Being Brave, Being Vain, Being Fiona

I have a complicated relationship with beautiful. I’ve always been more likely to be called “striking” or “interesting” than “beautiful”, and always more likely to be called “funny” or “smart” than either of those. In my heart, I know that is an absolute strength. If I had to choose between funny and beautiful, I’d pick funny every single time, no questions asked. I know that I’m so much more than beautiful, that a beautiful face pales in comparison with a kind heart, a strong mind, a creative soul. And yet. And yet.

Like many girls, my “interesting” beauty became a battleground when I was a teenager. The frizzy hair, the generous nose, the chest so flat you could build an airport on it, they all became markers for how different I was. And I spent an unholy amount of my teenagedom wishing that I could just be the same.

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It’s exhausting being at war with your own face, you guys. Eventually, there came a point where I was too tired to keep hating myself, so I decided I was going have to love myself instead. I spent time getting to know my body, because it’s impossible to love something that’s a stranger to you. I started to notice my details. The smattering of chocolate drop freckles. The cupid’s bow you could cut yourself on. The stretch marks curving around my hips like silver lightning strikes. I dyed my hair red. I started to wear the brightest lipstick I could get my hands on. I started to upload selfies with gay abandon. When I felt ugly, I wanted to make myself smaller. After so many years of that, feeling beautiful feels like a brave, tiny rebellion.

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It’s also terrifying. See, women are supposed to be pretty but we’re absolutely not supposed to notice that we’re pretty. And we’re certainly not supposed to take any pleasure from it. We’re not to know we’re beautiful. That’s what makes us beautiful.

*One Direction dance break, because even though the message of that song is trash, it’s still an absolute tune*

There’s a photographer called Alex Cameron, who takes the most wonderful photographs. The first time I saw her photos, I thought “I want pictures of me that are that beautiful”. I was immediately ashamed that I wanted that. How trivial. How frivolous. How vain. For two years, I watched her photos pop up on my Twitter timeline and every time I saw them, I turned the idea over in my head. I’d justify and argue with myself and agonise because I was still embarrassed to admit that I wanted to look at myself and love how I looked.

F5Last week, I got on a train with a backpack full of my most favourite dresses and I asked Alex to make me gorgeous. I twirled and giggled and wrapped myself in leaves and flowers. I gleefully agreed when Alex complimented my bright hair, my green eyes. I loudly exclaimed “I FEEL LIKE A FAIRY PRINCESS” about seventeen times.

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When she started to send me the photographs, my mouth fell open. She hadn’t changed me or airbrushed me. She hadn’t smoothed my personality over. My flyaway hair, my crooked nose, my goofy smile spilled from every single picture. All of my details, my gorgeous imperfections laid bare. I looked undoubtedly, unabashedly like me. Like no one else. I looked striking. I looked interesting. And I looked so, so beautiful.

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Just Wear White

If you read my blog often, you’ll have seen Antonia Mariconda’s name pop up on more than one occasion. A veritable beauty guru, she has been a great inspiration, mentor and friend to me as my blog has grown. So when she announced that she was throwing a super-chic, glamorous beauty industry party, I knew I had to go along. My ticket arrived with one simple instruction: just wear white.

Having tried on and rejected approximately a million dresses that basically disappeared against my pale skin, salvation arrived in the form of this gorgeous Chi Chi London number.

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I felt prettier than Hilary Duff when that spotlight shines on her in A Cinderella story.

antonia mariconda white party antonia mariconda white party

That’s right, I felt give-you-four-pictures-of-my-face level sassy. Having made up my mind to go full Disney princess on this one, I paired glowy skin and fluttery eyelashes with a glossy purple lip and topped it off with Cinderella heels and earrings that would make Blair Waldorf proud.

When I got on the bus (I know, the glamour never ends with me), someone asked me if I’d lost my pumpkin, so I’m gonna chalk that up as a major success.

I arrived at the sumptuous Home House to a genuinely jaw dropping sight. The room was white, filled with glinting crystal and white roses gently dropping their petals to the floor. There was champagne everywhere. And everyone, but everyone, was wearing white. The gorgeous Nadia Roberts, who I’m sure you’ll be hearing much more about very soon, looked around and commented that she felt like she was surrounded by angels.

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I’ve written before about feeling like an outsider, and this fabulous occasion unfortunately also bore witness to one of the most utterly mortifying moments of my life. At the very front of the room was a wall of photographers, snapping the guests as they entered. Having grabbed the girls I knew and established that we all looked completely excellent, we decided to go get a photograph taken. We strutted up in front of the photographers, struck our best poses and…nothing. Not a thing except muffled silence and bored gazes. Not even one sympathy click to make us feel better. We must have stood there, smiles frozen on our faces for about 15 seconds before it started to dawn on us that no one was going to take our picture. It was like all your worst high-school nightmares come true. Grabbing a glass of champagne and satisfying myself with visions of someday taking Pretty Woman-esque revenge (You remember when you wouldn’t take my picture? Big mistake. Huge.), we fell about laughing and decided to take our own. Because sometimes this world is like climbing a ladder, and while we might have been nobodies in the room, we were still in the room. And I know that some day, we’re going to be the somebodies.

*hair flick, sashay*

antonia mariconda white party antonia mariconda white party

Fortunately, this was the only blip in a truly wonderful night. After hitting the bar to soothe our bruised egos, we hit the dancefloor and soon after, the photobooth.

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We had a few quick words of thanks from the inspiring Tulsi, representing the Katie Piper Foundation, which was the beneficiary of the night’s fundraising. This was followed by the most upmarket raffle I’ve ever seen and a quickfire auction, which raised about £5000 in the space of ten minutes. We danced the night away, but as the clock struck midnight, I started to consider taking on another Cinderella trait…she might have had to act as a servant, but at least the girl got to take off her party shoes.

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As with everything that Antonia does, the White Party was a glittering success, sparkling with elegance, style and fun. What started as a throwaway comment on her Facebook grew into something truly special. And I’m sure she’s already plotting next year’s encore.

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Me and the woman herself.

We Took Back The Beach

So, this has probably been the craziest week of my entire life. Beginning with this photograph:

How to get a beach body-Take your bodyAnd culminating in a big assed party in Hyde Park, with a quick stop at Sky News, the BBC and Troll Bridge along the way.

When Tara and I took this photograph, I wanted to provide an alternative idea of what beach body means. To say “Sure, Renee is gorgeous, but you don’t have to look like her if you don’t want to. You can have a body like mine and be gorgeous. You can have a body like yours and be gorgeous.”

When I uploaded the photo to Twitter, I was conscious that Tara and I only represent two body types, so I thought, why not throw it open? Why not give people the chance to be part of a photograph with all different shapes, sizes, races and genders? So we decided to throw a bit of a party in Hyde Park. And despite my fears that I’d turn up alone in my bikini in front of the world’s media, it was totally awesome.

take back the beach protein world

Photograph by Michael Mendones.

I arrived just before 3, for a quick interview with Stephanie from the New Statesman, and shared with her my nerves that no one else would come. Our very deep discussion about why trolls feel the need to troll was interrupted by me yelling “OMG BANANA” in her face, as I spotted a group of women heading towards us carrying an impressive array of inflatables.We headed over onto the grass, and I suddenly panicked about how I was supposed to entertain everyone and make everyone feel comfortable enough to start stripping off. My worry, as it turned out was completely unnecessary. People didn’t even wait for me to catch up before getting down to their swimming costumes, cracking out picnics and starting games of “toss the inflatable stuff at each other”. Total respect to the guy who just stretched out in front of the cameras and read his book like it wasn’t no thing.

DSCF1205I met a mother who had travelled down with her two daughters for the event, and was quickly introduced to dad, who was preoccupied with blowing up a giant rubber ring, like a hero.

DSCF1200This, to me, was incredible. How inspiring, to have a mother who is that determined to teach her daughters that their bodies are perfect and wonderful and capable of miraculous things, and a dad who understands and supports that. Seriously, you guys are amazing. I was so pleased to have teenage girls at the protest, because I remember being a teenage girl. It sucks. Your body changes in a lot of weird and frequently alarming ways, and all anyone wants to tell you, from the ads on TV to the boys in your school, is how your body is wrong. And yesterday was about stomping on that idea and grinding it into the ground. Your body is perfect. No caveats. No “it would be perfect if you toned it up/got a tan/lost some weight/put on some weight”. It is perfect right now. If you want to do any of the things in that list, that’s great, go ahead and do them. It’s your body. You can do whatever you want to it, if that will make you feel amazing. For some people, that means losing weight. For some people, it means a quick swish of red lipstick. For some people, it means wearing a fabulous dress, For some people, it means covering your body in tattoos and body art. And all these things are great, if they make you feel great. Don’t ever let anyone tell you how to love your own body, because you’re the one who has to live in it.

I worry that nobody is telling young girls this, so I was beyond delighted when an enormous troupe of 13 year old mini-feminists appeared.

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DSCF1181This is unspeakably fantastic. To have a group of young women so confident and so intelligent that they can be part of a terrifying, complicated conversation like the one surrounding body image is amazing. I am so, so proud that this is the future of feminism. Seriously, if you guys ever read this, you inspire me. And sadly, I know that they’ve got a hell of a fight ahead of them. They’re going to take a whole lot of nasty coming from a never-ending parade of stupid, just like I have this week, for daring to stand up and say “We deserve better than this”. (Ladies, I’m always here if you need me. My email address is in my Contact Me page, please, please use it.) But to hear a thirteen year old girl stand among a group of adults and wax lyrical about what feminism means to her made me want to happy cry.

I actually did manage to hold it together and not cry. For most of the day. Until I spotted these guys:

take back the beach protein worldBoth of these women are in recovery from eating disorders. And speaking to them, seeing their absolute strength and seeing the love and support they held for each other, even as strangers, I couldn’t help bursting into tears. Just bawling, in my swimming costume, in the middle of Hyde Park. We had one guy come along solely to pick fights with us, and he stood and ranted at this woman about why being fat is unhealthy. Now, I have been extremely proud of how I’ve handled our critics. I believe it’s nice to be nice, even to the person who has just called you a fat, jealous attention seeker. But if I ever see someone make a comment as triggering as that, I will track you down and gouge out your eyes. Comments like this can kill.

A lot of people have contacted me since yesterday and tried to embarrass me or make me say that the event was a failure. To them, I have but one thing to say.

Have you lost your damn minds?

Over one hundred men and women gathered together yesterday to feel amazing about their bodies, display their confidence and demand better from our adverts. I’ve spoken before about how daring to have a body as a woman is a political act in itself, one which seems to invite comment and criticism. A woman feeling great in her own skin is not a small thing. It’s huge. It’s life changing. There were picnics, there were bubbles, there were inflatable dolphins, there was body paint, there were hugs and laughter and tears galore, and you’re asking me if I’m embarrassed by the turnout? To put it politely: have a word with yourself. I’ve never been prouder in my life. I am heart burstingly, mind blowingly proud of us, and I will not try to hide that because yesterday didn’t meet somebody else’s completely arbitrary expectations.

I met so many incredible, inspiring people yesterday, and I will never be able to express the love and gratitude I feel for all of you who came to support me. Did we take back the beach? You bet your ass we did.

This is what class looks like.

This is what class looks like.

Oh, just a typical feminazi chubster.

Oh, just a typical feminazi chubster.

These guys got totally hounded by the photographers. That's what you get for making good signs.

These guys got totally hounded by the photographers. That’s what you get for making good signs.

It was a varied and excellent bunch.

It was a varied and excellent bunch.

Beach body ready: different strokes for different folks.

Beach body ready: different strokes for different folks.

Yes. Yes that is the Gogglebox chicks.

Yes. Yes that is the Gogglebox chicks.

Take Back The Beach

So, on my lunch hour this Wednesday, fellow blogger Tara and I did this:

How to get a beach body-Take your body

If you would like to read about us doing that, head on over to my last post here!

Basically, the response that we’ve had has completely knocked me off my feet. Seriously, you guys should give yourselves a pat on the back. I have been so, so bowled over by the love and support and strength that we’ve been shown.

Well, for the most part.

Protein World’s response has left…well, a little something to be desired. After we tweeted our photo, I saw some pretty heinous responses to docu-comedian Juliette Burton’s tweets (you can find Juliette on Twitter here, and you should definitely follow her. She’s ace).

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I was pretty shocked. As someone who spent a year working in social media, I nearly fell off my chair that this was the brand’s official response. The tweets got increasingly horrendous, telling women to “grow up” and branding them “crazy”, and then last night, I stumbled on a response to some women saying:

Surely as feminists, you understand no one takes you seriously?

And it hit me. They’re trolls. They’re literally just trolls. And I don’t know about you guys, but this totally takes their power away for me. I’m now imagining Protein World as being a group of guys polishing their muscles and reassuring themselves that feminism is the reason they’re not getting laid. Maybe with a smattering of girls insisting that they don’t see why the ad is offensive, probably because they’re not hysterical like all those other girls, babe. I’m kind of embarrassed for them.

After this paradigm shifting revelation, I realised that this isn’t a protest anymore. This is a party. This is a celebration of the million and one different ways that a woman (and a man, you gorgeous men, you) can be beautiful.

So let’s celebrate. Tara, Juliette and I are organising a massive version of the photo above at 3pm on Saturday 2nd May. Do you look like the model on the poster? Awesome, step this way, gorgeous! Are you a size 24? Come on down, beautiful! Are you a guy? Get those swimming shorts looked out! Don’t want to bare all in a bikini? Come in whatever you feel great in! Beach ready means different things for everyone, and we want to see all of them.

This was never about suggesting that people shouldn’t try to get fit if they want to. If having rippling abs is your thing, more power to you. I bet you rock them. But I’m so tired of it being an expectation. The idea that your body should be covered up and hidden away if it doesn’t meet these bizarrely specific requirements…I’m over it, you guys. And judging by the response we’ve gotten on Twitter, it looks like you are too.

Bring your friends. Bring your beachballs and buckets and spades. Bring those awesome beach bodies.

We’ll be meeting on the grass by Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park (by the Marble Arch entrance), and I’ll be there from a bit before 3. If you’re coming in your bikini, we’d maybe suggest wearing a dress over it that’s easy to whip on and off, to fend off hypothermia.

The more people we have, the more amazing this picture is going to be, so rope in as many people as you can. Saturday the 2nd. 3pm. It’s happening. And it’s going to be sexy.

If you’re coming, feel free to give us a wave down in the comments or on Twitter! You can definitely just show up on the day, but it would be cool to have some idea of how many people we have. We also have a sexy Facebook event here if you’re on Facebook!

Addendum

So, as expected, all of us have been on the receiving end of some genuinely sickening comments after speaking out like this. Of the two of us in the photo though, it’s depressingly unsurprising that Tara and her beautiful, perfect body have been the target of the most vitriol. I’d just like to thank Tara for having the bravery to hold my hand through this, even though she probably knew in advance that she would bear the brunt of the abuse. And to every single person who has posted nasty comments, I’m sorry that your life is so unfulfilling that you feel like you have to tear down a strong, gorgeous woman who is celebrating her body.

On this note, if actually coming to our event would make you feel unsafe, please feel free to support us with tweets, messages and happy thoughts. Let’s keep each other safe. Let’s keep each other strong.

On Being “Just” A Beauty Blogger

I hate backhanded compliments. You know the ones.

“You’re so pretty when you make an effort.”
“I wish I could just let it all hang out like you.”
“You’re definitely not as cocky as I thought you were at first.”

Compliments like that suck, because they’re actually insults dressed up to make it seem like the person cares about you. There’s one particular backhanded compliment that I’ve gotten quite a lot since I started blogging. It takes a few different forms but the gist is always basically the same. That someone with a little bit of talent and influence like me should be talking about something with more gravitas than beauty.

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The temptation to just toss my hair and yell “MY CORNER OF THE INTERNET, MY RULES” is pretty strong, but I think there are a couple of important points to be made about this opinion that beauty blogging is somehow “less than”.

First, the smart girl/pretty girl thing is a false dichotomy.

That’s right, I’m dropping the false dichotomy bomb, biatches. This is what happens when you annoy a political philosophy geek.

Basically, writing about beauty doesn’t mean that I’m stooping to the stupid girl level, and being smart doesn’t mean that I don’t care about how I look. I can recommend you an awesome cleanser. I can also give you a potted history of the Middle East. When pushed for time, I can probably do both at once. I can’t believe I’m actually having to type this, but girls can be both smart and beautiful. In fact, most of us are.

I think a lot of the scorn that gets heaped on the beauty blogging community is just pure sexism. A lot of beauty blogs are sweet and fluffy and not particularly deep, but so what? When did it become a crime to do something just for fun because it makes you feel good? I never see the same smirks directed at video game bloggers, music bloggers or food bloggers as I do at beauty bloggers. Beauty is seen as trivial, even shallow in a way that other realms of blogging just aren’t. And I think a lot of it has to do with it being a community created primarily for, and primarily populated by people who present as female.

Sorry, boy bbloggers, I love you all lots, but you are very much the minority group here.

Things that women do are constantly scrutinised and patronised. We’re either saying too much or saying too little. We’re brash and opinionated or we’re boring and weak. We’re ugly or we’re vain. That’s the way it goes. And with this undercurrent running through our culture, maybe it’s not so surprising that women banding together to share pretty-making tips is viewed as a self-obsessed, unimportant trend. But I’m calling shenanigans on that right now. Think lipstick is boring? Cool! Go read about something else! I think cricket is totally boring…you know what I do? I don’t read about cricket. I don’t get in touch with people who are really passionate about cricket to remind them that THERE ARE CHILDREN STARVING IN AFRICA AND SOME PEOPLE HAVE CANCER AND INEQUALITY SUCKS. Because I figure they already know that. Because it’s totally possible to write about cricket and still care about the other stuff that’s happening in the world. Same with beauty.

But the reason that these particular comments really get under my skin is because I think that the things I write about are important. I think that the vast majority of my posts go way beyond what foundation to buy or how best to shape your eyebrows.

Again, I don’t mean this in any way to be disrespectful to people who publish beauty reviews and makeup looks and stuff, I love to read your stuff and think it’s really fun and awesome.

But my idea of beauty is mainly about learning to love yourself and feel fabulous in your own skin. I write about the stuff that goes on inside as much as I do about the stuff that goes on outside. And in a world where being female and having a body, occupying space or generally existing is a political and often offensive act, I think that the stuff I write about is pretty damn important. Women are taught to hate their bodies, to focus on their imperfections, to mask their differences, to look perfect, but without making any effort, to suck in, to shrink down. And if you don’t think that fighting back against that is important, I think we are living in very different worlds. And that you probably weren’t bullied as a kid for looking different.

What I wouldn’t have given when I was fourteen to have someone be like “Hey! Why don’t you wear some purple lipstick? You won’t look like everyone else, but that’s okay, it can be really fun to be different!” To have someone tell me that there was more than one way to be beautiful, and that about 80% of gorgeous is that glow that surrounds you when you feel amazing. To be able to turn away from the cookie cutter women on TV and in the adverts and see a massive range of ladies being sexy and wonderful in their own unique, amazing ways. Because the biggest difference between beauty blogging and beauty features in the mainstream media is that beauty blogging doesn’t try to mould everyone to the same ideal. We control the narrative. We control the ideal.

It’s about being able to go “Hey! I’ve never thought about wearing bright green eyeliner!” and not giving a damn whether boys would find it attractive.
“Does anyone know how I can control my mad curls?”
“I would never have put those colours together but it looks awesome.”
“You are gorgeous.”
“I am gorgeous.”
“We are gorgeous.”

Women supporting other women and helping them to feel like they can take on the world is basically my favourite thing. I’m lucky that I’ve been through a whole lot of appearance-related nonsense and have come out the other side with skin that might look like buttermilk, but that is as thick as a rhino’s ass. I love who I am, and part of who I am is the body that I occupy. I am dedicated to decorating and pampering that body however I see fit. I think I can take on the world, I just feel more prepared for it with a swipe of red lipstick.

And I refuse to apologise for that.

At Home Facials For Broke Folks

One of my favourite things to do in the world is to treat myself to a bit of pampering. In an ideal world, this would mean escaping to Gleneagles every other weekend for mango oil showers, facials and massages. Unfortunately, until somebody decides to publish my book and make it into an amazing blockbuster movie, that’s not really an option. But I hate to let a tight budget get in the way of some good me time.

So this is for you, my fellow broke girls. A step by step guide to my super budget at home facial.

at home facial skincare

1. Light a gorgeous candle.

This is very important. Also, stick on some chill out music or an episode of Don’t Tell the Bride or something. It’s time to relaaaaax.

2. Cleanse your face.

First, remove any eye makeup. I use a cotton pad soaked in Garnier Micellar Water. Be gentle with your eyes. Scrubbing at them can irritate your eyes and pull out your eyelashes, and tugging at the delicate skin underneath can cause premature wrinkles. Use soft sweeping motions to remove makeup. Then you can cleanse the rest of your face and neck. I have really dry skin, so I like thick, oily cleansers like Lush’s Ultrabalm. I smooth it into my face in circular motions and then wipe clean with a microfibre cloth. Coconut oil also makes a great cleanser but because it’s quite comedogenic, it can block some people’s pores, so listen to your skin on this one. But if it works for you, it leaves skin feeling super soft and clean and helps grow long, fluttery eyelashes.

3. Exfoliate.

Exfoliating removes build up of dead skin cells, allowing product to penetrate more thoroughly and leave your skin fresh and glowing. But be careful, you don’t want to overdo it. Don’t sand your face, you don’t want to take all your skin off, just the dead stuff. I’m still using my resurfastic, a microdermabrasion stick that was gifted to me a few months ago. But soft microfibre cloths also provide good exfoliation without damaging your skin. I picked up a stack of 6 of these for a pound in Savers. Again, use gentle circular motions and rinse.

4. Steam things up.

Fun fact: pores don’t open and close. They’re just little openings in your skin; they don’t have the muscles needed to open and shut. So all the stuff about steaming your face to open your pores and splashing cold water to close them is basically a myth. But steam can loosen all the junk that is hiding in your pores, which makes them appear smaller. Fill a bowl with some boiled water and leave to cool for a few minutes. Seriously, don’t stick your face over freshly boiled water. Steam that temperature will have no hesitation in messing your face right up. Once it’s at an acceptable, non-scalding temperature, cover your head with a towel and hover above the bowl for about ten minutes. Only your face has to hover. No worries if you can’t hover your entire body. If you have a cold, put a couple of drops of eucalyptus oil into the water and breath in healing goodness. Be warned, this will get a whole lot of crap out of your lungs. After ten minutes, rinse your face.

5. The mask.

Ah, the most satisfying and instagrammable part of the whole facial: the face mask.

at home facial face mask

Everybody loves a bathroom selfie.

I am currently obsessed with the Body Shop’s Warming Mineral Mask, which uses kaolin clay to draw out impurities. Unfortunately, there has been no scientific research that definitively proves kaolin clay has benefits for the skin, but I’m willing to overlook this for how awesome this mask feels on my face. It warms up on your skin and gives the feeling of stepping into a hot bath, but on your face. My skin always looks brighter after I use it, but take any miracle claims with a pinch of salt. If money is super tight, you can make your own face masks using ingredients that you probably already have!

Stuff not to put on your face, even if the internet tells you to:

  • Lemon. Lemon’s spot zapping powers have nothing to do with its antibacterial properties and everything to do with its bleaching abilities. The acids in lemon juice can reduce the appearance of spots by bleaching away some of the redness. They can also give you face burns. Don’t put bleach on your face.
  • Sugar. Sugar is a great scrub ingredient for your body, but is waaaay to rough and jagged for the skin on your face. It will scratch your face right up. And ain’t nobody got time to try and apply makeup on a scratched up base.
  • Bicarbonate soda. Ooooh, I am guilty of this one! I used to use baking soda to exfoliate my face and was thrilled with how smooth it felt afterwards, oblivious to the damage I was doing to my skin. Bicarbonate soda is far too alkaline for use on your skin, as it disrupts your skin’s barrier. And the more you use it, the more damage you do. Yikes.
  • Toothpaste. Don’t put toothpaste on your damn spots. Toothpaste gets rid of spots by drying out your skin, which I’d imagine isn’t really what you’re going for. Also, all that minty fresh menthol can be seriously irritating on your skin.

Stuff you should totally put on your face:

  • Honey. Honey is antibacterial and hugely hydrating, so is a great ingredient in DIY face masks. Just stay away from beehives. And hungry bears.
  • Porridge oats. Oats are an extremely gentle exfoliant, and their healthy fats also help to moisturise and boost your skin’s protective layer.
  • Yoghurt. The lactic acids in yoghurt make for a great chemical exfoliant – perfect if your skin isn’t up to physical exfoliation.
  • Avocado. Okay, if you’re buying avocados, you probably aren’t broke. But in case you just fancied getting hands on with your skin care, avocado’s vitamin A and D content can help to repair damage in the skin, leaving it nourished and comfy.

Leave your mask on for the recommended time and then rinse well.

6. Toning

Swipe a cotton pad soaked in alcohol free toner over your skin. This removes any traces of dirt or face mask, and helps prepare skin to absorb your moisturiser. I use Garnier’s Micellar Water again, because obsessed.

7. Moisturising.

Now that you’ve spent all this time cleaning your face, it’s time to put some niceness back into it again. I’m currently using Inlight’s Organic Night Balm, which I was gifted a sample of, and which I rave about here, but it’s pretty pricey. On my budget days, I use E45 cream. Seriously, I slather my entire body in this stuff and it’s magical.

And you’re done! Sleep on your beautiful clean skin and try not to ruin it the next day by stroking your face incessantly.

Do you have at home spa days, or is this a weird Fiona thing? What do you put in your DIY face masks? Have I missed a vital facial step? Get in touch in the comments or at EscapologistGl!

Bloggers Love London Fashion Week

This week, Bloggers Love hosted a fashion week event based on the cattiest, glitziest TV show that I know…xoxo.

As was fitting of a Gossip Girl themed event, there were people everywhere who looked like they’d stepped off the pages of a catalogue, dressed in the most entirely glorious outfits. And as anyone who has taken a look at Twitter afterwards will know, there was enough scandal, gossip and backbiting to satisfy Georgina Sparks.

Let’s rewind a little. For the night, I decided to step out of my ordinary girl shoes, and try walking a mile in the skyscraper heels of the Upper East Side’s least likeable princess, Blair Waldorf.

Dress, tights and socks, all from Forever 21.

Dress, tights and socks, all from Forever 21.

Details.

Details.

Practising my resting bitchface.

Practising my resting bitchface.

Headband and cynical smirk firmly in place, I headed to Hoxton to check out the wares on offer. Upon stepping into the art gallery, the first problem with the event was hard to ignore…it was so full that it was actually hard to move around. The ladies and I decided to leave the brands until it quietened down a little, and got in the queue for the very much in demand fashion illustrator, Willa Gebbie. In fact, she was so in demand that we spent the vast majority of our evening in that queue. But getting to the front was well worth the wait. Not only did it turn out that she was from Prestwick (crappy West Coast Scottish towns represent!), she was utterly awesome, and produced a likeness of me that is probably the coolest I’ll ever look.

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11007982_1419502598349148_1963952462_nPictures lovingly cradled in hand, we just had time for a whistlestop tour of the brands who hadn’t packed up yet.

DSCF0786 DSCF0787There has been a lot of talk about the event, so let’s set a few things straight.

I didn’t pay for a ticket to the dinner, but I can understand why people who did were angry at shelling out £28 for what eventually amounted to pizza. But some of the vitriol being hurled at Bloggers Love on Twitter has been pretty upsetting. Sure, make complaints when they’re justified, but I’ve seen people claiming that they got food poisoning…from pizza.

The venue was way too small. There isn’t any avoiding that. There were over 200 bloggers crammed into a tiny art gallery, all trying to speak to about ten brands. But I still had a lovely night. I got to meet some amazing bloggers, including Abi from Abi Street, who was so completely aces that I’m genuinely sad she lives in Cardiff. I got my portrait drawn by a fashion illustrator, which I can now totally show off to everyone and pretend that I’m awesome. And thanks to the theme of the party, I got to step well outside my comfort zone, beauty wise. See, for a part-time beauty blogger, I tend to rely on the looks that I know work for me. But the Upper East Side doesn’t exactly comply to the just-rolled-out-of-bed beauty look, so I had to try something new. And I liked what I found. I found out that I actually really like bright pink, shiny lips. I found out that maybe my headband shouldn’t be relegated to the bathroom cabinet unless I’m washing my face. And I found out that knee socks are awesome. Wait, actually, I already knew that one.

So maybe the evening wasn’t the event that a lot of us planned for. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have fun.

XOXO. Fiona.

Get Your Henna On With Lush Henna Hair Dye

I’ve been trying really hard to take better care of my hair, ever since it started casually falling out about a year ago. I’ve successfully wrenched myself away from a lifelong heat styling habit and embraced my mad curls, but on further consideration, I decided that dying my hair magenta every month probably isn’t doing it much good either.

Yes, the cat’s out of the bag, I AM NOT A NATURAL REDHEAD.

But I am far too invested in my sexy redheadedness to give it up. This was quite the dilemma. Then, one day, as I was stalking Holly Cassell (one of my favourite bloggers, whose blog you should definitely check out here), I noticed her saying that her badass auburn curls were courtesy of Lush’s Cacoa Rouge henna. Most intriguing indeed. So I did a bit of online research and bought myself a bar.

I was a little intimidated, given the tales of mess and mayhem that I read in the reviews, but the idea of finding a way to get my lovely red colour while actually conditioning and protecting my hair was too good not to take the chance.

Here’s what I started with:

how to lush henna hair dye

If you want to give this a go, you’ll need:

A bar of Lush Henna
A pair of rubber gloves (or three)
A buttload of newspaper
A tub of Vaseline, or Lush Ultrabalm if the nice saleslady gives you some of that
A roll of clingfilm
A kettle, or alternative means of boiling water
A few hours to kill
A t-shirt you don’t mind ruining

Here’s Fiona, modelling the 2008 German language competition winner look. So sexy.

how to lush henna hair dye

I also had a grater, because I read that it’s easier to melt the henna if it’s been grated, but my hand got tired after about two minutes, so I just chucked the whole thing in and it worked fine. So good at being a beauty blogger.

You want the henna to go on your head as hot as possible, so get every thing ready beforehand. The henna is nowhere near as messy as the internet would lead you to believe, but it’s still a pretty good idea to cover your bathroom floor in newspaper, as well as any surfaces you’ll be putting the henna on. The henna is also quite thick, so you’ll want to section your hair off to let it get right into the roots. Smear your vaseline around your hairline and on your ears to act as a buffer between the dye and your skin. Unless you want orange ears. You do you.

how to lush henna hair dye

This is my stegosaurus look.

First, you need to chop up your henna. I have pretty long, thick hair, and three squares of the bar did me perfectly. Cut out the desired number of squares, chop the squares into small sections and put in a bowl. Pour over boiling water, and mix until the henna is completely melted.

how to lush henna hair dye how to lush henna hair dye

It’s cool if you’re jealous of my green kettle. It’s pretty sweet. The consistency of your henna should be like thin yoghurt, so keep adding water until you get that sort of consistency. I used a fork to mix mine, which was pretty good at breaking up any little lumps.

Is that a good enough tip to be a life hack? Probably not.

Put on your rubber gloves and get the henna on your head as quickly as possible. Focus on your roots first, just like you would do with normal hair dye, then pull it through your lengths with your fingers. Henna is a bit of a strange texture, but it does go through your hair easily enough. Accept your new life as a mudperson.

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Henna colour takes best to hair when it’s hot, so once you’ve got all your hair covered, pile it up on top of your head and wrap it tight in clingfilm. I also added a hat, for extra warmth and fashionableness. There are no photographs of this stage.

You’ll need to leave the henna on for between one and three hours, depending on how much hair you have and how bright you want your colour. I left mine on for the full three hours. This is an obvious downside when compared with normal hair dye, but to be honest, I just took it as an excuse for a massive pamper session. Light some candles, stick on a facemask, paint your nails, watch Legally Blonde, whatever you fancy.

Then, just wash it out! The gritty texture of the henna makes it a little tough to get out, but two good shampoos got mine out easily enough. I then conditioned my hair, which got rid of any remaining chunks.

This was my final result, and I’m absolutely delighted.

how to lush henna hair dye

When I did my research, I found a lot of scaremongering on the internet, so I’d like to lay some of that to rest.

Sure, henna is messy. But in my experience, it wasn’t any messier than normal hair dye. I covered up my surfaces with newspaper and any splatters cleaned up easily with a warm, wet cloth.

Also, a lot of people recommended having a friend help you out. This kind of made me panic. But to be honest, I definitely didn’t need another pair of hands. Again, it was the same process as normal hair dye, up until the clingfilm. But if you fancy getting yourself a sexy assistant, please do.

I’d seen a lot of comments from people saying that the texture of the henna made it difficult to spread, or difficult to get out. This is partly true, but I really didn’t find it all that hard. I normally shampoo my hair twice anyway, so it just took a little extra scrubbing.

The smell is quite strong, so if you’re sensitive to smells, you might want to check that out before you buy. It smells a lot like turkish delight, but I could hardly smell it once I had the clingfilm on.

I am seriously impressed with this henna hair dye. It left my hair feeling soft and so, so shiny. It also cost £6 for the bar and I only used half of it, so the value for money is great in comparison to most box dyes. And I’m finding that the fade is so much better and more natural. That photo up there was taken two weeks after I originally dyed it, and I think it still looks amazing. I’m a definite convert.

 

How To Survive Long Haul Travel Without Looking Like A Bag of Spanners

The more astute among you will have noticed that I’m in Australia. Apologies for the perpetual online bragging, it’s just so damn pretty. Rest assured that within a fortnight, you will once again be regaled with thrilling pictures of my tiny, freezing London flat.

Unfortunately, to get there, I had to spend no less than 19 hours on a plane. A very nice plane, but a plane nonetheless. And since the general travel advice of flying business class wasn’t reeeaaally available to me, I decided to put together a guide for the monetarily challenged long haul flyer. So I guess that technically makes this a broke girl’s guide! So good at blog seriesing.

I thought long and hard, and packed myself what I think is a pretty excellent survival pack for the hazardous and terrifying environment that is an aeroplane seat.

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I’ll go through these essential survival items in completely arbitrary categories that I have just decided.

Cleanliness

Never, ever underestimate how much better a clean pair of socks will make you feel. I feel like a new woman when I have clean socks on, and that is the truth about my glamorous life in one sentence. I packed a clean pair of socks, clean underwear, a little roll on deodorant and my toothbrush. When you’re travelling for more than a day, this can really help to break it up and keep some semblance of normalcy in your routine.

Entertainment

For the love of god, bring something to do. I brought my Kindle, which, despite me being an old school book lover, is a total massive lifesaver in situations like this, and my laptop, having optimistically promised that I’d do a load of blogging on the flight. Instead, I rinsed a series of Life of Mars on the in flight entertainment. But I had the option, and that’s what matters. Bring a book, some knitting, some crayons…literally anything to distract you from the mind numbing boredom that is your life for the next 10+ hours. Also, it’s a good idea to bring some snacks, in case the aeroplane food is totally inedible. I brought a big assed bag of Thorntons Diplomats because I’m fancy (really because I got them for Christmas).

That I have classed food as entertainment is very telling.

Moisturisation

Where are my dry skinned girls at? For me, one of the worst things about being on a plane is coming off with pieces of your face flinging themselves from your body and fluttering to the ground like the world’s saddest, most disgusting snow. To avoid this charming Doctor-Who-villain look, I brought my tub of Inlight Organic Night Balm and my Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Lip Balm, both of which I have raved about on here before (moisturiser here and lip balm here). I was also lucky enough to be gifted an amazing travel sheet mask set by TT Beauty Masks, which contained a cleansing wipe, an exfoliating wipe and a nourishing sheet mask for gorgeous girls on the move. I busted this out after a horrendous bout of travel sickness during hour 17, and it was exactly what my poor, parched skin needed. The oily cleansing wipe soothed and cooled my face like a big drink of water, the sheet mask perked me right up and besides, who doesn’t love scaring the ever loving christ out of an air hostess by transforming into Hannibal Lecter? Also, I’d hope that this doesn’t need to be said, but please remember to drink some water. Buy a big assed bottle when you get through security and sip at it for the whole flight. Yes, it will make you need to pee – suck it up.

Medicines

Pack some painkillers and some Immodium in your hand luggage – aint nobody got time for travel sickness. I also keep some peppermint tea bags on me. Peppermint tea is an absolute lifesaver if you’re feeling a bit queasy, and settles your stomach right down if it decides to go for some stunning gastrogymnastics. It also has the added bonus of freshening up your mouth if you just can’t be bothered negotiating brushing your teeth in those tiny aeroplane sinks.

Comfort

As well as my nice clean socks, I also packed a pair of fluffy slippers, which kept me lovely and cosy and helped me relax a bit. Since planes are almost invariably too hot or too cold, I dressed light and took my big green scarf with me to wrap around me like a blanket. Comfort levels maximised.

Essentials

Remember to keep your passport and boarding card handy, as well as your purse, phone and any chargers you need. Also, if you have a stopover for a couple of hours, don’t be a rookie like me and forget to bring currency for that country too. The ability to grab a cup of coffee might just save your sanity and stop you hitting actual madness.

Pictured: actual madness

Pictured: actual madness

What to Wear

My priority when choosing my flight outfit was the ability to curl up in literally any position without getting tangled up or exposing my vagina to anyone. So I went for a pair of super soft leggings and a vest top. I picked leggings that were made out of soft pyjama material, because I find normal leggings can be very binding. There, I said it. Makeup: don’t even bother. Seriously, you don’t want it sitting on your face for 19 hours, and it’s never going to stay put anyways. Start with a nice clean face, and then pamper the hell out of yourself with sheet masks and fancy moisturisers. My hair is too heavy to wear up, but if you can, wearing it up is a great way to keep cool and comfortable.

My sexy, sexy flight outfit.

My sexy, sexy flight outfit.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you. I still had undeniably dark moments during our flight, didn’t quite manage to avoid travel sickness and did come off the plane looking a little bit like a bag of spanners. But taking care of myself during the flight has meant that my body bounced straight back and I haven’t been suffering with dry skin, jetlag or general ickyness during my holiday. And until they invent teleporters, or I win the lottery and can fly business class, that’s good enough for me. T minus one week until the return flight, keep me in your thoughts.

That Time I Went Scarlet…By Accident

You know those little beauty habits that you just know you should stick to but never do? Putting on a base coat before you put on bright nail polish. Using a different face cloth every day. Using toner.

Performing a strand test before you cover your entire head in hair dye.

SONY DSCYeah, decidedly not ginger. Definitely red. But not ginger. This doesn’t even really show the genuine actual fire engine redness of my hair right now. Five years I’ve been home dying my hair, so I guess I’m pretty lucky that this is the first time it hasn’t turned out how I envisioned. I’m also lucky that I’ve actually been this colour before, so I’m not freaking out too much. But sweet jesus, did I get a fright when I pulled off the towel. I’d like to have a word with whoever takes the photographs for the Garnier dye boxes – there aint nothing copper about this colour.

I do feel kinda like a superhero with my super bright hair, harking back to my rebellious youth where I bounced between scarlet, plum and purple. Okay, that youth was about a year ago, but still. Fond memories. But I don’t like it as much as my ginger.

However, having just stopped torturing my hair with my straighteners, I think it would be very silly to dye it more than once in a week. So for at least a week, I’m gonna be working the Little Mermaid look.

And so, I’ve done what any sensible girl would do, having accidentally dyed her hair scarlet. Although I suppose a sensible girl wouldn’t have accidentally dyed her hair scarlet in the first place. But having done the unsensible, the only sensible thing to do was to channel Moira from American Horror Story. Obviously.

SONY DSCAs making the best of a bad situation goes, I’d say this is pretty damn good. And next time, I’ll do a strand test. Probably. Maybe.

What beauty rules do you constantly break? Has anyone else experienced a surprise hair colour? Get in touch in the comments or at @EscapologistGl.

The Escapologist’s Daughter is up for two UK Blog Awards! You can vote in the Lifestyle category here and the Young Person’s Recognition category here. I’m not above bribery and I make really delicious cakes.