Sali Hughes: Your Straight-Talking Beauty Companion

sali hughes beauty companion

Well here’s your Christmas shopping completely sorted; beauty journalist Sal Hughes’ new book, Pretty Honest, is available to pre-order. Get one of these for each and every girlfriend, for your Mum, for your sister and your boyfriend’s sister, for Auntie Jeanette and Mrs Hamblewick the pre-school teacher, for Kirsty up in Scotland and Babs who moved to LA… Order a whole stack of them and then sit back, put your feet up and have a nice glass of wine. Because I can’t imagine anyone not finding this book useful; whether you’re a seasoned cosmetics addict or a total beauty disaster-zone you’ll be hooked from the very first sentence. Sali has the kind of writing voice that manages to be warm and friendly at the same time as being completely and utterly no-nonsense. Her advice is frank and truthful but it never feels too blunt, she’s not afraid to call out the worst of the beauty mistakes but then always comes up with the goods in terms of fixes and remedies. Red lipstick, flat roots, fringes that won’t sweep to the side as they should – there’s an answer for pretty much everything.

Complete novices to the world of beauty will find this book to be indispensable; it starts at the very basics (how to cleanse, how to choose a moisturiser) and moves on to nail painting, makeup application and the de-mystification of such things as winged eyeliner and contouring. Advanced beauty aficionados will absolutely devour every word of it because even the basics seem new and exciting when you’re given them in such an engaging way. Whatever your interest in beauty, whether it’s all-consuming or a simply a necessity so that you can look and feel presentable, there will be something useful or titillating or eyeopening in every chapter.

book review sali hughes

I blanked out half of my Saturday so that I could just curl up with Pretty Honest and read straight through, but I couldn’t resist a little peek when I was eating breakfast and then, an hour and a half later, I realised that I was still in my dressing gown and late for a shoot! So I most thoroughly recommend. I think that the chapters on Beauty and Motherhood and Beauty in Illness are particularly useful and will be poignant for many people; again, Sali gives her advice in that wonderful, frank-yet-compassionate way. Always professional, always to-the-point, but with just the right amount of personal experience and anecdotal material to make you want to race to the end of the book, take a deep breath and start it all over again.

Pretty Honest: The Straight-Talking Beauty Companion is available for pre-order now; it comes out on Thursday so I think it would be delivered on Friday next week. And I would go for the hardback, too – this is definitely a book that you’ll want to dip in and out of for years to come. You can find it on Amazon HERE.

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Only Fingers And Toes

Only Fingers & Toes

Only Fingers & Toes

The first thing that struck me about the relaunch of Only Fingers And Toes is the long handles on the pots of polish. They feel perfect in my hand and I feel like I have better grip than those with shorter, stubbier handles. It’s a small thing, but when you love nail polish as much as I do, it’s a bigger thing.

Only Fingers And Toes

Only Fingers And Toes

Colour-wise, there’s a selection of 60 shades – my eyes are immediately on the acid orange shade called Bittersweet – and the formula is all free from Toluene, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, DBP and Camphor, and also Phthalic Acid. I’m going to get these colours properly swatched up when I get a new batch of nail-wheels but I think it’s a brand to watch in terms of quality and hot colours. I’m being strict about my nail rehab so have painted my thumbnail only in Bittersweet – it’s not too runny, definitely needs two coats but has a mega-shine – it almost still looks wet. Only Fingers And Toes is currently only available in a few places, including Harvey Nicks, but any day now, will be launching its own retail site so keep your eyes peeled.

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Hotel Review: The Pig Near Bath

the pig hotel bath review

I had the great pleasure of staying at the Pig Hotel near Bath, last weekend. It was a bit of an impromptu booking; I was going to a wedding in the area and my sister was supposed to be putting me up, but her husband came down with something unknown (man flu?) and I didn’t want to catch it! I have wanted to stay at the “original” Pig Hotel in the New Forest for quite some time (I’m even more keen to now, especially as it’s supposed to have the most amazing spa) and so when I saw that they had some availability I jumped at the chance to grab a room.

Long-term readers will know that I book nearly all of my travel through a service called Mr & Mrs Smith; it’s a kind of curated selection of the most luxurious or unique or interesting hotels. You can almost always guarantee that if you book through them, the hotel will be pretty great. Often spectacular. They inspect the properties regularly and send out anonymous reviewers (I sometimes do some super-sleuthing for them!) and they are very good at listening to feedback from customers. They also have a membership scheme with various tiers – starting off at Blacksmith, which is free, and offers quite brilliant perks, including a special gift or surprise at every hotel you book into, and moving through Silversmith up to Goldsmith, which is a full-on concierge service with enhanced perks. Think cheap Eurostar, free room upgrades, half-price stays at newly-introduced hotels… You can take a look at the memberships here, but I would highly recommend signing up to Blacksmith – it’s free, and you can get loads of discounts for online shopping, including luxury beauty brands.

the pig hotel bath review

Anyway, I booked The Pig near Bath through Smith. Because I have Goldsmith I get a room upgrade, if it’s available, so I just booked the cheapest room (“Snug”) in the hope that something nice would be free when I checked in! It was a Sunday night, so I thought that it was a reasonably sensible risk. Lo and behold, there was a “Cosy” room with my name on it. I expected the room to be on the small side, but it was actually quite spacious – enough room to swing a cat, most definitely, and were I the type of person who travels with a yoga mat then there would have been plenty of space to unroll it and have a serene stretching session on the lovely polished floorboards. (I’m not that kind of person. I went straight to the in-room “larder” to see which retro snacks and sweets it stocked and then I got into bed with a glass of Coke to watch a documentary on Michael Jackson.)

the pig hotel bath review

The Pig near Bath feels very much like you’ve landed in some kind of fashion campaign shoot. For Ralph Lauren, perhaps, or Aquascutum. It’s a large, old country house, with creaking floors and big fireplaces and you almost don’t feel as though you’ve come to a hotel at all; more a big weekend away at someone’s rich uncle’s country estate. There’s a brilliantly quirky bar downstairs, with a wall of weird cocktail ingredients and there’s a billiards room (course there is!) and in the hallway there are dozens of pairs of wellington boots in every imaginable colour, all lined up and waiting to be borrowed. It’s all a lot of fun. Add to this the fact that all of the staff seem to have come straight from university – I don’t think there was a person over thirty – and you get a kind of Tatler-meets-Shoreditch-meets-The-Hamptons kind of vibe. (The staff thing is not a criticism, by any means – and I may be wrong – they could all just look young. The service was polite but not stuffy, attentive but not weirdly cloying and nothing was too much trouble.)

pig hotel bath

I should really have done a bit more digging about when I was there, but I didn’t check in until 9pm and I went to sleep at 11, so I didn’t get the chance to poke about the place as much as I usually would. (Non-pregnant me would have tried at least three of the cocktails, climbed into precarious spots in order to see into the other bedrooms and done a bit of a hike around the grounds. I was knackered after the wedding and also stuffed full of food, so I couldn’t even do dinner at the restaurant! The restaurant, incidentally, is actually the focal point of The Pig near Bath. The whole thing is styled as “restaurant with rooms” rather than “hotel with restaurant” and I am gravely sad that I didn’t have the time or tummy space to eat some of the locally-sourced – or “foraged” – food.)

the pig hotel bath review

I did, however, sample pretty much everything from the exemplary breakfast spread – fresh eggs from the chickens outside, poached pears, buttery soft pastries, just-squeezed fruit juices, local bacon and sausage – and after breakfast did a bit of rootling about to check out the other types of room available.

pig hotel bath

My room, the “Cosy”, was in the main house. Now I can’t vouch for the other rooms in the house, but it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention that I could hear quite a bit of music coming up from the restaurant below. I am notoriously picky about noise in hotel rooms – it angers me more than any other issue – and had I not been so unbelievably tired I would have asked to be moved. It wasn’t outrageously noisy, like thumping bass or anything like that, but I kind of feel as though things should be as peaceful and quiet as possible if you’re out in the country and looking for some R&R. I get the feeling that it would only be the rooms directly over the public spaces that you’d hear any noise, but my recommendation would be that – if you’re noise-intolerant, as I am – you book a room that’s separate from the main house. Or ask which rooms in the main house are the most quiet. I usually do that when I book, but excitement overwhelmed me this time and it totally slipped my mind!

the pig hotel bath review

Anyway, the odd bit of music by no means ruined anything – my room was spacious, the bed was incredibly comfy and the monsoon shower hot and powerful – but I could imagine that if it was the height of summer and you wanted your windows open, it might be a bit of a nuisance if you wanted an early night. Hark at me, the OAP!

pig hotel bath

I’d definitely book in again, even if it was just to have an excuse to eat in the lovely greenhouse restaurant, but I still need to get down to the one in Hampshire, so we’ll see. Overall, I loved the whole atmosphere of the place with its rubber wellies and tree hammocks and stuffed animal heads and comfy armchairs. My room cost £169 on a weekend rate, but it’s cheaper on a weekday. Prices climb quite dramatically for one of the standalone rooms in the grounds – around £275 – but it’s always worth checking Mr & Mrs Smith for offers and discounts. Members also get a rather special gift at The Pig; a Kitchen Garden Cocktail Kit with lovely gins and vodkas and herby stuff and recipes to tell you how to muddle everything together. I’ll be cracking into that later on this summer!

The Pig near Bath

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Some Great Online Shopping Discounts…

I’m all for whopping great big shopping discounts online; I know that many people hate the idea of “Black Friday” or “Cyber-Whatever-it-is”, but if you do the vast majority of your spending online, as I do, it’s a great chance (if you’re organised) to save a fair whack of dough. 20% off when you’re buying Christmas presents for lots of family and friends can make a huge difference and give you cash left over to put towards the groceries or petrol money over the holidays. (I say 20% because that seems to be the average discount, but some retailers have key products reduced by 50% or more, and lots of brands now offer massive “free with purchase” incentives like special gift sets or additional bonus products.) I’ve rounded up some of the best deals that I’ve spotted online – please excuse me if this isn’t entirely up-to-date, it’s my birthday and I’m writing this a couple of days in advance! Most of these deals last until at least Monday…

pai black friday offer

1) Pai Skincare are running a brilliant offer from now until Monday; if you buy one of their skincare routine sets, which cost between £75 and £83 (all full size products) then they will upgrade it with another lot of products worth £90 or more. Kind of like a “buy one, get more than one for free”! The skincare sets all have the gorgeous Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Cleanser, BioAffinity Tonic, and then a Moisturiser of your choice, and the Ultimate Upgrade sets have either one of the serums or face oils as well as the amazing Echium Eye Cream and the Kukui exfoliator. That’s a lot of skincare! You can find all of the sets here – they have all been pre-assembled so that you just put the whole kit into your basket, but only pay for the starter set.

Pai Skincare

2) Cult Beauty have varying discounts depending on how much you spend; just enter one of the following promotional codes at checkout.

£10 off £60: use code ‘SHIMMER10′

£20 off £100: use code ‘SHIMMER20′

£45 off £200: use code ‘SHIMMER45′

£75 off £300: use code ‘SHIMMER75′

Cult Beauty

3) ASOS have 20% off everything, full-price and sale, apart from beauty and brand items. Max spend £500, but you can get a hell of a lot on ASOS for £500! The code you need to present at checkout is CYBERWKND20 – it’s valid from 8am today until 8am on Tuesday 2nd December.

ASOS.com

4) Karen Millen have 25% off everything that’s not in the sale, including shoes and accessories – you can browse the online store here and use code KM25OFF at checkout.

Karen Millen

5) Selfridges have 20% off, apart from wine, beauty, watches, tech and toys, which have 10% off. You need the code SELF14 at checkout.

Selfridges.com

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Bobbi Brown Hot Collection Blush

Bobbi Brown Hot Collection Blush

I first posted on the forthcoming Bobbi Brown Hot Collection in January, with the limited edition Art Sticks in super bright shades (HERE). At the time I hadn’t seen the gorgeous limited edition Bobbi Brown Hot Collection Blush. This brand so hit and miss for me, but the Hot Collection is really a hit. I love these blush palettes because they’re versatile – one of these will take you all the way through summer. So, the first (I have two of the three limited editions) is Calypso – it’s 100% my colours especially when my skin tone is warmer in spring and summer. You can use the Bobbi Brown Hot Collection Blush (according to instructions, although I’m not sure I would!) by dusting the softer shade onto cheeks, follow with a pop of the brighter shade and finish with the highlighter over the top. I’ll probably use them one at a time! The second palette that I have here is Pink – a beautiful combination for cooler skin tones. At £34, they’re pricy, but I will use Calypso a lot, and if it gets loved and then finished, then that’s £34 well spent! The Bobbi Brown Hot Collection Blush has literally just hit… Read More

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