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

img_8461

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:

Matey


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. 

giphy

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.

Impulse

impulse

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

juicytubes

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 💄

 

Advertisements

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 👇

My night-time skincare routine

serum.jpg

I get a lot of compliments on my skin, which is unfailingly lovely when I remember the once daily agony of teen acne. Most of the time, the answer I give lays all the credit at the feet of beauty genius, Nars, whose tinted moisturiser is my daily base, finished off with a liberal sweep of Albatross highlighter, because who says you can’t rock gold cheekbones on a Monday. Makeup however, forms only part of the answer, and I’m a firm believer that if you skimp on basic skincare, it’s harder to fake it.

From the moment I started wearing mascara, my mother drummed into me the importance of taking make-up off before bed – no matter how wasted, tired or incapacitated I might be. I can hand on heart count on one hand how many times I’ve broken that rule. There have even been times that I’ve removed every last speck of make-up from my face while three sheets to the wind, yet inexplicably neglected to take out my contact lenses, which let me tell you, is far more dangerous than waking up with a chunk of glitter in your eye.

Granted, I once did all this with face wipes, which I swiftly dumped after reading Sali Hughes’ book Pretty Honest. Since then, I’ve tried a litany of cleansers. I’m not wedded to any one brand, but whichever I happen to be using, my nighttime regime goes something like this:

Firstly, I take a hot flannel to my face. I’m currently into No.7’s cleansing balm for dry skin. I don’t suffer with such an affliction – mine being more dehydrated – but I find the formula lifts make-up easily and leaves my face feeling moisturised. I wouldn’t use it in summer as it is quite heavy, but with the nights drawing in it makes an affordable alternative to other cream formulas, such as Liz Earle’s cleansers.

I’m a solid lipstick wearer and usually have to remove any stubborn product (Maybelline’s Infalliable Matte Ink lipstick, I’m  looking at you) with a cotton pad soaked in Clinique’s Take the Day Off remover. Next I massage in a blob of my favourite serum, Vichy’s Aqualia Thermal. This is the only product I weep for when I’ve run out and can’t afford to replenish because it is the only serum I’ve ever seen visible results with – the hyaluronic acid leaves me with skin that looks and feels like it’s just necked a pint of water.

Next I massage in Clarin’s incredible smelling blue orchid oil for dehydrated and combination skin. I use it all over my face and neck, forgoing heavy creams that tend to clog my pores and cause breakouts. That being said, with winter on the way I’ll be swapping it out for a richer cream – I’ll be trying out Marks and Spencer’s cult night cream Formula Absolute, which at one point had a bonkers waiting list of 7,500 people.

Finally, I make an attempt to stop my emerging crows feet with La Roche Posay’s Redermic R for Eyes, which contains retinol known for its anti-aging properties, before slathering myself in Lush Sleepy and hoping for the best. On the whole, I’ve found this routine serves my dehydrated-combination skin the best, leaving it blemish-free and comfortably moisturised without breaking the bank.

Do you have dehydrated and combination skin? Have you found a good combo of products? Comment below! 💁🏼

The quest for the perfect lip balm

balmsAs the clocks go back, the nights draw in and my jumper collection come out of hibernation, an annual mission presents itself once more – the quest for the perfect lip balm.

It’s been about 15 years since I first stood in a chemist agonising over whether to buy the mint or the cherry Chap Stick. In the intervening years, not much has changed, except I’ve gone through a conveyor belt of contenders trying to find the one that won’t end up relegated to the bottom of my bag after two swipes of my wind-ravaged pout.

I’ve put countless tubes to the test, including award-winners with high-end prices and those that promise to nourish at a purse-friendly price. If you’ve found an absolute winner, let me know in the comments section because I’m still on the hunt. 

Carmex – £2.69

There’s something pleasingly retro about the packaging of this 80-year-old salve, particular in its potted formula. But I have never been able to get on with the camphor-heavy smell of the original, and even less so when it clashes with other strong scents such as its cherry and vanilla, which are both sickly and medicinal. That being said, Carmex does a decent job of moisturising and gives a matte and non-greasy finish. But the flavour and overpowering scent means I can’t bear to wear it, no matter how cheap and cheerful.

Burt’s Bees – from £3.69

I first bought some Burt’s Bees in sixth form and thought myself highly sophisticated every time I took out the sleek little tin and smeared the minty wax on my lips. In the fifteen years since, the range has mushroomed to include tinted sticks and a variety of flavours. I’ve remained loyal to the beeswax brand, even specifically hunting out a special pumpkin spice version while on holiday in the States. It doesn’t quite stand up to a cruel, harsh winter, but gives decent protection against the elements of your average British day, is cruelty-free and imminently affordable.

Nivea Lip Butter – from £1.49

Another budget balm – this time from the Nivea skincare giant, whose range also includes a vast number of chap sticks. Its vanilla and macadamia guise is like a grown-up version of the overly-sweet cocoa butter balms of my Body Shop-buying youth and also makes a nice alternative to the super-sweet After Eight smell of Palmer’s Cocoa Butter balm. But the slightly sticky consistency and the omission of magic, softening ingredient lanolin leaves it wanting for more.

Blistex Intensive Moisturising Hydrating Lip Cream – £2.65

The promise of a thirst-quenching saviour was a major draw in choosing this product, but more attention should have been paid to the full description because ‘cream’ is the operative word. Imagine, for a second, dipping a finger in a pot of E45 and slathering it on your lips. That greasy, slippery texture you’re thinking about? Pretty unpleasant in such close proximity to the tongue.

Vaseline Lip Therapy – £1.95

The smell and taste of the aloe vera version of this iconic, pocket-sized tin of petroleum jelly will always remind me of not having much to worry about apart from whose turn it was to buy milk. But nostalgia for my university days aside, I can’t kid myself into believing this was a particularly good balm. Its ingredients are basic – a cheap as chips pot of grease meant for sealing and lubrication – and as a temporary measure, you can’t beat it. Just don’t expect any long-term comfort from continued use.

La Roche-Posay Nutritic Lips – £6

Many of this sensitive skin specialist’s products are lauded in beauty circles and rightly so – their Anthelios anti-shine sun cream alone is worth the plaudits. But no-one likes a wimpy lip balm and this very mild product is so unassuming you practically have to double check whether you’ve put it on. Perhaps it works for those whose lips do not require a damn good slathering, but for those wanting protection against more than a light breeze, I’d recommend moving swiftly on.

L’Occitaine Shea Butter – £8.50

I’m drawn to anything with the word ‘butter’ in because it conjures up feelings of being cosseted in a thick, comforting layer of warmth. But too much of this scent-free balm leaves you feeling like you’ve been sucking a stick of lard, while just enough leaves you feeling like you’ve missed out on something potentially very cosy. A bit disappointing on the whole.

Clarins HydraQuench Replenishing Lip balm – £19

After trying so many budget brands it seemed right to try something that must surely be worth its eye-watering price tag. Thankfully, there’s a lot to love about this lip balm. The texture is addictively silky smooth. It has the subtlest of pink tints and its delicate scent is neither overpowering or artificially floral. It ticks a lot of boxes – except of course, the all-season column. This does a great job of softening already chapped lips, but as a preventive measure, it doesn’t seem particularly robust in the face of ice and snow. It’s almost there, but not quite. I’d still buy another though.

Clinique Superbalm – £14

Continuing the theme of luxury lip care, it seemed logical to put Clinique’s self-proclaimed ‘super balm’ to the test to see if it lived up to its lofty title. The texture wanders into lip-gloss territory with its sticky consistency, which can be very annoying for those of us who hate picking hair from our lips at the merest gust and is, incidentally, the reason why I can’t get on with the Lanolips range. But if the initial gloopiness doesn’t bother you – or if you can get past it – the product does melt as it warms to the temperature of the lips, leaving a softening, protective layer.

Origins Conditioning Lip Balm with Turmeric – £16

Citrus and a whiff of cocoa butter accompany the subtle spice of this turmeric-laced balm – bought as an alternative to the brand’s much-recommended ‘Drink Up’ range, which is actually more of a gloss and to be avoided if you’re shine-averse. At £16, it’s a very expensive chap stick and rumour has it, it’s being discontinued. So if you’re a fan, stock up while you can. The jury’s out for me – so far, it’s doing a serviceable job, but until the first frost, I’m reserving judgement.

Beauty woes: Stumped by the smoky eye

IJSBS0EFPO

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.

eyes2

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.

LaurenPottsHeadshot

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.

mascara

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.