Beauty

Natural Ways To Brighter Eyes

close up pink flower

You’ve probably noticed that D.I.Y beauty – whizzing up ingredients to make your own cosmetics – has become a bit of a trend. Well, with all respect to the millennials who are all over #Instagram with their home-made beauty treats, we’ve been doing it since we were teenagers ourselves. Here’s what we’ve always known: making your own beauty treats is fun. (Especially if you do it with a friend/child/goddaughter.) It’s easy. And because these little beauty treats are packed with lashings of botanical ingredients, they can  can be super-effective.

With hay fever a particular challenge right now (Sarah suffers terribly), puffy eyes are a particular problem. So this month, we thought we’d share with VH readers our top treatments for dealing with under-eye baggage and the eye zone generally. And, we thought we’d also share a little ‘beauty craft project’: making your own eye bags. Easy to do, even if your expertise generally doesn’t extend beyond sewing on a shirt button.

Chamomile Eye Bag Blitzer

  • 10g. (1/2  oz) dried chamomile flowers
  • Mineral, purified tap or rainwater

Chamomile has a near-miraculous effect on tired and puffy eyes. If you know you’re heading for a morning-after-the-night-before, make this chamomile infusion before you go out and it’ll be ice-cold and ready for bag-blitzing the next day. (It keeps for just a few days in the fridge.)

Place the flowers in the bottom of a mug and fill with boiling water; allow to cool and strain into a sterilised jar, which you should pop in the fridge. Soak cotton wool pads in the cold tea and place over the eyes. (Pads are better than cotton balls because they cover more of the eye zone.)

Relax for 15-20 minutes (we always love being told to do that!). During this time, use the pads of your fingers to tap outwards along the ‘orbital bone’ above and below the eye, to help the de-puffing action. (At a pinch, you can also use a cold chamomile tea bag as an eye compress; stew and cool in the fridge before use.)

Potato De-Bagger

  • 1/4 potato

Slice the potato in 5-to-10 very thin slices that can easily be moulded to the skin, rather than a couple of thick slices (which is the traditional advice).  I’ve found the thin slices are much more effective because they’re in contact with the skin. Simply spritz the eye area with plain water and arrange the potato around the eyes; leave in place for 10-15 minutes – and see that puffiness disappear, thanks to the potato’s decongesting action.

TIP: If eyes are puffy in the morning, take a leaf out of supermodel Linda Evangelista’s book and reach for a cube of ice. Wrap it in Clingfilm and use it to ‘massage away’ eye bags, working in an outward direction. The cold will reduce the swelling.

Eyebright Eye Brightener

  • 10g (1/2  oz) dried eyebright flowers
  • 225ml. water

Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis) is the eye-friendly herb; it grows in natural grassland. You might be able to introduce seeds of this dainty, blueish-white flower into a wild, grassy corner of the garden, if you don’t pamper it too much – but if not, the dried herb just as effective.

Eyebright’s power was first recorded in the 14th century, when it was deemed useful for ‘all evils of the eye’. It’s rich in the mineral zinc, which helps repair skin tissues – probably explaining why it’s good at caring for the fragile skin around the eyes. Eyebright’s also a good skin disinfectant. (But be super-aware that natural cosmetics – made without synthetic preservatives – can become contaminated; immediately ditch any eye preparation that you make using eyebright if it starts to smell different or if you get any kind of eye infection – and always ensure your hands are clean when you use any kind of home-made eye treat. Never use a homemade infusion of eyebright directly in the eyes; it may not be sufficiently sterile.)

So: the how-to. Put the flowers in the bottom of a saucepan and add the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes. Cool and strain, then pour into a sterile jar. Store the eyebright infusion in the fridge, where it will keep for three or four days. (Don’t keep it longer than that.) When your eyes feel tired, soak a cotton pad in the mixture, squeeze to remove almost all the liquid and place the damp pad on the eyelids for 5-to-10 minutes.

Herbal Eye Pillows

  • 25cm/ 1/yard of silky or natural fabric (cotton or linen)
  • 150g (5 oz) dried lavender flowers
  • 6 drops lavender essential oil (optional)

Cut two rectangles of fabric, around 22 cm. by 13 cm. With right sides together stitch a 11/4cm/ 1/2inch seam around the two long sides and one end of the pillow, either by hand or using a sewing machine. Turn the right side out. Put the flaxseed and the lavender flowers in a bowl, add the lavender essential oil, drop-by-drop, swirl to mix – and (using using a funnel) pour the mixture into the bag. With a hand stitch, neatly sew the remaining side closed.

These eye bags are wonderfully relaxing – helpful for getting to sleep, during an at-home spa treatment or any time you need to relax;  the weight of the grains seems to quiet the eyes – and in turn, the mind.  These make wonderful gifts, too. Your herb pillow should last for about a year;  when the next lavender harvest is in, renew it. The herbal eye pillows page can be made of almost any natural material, but silk is particularly soothing and gentle on the skin.

Why We All Need A Telescope And A Microscope

pink pencils

We all need heroes in this world, and one of mine – notwithstanding the fact that she went to jail for insider trading – is Martha Stewart, creator of a homewares and mega-media empire in the States. It’s not because of her gorgeous floral arrangements, or her gardening tips, or the drool-worthy recipes in Martha Stewart Living, her glossy lifestyle magazine. (Sad but true: being a great believer in the power of home-making – as a solace not just for self, but for the family and much-loved friends who gravitate to ours – I still have every issue ever published, which means over 20 years’ worth!)

I like the way Martha’s made a business out of style, and taste, and reassured me that just because I may want to decompress from a week of 18 hour days by organising my linen closet or my gift-wrapping supplies, that’s OK; it doesn’t mean I’m not intelligent, and it doesn’t mean I’m not a feminist. It means I just like things to be nice, too.

But what I really admire Martha for is an excellent book that she wrote called The Martha Rules. It’s a brilliant how-to book for women, in particular, setting out on an entrepreneurial journey – so good, in fact, that I’ve gifted it to lots of young women embarking on start-ups. But the lesson I really took away from it is the importance of having two tools: a microscope and a telescope. Martha was referring to business – and how important it is to step back from working on the detail, to look at the bigger picture and how your business sits in the wider landscape. But what I took away from that book – and what I try to apply to my life, not just my ventures – is the telescope lesson.

Today, all of us spend our lives fixated on tiny screens, on problem-solving, on figuring out a way to deal with one crisis after another, whether it’s a sick kid who unexpectedly throws a spanner in the works (or rather the working week), a broken dishwasher (my current domestic status update), a lost bank card (er, actually also my current status update), whatever. Entire days – no weeks! – can disappear, simply dealing with everyday life, without us ever taking a moment to stand back and look at that bigger picture.

And it’s just so, so vital to do that – because it’s only by looking at things from afar that we realise a) what’s really important in life, and b) what needs changing. Fact: life is short. Way too short to spend it mindlessly dealing with trivia (trust me, nobody’s going to go to their grave wishing they’d spent more time on Twitter), or lurching from one crisis to another, or generally watching the days slip between our fingers. And this isn’t just about stopping to smell the roses (or right now, the lily of the valley which are flourishing near my back gate and I’m spending too little time up-close-and-personal with). How often have you read about someone with a life-threatening illness talk about how it was such a wake-up call, and it made them realise what really mattered (whether that was spending time with family or a partner, or quitting a job they didn’t enjoy, or maybe even ticking that climb up Kilimanjaro off the bucket list)? Answer: all too often, because for many of us it’s only when something dramatic happens that we get to look down that telescope.

So: how to do that more often? Well, one way is meditating. I’ve written about that before – and personally, I now swear by an app called Calm (check it out at calm.com). For ‘big picture’ stuff, perhaps think about taking an actual course in meditation – not just because it’s a great way to learn to focus, but because there’s something about signing up to learn anything that can make us think: ‘Shouldn’t I be finding time to do more of this, in my life…?’ Which can perhaps nudge us to do more new things, rather than just more of the same.

Holidays are great for ‘big picture’ stuff, too. (As in, perhaps: ‘Do I really want to be doing this stressful/unenjoyable/dull job that I am going back to next week/in a fortnight – or should I be thinking about looking for other challenges and new opportunities?’) For me, though, it’s daily walking that helps me with the big picture stuff. Almost as if I’ve got an invisible telescope packed in my pocket, alongside my phone and house keys.

Recently, I had a big challenge with one of my ventures. A tricky conundrum that nobody could seem to solve – not business-threatening, but something that needed a new approach so we could move forward when we’d been going round in circles. One morning, partly because it was just gloriously sunny, I absented myself from the office and my team and took myself off for a long, blustery, blue-skied seaside walk. A few miles. Instead of whiling away my morning answering what always feels like a deluge of e-mails, I chewed on my metaphoric pencil, as I put one foot in front of the other – and hey, presto: after a mile or so, I had the required brainwave. Ta-dah! I took the solution back to the team, we actioned it – and could move forward again. But I absolutely, 100% know that wouldn’t have happened if I’d been at my desk, sweating the small stuff and dealing with detail.

So I invite you: make this the month you invest in yourself – and your life – by trying to spend time looking at things from afar. After all, if Galileo could discover the moons of Jupiter (and more) by staring down his telescope, what heavenly future can you make for yourself, just by spending a little time standing back from the world…?

PS. In her intro to The Martha Rules, my hero Martha does acknowledge the jail term and the lessons it taught her – so it’s not like she’s brushing that under the carpet with some posh broom! She’s clearly not proud of what happened. But I also admire that she didn’t let a huge, image-damaging incident hold her back. Which might just be fodder for a future editorial, I suspect…

The Ultimate Leg Guide

legs in bath

Boy, summer’s taken its time, hasn’t it? But at last, it is time to peel off some layers – and reveal the skin beneath. And – in the case of our legs – possibly shriek in horror, and retreat straight back into a pair of jeans. Not sure what it is about legs, but most emerge from winter looking like they’ve been under a stone somewhere. Hideously pale. Often dry and flaky. Definitely not worthy of a can-can, that’s for sure…

But since most of us are just longing to stow away our opaques until autumn rolls round, emergency action is required. The good news? Fortunately, there are some short-cuts to bare-able legs which can transform them fast enough for you to reach for a short dress or a pair of shorts in just an hour or two from now, without scaring the horses. (Highly relevant, in Sarah’s case.) Read More…

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Perfume

toppled empty perfume bottle

A couple of weeks ago, following in the footsteps of Shabir, I did a fun-tastic Facebook Live with Trinny Woodall. Formerly one-half of ‘& Susannah’, she is now a Grade A beauty expert, bringing that same famous critical eye to all the beauty products she reviews – often HILARIOUSLY, by the way, but always informatively. What is less well-known is that she adores perfume, so we’d been workshopping the idea of me sharing the knowledge I’ve acquired over the years – which have led me down the path of founding The Perfume Society – with Trinny’s audience.

 

Boy, did we have a blast. (You can watch it on her YouTube channel – IN MY BATHROOM… with Jo Fairley.) I spent a lot of the hour-long chatathon answering the sort of questions that I hear time and again, about fragrance. So I thought for this month’s editorial, I’d address some of the things that people consistently seem to find most baffling, about scent. Read More…

Ayurveda: What Your Dosha Can Say About You

Ayuvedic tea

Health fads may come and go. But you can’t really argue with a mind-body health system that’s been around, so it’s said, for up to 5,000 years, when Indian monks were seeking new ways to be healthy. (For translation purposes, ‘ayur’ means life force, or vital energy, while ‘veda’ means science.)

Now, I’d always been interested in Ayurveda – in a magazine-reader-fun-questionnaire sort of way. You’ve probably done one yourself: answered a list of questions asking about body shape, energy levels, preferred foods, whether or not you tend to feel hot and cold, etc. I’d figured out that I was classified as ‘pitta’ – but never taken it much further than that. (Pitta is a ‘dosha’ – basically, doshas are your constitution. The other two are vata and kapha, more of which anon.) Read More…

The Beauty Bible Spring Skincare Edit

Pink Tutti London

As some of you may know, for aeons now we have been sharing products that Beauty Bible loves every single weekday on Beautybible.com, having sifted through the literally thousands of products which land on our desks each year to find the gems.

It probably will not come as a surprise to VH devotees that many of our finds happen to come from this very website. So – in case you missed them – here are some of our recent faves and our spring skincare edit… Read More…