Wednesday, 20 January 2016

A muted mood and more make up musings, including a claggy Clarins coup, and the Leaning Tower of Travel Pots

Thumbs up, and a victory sign for 'V'!
It's been a funny start to the year what with all these stars dying, like Bowie and Alan Rickman. A friend remarked that at this rate the firmament will soon be 'starless and Bible-black'. The music business seems to be particularly life-limiting, certainly. Then another friend was wondering if Donald Trump might possibly be next, as he is also 69, but if so he would only go and take Charlotte Rampling and Roy Wood with him, which would never do. The same friend actually had a 'marital exclusion' for Alan Rickman, which she is now going to have to reassign; knowing her, it will be to Kevin Spacey, who on the face of it strikes me as an unlikely tree up which to bark. I must say I am not sure I have quite taken in the fact that Bowie is dead. I can vividly remember dancing myself into a trance to Jean Genie at school discos in about 1974. He provided the vividly eclectic, insidiously liberating bass line to my adolescence, encouraging hordes of teenagers like me to 'let yourselves go'. And now, having fallen to earth, he has quietly let himself go back up again...

Top of the Pops, 1974 ~ Source: Wikimedia Commons

So between that, some yarn colour and tension issues(!), and frustrations to do with the timing of my work projects, I have been feeling a bit subdued lately. The week didn't get off to a particularly auspicious start either: the kitten has another tummy upset, and also managed to topple an eight foot palm on Monday morning, spraying earth all over a freshly hoovered pale carpet. But then a neighbour popped round and mentioned that her daughter has just had an op to stop her brain leaking out down her nose, which rather put things in perspective.

I swear I will pick up the threads of perfume presently, but there is something about the New Year that prompts me to experiment with - and organise - my make up and skincare collections, and there were a few noteworthy developments(!) recently that I thought I'd consign to screen before getting back on topic, as far as I ever do.

A claggy Clarins coup

A wonder, but far from perfect! ~ Source: eBay

For a while now I have had a make up albatross in my possession, to wit a Clarins Wonder Perfect mascara a friend gave me for my birthday - I think this year, but it could well be older. I have only used it half a dozen times, because from the off it was extremely claggy and thick, so much so that the black gunk - we could perhaps even call it 'clag', by analogy with 'slag' - actually oozed out from under the cap. Eventually, my annoyance at the poor performance of this high end cosmetics item prompted me to take the mascara back to Boots - not with any hope of replacing it, as I had no receipt and couldn't rightly recall how long I had had it - but just to draw their attention to its messy malfunctioning in a mildly irritated yet calm manner. Imagine my surprise when the SA offered to replace the wayward wand with a different model (Be Long) on the spot. So Long, Be Claggy! What excellent customer service, I thought to myself, as it would have been quite cathartic just to have vented. And the SA did so despite my blurting out the rather insensitive kicker that a £1 mascara from Poundland was better behaved.

Eking out recalcitrant serum

The other day, I finally reached the bottom of my Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye serum. Well, I unscrewed the top and saw that there was in fact a little smidge left at the bottom that the pump would not manage to extract. So, using that tried and tested 'getting the last bit of tinned tomato out of the can' technique, I filled the bottom with warm water and swilled it around to form a slightly serum-y liquid, which I used up over the course of the next three nights - rather haphazardly it must be said - tipping some into my hand and quickly slapping it on my cheeks, a bit like a facial oil but one that is prone to falling off again immediately. Ah well, I think some of the liquid may have stuck to its target, and I had that deep sense of satisfaction that nothing was wasted.

Getting the 'tail end' out of the bottle!

The Leaning Tower of Travel Pots

I have already had a good moan here about the friable nature of these stacks of travel pots used for storing creams and lotions. I buy yet another set - from Boots or Muji or whomever - and before you can say 'built-in product obsolescence' another bit of plastic rim has sheared off. It's simply going to happen, so you may as well accept that it is an endemic design flaw with this particular product. Here's my current tower, with a Clarins foundation on the top storey, and goodness only knows what elsewhere. Some combination of Liz Earle cleanser, hair texturising clay, night cream and/or Olay serum. All 'leaning' to white in colour, and hence deeply confusing.

A novel take on 'washing my eyelids'

Now you may be thinking I have been under a rock for the past twenty years - or since whenever I was first allowed to wear makeup, which is more like forty - but I have only just twigged to the whole purpose of those paler colours in eyeshadow palettes - you know, the vaguely biscuit coloured ones, or even more bizarre on the face of it, the near white shades! In this Pretty Honest book Sali Hughes says that in your Desert Island make up bag you only really need a universally flattering brown eye shadow, and a sort of ivory one, to act as a 'wash' over the lids and a bit up into the socket. I have steered completely clear historically of the paler end of the palette, thinking a) I have no discernible eye sockets and b) anything that white will make me look like a ghoul.

A bit faint, but it did look okay, really!

Then the other day I had a play with a combination of the palest colour in this HD Brows palette that Tara of A Bottled Rose kindly gave me, over the eyelid and a bit higher up as I understand you are meant to do - though it still might be stretching the truth - and the skin! - to call it a socket in my case, followed by the darkest colour (Truffle!) just on the lids bit. And it really did work rather well - not ghostly, but it softened the Truffle shade and made it more graduated on the eyelid, with less of a stark demarcation between eyeshadow and not. And I know that is going to sound an utterly ridiculous kind of discovery to any makeup aficionados out there, but it just goes to show that you can go decades in complete ignorance of a quite fundamental technique in one's beauty MO. Oh, and being on a bit of a roll I also bought my first standalone eyeshadow brush this week(!), as I had also just learnt that a brush is so much nicer than those sponge-tipped apologies for applicators I have only used all my life, hehe.

'Bare' to the left and 'Truffle' to the right!

A bath hat lightbulb moment

Speaking of washing, this next discovery is even more laughable - and reprehensible - than the one about 'washes' of pale colour on eyelids. You see for years and years I have not properly attended to my forehead. Not in terms of moisturising, for sure. And even my washing of it has been a bit haphazard, and tending to coincide with hair washing days. Which in fairness is quite often. All because of my fringe, you see, which would get either greasy or wet or both at the drop of a hat. But the other night it dawned on me that if I actually wore a hat I could have easy access to my forehead without my hair getting in the way. There's always a plastic bath hat swiped from a hotel to hand, so I promptly put it on and proceeded to involve my whole face in my skincare routine. I wouldn't sleep in a bath hat, mind, so you still have the problem of how to apply night cream or facial oil without getting it in the fringe. I guess you could wait till it had soaked in, but life's too short for that, and I am usually eager to get off to bed by that point. So there is still some figuring out to do...

Have you made any completely basic and obvious skincare or makeup discoveries late in life? 

Or do you have any ablution aberrations or other unhygienic habits to mention?

No obligation to 'fess up to either, as long as don't make me feel any more foolish and ashamed than I  already do for mine. ;)


  1. Now that I am growing my hair I have discovered the utility of bobby pins - or 'clips' as I would have said in my youth. They are not just things your mother stuck in your hair to cause pain but useful for conforming the drying hair into a shape which will comb out nicely later.

    1. Hi Hazel,

      What a great idea to use hair clips, as I would still say today. During my decluttering exercise in the summer I am sure I came across a whole bunch of them and wondered what to do with them. Sadly I don't remember what I *did* do with them, but I might invest in a new pack for all they cost.

  2. I have recently discovered the revolutionary concept of applying different masks to different bits of my face, aka the muddy, slightly stingy one to nose and chin and the soothing one onto cheeks. Magic! Who would have thought...
    Otherwise, a marital exclusion for Alan Rickman is what I had as well, at least in my mind. His death really hit me.

    1. Hi Sabine,

      Sorry to hear of your particular attachment to Alan Rickman. My original virtual squeeze, Pete Duel of Alias Smith & Jones, died when I was 12, so I have at least had a long time to come to terms with his loss.

      I love the idea of your patchwork mask principle and I do indeed do that with my night lotions: eye serum vs something stronger on the cheeks, vs Effaclar Duo on my chin as required. Then slap the Body Shop night cream over the top of most but not all of it, hehe.

  3. V, I'm glad I'm now not the one in the world using a bath hat/shower cap. As for applying products and avoiding your fringe how about a cosmetic headband? You can get those white towelling ones though they tend to have velcro so I just use normal black ones for "outdoor wear" from Boots. Quicker than messing around with pins and clips.

    So happy you are now paddling in the pale end of the palette. Too funny about the Truffle shade. I think the effect is great. Keep going, it's very much a case of practise (sp?) makes perfect.

    I only started wearing eye make-up in my 40s. As I use cream shadows I avoid the whole multi-shading quagmire though Sali does make it sound easy.

    Only just started on liquid exfoliants too.

    Congratulations on your eye shadow brush purchase! How about a lip brush next, or do you have one?

    Thanks for the link! I've had a few clicks from it :)

    1. Hi Tara,

      D'you know, I did think of normal headbands when Hazel mentioned hair clips - I don't think I would want to use one of my knitted creations for the same reasons as why I am worried about my fringe ie it might get collateral creaming!

      'Practice' makes perfect, hehe. But I am 'practising' with my palette!

      I am still on the look out for cream shadows having only really found a grey/silvery one. I loved a Lisa Eldridge rec from a Max Factor range called Coffee, but it seems to have disappeared. So easy to use, I agree.

      Yes, I am a recent convert to liquid exfoliants.

      I am not sure a lip brush is worth it for the little lips that I have. But maybe that is precisely why I need one, I don't know.

      Oh good about your clicks - that was the idea!

    2. I really like the Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Shadow Sticks but obviously they're not cheap at £21. I have my eye on Golden Bronze, Violet Plum and Goldstone.

      I don't like applying lipstick without a brush now. You can get into the corners better and I think it last longer.

    3. Those Bobbi Brown shades would work beautifully on you, I reckon, having had a quick look on Google.

      Hmm, maybe I should investigate lip brushes after all...

  4. Radical discoveries of the past decade:

    * long hair is SO MUCH LESS WORK than short hair. I had a short sharp bob for ages and ever, and then realised I had never in my life had long hair. So grew it, just to see. It's been up and down between waist and under-bum level for the past five years or so. No daily washing (couple of times a week does nicely). No six-weekly haircuts (one trim a year). OK, I probably get through gallons more conditioner.

    * I look about a hundred and fifty times better with well-tidied and properly coloured in eyebrows.

    * The MAC paintpoint painterly makes a superb base/primer/evenerouteroftone, more so for me than any shadow. Everything else grips to it and stays put.

    * liquid exfoliants. Oh, yes.

    1. Hi Crikey,

      I am so with you on the tidied and coloured in brows - that has been another discovery of mine in the past year!

      Oh weird about the MAC Painterly mention - I literally just read a recommendation of it as a primer under an eyeshadow whose passing I may have been lamenting prematurely - Max Factor Masterpiece Coffee!

      You have convinced me about the manageability of long hair, but I wouldn't go back to it even so, not that it was ever as long as yours!

    2. The down side is that I washed my hair last night, and it's still wet more then twelve hours later. I *almost* had it all chopped off last summer, back to a bob, but chickened out. I couldn't get past the idea of if i changed my mind, it would take more than five years to "fix". See also: why it never gets dyed.

      Nice coincidence! It's good stuff, painterly, if the colour is a close-enough match. That's a nice blog--and I see that she's also a fan of the mac fluidline liners. They are great stuff, particularly with a very fine cheap brush from an art shop, rather than the weird stiff angled ones make up people want to sell. They are never fine enough (And, I cannot get on with pencils any more, for eyeliner). Even with the gravity/time collapse going on, that slow tectonic slide, I still have acres of eyelid. Thick or winged eyeliner looks seriously weird on me.

    3. Oh, do you not use a hair dryer? Do you think you might revisit the dyeing decision when you start to go grey, albeit I am sure that is a long way off yet! I certainly would rather dye my hair on an ongoing basis I think, till the colour looked wrong with my older skin. ;)

      The Painterly looked a little golden in that photo, but I will investigate further. I don't like those weird stiff angled brushes either and completely agree about them not being fine enough. I am better with pencils personally, as I don't have a steady enough hand for liquid, plus even a fine line seems too bold a look for my small eyes.

      Would you by any chance consider subletting a few hectares of your eyelids to me?! ;)

    4. Nope. My hair hates heats So, if i want to keep it in good condition, only natural drying for me. I already have a lot of grey! It's very spread out though, and with very fine--but very dark--hair I can convince myself it mostly looks like tinsel. I rather like it so far, and would like to be able to rock a full head of long grey if I can (please, please let it suit my skin tone). I'm lucky, though, my eldest sister went grey in a very different way.

      The only real dyes I've done in the past were totally unnatural: I sported bright violet for a couple of years, then swapped back and forth between a ribena purple and a magenta-dark-pink. Then my hair told me it was *done* with the bleach down, thanks.

      Painterly is well worth a dab on skin, to see how it behaves on you. No yellowy or goldy tinge for me. But, colour can be weird on me. I completely warp lipsticks, too.

      The tiny paintbrush and gel is more forgiving for me than pencil--and with no drag on softening eyelids. I can get closer to my lashes, and keep it very fine, without having to do one perfect line in one go like liquids.

      oh, I can strike one potential moisturiser off my list. I'd used the REN vita-mineral a few times quite happily. Last night, my skin rebelled. Painfully. Bright red and bumpy. Damn it.

    5. Gosh, that natural drying thing must be tricky in winter. I can understand that you might want to go grey gracefully depending on what colour you would be. I know my grey would be the Brillo pad variety which is not a look to rock.

      I have done unnatural dyes too, hehe - well Crazy Color in my New Romantic days. Aubergine and maroon I have been, which sound very similar to your shades. I never touched bleach though. My current hair colour is mostly natural with remnants of lowlights here and there, and the odd sliver of grey!

      I have googled Painterly now and it doesn't look at all gold in the images I have now called up. Might work very well in fact.

      You are selling the tiny paintbrush to me - an artist's accessory, you say? I know pencils are wont to drag, but I use the softer kind and am very gentle. But I am curious about the brush as an alternative!

      Bad luck about that REN moisturiser - sounds nasty. ;(

  5. From the school of the blooming obvious: people with black eyelashes can wear mascara, and maybe even look better for it...AnnieA

    1. AnnieA, I would go along with that, and reckon I do look better. Well, I think my eyelashes are 'nearly black', like some of the mascaras indeed.

  6. Hi Vanessa - you made me laugh when i read about you not putting anything on your forehead but it did make sense with the fringe of course. What i use is a little cheapie headband for a teenager with a little flower on it to keep my hair back. (Not a cloth one - a plasticky one). As for mascara, i cant wear the stuff, keep picking it off - so i dont bother. I really want to go and get HD eyebrows but i'm afraid people will laugh at i just dust them over with a little dark brown eyeshadow. It gets harder as you get older to try and get away with all the tricks those young ones use. Hope you and fluffy one are well. P x

    1. Hi Pats,

      Between you and Tara, I reckon a headband could well be an easy way to keep my fringe off my face (finally!).

      I have never heard of anyone picking mascara off, but if it annoys you, I can see why you wouldn't persist.

      I have never tried any HD Brows brow products - what I have is purely eyeshadows I think - the Foxy palette.

      Fluffy one is back on form, thanks - a little bit hyper / psychotic on a nightly basis, and jumping everywhere she is not meant to, though I think that is normal!

  7. I'm boring: no recent discoveries (I should probably read more on the topic of skincare!)

    I think I stopped using eye shadows approximately at the age when you started :) So now I might use it once or twice a year for some very special occasion - though even then I prefer just mascara. But when I did use them, I loved combining all the shades of the beige palette. So I like what you're doing now.

    When my EL's serum is almost done, I usually use a q-tip to get whatever is left in the bottle. And exactly because I hate wasting even s smidgen of a cream (especially an eye cream!), I prefer tubes that I can squeeze dry or pods.

    1. Hi Undina,

      That's not boring - that's plain busy!!

      I am not sure I know what I am doing with the colour combining, as I can't quite relate the bits of my own eye to the video demos you see where people have acres of eyelid like Crikey, and fabulously arched brow bones. But I am having fun at least.

      I was interested to learn that you too don't let the last little bit of serum get away, indeed your method sounds a lot more reliable than my haphazard 'facial wash' dilution technique.

      I agree that tubes are much better, hence why Paula's Choice is such a good line.