Now we've hit December, Christmas is well in our sights. Whilst I'm more than excited for all the festivities, sweet treats and family time, I don't want to completely let myself go and abandon all my healthy habits. In order to indulge without undoing all the hard work I've put in to my fitness for the rest of the year, I try to balance things out. I find that if I start sitting on my bum all day, stuffing my face with tins of Quality Street, then I soon begin to feel rubbish both mentally and physically. So, to help me stay on track and feel great during December, there's a few tips I follow.
No matter what makeup look I'm going for, I always try and make my eyes look larger. Naturally, they're quite small and round, so there's a few tricks I use to make them appear bigger and create more of a feline shape.
SLEEP + HYDRATE
If your lids are swollen and you have puffy under-eye bags, then your eyes will inevitably look smaller. If you regularly notice that your lids seem distended, then there are a few natural remedies that can help. Firstly, keep well hydrated and avoid too much salt in your diet, to help prevent excess water retention that leads to swelling. My eyes always look swollen after a boozy night out, because I'm dehydrated, so I always top up on lots of water before hitting the hay.
Skipping your forty winks leaves eyes looking worse for wear, so ensure you're getting at least seven hours of solid sleep a night. If you struggle to nod off, then try to avoid staring at your TV, phone or laptop too close to bedtime; avoid eating after 8pm (digesting food can disrupt sleep); try using a pillow spritz such as the This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray; have a bath filled with relaxing bath salts/oils or drink herbal tea before bed.
Waking up with puffy eyes can be a sign that you're using a cream that is too rich, or you're applying it wrong. A hydrating gel will offer plenty of moisture when you're younger and don't have any fine lines to worry about. Stick to intense, anti-aging products from your mid-thirties onwards, when wrinkles are more of a concern. I'm currently using the Vichy Aqualia Thermal Awakening Eye Balm, as it's really hydrating and cooling, yet has a lightweight texture. Watch how you apply your eye cream, too. Gently pat it around the orbital bone only and avoid taking it too close under the eye, otherwise it will just absorb and result in puffiness. Use your ring finger to apply, as it has the lightest touch and won't drag the skin. One extra tip is to keep your eye cream in the fridge so it's even more refreshing.
Dark under-eye shadows can make the eyes look sunken, so it's important to camouflage them. For anyone with particularly stubborn dark circles, you may want to correct discoloration before concealing. To neutralise any purple/blue tones, you need to find a product with a peach/salmon tint. The only one I ever reach for is Bobbi Brown's Corrector, which is highly pigmented and has a creamy consistency that melts on to the skin.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll be familiar with Kim Kardashian's trick of highlighting the triangle under the eyes with concealer. Whether you love or loathe her, you can't argue that it works amazingly to brighten and lift. To really illuminate, pick a colour that's one or two shades lighter than your natural skin-tone. My current favourite for concealing under the eyes, is the Nudestix Skin Concealer Pencil in Light 2. As it's a crayon, the concealer is so quick to use, as you can precisely draw it on where you want it. The formula is quite thick and firm, making it long-lasting and crease-free. To brighten even further, I'll blend some of the Clarins Instant Concealer over the top, which is full of reflective particles that really help to give the skin a natural glow.
Highlighting the eyes in strategic places will help to draw light to them and drastically alter their apparent size. Using a creamy pencil, like the Benefit High Brow Glow works well, as it's easy to use and the cream texture looks more flattering on the skin. If your eyes sit close together, then highlighting the inner corners near the tear duct will make them appear further apart. If your eyes are hooded and there's not much visible space between your lash line and brow when your eyes are open, then highlighting the brow bone can help. If you have rounded eyes and want to create more of an almond shape, then you can wing your eyeshadow and liner out and then use your highlight to sharpen the wing, for a crisper finish.
The one technique that can make the biggest difference to how large the eyes look, is lining. Some clever liner application can really work wonders, but applying too much can have the opposite effect. Try lining the eyes with a matte, powder eyeshadow on an angled brush, rather than with a traditional kohl pencil or liquid liner, for a subtly defined look. Instead of choosing a harsh black shade, reach for a softer brown, bronze or even navy colour which will emphasize the whites of the eyes.
Never line the entire way around the eyes, as it closes them in. Instead, only line the outer third of both the upper and lower lash-lines and buff the colour out slightly to prevent harsh lines. To make your lashes look thicker, take a dark liner along the tight line (upper waterline). Always apply nude eyeliner along the lower waterline to correct any redness, as this will make a huge difference. For a subtle effect, avoid using a white shade like they did in the 60s, as it tends to look too stark for everyday wear. The best affordable flesh-coloured liner on the market, is the Rimmel Scandaleyes Kohl Kajal in 005 Nude. It's super soft and strongly pigmented, so it gives opaque coverage in one swipe, without scratching.
If your eyes are narrow and round, then liquid or gel liner can be used to fake more of an almond shape. Tracing a thin line across the top lash-line and extending the flick at the outer corner, winging it up and out, will create that flattering feline shape. For me, nothing beats the L'Oreal Super Liner for a liquid option, as the sponge applicator with the tiny, tapered tip is so easy to use and the formula is so long-wearing. If you prefer a gel liner, then my favourite is the Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner, as the formula is creamy, smooth and inky black, and the pot lasts forever without drying up.
Never forget to curl your eyelashes before applying mascara, as it instantly opens the eyes up. There's a reason why everyone bangs on about how amazing the Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler is. It may cost a pretty penny, but it delivers the most incredible curl that puts any other tools to shame and, if it becomes an everyday essential for you like it is for me, then you soon rack up a respectable cost-per-use. If you have elephant-like lashes that really struggle to hold a curl, consider an LVL treatment and make sure to use a waterproof formula mascara that lasts all day, even if it is more difficult to remove.
Be generous with mascara, but keep your lashes well separated. For sumptuous volume and length, without clumps, my holy-grail is the Chanel Inimitable Mascara. The elastomer wand grips every lash, coating them all evenly to leave lashes looking insane. Avoid putting too much mascara on the bottom lashes, to keep the under eyes as bright as possible. I like to use the tiny wand of the Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara to pick up all the fine hairs and lengthen them, without smudging underneath my eyes. Add falsies if you want a really bold look, but opt for fluttery pairs rather than the dense, spiky cuts which can cast a shadow under the eyes. If you're a lash pro, then individual lashes are even better than strip lashes, as they really create that doe-eyed effect.
Try not to get carried away and go too smokey with your shadows and avoid anything too dark or the eyes will be lost. Stick to using milky, pearlescent or champagne shadows with a sheen, to bring light to the eyes. If you're bored of standard beiges and browns, then mix things up with a soft lilac tone which is universally flattering. Whatever colours you choose, finish off by pressing a small amount of a light glittery shadow in the center of the eyelid.
Gently defining the crease of the eye contour with a matte taupe or brown shadow, like MAC Omega or Charcoal Brown, can add some extra depth to the eyes. Make sure to keep most of the colour towards the outer corner, though, as taking it too far towards the nose will only close the eyes up again. Remember that blending is key and you really can't buff things out too much.
Well groomed brows really help to frame the eyes and anything that draws attention towards them will help them to appear larger. Find the ideal shape for your face, or better yet, get a professional to do the job. Pluck any strays, trim long, unruly wisps and get them tinted so they're naturally defined. Gently fill in any sparse patches with a finely-pointed brow pencil, such as the Anastasia Bevely Hills Brow Wiz, or a matte powder and wax, like the L'Oreal Brow Artist Genius Kit. Always finish off with a slick of brow gel, dragging the wand up as you apply so that the eyes are given more of a lift. I love setting mine with the L'Oreal Brow Artist Plumper which has a tinted formula and contains little fibres which help to give the hair more texture.
What tricks do you use to make your eyes look bigger?
Black Friday is finally here and, whether you love or loathe the chaos, there's an abundance of deals and amazing offers to take advantage of. If you don't fancy waiting hours in never-ending queues or fighting off some crazed bargain-hunters in stores, then why not snap up some steals from the comfort of your own home? One brand that's offering an amazing 25% off their entire range, is Bows Boutiques.
Bows Boutiques have an amazing selection of gorgeous coats, chic dresses and on-trend pieces that would make the perfect Christmas gift, either for a loved-one or as a treat to yourself. My favourite picks from their website are the Gianna Oversized Sweater* and the Ameera Padded Faux Fur Coat*.
The Gianna Oversized Sweater* is just perfect for this time of year, as it's thick and warm, yet still looks stylish. Although it's oversized and has batwing sleeves, the fit is surprisingly flattering and the choker-style neckline makes it a bit more special than your average knit. For the amazing price, I was really shocked at how good-quality the material is, as it feels really luxe and soft. Now I can't wait to pick it up in all the different colours on offer!
When it comes to coats, Bows Boutiques certainly don't do things by halves. They have a massive selection of fur-lined parkas, but I thought I'd choose the gorgeous Ameera Padded Faux Fur Coat*, as I didn't have anything similar in my wardrobe already. The padded design fits like a glove and hugs your curves when zipped up, which helps to accentuate your waist and give you some shape whilst you keep warm, rather than drowning your figure completely. And just look at that hood, it's amazing!
Have you got your eye on any Black Friday bargains?
I can't believe we're already half way through November and Christmas is so close! As it's my boyfriend's birthday month, he's being a scrooge and is stubborn about not letting us watch any Christmas films, listen to Christmas music, or even buy a packet of mince pies until his birthday has passed. So, to keep him happy and myself from stocking up on festive jumpers, decorations and sweet treats just yet, I've been doing a lot of window shopping and online browsing for winter threads that I'd love to add to my wardrobe.
This season definitely calls for a new coat and my favourite brand for jackets and coats is always All Saints. Every style is so chic that I covet them all, but I'm particularly taken with the All Saints Leni Coat in Taupe Brown, this year. I love the structured silhouette and the length is just right for me, as being 5'4" means I'm often swamped by longer designs. My boyfriend actually has a very similar coat from All Saints in black, so I thought we could do the whole matchy-matchy thing when out together. He'll be ecstatic if it makes it into my wardrobe then, not.
With all the Christmas parties coming up, I've been on the hunt for a glitzy bag that I can wear with my many trusty LBDs, to spice my outfits up a bit. Vivienne Westwood Bags are a nice middle ground between premium designer and luxury high-street pieces, so they're great when you fancy splashing out on something a bit more special, without draining your bank account completely. As soon as I spotted the Honeycomb Pochette, it was love. I adore the textured finish, classic orb emblem and the fact it can be worn as a clutch, or as a shoulder bag by attaching the gold chain. So pretty!
Slouchy, cosy jumpers are a must during A/W and this Modern Rarity Rib V-Neck Jumper is just perfect. I spotted this in John Lewis a few days ago and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. As it's blended with mohair, it's so fluffy and comfortable and the soft grey tone will go with everything. I have a feeling Lydia Elise Millen wore the pink version in one of her recent videos and it looked so good that I only want it more!
Although I used to love piling on as many chunky statement rings as possible years ago, I much prefer daintier designs nowadays. This ASOS Rose Gold Sterling Silver Heart Knot Ring is so sweet and I can't believe that it's sterling silver and just £10! As I don't like to go heavy with bling, it's a simple, understated piece that I'll be able to wear with anything.
How stunning is this Missguided Lace Plunge Midi Dress? Like seriously, I haven't thought "wow" about a dress for ages, but this is just gorgeous and sexy, without being too revealing thanks to the overlay. It's been in and out of my online basket about a bazillion times, but realistically, it'll be arriving on my doorstep sometime soon. You know, for any occasion when I want to move away from my staple all-black uniform.
I'm still not over rose-gold - I mean, is anyone? Simple court shoes are such a staple for party season, as they go with any outfit, but these ASOS Pepper Pointed High Heels add a bit of something special with the metallic finish. If I didn't know the brand or price of them, I'd guess they were much more expensive than they are.
As you might be able to tell, I'm crushing on velvet a lot. This Warehouse Crushed Velvet Sweat is kind of like an upgrade of the velour tracksuits that Paris Hilton rocked circa. 2004, but without the matching bottoms. I see this as more of a lazy weekend top worn with black jeans and boots, when I want to be cosy and comfortable, yet half smart.
I'm such a fan of chelsea boots and I like to have a pair in my closet every year. Although the colour and material may not be the best choice for the wet winter weather we always experience, I can't help but be tempted by the Miss KG Jensen Taupe Flat Ankle Boots. Kurt Geiger always have such amazing boots in their range, but I know I'll get lots of wear out of this neutral, flat pair.
Last, but by no means least, is the Topshop Petite Velvet Lace Trim A-Line Dress - another velvet piece that instantly caught my eye when I saw it on the website. With the gothic vibe, black lace and deep wine colour, this is like a winter dress dream. The shape will be so flattering, too, with the band around the waist cinching you in and the slight skater skirt style. Always good when you envisage yourself demolishing about ten tins of Quality Street in the space of a month!