SKIN | What the hell is Vitamin C?

Well this post has been sitting in my drafts for far too long so it’s time for me to stop procrastinating and tell you why you should care about vitamin C in skincare.

Vitamin C’s having a real time at the moment, helped by the proliferation of vitamin C and vitamin C-adjacent serums in The Ordinary’s lineup. It’s a complicated ingredient, though, and it’s fickle—not all types of the molecule are created equal, so it’s important to know what you’re buying. Even the wrong type of packaging can make your vitamin C product a total dud.

So who should use vitamin C in skincare? Oh, you know, everybody. It’s one of the most versatile skincare ingredients, having measurable effects for preventing and repairing signs of aging, preventing and repairing dark spots and other pigmentation, minimising inflammation… it’s a comprehensive list, basically.

BLOG | How I stage my blog backgrounds

I don’t blog about blogging very much. I have lots of opinions about blogging, but they tend to go on my Twitter and never make it to fully-formed blog posts. (The real ruthless ones get saved for my little Twitter.)

One of the things I have opinions about is how blog photos are staged. I’ve gone through various phases of how I like to take photos of beauty products (and of myself). I use a purely white setup if I’m lazy, and I like using coloured paper, but paper gets ratty and picks up makeup marks easily, and is also Murphy’s favourite thing to shred.

I tend not to stage photos in the classic ~flatlay~—it’s just not me. Occasionally I’ll put a candle or something in a photo but truthfully, I feel like beautifully staged flatlays imply that I have a beautifully staged house full of adorable trinkets. The reality is more like a house full of crap that I shovel out of the way to clear the minimum amount of space I can take a good photo in.

I can never get excited about interiors ‘inspiration’ and minimalist design, as much as I’d like to, because it stresses me out wondering where everyone’s stuff is. Where are the car keys, the cables, the scissors, the cat toys, the bobby pins, the D&D dice, the spare batteries, the letter you have to remember to post, the washing that needs folding, the button that needs sewing back on, the pictures that need hanging on the wall still? (These are all things I can see from where I’m sitting.)

Writing for xoVain, we had to provide all our own images and no plain white backgrounds were allowed. That’s when I learned how handy fabric was as a photography background. All the Youtubers do it now, of course, with acres of sequined fabrics hung slightly out of focus behind them. My strategy is much more low budget!

LIFE | 48Hours—I won best makeup!

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that the makeup I did for my team’s 48Hours film was nominated for Best Makeup in Wellington, and it turns out that I won! I wasn’t at the screening/Wellington finals but got a message from a friend who had been there saying congrats, so that was a nice surprise.

This isn’t going to be much of a blog post but I wanted to post a couple of screenshots from the film and a link to watch it if you feel like it. There’s a kind of revolving crew of folks that make up the team and I’ve worked with them for the past three years. It’s lots of fun, although very exhausting—and I somehow always end up getting roped in to act in it as well. I’m in this one. It is what it is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

NAILS | Essie Treat Love and Color

Essie Treat Love and Color in Sheers to You

If you’re new ’round here, let me tell you one thing. I love essie. It’s the only nail polish I buy, because it’s the only nail polish I have consistently good results with. The bottles are adorable, they store nicely because they’re square, and the brushes are nice and wide and make it easy to paint one nail in 2–3 strokes.

I’ve been a bit disloyal to essie lately because I’ve discovered the beauty of the gel manicure. I’ve had a go with at-home gels before, with disappointing results, but a real gel manicure at a real salon is a real delight. I go to Ariana at Dollface Beauty Hub in Lower Hutt, and then I plaster my nails all over my Instagram story because I love how they look. (Gel nails have also allowed me to grow my nails to a reasonable length for the first time in years!)

The problem with gel manicures is that no matter how carefully they’re done, they can be a bit rough on your natural nails. Getting them on involves the manicurist lightly filing the surface of your nail so the gel sticks properly, and even when that’s done carefully, it’s inevitably weakening the structure of your nails.

I’m getting at something here, I promise: the new Essie Treat Love and Color range. It’s a combination nail strengthener and tinted coloured polish, designed to strengthen dry and brittle nails. It comes in a range of super stylish sheer shades, and I’ve been giving pearly pale pink shade Sheers to You* a whirl.

TOOLS | Brush Bar, the latest in brush-cleaning help

I did 48 Hours again this year, a few weeks ago. If you’re not familiar, it involves working with a team to make a short film over the course of 48 hours. It’s exhausting but also super fun, and extra fun this year is the fact that the makeup I did is nominated for Best Makeup in the Wellington region! I don’t know if I’m allowed to post photos before the finals, but I’ll post them as soon as I’m certain I can.

Anyway, putting makeup on other people means one shitty thing: I have to clean my makeup brushes beforehand. I have a shitload of makeup brushes, so I usually have a good selection clean already, but I have some favourites that are always dirty. Also, with 48 Hours you never know how what you’ll be doing or how many people will be in your cast until you’re kind of… in the middle of it, so it’s better to be prepared.

Handily, I’d been sent the Brush Bar and Brush Board* not long before, so at least I had the novelty of new products to try while cleaning my brushes. The Brush Board is designed to make cleaning brushes faster and more thorough, and the Brush Bar helps them dry quickly and in a good shape, without risk of damaging the ferrules.

FACE | Tinies

Miniature beauty products - deluxe sized recent releases

Everyone has a soft spot for miniature-sized beauty products. The subscription box industry is built on this fact. Loyalty programmes are built on this fact. Smaller products are a marketer’s way to get people to try something expensive without having to buying the full size.

Ever wonder why cheap products don’t come in deluxe mini sizes? It’s because most peoples’ impulse spending threshold is high enough that we’ll just buy the full product. Like, you know, I’ll buy the full size of a Neutrogena or Goodness product untested because it’s only $20 if I don’t like it—but it’s only these Drunk Elephant minis that could get me to try the brand when the full-sized B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Gel is $82. (I haven’t even caved and bought the Drunk Elephant minis yet… but it’s only a matter of time.)

Anyway, more and more brands are making baby-sized products and my cynicism will step aside and make room for them every time. Tiny foundation bottle that looks like the full size? Yes please. Teeny powder jar, sifter and all? Get into my hands.

SKIN | The product I’ve recommended the most this winter

mario badescu hydrating facial spray and goodness face mist

It’s technically the end of winter but it’s still cold af and it’s not going to warm up any time soon, in Wellington at least. With cold weather comes the combination of biting cold winds and dry air-conditioned offices, a great recipe for, uh, nothing really, unless you like being cold and battered by the weather and also being gradually converted to a dry husk when you’re indoors.

I try to drink tons of water at work—not literal tons, but at least two Pump bottles a day—to stay hydrated because that’s meant to be good for you, but also to give myself the excuse to get up and go for a walk every now and then, whether to refill my water or to go to the bathroom, again, because I’m drinking so much water. This has the positive side effect of keeping my skin slightly more hydrated and clear, or so I like to think.

In the depths of winter my skin needs a bit more though, and I know other people’s skin does too. At least four people have asked me how to combat the redness, dryness, flakiness, tightness, general sadness that comes with dry winter skin. Four whole people! I’m going to have to quit my job soon to handle the flood of requests for skincare advice.

The challenge in keeping your skin hydrated throughout the day is that a lot of the time, people are wearing makeup and aren’t so keen on massaging a layer of expensive hydrating serum into their foundation. The ten dollar solution? A bottle of hydrating facial spray.

HAIR | Making waves using a curling wand

Wavy hair with curling wand

I never claim to be a hair expert but lately I feel like I’ve figured out what I like and how to achieve it. I still see the whole hair washing, blow drying, styling process as a real burden but at least now I know my hair might look half decent at the end of it. (Despite the fact I’m technically qualified in hair styling, I’m not a huge fan of it and it’s way harder to do hair on your own head, too.)

I go for the air-dry-then-ponytail situation 29/30 days of the month but for a special occasion (like getting invited to the ballet this week—I went to the dress rehearsal of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of Romeo and Juliet) I’m a big fan of the chill wave. Not the music genre, but a low-key wave in my hair that hopefully doesn’t look too aggressively curled.

LIPS | Making my own lipstick at Blend Beauty

Blend Beauty Lower Hutt custom lipstick experience

Since I saw photos of the Bite Beauty lip lab in New York City I’ve been dying to try a custom blended lipstick ~experience~. You get to go along and they work with you to blend a lipstick to your exact preference and then put it into a tube right there for you.

Then a few months ago I was invited to the opening of Blend Beauty, a custom lipstick and foundation blending experience at Dollface Beauty Hub in Lower Hutt. Custom lipstick right here in the city I grew up in! And it’s a local business!

So obviously getting a custom lipstick blended is super fun, but it has some other advantages too. If you’ve ever felt like you can’t find just the right red or nude or whatever for you, this is the way to try a few iterations and adjust it until you get something perfect. Or if you have a lip colour you love but it’s discontinued, the team at Blend Beauty can whip you up a match. And did I mention it’s really fun? And cheaper than buying a MAC lipstick, even? (It’s $37!)