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Balanced Guru Organic Skincare

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The one smart thing I did before I lost my archiving job in September was buy a 12 month subscription to Goodebox (now going by Goodbeing!) for $60. 12 boxes for $5 is pretty reasonable and since I already paid for it I don’t have to feel so sad about being on a product ban as I still get a small box of new things to try each month! The January box was especially beloved by me as I was introduced to the brand “Balanced Guru”. I got a lovely starter kit of facial cleansing oil, toner and serum. All certified organic, recycled packaging and it is all biodegradable. If those aren’t reasons to enjoy a brand…I’m not sure what else to say! But before I forget…ALL HAIL this great website for putting full ingredient lists for EVERY product!!!! I love when brands do that (and despise when I cannot find out what I’m putting on my body!).

 

Balanced Guru Face it OffThe first product I tried was (understandably!) their facial cleanser. The one I received is called “Face it Off” (full size 4oz for $52) although there are 2 other varieties on the site called “Face it Deeply” and “Face it Lightly”. I have dry skin. In case anyone wasn’t aware…I like super oily and more heavy type products…things with a bit of heft on your hands as you rub it into your face to really feel like you are getting somewhere. This oil based cleanser felt more like a pre-cleanse product on my face. It didn’t have enough slip to really rub in deeply over and over and was more like rubbing evaporating water versus a viscous solution into my skin. My skin didn’t feel very clean afterwards. It mostly just felt like I had rubbed some oil on but hadn’t put enough on to clean it and then rinsed it off. So for me…this wasn’t the best. Although I have used it in place of my Clinique “Take the Day Off” balm for makeup removal and then it is perfect. I just need something heavier (so maybe the “Face it Deeply” is more my pace). I can imagine this being perfect for normal to combination/oily skin as it does have a beautiful light texture…it just doesn’t suit my needs for cleansing.

Inci:

Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil*, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil*, Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil*, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil*, Prunus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Seed Oil*, Cucurbita Pepo (Pumpkin) Seed Oil*, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil* , Macadamia Integrifolia (Macadamia) Nut Oil*, Citrus Sinensis (Sweet Orange) Fruit Peel Oil*, Mentha Arvensis (Cornmint) Oil*, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Oil*, Adansonia Digitata (Baobab) Oil*, Rosa Rubiginosa Seed (Rosehip) Oil*, Flavor, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract*, Argania Spinosa (Argan) Oil*, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Oil*, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Persea Americana (Avocado) Oil*, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil*, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil*. (*Certified Organic Ingredients)

 

After cleansing (I ended up adding a couple pumps of my Tatcha Camelia Cleansing Oil to get that desired “slippy” feeling!) I moved onto “Tone it SmBalanced Guru Tone it Smoothlyoothly” (full size 4oz for $34). This is a winning product in my eyes…according to my skin…I love it! It smells wonderful and is light on my skin (since my skin is so sensitive sometimes toners have a tendency to make it burn! For example the Omorovicza Hungary Mist makes my skin tingle painfully and I ended up giving it to a friend because I couldn’t continue applying it to my skin.) but still strong enough to pick up lingering dirt when swiping a toner soaked cotton pad over my face. It has all the ingredients my skin really requires – rose (good for my sensitivity, redness, broken capillaries!) not to mention chamomile and geranium and lavender. Everything my perpetually inflamed skin needs to calm down and look pretty. Since I got everything in small sample sizes with my Goodebox (Goodbeing box) I have taken to keeping this in my handbag for a nice spritz if my skin is feeling tired or lacking moisture. Even just as aromatherapy it does wonders. The box specifies sensitive/mature skin but I think anyone would benefit from this lovely toner. In case I haven’t mentioned it elsewhere…products that have something other than water as the first ingredient make me VERY HAPPY!

Inci:

Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice*, Alcohol Denat*, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract*, Glycerin*, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Extract*, Aqua (Water), Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Oil*, Pelargonium Graveolens (Geranium) Oil*, Mentha Spicata (Spearmint) Oil*, Daucus Carota (Carrot) Seed Oil*, Anthemis Nobilis (Roman Chamomile) Flower Oil*, Rosa Damascena (Rose) Flower Petals Oil*. (*Certified Organic Ingredients.)

 

Balanced Guru Farm a Ceuticals Nourish Me Frowns to SmilesSo the last product in my sampler was the Nourish Me – Frowns to Smiles Facial Serum ($22.99). I have a love/hate relationship with most serums. I enjoy applying them and certainly hope they are achieving their goal and making my skin fantastic…but some serums are so oil based they feel like putting on facial oils before I’ve even gotten to my facial oil step in my cleansing routine! I like serums that feel absorbed by your skin and not leaving some kind of residue behind. This particular serum falls into the good category! It has a great feel (and smell!) and sinks beautifully into the skin, it feels soft and pampered afterwards. Granted I don’t really spend any time thinking about wrinkles but I do try to take good care of my skin and I think this serum packs a wallop, especially as its first ingredient is argan oil! I also like that this is safe for expectant and nursing mums. It never occurred to me that if I were pregnant or nursing I’d have to change my skincare…but it makes sense1

Inci:

Argania Spinosa (Argan) Oil*, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil*, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil*, Rosa Rubiginosa Seed (Rosehip) Oil*, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Oil*, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Oil*, Lecithin*, Adansonia Digitata (Baobab) Oil*, Corthellus Shiitake (Mushroom) Extract*, Cucurbita Pepo (Pumpkin) Seed Oil*, Anthemis Nobilis (Roman Chamomile) Fower Oil* Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract*, Euterpe Oleracea (Acai) Fruit Extract*, Lycium Barbarium (Goji) Fruit Extract* (*Certified Organic Ingredients.)

 

Another thing I enjoy about this brand (that can be noted on the serum) is their “farm-a-ceuticals” range. Much like beloved brand Skinceuticals this is a range of products that appear to focus on concentrated problems. Frizzy hair, body butter, all over body balm (the one I want to try the most!), a body scrub and a soothing/calming oil.

I don’t tend to blog about the samples I receive in my Goodebox because while they are nice…they rarely blow my socks off. This time was different! I so enjoyed (and am still enjoying) these 3 products from a range unfamiliar to me until now that I would be doing everyone a disservice by not explaining how great each item is in detail! I highly recommend them!!! Outside their website I am not sure if they are carried at shops…or even if they ship worldwide. All things to look into…but I would tell anyone to try this brand!

 

The value of paying more – Camellia Oil

Camellia Flower

 

The Camellia flower. Well known as the Chanel flower but it is also used in beauty oils. I am simply going to present 2 different versions along with their ingredients and give you my thoughts.

Tatcha Gold Camellia Oil

I am sure there are lots of different ones but I am going to reference Tatcha first. This is not a cheap brand and I am obsessively fond of their products. I am trying to make my way through their cleanser (which I use daily), the exfoliating powder (the blue one — perfect for my sensitive skin) and this Oil. I am barely 1/4 way through this product.

 

Tatcha Oil IngredientsThe nice thing about Tatcha is they keep their ingredients front and centre for everyone to read. I genuinely couldn’t tell you how expensive it is produce olive squalane oil but it probably isn’t too exorbitant since you can buy a 60mL bottle for £5. There is nothing wrong with this oil. It feels nice on your skin and absorbs relatively quick. It even has little gold flakes (that have no real value to your skin!!) for an extra pretty presentation.

30mL retails for $95
Amanda Lacey Camellia OilAmanda Lacey is a UK facialist and brand and I have coveted her products for a LONG time. We are talking years. I finally splurged and bought her starter kit and have been gazing at it longingly, sort of not wanting to use these products because I’ve thought about buying them for ages! The starter kit comes with a 15mL bottle of Lacey’s Camellia Oil.

 

Amanda Lacey Camellia Oil Ingredients
So as you can see the ingredients are totally different. Camellia comes first, it has chamomile, Rosemary, Sweet Almond Oil and even smells different from the Tatcha one (understandable as they are different formulations!). When I try them on each hand the Amanda Lacey oil feels as if it absorbs faster. Both are incredibly light in texture and absorb fast…after about twenty minutes the Amanda Lacey side has a softer texture (as if I had just moisturised) and the Tatcha one doesn’t really have the same feel but the skin is still softened. It just doesn’t necessarily feel like there is anything leftover (even in a non sticky way) from the Tatcha and the Lacey oil is richer and leaves your skin texture improved.

Amanda Lacey Camellia Face Oil is 30mL and retails for £103 (approx $160).

 

Both brands are sort of equally tough to track down..Amanda Lacey has her website and Harvey Nichols in the UK but I’ve only found Shen Beauty in NY to be an authorised US retailer. Tatcha has their website (and seem to have started shipping international [yay!]) and Barneys and a few Asian shops but no international retailers)

I love both oils…but having tried the Amanda Lacey I think it edges it out in terms of the changed quality of your skin (even if it isn’t permanent [obviously]) and I think I prefer the smell. Personally I think it is individual choice only and I recommend you sample each if you can! Mostly the point is that you can buy cheap stuff and there is nothing wrong with that…but sometimes spending a bit of money on the products that matter and soak into your skin and worth occasional splurges (although nothing will stop me from buying my $2 Jojoba oil from a local shop!)

Blonde Ambition

As for the blog title…what can I say, I grew up on Madonna! Now! I have been in the United States since December and I am spending a year away from my beloved UK for lots of reasons…not the least of which being my wonderful mum and step-dad seem to have decided to switch off having health problems and sticking around to ensure no one falls apart completely seems wise! So far I have seen broken shoulders, feet…a wrist broken twice (the same wrist) and that’s just to name a couple! So I am taking advantage of the sun and getting lost in American grocery stores and enjoying some quality time with friends and family I have spent the last 10 years not seeing! When I left the UK I had black hair (I had wanted a change from my typical red) and I came across a few pictures of Suki Waterhouse…an absolutely beautiful young lady who is a model. I fell in LOVE with her hair colour and decided I had to have it. My fantastic hair person in Los Angeles works at EPIC Salon and is named Vanessa. She does my hair every time I visit and has been doing my hair since she gave me a fancy updo at age 15 for a school dance and we got on like a house on fire. 15 years later she is just as spectacular as ever and I could not recommend her highly enough to anyone looking for a hair person! As Vanessa did not want to destroy my hair (since going from black to blonde is pretty extreme!) she decided to take it in stages:

Black Hair - December 2014

So this is a very grainy picture (sorry I don’t seem to have anything better) of me with black hair…of course in my super smart head I figured I could just dye over the black and all would be well! Yeah…not so much. There was nothing wrong with my attempt but having so many layers of red hair dye (I had been red for a good few years at this point) and just slathering black dye over it (even permanent!) resulted in this interesting black with a red haze to it. It’s difficult to describe but basically despite slathering more hair dye than I needed (I wonder what it would be like to need the whole dye bottle just to cover your locks??) it still didn’t take away the red. So I ended up spending a lovely afternoon escaping a traditional December downpour in RUSH Salon in Camden Town because I had decided on a whim to get the black professionally put into my hair and take away the red remnants (plus I am atrocious at getting my hair evenly covered despite my best efforts…sometimes I think I need to go to beauty school just to learn how to dye and style my hair). The lady who did my dye job was absolutely lovely and she balanced my hair and made it properly black with no reddish tint or stubborn strands of red as I had when I began the day.

Winter in London seems perfectly suited to black hair. It is dark, cold and rather dreary. However I wasn’t staying in London…I had decided to go back to the states to spend some time with my family! For me this involves a verrrrry long plane ride and ending up in Los Angeles as that is where I grew up and where my mum and step-dad live! Suddenly I felt a bit strange with my winter hair as there’s no such thing as winter in Los Angeles! I left temperatures of 3°C, bundled in layers, gloves, hat and hefty coat and emerged in Los Angeles to temperatures of 30°C (that’s going from about 37°F to mid-80s°F)! It was quite jarring. I had to find light clothes and short sleeves and my dark hair didn’t match the cheerful sunshine I was now seeing each morning! So I went to EPIC Salon and showed Vanessa a picture of Suki Waterhouse and we began the lightening process!

FIrst Blonde January 2015At the end of January I swapped my black hair for a light brown sort of dark golden colour and could not have been more pleased. Granted this took HOURS. I think by the end I had my hair washed 6 times and we used (she used and I …sat?) various dyes, glazes and treatments to not harm the quality of my hair in this drastic process! I have only had blonde hair once before and it was about 7-8 years ago so my expectations were sort of nonexistent? I cannot tell you how strange it has been to have blonde hair (since it isn’t normal for me), I spent the first couple weeks doing double takes in mirrors. Do you have any idea how weird it is to not recognise your own reflection!?!?! I waited a month to let my scalp calm down (as by the end of the day my scalp was in a lot of pain from all the dyes and washes!) and let there be some time before we attacked my hair with all the bleach in the world!!

 

Blonde Hair 1 March 2015Blonde Hair 2 March 2015Blonde Hair 3 March 2015

This was the “all the way blonde” result and I was super ecstatic. When I went blonde all those years ago it was more of a white blonde shade and much less flattering to my colouring than this incarnation. I also wish I had the patience and talent to curl my hair like this…I have neither and instead my hair is sort of crazy and poofy and so having it look this pretty (not a word I tend to associate with my hair!) was just a privilege! I tend to be lazy and leave the salon with wet hair or a rough dry that I do myself because I rarely see the merit in letting the salon dry my hair as they usually just want to straighten it and while it looks nice…I never feel like myself with straight hair. When Vanessa puts these curls in I feel so pretty and elegant and way more adult than with my crazy triangle head (which is what I call my natural hair..it has volume and I feel my hair makes my head look like a triangle!).

I don’t know about anyone else but I have been watching Daredevil on Netflix (I have 1 more episode to go! Really trying to stretch out the awesome-ness of it) and fallen in love with the rose gold hair that Deborah Ann Woll’s character (Karen Page) has and brought in a few pictures for Vanessa and asked her to add a few rose gold pieces to my hair. I will have to get the pretty pictures from her as she took more like the set above but I do not have them. I snapped a quick photo using my phone but while the new iPhone camera is nice…it feels like it takes forever to focus and doesn’t work as quickly as its predecessor?? Either way, the quality is better it is just a pain to use. But they will have to suffice until I get the better ones! I think maybe add some more rose gold pieces next time? Either way, I definitely feel like my hair suits the heat since it’s nearly always bright and sunny here (although funnily enough in Los Angeles the weather in May/June is actually called “June Gloom” because it tends to be overcast and stormy…but no telling if the storm of today will bring more or we just revert back to the unending drought!!)

Foil Head

(tee hee! I couldn’t resist although not wearing my glasses meant I had no idea if the picture was focused!)

Rose Gold May

The final result of my blonde-ing! I wish it was a better quality…that will come soon! I cannot recommend EPIC Salon in Encino highly enough! Everyone is super talented and friendly and I’m not just saying that because I’ve been a customer for over 15 years 😉

Ellis Faas – “On The Edge Of Beauty”

Ellis Faas "The Edge Of Beauty"

 

Ellis Faas is a makeup artist (and legend and visionary and a hero of mine) from the Netherlands who has published a book! This is amazing news to me as this brand transcends makeup and uses it like painting a picture instead of just highlighting features. The artwork and quality of every item is beyond sublime. Wayne Goss calls their foundation one of the best ever.

I just found out about this book within the last twenty minutes and I had to blog about its existence immediately! I cannot wait to get my hands on this item!!

I became aware of the brand when I was searching for a lipstick that wasn’t just called ‘blood red’ but actually looked like blood on the lips. I asked if such a colour existed on Twitter and was pointed in the direction of Ellis Faas. I immediately looked the brand up online and fell in lust. Could it really be the colour I had been trying to find? I headed to Liberty in Central London to check out the brand in person and see if it lived up to the hype.

Thankfully for my beauty addict self my online lust for this brand turned into eternal love when it was not only everything I had been looking for but was a brand of impeccable quality with colours I hadn’t realised were missing desperately from my collection until I viewed and sampled them. Even better? The brand was staunchly against animal testing (a practice I feel has no place in the cosmetics industry) and explained it “only tested on supermodels” which felt like a great answer and a bit cheeky as well (only endeavouring the brand to me further)!

From that day forward I became a loyal Ellis Faas fan and own far more of her signature silver bullets than I should admit! I also feel it is important to write that her concealer is one of my favourites of all time.

This just brings me back around to the book. As a woman who grew up repeatedly nicking her big sister’s Kevyn Aucoin books I can only assume this book bears a similar type of artistry beyond the scope of what is expected and showing me the amazing ways Faas uses her makeup as paint on the canvas of skin.

I will most likely be acquiring my copy from Beautylish for $20 (as it gives me an excellent excuse to add that Wayne Goss brush (or twelve brushes) I have been coveting!) but it can be picked up from the Ellis Faas website for €17,50 (£13.00 (US Dollars option available too!)). While on the website I can only encourage you to buy….everything because it is all worth the money!

http://ellisfaas.com/

CalGel Extensions from Mars Salon, Los Angeles

Mars Salon Los AngelesSo I am in Los Angeles visiting my family for awhile (since I haven’t been back in 3 years) and I was itching to get my nails done as it was something I stopped doing in London because I never seemed to find the time……and since I’m on holiday I have nothing but time! The hard part was finding somewhere that seemed to match the talent I’d grown accustomed to in London. Somewhere clean and reputable. This wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped since I didn’t have anyone I could ask for a recommendation so I went to the internet. I searched long and hard to come up with MARS SALON (picture above is from their website). They are nestled just off Melrose on Westmount in the big shopping area of town. When I read their website it seemed pretty clear I’d found the salon I was looking for…they stress hygiene all over the place and it just looks inviting. It is a nail salon/spa that started in Tokyo and now has a Los Angeles branch. So I knew I would be in good hands as Japan is held in high regard when it comes to nails and quality! Everyone has a private room so you can relax and watch telly while your hands/feet are worked on. I knew I wanted some type of extensions as my natural nails are weak and short and gels seemed like a good idea as my natural nail can strengthen while my hands look pretty (and having nice nails is crucial for hand confidence in my opinion!).

CalGel Extensions MARS SALONSo I tried to document the process as best I could since it’d been ages since I had anything nail professionally done. Everything in MARS was as hygienic as expected, individually wrapped tools…everything clean and used only on me before being disposed or cleaned for another person. Exactly what I want in a salon and something that I find rare in the majority of nail salons that line each street. This level of cleanliness is often something you pay for and it is worth it in my mind! I am pretty sure this is pre-gels and my nails are just prepped and ready to go! (see how clean and sanitary it is!?!?!)

 

CalGel Manicure MARS SalonOkay so you can enlarge this and see my fingers with the gels on…it was totally weirding me out having these clear extensions when I am accustomed to fibreglass!! I did a better “in action” shot when she was doing my right hand:

CalGel MARS Salon ManicureThis is how the gels were applied – I had these things wrapped around my fingers and the blue bits just under the tips of my nails and the blue part had lines for length and I was told that gel wouldn’t work if it was extended too far beyond my natural nail length (which is quite short). I was advised to go with the short nail length on the blue nail guides. So they were painted to the short length and then I cooked my fingers under a UV light and then…..

CalGel Mars Salon ManicureThe blue bits were peeled off carefully and then my gel nails were revealed!

Of course since I prefer an almond nail shape they were filed to my liking and then I picked a colour…a sparkly grey/black (I was feeling dark and mysterious!)

Cal Gel Mars Salon Manicure Black Gel

Voila! The finished product!

CalGel Mars Manicure ShimmerOne more for good measure. A bit more rounded than I would normally prefer but as they were working with such short nails I think they did a fantastic job! I am definitely going back. I will have to make sure I save my pennies as this cost £85…I don’t know how much a refill costs yet so I will have to set that aside again. Nails are a worthy commitment and as I am trying to get strong nails I am happy with gels. :)

 

MARS THE SALON LOS ANGELES – http://www.mars-salon.com/los/index.html

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