Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Cost-effective Beauty Fixes

I'm always a little conflicted when writing about beauty. For starters, I'm absolutely no expert on skincare or beauty; I'm still not sure I've found the perfect match foundation, I've never mastered the application of eyeliner and I'm not even that good at putting on lipstick. 

But I enjoy the rituals of administering skincare and makeup; like many mothers, the snatched five minutes I have to apply my slap in the morning is one of the few times in the day I have totally to myself, a precious few moments to sit down and be absorbed in something unrelated to children or school while I gather my energy for the day ahead.

But there's a conflict I still struggle with when showing an interest in beauty - despite being old enough not to care what other people think of me, I always feel a little superfluous and vain in sharing my thoughts on this area. And now I'm getting older, there have been times when I've wondered, is makeup even relevant to me any more? 

It took reading journalist Sali Hughes' wonderful Pretty Honest book to put a refreshing angle on this mindset. In her introduction to the book she writes: 

"I believe looking good to be an important and valid pursuit. All too often, women with an interest in their appearance are assumed to be stupid, shallow or unintelligent. But I see good grooming and feminism as entirely complimentary. 

I believe it's perfectly normal to love lipstick and literature, to be a woman who paints her nails while shouting at Question Time. Anyone who dismisses beauty and make-up as mere frippery, an irrelevance pursued by the vain, frankly knows nothing about women."

In an increasingly ageist society, taking joy in our looks way beyond youth seems to me a great way to give a two-fingered salute to those who think older people - especially women - should fade into the background. I also think that tending to your face and body is good for mental health, and provides an important function to well being, just in the same way as going to the gym does.

However, it can be an expensive process. Now that I regularly need my roots doing (I'm sorry but I'm not going grey anytime soon) that's the best part of £100 a month used up. I don't give a fig about waxing (I do it myself, and usually only in the summer) and I don't have a gym membership but still the costs add up - even basic personal grooming can make a serious dent to the wallet. 

But there are some inexpensive products and services I use that I think make a difference - cheap fixes that make the business of feeling and looking good well within reach of ordinary budgets. These are them...

Body Brush

It's a fact universally agreed on by the beauty community that dry body brushing is a good thing. I do this once a week, after I've been for a run and before I get into the shower. It's a simple and cheap way to bring a noticeable bit of colour to pasty bodies, plus there's something deeply satisfying about feeling like you're unveiling fresh and plump skin as you slough away the dead stuff. 


Did you see The Truth About Looking Good a few weeks back? As well as suggesting there's no need to buy expensive moisturisers, the programme also revealed another useful tip - retinol products really work on fine lines and wrinkles. The visual example given in the programme was pretty convincing and it seems that most experts are united in their view that this is one product that can really help keep you fresh-faced for longer. 

As a recent convert to The Ordinary, I recently bought their retinol product "Granactive Retinoid 2%". While retinol should be used with caution (it can cause irritation and redness and must never be used before sun exposure) I've had no side effects and I would say it's helping to make my lines a little less pronounced - not bad work for £8. Used in conjunction with the Hyaluronic acid in the same range (on clean skin, under moisturiser in the morning) I feel it's making a difference.

Eyebrow shape

I'm blessed with boringly straight, bushy eyebrows. Unable to make even the slighted of arch with my own clumsy attempts at plucking, I've found that that having a proper eyebrow shape at the hands of an expert is quite transformative. Threading is my method of choice - I find it strangely relaxing to sit in a chair while someone grips my eyebrow hairs between two threads and it's a pretty long-lasting way to keep unruly brows like mine looking a little less Dennis Healy. 

However, that desired defined arch had eluded me until I visited the Blink Brow Bar in Harvey Nichols - definitely the best place I've been for an eyebrow shape in Bristol. At £19 a shot, perhaps not the most budget-friendly option out there, but I came away with the best brows I've had in ages - I'm maintaining them relatively well at home with tweezers and hope I have a few more weeks before I'll need expert intervention again.

Root spray

For those without the time or finances to commit to monthly root touch-ups, a coloured spray or powder is a godsend. I'm sure the WOW stuff I've seen in my hairdressers is probably more natural and professional looking than what I'm currently using - Superdrug Colour Fix - but my cheaper option does a good job of allowing me a few extra weeks' leeway before having to reach for the hairdresser's number.


Does the word 'peel' make you think of sidebar of shame photos of raw-faced celebs hiding from the paparazzi after a session down the salon? It used to make me think that way. But having read Sali Hughes raving about the Dr Dennis Gross peel in her Guardian column, I realised I might be missing a trick. If you replace the word 'peel' with 'exfoliator', they don't sound half as scary, but they deliver something essential for older skin in the form of a treatment that brightens skin and makes your other skincare treatments absorb into the skin more effectively. 

These babies are really easy to use; while they can make skin tingle at first which might be a bit alarming for first time users, they leave your skin feeling really refreshed and smooth, as if all the lines have been ironed out. You can buy boxes of 5 for £15 - sounds pricey but you can use them just once a month for a special skin treat. 


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