Normally I despise the inevitable clucking of “Wow, time’s really flown lately!” every time it is time for the calendar page to be changed, but I must admit I am genuinely alarmed at the virtual non-existence of this November. It is an essential, if generally rainy and unappealing, bridging month which takes us neatly from the supposedly crisp golden October to a chilly, festive December. (Unless you live in Britain, in which case every month from August until May is grey, rainy, and generally indistinguishable from its fellows.) Therefore its disappearance leaves you somewhat adrift, wondering just how you managed to go from tacky plastic pumpkins to tacky plastic reindeer.
To that effect, I have found it extremely difficult to come up with a great deal of favourites for this list, but I will do my best.
Real Techniques Blush Brush
I picked this up when I was back in Britain and I am so glad I did! Previously I had been using the contouring brush that came with the RT Core Collection, but since I switched blush to a much more pigmented product (coming up next), I found that the contouring brush was just too small and led to a too precise, harsh look. I’d heard great things about this one from friends, and so added it to my collection. It’s incredibly fluffy and large, and so covers the cheek area perfectly. Because of its fluffiness, it achieves a softer-focus effect, which is exactly what you want when using brightly-coloured blush. I use Real Techniques brushes almost exclusively and really think they’re the best thing since sliced bread (although I may have accidentally ruined my Precision Foundation brush and really wish you could buy all the brushes individually!): at first I was sceptical about spending almost £25 on a set of brushes, but the difference they make in terms of achieving that “airbrushed” look is not to be underestimated. Definitely recommend!
MAC Pro Longwear Blush
As I mentioned above, I’ve finally made the jump. In terms of the makeup products that I “need” the most, the order would probably be something like this: concealer, lipstick, blush, eyeliner and/or mascara. Most women say their “desert island” product is mascara, but I’ve found that lack of colour on my face through the use of lipstick and blush leaves me looking pretty grey and tired, whereas having dark eyes and dark eyelashes means that emphasising those features isn’t as essential. Yet I’ve gone through years of wearing blush that lasts maybe an hour at most, and I was getting increasingly irritated. I tried Revlon (worst cream blush EVER), Seventeen (their powder blush was actually the best of the lot), Soap and Glory (their stain was just about passable), Topshop (pretty but didn’t last), KIKO (beautiful finish but terrible staying power), and in the end huffed and puffed and conceded that perhaps it was time to go high-end. I’m happy to say it was very much worth the money! I use the MAC Pro Longwear Office Hours blush in Whole Lotta Love, which is a gorgeous deep rosy pink perfect for my skintone. I’m pretty fond of bold blush colours, so if you’re my skintone but want something a bit more subtle, then maybe go for Fleeting Romance. (I’m NC35 in MAC.) The other day, I came home in the evening and realised I’d had the blush on for FOURTEEN HOURS and while it wasn’t as bright, it hadn’t disappeared altogether – and after a pretty active day, that is really saying something!
KIKO Luscious Cream Creamy Lipstick
I’ve got mixed feelings about KIKO: we don’t really have it in Britain so I was super excited to try the brand when I arrived here. I’ve come to the conclusion that anything “disposable” (nail varnish, eyeshadow, lipstick – namely, products that you tend to buy several of in different colours and switch around from day to day) is excellent value, particularly the eyeshadow, but anything you’d naturally go for higher quality of (so blush, micellar water, fixing spray) should be avoided at all costs. I’ve learnt the hard way that there are certain products you shouldn’t scrimp on – obviously not everyone is able to spend £30-odd on the MAC Fixing Spray, but if you’re buying the KIKO one you may as well go without, because it’s just wasted money. The East Londonista wrote a great piece about why she exclusively goes for high-end products, expressing a lot of things with which I totally agree – before I switched to MAC foundation I always wondered why my base never looked as flawless as I wanted it to! However, I personally try to keep a good balance, and to keep the expensive products to an absolute minimum. KIKO’s lipsticks are pretty great, although their staying power isn’t fantastic, and come in a wide range of colours and finishes. I particularly wanted to recommend their Luscious Cream range (I have one, although not in this colour: it’s a lush dusky pink) because even when you have very dry lips, or lips whose skin is sort of going to pieces over the course of the day, you can still apply this lipstick and no one will ever know your lips are a disaster underneath. It’s a moisturising miracle.
John Frieda Frizz-Ease Moisture Barrier Hairspray
I had intended to write about this last month, but my October post was already so long that I decided against it. However, this product is just so effective that I couldn’t fail to include it. My main qualm with most hair products is that they all seem to require application while your hair is damp. I already use a few products before styling my hair and really don’t like the idea of about five different lotions or serums clogging up my freshly-washed hair: additionally, how well are these products really going to work? Won’t the volumising mousse conflict with the straightening serum? That’s why I was pretty relieved to stumble upon this, a spray that claims to guard against frizz-inducing humidity, applied over dry hair. I bought this – and now I can’t go without it. The difference is absolutely incredible. When I don’t use it, my hair soon has a halo of spidery frizz (any reader with frizzy dark hair will empathise here) above and around it, and no amount of brushing or smoothing will combat it. If I lightly spray this around my hair before going to work, however, my hair stays sleek throughout the day, even if the humidity up in the mountains where I work is at 100%. You can really notice the difference, and it doesn’t make your hair crispy or heavy either. Win!
I can’t recommend the above products enough- I would go so far as to say they’re some of my absolute must-haves. I really enjoy talking about the purchases that have served me well, because I frequently have readers say to me either in person or online that they tried something I recommended, and that it also worked really well for them! And that’s the purpose of me writing these instalments, to save you time and trouble and money in your search for products that are worth the effort!
Keep writing in – I’d love to hear from you 🙂