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Cystic Spots

This is how my skin looks normally.

For anyone who read my last blog, you’ll know I had a bit of a nightmare recently when using Retinol for the first time! After this mis-hap I was left with some pretty nasty spots. Just to be clear, I have never suffered with spots. Not through my teens, not when I’m on my period, never; I have been lucky enough to always have blemish-free skin. 

A week went by and the spots didn’t amount to anything. They didn’t look bigger, they didn’t look smaller and they didn’t ‘come to a head’. In fact the only thing that got worse was the pain and itchiness. They felt way bigger than they looked and they throbbed. I tried not to touch them, however whilst investigating, I realised they were getting bigger but only under the surface of the skin. This is when I started doing some research, I spoke to one of my friends who is a nurse and we diagnosed them as ‘Cystic Spots’. I felt really embarrassed because even though they didn’t look like ‘bad spots’ they were really sore.

According to WebMD “Cystic acne happens when this infection goes deep into your skin, creating a red, tender bump that’s full of pus. It may hurt or itch. If a cyst bursts, the infection can spread, causing more breakouts.”

WebMD say this is the way you treat Cystic spots:

How Is It Treated?

Over-the-counter medicines that work on milder acne often have little effect on cystic acne. A dermatologist will likely recommend one or more of the following:

  • Oral antibiotics help control bacteria and lower inflammation. Sometimes your acne may not respond to antibiotics or you may find they don’t work as well after a few years.
  • Birth-control pills can help some women by regulating their hormones.
  • Prescription-strength creams, lotions, or gels with retinoid, a form of vitamin A, can help unclog your pores and assist the  antibiotics with their job. 
  • Isotretinoin (formerly known as Accutane but now available as the brands Claravis, Sotret, Myorisan, Amnesteem, and Absorica) attacks all causes of acne. The recommended dosage for most of these medications is to take a pill once or twice daily for about 5 months. For most people, this clears the skin completely and permanently. If it recurs, you can repeat the treatment. Women should avoid becoming pregnant while taking this drug.
  • Spironolactone is a medication that helps you get rid of unneeded water, but also is effective for cystic acne in women.
  • Injections of steroids into individual cysts can be performed at your doctor’s office.”

 I have never got on with birth control pills and injections seemed like overkill. I decided to try some topical treatments first of all. I started with tea tree oil applying morning and night for about 4 weeks. This definitely reduced the itchiness and inflammation but the spots showed no sign of disappearing.

I then bought an ‘Overnight Targeted Blemish Lotion’ from Revolution Skincare. The description was ‘The Overnight Targeted Blemish Lotion is the ideal treatment to help soothe and clear your breakouts in a hurry. Formulated with spot-fighting Salicylic Acid, Zinc Oxide and Calamine, breakouts are targeted and skin is soothed.’ My thinking was that the Salicylic Acid would help get rid of dead skin cells and build up of dirt, whilst being antibacterial. The Zinc Oxide might draw out any impurities and the Calamine would soothe the skin and irritation. I used this at night for about 3-4 weeks and nothing changed. 

At my wits end, I started asking other people what they were using, searching forums and looking for another solution. My younger sister is 14 and has suffered with acne and had been given some lotion at the doctors, a form of antibiotics. She had the tiniest bit left and offered it for me to try.

Now normally I would always consult my own doctor before using something like this. But due to the fact mine weren’t going to be diagnosed as ‘acne’ I knew it was unlikely I would be prescribed this. Doctors are known for being stubborn when it comes to spot treatment and whilst my face isn’t covered in multiple spots, the few I had were really sore to live with.

Its called “Dalacin T Topical Lotion- Clindamycin Phosphate”, you apply once in the morning and once at night. I started this on Saturday evening (16/11/2019) Within 24 hours the pain and itchiness had subsided. By Tuesday the cystic lumps I could feel beneath my skin had reduced in size. Here we are on Friday and they barely feel like spots at all! I am so impressed!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now whilst I can’t tell you where you can buy it, as it has to be prescribed. I can tell you that if you are suffering as much as I was, go to your doctor and make a massive fuss and ask for it! Because I honestly can’t recommend it enough!

The only other over-the-counter product I have been recommended but didn’t get a chance to use was ‘Acnecide’. If you have any personal experiences with this, whether it be good or bad, please share in the comments! It could really help someone else looking for a cure! 

My skin now!

Big shout out to anyone who deals with any type of acne. People don’t realise that it’s not just about how you look but how it makes you feel and how painful and itchy it can be. 

Not only does it look better but there is barely any cyst behind each dot!

If you need any advice on anything mentioned in today’s blog please get in touch via the comments or email in to

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Retinol is the key anti-ageing ingredient everyone is talking about at the moment,  and that is most probably due to the fact that it works! Let’s dive straight in and I will tell you all about retinol including my personal experience with it.

Firstly, let’s cover what Retinol actually is. Topical vitamin A–based drugs called retinoids—the most used and most studied anti-aging compounds— reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Tretinoin, under the brand name Retin-A, was the first retinoid. It was used as an acne treatment in the 1970s, but researchers later discovered that it also faded actinic keratosis spots, evened the appearance of pigmentation, and sped up the turnover of superficial skin cells.

Retinoids reduce fine lines and wrinkles by increasing the production of collagen. They also stimulate the production of new blood vessels in the skin, which improves skin color. Other benefits include; fading age spots and softening rough patches of skin. However, it can take the best part of three to six months of regular use before improvements in wrinkles are apparent—and the best results take six to 12 months of use.

Because retinoids can cause skin dryness and irritation, doctors often recommend using them only every other day at first and then gradually working up to nightly applications gradually. In the same way, as I have said in previous blogs about exfoliant products, you need to wear sunscreen during the day, because retinoids increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight.

Tretinoin (Retin-A, generic), tazarotene (Avage, Tazorac), and adapalene (Differin) are prescription retinoids. Adapalene is also available over the counter (in a 0.1% formulation versus the 0.3% prescription version). Other retinoids are still currently undergoing clinical trials.

Several over-the-counter products containing retinoids, such as retinol, are available. Because they’re not as strong (and thus less irritating), they are not as effective in reducing wrinkles as tretinoin; but they do improve the appearance of photo-aged skin. Tretinoin can be used with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) for additional skin-smoothing effects.

Retinols do not work equally well on everyone – you should definitely not touch the stuff if you suffer from rosacea, eczema, or psoriasis as retinol can make you more vascular – meaning that you will end up with more inflammation and thereby worsening symptoms of whatever it is you are suffering from- however no-where did it tell me this when I had my first experience with Retinol!!!

As I am a self-diagnosed ‘beauty junkie’ I buy a lot of products online. More often or not they send little samples and sachets for me to try; mainly because I spend way over the promotion minimum spend. One day I got a lovely sachet of Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream with 1.0% retinol. Here are the photos of the sachet and what was written on the packet. “Suggest use: Morning or night, apply a pea-size amount or less to clean, dry face, avoiding the eye area.” That was it. Nothing more, nothing less. At this time I didn’t know anything about retinol and one evening I decided to use my sachet…

Whilst I did avoid my eye area… luckily. Unfortunately, I did not use a pea-size amount. I had no idea how strong just 1.0% would be. 

The day after I looked bloody incredible. Best. Skin. Day. Of. My. Life. 

The day after however, my entire face started to peel and. See pictures below. It was painful with red blotches, it was sore and it felt so tight that no amount of moisture cold relieve me. This lasted for around 4-5 days before I started to feel better. Ever since I have been left with cystic spots that I can’t seem to get rid of. I have never had spots in my life, even in my teens, but I seem to have so many sitting under the skin that won’t even come to the surface. They are sore and lumpy and the only thing I can put it down to is the retinol experience. 

This is not an advert for or against retinol, but after I had conducted some research I discovered that many dermatologists don’t advise people who have psoriasis to use retinol. I have psoriasis! There should have been more warnings on the packaging of the sample; I should have researched the ingredients before putting it on my face and I should have only used a pea-size amount. The moral of the story is to do your own research before using a new product or ingredient and to also conduct patch tests to see how your skin reacts.

Let me learn the lessons for you folks!

Retinol can be beneficial for…

  • Anti-aging – As well as targeting wrinkles, retinol visibly brightens dark circles, plumps loose skin, and reduces dullness. 
  • Prevention – Once we reach our twenties our skin starts to produce less collagen so it’s a good time to start using retinol to strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier and defend against the early signs of aging. 
  • Acne/breakouts – Retinol encourages cell turnover in the lower layers of the skin and reduces the overproduction of sebum, so it stops breakouts from forming by preventing dead skin cells and excess oils from clogging pores. 
  • Scarring/pigmentation – Retinol increases cell production in the base layer of the skin, which in turn helps to stimulate cell turnover in the upper layers. As each layer is renewed, scars and marks from sun damage or breakouts fade and soon disappear.

PLEASE BE CAREFUL and contact me or your dermatologist for more information if you are not sure if retinol is a good suit for your skin needs.

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Normal Skin

‘Normal Skin’ is a term often used for ‘well-balanced’ skin. Yes I’m afraid to tell you guys but it IS a thing! Though very rare, there are some lucky people out there who can breeze through life with fairly ‘normal’ skin.

If this is you then this skin activity will sound familiar… 

  • You get out of the shower and your skin feels a little tight and uncomfortable. You put some moisturiser on and voila it’s back to normal. 
  • You feel a bit oily today, best skip the moisturiser for a couple of days. Voila your skin is back to normal!
  • You rarely get blemishes but if you do they are gone in a couple of days. A ‘normal cycle’ for a spot.
  • That time of the month? No worries, nothing changes.
  • Putting your makeup on is fairly easy and often your foundation gives you an even coverage regardless of the brand. 
  • Winter presents no problem for your skin.
  • Drinking more or less water makes little difference to your skin.
  • Face masks, scrubs and sun cream all leave your skin saying ‘nooooo problem!’

As unfair as it is, this skin type is by far the easiest to maintain. Sound like you? Well all I have to say is… good for you!! 

Doesn’t sound like you? Check out some of our other blogs in the Skin Care category!


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Sensitive Skin

Sensitive Skin is a recognised skin type, although surprisingly there is no dermatological definition of what sensitive skin actually is. It is more so defined by individuals experiences and like all things some individuals are affected more seriously than others. Common side effects of sensitive skin include:

  • Sometimes feels hot and itchy after cleansing
  • Flares up easily after using new skincare
  • Is more irritated at certain times in the menstrual cycle
  • Can be oily, combination, dehydrated or dry
  • Can be sporadic 
  • Is prone to being hot with itchy red blotches that get worse if they are touched
  • Sometimes looks angry post-shower
  • Burns fast in the sun 

If you are looking at those symptoms and I’ve hit the nail on the head- then you have sensitive skin. The most important thing to understand about sensitive skin is that each case is different. What works for one ‘sensitive skin sufferer’, might not work for the next. It’s important to spend more time getting to know your skin and what it does and doesn’t respond well to. 

The process of getting to know your skin can be time consuming, but will be rewarding when you find out what pesky ingredient is causing you jip! You need to scale your skincare right back and then introduce ingredients one by one over a long period of time. Ingredients that are most likely to be the culprit, (and are a good place to start), are:

  • Sodium lauryl sulphate
  • Ammonium lauryl sulphate
  • Salicylic acid
  • AHAs
  • Alcohol
  • Mineral/palm/paraffin oils
  • Fragrances (very common culprit for sensitivity problems)
  • Parabens
  • Harsh soaps
  • Toners
  • Astringents (ingredients that are designed to make the skin less oily)

There are other reasons someone might have sensitive skin for example eczema or rosacea. For this reason, always consult a dermatologist before trying this method of getting to know your skin. If it is one of these conditions your dermatologist will be more equipped to help you with your skin.

Download the app ‘Think Dirty’. This is an amazing tool where you can scan the barcode of products or search by name and it will give you a break down of all the ingredients in that product and how ‘clean’ or ‘dirty’ they are. People also review products on this app and it can be really helpful to have a read through and see what other people with similar skin types say! 

A Skincare Plan for Sensitive Skin


  • Cleanse
  • Hydrating serum if dryness is a problem
  • Moisturiser
  • Sunscreen- opt for sunscreens with zinc or titanium (mineral-based sunscreens) rather than those with chemical filters that have the potential to aggravate sensitive skin.
  • Makeup


  • Cleanse
  • moisturise

Avoid exfoliation altogether as it will aggravate the skin even more. If you have any urgent sensitive skin issues please see your doctor or dermatologist. For any product recommendations please get in touch at 

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Acrylic Nails

I have recently trained and received a qualification in applying, maintaining and removing acrylic nails. Inevitably, conversation regarding Chinese nail salons and their code of practice surfaced whilst on the course. So for the benefit of my readers, I thought I would amalgamate the information I’ve collected, along with some research, to let you know some facts. 

Firstly, for any of you who do not know, acrylic nails are nail extensions that are held on by
a mixture of monomer and powder that combine and solidify on top of the nail. Extensions can be filed to create a variety of nail shapes. With regular maintenance and correct aftercare they will last for months. Acrylic is a porous product which enables you to soak extensions off
using 100% acetone.

There are a large number of acrylic nail shops in the UK, whose workers are predominantly of asian heritage. They are known for being cheaper, quicker and there is one in almost every town in the UK. There have been growing concerns about the materials these salons are using. There are 2 types of acrylic liquid monomer used by nail salons around the world – Ethyl Methacrylate (EMA) and Methyl Methacrylate (MMA).

MMA(Methyl methacrylate) liquid monomer – is a chemical compound that is mainly used in the dental industry for the production of bridges and crowns. It’s a flammable liquid that serves as bone cement – after it solidifies – during joint replacement surgical operations by orthopedic surgeons. MMA also found extensive usage in the production of resins, Plexiglas, and some flooring products.

When used on nails, MMA monomers – composed of tiny molecules – penetrate both the nail plate and skin pores, consequently hardening underneath and sandwiching the natural nails. MMA monomers are extremely hard when they solidify and are significantly more rigid than your natural nail.

When you accidentally jam a fingernail made with Methyl methacrylate, its resistance to breaking is so enormous that your natural nails can rip off completely. This brings about excruciating pain, especially if the breakage occurs near the eponychium. Permanent loss and damage of natural nail, numbness of the fingers, and severe infections are the outcomes of such an occurrence.

MMA is also resistant to solvents, thus it takes an unbearably long time for users to remove MMA acrylic after soaking their fingers in acetone. If you don’t have the luxury of time, the nail technicians will suggest to drill it off. Some nail techs may even decide to forcefully remove the MMA acrylic by forcing the tip of a nail between the enhancement and the natural nail. This can be an agonizing experience that you should not have to go through. What is more, some nail techs don’t care about preserving the natural nail underneath the enhancement product.

MMA cannot stick well without grooves, so nail techs proceed to create them with drills, thus damaging the nail plate in the process while prepping for the enhancement. MMA was not designed to be handled by novices or used outside the confines of a laboratory, but by well-trained professionals within a heavily controlled lab environment. Even though MMA is only dangerous in its liquid state and less dangerous when hardened, it is still not considered safe to use by non-professionals.- UV Hero. (2019). MMA vs EMA Acrylic. Confused? Here’s What You Need to Know!. [online]

A little bit of History

Back in the early 1970’s the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began receiving complaints about injuries caused by nail products containing Methyl Methacrylate (MMA). They began investigating these complaints of fingernail damage and deformity as well as dermatitis. After lots of research and many discussions with medical experts, the FDA filed several lawsuits and injunctions against companies in the US. The FDA made it clear to the public that MMA was not to be used in nail products. Despite internet rumours, MMA is not completely banned  in the US (read about nail products from the FDA site). It is however banned by over 30 states in the US that chose to take action themselves. It is also banned in Canada and New Zealand. MMA is not “banned” in Australia either. Why? Because it “can be used safely in other areas” (eg. dentistry).

Ok, so EMA is Good, MMA is Bad – remember that.

Why do some salons use it?

NSS or unsafe nail salons use MMA because it is much cheaper than the safer alternative EMA. It also sets harder and stronger – which may appear to be a good thing, but it isn’t (see below). They think that it will last longer on your nails.

What MMA really does to you

Exposure to MMA can cause:

  • Irritation
  • Redness and Swelling
  • Skin Sensitisation (tingling or numbness)
  • Respiratory problems or eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Fungal or bacterial infections
  • Discolouration of the nails (yellowing)
  • Nail damage or deformities
  • It’s not really known for certain whether or not MMA can cause problems in a human fetus. However, it is known that inhaled MMA can reach an unborn child.

What to be on the lookout for?

    • Unusually low prices – MMA costs about a quarter of the price of EMA and is found in discount salons
    • Nail Technicians wearing masks – certainly not an immediate indication of MMA use (many employees wear masks), but all the clues will start to add up
    • Vague description of brand and products – unlabelled containers and technicians who won’t (or can’t) tell you what they are using. (No recognisable brands such as The Manicure Company, CND or Star.)
    • Much stronger odour – acrylic nails do tend to have a distinctive odour, but MMA has a much stronger and unpleasant fruity odour
    • The acrylic nail turns yellow over time
    • Electric files used on the natural nail – very dangerous and a big warning sign
    • The acrylic nail is very hard and not flexible
    • They will ask you to pay in cash so that there is no record of you attending that nail salon should anything go wrong.

-Polished Beauty. (2019). The Dangers of Cheap Nail Products (MMA) in Cheap Nail Salons. [online] 

“BBC Inside Out has discovered that many budget nail salons are using methyl methacrylate (MMA) which can cause permanent nail damage and severe allergic reactions. 

When reporter Amy Harris visited one nail bar for an undercover manicure she was told they did not use MMA. But when the air sample was tested at the University of Leicester’s laboratories, she discovered MMA had been used.”- BBC News. (2019). How safe is your manicure?. [online]

Legally, only one person needs to be fully qualified in a nail salon if the other people in the salon are ‘training’. They can be in ‘training’ for 1 year before they must get their acrylic nail qualification. Conveniently, once the year is almost up, these unqualified nail technicians then are moved to another franchised nail salon in a different area where the process starts all over again. These workers often don’t get paid fairly for their work, they don’t get to keep their tips and there are rumours that large groups of them are forced to share overcrowded accommodation all in the name of cheap labour. 

If you suspect that you have been exposed to MMA acrylic during your last visit to your local beauty salon, there is no need to fret. The first thing you should do, however, is to remove the nails immediately. If you can’t do it without hurting your natural nails, pay a visit to a reputable salon to get it done for you. Since proper nail maintenance requires getting a fresh set of nails regularly, switch over to EMA-based acrylic nails as soon as possible, and your worries will be over.

*Read on for definitions of the ingredients and processes used in acrylic nails.*

And in short, be aware of the products you are exposing your body to. Do your own research and be educated on MMA and the problems it can cause. Always go to a qualified nail technician who uses branded products from their original packaging. Be aware that some of these nail salons are not what the are cracked up to be!!

The Science

LIQUID (MONOMERS)​ – these are liquids that are used in liquid and powder nail extensions. They ​are a molecule that can mix chemically to other molecules to form a polymer. Monomers consist of one basic molecule, whereas polymers are made up of many monomers. Billions of molecules must react to make just one sculptured nail.

POWDER (POLYMER)​ -​ ​Polymers are very long chains of molecules linked together. Polymers can be liquids but in the nail industry they are usually solids in the form of a powder. The name Polymer comes from two words poly = many, mer = units.

INITIATOR- is an ingredient within a product that will start a reaction in the liquid and powder system. The initiator is present within the polymer (usual Benzyl Peroxide).

CATALYST- is a chemical that speeds up or slows down a chemical reaction. In the instance of applying acrylic nails the catalyst is the heat in the air and the heat in your clients hands.

POLYMERIZATION- is the setting that takes place when a monomer and a polymer are mixed together. To control this reaction an Initiator is needed to start the reaction and a catalyst to control the reaction. – Capital (2019)


BBC News. (2019). How safe is your manicure?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2019].

Capital (2019). BEGINNERS ACRYLIC NAIL EXTENSIONS. Faceforward Ltd, p.4.

Polished Beauty. (2019). The Dangers of Cheap Nail Products (MMA) in Cheap Nail Salons. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2019].

UV Hero. (2019). MMA vs EMA Acrylic. Confused? Here’s What You Need to Know!. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2019].

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What’s Next?

I wanted to pause the advice, the top tips and the ‘How To’s’ and give you guys a little insight as to who I am, who is driving ‘The Beauty Umbrella’ forward and what’s next!

First of all, my name is Beth Hawker. I am 24 years old and I currently live in Bournemouth. I went to university to study ‘Makeup for Media and Performance’ at Bournemouth University of the Arts. I am the founder of The Beauty Umbrella and my inspiration comes from the two things I love the most in this world: helping people and all things beauty! 

I’ll let you into a secret you probably didn’t know… this isn’t my first time starting my own business! Yep, I tried a few years back but I just wasn’t in the right place in my life to get it off the ground. I’m back stronger this time, with a vision and a mindset that I can really work with. I wanted to let all my followers and clients know a bit more about that mindset and what’s next for The Beauty Umbrella! 

Whilst at university I had a job on a makeup counter which truly helped combine my customer service skills and my skills as a makeup artist. It was then that I realised, as much as I loved creating avant garde, fashion style makeup, I loved helping customers much more! I used to get in trouble for sending my customers to other counters as I would loose sales and commission! But I couldn’t help but show them the products I knew would work for them. I not only helped people find the right products for them, but showed them how to use them so they wouldn’t get home and wonder why they’d bought the hottest new product with no hope of knowing how to apply it! I would show them on one side of their face and get them to copy me on the other side, practising their new look. The amount of returning customers I had grew and so did the faith they had in the advice that I gave them. 

Skip forward a few years and I hosted a Tropic party for my friends and I. If you haven’t had one yet, book one NOW! It’s honestly the best skincare range I have tried and its made with all natural ingredients and produced in the UK!

Moving on! There is a prime example of how passionate I am about spreading the word about great products! At the Tropic party, the amazing ambassador, educated us on how to use and apply the products and customised our packages to suit our skin types. We had such a fun night, learnt loads, drank prosecco and had a laugh. That’s when I started to think about Makeup Parties! A fun night in with your friends, learning about makeup application with a glass of prosecco or two!

As I, very informally, started this side of the business, I started having so many more ideas about how to make them better. I was struggling to get people to know the differences between the brushes I was asking them to pick up and use. There was nowhere to put the brushes, so they were rolling around the table! There was makeup everywhere, not enough light… the list goes on! At this point I started to build my brand, my logo, my social media etc. I figured out if my brushes were numbered, they would be more easily identified! If I had brush pots or stands, it would tidy up the work space. I bought ‘ring lights’ for each person so there was no fighting over the best light at the table! It all started coming together and I decided that I needed to take the next step.

So I’ll let you into my biggest secret yet! I am very excited to announce that there are Beauty Umbrella products coming out in October 2019! I took the plunge and The Beauty Umbrella will be releasing a collection of beauty accessories! Which is so exciting because I never thought I would get here and achieve one of my goals so early on. I can’t wait to share them with you so keep following and more information will be released in the coming weeks! Eeek!

Owning my own business hasn’t always been a dream of mine, but working in the beauty industry has. This way I can do what I love everyday and service my clients in the best way I can. Please, if you ever need some beauty advice and you’re not sure who to ask, get in touch. I’m not going to charge you for advice. In fact, one of my favourite things is giving it away for free! (Just dive into my blog library!) My dream now is to create an environment online where it’s okay to ask questions and not be the biggest makeup junkie on the internet. Instagram is an intimidating place full of beautiful, thin, women who have more than likely been photoshopped. There is nothing wrong with having an interest in makeup and hair and still be a complete novice. I’m not scary or intimidating I promise! I will never make you feel silly for asking a question or not knowing how to contour. I am here to help you feel good about yourself day in, day out.

And it’s as simple as that folks! 

Thanks for following me this far and I hope to serve you as clients, followers and friends from here on out! From hair styles to makeup, waxing to nails, hair dye to brow plucking and much more, The Beauty Umbrella has got you covered! 

Beth xX


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How to find your perfect foundation shade

Some on counter staff are better than others, but if you can, it’s better to try and match your self. You know better than anyone what colour your skin is and what you look for in a foundation. Now you may have heard many tips and tricks over the years, however this is the perfect guide to getting your perfect match!

You know how you can often look better in the warm glow of candles or the yellow-y lights in a restaurant bathroom? That is yellow light blessing you with warm golden tones that will complement your skin tone. There are probably only 5 in every 100 women who are so pale they need a pink toned foundation. Everyone else if you see any foundation with the name ‘rose’ or ‘blush’ in the colour name- avoid it like the plague unless you want to look embalmed. Keep pink to cheeks, lips and nails where it belongs. 

Sometimes your forehead is a different colour to the rest of your face, as that’s where the sun hits your face first. This is especially true for women of colour. Either buy and wear two foundations, or if the contrast isn’t too severe, try to find a shade that’s in the middle

Don’t be tempted to go up and down shades to ‘correct’ what you perceive to be faults. Foundation is there to be the same colour as your skin. It is not there to ‘warm it up’ that is what bronzer is for; and it is not there to ‘cool it down’ that is what highlight is for. It is simply there to match perfectly.

Oxidation is a chemical reaction that can occur in foundation. Just like apples and other fruit will turn brown when exposed to the oxygen in the air, foundation can turn a shade or two darker (or more orange) on your skin over the course of the day. Oxidation is a weird, commonly despised, yet not fully understood problem in the beauty world, because it seems to wholly depend on a person’s skin type, the foundation they’re using, and their skincare routine. Some cosmetic chemists say that it’s caused by solvents in the foundation evaporating on your skin, causing the pigments to look a darker color on your face, while others disagree, citing your skin oils or skincare oil to be the real culprit: “The oils on your face and the oxygen in the air…mix with the oils in your foundation and cause the oxidative process” It seems to be a combination of the two is most likely true. Oxidation definitely does happen, but I find that it’s almost always because of an SPF or a primer that doesn’t mix well with your skin or your foundation. If you fall victim of oxidation, then you need to trial and error some different SPF’s, skincare and foundation till you find what works well for you. Take full advantage of samples during this time!!

Lastly, You may need to adjust your colour depending on the time of year. Most women have darker skin in the summer. You can also get liquid bronzers you can mix with your foundation to help when you have a tan. See an earlier blog for more detail.

So here is what you do:

  • Look at the spectrum of colours and pick 4 similar shades, (avoiding the pinks unless you are alabaster-white), that in your opinion are most likely to match.
  • Using a cotton bud, (most counter staff will give you these), create 4 stripes on your lower cheek and don’t blend. Repeat this on your forehead. Top tip: As you put each pot down, leave them in the same order as you applied them so you can remember which colour is which!
  • Now as painfully embarrassing as you may find this go outside and look in a mirror. A hand mirror or a mirror borrowed from counter staff will do. Don’t use your phone or look in it’s camera as it won’t be an accurate representation of colour. Then tah-dah- The one that is the hardest to see is your foundation colour.
  • Don’t be tempted to go up and down shades to ‘correct’ what you perceive to be faults. Sometimes oxidation is just a result of wearing a foundation too dark for your skin. Go with your true colour and the rest of your makeup will always look better!! Trust me! 
  • My last tip is that if you have never used that foundation before, always ask for a sample and try it out first. You’ll never truly know if its a good match in colour and formula till you’ve worn it for a whole day.

Let us know in the comments any colour matching dilemmas you have and we will help!! 


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Teenage Advice

My teenage years were difficult to say the least. “Finding yourself”, hormones, boyfriends, exams and group dynamics; are a few of the world ending catastrophes that trouble many teens. (Don’t get me started on friendship groups of three!!) And those are all things I can’t help with I’m afraid! However, hair, make-up, beauty, and general appearance, happen to be my forte!

 Although my teenage years aren’t far behind me, (I am 24) things have already changed massively since I was younger. I think I am part of the last generation that went through the blue sparkly eye shadow phase? However, that might not be such a bad thing! Lots of teenage girls are contouring from the age of 14 and could create a cut crease in their sleep! I have 3 sisters, two of which are teenagers and roughly the same age. Sister A, is like me- a total makeup addict and every time I see her, her face is painted like she is ready for a night out and she is really, really good! Sister B, is slightly older and reaches for a touch of concealer and mascara on a daily basis. They are both completely different teenagers, completely different people, going through completely different things, but… both interested in changing their appearance.

What are your teenage years for, if not questioning who you want to be, what you want to look like and how you want other people to see you? I fully support ‘the tiny bit of mascara look’ and ‘the full face look’ in equal measures. It’s experimentation, it’s an art and it’s self-expression. I have been through so many different styles over the years, (including a short-lived Goth phase), that have all lead up to who I am now. I encourage all parents, friends and carers to allow teenagers to go through that right of passage; we all deserve the freedom to explore. Your teenage years are already filled with to many ‘don’ts’, if they are trying something new just let them! That being said, still be there for them with some great advice. It’s up to them if they want to listen to you or find out their own way.

Here’s a quick guide to some teenage advice you can have on hand, if your opinion is welcome!

  • Hygiene: I’m talking taking a shower everyday, always have clean hair, clean body, clean clothes, clean teeth. If you do nothing else with your appearance, please let this, at the very least, be your beauty regime. Clean hair will also help prevent a spotty face!
  • Don’t pluck your eyebrows!: Take it from me and probably every female adult you know, that it’s not a fashion statement you’ll want to sport forever. Luckily, we seem to be living in the age of the brows and not too many young girls are over-plucking. If you feel like you need some shape go to a professional eyebrow threader. It’s more delicate on the skin than waxing and more accurate. Try to always go somewhere that has good reviews or, get someone who you admire the look of their brows, to personally recommended somebody.
  • Hair Down There: Times are changing and so is the opinion of pubic hair. Boys and girls are trimming it, getting rid of it, styling it and shaping it. My personal opinion is to do whatever you want with it, it’s your body. My advice is to use a shaver responsibly and when the time comes that you want to try waxing, (if that day comes), make sure you see a professional beautician. First time waxing should never be tried at home!!
  • Limit your use of foundation: You have your whole life to wear foundation and your skin will never look as young as it does now. Save foundation for special occasions and focus on good skin care and a touch of concealer should you need to cover a break out. 
  • Don’t wear celebrity endorsed perfume or cheap body sprays: They are too sweet, overpowering and smell like a school locker room. Not to mention whichever celebrity is on the bottle will have had little to no involvement in developing the product. Invest in a lovely perfume that makes you feel gorgeous inside and out when you wear it.
  • IMPORTANT: CLEANSE: The most important thing you can do for your skin. Especially when you have teenage hormones messing around with the balance of oils and sebum in your skin. Cleanse, (clean!) your skin twice a day and NEVER sleep in makeup. Like EVER. You’ve been warned. 
  • Protect your skin: Sunscreen probably doesn’t feel that important to your right now, especially if you like to have a tan, but most sun damage occurs before your 21st birthday. It may seem like a boring chore that you don’t ever see yourself doing but believe me, you’ll save yourself hundreds of pounds in anti-ageing creams when you are older. Prevention is better than cure. To delve into the topic a bit more see my previous blog post 
  • Don’t go on a sunbed: Don’t be tempted. Sunbeds inflict TWELVE times the level of UVA (the skin-ageing rays) on your skin. It surprises me, in this day and age, that they are still legal. *Blog post about fake tan coming soon!*
  • Don’t use too much heat on your hair: Curlers and straighteners are great for styling but everyday use can create split ends and dehydrated hair. On days where you haven’t got much on, opt for plaits or let it dry naturally! 
  • Don’t Bleach your Hair: Changing your appearance will be at the top of your priorities but so should keeping your hair healthy. Whilst you are young, try not to use harsh chemicals on your hair as this will damage it, making it thinner, easily snapped and dehydrated- all of which isn’t easy to work your way back from.
  • Hair Extensions: Clip in hair extensions are a great way to change up your look but don’t wear them everyday. Trust me. Between the ages of 15 and 18 I wore them everyday and it thinned out my hair so much. I’m 24 now and my hair is still fairly thin and falls out a lot. Same goes for glue in hair extensions, bonds and weaves. Anything heavier than your natural locks will take its toll!!
  • Be kind to your skin: It’s your body’s largest organ and certainly the most attractive! Value it, look after it, respect it. Keep it hydrated, don’t scrub too hard, and please don’t start smoking! You only need to look at the difference between two people the same age, one smoker and one non-smoker to know why. 
  • Don’t get a tattooyet. I love tattoos, I have four. I love three of them. The ones I spent a long time thinking about, the ones I planned out, the ones I drew in different ways, the ones I got when I was older, are the ones I love. The one I got in a rage after an argument with my mum, only a few days after my 18th birthday, that one is embarrassing. Don’t ever do it in a rush or when you are angry. Wait till you meet the right artist, you have the money to pay for a professional and you are 100% sure that’s what you want on your body forever!
  • Experiment: Before the constraints of adult life start to make you feel self-conscious about your appearance, (I truly hope they never do) try whatever you fancy and get creative!

The Beauty Umbrella offers bespoke packages for teenage makeup parties and one-to-one lessons. We take age into consideration and focus on teen appropriate lessons such as finding the right shade of foundation and creating a skin regime that can help problem skin. This can be a great gift to inspire and educate teenagers in the world of beauty.

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Holiday Makeup

Knowing what makeup to bring with you on a sun holiday is always a struggle. Your normal beauty routine never successfully translates in a warmer climate. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Here are some make up tips and tricks that will have you feeling your best in every holiday snap.

It’s the end of another blissful day in the sun. You’ve showered the sand off and look in the mirror to find you’ve caught the sun. Your UK foundation is now two shades too light and your normal moisturizer is sliding off your face faster than you can put it on. Nightmare, right?! Well, not if you change things up!

Using an oil-free after sun or moisturizer will help take care of your skin after sun exposure without leaving you feeling oily. A personal favorite is an ultra-moisturising after-sun ‘Rescue Balm’ from Clinique, which contains aloe to help soothe sun-exposed skin. It also helps to reduce the look of peeling after sun exposure. It’s suitable for face and body, plus the balm is oil-free and non-acnegenic. Please don’t skip this step in a bid for a matte complexion, as your skin will need a drink after being out in the sun all day. There are several cooling, mattifying gels available to help reduce shine. These can be layered on top of an oil-free moisturizer or after sun. The best I’ve come across is Benefit’s Porefessional Matte Rescue.

That brings me onto the next ‘go to’ product that will make all the difference. Benefit’s Porefessional primer. This product is like poly-filler, making every fine line, pore or blemish instantly smoothed out. This is a great option for every skin type and will also look great when worn alone. It has no colour, so if you are someone who doesn’t wear a lot of foundation, (or none at all whilst on holiday), look no further than this product for your base.

If you are a foundation-lover, you need to make sure that your colour stays matched. This isn’t an easy job; especially when the light you find in hotel rooms is less than adequate. The quick fix for this is liquid foundation and liquid bronzer. Taking a liquid bronzer or a product equivalent will enable you to darken your foundation day by day as your tan deepens in colour. Benefit’s ‘Dew the Hoola’ does a wonderful job of illuminating your skin whilst deepening the colour. This can be mixed in with your foundation, added on top of foundation, or worn alone to give you an instant tan with sheer coverage. Using this with a large synthetic ‘buffing’ brush is the best way for even application.

When it comes to eye shadow, you should either go all-out with an eye shadow base that will lock that powder on or go for a cream shadow that will set and not crease. My recommendations for eye shadow bases are… Smashbox’s 24hr Primer for eye shadow beginners and P Louise Base for intermediate to advanced eye shadow artists. Below is an example of how this product helps your eye shadow application and staying powder.

For cream shadow, you want to make sure it isn’t going to separate and crease in the fold of your eye lid during wear. I don’t recommend using an eye lid primer with a cream eye shadow; they usually have this ‘built in’, which helps with faster application. The best ones I’ve come across are: Benefit’s Creaseless Cream Eye Shadow, (the shade ‘Birthday Suit’ is gorgeous on all skin!!) or Charlotte Tilbury’s Eyes to Mesmerise (The ‘Rose Gold’ shade is beautiful). These cream shadows can be applied quickly with your fourth finger and look effortlessly stunning.





A natural powder contour goes a long way on holiday and is a great way to accentuate your features and define your face shape. A dusting bronzer on the cheekbones, with a nice bright blush on the apples of the cheeks, will add dimension and a pop of colour whilst still not having a lot of makeup on. Personally, I love highlighter and would make myself shimmer as bright as a disco ball everyday if I could, but I know it’s not everyone’s thing! Optional: add some powder or liquid highlighter to your cheekbones, down your nose and on your cupids bow if you want some added sparkle!

My last couples of tips are that waterproof mascara goes without saying if you want to avoid smudging! Take a cooling spray or matte setting spray out with you in your bag in case you get a bit oily; it’s a great idea to cool yourself down. Urban Decay does the best setting sprays! (…and I’ve tried a lot of different setting sprays!) And finally, it wouldn’t hurt to match your lipstick to your outfit for a pop of holiday sass!

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For the bride to be…

If you are getting married soon, the chances are you’ve thought about hiring a makeup artist for your big day. There are pros and cons to doing it yourself and to hiring a professional. Doing it yourself is cheaper and is a great option if you are getting married abroad. However, hiring a makeup artist will help you feel pampered and take some stress out of the ‘getting ready’ process. Whichever you decide, this blog will help you navigate bridal makeup and the key things you will have to decide on.

First, what is your style? Are you a total bare-faced babe Monday to Sunday? Or are you someone who won’t leave the house without your brows drawn on? Whatever your day-to-day look is, you want to feel special on your big day, but you don’t want to look so far from your ‘norm’ that it freaks you out! You want to look like the best version of yourself, that is where you will feel at your most comfortable and this is what you should discuss with your makeup artist. Personally, I like to ask my clients to show me a picture of themselves where they really loved the way they looked. Then I ask them to show me a picture of some bridal makeup that they love and would like to try. This is where I first draw inspiration from and that is a good starting point.

False lashes are one of the first decisions you’ll be asked about. First, let’s cover your options:

  • No false lashes- use some eyelash curlers followed by lashings of mascara. Very natural look.
  • Temporary individual eyelashes- small clusters of 3-4 lashes can be glued on with normal eye lash glue to the lash line. These look natural and are easily removed the same as strip lashes.
  • Strip lashes- come in a variety of lengths, thicknesses and brands. They are glued down in a strip to the lash line and can be removed easily. They are for brides who want more of a glam look or wear them day to day anyway.
  • Eyelash extensions- these lashes are called a variety of names: mink lashes, Russian lashes, permanent lashes, but they are all the same technique. These must be applied by a professional beautician and last for several weeks. They will fall out sporadically after 2-3 weeks and can be ‘infilled’ or ‘topped up’ by a beautician. You can also go to a beautician to get them all removed. These are a great option if you are going on honeymoon straight after your big day.

If you still are unsure what option will suit you best, try them out. Wear some lashes for a day for the same duration as you will be wearing them on your wedding day. If your eyes won’t stop watering, they slide off or feel uncomfortable, chances are they aren’t for you. However, wearing lashes is something you must get used to, so if you do want to wear them but have all these difficulties, persevere and you will become a pro. Same goes for application- practice makes perfect. If you are planning on gluing them on yourself make sure you practice a lot and if you want a makeup artist or a friend to do it, allow them to practice several times before the big day too.

What to wear on your lips another important decision to make. You want a perfect pout, but you also want to be able to romantically smooch your new hubby without covering each other in makeup! Here are some options:

  • Liquid-matte lipstick- You’ll need to try a few different ones out. They should hold throughout kissing and drinking but will require re-application after eating. Quite a glam, full-coverage lipstick.
  • Lip-gloss- A soft lip-liner paired with a gloss is a great option to give your lips a natural shine. Make sure it’s not a sticky one!! Not noticeable when it comes off and easy to re-apply.
  • Satin Lip Stick- Avoid!! This will come off when kissing, drinking and eating.
  • Lip Stain- My go-to product is Benetint by Benefit. It’s a bridal favorite! You put a few coats on to make it as light or dark as you want the colour to be. Then you add a nice balm on top, just a Vaseline or a tinted stick of balm will do. Keep topping the balm up throughout the day, which is very easy to do and the colour will stay. This is a natural look and it won’t smudge or come off.

I’ve had a few brides who have found it hard to find a natural bridal colour for their lips as their natural lips are quite red or pink in colour. If this applies to you, you need to find a colour that either matches your natural lip colour or go for a simple stain or gloss. (See above)

Foundation is hard to get right on any given day, let alone on your wedding day! Here are some things to know:

Ordinarily I’m a massive advocate of sunscreen, (just read my last blog post!) However, on your wedding day, (it’s literally the only day in your life I would tell you to do this) avoid foundations with SPF built-in or additional sunscreen on your face. Unfortunately, they’re just not photo friendly! The bulky particles within the composition of SPFs don’t always sit smoothly on the skin but more importantly, are a nightmare with cameras. When the camera flashes, the zinc molecules in SPF reflect the light, causing skin to look white and ghostly. For the sake of good pictures, forgo the sun protection and just stay out of direct sunlight if it’s a gloriously bright day.

My ultimate bridal foundation recommendation is the crème de la crème of cult favourites. Giorgio Armani’s dearly beloved foundation has been praised by editors, makeup artists and celebrities for years—and with good reason. Pros: Micro-fill technology, weightless texture, has an iconic silky finish and it doesn’t have SPF! Cons: It’s light to medium coverage, which isn’t even a con if natural is what you are going for! Perfect for mature, young, dry or sensitive skin types.

That brings me onto my second recommendation which is Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty Foundation. Fenty’s epic foundation made waves last year when the brand set the new gold standard for shade diversity, but this foundation without SPF also set the gold standard for super-flattering application and wear. Offering medium to full coverage and a plush matte finish, climate adaptive technology also ensures sweat and humidity resistance and an airbrushed result. This will be more suitable for a bride with rosacea, oily, or blemished skin.



A few more foundation top tips:

  • Wear a smoothing primer underneath (Recommend Porefessional by Benefit)
  • Apply it with a beauty blender, not a brush. (Promotes even application and no brush strokes)
  • Test in advance to make sure you have the correct shade.
  • Test shade AFTER you have trailed a spray tan if that’s your thing!
  • Blend into your neck!!!
  • Take some photos of yourself with it on, out in the natural light, to get a good idea of how it sits on your skin.
  • Try wearing if for a whole day and see how well it lasts for you.

Another factor to contemplate, is that you will have photos of your wedding day forever and styles will change. The more classic your look, the more it will stand the test of time. Winged liners and cut-creases are fashion trends that will eventually date your look. There is nothing more beautiful that a natural looking bride. This doesn’t mean you can’t play around with your look though! Match your blush to your bouquet, or your lips to his tie. Little hints of colour here and there will be picked up by your photographer and will be more subtlety appreciated than a smokey eye or a scouse brow!

At the end of the day you want to feel comfortable and a more polished version of yourself and your makeup is so important in helping you do that. And don’t forget, The Beauty Umbrella is on hand if you should need some help!

Here are some beautiful brides we’ve helped!…