Friday, 28 November 2008

#84 What Goes Up...

Here is what has got me impressed:

Nivea SOS Lip Balm - good stuff this. More of a cream than an oily balm, it glides on, stays put for hours and provides tangible protection on blustery days. I like it a lot more than the Blistex Intensive Moisturiser, as the Nivea version does away with the mentholy sting & medicinal pong (and opts for a candy-sweet (though not cloying) scent instead).

Jemma Kidd Professional Team Collection - this lady has really got her act together and come up with a brand new line-up that puts to rights the problems with the former products. It's slicker, smarter, formulas work a lot harder, the packaging looks better and it has the well-thought-out feel of a premium line - hence it's new position in Space.NK (it will have left Boots stores by the end of Jan 09). The big hitters? The I-Perfector Prep & Brighten Duo - a double-ended pencil with a flesh toned eyeliner and concealer, both of which effectively cancels out redness and the I-Rescue Bio-Complex Cover - a skin-tinted treatment, concealer & brightener, which has that rare quality of actually buffing away shadows minus chalky crepeiness. Very nice indeed.

NEOM Organic Bath Oil: RESTORE - Two of my favourite essential oils, Jasmine & Sandalwood, are combined in this cosseting blend that has thrice pulled off a rare feat: making me smile at the end of a really, really crappy day. Two small capfuls in a big hot bath fills the room with fragrance, unknots the head, nourishes the skin and makes everything a bit more bearable. A lot to ask from a bath oil, but I'll be darned if this doesn't pull it off.

Here is what has got me depressed:

Urban Retreat The Cleanser - this formula really upsets me. It smells lovely, feels good on the skin, contains lots of thumbs-up ingredients...yet...yet...after just a few days use, I tend towards breakouts (having been clear for months) AND my skin takes on a slightly sensitized, prone-to-stinging feel (with heightened redness around the t-zone). There is definitely something in this pot that is not my face's friend. I do not like you either.

Aveda Damage Remedy Restructuring Shampoo - I LOVE this. BUT (and it's a really big but), after constant use my hair starts to take on the look and feel of the bottom of a ne'er washed chip pan. I rinse and rinse and rinse, but to no avail. It's the Jekyll & Hyde of my bathroom - sometimes producing shiny and bouncy locks; other times leaving me looking like a bedraggled extra from a street-scene in Oliver. I've taken to using it every other wash (rotating with Bumble & Bumble Blue Sundays Shampoo, which gets hair really clean). It's too good to ditch entirely though. How good? I've not had a split end in years...

Monday, 24 November 2008

#83 Just for starters...

Has anyone seen the latest Just For Men advert? Good lord. Two little girls, who the audience must assume have recently lost their mother, run up to their father and beg him to dye his hair in order that he might be able to face the world afresh and hopefully find a new partner. Father dyes his hair and gets a first date, during which he takes a picture of himself with 'prospective new wife' on the old camera phone (too keen? surely not?) which he then sends to his children, who appear to be home alone while he is out schmoozing. The giggling girls then jump up and down, giving one another high fives, overjoyed at the image of their father hugging a strange woman. Based on a true story. Hmmm.

What intrigues me most about the advert is the type of man it is supposed to appeal to. My husband, a modern (though not metrosexual) male, recoils each and every time it comes onto the TV and despite being beset by his first smattering of greys, the idea of besmirching his head with a product as out-of-touch as Just For Men (the Old Spice of the hair dye world) is far worse than a future of salt n pepper strands. I heartily agree with his logic. In fact, I'd be far less disturbed by the discovery of a hidden porn stash under the bed than I would be if I stumbled across a seedy (and heaven forbid, empty!) box of Just For Men.

As far as I can tell, the average man is far less likely to fall for inflated cosmetic claims than the average woman. The idea of precious diamond dust, amazonian plants, bio-chemical research, space-travel tests etc etc, might get women pulling out the platinum card (and sales statistics would seems to support this), but men, it seems, are not amused. They want high performance, yes, but minus hyperbole and gimmickry - and are suckers for slick, chic packaging that won't embarrass them should it fall out of the gym bag and into the middle of the men's locker room.

I canvassed a swathe of my most stylish male friends and here are the products that got their hearts-a-racing:

Shiseido Men Cleansing Foam
Clinique Pore Minimizer Oil Blotting Sheets
Lancome Men Ultimate Cleansing Gel
Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant
Clarins Men Fatigue Fighter

What do they have in common? Simple, modern design; practical application and handling; effective formulas with visible results and, of course, not a single, empty 'love or your money back' promise hinted at on the pack (or in any of the campaigns). Even if Lancome hadn't roped Clive Owen into the advertising act (and according to the aforementioned menfolk) this just for men lot would still be just the ticket.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

#82 Music to make-up to...

Musico. Sometimes my alarm-clock-led life means that I can manage a week or more without listening to any music...not a note. When this happens, my mind and body begin to subconsciously crave a good song and the only antidote to my ensuing fidgety panic is an entire morning, hours on end, spent shuttling through my favourite tracks on my i-pod, filling my little flat with a pounding bass, transporting vocals and medicinal melodies. The day can be rainy, snowy, gusty or befogged, it doesn't matter... Midlake, Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys, Laura Marling and Vampire Weekend all have the power to coax me out of a stormy-weather or inner-storm-induced stupour. Music is my elixir and soul-saver, centering my head and heart once more, reminding me of what matters, how to smile, laugh and dance like Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club (I try my hardest, never quite pulled it off) and also helping me to forget that I'm old enough to know who Molly Ringwald is and how her Breakfast Club dance was literally the coolest thing I had ever seen. Like. Ever.

Then there's the way in which a good tune can verge on being alchemistic - banishing torpor, motivating me on the worst of days, instilling confidence even when I'm feeling self-conscious. Which is why I think the music you pick to make your face up to is just as important as the make-up itself. It helps to shape the face in the mirror long before you've rouged and contoured it, helps refocus the eyes, beckoning towards an inner Cyndi Lauper, Siouxsie Sioux, Blondie or Vanessa Paradis. For big nights out, my friends and I have a playlist - a set of cheeky tunes that often result in false lashes and glittery lids, other times in cherry lips and indigo liner... the tune, like a mystical snake charmer's melody, guiding the hand across the face in previously unstudied ways. I've made some regrettable mistakes and incredibly fun faux-pas over the years, all while listening to a battery of unsuitable tunes. Power ballads invariably coax out a Bonnie Tyler-esque 80s popstar; love songs a slightly too-powder-and-painted pretty girl; dance tracks an acid-trip teenager... but through trial and error I've honed a pretty perfect playlist - all the songs managing to achieve my main aim of a night out: feel good, feel like me, just a bit more adventurous, expressive, a bit braver...

The Arctic Monkeys: Fluorescent Adolescent - let your hair down, perfect a naughty smile

Muse: Supermassive Black Hole - sexy, bold and head held high

Justin Timberlake: What Goes Around - heroine (not heroin) chic with a dramatic dark eye

Anita Ward: Ring My Bell - Disco curls, ruby lips

A warm-up act to support the headliner, lipstick and lashes... and make your heart beat that little bit faster. Hey Mr DJ...