Stay Cool

So, I need to fess up and admit to the fact that with all the best intentions in the world, when starting this blog I haven’t been dedicated enough in maintaining it. I know, I am a terrible blogger but I do miss it which is why I am talking the time to write this post. There are no excuses as to why I let the blog go, but in the hope that you may all forgive me, I am going to list them out…

  1. I have a full-time job
  2. Running around London in 30 degrees heat takes up a lot of time
  3. I actually like to spend my weekends not looking at a computer screen (counter-productive to blogging)
  4. The impossible happened and I have managed to tie down a boyfriend for a whole 6 months who actually quite likes me 
  5. I spend a solid hour most days being racked with guilt about quitting the gym over bikini bod season
  6. I spend a lot of time eating and overindulging on cocktails (whilst simultaneously feeling guilty about the gym)
  7. I like seeing my friends 
  8. I try and see my family as despite complaining about them, I quite miss them

So whilst I realise all of the above doesn’t justify my laziness I hope you can relate forgive me? Can I tempt you to read on and let me tell you about how to battle the HORRENDOUS CITY, SUMMER HEAT and help you stop your make-up from sliding down your face? 

If you are lucky enough to live on a glorious beach, a yacht or have permanent access to a vat of cool, water (and no I don’t mean your niece’s paddling pool) then don’t read on. If however you are currently sitting at your desk with sweat sliding off your hands, your hair flat and frizzy and make-up that is land-sliding down your face you may like me, be in desperate need of some help. 

STAY COOL
The first piece of advice I have is so bloody obvious but try and STAY COOL ladies. Bar the obvious eg squashing your face against the air con whilst it shoots an icey cold breeze, up your nose and drink plenty of the good old H2O, here are a couple of neat tricks that will lower your body temperature. 

  1. Put an ice cub in your mouth, it will lower your body temperature as well as calm you if you’re having a particularly stressful day.
  2. Wash your hands for a couple of minutes under an icey tap – pulse points help cool your entire body.
  3. Have a cup of tea – your system has to cool it down in order to digest it, thus cooling you down.
  4. Do you have to take the tube? Sure it’s quicker but it’s utter hell in this weather. I’ve started taking the bus home and whilst it’s an additional 15 minutes, it leaves me feeling a lot less hot and bothered. It’s also a great opportunity to see the sights of London.

PRIME TIME

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The next piece advice I have is invest in a good primer which will stop the hideous foundation land-slide look that I have been recently sporting. With even dryer skins becoming prone to shine in this heat, and combination skin types like myself beginning to resemble an oil slick, everyone can benefit from one of these beauties. Here are my personal recommendations:

Smashbox Photo Finish Primer
A favourite amongst celebs over in the States, and sister company of Clinique, Smash Box offer an array of brilliant primers that adhere to every skin’s needs. Created to withstand intense studio lighting, I am fan of Photo Finish Light which gives you an oil-absorbing canvas, whilst being suitable for dry skins and not being over-mattifying. Gently pat over your entire face for creating the perfect base.

£25 for 30ml

Benefit, PoreFessional
Great for us girls who have open pores and oilier complexions. A combination of vitamin E and silicon this wonder-balm creates mattifying, smooth canvas to give you that film-screen flawless look. Pay particular attention to the your T-zone.

£24.50 for 22ml

PICTURE-PERFECT

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Once you’ve applied your make-up with clean brushes, not your sweaty, gross hands you’ll need something to set it with. I love Bare Minerals, Mineral Veil in Original which is a soft pink, loose, translucent powder which creates a barrier between your foundation and the outside heat and environmental factors that cause your make-up to slide. It’s so soft it doesn’t add to anything to your final finish other than airbrush perfection. 

£20 for 8g

Over one of our heat-wave weekends, a friend introduced me to Urban Decay’s All Nighter Long Lasting Make-Up Setting Spray which really does do what it says on the tin. During a particular boozy weekend, my make-up withstood sand, sun and wind for a full day at the Beach Polo! The spray features patented Temperature Control Technology which actually lowers the temperature of your make-up. I highly recommend this baby! Here is a photo of my won’t budge make-up and the boyfriend of 6 months who quite likes me:

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£20 for 118ml

SPICK, SPOT

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As Mary Poppins would say. A summer in the city means acne for my combination skin. The mix between pollution, office air-con and the sticky heat results in break-outs across my complexion. I’ve been trying to combat this with a regimented regime of double cleansing as recommended by French beauty experts whereby I remove the first layer of make-up and grime off my face with a micellar water (I love Avène Eau Thermale Avene Cleanance Cleansing Water which is super refreshing and targeted a blemish-prone skin, £14.40 for 400ml) and then follow up with a hot cloth cleanse. The second cleanse works to give your skin a deep clean rather than simply removing your make-up. A cult classic, I’ve rediscovered Liz Earle’s Hot Cloth Cleanser (£14.75 for 50ml) which cleared up a particularly nasty bout of spots within a week.

After toner and moisturiser, before bed, I apply a layer of Clinique’s Anti-Blemish solution (£20 for 30ml) over any blemishes or under the skin volcanoes that are threatening to wreck my day. This little beauty is like Superman for spots, working its magic in a matter of hours.

So there you have it ladies, a couple of tips on being cool from the UK’s sorriest blogger. Forgiven me?

Robert Neil – Review

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I have (sorry I mean had) two-tone hair. Work got crazy, my money ran out, I went on holidays and somehow managed to go a whole 4 months without having my hair highlighted. I know, I am a traitor to the blonde race. To be fair, the job the girls did at Jo Hansford was so brilliant, I didn’t actually need to do anything until month 3, pretty good going given that most women get the hair highlighted every 6-8 weeks. So given that I can’t unfortunately afford the £300 it would cost at the Jo Hansford salon, I trotted down to the Robert Neil salon in Sheen, as recommended by best friend Jess Young, the ultimate blonde babe.

My first impressions of the Robert Neil Salon were how insanely it busy it was, which can only mean a good things. I met my colourist who discussed the various options for colouring hair and decided to follow the three soft types of blonde that I had previously had. Michelle got to work very rapidly and managed to whip a full head of highlights in, in 40 minutes. Once washed, I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that the awful dark roots were a thing of the past. The colour was a decent, mix of light blonde, gold and honey which was a little bit brighter than what I am usually used to but a nice change for the summer. Once my hair had been delicately combed, I met with the lovely Adam, who is the son of the Robert Neil himself. Adam explained how the salon was a proper, family-run business where he is joined by his brother and cousin and even still his Dad which is pretty impressive given that Robert opened the salon 40 years ago – very The Godfather! The salon atmosphere was very friendly and had a buzz that is only created around an Italian, family dinner table.

Once back to the job in hand, Adam explained that whilst I thought I needed about 5 inches of my rat-tails chopped off, he could easily get away with just taking off a generous 2. He also explained that he would create a touch of shape around the face whilst keeping the rest of the hair an even length. Perfect. Chatting away about his family, and how his initial ambition was to be a chef rather than follow in his father’s footsteps, Adam got to work snipping and cutting away. Once blow-dried, after demanding as much volume as possible, I was met with a wonderful, healthy swish of blonde hair. A week on, my hair is a very manageable length that requires almost no styling at all which is SUCH a time-saver in the morning. After a few home washes, the colour has toned down as well leaving me with the perfect, sun-kissed, beach babe hair.

Make your reservation at the Robert Neil salon by visiting: http://www.robertneilhair.co.uk

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Pots of Joy

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My post winter, dehydrated, flakey yet still threatening outbreaks of blemishes skin is in desperate need of some TLC and a large dose of moisture. Reminding myself to not be a total consumer and give in to luxurious packaging and adverts that promise instant and restored beauty I started flipping back through my blog and racking my brain for tips that wouldn’t break the bank. Remembering the wise words of my Parisian friend’s grandma along with a good friend at Condé Nast I popped into Boots and splashed out a whole £1.49 for 50ml of cult classic, the original Nivea Crème , hey, it was so cheap I bought one to leave at my boyfriends. Anyhow, that night once I had removed my make-up, cleansed and toned like a good beauty blogger, I pealed opened the rather novel seal from my little blue pot and inhaled that classic, classic smell of old school crème that promised comfort and restored hydration. Using clean hands I scooped about two generous blobs onto my face, and spent a good five minutes massaging it in, using the pads of my fingers and strength of my thumb to apply pressure to my skin which works to increase blood flow and lymphatic drainage. Honestly girls, adding just a few extra minutes to your skincare regime to do this will give you healthier, glowing and plumper skin in an instant. I particularly recommend this technique for the Nivea’s Crème as it’s thick and rich texture can feel a little sticky after application so it should definitely be reserved for your night-time regime.  Once fully absorbed in the morning however, your skin will feel as soft as a baby’s bum!

Continuing my frugal quest I got in touch with the lovely ladies who do the PR for Nspa who suggested I tried their Deep Hydrating Facial Oil for my parched complexion. An exquisite combination of Baobab oil rich in vitamin A, D, E and F helps improve skin elasticity whilst Rosehip oil helps rebuild and strengthen, not forgetting to mention the delightful smell which comes into its own when massaged into cleansed skin. I still can’t believe all of this deliciousness costs a meager £7 (asda.com) and it even comes with a handy drop stick to prevent wastage. I admit, I am often a snob when it comes to facial oils, but this little beauty really does what it says on the bottle. Even with one use my skin felt hydrated and restored.

10/10 for Studio 10

I feel like I’ve won the beauty blogger’s equivalent the lottery. Good luck round one was  having the most amazing hair styling and colouring at the Jo Hansford salon (5 weeks on and it’s still looking glossy and natural). Good luck round 2 was a ridiculously generous delivery from new make-up kid-on-the-block, Studio 10 who sent me the most amazing array of make-up. Good luck number three was a free a BEYONCÉ ticket (which was in addition to the one the £100 ticket I had already bought… That’s Beyoncé x2 in one week. Now I know that’s not beauty blogging specific but it definitely worth mentioning when you’re as much of a superfan as I am).

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Super excited to test and try my wonderful array of Studio 10 treats, I took the beautifully designed bags of joy home and spent a solid hour gleefully playing make-up artist with my new goodies. Here’s how the products measured up.

The best product by far from the collection is the face brush. It’s divided into a stippling brush at one end and a more defined pointed blush brush at the other. Using this brush is like being tickled with a thousand goose feathers, so light and soft that applying my make-up every morning is the most, enjoyable, luxurious stroking exercise. It miraculously turns my dull and blotchy morning face into high definition perfection, giving an excellent, flawless finish whether it be used with a cream or liquid foundation (it has fast become the new staple piece in my make-up bag). The blush brush is great for applying a perfect pop of colour on the fleshy part of your cheeks (top-tip I then blend this out with my Mac powder/blush brush to keep the finish natural). If you take anything away from this blog post, let it be that investing in good brushes is the key step to creating a flawless, finish. As they say, a workman is only a good as his tools.

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My other favourite pieces from the collection were the various liners, just “oh-so- creamy”! The pencils are designed to offer defined perfection and like the brushes, they are all double ended to add extra definition whether it be your lips, brows or eyes. I adore the lip liner because it is the perfect natural shade of rosey pink and back it to suit everyone whether you be fair, olive, dark or a blonde, brunette or red-head. The handy online videos on the Studio 10 website give some brilliant, expert advice on how to use their lovely products that make it simple for the most inexperienced of amateurs whilst offering tips you had never thought of to make-up obsesses such as myself. When it comes to lip liner, Studio 10 explain how to start at the top of the lips and draw a defined x on the Cupid’s Bow following your natural lip line all the way round, adding more colour to the lips as you go. Switching to the cream end of the liner, trace around the edge of your pout, blurring the liners together to avoid that harsh, lip liner 80s look.

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The people at Studio 10 have thought of everything when it comes to contouring and definition. Whilst I’m yet to master the art of face contouring, using my previous Benefit Cosmetics experience I have managed to create a lovely bright eyed look using their eye shadow pallets which is made up of a blend of soft neutral and darker shimmery shades to create that irresistible doe eyed look – (there is no better explanation on how to apply these than Studio 10 video). I most recently put it to the test at this year’s BAFTAs where I was working the red carpet, whilst he didn’t even catch my eye I slept soundly that night knowing that during my 2 minute photo bombing of none other than Leonardo DiCaprio I had my best eyes on.
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And last but not least let’s talk about the Age Defy Skin Perfector concealer pallet which is an absolute must for any girl’s make-up bag. Various shades allow the inner make-up artist in you to cover in the most brutal and threatening of blemishes as well any fine lines or areas of shadow that could jeopardize your flawless finish. Using a flat end brush, mix and blend the various shades to focus the coverage on an area you wish to conceal. Quick cheats guide to choosing the right shade? See below:

Green is for redness (eg angry blemish/Rosacea)
Peach is for shadow
Light/Medium is for any blemish/area

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So there you have it ladies. If you want the flawless finish, head to Studio 10 – it get’s 10/10 😉

Fit for a Queen

Quite Literally. Kate Middleton and I technically have the same hairdresser. Well… I say “technically” maybe I should elaborate on what essentially is a truthful white lie. Whilst Kate Middleton may not have had her actual hair done at the Jo Hansford salon, rumors do have it that the in-salon manicurist was responsible for her nails pre-Royal Wedding. Whilst admittedly this isn’t quite the same as sharing a hairstylist, Jo Hansford is also the woman and expert behind the tresses of celebrities such as Liz Hurley and Camilla Parker Bowles (I know she’s a late comer but she counts as royalty right?). The Jo Hansford salon is a bit different in that the staff are trained up to be a specialist in either colour or cut which sounds all very wise to me. Therefore you can only imagine my glee when I was offered the chance to review the salon as well as a colourist and stylist.

All booked in and counting down the weeks until I could rid myself of what was rapidly turning into two-tone hair, my appointment luckily quickly came around. One rainy Thursday afternoon I found myself on the corner of Grovesnor Square outside a large Georgian townhouse with wrought iron fences and manicured flowerbeds lining the glossy windows whilst grey tarpaulin sheltered me from the rain. The Jo Hansford salon literally shon out like a beacon of hope promising me and my dull and tired hair comfort and warmth from a miserable, London afternoon.
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I wasn’t wrong to assume that the Jo Hansford Salon would be my sanctuary, on entry I was greeted with shining marble floors, fresh bouquets of expensive flowers, copies of Vogue strewn across glass tables and a smiling receptionist greeting me like I was completely expected, despite the fact that the large two story salon was full to the brim of Mayfair ladies. I was then whisked to the “cloakroom” where my “cloaks” were hung up to dry. Whisked off again, I was sat down and presented with a lunch and drink menu (huh? That’s right I can lunch whilst I have my hair done?) and immediately offered a coffee. Still not having to wait even a second to be tended to, I was introduced to my colourist, Ashley, who like the receptionist greeted me with her most genuine smile.
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During my consultation with Ashley (who by the way is the friendliest, chattiest in the non “where do you holiday?” hairdresser I’ve ever met) she sought out the advice of none other than Jo Hansford herself. Enthralled to meet the woman behind Liz Hurley’s gloss, I was slightly taken aback when she grabbed a fistful of my hair and shamed me with her honest and fair words, exclaiming “what is this? What have you put in your hair? It’s dead… you need seven inches off but that will make you cry won’t it? Why do you have a block colour of blonde on the ends? It doesn’t even suit you”.

This was the kind of harsh directness I had been longing for. Years of colouring, Bastiste, back-combing, straightening, curling and hair-spraying had left my locks in a complete mess with a colour as Jo so quite rightly put just did not suit me one bit. Dark, dingy roots and over-processed block of blonde and broken ends needed to be banished and cut. Ashley, with the welcomed matriarchal advice of Jo who treats all her staff with the devotion and care of a mother hen, suggested the full head of highlights that I am used to as well as pulling a much softer and darker blonde all the way through to neutralise the block colour. It sounded like the perfect compromise and restoration to Blonde Glory.

Whilst Ashley mixed up various colours I was introduced to my stylist, Roxy who was equally as friendly and pacified me that she would cut off two rather than seven inches and make my hair as healthy as possible. Once Ashley got going with the colour she talked me through the process which was different to any other I had come across. Ashley explained that at Jo Hansford all the girls (who are so well trained that they have all loyally worked for Jo for a minimum of three years) are taught to build colour up like bricks, working towards your natural parting. Each strand of hair was perfectly painted whilst the foils were folded into a more triangle than square like shape and then wrapped tight with another strip of foil to stop the colour from bleeding. As you can see below, the foils are firmly held in and sticking out at all angles making me resemble the cookie monster.
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Once every foil was painstakingly applied (which took a good two hours) I was left for 20 minutes under the rorating halo dryer so the colour could process. When finally cooked I was taken to have the colour washed out and offered the most sensual and luxurious head massage which left me half-asleep in the chair.

Once awoken and all towel dried, Roxy came over to start styling and cutting my hair and like a child on Christmas Day I couldn’t wait to see the final colour. As soon as she started drying I could see the full effects of Ashley’s handiwork… a full head of golden joy. All the block, brass colour that had built up overtime and had been completely toned down to a gorgeous, even, Sienna Miller style blonde whilst the crown was light, bright and sun-kissed. I could also see the full effects of the Jo Hansford technique, a perfectly highlighted hairline, each individual, highlight accurately placed giving the appearance that this really could be my own, natural colour. Without out a doubt it was the nicest I had ever seen my hair and I could barely stop myself from squealing with glee.

As soon as Roxy got cutting, I could see that Jo was (unsurprisingly) correct. I needed a good amount taken off to put the thickness and health back into my locks. Roxy tidied up each individual end, taking slightly more off at the front where the hair shaft had been damaged. Roxy also recommended that to maintain the quality and minimise the damage already caused I should have my ends trimmed every three weeks for the next few months.

The over effect was this:
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Prefect, healthy, restored blonde hair.

The girls at Jo Hansford are masters of beauty. The change even a week on is still so visible, my hair falls perfectly after even a rough blow dry whilst the colour looks as fresh as the day I left the salon. A full a head of highlights starts from £205 which I admit is pricey but quite frankly when the overall finish is this perfect the price seems justified. Jo clearly cares, on leaving the salon the girls informed me that Jo was keen to get me back in to make sure I maintained the colour and health, fearing that I could get back to what I had before. Come on Jo… not a chance! Not only am I absolutely thrilled with the colour and cut I was pleasantly surprised to find that an up-market salon in the heart of Mayfair is so welcoming and friendly rather than stuffy and exclusive. The overall experience in itself gets a 10/10 and regardless of price I wouldn’t hesitate to make Jo Hansford my local salon.
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Some Like It Hot… (Pink)

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I love nothing more than the beauty of a slender, manicured hand. For absolute sophistication, the perfection and expert levels of a manicurist can’t be rivaled. Their steadiness and acuteness of their application is admirable and a level that DIY just doesn’t match up to. With self-application there’s always one smudge or one tiny missed bit that just drives me crazy for the rest of the week, and then they ALWAYS chip early on. Sadly we must ask ourselves ladies, who can justify such a luxury as having manicures done on a weekly basis in this current economic depression.

So you see my first-world predicament.To self-paint or not to self-paint that is the question? I decided in a bid to be frugal and savvy I will have a go at doing this all on my own. Knowing the beauty team for Asda quite well, I requested their Gel Pro nail varnishes which come in delectable, summer-is-round-the–corner colours (see my over-excitable instagram post below). Now I know you’re all being label snobs, and secretly I am too but trust me girls, theses varnishes are the bees’ knees! Easy-peasy, application with a silky, shiny finish they not only look super professional but they last a solid week. When the colours are these tasty, I already feel like I am coming round to DIY nails. With a push of confidence, I settled down to back-to-back episodes of Sex and the City and a spot light so I could be the most accurate of amateurs. See below my step-by-step guide to DYI, close-to-perfect nails.
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Pre-Prep
For a meager £2.00 you can buy a 4 Way Buffer Block from Boots, which is well, what is says on the packet. I do three out of the four steps, file, remove ridges and smooth not finishing with a polish which too shiny for paint but a nice sleek finish if you want your nails to go au natural.

Like My Base Down Low
Much like when applying my foundation a decent base is essential for optimum staying power. Mamma Santa kindly popped Rimmel’s Strong Nails base and top coat on my bedside table one night which apparently make all the long-lasting difference. Cheap and well-recommended I apply one thin layer and allow it to dry before I conquer the masterful art of perfect, nail colour- application.

Some Like It Hot
Pink. Or rather the inner Barbie in me does, I say inner, I wish she was outer with the sh*t hot body.  Find a nice, flat, steady surface and turning on the brightest lamp you have, like a surgeon in theater shine it down upon your prepped and primed hands. First time round I wanted to be big and bold so I opted for Asda’s Gel Pro in 06 Rose, and carefully set about applying my first layer using threes strokes on each nail. The best thing about Asda Gel Pro nail polishes other than the sumptuous selection of colours is the fool-proof perfectly sized brush which makes self-application as easy ABC as well as creating a smudge-proof finish. Making sure each layer dries before I apply another, I opt for three coats of polish on each hand to create that lovely, lacquered texture finishing with a layer of Rimmel’s Finishing Touch Top Coat. See above for the overall finish… not bad for an amateur eh?
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Baby Bump… Not mine

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Nobody panic – especially you Dad, who follows the blog religiously in an attempt to show support to someone other than my super intelligent, no overdraft, graduated with job, win-every-sport-I-play, little brother.

The baby bump in fact belongs to a work colleague. Other than a change in tea drinking habits none of us had a clue. Fankleless (fat+ankle+less) and still super slim until her celebratory announcement it was unbeknown to us that she was in fact three months pregnant. Although the bump is yet to show we both heartily agreed one morning it was never too early to start investing in Asos maternity ware as well as applying oil to keep any form of stretch marks at bay. We decided that early prevention is the best form of attack and that if she were to start now in six months time her figure will ping back like an elastic band.

She happily agreed to be my guinea pig in return for free products. Using my very kind PR contacts I requested the staple no frills, no fuss beauty product, Bio Oil which is famous for nourishing and hydrating skin as well as fading scars. A huge fan myself I was keen to hear about its effects on stretch marks in particular. We thought we would compare this with something a bit more fragrant and luxurious such as he Sanctuary Mum to Be Stretch Mark Oil. Whilst we will have to wait for the baby arrival to find out the physical effects of both oils, in terms of consistency, smell and value for money, here is how they measured up.

Bio Oil

No frills no fuss, super nourishing and easily absorbed this was my tester’s favourite. When applying to the body quick absorption is key as no one wants to get into bed still drenched in the residue. My tester said the best thing about this product was that it was almost like a dry oil, excellent news for when month seven of pregnancy kicks in and we will up her regime to morning AND night application. I would have to agree with her on this one, I love the fact that the non-greasy consistency of Bio Oil means it can even be used on the face. At a very reasonable £8.99 for 60ml and an excellent multi-tasking product, mine and my tester’s love for Bio Oil remains high.

The Sanctuary Mum to Be Stretch Mark Oil

This stretch mark oil boasts ingredients such as rosehip oil which promises to prevent and reduce the appearance of stretch marks whilst smelling like a French flower garden. Whilst my tester personally prefers the clean, nourishing smell of Bio Oil, with calming and relaxing essential oils The Sanctuary Mum to Be Stretch Mark Oil would also be a lovely addition to a well-needed hot bath. A cheaper and more fancy looking bottle, think Clarins without the price tag, £10.25 for 100ml.