Tag: Beauty

Five Things I Loved In May

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
― Henry James

Kittens, I am neglecting you lately, but the world of work has rather consumed life over the last couple of weeks and free time has been taken up by getting outdoors into the increasingly nice weather whenever possible. I enjoy the parade of seasons most years, with their respective fashions, celebrations, and foods, but I have been craving summer in an unusual way this year and am ready for the accompanying heat and holidays. This is pretty clear in this month’s batch of favorites!

 

Nars x Charlotte Gainsbourg eyeshadow in Old Church Street. I had every intention of being good and not buying any more makeup for the rest of the year, truly I did. But when this collection dropped I fell for it, hook, line and sinker. The combination of slate and champagne shadows was too gorgeous to be believed, and I could actually justify it to myself as I didn’t have any existing shades in these colors. Clearly my upcoming Paris trip inspired me! I’m now sitting penitently on my hands and eschewing temptation for a good long while to make up for it.

 

Neom candle in Complete Bliss. Most floral scents, whether for perfumes or home fragrances, simply do not do it for me but this is the rare exception and I currently have three of these suckers scattered throughout the apartment. It’s rose scent would be overpowering, but it’s got some citrus and black pepper thrown in to balance things out. So not only do we have fancy antique chairs now, and a regular cleaning schedule, but our house always smells nice too. We begin to feel quite grown up!

 

 

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season Three. This absurd delight of a show continues to bring me joy, mixing light and dark equitably and shot through with ridiculousness. I inhaled the whole season in one weekend and firmly believe that Titus’ “Lemonading” episode needs to win some kind of award.

 

Sunglasses. I seriously didn’t start wearing these regularly until my late 20s, for no good reason whatsoever. I have since reformed.

 

Hermes, Un Jardin sur la Nil. I’ve owned this bottle of perfume for years now and I’ve finally come to the end of it. It’s done good service and though I don’t think I’ll ever repurchase it, it is a wonderful summer fragrance with green notes. Inspired by the garden islands at Assouan on the Nile, it’s one of a series of “travelogue” style scents that Hermes has done, and are well worth a look in. As the weather has warmed up, I’ve enjoyed spritzing this on liberally as a prelude to summer.

What I Bought This Month

“When you don’t dress like everyone else, you don’t have to think like everyone else.”
― Iris Apfel

As we begin to wind down style month here, as promised, is an account of what I’ve bought since my shopping ban lifted. Though I’m not going to make a formal commitment (my next ban won’t be until next year), I’m going to make this the last round of personal purchases for a long time. Jeff is looking to buy a new suit and possibly a sports coat (his vice of choice), while I want to continue to shop my own closet the way I have been for the past few months. Now that I’ve done a few clear outs and a bit a streamlining to both my wardrobe and my bathroom shelf, I’m more happy than ever with what I already have. My trusty, long running list of items I’d like to buy has had a couple of ticks put in it, and even more items eliminated as I reevaluated my needs. Only three items remains, and in the case of all of them I’m happy to wait a few months before buying them.

And so, what needs and indulgences made the cut? Read on!

Bite Prismatic Pearl Creme Lip Gloss
A pure indulgence that I didn’t need, but wanted a great deal. I was as a magpie drawn to shimmer and I don’t regret it in the slightest!

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Phone photos don’t do these beauties justice. The shimmer is strong!

Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Palette
My eye makeup stash had a gap I wanted to rectify: lack of color. While I had a few dashes of pigment in my supplementary bits and pieces, my eye shadow collection was overwhelmingly neutral. Since my eyes are green, I knew I wanted something with red and purple tones in it to play up the color, and I’d wanted this palette for a long time. Add a coupon code to the mix, and I snapped it up. And I solemnly swear not to buy any more eyeshadows until I’ve hit pan on what I’ve got.

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The whole thing was supposedly inspired by the tones found in Renaissance paintings. Which means that from the get go, it had my name written all over it.

A vintage faux fur coat
While Etsy-scanning I stumbled upon a coat designed in the 80s but looked like it was from the 20s and looked like something a flush bootlegger’s girlfriend would swan about in. I required it. Many thanks to Katarina who is coming to visit this summer; I enlisted her aid in conveying it to me when she does and she, darling that she is, agreed. Also, you’ve got a hint as to one of my perpetual style inspirations in the screengrab: Agatha Christie murder mysteries. That Interwar period look gives me life.

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I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to winter now!

Everlane tops and jumper
Everlane had one of their international shipping promotions and so I picked up some replacement t-shirts (all of my current t-shirts were a couple of years old and stretched or sagging in less than flattering ways). There are few joys quite like fresh cotton, whether new shirts or clean sheets! I also picked up a jumper and a summer top. I’d like to get a couple of their silk tops for work, but am biding my time until another international promotion comes around. I didn’t snap photos of these because, let’s face it, I’m not a style blogger and lack some of the basic skills!

Joy skirt
I’d wanted a mid length skirt for a while. I found one with both pockets and with a designed in a repeating pattern of lipstick tubes. I really don’t feel like I need to explain this any further.

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I mean, seriously, come on!

Apart from the personal purchases, the thing I’m really happy we bought this month are two vintage chairs for the house. We bought a very nice couch and bedroom set when we moved to our current apartment and new it would be several months before we could afford to buy anything else in furnishing it. The waiting has been boring and I’m impatient. But at long last we found a beautiful pair in the style we liked and in our price range. It will be another few months before we can buy our next piece, but these beauties will hold me over I think.

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Beauty Empties

“I adore artifice. I always have.”
– Diana Vreelance

When I first thought about doing these month-long blog projects, I had an idea I’d try to do something about beauty or makeup at some point and so I started collecting the bottles and packets of items I was using up. I debated trying to do some video content myself this month…but then my computer crashed and needed a new hard drive (a few other tech shenanigans behind the scenes also ensued) and I decided to put that goal off until another month. But I still wanted to do some kind of “empties” post, et alors, we’ve arrived!

I’m oddly obsessed with “empties” videos on YouTube. There are a lot of writers and content makers who are legitimate voices of authority in the industry (Caroline Hirons in particular springs to mind) and I have a number I trust to give good advice when it comes to skincare and makeup, so when they they tell me they’ve used certain products up, I pay attention. I’m also fascinated because from some of the anecdotal evidence I’ve gathered from some friends and internet pals of late leads me to conclude that we throw a lot of beauty products out because they goes bad before we finish them, we get bored before something is used up, or we just clear out our stashes periodically and anything that’s done its time is binned. Simply put, a lot of us can be fairly sloppy or casual consumers of our beauty goods!

Candidly, one of my projects this month was to throw away any makeup that had expired (as some of those products can be serious hubs for bacteria) and to give things that I simply wasn’t using to better homes. My little sister is awaiting a package of goodies from me as we speak! Also in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve picked up a few things this month which I’ll be documenting in a later post. But having done a clear out, and a couple of thoughtful shopping trips to replace what needs replacing, my goal now is to buy fairly little if any new makeup until I’ve used up some of what I’ve already got.

Also, since I stuck to my shopping ban faithfully (minus my one tiny little cheat courtesy of Estee Lauder and Victoria Beckham…) I didn’t buy any new skin care for several months and so was able to finish a lot of products that were already in my stash. My bathroom shelf is much leaner than its been in a long time, but that means I’ve got a nice little hoard to share of some of the things I’ve used up entirely in the last six months.

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I was surprised to see so many hair prodcuts in this stash as it typically takes me months to get through them…because I hate doing my hair. Every minute of the process. I hate washing it, I hate the time it takes to blow dry and style it, I hate the fact that the whole process is (for me) largely null and void the moment I step outside–all of it. This is unfortunate as I 1) really do want to look nice and hair is a big part of that and, 2) have eczema on my scalp which means I have continuous skin problems in that vicinity which requires constant care. Frankly, my hatred of hair care is probably related to this fact.

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There’s a lot of Glossier in here as I put in an order last summer when we were in the States and finally came to the end of it around Christmas. The serums I picked up at Christmas, however, and I’ve gone through both the Super Bounce and Super Glow formulas in record time. Bounce is a hyaluronic acid serum and though it seems to be a bit of an internet favorite, I won’t be repurchasing. I’m roadtesting the Deciem line at the moment, which includes an HA serum, but at the moment I think I’ll be picking up another bottle of the Pestle & Mortar HA serum when that runs out. I got through my first bottle of it in January and have not found anything I love quite as much as it yet! The Glossier Super Glow serum is a Vitamin C formula and I will be buying it in bulk as soon as I can get my grubby hands on a way to get it to the UK–it’s that good!

Speaking of buying in bulk, I’ve actually gotten through multiple packets of facial wipes (which most beauty editors and gurus worth their salt will tell you to stay far away from. Listen to their wisdom, kittens, but know that your beloved Aunt C. sometimes is just a lazy slob) and bottles of micellar cleansing water in the last six months. This is just indicative.

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The products above I’ve already repurchased since using them up (in December when shopping was permitted, of course!) and have every intention of picking up again when my current stash runs out. It’s taken me a long time to build an arsenal of products that I know work for me and when I find things I love, I tend to be loyal. I may still be fighting a losing battle with hair care, and may still fall victim to the slings and arrows of hormonal breakouts, but day to day, I feel like I’ve got my skincare game together.

Your turn! Are there any products you swear by? Do you repurchase old favorites or actively go out hunting for new ones? How long does it typically take you to get through your favorite items? 

Serial Monogamy: A Perfume Story

“A woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting. ”
― Christian Dior

I have long been in love with the idea of a signature scent. I say “idea” because while I was faithful to Coco Mademoiselle for several years in my early 20s, we broke up at some point and I’ve been a hussy, jumping around ever since trying to find something I could wear every day without getting bored or smelling it on every other girl (or guy!) who walks down the street. I’ve fallen love with another scent more than once, but not one worth forgoing all other scents for.

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At the moment I’m finishing up a bottle of Hermes Jardin sur la Nil, and am in a torrid, wild affair with Passion Boisee from Frapin, which is a perfume house that grew out of a French family cognac business that’s been going since the 13th century. This scent is the nearest I’ve yet come to fidelity! I also have a bottle of Commes des Garcon in Amazingreen which I bought against the day that my Hermes runs out, and a small spritzer of Replica by Maison Margiela in Jazz Club. As you may have gathered from the scattering of testers, I’m already on the hunt for the next fragrance up to bat when either of these go.

There are themes to my perfumes. I hate most florals and strongly prefer scents that are at least slightly masculine. Woods and spices are my go tos, with a healthy heaping of bergamot–since my Chanel days, I’ve never fallen in love with a fragrance that didn’t have bergamot listed in its ingredients. Know thyself, C.. I also sometimes steal a spray of Jeff’s cologne: an expensive bottle of Tom Ford that I don’t begrudge the cost of in the slightest because I adore it on him and it lasts forever. He mock complains whenever I bury my nose in his shirt or neck to catch a whiff, but you can tell he’s pretty chuffed to have such an easy way of seducing me with pheromones.

I’m still open to the idea that I will find The One, but these days I’m more okay with the notion that I may continue to play the field. I’m mostly faithful to whatever bottle currently lives on my nightstand–or two to be honest, one for warmer seasons and one for cold–but my eye, it roves. Always looking for the next best thing.

Because, kittens…at a deep and fundamental level, I’m a snob.

That bark of laughter you just heard was Jeff in the other room. “No kidding,” I believe was his precise response.

Well, there’s no helping it, I am a snob and I don’t like smelling like everybody else. First of all, there are a lot of glorious scents in the world–an almost infinite variety of combinations and notes that can be combined and recombined in ways that make even your favorite individual scents feel new and exciting while still invoking nostalgia. Secondly no perfume will smell exactly the same on you as it does on anyone else. Skin chemistry is neat like that! But that’s still no excuse for every girl in the lift to be wearing the same fragrance.

I think that the plethora of luxury brand perfumes (usually by major fashion houses) is completely understandable. Most of us may not be able to afford a Chanel jacket or bag, but we can afford a splurge on Chanel cosmetics here or there, and what has as much staying power as perfume? Well crafted and distilled, you shouldn’t need more than one spritz a day (possibly two in a pinch) and so a single bottle can get you through months if not years of wear. And so these scents organically and naturally permeate through pop culture and Instagram feeds. There’s no shame in it and if you have a beloved fragrance that you genuinely love that just happens to be popular, I will be the last woman in the world to comment on it. Heck, I’m just about to polish off a fragrance by Hermes that I picked up four years ago! I won’t be repurchasing it, but I’ve enjoyed wearing it for four summers in a row immensely.

But the truth is that I enjoy feeling that I’m wearing something just a bit different. In reality I know that tens of thousands of guys and gals are wearing the same scent as me, but the illusion is powerful. I enjoy stumbling into niche perfume sellers in corners of London or cities I visit on holiday and finding something quite unlike anything I could pick up at the Nordstrom’s counter. I like the (admittedly false) exclusivity of smaller, less well known houses who are making perfume the way that connoisseurs make cheese or wine–in small batches and to their own preferences or taste. I like feeling like I’m wearing something secretive and interesting. Like unto red lipstick, the effect may be purely psychological, but it’s real.

 

Your turn. Are you a one-perfume man or woman, or are you playing the field like me? Do you have a particular memory associated with a scent? Do you have or want a signature scent, or do you find the idea silly (or just plain boring)? Talk to me! 

Weekend Manicure: My Moment of Zen

“You can tell a lot from a person’s nails. When a life starts to unravel, they’re among the first to go.”
― Ian McEwan, Saturday

We spent this Bank Holiday weekend in the Lakes District, a somewhat impromptu holiday decision that I regret not a whit! Travel is therapy for me, and we had a couple of conversations over this trip of how we can do more of it, as it’s something we value but have not prioritized as much as we would like in the last few years.

Self care has become a very overused term in recent months and years, but I believe the concept is an incredibly important one. Which is why I wanted at least a couple of posts this month to be on the ways we use beauty products and routines for the purpose of literally caring for our bodies.

Beauty has therapeutic benefits for me as well. For example, rare is the weekend that I don’t slap at least one mask on my face to treat the week’s stresses–usually dehydration from not watching my diet, pigmentation from not minding my SPF, or a minor revolt on the part of my hormones. I enjoy the process of forcing myself to stop moving, rushing, and generally stressing, and so something that feels good for me.

The best use of beauty-as-therapy for me, though, is probably my weekly manicure. Some people really enjoy going out and getting their nails done professionally, but I’m not one of them. For one, I’ve never really been able to wrap my head around paying for something I can do for myself unless a special occasion is involved. Secondly, I’m awful to my nails. I bit them compulsively through childhood and can still pick at or tear them in times of stress. They aren’t particularly strong to start with and all my mistreatment certainly does them no favors, even in adulthood.

But do you know what helps? Nail polish. Seriously. I’ve found that I’m much less likely to mess them up if they look nice, even in moments of stress or distraction, and if a nail lands unwittingly in my mouth for an unintentional nibble, the immediate taste of the polish reminds me that I need to not muck up my own handiwork.

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Like unto a face mask, doing my nails once a week also forces me to not do anything else for an hour or so while the coats of varnish dry. I can’t work, clean, or even make lists without the risk of ruining my manicure, and so it compels me to do something that I’m actually pretty bad at: being still and switching my brain off. Often I’ll turn on an Agatha Christie mystery or documentary to watch while I paint and dry, which keeps me from falling prey to the Sunday Night Blues/Scaries and helps me being to wind down the weekend in an enjoyable way. It’s a small, trivial thing, but it’s a valuable part of my weekly routine.

Nail polish is a cheap way to make me feel a bit more put together (not unlike a swipe of lipstick), and it’s been a helpful tool in keeping bad physical and emotional habits in check. I can’t buy that a salon.

 

Your turn. Is there a product or tool that you’ve used to overcome (or indeed, introduce) a habit? Do you have a beauty self care routine–manicures, baths, regular massage, or something else? If so, what benefits have you drawn from it? 

Late to the Game

“Besides, just because they wore frills and makeup didn’t mean they weren’t dangerous…”
― Brandon Sanderson, The Hero of Ages

As written, I didn’t really get serious about my beauty game until my early-mid 20s and as a result I have been “late” on an awful lot of things. Not just trends or products, but whole processes. A few of these, in no particular order, include:

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Blow drying my hair. I did this growing up…but grudgingly and not very well. In fact, I have memories of an increasingly frustrated X. trying to teach me this skill, like the amazing surrogate big sister she was, when we were about 12 years old, before giving up in disgust. It wasn’t until university that I really learned how to use a round brush and I still don’t really have my mane together in the way I’d like. I missed out on a decade of practice and it shows!

Lipstick, as I’ve written about, didn’t show up permanently on my face until my early 20s.

Hand lotion. I have a strange dislike of feeling like my hands and fingers are slick in any way and so have endured years of dry cuticles, cracked winter skin, and general discomfort. The years I have missed on this are ridiculous to think about, but I didn’t start using hand cream until a couple of years ago when I was given a travel sized tube of Neal’s Yard Remedies. I use it regularly, but still have a bit of lingering squeamishness when I first apply it. But then it sinks into my sink and makes me feel better, so all is forgiven.

Body lotion has been a similar journey. I had eczema growing up (and it occasionally still puts in an appearance) so I was used to slathering treatments on my skin, but daily care and nurturing rather eluded me until I moved to London three and half years ago. I suspect that the aggressive winter heating required in an urban setting is to blame. But last year I picked up a massive bottle of Kiehl’s Creme de Corps and have never looked back. I use it every day, without fail.

Powder. This is one of the oldest beauty items known to man, but I didn’t start using it until a couple of years ago, and it’s still not something I reach for every day. As a kid it always struck me as something old fashioned and tricky to use–it’s astonishingly easy to look cakey and sloppy, at least for a newb like me. Investing in higher quality products in adulthood has finally awoken me to its usefulness but in spite of this revelation, I’m still learning how to use powder properly.

Have you ever been “late” to a product or trend, beauty or otherwise, that you later came to love? If so, what? Heck, I’ve only gotten onboard with audiobooks in the last year or so! 

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What I’m Not Going to Buy – Inspired by Kimberly Clark

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

Kimberly Clark is a YouTuber I mentioned in my March favorites post. A drag queen who vlogs on beauty, consumerism, and social issues, her content is frankly right up my street! She’s most notable for her “Anti-Haul” series where, in contrast to other glam influencers who show off their (often extravagant) mass purchases, she creates fun and enjoyable videos detailing what she is choosing not to buy–and why. Her style is quintessential drag, humorous and hyperbolic, but often intermixed with valuable thoughts on brands and consumer culture.

I really like her take on being honest and blunt about wanting, buying, and enjoying products that are fundamentally unnecessary, but also honestly evaluating (in her opinion) when certain products or brands cross the line into downright ridiculous. Her catch phrase, “I don’t need it and I’m not going to buy it,” could save us all a lot of buyers remorse–and not just on beauty and style products.

And so, following the exposé of my stash, and in the spirit of glitter, big hair, and smarter consumption, here’s a list of things I’m not going to buy:

Stila Magnificent Metals Glitter and Glow Liquid Eye Shadow. Something strange has happened lately and I’ve found myself drawn inexorably to metallic cosmetics as if I were some kind of earthbound magpie. These things are outrageously high on shine and ever since swatching them on my hand to test both their reflective might (strong) and staying power (fairly decent for something so glittery), I have coveted them fiercely. But I’m not going to buy them. I have two semi-metallic shades of cream eye shadow that are more muted but still plenty shimmery and can work for both work or going out depending on how I use them. They would be tons of fun, but–in the words of Kimberly Clark herself–I don’t need them so I’m going to buy them!

Bobbi Brown City Palette in London. I fell for this compact due to the combined powers of an intense navy shade and the illustrated case that pays homage to my favorite city on earth. But pretty as they both are, even I must admit those are insufficient reasons to splurge.

Anything by Tom Ford, with the exception of the eyeliner pen which is genuinely great in spite of the price. Because when your brand charges $50 for lipstick, $110 for bronzer, and $80 for blushes…I expect your products to not only make me eternally young, but to do my laundry, clean my house, and file my tax paperwork in the bargain. No one needs to spend that much money on on this stuff. Nobody.

Glossier Cloud Paint. Like the liquid eye shadow, I definitely want this and am intrigued to try it. I don’t entirely worship at the shrine of Glossier, some of their products are a bit overhyped or underwhelming…but the products of theirs that I do like, I buy in multiples. However I’m not going to be buying this product, at least not any time soon, because I have a lot of blushes already. I haven’t bought all of them, a good number I was very generously gifted to review by a magazine, but the fact remains that I have a drawer full already and simply don’t need more at the moment.

Any more highlighters. Sephora can tempt me with all the glow they can bring to bear, but I own a handful as it stands. I can look dewy, bronzed, or downright gilded if I want to already, so I will be sitting on my hands every time I’m tempted by something shiny until I’ve used up some of my existing stock.

Most limited edition anything (fully acknowledging that my own shopping ban cheat indulgence was precisely that). In almost all instances, the “limited edition” nature of these items is to meant to enable markups on already existing formulas and products. Moreoever, more than one brand has rolled out a “limited edition” product to outrageous hype, only to have it become a viral success–at which point it behooves the brand to add the item to their normal roster anyway (a great example of this is Becca’s Champagne Pop highlighter). Which means that all you paid for (normally at some kind of mark up) is the urgency. There are new product launches all the time and it is a rare item that will truly fill a gap in your stash and be worth the higher price tag.

New Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencils. Full disclosure, I love these. I own two and could gleefully own more, but I’m sitting on my hands in defiance of their recent release of new shades because…I have an obscene amount of lip products already. I’m not buying another stick until I’ve used up my existing ones. So help me god.

Anything Kylie Cosmetics. I fully admit to an irrational prejudice when it comes to this family in general, but that’s just not a direction I want to send my money.

 

Your turn, ducklings. What is one thing (or a list of things) you want but have made a decision not to buy–frivolous or otherwise?