Beauty

The Joy Of Routine

faceless clock

Thanks, Julianne Moore. Why? For a little phrase she quoted in an interview with a Sunday supplement recently, which really helped put my daily life back on track. Actually, it sounds a lot less poncy to quote a Hollywood actress than a French author – but in truth, the quote belongs to Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary, etc.) It reads: ‘Be regular and ordinary in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.’

Now, what Gustave/Julianne mean isn’t actual violence as in thumping your colleagues, of course. It means creativity, inspiration, spark. And what this reminded me of is how hard it is to tap into that when your life’s in disarray and chaos. So I promptly printed this out, pinned it to my office wall – and even Instagrammed it. (@jofairley, if you’re interested. Got lots of likes, it did, too.) Read More…

Bodycare

black radiator white brick wall

The central heating’s on. (Wow, that happened early, didn’t it?) The Wolford opaques have been excavated from the winter clothes drawer. And if we’re not careful, ‘out of sight, out of mind’ could be the watchwords when it comes to bodycare over the next few months. When we’re clad in Heattech vests and thermal socks and generally cosied up against the elements – always remembering that gorgeous Danish phrase, ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes’ – bodycare can go on a back burner. (With that pan of warming soup, perhaps.)

But even though skin may not be on show, it’s as important to focus on bodycare in the cold months as it is when you’re in a swimsuit. Moisture in skin makes for healthy cellular communication: when those electrical charges can pass between cells, their ability to repair and renew is optimised. (As we’ve said before, moisturiser is in itself ‘anti-ageing’.) Winter conditions – and even the clothes we wear – are the enemies of well-moisturised skin, however; tight clothing actually ‘wicks’ moisture from the surface of the body (think of your clothes as giant blotting paper!), while central heating makes for desert-like conditions atomospherically, further evaporating water from the skin. Read More…

Post Summer Hair S.O.S.

cut hair close up

So, you fried it. Sun. Sea. Surf. Sand. Styling gunk. Salt spray, even! (What were you thinking? Well, beach-y tousled waves, probably.) And as a result, chances are that by now, you’re only too well aware that summer is very hard on your hair.

This is most definitely the time to answer your hair’s S.O.S. call, then. Because summer may be tough on tresses – but if you compound that with the ultra-dry environment we’re about to move into as soon as the central heating goes on, the damage just accelerates and you’ll find yourself heading inexorably haystack-wards. So this is the time to put back what summer 2017 took out – and get back on track with a hair rehab regime… Read More…

The Joy Of Sea-Bathing

september beach writing

My friends think I’m mad. (Yes, I know, I know.) But I’m not, actually – or at least, in respect of my habit of sea-bathing. Because I happen to have the ocean at the end of my road, on the South Coast – a ten-minute saunter away. And between around the beginning of June and late October, unless the red flag’s actually flying, I’m in there. Not for hours – just five or ten minutes or so. Ideally at lunchtime, with a snack and a bottle of water – or maybe tea-time, depending on high tide.

Over the years I’ve lived here, I’ve become convinced of the benefits of swimming in the sea – and am only surprised that more people don’t follow our lead. (The other half of ‘our’ being my husband, the ‘equally mad’ Craig – or so friends would have it; sometimes it’s the only daylight time we get to spend together, between morning tea and dinner – despite the fact we work in adjoining offices.) Read More…

Double Duty Beauty

sliced lemons

Whether or not you are the travel-savvy type who manages to jet off with hand baggage only (something we aspire to but have never mastered), or travel – certainly, as Jo does – as if headed off on the cultural Grand Tour so beloved of our Victorian ancestors, there is a great deal to be said for products which perform more than one task, in order to free up valuable real estate in that suitcase.

The marketing departments of beauty companies would like us to think that the products they make perform but a single use. (With the exception of multi-purpose balms, which we’ll come onto, and which are actually pitched as multi-taskers.) But ever since we were first closeted away at a hotel writing our debut pink Beauty Bible tome, we’ve been playing around with products to see what other tricks they can pull off. (This dates back to trying Christian Dior’s Svelte anti-cellulite treatment as a hairstyling gel. It worked perfectly.)

We suggest you have a go yourself, seeing whether you can re-purpose favourite beauty products. There’s really only one rule, actually, when it comes to experimenting: don’t apply anything to the eye zone that isn’t specifically designed for that area; eye products undergo special ophthalmological testing to ensure they’re safe – and better safe than sorry.

Here, though, are some of our suggestions for space-saving beauty products for your suitcase. In some cases, store cupboard standbys – like the humble lemon – can do double- or even triple-duty, too. But with the extortionate amount ‘cheap’ airlines charge for extra bags, has it ever been timelier to find out just what else your favourite beauty products can do…?

  • Eyeliner… can work as brow-liner and even lipliner, in a soft, auburn-y shade.
  • Lemons… are one of nature’s great beautifiers: rub halves on elbows to brighten skin, use in a hair rinse for blondes.
  • Body oil… if it’s not too highly scented (or indeed if unscented), apply to a wet cotton pad and use it to remove make-up.
  • Facial sprays… work brilliantly to damp hair down before re-styling.
  • Olive oil… can be mixed with seasalt (one tablespoon of oil to one teaspoon of salt) as an instant exfoliant. Also brilliant massaged into dry hair; wrap with Clingfilm and leave on as long as possible before shampooing out.
  • Rose-tinted lipstick or gloss… makes a great blusher – particularly at this time of year when powder often looks too heavy.
  • Eye cream… works as a lip treatment.
  • Bottles of nearly finished scent… can be used to fragrance your bath; add a little baby oil (or unscented body oil) to the bottle, and shake.
  • Eye make-up base… is good for concealing blemishes.
  • Shower gel… can be used to hand-wash lingerie and woollens.
  • Moisturiser… at a pinch, can be applied to leather shoes and then polished to give them a gleam as bright as any upmarket polish. We often rub a touch of moisturiser between palms and skim over hair when it’s unruly.
  • Hand lotion… is great smoothed onto legs for shaving; it leaves skin ultra-silky. (Hair conditioner works, too.)
  • Lip balm… is one of our favourite multi-taskers: use it as a cuticle treatment and rub a dab between palms as a frizzy hair fix. (Our Beauty Bible Lip Balm is fab for this!)
  • Powder bronzer… can be applied as an eyeshadow – a great holiday look.

And a word about multi-tasking balms… We love a specific ‘all-in-one product’ – especially around the time of holidays, travel and festivals. Our favourites on VH?

Check out Lanolips 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm (for lips, hands and all over).

This Works In Transit Turbo Balm is teeny, but fits brilliantly into a pocket to treat dry skin emergencies on heels, cuticles, elbows – and is a terrific brow-tamer, with its blend of cocoa butter, rose oil and heaven-scented monoi oil.

Pommade Divine rises to all kinds of dry skin challenges – we have friends it’s helped with psoriasis, eczema and various other rashes, but at a pinch we’ve also used it as a make-up remover (though do keep away from eyes, which aren’t keen on the camphor). Good for any dry bits, too. And just what is the word for a product that performs about 10 tasks, meanwhile…?

It should certainly be applied to Weleda Skin Food: a highly affordable, all-natural treat from the biodynamic beauty name, genius as a creamy cleanser, a moisturiser for day and night, a body lotion, hand cream (and more, more, more), with its blend of sunflower seed and sweet almond oil. We’ve heard of backpackers who’ve sawn off half a toothbrush to save space while hiking. If you’re one of them (and even if you’re not, actually), you definitely need Skin Food in your life.

Embracing Change

torn lined paper

‘A change is as good as a rest,’ we’re often told. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that; nothing quite rivals a good lie-down (preferably for two weeks, right around now, with a stack of books to read). But over the years I’ve learned to embrace change in a way that I never would have expected when I was growing up. I loathed change. I wanted everything to be the same, always and forever. As disasters unfolded (my mother’s death, my father selling our beloved childhood home, other relationships unravelling), I realised: change was pretty unavoidable. But I can’t say I came to like it much, even then.

You might have heard me share my love of yoga on VH in the past – but I do think that it was when I seriously started to practice that I truly learned to go with the flow. One of my favourite yoga teachers (hilarytotah.co.uk) has a wonderful saying, which I truly subscribe to: ‘Flexible spine, flexible mind.’ And I do honestly think that yoga enables me to deal with everything the universe throws at me, and adjust to the ever-changing landscape of my life.

Recently, I’ve had a couple of changes to deal with – one small, one more impactful. Someone who worked for one of my businesses landed her dream job – and was leaving pretty quickly, to take up her new role. I wouldn’t dream of trying to change someone’s mind when they make an announcement like that; by contrast, when someone’s decided to move on, they’re mentally half-way into the new job and I’ve learned to let them go as soon as possible. Nevertheless, it was going to leave a hole which everyone else was going to have to work that big harder to fill, short-term ­– including me.

We’d been all bobbing along quite happily, taking the status quo for granted – and suddenly, it was change-a-go-go. But after 24 hours wondering how to fill her job, I had a flash of realisation. We didn’t have to find someone to sit in an office in London – which in turn meant I had to trek up from the seaside for a few days a week, mostly to make that person feel motivated and ‘loved’. Before launching this venture, I’d always run my businesses close to home – and suddenly, the possibility opened up to do so again. (Infinitely my preferred option to spending a lot of time in bustling, polluted, overcrowded central London.) By staying calm – largely thanks to yoga and meditation, I’m 100% convinced – rather than run round like a headless chicken, in panic mode, I was able to see that this change really was a golden opportunity to do things better. And so often, I’ve discovered, that’s the way it turns out – if you embrace the change, rather than fight it tooth and nail every step of the way. When you become stressed and angst-y, it creates a type of mental paralysis – and you can’t see beyond the here and now.

The other change was pretty trivial, by comparison. It involved a tree. Or half a tree, laden with plums, that broke off when it got weighted down in a torrential rainstorm a couple of weeks ago. Trouble was, I’d built my much-loved shed under the shade of that tree – the only flat, shady place in my garden. Suddenly, there’s no shade. If I want to lie and read a book (are you sensing a theme, here?), then I now have to do it in sunshine. There’s something about losing a tree – or even half a tree – which, while it’s nowhere up there with losing a human being, is still incredibly upsetting. It makes a garden look like its two front teeth have been knocked out. (Old enough to remember the hurricane of 1989? There were countless homeowners and park-lovers who suffered from a kind of PTSD after all those trees blew down.)

I could’ve cried. I could’ve got hysterical. I could’ve raged. (Against the eternally unpredictable elements.) But instead, I decided once again to embrace the change. Look on it as the universe’s way of telling me to get a bit more vitamin D. To appreciate the way it opened up a view I hadn’t had before. To give that bit of the garden a little makeover (while also being grateful that the half-a-tree had missed my shed by millimetres).

What I’ve definitely learned about change, though, is that in order to be able to deal with it, I have to have in place a fundamental routine – my ‘wellbeing’ building blocks, if you like. Taking my supplements, every day (as advised by Shabir, of course!) Walking daily. Doing somewhere between 10-15 minutes of meditation every morning, while my Rare Tea Speedy Breakfast brews, in preparation for powering me through my morning. Yoga, at least every Friday (and more, if I can manage it). I also need to spend an hour a week in the aforementioned (and now sunlit) shed, writing letters and cards to friends (and feeling grateful, as I do so).

These are things that fuel my body, my soul and my mind – and knowing I will be doing them day after day, year after year, not only helps to ensure that I’m as healthy as possible, but sets me up for dealing with the other, way more unpredictable things in my life. Only twice in my life have I experienced a can’t-get-off-the-sofa depression (both after broken hearts) – but I’m convinced it was by establishing a routine every day that I could depend on that got me through it, when life felt deeply rocky and uncertain.

We never know what life will throw at us – and we’re often told that what matters isn’t what happens to us, but how we deal with it. I couldn’t agree more. But it was Stephen Hawking, no less, who once simply said: ‘Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.’

I’ll take that, Professor…