the deck. I continue to focus as I cut and deal the cards (or they shuffle if they're with me). Often I sort of sense what type of cards will appear in the reading; for example I might feel that the question is 'pentacle based' or 'cups based' and so it isn't a surprise when certain suits dominate the spread. I then take my time in joining the cards together in the order suggested by the spread, 'plaiting' the cards together and forming a story of some sort. It's a bit like planning, drafting and writing an essay; the ideas start off loose but gradually tighten and form distinct 'paragraphs' and 'themes' as I go along. 

There are often numerous interpretations available, so it's a case of figuring out instinctively which one is the 'right' one for the reading. This depends a lot on how the cards interact with each other. When doing a distance reading I often talk aloud and ask the cards questions, before saying whatever ideas occur to me. If I feel stumped or can't quite make a connection I describe what I can see in the card until something jumps out as significant. You just sort of know when a meaning is the right fit. I've always been quite sensitive to peoples' energy and emotions, and find it quite easy to guess accurately as to how someone is feeling, even if they're trying to hide it. I associate people with different colours a lot of the time and I've started being able to guess accurately as to which card I'm holding in my hand when it's faced down. I'm also able to focus on a card when shuffling for myself and then draw that card immediately from the full seventy eight card deck, without looking. 

Other than the above, though, I don't really know how the cards work! They just do. They have an uncanny ability to describe accurately whatever it is that's being discussed. 

In theory, couldn't any card relate to any issue?

This is something I've thought about a lot. I've tested various combinations to see if this is the case, but it really doesn't seem to be. It's as if your inner self really does draw out the necessary cards at the right time. For example, let's say someone wanted a reading about career change and it had been an extremely traumatic time for them recently. You might expect The Tower or Death or some other sort of card signifying change and upheaval. Another person might be going through a really positive time emotionally, and so their reading is full of cards indicating romance, a solid relationship and cards relating to family and emotional stability. Some cards just wouldn't make sense! The story lines wouldn't make sense. I did a reading recently in which I expected to find Swords, and I did. I did another reading based on financial concerns in which I expected to find Pentacles, and I did. I don't believe it's down to coincidence, I really do think it's to do with energy and drawing towards us what we need at the time. But I'm not sure how it actually works! 

In a reading, how do you know which card goes where?

There are thousands of tarot spreads available to use during readings, ranging from simple three card spreads depicting past-present-future or body-mind-spirit, to longer spreads taking into account past, present and future influences as well as conscious and unconscious feelings and the feelings of other people involved. One of the most popular tarot spreads is the ten card Celtic Cross spread which covers inner/outer feelings, past, present and future potential actions, the environment and opinions of others and much more. Tarot guides print lots of different spreads and during a reading the tarot reader will talk you through what each card position means and relates to, before giving a detailed explanation of how the cards and positions relate to each other. 

What am I meant to do with a reading? 

I'm a firm believer in actively reading the cards rather than passively reading them. This means a willingness to listen to and consider the content of a reading, taking a collaborative approach to the reading and thinking of how the messages illuminated by the cards might be acted upon after the reading. Tarot readers are not there to be 'tested'; their aim isn't to wow you with heaps of information they couldn't possibly know without getting to know you first. Most readers want you to get involved and add to the reading where possible. If you think of an alternative explanation of a card, if something about an illustration strikes you as significant that the reader hasn't picked up, go ahead and mention it! Reading tarot actively means searching for and developing responses to the cards in order for you to begin understanding your thought patterns, actions and feelings towards the situation being examined. Trying to 'test' the reader will only mean stunting your ability to engage with the cards and therefore with yourself. Good tarot readers will help you apply the reading to your life, perhaps by helping you devise steps that can be taken to move yourself forwards in whatever situation it is you find yourself in at the time of the reading.

Robin Wood tarot deck (my favourite!)

Deviant Moon Tarot 

Robin Wood tarot deck again 

I hope you've enjoyed finding out a little more about tarot, and if you have any questions or comments please do let me know in the comments section below or by finding me on Twitter @Imogen_Massey. I love chit chatting about tarot so I'm sure to respond! 

Review | Herbal Essences Bee Strong

I'm the first to admit that I suffer from slight commitment issues when it comes to forming long lasting relationships with beauty products, especially hair care collections. I enjoy experimenting with a wide range of high street hair care brands and find it almost impossible to stick with one range for more than one bottle, if that. However, this has recently changed! Having discovered and fallen in love with the new Herbal Essences Bee Strong range I can confirm that my commitment issues are, for the time being (!) no longer a problem. I'm even going so far as to bestow Herbal Essences Bee Strong *holy grail status* as I am seriously impressed with the quality of the four products available and I've actually repurchased two of them already, which is a big deal for a commitment-phobe like me! 

A bit of background on my hair and its needs. Texture wise, my hair is quite fine and although there's a lot of it (judging by the amount left behind on my Tangle Teaser every morning) it's quite thin and poker straight, meaning products that leave my hair feeling weighed down are a complete no-no. I've been dying my hair since I was fourteen, from mahogany to bright red to light brown to dark brown to pink to strawberry blonde to ash blonde to honey blonde... At the moment I'm gradually growing out my highlights as I felt unhappy with how yellow-blonde my hair had become, so my hair is currently a mixture of light blonde highlights and darker blonde natural colour, which sounds a bit of a mess but it actually looks OK! Because of all this dying, the ends of my hair are very dry and so benefit from using intensive masks and deep conditioning treatments regularly. I tend to wash my hair daily as I really don't like the feeling of day old hair and I don't particularly like the powdery sensation that dry shampoo leaves behind. When selecting hair care products I look for ones that aim to strengthen, soften and nourish. 

Bee Strong Shampoo £3.89 400ml, Conditioner £3.89 400ml at Boots

Herbal Essences Bee Strong has been designed 'for damaged hair' and is a 'strengthening' collection. The inclusion of softening 'honey and apricot extracts' instantly appealed to me as I'm obsessed with anything honey related and the scent of the Bee Strong collection is absolutely gorgeous! Here's what Herbal Essences claim on the blurb of the Bee Strong Strengthening Shampoo bottle:

'Bulk up strength with this nourishing shampoo. This formula works to help repair the protective outer layer of each strand of hair to leave it strong against combing damage'

And here's what the Bee Strong Strengthening Conditioner has to say for itself:

'This rich and creamy conditioner leaves your hair strong against combing damage for silky-strong locks you will love'

To be honest I wouldn't say I'm suffering from combing damage, and it seems like a bit of a narrow focus, but these beauties work brilliantly on my hair type and instantly make my hair visibly softer, smoother and shinier. The shampoo lathers up well and rinses easily, while the conditioner has a nice thick consistency and leaves my hair feeling truly nourished and stronge with far less flyaways and less noticeable split ends. I've used lots of Herbal Essences products in the past, some of which I've found have left a slighly tacky coating on my hair once dry; thankfully this isn't a problem I've experienced with Bee Strong. Once dry my hair doesn't feel weighed down at all and it looks and it looks and feels super healthy. 

Bee Strong Strengthening Intensive Mask £4.19 200ml at Boots

Two or three times a week I use a generous dollop of the Bee Strong Strengthening Intensive Mask as a deep conditioning treat. and this has quickly become my favourite hair mask. I'm already past the half way point and will be repurchasing as soon as I run out, as it's making such a difference to the quality and appearance of my hair. Here's what the golden tub claims:

'Tackle dryness and combing damage and say hello to silky-strong locks. This rich moisturising mask helps repair signs of combing damage from root to tip'

A thick creamy texture and delicious apricot scent make this a real treat to use. I help myself to a big scoop and focus on the ends of my hair, and as soon as I've rinsed I notice a difference in smoothness. Unlike other masks I've tried, this one actually seems to have a lasting effect, making my hair look and feel softer and so much shinier than usual. It soothes dry ends effectively and makes them far less noticeable and much softer to touch. It rinses out easily with no residue and doesn't leave my hair feeling weighed down. To say I'm impressed is a bit of an understatement! I can't emphasis enough how delicious this smells, it's so more-ish! I've also been using it as a soothing shaving cream on my legs to maximise opportunities to indulge in the fragrance. Mmm. 

Bee Strong Strengthening Cream £4.79 150ml at Boots

I've been using the leave in Bee Strong Strengthening Cream in conjunction with the other Bee Strong products and it's a nice finishing touch. It comes with a spray nozzle which is a little strange as it's a cream texture, so I usually spritz it three of four times in my hands and then distribute evenly through damp hair with my palms. 

'This thick 'n creamy formula goes on smooth and helps protect hair from combing damage, giving you the silky strong hair you always wanted'

To be honest I'm not sure if this cream makes a huge individual difference, as I've also used the shampoo and conditioner without it and the results are very similar. It does smell fantastic and makes my hair super easy to comb, so that's a plus and it feels like a nice easy treat to add to my hair care routine so I'm going to keep on using it. 

I recently ran out of the shampoo and conditioner and immediately repurchased as my hair feels so much softer when using them and my dry ends are far more nourished than when using any other hair care line. If you're thinking about giving the Herbal Essences Bee Strong range a go I'd highly recommend doing so! Holy grail status confirmed. 

Explore Herbal Essences Bee Strong collection here

Friday, 26 July 2013

Anxiety Diaries | I Am Found

Change your thoughts, change your life. 

It's as easy and as difficult as that. One thing I know for sure is that the thought patterns I've internalised, watered and nurtured over the past six of seven years, perhaps longer, have shaped my reality. My biggest fear leaving school at eighteen was feeling permanently lost; my focus since then has been on how I continue to feel lost. The background to everything I have done since, career wise, has been 'I am lost'. But if thoughts create reality, if I could only trust in a change in thought leading to a change in reality, where would I be then? How would I feel? How would I carry myself? 

Starting Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is hard because you don't always know how to trust in this theory. For me, anxiety and depression had been a safety net because it is near impossible to imagine an alternative. Illogically you think 'what if I change my thoughts and my life remains the same?' Illogical because if your thoughts change, you change inside and things that cause you distress and anxiety no longer hold such power over you; this then starts to change the outside. Yet trusting in this theory can be extremely difficult. My CBT therapist explained that in order to challenge and change a thought we can weigh up evidence for and against it, before presenting an alternative thought and considering whether it might be more accurate. I decided to do a little experiment, weighing 'I am lost' against the alternative 'I am found'. 

What if I've actually been 'found' all along? How would it feel to recognise this thought and to live it?

On one side of A4 paper I wrote 'I am lost' and complied a check list of evidence to support this claim. I'd been repeating 'I am lost' to myself for over six years so I figured it would be quite easy to gather a long list of evidence. My list read as follows:
  • I'm currently unemployed
  • I'm often indecisive about what I want to do
  • I'm having to undertake CBT because of anxiety
  • I'm on medication for anxiety
  • I left my previous two jobs because I couldn't cope
  • I still haven't graduated
  • I am still unsure as to which career path to pursue
  • I have hobbies but I haven't monetised any of them
  • I compulsively spend money on things I don't need
  • I find it next to impossible to save for things 
As I was writing I paid attention to my physical reactions, feelings and behaviour (a cycle CBT teaches for analysing and then breaking down negative and unhelpful thought patterns). My heart rate increased; my mouth felt dry; my posture sunk; I felt sad, ashamed, helpless, as if I had no control. My behaviour was ready to enter avoidance territory, retreating rather than doing anything productive to move forwards. I was feeling and acting helpless, defeated. It wasn't pleasant. 

I turned the page over and wrote 'I am found' at the top. What if I could find things to support this claim? Was there a chance that I'm not as lost as I've always believed myself to be? Here's what I wrote down as evidence:
  • I love studying with The Open University 
  • I have one more course left to complete before graduating next summer
  • I am on track for a 1st 
  • I am marrying my best friend
  • I am 100% committed to my relationship and am in no way flaky or indecisive about the people I love
  • I have a wonderful family and amazing friends who love me for who I am 
  • I write a beauty and lifestyle blog which gives me an immense sense of satisfaction
  • I have learned to read the tarot and continue to develop my skills daily
  • I believe my tarot readings are a vocation
  • I am researching my family tree and have reconnected with some wonderful long lost relatives as a direct result
  • I am healthy physically and I am working hard on looking after my mental health
  • I am using the resources available to me, such as CBT and counselling, to take responsibility for my life and get myself back on track
  • I am creative and talented at writing, especially poetry
  • I am intelligent, articulate and interested in all sorts of topics
  • I have found a new family in my fiance's relatives
  • I have a chance now to move forwards in a healthier way, on a better path
Physically my posture improved; my writing quickened; my heart rate settled; I no longer felt nauseous. I felt happy, enthused, inspired, determined. I felt a sense of control and direction. My behaviour changed from passive to wanting to go ahead and 'do' something productive. I felt a sense of potential, of direction, of possibilities. It hit me that I have been living under the oppression of 'I am lost' to the extent that I had allowed myself to become my thought, to become 'I am lost' personified. 'I am found' felt so much better... Could I train myself to live with the freedom 'I am found' offers? 

I noticed immediately that my 'I am found' list encompasses lots of different areas of my life, whereas my 'I am lost' focuses predominantly on one area. What if I can be found regardless of whether or not I'm working at the moment? Regardless of one area in which I'm struggling? I had been letting a tunnel vision view, centered on career and work, direct my life and filter into other areas of my life. The evidence for 'I am found' far outweighed the evidence for 'I am lost'. The evidence supports 'I am found'. The evidence is reality; my perception is what fluctuates. What would the effect be if I made 'I am found' my new mantra? If such a phrase could raise my spirits instantly while compiling my list, what effect would it have if I replaced every instance of 'I am lost' with 'I am found' from now on?

This change in thinking has already begun to make visible differences in my life. I am making a conscious effort to catch every automatic 'I am lost' and replace it with a determined 'I am found'. Instead of lamenting to friends about feeling like I'll never 'work out what to do with my life' I now stand by the idea that 'this is my life', the here and now, the present moment. I am convincing myself that I have been found all along, and the continued effect of this powerful message is an increasing sense of control and confidence. I am directing and shaping my life as it happens, with every thought I choose to focus on. 

It may sound shockingly simple; change your thoughts, change your life. It may seem incredulous to insist that there is an alternative, and that in order to experience it I had to take a bit of a leap of faith and 'test myself' with an evidence compiling task. But I have gone from clinging on to anxiety and depression out of not believing in an alternative, to recognising that the alternative brings a sense of empowerment, control, and responsibility. It breathes life into everything and overrides the challenges faced in one specific area; in my case, it overrides anxiety surrounding work and a career. This one area, fed by 'I am lost' thoughts, is no longer allowed to dominate my perception of life. 'I am found' doesn't ignore such difficulties; in contrast, it is helping me and encouraging me to confront them head on. 

The alternative is a belief in and dedication to replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. It feels good and I want more of it. I entered CBT with no evidence to prove that changing a thought would change my life. I felt skeptical and afraid. But I've learned techniques like the one explained above that are helping me place my belief in positive thoughts rather than negative ones. Beginning to let go of the deeply ingrained 'I am lost' has led to tangible, physical changes already. I have decided upon a path I am keen to explore further and I am no longer as scared of returning to employment. I am doing things linked to my goals that I felt myself unable to do when locked in the paralysis of  'I am lost' thinking. 

I am found; I think I always have been. 

Change your thoughts, change your life. 

Bloglovin' Twitter Instagram

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Thumbs Down | Garnier Moisture Match

Argh, the dreaded moment when a popular beauty product just doesn't do it for you. I've tried my hardest to fall in love with Garnier's new range of Moisture Match facial moisturisers, having bought, tried and discarded four of the varieties on sale. Yep, four bottles, out of five. You can't accuse me of not trying! I thought if I could find the 'right one' I'd be head over heels, but alas, that just hasn't been the case. The latest addition to my Moisture Match collection is the Mattifying Fresh Cream, aimed at 'combination to oily skin'. Mattifying Fresh Cream claims to provide 24 hour hydration and boasts the tagline 'shine be gone'. I figured this sounded pretty promising for my combination shine-prone skin, what with the heatwave we've been experiencing in the UK recently. My skin has gone into major oil overload and keeping it matte is proving to be a bit of a nightmare. 

Garnier Moisture Match Mattifying Fresh Cream, £5.99 at Boots (currently on offer for £3.99)

I'm beginning to wonder if I'm afflicted with some sort of alien skin because Garnier's Moisture Match range really doesn't seem to be doing anything for me *sobs* Each of the four creams I've tried have left a bizarre tacky, sticky coating on my skin, and never seem to absorb properly. I was hoping the Mattifying Fresh Cream might be different, but unfortunately not. According to the blurb on the back of the box, it claims to have a 'tailored texture', being 'oil free' and 'quick to absorb'. It also contains a 'patented hydrating active' to deliver '24h hydration'. The 'tailored formula' contains anti-oxidising 'green tea extract' to 'leave your skin feeling beautifully smooth and mattified all day long'. Apparently you can 'feel the difference instantly'. Hmm... 

Texture wise, it starts out fairly promising. It has a light cream gel formula that doesn't seem heavy on first application, and it's very easy to rub into the skin without dragging. A little goes a long way. Yet after applying, I have to wait for what seems like forever for the cream to sink in, and even when it eventually dries it leaves behind a slide-y, silicone type of texture. I really don't tend to like silicone primers so this isn't a sensation I particularly want from my moisturiser. While the cream gel has a refreshing, pleasantly floral scent, it just doesn't agree with me texture-wise and it makes applying my make-up on top a real difficulty. 

In terms of immediate and long lasting mattifying action, I have to disagree. My skin still looks quite shiny immediately after applying and because it takes so long to sink in and leaves behind an odd coating, it doesn't seem to mattify much at all. I tested this out on my arm just to see if my face was being particularly strange, but again the cream gel took a while to sink in and left behind a noticeable plastic-y shine. I guess it does moisturise in that my skin doesn't feel dry or tight; but that's not enough to win me over I'm afraid. Can I really 'feel the difference instantly?' That would be a no from me, unfortunately. 

After cleansing I usually apply moisturiser and then The Body Shop Tea Tree Pore Minimiser as a primer (non-silicone feel!) followed by foundation/BB cream and concealer. I like my moisturiser to sink in and settle pretty quickly so I can get on with applying my make-up, but when I applied foundation on top of a light layer of Mattifying Fresh Cream (skipping my usual primer to give the cream a 'fair test' when used on naked skin followed directly by foundation) the foundation sort of slid straight off and refused to 'stick' anywhere. I ended up massaging foundation around and around in circles all over my face, trying to make it anchor to my skin but it turned into a bit of a slippery mess, which isn't ideal. I do use a dusting of loose powder to set my base but I prefer my base to have some of 'stick' prior to doing so! It doesn't seem to be 'quick to absorb' for me which is a shame as this is something I like in a moisturiser. 

Once I'd finally managed to get my foundation to settle somewhat, and set everything with powder, I decided to see how my skin would fare throughout the day. Considering the slipperiness experienced when applying my foundation I wasn't feeling very optimistic about the cream's all day long mattifying promise, to be honest. Sadly, after a few hours I was already suffering from an attack of the dreaded shiny forehead/chin/nose and I had to dab at my face with blotting papers and pressed powder quite extensively to sort it out. 'Mattified all day long'? Argh, sadly not *sobs again* Long lasting mattifying action is one of the main things I look for in skin care products, along with quick absorption, so this is a huge let down for me. 

I feel awful writing this review as I really wanted to be a fan of the Moisture Match range. After all, it sounds so promising, creating a range of tailored products for different skin types, and Garnier products usually suit me to a t. In case you're wondering, the other creams I've tried from the Moisture Match range are as follows: Start Afresh (normal/dry skin, used in colder months) felt very sticky and and greasy, and sort of peeled off my skin after applying. Goodbye Dry (dry/very dry skin, to target very dry patches on cheeks) felt even more silicon-y and left my skin looking like an oil slick. Didn't absorb on dry patches at all. Protect & Glow (normal skin, purchased because of its SPF20) found this left my skin looking very shiny and feeling very sticky; again, it didn't absorb and it left a weird coating on the skin. My skin's needs change throughout the seasons, hence why I bought so many different varieties. I was certain that the one tailored for combination to oily skin would be 'the one!' for controlling shine throughout the summer. 

As much as I'd love to say how well Garnier's Mattifying Fresh Cream works for me, it just really doesn't seem to suit my skin. I've read countless positive reviews of the Moisture Match range so perhaps my skin is just being strange, or it could simply be that we all have different preferences and favour different textures/scents/finishes which is of course perfectly understandable. It's important to try things for yourself, and I'm in no way suggesting you should avoid these products, I'm just giving my honest opinion. I guess I'm quite picky when it comes to lotions and potions and unfortunately Garnier's Mattifying Fresh Cream doesn't quite tick my skin care boxes. 

Have you tried the Moisture Match range? Are you a fan? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Read more on Garnier Moisture Match here

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Anxiety Diaries | The Distraction Box

Moments of anxiety can sometimes bring an unpleasant sense of disconnection, when worry consumes your thoughts and renders you feeling somehow disconnected from the real, tangible world around you. As a result of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy sessions I've been attending, I've come to recognise that when anxious or upsetting thoughts and feelings begin to take over, I tend to rely on a range of unhealthy quick fix 'solutions' to distract me and ground me in the present. 

When I was a teenager I went through a short period of what I guess could be called self-harm, although I never needed medical attention and I haven't got any visible scars. I was full of anxiety about GCSEs and my performance in exams, determined to get the A*s I longed for, and I entered a cycle of harming, 'comforting' myself and feeling calmer, only to harm again when my anxiety built up once more. In recent years I've used shopping and spending money to distract myself, as the physical action of holding and focusing on items grounds me somewhat in the present moment and enables me to feel rooted and centred, albeit only temporarily before feelings of guilt and further anxiety kick in. 

I've recently discovered that there are healthy alternatives available, healthy distraction techniques that can and do help me to root myself in the present moment, distancing myself from overwhelming thought patterns in order to then begin unpicking such thoughts in a positive and productive way. I came up with the idea of a 'distraction box' full of activities that I can turn to instead of automatically harming myself by going shopping or harming myself in other ways. All of the contents are healthy, calming and free from negative side effects. They bring me back into the present, to a more stable and rooted place. Once I've gained this distance from anxious or upsetting thoughts I'm in a much better place to begin challenging and changing those thoughts, something else CBT helps with. The great thing about a distraction box is that you can personalise it and fill it with things you feel will work for you. Here's what's in my box so far:

  • Slips with grounding exercises on ~ I have a few favourite grounding exercises I use. One involves closing your eyes and listening carefully to the sounds around you. What can you hear? How many sounds can you detect? What is loudest? What is quietest? Are there any hidden sounds? After a minute or two, open your eyes and ask yourself if you feel more grounded having spent time focusing on the present. I've found it  works really well! My other favourite is to sit on a chair with my feet placed firmly on the ground and my hands in my lap. I close my eyes and take a deep breath in; as I breath in I imagine roots reaching up from the earth, connecting to my feet, spreading all the way through my body to the top of my head, anchoring me to the ground. On each breath out I direct my breath back into the ground and beyond, channeling it along the roots. I do this for five or ten minutes, before reaching down and placing my palms on the floor, 'pushing' any excess energy back into the earth. 
  • Maths worksheets, crosswords, colouring book and pencils ~ I used to hate maths lessons at school but there's no doubt that solving sums helps me focus! I could never sing and sum at the same time (unlike one of my best friends who I sat next to in maths class for five years) so I know that when I'm subtracting or dividing I'm fully rooted in the moment! Crosswords require a similar immediate focus, as does colouring in pictures. 
  • Nail polish and face masks ~ Often the sensation of doing something tangible roots me into the present moment. When I apply my make-up every morning I always feel very calm and focused, and it's the same with painting my nails or applying a face mask. 
  • Affirmation slips ~ My favourite affirmation at the moment is 'I am found', in direct contrast to the thought that's usually directing my anxiety, 'I am lost'. I'll be writing a post about this soon, as I've found creating alternative, positive affirmations so interesting and powerful when it comes to grounding and to changing unhelpful thought patterns.
  • Pens, paper, envelopes ~ I thought it might be a nice idea to include letter writing, as I used to write letters to friends and family all the time when I was younger. Writing with a pen rather than on my laptop makes me feel far more grounded, I think due to the physical sensation of the muscles in my hand really working at creating letters and words while holding the pen. Having to think carefully about the words I'm writing gives me an alternative focus to anxious thoughts and feelings. 
  • Italian language pack ~ Learning a language takes a lot of concentration and focus! I'm not putting any pressure on myself with this, but I'm using various Italian resources as a way of diverting my attention from anxiety to something positive and fun! Plus, hearing an abundance of foreign words immediately acts as a contrast to the repetitive English anxious words swirling around inside my head. 
  • CDs ~ Singing and dancing is another way I've found to centre myself and bring me into the moment. Plus it counts as exercise and it feels so good to sing at the top of your voice! I've included lots of fast music for dancing and some slower songs for singing. A personal favourite is anything by The Dixie Chicks as their music is so good to sing along to, even (especially?!) the sadder songs. I love a bit of country music to vent my stresses!
Of course, you can add all sorts of other things to a distraction box. It's a personal choice, and it's a choice open to everyone. My distraction box is really helping me gain control over my anxiety and moments of low mood by giving me space to reconnect with reality and ground myself before attempting to tackle and ultimately change anxious thought patterns. If CBT has taught me one thing, it's that you can regain a sense of control over your thoughts and feelings. It feels so hard at times, especially when I'm experiencing a moment of extreme anxiety, but there is hope and anxiety doesn't have to rule my thoughts. What a freeing realisation!