Smells like teen spirit: The beauty products that take me back


I was standing in the toiletries aisle the other day looking for shampoo when a bottle of Herbal Essences caught my eye. I picked it up and opened the cap for a whiff, curious to see whether it smelled the way I remembered. Sure enough, the scent was as unchanged as the packaging – a reminder of the lingering floral fog that followed me, and countless other girls, around Sixth Form.

I bought it for nostalgia’s sake – the yellow chamomile variety, given my pink rosehip preference of yesteryear wasn’t available. The difference was barely discernible – it still had that overpoweringly sweet aroma that accompanied me through drama and English classes – though curiously, its scent has nothing of its original staying power.

Still, the trip down memory lane got me thinking about the other beauty products that made an impression on me way back when. Here’s a selection:


I was never one of those kids that threw a tantrum at bath time, in fact it was pretty much my favourite part of the day. The ticking of the two-bar gas fire as it heated up my grandma’s bathroom was the soundtrack to the tub filling up. I loved watching her tip the blue gel out of Sailor Matey’s head and seeing it hit the water, where it would bloom for a second before transforming into a rainbow of froth.  Long after I’d pruned and the foam had dissipated I’d beg for a top-up, coaxed out of the tepid water only by the promise of Ovaltine and a biscuit.

Bath pearls

Matey was obviously the start of my borderline obsession with bath products because as soon as I started to earn pocket money, I would trot down to the gift shop where the bath pearls were piled high in bowls like a sweet shop display. I later likened the way I approached that table to the scene in Amelie where she submerges her hand in the sack of grains; I liked the way the jelly-like orbs slipped between my fingers and how later, the silk of their skin would melt in the water.

Like a magpie, I’d buy them by the handful along with translucent, fruit-shaped soaps. I later graduated to buying them from the Body Shop cause, well, the 90s. Also, see Dewberry. 


Cucumber skincare

Speaking of which, was there a teenage girl alive during the Britpop era that didn’t have some sort of cucumber-scented face product from the Body Shop or Boots? Fuck knows why we all wanted to smell like a salad; the same reason we all bathed in CK One I suppose – it was the done thing.

Still, whenever I get a whiff of artificial cucumber from an emergency pack of face wipes purchased at a train station, it make me slightly whimsical for the days of Sugar, Sun-in and chokers.



If ever there was a moment to borrow from the book of Kurt Cobain, it would be to honour Impulse. Every single girl aged between 11 and 16 had a can of Free Spirit or O2 rolling around the bottom of their Kickers satchel, ready to deploy post-netball. The genius of the teen body spray was in the candy-coloured packaging which made you want to collect them all. By the time GCSE year rolled round, many of my friends had graduated to So..? and by A Level it was a toss-up between Hugo Deep Red and Davidoff Cool Water. But for a time, Impulse really was the smell of teen spirit.

Juicy Tubes


Juicy Tubes appeared around the same time I started sneaking into pubs and, at 16, wearing a shiny layer of sugary gloss seemed like a prerequisite to getting past the bouncers. Purchasing one however was a literal leap from the high street to high-end and cost a whole day’s wage from the Saturday job. Nevertheless, we all had a Juicy Tube – mine in Lychee – and would seemingly pull them out in sync and apply between nervous swigs of Smirnoff Ice. They were ultimately pointless; the colour was barely noticeable and their stickiness meant every rogue strand of hair found its way into your mouth. But for many girls, they marked that first step into luxury beauty and for me, a taste for expensive brands that has never really gone away.

What beauty product takes you back? Leave your comments below 💄



The quest for the perfect long-wear eye shadow crayon

crayonsThe first time I tried eyeshadow was with a sweep of pearlescent blue from a pot of Bourjois (no.17, I believe), which resulted in me being shamed by my year nine English teacher who suggested I wash it off at break time.

In my late teenage years, I tried out the smokey eye only to be likened by my father to a raccoon. Then at university, I adopted the nu-rave look with zeal, applying loose Barry M shadows in neon shades with matching glitter, which I set – to my lasting horror – with a liberal layer of Elnet.

Thankfully, those days are behind me and I’ve come to appreciate the brightening effect of a low-key shimmery wash across the lids – a particularly easy look to pull off at 6am when one cannot reasonably be expected to master winged eyeliner.

My shadow of choice for a long time was Benefit’s creaseless cream formulas – my favourite shade being R.S.V.P. – which can be applied with your finger even when you’re going over potholes on the bus. I’ve since moved on to long-wear crayons, which remove the need for hands-on application and get deeper into the eye socket.

Bobbi Brown’s twist-up stick in Golden Pink is the one I return to most often – a summery retro shade which stays well put in conjunction with Urban Decay’s Primer Potion. For everyday wear, I’m a huge covert to NYX’s jumbo eye crayon in Yoghurt, though it is mildly annoying that there is no twist-up function and what you see of the product is what you get.

A surprise bargain was Rosie for Autograph’s cream eyeshadow stick in Sparkle and Magic. Cringe-worthy name aside, it’s a dead ringer for Bobbi Brown’s Goldstone version, offering the same shade and density with the added bonus that it’s half the price. At the lower end of the price range is GOSH’s Forever eye shadow crayons, which do sound a little teenage, but go on smoothly and refuse to budge. I have it in Silver Rose and Light Cooper and can’t fault either.

The only real disappointment I’ve thus far come across is No.7’s Stay Perfect Shade and Define which failed to do any of those things. Even on primed lids, it went on patchy and refused to layer up, acting cheaper than its price tag would suggest. I had a similar issue with Charlotte Tilbury’s much-hyped eyeshadow pencil, the formula for which left my lids feeling oddly stiff.

Tell me about your favourite long-wear crayons in the comments below 👇

Beauty woes: Stumped by the smoky eye


Picture: Pawel Kadysz

I have a confession to make.

I am 30 years old and have still not perfected the daddy of all makeup techniques – the smoky eye.

This seems like a gross oversight given the sexy raccoon look really comes into its own at this time of year, coupled with the fact that every magazine I pick up seems to be imparting helpful advice on how to ‘go from desk to dance floor in five easy moves’ – a transformation which typically involves sweeping a wash of ‘sparkly slate’ or ‘rich chocolate’ over the lids.

Not that this scenario particularly presents itself often –  I’d much rather go home and eat a shepherd’s pie than go out on the lash at 6pm on a Wednesday, but it would be nice to know how to achieve the look of a woman adept with a make-up brush should the need ever occur.

Yet despite the abundance of step-by-step beauty guides at my fingertips, my own attempts to make me look all sultry, etc, end up looking like I’ve rolled around face first in a box of broken Crayola.

Because, somewhat bizarrely for someone who was practically the poster girl for Barry M circa 2005, it turns out I have absolutely no idea how to properly apply eyeshadow.


My sister won’t thank me for this photo but it’s the only one which illustrates the two-tone eyeshadow and keeps my dignity intact

Back then, I regularly caked my eyelids in clashing shades of neon in the name of ‘new rave’, frequently coordinating the colour scheme with matching glitter and securing it to my face – to the horror of dermatologists everywhere – with half a can of L’oreal Elnett.

But as I’ve matured (ahem), I’ve found myself adopting the failsafe combo of red lippy and a black eyeliner flick; a reliable but winning combination that’s become a sort of facial uniform.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not for lack of curiosity that I’ve fallen into a makeup rut. I’ve often found myself loitering around make-up counters wondering if I should experiment more with shadows and blush before the onset of crow’s feet.


Red lips and black eyeliner can do no wrong in my book

But overly bronzed counter staff scare the bejesus out of me and I find myself backing away quietly at the thought of them coming at me with their utensils and on the occasions I have been brave enough to sit through a consultation, I’ve spent it awkwardly perched on the edge of the chair ready to bolt and wondering how many products I’m obliged to buy. Sure, I know there’s no commitment to part with cash, but by God I’m British and I can’t accept a freebie.

It’s this combination of fear and laziness that has found me entering my 30s and lacking the necessary skills to confidently manipulate a stick of kohl, let alone execute the coveted smoky eye, case-in-point being the time I recently rooted out an ancient eyeliner pencil and ended looking like I’d gone ten rounds.


That’s a relatively cheap mistake to make, but when you’re investing in your face it can add up – particularly if it doesn’t work out – and despite poring over various beauty bibles, I’ve still managed to make a number of costly mistakes in recent months, resulting in beautiful yet unused purchases languishing in the bottom of my make-up bag.

Sure, I know I should fork out £20 for the much-lauded Mac 219 to overcome my eyeshadow fear, but I can barely master a £3 version, so why break the bank? So what I’d really like for Christmas is for some kindly, impartial beauty expert to show me how to actually use a chubby stick and a blending brush so that I can start looking more my age and not like a startled lemur.

It’s either that or I go back to two-tone eyeshadow and glitter.