Category: Beauty

Trying to Buy “Cheap” Beauty, When You Love Expensive ****

“Save your marriage, and buy that someone special Revlon Colorburst. You’ll be glad that you did.” 
― Anthony T. Hincks

The thing about high end makeup and beauty products is…sometimes they really, actually are better. The pigments are more stable, the powders are more finely milled and therefore easier to use, the formulas have more potent (and therefore expensive) ingredients.

But as I’ve tried to restrict my beauty spending this year (and owning up where I fall off the wagon), I’ve been slowly trying confront where I spend money because it gets me a better product or experience…and where I’m paying more money but not getting anything more out of it than feeling fancy. There are an awful lot of beauty products out there where you are paying top dollar for little more than than the brand, a logo on a package, or a case of some kind that probably cost to much to make and may not be recyclable in the end.

Part of my new spending goals include nearly a year of not buying any beauty or skincare items that isn’t a replacement pf something I’ve used up, replacing as much as a can like for like or from the drugstore rather than a boutique or high street shop. Luckily I’ve been unofficially doing the research for this for years now and I can tell you exactly where I think you should spend money in putting together a beauty or grooming routine.

Save

This is a caveated category, but we need to talk about drugstore lipsticks. My love for lipstick is VERY well documented at this point and it is a product where the quality of the ingredients matters to its application. But I’ve noticed a distinct trend of improvement in drugstore lipsticks over the past few years. Gone are the chalky, sticky bullets of my teenage years; what you can buy at your typical Boots or CVS is a much better, quality product. In fact, it’s incredibly rare for me to buy a “designer” or high end lip product, when a lot of what you’re paying for is fancy packaging and a brand name. Most of my formulas are considered “mid range,” and I think that’s because of this overall trend towards improved formulas at lower price points. I simply don’t see the need for most designer lip products when I can find the same colors in good formulas for better prices. Now listen, you will pry those mid range lipsticks I do have from my cold dead fingers, but I’ve started rediscovering my love for drugstore brands this past year and want to ensure that I buy from them much more.

Basic skincare. Similar to drugstore makeup, a lot of basic skincare has gotten much more effective at lower price points. The No 7 brand at Boots, for instance, is something I only got into this past year and it’s been revelatory. Once I used up more expensive cleansers, for example, I decided to see if I could get at least as good results at a lower price point and presto. Ditto with micellar waters, eye creams (which are a “disputed” product when it comes to effectiveness), and makeup wipes (which you should try to avoid using regularly as they aren’t great for your skin and are definitely not great for the environment). Save money on the basics and spend more on an “active” product like a serum, SPF, or treatment with much more potent ingredients that will help treat your trouble spots or maintain your skin health against sun, pollution, or chronic issues like acne.

Mascara. Some people swear by their designer mascaras but I am convinced they are the most ridiculous waste of money. The recommendation is to use up an entire tube of mascara in three months (which I have never once done in my life) or toss it to avoid it becoming a breeding ground for bacteria (again, advice I have never followed, but whatever). If you are spending more than a handful of dollars or pounds on a tube that’s designed to be perishable within 90 days, you are nuts.

Hair care. Again, fight me in the comments if you must, but I have yet to meet the shampoo or conditioner that is worth more than what I will pay at Boots. I’m sure that there are some styling products worth the coin and I am open to evangelizing on this point, but hair is decidedly Not My Thing and spending anything more than drugstore prices on it would be a silly choice for me. The bigger lesson is, if [insert a beauty/grooming routine step here] is Not Your Thing, do not be duped or pressured into spending your money on it.

Nail polish. Chanel may be iconic, but I say: save your money. Nail colors are easy trends to follow and incredibly cheap compared to the constant churn of fashion trends (which Instagram has spend up to light year speeds). Spend a handful on some seasonal or fun colors from the drugstore and save yourself the tears when liquid dries up, you drop the bottle, or you just get bored with it and want to chuck it. Enjoy double the savings if you paint your nails regularly yourself instead of paying someone else to do it for you (again, something I refuse to do).

 

Spend

If you wear foundation and concealer, it is worth spending some money on. If you have found a brilliant drugstore product that you love, suits your skin, and looks the way you want it to, YOU ARE A HERO TO ALL OF US AND SHARE YOUR WISDOM. But I personally have found the best performing products on my skin tend to be more expensive. I’m fine with this. The trade off I make is that I own only one foundation and have to replace it only one every couple of years, which feels reasonable.

Powder products. See my comments at the start of this post; things that take more work to produce generally cost more and this is particularly applicable for powder products which have to be milled and blended and often pressed several times during production to achieve what’s considered a high quality. Like unto lipstick, drugstore brands are getting better at these, but I still prefer the quality I find higher priced brands. Also like unto lipstick, I have found very little quality difference between mid-high ranged brands and designer brands. Therefore, I say be willing to spend money in this category, but don’t pay silly prices for just packaging or a logo.

Active skincare products and lipstick. As discussed. Worth the money if you find a high performing product that treats a specific condition (rather than is just generally expensive lotion you smear on your face with indeterminate results), but be conscious about where you can find an equivalent at mid or even low range. The Ordinary is a range that’s made waves for providing skincare formulas at very low price points. The efficacy can vary but it’s worth experimenting to find what suits you, which also frees up other budget for more expensive products that you can’t duplicate.

Perfume. This may be a tad personal, but it is a rare cheap perfume that lasts long enough, smells good enough, and feels “exclusive” enough for me. I am an unrepentant snob about some things and I enjoy wearing clothes and perfumes that aren’t mass marketed. I wore Coco Chanel for years and loved it, but eventually gave it up because it was 1) expensive and 2) ubiquitous. The first wasn’t enough to stop me but the second was. However, in general, I think a perfume is a good place to spend your “luxury” money, whatever that means for you personally. Formulated well, a scent should last on you all day and therefore a bottle should last you at least a year. Find one that you adore and make it the finishing touch of your beauty or grooming routine to feel luxe. Even if everything else on your body or face is cheap as chips, the one thing that will literally encase you and float about your presence all day will be fancy AF, as the kids say.

#NationalLipstickDay

“Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.”
– Elizabeth Taylor

Raise your favorite fistful of weaponry high, girls and fabulously unbothered guys, for today we celebrate our adult safety blanket, our liquid courage, the exclamation point we wear on our faces. Today is National Lipstick Day!

The Lipstick Effect

Sometimes I’m so hilariously on-type as a millennial that I have to laugh. I definitely am part of the post-2008 Great Recession generation of adults who graduated into a bit of a financial wasteland and so turned to buying smaller “luxuries” instead of bigger purchases like houses and and cars. Sorry for killing those industries, boomers! The lipstick effect is a real thing and I wonder how much my generational timing has played into my love of it as a product. Would I still love it without the perils of financial instability looming over me? Probably. Would it be a small symbol of disposable income, a measure of control over my appearance when bigger ticket items are utterly beyond my reach, a talisman of bravery against a world in which I felt small and disenfranchised and poor without that backdrop? Likely not. Lipstick as I like to say, is armor.

Scarlet red lips don’t appear in nature but they are almost uniformly agreed to be fabulous. Nude colored lipstick promise a “your lips but better” experience for the more demure. Either way you swing, lipstick is designed to make you feel like you can choose and put on a better version of yourself. Someone bolder, someone more polished, someone who doesn’t care how other people look at her, someone who insists that other people look at her and see what she wants them to see. It is a fundamentally frivolous purchase, a bit of artifice in a plastic or metal tube, but also a delightful and powerful collective fiction.

I love the stories about the importance of beauty to Britain under rationing in World War II. Apparently Hitler was anti cosmetics which was just one of may reasons for British women to eke out that tube of contraband as long as possible. Women were encouraged to keep glamorous (with the usual sexist overtones) but there was a recognition that choosing to look as you wished to, to portray yourself to the world as you wished to be seen or saw yourself at your best, was fundamental to morale. It doesn’t take a war to want to feel that way.

My Love Affair With Lipstick

I was growing into my love for it towards the end of my university years, but it was in young adulthood that the flirtation really blossomed into a love affair. We’ve been very happy together ever since. I own too much, but I wear ever single bullet and tube I buy regularly because I love the whole experience that goes with it. I love shopping for it, testing out shades, seeing how I feel in them, hoarding them like a dragon over my gold, and picking one every day that will make me feel great to wear.

You can’t accidentally fall into lipstick, it is an intentional product. Unless you are supremely gifted, you have to pay attention to apply it correctly, and you often have to “touch it up” throughout the day to keep it looking tidy and at full strength–unless you have mastered the art of not caring whilst still achieving effortless, chic status. In which case, DM me, I have a few questions. Personally, I love whipping out a small mirror in the afternoon for a quick once over. I usually find it reassuring to be reminded that I have a little extra something on my face that feels positive, pretty, and powerful.

It’s become “my thing,” part of my brand, for lack of a better word. At a previous job, a man from another company who I had only met once previously was discussing our meeting to a colleague and forgot my name. He struggled for a moment before describing me as, “The woman, the one with the lipstick.” I was not the only woman in this meeting, nor the only one with lip product on her face. Mine had stood out somehow. Good. I’d chosen it for exactly that purpose and it worked.

I don’t wear lipstick for other people and certainly not for male attention. My husband knows how lipstick makes me feel and he’s not above kissing me while in my full warpaint. He is perfectly able to wipe off any excess; it doesn’t hurt him. He is also wise enough occasionally divert a kiss to my cheek or forehead (or at his most adorable, my nose) while lovingly and teasingly saying, “I don’t want to smudge you.” He gets it. And as for anyone else, I don’t wear it for them; I wear lipstick because I feel better with it on.

Lipstick, like shoes, always fits. It makes an old T-shirt and a comfortable pair of jeans into an “outfit.” It is a pocket sized personality beacon. It is a blatant claiming of space and attention, even and perhaps especially just for yourself.

Lipstick is Armor

I made a friend several years ago who didn’t necessarily share my love of lipstick. She had a minimal beauty style that suited her to the ground and she preferred to wear things that made her complexion the star of the show. She always looked fantastic.

One day over lunch we were swapping stories and tidbits of information, and somehow we got on to the subject of beauty. We complimented one other’s taste (because women loving women is the best) and she asked me about lipstick because she noticed I always wore it. I laughed and gave her a truncated version of this post: how it makes me feel to wear it and how I know it’s just wax and pigment that it somehow, genuinely makes me happier and braver. She got it too.

“You know, I have a lipstick drawer somewhere,” she said after a moment. “I never use the stuff, but I love knowing that it’s there. Just in case. I may need it some day.”

 

13 By Halloween Panning Challenge

“Crying is for plain women. Pretty women go shopping.” 
― Oscar Wilde

The beauty community (blogs, YouTube, Instagram, etc.) sometimes collaborates on panning challenges where participants select items to use up in a designated period. While not a beauty blogger in the slightest, I caught wind of the latest of these online and decided to unofficially participate as a way to make me use items in my beauty arsenal–mostly for the weird and wonderful pleasure of adding them to my empties pile. And so, behold my assembled victims for the next 3.5 months:

Some of these are easy wins, but I want to motivate myself to finish them up to be able to move on to products I like more. I’ve opened up the tubs so you can see how much of the skincare items I have left to use, and that tube of No7 cleanser is at least half empty already. Both the Lush Sleepy lotion and Kiehl’s Facial Cream are about 75% done each and are gorgeous products in their own right and part of the reason I want to use them up is for the pleasure of probably repurchasing them again.

Sunscreen is a tricky item because almost all of them are inelegant and hard to use with makeup, or leave a highly noticeable white cast. My favorite sunscreen is still by Thank You Farmer (which I first profiled a year ago) and which I still highly, highly recommend. Even Jeff tries to swipe it when I bug him about wearing sunscreen. This Etude House sunscreen is at least 80% used up, but it’s not my favorite SPF product because unless my skin is very well hydrated and I’m able to spend some time on my makeup, it looks chalky and plaster-y on my face. In other words, while very effective as SPF, it’s not the easiest to use product. However, for weekends spent mostly at home, working out, or just general running errands when I’m out in the sun, it’s perfectly serviceable. The best way I’ve found to use it is as a touch up product or at the end of the day when I try to walk home from work (which takes at least an hour and in the summer is in direct sunlight). This tutorial and the corresponding items like a DIY cushion compact are brilliant for this.

A couple more skincare in profile, products from The Ordinary which I’d also like to use up: the Caffeine Solution for eyes and their Rosehip Oil. I’m not sure about the effectiveness of the first, but that’s because I’ve not really used it consistently enough to give a good review, hence it’s inclusion in this project. The second is included to get better use out of my oil products in general, which I love and which are effective, but I am often too lazy to use properly, in terms of working it into my skin and layering with other products to avoid mess and maximize results.

Make up is a lot more fun to use up but is so difficult to do. There is almost nothing more satisfying to me than a completely empty lipstick tube because it happens so rarely–not because I don’t wear lipstick (as you all know very well), but because I have so bloody much of it.

To that end, I’ve been ambitious and picked three well loved lip products to try and finish up entirely in the next three or so months. You can see below how much of each I have left to go. I’ve also decided to try and use up, or at least use a significant chunk of, my Glossier concealer which is already pretty well loved. I’ve picked one of my many perfume samples to use up, this one is a heavy rose scent which isn’t my favorite, but if you can’t wear floral scents through the height of summer, then what is the point? Ditto for my Body Shop bronzer which has seen service in the wars, if its appearance is anything to go by. I’d like to at least hit pan on this product by Halloween if I can–I think committing to use it up entirely isn’t remotely feasible. Whenever I see women use up powders or bronzers in a matter of months I always want to shake them and demand how it’s physically possible.

I love this foundation (originally recommended by X) but I’ve owned it for a couple of years now and need to use it up before it goes off. A badly shot close up for your delectation:

Ultimately makeup is a perishable good, which is the point of these kinds of self challenges. I genuinely don’t understand people who hoard it past the point of expiration; it’s a waste of resources and prevents you from getting enjoyment out of a product you probably paid good money for. Part of my challenge in not buying makeup this year (which I’ve already transgressed like the weak willed creature I am) is about remembering that owning things is futile if you don’t use them.

Over the years I’ve bought items that I’ve loved but have been frightened to use (what if I damage/ruin it?!) or have tried stupidly to conserve (what if I run out?!). This is useless. Both options are pretty well inevitable so you may as well love what you own and learn to be more selective about what you spend your money on.

Empties!

“There are no ugly women, only lazy ones” 
― Helena Rubinstein

My nosy love of these kinds of posts and videos continues unabated and so, in the interest of science, I’ve been hoarding items since November (just after I posted my last bathroom shelf tell all) to see what I kept using and coming back to. And also because I’m keeping track of the beauty items I use up in a calendar year because I am a ridiculous woman who loves nothing more than keeping lists. Leave me my weird pleasures without judgement.

I keep all my empties in a couple of bags under a bathroom sink so I had no idea how much stuff we were dealing with until I upended them on the coffee table for the purposes of documentation.

Here’s the grand total. Good lord.

Let’s break this down into more helpful batches, shall we?

I’m absolutely positive that I’m missing bottles of this category but say hello to the bath and body care we’ve made it through in the past few months. I love baths but it’s been sweltering hot for weeks now and I haven’t had a hot soak since about April. Otherwise, in spite of evidence to the contrary, we don’t have brand loyalties in this category and almost always buy body wash when it’s on sale.

Next up: hair care. The continued bane of my existence. My trusty T Gel continues to keep my scalp at bay and most other items in this category are also the result of sales at Boots. I made it through another bottle of Living Proof dry shampoo as well as a travel size Klorane and a similarly petite can of Elnett. I’m not sure how my Oskia cleanser made it into this batch, reorganize that in your head to the skincare category…which is still coming up and which is a doozy.

I have made it through a pathetically small amount of cosmetics during this time, at least as far as fully panning them is concerned. I’m not counting single eyeshadows or other items yet and will tally those up later in the year after I’ve hopefully racked up a few more empties to show off. Makeup takes forever to use up and this, if nothing else should be the reasoning that helps me stay on the straight and narrow when it comes to my shopping goals for the year…but as you know I’ve succumbed to another highlighter like the weak-willed fool I am.

Ah well! I’ve used up a brow pencil, a brow gel, a mascara, some sample sized primers and a satisfying amount of perfume in the past six months, including a full bottle of Glossier You which I really, really like. And which I’m forbidden from repurchasing until I use up yet more perfume lying around my house because there is still an obscene amount on my bathroom shelves. I also used up a full lipstick which qualifies me for some kind of beauty hoarder Olympics I think, but which is not shown here because in the process of holding on to the tube to lovingly add it to my empties stash, it ended up in a bag that was absolutely soaked in olive oil after a tragic farmers market incident. And if that isn’t the silliest sentence I’ve typed in a long time, I don’t know what is.

Holy mackerel. Okay, let’s talk about skincare, the category of products that takes most of my money and where I definitely have brand loyalties to speak of. I’ve made it through multiple Glossier cleansers, serums, and moisturizer tubes, as well as several bottles of The Ordinary’s Hyluronic Acid. The Ordinary features in a few other products which I finished and linked but will not be repurchasing for the time being. Trusty stand bys in the form of Clinique, Bioderma, and Kiehls are tucked in here, as are a few South Korean skincare items. The SoKo women know their SPF and serums, and if you have not yet tried either, do yourself a favor. I discovered the Thank You Farmer SPF several months ago and went through it in record time; in fact I ended up on a ridiculous waitlist to replace it when it was gone and did the rare thing (for me) of back ups against the day that I ran out again.

Good lord.

What’s In My Makeup Bag?

“You gotta have style. It helps you get down the stairs. It helps you get up in the morning.”
– Diana Vreeland

Inspired by a recent lunch break at the office where all the ladies (and a dude or two) began touching up their lips and faces in some way, which in turn descended into an enthusiastic rifle through and review of our mutual makeup bags and pockets, I thought I’d do an old school post and open mine up again on the blog.

Cosmetics or personal care products are intimate objects and I love posts or videos where writers, editors, or vloggers show what they carry around with them and why. Most of use use something and most of us enjoy learning what other people use. It feels like the camaraderie you get in the ladies room when you realize you are out of or forgot a key item and some fabulous member of the sisterhood graciously offers you what you need from her stash. It’s collective problem solving and sharing. It’s also just kind of fun to get a glimpse into someone’s personal likes. So with that…

This bag is a gift from X who, of course, understands me on a spiritual level. Why wouldn’t a girl want to store her face in a bag festooned with images of the danse macabre?!

Spill it!

The utilitarian bits! I carry a tiny sewing kit and safety pins on my person most of the time, you’d be amazed at how often a safety pin will get you out of a jam. My current kit is from Muji and contains everything I need to manage a hem, button, or minor rip at least temporarily. In terms of practical cosmetics, I schlep around a travel sized dry shampoo for days when my hair just needs some help, mints, blotting papers, a sample sized vial of fragrance, some moisturizer and lip balm. The Glossier balm is basically fancy Vaseline, but it’s one of the few coconut flavored/scented products that I like so I’m using it up before sourcing recommendations from my Girl Squad. My perfume vial is also Glossier which I also really like especially for its price point–I have much nicer scents but I won’t risk them in the warzone that is my work bag. I’ve spared you the feminine hygiene products, but obviously. I don’t know why I require two hand mirrors except for the fact that one has Anne Boleyn on it and that’s good enough to make it a necessity for me.

If you’ve ever glanced at my Instagram, I frequently post confessions about how many lipsticks I have on my person at any given moment at the weekend when I’m clearing out my bag and getting set up for the coming work week. I was not at all surprised to find five lipsticks plus a gloss when I upended my bag: a red, a plum, and two nudes (one pinkish and one more orange-y). Look, you never know when you need to switch up your look during a day or evening, ok?!

My other bits and pieces are much more streamlined with just a concealer, blush, and mascara. I love sample size mascaras, they are so handy to slip into a travel or work bag. I only own two concealers and am lucky enough that on really rushed mornings I can make due without foundation in a pinch. The cream blush is Victoria Beckham for Estee Lauder and was heinously expensive, but has turned out to be a brilliant purchase give how much I use it. If Posh does another edition of cosmetics, and I assume she will, I hope she brings this back because I am definitely going to use mine up and will want to replace it when it’s gone. Two of those lipsticks I’m trying to use up by the end of the year and I’m reasonably confident that I’ll do so.

What are the products or items you carry around with you day to day–products, totems, treasures, or lipstick?

2017 In Review: Best of Beauty

“When I arrived in America, I had these very dark red nails which some people objected to, but then some people object to absolutely everything.”
– Diana Vreeland 

It’s that time again, when we recap the year that was. I’ve been re-reading my weekly links round ups, my monthly favorites posts, and some of the posts I’ve enjoyed writing the most this past year. Like unto 2016 before it, 2017 has been a bit of a doozy with a lot of ups and downs to document, but the truth is in many ways, it’s been a banner year for me personally. I’m very grateful for this and I don’t take it for granted.

So I though, why not document a few of my favorite things from this past year!

My style and consumerism month-long blog project was a favorite project in 2017, so from a girl who has played with a lot of makeup and skincare this year, here’s my list of current favorite products on the market.

Best Foundation: Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation

Best Blush: Nars

Best Powder: Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder (I use the shade Dim)

Best Highlighter: Estee Lauder x Victoria Beckham Modern Mercury

Best Concealer: Glossier Stretch Concealer

Best Eyeshadow Palette: Anastasia Beverly Hill Modern Renaissance

Best Eyeliner: Tom Ford Eye Pen

Best Mascara: Maybelline Full ‘N Soft

Best Brow Product: Glossier Boy Brow

Best Lipstick: Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche for bullet lipsticks, Kat von D for liquid lipstick, Nars Velvet Matte for pencil/crayon formula

Best Lip Balm: Kiehl’s Facial Fuel No Shine Moisturizing Lip Balm

Best Cleanser: Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel for balm formula, Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser for an easy clean

Best Oil: Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate

Best Serum: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2%  B5

Best Skin Treatment: Sunday Riley Good Genes

Best Sunscreen: Thank You Farmer Sun Project Water Sun Cream

Editing

“Be a good editor. The Universe needs more good editors, God knows.” 
― Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Letters

I don’t always do a good job of remembering resolutions, but I have to say, picking a “theme” for this year has been a remarkable success. My mindset around a lot of life elements has taken a turn for the healthier and I’m in a more balanced place than I’ve been in years. I really believe that this has come from some purposeful editing of my life. I’ve gotten much better at saying no, worked hard to remove or improve things that contributed to my stress and anxiety problems, and become a lot more intentional about my money and consumption choices. It’s been a very successful project, and I’m already thinking towards how I want to frame 2018.

“Less but better” doesn’t have a uniform definition for me. For instance, we are currently living in our largest and most expensive home to date, but on the other hand, after 10 years of marriage and most of those spent in cheap digs, the decision to rent a nice apartment was a considered one. We are also furnishing it ourselves, meaning we are spending money, but we are taking that process slowly and very judiciously. Our home is still far less furnished than I would like…but we have chosen every piece in it together because we loved it, and not because it was the cheapest option on Craigslist. I love the idea of editing a home, carefully selecting what I put in it and not rushing to fill empty space just because I have it.

Stress levels: all time low. This time last year my nails were chewed to the quick.

Meanwhile, on the work front, I’m actually working more but in a better way. Going back to freelance and contracting has been a great decision. I have not only opened a lot of doors and opportunities, but I have finally discovered a balance between work and identity: what I do vs. who I am. This has not always been the case with me, as I tend to throw myself into things like causes, projects, and roles wholeheartedly, allowing the lines between them and myself to blur. Surprisingly, given the nature of freelance and contract work and how it can divide your attention, I’ve found that because I’ve been able to choose my work, I’ve therefore been able to choose (i.e. edit) how I direct my energy. This has also helped me train my brain to better separate work from my personal life and I’m more aggressive about holidays and an overall work/life balance. In other words, I may be working more, but my stress levels are lower than they’ve been in years.

Let’s talk stuff, generally. I had a whole month long blog project dedicated to my closet and bathroom shelf this year, and I continue to be really happy with where it’s at. I’ve actually shopped and bought less this year than I have probably since my early 20s. Granted what I have bought has tended to be more expensive, but I’ve been fascinated to physically feel the urgency and desire to buy things fade as the year has gone on. There’s plenty of reporting out there to suggest that brain chemistry can be affected by purchasing, and I wonder if I’ve been able to ween myself off an internal drug I didn’t realize I was on. I’ve been slowly editing my closet down and I now think I own less clothing than I did when we first moved to London on an item-for-item basis. What I do own, I wear more and I love more. The same goes with beauty; I’ve been focused on using what I already own instead of craving new makeup and skincare items. I’m actually in the midst of a shopping freeze (my second this year) in an effort to actually use up cosmetics and potions before I allow myself even to replace beloved items. I’ve done a few edits of my shelf throughout the year and donated or gifted a few items that I didn’t use enough to justify keeping. Maybe it’s a welcome byproduct of getting older and more self-confident, but I’ve never been more pleased with the woman in the mirror.

When it comes to food and overall health, I haven’t done as well as I would have wished. We are eating out less (yay, us!) but ordering in more (kind of defeats the purpose, C….). We have periods of focus on health, but other periods of intense laziness. One thing I’ve realized is how much I require a routine in order to stay committed to food, exercise, and wellbeing goals. I am not a natural health bunny, I do no default to healthiness–I default to deep friend potatoes and Netflix and am self-aware enough to acknowledge this. It turns out that once I’m in a routine, I am pretty good at maintaining it but if something knocks me off course (two straight weeks of houseguests for instance, or a particularly uneven month at work), I fall well and truly off the wagon and it takes herculean effort to climb back aboard. I haven’t figured out quite how to overcome this yet, but I suspect the solution will lie in editing out things that I use as excuses or distractions.

This has been a much better year than 2016 for me, and I’m feeling pretty positive about 2018 at the moment. It’s a good place to be.

Use It Up Challenge Check In

“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

I had given myself permission to purchase from the Victoria Beckham x Estee Lauder collection, but after lack luster reviews, I spent my fun money on a couple vintage clothing items instead and kept my wallet closed tight against all things beauty. In fact, I kicked off my next no-buy self-challenge a couple of months early! Since discovering that Makeup Rehab subreddit I mentioned last month, I’ve been enjoying a lot of self-challenges to use up what I own more than looking to buy new stuff. I’ve nowhere near given up buying beauty products long term (I mean, do you know me at all?) but I’m focusing a lot more on skincare than makeup, and my pores are thanking me.

So, how did I do with my self challenge? Not only did I make some serious headway on my actual goals, but I also destashed quite a few bits and bobs to my little sister. I went away to university when she was very young, so I feel like I missed out on a lot of the fun parts of being an older sister like sharing beauty stuff. And so, sending presents, clothes, and makeup that she will love more than me is something I enjoy doing and she gets to benefit from my experience (ie, age) and pick up some goodies that she probably wouldn’t buy for herself due to price point. Spoiled.

I feel pretty! Oh so pretty!

Hit pan on at least one color in my Viseart neutral eyeshadow palette (BAM)

Use up my Bite Beauty lipstick in Pepper

Finish my Nars Velvet Lip Pencil in Red Square

Use up my Replica by Maison Margiela perfume in Jazz Club (got down to the dregs of the rollerball and finally chucked it)

Use just one blush – Tonga by Cargo – with aim of putting a proper dent in it (I hit pan on it!)

Use up one of my (many) sunscreens (going on holiday helped!)

Finish my Aesop Parsley Seed Mask

Finish my Glossier Moisturizing Moon Mask

Finish my Kiehl’s mud mask

Use up one of my hand lotion samples already! (Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Hand Treatment)

Finish one of my (many) pots of lip salve

Finish my current bottle of Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate

Hit pan on my Glossier Stretch Concealer

Empties Update

“My dad used to say makeup was a shallow girl’s sport, but it’s not. It’s armor.” 
― Courtney Summers, All the Rage

Back in April, as part of my Style Month project, I shared several months worth of empties–the products I’ve used to the last drop. I remain pleasantly fascinated with empties videos or posts from other writers and of course, I’ve been on a bit of a kick when it comes to thinking and writing about consumption myself. So obviously as soon as I had hit publish on my last post, I began stockpiling items as I used them up for an update. Six months later, it’s time for an update!

I’ve bought very few new products in the last half year and so have been able to use up quite a few things to learn more about what I like, what I hate, what I swear by, and what I think is just not worth the money.

Not too bad, C., you may say. Seems manageable until you–

Oh god, what kind of monster am I?!

Skincare first! There were quite a few repeats in here as this is my second bottle of Sunday Riley Good Genes, at least my bottle third Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate, my second Clinique All About Eyes Rich eye cream, and third Kate Somerville ExfoliKate scrub. All of these are beloved favorites, but I’ve made a commitment to use up much more of my own beauty stash before I allow myself to repurchase any of these items (particularly as they aren’t exactly cheap). You may be surprised to hear that I dislike a Glossier product, but their Super Pure formula is my least favorite of their three serums and I wouldn’t repurchase it. The Pestle & Mortar Superstar retinol oil was excellent, but I’m road testing a much cheaper version from The Ordinary which thus far I really like! Speaking of, I also finished off a bottle of hyaluronic acid serum from the The Ordinary displaced another Pestle & Mortar similar product as well. Quality doesn’t need to break the bank, kids!

Another bottle of Glossier Milky Jelly cleanser down. I already had a bottle of this on stand by that I purchased over the summer, but I’m ridiculously lucky and got two free additional bottles from attending the Glossier pop up earlier this summer, and then scored another back up as the G-team apparently mailed out some gift boxes as follow up to that press event later in the summer. Because they are freaking brilliant at marketing. Long story short, I haven’t had to repurchase this in a while, but I fully intend to when my stash runs down again. It’s a really good product, perfect as a morning cleanser or a second cleanse in the evening (if I’ve been wearing a full face of makeup and SPF all day). My evening cleanser for months has been the Oskia Renaissance Cleansing gel–a gel/balm formula that turns to oil on your skin. It dissolves most makeup and doesn’t strip your skin in the slightest. The Kiehl’s cleanser has been included in this stash for the sake of honesty. Technically it was Jeff’s product but I made liberal use of it in the shower and contributed to its demise–so into the bag it went! I’ve used up two masks, the Aesop Parsley Seed mask and Moisturizing Moon mask. I may repurchase them someday, but I want to try some similar products from other brands first…once my current mask stash is depleted. I definitely would not repurchase the Tidal cream by Sunday Riley–odd smell, nothing special as a moisturizer, and sparkly flecks in it to boot.

Hair continues to be my personal Waterloo, but here are some of the mane-taming products I used up recently, along with a couple of shower bits. I’m not precious about my bathing and use Jeff’s razors and bodywash without shame. In fact, I’m positive I missed at least two bottles of bodywash that rightly should have been included in this confessional but recycled them first. Oops. My eczema continues to wreak havoc on my scalp, hence the two different medicated shampoos (also probably not an honest reckoning), but I did manage to make it through two bottles of conditioner. A powder style dry shampoo and leave-in conditioner round off the pack. The powder smells wonderful but I would not repurchase as I’ve found a much better spray formula. All the other items, however, are pretty much my standard shower rotation and their replacements are in situ.

While we’re being honest, that comment about stealing Jeff’s face wash? Same for deodorant. I just don’t see the point of the pinker, lady-friendly stuff when he has a perfectly good can of product sitting on our dresser that I can swipe. The Certain Dri roll on, however, is definitely mine. Also in the spirit of full disclosure, this stuff is fantastic and when I use it regularly/properly, it’s a miracle product. I tend to pick up a bottle whenever we go back to the States. I also used up a No 7 make up brush cleanser from Boots (great product!) and a bath oil from Sanctuary Spa. I take a bath almost every night, especially in cold weather and prefer oils to bubbles…even if it means I have to scrub the tub more regularly. It’s a small price to pay for zen.

Finally, some make up! Er, kinda? It takes me quite a while to get through make up products, though you may remember my recent discovery of the MakeUp Rehab reddit community which has inspired a number of “use it up” personal challenges for me. If I do another post like this six months from now, I’m hoping to have a few empty makeup tins and pans to add to the pile. This time at least, I made it through yet another tube of Maybeline Full ‘N Soft mascara–my go to for years. Glossier Boy Brow did good service in the beauty wars and its replacement is already in rotation. I loved this hand cream from Elizabeth Arden and will definitely be buying a full sized tube once my seemingly infinite amounts of other travel sized lotions have served their time. Finally, I used up a bottle of Hermes Jardin sur la Nil perfume which I loved but am happy to part with as friends after a four year run.

Your turn, kittens, if you feel up to oversharing in the comments. Do you keep track of items that you use up–if so, what and why? Is my fascination with personal consumption at all interesting or just weird? Let me know your thoughts, I’m braced for impact!

London Glossier Pop Up and Power Branding

“Touch your customer, and you’re halfway there.” 
– Estee Lauder

Excuse the dive into marketing, ducklings, but since that’s what I do for my actual job, I couldn’t do a post about this fun summer event without talking about some of the technical aspects of the company behind it.

You’ve heard me mention Glossier a few times around these parts and and probably also stumbled across it out in the real world too. It’s a beauty brand that launched in 2010 and proceeded to casually take the editorial and online beauty world by storm. From their initial launch, they’ve rolled out product after product and are apparently expanding their line to include more “lifestyle” aspects to beauty in the future; their next product is going to be a candle, for example.

Glossier is launching in the UK later this year and I cannot wait to finally (hopefully) be able to have regular access to the items of their line that I genuinely adore. A few weeks ago I actually got to go to a pop up shop event they threw in Marylebone which was an opportunity for UK beauty nerds to meet some of the team, and test products that they may have not been able to try before. For a company that doesn’t even ship to the UK yet, it was amazing to see how many people (my humble self included) showed up just to celebrate the brand, for lack of a better term.

Which is extraordinary when you think about it. There was nothing to buy, we just wanted to say hi to team members that (due to Glossier’s social media presence) it feels like their customers know personally, or enjoy a beautifully curated space.

Because Glossier, excuse my fangirling, is genius at what they do.

 

I mention the brand and the products separately because while inexorably intertwined, they are different things. Where Glossier has set the bar in marketing has been in the solid curation and dissemination of its brand: its visuals, the people it has chosen to make its promoters, and its products all go hand in hand. It’s no mean feat to make something that must at some level be very well and intelligently controlled look and feel effortless.

From a marketing perspective, I routine point to them as one of the most interesting examples of brand and marketing work I’ve seen in years and I honestly would give my right arm to work with them at some point. It’s probably the most out of reach freelance goal a girl could have, but true nonetheless. Entrepreneur even featured founder Emily Weiss recently, with some of the numbers around the brand’s rise to success. They are damn impressive.

 

It doesn’t hurt that most of the products are pretty great and priced so as not to break the bank. I think they’ve had a few missteps, but they seem to be in the spirit of experimentation so I’m often eager to try products even if feel like a bit of a needle scratch. For instance, I’m really keen to try their new Wowder, but I also feel like it’s a bit of a strange choice for a brand who built their look and core product offerings around the “dewy” skin look. However, I expect that they created this powder…because their customers asked for it. So, in the end, probably smart move.

The whole of Glossier brand really is based on this conversational element–between the customers and the business, between individual customers themselves. Which makes sense for a company that grew out of a blog: Into the Gloss. ITG/Glossier routinely crowd sources feedback on what products their customers want them to develop, what elements of those products would be important to them, and how customers would use them. They have one of the best and most thriving comment sections on the internet (delightfully BS and troll free), and a friendly but authoritative editorial voice.

Guests to the pop up went away with a goody bag of full sized products to tide us over until shipping commences later in the year–a nice change from sample size bits and bobs that many brands hand out for promotions. Another smart move, in my opinion. For actual beauty bloggers and editors, there was an event with Weiss herself and the Beauty Director of Glamour UK on another day (the video interview is quite fun, if you’re interested in all things skincare).

This is a brand I’m not just going to continue to buy, but I’m also going to continue to watch. I believe strongly in the power of branding and am fascinated by organizations, creators, and producers who do it well. Glossier is up there.