COLLECTION – An Essay

It’s almost one in the morning. I’ve poured out all my makeup on the floor in front of my sofa, having decided to count it in a fit of insomnia-induced madness. Plastic packages in all sorts of shapes and colours are jumbled in a big messy pile. My mom is a collector, but I’m the type who gets rid of things. Or so I thought, until I saw all this. This can’t belong to a de-clutter fanatic.

I count, meditatively, and find that I have 114 different products in my little collection. More than anyone would ever need, but perhaps it’s just enough. And this isn’t even counting nail polish, perfume, hair care or skin care, all part of that same beauty ritual. I wash my face, do skincare treatments, exfoliate and moisturize. I paint my nails, put my hair in colour masks, wear fragrance. In this physical beauty ritual I am forced to work and interact with my own body, a body that often feels foreign. I tame my body, confirming its physicality and reality, confirming my ownership of it. Sensory impressions – a serum with an odd scent, the tightness of a clay mask, warm washcloths against my face all act like reminders that my physical self is real. In front of the mirror, with my products like a smorgasbord of tools, I build myself. Each day I must find the right tools for the job, a job that always changes – sometimes I need a red lipstick, sometimes a green. My collection is my palette, my raw material.

On my face I build a character that feels like home, confirming my identity. Colours and textures claim my skin as my own, and touching it makes me confident in the border between me and everything else. What I put on is my shield, marking those borders clearly.

When I’m through counting, sorting everything neatly by type – lip glosses together, powders together, eye pencils in a need row – I feel a strange sense of calm. I think of all my  little helpers, working every day to make me up. Building a body, a self, seeing a body, feeling a body, being a body. Seeing it and knowing it is mine. Noticing myself, taking notice of my self deliberately, taking ownership and responsibility. It’s  a bunch of stuff but they’re parts of me, shades of me, images of me. Images I make myself, each day, always new.

COLOUR    

My first real lipstick, China Red, is barely used. I bought it when I was 16, thinking it would make me look glamorous and classic, like Dita von Teese. But under the harsh flourescent lighting of my bathroom, the colour on my lips made me look sallow, tired and sick. I put that lipstick away. Despite my disappointment, I couldn’t bear throwing it away, so despite the fact that it’s gone off I still keep it in my collection. Sometimes I take it out and just look at it, and wonder why I really thought it looked so bad on me. It’s just a regular red.

Red can symbolize blood, vengeance, passion, rage, love. In China, the namesake of my lipstick, red is signifies good fortune and celebration. Or maybe it’s the colour of communism. Red is said to be the universal, always-flattering lip colour. In french, it’s Rouge à Lèvres – at the turn of the century, lipstick was called Lip Rouge in english. So red belongs on our lips. There’s a shade for any taste, from coral to oxblood. Today, my own collection contains seven different reds. There’s China Red, Ronnie Red, Flamenco, Pavlos, Russian Red and so on.

The rest of my colour wardrobe includes lipsticks in shades of green, blue, black, grey, pink, brown, purple. A colour for every mood. Colour might be the most telling part of your cosmetics, the first point of attraction. Colours that flatter, or that channel a trend, or are simply appropriate. Blue eyeshadow is said to look cheap and tacky, chartreuse mascara makes your lashes look like the barbs of a carnivorous plant. The attraction to colour is juvenile, even primitive. Aren’t people just endlessly amused by colour? In our homes, our clothing, our food. On our faces colour hints at our feelings and experiences. A black eye. Cheeks flushed pink. Dark circles. Green with envy. White as a ghost. Seeing red.

SCENT

The compact is square, made from heavy plastic that is white on top and pink on the bottom. The lid has an embossed chrysanthemum design. It reminds me of something from the 50s or 60s. I can easily imagine it in a lady’s purse in 1961. What’s special about it isn’t actually the packaging, or the colour or texture of the powder blush inside. When I open the compact, I am hit with a scent so enchantingly nostalgic that I can’t help opening it now and then to catch another whiff of the fragrance. This blush smells like makeup. Powdery, a little floral – roses and violets, I think, it’s difficult to find the notes because once you smell it all you get is MAKE UP SMELL blinking in giant neon in your head.

The fragrance brings me back, as it often does, to snooping in my great aunt’s makeup bag in the bathroom of her apartment. An older female relative carries a purse filled with exciting and strange things, at least in the eyes of a child, and makeup was new to me since my mother rarely wore it. In the bag, I found a dark-blue oval compact with rouge inside, and it smelled just like makeup should. Difficult to put into words, but so familiar. Today, powder products are rarely scented, but now and then that scent appears like a dearly loved ghost.

Scent rouses associations and memories in a way other senses can not. Molecules snake through your nose, into your brain saying: Remember that compact you found? What is that smell? Doesn’t it smell the way a warm sweater feels?

Scent is three-dimensional. It intrudes in a cloud of perfume, crawling into your nostrils without even asking permission. It slips out of reach even if you press your nose to a perfumed wrist. It can assault or evade.

Scent if four-dimensional. It lives in time. Top note, Heart note, Base note is what your eau-de-toilette box says. Opening act, interlude, finale. A little show in three acts, each act differing in length depending not only on the chemical composition of the substance itself, but of the recipient too. It can be as short as a tv ad, or as long as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Scent changes through time. Your dinner won’t smell the same when it’s leftovers the following evening. Powder boxes don’t smell the same as they used to.

TASTE

My lip gloss is pink. It says Butter Gloss on the tube and like all the other glosses in the collection, the colour is named after a dessert. Strawberry parfait. You open it, and the smell of artificial vanilla caramel ice cream topping hits you like a closed fist. It tastes the same, I’ve found out, since lip gloss inevitably ends up not only on your mouth, but in it. It’s like licking a cheap scented candle. The suggestion of taste, however, is of greater interest than the actual taste. How come makeup is named after food?

This gloss is the prime example, but there are numerous other products named after chocolate, fruits and sweets. Only in my own collection I find Pink Chocolate, Devil’s Food Cake, Strawberry Jam and Pistachio Macaron. I have a lip balm shaped like a tiny pink cupcake. Something can be said here for the relationship between women, food, and the body. Something like: You can only consume sweets in non-ingestible form. Your lip gloss can be strawberry parfait, but your restaurant order must be a kale salad. None of that whipped cream, sugary nonsense in real life. It’s forbidden, yet used to entice women – women eat bon bons, men eat steak. But if you actually do eat those bon bons, you’d better not eat too many. If, instead, your bon bones are consumed symbolically through cosmetics, all the better – because then you’re at least promoting your all-important feminine beauty.

Consume to improve and polish that horrifying womanhood of yours. Don’t you dare become fleshy, too much, bleeding at the edges, monstrous. Don’t you dare be more than strictly controlled impossible perfection.

SOUND

Click.

Click.

Click.

My eye palette has a good sound. Drumming your fingers on the plastic makes a different noise depending on whether you tap the front or back, and running a nail along the edge makes a soft scraping sound. The best sound, however, comes from closing it. The built-in magnets makes the palette go click in a way that is just indescribably satisfying. It’s not too loud, but loud enough, not too hard, but hard enough. It sounds strangely commanding, like NOW TODAY’S LOOK IS COMPLETE, CLICK. And that’s that.

Beauty packaging makes a whole symphony of clicking sounds. Different locking mechanisms keeping lipsticks and powder compacts shut let out their own little sound to confirm that “there we go, now I’m closed tight!”. Guerlain, a brand most known for the scent Shalimar, launched a lipstick in 2009 called Rouge G de Guerlain. They were very keen to tell the press that their packaging would make a beautiful sound both when closing and opening it.

Sound can play a central part in the still somewhat controversial public make-up. On the tube, the click of a powder compact draws attention – what was that noise? Virginia Woolf talks about a room of her own, a woman’s room, and in a way you’re creating just that when you put on your makeup in public. Something that was once private, maybe even secret, is intruding on common, public grounds. Putting your face on is supposed to happen in front of a bathroom mirror, or in a girl’s room, where the fuss won’t bother anyone. Public space becomes unsettlingly private, intimate, as soon as you crack open that pocket mirror.

Viewing the self, being aware of your appearance and not hiding it at home, out of the way. Onlookers are pushed away and beckoned closer. You star in a little performance, right there on your morning commute. Drumroll please… ladies and gentlemen! See the astonishing urbane woman apply her rouge… left cheek..right cheek…a final look in the mirror…CLICK. Applause. Cheer. The crowd goes wild.

TACTILITY

Putting your fingers against the surface of “Monster”, a highlighter to bring glow and radiance to the face, is a strange thing. When I’d just bought it, I’d heard the texture was unusual, but I was surprised nonetheless. This round, white jar contains a pearlescent powder-cream imprinted with a fabric-like texture.

Using your fingers to apply makeup may be seen as sloppy and unhygienic by some, but I can’t resist feeling a product. It somehow feels more intuitive, more intimate, without a brush or sponge getting between me and the product. Monster has a very particular texture. It looks like a pressed powder, but as soon as you touch it you find the surface cool and almost moist. It grabs at your fingerprints, but doesn’t stick. The little jar is filled with something almost bouncy, but it relinquishes its pigment with ease. Once you rub it into the skin, the texture transforms from creamy to powdery.

The colour shifts between white and pink, depending on the angle. I imagine it’s the kind of makeup a fairy would wear, while I tap it into my cheekbones. Cool and reflective, like tiny mirrors melting into my face. The mirror, to which I’m so attached, the one that tells me I exist. Reflections appear in makeup, in jewels, in the shop windows, in the water’s surface, and in my trusty companion – the pocket mirror. Light bounces off my body, into the mirror, and out again to meet my pupil. Waves of light meet my body, my body resists and reflects, and it proves it exists and I within it.

When I buy something new I’m always delighted by a built-in mirror, or disappointed when there isn’t one. Don’t magpies collect shiny things? Perhaps they too want to see their reflection, letting their form multiply and mirror. Which is the original? Is there an original? Can they all be originals? Is yesterday’s reflection the same as today’s?

 

9 months ago

History Class: 1960s

BABY DOLL

The history of cosmetics is as long as human history itself, and it’s one of my favourite things to research and read about. I love the idea that painting your body is some kind of primal impulse that we’ve carried with us for thousands of years, and seeing how ideals, products and expressions have changed over that time is fascinating. Today I won’t be travelling too far back, but the 1960s are a favourite period of beauty and fashion history of many, so it’s a wonderful place to start.

19ba5fa0ad645e6d1982b70bf2feee86
Mary Quant makeup ad – the brand has relaunched in Japan.

The youth revolution made the 60s a time of broken boundaries and bright new expessions – rock music, mini skirts, go-go boots and so on. And while the 60s teens were doing the twist and painting on eyelashes with black liner, new innovations in technology enabled colour television and space travel, which became a source of inspiration in itself.

tumblr_mnqff8yJGp1sqyiebo1_500An ad for Maybelline eyeliner, featuring a “cut crease” eye look

The 60s look was practically an inversion of the glamourous femininity of the 50s – red lipstick, “colour harmony” and glamorous maturity was out, ousted by youthful energy and funky eyeshadow colours paired with pale lips. Suddenly, you could get your hands on products that would have been unthinkable – lipsticks in beige, white or brown, pearlescent eyeshadows in any pastel shade you could desire.

1967-Yardley-ad-with-make-up-looksA Yardley ad featuring a range of eye and lip looks

Eyes were a focal point with thick eyeliner and false eyelashes, often amplified by contrasting the black against a white base. Youth-oriented brands had officially dethroned the previously reigning revlon, arden and max factor, replacing them with yardley, cover girl and maybelline. Bright plastic packaging replaced the gilded compacts of yore, making these products more affordable for trend-setting teenagers. Some of the most striking adverts and packaging came from Yardley of london – they even made products in collaboration with Twiggy, perhaps one of the first celebrity-branded makeup collections?

44ce97b311bc329916187d450c416828A Yardley ad for “Twiggy” lashes

Today, references to 1960s makeup looks and packaging design are everywhere. The popular “cut-crease” look used by YouTube beauty bloggers was a typical eye makeup technique in the 60s, seen here in a Yardley ad. Nude lips, too, have their origins here. Furthermore, false eyelashes really came to their right, and today many wear them several days a week.

47c7a5dc7c26d786fd0a75c75625e207ansu0288f_8_l
Anna Sui makeup packaging, 2011 and 2016 respectively

Packaging design, too, takes a lot of cues from the 60s – Anna Sui is a notable example of a strong mod influence with the “dolly girl” lipsticks and the more recent 2016 Tropical Summer Beach Collection. Marc Jacobs Beauty has a look that is more space age than youthful revolt: the sleek black plastic cases look like something you’d see on Barbarella’s vanity.

ESTABLISHED-MARC-JACOBS-COSMETICS-7-low-1680x1260

A promotional image for Marc Jacobs Beauty

If you’re interested in trying a makeup look from the 1960s, get your paws on some black eyeliner and light-coloured lipstick –  this video from Lisa Eldridge shows a classic look inspired by the period. For a sharp 60s eyeliner look, try this clip from Desi Perkins!

9 months ago

Glossier: Brand Overview

glossier

After much hand-wringing and anxiety, I finally gave in and placed a very diminutive order at Glossier. Though I must clarify: Said hand-wringing was at the trickiness of getting your beauty-hungry hands on products unavailable in your country. I live in Sweden, and Glossier has yet to roll out the international shipping option. But there are ways. I used a forwarding service, which meant a long shipping time and extra fees. Once my order arrived, I was so excited to get my parcel I practically sprinted to the post office.

I think Glossier has a really appealing concept – they’re contemporary, cute and attuned with the social media climate in which they seem to thrive. The website is adorable. Their instagram is adorable. Their customers are adorable. Can you blame me for wanting in? So I made use of their referral discount as well as a free shipping campaign to effectively shave off the cost, even though I don’t think their products are expensive in the least. To American customers their price point may not be that tempting, but as someone who lives in a part of the world where beauty products are prohibitively expensive (often double or triple the US price) the Glossier pricing felt very reasonable, even cheap!

glossier_1

So I picked the boy brow, which seems to be their most hyped product among customers, and the balm dotcom in the rose scent because I am an old lady and also childishly amused by anything pink. Once it arrived, everything looked about as cute as I was hoping. Box lined with pink, pink bubble wrap pouch (which is adorable to the point of clutch purse potential)  and of course, the sticker sheet. (Incidentally, the brand Too Faced recently launched a palette with stickers, likely riding the glossier wave)

Also included was an info card about the new flavoured balms, a poster and of course the products. Packaged in embossed little cardboard boxes with another cardboard protector inside, it all feels very thorough, nearly to the point of excess. Luckily, I love excess. The boy brow comes in a plastic tube, like a skinny mascara sample, and the balm in a metal tube with a plastic coating. It’s not luxurious by any means, but this is in line with the concept so I’m not bothered. Overall, I think Glossier is doing a hell of a job with their aesthetic and digital presence, they manage to appeal to customers who fuss-free cosmetics without sacrificing style.

It’s been almost a month since I received my order, so I’ve had plenty of time to try the products and form an opinion: Click here for my Boy Brow review, and here for my Rose Balm DotCom review. I must say though, I am a little bummed that they launched their highlighter right after I got my order! If I’d been patient I could have tried that at launch.

THE RUNDOWN
Price range: Lower/mid – products range from $12 to $26. In Sweden this is “drugstore” level.
Pros: Compelling brand identity, cute packaging, fun shopping experience. Contemporary and down-to-earth. Very trend-conscious. Solid quality.
Cons: Not on the cutting edge in terms of formula, ingreidents or research. Very limited range. US-only so far.
Referral program? Yes, 20% off for referred customer, $10 store credit reward. My link is here.
Reorder? Definitely. I’m dying to try their skincare next, and the highlighter.

9 months ago

Glossier Review: Rose Balm DotCom

The appeal of the balm is its simplicity: it’s a very classic, traditional petrolatum-and-lanolin formula that many lip balms are based on. Glossier is a fairly minimalist brand, so this formula fits with their philosophy. I know there’s some controversy around petrolatum and other mineral oils, but I have no quarrel with it in my lip products. It comes in a metal tube with a plastic coating, which feels classic and simple and looks very dainty. The balm is extremely thick and comes out like a waxy pink noodle. A little goes a long way so don’t squeeze the tube too hard! I made that mistake and ended up with way more product than I needed.

Glossier suggests using the balm for chapped heels or cuticles too, and I’m sure that would be fine as well, but I don’t see the point of putting the rose scented, pink-tinted version on anything other than lips. Maybe the original without scent or tint. As such, I’ve only used this on my lips and it’s worked just fine. It’s not a revolutionary product by any means – and why reinvent the wheel? It’s cute, it smells like Turkish delight and it’s pink (though the tint doesn’t actually show on lips or skin once you rub it in).

I like it, I like the packaging, I like the smell. It didn’t wow me or surprise me. Overall a solid product that really can’t upset anyone. Unless you look at the price, because that might upset you. For the 15ml you pay $12, which comes down to 80c/ml, which may seem expensive considering the far-from-exclusive ingredients. What you’re paying for is the brand, and you can get a dupe anywhere for far less, like the Smith’s Rosebud Salve. But for me? I don’t really mind the price.

THE RUNDOWN
Price: $12
Size: 15ml / .5 fl oz
Pros: Really cute packaging, smells nice, classic tried-and-true formula, it’s pink
Cons: You’re really paying for the brand and packaging, contains “unpopular” ingredients, barely-there tint
Repurchase? Maybe. I’m unfaithful to lip balms.

9 months ago

Glossier Review: Boy Brow

Boy Brow comes in a very plain, simple plastic tube that is standard for this type of product. I was getting a little sick of brow pencils, and I am one of those people who likes brushing coloured mascara into my brows, a brush-in brow wax seemed just the ticket for me. It comes in three colours: blonde, brunette and black. I picked blonde, and found the colour very flattering with my ash-blonde hair  and pasty complexion. While the colour works for me, I would have preferred something a little more cool toned, like a taupe, but it’s not the end of the world.

The texture is waxy, not like a gel at all, and it adheres to and thickens hair very well. The instructions say to brush upward to coat each hair before brushing into shape, which is what I did – here the small brush gives you a lot of control, but I wouldn’t mind a bigger brush to be honest. I do my brows with a big mascara wand sometimes and it works wonderfully. Once I’m done, I still need to fill in a few of my gaps to make my brows look fuller, since the wax sticks to the hair and not skin – which is the point. The formula is also very flexible and doesn’t feel heavy or crunchy. It was also easy to remove both with an oil cleanser and a micellar water.

13398902_894820760647767_574028988_n

My natural brow on left, Boy Brow on right

The result is a very natural brow look that I really like. If you’re into the super-sculpted instagram brow look, this is not the product for you. It wore very well on me, without smudging or shifting throughout the day and holding my brow hairs neatly in place. Glossier is really focused on the “natural” but polished look, and I think in that respect Boy Brow is a great success. I’m very pleased with the results, and would purchase again. However, it’s worth noting that there’s only around 3 grams of product in the tube – that works out to around $5.35 per gram. The Anastasia equivalent is $22 for 9g of product. That’s only $2.44 per gram, less than half the price of the Glossier product.

THE RUNDOWN
Price: $16
Size: 3.12g / 0.11oz
Pros: Excellent formula, User-friendly, Gives a natural look, Doesn’t get crunchy
Cons: Limited colour range, US only shipping, Tiny brush, Small amount of product for the price
Repurchase? Yes!

9 months ago

Good Habits

ingredients

When you’re out shopping, whether it’s for food or clothes or skincare products, do you check the label? Do you read the ingredients, shelf life, and care instructions before making a decision about whether or not to purchase the item? I always do, and I always have, because my mom was really thorough about it and passed that on to me. Things like the sugar content in cereal or whether or not a sweater could be machine washed are pretty important information – you don’t want to feed your kids a boatload of sugar in the morning, and you don’t want to buy a sweater that’s a pain to clean.

The same, naturally, applies to what you put on your face. Seeing what’s in your product is always a good thing – crucial, even. If one product gives you a bad reaction, finding out what ingredient is the culprit will help you find an alternative that you tolerate. Likewise, if you’re among those who think talc and mineral oil are best left out of beauty products, or if you’re like me and turn your nose up at essential oils, knowing your way around an ingredient list can save you a lot of money and a lot of frustration. It can also be helpful in finding what you do like – perhaps you respond well to an ingredient, and want to find something with an even higher concentration. Or maybe you’ll do some research on niacinamide or resveratrol, and actively look for that ingredient in your products. If you’re concerned about animal cruelty or the environment, you can find out what ingredients are commonly tested on or derived from animals (like natural beeswax or carmine,) or ingredients that are proven to be harmful to the planet, like the microbeads that are hopefully on their way out.

It’s just a good habit that helps you make educated decisions about what you’re using, and will inevitably improve your skin as well. If you’re curious about a certain ingredient, the internet provides many sources of information with many points of view – and if you’re a super geek and have access to an academic database, you may even want to read published studies. I recently did this myself after the rumours of raspberry seed oil being a “natural” sunscreen, since most sites discussing it linked to unreliable sources. And here things can get really muddy – how do you weigh science against word-of-mouth or personal experience? How do you sift through rumours and hearsay to find nuggets of truth?

ingredients2

This is all fairly demanding, to be sure, and you should always have a healthy scepticism towards sources.  If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If a website is lauding an ingredient as a “miracle worker” to promote a product – regard with utmost suspicion. Likewise, a website run by a mysterious “doctor” giving health advice despite not having any formal training in that particular field – also not so trustworthy. While researching raspberry oil, I found advice by a doctor who turned out to be a chiropractor – not a dermatologist.

Beauty culture is full of alarmist claims and suspicious ingredients. It’s up to you as a consumer to find out what you want to use, and what you want to avoid, and I promise you will feel much more secure trying something new if you can read an ingredient list.

(I actually read the study that most of these raspberry oil advocates are referring to – one study from 15 years ago – and as expected, it’s nowhere near enough evidence to warrant using it as sunscreen. You can find it here. For something to be “proven” you need a little more than this. A lot more than this, actually.)

9 months ago

In Defense of Skin

The term “full coverage” is one that, in my opinion, should refer to concealer and little else. But the fact is, the trend in recent years among beauty vloggers and, as a result, their millions of viewers is to chase the ideal full-coverage foundation. Now, I am the first person to scoff at the idea of “natural” beauty, but something feels sinister about the whole idea of covering up your skin so you look like a magazine cover model. I want to ask: HEY! What did your skin ever do to you?!

Paired with impossibly well-sculpted eye brows and Kardashian-esque contouring, the full coverage base is possibly my least favourite beauty trend. And that’s because I love skin. Now, by all means, put some concealer on your zits  if it makes you feel better, (I know it makes me feel better…) but there’s not a person on the planet who really needs to cover up what skin is perfectly healthy! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and trust me, it’s almost never broke.

My philosophy in regards to base makeup is a light hand paired with whatever spot-correcting you desire. A natural or dewy finish with sheer coverage, more evening out than covering up, is my cup of tea. The current hot ticket item in this category would be cushion bb creams or foundations, yet another SoKo trend (thankfully?) copied in the west.

Now, it might be easy for me to dismiss full coverage since I don’t have many flecks of my own and I don’t make it my business to tell anyone what to do… but I DO have a rather sizable mole on my cheek which I’ve felt bad about all my life. And that’s the sort of thing you can’t cover up at all, and why should I? It’s my skin! It’s my favourite body part, and it’s probably the only part of me I take decent care of. I want that to show! And that loving care is just what gets covered up by cake frosting-esque base makeup.

10 months ago

Parts you don’t see

When talking about cosmetics, one naturally becomes preoccupied with the visual aspect of beauty. This isn’t so strange – we all know make-up is all about appearance. But it isn’t only about appearance – is it?

If you think about a product you like, maybe your favourite lip gloss or eye shadow palette, and really start to consider why you like it you will inevitably consider not only the appearance – the colour, the luminosity, even the packaging – but also other sensory properties like texture and scent.

One of my favourite lipsticks, for instance, has a smooth and balmy texture and a kind of soft, vaguely floral but also cocoa butter-y scent that is both unusual and appealing. The way it feels and smells kind of makes up for the lack of intense pigment, which is usually what I look for in lipstick. At the end of the day, makeup plays a broader sensory role than you’d think at first glance. It’s not just about how it looks on the skin, but how it feels and in no small part how it smells.

A lot of people love the Nyx Butter Glosses for instance, and claim said glosses are some of the best on the market – and most of the reviews bring up the scent and the texture as the product’s central virtues. In this case, the non-visual properties are what makes this product “special” and popular. (Personally, I don’t really think these glosses are all that special – perhaps because I find the scent nauseating.)

collage2ver2

Scent is one of the most powerful and subtle senses, capable of vividly re-awakening a memory or constructing elaborate fantasies. In makeup, scent not only covers up various unwanted ingredient odours, but also become part of the brand. You may not consciously recognize the scent of a YSL lipstick, but your brain probably makes the connection subconsciously, remembering. The Nyx glosses I mentioned have a very strong artificial toffee scent, and MAC lipsticks supposedly smell like vanilla. I’m sure there’s a lot to be said about the fact that many cosmetic products smell like (and are named after) sweets, considering the pressure on women to be skinny and deny themselves the real deal.

For me, makeup is most appealing when it smells like makeup – if you ever took a peek in your grandma’s purse you know what I mean- kind of powdery and soft, with floral elements like violet and rose.  Paul & Joe products have this smell, and sometimes I just take a whiff of them like a weirdo because the scent is so nostalgic and enticing – it reminds me of snooping in my great aunt’s bathroom as a child! Byredo has a candle that smells like lipstick, which I also find strangely appealing – not because I necessarily think it smells good, but because of the imagery conjured by it. Scent is pretty groovy in that way.

illus_1

I also mentioned texture (and other physical sensations, like the tingling of a lip plumper!) as an important factor – every beauty guru’s favourite word seems to be “creamy” (or emollient, buttery, smooth, hydrating, etc) and texture is often a deal breaker, even if a product performs well in other regards. A matte lipstick may stay all day, but if the texture is unpleasantly dry and waxy, you won’t see many people singing its praises no matter how good it makes you look. If an eyeshadow is, to borrow a youtube favourite term, “chalky” it’s bye-bye even if the colour is a total dream. Even if texture often means workability, it’s also important in that it feels pleasant on the skin.

Other sensations, like the “tingling” of lip plumpers and mentholated skincare products, often make reviewers claim you can “feel it working!”, even if this is not necessarily the case. Tingling is actually a sign of irritation, which is what makes your lips swell. In skincare this is generally not a good thing (though there are exceptions). However, if said tingling is pleasant to you, I’d not completely dismiss it as I believe pleasure is an important part of the beauty ritual (even if irritation is bad for you in the long run).

The visual is not all there is to cosmetics. The ritual of makeup application is, in itself, a sensory experience where a sharp scent or rough texture wouldn’t be welcome. I think sitting down in front of the mirror can be more profound than just a supposedly vain compulsion. The ideal beauty regimen appeals to all the senses – including ones I didn’t mention here.

2 years ago