Monday, 29 February 2016

My Oscars red carpet fashion picks

So I don't usually do red carpet round-up posts, but every year the morning after the Oscars I race to the gossip sites to see what everyone's been wearing, so I figured it would be fun to share. You'll also find no 'worst dressed' in my corner of the web - I don't believe in shaming people for their image or fashion choices. I don't have time for anything but love!

  

Charlize Theron in Dior - Simple but striking. That neckline!

Brie Larson in Gucci - This isn't something I thought she would wear but damn this bespoke number makes Brie Larson look like a beautiful peacock. 


  

Sophie Turner in Galvan - Sophie Turner is known for making interesting outfit choices but this light grey number is subtle and lets her hair colour do the talking. A++++.

Cate Blanchett in Armani Prive - There's something about pale colours on pale ladies that I love and Cate has this down. She wore a similar dress in a peachy shade last year but if it ain't broke...


    

Margot Robbie in Tom Ford - This girl can do no wrong in my eyes and this gold gown only serves to prove it. 

Saoirse Ronan in Calvin Klein - Another sequinned dress and my favourite of the night. Saoirse Ronan for some reason looks great in green and I love this deep colour as well as the cut!

  


Kerry Washington in Versace - This look is worth more than a mention. The badass leather paired with flowing white is sleek as hell.

Jennifer Lawrence in Dior Haute Couture - While I'd quite like just this once to see JLaw in something that isn't by Dior, I can't deny how flattering this gorgeous gothic gown is.

Did you have a favourite look from this year's red carpet?



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Sunday, 28 February 2016

15 blog post ideas that don't totally suck



I've done a couple of these blogging prompt posts before (the most popular one is here), but I thought it was about time for another! Blogging is such a saturated area of the internet at the moment and I really do struggle to come up with content that's original and interesting sometimes.

I find grabbing a pen and paper and just brainstorming some topics much more helpful than opening a blank post and staring into the emptiness. The below is what I've just come up with and I know these topics will be easy to put an individual spin on!

1. Love what you do for a living? Discuss how you ended up in your career and give some tips for anyone wanting to get into the same business.
2. Share your wardrobe essentials for a particular occasion or theme, whether it's work, date night or the beach.
3. Good at staying healthy? Put together a post linking to some of your favourite recipes, workouts and playlists.
4. I love to travel and thrive off of other people's travel blogs when I'm too poor to book flights! Share your top tips on your favourite destinations - don't forget to add some photos!
5. What's the one book you'd recommend to all your friends? Why?
6. Set yourself a challenge (e.g. sign up for a 10k race, don't buy anything new for a month, give up sweets) and check in on your progress weekly.
7. Reveal a controversial opinion - everyone has one about something!
8. Was there a particular moment that totally changed your perspective on life? What was it? Maybe it was something a teacher once said, a breakup, a low moment, a career breakthrough - share it with your readers.
8. Give us a tour of your room or house - even if it's the box room in your parents place!
9. Gather some snaps of yourself throughout the ages and bring us in on the cringe.
10. Be a tourist in your own town.
11. Share a DIY or 'how to' if you know how to do something nifty, from knitting a scarf to getting the perfect eyeliner flick.
12. What would your death row meal be? Ask your readers to share theirs.
13. Grab your best friend and have a Q and A session - you could vlog this too!
14. Create an 'ultimate guide' to something you're awesome at. Turn it into a nice long post with images throughout!
15. Don't just share a wishlist of stuff you'll actually end up buying - put together an uber wishlist of the ridiculous things you'd buy if you suddenly hit the lottery jackpot (I'm assuming people would buy ridiculous things because my first purchase would probably be a monkey butler).

I know I'll be attempting some of these over the next few weeks - will you? Let me know in the comments below and don't forget to link the post if you do!
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Tuesday, 23 February 2016

My blepharitis nightmare - will I ever find a cure?


So this post is a bit different to what you might usually see on tea books eyeliner but I really wanted to get this one out there and see if anyone else is going through this. Since a sudden flare up over Christmas which has been followed by weeks of discomfort and going back and forth from the doctors office I've been diagnosed with an inflammatory eye condition called blepharitis. It hasn't been a lot of fun. To put it bluntly it's been an irritating, uncomfortable and downright depressing pain in the butt that means I can't really wear eye makeup any more. It makes me want to hide away and sleep forever because that's basically the only time it doesn't bother me.

Warning: this is a long, at times gross post so stop here if you're not a sufferer/not interested.

What is blepharitis?
Blepharitis refers to the inflammation of a very specific area of the eye - the lining/waterline area and the skin surrounding the base of your eyelashes. I've included a diagram from google to kind of illustrate that a bit better as trying to explain it to people has been difficult in itself. I'm going to talk about my specific symptoms but you can find out more about other symptoms and read about it in more detail through a quick internet search.

Eww

What causes blepharitis?
To be honest the picture I'm getting from the medical world and from sufferer forums is that nobody really knows. The term is used to refer to this very specific group of symptoms but people seem to have a whole host of theories as to what's caused theirs. Most cases are thought to be caused by blocked oil glands within the eye's lining, which can cause swelling and the build up of gunk. I have also heard doctors blame makeup for passing on bacteria or causing reactions however my doctor doesn't seem to believe the problem is bacterial. It is also linked to allergies, dry eye and with the taking of medicines that cause dry eye, as well as dust mites and moulds. There is no known, definitive cure - everyone is different. Some people will have this for years and some severely, while some claim to have cured theirs in under a year.

What are my symptoms and how did they start?
It started quite suddenly for me on 27th December. I had been given the beautiful Gwen x Urban Decay eyeshadow palette for Christmas and applied a smokey look for an evening out with friends. As we were talking to the pub I began to notice a burning sensation on my lids but mostly my lashline. I had had a strong allergic reaction to an Eyeko liquid liner back in October (which calmed down within 48 hours and returned completely to normal after I removed it and soothed my skin) so I worried I might be having a reaction to this. 

I should note that other than the above I've only ever had one other allergic reaction to a beauty product, which was a concealer that made my eyes itch and again this ceased when I stopped using it. I had also been using the palette for the previous two days without any problems so I cannot be 100% sure that this wasn't just a coincidence. I'll probably never really know if I could have done something differently that weekend to have prevented this and that's something that really bothers me.

On New Years Eve I was particularly upset as I couldn't apply my eye makeup. I was playing around with the colour settings on my new Olympus Pen camera and it picked up this along with my lipstick:

Not a good look lolll

What did I do then?
After a week of tingling, itching, redness and burning sensations around my eyes I decided to go to the doctors, thinking I must have conjunctivitis. I binned my mascara, brow gel, eyeliners and brushes just in case they were giving me an infection but my GP dismissed it as an allergy and told me to use dry eye drops and it would go away. My symptoms across both eyes include redness around my lashline, soreness at the base of my lashes, a burning, itching sensation, some swelling that goes up and down but is in itself not too bad. Since this all began they've felt quite dry and don't water very much however I've done plenty of actual crying which is no struggle at all. I get some light crusting on waking on bad days but not severe and never with actual pus.

Three weeks in there was no change (in fact it got worse) so I returned to see a different doctor who straight away told me I have blepharitis and without any further explanation or elaboration told me to use hot compresses and clean my lash line with a baking soda solution. This has helped slightly to soothe but overall not made much difference.

I also noted while discussing the possibility of allergies with the doctor that I had just two weeks prior to my symptoms starting moved in with Mat's parents and their dog. I moved out for a week in case I was allergic to the dog or maybe some dust mites I wasn't used to however there was no change. During this time a blood test also found me to be very vitamin D deficient as I work in an office with no windows so get absolutely no natural daylight during winter. I'm now on a prescribed 'megadose' supplement to restore my levels and have to carry on with a normal dose thereafter but this takes time and isn't likely to have been the cause although it may have compromised my immune/inflammatory responses and helped bring this on. I've been going outside every day on purpose and even if it doesn't really help my eyes it's improved my mood.

Throughout this whole process my doctors have refused to test for any bacteria or possible viral/fungal infections which has baffled me as they are still unable to pin down a cause. I've now been referred to a hospital ophthalmology department but the NHS waiting list is months long. We looked into private treatment but it's far too pricey so not something I can do right now. All the best private treatment for this condition seems to be in Scotland or Devon so again not ideal.

How am I treating my blepharitis?  
Naturally with my GPs unwilling (or unable) to suggest home cures I took to the internet and I am currently following the following regime twice a day, which is a bit hit and miss, quite time consuming to keep up with and has cost me a lot of money:
  • I use this heat bag for 5 minutes - the idea is that if my glands are blocked this will loosen things up
  • I then massage the eye area gently with downward/upward strokes towards the lashline
  • Next I mix a little boiled-but-cooled water with a pinch of baking soda, dip a cotton bud in so it's damp but not soaked and wipe along each waterline/lashline. I use 4 so as not to spread any possible infection
  • This process can be a bit drying so I then massage in a small amount of coconut oil and rinse off any excess - this part feels so damn good when my eyes are sore
  • I finish off with Celluvisc lubricating eye drops as my eyes themselves sometimes feel a bit dry and sting. I use these three times a day. They help for about an hour then the itching skin returns.
Other steps I am taking:
  • I have worn mascara 4 times this year. I use a disposable wand each time so I don't contaminate the tube with anything and remove with coconut oil as soon as I get home. It doesn't cause me any additional discomfort during wear but my skin is slightly more sensitive the next day. I have not worn eyeshadow or eyeliner since the first flare up, much to my own dismay.
  • I've taken to using tea tree based products as supposedly this can help kill any bacteria/microbes/mites that may have found a home in my eyelashes. This includes shampoo, facewipes and body wash. I wouldn't say it's made a huge difference to my eyes but has helped my skin?
  • My skin really dried out and became itchy at the same time my symptoms started, which was probably a coincidence but was hella confusing. Using Aveeno products on my body and Dr Organic's Manuka Honey Rescue Cream as recommended here on my facial dryness has really quite dramatically helped this - I'd recommend this to anyone with dryness/itchiness.
  • I've also seen a large number of posts in forums about a chemical known in the US as Benzethonium Chloride and in the UK as Benzalkonium Chloride - You can find this in strong amounts in Wet Ones wipes (which irritate me), in Carex wipes (which don't but also don't seem to be as strong), and in Freederm face wash. I've been using the face wash twice a day with no improvement but have found some short-lived relief when using the Carex wipes - I need to try and use them 2-3 times a day before I'll know if that works so I'll keep you posted
  • I can't change where I'm living so I make sure I dust and hoover at least weekly (with my glasses on to help protect them) to ensure things are clean and tidy, as well as using hypo-allergenic pillows and changing my towels, bed covers and pillow cases weekly.
  • I rarely use makeup brushes now but when I do I spray them with an alcohol solution afterwards and wash in baby shampoo and very hot water weekly. I leave them to dry on my brush tree so I know they're good to go.
  • I also take a posh Omega 3,6 & 9 supplement to try and help my eyes oil up although I know the benefits may not be seen for months.
Where to now?
In all honestly I just don't know. I keep dreaming that one day I'll wake up and everything will be back to normal. Before all of this I absolutely loved makeup and how it made me feel about myself - now I feel self conscious most days and dread social occasions because it means having to painstakingly apply just mascara in such a sterile way just to look normal. It's actually taken a massive toll on my mental well being and I know that sounds quite silly but it's true. I've lost a safety blanket and a big part of my personality. 

The discomfort is barely noticeable some days, only to return full whack the next when nothing has changed. I'm in a bad patch right now and the sensation of wanting to claw my own eyes out when I know I can't sit there scratching the skin can get a bit much at times. This week it's even been waking me up in the night and staring at screens for work is doing nothing for it.

I also worry, having seen how bad some people have suffered, that my symptoms may worsen. This can lead to some horrifying symptoms such as eyelashes and eyebrows falling out, and your eyelids turning in on themselves. It keeps me up at night sometimes I won't lie.

I know this is a very superficial problem to have, and it could be way worse, so please spare me those kind of comments. Regardless of this the fact that nobody can tell me how I ended up with this painful problem, or how to get rid of it, has been very hard to deal with. The symptoms alone are enough to drive anyone insane let alone the process of trying to find yourself a treatment.


If you've encountered blepharitis before or have any suggestions on how I can care for it, please leave a comment below - I'm desperate to get this condition out of my life or at least under control.

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Sunday, 21 February 2016

4 hair care essentials that work


I would describe my general attitude towards my hair as low maintenance. I spend long enough getting ready in the morning without introducing curlers or fishtail braids! Having said that there are some products that I use day-in, day-out that keep my hair looking and feeling healthy.

I would describe my hair type as very thick, slightly wavy when left unattended and prone to a bit of frizz. For the last 5 or 6 years it's also been very long although that might change soon (watch this space!). My scalp is a bit sensitive and some shampoos can cause it to feel dry and itchy so there are 2-3 brands I generally stick to. I wash my hair every 2-3 days and if I'm having a weekend in I'll try and leave it extra long even though the feeling drives me mad.

One step I'm glad I introduced into my washing routine is the Tresemm√© Nourish & Renew Tonic from their scalp care range. It's non-greasy but contains tea tree and helps calm, soothe and stop excess oil production. Before I started using this I would often get dry, itchy patches on my scalp that drove me mad. This stuff has pretty much stopped that altogether.

I also like to blow dry my hair as it's cold at work and my hair would literally take the whole day to dry, so heat protection is also a must. I came across K√©rastase Resistance Ciment Thermique through a beauty subscription box and I love how undetectable in the hair it is once styled. I've had a lot less breakage since using this stuff and far less frizz.

Between washes dry shampoo is your best friend, but can be very hit and miss. Drugstore own-brands tend to not really get the job done, while the classic Batiste offering is overkill on my dark hair and takes an age to work in. I recently picked up the Co Lab dry shampoo in the scent London and I just love it. It's effective but doesn't leave a residue, plus it smells great and doesn't upset my skin.  Well done to the lovely Ruth Crilly for pioneering this product.

Something else I use between washes is a slick of Pantene's Split End Serum, which I'm worried might be discontinued now as I can only find it in the pictured form on Amazon. I use it on dry hair before styling to tame frizz and keep my hair looking healthy - I find that dragging a brush through my thick, easily knotted hair twice a day can cause some breakage but this stuff really helps.

Do you swear by any particular hair care products? Let me know in the comments below so I can give them a try.
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Thursday, 18 February 2016

Finding calm in a chaotic world



OK, I admit it - I'm a bit of a stresshead. I find it so hard to just chill and remove myself from all of life's ups and downs and really get swept up in everything. I'm fairly sensitive to stress, hate just doing nothing and have a bad habit of over-analysing everything.

But there comes a point when I'm throwing a hissy fit about the fact that we're out of potatoes and I don't have time to go out and buy more or I'm having one of my wardrobe meltdowns (anyone else have drawers fit to burst but nothing to wear?) or I'm worried about work stuff that I really just need to sit the eff down, let it go and relax. I'm not going to tell you exactly how to do that because I've given plenty of helpful tips in the past here and here. I'm actually just gonna ramble on a bit and probably not even proofread because I need these thoughts to be out of my head and into the world, okay? Good.

Like many other people my age (dare I say millennials? ugh, buzzword alert) we started university or entered the working world during the global financial crisis - we've never known a world where getting on in life was considered fairly straightforward. We've always been told that the glass is half empty, that you'll have to grind your life away just to make ends meat and that's if you're lucky enough to even land a half-decent job relevant to your interests, that we'll never afford to be homeowners and our pensions won't be big enough and we shouldn't be going on holidays because we should be saving and oh, don't forget to actually put your phone down and have real life interactions from time to time and blah blah blah. The result is a constant conflict between the scaremongering headlines we're still being fed about our prospects and the way we're living our lives and endless, endless worry.

I'm beginning to feel like I spend so much time fussing, worrying and being downright irritable that life is properly passing me by. If I stopped wasting time on the stressors in my life I'd probably be in a better mindset to put together a solution and conquer these things, or maybe I'd just straight up forget about my worries and my strife. Maybe I actually just need to take some advice from a talking bear...

I'm happy to see that there's been a big shift in the last year or so towards encouraging people to focus on wellbeing and doing what they love. Whether you find your calm through exercise, meditation, colouring books or simply some good old-fashioned Netflix and chill (no I don't mean it in that way although maybe you could do that too), it seems like being a little bit selfish and shutting the world away is becoming more and more acceptable. More and more people are giving up on the life they've been told to lead - they're travelling the world, starting charities, going offline, becoming entrepreneurs and going back to school all in the name of finding inner peace.

Our generation is starting to get a reputation for buying experiences, not things - for wanting to live life in the now rather than agonise over the future. Maybe my seventy-year-old self will be a bit peeved that I didn't manage to save every single penny into a pension but I'm damn sure she'll be OK with the fact that I refused to let the world around me swallow me up.


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Monday, 15 February 2016

Even more to be read


My 'to be read' list is getting out of hand and I only have myself to blame. I've been very slow at reading lately and feel like I've been struggling to find time, when all I really need is to pay someone to slap me every time I spend more than 5 minutes trawling Twitter and reading crummy celeb gossip articles. Maybe that way I'll pick up a book more often. 

I recently picked up All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and I'm eager to start it, but the story sounds like an emotional one so I'm waiting for a full free day to get properly stuck in. For some reason I'm always drawn to unusual stories based around World War 1 and 2 - this novel follows a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths become intertwined in Nazi occupied Paris. I absolutely loved The Book Thief which carried similar themes, so I think this is gonna be a good one!

I know I'm late to the party but I've also finally purchased How to be Parisian Wherever You Are. I adore Paris - the fashion, the food, the way of life - so for me this was a natural buy. I'm hoping to pick up some tips and learn emulate a bit more of that laid back but chic vibe. It's written by multiple authors and it has a friendly, relaxed tone that is making it a really engaging book to dip in and out of.

What have you got lined up to read next?
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Saturday, 13 February 2016

The Mac lipstick shades I'd be happy in a monogamous relationship with



I only really became a lipstick person towards the end of last year. I always felt like whatever I bought the colour didn't suit, or if it did it would rub off by lunchtime and leave me looking a bit 'walk of shame-y'. I then got into liquid lipsticks thanks to Bourjois and Sephora and the rest is history. Since I've gotten to experiment a bit more with lips lately I've settled on two Mac lipstick shades that I honestly think I'd be fine using exclusively for the rest of my days.

Persistence (pictured below on the left) is a browny nude that adds a little bit of chic to any situation. I regularly wear this one to work or down the pub. It's perfect for that 'relaxed but still made an effort to look put together' look. It's very matte so I dab a little lip balm on before applying but it really does stay put.]

Viva Glam I (pictured below on the right) is less matte but doesn't have that sheen that makes many lipsticks look cheap and slide off. It's a long lasting, deep and classic red that I was worried wouldn't suit me but really does live up to its universal appeal. It definitely makes me think of 90s era Gwen Stefani and as soon as I apply it I feel instantly sassier.


What are your favourite lipsticks?

Don't forget to enter my massive Thorntons giveaway this weekend guys - the winner will be drawn on 15 Feb! Click here to enter >>
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Saturday, 6 February 2016

The brand that saved my skin from winter


I'd never had properly dry skin before until this year - I'd always had an oily face and the odd flaky area on my body. Never itchy, uncomfortable or dull-looking. But this winter has been very different, I think due to the fact that most weekdays I don't really get any fresh air and I certainly don't get any natural sunlight.

My office has no windows and the hours mean that I almost always arrive in darkness and leave at sunset this time of year. Aside from the fact that it's definitely had an impact on how alert and motivated I feel during the day, it's absolutely ravaged my skin. I got to the point a few weeks ago where my hands were cracking and stinging, I had patches of itchy, flaky skin on the less oily parts of my face that were starting to turn red, and my clothes were basically rubbing my skin off it was so dry.

Enter Aveeno! I wasn't totally sure this stuff would help, having tried the usual e45 lotion to no avail, however I purchased the hand cream and skin relief lotion on a whim - if it's good enough for Jennifer Aniston it's good enough for me! The price tag is also really affordable, with a big pump bottle costing only £7.65.

I've had mild reactions to thick body lotions in the past as well as breakouts as I think my skin suffocates a bit under them, but that wasn't the case with Aveeno. It's specially formulated for irritable and sensitive skin, with shea butter and a gentle triple oat complex that soothes and protects - anyone who's suffered severe dry skin or skin disorders will know that oat baths are a traditional treatment, so to me it seems a logical basis for the lotion.

The relief was honestly instant, and lasts on even through a shower. At first I applied this every morning religiously, even to my face at night as while intensely nourishing it doesn't feel greasy and slimy. After about a week things were much calmer, all of the flakiness had gone and that itchy feeling was subsiding. I've now reduced my application to every other day as it really does last, and things are looking so much better, if not virtually back to normal.

My hands are also the best they've been in years - the cream forms a protective layer that lasts through washing them, which is great for when your out and about and have to use harsh and drying public bathroom soaps.

I cannot recommend the Aveeno brand enough if you struggle with dry skin or patches of mild eczema.

***

Don't forget to enter my massive Thorntons giveaway this week guys - the winner will be drawn on 15 Feb! Click here to enter >>
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Tuesday, 2 February 2016

What's your opinion on Valentines Day? (plus a Thorntons chocolate giveaway!)


Whether you're in a relationship or single, Valentines Day is very much a love-hate (see what I did there?) occasion. Some people feel it's just become commercialised, others live for it. I probably fall somewhere in the middle. I wouldn't cry if the date wasn't marked because in the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter much, but if you're gonna take me for a scrummy dinner and buy me flowers, that's also totally fine by me!

Increasingly I think most people are looking to spend a little less on Valentines Day and make it more about quality time (not that you shouldn't do this every day anyway). Maybe you could cook together instead of going out - restaurants always enforce pricey set menus for the evening anyway. You could go for a long walk and explore somewhere new, see a film or a play - just share an experience. What you do (or don't do) is up to you!

One thing though that I really think you should skimp on for Valentines Day is chocolate. It's pretty much the key to my heart - no really, I think I might be made of chocolate! It's a relatively inexpensive gift to give and it's always going to be appreciated!

That's why this Valentines Day I'm teaming up with Thorntons to give away one of their HUGE continental selections. Whether you'll be spending the day with a significant other or simply looking after number one, it's sure to go down a treat. And take you a good few days to polish off.

You can enter the giveaway below, and the winner will be drawn and contacted after it closes on 15th February. If you're stuck for ideas on how to spend your Valentines Day this year, Thorntons have also put together this handy list of recipes, gift ideas, activities and more!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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