Thursday, 30 October 2008

#81 The Price is Right

I've never been an avid watcher of the news, but of late, I've been even less inclined to sit in front of the daily bulletins, so demoralised have I been with our current state of economy (credit crunch, credit crunch, credit crunch), society (I live in the South East, which the news reports would have me believe is the new South Central LA) and culture (AKA the Brand and Ross debacle). Where has all the good news gone? We know that times are tough, belts are tight, banks are to blame, the government's in a squeeze and our former empire of an economy is now looking green around the gills and weak in the knees, but, where possible, life must still go on.

I'm not a big spender - I punctuate months of abstinence with the occasional end-of-season sale treat from net-a-porter - but in order to part with money at this time I feel as though the purchase must be both affordable and high-quality - but most importantly, it needs to deliver real value for money and something above and beyond the basics embodied by the price tag.

With this in mind:

Ruby + Millie are selling their Make-Up On The Go Travel Case for £25, as opposed to the normal £50. I've always liked their eye shadows and brushes and with this kit, you'll walk away with (I now revert to the press release): 10 eye colours, 5 lip colours, 4 metallic colours, 2 cheek colours, a highlighter, 5 make-up brushes in their own case, a cosmetic purse and a mirror. This will be beauty utopia for some, hell for others who prefer chic, downsized palettes to large, paintbox style trays - but regardless of personal preference, quality and value are both ticked by this beauty box. The offer is only valid from Friday 31st October - Thursday 6th November, at Boots.

The other notable 'credit crunch' offer comes courtesy of London salon WINDLE. On Tue 11th and Tue 18th November, they'll be serving up 'recession days', where absolutely everything under their roof will be sold at 50% off. Alongside cuts, colouring and treatments, it also includes Bumble and Bumble products and the full range of WAM electricals. WAM tools are great, by the way, in particular the anodized curling irons which come in five different barrel sizes. WINDLE is based at 41 – 45 Shorts Gardens, in Covent Garden. The number, if you fancy a chat, is 020 7497 2393.

So, there you go - my two top credit crunch tip-offs. That's as close as I'll ever get to advertising, but in these thrifty times, it feels right to share the wealth. And as Jamie Oliver might say - PASS IT ON!

Friday, 24 October 2008

#80 Happy Highs and Extraordinary Lows...

Here's another round-up of the best beauty loot that won't break the bank:

Bourjois Rouge Hi-Tech Lip Tint in Rouge Futuriste
I adore orangey-red shades for lips - from peachy corals to blood orange - and the first time I tried this I was seriously impressed. The first coat leaves nothing other than a sheer stain - the sort of colour my lips go after sipping on orange & carrot juice! - but build it up and by the third layer, this stain leaves lips with the sort of high-fashion hue that chimes perfectly between red and orange. Current, flattering and cool. I've worn it with a tan and while being pale as blotting paper - both times with compliment-inducing effect. The one downside is that it can wear off unevenly, staining the inner, more porous part of my lips for longer than the outer, smoother edges - which is why I keep the portable little pot on hand for touch-ups.

Urban Decay Iconic Lipstick in 5150
The packaging aims for 'high-design' (cough 'gimmicky' cough), but unfortunately it translates as weighty and cumbersome... thankfully, the entire range makes up in colour and texture what it lacks in practicality. My chosen muted cherry pink shade is the sort of bright, without being bold, colour that always manages to perk up the complexion. The hint of glitter doesn't work for everyone, but in a dimly lit bar where the subtle sparkle looks immensely flattering, it is just the ticket.

And from atop the fence...then over the other side...

There are a few brands that fit into my 'I'm just not sure about them' category. The ideas are strong, but execution is somehow lacking. Be it the packaging, the textures, the shades or just simply that they do not deliver - the following brands have yet to hit my mark:

New id Cosmetics
I like the ideas behind a lot of these products. i-groom, for example, is an angled, triangular-tipped pencil, that is well-shaped to fill in patchy brows, and also comes with a pleasingly grippy-bristled brush at the other end. However, when I opened mine for the first time, the pencil lead flew out, followed by the spring mechanism, and subsequent models have also proven a bit flimsy. I've also tried i-blush (once again a clever concept of a trio of contouring and highlighting cheek colours), but despite the 'finely milled powder' and 'Ipanema' promise, found them all slightly chalky and the color choice not particularly flattering on my pale golden skin.

Cosmetics a la Carte
Here is a clear case of a cosmetics company with a big, faithful fanbase, that could very much benefit from a revamp. Bases come in a wide range of shades - the ethos is 'made to measure make-up' - and the concealers are bestsellers thanks to their longwearing, but nicely blendable, formulas. But here's the rub - the packaging is plasticky, design is dated and much of it looks, well, cheap. The silver silken bags (think party favours) within which products are packaged does not do much to redeem them either. An unfortunate case of sufficient substance, but not enough style.

Virgin Vie...
Oh dear. I'm afraid that VV has become shorthand in beauty ed world for brands that miss the mark by a mind-bogglingly long way. This brand has SO much potential. Many of the formulas are fab - I remember testing the Skin Dew Primer some years ago and being rather impressed - but the general look of the products (particularly the make-up), is dated, dull and often illogical. I might be sued for libel here, but I'll risk it by saying that it looks as though VV have attempted to copy Estee Lauder's packaging (think navy blue with gold insignia), but have somehow produced something that looks more like Marks & Spencer. Regardless, there are clearly lots of ladies who love the line (the online business is booming) - even if the unphotogenic products rarely make it onto the pages of glossy magazines (or into my evening bag).