23 June 2013

Review: Marriott Spa Experience Day*

About a month ago Experience Days contacted me to very kindly offer me a spa day experience. Having spent some time looking into various spa days and treatments I had been under the impression that I would need to leave London for a proper relaxing spa experience so imagine my delight when I spotted the Marriott Pamper Day for Two at the beautiful County Hall hotel, just a stones throw away from Waterloo station.

Image: Google

Lucy and I met at Waterloo station at midday for the short walk to the hotel. Once we'd navigated our way through Ascot race-goers and the general hustle and bustle of Waterloo station I couldn't wait to get into the spa and unwind.

After a stressful few months a day of pampering was exactly what I needed, Lucy and I were able to choose a 30 minute treatment each and full use of the spa facilities for as long as we wished to stay. With a fully equipped gym, a full length swimming pool, sauna and steam room in addition to numerous treatment rooms and extensive changing and shower areas the spa at County Hall Marriott is deceptively spacious. 

We were given fresh robes and slippers when we arrived and led to the relaxation area where we filled out some generic health and safety questionnaires and waited for our treatments to begin. Water and towels were in plentiful supply and the spa was clean and well presented throughout.

I opted for a 30 minute back, neck and shoulder massage. My therapist used one of my favourite Decleor products, the Aromaessence Relaxing Massage Balm. When you warm the balm between your hands it breaks down into essential oils which nourish the skin. When I'm stressed I hold tension in my shoulders and across my collarbone so I like a medium-pressure massage, enough to work out the knots and tension but enough to still relax me.

Lucy went from a Decleor facial and her skin looked absolutely amazing afterwards! We were so relaxed after our treatments that instead of talking through the steps we opted to spend some time in the pool instead, I'm sure Lucy will blog about her treatment though so I'll be sure to link it when she does.

After swimming a few lengths of the pool we opted for a steam room and a sauna. I hadn't been in a steam room before and initially found the heat quite overpowering but I was amazed at how quickly my body adapted to the temperature and in the end I found it quite a relaxing and enjoyable experience and definitely something I would try again. The steam room also soothed some of my fears regarding my reluctance to try Bikram yoga as I think I could now cope with the heat.

After a relaxing few hours we decided to head out for lunch. The staff at the spa couldn't have been friendlier and I had a great few hours, the perfect way to spend a much needed day off work!

If you're looking for a day spa in London then I cannot recommend County Hall Marriott enough, despite its central location (it's at the end of Westminster Bridge!) you feel completely away from the hustle and bustle of city life. 

I'll definitely be using the Experience Days website again in the future, their Experiences are excellent priced and their service was brilliant. 

Vicky x

5 June 2013

Beauty | Estee Lauder Triple Creme Skin Rehydrator

A few weeks ago I trotted off to Selfridges after work for an Estee Lauder facial - when I bought my Aerin products the sales associate informed me that Estee Lauder would be offering a week of facials for £20 in May so I quickly jotted all of my details down and thought nothing more of it until I received a phone call asking me if I'd like to book in which, of course, I did!

After a long few weeks at work the chance to relax for an hour was very much welcome and my therapist Natalie was excellent. She listened to my skincare concerns and talked me through every stage of the treatment as well as the products she used which were mainly from the Re-Nutriv range.

After the facial Natalie took me back to the counter and went through all of the products she'd used and I was tempted to purchase the Hydrating Creme Cleanser which can also be used as a face mask however I settled on the Triple Creme Skin Rehydrator - a rescue mask for all skin types which energises and refreshes tired skin whilst providing moisture where needed and using an emollient formula to encourage the skin to lock in its own moisture.

Designed to be used for 10-15 minutes up to twice a week (or as needed), you can also leave the Triple Creme on overnight for an added boost, particularly if you have a party or an event the next day. I've tried both and my skin always feels and looks a lot better after using it - when I leave it on overnight my skin looks brighter and more radiant the next day and when I leave it for 10-15 minutes my skin looks refreshed and feels smooth.

The texture and formulation are utterly divine, they're very thick and rich without being heavy which for me is very important, especially in a overnight product. The balance between rich and heavy is one a lot of brands struggle to find but this is perfect. It doesn't feel heavy or sticky on the skin and leaves no residual feeling the morning after.

The packaging is also gorgeous from the pale aqua box to the frosted glass jar and gold lid, a lot of thought goes into presentation and this product looks and feels expensive which is something that a lot of people, myself included, really like. You feel like you're getting a luxury item, which of course you are.

I know a lot of people may find it a bit unusual to be talking about a hydrating skin product when we're approaching summer as dehydrated skin is something we all associate with winter however exposure to the sun and especially sun damage (sunburn! Please use SPF people) all dehydrate the skin as does alcohol consumption and we're nearly all guilty of having an extra drink when the weather is nicer and they're just two 'summer' factors that show you need to be hydrating your skin all year round.

I really feel like I've found a hidden gem here so I'm welcoming you all in to the circle of skincare trust and sharing my secret with you!

Estee Lauder Triple Creme Skin Hydrator - £29 for 50ml

Have you tried the Estee Lauder Triple Creme?

Vicky x


3 June 2013

2013 Goals Review

Source: weheartit

Can you believe we're already halfway through 2013?! The years seem to be whizzing by quicker than ever these days and as I set myself some pretty achievable goals in January I should have achieved at least one of them by now right? Well let's have a recap...

1. Pass my driving test
This one could certainly be going a lot better than it is but I'm finding it so hard to fit in lessons with working Monday to Friday! I've only had two lessons this year and I need to make more of an effort to dedicate my Saturdays to knuckling down and getting this done!

2. Try a hot yoga class
I've finally found a studio near to where I work and I'm booked in to try a class in July! Better late than never right?! I also joined the gym through a corporate scheme at work and I'm making a conscious effort to try and improve my fitness - I'm such a sloth. 

3. Set a monthly budget to help build my savings
This is going better than I could have expected although my savings took a huge dent at the start of the year when my laptop died and I bought my MacBook... I've found setting a lunch budget is really helping me save, as is giving myself a set amount each week to spend. Having a Zara a few minutes walk from my office is tough but I'm determined to succeed on this one.

4. Attend an evening class to learn a language
So this one has faltered a little and it isn't entirely my fault! I've emailed a few places and not had a response but I've finally found somewhere and I'm booking my classes from September at the end of this month.

5. Master cooking a roast dinner
The roast dinner has fallen by the wayside a little bit as I've been experimenting a bit more with my cooking and spending more time cooking meals rather than cakes but I'm sure I will have given this my best shot by the end of the year...

Considering I've undergone a lot of changes in the past six months I think my goals are going pretty well. I could focus more on my driving however finding the work-life balance is a new task entirely and one I'm still trying to master.

When you set goals I think it's important to sit down and assess them at times, after all what's the point of setting yourself a target and not monitoring your progress - there isn't one. I like to take stock of mine every few months to see how I'm getting on, what I need to improve on and what I can maybe check-off as completed. 

How are your 2013 goals going?!

Vicky x

2 June 2013

Book Review: Makeup Your Mind by Francois Nars

During the general #bbloggers chat on Wednesday night the topic of beauty books came up with Fisi, Kate and I and I mentioned one of my favourites is Makeup Your Mind by Francois Nars - a few people expressed an interest in seeing a post on it as they hadn't heard of it before so I dug my copy out.

Please note that all images are copyright of Francois Nars.

One thing I love about this book is that it's different to the other beauty and makeup books on the market which tend to be chapter upon chapter of theory and very little else. They tend to fall into the 90s neutral camp with a lot of browns and yellows and though they are in my opinion timeless, they can feel dated in technique and imagery.

Makeup Your Mind contains a brief introduction and from the first page you're given a clear insight into the ideology of Francois Nars and his approach to beauty and makeup. I've always found his opinions to be refreshing and highly quotable. 

Broken into areas, each section starts with an inspiring quote and a few pages on theory: eye/lip shape, product type and texture, application methods and so on and is followed by pages of large before and after images and a clear sheet which shows which products were used and where they were placed.

This is probably the main area in which Makeup Your Mind comes into it's own - instead of pages of theory, this book focuses on showing you the before and after and the products used by way of a clear sheet - there is little mention of application (this comes briefly at the end of the chapter) so some may struggle if they want a walk through but use the looks as inspiration - get your brushes out and work on it! Find a technique that works for you.

Clear and well lit headshots show the before and after images, the perspex sheets list all products used and where they were used and although this book was published in 2001, many of the products are still available at NARS counters today.

Each section ends with a vignette of each look and a brief run through of how the look was created. As you can see, some of the descriptions are noticeably shorter than others - in this case the reason being that the two models with the shortest descriptions are male which has put a few people off but as a makeup artist it's very helpful to see some catwalk male makeup looks, particularly as I do a lot of male grooming work.

The perspex sheet and product listing prove very helpful, one of the things that annoys me most about makeup and beauty books is that many fail to include a product list and instead put a stockist section and the back for brands and not products and shades.

The spiral binding makes it easy to flip between pages, sections and looks - you can use the sheet to see the products used but move it away to inspect the images more closely. It's a new take on the face chart and I really like it.

Makeup Your Mind is image heavy and theory light which has caused some to opine that it's a case of style over substance, the book itself is beautifully presented and the images clear but it doesn't "teach" you anything per se. This argument is a bugbear of mine as a book and theory will only take you so far with makeup application and technique, applying makeup and learning to do it properly is incredibly practical and personal to each individual, yes a book will tell you where the best place to apply blusher to suit each face shape is but it won't stand behind you and correct your posture or the way you're holding a brush.

If you're looking for a book to guide you through application and talk you through technique then this probably isn't for you however if you're looking for a book full of inspiring images then you will love this - it's a great coffee table book and one I'd love to receive as a present.

Makeup Your Mind does cater more to the high fashion/editorial market so it's unlikely to help anyone looking to achieve every day looks but for a makeup artist or makeup student it provides hours of inspiration - if I'm ever lacking inspiration the first thing I do is get my books out be they makeup/beauty or photography, and the NARS book never fails to inspire me.

Even though it was produced and published in 2001 the looks still translate and many are still seen on catwalks across the world today.

I have quite a lot of beauty books that I'd be happy to do a series on if you'd like to see them?

Which beauty/makeup books are your favourites?

Vicky x
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