As summer draws to a sultry, overdue end I’ve been taking stock of the skincare products that have really cut the mustard this year – the ones I now use so regularly they’ve become an automatic part of my beauty routine. When spring starts (look at me, optimistically skipping over the cold seasons and welcoming back the warmth!) these are the things I’ll be buying without hesitation – for their efficacy, their ease of use and for their pleasing textures.
I don’t know why I’m even waiting for spring – they’re all the sort of repairing, protective products we can benefit from every day of the year. But I suppose I’ll see much less sun over the winter and so my needs will inevitably change – perhaps less days with an SPF, if I’m holed up inside, and maybe the antioxidant frenzy might go off the boil a bit. (Read here if you need to catch up on why I was on an antioxidant frenzy.)
OK, here are summer’s best bits, in order of how I’d use them in my skincare routine.
The first is the Kiehl’s Powerful Strength Line Reducing Vitamin C Eye Serum, £41 here*, which is actually the least serum-like eye product I can think of. In fact, the reason I love it is that it’s so un-serumy – it goes on with that fuzzy-matte feel that you get with a silicone-rich formula, as though you’re smoothing on some sort of liquid velvet. (The texture is very similar to that of the Zelens Triple-Action Eye Cream.)
It sits superbly well beneath makeup, doesn’t irritate my sensitive eye area but has done wondrous things in terms of brightness and tightness, over the summer months. It’s potent, easy to use (just swipe on, no need for lengthy tapping-in or massaging) and the pump-action packaging is so convenient. Fast becoming my favourite packaging type, in fact. I don’t need to dig my nails into a pot so that I get cream underneath them, I don’t need to find those fiddly little tube lids that roll of the shelf and go under the loo…
You can find Kiehl’s Vitamin Eye Serum (Velvety Cream!) here*.
Paula’s Choice Triple Algae Pollution Shield, £31 here*. This is my default choice when it comes to a relatively budget-friendly antioxidant serum. It’s absolutely packed to the rafters with powerful ingredients that will help to protect skin against what the industry often snazzily refers to as “external aggressors”. When I think of external aggressors I always think of angry zombies banging on the windows of a derelict pub in a post-apocalyptic Milton Keynes, a pale and frightened landlord inside. If you’re ahead of me with this analogy you’ll know that the landlord is the skin, the windows are the Triple Algae Pollution Shield and the zombies are the external aggressors (pollution, smoke, light). And there endeth the worst analogy that the beauty world has ever seen. I’ll see myself out.
Anyway, Triple Algae is a great everyday serum that is powerful but reasonably non-irritating, so long as you don’t baste yourself in it twice a day. (Got a bit itchy when I used too much, so take note.) This serum will slip on under any moisturiser/sunscreen and act as a bit of extra protection if you want to help keep your skin even-toned and your skin barrier strengthened. You can use AM and PM but I would usually only use in the morning. Although…
Skinceuticals Discoloration Defense Serum (£85 here*) did manage to sneak into my routine twice-daily for a while. I had some pigmentation creeping in, due to the fact that I had lived in the garden for about six solid months, and I wanted to nip it in the bud. This was the most targeted, effective (according to Skinceuticals’ very good clinical trials) and easily-available product I could lay my hands on and it has definitely worked. It’s lightweight and water-like, absorbing instantly and layering brilliantly under just about anything else. I tend to follow the Defense Serum directly with moisturiser but you could slip on a hydrating serum in between if you fancied it and wanted some extra hydration…
So if dark spots are your niggling skin issue and you want something potent (but not drastic) to use longterm then this is most definitely one to consider. Note that it is expensive but you really should only be using two tiny drops each time, not a dropperful! One bottle has lasted me around six months with very regular use, at least once a day.
Find the Discoloration Defense Serum here*
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Sensitive Fluid (£16.50 here*) would have to be my summer moisturiser of choice, if I could only choose one. It’s ultra-hydrating but oil-free and it’s light and smooth and silky and doesn’t weigh heavily on hot skin. For me, it gives the final moisture-boost before I go in with my sunscreen and the fact that it’s formulated for very sensitive skin means that I turn to it after I’ve removed my makeup and SPF at night, too. It’s a perennial favourite, this, and it won’t break the bank.
Sidenote: if you suffer with breakouts but also find your skin dehydrated, this is one of those wonderful face creams (fluids) that will do the trick as a moisturiser without making you feel worried that your skin is getting clagged up.
Find Toleriane at Escentual here*
Elizabeth Arden Great 8 SPF35 (£36 here*) could possibly be my favourite product of the year. It’s just a joy to use; light and fresh and almost undetectable on the skin. So rare for a sunscreen to tickle my fancy quite this much, but there you go – I actually look forward to applying it. Yes it’s fragranced (very, very pleasantly) and no it’s not the highest of factors (50 would be great) but it’s otherwise SPF Perfection.
So much so that it seems to be out of stock pretty much everywhere apart from LookFantastic here*, where it’s £36.
If you’d like to see how all of these products fit into a wider routine then please read – and watch – my latest Skincare Routine post here.
There’s a mole catcher who’s well known around these parts of Somerset and he has the most amazing advert printed on the back of his van. I’d never managed to get a photo of it before, but the other day he happened to be in front of us and so I summoned up all of my steady-handedness in order to take a clear picture:
No Mole No Fee.
Surely it has to be one of the best slogans of any business in the UK? I mean it’s just so…niche. There’s something so casually presumptive about it – as though having a no-show mole is an everyday occurrence. Or, indeed, that having a mole at all is just a mundane everyday occurrence.
What fascinates me the most is the criteria for this particular offer. No Mole No Fee. What are the T&Cs at play here? Is it like with lawyers, with no win no fee, and there are certain caveats and exclusions? Do you get charged, for example, if the mole is caught and then escapes again? And what constitutes “no mole”? Can someone call out Mole Catcher knowing full well that there’s no mole to be seen? Just for japes? I suppose that you’d be a strange person if you actually did that, but it would make for a terrible business plan for the Catcher if they were constantly popping in at people’s houses for absolutely no reason.
“Morning! Got a mole needs catching then?”
“OK no worries: no mole no fee! You have a good day now.”
Obviously after a few minutes (sixty) of pondering this I realised that it simply meant there’d be no fee if Mole Catcher failed to catch the mole. Which made me then ponder something else: does a Mole Catcher promising no mole no fee work harder to catch a mole than a Mole Catcher who charges regardless? In my mind, the No Mole No Fee catcher would try absolutely anything to catch that sharp-nailed little creature – I have no idea how mole catchers catch moles (I’m hesitant to open that particular Pandora’s Box of potentially upsetting information) but I envisage an Acme Studios kind of set-up, with sticks of cartoon dynamite and a man running around in army fatigues playing the Benny Hill theme tune on a small bugle.
I can only imagine the Mole Catcher’s look of solemn disappointment when, after blowing up half an acre of garden, he comes away empty handed, with no new mole addition for his re-homed mole sanctuary.
“Drat that pesky mole!”
Would he one day knock on the back door and scare the life out of you, after three weeks of hiding out in the undergrowth in full camo, twigs in his hair, gaunt from lack of food and sleep?
“No mole I’m afraid, Mrs Cardigan-Wolsley. I’ve tried my damndest, we’ve even become quite good friends, Moley and I, but I simply can’t coax him out.”
Dedication to the cause.
I wonder which other businesses might have a “No [Insert Random Thing] No Fee” policy. It’s really rather a good deal for the customer isn’t it? Imagine if Yodel had it – they’d go bust within a week. No Parcel, No Fee. Maybe it would stop them throwing packages into wheely bins and other frankly absurd outdoor spots.
“Your parcel is: under the clapped-out red Fiat Panda on Church Street SW3“
“Sorry you weren’t home, although you most probably were: we have thrown your fragile package on top of the flat-roof garages in the next town. You know, the ones next to the cinema. It seemed easier than ringing your doorbell.”
No Answer No Fee. Now that would be a good one wouldn’t it? For the appalling customer services that seem to front every sector from luxury memberships to carpet sales, from telephone companies to insurance firms. Imagine if you got some money back every time you had to wait for more than twenty minutes in a telephone queue? Or, if you waited for more than twenty minutes and then got cut off, you got some money back and a month’s free whatever service it was. OR, if you waited for more than twenty minutes and then had to tell the operator all of the details you’d given twenty minutes ago, including full address and postcode, mother’s maiden name, first and ninth digit of your twenty digit PIN and answer to your “memorable question”, you got back all of the money you’d ever paid the useless sods in your whole lifetime and a fifty quid M&S voucher.
I’ve had my fill of terrible customer service in the past fortnight: real hive-inducing stuff that has made me crunch my back teeth together so hard I thought they’d crumble. So No Service, No Fee is presenting itself as a particularly good idea – even Shit Service, No Fee sounds pretty fair!
I don’t think I’ve ever had so many questions and comments about a foundation as I have about the Pat McGrath Labs Skin Fetish Sublime Perfection. I photographed myself oh-so-casually wearing it on Instagram stories and it has made background appearances in some of my videos; each time I’ve mentioned it I’ve been inundated with DMs about how long it lasts, how good the coverage is and which shade I wear.
And so here’s a proper, in-depth review. I’ll start out with the same warning regarding the price that I gave on Instagram: it’s £60 in the UK. Incredibly pricey, but I have to say that very few people I spoke to seemed perturbed by this quite considerable financial outlay. Surprisingly. Which makes me think that Pat McGrath and her marketing team have done an epic job of carving out a niche in the highest end of the cosmetics market – if you can establish yourself to the point where beauty-aficionados don’t flinch too much at a sixty quid face base then I’d say you’re doing pretty well!
The brand showcases clever formulations in luxurious packaging and is most definitely powered by Pat’s reputation as one of the world’s most successful and inventive makeup artists. I’d say that the Sublime Perfection foundation is one of the hero products, but then I’m really into “skin looking like skin” and so I’m possibly biased.
But Sublime Perfection is more than your standard kind of “real skin” foundation – it has a few tricks up its proverbial sleeve that I think sets it apart from the rest when it comes to achieving the holy grail of makeup – a flawless finish that still looks believable. It has the sort of finish that looks supple, dewy, bouncy and fresh yet still manages to blur imperfections and create a perfect canvas, but there are some very notable bonuses, which I’m going to come to after another disclaimer.
I have good skin.
I say this not to brag, but to be helpful, because a foundation that I love, that makes my skin look visibly perfected and dewy, might not feel so magical if you have blemishes that need a full coverage to be concealed. This Skin Fetish Sublime Perfection potion is sheer. Yes it’s buildable, as I’m about to delve into in more detail, but the medium coverage is almost a perceived medium – as in minor imperfections are cleverly blurred and veiled – rather than the solid coverage you might get traditionally.
So, the notable bonuses – what sets Sublime Perfection foundation apart from the rest?
Well as I said, it’s buildable. And I mean properly buildable, not just “let’s see what happens if I tap a bit more under the eyes because I can’t be bothered to look for my concealer” buildable. You can go from sheerest sheer, which Sublime Perfection handles impeccably because the formula is so hydrating, right up to a medium-ish coverage.
Now loads of foundations are buildable; the difference with this one is that it retains its freshness and increases its sheen as the coverage builds. Which is quite a feat. Usually the more you apply, the more you start to look a little flat, but here we have a coverage that is comprehensive but a finish that is expensive, glowing and bouncy with the same feeling of sheerness as with a light application.
You never get a blanket, opaque coverage, so full coverage-hunters will be disappointed; it’s almost as though the pigment is suspended in a kind of pliable, flexible sheen, so the more you build the more sheenier it gets.
Pat McGrath calls this a “customised couture finish” and I really couldn’t think of a more apt description; it’s the classy, non-obliterating type of finish that you get in a Vogue editorial or at a Paris show. It’s about good skin and not creating a mask. It screams expensive – the blurring particles that give an almost soft focus effect, the “lit from within” glow. But then I do think that the finish somewhat also pivots on the user having relatively blemish-free skin, too.
The most surprising thing about this foundation, though? It’s longwear! Name me a dewy, lighter-than-light base with the texture and comfort of a tinted moisturiser but the elegance of a high-end, finely-formulated foundation that lasts for the whole day? I’ll wait.
Estée Lauder’s Futurist comes pretty close, with its plumpy-bouncy texture and ultra-hydrating finish (review here), but it’s not quite on the same level in terms of refined coverage and glow. Zoom right in on the Sublime Perfection –
– and it’s genuinely almost undetectable on the skin, whereas the Futurist has a slightly more visible dewiness. In terms of hydrating finish, they are on a par, but the Sublime Perfection has been specifically designed to be buildable and tweakable to your exact coverage desires, whereas you wouldn’t want to go silly overboard with layering up the Futurist because it’s so moisturising – you’d just go for a higher coverage foundation.
I have to say though that the Pat McGrath base, even at its sheerest, gives such a heady dose of soft-focus glow that you rarely need to build it up unless you’re going “out out”. I hate the phrase “a little goes a long way” but this really does, especially if you apply with fingertips as you would skincare, rather than a brush.
Here are the before and after photos, although I think that moving film captures the glow best. In fact I almost wish I didn’t have to post the comparison pictures, because it’s in real life and when the light is moving that the skin really comes alive! Nevertheless here we are:
There’s no dramatic total-wipeout of the facial features, but the overall skintone is more even, more glowing whilst retaining the nuances of real skin.
You can probably tell that I like this foundation a lot, even with its couture price-tag. Many would want a better return on investment – a more dramatic transformation – but for those who seek the ultimate “my skin but better” finish, it’s a viable option. It comes in a whopping 36 shades with different undertones well catered for and it’s suitable for any skin type. Though you might want a spot of primer beneath it on oily parts of your face, if you get them. After a full (hot) day I might get some minor slippage on my nose, but at certain times of the month my nose becomes a grease factory and so that’s really splitting hairs.
Apply after moisturiser and/or sunscreen (Sublime Perfection doesn’t contain any, which I kind of like because if I’m out then I always have a standalone SPF on underneath anyway) and use fingertips to sheer out and blend or a brush to build up slightly heavier coverage. I wear a mix of shade 13 and 8 (those were the samples sent out, I didn’t go drunk shopping!) with about two parts 8 to one part 13. So I reckon I would be a 10 or 11 if I actually went out IRL and got matched at a counter.
You can find the full Pat McGrath Labs range at Selfridges on the brand website. The Skin Fetish Sublime Perfection foundation is £60 at Selfridges here*.
The post Foundation Review: Pat McGrath Labs Sublime Perfection appeared first on A Model Recommends.
We’re having another heatwave here in the UK – in September! Honestly, this year must be breaking some kind of hours-of-sunshine record. It feels as though we’ve had the longest summer in history, starting in March and running all the way through into the autumn – we’ll be Trick or Treating wearing shorts and flip-flops at this rate. Imagine Mr AMR leading the kids about the dark streets in full beach regalia.
“Trick or Treat!”
“Sod off you chancer – what are you supposed to be then? You’re not even scary.”
“I’ve come as a British holiday-maker trying to successfully go abroad somewhere hot!”
“Oh yeah, I get it. Nightmare mate. Have some Haribo.”
It’s a good job we’ve had some lengthy sunny spells, because holidays to exotic places haven’t really been on the cards, have they? Even if you managed to book one, the likelihood was that it would be cancelled by the time you flew out, or else you’d get there and all of the Covid rules would change and you’d have to hurry back in the dead of night, racing along the autoroutes like a compromised secret agent, albeit a compromised secret agent driving a Volvo estate with a yellow roofbox and two bikes tied to the back.
So thank God for the UK weather! A sentence I never thought I’d write. I’d like to celebrate summer 2020, if you don’t mind, because despite its shortcomings (you know, horrendous deaths, mass unemployment and serious political and social unrest, no biggies) it feels as though it has been, for many people I’ve spoken to, quite a unique time. Without sounding as though I’m about to chime some miniature cymbals above your heads and gently blow incense at your chakras, it seems that many have found the time to reflect and reset over the past six months. Reconnect with family members, examine the way they’ve been living and whether they want to continue with the same routine.
Here are some of the things I’ve noted down about Now That’s What I Call Summer! 2020 and why it may have been the best ever season of my life. Despite often wanting to stick a very long kebab skewer through one ear and push it out of the other side, mainly on the days that my kids got up pre-6am and then proceeded to scream about the fact that the special Cheerios bowls were still in the dishwasher.
Anything good, at all, has been twenty times better than it has ever been. It must be a coping mechanism in bad times – cling on to any shred of joy and amplify it. A bit like when you were in your early teens and you’d arrive at the shittest holiday Gite known to man, that had rats in the roof and a toilet inside an armoire like the lavatory version of Narnia, and your Mum (God bless her forever) would say “well this is nice isn’t it? Look! Someone left a brand new packet of biscuits next to the back door!”
Thus any short spell of intense sunshine has been met in our house with the exclamation, “we could be in Greece!” Any pop-in by a neighbour or short, socially distanced catch-up with a friend has been followed by a sappy look between us all and a “well that was lovely, wasn’t it? Isn’t it amazing to have lovely friends?” Even a quick exchange grabbed over a garden wall on our daily walk has filled us all with immense but OTT pleasure, like we’ve had all of our mental markers for enjoyment completely removed and replaced with the lowest possible benchmarks. “OH! LOOK! A butterfly, A BUTTERFLY! God isn’t the earth beautiful!”
So it goes without saying that the – quite lengthy – runs of heatwave have sent the pleasure sensors into absolute overdrive. First in Spring, for – well, almost the entire season – then again in summer proper, weeks and weeks of uninterrupted, baking hot sun that threatened to kill off everyone’s gardens that they’d spent all of their going out money doing up, but did we care? No we did not. We thanked the weather Gods that at least something in 2020 was going our way.
Time has passed more slowly. Especially for those who had to shield for health reasons. Or those with dependents. Or people who have been wondering, painfully, day after day whether or not they still have a job. Or people who have a business that was slowly, tick by tock, going down the pan. Even for those with no immediate life concern, time went slowly, I’d imagine, because they were taking things day by day. No idea of the future, suddenly thrown into the tumultuous world of Covid uncertainty (unprecedented times!) and just tentatively edging forward, shuffle by shuffle, into the new normal. Nothing like Covid to make you stop in your tracks and take stock of things.
But with this slower pace comes the welcome opportunity to take stock of things – the fact that you eat the same three meals on rotation, perhaps, or that you would love to work with animals or that you absolutely detest your flatmate. All useful realisations, even if they can’t immediately be put right. Unless you start working at a zoo, ticking off your career goals, bring home a lion to maul your flatmate to death, thus taking care of the space-sharing problem and then… no. Too far. Nobody wants that meal added to their culinary repertoire.
We’ve spent more time outside. As lockdown started, we all became avid joggers, dog-walkers and cyclists. Going outside for exercise became the nation’s favourite pastime, “doing up the garden” was a close second. It’s no wonder we’ve noticed the weather more and appreciated the sunshine hours. I suppose it’s also been easier for people to get outside because many haven’t been at work or have been working from home and not shuttered in their usual house-car-office-car-house routine. There are few better ways of lifting the spirits, I’ve found – even sitting on your doorstep for a few minutes in the sun can have a restorative effect, so imagine a whole summer spent outside!
And so, Summer 2020, I award you with the weirdest-yet-nicest season of my lifetime award. You’ve been the backdrop to the most frightening and frustrating world events, yet you showed up with the sunshine and made the bleak days more bearable. If you could just pass the memo to Winter 2020 then that would be great…
Do any of you have any huge objections if I widen the scope of my monthly favourites round-ups to include stuff other than beauty? I feel it would inject some new and welcome joie de vivre into what is an old – yet surprisingly still very popular – format.
The only problem might be (spoiler alert!) is that some of the items, if I’m let loose completely from my self-imposed constraints, might be a bit random. For example this month, had I been given free rein, I would most probably have included a faux-antique rug in my favourites as well as a vintage BelgoChrom table I picked up (not literally) from Belgium for an absolute steal.
I don’t mean to imply that all of the favourites would be interiors-related – I’ve also had a great love-affair with a new Amazon Prime TV series this month – I’m just throwing some examples out there. So what do you think? Death to the (exclusively) beauty favourites? Bring in a new era? Or are you change-averse?
(If you are incredibly change-averse then I do genuinely feel for you. 2020 is most certainly not your year.)
Let me know in the comments, please – I do love a spot of market research on here! But for now, on with the beauty favourites. I’ve mostly avoided skincare this month despite racking up a fair few new discoveries that were deserving of a big mention, and that’s because I’m judging the Marie Claire skincare awards. It would be slightly disingenuous to go shouting my mouth off about my favourites whilst others are still doing their solemn judging.
So two bodycare items, two makeup favourites and one thing that is skincare but not quite as you know it. Shall we start with that one? It’s called a ZitSticka and it’s a small patch infused with potent spot-fighting ingredients that you stick over an emerging or early-bird blemish. You know when you have that hard swelling beneath the skin and your heart sinks because you know it’ll take long and painful days to erupt into anything you can (illegally) squeeze?
That’s what these ZitStickas are aimed at. I actually did an ad for this product at the very start of the year, having used it over the Christmas zit period, but I’ve had a fairly spot-free spring and summer and so hadn’t needed them since. But boy did last month’s PMT week see a beauty of a boil! The perfect pustule to place a Sticka on and I was delighted to find that it worked just as well as at Christmas. From hard, red skin to…absolutely nothing.
The raised bump didn’t disappear completely overnight, I had to take the patch off in the morning and double-obliterate it with a second one, but after that it simply dispersed. No squeezing necessary, which was good as it’s a very bad thing to do with a hard and horrible spot like that.
And to bodycare, where a Mitchum deodorant stole the show. On closer inspection, a “man’s” deodorant but I’m not really sure what makes it manly. The smell is “Cedarwood” but I find it fresh and figgy, which is why it’s in the faves (a good deodorant smell is hard to find), the formula is creamy, aluminium-free and effective.
True fact: to test efficacy I always do a half-half trial, whether it’s foundation, SPF or an exfoliating body lotion. You need to keep one half of your test area free from the product being tested – in this case it was so that I could gauge that day’s sweatiness with one pit and the sweat-fighting prowess of the anti-perspirant with the other.
It did well. The depths of the underarm were fresh even after a brisk walk down the river on a hot day wearing inadvisable levels of cashmere.
You can find Mitchum’s Natural Power deodorants here at Boots*, they are £4.50.
A seasonal favourite now, in the shape of Weleda’s Pine Bath. I know I’ve mentioned this a fair bit over the years and usually it’s more of a winter staple, but I ran out of Epsom Salts the other day (shock horror! fear not, I have reordered) and bathing just wasn’t bathing without something added to the water.
The Weleda bath milks are excellent – lavender would be my warmer months option but nothing beats pine for a bit of a Christmassy run-up. Again, I know I’m early – I’m not wishing Christmas upon anyone for the moment, the last thing we all need is another bloody school holiday! – but if you’re craving those crisp nights and blustery russetty days, this will be your bag.
Weleda Pine Bath Milk is £14 here*.
My next favourite is actually a whole category and so I’m going to sort of mulch over it – if you want more of an in-depth explanation of it then watch the video below. It’s mascaras. All mascaras. I’ve had a sort of renewed falling-in-love of them and have been testing out loads. I am going to be back with a video of my favourite four new mascara launches in the next week or so, but if you can’t wait that long then know that these are currently “the ones”:
Marc Jacobs At Lash’d Mascara, £25 here*
Charlotte Tilbury Push Up Lashes Mascara, £23 here*
Urban Decay Lash Freak Mascara, £21 here*
Dior Overcurl Mascara, £28 here*
All do things to my puny, barely-there lashes that would definitely win prizes, if there were prizes for lash transformations.
And finally another favourite that I’m not going to explain at length; it’s basically anything from Trinny London that counts as “makeup in pots”. In particular the cream eyeshadow in Truth and the cream blush in Electra. I’ve used both so regularly that it would be disingenuous for them not to make an appearance in the monthly hall of fame. You can read my full review of the eye2eye shadows here and the cream blush is online here*.
And there endeth the beauty sermon: it’s all on video right here if you want to see items up close and personal or find out about the makeup I’m wearing. Any extra details are written below the video pane. Enjoy – and let me know whether you’d like me to expand on my favourites categories!
Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Foundation in B30, £40 here*
Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow, £49 here*
Pat McGrath Permagel Lipliner, £25 here*
Pat McGrath Lip Balm, £35 here*
Jumper is from Cocoa Cashmere here
Amazing abstract painting in background is by Holly Delaney
Crikey. If there’s anyone else out there who’s been trying and failing to do the whole work-life-balance thing over the summer holidays, can they please make themselves known? That’s right, hold your hands up high: I need to do a full and accurate head count here. The more people the merrier. Anything to make me feel less bad about myself – less like a neurotic malfunctioning android. And more….well. More like a human.
Yes, I’ve reached Basil Fawlty levels of stress and irritation and I’m not afraid to admit it – I feel as though I’m hanging on to my sanity by my fingernails and that normal life, if anything could be called normal these days, will be forever beyond my grasp. The many, many months of the “new routine” (ie trying to keep work going whilst also becoming a very shit version of a primary school and pre-school) have taken their toll.
I adore my kids. Obviously. They’re funny, they’re cute, they’re close enough in age that they play together for hours, they get excited about tiny things like going to a cafe or getting one of those extortionate magazines from the supermarket, the ones with useless plastic tat sellotaped to the front and a pull-out page of crap stickers. They give the best cuddles, the slimiest kisses that you have to surreptitiously wipe away when they’ve finished, they put their shoes on the wrong feet and they have tiny high voices that make them sound like they’ve been playing with helium balloons.
I love them unconditionally, which isn’t anything remarkable for a parent, but I feel it has to be said nevertheless, because it’s always a touchy subject when you talk about having to work or simply needing time to yourself. Never mind the fact that bills need to be paid, or that you need a little respite just to be. In this case both, although it’s definitely the work element for me that tends to send my stress levels soaring.
The worrying thing about how difficult it is to work through the summer holidays is this: the summer holidays happen every year! Six weeks! At least with lockdown you could console yourself that they were unprecedented times, everyone was in the same boat: there’s nothing unprecedented about the six week holidays. Suddenly you’re plunged from a relatively acceptable work-life situation (six-ish hours a day, five days a week in which to work or catch up on sleep or go to the toilet unaccompanied) into what can only be described as a childcare abyss. It’s like falling off the edge of a life cliff that you simply weren’t prepared for!
One week you’re calmly typing away on your laptop, getting on with your work from about ten until two, maybe with a cup of tea or even a lunchtime sandwich, radio playing downstairs and perhaps a little twenty minute power nap at your desk to look forward to; the next you can’t even find your laptop because the Barbies are using it as their drive-thru cinema.
Trying to work from home is the absolute singular worst thing you can do with children around. They sense it when you try to work. They sniff it out. You can be at your computer watching stupid kitten videos and they won’t disturb you for a full forty minutes, but open a desperately important Microsoft Excel spreadsheet (still can’t read or edit them and I’ve been trying since 1994) and they will be mountain-climbing your back within twenty-five seconds.
“Can I do some typing?”
“What does this button do?”
“Why doesn’t the screen work when I press it?”
“Play Optimus Prime!”
If you’re working from home then good luck trying to switch into professional-person work-mode when a small person is having a poo in the bathroom next door to your office. If you’re trying to conduct a Zoom meeting then pat yourself on the back if you manage to get through it without having to mute yourself to shout at one or more kids to stop them from eating plaster of Paris or snipping at the leaves of the houseplants with the fabric scissors. (“It’s a haircut.”)
The only way I can work from home is to shut off all noise and distraction, which means either wearing earplugs and locking the door in the daytime (and obviously having someone to supervise the kids!) or shifting the working day into the evening and forgoing any sort of relaxation or Netflix binge.
But none of this is particularly a bad thing – at least not for me. I have to say (ooh, big reveal) that the last few months have taught me to do something I’ve never managed to do successfully before, and that is to completely detach myself from work for longish periods of time. Consecutive days. A whole week, even. It’s a revelation. You immerse yourself fully into domestic life and suddenly everything slows down – you still fill the day with chores and looking after other people, but you’re just a bit more present when you do it. Rather than frantically going from task to task and seeing the day as some sort of giant, tickable to-do list, you just sort of deal with things as they are presented to you. When I try to do too much at once, every element of the day becomes a challenge – breakfast, getting dressed, answering the doorbell, but when I allow myself to just chill out (which doesn’t come naturally, I’ll admit) everything is suddenly a little bit easier. And a bit more fun.
So to cut a long story short, I’ve been really trying hard to be less rigid about what I need to get done on the work front. Or actually, that’s not accurate: I’ve been trying hard to be less rigid about when I get things done. This, I think, is going to have to be my mantra each and every school holiday from now on; go easy, set the bar reasonably low and be flexible with timings.
And with that pearl of wisdom to myself, I’m going to bed. It’s a quarter to eleven and I’ve already had my sleepy tea, which I have to say doesn’t do my writing any favours. It makes me quite soporific and my brain goes spongey and refuses to think of anything witty to say. I also know that the kids will be up at 6am – although they have started to do this amazing thing where they sneak off and play together for an hour before they wake us up. How incredible is that? The only thing is that they quite like to do a jumping game for the aforementioned hour and the room is directly above us, so the light in the ceiling shakes and all the glass bits jangle and it sounds like the entire roof is going to fall down on our heads.
Nothing like being woken up by what you initially think might be a serious earthquake. Keeps you on your toes. Who needs relaxation anyway?
You might well point out that I’m a bit late to the party with this particular seasonal makeup update, but apparently we’re in for a little heatwave next week, here in the UK. So there. I refuse to let go of summer! At any rate, why be so rigid about the seasons? I don’t consider it to be Autumn Proper until at least October.
(The meteorological calendar has yesterday, 1st September, down as the start of Autumn, but what does Mr Meteorology know? Although I do prefer that version of events, because if you go by the astronomical calendar then autumn doesn’t end until two days before Christmas. And that just won’t do. The run-up to Christmas must be wintery – Home Alone and frosted windows, not pumpkins and falling leaves!)
Anyway, I’m a spring-summer person through and through and (barely) tolerate the colder half of the year through gritted teeth and about seven layers of knitwear. I basically go into a mild form of hibernation from October until May, where my brain works at half speed and my body stores an inordinate amount of fat.
So what’s in my makeup bag? Here’s a rundown and it’s pretty pared down and straightforward; one of the best tinted moisturisers ever made followed by a couple of insta-glam base products and a slick of something sexy on the eyes.
NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturiser (here*) has been around for years and, unlike the Laura Mercier classic, hasn’t been tampered with. It’s really very hydrating and has surprisingly full coverage for a tinted moisturiser – watch the video below to see it going on. It’s light and fresh to apply but robust in terms of finish and longevity.
Charlotte Tilbury’s Filmstar Bronze & Glow Palette (here*) is another cult classic – a sculpting duo that has instant impact, creating razor-sharp cheekbones where before there were none. Even if the whole contouring thing isn’t quite your bag, a light touch with the bronzing shade will give a proper grown-up finish to your face. A hint of chisel. Which sounds a lot less glamorous than intended.
I often skip concealer, but not if my base is sheerer than usual – my current concealer squeeze is the Vanish Airbrush from Hourglass, online here*. It’s creamy and easy to pat in but sticks fast and is virtually opaque, though never cakey or heavy looking. Again, watch the video for a little demo – Hourglass make such brilliant base products, whether you’re after full coverage foundation or lightest touch skin finishing powders.
And now for the off-piste part: lipstick as blush. With the benefit of hindsight perhaps this wasn’t the best lipstick to use as a blusher – it has far too much sheen – but it gives you an idea of how easy it is to finish off a makeup look by matching cheeks to lips. Obviously if you’re going in hard with the lip colour, like a neon orange or something, then perhaps don’t get carried away with the matchy-matchy, but if it’s a neutral with a peach or pink lean, or even a brighter red or purple, just pat a small amount of it onto the cheeks and blend for an instant flush. Most creamier, traditional lipsticks in a bullet will work nicely, just tread carefully with the bright shades.
I used L’Oreal’s Color Riche Shine in 658 (here*) which is a light, warm beige with the most beautiful juicy finish. As I said, not ideal as a blush, but if you’re looking for something wearable and foolproof that sits between a pigmented lipstick and a sheer tinted lip balm, the Color Riche Shine will definitely float your boat. It’s basically YSL’s Volupté Shine but without the fancy golden packaging and the fancy pricetag.
What next? Eyes! Some Trinny Eye2Eye Shadow on the lids (Truth, here*) and then I used my summertime barely-there mascara for low-key lashes, the Suqqu Natural Curl (was here*). It’s very good, but actually it’s been replaced with the Eyelash mascara*, which also seems to be very good. I shall report back with a better review, because that was very lame and noncommittal wasn’t it?
Brows have been shaped all summer long with either Gimme Brow from Benefit (here*) or Glossier’s Boy Brow (here*): I’ve compared these dozens of times in videos and posts and so you’ll probably be able to trot out my line that the Boy Brow is waxier but the Gimme Brow is easier to handle. Both are just excellent and well worth every penny for brows that are just a bit fuller and more shapely – this is about as easy as “doing your brows” gets.
Right. You’ve read my words, now see it all in action. Any questions, leave them in the comments box below.
*UPDATE: If you’re reading this on the 2nd September and considering buying the NARS Tinted Moisturiser, Hourglass Concealer and/or the Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Palette, know that Space NK have a mega gift with purchase* running for those spending £175 or over. It’s worth over £250 and includes a full sized Sunday Riley Ceramide Cream, which is one of the richest and buttery moisturiser launches of the year. You can find more info on the gift here*.