Louise Mensch’s Unfashionista: A missed opportunity for un-learning

Every now and then, fashion-y  types decide that the most fashionable thing ever is to pretend to be anti-fashion. Witness, for instance, the so-called “anti-fashion” movement of the 1990s (which, from what I can work out from Wikipedia, involved dressing as though you were either very poor or in a CK One advert, providing you were both thin and not actually poor). I’ve always thought this kind of thing was not just bollocks, but snobby bollocks, the kind of thing a manipulative playground bully would try on (“wear this! Ha-ha! Fooled ya! What we actually meant was wear the precise opposite! It’s un-fashion!”). But hey, what do I know? I’m properly unfashionable, as opposed to being fashionably unfashionable, which is something completely different. Continue reading


Self-esteem: Yet another thing you’re crap at

If seeing pictures of skinny models in magazines makes you feel fat and ugly, please don’t blame the mags. The person you need to hold responsible is actually your mum. This, at least, is what September’s issue of Glamour would like you to believe. It is of course complete and utter crap, but you may well think it anyhow. After all, these magazines always catch you when you’re at your weakest.

Once you’ve ploughed through page after page telling you that you’re eating the wrong foods, wearing the wrong clothes and buying the wrong beauty products, what are the odds on you challenging the idea that you’re thinking the wrong thoughts, too? Not very high, I’d say. That’s why pieces such as Dawn Porter’s “Self-esteem? It’s kids’ stuff” come along and kick you when you’re down (while simultaneously berating you for not getting right back up again). Yes, Porter’s written yet another of those articles which are all about YOU and why YOU need to feel GOOD about YOURSELF and why aren’t YOU doing it yet? Go on, get on with it. Stop feeling shit about yourself RIGHT THIS MINUTE! Continue reading

Let them eat lipgloss

Unless you’re David Cameron, life on Earth is but a vale of tears. Famine, war, injustice, sorrow, all culminating in infirmity and death. It’s a total bummer. How do we manage, each one of us, to get through each day? Well, I do so by blogging about the things that matter. Such as the correct naming of the substance applied to lips in order to make them a more appealing hue.

Can I ask if you’re wearing any of this substance right now? Or at least if you were doing so, earlier today, before drinking, eating, snogging etc. rubbed it, and all promises of 12-hour endurance, away? What was it called? What word, precisely, followed the prefix lip-? Was it pencil, gloss, stick, balm, tint, stain, shimmer? Or was it butter? That’s the trendiest one, I reckon. It’s also by far the worst.

Lip butter – it’s ridiculous, isn’t it? What next? Lip margarine? Lip lard? Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me. After all, it’s such a stupid naming strategy. The product is meant to make your lips “baby soft”, which sounds creepy enough in itself. But this doesn’t even take into account what butter is like. It’s not baby soft and shimmery. In fact, it’s rather greasy, in a way that works fine with toast and fried mushrooms, but not with lips. It’s important to recognise this, people; let’s not confuse our lips with toast.

I’m writing this now because this morning I found myself in Boots and nearly fell into a lip butter stand on my way to select a suitably low-calorie lunch.* And of course the irony of this hit me. Here I am, surrounded by lip butter and 2000 Calorie Mascara, and in practice I’m meant to be starving myself. What the hell is going on?

In a culture in which the beauty ideal for women involves being thin, it’s interesting to note how many beauty products are marketed using the desirability of things we’re not meant to eat or be. As well as the 2000 Calorie version, we have Fat Lash Mascara. Clinique sell us Chubby Sticks, while Benefit give us a blusher called Sugarbomb. Lancôme Juicy Tubes offer all the sweet delights you could ask for. And then Bourjois produce Délice de Poudre, a face powder made to look like a chocolate bar. To be honest, all this is starting to get to me. If chocolate’s so bad, why should my make-up need to look like it? And if it’s not so bad, why can’t I just sodding well eat it?

Other than in early 1990s Boddington’s adverts, you never get beauty products that look like cigarettes, booze or savoury food. I don’t know why this is. The Cornish pasty would make an ideal shape for an eyeshadow palette. And what about lip ketchup? Or cheek pesto? I imagine none of these foodstuffs are considered girly enough. Sweet things are what we’re mean to eat for indulgence, even though we’re told not to. We do it because we don’t measure up.

I think, though, even after we’ve stuffed our faces on Galaxy in secret, we’re still hungry, because however much of it you eat, that food remains, psychologically, off-limits. So we fetishise it all the more and buy products that continue to “feed” us (I wonder if following the Atkins diet would make one less likely to purchase lip butter, but more likely to go for Délice de Poudre?).

At the end of it all most of us are fat. Fat, and wearing products labelled “fat”. And thus we shuffle through this miserable life. Still, at least there’s Jarvis Cocker.

* Note the term “found myself”. Being in Boots is never my fault.

Beauty editors: What are you on? And can I have some?

Two weeks ago my moisturiser ran out and I’ve yet to buy a replacement. Thus over the past fortnight I’ve noticed the following things: an increase in the “appearance of visible fine lines”; a decrease in “radiance”; the terrifying onslaught of the “seven signs of ageing”. Actually, none of that’s true. All I’ve noticed is that I have fewer spots, presumably because I’m no longer clogging my pores to treat a moisture deficiency that doesn’t exist. Perhaps I’ll never buy moisturiser again.

Now, obviously, you may be thinking “that sounds a bit rash. What about the long-term signs of ageing – the ones she can’t see yet? Shouldn’t she be protecting her skin so that the damage that is inevitable doesn’t become even worse than it will inevitably be, or at least we assume it will inevitably be, not that there’s any way of proving this unless she has an identical twin to use as a test control, and even then we’d have to make sure they were both smoking, drinking, exercising, breathing in exactly the same way, all the time…” Hey! Just chill! I’m on the case. My foundation still has SPF. And besides, the weather’s shit so the sun’s never out anyhow.

Of course, there’s another reason I’m feeling a bit more relaxed about tackling the onslaught of time. I’ve just finished reading Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman. Her chapter on ageing – called “Interventions” – is fucking ace. You read it and think “hey! I want to be a wise wrinkly sage, not some insecure girl-woman! Saggy jowls? Bring ’em on! It’s a sign of having finally made it!”. Alas, for me at least, this effect hasn’t lasted. I look at pictures of Caitlin Moran and think “yeah, it’s okay for you. You have great hair and superior eyeliner skills. When you are old you WILL look like a wise woman not to be messed with. Me, I’ll just look like some old biddy to whom no one listens. And I won’t even be able to complain because no one will be listening”. So that’s not the reason I’m more relaxed, not directly. The thing is, though, in the absence of How to be a Woman, I’ve started flicking through that June issue of Marie Claire in bed (i.e. the one I go on about so much on this blog they’ll probably start demanding some copyright fee [lawyers, that’s a joke]). And perhaps it’s reading it in a different context (in bed, that is, rather than in the bath or on the loo, which is the normal place for magazine-reading), but for some reason, it’s like a lightbulb has gone on. Yes, women’s magazines are offensive. Yes, the beauty advice is unrealistic, bullying and inconsistent. The one thing I never realised quite so much until today, though, is that it’s also absolutely fucking insane!

It’s not that you can’t afford these over-priced serums and moisturisers. It’s not that even if you can, and use them religiously, you’ll never look like these models. It’s that, at its most basic level, what you are being told doesn’t make sense! It’s practically another language! Once you start looking at it with fresh eyes, it really is quite remarkable how far they’ll push complete and utter bollocks. Here, for instance, are just a few of the Rules of Insanity that all beauty editors must learn (all taken from June’s Marie Claire – see, lawyers, I’m acknowledging my sources):

1. Throw in some real science to try to mask the completely made-up science

… the tuning forks are activated at different pressure points to stimulate the waters that make up 80 percent of our bodies. This is called Sonopuncture and I’m told it will be as relaxing as an hour’s meditation.

Extreme Beauty, p. 246

Our bodies are 80 percent water? Don’t they cover that at Key Stage 3? And also on the Lucozade adverts? Well, I’ve always believed that to be true. Must mean that the rest is. Even though it’s obviously total crap.

2. Don’t answer basic questions – just say something completely unrelated

Q. I have only two weeks to lose 7lbs. Do you think that’s possible?

Susie, 36, on p. 232

To which they answer is “yes, Susie. Get your head amputated, that should do the trick”. Or, perhaps better, “yes, Susie. But it is a ridiculous idea. Unless this is a legal requirement and you’re facing the death penalty, please don’t do it”. The answer most definitely is not “The antioxidant-rich Radiance Cleanse Juice Diet – £395 for a five-day plan – packs vitamins and minerals into a tasty five-a-day menu. The Pure Package is a bespoke menu and delivery service designed to address personal goals such as weight loss and detox, while the Beach Goddess Programme  – £399.50 for ten days – is a vitamin-rich diet to give you a holiday glow” (and no this, wasn’t taken from an acknowledged “promotional feature”. This is a genuine “Ask the beauty editors” response. To which this is a genuine “me” response: what the fucking fuck? You didn’t even mention the 7lb!).

3. For every social problem, remember there’s a beauty product to be recommended

Or several, in fact. On pp. 249-250, you are asked which type of boozer you are – “Whinge Drinker, Oversharer, Dancing Queen” – and given advice on how to deal with this. This clearly disregards the fact that if you’re pissed, you don’t have the self-awareness to note and later reflect on what drinking “type” you’ve just represented. The only reasonable advice to give is either drink less or stop giving a fuck (the latter is always easiest when you’re off your face). Rather creatively, Marie Claire have found five different ways to say this, each suited to a particular drinking persona. Even more creatively, they’ve added in an “erase it” feature which tells you which beauty products to purchase in order to lessen the effects of a heavy night. Even more creatively than that, they’ve matched them to the different personas, although without any particular logic. If you tend to overshare when drunk, for instance, you need Dermalogica’s new Overnight Repair Serum, £56, whereas if you get all whingey when drunk you need Nanoblur, £19.99 from Boots (obviously from now on I’ll aspire to be a whingey drunk – it’s much cheaper). I’m wondering what’ll be in July’s issue. Which drug addict type are you? With a special on the best concealers for track marks.

4. Bear in mind that it’s okay to be offensive on several levels if you’re talking “skin science”

There are times we’d all like to take our skin to one side, and, in the words of Michael Winner, tell it to just ‘calm down, dear’. But, stop for a moment and consider that your ‘schizo’ skin might actually be trying to tell you that trying to juggle a work presentation/dinner party for 12 is just way too stressful for your complexion.

Face Savers, p. 242

To be honest, while my skin irritates me at times, I have never wanted to subject it to sexist or ablist abuse. I just haven’t. It’s not just because it’s part of me. It’s because it is wrong.

5. Never challenge celebrities over their complete failure to understand basic words such as ‘lazy’

I’m pretty lazy when it comes to skincare. I’ll start with Aromatherapy Associates Renewing Rose Cleanser (I’ve got one of those Clarisonic things but I think I was going a bit overboard with it) and I love Skin Ceuticals stuff. But my favourite serum is one by Linda Meredith, which I add to my moisturiser. I also take Suqqu’s Lip Essence Cream everywhere I go.

Sienna Miller, p. 239

Quite honestly, I’m appalled at Sienna Miller’s skincare laziness. She should be washing her face in fresh mountain dew collected by elves. And I’m not interested in just the “favourite” serum; I want the full top ten. And as for carrying one lip treatment everywhere she goes; I’m never without at least six lip glosses. Always mistaking them for pens, though, of which I’m always short. Juicy Tubes are rubbish when it comes to taking minutes.


It is rare that I will quote Peter Andre to sum up my view on an issue (perhaps I should do it more often). Anyhow, I’m doing it now: THIS IS INSANIA! :

Take a look around, at what technology is found

Is it what we need or are we killing the scene?

Dictated by the screen, no more following your dreams

The world has become a difficult place to be

Where are we going, does anyone care?

Hold on to real love, there’s so much to share

Thank you, Peter. Never a truer word was composed in a fake jungle and later released as a single. I open Marie Claire and I think “this is insania!”. Especially when there’s so much love to share. And so much money to spend on working out what my drinker type is, now that I’m no longer throwing it down the drain on moisturiser.

Wear makeup! Don’t wear makeup! Either way you’re screwed

Every morning in our household it’s a rush to get ready (yes, I realise this sounds like the start of a Nutella advert, but bear with me). My sons, being little, are just so needy. Always wanting food, clothing, that sort of shit. And, like, I’m just too busy! Can’t they see I’ve got to smear beige emulsion on my face in order to make it more beige, and to curl my eyelashes so that the blackest black crust in which I’m about to encase them ends up looking dead seductive? What’s with them and all this wanting stuff? And then of course, next thing I know and they’re in my makeup drawer (see blog header – that’s it, folks). And they’re pulling out this and that, asking what it is, and I can’t possibly answer because I’m patting in my Benefit Lip Plump in order to ensure my lips are sufficiently “primed” for the next five minutes, at least until the black coffee washes it all away again. So then my partner, providing he hasn’t buggered off to his training already, tends to step in:

These are things Mummy uses to make herself even more beautiful.

What a charmer, eh? Wouldn’t you like a partner who said that? Well, the thing is, it might sound nice the first time, but honestly, this is starting to really piss me off.

I don’t know what he’s thinking when he says this. Probably something nice and reasonable along these lines:

Don’t want her to feel I’m accusing her of wasting time, but also want her to know I don’t expect her to wear makeup, either, and she looks fine without it.

That’s probably what he thinks. But this is what I hear:

Women, eh? Always faffing about with makeup, even though we men don’t give a shit and it doesn’t make much difference either. Tch! I ask you! etc etc.

All this is going through my head, so I end up feeling really grumpy, get lipstain on my teeth and have to start all over again.

This could of course be used as an example of how sodding unreasonable women are, and how men just can’t do anything to please them. Face it, blokes, you just can’t win! Women, they’re a total mystery etc. etc. But thing is, I don’t think this would be strictly fair. First because it’s me I’m talking about and I’m obviously not unreasonable or mysterious. Second because even if my partner’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, then unfortunately so am I and indeed the rest of womankind. I’m damned because I need to wear makeup and I’m damned because I need not to.

Makeup makes me frivolous and idiotic. It makes me into a woman Boots can ridicule in countless adverts while ordering me to buy their lipgloss. It makes me into a woman who believes pseudo-scientific nonsense, or worse still, doesn’t believe it but buys new products anyhow. It makes me laughable to anyone who isn’t under the same social pressure to wear it ie men.

Not wearing makeup is even worse. It makes me into someone who “doesn’t make an effort”. Someone who fails to “make the best of herself”. Someone who doesn’t understand that “the natural look” has bugger all to do with looking natural. It makes me into someone who just hasn’t learned the rules.

When I was in my teens I wasn’t that interested in makeup. If we were going anywhere as a family, my father would have to tell me to “put on some slap”, or I’d be letting the side down. Later on, when I was more into makeup, he’d ridicule the amount of time I spent on it. “You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear”, he’d joke. No, quite clearly, you can’t. And you can’t ever win.

In addition to TV make-over programmes, we now have shows like Snog, Marry, Avoid, the “make-under” programme. Where is this all leading? Can we just take a shortcut and tell women “look, you’re ugly and you’re stupid. From now on, rather than getting you to actively purchase makeup, we’ll just take a percentage of your monthly pay packet and give it to L’Oréal. Let’s just cut out the middlewoman, as she’s starting to get on our nerves“?

Well, halfway through writing this I re-applied some L’Occitane hand cream and some Korres pomegranate tinted lip balm. So I’m still sitting grumpily on the fence, with nowhere to go. Except for one thing. I read a piece by Amanda Platell in the Mail today. That woman is such a bitch. Read it (or ideally, don’t), but then let’s all make a pact never to shave our armpits again.

Should makeup be sold to the over-8s?

Hey, let’s ban makeup for the over-8s. It’s okay, I’m only kidding. I for one am not about throw away a million squillion pounds worth of Urban Decay just to make some prissy feminist point about the beauty industry or objectification or whatever it is. Nothing’s going to keep me from my fave Too Faced eyeshadow (called “Lapdance” – I put it on and get to feel objectified without having to do anything!).

I have been in love with makeup ever since I first received some Crayon Girl for Christmas in 1982. For those not yet in need of light-diffusing particles to blur those fine lines, Crayon Girl was makeup marketed at pre-teens in the early 80s. I had a lipstick in the shade “fuchsia” (try reading that when you’re seven) and some “cotton candy” peel-off nail varnish. The really ace thing about Crayon Girl stuff, though, was that each item was shaped like a kid’s crayon. It emphasized makeup as an extension of play. Or, less pretentiously, it just looked really good. It was fun!

So the packaging was different, but what else was different about Crayon Girl compared to “normal” makeup? Answer: fuck all. It was just makeup, except the manufacturers didn’t tell you as many sodding lies.

Years ago I used to justify my adult obsession with makeup by claiming that wearing it constituted an active expression of my sexual identity. Unlike the burqa or Page 3, it was not a fixed response to the male gaze; it was me, making my choice about how I wanted to be positioned within the sexual marketplace. This obviously self-serving and overly simplistic explanation hasn’t stood the test of time. I have days when I try to make myself look “really special” – beyond the everyday base, concealer, foundation, powder, blusher, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, eyebrow powder and wax – and when, at the end of the process, I find I don’t look the way I meant to look, I feel a total failure. This is not self-expression or empowerment. It’s feeling useless because you don’t look like someone who isn’t you.

Ladycurd wrote a brilliant post in response to the Pink Stinks campaign to ban makeup being sold to the under-8s. I particularly liked the following observation:

It’s a bit fucked up to freak out so much about kids playing with makeup, when actually what we should maybe be freaking out about is why so many adult women are so not comfortable in their own skins that they have to cover themselves in these make up masks in order to be perceived as beautiful.

This is spot on. The problem is not kids playing with makeup; it’s the fact that the fantasy carries on into adulthood and becomes much more painful. My eldest son likes dressing as a knight. I am not worried that when he gets older the pressure to go jousting and win favours will get too much. If I had a little girl who was currently dressing up as a fairy princess, I’d be much more concerned. Kate Middleton, after all, is a real person. It could be you, little girl. It should be you, shouldn’t it?

Anyhow, this afternoon I was back in ToysRUs*and saw the solution to my problems: Monster High makeup. It’s meant for little girls and it’s bloody fantastic. Stuff you, Urban Decay, with your “edgy” shade titles like smog, roach and, um, mucus (probably). Monster High is truly hardcore, and it doesn’t suggest for a minute it will make you look beautiful. I WANT IT NOW AND I SHALL HAVE IT! Next time you see me, I’ll be looking like Frankie Stein.

* Second trip to ToysRUs this weekend. Soon Toys WILL in fact be me (I have no idea what this process will involve, but I just can’t wait).

Cult beauty classics: what you need to know

I have a friend who’s a real, live beauty editor and at times I quiz her on the issues of real importance. Like, does it really matter if you put your serum and moisturiser on in the wrong order? And what should I be buying next if I don’t want to look a complete and utter numpty? She always laughs at things like this. Come on! It’s not like you’ll get arrested by the Beauty Police! And obviously, it’s a great relief to know that I won’t. But still, if I get it wrong, I’m likely to feel that little bit more personally responsible for the fact that I don’t look like Lily Cole. So I think it’s important to be as informed as you can be. Hence I’ve done my own research.

Basically, there are some products you have to have. And by that I don’t mean “must-have” products (cos let’s face it, that’s pretty much everything the fashion and beauty industry produces at one time or another). I’m talking about “cult beauty classics”, so called to suggest that you’ll only be aware they exist if you’re really, really in the know. Because it’s not like you can spot them in Boots or Superdrug (apart from, say, all the time). And it’s not like you’ve ever been told before that YOU NEED THESE THINGS. NOW.

Anyhow, here’s the list. No need to thank me (no, really).

  1. Elizabeth Arden Eight-hour Cream. It moisturises! It hydrates! It does other stuff that essentially involves adding moisture to things! It probably even saves small children from burning buildings! But alas, I don’t know because I find the whole multi-functional marketing message so confusing that I’ve never bought it.
  2. Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturising Cream. It is like normal moisturiser, only it is custard yellow. Which is, obviously, a dramatic difference.
  3. No. 7 Protect and Perfect Serum. A proper scientist did some experiments on a proper science programme and came to the conclusion that this serum could actually do some of what it claimed to do. Women went mad buying it, which just goes to show that when we normally buy beauty products, we’re under no illusions about them actually working.
  4. Maybelline Great Lash Mascara. A so-so mascara in garish pink and green packaging that gets bought somewhere in the world every nanosecond by a woman who’s just read on the garish packaging that it gets bought somewhere in the world every nanosecond.
  5. Benefit Benetint. I have one bottle of this and it’s lasted me over ten years. Largely because it makes me look like a clown so I tend not to use it.
  6. L’Oréal Elnett hairspray. You can spray it on and then brush it out. Which to my mind kind of defeats the object.
  7. Clarins Beauty Flash Balm. See Eight-Hour Cream. Apparently amazing, but impossible to pin down what it actually does.
  8. Lancôme Juicy Tubes. Like lip gloss, but more likely to make your hair / jumper / breakfast get stuck to your lips. Never, ever wear this if you’re also wearing mittens.
  9. YSL Touche Éclat. A pen containing foundation (sorry, “illuminator”), which you draw on your face to no apparent effect. Makes you feel a total loser for not noticing the difference. But as pens go, it’s gold and shiney, with a nice clicky bit at the end, so it’s not all bad.
  10. Bio Oil. Expensive orange oil, often used by the pregnant to try and avoid stretch marks. Give it up, ladies. It’s just genes and luck (I don’t actually have stretch marks on my stomach but I’m not letting them take the credit. Particularly when I got stretch marks on my tits instead, and I slapped that stuff on everywhere. If it was only going to work in one place, it could have at least asked me for a preference).

So there it is. Haven’t a bloody clue how much all of this might cost, but I guess that’s pretty irrelevant. Sell your house. Sell your kids. YOU NEED TO BUY THIS STUFF. NOW.

From now on I’m washing my face in Windolene

Every time we drive up to see my partner’s parents, it involves crossing the River Dove. We always tell the kids “that’s one quarter moisturiser, you know”. Geddit? Well, it always makes us laugh…


I am thinking about Dove because, for some reason, an advert on Facebook is inviting me to “See how the Dove Self-Esteem Foundation is tackling self-esteem in schools”. And do you know, I just can’t resist. There, watched it (and accidentally “liked” it. Bugger). Thankfully all the girls in the video are blandly attractive. And thanks to the Dove campaign, it appears they won’t stop doing the sports they enjoy, whereas in the past they might have done so due to worries about how they looked. That’s good, right? Keeps them in their bathing suits and leotards AND keeps them slim enough to look acceptable in them. God knows what Dove would have done with nine-year old me, though (there is Real Beauty and there is early onset adolescence, and never the twain shall meet).

To be honest, I find the chutzpah of the Self-Esteem Foundation quite breathtaking. The Dove website is even worse. I mean, they’ve been doing this Campaign for Real Beauty for years, but it still just blows me away. Here are some choice quotes, just in case you’re in any doubt as to whose side they’re on:

You can make a difference. Buy any Dove product to help give a girl a self-esteem education.

Or tell her not to pay any attention to crap cosmetics adverts. The kind that tell her which products to buy so she can give herself a self-esteem education…

Here at Dove we uphold one central belief above all others: every woman is beautiful …

Well, it’s good to get your priorities right. And thank you, Dove, I’m flattered …

… And with the help of skin care, nutrition, lifestyle and a good mood, every woman can feel even better about herself.

Dammit, I knew there had to be a catch! Look, I’ll cut down on the Creme Eggs, but there’s no way I’m having “a good mood”. But hey, what “skin care” would you be suggesting? It wouldn’t be the sort with one quarter moisturiser, would it? (because moisturiser is, like, an essential element on the periodic table, and not something that cosmetics manufacturers invented to market alongside soap anyhow…).

Treat yourself to at least one relaxing, pampering activity per week, be it a bubble bath flanked by candles, a facial or a movie rental marathon at home.

A facial! Yesssssss! You know, some nights, it gets to bedtime and I just can’t be arsed to remove my makeup and faff about with all those potions and stuff. But somehow, if I make the whole process last several times as long, it becomes this wonderful, relaxing, rejuvenating experience. Funny, that.

Well, enough of the website. The thing I love most about Dove, though, is the mirror advert. Have you seen it? Dove asks some women to wash a mirror in Dove soap (sorry, “beauty bar”), and others to wash one in normal soap and ONLY THE SOAP LEAVES A RESIDUE! And the women who’ve washed their mirrors with soap are VERY UPSET! Because it means that if you wash your face in soap you will get this horrid residue on you or something except you probably won’t because your face is not a mirror but hey, I’m not taking any chances.

From now on I’m washing my face in Windolene.

So just what DOES the BB in “BB cream” stand for?

Only kidding. I know the answer to that one. It’s “beauty balm”, silly. Although, that said, you’d have thought it’d be something a bit more specific than that. I mean, “beauty balm”. It’s just marketing speak. Doesn’t exactly bring to mind some unique, magical formula. If you ask me, it’s no Boswelox. It’s not even a Pentapeptide.

It does, however, possess that ingredient essential to all successful beauty products. It makes women feel crap. It does this because, basically, it’s tinted moisturiser for the gullible. And if tinted moisturiser can make you feel crap (and believe me, it will), knowing you’re gullible enough to by the version specially marketed to morons will make you feel even crapper.

Tinted moisturiser does bugger all to improve the appearance of normal skin (when I say “normal skin”, I mean the skin of most people. I don’t mean “normal skin” the way skincare manufacturers mean it, which is skin that doesn’t actually need any help but covers the body of someone browbeaten into buying products for it anyhow). The idea that a basic cream with the tiniest hint of colour can “improve skin tone” and “cover imperfections” is laughable. Still, you slap it on and think “it doesn’t work for me. It works for everyone else because it says so on the packet, so I must be exceptionally rubbish and ugly and therefore I need to go out and buy even more stuff” (I know you don’t literally think that. You feel it, though, and that’s enough).

The truly weird thing is, though, that even though the amount of colour in tinted moisturiser is tiny and doesn’t actually cover anything – after all, it’s just a tint – you can guarantee that it WILL NOT match your own skin colour and this will be OBVIOUS. It doesn’t matter if it’s specially formulated for light or dark skins (or even that elusive medium). The colour will be nothing like the colour you are and it will hence make you look a prat who either wants to be mustard yellow or already believes that she is. Normally this kind of colour exclusion is reserved for those whom the magazines like to call “ethnic” (unlike the rest of us, who don’t get a name in print but are probably Master Race in the beauty editor’s heads). With tinted moisturiser, however, everyone’s excluded. I suppose it’s an equality, of sorts.

I am not a fan of my BB cream, but I haven’t thrown it out because I don’t throw anything out. I keep it on my desk as a reminder of my shame at not having easily improved “normal” skin that can be “perfected” by light coverage. Sometimes I mix it with my normal foundation, just to use it up. But I know that’s cheating.

Beauty balm. I’m sure I could come up with a more meaningful explanation of the acronym. But I just can’t Be Bothered.

Making faces


Morning. Eldest child is rifling through my make-up drawer.

“What’s this, Mummy?”

“It’s an eyebrow pencil.”


He puts down the pencil, closes the drawer.


Afternoon. Eldest child is drawing a picture of his brother.

“Mummy, can I have the special pencil?”

“Which one?”

“The one we use for drawing eyebrows.”

I give him my redundant eyebrow pencil. I’ve moved on to wax and powder these days. He sketches messy, over-defined brows, just like Mummy does.

“Now can I have the special pencil we use for noses?”

“We don’t have nose pencils.”

“Don’t we?”

“No, we don’t.”


I don’t want to disappoint him, though.

“I could give you a special pencil for the edge of the lips, perhaps to also fill them if you want a base for lipstick. I’ve also got a pencil for around the eyes. Be careful, though, you mustn’t leave a gap between the line you draw and the start of the lashes. I think that’s all the pencils I have. But I have a lot of brushes.”

He is quiet. Pushes hard at the eyebrow pencil nub, stubs it in on itself.

“No, it’s okay, Mummy. I’ll just use the normal crayons.”

Sometimes I think, so will I.

Neutralising brilliance

My latest moisturiser is specially formulated to reduce shine, or, as the French packaging says, “pour neutraliser la brillance”. Obviously, that’s what we all want. Can’t have too much of the old “brillance”. Who knows, you might just blind someone.

Now of course, it’s not that I like having oily skin and pores the size of moon craters. Of course I don’t. That’s why I buy this stuff. Still, the phrase “neutraliser la brillance” somehow hits a nerve. I realise it’s just a faux ami (as are all my cosmetics) but the thought of “neutralising brilliance” — engaging in out-and-out blandification — is never far from my mind when I’m slapping on my latest potion.

Of course, it’s not just the blandness  of it all. It’s the reduction of out-and-out failure to desperate, expensive mediocrity. Is it better to look like every other miserable sod who’s “making an effort” – doing the whole “Real Woman” thing, accepting one’s limitations, knowing that while one can’t polish a turd one can at least smother it in concealer – or to go out in a blaze of open-pored, grease-ridden glory?

I don’t know. Still waiting for the day when mega-pores become a sign of beauty, when I’ll fill mine with highlighter and dazzle dust. In the meantime, I’ll keep applying the Effaclar in the hope that it stops me shining.