The Fragrance I’m Wearing: I’m no longer loyal when it comes to perfume – for a start, I get sent a lot, which I realise isn’t a normal situation, so it’s easy for me to be so fragrance flighty. I have standard ‘favourites’ that are enduring (and if I can get them in a bath or wash product, I would rather because it gives more opportunity to experience them) of which Chanel No. 5 is easily top of the chart. I’m enjoying the light, driftiness of Chanel No. 5 L’Eau (HERE) – a less intense version of the classic – and find it goes with any mood at all. A couple of weeks ago I was obsessed all over again with McQueen, I’ve had a weekend of Jo Malone Ginger Biscuit, and now I’m back to L’Eau. I’m sure it’s down to the fact that I have never developed a clear ‘taste’ in perfume due to a poor palette and that my preferences veer wildly with the seasons.
The Film I Watched: Sky Ladder. Chinese artist, Cai Guo-Qiang, is best known for his artistic creations with fireworks. Forget anything you’ve ever seen on Bonfire night because if you tune in you will see fireworks in a way that you didn’t think was even possible. This documentary (on Netflix) charts his obsession with creating a pyrotechnic ladder into the sky. It takes him 20 years to come to a fourth attempt (and I’m not going to tell you if it succeeds or fails!). Each attempt costs an eye watering amount of money and yet he is obsessed with making it work. The story of Cai Guo-Qiang is told through his own words and those of his friends and family and while you might not be familiar with his name, he found international fame as the creator of the display at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I guess the bigger picture here is about transitory art – the burning of gunpowder that lasts only a second or two and then the burning into the mind of the observer but to be honest, not being arty particularly, I was just impressed with the bangs! Definitely watch and have a tissue handy. Image Credit: Lin Yi/Netflix.
The Things I Baked: Cinnamon Palmiers. Since trying to introduce wheat back into my diet, I’ve been obsessed with palmiers – little curls of puff pastry with a (light) sugar coating. I gave making my own a go (it’s so easy – follow this recipe HERE) using a mix of cinnamon, sugar and M&S Puff Pastry. They may not look like they’d earn a place on the chef’s table but they’re delicious, especially still slightly warm – in fact, they never did get a chance to go cold!
The Skin Care I’m Rating: This year, the early morning chilly walks followed by central heating has been horrible to my skin. I’m fine at night (still using the M&S Formula Absolute Ultimate Sleep Cream or a bit of Fresh) with skin feeling hydrated when I wake, but by about lunchtime, despite using a morning moisturiser, my comlexion feels so dry when I’m just sitting at home at my desk. I can’t remember this happening before to this degree especially as I’m very protected from dry skin with Imedeen (interestingly the skin on my body is not at all dry). I bought Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator (£32 HERE) to smother on my complexion and revived my beloved Melvita Nectar Bright (£25 HERE), a blend of floral water and oil. Between the two of them, they’re making things a lot better, although I am certain that it’s more Melvita than Josh. I’m just spritzing them both a couple of times during the day and it is greatly helping. Hydrating Accelerator is one of those tricky products where, because it should be used in combination with other things (such as oil or moisturiser), it’s hard to tell whether it’s really working or not. But Josh Rosebrook is a relatively new to the UK organic brand that’s worth keeping an eye on.
The Podcast I’m Listening To: Stuff You Should Know. I tend to listen to podcasts on the train or before I go to sleep, so they’re often interrupted either by the end of the journey or by me falling asleep! I like Stuff You Should Know because it answers questions I know I’ve transitorily had but they haven’t keep me awake at night. It’s the stuff you mildly question but can’t quite be bothered to research for yourself. So, for example, All We Know About Zika, How Food Tasters Work, and What Is The Internet Of Things? are all tackled. It’s interesting, fair and informative and just like Stuff You Missed In History Class, which is another favourite, there’s always something to be learned. You can find out more HERE.
The Book I’m Reading: Pretty Iconic by Sali Hughes. As someone who writes about beauty every single day (and have done so for well over a decade), I can promise you that it’s not the easy thing that you’d expect. I know, how demanding can penning a review about a lipstick be? Well, unless you are passionate about each and every product, it can be difficult to bring words of any meaningfulness to a very average arrival other than to flag that it exists.
Sali Hughes, Guardian columnist and editor of Salihughesbeauty.com (and many more strings to the biggest bow in beauty), has shifted perspective on her second beauty book, Pretty Iconic. While her first book, Pretty Honest, was full of practical advice, razor sharp words and bountiful wisdom, Pretty Iconic is a look at the most influential products in beauty. Like most women, Sali can place products – whether it’s texture, scent or visual reference – into compartments of her life and chart a personal history of their meaning and effects. In the same way that Sali has fond memories of Yardley English Lavender that she associated very strongly with her grandmother, I can remember my grandma’s purple-pink lipstick, stubby and waxy in a gold casing sitting in her (freezing) bathroom. She called it her ‘heart attack’ lipstick because it was slightly too blue in tone to give a healthy look and in those days you used up what you had rather than rush out and buy a new one. We were all very happy when she chose a violent coral shade next time around.
What’s so relatable about Pretty Iconic is that we can all do this – age, race, religion and politics irrelevant. We can all scrapbook our lives through products and scents. Who doesn’t remember that soapy-detergent smell of Matey? Sudocreme or Johnson’s Baby Lotion, maybe, either used on us or by us or both? So, Pretty Iconic doesn’t just dwell on the glamour – it jumps around from functional tools (GHDs), past loves (Max Factor Crème Puff) and modern beauty idols (Vichy Aqua Thermale). It’s very much a personal take, and I’m sure you’ll raise a brow or two at some of the products that made the cut here, but each one is given the time and attention that the author feels it deserves in her beauty history.
And that brings me back to the beginning where finding words flow so easily when you love something and being impossible to find when you don’t. Pretty Iconic is like a series of highly entertaining beauty reports where the pupils ‘could do better (Prevage Serum)’, ‘underachieve’ (Colour Change Lip Balms) or ‘continue to work hard’ (Nivea) along with the many accolades (Poppy King for Head Girl). You will find all of Sali’s acerbic honesty (“airtight pumps, please – it’s not the 50’s”) as a standard part of the narrative and yet it’s clear she is writing about the products she finds fascinating with sincerity and fondness. More importantly, you’ll discover backgrounds and brief brand histories that give products context and life, and you can dip in and out as you please.
You can find Pretty Iconic for £13 HERE.
*all products are sent to me as samples from brands and agencies unless otherwise stated. Affiliate links may be used. Posts are not affiliate driven.