Monday, 21 August 2017

Why you NEED to visit the Voya Seaweed Baths & Spa in Standhill!

A while ago, maybe a year or so, I got invited to a Voya press day at their Seaweed Baths & Spa in Strandhill, Sligo. As it was on a random Wednesday evening and I don't drive, there was no way to the other coast of Ireland and back in a day. I had to miss it, which seriously bummed me out. Strandhill is where the brand was born, as a seaweed bath, long before it was a line of cosmetics, and, as a fan of the brand, I've always wanted to visit.

Seaweed Baths were once a common fixture of Irish seaside towns and, in the early 20th century, there were 9 in the small town of Strandhill in County Sligo alone. However, during the 50s and 60s, these fell out of vogue and, eventually, closed down. Then, in 1996, the Voya (then Celtic) Seaweed Baths was opened under the Walton family, reviving local tradition and combining it with a love for organic treatments. Since then, Voya expanded into production as well as treatments and has grown as a brand with a cult following. Its line of skincare products are stocked in stores and spas all around the globe and the baths are now a popular tourist attraction and spa that attracts 40,000 people to the area each year.

Fresh seaweed is harvested every day to be used at the spa for traditional seaweed baths and this remains one of their most popular treatments. While you can get all sorts of massages and facials and treatments, I really wanted to see what all the fuss about these baths was. I'm a massive fan of the Voya line of products and have always seen a visible difference in my skin when using them. I was curious to see what effect a treatment using pure seaweed would have, given that all of their products use it as a base. Seaweed baths are said to remove toxins from the body and accelerate the healing process and as I'm a clumsy individual with dry skin prone to hormonal breakouts (and I was in the midst of a bad one), that sounded good to me.

My college bestie and I decided to make the trip over to Strandhill but couldn't find a place to stay in the village (between the surf schools and spa, it's a popular spot), so we stayed in nearby Sligo Town. On the Saturday, we cycled the 10km to Strandhill, grabbed brunch on the seafront and then went for our seaweed baths. Let me just tell you, if you're looking to relax, cycling around Sligo, fresh sea air and good food and company is the perfect recipe.

We were already happy and full going into the treatment but when we got to our double room and got into the process of climbing gingerly into our tubs, we got giddy. The seaweed is even slimier than you are imagining, as it is in a small, controlled body of water and getting the temperature right for your own tastes involves a lot of squealing, laughing and dipping toes in and out. However, once we'd gotten into the water and used to the texture (and pretended to be swamp monsters by putting seaweed on our heads), the giddiness eventually dissipated and all that was left was being toasty and cosy.

I will say, however, that if you're like me and cannot stand having a warm head, the process can be a little uncomfortable at times and I wasn't able to completely relax. But, if you're one of those people who can sleep fully underneath covers, you'll be in heaven.

After we got out and got dressed (forgoing showers to let those good seaweed juices to soak into our hair and skin), we both felt soft and happy but it wasn't until days later that I really saw the effects of the bath. I've been having excellent hair days for over a week (despite several days where I couldn't brush it properly due to having given myself a minor head injury) and my skin is glowing. Those breakouts I was bitching about? They are well on the way to being completely healed. And my overall skintone is more even and happy. This may also have something to do with the fact that I bought a Voya moisturiser while I was at the spa and have been using it every day since but, either way, the proof is in the pudding (or smooth skin): seaweed is freaking magical. Seriously. I think I'm sticking with my Voya moisturiser this time because I had missed it - the occupational hazard of being a beauty blogger and testing new shit all the time is limited loyalty to products, I guess, but there is a reason I still think of this guy and mentally cheat on other moisturisers...

Anyhoo...if you find yourself out West and are looking to relax and try out a traditional beauty experience, I can't recommend this highly enough! It's only a pity that spas that offer seaweed baths in Dublin absolutely rip you off (whereas we paid 27 quid each), or I'd do it on the reg.

P.S. Sligo is more gorgeous every time I'm there...





Note: This post is not sponsored in any way, shape or form and all opinions are my own.


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Thursday, 10 August 2017

Wading Through The Bullshit: Talking Silly Trends, Excellent Tips and Essential Basics With A Skincare Expert

You've probably all heard of "revenge body" before but, as I don't enjoy sweating or being out of breath, that was never going to be an option for me. When I first had my heart broken a few years ago, I decided I'd show everyone with "revenge face" and, in the following months, countless family members, friends and acquaintances noted that I was glowing. This was when my skincare routine was born and I've never looked back. In fact, today, I'm a bit of a skincare fanatic.

Previous to these events, my skincare routine involved washing my face at night (maybe), slapping on some moisturiser (very rarely) and using acne creams (during manic bouts of trying to obtain "perfect skin"). Horrifying as this may seem to me now, I don't think that I was much of an anomaly for a young Irish women. I think many of us on this island, in fact, don't take care of our skin unless we suffer from incredibly bad acne or are starting to worry about aging.

But that's changing. As beauty influencers continue to sweep the internet, the culture of filters and Instagram distorts our view on beauty standards further and skincare becomes trendier and sexier, people are paying more attention. Skincare routines are becoming something less for celebrities, beauty editors and the organised and more something that everyone is adopting in one form or another.

Yay, right?

Well, not so much, as, because of that trendiness, there are infinite opinions, sources and products out there. Beginning is overwhelming and, even if you already have a routine, you're likely to hear about fads, solutions and problems with your skin that you didn't even realise you had!

How to wade through the bullshit then?

This bit is tricky. It can be hard to know who or what to believe as the whole industry has an agenda, I mean it is an industry: the point is to make money.

However, as someone who reads about the industry a lot and gets a lot of press releases, I feel like my bullshit radar is pretty well-honed. When I started getting press releases from Anne McDevitt - a skincare and beauty clinic that has been an Irish industry-leader for decades - I noticed a distinct lack of nonsense between the lines. In fact, I can't put my finger on just why but, for some reason, I felt like this was a company that I could believe. So, I contacted them and finally found a skincare specialist to sit down and answer all of my (and some of your) burning questions.


Manager Jenny Philpott agreed to chat with me about skincare concerns, basics, cosmetic procedures and where to start with an industry so oversaturated in information and claims to solve all of your woes...

The first thing I wanted to know was if there were any beauty trends that she saw lately which bothered or worried her and she was quick to answer: "Overdoing it on lip-fillers. We have a doctor who has been coming to us for sixteen years now and, from the get-go, he has always been 'less is more'. Suddenly that trend started to creep in of 'more and more and more' but he refuses to do that." That there are less conscientious doctors out there (including the one giving an acquaintance's 17 year-old cousin top-ups on fillers every couple of months), is concerning. While you might be tempted to go all out with cosmetic procedures and should always have the freedom to do as you please with your own body (*ahem**Irish government**ahem*), you should also ensure that your doctor isn't just taking money without putting your well-being first.

Jenny's biggest pet peeve when it comes to skincare is simpler, however: "Not taking off makeup! Or just using makeup wipes. Or, if you want to get technical about it, people who don't take advantage of exfoliating their skin. You can be religious about cleansing, toning and moisturising your skin but if you're not getting those antioxidants on there, you just won't get that 'wow' skin. You need to do all your steps - they're there for a reason!...But the makeup thing is a big one."

When I bemoan my own personal struggle to get others to abandon wipes, she has a simple solution: "Cotton wool. Throw the cleanser on, on the couch, as you're watching television, massage it in and wipe it off with cotton wool. The Ph of wipes is damaging to your skin and leaves it dehydrated, which means you're going to get lines and wrinkles that much more easily. If you're prone to acne, they can make you break out more. Irish skin, as well, is typically sensitive so wipes are really just not for us in any way."

If you're already throwing away the wipes and promising yourself to turn over a new leaf as you read this (I wouldn't blame you after that), you may wonder what a routine should consist of. Well, I'm not going to lie and Jenny wasn't either, there are multiple steps and for a reason. A routine should consist of cleansing, toning, an antioxidant serum, moisturising, eye cream and SPF during the day. If you don't have time for all that, at least get the SPF on. And the factor? "At least a 30! Makeup brands got into the trend of 15 but we're all about the 30 here." But how to top up with sun protection? Because, if you have makeup on or simply don't have a moment to pull out the cream and reapply, that's the awkward thing. "It is an awkward thing. Eminence have an SPF 30 mineral powder that can be reapplied throughout the day to top up your protection," which is pure genius and a really handy solution. Remember that SPF only last ten times its number - for example, SPF 30 is good for 300 minutes - so, be sure to top up somehow through the day!

Speaking of routine essentials, here's a question people always ask me: What even is toner and why is it so important? Can't you just skip it? As I never manage to form a convincing response on the spot, Jenny has a simple explanation: "It is to balance the Ph in the skin after cleansing. However, it also is great for getting rid of residue [dirt, makeup etc] that may be left on the skin and it preps the skin for the next steps of a routine."


When it comes to more complex routines, we discussed the concept of visiting a skincare clinic regularly. I've always been intrigued by this but, in Ireland at least, it seems the territory of only the wealthy or those with very problematic skin. In other countries, getting regular treatments and facials is somewhat common-place but I think the cost and lack of culture of it here puts people off. I ask if there is a way to do this that might match normal budgets or if you merely have to suck it up and shoulder a heavy cost for such a thing? Jenny was quick to emphasise that at Anne McDevitt they will do their very best to accommodate people. "We'll do treatment plans and do our best for clients. If someone comes in and says, 'I've three months until my wedding, what can I do?' we'll make an ideal-world plan but, if that doesn't work because of budget or something, we'll find a way to work around it. It might be using stronger products at home as a substitute or coming in every three weeks instead of every two weeks. We always customise everything. So, even if you're just coming in for a facial, you'll get a different facial every time."

On the topic of facials, I'm happy to hear that they do extractions because I've, literally, never had a facial in Ireland where they've done extractions. "Pretty much, for everyone's skin, no matter how clear, we'll have to do extractions. A lot of places don't do them as part of facials, or they do them wrong. You need to lift the skin, lift the pores - you don't pierce them or break into them. We open them with ingredients and steam, as an add-on." When I mention that I remember my sister saying she'd never have a facial again after breaking out and how I explained that facials bring stuff to the surface quicker and shouldn't be had before big events, Jenny nods in agreement: "You want a facial to change your skin but it might not change it for the better, at first...but if you get regular treatments, you don't have to go through that downtime as badly because we're maintaining it."

If you do have a breakout (particularly because of pesky hormones), though, what should you do immediately to help? "If you can feel it but can't see it yet, it's going to go one of two ways - it's going to come to a head or it's going to linger as a little red bump. The best thing to do is to get a fruit acid on it like a poultice and pull it out as quick as possible. When you get a head, it's an infection at the surface and it is great if you can extract it out but if you don't do it right, it's going to cause it to spread or to cause damage to the skin. You could also just leave it to heal naturally and just cover it up in the meantime."

Just leaving things is sometimes the way to go and, certainly, some things are best left to experts. "You can go too far with skincare. People come in for glycolic peels - and they can be great - but if you start getting them every week, you can wreck your skin. Home versions terrify me and there's going to be an epidemic, in years to come, of pigmentation and damage done."

Speaking of protection and later issues with your skin, I personally wanted to know about anti-aging, especially after a beauty rep recently scared the crap out of me about it. Jenny assures me that, at 25, I can calm down and should only worry, "really, once you hit your thirties. It's different person to person but that's a general rule." To begin, you should be wearing SPF always throughout your life and this will help slow the aging process "but, once you get to your thirties, you need to start looking at ingredients. Acai berries, for example, are really hydrating and full of antioxidants to help slow down the aging process, not to target it yet. You want to encourage collagen production and keep your elasticity stimulated."


It was at this point in our conversation that I became aware that some people might still be lost and that we'd just thrown a pile of information at them. Having researched the clinic in advance, I had seen that one of their services was a consultation and Jenny explains that this isn't just for those starting a course of treatments, they can help you design a routine that is right for your and your own concerns. Best of all, she assures me, "We won't just sell everything. We can go through products you already own and tell you what's what. We have a brand and we'll recommend products from it but we won't push products in people." My Spidey senses, it turns out, were right. "We don't lie. If someone comes in for a consultation with bad pigmentation, for example, I'm not going to lie and say I can get rid of it unless I'm a hundred percent convinced I can really make a visible improvement on it."

And if you just were to start doing things at home to help your skin right now? If you can't afford treatments or to greatly update your routine? Firstly, that whole water thing: "Increase of water intake. We used to typically say 2 litres but I read about increasing it to 3-4 and did it myself and it made a big difference!" Other than that? "Spend an extra minute massaging products in," and Jenny's golden tip: "Exfoliation."


If you're interested in talking to Jenny or any of the specialists at Anne McDevitt, for yourself, just check out their website here. Thanks to Jenny for making time for me!

Note: This post is not sponsored in any way, shape or form and all opinions are my own.


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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Create 2017 At Brown Thomas

Create is an annual showcase of Irish designers and Irish design that takes place in Dublin's leading luxury department store, Brown Thomas. In its seventh year, Create has always presented wonderful designers, both upcoming and established, in a beautiful setting but the display this year is particularly lovely; black and white palm leaf wallpaper, sprawling greenery (how trendy), neon signs (how very trendy) and white looping geometric rails.

Showcasing the work of 22 designers this year across ready-to-wear, accessories, scarves, jewellery, millinery and interiors, the display is curated by Brown Thomas Fashion Director Shelly Corkery and features beloved established Irish designers such as Mariad Whisker, Helen Cody and Úna Burke, as well as newcomers such as the recent NCAD grads Colin Burke and Laoise Carey.

My own personal highlights, however, have to be Domino Whisker's cute and tongue-in-cheek embroidered collars, badges and framed images and the beautifully crisp, modernised tradition of 31 Chapel Lane's linen clothing.

The showcase remains on display on the first floor of the Grafton Street store until the 13th of August 2017 and it is well-worth popping in to check it out.












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Monday, 17 July 2017

Ireland's First Standalone Urban Decay Store and Must-Have Products

A couple weeks ago I was invited to come check out the new Urban Decay store on Grafton Street and to attend a masterclass with MUA Danielle Roberts. As I am a big fan of the brand (and the fact that it is one of the few, readily available cruelty free high-end makeup brands in Ireland), I was delighted to see Ireland's first standalone store and some of the new launches and in-store exclusives.

I was less enthused about being the guinea pig for the demonstration as I'm potentially the most awkward blogger in the country (no official confirmation yet but fingers crossed), but felt it would be rude to decline and it was good to see the products first-hand and on my own face.

First thing's first (I'm the realest), the store is everything I wanted it to be and more. There's a bathroom (that's just handy), there is LOADS of natural light (why is this not a thing in all purveyors of makeup?), it's pretty and there is a second floor that can be reserved for parties and events, which is just genius. I knew they'd do a good job but there are lots of little touches that really make sense and make the place better: eg. the makeup stations downstairs have outlets to charge your phone, there are reflective surfaces everywhere, mirrors have ring lights, etc. It all just makes for a pleasant shopping experience.

On the day in question, we were in the upstairs section of the store and experienced what it's like to have a private function. It kind of is an ideal spot for the likes of a bachelorette party: perfectly located to toddle on to the next venue once made up; compact but well-laid out so everyone could have enough room, but still be able to interact; and a dream destination for makeup lovers.

As I sat in front of my gathered peers and tried to remember my posture, the lovely Danielle took us through an easy-breezy look using some new launches, personal favourites and in-store exclusive. I was heading back to the office after so I was glad to hear she was doing a light, natural look and I really liked a lot of the products that Danielle used. After using the B6 prep spray, she mixed the Naked Skin foundation with Liquid Aura, a new product that is on my must-have list - it's a serious babe. Liquid Aura is a little like the Custom FX Enhancer Drops but a lot more natural, leaving you glowy and dewy and fresh, rather than Tin Man glam. It can be mixed in with your foundation for a glowy finish, added on top to boost the dew or used as a subtle, natural-looking highlight. Basically, if you want to look like you always drink enough water and get enough sleep, this is the product for you.

Next, Danielle went in and boosted the glow a little more with the Naked Illuminated highlight in a new shade called Fireball, a pretty peachy-toned highlight shade from the popular range. Then it was on to lips and Danielle prepped them with Lip Love, the new balm from Urban that she personally swears by and another item for my own shopping list. Another new product was one of the Vice Special Effects lip toppers that was added to a classic red liquid lip to mix it up and make something new. This is part of a line of twelve new products that feature different glitters and shimmers and can be worn alone or used on top of other lip products to create some different, and rather incredible, looks. Finally, to finish, Danielle spritzed my face with the Chill Cooling And Hydrating Makeup Setting Spray, locking everything in place but keeping that dewy, fresh look.

Having seen everything in action, I have to say that the Liquid Aura was my own star product of the day as it suits the kind of makeup I normally like to do (if I bother at all) but I am definitely intrigued by the Special Effects line and would love to play around with them some more. Maybe I'll pop in store some day and do just that. Because we can now, now that we have our very own standalone store in Dublin - yay!











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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Having A Snoop At Another Beauty Blogger's Handbag Essentials - Emma of Ol' Green Eyes

Blogging isn't the friendliest scene in Dublin. I've never, personally, had a bad experience and get along with everyone but I have witnessed nastiness and I had never made any close friends that are bloggers. I'm friendly with lots of people but there wasn't anyone that I had clicked with or knew well and that was partly my own fault for being too shy to put myself out there more.

And then, one event, I ended up talking to Emma of Ol' Green Eyes. We had often hung out at events before and I genuinely really liked her and whatever got into me that day, I did put myself out there: I asked her if she wanted to hang out sometime. This doesn't seem like that big a deal but making new friends as an adult isn't easy! She agreed, we went for coffee and I put forward the idea of doing a collab, which is how we ended up in Dublin's trendiest new eatery and bar with both of our makeup bags spilled out across the table.

Both curious about Roberta's, we headed there last week to grab a cocktail and some fries (Lesson learned: they may give you fries to snack on with your drinks so hold off on ordering unless you want to end up with three portions, like us. If you do want that, go ahead.) and compare our handbag essentials. I mean, who doesn't enjoy a creep at what others deem must-haves, right?

Once we had our food and drinks and had chatted a bit, Emma started unpacking her products and spreading them out before us in an aesthetically pleasing manner, much to the amusement of our very friendly waitress. I immediately spotted Escentric's Molecule 01 perfume and had many questions. Did it really smell different on different people? (A little, apparently) Could you really not smell it on yourself? (Only immediately after application for a while) And most importantly: Is it worth the hype? According to Emma, her whole office had it first and she kept asking what they were wearing, loving it. Then she gave in and bought the (much more reasonable/affordable) refillable 30ml bottle, only to be met by others grabbing her wrist and wondering what she, too, was wearing. So, not hype without fire then. While it is one of her go-to scents now, she does admit that it is partially only in her bag atm because of its handy size.

Another non-makeup essential that Emma totes around is Rituals' Indian Rose and Sweet Almond hand cream. Ritual is one of her favourite bodycare brands as it stands but this is an essential. Not only does it smell delicious (and it does) but she swears by its effectiveness. In fact, after flying to New York recently and washing her hands with the harsh soap on the plane multiple times, they were in need of some TLC and her first stop upon landing was the Rituals store.

If we're talking lifesavers and skincare rescues, then YSL's Lip Perfector needs a mention as it is another item Emma swears by. In fact, in the slew of lip products (why does every beauty blogger always have, like, ten lip products on them at any given time - this coming from someone who doesn't wear much makeup very often and who still does the same?), this was the key item. Under matte lip products, it is a lifesaver and as a lip balm, it is perfect. Plus, Emma says she uses it at least twice a day and has been using the same tube since last year - that's some long-lasting product!

Emma is a woman after my own heart in many ways and doesn't like to have to re-do her whole face on the go. Instead, she tries to ease the process of makeup wearing off over the course of the day. As such, many of her must-haves were key to preserving and cleaning up makeup. For sorting out oiliness, she swears by Essence's oil paper that may come in a tatty little cardboard box but does exactly what it needs to and for just over a euro. After stealing it from her sister constantly, she began to carry some around all the time and has yet to be swayed by any more expensive alternatives. A bargain and effective? The dream, right? Finally, Emma has only recently discovered Mac's iconic Fix + and has fallen in love. She uses it to revive her face and makeup throughout the day and says she totally gets the hype now.

There was plenty of other stuff in Emma's makeup bag to rummage through - Mac's Lady Danger and a genius lip brush from Sephora, among other things - but the above items were the ones that seemed really to be her ride or die products. And once we had adequately made a show of ourselves photographing the place and endless beauty products we had covering the table, we finished all of the fries and swanned out of there, a little bit closer for having revealed our deepest, not-so-darkest beauty secrets.













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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

NCAD Fashion Graduate Exhibition 2017

As a great lover of Irish design, I've always paid attention to the grad collections coming out of NCAD each year but this year was the first where I attended the graduate exhibition. Which is precisely why I was so taken aback. I, mistakenly, believed I could just pop in and out of the show and catch up with the bestie while doing it.

Not so. There was so much to see. I had always focused on the fashion graduates and hadn't really considered just how many talented art and design creatives were coming out of the college each year.

By the time I made my way to the fashion section, I was already well and truly blown away - and mighty envious at how bravely and fiercely everyone had exposed themselves and their work - but it was definitely the highlight for me.

Each year, the college produces some incredible talents but there was something about the spirit and overall combination of the collections this year that struck me as special. I was intrigued by all of the collections and hope that the designers in question don't all have to leave us, but get to work as bright talents here. However, I did have my highlights and favourites.

The first of these was Danielle McGregor, who I ended up chatting to and later interviewing. Not only is she an absolute dote but her menswear collection was - both aesthetically and conceptually - right up my alley. Inspired by her interest in the idea of masculinity and the wardrobes of the three generations of men in her life, it acts as an analysis and challenging of what "masculine" dress is and can be. Presented in soft pinks and pastels, florals, mesh, both formal structure and overalls and emblazoned with the ironic label "Mansize", it is both a very cool and wearable streetwear-inspired collection and a thoughtful reflection on the modern man.

If Danielle's collection is intellectually charged, then Colin Burke's collection is very much propelled by emotion. Inspired by his granny, Maureen, the plush collection incorporates her cherished possessions and reinvents them; crocheted broached daffodils are layered with print and a Connemara shawl is reimagined through the deconstruction of a farmer’s jacket. And while Danielle questions "masculine" dress, Colin embraces typically "feminine" aspects of dress, exaggerating silhouettes and eschewing practicality for dramatic effect - something that was also visible in his theatrical tulle creations that I saw at the Galway Fashion Trail last November.

Finally, the collection that most caught my eye in terms of wanting to actually put the clothes on my body was by Christopher Cannon. Or, rather, these clothes were the clothes that the version of myself I long to be would wear. These are clothes for a far more elegant and poised version of me. An alternate universe where I'm less tomboyish and clumsy and more polished and effortless. Based around his personal relationship with clothing and experiences as a drag artist, his palette of blush tones is a thing of refined beauty and his silhouettes are classics with a tasteful twist.

Having spoken to Danielle and heard her concerns about the lack of work for young creatives (I hears ya!) in Ireland and desire to keep more of them here, I can't help but look back at the images I took from the exhibition with my own concerns. We produce so much more artistic talent than such a small nation should, I can only hope that we have to send less of it away to others and can nurture more wonderful artists and designers into maturation at home. Imagine what Ireland of the future could look like (and how well dressed it could be) then?





Sheena Garvey

Anja Maye


Laoise Carey

Jasmin Stanbridge

Christopher Cannon

Colin Burke

Danielle McGregor




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