Instagram

House of Fraser Skincare: Origin's GinZing Eye Cream

Origins GinZing Eye Cream 

House of Fraser's skincare promotion is continuing until the 1st February. If you spend £75 or over on  skincare, you will receive 1000 extra points on your recognition card. A great excuse to kick start the new year with fabulous skin!

House of Fraser kindly sent me Origins GinZing Eye Cream to try out as it is one of their best selling products. I have tried a few things from Origins over the years but it's always a brand I feel I want to invest in more. Unlike a normal eye cream, this formula is specifically for the under eye area in the morning to awaken and revitalise the area. As you can see from the picture, it is not your traditional white eye cream. The tinted, pearlescent formula is what has made it an award winner. The ingredients include complex of Caffeine from Coffee bean, Panax Ginseng, Magnolia Extract and natural optic brighteners in order to depuff and brighten dark circles.

The question is does it work? I'm happy to report it does! As a raging insomniac, I was thrilled to try out a product with such bold claims. I do suffer from dark circles through tiredness and also dehydration. A smaller than pea size amount is needed for both eyes and I gently pat this in with my ring finger post cleansing and moisturing in the morning. However, my only gripe with this product is that if you are in a rush it can cause some makeup smudging. It needs five minutes to sink in before applying makeup otherwise you can end up with unattractive panda eyes! 

For £23, I could imagine this pot lasting for six months or more. The amount needed is so small meaning that although it pricier than high street brands, it truly is an investment.

Overall, this is a fabulous product for all ages and both sexes. I think this would be a GREAT eye cream for busy mums, tired dads and hard-partying students. 

The best products to maintain your hair extensions


I've been living this long hair life for about three weeks now. So far, I love it. I feel like a new woman. But my new hair requires some looking after. You have to use sodium free shampoo to keep the extensions in tip top condition.

I have been using products from the L'Oreal Professional range to care for my hair. These are sold in La Bella Vita where I had my extensions done and they kindly gifted me shampoo, conditioner and oil to keep my hair looking great. There are lots of high street brands that also make sodium free shampoo and I will try some of these too as an alternative option. Though, it seems to make sense to use a really good shampoo after spending lots of money on making your hair look long and gorgeous.

For shampoo, I've been using L'Oreal Professional Liss Unlimited. This cleanses and purifies the hair whilst nourishing it with lots of oils. The shampoo is purple is foams up nicely. Conditioner can only be used in the mid-lengths and ends as conditioner near the root can cause the extensions to come loose. I've been using the L'Oreal Professional Absolut Repair Conditioner which is intended for damaged hair but works great on extensions that need lots of love. I would recommend this for those of you who have colour treated hair, with or without extensions. It really makes my hair shiny and I notice a difference if I don't use it.

If you hadn't already sensed, oils are key to maintaining extensions. Post washing, I put some L'Oreal Mythic Oil through the mid-lengths and ends. I've always been a huge fan of Mythic Oil and it's great as an overnight treatment too. To brush my hair, I start at the bottom of my hair and brush upwards in small sections using my Tangle Teezer. Every girl needs one of these- they are the best every beauty inventions if you have hair that gets very knotted when it is wet. Thus far, I have coped with my new hair additions- they are definitely much easier to wash and maintain than I thought they would be!

Let me know if you have any great products to use on extensions below or by tweeting me @GemmaLEBond. 

The best paint & go nail polish



So I've been keeping a secret over the last few months. The secret comes in the form of the Collection Lasting Gel Colour nail polishes. Since buying these in the depths of winter, I have used them consistently every week. I bought the Antique Rose colour (left) as I wanted something to match many of the browny-nude lipsticks I had been wearing. It's the perfect everyday nail colour. The formula is truly amazing. No base coat or top coat are required (I actually found they made the nail polish not 'set' particularly well) and I find I can get away for 5 days with no major chipping occurring. I bought Daredevil (right) soon after my first purchase and it's also a fab colour. It's like the grown up sister of Antique Rose and perfect for nights out. The brush makes application simple with two strokes being enough to cover the nail. 

If you are like me and trying to go gel nails/gel polish free in 2015, Collection Lasting Gel Colour polishes are a must to keep your nails looking glam whilst not damaging them. And the best bit? They retail for a bargain £3.19! 

The big blow-dry challenge: Bellaire



I've always loved having my hair blow-dried. I have naturally very curly hair and I remember at aged 8, my mum let me get it blow-dried out. I felt like such a grown up!

Now as an adult, I'm even more obsessed with blowdrying after a trip to America last year. I had a hairdresser in New York blow-dry my hair and WOW it is was big. The thing that stuck me the most was the technique she used- it was all about rolling her brush rather than the tension method that is more commonly used here in Northern Ireland. So I've gone on a little mission to find the best blow-dry in the land. I do have extensions at the moment meaning fewer hairdressers are game for the challenge but  I will only keep them for half of the year, allowing my natural hair to be blowdried over the summer and winter months. If you want to get involved, email me on thatbelfastgirl@hotmail.co.uk

First to step up to blow-dry my mane was Jourdan from Bellaire. Bellaire is facing the Belfast Telegraph Offices and is hugely popular with ladies who love to be glam as they offer a wide array of both hair and beauty services. 

The salon
Bellaire is bright and airy. It's modern but still very welcoming. The black, white and red theme is consistent throughout the salon. The chairs you sit in are very comfortable and have huge mirrors. They also have a drinks menu available so you can chill whilst you have your treatment. I noticed they also had a board of looks they had created for clients. I thought this was a lovely touch and it's great for real life women to take inspiration from others.

The products
When looking after hair extensions, you need to be careful with the products you use. Shampoo needs to be sulphate free and condition can only be used through the ends. Jourdan washed my hair using the Wella Brilliance range (which smelled lovely!). Extensions become very heavy when wet so after squeezing out some of the water and brushing my hair with a Tangle Teezer (they sell these in the salon and they are great for curly hair or extensions), Jourdan sprayed some Lisap Absolute Keratin and Argan Oil into the the roots and lengths of my hair. This wasn't a product I was familiar with but apparently it's popular as it smooths the hair for a blow-dry. She then applied some Morrocan Oil in the ends. Oils are key to keeping extensions looking healthy and keeping them in tip-top condition. 

The blow-dry
Jourdan first rough dried my hair until it was about 90% dry. She then sectioned it off and blow-dried each section with a round brush. She blow-dried it with a curl in the end, then went over this section and GHD curled it. She set each section in a velcro roller to cool. Jourdan lastly brushed through the curls to separate them and backcombed the roots a little for a bit of 60s glam. Jourdan was such a lovely girl and I enjoyed chatting to her as much as I enjoyed her doing my hair. I think this is as important as the actual hairstyle as a lovely person will make you want to return to the salon as you know they make you feel fab about yourself!

My blow-dry lasted for 3, almost four days. I did not dry shampoo it or touch it with styling tools in that time so I was hugely impressed by the results. If you love big sexy hair for a night out, I highly recommend Jourdan at Bellaire. Her technique was very effective and is one I will attempt to recreate at home. 

Many thanks to Jourdan and the Bellaire Team for a lovely experience at the salon. 

Marks and Spencer Spring Preview 2015


I was so delighted to be invited over to London for the press preview of M&S's Spring 2015 selections. Held in an studio space, the room was divided into the different upcoming holidays using stalls like a fete or a fair. I absolutely adore M&S so as an avid fan, it was amazing to see what is coming up over the next few months. Many of the people who work to delvelop the products were also there so it was amazing to chat with them about why they were doing things differently thing year or why they picked certain products to join their line. I have divided this post into different sections in order to make it a bit more readable. I hope you enjoy it and look out for your favourite products over the coming months!

Flowers

M&S is the place I always head to buy flowers as a gift. I find that they are very reasonably priced and last for ages! The courtyard of the studio was completely covered in flowers varying in price from £10 to over £100. All were absolutely stunning but I really took to the yellow and orange tones as I think they can really brighten up a home.  


Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day at M&S isn't simply about couples. They had lots of really sweet things that would make a gift for someone you love whether that be your partner, mum or your little boy or girl. I loved the Valentine's PJ's which had Love Hearts style statements on the bottoms and Nuts About You (peanuts covered in caramel and chocolate- DIVINE!). There was a wide array of beautiful cards and wrapping paper for the holiday. Also in this section I also spied some new makeup- DD cream, new blushes and an Emma Hardie fact kit. M&S stock many fabulous brands and Emma Hardie is soon to join their portfolio, making the luxury brand that is sold in Space NK, more readily available. 

Weddings

This was the portion of the press show that really shocked me- who knew that M&S offered such great things in the way of weddings? From wedding cakes (the one pictured costs £199) to cute wedding gifts and bridesmaid dresses, M&S had well and truly upped their wedding game! The red bridesmaid dress featured ties in a variety of ways making it perfect for your friends of all shapes and sizes. To be honest, I think it's so beautiful that I would happily wear it on a night out and you'd never get bored as you can change up how it looks. 


Mother's Day

The Mother's Day offerings were so cute. From cushions to cups, there were lovely things that any mum would appreciate. I spotted some stunning rose gold photo frames that I took a shine too. They looked much more expensive than their price tag. 


Things I am lusting over...

There were a few things I spotted that I really want after spying them at the press show. Firstly, the white lace top from Autograph felt like a high end designer garment and I think I would wear it time after time. I can imagine it with a high waisted leather skirt and nude heels for a night out. I also was intrigued by the Autograph Eye and Brow Collection (since I am the Queen of Brows!). Autograph makeup has never disappointed me so I look forward to trying this out. Lastly, the super soft Limited Collection brushes are top of my "want" list. I shared this picture on my Facebook and everyone seemed rather taken with them too. They are very soft and good quality- the smallest of the three looks perfect for concealer. 

Easter

I seemed to spend most of my evening at the Easter section. I don't know about you but in my house, Easter is a big holiday. We always have a family dinner and giving eggs is a big tradition whether you are young or old. New for this year are the Hot Cross Bun Loaf and Hot Cross Bun muffins, turning the usually sweet treat into something more savoury. The array of cakes and eggs was overwhelming with the brand new Coco Panda and Nancy Hen being my favourite for an array of ages. Another huge exciting release for 2015 is Percy's Happy Family- yes Percy and Penny had babies! They are super tasty and will launch later in the year. 

Needless to say, after the press show I was stuffed with chocolate and Easter treats!

Many thanks to Nadine and Louise for making my trip so enjoyable!

Benefit's New Products: Roller-Lash and Puff Off


If you follow my Instagram or Facebook, you would have seen me attend an event with Benefit Cosmetics. I had an amazing evening (in a giant Benefit Lorry made to look like a 1950's hair salon!) but due to a formal announcement this morning, I had to wait to post about the amazing new products we were given to try out.

I think every girl loves something from Benefit and has it in their collection. Benefit are launching 2 new releases in the next two months. Firstly, at the end of January Puff Off is hitting counters. The name alone is fabulous! The concealer formula is dispersed via a mini metal iron that aims to cool and sooth under eye puffies. This is a must for anyone that suffers from insomnia (i.e. me!), new mums, students who like to party or those who don't wear much makeup but like to hide any little flaws. The formula is very light and it really brightens the under eye area. It reminds me a lot of the YSL Touche Eclat. Many people use the YSL as a concealer when in fact it is a brightener. Benefit's Puff Off is ideal for those who need that under eye lift whilst still covering the bags!

Secondly, Benefit is launching their new mascara at the end of February. Many of you will be Bad Gal or They're Real fans so this is another mascara to add to their portfolio. I have to admit that I'm not a They're Real fan but used many a tube of Bad Gal in my youth. Roller-Lash uses amazing new brush technology to curl your lashes. The brush is key to how this mascara works with tiny hooks to make straight lashes go from 0 to 100. I have been trying this mascara out and absolutely love it. I makes my lashes look long and separated and it also works fantastically on bottom lashes too. Another bonus is that it's easy to remove- hooray!

Although Roller-Lash doesn't hit counters for another month, if you pick up the March Edition of Elle Magazine you will be able to try it out before you buy the full size! A mini version is free with the magazine (I always love these for my handbag!). 

Many thanks to Benefit for a great night of laughs and two great new launches. Let me know what product you are looking forward to trying the most by commenting below or by tweeting me @GemmaLEBond. 

HOUSE OF FRASER SKINCARE: CLARINS DOUBLE SERUM


To celebrate House of Fraser's skin promotion that is running until the 1st February, I am trying some of their best loved skin products that you can receive as samples during the promotion (Terms and Conditions apply). If you spend £75 on skincare up until the 1st Feb, you will receive 1000 bonus points on your House of Fraser card- perfect time to revamp the routine for the new year.

The first product I was sent to review is the Clarins Double Serum. I remember there being a big hype around this product during its release. It seems targeted as an anti-aging product but at 23 years old, I was concerned it would be too heavy for my skin. I have quite normal but dehydrated skin. Generally my skin loves serums and oils and drinks them up. Clarins Double Serum has two parts to it- an oil based part and a water based part. When pumped, they combine. With over 20 plant extracts to boost the skin to make it look firmer, smoother, glowing and reduce pores, Clarins Double Serum makes some bold claims matched with the £55 price tag. I was expecting big things from the get-go with this product and I wasn't disappointed.

The instructions recommend two pumps in the morning and at night before moisturiser. I first tried this at night time and woke up thinking that I looked a little bit more refreshed and glowing than usual. I've used it for about a week now and I've noticed a huge improvement generally in my skin texture and how my skin looks with makeup on top of it. 

If you are oily, I would recommend you only use this at night-time as using it in the morning could be too much (especially if you are very oily around the t-zone). Twice a day is fine for my normal/dehydrated skin which seems to really enjoy the ingredients of this serum. Although £55  seems like quite a lot for a serum, the 50ml will last me for a significant amount of time. I think I will start to use this just at night as it leaves my morning face looking much more appealing than usual! 

New year, new smell


Every Christmas my mother buys me a new perfume. She usually asks me to list a few that I like and she will surprise me. This year, my list consisted of Tom Ford Black Orchid, Chanel Chance Eau Fraiche, Jo Malone Wild Fig and Cassis and Elie Saab. My mum opted to buy me Elie Saab, largely I think because she had smelled a tester of it on me and liked it! It's one of those perfumes I seem to always look at yet I've never managed to buy. I absolutely love the bottle. It looks so classy sitting on my dresser and like many of my favourite perfumes, the bottle weighs an absolute tonne! 

Unlike many of the other fragrances I own which usually have floral top notes, this has top notes of orange blossom and jasmine middle notes. I must admit that I love Elie Saab Le Parfum the more it settles in to the skin. It is a long lasting fragrance- one of those 'I sprayed it on my scarf last week and I can still smell it' sort of types. It also has been really remarked on by my friends and family when I have worn it as they have noted it is a quite unique fragrance. I think like Chanel and Jo Malone, Elie Saab is timeless and I could imagine wearing this in 50 years.

A possible new signature scent!

The everything bag



I am only getting used to life with long hair. I feel like I look so different and all of my clothes look weird! I don't like anything too fussy or that my hair might get caught in! As usual, Sunday brings shopping for me (time to ditch the Christmas biscuits well and truly). So, I always wear something comfy. Firstly, my jeans are the Super High Waisted kind from Primark. I have these in every colour as they are only £10 and are a great shape for anyone will a big booty and hips. My shirt is very old and from Gap. I adore the colour and it washes fabulously but because of the fabric, it creases quite easily which is my only annoyance with it. My gilet is a sale purchase from Mary Portas at House of Fraser. I had been looking for a gilet for the longest time but I wanted one that would cover my bum. This is nice and long and the faux fur only covers the front half, meaning I feel just that bit slimmer! My watch is from Next and would make the perfect present for any rose gold enthuastist. 

Finally, my bag is from Jaeger. I wanted a black leather bag for a long time that I could use for university and meetings. The Jones Tote is perfect as it has three compartments- one in the middle with a zip, perfect for your laptop or iPad. It is made from Saffiano leather which is hard wearing and easy to wipe clean. I actually ended up purchasing the matching iPad mini cover. I feel like a very professional business woman now! I know this bag will be used for many years to come- a truly classic buy.

Getting my dream hair at La Bella Vita

Before, after and curled
I've never had long hair and I've always wanted it. I have frizzy, curly hair that I need cut regularly and I'm also very impatient. So when La Bella Vita Hair and Beauty contacted me to see if I would like hair extensions, I was over the moon. I know some people find extensions controversial but if you have good natural hair and are patient in looking after them, they can cause no damage. It is like anything you do to your hair- colouring, treatments etc. They all need maintained and looked after to achieve the optimum effects and the least damage possible.

Many weeks ago on my Facebook, I had a very long debate about hair extensions in Belfast and where offers the best type. By far, La Bella Vita came up trumps with many of my readers saying they had used them and were impressed. La Bella Vita are based on the Upper Newtownards Road in Dundonald, close to the Ulster Hospital. They offer nano ring, micro ring, keratin bonded and clip in extensions. I wanted to have a permanent hair fixture so opted for micro ring extensions. These are strong, discreet and comfortable. At my consultation, I was told these would be best for me as my hair grows quickly and they can be maintained and moved up every 6-8 weeks,  meaning I would get longer out of my hair extensions. All of the hair used is AAAA grade and double drawn, meaning it is  the same thickness from root to tip. This was very important to me as I wanted to have super thick, Kim Kardashian hair. The hair is Indian Remy which is great as when it is dark, it has not been treated much meaning I will get much longer from my hair.

I was so interested in the story behind La Bella Vita- two best friends Katie and Sarah started doing extensions initially on each other as they were huge fans of having luscious locks. They attended extension courses whilst studying at university (Film & Photography and Cardiology- clever girls) and got clued into all the latest techniques. They soon began doing their friends hair and the business grew out of Katie's home. La Bella Vita soon became a well know name in Northern Ireland for extensions and they opened their salon 8 months ago. Their salon also offers hair colouring and cutting (which is great as many hairdressers do not work with extensions) as well as many fantastic beauty treatments. The salon is absolutely gorgeous. It is so girly and comfortable; something that is very important when you need to spend significant time to get your extensions in.

My extensions were applied by Katie who is one of the most lovely, fun people I've ever had to my hair. She really wanted my hair to be perfect and knew it would take a little bit longer as I have naturally thick hair. My hair required 250 bonds and this took just shy of 3 hours to apply. Micro-ring extensions are quick to apply and maintain as they connect the hair using a tiny ring which is then clamped shut. At my maintenance, the ring will be opened and pushed up. I only had the ends trimmed off the end of my 18 inch extensions (they also come in 20 inch if you really want to feel like a mermaid) as I wanted them to be as long as possible. Katie then curled my extensions with the GHDs. Curls hold really well in extensions meaning less damage to your hair in general. I can't wait to style my hair so many different ways over the coming months!

Stay tuned over the next few months as I post about living with my hair extensions- I feel like a new woman! I will post a separate post about how I look after my extensions as I know it's one of the biggest questions that people will ask.

For more information about La Bella Vita including treatments offered and prices, visit their websiteFacebook or ring the salon on 028 90 480530. 

2015 vibes




New Year's Resolutions seem to mean less when you get a bit older. For 2015, I'm all about changing my habits rather than denying myself something. I am a very focussed person and when I put my mind to it, I can achieve big things. Often all I need is a few simple goals slotted into my daily routine to make a difference.

My biggest habit that I need to sort out is my sleep pattern. I am an extreme insomniac. I can go crazy amounts of time with little sleep but usually, this ends up in me getting very ill. Also, it's not very good for my mood! I've already made headway with this goal as I have tried to sort out my sleeping pattern post Christmas where I was staying up chatting to all hours....! I also have a back problem at the minute that is effecting my sleep but I am due a medical procedure soon that should hopefully help sort this out. 

My next habit I want to get into is reading for pleasure. I am currently in my fifth year of university. I am a very studious person and academic reading does not phase me. However, it does leave less time for reading for pleasure. I love autobiographies as I'm obsessed with real life stories that can inspire you. I'm currently half-way through #GIRLBOSS and I'm really enjoying it. My goal is to try and read at least one non-academic book a month. My mum bought me an iPad Mini for Christmas that will also make reading much easier on the go. I have no excuses any more! 

Lastly, I want to spend more time off-line than I do online. At the end of last year, I decided to turn my notifications off Twitter so my phone was not pinging every two minutes. I have found that I check my phone much less and I really enjoy the company I am in if I am out for a coffee or dinner. I am to gradually turn the rest of my notifications off. This isn't easy given I run a blog but I do work almost "office hours" where I am on my laptop during the day. I hope that this will help with my sleep pattern and also give me more time to read!

Let me know what your 2015 goals are below!

Dealing With Anxiety

Flowers from Ferguson Flowers
I am the most out-going person you will ever meet but for many years, I have struggled with anxiety. Initially, it was something that came in bouts at stressful times but in my late teens it started to become a daily struggle. Although I do feel like it is a lot better now, I still do have terrible bouts. I had a bout recently that made me feel I was back to square one but luckily I have learned some great methods to deal with my anxiety. Thanks to a great therapist (that I have no shame in admitting I use!) and some great friends, the anxiety has become easier to deal with. I think anxiety is something that people often make light of but it can cause so many problems emotionally and physically if it is a daily occurrence. I hope anyone who struggles with their anxiety finds some comfort in my tips. (N.B. I am not a doctor or a therapist, these are just tips from my own experiences that I hope you find helpful)

1. Know your triggers
If you are someone who suffers from anxiety, you will know there is something that will set you off. For me, it's that feeling of being overwhelmed. With my last bout of anxiety I had started a new university course, attended 3 funerals in 3 weeks and had been struck down with the shingles all within the space of a month. I literally was knocked off my feet and didn't know what to do. For many people, exam stress is a big trigger. In many ways, it's like spotting the signs of a cold before you wake up with a head like a sponge. Unable to sleep? Feeling very restless? The anxiety might be creeping back in slowly but surely. 

2. Find your comfort blanket
Once you've realised that you are having an anxious episode, what can you automatically do or who can you turn to? I always find that going for a big long walk can really help to clear my head and calm me down. Often it means just taking a day to do nothing but watch rubbish TV on the sofa but sometimes it means you may need to have a person that you can turn to whether that be a parent, friend or medical professional. 

3. Talk it out
Post grabbing on to your comfort blanket (metaphorical or physical blanket!), seek to talk about what is bothering you. I have found that by far, this is the easiest method of helping to bring down the anxiety levels. At first, it might be hard to open up to someone if you have never discussed your anxiety issues before but you will soon find that a great friend will be encouraging and helpful. 

4. Breathe easy
With my anxiety, comes a lot of panic and the odd panic attack. It's great to remember to keep your breathing in check. Using an app like Breathe2Relax on your phone for five minutes can help to simmer down some of the anxiety you are feeling. There are lots of apps you can choose from or even just stick some calming music on for a few minutes and shut your eyes. It took me a long time to get into the habit of this but once you do, you realise how simple and effective it is. 

I hope my tips helped you and wherever you are in your anxiety journey, that 2015 brings some relief for you.