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Confession time: until I trained as a make up artist, I probably only cleaned my make up brushes once in a blue moon. If that. But once I learned about the creepy crawly bacteria that can live on brushes and be transferred to your (or your client’s) skin, and between your products, I became a bit of a clean fanatic.
As a professional, keeping your brushes clean is a basic requirement, and is usually done (to some degree) for each new person in the chair. None of us want to be the person responsible for wiping out an entire cast with an outbreak of conjunctivitis (anyone remember London Fashion Week in Feb 2008?). On  some shoots you may even have separate sets of brushes for each actor/model, and use them only on that person, especially in the case of people with very sensitive skin or easily inflamed skin conditions.
It also pays to keep your expensive or favourite brushes in tip-top condition, you’ll get better results from them and they’ll last you a lot longer. 
If you’re only using your brushes on yourself, you don’t need to clean them after every use, but cleaning them on a regular basis will be better for both your skin and your brushes. 
On the spot cleaning
If you’re using your favourite brush and want a quick clean in between colours/products, a spray cleaner with an alcohol based cleaner such as Make Up Forever’s Brush Cleaner (2), which contains Peppermint and red thyme essential oils to clean and condition the bristles, is all that’s needed. Simply spray onto the brush and wipe clean with a tissue. 
Once a week
If you wear make up every day, and use your brushes to apply it, then a more thorough weekly clean is needed. Isopropyl Alcohol (3) is the most commonly used cleaner in the industry. Various formulations consisting of an IPA base with conditioning oils and other ingredients are available, but straight up IPA will do the job. Pour about 1/2″ of IPA into a jam jar and dip your brushes into the jar one at a time, swiping from side to side and then drag off excess on the side of the jar before wiping the brush on a tissue. If it doesn’t brush clean, dip and repeat. Shape the bristles of the brush to make sure they’re smoothed flat. Then lay on a towel to dry.
IPA is easy to come by in the US, you can buy it in most drugstores in large bottles for just a couple of dollars (lucky things) in the UK, you’ll need to get it from a professional make up store such as Charles Fox, Screenface, Guru or PAM and pay considerably more. But a little goes a long way, so it’s worth the investment.
Every couple of months
Time to get yourself in a lather. Shampooing your brushes every couple of months ensures that they get a thorough clean and also helps with keeping them soft. You can buy special brush shampoos, such as ELF Brush Shampoo above (1), but Baby Shampoo, or a clarifying shampoo would be just as good. Try to avoid conditioning or silicone based shampoos as the point is to remove residue and build up, not add to it. 
Run a basin of warm water (add a couple of drops of lavender oil if you wish) then squeeze a small amount of shampoo into the palm of your hand. Dip the brush into the water, swirl in the shampoo and gently massage with your fingertips before rinsing in the basin and squeezing out the excess water. Leave brushes to dry with the end of the handle propped on another brush and the bristles laid on a towel. Propping them up like this keeps water from running back down the bristles into the ferrule (the metal part of the brush) which can cause your brushes to moult. 
Once in a while, I’ll pack up my brushes at 2am at the end of a long shoot, and then forget to unpack and clean them until a few days later, at which point I realise that I’ve left a favoured brush squished up in the brush roll and the bristles are all misshapen. Easily fixed.
Wash the brush as above then use a teeny amount of hair gel to shape the brush. Leave to dry for as long as possible, then re-shampoo and dry again. It may take a couple of applications to get it’s shape back, but with favourite brushes it’s well worth the effort. 
So there you have it, keep ’em clean folks! Your skin and your brushes will thank you for it.

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What self-respecting beauty bunny wouldn’t want these goodies filling up her stocking on Christmas morning…

1. & 2.  Russian Amber Imperial Shampoo & Conditioning Creme // Philip B – There’s no way on earth I could justify spending this much on shampoo and conditioner, but if Santa wants to, who am I to argue?!
3. Holiday Style Palette // Aerin – I’m not usually one for make up palettes, you always end up using one or two colours and junking the rest. But this classically chic colour combo and the divine packaging seem to set this one apart.
4. Hemlock & Obsess Nail Polish Duo // Illamasqua – Drawing on their rich heritage in film and theatre, Illamasqua are known for creating high performance make-up with a distinctly dark side, and this shocking pink and snow white are no exception. 
5. Private Blend Lip Colour in Black Orchid // Tom Ford – As indulgent and as perfect as it’s possible to get, Tom Ford’s lipstick collection contains every colour a woman is ever likely to need. And I need this one! 
6. Lip Brush // Tom Ford – To make that lipstick even more perfect!
7. Earl Grey & Cucumber Cologne // Jo Malone – The scent of afternoon tea, perfected and balanced with beeswax, musk and vanilla and bottled for your delectation. Sublime!
8. Eye Colour & Lip Balm Set // Paul & Joe – Paul & Joe’s seasonal limited edition collections are always charmingly eccentric and make use of their colourful and whimsical prints. These Christmas tins contain the perfect colours for creating a fresh ‘just-in-from-the-cold’ look. 

9. Botanical Body Repair Oil // Elemental Herbology – Featuring a nourishing formula of argan, rosa mosqueta and sweet almond oil with delicate scents of frangipani, jasmine and mandarin green tea, this silky oil helps to hydrate and soften the skin, leaving it with a sweet scent and radiant appearance. 
10. Sequin Print Washbag // Ted Baker – Mainly because it’s pretty. I think I’d actually use it for cables and tech bits when travelling. But don’t tell Santa that.
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Any trip abroad isn’t complete without a visit to the local drugstore/chemist, and the US is no different. On my most recent trip I picked up a basketful of goodies that I’m slowly working my way through. Some are old favourites, some are new discoveries, and most of them are available in the UK, just not quite as cheaply. 
First up is this ‘new to me’ Orange Essence Facial Cleanser from Burt’s Bees. I will confess that I’ve always been wary of ‘natural’ skincare that gives the impression of being more ecological than it is effective. It’s all well and good if a cream is made with 100% organic mung beans and hemp, but if it’s not doing my skin any good, I’m really not interested. 
Burt’s Bees has always been on my radar, but I’d never really considered it as a brand I’d use for more than their (brilliant) lip balms. Then there I was, after a week of Thanksgiving excess, looking for something to soothe my skin which was suffering from the effects of the alcohol, rich food and dry air. I knew that the weather back home in the UK was going to give it a good bashing too, so I started scanning the shelves for an oil based cleanser. Regular readers will know that I have a bit of an obsession with oils, there really is nothing better for cleaning your skin in the winter, but they’re surprisingly hard to come by from low/mid-range brands. Liz Earle, Eve Lom and Shu Uemura are perhaps the most well known, but if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, what’s a girl to do?
Well, it would appear that Orange Essence Facial Cleanser from Burt’s Bees might just be the answer. I’ve only been using it for 6 days (and I’ve also just started using a new serum/elixir, more on that to come) so the results aren’t yet conclusive, but this rich, unctuous, orange goop could just be the best thing to happen to my skin in a long time! 
Completely sulfate-free, the cleanser is an emollient blend of vegetable glycerin, olive oil, oat flour, oat oil, aloe juice, rosemary oil, and most crucially, orange oil.
Orange oil is a bit of a wonder oil, with many therapeutic and topical uses. As an aroma, it can help with depression (that sunshine smell will lift your spirits every time!), nervous tension, stress, and sleeplessness. In creams and lotions it assists the lymphatic system, helping to detoxify congested skin and is great for older more mature skin, dealing with dermatitis, as well as acne and soothing dry irritated skin, all of which stems from the action it has on supporting collagen formation in the skin, which is required for a healthy, young-looking skin. 
One word of warning though, orange essential oil can photosensitise the skin, so please use with caution in the summer months, and always wear a sunscreen if you’re heading outside after use (which you all do anyway, right?!)

The thick, bright orange cleanser, is massaged into dry skin, melting away make up and grime, and then rinsed off using a cloth soaked in hot water, although if your skin is very sensitive or prone to rosacea, keep the water warm rather than hot. If you’re feeling particularly sensitive (or indulgent) add a few drops of lavender essential oil to the basin of water.

Et voila! Baby soft, clean and not-at-all-dried-out skin. Bliss.

Have you tried Orange Essence Facial Cleanser from Burt’s Bees or do you have another oil-based cleanser that you’d recommend? I’d love to know…

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During the summer I took to the bottle in a BIG way. No, not the gin (although I have developed a penchant for dirty martinis, but only once in a while) but the bleach bottle. And since a haircut is way over due (I normally only manage once a year, which is shockingly poor ) I now have acres of frazzled ombre hair that needs looking after. The ends of my hair are light blonde and, if not looked after properly, very dry and straw-like.

Enter Kerastase Elixir Ultime, which I slather onto my towel dried hair before brushing through and leaving to dry naturally.

I’ve blogged about my cherished hair oil before, but with the damage done by the 4 applications of bleach, I needed a real heavy hitter.

Made with a blend of Maize, Argan, Camellia and Pracaxi oils, this rich elixir smells delicious, although not too heavily perfumed, and sinks into hair leaving it conditioned, smooth and protected without feeling greasy.

I had already been using it before the bleaching, but it’s really come into it’s own since I went half blonde.

It’s not the cheapest hair product around, but a little goes a fairly long way (although with my current waist-length curtain, not as far as it should!)

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Rather  like my search for the perfect laptop/handbag, I’ve also been searching for some time for a proper (by which I mean ‘actually useful’) wash bag. I found it a few moths ago in a CVS in California, and I couldn’t be happier (I tried to find a link for you, but to no avail. It looks a lot like the fancy one below, only waaaaaaay cheaper)
The best things about it is that the ‘lid’ is in fact a 1″ deep pocket that can hold a multitude of useful things that I couldn’t travel without…
Lemsip Max Strength – I nearly always get sick when I go on holiday. If I travel to visit family and work while I’m there (curse of the self-employed) I’m fine. If I dare to take an actual break from work…sickness. So having a couple of Lemsip sachets to hand is a must. They’re also quite good if you over indulged during last night’s cocktail hour!
Cutex One-Step Pads – I’m a bit of a nail polish fiend, but can’t for the life of me make my home manicures last more than a couple of days. And once it starts chipping, I want that stuff off ASAP!! These pads are beyond genius. One pad gets 10 fingers clean in a jiffy. 
Tide To Go Pen – Because if anyone is going to get BBQ sauce on their brand new top 15mins after buying it, it’s me. Fact. I buy these in the US, and they’re a godsend for messy muppets like me. 
Plasters/Band Aids – self-explanatory really. 
Tweezers – because I can guarantee that as soon as I get on the plane I’ll notice a stray brow hair and won’t be able to stop thinking about it until it’s tweezed.
Emery boards – because just after I tweeze that stray hair, I’ll catch my finger nail on the zipper of my bag and tear it. 
Pills – I really don’t drink much on the whole, a couple of times a month is the norm for me, but as soon as I get to California it’s cocktails every night, so ibuprofen and milk thistle are essential to keep my head and liver in check. I generally drink less tea when I’m away (although I do pack some Yorkshire Gold to make sure I get a good brew when I do have a cuppa) so caffeine pills help if I need a little pick me up to keep the jet lag in check. 
Safety pins – obviously. 
The bag – I wish.
What are your travel essentials? What am I missing?!
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It had to happen sooner or later – Olympic fever has reached the blog!

Between yesterday’s nail-biting gymnastics results, the highs and the lows of the synchronised diving and the promising results in the equestrian 3-day eventing, I’m pretty much as excited about the whole shebang as a girl can be.

So it only seemed right that I paint my nails gold in the hope of some medals for Team GB to match soon.

Nails in: American Apparel Gold Flash

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vanity fair // blush and pucker up…

Three of my favourite make up looks at the Autumn/Winter shows all focussed on my new beauty obsessions, lipstick and blusher. I’m pretty sure that it’s due to getting that bit older, but I’m all about the youthful look that can be achieved with soft blushing cheeks and rosebud lips. 
As a teenager I couldn’t get far enough away from blusher, I had such ruddy cheeks and would blush at the drop of a hat, it seemed insane to want to make my cheeks redder! But fast forward, and I now totally understand the years that can be dropped with of a touch of rouge…

cheeks // lips 

Michael Kors & Rodarte images: Luca Cannonieri via style.com // Temperley images: Style Bistro

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vanity fair // the eyes have it…

Following on from the base and mascara posts, here’s the skinny on the rest of the eye make up I’m currently loving.

From left to right, top to bottom…

Laura Mercier Baked Eye Colour in Black Karat – this lightweight mineral eye colour is far less intimidating than it looks in the palette. I use it smudged into the lashline (upper and lower) to create a delicate smokey look. The colour goes on smoothly and blends easily, and the sheer colour means you can easily build it up for a dramatic evening look, and even use a wet brush to create an eyeliner or a more metallic finish.

Tip: You can pretty much wet any eyeshadow to create  liquid eyeliner. There are proper ‘mixers’ that you can buy, but water will do a pretty good job too. BUT, always make sure to only wet one side or area of the product as once it dries you’ll find it’s not so soft and easy to pick up with a dry brush. I always go for the top right corner of any powder so I know where to do it net time. 

MAC Mineralize Eye Shadow in Family Silver – As far as I can tell, they don’t make this colour any more, but the Invincible Light colour on their site looks close enough. I use this baked mineral eyeshadow pretty much everyday. The silvery colour shot through with a warm copper gives the perfect eye-opening effect when applied to the inner corners of the eye and swept up over the lid. Quite often it’s this and a slick of mascara and I’m ready to go!

Kryolan Cake Eyeliner – I’ve had this little pot of wonder since my very first day of make up training. It’s a pretty basic and old school product, but I’ve yet to find it’s equal. Cake eyeliner is not for the faint of heart, but once you get used to it it’s hard to use anything else. It’s a simple enough, just add water and muddle with your brush until you have a little paste that’s just the right consistency and intensity. Then take your brush and apply. I always load the product onto my brush and then “shape” my brush on the back of my hand to make sure the fibres are all smooth and I have a nice fine point to the tip. It takes longer to dry than latex based liners, and certainly isn’t waterproof, but I just don’t think other liquid eyeliners ever look as good.

Speaking of brushes, I will be covering them soon, but it’s a bit of a mammoth post (she says waffling on and on) as I’m a make up brush geek!    

Anastasia Perfect Brow Pencil in Dark Warm Brown – It’s near on impossible to find a good brow pencil that doesn’t make your eyebrows look ginger or black. Trust me, I’ve been looking. So when I stumbled across this miracle product a few years back I stocked up and haven’t looked back. My friends and family even have me bring it back from the US for them when I’m there as they’re all hooked now too. To use, use the brush end to shape your eyebrows then apply the pencil in short strokes, following the direction of the hairs. Then, and this is the bit that you can’t skip, brush through your brows again. This softens the pencil, drags the colour over the hairs making sure they’re coated, and breaks up any harsh lines making the pencil marks look more like hairs. Et voila!

MAC Kohl Power Eye Pencil in Orpheus – Another limited edition MAC colour, sorry! But, Urban Decay do a really great product, 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil, and the Underground colour is a pretty good match. Great for smudging along the lashline fir a quick a subtle smoky eye.

Rimmel Soft Kohl Kajal Eyeliner – Pretty self explanatory, I use this on the waterline, top and bottom, for a more defined evening look. It’s a simple way to go from day to night, and the soft texture of this product makes it easy to apply without scratching my eyelids.

Revlon Illuminance Creme Shadow in Not Just Nudes – A new purchase, I love this simple palette of creme eyeshadows (I’m all about the creme products these days, it’s a bit of an obsession). The lightest colour is perfect for a quick sweep over the eyelids to highlight a (fake) tan and the other colours with their coppery undertones are perfect for summery eyes.

And that’s it for the everyday. There is of course, a whole suitcase of colour and sparkle that I may have to dip into and share with you soon, but if you’ve any great everyday recommendations, I’d love to hear about them…

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vanity fair // favourite mascaras…

So, we’ve got bases covered, onto the glam stuff!

I think of mascara as the jeans of the make up world, we’re forever searching for that one perfect pair, the ones that will lengthen our legs, give us curves in all the right places and never lose their shape.

Mascara is no different, and just like jeans, we usually end up with a couple of favourites that we use on rotation.

So, herewith, my current top 3, from left to right…

Clinique Naturally Glossy Mascara
The most minimal of the three, but perfect for those times when you don’t want to look like you tried. I also use this on my lower lashes, as they’re quite long and thick, and anything heavier just makes me look like Twiggy.

Dr Haushka Balck Mascara
This is one of my favourite make up discoveries. Dr Haushka were kind enough to send me a selection of products for a photo shoot I was working on last year where everything had to be 100% natural. I will confess that I was unsure of just how good the products would be, but I’ve used the mascara, translucent make up, and loose powder on nearly every bride I’ve made up since. The botanical ingredients and essential oils are very soothing, the smell of the foundation alone is enough to calm the nerves of a frazzled bride, but it also provides great coverage and their colours run pale enough for even the most porcelain skinned English rose.

I’m now a total Dr Haushka convert, and the mascara is my everyday, can’t fail product. My lashes look beautifully black and glossy and well defined. It lasts well, with minimal drop down during the day.

Maybelline The Falsies
My “look into my eyes” product. Thick, long, mesmerising lashes are one coat away with this bad boy. It can be a bit hard to work with when the tube is brand new (as are so many mascaras, annoyingly) but once it thickens up a little, this stuff is like magic, although a lot of that is due to the spoon-like brush that scoops your lashes skywards giving that false lash look.

And that’s my mascara ‘wardrobe’. Of course, the product is one thing, but application is half the battle. No weak-handed wand waving please ladies, get that brush into the roots of your lashes and wiggle, wiggle, wiggle your way up the length of your lashes to the tips, dragging them out and up as you go to create a nice flutter and open up your eyes. Et voila!

I’d love to know your favourite mascara, just in case I’m missing a trick, so spill!

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vanity fair // play it safe…

I’m as excited as the next person about the sudden appearance of the sun in the UK, summer has finally arrived, but unfortunately that means the lobster ‘tans’ and peeling noses have too.
Let me start by confessing that I’ve had my fair share of embarrassing sunburn incidents, I’m as human as the next person in forgetting to apply sunscreen, or not anticipating a spell in the sunshine, just last month in California I “popped out to the nursery” with a friend, forgetting that she drove a convertible and acquiring a nice pink farmer tan in the process. 
But, I do try my very best to be protected as much as possible. My daily moisturiser has an SPF of 15, and I (nearly) always wear a sunscreen.

My favourites are fine spray sunblocks that I can apply at home before getting dressed and then top up on the go. The fine mist means that no rubbing in is required, so no greasy mitts afterwards, meaning I’m much more likely to top up throughout the day as it’s so easy and I don’t need to wash my hands afterwards (and I can spray the backs of my hands too! No one want leathery hands now do they?)

Other than the vanity of not wanting to burn or do longterm damage to my skin (beef jerky anyone?!) the health reasons are more than convincing enough. I’m covered in moles and freckles that are just waiting for an excuse to become troublemakers, and with enough people in my extended family struggling with cancer right now, I don’t want to add to the numbers anytime soon.

So ladies and gents, I implore to you to practice safe tanning! Fake it, don’t bake it!
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