Unexpected gems #1

Sometimes there are products you seem to write off before you even try them. Whether the marketing has targeted a different demographic to the one you are part of or the packaging isn't speaking to you, I know there are so many products I wouldn't naturally gravitate towards. However, being a beauty blogger has its perks. I get sent products to try that makes me open my eyes to new brands. I hope to bring some of these products (plus products I've picked up randomly!) in the Unexpected Gems series. 

Time Bomb is a range I knew largely from my mother's childhood QVC addiction and the link they have with the legend that is Lulu. I had always assumed the range was targeted a little older than my demographic but I'm happy to say I was wrong. If you love Liz Earle's Cleanse & Polish, you'll love this even more. It removes makeup easily and thanks to the microdermabrasion crystals, it gently buffs away dead skin cells leaving skin glowing! This is a great product for all ages - in fact I let my mum use it too and she adored it! 

I'd read so much about this scent online and it's likeness to many high end designer fragrances *cough cough Tom Ford*. This unisex scent is very unique - musky, sexy and fruity all combined. As it is an Eau De Cologne, this differs from the perfumes we are used to. Colognes like this one are a real mix of citrus oils. 4711 is the original cologne created in 1799 and the scent is what is worn by the central character in Breakfast at Tiffany's! The best bit about it is that is smells so expensive yet costs next to nothing - 100ml is less than £20! The bottle is super traditional so I love having it sitting out and it also comes in a spray version if this splash style bottle isn't for you. 

*PR Sample


I have posted on this blog so many times about being happy, confidence and body issues. I'd say 2017 was were I personally really hit a wall with my own confidence. After turning 25 last November, I really started to look at my life. I'm a clever girl with a good job but I don't have a significant other or a baby - 2 things that many of my friends seem to have and that I assumed I would have by 25. 

I started to blame myself, or rather, my own physicality for the lack of these. I had convinced myself no man wanted me because I wasn't a size 10. Even typing it seems insane. I have friends of varying sizes with & without partners. I didn't really have any concrete evidence of my lack of partner based on how I look but my stupid brain had convinced me this was the case. 

I'm so hard on myself - in any situation I will always blame myself no matter how big or small. I realised this is a really bad habit to have and that it was feeding my confidence issues. I was constantly making myself the problem or apologising rather than being proud to be independent, curvy or different from the crowd. 

However, this week when on holiday and after a good bit of soul searching, I realised my own hang ups are normal. All women worry about the size of their tummy, boobs, back fat... whether they are a size 6 or a size 16. I decided to post a picture of me in my swimsuit that proceeded to go viral with so many women praising my confidence - little did they know I've spent so much time this year crying in fitting rooms, crying at the gym and generally feeling awful! 

I feel like there have been a few things that have helped me this year to grow in confidence... I hope my tips help you to grown and to #RockYourBody, no matter what size or shape you are. 

Go easy on yourself
I'm a girl's girl. I will always tell my friends (or random girls in nightclubs when I've drank too many gins) that they/their makeup/their outfit is fleeky. I'm a strong believer in telling people they look fabulous - especially my friends who I know have their own body confidence struggles. I was not extending this rule to myself, frequently putting myself down before going on nights. I'm making a conscious effort to try to be more positive about myself. If you are quick to criticise yourself, others will be too. 

Surround yourself with body positivity
Around my birthday last year I moved jobs and with that came new work friends. One of these has turned out to be a ride or die friend - the type I know that will be clapping for me the day I get married. I've never met someone with such a fantastic outlook on life. She encourages me no end - the best thing she ever told me was that I'm such a prize and that I shouldn't need to convince myself of this. Her values on life align with me so it has been the most amazing thing to have someone who encourages you to be the best version of yourself. Find someone who does this for you, whether it be a work friend, partner or parent - it has made a huge difference to my life! 

Treat yourself
A huge part of me feeling awful about myself was the lack of 'chill time' I had. I was running around from blog events to work to other commitments. I had very little time at home to get a shower, do a face mask and do my tan - simple things that make me feel like the best version of myself. I am trying to get into better habits of having a daily time to look after myself - whether that be an hour in the gym or a 10 minute mask before bed!

I am so aware in writing this post that many women struggle unendlessly with their confidence. I've been on such a journey this year with mine - with very anxious periods and down periods where I have felt pretty worthless. Improving my confidence has started with myself being honest about why I struggle & being positive in my outlook about myself. I'm not encouraging everyone to post a swimsuit picture but the largest thing I took from doing that was that women are mostly kind & clap for other women. Over 200 women commented on the post and said I looked great or they wished they had my confidence. No one talked about my back fat, but rather my smile, contentment and confidence they felt was coming from the picture. Confidence, like happiness, has ebbs and flows but I'm glad I have a healthier outlook on myself moving forward. 

The battle of the House of Fraser Facials

House of Fraser Belfast has really upped its beauty game in the past year. With more hot brands on the floor than ever, the department store now rivals a lot of the big players across the water. One of the best parts of the revamp has been the introduction of new beauty rooms - 2 are home to Clarins and 1 is home to Estee Lauder.  They are located at the back of the store beside Nails Inc meaning the rooms are very peaceful! I have been spoiled and was able to try out a facial from both brands - which one came out on top?

Estee Lauder
I've really grown up with Estee Lauder as my mother is a huge fan. The House of Fraser team are absolutely lovely & 2 of the staff are now trained in the Re-Nutriv facial. 

The Re-Nutriv Estee Lauder room is only the third in the UK & Ireland (the other two are in Harrods & Brown Thomas!). This exclusive experience is an utterly luxurious way to immerse yourself in the Re-Nutriv range. The room is super sleek & glamorous, just like the skincare range. This range is designed to target ageing and the products are some of the most active on the market. Containing ingredients ranging from Black Diamond Truffle to 24K Gold, it's easy to see why this service is only available in the best of the best stores. The facial lasts just over an hour and is one of the most rich experiences I've ever had. The products are all magnificent & this is truly the best way to showcase them (I've been testing out the Eye Creme since the facial & I'm obsessed). The facial involves a unique technique that re-models the face using lymphatic pressure massage to remove any puffiness. My Re-Nutriv experience was fantastic & I felt like I learned so much about the brand. Overall, I would suggest this experience for those aged 35 + as the products are super rich and targeted towards those who are worried about the ageing process. My mum has just turned 50 and I definitely want to book her in as a treat. 

Cost: £50 booking fee which is redeemable off any product in the Re-Nutriv range (making it essentially free!)
Best for: First signs of ageing, exploring a new product range, Estee Lauder addicts, a post holiday treat 

Clarins is a brand that I've grown to love over the past few years. The room is different to the Estee Lauder one - it's a bit more comfy & homely. The facial started with me getting under a heated duvet. As someone who is the coldest person on earth, I was in heaven. I had a facial that would help with my breakouts and dehydration. Their facials are customised using their Boosters that are added to products to target specific problems. During the facial I also had a neck, shoulders and arm massage which was divine. This can be added to your facial taking your treatment time from 1 hr 25 mins to 1 hour 45 minutes!  I have to admit I was a bit sceptical about the Clarins experience as it's a little more expensive than Estee Lauder but it is far better than many facials I've had in actual spas. I booked mine for a Saturday morning, came in my sweat pants & actually fell asleep during my facial! Overall, a fantastic experience for any age!

Cost: Facials start at £70 and increase to £85 if you add a 20 minute massage
Best for: Targeting skin issues, existing Clarins fans, a mini spa experience in the city

The winner.....
It's hard to weigh the two facials up as they are very different brands and experiences. I definitely will return to Clarins again but whilst I'm there I'll send mum to Estee Lauder! I like to get regular facials so I think Clarins caters better to this as Estee Lauder is definitely much more of a 'treat' experience, especially as you get £50 off a Re-Nutriv product of your choice. Both are utterly fabulous with talented staff - take your pick based on your age, skin needs and product loves!

Visit both counters to book your appointments - tell them I sent you! 

*I was kindly gifted with an appointment for both facials. All opinions are my own. 

Timeless style

*This post was created in collaboration with Marks & Spencer.

M&S is a national institution and a huge part of my growing up. M&S is so reliable and consistent plus their Autograph line is one of my favourite ranges on the market.

M&S challenged me to pick an OOTD from their new collections after attending one of their amazing instore Sparks events. My life is very busy on the work front at the moment so I love to buy things that I can wear from the office and then on out for a few drinks. Plus, inspired by the timeless nature of M&S, I wanted to create an outfit you can wear aged 25 or aged 60! This shirt dress is a great length, beautiful fabric and really flattering. I am pictured here at the Belfast Photo Festival at the Ulster Museum. This dress kept me cool but still looked really dressy. I teamed my dress with gold block heel sandals  from Marks & Spencer (they also come in red!) which were SO comfy - I could imagine wearing these on holiday or on a night out to prevent sore feet the next day! My designer inspired pearl bag is so beautifully made - the chain is so sturdy! I can't wait to use this more over the summer months.

M&S is more than just clothes and Percy Pigs. In fact, my tan and nail polish in these pictures is also from M&S! I've long been an advocate of their tan. The Autograph Tinted Mousse is not only fantastic value but applies so easily. The colour is just enough to give a bit of a lift. My nail colour is Autograph All in One Nail Polish in Chilli. Again, the formula is an absolute winner and looks like gel!

Are you an M&S fan? Tell me what you love about M&S on Twitter @GemmaLEBond 

10 things I can't live without

In the midst of purchasing my second pair of the same trainers (Because I'd battered the first pair to death), I realised there's a list of things (beyond makeup!), that I seem to constantly either repurchase or use everyday. I thought I would share my ultimate 'Can't Live Without' list. I hope it inspires you for some new purchases that you know will be used time & time again!

Let's start with the reason I decided to write this post - my favourite trainers. I purchased a pair of Adidas Superstar trainers over 2 years ago and they were my constant weekend go to trainers. They are trainers that still manage to look dressy. I had the original black & white version but now have gone for the rose gold (as I can wear them with the ridiculous amount of navy clothes I own!). I remember owning these trainers as a kid so it's quite funny that I love them so much again. Team them with jeans & jumper or a leather jacket & culottes for the perfect off duty cool look. 

I'd say I'm into triple figures of how many of these I've gone through in life thus far. I have expensive mascaras and  other drug store mascaras but in all honestly, this is my go to. The formula is great but it's really the brush that makes this mascara. If you have thick lashes that need some length, this is the ideal formula for you. It's also great for doing bottom lashes plus it's a favourite of Kim Kardashian! For £10.99, it doesn't break the bank (I tend to stock pile them when they are on 3 for 2!). 

3. iPhone 7+ 
I upgraded to the iPhone 7+ recently. I constantly laughed at people with giant phones and didn't get the fuss. ... until I got one! If you are a photography enthusiast or a blogger like me, the iPhone 7+ is a must! The portrait mode on the camera is a game changer plus I never have to worry about storage. Plus, it's great for watching YouTube & Netflix on the go. 

Oh yes, Victoria's Secret Body Spray's aren't reserved for teenagers. In fact, my whole family use them including my 78 year old grandmother! I use them everyday before I get dressed as a little sweet spritz plus I stockpile them in our work bathroom. They are great for the gym or just to keep in your bag/car for on the go. My favourite's are Flirt from the VS Pink range and Aqua Kiss. 

5. Philips Sonicare Toothbrush
Over Christmas I had a really bad flu and felt sorry for myself as I didn't have the strength to do my usual post Christmas sales mad dash. So instead, I treated myself to a ridiculously expensive rose gold toothbrush (I blame the flu meds). It was reduced in the sales but it was still expensive. I had heard so much about Sonic toothbrushes and how good they are not only for your teeth but for your gums. Nothing else I've ever used has removed plaque the way this toothbrush does - the hygienist was forever shouting at me about my back teeth when I was doing my best to clean them. I truly couldn't live without this toothbrush now!

6. Sulphate Free Shampoo
I have really curly hair which I tend to hide through constantly blowdrying it out. The only thing that seems to keep the curls from turning to frizz is sulphate free shampoo. It keeps my hair cleaner for longer (hello twice a week washing) plus it makes it more manageable. I use an array of brands but I keep returning to Palmer's Shea Formula shampoo - affordable, leaves hair shiny and lasts for ages! 

7. GHD Brush
Again with the hair! I need a good brush to dry my hair and the GHD Brush in size 3 is the only thing that makes me have a salon perfect blow dry. The brushes are so easy to grip, heat up nicely and glide through your hair.

8. Real Techniques makeup brushes
I have countless different makeup brush brands but my Real Techniques brushes are by far my most used, most washed and most loved. The brushes are so affordable and last for ages. I recently just replaced one I had for over 3 years! I particularly love their new Multi-Tech range

9. Mulberry Lily Handbag
This is the most expensive purchase on the list but a worthwhile one. I wanted a bag I could use at the weekends that wouldn't be heavy but still carry loads as well as working for day & night. My medium navy Lily has been on many an adventure with me and they age so beautifully. A very worthwhile investment that will hopefully see my through the next 20 years!

10. Duster coats
It all started with a black linen coat from All Saints. In our climate, I feel like you always need a jacket on hand and duster coats are the perfect option - throw them on top of your work clothes or with jeans at the weekend. I have countless varieties - I've picked up great dusters in M&S and TK Maxx.

Let me know what you can't live without - tweet me @GemmaLEBond