Friday, 23 July 2010

Formspring question: Concealer

"Hi SBB,I'm totally beauty clueless and your blog is a life saver for me. Do you have a recommendation for a good concealer that's not hugely expensive? I've been using MAKE UP FOREVER lift concealer, but it's quite pricey here in South Africa."

Hi! I use Estee Lauder Stay-In-Place Flawless Wear Concealer SPF 10 as it stays on all day and I don't have to worry about it, but it isn't the cheapest although it does last a long time and is well worth the money. Cheaper brands that are always really good are Maybelline, especially their Dream Mousse Concealer and I really love Max Factor products. Revlon's ColorStay Blemish Concealer is also supposed to be really good, although I haven't tried it myself. Hope that helps, give them all a test in store and see what you think and thanks for asking! xxxxx

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Prepare to Bare...

So, summer holiday season  is in full swing but did you know you need to really prep your skin before trying to get that perfect tan? You shouldn’t just slap on the sun cream and hope for the best as Sally Penford, Education Manager for The International Dermal Institute told me when I spoke to her.

 We all know how to spot the Brits abroad don’t we? we’re usually bright red and sunburnt (possibly with a few nice bright white tan lines), standing out from our olive-skinned, healthy-looking European counterparts, and I include my self in this burnt Brit category too! So how to keep skin healthy in the sun? Here are Sally’s tips:

  1. Use a dry body brush to stimulate circulation and boost lymphatic movement. During the winter, your body is more sedentary and consequently circulation becomes increasingly sluggish. By removing toxins and waste through brushing it is possible to improve cellulite and conditions such as keratosis pilaris. If your skin goes bright red, you are brushing too hard. It is important to stimulate the lymph and not the blood.
  2. Exfoliate! Remove dead skin cells in either the bath or shower. Use exfoliating body scrubs with circular polyethylene beads as a mechanical abrasive to literally slough dead cells away. Alternatively, if your skin is sensitised or you suffer from eczema, soak in the bath with Dead Sea salts to avoid scrubbing.  The most effective exfoliation is a combination of mechanical scrubbing and soaking. Avoid old fashioned loofahs as they hold water and become a breeding ground for bacteria. Try a more modern exfoliating cloth such as a Buffing Cloth which can be put in the washing machine and dries very quickly – ideal for travelling.
  3. Don’t forget your hands and feet which are on display during the summer. Try an express hand or foot skin smoother by massaging salts and oil, or a hydroxy acid based exfoliant into hands and feet. Rinse off with hot steam towels and follow with a multivitamin hand cream.
  4. Moisturise! Moisturise! Moisturise! Choose your body moisturising cream in the same way you choose your moisturiser for you face. Choose between a lightweight, oil free, hydrating body moisturiser or a richer, nourishing blend with essential oils or even Hydroxy Acids for 24 hour exfoliation. Such creams are recommended for people who suffer with dry flaky patches and keratosis pilaris (the red bumpy bits) on the backs of arms and thighs.
  5. Now your skin is fully prepared it is vital that you protect your skin from the damaging rays of the sun – no matter how many clouds it is hiding behind. With so many effective self-tans on the market, there is no excuse to sunbathe. Products with dihydroxyacetone provide a natural-looking, sun-free tan and often with added SPF for maximum sun protection.
  6. When choosing a sun protection cream, look for products which are oil-free to avoid congesting the skin. Those which contain anti-oxidants will protect the skin against free radical damage, therefore delaying the signs of ageing. The International Dermal Institute has produced a DNA microcapsule, which contains a complex of Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate (vitamin C) and Tocopherol (vitamin E) that is triggered to release anti-oxidants when exposed to ultraviolet light. This new technology offers enhanced photoprotection and free radical protection against the sun’s rays when it is needed most. (We may have applied sunscreen in the morning but not be exposed to the light until lunch time). Creams with anti-inflammatory botanicals will reduce the redness caused by UV which can lead to a cascade of events resulting in premature ageing. The FDA in America advises a minimum SPF of 15 and a maximum of 30 to be used at all times. An SPF of 15 will block 93.6% of UVB rays and an SPF 30 blocks 96.6%. The higher the SPF, the more chemicals are used which can results in increased sensitivity. Look out for products with physical rather than chemical sunscreens (such as Dermalogica’s Super Sensitive FaceBlock SPF30) if you suffer with sensitivity. Always check whether the sun protection you choose provides full spectrum block against UVA, UVB and infrared rays.

UV causes up to 90% of skin ageing so by following Sally’s simple rules you can have younger, healthy looking skin whilst still enjoying your holiday!

Sunscreens work in two ways:
•          Chemical Sunscreens such as Avobenzone and Octinoxate absorb UV Rays lowering the energy level and releasing energy as heat.
•          Physical Sunscreens such as Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide reflect the sun’s rays and because they are non-chemical, they can be less irritating for sensitive skins.

The SPF (sun protection factor) of a sunscreen is a laboratory measure of the effectiveness of sunscreen against UV-B. The higher the SPF, the more protection a sunscreen offers. The SPF indicates the time a person can be exposed to sunlight before getting sunburn with a sunscreen applied relative to the time they can be exposed without sunscreen. BUT, the SPF is not a fail-safe measure of skin damage because skin ageing and invisible damage is also caused by UVA. Most conventional sunscreens do not block UVA as effectively as UVB and not only will UVA cause breakdown of collagen and damage to elastic fibres (therefore reducing the supple, youthful look of skin) but according to a 2004 study which Sally told me about, UVA causes DNA damage to cells deep within the skin, increasing the risk of skin cancer. To check that you will be completely covered for both UVA and UVB protection, look for ingredients like zinc oxide, titanium dioxide and Oxybenzone.

Here are a few of my sun screen faves:

Dermalogica’s Multivitamin Bodyblock SPF20 (RRP£28.30 for 125ml) is a nourishing body moisturising sunscreen with ProVitamin B5 to help skin recover from previous damage while Vitamins A, C and E fend off free radical damage. It is expensive but feels just like a moisturiser on the skin and not greasy at all, plus the concentrated formula lasts ages and smells amazing.

RAD Antioxidant Sunscreen SPF 15 (RRP 15.95 for 75ml) from Environ contains small amounts of two low-allergy chemical sunscreens together with high levels of titanium dioxide, a natural reflective filter, plus a complex of antioxidant vitamins (C, E and beta-carotene) to guard more effectively against both UV-A and UV-B rays. This may be cheaper than Dermalogica but it comes in a smaller tube so the prices are quite similar. Again, this leaves no greasy residue and feels so light on the skin, however I like the Dermalogica consistency more for some reason, and RAD doesn’t smell as good!

Ahava’s Mineral Suncare range (from £18.50 RRP for 250ml) contains natural moisturisers, soothing aloe vera, and other plant extracts to helps repair sun damage   as well as algae seaweed which is rich in vitamins to fight against the free radical damage that contributes to skin ageing. My favourite is the SPF 30 Lotion to really keep me protected, but it does come in 15, 30 and 50 in the lotions and 15 and 30 in the sprays, as well as a face specific SPF 50 and a gorgeous face and body aftersun balm – I’ll never go back to Soltan aftersun after using this one! 

I realise none of these products are that cheap, but when it comes to protecting your skin against cancer, I don’t think you can put a price on it! There are loads of other great suncare products out there, these are just some that I’ve tried this year and been really impressed with. Obviously your usual suncare will work, but these are more expensive for a reason as they are comfortable to wear, great for your skin, and the concentrated formulas mean they last much longer than the average supermarket brand.

Secret Beauty Blogger Verdict: If you can afford to go for the Dermalogica sun products then do but otherwise the Ahava ones are still great and about a third less.


Fishing for compliments

Today I am rocking the side-swept fishtail a la Blake Lively- and I did it all by myself! It actually isn't hard at all, I've just shied away from it as it looks so difficult until a lovely hairdresser showed me how to do it!
I don't have step-by-step imagery so I'm going to have to try and explain in as much detail as I can, although it is pretty simple and I'm probably way behind many of you out there!
  1. To do a side plait, pull all the hair over to the side you want it to fall on and split in two, almost like two ponytails.
  2. holding both 'ponytails', take a thin strand of hair from the outside edge of one, and and pull over to meet the inside edge of the other, add this to that 'ponytail'.
  3. Repeat from both sides all the way down and secure.

It really is that simple, hopefully it makes sense and it can be fiddly trying to keep the two 'ponytails' separate whilst also adding strands, but once you get the hang of it it works really well. I prefer wearing it slightly messy and loose anyway, so have just put a kirby grip in the middle of the nape of my neck to keep some of the hair pinned in, and let the layers I have anyway fall around my face. It is also much easier doing it yourself at the side, as it's handy to look in a mirror.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Shape up in 6 weeks

I finally got round to watching Sex and the City 2 yesterday and it made me come away wanting two things: 1) a beautiful designer wardrobe and 2) to look as good as they do even now, never mind when I’m their age! I definitely can’t afford option 1 so today I kick off trying to achieve option 2!!

I’m going to start the 6 week Slendertone plan today ( I go on holiday in 7 weeks) and if it’s as good as it says then hopefully I’ll notice a difference. I’ve taken a before photo but think it makes more sense just to compare at the end. My waist measurement at the moment is 29…so we’ll see what happens in 6 weeks’ time! 

I Already eat healthily by following the GI diet anyway, so they do offer dietary advice which I’ve included below but I am going to follow their exercise tips. Each session with the Slendertone is the equivalent of 120 sit-ups, so I’m sure that by using it alone it would make some difference, but obviously a big part of the plan which will make the majority of the difference is simply eating healthily and exercising as they suggest below – even if you don’t have a Slendertone then it’s probably worth trying the 6 week challenge anyway!

The plan has been devised by Elise Lindsay, Colleen McLoughlin’s personal trainer, and here’s what she suggests:

The 6 Week Plan
Two different 30 minute workout plans (30 minute = minimum requirement) to be done 3 times a week and should be alternated. For example:
Week 1 (workout 1, 2, 1)
Week 2 (workout 2, 1, 2)
(Repeat over six week period)

Exercise 1

Skipping - 1 minute (You do not necessarily need a rope for this! Just imagine it as you skip). Heel to bottom.
Step ups - 1 minute on your right leg, 1 minute on your left. Using the stairs and alternating legs, step up, up, down, down.
Half jacks - 1 minute. Step to the side with the right foot and put your body weight on your right leg. At the same time, lift both arms to the sides. Bring the foot and arms back to starting position. Repeat for either side for 1 minute.
Leg curls - 1 minute. Lightly kick the heel in towards the bottom. In this exercise, you will be moving sideways. Step to the right, left foot behind right, step to the right, leg curl with the left leg. Place the foot on the floor to the left, right foot behind the left, step to the left, leg curl with the right leg. Repeat.
Knee and kick combo - 10 minutes approx. Imagine you are smashing something with your knee as you lift it up. And when you kick imagine trying to push a door open with the sole of your foot. Don’t lock the knee when you kick. Do it with the right leg first and repeat on the left.
Wide squats - do for 1 minute, repeat 3 times. Stand with feet slightly wider than the hips and knees in line with the toes. Keep the weight in the heels. Bend at the knees whilst sending the last bone in your spine backwards while maintaining a flat back. Breathe out as you return to standing, slightly squeezing the abdominals and gluteals (bottom!) as you lift the body.
Seated or standing reverse fly (small weight, like a tin of beans, required) - do for 1 minute, repeat 3 times. Sit on a chair, lean forward from the hips with arms lengthening down to the floor and palms facing inwards. Hold a weight in each hand and lift arms out to the sides to shoulder height, nip the shoulder blades together and return arms to the sides.
Press ups (chest press as an alternative option) - do for 1 minute, repeat 3 times. Start on all fours, with hands directly under your shoulders, fingers pointing forwards. Engage your abs and push your body weight into your hands, bending the elbows to lower the upper body in a straight line from the hips to the floor. Push the hands into the floor to lift the body back up.
Chest press - do for 1 minute, repeat 3 times. Lie on your back on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, parallel with the hips. Hold a weight in each hand (tin of beans will suffice). Have elbows on the floor at chest level, palms facing forwards, knuckles pointing towards the ceiling. Keep elbows in line with the wrists, push both hands up and extend the arms over the centre of the chest. Lower them back down and lightly touch the elbows to the floor.
Lateral lift (small weight required – tin of beans will be fine) - do for 1 minute, repeat 3 times. Stand with your feet hip distance apart and hold a weight in each hand with arms by your sides. Keep the arms straight and lift them out to the sides to shoulder height. Do not lock the elbow. Lower arms with control.
Lunges - do for 1 minute, repeat 3 times. Stand with feet hip-width apart, with one foot forward and one foot back. Lift the heel of the back foot slightly off the ground. Lower body down, not forwards, until you adopt a right angle with the back knee. The front knee should bend so your knee is above the ankle, not the toes. Straighten back to the starting position.

TOTAL: 30 minute workout

Exercise 2

Boxing combo - (Jabs/half jacks) 5 minutes. Jabs - A quick punch, pushing arm out from shoulder in front of you, turning slightly at the torso. Half jacks - as before.
Skipping combo - 5 minutes. You don’t even need a skipping rope for this! Just imagine it as you skip. Heel to bottom x 8, travel forward 8 steps x 4, on the spot x 8. Repeat.

Grapevine / kneelift - 1 minute. Step to the right, left foot behind the right, and then lift the left knee. Return foot to the floor and repeat on the other side.
March and kick combo - 5 minutes. March on the spot x 3 and alternate with front, side and back kicks, repeating on each leg.

Easywalk right and left (into powerful squat position at the end) - 2 minutes. Imagine walking forwards and backwards in a box on the floor then drop into a deep squat position.

Bicep curl - do for 1 minute, repeat 3 times. Stand with your feet shoulder distance apart with a weight in each hand. Arms by your sides. Keep elbows into the sides bending them to lift the weights. Lower arms back to sides and repeat.
Tricep dip - do for 1 minute, repeat 3 times. Place a chair against a wall and sit on it with knees bent and feet hip distance apart. Place hands on edge of the chair with fingers pointing forward and straighten the arms to lift the bottom off the chair. Bend the elbows directly behind you to lower the body, then push through the arms to lift back up.
Wide squats - do for 1 minute, repeat 3 times. As before. Repeat x10.
Chest flies - do for 1 minute, repeat 3 times. Lie on your back with a weight in each hand with arms outstretched above the chest. Lower the weights sideways to shoulder level and return to starting position. Do not arch the back. Keep the abs engaged.
Back extension - do for 1 minute, repeat 3 times. Lie on your tummy and slightly lift upper back from the floor with your hands behind your back. Engage your abs, don’t overarch the back.

TOTAL: 30 minute workout

Additional outdoor activity option: 15 minutes walking / jogging.

General Tips
• Take a picture (day 1) front, side and back. Write down what you see.
• Write down what you want to be and what you want to achieve.
• Keep a food diary.
• Stay focused and positive.
• Eat slowly.
• Exfoliate 2-3 times per week.
• Maintain correct posture whilst either at work, outside or inside.
• Perform your household jobs with a stop watch and try and do a little quicker than normal.
• Perform mild exercises to a TV programme of your choice.
• Time a brisk walk/jog route. Aim to complete in the same time or better each time.

Slendertone Toning Tips
• Remember, five Slendertone sessions every week for the first six weeks! For maintenance - 3 times a week.
• If you miss a day, don’t worry, just be sure to do a session the day after.
• Use the highest toning intensity you can - there are 99 levels - the more you push yourself, the better the results you will see!
• For the best workout, increase the toning every five minutes during a session e.g. first five minutes level 50, last five minutes level 70.
• Use your unit once a day only, extra sessions on the same day don’t mean extra results.
• You can walk and tone with your belt to get a two in work workout, toning + cardio!
• If you are sporty, the best time to do sit-ups is straight after a Slendertone session - this gives even better results!
• It is better that toning sessions be completed before a large meal than after.
• Remember to take two rest days each week so that your muscles have time to recover.

Dietary Advice
• Reduce all carbs or eliminate after 7pm.
• Cut down on daily red meat intake.
• Abide to an alcohol curfew of 10.30pm.
• Eat less sugar.
• Eat more fruit and vegetables.
• Replace all snacks with vegetable and fruit.
• Drink boiling water with a slice of lemon first thing in the morning.
• Cut down on portion sizes.
• Make healthy soups and stews and replace your potential high-calorie lunch.
• Eat a good breakfast and enjoy it.

Exercise Tips
• Do a 5-10 minute stretch at the end or the beginning of the day.
• Do an extra 15-30 minutes cardio (this may be divided throughout the week).
• Perform 5-10 extra tricep dips twice a week.
• Perform 30 wide squats on top of your weekly exercise programme.
• Go for a brisk walk before dinner.
• Find a friend or join a group: doing exercise with other people is a great way to stay motivated.
• Take the stairs instead of the lift.
• Replace a car journey with a walk/run.
• Take away the TV remote .
• Do a family activity.

I've signed up on the website for motivational emails etc but will let you know how it goes in 6 weeks' time, if anyone fancies joining me on the challenge with or without the Slendertone then keep me updated with how you're doing!

Wish me luck girls!

SBB xxx 

For more information see and download your own 6 week challenge.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Bronzing beauties

It’s that time of year when all of the fake tan and bronzer samples come in to the office, and there have been a few that I’ve been really impressed with, so here’s my pick of the bronzing bunch…

One product that really surprised me was the Miners Bronzer Blend Collection (RRP £3.99); one bronzer and highlighter blend compact, and one bronzer and blusher blend - which I really think gives my make-up bag staple, Benefit Dallas, a good run for it’s money (and is £20 cheaper!). The highlighter blend is a mix of bronze and gold which looks great on already sun-kissed skin and would be nice for evening holiday make-up with a slick of mascara and lipgloss, whereas the blusher blend is a fab everyday product made up of bronze and pink to add a touch of sun to the skin with a lovely rosy flush too. 
L’Occitane’s Mine d'Or Peony Healthy Glow Face Powder (RRP £19.50) is made up of gold, coral pink, and bronze pigments which give a natural glow to the skin and can be layered for a darker look. This looks gorgeous over a dewy base and I sweep one layer all over for a daytime look, and a bit more for the evening or when I have a tan. I’m also a sucker for pretty looking products so love the peony design.

On the fake tan side, Famous Dave’s Tanning Mousse Gold Edition (RRP £25.99) gave amazing results on both face and body – absolutely no streaks, even on my legs where I never ever get it right! Using the tanning mitt definitely helped, so it could be completely down to that but the colour guide in the mousse was really helpful to see where I’d applied it and it was such a natural shade when I washed it off in the morning – it did confuse a few people in the office the next day who wondered how I could have gotten so brown so quickly, but that must mean it looked too natural to have come from a bottle! It contains natural ingredients and anti-oxidants, including anti-ageing pomegranate extract, aloe vera and Vitamin E and my skin did feel lovely and soft afterwards, with pretty much no smell at all. It faded really naturally too without going patchy as so many other ones do and lasted about 5 days. 

I still love my Rio Blush as written about in a previous post, but St Tropez launched their Wash Off range at the end of last year and this line-up is fab. The two products I tried were separate for the face (RRP £10) and body (RRP £12) and initially when I started putting it on I had a little panic as it comes out so dark, but when smoothed all over it’s a lovely natural shade. I actually prefer using this in the day to the Rio Blush as it doesn’t have a shimmer and leaves the skin really soft.


Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Please nominate me!

Hi my beauties,

Just a quick post to say that it would be amazing if you wanted to nominate me in the first ever Cosmo Blog Awards in the beauty category!

No pressure, but if you have a minute to spare to click on the link below then I'd love you forever!

Thanks girls and guys,

Secret Beauty xxx

Lust-have of the month

I absolutely love these gorgeous Chrome Styling Irons from Ionika (RRP £69.99) but can’t decide which I like best!!

 Available in gold, red, pink and silver, they also feature ‘ion’ technology that helps hair to absorb vitamins and minerals apparently, so technically – they’re good for your hair!! The bevelled edges also mean you can curl and flick with them too.