Review: John Frieda Go Blonder Shampoo and Conditioner

Posted on April 30, 2015 under Reviews

A fake blonde’s work is never over. Maintaining the perfect hue requires constant vigilance, lest we be visited by the dread B-word – brassiness. It does not do to simply tone your hair to perfection and hope it will last, because it won’t. That is a fact. Blonde is not for the lazy.

Unfortunately, after arriving in Glasgow in September with the perfect ashy platinum, I fell down on the job. I had a brief flirtation with lilac, which faded to silver, which faded to a greenish-blonde. In March, I decided that enough was enough.

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And so, I picked up the John Frieda Go Blonder Shampoo and Conditioner, after scouring the internet for reviews. I read mixed things, but most of the people who didn’t like the products seemed to have only used them one or two times. In the interests of fairness, I opted to give these a test drive of at least five washes, so as not to be like all the outraged Ulta.com customers who don’t seem to understand that short of bleach, nothing you put on your hair is going to instantly lift colour in any noticeable way. Much like blonde, these products are not a short-term commitment!

Also in the interests of fairness, I decided not to use my beloved L’Oreal mask as conditioner, and rather to just use this system on its own. This way, I could see how the texture of my very damaged hair fared with John Frieda at the proverbial wheel.

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Here is my hair before using this product. My iPhone camera doesn’t pick it up terribly well, but there is a bit of yellow running through, particularly at the roots. Hot roots are real, people! And that green is unmistakable. (Also, excuse the greasiness in the first picture – I took it immediately after returning from Warsaw, and the travel did not make my hair any cleaner.)

I used these two products for about a month (and sadly had to leave them in the UK because NO SPACE IN MY SUITCASE). They made my hair feel rather soft after washing it, and I could brush through it with relative ease. (When I don’t use any conditioner I literally cannot get a brush through it. Bleach is fun.)

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I did notice a change in colour, though subtle. It absolutely did not immediately tone my hair to a cooler blonde, but over time it helped take some of the brassiness out and definitely eliminated that green tinge. It also lightened my naturally medium-brown roots a touch after a month of consistent use. It didn’t take my hair to my ideal colour, but it made it a far more reasonable shade. I’ll take a slightly warm blonde over green any day! Plus, look how shiny and smooth it looks in that close-up – does that look like the texture of 10x bleached hair to you?!

I was previously using the John Frieda Sheer Blonde purple shampoo, which was okay – but Go Blonder is infinitely better, and once it’s on sale I’m going to replenish my stock. I think it was much more effective than Sheer Blonde at slowly toning my hair. It’s certainly not a replacement for a proper toner (Wella T18 for life!), but it’s effective for slow, long-term toning.

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I also recently did my poor CAVERNOUS ROOTS OF DOOM and toned my hair to an ash blonde, so I’ll be interested in seeing if Go Blonder is good for maintaining that ashiness. Toned hair doesn’t last very long on me, and I am very interested in prolonging the results!

Long story short, I am pro-Go Blonder. It’s a bit of a pricer option for the drugstore, but I’m willing to pay the $14 for a product that works. I’d have no business being blonde if I weren’t.

Review: Boots Botanics Replenishing Night Cream

Posted on April 19, 2015 under Reviews

I adore having friends who are into all things beauty, because often they introduce me to new products! I’m pretty adventurous about makeup brands and styles, but when it comes to skincare I’m not exactly far-ranging. Chalk this up to the fact that I don’t find skincare very exciting or chalk it up to the fact that I mainly stick to the brands I’m trained to sell, but either way I don’t often try new things.

However, when I was with Aisling in March, she introduced me to a new night cream, and by “introduced me to” I mean she told me not to bring any of my toiletries because she had things that I could try.

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As luck would have it, she had recently picked up a new night cream from the Boots Botanics line, and I was stuck in a night cream rut since I just had not found one I loved. After using hers twice, I was hooked – and when she mentioned that it was half off an already very good price, I practically ran to Boots to pick one up for myself!

It’s hard to write about skincare in an exciting way, much less moisturizers, so here’s what I will say: it works. It feels nice. It sinks in easily. It smells good (a bit like a pine tree, but with a tiny hint of citrus). I wake up in the morning and my face still feels hydrated and soft, but not at all greasy.

This product is from the Botanics anti-aging line, which is not really a concern of mine right now. However, a quick glance at the ingredients makes this cream very appealing to me – vitamins E and C and hyaluronic acid are great ingredients for any age!

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I will note that the scent may be a deterrent for some people – fragrance sensitivity is a real thing, and I’m a bit surprised that a product that’s marketed as being more “natural” (whatever that’s supposed to mean, if anything outside of being a marketing buzzword) would have such a strong scent. Because, yes: it is fairly strong. Personally, I don’t mind, because I’m not sensitive to such things and I think it smells nice – very calming. But this is something to know if you tend to do better with unscented, or lightly scented, products!

As for the texture, it’s unsurprisingly quite thick. It’s definitely a cream, and definitely on the heavier side of things. I wouldn’t want to use it under makeup! However, as a night cream, it’s perfect: it’s definitely hydrating, but it sinks in reasonably quickly and never feels or looks greasy. I’d say this is probably best suited to people on the normal to dry side of things due to the thicker texture, but I don’t think it would exacerbate oiliness – it just may be overkill.

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Is this picture art or is it art? Don’t answer that.

Another thing I need to mention is the packaging, which I’m not a fan of. Tub packaging is just not desirable when it comes to preserving active ingredients and keeping them at their most effective, plus it’s not the most hygienic. However, tub packaging is the norm for night creams (probably due to the thicker texture), so it’s not like this product is falling behind other night creams in that regard. I still do want to mention it, though, because I’m pretty serious about preferring, well, basically any packaging that’s not a tub.

Overall, I really like this product. I’ve been using it for nearly a month now and it’s one of my favourite skincare products in my current rotation. Despite the less than ideal packaging, I think it works very well, smells good, and is an excellent price (even when it’s not half off). Is it revolutionary or really special at all? No. But is it a solid product that I will happily use up and consider repurchasing? Definitely.

Boots Botanics Replenishing Night Cream retails for £7.99 ($15 CAD) for 50mL, or £0.15/$0.30 per mL. It can be purchased from Boots locations or online from Boots.com.

Bleu Majorelle, Sally Hansen Pacific Blue, and Barry M Damson

Posted on April 01, 2015 under Reviews

In January, my friend and I went on a quick jaunt to Marrakech, a bustling, vibrant city unlike any place I’ve ever been. When my mom saw my pictures from the trip, she described the city as “a riot of colour and pattern”, which is perfectly accurate.

My favourite place we visited in Marrakech was the iconic Jardin Majorelle, a secluded oasis in the heart of chaotic Marrakech. It was designed by Jacques Majorelle, who wanted to create the garden and onsite Berber Museum to display the rich culture and history of Morocco.

Throughout the gardens, there is an abundance of a vivid, electric blue, known as bleu Majorelle:

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In the mid-20th century, the garden fell into disrepair. It was then purchased by Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé. Saint-Laurent became so taken by bleu Majorelle that it became one of the most iconic YSL nail polish colours.

Although luxury beauty lines were created to be more accessible and affordable to the average human than, say, a YSL dress, upwards of $30 for a single bottle of nail polish is still rather steep.

Luckily for those of us who, like Saint-Laurent, have fallen in love with the unrivaled dynamism of bleu Majorelle, there are two drugstore options for this amazing colour. Good old Sally Hansen and Barry M always have our backs!

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My first flirtation with this glorious colour was this summer, when I picked up a bottle of Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Xtreme Wear Nail Polish in Pacific Blue. Like Yves Saint-Laurent before me, I had never seen quite a colour before. (Yes, I did just compare myself to Yves Saint-Laurent. I know.) In the months that ensued, I probably wore Pacific Blue at least a third of the time – which is definitely not an even distribution when you consider how many nail polish colours I have!

However, tragedy of tragedies, Pacific Blue got reformulated – and this resulted in a drastic change in colour. It is now darker, sheerer, and slightly shimmery. It’s simply not the same dreamy, striking blue I fell in love with. I love a good cobalt as much as the next person, but what if I want a bleu Majorelle dupe?

Enter Barry M, a UK drugstore brand known mainly for their amazing, long-wearing, beautifully pigmented nail polishes. When I first arrived in Glasgow and went to Superdrug, I immediately noticed that Barry M had what appeared to be a dupe for Pacific Blue. However, it wasn’t until about a week ago that I broke down and finally bought the Gelly Hi-Shine Nail Paint in Damson. (Incidentally, the colour does not resemble that of damsons at all.) Normally I would never knowingly buy a nail polish shade that’s a dupe for one in my collection, but my bottle of Pacific Blue isn’t getting any more full, and at this point it’s irreplaceable.

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Barry M Damson on the left, Sally Hansen Pacific Blue on the right.

Are these exact dupes? To my extremely discerning eye, no. Damson is bluer and a tad deeper, whereas Pacific Blue has the slightest hint of purple and a lighter, creamy quality that makes it so magical. Damson is a beautiful colour, but when I look at them side by side, on my nails rather than in a photograph (where they look almost exactly the same), Pacific Blue still has some sort of special quality that I’m drawn to. Damson is a gorgeous colour, and very similar, but it seems to me to be a colour that’s more dupeable.

I know that this is just me being picky. To the untrained eye that has not had months to fall in love with Pacific Blue, the colours are indistinguishable; and, indeed, photographed they’re essentially the same. I’m not saying I don’t love Damson, because I do, and I think it may just be the closest dupe I’ll get with a formula that I enjoy. (Essie’s Butler Please is supposedly a Pacific Blue dupe, but I am not fond of the Essie formula. Blasphemous, I know!)

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Sally Hansen Pacific Blue on the left, Barry M Damson on the right. In this picture I think you can see that Pacific Blue is just the tiniest bit lighter and creamier than Damson.

In terms of application, they’re very similar. They both go on beautifully, without any hint of streakiness or globs in the formula. Pacific Blue looks slightly more even and opaque after one coat, but I usually give it two just to be on the safe side.

They both dry relatively quickly, though Damson ends up being a bit shinier than Pacific Blue without a topcoat. (With a topcoat, the slight edge it may have in this imaginary competition vanishes.)

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Barry M Damson on the left and top; Sally Hansen Pacific Blue on the right and bottom.

I’ve never had a problem with the Xtreme Wear brush, but I will say that I do prefer the Barry M brush. It’s just that much slimmer, making it easier to navigate around the edges of nails. However, the wider, flatter Xtreme Wear brush is still very compact and easy to use, and definitely one of my favourite nail polish brushes!

The two polishes wear very similarly: without a topcoat they’ll chip in about three days on my nails; with a topcoat they’re still pristine a week on. That’s firmly within the range of “acceptable wear” for me, and it doesn’t tip either one ahead of the other since they both perform admirably.

The major downside to Damson is, of course, its lack of availability outside of the UK. Nail polish can’t be shipped internationally, either, so once I use up both Pacific Blue and Damson I’ll need to move onto something else – or fly myself over to the UK to grab another bottle of Damson, which seems unlikely. (That would be one expensive bottle of nail polish!) However, if you’re in the UK and lusting after a colour like Pacific Blue, give Damson a shot. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s close – and it’s beautiful.

I suppose Pacific Blue is singular. It’s a colour that I’ll need to let go of, however, and Damson will do a fine job at filling that electric blue void in my heart.

(And in case anyone was wondering, my bleu Majorelle-esque eyeliner is Annabelle’s Lapis.)

Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Xtreme Wear Nail Polish retails for $3.49 for 0.4 fl oz, or $8.73 per fl oz.

Barry M Gelly Hi-Shine Nail Paint retails for £2.99 ($5.59 CAD) for 0.35 fl oz, or £8.54/$15.97 per fl oz.