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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
In my last few posts I’ve been threatening to write an ode to pump bottles, so it was only a matter of time.
Beauty products, skincare in particular, come in all sorts of stupid delivery methods. The worst is bottles with droppers, but jars suck (exposing product to air and grubby fingers) and I can even find things to complain about with screw-lid squeeze tubes (let me pop the cap open with one hand, damnit!)
The supermarket is one of those public places where you don’t speak to people. It’s an unspoken rule, like on public transport, that everyone minds their own business and you don’t even acknowledge anyone else unless you’re apologising for getting in their way.
I had to violate this rule recently when I was looking at the skincare (just looking—I like to know what’s there) and there was a clearly stressed out dad next to me. I don’t know why his teenage daughter thought it was a good idea to ask him to get her some moisturiser without specifying exactly what to get, but after I asked him “What are you after?” he informed me of this and was palpably relieved that a stranger was willing to help him.
After apologising for asking him more questions (“How old is she? Does she have bad skin? Morning or night?”) I directed him to, well, not the skincare I’m about to write about. To be fair, at that point I hadn’t tried it, and didn’t want to forever live on in this man’s memory (or his daughter’s) as the person at the supermarket who suggested something terrible. But in hindsight, I could happily go back and recommend the ecostore range just as much as I recommended Goodness (no surprises there).
And so, after a three-paragraph loosely-related preamble, let’s talk about Skin by Ecostore.
After all the griping I’ve been doing lately I thought I had better post a makeup look to remind you that a) I do have a face and b) I put makeup on it occasionally.
This look was inspired by Elizabeth and James Nirvana Bourbon which you probably can’t buy unless you live in the United States (or if you’re despo, try eBay), but if you can buy it, you should, because it’s damn delicious. My friend Esme brought me back a bottle and I love it, I love the bottle which looks like a 60s cigarette case (is it problematic to find that visually pleasing??) and I love the smell. It smells like your jacket after a party where you stood close to a bonfire and then someone spilled bourbon and coke on you. It does smell like booze, so if you aren’t into that, then this is not for you… and perhaps I should stop wearing it to work.
I also took the opportunity to try the Glamglow Plumprageous Matte Lip Treatment—the first in a series of lip plumpers that I’m testing because I’m a permanent skeptic but am also permanently curious. There’s a before and after in this post.
I’ve been thinking a lot about balance lately. It’s something I’ve talked about a lot in my psych appointments and it’s what has been missing in my life, I think. I’ve been working a lot for a long time, taking on more work than I need to because I don’t know how to not work, and I don’t know how to relax.
Balance is at the core of Ayurveda medicine, a philosophy with roots thousands of years back in India, but which is quite new to me. Danielle wrote about Ayurveda a fair bit when we were writing for xoVain but I didn’t read up on it fully until I was contacted by the folks at Ayurda skincare. It’s about balancing mind and body, and taking an holistic approach to health and wellness. I’m firmly in the modern medicine camp when it comes to health in general, but natural, plant-based skincare is welcome in my world—as long as it works.
I’m not a spiritual person at all and I don’t believe in souls or anything like that, so my skepticism is hard to suppress. I struggled to buy in when their website said it could tell me my Ayurvedic skin type from just a quick multi-choice quiz (because I get a different result every time I do the Myers-Briggs test and find astrology novel but entirely made up) but there it was: I’m a Pitta predominant, apparently, which means my skin is sensitive, oily and prone to redness. Which is true!