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 

How to summer proof your makeup

Every year around this time I get multiple emails from blog readers asking the same thing - how do I keep my makeup sliding off my face? The weather has started to get a little warmer and often the days seem clammy rather than warm. It's hard to keep a full face on all day at work, never mind if you are off partying in Ibiza! I have three top products I've been using for long-lasting makeup that you can rock all summer long. 

I've tried loads of makeup sprays over the years but Smashbox remains my favourite. Silicone, alcohol and oil free, I love to spritz this both before and after makeup application to set my makeup. It feels so light-weight and doesn't create a film on your face like some other sprays. I highly recommend this for warm holidays - it refreshes your makeup like nothing else! 

Laura Geller is a fantastic brand (those highlighters!) and I'm delighted that it's now available in Debenhams Belfast. The brand is well known for their Spackle range of primers - ranging from hydrating to neutralising. This variation is the mattifying version and is perfect for any of my oily readers. I tried this out on a warm day and my T-Zone remained oil free. Use this under your regular makeup for extra lasting power as well as a lovely smooth base for an airbrushed finish. 

I didn't powder my face for years. Apart from the odd night of heaving partying, I never felt the need. However, as I've gotten older I feel like my T-Zone needs a little bit more help. I searched for a powder that would be easy to apply and feel light - I didn't want it to add cake to my face. This powder is a huge industry favourite and I can understand why. It's so finally milled that you can barely feel it on your face. I adore using this powder and it was the definite reason my makeup didn't budge in the dry heat of Dubai. A little goes a long way with this product making it a very wise investment. 

*PR Sample. All views my own.

21st century burger

*Many thanks to McDonald's for sponsoring this post

McDonald's was a huge part of my childhood. Every Saturday, I went into Belfast with my grandparents and most weeks, my moaning for a Happy Meal & whatever toy was inside usually landed us in the Donegal Place store. It was cheeseburger Happy Meal for me & 2 x Fillet O Fish for granny and granda. 

As an adult, I still adore a McDonald's. There's something so comforting to know that for the past 20 years, their products are still the same. What isn't the same however, is how their stores look and operate. McDonald's kindly invited me down to the Sprucefield Centre branch to experience their new look store. Not only does the store look fabulous but they've stepped up their game in terms of technology! 

I learned 4 main things (and also lots of little surprising things!) during my hour behind the scenes at McDonald's:

It's a big operation
The Sprucefield Centre McDonald's is the busiest franchised drive-thru in the UK! Over 1000 cars visit every day and they have over 120 members of staff. I never realised this because the kitchen is segmented for all of the different operations (drive-thru, drinks & desserts, cooking etc) so you often don't see all of the team behind the scenes!

Team work is everything
It takes a production line to make a burger. I was so impressed at the accuracy and speed at which the team carefully create everything from a Big Mac to a McChicken sandwich. It's a carefully constructed operation and the kitchen is incredible. Everything has a place & things turn around so quickly! Full time McDonald's staff take 8 months to train & they learn all parts of the business making them fully equipped to make a delicious burger or to deliver excellent customer service at the drive-thru window. 

They are forward thinking
McDonald's Sprucefield is one of the many new Experience of the Future stores. This means you can step into the store, order your food easily on a screen (a bit like a giant iPad), pay with your contactless card and take a seat - YES THEY HAVE TABLE SERVICE! This begged the question about staffing - did it reduce staff numbers? In fact, quite the opposite. Becoming a Experience of the Future store actually requires more staff both on the floor to ensure customer satisfaction & in the kitchen to cook everything from fresh. 

The possibilities are endless
With the new screens in store, it's even easier to customise your order. The screens also help you to track the calories in your food as well as explore many more new options - who knew they did Toffee Lattes or Fish Finger Happy Meals? 

It was truly an eye-opener to make my own burger & really appreciate something that seems often so instant! Many thanks to Rita & the team at McDonald's Sprucefield for a fun experience!