Welcome to Birchbox! Another beauty box adventure.

So you're on Instagram, Twitter or Blogger and you see five lovely sized products from well known brands all for £10 and think "I want that, what box is that?"sixty seconds & £12.95 later you've signed up to yet another beauty box on your quest for monthly beauty discoveries.. sound familiar!? So far I've only tried Glossybox and I found it, well, disappointing. I think there is an element of 'special treatment' to the way these boxes are packed sometimes, or maybe it's just coincidence. I was always so disappointed after seeing products online and then getting a pile of crap in front of me. HOWEVER, mini rant aside finally my first impressions of a beauty box aren't "and what the hell do I do with this", all thanks to Birchbox! 

As far as I'm aware Birchbox works the same as every other beauty box, you fill out a few questions about your skin type, preferred brands, bla bla and then you are sent a box once a month with five products to try out. There was a slight mishap with the delivery and I had to email customer services, I'm still not sure what went wrong but personally the contents of the box made up for this teeny error!

My January 2014 box included the products listed below as well as a cooling gel mask to help soothe and de-puff eyes, there was also a cutesie little book of positive daily ideas which I've taken to keeping in my bag for inspiration!

Laura Mercier Ambre Vanille Body Butter - Okay so if someone said to me "Hayley, we want you to bottle the scent of heaven and angels" I would say "No probs guys, smell this" and then show them this gorgeous product, seriously, it smells incredible! Body butter isn't something I usually bother with but I've been using this twice a day just for the scent alone and I have noticed my skin feels soft, hydrated and not to mention smells like a dream. I'm so happy with this product, a definite purchase!

Philip Kingsley Elasticizer - This pre shampoo treatment can be used to moisturise dry/damaged hair before shampooing or as an intensive overnight mask. There's been a lot of hype surrounding this product and I'm looking forward to trying it out once I've used my Lush BIG shampoo up. 

Delarom Aquaconfort Mask - Designed to be used once or twice a week, this mask is brought to you by a 'scientifically advanced' and 'all natural' to help improve the skins barrier, vitality and suppleness... erm, yes please! It has a slight fruity scent, probably due to the fact that it's infused with pomegranate but it's not too overpowering. I'm yet to use this but I plan to soon, ideally 5 - 10 mins is enough for this mask to work but if you suffer from very dry skin 10+ minutes are advised, again, it's supposed to work wonders so fingers crossed!

Premae Anatomy Nutrients Instant Renewal Body Oil - At first glance I was like "body oil, pfft" and then I realised this was the product deemed 'cardio in a bottle' *squeal!* anything that means I can cheat when it comes to working out it fine by me! This particular brand are a luxury brand that specialise for people with allergies and sensitive skin, Body Oil will hydrate and detoxify the skin as well as tone - I'm going to smother myself in this and see if this statement is true, here's hoping!

Benefit Porefessional - As a former Benefit gal I've worn my fair share of this product and unfortunately for me, I've never seen eye to eye with it. When I apply this my skin becomes almost crusty and it isn't even particularly dry, I use a teeny tiny amount and still my foundation just seemed to move around and almost curdle (yerghuck!!) when applied on top. I think this is the only product that let me down regarding Birchbox, however, thousands swear by it, so it's just a bad match for me personally. I gave it to my mum instead, she was very happy and kept telling me to feel her 'super smooth baby skin'... at least someone got a use out of it!

Birchbox have impressed me so far, I would say I was 96% happy with my box and I cant wait to see what February's box brings! What boxes are you subscribed to? Are there any beauty boxes you'd reccomend?

Your guide to highlighting and contouring & my first YouTube video!

This makeup technique is one that everyone seems to want to know about, I've posted a guide on this before but since then I've changed the way I contour, the products I use and I'd like to show you how to contour for your own face shape. This is just my personal technique that I have learned from coworkers on how to contour, if you have a method you prefer and it works for you then keep at it, I just wanted to lend a helping hand, well, makeup brush!

What do I use to contour!?
Firstly you need to find a contour product that works best for you, there are tonnes, bronzers, cream pigments, concealers, powders, the list is endless! One way to determine the right formula is to think of your skin type and what type of product suits you. For example if you have very oily skin use a matte bronzer such as Benefit's Hoola. Sleek contour kit, Illamasqua cream pigment in Hollow, a concealer two shades darker than your skin tone, these are all examples of possible contour products, it's about finding out (sometimes through trial and error) what works best for you. Because there are such a wide range of products to choose from a palette like the Crownbrush concealer palette is a good choice because it has a wide range of shades and is easy to blend, plus it's only £16.99 for ten colours!

What shade does my contour need to be?!
This is a difficult one because obviously everyone's skin tone is completely different! Some say that if you look just above your collar bones there is a natural shadow, this apparently is the perfect contour colour. If you cant quite work out the shade that way it's perfectly acceptable to use a shade that's two shades darker than your skin tone depending on what product you're using. But please, I beg of you, try and steer clear of orange tones, it looks too obvious and doesn't blend well at all!

How and where do I apply my contour?!
Apply your contour however you feel works best for you, personally I use the Real Techniques Duo Fibre contour brush, but if you have another method that you love just stick to it :) You want to contour any areas that you want to add depth to, for example the cheekbones, sides of the nose, jawline. It really depends on your face shape but the contour guide below should help.

What do I use to highlight?!
Personally, I use NYX jumbo pencil in Milk, it's pure white so it's quite a dramatic highlight but I set with powder to neutralise. You can use a concealer two shades lighter than your skin tone, a powder highlight, it's completely up to you, I normally use a matte highlight and then apply a shimmer over the top very lightly.

My contour & highlight method

 *I don't follow every step listed below in this video because my camera cut out a few times, hurrah!*

1. I use Urban Decay pressed powder in Medium/Dark, starting lightly I add depth to my cheek bones and continue the contour to make my cheeks appear rounder because my face is longer than the M6. Because my face is longer than the M6 it means my nose is also long (thanks again God for blessing me with these features) so a little trick I learnt is to apply contour from the bridge to the middle of the nose using an illamasqua blending brush, making my nose look like a cute little button, yay! Next is the jawline, lack of jawline I should say after continuing Christmas eating habits throughout January.. to disguise this I apply my contour from the jawline in a downward motion toward the neck.

2. Now onto highlighting, I love a bright, glowing highlight so I use NYX jumbo pencil in Milk. I apply this along the tops of my cheek bones and take it under my eyes to emphasize the brightness. I also pop this on my chin, cupids bow and inbetween my nose contour. You can also highlight your brow bone at this point, I usually do this as part of my brow routine.

3. Finally I add blush and a subtle shimmer highlight to the tops of my bones cheekbones, then set with powder.

That is pretty much it, it's not overly complicated but it's tricky to get the right tools and technique, once you've practiced you'll be a contouring expert, it's all about trial and error so don't worry if it doesn't look perfect first time!

Kukee - the cutest jewellrey for under £5

I'm no ~fashionista~, that's no secret, I don't have time to be, on my days off my clothes get covered in god knows what with a toddler running around and when I am at work my all black uniform isn't exactly daring, one thing I rely on to make my outfit more interesting is jewelry, particularly rings! It may have been growing up watching Phoebe from Friends with her fabulous gothic ring collection that made me addicted but whatever it was I think they're the perfect accessory!

I came across Kukee on Burkatron, one of my favourite DIY/creative blogs. Jewellery starts at £1 and there are lots of styles to chose from. The first thing that caught my eye was the cute brother moon necklace, and at just £3 I could hardly say no could I? As well as this I went for a set of silver midi rings, a gorgeous blue druzy heart ring and a midi stacking ring with a small moon... can you tell I like silver!? Delivery is only £1 for 1-5 days standard service and because the whole lot only came to around £10 I decided to pay £3 for the express service, they arrived within two days and even came with a free gift!

I'm really impressed with this brand, the style of the jewellery and the affordability, ideal for gifts or just for yourself! You can have a look at this wonderful little line over at www.kukee.co.uk or follow their twitter @IloveKukee.

Quick fix pamper time essentials

Wake up, eat breakfast if you have time, run for the bus, get a packed train, work all day and then you get home, tired and ready for bed - sound familiar? Most of us have pretty hectic day to day lives and I think it's about time we just took a few minutes out for ourselves, sounds good doesn't it!? Whether you have ten minutes or two hours, here's a few essential items for a luxurious at home pamper session...

Face mask - This one's a given really, want a facial but don't have the time or the £40 in your pocket to head to the spa? Don't worry about it, just go down to Superdrug, Boots, Lush, there are tonnes of cheaper alternatives on the shelves with the same results as a fancy schmany facial! My personal favourite at the moment is Lush Cupcake face mask, it's made from Cocoa powder, cocoa butter and a whole tonne of other anti break out ingredients. Just don't try and eat it though, because believe me it's very tempting once you get a smell!

Hair mask - Whether you have coloured hair, frizzy hair, straight hair, dry hair, it's always nice to look in the mirror and see a shining Rapunzel esque hair style. There are so many hair masks about these days and this Bleach London Reincarnation Mask is my saviour! I've recently gone from blue to white blonde so my hair is drinking up any goodness it gets, especially this little baby. It's basically a magic potion of micro wheat proteins and sunflower seed extract that boost the vibrance of your hair colour and leaves a healthy shine in just 15-20 minutes, ooh la la.

Lip balm - Christmas has come and gone, the sun is actually out so WHY is it still so cold!? All that's happening is I'm still busting out the fur coat but with sunglasses (diva alert) and my lips are sore, chapped and dry which is not great when you love wearing matte finish lipsticks! I try to use lip balm everyday, especially this one by Lush. Honey Trap lip balm contains Honey (duh) to soothe the lips, almond oil to moisturise and beeswax to protect and seal, what a treat!

Hand cream - I have a real issue with my hands, they look like a 90 year old woman's, therefore I try to take extra special care of them! Soap & Glory's hand food is a delicious smelling cream to hydrate the hands and it's special ingredient of lotus flower helps keep them silky smooth. My nan actually swears by smothering her hands in cream then putting rubber gloves on for twenty minutes.. probably works but not sure you'd be able to get on your iPhone!

A good book or DVD - It's so easy to turn to Netflix when you're bored but reading a book can be quite the therapeutic experience! Lately I've been re-reading (for the 28428th time) Harry Potter, it's my first ever copy of Philosopher's Stone complete with name and class number written in, it's battered and falling apart but I love it to bits. If you really want to relax or get a little deep there's a book called The Power of Now, it's guide to spiritual enlightenment and basically a self help book, I find it very interesting and helpful :) If a DVD is more your thing than Clueless, Mean Girls, Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging are my top three chick flicks but there's always a good old fashion musical like Les Mis, just get so tissues ready because as the titles suggests it is actually very miserable.

A nice old fashioned cup of tea - English breakfast, green, jasmine, whatever your cup of tea (wahey!) I am a firm believer that a cup of tea is always the answer!

Lush bath bombs and their magic powers


Maybe 'magic powers' wasn't an accurate description of the properties of a Lush bath bomb, but my god, have you ever dropped one of these babies in water? POW! Loads of colour, popping candy, swirls of glitter, it's like a creative explosion AND it smells good! However, these babies also serve a purpose, for example, Twilight bath bomb is packed with lavender oil and ovaltine to send you to sleep, Fizzbanger contains cinnamon leaf oil which eases weakness and depression... they all have their own little tricks up their sleeve and without further ado here are my faves...

Titsy Totsy - This beautiful little bath bomb you could buy on appearance alone right? It contains seven real rose buds and is made up of rose oil, lemon oil, geranium and jasmine. The overall scent is very floral but the lemon adds an uplifting touch. There are no fireworks with this one, it simply turns your bath a creamy colour and the rosebuds float around, it's very peaceful and what's more rose oil is actually use my aromatherapists to treat grief and depression - I'm not saying it works, but what's the harm in a perk me up bath bomb!? Lemon oil is also an essential ingredient and is super beneficial to dry, mature and sensitive skin.

Space Girl - Okay I did buy this one solely based on appearance, it had glitter on it! Space girl is a blend of grapefruit, almond and bergamot (orange) oil which are supposed to relax you, uplift your mood and tone the skin - sounds good to me! This one does give off a little show, the bath bomb swirls around erupting with popping candy turning your water a dreamy purple shade.

Think Pink - The essential girly bath bomb, turns your bath pink, smells like vanilla and it's full of tiny pink love heart confetti! Vanilla is the main ingredient in the bath bomb, but there's also a hint of lavender oil in their too, this bath boom is good for a simple relaxing bath. The scent is pretty overwhelming but you tend to forget about it because it smells so god damn good!

Twilight - I touched on this earlier but basically Twilight is the mother of all "send me to sleep" bath bombs, seriously, I popped it in the bath earlier and had to have a nap when I got out. Lavender oil is a very popular ingredient to help with sleep/relaxation and I'm pretty sure Lush put enough to make the whole of the UK need a nap in this one - I love it! When the bath bomb first hits the water your bath looks like a pretty pink marshmallow, until a blue layer surfaces making a swirly pastel vortex, it's so pretty!

Fizzbanger - I think this could be my favourite in terms of what it's ingredients are for - basically, this bath bomb just wants to cheer you up! We all have our days, especially in January and I'm one of those people who think certain foods, oils, flowers, etc are going to effectively help me change my mood and in my opinion - this works! It's not for everyone but this blend of petitgrain, ylang ylang and cinnamon leaf oil is the perfect concoction to perk you up and leave you smelling like a toffee apple, nice! This bath bomb is layered with pastel yellow, blue and green, it makes a really relaxing, beautiful thirty second show of colour, woo!

Ickle Baby Bot - Ah, this one is my daughter Daisy's favorite! I did a little research to make sure it was all completely safe for her to use before I bought this and when I bought it home she loved it! She was fascinated when she dropped it in the bath, on her tip tops peering over the edge shouting "WOAH BUBBLE!" it's great to find something that's good for her skin and also fun, god knows putting creams on her isn't fun and "no" is her favourite word at the moment, a lethal combination. Lavender and Chamomile team up in this bath bomb to treat skin irritation, work as an anti septic, anti inflammatory and calm our little ones down before bed time. Anything that relaxes a toddler is a god send in my eyes!

Current skincare favourites

Skincare, like all beauty products, is evolving constantly, there are always new products and innovative formulas (snail gel moisturiser to name just one, yeah, snail gel) hitting the shelves and I think this may be why my skin care routine chops and changes so often. However, at the moment I've found a few little gems which are my daily skincare routine staples. I'll hold my hands up right now and confess I'm not a skincare junkie/wizz, I probably only use the basics, I'd also like to apologise for how often I use the word 'refreshing' in this post...

MAC Strobe Cream £12.50 - I use this as a moisturiser/primer everyday, I'm not sure how I lived without it to be completely honest because it really does work wonders! Strobe cream is a hydrating, vitamin packed moisturiser that's full of antioxidants, green tea and minerals to perk up dull, dry skin with it's iridescent particles. If you have skin that tends to feel dry or just look a little worse for wear this will definitely do the trick, my skin drinks this stuff up, I love it! If I really want a dewy look I mix this with my foundation for a gorgeous natural glow.

Bobbi Brown Hydrating Eye Cream £31 - I'm not entirely sure where I got this sample from but I came across it whilst having a de-clutter and boy oh boy am I glad I did! Toddler plus full time job plus home to take care of means that under my eyes are quite the spectacular shade of black, feel very sensitive and tend to look puffy 24/7, sexy huh? This lightweight cream is so refreshing, as soon as it's applied the cooling sensation itself feels lovely and the Aloe Vera helps to soothe and comfort the skin. Hydrating eye cream plumps and firms the delicate under eye skin and contains Jojoba seed and Avacado oil to keep the skin stay hydrated for up to 24 hours. I really do like this product, it's so lightweight and the comforting aspect of the cream is great. If you've got tired peepers I'd grab a pot of this!

L'Oreal Absolute Makeup Remover Eye & Lip £5.49 - This product has been floating around the blogosphere for a while now, I read it was a great dupe for the Clarins instant eye makeup remover but alot easier on the purse! Part of working for a brand that loves dramatic makeup is wearing, you guessed it, dramatic makeup, so I need a makeup remover that leaves my face squeaky clean and removes even the toughest mascara, and I think I've found it! This was 1/3 off when I picked it up in Boots so I bought it for only £3.33, an absolute bargain, I'll definitely be repurchasing again and again again and again...

Lush Cosmetic Warrior face mask £5.95 - All hail Lush, the god of bath time pampering, my absolute best friend right now! As I mentioned I wear heavy makeup for work, because of this I need to take extra special care of my skin to prevent breakouts, this face mask contains tea tree and fresh garlic to help cleanse the skin gently. What I like about this face mask is that it really does clean my skin, mine feels so fresh after using this; also, Lush have been very clever when making this product, it contails white grapes to cool & cleanse, honey to soothe & moisturise and free range eggs, to tighten the skins texture. Everything that goes into this little magical pot works so well together, I love, my skin loves it, try it! I'm sure you'll love it too!

MAC Fix + £8.00 - There are so many uses for this product , at the moment I just like it to refresh my skin but you can use it to set your makeup, a mixing medium, to dilute heavy consistency product, etc. Lately my skin has been so dehydrated no matter what I try, because Fix+ contains cucumber, chamomile and green tea my skin is instantly soothed and feels super refreshed. I spray this on my face whenever I feel like it needs a little pick me up!

Lush Tea Tree Water Toner £3.95 - Again, another product to help fight and prevent breakouts, this time in the form of a refreshing tea tree water which also contains grapefruit to help clear and stimulate the skin. I use this morning and evening, a quick spritz over the face and then remove the residue with a cotton pad and my skin feels clean, refreshed and surprisingly soft! This is also a handy makeup remover too.

MAC Makeup Remover Wipes £10 - My ultimate cheat for when I'm feeling lazy! These wipes remove stubborn makeup, build up, grime, whatever is on your face these will remove it, they feel soothing and freshen up skin instantly. Packed with Vitamin E and sources of MAC Cleanser these quick fix wipes leave the skin hydrated and squeaky clean.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Pomade

Everytime I look at this little magical pot I swear I can hear the hallelujah chrous, angels singing, crowds cheering.. okay you get the idea - I love it! I first saw this product like most of Anastasia's, on Instagram, they seem to be a company that was made famous by Instagram makeup artist pages such as Vegas Nay, Lookamillion, etc. It's not easy to get yours paws on in the UK but Cult Beauty have recently begun stocking Anastasia products and as soon as they announced Dipbrow would be coming I waited patiently (yeah right) for January 5th!

Dipbrow is a waterproof gel brow colour, it comes in five shades from Blone - Ebony. Dipbrow is ideal for sculpting the brows, you can create some real on point arches with this product and an angled brush such as Louise Young LY37 brush. The formula is super creamy and it is a dream to glide onto the skin, it also adheres to hairs really well and is completely smudge proof - I rubbed my brows for a good minute to test this and my god, this product does not budge! The outcome of using dipbrow is a clean, well defined brow and because the product is so well pigmented you can really tailor make how opaque you want the product to appear; for example my shade, chocolate brown, is slightly warmer than the weird, dark ash brown my actual brows are, so I build up the colour on the arch (as you can see in the horrific quality photos - sorry!), then use the excess or a really tiny amount and light as a feather strokes to fill in the start of my brows. It may take couple times to get used to this product but once you are you'll wonder how the hell you lived without it!

The product is the same size as MAC's paint pot or chromaline, you only need a really small amount to work with so I think this bad boy will last quite a while! As for the price point it's £15 which to me is basically your average run of the mill price for a high end brow product, it's nothing to rant or rave about in terms of price. 

I seriously think this is a must have for your brows, it's probably the best thing I've discovered in the past year, god bless you Dipbrow!