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.

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.