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 creams, a facial oil, two moisturisers, a vitamin C serum, and a hydrating serum (as below).

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,

Soph, Little Pav

The advantages and disadvantages of being (very) short in everyday life

To me, being (very) short is a large part of my identity. More often than not, my height is the first thing people notice about me. At school, however, I was almost made to feel like it was problematic; the observation “you’re so short!” was made daily (that’s right: every single day for five whole years), to which my response to the boys would be a sarcastic “well, obviously” and to the girls a nicer “haha, I know”. I’ve learned as I’ve grown older (and no further in height), however, to love my shortness; needless to say, it certainly comes with its disadvantages when trying to accomplish everyday tasks. In light of such, I thought I’d gather some of the perks and the not-so-easy aspects of being as short as I am, beginning with the latter.

Disadvantages

Reaching for things. While climbing on the kitchen worktop to grab something from the elevated cupboards can be fun at times, it definitely has its downfalls; the fear of slipping off and cracking your head open on the tiled floor is one extreme, yet very possible, example. In our kitchen at home, we genuinely have a little stool for us shorties (my mum and me, mainly), which, when I do rightly decide to pull it out instead of recklessly jumping around, makes life a hell of a lot easier. It’s a shame it’s not socially acceptable to carry a stool to the supermarket when you can’t reach for something on the top shelf; though I’m not embarrassed to find either an employee or a passerby and laugh “I’m sorry, could you grab that for me, please?” (in my overly polite British manner), when nobody’s available, what do you do? Well, if I’m feeling brave, I might riskily attempt to place one foot on the bottom shelf to bump me up a notch, or scout for another item that I can use as a manoeuvring device to shuffle the item on the top shelf closer to me. If those options fail, well, great: I can’t buy my essentials because of my damn little legs.

Public transport. Every time I opt to get on the train in rush hour and have to painfully stand as I gawk at and envy those who sit comfortably in the red-cushioned seats, I always wonder what the viewpoint for taller people is like; “they can actually see other people? Like, they can see across the entire carriage?”. Because, every single time, I involuntarily end up in the midst of a taller guy’s sweaty armpit, an older lady’s side-boob and a school kid’s Nike rucksack as we all hold onto the bright orange handrail for dear life. What’s more, commuters on public transport only care about themselves and their own comfort, so I have to endure this pleasurable combination of sweat, boobs and bags crushing me for the entirety of my journey. I know what you’re thinking: “if you drove, you could avoid all this havoc!”. Well, one: I don’t have my license yet, as driving is just another thing I’ve managed to conjure up an excuse for the procrastination; two: when I’m travelling to Central London… nah, I wouldn’t drive anyway; and three: public transport is ~ relatively ~ cheap and works for me anyway so, for that reason, I might as well try to learn to embrace the revulsion that is the “07:57 South Western Railway service to London Waterloo”.

Always. Being. Told. Everywhere I go, everything I do, everyone I meet; I’m always the shortest one. That, I don’t mind; it’s the mere constant need for everybody to remind me all the time. I’ve heard the “oh my God, you’re so tiny!”, “wow, how come you’re so short?” and “oh, you’re so cute!” more times than you can imagine. Well, guess what? I’m the one who’s 4’9”, so I am very aware of the fact that I’m “so tiny” or however you want to describe it. I’m a product of a full-Greek-Cypriot mother and a half-Burmese, quarter-Irish and a little bit of Italian, French and apparently Native American Indian (according to my auntie’s ancestry test; isn’t that AWESOME?) father, so that’s probably why I’m so short, since you asked. And finally, you think it’s cute? Aw, shucks. (That’s my favourite remark, really.)

Me with my tol friends (I think it’s obvious which one I am)

Advantages

People offering to do things for you. Contrary to the nuisance of trying to reach for things myself, oftentimes people will kindly offer to grab things from a great height for me to save me from straining my oh-so-tiny arms and legs. Be it at work reaching for my diary above the desk, in the university library aiming to reach for a book from up above or at home struggling to obtain a glass to quickly quench my thirst, there are many considerate people out there who look out for their smol friends and family members (thanks, guys).

Fitting into junior-sized shoes. This doesn’t necessarily apply to short people, but people with small feet, and I’m sure each and every one of us would agree that being able to buy trainers from the junior section is a blessing. I mean, they’re usually half the bloody price of the size 5-and-aboves! If you’re a size 4 like me or below and have been shopping in the general shoe section, you’ve wasted hella money, my friend. Most places I’ve shopped at for trainers and boots have a junior section, and if they don’t, then maybe – just maybe – I won’t shop there.

I LOVE IT. As I said, I’ve learned to love my shortness. It contributes to the characteristics that make me… me. In some ways, I also feel like it enhances my femininity (not that tall girls aren’t beautiful, because they are – shoutout to my tol friends!). I sometimes even forget myself just how short I am; I’ll be cuddling Dan and he’ll impulsively point it out (just like the rest of ‘em) after almost 5 years of being together, or I’ll order some trousers from the petite section online and make the mistake of not checking the leg length and thinking “eh, they’ll be fine” and, unsurprisingly, they’ll still be too long (top tip for my fellow shorties: buy cropped-length trousers and jeans for average-sized people for the perfectly-lengthed bottoms for yourself). But, when I remember, it makes me happy.

Daniel and me in España

Short people, tall people, ALL people: remember, we are all beautiful and unique in our own ways! But, in particular, to all my fellow tiny people: may we embrace our fun-sized selves together!

Love,

Soph, Little Pav

(If you hadn’t figured already, do you see where the blog name comes from now?)

“This is a pandemic, not a productivity contest”

I came across this quote on a post shared by Glamour UK on Instagram during my evening social media scroll one day last week and, damn, did it hit home. Just a couple of days before, my linguigals (the name I’ve assigned to my gal friends with whom I studied linguistics at university with; original, right?) and I were discussing this very topic on our group chat: how we’ve kept ourselves occupied during lockdown. One bravely revealed before-and-after photos upon completing a 30-day workout challenge (in which she looked INCREDIBLE), two painfully cried that they have predominantly been swamped in master’s assignments (I know that feeling, girls) and another proudly declared that she has managed to consume a whole can of Pringles to herself (this one clearly wins). While us linguigals always intend to empower one another, this conversation had the opposite – and unintentional on their behalf, I know – effect on me: it made me feel useless. While most of my friends have been working their arses off to keep fit or submit assignments displaying the best of their abilities (or eat as many snacks as possible, in one’s case), what have I been doing? As I mentioned briefly in my previous blog: playing Animal Crossing. A lot of it, for that matter. “For over 205 hours or more”, my Nintendo Switch profile confidently tells me. Call me mad. Call me crazy. Call me nuts. I am all those things.

Credit: @glamouruk on Instagram

Of course, that isn’t all I’ve been doing (though, undoubtedly, it has taken up a lot of my time). I’ve ensured that I take my dog (my sweet, sweet Diesel) for a long walk at least once a day, be it alone or with my mum, dad and/or fiancé Dan, for both mine and Diesel’s good. I’ve been playing ball in the garden with Diesel when the weather has been too nice to stay in my bedroom glued to the Switch. I’ve emptied my (and Dan’s) entire wardrobe and chest of drawers out only to place our clothes back in, but more neatly. But, is that enough? Should I be doing more? If so, what should I be doing? These are just a few of the many questions that began to occur to me following the aforementioned conversation with my friends. Beforehand, I believed that everything that I was doing was fine; it didn’t even cross my mind that I “should” be doing anything else or differently. In fact, from the onset, I perceived this time as an opportunity for me to rest and recuperate after a few full-on years of studying (“half a decade”, almost, as one of my linguigals pointed out when reassuring me that how I’ve spent my time is O.K. also). After completing my A levels in July 2015, I went straight on to study for my bachelor’s from September 2015. After completing my bachelor’s in May 2018, I went straight on to study for my master’s from September 2018. After completing my master’s in September 2019, I went straight into full-time work that same month. I’ve never taken a break, like a gap year or simply “time off” to give my mind and body a rest. Up until that conversation, I counted myself lucky that I didn’t have any assignments to complete for once; I counted myself lucky that I had so much time to spend on the wonder that is Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

My baby Diesel

Upon expressing how I began to feel a little bummed to my linguigals after seeing their successes, each and every one of them reminded me that there is no “right or wrong” way to spend our time in quarantine (don’t they sound amazing? That, they are!). In sum, our conversation – and, subsequently, that Glamour UK post – made me realise that the pandemic experience is different for everyone, and it most certainly isn’t a competition as to who has achieved the most during this time we have imperatively stayed at home to protect ourselves and each other. To some, it has provided an opportunity to learn new or pick up old hobbies such as exercising, cooking and reading; to others, it has provided a break for their mental and physical health. The latter is most certainly what I relate to the most, and however you have spent your time is O.K., too.

To all our NHS and key workers, thank you so much for what you do. To those who, like me, have stayed at home to assist in preventing the spread of COVID-19, how have you been spending your time at home? I’d love to know!

Love,

Soph, Little Pav