B&B! Q&A: Ellen Kavanagh of Waxperts

1 Sep

ELLEN KAVANAGH Ellen Kavanagh is the brains behind Waxperts — not only the salon in Dun Laoghaire (represent!) but also the brand in general, which includes her bespoke wax, and the multitasking Ingrown Hair Pads. Born and bred in Rathfarnham, she studied beauty at Coogan Bergin College of Beauty Therapy part time, and returned to do the Comité International d’Esthétique et de Cosmétologie (CIDESCO) course. “I knew I had found my future,” she says.

As regards her business model, it’s pretty simple. “I am always thinking of the business from the clients point of view, first and foremost. They’re the ones getting waxed and I want it to be the most amazing wax they’ve ever had.”

I’ve got a fairly high pain threshold, and haven’t found being waxed to be too taxing — but I gotta say, my Waxperts experience was pretty amazing. I found myself actually getting sleepy towards the end of my full leg/bikini session. I had to know more about the brand — and how in the world I could possibly want to snooze during a leg wax — and so asked Ellen some Qs; here are her As…

Was there a specific ‘Aha!’ — or more like, ‘Ouch!’ — moment that lead to your developing Waxperts Original Hot Wax?
When I began working for myself, I simply couldn’t find a wax I felt was good enough for my clients. Naively, I just thought “I’ll make my own!” and that was the start of it. I had been solely waxing for 3 years full time — I’m 10yrs waxing this year! — so I had a good idea of how I wanted a wax to perform and what qualities it should have.

How does one even go about developing one’s own brand of wax?
I tried and played around with absolutely every wax on the market. So I had a clear idea of what I didn’t want! Then I researched and found a chemist to work with me formulating the technical side and then I sourced a refinery to produce the wax.

There was some back and forth, mostly to get the colour and fragrance right. We hit on our unique formula and ingredients pretty quickly, so I knew after testing a few attempts that we had perfected it. I figured if I could create a wax suitable for even the most sensitive Irish skin type, pale and red haired, it would suit everyone. And it does. It’s lower temperature, which means it’s more comfortable for clients and the composition of it means it removes coarse or fine hair in one go.

We launched our second hot wax, Rosie Pearl, earlier this year and I’ve been creating that for around a year. It was trickier but so worth it! It’s an ultra thin film wax that sets on application but remains flexible. It’s ideal for experienced waxers and warmer treatment rooms or climates. Again, there is nothing like it on the market and it’s been a huge hit. The Waxperts range has grown but we are very careful not to bring out products just for the sake of it. We focus on innovation and gaps within our own market and take it from there.

I found my experience of the Original Hot Wax to be super pain-free, and also was completely chilled at the end of the treatment. How is that even possible?
The lavender scent throughout the range sets the relaxing atmosphere. It’s not about ripping someone’s hair out. We want to out the ‘treat’ back in treatment. Waxing is the number one treatment in salons so we aim to make the procedure as amazing as possible for client and therapist. WAXPERTS Ingrown Hair Pads

What lead to the development of the Ingrown Hair Pads?
Again, it came from clients that had issues with ingrown hairs. Although getting regular Waxperts waxes helped the ingrowns improve, some clients had stubborn ones or had them on areas where they shaved instead. We tested tons of applications, like lotions and masks, but we knew it had to be easy to use daily. That’s when we decided on the pre-soaked pads.

Also, what are other uses for them, if readers don’t suffer from in-grown hairs?
The pads are pre-soaked with salycilic acid, rosemary and panthenol. Salycilic is used widely to treat acne, so they work great on breakouts and spots as well as helping to clear blackheads. Upper arm bumps can be tackled easily just by using the pads on the area daily. We get tweets from people telling us new uses they found for them all the time! They’re magic!

Any advice for future entrepreneurs?
> Find something you absolutely adore. You’re going to be working and thinking about it 24/7 and if you love it, it won’t feel it’s work.

> Trust your gut. From the moment I planned Waxperts salon I knew it was all about the brand. Having faith in that helped me grow the business solidly.

>Help others. We work hard helping and supporting our stockists so they in turn can grow their business. In fact, one of our Galway stockists has taken the distribution for Poland and we’re helping her start that new business back in her home city.


Full leg wax: €40; basic bikini: €20. See waxperts.com for more information.

Waxperts Ingrown Hair Pads: €9.95 on waxperts.com


Snap! Judgement: E45 Intense Recovery Lotion

15 Aug

E45 LOTIONI gotta say. My immediate reaction to this was, ‘Oof, that is ug.” I mean, seriously. That label looks like it was designed in Word. It is so unappealing.

Well, let that be a lesson to me: what is inside is pretty darn spectacular.

So, I guess this is a one-two Snap! Judgement, because the second I started massaging this into my skin I was all, ‘Ooh! This feels amazing!’

E45 was developed by a Boots chemist back in the 50s — this is running contrary to the usual S!J, which are more like smash and grabs, just because I knew nothing about this brand — and it was only used in hospitals until the 80s.

We had some toasty weather this summer, and I do feel that I’m drier than usual. I’ll be using this, so, and I’ll never speak badly about its label again. (But srsly…)




Update: Okay, this is not much of an S!J a’tall, but this stuff is great. I’ve been using it all week and my bod has been delighted. The fragrance-free part is really working for me, as it the texture and coverage — and it lasts! That silky feeling one gets upon immediately moisturising really, really lasts. Heart this.

THIS: IsaDora Flashing Volume Instant Effect Mascara

12 Aug

This smokey eye was discussed here; were you wondering about the mascara?
MAC QUAD lo light
It’s via IsaDora. I was a bit dubious about their Flashing Volume Instant Effect Mascara, because of the odd little end on the wand — but, of course, it’s thanks to this odd little end that you get this ridic effect.

Here is it, all by itself:

That was only two coats. I know I’veISADORA mascara wand wrestled with this before, but here I go again: I consider a coat to be the first layer of mascara you put on, not the actual first brushing of the lashes. Like, you put on as much as you can, then let it set, and go back for more. Am I wrong? I don’t think so.

Here’s the wee little ‘brush’ at the end of the wand. This is spiky like the newfangled wands we’ve come to know and love or loathe in the past few years. Maybe they’re oldfangled now? Anyway, as far as spiky wand heads go, this is teeny.

It’s perfect for those hard-to-reach spots like the inside of the eye, but I was certain that it would take an age to get this on my face, just because the brush was that small.

It didn’t. The thing is, this tiny brush is hollow, so you’re getting twice as much product with every dip. And in fact, the smallness of the brush allowed for greater precision, and quicker application.

Once the first coat set, I went back for more, it was almost too much; this got a bit gunky, but that’s what they make lash combs for, right? I learned my lesson, though and did as comprehensive a job the first round.

Look: IRL. Tiny!

Good thing, small package!




Pocket Smokey Eye: MAC Mineralize Quad in Fog & Mist

8 Aug

I will admit to having had some serious boredom this past Bank Holiday Sunday. The weather was changeable in the extreme, I’d been out and back, I was avoiding doing some work, and so I whipped this little baby out.
Why not spend a rainy, dull Bank Holiday Sunday working on my smokey eye technique?

It didn’t take much work a’tall, thanks to MAC‘s little quad of Fog & Mist goodness. I have been so reluctant to try to do The Smokey Eye on my own — seriously, even after all this time working a beauty journo, even after many professionally applied make up sessions — that I decided to risk it for a biscuit, and give this a go.

Those days are over. This is such an easy-to-use, quality product, that even a scaredy cat like me managed it.

The easy-to-use part comes in as regards texture and pigment: the colour is perfect and has just the correct amount of heft — and yet despite that heft, it is eminently buildable, and it glides on every part of your eye area gently but firmly. Further, as opposed to less-excellent brands whose powder either doesn’t adhere properly to the brush, much less the eyelid, it stays where you put it.

This looks like somebody else did it, if I do say so myself.
MAC QUAD sparkle

Some mist all over the eye, some fog in the crease, some really foggy fog under the eye, as well as some black liner on the inside lower lid, which I haven’t done since… a long time.

MAC QUAD lo light
Above, in less direct light. Even mistier and foggier! I know that quads really aren’t anything new — I’m sure I bought my first Chanel quad in art college — but having the colours all cheek-by-jowl in such a clever little compact just makes it feel even more portable. I just think this would be terrific for taking on a holiday because it’s small yet versatile. Not so terrific as you need to bring brushes along too — has anyone got a travel-sized brush set of good quality? I would very much like to know.

It lasted for the rest of that dull, rainy Bank Holiday Sunday.

Also! I swear, this increased the size of my limbal ring, which means: even more sexiness!




What’s that mascara, you ask?


Much Excite: Lancôme Visionnaire Advanced Skin Corrector *Improved*

5 Aug

LANCOME VISIONNAIRE 2014This has been one of my favourite things since I began this blog — and I can prove it by directing you here. A part of my inaugural series of posts, Visionnaire was a big part of my night-time regime… until I had to try something else, or many, many something elses. It took on classic status, which is not bad thing, and also became something of a hoarding object. And in fairness, in the flurry of oils that had come through the post box, it got forgotten.

You can go to that link for some information about that molecule, LR2412 — or you can stay here while I report briefly that it is a creation of the Lancôme laboratories belonging to the jasmonate family. Which, okay, whatevs; the thing is, it works on the all three parts of the skin — the epidermis, basement membrane and the dermis. So this can only be a good thing.

It’s like, you’re trying to shore up the foundation of your house, but you’re only re-pointing the bricks on the façade. Not good enough. This goes all the way into the ground, as it were, and in this new formulation, they’ve doubled the amount of jasmonate, and added comb polymers which basically make the formula easier to apply, whilst giving it greater coverage.

This is all about wrinkle-smoothing, pore-reducing, and skin-refining. I very much liked what this stuff did the first time round, and I’m looking forward to putting this back in rotation to see how it works.


€74; on counter in September 2014.



Snap! Judgement: Seventeen Eye Eye Crayon and Stay Pout Lipstick

28 Jul

Both got a big ‘Ooh!’, especially the eye crayon. Look!
SEVENTEEN Eye Eye Pencil
Bright, shiny — amazing pigment! I was going to say that, as this is a Snap! Judgement, I am only reacting to peeling the Eye Eye Crayon in Jewel out of its little plastic protection, not about putting it on my actual face, so I don’t know anything about application/wear… except them I did this:
SEVENTEEN Stay Pout Date Night
I just couldn’t help but try it. Nothing like a red lip, eh? Stay Pout in Date Night is meant to stay put, and I must say it certainly does. I took it for a walk down the village to do my messages, and it drew no end of notice — maybe because it was a Sunday afternoon, and who wears red lipstick on a Sunday afternoon to go to Tesco? {Me!}

It’s meant to have moisturising waxes in it, as any matte-ish lippy that is meant to last can often be drying… the waxes worked on application, but I must say that by the time I was mooching around in the deli section, my lips were feeling rather dry. And me without a balm to hand? When I wear this again, I’ll know better.

Price points for the entire line look to be, mainly, less than a tenner, and the colour range on the lipsticks and the eye crayons are just what you need. There’s an Instant GLOW Skin WOW Tan that looks verrrrry interesting…


Eye Eye Crayon: €5.09
Stay Pout Lipstick: €5.69
Instant GLOW Skin WOW Tan: €7.59

Available at Boots nationwide.


Relief from Itchy Mozzie Bites: Australian Bodycare Any Time Balm with Tea Tree Oil

24 Jul

Yes, yes, yes: tea tree oil = antiseptic. Well, duh. I generally am displeased by the scent, but desperate times often call for scents I desperately dislike.

I had the itchiest, worst mosquito bite, and it was driving me demented. A quick jaunt around the internet disclosed the fact that the oil of tea tree was a good way to get rid of it, and my eye fell on the little tub that had been sitting on my desk for the last while.
I’ve tried a number of the Australian Bodycare products — the best so far having been an excellent full leg/bikini wax I got from Bespoke Beauty in Donnybrook. I wasn’t as mad about the shampoo/conditioner, again because: the smell. I was RW&A to give this stuff a go, though, as I usually like the texture of a balm, and its cooling quailities.

In a word: perfect.

> It absorbs quickly and lightly, it took away the itch on contact, and it really is rather pleasantly resinous. Well, I would say that now, given that it did such a great job.

> The texture is a little bit grainy, and needs a nice warm-up between the fingers to get the best out of it.

> I still needed it the next day — this was one massive mozzie — but today I only lashed some on as I’ve easily gotten into the habit.

Would I use it for anything else? I might possibly try it on my cuticles or on my heels — basically, the further away from my nose the better — but this is now and always my go-to itchbuster.




B&B! Q&A: Gabbi Loedolff, Lush and The SLush Fund

15 Jul

‘Our hope is that we can create a model that shows a different way to do business,’ says Gabbi Loedolff, a buyer for the SLush Fund initiative. Having started working for the brand as a sales advisor and then manager of Lush‘s busiest London shop, she moved over to working on Lush’s wish list of projects — and somehow found the time to study Anthropology.

She describes her current role as ‘a bit of a dream job: working closely with different communities around the world to understand their needs and potential and help them create truly environmentally, socially and economically sustainable projects.”
Now with a new self-preserving formula, the little pot is still doing a lot of good: minus the VAT that goes to the government, the rest of the money made on the hand and body lotion goes to help grassroots causes whose focus is making the world better for people, animals and the environment. Over £7 million has been raised since 2007. In a word: wow. Gabbi spoke to us about how what she does contributes to the Charity Pot and about how one person can in fact make a difference.

Gabbi, can we get some background on you, and your previous work?
I grew up in South Africa and I started working for LUSH in 2001, whilst on a gap year before starting a new university degree. My initial plan was to travel around Europe, but as often happens, I ran out of money and decided to get a temporary job to save some additional funds. I applied to an advert in a newspaper, which led to a job at LUSH and, well, here we are in 2014!

It was during this time that I got the amazing opportunity to manage our charitable SELF-PRESERVED CHARITY POTgiving and launch the Charity Pot in its initial form, so this is a project that is very, very close to my heart. After doing our charitable giving, I did more retail projects before moving into the buying team in 2011. This was near the start of the SLush Fund (Sustainable Lush Fund) and I was fortunate enough to be involved from the early days: creating application procedures, choosing projects to support and actually visiting the groups on the ground.

I remember cornering Mark Constantine, the founder, back in my early days with LUSH to quiz him as to how we were supporting the actual producers of our ingredients, on the ground, and here I am, working on this very same question on a daily basis!

Which SLush Fund ingredient are you the buyer for, and what projects you call your own?
At the moment, I buy all cocoa and product packaging for LUSH, but have been involved with various other materials over the last few years. The way the SLush Fund is set up, I get to be involved with all the projects even if I do not directly buy the material at the end.

One of the projects I am most closely involved with is the cocoa butter from Comunidad de Paz San Jose de Apartado, a Colombian Peace community. We first came across the Peace community through our colleague Paulo Mellet, the man behind the SLush Fund. He told us about this amazing group, working to live a self-sufficient life of peace in an area riddled with conflict, and the challenges they faced.

It just so happened that they grow cocoa, which they struggle to sell on the local market, and we use 100s of tonnes of cocoa butter a year. We had been talking for a while about how to ensure full traceability on our cocoa and this seemed the perfect opportunity to not only support an amazing group of people but also explore a new way of buying cocoa. What better way to support people, as a cosmetics company, than trade based on truly fair prices? We agreed to buy a 25 tonne shipment, which we had sent to Europe to be processed into cocoa butter and cocoa powder.

The relationship with the Peace community has continued to grow and thrive and to date we have bought about 7 shipments of beans from them.

How do you find new vendors?
Most of our partnerships to date have been people that have come recommended to us through the networks we work with. Some of the SLush funding has been to existing suppliers, like the Ojoba Collective that produce our shea butter, while others are completely new relationships.

When we are exploring supporting a new project, we have an application process which includes a detailed but straightforward application form. This application covers the aims, the proposed environmental, social and economic outcomes of the project, the background of the people behind it and we do reference checks too. The budgets need to be quite detailed — we have a limited amount of money and like to ensure that it is being used as efficiently as possible.

Can you talk about a day-in-the-life of someone who is producing a product you’re working with?
The Ojoba Collective in the Bongo Soe region of Ghana consists of around 400 women. It’s a very, very dry region and work is scarce. Before starting the cooperative, many of the women had to leave their families to travel south to try to find work. When we first started working with the group, they had about 40 members. Now, more than 400 women are part of the collective.

The women will finish their chores at home before coming to the processing site. Here they wash the shea nuts before laying them in the sun to dry. The nuts are roasted and ground before the real work begins: they beat the shea liquid, from the nuts that have been ground, until a creamy butter separates from the liquids. This butter is then filtered and boxed up ready to ship out.

The profits are shared equally amongst all the women — even those who have been unable to contribute during a period due to poor health or those that have become too old to work.

They attend literacy classes and have just started a shea tree nursery with support from the SLush Fund. By creating their own shea nursery, they are securing a source of Shea nuts for the future.

How do you see this sort of initiative growing over the next few years?
Our hope is that the projects we have already started will all become financially independent — generating enough income to run themselves without further support — and that we can continue to start new projects around the world. The absolute ideal for us would be to end up in a situation where all our materials are not only sustainable, but regenerative too. Our North American team have started their own SLush project, which is very exciting. For the projects themselves, my feeling is that they will continue to grow and that the amount of people benefiting from the work they do will increase.

It can often feel that, as one person, it can’t be possible to make a difference in the world — can you share some inspiring thoughts or a story that would encourage folks to keep the faith?
I am regularly amazed by just how much of a difference one person can make, and how wide their reach can be. One example is our friend Paulo Mellet, who sadly recently passed away. A dedicated activist and believer in permaculture, it was his inspiration and vision that brought about the SLush Fund. As a company, we were already working hard on sustainable and transparent supply chains, but under his guidance and through his vision, we have taken this so much further.

Another great example is a gentleman called Paul Yeboah from Ghana. He started the Ghana Permaculture Institute demonstration site on a small piece of degraded land. He now has a thriving site that offers permaculture training, grows mushrooms, processes moringa seeds into oil and also very visually illustrates to the local community how you can regenerate soil without using pesticides or fertilisers. They offer a micro financing scheme to women to enable them to start their own businesses.


Lush Charity Pot: €16.85/£12.95/$22.95 (240g)


Laisson Entrer Le Soleil: Suncream, A Theme

9 Jul

I got a truck load — or a lorry load, depending on which national lexicon I am writing with — of sunscreen this year, and it is actually even more necessary than ever to have been testing it out. I’ve only had time to write about my faves because we’re having a rainy patch — a brief rainy patch before the sun starts splitting the stones once more — which it has been, off and on all day, but my weather app is looking a bit ominous towards the end of the week.

I found, in the course of my investigations that I had a penchant, if you will, for French brands. Alors: mes pensées.

NUXE PARIS Sun: Milky Spray for Face and Body 20SPF {€19.95} and Delicious Cream for Face {€19.95} smells abso spectac, feels like super posh product, won’t break the bank, and works. Did I say it smells good? It smells great, floral without being too heady, and completely like you are on holiday, even if you are only walking down the seafront, or hanging out in the park. The milky spray is really milky, but the spray is focused, so it doesn’t make a mess. Well, not unless you’re trying to spray yourself from all sides.

I adore the convenience of a sunstick, especially when — wait for it — I am out on the horses, but find that many of them are so hard in texture (the sticks, not the horses) that what they are imparting in protection from wrinkles from the sun, they are causing in pulling my skin all over the place. PAYOT‘s Sun Sensi Protective Anti-aging Stick, SPF 50 {€24.20} goes on like butter, and absorbs like… like something super absorbent. This is terrific for lashing on to your face at the last minute, and also for quick touch-ups, espesh on the nose.



GARNIER Ambre Solaire Dry Mist Medium SPF 20 Ultra-Light Dry Protection Mist {€24.20} is a true mist. It actually lands on your skin and soaks right up, so you can skip the middle-hand and just let it dry. Of course, in the beginning, I was so used to having to rub it in that I did, and it wasn’t necessary at all. This is perfect for when you’re out-of-doors and just want to get the application over with, or whilst indoors, when you just want to get the application over with. You could even, ahem, spray this on in your front room because you almost forgot, and it won’t ruin your furniture.

This falls into the make up category for me — it says BB on the tube, and it’s actually an excellent hybrid. VICHY LABORATOIRES V Capital Soleil SPF 50 BB Tinted Dry Touch Face Fluid {€16.50} is instantly tanning + SPFing, so if you’re lounging by the pool drinking cocktails, this will make you look amazing with zero effort. I find it too shiny for the office, if that makes any sense to you. I only wear it when I’m going to be mainly outside, reflecting the sun, looking stupidly healthy. It isn’t all that fluid — it really feels exactly like a BB, which is grand — but I love it anyway.

Here’s to having more reason to use them!


Next up: my go-to sporty sunscreen…



Speaking of High School: NYX Jumbo Lip Pencils

7 Jul

Seriously, this is time travel:
My high school lipliner/eyeliner sharpener, here with me all these years later, and called upon to sharpen a thing that I surely would have used back then but have now. The mind, it is melting.

Clearly haven’t cleaned the thing since 19mumblemumble, but damned if I haven’t hung on to it. And good thing, too. I remember having the chats with reps from another brand, who said they discontinued their versions of medium-chubby stick-objects because the sharpeners were like 30 quid or something. I am remembering this imperfectly — and I won’t mention the brand, even had I remembered this perfectly — but I know I had thought to myself, ‘I think I’ve got one at home.’
I also remember wondering if Cover Girl was even still a thing, and it is, in New Jersey, anyway, surely the brand’s spiritual home. So last time I was back, when I went into CVS I kept my eyes peeled and sure enough, there was a display of the range: still going strong, still probably a magnet for a young girl’s make up desires — although I am guessing it’s tweenies now, rather than mid-teens. Me, I was rather a THE RESULTlate-bloomer.

I think I can remember the smell of the compact powder: it really did smell like powder, a sharp clean scent with a massive overtone of roses. And the eye pencils never ever worked, never ever made my eyes look like they were out of a magazine, because they were as hard as rocks, even when you tried to warm up the ends with a lighter.

OMG, I am giving myself PTSD.

Despite its mankiness, the blade, it still mainly shaves. It’s not great, but at a very early stage, I thought my NYX Jumbo Lip Pencil was a dead loss after only a few uses. I tried, to no avail, to twist up more product from the bottom — because the thing is made of plastic, surely it dispensed with a twist? There was a seam at the end of the pencil that seemed to indicate twist-action. But no.

I was going to bin it, against my will, because I was pretty happy with it, so instead went agooglin’. Luckily, there were a number of American gals who blogged about one’s ability to sharpen the thing, despite its not-wood casing.

I am happy not to have to toss this in high dudgeon: the texture is soft, the appearance the time-travelling frost that I’m loving this summer. It appears that there are 30 shades, which is amazing, and also: I’ve got an eye pencil to try, that surely — surely! — will be super soft and make my eyes look they could be in a magazine. Better late than never!


NYX Jumbo Lip Pencil: €4.99; Cover Girl Dual Sharpener: priceless.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 981 other followers

%d bloggers like this: