In an Emergency: Rouge and Hydrate

I sometimes spend time online looking how people I don’t know apply makeup. I rarely use any of their tips myself, but just watching them go on and on about their no-makeup look can be highly soothing. I am especially fond of the “no makeup -look” that involves the application of dozens of products in a highly complex manner, which we shall call “contouring”. 

I rarely leave the building without some makeup on. I don’t think I’ve ever been to work without some makeup on. I am OK doing the morning coffee round or getting flowers at the market without doing a “do” first, but appearing in front of cameras has always meant the application of makeup. I think I first read about Alicia Keys going completely off makeup a couple of years ago. I have seen some of her performances and PR pictures since, and she looks stunning (of course). And also very fresh. 

While I was in Helsinki I had the TV on and I caught a (Finnish) talk show, hosted by a female anchor who also went makeup-free a year or two ago. After being conditioned to seeing women spackled by studio makeup for over 40 years, having a woman sans makeup on a TV-screen feels new, almost unsettling at first. And I know how perverted this is. 

I rarely even notice if someone is not wearing makeup when I see them face to face. However, as soon I enter the internet, TV or movies, magazines and adverts I only see made-up and filtered exaggerations of reality that never correspond to the non-digital world. If someone famous posts a picture on Instagram without makeup, it makes headlines. That’s where we’ve come to. Or where we still are.

I like putting on makeup, and am constantly kind of trying to grow into my look of a bold red lip (the fashion-speak of singularising things that usually come in pairs, such as “smokey eye”, “evening shoe”, “glossy cheek” and “red lip” is kind of crazy but I’m perfectly fine with riding that wave), with varying success. It is very, very high maintenance, and my commitment is fleeting at best.

It’s skincare that really gets me going, though. My face is currently on its fuckwittery-mode it does whenever the season changes. Also it is possible that travel, irregular eating habits, sudden emergence of sun and with that the rosé-season have contributed considerably. I am pictured without any makeup except for an application of Chantecaille’s Cheek Gelée in Happy. I must remind you that I am actually tanned in the picture (lots of outdoors last week), that’s the level of pale we are talking about. Therefore a wee smidgen of apricot blush is justified, otherwise people would stop and ask whether I’m very ill or possibly dead.

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My first reaction looking at the picture was “I look tired“. I read that this is also the feedback those women who don’t do makeup for TV appearances frequently get. It is interesting, but not surprising. A tired-looking woman is not a look one wants to achieve – we are encouraged to look exactly the opposite, which also is understandable in many ways. 

I noticed my skin peeling around my mouth, which very likely is a sign of some kind of a vitamin deficiency, but rushed to get a first aid hydrating spray as I was travelling and did not have my usual kit with me. BYBI is a highly Insta-worthy UK-based all-organic beauty brand. I had heard of their much publicised Babe Balm and then came across the ​Mega Mist in Helsinki. It’s a hyaluronic acid facial spray that smells very nice, comes in a travel-friendly small brushed glass bottle and does what it says: hydrates. All their products look very millennial and interesting and are reasonably priced, but so far I’ve only tried the mist. It’s not quite Josh Rosebrook’s Hydrating Accelerator, but a very good spray nevertheless.

Roses Are Red, Some Lipsticks Are Not

I had a few events to appear at on Women’s Day, which gave me an excuse to want a new lipstick. I thought I would do this fantastic red lip -look for the day, and came to the conclusion that none of the perfectly good red lipsticks already in my stash would do this time. I made the elementary, cardinal mistake of buying makeup online, based on promotional pictures in a glossy magazine. 

Vanessa Traina collaboration with Rodin was the more sensible choice. It was too pretty. The tube was too gorgeous. Artsy poppies on clear plexiglass! Tomato-red ​olio lusso luxury lipstick!  So high I was on the prettiness of the poppies that I ignored the fact, that my experience from Rodin lipstick tubes was not exactly good. They look nifty, but bloody open in the handbag the second you leave them unattended. The lipsticks themselves are good, though. 

The colour Dahlia looks really nice in the tube, but merely leaves a peachy gloss on the lips. I don’t know why I thought anything peachy would look good on me, but I now have an pricey luxury lipstick to remind me that I did entertain such possibility, while high on pretty things at Net a Porter. 

I’m afraid there’s no justification for the purchase that followed the peachy Rodin-deal. Because of course there could not be just one lipstick. It needed an extortionately expensive friend to make the air-travel to Brussels. I had seen a promo for luxury-label Chantecaille‘s latest line, inspired by the Arctic. Their ​Lip Cristals, together with everything else in the Arctic collection, are limited edition. I have come to notice that I will buy anything that is limited edition, so the Pavlovian reaction was to add one Lip Cristal in Citrine in my panier. 

It is the most beautiful lipstick I have ever owned. The tube is metal, has a picture of a polar bear on it and a magnetic mechanism that makes the lid close with an extremely satisfying, posh click. And that’s what I will be mainly doing with this Lip Cristal, because there’s no wearing it. 

Believe me, I tried to wear the Citrine, which was supposed to look amazing with a smoky eye (that should have been my cue: I don’t do smoky eye). I wanted to love the lipstick so bad, because it is astonishingly beautiful, as in the lipstick is kind of encased in this sparkly  substance that makes me want to drop everything and stare at it (which I did for a while). Unfortunately, whichever way this product approaches my lips, I look like all of the 80s pasty, peachy lipglosses dropped frosty acid, had a party with my 80s glitter-sticker collection, and then exploded on my face. 

I take comfort of the fact that “every sale of Lip Cristal will plant a tree in Kenya”. What it has to do with polar bears, I have not had time to figure out yet. 

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The D-day was approaching, and I was still determined to go for the red lip -lewk. I returned to the old faithfuls, above. An application of

1. Lip pencil ​Dragon Girl by NARS to colour in the lips, followed by 

2. A layer of Uncensored by Fenty Beauty to really paint the mouth and finally

3. Top layer and touch-ups by ​Red Hedy by Rodin 

will give you a flaming-red mouth for the evening. You do this at your own risk, though. Having a high-maintenance red mouth is high-maintenance. All evening. Including the moment canapés are being circulated and you are both drinking and talking to people, while minding that the salmon blini does not have contact with your lipstick and leave you looking like Heath Ledger’s version of Joker in Batman: The Dark Knight.

To maximise lasting power, I recommend doing the groundwork properly, as in really crayoning in the colour, and then use lipsticks that are not too moisturising or glossy, or they run all over the place.

Then leave to the party and hope for the best. Also, it’s only lipstick.

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Above last night’s look. 

Lighting Up Winter Face

We would all like to get the healthy flushed look from skiing in the Alps/having sex/red wine/all of the above, but sometimes the situation calls for makeup (we can always say that our glow originates from the aforementioned pastures if we so wish).

It seems that the old rouge is making a comeback – various publications have recently taken to informing us about the benefits of adding bit of a pop on one’s cheeks, rather in the manner of Diana Vreeland, the High Priestess of cheek colour. 

Whatever it takes to make the contouring obsession go away, you say, whatever it takes. While this is entirely a question of style and taste, I’m with you on this. Applying several shades of makeup base, strobing creams and highlighters and bronzers does work for a photo-shoot, honest to god it does. 

However, and there had to be a however, it is challenging to pull a fully contoured face in the real world (hello office lighting) without looking like a runaway, leftover Kardashian. In a bad way. Because the clan obviously know their contouring game, having invented it. 

Again, style and taste. Each to their own. I am not here to judge people’s tastes for maquillage, but to write about what I put on my face. Herewith some winter favourites, some of which I use around the year. I adjust some products for summer, because I like to pretend that I get a slight tan, but really I don’t – would be highly impossible through the religious application of SPF50 plus the fact that I avoid the sunlight with the combined ferocity of Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman and the brides of Count Dracula. 

All-round, around the year staple:

Hourglass ​Ambient Lighting Palette

This could ​à la limite be considered a contouring product, but for the purpose of this exercise let’s say it’s not. It’s a palette of three pale shades of finely milled magic without which I refuse to leave home. The powders, or highlighters, give an adequate, office-appropriate sheen without fear of venturing to the dreaded glitter-ball territory. The result is like my own skin, but slightly airbrushed and fresher, with a bit of sheen and barely any colour. This is not a product to replace blusher with. I often use this directly on top of moisturiser, because I feel it gives enough coverage. Bonus: the look is never cakey.

Winter powder blusher:

NARS in Free Soul

A very pale pink blusher with a bit more sheen than the Hourglass above. To be used with slightly more caution to avoid the tin-man look. I can imagine this shade to be too pale for most people in this world, but it delivers exactly the right amount of pinky pink when needed.

​Winter cream blusher:

Chantecaille Cheek Gelée in Happy

This was an impulse buy if ever there was one, but I really like the product. The pink colour is very close to NARS’ cult blusher Orgasm, meaning it is universally very flattering (whatever that means). It has a the consistency of a stain, but the ease of application of a cream. It’s nice and light, has a bit of sheen and an apricot-ey undertone (see NARS Orgasm for reference) and stays on and delivers the ​wiley, windy moors – outdoorsy vibe without having to set one’s foot outside. 

Kjaer Weis favourites:

Cream Blush in Blossoming. I bought this in the summer when I had my imaginary tan. The shade is still quite light, with blue undertone, so I ‘m OK wearing this around the year. Very easy to apply, and is excellent for a very natural look, when, for some exceptional reason, I’m not doing my Hourglass -situation.

Bronzer in Dazzling. Pale people, no need to run away. This shade actually works on pale skins. It has the perfect consistency to be built up in case we need to go for a bronzed look, but delivers a nice “weekend in Nice” -sheen even when just applied very sparingly. They say this can be used as eyeshadow as well, but I was not convinced. Fabulous otherwise, though.

​Highlighter in Radiance. I fully understand if you’re shaking your head, going “why the hell is this woman bashing contouring yet dabbles about thousand different products on her own face? Who needs highlighter?”. Very well. No-one probably needs a highlighter. However, there are sometimes situations in life when I feel some highlighter in cream form is in order, and this one is very good.

Don’t let the shade freak you out. It looks a bit grey in the container, but looks really nice once applied.

I like to put all the metaphorical makeup eggs in my skin-basket in the mornings ie. focus fully on the skin. I like it to be done, but not look done.  Also, it is difficult to make any other makeup look good if the skin is not in check (which of course does not mean that this would require any makeup at all). There are people who pull off the fiery red lip –lewk without a trace of anything else on their face. I am unfortunately not one of these people. I am shit with lipstick, and have I tried. SO hard. I haven’t quite given up on red lipstick yet, but reapplying and touching up the thing throughout the day is just really messing with my day job. Until this changes, focus continues to be on skin.

Where I Store My Stuff

Remember the bit in the Sex And the City in which Carrie told Miranda that she stores knitwear in her oven? And how that was supposed to be hilariously outlandish?

Dear reader, herewith a rare view of my fridge:

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Those with excellent eyesight might spot an actual item of foodstuff there. Yes, that’s Angostura on the far left. 

This might seem excessive and bizarre, even. It very possibly is. However, as much as I enjoy trying on new products and usually do not hesitate spending big monies on them, I cannot stand waste and things going rancid ahead of time. This includes perfumes that start turning. 

Therefore masks and perfumes that I do not use regularly are kept in the fridge. I also find eye-masks and under-eye patches to have much more firepower when they are cold when applied. 

I do not hoard. I likely have amassed a collection of skincare that exceeds what’s considered the bare minimumfor any individual, but I still don’t like stuff piling up uncontrollably. To avoid this from happening, especially as regards makeup, transparency is the operational word (it’s also a great principle for running states, international organisations and media operations). I store things in transparent containers so that I can see what I have. Unfortunately even this has not prevented me from purchasing several vaguely lavender eyeshadows in the last 6 months. 

I get most of my containers at Muji. They do good quality boxes and travel packages, which brings me to the next sub-topic: if you travel regularly, be prepared at all times. I have written extensively about work traveland its various perils. Unless you have a glam-squad or a herd of ladies in waiting, you likely have a job, a life and do your own packing. You want to focus on your meetings, presentations and after dinner G&T’s, not panicking whether people will notice the absence of your deodorant because you forgot to pack it in the mad rush before scooting to the airport to catch the red-eye. 

Just because you’re travelling for work does not mean you suddenly must start relying on toiletries the hotel might (or might not) provide. If you want to do that, knock yourself out. My experience of work travel is that it ain’t no picnic, though, and any stress that can be minimised in advance, must be done. I suggest you pack all you need. I’m willing to make an exception with shower-gel, though (hotel shower-gel is perfectly passable).

You will likely only be able to take carry-on, so take this into account. Get a bunch of containers for shampoo and conditioner, body cream, lotions, moisturisers, facial sprays, masks, scrubs, everything. Buy little pill-boxes for vitamins and meds. There’s no time, ever, in this universe for you to amass all the required bottles the night before your trip. Have them ready.

This is not being crazy. This is ensuring your face does not suddenly flare up, or hair do something inexplicable. These are not the biggest worries in this world, I do recognise that. However they can easily take the edge off your work performance. We’ve all been there – a ladder in tights. Emergency tampons ​nowhere to be had. Stressful interview or presentation, and no powder within the blast radius to blot away a shiny forehead. Life happens also when we are traveling for work. 

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As you can see, I also keep my makeup in a see-through bag. The one above is airtravel-approved, and frankly also makes life easier when items need to be fished out in sub-optimally lit circumstances, such as from handbags. 

I keep skincare samples that come in decent sizes (such as the Diptyque-samples on the right). They can be used for overnight deals or office (although in all honesty, I’ve never had any use for them at the office). You are not alone if you’ve ever found yourself crying frustrated tears in a hotel bathroom, trying to jinx open a tiny, slippery shampoo sample-bag – I don’t even know what material they use for this purpose other than it’s evil. EVIL. Avoid. You are worthy of a cosmetics product that comes in a container that does not require you to attack it with your teeth.

Some sample body washes and facial cleansers are ideal for cleansing makeup brushes (I’m yet to buy a designated, special cleanser for this purpose. Also I almost never wash them, which is disgusting.)

So here we are. This is where I store some of my stuff. At regular intervals I also keep food in my fridge, so no need to worry.

Christmas Cheer (And Sneer)

I attempted a bit of Christmas shopping today. The shopping itself did not go very well, but it prompted lots of thoughts. A full disclaimer: I like christmassy things. Food, drink and sparkly baubles. Bring it on. Christmas lights – the more, the merrier. I also like buying things in general, and at Christmas in particular.

At the same time the hysterical consumerism makes me anxious. Also it’s not like we only go insane before Christmas – we have all the Black Fridays and mid-season sales and such as well, but it’s really only around Christmas when many things are encouraged to go absolutely overboard.

Much of this is a question of taste and tradition. Each to their own. I come from a country where dedicated Christmas jumpers never really were a thing until Mr Darcy sported one in the Bridget Jones movie and lured the metaphorical worms out of the can. Nowadays naff Christmas-themed items of clothing cannot be escaped anywhere in the West. I spotted the below sweater earlier in Brussels and had to take a snap and share with you.

First, what occasion could possibly be suitable for this horrendous thing? Second, if you manage to find a similar sweater specifically shaming ​male Christmas (over)eaters, kindly send me a photo with your contact details and I will send you a Diptyque Christmas candle in return. I can almost promise there is no such a thing. Because only women must be apologetic for the amount of calories they consume over holidays. 

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I had to buy hair elastics, because the Scottish weather of heavy showers and gale-force winds likes to take the piss out of blowdries and hairdos in general. As I was queuing with my elastics, I spotted a curious Christmas-special near the counter: a gift box of no less than 16 pairs of Christmas-themed earrings. Given that most of us only have two ears, one stuck to each side of the head, this seemed highly excessive.

Even if you celebrated the full “Twelve Days of Christmas” with a new pair each day, there’d still be leftovers. Even if you wanted to re-create the “Zoë Kravitz for Tiffany & Co.” -vibe with multiple earrings per ear, you would have leftovers. Also, you would not look remotely like her. Hers are exquisite and extortionately expensive diamonds paired with her impossibly gorgeous head. You’d have 32 cheap miniature Santas dangling from your earlobes. 

The gift-boxes of gazillions of earrings and single-use, low-quality and vile theme-clothing are precisely the things that cause stress, anxiety and end up forming mountains of shit we cannot deal with. 

very almost purchased a vintage T-shirt advertising Madonna’s ​Blonde Ambition Tour (I could not bribe my parents into buying Madonna –​merch or tickets to her concert back in 1990). Then I realised I was the only person in the store who was already born in 1990 and decided to leave with my elastics.

While I have a  personal aversion to special theme-jewelry and clothing, I do like to acknowledge the arrival of my favourite holiday somehow. I find nails to be a nice and subtle way to give a nod to red and sparkle. Here’s a tip I learned from no-one else but Dita von Teese (not personally, obviously, but I read her interview somewhere and her nail-polish tip seemed to make an awful lot of sense):

If you want to have subtle glitter with you polish, paint it under the very final coat of your red (or other colour) polish. Glitter nail polish is an absolute bitch to remove, so make sure you apply a base coat first. Then, maybe one coat of read, then glitter, then red on top (good job the Christmas holidays last for a couple of days, as this layering of polish does take its sweet time). 

The result is a very nice, subtle sparkle in a manner of 50s car paint-job. My favourite glitter-polish is theChanel Le Top Coat Lamé (not glitter but lamé because Chanel, darling), which is supposed to be a top coat, but because of its sizeable gold-flecks, I like to use under a regular polish. 

Here you are. Rest of the nail-products in the picture are my favourites by Kure Bazaar (natural French nail polishes and accessories): their latest red in shade Sari and their fantastic Rose Cuticle Oil. Their base coat is also great (far left).

The Kure Bazaar nail polish remover is spendy compared to the standard drug store deals, but I cannot stress strongly enough how gentle (yet effective) and non-drying it is. Also it comes in a glass bottle which looks nice on the bathroom shelf. 

That’s your Christmas gift tip. 

EDIT: If one must do glitter, one must do glitter properly, Christmas or not. I just saw pictures of Michelle Obama on her New York City book tour. Sequin thigh-high Balenciaga-boots. Google the pictures. Big love.

Everybody’s Doing Ceramics These Days

Where do you go for inspiration? Art exhibition? Movies? Bookstore? Concert? Do you read magazines/books? Make mood boards? Have long walks? Listen to podcasts? Watch tv? Scroll Pinterest/Instagram? 

I used to do all of the above, often in overlapping sequences, in desperate quests to come up with thoughts that would either materialise into a text, or into some kind of an idea that would be useful for a work project. I find it’s not easy, becoming inspired, because of the constant sensory overload around.

I have kind of grown tired of the ubiquitous articles giving instructions for quieting one’s mind or finding inner calm. At the same time it must be a sign of our times: people’s heads are constantly on an overdrive. Buzzwords from the past years, “multitasking” and “being busy” are becoming totally passé cliches. So it seems like something in the collective mindset is shifting.

I didn’t think I was hanging out on social media that much until I did a test: I put a timer on every time I opened any of the applications. In public transport, while waiting for the traffic lights to turn green, at work, in the evening, during a dinner, while talking to a friend, all the time. I added up the slots and the result was astonishing. I also realised that the constant fidgeting was having an effect on my short-term memory: not only was I unable to concentrate on anything, I would also often find myself standing in a room, having completely forgotten what I went to look for.

I did the following adjustments:

– Never, ever open work email/social media application the first thing I wake up. It is often not possible for me to wait for terribly long into the morning before checking the situation in the world (this is required by my profession), but even giving myself 15 minutes in the morning before getting a full-on revelation of the fresh hell that is awaiting is worth it. 

– Allotting clear times for the use of social media. This includes chats with friends. Travel-time (metro, bus) is perfect and absolutely guilt-free for this (what else is there to do?). Meetings at work are another story. I will appear a completely unprofessional slacker for admitting I do it every now and then, but in my defence, so does everybody else. This does not help things in any way. 99% of any meetings are tedious, too long and very often completely unnecessary. The fact that everybody brings their personal entertainment center to the meeting room does not make things move any faster or more efficiently. Since many people in any case feel very important when they are sitting in a meeting, being entertained while there does not make them want to conclude it. Ever. 

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– Giving my brain space. This is a bit more tricky. Being an introvert in a world that grossly overvalues extrovert qualities can be exhausting. I have written about this earlier. There’s this big pressure to network, to be social and to have a constant presence both physically and on social media. I felt much better after I admitted to myself that I need longer to recharge, and I need to give myself time when I do not have to talk to anyone – and that all this is perfectly fine. So what cools down my head? Reading, this you knew. Walking. Knitting literally slows down my pulse, as is the case with writing. 

– Sticking rigidly to the no gadgets in bedroom -policy. Trust me, you will want to try it. 

– What do I do for inspiration? I’m a sucker for reading about how people write. One of my all time favourite books about writing is Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing. It’s essentially a guide for writing, but instead of esoteric thoughts about inspiration and creativity, it is a refreshingly down to earth and practical guide to writing. Warmly recommended. You might also want to check the latest Vanity Fair issue and an article by Jon Meacham. It is about Barack Obama’s methods of writing his memoir. 

– Listening to podcasts while walking might not clear space for my head, but (depending on the podcast) can be inspiring. The title of the post comes from Unstyled-podcast episode where Christene Barberich (founder of Refinery29) interviews Jenna Lyons. Known for her J.Crew- fame, Lyons recently left the company and explains in the podcast how she had to clear space for her head to figure out what’s next for her. As she explained how she was mulling her options at the time, she mentioned pottery, because everybody’s doing ceramics these days. 

– Not stressing about inspiration. Forcing myself to take a step back. Giving the brain not only some space, but also some time to respond, to decide and to react (this rarely can be applied to work, but I have tried it in moderation and surprisingly the world has not yet collapsed).

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The above picture has nothing to do with anything in this post, but it features two extremely lush products that I wanted to flag: Tom Ford lipstick in Casablanca and Kjaer Weis eyeshadow in Angelic. Both come in gratifyingly clicky and luxurious packaging – so much so that the mere clicking of them is borderline meditative. You know my appreciation for Kjaer Weis and the eyeshadow is no exception. The shade is beige-y pink, which gives a nice, soft look without creating the  dreaded “dead salmon” -look (occurs with apricot-y shades – this has a blue undertone).

I love the lipstick rather intensely, which is a very strong emotion dedicated to a little tube of beeswax. Mine is the creamy sort, Tom Ford do a matte line as well. It smells lovely, the consistency is impeccable, it lasts, does not run into places it’s not supposed to, the shade (a very natural  flesh colour) is rather becoming and it overall does a sterling job. Which is just as well as it did cost quite a few sterlings. The hype around Tom Ford makeup line is not for nothing. Some of his perfumes are rather covetable as well.