One In, Five Out

After a self-imposed block on buying this year, I have been pushing away the need to shop as an emotional crutch, which is healthier (I think) for my soul and bank account. When I found myself needing something – and by need, I’m being honest! One does sometimes need new underwear or a replacement white t-shirt! – I would follow a ‘one in, five out’ rule. So for every new item, I would need to toss/donate/sell five existing items of any kind. I wasn’t so strict as to say for every new black t-shirt, I had to throw five black t-shirts but any five clothing items.

This has saved money in some cases, and made money in others. ThredUp, The RealReal, and Tradesy have been great for donating, consigning and selling, respectively. Sometimes I think I hold onto items that have emotional or sentimental value, and that can make something harder to toss even when I know it doesn’t fit or suit me. I know I’ve put on weight, and objectively this should be a good thing as when I moved to LA I was about 90lbs (I’m 5ft 8ins) and wore a 0 or 00, so from a “health and medical” perspective then it should be good I’ve put on about 20lbs. However, as much as it’s not ‘politically correct’ (or whatever) to say this, but honestly I was happier when I was thinner. Clothes look better on me when I’m skinny, and I had less breakdowns when getting dressed in the morning. So there is part of me that cannot bring myself to throw my skinny jeans (I guess I am holding out hope I’ll be that skinny again one day?) because it’s like admitting I’m not thin anymore. It sounds so trivial and petty, I am well aware of this, but that doesn’t stop it being true.

I’ve also been trying to buy secondhand where possible, to further reduce my footprint. There are so many great online shops that sell secondhand goods, and since I’m selling my own things through them, it’s often better value to use store credit than to cash out.

I’ve not been perfect. I found myself perhaps buying more beauty items than usual, especially in an effort to combat my skin which decided to regress 15 years even though I had pretty fucking nice skin in my teens. I went down the /skincareaddiction rabbit hole on reddit, but have since come to the conclusion that the water in LA is just too hard and horrible to combat. I had no reason to try our new mascaras since I’ve already found my holy grail one, and nobody needs as many perfumes as I have. I’m thinking of setting up a beauty product swap at work, where people can bring in the products they tried and didn’t like to switch or share with others, so this might help alleviate some of that backlog too!

That said, I’m glad I’m doing this and I think it’s going pretty well. I’m saving more and not filling my house or emotional holes with unnecessary things. Downsizing is not something I plan on stopping once 2018 ends.

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My Teens Did Not Equip Me For This

I had relatively easy teens in regards of appearance: I didn’t have skin problems and didn’t need braces. While my teeth have thankfully continued being low maintenance (no fillings yet!), my skin has continued to give me a spot (haha) of bother from time to time. Thankfully, this has mostly just been a zit or two on my chin or three if it happened to be my time of the month. However, a few weeks ago I woke up to skin I did not recognize and it really threw me off. Near the corners of my mouth were dry, red and flaky, and my jaw line had a blotchy unevenness of acne that I had never seen on my skin before.

What consumed me was working out why this had happened – I hadn’t changed any soap or diet or habits, so it seemed to make no sense why it suddenly happened. Was it the result of going off birth control NINE MONTHS AGO?! Was this some odd acne baby I was birthing on my face? Was it a belated reaction to medication? It could be stress, but why was it manifesting this way now? I had no idea.

The dryness was flaky and impossible to hide under makeup, and I had to apply moisturizer (and then I started using vaseline – yep, the stuff out the blue tin you use on your lips – to avoid the white streaks and pilling that moisturizer gives you) almost hourly during the day. The red blotches on my jaw stood out against my pale skin, and there was even some unevenness and bumps on my forehead and by my nose. The dryness meant coverup wasn’t really an option, so I just had to ride it out all the while diligently washing my face every morning and evening, praying it went away, and hiding  in my office out of embarrassment.

I would never judge or make fun of someone for their skin, but I felt that’s what other people were doing, especially since it appeared overnight to someone who didn’t usually look this way. It was painful, physically and emotionally, and I still didn’t know why it happened. I started taking some supplements that were supposed to help, and continued with the vaseline and washing routine all the while trying to destress when I could.

This was two weeks ago and only now is my skin finally returning to the clearness it had before. The crop of acne on my jaw has disappeared, and the bumps have gone down or away, with only a few remaining that get nuked with creams morning and evening. I can finally look in the mirror without wanting to cry, or driving myself crazy with working out wtf happened. Even now I have no idea, and I’m sure my dramatics over having acne for 2 weeks is laughable to someone who has struggled with it for years, but when your teens didn’t equip you for it you have no idea how to deal with it.

Getting older is really lame, you guys. Fingers crossed I don’t have this crop up out of nowhere again.

Hair Recovery

Can we talk about hair tutorials and how-tos for a second? As someone who isn’t blessed with the skill to do up their hurr I am grateful that there are videos online explaining slowly how to do fishtail braids or get beachy waves. That said, why do all tutorials and guides assume the reader has thick, long, healthy hair?
Of course a messy bun or plait is going to look fab when you’ve got long thick hair! Have you ever seen a top knot made from mid-length fine hair? It’s a sad little golf ball that is flattering nobody.

My hair has been in a state of recovery for the last few years. After battling a rather nasty addiction, my hair and fingernails ended up showing the toll long after my skin and body had suffered the brunt of it. There wasn’t much I could do, except use strengthening nail polish from time to time but mostly avoid polish in general (so I could also avoid using remover) which was a bummer because my nails were a rather sickly yellow colour. My hair became very thin, and that delightful combination of dry ends and easy-to-grease roots. It was very tempting to cut it off and start for scratch, but as a person who finds comfort in hiding behind their long hair, I wasn’t in a place to cut it off.

Thanks to a wonderful, and I do mean WONDERFUL, hair dresser my hair has gradually started its encouraging recovery. Patiently we waiting for the most damaged bits to grow out, and trimmed regularly, so now the majority of my hair is the healthy stuff. It’s also looking and feeling more healthy, smoother and thicker, and even giving hints it might get its wave back. After having hair that looked like it had been flat ironed even if I air dried it, I am very happy to see a bit of life come back in the form of a wave!

In addition to my physical and mental recovery playing a [huge] role, I also decided to really pay attention to the products I used. It was initially galling to spend a lot on shampoo, but it turns out the good stuff needs only a small amount to be used and ends up lasting a really long time. After trying out a lot of different brands and products, I have a clear winner. Oribe is now my go-to for shampoo, conditioner, sprays, serums, and oils. It absolutely delivers on what it promises, and is worth every penny (which is good, because those are a lot of pennies!). Here are some of the products I own and use:

oribe

I legit wish this was an ad (hey, Oribe please send me anything!!) but it isn’t. I just really love these products. I even have the little rollerball of perfume because it smells so damn good.

So, the short story is: please don’t get hooked on pills because the detox process is brutal and you will show the signs of it for a long time. The long story is: as horrible as it all was (and is, for recovery is always ongoing), it has been good to focus on my health and seen progress in my hair becoming healthier again. It’s outward proof of the feeling of health I feel on the inside, and that’s encouraging.

I still probably can’t do a big messy bun tho. But that’s ok, because a wearing a hat is way easier anyway.

 

Beauty Edition

There are a lot of “cult faves” and hyped products in the beauty world, and while sometimes you can be disappointed there are times when it actually does deserve all the praise. Of course, people are different and just because I love a product doesn’t mean it will work for you in the same way. This is just my personal list of makeup or beauty products that I will cry real tears if they ever get discontinued.

Beauty Essentials-2

 

  1. NYX is perhaps my favourite ‘drugstore’ brand because it’s got a great variety, is good quality, and very affordable. I love many of their products but their lip liner is fantastic, and you can usually find a corresponding lipstick to match. I mention it in particular as they have a shade that matches my natural lip colour per-fect-ly and makes it so I can fill in the scar on my upper lip so nobody can notice.
  2. As a natural blonde, I am well versed in mascara because if you don’t darken those natural blonde lashes people will ask you if you’re feeling faint. If it’s better than sex for real is up to you, but it’s better than any other mascara I’ve tried. The formula is quite thick so definitely one to stick in your bra or waistband to warm up before applying!
  3. Rihanna is not only out there being a talented, funny, sexy, sharp force of nature but she’s also out there bringing us beauty products. Her super inclusive line is friendly to us who lurk on the far ends of the spectrum – light or dark – and actually gets that all undertones are not created equal. My pale AF olive-undertone skin adores it. (Shout out to the Kat Von D line too, which was the first brand that I know of to cater to us Eastern Europeans).
  4. Eye crayons are fantastic because I’m lazy, but finding them that don’t have a sparkle to them is oddly hard. Sometimes I don’t want my eyes to glitter, and Julep (which I found on Amazon) understands that. The Putty shade is the perfect shade for smoothing my eyelids for a nude look.
  5. Oribe (which is pronounced “or-bay” apparently) smells like heaven and all the products of theirs that I’ve tried have been brilliant. This texturizing spray is the shit, and one of the few things that makes my fine hair look thicker and interesting.
  6. The packaging initially made me think it might be a bit gimmicky, and while I haven’t tried the makeup products (except the blur stick) I have found their skin products to be very good. I love the Matcha Toner for easy and smooth application, and how it hydrates my skin really effectively without clogging it up.
  7. Yeah, Glossier has a lot of fans so this recommendation is hardly groundbreaking. I love this moisturizer because it’s so thick and luxurious, applies really well and has a neutral scent.
  8. I get this from my dermatologist, so it’s the only thing on this list that isn’t easy to pick up although it’s not a prescribed product so it’s not hard to get either. SPF is important and this is a light formula that wears very well. It’s not scented and absorbs quickly. There is also a tinted version which I am rather eager to try out!

There were many other products I wanted to include, but wanted to keep the list streamlined for brevity! Sephora blotting papers, The Ordinary Retinols, Guerlain Pearls, La Labo Soap, Oribe Brightening Shampoo + Conditioner, Burts Bees Lipbalm, Lipstick Queen Hello Sailor, and the list goes on!

What are your beauty and makeup essentials?

Oh, make me over

Browse any drugstore and you will find several eyeshadow palettes that are curated specifically for an eye colour. This one will make your blue eyes pop! This one will bring out the rich tones in your brown eyes! You get the gist.

As someone who likes to take all the help she can get with makeup, I would always give these a once over and search for a palette dedicated to making my grey eyes… be the best grey they can be. However, never have I ever found one. I’ve seen several ones for green eyes which I thought were rarer than grey eyes, and the ones for blue eyes do not translate to grey. Are grey eyes not as common as I thought? Is there a secret vendetta against those of us with cloud-hued peepers? What do you want grey eyes to do in terms of popping or enriching?

Since the jury is still out on that secret vendetta, I decided to do some research and put together some colors that are either scientifically sound via a colour wheel, or are shades that I – a person with grey eyes – have had success with. Grey has so many shades, it was hard to try and encompass them all, so get ready for some trial and error. For what it’s worth, the shade of my eyes is dark grey but they do have the grey-specific ability to look different shades when I wear certain colors or during diverse weather.

gray eyes

The general consensus and advice from beauty and design blogs was as follows:

  1. Purples, blues and greens will bring out the blue tint to your grey eyes.
  2. Warm browns and peaches will highlight any flecks of hazel if you have any (I don’t, sadly. That sounds like a lovely combination!)
  3. Greys and smokey hues are also a winner so go and get that smokey eye! In my experience if you use a grey hue similar to your eye shade, it helps to have a bold eyeliner look to divide them up a bit.
  4. If you want a neutral shadow, but still want to emphasize a tint then use colored eyeliner. I love how just doing your bottom waterline with a tight green line can work wonders on grey eyes.
  5. If you have paler grey eyes, avoid red or pinks.
  6. Your ability to pull off bright shades is not affected by your eye colour but rather your skin tone. I shall leave you to discover what works there!

Of course, this all is nothing compared to needing foundation and skin makeup to be inclusive so I am happy to wait. Especially since I can create my own now! If only foundation shades were so easy and readily available!

Style Chameleon: Barbie Barbiturate

Barbie Barbiturate is not here to glamorize drug addiction like its inspiration source of Valley of the Dolls, but rather give a sad and tragic counterpart to the perky pinup look. 

A retro 60s housewife bored with life and tranquilized to hell, but her cat eye makeup is still flawless. She’s the kind of woman who can cry without ruining her makeup, and she does not ‘ugly cry’ but instead looks benignly tragic. 

You do not (and should not) develop a drug habit to emulate this look, but we shouldn’t ignore the missteps of the past by pretending that oppressing and overmedicating women didn’t happen. Doctors are trained to believe we are exaggerating our symptoms and need to be calmed from hysteria, which is tragic enough without you developing a habit. Lana del Rey, someone who embodies this style so well, medicates with weed and that is a much better alternative. 

Barbie

Tease your hair up high (pun intended) and setting spray is integral. Feminine clothes, layered to perfection but probably not quite in keeping with the season. Accessories are a distraction, and you can ignore Coco Chanel and let them overwhelm you. Costume jewelry because you’re acting your way through a sad life – are you a Neely or an Anne? – and don’t forget your signature scent. Something classic like Shamilar, perhaps? Wear sunglasses and a big hat to avoid the sunlight, and lots of silk to drown in. 

It seems too gauche to cite or show inspirations from the long list of women who died from barbiturate overdoses, but I recommend you learn about who they are and what led them down that path. Instead, watch Valley of the Dolls (or read the book because it’s better!) and lust after everything the gorgeous Sharon Tate wears. Watch Lana del Rey music videos, and channel any woman who made the mistake of falling in love with Don Draper on Mad Men because that’s her. 

“Just hair”

I’m not sure where my hair is in that supposed 7-year cycle, but I can only hope the next 7 bring better luck. Did I break a mirror or maybe piss of the Follicle Gods? I am sure most people have a ‘grass is always greener’ relationship with their hair. Wishing it were thicker, longer, darker, lighter, straighter, curlier, whatever, from what they already have. As with many of our other insecurities, it’s very probable that our hair worries are just not noticed by other people (who are also respectively fretting about their hair). Oh, it’s “just hair”! Just a silly thing only women preoccupy themselves with, right?

Maybe it’s more than that tho.

Society tells us that the ideal is that thick, shiny hair that can be pulled into a big messy bun, preferably blonde but immaculate highlights will do. If spending hours of time and money on your hair is something you want to do, then I will support you, but I can’t get on board with a society practically forcing women into treatments, bleaching, relaxing, and the nagging feeling the hair we were born with isn’t good enough. Is this us overly worrying about our ‘do’ or multimillion dollar industry dedicated to controlling the bodies of women?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the changes I want for my hair are decisions made by me or the culture I live in. Do I want thicker hair because I feel my fine hair is inadequate, or because I personally want more volume?
Yes, I would make my hair naturally thicker and longer if I could. I would give a wave to my strands that hang as straight as if I use a straightener. I freely admit to having emotional breakdowns when my hair just refuses to cooperate with what I want to do.

Hair is a self-expression, so it’s pretty important to work out why you want the hair you do. Nobody else should have a say in how you do your hair, and we should be free from the hair-related stereotypes (there are quite a lot when you stop to think about it!) to decide too. There is more toxicity surrounding hair than just sulphates, and we should be less quick to buy into past ideas or blindly follow what we’re told are beauty norms.

We should talk more about how pregnancy, illness or addiction can alter your hair forever but that it’s ok. We should talk more about how touching hair that does not belong to you is not ok – and why it’s not bloody ok. Some people will never be able to achieve that shiny, ‘rich girl’ hair but that it’s ok. It should be a generally accepted rule that “is that your own hair?” is always answered with “yes” because it’s either their own hair or hair they own. Instagram and Pinterest are not always real – there is a lot of Photoshop and wigs out there masquerading as hair that is attainable without such aids. If you have to wash your hair every day, then don’t let the blogs make you feel bad about it. If you only have to wash it once every fortnight, then that’s cool too. Some hair does not belong to you, and you need to respect that. The hair style someone has may not have been chosen by them (due to illness or abuse, for example). It is worth saying again: do not ask to touch or touch without asking unless that person is paying you to touch their hair. 

It’s your hair, and whether you’re male or female shouldn’t matter in what you decide to do with it. How it is styled should not affect how people view or treat you. It’s all very well to say these things, but we need to start individually following through. How many times do you make guesses about a person because of their hair? Maybe more than you think.

I can’t change the world, society at large, or the hair industry, but I can change myself. I can question why I hate my hair, and what influences my opinion to your hair. I can try to challenge stereotypes or assumptions when I see them being made. We all have bad hair days, but maybe we will have less of them when we challenge why we think it’s bad.

 

Stay Golden

I only recently started getting into skincare products, and I know I’m late to the game. The rise of brands like Glossier and The Ordinary, as well as the collaborative community of reddit’s skincare addition board, skincare is a lot less daunting to approach.

Admittedly, I am pretty lucky in that I haven’t had acne and don’t sunburn, so I’ve been able to coast on face wipes and toner. Now that age (sob) is catching up, and cameras are HD, I’m starting to be more critical and thoughtful in my quest for poreless and ageless skin.

The most fun, in my opinion, has been learning about what things are and what they do. The difference between BHA’s and AHA’s, what rose hip oil is for, and finding those HG (holy grail) products. I am definitely not an expert, but I’m enjoying learning about Korean beauty products, and dupes of expensive brands.

The key things I’ve learned to stay golden with your skincare may seem basic, but I want to pass them on regardless:

  1. Moisturize your face. It won’t make you break out. Find a light one, preferably with sunscreen in, and do it twice a day. Maybe more in winter.
  2. Don’t freak out if you do break out after starting a new product, as your skin may be just purging all the bad toxins.
  3. Take off all your makeup, and wash your face with warm (not hot) water every night. I personally also use a different washcloth/flannel every time, which I think might help too.
  4. Don’t cake on foundation everyday. You can if you want to, but your skin will appreciate the time to breathe.
  5. Don’t touch your face. Every one always says not to pick, which is true, but I encourage you not to touch it in general. Germs from your hands can easily transfer. This includes leaning your cheek on your hand, or prodding at a zit.

I couldn’t use the expression ‘stay golden’ and not include a gold mood board, especially when this time of year calls for some shimmer!

gold mood