February 28, 2016

Brand Roundup | Best of Illamasqua

We're almost at the end of February and I've managed to kick my zombie like spending habits. Instead of rushing out and buying the current most raved about makeup item, I'm focusing on what I have. As someone who was a tomboy growing up, Illamasqua's Art of Darkness collection lured me into the makeup and beauty world. With one of my favourite artists, Alex Box, leaving Illamasqua earlier this year I'm expecting a possible rebrand. So, I'm sharing 7 products that made me fall in love with the brand, while they're all still relevant.

Powder Blushes | If you were take a peak at my blush collection, you'll notice over half of it is Illamasqua. Despite branching out and trying different brands, I still consider these to be the most pigmented ones I own. You only need a little for the colour to show up and they blend out easily.

Illamasqua Nail Varnishes | There are three shades I personally consider worth splurging on. Melange, the most unique of the three, is an antique teal with flecks of burnished gold. Viridian, described as peacock green but I don't personally see the blue tones and find it to be more of a emerald green. Last but not least we have Jo'mina which is described as an electric lilac because I just had to include a purple.

Skin Base Foundation | Despite branching out and trying out a mixture of different foundations, Illamasqua's Skin Base foundation is the only one I keep coming back to. It covers my pigmentation marks well without also breaking me out, something plenty of high coverage foundations seem to be guilty of. Admittedly, what works for me, won't necessarily work for everyone else. I found that in winter, when my skin becomes dry, that the foundation doesn't sit well on my skin and even separates a bit. Definitely best to avoid this one if you have dry skin but if you have oily skin, definitely give it a go!

Vintage Metallix | I've never been sold on cream based makeup products. Vintage Metallix showed me how wrong I was. If you want to look like you've done a full face of makeup but are lazy or simply don't have the time then these are for you! Just apply a little on the eye and rub it until it covers the entire lid. The formula is super long lasting and packed with sparkle. Bibelot (green) and Embellish (brown) are my favourites. Illamasqua products have definitely become a lot more expensive over the last 7/8 years, but these are definitely worth the price tag. 

Matte Lipsticks | Illamasqua matte lipsticks are very hit or miss. Their biggest criticism is how drying and hard they are. However, this doesn't apply to all of their lipsticks and some of the matte range have a creamy feel to them. Those shades are the ones that are worth picking up. My all time favourite has now become Maneater. Other favourites include Resist and Kontrol. They are the most long wearing, non liquid lipsticks I own and back in the day, they were one of the only brands on the high street that had an unusual range of colours.

Top to Bottom of Arm Swatches : Sealing Gel as primer, Sealing Gel as liner, No Base

Pure Pigments | I had to include some form of eyeshadow of course. While Illamasqua do a range of matte shadows, it's their pure pigments that stand out the most. There are a few easily dupable ones but some like Static's iridescent pink and silver sparkle along with Android's shimmering charcoal which are so stunning, it's difficult to capture their magic on camera.

Sealing Gel | Last but not least, one of my holy grails, which is now regrettably discontinued. I'm sure there are plenty of mixing mediums available on the market. However, this tiny gel is the handiest tool to have. I personally love using it to create custom coloured eyeliner but it can also be used to seal brows, lips or even as an ee

There are a lot of raved products by Illamasqua that I've missed out (gleam cream in Aurora comes to mind). This is only because I've never actually tried them out myself. 
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February 23, 2016

Travel | 5 Places I Want To Visit In 2016

My goals and plans for 2016 are fuzzy at best. I definitely want to continue travelling, but this year I want to focus on exploring cities I've never visited rather than rediscovering places I've been to before. Despite not spending any money on makeup this year, I've been terrible at saving money so far this year. So in the meanwhile, here's my current wanderlust list for the year. 

1. Istanbul, Turkey (Source)
Oh Istanbul, even back when I didn't care for travel, it was one of those cities I was desperate to visit. Shopping for baklava, visiting the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. Turkish food has always been a favourite too! Sadly, I've had a lot of family discouraging me from visiting as there's been too many incidents in the last year or so. Personally, I worry that if I don't just go for it this year, things may end up becoming worse. It makes me sad to say but it feels like a now or never situation.

2. Amsterdam, Netherlands (Source)
I had the opportunity to visit Amsterdam during my university days but wasn't interested due to my own ignorance. All I knew about the place was the infamous red light district and their "speciality" cafes, of which neither of these things still hold any interest to me. I'd love to discover the city beyond it's raunchy reputation. 

3. Brighton, UK (Source)
I've not explored much of the UK and while I've made a bit of an effort to stop visiting London each time I fancy a city escape, I've not made as much progress as I'd like. Brighton's been one of those places that gets raved about so much both in and out of the blogging world, it'd be interesting to see how it holds up. A swim at the beach followed by a day at the fair and checking out the Royal Pavillion does appeal.

4. Reykjavik, Iceland (Source)
I don't consider myself to be sporty, anything of the sort is outside my comfort zone. Iceland is the only place on this planet that's convinced me to break out of my comfort zone. I'd love to experience both a winter and summer there. Exploring ice caves, witnessing the northern lights in winter and diving into waterfalls and 24 hours of sunshine in summer. Naturally, I'd love to explore the golden circle and visit the blue lagoon too. It seems very otherworldly and unlike any country I've visited already.

5. Barcelona, Spain (Source)
There's a 50/50 chance this will/won't be happening over Easter. Between a day exploring Gaudi's architecture and a day with ice cream at the beach, Barcelona is both a city and beach break rolled into one. Fingers crossed, I'll be able to actually visit this amazing city.

Ultimately, it's unlikely that I'll be able to visit all 5 of these places this year. I'm hoping to cross off 2/3 of these places from the list. In the meanwhile, I'll carry on planning my dream holidays to each of these places.
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February 21, 2016

Beauty | Does Too Faced Love Flush Blush Last 16 Hours?

It's about time Too Faced makeup was more readily available in the UK. They've had an obscure presence where they'd have a stand in Boots that was never stocked with none of their new releases ever making it's way into the country, unless you bought them from certain online stores. Their ultra feminine packaging and their stellar reputation in the US has always intrigued me.

While Too Faced's Sweetheart blush was on my wishlist for the longest time, I had to pick up one of the new Love Flush blushes when they came out. Blushes have always been the first thing to fade off my oily skin. With the claim of lasting 16 hours, it was worth trying.

The heart shaped packaging reminds me of the old school Polly Pockets from my childhood. Considering how the 90s has been 'on trend' for a while, I wouldn't be surprised if it was intentional. The colours of the hearts match up to the blush shade inside the compact, making me want to collect all six shades. While the bunny design is undeniably adorable, it made it very difficult to break into.

The compact is very secure, with no risk of the compact randomly opening in your makeup bag. The only downside is that it's so secure it's a little tricky to open as it has a tiny latch for those of us with bigger hands.

As I was looking for an everyday blush that I could use, I decided to pick up Baby Love. It's a soft dusty nude with very fine gold sparkle. The sparkle doesn't show up on the skin and is mostly in the pan. It's so subtle that I didn't even notice it until after using it for a few weeks.

The formula is easily one of the softest blushes I've tried and is quite easy to blend without any streakiness to it. I'd say the blush lasted over 8 hours on my skin. I found the blush lasted very well throughout a working day. I could still notice a bit of colour on my cheeks at the end of the day, something no other blush has ever managed to accomplish. So while the blush doesn't live up to the 16 hours claim, it's still a long-lasting blush. One of the best ones I've tried and I personally don't really see a need for a blush lasting much longer than that.

The most irritating thing about Too Faced is the massive difference in price. Despite the fact that these have become more accessible in the UK, I picked mine up in the US for $26. In the UK, it costs £25! 
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February 18, 2016

Adventures In Dye | Manic Panic's Amplified Electric Lizard

The fact that I made the switch from blue dye to green isn't news. I'm unsure what happened but during my lunch break at work, I decided I fancied mixing up my colour and headed to the store with purple in mind. Somehow, I ended up picking up neon green instead, manic panic's electric lizard!

Left - Fresh Dye
Right -  Over 1 Month Without Retouching

I used Electric Lizard over a very washed out and pale blue base. The ends of my hair had been bleached 4 times prior to the blue. To move from blue to green I used Scott Cornall's Decolour Stripper as recommended by Jayne. There was a bit of an ombre effect at the ends as the deep rockabilly blue dye didn't fade that much but it lightened the hair enough for the green to take well.

Squeezing the dye out of the bottle was a little time consuming, especially as I wanted a large amount of it in my bowl. So I ended up unscrewing the tap and squeezing it out from there instead. While the squeeze bottle has enough for very grown out dip dye, I'd be surprised if I got more than 2 uses of the dye if I used it all over my head.

Manic Panic dyes are semi-permanent, meaning they don't contain harmful chemicals. The natural vegan dye just sits on top of the hair unlike permanent dyes, which tend to contain ammonia and require peroxide to penetrate and bond with the hair shaft. After lathering the dye all over my ends and waiting for the 30 minutes to be over, I found my hair felt very soft while washing the dye out. It's meant to work like a conditioner, although it's not going to fix any damage I did with the amount I ended up bleaching my hair. Nonetheless, my hair indefinitely felt soft after washing out the dye.

Once dried, I was left with very neon green hair that had a natural glow to it. It was only after I had dyed it that I realised that the dye was also UV reactive! After 1 wash, the colour tends to stick well enough but I find from the second wash onwards you'll notice your hair to lose it's neonness (that's a real word right?). This didn't bother me as I knew Manic Panic dyes have a reputation for washing out very quickly. I prefer to have the option to change my colour quickly, especially if a dye I decide to experiment with goes wrong. Over a month later and after several washes, I found my neon green had faded to a lovely pastel lime.

The plus side of switching from blue dye to green is that it doesn't stain as much. I no longer need to worry about my dye staining the shower, the table, the walls, the door... you see what I'm getting at here, just about anything it touches! Including my own damn skin!

The major drawback with Manic Panic is the price. Whether you're in the US or the UK, it's one of the more expensive brands and sells for almost £12 in the UK. Although the regular manic panic tubs are slightly more affordable at £10. I can't comment on how well the amplified version compares to the normal manic panic tubs. If you're looking for a dye that will wash out and give you the flexibility to experiment like me, I would say it's worth paying the extra buck for.

Should any other fellow makeup addicts take the plunge and go green, check out my Electric Lizard Pinterest board for makeup inspiration!

Follow Mish's board Manic Panic Electric Lizard Makeup Inspiration on Pinterest.
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February 09, 2016

Travel | Dubai Miracle & Butterfly Garden

Over the new year, I managed to escape the grim British weather with a flight to Dubai. Winter is probably the most expensive time of year to visit as the weather is in the comfortable 20s and I'm not the only genius with the bright idea to escape winter weather. As my family lives there and I've visited so many times, I decided to check out their newer attractions including the Dubai Miracle Garden along with the butterfly garden that was close by.

The Dubai Miracle garden is a flower garden located on the outskirts of any of the other main tourist attractions in Dubai. The nearest landmark I can think of would be Motorcity. It is said to have over 45 million flowers. In typical Dubai fashion, 72,000 square meter garden holds the record for world's largest flower garden. It's a quirky alternative to your standard park.

As it is on the outskirts, I felt like I was surrounded by local residents with a few tourists here and there. Transportation is difficult without a car. However there are buses from Mall of the Emirates that take you there.

You could just take a brief walk around, enjoying the view or you could spend the whole day there. Sitting and relaxing on the swinging chairs, peacock benches or bean bags with a bit of ice cream from the vendors to enjoy while people watching. There's a good variety of food there, don't think you'll get away with bringing in your own. Be careful not to step on the grass or flowers though, or one of the many guards will start whistling at you to move!

The Miracle gardens are shut during summer as the temperature easily reaches over 50C making it impossible to both maintain the garden and be outdoors for more than 2 seconds without breaking into sweat. As I suspect the plants die each year, there tends to be slightly different displays each year too.

As the sun set and it became a bit cooler, we made our way towards the Butterfly Garden.

The Dubai Butterfly Garden was a short 5 minute walk from the Miracle Gardens, depending on which of the 3 exits you take.  Each time my family has visited, the price has been higher and higher. During this trip, it cost 50 AED per person.

The Butterfly garden is said to be the largest indoor butterfly garden and it homes 15,000 butterflies from 26 different species. It is essentially 3 large domes all connected to each other along with the entrance, forming a ring.

It's surprising how...unpleasant it first was to have giant insects flying past you. There were even a few kids who were in tears as they were too creeped out by them. It took a while for me to get used to as they were everywhere! Most butterflies weren't of the colourful variety. The most disappointing thing to me was that there was nothing unique between each dome, making it feel repetitive. It may as well have just been one large tunnel.

Similar to the Miracle Garden, how little or long you spend in there, depends on you. You could easily walk through the whole thing in 5/10 minutes, or you could sit down in the little net huts waiting for a butterfly or two to land on you.

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February 07, 2016

Lush Sex Bomb Bath Bomb

While I did pick up quite a few Lush bath bombs at the Oxford Street store, Sex Bomb never caught my eye. This was actually a small treat from family that I enjoyed when visiting home.

When you sniff the bath bomb, the scent is very subtle compared to most others. Only once it's immersed in water does the scent hit you, with hints of jasmine, ylang ylang, clary sage. According to the lovely Lush Ladies, Sex Bomb is meant to get you 'in the mood' but I can't attest to that.

As the bath bomb dissolves, it forms a cloud of pink that slowly spreads around the tub. It's a good one to try out if you're not keen on glitter. Unlike Ylang Song which had real petals surprise you and stayed in the tub, Sex Bomb unleashes an odd oily fake pink flower whose petals separate around the bath. I wish they eventually dissolved into the rest of the water as I really didn't like them and felt it cheapened the experience. I would have preferred real petals and ended up using some for bath time. 

Out of all bath bombs, this is the only bath bomb I've used whose scent lingered on my skin for so long.

Sex Bomb is available at all Lush Stores for £3.50 each.
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