If you hang around the blogosphere a lot you will be familiar with two aspects of it: the stereotypical topics talked about (especially in the beauty and fashion niche), and how much we all hate people thinking we’re all in it for the freebies despite the fact that a) we get free stuff and b) there are people who fake having received stuff they paid for because an indicator of a blogger’s success is that a brand thinks they are relevant enough to give them free stuff.
People aren’t just being mean for no reason when they link bloggers and free stuff. So I’ve decided to be the usual contrarian and embrace the stereotype. Yes, brands have given me free stuff (food here and beauty here). A reason why I don’t usually do it is that the turnaround for reviews is not good for me, at least not in the case of beauty products. I want to use the product over time and observe the results, and the usual week max just doesn’t cut it for me. So, after a year of using the products, I think we are at a good stage for me to give a true impression of these products (which, thanks to the generosity of the brands, were all full size). I will also add some favourites that I have actually bought so that it doesn’t look like I’m raving about them because that’s what bloggers do, which is another stereotype good bloggers hate for a reason but, unfortunately, there are way too many reviews I wouldn’t trust because they just sound like the author pulled a Doctor Faustus.
The Amie Skincare Range
Their brand’s motto is “Naturally Kind” and that’s just the truth. I have the worst skin which reacts to literally everything in most products. Now, I have the luck of not leaving the house for work on most days, and unless I’m attending a specific event or something deserving of my best looking self (so not 2 hours in class hiding behind my glasses anyway) I will not be wearing a lot of make-up, and when I do I only use some powder to set my concealer because I tend to have a decent skin (unless it’s party conference. Everyone remembers the skin panic at party conference). So, while in a sense my skincare needs are limited, it’s important for me that I can maintain my skin as nice as possible to get away with no foundation for as long as possible, as well as having a good cleanse when I do wear make-up.
I have the micellar water, which I used to own from another brand and swear by it for make-up removal as it’s quite sensitive around the eyes too so it means no need for two separate products (and I’m the type of person who needs to have things as simple as possible or I just don’t do it). Then I have a daily cleanser (Morning Clear), moisturiser (Morning Dew) and apricot-smelling facial scrub (New Leaf) which is lovely but I’m not sure how to tell if it’s really working, I just think my skin feels really soft when I use it so I use it. It’s nice to have soft skin when you put your chin in your hands staring at the screen too tired to put two sentences together.
The Amie skincare range is available online or at Waitrose (which is quite telling).
Warming Clay Mask
This one I paid for. Mine is from the Body Shop, but it’s fairly common from other brands. Since I can’t be bothered to do the full warm cloth to open pores thing, a warming mask is the ideal level of laziness. The skin looks red for a bit after removing it so I’d advise not using it too close to a date, but other than that it seems to leave my skin significantly nicer. I use it after the exfoliator from Amie.
The newest version, with added ginger, is available here or in store.
The Curls Company Hair Mask
I was given the full range as a freebie, and I have to say I liked the shampoo and conditioner as well as the creams to use after washing your hair, but, for reasons to do with my type of hair (long, flat, wavy and as dry as the hay they feed to the horses in the field behind my house), I have decided to switch some of the range for volumising products. If you are lucky to have proper bouncy curls with a decent volume they are really good products and free from sulphates, but they just don’t work for me because they only address one side of the issue: moisture and curl shape. The most effective product for me is, therefore, the mask. It also smells lovely. I also use the heat protecting products when I decide to go for a more polished look than my natural hair (which happens rarely these days, and usually involves either a guy or photo-opportunities).
Organic Surge Volumising Shampoo and Conditioner
These I bought. The problem with a lot of natural products is that they have a good smell but have little efficacy. I was quite sold on this brand before the Christmas holiday, but over Christmas I took with me the nearly empty Curls Co S+C just in case my mother didn’t have anything leftover from before chemotherapy. I also cut my hair, which was a very distressing experience as the stylist trimmed it to half its volume and straightened it to an unnatural extent and it looked awful until I washed it. It was then, a month after last using the Organic Surge S+C, that I realised just how much they pumped my hair. In a fit of volume panic I started googling tips, so now I even do it better and use the C before the S. My hair turned soon from utter disaster to my new favourite thing about me, although that also has to do with more products, like the only non-natural thing I put on my hair which is the Toni & Guy volumising mousse, and making the effort of half-drying my hair downwards with a blow dryer.
If you’re lucky you can pick them up for a fraction of the price at TkMaxx, otherwise available here.
Soap and Glory Hand Food and Heel Genius
Fairly similar products and I absolutely swear by the foot cream, while I have actually bought a new hand cream I haven’t made up my mind about yet. It is soothing and smells nice and it’s pretty miraculous on what you probably guessed is like the driest skin ever. I will die holding onto a tube of the foot cream.
Available in Boots which gives you nice points to spend on things or here.
Life NK Daily Fix Body Lotion
Another natural but effective brand. Literally bought as a cheap option to try at TkMaxx, I’ve used it since before Party Conference and it hasn’t set my skin on fire making me look like Sebastian the crab in the many interviews on camera, or pictures of the queues outside the Spectator’s events taken by Fraser Nelson standing on random architectural features without hurting himself in the process (kudos, I hurt myself on flat surfaces…). It costs about £15 on every website I’ve seen selling it but it’s very gentle on my skin, and I usually throw away a lot of stuff that irritates it, so I’ll probably bite the bullet when it runs out. Which, luckily, is taking forever because it spreads so nicely I don’t need a lot and it still makes my skin soft.
Available here or try your luck for a discount at TkMaxx.
Kind Natured Body Wash
I have used the Amber and Pink Pepper one, but being sold on the brand but not the body wash itself I have now bought the Sea Salt and Bergamot to try when it runs out. It’s 97% natural so good on my skin and still stretches a long enough way despite the fact I think it’s being stolen by one of the housmates’ girlfriends (or both). The smell is really faint but still possible to smell, which is nice, but it’s likely to be covered by my perfume if going out anyway. I couldn’t really feel the uplifting effect of the pink pepper, so we’ll see if I feel any soothing effects with the new one. In case I’ll probably end up trying the new range before settling on my top choice, and unlikely changing brand, especially because it’s cheap.
Available at Boots and Boots online.
Nails Inc. London Kensington Caviar Top and Base Coat duo+ cuticles oil
I also have a gift set of three small nail polishes, and paid for neither of them in two different circumstances. While the nail polish is great quality, I may not replace them any time soon because I have too many I’m already trying to go through. but they were nice colours and I’m sad I’m running out of them. However, the base and top coat duo are an irreplaceable part of my mani+pedi. I was given them in a package with the cuticle oil, but they come separately if you buy them. They are so good I bought them to my mother for Christmas once. I have nails so good they get praised by the manicurists (same as my skin at the make-up counter, lucky me) on the rare occasions I get a shellac set (you break your nails a lot campaigning, even with healthy nails with these nail polishes).
Available in your nearest fancy department store or here.
Seventeen Statuesque Eyeshadow
You may have read before that I swear by Laura Mercier’s miraculous Secret Concealer (for which I left a good amount of money, but not entirely unreasonable, at House of Fraser), and I also liked my Cover FX mineral foundation (which I bought with a gift card I earned after spending £60 at the Dior counter and being totally unimpressed by their mascara and concealer). However, this little freebie that came from cheap and cheerful make-up brand Seventeen in a summer set is my absolute favourite. I think it’s the best colour for my eyes to have a natural look while looking great (see the picture on the side). And the thing is, having just confessed to what level of snob I am, I’d have never looked at the Seventeen counter otherwise. Thank you Seventeen for the gift, and showing me the error of my ways.
Available at Boots and Boots online.