the chapel candle
I have a confession to make. Though I been doing the “feminist as f*ck” thing for a number of years – all “Girl Power!”, “Love yourself!”, “Equality and kindness for women!” – I am very rarely kind to myself.

Do I believe I deserve as much as anyone else? Sure. Believe I’m a good person? Absolutely. Ever take time out for myself? Uh…no.

And it wasn’t until I went to the launch event of The Chapel‘s new incredible product range that I realized as such.

Rather than inviting 300 members of the press to take Snapchats of her new products and shove as many overpriced canapes as possible down our throats, Amanda (Dicker, The Chapel Founder) asked a handful of us ’round to her Islington Salon, fed us from fresh sharing platters on her own china, poured us her favourite tipples, and led an all-empowering feminist pow-wow.

The entire logic behind expanding her award-winning hair, beauty and lifestyle business was to encourage people to take the brand’s renowned “haven” status home with them. To reclaim time outside of the salon (the only place most of us allow ourselves “me time”) and put themselves first.

“Too often these days we mistake a hectic schedule for a full life, yet the time thattruly belongs to us is the moment when we pause…” – Amanda Dicker, Founder of The Chapel and all-round Wonderwoman

It was a much needed wake-up call for me. As our makeshift circle of trust shared personal stories, I related with patterns my own sacrifice, insecurity, and societal pressure. “Me Time” is long overdue. And The Chapel’s products are the perfect gateway drug.

The three products – candles, hand cream & pulse point fragrances – come in three fragrances; Oparus (Bergamot, Geranium, Sandalwood, etc), Mellifera (Apple, Tuberose, Vanilla, etc), and Noctula (my favourite – Mandarin, Violet, Patchouli, etc).

Though I fell in lust with all three scents I, naturally, went for the “hot red lips” (Noctula) scented candle as when you complete the 80 hour burn time you can use the exquisite ceramic candle holder as a home accessory.

That has “me” written all over it.

cheers

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long blonde hair
This has been such a bizarre month of beauty-related highs and lows for me. While I’ve discovered some absolute gems – especially in spa services (hashtag birthday month!) – I have also been dealing with the literal fallout of going to a hairdresser I didn’t know or trust last-minute while in America.

Thankfully, my poor ravaged baby hairs have found solace (and you’ll see how, below)!

Secret Spa
Before my last trip, I had been so busy and running so low on time to pack that I felt incredibly ill-prepared for all that travel entails. I needed to take a moment out. And found that moment with Secret Spa. The mobile beauty service (both available through their app and online) books appointments with elite beauty therapists in the comfort of your home, at a time that works for you, and takes mere seconds to do so.

I booked in with Charlotte – a hair stylist and nail tech – to give me a blow dry and beach-ready pedicure the second after I knew I would finish packing and was successfully prepped – mentally and physically – less than one hour later. With nail, waxing, massage, hair, makeup, facial, spray tan, and even lash treatments available, Secret Spa is a foolproof Uber for beauty junkies.

ChinUp Mask
Suggesting it would erase a double chin in 30 minutes, this product was simply too bizarre not to try. Essentially, ChinUp asks you to measure around your chin, apply a mask, secure it with a terrifying-looking band, wait 30 minutes of skin-tingles, and remove everything to reveal a 2cm loss in chin fat.

It sounds ridiculous…but it works. The mask’s serum boosts collagen (helping to contour), contains Q10 co-enzyme (a strong antioxidant to relief dry, dehydrated skin & stimulate cell renewal), and utilizes active ingredients to help all of its natural plant extracts to sink in and reduce the appearance of fat.

While I very much doubt this is a long-term solution for those of us with proper (non-water retention) double chins, it would be a dream to use in the lead up to a big event, photoshoot, wedding, or – like me – when you’re feeling sick and can’t face your puffy, dehydrated profile in the mirror.

The Moroccan Spa Limited Edition Detox Ritual in Urban Retreat at Harrods
During this treatment, I could not stop thinking I was living out some sort of Jasmine-in-Aladdin dream life.

I mean, Harrods and Urban Retreat tend to make me feel that way on their own but this was different.

In the spa’s hammam, I was sat down to relax and breathe in steam before being taken to my own hammam area for an incredibly indulgent wash and Kessa scrub by the practitioner. Different to a normal ‘spa scrub’, this process is incredibly meditative and thorough, allowing intense oxygenation of the skin, microcirculation of the blood, and a slough of dry skin that you can see and feel immediately.

Completely prepped, my full body was then wrapped – with a special focus on detoxifying energy points – in Rhassoul mud, organic honey, and peppermint oil. With the wrap hard at work, I was then treated to a short facial with the same products and eventually rinsed clean – top to tail – before taking some time to read and drink fresh mint tea in the relaxation area.

It was unadulterated bliss.

My current hair hero products:
Oh Bee Hive by Tigi –
This dry shampoo is my new (and convincingly all-time) favourite. As well as an adorable name and bottle, Oh Bee Hive soaks up excess oil within seconds, leaves no residue, boosts volume, and – most importantly – feels clean.

K-Pak Deep Penetrating Reconstructor by Joico –
Remember my aforementioned hair woes? This has been a lifesaver. This hair mask (‘Reconstructor’) actually uses a combination of amino acids and Joico’s Quadramine Complex (theirr famous protein-stocked repair formula) to genuinely rebuild and fortify damaged locks in as little as five minutes.

I was skeptical to begin with, especially as it smells like a useless bottle of sweet banana heaven, but the results speak for themselves. The longer it’s left, the less breakage I deal with. The more I use it, the less insane my hair texture becomes. I love it.

Toni & Guy Style Fix Curler
The new TONI&GUY Style Fix Stylers are handbag-sized professional styling tools and – unlike ones I’ve trialled previously – are genuinely as good as their full-sized counterparts.

Best of all? Each product (straightener, waver, and curler) is designed to protect your hair & colour as it smoothes with their Ceramic Tourmaline plates and boasts world-wide voltage (is there anything else more travel blogger friendly?). Whether you fancy a spruce up from your gym bag or carry-on, there will be a Style Fix styler perfect for you.

…and last but not least, Live True London (you can thank them for the hair porn, above)
Long-time readers will remember Gro as the salon that made me blonde over two years ago (how time flies!), but may not have yet to hear of Live True London.

The kicker? They’re the same salon.

After a rebrand, Live True have maintained seven kickass hair salons across London and seemed like the perfect place to fix the ongoing fried-hair disaster I was caused months prior in America. The order of the day? Tackle the roots, drown it in Olaplex, chop off the damage, and add a clip-in Lullabellz hair piece to style (don’t worry, you’ll be seeing much more of those in my upcoming 90s Get Ready With Me vlog).

Long story short, Paco Latorre (of Live True London Vauxhall) is a genius. He colour matched the extensions to perfection, added a tonne of life to my hair with Olaplex’s three-step molecular bond-builders, and chopped off enough hair to keep my extension-free mane in recovery without making me cry.

I could not be happier.

beauty favourites january 2017
coffee and hair

minneapolis-mall-of-america-16
Let me preface this particular adventure with a bit of a disclaimer…

I kind of hate malls.

Having spent a couple of my fresh-faced years in them caking people’s faces and trying not to gauge my eyes out, they’re simply not an environment I want to spend my free time in.

“But wait..wait…you booked a trip to the Mall of America?”

I did, indeed. During a pre-Lela Takes The Lakes research session, The Mall of America (and its surrounding areas of Bloomington and Minneapolis, Minnesota) seemed to offer everything I love in a new travel destination.

I expected much more than a mall. And boy, did I get it…

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khaleesi hair tutorial
La Sultane de Saba Malaysian Bamboo treatment with Spa Experience
After two months of physically intense travels, my body was feeling a little worse for wear. A bit like a Tamagotchi that accidentally gets put in the washing machine, if you will. I needed some R&R like never before so was thrilled to find Spa Experience had recently launched in Waltham Forest right around the corner from a project I was shooting on my return.

Alongside their aromatherapy steam rooms, saunas and monsoon showers, Spa Experience also offer unique treatments worth double their charge. On this occasion, I opted for the La Sultane de Saba Malaysian Bamboo treatment – a holistic therapy combining an Asian tradition-inspired seashell & sugar cane scrub and warm bamboo massage (stretches, kneads, and all) before a brightening sugar cane facial. Just what the doctor ordered.

Ovvio
Ovvio is likely a brand you’ve never heard of but one you need to pay attention to. Stat. Born simply from a passion for the immense power natural herbs and oils, the brand has created a small line of skin and hair care products which extract the power of Ayurvedic herbs and merge them with pure essential oils to create a luxurious experience that is completely natural, organic and adhere to the highest standards of purity, authenticity and quality.

My first obsession? The Olio Divina Oil – a reparative, lightweight hair oil formulated with ten superpowered ayurvedic herbs and oils; Amla Extract (strengthens hair roots), Arnica Extract (stimulates circulation), Neem Extract (promotes a healthier scalp), Bhringaj Extract (revitalizes damaged hair), Sweet Almond Oil –(adds silkiness and shine), Sesame Oil (improves the richness of coloured hair), Coconut Oil (moisturizes hair), Geranium Oil (calms and relaxes the mind), and Lavender Oil (increases blood circulation), Rosemary Oil (stimulates hair follicles by stimulating cell division and dilating the blood vessels). I have used it for head massage, post shower replenishment and on-the-go moisture boosts with great results.

In fact, my idea of bliss has come to life as a hair oil massage during a Rubino Face Mask pamper. The mask is one of the silkiest I’ve used, is as natural as the hair oil, and is infused with 5% Argantensyl (a high molecular-weight protein that naturally smoothes and tightens skin to the point of wrinkle reduction!). An antioxidant-rich must for anyone with dry, irritated, and ageing skin.

Purelogicol Cellular Renewal Face Wash
As a brand, Purelogicol has perfected the notion of beauty starting from within but also offers a boutique range of intelligent skincare that I adore. Specifically, their Cellular Renewal Face Wash – a natural and scientific feat for healthy skin purification. The thrill? The foaming wash contains a rejuvenating AHA and enzyme complex to help stimulate cell-renewal while decongesting pores and even fixing uneven skin tone/pigmentation (without parabens, alcohol, or anything artificial). It is completely non-abrasive but hard-working. Just how I like it.

LUSH: Music, fragrance, and the combination
ECC100 Records (founded by LUSH cosmetic’s Mark Constatine) recently launched their latest concept album, Set In Stone, and – as a lover of all things Lush and vinyl – I used it as an excuse to binge on all things audible and fragranced.

For the former, legendary composers John Metcalfe (Morrissey, The Pretenders, Catatonia, Blur, Peter Gabriel etc) and Simon Richmond (Neneh Cherry, Virgin Records, REM, Pulp, David McAlmont etc) took inspiration from Dorset’s ancient stone circles (just as Lush’s Gorilla fragrances did), to create a contemporary classical double album that offers a primitive experience marrying the modern and the classical.

For the latter, I fell right back in lust with Hellstone – the sexiest fragrance on Earth (practically made by Earth) and one I will always remember as instinctively making me feel like Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The perfect accent to Set in Stone.

Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Extreme
I made the mistake of having my hair done by someone I hadn’t vetted while I was travelling and was left with a rather frazzled mane. Which can really test a woman with already temperamental curls. Elasticizer Extreme quite literally saved my hair.

The ‘Extreme’ version of the original cult Elasticizer (created personally for Audrey Hepburn) is specifically formulated for African-Caribbean hair types, but is also suitable for extremely damaged and over-processed Caucasian hair types. Hello, me. Essentially, it is a pre-shampoo treatment you can leave in as long as you like to repair and moisturize with a high concentration of active ingredients, castor oil, olive oil, and elastin (essential for strands on their last legs).

Oral-B GENIUS 9000 in Rose Gold
It has been quite some time since I’ve rated a beauty tool (most, as you probably know, are Gimmick City) but I have fallen in love with the Rose Gold GENIUS 9000.

As well as being the prettiest tooth brush in existence, the 9000 features position detection technology that utilizes motion sensors to give you a dentist-perfect clean every time. It literally connects to your smartphone to guide you through your brushing (that’s as good as having a personal dental hygienist at your disposal every morning and night)! It even comes with a travel case that charges the toothbrush and your phone.

Crazy white and healthy teeth with endless technological perks? It’s like it was made for me.

(You’ll be pleased to know it is also currently £170 off at Boots!)

Lip Products of the Month
MAC Cremesheen Glass in Partial To Pink and lipstick in Matte Royal: These two are the fruits of my latest personal shopping adventure in Heathrow and I am as addicted to the Cremesheen’s non-sticky shine as I am Matte Royal’s electrifying hue.

Ciate Magic Pout Potion: It has been over ten years since I sampled the hyper-stinging lip plumpers of my youth and I have finally found one that doesn’t make me want to cry. Ciate’s Magic Pout Potion is a lip primer that hydrates as it plumps, sting-free, utilizing ‘Portulaca Pilosa’ (a Native American flower which boosts the production of hyaluronic acid). Or, as Ciate likes to call it,’VolulipTM Technology’.

Though the month was comandeered by all things work-related, I promised myself I would do at least one Vlogmas this year so made a point to take one day off and treat myself to a little festive fun.

The tomfoolery kicked off with a trip to get my very neglected travel-worn mane fixed by my beloved Jason Collier (Creative Director of the Matthew Curtis Hair Salon at Rosewood London), who you may remember from my glory days with My Little Pony hair.

Vicki (of Honest Mum) and I both love Jason, in fact, so by the time he whipped our differing locks into personal perfection, we were ready to take the day by storm.

After checking in to the Royal Garden Hotel and indulging in a little room service, we Ubered ourselves to the launch of Portobello Road Gin‘s four-floor boutique gin hotel (and then some), The Distillery. The hotel plays home to a working distillery, two bars, a gin museum, an off-licence and a gin-making experience dubbed ‘The Ginstitute’. More than enough to keep us busy for a night and more than enough to take us through to a stunning breakfast at the Royal Garden, lots of work, a manicure, Christmas catch-up, very late lunch, and a holiday party.

But that’s just the top line. Click to watch (above) and have a very merry Christmas, indeed!