A beauty-lover's guide to London: the shopping edition

This week marks seven months of my arrival in London. I've been reasonably restrained in my beauty-related purchases since I've been here--Paris doesn't count--and this has involved scoping out the beauty landscape. I imagine a lot of this applies to the rest of the UK as well. Here's what I've made of it so far.

The Pharmacies

The two big players, Boots and Superdrug, are fairly similar, and you'll usually find one within spitting distance of the other. Superdrug tends to have a wider range of brands at properly drugstore prices (Make Up Revolution, MUA, GOSH), as well as stocking the product lines from the Gleam bloggers (Zoella, Tanya Burr, Ruth Crilly's COLAB). Actually, speaking of the Gleam lineup, the Real Techniques range by the Pixiwoo sisters are stocked at both chains, but the Bold Metals collection is only stocked at Boots. 



Boots has a better loyalty scheme (1 point per £1 spent at Superdrug versus 4 points per £1 at Boots; 100 points converts to £1), and the bigger store have serviced counters (Estee Lauder, Clinique, Dior, Liz Earle and the like). Both Superdrug and Boots also do their own in-house brands -- Boots has their No.7 and Seventeen lines, while Superdrug has the B. range -- and often have bonus point events. 

One tip: download the mySupermarket app, which lets you compare prices across Boots, Superdrug, and the various major supermarkets. 

Bought the baby Bioderma and the pharmacy owner threw in a bunch of samples!

Bought the baby Bioderma and the pharmacy owner threw in a bunch of samples!

Lloyds Pharmacy isn't as widely found around London, but I find that they, along with the independent pharmacies, stock a way bigger range of French pharmacy brands (Avene, La Roche Posay, Vichy, Nuxe) than Boots/Superdrug. Hunt those places out if you can't make it across the Channel and don't want to shop online.

The Department Store Beauty Halls

Selfridges around Christmas

Selfridges around Christmas

Beauty halls here are incredible -- unsurprising, really; it was Harry Gordon Selfridge who pioneered the "theatre of retail", so what better place to see it in action than London? All the department stores stock the usual roster of mid- to high-end brands like Chanel, Dior, and YSL, but each will have exclusive brands and/or products within ranges that are sold elsewhere. Selfridges has Charlotte Tilbury (which is also stocked online at Net-A-Porter), Liberty has Surratt, Harrods has Sensai. I'm keen to try some more Suqqu -- their brow powder was great when I tested it at a counter -- and they can be found at Selfridges and Harrods. Liberty regularly collaborates with brands to create special designs, and Harrods have exclusive products as well.

In terms of stores with reward schemes, I quite like Debenhams. I signed up for their card when I saw that they were running a promotion; you could pick two free samples (I think I chose an Urban Decay 24/7 eyeliner, which wasn't very good, and a perfume sample from Givenchy). Supposedly you can show your card at any counter and get a free sample of their latest launch or a popular product, as well as mini makeovers, although I would argue that this is standard practice at most serviced counters. You can also get a free birthday brow wax at Benefit -- I've just realised that I've missed out on claiming this! It's probably the best place to grab your MAC staples, especially when the store does their 20% off beauty promotions.

liberty beauty club card

Speaking of rewards cards, how beautiful is the one from Liberty? When I signed up I received a £15 off voucher (for a spend of over £100) -- I've been eyeing up the Surratt range...

The Clothing Stores

The Topshop polish rainbow

The Topshop polish rainbow

What would a post about London beauty shopping be without mentioning Topshop? Admittedly, I haven't bought anything from them while I've been here, but I've had a good play at the cosmetics section in their flagship store on Oxford Street. Their new lip bullets have some great colours, and their nail polish is cheap and cheerful. The Oxford Street store has also partnered up with BeautyMART, so you can try their selection of cult industry products in person. It's the only place in London where I've seen Daniel Sandler blushes in the flesh, as well as the Balmain range of hair products. 

and other stories body products

My personal favourite is & Other Stories. Their nail polish range is stunning, their skincare uses simple, effective ingredients, and their range of bath and body products are well-formulated and sophisticatedly-scented (sorry Body Shop) -- all of this at drugstore pricing. They also stock a small selection from other brands like The Balm, Uslu Airlines, and Percy and Reed.

and other stories makeup

I haven't spent a lot of time at Urban Outfitters, but they have a wee beauty section too in their bigger stores. These contain some of the quirkier or less easily available brands like Anna Sui and DHC alongside classics like Tweezerman and Carmex.


That's enough for today, I think -- I might make a series out of this! What do you want to read about next? Where to go for cruelty-free and naturally-focused brands? Bespoke beauty products? Perfume -- oh god, I haven't even talked about the perfume halls! Where and what are your favourites in the big smoke?

*All photos are taken from my Instagram account -- it's easier just shooting with my phone when I'm out!

A sentimental combination: Charlotte Tilbury Pillowtalk and Amazing Grace

My perfect "nude" lip colour has always eluded me. They're always either too dark or too light, too warm or too bright,  or just not quite right. (Sorry. I had to.) I can't say that I've found it in the combination of Charlotte Tilbury's Lip Cheat in Pillowtalk and Matte Revolution Lipstick in Amazing Grace, but it's a very, very good start. 

Background shot by  Andrea Torres Balaguer from Oh Comely magazine.

Background shot by Andrea Torres Balaguer from Oh Comely magazine.

Beauty bloggers the world over (well, mostly in the UK, but it feels like it) have been singing Pillowtalk's praises. I, however, don't really get on with it when worn by itself. The colour is basically perfect for me, but it's far too waxy and drying, and doesn't apply well when going over the entire lip (which I like to do, as opposed to just outlining the lips). I find that I have to just use it to outline the lip and feather slightly inwards, rather than covering the whole lip. Luckily this is a light colour, but I feel like that technique doesn't work so well with the dark colours if you're wearing lipstick that may or may not wear off unevenly.

Put this purchase down to a super helpful salesperson who was generous with advice. She asked me if I find a lot of lipsticks darken on me -- yes! All the time! I always just figured it was a quirk of my body chemistry and never put much thought into it, but she pointed out that I have quite pigmented lips which go quite blue-ish purple towards the corners. I have used concealer in the past to cancel out this base colour, but it's just too weird for me to do this on a regular basis. 

She also made me over with one of the quads (beautiful, but a tad too shimmery) and the Brow Lift (which I loved and will probably be my next CT purchase, after my Clinique brow pencil is used up). I then had a play with the Matte Revolution lipsticks, which were a stand out. I ended up purchasing Amazing Grace online (thanks, work discount scheme!) and am stoked with it. It's a dusty neutral pink, and the texture is beautiful -- smooth to apply, moisturising, and wears evenly. I also really like the squared-off shape of the bullet.

I'm sorry I don't have lip swatches or a full face shot. I have a mad case of seemingly intractable angular cheilitis which is only starting to come right, but I'd still rather not subject you guys to a close-up. You'll have to make do with an arm swatch instead

L-R: Matte Revolution Lipstick in Amazing Grace, Lip Cheat in Pillowtalk, the two combined.

L-R: Matte Revolution Lipstick in Amazing Grace, Lip Cheat in Pillowtalk, the two combined.

I'll probably always have a soft spot for this combination, regardless of performance, because it was what I was wearing when we got engaged.

Slightly worn off at this point after a M&S sandwich eaten on the Eurostar.

Slightly worn off at this point after a M&S sandwich eaten on the Eurostar.

This selfie was taken shortly before we went up the Eiffel Tower. I'll spare you the details, but basically -- freezing cold, a bit of swearing, champagne. No ring yet, we're looking. 

Beauty resolutions: skin, makeup, life

I'm old and decrepit enough to know that if my goals don't line up with my values, things don't really change. It's only really been the past couple of years where that point has been driven home. It's also hard to deny the allure of a shiny new year for a shiny new me — here are some things I want to work on, beauty- and life-wise. 

  1. Cleanse and treat my face when I get home at the end of the day, before I do anything else. I wrote about my simple skincare routine recently, and it's simple for a reason: I just can't be bothered with multiple steps right before bed. I have all these products I like or want to try out, so why not actually use them and give them more time to work? 
  2. Moisturise my damn legs.  
  3. Eat more greens. I like greens! I should eat more of them! I've been collecting recipes and ideas and want to implement them. 
  4. Play with more blush, and wear the damn lipstick.  
  5. Blog more. It's been a crazy old year with a lot of changes. Life is great, but the inconsistency has gotten to my blogging. Anyway,  less talk, more writing. I'm aiming for once a week to start off with — let's not get too crazy here.

Happy new year! Do you believe in making resolutions? Have you made any, beauty or otherwise?


A beauty blog tag

We have internet! It's currently at basically dialup speed, and I don't have high hopes of loading many photos, but I thought I'd get back in the blogging swing of things with this tag taken from Lena's blog. It's beauty-related, so there?

1. Is your hair naturally curly or straight?
Straight, but not super straight – I would say Type 1b.

2. What is your natural hair colour?
Very dark brown.

3. Do you dye it yourself or go to a salon?
I last got it dyed about two months ago, when I was in Wellington for a wedding and found a deal online. I asked for a cool brown but, curse be to the hair colour gods, it came out with a reddish tinge. Of course. Prior to that, I hadn’t dyed it for years. So many white hairs!

4. How often do you wash your hair?
Basically every day. Sometimes I stretch it out to two days, but that’s only if I don’t have anywhere to be, or if I’m sick. I’ve attempted the no-poo and low-poo thing a handful of times in the past, but it just doesn’t work – see answer to Q1.

5. Do you wear the same style every day or change it?
I wear it down 95% of the time, and I like as much volume as I can put in it in a short space of time. I’m a volumising product junkie.

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