On Being “Just” A Beauty Blogger

I hate backhanded compliments. You know the ones.

“You’re so pretty when you make an effort.”
“I wish I could just let it all hang out like you.”
“You’re definitely not as cocky as I thought you were at first.”

Compliments like that suck, because they’re actually insults dressed up to make it seem like the person cares about you. There’s one particular backhanded compliment that I’ve gotten quite a lot since I started blogging. It takes a few different forms but the gist is always basically the same. That someone with a little bit of talent and influence like me should be talking about something with more gravitas than beauty.

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The temptation to just toss my hair and yell “MY CORNER OF THE INTERNET, MY RULES” is pretty strong, but I think there are a couple of important points to be made about this opinion that beauty blogging is somehow “less than”.

First, the smart girl/pretty girl thing is a false dichotomy.

That’s right, I’m dropping the false dichotomy bomb, biatches. This is what happens when you annoy a political philosophy geek.

Basically, writing about beauty doesn’t mean that I’m stooping to the stupid girl level, and being smart doesn’t mean that I don’t care about how I look. I can recommend you an awesome cleanser. I can also give you a potted history of the Middle East. When pushed for time, I can probably do both at once. I can’t believe I’m actually having to type this, but girls can be both smart and beautiful. In fact, most of us are.

I think a lot of the scorn that gets heaped on the beauty blogging community is just pure sexism. A lot of beauty blogs are sweet and fluffy and not particularly deep, but so what? When did it become a crime to do something just for fun because it makes you feel good? I never see the same smirks directed at video game bloggers, music bloggers or food bloggers as I do at beauty bloggers. Beauty is seen as trivial, even shallow in a way that other realms of blogging just aren’t. And I think a lot of it has to do with it being a community created primarily for, and primarily populated by people who present as female.

Sorry, boy bbloggers, I love you all lots, but you are very much the minority group here.

Things that women do are constantly scrutinised and patronised. We’re either saying too much or saying too little. We’re brash and opinionated or we’re boring and weak. We’re ugly or we’re vain. That’s the way it goes. And with this undercurrent running through our culture, maybe it’s not so surprising that women banding together to share pretty-making tips is viewed as a self-obsessed, unimportant trend. But I’m calling shenanigans on that right now. Think lipstick is boring? Cool! Go read about something else! I think cricket is totally boring…you know what I do? I don’t read about cricket. I don’t get in touch with people who are really passionate about cricket to remind them that THERE ARE CHILDREN STARVING IN AFRICA AND SOME PEOPLE HAVE CANCER AND INEQUALITY SUCKS. Because I figure they already know that. Because it’s totally possible to write about cricket and still care about the other stuff that’s happening in the world. Same with beauty.

But the reason that these particular comments really get under my skin is because I think that the things I write about are important. I think that the vast majority of my posts go way beyond what foundation to buy or how best to shape your eyebrows.

Again, I don’t mean this in any way to be disrespectful to people who publish beauty reviews and makeup looks and stuff, I love to read your stuff and think it’s really fun and awesome.

But my idea of beauty is mainly about learning to love yourself and feel fabulous in your own skin. I write about the stuff that goes on inside as much as I do about the stuff that goes on outside. And in a world where being female and having a body, occupying space or generally existing is a political and often offensive act, I think that the stuff I write about is pretty damn important. Women are taught to hate their bodies, to focus on their imperfections, to mask their differences, to look perfect, but without making any effort, to suck in, to shrink down. And if you don’t think that fighting back against that is important, I think we are living in very different worlds. And that you probably weren’t bullied as a kid for looking different.

What I wouldn’t have given when I was fourteen to have someone be like “Hey! Why don’t you wear some purple lipstick? You won’t look like everyone else, but that’s okay, it can be really fun to be different!” To have someone tell me that there was more than one way to be beautiful, and that about 80% of gorgeous is that glow that surrounds you when you feel amazing. To be able to turn away from the cookie cutter women on TV and in the adverts and see a massive range of ladies being sexy and wonderful in their own unique, amazing ways. Because the biggest difference between beauty blogging and beauty features in the mainstream media is that beauty blogging doesn’t try to mould everyone to the same ideal. We control the narrative. We control the ideal.

It’s about being able to go “Hey! I’ve never thought about wearing bright green eyeliner!” and not giving a damn whether boys would find it attractive.
“Does anyone know how I can control my mad curls?”
“I would never have put those colours together but it looks awesome.”
“You are gorgeous.”
“I am gorgeous.”
“We are gorgeous.”

Women supporting other women and helping them to feel like they can take on the world is basically my favourite thing. I’m lucky that I’ve been through a whole lot of appearance-related nonsense and have come out the other side with skin that might look like buttermilk, but that is as thick as a rhino’s ass. I love who I am, and part of who I am is the body that I occupy. I am dedicated to decorating and pampering that body however I see fit. I think I can take on the world, I just feel more prepared for it with a swipe of red lipstick.

And I refuse to apologise for that.

Get Your Henna On With Lush Henna Hair Dye

I’ve been trying really hard to take better care of my hair, ever since it started casually falling out about a year ago. I’ve successfully wrenched myself away from a lifelong heat styling habit and embraced my mad curls, but on further consideration, I decided that dying my hair magenta every month probably isn’t doing it much good either.

Yes, the cat’s out of the bag, I AM NOT A NATURAL REDHEAD.

But I am far too invested in my sexy redheadedness to give it up. This was quite the dilemma. Then, one day, as I was stalking Holly Cassell (one of my favourite bloggers, whose blog you should definitely check out here), I noticed her saying that her badass auburn curls were courtesy of Lush’s Cacoa Rouge henna. Most intriguing indeed. So I did a bit of online research and bought myself a bar.

I was a little intimidated, given the tales of mess and mayhem that I read in the reviews, but the idea of finding a way to get my lovely red colour while actually conditioning and protecting my hair was too good not to take the chance.

Here’s what I started with:

how to lush henna hair dye

If you want to give this a go, you’ll need:

A bar of Lush Henna
A pair of rubber gloves (or three)
A buttload of newspaper
A tub of Vaseline, or Lush Ultrabalm if the nice saleslady gives you some of that
A roll of clingfilm
A kettle, or alternative means of boiling water
A few hours to kill
A t-shirt you don’t mind ruining

Here’s Fiona, modelling the 2008 German language competition winner look. So sexy.

how to lush henna hair dye

I also had a grater, because I read that it’s easier to melt the henna if it’s been grated, but my hand got tired after about two minutes, so I just chucked the whole thing in and it worked fine. So good at being a beauty blogger.

You want the henna to go on your head as hot as possible, so get every thing ready beforehand. The henna is nowhere near as messy as the internet would lead you to believe, but it’s still a pretty good idea to cover your bathroom floor in newspaper, as well as any surfaces you’ll be putting the henna on. The henna is also quite thick, so you’ll want to section your hair off to let it get right into the roots. Smear your vaseline around your hairline and on your ears to act as a buffer between the dye and your skin. Unless you want orange ears. You do you.

how to lush henna hair dye

This is my stegosaurus look.

First, you need to chop up your henna. I have pretty long, thick hair, and three squares of the bar did me perfectly. Cut out the desired number of squares, chop the squares into small sections and put in a bowl. Pour over boiling water, and mix until the henna is completely melted.

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It’s cool if you’re jealous of my green kettle. It’s pretty sweet. The consistency of your henna should be like thin yoghurt, so keep adding water until you get that sort of consistency. I used a fork to mix mine, which was pretty good at breaking up any little lumps.

Is that a good enough tip to be a life hack? Probably not.

Put on your rubber gloves and get the henna on your head as quickly as possible. Focus on your roots first, just like you would do with normal hair dye, then pull it through your lengths with your fingers. Henna is a bit of a strange texture, but it does go through your hair easily enough. Accept your new life as a mudperson.

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Henna colour takes best to hair when it’s hot, so once you’ve got all your hair covered, pile it up on top of your head and wrap it tight in clingfilm. I also added a hat, for extra warmth and fashionableness. There are no photographs of this stage.

You’ll need to leave the henna on for between one and three hours, depending on how much hair you have and how bright you want your colour. I left mine on for the full three hours. This is an obvious downside when compared with normal hair dye, but to be honest, I just took it as an excuse for a massive pamper session. Light some candles, stick on a facemask, paint your nails, watch Legally Blonde, whatever you fancy.

Then, just wash it out! The gritty texture of the henna makes it a little tough to get out, but two good shampoos got mine out easily enough. I then conditioned my hair, which got rid of any remaining chunks.

This was my final result, and I’m absolutely delighted.

how to lush henna hair dye

When I did my research, I found a lot of scaremongering on the internet, so I’d like to lay some of that to rest.

Sure, henna is messy. But in my experience, it wasn’t any messier than normal hair dye. I covered up my surfaces with newspaper and any splatters cleaned up easily with a warm, wet cloth.

Also, a lot of people recommended having a friend help you out. This kind of made me panic. But to be honest, I definitely didn’t need another pair of hands. Again, it was the same process as normal hair dye, up until the clingfilm. But if you fancy getting yourself a sexy assistant, please do.

I’d seen a lot of comments from people saying that the texture of the henna made it difficult to spread, or difficult to get out. This is partly true, but I really didn’t find it all that hard. I normally shampoo my hair twice anyway, so it just took a little extra scrubbing.

The smell is quite strong, so if you’re sensitive to smells, you might want to check that out before you buy. It smells a lot like turkish delight, but I could hardly smell it once I had the clingfilm on.

I am seriously impressed with this henna hair dye. It left my hair feeling soft and so, so shiny. It also cost £6 for the bar and I only used half of it, so the value for money is great in comparison to most box dyes. And I’m finding that the fade is so much better and more natural. That photo up there was taken two weeks after I originally dyed it, and I think it still looks amazing. I’m a definite convert.

 

The Good Skin Diaries*

No surprise, I love beauty products. In a lot of ways, I might not be your stereotypical girly girl, but when it comes to lipsticks, nail varnishes and pretty things, throw me right in there with Barbie. And nowhere is this more true than with skincare. I am an absolute skincare junkie. Reading about other people’s skincare routines is like meditation to me. Seriously, hit me up with your skincare post links. I will read all of them. I have read more skincare articles than is really reasonable for any ordinary person, so when I was given a goody bag chock full of skincare lovelies, I was beyond excited to try them out. I’ve noticed a big swing towards Korean inspired skincare of late, and I love the care, the impressive number of products, the sheer ritual of it. So I decided to take my favourite products from the goody bag, throw in some of my other favourites and devise my own Korean inspired regime to test for six weeks to see if I noticed a difference in my skin.

(Shoutout to Charlotte Cho from Into the Gloss and Kerry from Skin and Tonics for inspiring this routine. You can check out their info on Korean skincare here and here.)

Without further ado, here are my before and after photos:

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Before on the left, six weeks later on the right.

Firstly, I’d like to point out that I didn’t do these photos very well. Past me is totally cheating by having lipstick on and her eyebrows done. Also, she is not wearing a pyjama top. But just concentrating on the skin, hopefully you can see a difference. The redness around my forehead and nose has pretty much disappeared, and my skin generally looks a lot brighter and glowier. But the biggest difference I’ve noticed is in how my skin feels. The lumps and bumps and dry patches have totally vanished, and my skin is now so soft and smooth that I spend a considerable amount of time stroking it and undoing all the good work of my skincare routine. I feel confident enough to go to work every day with just a slick of mascara on. And clothes, obviously. And when I do wear makeup, it goes on beautifully, and doesn’t flake off of my face five minutes after I’ve put it on.

So what have you been doing, I hear you cry. Hold your horses, we’re getting to it. Go put the kettle on and grab a cup of tea…there are a lot of steps, so it’s gonna be a long one.

The Double Cleanse

korean inspired skincare routine double cleansingThe idea behind double cleansing is that you use a thick, oily cleanser to remove makeup and surface dirt from your face, and then follow that with a cleansing milk or foam to thoroughly clean your skin. I’ve been starting with Lush’s famous Ultrabland cleanser. I bought a little tub of this at Fashion’s Night Out and have already been back to buy a full size tub. I love it. The cleanser itself is as soft and thick as butter, and totally melts away all of my makeup. Made with almond oil, beeswax and plenty of other moisturising lovelies, this leaves my skin feeling clean, not tight or squeaky. I spend a couple of minutes massaging it into my face and wipe it off with a microfibre facecloth.

For my second cleanse, I’ve been using Exuviance Gentle Cleansing Creme, which I received in the Build A Beauty Blog goody bag. Formulated especially for dry skin, this cleanser replaces the common chemical exfoliant AHAs with the apparently gentler PHA. Usually cleansers leave my skin feeling a couple of sizes too small for my face and send me running straight for my moisturiser. But not this one. This one leaves my skin feeling healthy and cared for. I rub this in circles around my face and remove with a microfibre facecloth.

I only cleanse my face like this in the evening, to take off my makeup and the general dirt of the day. Contrary to what this post might suggest, I do think it’s possible to overload your skin with products. In the morning, I stick to plain old water.

The Essence

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I don’t like toners. There, I said it. Most of them dry out my skin and the others don’t seem to do much at all. The only toner I’ve ever used and liked was Elemis Apricot Toner, and that was mainly because it smells like dreams and sunshine. And apricots. But Korean toners, or essences are designed to moisturise your skin, not to cleanse it further. The First Treatment Essence by Missha is supposed to boost cell turnover, making your skin brighter. I’ll be honest, despite glowing reviews, this is the product I think has made the least difference to my skin. But it feels nice on my face, so I’ll stick with it and see how it goes! I pat this into my skin with my hands, to avoid the product waste that comes with cotton pads.

The Moisturiser

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This moisturiser was another one from the goody bag, and as you can probably tell by its half emptiness, I’m loving it. Rajeunir Moisture Serum was designed for over 40s, but that’s not putting me off repurchasing it one bit. It’s light and absorbs quickly, without compromising on moisture at all. It has definitely smoothed out my skin a lot, and has even sorted out my poor, terribly neglected neck. You only need a tiny bit as well, I’ve been using one squirt on my face and one squirt on my neck, morning and night for six weeks and I’m only halfway through my bottle. If you fancy investing in a bottle of this, and I’d really recommend it, the lovely people at Rajeunir have offered a 30% discount to all my readers! Just enter the code “escape” at checkout for your discount.

The Night Cream

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I got a sample of Inlight Organic Night Balm in the goody bag from Antonia’s Twitter for Success workshop. Having looked it up and discovered that it carried a price tag of £52, I was praying that it wasn’t going to work. Imagine how devastated I was upon waking up the next morning with the skin of a newborn. Seriously, I think this night balm might contain unicorn blood and black magic alongside its nourishing oils. This is the product that saw the most immediate noticeable difference in my skin. I’m not wild about the way it feels on my face – it really is very oily – but I guess that’s what you get when you’re covering your face in a moisturiser primarily made of oils. And with results this good, it is a really, really minor complaint.

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True love.

My skin feels literally plumped up the morning after I use this, and has started to actually glow for the first time in my life. I can’t rave about it enough, it really is amazing. I have really dry skin, so my skin drinks this stuff up, but if you have oily skin, it might be best saved for a weekly treatment, rather than a nightly moisturiser. Listen to your skin, it generally lets you know what it likes.

The Exfoliator

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The Resurfastic face stic was one of my original favourites from the Beauty Blog goody bag and my love for it has not lessened one little bit. The resurfastic is a hydrating microdermabrasion stick, exfoliating skin with medical grade crystals and soothing with ingredients like aloe, chamomile and cucumber. I’ve been using the stick once a week, between cleansers. I wet the stick and rub it gently over my face for about a minute, then rinse the crystals off. Obviously, if your skin doesn’t like physical exfoliation, you’re best sticking with chemical exfoliants like the ones in the Exuviance cleanser, but I find my skin needs a bit of physical scrubbing every now and then. After I use the resurfastic, I find that I can literally rub dry skin off of my face, which may be slightly gross, but is oh so satisfying. And it leaves my skin feeling like silk. This and the night balm are the main culprits of the aforementioned face stroking. So. Damn. Soft.

The Sheet Mask

Sheet masks are a regular part of Korean skincare routines. The thin material masks are soaked in skin saving ingredients, which then soak into your skin. I was given three Timeless Truth sheet masks to try out, and have loved all of them. They’re amazing for leaving your skin feeling fresh and pampered, and you get to scare the hell out of your loved ones by looking like this:

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The Charcoal Brightening Mask was my favourite of the three, but all three were awesome.

The Magic Potion

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As well as putting lots of things on my face, I’ve also been given something a bit different to try out. Skinade is a collagen drink, which claims to improve skin from the inside out. I’ve been making raspberry and mango smoothies in the morning (I know, super fancy) and adding my Skinade sachet to that, but it can be diluted in a plain glass of water if you’re not into smoothies. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Skinade, but after just ten days of using it, my skin feels fuller and my pores have basically disappeared. So that’s pretty awesome. I have about a month’s supply left, so I’ll be sure to keep you updated over on Twitter.

So that’s what I’ve been doing to my face over the past six weeks and I’m pretty chuffed with the results. I also try and stick to the basics. I never sleep in my makeup, try my best to get eight hours a night and drink as much water as I can. This is my good skin diary – tell me yours!

What are your good skin secrets? Tell me, and send me all your sheet mask selfies, in the comments and @EscapologistGl.

The Escapologist’s Daughter is up for two UK blog awards! Vote in the lifestyle category here and the under 25s category here. I’m not above bribery…

*Some of the products in this post were gifted for purposes of review. All opinions are completely my own and completely truthful – promise!

Build-A-Blog Goodies: Skincare*

Having spent a thoroughly glamorous morning learning the secrets of beauty blogging at Antonia Mariconda’s Build-A-Beauty-Blog event, I spent a thoroughly unglamorous afternoon making my way home in a monsoon. By the time I arrived back at the flat, I looked like this:

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Not ideal.

I was soaked, shivering and definitely ready for a bit of TLC. Fortunately, the goody bags at Antonia’s events are basically legendary, so I had plenty of supplies at my fingertips to play with!

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Excellent point number one. The inclusion of a Glossybox meant that I had a box within a box to open. Seriously guys, there is nothing I love more than opening parcels.

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So then, when inside that box, I found another adorable little parcel, I basically lost it.

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I disapprove of straightening your hair more than once a day, so enjoy my big hair.

I have a whole lot of stuff here to talk about, so in the interests of shorter-than-Moby-Dick length blog posts, and because I don’t like to put makeup back on my skin after facialing it up, today, I’ll be looking at the skincare goodies in my bag!

(Obviously, I won’t be able to tell you about the long term effects of these products because I’m not magic, so I’ll do a follow up post at the end of the month to let you know how my skin is liking them. Follow up posts, woo!)

Exuviance Gentle Cleansing Creme

exuviance cleanser review

I’ve been having lots of luck with the Lush Ultrabland cleanser I got at Fashion’s Night Out, so it’s going to take a heck of a cleanser to knock that off its perch. The Exuviance Gentle Cleansing Creme boasts a conditioning ingredient list, including Polyhydroxy Acid, a supposedly gentler chemical exfoliant than our beloved AHA’s. I applied a small pump of the cleansing creme to my face, massaged in for a minute and then removed with a microfibre face cloth. Interesting side note: this cleanser smells exactly like Bailey’s. It actually made me grin when I squirted it onto my hand. I’m not sure what that says about my relationship with Bailey’s, or whether this will put you off, but I liked it. The cleanser took off my makeup without leaving that horrible squeaky clean, my-face-is-three-sizes-too-tight feeling. As someone with seriously dry skin, this is fairly rare and very much appreciated. The cleanser left my face clean, soft and glowy…which is basically everything that I’m looking for on first use.

Resurf.A.Stic Face

resurfastic review

The old school deodorant look of this stick initially put me off, but actually, this is one of my favourite things I tried today. For those of you who still like a bit of physical exfoliation, the resurf.a.stic face combines gentle microdermabrasion with moisturising ingredients. I know there has been a big step away from physical exfoliants in the skincare community, but my skin does pretty well with it. If you have really sensitive skin, or have had a bad reaction to physical exfoliants in the past, I’d maybe give this one a miss. The exfoliation is gentle, but you can feel it. To use, you simply wet this stick and rub it all over your face in circles. This felt pretty weird, I’m not gonna lie. And I could feel little pieces of skin collecting on my face, which was gross, but weirdly satisfying. BUT. When I rinsed the product off and felt my skin, my jaw actually fell open. It felt like I had been bathing in the blood of unicorns. But I hadn’t. I’d been rubbing a deodorant microdermabrasion stick on my face. I’ll keep you posted on whether my skin reacts to this throughout the month, but for now, I’m one very happy, very smooth bunny.

Etre Belle Liplift Peel

How scary does this sound?! But since I was exfoliating my face, I figured I might as well give my lips a go as well. Time to confess to my worst ever beauty habit: I bite my lips. I don’t mean in a cute, Anastasia Steele, aren’t I so sexy way. I mean I will literally gnaw pieces of skin from my lips. I’d love to say I do it when I’m nervous, but I do it all the time. I think I might have mild dermatillomania. This does not leave them in the best state: bleedy, chapped lips are not a good canvas for lipsticks. Despite this, I always thought that lip scrubs were one of those things everyone said you needed, but you don’t really. I am converted. One minute with this scrubby mixture sitting on my lips and they were as smooth as I can remember them being. Big thank you to Glossybox, who included this in their gift bags.

Timeless Truth Bio-Cellulose Apple Stem Cell Collagen Mask

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Anyone with an interest in skincare will have noticed the influx of Korean inspired skincare of late. From double cleansing, to snail gels, to the incorporation of essences and serums, Korean skincare is where it’s at. And sheet masks are no exception. Sheet masks are soaked in skin conditioning ingredients, which are then transferred into your skin. This particular one uses stem cells extracted from apples to help repair damage and moisturise unhappy skin. And if that didn’t convince you, you get to look like this for 20 minutes:

sheet mask review

Quid pro quo, Clarisse.

Scaring the everloving Christ out of your boyfriend is optional, but very much recommended. I put this on my newly scrubbed skin and relaxed with a cup of acai berry tea from Slimming Solutions. I’m not trying to lose weight, so don’t know how good my review of the tea will be, but it tasted yummy, is apparently a superfood and adds to my burgeoning tea collection, so I sipped away on it quite happily. After 20 minutes, I peeled off my mask (so much fun) and massaged the remaining apple serum into my face. Not being a skincare expert, I can’t vouch for the magical properties of the ingredients, but they left my skin looking plump, bouncy and healthy. Lovely. I’m saving the other two for my flight to Australia at the end of the year.

Nuxe Masque Creme Fraiche De Beaute

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This was another Glossybox offering – thanks Glossybox! This mask is a 24 hour moisturising mask from luxury French brand Nuxe. The mask smelled strongly of roses, so if you aren’t a fan of floral scents, I’d skip this one. I enjoyed it though, it made me feel like Mary Pickford. Not enough like Mary Pickford to actually eat a rose, but then, she was a gorgeous movie star, so what do I know? I massaged the mask into my skin and let it sink in for 10 minutes. I really liked the way this mask felt on my skin, it was really cooling and refreshing.

Rajeunir Moisture Serum

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I finished up my facial with a quick squirt of Rajeunir’s moisture serum. I don’t normally put this many products on my face all at the same time, but I was so excited to see all of them there! Although the Rajeunir line is primarily directed at women (and skin-conscious men) over the age of 40, I figured everyone could do with a bit of extra pep in their skin. This rich serum sunk into my skin pretty much immediately – although admittedly, I do have very thirsty skin. It smoothed out, plumped up and softened my skin, and left it looking bright and healthy. I only used a tiny squeeze of this serum, a little really does go a long way!

(Rajeunir have very nicely given my followers a 30% discount until the end of November with the code “escape”. So if you fancy giving it a go, now’s a good time! Click here for the serum.)

At the end of my routine, I was pretty darn impressed with how soft my skin felt. Seriously, I’ve been walking around stroking it, which, ironically, is one way to guarantee bad skin. Keep your hands off your face, people.

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Not looking too bad, for a barefaced girl. Check back in at the end of the month to see which products I’m still loving, and which ones have fallen off the cart. And I’m lazy, so I can guarantee there will be casualties.

Tomorrow, I’ll be tackling the rest of the beauty bag…wish me luck!

What’s you skin holy grail? Have you ever repurchased something you got in a goody bag? Tell me about your skincare routines and please send me sheet mask selfies either in the comments or at @EscapologistGl.

*I was gifted these products for the purposes of review. All opinions are completely my own and completely truthful – promise!