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?

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Style Chameleon: Society Sorcerer

It’s a tea party at Miss Havisham’s manor and you’re all invited. Unpack your fingerless lace gloves, costume jewelry, and best ruffles because the dress code is your best gothic finery. It’s girlie and dark, a tinge of the Elegant Goth Lolita Harajuku look but more understated and wearable. Don’t shy away from jewels or hats, and more is more when it comes to tulle and lace.

Society Sorcerer

There’s a fine line between girl and woman, which the Society Sorcerer look tiptoes along. A debutante in her mother’s art deco finery, heirloom pieces and ruffles. I love the idea of a coven having a debutante ball, with innocent silhouettes in rich fabrics and gems. Look to Helena Bonham Carter, Vivienne Westwood, and Art Deco for inspiration – even some Tim Burton movies have that fancy darkness to them (especially Corpse Bride!) and even some old fairy tales too.

Nodding Blandly

Nostalgia is being peddled as currency, and no generation seems to be immune. Whether it’s the Boomers waxing poetic about a time that wasn’t really that great, or the 90s getting a reboot in the form of movies and fashion – we are all being sold a polished up memory.

As one of the kids born in the 80s, I am part of the generation to graduate into a recession and have Buzzfeed try to lure me with listicles of candy and television shows I should terribly miss. While I certainly share common experiences with those my age, there are some glaringly disjointed experiences I don’t share having grown up poor (by American standards) in another country.

Nodding blandly has become my go-to state when the conversation turns to reminiscing.  It tends to be the case that Americans think if something existed here, it existed everywhere but I can assure you that it is far from true. In all fairness, without having Sky or cable TV as a kid meant I was a little out of the loop in general because of the 4 channels our small TV (that was black and white until I was 6) received, none of them were MTV or Nickelodeon.

Due to the delay in pop culture reaching our shores, I found I had more common touch points with the Americans born 7-10 years before me so I often find myself straddling two generations in a peculiar manner. I don’t resent the American-centric nostalgia I’m sold because this is America and what else would I expect? Generations are generalizations, and I wouldn’t want to be put into a box in any case.

I just want to let other expats and foreign-born America-dwellers to know you are not alone. When a song comes on at a 80s/90s night and you have no idea what it is because despite the whoops around you, it had no success beyond the US: you are not alone. I’ve been there and I know how awkward as fuck it feels. Nod blandly unless you want to hear “oh my god don’t you know this?!” or “but this was such a big hit here!” or “come on, are you sure?”. When the talk turns to actors who were on that totally popular kids show, nod blandly because trust me you don’t really care and the explanation will just open a can of worms to more things you don’t need to know about.

Sometimes it’s worth asking about, because it can explain how and why things are the way they are. However, most of the time it is best to nod blandly and just look it up on the internet later. Nostalgia is a big emotional trigger and it is often easier to look it up without invoking a passionately intense explanation from someone which can sometimes leave you feeling stupid or vaguely unwelcome for asking.

Nod blandly now. Internet later.

DIY Heaven

There is a common theme to articles about saving money: do shit yourself instead of paying others to do it when you can. Now, I am not suggesting you start cutting your own hair or doing your own dental work, but there are definitely things we can do to ease back on the reliance on others and start saving cash.

Manicures
It surprised me that getting your nails done was not classed as a luxury here. Coming from a country where nail salons aren’t as prevalent, having a manicure was a special occasion type of thing. If you have a special event or want something intricate, by all means go to a salon, but learning how to paint your own nails for the times in-between is a no-brainer. I loved nail polish as a kid so I’ve had many years of practice to get a professional result from my DIY efforts, and there is no reason you can’t either. Drug store brands like essie and OPI are affordable and used by salons, and you can even get the gel versions if you want. Practice makes perfect, and it’s a rather relaxing thing to do!

Coffee
It still boggles my mind that people consider daily trips to Starbucks as necessity. I understand that caffeine is a necessity, but c’mon y’all. Make it at home! Starbucks sells its coffee from stores and supermarkets for you to get the same taste in your travel mug, and you can also help cut down on disposable cups an straws. Start slow by going every other day and go from there.

Cooking
Ordering takeout is tempting, but it really adds up. We all know the advice to make a big batch of something and eat throughout the week, but this can get boring. Freezing some of your leftovers is a good alternative to quick meals that you haven’t been eating all week. It’s quick to defrost, and healthier too!

What are your DIY tricks and tips?

Style Mood: Glitter Trash

glitter trash

Some people have a style uniform, an iconic style that they hone over many years. I am… not one of those people. I am a messy closet owner who just goes with the mood they’re in that day, or hour. Those of us who are stylistically phrenetic life are a Marie Kondo nightmare, with bulging racks of clothes that are all necessary but match nothing. However, despite embracing many aesthetics, we likely have a few different styles we group our outfits in to match our moods.

Glitter trash is one of mine. This look doesn’t necessarily require an outfit to have glitter, but rather the outfit not look out of place if you were pulled into a retro coke-fuelled fashion photoshoot at a motel in America. It’s the equivalent of the smeared lipstick at the end of the night that still looks cool, it’s unique, and it’s “totally from some awesome little vintage store you’ve not heard of” but the glitter trash girl will absolutely share the name of it, and invite you to go shopping next week. She’s not a manic pixie dream girl, but this is not an outfit for your office day job.

Chunky high heels, show off those stems, too many accessories, yesterdays wavy hair, sunglasses inside, brightly colored bra straps, lots of eyeliner. It’s boho, it’s punk, it’s a clutch purse you keep losing. Paint each nail a different color, dye your hair in a avocado green bathtub, swap bracelets with your friends, dance all night. She’s a modern day Studio 54, she is an Andy Warhol fever dream.

I don’t get the chance to rock the glitter trash look as much now that I’m older, but it certainly holds a very fond place in my heart and in my closet.

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WTF is a dime tho

I moved to America slightly before internet shopping was as ubiquitous as it is today, and therefore had to bid farewell to many of the shops I knew from back home. High street shops like Topshop and H&M had only a couple of outposts in the states, and ASOS wasn’t shipping internationally yet. Faced with shops I wasn’t familiar with, I kind of needed to learn how to shop again as an adult.

Another hurdle to this shopping challenge was that I didn’t initially move to a big city. I did end up moving to New York later, but during my on-and-off visits and initial year stateside, I was in a small city in the mid-south. That’s both a shopping and a culture shock.

This sounds dated now, but this was a time when department stores reigned supreme in the States. I was used to a high street with shops like Mango, Oasis, Coast, and Whistles on one side then Primark, Dorothy Perkins, New Look and Accessorize on the other. Department stores like Marks and Spencers, Debenhams, or Fenwicks were where your mum shopped. Harrods and Harvey Nichols were where your rich mum shopped. While there were some high street-type shops like American Apparel, Express, Madewell, bebe, or Banana Republic, and shoe shops like Nine West, so much shopping and brand knowledge came from Macy’s, Nordstrom, or Dillards.

Remember, this was a good few years ago before Madewell existed and Free People was as easy to find. Also, the location I was in also played a huge role in the new norms of how and where people shopped.

Many Americans just assumed that if it exists here, it exists everywhere. What do you mean, you’ve never been to Target before? How is Victoria’s Secret a novelty to you? No, that coin is worth 5c and that one is worth 10c, how adorable you aren’t used to the money.

I think I might have to make this a series, because the more I’m thinking about it there were many parts to this education. I want to do them justice and not end up with a long rambling post. Of course, I had to relearn everything I learned in the South when I moved to NYC, and then again when I moved to LA.

Then there’s the challenge of adjusting your shopping and fashion choices as you age. Ugh. No wonder I decided to quit buying stuff this year.

Marketing As The World Burns

User information is a hot topic of conversation today, and it’s been a long time coming. As someone who has worked in social and digital marketing, I’ve long been aware of the kind of data that has been easily availably. Acquiring audience analytics does not necessarily require complex tools, you’d be surprised at what common platforms like Facebook Business Manager or Sprout can tell you.

While somewhat disturbing, if people want to share that information online then that is their prerogative. They have free will and a social media account, so who am I to tell them what they can and cannot post? Common sense would say to not post your holiday schedule or SSN, but if you want to I won’t stand in your way. If you’re a person who needs validation from likes on your selfies, then you probably won’t be swayed by Facebook knowing your food preferences.

My issue with marketing is a bit broader and general, and probably more related to my getting older. I’m finding myself less comfortable or ambivalent to the capitalist insistence of urging people to buy things they probably don’t need.

No, this isn’t going to turn into a self-indulgent Tyler Durden speech, because if that IKEA table makes you complete then go for it, that’s not my business.

When the news shows us images of people dying and forgotten in Syria, hungry in developing nations, oppressed due to race or religion, murdered, suffering, or living in poverty; it can be difficult to care about an ad campaign for high-end alcohol or designer clothes. In addition to the immaterial worries, the material worries of manufacturing and waste impacting the environment is also an ethical worry for me.

I would rationalize it by saying to myself, oh well this is providing people an escape. Ad campaigns can be ignored, it’s their choice or not to buy! If this ad campaign didn’t exist, those problems still would, so what’s the point in making a stand? While all true, isn’t this all systemic of a larger problem where people think one person can’t make a difference so why bother? In and of itself, likely true but becomes an issue when large groups of people feel that way.

I decided to make a conscious effort in 2018 to consume less, going on a self-imposed shopping ban, which has probably affected my feelings to this too. I have no right to tell other people what to buy or how to live – and I won’t – but we should all really make an effort to waste less. Here are some small changes that I found useful to assuage my guilt about this, and maybe you’ll find them useful too:

  1. For every item of clothing you buy, donate or sell something you own. Same for shoes or accessories. Think of it as a club-style one in and one out rule. Maybe try to work up to a one in and two out rule.
  2. Buy less take out or coffee to go. I’m glad the plastic straw ban is growing more widespread, but there is still so much waste with plastic containers and cups. Use your tupperware, eat your leftovers, and save/donate the money saved.
  3. Instead of buying gifts, make donations in their name. Especially for corporate holidays like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day. Also, very apt for holidays like Easter or Thanksgiving.
  4. Clean out your things regularly. Try to donate, sell, or recycle instead of trashing.
  5. Think “do I really need this?” before you buy something. It sounds stupid, but it can help.
  6. I also come at it from other angles with: “why do you want this?”, “do you want the product or the lifestyle it’s selling? If the latter, what is it that you want that to solve about your life?”, “can you afford this?”, and “put it in your cart, and buy it in 3 days if you still want it!”
  7. For every purchase for yourself, donate the same amount to a chosen charity. Also, take advantage of Amazon Smile, or similar charitable price matching schemes.

List Making

I am a big fan of writing out lists old school, pen to paper. Not only is it harder to ignore than a digital list on an app in your phone, but it is much more satisfying to tick off once completed.

Some people who want their lists to be a bit extra are turning to bullet journaling techniques, but you don’t need a pretty list for it to be effective. That said, using the list as a canvas for your creativity is a great way to relax and soothe anxiety. Making a physical list is a great way to chill out your mind before you go to bed, and concentrating on an art project is a good way to decrease device-screen time too!

In the spirit of things, here is a list of tips for making lists. It’s just a little bit meta.

  1. Break out big tasks into smaller list items. For example, don’t just put ‘clean house’ but put down ‘clean bathroom’, ‘clean kitchen’, etc. This helps things feel less daunting so you’ll procrastinate less, and more manageable in a timeframe. Plus, more things to tick off!
  2. Keep the list were you can see it. This might be stuck to your fridge, on the coffee table, or by your bed.
  3. If you have a deadline for some items, put that on there too. You can order items with levels of urgency, or just create a column for inserting the date.
  4. If you need incentives, you can reward yourself when you have checked off all the tasks on your list.
  5. Some people find that using a sticker or something more fun than just a check, motivates them to complete the tasks to award themselves accordingly.
  6. It sounds like cheating, but I always put a couple of tasks that I’ve already done onto the list. That way, you can tick them off straight away. Your list looks much less daunting when there are already a few complete tasks!

Task

Duck & Cover

As children, we’re told to not judge a book by its cover and this is great metaphorical advice. Not leaping to conclusions is always a good rule to stick to. However, how many of us literally judge books by their covers?

The cover of a book tells us so much, from how the publishing house wishes to market the book, to what kind of story we might find inside. I mean, that’s the point of the cover. Whether it’s an illustration, a version of the adapted movie poster, or covered in excerpts of reviews, the cover is there to tell us both what to expect from the story, who the story inside is for, and whether or not it’s in Oprah’s book club.

 

I recently saw a list of similarly comped up book covers (I will add the link when I find it!) and then made these myself based on the tropes that always jumped out to me. Is the difference between a ‘cultural dramatic fiction’ and ‘chick lit’ just having a male or female author, respectively? Who decides when the name of an author is worth outweighing the title of the book? Why have stock images on the cover to give the reader a predetermined visual instead of letting them use their imagination? Nobody likes it when the movie adaptation is used for the cover, right?

I know that in the past I’ve not read a book because I didn’t like the cover, only to really enjoy it when I begrudgingly read it. If the cover were blank, would it be better? Do we enjoy books more or less when we know the general gist or theme? There is no right answer, but I think a good answer is for the publishing houses to find some new ideas when it comes to covers.