Obvious Beauty – The Basics

Over the years, I have bought and used a lot of beauty products. And over the years, I have managed to still have a face. This seems like as good a reason as any to inflict my trumped up views on beauty on the lot of you.

Therefore, I will occasionally write up reviews and ramblings on the tools of the beauty trade to share with you. Plus it’s an excellent way to fill those periods of time when I have literally nothing else to write about. It’s just the sort of nice chap I am.

My remit is obvious beauty – the things I think you need to know and the things you shouldn’t ever speak of.

But every good series needs an intro! The standard pilot show, the gallop through the basic plot, background, characters and tone, so we all know what we’re letting ourselves in for and can confidently drift along with the episodes to come.

So here is my basic started guide of tried and tested beauty tips, suitable for boys and girls.

Please use these tips to judge whether or not my approach to skincare suits your particular skin type. If what works for me has proven disastrous for you in the past, you may not find my reviews helpful. But feel free to ask me any questions.
I am not an expert, and my advice is based on experience, research and guidance from those in the know. And I’ve learned from plenty of errors in the past, including painful allergic reactions and spending far too much on marketing gimmicks. God that YSL Manga pink lipstick was fun, though…
Obvious beauty - skincare
My essentials. For this month, any way
  • Be sure of your skin type before forking out for expensive products. I used to think I had oily skin, until an expert showed me I was actually sensitive with patches of dryness – years of money spent on the wrong products. For a professional verdict, I recommend Dermalogica’s skin analysis and facial service Find a participating salon here >>> 
  • Moisturise. Cleanse first, then moisturise. Face and neck, twice a day, every day. For ever. Until your dying day. I don’t care whether you die bed, in a blimp accident or on a battlefield – your final act with your last ounce of strength should be to put on more moisturiser.
  • You need less product than you think. Pea-sized blob, dot it around your face and neck, and massage in. This will sound obvious to some, but until a beautician showed me how, I was wasting a LOT of product
Obvious beauty - how to apply moisturiserObvious beauty - how much moisturiser
  • Organise all your facial beauty products in a row. How many products are you using in total over a week? Are they all for the same skin type? How often do you use them? How old are they? Why did you buy them and have they delivered? When did you last clean the applicators, or your make-up brushes? It could be time to start whittling…
  • With skincare, you get what you pay for (mostly). Put the best that you can afford directly on to your skin (cleanser, moisturiser, masques, and foundation/powder) and save on the rest of your makeup (pencils, lipsticks, eyeshadow, blusher, mascara, liquid liners).
  • Don’t strip breakouts with cheap astringent. More often than not, sensitised or angry skin needs a rest and a gentle touch. I put oils on my face when I am blemished, but I make sure they are working for me.
  • Don’t use toothpaste on spots, it does nothing.
  • If you suffer from aggressive acne, don’t waste your money on over the counter products. Save up the cash and visit a good dermatologist instead. 
  • Body lotion should be a daily habit. The oil below (see? see?) is luxurious, great for freshly shorn legs, and I slap it on my face for an occasional nighttime treat.
  • Obvious beauty - Neals Yard Jasmine Oil
  • Drink lots of water, you know it works. Probably because the amount of time you spend running to the loo or fighting the urge to piss yourself distracts you from smoking or eating a tray bake.
  • Whether you use your cleanser or a separate lotion, your eye make-up should come off easily. If you are pulling and rubbing repeatedly, you are giving yourself wrinkles. Oil based ones are often best, just make sure you gentle clean off excess. 
  • Make sure you apply eye cream in the right place. Take a look >>>
  • For a face exfoliator, do the following: go to a supermarket’s baby section, pick up a bag of muslin squares for about £5, cut each one in half (or smaller), use as a face cloth. Bosh – a brilliant exfoliator that’s gentle enough to use every day. I won’t go anywhere without one. Even to the opera. And I don’t even go to the opera. 

  • Django the cat

    This is a picture of my cat Django.
    I ran out of stuff to photograph

  • While that super-light youthful lotion won’t work forever, beware of therapists forcing anti-aging creams on you once you pass 30; most are designed for already wrinkled skin and can be too rich for younger flesh. If in doubt, insist on a sample.
  • Speaking of which…if you buy regularly from decent brands, you’ll never need to fork out for those luxurious serums because you’ll clean up on samples. I have a mountain of Genifique, Dior and Dermalogica serums, and they go a long way. Money in the pocket, my friends. (My sister once tried to throw out a full sample eye cream from La Prairie. I nearly died)
    Free samples from good brands

    All of them, all of them FREE

  • Consider making your own face oils and masques. Plenty of recipes online, using all natural ingredients, and they usually give great results. Try this one from Miscriant >>>
  • Olive oil and avocados may be classed as fatty foods, but they are better for your skin, hair and nails than ten diet packaged products. Never banish them.
  • Blend your various lipsticks to find the right shade. If you ever find one that is perfect alone, buy ten of them.
  • ALWAYS use an SPF and stay out of the sun if you want to stay wrinkle free. The sun will fuck you up. Have you seen the size of it? Don’t try to take it on, you’ll lose.
  • If you get a fake tan, be prepared for many, many disasters before success.

    Always remember the golden rules

      1. Your skin is going to change, even if you don’t see it. And it IS going to age. Work with it, not against it.
      2. Back the fuck away from your skin when it needs space. Your body and your skin is designed to survive and its objective is to protect you, not to look pretty. Don’t hinder it when it needs to breathe or heal. The more you pollute it, the more it will poison you.
      3. Treat skin like (I can’t believe I’m about to write this) your favourite garment – care for it gently. Don’t expose it to excessive heat, don’t overload it with chemicals, don’t pull and pick and pester it, don’t leave it crumpled and parched. It will never look as good as it did when it was brand new, but it’s not old – it is vintage. And it needs care, because it’s one of a kind. I’m going to go and slap myself for a bit, even though I’m right.

      Part Two – The Hair Continues

      If you missed the first part of my hair story, read Part One here

      The next day…

      Oh GOD I hate it!! I hate it, I hate it! It’s too short, it is way too short, why did I get it cut so short, what in the name of Bonaparte’s balls possessed me to do this?!!
      This is the haircut I had when I was 18 – it’s the frigging ‘Rachel’! No one has the Rachel cut anymore, not even Rachel! Not even old episode of Friends with Rachel in them because they digitally altered every episode to give her new hair so no one ever had to think or speak of the Rachel cut again.
      The shortest layers barely reaches six inches, and longest is just about shoulder length. The ends have been feathered, textured and assimilated to within an inch of their tiny lives. It looks sharp, and….and pointy, and….and edgy! I’m 33; I am the opposite of edgy. I’m a good 40 feet away from the edge, on a pile of cushions, eating salmon straight from the packet and yelling at Twitter for not listening to me.

      I don’t want fresh and fun hair. I want dramatic, serious hair. Hair that questions your morals.

      I peer hopeless into my bathroom the mirror, chewing my nails and a leg of comfort lamb.  On one hand, I am tormenting myself – it’s been a long weekend, and my hormones have blessed me with tired skin, blemishes and about 3lbs of water weight; this is not a good day to be critiquing my appearance (or to be a man reading this post). Still, I try to reason, this wasmy old style… I should be able to pull it off. I haven’t changed that much, have I?

      But something is just not right. It looks older. 

      And that’s when it hit me, like a shotgun shell; it is The New Look. The terrible three worded lie that hairdressers hand out to women in their 40s and 50s. “Ooooh, how long have you had your hair like this? You know what, we are just going to lop off all of that neglected mummy frizz and give you a whole new look!’ It’s the go-to cut for bored stylists, the one no one argues with in the salon because it looks so ‘fresh’ and ‘fun’ and ‘light’. And we all fall for it at the time, us foolish females.
      There is an old fashioned but still oft quoted ‘rule’ my mother used to talk of*, and it is that long hair is a young woman’s game, and at some point in your 30s you will be hunted down and punished for so much as dipping below the shoulder line. A bit like Logan’s Run for your head.
      My last boss used to have this haircut, and she was in her 50s. I look around the office, and see it everywhere on women in their 30s and 40s who simply don’t need it. 
      I don’t know what I did to deserve this. 
      Don’t look at me!!!!
      Oh, how I miss my long hair. It’s been three days, and I’m in the throes of withdrawal. I miss trying to look like Bardot, with her tousled locks, bed-head volume and messy ‘Fuck you I’m French’ updos, and I miss failing every time. I miss my French plaits wound into my scalp, I miss doing that curling and brushing out thing that make you look like porn star.
      I miss mystyle. A style normally born by younger boho women who secretly dream of a short, edgy look…
      I won’t yield again, though. I don’t care what decorum dictates, I will wear my long tresses proudly to my death bed. And if they’ve snapped off by then, I will glue them back on.
      But it’s not so bad really. It will grow back. My hair grows quickly. It will grow back. 

      A day later… 

      I’ve washed it now. It looks alright, actually.

      *For the record, my mother told me this in reference to herself. She didn’t drag me out of my bed when  I was nine, brandishing a pair of scissors and saying ‘it’s time’. Plus she died when I was 25. Although those WERE her dying words. I think.

      Part One – In Which There Is Hair…

      A word of warning: this is a story about hair. And the story will be told in two parts…
      I was sick of looking in the mirror and thinking “something’s not quite right here”. And when I say mirror, I mean a spoon. And when I say spoon, I mean a wooden one.
      I was feeling a little sluggish, a little sallow, a little excessively haired in terms of eyebrows and head. Six week until the next am dram show, I mused….I could risk a hair cut.
      I am someone who will go a sickeningly long time between cuts. To be fair, my hair is not high maintenance but it is annoyingly fine and needs layers to prevent it looking like a terrible Gwyneth Paltrow do (or a normal Gwyneth Paltrow do. I don’t much care for her). Anyway, I can’t do layers myself, so I must to a stylist.
      Look at me before. I’m LITERALLY Bardot
      I’ve been wearing my hair long and tousled for a while, because it seems to work. But I was feeling bold and set my mind on lopping a full three inches off my locks. I had a vision of a shorter, bouncier version of what I have now, thinking ‘ahh, it’ll grow back no matter what!’
      I’m a tramp when it comes to hairdressers; I can’t remain loyal no matter how good the last one was in the sink. Like a sex addict, time is a factor. When I decide to get a haircut, it’s usually on the spur of the moment and I want an appointment right then and there. The last barber I visited, Stone Hair in Canterbury, was fantastic and I’ve only ever had good service there. You’d THINK I’d learn to be patient and stick with them. But no – Stone was not instantly available on the day that I demanded to be clipped and coiffed, so they were cast aside for a sluttier salon. One that came highly recommended and was offering £30 for a cut and blow dry for new customers. This would be Doo Daas.
      I enter the salon, and meet my hair chap. I am cheery and excited about my hair being murdered. Hair chap is oddly quiet. As he asks me what style I want that day, he looks like he’s about to watch eight puppies be drowned by Santa
      I explain: a good 2 or 3 inches off the hair and giving it volume and…
      I don’t get to finish; he nods, as if he already knows, and I’m whisked away to have my hair is washed by a subordinate. It’s all a bit weird. During the wash, my chair keeps trying to give me a massage. I consider telling it that I’m flattered but I’m spoken for, but I don’t want to make a scene. I just ignore it, and end up feeling oddly violated but relaxed.
      When hair chap finally gets to work on my do, he moves fluidly and expertly but looks utterly miserable.

      He doesn’t say anything. No small talk, no smiles. I sense that this isn’t just ‘bored at work’ miserable. Something is wrong, and it’s an elephant in the room. It is so obvious that I can’t do my usual routine of hiding in Facebook on my phone, it’d be like playing Tetris while informing a friend they had cancer.

      Minutes pass.

      “You work in Canterbury?”
      I’m so desperate to make conversation that I detail far too much about my job, my office, my colleagues and my desk. He smiles. Silence again. Any good that the perverted massage chair did has vanished; I am rigid. After a little while longer, hair chap asks if my boyfriend works in town. I tell him everything about the beau, from his shoe size to his pin numbers.
      Then hair chap opens up. “I really think I’ve blown it with my bloke.”
      It transpires that he has met the perfect guy – kind, fun, handsome. Hair chap can’t believe that someone like him would want to be with him. And he’s felt so insecure, he says, that he panicked and had a quick browse on a dating website to hedge his bets, just to have a look. But his fella found the evidence in the internet browser during his routine checking his boyfriend’s phone and internet history…wh..?…well anyway, now perfect man does not want to see hair chap anymore!

      “Oooooookay,” I say helpfully. I am trying to sympathise while having a silent nervous breakdown about what this man’s love life might be doing to my hair. He snips, clips and cuts as if in a trance. At first I think he isn’t taking enough length off. Then I think it’s too much. My layers are creeping further and further up my head, and he’s doing a lot of texturing, but I bite my lip – this is what you wanted, I tell myself.
      When the cut is finished, hair chap spends a reassuring amount of time ensuring it is even and smooth and then curls it for me, having apparently listened to my opening ramble about hating my hair straight. I peer at him with quiet admiration. He is clearly not having a good day, but he is a pro – he could probably cut my hair with his eyes closed. The finished look is bouncy, textured, and fresh. I am very pleased, though I don’t get much chance to thank poor hair chap as he runs off to, I suspect, cry into some gin in the toilets. I leave a nice tip.
      Feeling confident, I nip across the road to a new fairly cheap beauty salon to get my eyebrows threaded for £5. I get what I pay for – the cotton snaps four times, I’m jabbed in the eye twice and I’m not even shown the finished result (they forget to hand me a mirror). The beauticians on duty are so sweet though. One of them eerily covets not only my hair, but also my make up. She leans over me while plucking, staring at my kohl and mascara, saying “I reeeeeealllly like that….that’s nice….”
      Look at me after.
      (Ignore my red nose, I’d been sneezing)
      But that’s by the by! My hair is a resounding success. I’m always glad when new ventures pay off.