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Mecca Cosmetica Beauty Loop Level 2
Beauty & Health

Sample your way to gorgeous

Back when I worked in retail during my uni years I had a coveted role as a makeup artist on a department store cosmetics counter. Retail, like hospitality, as anyone who’s worked either job will know, gives you a rather unique perspective on the human condition. (General rule of thumb, by the way – the more someone acts like they own the store, the more likely their card is to be declined due to insufficient funds.)

The most frustrating of all customers? The serial sample shopper. This customer never actually buys anything and instead subsists entirely upon freebies gained by feigning interest in products. Of course for those of us who are genuine beauty junkies, samples are the backbone of discovery, allowing us to try new things without fully committing. Sample shoppers give the rest of us a bad name.

The good news? With online shopping now firmly a way of life for many of us, you can sample shop guilt-free, anytime you like. Here are my favourite places to try new things…

Cult Beauty – a smattering of trial sizes so you can pick up a little of something interesting as well as free luxury samples with every order over £40.

Mecca Cosmetica – sign up to Mecca’s loyalty program, Beauty Loop and spend more than $300 AUD a year to get a palette of benefits like four boxes of samples a year (no purchase necessary!) and a free makeup session on your birthday.

Lucky Scent – specialising in rare and hard-to-find fragrances and perfumes, here you can pick up a sample of almost any scent in their library for as little as $3 USD.

B-Glowing – a store full of obsession-worthy products and the best in emerging beauty with your choice of three free samples packed for each and every order. Enough said, right?


Lane Crawford
Beauty & Health, Everything Else, Fashion, Style

Yet Another 12 Excellent Online Stores That Ship Worldwide

If you’re a regular reader and you’ve been paying attention you’ll know that these posts I’ve written rambling on about my favourite online stores that ship internationally are amongst the most popular of all time. So, you asked for it… here’s another 12! These online stores ship to America, ship to Australia, ship to Europe, ship to Asia… in fact, they ship most places (but be sure to double-check your location before you get too excited. A geographical in-basket disappointment is just the worst.)

  1. ASOS – I’ve got no idea how I’ve managed to leave them off my list ’til now… but better late than never, right? ASOS delivers to all corners of the globe, quickly, efficiently and FREE. No matter your style, budget or gender, ASOS has something to fit your brief.
  2. MyTheresa – high fashion, high prices, high style. If you’ve seen it in a international fashion week street style shot, chances are good you can find it here, and have it in time for the weekend.
  3. Farfetch – I like to think of Farfetch as a highly curated, luxe marketplace where only the most covetable boutiques from across the globe get to sell their wares. No matter where they are, though – down a little laneway in Milan or on the chicest strip in Paris – they’ll ship to your doorstep.
  4. Shopbop – ship worldwide? Pfft, Shopbop don’t just ship worldwide, they express ship worldwide AND for free. These folks stock a veritable who’s who of the fashion world from denim to dresses and everything in between, but unless it’s sale time, don’t go clicking if you’re on a tight budget.
  5. Revolve Clothing – One of the originals, these folks are still going strong for a reason… and on the shipping front they now offer free international shipping for orders over $100 USD (or equivalent). In terms of style, there’s no argument – Revolve is definitely for the younger amongst us (sartorially speaking anyway).
  6. Lane Crawford – the Hong Kong based mecca and one-stop-shop for everything you need to get that Insta-worthy, street style savvy, it-girl cool (and they’ll ship your goodies to you free, anywhere in the world).
  7. Saint James – if you’re as much a sucker for a stripe tee as me, you needn’t look any further. Saint James may actually be where it all started.
  8. Strawberrynet – all your makeup, skincare and fragrance needs, all in one place, all at a discount. Check back regularly though, the stock changes daily. (And in case you’re wondering, I’ve bought from this store close to 50 times now and have never had a problem with authenticity).
  9. Luisa Via Roma – all the delights of the famous boutique in Florence, shipped worldwide. Dangerously delightful.
  10. She Style – Ridiculously cheap fashion at ridiculously low prices.
  11. Thread Etiquette – Watches, bracelets, ties, sunglasses and other such essentials, shipped straight to your door, no matter where that may be.
  12. Wolf and Badger – the best of up-and-coming fashion, at your finger tips (and most importantly, in your mailbox).

Want more? Here are the other three posts with this theme: 12 Fantastic Online Stores That Ship Worldwide, 12 Online Interiors Stores That Ship Worldwide, 12 More Online Stores That Ship Worldwide.

The Outnet
Beauty & Health, Fashion

Friday Finds: 100% Pure, R+Co, Got Wood and The Outnet

This week’s finds are all about being a little bit experimental…

100 Percent Pure Fruit Pigmented Foundation

Without a doubt one of the more interesting products to ever grace my bathroom, 100% Pure’s Fruit Pigmented Water Foundation is neither a cream nor liquid foundation but more like a gel-cream and as you may have guessed from the name, it’s 100% natural (and vegan). The finish is more tinted moisturiser than foundation, but for the rather curious texture and purity-factor alone, it’s worth a try. $40 AUD via Nourish Life (or order a sample pot for $10 AUD).

R and Co Analog Cleansing Conditioner

Haircare brands are a dime a dozen these days, and frankly it’s down to personal taste as to which one scores a spot in your caddy on any given month. So it’s a refreshing sight to see a brand doing something a bit different. Don’t get me wrong, R+Co have the same stable of sea salt sprays and shine shampoos that you’d expect, but they’re getting their rebel on with products like the Analog Cleansing Foam Conditioner ($30 USD). It’s got the texture of a mousse and doesn’t lather, so offers a rather interesting option for those intrigued, but not quite ready to take the plunge into the giving-up-shampoo-altogether club.

Got Wood Toothbrush

For filing under “why didn’t anyone think of this sooner”, is Got Wood. Very simply, they’re chic, minimal, biodegradable, fair trade, sustainable toothbrushes. Really, how didn’t anyone think of this sooner? $6 AUD.

Finally, it’s only a tiny innovation and they’re certainly not the first, but purveyors of discount luxury goods The Outnet (top) now do free returns. Thank me later.

Great Skin Ingredients
Beauty & Health

The ingredients for great skin

I get told often enough that I have great skin. This isn’t a brag, it’s a fact. The other fact however is that I don’t have great skin. I have terrible skin, but I spend a lot of money to make sure it looks as good as it can (and even then it never seems enough).

I’ve written before about some of my bargain beauty buys, but here are the products that are on the higher end of the cash money spectrum which make up my routine…

(Left to right, above…)

ASAP Daily Exfoliating Facial Scrub ($40 AUD) – used twice a week in the mornings.

Cosmedix Define ($100 AUD) – used nightly.

Cosmedix Simply Brilliant ($70 AUD) – used every morning under moisturiser.

ASAP Moisturising Daily Defence ($55 AUD, SPF 30+) – every. single. day. It has UVA and UVB spectrum coverage.

This Works No Wrinkles Eye Repair ($80 AUD) – morning and night.

Of course, over the counter products and a diligent home care routine only gets you so far. On top of this, I’m a big advocate of:

  • Medi-facials – these are the kind you need to see a dermal clinician for and generally aren’t very pleasant (unless you’re a bit like me and feel that pain = gain). They involve things like extractions, microdermabrasion and peels. I used to have them every month but have lightened up to every 2 – 3 months.
  • Laser – not the hair removal kind. The brightening kind. It softens pigmentation, freckles and age spots. For me they have to crank that machine up to within an inch of its capacity and I still don’t get the blackening they tell you to expect, but everyone is different. This, as with the medi-facials are NOT things to skimp on. You get what you pay for and a lot of damage can be done by someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

Finally, you know that old adage ‘you are what you eat’? It’s true. You’re also what you drink. Focus on getting a lot (and I do mean a lot) of fruit and especially vegetables in your diet, often and with variety. Drink four or five times the amount of water than anything else.


High-Performance Ethical Beauty
Beauty & Health

High Performance Ethical Beauty Buys

Once upon a time, ethical (that is, cruelty free) beauty was a rather hippyish concept… today however, it’s frankly archaic if your favourite lippy, cleanser or body balm is tested on animals or contains ingredients which are. Happily, finding great high-performance beauty products isn’t the arduous mission it once was (except fragrance, that one is still a bit of a task).

For me, no beauty product is worth horrific living conditions for anyone – human or otherwise, so I put a lot of hours into researching brands to know if they’re truly ethical or whether they’re hiding behind terms like ‘product not tested on animals’ (well, duh… I didn’t actually think you were giving bunnies wash and blow-dries).

Here are a handful of my ethical beauty go-tos (left to right).

Batiste Dry Shampoo. I’m a fan of the original scent – it makes your hair smell clean and fresh, not like you’re trying to cover up the fact you were smoking behind the bike shed at lunch as some others do. $7.95 AUD / 200ml from your nearest pharmacy.

This Works No Wrinkles Tired Eyes serum. I looked long and hard for one I could wear both day and night which was hydrating enough yet didn’t make my eye makeup fall into creases or slide off. This is, and it’s sibling (No Wrinkles Eye Repair) are it. £42.00 / $84.00 AUD at Mecca Cosmetica.

Frank body scrub. I’ve tried every flavour and I haven’t found one I don’t like. Frank is no-nonsense and it really does help with cellulite and stretch marks. Amazing. $14.95 AUD / 200g.

Butter London nail polish. Every shade is gorgeous and just two coats is enough to make it look like the bottle. $22.00 AUD at Skincare Store.

Mecca Cosmetica To Save Hands hand cream. Absorbs fast, contains SPF 30. Smells nice without being overpowering or competing with your fragrance. Love it! $38.00 AUD / 100ml at Mecca Cosmetica.

Hourglass 1.5mm mechanical gel liner. A solid gel liner that applies like a superfine pencil, yet stays like a gel. The future is here and it comes in packs of three. $22.00 AUD each or $45.00 AUD / pack of three at Mecca Cosmetica.

Now in case you’ve been wondering, there are a few grey areas when it comes to ethical beauty.

The primary one is brands that have historically, not tested final products nor ingredients on animals, yet selling in China requires them to do so by law. Personally, I choose to not support these brands, as I feel they have the opportunity to take a stand and lobby for a change in law. With a growing Chinese market, this is a tough one to keep a handle on.

The second area is brands which do not test on animals, yet have been purchased by businesses which do. For example, the Body Shop never has and to this day does not test on animals. It is however, now owned by the L’Oreal group which is arguably one of the largest supporters of animal testing. In this case I have chosen to adopt PETAs line and support the brands within the group which do not conduct animal testing (or hire anyone to do so on their behalf – loophole alert). Other than being PETAs approach, this strikes me as good economics; businesses which are suffering financially due to a downturn in sales will likely seek to cut costs in their supply chain and the alternatives to animals testing, whilst extremely viable are also expensive.

At any rate, regular readers can know that any beauty I feature here has passed an investigation beyond a cursory glance at the back of the packaging.



Australian Pharmacy Buys
Beauty & Health

5 Australian Pharmacy Buys

If you’ve ever read anything even vaguely beauty related you’ll be familiar with the high-esteem in which beauty types worldwide regard the French Pharmacy (yes, a phrase worthy of a proper noun). All this adoration got me thinking… I’m often told I have great skin (‘really quite remarkable’ according to the lady at the beauty counter a few weeks back) but the truth is I don’t. I have expensive skin, and there’s a world of difference.

The way I justify outlaying ridiculous sums of money on skincare is offsetting it by dotting cheaper buys throughout my bathroom cabinet… and none of them are French. Here’s my pick of five great buys from Australian pharmacies (and most are available at the supermarket too).

Left to right…

Thankyou body wash – ethically made and sourced, vegan friendly, no nasties, smells great, every bottle helps to change the world… and just $10.00 AUD.

Sukin moisturiser – again, vegan friendly, carbon neutral, Australian made and owned and I prefer it over all the three-figure creams I’ve tried. $9.95 AUD.

Napoleon Perdis Auto Pilot primer – not tested on animals, this one doubles as a primer and a makeup remover to rejuvenate your skin when you’re doing the whole ‘reapply in the office bathroom before dinner’ routine. $59.00 AUD.

Derma Sukin oil balancing wash – from the same family as the Sukin range above and with all the feel-good benefits, this collection is certified by dermatologists, too. 500ml is $12.95 AUD.

Milk light moisturiser – Australian made, not tested on animals and absorbs super fast. I actually use it as a body lotion! $14.95 AUD.


Frank Body scrub, Hello Hair, Mud bath soak, Official Guilt tea
Beauty & Health, Style

Beauty Buys Of Instagram

It might just be my feed, but Instagram seems to be full of fun frivolous finds at the moment. Better yet, satchets seem to be the packaging du jour, so they fit in the mailbox, pack flat for travelling and ship free. Perfect! Here’s my pick of four great beauty buys discovered via the ‘gram.

Frank Body scrub, Hello Hair, Mud bath soak, Official Guilt tea

(clockwise from top left)

Frank Body –  like coffee? Like products that get results? You’ll like Frank. He’s a doll.

Official Guilt – whether you want to get your beauty sleep or look like you did, these folks have a tisane to suit.

Hello Hair – natural, cruelty free, made in Australia, makes your locks look like a shampoo commercial. Sold!

Mud – for the bath to end all baths.

How To Get Instagram-Worthy Nails
Beauty & Health, Style

How To: Get Instagram-Worthy Nails

Long or short, square or round, however you take your nails the fact is the only way for them to be truly gorgeous is for them to be strong and healthy.

Whilst it’s going to sound braggy, there isn’t a neat way to say it –  my nails are the subject of much attention. All I have to do is tuck my hair behind my ear and strangers clasp my hand and demand to know my secret. Nail bars ask to take photos for their window. You get the idea. It’d be nice to think that I’m genetically blessed in the claw department, but unfortunately this hasn’t always been the case. In fact, nail technicians used to giggle and ask if I was sure I wanted to bother with a manicure.

So how did I get from there to here? Well. Here’s how.

  1. Take supplements. Or fix your diet. Either way, if your nails are unhealthy and brittle – that is, they break, peel or otherwise refuse to grow, there’s no way around it. Your nails are the most visible evidence of the saying ‘you are what you eat’. Personally, I’m a fan of Swisse Ultiboost Hair Skin Nails, but there are many out there and you’ll need to try a few (and even fiddle with the dosage a bit) to find one that works for you.
  2. Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance. I’m not for a second saying you should do anything as ridiculous as give up professional manicures altogether, but knowing how to care for your nails and cuticles between visits is imperative to achieving year-round delightful digits. Learn how by watching a lot of Youtube videos and reading blogs from the big-deal beauty bloggers or just make a few strategic trips to the best nail salons in your area and watch them like a hawk.
  3. Find a good handy-man. (See what I did there?) You need two kinds of nail pro on your speed dial. The cheap and cheerful, no-frills option where you can always get an appointment and they do a fast, quality job without any fuss. The second for occasions requiring serious pampering – you know, where they bust out the champagne and a mani takes 90 mins. Either way, neither should use an electric drill, cut your nails or cause you to bleed. Ever.
  4. Stop using your nails as an implement. You know what I mean – as a tiny crowbar to pick things open, peel things off and generally like some sort of tool.
  5. Get your kit in order. With a bit of trial you’ll find the essentials that work for you. In the meantime, here are mine:
    • Mecca To Save Hands hand cream ($38.00 AUD) – it’s not just hydrating and quickly-absorbed, it contains an all-important SPF!
    • Sephora Cut To The Point cuticle nippers ($24.00 USD) – as long as they’re high quality the brand doesn’t matter too much. One thing’s for sure however – this sure isn’t the time to scrimp.
    • Emery boards – and lots of them.
    • Orange sticks – I like to have a bunch of wood ones and a metal one on hand.

Frightfully easy, as it turns out!

As for some of those “known” things you may have heard of…

  • Biotin – frankly did nothing for me. The same for silica supplements. Sad face!
  • Gel nails / shellac nails / nail polish – these can make your nails weak and brittle, but it’s not the polish that’s the problem, it’s the application and removal. Abrasive application and rough removal will damage your nails quicker than quick.
  • Filing left-to-right versus filing in one direction – I’ve honestly never seen any difference!
Strateas.Carlucci x Goldwell - Modern Pony
Beauty & Health

How To: Catwalk Hair

If you spend any time at all on social media you’ve probably noticed the Mercedes Benz Australian Fashion Week is currently in full swing. It’s not usually the sort of thing we spend much time on (we’re far more interested in what actually hits the shelves in six months time!) but the beauty looks? Well… they’re something you can get your hands on right now.

Ever wondered what it takes to deliver a catwalk-worthy hairstyle? Prema for Goldwell Hair Director Kate McQuitty who created the uber chic and wearable hair at STRATEAS.CARLUCCI was kind enough to give us step-by-step instructions for recreating those modern ponies at home.

Let’s be clear – it takes five products and a weft, but the result is pretty stunning. Here’s how:

Strateas.Carlucci x Goldwell Prep

1. Hair is prepared by applying StyleSign Glamour Whip ($22.95 AUD) thoughout, then directionally blow-dried back, giving a little volume at the roots on the top with mid-lengths and ends kept smooth.

2. Hair is then sectioned off into three parts running vertically down the head. The middle part is then broken into three segments (leaving a small section along the crown free) and secured into ponytails.

3. Divide the side sections into two parts, pulling the lower part back into the middle ponytail and the upper section to the lower ponytail, creating the criss-cross finish. Be sure to keep the lines clean and defined for added impact.

Strateas.Carlucci x Goldwell

4. Take the hair along the crown and smooth back, fixing into the top ponytail. Smooth StyleSign Spun Shine ($9.45 USD) over the section.

5. Tie bottom corners of the lower and middle ponytails around the elastics to created the wrapped hair finish.

6. Run StyleSign Sleek Perfection ($18.31 AUD) through the ponytails and use flat irons to straighten.

Strateas.Carlucci x Goldwell - Weft

7. Attach a matching coloured weft to the top ponytail and straighten down. This makes a huge difference to the final result.

8. Spritz the hair with StyleSign Magic Finish ($22.95 AUD) for final grooming, then apply Goldwell Elixir ($28.10 AUD) to select panels of the hair to create a wet-look which can also act like a highlighter.

Strateas.Carlucci x Goldwell - Modern Pony

Toxic Overload
Beauty & Health

How To: Know When Your Body Is In Toxic Overload

Toxic Overload

We all know that feeling when things in your body start to feel kind of ‘stuffy’ – like something is not quite right, yet you can’t put your finger on it. You might be waking up exhausted (and thinking you’re just not a morning person) or craving sugar after every meal (and thinking you just have a sweet tooth) or finding it hard to motivate yourself to go to gym (and you think you’re just lazy).

Let me be honest here. You could be a morning person, you don’t need to be swayed by sugar, and you’re not lazy.

You just need to look after yourself in a different way – a way that is gentle, nurturing and supportive of optimal health. Feeling tired when you wake up, that’s adrenal dysfunction. Craving sugar all the time, that’s a blood sugar irregularity, and feeling lazy and unmotivated, that’s an imbalance of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) such as dopamine, which allow us to feel alert, motivated and activates the reward pathways in our brain.

All of these issues can be healed and supported naturally, with nutritional and herbal medicine, and simple lifestyle changes.

In naturopathic medicine – where we believe in the healing power of nature – we believe you can put your body in a state of toxic overload, whereby the modern way of living (fast-paced, little rest, eating out and little self care) can start to wreak havoc on our bodies.

That’s where my gentle philosophy of cleansing comes in. I truly believe it’s possible to live in not just a state of physical toxic overload (chemicals and heavy metals from food and beauty products etc.) but a state of mental, emotional and spiritual toxic overload. That would be the arrangements you don’t want to make but you feel guilty saying ‘no’ to, the time spent with other people who drain your energy, the inability to spend time nourishing yourself in ways that feel good to you.

When we don’t look after all parts of our being, we suffer in ways we may not even be aware of. Cleansing all parts of your life – your body, your mind, your space, your self – your whole life – is paramount to living a life of optimal health, as well as happiness, self-acceptance, joy and freedom.

And when you get to this place, waking up is easy, sugar cravings are negotiable, and exercise is done daily because you see the benefits to your mind and spirit even more than just your body.

True story.

For more information on how to cleanse all parts of your being and find your healthiest self, check out my Cleansed group coaching program ($247.00 AUD).


Cassie Mendoza-Jones is a naturopath, nutritionist, herbalist and entrepreneur who believes in the healing power of nature (and a good dark chocolate). Cassie founded Elevate Vitality, a boutique naturopathic clinic, which specialises in healing digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, fatigue, anxiety, stress and depression.

Cassie is the author and creator of the Cleansed eBooks and Cleansed eCourse, and has a wall of qualifications in Naturopathy and Nutritional Medicine.