Archive for the ‘Beauty’ Category

Beauty, Features, Opinion, ShinyStyle Investigates, Skin, Uncategorized, Yay or Nay

Fake tan without the smell: is it possible?

By Lauren Bravo on August 9th, 2013

Smells like teen spirit? That’ll be the DHA… Lauren Bravo investigates exactly what makes fake tan stink

Cocoa Brown 1 Hour mousse tan I remember when I finally worked out exactly what fake tan smells of. It came to me in a flash, like a song from childhood or someone’s name on the way home when you’ve spent an hour avoiding them at a party.

Everyone says it smells like biscuits, but it doesn’t. Not quite. After all, biscuits smell delicious. If I could douse myself in Eau de Custard Cream every morning I’m pretty sure I’d be at least 32% more successful in life. “Why, what’s that intriguing, crumbly musk?” they would ask as I wafted by. “She must be mine!”

No, it isn’t biscuits. What it smells like is: the milk at the bottom of a bowl of cereal. When you’ve finished your Crunchy Nut Cornflakes and there’s just a puddle of lukewarm, grainy beige milk left, that’s the smell. A bit sweet, a bit wheaty, a bit lactic, a bit sour, a lot cloying. We’re basically walking round wearing the equivalent of a week’s breakfast remnants rubbed over our limbs, and then we wonder why no one wants to sit next to us on the bus*.

But of course, if tanned is your look of choice then honking like a Frosties factory is still a million times preferable to skin cancer. And with each year bringing new, better bronzing formulations in every conceivable format – no streaking, no orange eyebrows, no mucky bedsheets – sometimes it feels like the smell is now the only obstacle.

So when Marissa Carter’s Cocoa Brown express tan mousse landed in my inbox, claiming to give a deep brown tan in an hour with “no fake tan smell!”, I leapt on it. I had high hopes. At best it would live up to its promise, at worst it might smell of Nesquik instead, which would be a nice change.

Nose factor aside, the colour is fantastic. Despite the name sparking what I believe is known in the business as “RossfromFriendsaphobia”, it was actually very subtle – golden, building up to a warm nut brown if left to develop longer, without a hint of orange or sallowness, and it lasted well. Going on, it smelt pleasantly of Tahitian gardinia (or ‘flowers’ if you’re not reading the back of the bottle). I waited. I rinsed. I sniffed. Same old pong.

It seems to me the weird thing about fake tan isn’t the smell, it’s that so many brands are in denial about it. “This smells of apricots!” they tell you. “This smells like the exact meadow Laurie Lee romped through in Cider With Rosie!” And they do, when you’re applying them – then three hours later, WHOOMP. There it is. I suspected this might just be a non-negotiable, so I did some research (*asked on Twitter) and found out I was right.

“The active ingredient in self-tan is DHA (dihydroxyacetone), which reacts with the amino acids in the very top layer of skin to create a “tan”.  It is this chemical reaction that produces the distinctive “fake-tan smell”, the intensity of which can vary from brand to brand depending on the quality of the DHA used, and, to a certain extent, from person to person.”  says Dawn McDaid in a refreshing burst of brand honesty. She’s Marketing Director of Britsh-made St. Moriz Tan, which in four years has become the UK and Ireland’s biggest selling self-tanner.

So the smell is actually the thing that’s tanning you. It can be masked, it can be less strong if you’re using the good stuff, and it varies from person to person according to whether you’ve lucked out in the pheromone lottery – but basically it’s a keeper. It’s the price we pay for a yacht-fresh glow without the UV damage.

Now I’ve made my peace with the truth, I’m willing to forgive their gardinia-addled delusions and give Cocoa Brown another go, because it did a bloody good job. But come winter, when my limbs have returned to their natural off-blue, the only food smells about me will be the ones I spill down myself at the Rib Man pork truck.


*Of course, I am perfectly happy never sitting next to anyone on the bus. One day I might go the whole hog and empty a Kellog’s Variety Pack into my lap so I can read my book without Elbows McGee getting up in my personal space.


Beauty, Features, Gallery, High End Department Stores, Opinion, Perfume, Reviews, Skin, Uncategorized

The ultimate oils, scrubs and moisturisers – get thighs like Maria’s circa 1999!

By Daisy Buchanan on August 5th, 2013

I am still obsessed with Mariah Carey for these three reasons:

1. All I Want For Christmas. The huskies, the sled, the red velvet cape that was cute and winsome and in no way suggestive of a festive prostitute doing a photo shoot for a December special offer.

2. Cribs. Tommy Mottola era Mariah’s shoe room was a totem of excess and irresponsibility. Her fondness for black velvet and lucite made 16 year old me fall straight down the stairs of Bournemouth’s Bar Med while wearing what I believed to be  an homage to her glamorous sex worker style. I tripped in some bad shoes and then I walked with a limp. It made my subsequent post GCSE summer kinda lame. Hers were Gucci, mine cost £17 from an establishment called the Shoe Shed, and I later learned they were enormously popular among the transvestite community of the South West.

And finally, 3. The cover of Rainbow. The thighs. I would give up all my worldly goods (a three year old MacBook and some Roja candles) to rent those thighs for half an hour. If ever I see a picture of Beyonce in a maxi skirt, I think she’s been Google image searching 1999 pop culture for a bit, seen Mariah and thought “Huh, I give up.” I challenge any human being, whatever their gender and sexuality, not to look at those thighs and long to lick them for a solid calendar month. And not February, either.

Obviously the thighs have been honed and toned with some sort of strenuous exercise routine. (Which begs the question, which one? What did people do after Jane Fonda and before Tracy Anderson? Even Davina didn’t really exist as an exercise guru in 1999 – I think she was still wearing pleather with a split fringe.) Also, I’m sure the image is “digitally assisted” – not because I’m a horrid jealous bitch (well, I am) but back then she was Columbia’s show pony, and the lady artists of the era were all Photoshopped to look like sex cartoons, unless they were with MCA.

But the thighs are immortal because of their gleam. They glisten like the azure sea on the brochure of the sort of high end resort that gives guests actual Veuve, not prosecco, at the breakfast buffet. They shimmer with the ferocity of a thousand 99p Spangle nail polish bottles. They’re so milled and smooth and golden and impossible that they must have a threadcount. You long to throw yourself at them, not knowing whether they’ll yield like lobster butter, or bounce like the most expensive mattress on the John Lewis website. I will never have thighs as magical as Mariah’s, but I have rounded up the most fabulous oils, butters, exfoliants and lotions so that we can all have thighs that feel* like Mariah’s. (*thanks to a cease and desist order filed in 2002, I have been advised by my lawyers to state that I have not actually felt Mariah’s actual thighs.)

Noble Isle Summer Rising Cornish Hedgerow body lotion and bath and shower gel, £38 for the set

Noble Isle is my swaggiest discovery of the summer. Even if it made your skin drier than AA Gill believes himself to be, I would recommend it because of the painfully subtle sexy scent, which evokes 5pm on a 28 degree day in a deserted garden with a cool camomile lawn. If you’re anxious about oil and you like to wash and go, the lotion absorbs into your skin in seconds and locks in the heavenly fragrance of the shower gel. But your legs, arms, and anywhere else you care to apply it will feel like satin all day long.

Jardin D’Eden Detox Heavenly Butter, £30, and Detox Body and Bath Oil, £20

If you fancy filling your bathroom with the sort of products that will trick visitors into thinking you’ve got a ludicrously high end spa in your house (and if you don’t, there’s nothing for you here and I’m not entirely sure why you’re still reading) Jardin D’Eden is the brand for you. The scent is clean but heavy with geranium, which undercuts the rose and keeps it feminine but not too girly. The body butter contains Hawaiian Kukui, which is new to me, and I suspect it’s the ambergris of the smoothing community. (WHAT? That’s a thing.) The grapefruit in the oil is energising and reviving  – a potenially life saving property for all you bath nappers.

Elemis Japanese Camellia Body Oil Blend, £29.50, and Fragipani Monoi Salt Glow, £36.50

If you put nothing else on your body all year, including clothes, you’re going to need Camellia oil. Slather it. Beslicken yourself with it. Pretend Joe Francis is pointing a camera at you, and it’s his birthday. (Well, don’t, because The Patriarchy, but it seemed as appropriately nineties a reference as any.) The oil will turn your skin into something formed from petals. You will feel and smell so much like a flower that you  might want to avoid garden centres, for safety. Camellia is the scent of courtesans, famous for making people want to have sex with people who wear it. Be warned. The only thing sexier than you, oiled, is you scrubbed and oiled. A little Salt Glow in the shower, before the oiling, will make you forget Maria’s thighs, because you will be so enraptured with your own.


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Beauty, Celebrity gossip, Designers, dresses, Fashion's biggest myths, Hair, Perfume, Uncategorized

Happy Royal Baby!

By Daisy Buchanan on July 24th, 2013

crown thumb.jpg

An approximation of what may or may not  happened in the Lindo Wing yesterday, based on several press releases I have received

“Mmmmm,” murmured Kate, looking around the room sleepily and reflectively. “I’d really like some chips. Really greasy ones, with loads of vinegar.”

“Sure thing, Duchess,” grinned Will. “How about I go to that place on the Edgware road?”

“Do be careful out there!”

“I’ll be fine – I’ll use the escape hatch. I’ll be quick!” Will wanted to get back to his beautiful bride and baby as soon as possible. He also wanted to make sure Kate wasn’t left alone for too long, lest she sign anything confirming the baby name as Princess Consuela Bananahammock. He had thought she was joking, but then, she was still feeling the effects of gas and air.

“Chips! CHIPS! No time for chips! How will you ever lose all that baby weight if you eat chips?” The mysterious, disembodied voice seemed to boom and trill simultaneously. It belonged to a man who, at first glance, appeared to be Karl Lagerfeld. He wore a onesie adorned with tiny Union Jacks, each formed from thousands of miniature Swarovski crystals.

“Um, hello, are you with the hospital? Don’t think we’ve met. I’m William.” Will grinned sheepishly as protocol kicked in.

“I am Davide. This is Sebastian – grooming. And Katya – hair setting. Alice – hair polishing. Ivan for nails, Ben for face make up, Sydney for eyelashes and Sidney for eyebrows.” A line of people stood waiting, each clutching a silver attaché case bigger than the last person’s silver attaché case.

“I, ah, um, er, may I get you something to drink?”

“NO NEED!” shrieked Davide, flicking the locks on the most enormous attaché case of all to reveal many, many cartons of Vita Coco.  He directed his attentions at Kate. “First,  the hair. You had hair that once made the editor of Figaro cry! Hair envied by Kim Sears, girlfriend of Andy Murray, and World No 2 in the world of hair! Now it is your hair that looks No 2. So lank! So greasy! What happened?”

“Well, you start to sweat really heavily when the contractions begin, and…”

“SILENCE!” whispered Davide, visibly shocked by the concept of a perspiring woman. “It is OK. We restore you to loveliness with Shu Uemura Cashmere Shampoo, £27 for 100 ml, and Frederic Fekkai Jasmine Shaft Serum, available from Space NK. ”

“What about a leave in masque?” suggested Katya, timidly.

“THERE IS NO TIME,” rejoined Davide.

As the magical hair and beauty elves set to work on Kate with Giant Sleep Rollers, as worm by Mollie from the Saturdays, Davide started talking wardrobe.

“I have this – classic,” he said, holding up a vintage midnight blue Roland Mouret Galaxy dress. “The same that Winslet wore to the Oscars. A good dress, if you are British and your name is Kate. But obviously, you will need shapewear.” He tossed her a pack of Spanx Punishers, eyeing her belly with disdain.

Kate drew herself up to her full 5″10. “That’s very kind of you, but I’d prefer not to…oh, William, TELL HIM!” Davide’s face said he wasn’t going down without a fight.

Will set his jaw to its most diplomatic jut. “We both talked about this – all of this – and we decided that we wanted it to be fairly low key. My wife has just had a baby. No-one expects her to have a tan and mascara and whatnot. She was just going to wear this.” He gestured to a dark, shapeless garment hanging on the back of the door.

Davide felt the material between thumb and forefinger and sniffed. “A Topshop beach dress! From Spring/Summer 2006? Purchased, if I’m not mistaken, in the sale!?” Oh, no. Oh, no, no, no.” The ball was in Davide’s court. With a flourish, he pulled a pretty blue polka dot Jenny Packham dress out of his sleeve. Kate fell upon it.

“No Spanx?” she frowned at Davide.

“No Spanx,” he smiled, crossing his fingers behind his back. “William, we have a blue shirt for you, too. We need you to match your wife, to show unity.”

William was reluctant. He had become quite attached to his grubby t shirt. It was covered in baby drool. It made him feel like a proper Dad. “We’re showing the world a baby we have had together. How much more unity do you need to see?” Still, he threw it on over his t shirt and started buttoning with a minimum of bad grace.

Kate was beginning to unwind. She watched in the mirror as her chestnut locks, glossy once more, were pulled into undulating curls. “God, I’ve become one of those totes blow dry dependent women,” she thought to herself. “Maybe I’ll get an organic Brazilian style treatment, available from hair salons nationwide! After all, I am a cash rich, time poor new Mum!”

Davide’s work was nearly done. “Go get ’em, princess,” he grinned, spraying Kate with Illuminum White Gardenia Petals and motioning for her to step into a pair of classic black LK Bennett courts. William and Kate exchanged a look. “At least they’re not Manolos,” comforted William as he helped the mother of his child into the shoes.


Later that day, Kate kicked back with a massive saveoly. Baby Princess Consuela Bananahammock was fast asleep, and Kate spoke quietly so as not to wake him. “Mum,” she said to Carole. “You were right. Thanks for sending stylists and things. Davide was really nice.”

Carole sat bolt upright on the sofa. “But darling, we didn’t send anyone! You told us you wanted to be left to get on with it! Who’s Davide?”

Beauty, Features, Reviews, Uncategorized

The ultimate guide to skin primers

By Daisy Buchanan on July 17th, 2013

The fabulous Lottie O’Connor is an arts editor extraordinaire over at but she also knows aaaaaall about stopping foundation from sliding off one’s face…

The Cheat’s Guide to Skin Nirvana

In theory, I am currently basking in that magical, brief in-between stage: too old for teenage spots, too young for the dreaded wrinkles. I am in skin nirvana, waking up every morning looking like Miranda Kerr, minus the weird bendy selfies. Except I’m clearly not. Twenty-something skin comes with its own annoyances – shine/deathly pallor/general unevenness – usually depending on what has occurred/been consumed the night before. Add a bit of sunshine and a packed tube platform, and it all goes a bit Dawn of the Dead.

So, what to do?

I’m not a fan of the BB cream. Everything I’ve tried has essentially been a crapper version of my faithful Laura Mercier tinted moisturiser. No, I need something clever. I demand magic, illusion, wonder in a tube…

Step forward the primer. Not just any primer mind you – I’m not talking about those weird jelly textured things that make you feel like you’re being embalmed. I’m talking about the kind of primers that go under your usual makeup and create a magical version of you that has had 12 hours sleep and didn’t stop at ‘Royal Chicken’ on the way home. These are my top three. Between them they keep me looking vaguely respectable, even after a rush-hour tube scuffle on a hot day.

Skin Matte primerFor shine: Murad Skin Perfecting Primer, Matte £29

This is the best shine-fighter I’ve tried, and trust me, I’ve tried a lot. It’s tinted, goes on like a moisturiser and creates a veil of perfect matte that makes your makeup stick for the rest of the day.

Sampar glamour shot

For tired skin: Sampar Glamour Shot, £26

This plumps up, erases lines/pores and generally creates the kind of skin that you dream of. Pure magic. The bottle says that you should use it alone or over makeup, but for me it’s a perfect base – shove some tinted moisturiser on top and pretend you’ve had botox.

Clarins beauty flash balm

The old school all-rounder: Clarins Beauty Flash Balm, £29

This is the kind of thing you find in your mum’s cupboard aged 14 and proceed to steal periodically for the next five years. Sorry mum. A classic is usually a classic for a reason, and this is no exception. It’s like a power shower in a bottle – the perfect thing to help you wake up, sort yourself out and face the day.

Follow Lottie on Twitter @LottieOConor

Beauty, Fashion Tips, Features, Get the look, How to Wear, Nostalgia, Opinion

The rookie’s guide to liquid eyeliner (by a long-term lover)

By Lauren Bravo on July 16th, 2013

Eyeliner was introduced to the Western world in the 1920s with the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, and we’ve been getting in a tizzy over it ever since… Here’s how to do kitten flicks without looking like a dog’s dinner

Tutankhamun, early eyeliner icon

Tutankhamun, early eyeliner icon

I am in a make up rut.

I am the Marge Simpson of cosmetics – just the same wardrobe of Max Factor mascara, Garnier BB Cream, Bare Minerals foundation and L’Oréal Superliners in varying levels of crumbling dried-outness, stretching back ad infinitum. The rest of these items will get an upgrade every few years, or fall out of favour for a week or two while I play with something newfangled, but the one constant that always remains is the eyeliner.

Do you remember a time before liquid eyeliner? I do, dimly. I remember crayoning on khol, jabbing white pencils in my tear ducts to ‘brighten’ them, meticulously sponging on lilac shimmer up to my eyebrows – but it wasn’t until liquid liner made its triumphant comeback, around 2005, that I felt like I truly had eyes. Before that they were just plain, blinky holes in my face.

It all changed when the 50s and 60s stormed back into the present, kicked Dido into touch, and replaced the tedium of the early noughties with new icons like Karen O, Alison Mosshart and the queen of them all, Amy Winehouse. Women who gave great eyeliner. And because I was 17 and mastering a kitten flick seemed easier than trying to date someone from a low rent Brighton indie band, liquid liner became my hobby.


These are my eyes.

Eight years on and I’m pretty sure my look has been relegated to the retro cast-offs bin for longer than it was ever fashionable (when Kate Middleton got married in sultry panda eyes, it drew a suitably thick line under eyeliner’s reign as an edgy make up choice), but I don’t care. It defineth my face. And I mean that literally because without it I have an incredibly oval head, like a boiled egg.

Every so often I’ll have a fit of spontaneity and ditch the liner, because it does make my lashes look twice the length, but I just end up squinting into mirrors halfway through the day wondering why there’s a pink balloon with a mouth drawn on, hovering where my head should be.

So like Coco Chanel’s red lipstick and Cindy Crawford’s mole, precision liquid liner is my beauty ‘signature’ – and unlike my actual signature, I’ve become quite good at it after years of practice. So good I feel qualified to lay down my liquid liner laws. Ignore them at your peril! Or just comment below and tell me I’m talking bollocks.



1.    Find your liner life partner

Eyeko Skinny LinerL’Oréal’s original Superliner (£6.49) has seen me quite literally through thick and thin. I love it because it has a flexible nib, somewhere between a felt tip and the flimsy brushes of yore, and because it stays put, but can also be easily wiped off during application if I mess up.

But if you feel more confident with a sturdier tip, Alexa Chung’s favourite is Eyeko’s Skinny Liner (right, £10), which is just like the felt tip you would use to do your famous bubble writing on school projects (bubble writing really was the social currency of the primary years, wasn’t it?).  The inky nib makes it easy to get right up close to the lash line and good for a really sharp flick. Shout out also to Eyeko’s mascaras – I’m in love with the Mascara Wardrobe (£21), which gives you lengthening, volumising and curling wands to swap in and out as you please.

2.    Thou shalt not rush.

Michelangelo didn’t do the Sistine Chapel in half an hour, and your liquid liner deserves the patience of a grand master too. But once you’ve got the knack, it’ll take no longer than shmooshing on a bit of shadow, I promise.

3.    Eyes open!

Yes, yes, we’re all scared of accidentally blinding ourselves. But screwing your eye closed while you apply is only ever going to leave you with a weird feathery line and a blackened tear duct. So eyeball fear in the face, learn not to flinch and keep them open – it makes it far easier to see how your liner is actually going to look when you’re awake, too.

4.    Diff’rent strokes.

One of the biggest myths people to seem to believe about liquid liner is that it needs to be applied in one complete sweep, from inner eye to outer, with no stops, no reversing and no do-overs, or else the make up police burst out from a cupboard and confiscate it in the name of Dusty Springfield and all things holy. NOT TRUE.

The best way is actually to start by using little strokes, bit by bit, to build up a line that perfectly follows the curve of your eyelid. Remember that school science experiment where you built a standing bridge out of wooden blocks? It’s almost, sort of, not entirely unlike that.

5.    To err is human

If you go wrong along the way, don’t just keep painting over the mistakes until you can barely see – stop and wipe off the wonky bits as you go. You can get fancy with a cotton bud and eye make up remover if you like, but my preferred method is spitty finger.

6.    Think thin – at first

Even if you fancy bold, felt-tipped go faster stripes, it’s best to start with a skinny little line right up against your lashes. You can always go back and thicken it afterwards, but drawing it halfway up your eyelid from the off is a sure-fire way to look like an Avril Lavigne tribute act (Avril Latrine).

7.   Keep to your zone

The bigger the eyeliner flicks, the more chance there is they’ll look a bit ropey, or rub off during the day. So as a rule of thumb, the tip of the flick should line up diagonally with the end of your eyebrow and protrude no further.

8.    May the best flick win

Now, you’re a busy lady. You’ve got stuff to do. You’re halfway through that PHD and the cat needs worming and Storage Hunters is on in a minute. You don’t have hours to spend with a protractor, checking the exact angle on each eyeliner flick. I get that.

But nothing undoes the power of a slick lick of liquid liner quicker (or makes your face look wonkier) than mismatched flicks at the end. So my rule is: may the best flick win. Freestyle as best you can, and if one comes out thin and spindly, the other thick and blocky, pick the one you like best, wipe the other off and try to recreate it so they match.


Beauty, Confessions of..., Features, Nails, Opinion, Skin

Confessions of a beauty editor

By Daisy Buchanan on July 10th, 2013

broken lipstickI’m not quite sure what peptides are.

I keep telling people to use Bumble and Bumble Sea Salt Spray as if it has magical and or spiritual properties. It’s a good product, but it is just a product.

However, Kerastase Elixir Ultime really does have magical and or spiritual properties.

I have been putting my foundation on with my hands ever since I discovered mould on the brush.

In August 2011 I used six cans of Batiste and washed my hair approximately four times.

I would probably go without food for Chantecaille Petales, and I get grumpy if there is too great a gap between my first and second breakfasts.

At every beauty event I go to, I am convinced every PR I meet is thinking “You? The editor? AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

One time I was going to shoplift a tester of some MAC Wonderwoman felt tip eyeliner, but my friend Amy wouldn’t let me. It was sold out and the queue was crazy long.

I like Hollywood waxes. They make me feel hot, and the patriarchy doesn’t make me do it.

I have a semi-sexual crush on the lady who waxes me. She dresses like a pin up girl and has the best tatts. This doesn’t make the wax sexy. In fact, I do my best not to think about the crush during the wax.

I always wear strong man deodorant. If anyone asks, it’s because I’m cool and androgynous. In truth, it’s because I get ridic sweaty.

If one more person tells me gel manis will “ruin” my nails, I’ll lamp them. I don’t want nice, natural nails – I want pretty, indestructible colours. One day I might want to climb a mountain or do some grouting, and then who’ll be laughing?!

I am in deep emotional debt to the Trish McEvoy lady who told me eyeliner should only really go on the inner part of your top lids.

Every time I light a Diptyque candle, I feel like Tom Hanks at the party in Big.

I’ve saved several hundred pounds since I completely gave up smoking, and spent it all on Molton Brown Gingerlily moisturiser and shower gel.

I don’t think I’ll ever find a mascara that I really, really love, that loves me back, just the way I am. And that’s OK.

Half the contents of my make up bag are Bliss Magazine covermounts, dating back to 2008.

Beauty, Features, Opinion, Reviews, ShinyStyle Investigates, Skin

Introducing our Shiny Man! Owen Jones reviews skincare solutions for boys

By Daisy Buchanan on July 9th, 2013

At Shiny, we have an equal opportunities, open to all comers, love, peace and Kerastase approach to beauty. We’re mostly women, the industry is mostly geared at women, but this is changing. There are more products for men than ever, and more men than ever who want to use those products, so it is with great pleasure that we introduce Owen Jones, a writer who is Shiny of spirit but dewily matte of face thanks to the regime he is about to discuss. 

Having the complexion of a puberty-ridden teenager when you’re twentysomething and attempting adulthood is a right kick in the kisser. It’s a curse that comes with none of the saving graces of adolescence. Back then, at least my spots were soothed by The Strokes still being a bastion of brilliance. I could even gleefully don my Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles backpack without folk thinking I’d thieved it from a whippersnapper. But now I’m supposed to be a grownup; The Strokes have got shoddy, my Turtles bag condemned to holdall heaven, and pizza-face simply will not do. 

Heroes in a half shell.

Heroes in a half shell.


Over the years, my hunt for a facial fix has seen me ransack Boots, try doctor-prescribed roll-on gunk, and even slather my mug with Aquafresh, but the only concoction to settle my raging skin has been a tag-team of products crafted by MD Formulations.

A small splodge of MD’s Facial Cleanser morning and night foams up to soften and smoothe your whole grateful face as it gently melts away the daily grime, but you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Their Skin Perfection Gel is the real zit-zapper extraordinaire. Dab it on any blemishes after you’ve dried your chops, skip to bed and then high-five the mirror in the morning with glee. It’ll have already begun to clarify those pesky problem areas like a boss, and you might even (whisper it) enjoy the aftermath of exfoliation – heaven forfend. Within a week you’ll have to stop playing join the dots on your noggin because beyond just clearing up, this stuff will stop any further breakouts too. It’s magic on a Paul Daniels scale. 

 Admittedly I still dress like a wayward urchin and my hair’s forever mourning the death of emo, but at least with these acne-pulverising saviours it won’t be pimples making me look like an eternal work experience kid.

Follow Owen on Twitter @OwenBowen

Beauty, Department Stores, Features, Health, High End Department Stores, Opinion, Perfume, Reviews, Skin, Uncategorized

Dreamy products for an insomniac

By Daisy Buchanan on July 3rd, 2013

I don’t sleep.

Most nights, my brain feels like the Selfridges Beauty Hall. Demented, panicking, sticky, indecisive thoughts do battle with imperious facts that reek of Aromatics Elixir. Everyone is screaming and showing off and acting up, hundreds and thousands of tiny mind people all yelling for attention next to MAC, and I lie very still, hoping that by not moving, I will trick the thoughts into stagnation, as if they’re only powered by the kinetic energy of my shoulders.

I have options. I could get up and try to see my demons off with a crappy glass of Merlot and a Canadian TV show about grouting. I could attempt to settle myself with some self abuse (although I do keep waking my boyfriend up.) I could have a rummage through the Walgreens Drawer in the bathroom cabinet, a stashbox of oblivion inducing painkillers that are only available in a land where having the opportunity to accidentally drown yourself in a bathtub is a constitutional right.

These strategies are all very effective in the short term, but I bump into enough furniture as it is – after a night of drugging myself to sleep, there just aren’t enough tables in the world for me to fall over. It gets harder. The body resists your entreaties. The angry thoughts return, clutching receipts, demanding their money back and clogging the disabled toilet of the mind.

Basically, I am very reluctant to sleep with myself. But is it any wonder that I’m so unsatisfied in the bedroom when I make less effort to get myself in there than a teenage boy trying to get laid in the Tikki room at Tiger Tiger? I’m insensitive, I’m unresponsive, I lie slack jawed, poking a screen, squinting, fretting about work and trying to think up funny comments about the telly. “You can sleep when you’ve filed!” is something I sometimes growl at my greasy, sad reflection, but you’ve never filed, you’re never done, there’s always a gag, an opinion, a pitch, a proposal, the one job that will tip you over into safe success – the thing that will take you from hustler to courtesan. As a journalist, for every big name/tell your Mum/Julia Roberts gig you get, there will be ten you can’t say no to, even though they’re the writing version of standing at the bottom of your street with a sign that says “Anal for 20 quid”. And weirdly, they’re often the ones that keep you up.

But when you’re not the president, or a doctor, nothing is worth losing sleep over. You can hang on to your “Eight Best Hats!” or for that matter, your “Top tips for an email marketing strategy!” until you’ve evacuated the Beauty Hall of your mind and hit the pillow. And you’ll make more dollar if you invest some back in sensible sleeping patterns. Tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it. Or it will be if you try out these products and get a decent night’s kip. No more falling over tables.

Elemis Quiet Mind Room Mist, £15

Elemis 200.jpg

This is chloroform in cedarwood clothing. Spritz the bedroom, spritz the pillows, breathe deeply and your knotted self will be coming undone quicker than a useless Boy Scout’s neckerchief.


Floris Night Scented Jasmine Bath Essence, £55

Floris 200.jpg

Sometimes, when I’m working from home and feel like hurling my laptop out of the window, or at the very least sending a group email telling everyone I know to die in a fire, I go to the bathroom and inhale jasmine fumes until I’m fixed again. It’s as effective as a potion in a story book. Leave the bathroom door unlocked, otherwise anyone wanting to get you out might have to break it down.


Bubb and Dimples Chillax Organic Nourishing Body Oil candle, £35 (large), £8 (small)

 bad 200.jpg

This brand could be my favourite new discovery of 2013. As I edge towards 30, I am losing my scepticism about organic skincare, and starting to think that nothing is going near my skin unless it’s bloody organic. The range was created for sensitive skins, and it’s probably safe enough to eat – in fact, it’s very hard not to eat this candle because it smells just like warm milk and cinnamon cookies. Inhale until you feel like you’re on your fourth mug of rum enhanced Horlicks, then rub the warm oil into your neck and shoulders. Make sure this happens in your bedroom, otherwise you might instantly fall asleep in the bathroom, or at the top of the stairs. If you’re still awake and a fan of body butter, cocoon yourself in their Shea butter with Vitamin E.


Roja Dove Laurent Perrier Candle, £75


What could be more glamorous and sophisticated than retiring to your bedchamber with a flute of champagne. A champagne candle, that’s what. Sometimes, I try to trick myself into sleeping by imagining that I’m face down in a bee free lavender patch in the middle of Provence. It’s a technique that has varying degrees of success – but this guy does all the work for you.


Penhaligon Lavandula Bath and Shower Gel, £25

 Lavandula 200.jpg

If classic lavender isn’t going to soothe you to sleep, you’ll need to try reimagined lavender. This embraces you with sweet white flowers and fresh green leaves, energising you and your bath before it calms. This isn’t going to make you forget your troubles – but it will make you feel that you can clear your mental desk and get a decent night’s sleep so you can deal with anything that comes your way in the morning.


SAI SEI Mineral deep moisturising cream, £32

 Sai sei 200.jpg

I often wish I could work in my sleep, but as my lazy, good for nothing brain can’t seem to manage it, I’m letting my skin get stuff done. This is the perfect product for post bath application, as it gets absorbed into your skin more quickly than your index finger can delete a Voyage Prive email. The delicate scent will make you feel like you’re sleeping by the sea – and you’ll wake up smooth in the morning.


Beauty, Beauty of our youth, Features, Nostalgia, Opinion, Uncategorized

Beauty of our Youth: I wish I’d looked after my eyebrows

By Lauren Bravo on June 28th, 2013

Beware the tweezers, kids – youthful mistakes don’t always grow back

eyebrow tweezersFor the most part I take a pretty Edith Piaf-esque attitude to my youthful beauty endeavours – no, I regret nothing. The hair mascara, the Sun-In, the crimping, the blue glitter lipstick, the first time I stole my dad’s razor and used it on my pathetically downy, pre-pubescent legs (curiously about the only time ever managed to shave without leaving a rusty trail of blood running into the plug hole). But the one thing I will freely admit that I deeply regret is plucking my eyebrows off when I was 11. Oh, to paraphrase Pam Ayres, how I wish I’d looked after my eyebrows!

In Past Lauren’s defence, it’s hard to think sensibly when you’re in year 7, called “boffin” by a brutal hierarchy of classmates, and the only personality trait you’ve managed to make your own is being precocious in the make up aisle of Superdrug. I’d made all the face masks out of yoghurt I could think of, I’d done all the nail art under the sun, and I’d topsy-tailed myself into moderate scalp pain. The only outlet left to me that wasn’t banned by school rules or my parents was the little horizontal canvas between my eyes and forehead, and I wasn’t going to let it go to waste.

Of course, I looked like a fool. I gave myself what is commonly known as ‘the tadpole’, those brows that are pencil-thin until they reach the inside corners, whereupon they turn into rounded blobs, exactly like a pair of eager swimmers. Any admiration I’d expected from my peers was drowned out by the sound of 30 people chanting “Eyebrows! Eyebrows!” until I was forced to admit what I’d done and hide in the cloakroom. Hey, teachers can be cruel.

Plucking them off when I was 11 might not have been such a bad thing though, had I not continued to pluck them off when I was 12, and 13, and halfway into my teens until common sense took hold and I let them grow out again. Except, grow they didn’t.

No, the lustrous brows I was born with (and you can be over-romantic about things like that when they’re gone – in my head I had a hairy caterpillar Frida Khalo would have shit for) have never returned. This is baffling as well as frustrating, because I thought science dictated that hair grows back. It’s the mantra we’ve recited after every bad salon trip, it’s why we spend more on waxing each month than we do on rent*, it’s how Anne of Green Gables got her auburn curls after the green dye disaster. Heck, isn’t the reason we all own tweezers at all the fact that the little bastards are meant to crop up again a week after we’ve pulled them out?

But science failed me, and now a decade later I’m bound into an eternal, daily cover-up act; filling them out, drawing them in, combing up my measly hairs while Cara Delevingne looks on from the cover of Vogue, smirking. I swore by Benefit’s Brow Zings for years, then switched to the equally good but much cheaper Rimmel Professional Eyebrow Pencil, with a coat of clear mascara on top to stop them ruffling out of place. In recent months I’ve also brought out the big guns and started coating them in MyChelle Ultimate Brow and Lash Serum every night. I think they look a bit fuller, glossier even (which is weird), but as yet there’s been no miraculous re-growth underneath.

Maybe the solution is just to wait for the skinny brows trend to roll back round again, and until then try harder to get over my bitter regrets. Actually now I come to think about it, Edith Piaf barely had any eyebrows either.


*Not a real fact.


Beauty, Fashion Tips, Features, Opinion, Opinion peice, ShinyStyle Investigates, Skin

ShinyStyle tries: Priori CoffeeBerry Enzyme Peel and Omnilux Light therapy

By Lauren Bravo on June 20th, 2013

Can a skincare slattern change her ways? Lauren Bravo tries her first fancy facial

I have had only two facials in my life before, both of them as a teenager and both in the spa at Center Parcs.

For a beauty enthusiast this might be surprising (I once applied mascara during a 3am fire drill), but I just have a far stronger interest in putting stuff on my face than I do in scrubbing it off. Plus, white towelling dressing gowns make me queasy.

As a teen I had consistently spotty skin for years, and stoically worked my way through every lotion and potion on the market until eventually, savings account empty and epidermis resentful, I just gave up and started doing nothing instead. The spots went away*.

Courthouse Clinics, Wimpole Street, London

Courthouse Clinics, Wimpole Street, London

For seven merry years I continued with a regime that was erratic at best, lazy at worst, and have enjoyed pretty good skin all the while – but now at 25 (I know, I know, the decrepit horror) I’ve started feeling the urge to ‘do’ skincare again. There are fine lines under my eyes where make up often settles in goulish grey creases. Sometimes if I look at my pores really hard in the mirror, I think I see a tiny person who has fallen into one of them, waving at me. I have no intention of trying to fight time, but if I could make friends with time and persuade it not to turn me into a handbag, that would be nice.

So when Courthouse Clinics invited me for a Priori CoffeeBerry Enzyme Peel and Omnilux light treatment at their London Wimpole Street clinic, I leapt at the chance. Actually, first I asked “WILL MY FACE LOOK LIKE MEAT?”, remembering that Sex and the City episode where Samantha has a chemical peel, and then I leapt at it – duly reassured that my skin would be ravishing, not raw.

My lovely facialist Kelly starts by asking about my current skincare routine. Sheepishly I admit that my sole cleanser for the past five years has been those cucumber wipes that are always on a 3 for 2 in Boots. But, I hastily continue, turning 25 has opened my eyes to a whole world of skincare, and I would like her to guide me through it now please. She looks at me as though I am the prodigal daughter, returned.

I decide I love her when she validates one of my favourite pastimes, confirming that spot-squeezing is ok. It’s ok! “As long as you do it right,” she adds. “Most people don’t.” I’m pretty sure I do it right – candles, music, a glass of wine after.

My 'redness' scan. Fetching, yes?

My ‘redness’ scan. Fetching, yes?

Kelly then goes on to impart so much wisdom that I wish I had a notepad and pen by my treatment bed, and try to mentally inscribe it on the insides of my eyelids instead. I learn that genetics play as big a part in the ageing process as sitting in the sun drinking martinis; I learn that I should cleanse twice, once to wash away the dirt and grime of the day, and once to really get deep down into my skin; I learn that the teeny, colourless bumps I get on my jawline and forehead are most likely caused by product overload (which makes sense, as I treat moisturiser like a barbecue condiment – pile it on, three types at once).

Once I’m cleansed and absolved of my skincare sins, I sit in front of the clinic’s fancy new gadget, a ClearVision 3D scanner. Like that friend with a posh camera who specialises in taking the least flattering photos known to man, it snaps me with four different filters to show the extent of my wrinkles and UV damage. I look like a Doctor Who villain. I wait for Kelly to tell me it isn’t that bad. “You can see here, the deepest lines under your eyes,” she indicates my little wrinkles, which are now terrifying crevices “and there’s some redness here by your nose that looks like a spot forming.”

“But… it’s not that bad, right?” I plead. “No,’ she eventually concedes. “It’s about average for your age.”

The antioxidant-packed CoffeeBerry peel goes on like any face mask and smells delicious, like vanilla rather than a macchiato. It tingles just enough to convince me it’s really doing something. Then it all gets a bit Doctor Who again as the Omnilux light machine is placed over my face, under which there’s barely room to wiggle my nose. A light as bright as the sun is shone into my eyes, through my goggles and tightly-screwed-shut eyelids and, I am convinced, right into my brain. For a moment I panic. I can’t cope. I am Icarus. I am going to melt. I- oh wait, it’s quite nice actually.

Once my eyeballs have adjusted it really is pleasant – warm and peaceful, a bit like basking on a sunny beach. “It’s my clients’ favourite,” Kelly tells me. “They all tell me how calm and zen they feel afterwards.” I generally get my zen from Nutella and Seinfeld boxsets, but I can see the appeal in this too. After twenty minutes I emerge feeling like I’ve had a holiday, and my face is cushiony soft. I can’t stop poking it.

Priori Advanced AHA Gentle Cleanser

My swanky new cleanser

Kelly finishes by smoothing on a serum, then a facial SPF, and then lets me play around with Priori’s CoffeeBerry mineral makeup – much like my usual Bare Minerals, it gives great coverage and I look glowily golden. Nothing short of a lottery win or sudden promotion to Pope will mean I can afford the course of six peels and light treatments she recommends, but I leave with a bottle of Priori Advanced AHA Cleanser, vowing that I will use it loyally and not be a product slag.

At home my boyfriend greets me with, “Oh my god your skin looks amazing!” – which is the response we had pre-arranged by text, to be fair, but his delivery sounds heartfelt. A week on and my face looks smoother, brighter, more even and in need of much less make up than before – not the kind of difference anyone’s going to cross the street to comment on, but I can tell.

More importantly, it’s also heralded a new era for my face. Armed with all my knowledge, I’m doing proper cleansing every day and using eye cream and moisturiser in the way dermatologists intend, not slathering it on like butter on toast. If I keep it up, I’d say time and I are going to be jolly good pals.

The Priori CoffeeBerry Natureceutical Enzyme Peel and Omnilux Light Therapy are available at Courthouse Clinics, starting at £65 for the peel and £55 for the light therapy

*Not that I’m advocating sleeping in your make-up, kids. My skin is probably just of a contrary persuasion, like Superman in Bizarro World.

Beauty, Fashion Tips, Features, Hair, Opinion

The eight worst things about going to the hairdresser

By Lauren Bravo on June 18th, 2013

For a ritual that’s supposed to count as pampering, having your hair done sure is a stressful business. Lauren Bravo rounds up the worst bits.

hairdresser cutting hair

1) Trying to establish whether or not your hairdresser is A Talker. “They probably don’t want to chat,” you tell yourself. “They’ve had a long day, perhaps they’d like to be alone with their thoughts for an hour or two. Why should I bombard them with my blather? Why do we have to fake a friendship based entirely on serum and why my fringe flicks upward on some days and downward on others? Let’s both just BE for a while.”

Then after four silent minutes, the pressure gets to you. You remember all the cosy, women’s mag articles you’ve read about a hairdresser being a girl’s best friend, confidante, therapist and mother all in one, and you feel inadequate. Maybe they do want to chat, it’s just that they’ve judged you unchattable-to. WHY can’t you chat? You are a person, with thoughts, and things – why shouldn’t you share them with this nice stranger? Particularly when the nice stranger is holding scissors menacingly close to your jugular.

So you grope desperately for something to say. You can’t ask them about holidays, obviously, because that’s a massive cliché and would probably offend them. “Just because I’m a hairdresser,” they might bellow back, “it doesn’t mean I spend all my time getting in a tizzy over package deals to Zante. Talk to me about the G8, or Proust, for God’s sake.”

But you don’t know anything about the G8, or Proust. “Um,” you say. “It looks like it might rain.”

2) The repeated enquiries about whether you’re happy with the water temperature. Nobody in the history of hairdressing has ever had a problem with the water temperature. And if you did, the blistering skin or blue lips would probably tip them off without you having to say.

3) Staring at your own face in a mirror under fluorescent light for upwards of two hours while your hair is placed in unnatural parting arrangements, making one look like one’s mother in her secondary school photo.

4) Needing the toilet but not being sure if you’re ‘allowed’ to go with a head full of foils. What if you do something that weirdly affects the colour while you’re peeing? What if you get the big flappy gown trapped somewhere unfortunate?

5) When they ask you how you like your hair blow-dried, and the only answer you can think to produce is “err.. until it’s dry?”

6) When they ask you if you would like to purchase some of the products used on you today and your mouth says, “Ooh, not today but maybe next time” while your face says “wonder if they sell it in Savers?”

7) When the hairdresser asks, smoothing your beautifully coiffed new ‘do into a style that deserves swishy exhibition, what you are doing that night. Because obviously, you must be going out tonight. You’re a hip young thing, and you’ve just spent an eye watering sum on having somebody preen you! So telling the truth, that you’re going to spend it on the sofa trying to complete the American states quiz on Sporcle, feels like failing your hairdresser. They will look at you in the mirror with sad eyes and think “My art! For what?”

So you lie and tell them you’re going on a hen night, or something.

8) The tipping. Oh lord, the tipping. Never in life (not even when someone produces a cricket set and suggests a casual two innings) am I more uncomfortable and awkward than when tipping, or failing to tip, a hairdresser. What’s worse is that NOBODY seems to know the rules, and when I ask people their responses run the whole gamut from “nothing, are you MAD? It already costs the same as a small bungalow in Aberystwyth” to “I slip a fifty in their pocket and kiss their feet, weeping.”

You know if anyone deserves the tip it’s the poor, harried hair-washers – but it’s pretty hard to get to them when there’s a beaming stylist in front of you. With scissors. Just rounding up the price would be a straightforward enough idea, except that my half head of highlights costs £88. What do I round to? £95? £100? Is it meant to be at least 10%, like a restaurant? Do I leave a sodding £12 tip and let my colourist think I’m secretly in love with her, for the sake of maths? DO I?

If anyone can shed any light on the matter, please comment below. My split ends and I thank you.


Beauty, Fashion Tips, Features, Get the look, Opinion, Opinion peice, Trend Alert

What does your selfie say about you?

By Lauren Bravo on June 17th, 2013

Let she who is without selfies cast the first moan! But if selfies could speakwhat would they say?

Classic pout

“I’m a traditional gal. I don’t deviate. like mild peri-peri on my Nando’s, and Paul McCartney is my favourite Beatle.”

Extreme pout selfie

The extreme pout

Extreme pout

“By playing with the proportions of the conventional photographic pout, I am making a comment on the nature of our society’s obsession with lip-to-face ratio. Also, look at me all minxy.”

Satirical pout

satirical pout selfie

The satirical pout

“This is what people do in selfies, yes? I’ve heard it is, but I can’t be sure as most of my time is taken up with poi swinging, not using Facebook and working on my quinoa recipe blog, Keen-a for Quinoa.”

‘The shoes’

“As this is only 20% a photo of my shoes and 80% a photo of some floor, so you’d be forgiven for commenting, “Hey! Nice floor!”. But that isn’t the intended response.”

‘The legs’

“Legs can’t be narcissistic, right? They’re just legs! Lovely, practical legs! Legs for climbing mountains, dancing a merry jig or, on this occasion, casually lying prone on a sun lounger under a light coating of shimmery body oil.’

the mug selfie

The mug

‘The mug’

“You think this is premium Venezuelan java. It’s actually Robinson’s Fruit & Barley. Now let’s read some Sartre.”

‘The mirror’

“Isn’t this a lovely toilet? Look, they have those nice quilted paper hand towels and everything. Try to focus more on my sassy outfit and less on the fact I’ve just urinated.”

The ‘new hair’

“This is legitimate. I have new hair! I must garner opinions! If a tree falls in the forest and nobody comments on its new hair, does it really exist?”

sleepy selfie

The sleepy

‘The sleepy’

“It’s pretty hectic, being me. But please don’t be associating my tiredness with the same sort of tiredness that produces eye bags and sleep farting and a little trail of crusty drool on one’s face. Mine is a different, sexy tiredness. Je suis fatigue. Look at my artfully rumpled hair. Are you imagining me in bed yet?”

‘The dopey’

“Geez, I’m so ditsy y’all. I didn’t even mean to take this – I was trying to pay my council tax using my online banking app, but before I knew it I’d snapped myself looking adorably gawky with my mouth slightly open. Still, shame to let it go to waste.”

‘The sneezy’

At the time of going to print, this wasn’t yet a selfie trend.

the dopey selfie

The dopey

There is a boyfriend in your photo


Your heads are bent together coyly


His face is partially obscured because he is nuzzling your neck/kissing your cheek


The arms’-reach, almost, just about, could feasibly not be a selfie

“But it obviously is.”

Affordable Fashions, Health, Opinion, Reviews, Skin, Uncategorized

Behold! A holiday in a box!

By Daisy Buchanan on June 15th, 2013

What would you say if I promised you all the dreamy, fragrant properties of a perfect holiday for less than twenty quid?

Unless you’re three or under, or Tamara Ecclestone, and have no real concept of ‘what things cost’, you’ll laugh, remember the time your Mum and Dad paid fifty quid for a Teletext coach trip to Torremolinos in 1989, cry, become hysterical with memories and book a session with a PTSD specialist for £90.

Korres Holiday In Greece set, £19 from

Korres Holiday In Greece set, £19 from

But you can go on holiday to Greece for £19 with the Korres Holiday In Greece gift set! It’s a box of sunshine. It fills your bathroom with sun warmed lemon groves, beaches and memories, whilst leaving plenty of room for your towels. It will make you smooth, shiny and relaxed. Without going “all weathery” on you, if the situation in the UK doesn’t move beyond apocalyptic, you can’t afford not to have this in your bathroom. This will soothe every soul that’s seethed with the indignity of spending their June eating soup for supper whilst wrung out, soggy opaques rest on a radiator.

The Basil Lemon shower gel and body milk are instant soothing, smoothing mood boosters. The Guava body butter and shower gel feel a bit richer and ruder – something for the weekend, or evenings when you want to go out and make eyes at the waiters in Pizza Express. And the Aloe & Soapwart shampoo is perfect for hair that has been in the sea – or  in the rain, at the bus stop.

The dinky sizing is perfect for holidays – but the set is even more perfect for cheering you up if there are no holidays on the horizon. It’s the diametric opposite to going on a coach trip to Torremolinos with your parents in the mid to late eighties.

Beauty, Features, Opinion, Opinion peice, Reviews, ShinyStyle Investigates, Skin

We need to talk about adult acne

By Lauren Bravo on June 11th, 2013

When almost every other bodily problem is up for public discussion, why does adult acne get left in the dark? Writer Laura Jane Williams brings her breakout battle into the open

woman covering face with handSo the thing is, I’ve always had pretty amazing skin. And that’s a really shitty thing for me to say, because nice girls don’t gloat about such genetic triumphs. It’s like saying “No, I eat whatever I want, I never put on weight!” or “Oh, my lashes naturally hit the glass of my spectacles.” I know this. But I promise what I’m about to type will satisfy even the most extreme schadenfreude hankering.

From November 2012 to April 2013 every Facebook photograph of me has been touched up, on iPhoto, so as not to reveal the true state of my skin. Karma came to bite me on my ample ass, you see. I got adult acne.

I amassed a collection of painful pustles under the skin, positioning themselves in such a way that it meant natural sunlight made it seem as though Batman’s Egghead had invited his whole family over for dinner along my jawline. The fluro lighting at work made the mounds on my chin look red and angry, pounding for release. Washing didn’t work, makeup did sod all, and the stress of worrying about how I was putting my colleagues off their lunch made it even worse.

Seldom did my irritations do me the pleasure of developing heads to be squeezed in order to release the pus. Any PMT blemish before The Skin Debacle of 2012 would’ve been dealt with in that way. But my bout of adult acne? Not so amenable. And it made me fucking miserable.

The truly ironic part of this devastating turn of events – and truly, I have now come to understand how absolutely, cripplingly mortifying bad skin can be – is that at the time of my outbreak, I was writing an eBook about adult acne. Say what you want about the universe, but that bitch has got one hell of a sense of humour.

I used to think that irrespective of the odd pimple it was who you were on the inside that counted. Well I’m calling shenanigans on that. Despite the fact that I’m a smart woman- I graduated top of my class, pay all my own bills, date, have friends, work hard, play harder, that is, in short, do everything normal, happy, functioning, people do- I could not get past the disfigured face I saw in the mirror. Over Christmas, I didn’t even leave the house. Kids- that kind of behaviour just ain’t me.

But that’s just it! Spots send you bonkers! It’s all you think about! All you see! AND THAT’S NOT ALL. As a sufferer of adult acne, you wonder if every time somebody makes eye contact with you, from the sales clerk to your BFF, if they’re thinking to themselves, “Wow. Sister be gross.” So basically I just stopped making eye contact at all.

My self-esteem was never as low as it was in those months.

vitage-age-defence-hydrating-maskI tried everything. Two litres of water a day. Lymphatic drainage massages. Eight hours a week of blue light therapy. New cleansers, different toners, no moisturiser, more moisturiser. I felt better for being more hydrated, and I’ve since recommended Lustre Light Therapy to friends because it helped enough to be worth a try for anyone, but I still couldn’t talk about acne. I still couldn’t use words to describe the debilitating angst that I felt, for the first time in my life, teenage and adult, ugly. And that goes hand-in-hand with worthless. I felt that, too.

My boss, wise elder, took me aside one day, slipping a box of Priori Advanced AHA facial cleanser into my palm. She had me combine it with a Vitage Age Defence Hydrating Mask a few times a week, and Medik8’s Growth Factor underneath my twice-daily Nivea application. I got salon-strength exfoliant to use twice a week, and switched my foundation to a tinted moisturiser so that my face can breathe better.

After 8 weeks of intensive TLC, my face started to heal. I felt like myself again. I don’t know why I got a breakout when I did- hormones, my “big move” to London, bad luck- karma? I don’t even know which part of my solution to recommend to you.

But what I do want to say, is that why is it we can talk about in-growing pubic hairs, fanny farts, thrush and scaly dandruff, but acne is off limits? The thing I wanted most during my six-month pizza-face ordeal was, aside from a solution, an honest conversation about it. But I was far too embarrassed.

It’s only now I’m almost back to my old spot-free self that I feel confident enough to say guys. We need to talk about adult acne.

I’ve stated my case. What’s yours?

Laura Jane Williams blogs at Superlatively Rude and Tweets under @superlativelyLJ

Beauty, Features, Nails, Opinion, Reviews

Holidays are coming! How to get the most out of pre-vacation beauty

By Daisy Buchanan on June 4th, 2013

I grew up religious, and as such, enjoy preparation, fasts, feasts and ritual anointment. And nearly all of these practices can be observed, should you wish, during holiday preparation. Holiday prep is the ultimate Lent. Forget Jesus, in the desert, having a crappy old time of it – this is you, having a fabulous time in the run up to your trip to the desert, or beach. Observing every element of the festival will leave you broke and might well cost more than the holiday – but if you’re prone to pre hol panic, one or two well chosen bits of fine tuning will leave you feeling more like Jade Jagger and less “Oh no, where’s my hand luggage bag?”er. It’s better than wildly spunking major dollar on DVT socks and malaria pills in the run up to your coach trip to Dieppe.

Foot 200 380702_4456One of the most cheering pre vacation treats you can give yourself is a professional pedicure. My first pedicure was a traumatic, terrifying experience. A woman who looked not unlike He Man and who claimed to have starred in a reality show about salons delivered the sort of ritually humiliating experience that some people in Soho charge an enormous amount of money for. “WHY ARE YOU NOT ENJOYING YOUR RELAXING MASSAGE?” she shouted, as she crunched her foot as if her hands were teeth and my toes were Hula Hoops. “WHY ARE YOU CRYING?”

I did not go back.

However, I always wondered if it were possible to get pretty feet without experiencing years of PTSD – and you can, at The Debbie Thomas Collective (Hari’s Salon, 305 Brompton Road, London. Luxury pedicure from £59). The therapists do more to put you at your ease than a new boyfriend’s mum who looks into your eyes and sees grandchildren. As well as the standard scented scrubbing and exfoliating, there’s an amazing paraffin treatment which sorts out any dry skin or manky heel business. Choose the gel polish – it doesn’t chip and it dries straight away, so you don’t have to walk around Kensington in flip flops pretending you just got back from Dubai.

200 Radical-Skincare-MaskYou might be horrified by the idea of a pre holiday facial- “Dude, I could get SEVEN FISH BOWLS and a plate of patatas bravas for what that costs in Euros!” but if you’re like Elfine from Cold Comfort Farm at a dress fitting, or like me, you’ll take to the idea “like a swan bathing in foam” because you spend your life looking for excuses to get people to pour lovely products on to you. A holiday facial should make everything smooth, cleansed and glowing, lessening the opportunity to spots to burst forth the second you get in the sun, and it irons your face out a bit, so you feel like you’re on holiday before you actually go on holiday. The Elemis Skin Booster facial (£45 for 30 minutes, department stores nationwide) does all of these things – and they sit you in a magical massage chair, so everything is loose and holiday ready. It’s timed to take place within a lunch hour, so you don’t have to feel guilty about using time that was earmarked for writing handover notes or washing pants or switching off every single plug socket in the house. It delivers the holiday experience so effectively that if you’re time and cash poor, you could get away with booking one instead of a holiday. And if you’re really, really REALLY busy, the Radical Skincare Instant Revitalising mask (£40, Space NK) is basically the closest product to a facial in a bottle and it only takes three minutes. You will not go un-radiant.

It’s a divisive subject, but I am a big advocate of holiday pre lash. Semi permanent lashes sound like a faff, but they minimise mascara faffing – and melting – when you’re away. If you plan on a lot of underwater swimming, they might not be for you, but if you’re a little lazier – say, the sort of person who goes to Barcelona and decides their favourite thing isn’t the beach or the abundance of Gaudi, but, erm, room service – then spending an hour lying down in the dark having tiny bits of hair glued to your face will prove a rewarding experience. Browhaus (19a Floral Street, London, WC2E 9DS) will do this for £40, and if you look after them properly they’ll last for a fortnight. Anything near your eyes takes a bit of getting used to, but once you’ve stopped nervously touching your browbone and holding your palm to your face as if trying to trap a butterfly, you’ll be able to go properly low maintenance – I left all the eye themed cosmetics at home and didn’t miss them. And when you’re home, you can go for a £10 tune up – you might be broke, wet, cold and in emotional hock to some tequila slamming cad named Roberto, but you can keep fluttering forever.

200 Gatineau_Tan_AcceleratorYou may or may not wish to wax or be spray tanned – I do, and do, but they’re sizeable subjects and I’m running out of space (one day I shall write an epic love letter to East London’s Hula Nails, who do both of these things magnificently, but they are the Elizabeth Taylor of salons and my words need to sparkle with the ardor of the contents of a thousand Cartier boxes) but once you are out there, in the sun, in Factor 70 and under a big hat, I recommend the lavish and joyful application of Gatineau’s Tan Accelerator (£34 for 250ml, online). It’s great for keeping beach blown skin silky and hydrated, as well as reducing the redness of an arm that was stretched out in the full glare of the sun and reaching for the Aperol Spritz.



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