Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Review: Look Fantastic Beauty in Wonderland Advent Calendar 2017

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Last year, I did a post on the 2016 Look Fantastic Advent Calendar breaking it down to see if it was worth the €95 price tag, so I thought I'd do it again with the 2017 one. The theme for 2017 was "Beauty in Wonderland", and the box was once again massive - this time, it came in the form of a mini storage tower, including a lift-up mirrored compartment on the top and four decent sized pull-out drawers.

Once again, it was filled to the brim with items sold by Look Fantastic on their site.

In no particular order, here's a detailed look at what was inside:

Look Fantastic Contour Brush | Full Size | Value: €9.00

I've used both of these, the contour brush is good - it's much lighter than it looks, and it's nice and soft. I brought the cloth on a recent night away, not realising that it's recommended you run it through the wash first - it removed foundation and waterproof mascara without too much scrubbing but as with all of these cloths, my face didn't feel clean and I think it'll be living out the rest of its life as a screen wipe. 

Dr. Botanicals Moroccan Rose Superfood Facial Oil | Half Size, 15ml | Value €41.70
Balance Me Flash Cleanse Micellar Water |  Travel Size, 30ml | Value €3.15
Oskia London Renaissance Mask | Travel Size, 10ml | Value €12.80

I've been using the Facial Oil for the past few weeks - it doesn't seem to be making any kind of difference but it's a pleasant product to use. It reminds me of the Skin Chemists serum that I mentioned in my empties earlier in the month, only less tacky. I haven't used the other two yet, but I'm looking forward to trying that Oskia mask. 

High Definition Eyeshadow Palette in 002 "Foxy" | Full Size | Worth €33.95
Model Co Instant Brows in "Light/Medium" | Full Size | Worth €16.45
Ciaté Fierce Flicks Eyeliner in Black | Full Size | Worth €13.45

The eyeliner is lovely, really easy to use. The eyebrow pencil was too light for me, and I found the crayon a bit thick. There was a little double ended brush included with the palette but I didn't find it much use so discarded it. Here's a look at the shades: 

There's not a hope in hell that I'd recommend it for over €30, it's nice but it's no nicer than Catrice or Essence. It's just a nice neutral palette. 

Crabtree & Evelyn La Source Hand Therapy | Travel Size 25g | Worth €4.75
Bellapierre Banana Setting Powder | Full Size | Worth €15.30
Dr. Lipp Original Nipple Balm | Sample Size 4ml | Worth €4.25

The hand cream is lovely, but takes a little while to sink in compared to my favourite Body Shop ones. I haven't used the Banana Powder yet, and the nipple balm is fabulous. It has really helped to improve the condition of my lips, and a tiny bit goes a very long way (good job, because the sample is tiny). 

Molton Brown Gingerlily Body Wash | Travel Size 100ml | Worth €7.80
Korres Wild Rose Advanced Repair Sleeping Facial | Travel Size 16ml | Worth €12.20
Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream | Travel Size 15ml | Worth €28.20
Caudalíe Vinosource Moisturising Sorbet | Travel Size 15ml | Worth €8.60

The Molton Brown is lovely, I really like the brand and it's not something I'd buy for myself so I'm always happy to see it appear in a box or calendar. The scent wouldn't be my favourite but it's still nice. I haven't used the Korres facial yet, and both the Marine Cream and Sorbet are fine - I can never see a massive difference no matter what I use, but both products are pleasant to use and smell nice. 

This Works in transit camera close-up | Travel Size 15ml | Worth €13.30
Illamasqua Lava Lips in "Vixen" | Full Size | Worth €23.45
Doucce Maxlash Volumizer Mascara in Black | Mini Size | Worth €?

I've used this primer before, and I like it. The lipstick is fine, I think the marbled lava effect is a bit gimmicky, but this is a nice neutral very pale red/pink. The mascara - I can't find any info online (it seems to crop up a lot in beauty boxes). For me, the brush was too big - it just gave me very clumpy spidery lashes. 

Omorovicza Queen of Hungary Mist | Travel Size 30ml | Worth €19.50
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream | Full Size | Worth €11.95
James Read Gradual Tan | Travel Size 30ml | Worth €5.70

The mist, to me, smells a bit Febreze-ish. I know it's popular and it's based on the first ever perfume water, but to me it's a wallop of Granny followed by nothing. Is it a perfume? Is it a facial mist? The scent doesn't last long enough for it to be perfume, but it's too scented for a facial mist. I didn't like this. The First Aid Beauty cream is gorgeous, I'm a fan of the brand anyway and I really like using this on my legs. The James Read tan is full of glitter and I wish they'd stop including it in beauty boxes, not everyone wants to a) tan, or b) be seen from Space. 

Grow Gorgeous Scalp Detox | Travel Size 50ml | Worth €9.20
Redken No Blow Dry Airy Cream for Fine Hair | Travel Size 30ml | Worth €3.70
Moroccanoil Treatment | Travel Size 15ml | Worth €9.00

I haven't used the scalp detox yet, because I'm really lazy when it comes to washing my hair and I just haven't remembered to try it. I used the Redken treatment once but as it's designed for fine hair, it didn't really seem to do much for my very thick frizzy locks. It left the ends looking slightly like wet dog, but I'll give it another go before I give up on it. I was happy with the Moroccanoil, a little goes a very long way and it's a great treatment. 

Pixi by Petra Hello Glow! Kit | Full Size | Worth €24.00

This kit contains a liquid illuminator, blusher & highlighter duo, and a glossy lip plumper. I won't use this, nor have I opened it, so if you'd like to win it I'll be giving it away on either Facebook or Instagram later this week.

The products in the 2017 calendar come to a total (approximate) value of €338.60, plus the mascara. The box cost €98 delivered. The 2016 one came in at around €350, so there's not a whole pile of difference value wise. I feel like the focus was on expensive skincare this year- which is fine, I like getting the opportunity to try brands that I wouldn't otherwise be able to try, but it leaves for a boring enough calendar if you're more interested in makeup. 

I don't  know if I'd be rushing to pre-order again this year, I think the novelty is wearing off and I'd like to try something less expensive, like the Marks & Spencer one. If you bought this too, what did you think? Or what was your favourite product from the box? 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Books I Read in November & December

Nothing to Disclose. ARCs clearly defined in accordance with review policy here


Every year my reading drops in November and December because it's a really busy time of year for me. This year I really wanted to try and read at least a couple of books, and I'm happy to report that I read 3 in November and 8 in December.



A River in Darkness: One Man's Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa
This was a Kindle First pick for December. I don't usually get one, but this looked interesting on the basis that we don't really get to hear accounts from people who live in North Korea very often. It's harrowing, it's hard to read, and it's full of grief. I think it is worth a read, just to see exactly what it was like for this man over the 36 years he lived there - but it's not an easy read at all. 

Almost the Perfect Murder by Paul Williams
I can not abide Paul Williams, but I wanted to read about how the horrific murder of Elaine O'Hara was solved. When a friend lent me a copy, I read it in pretty much one sitting. I hate the title of this book, but it's fascinating to read about. Very, very graphic and very upsetting in parts. 

Devil's Bargain by Joshua Green
An account of who exactly Steve Bannon is and how he came to be involved with the election of Donald Trump. A much better book by all accounts than Fire and Fury, and very much worth a read if you have an interest in U.S. politics. 


How to Succeed in the Beauty Business by Ciara Allen
This is a must-read if you're in any way interested in beauty blogging or beauty as a career. Ciara has written a bible - with sections on how to start, how to make contacts, how to gain experience and much, much more. My own interest in beauty has waned significantly over the past few years but I enjoyed every second of this.

Into the Valley by Chris Clement-Green
I was a part of the blog tour for this release, so you can read my full review in that post here. This is an account of Chris' time spent as a Police Officer in London in the 80s. Anyone into Police procedurals would enjoy this, I think.

The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds by John Higgs
Yes, that KLF. Justified and Ancient. This is a really, really fascinating account of how the band came to be, and how they ended up burning a million pounds in cash on a small island in 1994. This is so engaging, and really witty. Even if you have no interest in the band, the chapters about shared thoughts and the existence of money are well worth the read. Great research, great book, one of my favourite reads last year.



My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Winter Romances by Various, edited by Stephanie Perkins
A Young Adult anthology containing short stories by twelve different authors, all set around the theme of winter romance. My favourites were by by Kiersten White (a story about a guy who cooks food at a diner based not on what people order, but what they really need) and Stephanie Perkins (a tale about a girl meeting a boy at a Christmas tree lot). Very sweet. 

One Christmas Kiss in Notting Hill by Mandy Baggot (ARC)
I really like Mandy's Christmas books. This one is about a woman from Notting Hill who cares for her sister. She finds out that the company she works for are in talks to develop a Super Hotel in London, and the CEO is in town. Mandy's pop culture references and sharp wit always save her stories from becoming too twee and predictable, she's one of the first I look to when I want something sweet and romantic. 



Friend Request by Laura Marshall
Louise is (understandably) shocked when she receives a friend request from someone who has died years ago. Who is pretending to be Maria? Or, is she really dead? This features two of my favourite tropes: 80s flashbacks and school reunions. It was a good read, not one of my favourites but it was a nice little thriller and a good debut.

In a Cottage In a Wood by Cass Green
Neve inherits a cottage in the strangest of ways. Expecting a peaceful retreat to help get her life back on track, she ends up in a house of horrors. Someone does not want her there - and what was the previous owner really like? I enjoyed this a lot, it was an addictive read. Recommended!

Oh My God What a Complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght & Sarah Breen
Fans of the Facebook page will be familiar with Ais and her boyfriend, Generic John. But you don't have to be a fan to read this - everyone knows an Aisling. A country girl working in the city, with a long-term boyfriend and no sign of an engagement ring. When Ais and John attend yet another wedding, Ais decides things need to change. Warm, witty, and friendly, this book was lovely, and managed to get a few really serious issues in there too. Also recommended!

And that's it - that brings my 2017 reading to a total of 138. As always, I'll update the Books 2017 page with clickable covers, just click any one to go to my full Goodreads review. I've a shiny new Books 2018 page that I'll update as I go, thanks for staying with me throughout another great reading year!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Empties July-December 2017

Nothing to declare, no PR samples featured.


Last year I made a conscious effort to finish products, and I'm happy enough with how it went. This year, as part of my resolutions, I'm not buying any beauty products at all until I'm completely out of them, so my Empties will be featured again every few months.

In case people look at these and say "what the hell is this one at, showing us her rubbish?" - it's an idea that used to be popular on beauty blogs. It gives people a chance to use a product in its entirety and then give an opinion on whether or not they think it's worth a repurchase - rather than use something for a week and declare it Holy Grail.

January-March 2017 Empties
April-June 2017 Empties


I got this in a subscription box and brought it on holiday last August. It's a tiny, tiny microfibre glove that fits on the top of your thumb - I thought it'd be completely useless, but it was a help in taking my eye makeup off.
Would I buy this again? NO
No. I'm not a fan of microfibre cloths for your face, no matter what the "experts" say - grand for the windows, not for my face. Also, anyone that claims your face is fully clean with a bit of water and a window cloth is lying to you. Use proper cleanser.

I've used up a few shower gels but this was the only empty I kept - I was sparing this because it was so nice. I received it in last year's Look Fantastic Advent Calendar. A little goes a very long way, and the Sandalwood scent almost negates the need for perfume. It's lovely.
Would I buy this again? YES, ON SALE
It's €22 for 300ml, so I'd buy it if I was being very good to myself or if it were on sale. In that vein, if anyone knows of a cheaper (I'm talking €5) Sandalwood scented body wash, please let me know!

This is my favourite body lotion, both in this form and the spray. I'm getting slightly sick of the scent now because I've been using it for years, but it really keeps dry skin at bay and feels lovely on my skin.
Would I buy this again? MAYBE
I have a pretty good stockpile of this, and I would buy it again, but maybe in a different scent.

I'm a huge fan of Original Source products. This body butter smells like a Summer holiday - it's gorgeous, and wasn't greasy.
Would I buy this again? YES
Yes, I'd buy this over The Body Shop body butters. They're every bit as good, if not better, and are much cheaper and often on offer.


I've featured this in my empties posts before - I use one every couple of months to get rid of dead skin on my feet. They're a pair of solution-filled plastic socks, designed to help with hard skin and callous removal.
Would I buy this again? YES
These are a staple for me now. I bulk buy them on eBay from an Irish seller, and I use them a few times a year. They're gross if you don't like peeling skin, but they really do work well.

I got this in a subscription box. Unusually, it comes in two pieces - one for above your nose and one for your chin. It promises 120 hours of hydration.
Would I buy this again? NO
No, personally in my case the claim was a load of bollocks. This did not make my skin feel extra hydrated for 5 days. I mean if you drink water you'll be hydrated for 5 days. This is over a tenner, and I didn't find it did anything groundbreaking, it just left my face feeling fresh the same as all other masks do.

I received this with a Charlotte Tilbury order. It was a decent sized sample, there was enough in the sachet for a good application. This claims to give you "baby skin".
Would I buy this again? NO
In a previous empties post, I had a sample of CT magic cream. I ended up later getting the full size, and I was so disappointed. I always seem to enjoy the sample sachets more than the full sized product, so I won't be buying any more of her full sized skin products. I can barely remember using this sample so I'm presuming it didn't give my the skin of a baby (I'm fairly sure I'd have remembered that).

I had seen people with these really weird looking bubble masks all over Instagram but could never find one. I spotted this in Penneys one day and said I'd try it (it's €1) - it foamed up really fast, it felt lovely, and it's probably one of the only face masks I've used that made my skin look (as well as feel) cleansed.
Would I buy this again? YES
Absolutely, I've picked up a few more since the first one so I have a couple to use. They're made in South Korea, which is never a bad thing when it comes to a face mask.

This was €2.99 in my local pharmacy, and I picked it up when I had run out of my beloved Kérastase mask. It's for damaged, depleted hair. It smells fantastic, and leaves my hair feeling beautifully soft. The pot is a great size - it's a really nice little hair product and such good value.
Would I buy this again? YES
I can say nothing bad about it - the claims, as with every other product here, are probably a bit on the generous side (aka waffle), but it's a nice hair product and felt good. The scent was lovely, and it lasted ages.


This was the scent I bought on Honeymoon in 2012 so it has special memories for me. I've repurchased it a few times and was lucky to be sent a bottle from the PR company a couple of years ago - this bottle was my last one, so it was used very sparingly.
Would I buy this again? YES
My husband got me a bottle of the other variation for Christmas (Légere) so I'm good for a while, but it's a perfume I'll happily repurchase.

I bought this on holiday in 2016 and immediately loved the sweet, musky, grown up scent. It's the perfect going out perfume or a great one to spray on a scarf, the scent lasts for ages.
Would I buy this again? NO
I did really love it, but I don't think it's "me" enough to repurchase, if that makes sense. I wasn't bothered when I was coming to the end of it, so I did really like it but I'd try something else from Dior next time.

I'm nearly sure this was part of a competition prize that I won about 4 years ago, but I can't remember. This bottle has lasted so long - I only used it a couple of times a month to stimulate nail growth and keep cuticles from drying out, but it's supposed to be brilliant for anyone who gets gel nails regularly.
Would I buy this again? NO
It's a grand product, and if you're after something like this I'd recommend it, but personally I'm not concerned enough about my cuticles to buy a specific product, a bit of olive oil or castor oil would do me.


This was my second bottle of this - I've a full review here, and I bought another bottle after that. It's a really nice, fresh facial serum to be used twice daily, and it leaves skin feeling youthful and soft. I really loved using this.
Would I buy this again? YES, ON SALE
I don't miss it enough to buy it again at full price. I liked it enough to buy it after I was sent a bottle, but I bought it on sale from the UK. It's lovely, but not €52 lovely.

A strawberry flavoured sugar scrub for lips. I bought this as part of my Christmas 2016 order and only ran out a few weeks ago. 
Would I buy this again? NO
It's messy, bits of it go everywhere, and it's just sweet sugar. An equivalent could be made at home very quickly.

I got this in a subscription box. It's a velvety smooth facial serum that leaves skin feeling clean, hydrated, and plumped. I really liked this, some days I just used it instead of makeup. 
Would I buy this again? NO
It's far too expensive. It's £39 for that tube above - 30ml. I loved it but it wasn't as good as The Body Shop one, which is around the £25 mark in the UK. It's also heavily scented. 

I've written a whole post on this before (here) - it's one of the best lip balms I've found for chapped, sore lips. Thankfully mine weren't too bad this Winter, but this is still one of my go-to balms.
Would I buy this again? YES
It's good value (under €4), lasts ages and works well. 

I've used different Vichy moisturisers before - I usually pick up the Aqualia one, but I used this sample up over a few weeks. The pot was generous, the cream was thick and silky, and I had no complaints with it.
Would I buy this again? NO
I just didn't find it massively special, to be honest. I like the other ranges but this Liftactiv one wasn't impressive enough to go and hunt it down in a full size. I also found the scent very strong compared to some other Vichy products.


This was a limited edition bronzer, and it was the perfect shade for contouring because it wasn't shimmery or too warm. It was a staple of mine for well over 18 months, and I used most of it up until I dropped it and shattered the rest.
Would I buy this again? YES
I can't, because it was limited edition, but I did buy the very similar shade from their Fruity Juicy collection last year, also called "Delicates". To my eye it's not 100% the same, but it's similar enough for me.

Everyone seems to have gone mad over Penneys makeup over the past year. I don't get it - to me it's the kind of stuff you buy for kids who are just getting into makeup. I've never been overly impressed by anything I've bought there, and this was no different - hailed as a dupe for MAC's Strobe Cream, I bought it on holiday last year. My tube definitely was not a dupe, it was watery shite that made me look sweaty as opposed to dewy. 
Would I buy this again? NO
I'll stick to Penneys for socks and knickers, not makeup. 

I'm a big fan of Catrice, they're a decent brand with excellent prices. I've yet to try a bad mascara from them - this one gave lift and length, plus it was very black. 
Would I buy this again? YES
I'll always pick up a Catrice or Essence mascara over more expensive brands - I've spent a fortune on mascara over the years and it's all down to the brush, imho. Catrice do great brushes so I'd happily repurchase this (I've a waterproof one ready to go)

This is something I've bought for a few years now, and I'll continue to do so. It locks your makeup in place and stops it running off - a must for nights out or fellow sweaty people.
Would I buy this again? YES
I've another bottle on the go, I have tried a few other brands but this is the one I keep coming back to.

My all time favourite base, I mention it in every empties post. It has become a little harder to get a hold of lately, but it's still available online at Boots and Littlewoods. It's dewy, light, and gives wonderful coverage - nothing has come close for me.
Would I buy it again? YES
I get annoyed if I haven't a new one ready to go when I use one up, I'd be devastated if it were discontinued.

I use the CC cream regularly, but if I need a foundation I'll buy Bourjois quicker than any expensive one. This one is lovely, gives medium/high coverage, and feels nice.
Would I buy it again? YES
Bourjois are my favourite brand for foundations - I prefer them to ones I've tried from MAC, Estee Lauder and Armani.

This was okay, but I hated the dropper. I also found the foundation really thick and heavy, like a face mask rather than foundation. The colour was fine, and it lasted ages, but I could feel it on.
Would I buy it again? NO
It was just too heavy for me and I felt like the dropper was more of a hindrance than a help.

Alas, it is time to say goodbye to this. I adored it - it felt like silk on my skin. It made makeup sit better, the scent was lovely, it was just an all-round gorgeous product. I made it last ages by rationing it, but it was a dream to use.
Would I buy it again? YES
It's nauseatingly expensive, but if I ever become one of those people who has a capsule collection of one decent primer, one decent blusher, etc - this will be in there. This bottle was over €60 so it won't happen any time soon, but maybe if I stick to all my resolutions I'll have saved up enough to treat myself to a new one next year!

So - that's it, I'll be back in another few months with another pile of stuff to show you - have you tried any of these? What did you think?