Christmas trip to Paris by car: what’s in my bag

2 days until Christmas! How exciting! My husband is from Paris, so we’re driving down there tomorrow to spend Christmas with his family. I like travelling by car – I like the fact that we don’t have to rush and that we don’t have to worry about baggage allowance. Don’t get me wrong, I like travelling light, but let’s be honest, it’s not really possible to do that at this time of the year – what with all the gifts, etc. We have a large box dedicated just for them! Moreover, I’m pregnant! So, it’s probably better to just take the car. Personally, I’m still travelling light though – here’s what I’ll be carrying and wearing everyday: my new Burberry bag (Christmas gift from my husband), my trusted Ugg boots to keep me warm, a snood or a scarf (both from New Look), and a pair of legging (from Littlewoods) or bamboo tights (I love bamboo tights – they’re so soft and so lightweight; they keep you cool when it’s warm and keep you warm when it’s cold) from Boots.

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And here’s what I’ll be wearing them with: my favourite Sweaty Betty jumper over a tank top, which I’ll wear with the legging (I think it’s perfect for car travel – really comfy), Mango jersey dresses (which I’ll wear with the bamboo tights), a Zara top and a cardigan from Asos (which I’ll again wear with the legging). I’m in my third trimester now and I’m still really tiny, so I haven’t bought any maternity wear yet. I hope I don’t have to. So far, these styles work for me, and they’re all in my normal size 8. I suppose, dress smart (read: ditch the jeans, skirts, and anything tight for a while) and you don’t have to spend money on something that you’ll only wear for a few months or so.

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Oh, and the parka, of course. I bought this last year from Tesco F&F. It looks really good and is of surprisingly good quality for Tesco. In fact, it’s as good as the more expensive ones. I wear it all the time and with literally anything. Definitely my favourite winter coat!

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Anyway, enough with fashion. Moving on to beauty stuff now. I mean, it’s Christmas, and that means Christmas eve dinner and Christmas day brunch, and spending Christmas in Paris means… well, taking a romantic walk in the city and do what Parisians do (whatever that is). My point is, I need to look good, and so, it’s obviously important to pack the right beauty products and make-up. I’m sure you’ll agree. Here’s what I’ve decided to bring with me:

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1. Bare Minerals Active Cell Renewal Night Serum; 2. Neal’s Yard Remedies Beauty Sleep Concentrate and Almond Moisturiser; 3. Electric Hair Hydrate Shampoo (sample from Birchbox); 4. Organic Sweet Almond Oil from Naissance; 5. Balance Me Cleanse & Smooth Face Balm; 6. Pure Tea Tree Oil; 7. Organic Oatmeal; 8. Kats Kalma Geranium Water; 9. Avene eye cream

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1. Jean Paul Gaultier Perfume; 2. Waitrose Cucumber Facial Wipes; 3. MAC Lipstick; 5. Benefit Beautiful Eyes, High Beam and Ultra Plush Lip Gloss; 6. Bare Minerals Foundation, Warmth, Mineral Veil and Primer; 7. Lancome Mascara; 8. Eyeko Fat Eye Stick (sample from Birchbox); 9. Max Factor Eyebrow Pencil and Eye Liner

I did mention that I’m travelling light, right? Well, it’s true. It looks like I’m bringing a lot of stuff, but honestly, they all fit in my Cath Kidston ‘weekend bag’ – see:

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Finally, as you know, we’re travelling by car. That means, we have to cross the English Channel with a ferry, which takes around 1 and 1/2 hour; and it also means spending hours and hours on the road. Obviously, I need to keep myself entertained and what better way to do that than with the latest edition of Vogue and food, which go into what I called my ‘food bag’ from Cath Kidston:

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That’s it! I better go catch some beauty sleep and I’ll tweet from Paris tomorrow! xx

Disclosure: this is a non-sponsored post; it does, however, contain affiliate links.

Birchbox December 2014 Review

I’m new to subscription boxes. I decided to give them a try because I like the concept. How do they work? Well, basically, you pay a monthly subscription fee and then each month you receive a box filled with sample and full size beauty and lifestyle products. You can’t choose what goes into the box, but certain companies let you take a ‘style quiz’ and send you products that best fit your profile. I think they’re great – they let you discover new products and different brands, which you might not have known otherwise, and they give you an opportunity to try the products out before deciding whether they’re really for you. Besides, who doesn’t like receiving a box filled it with beauty goodies? But with so many subscription boxes out there, the question becomes, which one should you sign up for? I’m going to try a few over the next few months or so, and hopefully, at the end of it all, I’ll be able to find one or two that’s worth sticking up to (and of course, I’ll keep you in the loop). This month, I subscribed to Birchbox and I’ve received my box – so let’s see what’s inside:

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Price: £10.00 + £2.95 P+P

Got my December box for: £7.95 (with £5 discount using the code: 5OFF)

First impression: I like it (not love) – I think they could have have done a better job with the design of the box, but hey, it’s just a box. I’m slightly disappointed with the samples I got – don’t get me wrong, I think they’re good value (I’ve got 2 full size products worth £21), but I’m just not very keen in trying half of them out. I think they don’t really fit my profile. To be fair though, I haven’t actually completed my ‘beauty profile’ yet, so maybe that’s why the contents of the box are not ‘tailored’ enough.

What’s in the box:

1. Benefit High Beam, sample size

I love Benefit’s products and I’ve been wanting to try the High Beam for a while, so I’m glad I got this. And just in time for Christmas too.

2. Electric Hair Hydrate Shampoo, sample size

I’ve never heard of Electric Hair before, but it’s got good reviews, so why not – I’ll give it a try.

3. English Laundry Signature For Her EDP Spray For Women, sample size

This smells nice, but the thing is, I’m not very keen on trying out a new fragrance. I’ve got my favourite perfumes and I’m quite particular about the scents I use. This ended up being my bedroom spray…

4. Eyeko Fat Eye Stick Trio, full size, £16.00

I haven’t actually tried this out yet, but why not. I guess I’ll be experimenting with smoky eyes for my Christmas dinner.

5. Vasanti Brighten Up! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator, sample size

This scrub is enriched with papaya, professional microcrystals and aloe and claims to work like professional microdermabrasion, which delivers that soft, smooth and radiant skin. I’ve only used it twice and already I’m falling in love – the texture, the smell, the way it makes my skin feels after – it’s just amazing. The full size product costs £26; I think it’s a bit pricey, but it’s 99% natural and according to the label, it lasts 6 months. So, who knows, I might just get it. If it were slightly cheaper, I’d definitely buy it.

6. Models Own Velvet Goth, full size, £5.00

It’s a nail varnish and I rarely polish my nails and I don’t like the colour they gave – so there you go. But I’ll give it a try anyway.

Beauty and pregnancy (part 1): your hair – what is safe and what is not?

Hair Care | www.angeliquelee.co.uk | auremar/123RF

Whatever your style, you’d probably want to maintain your beauty routine and continue using your favourite beauty products during pregnancy. I know I do. However (being a responsible person that I am), I couldn’t help but question whether whatever it is that I’m doing or using is safe for my unborn baby. So, like most people, I turned to google for answer. I thought that I’d be able find what I was looking for within seconds. But I was wrong. I mean, yes, there are plenty of advice online on ‘beauty and pregnancy’, but everyone’s saying different things – opinions are so varied, I didn’t find them helpful at all; in fact, they confused me even further. Out of impulse, I decided to note down the views of the majority and minority, and surprisingly (or not), it actually helps having them side by side. So, I thought I’d share my notes with you, so you can compare most of the information that’s out there and make informed decisions for yourself. I’ll start with this post, which focuses on hair care, and during the course of the week (time permitting), I will follow up with two more posts on skin care and body care. I hope you’ll find them helpful. If you have anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment.

1. Hair colouring and highlighting

The majority: Well, the majority seems to think that it’s safe to dye your hair while pregnant. They say that although exposure to very high doses of chemicals found in hair dyes may cause harm, the amount you’re exposed to when you colour or highlight (especially highlight) your hair is so minimal that it’s hardly a cause for concern.­ 

The minority: To a certain extent, the minority agrees with the majority. According to them, yes, it’s safe to dye your hair while pregnant, but that doesn’t mean that you can do it as often as you like; don’t overdo it, and you should be fine.

My opinion: I don’t think the phrase ‘don’t overdo it’ is particularly helpful. I mean, how many times can you dye your hair before you’re ‘overdoing’ it? Once or twice? Three or four times? I really have no idea. I suppose, you’ll just have to trust your intuition on this. I personally wouldn’t do it at all, but that’s just me.

2. Hair perming and straightening

The majority: According to the majority (quite rightly, I think), hair perming and straightening products contain harsh chemicals that can be absorbed into your bloodstream through your scalp, and if these chemicals are in your bloodstream, they can be passed across the placenta to your baby. The same thing, of course, can happen when you dye your hair, but in their opinion, there’s a difference between perming / straightening and colouring / highlighting – perming / straightening involves a longer processing time, and thus, a longer exposure time, and this could potentially increase the amount of chemicals absorbed by your body. Despite the risk, however, the majority still thinks that you don’t have to avoid these treatments altogether during your pregnancy, but if you choose to have them done, then you should always exercise caution.

The minority: Well, I found an article, which says that with little or no evidence at all of the effect these chemicals has on the human body, getting a perm or straightening treatment is perfectly safe during pregnancy. Err… okay… a bit odd… but that’s one article. The rest, at least, agrees with the majority, but they go one step further: they suggest that it’s best to avoid these treatments completely when you’re pregnant.

My opinion: Again, I think you’ll have to trust your intuition on this. If you must perm or straighten your hair during your pregnancy, then be extra careful – perhaps, don’t ‘overdo it’? (Whatever that means). I personally wouldn’t do it at all. I mean, apart from the risk mentioned above, it’s a well-known fact that your pregnancy hormones can change the way your hair reacts to perming and straightening chemicals; you can’t predict how it’s going to turn out – you could end up with frizzy locks instead of sexy, gorgeous waves! Now, we don’t want that, do we?

3. General hair care and styling

The majority: The majority’s view is that, general hair care and styling products contain chemicals that can cause harm to your unborn baby despite the fact that some of them might be on your hair for only a short amount of time (like, shampoos and conditioners, for example). (I find it strange that they say that since they have no problem with you dying your hair as often as you like). Anyway, moving on… they say, hair care products that you leave on your hair for a long period of time (like, leave-in conditioners and serums) should be used only sparingly, especially if they touch your scalp (fair enough). Styling spray (i.e. hairspray), in particular, should be avoided because airborne chemicals can be more easily inhaled; they suggest that you use other styling products, like, gels and mousses instead. This is also because, gels and mousses rarely contain the so-called ‘toxic’ chemicals, which include: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Phthalates, Parabens, and Methylisothiazolinone – all of which have been linked to the disruption of hormones level and birth defects in animal studies. Although their effect on human foetus is unknown (since scientists just can’t go around testing on pregnant women), it’s better to be safe than sorry; so, they suggest that pregnant women should always stay on the err-side and choose their hair care products carefully.

The minority: According to the minority, products that come into contact with the skin for only a short amount of time are safe to use during pregnancy. This is because, the short exposure time means chemicals are hardly absorbed into your bloodstream. So, there is no reason for you to ditch your usual shampoos and conditioners. They do, however, agree with the majority when it comes to styling spray and products that you leave on your hair for a long period of time.

My opinion: I think this is a difficult one. I mean, unlike colouring, highlighting, perming and straightening, which you can choose not to do during pregnancy, you can’t possibly not wash or style your hair for the whole 9 months! But can you imagine how annoying it would be to have to read every single label before you buy a product? Also, there are so many chemicals out there, how could you possibly know which one is safe and which one is not, especially when expert opinions differ? My view is that, if these chemicals are so dangerous, you probably would have been cautioned by your doctor or midwife already. But I’m guessing, you haven’t. I haven’t. To be honest, I’m still using my usual shampoo and conditioner. I only ever use conditioner on the ends of my hair anyway. Besides, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that organic natural shampoos and conditioners can be quite expensive. Ogx and Dr. Organic are the only two reasonably priced brands I’ve found so far. So, if I were to switch, I’d probably switch to one of them… I don’t know… Some people suggest using baby shampoos, but I just don’t think they’re made for adult’s hair. What do you think?

In terms of styling and other hair treatment products, I think I’m in the clear – I don’t use any of them, or at least, not the commercial ones. I apply sweet almond oil on my hair after each wash, and I make my own hair mask using avocado blended with sweet almond oil when my hair needs a bit of extra treatment. Hey, it works wonderfully!