Last-Minute Christmas Gift Guide: Beauty & Lifestyle

16 December 2022

If you gave me a penny for every time I've ambitiously announced, "this year, I'm going to have every single Christmas gift bought and wrapped and every card written in November!" then I would have... well, about 15p, but you get my drift. Less than two weeks to go until the big day and I'm still ordering last-minute presents (along with present-toppers from Etsy and hoping they come in time, of course) so if you're in the same boat, I am here to help with an utterly gorgeous range of festive offerings for your loved ones.

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Kicking this gift guide off somewhat selfishly, I have to admit, as this is my personal favourite category - I am always up for opening a Soap & Glory body butter or a Lush bath bomb! Laura Mercier have seriously brought it in 2022 with their gift sets, the star of the show being the Luxe Indulgence Ambre Vanille Set* - the packaging is to die fo plus vanilla, tangerine and brown sugar combine to make the dreamiest of scents that you're gonna want all over your bath and your body, let me tell you that much!

Temple Spa has become a staple for Christmas bath and body in our home as I'm never let down with the quality of their scents, even when I order online! Their Blissed Out set* is a self-care ritual in a box with a mist, bath soak, eye mask and massage oil melt to transport you to a) a state of total tranquility and relaxation, or b) total ecstasy! 

I would highly recommend the Fuss Free Shaving sets*, they have fab festive packaging and 20% off and free engraving to boot! Everything for a fancy shave and shower is included in the Temple Spa Fresh Start* Groom & Go gift set, and Kent Brushes do synthetic shaving brushes* with stands, my Will is a huge fan of his.

For a real treat (for you, and maybe a partner!) then the Douvall's Argan Massage Candle* has a divine Orangery Orchard essential oil scent and Vitamin E for ultra-nourished skin that smells like a spa. One of my current favourite bath products are Epsom salts from Westlab, in particular the Festive Duo* which comes with cinnamon, ginger & spiced orange and cedarwood, neroli & sage which are just as good as they sound. I treated myself to some Mirror Water goodies in the Black Friday sales and am obsessed!

One of the most grown-up 'main character' life moments I've experienced so far is getting a pair of silk pyjamas and making my morning cup of tea in them, so give the gift of feeling like you're starring in a Hollywood rom-com every single day with the Pure Silk Pj Set* from Soak & Sleep - I have the Antique Silver pair which are truly giving Cameron Diaz in The Holiday when she's in LA, and their Pure Cashmere Bed Socks* are so her when she's in Surrey. I'm a big fan of their Cotton Velour Bathrobe* for a cosy Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give vibe, too!

Lilysilk silk pyjamas are stunning also, this set* in the colour Blue Haze are the prettiest in my opinion. I recently discovered The Pillow Eye Mask* from Kitsch and it's so cushiony - as are these extra luxurious sleep masks* from Holistic Silk - plus they have a range of lovely and practical gifts like pillowcases and microfibre hair towels*, which I'll probably never be without since trying! Go into the Land of Nod even further with the Olverum Restful Sleep Pillow Mist* which has been so thoughtfully made, I really love it.

LilyCharmed are one of those jewellery brands with something for everyone - e.g. darling little bee earrings for a bee-loving friend* or starsign necklaces for an astrology-obsessed pal. My family got me a beautiful Carrie Elizabeth ring for my last birthday and I have so many of their pieces on my wishlist. Larsson & Jennings have a special place in my heart, as I got Will a watch from them with my first paycheque since becoming chronically ill and it's still his favourite almost a decade later! I have two of their Boyfriend watches* myself which I'm sure anyone would be thrilled to unwrap.

GAIA Skincare have so many options that come in package so festive that you needn't even wrap them - my pick is the Naturally Range Set* which comes with a face mask, serum and jade roller. Cult skincare lovers will adore Biossance Love, Joy & Bestsellers* - the clue's in the name, four of their bestselling products (plus an eye mask, and 30% off right now!) and The Ordinary have a whole host of gifts, including The Smooth & Bright Set*. 

Philip Kingsley has been one of my go-to haircare brands for years - their Body Building Jewels gift set* is perfect for anyone like me with fine/flat hair, and anyone who's new to the brand would love the adorable Little Gems Nourish & Shine stocking filler so they can try their iconic Elasticizer.

Our beyond wonderful Mum Says was asking me to choose something for myself from my parents, so I got the Glossier Holiday The Touch-Up Set which came with a rollerball of my beloved You fragrance and a limited edition Ultralip in a shade inspired by the red lid of the perfume bottle - genius! They have since stopped selling the sets which is a shame, but I'd so recommend their other sets and kits.

Other beauty gems include: a) the Stila Gift Of Grace* with their award-winning liquid eyeliner and a makeup perfecter, b) the Limited Edition Beauty Bag* filled with six fabulous products, c) Dr Paw Paw's Mini Shine Gift Collection* with three lip balms and d) the bareMinerals Warmest Wishes Face, Eye & Lip Trio*. Makeup bags always go down a treat too and Elizabeth Scarlett are some of the prettiest, see their bestsellers here!

You cannot go wrong with candles or reed diffusers, and the Temple Spa Rise Up Aromatic Christmas Candle* is one of the nicest scents I've come across in a long time comprising of rich plum, leather and floral notes. Aja Botanicals By Tilly Into The Mystic* is a similarly delightful cedarwood and lavender natural wax candle, and Douvall's Scents To Uplift* has three room sprays packaged in a luxury gift box. NEST's three-wick Blue Cypress & Snow candle* has a burn-time of up to 100 hours and the glass design looks super pretty when it's lit, plus it smells of juniper berry and smoked vanilla bean.

Finally, another Christmas classic category that you'll never go wrong with! For feminine scents: the new Prada Paradoxe* is all sorts of warm amber and neroli goodness, Carolina Herrera's Good Girl often tops 'people stop me on the tube to ask what this perfume is' TikToks. This year, I'm giving Will's mum Estée Lauder's Beautiful Magnolia and adore the Versace Bright Crystal* which is the perfect blend of sweetness and musk. For masculine scents: it's all about Versace in 2022 - go for Eros or Eros Flame, both are deliciously deep and woody yet fresh and modern at the same time. 

I really hope this has been helpful in finding something for the special people to unwrap and that you have a truly magical Christmas, see you in 2023 :) p.s. shoutout to my little 'helper' Millie who was very interested in me taking these photos, spot her little paw/claw!

The Product I'm Dubbing 'My Perfect Foundation'

26 November 2019

Benefit Hello Happy Soft Blur Foundation

Described as
"a smooth, flawless makeup base [with] light to medium coverage"

Meg says...
A foundation drop from one of my favourite beauty brands promising to be my "daily mood boost bottled" along with lightweight coverage? Yes, yes, triple yes. I'm constantly on the lookout for my perfect foundation and whilst I think I've found it in the Yves Saint Laurent Teint Touche Éclat, there's no harm in continuing that good old holy grail makeup base journey - so bring it on, Benefit!

Just downright adorable. Who gave Benefit permission to be this cute? The warm copper rose gold lid and nude base would've been enough on their own, but they've only gone and put an actual smiling face with loveheart eyes on it... it's almost too much. Continuing with the extremely cute theme it's small and dinky, but you get an average 30ml of product and it's the ideal smash and leak-proof bottle for travelling. The nozzle applicator means you can squeeze out just the right amount of product, and I do this directly to my face in little dots.

This has a beautiful soft gel formula that sits bang in the middle between thin and thick, as it won't run down your face but it holds its own! Give the bottle a little shimmy and a little shake before applying to ensure the product hasn't separated.

I couldn't find this more easy to apply and find it blends perfectly with a buffing brush like the Look Good Feel Better Multi-Tasking, something more traditional like the Brushworks Foundation Brush, a sponge like the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge or fingers. All of these techniques work equally well and the coverage is buildable so you can add more where you need it without worrying about caking.

I get a slight clean apricot fragrance from this that disappears once it's on the skin, but I've read quite a few reviews that say they notice no discernible scent.

I use Shade 1 and find it such a perfect match - it's the kind of shade that practically disappears as soon as it touches my skin and I never have to worry about telltale 'tide marks'. This comes in twelve shades altogether however, so not the widest range.

An evened-out complexion that looks fresh and healthy. This covers imperfections like dark circles or blemishes without eclipsing my freckles, making it one of the most natural-looking foundations I've ever tried. Even up close in a magnifying mirror it looks sheer and fairly undetectable and feels just as lightweight and breathable also. The finish is a radiant matte with impressive staying power, and I'd feel confident about applying this without a mirror which is the highest praise for a foundation in my opinion!


The bottom line
L-O-V-E. This is up there with my beloved YSL as a contender for my perfect foundation! I'm always so consistently happy (just like the fella on the packaging) with the way it makes my skin look and for that reason, it'll be in my everyday makeup bag for the foreseeable future.

Photos by Megan Duffield Photography

10 Things You Should Know Before A Campervan Trip

8 November 2019

1. You may as well have ‘TOURIST’ tattooed on your forehead. Nothing says ‘I’m on my gap year!’ more than a converted minivan in a hideous colour combo (Jucy - full review here - I’m looking at you) and you’ll be longing to blend in with the locals in their lovely plain trucks that aren’t neon with a silly slogan like “do you believe in love at first sight, or should I drive by again?” on the side. The only upside maybe is driving past a fellow backpacker in a Wicked camper that has Scooby Doo smoking a joint painted on it and thinking ‘…thank god we’re not in that'.

2. You know how you used to go to the beach and at the end of the day you’re just dying to get home and have a shower? Well, the beach becomes your shower, whether that’s a dip in the ocean or (if you’re lucky) in one of those free outdoor ones. You’ll remember running water that’s actually hot with fondness, have to sweep a ton of sand out of your bed every night and won’t think twice about whipping out your Gillette Venus to shave your legs in front of strangers. 

3. You don’t have to live off instant noodles. I love an instant noodle pot as much as the next person (really I do, I actually have a proper thing for them!) but you essentially have a mini-kitchen in the back of your car and it’s a real shame not to put it to good use. Not only is it the cheapest option (you can get four gas canisters at Cole’s for $5, then just search online for inexpensive one-pot recipes) but it’s really fun, too - my fondest memories of our east-coast road trip in Australia are cooking a hearty meal and then sharing it together.

4. You kinda have to be okay with creepy crawlies. From a giant huntsman spider making its web on your left wing mirror to a huge monitor lizard roaming around your campsite, you’re likely to see a whole host of wildlife on your trip. When you’re sleeping outside things tend to go bump in the night, whether that’s a possum on your roof or a bush turkey (known by locals as “bin chickens”) ripping apart your rubbish bag. Whilst it’s annoying to have mosquitoes and moths all up in your grill, you do eventually stop jumping at every single rustling noise.

5. Making friends requires a little more effort! When you’re staying in hostels meeting people is a given; it happens constantly and you’re bound to find someone that you click with. On a road trip however it’s just you driving from place to place, so you have to create opportunities for new friendships. We met our newfound mates mostly in social settings (in bars, playing pool etc) and also largely in campsites - never be afraid to say “we’re having a fire later if you fancy coming over for a drink”, as in our experience it always led to a really nice time!

6. Living on wheels means thinking about parking constantly. Obviously when you check into campsites (download WikiCamps ASAP) and are in rural areas or small towns then everything’s gravy, but cities can be a nightmare. Bear in mind that parking laws are likely to be different to your home country, too - we once got slapped with a $112 fine for parking front to curb rather than rear to curb. Totally legal spot in a cute little Aussie town centre, just popped into a shop to buy my dad a birthday card… $112 fine! Double check your parking signs, people.

7. You won’t realise how big a country is until you drive the length of it. Some countries are absolutely gorgeous to drive - take New Zealand for example, every corner you turn looks like a screensaver desktop - and others are a heck of a lot of highways and nothingness. Ways to make driving less tedious and actually really enjoyable include: good music (I’m a big fan of the ‘Songs To Sing In The Car’ playlist on Spotify), good conversation (e.g. travel with someone who you get on ridiculously well with) and good podcasts (my current favourites are Table Manners and Jules & Sarah).

8. You’ll become an expert at packing quickly. Overslept and wanted to be on the road by 8am? No problemo - the fiddly camper van bed-to-car routine that you couldn’t work out on Day 1 is now an absolute doddle, and Yesterday You did Future You a favour by washing up the plates and pans from dinner last night, yay! In the beginning it takes you twenty minutes to get the table and camping chairs out for your morning muesli, and by Day 5 you’re whipping breakfast together and having everything all packed up again before you can say “Scooby Doo smoking a joint”.

9. Quarters are close. If you’re travelling solo then please feel free to skip to #10, but if you’re not - I’m here to warn you that things are about to get intimate. I’m sure the person you’re embarking on this road trip with is someone you know well anyway, but prepare to know them in more depth and detail that you ever thought possible. The phrase ’24/7’ springs to mind and it could be make or break in some situations, so make sure you’re ready for that level of closeness.

10. Sometimes it all gets a little too much. Well done if you recognised that Shawn Mendes lyric there, you’re forgiven if not - sometimes camper van life is just a bit much. The weather can be a big factor: sometimes it’s unforgivably hot and you’re a sweaty mess who’s swatting mosquitoes and praying for cooler weather, then a cold snap arrives and you’re wearing so many layers that you look like Joey in that Friends episode where he wears all of Chandler’s clothes, shivering vigorously and praying for warmer weather. If you get sick of it, there’s no shame in booking an Airbnb for a night or two!

I know that reading this prior to your road trip might make it sound like a bit of a bummer, but remember that these are all of the things that I wish someone had told me and it’s therefore mostly stuff I would’ve avoided. What I can also tell you is that I’m happy for you just typing this, as travelling by camper van is such a flexible, convenient and downright amazing way to see a country and you’re about to have an unforgettable trip of a lifetime - bon voyage!

The Amazing-Sounding Cleanser That Left Me Super Underwhelmed

5 November 2019

Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Cloud Cleanser

Described as
"a non-stripping, fragrance-free formula that gently removes makeup, excess oil and impurities whilst moisturising skin"

Meg says...
I'm finally trying a Peter Thomas Roth product and boy, am I ready! Most of this eagerness and enthusiasm is fuelled by The Anna Edit and her rave reviews of the Pumpkin Enzyme Mask, plus the sound of this marshmallow-infused cleanser has me all riled up. In an 'incredibly excited about trying some a new skincare brand' way, of course.

I'm such a big fan - it's simple and no-fuss but pretty at the same time. I love the pale blue and there's something about the cloud print that makes me think of Ariana Grande which, let's be honest, is never anything but a positive.

This has a creamy-gel consistency that reminds me a lot of the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, just considerably thicker. They both have the same 'shiny' texture - it's super hard to explain, check Really Ree's review here for a close-up photo - and have quite a liquid soap feel to them.

Under no circumstances should you apply this to dry skin, as the soapy quality has a tendency to 'drag' and is much better suited to damp skin. It's more similar to a gel cleanser than a cream, foams when you massage it in and rinses off with water. I'm not keen on foaming products at all as I usually find them stripping, and unfortunately this is no exception. The description says it can be used to remove makeup but I had an awful 'oww, I'm basically rubbing soap into my eyes and it really stings' experience when I tried and see it as a basic face wash rather than a first/second cleanse or makeup remover.

Another gripe for me, sadly. This is fragrance-free, which will be amazing for sensitive skin types, but has a strong soapy chemical scent that I personally find really unpleasant.

Skin that feels clean, but uncomfortably so - after I've used this my face feels tight and 'squeaky' and I can't apply serum, oil or anything that moisturises to compensate for the tightness quickly enough. Whilst I don't feel like this would be a great option for anyone whose skin leans more oily or more dry, if you're firmly in the 'normal' category then you may really enjoy this as a morning or post-gym wash.


The bottom line
Bad reviews make me a sad reviewer, but honesty is key: I've given this a fair chance but find it doesn't do anything for my skin, and will therefore be passing it on to a friend (who may love it!) It's a shame as the description sounds so up my street - I'm a huge fan of anything with hyaluronic acid and the description that says it has "pure water vapour drawn from the clouds" had me weak at the knees. My skin was left dry and a little irritated and I'm much more inclined to use my trusty Fresh Soy Face Cleanser, but I can't wait to try more from PTR as I have a feeling this is a one-off thing!

Photos by Megan Duffield Photography