Saturday 25 July 2015

DIY Gel Nails With SensatioNail

For someone who adores nail polish as much as I do, it's pretty strange that I've never actually looked into gel manicures before now. Don't get me wrong, I'm totally sold on the idea and I can see how gel nail polishes might solve all manner of mani-related issues; chipping, smudges, drying time etc etc... I've just never had the spare cash to go out and invest in a fancy Shellac mani at a salon. Recently, I was asked if I'd like to give an at-home gel polish system by SensatioNail* a try and, while I'm definitely no professional when it comes to applying nail polish, I was intrigued to see if an at-home system could rival a costly trip to the manicurist.

SensatioNail is a high gloss, damage-proof polish that claims no lifting, chipping or cracking for up to two weeks, offering results that, previously, were only available with salon services. Their starter kit is designed to last for years and save money and contains enough for 10 complete manicures.

What's In The Kit?

  • Gel Cleanser - Cleans the nail prior to application and removes the tacky moisture layer once the manicure is complete. 
  • Gel Primer - Prepares the nail for polish.
  • Gel Base/Top Coat
  • Colour Gel Polish - The shade I got in my kit was Scarlet Red (although, ironically, this is the only shade I have that I haven't tried yet)
  • Lint-free Wipes  - Self-explanatory really...
  • Pro 3060 LED Lamp - Quickly hardens the gel polish and seals in colour. A mains adapter is also included. 
  • Double Sided Nail Buffer
  • Manicure Stick


As a total noob to gel polishes I was a bit terrified of this, but it was actually pretty quick and simple. The steps for application were very clearly laid out. I'm not the tidiest of nail painters but I quickly got used to the polish. After cleaning and priming the nail, apply a single layer of the base/top coat and cure under the LED lamp for 30 seconds. The lamp is on a timer so no need to count, it bleeps after 30 seconds and then times out after a minute. Once the base coat is cured, two layers of the gel colour polish are applied, with 60 seconds of curing after each. To finish off, apply a final layer of base/top coat and clean off the tacky moisture layer with the cleansing solution. I found the whole process fuss-free and it was completely hard and dry by the end. 


I'd just like to stress again that I'm no pro when it comes to applying my nail polish, but I get by. It took me a couple of attempts to refine my application technique but, once applied and cured, the finished result is glossy, shiny and extremely durable. I did find, with the paler shades, that a third coat of the colour polish was required for it to be truly opaque, but the colours I was given are lovely. I love a pale pastel/neutral for summer. I wore Taupe Tulips to my graduation ceremony and got lots of compliments. I must get my hands on more colours! 

The Verdict? 

I like! As promised, the polish didn't budge for over a week (See above - I never quite managed to test it for the full two weeks because I like to switch up my colours more often than that). It's pretty easy to remove by soaking in an acetone nail polish remover for a few minutes, then lifted off with the manicure stick. I'll admit to peeling it off once or twice, although this was purely a result of me being clumsy with application and it lifting a little at the sides, but I wouldn't recommend it. I'll do as I'm told in future. I'm not sure I'd wear gel polish constantly as I feel like I need to let my nails breathe in between.

The starter kit I've been testing retails for £60. That translates as £6 per manicure, plus you've got your own LED lamp to keep forever. For me, that's a much better option than forking out £20 plus for each mani at a salon, making it a great budget option. As I've never indulged in salon gel nails, or other brands of gel polish, I can't truly comment on how SensatioNail compares but, compared to regular nail polish, there was no smudging, chipping or ferret-related accidents (seriously, the lil furballs seem to sense when I'm painting my nails and jump in to sabotage me). The biggest plus for me is the reduced drying time. The only time I ever feel truly helpless is when I have wet nails. 

For more info about Sensationail and browse their gorgeous range of shades, visit 

Are you a fan of gel nails? Do you prefer DIY or do you leave it to the professionals?


Wednesday 22 July 2015

Unboxing The Vegan Kind TVK21

Take a peek inside the box and read what I thought of the goodies!

Another month, another glorious The Vegan Kind* box! As I said last month, I usually post these reviews over on my vegan-only blog, but I'm crushing so hard on this blog at the moment and I thought I'd bring the cruelty-free treats to you for a second month in a row. After all, you don't have to be vegan to scoff all these yummy treats. Their July box was another hit (seriously, these guys have yet to get it wrong and, in my experience, it's rare for a subscription box service to be this consistent). Here's what's in it...

Ananda Foods Chocolate Marshmallow Lolly

I love Ananda foods. I was a hardcore Wagon Wheel addict as a kid and their vegan version is my guilty pleasure. Ananda make the best marshmallows and this one is made with organic madagascan vanilla and encased in dark Belgian chocolate. The sprinkles are a cute touch, although I only took half a second to appreciate their beauty before I devoured it. As a Derbyshire girl, I love that Ananda are a Derbyshire-based company. I will eat their sweets in solidarity for many years to come. 

 Harper's Bizarre 'Washing Line' Soya Candle

You'll probably see Harper's Candles appear again very soon on this blog because I happen to hoard them. After their 'Jingle Bells' candle appeared in the December TVK box I've been ordering regularly from them so I was delighted to see them included again for summer. I go bonkers for 'clean laundry' fragrances and this one is spot on. These candles are handmade, eco-friendly and from sustainably sourced materials. 

 Ten Acre Crisps - The Day Sweet & Sour Became Friends

You might have noticed that the packet in this photo is... well... empty. They didn't last a second after being taken out of the box. Despite being a total crisp-fiend I must admit I've never tried a sweet and sour flavour before. Sweet chilli, maybe, but never sweet and sour so this was a new one on me. Ten Acre crisps are fantastic quality and are free from gluten, MSG and dairy. Their cheese and onion flavour is the only one I've found that don't contain milk powder so, for that, I will love them forever. 

Clearspring Snack Organic Roasted Seeds with Goji Berries

I'm gonna have to get creative with these because, in all honesty, I'm not a huge fan of seeds on their own. I tend to prefer them in baking or sprinkled on breakfast. I do, however, make a point of trying everything so I will definitely give these a whirl. Clearspring have some great products. I love their pureed fruit pouches. 

Maple - Pure Maple Water

This is a first for me. I'd never heard of maple water until I opened this box. Is it a thing? Anyway, I'm not entirely sold on this. It just tastes like regular water that's been slightly sweetened and maple syrup was never my sweetener of choice. That said, it's not bad... just nothing special in my opinion. I much prefer coconut water. I do, however, love that TVK give you the opportunity to try products that you've never come across before. Keeps things interesting. I'm always discovering new foods now that I'm vegan. It's a never-ending journey haha. 

So, that was this month's round-up. I never have any disappointments with The Vegan Kind. They always manage to combine old favourites, new discoveries and different flavours that I would never have thought of in a million years. Roll on August! As always, 10p from every TVK box sold this month has been donated to a featured charity and July's choice is Wing and a Prayer, who rehome rescued battery hens in Scotland. 

To subscribe to The Vegan Kind check out their website at

You can also follow them via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

What are your favourite cruelty-free snacks? Do you love TVK? What did you think of this month's box?


Wednesday 8 July 2015

Perfect Stock Images (And Where to Find Them)

Finding and using great stock images that work perfectly with your blog or website

I've been blogging for just over 5 years now. Starting this blog in 2010 sparked a chain of events that have lead me to where I am in my life right now; fresh out of University with a degree in PR and Communications and about to embark on a new and exciting freelance venture. There has been much trial and error along the way, and I'm not exactly topping the blog popularity charts myself (yet), but I feel like now might be a great time to start giving something back to the blog-o-sphere and share some of what I've learned along the way. I'm hoping that, by introducing more blogging and social media themed posts to this blog, I might be able to inspire newer bloggers and give them a few hints and tips that I wish I'd had earlier on. In this post, I'm going to be sharing a few tips on how to find, select and use great stock photos on your blog...

Why use a stock photo?

Until recently I very rarely used images on my blogs that weren't taken by myself on my beloved Nikon. Early on it was because I was terrified of getting told off (I'd never heard of Creative Commons at this point and figured that using someone else's image on my site was tantamount to theft) but, latterly, it was more to do with pride. I wanted all of the images on my blog to be my own work. I felt like I'd be cheating by not taking every photo myself and that, somehow, it would make me a lesser blogger. To this day, I still strive to keep my blog photography mostly homegrown, but there are some situations in which I now prefer to use stock photography. As handy as I might like to think I am with a DSLR, I'm certainly no pro.

The most common way I like to use stock photos (not just on this blog) is when I'm making a title image that I will be sharing on social media. With so much emphasis placed on eye-catching imagery, particularly on social media, I find that a solid, great-quality image that captures the essence of the post is most effective when strategically edited and placed in a tweet or pin and really improves my incoming traffic. I'll choose the image based on the mood or topic of the post (see the above title image as an example) and then pop it into PicMonkey or BeFunky and edit it out with some text to make it fit. The images I use are usually either floral, blogging/tech-related or very plain to be used purely as a background for text. 

How to use stock images...

Given the appropriate permissions and attributions you can, more or less, do whatever you like with a stock photo. If you're looking to use more stock images to accompany your posts, the first thing I'd suggest to do is to get acquainted with the various Creative Commons Licenses  and the correct way attribute them on your blog. Some licenses allow you to do whatever you like to the image in the way of editing and adding text, some only allow you to use the image as it comes and some require you to pay for the right to use the image at all. The great news is that there are plenty of image sites out there that provide free images that require no attribution whatsoever (notice that I haven't cited a source for images used in this post). More on those in a sec... 

My Top Sites for Stock Photography...

Here are a handful of the sites I rate the highest when finding stock photos. Some are completely attribution free, some are a mixture, but they are the best I've found for the type of images I love to use and a great place to start. I tend to favour lifestyle-oriented images and anything featuring flowers and nature.

Unsplash - All images on Unsplash are free to browse, download, modify and use attribution-free. The images are submitted by the photographers. You can just browse or sign up to get 10 new images delivered to your email inbox every week. This is pure potluck and you don't get to choose which images you get, but they have some great ones. I could spend hours scrolling through them. All of the images in this post came from Unsplash.

Death To The Stock Photo - This site requires a premium membership in order to browse but, as with Unsplash, you can sign up for free to receive weekly images via email. It is run by photographers and is geared towards lifestyle imagery so is great for bloggers in that area.

Pixabay - Free to sign up and browse and many of their images are attribution-free (just be sure to check the permissions on the specific image you want). The search feature makes it really easy and quick to find exactly what you're looking for and the selection is fantastic. I typed in 'vegan food' once and came away with a serious avocado craving.

Homemade Stock Photography

Of course, it is possible to compile a collection of great stock images of your own. Every so often, usually when I'm visiting my family in Derbyshire (looking forward to moving back next month for this very reason), I love to grab my camera and get out in the garden or walk around in the countryside and take photographs of flowers and landscape. The title image for my 'Happiness Is' post was taken in my dad's garden. If you live near a park or community gardens, I'd highly recommend spending an afternoon there, even if it's just with your phone camera.

I really hope somebody finds this post helpful. I'd really love to start including more posts like this on this blog, alongside the usual beauty and lifestyle ramblings. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I will be moving away from London and back to the countryside in the next few weeks so posting may be a bit sporadic until I can get all this chaos over and done with, but I have a long list of posts I want to write in the meantime. If you have any particular blogging or social media issues you think I might be able to address here, I'd love to hear from you in the comments. I'd be happy to put something together if I can. Similarly, I'd love to know your own favourite sites for stock images. Browsing them is a great way to spend an afternoon.

How do you choose and use the perfect images for your blog? 


Wednesday 1 July 2015

Haircare Heroes for Long, Thick Hair

Product recommendations and tips for long, thick hair

I went for my annual haircut last week (as a former hairstylist I find I can keep on top of any split ends myself most of the time but, when it needs a thorough overhaul, I'll let someone else loose on it). Whilst I was in the chair it dawned on me that I haven't done a haircare post on this blog in a helluva long time. In truth, I consider my haircare regime to be pretty standard and boring, and it doesn't change much, however, I'm using some lovely products at the moment so I thought I'd share my haircare staples with you. My hair, while being quite soft and fine in texture, is very long and there is - literally - tons of it. It's thick and heavy and requires a firm hand... 

Product recommendations and tips for long, thick hair


It's very easy for me, as a stylist and as a blogger, to get caught up in designer hair product hype. I've been guilty in the past of brand snobbery but, since I've been trying to remain as cruelty-free as I possibly can, I've woken up to the beauty (and quality) of some own-brand products. Superdrug's own brand to be precise; it's really rather good and has been popping up in my hair, skin and makeup routines of late. My current favourite shampoo/conditioner combo is their Pro-Vitamin Silky Smooth range, with argan oil. The formula is rich and smells lovely and fresh. I can also get a brush through my wet hair after using it, which I can't say for some of the higher-end brands (Moroccan Oil, I'm looking at you here). It's just a great budget haircare range, and also caters to coloured and fine hair. I'm also a fan of the Heat Defense version. I'll usually wash my hair 2 or 3 times a week, depending on the time of year and what I've got going on. 

My product recommendations and tips for long, thick hair

Blow Drying 

As I mentioned before, getting a brush through my epic thick mane is no easy task, even when using a Tangle Teaser. I have to painstakingly brush it through in sections before drying. My hair also likes to wave and kink, and not in the good way. The best way I've found to handle it is a smoothing blowdry using my trusty ghd paddle brush*, which is not pictured in this post due to the fact that it is so well 'loved'. Perhaps time to replace that one, Lisa..
Before I blow-dry, I like to run a good 2/3 pumps of Macadamia Healing Oil Treatment through the mid-lengths and ends of my hair just to smooth things along and keep my hair soft and healthy. And can I just take a moment to emphasise how amazing this product smells...... Urgh. For anyone curious, I'm still using my DIVA Ultima 5000* hairdryer (seriously, this thing is indestructible). Given the ungodly amount of hair I seem to possess, it gets my hair dry relatively quickly and the adjustable heat and speed settings really come in handy. 

Product recommendations and tips for long, thick hair

Finishing & Styling

Half the time I don't put much effort into finishing or styling my hair for everyday because it just takes so long. I'll just blow dry it and run my straighteners through it and then leave it to its own devices until the next wash. After a day or so it seems to find its own natural movement. I love my ghd Gold Max Styler for straightening. My hair is so long, and so thick, and so relentlessly wavy, that regular ghds don't quite cut it and I need a wider plate. With these it's a much quicker task. I always do a good squirt of Percy & Reed Heat Protect Styling Mist, beforehand. I prefer it because it's a very dry formula and doesn't give my hair that sticky, clogged feeling I get from some creams and wet sprays. 

To finish, if I'm going out or to an event, I'll then add either Neal & Wolf Glow shine spray (which doubles as perfume, it smells that good) to add extra shine and tame any flyaways, or Tigi Catwalk Transforming Dry Shampoo when I want a more textured finish. I've mentioned the dry shampoo before on this blog and it's an old favourite. I have a love/hate relationship with dry shampoos but this one is definite love. It's also the only product I've ever found that can give my heavy mop some root lift. The texture it gives has a really matte finish and it's the sort of look I'd wear with eyeliner and a bold, red lip (I'm a rock star at heart.)

I guess I'm somewhat stuck in my ways when it comes to my hair but, if you're looking for solutions to thick, long hair-related issues, I'd recommend giving any of these products a try. My hair is currently more manageable than it has been in a long time. Just don't follow my example regarding the annual haircuts. Regular trims are your friend.

What are your essential haircare products?

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