Beauty

Could ASMR Be The Key To Easing Stress?

four pink soap bars

If you haven’t yet heard of ASMR chances are you’ve at least come across it whilst scrolling through cyberspace. Technically it stands for ‘Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response’ but loosely speaking it’s those oddly satisfying videos of people unwrapping boxes, cutting up soap, or, moving into pure ASMR territory Read More…

The Beauty Bible’s Gift Edit

top down of a white present wrappe din gold ribbon on pink background

We do not want ornaments. We do not have room on our bedside tables for any more books (lovely as they are). We definitely don’t want ‘joke’ presents which sit around in a bag in the hall awaiting a trip to a nearby town, to drop them at a charity shop. (Lest the giver finds their singing bass –and yes, we got those – in a nearby Oxfam.) We’ve reached the point where what we really, really want (to quote the Spice Girls) is something that makes us feel pampered, or perks up our faces, or shifts our mood. And working on the basis that buying friends and family the things you rate so much you’d be thrilled to receive them yourself is a darned good place to start your shopping, here’s what we’re asking Santa for, for Christmas 2018 – from stocking fillers to splurges.

Margaret Dabbs Fabulous Cracker, £12. It’s a cracker! No, it really is – but it’s our kind of cracker, which pulls to reveal a 15 ml of her Nourishing Nail & Cuticle Serum, a cult favourite sized to slip perfectly in the handbag for on-the-go massaging into the nail area. (We like to do this whenever someone’s keeping us waiting. Much better for your nails and cuticles than scrolling through Instagram.)

Temple Spa Breath of Life Aromatherapy Inhalation Essence, £12. We’d rather find this in the toe of a stocking than a satsuma (and that’s saying something). A head-clearing ‘whoosh’!, it’s perfect for anyone who finds the festive season a bit stressful but is also very protective against winter bugs, via its uplifting but also antibacterial/antiviral essential oil blend of eucalyptus, menthol and tea tree.

Soapsmith Bloomsbury Bath Soak, £14 for 350ml. This water-softening soak is a rose bouquet garlanded by honeysuckle, primrose and peony (romantically designed to recreate the smell of flowerbeds in Bloomsbury Square gardens), infusing the water with a revitalising blend of Dead Sea salts, Epsom salts and cocoa butter. (Give it to a busy mum friend with a voucher for babysitting her kids while she takes a long, indulgent bath.)

This Works Sleep Power Nap Spray – Travel Duo, £15. The latest sleep-beckoning innovation from This Works is an aromatherapy-powered spritz to help you optimise even the most fleeting opportunities to snooze, with a clinically-proven blend of vetiver, lavender and chamomile. Can you hear us snoring from there?

Neom Organics Happiness Home Mist, £18. We all want our homes to be filled with the scent of happiness during the festive season – and this just is a ‘happy’ smell, with its positive, uplifting blend of white neroli, lemon and mimosa. (Sure beats Febreze.)

Biobelle My Diary Of Beauty Secrets Facial Mask Kit, £24. Oh, we love a face mask – that invitation to ‘relax for 15 minutes’ while it gets to work. (Oh, alright then!) We also love the design of this kit, like a secret diary that flips open to reveal six sheet masks for different skincare actions: soothing and hydrating, brightening, glow-boosting, age-prevention, firming, moisturising and more. That’s like giving someone six excuses to take time out and pamper themselves.

Hayo’u Beauty Restorer Lite, £35. We’re massive fans of facial massage, and these polished jade stones – from Chinese medical practitioner Katie Brindle – are just miraculous for draining lymph, eliminating puffiness, boosting glow and generally banishing tension in a clenched jaw at the end of a stressful day.

Aromatherapy Associates Miniature Bath & Shower Oil Collection, £40. This has probably appeared in every single gift guide we’ve ever collated – and it probably always will. There is literally nothing out there to rival the mood-shifting power of Aromatherapy Associates oils, which fill the entire house with fragrance via a single capful. (Too many of them to count have won Beauty Bible Awards, over the years.) Here’s the entire line-up, in 3 ml miniature form, all dressed up for Christmas this year with a stunning Maria Grachvogel print.

Aurelia Probiotic Skincare Refine & Glow Miracle Collection, £42. Aurelia’s products have done so well with Beauty Bible testers – again, pretty much everything in this generously-proportioned print bag has scooped one of our awards over the years: Miracle Cleanser (30 ml), Refine & Polish Miracle Balm (15 ml), a little 2ml size of the gloriously neroli-scented Cell Repair Night Oil, with a bamboo muslin cloth for every day (or more probably night) of the week.

And a stocking filler-y PS: Beauty Bible Lip Balm. Small blowing of own (angelic) trumpet here: our only ever beauty product, chunky and luscious and gloriously rich in shea butter, vitamin and E and aloe vera. We launched it quite simply because it’s the best balm Team Beauty Bible has ever, ever tried ourselves – and everyone whose stocking we tuck it into agrees. And let’s face it: when cold, Christmassy winds blow (actually infinitely preferable to grey, warm gloom), can you ever have too many lip balms?

Have a great one, with love from Jo, Sarah (and our elves).

The Joy Of Lists

paper aeroplanes with single pink

If you stand still for long enough around here, someone will put you on a Google spreadsheet. Well, I exaggerate – but only slightly. Because without my list-making apps and online spreadsheets – not to mention a fair amount of list-assisting stationery – I think my life would probably fall apart. Lists, I’m fairly sure, are the secret of true happiness.

This is, of course, the ultimate time of year for lists. Does anyone on earth go Christmas shopping without one? (With the exception of my beloved, anyway?) There is something incredibly comforting about the tick, tick, ticking of people on your Christmas present list – every tick taking you closer to what we always hope will be a wonderful day with family or friends, sometimes at what feels like breakneck speed but would be even scarier if our list wasn’t basically whispering, silently: ‘Don’t worry. You’ve got it all under control here.’

I absolutely believe that lists are good for mental health. In this too-much-to-do-in-too-little-time-world, we constantly run the risk of forgetting stuff – and I don’t know anyone that doesn’t stress out. We’re juggling work, friends, family and countless other To Dos. The counterpoint to an overcrowded mind, a list ensures you don’t forget something. I think it works two ways. First off, when you write it down, you can sort of relax a bit. But also, for me, the very gesture of writing it down somehow fixes whatever it is I need to buy/do/reply to/ask someone else to do in my brain so that I’m more likely to remember that ‘To Do’ spontaneously without even needing to refer to aforementioned list. (Though I do, of course.) The key is not to fall into the trap of believing that by writing someone on a list, it’s actually been DONE – and I do know people who are guilty of that. Lists must be referred to, ticked off, referenced. Preferably several times a day.

It’s slightly against the conventional wisdom but I always have several lists going on at the same time. First off, there’s the lives-up-to-its name app Wunderlist (which I wrote about here, in another editorial, if you want to explore it in depth). I know so many people who’ve downloaded this app now that I really ought to be on a hefty commission from them. (Are you reading this, Wunderlist???) But nobody I know has regretted it or found it anything but invaluable.

Secondly, I have my 5 Days A Week planner, which goes everywhere with me and tethers me to the work I have to do each day. As a stationery junkie, I get these from a very wonderful company called Kikki K. – whose graphics are so, so appealing. I recently met Kikki K.’s founder Kristina Karlsson, instantly lapsing embarrassingly into fangirl-mode. Honestly, I don’t think I’d have been more excited to meet one of my musical heroes – perhaps Joni Mitchell or Madonna or Carly Simon (come to think of it I did once meet Carly Simon and it was just a shade disappointing, I have to report.)

Every Friday night, the last thing I do before I leave the office is to fill in the bare bones of the following week’s To Do list, with work actions for each day. These are fleshed out (and added to) as the week progresses, and it’s fair to say that a number of arrows appear on the page, moving things from Monday to Wednesday or even bouncing them into next week. But it means that every morning, when I sit down at my desk (before I do my ten minute Calm app meditation), I know about all the important things I have to prioritise that day. There are stars. There are asterisks. There’s underlining. But I honestly feel it’s like the framework to my week. Without the list, I am sunk; on the rare occasions I leave for a few days on the road for work without taking it with me, I have to get someone to photograph it and send it to me – because there’s bound to be something I’d otherwise forget, and I truly hate that feeling. (Strong word. Entirely accurate, however.) And if it’s a really, really, really busy week, I’ll ALSO use a daily planner, where I can make even more notes in the margins!

According to David Allen, a time management expert whose book on list-making – Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity I have on my bedside table (yes, I am THAT sad), it’s not enough to scrawl ‘Mum’ or ‘Sainsburys’ on a Post-It note. He prescribes detail. Do you have to write an e-mail, run an errand, make a call – and what’s the purpose? Apparently, if the list isn’t clear, your tasks don’t get done. Which is why when I sometimes write a To Do in ink on my hand – like some kind of schoolgirl throwback – I can almost never remember it. I’m still staring at the ghost lettering ‘JS’ on my left hand, which I wrote yesterday and haven’t managed to remove despite several hand-washings, and can’t for the life of me remember what it means.

Of course I mentioned Google spreadsheets at the beginning of this editorial – only partly in jest. Because without them, Sarah and I, and Amy (our calm and patient Beauty Bible right-hand), and Jessie (who co-ordinates all our Beauty Bible testers and their scores/feedback) would be completely sunk. Ditto, me and my team at The Perfume Society. Different team, different Google.docs. But I am going to share a little tip that we’ve all found useful for fleshing out a Google.doc, which is to use a traffic-light colour system. Any ‘To Do’ action starts off in red. Then when the relevant e-mail’s been sent, or the call’s been made, it is turned to amber via the spreadsheet’s drop-down menu. When the action is satisfactorily concluded, it doesn’t get ticked off but is instead turned green. At a glance, everyone can look at a spreadsheet and see what still needs to be done.

Is my love of lists excessive control freakery? Am I wrong to map out my life to the enth degree, eliminating any possibility for spontaneity? I don’t think so. I like to be super-organised, sure. But personally, in what often feels like a very uncertain and scary world, lists somehow also make me feel a bit safer – even if it is a complete illusion. And if Google.docs are the equivalent of my comfort blanket, they’re probably more acceptable in an office environment than hiding in the corner with a threadbare soft toy.

Beneath The Layers: Winter Body Care

beauty-bible-feet

You know that saying, ‘Out of sight, out of mind?’ Well, that’s how an awful lot of women of our acquaintance regard the skin under their clothing, during the cold months. We pile on the vests, socks, gilets, gloves, scarves, tights – often all at once, resembling some kind of Michelin woman, when the weather’s bad enough. And unless we heat our houses to tropical levels (which at Beauty Bible we definitely don’t), there’s definitely no temptation to dance around naked, or even near-naked, at home.

All of which can be an excuse for not attending to the skin on our bodies. (At least until it’s time to start thinking about what it might actually feel like to be warm again, and want to peel off some layers – which usually happens around April, in our experience.) It’s easy to get lazy because that body skin is basically rarely on show except in the privacy of a steamy bathroom – because if you’re anything like us, you’re nipping into your flannelette PJs pronto, the minute you take your day clothes off.

Actually, those clothes themselves pose quite some challenges for body skin: fabric physically ‘wicks’ moisture from the body’s surface, drying it out. Thus the bottom line is that if you’re not lavishing lots of TLC from top-to-toe, you’re going to end up with skin that is dull, dry and flat-looking – and feels like nothing so much as sandpaper.

Aside from wanting skin that just plain feels nice to the touch – and isn’t tight or itchy – there’s another really good reason for continuing to give your body plenty of TLC, during the upcoming months. Well-moisturised cells allow for healthy ‘cellular communication’ – so your skin doesn’t just appear younger, when moisture levels are kept topped up; it actually behaves like younger skin, better able to renew itself. Our advice, then, is to turn on the heated towel rail, warm up the bathroom – and take a few minutes to nourish from neck-to-toe after showering or bathing each time, with the following favourite ‘finds’ of ours. They should transform caring for your body, year-round, from a beauty chore into a positive pleasure.

Start by using an oil scrub on knees, elbows, feet and shins, each time you bathe. The great thing about oil-based scrubs is that they literally leave a ‘slick’ of oil on the skin’s surface. (Often, a gorgeously fragrant one.) Work gently into areas that are particularly prone to roughness, in circular movements. Salt or sugar scrubs will dissolve in the water, leaving a fine layer on the surface that clings to skin as you get out of the water; we still like to moisturise afterwards, but this thin veil on the skin is a great ‘base coat’ for a rich cream. Our favourites include NEOM Organics Real Luxury Body Scrub, £34, with its divine scent of jasmine, lavender and rosewood; upliftingly-fragranced Temple Spa Sugar Buff, £23; and Green People Sugar Scrub, which nourishes with a blend of shea butter, rosehip, pomegranate and coconut oils.

If you skin is really bumpy and ‘chicken skin’-like, meanwhile, it may be Keratosis Pilaris (KP). Shabir writes very well about this here, – it’s a problem which affects nearly 40% of the population – but our go-to topical product for this is always Ameliorate Transforming Body Lotion, £22.50, a great treatment for rough, bumpy skin, featuring a combination of Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and a special hydration complex. Impressive stuff.

The cold weather watchword, pretty much regardless of skin type, is:  ‘more’. More moisturising, more often. We actually like to double-moisturise, applying first a body lotion, then maybe an oil or a richer butter to ‘lock in’ that moisture. Our faves include the incredible Aromatherapy Associates Nourishing Enrich Body Butter (this jasmine-scented mega-treat seems expensive at £55 for 200ml, but we suggest you put it top of your ‘Dear Santa’ list right now); Soapsmith Bloomsbury Body Butter Melt, £12, and the super-affordable Jason Nourishing Cocoa Butter Cream, £6.99.

If you prefer an oil, or want to add another layer of skin TLC over your body butter, we’re fond of Weleda Pomegranate Regenerating Body Oil, £24.95 (to Jo, it smells a little like Guerlain Shalimar!); Ilapothecary Feminine Happy Oil, £40, which has a mood-balancing blend of essential oils including heavenly rose – and again, there’s a bargain option in the form of good old Jason Vitamin E Oil 5000iu, £6.99.

Pay special attention to elbows, heels, cuticles. These can get actively scaly and flaky during winter. DO NOT PICK! That’s rule number one. Secondly, after you’ve scrubbed (see above), apply an ointment-style balm and work in circular movements to get under every raised cell. If you keep this on your bedside table, it will remind you to do this every night. Lanolips 101 Ointment Multi-purpose Superbalm Lips + Hands + All Over, £10.99, is terrific for the task, while we’re also big fans of Pommade Divine, £14, with its wonderfully camphoraceous scent.

Be nice to your feet. You have pedicures in summer – why not winter? We almost make ourselves yawn afresh by repeating the mantra (yet again) that happy feet make a happy woman, but we believe in having year-round medical pedicures (from the wonderful Margaret Dabbs), to remove hard skin build-up and check in with foot health generally. In summer, we book in once a month – but once every six weeks minimum in autumn, winter and early spring, too. Because feet are closeted in lots of layers, inside shoes and boots, they can get sweaty – leading to problems of athlete’s foot. There will also be times – party nights, yoga classes – when your feet will emerge from those opaques and go on show. And how much nicer to be able to look at glamorously painted toenails and well-tended cuticles than feel embarrassed about getting your hooves out?

So: stay warm, stay snuggly – but underneath those cosy layers, be sure to stay smooth and soft, too!

On Not Giving A Damn What People Think

on-not-giving-a-damn-what-people-think

I grew up with a grandmother who cared a lot about what people thought of her. She was a wonderful woman – incredibly generous, pillar of the various communities where she lived, from India to Malaya to New York and finally, the Cotswolds. But in all the years I knew her, I don’t think she ever truly relaxed – to the point I’m not sure I actually did know the ‘real’ her. Read More…

The Importance Of Acceptance

the-importance-of-acceptance

We know lots of women who’ve had fillers, Botox and other cosmetic ‘tweaks’. And if that includes you, that’s your choice. But you won’t find us lining up for a syringe-ful of anything ‘age-defying’ in a cosmeto-dermatologist’s waiting room. Not now, not ever. We have plenty of beauty editor colleagues who’ve done so, of course – sometimes in the line of duty, to educate other women about what it’s like and what results to expect. But along the way, in some cases, they’ve entirely stopped looking like the women we knew (and not in a good way).

Fact: once you have that first procedure – even if it’s something as simple as Botox – you’ve crossed the rubicon. If that doesn’t make you better and solve all your life problems (and trust us, it won’t), then where next…? It’s a rabbit hole and a slippery slope. (Possibly a slippery slope into a rabbit hole, actually, is how we see it.)

Do we always love what we see in the mirror? No. Nobody said ageing was easy. But we’re happy to be living in a time when there are, at last, fabulous older role models out there. The ninety-something, super-stylish Iris Apfel, for instance. Linda Rodin, who sold her Rodin Olio Lusso skincare line to Estée Lauder, and whose grey-haired fabulousness (and pet poodle, Winks) we just adore following on her @lindaandwinks Instagram account. Or Jan de Villeneuve, 60s model, still going strong in her 70s (and soon to make an appearance in a quirky Jo Malone London campaign). They don’t airbrush or ‘fix’ their lines – they embrace them. And that’s what we strive for, too.

What is entirely possible, however – as the women above all prove – is that it’s easier than ever to look good for your age. So this month on VH, we thought we’d share what we have learned, over our long careers, really, really works.

Get a great makeover

Before anyone heads off to a doctor’s surgery on a quest for eternal youth, we like to divert them to a beauty counter – probably Bobbi Brown’s. One of the things that happens as we age, and which women find most distressing, is that their make-up doesn’t work the way it used to. It settles into lines. The complexion underneath has changed, too – often becoming paler and more washed-out. Brows go grey. Because of that – and the ever-present fear of looking like Widow Twankey, and having someone shout ‘Mutton!’ after you in the street – some women stop using make-up altogether. Which is absolutely the worst thing to do, because you will simply fade away.

Pale skin, pale brows, pale lashes, paler lips – it all adds up to a disappearing act. But Bobbi Brown’s make-up artists, in particular, are great at giving makeovers that make you look like you – only better. At the very least you’ll pick up some tips and tricks (and it’s only make-up, not a tattoo – if you hate the results, just cleanse them away when you get home).

Find a great facialist

For our money, a good facial with massage by skilled hands can give some gorgeous instant results and really get skin glowing. Ask friends for recommendations, because not all facialists are created equal, by a long chalk. (But you might just find a magic-worker round the corner.)

Add at-home facial massage into your regime

It works wonders; on ‘grey days’ it revs up circulation, restoring glow. We love the following, from Annee de Mamiel, which is fantastic performed with her facial oils. (Find them here.)

• Smooth your favourite facial oil over entire face and neck.

• Cup hands over nose and mouth, breathe in and out deeply.

• Tug your earlobes with thumb and index finger.  Then with fingertips, use firm, circular movements to massage from behind ears to base of neck.

• From the point of your chin, work up and outwards along the jaw to your ear; then from corners of mouth over the cheeks to ear, with circular movements; then from base of nose to top of ear.        Repeat the whole sequence three times.

• Sweep your fingertips firmly over your eye brows, then under, then gently pinch along them. Repeat twice.

• Pressing firmly with your middle fingers, circle the eyes beginning above the inner corners and working outwards.  Repeat three times.

• From the centre of your forehead, just above the nose, zigzag middle fingers in small, firm motions out to the temples; repeat working up the forehead.

• With the side of your index finger (held vertically), smooth skin from centre of face outwards, beginning with your forehead, then sides of nose, middle of mouth and centre of chin.

• Finish by breathing deeply, hands cupped over mouth and nose.

Try a jade stone

If there’s one thing more effective than massaging with fingers, it’s using a tool to do so. The Hayo’u Beauty Restorer has become a ‘cult’ product, and we’re so not surprised – it’s brilliant for dispelling fluid build-up and eliminating facial puffiness, especially around the jaw.

Get the needle!

Not Botox, or fillers, but acupuncture needles. We swear by them. And believe us, the needles truly aren’t scary. We were having facial acupuncture long before we met the wondrous Annee de Mamiel (see above), but we love her philosophy and her explanation of why facial acupuncture works. ‘Beauty is about being balanced on the inside, in every way – physically and psychologically. If you feel good about yourself, it reflects in the way you look. Dry, wrinkled, saggy skin mirrors what is happening in your body, so a facial acupuncturist looks at the roots of the problems and treat those too.’ For instance, the common problem of vertical lines between your eyebrows can relate to liver energy not flowing properly (frowning too much is a factor too!), so as well as needling the lines themselves, an acupuncturist will treats the liver. It’s also incredibly relaxing, we find – and of course that shows instantly on the face, too.

Never, ever, EVER look at yourself in the ‘vanity’ mirror of your car

If you want to feel good about yourself, and practice ‘acceptance’, that is. Invariably, lines appear there that weren’t there yesterday. It’s some kind of quirk of physics, we think. (Jo’s stuck gaffer tape over hers, to avoid nasty surprises.) And be really careful with FaceTime on your phone, too – we kinda hate Apple for coming up with that.

Last but not least, think nice thoughts

Your skin and face reflect your state of mind. If you’re stressed, you run the risk of looking pinched and peaky. Try thinking of a couple of nice things that have happened to you today – remember someone you love and, or something delicious that you have to look forward to. Even if life is really tough (and it happens to everyone), there’s almost always something positive. Gratitude and hope are great beautifiers. Be kind to others, and to yourself, too. That’s true beauty, in our book.