Empties Marathon

All you list-freaks, count your blessings. I have spent the last six months saving every single beauty- and cosmetics product that I have successfully managed to finish between January and July, just to be able to share this information with you. Initially I was kind of curious to find out how much stuff I really use, but of course the list below is not about that – many other products were used, below just the ones that were finished. 

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Pits, Lips, Legs

Cheerio and apologies for the radio silence. Suddenly things started piling up on my plate and messed up with my carefully crafted scheduling. But hey, I’m here with a London edition for pits, lips and legs. I did a short visit this weekend, part pleasure, part work. I miss the UK terribly and the looming Brexit does very little to alleviate the pain. Every visit since about 2016 has been clouded by the inevitable “is this the last time I’m doing this without a bloody visa?”

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The Heady Smell of Summer

The season has changed and so apparently should our scent. Because it is summer, there’s an excuse to sell us season-appropriate stuff, and the marketing people would like to convince all of us to smell of coconut with a hint of fruits rouges, and to generally lighten up on the perfume front. 

Not so fast. If ever there was a season to go all out on the heady and heavy perfume department, is it not summer? It is fabulously refreshing to wear an insanely crisp vetiver or citrus during the Christmas season when everybody else smells of turned potpourri and vanilla. Equally, whipping out the most potent of white flowers (I’m thinking tuberose in particular) in the summer heat makes all the sense in the world. 

Weleda’s shower cream (the one that does not make you lose weight) for this summer is ylang ylang mixed with copaiba (fyi, I also had to google what copaiba is). The cream delivers a bit more oomph than your regular mid-priced citrus deal, and quickly became my absolute favourite amongst the natural shower creams. It is limited edition, so go get yours asap, I have pretty much raided all shops within a 10km radius from Brussels centre, so try your luck. 

We shall continue with limited edition products. Swedish Byredo have recently done interesting collaborations, and Elevator Music with Virgil Abloh (men’s artistic director at Louis Vuitton) is one of them. It is available basically nowhere, except maybe on eBay for an extortionate price, I got mine at Byredo’s shop in Stockholm last year where it was sold out soon after (I’m not being very helpful here I realise). In terms of scent it is very woody: bamboo, burned woods, amyris, that sort of thing, but also it is very light, as in it is not wintry in the obvious “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” –manner. My latest thing with Elevator Music is layering it with…

… ​Floral Oud Gardenia by LA-based flower-wizard Eric Buterbaugh. We are talking about semi-serious niche-geekery here: it was an in-the-know friend who tipped me about this brand and off I scooted to Saks NY, which is the only place outside Los Angeles where Buterbaugh’s juice is made available to people who are not Demi Moore and/or ​Naomi CampbellEverything in this brand is so over the top (the cult-following, the price, the fact that he was flown to the Windsor Castle to do the flower arrangements for Princess Beatrice’s 18th birthday party because really, why not) that I cannot not like it: the perfume is sublime, and also I like exclusive things that come with an off the wall side-story. 

So yeah as the name says, it’s an oud, a lovely one, with gardenia (duh). It’s mixed with my perennial (flower pun!!) favourites of santal and tuberose, and it is absolutely beautiful. The bottle is a heavy crystal-deal with an old-fashioned topper so it does not travel at all, but also you don’t want to travel with it unless it has its own insurance policy and a first class seat. I decanted mine. 

Speaking of tuberose, the ultimate summer-night scent is Carnal Flower by Dominique Ropion for the Frédéric Malle Collection. Chosen the sexiest perfume in the world by many people (including a few whom I personally take seriously, such as Sali Hughes, though I otherwise find it strange to rank the sexiness of something so personal). Carnal Flower contains the highest concentration of tuberose in the perfume industry, it’s a spectacularly heady deal.

Top tip: Do like I did and buy a couple of bunches of tuberose at the market, wait for the blossoms to open and spritz yourself with Carnal Flower. Sensory overload if ever there was one. 

Oldie but goldie: Diptyque’s Philosykos. My first niche-perfume, so it will always have a special place in my heart, reminding me of the bygone era of computer labs where us students could send email. I was drenched in Philosykos those days and remember being complimented on my perfume in the computer lab of Edinburgh University. The bottle cost me many a night shift as banquet waitress, but the compliment: priceless

Anyway, Philosykos is a classy fig scent, however without the often overpowering sweetness of fig. The base notes are much more on the woody side again – cedarwood and sort of trees? It’s a very green scent for me personally, many people are wary of sweet perfumes and fig often is. This one isn’t. 

How To: Flaunt Your Summer Body

If you’re a woman and have a body, you know what June means. It means it’s too late to get a flauntablesummer body for this season. See, our bodies might be all right for winter and the colder months of spring, but come summer, there needs to be a whole new body. It is also the season of “let’s see what crazy juju we manage to sell women in the name of self care, which we used to call weight loss or dieting before “body positivity” became a thing and we are no longer able to use these perfectly fine terms to make women lose weight for summer”. 

Buy a shower gel

I was looking for a shower gel yesterday and had to consult the staff to find the brand I was looking for. -“It’s where we have our weight loss -products”, I was told. Surely a mistake, I thought, but proceeded to the minceur/afslanken -aisle and indeed there it was, my good old shower-gel that now claimed to possess attributes that would make me lose weight! I couldn’t help but wonder whether all these years the reason for the clogged drainpipes in my bathroom was in fact my lard that had washed off in the shower? Well done Weleda!

Experiment with contouring

Apparently, by using different shades of self-tanner we can disguise parts of our bodies that need to be disguised. I read last week that it is perhaps worth considering to apply a darker tanning lotion on the “lower abdomen” to create the illusion of a more toned, well, lower abdomen. I kind of get the point of body contouring for photo shoots where it’s all about playing with the light an’ all, you know, a bit of highlighter on the shins to make the legs properly gleam

However, given the impossibility to get an even colour using just one shadeof a self-tanning lotion, I really do salute anyone who masters the application of different shades without looking like something out of George in the Jungle. I do. Full respect. 

Ask the Universe

It’s not what I end up getting, it’s my attitude to deal with it that matters. The Universe has my back. Like attracts like. Thoughts become things. The law of attraction gives me what I’m thinking about. Apparently that’s varicose veins.

My right leg knee-down looks like Terminator’s face, mid transformation. If you don’t know what Terminator looks like you’re too young to have issues with your veins. Go run in the sun with your legs exposed while you can. Enjoy the warm breeze against your freshly-shaven pins and see them get gradually tanned. I shall be exhibiting mine at biology classes where tree roots vectors are being studied. 

Blame the sun

If certain Western beauty standards would have it, us women would be completely hairless from our eyebrows down. The fact of the matter is that most of us have hair on our faces. I’m completely oblivious of mine until the sun comes out. I was having lunch on a terrace the other week and saw in my reflection that I have actual whiskers. This is kind of cool, unless there are remnants of my dessert hanging from them.

It’s a fine line, you see, between having pale, peachy fuzz on one’s cheeks and dark, wiry hairs jutting out of one’s chin. This is the question even Gwyneth Paltrow is not immune to (I listened to her podcast on this topic): at what age should we start plucking the hairs on our chin? What’s a quirky Italian ​nonna and what’s a downright lumberjack beard? 

Dig a hole

Did you know that by sweeping a shallow dent in the sand before you park there to sun yourself, your ass has a hiding place, will not expand all over the beach to take space from other beach-goers, and thus will make you look slimmer form the aerial perspective? I knew this because I read it in a women’s magazine not long time ago. We can do better than this, girls.

Why settle for a literally tiny ass-hole on the beach when you can keep digging? Dig a hole big enough to jump into. Ask your friend to fill up the hole so that only your head remains exposed. Please be mindful of covering your head from the glaring sun, and don’t forget the SPF. Also, keep an eye on any tidal movements. 

Then enjoy your beach body and live your best life. Have a drink delivered at regular intervals, but remember that you will need a straw to imbibe it. Think of all the plastic waste in the oceans and insist on a straw that is not made of plastic. Thank you for your understanding. 

All the Guccis of This World

Some of my friends have cautiously approached me lately with a careful question “so how much cosmetics did you buy in New York?” Dear reader, certain necessities had to be purchased. For one, I travelled practically with a passport and a toothbrush. Yes, that’s without toothpaste. 

Second, I needed some stuff. Some other stuff I strictly speaking did not need, and today I shall be introducing the unnecessary but fabulous part of my New York haul: the rock’n roll royalty of the latest cool luxury makeup.

Gucci Lipsticks

Italian Alessandro Michele has been Gucci’s chief artistic director since 2015 and with him, the brand has remained very street, but with a cool vintage, geeky twist. I was seriously in love with their campaign photos last year (old ladies sporting OTT jewellery with matching attitude etc) and overall like the vibe.

Last month saw the launch of Gucci lipsticks, and as befits the label, they come in vintage-y packaging, in 58 different unisex shades and are much cool and hyped all over the place. Until they launch in European shop-floors (apart from Harrods obvs), the lipsticks are available at Net a Porter (together with Gucci’s equally covetable fragrances, also yet to be launched in Europe).

The lipsticks come in three varieties: balm, sheer and opaque.

I have balm (mint green) and sheer (with the flowers) and have enough love in my heart to equally share between the two. Both are very lovely. If you consider buying online, keep in mind that both aforementioned sorts are quite sheer – the colour is much more intense in the tub than it is on lips. Good durability, and there’s a ton of shades to choose from. I keep reading that the lipsticks have a lovely violet scent in them, but my baume does not really smell of anything. 

Anyway. Love. Mostly for the nail-on-the-head cool packaging. 

As can be seen above, I am riding the luxe-beauty wave big time:
Vogue UK is introducing exactly these products in their July issue.
This makes me feel insanely smug about myself.

Westman Atelier Highlight Stick

I had big plans to buy pretty much everything in their recently launched range, but alas the only shade that properly suited me (Pale Corpse) in their foundations had sold out in the entire Manhattan. This is how hot this shit is.

Gucci Westman is American/Swedish makeup artist with an impossibly glamorous life and client base (Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Julianne Moore, Cameron Diaz, add any A-list Hollywood celebrity), yet she somehow comes across strangely likeable. She’s especially known for mastering the art of a fantastic, three dimensional skin makeup for her superstar clients. Both she and her brand are active on Instagram, and following the Westman Atelier launch there are lots of videos and interviews available online should you want to study her before committing to her products.

Westman wanted to go all natural, or green, with the product line first, but found out in the process that if she were to keep the luxurious feel and quality to her makeup, she’d have to compromise on the all natural front. 

The result is a bridge between organic and hi-tech (no mineral oils, mercury compounds, formaldehyde donors, which is already quite an achievement on the foundation-front), and the foundations have been praised for their high quality by anyone whose opinion can be trusted. The Westman Atelier website is very informative about the products should you have an interest in INCIs. 

Westman is a rosacea –sufferer, and the products are formulated not just to cover the red outbreaks, but to also soothe the skin.

I managed to get my hands on the Highlight Stick which admittedly only few people really need on a daily basis, but can I just say that adding a bit of 3-D to one’s makeup does in fact elevate face to another level? It’s very sophisticated and don’t worry, it’s all glow, not glitter. 

Where does one put it? For example in a triangle from the outer corner of one’s brows to the top of cheekbones. Also, try dabbing some on the cupid’s bow (no, you will not look like someone with a sweaty upper lip). Dab it on, don’t rub. 

The packaging is so sleek, stylish and glamorous that you kind of want to have a moment and just appreciate it. In peace and quiet. For hours. The line currently consists of foundations, highlighters, blushers and brushes, but there will be more coming soon.

Westman Atelier will shortly be available at Net a Porter.

Below you will see my lipsticks looking pretty in Central Park.
Luckily it is New York so no-one paid attention to my prepping two lipstick tubes ready for a family photo.

Summer Face-Savers

Despite my best efforts to avoid the sun, each summer brings a fresh challenge to avoid the dreaded Steve Bannon -effect either on my face or on my décolletage. Because this alone is not enough to make any sane person hide away in a coffin until September, I’ve also recently started to experience bouts of rosacea on my cheeks (orders coffin). 

Most beauty websites and magazines are full of excellent coverage on sunscreens, and while I appreciate that you might not have the time to familiarise yourself with all such literature, you will still have to have the time to buy a cream and religiously apply it every time you step outside. The point of a sunscreen is not to stop you from burning while you lay on your beach mat for hours on end.

No. Its function is to protect your skin while you are exposed to sun when going about your normal life. Sunscreens are not a get away from jail free -card that makes tanning healthy. Roughly speaking, overexposure to sun will result in two outcomes:  the skin will end up looking like a leather couch or, indeed, like Steve Bannon’s face if you’re pale like me and don’t tan however much you’re trying to train your skin.

I tend to go for mineral, or physical sunscreens, which means the active ingredient is either zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. In the past, before all the Swiss vitamin institutes of this world kicked it up on the product development front, it consequently meant that the product left a horrible white layer on skin, which is never the desired look – especially not on face. Luckily, not so anymore.

My latest favourites are by Japanese-American Tatcha (products are developed in Japan and manufactured in the U.S. Japanese generally speaking are very good with sunscreens) and American ​Drunk Elephant (available in Europe). Tatcha’s Pore Perfecting Sunscreen SPF35 is a pleasant-smelling, thick, creamy sunscreen (which however glides on effortlessly) with zinc oxide as the main active ingredient. Works well also as a primer under makeup. Excellent for city.

Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense SPF 30 by Drunk Elephant is tinted, and comes with a bit of glow. The consistency is a bit runnier than Tatcha, and if I want more coverage, I mix it with either one of the two following creams (trust me, it’s far less complicated than it seems here). Active ingredient in Umbra Tinte is zinc oxide. If you are hovering between the tinted and non-tinted Drunk Elephant sunscreen, go for the tinted by all means. I experienced white residue with the other one.

De Mamiel Daily Hydrating Nectar SPF 30 is an old favourite which I use around the year. It’s slightly tinted, and whenever a no makeup -look is an option, this does the job brilliantly as it gives the slightest cover. Active ingredient zinc oxide. An absolutely beautiful product, which I sometimes mix with Umbra Tinte above, but usually use on its own.

There are very good tinted moisturisers with SPF around these days, and they can be a good choice for regular days without much sun exposure. I have a tub of Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturiser in use at the moment. It comes with SPF30, does not clog pores, glides on, gives decent coverage and is a perfect all-round deal. The active ingredient is octinoxate, which makes this cream a chemical sunscreen. 

Many beauty brands favour using chemical sunscreens, because they are lighter on the skin and thus give the brands a bit more choice in terms of product range. The most common active chemical ingredients in chemical sunscreens are octinoxate and oxybenzone

Why should anyone give two shits about all this chemistry, you ask yourself? Well, because of the coral reefs in the oceans, is why. Sunscreens that contain the two aforementioned, most commonly used chemicals (and certain others) are extremely harmful to corals, and massively contribute to the death of the reefs.

There are ongoing actions to ban certain chemicals from sunscreens altogether. Hawaii, Florida and California are in the process of banning the selling of products using these two chemicals – cutting back the use of products containing octinoxate or oxybenzone is not enough to have any impact at this stage. Of course what is needed is global action on this, but cosmetics companies have been extremely slow to act.

All sunscreens must have the active ingredients mentioned in the bottle or in the box it comes in, so choosing between mineral and chemical should not be a big problem. You might want to consider opting for a mineral sunscreen especially if sunning and swimming away in the imminent presence of coral reefs (but of course, again, this concerns much of other maritime species as well). 

Also I would like to add this to the minutes: once my current tube of Laura Mercier is finished, I shall not be repurchasing it until their people return from the vitamin institutes  with a solution that does not kill everything in the oceans. There are plenty alternatives.