Tag: Beauty

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.

 

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.”