Snooping Around, Part 6: Beauty Products

Here it is: the last installment of the Snooping Around series. I’ve shared with you some of my favourite Interweb windows into homes, desks, treasured possesions, wardrobes and handbags. But, I’ve saved my absolute favourite for last: beauty products.

Created by the beautiful Emily Weiss in 2010, Into The Gloss takes us into the beauty cabinets of fashion insiders. You’ll find editors, stylists, makeup artists, models, assistants etc. all divulging details of the beauty products routines that they can’t live without. The site itself is as glossy as the women it documents – it’s uncluttered, easy to navigate, and full of photographs. It’s also nice to read about full beauty routines for a change – so often we see reviews of just one product, and you never know how it will work with your other lotions and potions.

Above, the beauty cabinet of Eva Chen, Beauty Director at Teen Vogue. How wonderful would it be to be at the receiving end of parcel after parcel of goodies to test?! Photo Credit: Into The Gloss

I love these perspex dividers, which organise your products but still keep the drawer light, so you don’t have to rummage around too much. From designer Tory Burch’s cabinet. Photo Credit: Into The Gloss

If you downloaded the Tod’s D-Bag iPad app that I talked about here, you can get another glimpse into the life of Lauren Remington Platt by reading about her beauty routine here.

When I first discovered this blog, I spent hours reading through the archives. There’s a pattern: everyone has a favourite lipstick/lipgloss/lipbalm, favourite moisturiser, ‘best I’ve tried’ eyeliner etc. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it) that very rarely is one person’s star-product the same as another’s. We all have our favourite products. Even if, like me, you’re not brand-loyal, you’ll find that you know what works for you and what doesn’t because of your skin type, the climate you live in, and so on. Having said that, I’ve noticed some products cropping up more than others (on Into the Gloss as well as in magazines, and other beauty blogs):

  • Bioderma Créaline H20 Cleansing Solution – comes up a lot as the staple cleanser used by makeup artists, models, and even mere mortals. Hard to find outside of France, but available on eBay and here at LeGuideSante for a bargainous £8.74…shipping is about £7 though!
  • La Roche-Posay Anthelios – really good, reasonably priced sun protection. They even have a version for oily skin called Anthelios AC, which doesn’t leave your face competing with your patent Louboutins for the Shiniest Accessory prize (if only my face was an accessory). Readily available in pretty much all French pharmacies. In England, larger Boots stores and many pharmacies (I get mine at my local Lloyd’s Pharmacy) stock it. You can also get it online at Boots.
  • French brands in general get a lot of well-deserved hype. Pharmacy brands like Avène, La Roche-Posay, Lierac and Vichy are brilliant value for the quality of product that you get. I read here that the French government even subsidises some treatments at the Avène and La Roche-Posay clinics. The French know how to do good skincare!
  • Other than that, almost everybody repeats the importance of thoroughly cleansing and hydrating your skin – don’t expect your makeup to do all the hard work!

For me, beauty products are so much more accessible than clothes or furnishings. I love new things, and the cheapest but most satisfying way of alleviating that craving is a visit to the beauty counters at Selfridges, Harvey Nichols or Peter Jones. Is there a purchase that gives a more instant sense of smile-inducing gratification than a luxurious new lipstick? Or one that offers more hope than a new wrinkle-reducing blemish-erasing moisturiser? As Philosophy so rightly put it, it’s Hope in a Jar, and it’s much more affordable than those boots from Alaïa. That was my attempt at rhyme, by the way (Alaï-AR).

Whereas the other Snooping Around blogs that I’ve talked about might provide inspiration and ideas, that’s often all that they provide: Givenchy couture and Eames chairs aren’t within everybody’s reach. On the other hand, cosmetics and skincare products are attainable. And that is why I like to know about other people’s favourite beauty products and routines – you hear about what works for other people, and you can try the same tip or buy the same product, and hope that it will work miracles for your complexion. Unsurprisingly, most of the time, what works wonders for somebody else isn’t as effective for me, but I still go back for more beauty revelations. Indulgent, yes, but it’s far cheaper than treating yourself with Jimmy Choos, and much kinder to your waistline than consoling yourself with half a a whole bar of Lindt.

So that’s it: we’ve FINALLY reached the end of the Snooping Around series. Even I – the one who thought it would be such a fabulous idea – was beginning to tire of poking around other people’s lives. I better go and think of some other things to write about…

A Fickle Nose

I’ve never been the one-perfume kind of girl; I’m always searching for a new fragrance, which can convey how I’m feeling at that point in my life. Hours spent in various beauty halls over the years have even helped me to develop a rather unimpressive olfactory sense, which I test with every over-perfumed individual that passes by.

If the array of perfumes that one owns says anything about one’s personality, then one look at my dressing table would tell you that I’m rather indecisive. The little glass bottles contain a myriad of fruity, oriental, citrusy and floral scents, and I definitely couldn’t pick a favourite. My mood, outfit and plan for the day dictate my choice of fragrance; a choice which, contrary to my indecisive nature, takes only a split-second to make as there is always one scent that encapsulates my frame of mind better than the others.

Photo: A Few of My Favourite Scents

A Few of My Favourite Scents

However, for a while, there was one exception to my perfume dalliances. Several years ago, my mum and I paid a visit to Liberty on a trip to London. There, I found a fragrance by Creed, which is, in their own words “a discreet family-owned perfume house dedicated to the creation of highly original fragrances of extravagant quality”. Founded in London in 1760, it soon became a supplier to the royal household. Today, seven generations later and still essentially a family business, the House of Creed operates from its boutique in Paris’ 8th Arondissement, producing exclusive perfumes for its loyal clientele.

The scent that captivated my senses was Silver Mountain Water (SMW) by Creed – a scent that I thought really could be my signature scent. Hints of the fresh, luxurious fragrance lingered on my jacket for a week, and the impression was lasting. At over £80 for a 30ml bottle, and with no Creed stockists near us in Oxfordshire, the pleasure of SMW was confined to visits to London. For years, I fantasised about adding the simple white bottle to my dressing table and, when I moved to London, every visit to Peter Jones on Sloane Square was marked with a spritz of SMW.

The Creed Stand at Liberty

Just over a week ago, I decided to celebrate the end of my exams with a visit to Liberty to explore the new Assouline Literary Lounge (I read a lovely post about it by A Girl, A Style). I was even toying with the idea of cementing my enduring love affair with SMW by indulging a large proportion of my student bank balance on a certain small white bottle.

Before we go further, I must tell you that the perfumery room at Liberty London is out of this world, housing an impressive range of niche and exclusive fragrances, which you wouldn’t find in the average department store (great if you want to find an individual scent that you won’t find your boss wearing). Sumptuous, opulent and intimate, it is one of the few beauty halls which makes the process of choosing your scent feel as important as I think it should. But, it was in this beautiful room that I found proof, if proof were needed, that my nose is as fickle as the British weather. Liberally spraying SMW on my scarf, it took me a few moments to notice that the scent failed to evoke the usual sense of effortless luxury. Once again, my dreams of a faithful perfume relationship were crushed.

The Perfumery Room at Liberty

All rather melodramatic, I know, but then I think the effect of perfume can itself be dramatic. It triggers the imagination, in an instant whisking you away to another world, a long-forgotten memory, a dream, a desire. Every so often I will recognise a scent from my childhood in the sea of smells that we’re exposed to every day, and suddenly I can be there in that moment again. Memories that I thought were deeply locked away in my past become crystal clear, but a perfume brings back more than just a time and a place. For me, perfumes (and smells in general) are intrinsically tied to emotions.

Although I don’t have a signature scent, many of my friends and family do, and I find huge comfort in embracing someone I haven’t seen for a while and breathing in their familiar scent, which wouldn’t seem right on anyone else. Whenever a whiff of a particular fragrance by Hugo Boss passes me by, I turn my head to inspect the man who’s wearing it. The scent instantly conjures up thoughts of my dad. My memories of him (he lives abroad) are so intertwined with this smell, that I can spray the scent on a tester card, close my eyes, and drift into the carefree summers that I spend with him. A holiday in a bottle.

On the other hand, I stopped using Calvin Klein Euphoria instantly, when I noticed that it was a favourite of my ex’s ex. And that is why I don’t think I will ever have a signature scent: my emotions are too emotionally tied to my nose. I couldn’t wear the same perfume in the throes of love and the depths of loneliness. In the same way that some women draw on a red lip for a boost of confidence, I know that a spritz of Rose Essentielle by Bulgari will make me walk a bit taller.

Photo: Rose Essentielle by Bulgari

Rose Essentielle by Bulgari

Perfume has punctuated the last ten years of my life, and my favourite perfumes are associated with particular periods in my life. Many of the bottles sit unused for months until I suddenly feel that they are ‘right’ again. A good example is Eau des Merveilles by Hermes. A gift from my mum, who bought it on a plane without smelling it, the little bottle was unused for about a year, until one night (after a breakup) I craved the strong, woody, masculine scent.

Now, having recently turned twenty, I feel like a whole new chapter of my life has been opened, and I look forward to punctuating the next ten years of my life with more scents, and the memories that will be associated with them. I’ve penciled in another trip to Liberty, and I can’t wait to meet The One. That is, until the next One comes along.

How about you? Do you have a signature scent, or does your fragrance of choice change with your mood? I’d love to hear about your favourite places to shop for fragrances!