Sweet Sixteen: Karaja Super Longwear Semi-Permanent Soft Eyeliner

Aw! All done: here’s the last entry in the brightandbeautyfull.com Sweet Sixteen Sweepstakes. The sixteenth and final product was only slightly influenced by the discovery that I had very little make up in the running.

I went and got a makeover at a counter in a fancy department store — Dior in Brown Thomas — before heading the launch party for my first novel*, and among the many cool things the make up lady did was to line my upper inner lid in black.

Now, I am capable enough to just about poke my own eye out putting on shades, so the notion of going anywhere near my eyeball with a pencil-shaped object made me extremely nervous. I got the hang of it, though, because it looked so good, and on days when I can’t be arsed to do the whole mascara-and-eyeshadow thing, a little bit of a line in the inside of my upper lids is all I need to feel like a slightly vampy all-natural girl.

My first favourite was Origins Automagically ™ Eye Lining Pencil, but I ran out and then couldn’t buy it in Ireland anymore. {This is true, right?} Then, it didn’t matter anymore because I got Karaja’s Super Longwear Semi-Permanent Soft Eyeliner, and haven’t looked back since.

Oh, wow, didn’t even see what I did there. <– And there! Okay, enough with the cleverness. I love this liner, and I am using it down to the nub. I’ve consulted my archives, and am stunned to discover that I have only been using this for little over a year. Stunned! This is such a big part of my regime, that it feels as though I have been using this forever, if not two years at least.

I will admit to being a bit freaked out by the semi-permanent aspect of this. It does have amazing staying power, but it also does require at least one touch-up in the day. On the other hand, it is a bit of a bitch to remove. I have gone through more than my normal allotment of cotton pads. But then, on the other other hand, even when I blink like a … a bunny? Do bunnies blink really fast? Even when I blink really fast when applying, it never ends up on my bottom inner lid, never mind the rest of my face.

It’s also sort of been my gateway product as far as The Smoky Eye is concerned. I have always been afraid of TSE, which is silly, because it is totally hot, and using the Karaja pencil eased me into the whole look gently, easily, and unsmearingly.

Next long-from feature: Desert Island Sponge Bag {or Wash Bag, or Toiletries Bag, depending upon from whence ye hail.}

€10/£9.99/$13-ish, plus P&H via euro-products.co.uk

*which is also available on Kindle.

Sweet Sixteen: Almost There!

Well, here we are, almost on the last installment* in the first long-form editorial feature on brightandbeautyfull.com. I just had a bad moment in which I thought that I had miscounted and actually had three more to do, rather only one. It gave me pause, in that it A} reinforced my belief that I suffer from dyscalculia (must self-diagnose myself, there has to be a test I can take online) and B} made me wonder how the previous fifteen added up, in terms of categories covered. Like, if I had to survive on a desert island with only these products, could I?!?!?

Well, I’d certainly smell good, and have incredibly soft skin. No less than six of the products had to do with exfoliating, moisturising, oiling and scenting the bod. I think this is a good thing, because of predators, you know, on the desert island. They’d be put off by all that perfume, right? So thanks to Bliss Vanilla + Bergamot, Jo Malone Body Créme, Elemis Frangipani Monoi Moisturing Oil, the L’Occitane Almond line, the Lush Karma line, and Nuxe’s Huile Prodigieuse, I am safe from… I don’t know, monkeys?

Skincare-wise, I’ve got Clinique’s Clarifying Toner and REN’s Cleansing Milk, Dermalogica’s Soothing Booster to zap away those pesky zits, Yes to Carrots Exfoliating Mud Mask, and Lancôme’s Visionnaire to keep me youthful while I wait for the rescue ship. Perhaps if I had realised I was going to be shipwrecked, I would have packed some SPF.

As far as make up goes, I’ve got Benefit’s Erase Paste, Mac’s Beauty Powder, and Too Faced Caribbean in a Compact which is surely redundant. Also surplus to requirements, at least in the middle of the ocean, is Voya’s Lazy Days seaweed bath.

Hmmm: no lip balm, and I am as addicted to that as I am to shampoo & conditioner — and no shampoo & conditioner?!? No regular moisturiser or serum, nothing for my brows. Since I already know what my last item is, I see that I may have to do something else along the lines of… My Desert Island Sponge Bag???

Too lazy to link — already gearing up for the laid-back island lifestyle — but if you click on the Sweet Sixteen tag or category link below, it’ll take you where you want to go.

*Appearing tomorrow

Sweet Sixteen: REN Hydra-Calm Cleansing Milk

This is number fifteen in the series, woo hoo! And I’m waffling about what the finale is going to be…

I am not a big fan of cleanser. Based on the post I am working on re: day creams v night creams, in which I am thinking about not bothering with the cream of the night, it is hard to imagine what my beauty regime actually entails, if I am a big cleanser h8r.

I dunno: I think I just hate the mess it makes when you use the stuff — or maybe I just make a big mess? Splatters of water all over the place, from scooping water on my face to clean off the cleanser, and I haaaaate the feeling of water running down my neck and arms. I think I must suffer from some sort of rare condition, because written out, that is just freaky.

But then I got some REN Hydra-Calm Cleansing Milk to review, and I think I may have changed my mind.

This is so thick and rich, it feels like you are icing your face like a cake. It’s thicker than milk, actually, and think ‘Cleansing Custard’ might be a better name. The very first time I applied this, I sighed aloud — it’s that nice. It’s … well, it’s sensuous, which is weird in a cleanser. And as sexy as it is, it gets the job done, removing even the most stubborn of make up, even my waterproof inner eye liner, which is a tough customer.

Thanks to its chemical-free state, my skin didn’t feel squinchy after I’d rinsed it off. I don’t mind a good feeling of squinch — makes me feel like my pores have been seen to — but I do know that it’s not the best state for my skin to be in. I get the clean, shiny result of such squinch-making cleansers, without the stress to my complexion.

I still haaaaate the feeling of water running down my neck and arms, though, and tend to use this in the shower in the a.m., even though I feel like this kind of product does its best for me in the p.m. Well, you never know, I may get over my squeamishness. Either way, this is a keeper.

€25/£18/$32

Sweet Sixteen: Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Multi-Use Body Oil

I am sensing a trend.

I really like things that smell nice.

I don’t know, maybe there are people out there who don’t care about how things smell? Or disagree with me as regards what constitutes a pleasant fragrance? I can understand the latter, but the former? No way.

Anyway, here’s another extraordinarily lovely-smelling thing, and it is also a thing that comes in another version with sparkle in it. Can it be more perfect?

I love it so much, I can actually spell Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse without looking it up. Continue reading

Sweet Sixteen: Lancôme Visionnaire Advanced Skin Corrector

I don’t believe in Santa. I don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy. And I don’t believe in products that claim to make your skin younger and radiant. I simply don’t. I believe that if you start on a regimen early enough, you can tend to your skin in such a way as allows it to age gracefully, but this whole thing about ‘making’ your skin look younger? Feh.

{We’ll get into peels at some later stage, because they do the business, but for now, let’s sit up here on the high horse, ‘kay?}

I mean, the skin is deep and complex, and I’m no scientist, but a topical that makes a measurable difference? Yeah, right; and next you’ll be telling me that boob creams work. Continue reading

Sweet Sixteen: Jo Malone Body Créme

Everything about Jo Malone feels rich: the beautiful cream-and-black branding, the boxes, the ribbons, and most particularly, the heavy glass tub that contains the luxurious body créme.

There is absolutely nothing like the Jo Malone Body Créme. I don’t like all the scents — and frankly, I wouldn’t blame you feeling completely suspicious of me if I did — but the ones that I do, I adore. Unconditionally. Without reservation.

Lime Basil & Mandarin. Pomegranate Noir. Amber & Lavender! Oh, I forgot about that last one. I went to swap the places of LM&B and PN, but I can’t. I don’t think I can. Can I? No, not possible. Even though I layer PN with pleasure, and everyone knows what it is, and I don’t mind everyone recognizing it, because it is so delightfully sensuous, and something of a signature scent for me … I still can’t put it first, because it wasn’t my first.

Lime Basil & Mandarin. I had no idea that this Sweet Sixteen was going to be so nostalgic, but I have just gone off into a mental video memory of the first time I got a whiff of the stuff. I had been hanging with some pals, enjoying the bubbling hot tub at the SPORTSCO Leisure Centre in Ringsend {why do I remember it as the ESB gym?} and then after repairing to the changing room, one of the women passed around the body crème. Its heavy glass jar immediately communicated its splendour, and an obsession was born.

I had to have it. I had to have it for myself. I didn’t care that I was suddenly smelling that scent everywhere I turned; rather, it became the clarion call of a little club of ladies who knew what was what when it came to self care, and about splurging a mad amount of money of a thing that didn’t last for an appreciable amount of time.

Ah, now! That last bit is not so true. Because it so well-crafted, you need less than you think to enfold yourself in the fragrant goodness that is a Jo Malone body crème. So all of us who were amongst the vanguard were less annoyed at smelling ourselves coming and going {oh, dear, that sounds nasty} and more keen to appreciate the savvy of our fellow Malonistas.

It’s like being a member of a club whose only agenda is to smell gorgeous. I consider myself to be a lifetime member, with honours.

€63/£48/$75

Sweet Sixteen: Voya Lazy Days

I have always loved seaweed products. I used a powdered version for the bath {Seavite? I think so} that really required a strong drive to use, as it made a complete and utter mess of the bath after it was done. I mean, like, total ring-around-the-tub mess, and talk about a buzzkill, having to clean it up almost immediately after having sent all your tension down the drain.[Or else you have an argument with your live-in-fella-at-the-time because you let the mess go for a day or two, also a buzzkill.]

I wasn’t sure about this when I got the box. I mean, it’s a box. How’s seaweed supposed to fit in a box? I knew the Voya line very well, and have even had their seaweed baths, based in Strandhill, Co Sligo, on my to-do list almost since I moved to Ireland. I knew that the entire product line was organic, and that the seaweed itself is harvested by hand. I didn’t know that you could get it, freeze-dried into a roughly rectangular bundle.

Well, it is possible. The hunk of seaweed has been helpfully inserted into a mesh bag; there is, in addition, a wee bag of dead sea salt. <I wasn’t sure whether to captilise that or not, but Voya haven’t. Is ‘dead sea salt’ a thing that is separate now from the Dead Sea? Anyway: as instructed, I ran the bath full of hot, hot water and dropped the brick of weed in. I left the room to let it sit — I had to, because almost immediately the pure, salty scent of the seaweed began to waft around the bath. As I didn’t want to lose a layer or two of skin, which I would have done had I immersed myself, I went and did some email.

When I could bear it no longer, I went back and ran the water cold, sprinkled in some salt, and got in. Now, I love a good bath, and I go the full whack, with candles and a glass of wine, or when the circumstances demand, a short glass of Laphroaig, and appropriate musical accompaniment. Even then, I tend to get bored long before the water begins to cool. Not this time: I kept topping up the bath with as much hot water as it could handle without overflowing. I squeezed the now-football shaped net of weed to release even more of the gel that had infused the water. I was in there for almost 45 minutes.

If you take good care of it — I put mine in a large mixing bowl and covered the top with cling film — you can get another bath out of the ball. It’s not as transcendent as the first, but it is still pretty boss.

The re-hydrated bag of seaweed was pretty impressive, and also pretty: it bore no resemblance to the stuff that washes up on a beachy strand, and looked as if each… frond?… had been groomed to reveal its jagged beauty. I felt as relaxed as if I had visited the Strandhill baths themselves. This is a sublime treat for body and mind. Bonus: a cursory swipe of the bath the next morning was as hard as I had to work to clean up. In my book, there is no higher praise.

Voya Lazy Days €16/£15.50

Sweet Sixteen: Bliss Vanilla + Bergamot

I’ll always remember the first time I got a whiff of Bliss’ cunning combination of vanilla and bergamot: I was working as the art director of a super cool magazine, and one of my colleagues just about thrust an open tub of the Body Buff under my nose. ‘Oh, my God!’ I sighed. ‘It smells like the beach!’*

If ever there was a hoard-worthy product line, it is this one. I couldn’t bear to not have it around, just in case — and ‘just in case’ = the possibility of sharing my fragrant, beachy, perfectly exfoliated skin with a… ‘friend’. As it is, this scent almost exists almost entirely in my memory, because I allow myself to use it so rarely. (Which either says sad things about the state of my… ‘friendships’, or implies that I choose my ‘friends’ with extreme care. Let’s agree on the latter, shall we?)

Oh, but when I do decide to break out the V+B, I do it thoroughly and completely. The Body Buff is truly superb, and one of the top five I have ever used. The Soapy Suds come next, naturally, and of course it is all capped off with the wonderfully rich Body Butter. I only wish there was a shampoo and conditioner. And a perfume. And a — a hat, or something. I wish there were clothes that smelled like this.

You think I’m kidding, don’t you? I am so not. The smell of the seashore is hardwired into the pleasure centre of my brain, so that, like a rat in a Skinner box, once I get a whiff of beachy goodness all I want is more. Some of the best times of my life were spent oceanside, and a tonne of unencumbered joy is triggered by the glorious scent of the auld V+B. I am a great believer in aromatherapy, and the days in which I walk around, wafting the joyful fragrance of undiluted joy and optimism, I have a very joyful and optimistic day. It is totally true.

Body Buff £28/€39/$36, Body Butter £20/€25/$28, Soapy Suds £16/€22/$18

*I have absolutely no idea why the combination of vanilla + bergamot smells like the beach, but it does.

Sweet Sixteen: Dermalogica Soothing Booster

OMGGGGGGGGGGG. Why does my skin still insist upon breaking out? I am surely peri-menopausal at this stage, I really can’t continue to be brewing spots at that time of the month, can I?

Oh, yes, I can. Crikey, it’s annoying. More annoying is the fact that even after all these years of being told not to, I am still desperate to poke and pick at pimples. It’s gross, I know! But don’t even think about trying to convince me of your own virtuous, non-popping ways.

I have been extremely fortunate in the acne-department, in that I escaped the worst sorts of ravages that plagued several of my adolescent contemporaries, and that continue to torture lovely ladies of all ages. I don’t even feel like I should call my teenage eruptions acne: they were really only zits, which is an anodyne term, really, compared with some folks have to deal with.

Whatever the degree, we can all agree that no one wants even one stupid spot on their face, one which always makes its appearance at the worst possible time, and can sometimes be painful, to boot. The ones you get around your nose? Ugh. Just last month I had one that was in my nostril, and oh lordee, did I want to pop that bitch, but it never came to a head — okay, those ones, those are the worst.

The nostril-zit went away within two days, through the good offices of Dermalogica’s Gentle Soothing Booster. I know how those bad boys like to hang around, I’m sure I’ve had equally stubborn and painful little feckers like that hang about for at least a week (the ones at the hairline? Ach!) I had tried any number of things in the past, including that auld models-trick-using-toothpaste, but this little gem from our friends in The International Dermal Institute is the best thing I have ever used. Since I was sticking it up my nose, I noticed perhaps too well the slightly oily smell of the stuff, but apart from that minor quibble, I’d bronze this thing and set it on a plinth — except that I’d really prefer to use it.

€55.80/£43.50/$48.00

Sweet Sixteen: Clinique Clarifying Lotion

When I was in my 20s, my godmother recommended that I start a proper skin care regimen. The gist of her argument was that just because I looked amazing and youthful right then didn’t mean that I could I take it for granted, and if I wanted to extend my years of amazingness and youthiness, I had better get cracking right away.

I chose Clinique. I can’t remember why, except that their fresh and spare ad campaigns made them, in my mind, modern and suited to my youthful amazingness. I got the 3-step thingie — the soap, the yellow moisturiser, and the Clarifying Lotion 2. I had to google the yellow stuff just now (Dramatically Different!) because I stopped using it ages ago, and the soap is distant, misty memory, but I have not yet found anything that is as effective as the Clarifying Lotion in terms of cleaning and toning the skin.

Despite its slightly astringent tingle, it doesn’t dry the skin. I just don’t feel like I’ve cleaned off the day if I don’t feel that blast of icy freshness. And who can argue with the power of Clinique Bonus Days! I ask you! Even after all these years of beauty largesse, the sight of a wee collection of cunningly assembled samples in some class of clever case sends a thrill racing through my veins. I’ve still got the mini bottle from that one Bonus that one Time, that had held Clarifying Toner — I continue to decant into it when traveling, and wouldn’t be without it.

Yes, indeed: many, many years on, it’s still a go-to/must have,/unassailable element of my beauty regimen. If you must know how many years it has been, well, I remember when all this product came in glass bottles. I think the years have been pretty kind to me, so clearly Clinique has done its job well. Many thanks to them, and to Auntie Sue, too!

€36/$46/£33

I see that InStyle agrees with me…