Listening to my guests cast their minds back to products they used and how they made them feel on Beauty Full Lives has stirred up MANY beauty memories and a fair bit of nostalgia this end.
Sam and Nic effusing about Prescriptives made me think of the 90s, when I lived for a Hard Candy palette and fully partook in the Gwen Stefani-spawned craze for sticking crystal bindis on. Sinead’s memory of passing lip balm around a classroom, though dubious in its hygiene, opened up a memory of doing similar with Carmex, and Dolly talking about really going for it with the Rimmel eyeliner was incredibly evocative for me as I did precisely the same in the early 2000s.
Rather than bang on about my memories during their interviews, I decided to start writing beauty vignettes from years of my life up.
First, a night out, at 18.
I was at boarding school, and if you walked around the corridors on a Saturday night while we were getting ready for ‘bar’ (a little house where we were allowed two drinks over the course of a few hours before being marched back to our boarding houses to eat ice cream and gossip), you’d be likely to hear 50 Cent, Nelly, Avril Levigne, The Goo Goo Dolls, Blackstreet, J Lo, Britney, Justin, Beyonce, and (sorry) R Kelly as we got ready.
I was in love; we were all in love. But I was REALLY in love. My A-Levels should’ve filled my waking thoughts, but they absolutely didn’t. I saw them as a hurdle before getting to summer, which meant endless parties and endless opportunities for romance. But until then, I only had Saturday nights to try to allure him and much, much thought and time went into outfit and hair planning each weekend.
The clothing budget was tight. We would shop in the Topshop when an extra pounds came our way, but would otherwise contend with creating new outfits out of ingenuity: ripped t-shirts, plenty of odd swathes of printed fabrics worn as tops/belts/skirts (all interchangeable as we were all practically nude at all times thanks to the early noughties vogue for torn and micro clothes).
And this self-imposed nudity is where my first beauty memory springs from. My displayed skin was PERMANENTLY bronzed. Not slightly. VERY. I used my mum’s Clarins fake tan when I could get my hands on it but would also apply a hell of a lot of bronzer, always the Rimmel Natural Bronzer in the shimmer-free variety.
I really cannot overemphasise how brown I tried to make my skin. If this account of my beauty memories at 18 leaves you with any impression, it should be of muddy, messy, mucky brown, amped up on a Saturday night when I’d add gloss to enhance the effect.
I was obsessed with having perfectly glowing and glossy skin, so would body brush before exfoliating thoroughly with The Body Shop’s Cocoa Butter exfoliant, then slather myself in Korres Fig Body Butter. I’d then chase that with the NARS Monoi Body Oil for maximum shine. I remember once being asked by a boy at bar why my legs were so slippery. I saw this as an enormous compliment, a triumph over hairiness and dryness.
In contrast, I wanted my hair as light as it could be, and would go down the road to the local hair salon as often as I could afford to and pay per foil for bleached streaks. I was aiming for Debbie Harry platinum blonde, but the result was so patchwork that I think I looked barking mad. I would then straighten this kaleidoscope of blonde feathers with my prized GHDs, which I would share among my fellow inmates slightly reluctantly (I always assume others won’t be as careful with things as I am, so I try to only lend to those I trust to understand I’m hugely pedantic and quite insane when it comes to such things).
To further up the ante on stand out colours, I’d rim my eyes in deepest, darkest black eyeliner (the aforementioned Rimmel number), before layering on Max Factor’s 2000 Calorie mascara. Again: I cannot overemphasise how very much was applied, and how very crudely applied it was.
Lips were white. Not concealer white, but close. I usually achieved this with Eve Lom’s Kiss Mix, which I’d ask for at Christmas along with other more spendy products in my routine, then use it sparingly, taking the name quite literally and only dabbing a little on before I might be the recipient of a kiss (the rest of the time, I made do with Carmex).
All that remained was a liberal smearing of highlighter (Nars’ Copacabana Multi Stick on cheekbones, collarbones, and brow bones), and a few quirts of Ghost before heading off into the night.
Looking back, I am struck by two things: what a fright I looked, and how happy I was.