history: grooming is my favorite pastime

Sure painting and drawing, sure knitting and crafts, sure cooking and organizing and shopping and eating, sure hanging out with friends and writing and photography, sure calligraphy and wine and Shakespeare and the 19th century novel…but what I really love? What I do whenever I get the chance? What I find maximally calming and therapeutic and satisfying? What I put hours of attention and effort into, and investigation, and all the money it takes?

Grooming.

I groom.

O how I groom. O the tools. O the unguents. O the potions. O the experimentation. O the time.

No centimeter of my body escapes care.

Like weeding a garden, editing a text (I find editing to be a fitting metaphor for much of my life), cultivating a path through the wilderness…

This means clipping and trimming, oiling and treating, masking and exfoliating, cleansing and brushing and smoothing and massaging and just…addressing in the most comprehensive way.

I liked what I heard someone say recently, if you had only one suit to wear for your whole life, imagine the care you would take with that suit. I like this way of thinking about the body, particularly the skin.

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into: lip balm

the stash

the stash

Ah. Lip balm. I have a thing for lip balm.

I love all formulas; waxes, ointments, creams, butters, oils…

I clearly don’t need any more lip balm, but I like to have options (options, options, everywhere) and I always want to try something new (and lip balms are a great way to reach the free shipping threshold…).

Some standouts:

Dior Crème de rose – the latest and most luxurious addition to the stash. Expensive but loving it. After all, nothing is too good for my lips, is how it goes in my mind.

Boots No. 7 Protect and Perfect lip cream – creamy and entirely non-oily, this feels like putting moisturizer on your lips, a lot like the much more expensive Clinique All About Lips, but I think better (and cheaper). In this same vein, many eye creams make great lip conditioners, and some inexpensive eye creams are cheaper than expensive lip conditioners…

L’Occitane shea butter – great multi-purpose skin conditioner. Especially long-lasting effects. This is one I keep by the bed.

Kiss My Face ginger and mango – this flavor is a favorite. I have a powerful affinity toward ginger. This is an especially buttery/soft and smooth stick formula that is great for winter, when a tiny bit of tugging can mean a cracked lip. The Yes to Carrots balm has a similar consistency, and neither is as waxy or firm as the standard Burt’s Bees.

Smith’s Rosebud Salve – it’s basically petroleum jelly with a nice fragrance (I also like the minted rose but do not like the Brambleberry), but I love petroleum jelly, and these ointment-like balms. I forgot to put Vaseline in the picture, but I use it all the time. These products don’t condition but sometimes protection is all that is needed. Aquaphor also good for this. I don’t find the Kiehl’s balm to be much different. I would also put the Murad lip care and  Elizabeth Arden 8 hour cream in this category, though they are more nourishing and long-lasting than a plain petroleum jelly. They can all also be used to add shine to eyebrows, lashes, eyelids, cheekbones… versatility.

Nuxe Rêve de Miel lip balm – thick, entirely unique texture that requires a lot of working in, but conditions wonderfully. Expensive but…if you are obsessed with lip balm you will understand how one comes to own these things.

Dr. Lipp nipple balm – basically medical grade lanolin (which I also got some of, not pictured, and which, aside from smelling medicinal, works great), which is protecting and healing. Great for cracked, chapped situations. Note that it is extremely thick. The Molton Brown and Laura Mercier lip treatments (both nice if you can find them on sale…too expensive if not) are somewhere between Carmex and this in consistency.

Carmex – I am virtually never without Carmex. Smells medicinal, I know, and is possibly causing my addiction to lip balm…but I don’t care.

Nivea Olive Oil & Lemon lip care – this is a great stick formula. The texture is a lot like the pai bergamot lip balm, a hard oil that melts on contact and leaves a very thin slick on the lips. No tugging on the lips like with waxy formulas (the Mario Badescu lip balm is the same texture, but the scent is an awful species of herbal). I also like this kind of packaging a lot, and find it much cleaner than the standard chapstick tube. Sidenote that I don’t like the new Nivea lip butters at all, and find the flavors cheap and synthetic.

Korres lip butters – if you can find them on sale and choose a flavor you like (I don’t like a lot of them), the texture is gorgeous, and the tints are high quality (not patchy, surprising color payoff). This is the only product called a lip butter that I actually think is similar in texture to butter. These are superior, though, because they are less oily than butter (which I suppose you could use, but it would be a little Handmaiden’s Tale). I like the guava and wild rose flavors.

I’m really liking the cheapo Wet ‘n Wild juicy lip balm I just got, too. Actually one of the better tinted options I’ve used, though the pricier MAC lip conditioner is also excellent (Oh, they seem to have discontinued the tinted ones…fools).

acquisition: Dior Crème de Rose smoothing lip balm

Dior Crème de Rose smoothing plumping lip balm

Dior Crème de Rose smoothing plumping lip balm

This Dior Crème de Rose balm is definitely luxe.

[Yesterday was an indulgent day. When it comes to my lips, I often indulge.]

I’ll get into my obsession with lip balms later. For now it suffices to say that I have many lip balms, and that this is a worthy addition to my options. The rose fragrance is high quality–presents as a true, simple tea rose– and the texture is firm but smooth. On the lips it is slightly tacky, though not so much as a straight ointment would be, in that way that makes me think it would be a great base for lipliner or lipstick.

I love rose, and have had my eye on this for many months. No regrets.

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into: face oils

IMG_1591

I have naturally oily skin but I like to treat it as if it is sensitive, dehydrated skin. Oily ≠ hydrated.

My preferred method of hydrating, protecting, and nourishing my skin is: face oils. For years now they have nearly taken the place of moisturizer altogether, especially at night, and my skin hasn’t been this soft and healthy since…before puberty. The lighter oils aren’t any greasier/heavier than a standard sunscreen, and many absorb completely within half an hour or so. They are also extremely soothing after exfoliation or skin treatments and rarely cause the stinging that the chemicals in some moisturizers can.

A good quality oil is often cheaper than a good quality moisturizer, and a little goes a long way. Most can be used for your hair or in the kitchen as well (not to mention as makeup removers and cleansers). I find dropper bottles the most convenient. Not too fussed about brands here, I just look for organic, 100% pure options and go for whatever is reasonably priced. Different oils provide different benefits, and I like to rotate several depending on how my skin is feeling on a given day.

argan oil.  Healing and nourishing, antioxidants, fatty acids, etc. I’m sure you’ve heard. Lightweight, absorbs quickly, no scent. I like this one and this one.

apricot kernel oil. Vitamin A & fatty acids. Healing and good for especially sensitive skin. Also quite light, and, like argan oil, good for when the skin is blemish-prone.

rosehip seed oil. Packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, good for skin regeneration and treatment of scarring. You can go not so cheap(though I found this one discounted at TJ Maxx), or you can go really not so cheap. Downside that this dyes your pillow orange, upside is your skin the next day. Thick and rich, can really only be used at night or on isolated dry patches.

jojoba oil. Similar to the skin’s natural oil so it absorbs beautifully and has no distinct odor. Trader Joe’s has a good price. Inexpensive enough to use all over the body as well.

sweet almond oil. I tend to use this on my body rather than my face as it is especially moisturizing, inexpensive and has almost no odor. Absorbs well into the skin (unlike, say, baby oil, which is basically mineral oil, which provides a barrier of protection  but is difficult for skin to absorb (like petroleum jelly)). Great carrier oil for making your own blends. I like to add random essential oils to scent it (many of which also have skin benefits, but do your research first). Recommend frankincense (go smell frankincense), patchouli (not just for the 60s anymore), chamomile, lavender, peru basalm, ylang ylang.

Then there are blends, which can be very expensive indeed. Watch for cheaper blends bulked up with cheap oils like safflower. They will moisturize but don’t have the benefits a concentrated, high quality oil will. I have some of these but they are for the oil-guzzling body, not the face.

I don’t regret acquiring the Clarins rebalancing oils, which are precious but smell amazing and are packed with great nutrients. The Blue Orchid one smells especially awesome. Kind of a sweet, light, compelling patchouli. [Men, go put this on your face and just see what happens.] If, like me, you have a thing for cardamom, try the Santal one. Or, you know, choose one based on your skin concern. Smell before you buy, is what I say about these.

I’ll do a separate post about the oils I like for my hair, which are many. Will also soon experiment with olive oil, avocado oil, hazelnut oil, and castor oil in various contexts. We’ll see how it goes.

N.B. I didn’t like evening primrose oil, which, without heavy dilution with some nice-smelling stuff, smells actually rancid. Some oils should be stored in the refrigerator as they will go rancid, but this one smells unbearable anyway.

SKIN LOVE: the things I do for my skin [face]

Hanna Putz, Untitled (TR1), 2012

Hanna Putz, Untitled (TR1), 2012. Image from artligue.fr

I decided a long time ago that one of those things I want in life, one of those things I will do whatever it takes to achieve (insofar as I can achieve it with the raw materials) is beautiful skin.

[Probably because mine is, in its natural, neglected state (and in its ineptly handled state), pretty awful.]

Beautiful skin is, to me, beauty. You know, the kind that is not on the inside.

So, I:

  • drink water
  • change my pillowcase every other day, or more
  • sanitize my phone regularly
  • buy it presents
  • eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and nuts
  • cleanse gently and thoroughly, taking my time with lots of massaging
  • treat with products tailored to how it feels that day, spot-treat dry or spotty areas
  • use various masks as inspired, for different effects
  • use broad-spectrum sunscreen daily
  • take birth control (this is a drastic step but has made a tremendous difference in the quality of my skin, which is prone to hormonal acne. Probably the single most effective step in combating my problem skin, and nowhere near the most expensive. Luckily I don’t experience any negative side-effects)
  • take vitamins to strengthen and nourish skin. On rotation (not every day): lysine, flaxseed oil, biotin, evening primrose oil, vitamin C, vitamin D, coconut oil
  • nourish with vitamin C serum at night (topical vitamin C and other citrus products make the skin especially sensitive to the sun), and various nourishing (alcohol-free!) toners in the day
  • drink more water
  • nourish additionally with various natural oils (see face oil post)
  • make decisions about which products to use based on the premise that my skin is sensitive (though it’s technically not in the way that skincare companies mean…really all skin is, particularly the face, neck, and chest), and should be treated gently whenever possible
  • avoid touching unless hands are freshly washed, and even then
  • clean and sanitize any tools or products that touch my face as needed (with makeup, work clean, and sanitize where relevant)
  • exfoliate gently and regularly and
  • treat with products that promote cell-turnover and regeneration to avoid congestion of the pores (my skin needs help with this)
  • treat with products that lighten or break down the melanin of hyper-pigmentation and balance skin tone
  • add extra oil or moisturizer if I it is especially cold, dry, or windy, or if I know my face is going into harsh conditions
  • ask what it needs, and watch for signs of distress
  • drink more water

Now that these are all habits I don’t consider them laborious but, writing them out, I guess it is a lot. I find it easy to keep up with regimens that show definite results, however, and each step has a purpose (and concordant logic). One thing I enjoy about skin is how individual it is [Naturally your skin will not need everything mine does.], and how attention to detail is rewarded. Give your skin what it needs and it will show.

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