What piece of advice would I give to my younger self?

It’s funny: I’ve asked every participant of my #LittleChats series so far what piece of advice they’d give to their younger selves, but I’ve never been asked the question myself. It’s a tough question and, unless you don’t think too much on it and stick to the cliché “be yourself!11!1!!”, everybody’s answers will be different dependent on their experiences. My younger years – particularly my high school years – were some of the worst years of my life despite the fact that I was very much myself; I was always taught not to care about others’ opinions of me. Of course, this advice isn’t always easy to follow when you’re being bullied – it’s inevitable to feel hurt by others’ words, especially mean af high school kids – but, in hindsight, I was probably bullied because I was myself. That’s the sad reality of bullies; they pick on the characteristics that make you unique, predominantly because they’re jealous that they don’t possess them themselves. I gave up quickly on trying to fit in in high school because it was obvious that I was different from the onset. I had an unhealthy obsession for the Jonas Brothers, but I also loved the likes of You Me At Six, Paramore and blink-182. Weirdo. I dyed my hair jet black and had layers upon layers which I backcombed every day to create a beehive-scene look. Weirdo. I would look forward to going home after school on a Tuesday and watching Countdown followed by The Common Denominator followed by Four In A Bed on Channel 4 (though nobody knew this until now). Total weirdo. Once I realised that I was different, I embraced it and learnt to ignore the haters. So, if not “be yourself”, what would Little Pav tell little-Little Pav?

Image description: A pink and purple sky with clouds

One piece of advice I often like to share with others is “whatever you do, do it for you”. I suppose this extends from the notion of not caring about how others perceive you; why waste your time trying to please others when you can spend it investing in becoming the best version of yourself? As well as ~ embracing ~ myself (*vomits a little*), I’ve always been one to follow this advice and ~ chase ~ what I want, if you will (*vomits a little more*). Take this: when I was choosing my GCSE options in Year 8 (we started our GCSE subjects one year earlier at my school – not the coursework or exams, just the subjects for ~ fun ~ I guess, though it most definitely wasn’t fun), I opted for Drama, Music and Dance; the infamous “triple threat”. Before we submitted our choices, however, we were invited to attend a meeting to discuss our options with a member of staff. Any member of staff. You could have chosen Geography, Media and French and been assigned an Art teacher to discuss your options with. I don’t even know who the member of staff I met with was; for all I know, she could’ve been a dinner lady. Anyway, I went with my mum, and the discussion went a little like this:

“So, Sophie, what GCSE subjects have you chosen?”

*clears throat* “Drama, Music and Dance!” *smiles confidently*

“Hmm… Are you sure? This doesn’t seem like a very secure pathway.”

“Yes, I’m sure. I love all these subjects.”

“That’s great, but have you considered something academic to balance your options?”

“No… I also love English and Spanish, which I’ve chosen as my mandatory language, so I don’t need to choose anything else.”

“Right… But you might be better off choosing something like Business Studies, no?”

“No, I’ve thought about it and I want to do Drama, Music and Dance. That doesn’t mean I won’t be successful.”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying…”

You get the gist. And, to be clear, that is what she was saying; she was insinuating that if I merely chose “non-academic” subjects that I’d have no security later in life. Well, here I am, with a Bachelors in English Language and Linguistics and a Masters in Global Marketing. Take that, lady! My point is, even though she was adamant that I chose subjects more strongly associated with job ~ security ~ (which most teachers wrongly do, let’s be honest), I went with my gut. I always knew I wanted to pursue either English, Spanish or the Arts, and I did. I also opted for English Literature, English Language, Dance and Spanish at AS level and continued all but Spanish at A2. Which conveniently reminds me: I loved, and was really good at, Spanish (and I envy sixteen-year-old Sophie’s ability to walk into her AS exam and write a 7-page essay entirely in Spanish) but, after Year 12, I was done. AS Spanish was bloody difficult and, when I’d narrowed my prospective degree choices to English and Dance and therefore decided to drop Spanish, I told one of my A level Spanish teachers to which he responded: “but… wouldn’t it be better to drop Dance?”. Don’t. Even. I was livid. I genuinely cried to this teacher due to the stress that AS Spanish had caused me, and he had the audacity to tell me that I should drop Dance – one of my all-time favourite subjects – instead? No. I wasn’t having it. And I didn’t. To be fair, I really miss it now and would love to pick it up again, but the studying of it in line with the curriculum completely sucked the fun out of it for me. Again, my point is: I did what I wanted. And I’m happy. So, after that anecdote, we’ve established that I wouldn’t necessarily need to tell my younger self to “do what you want”.

I’m also one to quote the proverb “everything will be okay in the end; if it’s not okay, it’s not the end” now and then. Again, this alludes to my miserable high school years. I hated high school throughout its entire five-year timespan; that’s a bloody long time to feel miserable. Even though I was eventually comfortable in myself, I still hated feeling like a misfit; it was lonely, it was depressing and it was consuming. Nonetheless, as I mention in my World Mental Health Day blog, I finally found happiness in sixth form. I encountered more like-minded people, was no longer infected by toxic friendships and had more freedom. No school uniform. No vile bullies. No unnecessary drama. In the end, everything was okay. Hence my belief in that proverb. And my belief in it continues; as my fiancé was experiencing hell with his Crohn’s disease, I was hopeful that it would get better, and it has. It’s a chronic illness and there’s no cure as of yet, so of course there are worse days, but things are okay. Arguably, then, this piece of advice is a contender. However, even though I was miserable throughout my high school career, I was always somewhat hopeful that things would get better in that respect, too; I believed that I would make friends later in life, which I have who I’m incredibly grateful for, and pulled through by focusing on achieving good grades.

And that was my issue.

I’ve never seen or heard two words more frequently collocated than conscientious and attitude. Every academic tutoring, every parents’ evening, every end-of-year report: my teachers would always say that I had a “conscientious attitude”. And it’s true; I worked my damned ass off. In retrospect, it was partly a coping mechanism – throwing myself in my studies to escape my misery – but it was also in my nature; I come from a family of grafters. Except on a Tuesday when I would switch on Channel 4 and watch game shows consecutively first, as soon as I stepped in the door from school, I would crack on with my homework. Thinking about it, we had a lot of homework. If it wasn’t a mock English essay, it was a practise Maths paper. If it wasn’t Drama coursework, it was Dance theory. If it wasn’t Spanish reading, it was Spanish writing. And, boy, did it keep me occupied. Honestly, I don’t know how people completed such as well as galivanting the streets of our local town after school every evening; what that tells me is that they didn’t really try. And I tried. Hence the good grades.

But that was my issue.

Said “conscientious attitude” continued throughout my university studies. I would write as detailed lecture notes as I could, research beyond the recommended readings and study every assignment’s brief to its core. Even the 2,000-word assignments I left to write on the day of the deadline (because we’ve all been there), I was able to produce a good-quality piece of work because I’d prepared with detailed notes, further reading and a plan that aligned with the brief. And, again, I achieved good grades.

Still, that is my issue.

Although it’s all well and good to work hard and achieve good grades, it can be really debilitating. While I studied and worked my ass off, I never relaxed. I never allowed myself room to breathe or to let go. From my GCSEs through to postgraduate study, I was so completely engrossed in my studies that I didn’t really have any hobbies or interests other than to “do well”. And, while it resulted in good grades, it lacked selfcare – something I’ve developed an ever-growing passion for of late. Now it’s even clearer why. Before my GCSEs, I attended drama classes at Sylvia Young Theatre School in Central London for 5 years and absolutely loved them. Every Saturday, I’d put on either a white tee with a large red SYTS logo or a black tee with a small red SYTS logo and head with my mum to London via the overground to Waterloo and the tube to Marylebone. I’d always have a ham and cheese toastie in the Green Room before class – it was almost like a ritual – and we’d stop off at M&S in Waterloo Station and grab a small pot of sushi for the train journey back. It was so nice to have a hobby outside of school; especially drama, which was so pedantic at school but so liberating there. The reason I quit was due to the need to focus on my GCSEs and, from then on, I submerged myself in my studies and never got out.

When I started university, people would ask me “what do you like to do in your spare time?” and I’d ponder “well, I like to dance”. As I advanced through my GCSEs, I developed a particularly strong passion for Dance. That’s Dance with a capital D, not dance with a lowercase d. There’s a significant difference. Dance with a capital D refers to the subject; dance with a lowercase d refers to the art. I was so completely passionate about performing contemporary dance as part of GCSE and A level Dance and grew better and better at it with every performance but, aside from the subject, I didn’t really dance much outside of school. I choreographed my own routines now and then and ran my school’s Contemporary Dance Club in Year 10 where I taught my routines, but it was still at school. As I progressed through university, I realised that I was no longer a Dancer, and – again – that my hobbies revolved around my studies. Now, I was passionate about Linguistics.

While there is some truth in that I chose English Language and Linguistics at undergraduate because I was always good at English at school and always preferred Language over Literature, I was genuinely passionate about the subject. Granted, I probably wouldn’t have discovered such a passion had I not worked hard for it, but I find it so fascinating and, as I watch Countdown now (or still), I admire Susie Dent as she so ardently shares her findings on the derivation of a word or phrase in Dictionary Corner. There is so much to Linguistics; in simple terms, it’s “the scientific study of language”, but it’s actually so much more than that. Not only is it the scientific study, but also the psychological study, the sociological study, the phonological study and the etymological study of language. It’s understanding language in different contexts. It’s understanding that language comes in a variety of forms; spoken, sign and pictorial, to name a few. It’s understanding the connection of all the languages of the world (so, to answer the all-common assumption “does linguistics mean you can speak loads of languages?”, no – we don’t know an abundance of languages, but we have certainly explored many; most of which you’ve probably never even heard of). Anyway, as I said, it’s bloody fascinating. Although it’s extremely important to choose a subject you love for your degree, I didn’t really have a hobby alongside my undergraduate apart from binge-watching Friends in between working on assignments and playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp on my commute to university. Similarly to my situation with Dance, my main pastime outside my degree was linguistics-related: the Roehampton Linguistics Society, which I founded with my “linguigals” who are equally as passionate about the subject as I am. I loved the society; I made friends for life, felt more motivated to complete my assignments and had events to look forward to, but I’d still go home and watch Friends for so long that Netflix would rudely ask “Are you still watching Friends?” repeatedly.

As I unfold in this blog, when I started my postgraduate degree, I conducted a huge Instagram follow spree to familiarise myself with the way large brands were exploiting social media as a marketing tool as – after all – I was about to study Marketing. I considered all the brands I’ve ever seen or used or liked, searched their names and clicked their “follow” button. To my surprise, most of the brands I thought of were makeup brands. I’ve worn makeup ever since I was 11; I started wearing foundation solely to conceal my acne, but I would continue to add more products into the mix – blusher, eyeliner, mascara – as I developed through my teenage years. But, back then, all makeup ever was to me was an element of my daily routine. Nothing more, nothing less. I added more products into the mix as I would notice that wearing foundation alone washed me out, and so I would apply a little blusher to add a healthy glow, a little eyeliner to enhance my eyes and a little mascara to accentuate them further. Makeup was just something that us teenage girls did, right? However, little did we know then the impact of brands. Only once I engaged in this follow spree had it occurred to me that I am a “loyal” customer to certain brands, particularly Clinique. For five whole years, I stuck with Clinique Anti-Blemish Foundation which I would apply with a Clinique Foundation Brush and remove with Clinique Take The Day Off Makeup Remover. Clinique, Clinique, Clinique. Honestly, I didn’t realise how much of a huge brand Clinique is until I was about 18. I used it because my mum used it, and she’s always been familiar with big beauty brands, but me? I was completely oblivious; I used it due to sheer influence. During my university years, I branched out on brands to add to my makeup kit, but I still didn’t really know whether what I invested in was actually from “good”, or even renowned, brands; I remember asking my mum after I’d tried Benefit’s Hoola Bronzer for the first time “have you heard of Benefit?” and she looked at me as if to say “well, duh”, but exclaimed “yes – they’re a really good brand!”. Oblivious. Then, after I’d followed Benefit Cosmetics on Instagram, I came across Lisa Potter-Dixon – who was previously their Head Makeup Artist – on their Instagram Live, and the rest is history.

Throughout my postgraduate studies, I became more and more interested in beauty. I discovered more beauty experts through Lisa and her podcast which she co-hosted with fellow makeup artist Hannah Martin Life and Lipstick, including Emma Guns, Bobbi Brown and Caroline Hirons, and would watch endless makeup tutorials, beauty unboxings and all the rest. I was totally surprised myself as I’d always thought makeup tutorials these days merely consisted of cakey, contour-heavy looks, but I’d finally come across artists who create beautiful looks without all the huss and fuss of layering and contouring. I finally found a hobby. Now, I consider myself a total beauty nerd; I know of endless beauty brands – good and bad, successful and unsuccessful, up-and-coming and over-the-hill – and all the beauty terminology. But, most importantly? I love it.

Thanks to my ever-growing interest in beauty, I’ve become interested in listening to more podcasts (like The Emma Guns Show), trying more new products (predominantly beauty products, but they’re still new) and watching more video tutorials (something other than Friends!). Not only do I want to do more of all this in 2021, but I want to develop even more hobbies, like reading actual books, which I haven’t done in years. I’ve always enjoyed reading blogs, articles and non-fiction pieces – which probably further influenced my preference of English Language over English Literature – but I want to hold, smell (yes, smell) and enjoy a good book.

So, back to the initial question: what piece of advice would I give to my younger self?

Worry less, relax more. It’s that simple.

Since my teenage years, and through all my adult life thus far, I’ve been constantly worried. Worried about “doing well”. Worried about making others proud. Worried about the consequences if I didn’t “do well”. No one else was worried; no one else cared if I had or hadn’t “done well”. What does that even mean? To me, it meant achieving good grades, but everyone else – my teachers, my professors, my parents, my partner and my friends – they would’ve been proud of me regardless. I could’ve failed my GCSEs, my A levels and my degrees, and they’d still be proud. They’d still be proud because I still would’ve walked away having tried. I just didn’t need to try as hard; I needed to relax more.

Working hard is in my nature. But that doesn’t mean I can’t continue to work hard and allow myself time to relax. And that’s what I’m going to do. Maybe I should’ve started earlier, but at least I’m working on it now.

Worry less, relax more.

My favourites on Instagram: Enhancing the Instagram experience

Instagram. Us millennials and centennials are all guilty of spending hours on end scrolling through the app, consecutively double-tapping on aesthetically pleasing images that comprise our feeds as a signal of our liking, even if we haven’t read their captions entirely. The platform is renowned for its toxicity in encouraging users – particularly young people – to compare their lifestyles to that of how others present their “best lives” in tiny squares. While I have – fortunately – never encountered such an issue, what did occur to me some years back was that the platform would eventually become a monotony to me after engaging in such platitudinous scrolls. Hence, in recent years, I’ve personally made the conscious effort to continuously improve my Instagram experience, forming my now-perception of the platform as a “personalised digital magazine” by following plentiful accounts that pique my interest. With all the imaginative, insightful and inspiring content out there, rest assured there are Instagram creators for everyone which – once you discover and follow them – will satiate your feed not with toxicity, but delight. Perhaps this view of Instagram is somewhat business-oriented, influenced by the completion of my marketing-based master’s degree which often involved the exploration of Instagram as a marketing tool, but believe me: once you shape your feed to the kind of content that interests you by following brands, celebrities and influencers that you like, you will too begin to see Instagram in a whole new light.

Image description: An iPhone with a heart, a comment and a profile icon above

Hopefully, after that introduction, you’re now convinced to alter your Instagram habits and work to enhance your experience of the platform. If you’ve never engaged in such an activity, however, it’s probable that you have one burning question: how? The first step to personalising your Instagram feed is to conduct a cleanse of the toxicity; namely, unfollow those already on your “following” list who induce nothing but apathy. Then, you can begin to embark on your exciting follow spree. The spree should be exactly that: exciting! Still, if you’re unsure as to who or what you want to follow, first ask yourself what’s relevant to you, where your interests lie and what you’re passionate about. For instance: if you’re a student or graduate, a graduate page like Gals Who Graduate would be relevant to you; if you’re interested in blogging, a lifestyle blogger like Chloe Plumstead might further your interest; and, if you have a passion for beauty, an industry expert like Caroline Hirons can inspire you. If you know me or have been following my blog for a while, you might have figured that I implicitly used myself as an example there: a recent graduate interested in blogging with a passion for beauty. With that, below are my current top ten favourites on Instagram and why.

1. Caroline Hirons (@carolinehirons)

Again, if you know me or have read my blogs about my love for skincare and my favourites from Caroline Hirons’ Summer Kit (if you know, you know), this one might have been obvious. In her bio, Caroline defines herself as an “Advanced Aesthetician and Brand Consultant”, and many in the beauty industry refer to her as the “powerhouse” of skincare. Not only do I enjoy Caroline’s expert advice, honest reviews and detailed how-tos, but also her fearlessness as to calling out those that are dishonest, misleading and immoral; brands, celebrities, even the government (especially during the pandemic) to name a few. Whether you’re desperate to start a skincare routine proper or simply seeking a powerful voice to empower your feed, then Caroline is the influencer for you.

2. Lisa Potter-Dixon (@lisapotterdixon)

One of the first blogs I ever wrote drew on my realisation that I’ve always had a passion for makeup, but I didn’t know it until I discovered the joy that is Lisa Potter-Dixon and listened to her and Hannah Martin’s podcast Life and Lipstick. Previously the Head Makeup Artist at Benefit Cosmetics, Lisa is a freelance makeup artist as well as an author of three bestselling books, a lifestyle and beauty blogger and – most recently – the co-host of Five Faves of The Week, a podcast inspired by her “five faves of the week” on Instagram Stories whereby she reviews five of her favourite products each week. When I’m not on the shopfloor, my coworkers can find me in the staff kitchen enjoying Lisa’s IGTV beauty tutorials, PR unboxings and product comparisons whilst I devour my lunch.

3. Ateh Jewel (@atehjewel)

I discovered Ateh during one of Caroline’s infamous lockdown Instagram Lives in which they engaged in an important conversation regarding how we can all move forward following the horrific incident involving George Floyd back in May, where Ateh also reflected on her own encounter with a white woman who told her that black women can’t wear pink. Let that sink in. (If that doesn’t anger you like it does me, I don’t know what to say.) Ever since, I have been an avid follower of Ateh, an award-winning journalist and diversity advocate; from her enlightening blogs and her fun Wednesday Chat Clubs to the development of her FUchsia blusher (to say a big “F U” to said white woman) and Ateh Jewel Beauty which celebrates women of colour, her pink-heavy content is nothing short of delightful.

4. Chloe Plumstead (@chloeplumstead)

Chloe was one of the first bloggers I followed some years back now and my love for her content has remained. She is an extremely eloquent writer who covers petite styling (perfect for little 4’9” me), sex and relationships and life in your twenties. I can’t stress just how eloquently she puts the everyday occurrences in twenty-something life into words; her blogs, captions and stories alike read like effortless poetry. What’s more, her photos and videos exemplify the “aesthetically pleasing” content I referred to at the onset, but that which radiates only positive vibes. But don’t let her eloquence fool you; you might just feel obliged to purchase every product she wears, shares and endorses.

5. The Megan Edit (@themeganedit)

It’s not often I use the “discover” feature on Instagram now that I’m following an abundance of accounts to my liking, but one time I did during Lockdown 1.0, I came across the wonder that is The Megan Edit. I remember when I followed her, her follower count read “14k”; now, it’s no surprise that she has surpassed the 35k mark, with her smiley, mind-and-body-positive content which is guaranteed to brighten your day. From weight and mental health to fashion and food, Megan’s touches upon topics every twenty-something can relate to, and in an extremely refreshing manner. Oh, and – as a Musical Theatre graduate – she’s a bloody amazing singer.

6. Emily Clare Skinner (@emilyclareskinner)

I could genuinely look at Emily’s feed all day. Her current preset is a dream. The moody tones are stunning; yummy, almost. As a Fashion Blogger and Content Creator, Emily will bless your feed with on-trend fashion inspo, more recently through the new reel feature such as for her Pinterest-inspired looks and TikTok famous “outfit roulette”, and bedroom envy after her recent bedroom makeover. It goes without saying that she might also make your day as she did mine; after I voted on a poll on her stories, she sent me a DM to follow up on how I was – how sweet!

7. Bang on Style (@bangonstyle)

I’m awful at DIY; predominantly because I’ve never tried it. Debbie – the creator behind Bang on Style – however, is quite the opposite of awful at DIY; she is incredible at it. I always find myself in awe of her creativity as she upcycles almost anything, from a simple bedside table which now embraces gorgeous gold accents to a broken mirror which now serves a new purpose as a fantastic outdoor feature, and creates gorgeous décor like her recent leopard-print-patterned pumpkin. Debbie also shares her experiences of dating as well as funny tales aplenty which you can find on her highlights; the portaloo story cracked me up especially!

8. Das Penman (@das.penman)

Like me, I’m sure many started following Das after a couple of posts she created, again following the death of George Floyd, went viral. Nonetheless, succeeding these posts, Das shared an IGTV explaining that her account is not the go-to for learning more about racism and that those posts were the extent of her knowledge in the area. Even now, she encourages her followers to conduct research into such topics themselves. I follow her still not only because I enjoy her creative content around the areas she admits she is more up to speed with, such as mental health, but also because she serves as a reminder that we can all do better in our day-to-day lives in continuing to educate ourselves on matters like racism.

9. Lucy Mountain (@lucymountain)

Now, I’m no fitness guru like Lucy, and that’s the beauty of her content: you don’t have to enjoy fitness like she does to enjoy her content. I actually followed Lucy after The Megan Edit shared a post of hers which highlighted that cellulite is formed by fat cells contained by a different internal structure for males and females and that no amount of creams can change the appearance of such. Since, I have enjoyed Lucy’s informative and humorous content which, as she puts it, “passive-aggressively calls out the bs” related to fitness, diet culture and body image through photos and videos alike. What’s more, she recently homed an adorable cat called Stan – what more could you ask for?

10. Gals Who Graduate (@galswhograduate)

If you’re a student or graduate, I urge you to follow Gals Who Graduate. The page is an incredible support system for students and graduates, sharing stories from students both past and present covering the likes of internship experiences, the tediousness of job seeking post-graduation and graduating in the midst of a pandemic. They also have a Facebook page where members can ask almost anything and offer advice from experience to others. Gals Who Graduate reassures you that you are not alone in dealing with the struggles that come with student and graduate life and reminds you that you are part of a wonderful community.

Particularly in the current climate, it’s so important that we try to make light of every situation, especially social media as those of us on furlough or in similar situations are probably using it much more than usual and we know that it can be detrimental to our mental wellbeing without even realising. With that, I hope you’re feeling inspired to enhance your Instagram experience by following those like the above to satiate your feeds with delight. If you’re not already following these accounts, are you going to follow any now? If so, who and why? And, based on my reviews, who would you recommend that I follow? Let’s talk Instagram in the comments below!

Now, go – unfollow those you might have known years back but induce nothing but apathy now, and embark on a follow spree of joy for the better.

Caroline Hirons Summer Kit: My favourites so far

A few weeks back, I wrote a blog post which expanded on why I’m now so into skincare after having an almost unhealthy relationship with my skin for so long. If you haven’t read said post, in sum: I have suffered with excoriation (skin-picking) disorder for over a decade now however, after developing an interest in skincare as influenced by the powerful Caroline Hirons during lockdown, I have begun to learn to love my skin and work to distract myself every time I feel the urge to attack it. In mid-July, I commenced a strict skincare routine according to Caroline’s book Skincare which I received on its release date towards the end of June and – six weeks in – I have genuinely noticed some incredible results. My skin hasn’t felt as good as it does right now in so long; I have combination skin which is usually acne-prone, especially when it’s my time of month, I’m feeling particularly stressed or as a result of a sudden diet change. Nonetheless, since beginning my routine, I’ve encountered just one bad breakout (and that was in the first week and I was on my period), I haven’t picked my face anywhere near as much as I used to, and my skin is glowing! Honestly, I couldn’t be happier that what was simply an ever-growing interest has emerged into an essential ritual in my everyday life – and an extremely positive one.

Soon after my copy of Skincare arrived, I studied the book thoroughly, noting everything that was relevant to my skin type, age group and most frequent skin issues. For instance, it was through this book that I ascertained my combination skin type; it was through this book that I discovered excellent recommendations for products for twenty-somethings; and, it was through this book that I realised that – if anything – you should always wear an SPF. Upon acquiring such knowledge, I placed my first official skincare order of a non-foam cleanser (specifically Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm), an acid toner (precisely Revolution Skincare 1% Salicylic Acid with Marshmallow Extract), a hydrating spray (in this case, Garnier Organic Argan Mist), a facial oil (I opted for The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane after previously trying and enjoying another product of theirs), and the all-important SPF (I came across Bondi Sands Daily Moisturising Face SPF 50+ which, coincidentally, Caroline endorsed just days later!). After trying these products day and night, my skin almost instantly felt healthier; it felt fresher after removing my makeup with a cleansing balm as opposed to makeup wipes (yes, yes – thanks to Caroline, I know how bad wipes are now!), it felt revitalised after applying a facial oil, and it felt protected after smothering plentiful SPF. As this was my very first order of an almost complete skincare routine, I purposefully selected products on the less expensive side (except for the cleanser) because – if these products were going to work – I knew that I would be contented to make even larger investments in the future (not that bigger prices mean better quality because we all know that, oftentimes, they merely reflect brand reputation!). Nevertheless, when wondering which products from which brands to try next, I needed a little more guidance.

If you’ve been an avid follower of Caroline for a while, you’ll know that – since the end of 2019 – she has released numerous (I haven’t heard her reveal exactly how many, but I’d say a good few hundred) limited edition full-sized skincare kits in collaboration with a multitude of brands; two in Winter 2019, another two in Spring 2020 and the latest two in Summer 2020. I say an “avid” follower because I’ve been following Caroline on Instagram for over two years now after discovering her on Lisa Potter-Dixon and Hannah Martin’s Life and Lipstick podcast however, I didn’t know about these (bloody brilliant) kits until early July after she discussed them in a few of her many Instagram Lives during lockdown. Essentially, in said seasons, Caroline releases two kits which are similar in that they include almost the same amount and kind of products, but differ in that they are targeted for slightly different groups. For instance, this summer’s Kit 1 included 11 products and was formed with a slightly younger, more acne-prone audience in mind; Kit 2 contained 9 products for a slightly older, more mature audience (loosely speaking). What’s more, Caroline and her team didn’t intend to release any kits this summer; after the Winter 2019 and Spring 2020 kits, they intended to next release kits in Autumn 2020. Nonetheless, following the success of the previous kits and due to popular demand, the Summer Kits were quickly formed. Having engaged in all her lockdown Instagram Lives, even if I didn’t watch it live but afterwards on her main grid, I knew that I needed to get my hands on one of these kits. The kit included everything (apart from an SPF) you need for a proper skincare routine: a cleansing mitt, a non-foam cleanser, a cooling mask, an acid toner, a hydrating spray, an eye cream, a facial oil, two moisturisers, a vitamin C serum, and a hydrating serum (as below).

Image description: My Caroline Hirons Summer Kit (1)

As made obvious by the above caption and, if you’ve been paying attention to my aforementioned skin type, age group and most frequent skin issues, I opted for Kit 1. The Summer Kits were released on 14 August and everybody who would try for one was warned to head to the website as quickly as possible to order because they’re so desirable by Caroline’s “Skincare Freaks”. They were released at 10am and, not only was I off work that day, but I was also incredibly lucky in securing one within just two minutes from their time of release! Some shared their experiences on the Skincare Freaks Facebook Group as to how long they waited to ~bag~ a kit (lol) which is why I felt quite lucky to secure one so quickly.

Now, for my favourites. First thing’s first: I cannot fault any of the products from Kit 1 thus far; they all make me feel good in their own ways. Secondly, I’m still in awe of the saving; Kit 1 had a retail value of £462.50 and went on sale for £225 – a whopping 52% off its worth(!!). If you’re no skincare lover, I can understand that you might think “why the hell would you spend so much on skincare?” however, if you’re on my side, you’ll just know that you will probably never encounter such a deal elsewhere. Think about it: the Zelens PHA+ Bio-Peel Resurfacing Facial Pads which were included in the kit, for example, usually go for £65 alone – that’s a quarter of the price of the whole kit! In-SANE, amiright? Also, as touched upon earlier, this kit was the perfect segue into starting a complete routine, discovering brilliant brands and – most importantly – finally beginning to form a better relationship with my skin.

After trying and alternating the products from Kit 1 every day and night for the last three weeks, here are my top five products (in no particular order) and why:

  • Chantecaille Jasmine and Lily Healing Mask. This mask is just beautiful. I’ve used it several times straight after my night-time cleanse and it feels and smells divine. It is to be applied all over your face and rinsed off after 5 minutes. Upon rinsing it off, my skin feels incredibly smooth and the gorgeous smell of jasmine remains.
  • Zelens PHA+ Bio-Peel Resurfacing Facial Pads. Now, this is the product that has predominantly alleviated my spots. When I used these pads the following two mornings after my last breakout, my spots cleared completely. These pads are meant to gently exfoliate, which they really do, and others have said that they helped with their spots. So, if you’re acne-prone like me, these might just be the pads for you.
  • REN Clean Skincare Perfect Canvas Jelly Oil Cleanser. As much as I love my Clinique TTDO cleanser, I definitely have a softer spot for this REN one! I have used it as both a morning and night cleanse – when I use it in the morning, it makes my skin feel so soft and clean; when I use it in the evening, it removes my makeup perfectly.
  • Emma Hardie Plump & Glow Hydrating Facial Mist. I thought my face felt hydrated after using my aforementioned Garnier hydrating spray but, damn, this product is the epitome of a fantastic hydrating spray. One soft pump makes you feel instantly refreshed, rejuvenated and revitalised; a few pumps all round awakens you for the day.
  • Motherdirt Moisturizer. Before this moisturiser, I only ever used creamy moisturisers; now, I wonder why. This oil-based yet non-sticky, soft and hydrating moisturiser is the perfect penultimate product in my morning routine before applying SPF and final product in the evening for making my skin feel reconditioned.

If my skin is feeling so much better now after six weeks of using these products, I can’t wait to see how my skin continues to improve. While I don’t think I’ll go for Caroline’s Autumn Kit this year after investing in one of the summer ones, I might just have to use a few of the bounce back codes on the products that will be redeemable on the brand’s websites after the kits’ releases to test even more new and exciting products.

Have you ever managed to ~bag~ one of Caroline’s kits? If so, what are/were your favourite products? Alternatively, if you’ve used any of the above products not as part of these kits, did you like them? If so (or not), why? Let me know!

Finally, if you do not have a proper skincare routine, I urge you to start one as soon as possible. A great starting point is the book. Then, you can figure out which products you need. You don’t need to spend much; just enough time every morning and night to take care of your skin, our outer body covering and largest organ.

Love,

Little Pav ♡

Why I’m (now) so into skincare

Of late, I’ve began to develop an ever-growing interest in skincare. It all started soon after I listened to the delightful Life and Lipstick Podcast hosted by fabulous makeup artists Lisa Potter-Dixon and Hannah Martin and, as I unfold in my blog about how this podcast encouraged me to reflect on my own makeup influences, I followed even more powerful women in the beauty industry on Instagram as a result. My favourite episode of the series was Season 3 Episode 2: Caroline Hirons where they chat with incredible skincare expert – you guessed it – Caroline Hirons. I won’t judge you if you don’t know who Caroline is if, like I was pre-Life-and-Lipstick, you aren’t familiar with the beauty industry. Now that I’m pretty up-to-speed with all things beauty and skincare, however, I will judge you if you too claim to be familiar with the industry. Many in the industry dub Caroline as the “powerhouse” of skincare and, believe me, they’re not wrong. As I do with many beauty and skincare professionals, including the lovely aforementioned Lisa and Hannah as well as the wonderful Emma Guns, Cher Webb and Ateh Jewel to name a few, I have continuously engaged in Caroline’s Instagram Lives and have thus learnt a hell of a lot; predominantly, how to take care of your skin.

If you follow Caroline, you’ll know that she says everything as it is. She’ll tell you which products are no good. She’ll call out brands that are misleading. She’ll highlight the blatant misogyny in our government, such as how women are still unable to open their salons amid the coronavirus pandemic, yet men are allowed to have their bloody beard’s trimmed (what the ACTUAL fuck, Boris?). Hence, I admire her honesty and trust her advice. Although I feel somewhat deprived of her expertise given that she has blogged about beauty for more than ten years and I only started following her just over two years ago, I also feel that I jumped on the bandwagon at a pretty good time. Why? Because, although she’s been blogging for this long, she only very recently – namely, just under two months ago – released her first book, appropriately titled Skincare. Her “freaks” (fans of Caroline, particularly members of her closed Facebook group Caroline Hirons Skincare Freaks which I proudly joined just a few days ago), refer to this book as their “bible” (as I do, too). Again, why? Because, like it says on the cover, it really is “the ultimate no-nonsense guide” to introducing an excellent skincare routine into your daily life and understanding the importance of skincare not just for anybody, but for everybody. Whether you’re in your twenties, thirties, forties, fifties or sixties+; have dry, oily or combination skin; have acne, eczema or psoriasis; have money to spend or a budget; whatever your situation, this book is for you. I, for instance, hadn’t a clue where to begin with my skincare routine before this book; now, not only has it helped me to ascertain my (combination) skin type, but it has also helped me to fathom which products to use based on my skin type, age and (now) occasional acne.

Image description: Me holding my copy of Skincare

You might be wondering why it is skincare that I’ve developed such an interest in. Well, we all have issues with our skin; it’s only human. Sure, some have more severe issues than others, but we all have problems we’d like to “fix”. Hence, the main reason I have begun to develop such an interest in skincare, and thus an admiration for Caroline Hirons, is due to my personal battles with – as I mentioned briefly above as well as in my Life and Lipstick appreciation blog – acne. For years, I hadn’t had a particularly healthy relationship with my skin because of my acne. If anything, it was quite abusive – only I didn’t realise that until about two years ago, around the same time I started listening to Life and Lipstick. Now, before I go on, it’s worth noting that the only people who are aware and have witnessed the severity of what I’m about to unveil are my parents and my fiancé. Other than those individuals, three of the most important individuals in my life, I have never told anyone about this; not extended family members, not my best friends, not anyone. So, sharing what I’m about to share is a pretty big deal to me. However, I hope that it will not only help my readers to understand why I’m now so into skincare, but also help others who have experienced similar issues in some way or another.

If you know me, then, you’ll be surprised to hear that I’ve been suffering silently with a condition called excoriation disorder – otherwise known as skin-picking disorder – for over a decade. Excoriation disorder is a condition related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) which involves the repetitive picking at one’s skin, thus resulting in skin lesions, scars and – especially in my case – hinderance on everyday life.

From the ages of 11 to 16, I suffered badly with acne on my face, chest, shoulders and back. My last memory of having smooth, spotless, scar-free skin is when I was in Year 6. It was during this school year that I began to break out in spots; nevertheless, I’d always conceal it with anti-blemish foundation, long sleeves and high necks, hence why – if you know me – you’ve probably never noticed. (Even now, it’s extremely rare that you’ll see me in a strappy, V-neck or low-back top and, when you do, rest assured I’ve assessed my skin and deemed it as somewhat acceptable or applied a generous amount of makeup to the exposed scars.) Then, I started high school: a period that would become the worst half-decade of my life. I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not. I hated school and I envy everyone who says they enjoyed it; they have no idea what it’s like to go about their daily life wondering what you’re going to be mocked for next, questioning every hurtful name assigned to you just for being you and feeling like a misfit in the entire year group… for five whole years. As a result of my negative experiences, I suffered with depression for most – if not all – of my high school career. I can’t pinpoint when the skin-picking started exactly but, in retrospect, the start to my depressive episodes makes sense. Still, I have this awful habit of picking at every spot, lump and blemish on my skin in sight but, thanks to Caroline and her book, I finally have a prompt to work on it. It’s taken time – and probably much longer than it should have as a lot of the damage to my skin is done – but I am finally working to not only distract myself every time I feel the urge to attack my skin whenever I’m feeling stressed, anxious or depressed, but also to accept my scars.

And that is why Skincare is so significant to me. It has taught me to love my skin, not loathe it. It has taught me to understand why my skin still breaks out every now and then, and how to treat it when it does. It has taught me a brilliant routine which, for the past month, I have sworn by every morning and night. Apart from my obsessive skin-picking, I thought I had a fairly decent skincare routine before buying this book; I moisturised my face and body after a shower and before applying makeup daily, and again once I’d taken off my makeup (regrettably, with wipes – if you’re not sure why I regret that now, read her book!) nightly, I used facemasks one-to-two nights a week and I applied eye cream for my dark circles every so often. Now, if you too think that this is a decent routine, think again. While moisturiser and eye cream is good, it’s not good enough when you’re not prepping your skin beforehand and applying the eye cream after the moisturiser (when I think about it now, it makes so much more sense to apply it before!). Ever since I bought this book, I have introduced an array of skincare products into my routine which I’m beginning to see results from, such as (in order of application in the morning):

  • A non-foam cleansing balm (currently Clinique Take The Day Off, as recommended by Caroline)
  • An acid toner (currently Revolution Skincare 1% Salicylic Acid with Marshmallow Extract, as Caroline recommends a salicylic acid for an acne-prone skin)
  • A hydrating spray (currently Garnier Organic Argan Mist)
  • An eye cream (I have been using several for a while, including Clinique All About Eyes and Benefit It’s Potent Brightening Eye Cream)
  • A facial oil (currently The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane)
  • A moisturiser (again, I have been using several for some time, including Benefit Weightless Moisture Face Moisturiser and Nivea Crème)
  • An SPF (currently Bondi Sands Daily Moisturising Face SPF 50+)

At night, I follow the same routine but without the SPF. Oh, and I now use flannels to wipe off my makeup as opposed to wipes – yay!

If, like me, you have a skincare issue you’d like to treat, have no idea where to begin with your skincare routine or have a mere interest in the beauty industry, I – in case you haven’t gathered already – would highly recommend you follow Caroline Hirons amongst the others listed earlier and buy Caroline’s book Skincare. Skincare is an element of selfcare and is therefore a fantastic segue into introducing selfcare into your daily routine, and this book will help you to do just that.

Caroline, if you were to ever read this, thank you. Thank you for your expertise, for your book and for using your voice to name a few. It has certainly helped me, and I know it has helped so many others. You are amazing!

Love,

Little Pav ♡

If you haven’t already, and if you can, please sign the petition and donate at Beauty Backed, a campaign organised by Caroline, Millie Kendall and British Beauty Council to raise money for those in the beauty industry who are still unable to work and need help. Watch this video on Caroline’s Instagram feed to learn more.

My hair and me: An ever-changing relationship

Hair. It’s a funny thing. To some, it is merely an aspect of their existence; to others, it is a means of expressing their identity. Since my early teens, I’ve had an ever-changing relationship with my hair; I’ve dyed it several colours, cut it extremely short and let it grow extremely long (as it is now) to name a few.

Just a couple of weeks before lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, I had plans to chop off my current long locks to donate them to The Little Princess Trust. Although restriction measures were not yet in place in the UK, it was evident that the global situation was worsening and so – amongst many others – I decided to cancel my appointment. I was certainly disappointed at the time however, I am now so glad I made that decision as quarantining has not only provided me the opportunity to let it grow even longer, as there is a demand for longer hair donations, but also to take extra care of my hair. For instance, I used to dye my hair every three months and wash it every two days; now, I haven’t coloured my hair since New Year’s Day and have washed it just once a week since April. I still very much intend to donate my locks before my return to my regular position (I am currently working from home temporarily as I explain in my blog about returning to work after having been furloughed) as the notion of providing an individual who is unable to now the ability to embrace long hair is infallible.

In light of my realisation that I will soon be giving up my long locks, I evaluate my ever-changing relationship with my hair – in the form of a timeline – hereafter.

Image description: My long hair, Summer 2019

2008. The beginning to my (unknowingly, then, dreadful) high school career. When I started high school, I had relatively long hair – it fell a couple of inches below my shoulders. In my first year of high school, I had not yet “discovered” my identity, so my natural ash-brown hair colour remained untouched.

2009. My first colour contemplation. As my mum was a hairdresser in her young adult years, her ability to dye hair in a professional manner continues. My first ever colour choice was a reddish brown (I would have loved a brighter red had it been allowed at school). Thus, my mum proceeded to dye my hair and simultaneously cut it to shoulder length for a fresh lewk.

2010. The “emo” phase. Yep, I was one of those who experienced the infamous “emo phase”. Though my favourite band at the time was The Jonas Brothers (judge all you like; bitches might not have liked them then but drool all over Nick now!), my music taste branched out to the likes of Paramore, You Me At Six, Fall Out Boy, Blink-182 and Sum 41, and my hair was a reflection of this.

How, you ask? One: my mum – again, professionally – dyed it jet black. Two: my mum’s friend – who happens to be her hairdresser – styled it in the most emo way (as per my request). The layers. Oh, the layers. In retrospect, they were laughable. The shortest layer was about an inch long and every morning before school, I would not only straighten my hair, but I would also backcomb every bloody layer.

Funny side note: I was told by multiple people in my year group that I had the “best” hair and, rumour has it, a few girls showed their hairdressers a photo of me to have it cut in a similar style. LOL. #OGtrendsetter

2011. The sudden urge to chop it all off. I specifically remember showing a photo of, and explaining to my mum’s hairdresser friend that I wanted it cut like, Frankie from The Saturdays. Remember The Saturdays? Remember Frankie? Remember her extremely short hair? That’s how I wanted mine cut, and that’s how I got it cut. Again, in retrospect? Laughable. But, the maintenance? OH-SO EASY.

2012. After several cuts to maintain the oh-so short hairstyle (and dyes to upkeep its jet blackness), I decided to grow out my hair. The grow-out stage from such a style is the absolute worst. Not only was it shorter on one side than the other, but it was also impossible to tie up for a really long time; I followed the terrible trend at the time to input as many bobby pins in the back as possible.

2013-2015. Sixth form. The “bun” all day, every day period. By the time my hair had finally reached the “long bob” stage, I was able to tie it in a bun – and not just any bun, but the neatest bun. Fortunately for me, hair donuts were a real hairstyle staple at the time and thus allowed me to tie my hair in a neat bun. Oh, and dip-dye was a real trend at the time, too, so my mum dip-dyed my back-to-natural brown hair blonde.

2016. My first year of university. By this point, my hair finally looked nice enough to leave down after two years of growing it out. As I was already used to in my high school years, I would take the time to straighten my hair once it had dried after a wash and proceed to use my straighteners briefly in the mornings when getting ready so as to ensure it stayed straight throughout the day.

2017. By the time I reached my second year of university, I realised that my hair had become “long” again; it was becoming too much to maintain before, during and after every wash. My solution? Tying it in plaits every single night and untying the plaits in the morning for a “beach waves” look created from the plaits every single day. Eventually, this routine became almost as easy to maintain as my previously short hair.

2018-2020. My hair has become too long for me to cope with. I’m surprised I’ve got this far without mentioning how bloody thick my hair is; hence, when it’s long, it’s like trying to maintain a bloody lion’s mane (don’t get me wrong, I’m really appreciative that my hair is so healthy; my comparisons are meant for exaggeration!). Now, I have the urge to again chop it all off. Just not so short this time.

In preparation for my chop (before I cancelled my appointment back in March), I researched everything I needed to know about donating hair to The Little Princess Trust. I am delighted to confirm that my hair is fit for donation according to their terms and conditions and, as mentioned previously, the demand for longer hair donations continues to grow. Hence, I intend to donate at least 14 inches of hair (I’m not quite sure how long my hair is at present in inches – I just know that I want to cut it to a long bob so, if my hair below my shoulders is actually longer than 14 inches right now, great!).

Your hair is a part of you. Just as you like to take care of your body by showering, moisturising and exercising, remember to take care of your hair. Do some research into its type to find the right shampoos and conditioners for you. Take the time to put a mask on it every now and then. Brush it gently. And, if you can, consider donating it to those who don’t have such an ability.

Take care of your hair – and take care.

Love,

Little Pav ♡

I didn’t realise how into makeup I am until I listened to Life and Lipstick

Before I began studying for my master’s in Global Marketing in 2018, I had the slightest clue about business and marketing. The only understanding I had of the subjects before then derived from my 12-week marketing internship in London three summers ago which I sought as an opportunity to spruce up my CV, incognizant to the fact that it would later become a subject of interest and – better yet – a desired career path. Therefore, in order to prepare myself for a year of strenuous knowledge acquisition and intense research into an area I lacked such in, I tried to immerse myself into as much business-and-marketing related content around me as possible. The modules I would be taking covered the likes of e-marketing, brand management and performance management, so the answer to my wondering “what can I do to gain a better insight into marketing and brands now?” was a simple one in this day and age: social media. “On social media, follow all the brands that you like, and discover as many influencers that you relate to,” I considered. The best platform to do this on? Instagram.

I realised that, on Instagram, I was only following a minimal number of brands. I was predominantly following people I know from school, university and other walks of life. The only brands I were following were those that I’d either worked for or that would pop up under ‘people to follow’ that made me think “oh yeah, I like that brand”. I realised that I probably wasn’t receiving the full extent of the Instagram experience that was available, which is so imperative to marketing these days. So, after gathering all the brands I’ve ever liked or encountered in my mind, I went on an extremely large follow spree. I gazed around me as I sat cross-legged on my bed with the Instagram app open on my phone for inspiration; “a Dunelm duvet? Let’s follow Dunelm. A Cath Kidston moisturiser? Let’s follow Cath Kidston. A Fjallraven Kanken rucksack? Let’s follow Fjallraven”. And the bout continued. The most significant following of all, however, was Benefit Cosmetics. Soon after said following spree, I would notice that they would often appear on Instagram Live; on Tuesdays, in particular. At the time, Lisa Potter-Dixon, a long-time professional makeup artist, best-selling author and glitter enthusiast was Benefit Cosmetic UK’s Head Makeup Artist and, every Tuesday night, she would conduct a “Tip Tuesday” Live on their Instagram. Thus, every Tuesday night, the “@benefitcosmetics is now live” notification would emerge at the top of my screen. Little did I know that, from the first time I tapped on that notification and would watch the live video, I would become addicted.

“This woman is incredible!”, I thought, as I watched Lisa enthusiastically present her favourite Benefit products and expertly apply them to her flawless skin whilst amicably speaking to her live audience; “why have I not seen these before?”. By the time I’d engaged in these Instagram Lives a few times, the teaching for my master’s had started. And, when told in our E-Marketing module that, for our summative assessment, we were required to write a report that critically evaluated the digital marketing strategies adopted by an organisation of our choice on a social media platform of our choice… Boom! Benefit Cosmetics on Instagram came straight to my head. (I loved that about both my degrees; being given the ability to research into topics, contexts and brands of our choosing made the completion process so much easier.) My thinking as to following as many brands on Instagram as I could turned out very, very well.

Eventually, there was no way I could wait every Tuesday to partake in Tip Tuesday (such a millennial with a thirst for instant gratification, huh?), so I followed Lisa’s personal account on Instagram where I would discover even more delight; her “5 Faves of The Week” where she offers honest reviews of a multitude of products not just relating to makeup, but also fashion, beauty and lifestyle, her fabulous nails which I would often use as inspiration when I get my own done at the salon once a month (outside of lockdown, of course), and her incredible thigh-high vibrant pink boots which she pulls off so naturally to name a few. Then, one day (over a year ago now!), she announced that she would be co-hosting a new podcast with another stunner, expert and inspiration of a makeup artist, Hannah Martin, called Life and Lipstick. I’d been longing for a podcast that I could listen to with interest and not cut it short and turn back to my music (again, talk about a social-media-influenced short attention span), and this was it. Of course, I also started to follow Hannah who I developed as much admiration for upon learning that she once held the role of Pro Makeup Artist at Bobbi Brown, listening to her also honest and wholehearted product reviews and watching her excel at life as a busy mama of two, and my commute to uni for the foreseeable was sorted: listen to Life and Lipstick!

Episode 1 - Life And Lipstick | Podcast on Spotify
Image description: A photo of Lisa Potter-Dixon and Hannah Martin, hosts of Life and Lipstick

After listening to their first episode, which was an introduction to their crazy but lovely selves and the podcast overall, I was sold. I adored listening to their stories about how they became makeup artists which shared wonderful similarities and differences; for both of them, it wasn’t something they particularly intended to pursue, similarly to the story that I shared in my previous blog about how I changed my mind from wanting to pursue teaching to wanting to pursue marketing. That’s what I loved about this podcast from the onset: it’s so relatable even if you’re not a makeup artist yourself. As the episode progressed, Hannah shared that her grandmother influenced her love for makeup and, likewise, Lisa explained how much her model mother inspired her when she was younger. It really made me reflect on my makeup influences; something I’d never taken the time to reflect on so profoundly before. It made me realise that, like Lisa especially, my mum has greatly influenced my makeup habits, too.

When I was in Year 6 – around about 11 years of age – I started to break out in clusters of spots on my forehead and chin. The thought of going to school with these uninvited, irritable lumps on my face was daunting. At the time, my mum used Clinique Anti-Blemish Foundation which she would also use to apply an ever so light coat to my face once I’d got ready for school in the mornings after I broke out and, my god, it worked a charm. A simple light coat of foundation to disguise the redness and unevenness across my face made me feel so much more comfortable and confident in my own skin. When I wore it, I had no worries about feeling ugly, being picked on or feeling low, which wouldn’t stop consuming me when walking around in my bare-faced, acne-prone skin. As I progressed into high school, my acne gradually became worse and worse and I would rely on that foundation to make me feel better about myself. Of course, I couldn’t always use my mum’s as she wanted to use it for herself, so she kindly bought me my own Clinique Anti-Blemish Foundation at the age of 12 not as a birthday or Christmas or any sort of occasion gift, but as a treat because she could see how much happier I was in myself when I wore it (thanks, mummy!). That foundation, then, was unknowingly the start to my impending makeup collection.

As a young teenager in high school, I inexorably developed a desire to play around more with makeup. Throughout my high school career, I woke up at 6:00am every morning, even though school didn’t start till 8:30; likewise, my mum woke up at this early hour every day even though she didn’t start work till 8:30, too. My mum always likes to ensure that she has enough time to wake up, get herself ready and complete some household chores before she leaves for work and I adopted this mentality from her whilst I was at school; I still like to be ready as early as possible for any event like work, a social outing or a date night. So, when I’d get ready for school and still have time in my morning to spare, I’d sometimes watch my mum apply her makeup and imitate her routine. I’d watch her apply her Clinique Anti-Blemish Foundation gently with her clear-tailed Clinique foundation brush, apply her Clinique Lash Power Mascara (can you tell she likes Clinique?) flutteringly to her eyelashes and stroke her neon blue Bourjois pencil eyeliner carefully below her eyes. Obviously, I couldn’t wear blue eyeliner to school – or any makeup for that matter, but I ~ rebelliously ~ did every single day anyway (thinking about it, I can only recall having one makeup-related detention after trying on a super orange-tinted powder foundation a friend bought for me; either I did my no-makeup makeup look really well or my teachers loved me that much) – but I replicated many of my mum’s makeup habits when applying my own. Also, I couldn’t own as many high-end makeup products as my mum because I was only in high school – I wasn’t earning my own money – so I would buy most of my other makeup products like mascara, blusher and lipstick from brands available in Boots (I mean, their 3 for 2 deal has always been a winner) including the likes of Rimmel, Maybelline and Collection with either birthday, Christmas or pocket money (although my mum continued to kindly renew my Clinique foundation every time I’d run out – isn’t she amazing?).

Echoing my earlier statement, only after I’d listened to the first Life and Lipstick episode and reflected on my own makeup influences did I realise how much my mum’s makeup habits had shaped my own. Again, as I said, I’d never thought about it before; I merely saw makeup application as an essential part of my mundane getting-ready routine. Then, when my skin finally started to clear up by the time I was 16 and I no longer needed an “anti-blemish” foundation, I was eager – after 5 whole years – to try a new foundation. The summer I turned 16, I went to Brighton with my mum and walked into their Mac store – a brand I’d heard a hell of a lot about through word-of-mouth, but never experimented myself – and each of us had a lovely lady apply numerous foundations to our faces until we found the right ones for us. I can’t remember which one I purchased exactly, but I used Mac foundation for about three-to-four years until, for some reason, it began to disagree with me. That’s when I turned to Benefit, thanks to Lisa Potter-Dixon. After watching her use Benefit Cosmetics’ Hello Happy Foundation on a Tip Tuesday soon after it launched, I thought “I need to get my hands on this baby”. And so, one day after work in Kingston-upon-Thames, I headed to the Bentalls Centre and straight for the Benefit Cosmetics counter. The sweet Sales Consultant on shift applied it all over my face and, honestly, I felt rejuvenated. It was exactly what I was looking for; all I needed was a light coverage to conceal my acne scars. I don’t like the feeling of full-coverage, heavy foundations on my face, perhaps from my experience of using a light coat of anti-blemish foundation to cover my acne spots and adhering to a no-makeup makeup look for so long, and this foundation is anything but heavy. I’ve tried a couple of other foundations since, like Benefit Cosmetics Hello Happy Flawless Foundation (yes, it’s different – notice the word ‘flawless’), but I still use Hello Happy at present because it works so well for me.

The entire Life and Lipstick series was such a pleasure to listen to, especially the latter two seasons where they talk with an array of big names in the beauty industry including the powerful Caroline Hirons, the inspirational Zoe Boikou and the one and only Bobbi Brown; not only did it make me appreciate and develop an everlasting respect for the beauty industry, but it also made me realise how impactful makeup has been in my own life. Thanks to Lisa and Hannah (and the aforementioned Zoe Boikou from the very emotional episode in which she is featured), I now use the best makeup brushes I’ve ever used (from Zoe’s brand Zoeva Cosmetics; they specialise in high-quality makeup brushes which are INCREDIBLE), I can create the ~ almost ~ perfect feathered natural brow (which I receive compliments on so often) and I have discovered a plethora of inspiring women to follow on Instagram and engage in their Instagram Lives, Instagram TVs (IGTVs) and merely enjoy their content during my evening social media scrolls. So, Lisa and Hannah (if you were to ever read this), thank you!

Love,

Little Pav ♡