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19 Sep 2015

Sintra: Portugal's Hidden Gem

Before going to Portugal, and whilst doing some fundamental pre-holiday research of where to go and what to see, I came across articles on the town of Sintra and it instantly became somewhere that I was desperate to go. It is about an hours train from Lisbon and probably slightly closer by car; an ideal distance for a day trip away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I had pretty high expectations before we arrived, but it was beyond anything I could have imagined. On the walk into the town you are greeted by fairytale-esque, historic buildings at the bottom of a huge hill. Quaint shops and cafes make the perfect location for a re-fuel before you begin exploring, which will definitely take you the majority of the day, if not two. 








The first thing we did was visit Quinta da Regaleira, a gothic-looking palace where Jonny Depp once filmed. It is a must-see in Sintra, full of secret coves, underground tunnels, waterfalls and bridges, pretty much an adult's Alice in Wonderland. The main focal point of the estate is the Initiation Well that resembles an underground tower where you can climb up the spiral staircase and peer into it. In the Palace itself, you can climb the Chapel's turrets and see amazing views of from above. It is easy to spend hours wandering around here and you truly feel as if you're on a film set.










The Initiation Well



After lunch, we walked back to the town to get our bearings and wait for a bus to take us up the mountain (you can walk but the trek is pretty strenuous). The two main tourist attractions when you get to the top are the Castle of the Moors and Pena National Palace. Due to lack of time, we skipped  the castle, and being slightly castled-out from visiting Lisbon's Sao Jorge Castle the day before I didn't feel too deprived. Instead, we walked straight to the Palace of Pena. It is one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal and it really lives up to its title. A short, steep walk to the Palace (most people get the bus, again) takes you to its front door and it is breathtaking - photographs don't do it justice. Despite all the tourists crowding around, posing infront of the gates (guilty) it is like a fairytale Kingdom and you are so high up, it feels as though you can see most of Portugal in the distance. 











If you are planning on going to Lisbon or nearby, I would undoubtedly put Sintra top of your list of places to go while you're there. It has a lot more to offer than I got to see, including an amazing beach and a mystical wood - all the more reason to go back. 

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13 Sep 2015

Beauty Transition: Summer to Autumn

It's a bit of a shock to the system come September when the temperature well and truly drops, umbrellas become a handbag necessity and holidays seem a thing of the past. Summer is undoubtedly my favourite season, when the sun naturally bleaches your hair and you can get away with the no make-up look simply with a tinted moisturizer and a pair of sunglasses. This can't really be said of autumn, so stepping up your beauty routine can make all the difference in maintaining a summer glow. 



SKIN

If you have been soaking up the sun over the summer, skin can become more dry and scaly than usual due to the lack of moisture, and if you're not moisturising daily then any tan you have fought to keep fades twice as quick. A means of battling both of these autumn-induced issues is a fake tan that acts as a moisturizer. I only really use gradual tans as you can build the shade up as much as you want, and as I find sprays and mousses can be drying, gradual moisturisers are my go-to. The St Tropez Gradual Tan Firming Plus 4 in 1 is a product that I started using in Spring, drawn in by the promise of a tan that does everything. The shade is subtle but natural, and builds brilliantly upon any tan that you previously have. There is also a St Tropez Multi-Action Face which has similar properties but with a much lighter texture. If you'd rather not use a fake tan on your face, the Clarins Radiance Plus Golden Glow Booster is a product I have recently been raving about and I often use to balance out my face and body. It only requires a few drops in your choice of face cream or serum. Maintaining a tan in the autumn can feel rather futile and wasteful if you spend all your time covered up in jeans and over-sized jumpers but the beauty of gradual tan is that you can pick and choose how often you use it. I also like using the Dove Summer Glow Nourishing Lotion; a cheap alternative to St Tropez. I often choose the darkest shade of tan even though my skin is very fair as it lasts a lot longer and you don't have to use as much (hence better value) but this runs the risks of streaks. Moisturising your elbows and knees before application should help with this. 


BRONZE

When you have to resort back to your lightest foundation is when you know the tan has finally faded, and this is the moment bronzer becomes your best friend. The Nars bronzer in the shade Laguna is my favourite bronzer to use all year round. The shade looks dark in the palette, but is subtle and easy to build up as much as you want on the parts of your face that the sun would naturally hit (cheekbones, forehead, nose and chin). It is great at building up a bit of contouring and I always use it on my neck too to blend it into the rest of my body which tends to usually be a little darker. Since I bought this I have used it basically everyday down to the last few specks. It is quite expensive for a bronzer but it doesn't compare to any others I have used in the past. The MUA bronzer in Bronzed Perfection is a really similar shade for a fraction of the price at £3 for a huge palette, and Bourjois's Delice de Poudre bronzing powder in the shade Tanned (52) is a mid-range alternative that is also extremely popular. Bronzer in the winter is definitely a less-is-more type product but it can work wonders in re-injecting some colour back into your skin. 



EYES

If, like me, you have spent most of summer wearing not much more than the bare necessities of make-up, unintentionally pushing eyeshadows and lipsticks to the back of the draw, a simple way of reintroducing some colour into your routine is natural shades of eyeshadows. Although browns, golds and coppers are shades that look good at any time of year, autumn is the season when you can get away with them, day or night. My autumn wardrobe is mostly made up of camel, blacks and burgundies which couldn't compliment these shades more. The one particular eyeshadow I always find myself going back to is the Revolution Eyeshadow in the shade Mountains of Gold which is a shimmery, pigmented bargain at only £1. I use a fine brush to create a fine line just above my eyeliner on my lid and another line beneath my bottom eyelashes. A bronzer and more subtle alternative is MAC's shade Amber Lights. If you're not as lazy as me and prefer a range of colours to blend, the Barry M Natural Glow Eye Shadow Palette has a great combination of earthy shades which are suitable for both daytime and evening looks. 


NAILS

Autumn also bids a reluctant farewell to the sweet-shop pastels for nail varnish that are all the rage in summer, and welcomes in the deeper tones. Although I am enjoying giving my nails a break from being painted at the moment, I am also keen to pick up some autumnal shades. Plum and burgundy are my favourite shades this time of year as they are dark and mysterious whilst still being feminine, and you can't get much better or more choice than the Chanel Nail Colours, particularly in the shade Lotus Rouge and Accessoire. My high street alternative to Chanel would inevitably be Barry M, who have a huge range of colours for only about £4 and are a brand I have loyally worshiped for years. The shades Burgundy Crush and Raspberry are failsafe, and if you're feeling daring, Paprika is also a particularly autumnal shade. Nail care is also big at the moment so if you want to add a little luxury into your DIY manicure then the Nails Inc Nail Kale Superfood Base Coat is the key to stronger, healthier nails.
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12 Sep 2015

OGX Coconut Milk Anti-Breakage Serum

Coconut seems to be one of the buzzwords of the year, finding benefits in its addition to skincare, healthy eating and even haircare products. You name it, there will be a coconut-related alternative or variation to try. Hair serums are no exception, and OGX's Coconut Milk Anti-Breakage Serum uses the properties of coconuts to promise longer locks and less damaged ends as a result of its use, as part of their Coconut range. The Coconut Milk combines a blend of coconut oil, whipped egg white proteins and coconut milk itself, a weightless formula that you apply after washing to towel-dried hair from your palms.


It comes in a cute little bottle with a pump dispenser, and you get quite a lot for your money - 118ml for £5.99 goes a long way when you're only using a drop or two per application. As you'd expect, the scent is coconut-y, which isn't my favourite for hair products - I much prefer sweet, fruity scents. However, it isn't at all lingering and it pretty much disappears when it's dry.

When I first started using this serum, I put it through most of my hair but just avoiding my roots which made it a lot more wavy than it usually is - something I find serums tend to do to my hair. If I'm looking for volume and more defined waves then the serum is great, but when I want a sleeker look I tend to just rub it into the ends of my hair. As a result, they are much more hydrated and silkier, which is great for drying split ends and heat-damaged hair.  When the ends are not looking as drab, my whole hair tends to look healthier (especially if you are in desperate need for a haircut but don't have time to get one). I like to use it with the Philip Kingsley Daily Damage Defence which adds shine all over. Just be careful not to overuse the Coconut Serum as too much may leave your hair on the greasy side of shiny.

So if your hair is lacking moisture, this will put some life back into it and bring you back to that healthy, just-cut-and-washed-at-hairdressers look that is near on impossible to maintain in the temperamental British weather. You can buy it from high-street stores such as Superdrug and Boots, or online at Feel Unique.
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7 Sep 2015

Views of Lisbon

About three weeks ago now, myself and my boyfriend set off from Gatwick to Portugal's capital, Lisbon, for four nights. We had both never visited Lisbon before, so we weren't sure what to expect of the city famous for its steep hillsides, tiled buildings and vintage tramways. The more time I spent here, the more I loved Lisbon and if you are thinking of a city break, I would recommend spending some time here. We stayed in the Portugal Ways Culture Guest House, about 15 minutes walk from Martim Moniz Square, which was a great location and amazing value (perfect if you're inter-railing or travelling with friends).  The city itself is extremely photogenic with scenic squares and interesting monuments (old and new) all over the place. Also, the hilly terrain of Lisbon means there are so many viewpoints over the city, it is hard to refrain from taking the same picture over and over again (In hindsight, the majority of my pictures appear to either be of the buildings or views of the city..). 







On our first day, we wandered over to the Old Town called Alfama that is often recommended as a place to visit when you're in Lisbon. It is full of winding streets and photogenic buildings that lead up to some beautiful viewpoints, which proved quite strenuous to reach. There is also a lot of really interesting street art that is worth having a look at. Be prepared for a steep walk down..! 







The view from the Guesthouse's terrace, where we ate traditional Portuguese custard tarts for breakfast each morning.


The next day, we went into full tourist mode and visited the Castelo de S. Jorge (5 euro entrance fee with a student card). It was a lot bigger than I expected and you could literally spend hours walking around the old castle walls. 




A view of Lisbon from the castle walls.





During one of our days in Lisbon, in search of a break from walking and some relaxation, we visited the coastal fisherman's town of Cascais, which has a direct link from Lisbon's train station. It was pretty cheap to travel to and the beaches were lovely. It is a perfect way to spend a day if you want to get out of the city.





We also spent one of our days in the breathtaking town of Sintra, which I will share soon. 


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6 Sep 2015

The Serum Edit: Budget to Blowout

Whether you want anti-ageing results, all-day hydration or a boost in your skin's radiance, facial serum is a product that can make a real difference in the appearance of skin. It is one of my favourite skincare products to buy and to use, and an integral part of most skincare routines. As there are so many on the market now to choose from, there is a suitable serum that meets the requirements of all budgets. Here are a few that I have been trying out...
BUDGET: Lacura for ALDI Restorative Multi Intensive Serum Soy - £3.49

I have heard a lot of speculation about the Aldi and Lidl beauty ranges that are feeding into these power supermarkets at the moment, and the Aldi Lacura skincare range in particular has had a lot of attention. The Multi Intensive Serum comes in three variations: Restorative, Renew and Aqua, which all slightly differ in their purposes. Each one has amazing reviews online - the majority being five star - and have won various beauty awards individually. As you'd imagine, I was keen to test them out at the unbelievable price of £3.49 for 50ml. First impressions were good - it comes in a smart little box with a pump dispenser that is really easy to use and you can lock it on or off. On the box, it promises to smooth skin and help improve suppleness for maturer skin that has lost hydration, but as my skin is on the dry side I thought this would equally be a good one to try and restore some plumpness. It is a light serum that you can use generously but absorbs quickly, and it makes skin feels silky smooth. It also makes applying foundation easier which is great as I love using serums as primers. I would definitely recommend giving this a go as there really isn't much difference between this and  the premium brand serums. The only prominent difference I have noticed is that it gets used up a lot quicker than other serums as I tend to use more of it to cover my whole face. BEST FOR: All-rounder

AFFORDABLE: Garnier UltraLift Serum Superdrug 50ml - £11.99

Part of Garnier's new UltraLift range, this serum claims to be a 2in1 solution to the effects of ageing combining the benefits of a face cream and serum. At just under £12, it is middle of the road in price - relatively affordable for a serum product and it is usually on offer in Superdrug anyway. It is similar to the Lacura Serum in that it comes out as more of a cream than a serum formula as such, so it takes a little longer to absorb than the higher end variations as you really need to moisturize it in. It's USP is it means you only need one product to tackle signs of ageing or dry skin, opposed to using a variety of separate products. I can't comment too much on its ability to reduce the signs of ageing but it is really hydrating and gives my skin a healthy glow after using it a few days. Other reviews I've read of this product have been really impressive so it would be worth giving a try if you are looking for something like this at an affordable price. BEST FOR: Anti-ageing

AFFORDABLE: dr Organic Rose Otto Restoring Oil Facial Serum 30ml | Holland And Barrett £12.99 

As a big fan of the skincare brands that Holland and Barrett stock, I recently got this dr Organic serum in the hope of restoring some life back into my sun-frazzled skin. It is the most different from all the other serums, firmly maintaining an oil consistency opposed to that of a typical serum (so obviously it is not ideal for an oily skin type). It also differs from the others in that it has a pipette-style dispenser rather than a pump which makes it easy to evenly apply a small amount to each part of your face and avoids unnecessarily using too much. I really enjoy using this as it makes my skin feel hydrated for hours and it also makes putting foundation on a lot smoother. If you like using oil-based products then this is a great one to try. You can see a fully detailed review here. BEST FOR: Dry skin

PREMIUM: Avene Eau Thermale Hydrance Optimale Serum 30ml - £17

I have just blogged about this serum in my August Favourites, but as it's a serum that I love and use often, I thought it was right to include it. A quick recap - it is part of the Eau Thermale range from Avene, intended to be soothing and an anti-irritant to all skin types. As you can probably tell from the name, it focuses on being hydrating for the skin over a long period of time, so you don't need to use it too frequently. This stood out to me as I have dry skin so anything with 'Hydrance' in the description is what I look for in my skincare. As promised, it has a really moisturising formula which leaves your skin feeling really refreshed. It is a light formula that absorbs quickly and lasts throughout the day. At £17 it is certainly not cheap - quite an investment on the serum scale but it is definitely premium quality. BEST FOR: All day hydration

PREMIUM: Vichy Aqualia Thermal Serum 30ml - £22.50 

From another French skincare brand that I love, the Vichy Aqualia Thermal Serum is the most expensive of all the serums here. Similar to Avene, it promises to hydrate with the combination of Vichy Thermal Spa Water with Activ Hyaluronine, which give the effect of the skin being continuously 'hydrated by misting micro-sprays'. It comes in a pretty, blue pump dispenser and the serum itself has a light fragrance. It is a really lightweight formula so it is not too heavy to apply just before you apply make-up - in fact I prefer using it as a primer rather than an overnight serum. It definitely makes my skin feel a lot fresher after a couple of days using it and contributes to maintaining healthy glow. There is not a huge amount of difference between this and the Avene serum; a slight increase in price for not much more - I enjoy using both and find them interchangeable. BEST FOR: Primer

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5 Sep 2015

August Favourites

Like most months these days, August has flown by and taken with it the last of the sun - I returned from my holidays a few days ago to be greeted by gloomy skies and everyone suited in their autumn wardrobe. But whilst the seasons take a turn for the colder climate, my August favourites are firmly rooted in the theme of summer. 



Clarins Radiance Plus Golden Glow Booster | £19 Boots for 15ml 

I have previously done a post on the Clarins Radiance Plus here, but since then, I have become literally obsessed. I used it every other day since I bought this. If you are like me and you tend to tan all over your body but less so on your face (maybe you have SPF in your foundation), this is a pot of gold dust in creating an even glow. It is so easy to apply, just put a few drops into a moisturiser or facial serum, and in a few hours it develops into a really subtle colour that is indistinguishable from a natural tan. It fades in one-two days (which is great if you have any disasters) so I just reapply it when necessary. For £19, 15ml is not a very large amount, but as you only need 2-3 drops per application, it should last a long time. I have been using mine on and off for about a month and it has barely gone down. I really recommend this if your summer glow is fading fast and you want a quick fix.

Avene Hydrance Optimale Hydrating Serum | £17 Boots for 30ml

Serums are one of my favourite beauty products to buy, perhaps because they feel like a luxury that you can use whenever you fancy it, and they always come in the prettiest packaging (I am a self-confessed hoarder of boxes that products like these come in..). I haven't tried many of Avene's products, but as a lover of all the other French beauty brands, I thought this would be a good investment. The serum is one of the Eau Themale range, which claims to be soothing and an anti-irritant for sensitive skin. The serum itself primarily aims to hydrate the skin over a long period of time, which is ideal if your skin is on the dry side, as mine is. After application, my skin is feels really moisturised and smooth, which does last for quite a while. I think the best thing about it is that the serum is really lightweight, so you really can use it anytime you want, like a moisturiser, but you get the benefits of a serum. There is a fragrance to it which is really subtle and not at all unpleasant. I love using this, and I would consider repurchasing if it was on offer, as it is quite pricey in comparison to other serums I have used.

Philip Kingsley Daily Damage Defence Conditioning Spray | £8 John Lewis

As I have been doing the Fitness Blender 5 Day Challenge recently, and just generally implementing more exercise into my week, I have been washing my hair a lot more. The increase in blow-drying and often straightening day-to-day inevitably means more damage, so I wanted something to protect my hair. I spray quite a generous amount all over my scalp before I dry my hair which is making it run out quite fast, I think as it gets scarcer I'll just use it on the ends. It is so hard not to overuse it as it makes my hair so shiny, especially if I sleep on it afterwards. It feels a lot stronger and just generally in better condition after about three weeks of using it every other day. Almost a tenner for only 60ml is quite expensive for a protection spray, but I am such a fan of the Philip Kingsley brand I can almost justify it.



La Roche Posay Anthelios Comfort Cream SPF30 50ml | £15.50 (currently £10.85) Feel Unique

I have had a couple of holidays this summer where I have only taken hand luggage through the airport, and to avoid buying a huge sun-cream there that I wouldn't be able to get through I went looking for a smaller one to take with me. The Anthelios sun care products provides a range that is suitable for all skin types and concerns, fragrance and Paraben-free. It comes in a variety of sizes, but the 50ml was ideal for a week away for one person. It is really easy to apply and it is like using a really hydrating moisturizer which is ideal for when the sun is drying out your skin. I am not overly keen on the smell which I can't quite place, I am much more fond of the old-school childhood nostalgic suncream scent that always takes you to the beach. But, that is my only qualm with this product, it served me very well this month. 

Eylure Brow Pencil in No.30 Blonde | £5.45 Superdrug

For starters, I am definitely not, by any means, a pro at doing eyebrows. As I have blonde eyebrows (pretty much white in summer), I have found it hard to find a suitable shade or product that has not made them look ridiculously dark or obviously drawn on. I previously used the Topshop Brow Palette in Fetch (Blonde) which was a gel and powder formula that you applied delicately with a little brush. I found it okay - the process was quite time consuming so when I wanted a quick fix I ended up just abandoning the whole thing. I came across the Eylure brand in Superdrug recently and thought a pencil would be a lot more efficient than what I was using. The pencil is double ended, coming with a handy brush on the other side that I use both to shape before and to soften the colour if it is too strong. The shade is great for blondes - it is dark enough to make a difference but still matches light hair. Since buying it, I have used it pretty much everyday and for the price it is an amazing buy.

Revlon Ultra HD Lipstick in Shade 860 Hibiscus | £7.99 RRP (currently £4.99) Superdrug

After being slightly drawn in by the Emma Stone campaign that launched alongside these lipsticks, when they were on offer in Superdrug I couldn't resist and picked up it in two shades - Hibiscus and Gladiolus (a strong, red shade). Out of the two, I have definitely used Hibiscus on a more regular basis as it is a lot more suitable to wear in the day. It is a peachy orange tone, so it is perfect for summer and when you have a tan. It goes on really well - the formula is hydrating and to me has the consistency of a lip balm. I am a big fan of the orange lipstick trends but the ones I have bought in the past have been a bit too radical for daily wear and clash with most other colours, so this shade is a great balance.



Rimmel Salon Pro by Kate Nail Polish in Goddess | £4.49 Superdrug

I have probably included this in a beauty post at some point as I am always buying and raving about Rimmel's Kate range, but I have been wearing this a lot this summer so it is only just that I include it. It is a peachy nude shade, a bit brighter than a lot of the nude shades I usually wear. The applicator brush is one of the flat ones which I prefer as it makes the application a lot easier when you are trying to do thin layers. It looks amazing with a tan and stays on really well. 
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