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

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.

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.

The scars on my shoulders and chest

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!

Some of the products in my skincare routine

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,

Soph, 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.

My hair last summer

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,

Soph, Little Pav