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Balance Me. is a UK-based skincare company, whose products boast to be almost 100% natural. They contain NO parabens, sulphates, petroleum, mineral oils, silicones, dea, pegs, propylene glycol, artificial fragrances or colours, and is also not tested on animals. It's in the mid-range price category and is amongst the popular and much talked-about brands.
Thus I was very excited to see that Glamour's August issue came with a number of different balance Me. products. As my face is my biggest concerns at the moment, I decided to go with the Pure Skin Face Wash from their Daily Essentials line, which is designed specifically for normal to combination skin.
The product came in a 50ml tube, which makes it very suitable for travelling or testing it, and according to their website its RRP is £11. Considering the Glamour magazine retails for only £2, I'd say that's quite the bargain and worth giving it a go even if you end up not liking it.
ABOUT THE PRODUCT
From the packaging: "A gentle yet effective non-drying sulphate and petroleum free face wash to cleanse skin of make-up and daily grime. Formulated with anti-oxidant rich moringa and rice bran oils to brighten and polish the skin and leave it smooth and gently cleansed. Ideally suited for normal to combination skins."
In short, it's a cleanser with a blend of essential oils (which is quite popular at the moment) which makes removing make-up a lot more easier and pleasant. It also doesn't strip your skin from moisture and your own face oils, which reduces the possibility of any skin irritations.
The product itself is yellow-ish gel and quite runny in consistency so you should be very careful when dispensing the product from the tube. It also has a VERY distinct, herbal aroma.
Aqua, Decyl glucoside, Lauryl glucoside, Oryza sativa (rice) bran oil, Glycerin, Xanthan gum, Modified potato starch, Moringa oliefera (moringa) oil, Citric acid, Abies picea (spruce knot) extract, Aloe barbadensis (aloe vera) leaf extract***, Citrus paradisi (grapefruit)*, Boswellia carteri (frankincense)*, Citrus aurantium amara (petitgrain)*, Cymbopogon martini (palma rosa)*, Cananga odorata (ylang ylang)*, Anthemis nobilis (Roman chamomile)*, Benzyl alcohol, potassium sorbate, Dehydroacetic acid, Limonene**, Linalool**, Geraniol** *natural pure essential oil **naturally occurring in essential oils ***certified organic ingredient
HOW TO USE
"Shake tube well. Squeeze a small amount of wash into clean palms and add warm water. Smooth over face and neck, gently massaging wash in circular movements to dissolve make-up and grime. Close eyes and wipe carefully over lids and eye lashes, avoiding direct contact with eyes. Rinse thoroughly with warm water and pat dry with a clean towel."
I think about a pea size is enough to cover my whole face. Make sure to thoroughly lather it up in damp hands before applying to your face. I prefer to remove the cleanser with a damp cloth (in the same fashion as a creamy/hot cloth cleanser) rather than washing it away directly with water. However, I do a double cleanse so it doesn't really remain on my face.
From their website:
£3.50 - 15ml
£11.00 - 50ml
£16.00 - 125ml
I'd say the price for the full size is completely justifiable. You need only a small amount per day and if you manage to master the dispensing, a little will go a long way. For a natural product it's also on the 'cheaper' side, especially compared to most other products in the same category. It does have a shelf life of about 6 months (one of the downsides of natural products) so make sure to use up all of before it goes bad.
The 50ml version is perfect for travelling when you don't want to take the full version or you're carrying it in your cabin luggage when flying.
15ml is the ideal size to try it out before splurging on a bigger size, but it depends on whether you're okay with paying for what is essentially a sample size (a size which often comes free as a gift from many other skincare brands).
The product claims to "keep skin gently cleansed, hydrated and balanced according to your skin type, texture or aroma preference".
My daily make up consists of medium coverage foundation, little bit of blush, eyeshadow and mascara, and this product successfully manages to remove all of with with very little effort and almost without any residue (I do a double cleanse so that's not a problem for me). You do have to rub your eyes a bit to make sure all the mascara is off so if you're not a fan of that, you'll have to use another method for you eyes only. I don't wear waterproof mascara so I can't comment on how well the cleanser deals with that.
It does leave my skin feeling squeaky clean, soft and smooth. It definitely helps with declogging my pores as well and makes my face's overall appearance better.
I don't know if it's the water where I currently live, which is very hard, or my skin is more on the dry side of the combination spectrum, but I can't really say that my face feels hydrated and balanced after removing the cleanser. A moisturiser is definitely a must for me, but I think it'll be very suitable for people with oilier skin.
Texture is pleasant, gel-like and turns into a typical foamy cleanser when lathered but the essential oils do soften it.
The aroma is where I strongly disagree with balance Me.'s claim. It's VERY STRONG and VERY HERBAL. If you prefer your cleansers to have faint or no scent at all, then this definitely is NOT for you. I have sensitive skin and I've had no problem with it, but it MAY irritate yours if it's very sensitive. The scent does linger on our skin after using it as well so if you're not good with smells, same goes for your nose. I don't know if this is the result of using all natural ingredients and no 'perfumes' but it's definitely the major downside of this product.
- does a great job at removing make up and dirt
- leaves skin feeling clean and soft
- a little goes a long way
- good price for an all natural product
- might not be hydrating enough
- strong and peculiar scent
This is my, or should I say my family's, first laptop. After our very first desktop computer dying an untimely death, we were very much in need of a new machine. A lot of price and specs comparing ensued as we (especially my dad) wanted a laptop that will not only have good performance, but also last for a while.
Apple products at the time were quite expensive in my home country (they still are, really), but the cost absolutely justified the quality product. Now, 5 years later, it has turned into our 'desktop' computer as the battery life is almost non-existent, but it's still going as strong as ever.
2.2 GHz Intel Core2Duo
2 GB RAM
NVidia 8600 M GT (128 MB GDDR)
15" Glossy Display with a resolution of 1440x900
160 GB HDD
First let's talk about the hardware. This machine was top notch in 2007 and even in 2008, when my parents bought it, it was still in the high end class of notebooks. It features a dual-core processor with 2.2 Ghz and a dedicated graphics chip from NVidia. I'm still very happy about the last part, because it enables this now slightly dated machine to run the latest Mac OS X Mountain Lion. The memory and hard drive were performing well enough in the beginning, but with newer Mac OS X versions more RAM (4 GB) was needed and the hard drive was replaced as well for more storage (500 GB). The display has very good viewing angles, great colour accuracy and what was back then a rare feature, LED backlighting. Even nowadays those specs give this machine ample performance and allow advanced tasks such as video editing and alike without any problems, although it is of course slightly slower than a modern notebook with high-end specs. On the only downside was always the battery: nowadays it's almost non-existent after more than 500 cycles. At least you can easily replace the battery in this model like in any other laptop, but an original Apple battery sadly doesn't come cheap.
In terms of build quality this laptop is amazing. The aluminum body is sturdy and survived a drop on the edge with only a little dent. Normal plastic laptops would have cracked at that height. Given the price tag, however, you should expect good build quality. The keyboard is great and even after 5 years of use it's still a precise experience. There is, however, one known issue with the frame of the display right above the hinges. And after 5 years the laptop got a crack there. I have to admit, my notebook was always under heavy use and something like that can happen. Nonetheless, it is a design issue.
Another thing which was quite upsetting was the first graphic chip it came with, which simply burnt out. It was a known issue and was recalled by NVidia, so it was replaced at extended warranty for that specific problem. Nonetheless, quite the shock and if not covered by warranty this would be very expensive. After the Logic Board was replaced the notebook ran fine again, but it can under full load still get very hot.
On the software side, I don't think I have to say much, OS X is a great operating system, with powerful multitasking and great performance and memory management. You can install Windows alongside without any problems via Bootcamp and it also works like a charm for Windows-only software.
After 5 years it still performs well. It runs most Mac OS X ported games without problems but usually modern titles in lower details such as Diablo 3. Overall gaming performance is better in Windows on this machine, if playing is important to you. It's capable of HD playback, solid performance in video editors and handling big layer intensive images in Photoshop. Newer machines are obviously quicker, but this notebook still does the job without any issues.
My verdict (and my family's as a whole)is that this is a great machine with wonderful design but also sturdy and reliable. No matter what operating system it's running, it's still a solid performer and handles every normal task without any problems. Five years later, we're still very happy with this laptop.
I was looking for a device to read newspapers, PDFs for university and media consumption with a long battery life, all in a compact form as a substitute when I didn't want to take my laptop with me. This led me to the tablet form factor. Now there were basically 4 choices: two for the 10 inch category and another two for the 7/8 inch size, namely iPad (4th Gen) and Nexus 10, as well as the iPad mini and the Nexus 7, because I prefer stock Android.
In the end the Nexus 7 won.
First of all it is a bargain. It is the most affordable of the bunch with great performance, great screen quality with a higher pixel density than the iPad Mini and great viewing angles thanks to the stunning IPS panel, with a responsive digitizer. Secondly, it looks great and feels well-built thanks to the textured back, which probably for many is not as sleek as the aluminum back of the Apple line, but it feels great in your hand and it is fairly smudge resistant.
Next up let's talk about the hardware. The Nexus 7 features a fast quad-core Tegra 3 chip from NVidia with custom a graphics chip. The last bit is negligible, since there are not many games, or apps for that matter, which are truly optimized for the Tegra GPU. But the main chip is nonetheless very zippy, which is a true blessing for Android's latest version Jelly Bean, which is an elegant and polished experience but nonetheless not as optimized as iOS is for the iPad line's hardware. Furthermore, the tablet features a 2 MP front-facing camera which is sufficient for video calls, with average picture quality, nothing special but nice to have. The lack of a back facing camera is something I appreciate, because I'd rather take photos with an actual camera, since even a DSLR is handier than a tablet, but might be a con for some. .
The battery life is superb. It easily lasts 15 hours with average use and Wi-Fi on. When used as a PDF reader and music player it lasts easily two full study days without a recharge. However, when used primarily for streaming high definition videos or playing games, the battery will drain significantly faster.
I already talked about the great IPS screen, with overall great colours and good contrast. However, after a fair amount of usage, especially on hot days, my Nexus 7 tends to have a few yellow spots in the corners. I will send mine in for this, but it might be something to be aware of.
Software wise the Nexus 7 features the latest available release of Android and will be among the first devices to get any new releases. The app support is still not as great as on iOS but has come to the point where there is an app for almost everything. New apps are still first published on Apple's Appstore but will usually find their way to the Google Play Store in a matter of weeks. The Tegra 3 chip handles basic tasks without any hassle, as well as computing and graphic intense tasks fairly well. I say only fairly well, because some games like GTA: Vice City, which is Tegra optimized runs smoothly in full details, whereas a non-optimized game like Real Racing 3 runs smoothly too but only on the lowest details chosen. Most 2D applications, however, run zippy and smoothly without any issues.
In addition to that, it has a very ergonomic form and a light weight, which allow the tablet to be held easily with one hand over a long period of time.
Overall this tablet is the best bargain in the small size category. It delivers great performance with a great built quality for the price. I would definitely recommend this over the iPad mini if you are not already fully committed to the Apple eco-system and on a budget.
In November of 2010 I was looking for a smartphone which had a good operating system, could meet my needs, had a nice feel and look, and also didn't brake the bank. I found all of this in the HTC Wildfire.
The first thing you notice about this phone is that it's very nicely built, feels good and light in the hand, and has a very modern and presentable design. It also fits perfectly in my small hands, without looking weird (like most high-end smartphones these days) and without fear of me dropping it by accident. It very much looks like the Desire's little brother but I much prefer the Wildfire's capacitive buttons instead of the Desire's physical ones. The track ball, although I don't use it, completes the overall look of the phone. The HTC Wildfire comes in several colours (blue, red, black and variations of brown/gray) so you have a few options if you're tired of the standard black or white phones.
The material of the phone is good and 'feels' expensive as opposed to most phones in the same price range, which are rather plastic-y. The phone has both 'soft' and metallic parts and the latter is the only part (besides the screen, of course) that might get scratched over time. I have dropped it quite a few times over the years (including on concrete!) and, apart from a small dent on one corner, the phone is in great condition. Its sturdiness makes it perfect for a child that is prone to dropping and throwing things around.
The camera on the back is nicely positioned and would not get in the way in a pocket or a case. It's 'only' 5MP but it's fairly decent, especially if you're not going to use the phone as your main way of taking photos. The default camera app is good but I'd recommend getting Vignette.
Sound-wise it's decent but certainly not for people who love listening to good-quality music. A memory card can be inserted so you can have more of your music library with you. The radio app is also good but I've rarely used it.
The screen is probably the biggest let-down when it comes to this phone. It is in the entry price range but the HTC could have put a better screen on this phone. However, if this is your first smartphone and haven't used the likes of iPhone before, I doubt you'd notice. The screen itself is a good size for people with small hands and or fingers.
The processor is not the best either, but if you use the phone for calls, texting, e-mail and some Facebook browsing, I think it's good. You can up the processor power by rooting and overclocking the phone but if you don't want to lose your warranty (and are content with the phone's performance), there's no need to meddle with the phone.
Games-wise it's not the best phone. Many games don't run on it anymore with very few exceptions (e.g. Solitaire). I never used it much for games anyways so that didn't bother me at all.
When I bought it it came with Android 2.1 Eclair but was later updated to 2.2 Froyo and I believe that's the last version of the software that this phone supports without using a custom ROM. I liked 2.2 a lot, along with the custom HTC Sense skin that comes with all HTC phones. However, some apps may not run on that version of Android anymore.
Overall, I'd say it's a great phone for someone who doesn't have much previous experience with using smartphones (both adults and children) but by now there should be slightly better phones for the same price.
Seraphina is a spectacular debut novel by writer Rachel Hartman. It has everything you'd want in a fantasy novel - great characters, well-built world, good plot and, most importantly, dragons!
Good writing and a meaty plot are definitely something that most young adult books lack nowadays but this is not the case with Seraphina. Although there are some hiccups along the way, it's presented to its readers in an intelligent way, without dumbing it down. Along with the main plot, there are good discussions about love, philosophy, music, art and religion.
The characters are fleshed-out, one can relate to them easily and develop as the story progresses. There are great examples of strong female characters, especially in the face of the main protagonist Seraphina. She is intelligent, talented, strong-willed, loving and caring. She is also kind and very brave. Prince Lucian is another brilliant character, witty and charming. Princess Glisselda is another great character, showing off her intelligence and quick wit when most needed.
The villains are equally multi-dimensional and definitely fun to read as well. The secondary characters bring a lot to the plot and overall feeling of the book and complement it perfectly.
Cannot wait for book number 2 (est. 2014)!
In August of last year I was in the market for a laptop as I was about to start university in September. I needed something to use for writing essays, browsing the Internet, watching the occasional movie and even play a game or two, without the high price tag. The HP Pavilion G6-2245ea was the perfect choice for that!
Overall it's a good-looking laptop - something that, surprisingly, isn't found often in the cheaper range. The colour is very appealing, as well as the size of the display and keyboard. Personally, I needed some time getting used to working with the track pad but now requires no effort on my part. The lid is plastic and reflective so it has to be swiped regularly as there can be some finger prints left. I'd recommend buying a case or a sleeve if you're going to carry it outside of your home as you might scratch it. One thing I dislike is the position of the fan, which sometimes prevents me from putting it on a bed or a couch (for those lazy Internet-surfing days!). It can be a bit heavy but I've had no problems with that.
The price is perfectly reasonable. Disk space, RAM size, graphics card and overall performance are perfect for the average user's needs so you get a really good value for your money. Mine came with Windows 8 pre-installed so I managed to save on that as well! Windows 8 also has its own protection software so you don't need to purchase an anti-virus program on top of everything.
I've had this laptop for almost a year now and it's as good as new! It has successfully survived my first year of university and everything that comes with your average student accommodation. I've also carried it often with me to the library and to friends' places and there's not even a single scratch. The keyboard has remained the same as well (that is, no letter fading) despite extensive writing of essays.
I'm more that happy with this laptop's speed. It does amazingly well with different Internet browsers, office packages (both Microsoft Office and open ones), music and video playes (e.g. Spotify and VLC) and Skype. I've also been able to play a number of games (e.g. Diablo 3) on it and I've had no problems with those either! Booting and turning off are quick as well.
The battery life is also good. I get a good 4 hours with browsing, listening to music and chatting with friends on Skype. Often I turn off the Internet when I don't need it and reduce screen brightness so I get at least another hour of usage.
Windows 8 works perfectly on this laptop, as well as Linux (latest version of Ubuntu). It doesn't have a touch screen, though, so you might not get maximum usage of the apps (e.g. drawings app).
This is a very good laptop if you need something with which to perform normal daily tasks and have a bit of a budget! I'd recommend it to fellow university students if they're in the market for a laptop for the upcoming year.