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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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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!

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As a travel blogger, I can often be stuck spending more time in airports than I do in air so was head-over-heels to find out that Heathrow Airport just launched “The World’s Most Connected Mirror” alongside their brand new Personal Shopping Lounge at Terminal 5.

Along with the help of your (complimentary and all rather adorable) personal shopping, the mirror allows you to connect with friends and social connections to get immediate feedback on desired purchases in real time.

I, naturally, got stuck in as soon as I could. Between sips of champagne, Vuitton-lusting, Harry Potter Store browsing, and cape-twirling in Harrods, I managed to scout the shade I had fallen in love with when trying blue lipsticks weeks beforehand, the MAC lipglass that has always reminded me of childhood, and even a massively discounted early Christmas present for myself (in the shape of a wine-coloured ostrich handbag from Kurt Geiger).

If you’re not going to indulge when it’s duty-free, when are you?

Shop My Heathrow Personal Shopping Buys Now (or wait ’til you get to the airport for the discount!)

A photo posted by Lela London (@lelalondon) on

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Inspired by Oasis’ face swappable bottles…

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This week – to the delight of social addicts everywhere – Oasis launched the world’s first face swappable bottle (you can useany app that features face swap technology to take part).

They don’t just want Oasis in your face anymore, they want it on your face.

Since Oasis are giving y’all the chance to win one of 500 face swappable bottles of Oasis Summer Fruits (you simply head to Oasis’ Facebook page and enter by posting one of your best face swap photos in the comments section – T&CS), I thought I would get you help you prep and prime with a rather affirmative guide to selfies…

Why you should embrace the selfie: face swaps, filters, and all…

1. Confidence.
Until the selfie become a ‘thing’, we were forced to suffer at the results of candid or awkwardly-posed photos requested by the one in ten people who fancied themselves as a photographer.

Put brilliantly by Susan Sontagm, “to photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as a camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a subliminal murder.”

Now, we can snap a photo of ourselves which – at the most basic level – captures how we really see ourselves. As fierce, beautiful, and ‘us’ as we want. A selfie is often a rare moment where we’re not comparing ourselves to others or berating ourselves for looking different to ‘the girls in the magazines’. Without their teams of stylists, hairstylists and make-up artists, we can capture a moment of equal hotness.

2. Feminism.
Misconceptions and judgements of selfies often come labelled alongside superficiality, vanity, and desperation – the misogynistic armour of anti-feminism. When the entire world wants us to look a certain way and suggests it is more virtuous to self-loathe than self-love, a selfie is a rare moment where women can call the shots. Unapologetically.

A healthy, positive image of yourself as a woman is not vanity. It is wonderful.

3. Memories.
Are you going to look through 100 blurry photos of the Eiffel Tower in your old age? Doubtful. Are you going to look through photos of you and your loved ones smiling in front of the Eiffel Tower? Absolutely.

Bonus points for having plenty of visual proof of how hot you’ve always been.

4. Straight up fun.
With face swaps, filters and hyper-changing phone technology, selfies can be a tonne of fun. If you haven’t face swapped with your partner (#futurekids), turned yourself into a piece of toast, or filtered a floral crown onto yourself when you have the flu, frankly, you haven’t lived.

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