Hello everyone,

 The long awaited – and somewhat dreaded – new Instagram algorithm is here. Posts are no longer chronological, and Instagram now dictates our feeds with the following concept in mind, “See the moments you care about first”.

I decided to blog about this today because I know that I, along with thousands of other people on the internet have mixed feelings about this development. I’ve been thinking about this new update for a long time, and hoping it wouldn’t happen, but this morning I came across a tweet from a fellow Dubai blogger.

news of the new Instagram algorithm being rolled out

The new update is a double-edged sword, especially for bloggers and ‘influencers’ (I hate that term, because in this region it often focuses on the number of followers an individual has rather than the quality of the person’s thoughts, content and achievements).

The plus side

It is no secret that many people on Instagram buy followers and likes, it’s something I rant about regularly on Twitter and I’ve been contemplating doing a post about it for a long time on Surena Says. However, I felt that this was the perfect time to address the issue, which could potentially improve now!

It is glaringly obvious to myself and others when bloggers have bought followers. How can we tell? I have 1,419 followers on Instagram (I try to block spam/fake accounts as soon as they follow me and as often as possible), I currently average 60-100 likes for my posts and though I try to block as many spam accounts as possible, I’m sure I still have a few in there. However, accounts that have 10,000 followers, but are averaging 200-300 likes per picture, have clearly bought their followers. That, or their pictures are horrendously awful (unlikely).

Update: After speaking to several bloggers following the publication of this post, I’ve realised I have massively generalised my thoughts on follower to like ratios. Though I am aware a huge number of factors come into play with engagement levels regardless of whether you have 100 or 100k followers, I do tend to look out for patterns and try to base my judgement on that. However, my example of 10,000 followers receiving 200-300 likes per picture seems to be wrong and this is actually quite normal. There are so many factors that affect likes and engagement that it could be a blog post in itself, so I’ll leave this issue here. I was mostly trying to point out that bloggers with large fake followings would feel the brunt of this update quite quickly, due to the reach declining with the lack of engagement they get from these fake followers.

Many brands who work with bloggers in the region (and globally) have previously ignored this, because in their eyes, those 10,000 followers will be seeing the picture while scrolling through their chronological feeds, so they will continue to work with individuals with large followings.

With the new algorithm, I believe (and hope) things will start changing. The importance of follower numbers will begin to pale in comparison to engagement rates, because without the likes and comments from authentic followers, the pictures will no longer be seen by as many people. Though it could be argued that bloggers and ‘influencers’ may now just switch to splurging on likes instead of followers, I’m hoping that Instagram will find a way to filter out fake and real likes in time.

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The struggle is real

What is also clear, is that people will now have to work a lot harder for likes. Though it does meant that people who have been posting mediocre content, hoping that the number of followers they have will still help them in terms of brand partnerships and opportunities, will now see this method working less, it also means that those trying to improve their reach organically will struggle.

No matter how Instagram tries to sugarcoat this new algorithm, it is clear to see that it has been financially motivated. Especially as it comes not long after sponsored posts/ads were rolled out, and also due to its parent company being Facebook.

Huge brands, magazines and celebrities will continue to grow with minimal disruption from the new algorithm. Their reach, budgets and existing large organic audiences will still engage at the rates they used to, and if anything they will see a rapid rise in engagement. As we all know, Facebook – Instagram’s parent company – rolled out this algorithm several years ago with its ‘Top stories’ feed.

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Unsurprisingly, my high school friend’s latest photo of her dog has far less chance of becoming a ‘top story’ in comparison to a magazine’s latest clickbait article posted from its Facebook page (see the screenshots of my ‘Top stories’ newsfeed in order). So, Facebook feeds are now littered with huge brands, media outlets and pages that have had the budget reach large audiences as opposed to friends, family and acquaintances. (Many would argue this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I see far less ‘OMG can’t believe some people’ statuses with about 10 ‘U ok hun?’ replies, thankfully!). However, though I often try to remember to change the feed to ‘Most recent’, in all honesty I use Facebook far less than I used to because of its algorithm changes.

This is something I fear will happen to Instagram, an app I still love, even if it may be a little less now. I hate the thought of not seeing posts chronologically and I hate what it will do to content creators with smaller audiences and budgets. For bloggers like myself, it is a struggle to stand out next to those that already have organic followers in the hundreds of thousands , which will only become more difficult now. Though I by no means compare to the likes of bloggers who have been around for years, experimenting with and improving their Instagram feeds with carefully curated content and perfectly-edited and shot images, I am constantly trying to improve. However, it is a little discouraging thinking no matter how hard I try or how great a photo is, because of my lower engagement levels, it’ll be harder for my photos to be seen unless I start paying Instagram for sponsored posts. Something I’m still reluctant to do.

A sponsored Instagram post

Another factor in this discussion is the option to turn on notifications from particular accounts. When news of this algorithm first broke in March, if I’m not mistaken, a flurry of ‘If you don’t want to miss my posts, turn on post notifications’ captioned-images filled my Instagram feed. Not only were these annoying, but they also amused me. I love the old chronological algorithm because I knew I had a chance to see a variety of posts from a range of the people I follow (I know I wouldn’t see every post from the 770+ people I follow, but I knew I’d see a good selection of them). For example, I could be scrolling through my old feed and see one of the many dog Instagram accounts I follow, then a picture of a travel blogger in Rome, then a calorific ‘freakshake’ by a food blogger in London who’s visited another ‘quirky’ pop up in Shoreditch. I love seeing the posts from all of the aforementioned examples, but not to the extent where I’d want my phone to buzz every single time one of them posts! I’d be surprised if anyone I knew – who didn’t have to do it for work-related purposes – turned on notifications from more than 10 of the people they follow. So, in my opinion, that option isn’t going to make things any better with the enforcement of the new algorithm.

Pictures being posted ahead of the new Instagram algorithm

My parting thoughts on the new Instagram algorithm…for now

In summary (because I know I’ve rambled a lot and touched on a number of points), though I am quite unhappy with the new Instagram algorithm, it does have its silver linings.

I’m eager to see how the reach of those with bought followers and likes is effected, and I do wonder if they will begin to improve their content and work harder to organically grow their followings/engagement.

I am also interested to see how Instagram manages to monetise this new update. I don’t know if they’ll simply encourage more people to sponsor posts and litter our feeds with them, or if they’ll come up with innovative ways to encourage individuals to spend on increasing their reach like Facebook has with ‘boosted posts’, ads and sponsored posts.

I’m disappointed about what this means for content creators, like myself, in terms of reach and find it quite unfair to know that the reach I once had (though it may not have been huge) has been strongly impacted.

I would also like to better understand how Instagram intends to order the new feed. Is it going to be solely based on likes? Are the hashtags I use going to affect what I see? For example, if I use the hashtag ‘beautyblogger’ a lot, that does not necessarily mean that I want to predominantly see accounts that I follow who use that hashtag more. Will I now start seeing a lot more brand accounts? I would often rather see a creative picture by a blogger featuring a product by a brand I love, than a less imaginative picture by the brand itself on my feed. Will those with more organic followers than fake followers appear higher now (regardless of likes)? I think it’ll only be a matter of time before Instagram address this change in more detail. However, how transparent they will be about their motives behind the change and how Instagrammers can utilise it to their advantage is questionable.

For now, I will continue to use Instagram. However, it’ll no longer be a case of me rapidly double tapping a variety of random pictures I love that appear in time order as they did in my old feed. I think I will now be analysing what I see more, questioning why I’m seeing it and trying to understand how I can improve my reach given this new obstacle.

I posted a picture this morning (encouraging my followers to check out this post). It currently stands at just 35 likes, far less than photos I usually post at that time of day and something I feel is not just mere coincidence.

It’s going to be an interesting struggle for those who are trying to grow smaller audiences, like myself, and something that will no doubt be interesting and challenging.

Life after the new Instagram algorithm

Life after the new Instagram algorithm. Graffiti by IHeart Stencils

I hope you enjoyed this post or found it interesting. I would love to hear your thoughts on the new Instagram algorithm. Do you think it’s a positive or negative change? Or, like me, do you think it has its pros and cons? Will you be changing the way you create content and engage with followers on Instagram? Share any of your thoughts below or talk to me on Twitter here.

Oh, and if you fancy following me on Instagram (though I can’t guarantee you’ll see my posts!), you can follow me here.

Thanks for reading!

Surena x

 

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Hello everyone,

I hope you’ve had a lovely week. I can’t say I’m feeling any different after turning 25 – even if I may have learnt a lot in the lead-up to it – but I’m back with another post after a little holiday in the UK. I have reviewed a lovely culinary experience called Somvaar Bazaar at Chor Bazaar, Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai’s in-house Indian restaurant.

Somvaar Bazaar at Chor Bazaar Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai

Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai

The hotel itself is a far cry from the crystal-embellished interiors of many hotels in the region, but that’s not to say it doesn’t leave visitors in awe of its decor. With 88 Moroccan lanterns hanging from the ceiling of the hotel, the decor perfectly complements the nature of the property, which was inspired by the 14th century travels of the Arab explorer, Ibn Battuta. The interiors of each restaurant within the hotel have been decorated with close attention to detail and plenty of special touches.

Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai

Chor Bazaar Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai

Somvaar Bazaar at Chor Bazaar Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai

The meal

Outside Chor Bazaar, we found a live cooking station, a buffet and a stall draped with vibrant printed fabrics. The concept of Somvaar Bazaar, which takes place every Monday (Somvaar = Monday), offers diners a selection of classic Indian cuisine with a touch of street food. The meal began with a trip to one of the live stations, where two chefs were preparing Pani Puri and sizzling, fresh appetisers on a large pan known as a tawa.

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The pani puri’s were genuinely bursting with flavours; the tamarind gave it a tangy kick while the mint chutney balanced out the hint of spice. I’m ashamed to say, as an Indian, that I’d never tried a pani puri until my visit to Chor Bazaar and can admit that I have been missing out. These were made fresh by Kamlesh at the station, who made several before we realised we should probably slow down if we were wanted to be able to try the rest of the evening’s offerings.

Somvaar Bazaar at Chor Bazaar Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai

We were then served Aloo Tikis (potato cakes), along with Pav Bhaji (buttered buns served with a vegetable curry). After taking the warm appetisers back to the table, we were also served succulent pieces of Chicken Tikka, and while this all went down a treat, I was suddenly reminded that there was even more food to come.

Somvaar Bazaar at Chor Bazaar Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai

Unlike many Indian restaurants I have visited in Dubai, the food at Chor Bazaar was far from bland and, I’m not sure how I could tell, but it was clear that the food was made with love and a passion for cooking delicious food. I could see that it wasn’t a case of mass-cooking buffet dishes that would merely satisfy diners, instead, the chefs at Chor Bazaar wanted to make sure you experienced Indian food at its finest.

In addition to the buffet, for our main course, we could also opt for a freshly-made curry cooked to our tastes and preferences. We discovered this after we had finished loading our plates with Butter Chicken, Paneer, rice and more, and with desserts to conquer afterwards, we had to give it a miss.

Somvaar Bazaar at Chor Bazaar Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai

With Butter Chicken being one of my all-time favourite Indian dishes (I can’t handle spicy food, OK!), Chor Bazaar had a lot to live up to. Unsurprisingly, given the quality of the food we had consumed so far, it was divine. The sauce was rich and creamy, while the chicken was tender and provided the perfect contrast in texture to the gravy. Our plates were completely empty by the end of our mains, and after a short break we mustered up the strength to tackle the selection of desserts.

Somvaar Bazaar at Chor Bazaar Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai

I squealed – yes, really – when I spotted Rasmalai, which is Indian cottage cheese soaked in a milky sweet syrup (it tastes better than it sounds, promise). Additionally, I picked up some Jalebi and Kheer because I’m just a bit greedy and couldn’t resist. The desserts were sweet, but far from sickly as many people tend to find with Indian desserts – we like our sugar!

Somvaar Bazaar at Chor Bazaar Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai

My verdict…

Overall, I couldn’t have been happier with my meal at Chor Bazaar. The chefs and waiters were extremely friendly and encouraged us to try things I admit I normally would never have tried, which I was very appreciative of. The food was, as you can probably tell by now, perfect, and the restaurant itself was beautifully decorated, while the market-like feel to the Somvaar Bazaar spread outside was rather magical.

Somvaar Bazaar at Chor Bazaar Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai

I’ve tried to think of things to fault, as I like to be completely honest in my reviews, but I can’t think of a thing. That’s a rarity for a fussy eater like me! If I’ve persuaded you to give Somvaar Bazaar at Chor Bazaar, Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai, a try find the details below.

Visit Somvaar Bazaar at Chor Bazaar, Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai

Somvaar Bazaar runs every Monday from 7pm-11pm. The evening costs Dhs125 per person with soft beverages or Dhs225 per person with house beverages. I enjoyed the evening sans alcohol, and didn’t feel like I’d missed out as the food was more than enough for me. I’d recommend this as a place to visit with friends, family or couples as the music is quiet enough to allow you to have a conversation, and there’s plenty of food if you’re looking for a feast. Call 04 444 5613 to book and visit this page for more information. 

Somvaar Bazaar will be back after Ramadan, and will not be running through the duration of it. Though a visit to sample the restaurant’s a la carte menu is highly recommended! 

I hope you enjoyed this post.

Thanks for reading!

Surena x

All images in this post were taken by me on the Olympus PEN E-PL7.

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Hello everyone,

It’s my birthday today and I’ve just turned 25! That’s half way to 50, and I have no idea where the past few years have gone. My twenties have been a rollercoaster so far and I’ve learnt a lot. So I thought I’d share a 25 life lessons I’ve picked up, along the way to turning 25, with you.

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  1. Trust your instinct. There’s often a reason that you’re feeling the way you do about something.
  2. Be nice. It’s easy to snap or take your bad mood out on others, but you’ll be surprised how good you feel when you force yourself to be nice.
  3. Everyone’s fighting their own battle. You’re not the only one suffering, and others are probably going through far worse. If they can get through it, you can too.
  4. Work hard. Nothing is handed to you without hard work, effort and determination.
  5. Learn to forgive. People make mistakes, some are bigger than others, and though things may not be the same as they once were, try your best to move on and do it amicably.
  6. Life is short. Make the most of every day and every one around you. Things won’t always be this way.
  7. Everything happens for a reason. I strongly believe in this, and if anything, I think you go through tough times to realise how good things are when everything is going well.
  8. Take time out for yourself. Sometimes, you need to put your happiness over everything else going on. Give yourself an hour/day/month/year to prioritise your happiness. Whether you’re going travelling, resting etc.
  9. Try something new. Whether it’s travelling somewhere you’ve never been or giving a new hobby a go.
  10. Believe in yourself. You’re capable of far more than you know.
  11. Dream big. No matter who tells you you can’t achieve something, don’t give up on your dreams and ambitions.
  12. Be courageous. Sometime you’re going to have to face things you don’t want to, but you’ll feel much better once you’ve confronted and resolved the issue.
  13. Take risks. Your younger years are the best time to take risks. You have very few responsibilities – in comparison to the responsibilities you’ll have in 10+ years time. Whether they pay off or not, you’ll always learn something from them!
  14. Look at the positives in life. If you’re feeling low, stop dwelling on the things going wrong and look at everything that has worked out well for you. You’ll soon find yourself feeling better.
  15. Stop caring so much about what other people think. Unless their opinions and actions will massively impact on your life, ignore them.
  16. Style comes from within. Though catwalks, magazines and brands dictate trends, not everything will always suit you, so it’s best to experiment and find styles that work for you as an individual.
  17. Be open to learning. Sometimes, especially when we are younger, it can be easy to get stuck in the mindset that you know it all. You don’t, and it’s astonishing what you can learn from others.
  18. Be patient. Nothing comes easily, and without hard work. Things take time, but hard work often pays off so hang in there!
  19. Value your parents. They won’t be around forever.
  20. Stop comparing yourself to others. You have no idea what goes on in their lives when they go home or what life is really like behind their social media facade. And, they may even be envious of your life or what you have achieved
  21. Surround yourself with the right people. Don’t hold onto friends who add little or no value to your life, and don’t treat you well.
  22. Have fun. Life is short and we’re not around forever, so enjoy yourself!
  23. Jump into new opportunities. It may be daunting, but push yourself to grasp new opportunities and think of the satisfaction you’ll feel when you look back on the experience.
  24. Be honest. Don’t bottle things up or lie, it’ll only come back to haunt you. People also tend to respect you more if you say what you’re thinking/feeling.
  25. Travel as often as possible. Exploring new places, experiencing new adventures and meeting new people from all over the globe can teach you a lot. You’ll look back and remember experiences far more than material possessions you have bought, so spend your money wisely!

I hope you enjoyed this list, feel free to share it with anyone who you think it may help! I’d love to see your advice/life lessons too, so leave them in the comments :).

Thanks for reading!

Surena x

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Hello everyone,

With Ramadan around the corner, the invitations for Iftars have been flooding in. While I have attended a few in the past, I’ve realised it’s time to start being a little more selective with the Iftar previews I attend. Though I may be generalising a little, once you’ve been to a few you start to know what to expect. Given that I’m mostly vegetarian, but enjoy chicken on the odd occasion, I often find the regular selections quite limited. However, when I was invited to preview Mint Leaf of London’s Iftar, I thought I’d give it a try. I’m a fan of the restaurant already – a hidden gem in DIFC’s South Tower – and the thought of an Indian spin on a traditional Iftar was quite intriguing.

For my international readers, Ramadan is the month of fasting for Muslims, and Iftar is when they can break their fast in the evening – Suhoor is the morning meal before sunrise.

Mint Leaf of London, Dubai DIFC

The restaurant

The restaurant itself is rather glamorous with gorgeous views of Dubai’s Downtown area, and the music was great throughout the evening – coincidentally, it was a Monday, which is Mint Leaf’s ladies night (they offer three glasses of bubbly, wine or cocktails), a night I’m determined to go to with a few girl friends. We were seated in one of the private dining rooms with soft lighting and plenty of seats for big groups, so if you’re planning an Iftar with a host of friends/colleagues/families, this is the perfect joint!

Mint Leaf of London, Dubai DIFC

The food

To start the Mint Leaf of London Iftar, we were served mint and lemon juice, to start, along with a selection of cold starters consisting of nuts, dates, salads . Our starters followed soon after, served on a platter that was divided into six sections with seafood (cardamom & cream cheese prawns and roasted fennel seed & garlic hammour), Lahori tandoori chicken, Australian lamb kebabs, Achaari paneer tikka, and saffron broccoli florets. The chicken (on the bone) and paneer were my favourites from the platter, and I could’ve easily eaten more pieces! In between courses, we were served Rooh Afza – rose flavoured milk – a drink I’ve loved since I was little, that went down well with the rest of the diners too.

Mint Leaf of London, Dubai DIFC Iftar

When the main’s arrived, I was a little worried about the portion sizes. I quickly realised how mistaken I was, because I left the restaurant vowing to not eat again until dinner the next day. Indian food is seriously filling and after starters, mains and desserts (I obviously made space for them for the purpose of this review), I was well and truly stuffed. The main courses consisted of Saag Gosht (Australian leg of lamb with spinach & garlic purée), Chicken Tikka Korma, Subz Makhni (a blend of mixed vegetables in a buttery tomato sauce) and Yellow Dal. I tried the chicken korma, accompanied with freshly-baked breads and rice. Though the sauce was a little spicy (I’m hopeless with spicy food), it was rather moreish and had a slightly sweet hint of flavour to it. The dal was perfect for dipping the bread into with its rich texture. After helping myself to several more slices of bread, I found myself feeling quite full and slightly daunted at the thought of yet another course.

Mint Leaf of London, Dubai DIFC Iftar

Fortunately, I powered through to dessert; a platter of Valrhona chocolate mousse, Gulab Jamun and a fruit salad. Despite being Indian, I had never tried Gulab Jamun before, and it’s probably for the best. Though the soft, fluffy sweet treats were delectable, I’m pretty sure they aren’t the healthiest. However, they make for the perfect decadent treat. The chocolate mousse struck the perfect balance, it wasn’t too sickly nor was it bitter, and it went extremely well with the fruit.

Mint Leaf of London, Dubai DIFC Iftar

Mint Leaf of London Iftar details

The Iftar costs Dhs135 per person, with a welcome drink and food, a price I believe is worth paying for a three course meal and I will be definitely be going again with friends and family. As I mentioned before, you’ll be so full that you’ll barely need to eat the next day! The Mint Leaf of London Iftar promotion will be held daily, and to book call: 04 706 0900 or visit the website here.

Overall verdict

I’d honestly highly recommend the Mint Leaf of London’s Iftar, if you are looking to do one Iftar this Ramadan. It’s something a little different, and you’re taken on a wonderful journey of flavours throughout the meal. You’re also guaranteed to leave feeling full, and if that’s not enough, there are also plenty of options for vegetarians. The music is great, and fortunately the ladies night will continue throughout Ramadan, so head down on a Monday night for food, drink and a great atmosphere.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and let me know what your favourite Iftars are in the comments below too.

Thanks for reading!

Surena x

Though I always try to use my own photography, the lighting in the restaurant was quite dim, so I chose to use the PR images provided.

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Hello everyone,

As someone who is almost 25 (7 days and counting…help!), I’m starting to get a little bit worried about wrinkles and bad skin. Plenty of ladies I know are years ahead of me, and have been using anti-ageing products from about 18. I used to be pretty awful with skincare, in general, and relied on makeup wipes and cheap chemical-filled face washes. Fortunately, I’ve improved a little. However, I’ve given no care or attention to anti-ageing, and sadly I’m not getting any younger!

An introduction to Institut Arnaud Paris

I was recently contacted by a lovely PR about a brand I’ve seen, but never tried…until now. Institut Arnaud Paris describes itself as a salon care specialist, and was founded over 65 years ago by a French dermatologist who wanted to develop professional skincare products for the beauty salons of Paris (so they know their stuff!). The brand has several ranges, each serving a different purpose, and caters to different skin types/ages/problems. I was kindly sent three products from the Eclat Jeunesse range, a line in the brand’s array of products developed for the first signs of ageing/wrinkles. Keep reading for my review and a lovely competition!

The products

Youthful radiance defining serum

Institut Arnaud Paris Eclat Jeunesse Serum Galbant

I was directed to apply this daily on clean skin, under my day or night cream. Though I was worried about my skin feeling sticky or oily after applying the serum, this light, creamy formula was easy to apply and soaked into my skin quickly. There was no stickiness and left my skin looking a lot healthier, surprisingly. You need just a few drops of the serum to cover your face, don’t worry if your face feels slightly ‘wet’ after applying it, this dries in a minute or two. It also has a delightfully subtle fresh scent, which is barely noticeable after applying the serum, but I enjoyed the occasional wafts of it.

Youthful Radiance Eye Contour Care

Institut Arnaud Paris Eclat Jeunesse Contour Yeux

I apply and remove eyeliner daily, along with the fact that I’m always squinting whether I’m concentrating, facing the sun or laughing, all of which has gradually lead to slight wrinkles around my eyes. Though, I am by no means saying this product has performed a miracle and rid me of my wrinkles completely, it has definitely reduced how visible the lines are over the period I have been using it for. As an anti-ageing amateur, who has never paid attention to the prevention of signs of ageing – until now – I have always been a little suspicious of wrinkle-reduction claims. I’ve now been put firmly in my place, as it seems the claims aren’t mythical, or at least with this product! I dabbed it lightly, with my ring finger, along my lower lash line, the corners of my eyes, and my under eye area. The instructions suggest using a tiny amount of this (the size of a grain of rice), and it was actually enough to dab around both my eyes. The formula contains silicon and wheat germ, to promote tissue regeneration and repair, and it’s also great for combatting morning puffy eyes! I’ve still got loads of this left after several weeks of almost daily use, so I’d highly recommend this.

Youthful radiance quick beauty lift vials

Institut Arnaud Paris Eclat Jeunesse Quick Beauty Lift Vials

Having never used beauty vials from any brand before, I was quite excited to try these little bursts of magic on my skin. Don’t be fooled by the miniature size of the packaging, there is a lot of product inside, more than enough to cover your face and neck. Simply snap the top half off – after shaking the vial lightly – and pour the contents into the palm of your hand. Take the liquid with your fingertips and lightly pat it around your face and neck. These are possibly my favourite products from the selection, they’re really easy to use and make quite a difference. They can be used whenever and for a variety of purposes, but the best time to use them is to lift and tighten the skin, as a make-up base, for a special occasion or to conceal signs of fatigue. I’ve used three so far (out of the five in the pack), and my skin felt noticeably tighter after each use. It also appeared to reduce the visibility of the pigmentation on my face. Again, like the other products, this absorbed rather quickly and I was able to apply my makeup soon after.

How much do they cost?

Overall, Institut Arnaud Paris products are on the pricier side, compared to ‘drugstore’ brands. I was cynical of anti-ageing products prior to this review, admittedly, and when I once saw a friend buying anti-ageing products at 18 I had a little snigger.

However, I’ve begun to understand the importance of skincare and preventing the signs of ageing – after all, who wants wrinkles?! I wholeheartedly believe it’s worth investing in skincare now, and if we’re willing to spend significant amounts of money on going to restaurants, buying clothes etc. then I think it’s important to prioritise skincare in the same way. That’s not to say mid-range brands are no good, but after trying Insitut Arnaud Paris, I know I’d be happy to reinvest in some of the products – and try new ones – once mine run out. The Youthful Radiance Eye Contour Care is priced at Dhs183, the Defining Serum is Dhs305, and the Quick Beauty Lift Vials are Dhs203. Would I repurchase the products? Read on…

Overall verdicts

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As I’ve mentioned before, I will always be completely honest in my reviews, whether they are gifted to me or paid for by myself. So, after using the products for several weeks now, there are a few things I instantly noticed:

  1. My skin has started looking less dull, and ‘brighter’. By that, I mean it looks healthier, less pigmented and probably more like what skin should look like for someone my age.
  2. I’ve still got plenty of product left with both the Defining Serum and the Eye Contour Care, so though they aren’t the cheapest products, they are well worth the money and because I feel that they have made a visible difference. I would definitely repurchase the Eye Contour Care, at least, as my eyes are the area that probably need the most care anti-ageing-wise. Obviously, the Quick Beauty Lift Vials are used immediately after opening each one, but I loved the effect they had on my skin, so I’ll definitely be repurchasing these soon. I used them once every 7-10 days.
  3. Institut Arnaud Paris’ products are all beautifully scented, and though that would never sway my decision on the quality of a product (unless it smelt horrific), it has definitely made using them more enjoyable. It may sound silly, but I do feel as though I’ve visited a spa after using them – you’ll understand if you use the products!

Overall, I’m really pleased with the Institut Arnaud Paris products, and as I mentioned, I would also be happy to repurchase some of them. I also think I’ll look into trying more products from some of their other ranges.

I must admit, I’ve also learnt a lot from using these, because prior to this – and without having the pressure of trying products efficiently enough to produce an honest review – I can honestly say I probably wouldn’t have bothered with anti-ageing skincare until I was a fair bit older. Going forward, I think anti-ageing products will now become a staple part of my routine, because though I’m not currently covered in wrinkles, I definitely want to prevent them from appearing on my face! To find out more about the brand and products, visit the website.

Competition time!

Institut Arnaud Paris are kindly giving away gift boxes full of goodies from the Eclat Jeunesse range for two of my lucky readers!

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To enter simply leave the answer to the following question in the comment section on this post, and make sure that you are following me on Instagram (follow me here) and have liked the picture I have posted mentioning this competition on it.

Question: When is a good time to apply the Quick Lift Beauty Vials?

The competition ends on Tuesday 14 June. Please do not email/Facebook message/Tweet asking to be chosen. The winner will be selected randomly. The competition is for UAE-based readers only, so unfortunately you will not be chosen if you are living elsewhere this time.

Good luck and thanks for reading!

Surena x

All images on this post were taken by me on the Olympus PEN E-PL7.

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So, a year ago today I landed in London with a one-way ticket, no responsibilities and lots of excitement for the summer holiday ahead of me.

A month before, I’d quit my job and wanted to figure out what to do with my life next. Fortunately, I’d had several job offers (including one the night before I left) so I wasn’t worried about if I’d be able to find a job when I got back to Dubai.

I was happy, relieved and ready to enjoy some freedom.

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Looking back, I would honestly love to just rewind back to that day and live those two months in London all over again. Though I’m only – almost – 25, the past year has been the most turbulent and life-changing, both in good and bad ways.

However, it has taught me a lot. The main thing it has taught me is that change is always going to happen, and it’ll also probably happen when you least expect it. Nothing at all can prepare you for it, and nothing can be done to stop it.

For example, the chairman/founder of the company I used to work for tragically passed away five months ago. I feel like he was one of the few people to fully believe in me, he was one of the kindest souls I’ve met and I keep saying I don’t think I’ll meet many people like him again. He enjoyed seeing people succeed, he enjoyed motivating them to succeed, he was honest and could see through people, and he was always wanting to help people. Just a few days before he passed away, I spoke to him in his office and told him I had an exciting new idea, but I said ‘It’s a bit busy on the magazine at the moment Dom, so I’ll tell you all about it soon’. He said he was proud and pleased that I was thinking about new ideas and ways for me to create my own publication. Sadly, he had a heart attack just a few days later, and I never was able to tell him about this idea. Nor was I able to ever speak to him or see him again. I remember the morning I read the email where I found out. I had just woken up at 5am and was due to head to the airport to pick my brother up, who had flown over for the Christmas holidays. I was scrolling through my emails on my phone came across an email from HR, I opened it, read the news and just couldn’t believe it. I was in shock. The person I’d seen a day before, laughing and smiling in the office, would never be there again. Nothing could have prepared me for that day, and though it’s left me with a lot of regrets, it’s taught me another valuable lesson: never take anyone or anything for granted because things can change in a moment, a month or a year.

It’s the same with the holiday to London last year, which has left me reflecting about it all today. I’m astonished at how different my life was this time last year, and thought some of the things that have happened have been horribly sad, I’m trying to believe that everything happens for the best. My boyfriend told me last night, that when something doesn’t work out, something better is likely to come along. It’s just waiting for it to happen, I suppose.

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So, though this post had minimal purpose, other than to mainly allow me to reflect, it has made me realise a few things. As I mentioned before, I’m slowly learning not to take any moment for granted. Whether it’s a simple chat with my dad, a fun day out or an opportunity/experience that I’ve had the chance to be a part of. Those two months last year also taught me a lot. In the months prior to it, I had been keen to leave a job I was no longer enjoying, but I was also terrified that I would never find a journalism job again – irrational or what! In the months I was away, however, I realised a job wasn’t the be all and end all. I was young and needed to enjoy my life too.

Another important thing I’ve learnt is that your twenties are the years where you can take risks, be spontaneous, make mistakes, have the freedom to be selfish and make decisions with barely any repercussions for anyone other than yourself and to just have fun. I’m trying to make the most of that finally, because I started my twenties feeling like the most important thing in the world was to get a job, make money, save money, be responsible and prepare for your future. And though I still strongly believe that now is the time to start putting things in place to ensure my life is more comfortable in the future, it is certainly not the be all and end all. However, I am still extremely work-driven and ambitious, and I am struggling to completely take some time out for myself. I constantly feel guilty if I’m not working or blogging, but I’m trying to find a balance at the moment where I blog some days, freelance other days and just take some time out to get my head together!

And, excitingly, though I may not be jetting off to lovely London today (I’m ridiculously homesick at the moment and would fly back in an instant if I could), I have just booked a holiday to Thailand with my mum, brother, boyfriend and his lovely mum too!

The most perfect holiday bag that I spotted in Kate Spade!

The most perfect holiday bag that I spotted in Kate Spade!

Going forward, I’ve now learnt to make the most of everything and avoiding taking things for granted. At 24/25 I’m absolutely no expert on life, but I have learnt a lot of lessons through my experiences so far. I’m trying to live in the moment more, and though it’s almost impossible for me, I’m trying my best to worry less. Everything almost always does have a weird way of working out, some things have worked out fantastically for me, others haven’t…yet. I’ve also realised I can’t control everything, though I can do my best to try and protect myself and those around me, it is impossible to protect yourself from things out of your control. Life is not and can not always be happy, cheerful and problem-free, but it does allow you to enjoy the good times SO much more :).

Writing this post has allowed me to realise a lot of things while I was getting all of my jumbled thoughts out of my head and onto this blog. I feel like my blog is becoming a little bit therapeutic for me again, and I hope it’s been – even slightly – interesting/helpful for you too.

Thanks for reading!

Surena x

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