Bandzee Monthly Hair Tie Subscription

Snagless hair ties that have no metal binding and are stretchy enough not to leave kinks in the hair have taken off in a big way. They don't tug and pull on strands like many can and feature a large range of designs as they're wider, which also makes them harder to lose.
New on the hair tie scene is Bandzee, a company who's bands are made from knotted soft elastic trim. Bandzee debuted their products in Pink Parcel's period product subscription boxes, but now they're launching a monthly subscription service of their own which will mean you'll have a constant supply of new hair bands at your door.

The bands themselves live up to their claims and are soft but strong with fun designs, causing no hair pulling or deep annoying kinks. The Bandzee bands come in packs of four on a card with an inspirational quote and in a little cellophane packet. The subscription is expected to launch this month, costing £4.95 monthly with free postage. 
While wondering whether spending almost £5 on four hair bands is actually good value, I considered whether my usual purchase of Boots ponyband value packs had jaded my view. As it turned out, it had- the world of patterned bands is lucrative and can see you paying almost twice as much for a four pack. One of the leading brands even sells individual bands for £5 each. 

A hair band subscription service is definitely a novel idea, however the brightly coloured designs of the bands I've seen confirms the thought that it's one I would probably have been most interested in 10 years ago. Aimed at the young teenage (or even younger) market, I can see the fun patterns of Bandzee bands and the novelty of having new designs arriving each month doing well.

What do you think of the idea of a hair tie subscription?

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*This post contains one or more sample products

Beanies Decaf Flavour Coffee - Vegan & Sugar Free

If you saw my recent Tips for Cutting Down on Sugar post, you'll know that I've been trying to cut a lot of sugar out of my diet. So I was tantalised to hear about the Beanies Flavour Coffees, which claim to contain the right amount of flavour so that they don't need extra sugar.

I received Decaf Chocolate Orange £2.75, Amaretto Almond £2.75 and Irish Cream £2.75, which are all as deliciously tasting as they sound. I've been drinking these with soya milk and the flavours are strong, but don't overpower the coffee taste. As promised, the coffees don't taste like they need extra sugar and these three pots all have a richness that makes them feel quite naughty, even though they're vegan, sugar free and have 2 calories per serving. My boyfriend tried them and said he thought the flavours were too strong, but who would listen to a Nespresso addict like him anyway?

My favourite of the three is Chocolate Orange and I particularly enjoy a level teaspoon stirred into hot chocolate to give the flavour an extra dimension. A teaspoon of the Irish Cream flavour is really good in an Irish hot chocolate with a dash (or two) of whiskey which creates a creamy warming drink that has the perfect level of sweetness to bitterness. 

Beanies also do a range of instant and ground full caffeine coffees, including a Stash Box with nine flavours in which I think would make a great gift. Although I haven't tried it yet, I bet the coffees would be awesome for baking too- Amaretto Almond coffee cake anyone!? The choice of flavours is huge and perfect for those of us who have a sweet tooth and are looking to spice up the drinks cupboard. 

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*This post contains one or more sample products

Summer Holiday Beauty Essentials

I've put together a list of my must-have beauty and hair products for a holiday in the sun, whether you're travelling abroad or staying in the UK and hoping you won't have to dig out your wellies. Read on to find out what's made the cut for my bag this year! 

When it's hot you need a foundation that stays in place and I haven't found one better than Revlon Colorstay £12.99, even without a primer. The normal/dry version is water based, whereas the oily version is silicone based, so I find the former holds up better in hot weather as it doesn't separate or turn patchy when you get a bit sweaty in the heat. 
For oil control and mattifying power, Soap and Glory One Heck of a Blot £12 is definitely one of the essentials. It removes shine in an instant and sometimes actually looks its best when you start to get a little oily. You can read more of my thoughts on the power here.

Instead of trying to squeeze all your palettes and compacts in your makeup bag, use a Make Up For Ever Metal Palette £6 to hold your most used creams and powders. The medium sized magnetic palette holds singles and depotted pans perfectly and there are plastic and foam sheets included to protect your powders on the journey. 

I find nail files to be a handbag essential for pesky splits or breaks, and the Stylfile Emergency Nail FIle £4.49 is perfect for taking on holiday. Not only does it feature the innovative curved design for the emery side and smoothing/shining side, but also has a spiral holder that prevents the file from scratching your phone.  

If you're looking for a really long lasting lip colour that will see you through eating and drinking from morning to night, then I'd suggest trying Maybelline SuperStay Bold Matte 24 Hour Lip Colour £8.99. Although application is a little tricky (you need to keep your mouth open until the creme has dried completely) the results are definitely long lasting. This bright Peach Cocktail shade is the perfect holiday colour and there's a balm on one end of the tube so you can choose between a matte or glossy lip. 

There's something quite endearing about travel minis and a 7 pack of Simple Cleansing Wipes £1.25 just screams holiday to me. There's the perfect amount for a week in the sun so you can easily remove your makeup before a bedtime cleanse without having to carry a heavy big pack or take unnecessary liquids in your bag.

I recently switched to Right Guard antiperspirant from another brand and now I wouldn't use anything else in the summer. With the Right Guard Total Defence 5 Floral Power £2.89 I guarantee you will only smell lovely, whether you're hanging out by the pool or picking up the pace on a walking tour. Also, the Floral Power scent smells quite like passion fruit to me, the perfect exotic holiday fragrance! If you don't want to pack a big bottle of perfume too then the Flo Refillable Atomiser £9.99 is the perfect solution, holding up to 77 sprays of your favourite scent.

For hair basics, there's Batiste Dry Shampoo £1.50 which comes in a handy (and cute) 50ml travel size for root refreshing, and Tresemme Freeze Hold 100ml £1.69 to hold your style in place once it's finished. 
To cut down on bulk in your bag and to make styling easier, swap your hair dryer, round brushes and styling tools for the Nicky Clarke Frizz Control Hot Air Styler £35. This all in one tool blows the hot air straight into the brush so you can get a perfect volumising blow dry every time. The Hot Air Styler comes with two different sized round brushes and has a cool shot setting to set your style along with an ionic setting to reduce smooth hair and reduce frizz from humid weather. 

An essential, whether you're going abroad or staycationing, is sun protection. I would thoroughly recommend Nivea Sun Protect and Refresh £8 and Garnier Ambre Solaire Light and Silky Lotion £7 for being light, easily absorbed and non greasy enough that you don't feel the need to wash your hands after application. They're also budget friendly and don't increase in price if you need a higher SPF like with some brands I've seen! 

Eyes need protecting from bright sun as much as skin and my favourite shop for sunglasses this year has been River Island. I picked up four pairs to replace some old ones in my collection- a couple of aviator styles and I found some great tortoiseshells Wayfarer style glasses in the men's section. I'm really impressed with the big selection and they're only around £10 each.   

What will you (or did you) take in your beauty travel bag this year?

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*This post contains one or more sample products


Origins Clear Improvement Mask

My skin has always been oily and easily congested, but it's only in the last couple of years that I've found products that work with it to combat breakouts instead of working against it to make it dry or irritated. One of the products that my skin seems to love is Origins Clear Improvement Mask £23 which contains charcoal and white china clay to absorb dirt, oil and toxins, along with lecithin which dissolves impurities in the skin.

The dark grey mask feels creamy when applied and dries to a slightly chalky finish which washes off easily with water. Clear Improvement really cleans my pores and, from using it once or twice weekly, I've noticed a big reduction in breakouts and the annoying little bumps that oily skin is prone to.

Another benefit of the Origins Clear Improvement Mask is that the tube seems to be never ending! I first tried the product as a mini at Christmas time and it kept on going for around three months before the tube finally emptied and I knew I had to purchase the full 100ml size.

While some people think masks are gimmicky, I believe that when they're used regularly enough they can really improve skin of all types. If you're prone to roughness, congestion and breakouts I would highly recommend this mask for keeping oil and spots at bay. 

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Zhuzh Tan Accelator- A Faster Deeper Natural Sun Tan?

These two Zhuzh products are designed to 'accelerate' your tan- they claim to boost natural pigment in the skin to help you develop a deep, long lasting tan quickly in the sun. The Tan Accelerator £15.99 and Best of Both Tans Luxury Daily Moisturiser £15.99 both contain the 'tan accelerating' ingredients, but the moisturiser also has a gradual self tan that aims to add extra colour on top of a quick natural tan.

I was sent these products a while ago but because of the weather I haven't a real chance to try them out until now. I was really intrigued and had high hopes for both of them as I don't tan well in the sun but I would love to be naturally bronzed.

The Zhuzh Tan Accelerator comes in a spray bottle and the product is applied to skin on top of SPF and then rubbed in. The Daily Moisturiser is also applied on top of SPF, but instead of a light mist, the product is a thick cream that needs a bit of work before it is fully blended. Both products left my skin feeling smooth and moisturised, and after a few hours in the sun I was completely... the same colour. I've tried each of the products several times, especially when wearing shorts or other clothing that would leave a visible tan line, but they really don't seem to do anything at all for me. Even the moisturiser with gradual tan didn't seem to impart any colour on my skin.

The spray and cream are both water based, and the only ingredient advertised on the packaging or website is Shea Butter. Looking through the ingredients there's a list of things I can't pronounce, but the ones I do recognise are several alcohols, parabens, fragrances and silicone. This leads me to wonder whether the products really are doing anything magical to my melatonin or whether they've been based on some kind of research that suggests skin tans faster when it is moisturised. 

While the product line is a great idea and something we could really do with in England, I was left disappointed with two formulas that turned out to really just moisturise and do little else. They both seem to have some good reviews online, though, so I'd be interested to hear if they've worked for anyone else as maybe they'd do better on different skin.

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How Laser Hair Removal Treatment Works

Do you feel like your home is a war zone? Are you always fighting with your unwanted hair? What happens when you've tried waxing, shaving, and plucking and are just at the end of your tether? Then it might be time to see if you're a good candidate for laser hair removal. But first, there are some basics you should know about the process.

Why Hair Disappears for Longer Time Periods After Laser Treatment
When you shave or wax away your unwanted hair, you'll probably notice it starting to grow back after just a couple of days. In fact, most of us have been known to shave or wax at least once a week. That's why laser procedures can look like miracle fixes, since the hair might stay away for weeks. Sometimes it might not grow back at all, but why is that?

The answer is simple. Techniques like shaving only remove the hair that shows on top of your skin, but those hairs grow up from below the surface. Think of hair as being like a vegetable that grows out of the ground from a seed. You can chop off the plants, but the root systems are still intact underneath the soil. It's the same way with hair.

Luckily, laser devices have been designed that can target hair at the roots, also known as follicles. When those roots are damaged or destroyed, it discourages regrowth. It might take weeks for the follicles to repair themselves and start producing hair again, and some follicles may be permanently destroyed, preventing regrowth entirely.

Treatments Still Have to Be Repeated Sometimes
One thing to remember is that laser treatments often have to be repeated. In fact, they're usually done in a series of 3 to 5 treatments, which are spread out over several weeks. Once one set of treatments is over, you may not need another for a long time, but you probably will eventually, unless you just want to go back to shaving or waxing. So, you should consider those repeated costs before investing any time or money in laser hair removal treatments.

If They Are So Good, Why Doesn't Everyone Have them?
There are a couple of reasons why not everyone has laser hair removal treatments done. As just mentioned, money can be a factor. The costs of the repeated treatments can add up, and not everyone has the funds to keep up with that.

That being said, the bigger reason that not everyone is a good candidate is that most average laser devices are designed to target hairs by looking for dark spots against light skin. Not everyone has light skin, and not everyone has dark hair either. If you are lucky enough to have both, you are the ideal candidate for the procedure. If not, you aren't totally out of luck, but you may have a harder time finding a clinic with a custom laser capable of treating someone with your hair and skin tones.

Even if you aren't what is considered the ideal candidate, you still might want to look into laser treatment for your unwanted hair. After all, in the long run it can save you a lot of time and fuss.

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How To Fake Tan The Non-Orange Way

Summer is here! (apparently!). But for pasty girls even the hottest of heatwaves can leave a chill in the air when they remember that wearing a dress means they'll have to put their lily-white pins on display. Having tried everything from self tan oil to gradual tan, the thought of baring my skin doesn't bring me out in a (heat) rash, and I've got some tips to make you look bronzed and lovely without having to crisp up your delicate skin in the sun.
Everyone knows they should exfoliate more than they do, but it really is key before applying self tan. A product like Whitetobrown Exfoliate* £7.99 is great for this as it has a gel formula which doesn't leave an oily residue on the skin. The exfoliating particles are small and scrubby but you do need to get your palms in there on tough areas like ankles and knees.

After exfoliating to get rid of dead skin cells and any previous tan you had on, applying a moisturiser will ensure that the self tan develops evenly and doesn't stick to dry areas. The St Tropez Tan Optimiser* £5.95 contains Apricot Oil, Shea Butter, Aloe Vera and Jojoba Oil which make sure that skin is moisturised, particularly on the knees, elbows, hands and feet. St Tropez also say the Tan Optimiser can be used on holiday to prolong a tan (I've yet to try this out!).
Once you're smooth and prepared, it's time to self tan. I was sent the Fake Bake Original Self Tan Lotion £12.50 to try out, which is one I haven't used before, but the brand has been around since I first started tanning. The lotion comes enclosed with a pair of blue gloves, but I find that all tans apply best and fastest with a mitt so it's definitely worth getting your hands on one.
The lotion is a dark brown colour which smells to me a bit like lychee, and it smooths in easily to create an even layer. After leaving the product on overnight, you're left with a medium tan that's not orange and definitely a better colour than you'd get from a day in the English sun. You can reapply the tan the next night for a darker colour or use an oil-free moisturiser to make sure it fades evenly.
Self tanning can add a bit of extra time to your routine, but it means you'll be a nice sun kissed shade, even if you haven't faced the sun for a while!

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Sweet Tooth? My Tips For Cutting Down On Sugar

I've always had a sweet tooth but recently I'd found it really becoming a problem. I'd start the day off with something sugary and the end it the same way too, snacking on cakes, biscuits and sweets in the time inbetween. Since cutting out gluten and dairy from my diet a few years ago I've become much more interested in the ingredients of the foods I eat and the abundance of unnecessary sugar in everything from raw chicken to packaged fruit really made me think. Like milk, sugar is one of the things that wouldn't naturally be in our diet and I've got the fillings to prove it. 
I've managed to cut out a huge amount of sugar from my diet and I thought I'd share my tips for anyone wanting to do the same as I know how difficult it can be.

Don't try to go cold turkey
Completely removing something from your life that has become part of a routine can be really hard (think of a bad breakup, the end of a series on Netflix or when Tesco stopped selling your favourite cheese) so cutting down is much easier than cutting out. Slowly reducing the amount of sugary foods you eat is a much easier way of doing things than trying to shun it completely and then thinking about it all day.

Remove the temptation
It's easier said than done but if you stop buying things that are packed with sugar, then you won't have them in your house and you won't eat them because they're simply not there. If you run out of the cereal or biscuits that you usually buy, the next time you go shopping choose another food instead like Nakd bars which taste sweet but wont make holes in your teeth quite as fast.

Reward yourself
I can now go for days without sugar but when I do eat it I only do after 8pm. If you set a time of day in the late afternoon or evening after which you'll allow yourself something sweet, then getting through the day with healthier snacks will be much easier. You'll know that later you'll get a reward for your hard sugar-fighting work. As time goes on you won't even notice that "sugar o'clock" has come along and you can set your goals in days rather than hours.

Replace the addiction
Cravings for a sweet taste can be really easily curbed by snacking on things like fruit and especially dried fruit which can be very sweet naturally. Yes, fruit does contain natural sugars but it also has so many vitamins, minerals and nutrients, plus fresh fruit is full of water too which we could all do with a bit more of. I've always been a fruit lover but I now eat it by the bucket load which is far better than filling up on chocolate, Haribo and toffee slices throughout the day.

Cook from scratch
Cooking from scratch enables you to have pastries and baked foods in your house so you don't have to miss out on the things you like. I don't eat honey but Maple syrup has been a brilliant find for me in my quest to cut down on sugar consumption. It's all natural and is about a third sweeter than white sugar so can be used in baking to give a sweet and yummy taste while also helping to keep things moist. I substitute it for white and brown sugar in almost everything by using the volume of the sugar needed and reducing it by a third. You might need to adjust the dry ingredients to make up for the extra liquid, but for things like flapjacks (which I love and could eat all day) it just serves to make them more moist. 
Muesli is also a great sugar free food to make as it can be eaten at any time of day with any type of milk. I throw dried fruits, chopped nuts and seeds into a bowl then add about twice as much oats and a really good glug of maple syrup. I then mix everything together and spread out on a silicone baking tray before baking quickly at about 180° until it's all toasted and lovely. Its brilliant straight out the oven but can be kept in a sealed container and enjoyed for days.

Instead of eating sugar morning, noon and night, and I feel like I control the sugar instead of it controlling me. My body (and my teeth) are thanking me for it! The only times I particularly do choose something sugary over sugar-free is with things like fruit squash, as I'm not keen on the taste of artificial sweeteners and they're just another chemical I don't need.

If you have any other sugar fighting tips I'd love to hear them!

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Beauty & More Haul (Crown, Origins, Maybelline, Yankee, Cocoa Brown)

It's been a long time since I've done a haul but I'm really enjoying seeing them on blogs and YouTube at the moment. I like to see people's first impressions of new products or why they decided to repurchase something so hopefully this post will give you a few ideas for things to consider when you next feel a spree coming on!

The first group of items were purchased from Amazon with a gift card that was kindly provided by Zeek.

Cocoa Brown Regular and Dark Versions £7.99
No matter what brands I try I always go back to Cocoa Brown and the dark version is my favourite (but the regular shade is good for a light tan too). I tend to leave them for around three hours so I can get a good colour going on my pale skin and then wash off without shower gel whenever I can so the colour keeps developing. The tans dry quickly, don't streak and fade the most evenly from all the brands I've tried so if you haven't given them a go yet then you definitely should, plus the gradual tan is lovely too.

Yankee Candle Orange Splash £11.05
This is my first 'real' Yankee Candle, I've tried lots of scents before but they've all been in tart form. I love the fresh orange smell of this jar and it's a must try if you love fruity smells, but I feel a little let down as the jars have nowhere near the same scent throw as the tarts which can fill up the whole main floor of my house. I've also found that this candle tunnels no matter how long I burn it for, but I am really enjoying having a yummy orange smell in my bedroom.

Millie Marotta's Animal Kingdom £3.99
Colouring was never my artistic forte but I've been enjoying settling down with this book and filling in the beautiful animal illustrations. The spaces are very small and intricate so you need to have a good eye and steady hand but that makes it perfect to concentrate the mind and forget about worries or distractions. I'm really regretting that I gave away my coloured pencils not long ago as fine liners just don't look quite right!

Crown Brush C405 Angle Contour Blush Brush £8.29
I've been seeing lots of people on YouTube recently using the Mac 168 brush to contour, apply bronzer and blusher too, but I knew I didn't really want to spend £27 on one brush. The Crown version is just what I wanted and is the perfect size and shape for all three cheek jobs. It also blends everything out really nicely and I wouldn't swap back for any of my previous bronzer or contour brushes.

C433 Pro Blending Fluff £6.09
I'd read that this brush was a slightly flatter dupe for the Mac 217 and it does do a lovely job of blending but I feel a bit disappointed because the hairs are quite stiff and scratchy. I've tried soaking it in conditioner for a few hours but it hasn't helped much. I do like it and will continue to use it but after all the good reviews I'd expected something a bit softer.

SS027 Syntho DLX Blending Crease £4.99
This is a really soft fluffy brush and if only it was a bit smaller, it would be perfect for the eyes. I've been using it for highlighter and it does a great precise job at applying and blending. I regret not buying a smaller version instead of the C433 but I'll definitely be getting more of the Syntho range if I put in another Crown order.

Origins Make a Difference Plus Rejuvinating Treatment £34.50
This has been my moisturiser of choice for the last year or so and I can definitely tell the difference in my skin when I run out and have to use something else. It's great for oily skin but still provides a good amount of moisture and never clogs my pores.
Maybelline Great Lash Waterproof £4.99
I've loved this mascara for years and particularly love the bristled brush. It is always my waterproof mascara of choice and the dense black colour is good for layering over another if the first doesn't quite have the impact I want.

Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara £7.99
This is my second tube of the Lash Sensational and I find it gives a seperated, fluttery look that is great for during the day or can be layered up in the evening. It doesn't weigh my lashes down like a lot of mascaras can but my lashes do need a very good curl before application.
Maybelline Brow Satin £5.99
It was 3 for 2 at Boots so I decided to grab this eyebrow pencil and powder duo to give it a try. I bought the colour Dark Brown and I'm really enjoying the twist up pencil end so far which gives precise smudge proof colour. I'm undecided about the powder end at the moment as I usually use brow powder with a damp angled brush to get a defined shape, but with a few more uses it might grow on me!

Have you tried any of the products above?

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