Review: Biore Watery Essence SPF50 PA+++

I may have discovered my holy grail of suncare. Which means there might now be a lot less to write about! I’m prepared to be proven wrong but for now this really is the best product I’ve tried yet. I’d seen people raving about Biore Watery Essence online and was tempted to try it myself. The Japanese do suncare better than us. Paleness is valued far more than a tan (with the exception of tango’d ganguro culture) and they take sun protection seriously. On a sunny day you’ll see many people out with parasols, it’s seen as sensible rather affected.   

this could say anything, I cant read any Japanese…

I’ve never bought cosmetics from japan before and was a little intimidated by the packaging I was completely unable to read! However it’s clear that UVA and UVB protection is high.   

applied just to the right side (my left) for comparison, nothing other than a little moisturiser on skin

This sun cream is a fine fluid that sinks into the skin with no greasiness or shininess, and my skin remained pretty matte later on too. This is unclouded and leaves no white cast on the skin. It really doesn’t look like I’m wearing anything on my skin at all, and is very easy to wear under makeup. It does have alcohol within its ingredients, which may explain the oil-controlling properties and finish. This may not agree with very delicate skin and I’d recommend regular moisturizer as this could be a bit drying in the long-run. Unfortunately it isn’t waterproof, Biore do a ‘milk‘ version that is resistant to sweat and other liquids. I’m yet to try it but expect equally good things. No complaints at all with this product. £6-12 on Amazon. 


Weekly Update: Red and Wild

I saw this great piece of Sylvia Plath graffiti (not a phrase you often hear) posted on line this week. If men will be so delicious…

Steampunk model Kato posted a preview of this Lady of Shallot-inspired photo shoot recently. I’d personally have preferred a more natural shade, but this is a bit of a modern update and the outfit and setting is spot on.  

Through my internet travels I’ve stumbled across this advice on using castor oil to grow out/thicken your brows. I had a bottle of the stuff left over from when I was trying to find the right oil for cleansing. I will be very impressed if this actually turns out to work!

Also this cute redhead-loving video from Buzzfeed. I’d be curious to read references for the claim that redheads have a different pain tolerance. Have you noticed this to be true?

Alabaster Inspiration: Miss Deadly Red

Photo by InaGlo

One of my big beauty inspirations is lingerie and corset model and make-up artist Miss Deadly Red. She has something of a Titian look – stunning naturally-red mermaid hair, Jessica Rabbit-curves and always seems to do her make-up to bring out the best of her milky complexion. Her brows always look so sharp and well-matched. She’s someone I’d love to sit down with and learn all of her beauty secrets! I saw recently that she had a YouTube channel, sharing some of her thoughts on modeling, body confidence and her beauty routine. I was particularly intrigued by this one about her make-up essentials:

Miss Deadly Red mentions using the following products – Max Factor Lasting Performance Foundation in Fair 100 (9.99 from Boots) for everyday coverage, mixing with Besame Souffle Foundation in Bisque for a more perfect porcelain look. Some of the shots below show this delicate milky pale. She recently posted a natural shot of her skin which showed that her face is actually quite freakly, so that goes to show the level of coverage the foundation has. Besame aren’t a brand I was particularly familiar with, but having had a little explore I’ve seen that they have a kind of old-fashioned pin-up style to their make-up line. They’re difficult to come by in the UK and most websites I saw were sold out in this shade (35 pounds here). The foundation can be used in smaller quantities as a concealer also. No SPF in the formula.20150331102454_

She also mentioned Illamasqua pure white foundation, which you can mix with a regular foundation you like to make the shade paler. Illamasqua do some great make-up for vampy and dramatic looks and have a lot of very dramatic white face products. I think it must take some skill to not end up with a completly vampyric look (unless that’s what you’re going for!). This one also doesn’t have a SPF so will need some sun protection underneath (unless you only go out after dark).

Image from Simon’s Hair and Beauty

She doesn’t match her brows entirely to her hair, but lines them with a Rimmel rich brown eyebrow pencil, then shades with Maqpro shadow in brown. Also she swears by baby powder as a decent setting powder.

I feel encouraged that she’s able to get such a good look and match for her complexion using high street products (though being trained in makeup artistry obviously goes a long way!). It goes to show you needn’t spend a lot to get a suitable look.

Have you tried any of these products yourselves? I’m curious to try them out when I get a chance.

And here are a few more photos of the beautiful Miss Red after the cut…

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Weekly Roundup: Redheaded men and goths on the beach

Sometimes there’s just not enough suncream to write about! Thinking this over recently I decided I might start a regular feature posting about a few things I’m loving recently, pale/suncare related and otherwise. Let me know your thoughts and weekly tips! 

I’m currently slightly obsessed with new BBC spy drama The Night Manager, and pretty much all things Tom Hiddleston. I was already a fan (Only Lovers Left Alive is stunning and I definitely have a soft spot for Loki) but this has definitely grabbed me. It’s a slick and stylish story of espionage in the post-Arab Spring world and has a a very strong cast, including Olivia Coleman and a very nasty Hugh Laurie. Tom is currently sporting a short strawberry blonde look, I’m not clear if this is actually his natural hair colour but it’s transported him to the top of my most beautiful ginger men list (previously topped by Damien Lewis).  The clothing and cinematography in TNM are gorgeous, it’s my current comfort watching and I just want to drink it all up.


Whilst reading up on the properties of chemical exfoliators I stumbled across Beautiful With Brains, a scientifically-informed beauty blog. Writer Gio updates daily, and she’s certainly very thorough. I particularly liked this recent post on bad make-up habits, which has taught me that I’ve been doing concealer wrong! I’m a touche eclat fan, but recently I’ve been skipping it because later in the day it seems to set into the creases under my eyes, making my newly acquired wrinkles (I am growing ever more distinguished) all the more visible. Turns out I should be “setting” my concealer with a light layers of powder once it’s done, to prevent this travel. Have been trying this this week, so much better!

As a bit of a pale vampire I’m hardly hitting the beach with any regularity. But if I was, I’d probably be kitted out in some of Disturbia’s satanic swimwear. If you ever wondered what goths wear to the beach, this is it. Tan lines from these will however be awful (not a problem if you don’t tan!). They’re currently on sale too. Very reminiscent of one of my favourite blogs, Goths in Hot Weather. The range is modelled by Georgie Hobday, a really striking redheaded model.

Just started reading Girl On The Net’s latest book, How A Bad Girl Fell In Love. She’s a down to earth sex blogger who doesn’t take herself too seriously and always makes me giggle with her ancedotes of raunch-gone-wrong and her wry commentary on the silliness that is human love and sex. The autobiographical book’s naughty but it also has a lot of heart (and a plot too).

In addition to the above I’m currently testing out some Supagoop CC cream and some Biore facial suncream, to be reviewed shortly!

Can you feel the chemistry? Or how I became a chemical exfoliation devotee

One of my most recent skincare discoveries that has now become an everyday essential is chemical exfoliation. It sounds a bit extreme, especially if you have pale and delicate skin. Using chemicals to wear down the layers of dead skin on your face – that sounds like an awful idea! I did exfoliate, but tended to use those acne washes with the little beads in. Not only are these not great for the environment (those beads don’t always biodegrade) but using them too vigorously and too often can actually damage the skin, scratching and tearing away at it. I was using these washes regularly but I still had flakey skin on my face and clogged pores, so it wasn’t really working.

After discovering /skincareaddiction I decided to try their “beginner’s routine” to reset my skincare from scratch.They give exfoliation as an optional second step, between cleansing and moisturising. Here’s what they say:

Chemical exfoliation is great for evenly getting rid of dead skin and cleaning up dirty pores. It’s not a vital step in a routine, but it can be useful for improving skin tone, battling acne, and getting rid of closed comedones. AHAs such as glycolic acid or lactic acid work by loosening the bonds between dead skin so that it can shed more quickly and reveal brighter skin. BHAs, which mainly refer to salicylic acid, are lipid soluble and able to penetrate deeper to break up sebum.

Chemical exfoliation is the same stuff you get in liquid treatments for in-grown hairs, the chemical gets rid of the dead skin that’s clogging follicles and causing the hair to get trapped. When people talk about “chemical peels”, these use similar chemicals but to a greater extent.

What do they do?

Chemical exfoliants are dissolvers. It might sound a bit dangerous, dissolving your skin, but it’s okay! They break down the dead skin cells, allowing them to come away. They also break down the connecting material between skin cells, incouraging greater turn-over. The end result is smoother, fresher skin.

There are two types of chemical exfoliant – AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) like lactic acid and glycolic acid, and BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids) like salicylic acid. If you’ve done any chemistry you’ll know these are slightly different structures of molecule. They’re teeny weeny and get right into the skin.

AHAs are most suitable for dry skin as they can improve the skin holds moisture. However because of the way they work and make skin turn-over, they can make skin more sun sensitive. Therefore if you’re using them you definitely need to have daily SPF. For this reason I was more keen to try a BHA. BHAs are more suitable for oily and acne-prone skin – salicylic acid is an ingredient in most acne products.It gets right into the pores and has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities, making it good at stoping spots before they really start.The reason it gets in so deep is that it’s lipid-soluble, so goes beyond just the upper-most layer of the skin. BHAs are less likely to irritate the skin but they do also make skin more sun-sensitive, though to a lesser degree than AHAs.



I decided a BHA would be better for me than an AHA as my main concern was shininess and big open pores, and I was also wary of the sun sensitivity issues with AHAs.

First I tried Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA liquid. I’m not sure who Paula is, but she knows her exfoliants and sells a massive range! 2% is the weakest end of the range.

Similar to other chemical exfos, Paula claims:

Shrink enlarged pores with this 2% liquid salicylic acid leave-on exfoliant that removes old skin cells both on the skin’s surface and inside the pore.

  • Unclogs & diminishes enlarged pores
  • Creates radiant, even-toned skin
  • Reduces redness & builds collage
  • 100% fragrance and colourant-free

They recommend a 30ml bottle could last 2 weeks of daily use, so you can soak a ball of cotton wall and your skin should be wet for a good 10 seconds+ afterwards. I started off using only a small amount a couple of days a week so that my skin wouldn’t be too irritated, and then began to increase. It has little smell to it and didn’t make my skin itch or feel sore, unless the skin was a bit broken. I saw some improvement  but it was quite slow.


The next product I tried was Stridex soft-touch pads. This is a little tub of pads already soaked in the chemical, so you don’t have to try and work out how much to use. The main ingredient is salicylic acid 2% and it has a fresh perfume. They’re sold as acne treatment particularly.

I saw much quicker results from this – the pores on my nose look tighter, my t-zone is less shiny, my skin is smoother and areas that have long been “bumpy” with little not-quite-spots under the skin began to smooth. I don’t know if this related to getting more of the product on my skin due to the pre-soaked pads, but it’s worked for me. It’s also much cheaper than Paula’s Choice, though the packaging lacks some elegance. With 55 pads in a tub it’s also lasting me ages, and they can be cut in half as they’re quite big. I use it at night, after cleansing, and let it dry before I moisturise.

If using an exfoliator makes your face sting or red, you may need to use a different pH or a lower concentration, or work up your use more gradually. If it continues, just stop! They’re not for everyone.

Managing the risks for sun-sensitivity

As someone with skin very prone to burning obviously the sun-sensitivity issue is a worry to me. One study suggests that BHAs can increase sun-sensitivity by 50%! (mentioned here, no reference to qualify) and AHAs are supposed to be even worse. I’ve been using my BHA through the winter months and plan on decreasing the frequency when summer comes along. I wear factor 50 SPF on my face daily, plus makeup with SPF in. I use the BHA in the evening only and wash any residue off in the morning. As the product is still new to me I’ll have to wait and see if my skin is significantly more sensitive this summer. If it is I might consider scaling back but I think given the benefits I will still find a way of keeping the BHA in my routine, just be extra careful about the sun.

AHAs and BHAs are ingredients in many skincare products and there often isn’t a warning about sun sensitivity, which I think is quite irresponsible. This may change in the future though.

Have you tried chemical exfoliation? Has it made your skin awesome? I’d love to know!




Refreshing and revolutionizing my skincare regime 

Over the winter months I’ve neglected this blog. In part this is so do with the focus – it’s a sun care blog and there’s been little sun! However I have been busy on the skincare-front. 

Last year I discovered Skincare Addiction, a Reddit forum devoted to skincare, in particular acne management. It’s no exaggeration to say that this website has completely upheaved how I treat my skin. It explains the causes of different skin complaints and how to understand the active ingredients in skincare products, so you can get great skin whilst avoiding expensive and gimmicky products.

There’s so much knowledge and generosity on the forum, you post about your complaint and experienced users flock to give advice and share their experiences. I have learnt SO much and my skin has never been better! 

The picture above is me last year. It doesn’t really show the worst of it. I kept getting big, swollen white-headed spots around my mouth. This had always been a place I’d been prone to spots but it seemed to have got worse and I couldn’t work out why. I read that they were hormonal, but I was on birth-control and got them all month through. My t-zone was shiny with very visible pores, yet also dry – looking flakey under makeup. I was having to wear more and more foundation and it was getting me down.

A quick post on SA generated a lot of suggestions. In particular it was suggested that I cut products with sulphates – this included the foaming anti-acne face wash I used daily and changing my toothpaste. Most toothpaste has sulphates in to make it foam. When you sleep drool can get on the skin and irritate it. This was exactly where I was getting spots! I think there is a slight hormonal component to my acne and I’m more prone around my period but I get very few now.

Other changes I’ve made post-SA re-education:

  • Thrown out all my cleansing wipes
  • Moisturizer+++
  • Oil-cleansing and double-cleansing 
  • Chemical exfoliation 

I plan on blogging on these areas in more detail, introducing some of the products I’ve tried and what I’ve learnt. 

It seems incredible that, whilst trying to look after my skin, through misinformation and misunderstandings I was actually sometimes making it worse! My whole skincare routine and attitude towards my skin has changed for the better and I’ve never been happier with my skin.

Review: Benefit Dream Screen SPF45

This July my Birchbox finally delivered what I was after – high end sun cream! I’m still holding out for some SuperGloop but this month did not disappoint with a sample of Benefit’s Dream Screen. The whole collection is beach-ready and comes in a little plastic clutch that’s both waterproof and also perfect for hand-luggage only flights. 
Apologies for awful photos, just getting my camera fixed.

I was initially a little disappointed with the size – It barely looks like it’d hold one application. But as I found, a little goes a long way.  Firstly, the texture of this product is really great, a winning point. It’s a light silky liquid, very fluid. It’s non-sticky and definitely not thick, I could barely feel it on. It’s SPF 45, which seems like an odd choice, but then there’s really very minimal difference in coverage between 45 and 50. The packaging doesn’t leave any clues about how long-lasting the lotion is, if it’s waterproof or any other features. It lacks any traditional “sun cream” smell and it’s very quickly absorbed by the skin so fast to apply. I dispute however that this is a “matte-finish”. It’s not as shiny as some sun creams but it’s hardly matte. You’d still need a little powder on top of this one. I’ve been using Benefit’s Agent Zero Shine powder and it works well together, no cakiness. I’m heading off to sunny poland in a couple of weeks and hope to test this out properly in the heat there, but so far I’m feeling pretty convinced to buy again.

My box this month also included some aloe vera gel from Unani, which makes a great cooling after-sun lotion. If you’re interested in trying Birchbox, this link should get you a discount off of your first box.

Dream Screen is £25 a bottle.

Review: Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Tinted Moisturiser (SPF20) and Birchbox

Caudalie_Vinoperfect_Radiance_Tinted_Moisturizer_SPF20_40ml_1431007669In a piece of particularly well-targeted advertising my Facebook recommended I try Birchbox. How did they know I love both getting post and miniature things? For those unfamiliar, Birchbox is a subscription beauty service. Once a month you receive a box of around 5 skincare, make-up, perfume and body samples for you to try out, from a range of sources including some high end and exclusive brands. The prospect of trying out some new products and varying my routine was appealing. You fill out a questionnaire on yourself including your beauty needs and style and they try roughly to match you up. This was the area I was most sceptical of – would they really be able to cater for my pale skin? I’m falling outside of the best-selling average and many brands don’t stock a shade pale enough. Would I just end up with a bunch of useless unsuitable products?


My first box came in may and included Caudalie’s Vinoperfect Radiance Tinted Moisturiser in the shade “light”. Tinted moisturiser is something I haven’t worn since I was a fairly young teenager. Often it’s an early step in beginning to wear make-up. It’s very light on, which feels great, but as expected the coverage is very minimal. You’d really need very good skin to be able to wear just this alone. The product boasts a range of benefits in terms of brightening, correcting and moisturising the skin, “Its mineral pigments blend with the skin to cover skin imperfections, dark spots, redness, acne scars and blemishes, giving you a smooth, even radiant complexion.” SPF is 20, which is decent. Unfortunately for me I didn’t get the opportunity to test out the healing properties of this moisturiser – the shade is just too dark and left me with an unfortunate tide-mark. There’s a little too much golden in the tone. I’ll be passing this one on to someone else shortly.

Does this look "light" to you?
Does this look “light” to you? I’m wearing this without any concealer so you can note the very low coverage 

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Sunburn “art” – hoax or real trend?

Photoshopped or for real?
Photoshopped or for real?

We all remember the prank of writing something rude on someone’s back when rubbing in their suncream. You don’t? Maybe you weren’t such a cruel child. Someone seems to have decided it’s time for this old technique to make a comeback, with an insta-ready fashionable twist – sunburn tattoos. Sometimes with the quantity of material on the internet it’s hard to see what’s a genuine trend and what’s a hoax designed to provoke. Apparently foolish folk are using tape, suncream and cutouts in clothing to mask off parts of their skin from the sun. The uncovered skin tans/burns, leaving a pattern on the skin. The main downside to this style is that it necessitates leaving some skin unprotected from the sun, increasing risk of painful sunburn and you know… cancer.

Playboy even market their own "sun tattoo" sets
Playboy even market their own “sun tattoo” sets

Some cancer survivors have tried to commandeer the hashtag, posting pictures of their melanomas and surgery scars to warn off those considering giving the trend a go. A quick look on the instagram hashtag #sunburnart luckily lists as many outraged responses and genuine fans. Some images also look likely to be photoshopped.

This one looks unfortunately real...and sore
This one looks unfortunately real…and sore

If you like the two-tone look on your skin, here are a few ideas that don’t exposure you to permanent skin damage:

  • Use fake-tan and a stencil to get a similar effect. You could mask off parts of your skin before getting a spray tan, and then still use suncream over the top when it’s dry
  • Use highlighter makeup to draw on your skin or pale henna
  • Fully commit and get a real tattoo, perhaps in a light brown, pink or white shadelg_5011727a-fab4-4501-909d-48870a0b0910

This Daniel Sannwald photograph includes “tattoos” made using fake tan – don’t they look much better?