Category: Beauty

What’s in My Makeup Bag, Round Two

“I believe it’s perfectly normal to love both lipstick and literature, to be a woman who paints her nails while shouting at Question Time.” 
― Sali Hughes, Pretty Honest

Over a year ago I spilled the contents of my makeup bag and out of the blue the other day, I remembered that post and wondered if there would be any major differences to what I’m schlepping around with me today. Only one way to find out!

Same bag, same vibe: late medieval melancholy mixed with mirth:

There are also some other sames. Still have blotting papers, period products (duh), a mini sewing kit, and safety pins. These save social lives, people. I also have the same Anne Boleyn hand mirror, because if you aren’t carrying a Tudor icon in your bag, who even are you to me?!

A few recent additions include pain killers, a stain remover cleansing wipes, and a thumb drive because what I’ve needed to be this past month is connected at work, and cleaned up at a moment’s notice!

Some noticeable differences pop up however, especially because it’s currently summer instead of spring as in the last edition. In hot weather I need products or items that are quick and easy to use, and don’t require any kind of precision at all, as sun and sweat inevitably conspire to undo any kind of work I’ve put in to make myself presentable. I’ve replaced a moisturizer with a sunscreen, because I burn incredibly quickly in direct sunlight and in the high days of summer when I’m spending hours outside (especially at the weekend), I need to have my protection on hand. I try to make it a priority to walk home from work in the warm weather when my schedule allows, which could mean up to an hour and a half in the sun. I burned badly once doing that and have been paranoid and over-prepared ever since.

I’ve actually used up most of the products shown from last year’s dump, including all of the lip products except the Glossier gloss which is still going strong. These days I’m only carrying around two lip products, both of them Charlotte Tilbury matte lipsticks (don’t be alarmed by the category, the formula and feel is extremely velvety) in a bright orange-y red and a reliable nude, and both of which have appeared in my previously monthly favorites. My cream blush from last year is also still going strong (I’m convinced I’ll be buried in it), but it’s not in my on-the-go bag at the moment and has been replaced by some sample sized items from MILK which do very well for multipurpose makeup needs.

Basic mints have been replaced by mouthwash tabs from Lush, which I purchased as a midday remedy against coffee or lunch breath. And also because it’s named for the iconic cocktail in Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide the the Galaxy series, which is extremely my jam. Yes, I bought it for the name alone and no, I’ve had no regrets about this decision.

Indulge my prurience and tell me what you carry around with you. I’m genuinely curious and interested!

Makeup No Buy

“Treat your makeup like jewelry for the face. Play with colors, shapes, structure – it can transform you.”
– Francois Nars

At the start of the year I gave myself a goal to not buy any new beauty or makeup products until my birthday in early June. This was partially to reset my buying habits for this, my favorite category of guilty pleasure purchases, and partially to help carve out a little extra savings by reducing or eliminating some necessary spending.

Time for some accountability reporting!

When it comes to skincare, I’ve already blogged about how my habits here are a real source of satisfaction. At 33, my skin is probably the best its ever been and my main goal is to keep it that way as long as possible. Drink water, eat healthy, exfoliate, and don’t screw it up with ingredients that muck up the delicate balance–easy! …Right?

Hm, on to makeup then. In this category I did need to make some purchases that were within the limitations of the self-challenge as I had no backups already on my shelves when they ran out. In the past few months I used up my Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation and a Lancome stick foundation which doubled as a concealer for me due to the consistency of the product. I also used up a tube of Givenchy primer. All of these are excellent products that I’d easily recommend, but in the spirit of my financial challenges I wanted to see if I could find alternatives (at least for now) at lower pricepoints. With summer coming in and my skin in pretty good condition these days, I don’t need full coverage makeup and so picked up a Maybelline blurring primer from the drugstore, a skin tint from Glossier, and (the splurge) a Charlotte Tilbury concealer. All of this are working together really well so once again, I won’t be buying anything in this product category until I use them up.

So other than that, did I meet my goal of not buying new products? Well, no, I slipped up twice.

On a work trip that routed me through Heathrow Airport at an ungodly hour of the morning, the dutyfree beauty counters called to me and I wandered past Burberry in a moment of weakness. I’m not sure what’s happened to Burberry’s beauty brand, they were having a bit of a moment a few years ago under then-Creative Director Wendy Rowe, but that seems to have faded. This is too bad, because they had a lot of really good products and I wish they were easier to find these days. Alas for my self control at 4am, they ARE to be found at Heathrow and that’s how I came home with two additional lip products that I didn’t strictly need.

And then, because my brain really does exist in an all-or-nothing state, and because I had already broken my goal once, I found it easy to justify picking up a handful of beauty products whilst on holiday with X in Italy when we discovered a local brand shop and self indulged. I don’t even have the excuse of an early morning flight and sleep deprivation, it was just weak will. Beauty tourism is one of the pleasures of travelling with girlfriends and Italy is the home of many a global brand’s makeup manufacturing hub. It was always going to be a risk! In our case, we discovered the brand Wycon and I picked up a totally unnecessary highlighter, lipstick, and mascara. I also got a three-pan custom eyeshadow palette in the most shockingly basic shades…and I’m completely thrilled with it. It’s easily one of the most practical beauty purchases I’ve ever made. All of these items were at drugstore prices and, while a lapse, were not nearly on par with my infidelity with Burberry.

I atoned for both of these misdeeds by going through my arsenal to remove at least the same amount of items as I added. My sister is getting some more beauty products (that girl hasn’t had to shop for anything in years), and a few old or expired items went in the bin where they needed to be. My beauty shelves are still bigger than a lot of people’s but they are smaller than the last time I wrote about them. My love of beauty hasn’t changed but my tastes are shifting a bit, as is my knowledge as a consumer.

Most of all, my shopping habits in this area have shifted dramatically. As has been well-documented, I made the consumerist breakthrough with my clothing a long time ago that made me shop almost entirely second hand or through ethical brands with transparent production and labor information. Understanding my style preferences has also helped to shrink my wardrobe over time and shop less overall. The same is happening with my bathroom shelves.

Makeup and beauty is a bit different because they are perishable products, but the same basic premises of “reduce, reuse, and recycle” apply. This project has helped me focus on buying less, using what I already have in creative ways instead of justifying new products, and documenting what I use up (and how bloody long it takes!) before I recycle packaging. Where possible and reasonable I’ve also tried to shop from brands I’m happier to support with my dollars for their commitments to good practice, or just to support independent businesses.

Even though the project is officially ending, I think I’m going to try and keep the spirit of it going through the end of the year. While I may buy beauty items, I’ll continue to do so primarily to replace used up items and if I do buy something totally new, I will first get rid of something I already own that’s similar. I’ll also continue to do Empties blog posts (because I love them) a couple of times a year, so keep an eye out for the next one in August or so. In the meantime, watch this space for a few more posts on how my self has changed over the past couple of years, and why!

Empties!

“The most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.” 
― Yves Saint Laurent

A fun post for today, kittens, and of the sort that are oh, so satisfying…at least if you indulge your inner nosiness as much as I do. Once again I’ve tracked the number of beauty products I’ve used up since the start of the year as I work towards a more streamlined product shelf and a better grip on my spending.

Body

Once again, this category is deeply unglamorous for a woman who likes beauty as much as I do, but what can you do. I continue to preach the gospel of certain men’s products being cheaper and therefore worth the coin. We share a bodywash in this household and often most deodorant as well. Evidence of my travel heavy life is on display from the sample sizes of body washes, shampoos and conditioners I’ve picked up but I’m making a conscious effort to use them rather than allow them to accumulate. My bath habit is also front and center with two different products for soaking thrown in.

 

Skincare

I crunched the numbers a while ago and my shopping habits in this area had definitely changed. I’ve always owned a mix of high and low price point items, but I’ve made a consciousness effort to find quality, active products at more affordable prices while eliminating the (silly) need to have back ups of most items on my shelf–just in case. In case of what, exactly? Finally, I’ve prioritized the items I already know and work incredibly well for me rather than chasing marketing campaigns that send me off on quests to find new products which almost inevitably leads to disappointment. In 2018 I averaged in my skincare arsenal cost $31 and in 2019 the average is $20. There are some products that are simply worth the money and I will not hesitate to replace…but there are a lot of others where I’ve been able to find equivalent formulations from independent or drugstore brands. All together, now in early 30s, my skin is probably the best it’s ever been. My whole focus is on keeping it this way for as long as possible.

Hyaluronic acids from The Ordinary and two tubes of Priming Moisturizer from Glossier should surprise no one. The Botanics eye cream made it into a monthly favorites post a while ago and my enthusiasm continues unabated, as does my love for Thank You Farmer’s sunscreen. All of these items have been succeeded by their worthy replacements on my shelf. Over in exfoliating acids, Glossier, Sunday Riley and Peter Thomas Roth products run the gamut from serums to masks but I can recommend them all. The only reason I am not replacing them yet is because I am working through similar products on my shelves first. Finally, that Clinique cleanser has seen good service in the wars, but has been firmly replaced by the No 7 brand gel cleanser which I currently swear by. It is such a good product and I have been evangelizing for it heavily.

 

Makeup

Tracking your usage is incredibly useful in curbing your spending because it takes so damn long to use a makeup product. The surest reason I have for not buying anything new is the fact that I’m already assuming my descendants will have to bury in my unused powder products someday. Perhaps I’ll leave my highlighters to my nieces or something…

Anyway, because they take so long to use, it’s always very satisfying to toss a few makeup empties into the bin under my bathroom sink. I’ve made it through multiple perfumes including a full size and a sample of scents from Frapin. This has become my go to fragrance company and I own two additional scents, one of which was a Christmas present last year. They are the most gorgeous things and very unlike anything else on the market right not. Which, as a snob, I love. That bottle of Tom Ford is a sneaky addition because it’s my husband’s scent but I, ah, have been known to spritz a whiff or two of it in my time. Don’t tell Jeff.

But I’ve also made it through another tube of Givenchy primer (not my first, though I’ve since replaced it with a drugstore option to trial), two mascaras, one brow gel, and a full bullet of lipstick (Chili by Mac, also featured on a favorites post).

What I think I really like about this update is how many of these I have shouted out before and been loyal to for months, if not years. As I said, I’ve really gotten to a point where I know what works for me and what I enjoy wearing and using. By the end of 2019 I should have a tightly edited, highly effective skincare arsenal and a honed makeup collection which is smaller than it’s been in years. I may do a separate post on how my beauty preferences have changed and my hoard has shrunk since my last update a year ago, let me know if you’d be interested in some posts along those lines.

In the meantime, to the comments! Share with me the products you swear by, where you save in your budget, where you splurge, and how your habits or tastes have changed over the years. It’s a topic I will never get bored with!

Empties!

“There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion.” 
― Edgar Allan Poe

My love for this kind of hashtag content continues unabated, so once again here’s a rundown of all the beauty products I used up in the last six months. If I were more consistent (or, frankly, didn’t have so many products which makes finishing anything a challenge) I’d do these kinds of posts more often because I enjoy tallying up what I use and why. So, if you’re nosy and like beauty and grooming, come on and judge the sheer amount of stuff I’ve managed to slather on myself in the past half year.

I’ve significantly reduced the size of my overall stash over the past year. My little sister has benefited from more than one major clear out of makeup and jokes that she hasn’t had to ever buy makeup thanks to me–she got another haul over Christmas. But I still have way more stuff than one woman needs! This year, as part of my ongoing accountability, I’m committed to six months without spending money in the “beauty” category that is not a strict replacement of something I’ve used up.

Slowly but surely I’ve built a pretty good skincare regimen and, as I’ve learned more and more about ingredients and formulas, I’ve been able to find cheaper products that produce the same effects as pricier items.

Skincare first! Korean sunscreen continues to take the cake, both in terms of good pricepoints and elegance of formula that don’t leave a white cast and help moisturize skin. My favorite by a long shot is Thank You Farmer, which I continue to replace regularly.

Let’s talk cleansing! Micellar waters tend to have cult followings but I find most are much of a muchness and that you can get by with whatever happens to be on sale at Boots. At least someone in my mentions will yell at me for this supremely plebeian take, I’m sure. When it comes to cleansers, the No 7 line at Boots has been a revelation and I can heartily recommend this gel cleanser that acts like a balm–rub it onto dry skin and let it break down SPF and mascara for you, before you add water and wash away as a milky texture. You’ll notice the Clinique Take the Day Off Balm Cleanser in there as well, which I love but is more than twice the price. It’s also a gorgeous product, but I’m sticking with drugstore versions for the time being since I’ve found such a great option.

Over here in moisture…I liked the Pestle & Mortar eye cream, but have also replaced it with a drugstore line option (Botanics) which I can also recommend. Only one toner, the acid Solution by Glossier which helps with exfoliation but I only use rarely since I use acids in masks and other products pretty regularly. Only one tube of the Glossier Priming Moisturizer…because I left the other one in a hotel bathroom on a work trip. Oops. I really like this product, it’s an extremely good match for me, especially as I layer it with SPF and…

Serums and such! The Ordinary continues to provide brilliant products at ridiculously low price points and in spite of the drama with their founder and his poor decisions on social media, the products are still worth looking into. I’ve gone through a few of their different oils (which I wouldn’t necessarily repurchase), multiple bottles of their Hyaluronic Acid (which I clearly would), and their caffeine solution eye treatment (I’m on my second bottle). I can also recommend their Lactic Acid treatment as a decent alternative to the more expensive Good Genes by Sunday Riley–it’s not an exact match but does a similar job. Finally, I’ve added another Korean product here, the Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner which is a beautiful, hydrating product. I think I’m on my second or third bottle thus far and I’m probably going to stick with it for a long time to come.

Shockingly, I actually used up makeup products. The Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation is easily the best foundation I’ve ever tried and I’m itching to replace it, but I’ve got to use up an existing foundation first. While not as good, it’s perfectly serviceable and deserves to be used up instead of neglected. I also finished up my Glossier concealer which I really liked, and the NARS eyeshadow primer which is a great product and one I replaced whilst in the States for Christmas.

Multiple mascaras (all drugstore because I cannot see the wisdom of spending designer prices on something you are supposed to use up in three months, but do yell at me about how I’m wrong in the comments), and multiple lip balms from Keihl’s, Glossier, and DHC.

And then, my ducklings, LIPSTICK. I finished two by BITE, my favorite brand, and a Pat McGrath dark, vampy color as well as NARS velvet lip pencil in Red Square which is a gorgeous orange red. I fully intend to repurchase the NARS in due course, once I’ve used up more of my existing lipstick collection.

Hair stuff. I’m sure I’m missing items because there is no way I only used two shampoos and one conditioner in six months, but I’ll be damned if I know where they wandered off to. The OGX line produces really nice products and I’ve repurchased from them regularly. TGel by Neutrogena is the only thing that has ever tamed the eczema on my scalp (sexy…).

I’m trying to get more into haircare this year since it’s never an area of grooming in which I’ve felt particularly proficient, therefore I was surprised to see two styling products in the bag: a leave in conditioner by Aussie which has been an old standby for years, and a travel sized Elnet. I never buy larger cans of hairspray since I use it so infrequently and don’t want to sacrifice precious shelf or drawer space to a bulky can that will take me years to use.

And finally, body products! I’m sure I’m missing out on all kinds of lovely products but this is almost purely a utilitarian category for me. I’ve written before that I share body cleanser with my husband because I don’t see the point in buying two versions of a single kind of product, and for some reason at some point years ago I started borrowing whatever deodorant he had lying around the house  and clearly haven’t revisited my life choices since. Er…perhaps I should do that at some point…

I absolutely loved the Lush Sleepy body lotion and have fully bought into it’s street cred as a soothing sleep aid. I’m not immediately repurchasing, but will certainly keep it in mind should I find my latent insomnia creeping back in. The real hero of this category is the supersized jug of Keihl’s justly famous Creme du Corps body lotion. Not only does this stuff help with my eczema but it lasts for absolute yonks. I picked up this tub when we were last in the States about over years years ago and it lasted about that long, while being used almost every day. It’s not a cheap product so I bided my time until another trip to the US and a generously donated coupon from family allowed me to replace it at the size I wanted for a large chunk off the price. I’m assuming that we won’t be back Stateside until 2020, at which point it will be time to pick up my next batch.

Five Things I Loved in October

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” 
― L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Happy Halloween!

Another month has flown by and 2019 is barreling down on us fast, my piglets! The weather has turned cold recently so I’m adding extra layers to (my side of) the bed, pulling the jumpers out of storage, and suddenly gripped with the all-consuming desire to make soup for two meals a day. This is the best time of year.

That being said, it’s been a rough month for a lot of people I know and the world in general so I wasn’t surprised that in tallying up the things that brought me joy in October, items or pop culture that soothed and comforted kept cropping up. As the winter holidays creep closer with all their attendant joys and stresses, take a moment to do something comforting. It’s good for resilience and good for the soul.

Tell me what you’ve been drawn to this month in the comments!

Salt Fat Acid Heat, on Netflix

Another month, another love affair with a smart food show. In a oversaturated market, Netflix still manages to make some really delightful programming and I continue to eat it up with a spoon–pun intended. The host of Salt Fat Acid Heat, writer and cook Samin Nosrat, takes so much JOY in food and it’s wonderful to watch and participate in that joy with her. I now want to run out and buy her cookbook simply to make some of her recipes while rewatching this show…that’s how much I liked it. (Also, shout out to Tom and Lorenzo for this observation which is 100% correct!)

 

Leather jacket, by & Other Stories

A confession, I got my leather moto style jacket from & Other Stories at least three years ago and loved it, but was so intimidated by it as a piece of clothing that I rarely wore it. I honestly didn’t feel “cool” enough to wear it, such is the power of psychology of fashion and clothing. But over the past couple of years, as I’ve learned not only accept but lean into the styles and clothing I like and not act as though I had to meet some sort of achievement (be it thin-ness, grown up-ness, or wealthiness) to wear them, I have become so much happier. And a result, probably more stylish. I have been wearing the heck out of this leather jacket this year and loving it more and more every time I do. I will be a bit sad when I have to set it aside for a proper winter coat, but at the moment, the weather continues to be perfect for jackets and I continue to be a happy bunny about this fact.

 

Botanics Organic Hydrating Eye Cream

In my quest to discover drugstore or cheaper equivalents to higher end products, I’ve picked up a few bits and pieces from trusty Boots this past month including this eye cream. It’s been a joy. The weather turned chilly this past month and during the colder months my skin requires an extra boost of hydration and I’ve already been layering up additional moisturizing products. Eye cream is a product that incites a lot of feelings in the beauty world, some people swear by it and others consider it so much wasted money. Me personally, I feel that an extra layer of moisture in that area is beneficial and this is a delightful, lightweight cream that absorbs quickly without feeling greasy or disrupting other skincare or makeup items. Highly recommended!

 

 

Chillhop, YouTube

This is such a strange one but work this month has been very busy with a lot of curveballs through I’ve had huge stretches of time where I’ve been in a situation where I needed to do a lot of writing in very loud, crowded, and busy spaces. I needed unfussy, mellow, and pleasant background noise. Jeff has teased me about it all month but this channel has been a lifesaver! There are a million and a half channels like this but so far Chillhop is my favorite, which you can also find on Spotify.

 

Luminous Silk Foundation, by Giorgio Armani

A proper update in my 13 by Halloween challenge is coming shortly, but as a preview–yes! I did finish this foundation to the last drop! What a gorgeous product it is too, I do not remember the last foundation that I finished before it went off, caused skin issues, or was otherwise aggravating. This was (yet another spot on) recommendation from X. who has yet to lead me astray in such matters. The only reason I have not repurchased it is because it is 1) expensive as hell and, 2) I have another foundation I intend to use up before pushing the boat out on another. Per my shopping restrictions I am going to try and find a temporary replacement in the drugstore, but if I give myself any outs at all when it comes to my ban it may be for something as foundational as…well… you get it. That day is a long way off, so in the meantime let me salute a bottle that’s done good service in the wars and which I can heartily recommend for a variety of facial textures and tones.

I Miss Style Blogs

“Create your own style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others.” 
― Anna Wintour

Quick question, those of you kittens interested in fashion, beauty and style: which bloggers and channels have you followed for years, and why? I’ve unfollowed a lot of style blogs over the years–not because I don’t like or want to support them as a medium, but because I’ve gradually found so many of them to be less and less interesting or unique. In fact, in retrospect, I think I have tended to unsubscribe in batches when I just get bored of certain sites. I saw too much repetition, too much similarity of content, and too many overlapping aesthetics. Instagram and other social media have compounded the problem, both in the fashion and beauty spaces and (off the back of a chat with Katarina), I’ve been thinking about this lately in the wake of last month’s Week of Outfits project.

Frankly, I miss the “old” style blogs of about a decade ago. The ones where (mostly) women and girls crafted unique and instantly recognizable fashion senses, sometimes with a lot of money but often without. I never begrudged them the odd PR gift or contract because I trusted them to blend the items they received for free into the style they had taken the time to publicly develop, curate and share.

Of COURSE there are still people out there creating beautiful images and good writing around style and beauty, but I’m surprised by how few writers and videographers I follow now than what I used to. There are plenty of stylish (mostly) women out there who do really good and thoughtful writing about style but the rise of monetization and blogger-directed PR has complicated the kind of writing I see. The beauty space is sort of notorious for this. You can tell exactly when the PR machine has kicked in for a new launch because quite suddenly every single blogger and YouTuber will produce content raving about a product or line at exactly the same time, usually using very similar language. NARS just launched a new mascara and every beauty blogger and their photographer boyfriend seems to have ended up in Ibiza for the press party. I don’t necessarily begrudge them their good fortune either…but I’m not going to watch a dozen vlogs of the same event featuring the same people and rave reviews of a product they couldn’t possibly have road tested.

In some ways this new reality isn’t massively different from the magazine model, but I think that blogs and magazines are different platforms in key ways and that has always informed the kind of coverage they did. For a long time, editors were seen as arbiters not just of good taste and style, but also good judgement and trusted recommendations. PR has obviously affected this too and it is increasingly easy to either see or at least make informed guesses about how PR money is influencing coverage.

I get it, it was always sort of inevitable that a full blown business model would emerge around “influencers,” and as I’ve said I don’t really fault the women who are able to make livings off of it. Good for them! I sure as hell don’t think I could do it! But I still miss that era of internet writing and visual display all the same.

A few writers and YouTubers I still follow these days include…

Audrey a la Mode – writes about and films content on “slow fashion” and thoughtful shopping. Because her style is fairly classic, she is able to really demonstrate the value of second hand shopping and building an intentional wardrobe. A lot of her outfits are straight from Town and Country at any point in the last 50 years, but her content has always struck me as very authentic and genuine.

Where Did You Get That – equally enthusiastic about vintage and ready to wear, her enthusiasm for shopping and style is infectious and, because she makes a point to mix old and new pieces and buy what she loves, she has cultivated her own aesthetic. She loves clothes and it shows.

Sea of Shoes – one of the OG style bloggers who is famously eclectic in her tastes, mixing couture and eBay finds.

The Anna Edit – a British beauty blogger who has since branched out into a lot of style and lifestyle content, but one I’ve followed for a long time. She’s another example of a blogger who has maintained what feels like a very authentic and consistent voice, which I like, and she also writes thoughtfully on mindful consumerism and how she makes certain business choices.

The Frugality – Alex is another British blogger who I’ve met and briefly got some work experience overlap with in my freelance days at Red Magazine. These days she a full time freelance stylist and writer, who blogs about style but also the London home she and her husband are renovating together with a newborn in tow.

I clearly have certain “types” when it comes to the women I follow. I am interested in self-aware and authentic women who like what they like without excuses, and are intelligent and intentional about their lives and respective styles. I am interested in women who have something to show or say, and not just sell.

So again, who do you follow in the “style and beauty” world, and why? What about their content speaks to you? Let’s chat in the comments.

Lipstick Usage: A Junkie’s Confession

“I believe in manicures. I believe in overdressing. I believe in primping at leisure and wearing lipstick.”
– Audrey Hepburn

Big news, team, I’ve finished another full sized lip product this month. This is my third this year so far and means I’m two for three in my 13 by Halloween panning challenge. Progress!

I’ve said it before, and others have said it with far more eloquence, but we live in an age of conspicuous beauty consumption and it’s fascinating to watch whole media and production industries shift to accelerate our spending habits. But there is much less interrogation of the perish-ability of beauty items and how long it takes to use some of them. It took me months of almost single-product usage to use up these lipsticks…and I own at least two dozen lip products. The sheer time it will take me to use these items is daunting.

So. Damn. Satisfying.

In fact I can hand on heart say that I own years worth of makeup… and I don’t feel great about that. Earlier this year I made an inventory of all the beauty products I own and how much they cost to purchase. I still can’t share the number because even now I’m shocked by it. However, quantifying what I owned was a real wake up call and has helped me set (and mostly keep) spending challenges, and has motivated me to take more pleasure in using items than hoarding or collecting them.

Similar to clothing, I definitely went through a period in my young adulthood of not really knowing who I was (aesthetically speaking) or what face or image I wanted to portray to the world. I tried on a lot of looks, hoping to find myself in the mirror. I bought items that editors and bloggers recommended, shopped for the kind of girl I thought I wanted to be (rather than who I actually was), and frankly indulged in retail therapy. It was an expensive and frankly wasteful process to go through, and I recognize my own privilege in being able to afford it, but I’m grateful to have had the experience of learning a bit more about myself through the mirror of…well, my bathroom mirror. I’ve learned a lot.

I’ve learned that I don’t care if everyone and their dog loves it, I don’t like NARS’ iconic blush shade, “Orgasm.” It has glitter in it, and that’s not my jam. I’ve learned that blue based red lipstick may make my teeth look whiter, but too bad. I loved orangey reds and if given the choices will always reach for the latter–and should probably therefore stop buying the former. I’ve learned that I don’t know how or care to contour my face; I am not a Kardashian. I’ve learned that I may love the idea of colorful eyeliners and pencils but I will not wear them and they are a waste of money.

I’ve learned that 90% of any successful and cohesive aesthetic as an adult woman seems to be confidence. I’m sure in retrospect that literally no one on earth besides me was paying significant attention to how my face looked on any given day, and that most of the angst and insecurity I felt was emotional energy spent that I’ll never get back. I’ve also learned that because almost know one cares about my face as much as me, I may as well have fun from time to time and actually wear colorful makeup or lipstick and enjoy the hell out of it rather than allow it to languish on a shelf due to timidity.

I’ve learned that no amount of product or pigment will compensate for poor health or self care. Good skin, an exercised body, and healthy food may not be as bold as red lipstick, but I will feel ten times better in them than any amount of the latter. A balanced emotional state and tended to mental health is not notably glamorous but it is infinitely better for my wallet. And I’ve learned that before I am allowed to buy anything, I must do the months worth of work to use what I have first. It’s been a mindset shift that has stretched into almost every area of my life as a capitalist consumer.

Beauty has taught me a lot, and I think that’s why I like to write about it and read about it as much as I do. It’s an interesting glimpse into an inner life with a very shallow surface and very deep through lines.