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Monday 30 June 2014

Worth the hype? : Benefit They're Real! Push-Up Liner

Last week Benefit released one of their most highly anticipated products yet. After the success of their They're Real! Mascara, it's no wonder that beauty fanatics got themselves in a fluster at the mention of a new addition to the They're Real! range. Promising a #criminallyeasy application with the unique AccuFlex tip, this eyeliner caused quite the excitement.

Being a beauty blogger and a novice eyeliner user meant that I couldn't resist picking this up as soon as I walked past a Benefit counter. Yes, I'd fallen for the hype (but I can review it for the blog, right?). I couldn't wait to try it, and excitedly tested it out as soon as I got home. First thing I noted was how long it took to get any product into the tip. Not something I can fault Benefit on (I'm sure their packaging was fine), but something that people should be aware of. I was beginning to wonder whether I'd received a dud, but the gel eventually made an appearance after twisting the base about twenty times.
Next up was the application. After familiarising myself with the application techniques suggested in the product leaflet (swiping as usual, or "stamping" the tip) I went ahead and had a go. The AccuFlex tip does take a while to get used to. Hold it as slightly the wrong angle and you'll not get the desired application. I've also found that a solid line requires quite a lot of pressure to be applied, which is not overly comfortable. The rubber tip does drag a little on the eyelid, and when you have to cover the same area more than once to achieve a solid line it can start to hurt.

In an attempt to avoid the dragging effect, I switched to the "stamping" application method. No good. Apart from the odd smudge, I didn't find that any product left the tip unless the tip was being dragged. Maybe there's not enough product in the tip? I twisted the base once more before trying to apply the liner again. The product that was passed the edge of the tip just broke off and fell down my face. Which leads me to the next problem I encountered - fall out. 
This liner dries fast. Of course this is, in general, an advantage. Quick drying means less chance of smudging. But I did find some clumps of product where I'd obviously tried to go over the same area twice and dragged some product into a ball. I soon ended up with black dots all over my face (and even a few in my eye. Not good.). 

My verdict:
The AccuFlex tip is unique, and could offer a novel way of applying eyeliner. However I found it pretty tricky to get used to. I couldn't get a strong enough line without applying an uncomfortable amount of pressure to the tip. And its staying power (due to being quick-drying) means that fall out is likely. I expect I'll continue to use it until it runs out though because boy was it expensive. I do love you Benefit, but this time I'm not blown away.

Have any of you tried the They're Real! liner yet? Have you managed to master the application?
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Monday 23 June 2014

What's in my Edinburgh Makeup Bag?

Super quick post for you today. In about four hours I'll be on a plane to Edinburgh, so I thought I'd whip up a post whilst I pack. Ben and I seem to be getting into the habit of organising holidays at the last minute; up until this time yesterday we didn't have any plans. I'm pretty excited about the trip though - I've been wanting to visit Edinburgh for a while, and I'll be there for four days so I'm sure I'll be able to get a good feel for the city!

I always love reading peoples' going-away-makeup-bag posts, as you get to see what their essentials are. So here's what I've whittled my makeup collection down to:

From top left:

Urban Decay Lipstick in Native
This is quite new to my collection, but I really love it. It's a my-lips-but-better colour, and is so wearable during the day or in the evening. It has a great formula and doesn't need reapplying very often.

Bourjois Paris Healthy Mix Serum Gel Foundation
What I love about this foundation is how dewy it leaves your skin. It only provides light coverage, which means that a concealer is needed on bad skin days. But I much prefer this combination to full coverage foundations during the hotter summer days!

Sleek Blush by 3 Palette in Lace
I really love Sleek's Palettes! I picked up this one as I thought the orange blush would be great for summer. The three shades can also be layered, so that you can customise your shade. The colour pay off is great and is easily buildable. You can see my full review of the Lace Palette over on Imogen's Typewriter.

Soap and Glory Archery Brow Pencil in Love is Blonde
I'm not an expert in filling in my brows. So, being lazy, I decided to pick up this pencil-tint duo. Unfortunately I find the brow tint too dark, but the precision shaping pencil does everything I want.

Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer in Fair
I don't think I need to say much about this concealer! Everyone has heard about it and its blendable, full coverage. If I had to choose one makeup item to use for the rest of my life this would be it.

Rimmel Stay Matte Pressed Powder in Transparent
I'd heard great things about the Stay Matte powder, so I picked one up. I decided to go for the transparent powder so that I don't risk changing the appearance of my foundation. I've not been using it long enough yet to comment on whether it improves the longevity of my makeup, but I've not been disappointed so far.

From top left:

Carmex Lime Twist Lip Balm
Out of all the lip balms I've tried, Carmex has to be my favourite. If I apply it before bed then I can be sure of having perfectly smooth lips in the morning. Great for a chronic lip-biter! The sticks are great for using on the go.

Loreal Paris Smoky Eyeshadow Palette in Nude Lingerie
This is the perfect mini eyeshadow palette, giving you the ability to sport anything from a subtle daytime colour to a full smokey eye. It's perfect for travelling, and so affordable too!

Benefit Erase Paste in Fair
This is also new to my collection, but I'm already in love. The concealer looks quite orange in the pot, but once on it cancels out dark circles and becomes invisible. If you struggle with dark circles then look no further - this product is magic!

By Terry Ombre Blackstar Eyeshadow Stick in Blond Opal
Even though I'd already packed the Loreal Paris eyeshadow palette, I couldn't quite bring myself to leave this behind. The defining factor of these eyeshadow sticks (apart from how amazingly pretty they are) is the ease of use. 30 seconds to do your eye makeup? No problem. Swipe all over the eyelid and blend. Boom.

Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion
This is THE product for perfect, long-lasting eyeshadow. A little goes a very long way (in fact, it should be used sparingly to promote easy, stick-free shadow coverage), and is even tinted to help even out skin tone and cover those annoying eyelid veins.

Benefit The Porefessional
This mini version came in Benefit's recent Happy Beauty Day gift set (more info here). Of course I'd heard about all the hype surrounding the product, but I couldn't really bring myself to fork out for the full-sized version without trying it first. I'm pleased to say that The Porefessional has not let me down. It gets you one step closer to flawless skin, and who wouldn't want that?

Benefit Bad Gal Lash
This also came in the Benefit gift set I picked up. In my opinion it's nothing special, but it is the perfect size for travelling!

And that's it! Are any of these products in your essentials? Also, if you know Edinburgh please do leave recommendations for things to do or see! Neither Ben and I have been before and we'd love to get the most out of our trip :)
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Tuesday 17 June 2014

Some blog changes and an apology

Hi guys! How is everyone? I'm loving this summer weather and how pretty it makes everything! I hope everyone's enjoying it :) 

So the last few weeks have been pretty frustrating. For the first time in forever I'm getting what I'm dreaming of I had all the time in the World to dedicate to blogging, and yet my absence from my little part of the internet is all too obvious. Sorry again for the infrequent posts. If you're following me on twitter you'll understand my plight. As soon as I finished being busy with studying my laptop decided it couldn't take any more, and the cooling fan gave out. Cue a scorching, unhappy laptop. I also had to contend with no internet access for a while, which was even more frustrating. Anyway, I'm finally back. And since Uni is over I'm pretty excited to be able to start making some changes that I've been envisioning for a while. Here are the things I've been mulling over.

Redesign my blog
For the most part I've been pretty happy with my current blog design. It's got enough white space to look semi-professional, but is still quite unique compared to most designs I see. But, having been blogging for a while, I'm beginning to understand why lots of blogs look pretty similar. Clean, simple blogs are easy to read. Large, clear pictures are aesthetically pleasing. And sidebar widgets make the blog more dynamic. I can't wait to have a change, whilst hopefully retaining some features of my current blog design. 

Also, how do you feel about Disqus for comments? I find it quite useful, but have heard mixed reviews.

Improve my photography
Over the past few months I've been becoming more and more frustrated with my blog photography. I can visualise the photo I want to take, but my smartphone is just incapable of doing it. Top of my birthday wishlist was a DSLR, so hopefully soon I'll finally be able to produce the photos I'm aiming for. I'm sure it'll take me a while to get the hang of it all, but I'm hoping you'll see a noticeable improvement straight away.

Join more social networks
Since finishing Uni I've joined Twitter and set up a blog-specific Instagram. Surprisingly, I've never used Twitter before so I'm still learning the ropes. I think I'm settling in now though, and I'm loving how easy it is to interact with the blogging community. I must remember to put reminders for all the blogger chats in my diary because I love how informative they are for a relative newbie. I've also met some lovely people on Twitter already, and would love to meet more. Pop over and say hi if you want to chat :) My blog-specific Instagram was created so that I can keep you all up to date on my latest posts without bombarding my non-blogger friends. But I'm also planning on making my feed pretty. You'll see pictures of my days out, my food creations and anything that I enjoy. I hope you'll like it :) You can find links to both my Twitter and Instagram in my sidebar. 

I'm also thinking of making a Pinterest for my blog. Would people recommend it? I already look at Pinterest for creative inspiration, so I'm guessing it'd be great for blogging too!

Post more frequently
No more exams means that I can finally dedicate as much time as I want to blogging, and once I've got my new camera I'll be more motivated than ever. I'm planning to post 3 or 4 times a week to begin with, and then hopefully more often when I can.

My blog has had to take a back seat up until now, so I'm really excited that I can finally give it the love it deserves!
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P.S. Sorry for the lack of beauty posts recently! I'm currently in the process of moving out of my uni house, and most of the products I was planning on reviewing have gone astray :( By the weekend I'll have finished moving out, so hopefully everything will be back in my possession.

Monday 9 June 2014

University: my experience and some advice

First of all, a quick apology to those of you that noticed a few unfinished posts go up on my blog yesterday - I've been relying on scheduled posts throughout exam period, and unfortunately I've been so busy this past week that I completely forgot to finish them. They'll be finished and up again in their complete form soon.
So this week was pretty momentous. On Friday I took my last ever exam and, all being well, I'll be graduating in July. It's a confusing feeling. I've been looking forwards to finishing for such a long time, but now I'm done and have nothing concrete planned for the foreseeable future it's a bit of a shock to the system. The last two months have been the most gruelling of my life, and suddenly I've gone from ten hours of revision a day to nothing. It still feels strange, and there's still the underlying feeling that I have something that needs doing. Hopefully I get over that soon, because I sure could do with a couple of weeks to relax!
Anyway, since my university experience is all but over I thought it'd be useful to share my thoughts. The job market nowadays is so competitive that people often feel that they have no choice but to go to uni. However there are so many people going to uni that graduates are struggling just as much as non-graduates to find a job. Therefore I feel like now, more than ever, people should really consider all their options before making a decision on which direction they want to go. My experience has been quite different to many other peoples', so hopefully it can provide some guidance.
The first difficulty I had was deciding which subject to study. For as long as I can remember I've been an indecisive person. With difficulty I managed to choose five A-level subjects, which I enjoyed equally. This didn't help me with choosing a uni course, and to be honest I can't remember how I decided. But eventually I settled on Physics. "Settled". There was nothing I really had a passion for, and I think that was the start of my problems. In most university courses there are two types of people; those who have a natural ability and "get" the subject, and those who just try their best. I was in the latter category. I'm not afraid of hard work, but when mixed with a lack of passion for the subject it isn't conducive to a fun experience of higher level education.
My experience at university wasn't due to my choice of university. I still believe that I chose the best uni for my course. Instead it was due to an unfortunate series of events, some of which were unavoidable and others which were due to my personality. 
My flatmates in first year were a mixed bunch: one girl I became good friends with, one girl I rarely saw and two boys who, when put in the same room, were very hard to get along with. This, combined with the fact that all social events seemed to involve getting drunk, reduced my ability to make friends. Fortunately I managed to make a few like-minded friends on my course, but I still found myself spending a lot of time alone. Apart from a few flat arguments first year went uneventfully and I got decent results in my summer exams.
Second year meant moving out of the student accommodation and into a rented house along with a few friends. Unfortunately for me, most of my course mates had already decided who they'd be living with for the year. I, of course, wanted to live with my friendly flat mate, and so decided to take up her offer to live with her and a few people she knew. We managed to find a lovely house right next to campus and all seemed well. Everyone in the house had really similar personalities, but unfortunately we didn't see a lot of each other. The four of us were studying three different courses, so we all had different commitments. The two girls I didn't know well also, understandably, had separate friendship groups. Then, a few months after second year started, my flatmate decided it'd be best for her health if she left uni. This was a hard time for me. I'm completely happy with having a very small friendship group. But living with two people who still seemed like strangers to me was something that I couldn't get used to. I would spend more and more time alone in my room, and there came a stage when I struggled to get out of  bed. I tried not to let it affect my work, but my summer exam results were evidence that my mental health had suffered. 
I knew something had to improve for third year, so I decided to move in with my sister and her boyfriend. It was something that I had resisted for a while due to the stereotype of identical twins being joined at the hip. I'm sure that there were plenty of people who believed that we were studying the same course at the same uni just to be together. The truth was that we were both as unsure as each other about what we wanted to do in the future, so we chose to study a subject which precedes a wide variety of careers at the best uni we could. Still, I spent the first two years living away from Jess so that people wouldn't roll their eyes when we told them that we were living together as well as studying together. Turns out that moving in together was the best thing I could have done. Suddenly there were people who I could eat my evening meal with. And being able to pop upstairs to see Jess was a great comfort. Slowly my mental health improved, along with my marks for assignments.
Third year also meant that I had more choice when it came to choosing modules. I was able to tailor my degree towards the areas of physics that I enjoyed more, which made a huge difference to how I felt about uni. There were only a few modules I disliked, and some that I even enjoyed. A pole fitness society was also formed this year, which gave me a great opportunity to do some exercise, and provided a great distraction from final year stresses.
Fast forward two months and I've now jumped the final hurdle of my degree. Eight exams completed, and now there's just the stressful wait for my results. I really hope I've managed to do myself proud, despite all the difficulties. In fact, they just make a good result seem even more necessary. If I'm going to spend three years of my life being quite unhappy then I need something to show for it.
I hope this post doesn't completely dissuade anyone from deciding to go to uni. I do have a few good memories from my time there. I only hope it can help people gain some perspective about what uni can be like. 
I've compiled a list of dos and don'ts, so that people who decide that uni is for them can hopefully avoid the experience that I've had.

- take a gap year if you're not sure whether or not to go to uni. Unfortunately I felt pressured into going to uni straight away as the uni fees were tripled the year after I started. Travel or get a job, and hopefully you'll decide what will be best for you. 
- take a look at how flexible your course is at each of the universities you're interested in. Having the option to focus on subjects you enjoy will allow you to excel. Although it's worth remembering that science subjects will have quite a few compulsory subjects in earlier years.
think about how much you're likely to enjoy your course on days when you're finding it difficult. University is a big step up in difficulty from A-levels. Weekly assessments tend to take hours, and evenings spent in the library aren't unusual.
- say if you're not happy with your flatmates in first year. Student accommodation services are normally quite accommodating (pun not intended), particularly for the first few months, as clashes in personality are bound to occur.
- think about how often you'll be able to see your housemates. Living with people doing your course is a safe option, as long as you won't get sick of seeing them!
- tell someone if you feel that your mental health is suffering. For a long time I denied that I had a problem. And unfortunately my relationship with my housemates wasn't good enough for them to tell me to get help.
- join societies. Having an hour a week to look forwards to without fail really helped keep me going.
And most importantly, don't go to university just for the sake of going. People worry about missing out on a life experience, especially if all of their friends are going. But in the end I felt like I put my life on hold for three years. For me it was just a means to an end, and now that the end is here I can't wait to start living!
What are your thoughts on uni? Do you feel that people head to uni too rashly nowadays?
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Monday 2 June 2014

Five ways to get your blog noticed

I'm not going to pretend that my blog is popular. It's still a baby and still has a lot of growing potential. However I've been pretty happy with its growth so far, considering that I've not been able to dedicate much time to it. Therefore I thought I'd share a few things that have helped my blog out so far, in the hope that they might help out one or two of you.

1. Leave comments (on posts that interest you!)
My first tip is the most obvious, and something that I expect everyone will do anyway. If I'm on my laptop I try to check Bloglovin semi-frequently, as I've found that being amongst the first few to comment on a "popular" blogger's post is a good way of generating more visitors. It's also important to remember to leave comments on blogs with fewer followers; they deserve love too (and if I'm honest, often have much more interesting content!). Plus it's always lovely when there's a chance that you might get a reply.

Remember that what you write is a reflection of you. It's really frustrating for everyone when someone leaves a generic "Great post!" comment followed by their blog link. I, for one, would not be interested in reading someone's blog if they're too lazy to think of something interesting. Do your best to express your personality in your comments, or at the very least write something specific to the post.
Another thing that I found improved my page views was learning how to leave a hyperlink in a comment. Generally people will be too lazy to copy and paste your blog's URL, and so leaving a link increases your chances of new visitors. There's an easy hyperlink tutorial here.
(If you're not sure if you've done the hyperlink correctly you can always use the 'preview comment' feature to check first!)

2. Sponsor your favourite blog
For the last month or so I've been sponsoring the lovely Becky over at Becky Bedbug. I chose to sponsor Becky as I love her content and visit her blog really often, so I guessed other people would too! My page views have increased since I became a sponsor, and I even gained a few followers after Becky did her monthly sponsor shout out. Thanks Becky!
Last month I also sponsored a blog with more followers. I've gained much fewer page views through this blog, probably due to the number of sponsors being overwhelming. This is something to consider if you're thinking about sponsoring - fewer sponsors means you'll stand out.
Many blogs offer advertising from as little as £1, so there's not much to lose by giving it a try!

3. Offer to write guest posts
By offering to write a post for someone else you're also getting a chance to reach a whole new bunch of readers. It's easy, when thinking of a guest post idea, to get a bit selfish and try to save all your best ideas for your own blog. But remember that people will only be interested in checking out your blog if they actually enjoy reading the guest post, so only write something that you'd be proud of posting on your own blog. You also don't want to disappoint the blogger you offered to help out by writing something mediocre - you are doing them a favour after all!

4. Use social media
Once you've written a post you need to promote it. Unfortunately I've not had time to do this yet, but it's pretty obvious that the more places you leave a link to your post, the more visitors you're likely to have. Lots of bloggers use Twitter, Facebook and even Google Plus to promote their posts. However fewer people think of sharing their post on StumbleUpon, Reddit and Pinterest. Research all the resources and use them. But be aware that some sites like StumbleUpon require you to share other peoples' posts as well as your own to avoid breaking their terms of use. It's also important to remember moderation. People don't want to be reminded daily about your latest post - one share on each site is enough.
As well as promotion, social media are also a great networking tool (that's what they're there for, right?). Taking the time to build relationships, and even friendships, with other bloggers will go a long way to increasing your readership. It's also lovely to interact with a few like-minded people and share ideas. Blogger chats such as #bbloggers (for beauty bloggers) and #fbloggers (for fashion bloggers) are a great way to dip your toes in the water if you're not sure where to start with Twitter!

5. Try to stick to a post schedule
Whether it be daily or once a week it's best to try and post semi-frequently. If you can stick to this then people will begin to recognise your blog's name and, if they see that you're posting new content regularly, might be tempted to check it out. 
And that's it! I hope some of you find this post useful. If you have any other tips then please do leave them in the comments.
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