Spring beauty essentials: The 12 new beauty products I am obsessing over this season

After a long career in magazines, I have developed a deep distrust of that particular industry’s beauty awards, top 10 lists and best-of-the-best new launch announcements. Why? Because the unwritten rule in literally every magazine that I have ever worked for is simple: The position and number of products on any of these lists is directly proportional to the number of advertising pages bought in the magazine by the beauty brand. That ‘world’s best lipstick’ tag doesn’t sound half as authentic after that, right? Even if it comes from your favourite publication?

Here, instead, I’ve put together a list of the top beauty launches for this season that come sans payment or inducement of any kind. Hopefully, they will catch your fancy for all the right reasons – as they did mine!

Clarins 4-Color All-in-One Pen, $30

Anyone growing up in the ’90s will definitely remember those four-colour retractable pens that were the height of cool back in the good ol’ days! Well, Clarins now has a makeup version for you, with three eyeliners – blue, black and brown – and a neutral coloured lip liner. All available at a click. Makes packing that vanity kit so much easier!

clarins-4-color-penClarisonic Sonic Foundation Brush, $35

If I had to choose one single product from all the ones listed here, this would be it! The company that has so far been taking off every last bit of our makeup at 18,000 micro-pulses is now going to be putting it on at 18,000 micro-blends… simply by popping on this new brush head onto any existing Clarisonic device. It works with both creams and liquids, the sonic technology making primers, foundations, blushes and concealers simply melt into the skin for a flawless, airbrushed finish that mere mortal hands would find nearly impossible to rival. Total blessing for someone like me who knows we need to blend, blend, blend and then blend some more… but is usually just too lazy tired to follow it through!

Clinique Chubby Crayola Stick Moisturizing Lip Colour Balm Collection, $17

It’s not just about the packaging. The joint venture between Clinique and Crayola has made every childhood dream of scribbling on your lips with jumbo crayons come true. The limited edition collection of 10 Chubby Stick Moisturising Lip Colour Balms is not just encased in the signature Crayola packing, the two companies have also worked to colour match and name match to actual crayons in the latter’s sets. My favourites? The punchy Brick Red and sangria-hued Red Violet.

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Sephora Sweet Balms, $6

Did I mention the ’90s theme running through almost every one of Spring’s beauty products? Sephora joins the bandwagon with Push-Pop-inspired lip balms. They come in three tints – violet, pink, and coral – and will transport you right back to days filled with Bonne Bell lipsticks and PEZ candy dispensers!

sephora-sweet-balmsLabiotte Chateau Wine Lipstick Fitting, $15

Wine + Korean cool = Total awesomeness. This time in the world of lipsticks. Labiotte’s wine bottle-shaped lippies contain actual wine extract and come in four varietals: Malbec Burgundy, (a purplish berry), Nebbiolo Red (a cherry red), Shiraz Red (a more pink-tinted red) and Cabernet Red (a deep rose). Or you can opt for one of the six long wearing lip tints, or one the eight Wine Melting lipsticks, which mimic the look of wine-stained lips.

labiotte-chateau-wine-lipstick-fittingNars Sun Wash Diffusing Bronzer, $40

Finding a bronzer that’s just the right amount of glow-y without piling on the shimmer may just be the Holy Grail of makeup. And NARS seems to have gotten it just right, debuting the cult Laguna bronzer (along with three other shades) in a brand new super finely milled formula that seems to light up your face from the inside out. It’s so fine that while the texture starts out as a powder, it literally melts into skin like a cream. And you can build it up from sheer to super-pigmented with just a few swipes.

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Tom Ford Soleil Lip Balm, $36

There’s just something about summer that makes me want to stay far, far away from heavy lipsticks in the daytime (is that just me?). But I also don’t much like the look of bare lips, especially when offset against a tinted moisturiser or a touch of glow-inducing bronzer. Tom Ford’s new lip balm flirts with just the right amount of colour and the perfect levels of hydration to keep lips both tinted and supple in one go. It starts off as a sheer wash of colour but moves into serious pigment territory with a few more swipes, making it totally multipurpose. And since it’s a balm, there’s no wilting, drying or slippage in the heat. Win-win all around.

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Julep Love Your Bare Face Detoxifying Cleansing Stick, $28

This one’s perfect for popping in your purse – a face cleanser that comes in stick form and is packed with rice bran oil, reship oil and fruit enzymes. Just rub the stick across your face and rub gently with damp fingers to emulsify for squeaky clean skin. No fear of spills. No breakage. Just easy portability married with maximum efficiency.

julep-love-your-bare-face-detoxifying-cleansing-stickYuni Shower Sheets Large Body Wipes, $15

These are a Godsend for long journeys and other offending factors where you feel icky (hello, long day in office hell!) but having a bath is simply not an option. The oversized sheets can be reused multiple times and will leave you looking and feeling minty fresh. I have taken to stocking one in my purse just in case, coz who knows what waits round the next corner!

yuni-shower-sheetsLush Metamorphosis Bath Bomb, $8.95

What looks grey and grungy but explodes into the most gorgeous, pretty-inducing ribbons of pink, orange, yellow and green when it enters your bath? The Lush Metamorphosis Bath Bomb. Forget about the sexy, spicy myrrh and black pepper scent… I want this one purely for the feeling of bathing in a rainbow!

Pixi Peel & Polish, $24

While I am all for an at-home facial, sometimes there are just not enough hours in a day to get everything done. Enter this brilliant new peel, which sits on your face for just two minutes, dissolving away dead cells and other accumulated grime. I pop it on while in the shower to maximise time efficiency… genius, or what?

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Charlotte Tilbury Instant Magic Facial Dry Sheet Mask, $22

While I adore sheet masks, they’re sometimes too sticky and slippery and sloppy for my taste. Charlotte Tilbury’s “dry” version solves that problem with a precedent-setting fabric that substitutes traditional sheet mask serums for tiny vectors of vitamins, floral extracts, peptides, oils and butters. It also works on a smart technology, which tailors the mask to your specific problems. So, for instance, your T-zone may need brightening, your cheeks may need hydration and your jawline may need lifting… and the mask will tackle each zone both independently and simultaneously. According to Tilbury, you can even use it over your foundation for a creamy radiance. And it comes with these clever loops that hook around the ears and hold the sheet firmly against the skin.

My only grouse? Each mask is capable of being re-used there times, which means a lot of folding and popping it in and out of the packet. Given my way, I would stick to the single use, chuck-it-out effortlessness but in this case, the pros clearly outweigh the cons.

Parfum vs EDP vs EDT: What the brands will never tell you (it’s more than just concentration levels!)

This time in Paris, I had an epiphany. A huge one: All these years, I have been wearing a false Chanel No. 5. Not fake, just false. That’s because what we know as Chanel No. 5 Eau de Parfum is not really the legendary fragrance created by Ernest Beaux for Mademoiselle Chanel in 1921.

It is, in fact, Beaux’s parfum, as re-imagined for a more contemporary audience by Chanel nose Jacques Polge in 1986. And the difference, contrary to common belief, lies not just in the concentration of oils. In fact if, like me, you are only familiar with Chanel No 5 EDT or EDP, discovering the parfum will be like finding a completely different fragrance.

parfum vs edt vs edpIsn’t it just about the proportion of oils to alcohol?

No, it’s not. Definitely and absolutely not. As you go up the fragrance ladder, it’s not just the concentration that changes but also the materials and their quality. The EDP and Parfum versions might, in fact, have additional notes that are left out of the EDT altogether because of their price and “heaviness” (EDTs are typically fresher and lighter).

For example, it’s believed that only the Chanel No. 5 parfum contains jasmine from Grasse – the EDP is crafted with flowers from other, lesser sources. Impossible to say for sure but when you smell the two simultaneously, the parfum does deliver a fresher, more rounded jasmine story.

The second thing you notice is that Polge has underlined the original’s bright citrusy top notes and made the vanilla drydown much warmer in order to create a modern twist. The creamy notes of peach that lace the rose, lily of the valley and jasmine heart are also more prominent, while the amplified voluptuousness of sandalwood and the darkness of leather and incense replace the plush, rich muskiness of the original.

The EDP sillage itself is beautiful and long lasting but definitely less powerful. I would say that if the parfum is haute couture, the EDP is the Little Black Dress – both are thrilling in their own right but the former is definitely more majestic.

While I use Chanel No. 5 as an example, the same story runs across all perfume houses, from Dior to Van Cleef & Arpels.

And that’s why, price matters…

  • Chanel Parfum: $260.00 per ounce
  • Eau de Parfum: $33.82 per ounce
  • Eau de Toilette: $26.47 per ounce
  • Body Spray: $13.10 per ounce

What’s you take? Do you wear Chanel No. 5? Which one? And would you rather buy a Parfum, an EDP or an EDT?

How to fix split ends (without cutting your hair!)

Blonde. Brunette. Redhead.

Long. Short.

Straight. Curly. Wavy.

Young. Old.

Thick. Thin.

If there is one thing that ties all these diverse types together, it’s this: Split Ends. Horrid, ghastly, hair-destroying split end. Which turn your strands into straw and make it impossible to either grow or style them into any half-decent ‘do. Yup, there’s no hair enemy as fierce and unyielding as the much-dreaded split end. In fact, hairstylists tell me those frazzled ends are the number one complaint clients cite when they come in for a cut.

What is a split end? When hair is damaged, its cuticle (outer layer) starts cracking and exposing it’s inner cortex. Once this internal structure of a hair strand is exposed, it rapidly becomes weak and dry, leading to split ends. Depending on where it is situated on the hair shaft, a split end can unravel and travel quite some way up the hair shaft.

split endsWhile the only true way to rid yourself of split ends is to have them snipped off, there are several things you can do between salon appointments to improve the look of damage and prevent more splits from occurring. And no, a serum that is supposed to bind the ends back together is not the best idea – it can end up in depositing residue on strands that may actually make them weaker and more brittle. On the other hand, a deep conditioning split end hair mask can help strengthen the hair shaft and reduce damage.

Split ends rescue remedy #1

Ingredients: 1 papaya (de-seeded and skinned), ½ cup plain yogurt

Method: Mash up the papaya and mix it with the yogurt; whip until you obtain a smooth consistency. Apply this mixture all over the hair. Cover with a shower cap and leave for 45 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.

Why it works: Both papaya and yogurt are rich in proteins and amino acids, which help make hair stronger.

split ends 2Split ends rescue remedy #2

Ingredients: 1 avocado (pitted, skinned and mashed), 2 tablespoons egg whites, 3 tablespoons olive oil

Method: Mix together the avocado, egg whites and olive oil; whip till creamy. Apply this mixture all over the hair. Cover with a shower cap and leave for an hour, then wash hair with a mild shampoo.

Why it works: Avocados are full of vitamins and other nutrients that repair the hair cuticle, while olive oil provides an incredibly moisturizing boost to dry, damaged tresses. Combined with protein-laden egg whites, they make a wonderful treatment for split ends.

Split ends rescue remedy #3

Ingredients: A cup of flat beer

Method: Simply pour the beer into a spray bottle and spray evenly over your hair. Leave on for an hour, then rinse thoroughly and wash with a mild shampoo.

Why it works: The proteins and sugar in beer bonds to your hair, helping to strengthen and mend damaged follicles.

Because prevention is better than cure… !

Imagine wearing a silk blouse every single day – indoors and outdoors, in the heat, cold, rain… everywhere. It would get pretty beat up, right? This, essentially is what’s happening to your hair, which is delicate, fragile and needs looking after on a regular basis. Treat your hair like an expensive fabric, and it will last longer and look good. Treat it roughly and it will seem battered, torn and frayed into split ends. The best way to get rid of split ends is to prevent new ones from occurring. And this is how to do that:

1. Cut out the chemicals

Chemical processes like hair color, highlights, straightening and perms cause trauma that can break down the cuticle. When the cuticle is weakened, split ends are bound to appear at all points along the hair shaft. Try to limit chemical treatments to just one major hair concern and refrain from washing strands for at least 48 hours afterward, when they’re most porous and likely to break and split.

2. Reduce the heat

Heat is often the main cause of split ends as it drastically reduces the hair’s natural moisture balance. Heat also temporarily alters the hair’s protein structure, thereby causing physical trauma. Hence, repeated use of heated tools like flat irons and blow dryers should be avoided. If heat styling is a must, first spray hair with a thermal protectant to prevent split ends.

split ends 33. Preserve the moisture barrier

Deep conditioning with hydrating products is great for split end prevention. These products lubricate the hair fiber and keep it soft and supple. They also shield hair from the harsh sun and other environmental stressors like wind and humidity. Protein treatments, in the meantime, reinforce the cuticle and hair shaft so they can resist premature chipping, peeling and breakage.

4. Use a wide-tooth comb

After you’ve applied conditioner, slowly run a wide-tooth comb through hair until all the tangles are out. This prevents the snaps and breakage that can incur when you try to brush out hair that’s roughed up from a towel-dry.

5. Take folic acid and biotin

It’s true – you are, literally, what you eat. Nutrients are what sustain the structure of your hair strands. Two B-vitamins in particular – folic acid and biotin – have been shown to supplement hair health, length and thickness. Folic acid (green leafy veggies, oranges, soybeans and wheat) helps the production of red blood cells, which power the growth of hair. Biotin (brown rice, lentils, peas, sunflower seeds, walnuts and soybeans) strengthens both hair and nails through its metabolism of fats, carbs and proteins.

6. Get regular cuts

Whatever your hair type or style, experts recommend you get a cut or trim every 6-8 weeks. The longer you wait to trim, the greater chance you have of split ends worsening and traveling up the shaft.

Do you have any tried-and-true remedies for split ends?  Share them in the comments!

The essential guide to prepping for yoga

My recent quest for a healthier existence took me to a yoga school yesterday morning. Where I realised (much to my horror) that it’s quite different from simply strolling into a gym, water bottle and towel in hand. Yoga requires a certain amount of prep-work even before you step into the class and starting a new program can be intimidating. So, I spent the days frantically phoning yoga experts to put together a checklist that will ensure one gets the best out of every session.

1. Don’t eat right before class: Refrain from eating at least two hours prior and 30 minutes after your practice.

2. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water before, during and after class. Better yet, drink plenty of warm water with fresh squeezed lemon juice, which is a terrific detoxifier!

3. Dress correctly: Wear whatever feels comfortable, preferably in soft cotton and Lycra spandex blends, with soothing colours and dry-fast weaves. That said, big baggy clothing does a disservice because you can’t see what’s going on with the body. Tighter fitting clothes, with the ankles showing, let the teachers see your true alignment and make it easier for them to help you with adjustments. Also avoid pockets, zippers, buckles or buttons on the back or abdomen.

4. Do not wear shoes: You could try yoga socks that help prevent slipping, but practicing barefoot is highly encouraged.

5. Bring water, a hand towel and a mat: While you can rent or borrow them at most studios, it’s more hygienic to have your own. Your mat = your germs. Simple!

6. Bring a large towel: Sweat + yoga mats = slip and slide. Draping a large towel over your mat will help you gain traction in poses like downward dog.

7. Avoid “noise”: Go easy on perfumes and don’t be loud or chatty. The yoga space is intended to be a sanctuary where one may go to decompress from the day and as such it’s best to keep it in a neutral, relaxed state.

8. Be on time: You don’t want to miss the warm-up. This is not just a matter of respect but also of safety.

9. Practice common sense: Know your limits and listen to your body. Ask questions if you’re unsure about a pose or movement. Beginners should start slowly and learn the basics (like proper breathing) rather than how far you can stretch. If you have any medical conditions or injuries, talk to your doctor – poses can be modified once the instructor knows your problem areas. And always remember – pain is not good. Don’t push into it, don’t hold your breath. Just get out of the pose.

10. Accept your feelings: It’s normal (and healthy) to sometimes feel emotionally upset during or after a yoga session… releasing tension in the body releases emotions as well.

Finally, don’t give up too quickly. There are many styles of yoga, not to mention different studios and instructors you might prefer if one doesn’t work out.

Namaste.