Ok, I’m supposed to list the beauty products I’ve most enjoyed using over the last twelve months. I’m so the wrong person for this kind of thing: I hardly ever buy new stuff; in fact, I now buy fewer things than I used to before I joined MakeupAlley. Somehow talking about perfume all the time keeps me satiated and with no desire to ‘own’ anything much. Also, as far as make-up is concerned, I don’t get so much pleasure out of testing new products because, when you’re 58, it’s not much fun testing weird and wonderful eye shadows on crêpey eyelids (you should have seen what I wore in the ‘60s) and seeing the – usually – awful result. Still I haven’t stopped using cosmetics altogether, so here goes…
Lip Balm by Durance en Provence
Last year, I ended my list of favourite products by saying that I had just received a tube of lip balm that was so good that I would probably rave about it this year. I was right: it turned out to be just as emollient as my staple, Rêve de Miel Lip Balm by Nuxe, and even a little more practical since it’s in one of those applicator tubes, you know, with a slanted end pierced with a tiny hole through which the balm comes out and can be spread on to one’s lips. So no contamination of the rest of the product. It tastes of honey, which is what the Nuxe one should taste of since it’s got the word ‘honey’ in its name but which for some reason tastes of grapefruit (search me!). I love and use both equally these days. The search for the perfect lip salve is definitely over.
Cream Blusher by Estée Lauder
I’m really cheating here: I’ve used this particular blusher for the past ten years and I don’t mean I’ve bought it again and again; I mean the same one. You see, selecting and buying a blusher has never excited me (as far as I’m concerned it’s a little more fun than choosing a mascara but not much) so I was chuffed when I finally found the right one. For years I’d worn all sorts of shades, mostly recommended by silly sales assistants in department stores. Some very eccentric ones that didn’t suit me at all: I am a ‘blue/red’, yet at different periods of my life I was advised to use brick reds, browns, oranges, stupid shades like that. Also, since I’m not a pale blonde with a peaches-and-cream complexion I don’t blush in ‘pastel’ and pale pink blushers do nothing for me. After years of buying then chucking out blushers that clashed with my complexion rather than enhanced it, I read somewhere that everyone blushes more or less the same: dark blood-red. At last, something that made sense! The advice probably came from Leslie Kenton, who used to write in Harpers & Queen and who, unlike other beauty editors, had a lot of common sense. (For example, when I was still battling with oily skin, I read in her column that ‘only grease removes grease’: it was a revelation. I remembered how, when I was a child, my mother always used butter to remove the black greasy stains left on my legs by my bicycle’s chain. So I threw away all the astringents I owned and started using an oil to remove my make-up, and my skin improved immediately.) Anyway, back to the blusher quest, I looked for a burgundy-coloured blusher and found it: it was part of a limited range that was launched when the film Evita was released. It was perfect. In all those years, I’ve never had the urge to change and there’s still an awful lot left. I can’t tell you the exact name of the shade because I got rid of the original compact a while ago and it now sits in a small Muji palette. Sorry, I’m not much help here. However, there must be some other similar blushers around.
I do have another blusher, which I use lightly on my eyes, under my eyebrows. It’s Lancôme Pommette in Fuchsia. It’s also discontinued, but I know you can still get it on eBay. It was meant for cheeks and eyes and was featured in a magazine a few years ago. They said it was a scary shade (they weren’t kidding) but that once on the skin it just made it ‘glow’. How could anyone resist? I looked for it on what was at the time a very skinny Lancôme website: it was still mentioned as being available but in fact wasn’t. I was so disappointed that I wrote to Lancôme asking why it still appeared on their website. A nice woman apologized and said she would try to track it down for me. A few days later, a small package arrived: it was the blusher, and it was a gift. That was such a nice gesture! I would like to publicly thank that generous Lancôme employee, who went to extra mile to satisfy a potential customer. It doesn’t happen very often.
Tubéreuse Criminelle by Serge Lutens
It’s so funny: the first perfume I mentioned last year in Best of 2005 was Cèdre, and this is what I wrote, ‘For me it was love at first sniff. It reconciled me with tuberose, which until then had made me gag. I was even tempted to retest Tubéreuse Criminelle, also by the Divine Serge and his acolyte Chris Sheldrake, and found I did like it after all. Cèdre doesn’t have the mentholated opening of Tubéreuse Criminelle, which is a bonus really since you get to the “nice” notes that much quicker.’ Well, I tried Tubéreuse Criminelle again and again and again and it grew on me so much that I recently bought a bottle of it – directly from the Salons du Palais-Royal (it seems I only travel to Paris in order to buy perfume: the last time, four years ago, I bought a bottle of Fleurs d’Oranger, which I have worn since and which I still love). Poor Cèdre was just a go-between, a means of connecting with tuberose; it was left behind as, in the end, I found it a little too ‘perfumey’, a little too ‘pleasant’. Tubéreuse Criminelle doesn’t make me go, ‘Aaaaah!’and fall into a rapture when I apply it, like Fleurs d’Oranger, but it intrigues and delights me nevertheless. I’m still slightly puzzled when I become aware of it on me: ‘Is this me?’ The top notes are strange and harsh; I think they smell of kerosene. That’s actually the bit I like best now.
Bons Baisers de Paris Lip Stain Pen by Bourjois
I have this friend in Nice. She used to be my boss, back in 1971-73. She’s a lovely woman. She regularly sends me stuff from France (the Durance lip balm, for instance) and sometimes – very rarely – I ask her for something specific. I saw an ad for this product in a magazine and it created a ‘lemming’ – as we say in our business. LOL!, which was soon fulfilled. It’s a delightful product. I have it in Raspberry (the colour of most of my few lipsticks; the one that suits me best, I believe). It glides on the lips and creates a very natural look, with no thickness. Unlike other lip stains I’ve tried it’s very easy to apply, thanks to the felt tip, but like all other lip stains it’s quite drying so needs to be used sparingly or under a clear gloss or, in my case, a lip balm. Ta da! It sticks to the lips like a limpet, thus colouring them for hours and hours. It does remove the pleasure of reapplying lipstick, though, but, hey, you can’t have it both ways.
Frankincense Nourishing Cream by Neal’s Yard
For a while now I’ve been trying to avoid using products that contain nasty stuff like petrochemicals and preservatives (they’re the parabens you see mentioned in lists of ingredients): it’s better for me and it restricts my choice – there are too many products out there and I very often feel overwhelmed by their number so I like the fact that I can ignore masses of them. Therefore, after using some very high-tech Avon creams (they have the best researchers, you know; they produced one of the first and best AHA creams on the market), I went back to a moisturiser I had bought several years ago, when readers of YOU Magazine voted it ‘Best moisturiser ever’. I believed the hype and bought a jar of it. They weren’t lying: it was great then and still is. It’s for mature skins and therefore quite thick, but it goes in easily (anyway, massaging cream into the skin is enjoyable, I think) and it does the trick: it’s soothing and plumping and, as it says on the jar, nourishing. It’s Neal’s Yard’s star product and it deserves to be.
Crema Fluida per il Corpo con Zucchero di Canna by Angel’s Spa
This is another TK Maxx find. As I said last year, our local branch is wonderful for lovely sweaters (although this year there were only big knits and I get engoncée – look it up – in those, so I didn’t buy any), but quite hopeless for toiletries and fragrances. They have nothing for weeks and then suddenly they will have a shelf-ful of bottles of stuff you’ve never seen anywhere else before. This Rich Body Lotion with Raw Sugar (I think it sounds better in Italian, don’t you?) is good enough to drink. I don’t know why I was attracted to this one in particular – I don’t like sweet smells usually: they had other flavours, oops, scents: cinnamon, ylang-ylang, mint and something else, but I kept going back to that comforting scent of sugar. I didn’t buy it straight away – I didn’t need a body lotion, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind so in the end I caved in (I told myself it was a bargain, which it was, and it had no parabens, which it doesn’t). I mostly use it as a hand lotion, last thing at night, in the hope that it will induce sweet dreams. And it sometimes does.
That’s about it, really. Oh, hang on, there are some cute Bourjois mini make-up things sitting on a shelf over there: a tiny lip gloss that’s supposed to hang from your mobile phone (does it matter that I don’t use lip gloss and my phone is so old I can’t hang anything from it?) and some cute eye shadows. I just couldn’t resist getting them in Paris, a couple of weeks ago. They look lovely. That’s a good enough reason for having them, I think.
Enough blah blah from me, go and check out what my pals recommend. Here’s a list of who’s taking part in the fun today: