Elle Files

{A Beauty & Lifestyle Blog}

I don’t usually share anything personal on the blog here and I thought I’d start the New Year by giving you a little peek into the recesses of my mind. I came across this brilliant article on Bianca Bass titled ‘21 Questions to Bring You Closer to Who You Are in 2018’ and I thought I’d answer a few questions from it – it definitely made me think hard and helped to crystallise some of the things I’ve been pondering about.

Looking back on the past year, when did you feel most alive?
When I’d put on my running shoes, plug into a podcast and go for a run in the park. Though I started doing it in a bid to get healthy, I slowly began to enjoy it and saw it as a way to decompress. I loved pushing myself and setting new targets every week. By the end of summer, I could run a whole mile without stopping to catch my breath and that’s something I thought would never happen. While I know it’s mostly down to the serotonin-fuelled high, I felt completely centred, happy and alive after a good run.

What is your definition of feeling ‘alive’?
It’s all about feeling one with myself - if that makes sense. It’s like a euphoric high that you experience when you feel centred and balanced.

What does your ideal Sunday look like? 
Long lie-ins, a good hot bath, and cooking up a storm in the kitchen.

Who or what are you most inspired by? Why?
I draw inspiration from everything I see around me. Sometimes it’s an image that triggers an idea or sometimes it’s a string of words that gets the creative juices flowing. To be honest, it’s the mundane-ness of every day that pushes me to be creative and that’s my biggest motivation to do something. Does that make sense?

When was the last time you did something for the first time?
Hmm. This is a difficult one – I confronted a situation instead of running away from it. Does that count? 

When was the last time you did something you were afraid of?
Not in a really long time. I’m a true Piscean – I don’t like to venture into uncharted waters.

If your life stopped today, what would you regret not having tried?
The idea of starting my own business has been simmering beneath the surface for a while now. R and I have been discussing it and I have a strong gut feeling about it. While I lack a clear vision as to what I want to do, I know that I want to start something of my own. So, I’d be very disappointed if I didn’t get to do that. 

When you’re alone — truly alone, with no phone, no book, no noise, nothing — how do you feel? What does the silence feel like?
Restless. We are so attuned to always be busy that I find it hard to switch off. But, it’s my mission this year to make silence my friend. I want to embrace the quiet moments instead of reaching for the phone.

How do you respond when you don’t get what you want?
I’m a very safe player in life. I’m very cautious. I always weigh out my options before doing anything. I don’t take too many risks. I always set my expectations very low so as to not be very disappointed. But if something didn’t go my way, I’d pick myself up, and give it another go.

How do you respond to situations that force you to get out of your comfort zone?
Though it usually starts out with a little resistance, I always adapt to it quicker than I think.

What area of your life, right now, makes you feel content? What area makes you feel anxious or confused? Why?
While most aspects of my life have some semblance of balance, it's my professional life that I feel uncertain about. The confusion mostly stems from the fact that I want to do more in life. I don’t want my 9-to-5 to be the sole defining factor in my life. I want to do much more than that. I want to be creative. I want to be involved in the process of creating something. Like I’ve mentioned above, I want to start a business of my own and not having a clear vision is definitely making me feel a little unmoored.
While last year was all about pushing myself out of my comfort zone and asking the difficult questions, I want this year to be about revelling in the little moments. I want to slow down. I want to stop multitasking. I want to dedicate my full attention to what I'm doing rather than trying to balance many things at once. If I'm having a bath, I want to enjoy the feeling of warm water cocooning me, rather than staring at the screen of my phone every few seconds. If I go for a run, I want to let my thoughts take over me instead of trying to drown out the noise with music. If I'm reading a book, I want to completely lose myself in it. I want to infuse life into everyday routines. I want to delight in the feeling of doing nothing. I want to stop confining myself to the claustrophobic boxes of my to-do lists. I want to take better care of my mental and physical health. I want to nourish my body from within and out. I want to stop feeling like I always need to be busy. I want to press pause, take a deep breath, and let go.

To help me in this mission of trying of embrace a slower and more mindful pace of life, I've rounded up a few products (some new and old) that support a happier and healthier mind and body.

One thing I'm actively working towards is trying to use more natural and cruelty-free brands and Ren makes up about 50% of my skincare and body care. Their chemical-free formulations, striped-back-yet-chic packaging and their environment-friendly ethos are totally on point. While I have a long list of favourites, my top recommendations are the incredibly luxurious Moroccan Rose Otto Bath Oil and the newly launched & Now To Sleep spray. Most pillow mists are made up of lavender but the addition of ylang-ylang and frankincense makes it smell altogether more luxurious. I've definitely noticed an improvement in my sleeping pattern ever since I started using it and like I've mentioned here, it has an instant calming effect on me. I'd go as far as to say that it's truly transformative.

I've always wanted to use a natural deodorant but didn't know if it would work and so it never quite made it into my beauty regime. But after reading some great reviews about the Schmidt roll-on sticks, I thought I'd give it go. And I'm happy to report that it's totally blown me away. To begin with, I'm not someone who sweats a lot, so it didn't have a lot to do. I just wanted something that kept my underarms smelling fresh and didn't leave those telltale white marks and it worked brilliantly on both these counts. It has a slightly waxy texture that melts into a soft oil-like consistency, which surprisingly feels nice and light on the skin.

Talking about body care, it's an area that we generally tend to scrimp on. It's easier to use a bog-standard drugstore body wash or a scrub. While I'm still looking for a body wash that's free from chemicals and doesn't cost a mini fortune, I've fallen head-over-heels in love with the Herbivore Coco Rose Body Polish.  Apart from its very appealing millennial-pink hue, its tropical-scent makes me think of warm sunny days on a beach. It's gentle but effective and gives a good buff while leaving the skin feeling thoroughly moisturised.

I discovered the Forrest Essentials Rose Mist on my last visit to India and it's a high-end, luxury brand with products formulated around ayurvedic principles. Coupled with beautiful packaging and gentle formulas, their products all naturally fragranced. This refreshing mist smells exactly like freshly cut roses and I'm on my second bottle at the moment. 

I've had the jade roller for a while now and I love giving myself a massage every now and then. I slather on a generous layer of oil and go over my face a couple of times. Apart from aiding with lymphatic drainage, it's incredibly relaxing. The Fresh Vitamin Nectar mask is a new addition to my skincare arsenal and it's slowly worked its way to the top of my favourites. It has an instant brightening effect and leaves the skin feeling so soft! I'll report back on this once I've used it a couple more times but for now, I think it's a gentle exfoliating mask. 

One of my resolutions is to start taking better care of my health. So, I've started taking the Instytutum Flawless Inner Beauty Ageless Complex capsules. While it's hard to notice any discernible difference, I know it's going to help in the long run. It’s packed with a host of skin-benefitting ingredients like biotin, which helps to strengthen hair and nails, while selenium is a powerful antioxidant that prevents cell damage and increases skin elasticity and the famed hyaluronic acid boosts collagen production. It’s so hard to find one supplement that does it all and this one features the most comprehensive list of ingredients I’ve ever seen. Quite impressive. I could go on awhile about its brilliant formulation, but Instytutum does an excellent job of detailing the ingredients and how it works right on their website.

The Something For A Week kit from Biocol Labs is a plant-based detox kit that I'm quite excited to try. It contains a purifying blend of chicory, artichoke and choline, which contributes to the maintenance of a normal liver function. It comes with seven ampoules that can be taken on its own or mixed in with a juice. They suggest doing one detox every month and I'll do a detailed post about it soon. 
December has been an incredibly busy month for me. From endless work deadlines to hosting my very first Christmas party, it's been crazy, chaotic and downright exhausting. Thankfully, these products have been my perfect pick-me-ups during this busy festive period.

Becca Blacklight Priming Filter// My skin's been looking a bit lacklustre lately and this luminous primer has been my ultimate saviour. It feels lovely and moisturising and makes skin look instantly more awake. I usually mix it in with the Glossier Priming Moisturiser for an extra bit of glow and hydration.

Tom Ford Beauty Shade & Illuminate (Scintillate)// This was one of those PMS-fuelled impulsive buys that I thought I might regret, but surprisingly it's been one of my most used cheek products in the last month or so. It's lightweight, silky and imparts a sheer tint of colour. I like formulas that don't set on the skin and this beautiful blusher-highlighter duo retains its dewy shine without fading away. It really is an investment worth making. And I don't say that lightly.

 Jilian Dempsey Lid Tint// I found this while scouting for a Secret Santa pressie at Topshop. I might have done a little happy dance because this has been on my wishlist ever since I saw Lisa Eldridge use it in this video. If you've read this post, you'll know that I love a good glossy eye and this is the perfect product to achieve that look. Creamy and waxy, this eyeshadow imparts a beautiful radiance to the eyelids without looking like an oil slick. Though the texture is lightweight, there is a slight tackiness, which some might find annoying, but personally, I don’t mind.

NAF Cuticle Oil (Juicy Mango)// I have Sahara-dry hands and my cuticles look more unsightly than ever during winter. To stop them from peeling, I've been brushing this oil over my nails every night and they've made a huge difference. Vegan and cruelty-free, it features a mix of Vitamin E, jojoba and mineral oil to nourish, hydrate and strengthen the cuticles.

L'Oreal Nail Polish (Rubis Folies)// I don't usually wear bright nail colours, but recently I was overcome with this urge to find a particular shade of red. I wanted a cross between ruby red and raspberry and Rubis Folies from L’Oreal seemed to perfectly fit the bill. It's a gorgeous claret hue and it feels less in-your-face than a true red. I've been wearing this all of December and I've got tons of compliments, which leads me to believe that it's a pretty unique shade. Also, I was pleasantly surprised with the formula, it's creamy and delivers rich, pigmented colour in just one coat. Top marks all around!

 Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse// I'm extremely lazy when it comes to moisturising my body, but this dry oil makes it a quick two-minute affair. One of the problems I have with using a body oil is that it leaves behind a sticky film but this one from Nuxe sinks in quickly while eliminating the uncomfortable over-lubricated feel. Apart from being deeply nourishing and hydrating, it smells absolutely lush, too.

REN & Now to Sleep Pillow Spray// The first time I used this sleep-inducing spray, I didn't notice much difference but after prolonged use, I can say it works brilliantly to calm my busy mind before bed. Formulated with calming ylang-ylang, frankincense and lavender, it smells incredibly lovely and relaxing. Also, how cute is the packaging?

Escentric Molecules 01// Much like finding the perfect pair of jeans, finding your signature scent can be a bit of a task. However, I can safely say I've found my signature scent in this fragrance. It's musky, woody and transforms into something infinitely more sultry on the skin. It's also the only fragrance I've ever worn that routinely has people coming up to me asking what I’m wearing. And that rarely ever happens in London, so that’s saying something. 
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There’s something so magical about December. The festive lights, mince pies and present planning make it all the more special. While I'm yet to indulge in the utterly delicious mince pies, I’ve got a good headstart on buying pressies for friends and family. Also, rather surprisingly, I’m brimming with ideas this year. So, I've rounded up some amazing (if I can say so myself) gifting ideas to help you tick things off your to-buy list and leave you with extra time in front of the telly for a Christmas movie marathon. Sounds good? Here you go:

Since Glossier is still a fairly new brand in the UK, you can't go wrong with gifting their products. The Birthday Balm Dot Com makes for a super-cute Secret Santa present as well as a multi-purpose stocking filler. Apart from the covetable packaging, it smells exactly like birthday cake and who doesn't like cake, right? If you're looking for a more indulgent present for a pal who is always on-the-go, I can't recommend the Ren Moroccan Otto Bath Oil enough. Apart from turning her bathroom into a spa with its heavenly scent, it'll provide an opportunity for her to kick back and relax.

Another lush option is the Lixir Electrogel Cleanser - a no-frills, straightforward (and seriously pretty) cleanser that works for all skin types. When Christmas is long over and the tell-tale signs of too much alcohol start to show on the skin, she'll be chuffed that you bought her this. The Herbivore Botanicals Coco Rose set is perfect for those who enjoy a good dose of bath time. It comes with a tropical-scented body polish, a moisturising mist and a pretty pink lip balm. A French pharmacy-favourite - the Nuxe Multi-purpose Dry Oil is a winter-appropriate stocking filler. Also, who doesn't want glistening skin a la our Parisian pals, right?


Now, I'm super excited to share this! It's a monthly book subscription called Reading In Heels (how posh!), where they send you a book (modern, literary fiction) with a few extra goodies thrown in. If their previous boxes are anything to go by, your (lucky) friend is in for a real treat. This is literally the definition of a gift that keeps on giving. Gifting a fragrance can be tricky business but this scent-sational set from Jo Malone comes with a miniature perfume and candle - perfect for trialling before investing in full-sized products. Velvet is back in a big way, and the best way to embrace the trend is through accessories. This gorgeous red Coffer Bag with gold hardware is perfect if you want to spoil a loved-one (or yourself). This spangly star-strewn pouch from New Look doubles up as a makeup bag and a party clutch. Ingenious! Perfect for the interiors-obsessed, these ceramic pots from Etsy are perfect for storing knick-knacks and work well as a planter too. 

As a thank you I'm going to be giving away the Herbivore Botanicals Coco Luxe Set. It's open internationally. 

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This post is the result of a long conversation I had with a friend recently. We were both exchanging gift ideas and she suggested I compile all of my favourite products in one convenient place. From volumising mascaras to comforting body creams, here’s a list of my top picks that’s sure to appeal to the die-hard beauty lover in your life.

For the minimalist makeup lover
She loves nothing more than a good blusher and a lashy mascara. Even if she takes her time to carefully apply makeup, she blots it all off before heading out because she's into the lived-in look. She considers Into The Gloss her beauty bible and Emily Weiss her fashion god. She sometimes buys beauty products purely for aesthetic purposes, and also coz it'll look cool on the 'gram. Her signature look is nude lipstick + nude blusher + failsafe bronze-y eye. (I could be describing myself here) 

For the skincare addict
You can spot her from a mile away because she has gleaming skin that's the result of a multi-step AM & PM routine. She knows how to expertly layer every product. She believes that Caroline Hirons is a skincare messiah. She has 5654 serums and 8786 mists but still continues to buy them because it's boring to not experiment (with skincare). She knows the difference between AHAs & BHAs like the back of her (smooth) hand. Her favourite Sunday activity? Multi-masking! 

For the bodycare obsessed
She loves nothing more than a good Sunday soak. She religiously takes time out of her day to moisturise every inch of her body with comforting lotions and buttery balms. She delights in the sight of her expensive Aesop handwash sitting prettily next to the marble brush holder. She's willing to splurge any amount of money on products if it comes with the word 'detox' written all over it. She loves deliciously scented products - she can totally tell the difference between synthetic fragrances and an expert blend. 

I’ve found that the best way to deal with stress is to take a moment in the day to treat yourself to some ‘me-time’. When I feel completely overwhelmed, I've realised that nothing makes me happier than taking a nice, long bath and snuggling up in my comfiest pyjamas. Also, of late I’ve gotten into the habit of following a nightly wind-down ritual, which is probably the only reason why I haven't turned into a massive ball of stress.

After a warm bath, I slip into my toasty radiator-warmed pyjamas and make myself some cardamom-infused tea. I'm not much of a tea or a coffee drinker, but this warming brew reminds me of home and that's a very comforting thought before bedtime, isn't it? Then I slather myself in the heavenly Sleepy body lotion from Lush. I initially thought it smelled too sickly sweet but I've slowly grown to like it. Apart from the dreamy lavender hue, I LOVE the soft, whipped consistency. I'm not a big fan of body lotions that are too rich and creamy, so this is the perfect alternative - it's lightweight, sinks in well and coats the skin in a delicious fragranced layer.

 With the turn in the weather, my hands have started to look more pruney than usual, so I moisturise them with the Neal's Yard Remedies Wild Rose cream. It has a lovely medicinal smell and is incredibly soothing with no greasy after-feel. Next, I brush my nails with the mango-scented cuticle oil from NAF Salon - a super cute salon in Glasgow with Pinterest-worthy interiors. I've been looking to buy one for a long time now and I didn't want to pay an extortionate amount for it. So, when I saw that they sold these for just 8£, I added them to my basket immediately. This has restored both my nails and my faith in cuticle oils - they really do work!

And finally, I apply a generous layer of the By Terry Baume de Rose to my lips before cuddling up to R. It's super posh and pricey, but it's worth every pretty penny! It's a deliciously thick and buttery balm with a soft rose smell. What I particularly like about it is that it’s emollient without being greasy and, it stays put the whole night. I'm seriously obsessed! (Two exclamations in one paragraph- can you tell I'm in love?) I'm even considering buying a miniature version of it for my handbag.

All this takes me a little over five minutes and I've found that carving out this little time for myself in my busy day makes me keep my cool and not feel like a wound up robot. 

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