Sunday, May 22, 2016

Hair Loss Recovery

My hair loss was so subtle and gradual that it only dawned on me one day while I was pulling my hair back into a ponytail, that the circumference of my whole head of hair in my hand felt much, much less than it used to.  I've always had annoyingly fine hair, or "fine...but lots of it" as my hairdresser used to say, but after that moment I became fixated by how you could literally see-through my hair when I wore it down, there was no density in it at all.  

Of course I took to Google (as you do...) and spent more hours than I would care to admit looking up causes for hair loss.  To be honest I'm still not entirely sure what caused it.  At the point I noticed it, I  was in the midst of my weight loss journey with Cambridge Weight Plan, which is a Very Low Calorie Diet, and can cause hair loss, but I was following one of their higher steps and still eating 'actual food', so don't feel I can definitively point the finger at that.  I had also gone much lighter with my hair, and wonder if the consistent bleaching weakened my already thin hair.  Of course it could be all of these things, or none of these things - fact of the matter was that it happened!

I have come across a few select products which have helped to strengthen my existing lengths, while nourishing my scalp and encouraging new growth and I had to share them with you.

First up is Shea Moisture Strengthen & Restore Shampoo.  I was initially drawn towards this as it is SLS free, but it has a cocktail of hair nourishing ingredients such as Jamaican Black Castor Oil to encourage hair growth, Peppermint to invigorate the scalp and Apple Cider Vinegar to clarify and regulate ph levels in the scalp.  Being SLS-free, I was convinced it would leave my hair weighed down and not totally 'clean', and no, I don't get that squeaky clean feeling on my hair when I use this.  It actually feels like there is some kind of residue left after rinsing, but my hair has never been softer or shinier, let me tell you.  I can only assume that it's rinsing out the excess dirt and grime on my hair while retaining the natural oils in my hair.  

I pair this with DGJ Organics Thickening Conditioner.  It has the most dreamy lavender scent which I am all about, but more than that it contains caffiene, which helps to stimulate the scalp and promote hair growth.  It's a lovely, lightweight texture, which means that it rinses out easily so I apply this from root to tip and make sure I massage it into my scalp for a couple of minutes to get maximum benefit from the ingredients.

As an overnight treatment, I have been enjoying the Shea Moisture Strengthen & Restore Treatment Masque.  It has a really thick texture, and smells sweet and slightly caramel-ly - it is like applying frosting to your hair (I have had many a cake-related dream while wearing this).  Like the shampoo, it contains Castor Oil and Peppermint, but is also loaded with Shea Butter which conditions both the hair and scalp.  It is intended to be used on the hair for up to an hour, but to be honest ain't nobody got the time to be hopping in and out of the shower all night, so I much prefer to apply this to slightly damp hair before bed then rinse out in the morning.  It leaves my hair feeling really soft and healthy.

Lastly, I have been trialling the new Nioxin Night Density Rescue.  This lives on my bedside table and is now an entrenched part of my night-time routine.  It comes with a pipette applicator and you need to use one full pipette dotted over the scalp.  I then spend a couple of minutes massaging this into my scalp.  The first thing I noticed about this was the small - it is just dreamy and even my husband mentioned how nice it was.  It promises increased hair density in 3 months so this isn't a quick fix, it's working on the scalp to help promote growth.  I have used this product for around 3-4 months now and I have some very noticeable new growth which I am certain this product has contributed towards.

I recently visited the hairdresser for some bayalage highlights (using Olplex - I wasn't taking any chances!) and I asked her if she could notice any new growth in my hair and she confirmed that I have around 3 inches of new growth.  When I run my hands through my hair I can feel a definite thickness near my roots where the new growth has come through.  

I hope this helps someone who might be going through hair loss or thinning hair. 


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Blogmas Day 16 | Festive Nail Essentials

I'm as guilty as the next person of applying nail polish in a slap-dash fashion half an hour before i'm heading out the door.  And yet i'm still annoyed when I see that it has almost immediately smudged.  Us women clearly cannot have it all, eh?  However, there is a lot to be said for taking your time and making a bit of a 'thing' of properly doing your nails.  Over the past couple of years I have amassed a little kit of products which I know I can rely on to help create a long-lasting manicure and I thought I would share them with you.

Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover & Boots Essentials Manicure Sticks
If there is one thing that spoils any manicure, it's dry flaky cuticles.  The Instant Cuticle Remover makes light work of softening cuticles and makes it a doddle to then push them back.  In the early stages of using this, I had to snip away my fairly substantial cuticle skin (my god, there is no way of wording this nicely), however with continued use it really does keep them in check.

Leighton Denny Crystal Nail File
I very rarely actually cut my nails with scissors or clippers, and prefer to use a crystal nail file.  I bought this file around 3 years ago and let me tell you, it's been well-used.  At first I couldn't quite believe I had spent £12.50 on a nail file, however the promise of a lifetime guarantee really sealed the deal.  The file feels very gentle on the nails - there's no rough sandpaper feel like a regular file.  The crystal file helps to both smooth and seal the edges of your nails.

Mavala Nail Polish Thinner
Not strictly part of the manicure itself, but this is an unsung hero of a product.  As the name suggests, it helps to thin and revive any polishes which have become thick or gloopy.  I sometimes find that my glitter polishes tend to dry out most quickly, so a few drops of this and a good shake and they are back to applying smoothly again.  Apparently this can also thin out the oh-so-famous Seche Vite Top Coat when it starts to thicken.

Essence The Gel Base Coat and Top Coat
I am aware that I have already raved about this recently, but I cannot get enough of this duo.  The base coat has a matte finish, and it feels like your polish then sticks onto the base coat.  The top coat is super glossy, and although it is not marketed as quick drying, it is at least touch dry in no time.  It also lives up to it's gel name in that it lasts and lasts.  I can get about 3 times as long out of my manicure when I use these products - so, for example I can get 2 days out of a normal polish, but i'm still going strong for a week when I use the Essence base and top coat.

Saffron London Gold Flakes and Barry M Treasure Chest
A full-on glitter nail isn't always appropriate - well, I think it's appropriate, but my work may disagree!  So applying a flaky gold top coat is a not-so sparkly compromise.  It can be used as a light coat on all nails, built up as a glittery accent nail, and I love the way it can refresh a 2-day old manicure.  The gold is definitely a staple colour - it seems there is no colour it doesn't go with.

What are your manicure essentials?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Blogmas Day 14 | Make Ahead Cranberry Orange Sauce

Cooking Christmas dinner for 11 people seemed like a good idea at first.  Then, slowly the realisation that I will actually be cooking Christmas dinner for 11 people!  I'm in full-blown planning mode and I'm drawing up shopping lists, cooking timelines and wracking my brain to think of what I can make ahead.  Preparing elements of the meal in advance is essential - if only to reduce your stress levels and increase your level of enjoyment on the day.

Cranberry Orange Sauce is my first make-ahead and it's a good 'un.  I was never particularly fond of the jarred cranberry sauce, which always seemed like eating jam with your Christmas dinner.  This sauce has more of a pourable texture and I think tastes a million times better than shop bought.

This recipe makes roughly a pint of sauce.  Depending on how many you are feeding, this might be too much.  But luckily this sauce also tastes brilliant poured over ice cream and certainly livens up a plain bowl of porridge too.

You'll need:
350g cranberries (fresh or frozen)
200ml water
2 oranges (juice from both and zest from one)
50g soft brown sugar
50g granulated sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
Half tsp cinnamon
Splash of alcohol (I used Jack Daniels but the options are endless)

The method literally could not be any easier:  Chuck it all in the pot and let it bubble away until it leaves a thick coating on a spatula.

Let it cool completely and then you have 2 options depending on when you make this.  If you make it a couple of weeks before, pop it in a freezer bag and stash it in the freezer until the day before, then thaw in the fridge.  If you are only a couple of days ahead, pour into an airtight jar and it'll keep in the fridge until you want to serve.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Blogmas Day 13 | Christmas Wreath

More Christmas DIY for you today in the shape of a lovely Christmas wreath.  For many years we have opted for a plastic wreath, mainly for convenience really.  However, with Blogmas in full swing I thought I would have a go at creating my very own real Christmas wreath and let me tell you, it's so easy to do!

There's a few things you'll need:

  • A wreath ring.  I have a wooden one but they also come in metal.  Mine was £4 from Hobbycraft
  • Secateurs
  • Garden gloves (the Holly is prickly!)
  • Thin guage wire.  This is from Hobbycraft
  • Foliage of your choosing i.e. holly, ivy, fir branches
  • Ribbon for bow
I started by affixing some cedar bush sprigs.  I think this may be known by a different name in the UK, but my Canadian friend who kindly supplied it knew it as cedar.  I simply snipped the branches into smaller sprigs, about 6-8 inches long, bunched them together and then wrapped the wire round the sprigs and the wreath ring itself, making sure it was securely attached.

I then repeated this, working my way round the wreath..

Once I had had completely covered the wreath with the cedar, my creative juices really started flowing and I added a few sprigs of holly, anchoring the stems into the wreath with a small bit of wire or simply by pushing it into the wreath ring.  Next up I added some pretty little flowering ivy-type shrub and finished with some broom.

Now at this point I should probably let you know that all the greenery I used was foraged from around our house.  I pulled on my wellies and, secateurs in hand, went in amongst the trees and started snipping away.  The general rule I used was, if it was still surviving at this time of year, then it would survive once cut until after Christmas.

Here is the completed wreath before I added the bow

For the bow I used some hessian ribbon I picked up the last time I was at Costco - it is a 50 metre reel so I am wrapping ribbon round everything that does or does not move in an attempt to use it up!  I used this pin to create the bow and it was super simple and easy to do.

All in all this project took around 30 minutes start to finish - not too shabby for a novice wreath-maker like myself.  I must admit I really love the finished wreath and think that it will become a new Christmas tradition for me.


Blogmas Day 12 | Christmas in Edinburgh

No Christmas is complete for me without a visit to Ednburgh during the festive period.  It's a beautiful city at any time of the year, but transforms itself into a winter wonderland, with twinkling lights everywhere, mulled wine flowing and every Christmas song known to man!

In the morning when we arrived we had a wander round the shops on Princes Street (the main shopping street) and even popped into Harvey Nichols for a quick tour of the beauty hall.

Shopping really does build up an appetite, and we were soon on the hunt for somewhere to stop for lunch.  We decided to head away from the crowds because everywhere was packed out and ended up at Reekie's Smokehouse.  The smell of the smoked barbecue meat as we walked through the door was amazing.  We both ordered burnt ends, which are the ends of the beef brisket diced up and put back in the smoker - the result is a chewy bark on the outside and the most succulent, fall-apart meat on the inside.  The fries were salty and crispy - I had rosemary salt on mine and they were a taste revelation!

With full bellies were headed back towards Edinburgh's Christmas, a huge Christmas market with rides, music, mulled wine and food.  We stopped for the obligatory hot drink = I had a Pimms Apple Cup which was spicy and sweet and very festive.

We rounded off our day with a walk along George Street, which has a lot of more up-scale bars and restaurants.  The most pretty by far is The Dome, especially at Christmas where they pull out all the stops and have lights snaking up the columns and large lit wreaths in the windows.  It is gorgeous.

I thought I would share some pictures from our day..


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Blogmas Day 10 | Party Prep Essentials

I almost enjoy getting ready for a party more than the actual party, is that weird?  Probably.  I love a good pamper session and there's not always the time (or inclination) to indulge in said pamper session on a 'normal' day, so a night on the town is all the excuse I need.

I have pulled together a few worthy essentials that I will be relying on to help me look my best in the festive season.

The perfect manicure is an essential stage of the getting ready process.  I have been using the Essence The Gel Nail Base Coat and Top Coat for a while now and can't quite believe how good it is at creating a glossy manicure and being incredibly long-lasting.  The magic comes from using both the base and top coat, which somehow bond together with your desired nail colour sandwiched in between to create a gel-like finish - but without the expense, curing and ridic removal process.

Having a bit of a tanned glow at this time of the year isn't a bad idea either.  I was recently sent the Crazy Angel Midnight Kiss Self Tan Lotion to try out.  It doesn't contain alcohol, parabens or mineral oil and has a really subtle yet pleasant scent to it.  I applied before bed and in the morning it had developed to an even and pretty natural-looking colour.  They also sent the Supreme Goddess Tan Extender which contains a small amount of tanning agent to help with that awkward phase where your tan begins to fade, evening everything out.

My hair needs a fair bit of styling product in it before it'll do what I want it to do.  My normal going-out style is adding a bit of texture and movement with some loose curls, courtesy of my GHD's.  I really enjoy using the Loreal Studio Line TXT Wave Creating Spray on damp hair.  It adds a bit of hold and texture to my hair and helps the curls last all night.  I also use it on my finished style for a bit of extra texture and definition, which it does without feeling crispy or sticky.

What are your party prep essentials?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Blogmas Day 9 | Christmas Party Outfit Picks Under £50

I'm so envious of those what are off out partying this festive period.  Our office are going for out for dinner but it's not really a dressy affair, or should I say - we're not going out-out!  So instead I thought I would share with you the dresses I have been lusting over which would be perfect for a night of drinks and dancing!

 ASOS Curve Empire Skater Dress with Lace Bib £28.00 - I love a good skater dress, it so flattering and feminine.  This dress is a bit on the short side for me, but teamed with some tights I think I could jut about carry it off.  The lace detail at the neckline is really unusual and shows a bit of the ol' cleavage without being totally inappropriate - you don't want to be the focus of the water cooler gossip the following Monday!
 Billie & Blossom Navy Velour Bodycon Dress £25.60 - This season I have been drawn towards velvet fabrics - this looks so luxurious and the deep navy colour is the perfect combination.  Although this is advertised as a bodycon style, I definitely think the ruching at the front would be pretty forgiving.
 Joe Browns Sexy Shimmering Dress £50.00 - Although i'm not going out anywhere special this Christmas, I'm think this would also be a great Christmas Day dress.  I love the colour and the way the deep v-neckline is offset with long sleeves.  I'm so close to ordering this...
AX PARIS CURVE Sweetheart Lace Midi Dress £37.50 - What is not to love about this dress?  The off-the-shoulder sleeve, sweetheart neckline and lacy print are all working tether to create what is a really smokin' hot dress!

What do you think of these dresses?  Any tickling your fancy for the office Christmas party?
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