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.

Lockdown 3.0: Are we just exhausted?

Lockdown 3.0 has hit different.

I don’t know about you but, this time around, I feel deflated. Totally, utterly and completely deflated. Unmotivated. Unwilling. Undone. Sure, I was swashed by this wave of emotions the first and second time, but not like I have been now. I’ve even procrastinated writing this blog for almost two weeks until I was inspired by one of my favourite bloggers, Chloe Plumstead, on her Instagram stories yesterday to just get writing.

So, what is it? Is it the longing for normality? The feeling of entrapment? Is it the scary, worrying, relentless reminder that we are still amid this pandemic — the same pandemic that arose over a year ago, that has affected millions globally, that our government has so incompetently mishandled? Perhaps it’s an amalgamation of all the above and more; I could go on and on and on about how lockdowns can be so detrimental to our mental health. While these emotions were also present in Lockdown 1.0 and 2.0, they were present alongside polar emotions – motivation, willingness, success – contrary to Lockdown 3.0.

As we entered the second lockdown, I was quick to anticipate the differences between Lockdown 1.0 and 2.0, concluding that the main difference was that, come Lockdown 2.0, we knew. We knew that another lockdown was necessary to assist in preventing the continuous spread of the cruel disease. We knew that we could stay connected with our pals via Zoom, even if we were sick of the abundant virtual pub quizzes. We also knew that the implications could be detrimental. If we knew all this back then, you’d think the same would apply again now, right? Alas, we feel more deflated than before, thus begging the same question I posed in that blog: what’s different this time?

Image description: An unmade bed in front of a window

By Lockdown 2.0, as I said, we were somewhat prepared. We were familiar with the prospect of a lockdown unlike the first time. Some were more frustrated than others — and for good reason — and others were more motivated to reignite the spark that charged them through Lockdown 1.0. Most felt a combination of the two; I was certainly frustrated, but I coped by writing. At the time, we were too provided an idea for how long the lockdown would last, so I suppose that made it slightly easier to withstand.

Remember Lockdown 1.0? Of course you do; that’s a bad question. What’s worse is that it began almost one year ago. My point is: in Lockdown 1.0, despite the tragedies caused by COVID-19, we were overwhelmed with a plethora of positivity. Our socials were inundated with our friends excessively exercising, our colleagues concocting delicious dinners and celebrities sending soulful messages. Hell, if it wasn’t for Lockdown 1.0, who knows? I might not have created this blog and since written over 30 pieces totalling to almost 45,000 words. Most, if not all, of us achieved something that we should be proud of between March and June 2020, I’m sure – and that was inspiring.

Lockdown 3.0. When non-essential retail closed in many areas across the country in December, I sensed another national lockdown was imminent. However, having to enter a new “tier” of lockdown restrictions on the Sunday before Christmas? That sucked. Then, being deprived of a somewhat normal Christmas? That sucked more. And, with many unfortunately having to spend Christmas alone, yet again due to the government’s mishandling of the situation – Cummings, terribly confusing rules and failing test and trace to name a few, as Dr Rosena so rightly pointed out – from the beginning? That sucked the most.

Christmas… A common theme in my evaluation of Lockdown 3.0 there. Is that what defines this lockdown, then? The deprivation of a normal, celebratory, happy Christmas? Or is that just one of many definitions – the others including the longing for normality, the feeling of entrapment and the scary, worrying, relentless reminder that we are still amid this pandemic? Or maybe it’s none of these at all…

Maybe it doesn’t have to be so complicated. Maybe it’s something so simple, so mundane, so raw. Maybe it’s… exhaustion.

I think in trying to decipher the defining factors of both Lockdown 2.0 and 3.0, I’ve subconsciously circumvented admitting to the fact that perhaps we’re just fed up. I’ve tried so hard to rationalise the possibilities for feeling so deflated that I’ve dismissed the possibility that maybe, just maybe, we’re fed (.) the fuck (.) up. Fed up with the longing for normality, with the feeling of entrapment and with the imbeciles leading our country, hence feeling unmotivated, unwilling and undone. However, it almost feels unfair to admit to feeling this way. Selfish, perhaps. Wrong. Who am I, a non-essential worker, to say that I’m merely “fed up” when our essential workers – especially our NHS heroes – have been working tirelessly from the onset of this pandemic? Instead, I should just shut the fuck up, right?

I don’t know. Perhaps it is unfair in some ways, and perhaps it’s okay, too.

There’s no denying that there’s an underlying, yet overbearing, desperation. A desperation to go “back to normal”. A desperation to see and spend time with and hug our family and friends. A desperation to escape the mess made by our government. And that goes for everybody: not just non-essential workers, but our key workers, our healthcare workers and everyone in between. This entire situation hasn’t been easy for anyone; it’s certainly affected us all in different ways, but to say it’s been anything other than easy would be a downright lie.

Are we just exhausted? Or are there a million potential reasons for feeling so deflated? Unmotivated? Unwilling? Undone? Okay, maybe not a million, but certainly a lot – and perhaps exhaustion is one of the predominant reasons this time around, whether that’s okay or not.

Stay safe, everyone, and keep fighting – a better year is on the horizon.

Love,

Little Pav ♡

Here we go again: Coping with the Christmas lockdown

Here we go again. Another lockdown, another torrent of emotions. Sadness. Frustration. Anxiety. As if this year hasn’t been draining enough, the tail end of 2020 saw many of us entering a new “tier” of lockdown restrictions which – to top it all off – covers the Christmas period. While it was clear that the pandemic was still ongoing following Lockdown 2.0, perhaps even more clearly than before, a faint ray of hope shone upon us as we “non-essential” workers were unfurloughed, high streets reopened and restrictions were relaxed on Wednesday 2 December so we could enjoy the festive period with family and friends. Now, due to the government’s incompetence in controlling the coronavirus from the onset of its outbreak back in March (which, may I gently remind you, is only three months away again), our Christmas plans – though perhaps unusual to begin with – have been completely ruined. Those who don’t live with family now can’t see their family. Those who don’t live with their partners now can’t see their partners. Those who live alone now can’t see anyone. That’s not to say that we can’t still try to make the most of each other’s company as we have for the entirety of 2020 through the likes of Zoom; while incomparable to being with your loved ones, we should be thankful that we can still communicate with them in such a manner.

As the first two lockdowns, the recent news has undoubtedly affected many, including myself. Following Lockdown Numero Uno, I unravelled my emotions of uselessness due to my inability to make my contribution to society as a non-essential worker, anxiety surrounding the global situation and envy of those who remained occupied by working from home. Likewise, during Lockdown 2.0, I shared my despondence as I anticipated the recurrence of the platitudes that emerged from the first lockdown. This time, however, it’s different: while the prospect of another lockdown was imminent, I don’t think anybody was prepared to receive the news on a Saturday afternoon – and not just any Saturday afternoon, but the last Saturday before Christmas – and enter Tier 4 just eight hours following. Thus, it’s only understandable to feel that torrent of emotions – sadness, frustration and anxiety – and dwell on the shitshow that is 2020.

Image credit: The word COVID-19 written on a red background

Alas, here we are. Although it’s easy to dwell on the way COVID-19 has impacted our lives in different ways, it’s so important to remember to prioritise our mental wellbeing. If you’re struggling with the recent news, I hope at least one of the following suggestions will help you to cope with the Christmas lockdown:

  • Host or engage in a virtual Christmas quiz. Although the virtual pub quiz has almost become a cliché after having hosted or engaged in so many in the first lockdown and ideas had run dry by Lockdown 2.0, it wasn’t Christmas then – so, just like you would in normal circumstances, arrange a Christmas quiz with your family and friends!
  • Plan a virtual Christmas dinner/movie night. I’m so sorry if your plans with family and/or friends have been cancelled. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have Christmas together – plan a virtual Christmas dinner or movie night with them and make the most of each other’s company, even if it is over Zoom!
  • Get up and get dressed. Whether you’re working from home, out of office or furloughed, put on those jeans (or your preferred bottoms), apply a little mascara and make the most of the day ahead. Sure, if you need a duvet day, take a duvet day – but be sure to take care of yourself.
  • Go for a walk. Yes, it might be freezing. Yes, it might be raining. So what? Plug in your headphones and listen to your favourite artist or podcast. Call a friend and talk as you walk. Wrap up in your gloves, scarf and raincoat and soak in some fresh air – even if it’s for 20 minutes. You won’t regret it.
  • If you need to, take a social media break. We all know social media can be detrimental to our mental wellbeing and, especially if your Christmas plans have changed last-minute, how others are spending their Christmas may be the last thing you want to see. If you need to, take a break, and focus on spending time with your loved ones – virtually or physically.
  • Reflect on your achievements this year. Generally, this year has – again – been one hell of a shitshow. Notwithstanding, that doesn’t mean we haven’t achieved anything this year. Graduated? Landed a new job? Acquired a new hobby? Whatever it is, celebrate your achievements and be proud of yourself!
  • Don’t be ashamed to feel what you feel. It doesn’t matter whether someone “has it worse”; your feelings are always valid. Whatever you’re feeling – be it sadness, frustration or anxiety – feel it. But, whatever you do, please: make sure you talk to someone about it and remember – as my last blog – it’s okay not to be okay.

I wish you all as happy a Christmas as possible and an even happier and healthier 2021.

Also, know that I’m here for a chat. You can reach out to me via my contact options here.

Love,

Little Pav ♡

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.