Review: Marks and Spencer beauty advent calendar

I decided to treat myself to a fancy advent calendar for the first time last Christmas. The previous year I had jealously watched as the internet showed off the beauty nuggets it had found behind the cardboard doors and I was determined not to be left out in 2017.

Come December, I had already planned to buy a duvet from Marks and Spencer so was already well over the “must spend over £35” threshold to qualify for purchasing the shop’s beauty calendar and cheerily added the extra £35 cost at the till to take it home with me.

Unlike my friend who two years before had impatiently opened all the boxes on 1 December, I had decided to stick to giving myself a daily treat by opening each one with my breakfast.

First up was the Rosie for Autograph Amazing Radiance Body Glow which for someone whose legs are naturally milk bottle white will be a necessity once the season’s 60 deniers are retired. Day 2’s offering was from a brand I’m not familiar with – Filorga – and as masks aren’t part of my regular skincare routine, I’ll be interested to see whether it makes a difference.

Days 3 to 5 started a trend for more products in tubes – Nuxe’s shower oil, Gatineau’s advanced rejuvinating cream and Rodial’s dragon’s blood sculpting gel, which if I’m honest, I don’t really know what to do with.

I was starting to get face cream fatigue by this point so was excited to finally get a makeup product on day 6 from Stila, only to be disappointed by the generic shade – it would have been nice to get a bold colour, but I accept it’s safer with these things to opt for an inoffensive nude.

Day 7 was a dreamy-smelling wild rose night cream from Korres – a brand I’m fond of – and I immediately slapped it on my face. Days 8 and 9 were similarly exciting – an Eyeko mascara and a Nails Inc nail varnish in copper, both of which were gratefully received, though the former lacks drama and is strictly for daytime.

Days 10 and 11 were firmly planted in exfoliation territory with Formula’s radiance peel and Alpha Skincare’s liquid rose gold, the latter of which was for me, the standout offering. I would never have bought a full size bottle without trying it first, which is what makes calendars like this so useful (and lucrative).

Day 12 was a sculpting sponge I will never use. Ever.

Shay and Blue’s blood orange perfume was in day 13’s box. Marketed as a “cult classic” by the M&S beauty PR team, it got mixed reaction from myself and my friends – too fruity for me, a winner with another, but a “meh” from the third. A nice, weighty addition to the calendar though.

I was looking forward to Emma Hardie’s cleansing balm, which came the day after.  It generally garners mixed reviews from beauty bloggers and I’m adding to that list. It removed my make-up well enough but the smell is a bit off-putting and the seedy texture is a bit like rubbing cat litter in your face. Still, it had been on my ‘to try’ list for a long time and will certainly be used down to the last scrape.

I had conflicting feelings about day 15 – it was undoubtedly nice to get a full-size product, but did I really need a Diego Dalla Palma mascara when I’d already had one from Eyeko? An eyeliner would have made a nice change, but that aside it’s a nice product and better than my current L’oreal mascara by miles.

I rolled my eyes hard at day 16’s hairspray offering and moved swiftly on to enjoying day 17’s Ren firming shot, which does what it says on the tin. I haven’t yet tried the following day’s Ameliorate body lotion which claims it will “transform” my skin. We shall see.

I actually shouted “yesssss” when day 19’s Leighton Denny glitter nail varnish rolled out of its tissue-paper. I promptly applied a layer over one of my gels and stared at it like a magpie for the rest of the day. But my beauty high was quashed by another nude lip gloss from Pixi on day 20, which brings me neatly to my main gripe about the calendar.

Regardless of the fact it was a poor choice of product from a brand far better known for its skincare range, it left me wondering – where’s the eyeshadow stick? Or the lip balm? If I’ve spent £35 on an advent calendar, I want something notably different every day. I for one would much rather get a smaller sample from one of the other lovely brands stocked by M&S, like Origins or Neom, than two products that are essentially the same.

Things were looking up on day 21 with a Balance Me facial oil – a product which I am a nightly user of – except for when I’m slathering my face in day 22’s Formula X night cream, which I am already a big fan of. But then days 23 and 24 were both primers which reignited my annoyance about duplication. The final day was a cute little polka dot bag needlessly ruined with some mumsy embroidery. Shame.

So, would I buy it again? Looking over the items, I was really pleased with 10, had no use for 5, and ambivalent about the remainder, but will give them a try with a view to being pleasantly surprised. With those maths, come December I probably will buy another calendar but in the hopes the M&S team provides a more even split between skin care and make-up products and is perhaps a little braver with the latter.

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Is a Skin Laundry laser facial worth the hype?

Copyright: Skin Laundry


I’m a big fan of a facial but can only justify forking out for the pleasure of having nice oils massaged into my skin once in a blue moon.

So when I saw the words “free facial” in a Domestic Sluttery newsletter, I was in there quicker than you can open a hyperlink.
It was only after I booked that I realised this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill cleanse, tone and moisturise deal. I had made plans to have my face zapped with a scary-sounding laser.

After some nervous research I decided to man up and off I went to the new Skin Laundry outlet at Harvey Nichols in Leeds. On arrival, I filled in various medical forms and disclaimers, before being whisked off upstairs by my technician who explained the method on the way to the treatment rooms. 

The clinic, which started in LA (where else can you get that California glow?), promises to leave skin deep-cleaned “every time”. It boasts no down-time and claims to improve the skin’s smoothness, evenness and radiance over time.
I was told a laser would be passed over my face twice – “it might prickle, but won’t hurt” – before a short round of intense pulse light therapy (IPL), which might feel a bit “warm”.

Once in the room, she cleansed my skin – leaving my eye make-up and lipstick on – and gave me goggles to protect my eyes.

I barely noticed the laser during a test patch on my forehead so on she went, passing it over my forehead and on to my cheeks. It felt a bit unpleasant, akin to rapid-fire splatters of hot oil being splashed on your face, but was entirely bearable, though the “completely normal” burning smell of dirt being vaporised from my pores was a little gross.  

It wasn’t until the laser hit my old nose piercing and I shouted “ow ow OW!” that she had to pause, noting that she hadn’t noticed it and the laser shouldn’t have gone over it.
We resumed, me with sweaty palms, for the remainder of the laser treatment, which probably only amounted to three or four minutes.

She then applied a cooling gel – similar to that used in an ultrasound – before pressing the IPL wand on to my skin in short and very bright bursts, a process which took about a minute.

My skin was then toned and moisturised and that was that. I was handed a mirror to assess the results – my skin looked bright and shiny, particularly my nose, which has always been congested and so bore the brunt of the discomfort. 

There was no redness and I was told I could reapply make-up and go about my day, though I was advised to stay away from saunas and steam rooms for a couple of days – naturally, a major problem.

That evening I applied a hydrating sheet mask and the following morning, I noticed my skin felt a little tight after cleansing. But overall, my complexion looks more even and bright and a few people have remarked, unprompted, that my skin looks good today. 

At £60 a pop, it’s unlikely to be a regular occurrence. And there’s still something disconcertingly sci-fi about using a laser on something as important as the skin on your face. But the results were noticeable and as an occasional deep-clean, I am broadly on board.

Book your free trial here.

My night-time skincare routine

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I get a lot of compliments on my skin, which is unfailingly lovely when I remember the once daily agony of teen acne. Most of the time, the answer I give lays all the credit at the feet of beauty genius, Nars, whose tinted moisturiser is my daily base, finished off with a liberal sweep of Albatross highlighter, because who says you can’t rock gold cheekbones on a Monday. Makeup however, forms only part of the answer, and I’m a firm believer that if you skimp on basic skincare, it’s harder to fake it.

From the moment I started wearing mascara, my mother drummed into me the importance of taking make-up off before bed – no matter how wasted, tired or incapacitated I might be. I can hand on heart count on one hand how many times I’ve broken that rule. There have even been times that I’ve removed every last speck of make-up from my face while three sheets to the wind, yet inexplicably neglected to take out my contact lenses, which let me tell you, is far more dangerous than waking up with a chunk of glitter in your eye.

Granted, I once did all this with face wipes, which I swiftly dumped after reading Sali Hughes’ book Pretty Honest. Since then, I’ve tried a litany of cleansers. I’m not wedded to any one brand, but whichever I happen to be using, my nighttime regime goes something like this:

Firstly, I take a hot flannel to my face. I’m currently into No.7’s cleansing balm for dry skin. I don’t suffer with such an affliction – mine being more dehydrated – but I find the formula lifts make-up easily and leaves my face feeling moisturised. I wouldn’t use it in summer as it is quite heavy, but with the nights drawing in it makes an affordable alternative to other cream formulas, such as Liz Earle’s cleansers.

I’m a solid lipstick wearer and usually have to remove any stubborn product (Maybelline’s Infalliable Matte Ink lipstick, I’m  looking at you) with a cotton pad soaked in Clinique’s Take the Day Off remover. Next I massage in a blob of my favourite serum, Vichy’s Aqualia Thermal. This is the only product I weep for when I’ve run out and can’t afford to replenish because it is the only serum I’ve ever seen visible results with – the hyaluronic acid leaves me with skin that looks and feels like it’s just necked a pint of water.

Next I massage in Clarin’s incredible smelling blue orchid oil for dehydrated and combination skin. I use it all over my face and neck, forgoing heavy creams that tend to clog my pores and cause breakouts. That being said, with winter on the way I’ll be swapping it out for a richer cream – I’ll be trying out Marks and Spencer’s cult night cream Formula Absolute, which at one point had a bonkers waiting list of 7,500 people.

Finally, I make an attempt to stop my emerging crows feet with La Roche Posay’s Redermic R for Eyes, which contains retinol known for its anti-aging properties, before slathering myself in Lush Sleepy and hoping for the best. On the whole, I’ve found this routine serves my dehydrated-combination skin the best, leaving it blemish-free and comfortably moisturised without breaking the bank.

Do you have dehydrated and combination skin? Have you found a good combo of products? Comment below! 💁🏼